Adam Smith’s grave is included in dossier of sites linked to slavery and colonialism

The ‘Father of Capitalism’ Adam Smith’s grave has been included in Edinburgh City Council’s ‘ludicrously biased’ dossier of sites linked to slavery and colonialism.

The Scottish council last year launched a review of Edinburgh’s links to slavery and colonialism in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, led by human rights activist Sir Geoff Palmer.

The Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group will consider how monuments and street names linked to ‘oppression’ could be ‘re-configured’ or potentially removed.  

The grave of Adam Smith at Canongate Kirkyard has been included on a list of sites linked to ‘historic racial injustice’, the Daily Telegraph reported. 

Sir Geoff today told MailOnline the account in question was compiled as a list of street names and monuments which could have an association with slavery and colonialism in Edinburgh. 

He stressed that the Group had not yet selected anything from the list for review.

The activist added that Smith had been included on the dossier ‘as part of the slavery debate’ rather than to ‘denigrate’ – as he had ‘not campaigned for abolition but for slaves to be paid.’  

‘Smith is not there for any criticism as such,’ Sir Geoff said. 

Smith was a key figure in the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment, known as the ‘Father of Capitalism’ and hailed as a pioneer of political economy. 

The grave of Adam Smith at Canongate Kirkyard (pictured) has been included on a list of sites linked to 'historic racial injustice'

The grave of Adam Smith at Canongate Kirkyard (pictured) has been included on a list of sites linked to 'historic racial injustice'

The grave of Adam Smith at Canongate Kirkyard (pictured) has been included on a list of sites linked to ‘historic racial injustice’

His grave and a statue to the philosopher on the Royal Mile have been mentioned in a review of sites linked to racial injustice in the city. 

It is understood this is due to evidence Smith had ‘argued that slavery was ubiquitous and inevitable but that it was not as profitable as free labour’.

According to historians, the economist did not believe that empathy, politics or religion could motivate owners to liberate their slaves. He once said: ‘It is indeed almost impossible that it should ever be totally or generally abolished.’ 

However, it is believed Smith was against slavery on ‘humanitarian and ethical grounds,’ telling his students: ‘We may see what a miserable life the slaves must have led; their life and their property entirely at the mercy of another, and their liberty, if they could be said to have any.’ 

Slavery had existed all throughout Smith’s life, and he appeared to harbour a deep pessimism towards the likelihood of abolition.

A statue to the philosopher on the Royal Mile has also been included in the review of sites linked to racial injustice in the city

A statue to the philosopher on the Royal Mile has also been included in the review of sites linked to racial injustice in the city

A statue to the philosopher on the Royal Mile has also been included in the review of sites linked to racial injustice in the city

Smith was a key figure in the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment, known as the 'Father of Capitalism' and hailed as a pioneer of political economy

Smith was a key figure in the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment, known as the 'Father of Capitalism' and hailed as a pioneer of political economy

Smith was a key figure in the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment, known as the ‘Father of Capitalism’ and hailed as a pioneer of political economy

He said in his Lectures on Jurisprudence in 1763 that he could not imagine slavery ever being abolished in a ‘free’ society because of ‘the love of domination and authority and the pleasure men take in having everything done by their express orders.’

Historian Sir Tom Devine today criticised the inclusion of Smith in the dossier, saying: ‘I personally would not agree that a gravestone ‎above the remains of the dead should be treated in this way.’

He argued that the Edinburgh City Council argument is ‘ludicrously biased and distorted by giving the impression that Adam Smith accepted slavery as a fact of life, and so was not reprehensible.’ 

‘It is abundantly clear from his Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms, several years before abolitionism took off, that he believed slavery to be evil and inhumane,’ he added.  

Sir Geoff Palmer (above) will lead the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group

Sir Geoff Palmer (above) will lead the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group

Sir Geoff Palmer (above) will lead the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group

Pictured: Statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh

Pictured: Statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh

Pictured: Statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh

Pictured: Statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh

The inclusion is reportedly due to evidence Smith had ‘argued that slavery was ubiquitous and inevitable but that it was not as profitable as free labour’

Other monuments in the dossier reportedly include a statue of the Duke of Wellington, who led the British to victory when he defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

It is claimed the ‘Iron Duke’ Arthur Wellesley was ‘pro-slavery’ and ‘supported West India interests.’ 

