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Harvard. Economics courses with enrollments and exam questions, 1871-1875

 

In an earlier posting I assembled information for the two or three economics courses regularly offered at Harvard in the mid-1870s. Today’s posting provides information on the economics course offerings during the first half of the 1870s. Except for the academic year 1870-1, all the courses were taught by Charles Dunbar, who only began teaching at Harvard in 1871/72. Below you will find titles of the textbooks assigned for the courses, enrollment figures, and final examination questions pieced together from the Harvard course catalogues, reports of the President of Harvard and a few unpublished exams I have found during my visit to the Harvard archives in February 2017.

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If you find this posting interesting, here is the complete list of “artifacts” from the history of economics I have assembled. You can subscribe to Economics in the Rear-View Mirror below. There is also an opportunity for comment following each posting….

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1870-71

REQUIRED: POLITICAL SCIENCE.
Junior year

Assistant Professor of Philosophy Ellis Peterson, A.M. Roger’s Political Economy. Mr. O. W. Holmes, Jr. — Alden, Constitution of the United States.

One hour a week. 119 students, 3 sections, 1 exercises per week for students, 3 exercises per week for instructor [for political economy]. 2 sections, 1 exercises per week for students, 3 exercises per week for instructor [for constitutional law].

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1871-72, p. 39;  Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1870-71, p. 51.

POLITICAL ECONOMY
Final Examination, June 1871
Junior year

I.

1. What is the sense in which the term wealth is used in Political Economy? 2. What was the cause, and also the effect of the belief that wealth was money? 3. In what sense is the term value used by Political Economists? 4. What is the cause of economical value, and under what conditions is land an exception to the rule of value? 5. Distinguish price from value, and show that while there may be a general rise in prices, there cannot be a general rise in values.

II.

1. What are the causes of “demand,” and which of these are relative, and which absolute? 2. On what does the price of commodities depend in the long run? Also, at any particular time? 3. Why is the increase in the price of bread-stuffs greater than the decrease in the supply? 4. Explain the effects of a very high price of bread on the price of meat. 5. Illustrate by the “cotton famine” in England (1826-65), how demand and supply affect prices.

III.

1. Give the origin and the definition of capital. 2. What are the real profits of capital, and what are included in the gross profits? 3. What are the principal causes of the unequal distribution of capital? 4. How are capital and labor affected by governmnet’s contracting a loan for an unproductive purpose? 5. Why are the fluctuations in the rate of disocunt greater than in the rate of interest?

IV.

1. Show that unproductive labor may be indirectly productive? 2. Give the advantages of “Division of Labor.” 3. Analyze wages of labor. 4. (1)If the number of laborers and the amount of capital invested in production be given, what of course must be the average wages of labor? (2)What causes the difference of wages in different employments? (3)What causes fluctuations of wages of a certain labor, and also of a certain laborer? 5. Show how the staple food of a country may affect the rate of wages?

V.

1. Give Malthus’s Theory of Population. 2. Why have the credit banks of M. Delitzsch been successful? 3. What is the first of Adam Smith’s four canons of taxation? 4. Distinguish direct from indirect taxes. 5. Give briefly the arguments for and against direct and also indirect taxation.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University. Final examinations, 1853-2001. (HUC 7000.28) Box 1 of 284, Folder “Final Examinations, 1870-1871”.

 

ELECTIVE: PHILOSOPHY 4
POLITICAL ECONOMY
Senior year

Nicholas St. John  Green, LL.B. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. — J. S. Mill’s Political Economy.

Three times a week. 99 Seniors, 2 sections, 3 exercises per week for students, 6 exercises per week for instructor.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1871-72, p. 41Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1870-71, p. 52.

