Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/271

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255
SMITH, ADAM


were propounded in that year in the Political Discourses of Hume.

In 1762 the senatus academicus of Glasgow conferred on him the honorary degree of doctor of laws. In 1763 he was invited to take charge of the young duke of Buccleuch on his travels. He accepted, and resigned his professorship. He went abroad with his pupil in February 1764; they remained only a few days at Paris and then settled at Toulouse, at that time the seat of a parlement, where they spent eighteen months in the best society of the place, afterwards making a tour in the south of France and passing two months at Geneva. Returning to Paris about Christmas of 1765, they remained there till the October of the following year. Smith at this time lived in the society of Quesnay, Turgot, d'Alembert, Morellet, Helv6tius, Marmontel and the duke de la Rochefoucauld. His regard for the young nobleman 1 last named dictated the omission in the later editions of his Moral Sentiments of the name of the celebrated ancestor of the duke, whom he had associated with Mandeville as author of one of the " licentious systems " reviewed in the seventh part of that work. Smith was much influenced by his contact with the members of the physiocratic school, especially with its chief, though Dupont de Nemours probably goes too far in speaking of Smith and himself as having been " con-disciples chez M. Quesnay." Smith afterwards described Quesnay as a man " of the greatest modesty and simplicity," and declared his system of political economy to be, " with all its imperfections, the nearest approximation to truth that had yet been published on the principles of that science." In October 1766 tutor and pupil returned home, and they ever afterwards retained strong feelings of mutual esteem. For the next ten years Smith lived with his mother at Kirkcaldy, only paying occasional visits to Edin- burgh and London; he was engaged in close study during most of this time. He describes himself to Hume during this period as being extremely happy. He was occupied on his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, which there is some reason for believing he had begun at Toulouse. That great work appeared in 1776. 2 After its publication, and only a few months before his own death, Hume wrote to congratulate his friend — " Euge! bellei 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 attract the public attention." Smith attended Hume during a part of his last illness, and soon after the death of the philosopher there was published, along with his autobiography a letter from Smith to W. Strahan (Smith's publisher) in which he gave an account of the closing scenes of his friend's life and expressed warm admiration for his character. This letter excited some rancour among the theologians, and Dr George Home, afterwards bishop of Norwich, published in 1777 A Letter to Adam Smith on the Life, Death and Philosophy of his Friend David Hume, by one of the people called Christians. But Smith took no notice of this effusion. 3 He was also attacked by Arch-

1 The duke undertook a translation of the Theory of Moral Senti- ments, but the Abbe Blavet's version appeared (1774) before his was completed and he then relinquished the design. An earlier French translation had been published (1764) under the title Mitaphysique de I'dme; and there is a later one — the best — by the marquis de Condorcet (1798, 2nd ed., 1830).

2 J. E. Thorold Rogers published in the Academy, 28th February 1885, a letter of Smith to William Pulteney, written in 1772, from which he thought it probable that the work lay " unrevised and unaltered " in the author's desk for four years. A similar conclusion seems to follow from a letter of Hume in Burton's Life, ii. 461.

3 A story was told by Sir Walter Scott, and is also related in the Edinburgh Review, of an " unfortunate rencontre," arising out of the publication of the same letter, between Smith and Dr Johnson, during the visit of the latter to Glasgow. The same story is given in a note in Wilberforce's Correspondence, the scene being somewhat vaguely laid in " Scotland." But it cannot be true; for Johnson


bishop W. Magee (1766-1831) for the omission in subsequent editions of a passage of the Moral Sentiments which that prelate had cited with high commendation as among the ablest illustra- tions of the doctrine of the atonement. Smith had omitted the paragraph in question (an omission which had escaped notice for twenty years) on the ground that it was unnecessary and mis- placed; but Magee suspected him of having been influenced by deeper reasons.

The greater part of the two years which followed the publica- tion of the Wealth of Nations Smith spent in London, enjoying the society of eminent persons, amongst whom were Gibbon, Burke, Reynolds and Topham Beauclerk. In 1778 he was appointed, through the influence of the duke of Buccleuch, one of the com- missioners of customs in Scotland, and in consequence of this fixed his residence at Edinburgh. His mother, now in extreme old age, lived with him, as did also his cousin, Miss Jane Douglas, who superintended his household. Much of his now ample in- come is believed to have been spent in secret charities, and he kept a simple table at which, " without the formality of an invitation, he was always happy to receive his friends." " His Sunday suppers," says M'Culloch, " were long celebrated at Edinburgh." One of his favourite places of resort in these years was a club of which Dr Hutton, Dr Black, Dr Adam Ferguson, John Clerk the naval tactician, Robert Adam the architect, as well as Smith himself, were original members, and to which Dugald Stewart, Professor Playfair and other eminent men were after- wards admitted. Another source of enjoyment was his small but excellent library; it is still preserved in his family. 4 In 1787 he was elected lord rector of the university of Glasgow, an honour which he received with " heartfelt joy." If we can believe a note in Wilberforce's Correspondence, he visited London in the spring of the same year, and was introduced by Dundas 5 to Pitt, Wilber- force and others. From the death of his mother in 1 784, and that of Miss Douglas in 1788, his health declined, and after a painful illness he died on the 17th of July 1790.

Before his decease Smith directed that all his manuscripts except a few selected essays should be destroyed, and they were accordingly committed to the flames. Of the pieces preserved by his desire the most valuable is his tract on the history of astronomy, which he himself described as a " fragment of a great work " ; it was doubtless a portion of the " connected history of the liberal sciences and elegant arts " which, we are told, he had projected in early life. Among the papers destroyed were probably, as Stewart suggests, the lectures on natural religion and jurisprudence which formed part of his course at Glasgow, and also the lectures on rhetoric which he delivered at Edinburgh in 1748. To the latter Hugh Blair seems to refer when, in his work on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres (1783), he acknowledges his obligations to a manuscript treatise on rhetoric by Smith, part of which its author had shown to him many years before, and which he hoped that Smith would give to the public. Smith had promised at the end of his Theory of Moral Sentiments a treatise on jurisprudence from the historical point of view.

As a moral philosopher Smith cannot be said to have won much acceptance for his fundamental doctrine. This doctrine is that all our moral sentiments arise from sympathy, that is, from the principle of our nature " which leads us to enter into the situations of other men and to partake with them in the passions which those situations have a tendency to excite." Our direct sympathy with the agent in the circumstances in which he is placed gives rise, according to this view, to our notion of the propriety of his action, whilst our indirect sympathy with those whom his actions have benefited or injured gives rise to our notions of merit and demerit in the agent himself. It seems justly alleged against this system by Dr Thomas Brown that " the moral sentiments, the origin of which it ascribes to our secondary feelings of mere sympathy, are assumed as previously existing in the original emotions with which the secondary feelings are said to be in unison." A second objection urged, perhaps with less justice, against the theory is that it fails to account for the


made his tour in 1773, whilst Hume's death did not take place till 1776. Smith seems not to have met Johnson in Scotland at all. It appears, however, from Boswell's Life, under date of 29th April 1778, that Johnson had on one occasion quarrelled with Smith at Strahan's house, apparently in London ; it is clear that the " unlucky altercation " at Strahan's must have occurred in 1761 or 1763, and could have had nothing to do with the letter on Hume's death.

4 See Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, edited with notes and introduction, by James Bonar (1894).

An interesting letter of Smith to Dundas (1st November 1779) on free trade for Ireland is printed in the Eng. Hist. Review, No. 2.