Chap 17: London

Chap 17: London

1773-1776. Aet. 50-53

 

  • In the spring of 1773, Smith virtually completed the Wealth of Nations.
    • He thought of going to London with the manuscript, to:
      • give it perhaps some finishing touches and
      • give it to a publisher.
    • But his labours had taken its toll on his health and spirits.
  • He thought that he might die suddenly before it got published.
    • He wrote Hume before he went to London.
    • He made Hume his literary executor.
    • He gave him directions on the destination of the various unpublished manuscripts in his depositories:—

My Dear Friend

  • I have left the care of all my literary papers to you.
  • None of them are worth the publishing except:
    • those which I carry with me, and
    • a fragment of a great work which has a history of the astronomical systems that were successively in fashion up to Descartes’ time.
  • I leave it to you if it will be published as a fragment of an intended juvenile work.
    • But I think that there is more refinement than solidity in some parts of it.
    • You will find this little work in a thin folio paper book in my writing-desk in my book-room.
    • I want the following to be destroyed without any examination:
      • all the other loose paper which you will find:
        • in that desk or
        • within the glass folding-doors of a bureau which stands in my bedroom
      • around 18 thin paper folio books
        • You will also find them within the same glass folding-doors.
  • Unless I die very suddenly,[Pg 263] I shall take care that the Papers I carry with me shall be carefully sent to you.

I ever am, my dear friend, most faithfully yours,

Adam Smith.

Edinburgh, April 16, 1773.

To David Hume, Esq., 9 St. Andrew’s Square, Edinburgh.[229]

 

  • Smith went to London shortly after writing this letter.
    • He spent most of the next four years there.
  • We find him there in May 1773, for he is admitted to the Royal Society on May 27.
  • He is there in September, for Ferguson then writes to him as if he were still there.
  • He is there in February 1774, for Hume writes him in that month,
    • “Pray what accounts are these we hear of Franklyn’s conduct?”
    • This is a question that can only be addressed except to one in a better position for hearing the truth about Franklin than he was himself.
  • He is there in September 1774.
    • For he writes Cullen from town in that month, and speaks of having been for some time in it.
  • He is there in January 1775.
    • For on the 11th, Bishop Percy met him at dinner at Sir Joshua Reynolds’, along with Johnson, Burke, Gibbon, and others.[230]
  • He is there in February 1775.
    • For a young friend, Patrick Clason, addresses a letter to him in February to the care of Cadell, the bookseller, in the Strand.
  • He is there in December 1775.
    • For on the 27th, Horace Walpole writes to the Countess of Ossory:
    • “Adam Smith told us the other night at Beauclerk’s that Major Preston—one of two, but he is not sure which—would have been an excellent commander some years hence if he had seen any service.
    • I said it was a pity that the war had not been put off until the Major should be [Pg 264]some years older.”[231]
  • He returned to Scotland in April 1776, around a month after his book was issued.
  • But we find him back again in London in January 1777.
    • For his letter to Governor Pownall in January is dated from Suffolk Street.
  • The first three years of his stay in London was probably continuous.

 

  • Those three years were spent on the Wealth of Nations.
    • Much of the book must have been written in London.
  • When he went to London, he had no idea that his fresh investigations there would detain him so long.
  • He wrote Pulteney even in the previous September, that:
    • the book would be finished in a few months, and
    • he led Hume and Adam Ferguson to look for its publication in 1773.
  • In a footnote to the 4th edition of his History of Civil Society, published in that year, Ferguson says:
    • “The public will probably soon be furnished (by Mr. Smith, author of the Theory of Moral Sentiments) with a theory of national economy equal to what has ever appeared on any subject of science.”
  • But Smith’s researches in London must:
    • have been much more important than he expected and
    • have occasioned extensive alterations and additions.
      • Hume congratulated him on its eventual appearance in 1776.
      • He writes, “It is probably much improved by your last abode in London.”
  • Whole chapters seem to have been put through the forge afresh.
    • On some of them, Smith has tool-marked the date of his handiwork himself.

 

  • A very circumstantial account from America of Smith’s London labours at the book exists.
  • Mr. Watson, author of the Annals of Philadelphia, says:
    • “Dr. Franklin once told Dr. Logan that the celebrated Adam Smith when writing his Wealth of Nations habitually [Pg 265] brought chapter after chapter as he composed it to himself, Dr. Price, and others of the literati.
    • He then patiently heard their observations, discussions, and criticisms.
    • Sometimes he:
      • write whole chapters anew, and
      • even reversed some of his propositions.”[232]

 