PHILOSOPHY IV
POLITICAL ECONOMY
Final Examination, June, 1871

  1. In what respect do the views of Mr. Mill upon co-operation and the division of labor differ from the views of Adam Smith?
  2. On what does the degree of Productiveness of productive Agents depend?
  3. What is the doctrine of Malthus and what is Mr. Mill’s opinion of that doctrine?
  4. What is Communism? St. Simonism? Fourierism?
  5. What does Mr. Mill think concerning property in land?
  6. What is the remedy for low wages?
  7. What are the functions of money, and how and to what extent can credit supply its place?
  8. What are the evils of an inconvertible paper currency?
  9. What are the ordinary functions of government?
  10. What are the limits of the province of government?

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University. Final examinations, 1853-2001. (HUC 7000.28) Box 1 of 284, Folder “Final Examinations, 1870-1871”.

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1871-72

REQUIRED: POLITICAL SCIENCE.
Junior year

Prof. Dunbar. Roger’s Political Economy. — Alden, Constitution of the United States.
One hour a week. 128 students, 3 sections, 1 exercises per week for students, 3 exercises per week for instructor.

[Note: Political Economy and the U.S. Constitution were each a half-year course with Political Economy covered in the first semester and the U.S. Constitution in the second semester.]

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1872-73, p. 58 Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1871-72, p. 46.

POLITICAL ECONOMY
Final Examination, February 1872
Junior year

  1. What is the difference between price and value?
  2. What is capital, and whence is it derived?
  3. Is a legal tender note of the United States money? If not, then what is it?
  4. What effect has an excessive issue of paper currency upon prices?
  5. In an estimate of public wealth, what kinds of individual wealth are excluded, and why?
  6. Why is the rate of interest high in a newly settled Western State?
  7. What determines the rate of wages?
  8. What was the theory of Malthus as to the growth of population?
  9. What effect has the introduction of machinery upon the rate of wages?
  10. What is rent, and how does it depend upon the cost of production?
  11. In the trade between nations, how is the transmission of gold and silver for the most part avoided?
  12. If there is a scarcity of some article of which there are several qualities of different prices, will the cheapest or the dearest quality rise most, and why?
  13. What is the difference between direct and indirect taxation, and what are their respective advantages!
  14. Why is a tax on raw materials a bad tax?
  15. How does our national debt differ in form from the English, and what advantage has either form?

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1872-73, p. 241.

ELECTIVE: POLITICAL ECONOMY
Senior year

Prof. Dunbar. Adam Smit

h’s Wealth of Nations. — J. S. Mill’s Political Economy.
Three times a week. 75 Seniors, 2 sections, 3 exercises per week for students, 6 exercises per week for instructor.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1872-73, p. 61Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1871-72, p. 48.

POLITICAL ECONOMY
Special Examination, December, 1871

  1. What is probably the most important advantage obtained by the division of labor?
  2. Define wealth.
  3. Define money.
  4. What is the difference between value and price?
  5. What is the real price of an article, and by what is it measured?
  6. What is the natural price?
  7. What is the market price, and what is its relation to the natural
    price?
  8. In a country where gold and silver coin are both used, what effect will a permanent increase in the supply of either metal have upon the currency? What effect upon prices?
  9. Can these effects be avoided or mitigated, and if so, by what expedient?
  10. What is rent, and how does it depend upon the cost of production?
  11. In the trade between nations, how is the transmission of gold and silver for the most part avoided?
  12. If there is a scarcity of some article of which there are several qualities of different prices, will the cheapest or the dearest quality rise most, and why?
  13. What is the difference between direct and indirect taxation, and what are their respective advantages!
  14. Why is a tax on raw materials a bad tax?
  15. How does our national debt differ in form from the English, and what advantage has either form?

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1872-73, p. 248-9.

