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Title: Adam Smith - English Men of Letters
Author: Hirst, Francis Wrigley
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Adam Smith - English Men of Letters" ***

                        _ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS_

                               ADAM SMITH

                            FRANCIS W. HIRST

                    LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
                       NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR

           _Copyright in the United States of America, 1904_

                             PREFATORY NOTE

Early in 1793 Dugald Stewart read at two meetings of the Royal Society
of Edinburgh his “Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith.”
Written with the sympathetic pen of a friend and disciple in the
Corinthian style that Stewart loved, the memoir was too good to be
superseded. A century passed, and in 1895 appeared Mr. John Rae’s
exhaustive _Life of Adam Smith_. Mr. Rae’s comprehensive researches
cropped the ground so close that little seemed to have been left for his
successors to glean. But the discovery of Smith’s _Lectures on Justice,
Police, Revenue, and Arms_, edited by Mr. Edwin Cannan and published in
1896, has furnished new and important materials.

Of Smith’s innumerable critics and commentators, Bagehot, Oncken,
Ingram, and Hasbach seem to me to have understood him best. The
misdirected erudition of some others has only proved the importance of
allowing him to be his own interpreter.

Dr. David Murray of Glasgow has very kindly read portions of my proofs,
and has contributed most generously from his wonderful store of

                                                                F. W. H.


                                 CHAPTER I
  Early Years                                                          1
                                 CHAPTER II
  The Beginning of a Career                                           23
                                CHAPTER III
  Theology and Religious Establishments                               36
                                 CHAPTER IV
  “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”                                    46
                                 CHAPTER V
  In the Glasgow Chair—The Lectures on Justice And Police             68
                                 CHAPTER VI
  Glasgow and its University                                          94
                                CHAPTER VII
  The Tour in France, 1764-66                                        118
                                CHAPTER VIII
  Politics and Study, 1766-76                                        144
                                 CHAPTER IX
  The “Wealth of Nations” and its Critics                            164
                                 CHAPTER X
  Free Trade                                                         188
                                 CHAPTER XI
  Last Years                                                         205
  Index                                                              237

                               ADAM SMITH

                               CHAPTER I
                              EARLY YEARS

Adam Smith was born on June 5, 1723, in the “lang toun” of Kirkcaldy. It
was one of the “mony royal boroughs yoked on end to end like ropes of
ingans, with their hie-streets and their booths, and their kraemes and
houses of stane and lime and forestairs,” which led Andrew Fairservice
to contrast “the kingdom of Fife” with the inferior county of
Northumberland; nay, it furnished him with a special boast, “Kirkcaldy,
the sell o’t, is langer than ony toun in England.” It had been a royal
borough from the time of Charles I., and had declined, like many other
Scotch towns, in the religious wars of the seventeenth century. Many of
its citizens who had fought for the Covenant had fallen on the fatal
field of Tippermuir. But it still contained about 1500 inhabitants, who
were variously employed as colliers, fishermen, salters, nailmakers, and
smugglers. From the harbour you might walk a mile or more westward along
the High Street, enjoying from time to time a glimpse of the sea and
shelving beach, where the line of shops opened for a narrow “wynd,” or a
still narrower “close” threaded the high-walled gardens of a few
substantial houses. In one of these Adam Smith wrote the _Wealth of
Nations_, and probably in one of these he was born. The father, who died
a few weeks before the birth of his only child, had been a leading
townsman. Adam Smith the elder was a man of note in his own day. From
1707 to his death he was a Writer,[1] _i.e._ solicitor, and Judge
Advocate for Scotland. He had acted as private secretary to Lord Loudon,
then Minister for Scotland; and Loudon, on leaving office in 1713,
obtained for his secretary the Comptrollership of Customs at Kirkcaldy—a
post worth about £100 a year.

His widow lived to a great age, and saw her boy rise step by step to the
fulness of fame. She is said to have been an over-indulgent mother; but
her devotion was repaid by the life-long love of a most tender son. Mrs.
Smith’s maiden name was Margaret Douglas, and she was the daughter of
the Laird of Strathendry, in the county of Fife. At Strathendry the
future economist had a narrow escape; for one day as he played at the
door he was picked up and carried off by a party of vagrant tinkers.
Luckily he was soon missed, pursued and overtaken in Leslie Wood; and
thus, in the grandiose dialect of Dugald Stewart, there was preserved to
the world “a genius, which was destined, not only to extend the
boundaries of science, but to enlighten and reform the commercial policy
of Europe.”

The next landmark in the boy’s history is a copy of _Eutropius_, on the
fly-leaf of which is inscribed in a childish hand, “Adam Smith, his
book, May 4th, 1733.” Before his tenth birthday, therefore, he had
already made some progress in Latin. The Burgh School of Kirkcaldy,
which he attended, was a good grammar school of the kind that already
abounded in Scotland. It was patronised by the Oswalds of Dunnikier, the
principal people of the neighbourhood. James Oswald, who soon made a
mark in politics, was Smith’s senior by some years, but they became
life-long friends. Robert Adams, the architect who planned Edinburgh
University, was another friend and schoolfellow; and so was John
Drysdale, who twice held the helm of the Scotch Church as Moderator of
its General Assembly. In 1734 the schoolboys played a moral piece
written for the purpose by the head master, David Millar. As a teacher
he had a considerable reputation, but as a dramatist he will be judged
by the title of his play, “A Royal Counsel for Advice; or Regular
Education for Boys the Foundation of all other Improvements.” Adam Smith
soon attracted notice at school “by his passion for books and by the
extraordinary powers of his memory.” Too weak and delicate to join in
active games, he was yet popular with his schoolfellows; for his temper,
“though warm, was to an uncommon degree friendly and generous.” In
company his absentmindedness was often noticed, and this habit, with a
trick of talking to himself, clung to him to the end.

In his fourteenth year Smith left the Grammar School of Kirkcaldy for
the University of Glasgow, where he was to remain until the spring of
1740. He entered, probably, in October 1737, at the beginning of the
session. As the full course extended over four sessions and Smith only
attended three, he did not take his degree; but he had the good fortune
to study Greek under Dunlop, mathematics under Simson, the editor of
Euclid, and morals under Hutcheson, perhaps the greatest philosopher of
his generation, and certainly the most eloquent.

Glasgow, though still but a small place, was already the most prosperous
and progressive of Scotch towns. After a century of decay it had found
salvation in the Act of Union, which gave it free trade with England and
a share in the colonial monopoly. Readers of _Rob Roy_ will remember how
the inimitable Jarvie enlarged upon these advantages and on the
facilities Glasgow possessed “of making up sortable cargoes for the
American market.” It was very loyal, therefore, to the House of Hanover.
In the rising of 1745, Charles Edward got considerable support from
Edinburgh, and even from Manchester, but none from Glasgow, which,
indeed, soon afterwards obtained a parliamentary vote of £10,000 in
recognition of its exertions and as compensation for its losses. Glasgow
was the only town in Scotland, as a learned writer has observed, to
exhibit the same kind of visible progress in the first half of the
eighteenth century which the rest of the country developed in the
second. Its shipping, sadly cramped by the Navigation Act, began to
expand after the Union. In 1716 the “first honest vessel in the West
India trade” sailed from the Clyde, and in 1735, two years before
Smith’s arrival, Glasgow owned sixty-seven vessels with a total burden
of 5600 tons, nearly half of the total Scotch, though only one-eightieth
of the total English tonnage.

In this rising mart Smith learned to value the English connection, and
as he trod its busy streets and watched the merchandise of the West
pouring into its warehouses, the boy saw that a new world had been
called in to enrich the old. With the new sights and sounds came new
ideas that had not yet penetrated the gloom of Holyrood or the rusty
pride of the Canongate. From the lips of his master, Hutcheson, he heard
that fruitful formula which his own philosophy was to interpret and
develop, “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” His mind was
opened at once to the wisdom of the ancients and to the discoveries of
the moderns. He learned from Bacon, and Grotius, and Locke, and Newton
to discern through the obscuring mists of mediæval philosophy the
splendid dawn of science. To the end of his life he loved to recall “the
abilities and virtues of the never-to-be-forgotten Dr. Hutcheson.”
Unorthodox yet not irreligious, radical yet not revolutionary, receptive
yet inspiring, erudite yet original, Hutcheson was one of those rare
reformers whose zeal is fertilised by knowledge and enforced by
practical devotion. In early manhood he had refused to seek an easy
advancement by subscribing to the tenets of the Church of England in
Ireland, and while Smith was at Glasgow he braved the resentment of the
Presbytery by teaching moral principles which were supposed to
contravene the Westminster Confession. He was also the first in the
University to abandon the practice of lecturing in Latin; and Dugald
Stewart tells us that his old pupils were all agreed about his
extraordinary talent as a public speaker. His pen was so unequal to his
tongue that Stewart applies to Hutcheson what Quintilian said of
Hortensius: “apparet placuisse aliquid eo dicente quod legentes non
invenimus.”—“He gave a pleasure to his hearers which his readers miss.”

Hutcheson’s work in Glasgow (1730-1746) was of the utmost importance to
Scotland. “I am called the New Light here,” he said. He stood for reform
of the universities, for the criticism of abuses and privileges, for
free thought, free speech, and the spirit of inquiry. He took a lively
interest in his pupils, and tried to keep them abreast of the times. He
set Adam Smith to write an analysis of Hume’s _Treatise of Human Nature_
as soon as it appeared, and the lad of seventeen did his exercise so
well that Hume got it printed in London and had a copy of the _Treatise_
sent him by way of reward. Hutcheson has been called an eclectic.
Certainly he had read widely and thought deeply upon the difficulties
and perplexities of a new age, an age of scientific discovery and
philosophic doubt, an age tired of the syllogism, disdainful of divine
right, eager to find natural principles of morality, law, and
government. From the _System of Moral Philosophy_, published after his
death, we get a clear notion of the range of his lectures. He considered
man as a social animal, and accordingly refused to divorce the science
of individual ethics from the science of politics. He followed Aristotle
in including chapters on jurisprudence and economics in his scheme of
moral philosophy. It has been well said that the same natural liberty
and optimism which served Smith as assumptions were the theses of
Hutcheson, who himself learned much from Shaftesbury. Hutcheson and
Smith were both reformers, and were more hopeful, if less cheerful, than
Hume. Hume was a genial cynic without any zeal for reform, who found
repose in Butler’s doctrine that things are what they are, and that
their consequences will be what they will be.

But with Hutcheson and Smith it was a real religion to see that society
should be better governed; they made it the supreme object of their
lives to increase the happiness of mankind by diffusing useful truths
and exposing mischievous errors. In the scope of his philosophy, in
temper and practical aim, Smith may be called the spiritual descendant
of Hutcheson. There are also marked resemblances in their subject matter
and even in some minor points of doctrine, as a careful comparison
recently instituted by a very competent writer abundantly shows.[2] We
find Smith using the same authorities as his predecessor and quoting
them to much the same purpose. Even Hutcheson’s crude and fragmentary
economics offered many suggestions that were afterwards developed and
harmonised by Smith in his lectures. The Sunday lectures on Natural
Theology, by which Hutcheson sought to reduce the intolerance and soften
the harshness of Scottish orthodoxy, made a lasting impression upon the
mind of his great pupil.

Besides his work with Hutcheson, Smith laid at Glasgow the foundation of
an early mastery of the classics, and prepared himself for a wide course
of reading in the literature and wisdom of the ancients. But mathematics
and natural philosophy are said to have been his favourite pursuits at
this time—indeed he seems to have attained in both a considerable
proficiency, which never escaped the tenacious grip of his memory.
Matthew Stewart, Dugald’s father, was one of his fellow-students. Long
afterwards, when Professor of Mathematics in Edinburgh, he was heard
discussing with Smith “a geometrical problem of considerable
difficulty,” which had been set them as an exercise by Simson. Matthew
Stewart, who died in 1785, is commemorated with Simson in the sixth
edition of Smith’s _Theory of Moral Sentiments_, published fifty years
after this time. After observing that “mathematicians who may have the
most perfect assurance of the truth and of the importance of their
discoveries, are frequently very indifferent about the reception which
they may meet with from the public,” Adam Smith cites Dr. Robert Simson
of Glasgow, and Dr. Matthew Stewart of Edinburgh, “the two greatest
mathematicians that I ever had the honour to be known to, and I believe,
the two greatest that have lived in my time,” as men who never seemed to
feel the slightest uneasiness from the neglect with which some of their
most valuable works were received. For several years, he adds, even Sir
Isaac Newton’s _Principia_ fell flat, but his tranquillity did not
suffer for a single quarter of an hour. Newton always stood at the very
top of Smith’s calendar.

Smith left Glasgow at the early age of seventeen. His mother, acting on
the advice of her relatives, had destined the boy for the Church of
England, which then opened the door to so many lucrative positions.
Perhaps they hoped from his talents for a career like that of his famous
countryman, Bishop Burnet, who indeed had himself been a Professor of
Divinity at Glasgow. The intention went so far that in his third year
Smith sought and obtained one of those exhibitions which have taken so
many distinguished Scots from the University of Glasgow to Balliol
College, Oxford. The Snell Exhibitions, as they are called, were founded
by an old Glasgow student of that name in 1679, with a view to educating
Scots for the service of the Episcopalian Church. It chanced, however,
that during his residence at Oxford, an application made by the Oxford
authorities to compel the Snell Exhibitioners “to submit and conform to
the doctrines of the Church of England and to enter into holy orders”
was refused by the Court of Chancery; so that when the time came Smith
was able to choose his own career and to strike off from the easier road
which took his Fifeshire friend Douglas in due time to a bishopric. The
change from Glasgow to Oxford was immense. It was more than exile; it
was transmigration from a living to a dead society, from the thrill of a
rising and thriving community, where men lived and moved and thought, to
a city of dreaming spires and droning dons. In June 1740 he rode on
horseback to Oxford and matriculated on the 17th of July, entering
himself in a round schoolboy hand as “Adamus Smith, e Coll. Ball. Gen.
Fil. Jul. 7mo. 1740.”

It will be remembered that when Captain Waverley crossed the border,
five years later, on his way to join the Young Pretender, the houses of
Tully Veolan seemed miserable in the extreme, “especially to an eye
accustomed to the smiling neatness of English cottages.” Smith rode
through Carlisle, and he told Samuel Rogers in 1789 that he recollected
being much struck as he approached that town by the richness of England
and by the superiority of English agriculture. England indeed was then
remarkably prosperous, thanks to a long peace, low taxes, and good
harvests. Food was generally cheap and plentiful. Trade was good; and
better means of transit by road and canal were being developed. But the
land of the Scots, “during fifty generations the rudest perhaps of all
European nations, the most necessitous, the most turbulent, and the most
unsettled,” was still unimproved. The roads were almost impassable for
wheeled vehicles. Coaches were unknown.[3] Many of the most fertile
tracts were waste, and there is respectable authority for the opinion
that some parts of the Lowlands were worse cultivated than in the
thirteenth century. Under such conditions, rude beyond conception,
poverty was universal. Even the gentry could seldom afford such bare
comforts as half a century later their own farmers possessed. As for the
common people, clothed in the coarsest garb and starving on the meanest
fare, they dwelt in despicable huts with their cattle. It is significant
that in those days Scotland had no fatted kine. There was no market for
good meat, and the taste only grew with the means for gratifying it.
Adam Smith was fond of telling at his own table in after years, how on
the first day he dined in the hall of Balliol, having fallen into one of
his fits of absent-mindedness, he was roused by the servitor who told
him to “fall to, for he had never seen such a piece of beef in

Of the hundred undergraduates then at Balliol about eight came from
Scotland, and four of these were Snell Exhibitioners. Their
peculiarities of manner and dialect marked them off from the rest of the
college, and they were treated as foreigners. Their relations with the
authorities were unpleasant. In 1744, Smith and the other Exhibitioners
stated their grievances to the Senate of Glasgow University, and
explained how their residence might be made “more easy and commodious.”
A few years afterwards, one of them told the Master that what the
Exhibitioners wanted was to be transferred to some other college on
account of their “total dislike of Balliol.” The friction between
Balliol and Glasgow lasted long, and it was no doubt his own
unsatisfactory experience that drew from Adam Smith thirty years
afterwards a strong condemnation of close scholarships.[4]

The University of Oxford was at that time and for the rest of the
century sunk deep in intellectual apathy, a muddy reservoir of sloth,
ignorance, and luxury from which men sank as by a law of gravitation
into the still lower level of civil and ecclesiastical sinecures. In the
colleges there were only degrees of badness; but the charity of Snell
had been rather unkind to Smith, for Balliol being Jacobite was
particularly rowdy and intolerant. It has been mentioned that in his
last year at Glasgow, Smith wrote for Hutcheson an abstract of David
Hume’s _Treatise of Human Nature_ which brought him a presentation copy
from the author. This copy he seems to have carried south with him; for
the Balliol authorities, it is recorded, caught Smith in the act of
reading the godless work, censured him severely, and confiscated a book
which more than a century afterwards was to be sumptuously edited by two
honoured alumni of the same college.

The narrow spirit which this incident illustrates seems to have made a
painful impression upon the student’s memory. In the _Wealth of Nations_
he complains bitterly of the compulsory “sham-lecture,” and visits with
severe censure the casuistry and sophistry by which the ancient course
of philosophy had been corrupted. This completed course, he says, was
meant to train ecclesiastics, and “certainly did not render it more
proper for the education of gentlemen or men of the world, or more
likely either to improve the understanding or to mend the heart.” At
Oxford “the greater part of the public professors have for many years
given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.” College discipline
was in general contrived “not for the benefit of the students, but for
the interests, or more properly speaking, for the ease of the masters.”

In England the public schools were “much less corrupted than the
universities; for in the schools a boy was taught, or at least might be
taught Greek and Latin,” whereas “in the universities the youth neither
are taught, nor always can find any proper means of being taught, the
sciences which it is the business of those incorporated bodies to
teach.” It is only fair to add that Gibbon’s experiences of Magdalen,
Bishop Butler’s of Christ Church, and Bentham’s of Queen’s, were equally
adverse. And Balliol could at least offer its undergraduates the
advantage of an excellent library. When such a cloud lay heavy upon that
ancient seat of learning, it is no wonder if Smith with his sedentary
disposition and frugal habits—he probably lived on his exhibition of
£40—should have spent his six years at Balliol in the society of its
books rather than of its tipsy undergraduates. Oxford, it has been
observed by the most diligent of his biographers, is the only place he
lived in which failed to furnish him with friends. But he never
displayed towards it the lively antipathy of Gibbon; far from regretting
his residence there, he mentioned it with gratitude many years
afterwards. In Oxford he certainly gained the liberal knowledge of
ancient and modern literature that enriches and adorns all his writings.
The bookshops must have introduced him to his favourite Pope, to Swift
and Addison, and the fashionable writers of the day. He employed himself
frequently, he used to say, in the practice of translations, especially
of French authors, in order to improve his style.

“How intimately,” writes Dugald Stewart, “he had once been conversant
with more ornamental branches of learning, in particular with the works
of the Roman, Greek, French, and Italian poets, appeared sufficiently
from the hold they kept of his memory after all the different
occupations and inquiries in which his maturer faculties had been
employed.” He had an extraordinary knowledge of English poetry, and
could quote from memory with a correctness which, says the same grave
Scot, “appeared surprising even to those whose attention had never been
directed to more important acquisitions.” What little intellectual
activity outside politics still lingered on at Oxford was probably
connected with philological speculations such as those of James Harris,
the learned, if somewhat priggish, author of _Hermes_. At any rate,
Smith went deeply into every branch of grammar. Andrew Dalzel, who was
Professor of Greek at Edinburgh in Adam Smith’s old age, often remarked
on “the uncommon degree in which Mr. Smith retained possession even to
the close of his life of different branches of knowledge which he had
long ceased to cultivate,” and particularly mentioned to his colleague
Dugald Stewart, “the readiness and correctness” of his memory on
philological subjects and his acuteness in discussing the _minutiæ_ of
Greek grammar.

Dugald Stewart failed to collect any information about Smith’s Oxford
days, but a few relics have been preserved by Lord Brougham in the
appendix to the discursive and rather disappointing essay upon Adam
Smith that appears in his _Lives of the Philosophers_. “I have now
before me,” says Brougham, “a number of Dr. Smith’s letters written when
at Oxford between the years 1740 and 1746 to his mother: they are almost
all upon mere family and personal matters; most of them indeed upon his
linen and other such necessaries, but all show his strong affection for
his parent.” The few quotations Brougham gives are barely worth
recording. On November 29, 1743, Adam Smith writes: “I am just recovered
of a violent fit of laziness, which has confined me to my elbow chair
these three months.” Again on July 2, 1744: “I am quite inexcusable for
not writing to you oftener. I think of you every day, but always defer
writing till the post is just going, and then sometimes business or
company, but oftener laziness, hinders me.” He speaks of “an inveterate
scurvy and shaking of the head” which have been perfectly cured by tar
water, “a remedy very much in vogue here for all diseases.”

His college contemporaries, says Mr. Rae, “were a singularly
undistinguished body,” with the exception of a Fifeshire man, John
Douglas, who had gone direct to Oxford from the Grammar School at
Dunbar. Douglas at first had a small exhibition at St. Mary’s Hall, but
after fighting at Fontenoy, he obtained a Snell Exhibition. He
distinguished himself later as a pamphleteer and was rewarded with the
Bishopric of Salisbury. With this exception, Adam Smith seems to have
made no friends at Oxford. Besides his books he must have enjoyed from
time to time walks and excursions into the surrounding country. In the
_Wealth of Nations_ he was able to make close comparisons of the
condition of the labouring classes in England and Scotland, and there is
a passage, about the use of coal and wood by the common people in
Oxfordshire, to show that he had certainly acquired as an undergraduate
the faculty of minute and picturesque observation which he afterwards
turned to such account.[5] What Smith did in the vacations we do not
know. He could not have had much money to spare, and there is no
indication that he ever returned home or even visited London.

At last, in August 1746, after taking his degree as a Bachelor of Arts,
he retraced his steps to Scotland, and gave up all thought of a clerical
career. In the words of his biographer, “he chose to consult in this
instance his own inclinations in preference to the wishes of his
friends; and abandoning at once all the schemes which their prudence had
formed for him, he resolved to return to his own country and to limit
his ambition to the uncertain prospect of obtaining, in time, some one
of those moderate preferments to which literary attainments lead in
Scotland.” He was now in 1746 again in his mother’s house at Kirkcaldy,
“engaged in study, but without any fixed plan for his future life.” So
far as I am aware, none of Adam Smith’s biographers has definitely
assigned to this period any of the writings which he either published or
left to his executors. In the latter class, however, there is a group of
fragments dealing with the history of Astronomy, of Ancient Physics, and
of Ancient Logic and Metaphysics, and an elaborate essay on _The
Imitative Arts_, which are collectively described by his executors in an
advertisement as “parts of a plan he once had formed for giving a
connected history of the liberal sciences and elegant arts.”[6]

The essay on _The Imitative Arts_ belongs to a different design and to a
slightly later period. But it seems clear that the _History of
Astronomy_ was composed at this time.[7] There is no other period of his
life in which he would have been so well able to collect the materials
for an examination of the systems of the Greek, the Arabian, and the
mediæval astronomers as in the six years of Oxford study, or so likely
to shape them into a finished treatise as in the two quiet years spent
at Kirkcaldy immediately after his return, when, we are told, he was
“engaged in study, but without any fixed plan for his future life.” The
_History of Astronomy_, which takes us from the schools of Thales and
Pythagoras through the systems of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo,
Kepler, and Descartes to that of Sir Isaac Newton, is complete in
itself, though from certain notes and memoranda which accompanied it
Smith’s executors were led to believe that he contemplated some further
extension.[8] It ends very appropriately with an enthusiastic
description of Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery as the greatest ever made by
man. He had acquired “the most universal empire that was ever
established in philosophy,” and was the only natural philosopher whose
system, instead of being a mere invention of the imagination to connect
otherwise discordant phenomena, appeared to contain in itself “the real
chains which nature makes use of to bind together her several
operations.” In attributing the _History of Astronomy_ to Oxford and
Kirkcaldy I except the concluding pages, which must have been added in
the last years of his life; for in a letter to Hume (1773) he spoke of
it as a history of Astronomical Systems to the time (not of Newton but)
of Descartes.

Although complete in itself, this masterly essay was plainly meant by
its author to form only one book in a great history of philosophy. It
begins with three short introductory sections, the first on surprise,
the second on wonder, and the third on the origin of philosophy. It is
the function of philosophy, he says, to discover the connecting
principles of nature, and to explain those portents which astonish or
affright mankind. He then shows that celestial appearances have always
excited the greatest curiosity, and describes with extraordinary
learning and vivacity the long series of attempts that had been made to
account for “the ways of the sky and the stars”—

  “How winter suns in ocean plunge so soon,
  And what delays the timid nights of June.”

_The History of Ancient Physics_, a much shorter fragment, is placed in
his collected works immediately after the _History of Astronomy_. It
evidently belongs to the same early period, but is of little interest.
Upon _The History of Ancient Logics and Metaphysics_ we shall have
something to say in our next chapter.

After two years of waiting, Adam Smith got his opportunity. His
neighbour, James Oswald of Dunnikier, had become Kirkcaldy’s
representative in Parliament, and was now a Commissioner of the Navy.
Through Oswald Smith seems to have been introduced to Henry Home (Lord
Kames), a leader of the Edinburgh Bar, and arbiter of Scottish
elegancies. Home was a warm patron of English literature, and was busily
importing it along with English ploughs and other Southern improvements
into his native land. What a contrast between this typical Scotch
patriot of 1750 and grim old Fletcher of Saltoun, the corresponding type
of 1700, whose remedy for Scottish ills was to restore slavery, and
place all labourers in the situation of salters and colliers! Finding
that Smith had acquired the accent and was well read in the prose and
poetry of England, Home encouraged him to give what we should now call
extension lectures in Edinburgh. Accordingly the young Oxford graduate
delivered a course of lectures on English literature in the winter of
1748-9, adding in the following year a course on political economy in
which he preached the doctrines of natural liberty and free trade. The
English lectures were attended by Henry Home, Alexander Wedderburn, and
William Johnstone (Sir William Pulteney), and proved no mere success of
esteem; for they brought in a clear £100, and were so popular that they
were repeated in the two following winters. The manuscript of these
lectures was burnt shortly before his death, and the world is probably
not much the poorer. Smith shared the opinions of his age, and set up
Dryden, Pope, and Gray on pedestals from which they were soon to be
thrown down by the children of nature and romance. He gave these
lectures afterwards at Glasgow, and Boswell, who attended them in 1759,
told Johnson that Smith had condemned blank verse. Johnson was
delighted, and cried out: “Sir, I was once in company with Smith, and we
did not take to each other; but had I known that he loved rhyme as much
as you tell me he does, I should have hugged him.” One cannot help
wondering what would have been said if Boswell had repeated another of
our author’s critical opinions, that Johnson was “of all writers ancient
and modern the one who kept off the greatest distance from common

The most valuable part of Adam Smith’s critical lectures has been
preserved in an essay on the _Imitative Arts_, which I should judge from
internal evidence to have been drafted at this time, but to have been
revised and improved in later years. Considering that neither Burke’s
essay on the _Sublime and Beautiful_ nor Lessing’s _Laocoon_ had then
appeared, we cannot but admire the originality he displayed in analysing
the different effects produced by sculpture, painting, music, and
dancing, and in distinguishing the different pleasures that attend the
various kinds and degrees of imitation. He works out with much ingenuity
the theory of the _difficulté surmontée_ by which Voltaire accounted for
the effect of verse and rhyme. Smith extends this principle to other
arts, and seeks, always cleverly, often successfully, to show that much
of our delight in art arises from our admiration for the artist’s skill
in overcoming difficulties. He declares that a disparity between the
imitating and the imitated object is the foundation of the beauty of
imitation. The great masters of statuary and painting never produce
their effects by deception. To prove this, he refers to the rather
unpleasing effect produced by painted statues and by the reflections of
a mirror. Photography would have supplied him with another illustration.

It may here be said that, though judged by modern standards of criticism
Smith’s taste was faulty, yet all his favourite authors are in the first
rank, and there is no instance recorded of his having bestowed praise on
anything bad either in prose or poetry. “You will learn more as to
poetry,” he once said, “by reading one good poem than by a thousand
volumes of criticism.” Wordsworth in one of his prefaces calls him most
unjustly “the worst critic, David Hume excepted, that Scotland, a soil
to which this sort of weed seems natural, has produced.” The Lake Poet,
who did not distinguish between the quality of the “Ode on the
Intimations” and “Peter Bell,” was probably thinking of some literary
anecdotes that appeared in _The Bee_ in 1791 after Smith’s death. The
writer, who may or may not be trustworthy, is only repeating table talk.
He mentions that Smith depreciated Percy’s _Reliques_ and some of
Milton’s minor poems. With regard to blank verse, Smith said: “they do
well to call it blank, for blank it is. I myself, even I, who never
could find a single rhyme in my life, could make blank verse as fast as
I could speak.” From this censure he always excepted Milton; but he
thought the English dramatists should have used rhyme like the French.
Racine’s _Phèdre_ appealed to him as the finest of all tragedies.
Voltaire was his literary pope. Oddly enough, his first publisher’s
commission was to collect and edit (anonymously, of course) for the
Foulis Press an edition of the poems of a well-known Jacobite, Hamilton
of Bangour. The book was published in 1748, and contained the “Braes of
Yarrow,” which Wordsworth called an exquisite ballad. Hamilton had
played poet laureate to the Young Pretender in 1745, and was still an
exile in France. In 1750, when the poet was pardoned, he struck up a
warm friendship with his anonymous editor, and (according to Sir John
Dalrymple) Smith spent with him “many happy and flattering hours.”

It has been said that in addition to his lectures on English literature
Smith also delivered a course on Economics. This we know from a
manuscript by which Dugald Stewart vindicates Adam Smith’s claim to have
been the original discoverer of the leading principles of political
economy. This manuscript, a paper read by Smith to a learned society
some years later, proves that he wrote, or rather dictated, his economic
lectures in 1749, and delivered them in the following winter.

At this time David Hume and James Oswald were corresponding on
commercial topics. In 1750 Hume, who was then abroad, sent Oswald his
famous essay on the _Balance of Trade_, and asked for criticism. Oswald
replied in a long letter which shows that he too held very enlightened
views on public finance, and we may be pretty certain that Smith as well
as Hume derived at this time much benefit from intercourse with Oswald.
In fact, in his preface to Oswald’s correspondence, Oswald’s grandson
boasts that he has heard Adam Smith, then the renowned author of the
_Wealth of Nations_, “dilate with a generous and enthusiastic pleasure
on the qualifications and merits of Mr. Oswald, candidly avowing at the
same time how much information he had received on many points from the
enlarged views and profound knowledge of that accomplished statesman.”
Some allowance should be made for the natural exaggeration of a Scotch
kinsman; but Smith certainly rated Oswald high, describing him in the
paper above mentioned as one who combined a taste for general principles
with the detailed information of a statesman. Stewart adds that “he was
one of Mr. Smith’s earliest and most confidential friends.” They must
have seen a great deal of one another both in Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh in
the five years between his return from Oxford and the appointment we
have now to record.

                               CHAPTER II
                       THE BEGINNING OF A CAREER

By his Edinburgh lectures Smith had proved that he could be at once
learned and popular, and the fact that he was probably the only Scottish
savant who had thoroughly acquired the English accent at a time when
English had suddenly become highly fashionable north of the Tweed, would
do him no harm in loyal Glasgow, where the English connection, with all
its solid advantages, was well esteemed. Accordingly in 1750, when a
vacancy occurred in the chair of Logic at Glasgow, Adam Smith’s
candidature proved very acceptable, and he was unanimously appointed by
the Senate. A week later he read a Latin dissertation on the Origin of
Ideas, signed the Westminster Confession of Faith before the Presbytery
of Glasgow, and took the usual oath of fidelity to the authorities. So
far as I am aware, it has not been noticed hitherto that the substance
of Smith’s inaugural dissertation, _De Origine Idearum_, has been
preserved in a fragment published by his literary executors after his
death. _The History of the Ancient Logics and Metaphysics_, as the piece
is called, deserves notice not only as one of the earliest specimens of
Smith’s extraordinary power of reasoning, but because it proves his
interest in some metaphysical questions which are suppressed or ignored
in his larger treatises, and at the same time exhibits the range and
accuracy of his classical scholarship.

In describing the ancient dialectic Smith had to give an explanation of
what Plato meant by “ideas.” The later Platonists imagined their master
to mean no more than that “the Deity formed the world after what we
would now call an idea or plan conceived in his own mind, in the same
manner as any other artist.” Against them the young philosopher
proceeded to turn the formidable battery of ratiocination that was one
day to demolish a living and formidable foe. It is characteristic of
Adam Smith that whether he is attacking the harmless errors of an
extinct school of thought, or the noxious fallacies of an established
policy, he tries every mode of assault. He “swims, or sinks, or wades,
or creeps, or flies”:—

  “If Plato had meant to express no more than this most natural and
  simple of all notions, he might surely have expressed it more plainly,
  and would hardly, one would think, have talked of it with so much
  emphasis, as of something which it required the utmost reach of
  thought to comprehend. According to this representation, Plato’s
  notion of species, or Universals, was the same with that of Aristotle.
  Aristotle, however, does not seem to understand it as such; he bestows
  a great part of his Metaphysics upon confuting it, and opposes it in
  all his other works.”

Again, this notion of the separate existence of Species is the very
basis of Plato’s philosophy; and there is not a single dialogue in all
his works which does not refer to it. Can Aristotle, “who appears to
have been so much superior to his master in everything but eloquence,”
wilfully have misinterpreted Plato’s fundamental principle when Plato’s
writings were in everybody’s hands and his disciples were spread all
over Greece; when Speusippus, the nephew and successor of Plato, as well
as Xenocrates, who continued the school in the Academy, at the same time
as Aristotle held his in the Lyceum, must have been ready at all times
to expose and affront him for such gross disingenuity? Aristotle’s
interpretation had been followed by Cicero, Seneca, and every classical
authority down to Plutarch, “an author who seems to have been as bad a
critic in philosophy as in history, and to have taken everything at
second-hand in both.”

Whether Smith either then or at any time arrived at metaphysical
certainty is very doubtful. “To explain the nature, and to account for
the origin of general Ideas is,” he says, “even at this day, the
greatest difficulty in abstract philosophy.”

  “How the human mind when it reasons concerning the general nature of
  triangles, should either conceive, as Mr. Locke imagines it does, the
  idea of a triangle, which is neither obtusangular, nor rectangular,
  nor acutangular; but which was at once both none and of all those
  together; or should, as Malbranche thinks necessary for this purpose,
  comprehend at once, within its finite capacity, all possible triangles
  of all possible forms and dimensions, which are infinite in number, is
  a question to which it is not easy to give a satisfactory answer.”

He suggests that notions like those of Plato, or Cudworth, or
Malebranche, depend a good deal upon the vague and general language in
which they are expressed. So long as a philosophy is not very distinctly
explained, it “passes easily enough through the indolent imagination
accustomed to substitute words in the room of ideas.” Platonism vanishes
indeed, and is discovered to be altogether incomprehensible upon an
attentive consideration. It did, however, require attentive
consideration, and but for Aristotle “might without examination have
continued to be the current philosophy for a century or two.” This early
and unnoticed composition proves that Smith had thought deeply on
metaphysics though he deliberately avoided them in his masterpieces.

He found time to translate and read part of the essay as a Latin
dissertation; but his engagements in Edinburgh prevented him from taking
up his new work before the autumn. When October came he found his task
doubled. Craigie, the Professor of Ethics, had fallen ill, and had been
ordered to Lisbon for his health. Smith was informed of this by Dr.
Cullen, one of his new colleagues, and was requested to undertake
Craigie’s duties. It was further suggested that he should pay particular
attention to jurisprudence and politics, which were held to fall within
the province of moral philosophy. Smith replies (3rd September 1751)
that he will gladly relieve Craigie of his class, and will willingly
undertake to lecture on natural jurisprudence and politics.

The session began on the 10th of October, and soon afterwards came the
news of Craigie’s death. Smith detested the sophisms of what he called
“the cobweb science” of Ontology, and cared little for the Logic of the
schools. He was anxious, therefore, to be transferred to the chair of
Ethics, and at the same time formed a design with other friends to
procure the appointment of his friend David Hume to the chair of Logic.
But the prejudice against Hume proved too strong. “I should prefer David
Hume to any man for the college,” Smith wrote privately to Cullen, “but
I am afraid the public would not be of my opinion, and the interest of
the society will oblige us to have regard to the opinion of the public.”
This was from Edinburgh, whither Smith had made what was then
(incredible as it may seem) a two-days’ journey from Glasgow, in order
to wait upon Archibald, Duke of Argyll, nicknamed King of Scotland,
because he exercised a sort of royal influence over all Scottish
appointments. At the duke’s levee Smith was duly introduced, and his
application was successful. The transfer was effected, and in April
Smith was appointed to the chair which he was to adorn for twelve years.
It was perhaps the most important event of his life. For a temperament
like his, so prone to study and reflection, so averse to the toil of the
pen, required some constant external stimulus, some congenial inducement
to undertake the task of exposition. His gifts might have remained idle,
his talents buried, had not the warm and sympathetic atmosphere of a
full, eager, and admiring class-room set his tongue and his more
reluctant pen in motion. We need not brood over the
might-not-have-beens; but when we think of the power that fortune
exercises over men’s lives, we may thank her for assigning Adam Smith at
this critical moment to the town and University of Glasgow. By that
propitious act she lent powerful aid to the construction of a science
that must ever be associated with the prosperity and peaceful progress
of mankind.

Smith himself has indicated in a general statement the advantages he
derived from this professorship:—

  “To impose upon any man the necessity of teaching, year after year,
  any particular branch of science, seems, in reality, to be the most
  effectual method for rendering him completely master of it himself. By
  being obliged to go every year over the same ground, if he is good for
  anything he necessarily becomes, in a few years, well acquainted with
  every part of it: and if upon any particular point he should form too
  hasty an opinion one year, when he comes in the course of his lectures
  to reconsider the same subject the year thereafter, he is very likely
  to correct it. As to be a teacher of science is certainly the natural
  employment of a mere man of letters, so is it likewise perhaps the
  education which is most likely to render him a man of solid learning
  and knowledge.”

He regarded the profession of teacher as an education, and for that very
reason he never ceased to be a learner and a discoverer. Instead of
sticking in the muddy ruts of dogma, he drove on gathering facts and
opinions till he reached the goal. To vary a well-known inscription, he
might have written over the door of his class-room, “Deverticulum
philosophi ad veritatem proficiscentis,”—the resting-place of a
philosopher on march to truth. Assuredly a happier appointment was never
made, whether we look at the true interests of the Professor himself or
at those of the University. Smith always thought the years at Glasgow
the happiest and most useful of his life. Besides his strong preference
for Morals over Logic, he had carnal reasons to rejoice in the
transference, for it gave a rather better income. Altogether the chair
of Morals at Glasgow seems to have yielded about £170 a year—a fine
income in Scotland at a time when, as Mr. Rae observes, the largest
stipend in the Presbyterian Church was £138.

In addition to salary and fees, Smith was allotted a good house in the
Professors’ Court, which he shared with his mother and cousin (Miss Jane
Douglas), who came from Kirkcaldy to live with him. The manses in the
old Professors’ Court were held by the professors in order of seniority,
and Smith removed three times in order to take full advantage of his
privileges, obtaining the best in 1762, when Leechman, Hutcheson’s
biographer, was appointed Principal. In 1761, when a second edition of
the _Moral Sentiments_ appeared, with a newly inserted passage
describing the view from his study window, he was in the house
previously occupied by Dr. Dick, Professor of Natural Philosophy. To
this house nature seems to have been especially kind,—though in reading
Smith’s description of his view we must recollect that Glasgow, the
garden city, was then famous for the clearness of its atmosphere and the
beauty of its surroundings. “In my present situation,” that is to say,
looking from the window of his study, he sees “an immense landscape of
lawns and woods and distant mountains.” The landscape illustrates the
philosophy of the mind: it “seems to do no more than cover the little
window which I write by and to be out of all proportion less than the
chamber in which I am sitting.” He can form a just comparison between
the great objects of the remote scene and the little objects in the room
only by transporting himself to a different station from whence both
could be surveyed at nearly equal distances. The image, it will be seen,
is introduced by Adam Smith to illustrate his theory of “the impartial
spectator,” the judge within the breast, whom we must consult if we are
to see the things that concern ourselves and others in their true shape
and proportions. Just as a man must in some measure be acquainted with
the philosophy of vision before he can be thoroughly convinced how small
is his own room compared with the mountains he sees from his window, so
to the selfish and original passions of human nature, unschooled by
experience, unassisted by scale or measure, “the loss or gain of a very
small interest of our own appears to be of vastly more importance,
excites a much more passionate joy or sorrow than the greatest concern
of another with whom we have no particular connection.”[9]

With the failure of Hume’s candidature for the Logic chair was lost a
golden opportunity of associating two of the first philosophers of that
age on the staff of a small provincial college in one of the poorest,
rudest, and least frequented kingdoms of Western Europe. The legend that
Burke (four years before he published his _Treatise on the Sublime and
Beautiful_) was another candidate has been adjudged apocryphal, though
it was formerly accepted by good authorities. Many of the Glasgow
students were Irish Presbyterians, and an Irishman might well have been
encouraged to seek a chair in the University of Hutcheson.

