Documents for Enlightenment Economy and Society

Colbert to the town officials and people of Marseilles (1664)

Very dear and well beloved:

         Considering how advantageous it would be to this realm to reestablish its foreign and domestic commerce, . . . we have resolved to establish a council particularly  devoted to commerce, to be held every fortnight in our presence, in which all the interest of merchants and the means conducive to the revival of commerce shall be considered and determined upon, as well as all that which concerns manufactures.

         We also inform you that we are setting apart, in the expenses of our state, a million livres each year for the encouragement of manufactures and the increase of navigation, to say nothing of the considerable sums which we cause to be raised to supply the companies of the East and West Indies;

         That we are working constanly to abolish all the tolls which are collected on the navigable rivers;

         That there has already been expended more than a million livres for the repair of the public highways, to which we shall also devote our constant attention;

         That we will assist by money from our royal treasury all those who wish to reestablish old manufactures or to undertake new ones

         That we are giving orders to all our ambassadors or residents at the courts of the princes, our allies, to make, in our name, all proper efforts to cause justice to be rendered in all cases involving our merchants, and to assure for them entire commercial freedom;

         That we will comfortably lodge at our court each and every merchant who has business there during all the time that he shall be obliged to remain there, having given orders to the grand marshal of our palace to indicate a proper place for that purpose, which shall be called the House of Commerce;

         That all the merchants and traders by sea who purchase vessels, Or who build new ones, for traffic or commerce shall receive from us subsidies for each ton of merchandise which they export or import on the said voyages.

         We desire, in this present letter, not only to inform you concerning all these things, but to require you, as soon as you have received it, to cause to be assembled all the merchants and traders of your town of Marseilles, and explain to them very particularly our intentions in all matters mentioned above, in order that being informed of the favorable treatment which we desire to give them, they may be the more desirous of applying themselves to commerce. Let them understand that for everything that concerns the welfare and advantage of the same they are to address themselves to Sieur Colbert.

Question: What relationship does the state have to the economy?

Thomas Mun: England’s Treasure by Foreign Trade (1664)

The ordinary means therefore to increase our wealth and treasure is by Foreign Trade, wherein we must ever observe this rule; to sell more to strangers yearly than we consume of theirs in value. For suppose that when this Kingdom is plentifully served with the Cloth, Lead, Tinn, Iron,

Fish and other native commodities, we do yearly export the overplus to foreign coutries to the value of twenty two hundred thousand pounds; by which means we are enable beyond the Seas to buy and bring in foreign wares for our use and Consumptions, to the value of twenty hundred thousand pounds.

Question: How does a nation become wealthy, according to Mun?

Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations (1776)

         As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct

that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can.

       He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. . .   [H]e intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.

       Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.

Question: How does a nation become wealthy, according to Smith?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Emile (1762)

 [3:] We know nothing of childhood, and with our mistaken notions the further we advance the further we go astray. The wisest writers devote themselves to what a man ought to know without asking what a child is capable of learning. They are always looking for the man in the child without considering what he is before he becomes a man.

[10:] Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man. He forces one soil to nourish the products of another, one tree to bear the fruits of another. He mixes and confuses the climates, the elements, the seasons. He mutilates his dog, his horse, his slave. He turns everything upside down, he disfigures everything, he loves deformities, monsters. He wants nothing as nature made it, not even man himself. For him man must be trained like a saddle- horse; he must be shaped according to the fashion, like trees in his garden. If you wish to restore all men to their primary duties, begin with the mothers. . . .

[60:] But when mothers deign to nurse their own children, then morals will reforms themselves, natural feeling will revive in every heart, the state will be repopulated. This first point, this point alone, will bring everything together. The attractions of domestic life are the best antidote for bad morals. The noisy play of children, which one assumes to be bothersome, becomes agreeable; the mother and the father become more necessary, more dear to each other; the conjugal bonds are tightened. When the family is lively and animated domestic cares become the most cherished occupation of the wife and the sweetest amusement of the husband. Thus from this one corrected abuse would result a general reform; soon nature would have regained all of its rights. Once women become mothers again, men will become husbands and fathers.