POLITICAL ECONOMY
Special Examination, January, 1872

  1. What is the distinction between wealth and capital?
  2. What is the difference between fixed and circulating capitals? and to which does money belong?
  3. When either of the precious metals becomes more abundant, and the remedy of over-valuation and limitation of the right of tender is to be applied, does it make any difference which metal is over-valued, and if so, what difference?
  4. On what basis is the Bank of England established?
  5. How does Smith distinguish between productive laborers and unproductive?
  6. Explain the paradox that “what is annually saved is as regularly consumed as what is annually spent.”
  7. What is the error of Locke and Montesquieu as to the supposed connection between the depreciation of value of gold and silver and the lowering of the rate of interest?
  8. What is Adam Smith’s view as to the point at which the rate of interest should be fixed by law, and what is his mistake?
  9. How can a paper currency be kept at par with gold?
  10. What was the theory of the balance of trade, and in what respect was it fallacious?
  11. Why do manufactures often flourish while a nation is carrying on a foreign war?
  12. What was the theory of the agricultural system, and what was its great error?
  13. State the general objection to any system for the extraordinary encouragement of a particular branch of industry, and such partial or complete answers to that objection as may occur to you.
  14. What is the chronological relation of the several systems of Political Economy?
  15. Consider the following passage from a Report of the Comptroller of the Currency, made in December, 1871:—

“The tenacity with which the Pacific States adhere to a gold currency is quite notable. Whether it is equally praiseworthy is another thing. It is not clear that those States derive any substantial benefit from the course they have pursued, and it is beginning to be manifest that the United States are not at all benefited by it. The substitution of a paper currency in California and the other gold-producing States for their present hard money would probably set free for the use of the government and the whole country some thirty or forty millions of gold, and, at the same time, provide those communities with a more economical, active, and accommodating circulating medium.”

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1872-73, p. 249-50.

POLITICAL ECONOMY
Final Examination, June, 1872.

  1. How does Mr. Mill distinguish between productive labor and unproductive? and under which head is mental labor (as, e.g., that of a philosopher or inventor) to be placed?
  2. If a nation has to meet extraordinary expenses, as in time of war, is it better to raise the amount by loan, or by taxes within the year! and why?
  3. What is the relation between profits and the cost of labor?
  4. What is the law which determines the value of that class of commodities of which the supply can be indefinitely increased without increase of cost?
  5. Why are both profits and wages high in a new and fertile country?
  6. If a fall in profits takes place, are manufactured articles or agricultural produce most likely to fall in value, and why?
  7. Why does Mr. Mill think a general over-supply of commodities impossible?
  8. Suppose a paper currency to be issued, of which every note represents actual property. Can it be depreciated, and why?
  9. Can two countries exchange products if in one the general cost of production is higher than in the other, and why?
  10. What is the general law determining the values at which a country exchanges its produce with other countries?
  11. What effect is produced upon international trade by an improvement which introduces a new article of export?
  12. What effect is produced upon rent, profits, and wages respectively, by a great improvement in agriculture?
  13. What reasons are there in theory for exempting from income tax so much of income as is saved and invested?
  14. If a tax upon agricultural produce is of long standing, on whom does it finally fall, and why?
  15. Under what circumstances does Mr. Mill think that protecting duties can properly be levied?

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1872-73, p. 250.

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1872-73

REQUIRED: POLITICAL SCIENCE.
Junior year

Prof. Dunbar. Fawcett’s Political Economy. — Constitution of the United States.
Two hours a week. First half-year. 162 students, 1 lecture, 4 recitations, 2 exercises per week for students, 5 exercises per week for instructor.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1873-74, p. 62Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1872-73, p. 42.

Final Examination, February, 1873
CONSTITUTION AND POLITICAL ECONOMY
Prof. Dunbar

If unable to answer all the questions on this paper, do not fail to answer a part under each class.

A.

  1. What are the essential points in which the Constitution differs from the Confederation?
  2. Who are citizens of the United States?
  3. State the rule by which Representatives are to be apportioned among the States under Amendments XIV., and XV.
  4. What does the Constitution provide as to the issue of paper currency, whether by Congress or by the States, and whence does Congress derive its power to make paper a legal tender?
  5. On what provision did the claim of power by Congress to prohibit slavery in the Territories chiefly rest?
  6. Whence does either House of Congress obtain its power to punish witnesses for refusal to testify before a committee?
  7. State the change which was made in the method of electing president by Amendment XII., adopted in 1804, and the circumstances which led to that change.
  8. State briefly the provisions relating to the veto power.
  9. State the provisions which define the treaty-making power, and the power of appointing to office.
  10. To what does the judicial power of the United States extend, and how is it limited by Amendment XI.?
  11. How does the Constitution define treason and provide for its punishment?
  12. How can the Constitution be amended, and what exception is there to the power of amendment?

