Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beeke, Henry

BEEKE, HENRY, D.D. (1751–1837), dean of Bristol, a writer on subjects connected with finance, was the son of the Rev. Christopher Beeke, and was born at Kingsteignton, Devonshire, 6 Jan. 1751. He was elected a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 5 May 1769, and proceeded B.A. 1773; M.A., 1776; B.D., 1785; and D.D., 1800. He was also fellow of Oriel (1775); junior proctor (1784), and professor of modern history (1801). He obtained in succession the vicarage of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford (1782), rectory of Ufton Norcot, Berkshire (1789), deanery of Bristol (1814), and vicarage of Weare (1819). He died at Torquay 9 March 1837. His chief work is entitled 'Observations on the Produce of the Income Tax, and on its Proportion to the whole Income of Great Britain (London, 1799; new and enlarged edition, 1800). This was written to prove that whilst the lately imposed income-tax might not produce as much as was expected, this was not because the resources of the country had been overrated. 'On the contrary, I have been uniformly persuaded that we are more powerful, have resources more permanent, a population more numerous, and an income more considerable than the most enlarged computations which have been hitherto published.' The real reason was that 'the part of the national income which is made liable to the present tax bears a far less proportion to the whole of it than has been conjectured.' He affirms the tax itself to be 'founded on moral equity and political wisdom.' Of this work J. R. M'Culloch declares that it affords 'the best example of the successful application of statistical reasoning to finance that had then appeared.' It gives an interesting and valuable account of the economic condition of Great Britain at the beginning of the century.

Dr. Beeke had a wide reputation as a financial authority, and Mr. Vansittart, afterwards Lord Bexley, when chancellor of the exchequer (1812-1823), frequently consulted him on questions connected with the duties of his office. He was a keen observer of the politics of the time, and from an unpublished letter, written to Sir Lewis Palk in August 1805, and discussing the condition and prospects of political parties, he seems to have known much of what was passing behind the scenes. It is also said that Pitt 'was indebted to him for the original suggestion of the income-tax,' but, according to Lord Stanhope, 'the scheme of a general tax on all kinds of income (proposed by Pitt in 1798) was by no means a new one. It had several times been suggested to the minister by speculative financiers and writers of pamphlets' (Stanhope's Life of Pitt, ii. 306, London, 1879). Thus Dr. Beeke s suggestion, if actually offered, can only have been one of several to the same effect.

Dr. Beeke's other works were unimportant. They were: 'Sermon for Exeter Hospital (Oxford, 1790); 'Letter to a County Member on the means of securing a safe and honourable Peace' (London, 1798); and 'Observations on the Roman Roads in Great Britain.'

[Gent. Mag. new series, vol. vii.; Farley's Bristol Journal (Bristol, 18 March 1837); Egerton MS. 2, f. 193; Addit MSS. 31229 to 31232; M'Culloch's Literature of Political Economy, London, 1845).]

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