Skip to main content Accessibility help

Finding the Money: Public Accounting, Political Arithmetic, and Probability in the 1690s

  • William Peter Deringer


“Finding the money”—whether money lost, hidden, or needed—became a defining practical and epistemological problem in the decade after the 1688 Revolution. It was a problem that linked together actors in fiscal administration, parliamentary politics, and economic theory, and drove innovative new applications of numerical calculation to political reasoning. In the debates on monarchical revenues that arose in 1689, a crisis of knowledge engulfed Parliament as MPs discovered how few among them had any insight into the nation's fiscal well-being. A parliamentary Commission of Public Accounts, formed in 1690, learned that even a basic financial assessment was extraordinarily difficult. Yet the commission's travails also revealed numerical calculations to be a potent political tool, which empowered relative outsiders to make incisive criticisms without complete information. Such combative political computation was systematized in the “political arithmetick” of Charles Davenant, who provided a novel political rationale for the value of “probable” knowledge.



Hide All

1 On Jephson, see Baxter, Stephen B., The Development of the Treasury, 1660–1720 (London, 1957), 195–97.

2 On Jephson's accounts, see Shaw, William A., ed., Calendar of Treasury Books (London, 1939), 17 (1702): 515626 (hereafter, Shaw, CTB).

3 On Secret Service, see Shaw, CTB, 4 (1672–75): xlvi–xlvii; Chandaman, C. D., The English Public Revenue, 1660–1688 (Oxford, 1975), 244–48, 271–72; Clay, Christopher, Public Finance and Private Wealth: The Career of Sir Stephen Fox, 1627–1716 (Oxford, 1978), 2526.

4 “Minutes of the Commissioners of Accounts,” vol. I, 5 March 1691 to 4 September 1691, Harley MS 1488, ff. 20r–v, 34r, 38r, 52v–53r, 64r, British Library (BL).

5 Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC), The Manuscripts of the House of Lords, 1690–91, Thirteenth Report, appendix, part V (London, 1892), 363, 399.

6 Grey, Anchitell, ed., The Debates in the House of Commons, From the Year 1667 to the Year 1694 (London, 1763), 10 (March 1690–April 1694): 200.

7 HMC, Lords Manuscripts, 1690–1, 420.

8 Grey, Debates, 10:191.

9 Como, David R., Weil, Rachel, and Pincus, Steve, “Modernity and the Glorious Revolution,” Huntington Library Quarterly 73, no. 1 (March 2010): 155.

10 For a sample of the vibrant historiography on information and state power, see Slack, Paul, “Government and Information in Seventeenth-Century England,” Past & Present 184 (August 2004): 3368; Bayly, C. A., Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780–1870 (Cambridge, 1996); Headrick, Daniel R., When Information Came of Age: Technologies of Knowledge in the Age of Reason and Revolution (Cambridge, 2000); de Vivo, Filippo, Information and Communication in Venice: Rethinking Early Modern Politics (Oxford, 2007); Friedrich, Markus, “Government and Information-Management in Early Modern Europe: The Case of the Society of Jesus (1540–1773),Journal of Early Modern History 12, no. 6 (2008): 539–63; Soll, Jacob, The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System (Ann Arbor, MI, 2009).

11 Poovey, Mary, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (Chicago, 1998), chaps. 23; Soll, Jacob, “Accounting for Government: Holland and the Rise of Political Economy in Seventeenth-Century Europe,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 40, no. 2 (Autumn 2009): 215–38.

12 For an introduction to political arithmetic, see McCormick, Ted, William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic (Oxford, 2009).

13 On probabilistic reasoning, see Hacking, Ian, The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas about Probability, Induction, and Statistical Inference, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 2006); Shapiro, Barbara J., Probability and Certainty in Seventeenth-Century England: A Study of the Relationships between Natural Science, Religion, History, Law, and Literature (Princeton, 1983); Daston, Lorraine, Classical Probability in the Enlightenment (Princeton, 1988).

14 Cf. Poovey's contention that, after 1688, a pervasive shift toward a “liberal governmentality” inhibited the development of computation as a tool of political reasoning in Britain. Poovey, Modern Fact, chap. 4.

