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III. The School and its Doctrines (contd.) - Henry Higgs, The Physiocrats: Six Lectures on the French Economistes of the 18th Century 
The Physiocrats: Six Lectures on the French Economistes of the 18th Century (London: Macmillan and Co., 1897).
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The artist has not yet arisen who has chosen to paint a great historical picture of the scene which M. de Loménie1 describes as follows:—
“On the 2Oth December 1774, amidst the enthusiastic hopes to which a new reign gave birth, five months after Turgot's entrance into the ministry, a considerable number of persons, attired in mourning, were gathered in the principal room of a townhouse in the Rue Vaugirard [at Paris]. At the end of the room had been placed a large pedestal surmounted by a marble bust, and the whole assembly being turned towards this bust in an attitude of sorrow and respect, the master of the house pronounced a speech of a rather odd character, especially for the epoch.” “Gentlemen,” began the orator, “we have just lost our master; the veritable benefactor of humanity belongs to this earth only by the memory of his good deeds and the imperishable record of his achievements,” He goes on to declare that Socrates1 had been said to have drawn down morality from heaven. Their master had done more, he had made it germinate upon earth. Religion was a solace and a ruling power only to a few elevated souls. The terrestrial guide of conduct based upon the produit net appealed to the reason and intelligence of every man, persuading him by the enlightened pursuit of self-interest to promote the welfare of mankind at large. The speaker, now left, he says, the leader of the band, appeals to his hearers to carry on their immortal founder's work, and further the progress of “the science which shall one day render societies peaceful and prosperous, and men reasonable and virtuous.” And he concludes by apostrophising the bust on which they gazed: “O venerable bust, that represents to us the features of our master,”2 etc. The silent bust which looked down upon this somewhat theatrical mise en scène was that of Quesnay. The extravagant and stilted eloquence, its pomp redeemed by sincerity and affection, was the characteristic language of the Friend of Humanity, the Marquis of Mirabeau, refraining, even now, with pious fidelity, from speaking the doctor's name. We can guess who were many of the disciples gathered round, but none of them was so popular or authoritative an exponent of physiocracy as Mirabeau himself, and several of them were his own proselytes. His indefatigable industry and ardent zeal had spread the fame of the Physiocrats and their system through all the countries of Europe.1 He brought to the service of Quesnay in 17 5 7 a literary reputation already firmly and widely established, a considerable amount of social influence, and valuable resources of time and energy, as well as of money. The history of his family—a “tempestuous race,” he himself confesses — is, as recounted by M. de Lomenie, one of the most striking and fascinating in the whole range of biographical literature, and is not without importance for the student of his works. He was born on the 4th October 1715, the year of the death of Louis XIV., and died on the 13th July 1789, the day before the storming of the Bastille. His life thus coincides with what is usually regarded as the inception and the triumph of the French Revolution. After serving with bravery in the army, he succeeded, in 1737, when only twenty-two years of age, to his father's title and estates, and gave up the profession of arms. He seems early to have cherished the ambition of becoming a great philosophical statesman, and of aggrandising the honour and power of his own family. He married a wife whose great expectations, her only recommendation, became a veritable apple of discord. When her unspeakable misconduct, approaching—if not overstepping—the bounds of madness, and the sensational follies of his famous but dissolute and spendthrift son, wounded his family pride, he acted with the despotism of a Highland chief smarting under a sense of dishonour to his clan. But in 1757 these troubles were yet to come. He had been the friend of Vauvenargues and an acquaintance of Montesquieu. The system of government appeared to him hopelessly unsuited to the needs of the nation, and far better than most of his contemporaries he saw the real power which lay dormant in the people—the force of numbers. “He was,” says Victor Hugo, “at once in advance of and behind his age.” “He presents in himself,” says de Tocqueville, “the spectacle of a feudal character invaded by democratic ideas.” He had argued in the first part of L'Ami des Hommes for a multiplication of small peasant proprietors; but he allowed Quesnay to persuade him that the true ideal was the maximising of the produit net of the country, which was to be better achieved by an economical exploitation of land on the larger scale. He had also urged, following Cantillon, that imports of corn should be encouraged and exports discouraged; but, as we have seen, this too was in opposition to Quesnay's views, for the doctor considered such a course, in the long-run, inimical to a large food supply, since low