The Celebrated Masters of Political Economy
It was the political economists who developed the baneful effects of the Corn Laws, and it is they and they alone who by their writings, their lectures, their speeches, and their conversations, have so far enlightened the people as at length to produce an almost general demand for the repeal of those mischievous laws. To the political economists we owe the relaxation of our absurd Navigation Laws. To them we owe the knowledge which is fast pervading the community, respecting a secure currency. Their knowledge has at length made its way into the Houses of Parliament and into the Cabinet and has produced very important effects. And the good which has resulted from this knowledge has happily been such that ignorance will never more obtain the ascendency. How much more good the principles advocated by the political economists will do this country, it is quite impossible for any one to predict, but that they will be very great, no reasonable man can doubt.
Francis Place, in The Trades' Newspaper and Mechanics Weekly
Journal, 18 June 18261
Who were the political economists? And who were the people rallying around the banner of political economy who along with them were most closely involved in its rise from obscurity to attention? This chapter and the next examine the careers of some of them.
This chapter treats the lives of those who have always seemed most entitled to the title "political economist," those who were the authors of deliberate contributions to the tradition of political economy and who were seen in their