George Jardine, a student in 1760 and Professor of Logic from 1774,
dated the first radical reform in the teaching of philosophy at Glasgow,
from a royal visitation of 1727, after which each professor was
restricted to a particular department instead of being required to
lecture for three successive years in logic, ethics, and physics. He
adds that the improvements thus introduced were greatly promoted by
fortunate appointments. First came Dr. Francis Hutcheson, whose “copious
and splendid eloquence” illustrated an amiable system of morality, and
at the same time popularised the use of English as the medium of
instruction. Hutcheson’s reforms were not suspended by his death. But
the Logic class continued to be conducted in Latin until Adam Smith,
being rather unexpectedly called to the office in 1750, “found it
necessary to read in the English language a course of lectures in
Rhetoric and Belles Lettres which he had formerly delivered in
Edinburgh.” The last department in the University to abandon Latin was
Law, and the innovator was Smith’s pupil and friend, John Millar.

After Smith’s brief tenure of the chair, Logic fell back for a time to
its old subject-matter, but the Latin medium could not be revived. “From
the time that the lectures began to be delivered in English the eyes of
men were opened,” writes Jardine. It was felt that the old logic of the
schools, even when perfectly understood, had little or no connection
with modern thought, and none with the active business of life. The
local situation, too, of the University in a great commercial city,
where men had a quick perception of utility, and looked for a clear
adaptation of means to ends, helped to promote reform. But dislike of
Logic and Ontology was not peculiar to Smith or to Glasgow. They were
discountenanced by the most popular philosopher of that age. “Had the
craftiest men,” wrote Shaftesbury in his _Characteristics_, “for many
ages together been employed in finding out a method to confound reason
and to degrade the understandings of men, they could not perhaps have
succeeded better than by the establishing of this mock science.”
Hutcheson had ignored logic and avoided metaphysical problems. In his
_Theory of Moral Sentiments_, Smith renounced “the abstruse syllogisms
of a quibbling dialectic”; but he never made the mistake of confounding
Aristotle with the Aristotelians.

There is in the _Wealth of Nations_ a highly interesting digression upon
the Universities, to explain how Greek conceptions of philosophy were
debased in the Middle Ages, and how its ancient division into three
parts was altered for another into five in most of the academies of
Europe. In the ancient philosophy, whatever was taught concerning the
nature either of the human mind or the deity made a part of the system
of physics. Whatever reason could conclude or conjecture upon the human
and the divine mind, made two chapters of “the science which pretended
to give an account of the origin and revolutions of the great system of
the universe.” But in the universities of Europe, “where philosophy was
taught only as subservient to theology,” it was natural to dwell upon
these two chapters and to make them distinct sciences. And so
Metaphysics or Pneumatics were set up in opposition to Physics.

The result was, in Adam Smith’s view, disastrous. While on the one hand,
subjects requiring experiment and observation, and capable of yielding
many useful discoveries, were almost entirely neglected; on the other a
subject, in which “after a few very simple and obvious truths the most
careful attention can discover nothing but obscurity and uncertainty,
and can consequently produce nothing but subtleties and sophisms, was
greatly cultivated.” Metaphysics having thus been set up in opposition
to physics, the comparison between them naturally gave birth to a third,
called ontology, or the science which treated of the qualities and
attributes common to both. “But if subtleties and sophisms composed the
greater part of the Metaphysics or Pneumatics of the schools, they
composed the whole of this cobweb science of Ontology.” Holding these
views, it is not surprising that Smith welcomed an escape from this
chair to one which proposed as its object an inquiry of a very different
nature: wherein consists the happiness and perfection of a man,
considered not only as an individual, but as the member of a family, of
a state, and of the great society of mankind. Here was a stepping-stone
to the _Wealth of Nations_. Meanwhile he did what he could to unsettle
the cobweb sciences.

Of Smith as a logician, John Millar, a member of his class in 1751-2,
wrote that he “saw the necessity of departing widely from the plan that
had been followed by his predecessors, and of directing the attention of
his pupils to studies of a more interesting and useful nature than the
logic and the metaphysics of the schools.” Accordingly, says Millar,
“after exhibiting a general view of the powers of the mind, and
explaining so much of the ancient logic as was requisite to gratify
curiosity with respect to an artificial method of reasoning which had
once occupied the universal attention of the learned, he dedicated all
the rest of his time to the delivery of a system of rhetoric and belles
lettres.” Another of those who attended his classes at Glasgow says that
even after he became Professor of Moral Philosophy he would from time to
time give lectures on taste and literature, and it must have been one of
these that Boswell heard in 1759. Art, the drama, and music were always
favourite objects of his speculations, and doubtless the substance of
his essay on the _Imitative Arts_ was delivered from time to time in the
University. Millar says Smith never appeared to greater advantage than
as a lecturer:—

  “His manner, though not graceful, was plain and unaffected, and as he
  seemed to be always interested in the subject, he never failed to
  interest his hearers. Each discourse consisted commonly of several
  distinct propositions, which he successively endeavoured to prove and
  illustrate. These propositions when announced in general terms had,
  from their extent, not unfrequently something of the air of a paradox.
  In his attempts to explain them, he often appeared at first not to be
  sufficiently possessed of the subject, and spoke with some hesitation.
  As he advanced, however, the matter seemed to crowd upon him, his
  manner became warm and animated, and his expression easy and fluent.
  In points susceptible of controversy you could easily discern that he
  secretly conceived an opposition to his opinions, and that he was led
  upon this account to support them with greater energy and vehemence.
  By the fulness and variety of his illustrations the subject gradually
  swelled in his hands and acquired a dimension which, without a tedious
  repetition of the same views, was calculated to seize the attention of
  his audience, and to afford them pleasure as well as instruction in
  following the same subject through all the diversity of shades and
  aspects in which it was presented, and afterwards in tracing it
  backwards to that original proposition or general truth from which
  this beautiful train of speculation had proceeded.”

Another old pupil dwelt upon his “animated and extemporaneous
eloquence,” especially when he was drawn into digressions in the course
of question and answer. Smith himself attributed his success very
largely to the vigilant care with which he watched his audience; for he
depended very much upon their sympathy. “During one whole session,” he
is reported to have said, “a certain student with a plain but expressive
countenance was of great use to me in judging of my success. He sat
conspicuously in front of a pillar: I had him constantly under my eye.
If he leant forward to listen all was right, and I knew that I had the
ear of my class; but if he leant back in an attitude of listlessness I
felt at once that all was wrong, and that I must change either the
subject or the style of my address.”

                              CHAPTER III

The age into which Adam Smith was born was an age of religious doubt and
philosophic curiosity. During his lifetime the governing classes in
England, undisturbed by enthusiasms, were little disposed to entertain
revolutionary ideas in politics or religion. It seemed to be the
function of philosophic thinkers to leave the constitution of a
tolerably liberal State and a tolerably lax Church, and to advance in
other directions. The fierce storms that bent the course of Selden and
Milton and Hobbes had abated. Men tried to forget

  “The lifted axe, the agonising wheel,
  Luke’s iron crown, and Damien’s bed of steel.”

No one believed that the Deity created kings; many doubted whether there
was a Deity at all. Since the great days of Athens, philosophy had
seldom reaped a richer harvest than in Great Britain during the eighty
years that followed the Act of Union. Newton’s _Principia_, and the
philosophy of Shaftesbury, Clarke, Mandeville, Hutcheson, and Butler, as
well as of Hume and Adam Smith, all fall within this period. Speculative
discovery went hand in hand with mechanical invention. The poetry of
enthusiasm, religious and political fervour, persecution, martyrdom,
with all their heroic and squalid accompaniments, preceded and followed
this prosaic illumination. It was a chapter of dry light between two of
heat and fire and smoke. Reason reigned; and as reason seldom wears an
air of originality, we need not wonder if later ingenuity has discovered
that all these philosophers borrowed their doctrines either from the
ancients or from one another or from foreigners.

But though there appears to be just now a tendency to carry the search
for the genealogy and pedigree of ideas rather too far, it is certainly
not our purpose to show that Adam Smith was a solitary conqueror who
founded a kingdom entirely for himself, and peopled it with the
creatures of his imagination. Every great thinker holds the past in fee,
as he levies a perpetual tribute on the future. We may see how in the
_Theory of Moral Sentiments_ and in his lectures on Justice and Police
Smith selected and used his materials; how, with the aid of Hutcheson
and Mandeville and Hume, he invented a new doctrine of sympathy, and how
he worked up the Platonic idea of the division of labour, and the
Aristotelian theory of money, into a true science of national wealth.
Nothing is left of the first part of the lectures, which dealt (briefly,
no doubt) with natural theology and, in the earliest years of his
professorship, very fully with moral philosophy. His pupil and friend
Millar says that under the head of Natural Theology, the first part of
his course, Smith considered the proofs of the being and attributes of
God, and those principles of the human mind upon which religion is

In the _Moral Sentiments_ and his other writings there are plenty of
passages to indicate that he was a theist with a belief rather more
active and definite than that of his friend Hume or of his master
Aristotle, but few or none that he was a Christian. As professor he had
to sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, a perfunctory act which
even Hume would readily have performed without the scandal that
surrounded Jowett’s cynical subscription a century later. But it was
noticed by the orthodox that he was sadly wanting in zeal. Hutcheson,
doubtless with the purpose of naturalising theology, had conducted a
Sunday class on Christian evidences. Adam Smith discontinued this
practice, and it was even whispered that he had applied to the
authorities shortly after his appointment to be excused from opening his
class with prayer. The request was refused, but the results were not
satisfactory; for according to a contemporary, John Ramsay of
Ochtertyre, his opening prayers “savoured strongly of natural religion,”
while his theological lectures, though shorter, were no less flattering
to human pride than those of Hutcheson, and led “presumptuous
striplings” to draw the unwarranted conclusion “that the great truths of
theology, together with the duties which man owes to God and his
neighbours, may be discovered by the light of nature without any special
revelation.” He was also, they say, often seen to smile openly during
divine service in his place in the college chapel. When one remembers
what orthodox Scottish sermons at that time meant, it is safe to
conjecture that the smile was not always due (as Ramsay would have it)
to an absent thought.

Although the lectures on Natural Theology have disappeared, the lectures
on Morals were elaborated and published in 1759 as _The Theory of Moral
Sentiments_. From this, his first important work, we may sufficiently
ascertain how far Smith’s philosophy of life was based upon religious
conceptions. Fortune governs the world. Nature intended the happiness
and perfection of the species. Every part of nature, when attentively
surveyed, equally demonstrates the providential care of its Author.
Smith’s own scepticism is so carefully phrased and so disguised in soft
language, that a stupid reader is never perplexed, a devout one never
offended. Take, for example, his reflections upon the doctrine of a
future life. That there is a world to come, he says in a passage of
striking eloquence, “is a doctrine in every respect so venerable, so
comfortable to the weakness, so flattering to the grandeur of human
nature, that the virtuous man, who has the misfortune to doubt of it,
cannot possibly avoid wishing most earnestly and anxiously to believe
it. It could never have been exposed to the derision of the scoffer, had
not the distribution of rewards and punishments, which some of its most
zealous assertors have taught us was to be made in that world to come,
been too frequently in direct opposition to all our moral sentiments.”
Smith had no great respect for the devout. To him the ritual and worship
of the Deity seemed like the service and courtship of kings. He refuses
to believe that an all-wise Deity would have a mind for adulation or
would offer heavenly rewards to those who consecrate their lives to His

  “That the assiduous courtier is often more favoured than the faithful
  and active servant; that attendance and adulation are often shorter
  and surer roads to preferment than merit or service; and that a
  campaign at Versailles or St. James’s is often worth two either in
  Germany or Flanders, is a complaint which we have all heard from many
  a venerable, but discontented, old officer. But what is considered as
  the greatest reproach even to the weakness of earthly sovereigns, has
  been ascribed, as an act of justice, to divine perfection; and the
  duties of devotion, the public and private worship of the Deity, have
  been represented even by men of virtue and abilities, as the sole
  virtues which can either entitle to reward or exempt from punishment
  in the life to come.”

His indignation flames out against celebrated doctors, both civil and
ecclesiastical, who have questioned whether faith should be kept with
rebels and heretics (“those unlucky persons who, when things have come
to a certain degree of violence, have the misfortune to be of the weaker
party”). Of all the corrupters of moral sentiments, “faction and
fanaticism have always been by far the greatest.”

Morality is natural, but its rules have been sanctioned by the rudest
forms of religion. Whether our moral faculties depend upon a
modification of reason, upon a moral sense, or upon some other principle
of our nature, they carry with them the most evident badges of
authority, and were plainly set up within us to superintend our passions
and appetites and to be the supreme arbiters of our actions. They are
described in religious language as the vice-regents of God within us;
they never fail to punish sin by the torments of inward shame and
self-condemnation; they reward obedience with tranquillity and
contentment. Oncken thinks that Smith’s eloquent vindication of
conscience helped to form Kant’s moral idealism; but it puts us more in
mind of the Roman satirist’s great line—

  “Nocte dieque suum gestare in pectore testem.”

Moral judgments likewise help to correct in some measure the course of
this world. “The industrious knave cultivates the soil; the indolent
good man leaves it uncultivated. Who ought to reap the harvest?” Here
the natural course of things decides against the natural sentiments of
mankind. Human laws therefore often punish the knave or traitor though
industrious, and reward the good citizen though improvident. Thus man is
by nature prompted to correct nature; but even so his endeavours are
often impotent; the current is too strong. Our natural sentiments are
often shocked. We see great combinations oppress small. We see the
innocent suffer. Despairing of earthly forces to check the triumph of
injustice, we naturally appeal to heaven, “and thus we are led to a
belief in the future state by the love of virtue,” and moral rules
acquire new sanctity by being regarded as the laws of an all-powerful
Deity. As religion in this way enforces an innate sense of duty, mankind
is generally disposed to place great confidence in the probity of those
who seem to be deeply religious.

And where religion has not been corrupted, “wherever men are not taught
to regard frivolous observances, as more immediate duties of religion,
than acts of justice and beneficence; and to imagine, that by
sacrifices, and ceremonies, and vain supplications, they can bargain
with the Deity for fraud, and perfidy, and violence, the world
undoubtedly judges right in this respect, and justly places a double
confidence in the rectitude of the religious man’s behaviour.”

Upon the dangerous question of religious establishments and dissenting
sects he wrote afterwards in the _Wealth of Nations_ (Book v. i.) with a
boldness and an air of detachment that might well startle even that age
of tolerant indifference. He contrasts the teachers of new religions
with the clergy of an ancient system, who are frequently possessed of
learning, eloquence, and all the gentlemanly virtues. “Such a clergy,
when attacked by a set of popular and bold though perhaps stupid and
ignorant enthusiasts, feel themselves as perfectly defenceless as the
indolent, effeminate, and full-fed nations of the southern parts of
Asia, when they were invaded by the active, hardy, and hungry Tartars of
the north.” Commonly, the only resource of such a clergy upon such an
emergency is to summon the government to persecute or expel their
adversaries. “It was thus that the Roman Catholic clergy called upon the
civil magistrate to persecute the Protestants, and the Church of England
to persecute the Dissenters.”

An established church may have a superiority of learning, but in the art
of gaining popularity the advantage is always with its adversaries. He
finds that, as dissenting bodies grow richer, their zeal and activity
abate. The Independents, for instance, had many learned, ingenious, and
respectable men; but the Methodists, without half the learning of the
Dissenters, were more in vogue. The strength of the Church of Rome he
attributed to the fact that the industry of its inferior clergy was
better fostered by motives of self-interest than in the case of any
established Protestant church; for many of the parish priests subsisted
largely on voluntary gifts, “a source of revenue which confession gives
them many opportunities of improving.” He notes also Machiavelli’s
observation, that the establishment of the begging orders of St. Dominic
and St. Francis revived, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the
languishing faith and devotion of the Catholic Church. Upon the question
of the value of a State Church, Smith quotes from a certain passage of
Hume’s _History_, referring to his friend as “by far the most
illustrious philosopher and historian of the present age.” Hume had come
to the conclusion that the civil magistrate who neglects to establish a
religion will find he has dearly paid for his frugality, “and that in
reality the most decent and advantageous composition which he can make
with the spiritual guides, is to bribe their indolence by assigning
stated salaries to their profession,” so that ecclesiastical
establishments, “though commonly they arose at first from religious
views, prove in the end advantageous to the political interests of

But Smith, with the same dislike for “zeal,” had too much respect for
liberty, too much love of honesty in politics, to adopt Hume’s cynical
solution. He would find security in numbers. A State should extend
toleration to all; society would naturally divide itself into hundreds
of small sects, none of which could be considerable enough to disturb
the public tranquillity. The teachers of each sect would be forced to
learn a candour and moderation which is seldom to be found among an
established clergy; and in this way, by mutual concessions, their
doctrine would probably be reduced in time “to that pure and rational
religion, free from every mixture of absurdity, imposture, or
fanaticism, such as wise men have in all ages of the world wished to see
established, but such as positive law has perhaps never yet established
in any country.” This plan of ecclesiastical government, he adds, or
more properly no ecclesiastical government, was what the Independents,
“a sect no doubt of very wild enthusiasts,” proposed to establish in
England towards the end of the Civil War. “If it had been established,
though of a very unphilosophical origin, it would probably by this time
have been productive of the most philosophical good temper and
moderation with regard to every sort of religious principle.” Such is
the plan favoured by Adam Smith, and he observes that in Pennsylvania,
where it had been adopted, experience justified his opinion.

Smith was so popular with his orthodox contemporaries that they tried to
parry charges of infidelity by saying either that he had adopted Hume’s
opinions out of the intense affection he felt for him, or that he had
been perverted by French atheists. “In the course of his travels,” says
one of the most broad-minded of his Presbyterian contemporaries (John
Ramsay), “he became acquainted with Voltaire and the other French
philosophers who were then labouring with unhallowed industry in the
vineyard of infidelity.” What impression they made upon him, adds this
cautious man, “cannot be precisely known, because neither before nor
after this period was his religious creed ever properly ascertained.”

Twenty years after Adam Smith’s death, Archbishop Magee, in a
controversy with Unitarian theologians, cited a passage from the _Moral
Sentiments_ on the doctrine of atonement, in which Smith had said that
the doctrines of revelation coincide in every respect with the original
anticipations of nature. “Such,” wrote the divine, “are the reflections
of a man whose powers of thinking and reasoning will surely not be
pronounced inferior to those of any even of the most distinguished
champions of the Unitarian school.” The rejoinder was at once made that
in the sixth edition, which Smith prepared for the press in 1790, the
passage was omitted; whereupon the prelate (forgetting that Hume died in
1776, after four editions had appeared with this presentation of the
reasonableness of an atonement) deftly turned a new moral: “It adds one
proof more to the many that already existed of the danger, even to the
most enlightened, from a familiar contact with infidelity.”

                               CHAPTER IV
                    _THE THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS_

In 1759, the seventh year of his professorship, Smith completed the
first of his two capital achievements. His scholiasts are still
curiously hazy about its early editions, partly perhaps because neither
the first, second, nor third is to be found in the library of the
British Museum. The first edition is a single octavo volume of 551
pages, printed in good large type.[10] The title-page runs as follows:—

                            MORAL SENTIMENTS

                             by Adam Smith

                  Professor of Moral Philosophy in the
                         University of Glasgow.

                  Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand
                and A. Kincaid and J. Bell in Edinburgh.

Andrew Millar was then at the head of the London publishers. He had
shown some time before, when Hume’s _History_ fell into his hands, that
he knew how to push a good book, and on this occasion too the firm lived
up to its reputation.

Early in April, Hume, who was in London, received some copies, and wrote
to thank Smith “for the agreeable present.” Always zealous in the
service of friendship and Scottish literature, he employed all the wiles
of diplomacy to promote the success of the book. “Wedderburn and I,” he
writes, “made presents of our copies to such of our acquaintances as we
thought good judges and proper to spread the reputation of the book. I
sent one to the Duke of Argyle, and Lord Lyttelton, Horace Walpole,
Soame Jenyns, and Bourke, an English gentleman who wrote lately a very
pretty treatise on the Sublime. Millar (the publisher) desired my
permission to send one in your name to Dr. Warburton.” Hume had delayed
writing till he could tell how the book had been received and “could
prognosticate with some probability whether it should be finally damned
to oblivion, or should be registered in the Temple of Immortality.”
Though it has only been out for a few weeks, he thinks he can now
foretell its fate. But instead of gratifying an author’s impatience,
Hume pretends to have been interrupted by an impertinent visitor, and
digresses upon vacancies in the Scottish Universities, upon a new
edition of Ferguson’s _Treatise on Refinement_, on Wilkie’s _Epigoniad_,
and Lord Kames’s _Law Tracts_. At last he seems to be coming to the

“But to return to your book and its success in this town. I must tell

“A plague to interruptions!—I ordered myself to be denied, and yet here
is one that has broken in upon me again.” The second visitor was a man
of letters, and Hume goes off on a new scent. He advises Smith to read
Helvetius’s new book _De L’Esprit_, and adds, “Voltaire has lately
published a small work called _Candide ou L’Optimisme_. I shall give you
a detail of it.”

At last the badinage comes to an end with a warning that popularity is
no test of merit. A wise man should rather be disquieted than elated by
the approbation of the multitude:—

  “Supposing, therefore, that you have duly prepared yourself for the
  worst by all these reflections, I proceed to tell you the melancholy
  news that your book has been very unfortunate, for the public seem
  disposed to applaud it extremely. It was looked for by the foolish
  people with some impatience; and the mob of literati are beginning
  already to be very loud in its praises. Three bishops called yesterday
  at Millar’s shop in order to buy copies, and to ask questions about
  the author. The Bishop of Peterborough said he had passed the evening
  in a company where he heard it extolled above all books in the world.
  The Duke of Argyle is more decisive than he used to be in its favour.
  I suppose he either considers it as an exotic, or thinks the author
  will be very serviceable to him in the Glasgow elections. Lord
  Lyttelton says that Robertson and Smith and Bower are the glories of
  English literature. Oswald protests he does not know whether he has
  reaped more instruction or entertainment from it, but you may easily
  judge what reliance can be placed on his judgment. He has been engaged
  all his life in public business, and he never sees any faults in his
  friends. Millar exults and brags that two-thirds of the edition are
  already sold, and that he is now sure of success. You see what a son
  of the earth that is, to value books only by the profit they bring
  him. In that view, I believe, it may prove a very good book.

  “Charles Townshend, who passes for the cleverest fellow in England, is
  so much taken with the performance, that he said to Oswald he would
  put the Duke of Buccleugh under the author’s care, and would make it
  worth his while to accept of that charge. As soon as I heard this, I
  called on him twice with a view of talking with him about the matter,
  and of convincing him of the propriety of sending that young gentleman
  to Glasgow, for I could not hope that he could offer you any terms
  which would tempt you to renounce your professorship; but I missed
  him. Mr. Townshend passes for being a little uncertain in his
  resolutions, so perhaps you need not build much on his sally.”

On this occasion, as will appear in a later chapter, Townshend proved
true to his resolve and false to his reputation.

Burke, who afterwards became one of Smith’s most intimate friends, was
at this time known for his philosophical inquiry into the origin of our
ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). He was also a principal
contributor to the _Annual Register_; and that publication, in its
admirable account of books published during the year 1759, quotes a long
passage from the _Theory of Moral Sentiments_, with a prefatory tribute
from Burke’s pen, which might quench the thirst of the thirstiest
author. Smith is praised for having struck out a new, and at the same
time a perfectly natural, road of ethical speculation.

  “The theory is in all its essential parts just, and founded on truth
  and nature. The author seeks for the foundation of the just, the fit,
  the proper, the decent, in our most common and most allowed passions;
  and making approbation and disapprobation the tests of virtue and
  vice, and shewing that those are founded on sympathy, he raises from
  this simple truth, one of the most beautiful fabrics of moral theory,
  that has perhaps ever appeared. The illustrations are numerous and
  happy, and shew the author to be a man of uncommon observation. His
  language is easy and spirited, and puts things before you in the
  fullest light; it is rather painting than writing.”

“Perhaps there is no ethical work since Cicero’s _Offices_,” wrote Sir
James Mackintosh, “of which an abridgment enables the reader so
inadequately to estimate the merit, as the _Theory of Moral Sentiments_.
This is not chiefly owing to the beauty of diction, as in the case of
Cicero, but to the variety of explanations of life and manners which
embellish the book often more than they illuminate the theory.”

This criticism has been adopted by Mr. Farrer in his luminous account of
Smith’s moral philosophy, and its justice may be conceded. With all its
faults, the _Theory of Moral Sentiments_ is still one of the most
instructive and entertaining of all our English treatises on ethics.
There is plenty of warmth and colour. The argument is never bare; you
follow its thread through a wondrous maze, till your perplexities are
solved, and you finally congratulate yourself as well as the author on
having rejected all the errors and collected all the wisdom of the ages.
When the main theme threatens to be tedious he entertains you with an
imaginary portrait, or digresses into some subsidiary discussion upon
fortune, or fashion, or some other of the currents that turn men from
their purpose. It has been observed that the strongest antagonists of
Smith’s central doctrine are enthusiastic in praising his skill in the
analysis of human nature. The truth is, that the most absent-minded was
also the most observant of men. He seems to have watched the actions and
passions of his acquaintances with extraordinary precision. Motives
interested him at least as much as conduct; he rather blames
philosophers for having of late years given too much attention to the
tendency of affections, and too little to the relationship in which they
stand to their causes.

His immediate predecessors and contemporaries in the field of ethics
were principally concerned with the origin and authority of right and
wrong. Why does mankind generally agree as to what is right and what is
wrong; whence are the notions of “ought” and “ought not” derived if not
from the church or the Bible? At the time Smith wrote, English moralists
were divided upon this point into two main schools. Of the first, who
derived all moral rules from self-interest, Hobbes, Mandeville, and Hume
were the principal exponents. The second school sought for a less
variable standard, and have been called Intuitionalists, because they
believed either with Clarke and Price that moral truths are perceived
like axioms of Euclid, by the intellect, or with Shaftesbury and
Hutcheson, that there is innate in us a moral sense or taste (developed
by Bishop Butler into conscience) which prompts us to do right and tells
us the difference between good and evil.

Moralists were equally divided upon the question, “In what does virtue
consist?” His old teacher Hutcheson had answered that it consisted in
benevolence; others thought that prudence was the true mark of the good
man. In Adam Smith’s view, prudence and benevolence are equally
essential ingredients in the constitution of a perfectly virtuous
character. With virtue he associates happiness, and his individual view
of both is based partly upon the Greek philosophy of an independent
leisure, partly upon the Christian conception of doing good to others;
and we feel that he does not always succeed in reconciling the new ideal
with the old. “Happiness,” he says, “consists in tranquillity and
enjoyment. Without tranquillity there can be no enjoyment.”
Tranquillity, he thinks, is “the natural and usual state of a man’s
mind.” But the tranquillity to be desired was as far removed from
indolence or apathy as from avarice or ambition. It was the active
tranquillity of a well furnished mind and a benevolent heart.

Peace of mind, family peace, a country free from civil, religious, and
foreign strife,—these he thought in their order the things most
momentous to happiness. Yet he would not allow the leisurely philosopher
to bask in the selfish sunshine of tranquillity. “The most sublime
contemplation of the philosopher will scarce compensate the neglect of
the smallest act of virtue.” The study of politics tends to promote
public spirit, and political disquisitions are therefore the most useful
of all speculations. The trade of the vulgar politician was often
ignoble and deceitful; but the best happiness attended the patriotism
and public spirit of those who sought to improve government and extend
trade. The leader of a successful party may do far more for his country
than the greatest general. He may re-establish and reform its
constitution, and from the doubtful and ambiguous character of a party
leader he may assume “the greatest and noblest of all characters, that
of the reformer and legislator of a great state,” who by the wisdom of
his institutions secures the international tranquillity and happiness of
his fellow-citizens for many succeeding generations.

For the man of system in politics Smith has no liking. Wise in his own
conceit, such a man “seems to imagine that he can arrange the different
members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the
different pieces upon a chessboard.” He forgets that “in the great
chessboard of human society every single piece has a principle of motion
of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might
choose to impress upon it.”

A true son of Oxford in his admiration for Aristotle, he was fond, as we
have seen, of appealing to common life and popular opinion. But another
of Aristotle’s methods, that of the eclectic who arrives at the truth by
choosing out and combining what is good in other philosophers, may
almost be said to be the foundation of _The Moral Sentiments_. When,
after explaining his system, he comes in his last (seventh) part to
describe and criticise his predecessors, it is apparent that he
considers his own theory to be an assemblage or reconciliation in one
harmonious whole of all the happiest efforts of ethical speculation:—

  “If we examine the most celebrated and remarkable of the different
  theories which have been given concerning the nature and origin of our
  moral sentiments, we shall find that almost all of them coincide with
  some part or other of that which I have been endeavouring to give an
  account of; and that if everything which has already been said be
  fully considered, we shall be at no loss to explain what was the view
  or aspect of nature which led each particular author to form his
  particular system. From some one or other of those principles which I
  have been endeavouring to unfold, every system of morality that ever
  had any reputation in the world has, perhaps, ultimately been

A good example of this eclecticism is his treatment of Mandeville, an
author from whom Smith no less than Rousseau derived many fruitful
ideas. In the first edition of _The Moral Sentiments_ (p. 474) he

  “There are, however, some other systems which seem to take away
  altogether the distinction between vice and virtue, and of which the
  tendency is upon that account wholly pernicious: I mean the systems of
  the Duke of Rochefoucauld and Dr. Mandeville. Though the notions of
  both these authors are in almost every respect erroneous, there are,
  however, some appearances in human nature which, when viewed in a
  certain manner, seem at first sight to favour them. These, first
  slightly sketched out with the elegance and delicate precision of the
  Duke of Rochefoucauld, and afterwards more fully represented with the
  lively and humorous, though coarse and rustic, eloquence of Dr.
  Mandeville, have thrown upon their doctrine an air of truth and
  probability which is very apt to impose upon the unskilful.”

Bishop Butler, more justly, classed Rochefoucauld with Hobbes. But in
Smith’s sixth edition (1790) the name of Rochefoucauld was omitted, at
the instance of the Duke’s grandson, who pointed out that the author of
the Maxims is not really in the same category with Mandeville. Coarse
and licentious, but entertaining and ingenious, the author of the _Fable
of the Bees_ hit human nature hard. He traced virtuous actions to
vanity, and whittled away the distinction between vice and virtue, until
he reached the paradox that private vices are public benefits. But this
profligate system could never have caused so much stir and alarm in the
world “had it not in some respects bordered upon the truth.” We are very
easily imposed upon by the most absurd travellers’ tales about distant
countries. But falsehoods about the parish we live in must, if they are
to deceive us, bear some resemblance to the truth, nay, “must even have
a considerable mixture of truth in them.” A natural philosopher has an
analogous advantage over the speculator in ethics. The vortices of
Descartes passed for nearly a century as a most satisfactory account of
the revolutions of heavenly bodies, though they neither existed nor
could possibly exist, and though if they did exist they could not
produce such effects as were ascribed to them. But the moral philosopher
is no better off than the parish liar. He is giving an account of things
that are constantly before us, around us, and within us. “Though here,
too, like indolent masters who put their trust in a steward that
deceives them, we are very liable to be imposed upon, yet we are
incapable of passing any account which does not preserve some little
regard to the truth.”

In describing those systems which make virtue consist in propriety,
Smith displays a profound knowledge of Plato, Aristotle, and the later
schools of Greek philosophy. His admiration of Zeno and Epictetus is
almost unbounded, especially when he contemplates their confident
opinion that a man should always be able to support worldly misfortunes.
“They endeavour to point out the comforts which a man might still enjoy
when reduced to poverty, when driven into banishment, when exposed to
the injustice of popular clamour, when labouring under blindness,
deafness, in the extremity of old age, upon the approach of death.” He
holds that the few fragments which have been preserved of this
philosophy are among the most instructive remains of antiquity. “The
spirit and manhood of their doctrines make a wonderful contrast with the
desponding, plaintive, and whining tone of some modern systems.”
Chrysippus, on the other hand, did but reduce stoicism into a scholastic
or technical system of artificial definitions, divisions, and
subdivisions, “one of the most effectual expedients, perhaps, for
extinguishing whatever degree of good sense there may be in any moral or
metaphysical system.”

Admirable as were the best stoics and epicureans and those Roman writers
who, like Cicero and Seneca, direct us to the imperfect but attainable
virtues, they quite misunderstood nature. “By nature, the events which
immediately affect that little department in which we ourselves have
some little management and direction, which immediately affect
ourselves, our friends, our country, are the events which interest us
the most and which chiefly excite our desires and aversions, our hopes
and fears, our joys and sorrows.” Here and in similar passages he
follows his favourite, Pope:—

  “God loves from whole to parts; but human soul
  Must rise from individual to the whole.
  Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake,
  As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake;
  The centre mov’d, a circle straight succeeds,
  Another still, and still another spreads;
  Friend, parent, neighbour, first it will embrace;
  His country next; and next all human race.”

Every moralist’s, even Epictetus’s, description of virtue is just as far
as it goes. But Smith claims to have been the first to give any precise
or distinct measure by which the fitness or propriety of affection can
be ascertained and judged. Such a measure he finds in the sympathetic
feelings of the impartial and well-informed spectator. Here, then, we
have the central and peculiar doctrine that stamps with originality Adam
Smith’s _Theory of Moral Sentiments_.[11]

That sympathy or fellow-feeling is a primary instinct of man appears
from the commonest incidents of life. Do we not shrink when a blow is
aimed at another, do not the spectators wriggle as they follow a
rope-dancer’s contortions, are we not moved by tears, is not laughter
infectious? Sympathy is agreeable. We like to give it, and we long for
it. It is too instinctive to be explained (though some would do so) by a
refinement of self-love. Yet it is not a mere reflection or shadow.
Generally speaking, we only sympathise when our sentiments and feelings
correspond with those of another. Sympathy means approval. To give it is
to praise, to withhold it to blame. How, then, does Adam Smith account
for the growth of moral sentiments in the man, and for the progress of
morality in mankind? He holds that what we call conscience, or the sense
of duty, arises from a certain reflex action of sympathy. We apply to
ourselves the moral judgments we have learned to pass on others. We
imagine what they will say and think about our own thoughts and words
and actions. We try to look at ourselves with the impartial eyes of
other people, and seek to anticipate that judgment which they are likely
to pass upon us. This is the first stage. But men have very different
degrees of morality and wisdom. One man’s praise or blame carries
infinitely more weight than another’s. Thus what is called conscience,
that is our idea of the impartial spectator, insensibly develops. The
impartial spectator becomes more and more our ideal man, and we come to
pay more homage to his still small voice than to the judgment of the
world. The pangs of conscience are far more terrible than the
condemnation of the market-place. Praiseworthiness comes to be better
than praise; blameworthiness comes to be worse than blame. The true hell
is the hell within the breast; the worst tortures are those that follow
the sentence of the impartial spectator. One feature in the phenomena of
sympathy, which Smith points out, perhaps constitutes a weak point in
his theory. The spectator’s emotions are apt to fall short of the
sufferer’s. Compassion is never exactly the same as original sorrow.

Smith, like Kant, has his own way, and a curious one it is, of putting
the rule of Christ. “As to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is
the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to
love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same
thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.” Our philosopher
readily admits that there are passions, like love, which, “though almost
unavoidable in some part of life,” are not at first sight very agreeable
to his theory. He says we cannot enter into the eagerness of a lover’s
emotions. They are always “in some measure ridiculous.” “The passion
appears to everybody but the man who feels it entirely disproportioned
to the value of the object.” Ovid’s gaiety and Horace’s gallantry are
pleasant enough, but you grow weary of the “grave, pedantic, and
long-sentenced love of Cowley and Petrarca.”

Resentment provides him with a better illustration. The counterpart of
gratitude, it is a very difficult passion to realise in a proper degree.
“How many things,” he exclaims, “are requisite to render the
gratification of resentment completely agreeable and to make the
spectator thoroughly sympathise with our revenge?” First, the
provocation must be such that if unresented we should become
contemptible and be exposed to perpetual insults. Second, smaller
offences had better be neglected. Third, we should resent from a sense
of propriety and of what is expected of us. Above all, we should
diligently consider what would be the sentiments of the cool and
impartial spectator.

Though the love of the lover has to be belittled for the purpose of this
theory, friendship and all the social and benevolent affections are dear
to sympathy and “please the indifferent spectator upon almost every
occasion.” True friendship is one of the virtues which prove the
limitations of the utilitarian theory: “There is a satisfaction in the
consciousness of being beloved which to a person of delicacy and
sensibility is of more importance to happiness than all the advantage
which he can expect to derive from it.”

As Smith goes through the list of virtues and vices his “Impartial
Spectator” constantly reminds us of Aristotle’s theory that every virtue
is a mean between two extremes. The impartial spectator dislikes excess.
The rise of the upstart, for example, is too sudden an extreme, nor does
his behaviour often conciliate our affections:—

  “If the chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of
  being beloved, as I believe it does, those sudden changes of fortune
  seldom contribute much to happiness. He is happiest who advances more
  gradually to greatness, whom the public destines to every step of his
  preferment long before he arrives at it, in whom, upon that account,
  when it comes, it can excite no extravagant joy, and with regard to
  whom it cannot reasonably create either any jealousy in those he
  overtakes or any envy in those he leaves behind.”

The Impartial Spectator is rather a fickle and illogical person; he does
not like unexampled prosperity, but he is always ready to sympathise
with trivial joys. “It is quite otherwise with grief. Small vexations
excite no sympathy, but deep affliction calls forth the greatest.” It
takes a great grief to enlist our sympathy, for “it is painful to go
along with grief, and we always enter it with reluctance.” So when we
hear a tragedy we struggle against sympathetic sorrow as long as we can,
and when we finally give way, carefully conceal our tears! In a letter
of July the 28th, 1759, from which we have already quoted, Hume made
some objections to this part of Smith’s theory:—

  “I am told that you are preparing a new edition, and propose to make
  some additions and alterations in order to obviate objections. I shall
  use the freedom to propose one; which, if it appears to be of any
  weight, you may have in your eye. I wish you had more particularly and
  fully proved that all kinds of sympathy are agreeable. This is the
  hinge of your system, and yet you only mention the matter cursorily on
  p. 20. Now it would appear that there is a disagreeable sympathy as
  well as an agreeable. And, indeed, as the sympathetic passion is a
  reflex image of the principal, it must partake of its qualities, and
  be painful when that is so....

  “It is always thought a difficult problem to account for the pleasure
  from the tears and grief and sympathy of tragedy, which would not be
  the case if all sympathy was agreeable. An hospital would be a more
  entertaining place than a ball. I am afraid that on p. 99 and 111 this
  proposition has escaped you, or rather is interwoven with your
  reasoning. In that place you say expressly, ‘It is painful to go along
  with grief, and we always enter into it with reluctance.’ It will
  probably be requisite for you to modify or explain this sentiment, and
  reconcile it to your system.”

In the following spring (April 4th) Smith wrote from Glasgow to Strahan,
Millar’s young and very able partner, about the second edition, for
which he had sent “a good many corrections and improvements.” He asks
Strahan to take care that the book is printed “pretty exactly according
to the copy I delivered to you.” Strahan, it seems, had offered his
services as a critic, and Smith was a little afraid that he might find
unauthorised alterations in the text. He will be much obliged to his
publisher for suggestions, but cannot consent to surrender “the precious
right of private judgment, for the sake of which your forefathers kicked
out the Pope and the Pretender. I believe you to be much more infallible
than the Pope, but as I am a Protestant, my conscience makes me scruple
to submit to any unscriptural authority.”

The second edition was issued soon afterwards. It has been erroneously
described as a reprint of the first.[12]

As a matter of fact, the corrections and alterations made in it were
very numerous and it was set up in much smaller type, so that the 551
pages of the first edition are compressed, in spite of some enlargements
of the text, into 436 pages. What is particularly noteworthy is that the
author, without altering any of the passages criticised by Hume, does
make what we conceive to be a perfectly satisfactory answer in an
important footnote on page 76 of the second edition after the sentence,
“It is painful to go along with grief, and we always enter into it with
reluctance.” We give the note in full in order that the reader may judge
for himself:—

  “It has been objected to me that as I found the sentiment of
  approbation, which is always agreeable, upon sympathy, it is
  inconsistent with my system to admit any disagreeable sympathy. I
  answer, that in the sentiment of approbation there are two things to
  be taken notice of: first, the sympathetic passion of the spectator;
  and secondly, the emotion which arises from his observing the perfect
  coincidence between this sympathetic passion in himself, and the
  original passion in the person principally concerned. This last
  emotion, in which the sentiment of approbation properly consists, is
  always agreeable and delightful. The other may either be agreeable or
  disagreeable, according to the nature of the original passion, whose
  features it must always, in some measure, retain. Two sounds, I
  suppose, may each of them, taken singly, be austere, and yet, if they
  are perfect concords, the perception of their harmony and coincidence
  may be agreeable.”

