Page images

out of the yearly rates, laid upon the subjects for maintaining of the poor.

This would be of vast advantage to the publick.

The money, yearly paid by the subjects for the relief of the poor, is nigh as much as an assessment of seventy thousand pounds a month to the king.

This is employed only to maintain idle persons, doth great hurt, rather than good, makes a world of poor, more than otherwise there would be, prevents industry and laboriousness, men and women growing so idle and proud, that they will not work, but lie upon the parish, wherein they dwell, for maintenance, applying themselves to nothing but begging or pilfering, and breeding up their children accordingly, never putting them upon any thing that may render them useful in their generations, or beneficial either to themselves, or the kingdom. .

But if, instead of giving them weekly allowances for maintaining them in their idleness, the money collected were employed to set all of them, that are able, at work, to some kind of employment or other, suitable to their capacities, it would be of infinite use and advantage to the nation. There are none except bedridden or blind, but some work or other may be found, that they may be capable of doing; which, if they would not set unto, when appointed them, they should have correction, rather than any encouragement, which now they have, by allowing them weekly maintenance. And, thus, not only men and women would become useful and beneficial to the kingdom, but their children should all of them he employed, and set at work, to do something or other, that may keep them from idleness; which becoming habitual to them in their youth, they are seldom broke off, whilst they live.

Industry and labour ought to be countenanced and encouraged, and magistrates and gentry would do well to give examples thereof to those amongst whom they live,

If all the poor now maintained in their idleness were set at work, and paid out of the money raised as aforesaid, those that now have two shillings, or three shillings a week, might, by their work, earn so much; or suppose they could earn but one shilling sixpence a week, and never. theless receive three shillings, it is half in half saved ; so that a moiety of what now is collected from the people might be spared to them, and yet the poor be as well, or better maintained than now.

But, if men, women, and children were set at work, few families that now receive two or three shillings a week, but, in all probability, would and might earn four or five shillings a week, help to manufacture the staple commodities of the kingdom at cheap rates, and thereby bring down the wages of handicrafts-men, which now are grown so high, that we have lost the trade of foreign consumption, because, a broad, wool, and leather, and the manufactures thereof, are sold at lower rates than we can afford ours at. This mischief of high wages to handicrafts-men is occasioned, by reason of the idleness of so vast a number of people in England, as there are, so that those tha: are industrious, and will work, make men pay what they please for their wages; but set the poor at work, and then these men will be forced to lower their rates, whereby we shall quickly come to sell as cheap as foreigners do, and consequently engross the trade to ourselves.

There are many ways to set the poor at work, both old and young. Women and children, by spinning of linnen, woollen, and worsted, carding, combing, knitting, working plain-work, or points, making bone lace, or thread or silk laces, brede, and divers other things.

The linnen-trade, if well regulated, would employ some hundred thousands of people; and, if brought to perfection, might save vast sums of money, within the kingdom, which now are sent out for the same.

The woollen and leathern manufactures would employ multitudes of men, and young youths, and vast quantities of wool might be manufac. tured and consumed in England, more than now is, if all the tapestry we now use were made here, which is now imported from beyond the seas. Also, if the act for burying in flannel, as ridiculous as men make it, were put in execution, seeing Aannel would be as good for that use, as linnen, abundance of our poor would be employed in making these things : and the money, now paid for these foreign manufactures, would be kept in England, and defray the charge of the manufacturing of them at home.

It is not to be imagined how many thousands of men, women, and children, the fishing trade, which is that I principally aim at, would keep in employment. The making of the nets, sails, cordage, and other materials for that use, the building of fishing vessels, and the catching and curing of the fish, when catched, would find work for above two hundred thousand people, and would increase the number of sea-men, sbip-wrights, and many handicrafts-men: a great revenue, if well managed, would thereby arise to the publick; and the fish taken would be as good to us, as so niuch ready money; and be taken off beyond seas, in exchange for such goods, as we necessarily want, and have from foreign parts, and now pay ready money for.

To conclude, were the things proposed as aforesaid done, as desired, trade would be encouraged and increased, the provisions and manu. factures of the kingdom be, in far greater quantities, consumed, both at home and abroad, the price of lands would be raised, tenants be enabled to pay their rents, the kingdom would be greatly inriched, and in a few years, the publick debts of the kingdom might be discharged, without imposing any considerable tax upon the people.




In a Letter to Mr. R. A. by R. T. with permission,

August 7, 1675. Roger L'Estrange. (From a quarto edition, printed at London, for J. G. in the year MDCLXXV.)

In this tract are prescribed several rules, for merchants, shopkeepers, and mechanical

tradesmen, (as well servants as masters) how they may husband their time, to the best advantage; the loss whereof is the sole cause of poverty in this city and nation. Likewise, the loss of a man's time spent in a tavern, coffee-house, or ale-house, computed. Also instructions to all sorts of people, how to order their business for the future, both to the inriching of themselves and their families,

SIR, IN compliance to your late requests, obliging me to write to you, as 1 soon as I came to London, I have sent you the result of a few serious minutes concerning the great Decay of trade, and want of money;" which is now the general cry of all people both in city and country; the grounds and reasons of which many have attempted to find out, by curious inquiries into the several laws and statutes made for the pro. moting of trade, supposing the non-execution of those laws to be the occasion of it. To this end large discourses have been made concerning the decay of the fishing trade; several proposals offered by ingenious persons for the restoration of it; and the great advantages that would ensue thereupon; with the many damages destructive to trade in general, that arise from the inquiries into the wool trade, alledging the exporta. tion of wool, the importation of foreign manufactures, and the per. mission of foreigners to work here, to be the chief cause of that decay of trade, and want of money, which every person complains of.

