Sir William Petty

Political Arithmetick


That the Impediments of Englands greatness, are but contingent and removable.

THE first Impediment of Englands greatness is, that the Territories thereunto belonging, are too far asunder, and divided by the Sea into many several Islands and Countries; and I may say, into so many Kingdoms, and several Govern- ments, (viz.) there be Three distinct Legislative Powers in England, Scotland, and Ireland; the which instead of uniting together, do often cross one anothers Interest; putting Bars and Impediments upon one anothers Trades, not only as if they were Foreigners to each other, but sometimes as Enemies.

2. The Islands of Jersey and Gernsey, and the Isle of Man, are under Jurisdiaions different from those, either of England, Scotland; or Ireland.

3. The Government of New-England (both Civil and Ecclesiastical) doth so differ from that of his Majesties other Dominions, that `tis hard to say what may be the consequence of it.

And the Government of the other Plantations, doth also differ very much from any of the rest; although there be not naturally substantial reasons from the Situation, Trade, and Condition of the People, why there should be such differences.

From all which it comes to pass, that small divided remote Governments, being seldom able to defend themselves, the Burthen of protecting of them all, must lye upon the chief Kingdom England; and so all the smaller Kingdoms and Dominions, instead of being Additions are really Diminutions; but the same is remedied by making Two such Grand Councils, as may equally represent the whole Empire, one to be chosen by the King, the other by the People . The Wealth of a King is Three-fold, one is the Wealth of his Subjects, the second is the Quota pars of his Subjects Wealth, given him for the publick Defence, Honour, and Ornament of the People, and to manage such undertaking for the Common Good, as no one or a few private Men, are sufficient for.

The third sort are the Quota, of the last mention Quota pars, which the King may dispose of, as his own personal inclination, and discretion shall direct him; without account.

Now it is most manifest, that the afore-mentioned distances, and differencies, of Kingdoms, and Jurisdictions, are great impediments to all the said several sorts of Wealth, as may be seen in the following particulars. First in case of War with Foreign Nations, England commonly beareth the whole burthen, and charge, whereby many in England are utterly undone.

Secondly, England sometimes Prohibiting the Commo- dities of Ireland, and Scotland, as of late it did the Cattle, Flesh, and Fish, of Ireland; did not only make Food, and consequently Labour, dearer in England, but also hath forced the People of Ireland, to fetch those Commodities from France, Holland, and other places, which before was sold them from England, to the great prejudice of both Nations.

Thirdly, It occasions an unnecessary trouble, and charge, in Collecting of Customs, upon Commodities passing between the several Nations.

Fourthly, It is a damage to our Barbadoes, and other American Trades, that the Goods which might pass thence immediately, to several parts of the World, and to be sold at moderate Rates, must first come into England, and there pay Duties, and afterwards (if at all) pass into those Countries, whither they might have gone immediatly.

Fifthly, The Islands of Jersey and Gernsey, are protected at the charge of England, nevertheless the Labour, and Industry, of that People (which is very great) redounds most to the profit of the French.

Sixthly, In New-England, there are vast numbers of able bodyed Englishmen, employed chiefly in Husbandry, and in the meanest part of it, (which is breeding of Cattle) whereas Ireland would have contained all those persons, and at worst would have afforded them Lands on better terms, than they have them in America, if not some other better Trade withal, than now they can have.

Seventhly, The Inhabitants of the other Plantations, although they do indeed Plant Commodities, which will not grow so well in England; yet grasping at more Land, than will suffice to produce the said Exotics in a sufficient quantity to serve the whole World, they do therein but distract, and confound, the effect of their own Indeavours.

Eighthly, There is no doubt that the same People, far and wide dispersed, must spend more upon their Government, and Protection, than the same living compactly, and when they have no occasion to depend upon the Wind, Weather, and all the Accidents of the Sea.

A second Impediment to the greatness of England, is the different Understanding of several Material Points, viz. Of the Kings Prerogative, Privileges of Parliament, the obscure differences between Law and Equity; as also between Civil and Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions; Doubts whether the King- dom of England hath power over the Kingdom of Ireland, besides the wonderful Paradox; that Englishmen, Lawfully sent to suppress Rebellions in Ireland, should after having effected the same, (be as it were) Disfranchised, and lose that Interest in the Legislative Power, which they had in England, and pay Customs as Foreigners for all they spend in Ire- land, whither they were sent, for the Honour and Benefit of England.

The third Impediment is, That Ireland being a Conquered Country, and containing not the tenth part as many Irish Natives, as there are English in both Kingdoms, That natural and firm Union is not made, between the two Peoples, by Transplantations, and proportionable mixture, so as there may be but a tenth part, of the Irish in Ireland, and the same proportion in England; whereby the necessity of maintaining an Army in Ireland, at the expence of a quarter of all the Rents of that Kingdom may be taken away.

The fourth Impediment is, That Taxes in England are not Levied upon the expence, but upon the whole Estate; not upon Lands, Stock, and Labour, but chiefly upon Land alone; and that not by any equal, and indifferent Standard, but the casual predominancy, of Parties, and Factions: and moreover that these Taxes are not Levied with the least trouble, and charge, but let out to Farmers, who also let them from one to another without explicit knowledge of what they do; but so as in conclusion, the poor People pay twice as much as the King receives.

The fifth Impediment is the inequality of Shires, Diocesses, Parishes, Church-Livings, and other Precincts, as also the Representation of the People in Parliament; all which do hinder the Operations of Authority in the same manner, as a Wheel irregularly made, and excentrically hung; neither moves so easily, nor performs its Work so truely, as if the same were duely framed and poised.

Sixthly, Whether it be an Impediment, that the power of making War, and raising Mony be not in the same Hand, much may be said; but I leave it to those, who may more properly meddle with Fundamental Laws.

None of these Impediments are Natural, but did arise as the irregularity of Buildings do, by being built, part at one time, and part at another; and by the changing of the state of things, from what they were at the respective times, when the Practices we complain of, were first admitted, and perhaps, are but the warpings of time, from the rectitude of the first Institution.

As these Impediments are contingent, so they are also removeable; for may not the Land of superfluous Territories be sold, and the People with their moveables brought away? May not the English in the America Plantations (who Plant Tobacco, Sugar, &c.) compute what Land will serve their turn, and then contract their Habitations to that proportion, both for quantity and quality? as for the People of New-England, I can but wish they were Transplanted into Old England, or Ireland (according to Proposals of their own, made within this twenty years) although they were allowed more liberty of Conscience, than they allow one another.

May not the three Kingdoms be United into one, and equally represented in Parliament? Might not the several Species of the Kings Subjects, be equally mixt in their Habitations; Might not the Parishes, and other Precincts be better equalized. Might not Jurisdictions, and pretences of Power, be determined and ascertained? Might not the Taxes be equally applotted, and directly applied to their ultimate use? Might not Dissenters in Religion be indulged, they paying a competent Force to keep the Publick Peace? I humbly venture to say, all these things may be done, if it be so thought fit by the Sovereign Power, because the like hath often been done already, at several Places and Times.