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litical Economy, and for this purpose, have subjected to a rigorous examination the leading doctrines of the science as taught by English writers, in order not only to test their general soundness and applicability to the condition and the institutions of the American people, but to trace out and analyze the peculiar circumstances which first suggested them. Among these doctrines may be enumerated those of Adam Smith upon free trade, of Malthus upon population, of Ricardo upon rent and profits, of Torrens and Loyd upon the currency, and of McCulloch upon the laws of inheritance. It is not the light of American experience alone which has induced me to modify or reject these theories; I have attempted to show that they are indefensible even upon the principles of those who continue to support them, and to this end, have fortified my reasoning by frequent citations from English and French authorities.
The work was not designed to be wholly controversial and original; besides suggesting the doctrines which are to take the place of those which have been rejected, it was intended to contain a summary of what is most valuable in other treatises upon the subject, so as to form a convenient text-book of instruction in American colleges. Most teachers will probably accept the conclusion which I have formed, after many years' experience, that it is a wearisome and hopeless task to attempt to instruct a class of pupils from any of the English or French treatises upon the science. This volume contains the substance of a course of lectures upon Political Economy, first delivered before the Lowell Institute in Boston five years ago, and afterwards repeated, with many changes and additions, before successive classes in college. It also comprises all that was deemed worthy of preservation in a series of articles upon various topics in the science, which have been published during the last ten years in the North American Review. I have not deemed it necessary to rewrite what was at first carefully prepared for publication, when time and further reflection had not suggested any change of doctrine, or any material improvements in illustration or phraseology.
The nature of the subject has compelled me to make a kind of comparative survey of the workings and results of the social and political institutions of England and America. It is hoped that the results of this comparison, as here presented, will not seem to have been suggested by national prejudice, or to be unduly tinctured with national self-esteem.
Most of what is valuable in our civil polity has come to us by inheritance from our English ancestors, and is still the common property of the two nations; the trial by jury, the writ of habeas corpus, the leading forms of representative government, are still the common safeguards of English and American freedom, and the great principles of the English Common Law are still authoritative in our courts. Loyalty to the State and the Union takes the place with us of loyalty to the Crown. We have only cast off the aristocratic and monarchical appendages of these institutions, to make room for democratic ones, a change far less important in a political than a social aspect. Whatever there is peculiar in the forms of society, the organization of industry, and the habits and dispositions of our people, which can be directly traced to this alteration, has been the subject of frequent and sharp criticism, not only by British travellers, but by British economists and statesmen. Thus, Mr. J. S. Mill, unquestionably the ablest living writer upon Political Economy and the Logic of the Inductive Sciences, and one who, from his connection with the followers of Bentham and the Radical party, might be supposed to view with some favor the workings of republican institutions, cannot speak in any more flattering terms than these of the inhabitants of the Northern and Middle States of America: “They have the six points of Chartism, and they have no poverty; and all that these advantages do for them is, that the life of the whole of one sex is devoted to dollar-hunting, and of the other to breeding dollar-hunters.” And the tone of McCulloch, Tooke, and other English economists, in reference to the people of this country, is not a whit more complimentary.* Not at all in the spirit of retaliation, but in that of self-defence, as well as for the more perfect elucidation of the principles of the science, I have compared the effects of aristocratic with those of democratic institutions upon the development of national enterprise, the growth of opulence, the security of property, the popular feeling of uneasiness or content, and the general well-being of the people in Great Britain and the United States. Too much stress is babitually laid by English economists upon the natural advantages which our countrymen are supposed to possess, especially in the broad expanse of fertile territory which still remains open for settlement by them. But surely we cannot claim superiority in this respect over England, whose colonial dominion comprises Nova Scotia and Canada, a large portion of the East and the West Indies, the southern part of Africa, and the whole of New Zealand and Australia. Besides, I have attempted to show that the causes of the increase of capital are moral rather than physical, and that there is a drawback, as well as an advantage, in the abundance and cheapness of land, which incite the people to leave behind them all the means and appliances of civilization, and to become squatters and backwoodsmen in the wilderness.
* Yet Englishmen wonder and complain that the sympathies of Americans are not with them and their allies in their present contest with Russia, - a contest which, as it involves no principles of natural or popular rights, but is solely a struggle between rival governments for a preponderance of power in the Black Sea, is certainly regarded by the generality of our countrymen with unaffected indifference. The question whether Napoleon the Third has any better claim to the esteem of the people of the United States than he had to that of Englishmen only three years ago, is, perhaps, not worth discussing. But if England and America are ever to be joined in a natural alliance of spontaneous amity and mutual regard, a more conciliatory man. ner must be adopted by those who assume to speak the opinions of the middle and the upper classes in the former country. Disregard, if you will, all those manifestations of popular sentiment here which may be imputed to electioneering manœuvres : there still remains in the minds of the educated and reflecting portion of our peobe reckoned the eminent traveller and social economist, Mr. Samuel Laing, and the ingenious and well-informed author of “OverPopulation and its Remedy,” Mr. W. T. Thornton ; while Mr. Tooke, the author of an admirable “ History of Prices,” and Mr. Fullarton, have
Though I have had frequent occasion to controvert the opinions of English economists, it is little to say that this work could not have been written without the aid which their writings have afforded, and that I have often borrowed from one or two of them facts and arguments which have served to confute the theories of the others. The authority of Adam Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo seems to be waning even in England; a new school has sprung up in opposition to them, whose opinions on many important points are visibly gaining ground, and have already begun to affect the legislation of the kingdom. Among these dissentients may
ple, who are naturally cordial well-wishers to England, a strong feeling of surprise and indignation at the insolent and domineering tone habitually assumed about ev. erything pertaining to America by that influential journal which, even more than the British ministry, is the organ of public opinion in Great Britain, - a feeling which mere diplomacy, though conducted by persons as wise and generous as Webster and Ashburton, can never entirely eradicate.
successfully established, in opposition to the paradoxes of Ricardo and his followers, a rational theory of the currency. Mr. J. S. Mill, an avowed iconoclast and reformer, has followed or preceded these writers on some of their points of dissent from the old school, and has incorporated into his work some very bold speculations respecting the laws of inheritance and the distribution of property ; but in other respects, he has followed very closely in the footsteps of Malthus and Ricardo. From the writings of all whom I have mentioned by name, and of several others, I have derived valuable aid and instruction.
Throughout the work, I have had in view the wants of learners, and have tried to incorporate into it such elementary information about banking operations, the system of disposing of the public lands, the nature of bills of exchange, the functions of the currency, the supply of the precious metals, and the course of trade both at home and with foreign countries, as might be useful not only to classes in college, but to other young men, who, with less preparatory training, are about to enter the mercantile profession.
CAMBRIDGE, December 28, 1855.