Chapter II

Of the Principle which gives Occasion to the Division of Labour
This division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived, is not originally the effect of any human wisdom, which foresees and intends that general opulence to which it gives occasion.
*41 It is the necessary, though very slow and gradual, consequence of a certain propensity in human nature which has in view no such extensive utility; the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.


Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human nature, of which no further account can be given; or whether, as seems more probable, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech, it belongs not to our present subject to enquire. It is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals, which seem to know neither this nor any other species of contracts. Two greyhounds, in running down the same hare, have sometimes the appearance of acting in some sort of concert. Each turns her towards his companion, or endeavours to intercept her when his companion turns her towards himself. This, however, is not the effect of any contract, but of the accidental concurrence of their passions in the same object at that particular time. Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog.
*42 Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that. When an animal wants to obtain something either of a man or of another animal, it has no other means of persuasion but to gain the favour of those whose service it requires. A puppy fawns upon its dam, and a spaniel endeavours by a thousand attractions to engage the attention of its master who is at dinner, when it wants to be fed by him. Man sometimes uses the same arts with his brethren, and when he has no other means of engaging them to act according to his inclinations, endeavours by every servile and fawning attention to obtain their good will. He has not time, however, to do this upon every occasion. In civilized society he stands at all times in need of the cooperation and assistance of great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few persons. In almost every other race of animals each individual, when it is grown up to maturity, is entirely
*43 independent, and in its natural state has occasion for the assistance of no other living creature.
But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of.
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
Nobody but a beggar chuses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely. The charity of well-disposed people, indeed, supplies him with the whole fund of his subsistence. But though this principle ultimately provides him with all the necessaries of life which he has occasion for, it neither does nor can provide him with them as he has occasion for them. The greater part of his occasional wants are supplied in the same manner as those of other people, by treaty, by barter, and by purchase. With the money which one man gives him he purchases food. The old cloaths which another bestows upon him he exchanges for other old cloaths which suit him better, or for lodging, or for food, or for money, with which he can buy either food, cloaths, or lodging, as he has occasion.
*44


As it is by treaty, by barter, and by purchase, that we obtain from one another the greater part of those mutual good offices which we stand in need of, so it is this same trucking disposition which originally gives occasion to the division of labour. In a tribe of hunters or shepherds a particular person makes bows and arrows, for example, with more readiness and dexterity than any other. He frequently exchanges them for cattle or for venison with his companions; and he finds at last that he can in this manner get more cattle and venison, than if he himself went to the field to catch them. From a regard to his own interest, therefore, the making of bows and arrows grows to be his chief business, and he becomes a sort of armourer. Another excels in making the frames and covers of their little huts or moveable houses. He is accustomed to be of use in this way to his neighbours, who reward him in the same manner with cattle and with venison, till at last he finds it his interest to dedicate himself entirely to this employment, and to become a sort of house-carpenter. In the same manner a third becomes a smith or a brazier; a fourth a tanner or dresser of hides or skins, the principal part of the clothing of savages. And thus the certainty of being able to exchange all that surplus part of the produce of his own labour, which is over and above his own consumption, for such parts of the produce of other men’s labour as he may have occasion for, encourages every man to apply himself to a particular occupation, and to cultivate and bring to perfection whatever talent or genius he may possess for that particular species of business.
*45


The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour.
*46 The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were perhaps,
*47 very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance. But without the disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life which he wanted. All must have had the same duties to perform, and the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to any great difference of talents.
*48


As it is this disposition which forms that difference of talents, so remarkable among men of different professions, so it is this same disposition which renders that difference useful. Many tribes of animals acknowledged to be all of the same species, derive from nature a much more remarkable distinction of genius, than what, antecedent to custom and education, appears to take place among men. By nature a philosopher is not in genius and disposition half so different from a street porter, as a mastiff is from a greyhound, or a greyhound from a spaniel, or this last from a shepherd’s dog. Those different tribes of animals, however, though all of the same species, are of scarce any use to one another. The strength of the mastiff is not in the least supported either by the swiftness of the greyhound, or by the sagacity of the spaniel, or by the docility of the shepherd’s dog. The effects of those different geniuses and talents, for want of the power or disposition to barter and exchange, cannot be brought into a common stock, and do not in the least contribute to the better accommodation and conveniency of the species. Each animal is still obliged to support and defend itself, separately and independently, and derives no sort of advantage from that variety of talents with which nature has distinguished its fellows. Among men, on the contrary, the most dissimilar geniuses are of use to one another; the different produces of their respective talents, by the general disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, being brought, as it were, into a common stock, where every man may purchase whatever part of the produce of other men’s talents he has occasion for.


