Front Page Titles (by Subject) VERBUM SAPIENTI. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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VERBUM SAPIENTI. - 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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NOTE ON THE VERBUM SAPIENTI.
The Verbum Sapienti was first published in 1691 as a supplement to the Political Anatomy of Ireland (q v.). In Petty's list of his own writings1 , however, the entry “Verbum Sapienti, and the value of People” stands opposite the year 1665, and the internal evidence makes it probable that the booklet was written in the latter part of that year. Thus Petty speaks2 of the continuance of the war with Holland, declared 14 March, 1665, “at the value of the last years Expence” as if the additional assessment beginning Christmas, 1665, were not yet gone into effect3 . Furthermore his assertion that 100,000 died of the plague4 looks like an exaggerated estimate made in advance of the yearly bill of mortality, upon whose publication in December, 1665, the official figures were seen to be but 68596. It may be, however, that Petty distrusted the official figures and purposely exceeded them5 . But by no hypothesis can we assign the Verbum Sapienti to a later date than July 1667, when the war closed.
A MS. of the Verbum Sapienti is contained in a volume preserved at the Public Record Office in Dublin, and called “Dr Petty's Register6 .” The copyist's title, fol. 10, is simply “Verbum Sapienti,” but Petty's autograph index to the volume has “Verbum Sapienti Or a discourse about Taxes & ye Value of People,” a title so similar to the memorandum mentioned in the preceding paragraph as to justify the assumption that we have in the Verbum Sapienti all that the entry quoted from Petty's list of his own writings calls for. Another MS. of the Verbum Sapienti very carelessly written is appended to a MS. of the Political Arithmetick in the British Museum7 . The latter portion of it is but a précis of Petty's argument. Sir Peter Pett had, before 1680, a MS. of both these tracts8 and it is not impossible that the present Sloane MS. is identical with that once in his possession. The Dublin MS. is not divided into chapters and its paragraphs are consecutively numbered throughout. Otherwise it is substantially similar to the printed text of 1691 here reproduced. Significant differences are indicated in the notes, the readings of the Dublin MS. being marked “D,” those of the Sloane MS. “S.”
1. WHEREAS many are forced1 to pay of their whole Estates towards the raising of but2 70000 l. per Mensem3 , besides what they pay more insensibly and directly4 , as Customs, Excise, Chimny-Money, &c. (viz. in London, they pay 2d. per Mensem per Pound Rent, that is 2s. per Annum, or of the whole.) It must come to pass, that the same Persons must from Christmas, 1665. pay ⅓ of their whole Estates, if the War with Holland continue two years longer, at the value of the last years Expence5 , provided His Majesty be kept out of Debt. ‖
2. But if the Publick Charge were laid proportionably, no Man need pay above of his whole Effects, even in case the Tax should rise to 250 000 l. per Mensem, which God forbid.
3. That is to say, according to the present ways, some pay four times as much more as they ought, or needed; which disproportion is the true and proper Grievance of Taxes, and which must be felt when the Tax happens to be great and extraordinary: Whereas by meer Method and Proportion, the same may be corrected as aforesaid; and withal, just Accounts might be kept of the People, with the respective Increases and Decreases of them, their Wealth, and Foreign Trade.
Containing several Computations of the Wealth of the Kingdom.
1. THERE are of Men, Women, and Children, in England and Wales, about six Millions, whose Expence at 6l. 13s. 4d. per Annum, or near 4½d. per Diem, for Food, Housing, Cloaths, and all other necessaries, amount to 40 Millions, per Annum.
2. There are in England and Wales, of Acres of Land (worth 6 l. Is. 8d. per Acre1 , and 18 years purchase) 24 Millions, that is, which yields 8 Millions per Annum Rent, and which are worth 144 Millions to be sold.
3. There be 28000 Houses within the Liberties of the City of London, worth 15l. per Annum, and twelve years purchase (viz. which yields 420,000l. per Annum, and are worth 5,040,000l. ‖
There are without the Liberties, but within the Bills of Mortality ¼ more2 in number, perhaps not of greater value, viz. 5,040,000l.
4. There is in all England and Wales near ten times as many Chimneys as within the Liberties of London, as appears by the Returns; Whereof those within the Bills are ⅕1 of the whole.
