« AnteriorContinuar »
* Lectures on Political Economy, (now first published) by Dugald Stewart, Esq. Edited by Sir William Hamilton, Bart. Thomas Constable and Co., Edinburgh : Hamilton, Adams, and Co., London. 1856.
escaped the fate of the others revised for pablication, the course consists principally of what was written so far back as the begitning of the century, with such additions and corrections as were occasionally interpolated up to the session of 1809-10, the last year of Mr. Stewart's academical labours,"
Respecting the destruction of the manuscripts, we find they were burned by the author's son, Colonel Stewart, under the impression that while he was unable to dispose of them as literary property, others contrived to appropriate portions of them, with the intention doubtless of giving them publicity without acknowledging the source whence they were derived. Writing to a publisher with whom he had some communication concerning his father's works, he states :
gradually corrected according as it assumes a formidable appearance; but few are Utopian enough to imagine we shall ever see the day when the root of the evil shall be thoroughly destroyed. Hence it would be dangerous to neglect any of the arts and sciences which have hitherto been found useful in times of emergency, since we know not thetime when their services may again be urgently needed; and it becomes, therefore, matter for congratulation to observe that so far, at least, there are no symptoms of economic science being abandoned in the republic of letters ; although, for the reason just stated, it does not occupy the same commanding position it did some years ago. The works of our standard scientific writers, Adam Smith, Senior, J. S. Mill, and others, come forth from time to time in new editions ; and a whole host of authors, most of whom have yet to earn a literary reputation, furnish their readers with no end of essays and treatises on the principles of the science, and their application to the questions of the day, those especially of a financial or monetary character. Encouraged by this aspect of affairs, the friends and admirers of Dugald Stewart now step forward, and endeavour to secure for the author of the Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind a niche in the temple of Economic Science, by the publication of lectures which he delivered on Political Economy towards the commencement of the present century. The circumstances under which these come before us are very peculiar, and quite different from those which attended the publication of the rest of his works.
“You need not, however, further trouble yourself on this hend; because, finding myself getting on in life, and despairing or finding a sale for them at their real value, I have destroyed the whole of them. To this step I was much induced by finding my locks repeatedly picked during my absence from home, some of my papers carried off, and some of the others cvidently read, if not copied from, by persons of whom I could procure no trace, and in the pursuit or conviction of whom I never could obtain any efficient assistance from the judicial authorities."
“ The other writings," says Sir William Hamilton, “ were again and again elaborated by the anthor, and by himself carefully conducted through the press ; whereas the following lectures were not destined for publication, at least in the form in which they now appear. That Mr. Stewart, however, intended ultimately to publish his course of Political Economy seems certain ; and, with this view, during the latter years of his life, he had revised, corrected, amplified, and rearranged its constituent parts. But whether he had finally completed this preparation is doubtful; for the lectures thus re-modelled by him in his retirement have, for the most part, unhappily perished. As now printed from those original manuscripts which have
Accordingly Colonel Stewart committed to the flames a great quantity of his father's manuscripts, including his “Lectures on Political Economy, delivered in the University of Edin. burgh, reduced by him into books and chapters, containing a very complete body of that science, with many important rectifications of Adam Smith's speculations." Yet all this while it is supposed there were no grounds whatsoever for entertaining the impressions under which the Colonel acted, and it is mentioned as an explanation of his extraordinary proceedings, that when on professional service in India he had suffered from an attack of coup-de-soleil ; a malady which often exhibits its influence in a most capricious manner, long after an apparent cessation of the affection.
The revised manuscripts of the lectures having perished, it became a question with Dugald Stewart's trustees whether, in the discharge of the duty they owed to the reputation
the deceased, they should or should reverence and admiration of pupils not publish what remained of the and friends abstained from disturbing. course of Political Economy, consist. And, besides, he might have introduced ing of some older copies of his manu- many additions and qualifications, scripts, which had eseaped conflagra- which he had in his own mind when tion by the son, but had not been lecturing, but thought it useless to subjected to revision by the father. express. For not only must there be In this difficulty, they sought advice much repetition in a lecture of whatfrom the most competent of the au- ever is intended to be conveyed, thor's older friends and pupils; and which in a book would be uncalled in particular froin the Marquis of for ; but, on the other hand, there Lansdowne and Viscount Palmerston. must be many incidental matters alBut these noblemen were unwilling together passed over, through fear of to offer any opinion, warned, perhaps, confusing the listener and preventing by Lord John Russell's failure as the him from grasping the leading prineditor of his friend Moore's corres- ciples designed to be impressed, pondence, that the cares of states- while, in a book, they might be brought manship are unfavourable to literary forward with advantage; and, if left pursuits, whether those of an author, out, the omission might justly be editor, or critic. Finally the decision deemed an important deficiency. What devolved on Sir William Hamilton occasioned this delay in publication, himself, and he decided on publica- which, as events have turned out, has tion. The manuscripts he had were thus exposed the work in the end to a imperfect, but attempts were made to two-fold source of imperfection, is not fill up the blanks and supply the de very apparent. Although the lectures ficiencies from notes of the course were intended for the press, yet theauof lectures which had been kept by thor survived thetime of their delivery several pupils. This is an unfortu nearly thirty years, and still they nate manner for an author to come never saw the light. Perhaps he was before the public :
imitating the conduct of Adam Smith
in the preparation of the Wealth of Poets lose half the praise they would have
Nations, giving even more time to got
the task than his illustrious master. Wire it but known what they discreetly Adam Smith was appointed to a Problot.
