cept of such a code. And Dugald Stewart, in a biographical memoir of Smith, asserted that Smith’s “speculations” attempted “to illustrate the provisions made by Nature in the principles of the human mind” for gradual augmentation of national wealth and “to demonstrate that the most effectual means of advancing a people to greatness is to maintain that order of things which Nature has pointed out.”11
Cliffe Leslie maintained, on the other hand, that Smith actually pursued both methods—some deductive reasoning, to be sure, but also thorough observations of actual economic conditions of his day. While Smith might have believed himself to be articulating the natural laws of human economic behavior—a Code of Nature—in fact he just developed another human-invented system colored by culture and history, Cliffe Leslie declared.
“What he did not see was, that his own system … was the product of a particular history; that what he regarded as the System of Nature was a descendant of the System of Nature as conceived by the ancients, in a form fashioned by the ideas and circumstances of his own time,” Cliffe Leslie wrote of Smith. “Had he lived even two generations later, his general theory of the organization of the economic world … would have been cast in a very different mould.”12
If Smith’s Code of Nature was tainted by his times, it was nevertheless in tune with many similar efforts by others, before him and after. Various versions of such an idea—the existence of a “natural order” of human behavior and interaction—influenced all manner of philosophers and scientists and political revolutionaries seeking to understand society, everybody from the monarchist philosopher Thomas Hobbes to the science-fan and journalist Karl Marx. Smith’s two great works, on moral philosophy and the laws of wealth, were really part of one grander intellectual enterprise that ultimately produced both economics and the “human sciences” of sociology and psychology. As science historian Roger Smith has pointed out, the 18th century—Adam Smith’s century—was a time of profound intellectual mergers, with the physical sciences and