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subject, and also the assistance which his mind and judgment were about to receive by pursuing the study conjointly with the mind of another student. He refers to the progress of his studies in the following manner:
"In the afternoon Lord Webb and I made our second attack upon Smith's Wealth of Nations,' and finished for the present the subject of the Division of Labour. Our mode of reading is, first to go through each chapter with a minute attention to the accuracy of the argument, endeavouring, at the same time, to recollect all the illustrations by which we can either confute, contradict, or modify his general principles: when we have read as many chapters as make a complete subject of itself, we review the whole in a more general manner, and take a note of such subjects of future investigation as seem necessary to complete the theory."*
The confused, and therefore unintelligible, manner in which Political Economy has been treated by so many writers, is referred to in the following passage of the memoirs :
"This afternoon I gave a second or third sitting to the doctrine of the French Economists, which I perceive will cost me many an hour before I comprehend their meaning in the first place, and in the next place form my opinion on the justness of their principles. I have not yet been able to procure Quesnai's original work. I can understand Turgot's treatise on the formation and distribution of riches, but I see no reason to admit his doctrines: but as to Mirabeau's 'Philosophie Rurale,' of which I have read a few chapters, I can scarcely attach a meaning to his terms." †
The progress of Mr. Horner's studies is next shown, by the following extract:-"We have been under the necessity of suspending our progress in the perusal of 'The Wealth of
* Memoirs of Francis Horner, p. 95.
+ Ibid. p. 96.
Nations,' on account of the insurmountable difficulties, obscurity, and embarrassment, in which the reasonings of the fifth chapter are involved. It is amusing to recollect the history of one's feelings on a matter of this kind: many years ago when I first read "The Wealth of Nations,' the whole of the first book appeared to me as perspicuous as it was interesting and new. Some time afterwards, while I lived in England, I attempted to make an abstract of Smith's principal reasonings; but I was impeded by the doctrine of the real measure of value, and the distinction between nominal and real price: the discovery that I did not understand Smith speedily led me to doubt whether Smith understood himself, and I thought I saw that the price of labour was the same sort of thing as the price of any other commodity; but the discussion was too hard for me, and I fled to something more agreeable because more easy. The next incident that I can recollect of this narrative is, the pleasure I received from finding in a pamphlet by Lord Lauderdale, of which Professor Dalzel gave me a copy, that what had puzzled me appeared decidedly erroneous to him, and was rejected without ceremony. Mr. Stewart also devoted an elaborate lecture to this curious subject; his refutation of Smith's argument appeared to me at the time demonstrative, but the principles he proposed to substitute were not quite so satisfactory. The subject has again come before me, and I hope, with Lord Webb's aid, not to quit it without making something of it. In utter despair, however, of conducting the investigation successfully without more materials than Smith furnishes, we have betaken ourselves to some treatises in which the doctrine of money is examined in a more elementary manner.” * The part of this passage which requires to be commented
* Memoirs of Francis Horner, pp. 99-100.
upon in the first place, is that where the writer shows us the difference between a careless and a careful, an ignorant and an informed, reading of important matter. When he perused "The Wealth of Nations," merely for the sake of reading it — which is the case of most men- or under the impulse only of simple and unexamining curiosity, and with a predisposition, for ease sake, to receive all as truth, he then concluded that the matter of the work embodied a correct course of reasoning; but when he had to peruse it a second time, and that for the high purpose of bringing it to a solid practical bearing, defects became apparent, for he found that he could not accomplish any correct arrangement of things by means of the principles or courses that were laid down in the work; for if premises were right, inductions from them were wrong; or, if inductions were correct, premises were incorrect; so that sound conclusions could not be attained in any way.
The part which requires to be commented on in the second place, presents indeed most important matter. The writer declares the difficulty, and the impediment, which he felt on endeavouring to make a clear or well-defined abstract of Adam Smith's "principal reasonings." The part of the great subject to which he refers, is that where the author of "The Wealth of Nations" has attempted to give a definition of the cause of value. Now, this part of the great subject, namely, the cause of value, lies, as I have before declared, at the very root of the whole science; so that, if this be not defined, it would be impossible that the courses by which the wealth of nations is achieved could be shown. The persevering study which Mr. Horner, as an honest and talented student, bestowed on the subject-matter, enabled him to discover that it was not possible to make sense out of that evidence and argument which were laid before him by Dr. Smith; and, hence, he was led to adopt the
only correct conclusion, which was, that Adam Smith did not understand himself— or, to use more plain terms did not understand the subject-matter of which he had undertaken to treat. Mr. Horner was confirmed in his own conclusion, respecting Dr. Smith's inability and confusion, by the same result having occurred in the instances of Lord Lauderdale and Dugald Stewart as had occurred in his own case; both these writers, being special students of the subject, having discovered the erroneous and contradictory reasonings that are contained in "The Wealth of Nations.”
The next and last judgment of Mr. Horner's which I deem it necessary to adduce, is one in which his estimate of the work of Adam Smith is summed up explicitly and forcibly. The is this: passage "An indirect application was made to me to furnish a set of notes for a new edition of Smith's Wealth of Nations;' this, of course, I declined, because I have other things to attend to even if I had been prepared for such an undertaking, which I certainly am not yet, I should be reluctant to expose Smith's errors before his work has operated its full effect. We owe much at present to the superstitious worship of Smith's name, and we must not impair that feeling till the victory is more complete. There are few practical errors in the Wealth of Nations,' at least of any great consequence; and until we can give a correct and precise theory of the nature and origin of wealth, his popular, and plausible, and loose hypothesis is as good for the vulgar as any other."*
Now, this is one of those deeply-interesting and important passages connected with the history of the treatment and development of science, by which simple-minded readers who have read confidingly, and admired that which has been in
Memoirs of Francis Horner, p. 133.
troduced to their notice in the high name of science, and which they have heard generally applauded, are conducted, as it were, into the very workshop of scientific composition, where the true character of works there compounded is shown to them, and by which exposition no little astonishment is excited in their minds. The inditer of this passage appears to have discerned, at an early period of his political career, the great assistance which his party of political reformers would derive by means of a zealous, persevering, and determined application to the public mind of the matter contained in Smith's "Wealth of Nations;" a work of the kind being indispensable to them for the purpose of conducting successfully an overthrow of an established system of commercial economy, and of government, into which great abuses and most oppressive courses had been introduced.
But the rising and aspiring politician ought to have discerned, that the blind assent and ill-founded admiration. awarded to Dr. Smith's work, together with the superstitious worship of his name by the British nation, which he has referred to as being calculated to conduce largely to the advancement and success of that political party to which he was attached, would constitute elements most dangerous to the interests of the nation, because whatever is erroneous, and, hence, deranging and destructive, in Dr. Smith's work, would be as eagerly, if not more eagerly, received and upheld, than that which is true and beneficial. It would appear, indeed, that Mr. Horner was aware of this, for he has asserted that error so put together as to assume the form of a "popular, plausible, and loose hypothesis," is as good for the vulgar as any other.
If it be discerned, and admitted, that any advocated false hypothesis bears a "popular" characteristic, and that this false hypothesis has been long and studiously infused into