B.

  1. How are the permanently different rates of profit in different pursuits in the same country accounted for?
  2. How does credit affect prices?
  3. What is the advantage obtained by the consumer from the warehousing system?
  4. Should permanent incomes derived from invested property be taxed at the same rate as temporary or professional incomes? Give the reason.
  5. On whom does a tax laid on premises occupied for manufacturing purposes fall, and why?

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1873-74, p. 265.

 

ELECTIVE: POLITICAL ECONOMY.
Senior year

Prof. Dunbar. J. S. Mill’s Political Economy. — McCulloch on Taxation. — Subjects in Banking and Currency.
Three times a week. First half-year. 65 Seniors, 2 sections, 3 exercises per week for students, 6 exercises per week for instructor.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1873-74, p. 67Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1872-73, p. 44.

 

[Final Examination May or June 1873]
Political Economy
Prof. Dunbar

  1. Mill says, “That high wages make high prices is a popular and wide-spread opinion.” To what extent, and why, is that opinion incorrect?
  2. Suppose the recent combinations of English agricultural laborers to be successful in securing higher wages; what would be the effect on the price of food, the profits of farmers, and the rent?
  3. Adam Smith’s theory of the benefit of foreign trade was that it affords an outlet for surplus produce, and enables the country to replace a part of its capital with a profit. What criticism is to be made on this theory?
  4. How does Bastiat apply his theory of value, for the purpose of showing which of two nations will gain the most from an exchange of products?
  5. Explain Mill’s remark that “there are two senses in which a country obtains commodities cheaper by foreign trade: in the sense of value, and in the sense of cost.”
  6. If a country has regular annual payments to be made abroad, as e. g. interest on a public debt, what effect is produced thereby on the imports and exports, and on the terms on which it exchanges products with other countries?
  7. Suppose capital and population are both increasing; what will be the effect on rent, wages, and profits, and why?
  8. What will be the effect, in the case supposed above, if a great improvement is made in cultivation?
  9. Apply the results in Nos. 7 and 8 to the case of a country like the United States, where the land and the agricultural capital are generally owned by the same person.
  10. State the reasons for and against an income tax, the leading exemptions which should be made, and the rule to be observed in taxing incomes from invested property and from business profits respectively.
  11. Under what circumstances will a tax on exports fall upon foreigners?
  12. In what cases will a duty on imports fall upon foreigners?
  13. What answer is made to Adam Smith’s argument that home trade affords more encouragement to productive industry than foreign trade?’
  14. What answer is made to the objection that the system of protection adds the amount of the duty to the price paid by consumers of protected commodities?
  15. It being admitted that revenue must be raised by duties on imports, how does the plan of “a revenue tariff with incidental protection” fail to satisfy either the theory of protection or that of free trade?

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1873-74, p. 266.

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1873-74

REQUIRED: POLITICAL SCIENCE.
Sophomore and Junior year

[Note: In 1873 the required study of Political Science was transferred from the Junior to the Sophomore Year that implies combining Juniors and Sophomores for the transition year 1873-74.]

Prof. Dunbar and Mr. Howland. Elements of Political Economy. — Constitution of the United States.
Two hours a week. Half-year. 153 students, 3 sections, 2 exercises per week for students, 6 exercises per week for instructor.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1873-74, p. 67; Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1873-74, p. 44.

Final Examination
PRESCRIBED POLITICAL ECONOMY
February 1874

Political Economy

Those who are also to pass in the Constitution may omit questions marked (*).

