Josiah Tucker: A Selection from His Economic and Political Writings

By Josiah Tucker
With an Introduction by Robert Livingston Schuyler


Josiah Tucker (1713–1799) was one of the foremost thinkers of eighteenth-century England in the fields of economics, international relations, political theory, and imperialism.

He shared the opinion, prevalent in his day, that Great Britain was underpopulated and observed with regret the immigration to America, believing that the colonies brought Britain no benefits. He thought instead that colonies were too costly to be beneficial, and, as early as 1749, he asserted that the American colonies would seek independence as soon as they no longer needed Great Britain’s assistance. He is one of the few men in England who consistently wrote and preached that the separation of the colonies would spell the ruin of England.

Born of Welsh peasant stock in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Tucker was educated at St. John’s College, Oxford, and became a curate and rector successively at St. Stephen’s Church in Bristol. This led him to take considerable interest in politics and trade, as Bristol was second only to London in commerce in Great Britain during Tucker’s years of residence there. During the greater portion of a long life, he poured out a succession of pamphlets on these matters. He was appointed dean of Gloucester in 1758. He died in 1799 and was buried in Gloucester Cathedral.

This edition (originally published by Columbia University Press in 1931) contains seven of Tucker’s writings, two of which are of special economic interest: “The Elements of Commerce and Theory of Taxes” and “Instructions for Travelers.” In the former selection, Tucker denounces monopoly in all its forms, yet he occupies an intermediate position between the rigid exclusiveness of mercantilism and the freedom of trade of Adam Smith. While he departs from Smith in some ways, it is often said that Tucker’s work anticipates the classic doctrines of the Wealth of Nations, which was written twenty years later.

Other writings in the volume include a remarkable tract on war, which illustrates progressive, pacifistic thought; and a treatise on civil government, written to refute the contract theory of the state. Tucker disposed of the fallacy that one nation could thrive only at the expense of another and condemned going to war for the sake of trade advantages. The original introduction, by Columbia history professor Robert Livingston Schuyler, places Tucker’s writings in their historical and biographical setting and emphasizes what seems most significant in his thought as an economist, a pacifist, an anti-imperialist, and a political theorist.

Throughout the writings in this book, Tucker reveals with striking clearness the process of internal disintegration of the mercantilist doctrine during the eighteenth century, even before Hume and Smith had provided an acceptable substitute.


Nov 2021 | 6 x 9 | 584 Pages

Preface, introduction, bibliography, and index.


978-0-86597-929-1 Hardcover
978-0-86597-930-7 Paperback