Adam Smith notes that colonial governments might exercise relative freedom in the metropolis but impose tyranny in the distant provinces (1776)

Adam Smith

Found in An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Cannan ed.), vol. 2

Adam Smith, in the chapter “Of Colonies” in vol. 2 of The Wealth of Nations (1776), discusses how colonial governments exercise tyranny in the distant provinces but relative freedom in the metropolis:

The sovereign himself can never have either interest or inclination to pervert the order of justice, or to oppress the great body of the people. In the capital his presence overawes more or less all his inferior officers, who in the remoter provinces, from whence the complaints of the people are less likely to reach him, can exercise their tyranny with much more safety.

Adam Smith asks a pertinent question of the colonial powers Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain concerning the relative freedom experienced in the capital cities versus the often dictatorial powers exercised by their respective armies in the field. His response is that the junior officers are in awe of the sovereign when at home in the capital and the great distance to the colonies means they can act tyrannically because of the lack of adequate legal supervision. The exception is Britain, and to some degree France, in their North American colonies where the rule of law and respect for property rights has been transplanted and thus restrains the actions of the army officers when they are so far away from home.