15 Slack, “Government and Information.”

16 In distinguishing “public accounting” and “political arithmetic,” I wish to emphasize differences in place and practice. By “public accounting,” I refer specifically to the efforts of political representatives, especially members of the Commission of Public Accounts, carrying out on-the-ground investigations of government finances for use primarily within Westminster. By “political arithmetic,” I refer to sustained, self-conscious contributions to a field of study by that name, written for broader circulation.

17 Knights, Mark, Representation and Misrepresentation in Later Stuart Britain: Partisanship and Political Culture (Oxford, 2005), 6.

18 Historians of science have vividly demonstrated the converse, namely, that conflicts about the nature of knowledge were inherently conflicts about political order. Exemplary is Shapin, Steven and Schaffer, Simon, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (Princeton, 1985).

19 John Brewer was among the first to explore this subject. See The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688–1783 (London, 1989), especially chap. 8.

20 Knights, Representation, 1–66 (esp. 13–15), 209–334. See also Loveman, Kate, Reading Fictions, 1600–1740: Deception in English Literary and Political Culture (Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT, 2008).

21 Wennerlind, Carl, Casualties of Credit: The English Financial Revolution, 1620–1720 (Cambridge, MA, 2011), 34, 83–92.

22 Ibid., 85.

23 This article provides a different take on Steve Pincus's broad claim that “there was a revolution in political economy in 1688–89.” See Pincus, Steve, 1688: The First Modern Revolution (New Haven, 2009), 368.

24 Cf. Colin Brooks, “Taxation, Finance and Public Opinion, 1688–1714” (unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1970), 1–16.

25 On later Stuart “absolutism,” see Harris, Timothy, Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685–1720 (London, 2006), chap. 5; Pincus, 1688, 118–220.

26 Roseveare, Henry, The Financial Revolution, 1660–1760 (London, 1991), 67.

27 Roberts, Clayton, The Growth of Responsible Government in Stuart England (Cambridge, 1966), 175–76, 182–83; Reitan, E. A., “From Revenue to Civil List, 1689–1702: The Revolution Settlement and the ‘Mixed and Balanced’ Constitution,” Historical Journal 13, no. 4 (December 1970): 571–88; Horwitz, Henry, Parliament, Policy and Politics in the Reign of William III (Newark, DE, 1977), 59; Roseveare, Henry, The Treasury, 1660–1870: The Foundations of Control (London and New York, 1973), 4674.

28 Reitan, “Revenue to Civil List,” 571–72.

29 Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth, 40–111.

30 Roberts, Responsible Government, 169; Dickson, P. G. M., The Financial Revolution in England: A Study in the Development of Public Credit, 1688–1756 (London, 1967), 254.

31 Oliver, H. J., Sir Robert Howard (1626–1698): A Critical Biography (Durham, NC, 1963); Scott, Florence R., “Sir Robert Howard as a Financier,” PMLA 52, no. 4 (December 1937): 10941100.

32 On ideal Exchequer procedures, see William Lowndes, “The Course of the Exchequer on the Receipt side,” 1685, Hyde Papers, Add. MS 15898, ff. 100–109, BL. See also Chandaman, English Public Revenue, 281–302; Roseveare, Treasury: Foundations, 46–51.

33 Roseveare, Treasury: Foundations, 50; Baxter, Development, 120–21.

34 Lowndes reported Wardour's General Declaration “is behind for some years.” Add. MS 15898, ff. 106v–107r, BL. For Wardour's Declarations, see, for example, Landsdowne MS 1215, ff. 29–39, BL.

35 Carter, Jennifer, “The Revolution and the Constitution,” in Britain after the Glorious Revolution, 1689–1714, ed. Holmes, Geoffrey (London, 1969), 3958; Reitan, “Revenue to Civil List”; Roberts, Clayton, “The Constitutional Significance of the Financial Settlement of 1690,” Historical Journal 20, no. 1 (March 1977): 5976.

36 Grey, Debates, 9 (December 1688 to January 1690): 123–25.

37 Cobbett, William, ed., The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 (London, 1809), 5 (1688–1702): 187–91, cols. 150–51.

38 Journal of the House of Commons, vol. 10: 1688–1693 (London, 1802), 55.

39 Reitan, “Revenue to Civil List,” 575; Shaw, CTB, 9 (1689–92): xxiv, xxxviii.

40 Roberts, “Financial Settlement,” 70.

41 Grey, Debates, 9:157. The Book of Rates specified per-unit rates at which commodities were taxed under Customs and Excise.

