Love and Liberty: A Short History of Adam Smith in Love
25 Pages Posted:
Date Written: October 10, 2020
The author devotes his full scholarly attention to the mystery of Adam Smith’s love life by carefully re-assembling all the admissible amorous evidence, by subjecting such facts to critical lawyerly scrutiny, and by drawing reasonable inferences from these sundry proofs. Following a brief introduction, Part 2 of this paper considers four pieces of evidence regarding Adam Smith’s love life: (i) an obscure but intriguing footnote in Dugald Stewart’s 1793 biography of Smith’s life and writings, (ii) a letter dated July 14, 1784 addressed to Professor Stewart, (iii) a brief anecdote by Henry Mackenzie, a prominent Scottish lawyer and writer, as well as (iv) a mysterious letter dated February or September 18, 1766, a letter containing key corroborating details about Adam Smith’s lost loves. Part 3 then speculates about the whereabouts of Adam Smith’s lost diary and also about why Smith instructed his literary executors as early as 1773 to destroy his private papers and correspondence. Next, Parts 4 and 5 of this paper will consider two additional clues that may shed light on this amorous enigma. Specifically, Part 4 will revisit Adam Smith’s analysis of romantic love in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, while Part 5 will discuss the legal and ecclesiastical regulation of sex in 18th Century Scotland and France--the locales of Smith’s love affairs. Part 6 then presents one last and potentially relevant clue: the notorious case of the Chevalier de La Barre, which played out during Adam Smith’s sojourns in Paris and Abbeville, and Part 7 concludes with observations for future research. In short, contrary to the conventional biographical wisdom, reports of Adam Smith’s love life are not mere rumors or unfounded speculations. Although Adam Smith’s lifelong devotion to his intellectual life and to his widowed mother Margaret Douglas may have ultimately prevented him from getting married and forming his own household, the evidence will show that it is “more likely than not” that Adam Smith was deeply in love at least twice in his life.
Keywords: love, Adam Smith, preponderance of the evidence
JEL Classification: B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation