Friday, February 23, 2007

A Small Correction of Fact

‘Would you Adam and Eve it?’ by John Thorpe, MBE, appeared in the ‘Yorkshire Evening Post’ (Leeds) yesterday. It’s about the new £20 note issued by the Bank of England, of which there is much being said in the press just now, and like the Cockney riming-slang headline (it means ‘would you believe it’), it is full of little ‘jokes’ (‘come on on, it’s a living’). It also includes a common enough error about Smith’s history:

His abilities apparently caught the eye of the Duke of Buccleuch who engaged him as tutor to his son on his Grand Tour of Europe where Smith met other eminent thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Franklin.”

No, John Thorpe. Smith’s abilities caught the eye of Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had married the Duke’s widow, and whose young step-son (not his son), the Duke of Buccleuch’, was at Eton. Charles Townshend wanted Smith to tutor the young Duke, and eventually acquired Smith's services as a tutor for a life pension of £300 a year in 1764.

Charles Townshend MP was a leading figure in the government at the time and is credited with single-handedly causing the American rebellion with the imposition of the tea tax, which provoked a fancy dress tea party at Boston.

Would you Adam and Eve it? A modest tax on tea imposed by his Chancellor, whom David Hume described as ‘passes for the cleverest fellow in England’, losing the King the British Empire (version 1.0). Wasn’t too clever just then, was he?

[Read John Thorpe’s piece at:§ionid=1775]


Post a Comment

<< Home