Verbum Sapienti (1899)

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Verbum Sapienti
by William Petty, edited by Charles Henry Hull

Verbum Sapienti was first published in 1691 as a supplement to the Political Anatomy of Ireland. Acoording to Petty's own list[1] it is written in 1665. This edition is from the The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, edited by Charles Henry Hull, and published in 1899. Hull also wrote the introductory note.

2228934Verbum SapientiWilliam Petty

[The Verbum Sapienti having been printed, heretofore, only at the end of the Political Anatomy of Ireland, has never had a full title-page.]




The Verbum Sapienti was first published in 1691 as a supplement to the Political Anatomy of Ireland (q.v.). In Petty's list of his own writings[2], however, the entry "Verbum Sapienti, and the value of People" stands opposite the year 1665, and the internal evidence makes it probable that the booklet was written in the latter part of that year. Thus Petty speaks[3] of the continuance of the war with Holland, declared 14 March, 1665, "at the value of the last years Expence" as if the additional assessment beginning Christmas, 1665, were not yet gone into effect[4]. Furthermore his assertion that 100,000 died of the plague[5] looks like an exaggerated estimate made in advance of the yearly bill of mortality, upon whose publication in December, 1665, the official figures were seen to be but 68596. It may be, however, that Petty distrusted the official figures and purposely exceeded them[6]. But by no hypothesis can we assign the Verbum Sapienti to a later date than July 1667, when the war closed.

A MS. of the Verbum Sapienti is contained in a volume preserved at the Public Record Office in Dublin, and called "Dr Petty's Register[7]." The copyist's title, fol. 10, is simply "Verbum Sapienti," but Petty's autograph index to the volume has "Verbum Sapienti Or a discourse about Taxes & ye Value of People," a title so similar to the memorandum mentioned in the preceding paragraph as to justify the assumption that we have in the Verbum Sapienti all that the entry quoted from Petty's list of his own writings calls for. Another MS. of the Verbum Sapienti very carelessly written is appended to a MS. of the Political Arithmetick in the British Museum[8]. The latter portion of it is but a précis of Petty's argument. Sir Peter Pett had, before 1680, a MS. of both these tracts[9] and it is not impossible that the present Sloane MS. is identical with that once in his possession. The Dublin MS. is not divided into chapters and its paragraphs are consecutively numbered throughout. Otherwise it is substantially similar to the printed text of 1691 here reproduced. Significant differences are indicated in the notes, the readings of the Dublin MS. being marked " D," those of the Sloane MS. "S."

Verbum Sapienti.

INtroduction,Page 1 [103]

Chap. 1.Containing several computations of the Wealth of the Kingdom,3 [105]

Chap. 2.Of the Value of the People,7 [108]

Chap. 3.Of the several Expences of the Kingdom, and its Revenue,10 [111]

Chap. 4.Of the Method of apportioning Taxes,11 [111]

Chap. 5.Of Money, and how much is necessary to drive the Trade of the Nation,13 [112]

Chap. 6.The Causes of Irregular Taxing,15 [114]

Chap. 7.The Collateral Advantages of these Taxes,16 [115]

Chap. 8.Of the Expence of the Navy, Army, and Garisons,18 [116]

Chap. 9.Motives to the quiet bearing of Extraordinary Taxes,19 [117]

Chap. 10.How to imploy the People, and the end thereof,22 [118]




1.WHEREAS many are forced[10] to pay 110 of their whole Estates towards the raising of but[11] 70000l. per Mensem[12], besides what they pay more insensibly and directly[13], as Customs, Excise, Chimny-Money, &c. (viz. in London, they pay 2d. per Mensem per Pound Rent, that is 2s. per Annum, or 110 of the whole.) It must come to pass, that the same Persons must from Christmas, 1665. pay ⅓ of their whole Estates, if the War with Holland continue two years longer, at the value of the last years Expence[14], provided His Majesty be kept out of Debt. |2|

2. But if the Publick Charge were laid proportionably, no Man need pay above 110 of his whole Effects, even in case the Tax should rise to 250000l. per Mensem, which God forbid.

3. That is to say, according to the present ways, some pay four times as much more as they ought, or needed; which disproportion is the true and proper Grievance of Taxes, and which must be felt when the Tax happens to be great and extraordinary: Whereas by meer Method and Proportion, the same may be corrected as aforesaid; and withal, just Accounts might be kept of the People, with the respective Increases and Decreases of them, their Wealth, and Foreign Trade.

  1. see: Page:Life of Sir William Petty 1623 – 1687.djvu/344.
  2. Fitzmaurice, 318.
  3. p. 103.
  4. See note 5, p. 103.
  5. p. 109.
  6. See Polit. Anat., chap. iv.
  7. Introduction, pt. vii.
  8. Sloane MS., 2572, fol. 105 b, seq.
  9. Happy Future State, p. 192—3, 245.
  10. S omits 'are forced to.'
  11. D, 'but of.'
  12. 13 Charles II., stat 2, c. 3 imposed an assessment of £70,000 per month for 18 months, beginning 25 December, 1661.
  13. D, 'indirectly.'
  14. Apparently an allusion to the assessment of £68,819. 9s. per month for 36 months granted by 16 & 17 Charles II, c. 1, beginning 25 December, 1664. To this 17 Charles II., c. 1 added £52,083. 6s. 8d. per month for 24 months beginning Christmas, 1665.