Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III.: That France cannot by reason of natural, and perpetual Impediments, be more powerful at Sea, than the English, or Hollanders 1 now are, or may be . - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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CHAP. III.: That France cannot by reason of natural, and perpetual Impediments, be more powerful at Sea, than the English, or Hollanders 1 now are, or may be . - 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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That France cannot by reason of natural, and perpetual Impediments, be more powerful at Sea, than the English, or Hollanders1now are, or may be.
The qualities of Ships fit for the defence of England.POwer at Sea consists chiefly of Men, able to fight at Sea, and that in such Shipping, as is most proper for the Seas wherein they serve; and those are in these Northern Seas, Ships from between three hundred to one thousand three hundred Tuns; and of those such as draw much Water, and have a deep Latch in the Sea, in order to keep a good Wind, and not to fall to Leeward, a matter of vast advantage in Sea Service: Wherefore it is to be examined, 1. Whether the King of France, hath Ports in the Northern Seas (where ‖ he hath most occasion for his Fleets of War, in any contests2 with England) able to receive the Vessels above-mentioned, in all Weathers, both in Winter and Summer Season. For if the King of France, would3 bring to Sea an equal number of fighting Men, with the English and Hollanders, in small floaty Leeward Vessels, he would certainly be of the weaker side For a Vessel of one thousand Tuns manned with five hundred Men, fighting with five Vessels of two hundred Tuns, each manned with one hundred Men apiece, shall in common reason have the better offensively, and defensively; forasmuch as the great Ship can carry such Ordnance, as can reach the small ones at a far greater distance, than those can reach, or at least hurt the other; and can batter, and sink at a distance, when small ones can scarce peirce.
Moreover it is more difficult for Men out of a small Vessel, to enter a tall Ship, than for Men from a higher place, to leap down into a lower; nor is small shot so effectual upon a tall Ship, as vice versa. ‖
And as for Vessels drawing much water, and consequently keeping a good Wind, they can take or leave Leeward Vessels, at pleasure, and secure themselves from being boarded by them: Moreover the windward Ship, has a fairer mark at a Leeward Ship, than vice versa; and can place her shot upon such parts of the Leeward Vessel, as upon the next Tack will be under water.
Now then the King of France, having no Ports able to receive large windward Vessels, between Dunkirk and Ushant, what other Ships he can bring into those Seas, will not be considerable. As for the wide Ocean, which his Harbours of Brest, and Charente1 , do look into; it affordeth him no advantage upon an Enemy; there being so great a Latitude of engaging or not, even when the Parties are in sight of each other.
Wherefore, although the King of France were immensely rich, and could build what Ships he pleased, both for number, and quality; yet if he have not Ports to receive, and shelter, that sort and size of Shipping, which2 is fit for his purpose; the said Riches will in this ‖ case be fruitless, and a mere expence without any return, or profit. Some will say that other Nations cannot build so good Ships as the English; I do indeed hope they cannot; but because it seems too possible, that they may sooner or later, by Practice and Experience; I shall not make use of that Argument, having bound my self to shew, that the impediments of France, (as to this purpose) are natural, and perpetual. Ships, and Guns do not fight of themselves, but Men who act and manage them; wherefore it is more material to shew; That the King of France, neither hath, nor can have Men sufficient, to Man a Fleet, of equal strength to that of the King of England. (viz.)
The qualifications of Seamen for defence. The King of Englands Navy, consists of about seventy thousand Tuns of Shipping, which requires thirty six thousand Men to Man it; these Men being supposed to be divided into eight parts, I conceive that one eighth part, must be persons of great Experience, and Reputation, in Sea Service: another eighth part must be such as have used the Sea seven years and upwards; ‖ half of them, or 4/8 parts more, must be such as have used the Sea above a twelvemonth, viz. two, three, four, five, or six years, allowing but one quarter of the whole Complements, to be such as never were at Sea at all, or at most but one Voyage, or upon one Expedition; so that at a medium I reckon, that the whole Fleet must be Men of three The Number of Seamen in France. or four years growth, one with another. Fournier1 , a late judicious Writer, makeing it his business to persuade the World, how considerable the King of France was, or might be at Sea, in the ninety second and ninety third pages of his Hydrography, saith, That there was one place in Britany, which had furnished the King with one thousand four hundred Seamen, and that perhaps the whole Sea-Coast of France, might have furnished him with fifteen times as many: Now supposing his whole Allegation were true, yet the said number amounts but to twenty one thousand; all which, if the whole Trade of Shipping in France were quite and clean abandoned, would not by above a third, Man out a Fleet equivalent, to that of the King of England: And if ‖ the Trade were but barely kept alive, there would not be one third part Men enough, to Man the said Fleet.
