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Liberty, poverty and charity in the political economy of Josiah Tucker and Joseph Butler

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 11:57 authored by Peter Xavier Price
Josiah Tucker, who was the Anglican dean of Gloucester from 1758 until his death in 1799, is best known today as a controversialist, a political economist and a lesser contemporary of Adam Smith. Little attention has been paid, however, to the important relationship between his religious writings and his wider economic thought. This article addresses this lack of attention in two ways: first by demonstrating the link between Tucker’s conception of civil and religious liberty and his “science” of political economy, and second by drawing sustained attention to his economic adaptation and reformulation of the moral philosophy of Bishop Joseph Butler, Tucker’s ecclesiastical mentor from 1739 to 1752. Emphasizing Butler and Tucker’s views on the traditional Christian virtue of charity, and the moral duty of the rich towards the poor, the article suggests that both clergymen were proponents of a sociability-based, neo-Stoic conception of human nature, which was not only compatible with, but also dependent upon, the established Anglican Church and state and the predominantly Whig commercial order. In consequence, Tucker’s political economy was premised on the unavoidability of social subordination and economic inequality as necessary hallmarks of modern commercial society. Accordingly, the article closes with a brief discussion of Tucker’s “Butlerian” assessment and rejection of the “anti-social” doctrine of individual natural rights, associated with the popular radicalism of the American and French Revolutions in the latter half of the eighteenth century.


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Modern Intellectual History




Cambridge University Press

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