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(II. 433): 'I am a slow, a very slow workman,' he wrote to his publisher Cadell but he knew how to finish the course.

Fourthly, his mind is a storehouse of information gathered from reading, conversation, and travel. Quotations from the classics jostle by the side of strange customs reported by travellers and of homely details observed by himself. He quotes, as his editor observes, by their own name or that of their authors, almost one hundred books. . . . Usually but little, sometimes only a single fact, phrase or opinion is taken from each, so that few authors are less open than Adam Smith to the reproach of having rifled another man's work.' He must have possessed a prodigious memory, which enabled him to deposit a thousand curiosities in the appropriate mental pigeon-holes, and to take each one out years afterwards exactly at the point at which the argument demanded it. Indeed, one may always say of the Wealth of Nations two things-there is hardly any remark which may not occur in it; and no remark, when it does occur, is irrelevant.

In 1776 Arkwright had only just patented his rollers, and so we hear nothing about Lancashire's cotton industry. But between the diet of the north and that of the south there were then wellestablished differences:

In some parts of Lancashire it is pretended, I have been told, that bread of oatmeal is a heartier food for labouring people than wheaten bread, and I have frequently heard the same doctrine held in Scotland. I am, however, somewhat doubtful of the truth of it. The common people in Scotland, who are fed with oatmeal, are in general neither so strong nor so handsome as the same rank of people in England, who are fed with wheaten bread (I. 161).

Surely a solitary instance of such a confession in the annals of Scottish literature! And who but Adam Smith could add this?

But it seems to be otherwise with potatoes. The chairmen, porters, and coal heavers in London, and those unfortunate women who live by prostitution, the strongest men and the most beautiful women perhaps in the British dominions, are said to be, the greater part of them, from the lowest rank of people in Ireland, who are generally fed with this root (I. 161-2).

And similarly a score and more of towns or districts are mentioned, each with its particular incident,--Manchester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, whose manufactures were outside the Statute of Apprentices, not having been exercised in England before the 5th of Elizabeth' (I. 123); Newcastle, whose coal trade with the metropolis employed more shipping than all 1 From An unpublished letter of Adam Smith,' Economic Journal, Sept. 1923. 2 Editor's Introduction to Wealth of Nations, P. xlvii.

P. 427.

the carrying trade of England' (I. 351); a certain village of Scotland' where it is not uncommon, I am told, for a workman to carry nails instead of money to the baker's shop or the ale house' (I. 25); Edinburgh, which-being situated on the seaboard-found it cheaper to import its timber, so that 'in the New Town of Edinburgh, built within these few years, there is not, perhaps, a single stick of Scotch timber' (I. 167); Glasgow, whose trade had doubled in about fifteen years after the erection of the first banks (I. 280); the Highlands, where' a half-starved Highland woman frequently bears more than twenty children' (I. 81)—and so on. His keen eye to local and professional differences makes the sections on wages and working class conditions (in which many of these allusions occur) one of the strongest parts of his work. Studying the labourer in different conditions and different trades, he saw that while there was a fundamental connection between the price of labour and the price of subsistence, wages were nevertheless in many cases above the level of subsistence. The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the necessary effect, so it is the natural symptom of increasing national wealth. . . . There are many plain symptoms that the wages of labour are nowhere in this country regulated by this lowest rate which is consistent with common humanity' (I. 75). This practical knowledge saved him from the crudities of an Iron Law of Wages.

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Fifthly, he has a perfect style-nervous, racy and finished. In him truly the style is the man. His is the pen of one who has weighed realities and read the balance. He illumines with humour, and when he is minded he can pungently chastise. And over all rides an air of philosophic calm as he contemplates the vanities of men, 'their absurd presumption in their own good fortune' (I. 109), their overweening conceit in their own abilities; but that which most of all compels the reader is his power of supplying an arresting phrase which once remarked is never forgotten. With a single metaphor he can laugh a heresy out of court. With a simile he can make dry bones live.

4. Defects

There are, however, two respects in which the book is open to definite criticism.

First of all, on the historical side. Adam Smith is not always impartial. His denunciations of the East India Company are more frequent than proofs of their wickedness. He says in his First Book, 'The difference between the genius of the British Constitution which protects and governs North America, and that of the

mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies, cannot perhaps be better illustrated than by the different state of those countries' (I. 75). Later on, indeed, he makes amends for his commendation by exposing the evil nature of that genius, as it was manifested in the old colonial policy; but his silence upon the honourable service rendered by the directors and officials of 'John Company' to the cause of empire is, to say the least, unhandsome. The joint stock company was associated so closely in his mind with a repressive monopoly that he underrated the part that joint stock enterprise had played in the development of British industry and commerce. He condemned the slackness of joint stock management, but as the learned author of the History of Joint Stock Companies 1 is able to prove by chapter and verse, the directors' policy was often marked by enterprise, public spirit and devotion to their company's service. Adam Smith pronounced them fit only for routine; but as again the same critic shows, the ability to handle risks was often their strongest feature, and they succeeded in foreign trade in an age when foreign trade was literally a venture, in banking when banking was full of surprises, and in insurance before its operations were reduced to a science. It is a lame excuse to say that he knew much more than he said, for in that case he must have drawn very unequally on his stock of knowledge. Rather we must plead that if he had been confronted with the fruits of modern research he might have seen and corrected his bias.

