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The Querist

George Berkley

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Citation Information:   George Berkley, The Querist. 1735. Published in Dublin in three parts, 1735, 1736, 1737. Anonymous.



The Querist containing several Queries proposed to the consideration of the Public

I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish. — Ezek. xvii, 24.

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The Querist was first published in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty-five; since which time the face of things is somewhat changed. In this edition some alterations have been made. The three Parts are published in one; some few Queries are added, and many omitted, particularly of those relating to the sketch or plan of a national bank, which it may be time enough to take again in hand when the public shall seem disposed to make use of such an expedient. I had determined with myself never to prefix my name to the Querist, but in the last edition was overruled by a friend, who was remarkable for pursuing the public interest with as much diligence as others do their own. I apprehend the same censure on this that I incurred upon another occasion, for meddling out of my profession; though to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, by promoting an honest industry, will, perhaps, be deemed no improper employment for a clergyman who still things himself a member of the commonwealth. As the sum of human happiness is supposed to consist in the goods of mind, body, and fortune, I would fain make my studies of some use to mankind with regard to each of these three particulars, and hope it will not be thought faulty or indecent in any man, of what profession soever, to offer his mite towards improving the manners, health, and prosperity of his fellow-creatures.

QUERY 1 Whether there ever was, is, or will be, an industrious nation poor, or an idle rich?

2 Whether a people can be called poor, where the common sort are well fed, clothed, and lodged?

3 Whether the drift and aim of every wise State should not be, to encourage industry in its members? And whether those who employ neither heads nor hands for the common benefit deserve not to be expelled like drones out of a well-governed State?

4 Whether the four elements, and man's labour therein, be not the true source of wealth?

5 Whether money be not only so far useful, as it stirreth up industry, enabling men mutually to participate the fruits of each other's labour?

6 Whether any other means, equally conducing to excite and circulate the industry of mankind, may not be as useful as money.

* * * *

19 Whether the bulk of our Irish natives are not kept from thriving, by that cynical content in dirt and beggary which they possess to a degree beyond any other people in Christendom?

20 Whether the creating of wants be not the likeliest way to produce industry in a people? And whether, if our peasants were accustomed to eat beef and wear shoes, they would not be more industrious?

21 Whether other things being given, as climate, soil, etc., the wealth be not proportioned to the industry, and this to the circulation of credit, be the credit circulated or transferred by what marks or tokens soever?

* * * *

29 What makes a wealthy people? Whether mines of gold and silver are capable of doing this? And whether the negroes, amidst the gold sands of Afric, are not poor and destitute?

30 Whether there be any virtue in gold or silver, other than as they set people at work, or create industry?

31 Whether it be not the opinion or will of the people, exciting them to industry, that truly enricheth a nation? And whether this doth not principally depend on the means for counting, transferring, and preserving power, that is, property of all kind?

* * * *

52 Whether small gains be not the way to great profit? And if our tradesmen are beggars, whether they may not thank themselves for it?

53 Whether some way might not be found for making criminals useful in public works, instead of sending them either to America, or to the other world?

54 Whether we may not, as well as other nations, contrive employment for them? And whether servitude, chains, and hard labour, for a term of years, would not be a more discouraging as well as a more adequate punishment for felons than even death itself?

55 Whether there are not such things in Holland as bettering houses for bringing young gentlemen to order? And whether such an institution would be useless among us?

56 Whether it be true that the poor in Holland have no resource but their own labour, and yet there are no beggars in their streets?

57 Whether he whose luxury consumeth foreign products, and whose industry produceth nothing domestic to exchange for them, is not so far forth injurious to his country?

58 Whether necessity is not to be hearkened to before convenience, and convenience before luxury?

59 Whether to provide plentifully for the poor be not feeding the root, the substance whereof will shoot upwards into the branches, and cause the top to flourish?

60 Whether there be any instance of a State wherein the people, living neatly and plentifully, did not aspire to wealth?

61 Whether nastiness and beggary do not, on the contrary, extinguish all such ambition, making men listless, hopeless, and slothful?

