DEW, Thomas R.

Essay on the Interest of Money, and the Policy of Laws against Usury.

Shellbanks: Robert Ricketts, 1834 Stock Code: 123171
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Presentation copy

First edition in book form, presentation copy, inscribed on the rear wrapper "From the Author to Wm Short". The recipient was the American ambassador William Short (1759-1849), who served as US Minister to France from June 1790 to May 1792, to the Netherlands from June to December 1792, and to Spain from 1794 to 1795; he was later a successful Kentucky businessman. Thomas Jefferson was a lifelong mentor and friend to Short, and in 1789 referred to him as his "adoptive son" in a letter to John Trumball (1 June 1789). Short was an abolitionist, and indeed tried to convince Jefferson of the cause, espousing the equality of the races and the capacity of Africa for great civilizations (see his letter to Jefferson of 27 February 1798). Short repatriated his own slaves, which he inherited from his father, back to Africa.

The presentation of this pamphlet is therefore particularly compelling as the author Thomas Roderick Dew (1802-1846), then professor and later president of Short's Alma Mater the College of William & Mary, was an influential defender of slavery and the plantation system. Perhaps the most significant economist of the Antebellum South, Dew proposed a Ricardian free market economy, but one which incorporated slavery, and as of such represented a bold modification of classical economics and an important strand in the history of American economic thought. Indeed, Dorfman devotes a whole sub-chapter to "Thomas Roderick Dew: The Ricardo of the South", in his classic study The Economic Mind in American Civilization (vol. II pp. 895-909).

Dew's Essay on the Interest of Money was first published in the Farmers' Register under the editorship of Edmund Ruffin, who like Dew was an arch defender of slavery and free market economics. Following the income theory introduced by the English economist Thomas Tooke, Dew rejected the quantity theory of money as the active determinant of prices, instead arguing that it was trade and income that determined the money supply and price level. As of such usury laws encourage speculation and distort realistic estimates of profit and risk, leading to inevitable depressions. This pamphlet, Dew says, contains "my views in full upon the subject of the usury laws which influence unfavorably the distribution and circulation of capital, check the natural division of employments, and produce stagnation of trade" (introductory letter). Though quite well-represented institutionally, it is very scarce in commerce, unrecorded at auction for many decades.

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Octavo, pp. 24. As issued in original printed paper wrappers.


Faded stamp of the Historical & Philosophical Society of Ohio to the title page along with faint shelf mark. Wrappers chipped without loss to type or inscription, spine worn and repaired with tape, contents foxed, central crease throughout. Still a good copy of this fragile volume.


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