Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tucker, Josiah

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TUCKER, JOSIAH (1712–1799), economist and divine, was born at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, in 1712. His father, a farmer, inherited a small estate near Aberystwyth, and thence sent his son to Ruthin school, Denbighshire. Tucker obtained an exhibition at St. John's College, Oxford. His father gave him his own horse to save him the long journey on foot. Tucker after a time dutifully returned the horse, and afterwards walked with his knapsack to college and back. He graduated B.A. in 1736, M.A. in 1739, and D.D. in 1755. In 1737 he became curate of St. Stephen's Church at Bristol, and two years later rector of All Saints' Church in the same city. He was appointed to a minor canonry in the cathedral, and came under the notice of Bishop Butler, to whom he was for a time domestic chaplain. It was to Tucker that Butler made his often-quoted remark [see under Butler, Joseph] about the possibility of nations going mad, like men. On the death of Alexander Stopford Catcott [q. v.] in 1749 Tucker was appointed by the chancellor to the rectory of St. Stephen's, worth about 50l. a year. At Bristol Tucker was naturally led to take a keen interest in matters of politics and trade. After some early tracts he first became generally known by pamphlets in favour of the measures for naturalising foreign protestants and Jews. His view was so unpopular that he was burnt in effigy at Bristol along with his pamphlets. Seward adds that he afterwards became so popular as to be drawn through the streets in his carriage. He had, at any rate, considerable political influence upon his parishioners. In 1754 Robert (afterwards earl) Nugent [q. v.] was elected for Bristol, and was warmly supported by Tucker. Nugent's influence probably contributed to his preferment. He was appointed to the third prebendal stall at Bristol on 28 Oct. 1756, and on 13 July 1758 to the deanery of Gloucester. Independently of his politics, Tucker had already a high reputation for his knowledge of trade, and in 1755 was requested by Thomas Hayter [q. v.], then bishop of Norwich and preceptor to the princes, to draw up a treatise called ‘Elements of Commerce’ for the instruction of the future king. A fragment was privately printed, but it was never completed. Tucker, as dean of Gloucester, saw something of Warburton, who became bishop in 1759, having previously been dean of Bristol. They did not like each other, and, according to Tucker (reported in Gent. Mag. 1799), the bishop said that the dean made a religion of his trade and a trade of his religion. According to another version, the person said to make a trade of his religion was the preferment-hunting Samuel Squire [q. v.], who succeeded Warburton as dean of Bristol (Nichols, Illustrations, ii. 55; cf. Watson, Warburton, p. 496). Anyhow, as Bishop Newton testifies, Tucker had ‘too little respect for his bishop,’ and the bishop speaks as contemptuously of Tucker as of most other people. Newton, however, adds that Tucker was an excellent dean, managing the estates well, living hospitably, and improving the deanery. In 1763 Tucker published a tract against ‘going to war for the sake of trade,’ which was translated by Turgot, who had previously translated one of the naturalisation pamphlets. He wrote in very complimentary terms to Tucker some years later, and sent him a copy of the ‘Réflexions sur la Formation des Richesses’ (Œuvres de Turgot, ii. 801–4). He mentions a visit of Tucker to Paris, but they were not personally acquainted.

Tucker next became conspicuous in the controversy which arose in 1771 as to the proposed abolition of clerical subscription to the thirty-nine articles. He defended the demands of the church of England against Kippis, but, as in other cases, took a line of his own, and admitted that some relaxation of the terms of subscription was desirable. His remarks upon the history of the controversy between Calvinists and Arminians seem to show that his claim to have studied theology as well as trade was not without foundation. He soon returned to economic questions, and became famous by his writings upon the American troubles. He maintained in various energetic pamphlets that a separation from the colonies was desirable. He held that the supposed advantage of the colonial trade to the mother country was a delusion. On the other hand, he maintained that the colonies turned adrift would fall out with each other, and be glad to return to political union. The policy pleased nobody in England, and Tucker, though his views were approved in later years by many of the laisser-faire economists, was for a time treated as a ‘Cassandra,’ under which name he published some contributions to the newspapers (see Nichols, Illustrations, vii. 462). The most popular of his American tracts was ‘Cui Bono?’ in the form of letters addressed to Necker (1781), arguing that the war was a mistake for all the nations concerned. In the same year he published a book upon ‘Civil Government,’ attacking Locke's principles as tending to democracy and supporting the British constitution. In 1785 he again applied his theories to the disputes about Irish trade with Great Britain.

Tucker's first wife was the widow of Francis Woodward of Grimsbury, Gloucestershire, and he educated his stepson, Richard Woodward [q. v.], who subsequently became dean of Clogher and bishop of Cloyne. In 1781 Tucker married his housekeeper, Mrs. Crowe. He became infirm, and in 1790 desired to resign his rectory at Bristol on condition that his curate might succeed to it. The chancellor refused to give the required promise, until, at Tucker's request, his petitioners signed a petition on behalf of the curate. Tucker then resigned, and the curate was appointed. Tucker died on 4 Nov. 1799 of ‘gradual decay,’ and was buried in the south transept of Gloucester Cathedral, where a monument was erected to his memory. His portrait, painted by G. Russell, was twice engraved (Bromley, p. 472).