42 Journal of the House of Commons, 10:56; Grey, Debates, 9:176–80.

43 Grey, Debates, 9:177–78.

44 Shaw, CTB, 9 (1689–92): xxxix, xliv–xlvi.

45 Grey, Debates, 10:13.

46 Roberts, Responsible Government, 261; Roseveare, Treasury: Foundations, 49–56.

47 Chandaman, English Public Revenue, 6–7, 287–95.

48 Reitan, “Revenue to Civil List,” 577–79; Horwitz, Parliament, Policy, and Politics, 38; Hill, B. W., Robert Harley: Speaker, Secretary of State and Premier Minister (New Haven, 1988), 20.

49 Horwitz, Parliament, Policy, and Politics, 59–62.

50 The original commissioners were Sir Matthew Andrews, Colonel Robert Austen, Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Sir Thomas Clarges, Sir Peter Colleton, Paul Foley, Robert Harley, Sir Benjamin Newland, and Sir Robert Rich. See Horwitz, Parliament, Policy, and Politics, 64; Downie, J. A., “The Commission of Public Accounts and the Formation of the Country Party,” English Historical Review 91, no. 358 (January 1976): 3537.

51 Reitan, “Revenue to Civil List,” 582; Downie, “Commission,” 34.

52 Robert Harley for Sir Edward Harley, 30 December 1690, and 1 January 1690/1, HMC, The Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland (London, 1895), 3:456; Brooks, “Taxation,” 118.

53 Journal of the House of Lords (London, 1767–1830), 14 (1691–96): 52.

54 Robert Harley to Sir Edward Harley, 12 March 1690/1 and 2 March 1690/1, HMC Portland, 3: 459; B. W. Hill, Robert Harley, 24–27.

55 Roseveare, Treasury: Foundations, 58; Downie, “Commission,” 34–37.

56 The commission's minute-books are Harley MS 1488–1495, BL. Commissioner Peter Colleton's personal diary is preserved in Harley MS 6837, ff. 164–206, BL.

57 Harley MS 1488, ff. 4r–v, 72v, BL.

58 Ibid., ff. 176v–177r; Harley MS 6837, ff. 172r–173r, 174r–v, BL.

59 For example, William Bridges, commissioner of Provisions for Ireland. Harley MS 1488, f. 68v, BL.

60 “Minutes of the Commission of Public Accompts,” vol. II, 4 September 1691–3 October 1692, Harley MS 1489, ff. 3v–4r, 13r–v, 27v–28r, 38r, BL; Harley MS 6837, ff. 184v, 190v–191r, BL.

61 Harley MS 1488, ff. 109r–v, BL.

62 Ibid., f. 64r.

63 On the strategic uses of confusion, see Biagioli, Mario, Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism (Chicago, 1993), chap. 4.

64 Braddick, Michael J., The Nerves of State: Taxation and the Financing of the English State, 1558–1714 (Manchester, 1995), 2325.

65 Harley MS 1488, ff. 124r, 129v, 133v, 135v, 143v, BL; Harley MS 1489, ff. 14v, 56r, BL; Harley MS 6837, ff. 168r, 169v, 184v, BL; Baxter, Development, 55–56.

66 Harley MS 1488, f. 52v, BL.

67 Brewer, Sinews of Power, 223.

68 Harley MS 1488, f. 99r, BL.

69 Harley MS 6837, f. 165r, BL; Harley MS 1488, f. 103r, BL.

70 Harley MS 6837, f. 165v, BL. Baxter suggests Squib knew more than he let on. Baxter, Development, 235–36.

71 Squib attended the commission on other matters. Harley MS 1488, ff. 120r, 171r, BL.

72 Harley MS 1489, ff. 11r, 21v, BL.

73 Shaw, CTB, 9 (1689–92): 1313–14.

74 Based on the published records of Jephson's Secret Service accounts, it appears that the chancellor of the Exchequer sporadically reviewed Jephson's Secret Service accounts before passing them on for royal approval. However, there is little reason to believe that such audits produced duplicates or summary accounts for the general use of the Lords. See Shaw, CTB, 17 (1702): 528, 534, 547, 560, 626.

