Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE SISTER DOCTRINES - Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
THE SISTER DOCTRINES - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE SISTER DOCTRINES
December 17, 1836.
The fanciful parallel which we drew between democracy and political economy, in the first number of this paper has provoked a writer in one of the morning prints to bestow upon us a whole column of animadversions. The points which have particularly excited his indignation, if we may judge from his use of italicks, are, our having spoken of democracy and political economy as twin sisters, pursuing a parallel direction, for the accomplishment of kindred objects; and as both alike considering the people the only proper source of government, and their equal protection its only proper end. We confess the sin of having been rather more figurative in the passage which has given umbrage than is our wont; and shall do penance by using only the soberest expressions in our present article; since it is hardly suitable to mystify so grave a subject with “the sweet smoke of rhetorick,” to borrow the phrase of an old English writer.
The critick who querulously assails our positions with regard to the nature and objects of political economy, fortifies himself by citing some sentences from Say, which he unfairly interpolates, however, with parenthetical commentaries of his own, giving them a degree of meaning which, had they been honestly quoted, they would not have expressed. But there is one passage, in the introductory advertisement of the very edition of Say from which he copied his extracts, that he seems wholly to have overlooked. Speaking of the prospects of economick science in America, that writer says, “Where should we expect sound doctrines to be better received, than amongst a nation which supports and illustrates the value of free principles by the most striking examples. The old states of Europe are cankered with prejudices and bad habits: it is America will teach them the height of prosperity which may be reached, when governments follow the counsels of reason, and do not cost too much.”
Dugald Stewart, a writer of at least equal authority with Say, in numerous passages expresses his conviction that the same maxims which constitute the fundamental doctrines of political economy, should also be the guiding principles of political government. “Laissez non faire,” he says, and “Pas trop gouverner” comprise, in a few words, the most important lessons of political wisdom. It will hardly be denied that these sentiments are thoroughly democratick. Adam Smith, also, a writer whose opinions have generally been considered as entitled to some respect, contends, in different places, that the same principles which constitute the foundation on which the whole science of political economy rests, furnish, also, the proper basis of political government. In a passage which is quoted by Stewart in his memoir of the author of the Wealth of Nations, that great writer says, “Man is generally considered by statesmen and projectors as the materials of a sort of political mechanicks. Projectors disturb nature in the course of her operations with human affairs, and it requires no more than to let her alone, and give her fair play in the pursuit of her ends, that she may establish her own designs.” And again, “Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things. All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and to support themselves are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.”
These sentiments, according to our view, comprise the essence of both democratick and economick theory. The advantages which modern policy, says Dugald Stewart, “possesses over the ancient, arise principally from its conformity, in some of the most important articles of political economy to an order of things recommended by nature; and it would not be difficult to show that where it remains imperfect, its errours may be traced to the restraints it imposes on the natural course of human affairs.” We might extend this article to a much greater length by similar extracts from various other writers of high repute; but we have adduced sufficient authority for the views we expressed as to the coincidence of democracy and political economy, in their fundamental principles, and in their ultimate ends. They are both for the largest liberty, within the bounds of social order; both are equally opposed to all special privileges and immunities; and both would leave men to manage their own affairs, in their own way, so that they did not invade each others natural rights.