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ChydenNet provides an English translation of Anders Chydenius' National Profit and Loss. The Swedish original text has been published by Project Runeberg.
by Pertti Hyttinen, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Finn Anders Chydenius, curate of the small country parish of Alaveteli, created a sensation in the Swedish parliament in 1765 by calling for hitherto unheard-of reforms: restrictions on trade and occupations should be abolished, censorship lifted and society should operate on the principle of personal freedom and responsibility for one's own life. By 1770, the same Anders Chydenius was rector of the parish of Kokkola, but he was still attracting attention by coming to the defence of the weakest members of society in the name of equality and human rights. Chydenius was a forerunner of modern democracy.
Anders Chydenius grew up in the poor, secluded parishes of Sotkamo and Kuusamo in northern Finland. His father Jacob Chydenius, the vicar of Kuusamo, gave him elementary training, after which Anders went to grammar school in Oulu and took private lessons in Tornio. In 1745, Chydenius matriculated at the academy of Turku, where the natural sciences and their practical application in everyday life had recently gained a central position. Chydenius also studied at the University of Uppsala. His studies included various subjects, such as mathematics, natural sciences, Latin, philosophy and theology.
In 1753 Chydenius, who had recently graduated, was appointed a curate of the dependent parish of Alaveteli in Ostrobothnia. In 1753, he married Beata Magdalena Mellberg, a merchant's daughter from Pietarsaari; they did not have any children. During his years in Alaveteli, Chydenius actively participated in various practical projects: he cleared swamps for cultivation, tried new animal and plant species and introduced new cultivation methods. Chydenius also practised medicine; inoculating common people against smallpox, he won fame in his lifetime. Moreover, he performed demanding cataract operations and prepared medicines. Due to this practicality, Chydenius was an epitome of the Swedish utilitarianism, who with his own example aimed at educating the peasantry.
Chydenius' first writings dealt with technical and practical topics. Soon he passed on to social questions. Chydenius was recognised as a sharp writer and speaker, and he was consequently sent to the parliament session 1765-66 in Stockholm to demand the right of free foreign trade for Ostrobothnian towns. Kokkola, Vaasa, Pori and Oulu were indeed granted sailing rights, which helped the growth of export trades, such as tar burning, shipbuilding and shipping, and greatly influenced the later development of the entire Ostrobothnian region.
Chydenius actively participated in the work of this Diet and published several writings, which criticised the prevailing mercantilist economic policy based on regulations, restrictions and monopolies. The most famous of these controversial writings was The National Gain, in which Chydenius presented his liberalistic ideas in a concise way: both private citizens and the whole nation benefit most from the economic life when it functions entirely freely. Among the concrete results of Chydenius' parliamentary work was, for example, the freedom of the press, which Chydenius considered his most important achievement. Chydenius' radical action finally led to his exclusion from the Parliament; the formal reason was his essay on monetary policy in which he criticised a decision made by the representatives of the four estates. Chydenius again participated in the 1778-79 parliamentary session, which discussed the position of hired men among other issues. Chydenius strongly defended the human rights of the servants, shackled by many rules and regulations, and demanded the creation of free labour market. On his proposal (but on the initiative of Gustavus III), foreigners were also granted restricted rights to practise their own religion.
Despite all his political activities, Chydenius, who was appointed rector of Kokkola in 1770, considered the priesthood his most important duty. His dearest hobby was music: he maintained and practised his own orchestra, which played fresh contemporary music by continental composers.
Chydenius participated in the Diet once more in 1792. Later in his life, Chydenius still actively wrote about many topics including agricultural developments, saltpetre burning, smallpox inoculation, and the settling of Lapland. One of the central tasks in his last years was the supervision of the extension works of the old parish church.
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