Front Page Titles (by Subject) NOTE ON THE POLITICAL ARITHMETICK. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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NOTE ON THE “POLITICAL ARITHMETICK.” - 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 “POLITICAL ARITHMETICK.”
The Political Arithmetick, like the Political Anatomy, belongs to the third period of Petty's literary activity and was written during his second prolonged residence in Ireland. The precise date of its composition cannot now be determined. The Rawlinson MS. is dated 1671, and in Petty's “Collection of [his] several Works” it is likewise entered under 16711 . Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice accordingly says that it was written in that year2 , and his opinion is confirmed by Sir Peter Pett, who calls the Political Arithmetick a “manuscript discourse in the year 1671–23 .” But Petty's list is not infallible. It enters under 1654 the Discourse against the Transplantation into Connaught published in 1655, and under 1671 the Anatomia Politica Hiberniae, which was not finished before the close of 16724 . The date 1671 is, perhaps, that at which Petty began the Political Arithmetick. He was still working upon it at the end of 16725 , and internal evidence points to its completion not earlier than 1676. This internal evidence is drawn from three passages whose indications pretty closely coincide: 1st, the expenditure of the King of France “in any of these last seven years” is compared with his revenue “as the same appears by the book entitled The State of France… printed anno 16696 “; 2nd, “since the year 1636, the taxes and public levies… have been prodigiously greater,… yet the kingdoms have increased in their wealth and strength for these last forty years7 ” ; 3rd, “his Majesty's navy is now triple or quadruple what it was forty years since, and before the Sovereign was Built1 .” The “Sovereign of the Seas” was launched 14 October, 16372 . These three passages, which all point to 1676 or 1677, occur in the Rawlinson MS. as well as in the undated Southwell MS., and the 1690 edition. The opinion that the Political Arithmetick was completed at a date later than the Political Anatomy is also confirmed by the larger estimate of the population of Ireland which the Arithmetick3 makes.
Of the numerous MSS. of the Political Arithmetick, by far the most important is that bound in the same volume with the MS. Treatise of Ireland, and called by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice the Neligan MS4 The history of this MS. is similar to that of the Southwell MS of the Political Anatomy already traced5 . It was given to Sir Robert Southwell by Petty and remained in Southwell's family until purchased by Thorpe6 at the De Clifford sale in 1834. It passed into Dr Neligan's possession, and after his death it was bought for the British Museum7 , becoming Additional MS. 21,128. In view of its history, I call it the Southwell MS., and refer to it in the footnotes as S. This MS. is not so neatly written as the Southwell Political Anatomy; the ink is similar but the paper is of a different size, and it has one similar and one different water-mark8 . The corrections are far more numerous, and are unmistakably in Petty's hand9 . It may be the very same MS. which Petty corrected for Southwell in March, 1681 and wished to have compared with “what goeth abroad10 .” If it be the same, Petty's wish is at length fulfilled: the readings of the Southwell MS. are now compared with the text that went forth in 1690 wherever the differences between them are significant. But mere variations in spelling and minor grammatical differences (like “hath” for “has”) are disregarded, and the punctuation of the MS. is noted only where it gives the passage a meaning different from that of the printed version. All Petty's corrections are noted.
Among the remaining MSS. perhaps the most interesting is one endorsed “Pettys Pl. Arithmetic I take to be Corrected by Sr Wm himself having formerly seen a good deal of his Hand Writing,” now among the Rawlinson MSS. in the Bodleian Library1 . The MS. is in two hands, that of the second copyist beginning with chapter five. Petty's corrections are few compared with those in the Southwell MS., and most of them are merely formal, such as changing “300,000” to “300 Thousand.” The more important variations marked R, are given in the foot notes. A transcript of the Political Arithmetick, presented by Willoughby, is in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin2 . It contains no corrections by Petty. A transcript in quarto, made for Essex, is, or was, at Ashburnham Place3 , and the British Museum has, in addition to the Southwell MS., a comparatively worthless copy, unintelligently abridged4 . Besides these, a MS. of the Political Arithmetick was presented by Petty to the King5 and both Sir Joseph Williamson6 and Sir Peter Pett7 had MSS. of it.
