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The vast debt contracted by his majesty, when beyond the seas; the great sums he hath, since his happy restoration, given to relieve some of the many poor, yet loyal subjects, that served him and his royal father faithfully, and lost their limbs and estates in their service; the great debts he found the kingdom in to the army and navy, when he came first home, which are all paid off, excepting about one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, that bath been under consideration of the parlia. ment, which, if not paid, will be the ruin of many thousands of poor families, who advanced the same for his majesty's service, and it was all employed for bringing him home.
The great charge of the last and this present Dutch war, both which his majesty bath been necessitated unto, for the preservation of the dig. nity of his person, which they so basely scorned and contemned, the honour of his kingdom, and the interest and security of trade ; these, together with the monies expended in the reparations of his ruined houses, repurchasing his own goods, and others for furnishing his royal palaces, and many other publick affairs, have called for frequent and great supplies.
Which, howbeit, the parliament have thought fit freely to grant, when the king hath desired the same, and passed several acts for poll. money, benevolence-money, subsidies, hearth-money, additional ex. cise, taxes upon the law, poundage upon rents, and land-taxes, yet the publick debts are very great, and the reason of it is plainly, be. cause whatever hath been given, except land-taxes, was so over-valued in the granting thereof, the grants so uncertain, the collecting so troublesome and chargeable, and the payment so vexatious to the peo. ple, that the end of the parliament hath not been answered, the king hath not had the supply intended, nor the subjects the benefit or ease designed; but the quite contrary events have happened.
So that it is humbly conceived, there is nothing can be more for the interest and advantage of the king and kingdom, than for the parlia. ment to examine what the publick debts really are, how contracted, and when ; and to see where the king has been well or ill used, where persons have made usurious or advantageous contracts, and taken ad. vantage of the king's necessities, to impose ill commodities, and at un. reasonable rates, upon him, and there to reduce the debt to such a proportion, as the commodity sold was, at the time of such sale, really worth ; and to see where the king has been justly dealed with ; which done, and the accounts being brought to balance, and the debt stated and known, then at once to raise so much money as may dis. charge the whole, and appoint persons to see the money, so to be raised, disposed to that and no other use, allowing them indifferent salaries for their pains, that so they may mind the work, and receive no manner of fees or advantage from the creditor, whereby the publick debts may be lessened; for whocver hath trusted the king, had a respect, in setting his price on the commodities sold, to the time, he thought, he should stay for his money, the uncertainty of ever receive ing it, the vast charge he must be at in exchequer-fees, gratuities, &c. whenever he should have obtained the same, insomuch that publick debts were and are frequently sold at sixty or seventy pounds per cent. And so, what hinders but that, if this business be prudently managed, by persons to be intrusted for that purpose, the publick debts may be lessened, and the more easily paid? Which done, the subjects may reasonably expect, and hope, for the future, to be at quiet, and freed from the fears they are now under of a parliament's meeting, lest still there should be fresh supplies for the purposes aforesaid demanded, and given, and no end be known of such gifts; and yet, to his majesty's and the kingdom's great dishonour, both at home and abroad, the publick debts still remain undischarged. And, if money for this purpose shall be, by the parliament, thought fit to be given, it is humbly offered and submitted to their considerations, whether there can be any way in the world found more certain, equal, and easy to raise the same, than by a land-tax? For then they will know what it is they give, when, and how certainly it will come in, and the time when the same will end, and may proportion their contracts and payments accordingly. Besides, a land-tax will be a certain fund for to advance money upon in a short time, at easy interest, wherewith speedily to discharge and pay off those debts, for which now great interest is to be paid.
I know it will be objected, that land is a drug, bears little or no price to be let, or be sold; what rent it is let for tenants are not able to pay; for to lay taxes upon that would utterly undo the gentry, who have nothing to live upon but their rents.
To this I answer, that it is very true, lands let poorly, rents are ill paid, and yield very little, if sold. But let us examine the reasons hereof, and see if some things may not be proposed to remedy those mischiefs, and bring land to its former value; which, if we do, then every man will certainly be of opinion, that a land-tax is the best way to raise money, and be glad, on that condition, to have it imposed.
