[Marxism] Comments on Charles Davenant
michael at ecst.csuchico.edu
Mon Jul 19 12:56:40 MDT 2010
Although Davenant seemed to have avoided the legal problems that hounded
the other three economists, he seemed to have the same ruthless drive to
improve his position in life. As a young man working for Brydges, the
## 309-10: "Davenant urged a correspondent at Lisbon to undertake the
delicate mission of informing the Paymaster of the English Force in
Portugal (Morrice) that the Paymaster General of the Forces Abroad
(Brydges) was accustomed to receive presents from all foreign princes
subsidized by England; that the Portuguese court had been negligent
therein; that Morrice should with all prudence and secrecy try to induce
the Portuguese ministers to atone for their previous neglect and make
their gifts retrospective; and that Morrice's success would result in
greater activity, on Brydges' part, in soliciting for Morrice's own
"incidents." [Davies and Schofield 1941, pp. 309-10]
John Macky offers another glimpse at Davenant. Macky was a famous
Scottish spy, whose network famously informed William III of the planned
invasion by the deposed king, James II. Macky's son later published his
father's short sketches of acquaintances, which pictured Davenant as "a
very cloudy-looked Man, fat, of middle Stature, about fifty Years old"
(Macky 1733, p. 133). Macky accused Davenant of conspiring with Lord
Peterborough to take advantage of the Fenwick Affair.
John Fenwick was arrested for plotting an uprising against the King.
According to Macky, Peterborough promised to prevent Fenwick's execution
if he would implicate Peterborough's rivals, the Duke of Shrewsberry,
and the Lord Oxford. Davenant assisted Peterborough publishing a book,
Memoir of Secret Service (1699), under the name of Matthew Smith (Macky
1733, p. 65). Jonathan Swift annotated his copy of Macky's book with a
note on Davenant: "He ruined his estate, which put him under a necessity
to comply with the times."
A short biographical sketch describes Davenant as being involved in
highly suspicious dealings with French agents (Waddell 1958, pp.
281-82). The author, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Davenant,
probably studied him more than anybody in history. Davenant also
frequently changed positions in order to ingratiate himself with the
government's positions at the time. Regardless of Davenant's
questionable character or even the absence of any major contribution to
economic theory, Davenant still merits our attention. To begin with, in
his capacity as a government official Davenant was an important figure
in modernizing the system of tax collection. In this role, Davenant was
not merely concerned about raising money for the state; he was also
attempting to create a database.
California State University
michael at ecst.csuchico.edu
Chico, CA 95929
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