Life & Works of Richard Cantillon by Henry Higgs

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Source: Appendix to Cantillon's Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, edited with an English translation and other material by Henry Higgs, C.B. Reissued for The Royal Economic Society by Frank Cass and Co., LTD., London. 1959.

Life and Work of Richard Cantillon, by Henry Higgs



Half a century has elapsed since Jevons revealed his discovery of Richard Cantillon. A discovery it was, as truly as when an explorer unearths a statue silted over by the sands of time, puts it upon a fitting pedestal, and is the first to give its full, correct description. The Contemporary article did not mark the end of his interest in the Cantillon mystery. What has become of Cantillon's manuscripts? Who succeeded to his property? Is the English essay, the Supplement, the French manuscript still in existence? It was perhaps with these questions in mind that he went to Somerset House and examined the wills of Richard and Philip Cantillon.17 He must have found there that Richard Cantillon was engaged in numerous lawsuits, and Jevons was not the sort of man to leave a clue of this kind neglected. But before he could follow it up his life was ended by untimely accident on 13 August 1882.

Little more was heard of Cantillon until the formation of the Royal Economic Society. The first number of the Economic Journal appeared in 1891 and contained a learned article by Dr William Cunningham on "The Progress of Economic Doctrine in England in the Eighteenth Century," ranging over the period 1688-1776 and naming a great number of writers but making no mention of Cantillon or his work. It seemed as if Cantillon were once more forgotten and that Jevons had written in vain. One who had not forgotten either Cantillon or Jevons was Professor Foxwell. In his lectures, which I attended from 1885 to 1887, he laid stress upon the importance of the Essai and referred to Jevons's article, and it was with his encouragement and aid that I endeavoured to discover some further information about Cantillon. Researches at Somerset House, the British Museum, the Public Record Office in London, and the Archives Nationales and Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris brought to light a mass of documents which served as the basis of an article on Richard Cantillon in the first volume of the Economic Journal (pp. 262-291). This appears to have aroused more interest. Professor C. F. Dunbar of Harvard University consulted me as to a reprint of the Essai and invited me to write a prefatory note to it and an article on "Cantillon's Place in Economics" for the Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics.18 No new facts about his life have since appeared. M. Espinas devoted serious attention to Cantillon in his Histoire des Doctrines Economiques, Paris, 1891 (pp. 179-197). M. Robert Legrand wrote a doctor's thesis on Richard Cantillon, Paris, 1900, which contains nothing original.19 In their Histoire des Doctrines Économiques, Paris, 5th ed., 1926, p. 53, Professors Gide and Rist say: "Ce Richard Cantillon, dont personne n'avait parlé pendant plus d'un siècle, est redevenu fort à la mode." The references of various writers since 1891 are too numerous to mention. The first volume of the Economic Journal is now out of print and scarce. The gist of the article of 1891 is now reproduced with some revision and additions.

Nothing supports the surmise of Jevons that the Cantillons were of Spanish origin.20

Among the manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris is a draft or copy of a letter21 to our author from James Terry, Athlone Herald under James II, dated Versailles, 24 February 1724 addressed to Mr Richard Cantilon [sic], London: "I am sorry you sent to Mr Hocking for Ireland for your Genealogie, when you were sincible yt I came over with the late Deceased King, and then brought with me his records of that Kingdo. I writt to Capt. Commerford that the first of your family that Landed at the Conquest with King Henry the Second was Hugh Cantillon, and those of your family that cam in to England with William the Conqueror as also those of the same who went with Godfroy of Boulion to ye Conquest of the holly Land, the armes I past your Cosen Sir Richard are not of your family they are a branch who changed and would have a Lizard how that mistack cam I cant remember for your the chife of the name father and son for a longe continuance to this Day. I did advise Mr Commerford that you should joyne your Seconds [i.e. Wife's] Genealogie to it I meane the O Mohoneys...." Other genealogical material is abundant but conflicting. In the Revue Historique de la Noblesse, Paris, 1841, 8vo, t. III. pp. 28 seq. is a Notice historique, généalogique et biographique de la Famille de Cantillon (B.M. Press Mark PP 3822). This is a well-documented account with the family arms and was reproduced the same year (with additions from J. Burke's Heraldic Illustrations) par le chevalier O'S, Gentilhomme Irlandais, Paris, 8 pp. 8vo. We are told that the family long held Ballyhigue Castle, and the peasants shew the ancient burial place of the Cantillons on an islet visible at low water on the Kerry coast. They adhered staunchly to the Stuarts with whom they were allied. Roger, sixth baron of Ballyhigue married Elizabeth Stuart in 1536. Coming to the seventeenth century we find mention of one Richard Cantillon who went to France in the suite of James II, fought at Boyne in command of a company of dragoons, was wounded, and later was made "Chevalier de la facon du Prétendant."22 In the dossier quoted above is his receipt for 107 livres for silk supplied to Catherine Trant, daughter of James Terry, dated Paris, 11 July 1695, "att ye nine Rattes, Rue St Honoré." Later we find him busy as a banker in the Rue de l'Arbre Sec, Paris. A number of documents testify to his various activities. On his death on 5 August 1717, he was found to be insolvent, assets 68,200 livres, liabilities 310,000 livres. The trustees, as we should call them, under his bankruptcy had paid off about 25 per cent. of his debts when our Richard Cantillon enters on the scene. According to a signed statement filed by the trustees, Richard Cantillon, junior, himself one of the largest creditors, generously paid the remaining three-quarters, moved thereto only by the desire to honour the memory of one whose name he bore.23

