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Literary Club, which had been formed ship of the Duke of Buccleugh, and in, many years before, and of which Smith some measure, we may trust, as a rehad been previously, a member, were ward for his invaluable labours, Dr among those with whom he associated Smith was appointed one of the Comt at this time; but neither history nor missioners of the Customs in Scotland ; tradition has handed down to us any an office which occasioned him to fix his of those sallies of colloquial wit and residence in Edinburgh, where he coneloquence for which many of his con- tinued to the end of his life. temporaries, far less distinguished than If we should consider this appointhimself in the higher walks of philosophy ment only in the light of an acknowand learning, have become celebrated ledgement, of a recompense too rarely with posterity. That he was not distin- bestowed by men in power, for labours guished by the flow or force of his mind purely philosophical, and having nothing in conversation is quite evident; and he to recommend them but their intrinsic is reported to have said of himself, that truth and beauty, few things can be he was so much in the habit of husband- more gratifying than the contemplation, ing his resources for his works in the to every lover of science and of virtue. closet, that he made it a rule never to Even the rewards which have been octalk in society upon any subject which casionally bestowed upon men of genius, he understood. This story, however, by princes and their ministers, have too we should be inclined to disbelieve. often been conferred for its prostitution Such voluntary and deliberate absti- to the mere purposes of power ; the nence from the pleasures of social con- price of its past or future service, or verse, even if it were allowed to be a the bribe for its silence when that alone virtue, would evidently be one very diffi- was to be bought. cult in practice; and instead of allow- In the instance before us, it is gratiing him the credit of so rare a species fying to know, that the reward, if it of self-denial, we are more disposed, in was so meant, was equally honourable accounting for his habitual reserve, to to the giver and the receiver. The works class Dr. Smith with some other very which Smith had published for the ineminent men (Addison and Dryden are struction of the world, had nothing to amongst them), whom Johnson has so do with the possessors of power in his admirably described in the following day, but to enlighten and direct its expassage :
ercise. The parties and factions be“There are men whose powers operate longing to the period when he wrote only at leisure and in retirement, and could derive no particular or personal whose intellectual vigour deserts them advantage from his writings; but manin conversation; whom merriment con- kind, in every age, will find in them the fuses, and objection disconcerts; whose best corrective to faction and to party; bashfulness restrains their exertion, and by contemplating those eternal political suffers them not to speak till the time of truths with which party has rarely had speaking is past; or whose attention to anything to do, but which are equally their own character makes them unwill- salutary at all times, and under every ing to utter at hazard what has not been form of government, for rulers and their considered, and cannot be recalled."* people.
The light in which the characteristic But if we should consider that the quality of his mind was regarded by his appointment which was bestowed upon friends may be partly gathered, amongst Smith, however gratifying in other reother testimonies, from the allusion to spects, was the cause, as there is reason him in the verses which Dr. Barnard to fear, of an interruption to his studies, addressed to the members of the club, and of the loss to the world of those not long after the publication of the speculations to which he had alluded in “ Wealth of Nations. The stanza is the closing passage of his Moral Sentias follows:
ments, and the completion of which If I have thoughts, and can't express 'em,
he is known never to have entirely Gibbon shall teach me how to dress 'em
abandoned but with his life; we shall Jones teach me modesty and Greek,
be disposed to lament, perhaps ungrateSmith how to think, Burke how to speak, fully to lament, that he who had al
ready done so much for the advanceIn the year 1778, owing to the friend- ment of moral and political science, was
not permitted to do more, by the ful* Life of Dryden.
filment of his engagement to give to
In words select and terse:
And Beauclerc to converse.