 [73:] When a father begets children and provides a living for them he has done but a third of his task. He owes human beings to his species, social men to society, citizens to the state. A man who can pay this threefold debt and neglects to do so is guilty, more guilty, perhaps, if he pays it in part than when he neglects it entirely. He who cannot fulfil the duties of a father has no right to be a father. Neither poverty, work, nor human respect excuse a man from supporting his children and raising them himself. Readers, you can believe me. I predict that anyone who has visceral feelings and neglects such sacred duties will long weep bitter tears and will never be consoled.

[134:] At the moment that the child first breathes when leaving its envelope do not allow anyone to give him other constraints that will hold him even tighter. No cap, no bandages, nor swaddling clothes. Instead, loose and flowing flannel wrappers, which heave his limbs free and are not too heavy to check his movements, not too warm to prevent his feeling the air.  Put him in a big cradle, well padded, where he can move easily and safely. As he begins to grow stronger, let him crawl about the room; let him develop and stretch his tiny limbs. You will see him gain strength from day to day. Compare him with a well swaddled child of the same age and you will be surprised at the difference in their progress.

[159:] When the child cries he is uncomfortable, he feels some need which he cannot satisfy. We examine him, we search out this need, find it, and provide for it. When we cannot find it or provide for it, the tears continue and become tiresome. We stroke the child to make him keep quiet, we rock him, we sing to him to make him fall asleep. If he persists, we get impatient, we threaten him; cruel nurses sometimes strike him. What strange lessons for him at his first entrance into life!

[160:] I shall never forget seeing one of these troublesome crying children thus beaten by his nurse. He was silent at once. I thought he was frightened, and said to myself, "This will be a servile being from whom nothing can be got but by harshness." I was wrong. The poor thing was choking with rage, he could not breathe, I saw him becoming blue in the face. A moment later there were bitter cries, every sign of the anger, rage, and the despair of this age was in his tones. I thought he would die from such agitation. Had I doubted the innate sense of justice and injustice in man's heart, this one instance would have convinced me. I am sure that a drop of boiling liquid falling by chance on that child's hand would have hurt him less than that blow, slight in itself, but clearly given with the intention of hurting him. As long as children find resistance only in things and never in wills, they will become neither rebellious nor angry and they will conserve their health better. This is one reason why the children of the people, who are freer and more independent, are generally less infirm, less delicate, and more vigorous than those who claim to raise them better by ceaselessly thwarting them. But one must always be aware that there is a big difference between obeying them and not thwarting them.


When our natural tendencies have not been interfered with by human prejudice and human institutions, the happiness alike of children and of men consists in the enjoyment of their liberty. But the child's liberty is restricted by his lack of strength. He who does as he likes is happy provided he is self-sufficing; it is so with the man who is living in a state of nature. He who does what he likes is not happy if his desires exceed his strength, it is so with a child in like conditions. Even in a state of nature children only enjoy an imperfect liberty, like that enjoyed by men in social life. . . .

Nature provides for the child's growth in her own fashion, and this should never be thwarted. Do not make him sit still when he wants to run about, nor run when he wants to be quiet. If we did not spoil our children's wills by our blunders their desires would be free from caprice. Let them run, jump, and shout to their heart's content. All their own activities are instincts of the body for its growth in strength; but you should regard with suspicion those wishes which they cannot carry out for themselves, those which others must carry out for them. Then you must distinguish carefully between natural and artificial needs, between the needs of budding caprice and the needs which spring from the overflowing life just described.

