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Set up and electrotyped January, 1895. Reprinted January,
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.
ADAM SMITH was born at Kirkcaldy in Fifeshire, Scotland, on June 5, 1723. In 1737 he went to the University of Glasgow, and thence, in 1740, to Balliol College, Oxford, with an exhibition on the Snell foundation. At Oxford he remained uninterruptedly for over six years. Returning to Kirkcaldy in 1746, he lived for two years with his widowed mother, continuing his studies. In 1748 he delivered a course of lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres during the winter at Edinburgh, under the patronage of Lord Kames; and it was then that he formed his friendship with David Hume. In 1751 he became Professor of Logic in the University of Glasgow, and in 1752 Professor of Moral Philosophy. The publication of his Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 established his literary reputation. In 1763 he resigned his professorship to take charge of the young Duke of Buccleugh during his continental travels : and he resided abroad, chiefly in Paris and Toulouse, for nearly three years. During this time he made the acquaintance of Quesnai and Turgot and others of the French “ Économistes" or " Physiocrates." In 1766 he went home again to Kirkcaldy, and remained in retirement there for ten years, working at his Wealth of Nations, which appeared in 1776. Made famous by this book, he spent the next two years in the literary society of London, and joined the Club over
which Johnson presided. In 1778 he was appointed one of the Commissioners of Customs for Scotland, and accordingly removed to Edinburgh, where he dwelt until his death in 1790.
Of the Wealth of Nations five editions appeared during his lifetime; it has been frequently reprinted since ; and it has been translated into all the chief languages of Europe. It has been edited and annotated by, among others, McCulloch (1828, 1850), Thorold Rogers (1869), and Professor Nicholson (1884).
The materials for his life are meagre, and recent accounts are based chiefly upon Dugald Stewart's Memoir, written in 1793. There is a brief Life by Mr. R. B. Haldane (1887), which contains a kind of abstract of the Wealth of Nations with a running criticism ; and there is appended to it a useful Bibliography. The Catalogue of Adam Smith's Library, edited by Mr. James Bonar (1894), contains also his will, the reproduction of an autograph, a plan of his house and garden at Kirkcaldy, and a critical account of the various extant portraits.
The portions here printed make up between a sixth and a fifth of the book. They have not been selected as containing necessarily the most interesting or well-written or important parts of the treatise ; the intention has been, rather, to present in a brief compass a general view of the whole of Adam Smith's economic philosophy. Accordingly, not only have many illustrations been pared away, but whole sections of the book, for instance those describing the colonial policy of England and the action of the East India Company, have been omitted. Thus the
treatise is, perhaps, made to assume a more exclusively theoretic character than the perusal of the original might lead some to attach to it. Those who wish to study contemporary conditions as they appeared to Adam Smith, or to form a complete estimate of his intellectual interests, must have recourse to the original. But the present selection omits, it is believed, nothing that enters into the real structure of Adam Smith's argument; it may serve to show that the historical and descriptive passages were, after all, only illustrations, and quite subsidiary; and it may bring out more clearly the relation of his work to that of subsequent English economists.
The text here given is that of the first edition. The few passages omitted in the third edition, that of 1784, are placed within round brackets; those there added, within square brackets.