Front Page Titles (by Subject) Tuesday. March. 8th. 1763 — — - Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 5 Lectures On Jurisprudence
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Tuesday. March. 8th. 1763 — — - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 5 Lectures On Jurisprudence 
Lectures On Jurisprudence, ed. R.. L. Meek, D. D. Raphael and P. G. Stein, vol. V of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982).
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Tuesday. March. 8th. 1763 — —
In the last lecture I observd how the nobility necessarily fell to ruin as soon as luxury and arts were introduced. Their fall everywhere gave occasion to the absolute power of the king. This was the case even in England. The Tudors are now universally allowed to have been absolute princes. The Parliament at that time, instead of apposing and checking the measures they took to gain and support their absolute power, authorized and supported them. Henry the 7th. was altogether an absolute monarch, and Henry the 8th. still more so; Edward the 6th had no less power, which still if possible increased under Elizabeth. She indeed was much more mild and gentle in her conduct than her sister Mary, who was of all the English sovereigns | the most absolute. In France their fall occasioned the absolute power of the sovereign which continues to this day.—The nobility came to ruin before any system of liberty was established. The luxury which followd on the arts ruind their power, who before had the only power to resist or stop the great sway he had in the nation; when they therefore were taken away nothing remaind to appose them. We see too that this has always been the case; the power of the nobles hasn allways been brought to ruin before a system of liberty has been established, and this indeed must always be the case. For the nobility are the greatest opposers and oppressors of liberty that we can imagine. They hurt the liberty of the people even more than an absolute monarch. In an absolute government, as that of the Tudors, the greatest part of the nation, who were in the remote parts of the kingdom, had nothing to fear, nor were in any great danger of being appressed by the sovereign, who | was terrible to those only who were near at hand to the seat of his court. Whereas every one is in danger from a petty lords, who had the chief power in the whole kingdom. The people therefore never can have security in person or estate till the nobility have been greatly crushed. Thus therefore the government became absolute, in France, Spain, Portugal, and in England after the fall of the great nobility.
The ruin of the feudall government which followed on arts and luxury had a very different effect in Germany; it occasioned the increase of the power and absolute authority of the great nobles or princes of the empire, and not of the emperor. Their estates were, for the reasons already explain’d, so much greater than those of the others below them that luxury could not surmount the great leap which there was necessary to get at them. They could not possible by any personall luxury consume all their revenues; they therefore contrived to have a great number of retainers and dependents, and have accordingly become absolute. | It had also for some time before been the policy of the nobles to elect those for emperors who had no, or very small, estates of their own, so that their power could not be very great nor much to be feared. But when they elected Chas. Vth, who had at that time the whole Spanish dominions, a very large estate in Germany, and large possessions in Italy also, they being put on their guard by the Elector of Saxony capitulated and treatied with him that he should act in such and such a manner, giving up a considerable part of the imperiall dignity. This had not before been necessary, but is still continued on the death of every emperor of that family in which it has still continued, and this capitulation generally deprives them of allmost any influence merely deriv’d from their character as emperor. The princes have in this manner become very absolute in their own dominions.
The absolute power of the sovereigns has continu’d ever since its establishment in France, Spain, etc. In England alone | a different government has been established from the naturall course of things.—The situation and circumstances of England have been altogether different.o It was united at lengthp with Scotland. The dominions were then entirely surrounded by the sea, which was on all hands a boundary from its neighbours. No foreign invasion was therefore much to be dreaded. We see that (excepting some troops brought over in rebellions and very impoliticly as a defence to the kingdom) there has been no foreign invasion since the time of Henry 3d. And Blank in MS.q himself was brought over by Blank in MS.r to support him in his disputes with Henry.66 The Scots however frequently made incursions upon them, and had they still continued seperate it is probable the English would never have recovered their liberty. The Union however put them out of the danger of invasions. They were therefore under no necessity of keeping up a standing army; they did not see any use or necessity for it.