  • Franklin’s remark may have been enlarged before it was printed.
    • It might have been exaggerated.
    • But there seems no ground for rejecting it altogether.
  • Smith became acquainted with Franklin in Edinburgh in 1759.
    • He saw much of Franklin in London.
    • Sir John Pringle and Strahan were among Smith’s most intimate friends in London.
      • They were also among the most intimate friends of Franklin.
  • Much of the additions to the Wealth of Nations during this London period are on colonial or American experience.[233]
    • Smith always obtained a lot of his information from the conversation of competent men.
    • Franklin likely was able to contribute something worth learning on such questions.
    • Franklin’s biographer states:
      • that his papers which belong to this particular period “contain sets of problems and queries as though jotted down at some meeting of philosophers for particular consideration at home,”
      • “A glance at the index of the Wealth of Nations will suffice to show that its author had just that kind of knowledge of the American Colonies which Franklin knew.
      • The allusions to the Colonies may be counted by hundreds.
      • Illustrations from their condition and growth occur in nearly every chapter.
      • We may go further and say that the American Colonies constitute the experimental evidence of the essential truth of the book, without which many of its leading positions had been little [Pg 266]more than theory.”[234]
  • Smith had heard much about the American Colonies during his 13 years in Glasgow from Glasgow’s:
    • intelligent merchants and
    • returned planters.

 

  • After coming to London, Smith seems to have renewed his acquaintance with Lord Stanhope.
  • Lord Stanhope:
    • asked Smith who should be the tutor for his ward the Earl of Chesterfield, and
    • appointed Adam Ferguson on Smith’s recommendation.
  • The negotiations with Ferguson were conducted through Smith.
    • Some of Ferguson’s letters to Smith on this still exist.
    • But they have nothing interesting for Smith’s biography.
  • Hume was ever anxious to have Smith nearby.
    • But in contemplation of Ferguson’s going abroad with the Earl of Chesterfield,
    • He tells Smith that Smith should be Ferguson’s substitute in the Moral Philosophy chair at Edinburgh during Ferguson’s absence.
    • However, Smith was apparently unwilling to do it.
      • He was strongly opposed to professorial absenteeism.
      • In the present case, it was associated with unpleasant circumstances.
  • The Town Council, the administrators of the College, refused to sanction Ferguson’s absence.
    • They called on him to stay at home or to resign his chair.
  • Ferguson merely snapped his fingers.
    • He appointed young Dugald Stewart his substitute and went off on his travels.
    • He quietly remarked that fools and knaves were necessary in the world to give other people something to do.
    • Hume’s letter is as follows:—

 

St. Andrew’s Square, February 13, 1774.

Dear Smith

  • You are wrong for never informing me of your intentions and resolutions.
  • I am now obliged to write to you on a subject without knowing whether the proposal, or rather Hint, I will give you is absurd or not.
  • The settlement for Ferguson is [Pg 267] just a very narrow compensation for his class if he loses it.
    • He wishes to keep it and have a Deputy in his absence.
  • This scheme appears invidious.
    • It is really not admissible.
  • It will strenuously objected by those in the Town Council who want to fill the vacancy with a friend.
    • He himself cannot think of one who will make a proper substitute.
  • I think that the chief difficulty would be removed if you would be his substitute or his successor.
    • You would then resign on his return.
  • This is my own notion.
    • It shall never be known to Ferguson if it appears improper to you.
    • He deserves this friendly treatment by his friendly conduct of a similar kind towards poor Russell’s family.

 

  • Pray what strange accounts are these we hear of Franklyn’s conduct?
  • I do not believe that he has been guilty in the extreme degree that is pretended.
    • Though I always knew him to be a very factious man.
  • Of all passions, Faction next to Fanaticism is the most destructive of morality.
  • I hear that Wedderburn’s treatment of him before the Council was most cruel without being in the least blamable.

 

  • Smith’s headquarters in London was the British Coffee-House in Cockspur Street.
    • It was a great Scotch resort in the 18th century.
  • It was kept by a sister of his old Balliol friend, Bishop Douglas.
    •  She was “a woman of:
      • uncommon talents and
      • the most agreeable conversation.” (Henry Mackenzie)
  • Wedderburn founded a weekly dining club in this house.
  • Robertson and Carlyle used to frequent this when they came to town.
  • Smith would do the same.
    • For many of his Scotch friends belonged to it:
      • Dr. William Hunter,
      • John Home,
      • Robert Adam the architect, and
      • Sir Gilbert Elliot.
    • The following were members:
      • Goldsmith,
      • Sir Joshua Reynolds,
      • Garrick, and
      • Richard Cumberland.
  • It was predominantly a Scotch club.
  • It was an extremely agreeable one. (Carlyle and Richard Cumberland)
  • The Literary Club of Johnson and Burke and Reynolds was a much more famous club.
    • But in 1775, Smith was admitted to its membership [Pg 268].
    • It was at the Turk’s Head in Gerrard Street.
    • He attended their fortnightly dinners.
    • The only members present on the night of his election were:
      • Beauclerk,
      • Gibbon,
      • Sir William Jones, and
      • Sir Joshua Reynolds.
  • Boswell, writing his friend Temple on April 28 1776, immediately after the Wealth of Nations was published, says,
    • “Smith too is now of our club.
    • It has lost its select merit.”
  • But another member of the club, Dean Barnard—husband of the authoress of “Auld Robin Gray”—appreciates his worth better.
    • Though he wrote the lines in which his appreciation occurs before the Wealth of Nations appeared.
    • His words may therefore be taken perhaps to convey the impression made by Smith’s conversation.
  • One of the Dean’s verses runs—

