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Defoe Review by: Dana N. Stevens The American Economist, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring, 1977), pp. 55-59 Published by: American Economist Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25603096 . Accessed: 19/02/2013 03:01
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Atlanta. to his Leaving 'such off. if he sees occasion. From his First Entering upon Business. Preoccupied with problems of foreign trade. what ever practical advice offered was largely irrelevant for the typical English businessman." is autobiographical. globers. the 250th anniversary of the birth of business science has passed unnoticed. linen and wollen-drapers. Stevens* Trade must not be entered into as a thing of it is called business very properly concern. despite the changes of 250 years. In 1725. Etc. so as to be able to turn his hand to any of his own country. lay down one trade and take up or his dealings when he pleases. and ought to be followed as one of the great business of life. light for it is a business for life. the inland or domestic tradesman." Before advice his in greater detail. these mercantilist treatises were written by self-interested merchants advocating particular political economic policies. Complete English Tradesman Defoe's good advice is precisely the advice that Defoe ignored as a young businessman. Defoe was sent to the Rev. hosiers.' the tradesman is given specific advice on: As Diligence Over-trading Diversions Partnership Trading Frauds Fine Shops Expensive living Credit Punctuality Suretiship Borrowing Early Marrying Money Discounting Compositions Book-keeping Monopolies Combinations Under-selling Engrossing Litigiousness Projects. As theoretical economists prepare to celebrate the bicentinnial of the publication of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. Charles Morton's in academy State University." and that "credit. 33)1 'business in general' such that the complete trades man can "understand all the inland trade of England. the life and soul of business in a private tradesman. a book which one overly enthusiastic biographer considers "to be the best book that De Foe ever wrote. mercers. (I. Defoe writes expressly for "all sorts of warehouse dealers keepers. With few exceptions. thing of the manufacture as his circumstances may require. 19 Feb 2013 03:01:34 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . it was certainly the first book to combine economic theory and analysis with a thorough understanding of business conditions and problems. Blackwell-hall factors.THE SHORTEST WAY TO SUCCESS: A REVIEW OF DEFOE'S THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN by Dana N. and may. is the founda tion. and perhaps it is the best book that ever was written in the English language. stationers. booksellers."2 While perhaps not the best book ever written. extend another. haberdashers." the title page advertises. career. Defoe proposes to 'complete the English tradesman' by "Directing and PROGRESSIONS him in the several PARTS of TRADE.He that trades in jest. Biographical Sketch Born Daniel Foe in 1660 (firstadding the 'De' in 1695) of middle class Dissenter parents. The closing years of the 4age of mercantilism' produced many tracts on economic and business (I. will certainly break in earnest. Daniel Defoe published the first compre hensive business textbook: The Complete English Tradesman. may depend upon ithe will ere long keep no trade. next to real stock. Defoe seeks to acquaint the tradesman with * The author is an assistant professor of Economics at Georgia of goods. advice often remains relevant for the Defoe's business modern student). without serving a new apprenticeship to learn it. tobac conists. considering since Defoe's some business it may be useful to review to extent The remarkable Like themodern business scientist. and this is one reason why so many tradesmen come to so hasty a conclusion of their affairs. whether wholesale or retailers Surprising." After laying down general maxims of trade as are fit forhis instruction. Rather. Defoe is not concerned with advising "grocers. shopkeepers. 3) subjects. The Complete English Trades man corrects this neglect of the domestic tradesman . milliners. and all other shopkeepers" in the particulars of their respective trades. Georgia. nearing the end of a long and checkered career. It is (and business still true that a "tradesman who keeps no books. 55 This content downloaded on Tue.