1.
[This word, with ‘annually’ just below, at once marks the transition from the older British economists’ ordinary practice of regarding the wealth of a nation as an accumulated fund. Following the physiocrats, Smith sees that the important thing is how much can be produced in a given time.]

2.
[Cp. with this phrase Locke,
Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising the Value of Money, ed. of 1696, p. 66, ‘the intrinsic natural worth of anything consists in its fitness to supply the necessities or serve the conveniencies of human life.’]

3.
[The implication that the nation’s welfare is to be reckoned by the average welfare of its members, not by the aggregate, is to be noticed.]

4.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘ with which labour is generally applied in it’.]

5.
[This second circumstance may be stretched so as to include the duration and intensity of the labour of those who are usefully employed, but another important circumstance, the quantity and quality of the accumulated instruments of production, is altogether omitted.]

6.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘and’.]

7.
[Only one cause, the division of labour, is actually treated.]

8.
[For the physiocratic origin of the technical use of the terms ‘distribute’ and ‘distribution’ see the Editor’s Introduction.]

9.
[This word slips in here as an apparently unimportant synonym of ‘useful,’ but subsequently ousts ‘useful’ altogether, and is explained in such a way that unproductive labour may be useful; see esp. below
II.3.2.]

10.
[See the index for the examples of the use of this term.]

11.
[Ed. 1 does not contain ‘to explain’.]

12.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘ what is the nature’.]

13.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘is treated of in’.]

14.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘of the society’.]

15.
[Read in conjunction with the first two paragraphs, this sentence makes it clear that the wealth of a nation is to be reckoned by its
per capita income. But this view is often temporarily departed from in the course of the work: see the index,
s.v. Wealth.]

16.
[This phrase, if used at all before this time, was not a familiar one. Its presence here is probably due to a passage in Mandeville,
Fable of the Bees, pt. ii. (1729), dial. vi., p. 335: ‘CLEO. . . . When once men come to be governed by written laws, all the rest comes on apace. . . No number of men, when once they enjoy quiet, and no man needs to fear his neighbour, will be long without learning to divide and subdivide their labour. HOR. I don’t understand you. CLEO. Man, as I have hinted before, naturally loves to imitate what he sees others do, which is the reason that savage people all do the same thing: this hinders them from meliorating their condition, though they are always wishing for it: but if one will wholly apply himself to the making of bows and arrows, whilst another provides food, a third builds huts, a fourth makes garments, and fifth utensils, they not only become useful to one another, but the callings and employments themselves will, in the same number of years, receive much greater improvements, than if all had been promiscuously followed by every one of the five. HOR. I believe you are perfectly right there; and the truth of what you say is in nothing so conspicuous as it is in watch-making, which is come to a higher degree of perfection than it would have been arrived at yet, if the whole had always remained the employment of one person; and I am persuaded that even the plenty we have of clocks and watches, as well as the exactness and beauty they may be made of, are chiefly owing to the division that has been made of that art into many branches. The index contains, ‘Labour, The usefulness of dividing and subdividing it’. Joseph Harris,
Essay upon Money and Coins, 1757, pt. i. § 12, treats of the ‘usefulness of distinct trades,’ or ‘the advantages accruing to mankind from their betaking themselves severally to different occupations,’ but does not use the phrase ‘division of labour’.]

17.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘improvements’.]

18.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘Though in them’.]

19.
[Another and perhaps more important reason for taking an example like that which follows is the possibility of exhibiting the advantage, of division of labour in statistical form.]

20.
[This parenthesis would alone be sufficient to show that those are wrong who believe Smith did not include the separation of employments in ‘division of labour’.]

21.
[In Adam Smith’s
Lectures p. 164, the business is as here, divided into eighteen; operations. This number is doubtless taken from the
Encyclopédie, tom. v. (published in 1755)
, s.v. Épingle. The article is ascribed to M. Delaire, ‘qui décrivait la fabrication de l’épingle dans les ateliers même des ouvriers,’ p. 807. In some factories the division was carried further. E. Chambers,
Cyclopædia, vol. ii., 2nd ed., 1738, and 4th ed., 1741,
s.v. Pin, makes the number of separate operations twenty-five.]

22.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘the’.]

23.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘the lands’ here and line preceding.]

24.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘because the silk manufacture does not suit the climate of England’.]