5. ‘Tis probable, that the Housing of all the Cities and Market-Towns, are double in number to those of all London, though of no more worth.
6. ‘Tis also probable, that the Housing without the Cities and Towns, are more in number than those within (London excepted) but of no more value.
7. So as the Housing of England may be estimated worth 30 Millions2 ; and that if their values be estimated by Chimneys, those of London are worth 12d. per Chimney; those of the Suburbs 10d. other Cities and Market-Towns 6 d. and those without both, about 4d.
8. The Shipping of England, &c. is about 500,000 Tuns, which at 6 d. per Tun, including their Ordnance, Apparel3 , &c. is worth three Millions. ‖
9. The Stock of Cattel on the afore-mentioned millions of Land, and the Waste thereunto belonging, is worth ¼ of the said Land, viz. 36 millions comprehending Horses, Oxen, Sheep, Swine, Deer, Fisheries, Parks and Warrens.
10. The Coined Gold and Silver of the Kingdom, is scarce worth six millions.
11. The Wares, Merchandizes, and Utensils of Plate, and Furnitures, may be estimated at 31 millions to make1 the Ships and Money 40, and the whole 250 millions.
12. The most uncertain part of this Estimate, seems to be rating personal Estates at above 30 Millions, which I make probable thus.
(Lastly,) supposing that in the Houses within the Liberties of London (worth 5 Millions) there be 10 Millions worth of Goods; I conceive that to allow about as much more, viz. 21 Millions) to all the rest of the Houses in the Kingdom, which are ten times as many as aforesaid, will not overcharge them. ‖
13. Now if the Land worth 144 Millions, yield 8 Millions per annum, the other Estate converted into the like Species must yield 5 more; but because Money and other personal Estates yield more per annum than Land; (that is) doubles it self under 17 years purchase at 6 l. per centum, then instead of 5 , suppose it to yield 7, making the whole Annual Proceed 15.
Of the Value of thePeople
NOW if the Annual proceed of the Stock, or Wealth of the Nation, yields but 15 millions, and the expence be 40. Then the labour of the People must furnish the other 25; which may be done, if but half of them, viz. 3 millions earned but 8 l. 6 s.1 8 d.2per annum, which is done at 7 d. per diem, abating the 52 Sundays, and half as many other days for accidents as Holy days, sickness, recreations, &c.
2. If ⅙ of these 3 millions earned but 2 d. per diem; another ⅙ 4 d. another ⅙ 8 d. per diem, another 10 d. and another 12 d. The medium will be this, 7 d. per diem.3 ‖
3. Whereas the Stock of the Kingdom, yielding but 15 Millions of proceed, is worth 250 Millions; then the People who yield 25, are worth 416 ⅔ Millions. For although the Individiums4 of Mankind be reckoned at about 8 years purchase; the Species of them is worth as many as Land, being in its nature as perpetual, for ought we know.
4. If 6 Millions of People be worth 417 millions of pounds Sterling, then each head is worth 69 l. or each of the 3 millions of Workers is worth 138 l. which is 7 years purchase, at about 12 d. per diem; nor is superlucration above his subsistence to be reckoned in this Case.
5. From whence it follows, that 100,000. persons dying of the Plague, above the ordinary number, is near 7 Millions loss to the Kingdom; and consequently how well might 70,000l. have been bestowed in preventing this Centuple loss1 ?
6. We said, that the late mortality by the Pest, is a great loss to the Kingdom; whereas some think it but a seasonable discharge of its Pestilent humours: to clear which difficulty, I say,
7. If the Plague discerned well, between the well and the ill-affected to Peace and Obedience, ‖ or between the Bees and the Drones, the Fact would determine the Question: But if it destroy promiscuously, the Loss is proportionable to the Benefit we have by them that survive; for ‘tis they that make England worth above 600 millions, as aforesaid: It being certain, That if one person only had escaped: the whole Territory, and all that is in it, had been worth but a livelihood for that one; and he subject to be a prey to the next two that should invade him.
