William Playfair

British mathematician, engineer and political economist (1759-1823)

William Playfair (22 September 175911 February 1823) was a Scottish engineer and political economist, the founder of graphical methods of statistics

Quotes edit

The Commercial and Political Atlas, 3rd Edition edit

Full title: The Commercial and Political Atlas: Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Progress of the Commerce, Revenues, Expenditure and Debts of England during the Whole of the Eighteenth Century (originally published in 1786, 3rd edition published in 1801)

  • Men in general are very slow to enter into what is reckoned a new thing; and there seems to be a very universal as well as great reluctance to undergo the drudgery of acquiring information that seems not to be absolutely necessary.
    • Observations on the Trade with North america, Chart V, page 29.
  • Such is the disposition of men, that we value what is speculative and precarious, more than what is safe and beneficial.
    • Observations on the Trade to Flanders, Chart IX, page 40.
  • The nature of this trade, certainly not the most honourable in the world, affords room for much investigation and remark in a moral or humane point of view: in a political or commercial light it is perhaps less conspicuously an object of attention. It consists chiefly of commodities that are considered as holding a first rate place in the animal and the mineral world, for which in return the Africans receive the most rascally articles that the ingenuity of Europeans has found means to produce. In return to our fellow creatures, for gold, and for ivory, we exchange the basest of those articles that are suited to the taste or the fancy of a despicable set of barbarians. Whether the spirituous liquirs or the fire-arms that are sent there are most calculated for the destruction of the purchasers, might become a question not very easy to determine. The noxious quality of the one is at least equalled by the danger of attending the use of the other. There does not seem to be that regard to honour in this trade, which ought to make part of the nice character of the English merchant, unimpeachable, unimpeached, upon the 'Change of London or of Amsterdam. It seems as if we kept our honour for ourselves, and that with those barbarians (who are more our inferiors in address and cunning, than perhaps in any thing else) no honour, humanity, or equity, were at all necessary.
    • Observations on the Trade to Africa, Chart XVI, page 65.
  • All those things that make a nation richer, stronger, or more happy; or that tend to exalt national character, but that will not pay individuals, deserve public encouragement.
    • Observations on the Greenland Trade, Chart XVIII, page 78.

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