Of modern philosophers, those to whom Smith is most indebted are
certainly Mandeville, his old master Hutcheson, and his friend Hume, “an
ingenious and agreeable philosopher who joins the greatest depth of
thought to the greatest elegance of expression, and possesses the
singular and happy talent of treating the abstrusest subjects not only
with the most perfect perspicuity, but with the most lively eloquence.”
(Was it the religious prejudice against Hume that left his name
unmentioned in the _Theory_?) All four were in a greater or less degree
utilitarians. But Smith denies that the perception of a distinction
between virtue and vice originates in the utility of the one and the
disadvantageousness of the other. Hume would explain all virtues by
their usefulness to oneself or society. But Smith only regards utility
as a powerful additional reason for approving virtue and virtuous
actions. It influences our ideas of virtue, as custom and fashion
influence our ideas of beauty. Usefulness is seldom the first ground of
approval, and “it seems impossible that we should have no other reason
for praising a man than that for which we commend a chest of drawers.”
Even our approval of public spirit arises at first rather from a feeling
of its magnificence and splendour than of its utility to the nation,
though a sense of utility greatly strengthens our approval. Adam Smith
notes, by the way, what Hume had not observed, that the fitness of a
thing to produce its end is often more admired than the end itself. Most
people prefer order and tidiness to the utility which they are intended
to promote.

Buckle has remarked on a contrast between Smith’s theory of morals and
his theory of economics. In the first, sympathy is the premise, and he
works out the principle of sympathy to its logical conclusions. In the
_Wealth of Nations_, on the contrary, the word sympathy scarcely occurs.
He assumes self-interest as the sole motive of the economic man, and
works out all the consequences without troubling about that
other-regarding principle which is the foundation and measure of
morality, though he shows, it is true, that the motive of self-interest,
if sufficiently enlightened, will result in the general good. Without
denying that Buckle’s contention is suggestive, we may observe that
Smith distinctly refuses to confine virtue to benevolence, and parts
company on this very point from “the amiable system” of Hutcheson.
“Regard to our own private happiness, and interest too, appear,” says
he, “upon many occasions very laudable principles of action. The habits
of economy, industry, discretion, attention, and application of thought
are generally supposed to be cultivated from self-interested motives,
and at the same time are apprehended to be very praiseworthy qualities,
which deserve the esteem and approbation of everybody.”[13] Benevolence
may perhaps be the sole principle of action in the Deity, but an
imperfect creature like man must and ought often to act from other

To the third edition of the _Moral Sentiments_ (1767) was appended an
essay on the formation of Languages and the different genius of original
and compounded languages. It is the fruit of his philological studies,
and contains no doubt the substance of lectures that he had read in
Edinburgh and Glasgow. He starts with the proposition that names of
objects, that is to say, nouns substantive, must have been the first
steps toward the making of a language. Two savages who had never been
taught to speak would naturally begin to make their mutual wants
intelligible by uttering certain sounds, as cave, tree, fountain,
whenever they wanted to denote particular objects. What was at first a
proper name would thus be extended to similar objects, by the same law
which leads us to call a great philosopher a Newton. Similarly, “a child
that is just learning to speak calls every person who comes into the
house its papa or its mamma.” Smith could call to mind a clown “who did
not know the proper name of the river which ran by his own door.” It was
“_the_ river.” This process of generalisation explains the formation of
those classes and assortments called genera and species in the schools,
“of which the ingenious and eloquent M. Rousseau of Geneva finds himself
so much at a loss to account for the origin.”[14] In his account of the
dual number, which he finds in all primitive and uncompounded languages,
he says that in the rude beginnings of society, _one_, _two_, and
_more_, might possibly be all the numerical distinctions which mankind
would have any occasion to take notice of. But these words, though
custom has rendered them familiar to us, “express perhaps the most
subtle and refined abstractions which the mind of man is capable of
forming.” His purpose through all this ingenious train of reasoning was
to suggest a new mode of approaching a subject which, in itself so
fascinating, had been reduced to a dull routine. He is very severe on
the Minerva of Sanctius and on some other grammarians who, neglecting
the progress of nature, had expended all their industry in drawing up a
number of artificial rules so as to exclude exceptions. He sees that
languages are the products not of art but of nature or circumstance. He
explains how the modern dialects of Europe arose from conquest,
migration, and mixture—through Lombards trying to speak Latin, or
Normans trying to speak Saxon. In this way the older tongues were
decomposed and simplified in their rudiments while they grew more
complex in composition. The processes of linguistic development provoke
a comparison of philology with mechanics:—

  “All machines are generally, when first invented, extremely complex in
  their principles, and there is often a particular principle of motion
  for every particular movement which, it is intended, they should
  perform. Succeeding improvers observe, that one principle may be so
  applied as to produce several of those movements, and thus the machine
  becomes gradually more and more simple, and produces its effects with
  fewer wheels, and fewer principles of motion. In Language, in the same
  manner, every case of every noun, and every tense of every verb, was
  originally expressed by a particular distinct word, which served for
  this purpose and for no other. But succeeding observation discovered
  that one set of words was capable of supplying the place of all that
  infinite number, and that four or five prepositions, and half a dozen
  auxiliary verbs, were capable of answering the end of all the
  declensions, and of all the conjugations in the antient Languages.”

The comparison, however, suggests a contrast. The simplification of
machines renders them more perfect, but the simplification of languages
renders them more and more imperfect, and less proper (in his opinion)
for many of the purposes of expression. Thus in a decomposed and simple
language, he observes, we are often restrained from disposing words and
sounds in the most agreeable order. When Virgil writes

  “Tityre tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi,”

we can easily see that _tu_ refers to _recubans_, and _patulae_ to
_fagi_, though the related words are separated from one another by the
intervention of several others. But if we translate the line literally
into English, _Tityrus, thou of spreading reclining under the shade
beech_, Œdipus himself could not make sense of it, because there is no
difference in termination to assist us in tracking out the meaning. In
the same way Milton’s exquisite translation of Horace, “Who now enjoys
thee, credulous all gold,” etc., can only be interpreted by aid of the
original. We may dissent when he goes on to denounce “the prolixness,
constraint, and monotony of modern languages.” Yet it would be as unfair
to estimate the scientific value of these speculations by the
accumulated achievements of modern philologists, as to sneer at his
essay on the _Imitative Arts_ or at Burke’s treatise on the _Sublime and
Beautiful_, because Lessing has helped inferior men to see so much

                               CHAPTER V

The finding of Adam Smith’s lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, and
Arms, 133 years at least after their last delivery and 105 years after
the author had had his own folio notes of them destroyed, is not only
one of the curiosities of literature, it is also the most important aid
that has been afforded to the study of Smith’s economic, social, and
juristic ideas since the appearance in 1793 of Dugald Stewart’s
biographical sketch. From 1793 to 1896, hundreds of German students big
with their epoch-making theses “über Smiths Entwicklung,” scores of
Frenchmen eager to prove the superiority of Quesnai and Turgot, and
perhaps half a dozen English critics had whetted their ingenuity on a
brief account of the Glasgow lectures which was supplied to Dugald
Stewart by Adam Smith’s old pupil and friend, John Millar. According to
Millar, Smith’s course, while he occupied the chair of Moral Philosophy
at Glasgow, fell into four parts, the first two of which consisted, as
we have seen, of Natural Theology and Ethics. In the third part he
treated at more length of that branch of morality which relates to
_justice_. Here he followed the plan suggested by Montesquieu,
“endeavouring to trace the gradual progress of jurisprudence, both
public and private, from the rudest to the most refined ages.” This
important branch of his labours he also intended to give to the public,
but he did not live to fulfil his intention.

In the last part of his lectures he examined those political regulations
which are founded not upon _justice_, but _expediency_, and considered
the political institutions relating to commerce, to finance, to
ecclesiastical and military establishments. “What he delivered on these
subjects contained the substance of the work he afterwards published
under the title of _An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth
of Nations_.”

This was all that the world knew of Adam Smith’s lectures on
jurisprudence and political economy, save that at the end of his _Theory
of Moral Sentiments_ he promised “another discourse” dealing with the
general principles of law and government, and with the different
revolutions they have undergone in the different ages and periods of
society, “not only in what concerns justice, but in what concerns
police, revenue, and arms, and whatever else in the subject of law.” On
the first section of his lectures Adam Smith never even promised a book.
He had no ambition to bring the kirk about his ears. The second section
took shape, as we have seen, in the _Theory of Moral Sentiments_, after
the publication of which in 1759 the plan of the lectures underwent a
change, the ethical part being compressed and the economical part
extended. The _Wealth of Nations_ covers the subject of police, revenue,
and arms, and so executes the promise in part. “What remains,” he wrote
in 1790, “the theory of Jurisprudence, which I have long projected, I
have hitherto been hindered from executing.” In the lectures now
discovered and published we have therefore a first draft of the _Wealth
of Nations_ and also a first draft of the projected work on Justice, or
Jurisprudence, “a sort of theory and history of law and government,” as
he called it in a letter of 1785.

How, then, comes it to pass that we possess these legal and economic
lectures just as Smith delivered them to his class at Glasgow, in spite
of Dugald Stewart’s express statement that no part of them had been
preserved “excepting what he himself published in the _Theory of Moral
Sentiments_ and in _The Wealth of Nations_”?

When Smith left Glasgow in 1764 his fame stood high, and probably there
were many note-books containing his lectures floating about in the
college. A good manuscript of useful lectures would pass from one
student to another and might from time to time be found on a bookstall.
In the session of 1762-3, or possibly of the previous year, an
intelligent and attentive student took down Smith’s lectures with
unusual accuracy. At least one copy was taken of it after Smith had left
the University; for the manuscript so happily preserved is dated 1766,
is clear, well written, and free from abbreviations, while some of the
mistakes are evidently misreadings and not mishearings. That this fair
copy was not made by the student who took the original notes is further
shown, says the editor, “by the fact that, though the original
note-taker must have been able and intelligent, the transcription is
evidently the work of a person who often did not understand what he was

The manuscript consists of 192 leaves octavo size, bound in calf, with
the signature of “J. A. Maconochie, 1811,” on the front cover. This
Maconochie, or perhaps his father Allan, the first Lord Meadowbank, who
was appointed professor of Public Law at Edinburgh in 1779, must have
picked up the book, and it has remained in the possession of the family
ever since. In 1876 Mr. Charles C. Maconochie rescued it from a
garret-room, and in 1895 happened to mention it to Mr. Edwin Cannan, who
thereupon undertook the task of editing it for the press—a task which he
has performed to perfection. One result of this lucky discovery is to
dispose of the legend that Adam Smith was little more than a borrower
from the French school, a mere reflector of the Reflexions of Turgot. By
examining the lectures we shall inform ourselves in the political wisdom
which Adam Smith used to teach his fortunate class at Glasgow long years
before he met Quesnai or Turgot, and longer still before the Reflexions
began to appear in the _Éphémérides du Citoyen_.

“Jurisprudence” was the title Adam Smith gave to this course of
lectures, and he divided it under four heads: Justice, Police, Revenue,
and Arms, taken in the order named. Natural Jurisprudence, he begins, is
the science that inquires into the general principles which ought to be
the foundation of the laws of all nations. It is, he says elsewhere in
his _Theory of Moral Sentiments_, “of all sciences by far the most
important, but hitherto perhaps the least cultivated.” Grotius’s
treatise on the Laws of War and Peace—“a sort of casuistical book for
sovereigns and states”—was still, he thought, the most complete work on
this subject. After Grotius came Hobbes, who, from an utter abhorrence
of ecclesiasticism and bigotry, sought to establish a system of morals
by which men’s consciences might be subjected to the civil power. Then
after a few words on Puffendorf and Cocceii, Adam Smith explained his
own classification as follows:—

  “Jurisprudence is the theory of the general principles of law and
  government. The four great objects of law are justice, police,
  revenue, and arms.

  “The object of justice is the security from injury, and it is the
  foundation of civil government.

  “The objects of police are the cheapness of commodities, public
  security and cleanliness, if the two last were not too minute for a
  lecture of this kind. Under this head we will consider the opulence of
  a state.

  “For defraying the expenses of government, some fund must be raised.
  Hence the origin of revenue.... In general, whatever revenue can be
  raised most insensibly from the people ought to be preferred; and in
  the sequel it is proposed to be shown, how far the laws of Britain and
  of other European nations are calculated for this purpose.

  “As the best police cannot give security unless the government can
  defend themselves from foreign attacks, the fourth thing appointed by
  law is for this purpose; and under this head will be shown the
  different species of arms, the constitution of standing armies,
  militias, etc.

  “After these will be considered the laws of nations.”

Having thus divided his whole course, Adam Smith proceeded further in an
introductory lecture to subdivide his first part, Justice. The end of
justice is to secure from injury; and a man may be injured as a member
of a state, as a private individual (in his body, reputation, or
property), or as a member of a family. Adam Smith therefore treats of
justice under the three heads of Public Jurisprudence, Domestic Law, and
Private Law. Many of his juristic ideas are evidently derived from
Grotius, Locke, Montesquieu, Hutcheson, and Hume; but the effect
produced is that of a powerful and original thinker in close touch with
the best minds of his day, who draws his illustrations freely and easily
alike from ancient and modern history. He finds that men were induced to
enter civil society by two principles, authority and utility, that is to
say, by the instinct of obedience and the instinct of self-preservation.

  “In a monarchy the principle of authority prevails, and in a democracy
  that of utility. In Britain, which is a mixed government, the factions
  formed some time ago, under the names of Whig and Tory, were
  influenced by these principles; the former submitted to government on
  account of its utility and the advantages they derived from it, while
  the latter pretended that it was of divine institution, and to offend
  against it was equally criminal, as for a child to rebel against its
  parent. Men in general follow these principles according to their
  natural dispositions. In a man of a bold, daring, and bustling turn
  the principle of utility is predominant, and a peaceable, easy turn of
  mind usually is pleased with a tame submission to superiority.”

In the same chair Hutcheson had taught that society is founded on an
original contract. Adam Smith discards the theory for various reasons:—

  “In the first place, the doctrine of an original contract is peculiar
  to Great Britain, yet government takes place where it was never
  thought of, which is even the case with the greater part of people in
  this country. Ask a common porter or day-labourer why he obeys the
  civil magistrate, he will tell you that it is right to do so, that he
  sees others do it, that he would be punished if he refused to do it,
  or perhaps it is a sin against God not to do it. But you never hear
  him mention a contract as the foundation of his obedience.”

Smith was as fond as his master Aristotle of testing fine-spun theories
by the coarse wear of daily life. He loved to march an army of
common-folk through the cobwebs of political philosophy. A second
objection was that, although a government may be entrusted to certain
persons on certain conditions, the contract cannot bind their posterity.
“It may indeed be said that by remaining in the country you tacitly
consent to the contract, and are bound by it. But how can you avoid
staying in it? You were not consulted whether you should be born in it
or not. And how can you get out of it? Most people know no other
language nor country, are poor, and obliged to stay not far from the
place where they were born, to labour for a subsistence. They cannot
therefore be said to give any consent to a contract, though they may
have the strongest sense of obedience.”

In a remarkable book on _English Government_ (1803), John Millar
expresses his indebtedness to the “ingenious and profound author of the
_Wealth of Nations_.” “I am happy,” he says, “to acknowledge the
obligations I feel myself under to this illustrious philosopher by
having at an early period of life had the benefit of hearing his
lectures on the History of Civil Society, and of enjoying his unreserved
conversation on the same subject.”[15] And this indeed was the spacious
topic which occupied most of the course on public jurisprudence. Nations
of hunters and fishers, he began, had properly no government at all.
They lived according to the laws of nature. Then he came to the
patriarchs of the Old Testament and of the Homeric age, and compared the
growth of republican government in Greece, Rome, and modern Italy. How
liberty was lost is the next theme. The students were reminded of Cæsar
and Cromwell, of the contrast between Western and Oriental despotisms,
of the improvements in law which have often been introduced by military
conquerors. They were then led to see by the history of the fall of the
Roman Empire how “military monarchy came to share that fated dissolution
that awaits every state and constitution.” After describing the fall of
the Roman Empire, Smith gave an account of the origin of the modern
governments of Europe.

Smith had Burke’s “salutary prejudice.” Despite a private partiality for
republican institutions, he saw, like Montesquieu, in our constitution
“a happy mixture of all the different forms of government properly
restrained, and a perfect security to liberty and property.” The Commons
in a great measure manage all public affairs, as no money-bill can take
its rise except in that House. The judges are quite independent of the
king. The Habeas Corpus Act and the methods of election are further
securities of liberty. Lastly, “the law of England, always the friend of
liberty, deserves praise in no instance more than in the careful
provision of impartial juries.”

The first division of Justice concludes with an excellent description of
the struggle between the English nation and King James II., who “on
account of his encroachments on the body politic was with all justice
and equity in the world opposed and rejected.”

In the second division of Justice, called Domestic Law, he examined the
legal relations that had subsisted at different times and in different
countries between husband and wife, parent and child, master and
servant, guardian and ward. The treatment is concise without being dry.
Philosophy corrects curiosity; humanity peeps through law, and humour
spices humanity. We come upon his favourite proposition that “love,
which was formerly a ridiculous passion,” has become “grave and
respectable,” the proof being that love now influences all public
entertainments, whereas no ancient tragedy turned upon it. He counters
Montesquieu’s statement that at Bantam, in the East Indies, there are
ten women born for one man, by a broad doctrine: If the laws of nature
are the same everywhere, the laws of gravity and attraction the same;
why not the laws of generation? He reminds his class that slavery is
still “almost universal”; for a small part of Western Europe is “the
only portion of the globe that is free from it.” Upon the evils of
slavery he spoke as strongly as he wrote before in the _Theory of Moral
Sentiments_ or afterwards in the _Wealth of Nations_ (Book I. chap.
viii.). It is almost needless, he says, to prove that slavery is a bad
institution. “A free man keeps as his own whatever is above his rent,
and therefore has a motive to industry. Our colonies would be much
better cultivated by free men.” That slavery is a disadvantage appears,
he adds, from the state of colliers and salters in Scotland. These poor
wretches indeed, whom he must have seen daily in Kirkcaldy (where
Pennant noticed them with indignation thirty years afterwards), had some
privileges which slaves had not. Their property after maintenance was
their own, and they could only be sold with their work. They were
allowed to marry and to choose their religion, and their wages were half
a crown a day, as compared with the sixpence or eightpence earned by the
ordinary day-labourers in the neighbourhood. Nevertheless “colliers
often leave our coal-works” and run away to Newcastle, preferring
liberty on tenpence or a shilling a day to slavery on half a crown.

The third division (nearly fifty pages in all), on Private Law,
summarises the Roman law of property, and compares the usages of
Scotland and England. Smith had evidently consulted many law reports and
statutes as well as some of the standard authorities in both kingdoms,
such as Lord Kames’s _Law Tracts_, Dalrymple’s _Feudal Property_,
Bacon’s _New Abridgment of the Law_, and Hawkins’s _Pleas of the Crown_.
Smith was wonderfully free from legal obsessions. He condemned the
excessive punishments of his time, and explained that they were founded
not upon regard to public utility, but upon the spectator’s resentment
against the offender and his sympathy with the injured party. The
English laws of real property he regarded as unnatural and mischievous.
He had mastered the theory of entail without being fascinated by it.
“Upon the whole, nothing can be more absurd than perpetual entails.
Piety to the dead can only take place when their memory is fresh in the
minds of men; a power to dispose of estates for ever is manifestly
absurd. The earth and the fulness of it belongs to every generation, and
the preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity; such
extension of property is quite unnatural.”

A similar but less pithy condemnation appears in the _Wealth of
Nations_, and was one of the passages which led Cobden to declare
shortly before his death that if he were a young man he would take Adam
Smith in hand, and preach free trade in land as he had formerly preached
free trade in corn.

Having considered “man as a member of a state, as a member of a family,
and as a man,” Smith turned to Police, which is “the second general
division of Jurisprudence.” At that time the word “police” was only
half-way on its voyage from Greece. It “properly signified the policy of
civil government, but now it only means the regulation of the inferior
parts of government, viz. cleanliness, security, and cheapness or
plenty.” “Cleanliness,” ninety years before the first Public Health Act,
was only “the proper method of carrying dirt from the street,” while the
term “security” exactly corresponded with police in the modern sense,
being defined by Adam Smith as “the execution of justice, so far as it
regards regulations for preventing crimes or the method of keeping a
city guard.”

But cleanliness and security, “though useful,” were “too mean to be
considered in a general discourse” of the kind which Adam Smith was
delivering. Accordingly, after briefly comparing the amount of crime
then prevalent in Paris, London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow—a comparison
favourable to Glasgow and London—and inferring that the establishment of
commerce and manufactures is the best police for preventing crimes, he
passes to the consideration of cheapness or plenty—“or, which is the
same thing, the most proper way of procuring wealth and abundance.” Then
follows in a hundred pages what Mr. Cannan has well called a rough draft
of the _Wealth of Nations_, containing (with some noteworthy exceptions)
the main arguments and many of the illustrations which appeared a dozen
or more years later in the book. By the student who would trace the
growth of an idea and the history of a theory the value of the report
can hardly be exaggerated. In Mr. Cannan’s words, “it enables us to
follow the gradual construction of the work from its very foundation,
and to distinguish positively between what the original genius of its
author created out of British materials on the one hand, and French
materials on the other.”

When we consider that this course of political economy was necessarily
brief, and could not possibly contain all the arguments and
illustrations he had already hammered out in the great workshop of his
mind, we are inclined to wonder not that the lectures, when compared
with the full body of doctrine, show many gaps, but rather that they
correspond so closely with the final treatise evolved after twelve or
fourteen years more of meditation, study, and travel. When we reach the
crowning year of Adam Smith’s life with its laureate wreath we shall
have something to say upon later accretions, such as his colonial
policy, his view of expenditure, and that intensely practical theory of
taxation which taught so many wholesome lessons to contemporary and
succeeding statesmen. Oddly enough, the lecturer began by supplying the
very thing his critics have missed in the _Wealth of Nations_—a theory
of consumption. He had therefore, if we combine the lectures with the
treatise, mapped out in his mind the entire scope of economic science in
its natural order. First there is the demand that leads to productive
labour, the desire which is satisfied by and therefore induces toil.
Then comes his central theme, the division of labour and the subsidiary
topic of its distribution (almost ignored in the lectures), with an
appendix on revenue or taxation.

Looking now only at the lectures, we find that of the hundred pages into
which this first discourse on the _Wealth of Nations_ falls, eighty, or
four-fifths, are concerned with “cheapness or plenty,” in other words,
with “the most proper way of procuring wealth or abundance.” Cheapness
is synonymous with plenty, as dearness is synonymous with dearth. Water
is only cheap because it is plentiful, diamonds are costly only because
they are scarce. If we wish to find wherein opulence consists, we must
first consider what are the natural wants of mankind which are to be
supplied; “and if we differ from common opinions, we shall at least give
the reasons for our nonconformity.” So he sets about his task with a
theory of consumption simple, intelligible, and adequate. Food, clothes,
and lodgings are the threefold necessities of animal life. But most
animals find these wants sufficiently provided by nature. Man alone has
so delicate a constitution that no object is produced to his liking. So
he improves his food by cookery, and protects himself by fire, clothes,
and huts from the inclemency of the weather.

But as man’s physical delicacy requires much more provision than that of
any other animal, so does the same, or rather the much greater, delicacy
of his mind. Such is the nicety of his taste, that the very colour of an
object hurts or pleases. He is tired by uniformity, and loves variety
and change. The Indians gladly barter gems for the cheap toys of Europe.
Thus besides the threefold necessities of life a multitude of wants and
demands spring up to which agriculture, manufactures, arts, commerce,
and navigation are subservient; while the establishment of law and
government, “the highest effort of human prudence and wisdom,” enables
the different arts to flourish in peace and security.

Thus Smith arrives at the point from which the _Wealth of Nations_ was
to start. In an uncivilised nation, where labour is undivided, the
natural wants of mankind are provided for. But as civilisation advances
with the division of labour, the provision becomes more liberal, so that
“a common day-labourer in Britain has more luxury in his way of living
than an Indian sovereign.” The labourer’s comfort, indeed, is nothing to
that of the noble. Yet a European prince does not so far exceed a
commoner as the latter does the chief of a savage nation. “In a savage
nation,” he added, with a prophetic glance at Marx, “every one enjoys
the whole fruit of his own labour.” It is therefore the Division of
Labour that increases the opulence of a country. This is the kernel of
political economy, the inner keep round which this great architect of a
new science has built a fortress strong enough to protect society and to
preserve the fruit of men’s toil from the well-meaning unwisdom of their
governments. Not that Smith was insensible to the hardness of economic
laws, to the cruel inequalities of industry:—

  “In a civilised society,” he reminds his class, “though there is a
  division of labour, there is no equal division, for there are a good
  many who work none at all. The division of opulence is not according
  to the work. The opulence of the merchant is greater than that of all
  his clerks, though he works less; and they again have six times more
  than an equal number of artisans who are more employed. The artisan
  who works at his ease within-doors has far more than the poor labourer
  who trudges up and down without intermission. Thus, he who, as it
  were, bears the burden of society, has the fewest advantages.”

Division of labour multiplies the product of labour and so creates
opulence. He takes a pin manufactory as an illustration. If one man made
all the parts of a pin it would take him a year, and the pin would cost
at least six pounds. By dividing the process of manufacture into
eighteen operations, each man employed can make 2000 pins a day. When
labour is thus divided, a much larger surplus is left over and above the
labourer’s maintenance, and of this surplus the labourer will get a
share. “The commodity becomes far cheaper and the labour dearer.” The
less the labour that can procure abundance, the greater the opulence of
society. But coin is not a safe criterion of wages. Twopence in China
will buy more than five shillings in the sugar colonies. By dividing
labour you increase dexterity. A boy nailmaker will easily make 2000
good nails while a country smith unaccustomed to the job is making 400
bad ones. You also save time; for time is always lost in going from one
kind of work to another. “When a person has been reading, he must rest a
little while before he begin to write”; and a country weaver with a
small farm will saunter as he goes from the loom to the plough. By
fixing each man to an operation the product is sure to be increased.
Again, the quantity of work done is much augmented by the invention of
machinery. Two men and three horses can do more with a plough than
twenty men with spades. The miller and his servant will do more with the
water-mill than a dozen men with the hand-mill. Horse-power and
water-power had been brought to the assistance of man by philosophic
invention; and even fire had been called in to aid him by the mechanical
and chemical discoverers. The lecturer was doubtless thinking of his
colleague Joseph Black, and of James Watt, who was at this time working
within the precincts of Glasgow College, and was just developing what
Smith calls “the philosopher’s invention of the fire machine.”

Smith puts forward a queer idea—and he stood to it in the _Wealth of
Nations_—that what gives occasion to the division of labour is not a
perception of the advantage to be gained thereby, but a direct
propensity in human nature for one man to barter with another. This love
of barter is one of those natural instincts which distinguish us from
animals. The division of labour and the material wealth of society are
greatly perfected by improvements of communication which extend markets;
for division of labour must always be proportioned to extent of
commerce. “If ten people only want a certain commodity, the manufacture
of it will never be so divided as if a thousand wanted it.” But where
communications are bad the cost of transit hinders the distribution of
goods. If roads are “deep” or infested with robbers, the progress of
commerce is stopped. “Since the mending of roads in England forty or
fifty years ago, its opulence has increased extremely.” Water carriage
also effectively promotes public opulence; for five or six men will
convey three hundred tons by water more quickly than a hundred men with
a hundred wagons and six hundred horses can take the same weight by

A distinction is drawn between the natural and market price of
commodities. A man has the natural price of his labour when he has
enough to maintain him during its continuance, to defray the cost of his
education, and to compensate the risk of failure or of premature death.
When a man can get this natural price he will have sufficient
encouragement and will produce in proportion to the demand. The market
is regulated by the momentary demand for a thing, by its abundance or
scarcity. When a thing is very scarce the price depends upon the fortune
of the bidders. “As in an auction, if two persons have an equal fondness
for a book, he whose fortune is the largest will carry it.” The
conclusion drawn from these and other arguments is that whatever
“police” (_i.e._ policy) tends to raise the market price above the
natural, tends also to diminish public opulence. The cheaper the
conveniences of life, the greater is the purchasing power of the poor
and the happier will a society be. Any policy which raises and keeps the
market price of goods above their natural price, and so raises the
national, as it were, above the international price, diminishes the
nation’s opulence. This impoverishing policy took various forms, which
admitted of a triple classification:—

  1. Taxes on industry and necessities.

  2. Monopolies.

  3. Exclusive privileges of corporations, and combinations, like those
  of bakers and brewers, which kept the price of bread and beer above
  the natural level.

Further, as taxes or regulations which raise the market price above the
natural price diminish public opulence, so do bounties like those upon
corn and coarse linen, which depress the market price below the natural
price. A bounty stimulates the production of a particular commodity, and
makes it cheaper for foreigners at the expense of the public at home.
Another serious objection to the system is that people are diverted from
other employments, and thus “what may be called the natural balance of
industry” is disturbed. “Upon the whole, therefore, it is by far the
best police to leave things to their natural course and allow no
bounties nor impose taxes on commodities.”

In a subsequent lecture he arrived at the same conclusion by an analysis
of the true nature of money. At that time money was almost universally
identified with wealth. Though Hume had exposed the fallacy ten years
before, his essay had not affected national policy.[17] Treaties of
commerce were always based upon the theory of the balance of trade,
which again rested on the notion that if a country’s exports could be
made to exceed its imports, it would receive the balance in gold and so
become wealthy. By way of refuting this strange dogma of the
mercantilists, Smith used a very felicitous illustration. He compared
money to the highroads of a country “which bear neither corn nor grass
themselves but circulate all the corn and grass in the country.” If we
could save some of the ground taken up by highways without diminishing
the facilities of carriage and communication, we should add to the
wealth of the country; and the case would be the same if by such a
device as paper-money we could reduce the stock of coin required without
impairing its efficiency as a medium of exchange. For the ground saved
could be cultivated, and the money saved could be sent abroad in
exchange for useful commodities. Thus the nation would be enriched; for
its opulence “does not consist in the quantity of coin, but in the
abundance of commodities which are necessary for life.”

In deference to the mercantilists the government had prohibited the
exportation of coin, “which prohibition has been extremely hurtful to
the commerce of the country,” for every unnecessary accumulation of
money is a dead stock. The same idea that wealth consists in money had
also led to fiscal discrimination against France and in favour of Spain
and Portugal. Why was this policy absurd? The reason, said Smith, will
appear on the least reflection, and he thereupon put to the students in
a few telling sentences those elementary truths about the nature of
foreign trade which seem too simple even to have been discovered, yet
are still sometimes but imperfectly applied by the most enlightened
statesmen, and have not always been apprehended by trained economists:—

  “All commerce that is carried on betwixt any two countries must
  necessarily be advantageous to both. The very intention of commerce is
  to exchange your own commodities for others which you think will be
  more convenient for you. When two men trade between themselves it is
  undoubtedly for the advantage of both. The one has perhaps more of one
  species of commodities than he has occasion for, he therefore
  exchanges a certain quantity of it with the other, for another
  commodity that will be more useful to him. The other agrees to the
  bargain on the same account, and in this manner the mutual commerce is
  advantageous to both. The case is exactly the same betwixt any two
  nations. The goods which the English merchants want to import from
  France are certainly more valuable to them than what they give for
  them. Our very desire to purchase them shows that we have more use for
  them than either the money or the commodities which we give for them.
  It may be said, indeed, that money lasts for ever, but that claret and
  cambrics are soon consumed. This is true. But what is the intention of
  industry if it be not to produce those things which are capable of
  being used, and are conducive to the convenience and comfort of human

In short, imports are just as advantageous as exports, and one is the
necessary complement of the other. All jealousies and wars between
nations are extremely bad for commerce. If preferential trade is to be
established at all, it should be with France, a much richer and more
populous country than Spain, and also our nearest neighbour. “It were
happy both for this country and France that all national prejudices were
rooted out and a free and uninterrupted commerce established.” Foreign
trade, if wisely and prudently carried on, can never impoverish a

  “The poverty of a nation proceeds from much the same causes with those
  which render an individual poor. When a man consumes more than he
  gains by his industry, he must impoverish himself unless he has some
  other way of subsistence. In the same manner, if a nation consume more
  than it produces, poverty is inevitable; if its annual produce be
  ninety millions and its annual consumption an hundred, then it spends,
  eats and drinks, tears, wears, ten millions more than it produces, and
  its stock of opulence must gradually go to nothing.”

He proceeds to uproot that hardy perennial of fiscal culture—the opinion
that no expenditure at home can be injurious to public opulence. Let us
suppose, he says, that my father leaves me a thousand pounds’ worth of
the necessaries and conveniences of life. “I get a number of idle folks
around me, and eat, drink, tear and wear till the whole is consumed. By
this I not only reduce myself to want, but certainly rob the public
stock of a thousand pounds, as it is spent and nothing produced for it.”
In the same way money spent on war is wasted wherever the war is waged
and wherever the money employed in preparations is laid out. Finally, he
sums up for free imports in language that could not be strengthened:—

  “From the above considerations it appears that Britain should by all
  means be made a free port, that there should be no interruptions of
  any kind made to foreign trade, that if it were possible to defray the
  expenses of government by any other method, all duties, customs, and
  excise should be abolished, and that free commerce and liberty of
  exchange should be allowed with all nations, and for all things.”

Holding, then, that all taxes upon exports and imports, as well as all
excise duties,[18] hinder commerce, discourage manufactures, and hamper
the division of labour, Smith was inclined in his rather meagre
treatment of taxation to favour direct imposts. He was not one of those
who think that taxation is the royal road to prosperity, and insist that
the only way to save the nation is by picking its pocket. On the
contrary, believing that the best method of raising revenue is to save
it, he introduced taxation as one of the causes that retard the growth
of opulence. But as the thriftiest government has some expenses, and
therefore some taxes, an economist was bound to weigh the merits and
demerits of each. Though in comparison with the corresponding chapters
in the _Wealth of Nations_ his paragraphs on taxation seem raw, the
doctrine is already far in advance of Hume’s. He dwells on the immense
advantage of the land-tax, which only cost the government about eight or
ten thousand pounds to collect, over the customs and excise, which
produce such immense sums, but “are almost eaten up by the legions of
officers that are employed in collecting them.” Another advantage of the
land-tax over taxes on consumption was that it did not raise prices; and
it was better than a tax on capital or income (“stock or money”), in
that, land being visible property, the sum required could be assessed
without very arbitrary proceedings. “It is a hardship upon a man in
trade to oblige him to show his books, which is the only way we can know
how much he is worth. It is a breach of liberty, and may be productive
of very bad consequences by ruining his credit.” Yet Smith was far from
being a single taxer. “If on account of this difficulty you were to tax
land, and neither tax money nor stock, you would do a piece of very
great injustice.”

The only advantage to taxpayers of taxes on commodities is that they are
paid in small sums at a time, whereas taxes on possessions are paid in
large lump sums. But to the government there is the all-important fact
that they are paid insensibly and are not so much murmured against.
“When we buy a pound of tea we do not reflect that the most part of the
price is a duty paid to the government, and therefore pay it
contentedly, as though it were only the natural price of the commodity.
In the same manner, when an additional tax is laid upon beer, the price
of it must be raised, but the mob do not directly vent their malice
against the government, who are the proper objects of it, but upon the
brewers, as they confound the tax price with the natural one.”

In Holland the consumer first paid the price to the merchant and then
(separately) the tax to the excise officer. “We in reality do the very
same thing, but as we do not feel it immediately we imagine it all one
price, and never reflect that we might drink port wine below sixpence a
bottle were it not for the duty.” His general objection to duties on
imports is that they divert capital and industry into unnatural
channels, while the effects of export duties are still more pernicious
in confining consumption and diminishing industry. Uztariz, a well-known
Spanish writer of that day, had observed in his book on commerce:—

“I have found ministers and others, both in their conversation and
writings, maintain the erroneous maxim that high duties are to be laid
upon commodities exported, because foreigners pay them; and, on the
contrary, very moderate ones on such as are imported, because his
majesty’s subjects are at the charge of them.”[19] This policy, says
Smith, is one great cause of the poverty of Spain. Yet the Spaniards
were wiser than some moderns who have sought to persuade the public that
both export and import duties are paid by the foreigner.

Apart from their extraordinary power and originality as contributions to
a new science, we are struck in these lectures by two qualities, freedom
from prejudice, with the accompanying desire for reformation, and a
tolerance of things that are tolerable. Even when he is exposing the
absurdities of the Mercantile System, and the evils of the scheme of
taxation which it had produced in England, he readily concedes that
things might have been far worse, and is glad to confess that upon the
whole “the English are the best financiers in Europe, and their taxes
are levied with more propriety than those of any country whatever.”
Elsewhere, indeed, he shows that the fiscal system of Holland was in
some important respects superior; and in the _Wealth of Nations_ his
language cooled:—“Our state is not perfect, but it is as good or better
than that of most of our neighbours.”

Yet neither tolerance, nor patriotic bias, nor the improbability of
reform prevented him from criticising bad institutions. He saw how evil
was the system of unpaid magistracies which Bentham burned and Gneist
adored. He saw how advantageous was the famous excise scheme which
ruined Walpole. He objected to large farms and entailed estates, and was
not afraid to declare that a thousand acres ought to be purchased as
easily as a thousand yards of cloth. He laughed at the notion, still
strangely prevalent, that agriculture is injured by manufactures. “It is
always a sign,” he says, “that the country is improving, when men go to
town. There are no parts of the country so well inhabited nor so well
cultivated as those which lie in the neighbourhood of populous cities.”
He described how Philip IV. went to the plough himself to set the
fashion, and did everything for the farmers except bringing them a good
market; how he conferred the titles of nobility upon several farmers,
and very absurdly endeavoured to oppress manufacturers with heavy taxes
in order to force them to the country.

Smith concluded his discourse upon Cheapness or Plenty with a few
remarks on the influence of commerce on manners; and having thus laid
the foundations of a new science, a true system of political economy, he
went on to “Arms” (Part IV.), and treated of Militias, Discipline, and
Standing Armies. His course ended with a survey (Part V.) of the Laws of
Nations. The rules, he remarks, which nations ought to observe, or do
observe, with one another cannot be stated with precision. It is true
that the rules of property and of justice are pretty uniform in the
civilised world. But with regard to international law, what Grotius had
said was still true. It was hard to mention a single regulation that had
been established with the common consent of all nations and was observed
as such at all times. Smith, as usual, sought for the reason, and as
usual found it. “This must necessarily be the case; for where there is
no supreme legislative power nor judge to settle differences we may
always expect uncertainty and irregularity.”

The pope, indeed, as the common father of Christendom, had introduced
more humanity into warfare; but except for this hint Smith seems to have
made no proposal for filling up the blank. We can only imagine how one
who so loved peace and hated war would have rejoiced to see nations
moving slowly but surely towards the idea of an international judge, and
learning that, as the Duel is not the last word of civilisation in
individual quarrels, so the Battle is not the last or the best trial of
disputes between nations.

                               CHAPTER VI
                       GLASGOW AND ITS UNIVERSITY

Mr. Rae’s diligent researches have disposed of the idea that Smith was
one of those profound philosophers who are helpless in the practical
affairs of life. It appears from the records of the Glasgow University,
that during his thirteen years’ residence he did more college business
than any other professor. He audited accounts, inspected drains and
hedges, examined encroachments on college land, and served as college
quæstor, or treasurer, with the management of the library funds, for the
last six years of his professorship. He was Dean of Faculty from 1760 to
1762, when he was appointed Vice-Rector. As such, in the frequent
absence of the Rector, he had to preside over all University meetings,
including the Rector’s Court, which had judicial as well as
administrative powers, and could even punish students by imprisonment in
the college steeple. He went frequently to Edinburgh, and at least once
to London, on college business; and altogether we may discredit the
remark made by one of Smith’s Edinburgh neighbours and reported by
Robert Chambers: “It is strange that a man who wrote so well on exchange
and barter had to get a friend to buy his horse-corn for him.”

There is one picturesque incident in the history of Smith’s connection
with the college. The imposition of octroi duties on food coming into
the city was still the principal means of raising municipal revenue in
Glasgow as in most other towns of Scotland. But the students of the
University were so far exempt from the tribute that they were allowed at
the beginning of each session to bring in with them as much oatmeal as
would keep them till the end of it. In 1757 this ancient privilege was
contested, and the students were obliged by the “tackman” of the meal
market to pay duty on their meal. Smith and another professor were sent
to the Provost to protest against this infraction of University
privileges, and to demand repayment. At the next meeting of the Senate,
“Mr. Smith reported that he had spoken to the Provost of Glasgow about
the ladles, exacted by the town from students, for meal brought into the
town for their own use, and that the Provost promised to cause what had
been exacted to be returned, and that accordingly the money was offered
by the town’s ladler to the students.”

