Revolution 250 Podcast

Adam Smith & the American Revolution with Peter Onuf

July 25, 2023 Peter S. Onuf Season 4 Episode 30
Revolution 250 Podcast
Adam Smith & the American Revolution with Peter Onuf
Show Notes Transcript

Adam Smith, born in 1723 and the father of modern economic theory, remains one of the most influential writers on markets development and state formation.  He is also the author of Theory of Moral Sentiments, an examination of how people relate to one another.  Peter S. Onuf, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, prolific scholar of the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson, joins us to talk about Adam Smith, the Scottish enlightenment, and Revolutionary America. 

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 opportunity for people to step in.
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 I think it is.
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 Thank you.
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 So welcome everyone to the Revolution 250 podcast.
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 I'm Bob Allison.
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 I chair the Rev 250 Advisory Committee and also teach history at Suffolk University.
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 And we're a consortium of about 70 groups in Massachusetts looking at ways to commemorate the American Revolution.
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 And our guest today is Peter Onup.
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 Peter is a Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia, taught there for about 25 years and previously was at a number of other schools around the country.
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 author of or co-author or editor of about 15 or so volumes mainly on jefferson also on the american west and on the america now the midwest and other topics and one uh probably one of the leading jefferson scholars in the country as uh someone holding the jefferson memorial foundation professorship wouldn't be so peter thank you for joining us thanks bob glad to be here
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 And we know, okay, so in addition to this being the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party this year, it's also the 300th anniversary of the birth of Adam Smith.
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 And the year 1776 has a particular importance in economic history, in the history of economic thought, because, can you tell us?
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 Well, there's the wealth of nations, Bob, which is, well, if,
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 The Declaration of Independence is American scripture, as Pauline Mayer said, the wealth of nations is the sacred text for economists and businessmen.
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 And it's a great epical moment.
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 So we like to celebrate that happy convergence of dates, right?
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 That's right.
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 So was there a connection between Adam Smith and his ideas and the American Revolution?
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 Oh, yeah.
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 It's not direct.
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 What Smith had to say in Wealth of Nations was that making war on fellow Britons was stupid.
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 He said, famously, get rid of or get over this idea, this fantasy of empire.
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 In fact, the empire is just coming into focus as what is an empire in the modern sense, aside from alluding to the Roman Empire.
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 great nations extending their domain over vast spaces.
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 Smith was no nonsense.
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 He said, listen, this is a stupid war.
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 There are best customers.
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 As you know, Bob, exports went to the colonies in North America.
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 So why would we wreck it?
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 But he interestingly said, I mean, what's significant about what he's claiming is
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 that they could be incorporated into the British, a greater British nation, you might say.
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 And think of the Act of Union with Scotland as an example of how British hegemony had spread across the British archipelago.
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 And why not even greater?
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 You might say, well, there are some state capacity administrative problems with governing distant peoples.
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 But of course, the whole idea of modern empire is its expansiveness, that it can surmount vast distances.
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 So he says, bring them in or let them out.
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 One or the other, this halfway position of trying to beat them into submission
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 is counterproductive.
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 It's something like, you might say, Brexit.
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 So that is a well-known position of Smith's.
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 And that is, he's a political economist.
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 He's thinking about, as the title of his book says, the wealth of nations.
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 What are the wisest things to do for a trading people in the modern world?
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 And making war on your best customers?
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 on your fellow subjects or citizens, we might say, is a colossal mistake.
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 So we're talking with Peter Onuf, formerly from the University of Virginia, about Adam Smith.
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 Now, in addition to, in Wealth of Nations, talking about the stupidity of the American war, did his ideas have any impact on the people we consider the American founders?
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 Oh, there's no question that these were ideas in the air, mainly free trade.
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 In fact, you people up in Massachusetts, notorious smugglers, as we now say disdainfully.
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 Well, that notion of free trade had a lot of traction in the British colonies because they were excluded from markets
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 that their goods eventually reached.
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 I mean, there were various exceptions to the Navigation Acts of places that Americans could trade with.
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 But the idea that there were these limits that were actually costing American merchants, therefore the American people, a considerable amount of the wealth they were generating.
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 There was already an idea, which is articulated by Thomas Paine about people eating and needing food,
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 the colonies, the new United States, had a comparative advantage.
