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´╗┐Title: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
Author: Hume, David, 1711-1776
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals" ***


By David Hume

A 1912 Reprint Of The Edition Of 1777

Information About This E-Text Edition

The following is an e-text of a 1912 reprint of the 1777 edition of
David Hume's An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Each page
was cut out of the original book with an X-acto knife and fed into an
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book was disbinded in order to save it.

Some adaptations from the original text were made while formatting it
for an e-text. Italics in the original book are capitalized in
this e-text. The original spellings of words are preserved, such as
"connexion" for "connection," "labour" for "labor," etc. Original
footnotes are put in brackets "[]" at the points where they are cited in
the text.




Most of the principles, and reasonings, contained in this volume,

    [Footnote: Volume II. of the posthumous edition of Hume's works
published in 1777 and containing, besides the present ENQUIRY,
UNDERSTANDING. A reprint of this latter treatise has already appeared in
The Religion of Science Library (NO. 45)]

were published in a work in three volumes, called A TREATISE OF HUMAN
NATURE: A work which the Author had projected before he left College,
and which he wrote and published not long after. But not finding it
successful, he was sensible of his error in going to the press too
early, and he cast the whole anew in the following pieces, where some
negligences in his former reasoning and more in the expression, are,
he hopes, corrected. Yet several writers who have honoured the Author's
Philosophy with answers, have taken care to direct all their batteries
against that juvenile work, which the author never acknowledged, and
have affected to triumph in any advantages, which, they imagined, they
had obtained over it: A practice very contrary to all rules of candour
and fair-dealing, and a strong instance of those polemical artifices
which a bigotted zeal thinks itself authorized to employ. Henceforth,
the Author desires, that the following Pieces may alone be regarded as
containing his philosophical sentiments and principles.


      I.    Of the General Principles of Morals
      II.   Of Benevolence
      III.  Of Justice
      IV.   Of Political Society
      V.    Why Utility Pleases
      VI.   Of Qualities Useful to Ourselves
      VII.  Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Ourselves
      VIII. Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others
      IX.   Conclusion


      I.   Concerning Moral Sentiment
      II.  Of Self-love
      III. Some Farther Considerations with Regard to Justice
      IV.  Of Some Verbal Disputes



DISPUTES with men, pertinaciously obstinate in their principles, are,
of all others, the most irksome; except, perhaps, those with persons,
entirely disingenuous, who really do not believe the opinions they
defend, but engage in the controversy, from affectation, from a spirit
of opposition, or from a desire of showing wit and ingenuity, superior
to the rest of mankind. The same blind adherence to their own arguments
is to be expected in both; the same contempt of their antagonists; and
the same passionate vehemence, in inforcing sophistry and falsehood.
And as reasoning is not the source, whence either disputant derives his
tenets; it is in vain to expect, that any logic, which speaks not to the
affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder principles.

Those who have denied the reality of moral distinctions, may be ranked
among the disingenuous disputants; nor is it conceivable, that any human
creature could ever seriously believe, that all characters and actions
were alike entitled to the affection and regard of everyone. The
difference, which nature has placed between one man and another, is
so wide, and this difference is still so much farther widened, by
education, example, and habit, that, where the opposite extremes come at
once under our apprehension, there is no scepticism so scrupulous,
and scarce any assurance so determined, as absolutely to deny all
distinction between them. Let a man's insensibility be ever so great,
he must often be touched with the images of Right and Wrong; and let
his prejudices be ever so obstinate, he must observe, that others are
susceptible of like impressions. The only way, therefore, of converting
an antagonist of this kind, is to leave him to himself. For, finding
that nobody keeps up the controversy with him, it is probable he will,
at last, of himself, from mere weariness, come over to the side of
common sense and reason.

There has been a controversy started of late, much better worth
examination, concerning the general foundation of Morals; whether
they be derived from Reason, or from Sentiment; whether we attain
the knowledge of them by a chain of argument and induction, or by an
immediate feeling and finer internal sense; whether, like all sound
judgement of truth and falsehood, they should be the same to every
rational intelligent being; or whether, like the perception of beauty
and deformity, they be founded entirely on the particular fabric and
constitution of the human species.

The ancient philosophers, though they often affirm, that virtue is
nothing but conformity to reason, yet, in general, seem to consider
morals as deriving their existence from taste and sentiment. On the
other hand, our modern enquirers, though they also talk much of the
beauty of virtue, and deformity of vice, yet have commonly endeavoured
to account for these distinctions by metaphysical reasonings, and by
deductions from the most abstract principles of the understanding. Such
confusion reigned in these subjects, that an opposition of the greatest
consequence could prevail between one system and another, and even in
the parts of almost each individual system; and yet nobody, till very
lately, was ever sensible of it. The elegant Lord Shaftesbury, who first
gave occasion to remark this distinction, and who, in general, adhered
to the principles of the ancients, is not, himself, entirely free from
the same confusion.

It must be acknowledged, that both sides of the question are susceptible
of specious arguments. Moral distinctions, it may be said, are
discernible by pure reason: else, whence the many disputes that reign in
common life, as well as in philosophy, with regard to this subject: the
long chain of proofs often produced on both sides; the examples cited,
the authorities appealed to, the analogies employed, the fallacies
detected, the inferences drawn, and the several conclusions adjusted to
their proper principles. Truth is disputable; not taste: what exists
in the nature of things is the standard of our judgement; what each
man feels within himself is the standard of sentiment. Propositions in
geometry may be proved, systems in physics may be controverted; but the
harmony of verse, the tenderness of passion, the brilliancy of wit, must
give immediate pleasure. No man reasons concerning another's beauty; but
frequently concerning the justice or injustice of his actions. In every
criminal trial the first object of the prisoner is to disprove the facts
alleged, and deny the actions imputed to him: the second to prove, that,
even if these actions were real, they might be justified, as innocent
and lawful. It is confessedly by deductions of the understanding, that
the first point is ascertained: how can we suppose that a different
faculty of the mind is employed in fixing the other? On the other hand,
those who would resolve all moral determinations into sentiment,
may endeavour to show, that it is impossible for reason ever to draw
conclusions of this nature. To virtue, say they, it belongs to be
amiable, and vice odious. This forms their very nature or essence. But
can reason or argumentation distribute these different epithets to any
subjects, and pronounce beforehand, that this must produce love,
and that hatred? Or what other reason can we ever assign for these
affections, but the original fabric and formation of the human mind,
which is naturally adapted to receive them?

The end of all moral speculations is to teach us our duty; and, by
proper representations of the deformity of vice and beauty of virtue,
beget correspondent habits, and engage us to avoid the one, and
embrace the other. But is this ever to be expected from inferences and
conclusions of the understanding, which of themselves have no hold of
the affections or set in motion the active powers of men? They discover
truths: but where the truths which they discover are indifferent, and
beget no desire or aversion, they can have no influence on conduct and
behaviour. What is honourable, what is fair, what is becoming, what is
noble, what is generous, takes possession of the heart, and animates us
to embrace and maintain it. What is intelligible, what is evident,
what is probable, what is true, procures only the cool assent of the
understanding; and gratifying a speculative curiosity, puts an end to
our researches.

Extinguish all the warm feelings and prepossessions in favour of virtue,
and all disgust or aversion to vice: render men totally indifferent
towards these distinctions; and morality is no longer a practical study,
nor has any tendency to regulate our lives and actions.

These arguments on each side (and many more might be produced) are so
plausible, that I am apt to suspect, they may, the one as well as the
other, be solid and satisfactory, and that reason and sentiment concur
in almost all moral determinations and conclusions. The final sentence,
it is probable, which pronounces characters and actions amiable or
odious, praise-worthy or blameable; that which stamps on them the mark
of honour or infamy, approbation or censure; that which renders morality
an active principle and constitutes virtue our happiness, and vice our
misery; it is probable, I say, that this final sentence depends on some
internal sense or feeling, which nature has made universal in the whole
species. For what else can have an influence of this nature? But
in order to pave the way for such a sentiment, and give a proper
discernment of its object, it is often necessary, we find, that
much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions be made, just
conclusions drawn, distant comparisons formed, complicated relations
examined, and general facts fixed and ascertained. Some species of
beauty, especially the natural kinds, on their first appearance, command
our affection and approbation; and where they fail of this effect, it is
impossible for any reasoning to redress their influence, or adapt
them better to our taste and sentiment. But in many orders of beauty,
particularly those of the finer arts, it is requisite to employ much
reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment; and a false relish
may frequently be corrected by argument and reflection. There are just
grounds to conclude, that moral beauty partakes much of this latter
species, and demands the assistance of our intellectual faculties, in
order to give it a suitable influence on the human mind.

But though this question, concerning the general principles of morals,
be curious and important, it is needless for us, at present, to employ
farther care in our researches concerning it. For if we can be so happy,
in the course of this enquiry, as to discover the true origin of morals,
it will then easily appear how far either sentiment or reason enters
into all determinations of this nature [Footnote: See Appendix I]. In
order to attain this purpose, we shall endeavour to follow a very simple
method: we shall analyse that complication of mental qualities, which
form what, in common life, we call Personal Merit: we shall consider
every attribute of the mind, which renders a man an object either
of esteem and affection, or of hatred and contempt; every habit or
sentiment or faculty, which, if ascribed to any person, implies either
praise or blame, and may enter into any panegyric or satire of his
character and manners. The quick sensibility, which, on this head, is so
universal among mankind, gives a philosopher sufficient assurance, that
he can never be considerably mistaken in framing the catalogue, or incur
any danger of misplacing the objects of his contemplation: he needs only
enter into his own breast for a moment, and consider whether or not he
should desire to have this or that quality ascribed to him, and whether
such or such an imputation would proceed from a friend or an enemy.
The very nature of language guides us almost infallibly in forming a
judgement of this nature; and as every tongue possesses one set of words
which are taken in a good sense, and another in the opposite, the least
acquaintance with the idiom suffices, without any reasoning, to direct
us in collecting and arranging the estimable or blameable qualities of
men. The only object of reasoning is to discover the circumstances
on both sides, which are common to these qualities; to observe that
particular in which the estimable qualities agree on the one hand,
and the blameable on the other; and thence to reach the foundation of
ethics, and find those universal principles, from which all censure or
approbation is ultimately derived. As this is a question of fact, not
of abstract science, we can only expect success, by following the
experimental method, and deducing general maxims from a comparison
of particular instances. The other scientific method, where a general
abstract principle is first established, and is afterwards branched out
into a variety of inferences and conclusions, may be more perfect in
itself, but suits less the imperfection of human nature, and is a common
source of illusion and mistake in this as well as in other subjects.
Men are now cured of their passion for hypotheses and systems in natural
philosophy, and will hearken to no arguments but those which are derived
from experience. It is full time they should attempt a like reformation
in all moral disquisitions; and reject every system of ethics, however
subtle or ingenious, which is not founded on fact and observation.

We shall begin our enquiry on this head by the consideration of the
social virtues, Benevolence and Justice. The explication of them will
probably give us an opening by which the others may be accounted for.



It may be esteemed, perhaps, a superfluous task to prove, that the
benevolent or softer affections are estimable; and wherever they appear,
engage the approbation and good-will of mankind. The epithets
BENEFICENT, or their equivalents, are known in all languages, and
universally express the highest merit, which HUMAN NATURE is capable
of attaining. Where these amiable qualities are attended with birth
and power and eminent abilities, and display themselves in the good
government or useful instruction of mankind, they seem even to raise
the possessors of them above the rank of HUMAN NATURE, and make them
approach in some measure to the divine. Exalted capacity, undaunted
courage, prosperous success; these may only expose a hero or politician
to the envy and ill-will of the public: but as soon as the praises are
added of humane and beneficent; when instances are displayed of lenity,
tenderness or friendship; envy itself is silent, or joins the general
voice of approbation and applause.

When Pericles, the great Athenian statesman and general, was on his
death-bed, his surrounding friends, deeming him now insensible, began to
indulge their sorrow for their expiring patron, by enumerating his great
qualities and successes, his conquests and victories, the unusual length
of his administration, and his nine trophies erected over the enemies of
the republic. YOU FORGET, cries the dying hero, who had heard all, YOU
[Plut. in Pericle]

In men of more ordinary talents and capacity, the social virtues become,
if possible, still more essentially requisite; there being nothing
eminent, in that case, to compensate for the want of them, or preserve
the person from our severest hatred, as well as contempt. A high
ambition, an elevated courage, is apt, says Cicero, in less perfect
characters, to degenerate into a turbulent ferocity. The more social and
softer virtues are there chiefly to be regarded. These are always good
and amiable [Cic. de Officiis, lib. I].

The principal advantage, which Juvenal discovers in the extensive
capacity of the human species, is that it renders our benevolence also
more extensive, and gives us larger opportunities of spreading our
kindly influence than what are indulged to the inferior creation [Sat.
XV. 139 and seq.]. It must, indeed, be confessed, that by doing good
only, can a man truly enjoy the advantages of being eminent. His exalted
station, of itself but the more exposes him to danger and tempest.
His sole prerogative is to afford shelter to inferiors, who repose
themselves under his cover and protection.

But I forget, that it is not my present business to recommend generosity
and benevolence, or to paint, in their true colours, all the genuine
charms of the social virtues. These, indeed, sufficiently engage every
heart, on the first apprehension of them; and it is difficult to abstain
from some sally of panegyric, as often as they occur in discourse or
reasoning. But our object here being more the speculative, than the
practical part of morals, it will suffice to remark, (what will readily,
I believe, be allowed) that no qualities are more intitled to the
general good-will and approbation of mankind than beneficence and
humanity, friendship and gratitude, natural affection and public spirit,
or whatever proceeds from a tender sympathy with others, and a generous
concern for our kind and species. These wherever they appear seem to
transfuse themselves, in a manner, into each beholder, and to call
forth, in their own behalf, the same favourable and affectionate
sentiments, which they exert on all around.


We may observe that, in displaying the praises of any humane, beneficent
man, there is one circumstance which never fails to be amply insisted
on, namely, the happiness and satisfaction, derived to society from
his intercourse and good offices. To his parents, we are apt to say, he
endears himself by his pious attachment and duteous care still more than
by the connexions of nature. His children never feel his authority,
but when employed for their advantage. With him, the ties of love are
consolidated by beneficence and friendship. The ties of friendship
approach, in a fond observance of each obliging office, to those of
love and inclination. His domestics and dependants have in him a sure
resource; and no longer dread the power of fortune, but so far as she
exercises it over him. From him the hungry receive food, the naked
clothing, the ignorant and slothful skill and industry. Like the sun, an
inferior minister of providence he cheers, invigorates, and sustains the
surrounding world.

If confined to private life, the sphere of his activity is narrower;
but his influence is all benign and gentle. If exalted into a higher
station, mankind and posterity reap the fruit of his labours.

As these topics of praise never fail to be employed, and with success,
where we would inspire esteem for any one; may it not thence be
concluded, that the utility, resulting from the social virtues, forms,
at least, a PART of their merit, and is one source of that approbation
and regard so universally paid to them?

When we recommend even an animal or a plant as USEFUL and BENEFICIAL, we
give it an applause and recommendation suited to its nature. As, on the
other hand, reflection on the baneful influence of any of these inferior
beings always inspires us with the sentiment of aversion. The eye is
pleased with the prospect of corn-fields and loaded vine-yards;
horses grazing, and flocks pasturing: but flies the view of briars and
brambles, affording shelter to wolves and serpents.

A machine, a piece of furniture, a vestment, a house well contrived
for use and conveniency, is so far beautiful, and is contemplated with
pleasure and approbation. An experienced eye is here sensible to many
excellencies, which escape persons ignorant and uninstructed.

Can anything stronger be said in praise of a profession, such as
merchandize or manufacture, than to observe the advantages which it
procures to society; and is not a monk and inquisitor enraged when we
treat his order as useless or pernicious to mankind?

The historian exults in displaying the benefit arising from his labours.
The writer of romance alleviates or denies the bad consequences ascribed
to his manner of composition.

In general, what praise is implied in the simple epithet USEFUL! What
reproach in the contrary!

Your Gods, says Cicero [De Nat. Deor. lib. i.], in opposition to the
Epicureans, cannot justly claim any worship or adoration, with whatever
imaginary perfections you may suppose them endowed. They are totally
useless and inactive. Even the Egyptians, whom you so much ridicule,
never consecrated any animal but on account of its utility.

The sceptics assert [Sext. Emp. adrersus Math. lib. viii.], though
absurdly, that the origin of all religious worship was derived from the
utility of inanimate objects, as the sun and moon, to the support
and well-being of mankind. This is also the common reason assigned by
historians, for the deification of eminent heroes and legislators [Diod.
Sic. passim.].

To plant a tree, to cultivate a field, to beget children; meritorious
acts, according to the religion of Zoroaster.

In all determinations of morality, this circumstance of public utility
is ever principally in view; and wherever disputes arise, either in
philosophy or common life, concerning the bounds of duty, the question
cannot, by any means, be decided with greater certainty, than by
ascertaining, on any side, the true interests of mankind. If any false
opinion, embraced from appearances, has been found to prevail; as soon
as farther experience and sounder reasoning have given us juster notions
of human affairs, we retract our first sentiment, and adjust anew the
boundaries of moral good and evil.

Giving alms to common beggars is naturally praised; because it seems
to carry relief to the distressed and indigent: but when we observe the
encouragement thence arising to idleness and debauchery, we regard that
species of charity rather as a weakness than a virtue.

Tyrannicide, or the assassination of usurpers and oppressive princes,
was highly extolled in ancient times; because it both freed mankind from
many of these monsters, and seemed to keep the others in awe, whom the
sword or poinard could not reach. But history and experience having
since convinced us, that this practice increases the jealousy and
cruelty of princes, a Timoleon and a Brutus, though treated with
indulgence on account of the prejudices of their times, are now
considered as very improper models for imitation.

Liberality in princes is regarded as a mark of beneficence, but when
it occurs, that the homely bread of the honest and industrious is often
thereby converted into delicious cates for the idle and the prodigal, we
soon retract our heedless praises. The regrets of a prince, for having
lost a day, were noble and generous: but had he intended to have spent
it in acts of generosity to his greedy courtiers, it was better lost
than misemployed after that manner.

Luxury, or a refinement on the pleasures and conveniences of life, had
not long been supposed the source of every corruption in government, and
the immediate cause of faction, sedition, civil wars, and the total loss
of liberty. It was, therefore, universally regarded as a vice, and was
an object of declamation to all satirists, and severe moralists. Those,
who prove, or attempt to prove, that such refinements rather tend to the
increase of industry, civility, and arts regulate anew our MORAL as well
as POLITICAL sentiments, and represent, as laudable or innocent, what
had formerly been regarded as pernicious and blameable.

Upon the whole, then, it seems undeniable, THAT nothing can bestow more
merit on any human creature than the sentiment of benevolence in an
eminent degree; and THAT a PART, at least, of its merit arises from its
tendency to promote the interests of our species, and bestow happiness
on human society. We carry our view into the salutary consequences
of such a character and disposition; and whatever has so benign an
influence, and forwards so desirable an end, is beheld with complacency
and pleasure. The social virtues are never regarded without their
beneficial tendencies, nor viewed as barren and unfruitful. The
happiness of mankind, the order of society, the harmony of families, the
mutual support of friends, are always considered as the result of their
gentle dominion over the breasts of men.