Above all, beware of teaching the child empty phrases of politeness, which serve as spells to subdue those around him to his will, and to get him what he wants at once. The artificial education of the rich never fails to make them politely imperious, by teaching them the words to use so that no one will dare to resist them. Their children have neither the tone nor the manner of suppliants; they are as haughty or even more haughty in their entreaties than in their commands, as though they were more certain to be obeyed. You see at once that "If you please" means "It pleases me," and "I beg" means "I command." What a fine sort of politeness which only succeeds in changing the meaning of words so that every word is a command! For my own part, I would rather Emile were rude than haughty, that he should say "Do this" as a request rather than "Please" as a command. What concerns me is his meaning, not his words. . . .

"Reason with children" was Locke's chief maxim; it is in the height of fashion at present, and I hardly think it is justified by the results; those children who have been constantly reasoned with strike me as exceedingly silly. Of all man's faculties, reason, which is, so to speak, compounded of all the rest, is the last and choicest growth, and it is this you would use for the child's early training To make a man reasonable is the coping stone of a good education, and yet you profess to train a child through his reason! You begin at the wrong end, you make the end the means. If children understood reason they would not need education, but by talking to them from their earliest age in a language they do not understand you accustom them to be satisfied with words, to question all that is said to them, to think themselves as wise as their teachers; you train them to be argumentative and rebellious; and whatever you think you gain from motives of reason, you really gain from greediness, fear, or vanity with which you are obliged to reinforce your reasoning.

 [1274:] On their part women are always complaining that we educate them to be vain and coquettish, that we keep them amused with silly things so that we may remain their masters. We are responsible, so they say, for the faults we attribute to them. How insane! Since when do men bother with the education of girls? What is there to hinder their mothers educating them as they please? There are no colleges for girls; so much the better for them! Would to God that there were none for the boys; their education would be more sensible and more wholesome. Does anyone force your daughters to waste their time on silliness? Are they made, against their will, to spend half their time at their dressing table, following the example set them by you? Does anyone prevent you from teaching them, or having them taught, whatever seems good in your eyes? Is it our fault if we are pleased when they are beautiful, if their mincing ways seduce us, if the art that they learn attracts and flatters us, if we like to seen them tastefully dressed, if we let them display at leisure the weapons by which we are subjugated? Well then, decide to educate them like men; men will heartily consent. The more women resemble men, the less influence they will have over them, and then the men will truly be the masters.


[From Book 3]

Let the senses be the only guide for the first workings of reason.  No book but the world, no teaching but that of fact.  The child who read ceases to think, he only reads.  He is acquiring words not knowledge.

Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity, but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity.  Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself.  Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself.  Let him not be taught science, let him discover it.  If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people’s thoughts.

You wish to teach this child geography and you provide him with globes, spheres, and maps.  What elaborate preparations! What is the use of all these symbols; why not begin by showing him the real thing so that he may at least know what you are talking about?. . . .

  Time was long during early childhood; we only tried to pass our time for fear of using it ill; now it is the her way; we have not time enough for all that would be of use.  The passions, remember are drawing near, and when they knock at the door your scholar will have no ear for anything else. The peaceful age of intelligence is so short, it flies so swiftly, there is so much, to be done, that it is madness to try to make your child learned. It is not your business to teach him the various sciences, but to give him a taste for them and methods of learning them when this taste is more mature. That is assuredly a fundamental principle of all good education.

This is also the time to train him gradually to prolonged attention to a given object; but this attention should never be the result of constraint, but of interest or desire; you must be very careful that it is not too much for his strength, and that it is not carried to the point of tedium. Watch him, therefore, and whatever happens, stop before he is tired, for it matters little what he learns; it does matter that he should do nothing against his will. . . .

I do not like verbal explanations. Young people pay little heed to them, nor do they remember them. Things! Things! I cannot repeat it too often. We lay too much stress upon words; we teachers babble, and our scholars follow our example.

