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The Scottish Nation

SMITH, a surname derived from the word Smite, and evidently taking its origin from the most useful of all the arts. In the Icelandic the word Smidr signifies, as Smith originally did in this country, an artist in general; one who strikes or smites with a hammer; an artificer, a carpenter, a SMITH, an author, a maker. In the Anglo-Saxon, one who worked in iron was called isen-smid, an iron-smith. Under its different modes of spelling and pronunciation, as for instance in German Schmitz, or Schmidt; French, Smeets; the name is common in most countries of Europe. In Lardner’s Cyclopedia the following paragraph occurs; “One of our historians observes, that, immediately preceding the conquest, the art of working in iron and steel had risen to such a state of improvement that even the horses of some of the chief knights and barons were covered with steel and iron armour. Artificers who wrought in iron were so highly regarded in those warlike times that every military officer had his smith, who constantly attended his person, to keep his arms and armour in order. The chief smith was an officer of considerable dignity in the court of the Anglo-Saxon and Welsh kings, where his weregeld was much higher than that of any other artificer. In the Welsh court, the king’s smith sat next to the domestic chaplain, and was entitled to a draught of every kind of liquor that was brought into the hall.” No surname in the United Kingdom is of so frequent occurrence as is that of Smith. Of names derived from employments, Smith is the most numerous and Taylor the next. In the Celtic it is Gow, M’Gowan, or Cowan, According to an absurd Highland tradition, quoted by Douglas in his Baronage, the progenitor of all the families of the name of Smith in Scotland was Neil Cromb, the third son of Murdoch of the clan Chattan, who lived in the reign of William the Lion

In the Syriac, the word Hadad means Smith. There was a whole family of Assyrian kings of the name. Ben-Hadad means son of Smith, or Smithson.


The principal family of the name appears to the Smythe of Methven, Perthshire, formerly of Braco. Daniel Smythe, father of the present proprietor, an eminent judge, bore the title of Lord Methven. He married Euphemia Murray of Lintrose, distinguished as the Flower of Strathmore, and celebrated by Burns, with evident allusion to ‘the Flower of Yarrow,’ as

… “a bonnier lass
Than braes of Yarrow ever saw.”

In Ayrshire is the family of Smith of Swinridgemuir. John Smith, a former proprietor of this estate, an eminent agriculturist, may be said to have been the first who set the example of rendering peat moss productive, by judicious drainage and the liberal application of lime. Mr. Smith died in 1838, and was succeeded by his nephew, colonel Neil of Barnweill, who added the name of Smith to his own. He was succeeded, in 1850, by Brigadier-General Smith Neill, who served with great distinction in India and the Crimea. At the outbreak of the Indian mutiny he led his regiment, the 1st Madras European Fusileers, to the relief of Benares, the victory of Allahabad, and the capture of Cawnpore, and he was the first to stem the tide of the rebellion. His whole progress was a series of brilliant actions, and while in sole command of Cawnpore, his signal punishment of the high caste murderous Brahmins, and his salutary strictness, effected the restoration of order. He led a brigade from Cawnpore to the relief of Lucknow, and on that memorable occasion, when carrying the batteries at the point of the bayonet, fell at the very moment of complete success.


The old family of Smith of Craigend have possessed their lands since the introduction of surnames, and, like the Macgregors of Glengyle and Inversnaid, ancestors of Rob Roy, held as “kindly tenants” of the noble family of Montrose. John Smith, the last of the old Rentallers of Craigend, died in 1640. His son, Robert, acquired by purchase the fee simple of the lands, which continued in his family till the death of John Smith, the sixth in descent, when they were sold to James Buchanan, Esq., and are now (1862) the property of his son, Sir Andrew Buchanan of Craigend Castle, K.C.B., minister plenipotentiary at the Hague. Agnes Graham, only surviving sister of the last-named John Smith, married the 13th earl of Buchan. ARCHIBALD SMITH, the youngest son of James Smith of Craigend, an eminent merchant of Glasgow, acquired, in 1800, the estate of Jordanhill, Renfrewshire. He died in 1821, and was succeeded by his son, JAMES SMITH of Jordanhill. F.R.S., born August 15, 1782, a distinguished geologist and Biblical critic.

