A Treatise on Political Economy, Or, the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth

By Jean-Baptiste Say; Clement C. Biddle et al. | Go to book overview

The celebrated Adam Smith was the first to point out the immense increase of production, and the superior perfection of ducts referable to this division of labour.* He has cited, among other examples, the manufacture of pins. The workmen occupied in this manufacture execute each bat one part of a pin. One draws the wire, another cuts it, a third sharpens the points. The

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*
Beccaria, in a public course of lectures on political economy, delivered at Milan in the year 1769, and before the publication of Smith's work, had remarked the favourable influence of the division of labour upon the multiplication of products. These are his words: "Ciascuno prova coll' esperienza, che, applicando la mano e l'ingegne sempre allo stesso genere di opere e di prodotti, egli piu facili, piu abondanti e migliori ne trova i resultati, di quello, che se ciascuno isolatamente le cose tutte a se necessarie soltante facesse: onde altri pascono le pecore, altri ne cardano le lane, altri le tessono: chi coltiva biade, chi ne fa il pane; chi veste, chi fabrica agli agricoltorie lavoranti; crescendo e concatenandosi le arti, e dividendosi in tal maniera, per la comune e privala utilità gli nomini in varie classi e condizioni." "We all know, by personal experience, that, by the continual application of the corporeal and intellectual faculties to one peculiar kinder work or product, we can obtain the product with more ease, and in greater abundance and perfection, than if each were to depend upon his own exertions for all the objects of his wants. For this reason, one man feeds sheep, a second cards the wool, and a third weaves it: one man cultivates wheat, another makes bread, another makes clothing or lodging for the cultivators and mechanics: this multiplication and concatenation of the arts, and division of mankind into a variety of classes and conditions, operating to promote both public and private welfare."

However, I have give Smith the credit of originality in his ideas of the division of labour; first, because, in all probability, he had published his opinions from his chair of professor of philosophy at Glasgow before Beccaria, as it is wall known he did the principles that form the ground work of his book; but chiefly because he has the merit of haying deduced from them the most important conclusions.1

1
[All the fundamental doctrines contained in the Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, were comprehended in Dr. Smith's course of political lectures, delivered at Glasgow as early as the year 1752; "at a period,surely," says DUGALD STEWART, "when there existed no French, (and he might have added, or Italian) performance on the subject, that could be of much use to him in guiding his researches." A short manuscript, drawn up by Dr. Smith in the year 1755, fully establishes his exclusive claim to the most important opinions detailed in his treatise on the Wealth of Nations, which did not appear until the beginning of the year 1776. "A great part of the opinions enumerated in this paper, (he observes,) is treated of at length in some lectures which I have still by me, ( 1755,) and which were written in the hand of a clerk who left my service six years ago. They have all of them been the constant subject of my lectures, since I first taught Mr. Craigie's class, the first winter I spent in Glasgow, down to this day, without any considerable variation. They had all of them been the subject of lectures which I read at Edinburgh the winter before I left it, and I can adduce innumerable witnesses, both from that place and from this, who will ascertain them sufficiently to be mine." Vide Mr. Stewart Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D. read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, January 21, and March 18, 1793.]

AMERICAN EDITOR.

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