No. 200. Friday, October 19, 1711. Steele. [1]

Vincit Amor Patriá.'

The Ambition of Princes is many times as hurtful to themselves as to their People. This cannot be doubted of such as prove unfortunate in their Wars, but it is often true too of those who are celebrated for their Successes. If a severe View were to be taken of their Conduct, if the Profit and Loss by their Wars could be justly ballanced, it would be rarely found that the Conquest is sufficient to repay the Cost.

As I was the other Day looking over the Letters of my Correspondents, I took this Hint from that of Philarithmus [2]; which has turned my present Thoughts upon Political Arithmetick, an Art of greater Use than Entertainment. My Friend has offered an Essay towards proving that Lewis XIV. with all his Acquisitions is not Master of more People than at the Beginning of his Wars, nay that for every Subject he had acquired, he had lost Three that were his Inheritance: If Philarithmus is not mistaken in his Calculations, Lewis must have been impoverished by his Ambition.

The Prince for the Publick Good has a Sovereign Property in every Private Person's Estate, and consequently his Riches must encrease or decrease in proportion to the Number and Riches of his Subjects. For Example: If Sword or Pestilence should destroy all the People of this Metropolis, (God forbid there should be Room for such a Supposition! but if this should be the Case) the Queen must needs lose a great Part of her Revenue, or, at least, what is charged upon the City must encrease the Burden upon the rest of her Subjects. Perhaps the Inhabitants here are not above a Tenth Part of the Whole; yet as they are better fed, and cloth'd, and lodg'd, than her other Subjects, the Customs and Excises upon their Consumption, the Imposts upon their Houses, and other Taxes, do very probably make a fifth Part of the whole Revenue of the Crown. But this is not all; the Consumption of the City takes off a great Part of the Fruits of the whole Island; and as it pays such a Proportion of the Rent or yearly Value of the Lands in the Country, so it is the Cause of paying such a Proportion of Taxes upon those Lands. The Loss then of such a People must needs be sensible to the Prince, and visible to the whole Kingdom.

On the other hand, if it should please God to drop from Heaven a new People equal in Number and Riches to the City, I should be ready to think their Excises, Customs, and House-Rent would raise as great a Revenue to the Crown as would be lost in the former Case. And as the Consumption of this New Body would be a new Market for the Fruits of the Country, all the Lands, especially those most adjacent, would rise in their yearly Value, and pay greater yearly Taxes to the Publick. The Gain in this Case would be as sensible as the former Loss.

Whatsoever is assess'd upon the General, is levied upon Individuals. It were worth the while then to consider what is paid by, or by means of, the meanest Subjects, in order to compute the Value of every Subject to the Prince.

For my own part, I should believe that Seven Eighths of the People are without Property in themselves or the Heads of their Families, and forced to work for their daily Bread; and that of this Sort there are Seven Millions in the whole Island of Great Britain: And yet one would imagine that Seven Eighths of the whole People should consume at least three Fourths of the whole Fruits of the Country. If this is the Case, the Subjects without Property pay Three Fourths of the Rents, and consequently enable the Landed Men to pay Three Fourths of their Taxes. Now if so great a Part of the Land-Tax were to be divided by Seven Millions, it would amount to more than three Shillings to every Head. And thus as the Poor are the Cause, without which the Rich could not pay this Tax, even the poorest Subject is upon this Account worth three Shillings yearly to the Prince.

Again: One would imagine the Consumption of seven Eighths of the whole People, should pay two Thirds of all the Customs and Excises. And if this Sum too should be divided by seven Millions, viz. the Number of poor People, it would amount to more than seven Shillings to every Head: And therefore with this and the former Sum every poor Subject, without Property, except of his Limbs or Labour, is worth at least ten Shillings yearly to the Sovereign. So much then the Queen loses with every one of her old, and gains with every one of her new Subjects.

When I was got into this Way of thinking, I presently grew conceited of the Argument, and was just preparing to write a Letter of Advice to a Member of Parliament, for opening the Freedom of our Towns and Trades, for taking away all manner of Distinctions between the Natives and Foreigners, for repealing our Laws of Parish Settlements, and removing every other Obstacle to the Increase of the People. But as soon as I had recollected with what inimitable Eloquence my Fellow-Labourers had exaggerated the Mischiefs of selling the Birth-right of Britons for a Shilling, of spoiling the pure British Blood with Foreign Mixtures, of introducing a Confusion of Languages and Religions, and of letting in Strangers to eat the Bread out of the Mouths of our own People, I became so humble as to let my Project fall to the Ground, and leave my Country to encrease by the ordinary Way of Generation.

