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History of Political Economy 32.3 (2000) 607-629

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The Puritan Roots of Daniel Raymond’s Economics

Donald E. Frey

The American Daniel Raymond’s Elements of Political Economy appeared in 1823 as a revision of his earlier Thoughts on Political Economy. Raymond’s interpreters have exhaustively compared his theory with the ideas of other economists. This does not fully explain Raymond, for he was highly selective in his use of others’ ideas. Some underlying principle must have provided the basis for his selectivity. That underlying principle, I argue, was a Puritan outlook that Raymond inherited from his New England background.

Section 1 addresses preconditions that must be met before seriously considering this Puritan hypothesis. The section details how Raymond interpreters have acknowledged his Puritan heritage and some of the more obvious elements of Puritanism in his ideas. Section 1 also outlines the inconclusive efforts of interpreters to explain Raymond primarily as a disciple of other economists; this suggests the possibility that Raymond’s ideas may possess a coherence in terms of some noneconomic framework, namely his Puritanism. Section 2 outlines the economically relevant aspects of Puritan thought. Subsequent sections (3–7) document Raymond’s ideas that bear the closest resemblance to Puritan thought. I contend that Raymond begins from a fundamentally religious vision of the human condition. Additionally, I show that Raymond’s views correspond to Puritanism on key issues such as self-interest, the centrality of [End Page 607] labor, inequality of wealth, private property, “unproductive” labor, and the role of government, among others. As well, the Puritan hypothesis is shown to explain some of Raymond’s more tortured arguments, which otherwise remain inexplicable and are normally ignored by interpreters (e.g., his insistence that capital is not a factor of production). Finally, section 8 recapitulates the evidence.

1. Raymond’s Interpreters

Several of Raymond’s interpreters have noted his Puritan background, although none has completely analyzed the intellectual connections between it and his economics. Allen Kaufman (1982, 46) describes Raymond’s work as “deeply influenced by his Calvinist New England background.” Paul Conkin (1980, 78) finds in Raymond’s work “the economic imperatives one might expect from his New England Puritan heritage.” C. P. Neill (1897, 41) notes in Raymond’s writings a “sense of Providence,” another characteristic of Puritanism. Joseph Dorfman (1946, 566) refers somewhat nonspecifically to Raymond’s “conservative New England” background, although that almost necessarily implied Puritanism. E. Teilhac (1936, 36) characterizes Raymond’s work as “even biblical” and notes his invocation of a “supernatural law of labor,” but he fails to attribute this to his religious heritage. Clearly, the Puritan hypothesis regarding Raymond’s economics cannot be ruled out at the start on the grounds that he lacked the requisite personal history.

Going further, Conkin argues that Raymond’s overall economic system was motivated by the Puritan vision of community. Conkin (1980, 81) states this Puritan vision as one of dedicated humans building “a rough approximation of the City of God.” Such a “righteous community” requires commitment to the common good by all and not “self-seeking” behavior. He goes on to suggest that full employment and relative equality of wealth represent Raymond’s characterization of the righteous community; Conkin also suggests that Raymond’s understanding of property derives much from a Puritan understanding of natural law (85).

Conkin was the first to articulate the Puritan hypothesis. However, his development of it is incomplete, for he does not emphasize the tension in Puritanism between individualism, which was a radical individualism for its time, and the righteous community, which he does emphasize so strongly. Indeed, I argue below that this tension in Puritan thought [End Page 608] manifested itself by creating a characteristic polarity in many of Raymond’s ideas.

Other Raymond interpreters have been more interested in classifying his economics relative to the economic thought and practice of his times. Providing a comprehensive review of Raymond’s interpreters is not the purpose of this paper. However, even a cursory summary reveals that commentators find Raymond to have been very selective in the...


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