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 And therefore, to open up trade, to break down mercantilism in its various forms, and to enable there to be transactions from nation to nation across the oceans where comparative advantage would hold,
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 and the people producing important things would get to their markets.
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 Instead, there was a growing idea throughout the late imperial crisis that Americans were paying heavily to be part of the British Empire.
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 And now they were being expected to do still more by administration, which was serving British national imperial purposes.
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 So there was an attraction
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 of the free trade idea.
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 I'd like to point out, though, that the people who were really big on free trade were staple producers, largely in the plantation colonies of the South, and they continued to be advocates of free trade and, of course, enslavers of human beings and producers of slave-grown cotton.
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 The idea of free trade was a powerful one, that Smithian idea.
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 Smith himself thought that
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 The institution of slavery was archaic and anachronism, and any sensible enlightened person would think that.
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 But his most fervent apostles in the antebellum period were free trading southerners who knew that cotton was king.
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 Right, right.
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 And that's why they opposed the tariffs and the other.
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 Yeah, absolutely.
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 As we know, things are complicated.
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 In fact, that's the big message about 1776, very complicated.
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 Things are complicated, yeah.
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 Our job, Bob, to get it out, how complicated, why complicated.
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 And this idea that free trade is the be all and end all was very powerful in American culture during the expansive period of its own imperialism, you might say, and well into the 20th century.
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 We're old enough to remember
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 when free enterprise was a good thing, one of the rallying cries of the Cold War.
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 We got freedom.
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 We got God.
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 They don't have freedom.
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 They're godless.
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 Those kind of stark juxtapositions.
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 But it's been a long time since that love affair with business has soured a little bit.
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 And then Adam Smith, if he's just an exponent of that, who needs him?
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 It's a question you might ask rhetorically.
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 Who needs Thomas Jefferson?
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 Who needs Adam Smith?
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 And what I want to suggest is that in both cases, those are radically reductive readings of these two great and interesting figures.
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 And it's worth thinking back to the revolutionary moment to try to get some new perspective on what the message was that was coming from
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 each one of them.
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 That's true.
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 We can think, too, about Smith's earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiment, which had a tremendous impact on thinkers then.
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 I'm wondering if we could talk a little bit about that book and its reception.
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 Yeah, there's a question.
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 That used to be, Bob, as you know, it dates from our youth, the Adam Smith problem.
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 Of course, they say it in German.
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 That's much more effective.
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 How do you reconcile the theory of moral sentiments with wealth of nations?
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 Because in the theory of
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 moral sentiments.
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 We have one of the great texts of the Scottish Enlightenment which teaches us about this so-called natural sociability, the attraction people have to each other, the spontaneity of society that emerges because this is our nature.
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 These universalizing notions of what people are really like and what their true identities are,
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 There was a great dream, which seems so ironic on this edge at the cusp of the great age of revolution and including the great age of Napoleon and warfare on a staggering scale.
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 There was at the core of the Enlightenment a feeling that.
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 Well, we could give peace a chance that there was in the increasing sophistication and civilization, a key word of the Western nation states.
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 Even the way they made war was more civilized.
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 That somehow this was the beginning of a new day.
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 If you locate the American Revolution in that context,
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 It's not all about how wonderful we are.
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 It's about the history of the world.
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 And it's the portent or the opening salvo of this new age of liberation and Republican self-government and peace on earth.
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 That's right.
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 I always have the melody from Beethoven's Third Symphony going through my mind as we talk about this and say, did we have it in our power to begin the world over again?
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 It was this moment.
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 John Adams saw, you know, when three million people have their power to create a government.
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 That's right.
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 I think we can, the appeal of Smith and of Scottish and like thinking is that it gives us a grounding for these
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 fantastic progressive expectations.
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 And I don't mean to dismiss them because if without them, where are we?
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 That's the legacy.
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 And it's Smith, the moral philosopher, who speaks to us in those terms.
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 That is about natural sociability, rediscovery of the sentimentalism, the proto-romanticism of 18th century Augustan Britain and the colonies.
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 It's been crucial in our broad rethinking of Western and American history.
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 And that Smith, you may be skeptical about the conclusions, you may say, or the premises, I should say, and of course about the conclusions that the premises lead to.
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 But as the Beach Boys said, wouldn't it be nice?
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 And I think that's the attraction of that Smith.