prices of corn would discourage its national production. But while giving way upon these points he remained the most independent member of the school. Utilising the popularity acquired by L'Ami des Hommes, he proceeded, after allying himself with Quesnay, to publish continuations of the work (part 4, no imprint, 4to and 12mo, 1758; parts 5 and 6, do. do., 1760), making a whole of three quarto or six duodecimo volumes. In these later parts the cooperation of Quesnay is evident. Part 4 contains a Dialogue entre le Surintendant D'O. et L.D.H., a reprint of the Mémoire sur les États provinciaux, with a reply to an anonymous criticism of Naveau's, and a series of (separately paged) Questions interessantes sur la Population, I'Agriculture, et le Commerce proposées aux Academies et autres sociétés sçavantes des Provinces, asking for local information upon agricultural conditions, and also suggesting some general considerations somewhat in the style of Berkeley's Querist. These questions, the reader is informed, are not by the author of the Mémoire sur les États provinciaux.1 The 5th part contains the essay which Mirabeau had written for the prize of the Berne Agricultural Society in 1759, on the reasons why Switzerland should give preference to the cultivation of corn. The essay is followed by extracts from the first six books of an English work (translated from T. Hale's Compleat Body of Husbandry, 1756). The 6th part consists of a Réponse a l'Essai sur les ponts et Chaussés, La Voierie, et Les Coru/es, and of the Tableau Oeconomique avec ses explications. In the same year with this later part, 1760, appeared his Théarie de l'Impôt 4to and 12 mo, without imprint, which immediately had an enormous vogue. It was a spirited and able attack upon the financial administration of the country, and especially upon the farmers-general, whom Mirabeau regarded as parasites preying upon the vitals of the nation.1 The tax-gatherer is never a welcome visitor, even when he is the direct representative of local or central authority; but when he presents himself in the guise of a speculator whose personal profit or loss turns upon the amount of taxation he can collect, whose agents have no bowels of compassion, no willingness to hear or ability to accept excuse or appeal, and who violate the public conscience by relentless severity, while their employer is seen to be making a considerable fortune at the public expense, then indeed an outcry against him will awaken innumerable echoes, and the Théorie de l'mpôt spread like wildfire. “Seigneur,” begins the author, with an address to the king— “Seigneur! you have 20,000,000 of subjects, more or less,1 all with a little money, and almost all capable of rendering you such service as you require; and yet you can no longer obtain service without money, nor money to pay for service In plain language your people are holding back from you, without knowing it, for they are still well disposed to your person even though they be not to the agents of your authority.” And he puts into the mouth of the king the soliloquy that his position as the head of his people is justified only so long as, and only because, he costs them less than he is worth to them. This remorseless test, “Are you worth what you cost?” must have been like acid to a raw wound, for the colonial empire was falling to pieces, and within a year the French had been driven out of Canada and of India. He makes the king add: “Where my people loses its rights, there is the limit of my empire.” Taxes are really of the nature of voluntary offerings rather than forced contributions. The sovereign has not the right to tax his subjects without their participation and assent, and the collection of taxes should be handed over to the representatives of the people themselves.2 The powerful financial interest, fastening upon such passages, where exhortation is mingled with barely-veiled menace, denounced the Ami des Hommes to the king, who caused him to be imprisoned (16th December 1760) in the chateau of Vincennes, which was afterwards to receive the author's son. The anger of the king was mollified by Madame de Pompadour1 and Mirabeau's friends, and on Christmas Eve he allowed him to be liberated under orders to reside at his property at Bignon and not in Paris. This sharp reminder of the limits of freedom kept the Physiocrats silent, though not inactive, for two and a half years. In 1763 Mirabeau made a convert of Du Pont de Nemours, who, writing in 1769 of the Théorie de lŉImpôt, says: “This sublime work has, to my knowledge, been multiplied by eighteen editions.” Beyond the abolition of the practice of farming out the taxes it recommends reforms in the direction of making taxation lighter, simpler, and more direct. It urged that the tax on salt should be reduced, with the object of increasing the total yield (a recognition of the principle, now well known under the name of the elasticity of the exchequer), that there should be a special tax upon tobacco-farms, and that apart from the Post Office, the Mint, and the Domaine (crown lands and crown dues) the rest of the national revenue should be derived from a tax upon land. This is the Impôt unique with modifications. The work contains many valuable remarks, and is of real importance in the history of financial theory.
