Part 3f of Chapter 1 of Book 5 of The Wealth of Nations Simplified

The African Regulated Company of Merchants (1752-1821) Icon

August 1, 2021

101 In 1750 long after the time of Sir Josiah Child, the African Company of Merchants, a regulated company, was established by the 23rd of George 2nd chapter 31.

It had two objects:

  1. Restrain the oppressive and monopolizing spirit natural to the executives of a private regulated company
  2. Force them to maintain forts and garrisons, something unnatural to them.

At first, it was expressly charged to maintain all the British forts and garrisons between Cape Blanc and the Cape of Good Hope. Afterwards, it maintained only those between Cape Rouge and the Cape of Good Hope.

Restraining Monopoly

102 For the first purpose, the admission fee is limited to 40 shillings.

The company is prohibited from:

  • borrowing money on common seal, and
  • restraining the business which may be done freely from all places, and by all British persons after paying the admission fee.

The management is made up of a committee of 9 persons who meet at London. They are chosen annually by the freemen of the company at London, Bristol, and Liverpool, 3 from each place.

No committee member can be in office for more than 3 years. After being heard in his own defence, any committee member can be removed by the Board of Trade and Plantations.

They are now removed by a committee council which is forbidden from:

  • exporting negroes from Africa, and
  • importing any African goods into Great Britain.

They:

  • are charged with the maintenance of forts and garrisons.
  • may export goods from Great Britain to Africa for that purpose.

They are allowed to receive from the company:

  • up to £800 for the salaries of their clerks and agents at London, Bristol, and Liverpool,
  • the house-rent of their office at London, and
  • all other expences of management, commission, and agency in England.

What remains of this sum after defraying these expences may be divided among themselves as compensation.

These rules were expected to restrain the spirit of monopoly of the executives. But they did not.

By the 4th of George 3rd chapter 20, the fort of Senegal with all its dependencies was put under this company.

  • In the next year (by the 5th of George 3rd chapter 44), Senegal, its dependencies and the whole coast from the port of Salé in Morocco to Cape Rouge was exempted from the jurisdiction of that company.
  • Those areas were put back under the crown.

The business to them was declared free to all British.

  • The company was suspected of restraining that business and establishing some improper monopoly.

It is not very easy to see how they could do so under the regulations of the 23rd of George 2nd. The printed debates of the House of Commons are not always the most truthful records.

  • In those debates, the company was accused of this monopoly.
  • The members of the committee were all merchants.

Their governors and factors in their forts and settlements were all dependent on them. It is likely that the governors and factors gave peculiar attention to the consignments and commissions of the committee to establish a real monopoly.

Maintaining Forts

103 The act’s second purpose was the maintenance of forts and garrisons.

Around £13,000 was allotted to the company by parliament.

  • The committee is obliged to account this sum annually to the Cursitor Baron of Exchequer.
  • Its account is afterwards laid before Parliament.

But Parliament gives so little attention to the application of millions.

  • It is not likely to give much attention to £13,000 a year.
  • The profession and education of a Cursitor Baron of Exchequer is not likely to be skilled in the proper expence of forts and garrisons.

The captains of the British navy or any commissioned officers appointed by the Board of Admiralty may:

  • inquire into the condition of the forts and garrisons, and
  • report their observations to that board.

But that board has no direct jurisdiction over the committee.

  • It has no authority to correct the committee’s conduct.
  • The captains of the British navy are not experts in fortifications.

The committee’s term can only last for 3 years.

  • Its lawful emoluments are very small.
  • Removal from this office is the highest punishment for any committee member for any fault except direct malversation or embezzlement of money.
    • That punishment can never force a careful attention to a business he has no interest in.

Parliament granted a lot of money to the committee several times to send bricks and stones to repair the Cape Coast Castle on the coast of Guinea.

  • These were sent on a long voyage.
  • But they were of so bad quality that it was necessary to rebuild the walls repaired with them.

The forts and garrisons north of Cape Rouge are maintained at the expence of the state and governed by it.

There is no good reason why the forts south of Cape Rouge maintained at state expence should be under private management.

  • The Gibraltar and Minorca garrisons were originally to protect the Mediterranean trade
  • The management of those garrisons was always very properly committed to the government and not to the Turkey Company.

The government takes pride in the size of its dominion. It will likely be attentive in defending that dominion.

The Gibraltar and Minorca garrisons have never been neglected.

  • Minorca was twice taken and is now probably lost forever.
  • That disaster was never imputed to any neglect by the government.

I do not insinuate that those expensive garrisons was ever necessary for their separation from the Spanish monarchy.

The only real purpose for that separation was:

  • to unite the 2 branches of the house of Bourbon in a much stricter and more permanent alliance than blood ties could unite, and
  • to alienate the King of Spain from England.

The King of Spain is England’s natural ally.