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3: The Editions of Commerce and Government - Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de Condillac, Commerce and Government Considered in their Mutual Relationship 
Commerce and Government Considered in their Mutual Relationship, translated by Shelagh Eltis, with an Introduction to His Life and Contribution to Economics by Shelagh Eltis and Walter Eltis (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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The Editions of Commerce and Government
The initial edition of Commerce and Government was published in Paris in 1776 by Jombert & Cellot in both a single-volume (vi + 586 pp.) and a two-volume (273 + 180 pp.) edition. On the title page, the place of publication of both editions is described as “Amsterdam and one also finds it at Paris.” This is a typical convention of the period, and, as explained in Chapter 1, in many of the books actually published in Paris a principal and generally fictitious foreign place of publication is also stated on the title page so that the censors only needed to permit the sale within France of a book originally published outside the country. The 1767 edition of Quesnay’s Physiocratie even claims publication in Peking, and as with Commerce and Government, Du Pont adds the words “and one also finds it at Paris.”
The single-volume edition of Commerce and Government was published first: five errata are listed on page vi, and the latter three are corrected in what must therefore be the subsequent two-volume printing. The initial single-volume edition concludes with the statement “End of the Second Part. The third part of this work has not been written, the author will work on it if the first two parts create a demand.” By the time the two-volume edition was printed, Condillac had removed that statement and simply has “The End” at the foot of the final page.
In 1795 the 1776 text was republished in Paris by Letellier & Maradan as a single volume (380 pp.), virtually without amendment. A further erratum from 1776 is corrected, but still not all five, and there are a few one- or two-word changes. The failure to correct all the announced errata from the 1776 edition suggests that this is not a superior text: it is one produced by a Paris bookseller because there was sufficient demand to justify a new printing. A photographic reprint of the 1795 edition with an eleven-page introduction by G. Romeyer-Dherbey was published by Slatkine (Paris and Geneva) in 1980.
In 1798 a twenty-three-volume edition of the Oeuvres de Condillac “Reviewed and corrected by the Author, printed from his autograph manuscripts” was published in Paris by Houel, with Commerce and Government (559 pp.) as its fourth volume.
Condillac had made his elder brother, the abbé de Mably, his literary executor, but Mably died in 1785, five years after Condillac. It is stated in the introduction to the first volume of the 1798 Oeuvres that a wooden case containing Mably’s and Condillac’s papers was opened in June 1796 (prairial an IV) by order of the Minister of the Interior and the Director-General of Public Instruction so that a complete edition of Condillac’s works could be prepared. The letter from Citizen Bénézech, the Minister of the Interior, to Citizen Commendeur, the bailiffwho was present when the case was opened, reads in part:
as these works are among the number of those which are most useful for education, I desire that the edition of these works which is going to be made should be the most complete possible. I know that you have had in your custody and under seal for more than ten years, a wooden box containing several volumes of the works of Condillac, where this author has written a large number of marginal corrections and added several notebooks written in his own hand. I invite you, Citizen, to pass this box to the general administration of Public Instruction. . . so that these volumes which are deposited in it can be used to perfect the complete edition which will be made of works which are equally useful to the public. (Condillac, Oeuvres de Condillac, 1:x–xi)
Citizen Ginguené, the Director-General of Public Instruction, then wrote to Citizen Arnoux, one of the two subsequent editors (the other was Mousnier) of the 1798 Oeuvres, that the seals should be removed in his presence by a magistrate. When this was done, it was found that the contents of the wooden case included:
Item, a bound volume entitled, Le Commerce et le Gouvernement, considérés relativement l’un à l’autre; the first three pages are glued and crossed through, as though they should be deleted; on the fifteenth page a note of seven lines is stuck on; in addition another of three sheets is inserted after the twenty-first page; at the fifty-fourth page, a note of 33 lines, at the fifty-fifth another of 35 lines; at the seventy-first a folio of writing paper written to half way down the fourth page: at the ninetieth a note of eight lines; at the 195 th and 196 th, two notes underlined, forming the end of the eighteenth chapter. There are in addition, in the volume, several marginal notes and several corrections in the body of the text.
Item, ten stitched paper booklets, printed, in duodecimal, comprising part of a work on Commerce, in which is glued a note of twenty-four lines. (Ibid., vii– viii)
The long insertions and the page references (evidently to a copy of the one-volume 1776 edition) correspond exactly to the extra material subsequently included in the 1798 edition, extending its total length by about 3 per cent.
