Chap 11: Last Year in Glasgow

Chap. 11: Last Year In Glasgow

  • Rev. William Ward of Broughton was the chaplain to the Marquis of Rockingham.
  • In 1763, he brought out his Essay on Grammar.
    • Sir William Hamilton thought that it was “perhaps the most philosophical essay on the English language extant,”
    • He sent an abstract of it to Smith through a common friend, Mr. George Baird.
    • Smith wrote the following letter to Mr. Baird:—[126]

Glasgow, February 7, 1763.

Dear Sir

I have read the contents of your friend’s work with very great pleasure.

  • and heartily wish it was in my power to give, or to procure him all the encouragement which his ingenuity and industry deserve.
  • I am greatly obliged to him for the very obliging notice he has been pleased to take of me.
  • I should be glad to contribute anything in my power to complete his design.
  • I greatly approve of his plan for a Rational Grammar.
  • I am convinced that a work of this kind, executed with his abilities and industry, may prove as:
    • the best system of grammar
    • the best system of logic in any language,
    • the best history of the natural progress of the human mind in forming the most important abstractions on which all reasoning depends.
  • From the short abstract which Mr. Ward has been so good as to send me, it is impossible for me to form any very decisive judgment on the propriety of every part of his method, particularly of some of his divisions.[Pg 160]
  • If I were to treat the same subject, I should endeavour to begin with the consideration of verbs.
  • I think these are the original parts of speech, first invented to express in one word a complete event.
  • I should then have endeavoured to show how the subject was divided to form the attribute.
  • Afterwards how the object was distinguished from both.
  • In this way, I should have tried to investigate the origin and use of all the different parts of speech and of all their different modifications, considered as necessary to express the different qualifications and relations of any single event.
  • However, Mr. Ward may have excellent reasons for following his own method.
  • Perhaps if I were engaged in the same task, I should find it necessary to follow the same.
    • Things frequently appear in a very different light when taken in a general view and when considered in detail.
      • The general view is the only view I can pretend to have taken of them.


  • Mr. Ward mentions the definitions which different authors have given of substantive nouns.
    • He does not notice that of the Abbé Girard, the author of the book called Les Vrais Principes de la Langue Françoise.
    • which made me think it might be possible that he had not seen it.
    • It is the book which first set me a thinking upon these subjects
    • I have received more instruction from it than from any other I have yet seen upon them.
  • If Mr. Ward has not seen it, I have it at his service.
  • The grammatical articles in the French Encyclopédie have also given me much entertainment.
  • Very probably Mr. Ward has seen both these works.
    • He might have considered the subject more than I have done, may think less of them.
  • Remember me to Mrs. Baird and Mr. Oswald.
  • Believe me to be, with great truth, dear sir, sincerely yours,

Adam Smith

  • Smith was now probably beginning to see his laying down of his Glasgow professorship in order to superintend the studies of the young Duke of Buccleugh.
    • Shortly after this letter, he writes David Hume, pressing for his long-promised visit to the West.
    • The letter is to introduce one of the English students who were attracted to Glasgow by Smith’s rising fame.
      • I do not know this young gentleman.
      • He [Pg 161]was possibly the first Earl of Carnarvon, of whose uncle, Nicholas Herbert, Smith told Rogers the story that he had read over once a list of the Eton boys and repeated it four years afterwards to his nephew, then Lord Porchester.
      • Smith said he knew him well.
    • The letter is as follows:—


My Dear Hume

  • This letter will be presented to you by Mr. Henry Herbert.
    • He is a young gentleman very well acquainted with your works.
    • He wants to meet you very much.
  • I know that you will find him extremely agreeable, so I shall make no apology for introducing him.
    • He proposes to stay a few days in Edinburgh while the company are there.
    • He would be glad to have the liberty of calling on you whenever it is convenient for you.
    • If you allow him, he and I will be infinitely obliged to you.


  • You have been long promising us a visit at Glasgow.
  • I have made Mr. Herbert promise to endeavour to bring you along with him.
  • You have resisted all my solicitations.
    • But I hope you will not resist his.
  • I will be very happy to see you.
  • I ever am, my dear friend, most affectionately and sincerely yours.


