Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/15

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Smith
Smith
9

most contemporary philosophers, though in the sense of optimistic deism. Smith argues, in the ‘Wealth of Nations,’ that society is so constituted that each man promotes the interests of all by attending to his own interests, and in the ‘Moral Sentiments’ that sympathy induces us to approve such conduct as tends to this result. In both cases a belief in the argument from design is clearly implied.

In the spring of 1790 Smith was plainly failing. When he became aware of his state he sent for his friends Hutton and Black, and insisted upon their burning sixteen volumes of his manuscripts. They did so without knowing what were the contents. Smith's mind seemed to be relieved. He afterwards had some friends to supper, as usual, but was forced to retire early, using a phrase which has been variously reported (Clayden, Samuel Rogers, p. 168; Stewart, x. 75 n.; Sinclair, Old Times and Distant Places). It cannot be known whether he adjourned the meeting to another place or to another and a better world. He died on 17 July 1790, and was buried in the Canongate churchyard.

Smith left his property to his cousin, David Douglas (afterwards Lord Reston), who was to follow the instructions of Hutton and Black in regard to his works, and to pay an annuity of 20l. to Miss Janet Douglas, and on her death 400l. to Andrew Cleghorn. His property was less than had been expected from the modesty of his establishment; and Stewart found the cause to be that he had secretly given away sums ‘on a scale much beyond what would have been expected from his fortune.’

Smith, according to Stewart, never sat for his portrait, though a painting by T. Collopy in the National Museum of Antiquities at Edinburgh has been taken to represent Smith because the ‘Wealth of Nations’ is inscribed on a book in the picture. Tassie, who had seen Smith, executed two medallions in 1787. From one (with a wig), now in the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, a drawing was made by J. Jackson, engraved for publication in 1811, and also engraved for editions of the ‘Wealth of Nations.’ Other engravings are by J. Beugo in the ‘Scots Magazine’ for June 1801, and by H. Horsburgh for m'Culloch's edition of the ‘Wealth of Nations,’ 1828. Another (without a wig), now in the possession of J. R. Findlay, esq., of Edinburgh, has not been engraved. Two portraits were drawn by Kay for the ‘Edinburgh Portraits.’

Smith's library passed to the heirs of his nephew. Part now belongs to the nephew's grandson, the Rev. Dr. Bannerman, who in 1884 presented a portion to New College, Edinburgh; part to another grandson, Professor R. O. Cunningham, who presented a portion to Queen's College, Belfast. Other books were sold. Mr. James Bonar compiled a catalogue (1894) of these and of such other books as could be traced. This includes about 2,200 volumes, or probably about two-thirds of the whole. The catalogue marks the passages in which Smith quotes the books named. Mr. Bonar also gives a plan of Smith's house at Kirkcaldy, a copy of his will, and an account of his portraits by J. M. Gray.

Smith's ‘Wealth of Nations’ is generally admitted to have originated the study of political economy as a separate department of scientific inquiry. It is therefore discussed in every manual and history of the subject. Its merit is due on one side to the great range of his historical knowledge, to the ingenuity and sound judgment with which he applies his principles to a number of concrete cases, and to the literary skill which makes him always animated, in spite of digressions and a diffuse style. On the other side, his exposition of abstract principles, though inevitably imperfect, owed part of its success to the completeness with which it represented the dominant tendencies of contemporary thought, and especially the revolt against obsolete restrictions of all kinds. The ‘Smithianismus’ of German writers was supposed to represent the unqualified acceptance of the laissez-faire theory; and Buckle's enthusiastic panegyric represents the view taken at the time by a zealous adherent of that doctrine. Smith was too practical to accept the view as absolutely as his disciples. His sympathy with the general tendency has incidentally suggested much controversy as to his relation to previous writers of similar views. The most elaborate investigation of his obligations to his predecessors will be found in Professor Hasbach's ‘Untersuchungen über Adam Smith’ (1891). Smith's relation to the French economists, already discussed by Dugald Stewart, was elucidated by the reports of his Glasgow lectures in 1763, published with an introduction by Mr. Cannan. The report, though very imperfect, shows the manner in which Smith had treated the subject before his visit to France, and the subject's relation to his general scheme. Mr. Cannan sums up his view by saying that Smith had worked out his theory upon the division of labour, money, prices, and differences of wages before going to France, but had acquired from the ‘physiocrats’ the