Mr. Smith, though an independent country gentleman, has devoted much of his time to literary and scientific pursuits, and by his valuable researches in geology, and his admirable works in one important branch of Biblical criticism, has acquired a high reputation. His communications to the Geological and other scientific Societies are numerous, and he is the author of other works to be afterwards noticed. His most important work is his ‘Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul; With Dissertations on the Sources of the Writings of St. Luke, and the Ships and Navigation of the Ancients,’ 1848. In 1856 a second edition was published, with “additional proofs and illustrations.” Mr. Smith resided for a winter at Malta, and possessing a thorough knowledge of navigation, acquired as a zealous yacht sailor, he visited and minutely inspected the scene of the Apostle’s shipwreck and the localities referred to in the voyage, while in the best libraries of the Continent and in our own country, and in the Records of the Admiralty, he had access to every available source of information. These researches, joined to his own practical knowledge, and guided by no inconsiderable amount of scholarship, formed a combination of advantages seldom realized in one individual. The result has been one of the most interesting works in this department of Biblical illustration which has yet appeared. It includes a dissertation on the ships of the ancients, now recognized as the standard work on the subject, and an equally original and striking dissertation on the sources of the writings of St. Luke. In 1853 he published a ‘Dissertation on the Origin and Connection of the Gospels, with a Synopsis of the parallel passages in the Original and authorized Version, and Critical Notes,’ 8vo, Edinburgh; a work of a very high order, and exhibiting much ingenuity and research, with a critical knowledge of the sacred text.

In the separate field of geological science his researches have been scarcely less valuable. The estuary of the Clyde, in the neighbourhood of his own estate, and the shores of the western coast of Scotland generally, afford a rich field for the geologist, and Mr. Smith has largely turned to account the opportunities for its study. The discussions between Dr. Buckland and Dr. Fleming, regarding the Diluvian hypothesis, called attention to those recent and superficial deposits already known but very imperfectly understood. On these and kindred subjects he has from time to time furnished valuable communications to the Geological and other scientific Societies, and he has also furnished important memoirs on similar formations which fell under his notice in Spain, Portugal, France, and Madeira. In addition to the works above mentioned, Mr. Smith is the author of the following: -- 1. ‘A Voyage round the World from 1806 to 1812, in which Japan, Kamschatka, the Aleutian Islands, and the Sandwich Islands were visited, including a narrative of the Narrator’s Shipwreck on the Island of Sannack, and his subsequent wreck in the ship’s longboat; with an Account of the present state of the Sandwich Islands, and a Vocabulary of their Language; by Archibald Campbell – Drawn up by Mr. Smith from the verbal account of the author,’ Edinburgh, 1816, 8vo. – 2. ‘Journal of a Voyage to Spitzbergen and the east coast of Greenland in his Majesty’s Ship Griper, by Douglas Charles Clavering, Esq., F.R.S., Commander – Communicated by James Smith, Esq. of Jordanhill, F.R.S., with a Chart of the Discoveries of Captains Clavering and Scoresby – from the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal for July 1830. – With a Biographical Notice of Captain Clavering drawn up from his papers’ – 3. ‘Letters to an English Peer on the present state of the Church of Scotland,’ 8vo, London, 1841 and 1843. 4. ‘Researches in Newer Pliocene and Post Tertiary Geology,’ 8vo, London, 1862.

