This passage comes from a chapter entitled “Of the Origin of Ambition and of the Distinction of Ranks” in Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759):
Are you in earnest resolved never to barter your liberty for the lordly servitude of a court, but to live free, fearless, and independent? (Then…) (n)ever enter the place from whence so few have been able to return; never come within the circle of ambition; nor ever bring yourself into comparison with those masters of the earth who have already engrossed the attention of half mankind before you.
About this Quotation:
2009 is the 250th anniversary of the publication of Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. It is a landmark work for several reasons. Firstly, it reveals that Smith was not just one of the founding fathers of modern political economy but a moral philosopher of the first order. One of his strengths is that he melds the two disciplines into a coherent theory of human interaction. Another fact to note is that this volume is the best seller among all the books published by Liberty Fund.