19 Feb 2013 03:01:34 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . From 1704 to 1715. the Earl of Anglesey was a Jacobite. social. Once again Defoe was in serious trouble. It was an ability often exercised. as the free tradeMercator (1713-1714). Review' defended the Tory position?as (the editor/author of theReview. provided Defoe with a comfortable income. the Tories failed to realize it was a advice as entirely rea satire. when he married Mary Tuffley (and invested her 3. Lord The offer was accepted. and Defoe Townshend. beer. the doggerel poem King William. but not before gaining lasting notoriety by defrauding his mother-in-law of 400 pounds (the civet-cat scandal). Defoe developed into the honest. due primarily to over-trading. Over the next few years. Although Defoe was later to be called illiterate' by contemporaries such as Jonathan Swift. Mathew Boulton. to become an anonymous political propagandist and secret agent. and. serviceable in a kind of disguise than ifI appeared openly. his social status as a 'gentleman' was restored through service to and friendship from in 1701. Diaster struck again in 1703. 1704-1713). Mist's Weekly Thus. into themost active period of his political "plunged As Defoe explained." But ever after. And "The True-Born Englishman" established his liter ary reputation (if reputation is the right word). with a fine flowing wig. Defoe was derided by his enemies (of whom he never lacked) as 'the fellow that was pilloryed. and decided in 1679 to pursue a secular career as a London in honesty (between though lacking somewhat 1688 and 1694 he was sued at least eight separate times for fraud) and inmodesty ('he used to appear on the streets fashionably dressed. Defoe This content downloaded on Tue. exercising editorial control over Mercurius Politicus. William had been succeeded by Anne. Of course. shipping forced to go bankrupt. Defoe's employer and George was and protector. safety anonymity comparative for becoming known as the 'Sunday Gentleman' his habit of appearing in public on Sundays when by law he could not be arrested as a debtor. I should that Lord Townshend proposed by my still appear as if I were. By 1684. over-speculation. to gether with his secret service missions against the Jacobites. and lace ruffles. gentleman-tradesman Defoe was in serious financial trouble. history and geography rather than the traditional Latin and Greek. for Defoe. imprisoned. and Queen Anne (prompted by the high Tories) was not amused by Defoe's reli But Defoe's 56 side'). the Whigs Unfortunately. his education was of the type that produced such prominent industrialists as John Roebuck. along with the second bankruptcy. To avoid fled London for the creditors and arrest. Defoe had an ability to Throughout rebound from financial. al Robert Harley. as before.' Of course. This demeaning punish ment was somewhat assuaged by the popular to the Defoe's sympathy generated by "Hymn Pillory. sober to study for the Presbyterian Newington Green was Morton's the best of the Dissenter ministry. arrested. modest. with sedition. And impeached Defoe was arrested for the libel of implying that the Earl of Anglesey was a Jacobite. These journalistic activities. By 1692. brandy. his life. and as the author of numerous pamphlets and tracts useful to the Tory Ministry. pillory came Defoe's the Tories were responsible for his Although ruin. Defoe was convicted of libel. regained control of the government with the accession of I in 1715. phi losophy. and Benjamin Gott. were academies not allowed to attend (Dissenters Oxford or Cambridge) and Defoe received a non classical education stressing mathematics."5 In considering after this which way I might be itwas rendered most useful to theGovernment.4 complete tradesman. Defoe escaped jail by accepting an offer from ostensibly remained as a Tory propa gandist. and political set backs. and sentenced being charged to stand in the pillory. By the late 1690's. tobacco and other profitable merchandise. Defoe's income had been restored by setting up the first successful English brick and pantile factory. Defoe ably 'Mr. Defoe was a promising young merchant dealing mainly in hosiery but also trading in wine. Defoe services to the new Whig Secretary of State. Defoe of and Briston.6 gious satire "Shortest Way with the Dissenters" (apparently. accepting Defoe's was Defoe ruined 'the shortest way' by sonable).businessman. JohnWilkinson. he was safe from his creditors while under the protection of Harley. of course. Harley. and a sword by his position as a sucessful merchant and was short-lived. Although still a debtor.700 pound dowry). and ill-timed war He was in with losses the France. felt it wise to offer his Ever practical. Dormer's News-Letter. then the Tory Secretary of State. Defoe was always a practical man.3 Defoe did not feel called to the ministry. In 1704. under the and separated displeasure of the Government and that I might be more from the Whigs. journalism.
