Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Anderson, James (1739-1808)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ANDERSON, JAMES (1739–1808), economist, was born at Hermiston, near Edinburgh, in 1739. At the age of fifteen he lost his parents, and undertook a farm which had long been in his family; he attended Cullen's lectures upon chemistry to improve his agricultural knowledge, and introduced the use of what was afterwards called the ‘Scotch plough.’ He afterwards took a farm called Monkshill, in Aberdeenshire. In 1768 he married Miss Seton, of Mounie, Aberdeenshire, by whom he had a large family. He had published several essays upon agriculture, and in 1780 received the LL.D. degree from Aberdeen. In 1783 he moved to Edinburgh, and privately printed some remarks upon the Western Scotch fisheries. Though otherwise a generally orthodox economist, Anderson desired protection for the fisheries. Bentham remonstrated with him in a forcible letter, which offended Anderson for the moment, though Bentham afterwards wrote to him about the Panopticon in terms implying considerable confidence. Their intimacy dropped after an unexplained misunderstanding in 1793. In 1784 Pitt employed Anderson to survey the fisheries. In some correspondence with Washington, published in 1800, Anderson says that Pitt withheld remuneration because he ‘dared do so.’ In 1790 Anderson started a weekly paper in Edinburgh, called the ‘Bee,’ which, at its conclusion in 1794, filled eighteen volumes, containing many useful papers on economical and other topics. Some papers on the political progress of Great Britain induced government to begin a prosecution, which was dropped upon Anderson's declaring that he would be responsible. One Callender having charged Lord Gardenstone, a judge of sessions and an occasional contributor, with the authorship, Anderson announced that they were written by Callender himself. In 1797 Anderson moved to Isleworth, where he led a retired life, amusing himself with agricultural experiments. From 1799 to 1802 he published, in monthly parts, ‘Recreations in Agriculture, Natural History, Arts, and Miscellaneous Literature,’ which formed six volumes. His first wife died in 1788, and in 1801 he married a lady who survived him. He died 15 Oct. 1808. Anderson is said to have done much for Scotch agriculture. He is specially noticeable as having published in 1777 a pamphlet called ‘An Inquiry into the Nature of the Corn Laws, with a view to the Corn Bill proposed for Scotland,’ which contains a complete statement of the theory of rent generally called after Ricardo. The passage is given in M'Culloch's ‘Literature of Political Economy.’ The same theory is expounded in the ‘Recreations,’ v. 401–28 (see M'Culloch's edition of Adam Smith). He is the author of many tracts: his first publication was ‘Essays on Planting,’ in Ruddiman's ‘Edinburgh Weekly Magazine,’ 1771; others are ‘Observations on the Means of exciting a Spirit of National Industry,’ 1777; ‘An Account of the present State of the Hebrides,’ &c., 1785; ‘Observations on Slavery,’ 1789; ‘A General View of the Agriculture and Rural Economy of the County of Aberdeen,’ 1794; ‘On an Universal Character,’ 1795. A full list of his works is given in Anderson's ‘Scottish Nation.’

[Gent. Mag. lxxviii. 1051–4; Bentham's Works, x. 127, 254, 258.]