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No. 200 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Friday, October 19, 1711. Steele. [1]

‘Vincit Amor Patriae.’


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.