Background and Origins

  • Laurence Shute
Part of the Contemporary Economists book series (CONTECON)


John Maurice Clark, who became a leading American Economist in the mid-twentieth century, was born on 30 November 1884 in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was the third son of John Bates Clark, himself the leader of the mainstream in American economics towards the close of the nineteenth century, and Myra Almeda (Smith) Clark, a graduate of Vassar College. As a member of this family, the young Clark had a number of unusual opportunities to make a decisive impact on the American intellectual and social tradition.


Political Economy Moral Philosophy Business System Social Tradition Unusual Opportunity 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Joseph Dorfman, “John Bates and John Maurice Clark on Monopoly and Competition,” Introductory Essay to John Bates Clark and John Maurice Clark, The Control of Trusts, Rewritten and Enlarged Edition [1912] (New York: Kelley, 1971), 5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Both John Bates Clark’s great-grandfathers served in the Revolution: his paternal great-grandfather, Daniel A. Clark, serving under his maternal great-grandfather, General Jedidiah Huntington. Daniel Clark was a founder of the village of Plymouth Kingdom in Vermont. General Huntington was “one of the eight original brigadier-generals appointed by Washington.” See Frances A. Toyer, “The Economic Thought of John Bates Clark,” unpublished Ph.D. dissertation (New York University, 1952), 4;Google Scholar
  3. and “John Bates Clark” in The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, vol. 13 (1906), 48.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    The reference is to Daniel Clark. See Economic Essays, Contributed in Honor of John Bates Clark, edited by Jacob H. Hollander ([Published on behalf of the American Economic Association] New York: Macmillan, 1927), 365.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    The evidence for this is ample and will be presented in following chapters. Two examples may serve here. Towards the end of his life (probably in 1955) Clark made the following notes on an envelope: “About 75 years ago, J.B.C[lark] called for truer ‘anthropology’ as basis for ec[onomics].” “40 years ago (1915) [sic] I was writing ‘Changing basis of ec[onomic] responsibility]’.” And in a letter to John C. Schramm, Director of the Calvin K. Kazanjian Foundation in 1955, Clark wrote: “For the purpose in hand, I like to think that I am continuing the tradition of my eminent father, who some 75 years ago began to stress ethical elements in economics.” The “purpose in hand” was the forthcoming Kazanjian Foundation Lectures delivered in 1955 and published as The Ethical Basis of Economic Freedom. Clark to Schramm, 10 March 1955. Copy and envelope in J.M. Clark Papers. None of this, however, is to be interpreted as suggesting that the efforts of the younger Clark were limited to those originally undertaken by his father.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Joseph Dorfman, The Economic Mind in American Civilization, 5 volumes (New York: Viking, 1946–1958) V: 440.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    John Bates Clark: A Memorial (Prepared by his children and privately printed, 1938), 5.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Thomas le Due, Piety and Intellect at Amherst College, 1865–1912 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1946), 27–28.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Alan Simpson, Puritanism in Old and New England (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 39.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    A converter is a device for transforming energy from one form to another. The steam engine transforms heat energy into mechanical energy. Carlo M. Cippola adopts the useful term “inorganic converter” in order to distinguish technological advances beyond the use of animal or “organic” converters. See his The Economic History of World Population, rev. ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1964), esp. Chapter 2.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    See, for example, Joseph Dorfman, The Economic Mind in American Civilization, volumes I and II (especially chapters 25 and 34), and volume III.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Simpson, 33.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    John Bates Clark, 5.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    John R. Everett, Religion in Economics: A Study of John Bates Clark, Richard T Ely, Simon N. Patten (New York: King’s Crown Press, 1946), 26. This work, Everett’s dissertation at Columbia University, benefited from the suggestions of John Maurice Clark and Joseph Dorfman. The elder Clark, however, “was the third American figure to attain outstanding international importance.” See Joseph Dorfman, The Economic Mind in American Civilization, II: 804; III: 102, 188.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Hollander, 5. Professor E.R.A. Seligman placed him “on a level with Ricardo, Senior, John Stuart Mill, Jevons, and Marshall.” See Essays in Economics, 151. Allan G. Gruchy notes that “textbooks are still largely written in the pattern sanctioned by Alfred Marshall and John Bates Clark at the turn of the century.” See Modern Economic Thought: The American Contribution (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1947), 13.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    J. M. Clark was to later recall that his father commented “that when he was young, Hell was a very real thing … but he was reserved about discussing such matters.” John Maurice Clark to J.R. Everett, 17 September, 1944. Cited in Everett, Religion in Economics, 1953.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
  18. 17.
