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From the Publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, till
that of The Wealth of Nations.
AFTER the publication of the Theory of Moral Sentiments, Mr Smith remained four years at Glasgow, discharging his official duties with unabated vigour, and with increasing reputation. During that time, the plan of his lectures underwent a considerable change. His ethical doctrines, of which he had now published so valuable a part, occupied a much smaller portion of the course than formerly : and accordingly, his attention was naturally directed to a more complete illustration of the principles of jurisprudence and of political economy.
To this last subject, his thoughts appear to have been occasionally turned from a very early period of life. It is probable, that the uninterrupted friendship he had always maintained with his old companion Mr Oswald, had some tendency to encourage him in prosecuting this branch of his studies; and the publication of Mr Hume's political discourses, in the year 1752, could not fail to confirm him in those liberal views of commercial policy which had already opened to him in the course of his own inquiries. His long residence in one of the most enlightened mercantile towns in this island, and the habits of intimacy in which he lived with the most respectable of its inhabitants, afforded him an opportunity of deriving what commercial information he stood in need of, from the best sources; and it is a circumstance no less honourable to their liberality than to his talents, that notwithstanding the reluctance so common among men of business to listen to the conclusions of mere speculation, and the direct opposition of his leading principles to all the old maxims of trade, he was able, before he quitted his situation in the university, to rank some very eminent merchants in the number of his proselytes *
Among the students who attended his lectures, and whose minds were not previously warped by prejudice, the progress of his opinions, it may be reasonably supposed, was much more rapid. It was this class of his friends accordingly that first adopted his system with eagerness, and diffused a knowledge of its fundamental principles over this part of the kingdom.
* 1 mention this fact on the respectable authority of James Ritchie, Esq. of Glas. gow.
: Towards the end of 1763, Mr Smith received an invitation from Mr Charles Townsend to accompany the Duke of Buccleuch on his travels; and the liberal terms in which the proposal was made to him, added to the strong desire he had felt of visiting the Continent of Europe, induced him to resign his office at Glasgow. With the connection which he was led to form in consequence of this change in his situation, he had reason to be satisfied in an uncommon degree, and he always spoke of it with pleasure and gratitude. To the public, it was not perhaps a change equally fortunate ; as it interrupted that studious leisure for which nature seems to have destined him, and in which alone he could have hoped to accomplish those literary projects which had flattered the ambition of his youthful genius.
The alteration, however, which, from this period, took place in his habits, was not without its advantages. He had hitherto lived chiefly within the walls of an university ; and although to a mind like his, the observation of human nature on the smallest scale is sufficient to convey a tolerably just conception of what passes on the great theatre of the world, yet it is not to be doubted, that the variety of scenes through which he afterwards passed, must have enriched his mind with many new ideas, and corrected many of those misapprehensions of life and manners which the best descriptions of them can scarcely fail to convey.—But whatever
were the lights that his travels afforded to him as a student of human nature, they were probably useful in a still greater degree, in enabling him to perfect that system of political economy, of which he had already delivered the principles in his lectures at Glasgow, and which it was now the leading object of his studies to prepare for the public. The coincidence between some of these principles and the distinguishing tenets of the French economists, who were at that very time in the height of their reputation, and the intimacy in which he lived with some of the leaders of that sect, could not fail to assist him in methodizing and digesting his speculations; while the valuable collection of facts, accumulated by the zealous industry of their numerous adherents, furnished him with ample materials for illustrating and confirming his theoretical conclusions.
After leaving Glasgow, Mr Smith joined the Duke of Buccleuch at London early in the year 1764, and set out with him for the continent in the month of March following. At Dover they were met by Sir James Macdonald, who accompanied them to Paris, and with whom Mr Smith laid the foundation of a friendship, which he always mentioned with great sensibility, and of which he often lamented the short duration. The panegyrics with which the memory of this accomplished and amiable person has been honoured by so many distinguished characters in the different countries of Europe, are a proof how well fitted his talents were to command general admiration. The esteein in which his abilities and learning were held by Mr Smith, is a testimony to his extraordinary merit of still superior value. Mr Hume, too, seems, in this instance, to have partaken of his friend's enthusiasm “ Were you and I together (says he in a letter " to Mr Smith), we should shed tears at present for the death “ of poor Sir James Macdonald. We could not possibly “ have suffered a greater loss than in that valuable young
In this first visit to Paris, the Duke of Buccleuch and Mr Smith employed only ten or twelve days *, after which they
* The day after his arrival at Paris, Mr Smith sent a formal resignation of his Professorship to the Rector of the University of Glasgow. “I never was more anx. “ ious (says he in the conclusion of this letter) for the good of the College, than at « this moment; and I sincerely wish, that whoever is my successor may not only do cf credit to the office by his abilities, but 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 tem per.”
The following extract from the records of the University, which follows imme. diately after Mr Smith's letter of resignation, is at once a testimony to his assiduity as a Professor, and a proof of the just sense which that learned body entertained of the talents and worth of the colleague they had lost:
" The meeting accept of Dr Smith's resignation, in terms of the above letter, and “ the office of Professor of Moral Philosophy in this University is therefore hereby « declared to be vacant. The University, at the same time, cannot help expressing " their sincere regret at the removal of Dr Smith, whose distinguished probity and