American Thought in Transition: The Impact of Evolutionary Naturalism, 1865-1900

By Paul F. Boiler Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Old Political Economy
and the New

In 1876, the American people celebrated the centennial anniversary of their national independence.There were speeches, parades, songs, essays, poems, and Fourth of July orations hailing the Declaration of Independence; and in Philadelphia an exposition consisting of nearly two hundred buildings exhibiting the natural resources of the country was held from May until November to commemorate the great event.But some Americans believed there was another document worthy to be placed alongside the Declaration of Independence in that festive year: Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. It was no mere coincidence, they thought, that Jefferson's Declaration, an immortal charter of political liberty, appeared in the same year as Smith's Wealth of Nations, a great charter of economic liberty.For many Americans the ideas contained in the two documents were inextricably intertwined.On December 12, one hundred people attended a dinner at Delmonico's in New York City to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Smith's book.The journalist Parke Godwin presided and there were speeches by Edward Atkinson, David A. Wells, William Graham Sumner, and other well-known political economists of the period.In an editorial on "Honor to Adam Smith" afterward, the

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