The crossing through of the first three pages indicates that Condillac may have intended to replace these with a new opening to the book, but none has been found. The only change in the first three pages which has survived is an important new footnote (CG 93 below). As for the “ten stitched paper booklets, printed, in duodecimal, comprising part of a work on Commerce,” there is the fascinating possibility that these could form an incomplete draft of chapters for the Third Part of Commerce and Government, which Condillac had expressed a readiness to prepare for publication in 1776. He wrote quickly and published extensively, and it would be interesting to know what Mably’s executors and Condillac’s editors made of these ten printed booklets. There are no incomplete publications in the twenty-three-volume Oeuvres de Condillac, so it is understandable that the editors may not have wished to include a large fragment which twentieth-century editors would have un-hesitatingly included in an author’s complete works. It would be fascinating to have the opportunity to read them now, if the editors had not decided to discard these unpublished pages by Condillac. They conveyed most of the material from Mably’s wooden box to the Bibliothèque Nationale after they had completed their edition of the Oeuvres de Condillac in 1798, two years after the box was opened. Sgard (Corpus Condillac, 160–63) provides an account of what is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale from Commerce and Government, and he says that what is there “appears to be incomplete”: he makes no reference to the ten printed stitched booklets.
In 1821–22 A. F. Théry produced a sixteen-volume edition of Condillac’s Oeuvres where Commerce and Government is again volume 4 (414 pp.), and he republished the text of the 1798 edition with Condillac’s additional material.
The next significant edition of Commerce and Government was published by Eugène Daire in 1847. He produced a series of compilations with the general title Collections des principaux économistes, which included the celebrated volume containing the principal publications of the physiocrats. The volume Mélanges d’économie politique followed in 1847 with important books and essays by Hume, Forbonnais, Condorcet, Franklin and Condillac’s Commerce and Government (243–448). Daire reverted to the 1776 text and therefore included none of the additional material from Condillac’s papers which were included in the collected Oeuvres de Condillac of 1798 and 1821–22.
Like the principal academic journals in the twentieth century, Daire’s collections were in every significant library, so most subsequent citations to Commerce and Government have been to this 1847 edition. That was the case with Marx in Capital in 1867, with Menger in Grundsätze der Volkswirthschaftslehre in 1871, with Morand in La Théorie psychologique de la valeur jusqu’en 1776 in 1912 and with Weulersse in La Physiocratie sous les ministères de Turgot et de Necker published posthumously in 1950.
The final significant edition of Commerce and Government is by Georges Le Roy in his three-volume Oeuvres philosophiques de Condillac which the Presses Universitaires de France published from 1947 to 1951. Le Roy included it in volume 2 published in 1948 (241–367), and his is now the definitive French language edition.
Le Roy uses the 1798 edition as his principal text, but he publishes almost every variation from the 1776 edition. He identi fies the places where passages of the 1798 text did not appear in 1776, and he gives most words and all the passages published in 1776 but not 1798. Le Roy thus invites his readers to take the 1798 text as their starting point, but to be at the same time aware of what was there in 1776.
We follow Le Roy in offering both texts to our readers, but we have preferred to take the 1776 text as our starting point. This is because it is the sole text Condillac actually published. According to Sgard (Corpus Condillac, 163), most of the additional material in Mably’s wooden box which is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale is in Condillac’s hand, but not all of it. Two amendments in the 1798 Oeuvres may reflect that they were inserted after the Revolution.
In 1776, thirteen years before the Revolution, Condillac says that “The right to coin money can only belong to the sovereign.” In the 1798 edition, nine years after the Revolution and eighteen years after Condillac’s death, the reader is told that the sovereign is “the king in a monarchy, and in a republic the nation or the body which represents it” (CG 272 below). In 1776 in Condillac’s lifetime, the cry of the people who rise in revolt because they believe the export of grain is denying them bread is described as “seditious [séditieux].” In 1798 what was seditious in the monarchy is no longer seditious, and the word is deleted (CG 301 below), a change Le Roy has overlooked. The 1795 edition still has séditieux, so those who produced it were not tempted to the “political correctness” which may have crept into the 1798 edition. These are slight changes, but it is likely that they were inspired by the editors of the 1798 edition, and if they permitted themselves these amendments, they may have made others.