25.
[In
Lectures, p. 164, the comparison is between English and French ‘toys,’
i.e., small metal articles.]

26.
[Ed. 1 places ‘in consequence of the division of labour’ here instead of in the line above.]

27.
[‘Pour la célérite du travail et la perfection de l’ouvrage, elles dépendent entièrement de la multitude des ouvriers rassemblés. Lorsqu’une manufacture est nombreuse, chaque opération occupe un homme différent. Tel ouvrier ne fait et ne fera de sa vie qu’une seule et unique chose; tel autre une autre chose: d’o� il arrive que chacune s’exécute bien et promptement, et que l’ouvrage le mieux fait est encore celui qu’on a à meilleur marché. D’ailleurs le goût et la façon se perfectionnent nécessairement entre un grand nombre d’ouvriers, parce qu’il est difficile qu’il ne s’en rencontre quelquesuns capables de réfléchir, de combiner, et de trouver enfin le seal moyen qui puisse les mettre audessus de leurs semblables; le moyen ou d’épargner la matière, ou d’allonger le temps, ou de surfaire l’industrie, soit par une machine nouvelle, soit par une manœuvre plus commode.’—
Encydopédie, tom. i. (1751), p. 717,
s.v. Art. All three advantages mentioned in the text above are included here.]

28.
[In
Lectures, p. 166, ‘a country smith not accustomed to make nails will work very hard for three or four hundred a day and those too very bad’.]

29.
[In
Lectures, p. 166, ‘a boy used to it will easily make two thousand and those incomparably better’.]

30.
[In
Lectures, p. 255, it is implied that the labour of making a button was divided among eighty persons.]

31.
[The same example occurs in
Lectures, p. 166.]

32.
[Examples are given in
Lectures, p. 167: ‘Two men and three horses will do more in a day with the plough than twenty men without it. The miller and his servant will do more with the water mill than a dozen with the hand mill, though it too be a machine.’]

33.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘I shall, therefore, only observe’.]

34.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘machines employed’.]

35.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘of common’.]

36.
[
I.e., steam-engines.]

37.
[This pretty story is largely, at any rate mythical. It appears to have grown out of a misreading (not necessarily by Smith) of the following passage: ‘They used before to work with a buoy in the cylinder enclosed in a pipe, which buoy rose when the steam was strong, and opened the injection, and made a stroke; thereby they were capable of only giving six, eight or ten strokes in a minute, till a boy, Humphry Potter, who attended the engine, added (what he called scoggan) a catch that the beam Q always opened; and then it would go fifteen or sixteen strokes in a minute. But this being perplexed with catches and strings, Mr. Henry Beighton, in an engine he had built at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1718, took them all away, the beam itself simply supplying all much better.’—J. T. Desaguliers,
Course of Experimental Philosophy, vol. ii., 1744, p. 533. From pp. 469, 471, it appears that hand labour was originally used before the ‘buoy’ was devised.]

38.
[In
Lectures, p. 167, the invention of the plough is conjecturally attributed to farmer and that of the hand-mill to a slave, while the invention of the water-wheel and the steam engine is credited to philosophers. Mandeville is very much less favourable to the claims of the philosophers: ‘They are very seldom the same sort of people, those that invent arts and improvements in them and those that inquire into the reason things: this latter is most commonly practised by such as are idle and indolent, that a fond of retirement, hate business and take delight in speculation; whereas none succeed oftener in the first than active, stirring and laborious men, such as will put their hand to the plough, try experiments and give all their attention to what they are about.—
Fable of the Bees, pt. ii. (1729), dial. iii., p. 151. He goes on to give as examples the improvements in soap-boiling, grain-dyeing, etc.]

39.
[The advantage of producing particular commodities wholly or chiefly in the countries most naturally fitted for their production is recognised below,
IV.2.15, but the fact that division of labour is necessary for its attainment is not noticed. The fact that division of labour allows different workers to be put exclusively to the kind of work for which they are best fitted by qualities not acquired by education and practice, such as age, sex, size and strength, is in part ignored and in part denied below,
I.2.3-4,5. The disadvantage of division of labour of specialisation is dealt with below, vol. ii.,
V.1.175-180.]

40.
[This paragraph was probably taken bodily from the MS. of the author’s lectures. It appears to be founded on Mun,
England’s Treasure by Forraign Trade, chap. iii., at end; Locke,
Civil Government, § 43; Mandeville,
Fable of the Bees, pt. i., Remark P, 2nd ed. 1723, p. 182, and perhaps Harris,
Essay upon Money and Coins, pt. i., § 12. See
Lectures, pp. 161-162 and notes.]

