It was during this period that he met the leaders of the "physiocratic" school, Quesnay and Gournay, and with them Dupont de Nemours, the abbe Morellet and other economists.
Quesnay and Mirabeau had advocated a proportional tax (impot de quotite), but Turgot a distributive tax (impot de repartition).
He was also a supporter of the principles of the economists, and Quesnay called him his wellbeloved disciple.
FRANCOIS QUESNAY (1694-1774), French economist, was born at Merey, near Paris, on the 4th of June 1694, the son of an advocate and small landed proprietor.
Esteemed Quesnay much, and used to call him his thinker; when he ennobled him he gave him for arms three flowers of the pansy (pensee), with the motto Propter excogitationem mentis.
Adam Smith, dur'ng his stay on the continent with the y oung duke of Buccleuch in 1764-66, spent some time in Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Quesnay and some of his followers; he paid a high tribute to their scientific services in his Wealth of Nations.
Quesnay died on the 16th of December 1774, having lived long enough to see his great pupil, Turgot, in office as minister of finance.
The publications in which Quesnay expounded his system were the following: - two articles, on "Fermiers" and on "Grains," in the Encyclopedie of Diderot and D'Alembert (1756, 1757); a discourse on the law of nature in the Physiocratie of Dupont de Nemours (1768); Maximes generale y de gouverriement economique d'un.
It was regarded by the followers of Quesnay as entitled to a place amongst the foremost products of human wisdom, and is named by the elder Mirabeau, in a passage quoted by Adam Smith, as one of the three great inventions which have contributed most to the stability of political societies, the other two being those of writing and of money.
Smith at this time lived in the society of Quesnay, Turgot, d'Alembert, Morellet, Helvetius, Marmontel and the duke de la Rochefoucauld.
Smith afterwards described Quesnay as a man "of the greatest modesty and simplicity," and declared his system of political economy to be, "with all its imperfections, the nearest approximation to truth that had yet been published on the principles of that science."
A disciple of Quesnay and of Gournay, he tried to repeat in great affairs the experience of liberty which he had found successful in small, and to fortify the unity of the nation and the government by social, political and economic reforms. He ordained the free circulation of grain within the kingdom, and was supported by Louis XVI.
He studied for the medical profession, but did not enter upon practice, his attention having been early directed to economic questions through his friendship with Francois Quesnay, Turgot and other leaders of the school known as the Economists.
Even those who do not fall into the error of making Smith the creator of the science, often separate him too broadly from Quesnay and his followers, and represent the history of modern economics as consisting of the successive rise and reign of three doctrines - the mercantile, the physiocratic and the Smithian.