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adopted because his book needed no revision. It is said that he made several changes in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments' in the year before his death. It seems more probable, as he had concluded his work with a discussion of the means by which a restoration of the union between Great Britain and her American colonies would be best effected, that he was disinclined to revise his theory after the theory was made impracticable by a final severance, and by a formal acknowledgment of American independence. It is to be regretted, indeed, that he did not comment on the support which the acknowledgment of American independence gave to his refutation of the colonial system, and point to the practicability of negotiating a commercial treaty on other principles than those of the mercantile theory.

It remains that I should add a few words about the part which I have taken in putting forth this edition of the Wealth of Nations.' It was natural that the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, who have already done so much service in publishing important books, should print a new edition of the chief work of one of the most distinguished persons who have proceeded from this University, and whose volumes have been the text-book for the ablest and the best of our statesmen.

The text is that of the last edition which was printed in Smith's life-time. After the third edition, Smith made no alteration in the text, beyond expressing in an 'Advertisement' to the fourth edition his obligations to Mr. Hope of Amsterdam, for the digression on Banks of Deposit. This edition of 1786 is very carefully printed. I have found only one important typographical error in the three volumes.

Of course I have faithfully reprinted from this copy. Where the form of spelling has been changed, I have modernised the original; for example, 'public' is printed in this edition without a final letter, which a century ago was universally appended. So, again, certain foreign names were occasionally misspelt in the original, and are corrected in the present edition.

As is stated above, Smith put very few notes to his work.

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Some of these, either because they were quoted from memory, or because the note was incorrectly printed and escaped correction, required verification. But in the great majority of cases, the quotation or reference is given without a foot-note. As yet, I believe no editor of the Wealth of Nations' has been at the pains to discover the authorities given in the text. I have attempted to supply this deficiency; though, in some cases, I have been unable to detect the original.

The two principal English editions of Smith's work, are those of Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, and Mr. Macculloch. The former of these is imperfect. It appears that Mr. Wakefield grew weary of his task, and disappointed his publisher. It is hardly necessary to say that what is written by Mr. Wakefield is acute and valuable.

Mr. Macculloch's edition, the merits of which I shall not attempt to discuss, is more ambitious. This writer's dissertations are nearly as lengthy as the original text. however, disposed to think that the editor of a great work, like that of the Wealth of Nations,' should submit to the functions of a clerk, rather than assume those of a partner, however deferential his language may be towards the author with whom he associates his name.

The notes which I have subjoined to my author's text are not very numerous. I repeat that Adam Smith is much more frequently in the right than his critics are; and I may fortify this opinion of mine by a statement of the late Mr. Cobden, who said in the House of Commons, in a debate taken on June 3, 1845, when the peculiar burdens of land were discussed, and the authority of one of these critics was cited, that the critic in question ‘had been a commentator on Adam Smith, and, like commentators on Shakespeare, had made that dark which was light before.

There are certain errors in Smith's reasonings, certain omissions in his facts, on the agreement of all who have studied his work. These errors I have attempted to point out, and these omissions, as far as was consistent with the duties of an editor, to rectify. In the fulfilment of this office, I have not commented on Smith's political sentiments; they are part of the history of political opinion, and as such have their own value, apart from their particular merits and defects. The author appended an Index to his work.

There is no reason to think that this Index was Smith's own doing. It is rather scanty, and deals more fully with the economical reasonings contained in the work than with the whole range of topics discussed and the multitude of facts cited by the author. I have, therefore, given a new Index, of a more copious and extended character than that annexed to the fourth edition.


OXFORD, Sept. 10, 1869.



N this, the second edition, I have revised the whole of the

notes and have brought down the statistical or other facts to the latest information which has been published. I have also added from my forthcoming volumes on the History of Agriculture and Prices in England, 1401-1582, the average prices of wheat during that period.

From these averages, taken in conjunction with Mr. Lloyd's Oxford prices 1582–1829, and the Board of Trade returns 1830–1879 for the later period, and with the average wheat prices given in my first two volumes, 1259–1400, the public has for the first time been supplied with an unbroken series of wheat prices for 621 years.

I have also appended a table of the prices of wool in recent times, from which the reader will be able to follow the improvement in the wool-producing quality of sheep for a long period.


OXFORD, Sept. 10, 1880.






THE first edition of the following work was printed in the

end of the year 1775 and in the beginning of the year 1776. Through the greater part of the book therefore, whenever the present state of things is mentioned, it is to be understood of the state they were in either about that time, or at some earlier period during the time I was employed in writing the book. To the third edition, however, I have made several additions, particularly to the chapter upon Drawbacks, and to that upon Bounties; likewise a new chapter, entitled *The Conclusion of the Mercantile System;' and a new article to the chapter upon the Expenses of the Sovereign. In all these additions, the present state of things' means always the state in which they were during the year 1783 and the beginning of the year 1784.






N this fourth edition I have made no alterations of any

kind. I now, however, find myself at liberty to acknowledge my very great obligations to Mr. Henry Hope of Amsterdam. To that gentleman I owe the most distinct, as well as liberal information, concerning a very interesting and important subject, the Bank of Amsterdam, of which no printed account had ever appeared to me satisfactory, or even intelligible. The name of that gentleman is so well known in Europe, the information which comes from him must do so much honour to whoever has been favoured with it, and my vanity is so much interested in making this acknowledgment, that I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of prefixing this Advertisement to this new edition of my book.

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