How considerable a PART of their merit we ought to ascribe to their
utility, will better appear from future disquisitions; [Footnote: Sect.
III. and IV.] as well as the reason, why this circumstance has such a
command over our esteem and approbation. [Footnote: Sect. V.]



THAT Justice is useful to society, and consequently that PART of its
merit, at least, must arise from that consideration, it would be a
superfluous undertaking to prove. That public utility is the SOLE origin
of justice, and that reflections on the beneficial consequences of this
virtue are the SOLE foundation of its merit; this proposition, being
more curious and important, will better deserve our examination and

Let us suppose that nature has bestowed on the human race such profuse
ABUNDANCE of all EXTERNAL conveniencies, that, without any uncertainty
in the event, without any care or industry on our part, every individual
finds himself fully provided with whatever his most voracious appetites
can want, or luxurious imagination wish or desire. His natural beauty,
we shall suppose, surpasses all acquired ornaments: the perpetual
clemency of the seasons renders useless all clothes or covering: the
raw herbage affords him the most delicious fare; the clear fountain,
the richest beverage. No laborious occupation required: no tillage: no
navigation. Music, poetry, and contemplation form his sole business:
conversation, mirth, and friendship his sole amusement. It seems evident
that, in such a happy state, every other social virtue would flourish,
and receive tenfold increase; but the cautious, jealous virtue of
justice would never once have been dreamed of. For what purpose make a
partition of goods, where every one has already more than enough? Why
give rise to property, where there cannot possibly be any injury? Why
call this object MINE, when upon the seizing of it by another, I need
but stretch out my hand to possess myself to what is equally valuable?
Justice, in that case, being totally useless, would be an idle
ceremonial, and could never possibly have place in the catalogue of

We see, even in the present necessitous condition of mankind, that,
wherever any benefit is bestowed by nature in an unlimited abundance,
we leave it always in common among the whole human race, and make no
subdivisions of right and property. Water and air, though the most
necessary of all objects, are not challenged as the property of
individuals; nor can any man commit injustice by the most lavish use and
enjoyment of these blessings. In fertile extensive countries, with few
inhabitants, land is regarded on the same footing. And no topic is so
much insisted on by those, who defend the liberty of the seas, as the
unexhausted use of them in navigation. Were the advantages, procured
by navigation, as inexhaustible, these reasoners had never had any
adversaries to refute; nor had any claims ever been advanced of a
separate, exclusive dominion over the ocean.

It may happen, in some countries, at some periods, that there be
established a property in water, none in land [Footnote: Genesis, chaps.
xiii. and xxi.]; if the latter be in greater abundance than can be used
by the inhabitants, and the former be found, with difficulty, and in
very small quantities.

Again; suppose, that, though the necessities of human race continue the
same as at present, yet the mind is so enlarged, and so replete with
friendship and generosity, that every man has the utmost tenderness for
every man, and feels no more concern for his own interest than for that
of his fellows; it seems evident, that the use of justice would, in
this case, be suspended by such an extensive benevolence, nor would the
divisions and barriers of property and obligation have ever been thought
of. Why should I bind another, by a deed or promise, to do me any
good office, when I know that he is already prompted, by the strongest
inclination, to seek my happiness, and would, of himself, perform the
desired service; except the hurt, he thereby receives, be greater than
the benefit accruing to me? in which case, he knows, that, from my
innate humanity and friendship, I should be the first to oppose myself
to his imprudent generosity. Why raise landmarks between my neighbour's
field and mine, when my heart has made no division between our
interests; but shares all his joys and sorrows with the same force and
vivacity as if originally my own? Every man, upon this supposition,
being a second self to another, would trust all his interests to the
discretion of every man; without jealousy, without partition, without
distinction. And the whole human race would form only one family; where
all would lie in common, and be used freely, without regard to property;
but cautiously too, with as entire regard to the necessities of each
individual, as if our own interests were most intimately concerned.

In the present disposition of the human heart, it would, perhaps, be
difficult to find complete instances of such enlarged affections; but
still we may observe, that the case of families approaches towards it;
and the stronger the mutual benevolence is among the individuals, the
nearer it approaches; till all distinction of property be, in a great
measure, lost and confounded among them. Between married persons, the
cement of friendship is by the laws supposed so strong as to abolish all
division of possessions; and has often, in reality, the force ascribed
to it. And it is observable, that, during the ardour of new enthusiasms,
when every principle is inflamed into extravagance, the community of
goods has frequently been attempted; and nothing but experience of its
inconveniencies, from the returning or disguised selfishness of men,
could make the imprudent fanatics adopt anew the ideas of justice and of
separate property. So true is it, that this virtue derives its existence
entirely from its necessary USE to the intercourse and social state of

To make this truth more evident, let us reverse the foregoing
suppositions; and carrying everything to the opposite extreme, consider
what would be the effect of these new situations. Suppose a society to
fall into such want of all common necessaries, that the utmost frugality
and industry cannot preserve the greater number from perishing, and the
whole from extreme misery; it will readily, I believe, be admitted, that
the strict laws of justice are suspended, in such a pressing
emergence, and give place to the stronger motives of necessity and
self-preservation. Is it any crime, after a shipwreck, to seize whatever
means or instrument of safety one can lay hold of, without regard to
former limitations of property? Or if a city besieged were perishing
with hunger; can we imagine, that men will see any means of preservation
before them, and lose their lives, from a scrupulous regard to what, in
other situations, would be the rules of equity and justice? The use
and tendency of that virtue is to procure happiness and security, by
preserving order in society: but where the society is ready to perish
from extreme necessity, no greater evil can be dreaded from violence and
injustice; and every man may now provide for himself by all the means,
which prudence can dictate, or humanity permit. The public, even in less
urgent necessities, opens granaries, without the consent of proprietors;
as justly supposing, that the authority of magistracy may, consistent
with equity, extend so far: but were any number of men to assemble,
without the tie of laws or civil jurisdiction; would an equal partition
of bread in a famine, though effected by power and even violence, be
regarded as criminal or injurious?

Suppose likewise, that it should be a virtuous man's fate to fall
into the society of ruffians, remote from the protection of laws and
government; what conduct must he embrace in that melancholy situation?
He sees such a desperate rapaciousness prevail; such a disregard
to equity, such contempt of order, such stupid blindness to future
consequences, as must immediately have the most tragical conclusion,
and must terminate in destruction to the greater number, and in a total
dissolution of society to the rest. He, meanwhile, can have no other
expedient than to arm himself, to whomever the sword he seizes, or
the buckler, may belong: To make provision of all means of defence and
security: And his particular regard to justice being no longer of use
to his own safety or that of others, he must consult the dictates of
self-preservation alone, without concern for those who no longer merit
his care and attention.

When any man, even in political society, renders himself by his crimes,
obnoxious to the public, he is punished by the laws in his goods and
person; that is, the ordinary rules of justice are, with regard to him,
suspended for a moment, and it becomes equitable to inflict on him, for
the BENEFIT of society, what otherwise he could not suffer without wrong
or injury.

The rage and violence of public war; what is it but a suspension of
justice among the warring parties, who perceive, that this virtue is now
no longer of any USE or advantage to them? The laws of war, which then
succeed to those of equity and justice, are rules calculated for the
ADVANTAGE and UTILITY of that particular state, in which men are
now placed. And were a civilized nation engaged with barbarians, who
observed no rules even of war, the former must also suspend their
observance of them, where they no longer serve to any purpose; and must
render every action or recounter as bloody and pernicious as possible to
the first aggressors.

Thus, the rules of equity or justice depend entirely on the particular
state and condition in which men are placed, and owe their origin and
existence to that utility, which results to the public from their strict
and regular observance. Reverse, in any considerable circumstance,
the condition of men: Produce extreme abundance or extreme necessity:
Implant in the human breast perfect moderation and humanity, or perfect
rapaciousness and malice: By rendering justice totally USELESS, you
thereby totally destroy its essence, and suspend its obligation upon
mankind. The common situation of society is a medium amidst all these
extremes. We are naturally partial to ourselves, and to our friends; but
are capable of learning the advantage resulting from a more equitable
conduct. Few enjoyments are given us from the open and liberal hand of
nature; but by art, labour, and industry, we can extract them in great
abundance. Hence the ideas of property become necessary in all civil
society: Hence justice derives its usefulness to the public: And hence
alone arises its merit and moral obligation.

These conclusions are so natural and obvious, that they have not escaped
even the poets, in their descriptions of the felicity attending the
golden age or the reign of Saturn. The seasons, in that first period of
nature, were so temperate, if we credit these agreeable fictions, that
there was no necessity for men to provide themselves with clothes and
houses, as a security against the violence of heat and cold: The
rivers flowed with wine and milk: The oaks yielded honey; and nature
spontaneously produced her greatest delicacies. Nor were these the
chief advantages of that happy age. Tempests were not alone removed from
nature; but those more furious tempests were unknown to human breasts,
which now cause such uproar, and engender such confusion. Avarice,
ambition, cruelty, selfishness, were never heard of: Cordial affection,
compassion, sympathy, were the only movements with which the mind was
yet acquainted. Even the punctilious distinction of MINE and THINE was
banished from among the happy race of mortals, and carried with it the
very notion of property and obligation, justice and injustice.

This POETICAL fiction of the GOLDEN AGE, is in some respects, of a piece
with the PHILOSOPHICAL fiction of the STATE OF NATURE; only that the
former is represented as the most charming and most peaceable condition,
which can possibly be imagined; whereas the latter is painted out as
a state of mutual war and violence, attended with the most extreme
necessity. On the first origin of mankind, we are told, their ignorance
and savage nature were so prevalent, that they could give no mutual
trust, but must each depend upon himself and his own force or cunning
for protection and security. No law was heard of: No rule of justice
known: No distinction of property regarded: Power was the only measure
of right; and a perpetual war of all against all was the result of men's
untamed selfishness and barbarity.

     [Footnote: This fiction of a state of nature, as a state of war,
was not first started by Mr. Hobbes, as is commonly imagined. Plato
endeavours to refute an hypothesis very like it in the second, third,
and fourth books de republica. Cicero, on the contrary, supposes it
certain and universally acknowledged in the following passage. 'Quis
enim vestrum, judices, ignorat, ita naturam rerum tulisse, ut quodam
tempore homines, nondum neque naturali neque civili jure descripto,
fusi per agros ac dispersi vagarentur tantumque haberent quantum manu ac
viribus, per caedem ac vulnera, aut eripere aut retinere potuissent?
Qui igitur primi virtute & consilio praestanti extiterunt, ii perspecto
genere humanae docilitatis atque ingenii, dissipatos unum in locum
congregarunt, eosque ex feritate illa ad justitiam ac mansuetudinem
transduxerunt. Tum res ad communem utilitatem, quas publicas appellamus,
tum conventicula hominum, quae postea civitates nominatae sunt, tum
domicilia conjuncta, quas urbes dicamus, invento & divino & humano jure
moenibus sepserunt. Atque inter hanc vitam, perpolitam humanitate, &
llam immanem, nihil tam interest quam JUS atque VIS. Horum utro uti
nolimus, altero est utendum. Vim volumus extingui. Jus valeat necesse
est, idi est, judicia, quibus omne jus continetur. Judicia displicent,
ant nulla sunt. Vis dominetur necesse est. Haec vident omnes.' Pro Sext.
sec. 42.]

Whether such a condition of human nature could ever exist, or if it
did, could continue so long as to merit the appellation of a STATE,
may justly be doubted. Men are necessarily born in a family-society, at
least; and are trained up by their parents to some rule of conduct and
behaviour. But this must be admitted, that, if such a state of mutual
war and violence was ever real, the suspension of all laws of
justice, from their absolute inutility, is a necessary and infallible

The more we vary our views of human life, and the newer and more unusual
the lights are in which we survey it, the more shall we be convinced,
that the origin here assigned for the virtue of justice is real and

Were there a species of creatures intermingled with men, which, though
rational, were possessed of such inferior strength, both of body and
mind, that they were incapable of all resistance, and could never, upon
the highest provocation, make us feel the effects of their resentment;
the necessary consequence, I think, is that we should be bound by the
laws of humanity to give gentle usage to these creatures, but should
not, properly speaking, lie under any restraint of justice with regard
to them, nor could they possess any right or property, exclusive of such
arbitrary lords. Our intercourse with them could not be called society,
which supposes a degree of equality; but absolute command on the one
side, and servile obedience on the other. Whatever we covet, they must
instantly resign: Our permission is the only tenure, by which they hold
their possessions: Our compassion and kindness the only check, by which
they curb our lawless will: And as no inconvenience ever results from
the exercise of a power, so firmly established in nature, the restraints
of justice and property, being totally USELESS, would never have place
in so unequal a confederacy.

This is plainly the situation of men, with regard to animals; and
how far these may be said to possess reason, I leave it to others to
determine. The great superiority of civilized Europeans above barbarous
Indians, tempted us to imagine ourselves on the same footing with regard
to them, and made us throw off all restraints of justice, and even of
humanity, in our treatment of them. In many nations, the female sex are
reduced to like slavery, and are rendered incapable of all property, in
opposition to their lordly masters. But though the males, when united,
have in all countries bodily force sufficient to maintain this severe
tyranny, yet such are the insinuation, address, and charms of their fair
companions, that women are commonly able to break the confederacy, and
share with the other sex in all the rights and privileges of society.

Were the human species so framed by nature as that each individual
possessed within himself every faculty, requisite both for his own
preservation and for the propagation of his kind: Were all society and
intercourse cut off between man and man, by the primary intention of the
supreme Creator: It seems evident, that so solitary a being would be
as much incapable of justice, as of social discourse and conversation.
Where mutual regards and forbearance serve to no manner of purpose,
they would never direct the conduct of any reasonable man. The headlong
course of the passions would be checked by no reflection on future
consequences. And as each man is here supposed to love himself alone,
and to depend only on himself and his own activity for safety and
happiness, he would, on every occasion, to the utmost of his power,
challenge the preference above every other being, to none of which he
is bound by any ties, either of nature or of interest. But suppose
the conjunction of the sexes to be established in nature, a family
immediately arises; and particular rules being found requisite for
its subsistence, these are immediately embraced; though without
comprehending the rest of mankind within their prescriptions. Suppose
that several families unite together into one society, which is totally
disjoined from all others, the rules, which preserve peace and order,
enlarge themselves to the utmost extent of that society; but becoming
then entirely useless, lose their force when carried one step farther.
But again suppose, that several distinct societies maintain a kind of
intercourse for mutual convenience and advantage, the boundaries of
justice still grow larger, in proportion to the largeness of men's
views, and the force of their mutual connexions. History, experience,
reason sufficiently instruct us in this natural progress of human
sentiments, and in the gradual enlargement of our regards to justice,
in proportion as we become acquainted with the extensive utility of that


If we examine the PARTICULAR laws, by which justice is directed,
and property determined; we shall still be presented with the same
conclusion. The good of mankind is the only object of all these laws
and regulations. Not only is it requisite, for the peace and interest
of society, that men's possessions should be separated; but the rules,
which we follow, in making the separation, are such as can best be
contrived to serve farther the interests of society.

We shall suppose that a creature, possessed of reason, but unacquainted
with human nature, deliberates with himself what rules of justice or
property would best promote public interest, and establish peace and
security among mankind: His most obvious thought would be, to assign the
largest possessions to the most extensive virtue, and give every one
the power of doing good, proportioned to his inclination. In a perfect
theocracy, where a being, infinitely intelligent, governs by particular
volitions, this rule would certainly have place, and might serve to the
wisest purposes: But were mankind to execute such a law; so great is
the uncertainty of merit, both from its natural obscurity, and from the
self-conceit of each individual, that no determinate rule of conduct
would ever result from it; and the total dissolution of society must
be the immediate consequence. Fanatics may suppose, THAT DOMINION IS
magistrate very justly puts these sublime theorists on the same footing
with common robbers, and teaches them by the severest discipline, that a
rule, which, in speculation, may seem the most advantageous to society,
may yet be found, in practice, totally pernicious and destructive.

That there were RELIGIOUS fanatics of this kind in England, during
the civil wars, we learn from history; though it is probable, that the
obvious TENDENCY of these principles excited such horror in mankind, as
soon obliged the dangerous enthusiasts to renounce, or at least conceal
their tenets. Perhaps the LEVELLERS, who claimed an equal distribution
of property, were a kind of POLITICAL fanatics, which arose from the
religious species, and more openly avowed their pretensions; as carrying
a more plausible appearance, of being practicable in themselves, as well
as useful to human society. It must, indeed, be confessed, that nature
is so liberal to mankind, that, were all her presents equally divided
among the species, and improved by art and industry, every individual
would enjoy all the necessaries, and even most of the comforts of life;
nor would ever be liable to any ills but such as might accidentally
arise from the sickly frame and constitution of his body. It must also
be confessed, that, wherever we depart from this equality, we rob the
poor of more satisfaction than we add to the rich, and that the slight
gratification of a frivolous vanity, in one individual, frequently costs
more than bread to many families, and even provinces. It may appear
withal, that the rule of equality, as it would be highly USEFUL, is not
altogether IMPRACTICABLE; but has taken place, at least in an imperfect
degree, in some republics; particularly that of Sparta; where it was
attended, it is said, with the most beneficial consequences. Not to
mention that the Agrarian laws, so frequently claimed in Rome, and
carried into execution in many Greek cities, proceeded, all of them,
from a general idea of the utility of this principle.

But historians, and even common sense, may inform us, that, however
specious these ideas of PERFECT equality may seem, they are really,
at bottom, IMPRACTICABLE; and were they not so, would be extremely
PERNICIOUS to human society. Render possessions ever so equal, men's
different degrees of art, care, and industry will immediately break that
equality. Or if you check these virtues, you reduce society to the most
extreme indigence; and instead of preventing want and beggary in a
few, render it unavoidable to the whole community. The most rigorous
inquisition too is requisite to watch every inequality on its first
appearance; and the most severe jurisdiction, to punish and redress it.
But besides, that so much authority must soon degenerate into tyranny,
and be exerted with great partialities; who can possibly be possessed
of it, in such a situation as is here supposed? Perfect equality
of possessions, destroying all subordination, weakens extremely the
authority of magistracy, and must reduce all power nearly to a level, as
well as property.

We may conclude, therefore, that, in order to establish laws for the
regulation of property, we must be acquainted with the nature and
situation of man; must reject appearances, which may be false, though
specious; and must search for those rules, which are, on the whole, most
USEFUL and BENEFICIAL. Vulgar sense and slight experience are sufficient
for this purpose; where men give not way to too selfish avidity, or too
extensive enthusiasm.

Who sees not, for instance, that whatever is produced or improved by a
man's art or industry ought, for ever, to be secured to him, in order to
give encouragement to such USEFUL habits and accomplishments? That the
property ought also to descend to children and relations, for the same
USEFUL purpose? That it may be alienated by consent, in order to beget
that commerce and intercourse, which is so BENEFICIAL to human society?
And that all contracts and promises ought carefully to be fulfilled,
in order to secure mutual trust and confidence, by which the general
INTEREST of mankind is so much promoted?