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 And that's why there has been an Adam Smith problem, because here is a Smith who is thinking about the history of the world.
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 He's thinking according to the idea of stadial development, that is stages of civilization.
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 I think this is absolutely critical.
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 And the thing about it.
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 any modern student of the stages of civilization would say, yeah, right.
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 It's all about the Western European project of world domination.
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 And that's true.
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 No question about it.
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 On the other hand, there was an effort for the first time to understand what the engines of change are in world history and how peoples over time are transformed by the changing conditions of life, by the
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 new means of production exchange and what leads to politeness and civility and all good things that in their better moments Anglo-Americans and Britons shared the sense of improvement was a key word of the Enlightenment.
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 That's a very
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 powerful uh set of ideas very attractive and this is smith standing aside wisely looking at the american revolution and saying big mistake that's the moral philosopher as well as the political economist it's costing us a lot of money it's destroying our markets
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 But it's also this needless, savage destruction of life and property for what purpose?
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 It's a fantasy of empire.
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 So that Smith has a lot of traction.
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 And he seems to be at odds with the other Smith.
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 I think it's important here, Bob, I offer this as another reading of Smith.
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 Smith doesn't think that markets themselves, as an historian, thinking about how markets were formed in England and later in Britain, it was through the emergence of modern forms of state formation of law,
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 The common law emerging.
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 And law always has required sanctions.
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 This is a simple point.
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 And Smith was not a simpleton.
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 He got it.
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 He understood that.
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 What we tend to miss when we think about Smith as an enemy of the big state, that is the American state.
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 Therefore, he's some kind of incipient libertarian or anarchist.
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 just think you don't need them.
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 That is fundamentally wrong as a broader view of Smith's work and the lectures on jurisprudence and elsewhere demonstrates.
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 He understands that the great challenge is to create conditions under which there will be an arbiter, a supreme authority who will enable what we
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 libertarian types might think is spontaneous.
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 It's not spontaneous, it is contingent.
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 Those, those that that idea and the wealth of nations of bartering and trade, the natural human, the human capacity or predilection or predisposition to do these things.
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 So yeah, that's right, it is, but they can't do them.
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 Unless there is law and order.
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 And what is significant about Smith is if we plug in what we know,
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 about state formation in Europe and in the US in the early period, we understand that this is a period not when the state is disappearing.
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 This is when the fiscal military state is gearing up and its capacity is growing.
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 Again, does Smith get it?
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 Well, absolutely he gets it.
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 The one great exception Smith makes about free trade is
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 that the British monopoly on the West Indian trade has to be sustained because that's where all the big ships go.
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 They're convertible into warships.
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 British maritime hegemony is predicated on having the naval capacity.
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 And we tend to miss that.
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 We say, oh, he's opposed to the big state.
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 No, sorry, not true.
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 He thinks that what mercantilism
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 and a highly corporatized and structured, unfreed domain within Britain itself, you need to break down barriers to the rational distribution of resources, the movement of people to enhance and liberate the productive capacity.
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 That's all familiar stuff that makes sense.
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 But the big difference is between what happens within markets and then what happens outside of markets.
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 And that's what I want to emphasize.
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 We're talking with Peter Onuf, Professor Emeritus, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Professor Emeritus from the University of Virginia.
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 Now, following up on that, you know, so the West Indies, he sees as essential, the monopoly there.
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 How does he respond, say, to what's happening in India at the time that he's writing Wealth of Nations?
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 Yeah, well, India is a big problem, isn't it?
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 Another Adam Smith problem.
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 Yeah, well.
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 that is a part of the of the world war of 1776 we're not well aware of and of course this this was an informal or should say a kind of south asia was under the control of the east india company and of course east india company is familiar to us uh americans that's right the boston tea party things that we've talked about endlessly and again it's monopoly it's uh in the control of the tea trade
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 This is probably at worst when you could get Dutch cheap, much cheaper, and so forth.
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 India becomes, of course, the real site for the emergence of the second, what used to be called the second British Empire.
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 And the idea of liberation, self-government, all the things that are ugly about Western imperialism come to the fore in the history of India.
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 And British people,
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 reform-minded people like reform-minded people who were as concerned with what was happening in South Asia as they were with the problem of slavery in North America and the Caribbean.
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 I think it's important to have an idea of what was on the minds of enlightened people.
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 Edmund Burke is a good example.