As I have always at Heart the Publick Good, so I am ever contriving Schemes to promote it; and I think I may without Vanity pretend to have contrived some as wise as any of the Castle-builders. I had no sooner given up my former Project, but my Head was presently full of draining Fens and Marshes, banking out the Sea, and joining new Lands to my Country; for since it is thought impracticable to encrease the People to the Land, I fell immediately to consider how much would be gained to the Prince by encreasing the Lands to the People.

If the same omnipotent Power, which made the World, should at this time raise out of the Ocean and join to Great Britain an equal Extent of Land, with equal Buildings, Corn, Cattle and other Conveniences and Necessaries of Life, but no Men, Women, nor Children, I should hardly believe this would add either to the Riches of the People, or Revenue of the Prince; for since the present Buildings are sufficient for all the Inhabitants, if any of them should forsake the old to inhabit the new Part of the Island, the Increase of House-Rent in this would be attended with at least an equal Decrease of it in the other: Besides, we have such a Sufficiency of Corn and Cattle, that we give Bounties to our Neighbours to take what exceeds of the former off our Hands, and we will not suffer any of the latter to be imported upon us by our Fellow-Subjects; and for the remaining Product of the Country 'tis already equal to all our Markets. But if all these Things should be doubled to the same Buyers, the Owners must be glad with half their present Prices, the Landlords with half their present Rents; and thus by so great an Enlargement of the Country, the Rents in the whole would not increase, nor the Taxes to the Publick.

On the contrary, I should believe they would be very much diminished; for as the Land is only valuable for its Fruits, and these are all perishable, and for the most part must either be used within the Year, or perish without Use, the Owners will get rid of them at any rate, rather than they should waste in their Possession: So that 'tis probable the annual Production of those perishable things, even of one Tenth Part of them, beyond all Possibility of Use, will reduce one Half of their Value. It seems to be for this Reason that our Neighbour Merchants who ingross all the Spices, and know how great a Quantity is equal to the Demand, destroy all that exceeds it. It were natural then to think that the Annual Production of twice as much as can be used, must reduce all to an Eighth Part of their present Prices; and thus this extended Island would not exceed one Fourth Part of its present Value, or pay more than one Fourth Part of the present Tax.

It is generally observed, That in Countries of the greatest Plenty there is the poorest Living; like the Schoolmen's Ass, in one of my Speculations, the People almost starve between two Meals. The Truth is, the Poor, which are the Bulk of the Nation, work only that they may live; and if with two Days Labour they can get a wretched Subsistence for a Week, they will hardly be brought to work the other four: But then with the Wages of two Days they can neither pay such Prices for their Provisions, nor such Excises to the Government.

That paradox therefore in old Hesiod [[Greek: pleon hemisu pantos], [3]] or Half is more than the Whole, is very applicable to the present Case; since nothing is more true in political Arithmetick, than that the same People with half a Country is more valuable than with the Whole. I begin to think there was nothing absurd in Sir W. Petty, when he fancied if all the Highlands of Scotland and the whole Kingdom of Ireland were sunk in the Ocean, so that the People were all saved and brought into the Lowlands of Great Britain; nay, though they were to be reimburst the Value of their Estates by the Body of the People, yet both the Sovereign and the Subjects in general would be enriched by the very Loss. [4]

If the People only make the Riches, the Father of ten Children is a greater Benefactor to his Country, than he who has added to it 10000 Acres of Land and no People. It is certain Lewis has join'd vast Tracts of Land to his Dominions: But if Philarithmus says true, that he is not now Master of so many Subjects as before; we may then account for his not being able to bring such mighty Armies into the Field, and for their being neither so well fed, nor cloathed, nor paid as formerly. The Reason is plain, Lewis must needs have been impoverished not only by his Loss of Subjects, but by his Acquisition of Lands.


[Footnote 1: Or Henry Martyn.]

[Footnote 2: In No. 180.]

[Footnote 3: [Greek: pleón haemisi panta]]

[Footnote 4: A new edition of Sir W. Petty's 'Essays in Political Arithmetic' had just appeared.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. vi. 823.
'The noblest motive is the public good.'