    John Bates Clark, 6, 7.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    The patents were No. 86210 (26 January, 1869) and No. 571511 (17 November, 1896). “One was a ‘new apparatus for heating houses of all kinds’ which was purported to save money in the initial installation of a heating apparatus and also in the use of fuel; the second was a machine for converting wave motion into [mechanical] power.” Toyer, 6. Other “Patents in the attic” were “Bridge across the Atlantic,” “similar idea for mid-ocean airports,” “Rope firee-scape,” and “2-story streets for N.Y.” See notes in John Maurice Clark’s hand in J.M. Clark Papers.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Everett, 28.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
  22. 21.
    John Bates Clark, 8.Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    Of the ten clerical members of the first Board of Trustees, Claud M. Fuess writes: “with one or two exceptions, they were all aggressively Calvinistic.” Amherst was appropriate in another way for Clark since his paternal great-grandfather, the Reverend Daniel A. Clark, was on the original Board of Trustees. The Reverend Clark was “a vigorous, original personality, who had made himself unpopular in the town [Amherst] because of his energetic espousal of the temperance movement and who was evidently a consistent trouble maker, moving rapidly from one pastorate to another .…” See Fuess’ Amherst: The Story of a New England College (Boston: Little, Brown, 1935), 42, 43.Google Scholar
  24. 23.
    Fuess, 170, 179.Google Scholar
  25. 24.
    Friedrich August Gottreu Tholuck (1799–1877) was the son of a goldsmith who rose to become a leading defender of evangelical religion and Calvinism. In 1819 he was appointed professor at Berlin; in 1826 he became a professor at Halle where he remained the rest of his life.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    Fuess, 209, 211, 219. Seelye had studied at Amherst under Henry B. Smith, who persuaded him to spend a year in Germany following his graduation. Smith himself had studied Kantian philosophy at Halle and Berlin and theology under Tholuck. See Le Due, 42. As one student of the class of ‘71 remarked, “the atmosphere of that senior lecture may at times have been highly rarefied, but we did think, and we thought about God, freedom, and immortality.” Yet another student described the lecture “as mainly an exposition of the Westminister Catechism. …” Fuess, 217, 219. Still, Amherst produced men like Francis A. Walker, Herbert B. Adams, and Richmond Mayo-Smith in economics.Google Scholar
  27. 26.
    Fuess, 213, 215. In his campaign for Congress, Seelye “refused to make speeches or to spend money. His only expenditure, in fact, during the campaign, was the postage stamp which he placed on his letter of acceptance.” Ibid.Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    From the manuscript, cited in Le Due, 98.Google Scholar
  29. 28.
    John Bates Clark, 8, 9.Google Scholar
  30. 29.
    See, for instance, Veblen’s “Professor Clark’s Economics,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 22 (February 1908), reprinted in Thorstein Veblen, The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation and other essays (New York: Russell & Russell, 1961). The opening paragraphs clearly indicate Veblen’s high regard for his former teacher.Google Scholar
  31. 30.
    See “J.B. Clark, 1847–1938” in J.M. Clark Papers.Google Scholar
  32. 31.
    Much of this was as a Latin teacher. See Joseph Dorfman, Economic Mind, III: 189.Google Scholar
  33. 32.
    Maurice (1805–1872) was a professor of English literature and history at King’s College, London and, later, Cambridge. This earlier, English “movement was composed of ‘social conservative critics’ of capitalism and classical political economy. It attempted at the same time to meet the challenge of the ‘un-Christian socialism’ of the French revolution of 1848.” See Joseph Dorfman, Economic-Mind, III: xxiii.Google Scholar
  34. 33.
    Donald O. Wagner, The Church of England and Social Reform Since 1854 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930), 110.Google Scholar
  35. See also Peter D’Arcy Jones, The Christian Socialist Revival, 1877–1914: Religion, Class and Social Conscience in Late-Victorian England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  36. 34.