Examine the writers on the laws of nature; and you will always find,
that, whatever principles they set out with, they are sure to terminate
here at last, and to assign, as the ultimate reason for every rule which
they establish, the convenience and necessities of mankind. A concession
thus extorted, in opposition to systems, has more authority than if it
had been made in prosecution of them.

What other reason, indeed, could writers ever give, why this must be
MINE and that YOURS; since uninstructed nature surely never made any
such distinction? The objects which receive those appellations are, of
themselves, foreign to us; they are totally disjoined and separated
from us; and nothing but the general interests of society can form the

Sometimes the interests of society may require a rule of justice in
a particular case; but may not determine any particular rule, among
several, which are all equally beneficial. In that case, the slightest
analogies are laid hold of, in order to prevent that indifference and
ambiguity, which would be the source of perpetual dissension. Thus
possession alone, and first possession, is supposed to convey property,
where no body else has any preceding claim and pretension. Many of the
reasonings of lawyers are of this analogical nature, and depend on very
slight connexions of the imagination.

Does any one scruple, in extraordinary cases, to violate all regard to
the private property of individuals, and sacrifice to public interest
a distinction which had been established for the sake of that interest?
The safety of the people is the supreme law: All other particular laws
are subordinate to it, and dependent on it: And if, in the COMMON course
of things, they be followed and regarded; it is only because the
public safety and interest COMMONLY demand so equal and impartial an

Sometimes both UTILITY and ANALOGY fail, and leave the laws of justice
in total uncertainty. Thus, it is highly requisite, that prescription
or long possession should convey property; but what number of days or
months or years should be sufficient for that purpose, it is impossible
for reason alone to determine. CIVIL LAWS here supply the place of the
natural CODE, and assign different terms for prescription, according to
the different UTILITIES, proposed by the legislator. Bills of exchange
and promissory notes, by the laws of most countries, prescribe sooner
than bonds, and mortgages, and contracts of a more formal nature.

In general we may observe that all questions of property are subordinate
to the authority of civil laws, which extend, restrain, modify,
and alter the rules of natural justice, according to the particular
CONVENIENCE of each community. The laws have, or ought to have, a
constant reference to the constitution of government, the manners, the
climate, the religion, the commerce, the situation of each society. A
late author of genius, as well as learning, has prosecuted this subject
at large, and has established, from these principles, a system of
political knowledge, which abounds in ingenious and brilliant thoughts,
and is not wanting in solidity.

     [Footnote: The author of L'ESPRIT DES LOIX, This illustrious
     writer, however, sets out with a different theory, and
     supposes all right to be founded on certain RAPPORTS or
     relations; which is a system, that, in my opinion, never
     will be reconciled with true philosophy. Father Malebranche,
     as far as I can learn, was the first that started this
     abstract theory of morals, which was afterwards adopted by
     Cudworth, Clarke, and others; and as it excludes all
     sentiment, and pretends to found everything on reason, it
     has not wanted followers in this philosophic age. See
     Section I, Appendix I. With regard to justice, the virtue
     here treated of, the inference against this theory seems
     short and conclusive. Property is allowed to be dependent on
     civil laws; civil laws are allowed to have no other object,
     but the interest of society: This therefore must be allowed
     to be the sole foundation of property and justice. Not to
     mention, that our obligation itself to obey the magistrate
     and his laws is founded on nothing but the interests of
     society. If the ideas of justice, sometimes, do not follow
     the dispositions of civil law; we shall find, that these
     cases, instead of objections, are confirmations of the
     theory delivered above. Where a civil law is so perverse as
     to cross all the interests of society, it loses all its
     authority, and men judge by the ideas of natural justice,
     which are conformable to those interests. Sometimes also
     civil laws, for useful purposes, require a ceremony or form
     to any deed; and where that is wanting, their decrees run
     contrary to the usual tenour of justice; but one who takes
     advantage of such chicanes, is not commonly regarded as an
     honest man. Thus, the interests of society require, that
     contracts be fulfilled; and there is not a more material
     article either of natural or civil justice: But the omission
     of a trifling circumstance will often, by law, invalidate a
     contract, in foro humano, but not in foro conscientiae, as
     divines express themselves. In these cases, the magistrate
     is supposed only to withdraw his power of enforcing the
     right, not to have altered the right. Where his intention
     extends to the right, and is conformable to the interests of
     society; it never fails to alter the right; a clear proof of
     the origin of justice and of property, as assigned above.]

WHAT IS A MAN'S PROPERTY? Anything which it is lawful for him, and for
THESE OBJECTS? Here we must have recourse to statutes, customs,
precedents, analogies, and a hundred other circumstances; some of
which are constant and inflexible, some variable and arbitrary. But the
ultimate point, in which they all professedly terminate, is the
interest and happiness of human society. Where this enters not into
consideration, nothing can appear more whimsical, unnatural, and even
superstitious, than all or most of the laws of justice and of property.

Those who ridicule vulgar superstitions, and expose the folly of
particular regards to meats, days, places, postures, apparel, have an
easy task; while they consider all the qualities and relations of the
objects, and discover no adequate cause for that affection or antipathy,
veneration or horror, which have so mighty an influence over a
considerable part of mankind. A Syrian would have starved rather than
taste pigeon; an Egyptian would not have approached bacon: But if these
species of food be examined by the senses of sight, smell, or taste,
or scrutinized by the sciences of chemistry, medicine, or physics, no
difference is ever found between them and any other species, nor
can that precise circumstance be pitched on, which may afford a just
foundation for the religious passion. A fowl on Thursday is lawful
food; on Friday abominable: Eggs in this house and in this diocese,
are permitted during Lent; a hundred paces farther, to eat them is a
damnable sin. This earth or building, yesterday was profane; to-day,
by the muttering of certain words, it has become holy and sacred. Such
reflections as these, in the mouth of a philosopher, one may safely
say, are too obvious to have any influence; because they must always,
to every man, occur at first sight; and where they prevail not, of
themselves, they are surely obstructed by education, prejudice, and
passion, not by ignorance or mistake.

It may appear to a careless view, or rather a too abstracted reflection,
that there enters a like superstition into all the sentiments of
justice; and that, if a man expose its object, or what we call property,
to the same scrutiny of sense and science, he will not, by the most
accurate enquiry, find any foundation for the difference made by moral
sentiment. I may lawfully nourish myself from this tree; but the fruit
of another of the same species, ten paces off, it is criminal for me to
touch. Had I worn this apparel an hour ago, I had merited the severest
punishment; but a man, by pronouncing a few magical syllables, has now
rendered it fit for my use and service. Were this house placed in the
neighbouring territory, it had been immoral for me to dwell in it;
but being built on this side the river, it is subject to a different
municipal law, and by its becoming mine I incur no blame or censure.
The same species of reasoning it may be thought, which so successfully
exposes superstition, is also applicable to justice; nor is it possible,
in the one case more than in the other, to point out, in the object,
that precise quality or circumstance, which is the foundation of the

But there is this material difference between SUPERSTITION and JUSTICE,
that the former is frivolous, useless, and burdensome; the latter is
absolutely requisite to the well-being of mankind and existence of
society. When we abstract from this circumstance (for it is too apparent
ever to be overlooked) it must be confessed, that all regards to right
and property, seem entirely without foundation, as much as the grossest
and most vulgar superstition. Were the interests of society nowise
concerned, it is as unintelligible why another's articulating certain
sounds implying consent, should change the nature of my actions with
regard to a particular object, as why the reciting of a liturgy by a
priest, in a certain habit and posture, should dedicate a heap of brick
and timber, and render it, thenceforth and for ever, sacred.

     [Footnote: It is evident, that the will or consent alone never
transfers property, nor causes the obligation of a promise (for the same
reasoning extends to both), but the will must be expressed by words or
signs, in order to impose a tie upon any man. The expression being once
brought in as subservient to the will, soon becomes the principal part
of the promise; nor will a man be less bound by his word, though he
secretly give a different direction to his intention, and withhold the
assent of his mind. But though the expression makes, on most occasions,
the whole of the promise, yet it does not always so; and one who should
make use of any expression, of which he knows not the meaning, and which
he uses without any sense of the consequences, would not certainly be
bound by it. Nay, though he know its meaning, yet if he use it in jest
only, and with such signs as evidently show, that he has no serious
intention of binding himself, he would not lie under any obligation of
performance; but it is necessary, that the words be a perfect expression
of the will, without any contrary signs. Nay, even this we must
not carry so far as to imagine, that one, whom, by our quickness of
understanding, we conjecture, from certain signs, to have an intention
of deceiving us, is not bound by his expression or verbal promise, if
we accept of it; but must limit this conclusion to those cases where
the signs are of a different nature from those of deceit. All these
contradictions are easily accounted for, if justice arise entirely from
its usefulness to society; but will never be explained on any other

   It is remarkable that the moral decisions of the JESUITS and other
relaxed casuists, were commonly formed in prosecution of some such
subtilties of reasoning as are here pointed out, and proceed as much
from the habit of scholastic refinement as from any corruption of
the heart, if we may follow the authority of Mons. Bayle. See his
Dictionary, article Loyola. And why has the indignation of mankind risen
so high against these casuists; but because every one perceived, that
human society could not subsist were such practices authorized, and that
morals must always be handled with a view to public interest, more than
philosophical regularity? If the secret direction of the intention, said
every man of sense, could invalidate a contract; where is our security?
And yet a metaphysical schoolman might think, that, where an intention
was supposed to be requisite, if that intention really had not place,
no consequence ought to follow, and no obligation be imposed. The
casuistical subtilties may not be greater than the snbtilties of
lawyers, hinted at above; but as the former are PERNICIOUS, and the
latter INNOCENT and even NECESSARY, this is the reason of the very
different reception they meet with from the world.

   It is a doctrine of the Church of Rome, that the priest, by a secret
direction of his intention, can invalidate any sacrament. This position
is derived from a strict and regular prosecution of the obvious truth,
that empty words alone, without any meaning or intention in the speaker,
can never be attended with any effect. If the same conclusion be not
admitted in reasonings concerning civil contracts, where the affair is
allowed to be of so much less consequence than the eternal salvation
of thousands, it proceeds entirely from men's sense of the danger and
inconvenience of the doctrine in the former case: And we may
thence observe, that however positive, arrogant, and dogmatical any
superstition may appear, it never can convey any thorough persuasion
of the reality of its objects, or put them, in any degree, on a balance
with the common incidents of life, which we learn from daily observation
and experimental reasoning.]

These reflections are far from weakening the obligations of justice, or
diminishing anything from the most sacred attention to property. On
the contrary, such sentiments must acquire new force from the present
reasoning. For what stronger foundation can be desired or conceived for
any duty, than to observe, that human society, or even human nature,
could not subsist without the establishment of it; and will still arrive
at greater degrees of happiness and perfection, the more inviolable the
regard is, which is paid to that duty?

The dilemma seems obvious: As justice evidently tends to promote public
utility and to support civil society, the sentiment of justice is either
derived from our reflecting on that tendency, or like hunger, thirst,
and other appetites, resentment, love of life, attachment to offspring,
and other passions, arises from a simple original instinct in the human
breast, which nature has implanted for like salutary purposes. If the
latter be the case, it follows, that property, which is the object of
justice, is also distinguished by a simple original instinct, and is not
ascertained by any argument or reflection. But who is there that ever
heard of such an instinct? Or is this a subject in which new discoveries
can be made? We may as well expect to discover, in the body, new senses,
which had before escaped the observation of all mankind.

But farther, though it seems a very simple proposition to say, that
nature, by an instinctive sentiment, distinguishes property, yet in
reality we shall find, that there are required for that purpose ten
thousand different instincts, and these employed about objects of the
greatest intricacy and nicest discernment. For when a definition of
PROPERTY is required, that relation is found to resolve itself into
any possession acquired by occupation, by industry, by prescription, by
inheritance, by contract, &c. Can we think that nature, by an original
instinct, instructs us in all these methods of acquisition?

These words too, inheritance and contract, stand for ideas infinitely
complicated; and to define them exactly, a hundred volumes of laws, and
a thousand volumes of commentators, have not been found sufficient. Does
nature, whose instincts in men are all simple, embrace such complicated
and artificial objects, and create a rational creature, without trusting
anything to the operation of his reason?

But even though all this were admitted, it would not be satisfactory.
Positive laws can certainly transfer property. It is by another original
instinct, that we recognize the authority of kings and senates, and mark
all the boundaries of their jurisdiction? Judges too, even though their
sentence be erroneous and illegal, must be allowed, for the sake of
peace and order, to have decisive authority, and ultimately to determine
property. Have we original innate ideas of praetors and chancellors and
juries? Who sees not, that all these institutions arise merely from the
necessities of human society?

All birds of the same species in every age and country, built their
nests alike: In this we see the force of instinct. Men, in different
times and places, frame their houses differently: Here we perceive
the influence of reason and custom. A like inference may be drawn from
comparing the instinct of generation and the institution of property.

How great soever the variety of municipal laws, it must be confessed,
that their chief outlines pretty regularly concur; because the purposes,
to which they tend, are everywhere exactly similar. In like manner, all
houses have a roof and walls, windows and chimneys; though diversified
in their shape, figure, and materials. The purposes of the latter,
directed to the conveniencies of human life, discover not more plainly
their origin from reason and reflection, than do those of the former,
which point all to a like end.

I need not mention the variations, which all the rules of property
receive from the finer turns and connexions of the imagination, and from
the subtilties and abstractions of law-topics and reasonings. There is
no possibility of reconciling this observation to the notion of original

What alone will beget a doubt concerning the theory, on which I insist,
is the influence of education and acquired habits, by which we are
so accustomed to blame injustice, that we are not, in every instance,
conscious of any immediate reflection on the pernicious consequences of
it. The views the most familiar to us are apt, for that very reason,
to escape us; and what we have very frequently performed from certain
motives, we are apt likewise to continue mechanically, without
recalling, on every occasion, the reflections, which first determined
us. The convenience, or rather necessity, which leads to justice is so
universal, and everywhere points so much to the same rules, that the
habit takes place in all societies; and it is not without some scrutiny,
that we are able to ascertain its true origin. The matter, however,
is not so obscure, but that even in common life we have every moment
recourse to the principle of public utility, and ask, WHAT MUST BECOME
UNDER SUCH DISORDERS? Were the distinction or separation of possessions
entirely useless, can any one conceive, that it ever should have
obtained in society?

Thus we seem, upon the whole, to have attained a knowledge of the force
of that principle here insisted on, and can determine what degree
of esteem or moral approbation may result from reflections on public
interest and utility. The necessity of justice to the support of society
is the sole foundation of that virtue; and since no moral excellence
is more highly esteemed, we may conclude that this circumstance of
usefulness has, in general, the strongest energy, and most entire
command over our sentiments. It must, therefore, be the source of
a considerable part of the merit ascribed to humanity, benevolence,
friendship, public spirit, and other social virtues of that stamp; as it
is the sole source of the moral approbation paid to fidelity, justice,
veracity, integrity, and those other estimable and useful qualities and
principles. It is entirely agreeable to the rules of philosophy, and
even of common reason; where any principle has been found to have a
great force and energy in one instance, to ascribe to it a like
energy in all similar instances. This indeed is Newton's chief rule of
philosophizing [Footnote: Principia. Lib. iii.].



Had every man sufficient SAGACITY to perceive, at all times, the strong
interest which binds him to the observance of justice and equity, and
STRENGTH OF MIND sufficient to persevere in a steady adherence to a
general and a distant interest, in opposition to the allurements of
present pleasure and advantage; there had never, in that case, been any
such thing as government or political society, but each man, following
his natural liberty, had lived in entire peace and harmony with all
others. What need of positive law where natural justice is, of itself,
a sufficient restraint? Why create magistrates, where there never arises
any disorder or iniquity? Why abridge our native freedom, when, in every
instance, the utmost exertion of it is found innocent and beneficial?
It is evident, that, if government were totally useless, it never could
have place, and that the sole foundation of the duty of allegiance is
the ADVANTAGE, which it procures to society, by preserving peace and
order among mankind.

When a number of political societies are erected, and maintain a great
intercourse together, a new set of rules are immediately discovered to
be USEFUL in that particular situation; and accordingly take place under
the title of Laws of Nations. Of this kind are, the sacredness of the
person of ambassadors, abstaining from poisoned arms, quarter in war,
with others of that kind, which are plainly calculated for the ADVANTAGE
of states and kingdoms in their intercourse with each other.

The rules of justice, such as prevail among individuals, are not
entirely suspended among political societies. All princes pretend a
regard to the rights of other princes; and some, no doubt, without
hypocrisy. Alliances and treaties are every day made between independent
states, which would only be so much waste of parchment, if they were not
found by experience to have SOME influence and authority. But here is
the difference between kingdoms and individuals. Human nature cannot
by any means subsist, without the association of individuals; and that
association never could have place, were no regard paid to the laws of
equity and justice. Disorder, confusion, the war of all against all, are
the necessary consequences of such a licentious conduct. But nations
can subsist without intercourse. They may even subsist, in some degree,
under a general war. The observance of justice, though useful among
them, is not guarded by so strong a necessity as among individuals;
and the moral obligation holds proportion with the USEFULNESS. All
politicians will allow, and most philosophers, that reasons of state
may, in particular emergencies, dispense with the rules of justice, and
invalidate any treaty or alliance, where the strict observance of
it would be prejudicial, in a considerable degree, to either of the
contracting parties. But nothing less than the most extreme necessity,
it is confessed, can justify individuals in a breach of promise, or an
invasion of the properties of others.

In a confederated commonwealth, such as the Achaean republic of old, or
the Swiss Cantons and United Provinces in modern times; as the league
has here a peculiar UTILITY, the conditions of union have a peculiar
sacredness and authority, and a violation of them would be regarded as
no less, or even as more criminal, than any private injury or injustice.

The long and helpless infancy of man requires the combination of parents
for the subsistence of their young; and that combination requires the
virtue of chastity or fidelity to the marriage bed. Without such a
UTILITY, it will readily be owned, that such a virtue would never have
been thought of.

     [Footnote: The only solution, which Plato gives to all the
objections that might be raised against the community of women,
established in his imaginary commonwealth, is, [Greek quotation here].
Scite enim istud et dicitur et dicetur, Id quod utile sit honestum esse,
quod autem inutile sit turpe esse. [De Rep lib v p 457 ex edit Ser]. And
this maxim will admit of no doubt, where public utility is concerned,
which is Plato's meaning. And indeed to what other purpose do all the
ideas of chastity and modesty serve? "Nisi utile est quod facimus,
frustra est gloria," says Phaedrus. [Greek quotation here], says
Plutarch, de vitioso pudore. "Nihil eorum quae damnosa sunt, pulchrum
est." The same was the opinion of the Stoics [Greek quotation here; from
Sept. Emp lib III cap 20].

An infidelity of this nature is much more PERNICIOUS in WOMEN than in
MEN. Hence the laws of chastity are much stricter over the one sex than
over the other.

