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Melon, Essai politique sur le commerce, 1736.

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Economic theorist reformer’s views on slavery and colonialism:

a crucial justification of slavery

Jean-François Melon (1675-1738).

Essai politique sur le commerce. Nouvelle edition augmentée de sept chapitres, & où les lacunes des editions précédentes sont remplies.

No place, no name, 1736.

8°. [4], 399 pp.

Contemporary mottled calf with raised bands and gold-tooled spine, red edges, marbled endpapers.

Second official - and first complete edition of an important essay by Jean-François Melon, one of the key ideologues of Enlightenment political economy, in which he declares slavery and the slave trade necessary to imperial economies.

The first edition was, like the present second edition, published anonymously in Bordeaux or Rouen. It was an enormous success and several editions appeared at several places and in as many languages. But the edition we offer here is the only one that was expanded by the author himself, with 7 additional chapters.

Melon, as secretary to John Law and the King, played a pivotal role in shaping the monetary and banking system, establishing himself as a prominent figure in French mercantilism and protectionism. In his work, he extensively discusses the economic significance of colonies and justifies the grim realities of human enslavement and trade. His rationalizations not only facilitated the widespread acceptance of the burgeoning slavery economy but also fueled its exponential growth, particularly in the 18th-century West Indies, perpetuating unimaginable cruelties.

Rooted in political economy, Melon's "Essai politique sur le commerce" clarifies the ideological framework justifying slavery through notions of natural right and subordination, shedding light on how proponents of slavery employed such arguments to validate servitude. This seminal work significantly influenced economic thought, advocating for free trade and offering profound insights into market dynamics, subsequently shaping the ideas of later thinkers like Adam Smith and classical economists.

Condition: binding slightly rubbed. Inscription in ink on title dated 1816 and in pencil at the top, otherwise in very good condition.

Reference: Books that made Europe, p. 124; Einaudi Library, n. 3821; Goldsmiths 7371; Kress 4288; not in Hogg.

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