    James Dombrowski, The Early Days of Christian Socialism in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), 3.Google Scholar
  37. 35.
    Ibid., 15.Google Scholar
  38. 36.
    The article later became Chapter 10, “The Principle of Cooperation,” of his The Philosophy of Wealth: Economic Principles Newly Formulated (1st ed., 1886; reprint of 2nd ed., 1887; New York: Kelley, 1967), 198. The original article appeared in the New Englander, n.s., 2 (July 1879): 565–600.Google Scholar
  39. 37.
    Joseph Dorfman points out that the three sons pursued as careers the three main interests of the elder Clark: Religion, Engineering, and Economics. Clark’s sister married Henry Carrington Lancaster on 11 June 1913. At that time, he was professor of French Literature at Amherst College.Google Scholar
  40. 38.
    John Bates Clark, 13.Google Scholar
  41. 39.
    J.M. Clark Papers. Understandably, in light of this recollection, the younger Clark’s copy of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography was heavily underlined.Google Scholar
  42. 40.
    He also joined his father’s fraternity, Sigma chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon.Google Scholar
  43. 41.
    London: James Clarke [1896], 350, 354.Google Scholar
  44. 42.
    (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1898), 12. Looking Backward was published in January 1888.Google Scholar
  45. 43.
    Le Duc, 144.Google Scholar
  46. 44.
    Fuess, 224.Google Scholar
  47. 45.
    Fuess, 239. Garman also took some illustrations from theology, but they were relatively few.Google Scholar
  48. 46.
    In the posthumous Letters, Lectures, and Addresses of Charles Edward Garman: A Memorial Volume, prepared with the cooperation of the class of 1884, Amherst College by Eliza Miner Garman (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909), 343. This excerpt is from stenographic notes made by a student in 1893, and is entitled “The Right of Property.” Garman published little in his lifetime, but seems to have been a remarkable teacher. His volume is filled with imagery such as the following: “To recur to Kant’s illustration. We know that no effort at flight can ever take the bird beyond the atmosphere of the earth, because when we know what it is to fly we see that it is merely to receive support from the air. So when we investigate what it is ‘to think,’ ‘to judge,’ ‘to get science,’ we see that it is to weigh accurately the evidence concerning the data in consciousness, and to do it according to the constitution of consciousness (= law of thought). So all our science is merely a knowledge of the world of consciousness.” “Ultimate Problems — Two Letters to an Alumnus,” in Ibid., 110–111 (emphasis in original).Google Scholar
  49. 47.
    Le Duc, 102, 106. Among Garman’s students were Walter Francis Willcox (’84), “dean of American demographers”; Professor Robert Sessions Woodworth (‘91), the behavioral psychologist at Columbia University; and the Columbia University philosopher and one-time dean of the Graduate Faculties, Frederick J.E. Woodbridge (‘89). On Willcox, see Dorfman, V, 566. One tribute to Garman was Studies in Philosophy and Psychology, by Former Students of Charles Edward Garman (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1906). It is interesting, in light of J.M. Clark’s early criticisms of the hedonistic psychology in economics, to note the following from Garman’s course in psychology. Citing E.B. Titchener, William James, and Paul E. Flechsig, Garman pointed out: “Thought is a function of the brain.” He continued: “Our work begins with the law of association as explained in terms of brain action. This involves a study of habit as resting upon a physiological basis. “We next take up physical action or what might be called volition. … The old view of thought might be [illustrated by]…. a modern thermostat for regulating our furnaces. Formerly intelligence would be compared to the thermometer which informed us of the temperature of the room. But the furnace would be ineffectual until the fireman should intervene and open or close the dampers. But the modern thermostat is ideo-motor action, and the fireman has no function aside from feeding the coal and supervising the setting of the thermometer.” In “A General Survey of the Course [in Psychology],” Letters Lectures, and Addresses of Charles Edward Garman, 129–132; 133–134. See chapter 6 for Clark’s views on ethics. In poor health by 1900, Garman died in 1907.Google Scholar
  50. 48.
    His dissertation was German Wage Theories: A History of their Development (New York: Columbia University Press, 1898). Interestingly, Crook’s teacher at Columbia was John Bates Clark, the man he had replaced at Amherst in 1895 when Clark moved to Columbia.Google Scholar
  51. 49.