  1. Define (a) wealth; (b) value; (c) price; (d) capital; (e) money.
  2. What are the qualities which make gold and silver suitable materials for a currency? What are the objections to a double standard of value?
  3. Explain the action of demand and supply upon the prices (a) of raw materials; (b) of manufactured articles.
  4. Show how rents would be affected by suddenly doubling the productiveness of all lands under cultivation. Prove that rent does not enter into the price of agricultural produce.
  5. State and illustrate the causes which produce a difference in the rate of wages in different employments.
  6. Suppose the amount of the (gold) currency of a country to be suddenly doubled, what would be the effect upon (a) values; (b) prices; (c) exports and imports?
  7. Define direct and indirect taxation. What are the objections to an import duty on raw materials? What is the incidence of a tax levied on the rent of land and paid by the tenant?
  8. (*) Define productive and unproductive consumption. If the latter were to cease altogether, what would be the ultimate effect upon production?
  9. (*) Show how the cost of labor is affected, (a) if the efficiency of labor is increased; (b) if the margin of cultivation sinks.
  10. (*) What are the elements of which profits are composed? Why does the rate of profits vary (a) in different employments; (b) in different countries?
  11. (*) Explain the several ways in which credit promotes production. What are the disadvantages of an irredeemable paper currency?
  12. (*) Explain the use of bills of exchange. What is meant by an unfavorable balance of exchange?
  13. (*) Discuss the question, whether temporary and permanent incomes should be taxed alike.

 

Constitution of the United States.
Those who are also to pass in Political Economy may omit questions marked (*).

  1. (*) When and by whom was the Constitution framed, and what were the principal steps leading to its formation and adoption?
  2. Define citizenship.
  3. What changes have the abolition of slavery and the consequent amendments of the Constitution made in the system of representation?
  4. State the method of electing the President, and the difference between the present method and that at first adopted.
  5. (*) By whom are questions settled which affect the validity of elections (a) of representatives, (b) of senators, (c) of President?
  6. (*) What provision does the Constitution make tor the removal, death, resignation, or inability to serve of the President or Vice-President, or for a failure to elect either officer or both?
  7. (*) What powers over the militia are given to Congress or to the President?
  8. What are the provisions of the Constitution affecting the subject of currency?
  9. What are the provisions relating to taxation, and what are direct taxes under the Constitution?
  10. (*) What are the provisions relating to impeachment?
  11. Under what provision did Congress claim and exercise the power of prohibiting slavery in the territories?
  12. What is the extent of the judicial power of the United States, and where is it vested?
  13. What is the provision for amending the Constitution?

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1874-75, p. 218-19.

 

ELECTIVE: PHILOSOPHY 6.
Political Economy

Prof. Dunbar. Political Economy. J. S. Mill’s Political Economy. — Bagehot’s Lombard Street. — Sumner’s History of American Currency.
Three hours a week. 70 Seniors, 1 Junior.
2 Sections, 3 exercises per week for students, 6 exercises per week for Instructor.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1873-74, p. 67Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1873-74, p. 46.

 

Final Examination
Philosophy 6 (Political Economy)
June 1874

  1. If the recent efforts to promote emigration on a large scale among English agricultural laborers should be successful, what would be the effect on the price of food, the profits of fanners, and rent!
  2. What is the reason for the expectation that both capitalists and laborers will be gainers from co-operation, and that neither will gain at the expense of the other? and how is this expectation to be reconciled with the general doctrine of Ricardo, that “the rate of profits depends on wages, rising as wages fall, and falling as wages rise”?
  3. Is it desirable to collect a surplus revenue for the purpose of paying off a national debt, or should the amount be left “to fructify in the pockets of the people”? Give the reason.
  4. Explain Mill’s doctrine of the tendency of profits to a minimum, the causes which produce that tendency, and the circumstances which counteract it.
  5. State the general law which determines the values at which a country exchanges its produce with foreign countries, and illustrate its application by the example of cloth and linen.
  6. Explain the incidence of taxes on imports, and the arguments that may be drawn thence as to the policy of protecting duties.
  7. Does or does not a protecting duty give additional employment to home labor? Give the reason.
  8. Criticise the following passage from Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,” Book II., chapter iv. : —