In 1763 appeared the' Philosophie rurale, Amsterdam (Paris), 4to, which presents perhaps the most complete and magisterial account of the views of the physiocratic school, and was called by Grimm “the Pentateuch of the sect” Daire, who shows little sympathy for Mirabeau, declares it to be “the best, or rather the least bad, of all his works”; but he would have expressed himself more respectfully had he known the large share taken in the work by Quesnay, who, according to Du Pont, inspired it and wrote the whole of the seventh chapter himself.1 An abridgment of it, under the title Élements de philosophic rurale, was published in 12 mo at The Hague in 1767. Of his other works it is sufficient to mention Réponse du correspondant a son banquier, 1759, 4to (a reply to Forbonnais); Lettres sur le commerce des grains, Amsterdam and Paris, 1768, 12mo; Les Economiques, Amsterdam and Paris, 1769–72, 2 vols. 4to, or 4 vols. 12010; Lettres (d'un ingénieur... pour servir de suite à l'Ami des Hommes, Avignon, 1770, 12 mo; Lettres Economiques, Amsterdam, 1770, 12mo; Les Devoirs, Milan, 1770; La science, ou les Droits et les Devoirs de I'homine, Lausanne, 1774, 12mo; Lettres sur la legislation, Berne, 1775, 3 vols. 12mo; Supplément à la théorie del'impôt, La Haye, 1776; Entretien d'un june Prince avec son gouverneur par L.D.H. Publié par M. G.... [l'Abbé Grivel], Paris, 1785, 4 vols. 8vo and 120mo; Education civil d'un Prince, Doulac, 1788, 8vo; Rive d'un goutteux, ou le Principal (end of 1788), an octavo pamphlet, his hopes of the Constituent Assembly about to meet—and Hommes a célébrer pour avoir bien mérité de I'humanité par leurs écrits sur I'Economic politique. Ouvrage publié par P. Boscovitch, ami de fauteur, Bassano, 2 vols. 8vo. Many of these works were announced as by L.D.H. (L'Ami des Hommes), but the later ones appeared sometimes anonymously and in foreign countries by the care of his friends. Les Devoirs had been seen through the press by the Marquis of Longo, professor of political economy at Milan. It urged that, in the interests of society, men should receive economic instruction as a guide to conduct. And so elementary education should be compulsory, and even free where the recipient cannot afford to pay.
It is sometimes supposed that the French Revolution destroyed the influence of the Physiocrats. But in truth their reputation in France had in 1789 long been on the wane. The year 1776 struck it three blows from which it never entirely recovered. The fall of Turgot, though he is not strictly to be reckoned as one of the sect, paved the way to their discomfiture. The publication of the Wealth of Nations more slowly but effectually destroyed their authority by sapping the scientific basis on which it reposed. And finally, in 1776, began the scandalous dissemination of lies and libels by Mirabeau's wife and children which shook the Friend of Men from his pedestal of popularity, and dragged him through the mire as a hideous impostor, whose private life, at hopeless variance with his public precept, would show the teacher of morality unmasked as a monster of hypocrisy. In his well-known Lettres de Vincennes the younger Mirabeau ridicules the Physiocrats, and does not spare their chief: “It will sooner or later be seen,” he says, “that my father owes only to his own generosity the title of L'Ami des Hommes … a man who calls himself tender, compassionate, the legislator of kings, the benefactor of humanity at large, and is the oppressor of his wife and children.” “I know,” whines the young profligate, “that appearances are against me. But so they are against my father, who imprisons me. Facts can be so easily distorted. It might, for instance, be said that he had ruined himself in creating a political economy; that he had compromised two millions of the fortune of his wife and children, while protesting against luxury and debts; that he had persisted in founding a sect at Paris and living there to the detriment of his means while declaiming vigorously against absentee landlords; and that after denouncing lettres de cachet in his writings he had employed fifty-three of them against his wife and children, of whom all but one are under lock and key.” “No doubt,” he suggests, “my father could defend himself against all these charges. Why, then, will he not hear a defence from me?” The labours of M. de Loménie, exposing the prejudice and misrepresentation of M. de Montigny, have rehabilitated in great measure the economist's reputation, and in his later years the orator of the Revolution rallied to his father's side and loaded him with praise and respect. But it concerns us to note that the immediate effect of these attacks was, on the one hand, to weaken the elder Mirabeau's popular repute, while, on the other, they drove him to absorb himself more and more in economic writing as a distraction from his family troubles. He left 400 quartos in manuscript written by his own hand, forty published volumes, several contributions to journals, a number of unpublished writings, and an immense correspondence, exchanging upwards of 4000 letters with his brother alone. Other branches of his activity will be mentioned in the next chapter. “Had my hand been of bronze,” he said in his old age, “it would long since have been worn out.”