Now though the grounds and reasons before-mentioned are guarded with so many probabilities, and seeming rational demonstrations, that every understanding person will be ready, at the first view, to hold up his finger and give his assent to them; yet, upon critical inspection, or more curious survey, we shall find them to be only circumstantial.

There is something more material which is near us, that we overlook by looking so far off ; that is, the little value or price we set upon that inestimable jewel,– Time, which most people slight, like the cock in the fable, if they cannot make use of it, to satisfy their lascivious appe. tites. It is the industrious hand, that inricheth the land, and not the contriving pate. The wasps and hornets, by their rapine, bring to their

nests more honey at once, than the industrious bees can at many times ; and yet, for all this, they usually die for want in the winter; whilst the industrious bees, by continual labour and improvement of time, gather sufficient to serve themselves in the winter, and can afford their masters a liberal share out of their plentiful stock."

I shall first begin with the inferior rank of people, for those are the persons most concerned in this general complaint, and shew them, how they may remedy what they complain of.

First, let them be diligent and industrious in their several trades and callings.

Secondly, let them avoid all such idle societies, that squander away a great deal of time, at a cheap rate.

I shall instance in those sober and civil conventions, as at coffeehouses, and clubs, where little money is pretended to be spent, but a great deal of precious time lost, which the person never thinks of; but measures his expences, by what goes out of his pocket; nor considers what he might put in by his labour, and what he might have saved, being employed in his shop. As for example:

A mechanick tradesman, it may be, goes to the coffee-house or alehouse in the morning, to drink his morning's draught, where he spends two-pence, and in smoaking and talking, consumes at least an hour: in the evening, about six o'clock, he goes to his two-penny club, and there stays for his two-pence till nine or ten; here is four-pence spent, and four hours at least lost, which, in most mechanick trades, cannot be reckoned less than a shilling; and, if he keep servants, they may lose him near as much by idling, or spoiling his goods, which his presence might have prevented. So that, upon these considerations, for this his supposed groat (a day's expence) he cannot reckon less than seven groats; which comes to fourteen shillings a week (Sundays excepted) which is thirty-six pounds ten shillings a year. A great deal of money in a poor tradesman's pocket!

Now the same may be applied to the higher trades and professions, whose loss of time is according to the degree, or spheres they move in; and yet this is the least thing thought of. We are apt to favour and excuse ourselves, and impute a general calamity to things afar off, when we ourselves are the occasion of it at home.

It will be necessary, before I proceed, to take notice of one objection, which seems to be most material, viz. That soine men's business lies abroad, and cannot be so well managed at home, and that these meet. ings, or societies, are advantageous to them. As first, merchants, by these clubs or meetings, have intelligence of ships going out, and coming in; and also of the rates and prices of commodities, and meet with customers by accident, which possibly might never make inquiry at their houses or warehouses. The like excuses all men of business and trade pretend.

To this I answer: that indulging this custom, hath made it seemingly necessary; but yet there is no absolute necessity for it; for the exchange is appointed for the merchant's intelligence, and his warehouse is his shop. And, to other tradesmen, their shops are their markets; to which, if they would be reserved, they might better themselves, and

improve that time, they spend in taverns and coffee-houses, to a greater advantage : for, by these idle meetings, they lose not only what they spend, but what might be improved by the overseeing their goods, and examining their accounts, which they now wholly trust to the fidelity of a servant or servants; who, being led by their masters' examples, grow idle and extravagant; and, knowing their masters sure, make sure for themselves ; furnishing themselves for their debauched assignations, they now plot and invent the means and ways for their extravagant meetings, which are the occasion of the ruin of many masters, and hope. ful servants; all which might be prevented by the diligent eye of the master; the want of which is the occasion of all the debauchery, po. verty, and misery, which every place cries out of. From this negli. gence and loss of time, come many more inconveniencies, that heap on poverty, and entail it upon themselves and generations.

From these clubs and societies (how civil soever they appear to be) it is impossible in any such meeting, but some of them are given to vice; and it is probable, the greatest part : by this means are intro. duced gaming, foolish wagers, wenching, swearing, and other debaucheries. And usually, at parting, or breaking up of these clubs, they divide themselves according to their several inclinations or dispositions ; some go to a tavern, some to a convenient place for gaming, others to a bawdy-house, by which means, the family is neglected, and not governed as it ought to be; the wife (though possibly a very virtuous and careful housewife) exasperated by the extravagancies of her hus. band, and foreseeing poverty and want altending her, and her children, grows desperate ; and, it may be, yields to some temptations that are too common in these days; by which means, oftentimes an estate, that was gathered by grains, is scattered abroad by bushels.

The servants, too, by these examples, fall into the same vices, and many times ruin both themselves and their friends, who have strained their estates to the utmost, to get them into those places, and engaged their friends for their fidelity, hoping that their industry might afterwards make them some retaliation : all which is frustrated, and they become vagrants and extravagants, by which means city and country are filled with so many idle persons, that live only by spoil and rapine ; or like droans, feeding upon others labours; the greatest part of their business being to undo what others do, and to devise or contrive ways to cozen, supplant, or cheat each other; accounting it as lawful to get twenty shillings by cheating or playing, as by the most honest and industrious labour; so that, by this means, our commodities, which might be employed by industrious manufacturers, lie waste; and no wonder that we complain for want of trade, when the hands, that should be employed about it, are idle; for, if a strict inquiry were made into the city and suburbs, of all the persons that are capable of work, either in the wool or fishing-trade, as men, women, and children from seven years upwards, that are now altogether idle, or not employed to any purpose, in trade, there would not be found less than an hundred and fifty thousand, that live like droans, feeding upon the stock of others labours.

Now, it is our own negligence and idleness that brings poverty

« PreviousContinue »