by not bills the tradesman is the man ("if discounting destroyed. Lacking an invisible hand to direct the businessman. From 1716 until 1730. . In a word. Manufacturers give credit to wholesalers. a common when he sees himself evidently running out and declining.e. ifomitted. and (3) allowing credit that would otherwise be wasted in a declining business to be extended to other more productive tradesmen. every trick and subterfuge (short of larceny) that is necessary to the tradesman's occupation. This content downloaded on Tue. Business Advice Defoe knew from personal experience "every littlemean art. and by avoiding litigiousness ("A tradesman wran gling in every bargain. In Defoe's system. and knows that unless something extra ordinary happen. and delighting in storms and tempests. thus protecting their ability and willingness to extend credit in the future. or with scolds among women. (2) minimizing the financial losses to the creditors. 117)). disputing every trifle. ing . credit ismaintained by prompt payment of bills ("the grand charac teristic of a tradesman. every sneaking address. he should be presented as a public nuisance. But in 1728. areas eco nomics?the advice often centers about one theme: the importance ofmaintaining the stock of business credit. he ought to call his creditors together. by exact book-keeping ("next to taking care of his soul.xx)). marketing. but families" (I. .and other Tory publications. Through this pyramid of credit. In general. 306)). 51). should be ranked among what we call common barreters in the law. whole salers give credit to retailers. If you love yourself. Defoe lived a relatively secure life. the volume of domestic business is increased far above what could be supported by the 'real stock' of money. by keeping a good reputation ("A trades man's virtue ought to be credit and a maid's evil sacred from equally tounges" (I. Defoe is describing his own experience when he warns of 57 Although finance. And Defoe knew from experience that few of these pitfalls were likely to be avoided naturally by the tradesman. he must fall . It should be noted that Defoe did not break in time. they the discounter are true is the vulture destroy and man-eaters. Defoe died of iethargy' in a lodging house less than 200 yards from where he had been born. On April 24. a tradesman should take care of his books" (I.' In particular. inmany accounting. to break in time (I. is the seemingly paradoxical going bankrupt quickly : they devour not only men. . Defoe felt it was necessary to provide his own visible hand for directing the progress of the young tradesman. living by differences. Fear not to do that which necessity obliges you to. his 1692 bankruptcy was both overdue and traumatic. i. fear not to do that early."7 Defoe knew from many pitfalls that await an ambitious experience the businessman. necessity will oblige you to do late (I. Defoe offers advice management. .. as sinking men generally do. criticism of the Whig government. which perhaps also is not probable. your family. But 'credit is a coy mistress. but above all. Defoe was sued by a Mrs.He remained in good health and gradu ally gained political and financial independence through his popular Robinson Crusoe (1719). bullion and bullion backed paper. But in was a Defoe censor. 1730. Unable to avoid a ruinous court fight. credit is maintained by (1) preserving the reputation of the honest tradesman. lay his circumstances honestly before them. 'credit is maintained by just and honest dealing. and going to law for every dispute. and has only a shift here and a shift there to lay hold on. 286)). 1727) and the two volumes of The Complete English Tradesman (1725. Moll Flanders (1722).. 1727). preventing Whig reality. or your repu tation. cannibals for disturber of the neighborhood" (II. and retailers give credit to final consumers. 150)). 19 Feb 2013 03:01:34 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1725. which. 52-53). making it easier to obtain credit again when the tradesman starts business anew. and pay out as far as itwill go. and would ever hope to look the world in the face again. Journal. By breaking in time. and by which his credit is rated. his three Tour books (1724. Defoe did not believe that businessmen always do what is in their own or in society's interest..Defoe went into hiding in the summer of 1730. Unlike Adam Smith. Most important formaintaining business credit. Colonel Jacque (1722). Brooke (who eventually was named executor of his estate) for a debt dating back to his first bankruptcy in 1692. I speak it to every declining tradesman. business credit is the means by which domestic business is supported.. advice of however.' difficult to obtain and still more difficult to keep. is that of paying his bills well or ill" (I.