The intellectual level of the professors and lecturers in the University
of Glasgow was already high when Smith joined them, and the place was
free from the monopolistic spirit which dulled and enervated the
universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 1752, a year after his arrival,
Smith took part in founding what was called the Literary Society of
Glasgow. Besides the professors a number of outsiders were
admitted—David Hume, Sir John Dalrymple the historian, John Callander
the antiquary, Robert Foulis the famous printer, and others. In one of
the first papers read to this society (January 1753) Adam Smith reviewed
Hume’s _Essays on Commerce_. He had no doubt read the essays in proof,
as there is a letter from Hume in the previous September, asking him for
criticisms towards a new edition he was then preparing of his _Essays,
Moral and Political_, in which these new Commercial Essays were to be

Another and more convivial club was presided over by Simson, the
professor of Mathematics, whose genius and amiability had impressed Adam
Smith from his student days. When Simson died in 1768 he had spent half
a century in the college. He divided each day with precision between
work, sleep, refection in the tavern at the gate, and a measured walk in
the gardens. Every Friday evening his club supped in the tavern, and
every Saturday the members walked out a mile to the neighbouring village
of Anderston, and there feasted on the customary one-course dinner of
chicken broth, with a tankard of claret followed by whist and punch.
Ramsay of Ochtertyre says that Smith was a bad partner. If an idea came
to him in the middle of the game he would renounce or neglect to call.
After cards they would talk, or Simson, who was the soul of gaiety,
would sing Greek odes to modern airs. A more distinguished circle than
this of plain livers and high thinkers could hardly have been found in
Europe. Besides the editor of Euclid it included the founders of
political economy and modern chemistry, and the inventor of the steam
engine. For Joseph Black and his young assistant, James Watt, sat round
the same fireside with Simson and Adam Smith. To the conversation of the
club, said Watt, “my mind owed its first bias towards such subjects
[literature, philosophy, etc.], in which they were all my superiors, I
never having attended college, and being then but a mechanic.” In 1756
young Watt had come from London to Glasgow, and being refused permission
by the close corporation of hammermen to set up as a mechanic in the
town, he was welcomed by the professors, who appointed him maker of
mathematical instruments to the University, and gave him a workshop and
saleroom within its precincts. It is easy to imagine the delight with
which Smith joined in rescuing Watt from the tyranny of a close
corporation. The workshop was one of his favourite resorts, and the two
became fast friends. More than half a century afterwards, one of the
first works which the “young” artist of eighty-three executed with his
newly invented “sculpture machine” was a bust of Smith in ivory.

In another part of the college space had been found for Robert Foulis’s
printing-office. Encouraged by Hutcheson, Foulis had begun his business
in Glasgow just before Smith left for Oxford. His “immaculate” Horace,
the famous duodecimo, appeared in 1744, the proof-sheets having been
hung up in the college and a reward offered for the detection of any
inaccuracy. Adam Smith was a subscriber for two sets of Hutcheson’s
_System of Moral Philosophy_, two beautifully printed quarto volumes
issued by the Foulis press in 1755. The type used by the press came from
Alexander Wilson’s typefoundry at Camlachie. But in 1760 the college
built an observatory, and with the aid of the Crown founded a new chair
of Astronomy. Thereupon Wilson, being appointed to the chair, asked to
be allowed to transfer his foundry to the college, and the authorities,
on the motion of Adam Smith, resolved to build a foundry in the grounds.
Thus during Smith’s residence there were set up within the precincts of
the University Watt’s workshop, Foulis’s printing-press, Wilson’s
observatory and foundry, and last but not least, Cullen’s laboratory,
where Black his assistant discovered the existence of latent heat.

The professors even started a series of lectures on natural science to a
class of working men. In 1761 Smith and others sought to establish a
school for dancing, fencing, and riding. But this project failed; and in
the following year Smith is found as an active opponent of a proposal
started in the town for the erection of a permanent theatre. He presides
at a meeting which resolves that the University should join forces with
the magistracy against this innovation. Shortly after his departure the
opposition dropped and the theatre was built. But it was burned down by
a mob of zealots, and in the _Wealth of Nations_ Smith not only lashes
those “fanatical promoters of popular frenzies,” who have always made
the theatre an object of their peculiar abhorrence, but demands that the
State should give “entire liberty to all those who for their own
interest would attempt, without scandal or indecency, to amuse and
divert the people by painting, poetry, music, dancing, by all sorts of
dramatic representations and exhibitions.” Such public diversions would
easily dissipate “that melancholy and gloomy humour which is almost
always the nurse of popular superstition and enthusiasm,” and would,
with the aid of science and philosophy, correct whatever was unsocial or
disagreeably rigorous in the morals of the country. By then he had
learned to admire the French theatre as well as the French dramatists. A
true liberal, he was always open to new ideas, and this last stump of
Scottish prejudice was rooted out by his continental tour.

In the fifties Smith and Black helped Foulis to start an institution
called the Academy of Design, said to have been the first of its kind in
Great Britain. The authorities of the University found rooms for the
purpose in the college, and they may therefore claim to have been the
fathers, not only of the University extension movement, but also of
technical instruction. Painting, sculpture, and engraving were the
principal arts taught in this Academy. Tassie and David Allan were among
the students; and Lord Buchan, who boasted of walking “after the manner
of the ancients in the porticoes of Glasgow with Smith and with Millar,”
learned to etch in Foulis’s studio. A shop was started in Edinburgh for
the sale of works of art produced in the Academy, and Sir John
Dalrymple, writing to Foulis in 1757, begs him to take the advice of Mr.
Smith and Dr. Black, who are the best judges of what will sell. He also
advises Foulis to have a circular drafted showing the advantages of the
Academy. “Mr. Smith is too busy or too indolent, but I flatter myself
Dr. Black will be happy to make out this memorial for you.” He invites
Foulis and Smith to visit him in the Christmas vacance.

There is no doubt, from the amount of business they laid on his
shoulders, and their choice of him as “Præses” in 1762, that Smith’s
colleagues had a high opinion of his practical abilities. His public
spirit and loyalty to the University were unbounded. The warmest and
most generous of friends, he was also one of those rare spirits,
especially rare in the reign of George the Third, who never let private
interests turn the scale against the common good. He made three protests
against a professor exercising the legal right of voting for himself in
an election to an office of profit. When Rouet, the professor of
History, asked for leave of absence, so that he might travel abroad as
Lord Hope’s tutor without relinquishing his professorship, Smith voted
with a majority for refusing the leave, and on a later occasion for
depriving him of office. This led to a quarrel with the Lord Rector, but
the pressure of college opinion eventually forced Rouet to resign. We
shall see that Smith on a similar occasion was careful to practise as he
had preached.

From this reformed and progressive University the economist often issued
forth to breathe the eager air of a thriving mart. The town was
remarkably free from poverty and crime. In his lectures he said that in
Glasgow there was less crime than in Edinburgh, because it had more
commerce and independence, fewer servants and retainers. When he first
went to Glasgow as a student it was still poor; when he returned as a
professor, its commercial prosperity had fairly begun. Its loyalty to
the Hanoverian dynasty had cost it heavily in 1745, but that loyalty is
intelligible enough; for the Act of Union which deprived Edinburgh of
its Parliament, and of much of its resident aristocracy, opened up the
colonial markets to Glasgow, and enabled its enterprising merchants to
participate in the profitable monopoly of the American trade. By the
middle of the century it was already the emporium for colonial tobacco.
A tannery employed several hundred men; linen, copper, tin, and pottery
became staple manufactures in the forties; carpets, crape, and silk in
the fifties. Gibson, in his history of the town, tells us that after
1750 (when the first Glasgow Bank was opened) “not a beggar was to be
seen in the streets.” When he adds that “the very children were busy,”
we think of the early history of factories and shudder. “I have heard it
asserted,” says Smith in the _Wealth of Nations_ (Book II. chap. ii.),
“that the trade of the city of Glasgow doubled in about fifteen years
after the first erection of the banks there, and that the trade of
Scotland has more than quadrupled since the first erection of the two
public banks at Edinburgh.” He will not vouch for the figures, and holds
such an effect “too great to be accounted for by the sole operation of
this cause,” but says it cannot be doubted that the trade of Scotland
did increase very considerably during the period, and that the banks
contributed a good deal to this increase.

All these external marks of enterprise and progress indicated the truth
of another of Smith’s sayings, that a few spirited merchants are a much
better thing for a town than the residence of a court. According to Sir
John Dalrymple, the three leading merchants of that time were together
worth a quarter of a million of money. Measured by modern standards
these are petty figures; but Mr. Rae says that commercial men in Glasgow
still look back to John Glassford and Andrew Cochrane as perhaps the
greatest merchants the Clyde had ever seen. Cochrane, who was Provost
when the Young Pretender paid his unwelcome visit, founded a weekly
club, the express design of which, according to Dr. Carlyle, was to
inquire into the nature and principles of trade. Smith, who joined the
club, became intimate with Cochrane, and afterwards, in Dr. Carlyle’s
words, “acknowledged his obligations to this gentleman’s information
when he was collecting materials for his _Wealth of Nations_.” The
junior merchants, adds the Doctor, who flourished after Cochrane,
“confess with respectful remembrance that it was Andrew Cochrane who
first opened and enlarged their views.” In _Humphrey Clinker_ he is
described as “one of the first sages of the Scottish Kingdom.”

Dugald Stewart, who drew his information from James Ritchie, an eminent
merchant of Glasgow, tells us that Smith’s intimacy with its most
respected inhabitants gave him the commercial information he needed; and
he adds: “It is a circumstance no less honourable to their liberality
than to his talents, that notwithstanding the reluctance so common among
men of business to listen to the conclusions of mere speculation and the
direct opposition of his leading principles to all the old maxims of
trade, he was able before he quitted his situation in the University to
rank some very eminent merchants in the number of his proselytes.” That
Provost Cochrane and his brethren were well inclined to these doctrines
is probable, as they suffered severely from the duties on American iron;
and that interest in economic subjects was strong is proved by the
printing of several important books at Glasgow about this time.

The merchants were, however, much under the influence of an economist of
the old school, Sir James Steuart, who lived in the neighbourhood, and
the progress of Smith’s opinions was more rapid in the University. It
was the students, as Dugald Stewart tells us, “that first adopted his
system with eagerness and diffused a knowledge of its fundamental
principles over this part of the kingdom.”

During these thirteen years at Glasgow Smith kept up his connection with
Edinburgh by pretty constant visits. Shorn of royalty by the union of
crowns, and of its parliament by the union of parliaments, Edinburgh was
slowly recovering in trade what it had lost in political significance.
It had kept its Courts of Justice, and its boards of customs and excise.
Above all, it was the centre of an intellectual activity which gave
Scotland for the first time a name and a fame in European philosophy and

The social and intellectual leader of the new movement was Smith’s early
friend and benefactor, Henry Home, who was raised to the bench as Lord
Kames in 1752, a man of very liberal and progressive ideas, full of
patriotic schemes for the improvement of Scottish art, manufactures, and
agriculture. His writings, though highly praised for their learning,
have long been forgotten, for sufficient reason. “I am afraid of Kames’s
_Law Tracts_,” Hume once wrote to Smith. “The man might as well think of
making a fine sauce by a mixture of wormwood and aloes as an agreeable
combination by joining metaphysics and Scottish Law.” Robertson, already
a prominent preacher and ecclesiastical politician, was feeling his way
towards Edinburgh and literary fame. John Home, a brother minister, was
composing the _Tragedy of Douglas_, counted by Hume, so he told Smith in
1756, “the best, and by French critics the only tragedy in our
language.” Another member of this circle, quite a fashionable oddity,
who ploughed his own glebe like a peasant, and startled a passer-by with
apt quotations from Theocritus, was Wilkie, the author of the
_Epigoniad_, a particular friend and admirer of our philosopher. Then
there were the two Dalrymples, both historians, and the gossipy
autobiographer, Dr. Carlyle. Three politicians of distinction often
adorned Edinburgh society at this time: brilliant Charles Townshend, who
was to make a revolution in Smith’s life, James Oswald, his old friend
and neighbour, and William Johnstone (Sir William Pulteney). Among the
relics of Smith’s correspondence is an introductory letter, dated
January 19, 1752, to Oswald, then at the Board of Trade, which “will be
delivered to you by Mr. William Johnstone, son of Sir James Johnstone of
Westerhall, a young gentleman whom I have known intimately these four
years, and of whose discretion, good temper, sincerity, and honour, I
have had during all that time frequent proof.” The young gentleman was
to give a further signal proof of his discretion by bestowing his
affections on a Pulteney, whose vast fortune doubtless consoled him for
the surrender of his name. The letter continues:—

  “You will find in him too, if you come to know him better, some
  qualities which from real and unaffected modesty he does not at first
  discover; a refinement and depth of observation and an accuracy of
  judgment, joined to a natural delicacy of sentiment, as much improved
  as study and the narrow sphere of acquaintance this country affords
  can improve it. He had, first when I knew him, a good deal of vivacity
  and humour, but he has studied them away. He is an advocate; and
  though I am sensible of the folly of prophesying with regard to the
  future fortune of so young a man, yet I could almost venture to
  foretell that if he lives he will be eminent in that profession. He
  has, I think, every quality that ought to forward, and not one that
  should obstruct his progress, modesty and sincerity excepted, and
  these, it is to be hoped, experience and a better sense of things may
  in part cure him of. I do not, I assure you, exaggerate knowingly, but
  could pawn my honour upon the truth of every article.”

A cluster of these and many other stars formed, in 1754, a constellation
known as the Select Society, an institution, as we learn from Dugald
Stewart’s life of Robertson, “intended partly for philosophical inquiry,
and partly for the improvement of the members in public speaking.” It
was projected, he says, by Mr. Allan Ramsay, the painter, and a few of
his friends—Dr. Robertson, Mr. David Hume, Mr. Adam Smith, Mr.
Wedderburn (afterwards Lord Chancellor), Lord Kames, Mr. John Home, Dr.
Carlyle, and Sir Gilbert Elliot. Hailes, Monboddo, and Dalrymple were
also members. In the Select Society, writes Stewart, “the most splendid
talents that have ever adorned this country were roused to their best
exertions by the liberal and ennobling discussions of literature and

When the projectors met in May 1754, Smith, who had come from Glasgow,
was required to explain the proposals. At the second meeting, as appears
from the minutes now preserved in the Advocates’ Library at Edinburgh,
he was “Præses,” and gave out as subjects for the next debate (1)
whether a general naturalisation of Foreign Protestantism would be
advantageous to Britain; and (2) whether bounties on the exportation of
corn would be advantageous to manufactures as well as to agriculture.

Many economic questions such as pauperism, slavery, hiring, banking,
export bounties on linen, rent, leases, highways, the relative
advantages of large and small farms, were discussed by a society which,
in Stewart’s words, contributed so much to the fame and improvement of
Scotland. A year after its foundation Hume wrote to Allan Ramsay that it
had grown to be a national concern. “Young and old, noble and ignoble,
witty and dull, laity and clergy, all the world are ambitious of a place
amongst us, and on each occasion we are as much solicited by candidates
as if we were to choose a member of Parliament.” The society did more
than debate. Adam Smith and eight others were appointed managers to
carry out a scheme for the promotion of Scottish arts, sciences,
manufactures, and agriculture. Executive committees were formed.
Contributions poured in; and prizes and premiums large in those days
were offered and awarded for every subject under the sun. From the
researches of Mr. Rae we learn, for example, that twenty-six prizes were
offered in the first year (1755), including three gold medals for the
best discovery in science, the best essay on taste, and the best on
vegetation. Six silver medals were given, including one for the best and
most correctly printed book, another for the best imitation of English
blankets, and a third for the best hogshead of strong ale. Four years
later the number of prizes given had increased to 142, and they included
one for the person who cured most smoky chimneys.

The society sank as suddenly as it rose. After only a decade of
brilliant usefulness, the meteor fell, and expired, it is said, in a
flash of Townshend’s wit. “Why,” he asked, after listening to a debate
rich in eloquence, but unintelligible to a southern ear, “why can you
not learn to speak the English language as you have already learned to
write it?” So the society died, and Thomas Sheridan, father of the
statesman, came to Edinburgh with a course of lectures on English
elocution, which he delivered to about three hundred eminent gentlemen
in Carrubber’s Close.

Upon the ashes of this famous society arose an equally patriotic but
perhaps less beneficent organisation. The Poker Club, as its name
indicated, was intended to be an instrument for stirring opinion. The
cause to be agitated was the establishment of a Scotch Militia on
national lines, to be followed, as some of its radical members hoped, by
a parliamentary reform which would “let the industrious farmer and
manufacturer share at last in a privilege now engrossed by the great
lord, the drunken laird, and the drunkener bailie.”

Adam Smith was one of the original members of the Poker Club, which
gathered in most of the Select Society; but before 1776 he had changed
his opinions, for, in the _Wealth of Nations_, he comes to the
conclusion that “it is only by means of a well regulated standing army
that a civilised country can be defended.” If it relied for its defence
on a militia, it would be exposed to conquest. The militia movement is
mentioned by Smith in a letter to Strahan (April 4, 1760), in the course
of some reflections suggested by the Memoirs of Colonel Hooke. The
passage is interesting as a Scotch Whig’s explanation and defence of the
disaffection which prevailed north of the Tweed in the early part of the
eighteenth century:—

  “_Apropos_ to the Pope and the Pretender, have you read Hook’s
  Memoirs? I have been ill these ten days, otherwise I should have
  written to you sooner, but I sat up the day before yesterday in my bed
  and read them thro’ with infinite satisfaction, tho’ they are by no
  means well written. The substance of what is in them I knew before,
  tho’ not in such detail. I am afraid they are published at an unlucky
  time, and may throw a damp upon our militia. Nothing, however, appears
  to me more excusable than the disaffection of Scotland at that time.
  The Union was a measure from which infinite good has been derived to
  this country. The Prospect of that good, however, must then have
  appeared very remote and very uncertain. The immediate effect of it
  was to hurt the interest of every single order of men in the country.
  The dignity of the nobility was undone by it. The greater part of the
  gentry who had been accustomed to represent their own country in its
  own Parliament were cut out for ever from all hopes of representing it
  in a British Parliament. Even the merchants seemed to suffer at first.
  The trade to the Plantations was, indeed, opened to them. But that was
  a trade which they knew nothing about; the trade they were acquainted
  with, that to France, Holland, and the Baltic, was laid under new
  embar[r]assments, which almost totally annihilated the two first and
  most important branches of it. The Clergy, too, who were then far from
  insignificant, were alarmed about the Church. No wonder if at that
  time all orders of men conspired in cursing a measure hurtful to their
  immediate interest. The views of their Posterity are now very
  different; but those views could be seen by but few of our
  forefathers, by those few in but a confused and imperfect manner.”

In the same letter he asks to be remembered to Benjamin Franklin (who
had lately visited Glasgow), and also to Griffiths, the editor of the
_Monthly Review_, which had just paid a handsome tribute to the

In the notes of lectures, given as we have seen about the time when the
Poker Club was established, Smith admitted the necessity of a standing
army, but seems to have thought that its abuse should be guarded against
by a militia. The Poker Club proved little more than a convivial
society, and felt the scarcity and dearness of claret more than the want
of a national army. Lord Campbell says that when the duty on French wine
was raised to pay for the American War, they “agreed to dissolve the
‘Poker,’ and to form another society which should exist without
consumption of any excisable commodity.” When the duties were again
reduced by Pitt’s French Treaty in 1786, a Younger Poker Club arose, but
Pitt’s master, who had contributed so substantially to this revival of
patriotism, was too old or too indifferent to become a member.

In one other important Edinburgh project the Glasgow professor played a
prominent part. In 1755 an _Edinburgh Review_ was started to supply the
rising authors of North Britain with the stimulus of sympathetic
criticism. Wedderburn, then a young advocate, was chosen editor;
Robertson and Smith were contributors in chief. But only two numbers
appeared of this precursor in name and in intention of the most famous
and successful review ever launched in our islands. Smith’s two articles
are of considerable, although of unequal, interest. The first and less
important is a review of Dr. Johnson’s _Dictionary_. “When we compare
this book with other dictionaries,” writes the critic, “the merit of its
author appears very extraordinary.” In previous English dictionaries the
chief purpose had been to explain hard words and terms of art; “Mr.
Johnson has extended his views much further, and has made a very full
collection of all the different meanings of each English word, justified
by examples from authors of good reputation.” The defects of the work
consisted chiefly in the plan, which was not sufficiently grammatical.
To show what he meant he took Johnson’s articles on _but_ and _humour_,
appending more philosophical and lucid articles of his own. Johnson
seems to have taken no notice of these criticisms in later editions of
the dictionary. We may observe in passing that Smith’s _but_ is better
than his _humour_. He seems singularly mistaken when he observes that “a
man of wit is as much above a man of humour as a gentleman is above a
buffoon.” In Scotland, he thinks, the usefulness of the _Dictionary_
will soon be felt, “as there is no standard of correct language in

A far more remarkable contribution is a letter to the editors, which
appeared in the second number. It is a protest against the reviewers
confining themselves to accounts of books published in Scotland, a
country “which is but just beginning to attempt figuring in the learned
world.” He proposes therefore that they should enlarge their scope, and
observe with regard to Europe the same plan that was being followed with
regard to England, that is to say, examine all books of permanent value
while contriving to take notice “of every Scotch production that is
tolerably decent.” Smith illustrated his plea by a very luminous and
masterly survey of French literature, and a comparison of the French,
German, and Italian genius with the English.

The review was intended to appear every six months, but it never reached
a third number, either because it was not well received by the public,
or because a formidable theologian spied heresy lurking in its pages.

It was at this time that the General Assembly was proposing to pass a
censure on Hume’s _Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals_, and to
excommunicate the author. Hume wrote to Allan Ramsay in Rome: “You may
tell that reverend gentleman the Pope, that there are men here who rail
at him, and yet would be much greater persecutors had they equal power.
The last Assembly sat on me. They did not propose to burn me, because
they cannot, but they intended to give me over to Satan. My friends
prevailed, and my damnation has accordingly been postponed a
twelve-month, but next Assembly will surely be upon me.” Lord Kames was
also attacked; but Smith seems to have escaped, though his turn was to
come later.

The pupil of Hutcheson was also in many ways the philosophical disciple
and ally of Hume. Their intercourse during all these years was close and
constant. They paid mutual visits, and interchanged many letters, too
few of which have been preserved. Hume had been abroad, or at Ninewells,
during most of Smith’s stay in Edinburgh, and had only just made
Edinburgh his home when Smith obtained the professorship at Glasgow;
but, as Mr. Rae notes, before a year was out, Smith’s “dear sir” had
ripened into “my dearest friend,” and on these terms the two
philosophers remained until death parted them.

We have seen how in the spring of 1759 Charles Townshend was much taken
with the _Theory of Moral Sentiments_, and told Oswald he would put his
young ward the Duke of Buccleuch under the author’s care. Hume did not
at first believe that Townshend would persevere, or if he did, that he
would offer such terms as would tempt Smith from Glasgow. But on this
occasion he was in earnest and never relinquished the idea, anxious, it
is said, to connect the fleeting fame of a parliamentarian with the
lasting renown of a philosopher. Townshend had married the widowed
Countess of Dalkeith. Her eldest son, the Duke of Buccleuch, was then a
boy at Eton, under Hallam, father of the historian. The time when his
stepson would leave school was still distant, but Townshend had made up
his mind to send the boy abroad. In England it was becoming more and
more the fashion for the sons of the nobility to travel abroad when they
left school, instead of going to one of the universities. It was thought
that they returned home much improved by their travels, and with some
knowledge of one or two living languages, whereas if they went to Oxford
or Cambridge they would learn nothing but idleness and dissipation. Adam
Smith himself afterwards came to the conclusion that foreign travel was
no substitute for a sound university training. The schoolboy, he wrote
after his continental tour, “commonly returns home more conceited, more
unprincipled, more dissipated, and more incapable of any serious
application either to study or business, than he could well have become
in so short a time had he lived at home.... Nothing but the discredit
into which the universities had fallen could ever have brought into
repute so very absurd a practice.”[20]

In the summer of 1759 Townshend went to see Smith at Glasgow, and
apparently prevailed, for in the following September Smith wrote to him
about some books which he had been getting for Buccleuch, as if he were
already in the position of an educational adviser to the boy. As might
have been expected of one whom Burke immortalised as “the delight and
ornament of the House, and the charm of every private society which he
honoured with his presence,” Townshend captivated Glasgow. “Everybody
here remembers you with the greatest admiration and affection.”

Smith was doubtless informed from time to time of the boy’s progress,
but we hear no more of the subject for four years. In the early part of
1763 he invited Hume to pay a visit to Glasgow. Hume was then in
Edinburgh; he had just brought out two volumes of his _History_, and was
drinking the nectar of general applause. At the end of March he replied
with a bantering reference, perhaps, to his friend’s economic studies:
“I set up a chaise in May next, which will give me the liberty of
travelling about, and you may be sure a journey to Glasgow will be one
of the first I shall undertake. I intend to require with great
strictness an account how you have been employing your leisure, and I
desire you to be ready for that purpose. Woe be to you if the Balance be
against you. Your friends here will also expect that I should bring you
with me. It seems to me very long since I saw you.” But in the summer
Lord Hertford was appointed Ambassador to the Court of France, and Hume
accepted the post of Secretary to the British Embassy at Paris, “with
great prospects and expectations.” He told his friend not to expect him
back for some time; “but we may meet abroad.” And so they did; for, a
couple of months later, Smith received the following letter:—

  “Dear Sir,—The time now drawing near when the Duke of Buccleugh
  intends to go abroad, I take the liberty of renewing the subject to
  you: that if you should still have the same disposition to travel with
  him I may have the satisfaction of informing Lady Dalkeith and his
  Grace of it, and of congratulating them upon an event which I know
  that they, as well as myself, have so much at heart. The Duke is now
  at Eton; he will remain there till Christmas. He will then spend some
  short time in London, that he may be presented at Court, and not pass
  instantaneously from school to a foreign country, but it were to be
  wished he should not be long in Town, exposed to the habits and
  companions of London, before his mind has been more formed and better
  guarded by education and experience.

  “I do not enter at this moment upon the subject of establishment,
  because, if you have no objection to the situation, I know we cannot
  differ about the terms. On the contrary, you will find me more
  solicitous than yourself to make the connection with Buccleugh as
  satisfactory and advantageous to you as I am persuaded it will be
  essentially beneficial to him.

  “The Duke ... has sufficient talents; a very manly temper, and an
  integrity of heart and reverence for truth, which in a person of his
  rank and fortune are the firmest foundations of weight in life and
  uniform greatness. If it should be agreeable to you to finish his
  education and mould these excellent materials into a settled
  character, I make no doubt that he will return to his family and
  country the very man our fondest hopes have fancied him.

  “I go to Town next Friday, and should be obliged to you for your
  answer to this letter.—I am, with sincere affection and esteem, dear
  sir your most faithful and most obedient humble servant,

                                                           C. Townshend.

  Adderbury, _25th October 1763_.”

The offer was accepted, and an arrangement concluded, in a pecuniary
point of view certainly “satisfactory and advantageous.” Smith was to
have a salary of £300 a year with travelling expenses, and a pension of
£300 a year for life. He was thus to enjoy, as Mr. Rae says, twice his
Glasgow income, and to have it assured till death. Altogether, Smith
drew more than £8000 from his three years’ tutorship. On November 8th,
“Dr. Smith represented,” so runs the record of the Faculty, “that some
interesting business would probably require his leaving the College some
time this winter”, and he was thereupon granted leave of absence for
three months.

For some time, however, Smith heard nothing more. In the middle of
December, when he wrote to tell Hume of Townshend’s letter, he was still
in uncertainty. But a few days afterwards it was arranged that they
should start early in the new year, and on January the 9th Smith told
the Faculty that he should make use of his leave of absence, that he
should pay his deputy his half-year’s salary commencing from October the
10th, and that he had returned all his students’ fees. This last act of
liberality he was only able to carry out by a display of violence at the
end of his last lecture. The scene has luckily been reproduced with
unusual animation by the pen of Tytler, Lord Kames’s pedestrian
biographer. After concluding his last lecture, and describing the
arrangements he had made for them, “he drew from his pocket the several
fees of the students, wrapped up in separate paper parcels, and
beginning to call up each man by his name, he delivered to the first who
was called the money into his hand. The young man peremptorily refused
to accept it, declaring that the instruction and pleasure he had already
received was much more than he either had repaid or ever could
compensate; and a general cry was heard from every one in the room to
the same effect. But Mr. Smith was not to be bent from his purpose.
After warmly expressing his feelings of gratitude and the strong sense
he had of the regard shown to him by his young friends, he told them
this was a matter betwixt him and his own mind, and that he could not
rest satisfied unless he performed what he deemed right and proper. ‘You
must not refuse me this satisfaction; nay, by heavens, gentlemen, you
shall not’; and seizing by the coat the young man who stood next to him,
he thrust the money into his pocket and then pushed him from him. The
rest saw it was in vain to contest the matter, and were obliged to let
him take his own way.”[21]

Scotch professors at that time often continued to hold their chairs
during a temporary appointment like a travelling tutorship, and paid
their salaries to a substitute until they returned. But Smith was no
friend of absenteeism. The interest of the College was his chief
anxiety, and accordingly in the following month he sent his formal
letter of resignation to the Lord Rector, immediately on his arrival in
Paris. “I never was,” he writes, “more anxious for the good of the
College than at this moment; and I sincerely wish that whoever is my
successor may not only do credit to the office by his abilities, but be
a comfort to the very excellent men with whom he is likely to spend his
life, by the probity of his heart and the goodness of his temper.”
(February 14, 1764.)

In accepting his resignation the Senate added a few words which may
fittingly conclude our account of what Smith always regarded as the most
fruitful and honourable period of his life:—“The University cannot help
at the same time expressing their sincere regret at the removal of Dr.
Smith, whose distinguished probity and amiable qualities procured him
the esteem and affection of his colleagues; whose uncommon genius, great
abilities, and extensive learning did so much honour to this society;
his elegant and ingenious _Theory of Moral Sentiments_ having
recommended him to the esteem of men of taste and literature throughout
Europe. His happy talents in illustrating abstracted subjects, and
faithful assiduity in communicating useful knowledge, distinguished him
as a professor, and at once afforded the greatest pleasure and the most
important instruction to the youth under his care.”

                              CHAPTER VII
                      THE TOUR IN FRANCE, 1764-66

“Everything I see appears the throwing broadcast of the seed of a
revolution,” wrote Voltaire to Chauvelin, a few weeks after Smith landed
in France. While the poor grew poorer, administration worse, taxes more
oppressive, that thick cloud of conventional darkness which had so long
shrouded misgovernment was dispersing, irradiated by the fierce glare of
an intellectual illumination such as the world had never seen before.
Already the mind of France was undimmed. Voltaire’s search-light had
shown the nakedness of Church and State. Diderot’s great lamp was fixed;
Rousseau waved his fiery torch, beaconing oppressed civilisation back to
the freedom of its cradle. Quesnai was at his patient calculations in
the Royal Palace. The great _Encyclopædia_ itself was on the eve of

This gigantic work—in thirty-five folio volumes, of which the first
appeared in 1751—was doubly English; for it was inspired by Lord Bacon’s
plan for a universal dictionary of sciences and arts, and it began as a
mere translation of the Cyclopædia which Ephraim Chambers had published
in 1727.

One of the first of our writers to study, perhaps the first to weigh and
measure the importance of the _Encyclopædia_, was Adam Smith. He seems
to have read it from the outset. In his letter to the _Edinburgh Review_
he called it the most complete work of the kind ever attempted in any
language. He there noticed that D’Alembert’s preliminary discourse upon
the genealogy and filiation of arts and sciences was nearly the same as
that of Lord Bacon, that the separate articles were not dry abstracts of
what is commonly known by a superficial student, but “a compleat,
reasoned, and even critical examination of each subject.” Its pages bore
testimony to the triumphant progress of English philosophy and science
in France. The ideas of Bacon, Boyle, and Newton were explained with
that order, perspicuity, and judgment which distinguished all the
eminent writers of France. “As since the Union we are apt to regard
ourselves in some measure as the countrymen of those great men, it
flattered my vanity as a Briton to observe the superiority of the
English philosophy thus acknowledged by their rival nation.” It seems,
Smith added, “to be the peculiar talent of the French nation to arrange
every subject in that natural and simple order which carries the
attention without any effort along with it.”

Smith was himself by nature and habit an Encyclopædist, not inferior
even to Diderot in his grasp of the whole field of science. Wanting the
laborious industry of the compiler, he was the equal perhaps of his
French contemporaries in the power of correlating knowledge and
combining truth. But he yielded to none in admiration of the
_Encyclopædia_, and commended it to English readers by translating the
magnificent eulogy bestowed on it by Voltaire in the conclusion of his
account of the artists who lived in the time of Louis the Fourteenth:—

“The last age has put the present in a condition to assemble into one
body and to transmit to posterity, to be by them delivered down to
remoter ages, the sacred repository of all the arts and all the
sciences, all of them pushed as far as human industry can go. This is
what a society of learned men, fraught with genius and knowledge, are
now labouring upon, an immense and immortal work which accuses the
shortness of human life.”

The Encyclopædists’ doctrine of the perfectibility of man was the
rational basis of Smith’s incurable optimism, but he did not share the
opinion of the French School that an absolute monarchy is the most
hopeful if not the only vehicle of human progress. Quesnai and his
disciples never dreamed that people could govern themselves; they
conjured up an ideal monarch who would let his people live in a state of
natural liberty. Adam Smith had faith in men as well as in philosophy,
and therefore his politics were not for his own age only but for the
time to come. A Whig in practice and a Republican in theory, he was not
likely to sympathise with the idea that natural liberty is to be enjoyed
under a despot.

One critic expresses surprise that so close an observer had not the
sagacity to anticipate the downfall of the French Monarchy. But Turgot’s
dismissal, which first made Voltaire despair of a peaceful reformation,
occurred two months after the publication of the _Wealth of Nations_,
and ten years after its author’s return to England. Nay, at the time
when the finishing touches were being given to that work, it might have
been a fair question whether Turgot’s reforms were less likely to save
France than Lord North’s policy to enslave England. In any case, it was
not for a foreigner to play Cassandra to the Bourbons. But it will be
shown that the author of the _Wealth of Nations_ was under no illusions
as to the wretched state of the French peasant, the misgovernment of the
kingdom, and its fiscal disorganisation.

The tutor and his pupil arrived in Paris on February 13, 1764, and,
after ten days with Hume, they proceeded to Toulouse, which still
preserved the dignity of a provincial capital, with a parliament, a
university, and an archbishopric. The nobility and notables of Languedoc
spent the winter there, and it was also a favourite resort of English
visitors, probably because it combined a good climate with agreeable
society. Its advocates vied with those of Paris. As a social and
intellectual centre it might be denominated the Edinburgh of France. Its
political importance is marked in the _Wealth of Nations_, where Adam
Smith describes the parliament of Toulouse as being “in rank and dignity
the second parliament of the kingdom.” Fortunately for the two Scots, a
cousin of Hume, the Abbé Seignelay Colbert, was at that time
Vicar-General of the diocese. Colbert was of the same family as the
great minister, and doubtless owed his success in the Gallican Church to
that connection. Hume’s personal popularity in Paris was enormous, and
his letters of introduction, which he wrote or procured, were everywhere
of service to the travellers. The Abbé, immediately on their arrival,
promised Hume he would do all that he could to make their stay
agreeable. After a month he was full of enthusiasm for his new
friends:—“Mr. Smith is a sublime man. His heart and his mind are equally
admirable.... The Duke, his pupil, is a very amiable spirit, and does
his exercises well, and is making progress in French.”

The Abbé was a man of liberal ideas. Promoted to the bishopric of Rodez,
he tried to assist the agriculture and manufactures of his diocese, and
even had a momentary popularity in Paris in the year of the Revolution
(1789), when as a member of the States-General he proposed the union of
the clergy with the Third Estate. The Archbishop of Toulouse at this
time was the famous Loménie de Brienne, an old friend of Turgot and
Morellet, and so far a disciple of their economic principles that he
persuaded the States of Languedoc to adopt free trade in corn. But, as
Mr. Rae observes, he could not have been very friendly to Smith; for
afterwards, when Cardinal and Minister of France, he refused Morellet a
hundred louis to defray the cost of printing his translation of the
_Wealth of Nations_. In spite of Colbert’s kindness, the early months at
Toulouse dragged heavily, and the Duke proved at first an exacting
companion. On July 5th, Smith sent a rather lugubrious and petulant
letter to Hume:—

  “I should be much obliged to you if you could send us recommendations
  to the Duke of Richelieu, the Marquis de Lorges, and the Intendant of
  the Province. Mr. Townshend assured me that the Duc de Choiseul was to
  recommend us to all the people of fashion here and everywhere else in
  France. We have heard nothing, however, of these recommendations, and
  have had our way to make as well as we could by the help of the Abbé,
  who is a stranger here almost as much as we. The progress indeed we
  have made is not very great. The Duke is acquainted with no Frenchman
  whatever. I cannot cultivate the acquaintance of the few with whom I
  am acquainted, as I cannot bring them to our house, and am not always
  at liberty to go to theirs. The life which I led at Glasgow was a
  pleasurable dissipated life in comparison of that which I lead here at
  Present. I have begun to write a book in order to pass away the time.”

The world has no reason to regret this want of gaiety, for the book
which Smith had begun in order to “pass away the time” was no other than
the _Wealth of Nations_. At Bordeaux, Adam Smith, his pupil and the Abbé
met Colonel Barré who wrote from that town to Hume on September the

  “I thank you for your last letter from Paris, which I received just as
  Smith and his _élève_ and l’Abbé Colbert were sitting down to dine
  with me at Bordeaux. The latter is a very honest fellow, and deserves
  to be a bishop; make him one if you can.... Smith agrees with me in
  thinking that you are turned soft by the _délices_ of the French
  Court, and that you don’t write in that nervous manner you was
  remarkable for in the more northern climates.”

From this time all went smoothly. Hume got them introductions from his
chief, Lord Hertford, the British Ambassador, to the Duc de Richelieu
and others.

On the 21st of October they were again in Toulouse, and Smith wrote in
good spirits to thank Hume for his kindness and the Ambassador “for the
very honourable manner in which he was so good as to mention me to the
Duke of Richelieu in the letter of recommendation which you sent us.” He

  “There was, indeed, one small mistake in it. He called me Robinson
  instead of Smith. I took upon me to correct this mistake myself before
  the Duke delivered the letter. We were all treated by the Maréchal
  with the utmost Politeness and attention, particularly the Duke, whom
  he distinguished in a very proper manner.... Our expedition to
  Bordeaux and another we have made since to Bagnères has made a great
  change upon the Duke. He begins now to familiarise himself to French
  company, and I flatter myself I shall spend the rest of the time we
  are to live together not only in peace and contentment, but in gayetty
  and amusement.”

They went to Montpellier to see the meeting of the States of Languedoc,
the most important of the six local parliaments still remaining in
France. There they met Horne Tooke, who afterwards called the _Wealth of
Nations_ wicked and the _Moral Sentiments_ nonsense, and Cardinal
Dillon, the Archbishop of Narbonne, another of the band of Gallicised

In Montpellier and Toulouse they saw many members of the parliament, and
obtained an insight into the legal and administrative system of a
province which enlightened Frenchmen were fond of citing as a model for
the reformation of their country. Smith took rather a favourable view of
French justice. The parliaments, he said, “are perhaps, in many
respects, not very convenient courts of justice; but they have never
been accused, they seem never even to have been suspected, of

But, though incorruptible, the Toulouse Court had been guilty of one
scandalous act of fanatical injustice. In 1762 it found the unfortunate
Jean Calas, a Protestant, guilty of the murder of his son, who had
abjured his faith in order to join the Toulouse Bar, and then in an
agony of remorse had committed suicide in his father’s house.
Characteristically Smith did not allow this foul episode to distort his
perspective. In his last edition of the _Moral Sentiments_ the story is
told as one of those fatal accidents which “happen sometimes in all
countries, even in those where justice is in general very well

  “The unfortunate Calas, a man of much more than ordinary constancy
  (broke upon the wheel and burnt at Toulouse for the supposed murder of
  his own son, of which he was perfectly innocent), seemed with his last
  breath to deprecate, not so much the cruelty of the punishment, as the
  disgrace which the imputation might bring upon his memory. After he
  had been broke, and was just going to be thrown into the fire, the
  monk, who attended the execution, exhorted him to confess the crime
  for which he had been condemned. ‘My Father,’ said Calas, ‘can you
  yourself bring yourself to believe that I am guilty?’”

To such a man, he thinks, “humble philosophy, which confines its views
to this life, can afford but little consolation.” He must seek refuge in
religion, which alone can offer him a prospect of another world of more
candour, humanity, and justice. But justice was not allowed to sleep.
For three years Voltaire assailed the ears of France with impassioned
argument. Before Smith left Toulouse a new trial was ordered, and fifty
judges, among them Turgot, revised the sentence, pronounced Calas
innocent, relieved his family from infamy, and awarded them a large sum
of money.

A long stay in Languedoc would necessarily give a foreigner more
favourable impressions of the social and economic state of France than
he would have gained, say, in the Limousin, where Turgot was doing
heroic battle against famine and maladministration. Languedoc, with its
two millions of inhabitants, is described by Tocqueville as the
best-ordered and most prosperous as well as the largest of all the _pays
d’états_. Its roads, made and repaired without a _corvée_, were among
the best in France. Smith was struck by the great canal of Burgundy,
constructed some seventy years before by Riquet and kept in good repair
by his family, and he saw the province incessantly spending money on
developing and improving its roads and rivers. The charitable workhouses
established at the royal expense in other parts of France had not been
required in this comparatively happy territory. In fiscal system and
credit Languedoc was incomparably superior to the rest of the kingdom. A
land-tax instead of a poll-tax, few exemptions for the nobles, no
farmers-general to collect taxes and fortunes. The contrast between the
good local administration of Languedoc, and the fatal results of
centralisation in other parts of France, was often in the mind of the
author of the _Wealth of Nations_; and all that he said is fully
confirmed by Tocqueville’s study of French society before the
Revolution. Here is a passage that sounds like an echo of Turgot: Smith
is speaking of the advantages of local administration from local funds.
Under such an administration, he says, “a magnificent highroad cannot be
made through a desart country where there is little or no commerce, or
merely because it happens to lead to the country villa of the intendant
of the province, or to that of some great lord to whom the intendant
finds it convenient to make his court. A great bridge cannot be thrown
over a river at a place where nobody passes, or merely to embellish the
view from the windows of a neighbouring palace: things which sometimes
happen in countries where works of this kind are carried on by any other
revenue than that which they themselves are capable of affording.”

