Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VIII.: Of the difference between the numbers of Males and Females. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 2
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CHAP. VIII.: Of the difference between the numbers of Males and Females. - Sir William Petty, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 2 
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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Of the difference between the numbers of Males and Females.
THE next Observation is, That there be more Males than Females1 .
1. There have been Buried from the year 1628, to the year 1662, exclusive, 209436 Males, and but 190474 Females: but it will be objected, That in London it may be indeed so, though otherwise elsewhere; because London is the great Stage and Shop of business, wherein the Masculine Sex bears the greatest part. But we Answer, That there have been also Christened within the same time 139782 Males, and but 130866 Females, and that ‖ the Country-Accounts are consonant enough to those of London upon this matter2 .
2. What the Causes hereof are, we shall not trouble our selves to conjecture, as in other Cases: only we shall desire, that Travellers would enquire, whether it be the same in other Countries.
3. We should have given an Account, how in every Age these proportions change here, but that we have Bills of distinction but for 32 years, so that we shall pass from hence to some Inferences from this Conclusion; as first,
I. That Christian Religion, prohibiting Polygamy, is more agreeable to the Law of Nature, that is, the Law of God, than Mahumetism, and others, that allow it: for one Man his having many Women, or Wives, by Law, signifies nothing, unless there were many Women to one Man in Nature also.
II. The obvious Objection hereunto is, That one Horse, Bull, or Ram, having each of them many Females, do promote increase. To which I Answer, That although perhaps there be naturally, even of these species, more Males than Females, yet artificially, that is, by making Geldings, Oxen, and Weathers, there are fewer. From whence it will follow, That when by experience it is found how many ‖ Ews (suppose twenty) one Ram will serve, we may know what proportion of male-Lambs to castrate or geld, viz. nineteen, or thereabouts: for if you emasculate fewer, viz. but ten, you shall, by promiscuous copulation of each of those ten with two Females, hinder the increase, so far as the admittance of two Males will do it: but, if you castrate none at all, it is highly probable, that, every of the twenty Males copulating with every of the twenty Females, there will be little or no conception in any of them all.
III. And this I take to be the truest Reason, why Foxes, Wolves, and other Vermin Animals, that are not gelt, increase not faster than Sheep, when as so many thousands of these are daily Butchered, and very few of the other die otherwise than of themselves.
4. We have hitherto said, There are more Males than Females; we say next, That the one exceed the other by about a thirteenth part. So that although more Men die violent deaths than Women, that is, more are slain in Wars, killed by Mischance, drowned at Sea, and die by the Hand of Justice; moreover, more Men go to Colonies, and travel into Forein parts, than Women; and lastly, more remain unmarried than of Women, as Fellows of Colleges, and Apprentices above eighteen, ‖ &c. yet the said thirteenth part difference bringeth the business but to such a pass, that every Woman may have an Husband, without the allowance of Polygamy.
5. Moreover, although a Man be Prolifick fourty years, and a Woman but five and twenty, which makes the Males to be as 560 to 325 Females, yet the causes above-named, and the later marriage of the Men, reduce all to an equality.
6. It appearing, that there were fourteen Men to thirteen Women, and that they die in the same proportion also; yet I have heard Physicians say, that they have two Women Patients to one Man, which Assertion seems very likely; for that Women have either the Green-sickness, or other like Distempers, are sick of Breedings, Abortions, Child-bearing, Sore-breasts, Whites, Obstructions, Fits of the Mother, and the like.
7. Now from this it should follow, that more Women should die than Men, if the number of Burials answered in proportion to that of Sicknesses: but this must be salved, either by the alleging, that the Physicians cure those Sicknesses, so as few more die than if none were sick; or else that Men, being more intemperate than Women, die as much by reason of their Vices, as Women do by the Infirmity ‖ of their Sex; and consequently, more Males being born than Females, more also die.