“The legal rate of interest, it is to be observed, though it ought to be somewhat above, ought not to be much above the lowest market-rate. [If it were much above] the greater part of the money which was to be lent, would be lent to prodigals and projectors, who alone would be willing to give this high interest. Sober people, who will give for the use of money no more than a part of what they are likely to make by the use of it, would not venture into the competition. . . . Where the legal rate of interest, on the contrary, is fixed but a very little above the lowest market-rate, sober people are universally preferred, as borrowers, to prodigals and projectors. The person who lends money gets nearly as much interest from the former as he dares to take from the latter, and his money is much safer in the hands of the one set of people than in those of the other. A great part of the capital of the country is thus thrown into the hands in which it is most likely to be employed with advantage.”

  1. A respectable newspaper remarks, that “the object of taxation is to make all property bear its equitable share.” Is this a correct statement of the principle which should be followed in adjusting a system of taxation? Why, or why not?
  2. What effect will high internal taxes have upon prices and upon values?
  3. Explain the incidence of taxes laid on the rent of houses or stores, in a city where the value of land is great. Would the result be different if the tax were laid on the assessed value of the premises? Why, or why not?
  4. Give the leading facts and dates in the history of the United States Bank.
  5. Explain fully how the suspension of Peel’s act of 1844 gives relief to the money market in a panic, and what relation it bears to a suspension of specie payment.
  6. The dollar contains 23.22 grains of pure gold. A dollar in silver currency, if of full value, according to this standard should contain about 866.7 grains, but in fact contains only 345.6 grains of pure silver. How does this explain the somewhat tardy disappearance of silver change when our paper currency depreciated, and to what point must the value of the paper rise before silver can come back into general circulation?
  7. State present limits of our paper currency, and discuss the objections to such a currency when, like ours, it is redundant and depreciated, and has a maximum fixed by law.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue 1874-75, p. 223-4.

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1874-75

PRESCRIBED: POLITICAL ECONOMY.
Sophomore year

Prof. Dunbar. Fawcett’s Political Economy for Beginners. — Constitution of the United States (Alden’s Science of Government, omitting the first four and the last three chapters).
Two hours a week. Half-year. 208 students, 4 sections, 2 exercises per week for students, 8 exercises per week for instructor.

Source: Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1874-75, p. 45.; Annual report of the President of Harvard University for 1874-75, p. 45.

 

Final Examination June, 1875
PRESCRIBED POLITICAL ECONOMY

Political Economy

[Do not change the order of the questions. Those who are to pass in the Constitution may omit questions marked (*).]

  1. (*) If A owns a United States bond, is it wealth? Is it capital?
  2. (*) What is the differene between circulating capital and fixed capital, and how is it that each “in order to fulfil its functions must be consumed?”
  3. (*) What is the difference between value, as the term is used in this discussion, and value in use?
  4. What is the relation between market price and cost of production? Consider this with reference to each of the three classes into which commodities are divided in relation to their value.
  5. (*) How is the value of gold determined?
  6. What circumstances are said to have counteracted the effect of the Australian and Californian gold discoveries? Did these circumstances affect the value of gold in England alone, or in other countries also? How?
  7. If a country uses both gold and silver coin as its legal tender, and silver depreciates, which coin will remain in circulation? Why?
  8. On what does the cost of labor depend? In your answer distinguish between real wages and money wages.
  9. What is the difference between convertible paper currency and inconvertible? Is one more secure against depreciation than the other? Why?
  10. Why does the interest earned on capital in different employments tend to equality at any given time and place?
  11. Explain the incidence of taxes laid on dwelling houses.
  12. Apply the four canons of taxation to the case of a duty on imported goods, and show whether it answers their requirements or not.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University. Final examinations, 1853-2001. (HUC 7000.28) Box 1 of 284, Folder “Final Examinations, 1874-1875”.

Image Source: Charles Franklin Dunbar from The Harvard Graduates’Magazine, Vol. VIII, No. 32 (June, 1900), Frontspiece.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier