Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Macleod, Henry Dunning
MACLEOD, HENRY DUNNING (1821–1902), economist, born at Moray Place, Edinburgh, on 31 March 1821, was the second son and youngest child of Roderick Macleod (1786–1853) of Cadboll and Invergordon Castle, lord-lieutenant of Cromarty, and for several years M.P. successively for the county of Cromarty, the county of Sutherland, and the Inverness burghs. His mother was Isabella, daughter of William Cunninghame of Laimshaw, Ayrshire. He was called Dunning after his great-uncle, John Dunning, the first Lord Ashburton [q. v.]. He had one brother, Robert Bruce Æneas, fifth of Cadboll, and three sisters.
Macleod was educated first at Edinburgh Academy, then at Eton. He matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1839, graduated B A. as senior optime in 1843, and proceeded M.A. in 1863. On 5 May 1843 he was admitted a student of the Inner Temple. He was abroad for the greater part of the next two years, and then read as a pupil in the chambers of Edward Bullen, special pleader (1846–8), being called to the bar on 26 Jan. 1849. His subsequent legal career was intermittent. He established a certain reputation as a mercantile lawyer, joined the midland circuit in 1863, and was employed by the government from June 1868 till March 1870 in preparing a digest of the law of bills of exchange.
Macleod's life was mainly devoted to the study of political economy. In 1847, while still a law student, he acted as chairman of a committee formed in Easter Ross, a district in which his father was the largest land-owner, to devise an improved system of poor law relief. A plan drawn up by Macleod was adopted with success in Easter Ross, and was described in the report issued by the Board of Supervision for the Relief of the Poor in 1852. It was subsequently imitated extensively throughout Scotland. Macleod remained for six years in Easter Ross supervising its working, and during that time he was also active in advocating free trade at the elections of 1847 and 1852.
In 1853 Macleod went to London, residing at Kensington for the rest of his life. He had suffered severely from bank-failures and was often thenceforth in straitened circumstances. Soon after settling in London he was engaged in a law case in which he successfully contested the claim of the board of trade to prohibit a joint-stock bank, founded under Sir Robert Peel's Act of 1845, from increasing its capital. Macleod expounded the general conclusions to which the litigation brought him in his first work, 'The Theory and Practice of Banking' (1856; 5th edit. 1892–3; Italian translation). It was highly commended for its independence in Tooke's 'History of Prices.' Other works in which Macleod combated the views of orthodox economists were now published at frequent intervals. From 1860 till 1868 he acted as coach in political economy to selected candidates for the Indian civil service. He also lectured on banking at Cambridge in 1877, at King's College, London, in 1878, at Edinburgh and Aberdeen in 1882, and he read many papers on the subject before learned societies.
Macleod, who agreed in the main with Archbishop Whately's views, regarded value as consisting in exchangeability, not as dependent on utility or cost of production. He made valuable contributions to the historical side of economic science (Econ. Journal, Dec. 1902), and was the first writer to give due prominence to the phenomenon of credit and to the exchanges in which it plays part (Quarterly Review, Oct. 1901). In his 'Elements of Political Economy' (1858; re-issued in 1872-5 as 'The Principles of Economical Philosophy,' and again in 1881-6 as 'The Elements of Economics') he enriched the economic vocabulary with the name 'Gresham's Law.' This term he first applied to the well-known principle of currency that 'bad money drives out good,' or that 'where two media come into circulation at the same time, the more valuable will tend to disappear.' Macleod erroneously assumed that this conclusion was first reached by Sir Thomas Gresham [q. v.] when seeking to restore the debased coinage of Queen Elizabeth's reign, but it was well understood before the sixteenth century. Macleod's term is universally adopted by writers on currency. The 'Dictionary of Political Economy' (1858), of which only one volume appeared, was the attempt of one man to do what was afterwards accomplished by Mr. R. H. I. Palgrave with collaborators.
Macleod's views and attainments were not much regarded by orthodox economists (cf. Cliffe Leslie in Academy vii. 363). He was an unsuccessful candidate for the chairs of political economy at Cambridge in 1863, at Edinburgh in 1871, and at Oxford in 1888. A somewhat over-confident style of controversy told against him. On the Continent and in America he was treated with more respect than at home. He was elected a fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society on 25 February 1850, and was corresponding member of the Société d'Economie Politique of Paris and of the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, Madrid.
In 1887 he drew up, at the request of the gold and silver commission, a memorandum on the relation of money to prices. He died at Norwood on 16 July 1902, and was buried at West Norwood cemetery. He had been in receipt of a civil list pension of 100l. since 20 June 1892.
Macleod married on 18 Aug. 1853 Elizabeth Mackenzie, eldest daughter of Hugh J. Cameron, sometime provost of Dingwall. He had three sons and four daughters. Of the sons two, Roderick Henry and Keith William Bruce, have won distinction in the Indian and Ceylon civil services respectively. One daughter, Mary, is a successful writer of books for children.
Besides the works cited, Macleod published:
- 'Elements of Banking,' 1876.
- 'Economics for Beginners,' 1883.
- 'The Theory of Credit,' 1889-91, 2 vols.; 2nd edit. 1893-7; re-issued in one volume, 1898.
- 'Bimetalism,' 1894.
- 'History of Banking in Great Britain,' being vol. ii. of 'The History of Banking of All Nations,' 1896.
- 'The History of Economics,' 1896.
- 'Indian Currency,' 1898.
- 'Draft Tentative Scheme for Restoring a Gold Currency to India,' privately printed, fol. 1898.
[The Times, 18 July 1902; Men at the Bar, 1885; Allibone's Dict. of Eng. Lit., 1891; Statement and Testimonials of Henry Dunning Macleod, Candidate for the Chair of Commercial and Pol. Econ. and Mercantile Law in Univ. of Edinburgh, 1871; An address to the Board of Electors to the Professorship of Pol. Econ. in the Univ. of Oxford, 1888; Burke's Landed Gentry; Quarterly Review, Oct. 1901; Economic Journal, Dec. 1902; Law Lists, 1890; Encyc. Brit. 11th edit, vols. 12 and 17; private information.]