A nation of shopkeepers
Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, 1776, wrote:
"To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers, may at first sight, appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers, but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers. "
'The English are a nation of shopkeepers' - Adam Smith or Napoleon?
Napoleon I, who was familiar with Smith's work, is reported as later using a French version to dismiss England's preparedness for war against France:
"L'Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers."
Josiah Tucker, the Dean of Gloucester, preceded them both in 1766, although not with the precise text of the currently-used version of the phrase:
"And what is true of a shopkeeper is true of a shopkeeping nation."