In the introduction to his collected Papers Relating to Adam Smith, Andrew Skinner has elegantly summarized the relation between the various major parts of Smith’s intellectual project as a whole, taking his bearings from an important 1790 statement of Smith himself – in a prefatory note to the sixth edition of TMS, which appeared shortly before his death. Smith writes:
In the last paragraph of the first Edition of the present work, I said, that I should in another discourse endeavour to give an account of the general principles of law and government, and of the different revolutions which they had undergone in the different ages and periods of society; not only in what concerns justice, but in what concerns police, revenue, and arms, and whatever else is the object of law. In the Enquiry concerning the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, I have partly executed this promise; at least so far as concerns police, revenue, and arms. What remains, the theory of jurisprudence, which I have long projected, I have hitherto been hindered from executing, by the same occupations which had till now prevented me from revising the present work.1 Though my very advanced age leaves me, I acknowledge, very little expectation of ever being able to execute this great work to my own satisfaction; yet, as I have not altogether abandoned the design, and as I wish still to continue under the obligation of doing what I can, I have allowed the paragraph to remain as it was published more than
thirty years ago, when I entertained no doubt of being able to execute every thing which it announced.