8. It seems reasonable, that what we1 call the Wealth, Stock, or Provision of the Nation, being the effect of the former or past labour, should not be conceived to differ from efficiencies in being, but should be rated alike, and contribute alike to the common necessities: And then of all and every summ to be raised, the Land and Stock must pay 3 parts; and the People considered without any Estate at all, 5 more; the whole into 8 divided.
9. If the expence of the Nation be 40 Millions; it seems but the same hardship to set apart 4. viz. of the whole for the publick use, as what now lies upon many already: But 4 Millions would afford one for the ordinary Expence, and ‖ three for the extraordinary Wars, that is 250000l. per mensem; that is 3 frac12 as much as 70. For the raising whereof, many now pay above a of their whole Estates,2 for want of Method and Proportion.
10. Labouring men work 10 hours per diem, and make 20 meals per week, viz. 3 a day for working-days, and two on Sundays; whereby it is plain, that if they could fast on Fryday nights, and Dine in one hour and an half, whereas they take two, from eleven to one; thereby this working more, and spending less, the abovementioned might be raised, at least with more ease, than to take up Arms, and resist it.
Of the several Expences of the Kingdom, and its Revenues.
1. THE ordinary Expence of the Kingdom for the Navy, Ordnance, Garisons, Land-forces, Tangicr, Famaica, Bombay, Ambassadors, Pensions, Intelligence, Kings and Royal Families Expence, consisting of the Houshold, of the ‖ King, Queen, Duke, &c. Privy-Purse, Wardrobe, Robes, Angel-Gold, Master of the Horse, Mews, Armory, Tents, Parks, Lodges, Goldsmiths, Jewels, &c. hath been computed to be about one Million; Reckoning 200 000 l. for the Navy, 60 for the Ordnance and Powder, 290 for Land-forces, Garisons, &c. and 450 000 for other things.
2. Towards this, there is in Crown-Lands 70 000, Post-Office 20, Coynage and Pre-emption of Tinn 12, Forest of Deer 4, Courts of Justice 6, First Fruits 18; in all 130,000. Customs at 2 per Centum 170. in all 300 000. without the Duties of Wares, Wine-Licence, Aulnage or Butlerage, Excise, Chimney-money, Land-tax, Pole and Assesments, being regulated and proportionated as followeth: viz.
Of the Method of apportioning Taxes.
1. IF a Million is to be raised above the 300 000 l. last mentioned, then 375 000 l. is to be levied on the Stock, and 625000 l. on the People. ‖
Of the 375,000. on the Stock,
216 on the Lands,
54 on the Cattel, &c.
60 on the Personal Estates,
in all on the Housing.
1 2. To raise 216,000 l. out of 8,000,000 M. Rent, requires of the Rent, and of ; but allowing the charge of Collecting, we may express it to a part.
3. To raise 54000 l. per annum, out of 36,000000 M. requires the annual payment of a 666th part of the whole value; but in regard of Charges, let it be reduced to a 600th part.
4. The like for the 60000 l. of Personal Estates.
5. To raise 45000 l. per annum, from all the Housing worth 30 Millions, or 7500 for the Housing in London-Liberties, worth about 5 Millions, and whose Rent is 4,20 000 l. per annum, requires but of the annual Rent, which cannot be above 12d. a Chimney per Annum, reckoning 5 to each House. Without the Liberties, about 10 d. the Chimney will effect the same; 6 d. in the Cities and Market-Towns, and 4d. elsewhere. ‖
6. As for the 625,000 l. to be raised by the People, it requires but 2 s. I d. per Pole per Annum, which let rather be divided into a Pole of 6 d. a Head, and an Excise of 19 d. which is not the full part of the mean expence, 6l. 13s. 4d. so as the of the value of Consumptions, will with the said 6 d. Pole, raise 625,000 l. per Annum.
Of Money, and how much is necessary to drive the Trade of the Nation.
1. IT may be asked, If there were occasion to raise 4 Millions per Annum, whether the same 6 Millions (which we hope we have) would suffice for such revolutions and circulations thereof as Trade requires? I answer yes; for the Expence being 40 Millions, if the revolutions were in such short Circles, viz. weekly, as happens among poorer artizans and labourers, who receive and pay every Saturday, then parts of 1 Million of Money would answer those ends: But if the Circles be quarterly, according to our Custom of paying rent, and gathering Taxes, then 10 Millions were requisite. Wherefore supposing payments in general to be of a mixed Circle between One ‖ week and 13. then add 10 Millions to , the half of the which will be 5½, so as if we have 5½ Millions we have enough.