* * * *

75 Whether immense sums are not drawn yearly into the Northern counties, for supplying the British navy with hempen manufacturers?

76 Whether there be anything more profitable than hemp? And whether there should not be great premiums for encouraging our hempen trade? What advantages may not Great Britain make of a country where land and labour are so cheap?

77 Whether Ireland alone might not raise hemp sufficient for the British navy? And whether it would not be vain to expect this from the British Colonies in America, where hands are so scarce, and labour so excessively dear?

78 Whether, if our own people want will or capacity for such a attempt, it might not be worthwhile for some undertaking spirits in England to make settlements, and raise hemp in the counties of Clare and Limerick, than which, perhaps, there is not fitter land in the world for that purpose? And whether both nations would not find their advantage therein?

79 Whether if all the idle hands in this kingdom were employed on hemp and flax, we might not find sufficient vent for these manufacturers?

80 How far it may be in our own power to better our affairs, without interfering with our neighbours?

* * * *

88 Whether the employing so much of our land under sheep be not in fact an Irish blunder?

89 Whether our hankering after our woollen trade be not the true and only reason which hath created a jealousy in England towards Ireland? And whether anything can hurt us more than such jealousy?

90 Whether it be not the true interest of both nations to become one people? And whether either be sufficiently apprised of this?

91 Whether the upper part of this people are not truly English,

by blood, language, religion, manners, inclination, and interest?

92 Whether we are not as much Englishmen as the children of old Romans, born in Britain, were still Romans?

93 Whether it be not our true interest not to interfere with them; and, in every other case, whether it be not their true interest to befriend us?

95 Whether anything can be more ridiculous than for the north of Ireland to be jealous of a linen manufacturer in the south?

96 Whether the county of Tipperary be not much better land than the county of Armagh; and yet whether the latter is not much better improved and inhabited than the former?

97 Whether every landlord in the kingdom doth not know the cause of this? And yet how few are the better for such their knowledge?

98 Whether large farms under few hands, or small ones under many, are likely to be made most of? And whether flax and tillage do not naturally multiply hands, and divide land into small holdings, and well-improved?

99 Whether, as our exports are lessened, we ought not to lessen our imports? And whether these will not be lessened as our demands, and these as our wants, and these as our customs or fashions? Of how great consequence therefore are fashions to the public?

* * * *

104 Whether those who drink foreign liquors, and deck themselves and their families with foreign ornaments, are not so far forth to be reckoned absentees?

105 Whether, as our trade is limited, we ought not to limit our expenses; and whether this be not the natural and obvious remedy?

106 Whether the dirt, and famine, and nakedness of the bulk of our people might not be remedied, even although we had no foreign trade? And whether this should not be our first care; and whether, if this were once provided for, the conveniences of the rich would not soon follow?

107 Whether comfortable living doth not produce wants, and wants industry, and industry wealth?

108 Whether there is not a great difference between Holland and Ireland? And whether foreign commerce, without which the one could not subsist, be so necessary for the other?

109 Might we not put a hand to the plough, or the spade, although we had no foreign commerce?

110 Whether the exigencies of nature are not to be answered by industry on our own soil? And how far the conveniences and comforts of life may be procured by a domestic commerce between the several parts of this kingdom?

111 Whether the women may not sew, spin, weave, embroider sufficiently for the embellishment of their persons, and even enough to raise envy in each other, without being beholden to foreign countries?

112 Suppose the bulk of our inhabitants had shoes to their feet, clothes to their backs, and beef in their bellies, might not such a state be eligible for the public, even though the squires were condemned to drink ale and cider?

113 Whether, if drunkenness be a necessary evil, well drink the growth of their own country?

* * * *

123 Whether one may not be allowed to conceive and suppose a society or nation of human creatures, clad in woollen cloths and stuffs, eating good bread, beef and mutton, poultry and fish, in great plenty, drinking ale, mead, and cider, inhabiting decent houses built of brick and marble, taking their pleasure in fair parks and gardens' depending on no foreign imports either for food or raiment? And whether such people ought much to be pitied?