fessorship in the University of Glas
gow in 1751, and a few years afterThe same may be said for prose wards delivered the lectures which writers, especially as regards what they were subsequently expanded and elacompose to be delivered as lectures; borated into his celebrated treatise, which from their very nature require not published until 1776. To immuch judicious pruning before they prove upon such a model, Dugald can be in a fit state for publication. Stewart may have imagined more As the listener cannot refer back to years of preparation and improverefresh his memory or understanding ment were necessary. At all events when the lecturer comes to a new it appears that up to his death in branch of his subject, intimately de 1828, he did not give that positive pending, however, on what has gone proof of the completion of the work before, frequent repetitions and re- to his satisfaction, which authors ususumés are often necessary, in order that ally afford by committing their prothe entire discourse may be rendered ductions to the press. intelligible. But this, which in a lec- It must now be perceived that the ture is a merit and a requisite, in a circumstances under which it is book becomes needless prolixity, cal- sought to establish a posthumous culated rather to weary the reader reputation for Dugald Stewart in than serve any useful purpose. This political economy are extremely unis a fact of which a person so well-ac- favourable, even if there had been no customed as Dugald Stewart to ad progress made in that science since dress the public in the two-fold capa the time he wrote, and he had no city of author and lecturer must have other rivals to contend against than been fully aware ; it is, therefore, those whose advantages in that relikely that in the process of revision, spect were but equal to his own. But he would have cut off much that the such is not the case, Great advances
have been made since his lectures were delivered ; and thus it has been possible for writers of later years, considerably his inferiors in natural ability, to attain, notwithstanding, a much higher scale of excellence, by availing themselves of the labours of those who have published the admirable treatises and essays which have been added to the literature of economic science since the commencement of the present century. In 1817, Ricardo's“ Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” were brought out, and accomplished for problems concerning the natural laws according to which wealth is distributed throughout the community what Adam Smith had left incomplete or unattempted; thus rendering the second of the two great branches into which Economic Science is divided, as perfect as Adam Smith had made the first by his analysis of production. It is not uncommon for superficial economists to affect to undervalue the services of Ricardo, and estimate him far lower than many others who, in reality, have no claim to be placed even on an equal footing with him ; condemning his writings as mere theoretical speculations, devoid of practical utility and difficult of comprehension. As regards his style, no doubt, he is exposed to much unfavourable criticism; and there are several in whose writings the principles of political economy may be learned with much greater facility than in his; but to these is only due the merit of clear and simple diction and accuracy of comprehension, while all the honour of discovering new scientific truths belong to him. Those who condemn Ricardo as a mere theorist, would do well to remember that he afforded the most decisive proof of being an eminently practic cal man, by amassing a considerable fortune as a merchant; and that it was after he retired from business, with all the experience acquired during a long career of active industry, he devoted himself to the collection and arrangement of the natural laws which govern the production and distribution of wealth, whose practical operation he had been in the habit of contemplating while engaged in his mercantile pursuits. It is unfortunate, doubtless, he did not adopt a more popular and less
abstract style; and it has been complained, with some reason, that the brevity with which he has statel some of his most important principles, the fewness of his illustrations, and the mathematical cast he has given to his arguments, render it not a little difficult for readers unaccustomed to such investigations, to follow him readily. As for those who endeavour to understand him without proceeding step by step in his line of reasoning, they engage in a hopeless task; since the mutual dependence on each other of his various propositions renders it quite impossible for any one to comprehendi them who merely dips into his work here and there as if it were a novel or a newspaper. But the smart litterateur seldom panses to weigh all these matters, and the chances are that when he meets with a difficulty, or an apparent inconsistency, he throws down the book as a mass of senseless paradoxes, quite willing to believe that the author knew nothing whatsoever of what he was writing about; and never dreaming for a moment that possibly it was the critic who was at fault, unable to take in the scope of a chain of reasoning, or overlooking the assumptions upon which it was based. Those, on the contrary, who give to his works the attention they deserve, and come to their task armed with the requisite acquirements and qualifications, form a very different estimate of Ricardo's merits.
It was the opinion of Quinctilian that the students of eloquence who were delighted with Cicero, demonstrated by their appreciation of such a model that they had made no inconsiderable progress in their art,-a saying which has been applied with equal justice to those students in political economy who find pleasure in the works of Ricardo: Sciat se non parum profecisse cui RiCARDO valde placebit.
But it is not Ricardo alone who places Dugald Stewart at a disadvantage just now. Not only is there much known at the present day which in the beginning of the century had remained undiscovered, but, besides, what was well known then has since been much better expressed, and so rendered more accessible to the student. Succeeding writers, of whom Mr. Senior, in our opinion, is entitled