Richard Cantillon the economist, according to the Revue historique a first cousin of the Chevalier, was probably born between 1680 and 1690. He married in 172224 Mary Anne Mahony, daughter of Daniel Mahony, a rich merchant of Paris. Her mother was Lady Clare, widow of Charles O'Brien who, but for the attainder, was Viscount Clare. He escorted the consort of James II to Paris, and died of wounds received at Ramillies. The French writers refer to Daniel as Ommani, which Mr H. R. Tedder erroneously conjectured to stand for Ommaney25 but is obviously a Gallicised form of O'Mahony. Whether or not our author was at first a banker in London, as is sometimes asserted, is doubtful. He may have acted there as agent for Sir Richard's Paris house. But on 18 May 1724 he swore an affidavit in the suit Hughes v. Moore (Chancery Proceedings, 1441, in the Record Office) in which he "admits that he is a naturall born subject of the Crown of Great Britain, and did for severall years carry on the Business of a Banker in the Citty of Paris until about the beginning of the month of August in the year 1719, and about that time left off the Trade or Business of a Banquer—and settled Mr Edmund Loftus & Company in this Defendant's house at Paris to manage the Trade and Business of Bankers there, and this Defendant was no otherwise concerned with them in the said House than as comandite thereof... And after... this Defendant went into Italy and returned from thence to Paris in... February 1720 N.S. and having reason to be dissatisfied with the management... disengaged himself from his said stipulations" and thereupon "did settle a Partnership as Bankers... between Richard Cantillon the younger, who is this Defendant's nephew, about 4 years old at that time, and John Hughes" who had "been before that time a Banker in London." Cantillon found the whole capital, 50,000 livres tournois, and was to have two-thirds of the profits, Hughes one-third and the nephew only what his uncle allowed him. The partnership was to pay Cantillon 1200 livres a year for the front of his house, Château La Samaritaine, Rue de la Monnoye, Paris, Cantillon reserving part of the back for himself. The partnership was for twenty years but might be determined at any time at Cantillon's pleasure. He was to have supreme authority, but not to be liable for any losses beyond his 50,000 livres, being only comandite "which is known to all Merchants and Traders in Foreign parts to be a person who erects and fixes a House in business which he is supposed to encourage and support without his name being concerned in the said House or being himself liable to any transactions therein, the private stipulations between the comandite and the said House being quite separate from the Credit or currency of business of the said House."

This is confirmed by a printed document forming the case of Richard Cantillon, marchand mercier à Paris, before the Parlement criminel, entitled "Mémoire pour Richard Cantillon intimé et appelant. A Paris, chez André Knapen, au bas du Pont Saint Michel, au Bon Protecteur, 1730. 18 pp. folio."26 He was attacked by the brothers Jean and Remi Carol, bankers at Paris, for having practised "l'usure la plus énorme," and taking flight to England leaving Hughes embarrassed by his creditors. They say "ce Richard Cantillon, qui se dit aujourd'hui gentilhomme irlandais, s'était dit natif de Cherbourg en Normandie, dans une lettre de marchand mercier qu'il avait prise en 1716." They accuse him of defrauding them, and on one of his visits to Paris had him arrested and imprisoned in the Châtelet on 11 November 1729. He was released the next day but on their representing that he was a foreigner and might leave the country he was again imprisoned in the Conciergerie but obtained an early discharge.27 The Mémoire for Cantillon says: "Le Sieur Cantillon, Irlandais d'origine, vint s'établir en France en 1716. Il y forma un commerce public de banque, qui en peu de temps devint assez florissant. Le fameux système qui commença à se developper en 1719, ne le seduisit pas comme beaucoup d'autres, il crut au contraire devoir se mettre à l'abri de l'orage qu'il prévoyait: c'est ce qui l'engagea à renoncer au commerce dans lequel il voyait trop de dangers. Il renferma tous ses papiers dans un coffre qu'il confia aux Benedictins Anglois et partit pour l'Italie apres avoir procuré ses correspondances à un nommé Loftus avec qui il forma une simple société en commandite le 31 juillet 1719."

Grimm's account of him in 1755, to which Jevons refers (p. 336, ante), is the basis of the article in the Biographie Générale. Its general accuracy is confirmed by references in Cantillon's correspondence28 to the Princesse d'Auvergne and to John Law. In one of his letters he says (Paris, 21 June 1730): "I find that if I had remained here from the beginning of Hughes's Partnership (which you know the Minister of the Scheme [i.e. Law] made dangerous for me to do) I never should have had any of these Lawsuits." The animosity of Law was due not only to Cantillon's outspoken distrust of his scheme and to his bearing of the Stock, but also to his Exchange operations, as Cantillon remitted largely to England and Amsterdam and profited greatly by the fluctuations in the currency, which he foresaw. Lady Mary Herbert, daughter of Earl Powis, was one of his clients and an intrepid speculator for the rise in Mississippi stock. She "pyramided" her purchases by depositing shares as cover for advances to buy more. Her brother Lord Montgomery, her husband Joseph Gage, and her aunt Viscountess Carrington followed suit, though Cantillon says he advised them all (so far as was safe and prudent for a person then to do in France) to sell out as the Actions must fall. He describes Lady Mary and Lady Carrington as his friends. Lady Carrington says Cantillon "sold out all his French India stock and other papers at a great price and remitted to England and Holland whereby he made a great Estate." The Carols, like other bankers, caught the infection. They were partly influenced in their operations by an Arrêt of 11 March 1720 which ordered a gradual revaluation of the French crown so that it should be worth about 50 pence at the end of the year.29 The Herberts say they thought the Arrêt would have its intended effect, but they produced a letter from Cantillon to Hughes dated London, 29 April 1720, which shews that he predicted the crown would not be worth more than about 28 pence, and advised an advance only of 18 pence upon its security. The main charge against him in the various lawsuits was that he had no right to sell the shares deposited with him and that the profits he made thereby were due to the depositors. His reply to this was that the shares were not numbered or earmarked and that he was always able and willing to supply shares on demand. A charge of usury "for a difference in exchange ( a place where exchange in that very month carried about 30 per cent.) for six to eight months," he considered absurd. As to his remittances to countries outside France "there was no declaration against it" and he is "surprised Mr L. [John Law] should say they were declared enemies who remitted." The sums involved were very large. He obtained judgment in the Court of Exchequer for over £40,000 from Lord Montgomery, sued Lady Carrington upon her note of hand for £20,000, and Gage for about £10,000. He also succeeded in the suit brought by the Carols to whom he had advanced 35,000 florins on the 20th March 1720 against their bill on Amsterdam for 41,000 florins payable at eight months. He seems to have had good answers to all his opponents. How heavily the imprudent bankers suffered by the "crying up and down" of the currency may be gathered from Postlethwayt's statement30 that out of about 200 bankers in Paris in 1715 only three or four survived the "diminutions" of the crown. Their losses were probably very heavy in 1720 and much of them went into Cantillon's pocket. The passages in Part III, chapter V, of the Essai are an interesting commentary upon his actual experience.