Suppose we are studying the course of the sun and the way to find our bearings, when all at once Emile interrupts me with the question, "What is the use of that?" what a fine lecture I might give, how many things I might take occasion to teach him in reply to his question, especially if there is any one there. I might speak of the advantages of travel, the value of commerce, the special products of different lands and the peculiar customs of different nations, the use of the calendar, the way to reckon the seasons for agriculture, the art of navigation, how to steer our course at sea, how to find our way without knowing exactly where we are. Politics, natural history, astronomy, even morals and international law axe involved in my explanation, so as to give my pupil some idea of all these sciences and a great wish to learn them. When I have finished I shall have shown myself a regular pedant, I shall have made a great display of learning, and not one single idea has he understood. He is longing to ask me again, " What is the use of taking one's bearings?" but he dare not for fear of vexing me. He finds it pays beat to pretend to listen to what he is forced to hear. This is the practical result of our fine systems of education.

But Emile is educated in a simpler fashion. We take so much pains to teach him a difficult idea that he will have heard nothing of all this. At the first word he does not understand, he will run away, he will prance about the room, and leave me to make speeches by myself. Let us seek a more commonplace explanation; my scientific learning is of no use to him.

We were observing the position of the forest to the north of Montmorency when he interrupted me with the usual question, "What is the use of that?"  "You are right," I said. "Let us take time to think it over, and if we find it is no use we will drop it, for we only want useful games." We find something else to do and geography is put aside for the day.

Next morning I suggest a walk before breakfast; there is nothing he would like better; children are always ready to run about, and he is a good walker. We climb up to the forest, we wander through its clearings and lose ourselves; we have no idea where we are, and when we want to retrace our steps we cannot find the way. Time passes, we are hot and hungry; hurrying vainly this way and that we find nothing but woods, quarries, plains, not a landmark to guide us. Very hot, very tired, very hungry, we only get further astray. At last we sit down to rest and to consider our position. I assume that Emile has been educated like an ordinary child. He does not think, he begins to cry; he has no idea we are close to Montmorency, which is hidden from our view by a more thicket; but this thicket is a forest to him, a man of his size is buried among bushes. After a few minutes' silence I begin anxiously:

Jean Jacques.  My dear Emile, what shall we do to get out?

Emile.  I am sure I do not, know. I am tired, I am hungry,  I am thirsty. I cannot go any further.

Jean Jacques.  Do you suppose I am any better off? I would cry too if I could make my breakfast off tears. Crying is no use, we must look about us. Let us see your watch; what time is it?

Emile.  It is noon and I am so hungry 1

Jean Jacques.  Just so; it is noon and I am so hungry too.

Emile.  You must be very hungry  indeed.

Jean Jacques.  Unluckily my dinner won't come to find me. It is twelve o'clock. This time yesterday we were observing the position of the forest from Montmorency. If only we could see the position of Montmorency from the forest--

Emile.  But yesterday we could see the forest, and here we cannot see the town.

Jean Jacques.  That is just it. If we could only find it without seeing it.

Emile.  Oh! my dear friend!

Jean Jacques.  Did not we say the forest was--

Emile.  North of Montmorency.

Jean Jacques.  Then Montmorency must lie--

Emile.  South of the forest.

Jean Jacques.  We know how to find the north at midday.

Emile.  Yes, by the direction of the shadows.

Jean Jacques.  But the south?

Emile.  What shall we do?

Jean Jacques.  The south is opposite the north.

Emile.  That is true; we need only find the opposite of the shadows. That is the south! That is the south! Montmorency must be over there! Let us look for it there!

Jean Jacques. Perhaps you are right; let us follow this path through the wood.

Emile. (Clapping his hands).  Oh, I can see Montmorency! there it is, quite plain, just in front of us! Come to luncheon, come to dinner, make haste! Astronomy is some use after all.

Be sure that he thinks this if he does not say it; no matter which, provided I do not say it myself. He will certainly never forget this day's lesson as long as he lives, while if I had only led him to think of all this at home, my lecture would have been forgotten the next day. Teach by doing whenever you can, and only fall back upon words when doing is out of the question.