Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XV.: Of Excize. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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CHAP. XV.: Of Excize. - Sir William Petty, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1 
The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, together with The Observations upon Bills of Mortality, more probably by Captain John Graunt, ed. Charles Henry Hull (Cambridge University Press, 1899), 2 vols.
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IT is generally allowed by all, that men should contribute to the Publick Charge but according to the share and interest they have in the Publick Peace; that is, according to their Estates or Riches: now there are two sorts of Riches, one actual, and the other potential. A man is actually and truly rich according to what he eateth, drinketh, weareth, or any other way really and actually enjoyeth; others are but potentially or imaginatively rich, who though they have power overmuch, make little use of it; these being rather Stewards and Exchangers for the other sort, then owners for themselves.
2. Concluding therefore that every man ought to contribute according to what he taketh to himself, and actually enjoyeth. The first thing to be done is, to compute what the Total of the Expence of this Nation is by particular men upon themselves, and then what part thereof is necessary for ‖ the Publick; both which (no not the former) are so difficult as most men imagine.
3. In the next place we must conceive, that the very perfect Idea of making a Leavy upon Consumptions, is to rate every particular Necessary, just when it is ripe for Consumption; that is to say, not to rate Corn until it be Bread, nor Wool until it be cloth, or rather until it be a very Garment; so as the value of Wool, Cloathing, and Tayloring, even to the Thread and Needles might be comprehended: But this being perhaps too laborious to be performed, we ought to enumerate a Catalogue of Commodities both native and artificial, such whereof accompts may be most easily taken, and can bear the Office marks either on themselves or on what contains them; being withall such, as are to be as near Consumption as possible: And then we are to compute what further labour or charge is to be bestowed on each of them, before consumption, that so an allowance be given accordingly. As for example, suppose there be an hundred pounds worth of Stript Stuff for Hangings, and an hundred pounds worth of Cloth or Stuff for the best mens Cloathes; I conceive, that the Cloth should bear a greater Excize then the said stript stuff, the one wanting nothing but tacking up, to be at its wayes end; and the other Tayloring, Thread, Silk, Needles, Thimbles, Buttons, and several other particulars: The Excise of all which must be accumulated upon the Excise of the Cloth, unless they be so great (as perhaps Buttons, Lace, or Ribbons may be) to be taxed apart, and inserted into the Catalogue abovementioned.
4. Now the things to be accumulated upon Cloth are, as near as possible, to be such particulars as are used onely to Cloth, or very rarely to any other particular, as the several sorts of peculiar trimmings; so on Corn should be accumulated the charge of grinding, bolting, yeast, &c. for the baking of it into Bread, unless, as was said before, any of these particulars can be better rated apart.
5. A question ariseth hence, whether any Native Commodities exported ought to pay the Excize, or that what is imported ‖ in lieu of it should pay none? I answer no, because they are not spent here in specie; but I conceive that the Goods returned from abroad for them and spent here should pay, if the exported have not already, for so shall what we spend pay once, but not oftner. Now if Bullion be returned, then if it be coyned into Money it ought not to pay, because Money will beget other commodities which shall pay; but if the said Bullion be wrought into Plate and Utensils, or disgrost into Wire or Lace, or beaten into Fueilles, then it also ought to pay, because it is consumed and absolutely spent, as in Lace and Gilding is too notorious; and this is the reason why I think the Leavy we commonly call Customs to be unseasonable and preposterous, the same being a payment before consumption.
6. We have several times spoken of Accumulative Excize, by which we mean Taxing many things together as one: As for example, suppose the many Drugs used in Treacle or Mithridate were used onely in those Compositions, in such case by taxing any one of them, the whole number will be taxed as certainly as that one, because they all bear a certain proportion one to another: In Cloth, the Workmanship and Tools as well as the Wool may be well enough taxed, &c.
7. But some have strained this Accumulation so, as they would have all things together taxed upon some one single particular, such as they think to be nearest the Common Standard of all Expence, the principal ends of their proposition being these, viz.
First, To disguise the name of Excize, as odious to them, that do neither know the payment of Taxes to be as indispensable as eating, and as have not considered the natural justice of this way of Excizing or proportionating.
Secondly, To avoid the trouble and charge of Collecting.