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 that is in the Hastings trial about the savaging of India.
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 There's a term that Smith deploys in the Wealth of Nations that deserves a lot more publicity.
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 He may not be referring directly to India, but maybe he is.
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 But he is making a global statement about European powers in the rest of the world and the savage injustices they commit.
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 All over the world.
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 This is a stunning thing for him to be emphasizing.
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 This is Adam Smith as a critic of imperialism.
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 Of course, that makes sense in terms of monopolistic control of overseas markets and so forth.
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 But it's also quite striking.
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 Because this is what capitalism is doing.
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 And the new history of capitalism suggests it's very powerful.
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 This is happening.
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 And Smith understands that there's a deep inherent problem in all this.
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 And this is the big point I want to make about Smith and about Jefferson, the recognition Smith has
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 is that the asymmetry, the difference in capacity of Western states compared to not primitive or barbaric societies elsewhere, but societies that have not been developed along the lines of modern fiscal military European states.
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 States that emerged in a war-torn continent that existed through centuries.
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 savaging each other and making war.
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 That's why the law of nations was thought to be progressive because after all the carnage of the 30 years war and successive wars all over Europe, it looked like there was increasing good sense among enlightened diplomatists.
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 Surely there's a better way to resolve these things.
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 There's less emphasis on making war on the treaties that would create the conditions for peace.
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 Yet, when European states make peace with each other, they do so because they represent credible threats to each other.
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 Compare those treaties, and I'm not glamorizing what happened in Europe.
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 And of course, Napoleon is the creation of all that.
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 But compare that with Adam Smith as he looks around the world.
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 How does British power, how does the power of the French in West and East Africa, all in South Asia, what capacity is there for resistance?
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 You know, this is another Smith, because the Smith that we're familiar with is liberated people within markets so that they can make optimal transactions, exchanges with each other.
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 But what about collectively?
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 when the people of britain of course are constantly in a state of war and preparation for the next war uh they're servicing this enormous national debt because it is the engine that enables borrowing credit is the that's what people's war making on the european scale and then what does it mean when the british and of course as smith said
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 We're no longer sending our own people.
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 We're wealthy enough so that in effect war is a, there's a division of labor within society and we enlist people to do it.
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 And so that growing capacity to make war is what Smith is attending to here.
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 And it is in a way the antithesis or the inverse of the dreams for free trade within a market.
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 That's rational and enlightened.
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 In other words, everything would be fine if every nation on the world had reached a similar state of development.
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 Remember the stadial theory about moving from hunting and gathering to pastoral societies onto commercial societies, and we might add a fourth stage of industrial society.
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 All of that is happening in particular places, and those particular places have an overwhelming comparative advantage.
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 And of course, he may be talking about the wealth of nations, but he has one nation in mind.
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 And to follow Smith's script is to enable Britain to be the most advanced and powerful commercial society, fiscal military state in the world.
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 So this is an imminent contradiction, you might say.
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 Smith says the formula, hey guys, let's be sensible.
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 Let's not make war.
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 Let's trade with each other.
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 And that's the great liberal dream of the 19th century.
 24:22.900 --> 24:27.481
 That is, a world of trade is going to be a world of peace.
 24:28.642 --> 24:31.042
 Sweet commerce, the French said during the Enlightenment.
 24:31.102 --> 24:33.022
 This was the great solution to everything.
 24:34.003 --> 24:35.983
 Yet, even at the same time,
 24:37.563 --> 24:48.710
 As Smithian ideas are implemented all over the world, and wherever they're implemented, they enhance the advantage that powerful nations have in relationship to others.
 24:49.010 --> 25:04.880
 So it's no coincidence that Smith is both announcing on one level what we might say is the dream of peace and enlightenment, he and the Scottish theorists, speaking to a human nature, not a British nature or an American nature.
 25:06.286 --> 25:24.550
 imaginatively breaking down boundaries, even as they are, in fact, enabling the tightening of boundaries, the erection of great capacity and power to protect and promote national interest.
 25:25.130 --> 25:27.570
 That's the story of nation state development.
 25:28.611 --> 25:33.752
 It's that coincidence that I think is powerful because it's happening here as well as in the British Empire.
 25:33.772 --> 25:34.872
 Well, it is the British Empire.
 25:35.172 --> 25:35.512
 That's right.