75 HMC, Lords Manuscripts, 1690–1, 405.

76 Harley MS 1488, ff. 22r, 28r, 32r, BL.

77 Ibid., ff. 113r, 153v, 170r–v; Harley MS 1489, f. 14v, BL.

78 Harley MS 1489, f. 58r, BL.

79 HMC, Lords Manuscripts, 1690–1, 356–99.

80 Ibid., 400.

81 Ibid., 392.

82 Ibid., 433.

83 Ibid., 400–01.

84 Two areas that had witnessed managerial improvements were the Customs and especially the Excise after the end of tax farming in 1671 and 1683 respectively. See Brewer, Sinews of Power, 101–14; Michael Braddick, The Nerves of State, chaps. 3 and 5; Ogborn, Miles, “The Capacities of the State: Charles Davenant and the Management of the Excise, 1683–1698,” Journal of Historical Geography 24, no. 3 (July 1998): 289312.

85 See, for example, HMC, Lords Manuscripts, 1690–1, 410–11.

86 Ibid., 400.

87 On the disappointment that could result from getting more, but not necessarily better, information, see Loveman, Reading Fictions, 21–23.

88 Shaw, CTB, 9 (1689–92): clxiii.

89 Luttrell, Narcissus, The Parliamentary Diary of Narcissus Luttrell, 1691–1693, ed. Horwitz, Henry (Oxford, 1972), 420–21.

90 For appraisals of the commission's impact, see Shaw, CTB, 9 (1688–92): clxxii; Roseveare, Treasury: Foundations, 56–59; Roseveare, , The Treasury: The Evolution of a British Institution (London, 1969), chap. 3; Brooks, “Taxation,” 117–26.

91 See “Treasury: General Yearly Accounts,” 1688–1854, The National Archives (TNA), T 30.

92 Dickson, Financial Revolution, 46. Cf. Theodore Porter's assertion that, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a “preoccupation with rules, calculation, and fact-finding is not the essence of a bureaucratic-legal mode, as some would have it, but a defense against . . . outsiders.” See Porter, Theodore, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, 1995), 194.

93 Even once consolidated Treasury accounts were kept, the commission continued to calculate an autonomous account. Shaw, CTB, 9 (1688–92): clxxiv.

94 Baxter, Development, 198–203, 237–39; Roseveare, Treasury: Evolution, 72–73, 80–81; Roseveare, Treasury: Foundations, 77–82; Holmes, Geoffrey, Augustan England: Professions, State and Society, 1680–1730 (London, 1982), 245–46.

95 This article does not attempt to argue whether the Country faction in the early 1690s truly constituted a “party,” or assess the importance of Court-Country animosities compared to those of Whig and Tory. The “Country” signifier simply identifies core commitments shared by certain MPs, like Harley and Foley. On Court-Country politics, see Rubini, Dennis, Court and Country, 1688–1702 (London, 1968); Hayton, David, “Moral Reform and Country Politics in the Late Seventeenth-Century House of Commons,” Past & Present 128 (August 1990): 4891.

96 Grey, Debates, 10:191.

97 Downie points out that the commission was not initially intended to improve the government's capacity for budgeting. “Commission,” 35; cf. Shaw, CTB, 9 (1688–92): cxxix–cxxxvii; Hill, Harley, 27–28.

98 One manuscript in Lowndes's Papers confirmed that “the Estimates and appropriations for the years [1688–1689] were few and imperfect.” “A Computation of the charges for land and sea services from the 5th of Nov. 1688 to the last of Decr 1690…” TNA, T 48/87, f. 210. See also Shaw, CTB, 9 (1688–92): cxiii–cxxiv, cxxix–cxxxvii; Brooks, “Taxation,” 115.

99 Grey, Debates, 10:168–69; Horwitz, Parliament, Policy, and Politics, 71; Hill, Harley, 27–28.

100 HMC, Lords Manuscripts, 1693–1695, New Series (London, 1900), 1:1229.

101 Ibid., 17, 27.

102 “Paper of Exceptions to the Commissioners of Accompts delivered to the House of Commons by Sr Robert Howard on Thursday the 16th of February 1692,” 1692/3, Harley MS 7019, f. 5v, BL.

103 Ibid, f. 8r.

104 For example, A Collection of the Debates and Proceedings in Parliament, in 1694, and 1695. Upon the Inquiry into the Late Briberies and Corrupt Practices (London, 1695).