Adam Smith.

Glasgow, February 22, 1763.[127]


  • Hume replied:—

Dear Smith

I was obliged to you both for your kind letter and for the opportunity which you afforded me of meeting Mr. Herbert.

  • He appears to me a very promising young man.
  • I set up a chaise in May next, which will give me the liberty of traveling about.
  • You may be sure a journey to Glasgow will be one of the first I shall undertake.
  • I intend to require with great strictness an account how you have been employing your Leisure.
    • I want you to be ready for that purpose.
  • Wo be to you if the Balance be against you.
  • Your friends here will also expect that I should bring you with me.
  • It seems to me very long since I saw you.—
  • Most sincerely,

David Hume.

Edinburgh, March 28, 1763.[128]

[Pg 162]

  • This long-meditated visit was apparently never accomplished despite the chaise.
  • Only a few months more pass and the scene completely changes.
  • The two friends are one after the other transported suddenly to France on new vocations.
  • Their first meeting now was in Paris.


  • Hume writes Smith from Edinburgh on August 9, 1763 intimating his appointment as Secretary to the English Embassy at Paris, and bidding him adieu.
  • He says, “I am a little hurried in my preparations.
    • But I could not depart without:
      • bidding you adieu, and
      • acquainting you with the reasons of so sudden a movement.
  • I do not expect to revisiting this country soon.
    • But I hope we can meet abroad”[129]


  • Smith’s reply has not been preserved.
    • But it seems to have contained among other things a condemnation, in Smith’s most decisive style, of the recent proceedings of his friend Lord Shelburne in connection with various intrigues and negotiations set agoing by the Court and Lord Bute with the view of increasing the power of the Crown in English politics.
  • That appears from a letter Hume writes Smith from London on September 13, wanting information about his new chief’s eldest son, Lord Beauchamp, regarding whom he had once heard Smith mention something told by “that severe critic Mr. Herbert,” and to whom Hume was now to act in the capacity of tutor in conjunction with his official duties as Secretary of Legation.
  • Then after relating the story of Bute’s negotiations with Pitt through Shelburne, and stating that Lord Shelburne resigned because he found himself obnoxious on account of his share in that negotiation, he says:
    • “I see you are much incensed with that nobleman.
    • But he always speaks of you with regard.
    • I hear that your pupil, Mr. Fitzmaurice, makes a very good figure at Paris.”[130]

[Pg 163]

  • Smith was always a stout Whig.
  • He was strongly opposed to any attempt to increase the Crown’s power.
  • He cordially denounced Bute and all his works.
  • He was delighted with the famous No. 45 of the North Briton, published in April 1763.
  • After reading,  it exclaimed to Dr. Carlyle, “Bravo! this fellow (Wilkes) will either be hanged in six months, or he will get Lord Bute impeached.”[131]
  • After his resignation in September, Shelburne voted against the Court in the Wilkes affair.
  • But up until then, at any rate, his public conduct could not be viewed by a man of Smith’s political principles with anything but the most absolute condemnation.
    • The condemnation would be all the stronger because, from personal intercourse with his lordship, Smith knew that he was really a man of liberal mind and reforming spirit, from whom he had a right to look for better things.


  • When Hume arrived in France, the first letter he wrote to any of his friends at home was to Smith.
    • He had been only a week in the country.
    • He describes his first experiences of the curious transformation he then suddenly underwent.
    • From being the object of attack and reproach and persecution for half a lifetime among the honest citizens of Edinburgh, he had become the idol of extravagant worship among the great and powerful at the Court of France.


  • He says,
    • “During the last days that I have been at Fontainebleau, I have suffered as much flattery as almost any man has ever done in the same time.
    • But there are few days in my life when I have been in good health that I would not rather pass over again.