These rules have all a reference to generation; and yet women past
child-bearing are no more supposed to be exempted from them than
those in the flower of their youth and beauty. GENERAL RULES are often
extended beyond the principle whence they first arise; and this in all
matters of taste and sentiment. It is a vulgar story at Paris, that,
during the rage of the Mississippi, a hump-backed fellow went every
day into the Rue de Quincempoix, where the stock-jobbers met in great
crowds, and was well paid for allowing them to make use of his hump as a
desk, in order to sign their contracts upon it. Would the fortune, which
he raised by this expedient, make him a handsome fellow; though it be
confessed, that personal beauty arises very much from ideas of utility?
The imagination is influenced by associations of ideas; which, though
they arise at first from the judgement, are not easily altered by every
particular exception that occurs to us. To which we may add, in
the present case of chastity, that the example of the old would be
pernicious to the young; and that women, continually foreseeing that a
certain time would bring them the liberty of indulgence, would naturally
advance that period, and think more lightly of this whole duty, so
requisite to society.

Those who live in the same family have such frequent opportunities of
licence of this kind, that nothing could prevent purity of manners, were
marriage allowed, among the nearest relations, or any intercourse of
love between them ratified by law and custom. Incest, therefore, being
PERNICIOUS in a superior degree, has also a superior turpitude and moral
deformity annexed to it.

What is the reason, why, by the Athenian laws, one might marry a
half-sister by the father, but not by the mother? Plainly this:
The manners of the Athenians were so reserved, that a man was never
permitted to approach the women's apartment, even in the same family,
unless where he visited his own mother. His step-mother and her children
were as much shut up from him as the woman of any other family, and
there was as little danger of any criminal correspondence between them.
Uncles and nieces, for a like reason, might marry at Athens; but neither
these, nor half-brothers and sisters, could contract that alliance at
Rome, where the intercourse was more open between the sexes. Public
utility is the cause of all these variations.

To repeat, to a man's prejudice, anything that escaped him in private
conversation, or to make any such use of his private letters, is highly
blamed. The free and social intercourse of minds must be extremely
checked, where no such rules of fidelity are established.

Even in repeating stories, whence we can foresee no ill consequences
to result, the giving of one's author is regarded as a piece of
indiscretion, if not of immorality. These stories, in passing from hand
to hand, and receiving all the usual variations, frequently come about
to the persons concerned, and produce animosities and quarrels among
people, whose intentions are the most innocent and inoffensive.

To pry into secrets, to open or even read the letters of others, to
play the spy upon their words and looks and actions; what habits more
inconvenient in society? What habits, of consequence, more blameable?

This principle is also the foundation of most of the laws of good
manners; a kind of lesser morality, calculated for the ease of company
and conversation. Too much or too little ceremony are both blamed, and
everything, which promotes ease, without an indecent familiarity, is
useful and laudable.

Constancy in friendships, attachments, and familiarities, is
commendable, and is requisite to support trust and good correspondence
in society. But in places of general, though casual concourse, where
the pursuit of health and pleasure brings people promiscuously together,
public conveniency has dispensed with this maxim; and custom there
promotes an unreserved conversation for the time, by indulging the
privilege of dropping afterwards every indifferent acquaintance, without
breach of civility or good manners.

Even in societies, which are established on principles the most immoral,
and the most destructive to the interests of the general society, there
are required certain rules, which a species of false honour, as well as
private interest, engages the members to observe. Robbers and pirates,
it has often been remarked, could not maintain their pernicious
confederacy, did they not establish a pew distributive justice among
themselves, and recall those laws of equity, which they have violated
with the rest of mankind.

I hate a drinking companion, says the Greek proverb, who never forgets.
The follies of the last debauch should be buried in eternal oblivion, in
order to give full scope to the follies of the next.

Among nations, where an immoral gallantry, if covered with a thin veil
of mystery, is, in some degree, authorized by custom, there immediately
arise a set of rules, calculated for the conveniency of that attachment.
The famous court or parliament of love in Provence formerly decided all
difficult cases of this nature.

In societies for play, there are laws required for the conduct of the
game; and these laws are different in each game. The foundation, I own,
of such societies is frivolous; and the laws are, in a great measure,
though not altogether, capricious and arbitrary. So far is there a
material difference between them and the rules of justice, fidelity, and
loyalty. The general societies of men are absolutely requisite for the
subsistence of the species; and the public conveniency, which regulates
morals, is inviolably established in the nature of man, and of the
world, in which he lives. The comparison, therefore, in these respects,
is very imperfect. We may only learn from it the necessity of rules,
wherever men have any intercourse with each other.

They cannot even pass each other on the road without rules. Waggoners,
coachmen, and postilions have principles, by which they give the way;
and these are chiefly founded on mutual ease and convenience. Sometimes
also they are arbitrary, at least dependent on a kind of capricious
analogy like many of the reasonings of lawyers.

     [Footnote: That the lighter machine yield to the heavier, and, in
machines of the same kind, that the empty yield to the loaded; this rule
is founded on convenience. That those who are going to the capital take
place of those who are coming from it; this seems to be founded on some
idea of dignity of the great city, and of the preference of the future
to the past. From like reasons, among foot-walkers, the right-hand
entitles a man to the wall, and prevents jostling, which peaceable
people find very disagreeable and inconvenient.]

To carry the matter farther, we may observe, that it is impossible for
men so much as to murder each other without statutes, and maxims, and an
idea of justice and honour. War has its laws as well as peace; and
even that sportive kind of war, carried on among wrestlers, boxers,
cudgel-players, gladiators, is regulated by fixed principles. Common
interest and utility beget infallibly a standard of right and wrong
among the parties concerned.



It seems so natural a thought to ascribe to their utility the praise,
which we bestow on the social virtues, that one would expect to meet
with this principle everywhere in moral writers, as the chief foundation
of their reasoning and enquiry. In common life, we may observe, that the
circumstance of utility is always appealed to; nor is it supposed, that
a greater eulogy can be given to any man, than to display his usefulness
to the public, and enumerate the services, which he has performed to
mankind and society. What praise, even of an inanimate form, if the
regularity and elegance of its parts destroy not its fitness for any
useful purpose! And how satisfactory an apology for any disproportion
or seeming deformity, if we can show the necessity of that particular
construction for the use intended! A ship appears more beautiful to an
artist, or one moderately skilled in navigation, where its prow is wide
and swelling beyond its poop, than if it were framed with a precise
geometrical regularity, in contradiction to all the laws of mechanics. A
building, whose doors and windows were exact squares, would hurt the
eye by that very proportion; as ill adapted to the figure of a human
creature, for whose service the fabric was intended.

What wonder then, that a man, whose habits and conduct are hurtful to
society, and dangerous or pernicious to every one who has an intercourse
with him, should, on that account, be an object of disapprobation, and
communicate to every spectator the strongest sentiment of disgust and

     [Footnote: We ought not to imagine, because an inanimate object
may be useful as well as a man, that therefore it ought also, according
to this system, to merit he appellation of VIRTUOUS. The sentiments,
excited by utility, are, in the two cases, very different; and the one
is mixed with affection, esteem, approbation, &c., and not the other. In
like manner, an inanimate object may have good colour and proportions
as well as a human figure. But can we ever be in love with the former?
There are a numerous set of passions and sentiments, of which thinking
rational beings are, by the original constitution of nature, the only
proper objects: and though the very same qualities be transferred to an
insensible, inanimate being, they will not excite the same sentiments.
The beneficial qualities of herbs and minerals are, indeed, sometimes
called their VIRTUES; but this is an effect of the caprice of language,
which out not to be regarded in reasoning. For though there be a species
of approbation attending even inanimate objects, when beneficial, yet
this sentiment is so weak, and so different from that which is directed
to beneficent magistrates or statesman; that they ought not to be ranked
under the same class or appellation.

   A very small variation of the object, even where the same qualities are
preserved, will destroy a sentiment. Thus, the same beauty, transferred
to a different sex, excites no amorous passion, where nature is not
extremely perverted.]

But perhaps the difficulty of accounting for these effects of
usefulness, or its contrary, has kept philosophers from admitting them
into their systems of ethics, and has induced them rather to employ any
other principle, in explaining the origin of moral good and evil. But it
is no just reason for rejecting any principle, confirmed by experience,
that we cannot give a satisfactory account of its origin, nor are able
to resolve it into other more general principles. And if we would
employ a little thought on the present subject, we need be at no loss to
account for the influence of utility, and to deduce it from principles,
the most known and avowed in human nature.

From the apparent usefulness of the social virtues, it has readily
been inferred by sceptics, both ancient and modern, that all moral
distinctions arise from education, and were, at first, invented, and
afterwards encouraged, by the art of politicians, in order to render
men tractable, and subdue their natural ferocity and selfishness, which
incapacitated them for society. This principle, indeed, of precept and
education, must so far be owned to have a powerful influence, that it
may frequently increase or diminish, beyond their natural standard,
the sentiments of approbation or dislike; and may even, in particular
instances, create, without any natural principle, a new sentiment of
this kind; as is evident in all superstitious practices and observances:
But that ALL moral affection or dislike arises from this origin, will
never surely be allowed by any judicious enquirer. Had nature made no
such distinction, founded on the original constitution of the mind, the
had never had place in any language; nor could politicians, had they
invented these terms, ever have been able to render them intelligible,
or make them convey any idea to the audience. So that nothing can be
more superficial than this paradox of the sceptics; and it were well,
if, in the abstruser studies of logic and metaphysics, we could as
easily obviate the cavils of that sect, as in the practical and more
intelligible sciences of politics and morals.

The social virtues must, therefore, be allowed to have a natural
beauty and amiableness, which, at first, antecedent to all precept or
education, recommends them to the esteem of uninstructed mankind, and
engages their affections. And as the public utility of these virtues is
the chief circumstance, whence they derive their merit, it follows,
that the end, which they have a tendency to promote, must be some
way agreeable to us, and take hold of some natural affection. It must
please, either from considerations of self-interest, or from more
generous motives and regards.

It has often been asserted, that, as every man has a strong connexion
with society, and perceives the impossibility of his solitary
subsistence, he becomes, on that account, favourable to all those habits
or principles, which promote order in society, and insure to him the
quiet possession of so inestimable a blessing, As much as we value
our own happiness and welfare, as much must we applaud the practice
of justice and humanity, by which alone the social confederacy can
be maintained, and every man reap the fruits of mutual protection and

This deduction of morals from self-love, or a regard to private
interest, is an obvious thought, and has not arisen wholly from the
wanton sallies and sportive assaults of the sceptics. To mention no
others, Polybius, one of the gravest and most judicious, as well as most
moral writers of antiquity, has assigned this selfish origin to all our
sentiments of virtue. [Footnote: Undutifulness to parents is disapproved
of by mankind, [Greek quotation inserted here]. Ingratitude for a like
reason (though he seems there to mix a more generous regard) [Greek
quotation inserted here] Lib. vi cap. 4. (Ed. Gronorius.) Perhaps the
historian only meant, that our sympathy and humanity was more enlivened,
by our considering the similarity of our case with that of the person
suffering; which is a just sentiment.] But though the solid practical
sense of that author, and his aversion to all vain subtilties, render
his authority on the present subject very considerable; yet is not
this an affair to be decided by authority, and the voice of nature and
experience seems plainly to oppose the selfish theory.

We frequently bestow praise on virtuous actions, performed in very
distant ages and remote countries; where the utmost subtilty of
imagination would not discover any appearance of self-interest, or
find any connexion of our present happiness and security with events so
widely separated from us.

A generous, a brave, a noble deed, performed by an adversary, commands
our approbation; while in its consequences it may be acknowledged
prejudicial to our particular interest.

Where private advantage concurs with general affection for virtue, we
readily perceive and avow the mixture of these distinct sentiments,
which have a very different feeling and influence on the mind. We
praise, perhaps, with more alacrity, where the generous humane action
contributes to our particular interest: But the topics of praise, which
we insist on, are very wide of this circumstance. And we may attempt to
bring over others to our sentiments, without endeavouring to convince
them, that they reap any advantage from the actions which we recommend
to their approbation and applause.

Frame the model of a praiseworthy character, consisting of all the most
amiable moral virtues: Give instances, in which these display themselves
after an eminent and extraordinary manner: You readily engage the esteem
and approbation of all your audience, who never so much as enquire
in what age and country the person lived, who possessed these noble
qualities: A circumstance, however, of all others, the most material
to self-love, or a concern for our own individual happiness. Once on a
time, a statesman, in the shock and contest of parties, prevailed so far
as to procure, by his eloquence, the banishment of an able adversary;
whom he secretly followed, offering him money for his support during his
exile, and soothing him with topics of consolation in his misfortunes.
ALAS! cries the banished statesman, WITH WHAT REGRET MUST I LEAVE MY
in an enemy, here pleased him: And we also give it the just tribute
of praise and approbation; nor do we retract these sentiments, when we
hear, that the action passed at Athens, about two thousand years ago,
and that the persons' names were Eschines and Demosthenes.

WHAT IS THAT TO ME? There are few occasions, when this question is not
pertinent: And had it that universal, infallible influence supposed,
it would turn into ridicule every composition, and almost every
conversation, which contain any praise or censure of men and manners.

It is but a weak subterfuge, when pressed by these facts and arguments,
to say, that we transport ourselves, by the force of imagination, into
distant ages and countries, and consider the advantage, which we should
have reaped from these characters, had we been contemporaries, and
had any commerce with the persons. It is not conceivable, how a REAL
sentiment or passion can ever arise from a known IMAGINARY interest;
especially when our REAL interest is still kept in view, and is often
acknowledged to be entirely distinct from the imaginary, and even
sometimes opposite to it.

A man, brought to the brink of a precipice, cannot look down without
trembling; and the sentiment of IMAGINARY danger actuates him, in
opposition to the opinion and belief of REAL safety. But the imagination
is here assisted by the presence of a striking object; and yet prevails
not, except it be also aided by novelty, and the unusual appearance of
the object. Custom soon reconciles us to heights and precipices, and
wears off these false and delusive terrors. The reverse is observable in
the estimates which we form of characters and manners; and the more we
habituate ourselves to an accurate scrutiny of morals, the more delicate
feeling do we acquire of the most minute distinctions between vice and
virtue. Such frequent occasion, indeed, have we, in common life, to
pronounce all kinds of moral determinations, that no object of this kind
can be new or unusual to us; nor could any FALSE views or prepossessions
maintain their ground against an experience, so common and familiar.
Experience being chiefly what forms the associations of ideas, it is
impossible that any association could establish and support itself, in
direct opposition to that principle.

Usefulness is agreeable, and engages our approbation. This is a matter
of fact, confirmed by daily observation. But, USEFUL? For what? For
somebody's interest, surely. Whose interest then? Not our own only: For
our approbation frequently extends farther. It must, therefore, be the
interest of those, who are served by the character or action approved
of; and these we may conclude, however remote, are not totally
indifferent to us. By opening up this principle, we shall discover one
great source of moral distinctions.


Self-love is a principle in human nature of such extensive energy, and
the interest of each individual is, in general, so closely connected
with that of the community, that those philosophers were excusable, who
fancied that all our concern for the public might be resolved into a
concern for our own happiness and preservation. They saw every moment,
instances of approbation or blame, satisfaction or displeasure
towards characters and actions; they denominated the objects of these
sentiments, VIRTUES, or VICES; they observed, that the former had
a tendency to increase the happiness, and the latter the misery of
mankind; they asked, whether it were possible that we could have any
general concern for society, or any disinterested resentment of the
welfare or injury of others; they found it simpler to consider all
these sentiments as modifications of self-love; and they discovered a
pretence, at least, for this unity of principle, in that close union of
interest, which is so observable between the public and each individual.

But notwithstanding this frequent confusion of interests, it is easy
to attain what natural philosophers, after Lord Bacon, have affected to
call the experimentum crucis, or that experiment which points out the
right way in any doubt or ambiguity. We have found instances, in
which private interest was separate from public; in which it was
even contrary: And yet we observed the moral sentiment to continue,
notwithstanding this disjunction of interests. And wherever these
distinct interests sensibly concurred, we always found a sensible
increase of the sentiment, and a more warm affection to virtue, and
detestation of vice, or what we properly call, GRATITUDE and REVENGE.
Compelled by these instances, we must renounce the theory, which
accounts for every moral sentiment by the principle of self-love. We
must adopt a more public affection, and allow, that the interests of
society are not, even on their own account, entirely indifferent to
us. Usefulness is only a tendency to a certain end; and it is a
contradiction in terms, that anything pleases as means to an end, where
the end itself no wise affects us. If usefulness, therefore, be a source
of moral sentiment, and if this usefulness be not always considered with
a reference to self; it follows, that everything, which contributes to
the happiness of society, recommends itself directly to our approbation
and good-will. Here is a principle, which accounts, in great part, for
the origin of morality: And what need we seek for abstruse and remote
systems, when there occurs one so obvious and natural?

[FOOTNOTE: It is needless to push our researches so far as to ask, why
we have humanity or a fellow-feeling with others. It is sufficient,
that this is experienced to be a principle in human nature. We must stop
somewhere in our examination of causes; and there are, in every science,
some general principles, beyond which we cannot hope to find any
principle more general. No man is absolutely indifferent to the
happiness and misery of others. The first has a natural tendency to give
pleasure; the second, pain. This every one may find in himself. It is
not probable, that these principles can be resolved into principles
more simple and universal, whatever attempts may have been made to that
purpose. But if it were possible, it belongs not to the present subject;
and we may here safely consider these principles as original; happy, if
we can render all the consequences sufficiently plain and perspicuous!]

Have we any difficulty to comprehend the force of humanity and
benevolence? Or to conceive, that the very aspect of happiness,
joy, prosperity, gives pleasure; that of pain, suffering, sorrow,
communicates uneasiness? The human countenance, says Horace ['Uti
ridentibus arrident, ita flentibus adflent Humani vultus,'--Hor.],
borrows smiles or tears from the human countenance. Reduce a person to
solitude, and he loses all enjoyment, except either of the sensual or
speculative kind; and that because the movements of his heart are not
forwarded by correspondent movements in his fellow-creatures. The signs
of sorrow and mourning, though arbitrary, affect us with melancholy; but
the natural symptoms, tears and cries and groans, never fail to infuse
compassion and uneasiness. And if the effects of misery touch us in so
lively a manner; can we be supposed altogether insensible or indifferent
towards its causes; when a malicious or treacherous character and
behaviour are presented to us?

We enter, I shall suppose, into a convenient, warm, well-contrived
apartment: We necessarily receive a pleasure from its very survey;
because it presents us with the pleasing ideas of ease, satisfaction,
and enjoyment. The hospitable, good-humoured, humane landlord appears.
This circumstance surely must embellish the whole; nor can we easily
forbear reflecting, with pleasure, on the satisfaction which results to
every one from his intercourse and good-offices.

His whole family, by the freedom, ease, confidence, and calm enjoyment,
diffused over their countenances, sufficiently express their happiness.
I have a pleasing sympathy in the prospect of so much joy, and can never
consider the source of it, without the most agreeable emotions.

He tells me, that an oppressive and powerful neighbour had attempted
to dispossess him of his inheritance, and had long disturbed all his
innocent and social pleasures. I feel an immediate indignation arise in
me against such violence and injury.

But it is no wonder, he adds, that a private wrong should proceed from a
man, who had enslaved provinces, depopulated cities, and made the field
and scaffold stream with human blood. I am struck with horror at the
prospect of so much misery, and am actuated by the strongest antipathy
against its author.

In general, it is certain, that, wherever we go, whatever we reflect on
or converse about, everything still presents us with the view of human
happiness or misery, and excites in our breast a sympathetic movement
of pleasure or uneasiness. In our serious occupations, in our careless
amusements, this principle still exerts its active energy.

