Life of Adam Smith eBook

John Rae (educator)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 551 pages of information about Life of Adam Smith.

The principal additions are the result of investigations to which he seems to have been prompted by current agitations of the stream of political opinion.  He gives now, for example, a fuller account of the working of the bounty system in the Scotch fisheries, which was then the subject of a special parliamentary inquiry, and on which his experience as a Commissioner of Customs furnished him with many opportunities of gaining accurate information; and he enters on a careful examination of the chartered and regulated corporations, and especially of the East India Company, whose government of the great oriental dependency was at the moment a question of such urgency that Fox introduced his India Bill which killed the Coalition Ministry in 1783, and Pitt established the Board of Control in 1784.

The new matter contains two recommendations which have attracted comment as ostensible contraventions of free trade doctrine.  One of them is the recommendation of a tax on the export of wool; but then the tax was to take the place of the absolute prohibition of the export which then existed, and it was not to be imposed for protectionist reasons, but for the simple financial purpose of raising a revenue.  Smith thought few taxes would yield so considerable a revenue with so little inconvenience to anybody.  The other supposed contravention of free trade doctrine is the sanction he lends to temporary commercial monopolies; but then this is avowedly a device for an exceptional situation in which a project promises great eventual benefit to the public, but the projectors might without the monopoly be debarred from undertaking it by the magnitude of the risk it involved.  He places this temporary monopoly in the same category with authors’ copyrights and inventors’ patents; it was the easiest and most natural way of recompensing a projector for hazarding a dangerous and expensive experiment of which the public was afterwards to reap the benefit.[315] It was only to be granted for a fixed term, and upon proof of the ultimate advantage of the enterprise to the public.


[307] New York Evening Post, 30th April 1887.  Original in possession of Mr. Worthington C. Ford, Washington, U.S.A.

[308] Morellet, Memoires, i. 244.

[309] Roscher, Geschichte, p. 599.

[310] Gentz, Briefe an Christian Garve, p. 63.

[311] Gibbon’s Miscellaneous Works, ii. 479.

[312] New York Evening Post, 30th April 1887.  Original in possession of Mr. Worthington C. Ford, Washington, U.S.A.

[313] Printed in a catalogue of a sale of autographs at Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge’s on 26th and 27th November 1891.

[314] Add.  MSS., 33,540.

[315] Wealth of Nations, Book V. chap. i.


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Life of Adam Smith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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