After eighteen months in Toulouse the party went, we are told, “by a
pretty extensive tour, through the south of France to Geneva.” There
Smith was able to gratify two of his strongest passions: his admiration
for the Republican form of government and for Voltaire. The little
Republic was then in a constitutional tumult, for the citizens were
pressing for a share in what had till then been a narrow aristocracy. In
this they had the support of Voltaire, who lived, the literary potentate
of Europe, at Ferney, just outside the city bounds, in the feudal
seigniory of Gex. To his château by the lake pilgrims resorted from all
parts of Europe to pay their court, and were hospitably received. Smith
seems to have visited Ferney five or six times during his short stay,
and conversation deepened the admiration which his favourite author had

Samuel Rogers, meeting Smith a year before his death, happened to remark
of some writer that he was rather superficial, a Voltaire. “Sir!” cried
Smith, incensed by this use of the indefinite article, striking the
table with his hand, “there has been but one Voltaire.” Voltaire, on his
side, probably thought well of the _Theory of Moral Sentiments_, for his
intimate friend, Dr. Tronchin, the famous physician of Geneva, had sent
his son to attend Smith’s classes at Glasgow. Rogers’s visit fell in the
year of the French Revolution, and the question of king against
parliaments was being debated. Smith mentioned that Voltaire had an
aversion to the States, and was attached to the royal authority.
Voltaire had talked about the Duke of Richelieu, whom the party had met
at Toulouse, as a singular character. The duke had slipped down at
Versailles, a few years before his death, “the first _faux pas_ he had
ever made at Court.” When Saint-Fond, who visited Edinburgh in 1784,
called on Adam Smith, he was shown a fine bust of Voltaire; and Smith
discoursed upon the incalculable obligations that Reason owed to the
Philosopher of Ferney. “The ridicule and sarcasms which he lavished upon
fanatics and hypocrites of all sects have enabled the understandings of
men to bear the light of truth,” and prepared them for research. “He has
done much more for the benefit of mankind than those grave philosophers
whose books are read by a few only. The writings of Voltaire are made
for all and read by all.” Smith said he could not pardon Joseph the
Second of Austria, “who pretended to travel as a philosopher,” for
passing Ferney without doing homage to the historian of Peter the Great.
He concluded from this circumstance that Joseph “was but a man of
inferior mind.”[22]

Smith kept no journal during his French tour, and as usual wrote as few
letters as possible, though he must have made extensive notes. Most of
his letters were probably to report progress to Charles Townshend. I
have in my possession part of an abstract of one of these, which, though
of no importance in itself, serves to show that he took his tutorship
very seriously. From sidelights in the correspondence of Charles Bonnet
the naturalist, and Le Sage, and Adam Ferguson, we know that he enjoyed
the best company in Geneva, particularly at the house of the Duchesse
d’Enville, who was there under Dr. Tronchin’s treatment with her son,
the ill-fated Duc de la Rochefoucauld. In 1774 Adam Ferguson wrote to
Smith that his own bad French reminded the Duchesse d’Enville of her old
difficulties with Smith, “but she said that before you left Paris she
had the happiness to learn your language.” Two years later Bonnet wished
Hume to remember him to “the Sage of Glascow, ... whom we shall always
recollect with great pleasure.”

The tutor with his two pupils, for the Duke had been joined at Bordeaux
by a younger brother, left Geneva for Paris early in December 1765,
promising, however, to return to republican soil before they left the
continent. Hume, now a rich man with a pension of £900 a year, was just
leaving the Embassy, and relinquishing his sovereignty of philosophy and
society; but the two friends had a few days together before he crossed
the Channel with poor, wayward, irresolute Rousseau, hunted or haunted
by the furies. Adam Smith was soon in a whirlpool of gaiety and
philosophy. Friendship with Hume was enough to ensure a friendly
reception from Parisian society, where science and letters were still
fashionable. But Smith was known and valued for his own sake; his
_Theory of Moral Sentiments_ was so much read, praised, and talked about
that several translators, among them the young Duc de Rochefoucauld,
were competing to repair the badness of the first attempt, published in
1764 by Dous at the instance of Holbach. That of the Abbé Blavet was,
Smith thought, but indifferently executed. The best translation, it is
said, was that published in 1798 by Condorcet’s widow.

For ten months Smith suffered and enjoyed enough dissipation for a
lifetime, if we may judge from the Hume correspondence, which shows that
in one week of July 1766 he was at Baron Holbach’s conversing with
Turgot, at the Comtesse de Boufflers’, and in the salon of Mademoiselle
de l’Espinasse. In fact, as Mr. Rae says, he seems to have been a
regular guest in almost all the famous _salons_ of Paris. Thus we find
Hume writing in March to the Countess de Boufflers: “I am glad you have
taken my friend Smith under your protection. You will find him a man of
true merit, though perhaps his sedentary recluse life may have hurt his
air and appearance as a man of the world.” She replies in May that she
has made the acquaintance of Mr. Smith, and for love of Hume has given
him a very hearty welcome; that she is reading the _Theory of Moral
Sentiments_, and believes it will please her. Six years later she talked
of translating the book, and said that Smith’s doctrine of Sympathy was
supplanting Hume’s philosophy as the fashionable opinion, especially
with the ladies! Smith was a keen playgoer in Paris, and made the
acquaintance of Madame Riccoboni, who had been a great actress but had
abandoned the stage for the novel, and was almost as popular as
Richardson. When he left France she gave him a charming letter of
introduction to Garrick:—

  “Je suis bien vaine, my dear Mr. Garrick, de pouvoir vous donner ce
  que je perds avec un regret très vif, le plaisir de voir Mr. Smith. Ce
  charming philosopher vous dira combien il a d’esprit, car je le défie
  de parler sans en montrer.... Oh ces Écossois! ces chiens d’Écossois!
  ils viennent me plaire et m’affliger. Je suis comme ces folles jeunes
  filles qui écoutent un amant sans penser au regret, toujours voisin du
  plaisir. Grondez-moi, battez-moi, tuez-moi: mais j’aime Mr. Smith, je
  l’aime beaucoup. Je voudrois que le diable emportât tous nos gens de
  lettres, tous nos philosophes, et qu’il me rapportât Mr. Smith.”

In a separate letter to Garrick the novelist again describes her friend:
“Mr. Smith, un Écossois, homme d’un très grand mérite, aussi distingué
par son bon naturel, par la douceur de son caractère que par son esprit
et son savoir, me demande une lettre pour vous. Vous verrez un
philosophe moral et pratique; gay, riant à cent lieus de la pédanterie
des nôtres.”[23] Of the Rochefoucaulds we have already heard at Geneva.
They seem to have been at Paris during Smith’s stay there, for “from
Madame d’Enville,” writes Dugald Stewart, “the respectable mother of the
late excellent and much lamented Duke of Rochefoucauld, he received many
attentions which he always recollected with particular gratitude.” A
story is told of another lady, a marquise of talent and wit, who was so
overcome by his personal charms that she fell in love with him at
Abbeville, where Smith and the Duke of Buccleuch stopped on one of their
excursions from Paris. A Captain Lloyd, who was with the party,
doubtless on a patriotic visit to the field of Creçy, told the story to
Dr. Currie, the biographer of Burns. The philosopher could neither
endure these addresses nor conceal his embarrassment, for the reason,
said Lloyd, that he was deeply in love with an English lady who was also
at Abbeville. But Dugald Stewart only mentions an early attachment with
a lady who remained single, and at eighty years of age still retained
evident traces of her former beauty, and adds that “after this
disappointment he laid aside all thoughts of marriage.”

Susan Curchod, that “inestimable treasure” for whom Gibbon sighed as a
lover, had married Necker, then only a successful banker, while Smith
and his party were at Toulouse. The mother of Madame de Stäel, as we
learn from her first admirer, united elegant manners and lively
conversation with wit, beauty, and erudition. No wonder then that her
new home was already a centre of Parisian life. The Neckers were very
hospitable, and were intimate with Morellet and others of the economic
sect. Adam Smith’s impressions of Necker are mentioned by Sir James
Mackintosh in the ever admirable though recanted _Defence of the French
Revolution_. He had, as we there read, no very high opinion of the
future minister, speaking of him as a man probably upright and not
illiberal, but narrow, pusillanimous, and entangled by the habit of
detail. He predicted that Necker’s fame would fall when his talents
should be brought to the test, and always said emphatically, “He is a
man of detail.” Mackintosh adds: “At a time when the commercial
abilities of Lord Auckland were the theme of profuse eulogy, Dr. Smith
characterised him in the same words.”

Dugald Stewart mentions that Smith was also acquainted with D’Alembert,
Helvétius, and Marmontel. It was at the house of Helvétius that he first
met the great Turgot and the excellent Abbé Morellet. “He talked our
language very badly,” writes the Abbé in his memoirs; “but his _Theory
of Moral Sentiments_ had given me a great idea of his depth and
sagacity, and in fact I still look upon him as one who made most
comprehensive observations and analyses of all the questions that he
dealt with. M. Turgot, who was as fond of metaphysics as I was, held a
high opinion of his genius. We saw him often; he was presented at the
house of Helvétius: we discussed the theory of commerce, banking, loans,
and many points in the great book he was then composing. He gave me a
very pretty pocket-book which he used and which has served me for twenty

Turgot’s _Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Wealth_,
which were written about this time, remained unpublished till 1769, when
they began to appear in the _Éphémérides du Citoyen_. It is noteworthy
as bearing upon the question of mutual obligation between Smith and
Turgot that it was the _Wealth of Nations_, not the _Reflections_, which
gave topics for their economic discussions. It has been supposed, on the
authority of Condorcet, that a correspondence was subsequently carried
on between Smith and Turgot. But the publication quite recently of a
letter written by Smith to the young Duke of Rochefoucauld has removed
all doubt upon the subject. Rochefoucauld had written to inquire of
Smith if he possessed any letters from Turgot, and this is the answer:—

  “I should certainly have been very happy to have communicated to your
  Grace any letters which the ever to be regretted Mr. Turgot had done
  me the honour to write to me; and by that means to have the
  distinguished honour of being recorded as one of his correspondents.
  But tho’ I had the happiness of his acquaintance and, I flattered
  myself, even of his friendship and esteem, I never had that of his
  correspondence. He was so good as to send me a copy of the _Procès
  Verbal_ of what passed at the bed of justice upon the registration of
  his six edicts which did so much honour to their Author, and, had they
  been executed without alteration, would have proved so beneficial to
  his country. But the present (which I preserve as a most valuable
  monument of a person whom I remember with so much veneration) was not
  accompanied with any letter.”

Twenty-three years afterwards there is an entry in the diary of Samuel
Rogers: “Adam Smith said Turgot was an honest, well-meaning man, but
unacquainted with the world and human nature; that it was his maxim (he
mentioned it to Hume, but never to Smith) that whatever is right may be
done.” This is certainly not Adam Smith’s whole mind about Turgot, for
whom he entertained a lively admiration. But undoubtedly he considered
that his own obligations to the French School of Political Economy began
and ended with Quesnai, and we know that he intended at one time to
dedicate his book to the author of the _Economic Table_. Turgot,
Morellet, Rivière, and the rest were interpreters of Quesnai—disciples,
not masters.

Quesnai was the inventor of a new system, the founder of a sect, and the
wielder of whatever influence that sect exerted on the _Wealth of
Nations_. Smith’s intercourse with Quesnai and the physiocrats, as well
as a careful study of their writings, accounts for some important
developments of theory which distinguish his book from his lectures, and
particularly the attention he there pays to the problem of distribution,
as well as a distinct though moderated bias towards agriculture as the
most productive of pursuits. He was not a physiocrat. Indeed his
criticism of the distinctive doctrine of the school, that all wealth
comes from the soil, was felt to be convincing and final. But he went a
long way with them, and some of his most important practical conclusions
coincided with theirs. No reader of the ninth chapter of Smith’s fourth
book could doubt that Smith knew Quesnai as well as Quesnai’s _Table_,
which had been published in 1758 and was regarded with an almost
superstitious veneration by the whole sect. If the doubt existed, it
would be dispelled by a curious piece of evidence. Of the half-dozen
letters he wrote from France that have been preserved, the longest,
dated Compiègne, August 26, 1766, is to Charles Townshend, and describes
some anxious moments in which he had called in the aid of the king’s
physician. The Duke of Buccleuch had been to Compiègne to see the camp
and to hunt with the King and the Court, and after hunting had eaten too
heartily of a cold supper with a vast quantity of salad and some cold
punch. Sickness and fever followed. The faithful tutor begged him to
send for a doctor:—

  “He refused a long time, but at last, upon seeing me uneasy,
  consented. I sent for Quenay, first ordinary physician to the King. He
  sent me word he was ill. I then sent for Senac; he was ill likewise. I
  went to Quenay myself to beg that, notwithstanding his illness, which
  was not dangerous, he would come to see the Duke. He told me he was an
  old infirm man, whose attendance could not be depended on, and advised
  me as his friend to depend upon De la Saone, first physician to the
  Queen. I went to De la Saone. He was gone out, and was not expected
  home that night. I returned to Quenay, who followed me immediately to
  the Duke. It was by this time seven at night. The Duke was in the same
  profuse sweat which he had been in all day and all the preceding
  night. In this situation Quenay declared that it was improper to do
  anything till the sweat should be over. He only ordered him some
  cooling ptisane drink. Quenay’s illness made it impossible for him to
  return next day (Monday), and De la Saone has waited on the Duke ever
  since, to my entire satisfaction.”

In reading this we are reminded of a passage in the _Wealth of Nations_
where Quesnai is described as “a physician, and a very speculative
physician,” who thought the health of the human body could be preserved
only by a certain precise regimen of diet and exercise, the slightest
violation of which necessarily occasioned some degree of disease or
disorder. The letter to Townshend continues:—

  “Depend upon hearing from me by every post till his perfect recovery;
  if any threatening symptom should appear I shall immediately despatch
  an express to you; so keep your mind as easy as possible. There is not
  the least probability that any such symptom ever will appear. I never
  stir from his room from eight in the morning till ten at night, and
  watch for the smallest change that happens to him. I should sit by him
  all night too if the ridiculous, impertinent jealousy of Cook, who
  thinks my assiduity an encroachment upon his duty, would not be so
  much alarmed, as it gave some disturbance even to his master in his
  present illness.”

The visit was now drawing to an end, but our account of it would be
incomplete if we omitted Smith’s part in one of the most furious
squabbles of the century. Rousseau had arrived in Paris almost
simultaneously with our travellers, tempted by Hume’s generous promise
to find him a refuge in England from his persecutors. The advent of the
author of the _Social Contract_ and _Émile_ threw Paris into a tumult of
excitement. “People may talk of ancient Greece as they please,” wrote
Hume, full of affection and enthusiasm for his _protégé_, “but no nation
was ever so proud of genius as this, and no person ever so much engaged
their attention as Rousseau. Voltaire and everybody else are quite
eclipsed by him.” The philosophers of Paris predicted a quarrel before
they got to Calais, but for some time Hume contrived to manage this
wayward, suspicious genius admirably well, procuring him a pension and a
comfortable establishment in Derbyshire. At last, in June, Rousseau
suddenly lost his head, mastered by the haunting fears of treachery, and
wrote to Hume that his horrible designs were at last found out. For once
in his life Hume lost his temper, and discretion departed from him. He
determined to punish Rousseau’s ingratitude and put himself right in the
eyes of the world. But before taking this step he wrote to consult his
friends in Paris, and Smith sent the following reply:—

                                                “Paris, _6th July 1766_.

  “My dear Friend,—I am thoroughly convinced that Rousseau is as great a
  rascal as you and as every man here believes him to be. Yet let me beg
  of you not to think of publishing anything to the world upon the very
  great impertinence which he has been guilty of to you. By refusing the
  pension which you had the goodness to solicit for him with his own
  consent, he may have thrown, by the baseness of his proceedings, a
  little ridicule upon you in the eyes of the court and the ministry.
  Stand this ridicule; expose his brutal letter, but without giving it
  out of your own hand, so that it may never be printed; and, if you
  can, laugh at yourself; and I shall pawn my life that before three
  weeks are at an end this little affair which at present gives you so
  much uneasiness shall be understood to do you as much honour as
  anything that has ever happened to you. By endeavouring to unmask
  before the public this hypocritical pedant, you run the risk of
  disturbing the tranquillity of your whole life. By letting him alone
  he cannot give you a fortnight’s uneasiness. To write against him is,
  you may depend upon it, the very thing he wishes you to do. He is in
  danger of falling into obscurity in England, and he hopes to make
  himself considerable by provoking an illustrious adversary. He will
  have a great party, the Church, the Whigs, the Jacobites, the whole
  wise English nation, who will love to mortify a Scotchman, and to
  applaud a man who has refused a pension from the King. It is not
  unlikely, too, that they may pay him very well for having refused it,
  and that even he may have had in view this compensation. Your whole
  friends here wish you not to write,—the Baron, D’Alembert, Madame
  Riccoboni, Mademoiselle Riancourt, M. Turgot, etc. etc. M. Turgot, a
  friend every way worthy of you, desired me to recommend this advice to
  you in a particular manner as his most earnest entreaty and opinion.
  He and I are both afraid that you are surrounded with evil
  counsellors, and that the advice of your English _literati_, who are
  themselves accustomed to publishing all their little gossiping stories
  in newspapers, may have too much influence upon you. Remember me to
  Mr. Walpole, and believe me to be with the most sincere affection,
  ever yours,

                                                            Adam Smith.”

Within six months Hume was sorry that he had not taken this sage advice,
and blamed himself for the “Succinct Exposure,” which had been followed
of course by a cloud of pamphlets. We must be careful not to suppose
from this letter that Smith really had a mean opinion of Rousseau. He
had reviewed with warm but discerning praise the second discourse on the
_Origin and Foundation of Inequality among Mankind_; and in later days
he spoke with reverential emotion of the author of the _Social

Smith was now anxious to return home. To Millar, his publisher, he wrote
early in the autumn:—“Though I am very happy here, I long passionately
to rejoin my old friends, and if I had once got fairly to your side of
the water, I think I should never cross it again. Recommend the same
sober way of thinking to Hume. He is light-hearted, tell him, when he
talks of coming to spend the remainder of his days here or in France.”

Their return was precipitated by a tragedy. Hew Scott, the Duke’s
younger brother, a lad of nineteen, was assassinated in the streets of
Paris on October 19th. Smith and the Duke almost immediately left Paris,
and were in London at the beginning of November. “We returned,” wrote
the Duke to Dugald Stewart, “after having spent near three years
together without the slightest disagreement or coolness, and on my part
with every advantage that could be expected from the society of such a
man. We continued to live in friendship till the hour of his death.”
Besides the substantial advantages of independence, Smith, as we learn
from many of his contemporaries, had gained vastly in manner, address,
and knowledge of the world. Much of his awkwardness had disappeared. In
the bustle of travel and society, he almost forgot how to be

We have already mentioned a complaint that Smith failed to realise the
utter misery of France or to foresee the Revolution. The second half of
the complaint seems to be an impertinence. He was not called upon to
write out the past, or present, much less the future of France. The
first part of the complaint is more plausible. The _Wealth of Nations_
abounds in illustrations drawn from the French tour, and from these we
certainly get a less melancholy picture than from the pages of Arthur
Young, or from the correspondence of Voltaire, D’Alembert, Turgot and
the rest. But then, Young’s tour was twenty years later, and the French
reformers were thinking exclusively of the stagnant condition of France
in a moving and progressive age. They felt bitterly the dreadful
difference between their France and the France that should have been but
for the impoverishing wars and oppressive misgovernment of Louis XIV.
and his successors. Smith took France as she was, and found her still
one of the richest and most powerful countries of the world. In the
ninth chapter of his first book he compares Holland, England, France,
and Scotland. The first, “in proportion to the extent of its territory
and the number of its people, is a richer country than England.” Its
government can borrow at two per cent.; wages of labour are said to be
higher than in England, and the Dutch trade upon lower profits than any
people in Europe. They have large investments in foreign countries, and
“during the late war the Dutch gained the whole carrying-trade of
France, of which they still retain a very large share.” England comes
next. “France is perhaps in the present times not so rich a country as
England.” Its market rate of interest is generally higher, and so are
the profits of trade; “and it is no doubt upon this account that many
British subjects chuse rather to employ their capitals in a country
where trade is in disgrace than in one where it is highly respected.”
Then he shows that, though France was still richer than Scotland,
Scotland was making far more rapid progress:—

  “The wages of labour are lower in France than in England. When you go
  from Scotland to England, the difference which you may remark between
  the dress and countenance of the common people in the one country and
  in the other, sufficiently indicates the difference in their
  condition. The contrast is still greater when you return from France.
  France, though no doubt a richer country than Scotland, seems not to
  be going forward so fast. It is a common and even a popular opinion in
  the country, that it is going backwards; an opinion which, I
  apprehend, is ill-founded even with regard to France, but which nobody
  can possibly entertain with regard to Scotland, who sees the country
  now, and who saw it twenty or thirty years ago.”

Misgovernment, it is true, had done its worst in pre-revolutionary
France, but it could not ruin fertile territory and a thrifty
population. At that time the cities of Bordeaux, Lyons, and Marseilles
surpassed in wealth and in the number of their inhabitants Copenhagen,
Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Berlin. Several of the provincial
parliaments offered as fair a field for legal talent as the Courts of
Dublin and Edinburgh. After the landed nobility, the Church, the King,
his ministers, intendants, and a host of minor officials had taken their
rents and revenues and stipends, fortunes were still left for rapacious
financiers and rascally farmers-general. Smith saw all this and
explained it with his usual lucidity. But he never mistook wealth for
welfare. He applied his favourite test of the condition of the labouring
poor. Though France was a much richer country, with a better soil and
climate than Scotland, and “better stocked with all those things which
it requires a long time to raise up and accumulate, such as great towns
and convenient and well-built houses, both in town and country,” yet the
poor were worse off. In England the common people all [_sic_] wore
leather shoes, in Scotland the men only; in France both men and women
went about sometimes in wooden shoes and sometimes barefooted. He finds
the reason for these things in unfair and ill-judged taxation, and he
devotes many pages to a severe scrutiny of the French system.

Considering that France had some twenty-four millions of people, thrice
the number of Great Britain, that it was naturally richer and had been
“much longer in a state of improvement and cultivation,” it might have
been expected that the French Government could have raised a revenue of
thirty millions with as little inconvenience as a revenue of ten
millions was raised in Great Britain. In 1765 and 1766 the revenue
actually paid into the French Treasury did not amount to fifteen
millions sterling. Yet the taxes were so devised and collected that the
French people, it was generally acknowledged, were much more oppressed
by taxes than the people of Great Britain. “France, however, is
certainly the great Empire in Europe which, after that of Great Britain,
enjoys the mildest and most indulgent government!” Smith had not only
diagnosed the disease; his French studies and his friendship with
enlightened men like Turgot, Quesnai, and Morellet had enabled him to
propose remedies. “The finances of France,” he observes in the second
chapter of his fifth book, “seem in their present state to admit of
three very obvious reformations.” First, he would abolish the _taille_
and the capitation, balancing the loss by increasing the number of
_vingtièmes_ or land-tax. Second, “by rendering the _gabelle_, the
_aides_, the _traites_, the taxes upon tobacco, and all the different
customs and excises, uniform in all the different parts of the kingdom,
those taxes might be levied at much less expense, and the interior
commerce of the kingdom might be rendered as free as that of England.”
Thirdly, by subjecting all taxes to the immediate inspection and
direction of government, the exorbitant profits of the farmers-general
might be added to the revenue of the State. But, he adds, with the same
scepticism that colours his view of the prospects of Free Trade in
England, the opposition arising from the private interests of
individuals would probably be effectual in preventing all three parts of
the scheme of reformation. Yet half a century after the appearance of
the _Wealth of Nations_ one of its annotators was able to write: “Taxes
in France are now placed almost on the footing suggested by Dr. Smith.
The _taille_ and _capitation_ have been abolished, and replaced by the
_contribution foncière_; the different taxes have been rendered equal in
all the provinces of the kingdom, and they are chiefly collected by
officers appointed by the Government.” Nor is the connection between the
book and the reforms either fanciful or remote. “It was, I avow—to the
shame of my first instructors,” wrote “le bon Mollien,” Napoleon’s
favourite minister of finance, “this book of Adam Smith, then so little
known, that taught me better to appreciate the multitude of points at
which public finance touches every family, and raises judges of it in
every household.”

                              CHAPTER VIII
                      POLITICS AND STUDY, 1766-76

Adam Smith, as we have seen, had begun to write his immortal book at
Toulouse in the summer of 1764 “in order to pass away the time.” But
even after his return to London, in November 1766, more than nine years
were still to pass before the _Wealth of Nations_ could be placed in the
publisher’s hands. All this time the book was his chief occupation, and
but for the light which an occasional letter throws upon his studies,
the story of Smith’s life during these nine years might almost be
written in as many lines. For about six months he remained in London,
where he mingled with men, collected books and material for his
treatise, and saw the third edition of his _Theory of Moral Sentiments_
through the press.

In an undated letter to Strahan, who was now a partner in Millar’s
publishing firm, about the title-page to this volume, the author desired
to be called “simply Adam Smith, without any addition either before or
behind.” He had received the honorary degree of LL.D. before leaving
Glasgow, but he did not like to be called Dr. Smith, and seldom used the
title. But politics, which had just taken a strange turn, soon commanded
his attention; and a curious letter from Smith to Shelburne (February
12, 1767) raises for a moment the curtain that divides the spectator
from the actors, and allows us to survey the scene behind which the most
enlightened member of the Government was working to introduce common
sense into the colonial policy of Great Britain. It was a scene, too, in
the greatest political drama of Adam Smith’s lifetime, which left deep,
decipherable marks on the pages of the _Wealth of Nations_.

While Smith was discussing the new principles with the philosophers of
Paris, an active spirit of dissatisfaction had been spreading in distant
communities of men. The spirit of liberty seemed to have walked forth
over the face of the earth and to threaten revolutions in every part.
The Georgians under the valiant Heraclius had revolted against their
ignominious tribute to the Turkish seraglios. The tyrannies of a French
governor had provoked insurrections in St. Domingo. The first tramp of a
revolutionary march was heard in the Spanish dominions of South America;
above all, the long and smouldering discontent in our own American
colonies had suddenly been fanned into a blaze. But Europe, whose policy
had been the source of all these woes, was for once in a peaceful mood.
The Empress of Russia was busy entertaining her savants. The Swede was
occupied at home, and the tall Pomeranian was content to drill. A
financial crisis in France and England made the two Governments
friendly; and though there were bloody feuds and insurrections in
Turkey, Poland, and Spain, the historian of Europe, surveying the year
1766 and comparing it with its predecessors, marked it with a white
chalk and fancied he could at last spell a drift towards peace in the
hollow states and bankrupt empires of the old world. Ambition indeed
seldom stoops to calculations, but the most acquisitive imperialist
seeing multitudes of unemployed, food at famine prices, and manufactures
at a standstill, began to wonder whether after all the conquests of the
war had been worth such a price. For once the governing classes were
sobered and were ready to make some grudging atonement for one of their
worst blunders. The same commercial stress which constrained the French
King to pacify his parliaments inclined the parliament of Great Britain
to appease the colonial assemblies.

The session of 1766 was one of the longest, most momentous, and stirring
within living memory. It had begun, as we have said, with sharp distress
at home, and that distress had been aggravated by the disturbances in
America; for the colonists, incensed by the Stamp Act, refused to pay
for English goods (to the value of several millions) with which their
shops and warehouses were stocked. No wonder, then, that in all parts of
the realm traders and manufacturers did their best to persuade the
Rockingham ministry to adopt conciliatory measures. Parliament was
besieged by petitions from the merchants of London, Bristol, Lancaster,
Liverpool, Hull, Glasgow, and most of the trading and manufacturing
towns in the kingdom, setting forth the great damage done to their trade
by the new laws and regulations made for America. They pointed out that
the Stamp Act and other harassing legislation had not only sown a crop
of discontent in the colonies, but had already produced many
bankruptcies at home and were rapidly leading to widespread distress.

A contemporary writer of great power tells us that no matter of debate
was ever more ably or learnedly handled in both Houses than the colonial
policy which Lord Rockingham and his colleagues laid before Parliament.
Those who denied the right of taxing the colonies cited Locke and
Selden, Harrington and Puffendorf, to show that the very foundation and
ultimate point in view of all government is the good of the society.
They inferred from the Magna Charta and Bill of Rights, and from the
whole history of our constitution, that no British subject can be taxed
save by himself or his own representative; and they further quoted in
support of their argument the constitutions of the Tyrian colonies in
Africa, and of the Greek colonies in Asia. On this last head the
supporters of the Stamp Act (Charles Townshend’s fatal measure)
observed, sensibly enough, that arguments about the British colonies
drawn from the colonies of antiquity were a mere useless display of
learning, for the Tyrian and Greek colonies were planned on a totally
different system. Besides, they said, the Romans were the first to form
a regular colonial system, and Rome’s jurisdiction over her colonies was
“boundless and uncontrollable.” As for Locke, Selden, and Puffendorf,
they were only _natural_ lawyers, and their refinements were little to
the purpose in arguing the law and practice of a particular

The Rockinghams carried the Repeal of the Stamp Act; but the effect of
this wise and generous policy was marred by a Declaratory Act for better
securing the dependence of His Majesty’s dominions in America, which set
forth the supremacy of Parliament over all the colonies and its right to
impose taxes. At the end of July, after the conclusion of a satisfactory
session, the Marquis of Rockingham was suddenly, to the surprise of the
nation, ejected from office by the king, and a new ministry of strangely
assorted talents, with Chatham at its head, in which Shelburne, Charles
Townshend, the Duke of Grafton, and Camden were the leading figures, was
pushed into office. Accordingly when Adam Smith returned to England he
found not only that those commercial, fiscal, and colonial questions in
which he was so deeply versed were the first questions in politics, but
also that the two statesmen with whom he was most intimate occupied two
of the most important posts—for Charles Townshend was Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and Shelburne was a Secretary of State.

These events sufficiently explain why a real statesman like Shelburne,
one of the leading members of the ministry, was seeking information at
the beginning of the session of 1767 upon colonial topics. It seems
astonishing to us now that the Roman analogy should have so exercised
the minds of practical statesmen; but Greek and Latin were the only
subjects in those days with which educated members of the governing
classes were sure to be familiar, and it was to these men in Parliament
that political arguments were exclusively addressed. Probably Shelburne
wanted classical precedents to check his colleagues from reverting to a
coercive policy, and was anxious to meet the argument from Rome that had
been used in the debates of the previous year. At any rate, he had asked
help of Adam Smith, and received the following reply, which was more
helpful than it should have been: “Within these two days I have looked
over everything I can find relating to the Roman colonys. I have not yet
found anything of much consequence.... They seem to have been very
independent. Of thirty colonys of whom the Romans demanded troops in the
second Carthaginian War, twelve refused to obey. They frequently
rebelled and joined the enemies of the republic; being in some measure
little independent republics, they naturally followed the interests
which their peculiar situation pointed out to them.” His first studies
on Roman colonisation had a decidedly whiggish complexion. Further
reading led him to the juster view expressed in the _Wealth of Nations_,
that a Roman colony was quite different from the autonomous Greek
ἀποικία, “at best a sort of corporation, which, though it had the power
of enacting byelaws for its own government, was at all times subject to
the correction, jurisdiction, and legislative authority of the mother
country.” And this explains why the Greek colonies were so much more
prosperous: “As they were altogether independent of the mother city,
they were at liberty to manage their own affairs in the way they judged
was most suitable to their own interests.” But before the colonial
debates of 1767 came on Adam Smith had left London.

On March 25th he wrote from Lower Grosvenor Street to Thomas Cadell, one
of the partners in Millar’s firm, which combined bookselling with
publishing, to ask him to insure four boxes of books for £200, and
despatch them to Kincaid, his publisher in Edinburgh.[24] He probably
stayed in London till the third of May, when the Duke of Buccleuch was
married. He would then pick up his valuable parcels in Edinburgh and go
on without delay to Kirkcaldy to rejoin his mother and his cousin, Miss
Jane Douglas, from whom he had been separated for more than two years.

His first letter to Hume (Kirkcaldy, June 9th) describes his daily life.
“My business here is study, in which I have been very deeply engaged for
about a month past. My amusements are long solitary walks by the
seaside. You may judge how I spend my time. I feel myself, however,
extremely happy, comfortable, and contented. I never was perhaps more so
in all my life.” He goes on to ask about his friends in London, and
wishes to be remembered to all, particularly to Mr. Adams the architect,
and to Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu. He inquires about Rousseau: “Has he gone
abroad, because he cannot contrive to get himself sufficiently
persecuted in Great Britain?” He also wants to know the meaning of “the
bargain that your ministry have made with the India Company,” and
rejoices that they have refused to prolong its charter. At the end of
August Smith paid a visit to Dalkeith House to help the newly married
couple to entertain their tenants and friends on the occasion of the
Duke’s birthday. “The Duke and Dutchess of Buccleugh,” he wrote to Hume
on September 15th, “have been here now for almost a fortnight. They
begin to open their house on Monday next, and I flatter myself, will
both be very agreeable to the people of this country. I am not sure that
I have ever seen a more agreeable woman than the Dutchess. I am sorry
that you are not here, because I am sure you would be perfectly in love
with her. I shall probably be here some weeks.”

Dr. Carlyle was among the guests at Dalkeith House, and in his
autobiography takes some credit to himself for the success of the
proceedings. “Adam Smith,” he says, “was but ill qualified to promote
the jollity of a birthday,” and but for Carlyle’s exertions the meeting
might have been dissolved without even drinking the proper toasts. His
conclusion is that the Duke and Duchess should have brought down a man
of “more address,” and he leaves little doubt as to who that man should
have been. Incidentally Dr. Carlyle has to admit that the new Duke
proved a great credit to his tutor. The Buccleuch family had always been
good landlords, but Duke Henry “surpassed them all as much in justice
and humanity as he did in superiority of understanding and good sense.”
Lord Brougham relates a story which illustrates what Carlyle meant by
“want of address.” On one occasion, during dinner at Dalkeith, our
philosopher broke out into a discourse on some political matters of the
day, and was bestowing a variety of severe epithets on a certain
statesman, when he suddenly perceived the statesman’s nearest relative
sitting opposite, and stopped; but he was heard to mutter, “Deil care,
deil care, it’s all true!”

After two months at Dalkeith he returned to his mother and his studies,
and remained for the next six years, so far as we know, uninterruptedly
at Kirkcaldy, save for an occasional visit to Edinburgh, whither he was
constantly and with much importunity invited by his friend Hume. Dugald
Stewart remarks that this retirement “formed a striking contrast to the
unsettled mode of life he had been for some time accustomed to, but was
so congenial to his natural disposition, and to his first habits, that
it was with the utmost difficulty he was ever persuaded to leave it.” He
was never happier than now, living with his mother in Kirkcaldy;
“occupied habitually in intense study, but unbending his mind at times
in the company of some of his old school-fellows, whose sober wishes’
had attached them to the place of their birth. In the society of such
men Mr. Smith delighted; and to them he was endeared, not only by his
simple and unassuming manners, but by the perfect knowledge they all
possessed of those domestic virtues which had distinguished him from his

The High Street of Kirkcaldy contained some excellent houses, and that
occupied by Smith was one of the best. It was large and substantially
built, four stories high, with twenty windows facing into the High
Street. It had a frontage of about fifty feet, and a garden of the same
width ran back a hundred yards or more eastwards down to the sands. On
either side of the garden was a high wall, and on the north side a
narrow public footpath divided Smith’s garden from his neighbour’s. This
quaint passage, enclosed by two high walls, is still called Adam Smith’s

The house was pulled down in 1844. Robert Chambers, who saw it in the
twenties, noticed a mark on the wall of Smith’s study, and was told that
the philosopher used to compose standing. As he dictated to his clerk he
would rub his wig sideways against the wall, and so left a mark which,
says the antiquary regretfully, “remained till lately, when the room
being painted anew it was unfortunately destroyed.” Hume, who had just
removed to James’s Court, Edinburgh, wrote to his friend in August 1769
to tempt him from his retreat:—

  “I am glad to have come within sight of you, and to have a view of
  Kirkaldy from my windows: but as I wish also to be within speaking
  terms of you, I wish we could concert measures for that purpose. I am
  mortally sick at sea, and regard with horror and a kind of hydrophobia
  the great gulf that lies between us. I am also tired of travelling, as
  much as you ought naturally to be of staying at home. I therefore
  propose to you to come hither and pass some days with me in this
  solitude. I want to know what you have been doing, and propose to
  exact a rigorous account of the method in which you have employed
  yourself during your retreat. I am positive you are in the wrong in
  many of your speculations, especially where you have the misfortune to
  differ from me. All these are reasons for our meeting, and I wish you
  would make me some reasonable proposal for that purpose. There is no
  habitation on the island of Inchkeith, otherwise I should challenge
  you to meet me on that spot, and neither of us ever to leave the place
  till we were fully agreed on all points of controversy.”

By the following February the book had made such progress that Hume was
expecting to see his friend in Edinburgh for a day or two on his way to
London, where Smith already talked of arranging for immediate
publication. He changed his mind, however, though he went to Edinburgh
in June, where with the Duke of Buccleuch and John Hallam he received
the freedom of the city. In January 1772 we find the friends
corresponding about Italian literature. Smith recommends Hume to read
Metastasio. Hume replies that he is reading Italian prose, again reminds
him of the promised visit, and refuses to take the excuse of ill-health,
which he calls a subterfuge invented by indolence and love of solitude.
“Indeed, my dear Smith, if you continue to hearken to complaints of this
nature, you will cut yourself out entirely from human society to the
great loss of both parties.”

This year was marked by a severe commercial crisis; nearly all the banks
in Edinburgh came to grief, and the Duke of Buccleuch and other friends
of Smith were in the greatest difficulty. In a letter to Pulteney
(September 5, 1772), Smith says, though he has himself suffered no loss
in the public calamities, some of his friends have been deeply
concerned, and he has been much occupied about the best method of
extricating them. He continues:—

  “In the book which I am now preparing for the press, I have treated
  fully and distinctly of every part of the subject which you have
  recommended to me; and I intended to send you some extracts from it;
  but upon looking them over I find that they are too much interwoven
  with other parts of the work to be easily separated from it. I have
  the same opinion of Sir James Steuart’s book[26] that you have.
  Without once mentioning it, I flatter myself that any fallacious
  principle in it will meet with a clear and distinct confutation in
  mine.... My book would have been ready for the press by the beginning
  of this winter, but interruptions occasioned partly by bad health,
  arising from want of amusement and from thinking too much upon one
  thing, and partly by the avocations above mentioned, will oblige me to
  retard its publication for a few months longer.”

It appears that Pulteney had recommended the Directors of the East India
Company to appoint Smith as a commissioner to examine their
administration and accounts. Smith says he is much honoured and obliged:
“You have acted in your old way, of doing your friends a good office
behind their backs, pretty much as other people do them a bad one. There
is no labour of any kind which you can impose upon me which I will not
readily undertake.” He believes he is in agreement with Pulteney as to
the proper remedy for the disorders of the coin in Bengal. The
commission, however, was not appointed. No reforms worth mentioning were
made, and the _Wealth of Nations_ teems with severe criticisms of the

A month after this letter to Pulteney, Hume drafts a little programme
for the completion and publication of the work, evidently in reply to
one of Smith’s dilatory notes: “I should agree to your reasoning if I
could trust your resolution. Come hither for some weeks about Christmas;
dissipate yourself a little; return to Kirkcaldy; finish your work
before autumn; go to London; print it; return and settle in this town,
which suits your studious, independent turn even better than London.
Execute this plan faithfully, and I forgive you.”

Before following our hero to London with the fateful manuscript, we must
repeat a local tradition belonging to this period which is recorded in
Dr. Charles Rogers’s _Social Life in Scotland_. One Sunday morning
Smith, falling into an unusually profound reverie (brought on perhaps by
thought upon the disorders of the Bengal currency), walked into his
garden in an old dressing-gown. Instead of returning to the house, he
made his way by a small path into the turnpike road, and eventually
marched into the town of Dunfermline, fifteen miles from his home. The
people there were flocking to church, and the bustle restored the
philosopher to his wits. In April 1773, after six years of seclusion, he
at last left home with his manuscript, intending no doubt to have it
printed and published in the course of a few months. He broke his
journey at Edinburgh, and there wrote a formal letter constituting Hume
his executor:—

  “As I have left the care of all my literary papers to you, I must tell
  you that except those which I carry along with me, there are none
  worth the publishing but a fragment of a great work which contains a
  history of the astronomical systems that were successively in fashion
  down to the time of Descartes. Whether that might not be published as
  a fragment of an intended juvenile work I leave entirely to your
  judgment, tho’ I begin to suspect myself that there is more refinement
  than solidity in some parts of it. This little work you will find in a
  thin folio paper book in my writing-desk in my book-room. All the
  other loose paper which you will find either in that desk or within
  the glass folding-doors of a bureau which stands in my bedroom,
  together with about eighteen thin paper folio books, which you will
  likewise find within the same glass folding-doors, I desire may be
  destroyed without any examination. Unless I die very suddenly, I shall
  take care that the Papers I carry with me shall be carefully sent to

He reached London in May, and seems to have remained there until after
the publication of the _Wealth of Nations_ in March 1776. But the
records of his stay are of the slightest. There is left but one
important letter, a long and earnest plea against the principle of
monopoly in medical education. It was to his friend Dr. Cullen. Some of
the Scottish universities had been conferring medical degrees without
examination on incompetent men. The Duke of Buccleuch was willing to
join in a petition to Parliament to stop the mischief. Smith’s views
upon the subject are highly characteristic. He considers that the Scotch
universities, though of course capable of amendment, are “without
exception the best seminaries of learning that are to be found anywhere
in Europe.” A visitation (that is, a Royal Commission) would be the only
proper means of reforming them:—

  “Before any wise man, however, would apply for the appointment of so
  arbitrary a tribunal in order to improve what is already, upon the
  whole, very well, he ought certainly to know with some degree of
  certainty, first, who are likely to be appointed visitors, and
  secondly, what plan of reformation those visitors are likely to
  follow; but in the present multiplicity of pretenders to some share in
  the prudential management of Scotch affairs, these are two points
  which, I apprehend, neither you nor I, nor the Solicitor-General nor
  the Duke of Buccleugh, can possibly know anything about.”

