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ONE of the conditions attached to the Whately Professorship of Political Economy requires that, at least, one lecture in the year shall be published by the Professor. In the following pages I have ventured considerably to exceed this requirement, the subject which I selected as most appropriate for my opening course not being such as could be conveniently compressed within a single lecture.
With respect to the views advanced in this work, it may be well, in order to prevent misapprehension, to disclaim at the outset all pretence to the enunciation of any new method of conducting economic inquiries. My aim, on the contrary, has been to bring back the discussions of Political Economy to those tests and standards which were formerly considered the ultimate criteria of economic doctrine, but which have been completely lost sight of in many modern publications. With a view to this, I have endeavoured to ascertain and clearly to state the character of Political Economy, as this science appears to have been conceived by that succession of writers of which Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, and Mill are the most distinguished names ; and from the character thus ascertained to deduce the logical method appropriate thereto ; while I have sought further to fortify the conclusions to which I have been led, by the analogy of the method which in the physical sciences has been fruitful of such remarkable results.
It may, perhaps, be thought that it would have conduced more to the advantage of economic science, if, instead of pausing to investigate the logical principles involved in its doctrines, I had turned those principles to practical account by directing investigation into new regions. To this I can only reply, that the contrarieties of opinion at present prevailing amongst writers on Political Economy are so numerous and so fundamental, that, as it seems to me, no other escape is open to economists from the confusion and the contradictions in which the science is involved, than by a recurrence to those primary considerations by which the importance of doctrines and the value of