2. And thus I have shewed, That if one half of the Subjects of England (playing 78 days in the year) will earn 7 d. per diem all the rest of the days one with another; and if they would work more, and spend less, they might enable their King to maintain double the Forces he now doth, without suffering in the general more than many well affected persons do now through negligence, or mistakes in their particulars. Nor is Money wanting to answer all the ends of a well Policied State, notwithstanding the great decreases thereof, which have happened within these Twenty years.
Nor were it hard to substitute in the place of Money (were a comptency of it wanting) what should be equivalent unto it. For Money is but the Fat of the Body-politick, whereof too much doth as often hinder its Agility, as too little makes it sick. ‘Tis true, that as Fat lubricates the motion of the Muscles, feeds in want of Victuals, fills up uneven Cavities, and beautifies the Body, so doth Money in the State quicken its Action, feeds from abroad in the time of Dearth at Home; even accounts by reason ‖ of it's divisibility, and beautifies the whole, altho more especially the particular persons that have it in plenty.
The Causes of irregular Taxing.
1. THE Causes of Error in this great Affair of Publick Levies, have been these. First, Laying too great a stress on the matter of Money, which is to the whole effect of the Kingdom but as 6 to 667. That is, not one to 100. Secondly, Laying the whole Burthen on the past Effects, and neglecting the present Efficiencies, exceeding the former as 417 doth 250. Thirdly, Reckoning all the personal Estates of the City of London (Shipping included) at scarce ½ the value of the very Housing, whereas they are double: Which happens because the Housing of London belongs to the Church, Companies, or Gentlemen and are taxed by the Citizens their Tenants. Fourthly, A fallacious tenderness towards the poor, (who now pay scarce 1 s. per head per ann. towards all manner of charges) interwoven with the cruelty of not ‖ providing them Work, and indulging Laziness in them, because of our own indisposition to employ them; so some are overcharged through evil Custom, and others left to sordid Want, and bruitish Irregularity. Fifthly, An Opinion, that certainty of Rules is impossible, and but an idle Notion; and then having made such as are not so, and training them to be applied by Affection and Humour; so as ¼ of the whole paying needlesly four times too much, may be thereby so netled, as to do more mischief than the other unconcerned, and thankless ¾ can allay.
The Collateral Advantages of these Taxes.
1. BEsides the equality of Taxes, we make this further use of trying it by way of Customs, Poles, Excises, Chimney-money, Land-tax, and Assesments upon the personal Estates, viz.
2. There is also a Pole upon Titles and Dignities worth consideration, tho we now omit it; which as it may check mens forwardness to undeserved Pre-eminence, so it may be employed in the encouragement of true worth. ‖
3. We have hitherto computed the old immutable Revenue at but 130,000l. per annum, nor supposed above 170,000l. (viz. less than ½ what it is at present) to be raised by Customs (wholly neglecting Wards, Butlerage, Aulnage, and other obsolete Imposts.) We have also designed the several Proportions towards the raising of a Million more per Ann. to be raised by the Pole, Excise, Land-Tax, Assessments and Chimneys.
Of the Expence of the Navy, Army, and Garisons.
WE come next to shew, That if 3 Millions per ann. or 250,000l. per mensem (to make up the whole 3,300,000l. per ann.) were raised, what might be performed thereby for the safety, establishment, and Honour both of the King and Subject.
Unto which, I say, considering the present condition of the Navy, two Millions will maintain 50,000 men, in Ships of War for eight Months of the Year, and 30000 for the other four Months: Which I take to be near double the best Fleet we ever have ‖ seen in Europe, computing the Ordnance, and Harbor-Charges of the Navy: Nor will the Maintenance of 12,000 Foot, and 3000, Horse, allowing 100,000l. for Inland Garisons, and 60,000l. for Tangier, &c. put all together, exceed 600,000l. so as there remains 700,000l. for other Matters, whereof His Majesty's Royal Family, by all the Accounts I have seen, doth not spend 500,000l. per ann. Nor need the Charge of all those Levies be above 1 of the 33, (viz. part for the 500 Officers, without ever going five Miles from the Centre of their abode) who might perform this Work; nor would more than 200l. per an. for each of them, and their under Instruments be necessary for their respective Sallaries: For there are 450 Areots of 10 Miles square in England and Wales.
