Image: Thomas Edward Cliffe Leslie (1826-1882)

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Thomas Edward Cliffe Leslie (21 June 1826 – 27 January 1882), Irish economist. He was professor of jurisprudence and political economy in Queen's College, Belfast, noted for debunking the Wages-Fund doctrine and for addressing contemporary agrarian policy questions. A critic of Ricardian orthodoxy, he said that it had sidelined consumer behavior and demand. He developed the idea of consumer sovereignty, but insisted that the analysis of demand should be based on historical and comparative institutional work.



Early life



T. E. Cliffe Leslie was born in the county of Wexford in (as is believed) the year 1826, the second son of the Rev. Edward Leslie, prebendary of Dromore, and rector of Annahilt, in the county of Down. His family was of Scottish descent, but had been connected with Ireland since the reign of Charles I. Amongst his ancestors were John Leslie (1571-1671), bishop first of Raphoe and afterwards of Clogher, and the bishop's son Charles Leslie.



Cliffe Leslie received his elementary education from his father, who resided in England, though holding church preferment and some landed property in Ireland. His father taught him Latin, Greek and Hebrew at an unusually early age. Afterwards, for a short time he was under the care of a clergyman at Clapham, and was then sent to King William's College, in the Isle of Man.



He entered University of Dublin, Trinity College in 1842, being then only fifteen years of age. He was a distinguished student there, obtaining, besides other honors, a classical scholarship in 1845, and a senior moderatorship (gold medal) in mental and moral philosophy at his degree examination in 1846. He became a law student at Lincoln's Inn, was for two years a pupil in a conveyancers chambers in London, and was called to the English bar. But his attention soon turned from the pursuit of legal practice, for which he seems never to have had much inclination.



Academic career



In 1853, Cliffe Leslie was appointed to the professorship of jurisprudence and political economy in Queen's College, Belfast. The duties of this chair requiring only short visits to Ireland in certain terms of each year, he continued to reside and pursue his studies in London, and became a frequent writer on economic and social questions in the principal reviews and other periodicals.



In 1860 he collected a number of his essays, adding several new ones, into a volume entitled Land Systems and Industrial Economy of Ireland, England and Continental Countries. JS Mill gave a full account of the contents of this work in a paper in the Fortnightly Review, in which he pronounced Leslie to be one of the best living writers on applied political economy. Mill had sought his acquaintance on reading his first article in Macmillan's Magazine; he admired his talents, took pleasure in his society, and treated him with a respect and kindness which Leslie always gratefully acknowledged.



In the frequent visits which Leslie made to the continent, especially to Belgium and some of the less-known districts of France and Germany, he occupied himself much in economic and social observation. He studied the effects of the institutions and system of life which prevailed in each region, on the material and moral condition of its inhabitants. In this way he gained an extensive and accurate acquaintance with continental rural economy, of which he made excellent use in studying parallel phenomena at home. The accounts he gave of the results of his observations were among his happiest efforts; no one, said Mill, was able to write narratives of foreign visits at once so instructive and so interesting. In these excursions he made the acquaintance of several distinguished persons, amongst others of M. Lonce de Lavergne and M. Émile de Laveleye. To the memory of the former of these he afterwards paid a graceful tribute in a biographical sketch (Fortnightly Review, February 1881); and to the close of his life there existed between him and M. de Laveleye relations of mutual esteem and cordial intimacy.



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