The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Gournay, Jacques Claude Marie Vincent, Marquis de (1712–1759)

  • Peter Groenewegen
Reference work entry


French economist, merchant and government official, Gournay was born at St. Malo in 1712. After a long career as merchant, spent largely in Cadiz (1729–44), his partner’s death in 1746 permitted his retirement two years later from active trade and his entry into public life and more serious research into economics. Gournay has been traditionally associated with the propagation in France of free trade ideas such as deregulation of colonial trade, abolition of the guilds and of the system of government inspection of manufactures, aspects of his work illustrated by the important place generally assigned to him in the history of the phrase, laissez faire, laissez passer (Schelle 1897, pp. 214–17). Turgot (1759, pp. 30–2) has noted, however, that his free trade position should be qualified and in addition that, unlike the Physiocrats, he accorded an important role in economic development to industry and trade as well as agriculture. He has therefore sometimes been described as the founder of a separate non-Physiocratic free trade school, whose members, among others, included Turgot, Morellet and Trudaine. Apart from Observations sur l’agriculture, le commerce et les arts de Bretagne (1757), only his notes accompanying the translation of Child (1754), now edited by Tsuda (1983), appear to have survived. His long friendship with Turgot exerted some influence on the latter’s economics, partly because Turgot accompanied Gournay on his tours of inspection of industry between 1753 and 1756. Gournay’s most important contribution to French economics seems to have been the encouragement he gave to the study of English economics literature. With Butel-Dumont he had himself translated Child and Culpeper (1754), he encouraged Forbonnais to abridge King’s The British Merchant, Turgot to translate one of Tucker’s pamphlets and, most importantly, may have been responsible for the publication of Cantillon’s Essay in 1755 (Morellet 1821, pp. 36–7). His death in 1759 provided the occasion for Turgot’s eulogy on which much of the information about his life and work is based, though as Ashley (1900, p. 306) warns, there are reasons for being hesitant in accepting Turgot’s eulogy (1759) ‘as evidence of Gournay’s opinions’.


Cantillon, R. Forbonnais, F. V. D. Free trade Gournay, Marquis de Laissez faire Morellet, Abbe de Physiocracy Trudaine, D. Tucker, J. Turgot, A. R. J. 

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  1. Ashley, W.J. 1900. Gournay. In Surveys, historic and economic, ed. W.J. Ashley. London: Longman & Co.Google Scholar
  2. Child, J. 1754. Traités sur le commerce et sur les avantages qui résultent de la reduction de l’intéret de l’argent par Josias Child … avec un petit traité contre l’usure par Thomas Culpeper. Traduit de l’Anglois [by Gournay and Butel-Dumont], Amsterdam/Berlin.Google Scholar
  3. Morellet, l’Abbé. 1821. Mémoires de l’Abbé Morellet. Paris: Librairie Française.Google Scholar
  4. Schelle, G. 1897. Vincent de Gournay. Paris: Guillaumin.Google Scholar
  5. Tsuda, T. 1983. Josiah Child, Traités sur le commerce de Josiah Child, avec les remarques inédites de Vincent de Gournay. Tokyo: Kinokuniya Company.Google Scholar
  6. Turgot, A.R.J. 1759. In praise of Gournay. In The economics of A.R.J. Turgot, ed. and Trans. P.D. Groenewegen, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1977.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Groenewegen
    • 1
  1. 1.