Massie, Joseph (DNB00)

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MASSIE, JOSEPH (d. 1784), writer on trade and finance, united a profound knowledge of the economic literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with a keen interest in the economic difficulties of his own time. He formed a collection of some fifteen hundred treatises, extending from 1557 to 1763, and the study of these served to make him upon the whole a discriminating critic, though he was too much inclined to judge events of his own day in the light of the past. The catalogue of his collection, dated 1764, is Lansdowne MS. 1049 in the British Museum, and affords much valuable information regarding economic bibliography. His chief aim was to establish 'commercial knowledge upon fixed principles,' and he devoted a great portion of his time to the compilation of statistics, which traversed the vague contemporary impression that British trade was declining, and illustrate in an important manner the gradual expansion and relative distribution of our industries and commerce during the middle of the last century. His schemes met apparently with little encouragement either from the public or from the statesmen to whom he dedicated his works, for he had ceased to write, or at least to publish, twenty years before his death, which took place in Holborn on 1 Nov. 1784 (Gent. Mag. 1784, pt. ii. p. 876).

Massie's writings, exclusive of tables of calculations published in single folio sheets, are:

  1. 'An Essay on the Governing Causes of the Natural Rate of Interest, wherein the Sentiments of Sir W. Petty and Mr. Locke on that head are considered,' 8vo, London, 1750. He here refutes the notion of Locke that the rate of interest depends on the abundance of money by showing, as Hume did two years later in his 'Essay on Interest,' that the rate of interest really depends on the abundance and scarcity of disposable capital compared with the demands of the borrowers and the rate of profit. To Hume is usually assigned the credit of having been the first to point out the fallacy of Locke's opinion.
  2. 'Calculations of Taxes for a Family of each Rank, Degree, or Class, for One Year,' 8vo, London, 1756; 2nd edit. 1761.
  3. 'Observations on Mr. Fauquier's "Essay on Ways and Means for Raising Money for the Support of the Present War,"' 8vo, London, 1756 [see Fauquier, Francis]. Fauquier's project was a moderate house tax, which Massie deprecated (cf. No. 6).
  4. 'Ways and Means for Raising the Extraordinary Supplies to carry on the War for Seven Years, pt. i.,' 8vo, London, 1757. A collection of valuable statistics on the growth of English trade during the first half of the eighteenth century, prefaced by an apparently serious proposal to impose a tax on bachelors and widowers.
  5. 'Considerations on the Leather Trades of Great Britain,' 8vo, London, 1757.
  6. 'The Proposal, commonly called Sir Matthew Decker's Scheme, for one General Tax upon Houses, laid open,' 8vo, London, 1757. Decker's project was the repeal of all existing taxes and the substitution of a single graduated house tax, so completely freeing trade from artificial restraint. Massie criticises this early plea for abolition of customs by simply demonstrating the fact that it was opposed to the first principles of protection, on which subject he shared the views of the majority (see under No. 13 and art. Decker)).
  7. 'A Letter to Bourchier Cleave [sic] … concerning his Calculations of Taxes,' 8vo, London, 1757. Massie demonstrates that the taxes could not amount to anything like half the sum as stated by B. Cleeve [q. v.] in his Letter to Lord Chesterfield,' 1756.
  8. 'Facts which shew the Necessity of Establishing a Regular Method for the Punctual, Frequent, and Certain Payment of Seamen employed in the Royal Navy,' 4to, London, 1758.
  9. 'Reasons humbly offered against laying any farther British Duties on Wrought Silks,' 4to, London, 1758.
  10. 'A Plan for the Establishment of Charity Houses for Exposed or Deserted Women and Girls; Observations concerning the Foundling Hospital; Considerations relating to the Poor and Poor's Laws,' 4to, London, 1758. Of this important work, which inveighs against the old law of settlement and advocates a national rather than a parochial settlement for the poor, a full account is given in Dr. Cunningham's ' Growth of England,' ii. 384-7.
  11. 'Farther Observations concerning the Foundling Hospital,' 4to, London, 1759.
  12. 'A State of the British Sugar Colony Trade/ 4to, London, 1759.
  13. 'A Representation concerning the Knowledge of Commerce as a National Concern, pointing out the proper Means of Promoting such Knowledge in this Kingdom,' 4to, London, 1760. England, he maintained, had nothing to apprehend, but everything to gain, from the publication of facts and statistics relative to commerce. He therefore proposed to divide his historical account of every branch of manufacture into sixteen heads, under one or other of which fragments of information might be classified, in the hope that the whole account would sooner or later be made sufficiently complete. In the same work he attributes the retention of British industries to four causes: (1) Possession of better materials: (2) Natural advantages in regard to labour and navigation; (3) Superior skill and spirit, the latter due to the secure enjoyment of liberty and property; (4) Protection from foreign manufactures.
  14. 'Observations relating to the Coin of Great Britain,' 4to, London, 1760.
  15. 'Brief Observations concerning the Management of the War,' '2nd edit. 8vo, London, 1761.
  16. 'An Historical Account of the Naval Power of France,' 4to, London, 1762.
  17. 'Observations relating to British and Spanish Proceedings,' 4to, London, 1702.
  18. 'Observations on the new Cyder Tax, so far as the same may affect our Woollen Manufacturies,' &c., fol. London, 1764; another edition, in 4to, the same year. He opposed the tax strongly on the ground that it would denude Devonshire of its population and strengthen the tendency for the woollen manufacture to migrate from the cider counties into Yorkshire. His 'Memorandum to the Land-holders of England, 1768,' is in Additional MS. 33056, f. 285, in the British, Museum.

In the Breadalbane sale at Edinburgh in 1866 was an almost complete set of Massie's tracts, bound up together as a thick quarto volume; a similar set (if it be not this identical one) is at present in Dr. Cunningham's possession.

[Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce in Modern Times, ii. 426, and elsewhere; McCulloch's Lit. Pol. Econ. pp. 251, 3801; Coquelin and Guillaumin's Dict. de l'Économie Politique, ii. 144; Roscher's Pol. Econ. i. 150; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. v. 241, ix. 119.

G. G.