Perhaps in the future a better opportunity might present itself. An
admonition, or other irregular means of interference, was out of the
question. Dr. Cullen had proposed that no person should be admitted to
examination for his degrees unless he brought a certificate of his
having studied at least two years in some university. Smith (who was
himself at this very time, with Gibbon, attending a course given by Dr.
William Hunter) objects: “would not such a regulation be oppressive upon
all private teachers, such as the Hunters, Hewson, Fordyce, etc.? The
scholars of such teachers surely merit whatever honour or advantage a
degree can confer much more than the greater part of those who have
spent many years in some universities.... When a man has learnt his
lesson very well, it surely can be of little importance where or from
whom he has learnt it.”

The last sentence is one that men should lay to heart. It is one of
those obvious truths which few have the candour to assert and still
fewer the courage to act upon. A very clever person, on reading the
_Wealth of Nations_, complained that it seemed to be little more than a
well arranged succession of truisms. Yet for the want of those truths
mankind has stumbled along in the dark from the beginning. “The less you
restrain trade, the more you will have.” A truism, if you like, but its
denial has caused an infinitude of avoidable suffering. “If a man has
learnt his lesson well, never mind about his university or his degree.”
A truism, without doubt, but one that is constantly neglected and
despised to the grave detriment of justice and learning.

Smith held that the effect of degrees injudiciously conferred was not
very considerable. “That doctors are sometimes fools as well as other
people is not in the present time one of those profound secrets which is
known only to the learned.” Apothecaries and old herb-women practised
physic without complaint, because they only poisoned the poor people.
“And if here and there a graduated doctor should be as ignorant as an
old woman, can great harm be done?” Smith rubbed in his moral about
university degrees with evident relish, comparing degrees which could
only be conferred on students of a certain standing to the statutes of
apprenticeship and other corporation laws, which had expelled arts and
manufactures from so many boroughs.

In boroughs, monopoly had made work bad and dear; in universities, it
had led to quackery, imposture, and exorbitant fees. One remedy for the
inconveniences of town corporations had been found in the outgrowth of
manufacturing villages; and, in a similar way, the private interest of
some poor professors of physic had done something to check the
exorbitance of rich universities, which made a course of eleven or even
sixteen years necessary before a student could become a Doctor of Law,
Physic, or Divinity. The poor universities could not stipulate for
residence, and sold their degrees to any one who would buy them, often
without even a decent examination. “The less trouble they gave, the more
money they got, and I certainly do not pretend to vindicate so dirty a
practice.” Nevertheless these cheap degrees, though extremely
disagreeable to graduates whose degrees had cost much time and expense,
were of advantage to the public in that they multiplied doctors, and so
sunk fees. “Had the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge been able to
maintain themselves in the exclusive privilege of graduating all the
doctors who could practise in England, the price of feeling a pulse
might by this time have risen from two and three guineas, the price
which it has now happily arrived at, to double or triple that sum; and
English physicians might, and probably would, have been at the same time
the most ignorant and quackish in the world.”[28]

This trenchant reasoning seems to have prevailed. At any rate, the idea
of obtaining governmental interference was dropped. Some time
afterwards, however, Dr. Cullen took an opportunity of pointing out that
there is a good deal more to be said for the corporate regulation of
medicine than for ordinary trade guilds. Adam Smith probably pushed his
argument for free trade in medical degrees to this extreme mainly from
anxiety to prevent the interference of an unwise Government in his
favourite universities, though partly no doubt because he thought
fraudulent competition better than none, partly again for love of
maintaining a paradox. A more spacious handling of this theme is found
in the _Wealth of Nations_, more especially in the famous tenth chapter
of the first book, with its account of “Inequalities occasioned by the
Policy of Europe,” and in a later criticism of universities.

During his stay in London Smith was in close intercourse with the ruling
kings of art, science, and letters, as well as with some of the leading
statesmen. We hear of him in January 1775 with Johnson, Burke, and
Gibbon at a dinner given by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In December, Horace
Walpole met him at Beauclerk’s. With Gibbon, as we have seen, he
attended Dr. William Hunter’s lectures on Anatomy. Hume’s letters to him
were addressed to the British Coffee House in Cockspur Street, a club
kept by a clever sister of Bishop Douglas and much favoured by Scots in
London, though Goldsmith, Reynolds, Garrick, and Richard Cumberland were
also members. In 1775 he was elected a member of the famous Literary
Club which met at the Turk’s Head in Gerrard Street. The members present
on the night of his election were Gibbon, Reynolds, Beauclerk, and Sir
William Jones, three of whom appear in Dean Barnard’s lines:—

  “If I have thoughts and can’t express ’em,
  Gibbon shall teach me how to dress ’em
      In form select and terse;
  Jones teach me modesty and Greek,
  Smith how to think, Burke how to speak,
      And Beauclerk to converse.”

The still small voice of a detractor was heard: Boswell wrote to a
friend that with Smith’s accession the club had “lost its select merit.”

All this time the fatal quarrel with America was drawing near. Upon
this, as upon all other economical questions, Smith was in full sympathy
with Burke, “the only man I ever knew who thinks on economic subjects
exactly as I do, without any previous communications having passed
between us.” This compliment, as we know, was highly valued by the
author of the speech on American Taxation. But Smith had another friend
and counsellor for his critical chapter on the colonies and their
administration. Dr. Franklin is reported to have said, that “the
celebrated Adam Smith when writing his _Wealth of Nations_ was in the
habit of bringing chapter after chapter as he composed it to himself,
Dr. Price, and others of the literati”; that he would then patiently
hear their observations, sometimes submitting to write whole chapters
anew, and even to reverse some of his propositions. Franklin’s remark
has probably been inaccurately reported. We know from one of Smith’s
letters that he had not a high opinion of Dr. Price as an economist; but
Parton, Franklin’s biographer, justly points to the countless colonial
illustrations with which the _Wealth of Nations_ abounds, and to that
intimate knowledge of American conditions which Franklin was of all men
the best fitted to impart. And there is internal evidence in the text
itself that the important chapter on the colonies in Book IV. was
written, or at least considerably enlarged, in the years 1773 and 1774.
Franklin’s papers contained problems which seemed to have been jotted
down at meetings of philosophers, and no doubt Price as well as Smith
would take a prominent part. At Glasgow Smith must have heard a good
deal about the colonial trade; but colonial policy did not become the
question of the day until after he left, and in the lectures there is
nothing about the colonies. We may conjecture that the idea of devoting
a large section of the book to the history and economics of colonial
dominions did not strike him until after his return from France. The
great debates of 1766 and of the early seventies, the intimate
acquaintance with British policy and finance in large outline and in
official detail, which his friendships with Burke and Franklin, with
Oswald, Pulteney, and Shelburne helped him to acquire, and his eagerness
to prevent war and to discredit expenditure on colonial establishments,
or indeed upon any provinces which could not support themselves,
conspired to make colonial policy and imperial expenditure large and
imposing themes in the _Wealth of Nations_.

                               CHAPTER IX

In February 1776 Hume wrote to Smith: “By all accounts your book has
been printed long ago, yet it has never been so much as advertised. What
is the reason? If you wait till the fate of America be decided, you may
wait long.” Declining health made him anxious to accelerate his friend’s
return. “Your chamber in my house is always unoccupied.” In the same
letter there are a few words about the war with the American colonies.
The two friends were at one in condemning the war and the colonial
policy which provoked it. But Smith was more deeply moved by the
impending disaster, and was eagerly endeavouring to induce the
Government to adopt means of conciliation before it was too late. He was
therefore—so the Duke of Buccleuch had informed Hume—“very zealous” in
American affairs. “My notion,” writes Hume, cool as ever where only
national interests were concerned, “is that this matter is not so
important as is commonly imagined. If I be mistaken, I shall probably
correct my error when I see you, or read you. Our navigation and general
commerce may suffer more than our manufactures. Should London fall as
much in size as I have done, it will be the better. It is nothing but a
hulk of bad and unclean humours.”

At last, on the 9th of March, _An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
the Wealth of Nations_ was published in two sumptuous quarto volumes.
The price was thirty-six shillings, and the first edition, probably of a
thousand copies, was sold out in six months; though the second, a
reprint with some few corrections and additions, was not issued till
1778. The publishers were Strahan and Cadell. Smith is said to have
received £500 for the first edition, the sum paid by the same firm to
Steuart for his _Principles of Political Economy_ (1767). The first
volume of Gibbon’s _History_ came out at the same time. Hume was
immensely taken with both performances. He told Gibbon that he should
never have expected such a work from the pen of an Englishman. To Smith
he wrote:—

  “Euge! Belle! Dear Mr. Smith,—I am much pleased with your performance;
  and the perusal of it has taken me from a state of great anxiety. It
  was a work of so much expectation, by yourself, by your friends, and
  by the public, that I trembled for its appearance, but am now much
  relieved. Not but that the reading of it necessarily requires so much
  attention, and the public is disposed to give so little, that I shall
  still doubt for some time of its being at first very popular. But it
  has depth, and solidity, and acuteness, and is so much illustrated by
  curious facts that it must at last take the public attention. It is
  probably much improved by your last abode in London. If you were here
  at my fireside, I should dispute some of your principles. I cannot
  think that the rent of farms makes any part of the price of the
  produce, but that the price is determined altogether by the quantity
  and the demand.”

On the publication of the book Sir John Pringle observed to Boswell that
Dr. Smith, who had never been in trade, could not be expected to write
well on that subject any more than a lawyer upon physic. Boswell passed
this on to Johnson, who replied: “He is mistaken, sir; a man who has
never been engaged in trade may undoubtedly write well upon trade, and
there is nothing which requires more to be illustrated by philosophy
than trade does.” Johnson added, as if he had already turned over with
profit the pages of the new book, that trade promises what is more
valuable than money, “the reciprocation of the peculiar advantages of
different countries.” Gibbon was no less delighted than Hume with the
new philosophy. “What an excellent work!” he exclaimed; “an extensive
science in a single book, and the most profound ideas expressed in the
most perspicuous language.” Gibbon’s judgment has been confirmed by the
tribunals of Time, and the world places the _Wealth of Nations_ in the
small library of masterpieces that receives, as the years roll by, so
surprisingly few accessions.

In a science like political economy, every new teacher endeavours to
correct the mistakes of his predecessors, to supply their deficiencies,
and generally to teach the science in its last stage of perfection. Some
of Smith’s successors were themselves men of genius, and proved equal to
the task of displacing their master for a few years. But those who have
seen the rise and decline of Mill may well ask with Wakefield, who had
seen Smith superseded by Malthus and Ricardo and M’Culloch: How is it
that the _Wealth of Nations_, all these things notwithstanding, is still
read and studied and quoted as if it had been published yesterday? How
is it that British statesmen from Pitt to Gladstone should have sought
authority in the same pages? After all, the question we are asking is a
wider one. Why is this one of the great books of the world? We would
like to say simply: It is the world’s verdict; take it or not as you
like; but whether you like it or not, it stands. One cannot argue with
universal consent. Still something may be due in extenuation of fame. In
the first place, Adam Smith writes as one who has applied his mind to
definite problems without neglecting a wider field of letters and
learning. The store is rich and the steward is bounteous. So far from
being an isolated study of abstract doctrines, political economy is
treated from first to last as a branch of the study of mankind, a
criticism of their manners and customs, of national history,
administration, and law. Even when silencing a battery or throwing up a
counterwork he is very seldom disputatious or doctrinal. “He appears,”
says Wakefield, “to be engaged in composing not a theory, but a history
of national wealth. He dwells indeed on principles, but nearly always,
as it seems, for the purpose of explaining the facts which he narrates.”
There is no scarecrow of thin abstractions and deterrent terminology
flapping over the pages to warn men off a dismal science. The laws of
wealth unfold themselves like the incidents in a well-laid plot. It was
left for his successors to show how dull economics might be, and how
suitable for the empty class-room of an endowed chair.

Hume, as we have seen, on reading the _Wealth of Nations_ foretold that
its curious facts would help to gain the public ear. Adam Smith was full
of out-of-the-way learning. He collected stories of all the adventures
in the New World, and loved to sift the wheat from the chaff of a
traveller’s tale. Consequently his book abounds in oddities about his
own and bygone ages, and a few of these with necessary abbreviations may
be retailed:—

  There is at this day a village in Scotland, where it is not uncommon,
  I am told, for a workman to carry nails instead of money to the
  baker’s shop or to the alehouse.

  In North America, provisions are much cheaper and wages much higher
  than in England. In the province of New York, common labourers earn
  three shillings and sixpence currency, equal to two shillings sterling
  a day.

  Till after the middle of the fourteenth century, an English mason’s
  wages were much higher than those of a parish priest. In spite of a
  statute of Anne there are still [1776] many curacies under £20 a year.

  A middling farmer in France will sometimes have 400 fowls in his yard.

  Between 1339 and 1776 the price of the best English wool has fallen
  from 30s. to 21s. the tod, after allowing for the changes in the
  currency. The price of a yard of the finest cloth has fallen, after
  making the same allowances, from £3, 3s. 6d. to £1, 1s. since 1487.

  The first person that wore stockings in England is said to have been
  Queen Elizabeth. She received them as a present from the Spanish

  What was formerly a seat of the family of Seymour, is now an inn upon
  the Bath road. The marriage bed of James the First of Great Britain,
  which his Queen brought with her from Denmark as a present fit for a
  sovereign to make to a sovereign, was a few years ago the ornament of
  an alehouse at Dunfermline.

  The wool of the southern counties of Scotland is, a great part of it,
  after a long land carriage through very bad roads, manufactured in
  Yorkshire, for want of a capital to manufacture it at home. In
  England, owing to the laws of settlement, it is often more difficult
  for a poor man to pass the artificial boundary of a parish than an arm
  of the sea or a ridge of high mountains.

  There is no city in Europe in which house rent is dearer than in
  London, and yet I know no capital in which a furnished apartment can
  be hired so cheap.

  At Buenos Ayres forty years ago 1s. 9½d. was the ordinary price of an

  A piece of fine cloth which weighs only eighty pounds, contains in it
  the price not only of eighty pounds weight of wool, but sometimes of
  several thousand weight of corn, the maintenance of the different
  working people, and of their immediate employers.

  In the white herring fishery it has been common for vessels to fit out
  for the purpose of catching not the fish but the bounty. In 1759, when
  the bounty was at fifty shillings the ton, each barrel of sea sticks
  cost Government in bounties alone, £113, 15s.; each barrel of
  merchantable herrings £159, 7s. 6d.

The _Wealth of Nations_ is a book to be read as it was written. More
than half its nutriment and all its fascination is lost if you cut away
the theory from its historical setting.[29] Osteology is fatal to
economics. That is why the _Wealth of Nations_ is far better suited to
beginners than an ordinary child’s primer. But as the Lectures on Police
were the author’s own first draft, the reader of these pages is already
cognisant of a great part of the _Wealth of Nations_.

It remains to indicate some of the principal accessions to Smith’s
scheme of political economy after he left Glasgow. The task has been
made easy by Mr. Cannan. In the first place, the chapters on Wages,
Profit, and Rent in the First Book, and on Taxation in the last, mark a
wonderful development and improvement of the imperfect and rudimentary
treatment accorded to these subjects in the Lectures. Then again,
chapter ix. of Book IV. on the French economists and their agricultural
system is entirely new. The system of the _économistes_ is described in
that chapter as one which, with all its imperfections, was perhaps the
nearest approximation to the truth that had yet been _published_ on the
subject of political economy. We are told that its adherents, a pretty
considerable sect, had done good service to their country by influencing
in some measure the public administration in favour of agriculture. They
all followed “implicitly and without any sensible variation the doctrine
of Mr. Quesnai,” whose _Economical Table_ they regarded with
extraordinary veneration, ranking it with writing and money as one of
the three great inventions made by mankind.

Quesnai’s _Table_ showed three sorts of expenses: Productive expenses,
Expenses of revenue, and Sterile expenses, with “their source, their
distribution, their effects, their reproduction, their relation to each
other, to population, to agriculture, to manufactures, to commerce, and
to the general riches of the nation.” In the _Wealth of Nations_ this
idea is followed out and improved; for the author, having shown in his
First Book how the average produce of labour is regulated by the skilled
dexterity and judgment with which it is generally applied, shows in his
Second that it is further regulated “by the proportion between the
number of those who are employed in useful labour, and that of those who
are not so employed.” It would be absurd to call him a plagiarist; it
would be equally absurd to deny that the French School had opened his
eyes to the necessity for analysing the distribution of wealth no less
carefully than its production. As the division of labour came from the
Greek, so the distribution of the annual produce of wealth into wages,
profit, and rent, came from the French philosophers. And we cannot
forget that Quesnai’s death alone prevented Smith from dedicating his
book to the inventor of the Economic Table.

Equally important from the standpoint of theory, and far more so from
that of the legislator and statesman, are the chapters upon taxation.
There the lectures, though they made a distinct advance upon Hume, were
rudimentary. But modern ingenuity cannot improve upon the four practical
maxims or canons of taxation:—

  1. The subjects of every State should contribute in proportion to
  their respective abilities.

  2. A tax should be certain, and not arbitrary.

  3. A tax should be levied at the time and in the way most convenient
  to the taxpayer.

  4. Every tax ought to be so contrived as both to take out and to keep
  out of the pockets of the people as little as possible over and above
  what it brings into the public treasury.

Axiomatic as these rules appear to us, in Adam Smith’s day they were new
and startling: they had never been formulated or practised in any
country. Smith was “the first that ever burst” upon the silent sea of
taxation. He put into the hands of statesmen, who had hitherto been
groping and blundering in the dark, a perfect touchstone by which to
test projects old and new of raising revenue. The idea of considering
the taxpayer was itself a novelty. It is true that the criterion of
ability had been adopted in the Elizabethan poor-rate, but there was no
other trace of it in the fiscal system of Great Britain, which was on
the whole, even at that time, the best in Europe.

Smith treated taxation as one of the causes that impede the progress of
wealth. It is characteristic of the man that he does not regard any tax,
even the land-tax, as good in itself, but only praises it comparatively
as a lesser evil. Burke himself was not a more consistent or persistent
preacher of economy. Not that Smith was jealous of expenditure on roads
and communication, public instruction, and other services which were
plainly beneficial to the whole society, and could not be left to
private enterprise. He has no pedantic objection to the State managing a
business that it is capable of managing well. He mentions without
disapproval that the republic of Hamburg makes money out of a
lombard,[30] a wine cellar, and an apothecary’s shop. But the
post-office “is perhaps the only mercantile project which has been
successfully managed by every sort of Government.”

Of all taxes he most dislikes taxes upon the necessaries of life. Yet he
does not deny that if, after all the proper sources of taxation have
been exhausted, revenue is still required, “improper” taxes must be
imposed. To preserve their land from the sea, and their republic from
its enemies, the Dutch had had recourse to very objectionable taxes, and
he does not blame them if they could in no other way maintain that
republican form of government, which he regards as “the principal
support of the present grandeur of Holland.” But he makes it very plain
indeed in his last, and perhaps his greatest, chapter “Of Public Debts,”
that the miseries and embarrassments of Europe are due in the main to
profligate expenditure of all kinds, and especially to the immense sums
wasted on wars that ought to have been avoided.

Therefore a new commercial policy would not suffice. New principles of
foreign and colonial policy must be introduced, and we must sweep away
for ever the cobweb occasions and pretexts that had drawn us into so
many futile conflicts. But he was equally anxious to promote economy in
time of peace. He was alarmed at the progress of the enormous debts
“which at present oppress and will in the long-run probably ruin all the
great nations of Europe.” He saw that when war has once been begun, no
limit can be set to expenditure. But some limit, he thought, could and
should be set to debt; and therefore he pleaded for a policy of strict
economy in time of peace, and pleaded so effectively that it was adopted
by Pitt in the breathing-space between the American and the French wars.
But for that policy, which reduced armaments to a point considered by
some dangerously low, Great Britain could hardly have stood the stress
and strain of her long-drawn conflict with Napoleon.

To thriftlessness in time of peace Smith attributes some of the peculiar
evils that attend modern warfare. His remarks sound strangely familiar
in our ears, as though they had been written by a philosopher of
yesterday about the events of the day before:—

  “The ordinary expense of the greater part of modern governments in
  time of peace being equal or nearly equal to their ordinary revenue,
  when war comes they are both unwilling and unable to increase their
  revenue in proportion to the increase of their expense. They are
  unwilling, for fear of offending the people, who by so great and so
  sudden an increase of taxes, would soon be disgusted with the war; and
  they are unable, from not well knowing what taxes would be sufficient
  to produce the revenue wanted. The facility of borrowing delivers them
  from the embarrassment which this fear and inability would otherwise
  occasion.... In great empires, the people who live in the capital, and
  in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them,
  scarce any inconveniency from the war, but enjoy at their ease the
  amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own
  fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small
  difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and
  those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are
  commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to
  their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and
  national glory.”

Indeed, he adds, the return of peace seldom relieves a nation from the
greater part of the taxes imposed during the war. They are still
required to pay the interest on the newly created debt.

Of all Smith’s theories, or rather opinions—for after all, the question
is a mixed one of morals and expediency which cannot be answered by
abstract formulas of right or rules of logic—not the least important or
characteristic is his doctrine of empire and imperial expenditure. The
view now cherished and practised in the great bureaucracies of Europe,
and often advanced by socialists under the plausibly scientific
phraseology of a theory of consumption, that national profusion is a
good thing in itself, was not then propagated or defended by responsible
persons. But, though thrift was on their lips, their hands were often in
the public purse; and it could not be said that warnings against the
outlay of national resources upon useless or mischievous objects were
unneeded. Appropriately enough, the very first time, so far as we know,
that the _Wealth of Nations_ was cited in Parliament, it was cited as an
authority against the policy of accumulating armaments in time of peace.
In his speech on the address (November 11, 1783) Fox is reported to have
said: “There was a maxim laid down in an excellent book upon the Wealth
of Nations, which had been ridiculed for its simplicity, but which was
indisputable as to its truth. In that book it was stated that the only
way to become rich was to manage matters so as to make one’s income
exceed one’s expenses. The proper line of conduct, therefore, was by a
well-directed economy to retrench every current expense, and to make as
large a saving during the peace as possible.”[31]

But Smith took no narrow or penurious view of national economy. He did
not prize thrift for its own sake. Such a charge might possibly be
brought by an unfriendly critic against Ricardo or Joseph Hume, but
assuredly not against Adam Smith. Like Burke and Cobden, he valued
frugality in nations as a safeguard against wrong-doing, a prime source
of security and independence, and a perpetual check upon the lust of
conquest and aggrandisement that so often lurks under the respectable
uniform of a missionary civilisation. As he describes the discoveries of
the New World and the beginnings of modern empire, a poignant epithet or
a burning phrase tells the lesson of many a romantic scramble for the
fleece that was so seldom golden, of many a credulous hunt for a
fugitive Eldorado.

After showing that the gold and silver mines of their colonial empires
had neither augmented the capital nor promoted the industry of the two
“beggarly countries” of Spain and Portugal, he carefully distinguishes
between the natural advantages of a colonial trade and the artificial
disadvantages caused by the policy of monopoly, that is by the
endeavours of the mother country to restrict that trade to her own
merchants. If the governments of Europe had been content to found
colonies, and see that they were well and justly administered, the full
benefit of opening up new countries, and of interchanging their
products, would have been felt. But unhappily every country that had
acquired foreign possessions sought to engross their trade, thus
injuring its own people and the colonial or subject race by checking the
natural growth of commerce, and forcing it into unnatural channels. This
so-called mercantilist policy was therefore just as disastrous to
commerce as to morals.

  “To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people
  of customers, may at first sight appear a project fit only for a
  nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for
  a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose
  government is influenced by shopkeepers. Such statesmen, and such
  statesmen only, are capable of fancying that they will find some
  advantage in employing the blood and treasure of their
  fellow-citizens, to found and maintain such an empire.”

Far worse in their results than the regular conquests of government,
were the irregular acquisitions of companies formed for trading
purposes; and one of the masterly chapters added to the third edition of
his book (1784) traces the misery, injustice, and commercial failure
which had attended the rule of the East India Company.

  “It is a very singular government, in which every member of the
  administration wishes to get out of the country, and consequently to
  have done with the government, as soon as he can, and to whose
  interest, the day after he has left it, and carried his whole fortune
  with him, it is perfectly indifferent though the whole country was
  swallowed up by an earthquake.”

What, then, was the practical policy which Smith recommended to the
British Government? It had two main ends in view. First, to pay off the
debt; secondly, to lessen and gradually remove all taxes which raised
the prices of articles consumed by the labouring classes, or interfered
with the free course of trade. Writing as he did, in 1775, on the eve of
war, his thoughts naturally turned to the colonies, then so rich and
prosperous, which had contributed nothing to the income but so heavily
to the expenditure and debt of the British crown.

Smith would have liked the British Government to renounce its authority
over the colonies, and so not only relieve the revenue from a serious
annual drain, but at the same time convert the Americans from turbulent
and fractious subjects to the most faithful, affectionate, and generous
allies. But seeing that neither people nor government would brook such a
mortification, he suggested that to save the situation they should try,
by a scheme of union, to break up the American confederacy and
reconstitute the empire on a fair basis. Let us give, he said, to each
colony which will detach itself from the general confederacy a number of
representatives in parliament proportionate to its contribution, and so
open up a new and dazzling object of ambition to the leading men of each
colony. If this or some other method were not fallen upon of
conciliating the Americans, it was not probable that they would
voluntarily submit, and “they are very weak who flatter themselves that,
in the state to which things have come, our colonies will be easily
conquered by force alone.” The leaders of the Congress had risen
suddenly from tradesmen and attorneys to be statesmen and legislators of
an extensive empire “which seems very likely to become one of the
greatest and most formidable that ever was in the world.” Nay, if the
union he suggested as an alternative to peaceful and friendly parting
were constituted, he predicted that in the course of little more than a
century the empire would draw more revenue from America than from the
mother country; and “the seat of the empire would then naturally remove
itself to that part of the empire which contributed most to the general
defence and support of the whole.” It was such a scheme as this that
Burke ridiculed when he pictured “a shipload of legislators” becalmed in

As a politician Smith was doubtless attracted by the prospect of
introducing a strong democratic and republican strain into parliament,
though he pretends to think that the balance of the constitution would
not be affected. He points out also that the constitution would be
completed by such a union, and was imperfect without it, for “the
assembly which deliberates and decides concerning the affairs of every
part of the empire, in order to be properly informed, ought certainly to
have representatives from every part of it.”[32] In the last chapter of
the _Wealth of Nations_ he describes the project as at worst “a new
Utopia, less amusing, certainly, but no more useless and chimerical than
the old one,” and shows how the British system of taxation might be
extended along with representation in parliament to the colonies in such
a way as to produce a great addition to the imperial revenue and a large
permanent surplus for the redemption of debt. In this way the debt could
be discharged in a comparatively short period, and as revenue would be
continually released, the most oppressive taxes could be gradually
reduced and remitted. By this prescription “the at present debilitated
and languishing vigour of the empire” might be completely restored.
Labourers would soon be enabled to live better, to work cheaper, and to
send their goods cheaper to market. Cheapness would increase demand, and
the increased demand for goods would mean an increased demand for the
labour of those who produced them. This again would tend both to raise
the numbers and improve the circumstances of the labouring poor. Lastly,
as the consuming power of the community grew, there would be a growth in
the revenue from all those articles of consumption which remained
subject to taxation.

The plan of an imperial parliament and imperial taxation could not be
realised. Smith himself saw that the economic and constitutional
objections were great, though “not unsurmountable.” Upon one point,
however, he was clear. If it were impracticable to extend the area of
taxation, recourse must be had to a reduction of expenditure; and the
most proper means of retrenchment would be to put a stop to all military
outlay in and on the colonies. If no revenue could be drawn from the
colonies, the peace establishments “ought certainly to be saved
altogether.” Yet the peace establishments were insignificant compared
with what wars for the defence of the colonies had cost. But for
colonial wars the national debt would have been paid off. It was urged
that the colonies were provinces of the British Empire:—

  “But countries which contribute neither revenue nor military force
  towards the support of the empire, cannot be considered as provinces.
  They may perhaps be considered as appendages, as a sort of splendid
  and showy equipage of the empire. But if the empire can no longer
  support the expence of keeping up this equipage, it ought certainly to
  lay it down; and if it cannot raise its revenue in proportion to its
  expence, it ought, at least, to accommodate its expence to its
  revenue. If the colonies, notwithstanding their refusal to submit to
  British taxes, are still to be considered as provinces of the British
  Empire, their defence in some future war may cost Great Britain as
  great an expence as it ever has done in any former war. The rulers of
  Great Britain have, for more than a century past, amused the people
  with the imagination that they possessed a great empire on the west
  side of the Atlantic. This empire, however, has hitherto existed in
  imagination only. It has hitherto been, not an empire, but the project
  of an empire; not a gold mine, but the project of a gold mine; a
  project which has cost, which continues to cost, and which, if pursued
  in the same way as it has been hitherto, is likely to cost, immense
  expence, without being likely to bring any profit: for the effects of
  the monopoly of the colony trade, it has been shewn, are, to the great
  body of the people, mere loss instead of profit. It is surely now time
  that our rulers should either realise this golden dream, in which they
  have been indulging themselves, perhaps, as well as the people; or
  that they should awake from it themselves, and endeavour to awaken the
  people. If the project cannot be completed, it ought to be given up.
  If any of the provinces of the British Empire cannot be made to
  contribute towards the support of the whole empire, it is surely time
  that Great Britain should free herself from the expence of defending
  those provinces in time of war, and of supporting any part of their
  civil or military establishments in time of peace, and endeavour to
  accommodate her future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her

With these ever-memorable and resounding words he ends the great
_Inquiry_, not vaguely admonishing some shadowy cosmopolis of economic
men, but straightly beckoning his own countrymen and their rulers off
the broad way of wantonness and mischief to the harder paths of an
inglorious but fruitful economy.

The reader of this little volume will not expect or desire an excursus
upon the multitudinous treatises, critical and apologetical, that have
sprung out of the _Wealth of Nations_. The vitality of the book may be
measured by the numbers of its detractors and defenders. Among the
former the modern historical school of Germany claims notice; for has
not its distinguished and erudite leader, Professor Schmoller, placed
Adam Smith somewhere below Galiani, Necker, Hoffmann, Thünen, and

Perhaps the reason why economists of the modern historical school so
often fail as valuers of men and books, is that they are enjoined by the
very laws of their existence to be “learned”; and “learning” requires
that obscure and deservedly forgotten writers should be rediscovered and
magnified at the expense of surviving greatness. Too many modern critics
of “Smithianismus,” instead of attending to the author’s own works and
so penetrating his philosophy, seek him elsewhere, rummage in the
literature of the period, overhaul every book, good, bad, or
indifferent, characterise it in the text, and place its title-page and
date in a footnote. Such labour, however useful to others, is apt to
destroy the perspective and warp the judgment.

A man who snares facts is of all men the most likely to be caught in a
theoretical trap. Here is an example. In 1759 Adam Smith wrote a book on
_moral_ sentiments which he founded on the natural instinct of sympathy.
In 1776 he wrote a book on _economic_ sentiments, which he derived from
self-love or the desire of man to improve his position. Upon these facts
the following theory is built up by the historical school of Germany:—

  “Smith was an Idealist as long as he lived in England under the
  influence of Hutcheson and Hume. After living in France for three
  years, and coming into close touch with the materialism that prevailed
  there, he returned a Materialist. This is the simple explanation of
  the contrast between his _Theory_ (1759), written before his journey
  to France, and his _Wealth of Nations_ (1776), composed after his

Most of this nonsense has been blown to the four winds by Mr. Cannan’s
publication of the _Lectures_ delivered at Glasgow before Adam Smith
went to France; but a vast quantity of similar rubbish is embedded in
the economic literature of the last thirty or forty years, and a
difficulty which learned investigators have invented and solved has been
dignified in Germany by the name of “Das Adam Smith Problem.”

The truth, as Smith conceived it, is that men are actuated at different
times by different motives, benevolent, selfish, or mixed. The moral
criterion of an action is: will it help society, will it benefit others,
will it be approved by the Impartial Spectator? The economic criterion
of an action is: will it benefit me, will it be profitable, will it
increase my income? Smith built his theory of industrial and commercial
life upon the assumption that wage-earners and profit-makers are
generally actuated by the desire to get as high wages and profits as
possible. If this is not the general and predominant motive in one great
sphere of activity, the production and distribution of wealth, the
_Wealth of Nations_ is a vain feat of the imagination, and political
economy is not a dismal science but a dismal fiction. But there is
nothing whatever either to excite surprise or to suggest inconsistency
in the circumstance that a philosopher, who (to adopt the modern jargon
of philosophy) distinguished between self-regarding and other-regarding
emotions, should have formed the first group into a system of economics
and the second into a system of ethics.

If this comes of learning, an even more extravagant charge has been
preferred by an emotional school. A heated imagination, certainly not
encumbered with facts, and informed only that Adam Smith was the founder
of an odious science, denounced him as “the half-bred and half-witted
Scotchman” who taught “the deliberate blasphemy”—“Thou shalt hate the
Lord thy God, damn His Laws, and covet thy neighbour’s goods.” The same
authority declares that he “formally, in the name of the philosophers of
Scotland, set up this opposite God, on the hill of cursing against
blessing, Ebal against Gerizim”—a God who “allows usury, delights in
strife and contention, and is very particular about everybody’s going to
his synagogue on Sunday.”[34] These three characteristics of Adam
Smith’s deity were unfortunately chosen; for, as it happens, he disliked
usury so much that he defended the laws which had vainly sought to
prevent high rates of interest; disapproved vehemently of war, which he
regarded as one of the deadliest enemies of human progress, and
protested against the idea that a perfect Deity could possibly desire
His creatures to abase themselves before Him. It is sad to think that to
get his gold the Ruskinian must pass so much sand through his mind. The
_Fors Clavigera_, with all its passionate intensity and high-strung
emotion, is a standing warning to preachers not to abuse their masters,
and to learn a subject before they teach it. Let those who climb so
recklessly on Ebal deliver their curses from a safer foothold.

Perhaps what most impresses one in reading the _Wealth of Nations_ is
its pre-vision. The author seems to have been able to project himself
into the centuries. He saw the blades of wheat as well as the tares that
were springing up; and it would be hard to mention a single one of his
forecasts and Utopias that has not been realised in some degree, or at
least taken shape as a political project during the last century. He
was, of course, above all, the precursor of Cobden and of the
philosophic Radicals, who drew from him not only their economics, but
their foreign and colonial policy. It is perhaps remarkable, after so
fair a beginning had been made in his own lifetime, that the triumph of
his doctrines was so long delayed. But most of what Shelburne, Pitt, and
Eden did for commercial emancipation in the eighties was swept away by
the French war. And when Napoleon fell, England was so weak, tyranny and
superstition were so ground into the principles of her governing
classes, that she seemed to be, in Milton’s phrase, beyond the manhood
of a Roman recovery. For many years Smith’s disciples, and even the
indefatigable Bentham, laboured almost in vain. Parliament was ignorant
and bigoted. Until a great agitator arose, very little could be done;
and the great agitator did not arrive quite soon enough to fulfil
Pulteney’s prediction that Smith would convert his own generation and
rule the next.

In the early years of the nineteenth century the practical influence of
Smith’s teaching was felt principally in France and Germany. In France,
as we have seen, Count Mollien was a professed disciple of the new
economy. “It was then,” he said, in reviewing the events of his youth,
“that I read an English book which the disciples M. Turgot had left
eulogised in the highest terms—the work of Adam Smith. I had especially
remarked how warmly the venerable and judicious Malesherbes used to
speak of it—this book so disparaged by all the men of the old routine.”
It is perhaps the most dazzling of all Smith’s posthumous triumphs, that
he, through Mollien, should have been the philosophic guide of
Napoleonic finance.

But his conquest of Germany was equally startling and momentous. The
movement in that country can be directly traced to the university of
Königsberg, where Kraus began to lecture on the _Wealth of Nations_ in
1781. He soon gained the ears of the official class. In East Prussia,
vexatious dues and taxes, with a multitude of feudal embarrassments,
were removed from internal commerce, and in spite of much opposition
Smith’s principles spread all over Germany. By the close of the
Napoleonic war the officials as well as the professional economists were
converts to the new ideas. Stein and Hardenberg, two truly great
reformers, led the way. Year by year commercial restrictions were
removed, and though jealousy of Prussia stood in the way of complete
commercial union, the North German Zollverein constituted a great
advance. It removed the barriers between Prussia and the adjoining
States, and reduced external duties to such an extent that in 1827
Huskisson cited the example set by Germany to prove the wisdom of
abandoning a restrictive policy. Even Friedrich List, who sought for
political reasons to build up a counter theory of protection for infant
industries, asserted that free trade was the right policy for England
and for every adult nation. List, who often wrote with a bitterness and
malice that only readers of his unhappy life can excuse, admitted in his
principal work “the great services of Adam Smith”:—

  “He was the first to introduce successfully into political economy the
  analytical method. By means of this method and of an unusual sharpness
  of intellectual vision he illuminated the most important branches of a
  science, which before his time had lain in almost utter darkness.
  Before Adam Smith there was only a policy (Praxis); his labours first
  made it possible to build up a science of political economy; and for
  that achievement he has given the world a greater mass of materials
  than all his predecessors and successors.”

Mill’s _Political Economy_ is the only English treatise that can be
compared with the _Wealth of Nations_. Indeed in his preface Mill
challenges the comparison, but adds that “political economy, properly
so-called, has grown up almost from infancy since the time of Adam
Smith.” He finds the _Wealth of Nations_ “in many parts obsolete, and in
all imperfect,” and though he speaks generously enough of Adam Smith’s
“admirable success in reference to the philosophy of the [eighteenth]
century,” it is plain from this preface and from the autobiography that
the later economist felt he could look down upon the earlier from the
serene temples of increased knowledge and better social ideas. Mill’s
confidence was not only justified for the time being by unqualified
success in the sense that his own book at once became, and remained for
a generation, the principal text-book of English students, it was also
based upon what appear at first sight to be enormous advantages. A more
logical and systematic arrangement is adopted. Errors are corrected;
digressions are few; and in order to attain scientific exactitude,
historical illustrations from the conditions and experience of nations
are replaced by more precise instances of imaginary societies labelled
A, B, C. Technical terms and definitions make it easy for the student to
move lightly about in an artificial atmosphere.

But in this realm of political economy, is it not well to keep a foot,
or at least an eye, on the ground? In Mill’s treatise there is a danger
of mistaking words for things. It is never so in Smith’s inquiry. He
gave twenty years to a task for which Mill could hardly spare as many
months. With a gift for exposition, certainly not inferior, he had what
Mill had not, a love of the concrete, a faculty for the picturesque, and
withal a nervous force and vigour in argument quite peculiar to himself.
It has been said that Smith hunted his subject with the inveteracy of a
sportsman. With a wonderful knowledge of history, law, philosophy, and
letters, he combined an intuitive insight into the motives of men and
the unseen mechanism of society. At the same time, by restricting his
horizon to wealth and its phenomena, he was able to see how men always
had acted and always would act under certain circumstances, and by what
rules public finance should be governed. This is the secret of his
success in making political economy queen of the useful arts, and in
raising her alone among political studies to the dignity of a science.
“I think,” said Robert Lowe, “that Adam Smith is entitled to the merit,
and the unique merit, among all men who ever lived in the world, of
having founded a deductive and demonstrative science of human actions
and conduct.” True, he is not a systematic writer. He does not shine, as
so many inferior geniuses have shone, in the art of comparing,
correlating, and harmonising the great truths which it is his glory to
have discovered and illustrated. He puts us, as Lowe remarked with his
usual felicity, in mind of the Sages of Ancient Greece, who, after lives
of labour and study, bequeathed half a dozen maxims for the guidance of

                               CHAPTER X
                               FREE TRADE

One of the least edifying features of modern controversy, and
particularly of political and economic controversy, is the habit of
appealing to precedents and authorities which, if honestly cited, would
militate against the opinions of the controversialist. No great writer
has suffered more of late years from this species of misrepresentation
than Adam Smith; yet his contemporaries and immediate successors both in
England and abroad perfectly understood his drift. When Pitt and
Shelburne declared themselves disciples of Smith, they thereby declared
themselves free traders, and Pitt’s commercial policy from 1784 to 1794
was simply an attempt to carry out Smith’s views. Resolute retrenchment,
customs’ reform, the commercial treaty with France, reduction of debt,
were all projected under the inspiration and countenance of Mr.
Commissioner Smith.

