Chapter 1: Early Days at Kirkcaldy


Adam Smith was born at Kirkcaldy, in the county of Fife, Scotland, on the 5th of June 1723.

Little is known of his father.

  • For example, Alexander Fraser Tytler, the historian, was Judge Advocate until he went to the bench as Lord Woodhouselee.
  • His chief business, at least for the last 10 years of his life, was his work in the Custom-house.
  • A local collectorship or controllership of the Customs was in itself a more important administrative office then.
  • The job held by Smith's father at Kirkcaldy was held for many years by Sir Michael Balfour, a Scotch baronet.
  • Adam Smith began in 1713 with £30 a year.
  • Smith had a cousin, a third Adam Smith.
  • Smith's father died in the spring of 1723, a few months before he was born.

  • The promotion of 1740 is not the promotion of Smith's father but of his cousin.
  • Smith had so much to do to sweep away the whole Customs system.
  • His mother's side was much connected with the army.

  • The following were military officers:
  • Colonel Patrick Ross was a distinguished officer of the times.
  • They had been all in all to one another during his infancy and boyhood.
  • His friends often spoke of the beautiful affection and worship with which he cherished her.
  • He was a delicate child.
  • Only one incident has been recorded of his infancy.
  • As he grew up in boyhood, his health became stronger,
  • The Burgh School of Kirkcaldy was one of the best secondary schools of Scotland then.

  • We cannot say when Smith first went to school.
  • Millar, his classical master, had adventured in literature.
  • Acting plays was in those days a common exercise in the higher schools of Scotland.
  • Sir James Steuart, the economist, played the king in Henry the Fourth when he was a boy at the school of North Berwick in 1735.
  • It was entitled unromantically and uninvitingly as "A Royal Council for Advice, or the Regular Education of Boys the Foundation of all other Improvements."
  • Smith would have been present at this performance.

    Kirkcaldy was a small town with only 1,500 people then.

  • In spite of his absence of mind, Smith was always an excellent observer.
  • Kirkcaldy also had its shippers trading with the Baltic.
  • At school, Smith was marked for:



    [1]Original letter in possession of Professor Cunningham, Belfast.
    [2]A Count of Money debursed about Mr. Smith's Funerall
     To eight bottles of ale £0 12 0 To butter and eggs to the seed cake 1 4 0 To four bottles of ale 0 6 0 To three pounds fresh butter for bread 0 14 0 To one pound small candles 0 4 6 To two pounds bisquet 1 4 0 To sixteen bottles of ale 1 4 0 To money sent to Edinr. for bisquet, stockings, and necessars 25 4 0 To three expresses to Edinburgh 2 14 0 To a pair of murning shous to Hugh 1 10 0 To horse hyre with the wine from Kinghorn 0 15 0 To the poor 3 6 0 To six bottles and eight pints of ale to the beadels, etc. 1 10 4 To pipes and tobacco 0 4 0 To four pints of ale to the workmen 0 12 8 To the postage of three letters 0 6 0 To making the grave 3 0 0 To caring the mourning letters thro' the town and country 1 10 0 To the mort cloth 3 12 0 To Robert Martin for his services 1 4 0 To Deacon Lessels for the coffin and ironwork 28 4 0 To Deacon Sloan for lifting the stone 1 11 0 -------- Summa is £80 16 6 
    On the back is the docquet, "Account of funeral charges, Mr. Adam Smith, 1723." The formal receipt as follows: "Kirkaldie, Apl. 24, 1723. Received from Mr. James of Dunekier 80 pounds 16 shilling 6 pence Scots in full of the within account depussd by me.

    Margrate Douglass."

    "Mr. James of Dunekier" is Mr. James Oswald of Dunnikier. He was the father of Smith's friend, the statesman of the same name. He had apparently as a friend of the family undertaken the duty of looking after the funeral arrangements.
    [3]In possession of Professor Cunningham.
    [4]Grant's Burgh Schools of Scotland, p. 414.
    [5]Drysdale's Sermons, Preface by Dalzel.
    [6]Campbell, Journey from Edinburgh through North Britain, 1802, ii. p. 49.
    [7]Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. iv.

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