  • “I had almost forgot in this effusion of my misanthropy or my vanity to mention the subject which first put my pen in my hand.
  • I saw the Baron d’Holbach at Paris.
    • He told me that there was one under his eye [Pg 164]that was translating your Theory of Moral Sentiments.
    • He wanted me to tell you about it.
    • Mr. Fitzmaurice, your old friend,[132] interests himself strongly in this undertaking.
  • Both of them:
    • want to know if you propose to make any alteration on the work
    • want you to inform me of your intentions in that particular.”[133]


  • Hume’s hope of their “not impossible” meeting in Paris was destined to be gratified sooner than he could have conjectured.
  • A few days before Smith received this letter from Hume, he had also received the following letter from Charles Townshend.
    • It intimated that the time had now come for the Duke of Buccleugh to go abroad.
    • It renewed to Smith the offer of the post of traveling tutor to his Grace:—


Dear Sir—

  • The time now drawing near when the Duke of Buccleugh intends to go abroad.
  • I take the liberty of renewing the subject to you.
  • If you should still have the same disposition to travel with Him, I will:
    • tell Lady Dalkeith and His Grace of it
    • congratulate them on an event which I and they have so much at heart.
  • The Duke is now at Eton.
    • He will remain there until Christmas.
    • He will then spend some short time in London to:
      • be presented at Court.
      • not pass instantaneously from school to a foreign country.
  • But He should not stay long in Town, exposed to the habits and companions of London, before his mind has been:
    • more formed and
    • better guarded by education and experience.


  • I will not enter the subject of establishment now.
    • Because if you have no objection to the situation, I know we cannot differ about the terms.
  • On the contrary, you will find me more solicitous than yourself to make the connection with Buccleugh as satisfactory and advantageous to you as I am persuaded it will be essentially beneficial to him.


  • The Duke of Buccleugh has lately made great progress in:
    • his knowledge of ancient languages and
    • his general taste for composition.
  • With these improvements, his amusement from reading and his love of instruction have naturally increased.
    • He [Pg 165]has sufficient talents:
      • a very manly temper, and
      • an integrity of heart and reverence for truth
        • In a person of his rank and fortune, these are the firmest foundation of weight in life and uniform greatness.
  • If it should be agreeable to you to finish his education, and mould these excellent materials into a settled character, I am sure that he will return to his family and country the very man our fondest hopes have fancied him.


  • I go to Town next Friday.
    • I should be obliged to you for your reply to this letter.—
    • I am, with sincere affection and esteem, dear sir, your most faithful and most obedient humble servant,

C. Townshend.

Lady Dalkeith presents her compliments to you.

Adderbury, October 25, 1763.[134]


  • Smith accepted the offer.
  • The terms were:
    • a salary of £300 a year, with traveling expenses while abroad, and
    • a pension of £300 a year for life afterwards.
  • He was thus to have twice his Glasgow income and to have it assured until death.
  • The pension was a principal inducement to a Scotch professor in those days to take such a post.
    • For a Scotch professor had then no resource in his old age except the price he happened to receive for his chair from his successor in the event of his resignation.
    • We find several of them—Professors Moor and Robert Simson of Glasgow among others—much harassed with pecuniary cares in their last years.
    • Smith’s remuneration was liberal, but nothing beyond what was usual in such situations at the time.
  • Dr. John Moore gave up his medical practice in Glasgow a few years later to be tutor to the young Duke of Hamilton.
    • He also got £300 a year while actively employed in the tutorship and a pension of £100 a year afterwards.[135]
  • Professor Rouet sacrificed his chair in Glasgow for his tutorial appointment.
    • He is said to have received a pension of £500 a year from Lord[Pg 166] Hopetoun, in addition to a pension of £50, in consideration of previous services of the same kind, from Sir John Maxwell.
  • Professor Adam Ferguson was appointed tutor to the Earl of Chesterfield on Smith’s recommendation.
    • He had £400 a year while on duty, and a pension of £200 a year.
      • He enjoyed this pension for 40 years after, receiving nearly £9000 for his two years’ work in total.
  • Smith did almost as well.
    • He drew the pension for 24 years.
    • He got more than £8000 for his three years’ service.