Secondly, on the philosophical side. At times he came perilously close to an anti-social exaltation of self-interest :

The natural effort of every individual to better his own conditions, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations (II. 43). . . . By directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greater value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention (I. 421).

Adam Smith had certainly a powerful principle to enunciate -the automatic regulation of industry by reference to market price. Fiscal regulation cramped enterprise and brought evil consequences which were no part of the national intention, as patently in his day as war-time price control did in our own; and if we confine these passages to their context, their limitation 1 W. R. Scott, Joint Stock Companies to 1720, I. 448 sqq.

makes them socially innocuous. In the one he is exposing the ineptitudes of the corn bounty: in the other he is exalting individual enterprise above paternalism and trading companies privileged by law. Similarly when the entry in the index (his own index) self-love, the governing principle in the intercourse of human society' is referred to the text, all we find is the following: It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chuses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens' (I. 16). This is hardly more than saying Business is business, and must not be confounded with charity.'

But the powerful principle of self-love,' when used to define social responsibilities, had results which were wholly evil. Adam Smith's phrase about the invisible hand' was remembered and repeated. In Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, writing in the middle of the 19th century, it took the form that' through the wise and beneficent arrangement of Providence men thus do the greatest service to the public when they are thinking of nothing but their own gain.' But these were days of social stress, when the industrial machine had run amuck and was doing havoc among the weaker members of society. In the name of the father of political economy, employers and would-be economists were then denouncing extensions of the Factory Acts, the planning of towns, and the enforcement of a minimum of sanitation and safety.

5. Influence on Economic Policy

The influence of the Wealth of Nations on fiscal policy is difficult to handle only because we are tempted herein to anticipate the whole story of free trade from 1776 to the close of the 19th century. But let us observe, first, that the influence of Adam Smith was continental. Through the medium of Mollien he became the financial guide of Napoleon. He had put his finger on the weak spots of French finance before the Revolution, remarking that the system of taxation yielded not the half of what might have been expected had the people contributed in the same proportion to their numbers as the people of Great Britain' (II. 390), and his recommendations-the substitution of a heavier land tax for the old taille and capitation, uniform duties throughout the kingdom, and the abolition of the wasteful plan of farming out the revenue-were adopted by Napoleon and his successors. In Germany the doctrines of Adam Smith

were accepted and preached by Stein and Hardenberg; and the German Zollverein of 1834 secured to those within its boundaries a greater measure of free trade than they had enjoyed before.

In England, William Pitt was Adam Smith's first and greatest disciple, and after the master's death Pitt in his budget speech of 1792 paid tribute to 'the writings of an author of our times, now unfortunately no more (I mean the author of a celebrated treatise on the Wealth of Nations), whose extensive knowledge of detail and philosophical research will, I believe, furnish the best solution to every question connected with the history of commerce or with the systems of political economy.' Adam Smith died in 1790, on the morrow of the Revolution which ushered in the age of European war. But after 1783 there was peace in North America, and therefore between 1783 and 1789 there were years of peace in Europe and America, during which the precepts of the book might be tried in foreign relations.


In 1779 he was consulted by Dundas on the Irish question. Ireland was then in a sorry plight-her goods boycotted, her industries throttled, her cattle under embargo, and her natural market in the colonies closed to her. Adam Smith's reply was as we might expect- As the wealth and industry of Lancashire does not obstruct but promote that of Yorkshire, so the wealth and industry of Ireland would not obstruct but promote that of England.' 1 In this spirit Pitt's Irish proposals of 1785 were framed, but they foundered on the opposition of British manufacturers and the suspicion of Irish nationalism. The statesman was therefore forced to the unhappy Act of Union in 1800a solution which the economist, arguing superficially from his own country, had commended in advance: Without a union with Great Britain the inhabitants of Ireland are not likely for many ages to consider themselves as one people' (II. 430). Here we might employ the writer's vein of sarcasm against himself. They became a nation in the 19th century because they learnt to hate with unanimity the shackles of a detested partnership.

Similarly in 1783, when the recognition of American independence called for a modification of the navigation laws, Pitt's inclination to a generous settlement was suppressed by the commercial and shipping interests. It is generally supposed that Adam Smith approved of the navigation laws because of the famous saving sentence' As defence, however, is of much more importance than opulence, the act of navigation is, perhaps, the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England' (I. 429). But once again the context is disturbing. Perhaps the wisest was not very comforting from one who was engaged in pouring

1 Rae, op. cit. 352.

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