 25:37.248 --> 25:52.498
 We're talking with Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus from the University of Virginia, author of, among other books, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson and Nations, Markets, and War, which you wrote with Nicholas G. Onuf.
 25:52.518 --> 25:53.759
 Is he your relative?
 25:54.539 --> 25:55.720
 He is my older brother.
 25:55.740 --> 25:57.001
 Older brother, okay.
 25:57.021 --> 25:57.281
 25:57.967 --> 26:04.893
 And you and Annette Gordon-Reed wrote Most Blessed of the Patriarchs, Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.
 26:05.493 --> 26:09.136
 Empire does come up a lot in your work on Jefferson.
 26:09.616 --> 26:11.938
 Yeah, I'm pretty obsessed with it, Bob.
 26:13.279 --> 26:17.102
 That's what I call my book about Jefferson, Jefferson's Empire.
 26:17.883 --> 26:22.927
 Intentionally being a little perverse and utilizing that term, though, of course, he talks about an empire of liberty.
 26:23.667 --> 26:24.087
 26:24.248 --> 26:25.549
 That's also significant.
 26:26.465 --> 26:30.328
 Because what the Americans are trying to do, of course, is get empire right.
 26:31.008 --> 26:34.350
 I think that British policymakers have messed it up.
 26:35.691 --> 26:41.975
 That throttling expansive development is a mistake and so forth.
 26:42.035 --> 26:50.881
 So the theme that I think connects Smith with Jefferson is not an obvious one.
 26:52.362 --> 26:56.385
 And you don't see it elsewhere, but I'm telling you and you can tell the whole world, Bob.
 26:57.345 --> 27:00.247
 And that is the theme of sovereignty.
 27:01.668 --> 27:15.718
 And that is what Jefferson is about is, of course, in a familiar sense, to vindicate the rights of British people or men in America.
 27:15.778 --> 27:20.722
 That's what we know, utilizing natural rights theory and so forth.
 27:22.603 --> 27:25.105
 But it's really within an imperial framework that he's doing that.
 27:26.669 --> 27:38.313
 And this is where I think slavery should be understood as a problem, both in Smith's version of the future and history of the world and in Thomas Jefferson's.
 27:39.734 --> 27:47.957
 Smith recognizes what happens when you're, and he's a realist in the sense, he recognizes how great power will lead
 27:48.567 --> 27:52.369
 to great injustice, savage injustice.
 27:52.869 --> 28:07.476
 Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, the most embarrassing part, which nobody can read these days without wincing and get totally upset with him, is when, as we now frame it, he blames George III for slavery.
 28:08.877 --> 28:13.819
 Personally, he did this to us, the unslavers, as we now say.
 28:13.939 --> 28:15.420
 How can you say that?
 28:15.960 --> 28:17.801
 That's deeply hypocritical.
 28:18.939 --> 28:33.911
 Well, I think what Jefferson is saying is that the problem of slavery, all right-minded enlightened people all over the empire recognize, is an imperial problem.
 28:34.751 --> 28:39.235
 The only possibility of any solution to the slavery problem is coordinated action.
 28:40.156 --> 28:48.282
 You might say the coordinated action of ending the slave trade, which was pathetically inadequate to the larger problem,
 28:48.863 --> 28:52.347
 of containing or ending the institution of slavery in America.
 28:52.387 --> 28:54.469
 Quite the contrary, as you know.
 28:55.830 --> 28:58.473
 But that idea was not wrong.
 28:59.374 --> 29:05.400
 And if you read that passage about the piratical warfare, warfare is the key term, of course.
 29:05.440 --> 29:07.042
 It was a pretty good one, too.
 29:07.953 --> 29:29.280
 that George III as the embodiment or personification of the imperial state has done this to the poor Africans, to the people in Africa, and now is turning those people in the form of enslaved people in America into the enemies of their masters.
 29:32.125 --> 29:46.356
 instead of a coordinated solution, because after all, there would be no slavery in North America if there were no credit from British creditors to buy slaves, if there were no markets for goods.
 29:47.677 --> 29:51.920
 That's why the new history of capitalism say, well, yeah, we need to know about state policy.
 29:51.960 --> 29:55.342
 But the fact is, this is an inexorable monster.
