The Rise of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment

By Tatsuya Sakamoto; Hideo Tanaka | Go to book overview

13

Adam Smith in Japan

Hiroshi Mizuta

There has been a sort of Adam Smith cult in Japan. On a fine day in the 1930s Professor C.R. Fay met two Japanese gentlemen on a street in Edinburgh. They asked him where Adam Smith's tomb was, so he took them to the Canongate churchyard. To his surprise, they sat on the ground to bow down to the tomb to express their veneration, as if they were in a Shinto shrine. Despite their veneration of Adam Smith and British liberalism, the people of Japan, including the two gentlemen, could not prevent the Pacific War. Nevertheless, Smith has been studied continuously even under the militarist regime, the scholarship coming to a peak in 1941, just before war broke out. In spite of this tradition of Smith scholarship, almost all of his friends in the Scottish Enlightenment had been ignored. An apparent exception was David Hume, but he has been studied in the context of pure philosophy. Adam Ferguson and John Millar were mentioned by a few sociologists. William Robertson and Ferguson were discussed rather lengthily in Ken Chiyoda's studies on the Historiography of the Enlightenment (in Japanese), published in 1945. This was the only exception to studying them as a group before Roy Pascal's article on the Scottish Historical School (in the Modern Quarterly, 1938) was introduced by the author in 1956.

Japan opened its doors to western culture only in the 1850s, but some books on western economics, including that of Smith, had been brought into Japan by Dutch merchants before this, including Untersuchungen Über das Wesen und Ursachen des National Reichthums (a German translation of the Wealth of Nations by Max Stirner), 1846; A. Sandelin's Répertoire Général d'Economie Politique Ancienne et Moderne, 1846; and E.W. De Rooy's Geschiedenis der Staathuishoudkunde in Europa van Vroegste Tijden tot Heden, 1851. The first systematic lessons on social sciences were given in Leiden in the Netherlands from 1863 to 1865 by Professor Simon Vissering, for two Japanese students who had been sent by the Shogunate Government of Tokugawa (they were attached to a military mission that had been sent to take delivery of a warship from a Dutch shipyard). Vissering's lectures on political economy were based on the abstract of his Praktische Staathuishoudkunde, which included some references to Adam Smith on the rent of land and the farming of tax. But there is no record that Vissering actually mentioned the name of Smith in his lectures. Of Vissering's five courses of

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