Smith in the City: Count Schuwalof

Note: This blog post should have appeared before my previous one, “Jacobites in Paris.” I am posting it here, out of order, for your edification.

Horace Walpole, still recuperating from a serious eye infection, mentions two more individuals by name in his journal entry for Sunday, March 9: “Ditto. Ditto. and Duke of Buccleuch and M. Schuwalof.[1] As an aside, the first “Ditto” most likely alludes to Walpole’s journal entry for March 7 (“Cold in my eyes”), the day Walpole’s eye became infected, while the second “Ditto” most likely refers to the people who visited him on the previous day, March 8 (“Ditto. Mme Geoffrin, Mr Smith, Mme du Deffand, Lord and Lady George came”). In other words, quite an eclectic collection of individuals visited Walpole during his three-day convalescence: the leading ladies of the salons of Paris, a professor of moral philosophy, the Secretary of the British Embassy in Paris and his beloved wife, a Scottish duke, and a Russian count.

The “Duke of Buccleuch” refers to Smith’s pupil Duke Henry, but who is “M. Schuwalof”? The entry most likely refers to Count Ivan Ivanovitch Schuwalof (1727–1797), whose portrait is pictured below, a diplomat and man of letters from Russia. Although today he is mostly remembered for his love affair with Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna,[2] Count Schuwalof was a leading figure of the Russian Enlightenment. Among other things, he was Russia’s first Minister of Education, and he maintained correspondence with the leading philosophes of France, including Helvetius, d’Alembert, Diderot, and Voltaire.[3]

Did Count Schuwalof and Adam Smith meet during this time? If so, what did they discuss? For what it is worth, Book 5 of The Wealth of Nations, in the subsection titled “Taxes upon as Profit of particular Employments” contains the following digression on Russian poll taxes:

Taxes of so much a head upon the bondmen employed in cultivation seem anciently to have been common all over Europe. There subsists at present a tax of this kind in the empire of Russia. It is probably upon this account that poll-taxes of all kinds have often been represented as badges of slavery. Every tax, however, is to the person who pays it a badge, not of slavery, but of liberty. It denotes that he is subject to government, indeed, but that, as he has some property, he cannot himself be the property of a master. A poll-tax upon slaves is altogether different from a poll-tax upon freemen. The latter is paid by the persons upon whom it is imposed; the former by a different set of persons. The latter is either altogether arbitrary or altogether unequal, and in most cases is both the one and the other; the former, though in some respects unequal, different slaves being of different values, is in no respect arbitrary. Every master who knows the number of his own slaves knows exactly what he has to pay. Those different taxes, however, being called by the same name, have been considered as of the same nature.[4]

Who else did Adam Smith meet during his 1766 sojourn in Paris? We know with some degree of certainty that Smith also met one “Gordon”, the long-serving Principal of the venerable Scots College in Paris. (For more information about the Scots College in Paris–and Smith’s possible motive for visiting this seminary–see my previous post, “Jacobites in Paris.” I will resume my “Smith in the City” series with Walpole’s journal entry for Sunday, March 16: “Hume’s Garden.”)

Portrait of Count Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov (Hermitage Museum)

[1] Lewis 1939, p. 306.

[2] For example, a footnote in Horace Walpole’s published correspondence contains the following description: “Count Ivan Ivanovitch Schuwalof (1727–97), lover and minister of the Empress Elizabeth (DU DEFFAND).” Lewis 1939, p. 156 n.6.

[3] See generally Bartenev 1857. Among other things, Count Schuwalof supplied Voltaire with this historical materials necessary for his Histoire de l’empire de Russie sous Pierre le Grand and was later instrumental in publishing it in Russia.

[4] The Wealth of Nations, Glasgow edition, p. 857 (paragraph 11).

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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