• Friday, December 09, 2022

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Slave wealth of nations

Bronze statue of Adam Smith (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).

By: Radhakrishna N S

 

By Amit Roy

THE Scottish economist and moral philosopher, Adam Smith, author of the classic The Wealth of Nations, is a particular hero of mine.

Indeed, on a visit to Edin­burgh in 2014, I made a spe­cial point of paying homage to his imposing 10ft bronze statue which stands on a massive stone plinth in the city’s Royal Mile.

So, you can imagine my shock last week when I read he possibly harboured ques­tionable views about slavery.

Scotland’s Labour party and SNP [Scottish National Party] coalition, which launched a review of monu­ments following the Black Lives Matter protests, has in­cluded Smith in its slavery review. He is buried in the city’s Canongate Kirkyard, which is controlled by the local authority.

One report said: “Smith’s gravestone and his statue on the Royal Mile will now be considered by the council’s ‘Slavery and Colonialism Legacy review group’, which will report on how memori­als linked to ‘oppression’ can be ‘reconfigured’.”

This brings me back to how Smith was indirectly re­sponsible for me getting my first job in Fleet Street. The Glasgow Herald’s editor, Alastair Warren, had flown in from Scotland to inter­view me at the paper’s offic­es at 56, Fleet Street. For some reason, Smith’s The Wealth of Nations came up in conversation. I showed off by quoting something from the book. He was silent for a moment and then asked: “When do you think you can join us?”

I knew nothing about the book or its author, but I had inherited a copy from my fa­ther. The previous night, I was dusting my books and had read a paragraph or two from The Wealth of Nations. It was a billion to one chance that it came up.

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