  • This residence abroad for a few years with a competent tutor was then a common substitute for a university education.
  • For example, the Duke of Buccleugh was never sent to a university after he came back from his travels with Smith.
    • But he married almost immediately on his return, and entered directly into the active duties of life.
  • It was generally thought that travel really supplied a more liberal education and a better preparation for life for a young man of the world than residence at a university.
    • it is not uninteresting to recall here how strongly Smith disagrees with that opinion in the Wealth of Nations, while admitting that some excuse could be found for it in the low state of learning into which the English universities had suffered themselves to fall:—


  • “In England it becomes every day more and more the custom to send young people to travel in foreign countries immediately upon their leaving school, without sending them to any university.
    • It is said that our young people generally return home much improved by their travels.
    • A young man who goes abroad at 17 or 18, and returns home at 21, returns three or four years older than he was when he went abroad.
    • At that age it is very difficult not to improve a good deal in three or four years.
    • In the course of his travels he generally acquires some knowledge of one or two foreign languages.
    • However, this knowledge is seldom sufficient to enable [Pg 167]him to speak or write them properly.
    • In other respects, he commonly returns home more conceited, unprincipled, dissipated, and incapable of any serious application to study or business, than he could well have become in so short a time had he lived at home.
    • By traveling so very young and by spending in the most frivolous dissipation the most precious years of his life far from the inspection and control of his parents and relations, every useful habit formed in him by his earlier education is almost necessarily weakened or effaced instead of being riveted and confirmed.
  • Nothing but the discredit into which the universities are allowing themselves to fall could ever have brought into repute so very absurd a practice as that of travelling at this early period of life.
  • By sending his son abroad, a father delivers himself, at least for some time, from so disagreeable an object as a son unemployed, neglected and going to ruin before his eyes.”[136]


  • Smith must have written Townshend accepting the situation almost immediately on receiving the offer of it.
  • At the same time, he applied to the University authorities for leave of absence for part of the session.
  • He does not as yet resign his chair, nor does he make in his application any formal mention of the nature of the business that required his absence.
  • He merely asks for their sanction to some highly characteristic arrangements which he desired to make in connection with the conduct of his class by a substitute.
  • According to the Faculty Records, on November 8, 1763,  “Dr. Smith represented that some interesting business would probably require his leaving the College some time this winter, and made the following proposals and request to the meeting:-?


  1. “If he should be obliged to leave the College without finishing his usual course of lectures, he should pay back to all his students the fees which he shall have [Pg 168]received from them.
    • If any of them should refuse to accept of such fees, he should in that case pay them to the University.
  2. “Whatever part of the usual course of lectures he should leave unfinished should be given gratis to the students, by a person to be appointed by the University, with such salary as they shall think proper, which salary is to be paid by Dr. Smith.
  • “The Faculty accept of the above proposals
  •  We hereby unanimously grant Dr. Smith leave of absence for three months of this session if his business shall require, and at such time as he shall find it necessary.”


  • The reason he asks in the first instance only for this temporary and provisional arrangement is found in the fact that the precise date for the beginning of the tutorship was not yet determined.
  • As it might very possibly be fixed upon suddenly and involve a somewhat rapid call for his services, the precaution of obtaining beforehand a three months’ leave of absence would enable him to remain in constant readiness to answer that call whenever it might come, without in the meanwhile requiring him to give up his duties to his Glasgow class prematurely.
  • It would at the same time allow ample time to the University to make more permanent arrangements before the temporary provision expired.
  • The call when it came did come rather suddenly.
  • Up until the middle of December, Smith never received any answer from Townshend.
    • The matter was not settled until after the Christmas holidays.
    • For on December 12, 1763 Smith writes Hume, who was now in Paris:—


My Dear Hume

  • The day before I received your last letter, I received a letter from Charles Townshend.
    • He renewed in the most obliging manner his former proposal that I should travel with the Duke of Buccleugh,
    • He informed me that his Grace was to leave Eton at Christmas, and would go abroad very soon after that.
  • I accepted the proposal.
    • But at the same time, I expressed to him my difficulties in[Pg 169] leaving the University before the start of April.
    • I begged to know if my attendance on his Grace would be necessary before that time.
  • I have yet received no answer to that letter, which, I suppose, is owing to this, that his Grace is not yet come from Eton, and that nothing is yet settled with regard to the time of his going abroad.
  • I delayed answering your letter until I am able to inform you when I can see you…—
  • I ever am, my dearest friend, most faithfully yours,