1738. a trading tyrant. thatmay look like being employed. to avoid partnerships of all kinds. and he that is not careful of both. (I. and to the nation that make it. the distresses and extremities of his declining state.his soul would abhor at another time. Defoe was the first that the business scientist. anxious. and it is with Defoe birth of business science must be credited. 172) On Accounting: A tradesman's books. 1745). for businessmen. if advice possible. 58 This content downloaded on Tue. 102) There is a great deal of differ ence also between trusting a servant in your business. what shiftshe is driven to for supporting himself. 311) in the history of economic and business thought. and for con which he goes perhaps with a wounded science all his life after (I. . The result was a book which instructs the businessman in those topics which are covered by themodern business school. Human nature never seems themiserable. The Complete English Tradesman appears to have had plague year. though the than its neigh be higher price bors." To borrow a favorite phrase. not to say wicked things. will give but a sad ac count of himself either toGod or man. and he tyrannises in a most unjust and unreasonable manner over On Quality Price : and all the tradesmen of his own class. 208) to change. 113) it is not always the interest of trade to have themanufacture be brought down to a low price. vagrant servant hurts himself. (II. mean. Defoe systematically provides all the business information necessary to make a complete English tradesman. and trusting him with your busi ness. he includes ex all manufactures other necessary and of business letters. 55). the first is leaving your business with him . will even a conscientious tradesman stoop to in his distress to deliver himself. (II. that in short. especially if the value of the goods sinks with the rate: manufacture but to keep up the to its goodness. 99) On Management : The extravagant. even such things as On Monopoly: The overgrown tradesman is. it is excep (I. (I. he provides a complete description of English home trade (with tables showing where are produced). Unfor tunately. Defoe even throws ina chapter on genealogy. spacious . the baby seems to have been born in a tional Despite several editions (1732. like a Christian's conscience. trade in England makes gentlemen (I. how many little. in short. 195) Let the shop be decent and as the handsome. how harassed and tormented for money. Defoe's Legacy is a book The Complete English Tradesman written about business. perplexed lifewhich the poor tradesman lives under before he breaks. Defoe was the first (and for a long time the last) to combine economic theory and analysis with a comprehensive knowledge of and appreciation for business. amples business documents. (I. . the other is leaving your business to him. in short. to demonstrate that "Trade is so far here from being inconsistent with a gentleman. 246). 103) I cannot but give itas a friendly to all tradesmen.if possible. by a businessman. If for no other reason. is a credit to the manu Defoe's advice on subjects other than credit is less poignant but equally reasonable : On Marketing : The shopkeeper ought indeed to have a good tongue. Defoe's advice is considerably more compre hensive than these vignettes might suggest. 19 Feb 2013 03:01:34 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . nay. place will allow be always busy and doing something in it. should always be kept clean and neat . (I. but he should not make a common whore of it. (I. he tyrannises over trade itself. facture. He devotes 62 pages to themechanics of double entry book-keeping. but the diligent servant endangers his master. idle. bills.
This contrasts with earlier views that Defoe's fall from power. p. reprinted 1970. Methuen pp. indicate volume works. 7. April 26. London: 1830. 1718. the introduc even to Defoe himself in the treatises of Cantillon. 86. Routledge 59 This content downloaded on Tue. Citizen of of Defoe. 209. to English industrial 3. 1972. 1948. Steuart. :Boston. University 1958. Burt Franklin: New York. growth. ed. Moore. William The Critical Heritage. University Press: Oxford. p. The Life and Times of Daniel De Foe. who purchased the book for the Juno's subscription library in 1732). to Defoe's other economic 1859. p. The economists were too busy creating theory to be concerned with problems of business.. see T. Charles Lamb in a 1822 letter to Walter first serious biographer). Hume. For the importance of the Dissenters 1760 The Industrial Revolution. Defoe. and Smith. Chadwick is not the most reliable of Defoe's biographers. Daniel Defoe. 1937. Sutherland. but he is certainly one of the more enthusiastic. The businessmen were too busy creating the English industrial revolution. 215 and Moore. 2. or 4. p. S. & Kegan Paul Ltd. Oxford tion. 19 Feb 2013 03:01:34 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . of Chicago theModern World. In a letter to Charles De La Faye. English Tradesman 1880. 215. Quoted Wilson (Defoe's in Pat Rogers.: London. Parentheses and page of The Complete (1745 edition). political career ended with Harley's in 6. Quoted Sutherland. Defoe. 5.little impact on eighteenth century thought (except perhaps for Benjamin Franklin. 43-44. There are no references to The Complete English Tradesman. Notes 1. Chadwick. Ashton. James & Co. For an equally good but more modern biography see John Robert Moore. Press: Chicago.
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