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.
idea of a citizen army with universal compulsory service was still much discussed, but many now objected to the compulsion, and others, among whom was Lord Kames, to the universality of the compulsion, rallying to the idea of Fencibles—­i.e. regiments to be raised compulsorily by the landed proprietors, each furnishing a number of men proportioned to their valued rent.[105] Smith said a militia formed in this way, like the old Highland militia, was the best of all militias, but he held that the day was past for militias of men with one hand on the sword and the other on the plough, and that nothing could now answer for what he calls “the noblest of all arts,” the art of war, but the division of labour, which answered best for the arts of peace, and a standing army of soldiers by exclusive occupation.

Divided counsels and diminished zeal supply, no doubt, the main reason for the decay of the Poker Club, but other causes combined.  Dr. Carlyle, who was an active member of the club, says it began to decline when it transferred itself to more elegant quarters at Fortune’s, because its dinners became too expensive for the members; and Lord Campbell attributes its dissolution definitely to the new taxes imposed on French wines to pay the cost of the American War.  His statement is very explicit:  “To punish the Government they agreed to dissolve the ‘Poker,’ and to form another society which should exist without consumption of any excisable commodity."[106] But he gives no authority for the statement, and they are at least not likely to have been such fools as to think of punishing the Government by what was after all only an excellent way of punishing themselves.  The wine duty was no doubt a real enough grievance; it was raised five or six times during the club’s existence, and many a man who enjoyed his quart of Burgundy when the duty was less than half-a-crown a gallon, was obliged to do without it when the duty rose to seven shillings.  It may be worth adding, however, that the Poker Club was revived as the Younger Poker Club in the very year, 1786, when the duty on Burgundy was reduced again by the new Commercial Treaty with France.


[75] Southey’s Life of A. Bell, i. 23.

[76] Oswald had just been appointed commissioner for trade and plantations.

[77] Correspondence of James Oswald, p. 124.

[78] Burton’s Life of Hume, i. 375.

[79] Mr. Burton thinks the Society mentioned in this paragraph to be “evidently the Philosophical Society” of Edinburgh, but it seems much more likely to have been the Literary Society of Glasgow, of which Hume was also a member.  Of the Philosophical Society he was himself Secretary, and would therefore have been in the position of giving warning rather than receiving it; nor would he have spoken of sending that Society a paper which he would be on the spot to read himself.  Whether Smith was Secretary of the Glasgow Literary Society I do not know, but even if he were not it would be nothing strange though the communications of the Society with Hume were carried on through Smith, his chief friend among the members, and his regular correspondent.

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Life of Adam Smith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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