A man who enters the theatre, is immediately struck with the view of
so great a multitude, participating of one common amusement; and
experiences, from their very aspect, a superior sensibility or
disposition of being affected with every sentiment, which he shares with
his fellow-creatures.

He observes the actors to be animated by the appearance of a full
audience, and raised to a degree of enthusiasm, which they cannot
command in any solitary or calm moment.

Every movement of the theatre, by a skilful poet, is communicated, as
it were by magic, to the spectators; who weep, tremble, resent, rejoice,
and are inflamed with all the variety of passions, which actuate the
several personages of the drama.

Where any event crosses our wishes, and interrupts the happiness of the
favourite characters, we feel a sensible anxiety and concern. But where
their sufferings proceed from the treachery, cruelty, or tyranny of an
enemy, our breasts are affected with the liveliest resentment against
the author of these calamities. It is here esteemed contrary to the
rules of art to represent anything cool and indifferent. A distant
friend, or a confident, who has no immediate interest in the
catastrophe, ought, if possible, to be avoided by the poet; as
communicating a like indifference to the audience, and checking the
progress of the passions.

Few species of poetry are more entertaining than PASTORAL; and every
one is sensible, that the chief source of its pleasure arises from those
images of a gentle and tender tranquillity, which it represents in its
personages, and of which it communicates a like sentiment to the reader.
Sannazarius, who transferred the scene to the sea-shore, though he
presented the most magnificent object in nature, is confessed to have
erred in his choice. The idea of toil, labour, and danger, suffered by
the fishermen, is painful; by an unavoidable sympathy, which attends
every conception of human happiness or misery.

When I was twenty, says a French poet, Ovid was my favourite: Now I am
forty, I declare for Horace. We enter, to be sure, more readily into
sentiments, which resemble those we feel every day: But no passion, when
well represented, can be entirely indifferent to us; because there is
none, of which every man has not, within him, at least the seeds and
first principles. It is the business of poetry to bring every affection
near to us by lively imagery and representation, and make it look like
truth and reality: A certain proof, that, wherever that reality is
found, our minds are disposed to be strongly affected by it.

Any recent event or piece of news, by which the fate of states,
provinces, or many individuals is affected, is extremely interesting
even to those whose welfare is not immediately engaged. Such
intelligence is propagated with celerity, heard with avidity, and
enquired into with attention and concern. The interest of society
appears, on this occasion, to be in some degree the interest of each
individual. The imagination is sure to be affected; though the passions
excited may not always be so strong and steady as to have great
influence on the conduct and behaviour.

The perusal of a history seems a calm entertainment; but would be
no entertainment at all, did not our hearts beat with correspondent
movements to those which are described by the historian.

Thucydides and Guicciardin support with difficulty our attention; while
the former describes the trivial encounters of the small cities of
Greece, and the latter the harmless wars of Pisa. The few persons
interested and the small interest fill not the imagination, and engage
not the affections. The deep distress of the numerous Athenian army
before Syracuse; the danger which so nearly threatens Venice; these
excite compassion; these move terror and anxiety.

The indifferent, uninteresting style of Suetonius, equally with the
masterly pencil of Tacitus, may convince us of the cruel depravity of
Nero or Tiberius: But what a difference of sentiment! While the former
coldly relates the facts; and the latter sets before our eyes the
venerable figures of a Soranus and a Thrasea, intrepid in their fate,
and only moved by the melting sorrows of their friends and kindred. What
sympathy then touches every human heart! What indignation against the
tyrant, whose causeless fear or unprovoked malice gave rise to such
detestable barbarity!

If we bring these subjects nearer: If we remove all suspicion of fiction
and deceit: What powerful concern is excited, and how much superior,
in many instances, to the narrow attachments of self-love and private
interest! Popular sedition, party zeal, a devoted obedience to factious
leaders; these are some of the most visible, though less laudable
effects of this social sympathy in human nature.

The frivolousness of the subject too, we may observe, is not able to
detach us entirely from what carries an image of human sentiment and

When a person stutters, and pronounces with difficulty, we even
sympathize with this trivial uneasiness, and suffer for him. And it is a
rule in criticism, that every combination of syllables or letters, which
gives pain to the organs of speech in the recital, appears also from a
species of sympathy harsh and disagreeable to the ear. Nay, when we
run over a book with our eye, we are sensible of such unharmonious
composition; because we still imagine, that a person recites it to us,
and suffers from the pronunciation of these jarring sounds. So delicate
is our sympathy!

Easy and unconstrained postures and motions are always beautiful: An
air of health and vigour is agreeable: Clothes which warm, without
burthening the body; which cover, without imprisoning the limbs, are
well-fashioned. In every judgement of beauty, the feelings of the person
affected enter into consideration, and communicate to the spectator
similar touches of pain or pleasure.

     [Footnote: 'Decentior equus cujus astricta suntilia; sed idem
velocior. Pulcher aspectu sit athleta, cujus lacertos execitatio
expressit; idem certamini paratior nunquam enim SPECIES ab UTILITATE
dividitur. Sed hoc quidem discernere modici judicii est.'--Quintilian,
Inst. lib. viii. cap. 3.]

What wonder, then, if we can pronounce no judgement concerning the
character and conduct of men, without considering the tendencies of
their actions, and the happiness or misery which thence arises to
society? What association of ideas would ever operate, were that
principle here totally unactive.

     [Footnote: In proportion to the station which a man possesses,
according to the relations in which he is placed; we always expect from
him a greater or less degree of good, and when disappointed, blame his
inutility; and much more do we blame him, if any ill or prejudice
arise from his conduct and behaviour. When the interests of one country
interfere with those of another, we estimate the merits of a statesman
by the good or ill, which results to his own country from his measures
and councils, without regard to the prejudice which he brings on its
enemies and rivals. His fellow-citizens are the objects, which lie
nearest the eye, while we determine his character. And as nature has
implanted in every one a superior affection to his own country, we never
expect any regard to distant nations, where a competition arises. Not to
mention, that, while every man consults the good of his own community,
we are sensible, that the general interest of mankind is better
promoted, than any loose indeterminate views to the good of a species,
whence no beneficial action could ever result, for want of a duly
limited object, on which they could exert themselves.]

If any man from a cold insensibility, or narrow selfishness of temper,
is unaffected with the images of human happiness or misery, he must be
equally indifferent to the images of vice and virtue: As, on the other
hand, it is always found, that a warm concern for the interests of our
species is attended with a delicate feeling of all moral distinctions;
a strong resentment of injury done to men; a lively approbation of their
welfare. In this particular, though great superiority is observable
of one man above another; yet none are so entirely indifferent to the
interest of their fellow-creatures, as to perceive no distinctions
of moral good and evil, in consequence of the different tendencies of
actions and principles. How, indeed, can we suppose it possible in any
one, who wears a human heart, that if there be subjected to his censure,
one character or system of conduct, which is beneficial, and another
which is pernicious to his species or community, he will not so much
as give a cool preference to the former, or ascribe to it the smallest
merit or regard? Let us suppose such a person ever so selfish; let
private interest have ingrossed ever so much his attention; yet in
instances, where that is not concerned, he must unavoidably feel SOME
propensity to the good of mankind, and make it an object of choice, if
everything else be equal. Would any man, who is walking along, tread as
willingly on another's gouty toes, whom he has no quarrel with, as on
the hard flint and pavement? There is here surely a difference in the
case. We surely take into consideration the happiness and misery of
others, in weighing the several motives of action, and incline to the
former, where no private regards draw us to seek our own promotion or
advantage by the injury of our fellow-creatures. And if the principles
of humanity are capable, in many instances, of influencing our actions,
they must, at all times, have some authority over our sentiments, and
give us a general approbation of what is useful to society, and blame of
what is dangerous or pernicious. The degrees of these sentiments may
be the subject of controversy; but the reality of their existence, one
should think, must be admitted in every theory or system.

A creature, absolutely malicious and spiteful, were there any such in
nature, must be worse than indifferent to the images of vice and virtue.
All his sentiments must be inverted, and directly opposite to those,
which prevail in the human species. Whatever contributes to the good of
mankind, as it crosses the constant bent of his wishes and desires, must
produce uneasiness and disapprobation; and on the contrary, whatever is
the source of disorder and misery in society, must, for the same reason,
be regarded with pleasure and complacency. Timon, who probably from
his affected spleen more than an inveterate malice, was denominated the
manhater, embraced Alcibiades with great fondness. GO ON, MY BOY! cried
Ale.]. Could we admit the two principles of the Manicheans, it is an
infallible consequence, that their sentiments of human actions, as well
as of everything else, must be totally opposite, and that every instance
of justice and humanity, from its necessary tendency, must please the
one deity and displease the other. All mankind so far resemble the good
principle, that, where interest or revenge or envy perverts not our
disposition, we are always inclined, from our natural philanthropy, to
give the preference to the happiness of society, and consequently to
virtue above its opposite. Absolute, unprovoked, disinterested malice
has never perhaps place in any human breast; or if it had, must there
pervert all the sentiments of morals, as well as the feelings of
humanity. If the cruelty of Nero be allowed entirely voluntary, and not
rather the effect of constant fear and resentment; it is evident that
Tigellinus, preferably to Seneca or Burrhus, must have possessed his
steady and uniform approbation.

A statesman or patriot, who serves our own country in our own time, has
always a more passionate regard paid to him, than one whose beneficial
influence operated on distant ages or remote nations; where the good,
resulting from his generous humanity, being less connected with us,
seems more obscure, and affects us with a less lively sympathy. We may
own the merit to be equally great, though our sentiments are not raised
to an equal height, in both cases. The judgement here corrects the
inequalities of our internal emotions and perceptions; in like manner,
as it preserves us from error, in the several variations of images,
presented to our external senses. The same object, at a double distance,
really throws on the eye a picture of but half the bulk; yet we imagine
that it appears of the same size in both situations; because we know
that on our approach to it, its image would expand on the eye, and that
the difference consists not in the object itself, but in our
position with regard to it. And, indeed, without such a correction of
appearances, both in internal and external sentiment, men could
never think or talk steadily on any subject; while their fluctuating
situations produce a continual variation on objects, and throw them into
such different and contrary lights and positions.

     [Footnote: For a little reason, the tendencies of actions and
characters, not their real accidental consequences, are alone regarded
in our more determinations or general judgements; though in our real
feeling or sentiment, we cannot help paying greater regard to one whose
station, joined to virtue, renders him really useful to society, then
to one, who exerts the social virtues only in good intentions and
benevolent affections. Separating the character from the furtone, by an
easy and necessary effort of thought, we pronounce these persons alike,
and give them the appearance: But is not able entirely to prevail our

   Why is this peach-tree said to be better than that other; but because
it produces more or better fruit? And would not the same praise be given
it, though snails or vermin had destroyed the peaches, before they came
to full maturity? In morals too, is not THE TREE KNOWN BY THE FRUIT?
And cannot we easily distinguish between nature and accident, in the one
case as well as in the other?]

The more we converse with mankind, and the greater social intercourse we
maintain, the more shall we be familiarized to these general preferences
and distinctions, without which our conversation and discourse could
scarcely be rendered intelligible to each other. Every man's interest
is peculiar to himself, and the aversions and desires, which result
from it, cannot be supposed to affect others in a like degree. General
language, therefore, being formed for general use, must be moulded on
some more general views, and must affix the epithets of praise or blame,
in conformity to sentiments, which arise from the general interests of
the community. And if these sentiments, in most men, be not so strong as
those, which have a reference to private good; yet still they must make
some distinction, even in persons the most depraved and selfish; and
must attach the notion of good to a beneficent conduct, and of evil to
the contrary. Sympathy, we shall allow, is much fainter than our concern
for ourselves, and sympathy with persons remote from us much fainter
than that with persons near and contiguous; but for this very reason it
is necessary for us, in our calm judgements and discourse concerning
the characters of men, to neglect all these differences, and render
our sentiments more public and social. Besides, that we ourselves often
change our situation in this particular, we every day meet with persons
who are in a situation different from us, and who could never converse
with us were we to remain constantly in that position and point of
view, which is peculiar to ourselves. The intercourse of sentiments,
therefore, in society and conversation, makes us form some general
unalterable standard, by which we may approve or disapprove of
characters and manners. And though the heart takes not part entirely
with those general notions, nor regulates all its love and hatred by
the universal abstract differences of vice and virtue, without regard
to self, or the persons with whom we are more intimately connected;
yet have these moral differences a considerable influence, and being
sufficient, at least for discourse, serve all our purposes in company,
in the pulpit, on the theatre, and in the schools.

     [Footnote: It is wisely ordained by nature, that private
connexions should commonly prevail over univeral views and
considerations; otherwise our affections and actions would be dissopated
and lost, for want of a proper limited object. Thus a small benefit done
to ourselves, or our near friends, excites more lively sentiments
of love and approbation than a great benefit done to a distant
commonwealth: But still we know here, as in all the senses, to correct
these inequalities by reflection, and retain a general standard of vice
and virtue, founded chiefly on a general usefulness.]

Thus, in whatever light we take this subject, the merit, ascribed to
the social virtues, appears still uniform, and arises chiefly from that
regard, which the natural sentiment of benevolence engages us to pay to
the interests of mankind and society. If we consider the principles of
the human make, such as they appear to daily experience and observation,
we must, A PRIORI, conclude it impossible for such a creature as man to
be totally indifferent to the well or ill-being of his fellow-creatures,
and not readily, of himself, to pronounce, where nothing gives him any
particular bias, that what promotes their happiness is good, what tends
to their misery is evil, without any farther regard or consideration.
Here then are the faint rudiments, at least, or outlines, of a GENERAL
distinction between actions; and in proportion as the humanity of the
person is supposed to increase, his connexion with those who are injured
or benefited, and his lively conception of their misery or happiness;
his consequent censure or approbation acquires proportionable vigour.
There is no necessity, that a generous action, barely mentioned in an
old history or remote gazette, should communicate any strong feelings
of applause and admiration. Virtue, placed at such a distance, is like a
fixed star, which, though to the eye of reason it may appear as luminous
as the sun in his meridian, is so infinitely removed as to affect the
senses, neither with light nor heat. Bring this virtue nearer, by our
acquaintance or connexion with the persons, or even by an eloquent
recital of the case; our hearts are immediately caught, our sympathy
enlivened, and our cool approbation converted into the warmest
sentiments of friendship and regard. These seem necessary and infallible
consequences of the general principles of human nature, as discovered in
common life and practice.

Again; reverse these views and reasonings: Consider the matter a
posteriori; and weighing the consequences, enquire if the merit of
social virtue be not, in a great measure, derived from the feelings of
humanity, with which it affects the spectators. It appears to be matter
of fact, that the circumstance of UTILITY, in all subjects, is a source
of praise and approbation: That it is constantly appealed to in all
moral decisions concerning the merit and demerit of actions: That it is
the SOLE source of that high regard paid to justice, fidelity, honour,
allegiance, and chastity: That it is inseparable from all the other
social virtues, humanity, generosity, charity, affability, lenity,
mercy, and moderation: And, in a word, that it is a foundation of
the chief part of morals, which has a reference to mankind and our

It appears also, that, in our general approbation of characters and
manners, the useful tendency of the social virtues moves us not by any
regards to self-interest, but has an influence much more universal
and extensive. It appears that a tendency to public good, and to the
promoting of peace, harmony, and order in society, does always, by
affecting the benevolent principles of our frame, engage us on the side
of the social virtues. And it appears, as an additional confirmation,
that these principles of humanity and sympathy enter so deeply into all
our sentiments, and have so powerful an influence, as may enable them
to excite the strongest censure and applause. The present theory is the
simple result of all these inferences, each of which seems founded on
uniform experience and observation.

Were it doubtful, whether there were any such principle in our nature
as humanity or a concern for others, yet when we see, in numberless
instances, that whatever has a tendency to promote the interests of
society, is so highly approved of, we ought thence to learn the force of
the benevolent principle; since it is impossible for anything to please
as means to an end, where the end is totally indifferent. On the other
hand, were it doubtful, whether there were, implanted in our nature, any
general principle of moral blame and approbation, yet when we see, in
numberless instances, the influence of humanity, we ought thence to
conclude, that it is impossible, but that everything which promotes the
interest of society must communicate pleasure, and what is pernicious
give uneasiness. But when these different reflections and observations
concur in establishing the same conclusion, must they not bestow an
undisputed evidence upon it?

It is however hoped, that the progress of this argument will bring a
farther confirmation of the present theory, by showing the rise of other
sentiments of esteem and regard from the same or like principles.



IT seems evident, that where a quality or habit is subjected to our
examination, if it appear in any respect prejudicial to the person
possessed of it, or such as incapacitates him for business and action,
it is instantly blamed, and ranked among his faults and imperfections.
Indolence, negligence, want of order and method, obstinacy, fickleness,
rashness, credulity; these qualities were never esteemed by any one
indifferent to a character; much less, extolled as accomplishments or
virtues. The prejudice, resulting from them, immediately strikes our
eye, and gives us the sentiment of pain and disapprobation.

No quality, it is allowed, is absolutely either blameable or
praiseworthy. It is all according to its degree. A due medium, says
the Peripatetics, is the characteristic of virtue. But this medium is
chiefly determined by utility. A proper celerity, for instance, and
dispatch in business, is commendable. When defective, no progress is
ever made in the execution of any purpose: When excessive, it engages
us in precipitate and ill-concerted measures and enterprises: By such
reasonings, we fix the proper and commendable mediocrity in all moral
and prudential disquisitions; and never lose view of the advantages,
which result from any character or habit. Now as these advantages
are enjoyed by the person possessed of the character, it can never
be SELF-LOVE which renders the prospect of them agreeable to us,
the spectators, and prompts our esteem and approbation. No force of
imagination can convert us into another person, and make us fancy, that
we, being that person, reap benefit from those valuable qualities,
which belong to him. Or if it did, no celerity of imagination could
immediately transport us back, into ourselves, and make us love and
esteem the person, as different from us. Views and sentiments, so
opposite to known truth and to each other, could never have place, at
the same time, in the same person. All suspicion, therefore, of selfish
regards, is here totally excluded. It is a quite different principle,
which actuates our bosom, and interests us in the felicity of the person
whom we contemplate. Where his natural talents and acquired abilities
give us the prospect of elevation, advancement, a figure in life,
prosperous success, a steady command over fortune, and the execution of
great or advantageous undertakings; we are struck with such agreeable
images, and feel a complacency and regard immediately arise towards him.
The ideas of happiness, joy, triumph, prosperity, are connected with
every circumstance of his character, and diffuse over our minds a
pleasing sentiment of sympathy and humanity.

     [Footnote: One may venture to affirm, that there is no human
nature, to whom the appearance of happiness (where envy or revenge has
no place) does not give pleasure, that of misery, uneasiness. This
seems inseparable from our make and constitution. But they are only more
generous minds, that are thence prompted to seek zealously the good of
others, and to have a real passion for their welfare. With men of narrow
and ungenerous spirits, this sympathy goes not beyond a slight
feeling of the imagination, which serves only to excite sentiments
of complacency or ensure, and makes them apply to the object either
honorable or dishonorable appellations. A griping miser, for instance,
praises extremely INDUSTRY and FRUGALITY even in others, and sets them,
in his estimation, above all the other virtues. He knows the good that
results from them, and feels that species of happiness with a more
lively sympathy, than any other you could represent to him; though
perhaps he would not part with a shilling to make the fortune of the
industrious man, whom he praises so highly.]

