Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 3, Officials of the Boards of Trade 1660-1870. Originally published by University of London, London, 1974.
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COMMITTEES OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL FOR TRADE AND PLANTATIONS 1675-96
From 1675 to 1696 the Board of Trade took the form of successive Committees of the Privy Council which had immediate responsibility for trade and plantation affairs and whose Members, often known as the Lords of Trade and Plantations, served without salary. As constituted in 1675 the Committee was select in character and provision was made for nine of its Members 'to have immediate care and intendency' of the business. (fn. 1) In 1679 the Committee was reappointed following the remodelling of the Privy Council. (fn. 2) It was revived at the accession of James II in 1685. (fn. 3) In 1688 trade and plantation affairs were entrusted to a Committee of the whole Council. (fn. 4) In the following year it was reconstituted as a select Committee which undertook the business until 1696. (fn. 5)
At no time during the period was attendance at the Committee restricted to those who had been specifically nominated to serve upon it. Other Privy Counsellors frequently attended and took part in its business. (fn. 6)
Secretary 1675-96 and Assistant Secretary 1692-6
In March 1675 it was ordered that Sir Robert Southwell, one of the four Clerks in Ordinary of the Privy Council, should 'constantly attend' the Committee for Trade and Plantations as its Secretary. (fn. 7) In 1676 it was provided that such of the Clerks of the Council who wished should have the opportunity of undertaking the duties of Secretary, serving for periods of six months in turn. At the same time £400 a year was made available for their remuneration. (fn. 8) How far the Clerks of the Privy Council, apart from Southwell who resigned his office in 1679, played an active part as Secretaries is uncertain. Payments were made to them by name for successive periods of six months until 1685 after which they were made simply 'To the Clerk of the Council in Waiting' each quarter. It seems clear that, from this date at least, the £400 was treated simply as an additional salary to be divided equally amongst the four Clerks without regard to their attendance on the Committee. (fn. 9)
There seems little doubt that the actual duties of Secretary were undertaken almost from the first by Blathwayt who had entered the office in September 1675. In May 1676 he was, in consideration of the fact that he had been approved by the King as 'assistant to the clerks of the council in the business of trade and plantations' called in to give his attendance at the Committee. Thereafter his industry and continuous attendance ensured that the direction of the Committee's affairs passed effectively into his hands. His salary was fixed at £150 and raised to £250 in the following year. (fn. 10) He was himself appointed a Clerk of the Council in Extraordinary in 1678 and a Clerk in Ordinary in 1686. (fn. 11)
Although Blathwayt retained his position until 1696 his additional responsibilities as Secretary at War (1683) and as acting Secretary of State during the reign of William III restricted the amount of time that he could devote to the office. As a result much of the business devolved upon his principal subordinate, Povey. Povey's position was regularised in 1692 when he was appointed a Clerk of the Council in Extraordinary with special instructions 'to assist the Clerks of the Council at the Committee of Trade and Plantations' in the absence of Blathwayt. Povey continued to act as Assistant Secretary until 1696. (fn. 12)
Two Clerks, who were apparently Under Clerks of the Privy Council, served the Board from 1675 until March 1676, each with salaries of £50. (fn. 13) The first establishment of the office dated April 1676 made provision for two Clerks with the same salaries. (fn. 14) An 'Extraordinary Clerk' was also employed at the same salary from 1677 to 1683. (fn. 15) In 1685 a new establishment made provision for three Clerks, all with salaries of £50. (fn. 16) This arrangement continued in operation until 1696. The Journal of the Committee does not record the appointment of Clerks and the accounts specify the names of those who received salaries in only one case. It is, therefore, impossible to provide a satisfactory account of these officials. Apart from those who served between 1675 and 1676 the name of only one other Clerk is known.