Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (Graunt 1676)/Chapter 13

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The Conclusion.

 

IT may be now asked, To what purpose tends all this laborious bustling and groping? To know,

1. The number of the People?

2. How many Males and Females?

3. How many Married and Single?

4. How many Teeming Women?

5. How many of every Septenary, or Decad of years in age?

6. How many Fighting Men?

7. How much London is, and by what steps it hath, increased?

8. In what time the Housing is replenished after a Plague?

9. What proportion die of each general and particular Casualties?

10. What Years are Fruitful and Mortal, and in what Spaces and Intervals they follow each other?

11. In what proportion Men neglect the Orders of the Church, and Sects have increased? |97|

12. The disproportion of Parishes?

13. Why the Burials in London exceed the Christenings, when the contrary is visible in the Country?

To this I might answer in general, by saying, that those, who cannot apprehend the reason of these Enquiries, are unfit to trouble themselves to ask them.

2. I might answer by asking, Why so many have spent their times and Estates about the Art of making Gold? which, if it were much known, would only exalt Silver into the place which Gold now possesseth; and if it were known but to some one Person, the same single Adeptus could not, nay, durst not enjoy it, but must be either a Prisoner to some Prince, and Slave to some Voluptuary, or else skulk obscurely up and down for his privacy and concealment.

3. I might answer, That there is much pleasure in deducing so many abstruse and unexpected inferences out of these poor despised Bills of Mortality; and in building upon that ground, which hath lain waste these eighty years. And there is pleasure in doing something new, though never so little, without pestering the World with voluminous Transcriptions. |98|

4. But I answer more seriously, by complaining, That whereas the Art of Governing, and the true Politicks, is how to preserve the Subject in Peace and Plenty; that men study only that part of it which teacheth how to supplant and over-reach one another, and how, not by fair out-running, but by tripping up each other's heels, to win the Prize.

Now, the Foundation or Elements of this honest harmless Policy is to understand the Land, and the hands of the Territory, to be governed according to all their intrinsick and accidental differences: As for example; It were good to know the Geometrical Content, Figure, and Situation of all the Lands of a Kingdom, especially according to its most natural, permanent, and conspicuous Bounds. It were good to know how much Hay an Acre of every sort of Meadow will bear; how many Cattel the same weight of each sort of Hay will feed and fatten; what quantity of Grain and other Commodities the same Acre will bear in one, three, or seven years, communibus Annis; unto what use each soil is most proper. All which particulars I call the intrinsick value: for there is also another value meerly accidental, or extrinsick, consisting of the Causes why a parcel of Land, |99| lying near a good Market, may be worth double to another parcel, though but of the same intrinsick goodness; which answers the Queries, why Lands in the North of England are worth but sixteen years purchase, and those of the West above eight and twenty. It is no less necessary to know how many People there be of each Sex, State, Age, Religion, Trade, Rank, or Degree, &c. by the knowledge whereof, Trade and Government may be made more certain and Regular; for, if men knew the People, as aforesaid, they might know the consumption they would make, so as Trade might not be hoped for where it is impossible. As for instance, I have heard much complaint, that Trade is not set in some of the South-western and North-western Parts of Ireland, there being so many excellent Harbours for that purpose; whereas in several of those places I have also heard, that there are few other Inhabitants, but such as live ex sponte creatis, and are unfit Subjects of Trade, as neither employing others, nor working themselves.

Moreover, if all these things were clearly and truly known (which I have but ghessed at) it would appear, how small a part of the People work upon necessary Labours and |100| Callings, viz. how many Women and Children do just nothing, only learning to spend what others get; how many are meer Voluptuaries, and as it were meer Gamesters by Trade; how many live by puzling poor people with unintelligible Notions in Divinity and Philosophy; how many by perswading credulous, delicate, and ligitious Persons, that their Bodies or Estates are out of Tune, and in danger; how many by fighting as Souldiers; how many by Ministries of Vice and Sin; how many by Trades of meer Pleasure, or Ornaments; and how many in a way of lazy attendance, &c. upon others: And on the other side, how few are employed in raising and working necessary Food and Covering; and of the speculative men, how few do study Nature and Things! The more ingenious not advancing much further than to write and speak wittily about these matters.

I conclude, That a clear knowledge of all these particulars, and many more, whereat I have shot but at rovers, is necessary, in order to good, certain, and easie Government, and even to balance Parties and Factions both in Church and State. But whether the knowledge thereof be necessary to many, or fit for others than the Sovereign and his chief Ministers, I leave to consideration. |101|