The second reason for preferring the 1776 text as the foundation for the present edition is that, while the principal additions of 1798 are clearly by Condillac and correspond almost exactly in length to what was found in Mably’s wooden case, he did not have the opportunity to approve them in print. The original 1776 book has the verve and momentum of an author who is writing an important book, full of discoveries and clarifications, to win over the enlightened public. Some of the passages he added in 1798 are those of a distinguished philosopher responding to technical criticism. The first chapter has a long additional passage (CG 103–5 below) which includes an account of the need to solve a system of knowns and unknowns. The tempo is slowed. There are other new passages which clarify the argument without slowing the exposition.
We believe that readers will prefer to read the book as Condillac initially wrote it, but to be aware of the additional material from the final years of his life. We have therefore made the 1776 text the starting point of this first English language edition. We offer a complete translation of the 1776 text, and add in parentheses or at the end of chapters a translation of the new passages added in 1798 and an account of what was deleted then.
A Note on French Currency, Monetary Values, and Weights and Measures100
French Currency and Monetary Values
Condillac most often refers to livres: francs were synonymous with livres in his time. There were 20 sols or sous to the livre, and each sou was made up of 12 deniers.
Condillac also refers to écus, coins stamped with a shield covered with fleur-de-lys. Their denomination was generally of 3 livres (the écu blanc or louis d’argent introduced in 1641), or 6 livres (an écu d’armes introduced in 1727). Condillac refers to occasions when the face value of the écu blanc (the number of livres and sous it represented) was varied from month to month.
Condillac’s account of the development of coinage refers to coins made from gold, silver and copper. When the franc was introduced in 1360 it was a gold coin worth 20 sols. The first silver francs were coined in the reign of Henri III (1574–89), while silver sous were introduced in the reign of Philippe Auguste (1180–1223).
Several provinces had their own coinage with different values. The principal versions were the livre tournois of the Tours region and the livre parisis of the Paris region. Both of these were made up of 20 silver sous, but there were 12 copper denier to the sou tournois and 15 identically valued denier to the heavier sou parisis, so the sou parisis and the livre parisis were worth more. Their separate use was terminated by edict in 1667.
From the mid-seventeenth century, legal contracts were based on the livre tournois, with its 20 sous to the livre and 12 denier to the sou, as a money of account, while silver coins were legally accepted by weight rather than by face value, which was frequently altered. The article “Livre” in Pal-grave’s Dictionary of Political Economy remarks on “the complete distinction between money of account and the money in actual circulation” (Lodge, “Livre,” 617) in the France of the Ancien Régime.
The monarchy determined the weight of silver required to settle a debt in livres tournois through decrees which determined the number of livres to a silver marc of 244. 75 grammes (8 troy ounces). A piece of silver of precisely that weight had been lodged in Paris in ancient times, and exact copies were subsequently lodged in the other mints. Thus in 1715, the year after Condillac’s birth, it was decreed that the silver marc would be worth 40 livres in place of 27, devaluing the livre from 3. 375 to a troy ounce of silver to 5 livres to the ounce. In 1718 an edict for which John Law was responsible devalued the livre further from 5 to 7. 5 to an ounce of silver and in 1720 to 10 livres to the ounce in February and to 15 in July. After the fall of Law the value of the livre in fine silver was gradually raised until it reached 6. 39 livres to the ounce (51 livres 2 sous and 3 deniers to the marc) in 1726, and it remained at that value until the Revolution (Labrousse et al., Histoire économique, chs. 3 and 4). Thus between 1715 and 1726 the livre was devalued from 5 to an ounce of silver to 6. 39 (with a fall to 15 to the ounce during Law’s monetary experiments). The damage to commerce and to economic activity in general from disruptions to the value of the currency such as these are the subject of Chapter 9 in the Second Part of Commerce and Government (272–76 below).
From 1726 until the Revolution silver remained stable at 6. 39 livres to the ounce. Debts for which there were legal contracts made out in livres tournois could be met by weighing silver coins of any denomination, estimating the fine silver they contained and discharging a debt of 1000 livres with about 156 ounces of fine silver. Smaller day-to-day transactions would in contrast be settled with currently minted coin with face values which remained stable after 1726.