 

  • If I have thoughts and can’t express them:
    • Gibbon shall teach me how to dress them in form select and terse
    • Jones shall teach me modesty and Greek
    • Smith how to think,
    • Burke how to speak, and
    • Beauclerk to converse.
  • Smith’s conversation seems to have been the conversation of a thinker.
    • He often lectures rather than talk, but always instructive and solid.
    • William Playfair is the brother of Professor John Playfair the mathematician.
      • He says:
      • “Those persons who have ever had the pleasure to be in his company may recollect that even in his common conversation the order and method he pursued without the smallest degree of formality or stiffness were beautiful, and gave a sort of pleasure to all who listened to him.”[236]

 

  • Bennet Langton mentions Smith talking in a “decisive professorial manner.”
  • Topham Beauclerk initially thought highly of[Pg 269] Smith’s conversation.
    • But afterwards he lost it, for reasons unreported. (Boswell)
    • If Beauclerk was the model converser of the club, he would probably grow tired of expository lectures, however excellent and instructive. (Dean Barnard)
  • Garrick gives a more curious criticism.
    • After listening to Smith one evening, the great player turned to a friend and whispered, “What say you to this? eh, flabby, eh?”
    • But whatever may have been the case that evening, Smith’s talk was not flabby.
    • It erred rather in excess of substance.
  • He had Johnson’s solidity and weight, without Johnson’s force and vivacity.
  • Henry Mackenzie was the author of the Man of Feeling.
    • He talked about Smith soon after his death, with Samuel Rogers:
      • “With a most retentive memory, his conversation was solid beyond that of any man.
      • I have often told him after half an hour’s conversation, ‘Sir, you have said enough to make a book.'”[237]
  • Moreover, his conversation had a wide range.
    • Smith seldom started a topic of conversation.
      • Though there were few topics raised on which he was not found contributing something worth hearing. (Dugald Stewart)
    • Boswell was no very partial witness.
      • He admits that Smith’s talk evinced “a mind crowded with all manner of subjects.”
  • Like Sir Walter Scott, Smith has been unjustly accused of habitually abstaining from conversing on the subjects he had made his own.
  • Boswell tells us that Smith once said to Sir Joshua Reynolds that he made it a rule in company never to talk of what he understood.
    • Boswell alleges this was because Smith always:
      • thought of bookmaking and
      • was afraid of the plagiarist.
    • But Boswell’s facts and explanation cannot be accepted at all.
  • Men able to converse on a variety of subjects will naturally prefer to converse on those unconnected with their own shop.
    • Because they go into company for diversion [Pg 270]from their own shop, but it is a question of company and circumstances.
  • If Smith ever made any such rule as Boswell speaks of, he seems to have honoured it as often by the breach as by the observance.
  • For when his friends brought round the conversation to his special lines of research, he never seems to have failed to give his ideas quite freely, nay, as may be seen from the remark just quoted from Henry Mackenzie, not freely merely but abundantly—as many as would make a book.
  • He does not appear to have been a grudging giver in this respect .
  • Smith remarked “There’s enough left” on hearing of Blair’s borrowing some of his juridical ideas.
  • When Sir John Sinclair was writing his History of the Revenue Smith, offered him everything that he had on the subject, printed or manuscript.
    • If Smith did discuss his own book, chapter by chapter with Franklin, Price, and others, around the time when this remark to Sir Joshua was made, it is most unlikely that he could have thought of setting any churlish watch on his lips in ordinary conversation.
  • Smith was very fond of talking of subjects remote from his own topics.
    • He was most entertaining when he gave a loose rein to his speculation on subjects off his own line. (Dugald Stewart)
      • “Smith was not known to:
        • start a new topic himself.
        • appear unprepared on those topics introduced by others.” (Stewart)
      • His conversation was most amusing when he let out his genius on the few branches of knowledge which he just had the outlines of.”[238]
  • One of his defects, was his poor penetration into personal character.
    • But he was very fond of drawing the character of any person whose name came [Pg 271]up in conversation. (Stewart and Carlyle)
    • His judgments of personal character were always decided and lively.
      • But they were generally:
        • too systematic to be just,
        • always leaning to charity’s side, and
        • erring by partiality rather than prejudice. (Stewart)
    • When any one challenged or disputed Smith’s opinion of a character, he would:
      • retrace his steps easily and nonchalantly and
      • contradict every word he had been saying. (Carlyle)
        • This is confirmed by the remarks of Smith’s other friends.
        • They incidentally speak of his amusing inconsistencies in private conversation.
        • He was fond of starting theories and supporting them.
        • But it is not so easy to explain a man on a theory as to explain some abstract subject on a theory.