41.
[
I.e., it is not the effect of any conscious regulation by the state or society, like the ‘law of Sesotris,’ that every man should follow the employment of his father, referred to in the corresponding passage in
Lectures, p. 168. The denial that it is the effect of individual wisdom recognising the advantage of exercising special natural talents comes lower down,
I.2.3-4.]

42.
[It is by no means clear what object there could be in exchanging one bone for for another.]

43.
[Misprinted ‘intirely’ in eds. 1-5. ‘Entirely’ occurs a little lower down in all eds.]

44.
[The paragraph is repeated from
Lectures, p. 169. It is founded on Mandeville,
Fable of the Bees, pt. ii. (1729), dial. vi., pp. 421, 422.]

45.
[
Lectures, pp. 169-170.]

46.
[This is apparently directed against Harris,
Money and Coins, pt. i., § 11, and is in accordance with the view of Hume, who asks readers to ‘consider how nearly equal all men are in their bodily force, and even in their mental powers and faculties, ere cultivated by education’.—’Of the Original Contract,’ in
Essays, Moral and Political, 1748, p. 291.]

47.
[‘Perhaps’ is omitted in eds. 2 and 3, and restored in the errata to ed. 4.)

48.
[
Lectures, pp. 170-171.]

49.
[The superiority of carriage by sea is here considerably less than in
Lectures, p. 172, but is still probably exaggerated. W. Playfair, ed. of
Wealth of Nations, 1805, vol. i., p. 29, says a waggon of the kind described could carry eight tons, but, of course, some allowance must be made for thirty years of road improvement.]

50.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘ which is at present carried on’.]

51.
[Playfair,
op. cit., p. 30 says that equalising the out and home voyages goods were carried from London to Calcutta by sea at the same price (12
s. per cwt.) as from London to Leeds by land.]

52.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘ was’.]

53.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘carry on together a very considerable commerce’.]

54.
[This shows a curious belief in the wave-producing capacity of the tides.]

55.
[It is only in recent times that this word has become applicable especially to artificial channels; see Murray,
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v.]

56.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘break themselves into many canals’.]

57.
[The real difficulty is that the mouths of the rivers are in the Arctic Sea, so that they are separated. One of the objects of the Siberian railway is to connect them.]

58.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘any one’ here.]

59.
[The passage corresponding to this chapter is comprised in one paragraph in
Lectures, p. 172.]

60.
[The paragraph has a close resemblance to Harris,
Money and Coins, pt. i., §§ 19, 20.]

61.
[
Iliad, vi. 236; quoted with the same object in Pliny,
Hist. Nat., lib. xxxiii., cap. i.; Pufendorf,
De jure naturæ et gentium, lib. v., cap. v., § 1; Martin-Leake,
Historical Account of English Money, 2nd ed., 1745 p. 4 and elsewhere.]

62.
[Montesquieu,
Esprit des lois, liv. xxii., chap i., note.]

63.
[W. Douglass,
A Summary Historical and Political of the First Planting, Progressive Improvements and Present State of the British Settlements in North America, 1760, vol. ii., p. 364. Certain law officers’ fees in Washington were still computed in tobacco in 1888.—J. J. Lalor,
Cyclopædia of Political Science, 1888,
s.v. Money, p. 879.]

64.
[Playfair, ed. of
Wealth of Nations, 1805, vol. i., p. 36, says the explanation of this is that factors furnish the nailers with materials and during the time they are working give them a credit for bread, cheese and chandlery goods, which they pay for in nails when the iron is worked up. The fact that nails are metal is forgotten at the beginning of the next paragraph in the text above.]

65.
[For earlier theories as to these reasons see Grotius,
De jure belli et pacis, lib. ii., cap. xii., § 17; Pufendorf,
De jure naturæ et gentium, lib. v., cap. i., § 13; Locke,
Some Considerations 2nd ed., 1696, p. 31; Law,
Money and Trade, 1705, ch. i.; Hutcheson,
System of Moral Philosophy, 1755, vol. ii., pp. 55, 56; Montesquieu,
Esprit des lois, liv. xxii., ch. ii.; Cantillon,
Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en général, 1755, pp. 153, p. 355-357; Harris,
Money and Coins, pt. i., §§ 22-27, and cp.
Lectures, pp. 182-185.]