Mr. Smith married Mary, daughter of Alexander Wilson, Esq., issue, one son and five daughters. The son, Archibald Smith, Esq., F.R.S., married Susan Emma, daughter of Vice-Chancellor Sir James Parker of Temple Rotheby, Leicestershire. The daughters are. 1. Christina Laura, married to Walter Buchanan, Esq., M.P. for the city of Glasgow. 2. Isabella, married to Henry Gore Booth, Esq., son of Sir Robert Gore Booth, bart.; 3. Louisa, married to William Hamilton, Esq., of Minard Castle, Argyleshire. 4. Sabina Douglas Clavering. 5. Jane Charlotte.

SMITH, ADAM. LL.D., a distinguished writer on morals and political economy, was the only child of Adam Smith, comptroller of the customs at Kirkcaldy, and of Margaret, daughter of Mr. Douglas of Strathenry. He was born at Kirkcaldy, June 5, 1723, a few months after the death of his father. When about three years old, he was stolen by gypsies, but was soon recovered by his uncle, who followed and overtook the vagrants in Leslie Wood. He received his early education at the grammar school of his native place, and soon attracted notice by his fondness for books, and by his extraordinary powers of memory. His constitution, during his infancy and boyhood, was weak and sickly, which prevented him from joining in the sports and pastimes of his school companions. Even at this early period he was remarkable for those habits which remained with him through life, of speaking to himself when alone, and of absence in company. In 1737 he was sent to the university of Glasgow, where his favourite studies were mathematics and philosophy. In 1740 he removed to Baliol college, Oxford, as an exhibitioner on Snell’s Foundation, (see SNELL), with the view of entering the Church of England; and, while there, he cultivated, with great success, the study of languages. After a residence at Oxford for seven years, not finding the ecclesiastical profession suitable to his taste, he returned to Kirkcaldy, and for nearly two years remained at home with his mother. In 1748 he fixed his residence at Edinburgh, where, during that and the following years, he read lectures on rhetoric and belles letters, under the patronage of Lord Kames. At what particular period his acquaintance with Hume the historian commenced does not appear, but it seems to have speedily ripened to a lasting friendship. In 1751 he was elected professor of logic in the university of Glasgow; and the year following, on the death of Mr. Thomas Craigie, the immediate successor of Dr. Hutcheson, he was removed to the chair of moral philosophy in the same university. In this situation he remained for thirteen years. In 1759 he published his ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments,’ to the second edition of which he appended a treatise ‘On the Origin of Languages.’ He had previously contributed to the first Edinburgh Review, which was begun in 1755, a Review of Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, and some general observations on the state of literature in the different countries of Europe. In 1762 the senatus academiens of the university of Glasgow unanimously conferred upon him the degree of doctor of laws.

Towards the close of 1763 he received an invitation from Mr. Charles Townsend, who had married the widowed duchess of Buccleuch, to accompany her grace’s son, the young duke, on his travels; when the liberal terms offered, with his strong desire to visit the continent, induced him at once to resign his professorship. He joined the duke at London early in 1764, and in the month of March they set out for Paris.. After a stay of ten or twelve days in that city, they proceeded to Toulouse, where they remained eighteen months; after which they journeyed through the southern provinces to Geneva. About Christmas 1765 they returned to Paris, where they remained for nearly a year. Among his acquaintances in the French capital were, Turgot, Quesnay, Necker, l’Alembert, Helvetius, the duke de la Rochefoucault, Marmontel, Madame Riccaboni, and other eminent persons, to several of whom he had been recommended by David Hume.

In October 1766, he returned to London with his noble charge, the young duke of Buccleuch, who settled upon him an annuity of £300, for superintending his education and travels. Shortly after, he went to reside with his mother at Kirkcaldy, where, for the next ten years, he spent his time in studious retirement, with the exception of a few occasional visits to Edinburgh and London. During this long interval he was engaged upon his great work on political economy, which was published in 1776, under the title of an ‘Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,’ 2 vols, 4to. On the death of his friend, David Hume, the same year, Dr. Smith, in a letter to Mr. Strahan of London, gave an interesting account of his last illness, which being published, called forth a reply from Dr. Horne, bishop of Norwich, under the title of ‘A Letter to Adam Smith, LL.D., on the Life, Death, and Philosophy of David Hume, Esq. By one of the People called Christians,’ Oxford, 1777, 12mo. In that publication, that eminent and exemplary prelate, on no other grounds than the high eulogium which Dr. Smith had passed on Hume’s character, charged him with entertaining the same skeptical sentiments and opinions which had been held by the deceased historian.

