Item of the Day: The Complete English Tradesman (1732)

Full Title: THE COMPLETE English TRADESMAN: Directing him in the several PARTS and PROGRESSIONS of TRADE. In Two Volumes. VOL. I. In FAMILIAR LETTERS, Treating the several Points necessary to be known by the YOUNGER Tradesman, as well in his Apprenticeship, as on his first Entering upon Business; with regard to Diligence, Over-Trading, Expensive Living, Too-Early Marrying, Diversions, Credit, Partnerships, Compounding, Trading-Frauds, Punctuality, and many other material Subjects. With a SUPPLEMENT; containing farther Useful Instructions to a Tradesman, and brief and plain Specimens of BOOK-KEEPING, &c. VOL. II.  In TWO PARTS: Containing, I. Needful INSTRUCTIONS to the MORE-EXPERIENC’D Tradesman; with regard to Projects, Engrossing, Underselling, Combinations, Leaving off Business, Litigiousness, &c. II. Useful GENERALS in TRADE, describing the Principles and Foundations of the HOME-TRADE of Great Britain, with large TABLES of the British Manufactures, Product, Shipping, Land-Carriage, Importation, Home-Consumption, &c. The Whole calculated for the Use of our Inland Tradesmen, as well in the CITY as in the COUNTRY. The THIRD EDITION. London: Printed for C. Rivington, at the Bible and Crown, in St. Paul’s Church-yard, M.DCC.XXXII. [1732]



THE Title of this Work is an Index of the Performance. It is a collection of useful instructions for a young Tradesman. The world is grown so wise of late, or (if you will) fancy themselves so, and are so opiniatre, as the French well express it, so self-wise, that I expect some will tell us before-hand they know every thing already, and want none of my instructions; and to such indeed these things are not written.

HAD I not seen in a few years experience many young Treadesmen miscarry for want of those very cautions which are here given, I should have thought this work needless also, and I am sure had never gone about to write it; but as the contrary is manifest, I thought, and think still, the world wanted either this, or something better.

AND be it that those unfortunate creatures that have thus blown themselves up in trade have miscarried for want of knowing, or for want of practising what is here offer’d for their direction; whether for want of wit, or by too much wit, the thing is the same, and the direction is equally needful to both.

AN old experienc’d pilot as certainly loses a ship by his assurance and over-confidence of his own knowledge, as a young pilot does by  his ignorance and want of experience; this very thing, as I have been inform’d, was the occasion of the fatal disaster in which Sir Cloudesfly Shovel, and so many hundred brave fellows, lost their lives in amoment upon the rocks of Scilly.

HE that is above informing himself when he is in danger, is above pity when he miscarries: A young Tradesman who sets up thus full of himself, and scorning advice from those who have gone before him, like a horse that rushes into battle, is only fearless of danger becasue he does not understand it.

IF there is not something extraordinary in the temper and genius of the Treadesmen of this age, if there is not something very singular in their customs and methods, their conduct and behaviour in business; also if ther is not seomething different and more dangerous and fatal in the common road of trading, and Tradesmanes management now, than ever was before, what is the reason that there are so many bankrupts and broken Tradesmen now among us, more than ever were known before?

I make no doubt there is as much trade nwo, and as much gotten by trading, as there ever was in this nation, at least in our memory; and, if we allow other people to judge, they will tell us there is much mofe of both: What then must be the reason that the Tradesmen cannot live on their trades, cannot keep open their shops, cannot maintain thmselves and families, as well now as they could before? Something extraordinary must be the case.

THERE must be some failure in the Tradesman, it can be no where else; either he is less sober and less frugal, less cautious of what he does, who he trusts, how he lives, and how he behaves, than Tradesmen use to be; or he is less industrious, less diligent, and takes less care and pains in his business, or something is the matter; it cannot be, but if had the same gain, and only the same expence which the former ages suffer’d Tradesmen to thrive iwth, he would certainly thrive as they did: There must be soemthing out of order in the foundation, he must fail in the essential part, or he would not fail in  his trade: The same causes would have the same effects in all ages; the same gain, and but the same expence, would just leave him in the same place as it would have left his predeccor in the same shop; and yet we see one grow rich,a nd the other starve, under the very same circumstances.

The temper of the times explains the case to every body that pleases but to look into it. The expences of a family are quite different now fromw hat they have been; Tradesmen cannot live as Tradesmen in the same class used to live; custom, and the manner of all the Tradesmen round them, command a difference, and he that will not do as otherd so, is esteem’d as no body among them; and thus the Treadesman is doom’d to ruin by the fate of the times.

In short, ther is a fate upon a Tradesman, either he must yield to the snare of the times, or be the jest of the times; the young Tradesman cannot resist it; he must live as others do, or lose the credit of living, and be run down as if he was broke: In a word, he must spend more than he can afford to spend, and so be undone; or not spend it, and so be undone.

If he lives as others do, he breaks, because he spends more than he gets; if he does not, he breaks too, because he loses hi credit, and that is to lose his trade; What must he do? . . .


Leave a comment

Filed under 1730's, Commerce, Culture, Eighteenth century, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Trade

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s