But if the Shipping Trade of France, be not above a quarter as great as that of England, and that one third part of the same, namely the Fishing Trade to the Banks of Newfoundland, is not peculiar, nor fixt to the French; then I say that if the King of England (having power to Press Men) cannot under two or three months time Man his Fleet; then the King of France, with less than a quarter of the same help, can never do it at all; for in France (as shall elsewhere be shewn1 ) there are not above one hundred and fifty thousand Tun of Trading Vessels, and consequently not above fifteen thousand Seamen, reckoning a Man to every ten Tun. As it has been shewn that the King of France, cannot at present Man such a Fleet, as is above described, we come next to shew that he never can, being under natural, and perpetual Impediments: viz. 1. If there be but fifteen thousand Seamen in all France, to manage its Trade, it is not to be ‖ supposed, that the said Trade should be extinguished, nor that it should spare above five of the said fifteen thousand towards manning the Fleet which requires thirty five thousand.
Now the deficient thirty thousand must be supplied, one2The ways whereby the French must increase Seamen. of these four3 ways, either, first by taking in Landmen, of which sort there must not be above ten thousand, since the Seamen will never be contented, without being the major part, nor do they heartily wish well to Landmen at all, or Why Seamen dislike Landmen. rejoyce even at those Successes, of which the Landmen can claim any share; thinking it hard that themselves, who are bred to miserable, painful, and dangerous Employments, (and yet profitable to the Commonwealth) should at a time when booty and purchase is to be gotten, be clogged or hindered, by any conjunction with Landmen, or forced to admit those, to an equal share with themselves. 2. The Seamen which we suppose twenty thousand, must be had, that is hired from other Nations, which cannot be without tempting them with so much Wages, as exceeds what is ‖ given by Merchants, and withal to counterpoise the danger The danger of English Seamen their serving the French. of being hanged by their own Prince, and allowed no Quarter if they are taken; the trouble of conveying themselves away, when Restraints and Prohibitions are upon them; and also the infamy of having been Apostates, to their own Country, and Cause: I say their Wages must be more than double, to what their own Prince gives them, and their assurance must be very great, that they shall not be at long run abused or slighted1 by those who employed them; (as hating the Traitor, although they love the Treason.) I say moreover, that those who will be thus tempted away, must be of the basest, and lewdest sort of Seamen, and such as have not enough of Honour and Conscience, to qualifie them for any How Men learn to be good Seamen. Trust, or gallant Performance. 3. Another way to increase2 Seamen, is to put great numbers of Landmen upon Ships of War, in order to their being Seamen; but this course cannot be effectual, not only for the above mentioned Antipathy, between Landmen, and Seamen; ‖ but also, because it is seen, that Men at Sea do not apply themselves to Labour and Practice, without more necessity than happens in overmanned Shipping. For where there are fifty Men in a Vessel, that ten can sufficiently Navigate, the supernumerary forty will improve little: But where there shall be of ten but one or two supernumeraries, there necessity will often call upon every Man to set his hand to the Work, which must be well done at the peril of their own lives. Moreover Seamen shifting Vessels almost every six or twelve months, do sometimes Sail in small Barks, sometimes in midling Ships, and sometimes in great Vessels of Defence; sometimes in Lighters, sometimes in Hoighs, sometimes in Ketches, sometimes in three Masted Ships, sometimes they go to the Southward, sometimes to the Northward, sometimes the3 Coast, sometimes they cross the Ocean; by all which variety of Service, they do in time compleat themselves, in every Part, and Circumstance of their Faculty: Whereas those who go out for a Summer, ‖ in a Man of War, have not that variety of Practice, nor a direct necessity of doing any thing at all.