Nor did the English economists, from Ricardo to Mill, ever suggest that
Adam Smith had doubts about the main doctrine of his book. In France and
Germany his opinions were eagerly embraced. To translate, interpret, and
systematise the _Wealth of Nations_ was the main function of continental
economists in the early years of the nineteenth century; and its
influence was seen in a rapid and radical modification of commercial
policy. Internal barriers were swept away, feudal restrictions
abolished, and tariffs reduced. When the waves of reaction—political
rather than economic—began to roll in, and “national” economists tried
to reconstruct the case for protection, they paid Smith the compliment
of a violent onslaught. “Smithianismus” then became a term of abuse in
protectionist circles, and so remained until it was superseded by the
equally cacophonous “Manchesterthum.” It was in England that the idea
was started of dressing up Adam Smith as a protectionist. While List was
inveighing against “cosmopolitical economy,” our own free traders in
their agitation against the corn laws found themselves confronted with a
new interpretation of their prophet. At one of the League meetings (July
3, 1844) Cobden gave a humorous description of the way in which some
protectionist pamphleteers tried to adapt Adam Smith’s opinions to their
own views. “They have done it in this manner: they took a passage, and
with the scissors snipped and cut away at it, until by paring off the
ends of sentences and leaving out all the rest of the passage, they
managed to make Adam Smith appear in some sense as a monopolist. When we
referred to the volume itself, we found out their tricks, and exposed
them. I tell you what their argument reminds me of. An anecdote is told
of an atheist who once asserted that there was no God, and said he would
prove it from Scripture. He selected that passage from the Psalms which
says, ‘The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.’ He then cut out
the whole passage, except the words, ‘there is no God,’ and brought it
forward as proof of his statement.”

If these false notions about Adam Smith’s economic opinions had died
with the pamphlets of obscure protectionists sixty years ago, no more
need have been said. But as they have been revived again and again in
England, Germany, and the United States, and solemnly adopted with all
the plausibility of seemingly circumstantial moderation by persons of
European repute, we shall examine the passages in the original, in order
to settle the question whether Smith can be made to serve as “the
spiritual father” of a commercial policy not essentially different from
the one his criticism destroyed.

By a policy of free trade, which Adam Smith said was the best means a
statesman could adopt of promoting national wealth and commerce, he
meant a policy that would relieve commerce and industry from all
internal dues and all external duties or prohibitions. Anything that
would bring other nations into line commanded his warm sympathy and
support. But what he desired as a patriot was a policy of free imports
irrespective of what other countries might do. The object of a national,
as of an individual policy in trade, should be to buy in the cheapest
and sell in the dearest market.[35] This will appear at once from the
so-called exceptions or limitations by which Smith is supposed to have
watered down what Cobden’s biographer has called “the pure milk of the
Cobdenic word.”

The Act of Navigation is the first of “the two cases in which it will
generally be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign for the
encouragement of domestic industry.”[36] But by “advantageous” Smith
does not mean “likely to enrich.” It is a measure of defence, and is
unfavourable to trade.

“The defence of Great Britain,” he says, “depends very much upon the
number of its sailors and shipping. The Act of Navigation, therefore,
very properly endeavours to give the sailors and shipping of Great
Britain the monopoly of the trade of their own country.” The Act is
justified as a pure measure of defence, though it aims at monopoly, and
offends against the principles of free trade. Lest, however, there
should be any doubt upon the point, he goes on to make it quite clear
that, while he praises the Act, as he might praise the building of a
man-of-war, he condemns it as an economic measure. In the passage
immediately following there are two sentences which exactly give the
point of view, and should help to dissipate the false impression
(accepted and circulated by authorities like Hasbach, who ought to know
better) that Smith’s doctrines are very different from Cobden’s:—

  “The Act of Navigation is not favourable to foreign commerce, or to
  the growth of that opulence which can arise from it.... As defence,
  however, is of much more importance than opulence, the Act of
  Navigation is, perhaps, the wisest of all the commercial regulations
  of England.”

How completely the Navigation Act failed as a commercial measure appears
from a number of passages in the _Wealth of Nations_ which together
completely refute the fallacy, so generally adopted by English
historians, that it ruined the Dutch, enriched England, and gave her a
commercial and naval supremacy which she could not otherwise have
achieved. Holland, he says, is richer than England; she gained the whole
carrying trade of France during the late war; she still remains “the
great emporium of European goods,” and so forth. All that Smith claims
for the Act is that it helped to secure the country a sufficient supply
of seamen for the navy in time of war.

Further, as there are two cases (the necessity of defence and the
propriety of countervailing an excise duty) “in which it will
_generally_ be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign for the
encouragement of domestic industry, so,” continues Smith, “there are two
others in which it may _sometimes_ be a matter of deliberation”: in the
one, how far it is proper to continue the free importation of goods from
a particular foreign country; in the other, how, and how far, free
importation, after it has been interrupted for some time, should be
restored. The first case of doubt is that of doing evil by retaliation
in order that good, in the shape of freer trade, may come. Occasionally,
he writes, it may be wise to retaliate, “when some nation restrains by
high duties or prohibitions” the importations of our manufactures. After
giving some examples of commercial retaliation, one of which ended in
war, Adam Smith lays down the cautious rule that there may be good
policy in retaliations of this kind, but only where there is a
probability that retaliatory duties will procure the repeal of the high
duties or prohibitions complained of. “The recovery of a great foreign
market will generally more than compensate the transitory inconvenience
of paying dearer during a short time for some sorts of things.” He leans
strongly against the policy, partly because he is unwilling to trust
“that insidious and crafty animal vulgarly called a statesman” to use
such a weapon wisely; partly because you rarely benefit the sufferers
and always injure other classes of your own citizens, than those whom
you are trying to assist.

The second case of doubt was merely one of expediency—whether free trade
should be introduced quickly or slowly. “In what manner the natural
system of perfect liberty and justice ought gradually to be restored”
Smith left to the wisdom of future statesmen and legislators to
determine. But he maintained that the evils attending the remedy were
usually exaggerated, and this view proved to be correct when Sir Robert
Peel and Mr. Gladstone effected the transformation by five mighty
strokes of the fiscal axe.

We have now examined all the passages which could give colour to the
impression that Smith was only a free trader—on conditions. That part of
the task is easy enough. The difficulty begins when we seek positive
arguments against protective or differential taxation. The woodman of
Mount Ida was not more embarrassed in choosing a tree to fell. The
_Wealth of Nations_ is a forest of full-grown arguments for free trade.
The more one reads it, the more irresistibly is one driven to the
conclusion that the science of political economy, as established in this
masterpiece, is inextricably bound up with the doctrine of free trade.
Every assumption and conclusion, his criticisms of previous and existing
theories, laws, customs, and opinions, his surveys of the commercial and
colonial policy of Europe, all bear us directly or indirectly to the
same goal. Yet there is one principle which seems to take precedence in
the argument. In the division of labour, Smith found a key to the growth
of wealth and to the enlargement of the material comforts that are
necessary to the progress of refinement and civilisation. The division
of labour is therefore his starting-point, and instead of leaving it
where Plato and Aristotle let it rest—a barren formula of economic
society—he sets it vigorously in motion, and converts it, as it were,
from a slumbering lake into a vast reservoir that irrigates and
fertilises the whole plain of inquiry. And had he been confined to one
argument for free trade, this is probably the one he would have adopted.

If we were asked to select that passage in the _Wealth of Nations_ which
gives most succinctly the broad objections to a protective policy, we
should turn to the second chapter of the fourth book, “Of restraints
upon the importation from foreign countries of such goods as can be
produced at home.” He begins by admitting that high duties or
prohibitions can secure to home producers a monopoly of the home market.
At that time British graziers enjoyed the monopoly of providing the home
market with butcher-meat. The manufacturers of wool and silk were
equally favoured, and the duties on foreign linen, for which Hume had
pleaded in one of his commercial essays, had lately been raised.

Smith thereupon asks whether these protective measures, by giving an
artificial direction to industry, are likely to be of general benefit to
society. The first answer is that in business every man seeks his own
advantage, that every man knows his own business best, and that “the
study of his own advantage naturally, or rather necessarily, leads him
to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to society.” Though
intending only his own gain, he is “led by an invisible hand to promote
an end which was no part of his intention.” Indeed the selfish
trader—the economic man, if you like—promotes the interest of society
far more effectually than those who affect to trade for the public good.
Is it not evident that the individual himself, though he may make
mistakes, can judge best how and where to employ his own labour or
capital? The statesman or lawgiver who attempted to direct private
people how to manage their business and spend their money would not only
be overloaded with work, but would be assuming an authority “which could
safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or
senate whatever.” From this consideration we pass almost insensibly into
the argument from the division of labour.

  “It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family never to attempt
  to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. The
  taylor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of the
  shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes, but
  employs a taylor. The farmer attempts to make neither the one nor the
  other, but employs those different artificers. All of them find it for
  their interest to employ their whole industry in a way in which they
  have some advantage over their neighbours, and to purchase with a part
  of its produce, or what is the same thing, with the price of a part of
  it, whatever else they have occasion for.

  “What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce
  be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply
  us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy
  it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed
  in a way in which we have some advantage.”

Capital and industry are certainly not employed to the greatest
advantage when they are directed to objects which under natural
conditions could be bought cheaper than they could be made. It is true,
he adds, anticipating the infant industry argument of Alexander
Hamilton, List, and Mill, that “by means of such regulations a
particular manufacture may sometimes be acquired sooner than it could
have been otherwise, and after a certain time may be made at home as
cheap or cheaper than in the foreign country.” But _cui bono_? Even in
this case “it will by no means follow that the sum total either of its
industry or of its revenue can ever be augmented by any such
regulation.” One immediate effect of such regulations must be to
diminish the revenue of the society, “and what diminishes its revenue is
certainly not very likely to augment its capital faster than it would
have augmented of its own accord had both capital and industry been left
to find out their natural employments.”

But though reason led him by every road to a complete system of liberty
as the true end of commercial policy, he despaired of its adoption. “To
expect indeed that freedom of trade should ever be entirely restored in
Great Britain, is as absurd as to expect that an Oceana or Utopia should
ever be established in it.” Even if public prejudice were overcome, the
resistance of private interests would be unconquerable. The landlords
indeed had not yet acquired a strong interest in protection. At that
time the home supply of wheat and oats in ordinary years was sufficient,
or nearly so, for the requirements of the population, and prices were
much about the same in England as in other European countries. The
moving spirits of protection were master manufacturers, who, “like an
overgrown standing army,” had begun to intimidate the legislature.

  “The member of parliament who supports every proposal for
  strengthening this monopoly, is sure to acquire not only the
  reputation of understanding trade, but great popularity and influence
  with an order of men whose numbers and wealth render them of great
  importance. If he opposes them, on the contrary, and still more, if he
  has authority enough to be able to thwart them, neither the most
  acknowledged probity, nor the highest rank, nor the greatest public
  services, can protect him from the most infamous abuse and detraction,
  from personal insults, nor sometimes from real danger, arising from
  the insolent outrage of furious and disappointed monopolists.”

Under these circumstances it is very surprising that Adam Smith should
have chosen to submit the corn laws to so long and destructive an
analysis. He seems to have foreseen that the great battle for which he
was sounding the advance would ultimately rage round a question then
almost academic, and that cheap food would be the keystone of the free
trade argument.

After several years’ experience as a customs official, Adam Smith took
the opportunity in his third edition (1784) of considerably enlarging
the _Wealth of Nations_; and, among other important additions, he
inserted at the end of Book IV. a new chapter, entitled “Conclusion of
the Mercantile System.” It is a deeply instructive recital of the
extremities of absurdity into which the British legislature had suffered
itself to be led blindfold by a false theory and powerful interests. The
encouragement of exportation, and the discouragement of importation,
were the two great engines by which the mercantile system proposed to
enrich every country; but with regard to some particular commodities, it
followed an opposite plan: discouraging exports, and encouraging
imports. Thus it penalised or prohibited the exportation of machinery,
wool, and coal; nor was the living instrument, the artificer, allowed to
go free. Two statutes had been passed in the reigns of George I. and II.
to prevent any British artificer going abroad under penalty of being
declared an alien, and forfeiting all his goods and chattels. “It is
unnecessary, I imagine, to observe how contrary such regulations are to
the boasted liberty of the subject, of which we affect to be so very
jealous; but which, in this case, is so plainly sacrificed to the futile
interests of our merchants and manufacturers.” Smith is very sarcastic
about regulations whose “laudable motive” was to extend British
manufactures, not by improving them, but by depressing those of our
neighbours, and by putting an end as much as possible to the troublesome
competition of such odious rivals. He then lays down a maxim “so
perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to attempt to prove

  “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the
  interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it
  may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”

This golden rule was everywhere violated by the mercantile system, which
seemed to consider production the ultimate object of all industry. But
the worst of all its inventions was the colonial monopoly. “In the
system of laws which has been established for the management of our
American and West Indian colonies, the interest of the home consumer has
been sacrificed to that of the producer with a more extravagant
profusion than in all our other commercial regulations.” If there was
anything more odious to Adam Smith than a protective duty, it was the
discriminating or preferential duty which had been invented for the
purpose of tying up the trade between Great Britain and her colonies.
Both his “Utopias” were projected for the express purpose of putting an
end to a colonial system which he regarded as a dead weight upon both
the mother country and her dependencies.

The theory that Smith grew more protectionist as he grew older might be
dismissed now that we have considered the lectures, and compared the
first and third editions of the finished work. But it is possible that a
very desperate casuist might still find one more plea to urge. He might
say: granted that Smith remained to the last a theoretical free trader,
yet he frankly admitted it to be a Utopian project, and he would not, as
a responsible official, have advised its adoption. Did he not accept a
Crown appointment under Lord North’s protectionist administration, and
did he not spend the last years of his life as a principal instrument in
collecting the proceeds of a highly protectionist tariff? Nay, further,
did he not take a carnal satisfaction in the leaps and bounds by which
the revenue under his charge was at that time advancing? In December
1785 he wrote to William Eden:—

  “It may perhaps give that gentleman [Mr. Rose of the Treasury]
  pleasure to be informed that the net revenue arising from the customs
  in Scotland is at least four times greater than it was seven or eight
  years ago. It has been increasing rapidly these four or five years
  past, and the revenue of this year has over-leaped by at least one
  half the revenue of the greatest former year. I flatter myself it is
  likely to increase still further.”

Whatever force the _argumentum ad officium_ might have in a country (if
such there be) where customs officials are sworn supporters of the
commercial policy of the Government, it has none in reference to Great
Britain, and less than none if regard be had to the circumstances of
Smith’s appointment. There is no reason for supposing that Lord North
had any particular liking for protection, though as the instrument of
the king’s war policy he had an insatiable craving for revenue, and in
pursuit thereof adopted, as we shall see, several taxes of a
non-protective character suggested by Smith in the first edition of his
treatise. Further, when the above letter was written Pitt was already,
under the inspiration of this very customs official, initiating a free
trade policy, and was actually preparing the great commercial treaty
with France which he was to carry into effect a few months later. A
patriotic Scotsman might well delight in his country’s rapid recovery
from the disastrous effects of the war, and the author of Pitt’s policy
would naturally anticipate an increase of prosperity with an expansion
of imports and a growth of the revenues under his charge.

Moreover, there is happily extant a relic of the correspondence which
Smith carried on as financial adviser to ministers. In the year 1778
Ireland was in a terrible plight. In addition to all the evils of a
minority rule, she suffered as a whole from a commercial persecution by
the predominant partner. Her trade had been deliberately and
malevolently throttled by the superior legislature of Great Britain. At
that time Irish wool could be exported to no country save Great Britain.
Irish woollens could only be exported from specified ports in Ireland to
specified ports in Great Britain. All export of Irish glass was
absolutely prohibited. Worst of all, she was not allowed to send her
staple article—cattle—or even salt provisions to the English market. And
she was excluded from the colonial trade.

Even so cool a political hand as Henry Dundas (then Lord Advocate),
writing to Smith at the end of October 1779, confessed that he has been
shocked at the tone and temper of the House of Commons in its dealings
with Ireland’s prayers for elementary justice. But the Irish Parliament
was now demanding free trade in tones too peremptory to be ignored, for
they were backed by a threatening display of armed force. Dundas saw
little objection to acceding to some of the requisitions; but he had no
very clear grasp of the economics of the situation, and being in
correspondence with Eden, the Secretary of the Board of Trade, he wanted
an expert opinion from the Seer of Edinburgh. Smith replies that the
Irish demand should be satisfied, first, because it is just; second,
because it will be for the benefit of English consumers; and lastly,
because English manufacturers will suffer so much less than the nation,
and the national revenue, will gain. Dundas had seemed to be rather
afraid that with cheaper labour and lower taxes the Irish manufacturers
might be able to undersell their British competitors. Smith pointed out
that they had neither the skill nor the stock [capital] to enable them
to do so; “and though both may be acquired in time, to acquire them
completely will require more than a century.” Besides, Ireland had
neither coal nor wood; “and though her soil and climate are perfectly
suited for raising the latter, yet to raise it to the same degree as in
England will require more than a century.”

Before he can say precisely what the Irish Parliament means by a free
trade, he must see the heads of the proposed bill. If it is only freedom
to export, nothing could be more just and reasonable. If it is freedom
to import, subject only to their own customs’ duties, that again is
perfectly reasonable, though it would “interfere a little with some of
our paltry monopolies.” If they wish to be allowed to trade freely with
the American and African plantations, that also should be conceded. It
would interfere with some monopolies, but would do no harm to Great
Britain. Lastly, they might mean to demand a free trade with Great
Britain. “Nothing, in my opinion, would be more highly advantageous to
both countries than this mutual freedom of trade. It would help to break
down that absurd monopoly which we have most absurdly established
against ourselves in favour of almost all the different classes of our
own manufacturers.” Dundas had hinted that the two Parliaments might be
reconciled by a proper distribution of loaves and fishes. Smith did not
shrink at all from promoting a good policy by what was then the ordinary
method of promoting a bad policy:—

  “Whatever the Irish mean to demand in this way, in the present
  situation of our affairs I should think it madness not to grant it.
  Whatever they may demand, our manufacturers, unless the leading and
  principal men among them are properly dealt with beforehand, will
  probably oppose it. That they may be so dealt with I know from
  experience, and that it may be done at little expense and with no
  great trouble. I could even point to some persons who, I think, are
  fit and likely to deal with them successfully for this purpose. I
  shall not say more upon this till I see you, which I shall do the
  first moment I can get out of this Town.”

A week later Smith repeated his argument with some additions and
modifications in a letter of November 8th to Lord Carlisle, who then
presided over the Board of Trade. He maintains that “a very slender
interest of our own manufacturers is the foundation of all these unjust
and oppressive restraints,” and ridicules “the watchful jealousy of the
monopolists, alarmed lest the Irish, who have never been able to supply
completely even their own market with glass or woollen manufactures,
should be able to rival them in foreign markets.”

When he passes from commercial considerations to the larger aspects of
freedom and good government, his wisdom is no less manifest. What
Ireland most wants, he writes, are order, police, and a regular
administration of justice, both to protect and to restrain the inferior
ranks of people: “articles more essential to the progress of industry
than both coal and wood put together, and which Ireland must continue to
want as long as it continues to be divided between two hostile nations,
the oppressors and the oppressed, the Protestants and the Papists.” He
then points out that what the monopolists dread (the prosperity of
another country) is not an evil but a good:—“Should the industry of
Ireland, in consequence of freedom and good government, ever equal that
of England, so much the better would it be not only for the whole
British Empire, but for the particular province of England. As the
wealth and industry of Lancashire does not obstruct but promote that of
Yorkshire, so the wealth and industry of Ireland would not obstruct but
promote that of England.” For exactly the same reasons he wanted free
trade with France, and with the whole world. If it is good for one man
to trade freely with another, for a town with a town, and for a county
with a county, how can it be otherwise than good for countries to trade
freely together? An economist who strikes at the last proposition should
hail Smith’s humorous project of a tariff which would secure Scotland a
vintage as well as a harvest.

Much more might be said upon a subject that enters into the politics of
every State, and vitally affects the welfare of every struggling toiler
in the universe. But the purpose of this chapter will be fulfilled if it
restores to Adam Smith his identity as the protagonist in a great
contest, as the champion of the right to trade with all the world,
against those who stand for privileges, monopolies, and tariffs.
According to Bagehot, Smith’s name can no more be dissociated from free
trade than Homer’s from the siege of Troy. “So long as the doctrines of
protection exist—and they seem likely to do so, as human interests are
what they are, and human nature is what it is—Adam Smith will always be
quoted as the great authority on Anti-Protectionism, as the man who
first told the world the truth, so that the world could learn and
believe it.”

                               CHAPTER XI
                               LAST YEARS

After seeing the _Wealth of Nations_ through the press, Smith lingered a
few weeks in London. He was anxious to persuade Hume to come up and
consult the London physicians, but Hume shrank from the journey, and
implored his friend to return to Edinburgh. So about the middle of
April, Smith and John Home[37] took the coach for Edinburgh. But at
Morpeth, where the coach stopped, they saw Hume’s servant at the door of
the inn. Hume had changed his mind, and was on his way to see Sir John
Pringle. Home returned with Hume to London, but Smith, hearing that his
aged mother was ill, went on to Kirkcaldy. Before parting, however, the
two friends carefully discussed the question of what should be done with
Hume’s papers in the event of his death. From a desire to avoid
religious controversy and public clamour, Hume had kept by him
unpublished his _Dialogues on Natural Religion_; and he now tried to
persuade his friend and literary executor to edit them after his death.

But Smith resolutely declined the task. Although he had himself lectured
on Natural Religion, he had warily avoided the subject in his own
publications. Moreover, he was now hoping to be appointed to an office
under the Crown, and such a publication would certainly be prejudicial.
Hume argued that these objections were groundless: “Was Mallet anywise
hurt by his publication of Lord Bolingbroke? He received an office
afterwards from the present king, and Lord Bute, the most prudent man in
the world, and he always justified himself by his sacred regard to the
will of a dead friend.” And he reminded Smith of a saying of
Rochefoucauld, that “a wind, though it extinguishes a candle, blows up a
fire.” So he wrote from London at the beginning of May. However, he
agreed to leave the question of publication entirely to Smith’s
discretion. “By the little company I have seen,” he added, “I find the
town very full of your book, which meets with general approbation.” Soon
afterwards Hume changed his mind, and made Strahan his literary
executor, with instructions to publish the _Dialogues_ within two and a
half years.

In July the two friends were again in Edinburgh, conversing together.
Smith was deeply impressed by the philosophic courage, and even gaiety,
with which the great sceptic faced the approach of death. In the
well-known letter to Strahan,[38] that is always printed with Hume’s
autobiography, he mentions among other touching incidents that a certain
Colonel Edmondstone paid a farewell visit to Hume, but afterwards could
not forbear writing a last letter “applying to him as to a dying man the
beautiful French verses in which the Abbé Chaulieu, in expectation of
his own death, laments his approaching separation from his friend the
Marquis de la Fare.” “Mr. Hume’s magnanimity and firmness were such,”
continued Smith, “that his most affectionate friends knew that they
hazarded nothing in talking or writing to him as a dying man, and that,
far from being hurt by this frankness, he was rather pleased and
flattered with it.”

At the end of the first week of August, Hume had now become so very weak
that the company of his most intimate friends fatigued him:—

  “At his own desire, therefore, I agreed to leave Edinburgh, and
  returned to my mother’s house here at Kirkcaldy, upon condition that
  he would send for me whenever he wished to see me; the physician who
  saw him most frequently, Dr. Black, undertaking in the meantime to
  write me occasionally an account of the state of his health.”

The correspondence which followed marks the close of a deep, unbroken,
and memorable attachment. On August 15th Hume’s anxiety for the
_Dialogues_ revived: “On revising them (which I have not done these five
years) I find that nothing can be more cautiously and more artfully
written. You had certainly forgotten them. Will you permit me to leave
you the property of the copy, in case they should not be published in
five years after my decease? Be so good as write me an answer soon.” On
the 22nd Smith replied:—

  “I have this moment received yr. letter of the 15th inst. You had, in
  order to save me the sum of one penny sterling, sent it by the carrier
  instead of the Post, and (if you have not mistaken the date) it has
  lain at his quarters these eight days, and was, I presume, very likely
  to lie there for ever.”

Then, after reassuring Hume about the _Dialogues_, he continued:—

  “If you will give me leave I will add a few lines to yr. account of
  your own life, giving some account in my own name of your behaviour in
  this illness, if, contrary to my own hopes, it should prove your last.
  Some conversations we had lately together, particularly that
  concerning your want of an excuse to make to Charon, the excuse you at
  last thought of, and the very bad reception wh. Charon was likely to
  give it, would, I imagine, make no disagreeable part of the history.
  You have in a declining state of health, under an exhausting disease,
  for more than two years together now looked at the approach of death
  with a steady cheerfulness such as very few men have been able to
  maintain for a few hours, tho’ otherwise in the most perfect Health. I
  shall likewise, if you give me leave, correct the sheets of the new
  edition of your works, and shall take care that it shall be published
  exactly according to your last corrections. As I shall be at London
  this winter, it will cost me very little trouble.”

But “the cool and steady Dr. Black” still gave him some hopes of his
friend’s recovery. On the following day Hume dictated a brief answer to
this letter, explaining that he had only taken an extra precaution in
case anything might happen to Strahan. “You are too good,” he added, “in
thinking any trifles that concern me are so much worthy of your
attention, but I give you entire liberty to make what additions you
please to the account of my life.”

Two days afterwards Hume died, and was buried in Calton Cemetery. Smith
did not like the round tower erected under a provision of the will to
mark the grave—“it is the greatest piece of vanity I ever saw in my
friend Hume.” By the will a legacy of £200 and copies of all Hume’s
published works were left to him; but he stoutly refused to accept the
money, as he had ceased to be executor, although he had no thought of
relinquishing his promise to edit Hume’s life and works. “I have added,”
he wrote to Hume’s brother (Kirkcaldy, October 7th), “at the bottom of
my will the note discharging the legacy of £200 which your brother was
so kind as to leave me. Upon the most mature deliberation I am fully
satisfied that in justice it is not due to me. Tho’ it should be due to
me therefore in strict law, I cannot with honour accept of it.”

A month earlier he had written to Strahan from Dalkeith, where he was
staying with the Duke of Buccleuch, a careful explanation of Hume’s will
and last wishes. “Both from his will and from his conversation I
understand that there are only two [manuscripts] which he meant should
be published—an account of his life, and _Dialogues concerning Natural
Religion_. The latter, tho’ finely written, I could have wished had
remained in manuscript to be communicated only to a few friends. I
propose to add to his Life a very well authenticated account of his
behaviour during his last illness.”

Smith’s addition to Hume’s autobiography took the form of a letter to
Strahan giving an account of Hume’s last illness, concluding with the
words: “Upon the whole, I have always considered him both in his
lifetime and since his death as approaching as nearly to the idea of a
perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty
will permit.” This warm-hearted and eloquent, but surely extravagant
eulogy of the “virtuous heathen,” created precisely the kind of popular
clamour that Smith had been so anxious to avoid. Strahan liked the
addition exceedingly; but as this and the autobiography together were
too short to make even a tiny volume, he wrote back, good publisher that
he was:—

  “I have been advised by some very good judges to annex some of his
  letters to me on political subjects. What think you of this? I will do
  nothing without your advice and approbation, nor would I for the world
  publish any letter of his but such as in your opinion would do him
  honour. Mr. Gibbon thinks such as I have shown him would have that
  tendency. Now if you approve of this in any manner, you may perhaps
  add partly to the collection from your own cabinet and those of Mr.
  John Home, Dr. Robertson, and others of your mutual friends which you
  may pick up before you return hither. But if you wholly disapprove of
  this scheme, say nothing of it, here let it drop, for without your
  concurrence I will not publish a single word of it.”

A decisive reply came at once from Kirkcaldy. It gives a peremptory
judgment—quite against the drift of modern opinion—upon what will always
be a case for the casuist:—

  “I am sensible that many of Mr. Hume’s letters would do him great
  honour, and that you would publish none but such as would. But what in
  this case ought principally to be considered is the will of the Dead.
  Mr. Hume’s constant injunction was to burn all his Papers except the
  _Dialogues_ and the account of his own life. This injunction was even
  inserted in the body of his will. I know he always disliked the
  thought of his letters ever being published. He had been in long and
  intimate correspondence with a relation of his own who dyed a few
  years ago. When that gentleman’s health began to decline he was
  extremely anxious to get back his letters, least the heir should think
  of publishing them. They were accordingly returned, and burnt as soon
  as returned. If a collection of Mr. Hume’s letters besides was to
  receive the public approbation, as yours certainly would, the Curls of
  the times would immediately set about rummaging the cabinets of all
  those who had ever received a scrap of paper from him. Many things
  would be published not fit to see the light, to the great
  mortification of all those who wish well to his memory. Nothing has
  contributed so much to sink the value of Swift’s works as the
  undistinguished publication of his letters; and be assured that your
  publication, however select, would soon be followed by an
  undistinguished one. I should therefore be sorry to see any beginning
  given to the publication of his letters. His life will not make a
  volume, but it will make a small pamphlet.”

The nervous objection felt by Hume and Smith to the publication of
correspondence or of any manuscript not carefully considered by the
writer, and intended by him for publication, may be overstrained; but
perhaps this generation errs as much in its anxiety to penetrate the
privacy of the dead as they did in wishing to destroy everything that
was incomplete, or too easy, intimate, and negligent—as they thought—for
the eye of a critical posterity.

Fortune now played our provident philosopher one of her most insolent
tricks. When the dreaded _Dialogues_ appeared, they fell perfectly flat;
but the letter to Strahan excited, as Mr. Rae says, “a long
reverberation of angry criticism.” His words, few and simple, but warm
with the glow of friendship, “rang like a challenge to religion itself.”
Pamphlets poured forth, the cleverest of which, “A Letter to Adam Smith,
LL.D., on the Life, Death, and Philosophy of David Hume, Esquire, by one
of the People called Christians,” was still being printed and circulated
for edification by the Religious Tract Society in the thirtieth year of
the nineteenth century. Its anonymous author, Dr. George Horne,
President of Magdalen College, Oxford, proclaimed that no unbeliever
could be virtuous or charitable, and charged Smith as well as Hume with
the atrocious wickedness of diffusing atheism through the land. “You
would persuade us,” he cried, “by the example of David Hume, Esq., that
atheism is the only cordial for low spirits and the proper antidote
against the fear of death; but surely he who can reflect with
complacency on a friend thus employing his talents in this life, and
thus amusing himself with Lucian, whist, and Charon at his death, can
smile over Babylon in ruins, esteem the earthquakes which destroyed
Lisbon as agreeable occurrences, and congratulate the hardened Pharaoh
on his overthrow in the Red Sea.”

Smith made no answer to this attack, for which the author was afterwards
rewarded by a Bishopric. After Christmas, when his mother’s health
allowed him to leave her, he travelled to London, and early in January
1777 he had taken lodgings in Suffolk Street, near the British Coffee
House, and was busy preparing his second edition of the _Wealth of
Nations_, a reprint, with corrections and two additional pages. In March
he was at a dinner of the Literary Club with Gibbon, Garrick, Reynolds,
Johnson, Burke, and Fox. Mr. Rae thinks he remained most of the year in
London, and probably he had some intercourse with Lord North and other
members of the Government. At any rate Lord North, who had studied
Smith’s chapters on taxation to more purpose than his chapters on
expenditure and policy, borrowed two of his ideas in the Budget of
1777—for he laid taxes on men-servants and on property sold by
auction.[39] Smith was back in Edinburgh by the end of this year, and
there heard from Strahan that he had been appointed by Lord North one of
the Commissioners of the Customs in Scotland. In the middle of January
he writes from Kirkcaldy to Strahan, requesting him to send two copies
of the second edition of the _Wealth of Nations_, “handsomely bound and
gilt, one to Lord North, the other to Sir Gray Cooper,” and adds, “I
believe that I have been very highly obliged to him [Cooper] in this
business.”[40] The Commissionership was worth £600 a year, and Smith at
once proposed to relinquish his pension; but the Duke of Buccleuch would
not hear of it.

Early in 1778 Smith removed to Edinburgh. He was now in the enjoyment of
a certain income of £900 a year apart from the considerable sums which
he derived from the sale of his books. He took Panmure House in the
Canongate, not far from the deserted palace of Holyrood—a fashionable
quarter where some of the Scottish nobility, forsaken by King and Court,
still kept their town houses. Panmure House is now a dismantled store;
and it needs some imagination to realise how Windham, accustomed to
London palaces, should have called it “magnificent,” as he looked from
its newly painted windows and plastered walls “over the long strip of
terraced garden on to the soft green slopes of the Calton.”[41]

The rent was probably very nearly £20 a year. But Smith was one of the
richest men in Edinburgh, and felt, no doubt, that he could well afford
to take one of the best houses in the city. To share and crown his
happiness he brought his mother, his cousin Miss Douglas, and her
nephew, a schoolboy David Douglas (afterwards Lord Strathendry), whom he
made his heir. From Panmure House “Mr. Commissioner Smith” walked every
day to his official duties in Exchange Square, attired in a
light-coloured coat, white silk stockings, and a broad-brimmed hat,
holding a cane at his shoulder as a soldier carries a musket. He used to
turn his head gently from side to side as he walked, and swayed his body
“vermicularly,” as if at every other step he meant to alter his
direction or even to turn back.[42] His lips often moved, and he would
smile like one conversing with an invisible companion. He was not always
unaware of his surroundings, and was fond of relating how a market woman
in the High Street took him for a well-to-do lunatic. “Hech, sirs!” she
cried, “to let the like of him be about! And yet he’s weel enough put

His letters show that he was very regular in attending to his duties at
the Customs, which indeed were important in themselves, and not
unattractive to one who took so deep an interest in the art of revenue
and the growth of wealth. The duties of the Commissioners were
administrative and judicial. Sometimes they had to despatch soldiers to
guard part of the coast against smugglers, or to put down an illegal
still. They heard merchants’ appeals from assessments; they appointed
and controlled the local officers, and every year they prepared returns
of customs’ revenue and expenditure. There is good reason to think that
he found his work congenial, though Dugald Stewart, who always grows
morbid at the thought of any check to the output of philosophic
literature, laments that these duties, “though they required little
exertion of thought, were yet sufficient to waste his spirits and
dissipate his attention,” and that the time they consumed was not
employed in labours more profitable to the world and more equal to his
mind. During the first years of his residence in Edinburgh “his studies
seemed to be entirely suspended, and his passion for letters served only
to amuse his leisure and to animate his conversation.” This young mentor
often caught our misguided veteran wasting precious time in his library
with Sophocles or Euripides, and would be told that re-acquaintance with
the favourites of one’s youth is the most grateful and soothing
diversion of old age. Let us forgive, and more than forgive, the tired
economist, who disapproved that care, though wise in show,

  “That with superfluous burden loads the day,
  And, when God sends a cheerful hour, refrains.”

It is indeed to be wished that the notes on Jurisprudence could have
been worked up into an ample study after the manner of Montesquieu’s
_Spirit of the Laws_; but probably all that would have been gained by
retirement would have been the publication of his lectures on _belles
lettres_; and it is certain that some of the most instructive additions
to the _Wealth of Nations_ could never have been written, had Smith
declined the office of Commissioner.

At any rate, a problematical loss to the world was a great gain to
Edinburgh. Smith, though personally the most frugal, was also the most
hospitable, genial, and charitable of men. Hume’s death, indeed, left a
gap that could not be filled. But every city in Europe might still envy
Edinburgh her Republic of Letters. Robertson the historian, who formed
with Hume and Gibbon what Gibbon proudly called the Triumvirate, and
Adam Ferguson, a little jealous at this time of his greater rival, lived
outside the town. Black, too, who had taken Hume’s place as Smith’s
dearest living friend, had what was in those days a country house, now
the Royal Blind Asylum in Nicolson Street. Kames, Hailes, and Monboddo,
Sir John Dalrymple and Dugald Stewart, and many other minor celebrities,
lived close at hand. Smith seems to have kept something like open house.
His Sunday suppers were remembered long after his death, and many
distinguished visitors to Edinburgh enjoyed the hospitality of Panmure

He loved good conversation. In Glasgow and in London he had belonged to
several dining-clubs, and he now helped to found another. Swediaur, a
Parisian doctor, wrote from Edinburgh in 1784 to Jeremy Bentham: “we
have a club here which consists of nothing but philosophers.” They met
every Friday at two o’clock in a Grassmarket tavern, and the Frenchman
found it “a most enlightened, agreeable, cheerful, and social company.”
Smith, Black, and Hutton, the fathers of the three modern sciences of
political economy, modern chemistry, and modern geology, were the
illustrious founders of this society. All three, wrote another member,
Professor John Playfair, had enlarged views and wide information,
“without any of the stateliness which men of letters think it sometimes
necessary to affect; ... and as the sincerity of their friendship had
never been darkened by the least shade of envy, it would be hard to find
an example where everything favourable to good society was more
perfectly united, and everything adverse more entirely excluded.” Henry
Mackenzie, who wrote the _Man of Feeling_, and Dugald Stewart were also

The club was called the Oyster Club, though Hutton was an abstainer,
Black a vegetarian, and Smith’s only extravagant taste was for lump

“We shall never,” wrote Sir Walter Scott in some recollections of these
“old Northern Lights,” which appeared in an early number of the
_Quarterly Review_, “forget one particular evening when he [Smith] put
an elderly maiden lady who presided at the tea-table to sore confusion
by neglecting utterly her invitation to be seated, and walking round and
round the circle, stopping ever and anon to steal a lump from the sugar
basin, which the venerable spinster was at length constrained to place
on her own knee, as the only method of securing it from his uneconomical
depredations. His appearance mumping the eternal sugar was something
indescribable.” Sir Walter was a schoolfellow of young David Douglas;
and the incident no doubt took place in Panmure House, where Miss
Douglas would naturally preside at the tea-table.

Scott had a vivid recollection of Black and Hutton. The former used the
English pronunciation, and spoke with punctilious accuracy of
expression. He wore the formal full-dress habit then imposed on members
of the medical faculty. Dr. Hutton’s dress had the simplicity of a
Quaker’s, and he used a broad Scotch accent which often heightened his
humour. Sir Walter told an amusing anecdote which may, perhaps, explain
why the dining society, founded by the three philosophers, was called
the Oyster Club. It so chanced that Black and Hutton had held some
discourse together upon the folly of abstaining from feeding on the
crustaceous creatures of the land, when those of the sea were considered
as delicacies. Snails were known to be nutritious and wholesome, even
“sanative” in some cases. The epicures of ancient Rome enumerated the
snails of Lucca among the richest and rarest delicacies, and the modern
Italians still held them in esteem. So a gastronomic experiment was
resolved on. The snails were procured, dieted for a time, then stewed.

  “A huge dish of snails was placed before them; but philosophers are
  but men after all; and the stomachs of both doctors began to revolt
  against the proposed experiment. Nevertheless if they looked with
  disgust on the snails, they retained their awe for each other; so that
  each, conceiving the symptoms of internal revolt peculiar to himself,
  began with infinite exertion to swallow, in very small quantities, the
  mess which he loathed. Dr. Black at length ‘showed the white feather,’
  but in a very delicate manner, as if to sound the opinion of his
  messmate. ‘Doctor,’ he said in his precise and quiet style, ‘Doctor,
  do you not think that they taste a little—a very little green?’  ‘D——d
  green, d——d green indeed!—tak’ them awa’, tak’ them awa’!’ vociferated
  Dr. Hutton, starting up from table and giving full vent to his

One of Smith’s younger friends was John Sinclair, a Scotch laird of much
ability and immense industry, whose _History of the Public Revenue_ is
still a standard work. It owed much to the _Wealth of Nations_; for when
Smith saw how competent Sinclair was, he helped him in every possible
way. In 1777 he dissuaded the young man from printing a pamphlet against
the Puritanical observance of the Sabbath, saying, “Your work is very
ably written, but I advise you not to publish it; for rest assured that
the Sabbath as a political institution is of inestimable value
independently of its claim to divine authority.” Late in the following
year, when Sinclair brought him the news of Saratoga, and declared that
the nation must be ruined, Smith answered coolly, “Be assured, my young
friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” About the same
time he let Sinclair have the use (so long as he did not take it out of
Edinburgh) of his own much-prized copy of the _Mémoires concernant les
Impositions_, a contemporary survey of European systems of taxation,
which he had obtained “by the particular favour of Mr. Turgot, the late
Comptroller-General of the Finances.” In one of his letters to Sinclair
he expressed his dislike of “all taxes that may affect the necessary
expenses of the poor.”

  “They, according to different circumstances, either oppress the people
  immediately subject to them, or are repaid with great interest by the
  rich, _i.e._ by their employers in the advanced wages of their labour.
  Taxes on the _luxuries_ of the poor, upon their beer and other
  spirituous liquors, for example, as long as they are so moderate as
  not to give much temptation to smuggling, I am so far from
  disapproving, that I look upon them as the best of sumptuary

Sinclair, who had entered Parliament in 1780, discussed foreign policy
with Smith in the autumn of 1782, soon after the surrender at Yorktown,
when the fortunes of Great Britain had sunk to their lowest ebb. The
American colonies were lost; Ireland was almost in revolt; Gibraltar was
besieged by the Spanish and French fleets; and the Northern powers were
arrayed in an unfriendly armed neutrality. Sinclair had drafted a tract
suggesting that we should seek to draw the Northern powers into an
alliance against the House of Bourbon by offering them a share in our
colonial monopoly. Again Smith advised his young friend not to go into
print. The proposal, he thought, would not find favour with the
neutrals, and there seemed to be a moral inconsistency in the argument.
“If it be just to emancipate the continent of America from the dominion
of every European power, how can it be just to subject the islands to
such dominion; and if the monopoly of the trade of the continent be
contrary to the rights of mankind, how can that of the islands be
agreeable to those rights?”