66.
Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. 33. cap. 3. [‘Servius rex primus signavit aes. Antea rudi usos Romæ: Timæus tradit.’ Ed. 1 reads ‘authority of one Remeus, an ancient author,’ Remeus being the reading in the edition of Pliny in Smith’s library, cp. Bonar’s
Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, 1894, p. 87. Ed. 1 does not contain the note.]

67.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘ weighing them’.]

68.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘ with the trouble’.]

69.
[Aristotle,
Politics, 1257a, 38-41; quoted by Pufendorf,
De jure naturæ et gentium, lib. v. cap. 1., § 12.]

70.
[The aulnager measured woollen cloth in England under 25 Ed. III., st. 4, c. 1. See John Smith,
Chronicon Rusticum-Commerciale or Memoirs of Wool, 1747, vol. i., p. 37. The stampmasters of linen cloth in the linen districts of Scotland were appointed under 10 Ann., c. 21, to prevent ‘divers abuses and deceits’ which ‘have of late years been used in the manufactories of linen cloth. . . with respect to the lengths, breadths and unequal sorting of yarn, which leads to the great debasing and undervaluing of the said linen cloth both at home and in foreign parts.’—
Statutes of the Realm, vol. ix., p. 682.]

71.
[Genesis xxiii 16.]

72.
[‘King William the First, for the better pay of his warriors caused the
firmes which till his time had for the most part been answered in victuals, to be converted
in pecuniam numeratam.’—Lowndes,
Report containing an Essay for the Amendment of the Silver Coins, 1695, p. 4. Hume, whom Adam Smith often follows, makes no such absurd statement,
History, ed. of 1773, vol. i., pp. 225, 226.]

73.
[Lowndes, Essay, p. 4.]

74.
[Above,
I.4.6.]

75.
[The Assize of Bread and Ale, 51 Hen. III., contains an elaborate scale beginning, ‘When a quarter of wheat is sold for xii
d. then wastel bread of a farthing shall weigh vi
l. and xvi
s.‘ and goes on to the figures quoted in the text above. The statute is quoted at second-hand from Martin Folkes’
Table of English Silver Coins with the same object by Harris,
Essay upon Money and Coins, pt. i., § 29, but Harris does not go far enough in the scale to bring in the penny as a weight. As to this scale see below,
I.11.100, 114-116.]

76.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘twenty, forty and forty-eight pennies’. Gamier,
Recherches sur la nature et les causes de la richesse des nations, par Adam Smith, 1802 tom. v., p. 55, in a note on this passage says that the sou was always twelve deniers.]

77.
[Hume,
History of England, ed. of 1773, i. p. 226. Fleetwood,
Chronicon Preciosum, 1707, p. 30. These authorities say there were 48 shillings in the pound, so that 240 pence would still make £1.]

78.
[Harris
Money and Coins, pt. i., § 29.]

79.
[‘It is thought that soon after the Conquest a pound sterling was divided into twenty shillings.’—Hume,
History of England, ed. of 1773, vol. i., p. 227.]

80.
[Pliny,
Hist. Nat., lib. xxxiii., cap. iii.; see below, vol. ii., pp. 468, 469.]

81.
[Harris,
Money and Coins, pt. i., § 30, note, makes the French livre about one seventieth part of its original value.]

82.
[The subject of debased and depreciated coinage occurs again below,
I.5.11-13,I.11.143-144; vol. ii.,
IV.6.16-32,V.3.61-65. One of the reasons why gold and silver became the most usual forms of money is dealt with below,
I.11.79-83. See Coin and Money in the index.]

83.
[In
Lectures, pp. 182-190, where much of this chapter is to be found, money is considered ‘first as the measure of value and then as the medium of permutation or exchange’. Money is said to have had its origin in the fact that men naturally fell upon one commodity with which to compare the value of all other commodities. When this commodity was once selected it became the medium of exchange. In this chapter money comes into use from the first as a medium of exchange, and its use as a measure of value is not mentioned. The next chapter explains that it is vulgarly used as a measure of value because it is used as an instrument of commerce or medium of exchange.]

84.
[
Lectures, p. 157. Law,
Money and Trade, 1705, ch. i. (followed by Harris,
Money and Coins, pt. i., § 3 ), contrasts the value of water with that of diamonds. The cheapness of water is referred to by Plato
Euthydem. 304 B., quoted by Pufendorf,
De jure naturæ et gentium, lib. v., cap. i., § 6; cp. Barbeyrac’s note on § 4.]

85.
[Ed. 1 reads ‘subject which is’.]