Board of Trade

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This article is about the committee of the United Kingdom Privy Council. For the more general article on business networks, see Chamber of commerce. For other uses, see Board of Trade (disambiguation).
The Board of Trade circa 1808.

The Board of Trade, originally the Lords of Trade and Plantations or Lords of Trade, is a committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. It was first established as a temporary committee of England's Privy Council to advise on colonial (plantation) questions in the early 17th century, when these settlements were initially forming. The Board would evolve gradually into a government department with considerable power and a diverse range of functions,[1] including regulation of domestic and foreign commerce, the development, implementation and interpretation of the Acts of Trade and Navigation, and the review and acceptance of legislation passed in the colonies. Between 1696 and 1782 the Board of Trade, in partnership with the various[2] secretaries of state over that time, held responsible for colonial affairs, particularly in British America. The Home Secretary held colonial responsibility until 1801 when the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies was established.[3][4]

Between 1768 and 1782 while with the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whose secretaryship was held jointly with the presidency of the Board of Trade, the latter position remained largely vacant; this led to a diminished status of the board and it became an adjunct to the new Department and Ministry concerns. Following the loss of the American War of Independence, both the board and the short-lived secretaryship were dismissed by the king on 2 May 1782 and the board was abolished later by the Civil List and Secret Service Money Act 1782 (22 Geo. III, c 82).[5]

Following the Treaty of Paris 1783, with the continuing need to regulate trade between its remaining colonies, the independent United States and all other countries, a new Committee of Council on Trade and Plantations (later known as 'the First Committee') was established by William Pitt the Younger. Initially mandated by an order in Council on 5 March 1784, the committee was reconstructed and strengthened by a second order, on 23 August 1786, under which it operated for the rest of its existence. The committee has been known as the Board of Trade since 1786, but this name was only officially adopted by an act of 1861. The new Board's first functions were consultative like earlier iterations, and its concern with plantations, in matters such as the approval of colonial laws, more successfully accomplished. As the industrial revolution expanded, the board's work became increasingly executive and domestic and from the 1840's a succession of acts of parliament gave it regulatory duties, notably concerning railways, merchant shipping, and joint stock companies.[6]

This department was merged with the Ministry of Technology in 1970 to form the Department of Trade and Industry. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (from 2009 Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) was also President of the Board of Trade. The full Board has met only once since the mid-20th century, during commemorations of the bicentenary of the Board in 1986. In 2016 the role of President of the Board of Trade was transferred to the Secretary of State for International Trade.[7]

History[edit]

In 1621, toward the end of the Dutch Twelve Years' Truce, King James I directed the Privy Council of England to establish a temporary committee to investigate the causes of a decline in trade and consequent financial difficulties. The Board's formal title remains "The Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations". This would be followed by a number of temporary committees and councils to regulate the colonies and their commerce.[8]

In 1634, Charles I appointed a new commission for regulating plantations.[9] It was headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury with its primary goals to increase royal authority and the influence of the Church of England in the colonies, particularly with the great influx of Puritans to the New World. Soon after however, the English Civil Wars erupted and initiated a long period of political instability in England and the resultant loss of productivity for these committees.[1] Between 1643 and 1648 the Long Parliament would establish a parliamentary Commission for Plantations to take the lead in colonial and commercial affairs.[8] This period also saw the first regulation of Royal tonnage and poundage and begin the modernization of customs and excise as growing sources of government revenue.

It was the Lords of Trade who, in 1675, originated the idea of transforming all of the colonies in America into Royal Colonies for the purpose of securing English trade against the French. They brought New Hampshire under the Crown, modified Penn's charter, refused a charter to the Plymouth colony, and taking advantage of the concessions of the charters of Massachusetts and New York, created the Dominion of New England in 1685, thereby transforming all the territory from the Kennebec to the Delaware into a single crown colony.[10]

In 1696, King William III appointed eight paid commissioners to promote trade in the American plantations and elsewhere. The Lords Commissioners of Trade and Foreign Plantations, appointed in 1696 and commonly known as the Lords of Trade, did not constitute a committee of the Privy Council, but were, in fact, members of a separate body. The board carried on this work but also had long periods of inactivity, devolving into chaos after 1761 and dissolved in 1782 by an act of Parliament by the Rockingham Whigs.

William Pitt the Younger re-established the committee in 1784, and an Order in Council of 23 August 1786 provided the formal basis that still remains in force. A secretariat was established which included the president, vice president and board members. By 1793, the board still remained in its old structure, with 20 members including the Archbishop of Canterbury.[11] After 1820 the board ceased to meet regularly and the business was carried out entirely by the secretariat. The short name of "Board of Trade" was formalised in 1861.

In the 19th century the board had an advisory function on economic activity in the UK and its empire. During the second half of the 19th century it also dealt with legislation for patents, designs and trade marks, company regulation, labour and factories, merchant shipping, agriculture, transport, power etc. Colonial matters passed to the Colonial Office and other functions were devolved to newly created departments, a process that continued for much of the 20th century.

The original commission comprised the seven (later eight) Great Officers of State, who were not required to attend meetings, and the eight paid members, who were required to attend. The Board, so constituted, had little real power, and matters related to trade and the colonies were usually within the jurisdiction of the Secretaries of State and the Privy Council, with the Board confining itself mainly to colonial administration.

Ministers[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Works cited[edit]

  • Emsley, Clive (1979). British Society and the French Wars 1793-1815. Macmillan Press. 
  • Root, Winfred T. “The Lords of Trade and Plantations, 1675-1696.” American Historical Review 23 (October 1917): 20-41.
  • History of the Board of Trade

External links[edit]