Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE 1 . - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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PREFACE 1 . - 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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FOrasmuch as Men, who are in a decaying condition, or who have but an ill opinion of their own Concernments, instead of being (as some think) the more industrious to resist the Evils they apprehend, do contrariwise become the more languid and ineffectual in all their Endeavours, neither caring to attempt or prosecute even the probable means of their relief. Upon this Consideration, as a Member of the Common-Wealth, next to knowing the precise Truth in what condition the common Interest stands, I would in all doubtful Cases think ‖The fears of many concerning the Welfare of England‖ the best, and consequently not despair, without strong and manifest Reasons, carefully examining whatever tends to lessen my hopes of the publick Welfare.
I have therefore thought fit to examin the following Perswasions, which I find too currant in the World2 , and too much to have affected the Minds of some, to the prejudice of all, viz.
That the Rents of Lands are generally fall'n; that The fears of many concerning the Welfare of England. therefore, and for many other Reasons, the whole Kingdom grows every day poorer and poorer1 ; that formerly it abounded with Gold, but now2 there is a great scarcity both of Gold and Silver; that there is no Trade nor Employment for the People, and yet that the Land is under-peopled; that Taxes have been many and great; that Ireland and the Plantations in America; and other Additions to the Crown, are a Burthen to England; that Scotland is of no Advantage; that Trade in general doth lamentably decay; that the Hollanders are at our heels, in the race of Naval Power; the French3 grow too fast upon both, and appear so rich and potent, that it is but their Clemency that they do not devour their Neighbors; and finally, that the Church and State of England, are in the same danger with the Trade of England; with many other dismal Suggestions, which I had rather stifle than repeat4 .
'Tis true, the Expence of foreign Commodities hath of The real Prejudices of England. late been too great; much of our Plate, had it remain'd Money, would have better ‖ served Trade; too many Matters have been regulated by Laws, which Nature, long Custom, and general Consent, ought only to have governed; the Slaughter and Destruction of Men by the late Civil Wars and Plague have been great; the Fire at London, and Disaster at Chatham1 , have begotten Opinions in the Vulgus of the World to our Prejudice; the Nonconformists increase2 ; the People of Ireland think long of their Settlement; the English there apprehend themselves to be Aliens, and are forced to seek a Trade with Foreigners, which they might as well maintain with their own Relations in England. But notwithstanding all this (the like whereof was always in all Places), the Buildings of London grow great and glorious; The Improvements of England. the American Plantations ‖ employ four Hundred Sail of Ships; Actions in the East-India company are near double the principle Money; those who can give good Security, may have Money under the Statute-Interest; Materials for building (even Oaken-Timber) are little the dearer, some cheaper for3 ; the rebuilding of London4 ; the Exchange seems as full of Merchants as formerly; no more Beggars in the Streets, nor executed for Thieves, than heretofore; the Number of Coaches, and Splendor of Equipage exceeding former times; the publique Theatres very magnificent; the King has a greater Navy, and stronger Guards than before our Calamities; the Clergy rich, and the Cathedrals in repair; much Land has been improved, and the Price of Food so reasonable, as that Men refuse ‖ to have it cheaper, by admitting of Irish Cattle1 ; And in brief, no Man needs to want that will take moderate pains. That some are poorer than others, ever was and ever will be: And that many are naturally querulous and envious, is an Evil as old as the World.
These general Observations, and that Men eat, and drink, and laugh as they use to do, have encouraged me to try if I could also comfort others, being satisfied my self, that the Interest and Affairs of England are in no deplorable Condition.