A document31 which has recently come to light in the Record Office throws a clear light upon one of the Herbert transactions. Lady Mary Caryll (née Herbert, but now a second time a widow) suing one Strickland, in Chancery, the defendant's reply contains (though its relevance to the case is not clear) a letter from her dated Seville, 6 October 1730, which she had addressed to the Court stating that on the 20th February 1720 she borrowed of Cantillon and Hughes £10,000 on a bill for 3 months payable in London, which was discounted at the Bank of England a few days later. Hughes asked for security and she handed him 800 primes of French India actions, then worth £30,000. In May these would have fetched £22,000, in June about £12,000, but later fell almost to nothing. In April following the first loan she borrowed a further £12,000 against a bill on Lord Montgomery for £18,665, which she says is 55 per cent. interest for 9 months. She adds Cantillon might have been content with this 55 per cent. without robbing her of the other half, but as her securities were sold at once he was really lending her her own money and had besides the interest on the money so long in his hands, altogether wronging her of nearly £76,000, which "must make Cantillon appear very black." It is easy to imagine how Cantillon would have answered this. His great financial coup was made prior to his setting up the firm of Cantillon and Hughes. His cashier says he drew a profit of 2½ millions out of his business in a few days. In the single year, March 1719/20 to March 1720/21 the books of his cousin, Martin Harrold, a London banker, shew payments of over a million to his account filed in the Court by Harrold.

John Hughes died suddenly in Paris on 9 June 1723, and his widow Esther Hughes sued Cantillon for an account of the sums due to her husband as a partner in the firm. She had communicated to the Herberts some letters from Cantillon to Hughes in one of which Cantillon says: "You remember upon our first broaching these schemes you were content to stand in the Gap.... If the affair of Lady Mary was to be carried against us... there is no medium but your flying or going to Prison.... It will be your own interest to take an imprisonement of a twelve month rather than see all our schemes pulled to pieces; for, by standing the Tack, you have a maintenance secured to your Family; and if all were turned the other way you would be in an ordinary condition." After his release "the reinstating your house in Business... would be still practicable and easy." The Herberts say that "the schemes mentioned... were to lend money to severall persons upon French India Actions, and to take high premiums or advanced prices on French crowns, and to sell out such Actions, and to remit the produce thereof into Foreign countries in order to turn the same into Sterling money for their own profit, and after the bills and notes... taken from persons with whom they dealt in that manner should become payable... to oblige such persons to pay the whole money thereon, and not to disclose that they had sold the said Actions and raised anything thereby." They allege that "the said pretended Partnership between the infant Cantillon and Hughes" was "a Skreen" and established "on Pre-meditated Fraud"—Hughes, a man of straw, to go to prison if the scheme turned out badly, and so avoid the financial consequences, Cantillon senior to make a fortune if things "turned the other way."

Esther Hughes, on the contrary, pleads that there was a true partnership though Cantillon dominated it, that he entered into large transactions which he claimed to be on his private account when they were successful, notably a highly profitable purchase of copper for about 4 millions of livres from John Colebrook in 1720. When there was a bad stroke of business, such as an advance of £20,000 to Wm. Law, brother of John Law, which there seemed to be no hope of recovering, he caused the amount to be entered in the account of the partnership. Cantillon traverses these allegations and says that the partnership still owed him over £10,000. Mrs Hughes asked for a writ ne exeat regno to which Cantillon filed an answer (18 May 1724) that "for some years last past, since he had resided in London, he had gone beyond sea, whither his business or his inclination invited him and returned again to London. Necessary business called him abroad in the spring of 1724, and he had intended to take his wife with him to Naples and some other places in Italy... and return again to London to reside." Cantillon deposited in court sufficient security to meet the claim, and in 1726 (when the office of Assistant Paymaster General of the Supreme Court was created) one of the Masters in Chancery lodged with the Pay Office £3,450 in South Sea Bonds and £209. 5s. 0d. cash (apparently accrued interest) in the suit of Hughes v. Cantillon. Mrs Hughes found it difficult to press her suit, her witnesses being abroad, and on the 27th October 1726 an amount of £300 cash in respect of interest was paid out, on Cantillon's application, to his Solicitors. On the death of Mrs Hughes her son and administrator John Hughes kept the action alive until 1752 when the Countess of Stafford successfully appealed for its dismissal.32 £4,095 South Sea Annuities and £1,838 cash were ordered to be paid out to her from the accumulated fund. Cantillon appears therefore to have triumphed in the Courts over all his opponents. The evidence in this suit gives the date of the Countess's birth as October 1728.

In 1726 the family started upon its travels. Cantillon wrote frequently to his friend Garvan, who quotes several letters but refrains from putting others on the record as they "are so full of scandal." The letters are dated from Nampon, near Abbeville, Paris (his first visit to that city for nearly six years), Rotterdam, Brussels, and Cologne in 1726, Verona, Chambéry, Geneva, and Paris in 1728, Paris in 1729, 1730 and 1731, Brussels, Paris and Utrecht 1733.

The registers of St Paul's, Covent Garden, have been searched in vain for an entry relating to Cantillon, but the rate books of the City of Westminster shew that after the middle of 1721 he occupied one of four large houses forming the Piazza and continued to be so rated till 1729. The rate books from 1730 to 1732 are missing, but he no longer appears in 1733. His neighbours in the Piazza were the Earl of Orford, Sir Harry Ashurst and Mr E. Gouge (? his friend Edmund Gough). The Piazza houses were destroyed and replaced by the New Playhouse, or Covent Garden Theatre, which is rated in lieu of them in 1735. His name does not appear in the rate book for Albemarle Street. The house in which he died is rated to E. Cook, Esq., on 15 April 1734 and is marked "Empty" by the collector, probably after the fire. But it seems clear that Cantillon had only recently entered into occupation of it at the time of his death and that most of his servants were newly engaged.

