Predecessors of Carey

Predecessors of Carey

Carey was preceded by Franklin, Hamilton, and Raymond; and a paragraph may well be devoted to each of these earlier thinkers.

Benjamin Franklin, who might be called the first American economist, lived while America was still a group of British colonies, and he was much affected by European thought. He had some just ideas on money and on population. His work On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor was published in the London Chronicle in 1766, and was later reprinted in M'Cul-loch's collection of scarce and valuable tracts. Franklin was personally acquainted with some of the Physiocratic thinkers, and held ideas on productivity similar to theirs.

Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was a lawyer and states­man, — one of the greatest statesmen produced by America, — and his economic views are to be drawn chiefly from his state papers on finance. During the years 1790 and 1791 he discussed in a lucid, temperate, and weighty manner the economic ques­tions which confronted the nation: the public debt, money, banks, protection of manufactures. Hamilton favored bimetal­lism on grounds of expediency; showed the advantages of using public credit and of a national bank; and forcefully stated the grounds for government intervention to encourage industry, as opposed to the general laisser-faire position.2 In denying the argument that labor is more productive in agriculture than manufactures, he clearly suggests the idea that land is but a form of capital, an idea characteristic of the "American School."

Hamilton's refutation of the Physiocratic argument was couched in the following language: — nishes materials to the manufacturer, is unproductive, because he consumes an equal value of manufactured articles. . . . Each destroys a portion of the produce of the labor of the other. ... In the meantime the maintenance of two citizens, instead of one, is going on; the State has two members instead of one; and they, together, consume twice the value of what is produced from the land."

Other characteristic features are the emphasis he laid upon building up domestic manufactures in order to develop a home market for agricultural produce, and a note of optimism.

Hamilton probably exerted some influence on Friedrich List, of whom more later.

Daniel Raymond published his Political Economy in 1820. It shows several points of similarity to Hamilton's ideas, and classes its author as a forerunner of Carey. Like Carey, Ray­mond was on many points opposed to the cosmopolitanism of the Classical School. He favored a protective tariff, and argued at length for internal freedom of trade while demanding restrictions on imports. In this connection, he shows the American school's characteristic animosity toward England. It was not for old Europe, burdened with chronic evils, to develop the true political economy, he maintained, but for vigorous young America. Ray­mond followed Lauderdale in opposing individual to social inter­ests, distinguishing wealth from value. That is, he opposed the exchange-value idea of wealth, and insisted that facility of ac­quiring the necessaries and conveniences of life by labor should be requisite for increased wealth. He criticized the Malthusian

principle of population. He also virtually ignored the law of diminishing returns, and classed land with capital. Raymond was dogmatic in tone, and both assumed theological premises and emphasized " laws of nature." The writers to whom he refers are Ganilh, Montesquieu, Quesnay, Smith, Lauderdale, and Malthus.

A. H. Everett (1792-1847) deserves mere mention as a fore­runner of Carey, in that he published a book in 1823, called New Ideas on Population, in which he maintained that population means abundance, on account of the increase in skill, division of labor, and invention, which it brings. He was a protectionist.

Contemporary with Everett was Willard Phillips (1784-1873), a writer whose thought, while based on the Classical doctrines, shows some of the tendencies common in his country and time. "National production" is his chief concern, and he favors vari­ous bounties and restrictions. Although not at first an advocate of the protective system, he later became one. Population is little mentioned, while the inexhaustible treasures of the earth are dwelt upon, and rent is said to depend upon the abundance of land. Demand is made the force upon which value depends; and instead of a subsistence theory of wages, we find something which may be called a productivity theory.

This early reaction of American thinkers against the Classical School is a matter of considerable interest.
These men, however, are of very slight importance in the de­velopment of the world's economic thought. In fact, until the late years of the nineteenth century, the United States did little to advance the social sciences. President McCosh of Princeton could say that America had produced only one metaphysician, President Edwards. So in the history of political economy America long had but a solitary name, that of Henry C. Carey.


Able Americans like Alexander Hamilton wrote well on politico-economic subjects; but they added nothing important to the science of Economics.
Nor is it gratifying to think that America's best-known repre­sentative in the history of political economy should frequently be regarded as great chiefly in his errors. All allow that Carey was a man of intellectual ability and original power; but it is not so much by the truth he discovered that he advanced science. More often he presented error in such manner that it required reflection, observation, and close thinking to refute it.