Memorias politicas sobre as verdadeiras bases da grandeza das naçoes, e principalmente de Portugal.

Lisbon, Impressao regia, 1803-1805.

3 vols, 4to; leaf h in vol. 1 misbound at the end before the errata, slight cockling, some water staining to a few quires, occasional soiling and the odd marginal hole, otherwise a good clean copy in a contemporary Portuguese binding of tree calf with gold-tooled board edges, gilt decoration to the spines, and gilt lettered red morocco spine labels, all edges sprinkled red; some worm holes to spine ends, some rubbing to corners and boards; paper label at bottom of spine to vol. 1 bearing the printed number ‘2545’; inscription crossed through on front endpaper in all three volumes, contemporary inscription possibly reading J. S. Guim[ara]es on endpapers, ex libris oval ink stamp of Vieira Pinto on second leaf of each volume.


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First edition of this landmark in Portuguese philosophical, political and economic thought. Brito was a professor of law at the University of Coimbra and the Memorias is his only published work, written in response to what the author saw as the relative immaturity of the moral and political sciences and the instability of the organisation of society, and intended to provide a standard framework to guarantee order and the regeneration of social institutions. Influenced by the French physiocrats, the author maintains that economic phenomena and mechanisms are subject to specific natural laws and that the role of the political corpus is to reveal the evidence of such laws and transform them into universally respected positive rules. Political economy is, for Brito, the cornerstone of legislative and governmental actions, the ‘shining beacon … that should lead legislators to their lofty destinies’, and the best means of contemplating natural law. Brito goes on to suggest that the sovereign should focus his attention on agriculture as a strategic sector of the economy. While discussing the question of value, Brito was the first Portuguese author to tackle some of the more theoretical parts of the Wealth of Nations. His criticism of Smith, whom he accused of considering labour as the only source of value, drew fire from José da Silva Lisboa, who attacked Brito’s agrarianism and claimed that his physiocratic approach had been superseded by Smith’s masterwork. Brito’s third volume opens with his reply to Lisboa, claiming that Smith was a ‘plagiarist of the physiocrats’.

For a discussion of Brito, see Antonio Almodovar and Jose Luis Cardoso, A history of Portuguese economic thought (Routledge, 1998) p. 44 and following.

Copac records copies at the British Library and in the Goldsmiths’ Library, and Worldcat adds 3 others at Columbia, Cambridge University Library, and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

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