Essays upon several projects: or, effectual ways for advancing the interest of the nation.:
Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731.
Page  i

PREFACE TO Dalby Thomas, Esq One of the COMMISSIONERS for Managing His Majesty's Duties on Glass, &c.


THIS Preface comes Directed to you, not as Commissioner, &c. under whom I have the Honour to serve his Majesty; nor as a Friend; though I have great Obligations of that sort also; but as the most proper Judge of the Subjects Treated of, and more Capable than the greatest part of Man|kind to Distinguish and Understand them.

Books are useful only to such whose Geni|us are suitable to the Subject of them: And to Page  ii Dedicate a Book of Projects to a Person who had never concern'd himself to Think that way, would be like Musick to one that has no Ear.

And yet Your having a Capacity to Judge of these things, no way brings You under the Despicable Title of a Projector, any more than knowing the Practices and Sub|tleties of Wicked Men, makes a Man guilty of their Crimes.

The several Chapters of this Book, are the results of particular Thoughts, occa|sion'd by Conversing with the Publick Af|fairs during the present War with France. The Losses and Casualties which attend all Trading Nations in the World, when in|volved in so Cruel a War as this, have reach'd us all, and I am none of the least Sufferers; if this has put me, as well as others, on Inventions and Projects, so much the Subject of this Book, 'tis no more than a proof of the Reason I give for the general Projecting Humour of the Nation.

Page  iii One unhappiness I lie under in the fol|lowing Book, viz. That having kept the greatest Part of it by me for near Five Years, several of the Thoughts seem to be hit by other Hands, and some by the Pub|lick; which turns the tables upon me, as if I had Borrow'd from them.

As particularly that of the Seamen, which you know well I had contriv'd long before the Act for Registring Seamen was Propos'd. And that of Educating Women, which I think my self bound to Declare, was form'd long before the Book call'd Advice to the Ladies, was made Pub|lick; and yet I do not Write this to Mag|nify my own Invention, but to acquit my self from Grafting on other People's Thoughts. If I have Trespass'd upon any Person in the World, 'tis upon Your self, from whom I had some of the Noti|ons about County Banks, and Factories for Goods, in the Chapter of Banks; and yet I do not think that my Propo|sal Page  iv for the Women, or the Seamen, clashes at all, either with that Book, on the Publick method of Registring Seamen.

I have been told since this was done, That my Proposal for a Commission of Enquiries into Bankrupt Estates, is Borrow'd from the Dutch; if there is any thing like it among the Dutch, 'tis more than ever I knew, or know yet; but if so, I hope 'tis no Objection against our having the same here, especially if it be true, that 'twou'd be so publickly Beneficial as is express'd.

What is said of Friendly Societies, I think no Man will Dispute with me, since one has met with so much Success already in the Practice of it, I mean, The Friendly Society for Widows, of which you have been pleas'd to be a Governor.

Friendly Societies are very extensive, and as I have hinted, might be carri'd on to many Particulars. I have omitted one which was mention'd in Discourse Page  v with your self; where a Hundred Tradesmen, all of several Trades, Agree together to Buy whatever they want of one another, and no where else, Prices and Payments to be settled among them|selves; whereby every Man is sure to have Ninety nine Customers, and can never want a Trade: And I cou'd have fill'd up the Book with Instances of like nature, but I never design'd to tire the Reader with Particulars.

The Proposal of the Pension-Office you will soon see offer'd to the Publick, as an Attempt for the Relief of the Poor; which if it meets with Encouragement, will every way answer all the great Things I have said of it.

I had Wrote a great many Sheets about the Coin, about bringing in Plate to the Mint, and about our Standard; but so many great Heads being upon it, with some of whom my Opinion does not agree, I wou'd not adventure to appear in Print upon that Subject.

Page  vi Ways and Means also I have laid by on the same score. Only adhering to this one Point, That be it by Taxing the Wares they Sell, be it by Taxing them in Stock, be it by Composition, which, by the way, I believe is the best; be it by what way so|ever the Parliament please, the Retailers are the Men who seem to call upon us to be Tax'd; if not by their own extraor|dinary good Circumstances, though that might bear it, yet by the contrary in all other Degrees of the Kingdom.

Besides, the Retailers are the only men who cou'd pay it with least damage, because it is in their power to levy it again upon their Customers in the Prices of their Goods, and is no more than paying a higher Rent for their Shops.

The Retailers of Manufactures, espe|cially so far as relates to the Inland Trade, have never been tax'd yet, and their Wealth or Number is not easily calcula|ted: Trade and Land has been handled Page  vii roughly enough; and these are the men who now lye as a Reserve to carry on the Burthen of the War.

These are the Men, who, were the Land-Tax collected as it shou'd be, ought to pay the King more than that whole Bill ever produc'd; and yet these are the men who I think I may venture to say, do not pay a Twentieth part in that Bill.

Shou'd the King appoint a Survey over the Assessors, and Indict all those who were found faulty; allowing a Re|ward to any Discoverer of an Assessment made lower than the literal Sense of the Act implies, What a Register of Frauds and Connivances wou'd be found out!

In a General Tax, if any shou'd be excus'd, it shou'd be the Poor, who are not able to pay, or at least are pinch'd in the necessary parts of Life by paying: And yet here a poor Labourer who works for Twelve-Pence or Eighteen-Pence a Day, does not Page  viii drink a Pot of Beer, but pays the King a Tenth part for Excise; and really pays more to the King's Taxes in a year, than a Coun|trey Shopkeeper, who is Alderman of the Town, worth perhaps Two or Three Thou|sand Pounds, brews his own Beer, pays no Excise, and in the Land-Tax is rated it may be 100 l. and pays 1 l. 4 s. per Annum: But ought, if the Act were put in due execution, to pay 36 l. per Ann. to the King.