Besides it is three or four years at a medium, wherein a Seaman must be made; neither can there be less than three Seamen, to make a fourth, of a Landman: Consequently the fifteen thousand Seamen of France, can increase but five thousand Seamen in three or four years, and unless their Trade should increase with their Seamen in proportion, the King must be forced to bear the charge of this improvement, out of the Publick Stock, which is intolerable. So as the Question which now remains, is, whether the Shipping Trade Whether the Shipping Trade of France is like to increase. of France is like to increase? Upon which accompt it is to be considered, I. That France is sufficiently stored, with all kind of Necessaries within it self; as with Corn, Cattle, Wine, Salt, Linnen Cloth, Paper, Silk, Fruits, &c. So as they need little Shipping, to Import more Commodities of Weight, or Bulk; neither is there any thing of Bulk Exported out of France, but Wines, and Salt; the weight whereof ‖ is under one hundred thousand Tun1per annum, yielding not employment to above twenty five thousand Tun of Shipping, and these are for the most part Dutch and English, who are not only already in Possession of the said Trade, but also are better fitted to maintain it, than the French are, or perhaps ever can be: And that for the following Reasons. (viz.) 1. Because Reasons why it cannot the French cannot Victual so cheap as the English, and Dutch, nor Sail with so few Hands. 2. The French, for want of good Coasts and Harbours, cannot keep their Ships in Port, under double the Charge that the English and Hollanders can. 3. by reason of Paucity, and distance of their Ports, one from another, their Seamen and Tradesmen relating to Shipping, cannot Correspond with, and Assist one another, so easily, cheaply, and advantageously, as in other places. Wherefore if their Shipping Trade, is not likely to increase within themselves, and much less to increase, by their beating out the English, and Hollanders, from being the Carriers of the World; it follows, ‖ that their Seamen will not be increased, by the increase of their said Trade: Wherefore, and for that they are not like to be increased, by any of the several ways above specified, and for that their Ports are not fit to receive Ships of Burthen, and Quality, fit for their purpose; and that by reason of the less fitness of their Ports, than that of their Neighbours; I conceive, that what was propounded, hath been competently proved.
The afore-named Fournier, in the ninety second and ninety third pages of his Hydrography, hath laboured to prove the contrary of all this, unto which I refer the Reader: Not thinking his Arguments of any weight at all, in the present case. Nor indeed doth he make his Comparisons, with the English or Hollanders, but with the Spaniards, who, nor the Grand Seignior, (the latter of whom hath greater advantages, to be powerful at Sea than the King of France) could ever attain to any illustrious greatness in Naval Power: Having often attempted, but never succeeded in the same.‖ Nor is it easie to believe, that the King of England should for so many years, have continued his Title to the Sovereignty of the Narrow Seas, against his Neighbours (ambitious enough to have gotten it from him) had not their Impediments been Natural, and Perpetual, and such, as we say, do obstruct the King of France. ‖
S, R, omit ‘now are, or may be.’ R, ‘than England or the Dutch,’ altered to ‘or the low countries’ by Petty.
S, ‘with England’ inserted by Petty, not in R.
S, ‘could,’ R, ‘would.’ 1691, ‘would’ corrected to 'should’ in errata.
S, R, G, ‘Brouage’ altered to ‘Charente’ in S by Petty.
S, R, ‘as’ altered to ‘wch’ in R.
Hydrographic contenant la theorie et la practiqve de tovtes les parties de la navigation. Composé par le Pere Georges Fournier. A Paris, chez Michel Soly. M.D.C.XLIII, f°. “Les gens de Mer y sont en telle quantité, que durant le siège de la Rochelle, la Roy tira d'vn seul Bourg quatorze cents Maletots, Soldats, bien que ce lieu ne soit pas (possible) le quinzièsme de cette coste en bonté & reputation.” The estimate that the coast could furnish fifteen times as many is omitted from the second edition of Fournier (1667), p. 69.
See p. 251, where the French are assigned 100,000 tons.
The fourth way seems to be the general increase of French trade, p. 283.
S, ‘or slighted’ inserted by Petty.
S, 1691, ‘they.’ See errata?
In margin of S, opposite ‘one hundred thousand Tun,’ stands ‘Qre’ in the hand of the copyist.