In 1778, through the interest of the duke of Buccleuch, Dr. Smith was appointed one of the commissioners of customs in Scotland, on consequence of which he went to reside in Edinburgh, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was accompanied by his mother, who survived till 1784, and by his cousin, Miss Jane Douglas, who died in 1788. On receiving this appointment he had offered to resign his annuity, but the duke would not hear of it. In 1787, Dr. Smith was chosen lord rector of the Glasgow university, an honour which, like Thomas Campbell the poet, he estimated as one of the highest that could be conferred upon him. Soon after, his health began to decline. After a lingering and painful illness, arising from a chronic obstruction in his bowels, he died in July 1790. A few days before his death, all his manuscripts were burnt by his orders, excepting some detached essays, which he intrusted to the care of Drs. Black and Hutton, whom he appointed his executors, and who subsequently published six of them. His library, which was a valuable one, devolved to his nephew, David Douglas, a lord of session, under the title of Lord Reston.

Dr. Smith was a fellow of the Royal Societies both of London and Edinburgh. His portrait, engraved by Bengo, from a medallion b Tassie, appeared in the Scots Magazine for June 1801, (vol. lxiii.) from which the subjoined is taken:

[portrait of Dr. Adam Smith]

“In his external form and appearance,” says his biographer, Dugald Stewart, “there was nothing uncommon. When perfectly at ease, and when warmed with conversation, his gestures were animated, and not ungraceful; and, in the society of those he loved, his features were often brightened with a smile of inexpressible benignity. In the company of strangers his tendency to absence, and perhaps, still more, his consciousness of this tendency, rendered his manner somewhat embarrassed, -- an effect which was probably not a little heightened by those speculative ideas of propriety which his recluse habits tended at once to perfect in his conception, and to diminish his power of realizing. He never sat for his picture; but the medallion of Tassie conveys an exact idea of his profile, and of the general expression of his countenance.” He was equally remarkable for absence of mind and simplicity of character, and for muttering to himself while walking the streets. As an instance of the very high regard in which he was held by the leading statesmen of the day, it is related that the last time he was in London, he had engaged to dine with Lord Melville, then Mr. Dundas, at Wimbledon; Mr. Pitt, Mr. Grenville, Mr. Addington, afterwards Viscount Sidmouth, and some others of his lordship’s friends, were there. Dr. Smith arrived late, after the company had sat down to dinner. The moment he entered the room all the company rose. He apologized for being late, and entreated them to keep their seats. “No,” said they, “we will stand till you are seated, for we are all your scholars.” His works are:

The Theory of Moral Sentiments; to which is added, a Dissertation on the Origin of Languages. Lond. 1759, 8vo. Lond. 1761, 8vo. 6th edition, with considerable additions and corrections. Lond. 1790, 2 vols, 8vo.
An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Lond. 1776, 2 vols, 4to. Supplement. 1784, 4to. The work has passed through numerous editions. The 11th edition appeared with Notes, Supplementary Chapters and a Life of the Author; by William Playfair. Lond. 1805, 3 vols. 8vo. Again, with Notes and Additions, by Mr. Buchanan. Edin. 1814, 4 vols. 8vo. In French, avec des Notes et Observations par Germain Garnier de l’Institut National. Paris, 1802, 5 vols. 8vo. 1809, 3 vols. 8vo.
Letter to Mr. Strahan on the last Illness of David Hume. Lond. 1777, 8vo.
Essays on Philosophical Subjects; to which is prefixed an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, by Dugald Stewart. Lond. 1795, 4to.
Complete Works, with his Life, by Dugald Stewart, 1812, 5 vols. 8vo.