—In other countries, as the feudall militia and that of a regular one which followd it wore out, they were under a necessity of establishing a | standing army for their defense against their neighbours. The arts and improvement of sciences puts thes better sort in such a conditiont thatu they will not incline to serve in war. Luxury hinders some and necessary business others. So that the very meanest sort only go to the wars. The better sort of mechanicks could not get a sufficient compensation for the loss of their time. An army composed of gentlemen has occasion for very little discipline; their sence of honour and character will make them do their duty. But when the army comes to be compos’d of [of] the very meanest of people, they must be formed into a standing army and a military discipline must be established; that is, the soldiers mustv be put in such a condition as to fear their officers, who are still gentlemen, more than the enemy; in this case they will fight but not otherwise: they will follow them rather than flie from the enemy. This institution has therefore taken place in all countries where arts and luxury are established. We see in France that Henry the fourth kept up generally a standing | army of betwixt 20 and 30,000 men; this, tho small in comparison of what they now keep up, was reckoned a great force, and it was thought that if France could in time of peace maintain that number of men it would be able to give law to Europe; and we see it was in fact very powerfull. But Britain had no neighbours which it could fear, being then thought superior to allw Europe besides. The revenues of the king being very scanty, and the demesnes lands, the chief support of the kings, being sold, he had no more money than was necessary to maintain the dignity and grandeur of a court. From all these, it was thought unnecessary as well as inconvenient and useless to establish a standing army. The States of France, the Diet of Sweden and Poland, and the Lords and Commons in England had the power of making what laws and regulations and imposing what taxes they pleased; the Tudors we see overruled all their debates, and if they had had a standing army they would have been able to have done what he pleased. But as the sovereign had no standing army he was obliged tox call his Parliament. | This was the case in the time of the Stewart reign. Another thing <?which> also contributed to the diminution of the kings authority, and to render him still more weak, was that Elizabeth in the end of her reign, forseeing that she was to have no sucessors of her own family, was at great pains to gain the love of the nation, which she had generally done, and never inclined to lay on taxes which would she knew be complaind of; but she chose rather to sell the demesne lands, which were in her time alltogether alienated.67 James 1st and Charles had in this manner no revenue, nor had they a standing army by which they could extort any money or have other influence with the people. They were therefore obliged to call the Parliament to obtain their consent. The Commons were now far from being insignificant, as at first, but had now great property, equall perhaps or greater than that of the nobles, and looked on themselves, as representing so powerfull a body, as on an equality with the peers themselves. They were, and I believe not without reason con|sidering the state of the kingdom, very sparing and indeed nigardly in their allowances. Nor did they ever grant even these pinched sharesy [of] withz out taking away some part of the royall prerogatives. In this manner in Jas 1st. time, as well as in the beginning of Charles 1st, they took from the sovereign the liberty of taking up loans and all sorts of taxes whatsoever without consent of Parliament. They established their own liberty of speech, which had never before been secured, and obliged him to communicate with them all debates concerning peace and war, and all state affairs. Many other such incroachments were at this time made on the power of the sovereign, the necessities of his condition oblidging him to accept of what conditions they pleased to gain a small subsidy. At last an attempt to alter the form of worship in Scotland (a very impolitick step<)> raised a rebellion in this country. The Scots army marched into England. The king had no military force to resist them, nor money to procure one. He applied to Parliament but found they were of the same | sentiments as the Scots, being puritans at heart as well as they; so that they would grant him no supplies. He was therefore obliged to capitulate with them; but at last, not agreeing to their demands, they took off his head. At the Restoration a step was taken which in the hands of more vigorous princes might have established an absolute authority over the people. A revenue of 1,200,000 was settled upon the king; this, had it been employed in the support of an army, might have maintained one which would have kept in awe the whole kingdom. The King of Prussia maintains a vast army on not much largera funds, and Cromwell with less had just before kept the whole kingdom in subjection. But the extravagant and luxurious turn of Charles made him choose rather to employ it in the pursuit of his pleasures, so that he became as necessitous and dependent on Parliament as any of the preceding monarchs had been. James, being still more extravagant both in his expenses and all his proceedings, was turned out of his kingdom and a new family brought over. They, being altogether | strangers and upstarts in the kingdom, were obliged to court the Parliament more than ever and to submit to what conditions they pleased to impose; and many were imposed which the weakest prince of the Stewart family would not have agreed to. All this they were obliged to submit to in order to obtain a very moderate supply. The kings revenues are made up of the Civill List, the regular taxes imposed every year, and the extraordinary ones which are granted from year to year. The Civill List amounts in this reign to 800,000; in the last reign it was somewhat more; and in the preceding reign it amountd to about 700, which was somewhat greater than that in the two reigns preceding it. This summ is set appart for maintain<in>g the kings household and supporting the dignity of the crown, but might in the hands of more vigorous or ambitious princes give the king more authority than the constitution of the kingdom designed he should have. The other part which arises from the greatb taxes laid on the subjects, viz that on malt and that on land, whichc varies from 2 to four shillings | in the pound. These amount ordinarilly to something above 300,000£. They are set appart for maintain<in>g the marine and land forces, the fleet and army, for which they generally suffice in time of peace, extraordinary supplies being granted in the time of war. The 3d. part of the revenue is the funds mortgaged to pay the debts contracted in the present reigns. The creditors requird some