If I were to be ask'd how I wou'd re|medy this? I wou'd answer, It shou'd be by some Method in which every man may be tax'd in the due proportion to his Estate, and the Act put in execution, according to the true Intent and Meaning of it; in order to which a Commission of Assessment shou'd be granted to Twelve Men, such as His Ma|jesty shou'd be well satisfied of, who shou'd go through the whole Kingdom, Three in a Body, and shou'd make a new As|sessment of Personal Estates, not to meddle with Land.

Page  ix To these Assessors shou'd all the Old Rates, Parish-Books, Poor-Rates, and Highway-Rates also be delivered; and upon due Enquiry to be made into the Man|ner of Living, and reputed Wealth of the People, the Stock or Personal Estate of every man shou'd be assess'd, without Connivance; and he who is reputed to be worth a Thousand Pound, shou'd be tax'd at a Thousand Pound; and so on: And he who was an over-grown Rich Trades|man of Twenty or Thirty thousand Pounds Estate, shou'd be tax'd so, and Plain English and Plain Dealing be practis'd indifferently throughout the Kingdom; Tradesmen and Landed men shou'd have Neighbours Fare, as we call it; and a Rich Man shou'd not be pass'd by when a Poor Man pays.

We read of the Inhabitants of Con|stantinople, that they suffer'd their City to be lost, for want of contributing in time for its Defence; and pleaded Poverty to Page  x their Generous Emperor, when he went from House to House to persuade them; and yet when the Turks took it, the Prodigious Immense Wealth they found in it, made 'em wonder at the sordid Temper of the Citizens.

England (with due Exceptions to the Parliament, and the Freedom where|with they have given to the Publick Charge) is much like Constantinople; we are involv'd in a Dangerous, a Chargeable, but withal a most Just and Necessary War, and the Richest and Mo|ney'd Men in the Kingdom plead Poverty; and the French, or King James, or the Devil may come for them, if they can but conceal their Estates from the Publick Notice, and get the Assessors to tax them at an Under-Rate.

These are the men this Commission wou'd discover; and here they shou'd find men tax'd at 500 l. Stock, who are worth 20000 l. Here they shou'd find a certain Rich Man near Hackney, rated to day Page  xi in the Tax-Book at 1000 l. Stock, and to morrow offering 27000 l. for an Estate.

Here they shou'd find Sir J— C— perhaps tax'd to the King at 5000 l. stock, perhaps not so much, whose Cash no man can guess at: And multitudes of Instances I cou'd give by name, without wrong to the Gentlemen.

And not to run on in Particulars, I affirm, That in the Land-Tax Ten certain Gentlemen in London put together, did not pay for half so much Personal Estate, call'd Stock, as the poorest of them is reputed really to possess.

I do not enquire at whose door this Fraud must lye, 'tis none of my business.

I wish they wou'd search into it, whose Power can punish it. But this with Sub|mission I presume to say;

The King is thereby defrauded and hor|ribly abus'd; the true Intent and Mean|ing of Acts of Parliament evaded; the Nation involv'd in Debt by fatal Deficien|cies Page  xii and Interests; Fellow-Subjects abus'd, and new Inventions for Taxes occasion'd.

The last Chapter in this Book is a Pro|posal about entring all the Seamen in Eng|land into the King's Pay; a Subject which deserves to be enlarg'd into a Book it self; and I have a little Volume of Cal|culations and Particulars by me on that Head, but I thought them too long to pub|lish. In short, I am persuaded, was that Method propos'd to those Gentlemen to whom such things belong, the greatest Sum of Money might be rais'd by it, with the least Injury to those who pay it, that ever was or will be during the War.

Projectors, they say, are generally to be taken with allowance of one half at least; they always have their mouths full of Mil|lions, and talk big of their own Proposals; and therefore I have not expos'd the vast Sums my Calculations amount to, but I venture to say I could procure a Farm on such a Proposal as this at Three Millions per Ann.Page  xiii and give very good Security for Payment; such an Opinion I have of the Value of such a Method; and when that is done, the Nation wou'd get Three more by pay|ing it; which is very strange, but might easily be made out.

In the Chapter of Academies, I have ventur'd to reprove the Vicious Custom of Swearing: I shall make no Apology for the Fact; for no man ought to be asham'd of exposing what all men ought to be asham'd of practising: But methinks I stand cor|rected by my own Laws a little, in forcing the Reader to repeat some of the worst of our Vulgar Imprecations, in reading my Thoughts against it: To which, however, I have this to reply;

First, I did not find it easy to express what I mean, without putting down the very Words, at least not so as to be very Intelligible.

Secondly, Why should Words repeated only to expose the Vice, taint the Reader, Page  xiv more than a Sermon preach'd against Lewd|ness should the Assembly; for of necessity it leads the Hearer to the Thoughts of the Fact; but the Morality of every Action lies in the End; and if the Reader by ill use renders himself guilty of the Fact in Reading, which I design'd to expose by Writing, the Fault is his, not mine.

I have endeavour'd every where in this Book to be as Concise as possible, ex|cept where Calculations oblig'd me to be particular; and having avoided Imperti|nence in the Book, I wou'd avoid it too in the Preface; and therefore shall break off with subscribing my self,


Your most Obliged, Humble Servant, D. F.