124 Whether Ireland be not as well qualified for such a state as any nation under the sun?

125. Whether in such a state the inhabitants may not contrive to pass the twenty-four hours with tolerable ease and cheerfulness? And whether any people upon earth can do more?

126 Whether they may not eat, drink, play, dress, visit, sleep in good beds, sit by good fires, build, plant, raise a name, make estates, and spend them?

127 Whether, upon the whole, a domestic trade may not suffice in such a country as Ireland, to nourish and clothe its inhabitants and provide them with the reasonable conveniences and even comforts of life?

128 Whether a general habit of living well would not produce numbers and industry' and whether, considering the tendency of human kind, the consequence thereof would not be foreign trade and riches, how unnecessary soever?

* * * *

131 Whether in all public institutions there should not be an end proposed, which is to be the rule and limit of the means? Whether this end should not be the well-being of the whole? And whether, in order to this, the first step should not be to clothe and feed our people?

132 Whether there be upon earth any Christian or civilized people so beggarly, wretched, and destitute as the common Irish?

133 Whether, nevertheless, there is any other people whose wants may be more easily supplied from home?

134 Whether, if there was a wall of brass a thousand cubits high round this kingdom, our natives might not nevertheless live cleanly and comfortably, till the land, and reap the fruits of

135 What should hinder us from exerting ourselves, using our hands and brains, doing something or other, man, woman, and child, like the other inhabitants of God's earth?

136 Be the restraining our trade well or ill advised in our neighbours, with respect to their own interest, yet whether it be not plainly ours to accommodate ourselves to it?

137 Whether it be not vain to think of persuading other people to see their interest, while we continue blind to our own?

138 Whether there be any other nation possessed of so much good land, and so many able hands to work it, which yet is beholden for bread to foreign countries?

139 Whether it be true that we import corn to the value of two hundred thousand pounds in some years?

140 Whether we are not undone by fashions made for other people? And whether it be not madness in a poor nation to imitate a rich one?

141 Whether a woman of fashion ought not to be declared a public enemy?

142 Whether it be not certain that from the single town of Cork were exported, in one year, no less than one hundred and seven thousand one hundred and sixty-one barrels of beef; seven thousand three hundred and seventy-nine barrels of pork; thirteen thousand four hundred and sixty-one casks, and eighty-five thousand seven hundred and twenty-seven firkins of butter? And what hands were employed in this manufacture?

143 Whether a foreigner could imagine that one half of the people were starving, in a country which sent out such plenty of provisions?

144 Whether an Irish lady, set out with French silks and Flanders lace, may not be said to consume more beef and butter than a hundred of our labouring peasants?

* * * *

168 Whether national wants ought not to be the rule of trade? And whether the most pressing wants of the majority ought not to be first considered?

169 Whether it is possible the country should be well improved, while our beef is exported, and our labourers live upon potatoes?

170 If it be resolved that we cannot do without foreign trade, whether, at least, it may not be worth while to consider what branches thereof deserve to be entertained, and how far we may be able to carry it on under our present limitations?

171 What foreign imports may be necessary for clothing and feeding the families of persons not worth above one hundred pounds a year? And how many wealthier there are in the kingdom, and what proportion they bear to the other inhabitants?

172 Whether trade be not then on a right foot, when foreign commodities are imported in exchange only for domestic superfluities?

173 Whether the quantities of beef, butter, wool, and leather, exported from this island, can be reckoned the superfluities of a country, where there are so many natives naked and famished?

174 Whether it would not be wise so to order our trade as to export manufactures rather than provisions, and of those such as employ most hands?

175 Whether she would not be a very vile matron, and justly thought either mad or foolish, that should give away the necessaries of life from her naked and famished children, in exchange for pearls to stick in her hair, and sweetmeats to please her own palate?

176 Whether a nation might not be considered as a family?

* * * *

186 Whether, on the contrary, it should not seem worth while to erect a mart of literature in this kingdom, under wiser regulations and better discipline than in any other part of Europe? And whether this would not be an infallible means of drawing men and money into the kingdom?

