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SIR WILLIAM PETTY (1623-1687)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 337 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR WILLIAM PETTY (1623-1687)  ,
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English statistician and
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political economist, born on the 26th of May 1623, was the son of a
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clothier at
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Romsey in Hampshire, and received his early
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education at the grammar school there . About the age of fifteen he went to
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Caen (
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Normandy), taking with him a little stock of merchandise, on which he traded, and so maintained himself whilst learning French, improving himself in Latin and Greek, and studying mathematics and other sciences . On his return to England he seems to have had for a short time a place ' The survey executed by Petty was, somewhat whimsically, called the " Down Survey," because the results were set down in maps; it is called by that name in Petty's will . He
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left in MS. a full account of the proceedings in connexion with it, which was edited by
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Sir Thomas A . Larcom for the Irish Archaeological Society in 1851 . The maps, some of which were injured by a fire in 1711, are preserved in the Public Record Office,
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Dublin . His
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Treatise of Taxes and Contributions contains a clear statement of the
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doctrine that price depends on the labour necessar) for production . Petty is much concerned to discover a fixed unit of value, and he thinks he has found it in the necessary sustenance of a man for a day . He understands the cheapening effect of the division of labour . He states correctly the notion of " natural and true "
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rent as the remainder of the produce of
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land after payment of the cost of production; but he seems to have no idea of the " law of diminishing returns." He has much that is just on the subject of
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money: he
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sees that there may be an excess of it as well as a deficiency, and regards the prohibition of its exportation as contrary to sound policy . But he errs in attributing the fall of the
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rate of
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interest which takes place in the progress of industry to the increase in the quantity of money . He protested against the fetters imposed on the trade of Ireland, and advocated a union of that country with
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Great Britain .

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general tendency in his day was to represent England as in a state of progressive decline—an opinion put forward particularly in the tract entitled Britannia languens—Petty declared her resources and prospects to be not inferior to those of France . A
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complete list of his
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works is given in the Athenae oxonienses . The most important are: the Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (1662, 1667 and 1685); Political Arithmetic, presented in MS. to Charles II., but, because it contained
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matter Iikely to be offensive to France, kept unpublished till 1691, when it was edited by Petty's son Charles; Quantulumcunque, or a Tract concerning Money (1682) ; Observations upon the Dublin Bills of Mortality in i681 and the State of that City (1683); Essay concerning the Multiplication of Mankind (1686) ; Political Anatomy of Ireland (1691) . Several papers appeared in the Philosophical Transactions . See Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, ed . C . H . Hull (2 vols., 1899) . PETTY-OFFICER, the title in the
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navy of a large number of minor (Fr. petit, small)
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officers, of less than commissioned or warrant rank—such as the master-at-arms, sailmaker, caulker, armourer, cook, &c . They were originally named, and removable, by the captain .

End of Article: SIR WILLIAM PETTY (1623-1687)
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