Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Duncan, Jonathan (1799-1865)

DUNCAN, JONATHAN, the younger (1799–1865), currency reformer, born at Bombay in 1799, was the son of Jonathan Duncan the elder [q. v.], governor of the presidency. He received his preliminary training under a private tutor named Cobbold. On 24 Jan. 1817 he was entered a pensioner of Trinity College, Cambridge, and took the ordinary B.A. degree in 1821 (College Register). His easy circumstances left him leisure to indulge a fondness for literature and politics. In 1836–7 he edited the first four volumes of the short-lived 'Guernsey and Jersey Magazine,' 8vo, Guernsey, London. In 1840 he published a translation of F. Bodin's 'Résumé de l'Histoire d'Angleterre,' 12mo, London. For the 'National Illustrated Library' he furnished a 'History of Russia from the foundation of the Empire by Rourick to the close of the Hungarian Wars,' 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1854, part of which is a translation from the French of A. Rabbe. After 1841 Duncan lived chiefly in London. Besides contributing to general literature, he wrote and spoke frequently on questions of reform, such as land tenure and financial matters. He disapproved of what he termed the 'silly sophisms' of Sir Robert Peel, and considered the monetary system of Samuel Jones Loyd to have been framed for the express purpose of sacrificing labour to usury. Under the signature of 'Aladdin' he wrote in 'Jerrold's Weekly News' a series of 'Letters on Monetary Science,' in which these and similar views are enunciated with considerable vehemence. The 'Letters' were afterwards republished in a collective form. In 1850 he started 'The Journal of Industry,' which collapsed after sixteen numbers had appeared.

His other writings are: 1. 'Remarks on the Legality and Expediency of Prosecutions for Religious Opinion. To which is annexed, 'An Apology for the Vices of the Lower Orders,' 8vo, London, 1825. 2. 'The Religions of Profane Antiquity: their Mythology, Fables, Hieroglyphics, and Doctrines. Founded on Astronomical Principles,' 8vo, London, Guernsey printed (1830?). 3. 'The Dukes of Normandy, from the time of Rollo to the expulsion of John by Philip Augustus of France,' 12mo, London, 1839. 4. 'The Religious Wars of France, from the Accession of Henry the Second to the Peace of Vervins,' 8vo, London, 1840. 5. 'The History of Guernsey; with occasional notices of Jersey, Alderney, and Sark, and biographical sketches,' 8vo, London, 1841. 6. 'How to reconcile the Rights of Property, Capital, and Labour. Tract I,' 8vo, London, 1846. 7. 'The National Anti-Gold Law League. The Principles of the League explained, versus Sir R. Peel's Currency Measures, and the partial Remedy advocated by the Scottish Banks. In a Speech at Glasgow,' 8vo, London, 1847. 8. 'The Principles of Money demonstrated, and Bullionist Fallacies refuted,' 16mo, London, 1849. 9. 'The Bank Charter Act: ought the Bank of England or the People of England to receive the Profits of the National Circulation? Second edition. With Remarks on the Monetary Crisis of November 1857,' 8vo, London, 1858. Duncan died at his residence, 33 Norland Square, Notting Hill, on 20 Oct. 1865, aged 65 (Times, 24 Oct. 1865, obituary).

[Tupper's Hist. of Guernsey, preface, p. v; Gent. Mag. 3rd ser. xix. 662; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit. i. 529.]

G. G.