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151.: From HUGH BLAIR - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 6 Correspondence of Adam Smith 
Correspondence of Adam Smith, ed. E. C. Mossner and I. S. Ross, vol. VI of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987).
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From HUGH BLAIR1
MS., NLS 1005 fols. 21–22v; Fay 39–40 (in part).
Edinburgh, 3 Apr. 
My Dear Sir
I Cannot forbear writing to Congratulate you upon your Book. I have just finished it; and though from what you read to me some years ago, and from the great Attention which I knew you had bestowed on the Subject, I expected much, yet I Confess you have exceeded my expectations. One writer after another on these Subjects did nothing but puzzle me. I despaired of ever arriving at clear Ideas. You have given me full and Compleat Satisfaction and my Faith is fixed. I do think the Age is highly indebted to you, and I wish they may be duly Sensible of the Obligation. You have done great Service to the World by overturning all that interested Sophistry of Merchants, with which they had Confounded the whole Subject of Commerce. Your work ought to be, and I am perswaded will in some degree become, the Commercial Code of Nations. I did not read one Chapter of it without Acquiring much Light and instruction. I am Convinced that since Montesquieu’s Esprit des Loix, Europe has not received any Publication which tends so much to Enlarge and Rectify the ideas of mankind.
Your Arrangement is excellent. One chapter paves the way for another; and your System gradually erects itself. Nothing was ever better suited than your Style is to the Subject; clear and distinct to the last degree, full without being too much so, and as tercly as the Subject could admit. Dry as some of the Subjects are, It carried me along. I read the whole with avidity; and have pleasure in thinking that I shall within some short time give it a Second and more deliberate perusal.
But have I no faults to find? There are some pages about the middle of the Second Volume where you enter into a description about the measures we ought at present to take with respect to America, giving them a representation etc.2 which I wish had been omitted, because it is too much like a publication for the present moment. In Subsequent editions when publick Measures come to be Settled, these pages will fall to be omitted or Altered. But in the mean time they will go into the Translation of your work (unless, which perhaps might deserve your Consideration, you write to prevent it) into French, and may remain in Europe unaltered. By your two Chapters on Universities and the Church,3 you have raised up very formidable adversaries who will do all they can to decry you. There is so much good Sense and Truth in your doctrine about Universities, and it is so fit that your doctrine should be preached to the World, that I own I would have regretted the Want of that Chapter. But in your System about the Church I cannot wholly agree with you. Independency was at no time a popular or practicable System. The little Sects you Speak of, would for many reasons, have Combined together into greater bodies, and done much Mischief to Society. You are, I think, too favourable by much to Presbytery. It Connects the Teachers too closely with the People; and gives too much aid to that Austere System you Speak of,4 which is never favourable to the great improvements of mankind.
But the chief Improvement I wish for in the next Edition is that you take some method to point out in what parts of the Book we may find out any thing we wish to look for. You travel thro’ a great Variety of Subjects. One has frequently occasion to reflect and look back. The Contents of your chapters are so short as to afford little direction. An Index (which however will be Necessary) does not fully Supply the want.5 My Idea is this; That at the beginning or end of the work you should give us a Syllabus of the whole; expressed in short independent Propositions, like the Syllabus’s we are in use to give of our College Lectures; with references under each, to the pages in which these propositions are handled and proved. The Benefit of this would not only be that it would lead us to any part of the work we wanted to Consult, but (which would be a much higher advantage) it would Exhibit a Scientifical View of the whole System; it would impress your Principles on our Memory; it would show us how they hang upon one another, and give mutual Support and Con[s]istency to the Fabrick; it would gather together the Scatter’d Ideas which many of your Readers will form, and give them something like real improvement. I do not know whether I have made you clearly understand my Idea. But I am Convinced that something of this kind would be a great and material improvement of your work. Ten or fifteen Additional pages would comprize it all; and they would be the most Valuable pages of the whole. Pray think of this. I want exceedingly to have it done. It would give both more eclat and more usefulness to your System.
This has been a fortunate Season. Gibbon has given us an Elegant and Masterly Book. But what the Deuce had he to do with Attacking Religion?6 It will both Clog his Work, and it is in itself Unhistorical, and out of place. I heartily wish him to go on; but for Gods sake let him for the future keep off that ground as much as possible.
Your Friends here are well; except (how miserable it is that we must make that exception!) poor D. Hume.7 He is declining Sadly. I dread, I dread—and I shudder at the prospect. We have suffered so much by the loss of Friends in our Circle here of late,8 that such a blow as that would be utterly overwhelming. We have often flattered our Selves with the prospect of your Settling amongst us in a Station that would be both Creditable and Usefull. But I own that I have less prospect of that than I had. I Cannot believe but that they will place you at some of the great Boards in England. They are Idiots if they do not: Tho perhaps you might pass your days as Comfortably at some of our Boards here.9 Wherever you are, God bless you. The D[uke] of B[uccleuch] your friend goes up, I hear it said, next week. I ever am, with great respect and Esteem
My Dear Sir Your Affectionate and Faithful
[1 ]Hugh Blair (1718–1800), leader among the moderates of the Edinburgh ministers, successively incumbent of the Canongate Kirk, Lady Yester’s, and the High Kirk of St. Giles (after 1758); famous as a preacher and literary critic; appointed Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Belles–Lettres at Edinburgh, 1762; remembered for his preface (anon.) to Macpherson’s Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760), Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian (1763), Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles–Lettres (1783), and Sermons (1778–1801). Blair followed Smith and Robert Watson in lecturing on rhetoric at Edinburgh. He was shown by Smith ‘part of a manuscript treatise on rhetoric’, presumably a version of the later LRBL, and he incorporated ideas from it in his own lectures. Also, he is reported as making use of Smith’s ideas on jurisprudence in his sermons, but Smith did not complain, remarking: ‘He is very welcome. There is enough left’ (Rae 33, quoting indirectly Henry Mackenzie).
[2 ]WN IV.vii.c. 75–9.
[3 ]WN V.i.f. and g.
[4 ]According to Smith the ‘austere system’ of morality was favoured by the ‘common people’ and the ‘liberal’ or ‘loose’ one by the people of fashion: see WN V.i.g.10, also 34 and 37.
[5 ]An index was added to the 3rd edn. of WN in 1784; see Letter 242 addressed to Thomas Cadell, dated 18 Nov. of that year.
[6 ]Chs. 15 and 16 of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
[7 ]‘In spring 1775’, Hume wrote, ‘I was struck with a Disorder in my Bowels, which at first gave me no Alarm, but has since, as I apprehend it, become mortal and incurable’ (My Own Life, 18 Apr. 1776).
[8 ]Baron Mure and Lord Alemoor.
[9 ]Smith was made a Commissioner of Customs for Scotland in January 1778.