his country a theory of jurisprudence, a cold have, for these four or five days and in this manner to finish the struc- past, made it inconvenient for me to go ture which he had designed in his out in the evening. Remember me to earlier days, and to fill up the measure Mrs. Drummond, and believe me to be, of his fame. There is the greater reason my dear Lord, your most obliged, to lament this, because the office im
“ And most humble servant, posed upon this enlightened man was
“ADAM Smith."* one of no dignity or importance; but a duty of mere routine, the discharge of The greatest good conferred upon Dr. which must have been irksome to a Smith by his official appointment, the mind like his, accustomed during his greatest, indeed, that could be conferred life to so different an application of his by any additional wealth, was the power faculties. He might have been called, of extending the range of his benevolike Turgot, to the administration of his lence, which is known to have been at country, have enjoyed the melancholy all times exerted in acts of charity, far satisfaction of endeavouring to enforce beyond what might have been exthe maxims he had taught, and have pected of him, even after this moderate found, perhaps, like him in the end, that increase of his income. His excellent the intrigues of the cabinet, the favour biographer has alluded to some remarkof the court, and the prejudices of the able instances of this nature in the life of people, are equally adverse to the Smith, which have been communicated temper and the triumph of philosophy. to him by one of his confidential friends,
It was about this period that his where the assistance was on a scale as friend and early patron, Lord Kames, in liberal as the manner of rendering it was preparing a new edition of his work on delicate and affecting. Next to this the Principles of Morality and Natural was the satisfaction he derived from the Religion," was induced to call in question privilege of spending the latter period the theory of Dr. Smith, and he there- of his life in the society of his oldest and fore sent him a copy of the strictures dearest friends-free from those anxious he intended to introduce upon his work, cares with which the want of mere before he proceeded to publication. To worldly competence has sometimes darkthis Smith replied in the following letter, ened the declining years of genius and which we hesitate not to subjoin,-first, of virtue. In the society of his mother, because, as we have before remarked, and of his cousin, Miss Douglas, who there are so few of his letters extant, now formed part of his household, he and secondly, as it serves to shew the enjoyed for some years every comfort courtesy with which philosophic con- and consolation that can be felt by one troversy was carried on in those days, who is a stranger to the more endearing and would generally be carried on, if ties which bind a husband and a father. the love of truth, and truth only, in. A simple, but hospitable table was alspired it.
ways open to his friends. “ November 16th, 1778.
In 1784 he lost his mother, and four “ MY DEAR LORD,
years after, his cousin; and their death
was felt by him as a severe and irre“I am much obliged to you for the parable loss; little to be soothed by any kind communication of the objections worldly honour or applause ; it being you propose to make in your new edi- the effect, perhaps, of age and of all tion, to my system. Nothing can be true wisdom, to render the mind as inmore perfectly friendly and polite than sensible to such vanities, as it is to disthe terms in which you express yourself pose it to the influence of the social and with regard to me; and I should be ex, domestic affections. Were it otherwise, tremely peevish and ill-tempered if I the affliction under which he suffered could make the slightest opposition to might have been somewhat alleviated by their publication. I am, no doubt, ex- one of the most gratifying circumstances tremely sorry to find myself of a different opinion both from so able a judge to Lord Kames, in which lie says that * after all, the of the subject, and of so old and good system of sympathy is only a refinement of the a friend ;—but differences of this kind selfish system,” a criticism very like to saying that are unavoidable, and besides—Partium things, in which the plain sense of the world has
white is only a refinement on the colour of blackcontentionibus respublica crescit. I discovered, some how or other, a pretty clear and should have been waiting on your Lord- hlend them with his brusb, or a logician, like Dr.
durable distinction; notwithstanding the painter may ship before this time, but the remains of Reid, confound them by his cavils.
. There is a letter of Dr. Reid's extant, addressed
of his life, which occurred about this died, he had two or three of his select period. In the year 1787 the University friends to sup with him, as was his of Glasgow elected him rector of that custom; but finding his strength fail learned body; and that he felt this com- him, he retired to bed, and as he went pliment very sensibly, is manifest from away, he took leave of them by saying, the letter which he addressed to the "I believe, Gentlemen, we must adjourn principal of the college in acknowledg- this meeting to some other place. ment of this flattering distinction-an the previous winter he had prepared a honour, however, be it remarked, which new edition of his “Moral Sentiments," could scarcely have been rendered where and in the advertisement which he preit would have reflected back so much fixed to it, he had still allowed himself credit upon those who had bestowed to express a last and faint hope that it it, and which, we may venture to say, might yet be permitted to him to comwould not have been lessened in the plete his long-projected work on jurisestimation of Dr. Smith, had he lived prudence. Even then, the ardour to see it conferred upon some illustrious of his mind would not suffer him altonames who have shared it in our own gether to relinquish a hope which, it times.
was but too evident, could never be “No preferment,” says he, “ could fulfilled. He died only a few days after have given me so much real satisfaction. the meeting to which we have referred, No man can owe greater obligations to on the 17th July, 1790, bequeathing the a society than I do to the University of valuable library which he had collected Glasgow. They educated me; they to his nephew, Mr. D. Douglas; apsent me to Oxford. Soon after my return pointing his friends, Dr. Hutton and to Scotland, they elected me one of Dr. Black, the executors of his will ; their own members, and afterwards pre- and entrusting to them the charge of ferred me to another office, to which the publishing the few unfinished sketches abilities and virtues of the never to be which had been allowed to survive him, forgotten Dr. Hutcheson had given a superior degree of illustration. The SECTION 7.—On the general Character period of thirteen years which I spent as and Writings of Smith. a member of that society, I remember as by far the most useful, and there. The character of Dr. Smith, like that of fore as by far the happiest and most all men whose lives have been devoted honourable period of my life: and now, to the pursuits of philosophy and sciafter three-and-twenty years absence, to ence, may be best traced in his writings. be remembered in so very agreeable a It has perhaps been the fortune of few manner by my old friends and protectors, men so eminent to have engaged so gives me a heartfelt joy which I cannot little in the commerce and bustle of easily express to you.'
