Adam Smith

Adam Smith, a brilliant eighteenth-century Scottish political economist, had the
advantage of judging the significance ol colonies by a rigorous examination
based on the colonial experience of 300 years. His overview has a built-in bias:
he strongly disapproved of excessive regulation of colonial trade by parent
countries. But his analysis is rich with insight and remarkably dispassionate in
its argument. Adam Smith recognized that the discovery of the New World not only
brought wealth and prosperity to the Old World, but that it also marked a divide
in the history of mankind. The passage that follows is the work of this economic
theorist who discusses problems in a language readily understandable by everyone.

Adam Smith had retired from a professorship at Glasgow University and Was living
in France in 1764-5 when he began his great work, The Wealth of Nations. The
book was being written all during the years of strife between Britain and her
colonies, but it was not published until 1776. In the passages which follow,
Smith points to the impossibility of monopolizing the benefits of colonies, and
pessimistically calculates the cost of empire, but the book appeared too late to
have any effect upon British policy. Because the Declaration of Independence and
The Wealth of Nations, the political and economic reliations of empire and
mercantilism, appeared in the same year, historians have often designated 1776
as one of the turning points in modern history. The text On the cost of Empire,
the eloquent exhortation to the rulers of Britain to awaken from their grandiose
dreams of empire, is the closing passage of Smith\'s book.

Adam Smith was a Scottish political economist and philosopher. He has become
famous by his influential book The Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith was the son
of the comptroller of the customs at Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. The exact date
of his birth is unknown. However, he was baptized at Kirkcaldy on June 5, 1723,
his father having died some six months previously.

At the age of about fifteen, Smith proceeded to Glasgow university, studying
moral philosophy under "the never-to-be-forgotten" Francis Hutcheson (as Smith
called him). In 1740 he entered Balliol college, Oxford, but as William Robert
Scott has said, "the Oxford of his time gave little if any help towards what was
to be his lifework," and he relinquished his exhibition in 1746. In 1748 he
began delivering public lectures in Edinburgh under the patronage of Lord Kames.
Some of these dealt with rhetoric and belles-lettres, but later he took up the
subject of "the progress of opulence," and it was then, in his middle or late
20s, that he first expounded the economic philosophy of "the obvious and simple
system of natural liberty" which he was later to proclaim to the world in his
Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. About 1750 he met
David Hume, who became one of the closest of his many friends.

In 1751 Smith was appointed professor of logic at Glasgow university,
transferring in 1752 to the chair of moral philosophy. His lectures covered the
field of ethics, rhetoric, jurisprudence and political economy, or "police and
revenue." In 1759 he published his Theory of Moral Sentiments, embodying some of
his Glasgow lectures. This work, which established Smith\'s reputation in his own
day, is concerned with the explanation of moral approval and disapproval. His
capacity for fluent, persuasive, if rather rhetorical argument is much in
evidence. He bases his explanation, not as the third Lord Shaftesbury and
Hutcheson had done, on a special "moral sense,"nor, like Hume, to any decisive
extent on utility,but on sympathy. There has been considerable controversy as
how far there is contradiction or contrast between Smith\'s emphasis in the Moral
Sentiments on sympathy as a fundamental human motive, and, on the other hand,
the key role of self-interest in the The Wealth of Nations. In the former he
seems to put more emphasis on the general harmony of human motives and
activities under a beneficent Providence, while in the latter, in spite of the
general theme of "the invisible hand" promoting the harmony of interests, Smith
finds many more occasions for pointing out cases of conflict and of the narrow
selfishness of human motives.

Smith now began to give more attention to jurisprudence and political economy in
his lecture and less to his theories of morals. An impression can be obtained as
to the development of his ideas on political economy from the notes of his
lectures taken down by a student in about 1763 which were later edited by E.
Cannan (Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms,1896), and from