187 Whether the governed be not too numerous for the governing part of our college? And whether it might not be expedient to convert thirty natives-places into twenty fellowships?

188 Whether, if we had two colleges, there might not spring a useful emulation between them? And whether it might not be contrived so to divide the fellows, scholars, and revenues between both, as that no member should be a loser thereby?

189 Whether ten thousand pounds well laid out might not build a decent college, fit to contain two hundred persons; and whether the purchase money of the chambers would not go a good way towards defraying the expense?

190 Where this college should be situated?

191 Whether, in imitation of the Jesuits at Paris, who admit Protestants to study in their colleges, it may not be right for us also to admit Roman Catholics into our college, without obliging them to attend chapel duties, or catechisms, or divinity lectures? And whether this might not keep money in the kingdom, and prevent the prejudices of a foreign education?

192 Whether it is possible a State should not thrive, whereof lower part were industrious, and the upper wise?

* * * *

255 Whether a scheme for the welfare of this nation should not take in the whole inhabitants? And whether it be not a vain attempt, to project the flourishing of our Protestant gentry, exclusive of the bulk of the natives?

256 Whether an oath, testifying allegiance to the king, and disclaiming the pope's authority in temporals, may not be justly required of the Roman Catholics? And whether, in common prudence or policy, any priest should be tolerated who refuseth to take

257 Whether there is any such thing as a body of inhabitants, in any Roman Catholic country under the sun, that profess an absolute submission to the pope's orders in matters of an indifferent nature, or that in such points do not think it their duty to obey the civil government?

258 Whether since the peace of Utrecht, mass was not celebrated and the sacraments administered in divers dioceses of Sicily, notwithstanding the Pope's interdict?

259 Whether a sum which would go but a little way towards erecting hospitals for maintaining and educating the children of the native Irish might not go far in binding them out apprentices to Protestant masters, for husbandry, useful trades, and the service of families?

260 Whether there be any instance of a people's being converted in a Christian sense, otherwise than by preaching to them and instructing them in their own language?

261 Whether catechists in the Irish tongue may not easily be procured and subsisted? And whether this would not be the most practicable means for converting the natives?

262 Whether it be not of great advantage to the Church of Rome, that she hath clergy suited to all ranks of men, in gradual subordination from cardinals down to mendicants?

263 Whether her numerous poor clergy are not very useful in missions, and of much influence with the people?

264 Whether, in defect of able missionaries, persons conversant in low life, and speaking the Irish tongue, if well instructed in the first principles of religion, and in the popish controversy, though for the rest on a level with the parish clerks, or the school-masters of charity-schools, may not be fit to mix with and bring over our poor illiterate natives to the Established Church? Whether it is not to be wished that some parts of our liturgy and homilies were publicly read in the Irish language? And whether, in these views, it may not be right to breed up some of the better sort of children in the charity-schools, and qualify them for missionaries, catechists, and readers?

265 Whether a squire possessed of land to the value of a thousand pounds per annum, or a merchant worth twenty thousand pounds in cash, would have most power to do good or evil upon any emergency? And whether the suffering Roman Catholics to purchase forfeited lands would not be good policy, as tending to unite their interest with that of the government?

* * * *

323 Whether England doth not really love us well to us, as bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh? And whether it be not our part to cultivate this love and affection all manner of ways?

353 Whether hearty food and warm clothing would not enable and encourage the lower sort to labour?

324 What sea-ports or foreign trade have the Swisses; and yet how warm are those people, and how well provided?

325 Whether there may not be found a people who so contrive as to be impoverished by their trade? And whether we are not that people?

326 Whether it would not be better for this island, if all our fine folk of both sexes were shipped off, to remain in foreign countries, rather than that they should spend their estates at home in foreign luxury, and spread the contagion thereof through their native land?

* * * *

353 Whether hearty food and warm clothing would not enable and encourage the lower sort to labour?

354 Whether, in such a soil as ours, if there was industry, there could be want?

355 Whether the way to make men industrious be not to let them taste the fruits of their industry? And whether the labouring ox should be muzzled?

