I had gone on in some sheets with my notion of land being the best bottom for public banks, and the easiness of bringing it to answer all the ends of money deposited with double advantage, but I find myself happily prevented by a gentleman who has published the very same, though since this was wrote; and I was always master of so much wit as to hold my tongue while they spoke who understood the thing better than myself.
Mr. John Asgill, of Lincoln's Inn, in a small tract entitled, "Several Assertions proved, in order to create another Species of Money than Gold and Silver," has so distinctly handled this very case, with such strength of argument, such clearness of reason, such a judgment, and such a style, as all the ingenious part of the world must acknowledge themselves extremely obliged to him for that piece.
At the sight of which book I laid by all that had been written by me on that subject, for I had much rather confess myself incapable of handling that point like him, than have convinced the world of it by my impertinence.
OF THE HIGHWAYS.
It is a prodigious charge the whole nation groans under for the repair of highways, which, after all, lie in a very ill posture too. I make no question but if it was taken into consideration by those who have the power to direct it, the kingdom might be wholly eased of that burden, and the highways be kept in good condition, which now lie in a most shameful manner in most parts of the kingdom, and in many places wholly unpassable, from whence arise tolls and impositions upon passengers and travellers, and, on the other hand, trespasses and encroachments upon lands adjacent, to the great damage of the owners.
The rate for the highways is the most arbitrary and unequal tax in the kingdom: in some places two or three rates of sixpence per pound in the year; in others the whole parish cannot raise wherewith to defray the charge, either by the very bad condition of the road or distance of materials; in others the surveyors raise what they never expend; and the abuses, exactions, connivances, frauds, and embezzlements are innumerable.
The Romans, while they governed this island, made it one of their principal cares to make and repair the highways of the kingdom, and the chief roads we now use are of their marking out; the consequence of maintaining them was such, or at least so esteemed, that they thought it not below them to employ their legionary troops in the work; and it was sometimes the business of whole armies, either when in winter quarters or in the intervals of truce or peace with the natives. Nor have the Romans left us any greater tokens of their grandeur and magnificence than the ruins of those causeways and street-ways which are at this day to be seen in many parts of the kingdom, some of which have by the visible remains been discovered to traverse the whole kingdom, and others for more than a hundred miles are to be traced from colony to colony, as they had particular occasion. The famous highway or street called Watling Street, which some will tell you began at London Stone, and passing that very street in the City which we to this day call by that name, went on west to that spot where Tyburn now stands, and then turned north- west in so straight a line to St. Albans that it is now the exactest road (in one line for twenty miles) in the kingdom; and though disused now as the chief, yet is as good, and, I believe, the best road to St. Albans, and is still called the Streetway. From whence it is traced into Shropshire, above a hundred and sixty miles, with a multitude of visible antiquities upon it, discovered and described very accurately by Mr. Cambden. The Fosse, another Roman work, lies at this day as visible, and as plain a high causeway, of above thirty feet broad, ditched on either side, and coped and paved where need is--as exact and every jot as beautiful as the king's new road through Hyde Park, in which figure it now lies from near Marshfield to Cirencester, and again from Cirencester to the Hill, three miles on this side Gloucester, which is not less than twenty-six miles, and is made use of as the great road to those towns, and probably has been so for a thousand years with little repairs.