 29:56.864 --> 29:59.646
 And this is, I think, the pathos of
 30:00.803 --> 30:11.846
 of Jefferson and slavery, and not just Jefferson, because who cares about Jefferson, but about a whole generation of Americans, many of whom were aware of that injustice.
 30:12.466 --> 30:18.367
 Savage justice that Adam Smith talked about, that was a living reality in British North America.
 30:19.088 --> 30:19.508
 It was.
 30:19.648 --> 30:20.228
 They knew it.
 30:21.128 --> 30:28.310
 And they also especially knew it when it looked like those slaves were going to be turned against their masters as done with.
 30:28.899 --> 30:31.040
 proclamation in 1775 suggested.
 30:32.120 --> 30:32.981
 And why not?
 30:33.441 --> 30:39.543
 Of course, as Gary Nash said a long time ago, these are the real unknown revolutionaries that is enslaved people.
 30:40.023 --> 30:43.005
 They're going to take the opportunity they have throughout world history.
 30:43.045 --> 30:51.868
 Whenever the great powers are at war with each other, whenever North and South were at war in the United States, that's when there's opportunity.
 30:53.589 --> 30:55.089
 That's not a big surprise to us.
 30:55.850 --> 30:56.930
 But what it did
 30:57.867 --> 31:10.062
 was to make the possibility of doing something about slavery within an imperial context, that it would have to be, the king would have to stop vetoing, Privy Council would have to stop
 31:11.112 --> 31:19.674
 vetoing those early efforts to regulate the slave trade, because it was widely thought at this point, end the slave trade, you'll end slavery.
 31:20.894 --> 31:32.476
 Virginia had made, we would say, pathetic efforts or gestures, and this gesture is probably a nice term, because, yeah, of course, these are slave societies, and they can't live without them yet.
 31:33.236 --> 31:39.317
 And I think this is my colleagues who work on the first emancipation and anti-slavery in
 31:39.952 --> 31:46.895
 late provincial and early national America would agree, there is widespread sentiment and it should be taken seriously.
 31:46.915 --> 31:50.136
 There's been a lot of great work on anti-slavery in the early period.
 31:50.736 --> 31:58.700
 And it is because people perceived an opportunity in a time of global change and the tectonics were shifting
 31:59.560 --> 32:01.181
 Yes, and no.
 32:01.841 --> 32:03.121
 Yes, to the point of 1776.
 32:03.161 --> 32:12.805
 And this is why it should be both a day of celebration, July 4, and a day of mourning.
 32:13.805 --> 32:17.287
 Because that's mourning with a U, mourning in America.
 32:18.007 --> 32:19.367
 You can attribute that to me.
 32:19.387 --> 32:26.590
 The reason being, once you break away from the British Empire, any possibility of an empire wide solution disappears.
 32:28.411 --> 32:28.751
 32:29.338 --> 32:41.424
 The only way the United States as an entity can survive is by accommodating those people who control the most lucrative parts of the economy.
 32:41.444 --> 32:47.928
 In other words, the slaveholders, the slave colonies, slave states, they have to be appeased.
 32:48.348 --> 32:49.829
 That's why I hate to say it.
 32:50.069 --> 32:53.310
 We're not doing 1787, which is much more depressing than 1776.
 32:53.350 --> 32:57.092
 The ideas were in the air.
 32:59.408 --> 33:06.331
 Andrew Rothman, 1777 the air was already being drained from the it wasn't there the atmosphere wasn't the same by 1787.
 33:06.452 --> 33:12.094
 Andrew Rothman, that's notoriously a period of high realism compromises with death.
 33:12.194 --> 33:22.019
 Andrew Rothman, And don't i'm with William Lloyd Garrison on this yeah it's a covenant with death, but I asked rhetorically what choice did they have.
 33:23.004 --> 33:28.307
 You might say, oh, well, they should have just chilled and not done it, stayed in the British Empire.
 33:28.807 --> 33:31.368
 But I ask you to think about the British Empire for a little bit.
 33:31.749 --> 33:35.390
 What kind of empire was that going forward in the 19th century?
 33:36.431 --> 33:52.019
 In fact, according to a brilliant book by Lisa Ford called The King's Peace, the new forms of maintaining order in the British Empire from New South Wales to South Asia, all over the British world were increasingly violent and coercive.
 33:53.095 --> 34:00.083
 based on, well, it was the instantiation on the massive scale of Smith's savage injustice.