Let us suppose a person originally framed so as to have no manner of
concern for his fellow-creatures, but to regard the happiness and
misery of all sensible beings with greater indifference than even two
contiguous shades of the same colour. Let us suppose, if the prosperity
of nations were laid on the one hand, and their ruin on the other, and
he were desired to choose; that he would stand like the schoolman's ass,
irresolute and undetermined, between equal motives; or rather, like the
same ass between two pieces of wood or marble, without any inclination
or propensity to either side. The consequence, I believe, must be
allowed just, that such a person, being absolutely unconcerned, either
for the public good of a community or the private utility of others,
would look on every quality, however pernicious, or however beneficial,
to society, or to its possessor, with the same indifference as on the
most common and uninteresting object.

But if, instead of this fancied monster, we suppose a MAN to form
a judgement or determination in the case, there is to him a plain
foundation of preference, where everything else is equal; and however
cool his choice may be, if his heart be selfish, or if the persons
interested be remote from him; there must still be a choice or
distinction between what is useful, and what is pernicious. Now this
distinction is the same in all its parts, with the MORAL DISTINCTION,
whose foundation has been so often, and so much in vain, enquired after.
The same endowments of the mind, in every circumstance, are agreeable
to the sentiment of morals and to that of humanity; the same temper is
susceptible of high degrees of the one sentiment and of the other;
and the same alteration in the objects, by their nearer approach or
by connexions, enlivens the one and the other. By all the rules of
philosophy, therefore, we must conclude, that these sentiments are
originally the same; since, in each particular, even the most minute,
they are governed by the same laws, and are moved by the same objects.

Why do philosophers infer, with the greatest certainty, that the moon is
kept in its orbit by the same force of gravity, that makes bodies fall
near the surface of the earth, but because these effects are, upon
computation, found similar and equal? And must not this argument bring
as strong conviction, in moral as in natural disquisitions?

To prove, by any long detail, that all the qualities, useful to
the possessor, are approved of, and the contrary censured, would be
superfluous. The least reflection on what is every day experienced in
life, will be sufficient. We shall only mention a few instances, in
order to remove, if possible, all doubt and hesitation.

The quality, the most necessary for the execution of any useful
enterprise, is discretion; by which we carry on a safe intercourse with
others, give due attention to our own and to their character, weigh each
circumstance of the business which we undertake, and employ the
surest and safest means for the attainment of any end or purpose. To a
Cromwell, perhaps, or a De Retz, discretion may appear an alderman-like
virtue, as Dr. Swift calls it; and being incompatible with those vast
designs, to which their courage and ambition prompted them, it might
really, in them, be a fault or imperfection. But in the conduct of
ordinary life, no virtue is more requisite, not only to obtain success,
but to avoid the most fatal miscarriages and disappointments. The
greatest parts without it, as observed by an elegant writer, may be
fatal to their owner; as Polyphemus, deprived of his eye, was only the
more exposed, on account of his enormous strength and stature.

The best character, indeed, were it not rather too perfect for
human nature, is that which is not swayed by temper of any kind; but
alternately employs enterprise and caution, as each is useful to the
particular purpose intended. Such is the excellence which St. Evremond
ascribes to Mareschal Turenne, who displayed every campaign, as he grew
older, more temerity in his military enterprises; and being now, from
long experience, perfectly acquainted with every incident in war, he
advanced with greater firmness and security, in a road so well known to
him. Fabius, says Machiavel, was cautious; Scipio enterprising: And
both succeeded, because the situation of the Roman affairs, during the
command of each, was peculiarly adapted to his genius; but both would
have failed, had these situations been reversed. He is happy, whose
circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent, who can suit
his temper to any circumstances.

What need is there to display the praises of industry, and to extol its
advantages, in the acquisition of power and riches, or in raising what
we call a FORTUNE in the world? The tortoise, according to the fable, by
his perseverance, gained the race of the hare, though possessed of
much superior swiftness. A man's time, when well husbanded, is like a
cultivated field, of which a few acres produce more of what is useful to
life, than extensive provinces, even of the richest soil, when over-run
with weeds and brambles.

But all prospect of success in life, or even of tolerable subsistence,
must fail, where a reasonable frugality is wanting. The heap, instead
of increasing, diminishes daily, and leaves its possessor so much more
unhappy, as, not having been able to confine his expences to a large
revenue, he will still less be able to live contentedly on a small one.
The souls of men, according to Plato [Footnote: Phaedo.], inflamed with
impure appetites, and losing the body, which alone afforded means of
satisfaction, hover about the earth, and haunt the places, where their
bodies are deposited; possessed with a longing desire to recover the
lost organs of sensation. So may we see worthless prodigals, having
consumed their fortune in wild debauches, thrusting themselves into
every plentiful table, and every party of pleasure, hated even by the
vicious, and despised even by fools.

The one extreme of frugality is avarice, which, as it both deprives a
man of all use of his riches, and checks hospitality and every social
enjoyment, is justly censured on a double account. PRODIGALITY, the
other extreme, is commonly more hurtful to a man himself; and each of
these extremes is blamed above the other, according to the temper of the
person who censures, and according to his greater or less sensibility to
pleasure, either social or sensual.

Qualities often derive their merit from complicated sources. Honesty,
fidelity, truth, are praised for their immediate tendency to promote the
interests of society; but after those virtues are once established upon
this foundation, they are also considered as advantageous to the person
himself, and as the source of that trust and confidence, which can alone
give a man any consideration in life. One becomes contemptible, no less
than odious, when he forgets the duty, which, in this particular, he
owes to himself as well as to society.

Perhaps, this consideration is one CHIEF source of the high blame, which
is thrown on any instance of failure among women in point of CHASTITY.
The greatest regard, which can be acquired by that sex, is derived from
their fidelity; and a woman becomes cheap and vulgar, loses her rank,
and is exposed to every insult, who is deficient in this particular. The
smallest failure is here sufficient to blast her character. A female
has so many opportunities of secretly indulging these appetites, that
nothing can give us security but her absolute modesty and reserve; and
where a breach is once made, it can scarcely ever be fully repaired.
If a man behave with cowardice on one occasion, a contrary conduct
reinstates him in his character. But by what action can a woman, whose
behaviour has once been dissolute, be able to assure us, that she has
formed better resolutions, and has self-command enough to carry them
into execution?

All men, it is allowed, are equally desirous of happiness; but few
are successful in the pursuit: One considerable cause is the want of
strength of mind, which might enable them to resist the temptation of
present ease or pleasure, and carry them forward in the search of more
distant profit and enjoyment. Our affections, on a general prospect of
their objects, form certain rules of conduct, and certain measures of
preference of one above another: and these decisions, though really
the result of our calm passions and propensities, (for what else can
pronounce any object eligible or the contrary?) are yet said, by a
natural abuse of terms, to be the determinations of pure REASON and
reflection. But when some of these objects approach nearer to us, or
acquire the advantages of favourable lights and positions, which
catch the heart or imagination; our general resolutions are frequently
confounded, a small enjoyment preferred, and lasting shame and sorrow
entailed upon us. And however poets may employ their wit and eloquence,
in celebrating present pleasure, and rejecting all distant views to
fame, health, or fortune; it is obvious, that this practice is the
source of all dissoluteness and disorder, repentance and misery. A man
of a strong and determined temper adheres tenaciously to his general
resolutions, and is neither seduced by the allurements of pleasure, nor
terrified by the menaces of pain; but keeps still in view those distant
pursuits, by which he, at once, ensures his happiness and his honour.

Self-satisfaction, at least in some degree, is an advantage, which
equally attends the fool and the wise man: But it is the only one; nor
is there any other circumstance in the conduct of life, where they are
upon an equal footing. Business, books, conversation; for all of these,
a fool is totally incapacitated, and except condemned by his station
to the coarsest drudgery, remains a useless burthen upon the earth.
Accordingly, it is found, that men are extremely jealous of their
character in this particular; and many instances are seen of profligacy
and treachery, the most avowed and unreserved; none of bearing patiently
the imputation of ignorance and stupidity. Dicaearchus, the Macedonian
general, who, as Polybius tells us [Footnote: Lib. xvi. Cap. 35.],
openly erected one altar to impiety, another to injustice, in order to
bid defiance to mankind; even he, I am well assured, would have started
at the epithet of FOOL, and have meditated revenge for so injurious an
appellation. Except the affection of parents, the strongest and most
indissoluble bond in nature, no connexion has strength sufficient to
support the disgust arising from this character. Love itself, which
can subsist under treachery, ingratitude, malice, and infidelity, is
immediately extinguished by it, when perceived and acknowledged; nor
are deformity and old age more fatal to the dominion of that passion.
So dreadful are the ideas of an utter incapacity for any purpose or
undertaking, and of continued error and misconduct in life!

When it is asked, whether a quick or a slow apprehension be most
valuable? Whether one, that, at first view, penetrates far into a
subject, but can perform nothing upon study; or a contrary character,
which must work out everything by dint of application? Whether a
clear head or a copious invention? Whether a profound genius or a sure
judgement? In short, what character, or peculiar turn of understanding,
is more excellent than another? It is evident, that we can answer
none of these questions, without considering which of those qualities
capacitates a man best for the world, and carries him farthest in any

If refined sense and exalted sense be not so USEFUL as common sense,
their rarity, their novelty, and the nobleness of their objects make
some compensation, and render them the admiration of mankind: As gold,
though less serviceable than iron, acquires from its scarcity a value
which is much superior.

The defects of judgement can be supplied by no art or invention; but
those of memory frequently may, both in business and in study, by method
and industry, and by diligence in committing everything to writing;
and we scarcely ever hear a short memory given as a reason for a man's
failure in any undertaking. But in ancient times, when no man could make
a figure without the talent of speaking, and when the audience were too
delicate to bear such crude, undigested harangues as our extemporary
orators offer to public assemblies; the faculty of memory was then of
the utmost consequence, and was accordingly much more valued than at
present. Scarce any great genius is mentioned in antiquity, who is not
celebrated for this talent; and Cicero enumerates it among the other
sublime qualities of Caesar himself. [Footnote: Fruit in Illo Ingenium,
ratio, memoria, literae, cura, cogitatio, diligentia &c. Phillip. 2.].

Particular customs and manners alter the usefulness of qualities: they
also alter their merit. Particular situations and accidents have, in
some degree, the same influence. He will always be more esteemed, who
possesses those talents and accomplishments, which suit his station and
profession, than he whom fortune has misplaced in the part which she has
assigned him. The private or selfish virtues are, in this respect,
more arbitrary than the public and social. In other respects they are,
perhaps, less liable to doubt and controversy.

In this kingdom, such continued ostentation, of late years, has
prevailed among men in ACTIVE life with regard to PUBLIC SPIRIT, and
among those in SPECULATIVE with regard to BENEVOLENCE; and so many false
pretensions to each have been, no doubt, detected, that men of the world
are apt, without any bad intention, to discover a sullen incredulity
on the head of those moral endowments, and even sometimes absolutely to
deny their existence and reality. In like manner I find, that, of old,
the perpetual cant of the STOICS and CYNICS concerning VIRTUE, their
magnificent professions and slender performances, bred a disgust in
mankind; and Lucian, who, though licentious with regard to pleasure,
is yet in other respects a very moral writer, cannot sometimes talk of
virtue, so much boasted without betraying symptoms of spleen and irony.
But surely this peevish delicacy, whence-ever it arises can never be
carried so far as to make us deny the existence of every species of
merit, and all distinction of manners and behaviour. Besides DISCRETION,
GOOD-SENSE, PRUDENCE, DISCERNMENT; besides these endowments, I say,
whose very names force an avowal of their merit, there are many others,
to which the most determined scepticism cannot for a moment refuse
the tribute of praise and approbation. TEMPERANCE, SOBRIETY, PATIENCE,
FACILITY OF EXPRESSION, these, and a thousand more of the same kind, no
man will ever deny to be excellencies and perfections. As their merit
consists in their tendency to serve the person, possessed of them,
without any magnificent claim to public and social desert, we are the
less jealous of their pretensions, and readily admit them into the
catalogue of laudable qualities. We are not sensible that, by this
concession, we have paved the way for all the other moral excellencies,
and cannot consistently hesitate any longer, with regard to
disinterested benevolence, patriotism, and humanity.

It seems, indeed, certain, that first appearances are here, as usual,
extremely deceitful, and that it is more difficult, in a speculative
way, to resolve into self-love the merit which we ascribe to the selfish
virtues above mentioned, than that even of the social virtues, justice
and beneficence. For this latter purpose, we need but say, that whatever
conduct promotes the good of the community is loved, praised, and
esteemed by the community, on account of that utility and interest, of
which every one partakes; and though this affection and regard be,
in reality, gratitude, not self-love, yet a distinction, even of this
obvious nature, may not readily be made by superficial reasoners; and
there is room, at least, to support the cavil and dispute for a moment.
But as qualities, which tend only to the utility of their possessor,
without any reference to us, or to the community, are yet esteemed and
valued; by what theory or system can we account for this sentiment from
self-love, or deduce it from that favourite origin? There seems here a
necessity for confessing that the happiness and misery of others are not
spectacles entirely indifferent to us; but that the view of the former,
whether in its causes or effects, like sunshine or the prospect
of well-cultivated plains (to carry our pretensions no higher),
communicates a secret joy and satisfaction; the appearance of the
latter, like a lowering cloud or barren landscape, throws a melancholy
damp over the imagination. And this concession being once made, the
difficulty is over; and a natural unforced interpretation of the
phenomena of human life will afterwards, we may hope, prevail among all
speculative enquirers.


It may not be improper, in this place, to examine the influence of
bodily endowments, and of the goods of fortune, over our sentiments of
regard and esteem, and to consider whether these phenomena fortify
or weaken the present theory. It will naturally be expected, that the
beauty of the body, as is supposed by all ancient moralists, will be
similar, in some respects, to that of the mind; and that every kind
of esteem, which is paid to a man, will have something similar in
its origin, whether it arise from his mental endowments, or from the
situation of his exterior circumstances.

It is evident, that one considerable source of BEAUTY in all animals
is the advantage which they reap from the particular structure of their
limbs and members, suitably to the particular manner of life, to which
they are by nature destined. The just proportions of a horse, described
by Xenophon and Virgil, are the same that are received at this day by
our modern jockeys; because the foundation of them is the same, namely,
experience of what is detrimental or useful in the animal.

Broad shoulders, a lank belly, firm joints, taper legs; all these are
beautiful in our species, because signs of force and vigour. Ideas of
utility and its contrary, though they do not entirely determine what is
handsome or deformed, are evidently the source of a considerable part of
approbation or dislike.

In ancient times, bodily strength and dexterity, being of greater USE
and importance in war, was also much more esteemed and valued, than
at present. Not to insist on Homer and the poets, we may observe,
that historians scruple not to mention FORCE OF BODY among the other
accomplishments even of Epaminondas, whom they acknowledge to be the
greatest hero, statesman, and general of all the Greeks. [Footnote: CUM
Sallust apud Veget.] A like praise is given to Pompey, one of the
greatest of the Romans. [Footnote: Diodorus Siculus, lib. xv. It may
be improper to give the character of Epaminondas, as drawn by the
historian, in order to show the idea of perfect merit, which prevailed
in those ages. In other illustrious men, say he, you will observe, that
each possessed some one shining quality, which was the foundation of his
fame: In Epaminondas all the VIRTUES are found united; force of body.
eloquence of expression, vigour of mind, contempt of riches, gentleness
of disposition, and what is chiefly to be regarded, courage and conduct
of war.] This instance is similar to what we observed above with regard
to memory.

What derision and contempt, with both sexes, attend IMPOTENCE; while the
unhappy object is regarded as one deprived of so capital a pleasure in
life, and at the same time, as disabled from communicating it to others.
BARRENNESS in women, being also a species of INUTILITY, is a reproach,
but not in the same degree: of which the reason is very obvious,
according to the present theory.

There is no rule in painting or statuary more indispensible than that of
balancing the figures, and placing them with the greatest exactness on
their proper centre of gravity. A figure, which is not justly balanced,
is ugly; because it conveys the disagreeable ideas of fall, harm, and

[Footenote: All men are equally liable to pain and disease and sickness;
and may again recover health and ease. These circumstances, as they make
no distinction between one man and another, are no source of pride or
humility, regard or contempt. But comparing our own species to superior
ones, it is a very mortifying consideration, that we should all be so
liable to diseases and infirmities; and divines accordingly employ this
topic, in order to depress self-conceit and vanity. They would have more
success, if the common bent of our thoughts were not perpetually turned
to compare ourselves with others.

   The infirmities of old age are mortifying; because a comparison with
the young may take place. The king's evil is industriously concealed,
because it affects others, and is often transmitted to posterity. The
case is nearly the same with such diseases as convey any nauseous or
frightful images; the epilepsy, for instance, ulcers, sores, scabs, &c.]

A disposition or turn of mind, which qualifies a man to rise in the
world and advance his fortune, is entitled to esteem and regard, as has
already been explained. It may, therefore, naturally be supposed, that
the actual possession of riches and authority will have a considerable
influence over these sentiments.

Let us examine any hypothesis by which we can account for the regard
paid to the rich and powerful; we shall find none satisfactory, but that
which derives it from the enjoyment communicated to the spectator by
the images of prosperity, happiness, ease, plenty, authority, and the
gratification of every appetite. Self-love, for instance, which some
affect so much to consider as the source of every sentiment, is plainly
insufficient for this purpose. Where no good-will or friendship appears,
it is difficult to conceive on what we can found our hope of advantage
from the riches of others; though we naturally respect the rich, even
before they discover any such favourable disposition towards us.

We are affected with the same sentiments, when we lie so much out of the
sphere of their activity, that they cannot even be supposed to possess
the power of serving us. A prisoner of war, in all civilized nations,
is treated with a regard suited to his condition; and riches, it is
evident, go far towards fixing the condition of any person. If birth
and quality enter for a share, this still affords us an argument to our
present purpose. For what is it we call a man of birth, but one who is
descended from a long succession of rich and powerful ancestors, and who
acquires our esteem by his connexion with persons whom we esteem? His
ancestors, therefore, though dead, are respected, in some measure,
on account of their riches; and consequently, without any kind of

But not to go so far as prisoners of war or the dead, to find instances
of this disinterested regard for riches; we may only observe, with
a little attention, those phenomena which occur in common life and
conversation. A man, who is himself, we shall suppose, of a competent
fortune, and of no profession, being introduced to a company of
strangers, naturally treats them with different degrees of respect, as
he is informed of their different fortunes and conditions; though it
is impossible that he can so suddenly propose, and perhaps he would
not accept of, any pecuniary advantage from them. A traveller is always
admitted into company, and meets with civility, in proportion as his
train and equipage speak him a man of great or moderate fortune. In
short, the different ranks of men are, in a great measure, regulated
by riches; and that with regard to superiors as well as inferiors,
strangers as well as acquaintance.