 

  • His voice seems to have been harsh.
  • His utterance often stammering.
  • His manner was often embarrassed, especially among strangers.
  • But as he warmed to his subject, many writers speak of his:
    • remarkable animation and
    • smile’s peculiar radiancy.
      • “His smile of approbation, was captivating.” (Dr. Carlyle)
      • “In the society of those he loved, his features were often brightened with a smile of inexpressible benignity.” (Stewart)

 

  • While living in London, Smith and Gibbon, attended Dr. William Hunter’s lectures on anatomy,[239].
    • As we are told by a writer who was one of Hunter’s students at the time, and
    • during that very period he had an opportunity of vindicating the value of the lectures of private teachers of medicine like Hunter against pretensions to monopoly set up at the moment on behalf of the universities.
  • Smith wrote a long letter to Cullen in September 1774.
    • In it, Smith defends the most absolute and unlimited freedom of medical education.
    • He treats the University claims as mere expressions of the craft spirit.
    • He recognises none of those exceptional features of medical education which have constrained even [Pg 272]the most extreme partisans of economic liberty now to approve of government interference in that matter.

 

  • The letter was occasioned by an agitation which had been long gathering strength in Scotch medical circles.
    • It was against the laxity of certain Scotch universities—St. Andrews and Aberdeen in particular—in conferring their medical degrees.
  • The candidate was not required to:
    • attend classes or
    • pass an examination.
  • But he got the degree by merely:
    • paying the fees and
    • producing a certificate of proficiency from two medical practitioners.
      • No inquiry was instituted into their qualifications .
  • In London, a special class of agent—the broker in Scotch degrees—sprang up to transact the business.
    • England was being overrun with a horde of Scotch doctors of medicine who:
      • hardly knew a vein from an artery, and
      • had created south of the Border a deep prejudice against all Scotch graduates, even those from the unoffending Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • A case seemed to be brought home even to Edinburgh in the year 1771.
  • The offender—one Leeds—had not got his degree from Edinburgh without examination.
  • But he showed his competency to be so doubtful in his duties at the London Hospital that the governors made it a condition of the continuance of his services that he should obtain the diploma of the London College of Physicians.
    • He failed to pass this London exam and was deprived of his post.
  • This case created much sensation in London and Edinburgh.
  • The Duke of Buccleugh was elected an honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1774.
    • He made that body an offer to:
      • take up the question of examination for medical degrees in Parliament and
      • try what could be done to remove this reproach from his country.
  • The College of Physicians then drew up a memorial to Government for the Duke of Buccleugh to present.
    • They prayed for the prohibition of the universities from granting medical degrees, except honorary ones, to:
      • any absent person [Pg 273], or
      • any person without first undergoing a personal examination into his proficiency, and
      • bringing a certificate of having attended for two years at a university where physic was regularly taught, and of having applied himself to all branches of medical study.
    • They fix on two years not because they think two years are enough, but because that was the term adopted by the London College of Physicians.
    • They suggest the appointment of a royal commission of inquiry if Government is not prepared for immediate action.

 

  • The Duke of Buccleugh sent the memorial for Adam Smith’s consideration.
    • He asked Smith to write to Cullen his views on the subject.
  • Smith thought in the following letter:
    • that it was not very practicable for the public to obtain a satisfactory test of medical efficiency
    • that it was not practicable if the competition by the private teachers were suppressed
    • that otherwise the medical examination might become as great a quackery as the medical degree and
    • that the whole question was a mere squabble between the big quack and the little one.

 

Dear Doctor

I am sorry to you and to the Duke of Buccleugh for delaying for so long to write to you as I promised in a previous post or two.