105 The classic study of Whig-Tory conflict is Holmes, Geoffrey S., British Politics in the Age of Anne (London, 1967).

106 Wennerlind, Casualties of Credit, 162; Knights, Representation, 238–48; Downie, J. A., Robert Harley and the Press: Propaganda and Public Opinion in the Age of Swift and Defoe (Cambridge, 1979).

107 Cf. Porter, Trust in Numbers, viii–xi.

108 On partisan argumentation and its tendency to produce new heights of fact and fiction, see Knights, Mark, “The Tory Interpretation of History in the Rage of Parties,” Huntington Library Quarterly 68, nos. 1–2 (March 2005): 354.

109 Robert Harley to Sir Edward Harley, 9 February 1692/3, Add. MS 70017, f. 22r, BL. See also Brooks, “Taxation,” 124–25; Hill, Harley, 32.

110 On Colbert and French intelligence, see Soll, Information Master.

111 Horwitz, Parliament, Policy, and Politics, 69; McJimsey, Robert, “Crisis Management: Parliament and Political Stability, 1692–1719,” Albion 31, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 559–72.

112 Lutrrell, Diary, 421.

113 Downie, Harley and the Press, 37.

114 Waddell, D., “Charles Davenant (1656–1714)—a Biographical Sketch,” Economic History Review, New Series 11, no. 2 (1958): 279–88; Ogborn, “Capacities.”

115 Davenant, Discourses on the Publick Revenues, and on the Trade of England . . ., vol. 1 (London, 1698), 2.

116 On Davenant as “classical republican,” see Pocock, J. G. A., The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton, 1975), 429–54; Finkelstein, Andrea, Harmony and the Balance: An Intellectual History of Seventeenth-Century English Economic Thought (Ann Arbor, 2000), chap. 14; Ito, Seiichiro, “Charles Davenant's Politics and Political Arithmetic,” History of Economic Ideas 13, no. 1 (October 2005): 936. On Davenant's modernizing perspective on administration, see Hume, L. J., “Charles Davenant on Financial Administration,” History of Political Economy 6, no. 4 (Winter 1974): 463–77; Brewer, Sinews of Power, 78, 144; Ogborn, “Capacities.”

117 Slack, “Government and Information,” 58, 68; Slack, , “Measuring the National Wealth in Seventeenth-Century England,” Economic History Review 57, no. 4 (November 2004): 607–35; Hutchinson, Terence, Before Adam Smith: The Emergence of Political Economy, 1662–1776 (Oxford, 1988), 54; Poovey, Modern Fact, 120–43.

118 Hoppit, Julian, “Political Arithmetic in Eighteenth-Century England,” Economic History Review 49, no. 3 (1996): 519.

119 Rusnock, Andrea, Vital Accounts: Quantifying Health and Population in Eighteenth-Century England and France (Cambridge, 2002); Innes, Joanna, Inferior Politics: Social Problems and Social Policies in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2009), chap. 4; Warner, Jessica, “Faith in Numbers: Quantifying Gin and Sin in Eighteenth-Century England,” Journal of British Studies 50, no. 1 (January 2011): 7699.

120 McCormick, Petty, 299.

121 Ibid., 300.

122 Peter Buck has shown that Country ideology was vital to political arithmetic in the later eighteenth century, particularly the work of Richard Price. See People Who Counted: Political Arithmetic in the Eighteenth Century,” Isis 73, no. 1 (March 1982): 2845.

123 Charles Davenant, “Essay on Publick Virtue” (unpublished, 1696), Harley MS 1223, f. 14v, BL.

124 Ibid., f. 8v.

125 Ibid., f. 21v.

126 Ibid., f. 38r.

127 Ibid., ff. 38v–39r.

128 Davenant, Charles, An Essay upon Ways and Means of Supplying the War (London, 1695), 59.

129 Ibid., 8–9.

130 Ibid., 18–19.

131 See Davenant, “Memorial Concerning a Council of Trade” (unpublished, 1696), Harley MS 1223, ff. 184r–189v, BL.

132 Davenant, Discourses, 1:266.

133 Davenant, Ways and Means, 46–47.

134 Ibid., 51–55.

135 Cf. Brooks, Colin, “Public Finance and Political Stability: The Administration of the Land Tax, 1688–1720,” Historical Journal 17, no. 2 (June 1974): 281300.