356 Whether our landlords are to be told that industry and numbers would raise the value of their lands, or that one acre about the Tholsel is worth ten thousand acres in Connaught?

357 Whether our old native Irish are not the most indolent and supine people in Christendom?

358 Whether they are yet civilized, and whether their habitations and furniture are not more sordid than those of the savage Americans?

359 Whether it be not a sad circumstance to live among lazy beggars? And whether, on the other hand, it would not be delightful to live in a country swarming, like China, with busy people?

360 Whether we should not cast about, by all manner of means, to excite industry, and to remove whatever hinders it? And whether everyone should not lend a helping hand?

361 Whether vanity itself should not be engaged in this good work? And whether it is not to be wished that the finding of employment for themselves and others were a fashionable distinction among the ladies?

* * * *

367 Whether there can be a greater reproach on the leading men and the patriots of a country, than that the people should want employment? And whether methods may not be found to employ even the lame and the blind, the dumb, the deaf, and the maimed, in some or other branch of our manufactures?

368 Whether much may not be expected from a biennial consultation of so many wise men about the public good?

369 Whether a tax upon dirt would not be one way of encouraging industry?

370 Whether it would be a great hardship if every parish were obliged to find work for their poor?

371 Whether children especially should not be inured to labour betimes?

372 Whether there should not be erected, in each province, an hospital for orphans and foundlings, at the expense of old bachelors?

373 Whether it be true that in the Dutch workhouses things are so managed that a child four years old may earn its own livelihood?

374 What a folly is it to build fine houses, or establish lucrative posts and large incomes, under the notion of providing for the poor?

375 Whether the poor, grown up and in health, need any other provision but their own industry, under public inspection?

376 Whether the poor-tax in England hath lessened or increased the number of the poor?

377 whether workhouses should not be made at the least expense, with clay floors, and walls of rough stone, without plastering, ceiling, or glazing?

378 Whether it be an impossible attempt to set our people at work, or whether industry be a habit which, like other habits, may by time and skill be introduced among any people?

379 Whether all manner of means should not be employed to possess the nation in general with an aversion and contempt for idleness and all idle folk?

380 Whether it would be a hardship on people destitute of all things, if the public furnished them with necessaries which they should be obliged to earn by their labour?

381 Whether other nations have not found great benefit from the use of slaves in repairing high roads, making rivers navigable, draining bogs, erecting public buildings, bridges, and manufactures?

382 Whether temporary servitude would not be the best cure for idleness and beggary?

383 Whether the public hath not a right to employ those who cannot or who will not find employment for themselves?

384 Whether all sturdy beggars should not be seized and made slaves to the public for a certain term of years?

385 Whether he who is chained in a jailor dungeon hath not, for the time, lost his liberty? And if so, whether temporary slavery be not already admitted among us?

386 Whether a state of servitude, wherein he should be well worked, fed, and clothed, would not be a preferment to such a fellow?

387 Whether criminals in the freest country may not forfeit their liberty, and repair the damage they have done the public by hard labour?

388 What the word 'servant' signifies in the New Testament?

389 Whether the view of criminals chained in pairs and kept at hard labour would not be very edifying to the multitude?

* * * *

443 Whether we may not obtain that as friends which it is in vain to hope for as rivals?

444 Whether in every instance by which we prejudice England, we do not in a greater degree prejudice ourselves?

445 Whether in the rude original of society the first step was not the exchanging of commodities; the next a substituting of metals by weight as the common medium of circulation; after this the making use of coin; lastly, a further refinement by the use of paper with proper marks and signatures? And whether this, as it is the last, so it be not the greatest improvement?

446 Whether we are not in fact the only people who may be said to starve in the midst of plenty?

447 Whether there can be a worse sign than that people should quit their country for a livelihood? Though men often leave their country for health, or pleasure, or riches, yet to leave it merely for a livelihood, whether this be not exceeding bad, and sheweth some peculiar mismanagement?