Motives to the quiet bearing of extraordinaryTaxes.
HAving shewed how great and glorious things may be done with no less difficulty than what ¼ of the King's Subjects do already endure; I offer these further Reasons ‖ to quiet mens Minds, in case this utmost 250,000 l. per mensem should be ever demanded upon this Holland-War.
2. That Stoppage of Trade is considerable, but as one to eight; for we exchange not above five Millions worth per ann. for our 40.
3. That the Expence of the King, &c. being about 400,000l. per ann. is but part of the Expence of the Nation, who all have the Pleasure and Honour of it.
4. That the Money of the Nation being but about 5 Millions and ½, and the earning of the same 25; It is not difficult for them to encrease their Money a Million per ann. by an easie advance of their Industry, applyed to such Manufactures as will fetch Money from abroad.
5. The Wealth of England lies in Land and People, so as they make five parts of six of the whole: But the Wealth of Holland lies more in Money, Housing, Shipping and Wares. Now supposing England threetimes ‖ as rich as Holland in Land, and People (as it is) and Holland twice as rich as we in other Particulars (as it scarce is); We are still upon the Balance of the whole near twice as rich as they: Of which I wish those that understand Holland, would consider and calculate.
6. There are in England above four Acres of Arrable, Meadow and Pasture-Land, for every Soul in it; and those so fertile, as that the labour of one man in tilling them, is sufficient to get a bare Livelihood for above 10: So as ‘tis for want of Discipline that any Poverty appears in England, and that any are hanged or starved upon that account. ‖
How to employ the People, and the End thereof.
WE said, That half the People by a very gentle labour, might much enrich the Kingdom, and advance its Honour, by setting apart largely for publick uses; But the difficulty is, upon what shall they employ themselves.
To which I answer in general, Upon producing Food and Necessaries for the whole People of the Land. by few hands; whether by labouring harder, or by the introducing the Compendium, and Facilitations of Art1 , which is equivalent to what men vainly hoped from Polygamy2 . For as much as he that can do the Work of five men by one, effects the same as the begetting four adult Workmen. Nor is such advantage worth fewer years purchase than that of Lands, or what we esteem likest to perpetual. Now the making Necessaries cheap, by the means aforesaid, and not by raising more of them than can be spent ‖ whilst they are good, will necessitate others to buy them with much labour of other kinds. For if one man could raise Corn enough for the whole, better than any one man; then that man would have the natural Monopoly of Corn, and could exact more labour for it in exchange, than if ten others raised ten times as much Corn as is necessary; which would make other labour so much the dearer, as men were less under the need of engaging upon it.
2. By this way we might recover our lost Cloth-trade1 , which by the same the Dutch got from us. By this way the East-Indians furnish us from the other end of the world with Linnen cheaper than our selves can make them, with what grows at our own Doors. By this means we might fetch Flax from France, and yet furnish them with Linnen (that is) if we make no more than we can vend, but so much with the fewest hands, and cheapest food, which will be when Food also is raised, by fewer hands than elsewhere.
3. I answer generally we should employ our selves by raising such Commodities, as would yield and fetch in money from abroad: For that would supply any wants of ours from the same, or any other place at all times. Which Stores of Domestick ‖ Commodities could not effect, whose value is to call a Temporary (i.e.) which are of value but pro hic & nunc.
4. But when should we rest from this great Industry? I answer, When we have certainly more Money than any of our Neighbour States, (though never so little) both in Arithmetrical and Geometrical proportion (i.e.) when we have more years provision aforehand, and more present effects.
