ROBERT TORRENS (1780-1864), English soldier and economist, was born in Ireland in 1780. He entered the Marines in 1797, became a captain in 1806, and major in 1811 for bravery in Anhalt during the Walcheren expedition. He fought in the Peninsula, becoming lieutenant-colonel in 1835 and retiring as colonel in 1837. After abortive attempts to enter parliament in 1818 and 1826, he was returned in 1831 as member for Ashburton. He was a prolific writer, principally on financial and commercial policy. Almost the whole of the programme which was carried out in legislation by Sir Robert Peel had been laid down in his economic writings. He was an early and earnest advocate of the repeal of the corn laws, but was not in favour of a general system of absolute free trade, maintaining that it is expedient to impose retaliatory duties to countervail similar duties imposed by foreign countries, and a lowering of import duties on the productions of countries retaining their hostile tariffs would occasion a decline in prices, profits and wages.
His principal writings of a general character were: The Economist [i.e. Physiocrat] refuted (1808); Essay on the Production of Wealth (1821); Essay on the External Corn-trade (eulogized by Ricardo) (1827); The Budget, a Series of Letters on Financial, Commercial and Colonial Policy (1841-1843); The Principles and Practical Operations of Sir Robert Peel's Act of 1844 Explained and Defended (1847).
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