Adam Smith.[137]

  • However, after the Duke reached London at the Christmas recess, it seems to have been quickly settled to send him out on his travels without more delay.
  • On January 8, 1764, Smith intimated to the Faculty of Glasgow College that:
    • he was soon to leave that city under the permission granted him by the Dean of Faculty’s meeting of November 8, and that
    • he had returned to the students all the fees he had received that session.
  • He likewise acquainted the meeting that he proposed to pay his salary as paid by the College for one half-year, starting on the previous October 10, to the person who should teach his class for the remainder of the session.
  • Mr. Thomas Young was a student of divinity.
    • He was chosen for this purpose on Smith’s recommendation.
  • A committee was appointed to receive from Smith the private library of the Moral Philosophy class.
  • Next day at a meeting of Senatus, he was:
    • paid the balance due to him on his accounts as Quæstor, and
    • entrusted with a copy of Foulis’s large Homer.
      • They asked him to carry to London and deliver, in their name, to Sir James Gray, his Sicilian majesty.
        • It was a present to Sir Gray who had shown them some favour.
        • The Senate-room of Glasgow knew him no more.


  • His parting with his students was not quite so simple.
    • They made some difficulty, as he seems to have anticipated, about taking back the fees they had paid him for his class.
    • He was obliged to resort almost to force before he succeeded in getting them to do so.
  • Alexander Fraser Tytler (Lord Woodhouselee) describes a curious scene, in his Life of Lord Kames:  [Pg 170]
    • “Smith concluded his last lecture.
    • He publicly announced from the chair that he was now leaving his auditors.
    • He acquainted them at the same time with his arrangements.
    • For their benefit, he drew from his pocket the several fees of the students, to the best of his power.
      • He wrapped up in separate paper parcels.
      • He called up each man by name.
      • He delivered the money into the hand of the first person called.
  • The young man peremptorily refused to accept it.
    • He declared that the instruction and pleasure he had already received was much more than he either had repaid or ever could compensate.
    • A general cry was heard from everyone in the room to the same effect.
  • But Mr. Smith was not to be bent from his purpose.
    • After warmly expressing his feelings of gratitude and the strong sense he had of the regard shown to him by his young friends, he told them this was a matter between him and his own mind.
    • He could not rest satisfied unless he performed what he deemed right and proper.
  • ‘You must not refuse me this satisfaction.
    • Nay, by heavens, gentlemen, you shall not’
  • Seizing the young man who stood next him by the coat, he thrust the money into his pocket and then pushed him back.
    • The rest saw it was in vain to contest the matter.
    • They were obliged to let him have his own way.”[138]


  • This is a signal proof of the scrupulous delicacy of Smith’s honour.
    • He had firmly determined not to touch a shilling of this money.
    • If the students had persisted in refusing, he intended to give it to the University’s funds.
  • Many may think his delicacy even excessive.
    • For it is common enough for a professor’s class to be conducted by a substitute in the absence, through ill-health or other causes, of the professor himself.
    • Nobody thinks the students suffer any such injury by the arrangement as to call for even a reduction of the fees.[Pg 171]
  • We do not know what Smith would have done had his absence been due to sickness.
    • But his engagement with the students for a session’s lectures was broken off by his own spontaneous acceptance of an office of profit.
      • He felt he could not honourably retain the wages when he had failed to implement the engagement.
    • A thing which a barrister in large practice does without scruple everyday.


