University Archives

Lot 385

Previous image preload Next image preload


Adam Smith Rare 4 p. ALS On The Financial and Moral Responsibility of the Son of Royalty 

In this outstanding letter Adam Smith writes about the inculcation of financial and moral responsibility and other matters relating to money.4to. 4 pages. Very good condition.

Adam Smith  (baptized June 5, 1723, Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland—died July 17, 1790, Edinburgh) was named Professor of Logic and the University of Glasgow, in 1751, and the following year he became Professor of Moral Philosophy. He remained there until 1764. During this fruitful period, Smith wrote his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, published in 1759, the year he wrote these letters to Lord Shelburne. It was customary at this time for professors to take students into their houses. Smith’s most noteworthy charge was Thomas Petty-Fitzmaurice, younger son of the 1st Earl of Shelburne, the recipient of this letter. 

In this letter Smith meticulously details for Shelburne his son’s expenses, praises the young man’s behavior, and addresses the role of money in matters of character. Smith apologizes for the lack of receipts for certain expenses including physicians, pocket money, books, a set of silver buckles, and “a case of mathematical instruments.” He then explains that he took Thomas on a trip to Edinburgh rather than leave him behind unsupervised. At times Smith was obliged “to sup or dine at places where it was improper to carry him.” Concerned about the company Thomas might keep in “a very dissolute town,” Smith “ordered a small entertainment at our lodgings and invited two or three young lawyers to keep him company.” Aware that Shelburne might object to the university tuition charges as “extravagant,” Smith observes, “it is the fee which is expected from all nobleman’s sons. Not above the half would be expected from any gentleman’s son.”
Smith then turns to Lord Shelburne’s “very laudable anxiety that your son should be held to Oeconomy not that he might hoard, but that he might be able to give.” He assures Shelburne that Thomas “is careful of everything upon which he sets any value, of his books, of his clothes, and will I am persuaded be so of his money, whenever he comes to have any money to manage that is worth caring for.” He concludes, “If he lives to be a man, he will, I imagine be firm, steady and resolute in an uncommon degree, … a man of severe and even of rigid morals."

Only 193 Adam Smith letters are known, all but a handful in institutions. Smith confessed to his friend David Hume “I am as Lazy a Correspondent as you,” but Hume’s letters outnumber Smith’s by a factor of three or more. In contrast, 1600 Samuel Johnson letters survive, more than 10,000 George Washington letters are known, and Voltaire wrote more than 20,000 letters.

Of the 193 extant Adam Smith letters, 24 are known only from published sources, leaving just 169 extant manuscript letters, virtually all in institutions. Smith “almost never retained copies of letters sent. And he was not addicted to letter-writing; so that, compared with correspondence of some other notable persons, Smith’s letters were rather few and short” (Dickinson)

This is a rare opportunity to acquire a long Adam Smith letter on financial matters, representing the pinnacle of economics manuscripts.

Provenance: Bowood, home of the Earls of Shelburne.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Accepts online payments

Accepted Forms of Payment

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Money Order / Cashiers Check, Paypal, Personal Check, Visa, Wire Transfer


We do our own in-house worldwide shipping!

Applicable shipping and handling charges will be added to the invoice. We offer several shipping options, and remain one of the few auction houses who proudly provides professional in-house shipping as an option to our clients. All items will ship with signature required, and full insurance. Most items are sent via Federal Express, with P. O. Box addresses being sent through USPS. We insure through Berkley Asset Protection with rates of $.70 per $100 of value, among the lowest insurance rates in the industry. Our shipping department cameras document every package, both outgoing and incoming, for maximum security. In addition, we compare our shipping and handling rates against those of other auction houses, to ensure that our charges are among the lowest in the trade.

Upon winning your item(s), you will receive an invoice with our in-house shipping and handling fees included. ***We will ship to the address as it appears on your invoice, unless you inform us otherwise, immediately upon your receipt of invoice***

International shipments: In order to comply with our insurance provider, all international shipments will be sent via Fed Ex and customs paperwork will show a value of $1.00. International buyers should contact our office directly with any questions regarding this policy.

Third Party Shipping Option: If a third party shipper is preferred, the buyer is responsible for contacting them directly to make shipping arrangements. For your convenience, we have provided some recommended shippers. For your protection, we will require a signed release from you, confirming your authorization for us to release your lots to your specified third party Please copy and paste this following link into your browser: http://universityarchives.com/UserFiles/ShippingInfo.pdf. At that point, our responsibility and insurance coverage for your item(s) ceases. Items picked up by third party shippers are required to pay Connecticut sales tax. Items requiring third party shipping due to being oversized, fragile or bulky will be denoted in the item description.

Please see our full terms and conditions for names of suggested third party shippers.

After payment has been made in full, University Archives will ship your purchase within 5 business days following receipt of full payment for item.

Please remember that the buyer is responsible for all shipping costs from University Archives' offices in Westport, CT to the buyer's door. Please see full Terms and Conditions of Sale.

January 6, 2021 10:30 AM EST

Wilton, CT, US

You agree to pay a buyer's premium of up to 25.0% and any applicable taxes and shipping.

View full terms and conditions

Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000