Among the “persons attired in mourning” who “turned towards the bust of Quesnay in an attitude of sorrow and respect,” there was one notable gap. There was a vacant place for an eminent young disciple returning from Poland to serve with Turgot, Du Pont de Nemours (b. 18th December 1739, d. 7th August 1817), who, converted by Mirabeau in 1763, became the amiable hard-working hack of his masters, editing the works of Quesnay(thePhysiocratie, 1767–8), and the economic Journals of the school, besides becoming the secretary, biographer, and friend of Turgot, a trusted adviser of foreign princes, and finally a member of the Constituent Assembly. The bibliography of his own writings, appended to M. Schelle's excellent monograph, contains 112 separate entries in addition to new editions and translations, and one of these entries alone covers some 120 articles in the Éphémérides, while others embrace a number of separate writings. In 1763 the nation stood, at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War, literally bankrupt The question of finance was one of life and death. An anonymous pamphlet, La Richesse de l'État, 1763, 8vo, written by a state official, Roussel de la Tour, proposed to replace all taxes by a progressive poll-tax. Du Pont, then twenty-three years of age, criticised it in a pamphlet entitled Réflexions sur la Richesse de l'État. Taxes really fall, he says, on the land, and should be levied directly on landowners. This pamphlet interested Quesnay and Mirabeau (whose exile to Bignon had not yet been cancelled) for two reasons. They found in it a statement of their own doctrine; and they concluded, since the Government allowed it to circulate, that they might venture to renew their own activity. Mirabeau's exile was now soon brought to an end. Du Pont was invited to one of Quesnay's meetings in the entresol of Mme de Pompadour, and was definitively recruited as a member of the school the same year, 1763. “Let us have a care of him,” said Quesnay to Mirabeau; “he will speak when we are dead.” On the 25th May 1763, the edict of 1754, permitting internal freedom in the corn trade, was re-enacted with extensions; nobles might trade in corn without derogation, and corn was to be free from tolls for transport. The edict was suspended by Terray in 1770; but on Turgot's accession to office in 1774, his first act was a still more liberal edict permitting virtual freedom of export and import—the preamble, drafted by Du Pont, following very closely the views of Quesnay in his article “Grains.” The new policy was designed, says the edict, “to animate and extend the cultivation of the land, whose produce is the most real and certain wealth of a state; to maintain abundance by granaries and the entry of foreign corn; to prevent corn from falling to a price which would discourage the producer; to remove monopoly by shutting out private licence in favour of free and full competition; and by maintaining among different countries that communication of exchange of superfluities for necessaries which is so conformable to the order established by Divine Providence.” The Physiocrats appeared to have gained a large part of their cause. But they recognised that it was necessary, in Quesnay's phrase, to “act upon opinion.”1 Popular prejudice feared that rings and corners would force up the price of corn to famine point for private profit by sending it abroad. It was necessary to educate the public upon the safeguards which “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty,” as Adam Smith called it, carries within itself; and the Physiocrats therefore sought for a journal in which they might circulate their ideas. Such a journal they found in a supplement to the Gazette du Commerce, founded 1763, entitled Journal de l'agriculture, du commerce, et des finances, of which Du Pont was appointed editor in September 1765, probably on the recommendation of Trudaine.2 The proprietors, instigated by the opponents of the school,3 dismissed him after the issue of the November number, 1766, and the economists were obliged to find another organ. The Ephé'mérides du citoyen, ou Chronique de lesprit national, a bi-weekly paper, had been founded in 1765 by the Abbé Baudeau on the model of our Spectator. The Abbé defended the mercantile system, but admitted articles criticising his views, and to one such article by Le Trosne he proposed to reply in nine articles, the first of which he sent to Du Font's Journal in 1766. Du Pont published it, with some annotations. “You argue,” he said, “that nations grow rich or are ruined according to the balance of foreign trade. But surely you will admit that a nation may have no foreign trade and yet be ruined. How does your theory account for this?” Baudeau visited Du Pont, discussed the matter, said he had found his road to Damascus, and threw in his lot with the Physiocrats. The Étéphémeri suspended publication for two months, and in January 1767 reappeared with a new sub-title, Éphémerides du citoyen, ou Bibliotheque des sciences morales et politiques, a monthly duodecimo. In May 1768 Baudeau received ecclesiastical preferment in Poland. Du Pont, now employed in Limousin with Turgot, sacrificed his position to come to Paris and take over the post of editor, which he retained till the Journal was suppressed by Government (November 1772). The Margrave of Baden next appointed him Privy Councillor, and drew him to Carlsruhe, where he remained until (July 1774) he started for Poland to serve as tutor to the son of Prince Czartoryski. Arrived in Poland, he heard from Turgot of his accession to the ministry, and was offered a place, which he did not feel justified in accepting immediately. In September, however, Turgot formally nominated him inspector-general of manufactures, and Du Pont rendered Turgot valuable service till they fell together in 1776. The Mémoire sur les municipalitfése, Turgot's plan of reform in local government, was the work of his pen; and when Turgot died in 1781 he wrote an account of his life and writings (1782), and many years later edited his works in nine octavo volumes (1809–1811). In 1782 he negotiated with England the treaty recognising the American Independence. In 1786 he was entrusted with the negotiation of the commercial treaty with England. In 1787 he took part in the Assemblée des notables. In 1789 he was elected to the Constituent Assembly,1 struggled for 'freedom and for an economic policy, opposed the assignats and the Jacobins, and, after running many dangers, in 1793 voluntarily exiled himself to America. He cameback in 1802, and took office under Louis XVIII., but with the return of Napoleon he again quitted France for America, where he spent the two remaining years of his life.
