Steuart’s work was still relevant in 1789 for two reasons. Firstly, the author’s prediction of political antagonism between capitalists and nobility anticipated the political conflict about debt expressed by pamphleteers such as Sieyès, Mirabeau, and Clavière between 1787 and 1789. This is the context of Étienne de Sénovert’s claim: the political narrative built by the revolutionaries of 1789 (rescuing the “sacred” public debt from royal despotism) fitted Steuart’s prediction. This may have been the incentive for the translation and publication of his work in 1789 and 1790. Secondly, Steuart’s financial and monetary theory was at the heart of the project of financial reform that would lead to the assignats. Steuart’s (1767) theory of public finance and state power in 1789 provides a key to the understanding the events of the time, and to how actors tried to make sense of them. Steuart made another crucial observation about the deep effect of what he called “the modern economy” upon the power of the governments of Europe: even an absolute monarch could not damage public credit without destroying his own sovereignty.
I wish to thank all members of Centre Walras-Pareto (Université de Lausanne) for their constant support and advice. I am grateful to Biancamaria Fontana for her patience and help; to Pascal Bridel who advised me to read Sir James Steuart’s work when I was starting my research five years ago. Sincere thanks to Thomas Bouchet and François Allisson who gave me early critique. Special thanks to Rebeca Gomez Betancourt for proposing me to write this text. This chapter has been greatly enriched by the work of two reviewers who provided an extensive feedback on the first version. Nothing would have been possible without Eugénie.
Saint-Phalle, P.d. (2020), "On the Dangers of Public Credit for France’s Monarchy: How an Old Warning Sheds a Certain Light on 1789", Fiorito, L., Scheall, S. and Suprinyak, C.E. (Ed.) Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology: Including a Symposium on Sir James Steuart: The Political Economy of Money and Trade (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 38C), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 49-70. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0743-41542020000038C006Download as .RIS
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