  • The same sense of right led Smith to resign his chair.
    • He did not do so until he reached France.
    • But he manifestly contemplated doing it from the beginning.
    • For he only made arrangements for paying his substitute until the end of the first half of the session
    • by which time he would expect his successor to have entered on office, as actually happened, for Reid came there in the start of June.
  • Moreover, his resignation was evidently an understood thing at the University long before it was really sent in.
    • For a good deal of intriguing had already been going on for the place.
  • The Lord Privy Seal (the Hon. James Stuart Mackenzie, Lord Bute’s brother) was Scotch Minister.
    • He writes Baron Mure on February 2, 1764, a fortnight before Smith resigned.
    • He asked if it were true that the University appointed Dr. Wight to succeed Smith.
    • He mentions incidentally having had some conversation with Smith himself (apparently in London) on the subject, particularly with regard to the possible claims of Mr. Young, his substitute, to the appointment.


  • A Scotch professor did not always need to resign his chair on accepting a temporary job like a traveling tutorship.
    • It was not the more usual practice.
    • Adam Ferguson fought the point successfully with the Edinburgh Town Council when he left England as tutor to Lord Chesterfield.
    • Dalzel, when Professor of Greek in Edinburgh, went to live at Oxford as tutor to Lord Maitland.
  • But in connection with Professor Rouet’s case, Smith held strong views against:
    • the encouragement of absenteeism and
    • any feeling that the[Pg 172] University was there for the professors’ convenience, instead of the professors being there for the University’s service.


  • Under these circumstances, it was natural for Smith to resign his chair after accepting the tutorship.
    • Although he only sent the letter of resignation after his arrival in France, it is perhaps more convenient to print it here in its natural connection with Glasgow University affairs than to defer it to its more strictly chronological place in the chapter describing his French travels.
  • The letter is addressed “To the Right Hon. Thomas Miller, Esq., His Majesty’s Advocate for Scotland,” Lord Rector of Glasgow University at the time.
  • It runs as follows:


My Lord

  • I take this first opportunity after my arrival in this place, which was not until yesterday, to resign my office into the hands of your lordship, of:
    • the Dean of Faculty
    • the Principal of the College,
    • all my other most respectable and worthy colleagues.
  • Therefore, into your hands I do hereby resign my office of Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow, with all its emoluments, privileges, and advantages.
    • However, I reserve my right to the salary for the current half year, which started on October 10 for one part of my salary and at Martinmas last for another.
    • I want that this salary be paid to the gentleman who does that part of my duty which I was obliged to leave undone, in the way agreed upon between my very worthy colleagues and me before we parted.
  • I never was more anxious for the good of the College than at this moment.
  • I sincerely wish that whoever is my successor:
    • may do credit to the office by his abilities and
    • be a comfort to the very excellent men with whom he is likely to spend his life, by:
      • the probity of his heart and
      • the goodness of his temper.—
  • I have the honour to be, my lord, your lordship’s most obedient and most faithful servant,

Adam Smith.

Paris, February 14, 1764.[139]

  • The Senate accepted his resignation on March 1.
    • They expressed their regret at his loss in the following [Pg 173] terms:
      • “The University cannot help expressing their sincere regret at the removal of Dr. Smith, whose:
        • distinguished probity and amiable qualities procured his colleagues’ esteem and affection,
        • uncommon genius, great abilities, and extensive learning did so much honour to this society;
      • His elegant and ingenious Theory of Moral Sentiments has recommended him to the esteem of men of taste and literature throughout Europe.
      • His happy talents in illustrating abstracted subjects, and faithful assiduity in communicating useful knowledge, distinguished him as a professor.
        • These immediately afforded the greatest pleasure and the most important instruction to the youth under his care.”



[126] Nichol’s Literary Illustrations, iii. 515.

[127]Hume Correspondence, R.S.E. Library.

[128]Ibid. Printed by Burton.

[129] Burton’s Life of Hume, ii. 157.

[130]Ibid., ii. 163.

[131] Carlyle’s Autobiography, p. 431.

[132] See above, p. 58.

[133] Burton’s Life of Hume, ii. 168.

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

[135]Caldwell Papers, i. 192.

[136] Wealth of Nations, Book V. chap. i. art. ii.

[137] Fraser’s Scotts of Buccleuch, ii. 403.

[138] Tytler’s Kames, i. 278.

[139] Glasgow University Records.

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