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196.: To JOHN SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER - 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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To JOHN SINCLAIR OF ULBSTER1
MS., Thurso East Mains, Caithness, Viscount Thurso of Ulbster; Sinclair Corr. (1831), i. 388; Rae 343–4; Rosalind Mitchison, Agricultural Sir John (London, 1962), facsim. facing p. 5 (in part).
Edinburgh, 24 Nov. 1778
Mr Smith presents his most respectful complements to Mr Sinclair of Ulbster.
The memoires sur les finances2 are engaged for four months to come to Mr John Davidson. When he has done with them Mr Smith would be very happy to accomodate Mr Sinclair; but acknowledges he is a little uneasy about the safety of the conveyance and the Greatness of the Distance; he has frequent occasion to consult the book himself both in the course of his private studies and in the business of his present employment; and is, therefore, not very willing to let it go out of Edinburgh. The Book3 was never properly published, but there were a few more copies printed than was necessary for the Commission, for whose use it was compiled.4
One of these I obtained by the particular favour of Mr Turgot, the late Controller–General of the Finances. I have heard but of three copies in Great Britain: one belongs to a noble lord, who obtained it by connivance, as he told me,5 one is in the Secretary of State’s office, and the third belongs to a private gentleman. How these two were obtained I know not, but suspect it was in the same manner. If any accident should happen to my book, the loss is perfectly irreparable. When Mr Sinclair comes to Edinburgh I shall be very happy to communicate to him not only that book, but everything else I have upon the subject, both printed and manuscript, and am, with the highest respect for his character his most obedient humble servant,
[1 ]John Sinclair (1754–1835) of Ulbster and Thurso Castle, Caithness; agriculturalist, politician, and economic geographer; educ. at the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Oxford; advocate 1775; called to the English Bar 1783; M.P. 1780–1811; cr. Baronet, 1786; president of the Board of Agriculture, 1793–8, 1806–14; member of the Scottish Board of Trustees for Manufacturers, from 1808; Cashier of Excise in Scotland, 1811 until he died; Privy Councillor, 1810. His most famous work was the compilation of the Statistical Account of Scotland (1790–7), the first complete picture of a nation, parish by parish.
[2 ]Mémoires concernant les impositions et droits en Europe, 4 t. (Paris, 1768–9), by J. L. Moreau de Beaumont (1715–85). Smith’s WN note (V.ii.a.4) reads: ‘This work was compiled by order of the court for the use of a commission employed for some years past in considering the proper means for reforming the finances of France. The account of the French taxes, which takes up three volumes in quarto, may be regarded as perfectly authentic. That of those of other European nations was compiled from such information as the French ministers at the different courts could procure. It is much shorter, and probably not quite so exact as that of the French taxes.’ Smith actually quoted more from the later volumes; see WN V.ii. for references to European taxes, in Hamburgh, Holland, Switzerland, Prussia, and Venice (Bonar 18–21).
[3 ]End of facsimile text; remainder of the letter is taken from Rae.
[4 ]Rae states that 100 copies of the Mémoires were printed in 1768, and argues ‘it may be reasonably inferred, from Smith’s account of the extreme difficulty of getting a copy, that he only obtained his in 1774, on the advent of Turgot to power. If that be so, much in the chapters on taxation in the Wealth of Nations must have been written in London after that date’ (343–4).
[5 ]‘Probably Lord Rosslyn, for Bentham, in writing to advise Lord Shelburne to procure a copy of this book, mentions that he knew Lord Rosslyn had a copy, which he had obtained from Mr Anstruther, M.P., who happened to be in Paris when it was printed, and contrived to get a copy somehow there’ (Rae 344).