On Monday, 13 May 1734, Cantillon was busy in London with his friend Francis Garvan at his chambers in the Middle Temple and others in the City. His coachman deposed that "he was out with his master at the Temple and other places all Day, and particularly at a house in Queen Square, Westminster, where he supp'd, and set him down at his own Door at 10 at Night." His valet gave evidence that "he let his Master in last Night about Eleven a clock who undrest himself in the Parlour as usual; took his Candle and Book, and went up to Bed soon after; and told this Examinant he would read." It was his usual practice to read for three hours or so in bed. About half past three on Tuesday morning his house in Albemarle Street on the east side between Viscount St John's and Mr Percival's was seen to be on fire. Lady Penelope Compton, who lived "the other side of the way," writing on 14 May, says33 "it burnt very feirce two houses intirely down before they could get any water." There were three menservants and two maids in the family but Cantillon was the only victim, and it was soon evident that he had been murdered before the house was set on fire. His body was burned to ashes. The Journals for 6 June 1734 say: "Yesterday the refiners finished their search into the ashes of the late Mr Cantillon's house, when no plate, money, or jewels had been found; an undeniable circumstance of a robbery previous to the burning of the house. His widow arrived here last night from Paris." She is said to be "near her time." The servants were arrested and tried for murder at the Old Bailey but acquitted after five hours' trial.34 The assassin appears to have been a Frenchman, one Joseph Denier, alias Lebane, who had been his cook for eleven years but was dismissed about ten days before the murder. He is said to have got into the house by a ladder at the back. He fled to Harwich, to embark for Holland, and the packet not being ready to sail gave eight guineas to a fisherman to carry him over, and so escaped capture.

Cantillon's Will dated 12 July 1732 was proved on 21 May 1735 by Francis Garvan his surviving executor.35 It was not witnessed, but on 21 January 1734/5 "appeared personally Marie Anne Cantillon of the Parish of St Paul, Covent Garden, Widow, Henry Ffurnese of the Parish of St George's Hanover Square Esquire, and Philip Cantillon of the Parish of St Peter le Poer, London, Merchant, and severally made oath that they well knew Richard Cantillon late of the Parish of St George's Hanover Square, and had often seen him write and knew his handwriting and that the will and signature were written by him." After providing for his wife he leaves legacies and annuities to his niece Catherine, his brothers Thomas and Bernard, his nephews Richard and Thomas, and his executors Francis Garvan and Joseph Lord Viscount Micklethwait, the latter of whom predeceased him. The remainder was left to his daughter Henrietta "...and that she shall be married in England by the approbation and advice of my executors... and in default of her or her issue the remainder to be divided between my nephews Richard and Thomas Cantillon moitively."

That the will was not proved earlier was due to the reluctance of Garvan to undertake its execution owing to the intricacy of the affairs and pending lawsuits. He endeavoured to get letters of administration with the will annexed granted to the widow. These efforts were frustrated by the opposition of legatees and creditors and a private Act was passed, 8 Geo. II, c. 10, empowering Garvan to settle outstanding demands upon the estate without legal proceedings.36 This however was not the end. In 1736 our ambassador in Holland, the Rt Hon. Horatio Walpole, "acquainted the Rt Hon. the Earl of Scarborough that the Governor or Resident of Surinam had thence sent advice to Holland of several papers having there been found relative to the affairs of Richard Cantillon and supposed to have been carried thither by one of the Assassins and Robbers of the said Richard Cantillon amongst which was described to be a codicillary or testamentary disposition together with an inventory of all his effects." Garvan feared this later will would render the Act of Parliament "a meer nullity," so he refused to act further (see Bill of Henrietta Cantillon by Philip Cantillon, her next friend, v. Francis Garvan). In this will dated London, 11 April 1734, Wm. Sloper and Garvan were named executors. Both renounced, and the will of 1732 was set aside and administration with the will of 1734 annexed was granted on 6 July 173737 to the widow and her second husband, the Honble Francis Bulkeley, a nephew of Lady Clare.

The will, parts of which are illegible in the original, was quoted so far as possible in the Bill of Lord Stafford (Chancery Proceedings 1714-50) filed in 1743. He had married Cantillon's daughter and on her behalf prayed for an account from the Bulkeleys. The will mentions the same legatees, substituting Win. Sloper for Lord Micklethwait, and leaves the widow a house in France, "her native country." Some details are given of Cantillon's fortune. He had large sums in the hands of bankers in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna, and Cadiz, an estate at Pinchbeck in Lincolnshire, a house in Paris, one at Asnières, an annuity of £1000 a year on the Barbados customs revenue ("cost me £17,000"), "Panama Lacos £600," an Estate in Louisiana, other annuities, and judgment debtors, among them Lady Carrington £20,000 and Wm. Law (brother of John Law) £20,000. The inventory made by him in 1734 is said to be incomplete. It shews particular items amounting to £47,810 and 136,400 livres, probably a very small part of his fortune.

The Bulkeleys left the estate unadministered and administration was granted to Lord Stafford in 1743; on his death to Henrietta, his widow in 1751; on her death to Robert Maxwell, Lord Farnham, her second husband, on 9 December 1761; and to their daughter Lady Henrietta Daly (née Maxwell), Cantillon's granddaughter, on 8 December 1783.


On 14 July 1733 Philip Cantillon married Rebecca, eldest daughter of Wm Newland of Gatton, co. Surrey. In the marriage settlement he is described as "of the City of London, merchant, eldest son and heir apparent of James Cantillon of the City of Limerick Esq." He was a director of the London Assurance Company and carried on business as early as 1725 in Warnford Court with David Cantillon. In a Bill of 1730 he and David are described as "Co-partners in the Banking business." He was made bankrupt on 13 April 1743. In another Bill of 7 May 1753 Philip Cantillon and Thomas Mannock of London are described as Policy Brokers or Insurance Office Keepers and co-partners in a suit against the London Assurance and one Fitzgerald. In a Bill by his wife to secure her separate property it is recited that he had no issue male but two daughters, Rebecca and Elizabeth (24 March 1755). According to the Revue Historique his daughter Elizabeth married the Chevalier O'Sullivan, avocat général au Conseil suprème de Brabant, whose son Baron O'Sullivan, ambassador to Austria 1844, may possibly be the O'S. of the Revue Historique.38

Philip's will, dated 18 October 1766, was proved on 5 January 1773.39 He seems to have had little to leave. After describing himself as "an unworthy member of the Catholick Church" and observing that his daughters are well provided for in their mother's settlement, he leaves a small legacy to a manservant and the rest of his effects to his executor, Mr Stephen Dillon. He desires to be buried with as little expense as is decent, and when he made his will was apparently a poor old widower without occupation.

