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An Humble Proposal To The People Of England
by [?]

As the trading men to whom I write may make some estimate of things by calculating one thing by another, so this leads them to other heads of trade to calculate from; as, first, the value of money, which bore some proportion, though I think not a full and just equality to the provisions, as follows:–silver was at 2s. 4d. per ounce, and gold at 2 l. 5s. to 2 l. 10s. per ounce; something less in the silver, and more in the gold than half of the present value.

As for the rate of lands and houses, they bore a yet greater distance in value from what they produce now; so that indeed it bears no proportion, for we find the rent of lands so raised, and their value so improved, that there are many examples where the lands, valued even in queen Elizabeth’s days at 20 l. to 25 l. per annum, are now worth from 200 l. to 300 l. per annum, and in some places much more.

It is true, this advance is to be accounted for by the improvement made of the soil, by manuring, cultivating, and enclosing; by stocks of cattle, by labour, and by the arts of husbandry, which are also improved; and so this part is not so immediately within my present design; it is a large subject, and merits to be spoken of at large by itself; because as the improvement of land has been extraordinary great, and the landed interest is prodigiously increased by it, so it is capable of much more and greater improvement than has been made for above a hundred years past. But this I say is not my present design; it is too great an article to be couched in a few words.

Yet it requires this notice here; viz., that trade has been a principal agent even in the improvement of our land; as it has furnished the money to the husbandman to stock his land, and to employ servants and labourers in the working part; and as it has found him a market for the consumption of the produce of his land, and at an advanced price too, by which he has received a good return to enable him to go on.

The short inference from these premises is this: as by trade the whole kingdom is thus advanced in wealth, and the value of lands, and of the produce of lands, and of labour, is so remarkably increased, why should we not go on with vigour and spirit in trade, and by all proper and possible methods and endeavours, increase and cultivate our commerce; that we may still increase and improve in wealth, in value of lands, in stock, and in all the arts of trade, such as manufactures, navigation, fishery, husbandry, and, in short, study an improvement of trade in all its branches.

No doubt it would be our wisdom to do thus; and nothing of the kind can be more surprising than that it should not be our practice; and thus I am brought down to the case before me.

If it should be objected that the remark is needless, that we are an industrious and laborious people, that we are the best manufacturers in the world, thoroughly versed in all the methods and arts for that purpose; and that our trade is improved to the utmost in all places, and all cases possible; if it should, I say, be thus argued, for I know some have such a taint of our national vanity that they do talk at this rate,–

My answer is short, and direct in the negative; and I do affirm that we are not that industrious, applying, improving people that we pretend to be, and that we ought to be, and might be. That we are the best manufacturers I deny; and yet at the same time I grant that we make the best manufactures in the world; but the reason of that is greatly owing not to our own skill exceeding others, so much as to our being furnished from the bounty of Heaven with the best materials and best conveniencies for the work, of any nation in the world, of which I shall take notice in its place.