Life of Adam Smith eBook

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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 551 pages of information about Life of Adam Smith.
about the atonement was anywise different in 1790 from what it was in 1759, or for doubting his own explanation of the omission, which he is said to have given to certain Edinburgh friends, that he thought the passage unnecessary and misplaced.[362] As if taking an odd revenge for its suppression, the original manuscript of this particular passage seems to have reappeared from between the leaves of a volume of Aristotle in the year 1831, when all the rest of the MS. of the book and of Smith’s other works had long gone to destruction.[363] It may be added, as so much attention has been paid to Smith’s religious opinions, that he gives a fresh expression to his belief in a future state and an all-seeing Judge in one of the new passages he wrote for this same edition of his Theory.  It is in connection with his remarks on the Calas case.  He says that to persons in the circumstances of Calas, condemned to an unjust death, “Religion can alone afford them every effectual comfort.  She also can tell them that it is of little importance what men may think of their conduct while the all-seeing Judge of the world approves of it.  She alone can present to them a view of another world,—­a world of more candour, humanity, and justice than the present, where their innocence is in due time to be declared and their virtue to be finally rewarded, and the same great principle which can alone strike terror into triumphant vice affords the only effectual consolation of disgraced and insulted innocence."[364] Whatever may have been his attitude towards historical Christianity, these words, written on the eve of his own death, show that he died as he lived, in the full faith of those doctrines of natural religion which he had publicly taught.


[359] Original in possession of Professor Cunningham, Belfast.

[360] Theory, ed. 1790, i. 146.

[361] Magee’s Works, p. 138.

[362] Sinclair’s Life of Sir John Sinclair, i. 40.

[363] Add.  MSS., 32, 574.

[364] Theory, ed. 1790, i. 303, 304.



The new edition of the Theory was the last work Smith published.  A French newspaper, the Moniteur Universelle of Paris, announced on 11th March 1790 that a critical examination of Montesquieu’s Esprit des Lois was about to appear from the pen of the celebrated author of the Wealth of Nations, and ventured to predict that the work would make an epoch in the history of politics and of philosophy.  That at least, it added, is the judgment of well-informed people who have seen parts of it, of which they speak with an enthusiasm of the happiest augury.  But notwithstanding this last statement the announcement was not made on any good authority.  Smith may probably enough have dealt with Montesquieu as he

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Life of Adam Smith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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