  • The truth is that some occurrences which interested me a good deal, and which happened here immediately after the Duke’s departure, made me forget a business which interested me very little.
  • In the present state of the Scotch universities, I see them as the best seminaries of learning in Europe, in spite of all their faults.
    • On the whole, they are perhaps as unexceptionable as any public university.
      • All public universities have in their very nature the seeds and causes of negligency and corruption.
  • I know very well that they can still be amended.
    • A Visitation (Royal Commission) is the only proper means of [Pg 274] getting them this amendment.
    • It is an arbitrary tribunal.
  • Before any wise man applies for such a Visitation to improve what is already very well on the whole, he should know:
    1. Who would be the appointed visitors
    2. What is the plan for reform of those visitors
  • At present, there are many pretenders to the prudential management of Scotch affairs.
    • I apprehend that we cannot know anything about those two points:
      • you nor I
      • the Solicitor-General, nor
      • the Duke of Buccleugh.
  • In the present state of our affairs, it would be extremely unwise to apply for a Visitation to remedy an abuse which is not of great public consequence.
    • In the future, there might be a better opportunity to apply for a Visitation safely.
  • An admonition, threatening, or any other method of interfering in a corporate body’s affairs is irregular and illegal.
    • His Majesty nor any of his present Ministers would not do these to obtain more important things than this reform of Scottish degrees.
  • You propose that no person should be allowed to his exams for his degrees unless he brought a certificate proving that he studied at least two years in some university.
    • Would not such a regulation be oppressive on all private teachers, such as the Hunters, Hewson, Fordyce, etc.?
    • The scholars of such teachers surely merit whatever honour or advantage a degree can confer much more than those who have spent many years in some universities.
      • In those universities, medical knowledge is:
        • not taught at all, or
        • taught so superficially that they is not taught well at all.
      • After a man has learnt his lesson very well, it is surely not so important where or from whom he has learnt it.
    • This regulation would establish the monopoly of medical education in favour of universities.
      • It would be hurtful to the lasting prosperity of such bodies corporate.
  • Monopolists very seldom make good work.
    • A lecture which must be attended by a certain number of students, whether they profit by it or not, is not likely to be a good one.
  • I have thought much on this subject.
    • I have inquired very carefully into the constitution and history of several principal European universities.
  • The present state of degradation [Pg 275] and contempt of these societies in Europe arises principally from:
    1. The large salaries given to professors in some universities
      • It renders them independent of their diligence and success in their professions.
    2. The many students who must resort to these kinds of societies in order to:
      • get degrees,
      • be admitted to exercise certain professions, or
      • get bursaries, exhibitions, scholarships, fellowships, etc.
        • whether the instructions which they are likely to receive there are or are not worth the receiving.
  • All these cases of negligence and corruption take place in all our Scotch universities.
    • In the best of them, however, these cases take place in a much less degree than in most of other considerable societies of the same kind.
  • I look on this circumstance as the real cause of their present excellence.
    • In the Medical College of Edinburgh in particular, professors’ salaries are insignificant.
      • There are few or no bursaries or exhibitions.
      • Their monopoly of degrees is broken in on by all other universities, foreign and domestic.
      • It is currently acknowledged as superior over every other society of the same kind in Europe.
  • The practice of signing a certificate in favour of someone we know nothing about is a practice which cannot be strictly vindicated.
    • However, the most scrupulous men are sometimes guilty of it from:
      • mere good-nature and
      • without any kind of interest.
    • I certainly do not defend it.
    • Reducing the unhandsomeness of the practice, however, I ask how does the public suffer by it?
  • You will say that the title of Doctor gives some credit and authority to the man who has it.
    • It extends his practice and consequently his field for doing mischief.
    • It probably might increase his presumption and consequently his disposition to do mischief.
      • This cannot be denied.
      • But I believe that this effect would be very inconsiderable.
  • Currently, many people know of the profound secret that Doctors are sometimes fools as well as other people.
    • The title is not so very imposing.
    • A man very seldomly trusts his health to another merely because that other is a Doctor.
      • The person so trusted has almost always some knowledge or some craft which would [Pg 276] procure him nearly the same trust.
        • Though he was not decorated with any such title.
    • In fact, those who apply for degrees in the irregular way complained of are mostly surgeons or apothecaries.
      • They are used to advise and prescribe, that is, to practise as physicians.
      • But they are only surgeons and apothecaries, so they are not paid as physicians.
      • It is not so much to extend their practice as to increase their fees that they want to be Doctors.
    • Degrees conferred even undeservedly on such persons can surely do very little harm to the public.
  • The University of St. Andrews very rashly and imprudently conferred a degree on one Green who happened to be a stage-doctor.
    • They brought much ridicule and discredit on themselves.
    • But how did they hurt the public?
    • Green still continued to be a stage-doctor.
    • He probably never poisoned a single man even if the honours of graduation had never been conferred on him.
  • Stage-doctors do not much excite the faculty’s indignation.
    • More reputable quacks do.
    • Stage-doctors are too contemptible to be considered as rivals.
      • They only poison the poor people.
      • Copper pence are thrown up to them in handkerchiefs.
        • These could never find their way to a regular physician’s pocket.
  • It is otherwise with quacks.
    • They sometimes intercept a part of what might have been better bestowed in another place.
    • Do not all the old women in the country practise physic without exciting murmur or complaint?
      • If here and there a graduated Doctor should be as ignorant as an old woman, where can be the great harm?
    • The beardless old woman indeed takes no fees.
      • The bearded one does.
      • I strongly suspect that this exasperates his brethren so much against him.
  • There never was and never will be, a university from which a degree could give any tolerable security that the person on whom it had been conferred was fit to practise physic.
  • The strictest universities confer degrees only on students of a certain standing.
    • Their real motive for requiring this standing is that:
      • the student may spend more money among them and
      • they may make more profit by him.
    • When he has attained this standing, though he still undergoes what they call an examination, he will not be refused his degree.
  • I believe your examination at Edinburgh is perhaps more serious than that of any other European university.
    • I suspect you are as good-natured as other people when a student takes his exam after he has:
      • resided [Pg 277]a few years among you,
      • behaved dutifully to all his professors, and
      • attended regularly all their lectures.
    • Several of your graduates, on applying for license from the College of Physicians here, have had it recommended to them to continue their studies.
    • From a particular knowledge of some of the cases I am satisfied that the decision of the College in refusing them their license was perfectly just—that is, was perfectly agreeable to the principles which ought to regulate all such decisions;
    • and that the candidates were really very ignorant of their profession.
  • A degree can pretend to give security for nothing but the science of the graduate; and
    • even for that it can give but a very slender security.
  • For his good sense and discretion, qualities not discoverable by an academical examination, it can give no security at all;
    • but without these the presumption which commonly attends science must render it in the practice of physic ten times more dangerous than the grossest ignorance when accompanied, as it sometimes is, with some degree of modesty and diffidence.
  • In short, if a degree always has been and always must be a mere piece of quackery, it is for the public’s advantage that it should be understood to be so.
  • For the advantage of the universities, the students:
    • should be made to depend on:
      • ttheir merit
      • their abilities to teach
      • their diligence in teaching
        • not on their privileges
    • should not use any of those quackish arts which have disgraced and degraded half of them.