active life, and of few, it has been said, to The life of this illustrious man was have been so little fitted for it: get the now fast drawing to a close. For a intellectual and moral capacities of this considerable period previous to his illustrious man were evidently of an order death his health had gradually declined, to have filled, and adorned, the highest and his mind reverted in his last mo- station in society; and, notwithstanding ments with renewed regret to what he the abstraction in which he lived, for the had left undone of the works he had so most part, from the business of the long designed. His death was ap- world, and some peculiar and characproaching far too rapidly to leave the teristic traits which occasionally marked slightest hope of doing more; and his his habits and his opinions, it is clear anxiety about the fate of his manu- that, with an understanding of the scripts became excessive. It was so loftiest range, he was free, in many great, that during his last illness, after respects, from that exclusiveness and reiterating the most earnest entreaties pedantry which have been sometimes for their destruction after his death, he ascribed to philosophers of great name, was yet not satisfied, and desired that and which have given currency, we supthe whole of his papers, except the few pose, “ to the opinion, so industriously fragments which he bequeathed to the propagated (says Mr. Hume) by the care of Dr. Hutton, might be destroyed dunces in every age, that a man of genius immediately. His mind seemed greatly is unfit for business.". In the establishrelieved, when he was assured that this ment of his most enlightened theories, was done. A very few days before he and those least of all subject to be dis
puted in their ultimate and general ten- lieved to be a mere useless and pedantic dency, he did not lose sight of that heap of sophistry and nonsense. Such modification which they may occasion- systems, such sciences, can subsist no ally require in practice, for the accom. where but in those incorporated socieplishment of an immediate and benefi- ties for education whose prosperity and cial purpose; and if the evidence of revenue are, in great measure, indemany striking passages in his works pendent of their reputation, and altogemay be trusted, he did not incur as a ther independent of their industry. philosopher, and would not have in- Were there no such institutions, a gencurred as a statesman, the censure of tleman, after going through, with applirashly and unfeelingly adhering to an cation and abilities, the most complete abstract principle in disdain of the inte- course of education which the circumrests which might be prejudiced, or even
stances of the times were supposed to the prejudices which might have been afford, could not come into the world shocked, by its application.
completely ignorant of everything which Nothing is more obvious, and nothing is the common subject of conversation contributes so much to the beauty and among gentlemen and men of the world.” value of his writing, as that in all his -" The discipline of colleges and unispeculations he carried human life along, versities,” says he, in another passage, with him; he never forgot that it was “ is in general contrived, not for the the chief praise and glory of philosophy benefit of the students, but for the inteto teach men how to act and to live; rest, or, more properly speaking, for the and he breathes through every page the ease, of the masters. Its object is, in admirable sentiment of a noble authors all cases, to maintain the authority of the
“ That whatever study tends neither master; and whether he neglects or perdirectly nor indirectly to make us better forms his duty, to oblige the students, in men and better citizens, is at best but a all cases, to behave to him as if he per
specious and ingenious sort of idleness, formed it with the greatest diligence and and the knowledge we acquire by it only ability. It seems to presume perfect a creditable kind of ignorance-nothing wisdom and virtue in the one order, and more *." This is eminently displayed the greatest weakness and folly in the in that valuable chapter to which we other. Where the masters, however, have referred, in the fifth book of the really perform their duty, there are no “ Wealth of Nations," on the “ Institu- examples, I believe, that the greater part tions for the Education of Youth". of the students ever neglect theirs. Such one of the most profound and powerful is the generosity of the greater part of disquisitions in any language. Neither young men, that so far from being disthe abstractions of philosophy, nor the posed to neglect or despise the instrucpride of learning, nor the habits of the tions of their master, provided he shews professor, could render him insensible some serious intention of being of use to to the purpose to which they ought them, they are generally inclined to parall to be subservient, namely, the don a great deal of incorrectness in the real interest of those who are to be performance of his duty, and sometimes taught. But the spirit of monopoly in even to conceal from the public a good such institutions he shews to be as ini- deal of gross negligence.” mical to those interests as it is in every Such are the manly and liberal docother case. “ The endowment of trines which he has put forth on this allschools and colleges," he says, “ have important topic. How unlike to the conbeen opposed to this interest; they have tracted and monkish sentiments enternot only corrupted the diligence of pub- tained by many men, a great portion lic teachers, but they have rendered it of whose lives has been passed within almost impossible to have any good pri- the walls of an university, and that too vate ones. Were there no endowed in- in the capacity of public teachers ! stitutions for education, no system, no He was an ardent lover of freedom, science could be taught for which there but his devotions were not paid to her as was not some demand. A private to an unknown goddess, of whose attriteacher could never find his account in butes he was ignorant, and to whom his teaching either an exploded and anti- offerings were but an idle and a gaudy quated system of science acknowledged worship. If he loved freedom, he underto be useful, or a science universally be stood, better than the lovers of freedom