So much of history and biography is necessary to the comprehension of the march and influence of the physiocratic school. Of Du Pont's other writings space does not permit mention. Many of the articles written by himself and others in the Journal and the fephtmerides appeared as separate publications. The Physiocratie, 1767–8,2 consisted of several such articles by Quesnay, edited by Du Pont, and a pamphlet of 1768, De l'origine et des progré d'une science nouvelle, has for many years been the fountain of the history of the Physiocrats.1 It is now seen to contain numerous inaccuracies, some of which are due to Du Pont's anxiety to repel the sectarian charge which had been urged against the school. To him all economists worked together,—their differences were less important than their points of agreement. “You are an economist like ourselves, my dear Say,” he wrote to J. B. Say at the end of his life, when the French Adam Smith had tried to dissociate himself from the school of Quesnay. And in sketching the origin of the school he declared that Quesnay and Gournay were its two founders. Of Gournay, pending the publication of Professor Oncken's volume, little more is known than is contained in the Éloge of his friend Turgot (1759). He was born in 1712, engaged in commerce at Cadiz (1727–1744), travelled over Europe (1744–1751), came back to France, was made an intendant of commerce (1751), and went about the country, taking Turgot with him on some occasions, on his visits of official inspection. He chafed at the trammels which harassed trade, recommended the study of economics, especially the writings of Cantillon, Tucker, Culpeper, Child,1 and other English authors, and was in favour of internal free trade and of light customs duties. He died in 1759, held few of the peculiar doctrines of the Physiocrats with regard to land and taxation, and it is doubtful whether he ever had any personal acquaintance with Quesnay himself. Du Pont attributes to Gournay the origin of the famous maxim Laissez-faire, Laissez-passer, which Gournay indeed seems to have popularised. But a study of Turgot's Éloge de Gournay shows that the expression Laissez-faire is really due to Le Gendre, a merchant who attended a deputation to Colbert about 1680 to protest against excessive state regulation of industry, and pleaded for liberty of action in the phrase Laissez-nous faire.2 Boisguillebert and D'Argenson had used it also before Gournay, who may, however, be said to have made it classical in its later form. His personal influence stimulated many persons, notably Turgot; and Du Pont mentions a number of writers as belonging to his “school”—the commercial rather than the agricultural advocates of free trade.
The next eminent Physiocrat to require mention is Mercier de la Riviére (1720–1794), a magistrate who filled for some time the post of Governor of Martinique, and wrote an important treatise, already referred to, L'Ordre naturel et essentiel des sociétés politiques, 1767, which Adam Smith has described as “the most distinct and best connected account of the doctrine” of the sect. It is composed in the “grand style,” to which the Scotch economist was not insensible, and like many of the chief works of the school was prepared under the eye of Quesnay, though the author omits the usual eulogies of him, and moved Mirabeau to write in later years, “I have seen him at work in his dressing-gown six whole weeks in the entresol of the doctor, casting and recasting his work, and then renounce his father and his mother.”1 [Quesnay and Mirabeau.]
