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The Empire of Enterprise (1) : Adam Smith credited the British Empire’s success not to the policy of her Government, but to the character of her people.
The Empire of Enterprise
Part one

From ‘Wealth of Nations’, by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

Adam Smith reminds us that the astounding success of the American colonies was not achieved by the policies of European governments, or money from their exchequers. It was achieved and financed by private individuals, inspired by the extraordinary civilisation into which they had been born.

THE policy of Europe has very little to boast of, either in the original establishment, or, so far as concerns their internal government, in the subsequent prosperity of the colonies of America.

The conquest of Mexico was the project, not of the council of Spain, but of a governor of Cuba; and it was effectuated by the spirit of the bold adventurer to whom it was entrusted, in spite of every thing which that governor, who soon repented of having trusted such a person, could do to thwart it.* The conquerors of Chile and Peru,* and of almost all the other Spanish settlements upon the continent of America, carried out with them no other public encouragement, but a general permission to make settlements and conquests in the name of the king of Spain.

Those adventures were all at the private risk and expense of the adventurers. The government of England contributed as little towards effectuating the establishment of some of its most important colonies in North America.

* Smith’s ‘bold adventurer’ was Hernán Cortés, who had helped Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar to conquer Cuba in 1511, and to become its first Governor. Velázquez then sent Cortés on a mission to add Mexico to his bag in 1519, but a growing fear that Cortés posed a political threat prompted him to revoke his orders at the last moment. Cortés sailed anyway.

* Spanish adventurer Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago in Chile on 12 February 1541. In 1532, a party of conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incas of Peru, and Lima became the capital of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru in 1543.

From ‘Wealth of Nations’, by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

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Picture: © Ben Frankse, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is commonly held to be the oldest residential street in the USA, dating back to 1702. Englishman William Penn (1644-1718) founded the city in 1682, after he had been granted land on the Delaware River by King Charles II as repayment on a debt of honour to Penn’s father. Penn drew up the new colony’s ‘frame of government’, a groundbreaking venture into democratic accountability. The foundations laid by Penn were built on by Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790), the Sixth President of the Commonwealth of Philadelphia, and through him Penn’s ideas profoundly influenced the Constitution of the United States in 1776.
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