Adam Smith and Lord Edward Bentick

Adam Smith appears one last time in Horace Walpole’s travel journal on Wednesday, April 9, which reads: “Lord Edward Bentick and Mr Smith came.”[1]

“Lord Edward Bentick” most likely was Lord Edward Charles Cavendish-Bentinck (1744–1819), whose portrait is pictured below (right), along with the 3rd Duke of Portland (left).[2] At the time of Smith’s 1766 visit to Paris, Bentick was on the last leg of his three-year Grand Tour (1764-66) to France, Holland, and Germany.[3] Later that year, upon his return to England, he would be elected to the House of Commons (Dec. 27, 1766), and he would remain an MP for the next 36 years.[4] Despite his long parliamentary career (1766-1802), and despite his family connections–he was the only brother of Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland–, he never held ministerial office.

Did Bentick and Smith’s pupil, Henry Scott, befriend each other in Paris? Both milords were close in age: Bentick was born in March of 1744; Duke Henry, in September of 1746. And both were experiencing their first grand tours of Europe. Regardless whether they became friends or not, however, the presence of such young men as Lords Bentick and Duke Henry in the French capital reminds us of the original reason why Adam Smith was in Paris in the first place. His primary responsibility at the time was the education and cultivation of his pupils, Duke Henry and the duke’s younger brother Hew Campbell Scott. On the social side of things, Smith–perhaps with the help of Walpole–, had now introduced his students to le monde, Parisian high society. But what about the intellectual side? Did Smith, for example, assign his students any articles from the monthly Journal de l’agriculture, du commerce et des finances, a scholarly journal where the leading économistes of Europe were publishing their work? Did Smith himself get to meet Mirabeau, Quesnay, or Turgot? If so, when, and what did they talk about?

As it happens, something remarkable was occurring in the kingdom of France at this very moment in history–what can only be described as one of the most massive and extraordinary “natural experiments” in history. Although the King had recently deregulated the sale of grain, France’s most important agricultural staple, in Paris the old police regulations still applied to the grain trade. The people of France thus became guinea pigs in a real-time natural experiment, with Parisians serving as the control group. I will turn to this aspect of Smith’s visit and preview my next paper, “Adam Smith in the City of Lights: Part 2” in my next post.


[1] Lewis 1939, p. 312.

[2] See Mosley 2003, p. 1365, available at http://www.thepeerage.com/p1365.htm#i13641; see also Thorne 1986, pp. 184-185.

[3] Namier 1964, available at http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1754-1790/member/bentinck-charles-edward-1744-1819.

[4] Thorne 1986, pp. 184-185.

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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