 

  • A degree which can be conferred only on students of a certain standing, is a statute of apprenticeship.
    • It is likely to contribute to the advancement of science, just as other statutes of apprenticeship have contributed to the advancement of arts and manufactures.
  • Those statutes of apprenticeship, assisted by other corporation laws, have banished arts and manufactures from most of towns corporate.
    • Such degrees, assisted by some other regulations of a similar tendency, have banished almost all useful and solid education from most universities.
  • Bad work and high price have been the effect of the monopoly introduced by statutes of apprenticeship.
    • Quackery, imposture, and exorbitant fees have been the consequences of the monopoly established by degrees.
  • The industry of manufacturing villages has partly remedied the inconveniences from the monopolies [Pg 278] by towns corporate.
  • Some poor universities were inconveniently situated for the resort of students.
    • The private interest of some poor Professors of Physic in those poor universities has partly remedied the inconveniences from that monopoly which the great and rich universities tried to establish.
      • The great and rich universities frequently graduated only their own students.
        • Those students did not even have a long and tedious standing.
          • Five and seven years for a Master of Arts;
          • 11 and 16 for a Doctor of Law, Physic, or Divinity.
  • Because of their situation’s inconvenience, the poor universities were not able to get many students.
    • They tried to earn money in the only way they knew.
    • They sold their degrees to whoever would buy them, generally without:
      • needing any residence or standing,
      • subjecting the candidate even to a decent examination.
    • The less trouble they gave, the more money they got.
    • I do not pretend to vindicate such a dirty practice.
  • All universities were ecclesiastical establishments under the Pope’s immediate protection.
    • A degree from one of them gave all over Christendom very nearly the same privileges which a degree from any other could have given; and
    • To this day, foreign degrees are respected even in Protestant countries.
      • This respect must be considered as a remnant of Popery.
  • The facility of obtaining degrees, particularly in physic, from those poor universities had two effects.
    • Both effects were extremely advantageous to the public, but extremely disagreeable to graduates of other universities whose degrees had cost them much time and expense.
      1. It multiplied very much the number of doctors.
        • It thereby sunk their fees, or
        • at least hindered them from rising so very high as they otherwise would have done.
        • Had the universities of Oxford and Cambridge been able to maintain themselves in the exclusive privilege of graduating all the doctors who could practise in England, the price of feeling the pulse might by this time have risen from two and three guineas to double or triple that sum.
          • Two and three guineas is the current price.
          • At the same time, English physicians probably would have been the most ignorant and quackish in the world.
      2. It much reduced the doctor’s rank and dignity.
        • But if the physician was a man of sense and science, it would not surely prevent his being respected and employed as a man of sense and science.
        • If he was neither the one nor the other, his doctorship would no doubt avail him the less.
        • But should it in this case to avail him at all?
  • Had the hopeful project of the rich and great universities succeeded, there would have been no occasion [Pg 279]for sense or science.
  • To have been a doctor would alone have been sufficient to give any man rank, dignity, and fortune enough.
  • That in every profession the fortune of every individual should depend as much as possible on his merit and as little as possible on his privilege is for the public interest.
  • It is even for the interest of every particular profession, which can never so effectually support the general merit and real honour of most of those who exercise it, as by resting on such liberal principles.
  • Those principles are even most effectual for procuring them all the employment which the country can afford.
  • The great success of quacks in England has been altogether owing to the real quackery of the regular physicians.
  • Our regular physicians in Scotland have little quackery, and no quack accordingly has ever made his fortune among us.