There was a parallel gold currency, and the standard on which this was based was the gold marc, also of 8 troy ounces. The principal gold coin was the louis d’or, named after the sovereign and introduced in 1641 under Louis XIII. The state determined how many louis would be coined from 8 ounces of gold of 11 / 12 fineness (22 carats when fine gold has 24), and the number of livre tournois each louis would represent. Thus in 1715 it was decreed that 8 ounces of gold would be minted into 30 louis, each to make payments of 15. 5 livres. An ounce of gold which was minted into 3.75 louis therefore sufficed to make payments of 58.13 livres. In the currency reforms of 1726 which survived until 1785, 3.75 louis were coined from an ounce of gold, and each louis had a face value of 24 livres, so an ounce of gold coins made payments of 90 livres against 58.13 in 1715. Hence between 1715 and 1726, there was devaluation of the livre tournois in relation to both gold and silver, after which its value was maintained in relation to both metals. In 1785 gold was slightly revalued, with the result that an ounce of gold coins made payments of 96 livres in place of 90, and at the same time commanded equivalently more silver because the silver value of the livre remained unaltered.
In the years before 1785, silver had a higher value in relation to gold inside France than in the world at large with the result that the currency which circulated in France was predominantly silver, while despite all prohibitions there was a tendency for gold to be exported. It has been suggested that the 1785 revaluation of gold reversed this tendency, and in the following years, about two-thirds of the currency minted in France was gold, while only one-third was silver. Gold circulated predominantly in the North and East and silver in the regions closer to Spain from which it mainly entered France (Dermigny, “La France”).
A comparison of French with British monetary values is complex as conditions were very different in the two countries, but a few inferences can be drawn. Writing of the France of 1787, Arthur Young estimated that 1,800,000 livres tournois had a similar purchasing power to 78,750 pounds sterling (Young, Travels, 1:52). On that basis, the purchasing power commanded by 23 livres in France will have been close to that of a pound sterling in Britain. Since the gold louis commanded a value of 24 livres in 1785, its purchasing power on the basis suggested by Young will have been near to that of the 21-shilling gold guinea, and it has been shown that the gold content of these French and English coins was quite close after adjustment for the lower proportion of gold and higher proportion of base alloy in the French louis than in the British guinea (Law, “Louis d’or”). As the 24-livre Frenchlouis was equivalent to four 6-livre écus (Sir James Steuart [An Inquiry, Book 3, ch. 7] refers to these as “great crowns”), the late eighteenth century écu corresponded, within a few pence, to the 5-shilling British crown.
An alternative modern comparison produces a similar order of magnitude of the comparative purchasing power of the French and British currencies. Mathias and O’Brien (“Taxation”) publish data on the average price of corn in England and France in the 1780s when one pound sterling purchased the same quantity of corn in England as 20 to 22 livres in France.
French Weights and Measures
The muid, to which Condillac refers, was an ancient measure of volume. The number of boisseaux to a muid depended on what was being measured. The muid of salt, for example, contained 192 boisseaux whereas the muid of oats contained 288 boisseaux. The muid of Paris was made up of 12 setiers, a measure frequently referred to by Condillac to describe quantities of grain, each of 12 boisseaux.
There were 2,304 litrons to the muid of Paris, and a litron was an ancient measure of capacity which amounted to 36 cubic inches (the modern litre has 61 cubic inches). The setier varied regionally; the setier of Paris, also known as the grain setier, was equivalent to 12 boisseaux. Muids of 12 setiers and 144 boisseaux were equivalent to 1,373 litres in modern decimal measures. The English bushel, a larger quantity than the French boisseau, also varied regionally in the eighteenth century, though less than the boisseau. Arthur Young remarked that, “in France the in finite perplexity of the measures exceeds all comprehension” (Travels, 1:315).
The arpent, a land measure, was also subject to regional variation and could be anywhere between 20 and 50 ares, where the are is now measured as 100 square metres. For comparison, the English acre is 4047 square metres (4840 square yards), so there were approximately 40 ares to the acre.
COMMERCE AND GOVERNMENT
COMMERCE and GOVERNMENT
Considered in their mutual relationship
an elementary work
by the AbbédeCONDILLAC of the Académie Française & Member of the Royal Society of Agriculture of Orléans
Vis concili expers mole ruit sua: Vim temperatam Di quoque provehunt In majus. . .
[Brute strength, if wisdom guide it not by its own weight to earth is pressed, but thought restrained, the gods exalt its weakness into power]
Horace, Odes, iii. 4
(trans. by Robert Wilmott)
[100. ] A variety of detailed articles in Larousse (1866–79), which quote extensively from the Encyclopédie and other sources, provide a general source of information on the history of French currency and weights and measures.