Thirdly, To bring the business ad firmum, and to a certainty of all which we shall speak hereafter, when we examine the several reasons for and against the way of Excize, proceeding now to the several species of Accumulative Excizes, propounded in the world. ‖
8. Some propound Beer to be the only Excizeable Commodity, supposing that in the proportion that men drink, they make all other Expences; which certainly will not hold, especially if Strong Beer pay quintuple unto, (as now) or any more Excize then the small: For poor Carpenters, Smiths, Felt-makers, &c. drinking twice as much Strong Beer as Gentlemen do of Small, must consequently pay ten times as much Excize. Moreover, upon the Artizans Beer is accumulated, onely a little Bread and Cheese, leathern Clothes, Neck-Beef, and Inwards twice a week, stale Fish, old Pease without Butter, &c. Whereas on the other, beside Drink, is accumulated as many more things as Nature and Art can produce; besides this way of Excizing, though it be never so well administred, is neither so equal nor so easie, nor so examinable as the simple Poll-money before spoken of, which is also but an Accumulative Excize.
9. What hath been propounded for Beer may be of Salt, Fuel, Bread, &c. and the Propositions would all labour under the same Inconveniences; for some spend more, some less of these Commodities; and sometimes Families (each whereof are propounded to be farmed, without descending to individual heads) are more numerous at some times then at others, according as their Estates or other Interests shall wax or wane.
10. Of all the Accumulative Excizes, that of Harth-money or Smoak-money seems the best; and that onely because the easiest, and clearest, and fittest to ground a certain Revenue upon; it being easie to tell the number of Harths, which remove not as Heads or Polls do: Moreover, ‘tis more easie to pay a small Tax, then to alter or abrogate Harths, even though they are useless and supernumerary; nor is it possible to cover them, because most of the neighbours know them; nor in new Building will any man who gives forty shillings for making a Chimney be without it for two.
11. Here is to be noted, that a Harth-money must be but small, or else ‘twill be intollerable; it being more easie for a Gentleman of a thousand pound per annum to pay for an hundred Chimneys (few of their Mansion-Houses having more) ‖ then for Labourers to pay for two. Moreover, if the Land-Lord onely pay this Tax, then is it not an Accumulative Excize for all, but a particular Excize upon but one onely Commodity, namely Housing.
12. Now the Reasons for Excize are these, viz.
First, The Natural Justice that every man should pay according to what he actually enjoyeth; upon which account this Tax is scarce forced upon any, and is very light to those, who please to be content with natural Necessaries.
Secondly, This Tax if it be not farmed, but regularly collected, engages to thrift, the onely way to enrich a Nation, as by the Dutch and Jews, and by all other men, who have come to vaste Estates by Trade, doth appear.
Thirdly, No man payes double or twice for the same thing, forasmuch as nothing can be spent but once; whereas it is frequently seen, that otherwise men pay both by the Rent of their Lands, by their Smoaks, by their Titles, and by Customs, (which all men do, though Merchants chiefly talk of it) they also pay by Benevolence and by Tythes; whereas in this way of Excize no man need pay but one way, nor but once, properly speaking.
Fifthly1 , By this way an excellent account may be taken of the Wealth, Growth, Trade, and strength of the Nation at all times. All which Reasons do make not for particular compoundings with Faculties† , nor for letting the whole to farm, but for collecting it by special Officers, who having a full employment, will not be a fourth of the charge of our present many multiform Levies; for to put extraordinary trouble and hazzard upon the Countrey Officers, is a sorer Taxing of them, then to make them pay a small Reward unto practised Persons to be their Substitutes. All which are the common Objections against Excize.
13. I should here adde the manner of Collecting it, but I refer this to the practice of Holland; and I might also offer how men may be framed to be fit for this and other Publick Trusts, as to be Cashiers, Storekeepers, Collectors, &c. but I refer this Enquiry unto a more ample and fit occasion. ‖
[The Verbum Sapienti having been printed, heretofore, only at the end of the Political Anatomy of Ireland, has never had a full title-page].
No “fourthly” in any edition.
[†]read [families] for [faculties]
In the 1662 ed., this catch-word occurs on p. 75 (signature L 2). The verso of the leaf is blank. The next leaf, unpaged, has signature M and begins “Errata.” The 1662 ed. being in quarto, two leaves, apparently, are missing. But the Index calls for no more than is here printed, and the nine copies I have seen contain no more.