 

  • After all, this trade in degrees is a most disgraceful trade.
    • I am extremely sorry that it should be exercised by respectable bodies like our Scotch universities.
  • But it is not hurtful to the public because it corrects the exclusive and corporation spirit of all:
    • thriving professions and
    • great universities.
  • This spirit would otherwise grow up to be an intolerable nuisance.

 

  • The current hardships of the Edinburgh physicians is perhaps the real cause of their superiority over most other physicians.
  • You say that the Royal College of Physicians are obliged by their charter to grant a license without examination to all the graduates of Scotch universities.
    • In consequence, I suppose you are all obliged to sometimes consult with very unworthy brethren.
    • You are all made to feel that you must rest none of your dignity on your degree.
      • Your degree is a distinction you share with the men whom you might despise the most
    • Instead, you must found your dignity on your merit.
  • You are not able to derive much consequence from the character of Doctor.
    • You are obliged perhaps to attend more to your character as men, gentlemen, and men of letters.
  • The unworthiness of some of your brethren might in this way be partly the cause of the very eminent and superior worth.
  • The very abuse which you complain of might in this way be the real source of your present excellence.
  • You are at present wonderfully well.
    • When you are so, be assured there is always some danger in attempting to be better.
  • Adieu, my dear Doctor.
  • After having delayed to write to you[Pg 280] I am afraid I shall get my lug (ear) in my lufe (hand), as we say, for what I have written.

But I ever am, most affectionately yours,

Adam Smith.

London, September 20, 1774.[240]

  • We do not know whether Smith’s unfavourable opinion on the part of his old and venerated tutor changed the Duke of Buccleugh’s mind on the subject, or
    • prevented him from persevering in his contemplated application to Government,
  • But no further action seems to have been taken in the matter.
    • It was left to the Scottish universities themselves to remedy abuses which were seriously telling on their own interest and good name.

 

  • The last year of Smith’s residence in London was overcast by growing anxiety on Hume’s condition.
    • Hume had always enjoyed fairly good health until the start of 1775.
    • He then seemed to fall rapidly away.
  • As Smith said one evening at Lord Shelburne’s to Dr. Price, who asked him about Hume’s health,
    • It seemed as if Hume was one of those persons who after a certain time of life go down by jumps and not gradually.[241]
  • Under those circumstances, Smith had determined as soon as his new book was out to go down to Edinburgh and persuade Hume to come back with him to London, to try the effect of change of scene and a little wholesome diversion.
  • But, bad correspondent that he was, he appears to have left Hume to gather his intentions from the reports of friends, and
  • consequently received from Hume the following remonstrance a few weeks before his work’s publication:—

Edinburgh, February 8, 1776.

Dear Smith

  • I am as lazy a correspondent as you, but my anxiety about you makes me write.
  • By all accounts your book has been printed long ago.
    • Yet it [Pg 281]has never been advertised.
    • Why?
    • If you wait until the fate of Bavaria be decided you may wait long.
  • By all accounts you intend to settle with us this spring.
    • Yet we hear no more of it.
    • Why?
    • Your room in my house is always vacant.
    • I am always at home.
    • I expect you to land here.

 

  • I have been, am, and shall be probably in an indifferent state of health.
  • I weighed myself the other day.
  • I have fallen five complete stones.
  • If you delay much longer I shall probably disappear altogether.