In the following year peace was concluded with America and France; and
the Prime Minister boasted to Morellet that all the treaties of that
year were inspired by “the great principle of free trade.”

The necessity for resuming commercial intercourse with the United States
raised in an acute form the problem of the colonial monopoly. Should the
States be allowed to trade with Canada on the same terms as with Great
Britain? William Eden (afterwards Lord Auckland) was afraid of
abandoning the differential principle, and in his perplexity wrote to
Smith, who replied that if the Americans really meant to subject the
goods of all nations to the same import duties, they would “set an
example of good sense which all other nations ought to imitate.” He had
little anxiety—and his confidence was completely justified by the
event—about the loss of the American monopoly. “By an equality of
treatment of all nations, we might soon open a commerce with the
neighbouring nations of Europe infinitely more advantageous than that of
so distant a country as America.” As he hopes to see Eden in a few
weeks’ time, he will not write a tedious dissertation, but contents
himself with saying that “every extraordinary, either encouragement or
discouragement, that is given to the trade of any country, more than to
that of another, may, I think, be demonstrated to be in every case a
complete piece of dupery, by which the interest of the State and the
nation is constantly sacrificed to that of some particular class of
traders.” He ends with warm praise of the East India Bill, and of the
decisive judgment and resolution with which it had been introduced and
triumphantly carried through the House of Commons by Fox.[44]

It is worth while here to note Smith’s steady devotion to Fox and Burke,
who represented the Rockingham branch of the Whig party. He was faithful
found among innumerable false, for he approved alike of Fox’s
resignation in 1782 rather than serve under Shelburne, and of his fatal
coalition with Lord North in the following year.[45] It may seem strange
to those who think of Adam Smith only as the founder of free trade that
he should have been a Foxite, and especially that he should have
remained one in the last decade of his life, when commercial questions
were uppermost, and when Shelburne first, and then Pitt, set themselves
to translate the _Wealth of Nations_ into laws and treaties. But, as we
have tried to show, he never allowed economical considerations to weigh
in the scale with political liberty; and the clue to his distrust of
Shelburne and Pitt is his dislike of the King as a corrupter of
politics, and of the Court as a corrupter of morals. Shelburne and Pitt
exalting the King and the executive would have depressed the House of
Commons. Rockingham, Fox, and Burke sought manfully, and not
unsuccessfully, so to maintain and glorify constitutional usages as to
check and limit the power of the King. This single consideration was
enough to determine the allegiance of a truly republican heart.

Burke, moreover, was in every way a sympathetic figure. His measure of
economical reform had docked the resources of patronage, and sensibly
relieved the burdens of the taxpayer. And his views about commercial
liberty coincided with Smith’s own. About this time a happy chance
brought the two friends together. In the autumn of 1783 Burke was
elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, and early in the
following April, during the general election which overwhelmed the
Whigs, Burke, having saved his own seat at Malton, paid a visit to
Scotland. He stayed a few days in Edinburgh, and then, accompanied by
Adam Smith, Lord Maitland,[46] and others, went on to Glasgow to be
installed in his new office. On the day of their arrival (Friday, April
9) they supped with that stalwart Whig, John Millar, the Professor of
Law. On Sunday, Smith and Maitland took Burke to see Loch Lomond, and
made their way back by Carron to Edinburgh, which they reached on the
following Wednesday. Next day Burke, with a company of Smith’s Edinburgh
friends, dined at Panmure House. On Friday the great orator returned to
England extremely pleased by his reception in Scotland, and leaving
behind him many friends and admirers. One of these has preserved some
particulars of the visit. “Smith, Dugald, and I,” wrote Dalzel, “had
more of his company than anybody in this country, and we got a vast deal
of political anecdote from him and fine pictures of political characters
both dead and living.” Burke advised Lord Maitland, if he had ambition
and wanted office, to abandon the Whig party. “Shake us off: give us
up.” Smith said cheerfully that “in two years things would come about
again.” “Why,” cried Burke, “I have already been in a minority nineteen
years, and your two years, Mr. Smith, will make me twenty-one years, and
it will surely be high time for me then to be in my majority!”

Before the end of May a dark cloud came over Smith’s life, for his
mother passed away in her ninetieth year. Four years later her death was
followed by that of his cousin, Miss Douglas. Their loss was
irreparable. “They had been the objects of his affection for more than
sixty years, and in their society he had enjoyed from his infancy all
that he ever knew of the endearments of a family.”[47]

Late in the autumn of 1784 Faujas de Saint-Fond, the geologist, visited
Edinburgh after some adventurous discoveries in the Hebrides. During his
fortnight’s stay “that venerable philosopher Adam Smith” was one of
those whom he visited most frequently. “He received me on every occasion
in the kindest manner, and studied to procure for me every kind of
information and amusement that the town afforded.” Smith’s library, he
says, bore evidence of his tour in France and his stay in Paris. “All
our best French authors occupied prominent places on his shelves. He was
very fond of our language.”

On one occasion when Saint-Fond was at tea in Panmure House, Smith spoke
of Rousseau “with a kind of religious respect,” and compared him with
Voltaire. “The latter,” he said, “sought to correct the vices and
follies of mankind by laughing at them, and sometimes by treating them
with severity; but Rousseau catches his reader in the net of reason by
the attraction of sentiment and the force of conviction. His _Social
Contract_ may well avenge him one day for all his persecutions.” Smith’s
features became very animated when he spoke of Voltaire, “whom he had
known and greatly loved.”

One day Adam Smith asked his visitor if he liked music, and said, on
hearing that he did: “I am very glad of it; I shall put you to a proof
which will be very interesting for me, for I shall take you to hear a
sort of music of which it is impossible you can have formed any idea,
and I shall be delighted to find how it strikes you.” The annual bagpipe
competition was to take place next day, and Smith came to Saint-Fond’s
lodgings next morning at nine o’clock, and conducted him to a spacious
concert-room full of people; but neither musicians, nor orchestra, nor
instruments were to be seen. A large space was reserved in the middle of
the room and occupied by gentlemen only, who, said his guide, were
Highlanders come to judge of the performances. The prize was for the
best executed piece of Highland music, and the same air was to be played
successively by all the competitors. After some delay a door opened and
a kilted Highlander advanced into the hall:—

  “He walked up and down the vacant space with rapid steps and a martial
  air, blowing his bagpipes. The tune was a kind of sonata divided into
  three parts. Smith requested me to pay my whole attention to the
  music, and to explain to him afterwards the impression it made upon
  me. But I confess that at first I could not distinguish either air or
  design in the music. I was only struck with a piper marching backward
  and forward with great rapidity, and still presenting the same warlike
  countenance. He made incredible efforts with his body and his fingers
  to bring into play the different reeds of his instrument, which
  emitted sounds that were to me almost insupportable. He received much
  applause from all parts of the hall.”

Then came a second piper, who seemed to excel the first, judging from
the clapping and cheers. Having heard eight in succession, the Professor
began to discover that the first part represented a warlike march, the
second a battle, and the last part the wailing over the slain—which drew
tears from the eyes of many fair ladies in the audience. The _séance_
ended with a “lively and animated dance, accompanied by suitable airs,
though the union of so many bagpipes produced a most hideous noise.” The
Frenchman’s verdict was highly unfavourable. He concluded that the
pleasure given by the music was due to historical associations. Though
he admired the impartiality of the audience and judges, who showed no
special favour even to a laird’s son unless he played well, he could not
himself admire the artists. “To me they were all equally disagreeable.
The music and the instrument alike reminded me of a bear’s dance.”[48]

Burke revisited Glasgow in August 1785. Windham was with him. They
stopped on their way in Edinburgh and dined with Smith—Robertson, Henry
Erskine, and Dr. Cullen being among the guests. On September 13th, when
they returned to Edinburgh, Windham makes this entry in his diary:
“After dinner walked to Adam Smith’s. Felt strongly the impression of a
family completely Scotch. House magnificent and place fine.” They stayed
one more day in Edinburgh, and dined at Panmure House. Burke found time
to visit John Logan, the author of the lovely _Ode to the Cuckoo_. Dr.
Carlyle says that Smith was “a great patron” of this persecuted poet;
and when Logan was hounded out of the ministry, and went to London to
seek a living by his pen, he took a letter of introduction from Smith to
Andrew Strahan the publisher, who was about to issue a fourth edition of
the _Wealth of Nations_.[49]

In the following year (1786) Smith was suffering much from ill-health,
but his mind and pen were busy. T. Christie, Nichols’s Edinburgh
correspondent, informed his friend in August that Dr. Smith was writing
“the history of Moral Philosophy.” This may only mean that he was
engaged in preparing the enlarged (6th edition) of the _Moral
Sentiments_; for in a letter to the Duke of Rochefoucauld that recently
came to light, dated November 1, 1785, he speaks of an edition of the
_Theory_ “which I hope to execute before the end of the ensuing winter.”
But it may refer to one of two much larger and more ambitious schemes
which he goes on to mention in the same letter: “I have likewise two
other great works upon the anvil; the one is a sort of philosophical
history of all the different branches of literature, of philosophy,
poetry, and eloquence; the other is a sort of theory and history of law
and government. The materials of both are in a great measure collected,
and some part of both is put into tolerable good order. But the
indolence of old age, though I struggle violently against it, I feel
coming fast upon me, and whether I shall ever be able to finish either
is extremely uncertain.” At the same time he was in correspondence with
William Eden, whom he was helping to refute Dr. Price’s alarmist
theories about the decrease of the population.

In the spring of 1787 he went to London, partly to consult John Hunter,
Sir William’s younger brother, partly perhaps from curiosity to see the
boy Premier, who was so rapidly and skilfully carrying out his fiscal
policy. Pitt had just carried Smith’s favourite project of a commercial
treaty with France, and was now engaged in the far more laborious task
of simplifying the chaos of customs and excise rates in a gigantic
Consolidation Bill. The economist had many conferences with the
statesman. It is said that he was much with the ministry; and that the
clerks of the public offices had orders to furnish him with all papers,
and to employ if necessary additional hands to copy for him. One
incident has been preserved that is worth recording. At a dinner given
by Dundas, Smith came in late, and the company rose to receive him. He
begged them to be seated. “No,” said Pitt, “we will stand till you are
seated, for we are all your scholars.” On another occasion, finding
himself next to Addington, he exclaimed: “What an extraordinary man Pitt
is; he understands my ideas better than I do myself!” He stayed several
months in London, and though his disorders did not admit of cure, the
physicians operated with success, and pronounced in July that he “might
do some time longer.”

At the end of this month Thomas Raikes had a talk with him about the
Sunday-school movement, and was much delighted by the old man’s
enthusiastic approval: “No plan has promised to effect a change of
manners with equal ease and simplicity since the days of the Apostles.”
But towards another philanthropic scheme, for planting fishing-villages
along the Highland coast, he displayed, wrote Wilberforce, “a certain
characteristic coolness,” observing that “he looked for no other
consequence from the scheme than the entire loss of every shilling that
should be expended on it, granting, however, with uncommon candour, that
the public would be no great sufferer, because he believed the
individuals meant to put their hands only in their own pockets.” Mr.
Rae, who has traced the scheme down to 1893 when it was finally wound
up, shows that the shareholders lost half their original capital of
£35,000, and wasted besides £100,000 of taxpayers’ money, which a
foolish Government improvidently provided for one of their ill-conceived
projects. After all, philanthropy cannot afford to neglect the cool
precepts of political economy, nor is moral fervour the worse for a
pinch of common sense. In November, having returned to Edinburgh, he
heard with “heartfelt joy” the news that he had been elected Rector of
his old University, and he was installed in the following month. “No
preferment,” he wrote in a graceful letter of thanks, “could have given
me so much real satisfaction.”

  “No man can own greater obligations to a Society than I do to the
  University of Glasgow. They educated me, they sent me to Oxford, soon
  after my return to Scotland they elected me one of their own members,
  and afterwards preferred me to another office to which the abilities
  and virtues of the never-to-be-forgotten Dr. Hutcheson had given a
  superior degree of illustration. The period of thirteen years which I
  spent as a member of that Society, I remember as by far the most
  useful and therefore as by far the happiest and most honourable period
  of my life; and now, after three-and-twenty years’ absence, to be
  remembered in so very agreeable a manner by my old friends and
  protectors gives me a heartfelt joy which I cannot easily express to

A year later, the death of his cousin, Miss Jane Douglas, left him, says
Stewart, “alone and helpless,” and though he bore his loss bravely, and
regained apparently his former cheerfulness, yet his health and strength
gradually declined, until in the summer of 1790 he passed away. A few
particulars have been preserved of these last two years by those who
enjoyed his friendship and hospitality; but of his correspondence there
is only a short letter thanking Gibbon, with whom he had long been on
very affectionate terms, for the last three volumes of the _Decline and
Fall_. “I cannot,” he writes, “express to you the pleasure it gives me
to find that by the universal consent of every man of taste and learning
whom I either know or correspond with, it sets you at the very head of
the whole literary tribe at present existing in Europe.”[50] In July
1789, Samuel Rogers, then a young man of twenty-three, came to Edinburgh
with an introduction to Adam Smith from Price. On the morning after the
storming of the Bastille he called on the economist, and found him
breakfasting, with a dish of strawberries before him. Smith said they
were a northern fruit, at their best in Orkney and Sweden. The
conversation passed to Edinburgh, its high houses, dirt, and
overcrowding. Smith spoke slightingly of the old town, and said he would
like to remove to George Square. Then he talked of the scenery, soil,
and climate of Scotland, and of the corn trade, which led him to
denounce Pitt’s Government for refusing to supply France with a quantity
of corn so small that it would not have fed Edinburgh for one day.

He invited Rogers to dine with him next day at the Oyster Club; but a
tedious laird (brother of the Thibetan traveller) monopolised the
conversation. “_That_ Bogle,” said Smith afterwards, apologetically, “I
was sorry he talked so much. He spoiled our evening.” Next Sunday Smith
took an airing in his sedan chair, while his young friend went to hear
Robertson and Blair preach. At nine o’clock, Blair having concluded,
Rogers supped at Panmure House, and found the Oyster Club _minus_ Bogle
and _plus_ a gentleman from Göttingen. The conversation was personal,
and perhaps the only item now worth recalling is Smith’s reason for
identifying Junius with “Single Speech Hamilton.” Hamilton once told the
Duke of Richmond at Goodwood—the story came to Smith from Gibbon—of “a
devilish keen letter” from Junius in that day’s _Public Advertiser_. But
when the Duke got the paper he found not the letter, but an apology for
its non-appearance; after this Hamilton was suspected of the authorship,
and no more Junius was published. The inference Smith drew was that so
long as suspicion pointed to the wrong man the letters continued to
appear, and only stopped when the true author was named. Next day Rogers
again dined with Smith, and Henry Mackenzie told them stories of
second-sight. Hutton came in to tea, and then they went on to a meeting
of the Royal Society to hear a paper by Dr. James Anderson on “Debtors
and the Revision of the Laws that respect them.” Rogers says it was
portentously long and dull. “Mr. Commissioner Smith fell asleep, and
Mackenzie touched my elbow and smiled.” Altogether Rogers gives us a
very pleasing picture of a serene and bright old age. “He is a very
friendly, agreeable man, and I should have dined and supped with him
every day if I had accepted all his invitations.” He did not notice any
trace of absentmindedness, but thought that, compared with Robertson,
Smith was a man of the world.

In the same summer William Adam, a nephew of the architect, conversed
with Smith upon Bentham’s letters on usury. The economist is reported to
have said that “the _Defence of Usury_ was the work of a very superior
man, and that though he had given him some hard knocks, it was done in
so handsome a way that he could not complain.”[51] It is quite possible
that had Smith lived to see another edition of the _Wealth of Nations_
through the press, he would have responded to Bentham’s invitation by
admitting the futility of fixing interest by law. But at this time he
was still busy with the sixth edition of the _Moral Sentiments_, which
at last appeared early in the following year. In the preface he referred
to the promise he had made in 1759 of a treatise on Jurisprudence. That
promise had been partially fulfilled in the _Wealth of Nations_; but
what remained, the theory of Jurisprudence, he had hitherto failed to
execute. “Though my very advanced age leaves me,” he acknowledged, “very
little expectation of ever being able to execute this great work to my
own satisfaction, yet, as I have not altogether abandoned the design,
and as I wish still to continue under the obligation of doing what I
can, I have allowed the paragraph to remain as it was published more
than thirty years ago, when I entertained no doubt of being able to
execute everything which it announced.”

These words were probably written late in the year 1789. In February
1790 he told Lord Buchan, “You will never see your old friend any more.
I find that the machine is breaking down.” From this time he rapidly
wasted away, and in June his friends knew, as well as he did, that there
was no hope of recovery. His intellect remained perfectly clear, and he
bore his sufferings with the utmost fortitude and resignation.

But he could not be easy about his papers. In 1773, when he consigned
their care to Hume, he had instructed him to destroy without examination
all his loose manuscript, together with about eighteen thin paper folio
books containing his lectures. When he went to London in 1787 he had
given similar instructions to Black and Hutton. Now that he had become
very weak, and felt that his days were numbered, he spoke again to them
on the same subject. They entreated him to make his mind easy, as he
might depend upon their fulfilling his desire. He was satisfied for a
time. But some days afterwards—this is Hutton’s account—finding his
anxiety not entirely removed, he begged one of them to destroy the
volumes immediately. This accordingly was done; and his mind was so much
relieved that he was able to receive his friends in the evening with his
usual cheerfulness. They had been used to sup with him every Sunday, and
that evening there was a pretty numerous company of them. The old man
not finding himself able to sit up with them as usual, retired to bed
before supper; and as he went away took leave of his friends by saying,
“I believe we must adjourn this meeting to some other place.” He died a
very few days afterwards, on July the 17th, 1790, and was buried in the
Canongate Churchyard, in an obscure spot which must have been overlooked
by some of the windows of Panmure House.

In his will he had made his cousin, David Douglas (the youngest son of
Colonel Douglas of Strathendry), his heir, with instructions to dispose
of his manuscripts in accordance with the advice of Black and Hutton.

A small but choice library of four or five thousand volumes, and a
simple table, to which his friends were always welcome without the
formality of an invitation, were, says Dugald Stewart, “the only
expenses that could be considered his own.” His acts of private
generosity, though sedulously concealed, were on a scale “much beyond
what might have been expected from his fortune,” and those who knew only
of his frugality were surprised to find how small, in comparison with
the income he had long enjoyed, was the property he left behind him.

His friends were indignant that the death of so great a thinker made but
little stir. They might have been consoled had they been able to look
forward twenty years, and read a letter which a German student,
Alexander von der Marwitz, wrote to a friend on reading the _Wealth of
Nations_. It was on the eve of Jena, and the form of Napoleon stood out
a gigantic menace to all that the young patriot held dear. Yet he did
not hesitate to compare the victorious author with the conqueror of
Europe. “Next to Napoleon he is now the mightiest monarch in Europe.”

In the emancipation of thought and dispersion of knowledge which mark
the century that divides the English from the French Revolution, Adam
Smith takes his place in the order of time after Locke, Montesquieu,
Newton, and Voltaire, with Hume, Rousseau, Diderot, Turgot, and Burke.
With all of them he agreed in abhorring religious intolerance; with each
of them he had some special affinity. Like the first and the last, he
had a truly English reverence for law and order. A Newtonian in his
patient and tranquil research for the hidden secrets of Nature, he had
Voltaire’s love of Justice, while he resembled Rousseau, the only
democrat of the French school, in a new sentiment for popular
government, and in what may be called either the Social or Republican
instinct. He vied with Diderot in an universal curiosity and an
encyclopædic grasp of all the sciences, but surpassed him in originality
and creative power. He combined in an extraordinary degree the faculties
of observation, meditation, and abstraction. His achievements are not
accidents. If the architect’s plans are compared with history, they will
be found to have been executed in large part by the builders of the
nineteenth century. Of the great Frenchmen who synchronised with him and
moved along parallel lines of thought, it cannot be said that any one,
or that all together, destroyed the Church or the government, or even
the social system of France. It may even be questioned whether they
swayed the fortunes of France with an influence so potent as Smith’s
sceptre has wielded over the destinies of Europe. The criticisms of
Voltaire had mighty consequences, no doubt, but those consequences were
not deliberately planned, or even descried. Hume’s scepticism went far
deeper than Voltaire’s, tore up by the roots whole systems of debased
philosophy, and roused Kant from his dogmatic slumbers. But Hume and
Voltaire had little to sow on the land they ploughed and harrowed. In
all their anxiety to humble and ridicule religion, they would retain the
Church as a useful instrument of the State. In all their appeals to
public opinion, they never thought of resting government on a broad
basis of popular right. Their view of society was conventional; they
were rather satirists than reformers. It has been a commonplace of
criticism to compare Adam Smith with Locke. He is supposed to have done
for a particular branch of politics what Locke did for the whole
science. But Locke’s main achievement, after all, was to find
philosophic sanction for a revolution accomplished by others, and to
establish in the minds of the Whig aristocracy an unlimited respect for
a limited constitution. Smith was the single-handed contriver and sole
author of a revolution in thought which has modified the governing
policy and prodigiously increased the welfare of the whole civilised

Of his contemporaries, the nearest perhaps in spirit are Turgot and the
younger Burke, the Burke of the American Revolution and of Free Trade
and Economical Reform. But Burke and even Turgot were in a certain sense
men of the past. Though their radiance can never fade, their influence
wanes. But Smith has issued from the seclusion of a professorship of
morals, from the drudgery of a commissionership of customs, to sit in
the council-chamber of princes. His word has rung through the study to
the platform. It has been proclaimed by the agitator, conned by the
statesman, and printed in a thousand statutes.


[1]Dugald Stewart wrongly describes him as a Writer to the Signet,
    confusing him with a contemporary of the same name.

[2]See W. R. Scott’s _Hutcheson_ (1900).

[3]Even in 1763 there was but one stage-coach in Scotland “which set out
    [from Edinburgh] once a month for London, and was from twelve to
    fourteen days on the journey.”—George Robertson’s _Rural
    Recollections_, p. 4.

[4]See the _Wealth of Nations_, Book V. ch. i. art. 2.

[5]See the _Wealth of Nations_, Book I. chap. ii.

[6]The advertisement goes on to say: “It is long since he found it
    necessary to abandon that plan as far too extensive; and these parts
    of it lay beside him neglected till he was dead.”

[7]First, Dugald Stewart declares that the _History of Astronomy_ “was
    one of Mr. Smith’s earliest compositions.” Second, in a letter
    constituting Hume his literary executor, Smith describes it as a
    fragment of an intended juvenile work. Thirdly, Stewart heard him
    say more than once “that he had projected in the earlier part of his
    life a history of the other sciences on the same plan.” Fourthly,
    the work exactly fits in with all that we hear of his youthful bent
    for the Greek geometry and natural philosophy. Fifthly, it must have
    been written long before 1758, for he mentions a prediction that a
    certain comet will appear in that year.

[8]“The author at the end of his essay,” says the advertisement, “left
    some notes and memorandums from which it appears he considered this
    last part of his _History of Astronomy_ as imperfect and needing
    several additions.” It consists of 135 pages, and the imperfections
    are not obvious to the reader.

[9]_Moral Sentiments_, Part III. chap. ii. p. 210 of the second, third,
    and fourth editions; chap. iii. of the sixth edition.

[10]Mr. Rae, usually the most accurate of authorities, states that the
    first edition appeared “in two volumes 8vo.”

[11]The crude theory that sympathy is the foundation of altruism was
    noticed by Hutcheson. In his _System of Moral Philosophy_ (B. I. ch.
    iii.) he writes: “Others say that we regard the good of others, or
    of societies ... as the means of some subtiler pleasures of our own
    by sympathy with others in their happiness.” But this sympathy, he
    adds, “can never account for all kind affections, tho’ it is no
    doubt a natural principle and a beautiful part of our constitution.”

[12]Mr. Rae’s _Life of Adam Smith_, pp. 148-9. Mr. Rae also says that it
    contained none of the alterations or additions that Hume expected,
    and expresses surprise that the additions, etc., which had been
    placed in the printer’s hands in 1760 were not incorporated in the
    text until the publication of the sixth edition thirty years
    afterwards. On the other hand, he says that the _Dissertation on the
    Origin of Languages_ was added. But the _Dissertation_ was first
    appended in the third edition (1767).

[13]See _Moral Sentiments_, 1st edition, p. 464.

[14]_Origine de l’inégalité. Partie première_, pp. 376, 377. _Édition
    d’Amsterdam des œuvres diverses de J. J. Rousseau._ The reference is
    from _Moral Sentiments_, 3rd ed. p. 440.

[15]Millar adds: “The great Montesquieu pointed out the road. He was the
    Lord Bacon in this branch of philosophy. Dr. Smith is the Newton.”

[16]Cp. _Wealth of Nations_, Book I. chap. iii.

[17]And even Hume, as Smith warned his class, had not quite emancipated
    himself from mercantilist misconceptions.

[18]_Lectures_, p. 241: “Excise raises the price of commodities and
    makes fewer people able to carry on business. If a man purchase
    £1000 worth of tobacco he has a hundred pounds of tax to pay, and
    therefore cannot deal to such an extent as he would otherwise do.
    Thus, as it requires greater stock to carry on trade, the dealers
    must be fewer, and the rich have, as it were, a monopoly against the

[19]Uztariz, _Theory and Practice of Commerce and Maritime Affairs_,
    translated by John Kippax, 1751, vol. ii. p. 52. The allusion has
    been discovered by Mr. Edwin Cannan. See _Lectures_, p. 246.

[20]_Wealth of Nations_ (1776), Book V. chap. i. art. 2.

[21]Tytler’s _Kames_, i. p. 278.

[22]See Faujas Saint-Fond, _Travels in England and Scotland_, vol. ii.
    p. 241.

[23]See _Garrick Correspondence_, vol. ii. pp. 549, 550.

[24]See letter from Adam Smith to T. Cadell printed in the _Economic
    Journal_ for September 1898. It appears that the last two books he
    had ordered were Postlethwait’s _Dictionary of Trade_ and Anderson’s
    _Deduction of the Origin of Commerce_. Neither appears in Mr.
    Bonar’s catalogue of his library.

[25]At Kirkcaldy George Drysdale, for some time Provost of the town and
    afterwards Collector of Customs, was a “steady and much esteemed
    friend.” His more distinguished brother, Dr. John Drysdale the
    minister, had been at school with Smith, and “among all his numerous
    friends and acquaintances,” says Dalzel, there was none “whom he
    loved with greater affection or spoke of with greater tenderness.”
    They often met in Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh. The death of James
    Oswald, who represented Kirkcaldy, early in 1769, was a serious loss
    to the little society, and particularly to Smith.

[26]Steuart’s _Political Economy_, 1767.

[27]The most important of these (in Book IV. chap, vii.) appear for the
    first time in the third edition (1784).

[28]Letter to Cullen, London, 20th September 1774.

[29]Mr. Macpherson’s recent abridgment is the only tolerable one I know
    of, and that solely because it carefully retains many of the finest
    chapters, and leaves the flesh on the bones.

[30]A public pawnshop.

[31]Charles Butler, the learned Catholic lawyer, once mentioned to Fox
    that he had never read the _Wealth of Nations_. “To tell you the
    truth,” said Fox, “nor I either. There is something in all these
    subjects which passes my comprehension; something so wide that I
    could never embrace them myself or find any one who did.”

[32]See Book IV. chap. vii.

[33]See Skarzinski’s _Adam Smith_ (1878), quoted by Oncken, _Economic
    Journal_, vol. vii. p. 445.

[34]See Ruskin’s _Fors Clavigera_, letters 62 and 72.

[35]Smith avoids the error so commonly committed in modern doctrines of
    international trade, of regarding a nation as a trading unit.

[36]The second case is simple and uncontroversial. If there is an excise
    duty upon a home product, it seems reasonable, says Smith, that an
    equal tax should be imposed in the shape of an import duty upon the
    same product imported from abroad.

[37]The author of _Douglas_.

[38]Written from Kirkcaldy, November 9, 1776.

[39]In the Budget of 1778 North adopted two more important
    recommendations: the inhabited house duty, which is still with us,
    and the malt tax, which was commuted for the beer duty by Mr.
    Gladstone in 1880. The house tax proved very productive, as taxes
    went in those days, its yield rising from £26,000 in 1779 to
    £108,000 in 1782.

[40]Sir Gray Cooper was Secretary to the Treasury.

[41]Rae’s _Life of Adam Smith_, p. 326.

[42]See the _Life of Smith_ by William Smellie, a contemporary.

[43]See Sinclair’s _Life of Sir John Sinclair_, vol. i. p. 39.

[44]Edinburgh, 15th December 1783. The letter is printed in the
    _Journals and Correspondence of Lord Auckland_, vol. i. p. 64.

[45]Sir Gilbert Elliot wrote from Edinburgh, July 25, 1782, to his
    wife:—“I have found one just man in Gomorrah, Adam Smith, author of
    the _Wealth of Nations_. He was the Duke of Buccleuch’s tutor, is a
    wise and deep philosopher, and although made Commissioner of the
    Customs here by the Duke and Lord Advocate, is what I call an
    _honest fellow_. He wrote a most kind as well as elegant letter to
    Burke on his resignation, as I believe I told you before, and on my
    mentioning it to him he told me he was the only man here who spoke
    out for the Rockinghams.”—_Life of Lord Minto_, vol. i. p. 84.

[46]Afterwards Lord Lauderdale, a finished economist, who passed some
    ingenious criticisms on the _Wealth of Nations_.

[47]See Dugald Stewart’s _Memoir_, section V.

[48]Mr. Rae, the only one of Smith’s biographers, I think, who has
    noticed Saint-Fond’s visit, dates it wrongly (in 1782), and says the
    account was published in 1783. The journey took place in 1784, and
    the account was published in 1797. An English translation appeared
    two years later.

[49]This appeared in 1786 with a prefatory note expressing the author’s
    grateful obligations to Mr. Henry Hope of Amsterdam, for his
    information concerning the great Dutch Bank.

[50]In his first will Gibbon left a legacy of £100 to Adam Smith.

[51]In his _Defence of Usury_, “Letter XIII. to Dr. Smith,” Bentham had
    written: “Instead therefore of pretending to owe you nothing, I
    shall begin with acknowledging that, as far as your trade coincides
    with mine, I should come much nearer the truth were I to say I owed
    you everything.” Mr. Rae (_Life of Adam Smith_, p. 424) quotes a
    letter from George Wilson to Bentham, in the Bentham MSS., British
    Museum. I may add to this the following note which I find in
    Bentham’s _Rationale of Reward_ (1825), p. 332, in chapter xvi. of
    Book IV., on Rates of Interest. “Adam Smith, after having read the
    letter upon _Projects_, which was addressed to him, and printed at
    the end of the first edition of the _Defence of Usury_, declared to
    a gentleman, the common friend of the two authors, that he had been
    deceived. With the tidings of his death Mr. Bentham received a copy
    of his works, which had been sent to him as a token of esteem.”


  Alembert, 132, 139.
  American colonies, 163, 176-9.
  Aristotle, 6, 24-6, 37, 53, 74, 194.
  Armaments, 172-4.
  _Astronomy, History of_, 16-18.

  Bacon, 5, 74 _n._, 118-19.
  Bagehot (quoted), 204.
  Balliol College, 9-12.
  Banks (in Scotland), 101.
  Beauclerk, 160-1.
  _Bee, The_, 21.
  Bentham, Jeremy, 12, 184, 216;
      his _Defence of Usury_, 231-2.
  Black, Joseph, 83, 96-7, 99, 208, 231, 233.
  Bordeaux, 123, 141.
  Boswell, James, 19, 161, 164.
  Brougham, Lord, 14.
  Buccleuch, Duke of, 111-14, 131, 135, 150, 153, 157, 163, 213.
  Buchan, Lord, 21, 99.
  Buckle, Henry Thomas, 63, 64.
  Burke, Edmund, 20, 30, 47, 49, 67, 75, 112, 160-2, 171, 174,
          221-3, 226, 235-6.
  Butler, Bishop, 12, 51, 54.

  Calas, Jean, the case of, 124-5.
  Cannan, Edwin, 71, 78-9, 90 _n._, 169;
      the _Lectures_, 182.
  Carlyle, Dr. Alexander, 101, 104, 105, 151, 226.
  Clubs—the Poker, 107-9;
      the Literary, 160, 161, 212, 216;
      the Oyster, 216-18, 230.
  Cobden, Richard, 78, 175, 184, 189-91.
  Cochrane, Andrew, 101-2.
  Colbert, Abbé, 121-3.
  Colliers, 76-7.
  Colonies, 145-9, 175-80.
  Condorcet, 133.
  Cullen, Dr., 26-7, 157, 226.
  Customs, 88 _sqq._, 196 _sqq._, 213-15.

  Dalkeith House, 150-1.
  Dalrymple, Sir John, 21, 95, 99, 101, 104-5, 216.
  Degrees, medical, 157-60.
  Descartes, 17, 55.
  Douglas, David, 213, 234.
  —— Jane, 213, 223, 229.
  —— John, Bishop of Salisbury, 9, 160.
  Drysdale, John, 3.
  Dundas, Henry, 201, 228.
  Dunlop, Alexander, 4.

  Eden, William, 199, 201-20, 227, 237
  Edinburgh, 4, 78, 100, 103, 105 _sqq._, 153, 206, 213 _sqq._
  _Encyclopædia_, the, 118-20.
  England, wealth of, 139-42.
  Enville, Duchess of, 128, 131.
  Epictetus, 55, 56.
  Excise, 88-91, 191 _n._
  Exports, theory of, 86 _sqq._, 190 _sqq._

  Ferguson, Adam, 128, 216.
  Ferney, 127-8.
  Foulis, Robert, printer, 21, 95, 97-9.
  Fox, Charles James, 174, 212, 221-2.
  France, 86-7, 118 _sqq._, 188, 235.
  Franklin, Benjamin, 108, 161-2.
  Free Trade, 88, 142, 176, 188 _sqq._; (chapter x.), 220.

  Garrick, David, 130, 160, 212.
  Geneva, 126-8.
  Gibbon, 12, 13, 131, 157, 160, 164, 212, 216, 229-31.
  Gladstone, W. E., 165, 193.
  Glasgow, 4-9, 11, 23, 27, 78, 95 _sqq._, 100-3, 222.
  —— University of, 3-9, 94 _sqq._, 229.
  Glassford, John, 101.
  Grotius, 5, 71, 73, 92.

  Hamilton of Bangour, 21.
  Helvétius, 132.
  Hobbes, Thomas, 36, 51, 71.
  Holland, 90, 139, 172, 192.
  Home, Henry (see Kames).
  —— John, 103, 105.
  Hume, David, 6, 11, 17, 20, 22, 26, 30, 36, 38, 43, 46 _sqq._, 51,
          60 _sqq._, 73, 95, 96, 103, 106, 110-11, 113, 129, 130,
          136-8, 150 _sqq._, 163-4, 181, 194, 205-11, 233, 235.
  Hunter, Sir William, 157.
  —— John, 227.
  Hutcheson, Francis, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 30, 31, 36-8, 51, 57 _n._, 62,
          64, 73, 97, 181, 229.
  Hutton, Dr., 216, 217, 233.

  _Imitative Arts_, 16, 17, 19-20, 33, 67.
  Imports, theory of, 86 _sqq._, 192 _sqq._, 220.
  Ireland, 200-3.

  Jardine, George, 30-31.
  Johnson, Samuel, 19, 109-10, 165.
  Johnstone, William (see Pulteney).
  Jurisprudence, 69-72, 78.
  Justice, 68 _sqq._

  Kames, Lord, 18, 19, 77, 103.
  Kant, 40, 58.
  Kirkcaldy, 1-3, 16, 76, 150-6, 205 _sqq._
  Kraus, Christian Jakob, 185.

  Labour, division of, 81, 194-5.
  Languedoc, 124-6.
  Law, international, 71, 92-3.
  List, Friedrich, 185-6, 189, 196.
  Locke, John, 5, 25, 73, 235-6.
  Logan, John, 226.
  Logic, chair of, 23, 30-3.
  _Logic and Metaphysics, History of_, 18, 23-8, 31-3.
  London, 78, 156 _sqq._, 227-8.
  Lowe, Robert, 187.

  Mackintosh, Sir James, 50, 132.
  Malebranche, 25.
  Malesherbes, 184.
  Manchester School, 189-91.
  Mandeville, 36-7, 53-4, 62.
  Mathematics, 7, 8.
  _Maxims_ of Rochefoucauld, 54.
  Mercantile system, 85-8, 197-8.
  Metaphysics, 26, 32-3; see Logic.
  Mill, John Stuart, 165, 186-7, 196.
  Millar, Andrew (the publisher), 46-8, 138, 144.
  —— John, 31, 33, 37, 68, 74, 99, 222.
  Milton, 21, 36, 67, 184.
  Mollien, Count, 143, 184-5.
  Monopoly, 159, 220.
  Montesquieu, 68, 73, 76, 215, 235.
  Morals, Chair of, 26 _sqq._, 116-17.
  _Moral Sentiments, Theory of_, 31, 37-9, 46 _sqq._, 232.
  Morellet, 132, 142, 220.

  Navigation Act, 4, 190-1.
  Necker, 131-2.
  Newton, Sir Isaac, 8, 17, 36, 235.
  North, Lord, 199, 200, 212, 213.

  Oswald, James, of Dunnikier, 3, 18, 22, 104.
  Oxford, 9.
  —— University of, 11-15.

  Panmure House, 213-14.
  Paris, 129 _sqq._, 136-9.
  Peel, Sir Robert, 193.
  _Physics, History of Ancient_, 18.
  Pitt, the younger, 184, 188, 200, 222, 227.
  Plato, 24-5, 37, 194.
  Police, lectures on, 68-72, 78.
  Pope, 13, 19, 56.
  Population, 76.
  Price, Dr. Richard, 161, 230.
  Protection (see Free Trade).
  Pulteney, Sir William, 19, 104, 154-5.

  Quesnai, 68, 71, 134-5, 142, 169.

  Rae, John (quoted), 14, 28, 94, 101, 106, 111, 114, 129, 211, 212,
          226 _n._, 228.
  Raikes, Thomas, 228.
  Ramsay, Allan, 105, 110.
  —— John, of Ochtertyre, 38, 44, 96.
  Religion, 183.
  _Review, Edinburgh_, 109.
  Revenue of France, 141-2.
  Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 160.
  Riccoboni, Madame, 130.
  Richelieu, Duke of, 123, 127.
  Rochefoucauld, 129, 131, 133.
  Rockingham Ministry, 146-7.
  Rogers, Dr. Charles (quoted), 155.
  —— Samuel, 9, 127, 133, 230-1.
  Rousseau, J. J., 65, 136-8, 150, 224, 235.
  Ruskin, 183.

  Saint-Fond, Faujas de, 127, 223-6.
  Schmoller, Professor, 180.
  Schools (public) in England, 12.
  Scotland, 9-10, 139-41.
  Scott, Sir Walter (quoted), 217.
  Shaftesbury, 31, 36, 51.
  Shelburne, Lord, 144, 148, 184, 188.
  Simson, Robert, 4, 8, 96.
  Smith, Adam (the elder), 2.
  —— Margaret, 2, 8.
  Snell Exhibition, 9, 10, 15.
  Society, the Select, 105-7.
  Spectator, Impartial, 56-60, 182.
  Spain, 86, 87, 145, 175.
  Stamp Act, 146, 147.
  Stewart, Dugald (quoted), 2, 5, 13, 14, 21, 68, 102, 105, 131,
          132, 139, 151, 214, 234.
  —— Matthew, 7, 8.
  Strahan, William, 61, 144, 164, 206 _sqq._, 226.
  Strathendry, 2.
  Sympathy, doctrine of, 57 _sqq._

  _Taille_, 142.
  Tax, Land, 89, 142;
      the French, 142.
  Taxation, 88 _sqq._, 170-2, 176 _sqq._
  Theology, Natural, 7, 37.
  Tocqueville, 125.
  Tooke, Horne, 124.
  Toulouse, 124-5, 144.
  Townshend, Charles, 48-9, 104, 111-15, 135, 147-8.
  Treaties, Commercial (with France), 200, 220, 227.
  Turgot, 68, 71, 125, 126, 129, 132-4, 142, 184, 219, 235-6.

  Union, Act of, 4, 36.
  Uztariz (quoted), 90.

  _Vingtième_, 142.
  Voltaire, 20, 44, 48, 120, 125, 127, 128, 139, 224, 235.

  Wages, 140.
  Wakefield, E. G., 165-6.
  Walpole, Sir Robert, 91.
  War, 172-4.
  Watt, James, 83, 96-7.
  _Wealth of Nations_, 2, 12, 15, 22, 32, 33, 63, 69, 81 _sqq._,
          139, 144, 156, 158, 161-2; (chapter ix.), 163 _sqq._, 213.
  Wedderburn, Alexander, 19, 47, 109.
  Wilberforce, William, 228-9.
  Windham, William, 226.
  Wordsworth, 20, 21.

        Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty
                   at the Edinburgh University Press

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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