SMITH, JAMES, of Deanston, an eminent scientific agriculturist, was born in Glasgow, 3d January 1789. His father had settled in that city in business, and became a wealthy man. His mother was a daughter of Mr. Buchanan of Carston, Stirlingshire. His father died in his infancy, and his mother went to reside with her youngest brother, who at that time was the managing partner of a very extensive cotton works at Deanston, now a beautiful village, on the romantic river Teith, about eight miles north-west of Stirling.

Mr. Smith’s education was completed at the university of Glasgow. After leaving it he went to reside with his uncle at Catrine works, Ayrshire, belonging to the same firm as those at Deanston. At Catrine, young Smith devoted his energies to the attainment of a practical and thorough knowledge of the numerous intricacies of both mechanics and cotton-spinning. He entered the factory in the lowest station, working, at the same time, twelve hours a-day; and at the age of eighteen, his uncle unhesitatingly appointed him to the entire management of the Deanston works.

In 1812 the Dalkeith Farmers’ Club offered a premium of £500 for an effective reaping machine. This led Mr. Smith to turn his mind to the construction of one; but, from some cause or other, the machine he produced did not succeed. The committee, however, were so much pleased with the ingenuity of his invention that they encouraged him to bring forward, during the next session, a machine, for the same object, on the same principle. He complied with their wishes, but, in the course of trial, an accident happened to the implement, which again prevented the committee from awarding to him the premium. For this ingenious invention he received from the same club a superb piece of plate, valued at fifty guineas; from the Highland Society of Scotland, another piece of plate; from the Gargunnock Farmers’ Club, in his own neighbourhood, a pair of silver cups, and from the Imperial Agricultural Society of St. Petersburg, a massive gold medal, transmitted through the Russian ambassador at the British court. At the time these numerous presentations were made to him Mr. Smith was only twenty-four years of age.

Previous to 1823, he had been successful in many of his experiments upon his uncle’s farm; but he never could get Mr. Buchanan to adopt his theory on the proper cultivation of the soil, to its full extent. In the year mentioned, however, he got into his own possession the Deanston farm, comprising upwards of 200 acres, then in a miserable state of culture, and he then commenced his celebrated thorough drainage and deep-working operations, which ended in its complete reclamation.

In 1831 a small publication of his, on ‘Thorough Draining and Deep Ploughing,’ attracted considerable attention among the agriculturists of the surrounding districts; but it was not till the great agricultural distress of 1834, that the merits of this pamphlet became more extensively acknowledged. In 1843 appeared the 6th edition, extracted from the third Report of Drummond’s Agricultural Museum, Stirling.

In 1848, Mr. Smith was, by the government of Sir Robert Peel, appointed one of the commissioners to inquire into, and report upon, the sanitary condition of the manufacturing towns and different districts of England, and in that capacity he propounded his great plan for economizing sewerage manure. After a most determined and protracted opposition on the part of rival interests, he and his friends succeeded in obtaining the consent of the legislature to his scheme for this purpose. By his invention of the system of deep draining, and the introduction of the application of sewerage manure, Mr. Smith earned a title to be considered one of those benefactors of the human race by whom the sources of reproductive industry have been multiplied through science.

In political economy Mr. Smith was a thorough believer in the views taken by his celebrated namesake, Adam Smith. He was a member of the Glasgow Philosophical Society, and to its ‘Transactions’ he contributed several important scientific papers. In connection with the Royal Agricultural Improvement Society of Ireland he rendered many valuable services to that country, and he was justly considered by that useful association one of its most distinguished members.

Mr. Smith died suddenly on the morning of 10th June 1850, at Kingencluech, near Mauchline, Ayrshire, the residence of a cousin of his, where he was staying on a temporary visit. He was never married. At the period of his death he was engaged in bringing into use a particular kind of sheep dip composition.

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