 

  • The Duke of Buccleugh tells me that you are very zealous in American affairs.
  • My notion is that this matter is not so important as is commonly imagined.
  • If I be mistaken I shall probably correct my error when I see you or read you.
  • For navigation and general commerce may suffer more than our manufactures.
  • Should London fall as much in its size as I have done it will be the better.
  • It is nothing but a Hulk of bad and unclean Humours.[242]
  • The American question was the great question of the hour.
  • For the Colonies were already a year in active rebellion.
  • They issued their declaration of independence a few months later.
  • Smith followed the struggle with the most patriotic interest and anxiety.
    • We see this in the concluding portion of the Wealth of Nations.
    • He made a special study long ago of the whole problem of colonial administration.
    • He had arrived at the most decided opinions on the rights and wrongs of the particular quarrel then at issue.
      • But on the general policy it was requisite to adopt in the government of dependencies.
  • Hume was in favour of separation.
    • He believed separation to be inevitable sooner or later in the ordinary course of nature, like the separation of the fruit from the tree or the child from the parent.
  • But Smith shun all such misleading metaphors.
    • He held that:
      • as long as mother country and dependency were wise enough to keep together, there need never be any occasion for separation ,
      • the sound policy to adopt was really a closer union—of imperial [Pg 282]federation, as we should now call it.
        • He would not say, “Perish dependencies,” but “Incorporate them.”
    • He would treat a colony as a natural expansion of the territory of the kingdom, and have its inhabitants enjoy the same rights and bear the same burdens as other citizens.
    • He did not think it wrong to tax the Colonies.
    • On the contrary, he would make them pay every tax the inhabitants of Great Britain had to pay;
  • but he thought it wrong to put restrictions on their commerce from which the commerce of Great Britain was free.
  • He thought it wrong to tax them for imperial purposes without giving them representation in the Imperial Parliament—full and equal representation, “bearing the same proportion to the produce of their taxes as the representation of Great Britain might bear to the produce of the taxes levied upon Great Britain.”
  • The union he contemplated was to be more than federal.
  • It was to preclude home rule by local assemblies.
  • It was to be like the union:
    • established with Scotland, and
    • which he strongly wanted to see established with Ireland.
  • The Imperial Parliament in London was to make laws for the local affairs of the provinces across the Atlantic, exactly as it made laws for the local affairs of the province across the Tweed.
  • He shrank from none of the consequences of his scheme.
    • He admitted even that when the Colonies grew in population and wealth, the time would come when:
      • the American members of the Imperial Parliament would outnumber the British, and
      • the seat of Parliament would be transferred from London to some Constantinople in America.

 

  • He knew that this scheme would be thought wild and called a “new Utopia.”
    • But he was not one of those who counted the old Utopia of Sir Thomas More to be useless or chimerical.
    • He says that his Utopia is “no more useless or chimerical than the old one.”
  • Its difficulties would not come “from the nature of things, [Pg 283] but from the prejudices and opinions of the people on this and on the other side of the Atlantic.”
    • He held very strongly that a union of this kind was the only means of making the Colonies a useful factor instead of a showy and expensive appendage of the empire, and
    • the only alternative that could really prevent their total separation from Great Britain.
  • He also pleaded for union not merely for the salvation of the Colonies to the mother country, but even more for the salvation of the Colonies to themselves.
    • Separation merely meant mediocrity for Great Britain/
    • But for the Colonies, it meant ruin.
      • There would no longer be any check on the spirit of rancorous and virulent faction which was always inseparable from small democracies.
      • The mother country’s coercive power had prevented the colonial factions from breaking out into anything worse than brutality and insult.
      • But if that coercive power were entirely taken away, they would probably soon break out into open violence and bloodshed.[243]

 

  • The event has falsified the last anticipation.
  • But this is not the place to criticise Smith’s scheme.
  • It was only requisite to recall for a moment the ideas which, according to the Duke of Buccleugh’s statement to Hume, Smith was at this time so zealously working for in the important circles in which he then moved in London.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[229]Hume MSS., R.S.E. Library.

[230] Add. MSS., 32,336.

  • It must have been during this period that Smith entertained Reynolds at dinner at Mrs. Hill’s, Dartmouth Street, Westminster, on Sunday March 11, and not in 1764 as Mr. Tom Taylor places it.
  • from finding the dinner engagement noted on “a tiny old-fashioned card bearing the name of ‘Mr. Adam Smith'” lying in one of Reynolds’ pocket-books for 1764.
  • In March 1764, Smith was in France.
    • Mr. Taylor must have mistaken the year for 1774, unless it may have been 1767.

[231] Walpole’s Letters, vi. 302.

[232] Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia, i. 533.

[233] See above, pp. 256-7.

[234] Parton’s Life of Franklin, i. 537.

[235]Hume MSS., R.S.E. Library.

[236] Playfair’s edition of Wealth of Nations, I. xiii.

[237] Clayden’s Early Life of Samuel Rogers, p. 168.

[238]Works, v. 519.

[239] Taylor’s Records of my Life, ii. 262.

[240] Thomson’s Life of Cullen, i. 481.

[241] Notes of S. Rogers’ Conversation. Add. MSS., 32, 571.

[242] Burton’s Life of Hume, ii. 483.

[243]Wealth of Nations, Book V. chap. iii.

 


 

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