I am of opinion, that gentlemen's being wanting to themselves is the greatest occasion of the decay of their estates, and lowering of their rents. Now, in order to their bringing them to the same rate and value, if not to a better, than they formerly bore, I humbly propose, that these several particulars following, which can only be done by act of parliament, may be enacted as laws. And I shall endeavour to demonstrate the mischiefs we suffer for want of them, and the great advantages we may rationally expect to receive by their being enacted.
1. I propose, that a stop be put to any farther buildings in or about the cities of London and Westminster, borough of Southwark, or in any place within the weekly bills of mortality, the head being already too big for the body : and that a year's value of all houses built upon new foundations may, by the owners of such houses, be paid to the king towards payment of publick debts, which would advance above three hundred thousand pounds.
2. That all the nobility and gentry of England, who have estates in the country, and are not obliged to attend on his majesty by reason of their offices, be enjoined, with their families, to live where their estates do lie, so many months in each year, as to the wisdom of parliament shall seem meet.
3. 'That a bill be passed for setting up of registers in every county for registering sales, mortgages, leases for term of years or lives, and all other real securities, and, if possible, all bonds, &c. which work may be done with little charge to the subject, and yet a profit of above fifty thousand pounds per annum arise to the publick.
4. That an act for a general naturalising of all foreign Protestants be passed, and an assurance of liberty of conscience given to all that shall come over into England, and place themselves and families amongst us : and that the same privilege be given to his majesty's subjects at home.
5. That the act for prohibition of the importation of Irish cattle be repealed, and a trade between the two kingdoms established, whereby his majesty's revenue of customs would be advanced above eighty thousand pounds per annum.
6. That brandy and mum, coffee and tea, be prohibited, and coffeehouses suppressed, which may be done without any dininution of his majesty's revenue of excise.
7, That the multitude of stage.coaches and caravans now travelling upon the roads be all or most of them suppressed, especially those within forty or fifty miles of London, where they are no way necessary, and yet most numerous and mischievous ; and that a due regulation be made of such as shall be thought fit to be continued. Which done, his majesty's excise would be worth above thirty thousand pounds per annum more than it now is, and the post-office by six thousand pounds per annum.
8. That the act for transportation of leather unmanufactured be re. pealed, or so far discountenanced at least, that it be not renewed when the seven years are expired.
9. That a court, in the nature of the court of request in London, be established for. Westminster, Southwark, and all parts within the weekly bills of mortality, if possible, and in every city and town cor. porate in England, to determine differences between poor people, for' small debts, words, or trespasses, that so they may not be undone by law-suits.
10. That a bound be put to the extravagant habits and expences of all sorts of persons, that servants and handicraft-tradesmen's excessive wages may be reduced, and that no foreign manufactures, except from Ireland, be suffered to be worn in England, but that the importation and exposing of them knowingly to sale be both made felony.
11. That it be made lawful to assign bills, bonds, and other securi. ties, and the frauds of men breaking, with design to inrich themselves out of their creditors' estates, may be prevented.
12. That the Newcastle trade for coals may be managed by commissioners for his majesty, which would be a great advantage to the • subjects, and raise his majesty above three hundred thousand pounds per annum.
13. That the fishing-trade be encouraged, all poor set at work to 'provide tackle for that use, and be paid out of the money collected yearly in every parish throughout England for relief of the poor, which would be of vast advantage to the publick.
