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ADAM SMITH., Issue 8044, 22 October 1889
TO THE EDITOB. Sir, —la your issue of the 18th inst. a remarkable letter appears under the above heading. It is altogether a strange production, and shows Adam Smith iu a somewhat peculiar light. Mr Grant says that it was the intention of the "great Scotchman," after leaving Oxford, to become a minister of the Scottish Church ; but a little further on we read that ho was all his life au infidel, and was dissuaded from becoming a minister by the advice of David Hume. Tho great Jolidsod, " that brought the English language to almost perfection," among many other wise and true sayings, also said : " Hypocrisy is the necessary burden of villainy." An infidel a minister of the Church of Scotland! Too bad of Adam. We have had some queer ministers —very queer—in the church since and before Adam Smith's time, but no avowed infidels. Too bad of Smith ! Even Hume himself was a more conscientious infidel. As, perhaps, the majority of your readers never read the * Wealth of Nations,' or Dugald Stewart's famous essay, Mr Grant might have let that " flea stick to the wa'." I do not think that people always speaking to themselves are generally considered philosophers. Indeed, sir, I may safely say that honest and harmless folk of that description are, as a rule, known by a different name. Where are the classical writers of the nineteenth, century ? It will, Mr Editor, be time enough to answer that question when we are well on with the twentieth century, or when that "good time coming " is drawing near its close. Great men, poets, classical writers, and other good men, are always dead for a number of years ero their good qualities are discovered by the other less talented mortals. Perhaps before "Maeaulay'sman" leaves Dunedin on his aeronautic machine to sketch Britisli ecclesiastical ruins, Mr G., yourself, myself, and a few others will be considered worthy of a monument by the then well cultured and refined generation. Protectionism is not, as Mr G. imagines, dead. The Protection League in Britain is gaining strength every day. Amongst its members are some of Her Majesty's Ministeis and advisers; and though I differ from them in politics I would not dream of saying that they were "born idiots," but of course I have no connection with the once famous Grants of that ilk. A savage clan they were. Mr G., however, propounds his own views much fuller than those of Adam Smith; and, wore we to follow the rule to " do as we please," might end with a very disastrous result indeed. It is not always safe to follow this. We have so many different opinions as to what are "the laws of justice/' In Scotland I might feel quite justified in fishing for salmon or shooting grouse, but tho sheriff of the county might possibly have a very different opinion, and be bo unreasonable as not to listen to my self-defence. It is nonsense to say that Adam Smith did not approve of a tax on land. Hear what he says : "The subjects of every Stato ought to contribute towards the support of the Government according tn their respective abilities." That is, the landlord according to his income from land ; the merchant in proportion to his income from trading—the one a tax on land, the other a tax on trade. But even Adam Smith was not infallible. We have found, or, rather, Mr Grant has shown, that he has erred upon one very important point. Why not upon more ? Many philosophers have erred. Not even a Yankee scientist would to-day try to prove that the earth was flat. Yet not very many years ago this was a recognised fact. Many of Adam Smith's theories have been superseded by an advancing civilisation, and are now practically non est. Still he was a great Scotchman—one of those bright stars that rise in the world of genius once or twice in a century. A memorial on a substantial scale at Kirkcaldy by all means. By-the-bye, as a Scotchman, I am pained to understand from Mr Grant's letter that the " morals " of St. Andrew's are eclipsed by some other things. Seems bad for a city that boasts of a sacred shrine. I am sorry to Bee that Mr Grant has taken advantage of an occasion like this jto inflict his own private opinions of capital and labor on a reading public, and characterise those differing from bim as "ignorant
sciolists," "born idiots," etc. These singular expressions have nothing to do with the greatness of the author of the * Wealth of Nations,' and shows the nn-Boswellian mind of his would-be biographer.—l am, etc., K. M'L. Dunedin, October 21. P.S.—Mr Grant should have mentioned where contributions should be sent. K.M'L.
ADAM SMITH., Issue 8044, 22 October 1889
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