Manuscript copies of the Political Arithmetick being thus circulated among Petty's friends, soon after its composition, they seem to have urged him to publish it at once. A letter to Southwell8 in reply to some such request was once in the possession of Thomas Thorpe, who described it as discussing the printing [reprinting] of the Treatise of Taxes, the Political Arithmetick, and the translation of the 104th psalm, “which Petty here expresses his reluctance to be printed9 .” The unauthorized reprinting of the Treatise of Taxes in 167910 apparently convinced Petty that it was safer to have his books printed under supervision, for he subsequently wrote to Aubrey, 12 July, 1681, that he was not forward to print the Political Arithmetick but did wish that what went abroad might be compared with the copy in Southwell's possession, which he had corrected in March1 . In this letter there is no hint of the reason for non-publication which Lord Shelburne advances2 , and Petty's care to secure a good text indicates that he expected the book to be published soon. Nearly a year after the letter to Aubrey, Petty came to London, where he remained until the summer of 1683, being occupied about the reform of the Irish revenues3 . It was probably about this time that he wrote the dedication of the Political Arithmetick to the King4 , and presented his Majesty with a copy of the book in MS. He appears, however, presently to have abandoned the project of publication, and there can be little doubt that the ill-printed edition of the Political Arithmetick which was soon anonymously issued under the title of England's Guide to Industry5 , appeared without his consent.
After Petty's death the demand for an authentic edition of the Political Arithmetick was renewed, and Lady Petty, who was executrix of her husband's will, asked Southwell's advice in the matter. Sir William himself, so she wrote6 , would not suffer the book to be printed, wherefore she was very loath to do it upon any account whatsoever, unless it were to prevent a greater evil. She was told, however, that five hundred false copies were in circulation and that the book would be published to disadvantage unless she authorized the printing of it. Southwell's reply is not preserved, but inasmuch as the Political Arithmetick was issued in 1690 with a dedication written by Lady Petty's son, it may be inferred that her scruples were at length overcome.
Happy future State (written 1680), p. 106.
Polit. Anat., note, pp. 122–123, cf. p. 197.
Letter to Anglesea, 17 Dec., Fitzmaurice, 158.
Archcologta, XII. 281–282.
P. 272, note, cf. Anatomy, p. 142, note.
Life of Petty, p. 273, also preface, 6–7. Lord E. Fitzmaurice slips in saying that the volume contains the Political Anatomy The Neligan, or Southwell, MS. of the Political Anatomy is a separate volume, B. M. Addl. MS., 21, 127.
Thorpe's Cat. lib. MSS. bibl. Southwelliana, no. 712, p. 410.
Cat. of books sold by Sotheby, 17 Aug., 1855, no. 306.
The characteristic water mark of the Pol. Arith. occurs also in an Order in Council dated 21 May, 1680. State Papers, Dom., Charles II. 413.
Rawlinson MS. D 25.
MSS. E. 2 : 20. Fourth Rept Hist. MSS. Com., 596b.
Eighth Rept. Hist. MSS. Com, III. 39a.
Sloane MS. 2572.
Wood, Athena Oxon., 11. 810.
Pett, Happy future State, 106, 193.
Dated 5 Oct., 1678.
Thorpe, Cat. lib. MSS. bibl. Southwelliana, p. 403.
“Had not the Doctrins of this Essay offended France, they had long since seen the light.–Dedication of 1690 edition, p. 240.
Ibid, 250–253; Birch, IV. 168, 173, 196.
Note on p. 239.
Bibliography, 11. Several readings from England's Guide (G) are given in the footnotes to the Political Arithmetick in order to show how corrupt the text of the Guide was.
Lady Petty to Sir R. Southwell, 18 Feb., 1688, quoted in Thorpe's Cat. lib. MSS. bibl. Southwelliana, p. 409.