The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy

The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy – John Elliot Cairnes

Burke was one of the greatest political thinkers whom England has produced, and all his writings, like his speeches, are characterised by the welding together of knowledge, thought, and feeling. Unlike most orators he is more successful as a writer than as a speaker. He rose too far above the heads of his audience, which the continued splendour of his declamation, his inordinate copiousness, and his excessive vehemence, often passing into fury, at length wearied, and even disgusted: but in his writings are found some of the grandest examples of a fervid and richly elaborated eloquence. Though he was never admitted to the Cabinet, he guided and influenced largely the policy of his party, while by his efforts in the direction of economy and order in administration at home, and on behalf of kindly and just government in India, as well as by his contributions to political philosophy, he laid his country and indeed the world under lasting obligations. This is volume twelve out of twelve of his works, this volume containing speeches in the impeachment of Warren Hastings.

The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy

The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy

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The Character and Logical Method of Political Economy.

ISBN: 9783849677114.

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Biography of John Elliot Cairnes (from Wikipedia):

John Cairnes was born at Castlebellingham, County Louth. He was the son of William Elliott Cairnes (1787–1863) of Stameen, near Drogheda, and Marianne Woolsey, whose mother was the sister of Sir William Bellingham, 1st Baronet of Castlebellingham. John’s father decided upon a business career, against the wishes of his mother (Catherine Moore of Moore Hall, Killinchy), and became a partner in the Woolsey Brewery at Castlebellingham. In 1825, William Cairnes started on his own account in Drogheda, making the Drogheda Brewery an unqualified success. He was remembered for his great business capacity and for the deep interest he took in charity.

After leaving school, John Cairnes spent some years in the counting-house of his father at Drogheda. His tastes, however, lay altogether in the direction of study, and he was permitted to enter Trinity College, Dublin, where he took the degree of BA in 1848, and six years later that of M.A. After passing through the curriculum of Arts, he engaged in the study of Law, and was called to the Irish bar. But he felt no very strong inclination for the legal profession, and during some years he occupied himself to a large extent with contributions to the daily press, treating of the social and economical questions that affected Ireland. He devoted most attention to political economy, which he studied with great thoroughness and care.

While residing in Dublin, he made the acquaintance of Archbishop Whately, who conceived a very high respect for Cairnes’ character and abilities. In 1856, a vacancy occurred in the chair of political economy at Dublin, founded by Whately, and Cairnes received the appointment. In accordance with the regulations of the foundation, the lectures of his first year’s course were published. The book appeared in 1857 with the title Character and Logical Method of Political Economy. It followed up on and expanded J. S. Mill’s treatment in the Essays on some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy, and formed an admirable introduction to the study of economics as a science. In it the author’s peculiar powers of thought and expression are displayed to the best advantage. Logical exactness, precision of language, and firm grasp of the true nature of economic facts, are the qualities characteristic of this as of all his other works. If the book had done nothing more, it would still have conferred inestimable benefit on political economists by its clear exposition of the true nature and meaning of the ambiguous term law. To the view of the province and method of political economy expounded in this early work the author always remained true, and several of his later essays, such as those on Political Economy and Land, Political Economy and Laissez-Faire, are but reiterations of the same doctrine. His next contribution to economical science was a series of articles on the gold question, published partly in Fraser’s Magazine, in which the probable consequences of the increased supply of gold attendant on the Australian and Californian gold discoveries were analysed with great skill and ability. And a critical article on M. Chevaliers’ work, On the Probable Fall in the Value of Gold, appeared in the Edinburgh Review for July 1860.

In 1861, Cairnes was appointed to the professorship of jurisprudence and political economy in Queens College Galway, and in the following year he published his admirable work The Slave Power, one of the finest specimens of applied economical philosophy. The inherent disadvantages of the employment of slave labour were exposed with great fulness and ability, and the conclusions arrived at have taken their place among the recognised doctrines of political economy. The opinions expressed by Cairnes as to the probable issue of American Civil War were largely verified by the actual course of events, and the appearance of the book had a marked influence on the attitude taken by serious political thinkers in England towards the Confederate States of America. During the remainder of his residence at Galway, Professor Cairnes published nothing beyond some fragments and pamphlets, mainly upon Irish questions. The most valuable of these papers are the series devoted to the consideration of university education. His health, at no time very good, was still further weakened in 1865 by a fall from his horse. He was ever afterwards incapacitated from active exertion and was constantly liable to have his work interfered with by attacks of illness. In 1866 he was appointed professor of political economy in University College, London. He was compelled to spend the session 1868–1869 in Italy, but on his return continued to lecture till 1872. During his last session he conducted a mixed class, ladies being admitted to his lectures. His health soon rendered it impossible for him to discharge his public duties; he resigned his post in 1872, and retired with the honorary title of professor emeritus of political economy. In 1873 his own university conferred on him the degree of LL.D. He died at Blackheath, near London, on 8 July 1875.


(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)


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