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had bequeathed could not but nurture a critical and inquiring
spirit, which made itself felt in the economic, as in other
directions of the German mind. The only indications, however,
of an independent economic literature in this period seem to
have been the writings of Camerarius and Agricola on currency.
Germany seems to have produced nothing so remarkable as the
famous tract by W. S., once attributed to Shakespeare, which
the revolution in prices and the contemporary economic changes
gave birth to in England.* The period closes with the Thirty
Years' War,' in connexion with which Eoscher adverts to the



* See an Essay by the present writer on the ' Distribution of the Precious Metala
in the Sixteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,' reprinted in this volume.



The History of German Political Economy. 87

influence on Grermany, both for good and for evil, of its
geographical position ; including among its beneficial effects a
disposition to learn from all sides, which is visible in the
subsequent history of its economic ideas and literature.

The second period in the history of German political economy,
which covers more than a century from the Thirty Years' War
to the period of Frederick the Great, is called by Roscher das
poUzeilichcameralisiiche Zeitalter, as being one of State regula-
tion and fiscal science. The term ' cameralistic,' which makes a
great figure in early German economics, originated (as Roscher
mentions in another work) in the office or chamber (Gammer),
which in each German State was charged with the supervision
and administration of the Crown revenues. Hence the science
CQ\!LedLcameralistischeWissenschaft,\ihi(^ is perhaps best explained
by reference to one of the two objects which Adam Smith, at
the beginning of his account of the Mercantile system, says
political economy, ' considered as a branch of the science of the
statesman or legislator,' has in view. It proposes, he says, to
provide a plentiful revenue both for the State and the people.
Cameralistic science aimed at augmenting the revenue of the
State or the sovereign, rather than the people. Roscher's second
period might, more intelligibly to English readers, be dis-
tinguished as the Mercantile period, since one of its chief
features was the Mercantile system, interwoven with the system
of State regulation and finance. It is a modern error, which,
as Roscher remarks, is not attributable to Adam Smith, to
ascribe to the Mercantile school the notion that money is the
only wealth. What that school really taught was that money,
in Locke's words, was the most solid and substantial part of the
moveable wealth of a country ; that it had more extensive utility
than any other kind of wealth, on account of its universal
exchangeability abroad as well as at home ; and that a consider-
able stock of the precious metals in the treasury of the State, or
within its reach, was requisite as a provision for foreign wars.
Money had really acquired great additional usefulness and
importance by the change from the mediseval to the modern
economy, with the substitution of payments in coin for payments



88 The History of German Political Economy.

in kind, and the great increase in the division of labour, and in
trade, both internal and foreign. And as the Mercantile system
was thus connected on the economic side with the actual move-
ment of society, so on the political side it was connected with.
the growth of monarchical States, increased activity and in-
terference on the part of the central governments, and the
maintenance of monarchical armies, and increased need for
money in State finance. A circumstance not adverted to by
Roscher, which doubtless contributed to the growth of the
Mercantile system, was the revolution in prices, and in interna-
tional trade, consequent on the influx of American gold and
silver, which really placed the countries with a small stock of
money and a low range of prices at a disadvantage. They
bought dear and sold cheap in the foreign market. The system
was thus not so irrational in its objects as many modern writers
have su^jposed ; but its history is chiefly important, in the point
of view with which we are concerned, as illustrative of the
connexion between economic theories and surrounding pheno-
mena and conditions of thought.

The first period in Eoscher's division is, as already said,
classed by him as theological and humanistic. In the second
period German Political Economy in his view disengaged itself
finally from both theology and jurisprudence, and became an
independent science. It is, however, a fact of no small impor-
tance to a right understanding of economic history, and to a due
appreciation of the authority of some of the economic doctrines
of our own day, that economic philosophy was so far from
emancipating itself in the seventeenth century completely and
finally from theological and juridical theories, that the system
not only of the French Physiocrates, but also of Adam Smith,
whose ' Wealth of Nations' had a prodigious influence over
Germany, was in great part built on an ancient juridical theory
in a modern theological form, and penetrated by a theological
spirit. Eoscher's third period, which reaches down to the
present day, begins with the introduction of the system of the
Physiocrates into Germany, where, he says, it influenced only
some individual minds, adding that in England it could gain



The History of German Political Economy. 89

«,lmost no ground. But the influence of the ' Wealth of Na-
tions,' both in Grermany and elsewhere, was so great that ' the
whole of political economy might be divided into two parts —
before and since Adam Smith — the first part being a prelude,
and the second a sequel (in the way either of continuation or
opposition) to him.' The sj^stem of the Physiocrates had
doubtless some peculiar features, traceable to its country and
parentage, the study of which throws much light on the causes
which have shaped economic ideas, and forms an instructive
chapter in the general history of philosophy. Nevertheless its
main foundation was essentially the same as that on which
Adam Smith's political economy rested. Boscher himself, along
with other eminent German economists, has drawn attention
to the connexion between both systems and the idea of a Law of
Nature, which eighteenth century philosophy had derived from
Eoman jurisprudence. What they seem to have overlooked is,
that both with the Physiocrates and with Adam Smith the Law
of Nature distinctly assumed a theological form. The simple,
harmonious, and beneficent order of Nature which human laws
should leave undisturbed and only protect, became of divine
institution, and Nature in short became Providence. Dupont



Online LibraryT. E. Cliffe (Thomas Edward Cliffe) LeslieEssays in political economy → online text (page 9 of 41)