have always done, in what it consisted : * Lord Bolingbroke-On the Study of History, by what institutions it might be rendered
most permanent, and its substantial every other human quality, improves in blessings be more widely and equally proportion to the encouragement it rediffused. The scorn of oppression and ceives. Where wages are high, accordinjustice was in him an active and dis- ingly, we shall always find the workmen cerning sentiment; and, in his ardour more active, diligent, and expeditious. for the interests and happiness of man- In cheap years, it is pretended they are kind, he felt alike, whether the means generally more idle, and in dear ones by which they were inflicted were legal more industrious than ordinary. A or illegal. The poor and the weak, plentiful subsistence, therefore, it has the humble and the unprotected, he been concluded, relaxes, and a scanty knew had, in every age, endured more one quickens their industry. That a of evil from the operation of unjust laws little more plenty than ordinary may than they have ever done from the mere render some men idle cannot be doubted; violation of law. It was their condition, but that it should have this effect upon that is, the condition of the great mass the greater part, or that men in general of society, which he studied and wrote should work better when they are ill fed to ameliorate; and his language never than when they are well fed, when they assumes a loftier or more ardent tone are disheartened than when they are in than when he advocates their interests, good spirits, when they are frequently -the interests of mankind at large, sick than when they generally are in good against some crying wrong, sanctioned, health, seems not very probable.” as it may happen to be, by law or Our merchants and master-manucharter. We might refer in proof of this facturers too (he says, in another part of to his observations on the laws against his work) complain much of the bad the combination of workmen, where effects of high wages in raising the price, he vindicates the poor against the power and thereby lessening the sale of their of the rich-on the law of settlement, goods both at home and abroad. They the law of entails, and the severe and say nothing concerning the bad effects contemptuous tone in which he cen- of high profits. They are silent with sures the spirit of commercial monopoly regard to the pernicious effects of their under every form. Nor did he fail to own gains. They complain only of visit with equal severity the sentiments those of other people."—Wealth of Nain which such impolitic and unjust regu- tions, Book I. ch. 8-9. lations have their origin. Witness the
Yet his zeal in the best of causes indignant manner in which he replies to never made him lose sight of the end of the miserable complaints of those who, all law-the preservation of the peace disposed to view every improvement in of society. He takes care to shew that the condition of the labouring classes it is not the province of a good or a of society as an encroachment upon wise man to seek the establishment of their superiors, censure every increas- his principles by violence or undue pering comfort they enjoy as a luxury to tinacity, and in disdain of the prejuwhich they have no right. As he repro- dices and institutions of the community bates the injustice and impolicy of any which he seeks to influence. attempt to retard their advancement, if “ The man, whose public spirit is such were possible; so has he treated prompted altogether by humanity and with still greater contempt the mon- benevolence (he says, in one of the strous and cruel paradox which has been finest passages of his writings) will resometimes maintained, that a liberal spect the established powers and privirate of wages relaxes the industry of the leges even of individuals, and still more labourer, and that he never works so those of the great orders and societies well as when he is ill requited for his into which the state is divided. Though labour.
he should consider some of them as in “ The liberal reward of labour," says some measure abusive, he will content Smith, as it is the effect of increasing himself with moderating what he often wealth, so it is the cause of increasing cannot annihilate without great viopopulation. To complain of it is to la. lence. When he cannot conquer the ment over the necessary effect and rooted prejudices of the people by reason cause of the greatest public prosperity. and persuasion, he will not attempt to As it encourages the propagation, so it subdue them by force; but will reliincreases the industry, of the common giously observe what by Cicero is justly people. The wages of labour are the called the divine maxim of Plato, never encouragement of industry, which, like to use violence to his country, no more