In order to the evincing of the necessity of prohibiting any further buildings, in and about London and Westminster, and of the gentry's being confined to live, some part of the year, upon their estates in the
country; I desire every serious considerate person, that knew Londoit and Westminster, and the suburbs thereof, forty or fifty years ago, when England was far richer, and more populous, than now it is, to tell me, whether, by additional buildings upon new foundations, the said cities, and suburbs, since that time, are not become at least a third part bigger than they were ; and whether, in those days, they were not thought, and found large enough, to give a due reception to all persons that were fit, or had occasion to resort thither, whereupon all further buildings, on new foundations, even in those days, were pro. hibited ? Nevertheless, above thirty thousand houses, great and small, have been since built, the consequences whereof may be worthy of our consideration. These houses are all inhabited; considering then what multitudes of whole families, formerly dwelling in and about the said cities, were cut off by the two last dreadful plagues, as also by the war abroad and at home, by land and by sea, and how many have trans. ported themselves, or been transported, into our foreign plantations; and it must naturally follow, that those who inhabit these new houses, and many of the old ones, must be persons coming out of the country; which makes so many inhabitants the less there, where they are most needful and wanting. For the occasion of the rents of lands falling, every year, arises pot so much from lands growing worse, as because of the want of tenants, with good stocks, to manage the farms they take. And this mischief hath been, and is in great measure, occasioned by these additional buildings; for, bad they not been erected, those, who inhabit them, would have been in the country, living an industrious and lahorious life, improving their stocks, and thereby advantaging gentlemen's lands, and the trade of the nation. But now, if a man get two or three hundred pounds in his pocket, up he comes to London, takes a house, pays a fine, lays out the rest of his money in furnishing it for lodgers, thereby promising himself a lazy life, free from care; or else he sets up an ale-house or brandy-house, both tending to the debauching and destroying of youth ; when, had there not been these buildings to draw them hither, and give shelter, then those men, with three or four hundred pounds a-piece stocks, employed in the country, inight have made each of them a good tenant, for a farm of one or two hundred pounds per annum ; which farms, by their remov. ing to London, are thrown into the landlords' hands, so that, by a moderate calculation, it is judged, that there are sixty thousand fami. lies, at least, now in, and about London, more than would, or could conveniently have been, if these houses had not been built; which families, if they had continued in the country, would have kept up the value of lands, which fall only for want of tenants : if therefore, more buildings should be hereafter erected, more mischiefs, in all probability, will be done of this kind to the country; and really, gentlemen may thank themselves for the prejudice they receive by these means, they having given the example, and been the occasion thereof. For they, never thinking their estates would have an end, weary of an honest and commendable country life, come up to London to see fashions, fall into ill company, learn how to run out of all their estates in a short time, by extravagant habits, gaming, drinking, and other debaucheries,
destructive to their healths, as much as estates ; as if to have lived in the country, upon their own estates, and to have taken care of, and managed them, and kept a handsome retinue of servants, and a good house of hospitality, and to have taken off their tenants' provisions, for their family expences, in part of their rents, relieving and setting the poor' at work, and encouragement of art, industry, and labour, were not so commendable in them, or so much for their advantage, and honour, as to live idly in London, pursuing their lustful pleasures, paying, whilst their own houses stand empty, and go to ruin for want of being inhabited, more for their lodgings, than would maintain their families handsomely in the country, and increase the consumption of the provisions, and manufactures of the kingdom, than which nothing can conduce more to the improvement of land. I would desire to know of any sober person, how far the many gentlemen, who have thus foolishly and idly run themselves out of their estates, have done good with the same; who is the better for it? Is the country, where their estates lie, or their tenants that rent them? or the poor inhabitants about them ? No, not at all, but all the worse, and undone thereby ; for when these persons come first to London, they bring up all the money they can get in specie, and no sooner do their rents grow due in the country, but they, or their bailiffs or stewards, rack the poor tenants for the same, gather in all that they can get, and suc, or dise' train, where money is not presently to be had, taking away tenants' cattle, selling them for half their worth, and thereby ruin, not only idle persons, or ill husbands, that have run out of their stocks, but also many industrious men, and great husbands, who have stock and goods enough, if sold, wherewith to answer the rent; and the want of a vent, for the product of their farms, is the only reason why they could not raise present money for their landlords. How many persons, by these means, have been undone, forced to leave their farms, which thereby have been thrown into their owners' hands; who have been forced both to abate rents, and keep their farms a year or two, without making any thing of them, before they could dispose of them again? And I know none the better for these things, but the gentry's and nobility's bailiffs and stewards, who being intrusted to let and set, receive rents, and manage their masters' estates, do by their neglecting to call them .to account, or looking after, and disposing their own affairs, grow vastly rich, and frequently, in trustees' names, become purchasers of their masters' estates; whilst they, in the mean time, by means as aforesaid, become greatly impoverished. The rather, for that fre. quently, when they receive their masters' rents, they pretend the tenants have them in their hands, and put their masters, thereby, under necessity of borrowing money for their present supplies ; which when they have done, they, being employed to procure the same, do frequently furnish them with their own money, making them pay bro. kerage, procuration, and continuation-money, and interest for the same, which helps forward their ruin.
In short, these new buildings are advantageous to none but to the owners of the ground on which they are built, who have raised their wonted rents, from a hundred pounds to five or six hundred pounds