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Trade, Board of

Trade, Board of. The origins of the department may be traced back to 1621 when, in the face of a trade recession and a difficult Parliament, a number of committees were appointed, under the guidance of Cranfield, to consider the matter. At the Restoration, Charles II appointed separate councils for trade and for plantations, brought together by Shaftesbury in 1672, who took the presidency. His successor, Danby, reorganized it with William Blathwayt as secretary. In 1696 when the problem of coinage was again giving trouble, a permanent Board of Trade and Plantations was set up, with eight core members, supported by the great officers of state. The earl of Bridgwater took the presidency and John Locke was one of the first commissioners. The business of the board was primarily colonial administration and policy. Gibbon found, when appointed in 1779, that ‘our duty is not intolerably severe’ and in 1782 the board fell victim to the economical reform of the Rockinghams. Pressure of business soon demanded a replacement. As early as March 1784 Pitt's government appointed a new committee, upgraded in 1786 to a board, with Jenkinson as president and given a peerage as Lord Liverpool. The post was not at first highly regarded and the president was not necessarily in the cabinet. But as extra responsibilities were acquired and economic growth became a major consideration, the prestige of the department rose and politicians of the calibre of Gladstone, Joseph Chamberlain, Churchill, Lloyd George, Cripps, and Wilson took it on. Since 1945 the presidency has often been held with some other post as governments reshuffled organization in desperate attempts to find the golden key to prosperity.

J. A. Cannon

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