Chapter XI: Of Sundry Minerals And Metals
With how great benefits this island of ours hath been endued from the beginning I hope there is no godly man but will readily confess, and yield unto the Lord God his due honour for the same. For we are blessed every way, and there is no temporal commodity necessary to be had or craved by any nation at God's hand that he hath not in most abundant manner bestowed upon us Englishmen, if we could see to use it, and be thankful for the same. But alas! (as I said in the chapter precedent) we love to enrich them that care not for us, but for our great commodities: and one trifling toy not worth the carriage, coming (as the proverb saith) in three ships from beyond the sea, is more worth with us than a right good jewel easy to be had at home. They have also the cast to teach us to neglect our own things; for, if they see that we begin to make any account of our commodities (if it be so that they have also the like in their own countries) they will suddenly abase the same to so low a price that our gain not being worthy our travel, and the same commodity with less cost ready to be had at home from other countries (though but for a while), it causeth us to give over our endeavours and as it were by-and-by to forget the matter whereabout we went before, to obtain them at their hands. And this is the only cause wherefore our commodities are oft so little esteemed of. Some of them can say, without any teacher, that they will buy the case of a fox of an Englishman for a groat, and make him afterwards give twelve pence for the tail. Would to God we might once wax wiser, and each one endeavour that the commonwealth of England may flourish again in her old rate, and that our commodities may be fully wrought at home (as cloth if you will for an example) and not carried out to be shorn and dressed abroad, while our clothworkers here do starve and beg their bread, and for lack of daily practice utterly neglect to be skilful in this science! But to my purpose.
We have in England great plenty of quicksilver, antimony, sulphur, black lead, and orpiment red and yellow. We have also the finest alum (wherein the diligence of one of the greatest favourers of the commonwealth of England of a subjecthath been of late egregriousl abused, and even almost with barbarous incivility) and of no less force against fire, if it were used in our parietings, than that of Lipari, which only was in use sometime amongst the Asians and Romans and whereof Sylla had such trial that when he meant to have burned a tower of wood erected by Archelaus, the lieutenant of Mithridates, he could by no means set it on fire in a long time, because it was washed over with alum, as were also the gates of the temple of Jerusalem with like effect, and perceived when Titus commanded fire to be put unto the same. Besides this, we have also the natural cinnabarum or vermillion, the sulphurous glebe called bitumen in old time, for mortar, and yet burned in lamps where oil is scant and geson; the chrysocolla, copperas, and mineral stone, whereof petrolium is made, and that which is most strange, the mineral pearl, which as they are for greatness and colour most excellent of all other, so are they digged out of the main land and in sundry places far distant from the shore. Certes the western part of the land hath in times past greatly abounded with these and many other rare and excellent commodities, but now they are washed away by the violence of the sea, which hath devoured the greatest part of Cornwall and Devonshire on either side; and it doth appear yet by good record that, whereas now there is a great distance between the Scilly Isles and the point of the Land's End, there was of late years to speak of scarcely a brook or drain of one fathom water between them, if so much, as by those evidences appeareth, and are yet to be seen in the hands of the lord and chief owner of those isles. But to proceed.
Of coal-mines we have such plenty in the north and western parts of our island as may suffice for all the realm of England; and so must they do hereafter indeed, if wood be not better cherished than it is at this present. And so say the truth, notwithstanding that very many of them are carried into other countries of the main, yet their greatest trade beginneth now to grow from the forge into the kitchen and hall, as may appear already in most cities and towns that lie about the coast, where they have but little other fuel except it be turf and hassock. I marvel not a little that there is no trade of these into Sussex and Southamptonshire, for want thereof the smiths do work their iron with charcoal. I think that far carriage be the only cause, which is but a slender excuse to enforce us to carry them into the main from hence.
Besides our coal-mines, we have pits in like sort of white plaster, and of fat and white and other coloured marble, wherewith in many places the inhabitors do compest their soil, and which doth benefit their land in ample manner for many years to come. We have sallpetre for our ordinance and salt soda for our glass, and thereto in one place a kind of earth (in Southery; as I ween, hard by Codington, and sometime in the tenure of one Croxton of London) which is so fine to make moulds for goldsmiths and casters of metal, that a load of it was worth five shillings thirty years ago; none such again they say in England. But whether there be or not, let us not be unthankful to God, for these and other his benefits bestowed upon us, whereby he sheweth himself a loving and merciful father unto us, which contrariwise return unto him in lieu of humility and obedience nothing but wickedness, avarice, mere contempt of his will, pride, excess, atheism, and no less than Jewish ingratitude. 2