 34:00.704 --> 34:05.510
 So it's not as if staying with the British Empire, oh, they were the leaders of change.
 34:05.530 --> 34:08.353
 In fact, anti-slavery is first percolates
 34:09.700 --> 34:12.302
 on the peripheries in North America.
 34:12.462 --> 34:14.924
 It's Pennsylvania Quakers, and you know all this.
 34:15.805 --> 34:21.330
 And it's, of course, there's a high degree of receptivity in enlightened circles in the metropolis.
 34:21.890 --> 34:33.160
 This is a moment, you might say, that the war interrupted, a moment of thinking and rethinking the foundations of British prosperity, the evil injustice of slavery.
 34:33.740 --> 34:34.501
 It's a moment
 34:35.285 --> 34:42.020
 You can read all about it in Jack Green's book about the coming of the revolution from the British perspective.
 34:42.160 --> 34:44.024
 It was a moment on both sides of the Atlantic
 34:44.850 --> 35:11.489
 that was destroyed on the battlefield even as that battlefield opened opportunities for actual enslaved people but again these are the paradoxes the problems we have to deal with 1776 cuts both ways it's both a liberatory moment there's no question because how do nations become modern how do they create markets how do they protect their citizens this is the key thing
 35:12.350 --> 35:15.991
 Kings offer protection for allegiance.
 35:16.511 --> 35:17.971
 What do you do without a king?
 35:18.672 --> 35:31.575
 Well, we invent something that has all the virtues of monarchy, but we depersonalize it, we abstract it into the modern state apparatus.
 35:32.535 --> 35:36.976
 And that was happening apace in what had been British North America.
 35:38.362 --> 35:49.110
 So the idea of war as being critical, how many people, Bob, think about the American Revolution and think it's all about ideas?
 35:50.390 --> 36:03.300
 Did you ever hear about this Republican synthesis stuff when John Adams, it was all about how back in, what is it, 1763, the writs of assistance case?
 36:03.340 --> 36:03.880
 Right, yeah.
 36:04.320 --> 36:06.762
 And then there the child independence was born.
 36:07.162 --> 36:07.943
 Who needed a war?
 36:09.866 --> 36:17.037
 If it is all about ideas and those ideas are absolutely unexceptionable, then all the other stuff is peripheral.
 36:17.378 --> 36:20.082
 No, not true, because it's the war.
 36:20.102 --> 36:21.464
 The war.
 36:21.874 --> 36:25.015
 that mobilized us for good and for evil.
 36:25.155 --> 36:27.236
 In fact, mobilization is the key.
 36:27.256 --> 36:31.357
 If you can't do stuff, if you can't win on the battlefield, then too bad for you.
 36:31.437 --> 36:32.117
 You're gone.
 36:32.937 --> 36:34.177
 You're a slave.
 36:34.598 --> 36:47.481
 In fact, that's the thing that's most offensive about defending, and I'm not defending Jefferson, by invoking this conception of slavery as an injustice that had to be remedied.
 36:47.981 --> 36:49.402
 But how could it be remedied?
 36:49.462 --> 36:50.222
 That's the question.
 36:51.016 --> 37:00.244
 Look at that passage in the Declaration of Independence that was expunged, where he talks about piratical warfare, blaming George III for what had happened.
 37:01.665 --> 37:05.088
 Well, the key word in that phrase is warfare.
 37:05.789 --> 37:06.790
 Think of it in these terms.
 37:07.270 --> 37:16.438
 Smith knows that you have to have the capacity to enable markets to emerge, but that capacity can be turned outward against other peoples.
 37:17.950 --> 37:24.316
 the capacity to protect and provide for the welfare of the people is the same thing as the capacity to make war.
 37:25.817 --> 37:45.514
 And what the war, the piratical warfare that he was conducting against African people, he personifying the British Empire, that same kind of war was being fought on American battlefields long before the Declaration of Independence.
 37:47.651 --> 37:50.152
 Americans were treated as traitors and rebels.
 37:50.372 --> 37:54.593
 It took a long time in Boston because they wanted to do it right, wanted to bring them back.
 37:55.253 --> 38:00.774
 And the fact was, it was clearly true 15 months into the war that this was a war.
 38:01.654 --> 38:04.295
 Now, that's not just an obvious point.
