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.

     EDINBURGH, 6th March 1787.[341]


[339] Original in possession of Mr. Alfred Morrison.

[340] Original in Edinburgh University Library.

[341] Egerton MSS., British Museum, 2181.



1787. Aet. 64

In April he had improved enough to undertake the journey to London to consult Hunter, but he was wasted to a skeleton.  William Playfair—­brother of his friend the Professor of Mathematics, and afterwards one of the early editors of the Wealth of Nations—­met him soon after his arrival in London, and says he was looking very ill, and was evidently going to decay.  While in his usual health he was, though not corpulent, yet rather stout than spare, but he was now reduced to skin and bone.  He was able, however, to move about in society and see old friends and make new.  Windham in his Diary mentions meeting him at several different places, and he was now introduced for the first time to the young statesman who was only a student in the Temple when he was last in London in 1777, but who was already one of the most powerful ministers England had ever seen, and was at the moment reforming the national finances with the Wealth of Nations in his hand.  Pitt always confessed himself one of Smith’s most convinced disciples.  The first few years of his long ministry saw the daybreak of free trade.  He brought in a measure of commercial emancipation for Ireland; he carried a commercial treaty with France; he passed, in accordance with Smith’s recommendations, laws simplifying the collection and administration of the revenue.  In this very year 1787 he introduced his great Consolidation Bill, which created order out of the previous chaos of customs and excise, and was so extensive a work that it took 2537 separate resolutions to state its provisions, and these resolutions had only just been read on the 7th of March, a few weeks before Smith arrived in London.

No one in London therefore was more interested to meet Smith than the young minister who was carrying the economist’s principles out so extensively in practical legislation.  They met repeatedly, but they met on one occasion, of which recollection has been preserved, at Dundas’s house on Wimbledon Green,—­Addington, Wilberforce, and Grenville being also of the company; and it is said that when Smith, who was one of the last guests to arrive, entered the room, the whole company rose from their seats to receive him and remained standing.  “Be seated, gentlemen,” said Smith.  “No,” replied Pitt; “we will stand till you are first seated, for we are all your scholars.”  This story seems to rest on Edinburgh tradition, and was first published, so far as I know, in the 1838 edition of Kay’s Portraits, more than half a century after the date of the incident it relates. 

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Life of Adam Smith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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