Seligman is an important and ironically somewhat neglected figure today in the history of American economic thought. However, an examination of his scholarly achievements…
Seligman is an important and ironically somewhat neglected figure today in the history of American economic thought. However, an examination of his scholarly achievements reveals that he had a considerable impact on the development of professional economics in America and could count the most influential economists in Europe as personal friends and collaborators (Moss, 2003; Rutherford, 2004; Mehrotra, 2005). Asso and Fiorito (2006), in their introduction to Seligman's autobiography (1929) argue that ‘his personal influence as an academic economist, as a teacher and as a central figure in the dissemination of economic knowledge was second to none and perhaps more meaningful than any single work he wrote’ (p. 1). They also record (quoting his student, Alvin Johnson) that ‘with Seligman…American economics began to acquire a distinctive professional reputation, some very high scholarly standards and a sort of “moral magnificence”’ (p. 2). What this means is that through Seligman's work and guidance economics came to encompass a moral dimension that fed through into social policies, many of which were adopted by American legislatures. The major influences on his method included the German Historical School and a number of heterodox Continental writers that informed Seligman's in great Whig interpretation of the development of economics. He also engaged critically with the more abstract methods of contemporary economic analysis of the early twentieth century.
Joseph Dorfman in his introduction to the 1966 edition of Ravenstone's A Few Doubts on the Subjects of Population and Political Economy argued that Ravenstone was Rev…
Joseph Dorfman in his introduction to the 1966 edition of Ravenstone's A Few Doubts on the Subjects of Population and Political Economy argued that Ravenstone was Rev. Edward Edwards, a major contributor on political economy to the Quarterly Review and Blackwood's Magazine. The case Dorfman made was circumstantial but nonetheless a strong one. First there was the fact that ‘articles in these Tory organs [were] roughly speaking in accordance with the views of “Ravenstone”’ (Dorfman, 1966). Both Ravenstone and Edwards were, for example, strongly critical of Malthusian population theory and its implications. Furthermore, on the basis of a reading of the 1821 work, Dorfman opined that Ravenstone was a trained theologian, something consistent with Edwards' clerical status, and that both had a predilection for historical reflection. Dorfman also believed he had found evidence in the files of John Murray, the publisher of the Quarterly Review, to substantiate his identification. Thus he cites a letter from Murray to William Gifford, a member of the publishing house, dated 3 November 1820, which makes reference to a manuscript sent to Murray shortly before A Few Doubts was published by another house. Moreover, Murray's correspondence files show that Edwards thought highly of Henry Brougham, and there is a copy of A Few Doubts in the Goldsmiths' Library in London, which is inscribed from the author to him (Dorfman, 1966, p. 20).
Seligman noted four topics that Rogers investigated in this pamphlet: the principles that regulate the exchange value of commodities; the wage theory; the incidence of…
Seligman noted four topics that Rogers investigated in this pamphlet: the principles that regulate the exchange value of commodities; the wage theory; the incidence of taxes on agricultural products and an analysis of the economic consequences of a commutation of the tithe. This last topic Rogers treated mathematically. Seligman asserted that the appearance of Malthus's Principles of Political Economy in 1820…[gave] rise to an active discussion on some of the fundamental topics in dispute between Ricardo, Say and Malthus…. Most of the essays of the time, however, were concerned with the discussion of the nature and measure of value, and of these the majority based themselves on the theory advocated by Ricardo and McCulloch. (1903, pp. 351–352)
One of the several claims that Seligman makes for Rooke is that he should be accorded priority in the discovery of the correct, that is Ricardian, doctrine of rent:there…
One of the several claims that Seligman makes for Rooke is that he should be accorded priority in the discovery of the correct, that is Ricardian, doctrine of rent:there seems little doubt that the doctrine of rent was developed practically simultaneously by Malthus, West, Torrens and Rooke in 1814, but so far as the priority of actual publication is concerned, the above list should be reversed. And in the interests of historical accuracy, Rooke and Torrens must hereafter be accorded the position which they deserve. (Seligman, 1903, p. 512)1
It is not difficult to understand why the Sketches would be credited to Sharp. His death four years before the publication of Ricardo's Principles placed him within the period under discussion by Seligman. Sharp possessed an extremely wide range of interests and was a prolific writer on a remarkable variety of topics. By 1809 he was a prominent public figure and had produced more than 40 separate works, several of which had reached second or third editions. He had established a reputation as a controversialist and his oeuvre is certainly consistent with Seligman's generalisation that the ‘greater part of the economic literature’ between 1776 (the year of The Wealth of Nations) and 1817 consisted of ‘pamphlets dealing with current practical problems’ (Seligman, 1903, p. 336). Sharp had published on the conditions in West Africa, the illegality of the press-ganging of sailors, parliamentary reform, colonial law, frankpledge, a popular militia and public charities.