As Philip is not included in Richard's will which provided for brothers and nephews, and is vaguely alluded to in one of the legal documents as "a near relation" of Richard, he was probably a first cousin. His acting as next friend to the daughter in her lawsuit against Garvan and his offer of £200 for the discovery of Cantillon's murderer may be due to the absence of nearer relatives in Ireland or overseas. In this action certain papers of Cantillon are claimed from Garvan, and it seemed possible that the English manuscript of the Essay might have been among them, and that Philip used this for the Analysis (see p. 333 ante). But I am now inclined to think that Philip had nothing more than the French print before him and that his title-page merely means that he had consulted this, which was "from a MS. of a very ingenious gentleman deceased." Jevons seems to have thought that the word "late" in the title of the Analysis meant that Philip was himself "the deceased gentleman," but it simply means that Philip, having become bankrupt, had for the time at least ceased to be "of the City of London, merchant."

The Analysis mutilates the Essai badly, omits large portions, alters others, and is padded with additions from Locke, Hume and other writers and with Philip's own feeble literary flights, which are totally unlike anything Richard could have written. He says (p. 85), "If these Essays have the good Fortune to merit the Approbation of the Public, I propose from a Number of Calculations by me, Collected from a Course of many years Experience, to publish a small Treatise of Arithmetic...." Possibly this passage weighed with Jevons when he said that Philip "must have been a wretched literary hack." The Record Office contains many papers relative to Philip's various lawsuits, but they are not relevant to our purpose. Collation of the Analysis with the Essai has proved unfruitful.

On p. 202 of the Analysis he writes feelingly about a decision in the Court of Common Pleas that the Drawer of a Foreign Bill of Exchange was liable to make good the amount though he had never received Notice by Proper Protests that his Bill had been dishonoured for Want of Acceptance and Payment, and although in an exactly similar case in the Court of King's Bench the Court and jury were of opinion that the Drawer of the Bill was discharged from any Obligation of reimbursing the same. This was probably a personal experience and may have conduced to his bankruptcy.


In his affidavit of 18 May 1724 (see p. 372, ante) Cantillon says that he proposed to go to Italy and return to London to reside "where he hath a House and a Family, and a son at Nurse near London." This son must have died young. His only surviving child in 1734 was his daughter Henrietta, born 1728. She married (5 July 1743) William Mathias Howard, third Earl of Stafford, who died in 1750. On 11 October 1759 she married Robert Maxwell, Baron Farnham, at St Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street, London,40 and died on 30 August 1761, leaving by her second husband one child, Lady Henrietta Maxwell, who married the Rt Hon. Denis Daly, 1783, and was mother of the first Lord Dunsandle. She survived till 1852. She brought into the Daly family a portrait of her grandmother, Mrs Richard Cantillon, by Largillière, the French artist, who had painted portraits of Charles II, James II, Charles Edward Stuart (in our National Portrait Gallery) and Cardinal Henry Stuart. The canvas is about 3 ft. 6 in. by 4 ft. 6 in., and is labelled Mary de Mahony (Madame de Cantillon). Writing to her sister, the Countess of Mar, in 1723, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu says, "If you please to send my nightgown to Mr Hughes, an English banquier at Paris, directed for Madame Cantillon, it will come safe to my hands; she is a new neighbour of mine, has a very handsome house in the village [? Asnières] and herself eclipses most of our London beauties; you know how fond we are of novelty, besides that she is really very pretty and does not want understanding, and I have a thousand commodities in her acquaintance."41 The recently published Letters of Montesquieu show that he was among her admirers. She appears to have spent most of her life before and after marriage in France.

Another portrait which Lady Henrietta Maxwell brought with her to Dunsandle is of Cantillon's daughter and heiress. This is by Allan Ramsay and is labelled Henrietta Diana, Countess of Stafford 1757. The canvas measures 2 ft. 5 in. by 3 ft. and represents the Countess in her twenty-ninth year, with powdered hair. Horace Walpole refers to her in his letters to Sir Horace Mann. On 25 April 1743 he says: "Lord Stafford is come over [to Paris] to marry Miss Cantillon, a vast fortune, of his own [Protestant] religion.... She is as ugly as he; but when she comes to Paris and wears a great deal of rouge, and a separate apartment, who knows but she may be a beauty!"42 His forecast seems to have been justified, as, describing a fête at Ranelagh, he writes (3 May 1749) that "Miss Evelyn, Miss Bishop, Lady Stafford, and Mrs Pitt, were in vast beauty."43 Walpole considered that Allan Ramsay excelled Reynolds as a painter of women. The first Lord Dunsandle, created Baron Dunsandle and Clanconal in the Peerage of Ireland, 1845, died in 1847 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Denis St George Daly, who died in 1892. His brother, Skeffington James Daly, the third Baron, died unmarried in 1892. The peerage became extinct when James Frederick Daly, fourth Lord Dunsandle, died unmarried in 1911. He was a son of the Hon. Robert Daly, youngest son of the first Baron.

The present owner of Dunsandle, Mr Denis Bowles Daly, by whose kind permission the portraits are reproduced, is a grandson of the second Lord Dunsandle and one of the few direct descendants of the great economist.

Before writing my article in 1891 I enquired of the Daly family but was informed that nothing more was known of the Cantillons than that a portrait of a Miss Cantillon was at Dunsandle. Mrs Bowes Daly has very kindly taken a deeper interest in the matter. Chests of old neglected documents going back to the sixteenth century have been examined by her, unfortunately without result.

The present Lord Farnham informs me that his family is very deficient of old records and that he has found nothing relating to the Cantillons. There seems therefore little hope of recovering any of Cantillon's manuscripts.


