Why Smith ‘Retired’

  • Gavin Kennedy


It is easy to miss the fact that by 1777 Smith had ‘retired’ from active research and serious academic work. In 1780 Smith explained his retirement in a letter:

Upon my return to Britain [1766] I retired to a small Town in Scotland the place of my nativity, where I continued to live for six years in great tranquillity, and almost complete retirement. … In the Spring of 1773 a proposal, which many of my friends thought very advantageous was made to me to go abroad a second time. The discussion of this proposal obliged me to go to London … For four years after this London was my principal residence, where I finished and published my Book. I had returned to my old retirement at Kirkcaldy … when by the interest of the Duke of Buccleugh, I was appointed to my present Office; which though it requires a good deal of attendance is both easy and honourable.1

If Smith had gone abroad in 1773 he might not have finished Wealth of Nations! As it was he took the post as Commissioner of Customs in Edinburgh in 1778, effectively retired, and did not finish Jurisprudence.


Democratic Principle Public Mind Liberal System Social Conversation Constitutional Monarchy 
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Copyright information

© Gavin Kennedy 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin Kennedy
    • 1
  1. 1.EdinburghUK

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