In 1767 the school was still young. Daire asserts that the public had only a choice between the laconics of Quesnay and the disheartening prolixities of Mirabeau, whose oddities of style, diffusion of matter, and profusion of figures were, he says, enough to kill political economy on the spot.2 Exception must be taken to this statement, so far as the writings of Du Pont and Abeille and the articles of the Journal are concerned. But it is none the less true that the Ordre naturel et essentiel was at once warmly greeted. Du Pont called it “sublime,” “eloquent,” “logical and closely reasoned,” and the Russian ambassador, Prince Galitzin, wrote to Voltaire1 that it was “far superior to Montesquieu.” The followers of Colbert and lovers of state-regulation had attacked the Physiocrats from the political side. On one occasion Carl Friedrich of Baden, who had come to Paris on purpose to see his master Mirabeau, asked with naïve sincerity whether it might not be hoped that, with the spread of physiocratic knowledge, sovereigns would become unnecessary and be reformed out of existence. Mirabeau admitted that their rôle would be much restricted, but the public domains would need an owner, and his duty would be to preserve social order and encourage social instruction. The question addressed to the Physiocrats was, “If your system says ‘Hands off!’ to the state, and begs it to ‘let things alone,’ what do you consider the functions of the state to be?” Mercier de la Rivière attempts to create a philosophy of the state. Newton and others had discovered great laws governing the harmonious order of the physical world. There were surely similar laws governing the moral order of the social world, and the motto of the book is a sentence from Malebranche's Traité de Morale: “L'Ordre est la Lot inviolable des esprits; et rien n'est régle, s'il riy est conforme.” The general plan of creation had provided natural laws for the government of all things, and- man could be no exception to the rule. He needed only to know the conditions which conduce to his greatest happiness to follow and observe them. All the ills of humanity arise from ignorant opposition to these laws, study of which will show that the welfare of each member of society is inseparably bound up with the welfare of others, and the attainment of this common welfare will dispose mankind to grateful adoration of the beneficent Being by whose order this perfect cosmos is maintained.
The organisation of man proves that he is a social animal, designed by nature to live in society. In this state of society there are no rights without duties, no duties without rights. The right of self-preservation implies the right to property; but the faculties of men are by nature unequal, which gives rise to a natural inequality of conditions. Individual property in the products of the soil carries with it a physical necessity for individual property in the soil itself. Increased wealth is the mediate object of society, as a condition of increased happiness; and this happiness is enhanced by an increase of numbers, rendered possible only by additional production. But the right to property would be null without the liberty of using it, and social liberty is a branch of property. The natural and essential order of society is thus unarbitrary, simple, evident, immutable, and the most advantageous to the human race. It binds together prince and people in common interest, its evident character, publicly recognised, makes it socially dominant, despotic without violence. Two social institutions are necessary: (1) Magistrates, distinct from the legislature, to resolve doubts and put into execution all laws of whose justice they are satisfied and no other (to act differently would be as if a doctor should follow with his patient a course which he knows to be mortal); (2) a tutelary authority, the depositary of the public power, and enacting laws in accordance with justice (for the right of law-giving rests on the duty of not enacting laws evidently bad). This power must be single and indivisible. A so-called legislative body is not a body but a multitude of units momentarily brought together without unity of views. If they differ, they are not all perfectly wise: if they agree, one would do as well as many, or better, since it is contrary to order that authority should be divided among many hands. The best tutelary authority is a single sovereign who can gain nothing by ill-government, but has the greatest interest in governing well. He must be hereditary, not having a mere usufruct but a fee-simple interest in the nation, co-proprietor of the produce of its soil. Despotism is held in horror, because we confound what it has been (an arbitrary despotism which is fatal) with what it might be (a legal despotism, which is the most advantageous form of government). In fact an arbitrary despot commands but does not govern, for as his caprice is above law, there are, under him, neither rights, laws, nor nation,—“a nation being a political body whose members are united by a chain of reciprocal rights and duties, inseparably combining governor and governed in one common interest.”