Memorials to Queen Victoria, Admiral Lord Nelson and poet Robbie Burns could also be altered or removed under the review, it was said.

Sir Geoff confirmed to MailOnline that Henry Brougham, who played a prominent role in passing the 1832 Reform Act and 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, is also mentioned.  

He said: ‘All we’ve done is collect street names and monuments, it’s just a list and we’ve not selected anything from that list as of yet.

‘We’re looking at Edinburgh’s association with slavery and colonialism, and collating any information that we’ve found.

‘Smith is there because he said slaves would be more efficient if paid. It was a general concept, but of course that was ignored by the politicians at the time. 

‘He wasn’t saying slavery should be abolished, he was saying if you paid them they would work more effectively.’

Sir Geoff added that Smith was not included on the list in an attempt to denigrate him, but as part of the debate on slavery.   

‘Smith is not there for any criticism as such, it’s just the concept wasn’t academically valid and no one accepted it then,’ he said.

‘That is what we have and if we don’t clear this thing up we’ll never clear racism up.’

The Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review met for the first time at the end of last year, and is expected to return its findings in December.

Sir Geoff, a professor emeritus in the school of life sciences at Heriot-Watt University previously said: ‘I regard this appointment as a great honour and duty to work with the group and the community to ensure the council’s aim of fairness and justice to all is realised.’

Historian Sir Tom Devine today criticised the inclusion of Smith in the dossier, saying: 'I personally would not agree that a gravestone ‎above the remains of the dead should be treated in this way'

Historian Sir Tom Devine today criticised the inclusion of Smith in the dossier, saying: 'I personally would not agree that a gravestone ‎above the remains of the dead should be treated in this way'

Historian Sir Tom Devine today criticised the inclusion of Smith in the dossier, saying: ‘I personally would not agree that a gravestone ‎above the remains of the dead should be treated in this way’

It is expected he will recruit other members to join the group from a range of backgrounds and expertise.

On the formation of the Group, Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey previously said: ‘We have a responsibility to face up to our city’s past, the good and the bad.

‘While this review is about the story of our city, it’s not about statues of people long gone. It’s about people who live here now and their experience.

‘The Black Lives Matter movement shone a bright light on structural exclusions faced by people in all areas of life.

‘We are committed to investigating, with communities and partners, where any such exclusions might exist in Edinburgh.  

‘Through this review group we hope to build an improved shared understanding of our Capital’s history by reviewing the origins of our public statues, monuments and street names and their context with events and meanings and making sure we share the true stories with future generations.’  

How the ‘Father of Economics’ Adam Smith laid the foundation for modern capitalism in a revered guide 

Pictured: Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith

Pictured: Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith

Pictured: Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith

Adam Smith was a key figure in the 17th century Scottish Enlightenment, known as the ‘Father of Capitalism’ and hailed as a pioneer of political economy. 

He wrote two acclaimed works throughout his career, including ‘Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’, which is considered the first modern work of economics.

His work also introduced the principle of absolute advantage, which refers to the ability of a party to produce a good or service more efficiently than its competitors. 

The influential political economist and philosopher was born in Fife, Scotland in 1723 and, although his exact birth date is unknown, he was baptised on June 5.

He studied social philosophy at Glasgow University and at Balliol College, Oxford before returning to Kircaldy in 1746.

Not long afterwards, Smith was invited to give a series of hugely successful lectures in Edinburgh, which led to him collaborating with philosopher David Hume during the Scottish Enlightenment.

He was appointed professor of logic at Glasgow University in 1751 and a year later he became professor of moral philosophy.

Smith then left Glasgow in 1764 to travel on the Continent as a tutor to Henry, the future Duke of Buccleuch. While on his travels, he met intellectuals including Voltaire, Rousseau and Quesnay.

In May 1773, Smith was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London, and three years later he published his massively influential second book: ‘Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’.

The book, which sold out its first volume in six months, was intended to be the first part of a complete theory of society, covering theology, ethics, politics and law.

Within it, he argued against the regulation of commerce and trade.

Smith died in Panmure House, Edinburgh on July 17, 1790 and he was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard.

The economist, who expressed disappointment at not having achieved more on his deathbed, is revered as the ‘Father of Capitalism.’

His work laid the foundation for modern capitalism, serving as a guide to the formulation of national economic policy.   

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