The Author's Method and Manner of Arguing. The Method I take to do this, is not yet very usual; for instead of using only comparative and superlative Words, and intellectual Arguments, I have taken the course (as a Specimen of the Political Arithmetick ‖ I have long aimed at) to express my self in Terms of Number, Weight, or Measure; to use only Arguments of Sense, and to consider only such Causes, as have visible Foundations in Nature; leaving those that depend upon the mutable Minds, Opinions, Appetites, and Passions of particular Men, to the Consideration of others: Really professing my self as unable to speak satisfactorily upon those Grounds (if they may be call'd Grounds), as to foretel the cast of a Dye; to play well at Tennis, Billiards, or Bowles, (without long practice,) by virtue of the most elaborate Conceptions that ever have been written De Projectilibus & Missilibus, or of the Angles of Incidence and Reflection. ‖
The Nature of his Positions and Suppositions. Now the Observations or Positions expressed by Number, Weight, and Measure, upon which I bottom the ensuing Discourses, are either true, or not apparently false, and which if they are not already true, certain, and evident, yet may be made so by the Sovereign Power, Nam id certum est quodcertnm reddi potest1 and if they are false, not so false as to destroy the Argument they are brought for; but at worst are sufficient as Suppositions to shew the way to that2 Knowledge I aim at. And I have withal for the present confined my self to the Ten principal Conclusions hereafter particularly handled, which if they shall be judged material, and worthy of a better Discussion, I hope all ingenious and candid Persons will rectifie the Errors, Defects, and Imperfections, which probably may be found in any of the Positions, upon which these Ratiocinations were grounded. Nor would it misbecome Authority it self, to clear the Truth of those Matters which private Endeavours cannot reach to.
S, R, ‘The Preface.’
On the idea that England's industries were declining during the regin of Charles II. see Roscher, Engl. Volkswirthschaftslehre, 74. The formidable list of ‘trades lost’ in the preface of Child's New Discourse of Trade, though not printed until 1693 was written before 1669 and doubtless reflected current opinion.
On rent as a criterion of prosperity see Cunningham, English Industry, II. 191; Patten, Interpretation of Ricardo in Qu. Jour. of Economics, VII. 324.
S, ‘but that now.’
S. ‘power, That the French.’
Petty's whole paragraph is almost a summary, as its closing sentence indicates, of A Treatise Wherein is demonstrated, That the church and state Of England, are in equal danger With the trade Of it. Trcatise I. By Roger Coke. London, 1671, 4°. The book comprises two treatises, with continuous pagination and signatures, but with a second title, at p. 91, Reasons of the increase of the Dutch Trade. Wherein is demonstrated from what Causes the Dutch Govern and Manage Trade better than the English; whereby they have so far improved their Trade above the English. Treatise II. Coke declares that the peopling of the American plantations has diminished the valuable trades of England. Before the accession of the plantations England lost £480,000 yearly in woolen manufactures for want of men to do them, and above £1,372,000 in the fishing trade, and “now we have opened a wide gapp, and by all encouragement excited all the growing youth and industry of England, which might preserve the trades we had herein, to betake them to those of the Planatations"—p. 16. Ireland also is a disadvantage to England for similar reasons—pp. 19–20. The Dutch sell more commodities in trade cheaper and with much more gain than the English, so as now they are swelled to be of such a prodigious greatness by sea that it is a question whether they can be controlled by any power in the world—pp. 128–129. Coke has, curiously, little to say of the rivalry of France under Colbert. Sir Roger L'Estrange's Discourse of the Fishery (1674) says that the cod, herring and ling taken in his Majesty's seas by the Dutch and other nations are valued communibus annis at no less than ten millions of pounds sterling, “which computation has been often published and constantly received for current without contradiction.” (In A small Collection of valuable Tracts relating to the Herring Fishery (1751), p. 45.) Cf. p. 257, note.
Refers to the presence of the Dutch fleet in the Thames, the attack on Chatham, and the burning of the English ships there 10 June, 1667. Mahan, Influence of the Sea Power, 132.
Among the ‘nonconformists’ Petty may have included Roman Catholics. In the Further Observations he numbers them among the ‘dissenters.’
Edward Arber, in his ed. of the Polit. Arith. inserts an ‘all’ in brackets.
Coke admitted that the superior durability of English timber had theretofore offset the advantage which the Dutch enjoyed in being able to build ships for half what the English could. But he held that all the best English timber was at length wasted and destroyed and still more must be in rebuilding the City of London. He could not therefore, understand how, for the future, the English could possibly build as good ships as either Dutch, Dane or French for three times the price. Treatise II, p. 115.
S, R omit 'so’ and ‘as that Men refuse to have it cheaper, by admitting of Irish Cattle.’ Cf. p. 160, 161, note.
“Albeit there appears no certainty of years in the lease, yet if by reference to a certainty it may be made certain it sufficeth, Qura id certum est quod certum reddi potest.” Coke upon Littleton, 45 b.
S, ‘the,’ altered to ‘that’ by Petty, R, ‘yt.’