5. What then should we busie our selves about? I answer, in Ratiocinations upon the Works and Will of God, to be supported not only by the indolency, but also by the pleasure of the Body; and not only by the tranquility, but serenity of the mind; and this Exercise is the natural end of man in this world, and that which best disposeth him for his Spiritual happiness in that other which is to come. The motions of the mind being the quickest of all others, afford most variety, wherein is the very form and being of pleasure; and by how much the more we have of this pleasure, by so much the more we are capable of it even ad Infinitum1
See note 5, p. 103.
See Polit. Anat, chap. iv.
Introduction, pt. VII.
Sloane MS., 2572, fol. 105 b, seq.
Happy Future State, p. 192–3, 245.
S omits ‘are forced to.’
D, ‘but of.’
13 Charles II., stat. 2, c. 3 imposed an assessment of £70,000 per month for 18 months, beginning 25 December, 1661.
Apparently an allusion to the assessment of £68,819. 9s. per month for 36 months granted by 16 & 17 Charles II., c. I, beginning 25 December, 1664. To this 17 Charles II., c. I added £52,083. 6s. 8d. per month for 24 months beginning Christmas, 1665.
All editions have 6 l. Is. 8d. per acre. D has ‘6s 8d p acre,’ which makes Petty's calculation correct.
Apparently “¼ more” should be “as many more.” This correction explains the words “not of greater value, viz. 5,040,000l.“at the end of the paragraph, and it brings the estimate of London's houses (56,000) more nearly into harmony with the 65,000 or 66,000 which Petty variously assigns to the London of 1666 in his Two Essays and in his Five Essays. Furthermore it is by some such change alone that we can justify Petty's valuation of the housing of England at 30 million pounds. His calculation, with the correction suggested, would be:
S, ‘ .’
1719, ‘310 Millions.’
D, ‘theire ordinary apparell.’
S, ‘which makes.’
This and the two following paragraphs are not in S.
Because London was assessed £ 4666. 13 s. 4 d. of the £ 70,000 per month to be raised in accordance with 13 Charles II., stat. 2, c. 3.
D, ‘4 s.’
1719, ‘9 d.’
The words “another ⅙ 6d.” are required to complete the enumeration and to give an average of 7d. per diem.
This seems to be the germ of Petty's plan “Of Lessening y° Plagues of London,” dated October 7, 1667 and here reprinted from Lord E. Fitzmaurice's Life, pp 121–122:
Proposalls—When 100 per week dy, the Plague is begun. If there dye fewer than 120ths, out of ye bills, of all diseases within a yeare after, then W.P. is [to] have 20th per head for all lesse and to pay 10th per head for all above it.
D omits ‘we.’
From this point the copyist of S has ruthlessly abridged the text.
By a slip of the types the 1691 ed. transposes the ‘f’ of ‘for’ and the ‘ ’ which stand at the beginning of successive lines. The obvious mistake is corrected above.
By a slip of the types the 1691 ed. transposes the ‘f’ of ‘for’ and the ‘ ’ which stand at the beginning of successive lines. The obvious mistake is corrected above.
Perhaps an allusion to Petty's projected epitome of useful books and to his “History of arts illiberal and mechanique.” Petty's Advice to Hartlib and Hartlib's letters to Boyle 16 November, 1647, and 10 August, 1658 (Boyle's Works (1772), VI, 76, 112) give some account of the project, and copies of what appear to be Petty's notes towards its realization are in Sloane MS. 2903 fol. 63 seq., in the British Museum.
See Graunt, ch. viii.
See Treatise of Taxes, p. 30 n.
A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country to his Frsend in the City touching Sir William Petty's posthumous Treatise entituled Verbum Sapienti or, the Method of Raising Taxes in the most equal Manner (subscribed “H. J.”) was printed by G. W. for William Miller, London, 1691, 4°. The author summarizes and in general approves Petty's conclusions but belives that Petty underestumated the amount of money necessary to the nation, and argues that the landlords bear more than their share of taxes. He thinks, therefore, that Petty's plan is defective in not proposing a compensatory tax upon non-owners of land.
I [The Southwell MS. (see p. 123) bears title “The Political Anatomy of Ireland, 1672.” The more elaborate titles of the first and second editions (see Bibliography, 24) were probably composed by the editors in 1691 and 1719. The Verbum Sapienli has been placed before the Anatomy (pp. 99–120), in conformity to the general chronological scheme of arrangement.]