8. In the year 1642 many Males went out of London into the Wars then beginning, insomuch as I expected in the succeeding year 1643 to have found the Burials of Females to have exceeded those of Males, but no alteration appeared; forasmuch, as I suppose, Trading continuing the same in London, all those, who lost their Apprentices, had others out of the Country; and if any left their Trades and Shops, that others forthwith succeeded them: for, if employment for hands remain the same, no doubt but the number of them could not long continue in disproportion.
9. Another pregnant Argument to the same purpose (which hath already been touched on) is, That although in the very year of the Plague the Christenings decreased, by the dying and flying of Teeming-Women, yet the very next year after they increased somewhat, but the second after to as full a number as in the second year before the said Plague: for I say again, if there be encouragement for an hundred in London, that is, a Way how an hundred may live better than in the Country, and if there be void Housing there to receive ‖ them, the evacuating of a fourth or third part of that number must soon be supplied out of the Country; so as the great Plague doth not lessen the Inhabitants of the City, but of the Country, who in a short time remove themselves from thence hither, so long, until the City, for want of receipt and encouragement, regurgitates and sends them back.
10. From the difference between Males and Females, we see the reason of making Eunuchs in those places where Polygamy is allowed, the later being useless as to multiplication, without the former, as was said before in case of Sheep and other Animals usually gelt in these Countries.
11. By consequence, this practice of Castration serves as well to promote increase, as to meliorate the Flesh of those Beasts that suffer it For that Operation is equally practised upon Horses, which are not used for food, as upon those that are.
12. In Popish Countries, where Polygamy is forbidden, if a greater number of Males oblige themselves to Cælibate, than the natural over-plus, or difference between them and Females amounts unto; then multiplication is hindred: for if there be eight Men to ten Women, all of which eight Men are married to eight of the ten Women, then the other two ‖ bear no Children, as either admitting no Man at all, or else admitting Men as Whores (that is, more than one;) which commonly procreates no more than if none at all had been used: or else such unlawful Copulations beget Conceptions, but to frustrate them by procured Abortions, or secret Murthers; all which returns to the same reckoning. Now, if the same proportion of Women oblige themselves to a single life likewise, then such obligation makes no change in this matter of increase.
13. From what hath been said appears the reason, why the Law is and ought to be so strict against Fornications and Adulteries: for, if there were universal liberty, the Increase of Mankind would be but like that of Foxes at best.
14. Now forasmuch as Princes are not only Powerful, but Rich, according to the number of their People (Hands being the Father, as Lands are the Mother and Womb of Wealth)1 it is no wonder why States, by encouraging Marriage, and hindering Licentiousness, advance their own Interest, as well as preserve the Laws of God from contempt and violation.
15. It is a Blessing to Mankind, that by this over-plus of Males there is this natural ‖ Bar to Polygamy.: for in such a state Women could not live in that parity and equality of expense with their Husbands, as now, and here they do.
16. The reason whereof is, not, that the Husband cannot maintain as splendidly three, as one; for he might, having three Wives, live himself upon a quarter of his Income, that is, in a parity with all three, as well as, having but one, live in the same parity at half with her alone: but rather, because that to keep them all quiet with each other, and himself, he must keep them all in greater aw, and less splendour; which power he having, he will probably use it to keep them all as low as he pleases, and at no more cost than makes for his own pleasure; the poorest Subjects, (such as this plurality of Wives must be) being most easily governed. ‖
The Table of Males and Females is at p. 411.
See p. 389.
This idea, which occurs in slightly different phraseology in Petty's Treatise of Taxes (p. 68), has been pronounced a “leading thought in his writings.” Ingram, Hist. of Political Economy, 51; the suggestion is followed by Bevan, Sir, W. Petty, a Study, 53. The figure in which the idea is expressed apparently reflects the current notion, at least as old as Aristotle, that the female is passive in generation. Legouvé, Moral history of Woman, tr. Palmer, 216. Even the form of expressing the analogy is, probably, older than either Graunt or Petty, for both place the words in brackets—a seventeenth century equivalent for marks of quotation—and Schulz, in his translation of Graunt, writes, “weil, nach dem Sprichwort, die hander der welt vater, und das land derselbten mutter ist.”