Item 46 - Richard Jones to William Whewell

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Add. MS c/52/46


Richard Jones to William Whewell


  • [17 Jan. 1832] (Creation)

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4 pp.

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RJ presents a story of the evolution of the cloth trade in France. He begins with the moment the king's seal of approval is established to certify that a piece of cloth is correct and of the right quality. He then notes the struggle which emerged between merchants, manufacturers and labour with the regulations falling into disrepute. He then looks at Colbert's attempt to make France manufacture for export by copying the English and Flemish regulations. Colbert was abused and ridiculed by the economists for thinking that such regulations could be useful: 'Now for the moral - when first established this abused regulation this shackle upon industry was eminently useful. The English then exported their cloths to staple towns where they were bought by foreigners from the Mediterranean the Baltic etc. - If the buyers had been cheated redress was hopeless - the want of ports - agencies - etc. the expense and dangers of voyages and lawsuits made indeed redress all but impassable - but the King's seal was an assurance to the buyer - the seller profited by his confidence in it and the export was enlarged. Times changed - communications became more perfect - responsible companies appeared as exporting merchants - the seal became less needed - in time the superintendence and initial fees became a burden and nuisance which ought to have been abated' but they were not. 'Next comes Colbert with his blind imitation of the part without reference to change of circumstances or the spirit of the times'. This is an example of 'founding a general principle on a true but insulated fact namely Colbert's blunder and helplessness and dogmatising and predicating to their own delight and the edification of the world about the necessary and utter folly of regulations at all times and places'. RJ is in wonder at the St. Simonians - L'Organizateur: 'I am bold to say, one of the half dozen most extraordinary and interesting books in the world. Learned - logical - powerful - feeling - good - and taming - ignorant - unreasonable - feeble mischievous and disgusting - making one alternately proud and ashamed and afraid of being one of the generation that has produced it'. Further, there 'are some excellent speculations on induction and much in your spirit as to the provinces of the imagination - the intellect and the senses in seizing on general laws - and then such assumptions historical - moral - and economical - and much confident deductions and much blasphemy and much folly'. The book is 'spawned from an unnatural conjunction of the strength and weakness of the human mind and redolent of the times we live in and of those which are departing and a thing you must study - NB It is the hardest book I ever read'.

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