Thus far the first twenty-six chapters. The remaining eighteen are of more direct economic interest, and are the only ones printed by Daire in his collection of the Physiocrats. The sovereign, as already stated, is co-proprietor with landowners,—a partnership involving mutual rights and duties and mutual interests,—and has a share in their produit net. In the origin of society this share was at the expense of the first landowners, though even to them the kingly office was of more utility than their contribution. Subsequent holders of land have taken it subject to this royal charge, so that it has ceased to be a burden upon individuals. But if the sovereign takes more than his proper share, he injures his partners and thereby injures himself. Government exists to secure the rights of property, and any arbitrary element in taxation is not only unwise and suicidal, but essentially unjust, for it is an attack upon and an infringement of the very rights which it is the business of Government to protect. An invariable sum of taxation would be unfair, either to the sovereign or the landowner, for the produit net varies with the seasons. The proper form of taxation is therefore a proportional share of the produit net. From each harvest must be set aside the whole costs of production, for these are the necessary elements of new wealth, and the surplus must be divided part to the landowner, part to the king. It must be collected direct, for if it be imposed upon commodities or upon persons, its equity and incidence cease to be evident and become arbitrary, which is its condemnation, to say nothing of the expense of collection, the taxation twice over (once when the material is produced and once when it is manufactured), and the fact that part of the taxes will fall upon the sovereign himself. Every vendor is a purchaser, and every purchaser a vendor. The liberty of individuals holds as well for external as for internal trade, and the different nations should be regarded by the economist as if they all formed part of one nation. International freedom of trade would enable each nation to pursue its greatest natural advantage; and it is the interest of a single nation to adopt this view, even though it be not adopted by other nations. Industry and commerce are in themselves unproductive. A weaver buys fifty francs' worth of material, works it up, and sells it for 200. He has, it is said, quadrupled its value; but this is not so. He has added to its original value an outside value,—that of 150 francs' worth of material which he has consumed in clothing, food, etc., while engaged on his work. Addition is not multiplication. If there were no one to take the finished product off his hands, this additional value would be irretrievably lost. But if I let you an acre of land for ten francs, you spend ten more in cultivation, and obtain a harvest of thirty francs, the acre returns you your rent and your expenses, and a surplus over and above. The r⊚le of industry and of commerce which makes values change hand, but does not multiply them, is thus narrowly restricted, and the main economic ideal of a nation is to maximise its net products.
Adam Smith remarks of the Éiconomistes that “in their works, which are very numerous, and which treat not only of what is properly called Political Economy, or of the nature and causes of the wealth of nations, but of every other branch of the system of civil government, all follow implicitly, and without any sensible variation, the doctrine of M. Quesnai. There is, upon this account, little variety in the greater part of their works.” And then he adds the statement, already referred to (p. 66 n.), that “the most distinct and best connected account of their doctrine” is given by Mercier de la Rivière. But La Riviere's book, which deals especially with the political side of their teaching, was not entirely accepted by some members of the school in its plea for an enlightened despotism. Mirabeau and Du Pont, Abeille and Morellet, for instance, while agreeing in the letter with most of these opinions, differed from them in spirit, and even, later on, in practice. As for Turgot, Mirabeau relates that Du Pont repeated to him Turgot's words when Du Pont was leaving for Poland: “I am not an encyclopædist, for I believe in God: I am not an économistes, for I should wish to have no king.”
We shall have some glimpses of other members of the school in later chapters; but space does not admit of any such detailed account of their lives and work as it has been thought best to give of the four chief writers of the school. Mention must, however, be made of the following works as among the most important not yet referred to.
The Abbé Baudeau's (1730–1792) chief service to the school consisted in his editing the Éphémérides and the Nouvelles Éphémérides, to which he contributed largely. His Premiàre introduction e la philosophic économique ou analyse des États policés, Paris, 1771, deserves special attention among his separate writings, and has been reprinted in the collection of Daire.
Le Trosne (1728–1780), a lawyer of ability and a distinguished pupil of Pothier, is best known by a work in two volumes, the first entitled De l'ordre social, and the second De l'intérêt social, 8vo, Paris, 1777 a clear and methodical exposition of the physiocratic system. Turgot distributed broadcast throughout his province in 1765, Le Trosne's La Liberté du Commerce des Grains, toujours utile et jamais nuisible, with a covering memorandum in which he gives it the highest praise.
Saint-Péravy (1732–1789) is remembered chiefly for his Méemoire sur les effets de l'impôt indirect sur le revenu des proprietaires de biens fonds, qui a remportfé le prix proposé par la sociééé royale d'agriculture de Limoges en 1767, 1768, 12mo, Londres et Paris, which owes its fame in part to the Observations sur la mémoire de M. Saint-Péravy of Turgot, the president of the society, which he had himself founded in his province. The memoir supported the impôt unique.