The mystery surrounding the publication of the Essai is not yet completely cleared up. Professor Foxwell has a copy at the end of which are 11 pages of "Catalogue des Livres qui se trouvent chez Barrois, Quai des Augustins, Paris," and included in this is "Essai sur la Nature du Commerce, par M. de C... in 12. 2l. 10s." As this is in the original binding it seems highly probable that Barrois was the publisher, but although a dozen copies of the Essai have passed through my hands I have not found this Catalogue in any other copy. The most illuminating reference to the matter is contained in the manuscripts of the Marquis de Mirabeau in the Archives Nationales, Paris.44 He says he had read a great number of recent works on industry and trade but found them lacking in precision of principle. At last there fell into his hands a rare manuscript, the only relic of the immense works of one of the ablest men Europe has produced. This man is M. Cantillon. He erases the name and continues, "I should have named him with pleasure... but I am assured that I should annoy his family." He says the Essai is the work of one of the leading men of genius in trade of this century. "Excessively active, his profound erudition embraced everything bearing on the subject. He foresaw the complete course of the famous system of Mr Law, and, compelled by circumstances to take part in it, he quitted the theatre of this astonishing revolution leaving his correspondent with orders in advance as to the different stages of the cycle which this catastrophe would run. This fact is not lightly stated. Its details have come out before one of the leading tribunals of Europe. Men like him knew how to keep clear of the crash of this colossal and frail edifice and to make good pickings from its ruins. It was easy for him to profit from the financial crisis which broke out almost simultaneously in nearly the whole of Europe, in Venice, Amsterdam and England. But, a genius at heart as well as in mind, he always looked upon gold as a slave and made wealth subservient to his tastes and curiosity, without thinking of acquiring it till there came to him some new fancy or some occasion to follow his leaning to generosity. Given over to occasional passions like all ardent souls, his chief were always independence and liberty. Cosmopolitan, or rather equally a citizen everywhere, he had houses in seven of the principal cities of Europe and the least knowledge to acquire or calculation to verify made him cross the Continent from one end to another. One of his friends told me that he found him one day at home in Paris in his dressing gown with Livy on his desk. 'I am going,' he said, 'to make a little trip. There has always been a blunder as to the value of the coins with which the Romans ransomed their city from the Gauls. One of these coins is in the collection of the Grand Duke and I am going to verify its weight and alloy.' At this moment the horses arrived and he took leave of my friend to get into the coach. In these voyages he made certain of everything, got out of his carriage to question a labourer in the field, judged the quality of the soil, tasted it, drew up his notes, and an accountant whom he always took with him put them in order when they stopped for the night. A mass of precious manuscripts perished with him by a remarkable and deplorable catastrophe. This fragment came into my hands by a kind of theft subsequently announced by the person for whom the translation was made." Against this glowing testimony to Cantillon's character must be set a letter from George Verdon, his former cashier, dated 11 June 1727, that he is "a Tyrant whom it would be more Justice and Charity to crush than to be the least usefull to." He was no doubt exacting in driving hard bargains.

Mirabeau says he could not keep so rare a manuscript to himself and proposed to publish it. But he was held back by its imperfection, as it lacked the Supplement whose statistics throw a physical light on its principles, and because it needed revision of expression. "This work was first written in English. Mr Cantillon [the name is again struck out and replaced by "The author"] translated it himself for the use of one of his intimate friends, and postponed the translation of the Supplement, which perished with his other papers.... He never intended that the work should appear in French and only translated it for a friend whose solidity of mind was known to him, so lie paid little attention to its phrasing."45 Mirabeau says the manuscript had been in his possession for sixteen years till he was compelled to restore it to its rightful owner, and it is from this manuscript that the Essai was printed. It is vain to speculate who this rightful owner and intimate friend of Cantillon was. In 1755 his wife had been dead for five or six years (see p. 337 ante). The social circle of the Cantillons was wide and distinguished.

To Jevons's allusion to Postlethwayt's embodiment of portions of the Essai in his Great Britain's True System, 1757, must now be added the interesting fact46 that as early as 1749, six years before the Essai appeared, Postlethwayt printed some 6000 words of the Essai in "A Dissertation on the Plan, Use and Importance of the Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce, translated from the French of... Mons. Savary with Additions. London, 1749, 4to." Pages 41 to the end of the book follow the Essai, pp. 298 seq., so closely that Postlethwayt must have had the English original before him, and I have little doubt that in Postlethwayt's version we have Cantillon's own language with little or no variation. He begins: "If the ladies of quality of Paris, for instance, are fond of Bruxells lace and consume of it yearly to the value of 100,000 oz. of silver...." The Essai, p. 298, runs "Si les Dames de Paris consomment, année commune, des dentelles de Bruxelles pour la valeur de cent mille onces d'argent...." The only copy of the French translation was at this time in the hands of Mirabeau, and Postlethwayt cannot have used it. Moreover an English translator would have needed an exceptional talent for the fine shades of language if he translated "les Dames de Paris" by "the ladies of quality of Paris" instead of merely saying "the Paris ladies." "Ladies of quality" is distinctive contemporary English adequately translated into French by the word "Dames" in 1730 though it might now, perhaps, be "grandes Dames," since in France as in England every woman is now a "lady." There are occasionally some small deviations from the turn of a phrase when we compare the two versions, but never from the sense. And it is not at all unlikely that Cantillon translated his original English into French somewhat freely. On p. 4 of the Essai "If a Prince at the head of an Army has conquered a Country..." is in Postlethwayt's version (s.v. Labour) "If a prince at the head of an army conquered France...," and Cantillon would naturally make this change to avoid wounding the susceptibilities of his French friend. The amazing thing is that in his Universal Dictionary (London, vol. I. 1751; vol. II. 1755, fol.) Postlethwayt embodies almost the whole substance of the Essai. Dr Cannan first lighted upon the parallel in the article "Labour," but apart from scattered coincidences I find large portions of the Essai in the following articles: "Arbitration in matters of the Foreign Exchange; Ballance of Trade [repeating verbatim the long extract referred to supra from "A Dissertation on the Plan," etc.], Banking, Barter, Britain, Cash, Circulation, Coin, Interest, Labour, Manure, Mines, and Money."