What remains, therefore, but to conclude, that, as riches are desired
for ourselves only as the means of gratifying our appetites, either at
present or in some imaginary future period, they beget esteem in others
merely from their having that influence. This indeed is their very
nature or offence: they have a direct reference to the commodities,
conveniences, and pleasures of life. The bill of a banker, who is broke,
or gold in a desert island, would otherwise be full as valuable. When we
approach a man who is, as we say, at his ease, we are presented with the
pleasing ideas of plenty, satisfaction, cleanliness, warmth; a cheerful
house, elegant furniture, ready service, and whatever is desirable in
meat, drink, or apparel. On the contrary, when a poor man appears,
the disagreeable images of want, penury, hard labour, dirty furniture,
coarse or ragged clothes, nauseous meat and distasteful liquor,
immediately strike our fancy. What else do we mean by saying that one
is rich, the other poor? And as regard or contempt is the natural
consequence of those different situations in life, it is easily seen
what additional light and evidence this throws on our preceding theory,
with regard to all moral distinctions.

     [Footnote: There is something extraordinary, and seemingly
unaccountable in the operation of our passions, when we consider the
fortune and situation of others. Very often another's advancement and
prosperity produces envy, which has a strong mixture of hatred, and
arises chiefly from the comparison of ourselves with the person. At the
very same time, or at least in very short intervals, we may feel the
passion of respect, which is a species of affection or good-will, with
a mixture of humility. On the other hand, the misfortunes of our fellows
often cause pity, which has in it a strong mixture of good-will. This
sentiment of pity is nearly allied to contempt, which is a species of
dislike, with a mixture of pride. I only point out these phenomena, as
a subject of speculation to such as are curious with regard to moral
enquiries. It is sufficient for the present purpose to observe in
general, that power and riches commonly cause respect, poverty and
meanness contempt, though particular views and incidents may sometimes
raise the passions of envy and of pity.]

A man who has cured himself of all ridiculous pre-possessions, and is
fully, sincerely, and steadily convinced, from experience as well as
philosophy, that the difference of fortune makes less difference in
happiness than is vulgarly imagined; such a one does not measure out
degrees of esteem according to the rent-rolls of his acquaintance. He
may, indeed, externally pay a superior deference to the great lord above
the vassal; because riches are the most convenient, being the most fixed
and determinate, source of distinction. But his internal sentiments are
more regulated by the personal characters of men, than by the accidental
and capricious favours of fortune.

In most countries of Europe, family, that is, hereditary riches, marked
with titles and symbols from the sovereign, is the chief source of
distinction. In England, more regard is paid to present opulence and
plenty. Each practice has its advantages and disadvantages. Where birth
is respected, unactive, spiritless minds remain in haughty indolence,
and dream of nothing but pedigrees and genealogies: the generous and
ambitious seek honour and authority, and reputation and favour. Where
riches are the chief idol, corruption, venality, rapine prevail: arts,
manufactures, commerce, agriculture flourish. The former prejudice,
being favourable to military virtue, is more suited to monarchies.
The latter, being the chief spur to industry, agrees better with a
republican government. And we accordingly find that each of these forms
of government, by varying the utility of those customs, has commonly a
proportionable effect on the sentiments of mankind.



Whoever has passed an evening with serious melancholy people, and
has observed how suddenly the conversation was animated, and what
sprightliness diffused itself over the countenance, discourse, and
behaviour of every one, on the accession of a good-humoured, lively
companion; such a one will easily allow that cheerfulness carries great
merit with it, and naturally conciliates the good-will of mankind. No
quality, indeed, more readily communicates itself to all around; because
no one has a greater propensity to display itself, in jovial talk and
pleasant entertainment. The flame spreads through the whole circle; and
the most sullen and morose are often caught by it. That the melancholy
hate the merry, even though Horace says it, I have some difficulty
to allow; because I have always observed that, where the jollity is
moderate and decent, serious people are so much the more delighted,
as it dissipates the gloom with which they are commonly oppressed, and
gives them an unusual enjoyment.

From this influence of cheerfulness, both to communicate itself and to
engage approbation, we may perceive that there is another set of mental
qualities, which, without any utility or any tendency to farther good,
either of the community or of the possessor, diffuse a satisfaction
on the beholders, and procure friendship and regard. Their immediate
sensation, to the person possessed of them, is agreeable. Others enter
into the same humour, and catch the sentiment, by a contagion or natural
sympathy; and as we cannot forbear loving whatever pleases, a kindly
emotion arises towards the person who communicates so much satisfaction.
He is a more animating spectacle; his presence diffuses over us more
serene complacency and enjoyment; our imagination, entering into his
feelings and disposition, is affected in a more agreeable manner than
if a melancholy, dejected, sullen, anxious temper were presented to us.
Hence the affection and probation which attend the former: the aversion
and disgust with which we regard the latter.

     [Footnote: There is no man, who, on particular occasions, is not
affected with all the disagreeable passions, fear, anger, dejection,
grief, melancholy, anxiety, &c. But these, so far as they are natural,
and universal, make no difference between one man and another, and can
never be the object of blame. It is only when the disposition gives a
PROPENSITY to any of these disagreeable passions, that they disfigure
the character, and by giving uneasiness, convey the sentiment of
disapprobation to the spectator.]

Few men would envy the character which Caesar gives of Cassius:

 He loves no play,
 As thou do'st, Anthony: he hears no music:
 Seldom he smiles; and smiles in such a sort,
 As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit
 That could be mov'd to smile at any thing.

Not only such men, as Caesar adds, are commonly DANGEROUS, but also,
having little enjoyment within themselves, they can never become
agreeable to others, or contribute to social entertainment. In all
polite nations and ages, a relish for pleasure, if accompanied with
temperance and decency, is esteemed a considerable merit, even in the
greatest men; and becomes still more requisite in those of inferior rank
and character. It is an agreeable representation, which a French writer
gives of the situation of his own mind in this particular, VIRTUE I
WITHOUT FEARING ITS END. [Footnote: 'J'aime la vertu, sans rudesse;
J'aime le plaisir, sans molesse; J'aime la vie, et n'en crains point la
fin.'-ST. EVREMONT.]

Who is not struck with any signal instance of greatness of mind or
dignity of character; with elevation of sentiment, disdain of slavery,
and with that noble pride and spirit, which arises from conscious
virtue? The sublime, says Longinus, is often nothing but the echo or
image of magnanimity; and where this quality appears in any one,
even though a syllable be not uttered, it excites our applause and
admiration; as may be observed of the famous silence of Ajax in the
Odyssey, which expresses more noble disdain and resolute indignation
than any language can convey [Footnote: Cap. 9.].

DARIUS. SO WOULD I TOO, replied Alexander, WERE I PARMENIO. This saying
is admirable, says Longinus, from a like principle. [Footnote: Idem.]

GO! cries the same hero to his soldiers, when they refused to follow
him to the Indies, GO TELL YOUR COUNTRYMEN, THAT YOU LEFT Alexander
COMPLETING THE CONQUEST OF THE WORLD. 'Alexander,' said the Prince of
Conde, who always admired this passage, 'abandoned by his soldiers,
among barbarians, not yet fully subdued, felt in himself such a dignity
and right of empire, that he could not believe it possible that any one
would refuse to obey him. Whether in Europe or in Asia, among Greeks or
Persians, all was indifferent to him: wherever he found men, he fancied
he should find subjects.'

The confident of Medea in the tragedy recommends caution and submission;
and enumerating all the distresses of that unfortunate heroine, asks
her, what she has to support her against her numerous and implacable
enemies. MYSELF, replies she; MYSELF I SAY, AND IT IS ENOUGH. Boileau
justly recommends this passage as an instance of true sublime [Footnote:
Reflexion 10 sur Longin.].

When Phocion, the modest, the gentle Phocion, was led to execution, he
turned to one of his fellow-sufferers, who was lamenting his own
PHOCION? [Footnote: Plutarch in Phoc.]

Place in opposition the picture which Tacitus draws of Vitellius, fallen
from empire, prolonging his ignominy from a wretched love of life,
delivered over to the merciless rabble; tossed, buffeted, and kicked
about; constrained, by their holding a poinard under his chin, to raise
his head, and expose himself to every contumely. What abject infamy!
What low humiliation! Yet even here, says the historian, he discovered
some symptoms of a mind not wholly degenerate. To a tribune, who
insulted him, he replied, I AM STILL YOUR EMPEROR.

     [Footnote: Tacit. hist. lib. iii. The author entering upon the
INCREPANTIBUS, NULLO INLACRIMANTE: deformatitas exitus misericordiam
abstulerat. To enter thoroughly into this method of thinking, we must
make allowance for the ancient maxims, that no one ought to prolong his
life after it became dishonourable; but, as he had always a right to
dispose of it, it then became a duty to part with it.]

We never excuse the absolute want of spirit and dignity of character, or
a proper sense of what is due to one's self, in society and the common
intercourse of life. This vice constitutes what we properly call
MEANNESS; when a man can submit to the basest slavery, in order to
gain his ends; fawn upon those who abuse him; and degrade himself by
intimacies and familiarities with undeserving inferiors. A certain
degree of generous pride or self-value is so requisite, that the absence
of it in the mind displeases, after the same manner as the want of a
nose, eye, or any of the most material feature of the face or member of
the body.

     [Footnote: The absence of virtue may often be a vice; and that of
the highest kind; as in the instance of ingratitude, as well as
meanness. Where we expect a beauty, the disappointment gives an uneasy
sensation, and produces a real deformity. An abjectness of character,
likewise, is disgustful and contemptible in another view. Where a man
has no sense of value in himself, we are not likely to have any higher
esteem of him. And if the same person, who crouches to his superiors,
is insolent to his inferiors (as often happens), this contrariety
of behaviour, instead of correcting the former vice, aggravates it
extremely by the addition of a vice still more odious. See Sect. VIII.]

The utility of courage, both to the public and to the person possessed
of it, is an obvious foundation of merit. But to any one who duly
considers of the matter, it will appear that this quality has a peculiar
lustre, which it derives wholly from itself, and from that noble
elevation inseparable from it. Its figure, drawn by painters and by
poets, displays, in each feature, a sublimity and daring confidence;
which catches the eye, engages the affections, and diffuses, by
sympathy, a like sublimity of sentiment over every spectator.

Under what shining colours does Demosthenes [Footnote: De
Corona.] represent Philip; where the orator apologizes for his own
administration, and justifies that pertinacious love of liberty, with
which he had inspired the Athenians. 'I beheld Philip,' says he, 'he
with whom was your contest, resolutely, while in pursuit of empire
and dominion, exposing himself to every wound; his eye gored, his neck
wrested, his arm, his thigh pierced, what ever part of his body fortune
should seize on, that cheerfully relinquishing; provided that, with what
remained, he might live in honour and renown. And shall it be said
that he, born in Pella, a place heretofore mean and ignoble, should
be inspired with so high an ambition and thirst of fame: while you,
Athenians, &c.' These praises excite the most lively admiration; but
the views presented by the orator, carry us not, we see, beyond the hero
himself, nor ever regard the future advantageous consequences of his

The material temper of the Romans, inflamed by continual wars, had
raised their esteem of courage so high, that, in their language, it was
called VIRTUE, by way of excellence and of distinction from all other
moral qualities. THE Suevi, in the opinion of Tacitus, tus, [Footnote:
of the historian, which would sound a little oddly in other nations and
other ages.

The Scythians, according to Herodotus, [Footnote: Lib. iv.] after
scalping their enemies, dressed the skin like leather, and used it as a
towel; and whoever had the most of those towels was most esteemed among
them. So much had martial bravery, in that nation, as well as in many
others, destroyed the sentiments of humanity; a virtue surely much more
useful and engaging.

It is indeed observable, that, among all uncultivated nations, who have
not as yet had full experience of the advantages attending beneficence,
justice, and the social virtues, courage is the predominant excellence;
what is most celebrated by poets, recommended by parents and
instructors, and admired by the public in general. The ethics of Homer
are, in this particular, very different from those of Fenelon, his
elegant imitator; and such as were well suited to an age, when one hero,
as remarked by Thucydides [Lib.i.], could ask another, without offence,
whether he were a robber or not. Such also very lately was the system
of ethics which prevailed in many barbarous parts of Ireland; if we may
credit Spencer, in his judicious account of the state of that kingdom.

     [Footnote from Spencer: It is a common use, says he, amongst
their gentlemen's sons, that, as soon as they are able to use their
weapons, they strait gather to themselves three or four stragglers or
kern, with whom wandering a while up and down idly the country, taking
only meat, he at last falleth into some bad occasion, that shall be
offered; which being once made known, he is thenceforth counted a man of
worth, in whom there is courage.]

Of the same class of virtues with courage is that undisturbed
philosophical tranquillity, superior to pain, sorrow, anxiety, and
each assault of adverse fortune. Conscious of his own virtue, say the
philosophers, the sage elevates himself above every accident of life;
and securely placed in the temple of wisdom, looks down on inferior
mortals engaged in pursuit of honours, riches, reputation, and every
frivolous enjoyment. These pretentious, no doubt, when stretched to
the utmost, are by far too magnificent for human nature. They carry,
however, a grandeur with them, which seizes the spectator, and strikes
him with admiration. And the nearer we can approach in practice to this
sublime tranquillity and indifference (for we must distinguish it from a
stupid insensibility), the more secure enjoyment shall we attain within
ourselves, and the more greatness of mind shall we discover to the
world. The philosophical tranquillity may, indeed, be considered only as
a branch of magnanimity.

Who admires not Socrates; his perpetual serenity and contentment, amidst
the greatest poverty and domestic vexations; his resolute contempt of
riches, and his magnanimous care of preserving liberty, while he refused
all assistance from his friends and disciples, and avoided even the
dependence of an obligation? Epictetus had not so much as a door to his
little house or hovel; and therefore, soon lost his iron lamp, the only
furniture which he had worth taking. But resolving to disappoint all
robbers for the future, he supplied its place with an earthen lamp, of
which he very peacefully kept possession ever after.

Among the ancients, the heroes in philosophy, as well as those in war
and patriotism, have a grandeur and force of sentiment, which
astonishes our narrow souls, and is rashly rejected as extravagant and
supernatural. They, in their turn, I allow, would have had equal
reason to consider as romantic and incredible, the degree of humanity,
clemency, order, tranquillity, and other social virtues, to which, in
the administration of government, we have attained in modern times, had
any one been then able to have made a fair representation of them. Such
is the compensation, which nature, or rather education, has made in the
distribution of excellencies and virtues, in those different ages.

The merit of benevolence, arising from its utility, and its tendency
to promote the good of mankind has been already explained, and is, no
doubt, the source of a CONSIDERABLE part of that esteem, which is so
universally paid to it. But it will also be allowed, that the very
softness and tenderness of the sentiment, its engaging endearments, its
fond expressions, its delicate attentions, and all that flow of mutual
confidence and regard, which enters into a warm attachment of love
and friendship: it will be allowed, I say, that these feelings,
being delightful in themselves, are necessarily communicated to the
spectators, and melt them into the same fondness and delicacy. The tear
naturally starts in our eye on the apprehension of a warm sentiment of
this nature: our breast heaves, our heart is agitated, and every humane
tender principle of our frame is set in motion, and gives us the purest
and most satisfactory enjoyment.

When poets form descriptions of Elysian fields, where the blessed
inhabitants stand in no need of each other's assistance, they yet
represent them as maintaining a constant intercourse of love and
friendship, and sooth our fancy with the pleasing image of these soft
and gentle passions. The idea of tender tranquillity in a pastoral
Arcadia is agreeable from a like principle, as has been observed above.
[Footnote: Sect. v. Part 2.]

Who would live amidst perpetual wrangling, and scolding, and mutual
reproaches? The roughness and harshness of these emotions disturb and
displease us: we suffer by contagion and sympathy; nor can we remain
indifferent spectators, even though certain that no pernicious
consequences would ever follow from such angry passions.

As a certain proof that the whole merit of benevolence is not derived
from its usefulness, we may observe, that in a kind way of blame, we
say, a person is TOO GOOD; when he exceeds his part in society, and
carries his attention for others beyond the proper bounds. In
like manner, we say, a man is too HIGH-SPIRITED, TOO INTREPID, TOO
INDIFFERENT ABOUT FORTUNE: reproaches, which really, at bottom, imply
more esteem than many panegyrics. Being accustomed to rate the merit and
demerit of characters chiefly by their useful or pernicious tendencies,
we cannot forbear applying the epithet of blame, when we discover a
sentiment, which rises to a degree, that is hurtful; but it may happen,
at the same time, that its noble elevation, or its engaging tenderness
so seizes the heart, as rather to increase our friendship and concern
for the person.

     [Footnote: Cheerfulness could scarce admit of blame from its
excess, were it not that dissolute mirth, without a proper cause or
subject, is a sure symptom and characteristic of folly, and on that
account disgustful.]

The amours and attachments of Harry the IVth of France, during the civil
wars of the league, frequently hurt his interest and his cause; but all
the young, at least, and amorous, who can sympathize with the tender
passions, will allow that this very weakness, for they will readily call
it such, chiefly endears that hero, and interests them in his fortunes.

The excessive bravery and resolute inflexibility of Charles the XIIth
ruined his own country, and infested all his neighbours; but have
such splendour and greatness in their appearance, as strikes us with
admiration; and they might, in some degree, be even approved of, if they
betrayed not sometimes too evident symptoms of madness and disorder.

The Athenians pretended to the first invention of agriculture and of
laws: and always valued themselves extremely on the benefit thereby
procured to the whole race of mankind. They also boasted, and with
reason, of their war like enterprises; particularly against those
innumerable fleets and armies of Persians, which invaded Greece during
the reigns of Darius and Xerxes. But though there be no comparison in
point of utility, between these peaceful and military honours; yet we
find, that the orators, who have writ such elaborate panegyrics on
that famous city, have chiefly triumphed in displaying the warlike
achievements. Lysias, Thucydides, Plato, and Isocrates discover, all of
them, the same partiality; which, though condemned by calm reason and
reflection, appears so natural in the mind of man.

It is observable, that the great charm of poetry consists in lively
pictures of the sublime passions, magnanimity, courage, disdain of
fortune; or those of the tender affections, love and friendship; which
warm the heart, and diffuse over it similar sentiments and emotions. And
though all kinds of passion, even the most disagreeable, such as
grief and anger, are observed, when excited by poetry, to convey a
satisfaction, from a mechanism of nature, not easy to be explained: Yet
those more elevated or softer affections have a peculiar influence, and
please from more than one cause or principle. Not to mention that
they alone interest us in the fortune of the persons represented, or
communicate any esteem and affection for their character.

And can it possibly be doubted, that this talent itself of poets, to
move the passions, this pathetic and sublime of sentiment, is a very
considerable merit; and being enhanced by its extreme rarity, may exalt
the person possessed of it, above every character of the age in which
he lives? The prudence, address, steadiness, and benign government of
Augustus, adorned with all the splendour of his noble birth and imperial
crown, render him but an unequal competitor for fame with Virgil, who
lays nothing into the opposite scale but the divine beauties of his
poetical genius.

The very sensibility to these beauties, or a delicacy of taste, is
itself a beauty in any character; as conveying the purest, the most
durable, and most innocent of all enjoyments.