 38:04.635 --> 38:10.676
 It has to be emphasized as central to the meaning of independence, because the meaning of independence
 38:11.844 --> 38:25.257
 is to enable the United States to act collectively as a sovereign power and negotiate treaties with other sovereign powers to try to equalize the asymmetries with Britain.
 38:26.879 --> 38:29.681
 So you have this warfare is the key term.
 38:29.762 --> 38:34.566
 And Jefferson understands that the institution of slavery is also a state of war.
 38:35.107 --> 38:35.307
 38:35.768 --> 38:37.149
 You've got war all over the place.
 38:37.349 --> 38:41.893
 We're making, we Americans, white Americans are making war on our enslaved people.
 38:42.313 --> 38:43.734
 And that's the truth.
 38:43.834 --> 38:44.435
 And he says it.
 38:45.916 --> 38:47.197
 There's no mitigation.
 38:47.237 --> 38:49.739
 He's not saying, oh, it's a wonderful institution.
 38:49.819 --> 38:50.259
 It's good.
 38:50.319 --> 38:50.880
 It'll get better.
 38:50.920 --> 38:53.862
 It'll gradually disappear because it's not rational, blah, blah, blah.
 38:54.363 --> 38:54.963
 Not true.
 38:55.984 --> 38:57.305
 He knows it's a state of war.
 38:58.526 --> 39:04.891
 And it's in that context that you can almost see or understand the
 39:05.313 --> 39:07.755
 and what I'm describing as the pathos of anti-slavery.
 39:08.495 --> 39:34.394
 Here is a man who is genuinely opposed to slavery, but his great achievement, if it is that, is to perpetuate, protect and perpetuate and expand the institution because he unleashes all the energies of enterprising Americans to exploit the opportunities of a continent without a sovereign, a real sovereign.
 39:36.344 --> 39:38.545
 And so that's war, dude.
 39:38.565 --> 39:42.248
 I mean, you can say he's Mr. Yeah, he's Mr. Peace.
 39:42.308 --> 39:51.073
 But as David Bell showed long ago about the French Revolution, who thinks most about peace but people who are on the verge of making war on a massive scale?
 39:53.959 --> 40:06.365
 We've been talking with Peter Anna from, actually you're a New Englander, but you, I think of you as a, well, an erudite intellectual who thinks deeply about these things.
 40:06.945 --> 40:07.846
 Thank you very much, Bob.
 40:07.866 --> 40:17.130
 But I hate to say it because I don't want to brag about genealogy, but on my mother's side, we're really boring Unitarians from central Massachusetts.
 40:17.657 --> 40:18.418
 Can you believe that?
 40:18.918 --> 40:19.739
 Wow, interesting.
 40:20.519 --> 40:21.640
 I would not have guessed that.
 40:24.702 --> 40:26.023
 Well, thank you so much for joining us.
 40:26.063 --> 40:32.308
 This has been a fascinating discussion about Adam Smith, Jefferson, war, peace, commerce, all of those things.
 40:32.408 --> 40:35.590
 And hope we can continue this at some other point.
 40:35.671 --> 40:36.731
 So thank you for joining us.
 40:36.811 --> 40:37.632
 Thank you for having me.
 40:37.772 --> 40:38.072
 Thank you.
 40:39.369 --> 40:42.611
 And I want to thank Jonathan Lane, our producer, as well as our listeners.
 40:42.631 --> 40:46.833
 You know, Peter, we actually do have folks all over the world who tune in regularly every week.
 40:46.913 --> 40:49.295
 I thank some of them who are out there.
 40:49.375 --> 40:57.620
 And if you're interested and want to hear more, send Jonathan Lane an email, jlane at, and he'll send you one of our podcasts.
 40:58.220 --> 41:24.080
 refrigerator magnets or other revolution 250 things as we anticipate the 250th of the revolution the publication of wealth of nations also 1776 was the year david hume died that's another signal event in the history of the enlightenment um so our friends in chad's ford pennsylvania and camden south carolina in delhi in india in bristol in england
 41:24.780 --> 41:35.030
 you know, both places that know something about the expansion of the British Empire in Farmington, Maine, and here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Chelsea, Westford, Framingham, Lemonster.
 41:35.330 --> 41:36.271
 Thank you for listening.
 41:36.711 --> 41:42.917
 And now we will, and thank you everyone in places beyond and between, and now we will be piped out on the road to Boston.