Henry Charles Carey, an American political economist, son of Matthew Carey, born in Philadelphia, Dec. 15, 1793. He was educated as a bookseller, entering his father's store at the age of 8, and remained there, mingling his elementary studies in literature with business, till 1814, when he became a partner in the firm. This association continued till his father retired in 1821. He then became the leading partner in the firm of Carey and Lea, and subsequently in that of Carey, Lea, and Carey, in their time the largest publishing house in the country. In 1824 he established the system of trade sales, as a medium of exchange between booksellers. In 1835, after a successful career, he withdrew from business, to devote himself to the study of political economy. Originally a zealous advocate of free trade, he became convinced that real free trade with foreign countries was impossible in the existing state of American industry, and that a period of protection must first be gone through with. In this view, free trade is the ideal toward which we ought to tend, and protection the indispensable means of arriving at it. He is recognized as the founder of a new school of political economy, opposed to the rent doctrine of Ricardo and the Malthusian theory of population.
The leading principles of his system are, briefly, that in the weakness of savage isolation man is subject to nature, and that his moral and social progress are dependent on his subjecting nature to himself; that the land, worthless in itself, gains all its value from human labor; that the primitive man, "without tools and without science, of necessity begins his cultivation upon the light, salubrious, and easy soils of sandy elevations, and gradually advances to the subjugation of more fertile and difficult regions; that the real interests of classes and individuals are essentially harmonious; that there is in the normal condition of things a constant tendency to increase in the wages of labor, and to diminution in the rate, though to increase in the aggregate, of the profits of capital; and that the well being and advancement of society correspond to the degrees of association and of liberty which exist in it. His first book was an "Essay on the Rate of Wages, with an Examination of the Causes of the Difference of the Condition of the Laboring Population throughout the World " (1835). This work was reproduced and expanded in "The Principles of Political Economy" (3 vols. 8vo, 1837-'40). His succeeding works are: " The Credit System in France, Great Britain, and the United States" (1838); "Answers to the Questions, What constitutes Currency? What are the Causes of its Unsteadiness? and What is the Remedy?" a pamphlet (1840); "The Past, the Present, and the Future " (8vo, 1848); " The Harmony of Interests " (1850); " The Slave Trade, Domestic and Foreign: Why it Exists, and How it may be Extinguished; " "Letters on International Copyright " (1853; new ed., 1868); " Letters to the President on the Foreign and Domestic Policy of the Union, and its Effects, as exhibited in the Condition of the People and the States " (1858); " Principles of Social Science" (3 vols., 1858-'9); "A Series of Letters on Political Economy" (1860), and another series in 1865; "The Way to Outdo England without Fighting her" (1865); "Review of the Decade 1857-67" (1867); "Review of Wells's Report " (1868); " Shall we have Peace? " (1869). For several years he also contributed the leading papers in " The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil," a monthly periodical published in New York, some of which were afterward collected in his "Harmony of Interests." He has also written much in some of the principal newspapers of the country, on subjects connected with his special study.
His "Miscellaneous Works" were published in one volume in 1869. His latest work is " The Unity of Law " (1873). The principal of these works have been translated into German, French, Italian, Russian, and Spanish (the "Principles of Social Science" into German by Adler, Berlin, 1863-'4; others by Diihring, 1865).