In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interests of his country he is altogether incapable of judging, and unless very particular pains have been taken to render him otherwise, he is equally incapable of defending his country in war. The uniformity of his stationary life naturally corrupts the courage of his mind, and makes him regard with abhorrence the irregular, uncertain, and adventurous life of a soldier. It corrupts even the activity of his body, and renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance in any other employment than that to which he has been bred. His dexterity at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at the expence of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues. But in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.
Notice the rationale for government intervention here: this has nothing to do with correcting a market failure, nothing to do with efficiency; the argument is that the great body of the people produced by a commercial society with a refined division of labor would otherwise be, as he goes on to say, "deformed in an essential part of their humanity." And this is most emphatically not education as "human capital." Tellingly, when I ask my history of economic thought students to write about Smith on the Division of labor, after we have looked at the first three chapters and the passage from which the quote above is lifted, and I ask were they any qualifications Smith made to his enthusiasm for the DOL in the opening chapters, students will cite this passage and say that here Smith is saying that The DOL may in fact make people stupid and so less productive after all!!! Obviously they have completely misread this passage. Why? They have already been so indoctrinated by their study of economics that they cannot think about what Smith thought was crucial - the way in which economic institutions shape character and preferences, for ill (as in this passage) or for good (there is lots in Smith of course about the way markets promote the virtue of prudence, eg). The further implication that one cannot evaluate economic institutions without evaluating the preference they promote or hinder is again simply unthinkable for someone who has received the standard education in economics, where the idea of evaluating preferences is a veritable contradiction in terms - since the efficient satisfaction of exogenous preferences is the sole evaluative criterion countenanced, and anyone who thinks otherwise is committing the grave sin of paternalism.