136 Davenant, Discourses, 1:119.

137 Ibid., 121.

138 Ibid., 120.

139 Ibid., “Scheme,” 74.

140 Ibid., 95.

141 Ibid., 95–96.

142 Ibid, 99–102; “Scheme,” 102.

143 On the “econometric” nature of political arithmetic in the era, see Stone, Richard, “Some Seventeenth Century Econometrics: Consumer's Behavior,” Revue Européenne des Sciences Sociales 26, no. 81 (1988): 1941. On modern econometric thinking as a “creative synthesis of theory and evidence,” see Morgan, Mary S., The History of Econometric Ideas (Cambridge, 1990), 1, 136.

144 Davenant, “A Memorial Concerning the East India Trade” (unpublished MS, 1696), Harley MS 1223, ff.. 158r–168r, BL; Davenant, Essay on the East India Trade (London, 1696).

145 Horwitz, Henry, “The East India Trade, the Politicians, and the Constitution: 1689–1702,” Journal of British Studies 17, no. 2 (Spring 1978): 115; De Krey, Gary Stuart, A Fractured Society: The Politics of London in the First Age of Party, 1688–1715 (Oxford, 1985), chap. 4; Pincus, 1688, 372–81.

146 Davenant, East India Trade, 8, 17.

147 Ibid., 30–31.

148 Ibid., 15–16.

149 Ibid., 50.

150 Hont, Istvan, “Free Trade and the Economic Limits to National Politics: Neo-Machiavellian Political Economy Reconsidered,” in The Economic Limits to Modern Politics, ed. Dunn, John (Cambridge, 1990), 9596.

151 Pollexfen, John, England and East-India Inconsistent in their Manufactures (London, 1697), 5.

152 Waddell, D., “Charles Davenant and the East India Company,” Economica 23, no. 91 (August 1956): 261–64.

153 Clark, G. N., Guide to English Commercial Statistics, 1696–1782 (London, 1938), 112.

154 Davenant, Discourses, 1:30.

155 On informational access, see Warner, “Faith in Numbers,” 79.

156 Davenant, Discourses, 1:9–10. Davenant hinted a better “computing faculty” might save “a great Expence in Embassies, or Spies in Foreign Courts.”

157 Some Reflections on a Pamphlet, Intituled, England and East-India Inconsistent in Their Manufactures (London, 1696), 78.

158 Ibid., 11; emphasis mine.

159 King, Gregory, “Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State and Condition of England,” in Two Tracts, ed. Barnett, George E. (Baltimore, 1936 [original in 1696]), 13. On King, see Holmes, G. S., “Gregory King and the Social Structure of Pre-Industrial England,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series, 27 (1977): 4168; Brooks, Colin, “Projecting, Political Arithmetic and the Act of 1695,” English Historical Review 97, no. 382 (January 1982): 3153.

160 Shapiro, Probability and Certainty; Wennerlind, Casualties, chap. 3.

161 McCormick, Petty, 177–78, 206, 302.

162 Davenant, Discourses, 1:27.

163 Charles Davenant, “A Memoriall Concerning the Free Trade Now Tolerated between France & Holland” (unpublished, 1705), Harley MS 6798, f. 46v, BL; emphasis mine.

164 Cf. A Probable Calculation of the Annual Income to be Raised by a Tax on Marriages, Burials, and Legacies (printed, [1690s?]), in TNA, Gregory King Papers, T 64/302, no foliation.

165 Hacking, Emergence of Probability, 1.

166 Petty was interested in using numbers to discern laws governing the social world and was far less concerned about numerical evidence qua evidence or the questions of inference central to modern statistical thought. McCormick notes that Petty did not intend political arithmetic as a rigorous “statistical form of social analysis.” Statistician Anders Hald writes more directly: “Petty did not contribute new methods of statistical analysis.” See McCormick, Petty, 206, 220–21; Hald, A History of Probability and Statistics and Their Applications before 1750 (New York, 1990), 105.

167 Davenant was like other early modern practitioners of the “low sciences” (alchemists, astrologers, and physicians) who developed new concepts of “evidence” in trying to diagnose internal processes from external “signs.” See Hacking, Emergence, chaps. 4–5.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed