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

But not to dwell upon our capacities for improving in trade, I might clear all that part without giving up the least article of my complaint; for it is not our capacity to improve that I call in question, but our application to the right methods; nay, I must add, that while I call upon your diligence, and press you to application, I am supposed to grant your capacities; otherwise I was calling upon you to no purpose, and pressing you to do what at the same time I allowed you had no power to perform.

Without complimenting your national vanity, therefore, I am to grant you have not only the means of improvement in your hands, but the capacity of improving also; and on this account I must add, are the more inexcusable if the thing is not in practice.

Indeed it is something wonderful, and not easy to be accounted for, that a whole nation should, as if they were in a lethargic dream, shut their eyes to the apparent advantages of their commerce; and this just now, when their circumstances seem so evidently to stand in need of encouragement, and that they are more than ordinarily at a kind of stop in their usual progression of trade.

It is debated much among men of business, whether trade is at this time in a prosperous and thriving condition, or in a languishing and declining state; or, in a word, whether we are going backwards or forward. I shall not meddle with that debate here, having no occasion to take up the little space allowed me in anything remote from my design. But I will propose it as I really believe it to be: namely, that we are rather in a state of balance between both, a middle between the extremes; I hope we are not much declined, and I fear we are not much advanced. But I must add, that if we do not immediately set about some new methods for altering this depending condition, we shall soon decline; and on the contrary, if we should exert ourselves, we have before us infinite advantages of improving and advancing our commerce, and that to a great degree.

This is stating it to the meanest understanding; there is no mystery at all in the thing; if you will apply, you will rise; if you will remain indolent and inactive, you will sink and starve. Trade in England, at this time, is like a ship at sea, that has sprung a leak in sight of the shore, or within a few days’ sail of it; if the crew will ply their pump and work hard, they may not only keep her above water, but will bring her safe into port; whereas if they neglect the pump, or do not exert their strength, the water grows upon them and they are in apparent danger of sinking before they reach the shore.

Or, if you will have a coarser comparison, take the pump room in the rasp-house, or house of correction, at Amsterdam; where the slothful person is put into a good, dry, and wholesome room, with a pump at one side and a spring or water-pipe at the other; if he pleases to work, he may live and keep the water down, but if he sleeps he drowns.

The moral is exactly the same in both cases, and suits with the present circumstances of our trade in England most exactly, only with this difference to the advantage of the latter; namely, that the application which I call upon the people of England to exert themselves in, is not a mere labour of the hand; I do not tax the poor with mere sloth and negligence, idly lying still when they should work, that is not our grievance at present; for though there may be too much of that sort too, among a few of the drunken, loitering part of mankind, and they suffer for it sufficiently in their poverty, yet that, I say, is not the point, idleness is not here a national crime, the English are not naturally a slothful, indolent, or lazy people.