Tucker was a very shrewd though a rather crotchety and inconsistent writer. He is praised by McCulloch and others who shared his view of the inutility of colonies; and he argued very forcibly that a ‘shopkeeping nation’ would not improve its trade by beating its customers. The war with the colonies would, he said, hereafter appear to be as absurd as the crusades. He retained, as McCulloch complains, a good many of the prejudices which later economists sought to explode. He is not clear about the ‘balance of trade;’ he believes in the wickedness of forestalling and regrating, and wishes to stimulate population by legislation. In spite, however, of his inconsistencies and narrowness of views, he deserves credit, as Turgot perceived, for attacking many of the evils of monopolies, and was so far in sympathy with the French economists and with Adam Smith. He deserves the credit of anticipating some of Adam Smith's arguments against various forms of monopoly, but, though he made many good points, he was not equal to forming a comprehensive system.

Tucker's works are: 1. ‘Brief History of the Principles of Methodism,’ Oxford, 1742, 8vo (answered in Wesley's ‘Principles of a Methodist,’ 1746). 2. ‘Two Dissertations’ (in answer to Chubb), 1749. 3. ‘Brief Essay on the Advantages which … attend France and Great Britain with regard to Trade,’ 1750; reprinted in McCulloch's ‘Collection of Tracts,’ 1859. 4. ‘Impartial Enquiry into Benefits … from use of Low-priced Spirituous Liquors,’ 1751, 8vo. 5. ‘Earnest Address to the Common People concerning Cock-throwing on Shrove Tuesday,’ reprinted 1787, was published about this time, and advertised in No. 7. 6. ‘Reflections on … Naturalisation of Foreign Protestants’ (two parts), 1751, 8vo (reprinted 1806). 7. ‘Letter … concerning Naturalisations,’ &c., and a second letter, with opinions of lawyers, 1753, 8vo (in defence of the act for naturalising Jews). 8. ‘Reflections on the Expediency of opening the Trade to Turkey,’ 1753, 8vo. 9. ‘The Elements of Commerce and Theory of Taxes’ (privately printed), 1755, 8vo. 10. ‘Instructions for Travellers’ (privately printed), 1757, 4to. 11. ‘Manifold Causes of the Increase of the Poor,’ &c. [1760], 4to. 12. ‘The Case of going to War for the Sake of … Trade … being a Fragment of a greater Work,’ 1763 (translated by Turgot). 13. ‘The Causes of the Dearness of Provisions assigned,’ 1766 (attributed to Tucker). 14. ‘Apology for the present Church of England … occasioned by the Petition for abolishing Subscription,’ 1772, 8vo. 15. ‘Letters to the Rev. Dr. Kippis,’ 1773 (on same occasion). 16. ‘Four Letters on important National Subjects … to the Earl of Shelburne,’ 1773, 8vo. 17. ‘Religious Intolerance no Part … of the Mosaic or Christian Dispensations,’ 1774, 8vo. 18. ‘Brief and Dispassionate View of the Difficulties attending the Trinitarian, Arian, and Socinian Theories,’ 1774, 8vo. 19. ‘Four Tracts, together with Two Sermons on Political and Commercial Subjects,’ 1775, 8vo; to a third edition (1775) is added a fifth tract, also published separately. 20. ‘Review of Lord Viscount Clare's Conduct as Representative of Bristol’ [1775], 8vo. 21. ‘The Respective Pleas and Answers of the Mother Country and of the Colonies …,’ 1775, 8vo (McCulloch). 22. ‘Letter to Edmund Burke,’ 1775, 8vo (answer to his speech of 22 March 1775). 23. ‘An Humble Address and Earnest Appeal to Respectable Personages …,’ 1775, 8vo (on separation from the colonies). 24. ‘A Series of Answers to … Objections against separating from the Rebellious Colonies …,’ 1776, 8vo. 25. ‘True Interests of Britain set forth in regard to the Colonies,’ 1776, 8vo (published at Philadelphia). 26. ‘Dispassionate Thoughts on the American War,’ 1780, 8vo. 27. ‘Cui Bono? An Enquiry what Benefit can arise to the English or Americans, French, Spanish, or Dutch, from the greatest Victories in the present War,’ 1781, 8vo (a series of letters addressed to Necker. There is a French translation, 1782). 28. ‘Treatise concerning Civil Government,’ 1781, 8vo. 29. ‘Reflections on present low Price of Coarse Wools,’ 1782, 8vo. 30. ‘Sequel to Sir W. Jones's Pamphlet on the Principles of Government,’ 1784, 8vo. 31. ‘Reflections on present Matters of Dispute between Great Britain and Ireland,’ 1785, 8vo. 32. ‘Union or Separation, written some Years since by Dr. Tucker, now first published with a Tract on the same Subject, by Dr. Clarke, &c.,’ 1799. 33. ‘Dean Tucker's Reflections on the Terrors of Invasion,’ published in the newspapers in 1779, were reprinted in 1806. Tucker also published six sermons in 1772, seventeen in 1776, and a single sermon or two.

[Gent. Mag. 1799, pp. 1000–3; Barrett's Bristol (1789), p. 512; Seward's Anecdotes, ii. 436–41; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 224, 445; Watson's Life of Warburton, p. 496; Thos. Newton's Autobiography; Letters of an Eminent Prelate (1809), pp. 403, 443, 452; McCulloch's Lit. of Political Economy, pp. 51, 53, 55, 90, 91, 192, 239, 269, 270, 278.]

L. S.