When The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, this was recognized as another work by the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a work that Smith extended and revised through six editions until the year he died, in 1790. Smith had in 1776 refrained from elaborating arguments that he had already made in 1759, and this was likely well understood by his contemporaries. But by the later 1790s The Theory of Moral Sentiments was no longer so widely read and was becoming regarded as dated in its approach. Smith had located the nature and causes of the wealth of nations in human attributes and prudent policy; detached from the context provided by The Theory of Moral Sentiments, The Wealth of Nations was now treated as a repository of economic principles that required criticism and correction. It was quickly converted into the founding text of a new political economy, exemplified by the French translation by Garnier (1802), Jean-Baptiste Say's Traité (1803), and of course David Ricardo's Principles (1817). Political economists of the early nineteenth century disregarded most of those features of The Wealth of Nations that have since the later 1970s been reemphasized by new scholarship; that the Glasgow edition began publication for the 1976 bicentenary of The Wealth of Nations was at the time thought only fitting for a writer then treated as the property of economists. But by comparing Ricardo's Principles with Smith's Wealth of Nations we can better understand that this foreshortened appreciation of Adam Smith's work has a longer history than usually thought.

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