[Article] ‘Il est encore plus important de bien faire que de bien dire’ A Translation and Analysis of Dupont de Nemours’ 1788 Letter to Adam Smith

Research Economics

In its letter sent to Adam Smith, Pierre-Samuel Dupont de Nemours argues a “pragmatic” approach to be understood rather than a more theoretical approach, less effective in convincing public opinion.

Robert Prasch , Thierry Warin https://www.warin.ca (HEC Montréal and CIRANO (Canada))https://www.hec.ca/en/profs/thierry.warin.html
03-10-2016

Abstract

This paper presents and contextualises a translation of a somewhat neglected letter from Pierre-Samuel Dupont de Nemours to Adam Smith. The purpose of the correspondence is to present his new book, in which he defended the recently enacted Anglo-French commercial treaty of 1786 from a critical report put out by the Chamber of Commerce of Normandy. Dupont emphasises that his book took what today might be called a ‘pragmatic’ approach in that his primary concern was with being well understood rather than presenting a scientifically pure argument. He contrasts his approach to that taken by Smith in his well-received Wealth of Nations. In making such a remark, Dupont suggests that there is an intellectual separation between economic policy and the emerging science of economics. However, the evidence suggests that both of these economists thought that public opinion was central to the articulation and enactment of sound public policies. While each of these highly practical thinkers believed that the public’s opinion must be respected, even when it was conceptually flawed, Dupont takes the view that his approach is less theoretical than Smith’s and thereby more likely to be effective in the furtherance of actual reforms. Finally, we believe that Dupont’s letter is interesting and worthy of a translation because it was addressed exclusively to Adam Smith, a person who we can presume to have been sympathetic to his agenda on economic policy in general, and trade policy in particular.


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Citation

For attribution, please cite this work as

Prasch & Warin, "www.warin.ca: [Article] ‘Il est encore plus important de bien faire que de bien dire’ A Translation and Analysis of Dupont de Nemours’ 1788 Letter to Adam Smith", History of Economics Review, 2016

BibTeX citation

@article{prasch2016[article],
  author = {Prasch, Robert and Warin, Thierry},
  title = {www.warin.ca: [Article] ‘Il est encore plus important de bien faire que de bien dire’ A Translation and Analysis of Dupont de Nemours’ 1788 Letter to Adam Smith},
  journal = {History of Economics Review},
  year = {2016},
  note = {https://warin.ca/posts/article-il-est-encore-plus-important/},
  doi = {10.1080/18386318.2009.11682143}
}