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ADAM SMITH., Issue 8041, 18 October 1889
TO THE EDITOR. Sir,— The author of_ ‘The Wealth of Nations ’ was born in Kirkcaldy on June 5, 1723. Fifeshiro is famed for its shrewd and hard-headed people. Kirkcaldy is now making great preparations—in view of 1890 being the anniversary of the death of Smith to raise L 50.000 towards the erection of a literary institute. They are making appeals to the whole world for contributions. Buckle regards ‘ The Wealth of Nations ’ as the most important book ever written. It has revolutionised men’s theories regarding the production and distribution of wealth. Smith was early distinguished for absentmindedness and a habit of speaking to himself. At fourteen years of age he entered Glasgow University, and there he obtained a snell exhibition to enable him to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he remained for six years, till he was twenty-three. He intcucted to enter the church, but Hume, his friend, had dissuaded him from that step. In 1748 he delivered lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres in Edinburgh University, and in 1751 he became Professor of Logic in the University of Glasgow. In 1755 he was promoted to the Chair of Moral Philosophy, and the ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments ’ is the result of his labors there. He bases his theory on sympathy, and it is, if not a perfect treatise, an incomparable series of essays on morals. In 1763 Smith vacated his chair and became tutor to the Duke of Bucclcuch, with whom he travelled and studied on the Continent for three years. His Grace’s trustees had settled an annuity of L3OO upon him for life. In 1766 he returned to Kirkcaldy, and devoted ten years to the production of his great book. He was an infidel at heart, but had not tho moral courage to declare himself openly; or, perhaps, he did not deem it prudent to do so. His account of Hume’s death roused the just indignation of Bishop Horne, who, in his letter, expresses himself thus ;—“ Are you sure, and can you make us sure, that there really exist no such things as God, a future state of rewards and punishments ? If so, all is well. Let us, then, in our last hours read Lucian, and play at whist, and dwell upon Charon and his boat; let us die as foolish and insensible, as much like our brother philosophers, the calves of the field and the asses of the desert.” Hume and Smith wrote in the incomparable style of the eighteenth century. Johnson in England and Blair in Scotland brought the English language to almost perfection. Where are tho classical wtitera of the nineteenth century ? ' . Smith’s ‘ Wealth of Nations ’ exercised a great influence upon his own age, and specially upon Pitt, who refused to support a Bill for tho regulation of the wages of laborers. Indeed, Smith exploded the prejudices and theories of mercantile and agricultural enthusiasts. Old customs gradually dissolved, like bubbles, before the breath of criticism and_ common sense. State interference he abominated. He went in strong and straight for absolute Freetrade. He swept away numberless bars, obstructions, and imposts in tho way of the production of wealth. And none but a born idiot can now advocate Protection. “ Wherever the law has attempted to regulate tho wages of workmen,” it has always bungled. Restraints on manufactures and trade are always pernicious. “The true policy, therefore, is one of natural liberty. Every man, so long as ho does not violate the laws of justice, should be left perfectly free to pursue his own in his own way, and to bring forth his industry and his capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men. As a general rule the affairs of the world were best managed when the people whom these affairs concerned were left as much as possible to their own devices.” So remarks Smiths latest biographer, R. B. Haldane, M.P. To the State Adam Smith said Hands of! Tolls and turnpikes also he condemned ; also chartered corporations, guilds, and monopolies. A land tax he regarded as a mere vice. He was an uncompromising opponent of State interference in any shape when it could bo avoided, Capital is a sensitive plant; and labor, like water, will always find its own level, despite tho insane ravings of ignorant sciolists, or clerical Socialists, or political demagogues. —I am, etc., J. G. S. Gr^ni. Dunedin, October 18. P.S.—Let me suggest to the admirers of genius the propriety of forwarding their mites to the proper quarter at Home towards the erection of the projected Adam Smith’s Memorial Institute in the long town of Kirkcaldy. By the way, tho establishment of a chair of political economy in St. Andrew’s might bo a more appropriate tribute to the memory of the author of ‘The Wealth of Nations.’ In Scotland political economy, being joined with moral philosophy, is practically sacrificed to the latter; and indeed in St. Andrew’s even morals are eclipsed by metaphysics. In Edinburgh, of course, there is a separate chair for logic and metaphysics; but in Aberdeen everything is sacrificed to mathematics, ethics, physics, Latin, and Greek. These five chairs constitute the chief branches of cognition in the Granite City. J.G.S.G.
ADAM SMITH., Issue 8041, 18 October 1889
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