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a French one.
It may be added that the whole
of the translation has had the benefit of the author's revision.
Before the present translator began his task a few chapters of Book I. had been already Englished by Mr. G. L. Marriott, the author of the able version of M. de Laveleye's work on Primitive Property. The translator desires to acknowledge Mr. Marriott's kindness in handing him over his translation of these chapters when prevented by other engagements from continuing his version.
In this elementary treatise, designed as a manual of instruction, I deviate from time to time from the course commonly followed, because, in my view, the object of Political Economy is not that ordinarily indicated. What is of importance, as it seems to me, is the conduct of individuals and of states, with regard to the production and employment of wealth—that is to say, the moral and political side of our science. In manuals where everything has to be condensed into a few pages, writers often confine themselves to the definitions and to the brief summary of a few general laws. Reduced to this, political economy presents little that is useful.
I have endeavoured to connect my subject closely with those of the other branches of study dealing with human life; that is to say, with philosophy, moral science, the traditions of the past, history and geography. Geography describes the positions of nations, and history relates their annals. No advantage can be gained from the lessons which either offers without the aid of political economy. At the present day it is allowed that the most important part of history is that which traces the progress of humanity in comfort and liberty. To understand this advance from prehistoric barbarism to the prodigious development of wealth which
which marks epoch, a knowledge of economy is indispensable.
In order to show more clearly the close connection which exists between history and political economy, I have not hesitated to multiply quotations from established writers. To the enunciation of each principle I have added an example, a fact, a maxim, hoping that the volume thus enlarged might yet seem all the shorter, through the attention being better sustained.
Some chapters, such as those which deal with socialism, with credit, with commercial crises or
with population, will seem perhaps to treat the questions in greater detail than is needed in an elementary treatise. It should not, however, be forgotten that nowadays the young man, on leaving his school or college, finds himself at once beset with these important problems. The social question is the subject of every day discussion; as to credit, we all resort to it; crises threaten our property at every instant. The question of population is that on which the future of our country depends. As citizens of a free country we need the training
From our earliest years the state claims our attention ; even in childhood political economy ought to make us see that freedom leads nations to prosperity, while despotism leads them to decay.
Need more be urged to prove the necessity of spreading economic knowledge ? The greater part of the evils from which societies suffer spring from their ignorance of this subject. National rivalries, restrictions on trade, wars of tariffs, improvidence of the labouring classes, antagonism between workmen and employers, over-speculation, illdirected charity, excessive and ill-assessed taxes
unproductive expenditure on the part of nations or towns—are all so many causes of misery springing from economic errors.
Natural science, which is so highly, esteemed at the present day, shows man, like other animate beings, subservient to his individual interest. While maintaining that man, a free moral agent, may and ought to listen to the voice of duty, and sacrifice himself for his family, for his country and for mankind, one must recognise the fact that the habitual motive of his actions is the pursuit of what is useful to him. If this be so, is not the science indispensable which shows in what utility consists, and how men united in society may best attain it ?