The present translation has been collated with these passages and made to conform to them so far as is justified. It probably goes near to a reconstruction of the English original. For the chief parallels see Appendix A.

The late Mr Tedder, librarian of the Athenaeum Club, clung to the belief that the English original was really printed by Fletcher Gyles. In a private letter he says we know that Gyles was publishing in Cantillon's lifetime. Why this particularity on the French title-page unless it was copied from an English original? The question might be asked why the Questions importantes sur le commerce, translated from Tucker, was issued in 1755 with the same imprint, "A Londres, Chez Fletcher Gyles, dans Holborn"? This translation is said to have been made by Turgot at the instigation of Gournay, and it is possible that Gournay persuaded the owner of the manuscript of the Essai to have it printed. It is incredible that the Essai if printed in English has entirely disappeared and that no writer or reviewer should have mentioned it.

In his Great Britain's True System, 1757, p. 154, Postlethwayt gives the equation between the value of the steel and of the hairspring of a watch as 1 to 1,538,460. Dr Cannan suggested in 1897 that Postlethwayt may have taken this from the Supplement, but it appears much more probable that he worked it out up to date for himself, and that the figure in the Supplement at least 23 years earlier approached the round million and did not exceed one and a half million. The point is discussed at greater length in an editorial note in the Economic Journal, vol. VI. p. 165. After Cantillon's death diligent search was made for the Supplement, but without success. It appears to have included a rudimentary study of workmen's budgets in the different countries of Europe which would have afforded interesting comparison with Le Play's great work, Les Ouvriers Européens, Paris, 1855, fol.

The return of Cantillon's papers from Surinam aroused a hope that they might contain some of his literary remains. The assassin huddled together a number of papers including the recently executed will of 1734 and some banknotes drawn out by Cantillon on the last day of his life. A gratuity of twenty guineas was recommended by our ambassador at The Hague as probably sufficient remuneration for the clerks of the Surinam Company for making copies of the originals before transferring "the bundle of papers" to him.47 This looks as if they were fairly voluminous. They were handed over to Garvan, who probably passed them to the Bulkeleys. After the murder the assassin's breeches pockets burst open at Mr Martin's, the French distiller, and several guineas fell out, but it is unlikely that he burdened himself with literary documents, and Mirabeau was probably speaking on good authority when he declared that the whole mass of them perished in the fire. We must except the copy used by Postlethwayt. If, as Mirabeau says in 1756, Cantillon's relations would have been annoyed by mention of his name it is fair to acquit Postlethwayt of plagiarism. He is, in fact, otherwise exceptionally conscientious and precise in his references and quotations, which are generous enough to make a respectable bibliography. Harris possibly drew upon the Dictionary and not upon the Essai direct.

In the article in the Economic Journal for 189148 I wrote, "Cantillon exercised so powerful an influence upon the best intellect of the time in his own department of knowledge that he may fairly be called, prior to Adam Smith, the economist's economist." It is presumably to this passage that Dr Cannan refers49 when he says, "Someone has called Cantillon 'the economist's economist,' meaning that his influence was on the leaders of thought rather than on the rank and file. In fact the Essay had several editions printed within a few years of 1755." If this suggests that it was widely read when it first appeared it is contrary to all evidence. Gournay "fit surtout lire beaucoup l'Essai... par Cantillon, ouvrage excellent qu'on négligeait," says Morellet.50 Mirabeau says the public was tired of Essays on Trade, and that the dry character of the Essai was doubtless the cause of the indifference with which a work of such rare merit was allowed to pass unnoticed in the crowd. The pirated editions of 1756 probably fell very flat. Copies of them are difficult to find to-day. On the other hand, it was praised or quoted by the fit, though few, writers of distinction who were not repelled by its dry, didactic character. For these see Appendix B.

Mirabeau proposed to write a book based on the Essai, revising its diction and adding a commentary of his own, but before he could complete his intention the manuscript was reclaimed by its rightful owner, who seems to have thought it better to have it printed as it stood. Mirabeau's proposed work then developed into L'Ami des Hommes, which caused a sensation in France, led to a meeting between Mirabeau and Quesnay and started the association between them which resulted in the foundation of the "sect" of the Economistes.51 The references to Cantillon in Part I were first pointed out to me by Professor Foxwell.

When Jevons wrote his article the Essai was almost inaccessible to readers. Now that it is made available it is unnecessary to quote largely from it or to abridge its argument. The reader may judge for himself. The change of attitude as regards the value of Cantillon's work may be shown by a few references. Marshall, perhaps reacting against Jevons, observed in the first edition of his Principles (p. 53 n.) that Cantillon "though acute, and in some respects ahead of his time, appears to be wanting in solidity." I had the temerity to ask him which of Cantillon's predecessors or contemporaries was equally solid and he replied that he had perhaps given insufficient attention to Cantillon and would make amends in his next edition, a promise duly redeemed. Professor Oncken, jealous for the reputation of Quesnay, says in his Geschichte der National Oekonomie52 that Cantillon was "merely a business man like Child and Ricardo. An originator in economic science he certainly was not." All this appreciation or depreciation of values is now changed. Professor Monroe prefaces the lengthy translations from the Essai in his Early Economic Thought, Boston, Mass., 1924, by the statement that Cantillon was "the greatest economist before Adam Smith." In his volume on Monetary Theory before Adam Smith, Boston, Mass., 1923, he quotes largely with approval from Parts II and III of the Essai and emphasises the ability and originality of Cantillon's contribution to the subject. Dr Cannan's Review of Economic Theory, 1929, is full of references to and extracts from the work of "that extraordinary genius, Cantillon" (p. 65) and says that the praise of Jevons is not in the least overdone (p. 20).

A word may be added as to the title. In Defoe's Plan of the English Commerce, 1728 (2nd ed. 1730) the opening chapter "Of Trade in General," says, "When 'tis particular to a Place, 'tis Trade; when general 'tis Commerce; when we speak of it as the Effect of Nature, 'tis Product or Produce; when as the Effect of Labour, 'tis Manufacture." If Philip Cantillon, who had probably seen or heard of the manuscript in Cantillon's lifetime, was not using Cantillon's own title when he called his book The Analysis of Trade, he was better inspired than in the rest of his work. It is this analytical mode of approach to economic problems which is the most strikingly original characteristic of Cantillon. He brushes Ethics and Politics aside as imperiously as a referee orders the seconds out of the ring before a prize fight. The isolation of the conception of material wealth which is claimed as one of the original merits of Adam Smith, is strikingly true of Cantillon. His theory of value is ably presented and serves as a backbone to his presentation of the resultant of economic forces in distribution and circulation.