    Clark later recalled that his earliest contact with an economic problem came when he was two or three years old: he wondered why the carpenter received $2 per day while his father’s salary was around $3500 per year. See “J.M.C.’s recollections of his earliest contacts with economic problems,” 8 June 1949, J.M. Clark Papers. Initially, he didn’t fare too well at Amherst, however; Crook assigned him a “C” in the course. Clark noted later: “Crook said he ‘didn’t get hold’ of me. He was correct.” Ibid.Google Scholar
  52. 50.
    Here he read William Z. Ripley’s Transportation (1902);Google Scholar
  53. Emery R. Johnson’s American Railway Transportation (1903);Google Scholar
  54. and Edward S. Mead’s Trust Finance (1903) (Mead at an earlier time spelled his name Meade).Google Scholar
  55. 51.
    He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Magna cum laude. At the commencement, Carrol D. Wright was presented with an honorary LL.D.Google Scholar
  56. 52.
    “A Study of the Principles of Railway Rate-Making, with a view to ascertaining the possibility of establishing correct rates.” Unpublished Master’s thesis, Department of Economics, Columbia University, 1906.Google Scholar
  57. 53.
    At Columbia, Clark attended the economics lectures of his father, E.R.A. Seligman, Henry R. Seager, Henry L. Moore, and Alvin S. Johnson. He also took courses with Franklin H. Giddings (Sociology), John W. Burgess (Political Science and Constitutional Law), and William A. Dunning (History and Political Philosophy). He attended the seminars of his father, E.R.A. Seligman, and H.R. Seager. In 1907 he held a University Fellowship in Economics.Google Scholar
  58. 54.
    Clark to Joseph Dorfman, 18 June 1951, Copy in J.M. Clark Papers. “The other half [of the second minor] I elected with Dunning — ‘History of the Civil War and reconstruction’ — or maybe just reconstruction; at any rate, that was the part I remembered.” Ibid. Burgess’ course was “Private Rights and Immunities under the Constitution of the United States.” Dunning’s was “The United States from 1850, with special reference to the Civil War and Reconstruction.” Clark also recalled of his Columbia days as a graduate student: “Veblen: slow infiltration of its [sic] logical and pragmatic relation to the abstractions of J.B.C.” A note in Clark’s hand, J.M. Clark Papers.Google Scholar
  59. 55.
    He described Colorado College during his teaching days there as “… a privately-supported institution and one of those outposts of New England Puritan culture that were sprinkled across the country, outstanding examples being Oberlin and Carleton.” Clark to Joseph Dorfman, 6 November 1957. Copy in J.M. Clark Papers.Google Scholar
  60. 56.
    See Joseph Dorfman, “John Bates and John Maurice Clark on Monopoly and Competition.” Tarbell was in some ways atypical of the leading muckrakers. She believed in a deity; the others were agnostics, though all were Social Christians. She thought that trusts should be broken up while the others argued for their nationalization. See Harold S. Wilson, McClure’s Magazine and the Muckrakers (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970), 253 ff; 264; 300–306.Google Scholar
  61. 57.
    Standards of Reasonableness in Local Freight Discriminations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1910).Google Scholar
  62. 58.
    Clark came to Amherst in 1910. Meiklejohn was elected to the Presidency of the college in 1912.Google Scholar
  63. 59.
    It was at the University of Chicago that Clark met the daughter of a Latin professor and “Dean in the Junior Colleges,” Winifred Fisk Miller. They were married in Chicago on 17 June, 1921. Winifred Miller’s father was Frank Justus Miller (1858–1938), a graduate of Denison University in 1879. His A.M. and Ph.D. degrees were from Yale. He served for some time as the managing editor of the Classical Journal.Google Scholar
  64. 60.
    Clark had been reading William Hope Harvey’s Coin’s Financial School, “the famous free-silver tract.” Notes in Clark’s hand, dated 8 June 1949, J.M. Clark Papers. On Harvey see Joseph Dorfman, Economic Mind, III: 226 ff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Laurence Shute 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurence Shute
    • 1
  1. 1.California State Polytechnic UniversityPomonaUSA

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