Abeille (1719–1807), secretary of the Agricultural Society of Brittany, a contributor first to the Journal and then to the Éphémé'rides, wrote Lettres d'un négociant sur la nature du commerce des grains, Paris, 1763; Réflexions sur la police des grains en Angleterre et en France, Paris, 1764; Principes sur la liberté du commerce des grains, Paris, 1768; Faits qui ont influé sur la chertt des grains en France et en Angleterre, Paris, 1768, and other pamphlets, besides editing the Observations of his society. He became inspector-general of manufactures in 1768, deserted the school, and became “anti-liberal.” He had long been jealous of Quesnay's fondness for Du Pont.1
The Abbé Roubaud (1730–1789) at one time edited the Journal, and later the Gazette du Commerce, in a physiocratic spirit, until it was, at Turgot's expense, and at the commencement of his ministry, amalgamated with Baudeau's Nouvelles Éphémé'rides. His Recreations /conomiques, Amsterdam and Paris, 1770, attempted to refute the Dialogues of Galiani.1 He contributed to the Éphémé, and was exiled from Paris by Maurepas on Turgot's fall in 1776, like Du Pont and Baudeau. A jesting contemporary compared the sound of the names of the chief Physiocrats to that of a pack of hounds,—Mirabeau, Turgot, Baudeau, Roubaud!
If we add the agricultural writers, H. Patullo, Essai sur l'amelioration des Terres, 1759, and the Marquis de Turbilly, Mémoire sur les défrichements, 1760, to the authors mentioned in the next chapter, we have a tolerably complete list of Quesnay's disciples.
La Mirabeau, vol. i. p. 335.
The Physiocrats pretended that Quesnay resembled Socrates in personal appearance. A lady-in-waiting to Mme. de Pompadour, Mme. da Hausset, whose Mémoires furnish some biographical details of the doctor, respected his probity and his learning (which she did not understand), but irreverently calls him a monkey-face!
The speech, which was printed in the Nouvelles Éphémérides, 1775, vol. i., may be read in Oncken's Quesnay, pp. 1 sqq. Another éloge of Quesnay was published in vol. v. the same year, by the Comte d'Albon.
He says of Quesnay, “I, like posterity, owe everything to him. He owes me nothing but his repute.” And de Lomenie justly adds, “In effect he did owe it to Mirabeau.”
Du Pont says by Quesnay, Éphémérides, 1768, vol. ii. p. 191. Daire says by Quesnay and Marivelt, Physiocrates, vol. ii, p. 340.
His father had lost 200,000 livres in the “system” of Law, and he always held financiers in abhorrence.
Quesnay's article “Grains” had put the number at 16,000,000; see p. 34 supra. Mirabeau probably here makes aconcession to Messance, whose Recherches sur la population, 1766, was designed to refute L'Ami des Hommes, so far as it alleged depopulation.
See p. 20 supra.
She had little sympathy with Mirabeau himself, but was much attached to Quesnay, who had twice saved her life.
Du Pont de Nemours et l'École physiocratique, par G. Schelle, Paris, 1888, 8vo, p. 25.
See p. 45, supra.
According to Schelle. De Lomenie tells us it was due to Morellet.
But cf. post, p. 81, probably a more accurate account.
As a representative of Nemours. There was another Du Pont in the Assembly. This led to his being distinguished as Du Pont de Nemours. He acted for some time as President of the Assembly.
The title of this volume, designed to indicate “government in consonance with nature,” is accountable for the name Physiocrats which J. B. Say conferred upon the school, known to their contemporaries as Économistes. Du Pont has long been regarded as the inventor of the title, but there is more reason for the belief that it was due to Quesnay.
It was really an endeavour to present to the public at Diderot's suggestion a succinct account of Mercier de la Rivière's Ordre naturel et essentiel des sociétés politiques, 1767, 1 vol. 4to, 3 vols. 12mo. M. Schelle imagines that Adam Smith may have mistaken it for the larger treatise, which he calls “a little book.” Adam Smith was, however, too well acquainted with the Physiocrats to make a mistake of this kind; and we know that he possessed the work of Mercier de la Rivière himself. See Economic Journal, vol. iv. p. 706 (Dec. 1894).
He translated Child and Culpeper into French. See supra, p. 15.
See Professor Oncken's Die Maximes Laissez-faire et Laissez-passer, ihr Ursprung, ihr Werden, Berne, 1886. The erudite professor of history, Lord Acton, in his introductory lecture at the University of Cambridge, refers to “the economic precept Laissez-faire, which the eighteenth century derived from Colbert” (The Study of History, 1895, p. 30), and quotes from the Comptes rendus de l'Institut, vol. xxxix. p. 93, in support of this statement; but, as stated above, the phrase was really a remonstrance against the settled policy of Colbert, which was, except for the aim at economic unification of the nation, directly opposed to this precept.
Mr. John Rae has misunderstood the significance of this statement in his Life of Adam Smith, p. 218.
Les Physiocrates, vol. ii. pp. 429, 430.
See p. 101, post.
See Schelle, p. 24, note.
See post, p. 117.