After reading well over a thousand economic writings of earlier date than 1734 I would put Cantillon's analysis of the circulation of wealth, trite as it may now appear, on the same level of priority as Harvey's study of the circulation of the blood. So eminent an authority on the history of economic thought as Professor Gide claims for J. B. Say that he "first employed the well-chosen term Entrepreneur to designate that most important economic function of the man who collects in his hands the productive forces of capital—labour and natural agents".53 And again, J. B. Say "gave economic science its present form and its definitions... (e.g. the term 'Entrepreneur' which has been borrowed by most other languages)".54 Say's Traité appeared in 1803. It is unnecessary to point out that Cantillon anticipated him completely 70 years earlier, or to enlarge here upon the fact that Cantillon's honourable place in the history of economic thought is now definitely and finally assured.55


[17.]Letters and Journals of W. S. Jevons, 1886, p. 125.

[18.]Vol. VI, 1892, Boston, Mass. pp. 436-456.

[19.]His assertion that Cantillon travelled to America, India, Persia, China, Japan, etc., would be a new fact if correct, but is, as the context shows, a misreading of the passage in the Harvard article following my statement that Travel and Trade were two of Cantillon's great teachers, op. cit. p. 440.

[20.]Arthur Young mentions a parish named Cantillon near Bridgend in Glamorganshire: A Six Weeks' Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales 3rd edition, London, 1772, p. 164. But the family is undoubtedly of French extraction.

[21.]Dossier bleu 3889.

[22.]Marquess Townshend MSS, 11th Report Historical MSS Commission, IV. 157.

[23.]Bibl. Nat. Fm. 2740.

[24.]Marriage settlement dated 16 February 1722.

[25.]Dict. of National Biography, s.v. "Cantillon."

[26.]Bibl. Nat. Fm. 2740. This document is interesting because Cantillon drew up a memorandum on the working of the foreign exchanges as a basis for his advocate's brief.

[27.]See "Mémoire pour Jean et Remi Carol frères, banquiers à Paris, contre Richard Cantillon, marchand mercier à Paris.... Paris, 1730, chez André Knapen, 1730," 32 pp. fol. Bibl. Nat. Fm. 2838.

[28.]See for this Econ. Journ. 1891, p. 279 etc.

[29.]The coins of December 1719 were on 1 March 1720 of the value of 65 livres the marc of eight ounces of silver. By Arrêt of the 5th they were fixed at 97 l. 10 sols. By Arrêt of the 11th idem they were to shrink by degrees to 32 l. 10 sols. at the end of the year.

[30.]Dictionary, s.v. "Coin."

[31.]C 11/111/5.

[32.]See Chancery Bill 1752, folios 424-55, Hughes v. Countess of Stafford and others. Philip Cantillon, described as a bankrupt, is one of the "others". I have been guided to this reference by the aid of Mr J. A. Langley, the present Assistant Paymaster General of the Supreme Court.

[33.]Townshend MSS, cit. p. 365, ante, pp. 237-8.

An entry in the executor's accounts: "By an Undertaker for burying the Remains of the said Richard Cantillon £6. 2s. 6d.," suggests that the burial took place in London.

[34.]An account of the trial will be found in "The Proceedings at the Sessions... for the City of London... 4th to 7th December 1734, No. 1, Part II. London, Prtd for John Roberts... 1734. Price Six Pence," 4to, pp. 5-15

[35.]Somerset House Probate Registry, vol. Ducie 95, May 1735.

[36.]Copy in the Goldsmiths' Library. The Act describes Henrietta as now about six years of age.

[37.]For this will see Somerset House Probate Registry, vol. Wake 154 and vol. Cheslyn, 1761.

[38.]See p. 365 ante.

[39.]Somerset House Probate Registry, vol. Stevens, 1773.

[40.]One of Wren's steeple churches. It was burned down in 1886 and not rebuilt. Old Fish Street has now been replaced by Queen Victoria Street. See G. B. Besant, City Churches, London 1926, pp. 62-63.

[41.]Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, ed. W. Moy Thomas, London, 1861, I. 468. In 1741, writing from Rome to her brother, she says, "If you should happen to see Mrs Bulkeley, I wish you would make her some compliment," id. II. 86.

[42.]Letters, ed. Cunningham, London, 1857, 1. 241-2.

[43.]Op. cit. II. 153. See also I. 298.

[44.]M. 780. Probably circa 1750. For the original French see Econ. Journ. loc. cit.

[45.]In view of these positive statements by a man who was most likely to be curious about the author of the manuscript he was jealously guarding I am unable to understand why Dr Cannon surmises that Cantillon did not himself translate the Essay. Review of Economic Theory, 1929, pp. 19, 65.

[46.]I owe this reference to Dr Hayek.

[47.]Copies of the ambassador's letters were kindly sent to me by Mr C. F. Weston Underwood, of Somerby Hall, Brigg.

[48.]P. 262.

[49.]Review of Economic Theory, 1929, p. 19. Dr Cannan observes that the Essai soon sunk into oblivion "probably in part owing to its mongrel Franco-English character" (op. cit p. 19), but its French is quite passable. Mirabeau expressly says Cantillon knew the language perfectly. See Econ. Journ. I, p. 268.

[50.]Memoires de Morellet t. I, pp. 37-38, 1823.

[51.]See Higgs, The Physiocrats, pp. 19-25.

[52.]Leipzig, 1902, p. 279.

[53.]Palgrave's Dict. of Pol. Econ. s.v. Say, J. B.

[54.]Palgrave's Dict. of Pol. Econ. s.v. French School of Political Economy.

[55.]For a more detailed examination of this see Higgs, "Cantillon's Place in Economics," Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics, Boston, Mass., vol. VI. pp. 436-456, 1892.

No sources assigned