security for this money. For this purpose fixed taxes have been introduced, and the revenue arising from them mortgaged for their payment. With <?this> the king can not meddle. It is paid into the offices of the exchequer where it is perfectly secure. The auditor and other officers of the exchequer are accountable for <it> to Parliament and must give in their discharges to it, none of which will be received except they be from the publick creditors appointed by Parliament. This part of the revenue can therefore give him no authority but as it gives him the disposall of some very profitable places. It strengthens also his interest against that of the Stuart family as thesed | creditors would, on their introduction, be cut out of both principall and interest. It is levied indeed by his officers but never comes into his hands, but goes (as I said <)> first to the exchequer and then to the creditors. There is generally a surplus in these taxes above what is necessary to pay the creditors interest to whom it is appropriated. This goes, being unnapropriated, into what is called the unappropriated or sinking fund; this the king can never come at. It is under the immediate direction and care of the auditors and other officers of the exchequer, who, as they are officers for life with very high salaries and are generally the first men in the kingdom, will not risque for any consideration the loosing of those offices by granting the use of it for other purposes than those to which it has been alotted. The Civill List is established indeed at the beginning of every reign, but givese in the present management no authority, as it is all expended on the luxury and magnificence of the court and the household of the king. | The other partf which isg revenue, viz that raised from land, excise, and customs, is alottedh for the fleets and the army and is granted from year to year. The mortgaged taxes are necessarily perpetuall; the Civill List for the life of the king; and the other part is occasionall,i which would therefore fall if the Parliament was not called. The funds for the support of the armies and fleets also depends on the grant of the Parliament; so that the whole of the government must be at an end if the Parliament was not regularly called. So far is the king from being able to govern the kingdom without the assistance of Parliament for 15 or 16 years, as Chas. 1st did, that he could not without giving offence to the whole nation by a step which would shock every one, maintain the government for one year without them, as he has no power of levying supplies. In this manner a system of | liberty has been established in England before the standing army was introduced; which as it was not the case in other countries, so it has not been ever establishd in them. The standing armies in usej in those countries put it into the power of the king to over rule the Senate, Diet, or other supreme or highest court of the nation.—The supreme power in legislation is here divided betwixt the king, Lords, and Commons. A law may begin in either House and be passed by the other. The king cant however interfere after the debate is begun and tell them that he dissaproves of such or such a debate, tho he may recommend one to their consideration before it has been consider’d. Money bills however can not begin anywhere but from the Commons. The Lords indeed have disputed this priviledge, but we see it has been possessed by the Commons for above 100 years. The Lords can only either assent to it simpliciter or refuse it simpliciter, but can not alter or add to it in any shape. The king has in all cases the power only of putting his assent or negative | to a bill, and the denying any bill that has passed both Houses, being altogether unpopular, has gone into dissuse. The king has always given his assent to every bill since Wm. 3ds time. Charles 2d was so sensible of it being altogether disagreable to the people that he never attempted it, tho he often used methods very low and mean, as the stalingk of a bill, etc.; the umbrage this would give, he thought, was less than that of plainly refusing it. The Civill List and the standing army are the only things which can any way endanger the liberty of the subjects. The Civill List is so considerable that in the hands of designing, vigorous, and ambitious princes it might give them an influence far superior to that which the dependance of a few officers about the palace can bestow. But customs of this sort are very difficulty changed by any prince.—The standing army might also without doubt be turned against the nation if the king had attained great influence with it. But there is one security here also. Many of the persons of chief rank and station in the army have also large estates of their own and are members of End of Volume Four of MS. | v.1 the House of Commons. They have in this manner an influence and power altogether independent of the king. It would never be their interest to join with the king in any design to inslave the nation, as no consideration he could bestow on them will be able to turn their interest to his side. So that however mercenary we should suppose them, those at least may be depended on who have a seat in the Parliament or offices depending on it.
[o]Illegible word or words deleted
[p]Numbers written above the last three words indicate that they were intended to read ‘at length united’
[q]Blank in MS.
[r]Blank in MS.
[66 ]The future French king Louis VIII invaded England at the end of King John’s reign and was in England when Henry III became king. There may be confusion with Louis IX of France (St. Louis) who never came to England but was appealed to as mediator in the dispute between Simon de Montfort’s baronial party and Henry III in 1264.
[s]Illegible word deleted
[u]‘hand and’ deleted
[67 ]Hume, History, IV.729.
[y]Reading of last two words doubtful
[z]‘to the’ deleted
[a]The last three words replace ‘much smaller’
[c]‘amounts to’ deleted
[f]The following words are deleted at this point: ‘which is collected for the maintenance of the standing army and fleet is raised from year’
[g]‘a standing’ deleted