* * * *

511 as what is made by domestic industry is spent in foreign luxury?

512 Whether our natural Irish are not partly Spaniards and partly Tartars, and whether they do not bear signatures of their descent from both these nations, which is also confirmed by all their histories?

513 Whether the Tartar progeny is not numerous in this land? And whether there is an idler occupation under the sun than to attend flocks and herds of cattle?

514 Whether the wisdom of the State should not wrestle with this hereditary disposition of our Tartars, and with a high hand introduce agriculture?

* * * *

Queries Omitted

* * * *

289 Whether, therefore, it doth not greatly concern the State, that Our Irish natives should be converted, and the whole nation united in the same religion, the same allegiance, and the same interest? and how this may most probably be effected?

291 Whether there have not been Popish recusants? and, if so, whether it would be right to object against the foregoing oath, that all would take it, and none think themselves bound by it? 292 Whether those of the Church of Rome, in converting the Moors of Spain or the Protestants of France, have not set us an example which might justify a similar treatment of themselves, if the laws of Christianity allowed thereof?

294 Whether, nevertheless, we may not imitate the Church of Rome, in certain places, where Jews are tolerated, by obliging our Irish Papists, at stated times, to hear Protestant sermons? and whether this would not make missionaries in the Irish tongue useful?

295 Whether the mere act of hearing, without making any profession of faith, or joining in any part of worship, be a religious act; and, consequently, whether their being obliged to hear, may not consist with the toleration of Roman Catholics? 296 Whether, if penal laws should be thought oppressive, we may not at least be allowed to give premiums? And whether it would be wrong, if the public encouraged Popish families to become hearers, by paying their hearth-money for them?

293 Whether compelling men to a profession of faith is not the worst thing in Popery, and, consequently, whether to copy after the Church of Rome therein, were not to become Papists ourselves in the worst sense?

297 Whether in granting toleration, we ought not to distinguish between doctrines purely religious, and such as affect the State?

298 Whether the case be not very different in regard to a man who only eats fish on Fridays, says his prayers in Latin, or believes transubstantiation, and one who professeth in temporals a subjection to foreign powers, who holdeth himself absolved from all obedience to his natural prince and the laws of his country? who is even persuaded, it may be meritorious to destroy the powers that are?

299 Whether, therefore, a distinction should not be made between mere Papists and recusants? And whether the latter can expect the same protection from the Government as the former?

300 Whether our Papists in this kingdom can complain, if they are allowed to be as much Papists as the subjects of France or of the Empire?

303 Whether every plea of Conscience is to be regarded? Whether, for instance, the German Anabaptists, Levellers, or Fifth Monarchy men would be tolerated on that pretence?

304 Whether Popish children bred in charity schools, when bound out in apprenticeship to Protestant masters, do generally continue Protestants?

* * * *

Part II

* * * *

146 Whether a view of the precipice be not sufficient, or whether we must tumble headlong before we are roused?

147 Whether in this drooping and dispirited country, men are quite awake? 156 Whether, if we do not reap the benefits that may be made of our country and government, want of will in the lower people, or want of wit in the upper, be most in fault?

165 Whether an assembly of freethinkers, petit maitres, and smart fellows, would not make an admirable Senate?

175 Whether there be really among us any parents so silly, as to encourage drinking in their children?

176 Whence it is, that our ladies are more alive, and bear age so much better than our gentlemen?

185 Whether this be altogether their own fault?

197 Whether it may not be right to appoint censors in every parish to observe and make returns of the idle hands?

198 Whether a register or history of the idleness and industry of a people would be an useless thing?

199 Whether we are apprized, of all the uses that may be made of political arithmetic?

207 Why the workhouse in Dublin, with so good an endowment, should yet be of so little use? and whether this may not be owing to that very endowment?

208 Whether that income might not, by this time, have gone through the whole kingdom, and erected a dozen workhouses in every county?

210 Whether the tax on chairs or hackney coaches be not paid, rather by the country gentlemen, than the citizens of Dublin?

227 Whether there should not be a difference between the treatment of criminals and that of other slaves?




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