These are some instances of the several species of merit, that are
valued for the immediate pleasure which they communicate to the
person possessed of them. No views of utility or of future beneficial
consequences enter into this sentiment of approbation; yet is it of
a kind similar to that other sentiment, which arises from views of a
public or private utility. The same social sympathy, we may observe, or
fellow-feeling with human happiness or misery, gives rise to both; and
this analogy, in all the parts of the present theory, may justly be
regarded as a confirmation of it.



     [Footnote: It is the nature and, indeed, the definition of
pleasure, because they are useful to society, or useful or agreeable
to the person himself; others produce it more immediately, which is the
case with the class of virtues here considered.]

AS the mutual shocks, in SOCIETY, and the oppositions of interest and
self-love have constrained mankind to establish the laws of JUSTICE, in
order to preserve the advantages of mutual assistance and protection: in
like manner, the eternal contrarieties, in COMPANY, of men's pride and
self-conceit, have introduced the rules of Good Manners or Politeness,
in order to facilitate the intercourse of minds, and an undisturbed
commerce and conversation. Among well-bred people, a mutual deference is
affected; contempt of others disguised; authority concealed; attention
given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation
maintained, without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness
for victory, and without any airs of superiority. These attentions
and regards are immediately AGREEABLE to others, abstracted from any
consideration of utility or beneficial tendencies: they conciliate
affection, promote esteem, and extremely enhance the merit of the person
who regulates his behaviour by them.

Many of the forms of breeding are arbitrary and casual; but the thing
expressed by them is still the same. A Spaniard goes out of his own
house before his guest, to signify that he leaves him master of all.
In other countries, the landlord walks out last, as a common mark of
deference and regard.

But, in order to render a man perfect GOOD COMPANY, he must have Wit and
Ingenuity as well as good manners. What wit is, it may not be easy
to define; but it is easy surely to determine that it is a quality
immediately AGREEABLE to others, and communicating, on its first
appearance, a lively joy and satisfaction to every one who has any
comprehension of it. The most profound metaphysics, indeed, might be
employed in explaining the various kinds and species of wit; and many
classes of it, which are now received on the sole testimony of taste and
sentiment, might, perhaps, be resolved into more general principles. But
this is sufficient for our present purpose, that it does affect taste
and sentiment, and bestowing an immediate enjoyment, is a sure source of
approbation and affection.

In countries where men pass most of their time in conversation, and
visits, and assemblies, these COMPANIONABLE qualities, so to speak,
are of high estimation, and form a chief part of personal merit. In
countries where men live a more domestic life, and either are employed
in business, or amuse themselves in a narrower circle of acquaintance,
the more solid qualities are chiefly regarded. Thus, I have often
observed, that, among the French, the first questions with regard to a
stranger are, IS HE POLITE? HAS HE WIT? In our own country, the chief
praise bestowed is always that of a GOOD-NATURED, SENSIBLE FELLOW.

In conversation, the lively spirit of dialogue is AGREEABLE, even to
those who desire not to have any share in the discourse: hence the
teller of long stories, or the pompous declaimer, is very little
approved of. But most men desire likewise their turn in the
conversation, and regard, with a very evil eye, that LOQUACITY which
deprives them of a right they are naturally so jealous of.

There is a sort of harmless LIARS, frequently to be met with in company,
who deal much in the marvellous. Their usual intention is to please and
entertain; but as men are most delighted with what they conceive to be
truth, these people mistake extremely the means of pleasing, and incur
universal blame. Some indulgence, however, to lying or fiction is
given in HUMOROUS stories; because it is there really agreeable and
entertaining, and truth is not of any importance.

Eloquence, genius of all kinds, even good sense, and sound reasoning,
when it rises to an eminent degree, and is employed upon subjects of
any considerable dignity and nice discernment; all these endowments seem
immediately agreeable, and have a merit distinct from their usefulness.
Rarity, likewise, which so much enhances the price of every thing, must
set an additional value on these noble talents of the human mind.

Modesty may be understood in different senses, even abstracted from
chastity, which has been already treated of. It sometimes means that
tenderness and nicety of honour, that apprehension of blame, that dread
of intrusion or injury towards others, that Pudor, which is the proper
guardian of every kind of virtue, and a sure preservative against vice
and corruption. But its most usual meaning is when it is opposed
to IMPUDENCE and ARROGANCE, and expresses a diffidence of our own
judgement, and a due attention and regard for others. In young men
chiefly, this quality is a sure sign of good sense; and is also the
certain means of augmenting that endowment, by preserving their ears
open to instruction, and making them still grasp after new attainments.
But it has a further charm to every spectator; by flattering every man's
vanity, and presenting the appearance of a docile pupil, who receives,
with proper attention and respect, every word they utter.

Men have, in general, a much greater propensity to overvalue than
undervalue themselves; notwithstanding the opinion of Aristotle
[Footnote: Ethic. ad Nicomachum.]. This makes us more jealous of the
excess on the former side, and causes us to regard, with a peculiar
indulgence, all tendency to modesty and self-diffidence; as esteeming
the danger less of falling into any vicious extreme of that nature. It
is thus in countries where men's bodies are apt to exceed in corpulency,
personal beauty is placed in a much greater degree of slenderness, than
in countries where that is the most usual defect. Being so often struck
with instances of one species of deformity, men think they can never
keep at too great a distance from it, and wish always to have a
leaning to the opposite side. In like manner, were the door opened to
self-praise, and were Montaigne's maxim observed, that one should say as
as it is sure we often think so; were this the case, I say, every one
is sensible that such a flood of impertinence would break in upon us,
as would render society wholly intolerable. For this reason custom
has established it as a rule, in common societies, that men should not
indulge themselves in self-praise, or even speak much of themselves;
and it is only among intimate friends or people of very manly behaviour,
that one is allowed to do himself justice. Nobody finds fault with
Maurice, Prince of Orange, for his reply to one who asked him, whom he
esteemed the first general of the age, THE MARQUIS OF SPINOLA, said he,
IS THE SECOND. Though it is observable, that the self-praise implied is
here better implied, than if it had been directly expressed, without any
cover or disguise.

He must be a very superficial thinker, who imagines that all instances
of mutual deference are to be understood in earnest, and that a man
would be more esteemable for being ignorant of his own merits and
accomplishments. A small bias towards modesty, even in the internal
sentiment, is favourably regarded, especially in young people; and a
strong bias is required in the outward behaviour; but this excludes not
a noble pride and spirit, which may openly display itself in its full
extent, when one lies under calumny or oppression of any kind. The
generous contumacy of Socrates, as Cicero calls it, has been highly
celebrated in all ages; and when joined to the usual modesty of his
behaviour, forms a shining character. Iphicrates, the Athenian, being
accused of betraying the interests of his country, asked his accuser,
BY NO MEANS, replied the other. AND CAN YOU THEN IMAGINE, cried the
hero, that Iphicrates WOULD BE GUILTY? [Footnote: Quinctil. lib. v. cap.
12.]--In short, a generous spirit and self-value, well founded, decently
disguised, and courageously supported under distress and calumny, is a
great excellency, and seems to derive its merit from the noble elevation
of its sentiment, or its immediate agreeableness to its possessor. In
ordinary characters, we approve of a bias towards modesty, which is
a quality immediately agreeable to others: the vicious excess of
the former virtue, namely, insolence or haughtiness, is immediately
disagreeable to others; the excess of the latter is so to the possessor.
Thus are the boundaries of these duties adjusted.

A desire of fame, reputation, or a character with others, is so far
from being blameable, that it seems inseparable from virtue, genius,
capacity, and a generous or noble disposition. An attention even to
trivial matters, in order to please, is also expected and demanded by
society; and no one is surprised, if he find a man in company to observe
a greater elegance of dress and more pleasant flow of conversation, than
when he passes his time at home, and with his own family. Wherein, then,
consists Vanity, which is so justly regarded as a fault or imperfection.
It seems to consist chiefly in such an intemperate display of our
advantages, honours, and accomplishments; in such an importunate and
open demand of praise and admiration, as is offensive to others, and
encroaches too far on their secret vanity and ambition. It is besides a
sure symptom of the want of true dignity and elevation of mind, which is
so great an ornament in any character. For why that impatient desire
of applause; as if you were not justly entitled to it, and might not
reasonably expect that it would for ever at tend you? Why so anxious to
inform us of the great company which you have kept; the obliging things
which were said to you; the honours, the distinctions which you met
with; as if these were not things of course, and what we could readily,
of ourselves, have imagined, without being told of them?

Decency, or a proper regard to age, sex, character, and station in the
world, may be ranked among the qualities which are immediately agreeable
to others, and which, by that means, acquire praise and approbation. An
effeminate behaviour in a man, a rough manner in a woman; these are ugly
because unsuitable to each character, and different from the qualities
which we expect in the sexes. It is as if a tragedy abounded in comic
beauties, or a comedy in tragic. The disproportions hurt the eye, and
convey a disagreeable sentiment to the spectators, the source of blame
and disapprobation. This is that INDECORUM, which is explained so much
at large by Cicero in his Offices.

Among the other virtues, we may also give Cleanliness a place; since
it naturally renders us agreeable to others, and is no inconsiderable
source of love and affection. No one will deny, that a negligence in
this particular is a fault; and as faults are nothing but smaller vices,
and this fault can have no other origin than the uneasy sensation which
it excites in others; we may, in this instance, seemingly so trivial,
clearly discover the origin of moral distinctions, about which the
learned have involved themselves in such mazes of perplexity and error.

But besides all the AGREEABLE qualities, the origin of whose beauty
we can, in some degree, explain and account for, there still remains
something mysterious and inexplicable, which conveys an immediate
satisfaction to the spectator, but how, or why, or for what reason,
he cannot pretend to determine. There is a manner, a grace, an ease, a
genteelness, an I-know-not-what, which some men possess above others,
which is very different from external beauty and comeliness, and which,
however, catches our affection almost as suddenly and powerfully. And
though this MANNER be chiefly talked of in the passion between the
sexes, where the concealed magic is easily explained, yet surely much
of it prevails in all our estimation of characters, and forms no
inconsiderable part of personal merit. This class of accomplishments,
therefore, must be trusted entirely to the blind, but sure testimony of
taste and sentiment; and must be considered as a part of ethics, left by
nature to baffle all the pride of philosophy, and make her sensible of
her narrow boundaries and slender acquisitions.

We approve of another, because of his wit, politeness, modesty, decency,
or any agreeable quality which he possesses; although he be not of our
acquaintance, nor has ever given us any entertainment, by means of
these accomplishments. The idea, which we form of their effect on his
acquaintance, has an agreeable influence on our imagination, and gives
us the sentiment of approbation. This principle enters into all the
judgements which we form concerning manners and characters.



IT may justly appear surprising that any man in so late an age, should
find it requisite to prove, by elaborate reasoning, that Personal Merit
consists altogether in the possession of mental qualities, USEFUL or
AGREEABLE to the PERSON HIMSELF or to OTHERS. It might be expected that
this principle would have occurred even to the first rude, unpractised
enquirers concerning morals, and been received from its own evidence,
without any argument or disputation. Whatever is valuable in any kind,
so naturally classes itself under the division of USEFUL or AGREEABLE,
the UTILE or the DULCE, that it is not easy to imagine why we should
ever seek further, or consider the question as a matter of nice research
or inquiry. And as every thing useful or agreeable must possess these
qualities with regard either to the PERSON HIMSELF or to OTHERS, the
complete delineation or description of merit seems to be performed as
naturally as a shadow is cast by the sun, or an image is reflected upon
water. If the ground, on which the shadow is cast, be not broken and
uneven; nor the surface from which the image is reflected, disturbed
and confused; a just figure is immediately presented, without any art
or attention. And it seems a reasonable presumption, that systems and
hypotheses have perverted our natural understanding, when a theory,
so simple and obvious, could so long have escaped the most elaborate

But however the case may have fared with philosophy, in common life
these principles are still implicitly maintained; nor is any other topic
of praise or blame ever recurred to, when we employ any panegyric or
satire, any applause or censure of human action and behaviour. If we
observe men, in every intercourse of business or pleasure, in every
discourse and conversation, we shall find them nowhere, except the
schools, at any loss upon this subject. What so natural, for instance,
as the following dialogue? You are very happy, we shall suppose one to
say, addressing himself to another, that you have given your daughter
to Cleanthes. He is a man of honour and humanity. Every one, who has
any intercourse with him, is sure of FAIR and KIND treatment. [Footnote:
Qualities useful to others.] I congratulate you too, says another,
on the promising expectations of this son-in-law; whose assiduous
application to the study of the laws, whose quick penetration and early
knowledge both of men and business, prognosticate the greatest honours
and advancement. [Footnote: Qualities useful to the person himself.]
You surprise me, replies a third, when you talk of Cleanthes as a man
of business and application. I met him lately in a circle of the gayest
company, and he was the very life and soul of our conversation: so much
wit with good manners; so much gallantry without affectation; so much
ingenious knowledge so genteelly delivered, I have never before observed
in any one. [Footnote: Qualities immediately agreeable to others,]
You would admire him still more, says a fourth, if you knew him more
familiarly. That cheerfulness, which you might remark in him, is not a
sudden flash struck out by company: it runs through the whole tenor of
his life, and preserves a perpetual serenity on his countenance, and
tranquillity in his soul. He has met with severe trials, misfortunes as
well as dangers; and by his greatness of mind, was still superior to
all of them [Footnote: Qualities immediately agreeable to the person
himself]. The image, gentlemen, which you have here delineated of
Cleanthes, cried I, is that of accomplished merit. Each of you has given
a stroke of the pencil to his figure; and you have unawares exceeded all
the pictures drawn by Gratian or Castiglione. A philosopher might select
this character as a model of perfect virtue.

And as every quality which is useful or agreeable to ourselves or others
is, in common life, allowed to be a part of personal merit; so no other
will ever be received, where men judge of things by their natural,
unprejudiced reason, without the delusive glosses of superstition and
false religion. Celibacy, fasting, penance, mortification, self-denial,
humility, silence, solitude, and the whole train of monkish virtues; for
what reason are they everywhere rejected by men of sense, but because
they serve to no manner of purpose; neither advance a man's fortune in
the world, nor render him a more valuable member of society; neither
qualify him for the entertainment of company, nor increase his power of
self-enjoyment? We observe, on the contrary, that they cross all these
desirable ends; stupify the understanding and harden the heart, obscure
the fancy and sour the temper. We justly, therefore, transfer them to
the opposite column, and place them in the catalogue of vices; nor has
any superstition force sufficient among men of the world, to pervert
entirely these natural sentiments. A gloomy, hair-brained enthusiast,
after his death, may have a place in the calendar; but will scarcely
ever be admitted, when alive, into intimacy and society, except by those
who are as delirious and dismal as himself.

It seems a happiness in the present theory, that it enters not into that
vulgar dispute concerning the DEGREES of benevolence or self-love, which
prevail in human nature; a dispute which is never likely to have any
issue, both because men, who have taken part, are not easily convinced,
and because the phenomena, which can be produced on either side, are so
dispersed, so uncertain, and subject to so many interpretations, that it
is scarcely possible accurately to compare them, or draw from them any
determinate inference or conclusion. It is sufficient for our present
purpose, if it be allowed, what surely, without the greatest absurdity
cannot be disputed, that there is some benevolence, however small,
infused into our bosom; some spark of friendship for human kind; some
particle of the dove kneaded into our frame, along with the elements of
the wolf and serpent. Let these generous sentiments be supposed ever
so weak; let them be insufficient to move even a hand or finger of our
body, they must still direct the determinations of our mind, and where
everything else is equal, produce a cool preference of what is useful
and serviceable to mankind, above what is pernicious and dangerous. A
MORAL DISTINCTION, therefore, immediately arises; a general sentiment of
blame and approbation; a tendency, however faint, to the objects of the
one, and a proportionable aversion to those of the other. Nor will those
reasoners, who so earnestly maintain the predominant selfishness of
human kind, be any wise scandalized at hearing of the weak sentiments of
virtue implanted in our nature. On the contrary, they are found as ready
to maintain the one tenet as the other; and their spirit of satire (for
such it appears, rather than of corruption) naturally gives rise to
both opinions; which have, indeed, a great and almost an indissoluble
connexion together.

Avarice, ambition, vanity, and all passions vulgarly, though improperly,
comprised under the denomination of SELF-LOVE, are here excluded from
our theory concerning the origin of morals, not because they are too
weak, but because they have not a proper direction for that purpose.
The notion of morals implies some sentiment common to all mankind, which
recommends the same object to general approbation, and makes every man,
or most men, agree in the same opinion or decision concerning it. It
also implies some sentiment, so universal and comprehensive as to extend
to all mankind, and render the actions and conduct, even of the persons
the most remote, an object of applause or censure, according as they
agree or disagree with that rule of right which is established. These
two requisite circumstances belong alone to the sentiment of humanity
here insisted on. The other passions produce in every breast, many
strong sentiments of desire and aversion, affection and hatred; but
these neither are felt so much in common, nor are so comprehensive, as
to be the foundation of any general system and established theory of
blame or approbation.

When a man denominates another his ENEMY, his RIVAL, his ANTAGONIST, his
ADVERSARY, he is understood to speak the language of self-love, and to
express sentiments, peculiar to himself, and arising from his particular
circumstances and situation. But when he bestows on any man the epithets
of VICIOUS or ODIOUS or DEPRAVED, he then speaks another language, and
expresses sentiments, in which he expects all his audience are to
concur with him. He must here, therefore, depart from his private and
particular situation, and must choose a point of view, common to him
with others; he must move some universal principle of the human frame,
and touch a string to which all mankind have an accord and symphony. If
he mean, therefore, to express that this man possesses qualities, whose
tendency is pernicious to society, he has chosen this common point of
view, and has touched the principle of humanity, in which every man, in
some degree, concurs. While the human heart is compounded of the same
elements as at present, it will never be wholly indifferent to public
good, nor entirely unaffected with the tendency of characters and
manners. And though this affection of humanity may not generally be
esteemed so strong as vanity or ambition, yet, being common to all men,
it can alone be the foundation of morals, or of any-general system of
blame or praise. One man's ambition is not another's ambition, nor will
the same event or object satisfy both; but the humanity of one man is
the humanity of every one, and the same object touches this passion in
all human creatures.

But the sentiments, which arise from humanity, are not only the same in
all human creatures, and produce the same approbation or censure; but
they also comprehend all human creatures; nor is there any one whose
conduct or character is not, by their means, an object to every one of
censure or approbation. On the contrary, those other passions,
commonly denominated selfish, both produce different sentiments in each
individual, according to his particular situation; and also contemplate
the greater part of mankind with the utmost indifference and unconcern.
Whoever has a high regard and esteem for me flatters my vanity; whoever
expresses contempt mortifies and displeases me; but as my name is known
but to a small part of mankind, there are few who come within the sphere
of this passion, or excite, on its account, either my affection or
disgust. But if you represent a tyrannical, insolent, or barbarous
behaviour, in any country or in any age of the world, I soon carry my
eye to the pernicious tendency of such a conduct, and feel the sentiment
of repugnance and displeasure towards it. No character can be so remote
as to be, in this light, wholly indifferent to me. What is beneficial
to society or to the person himself must still be preferred. And every
quality or action, of every human being, must, by this means, be ranked
under some class or denomination, expressive of general censure or

What more, therefore, can we ask to distinguish the sentiments,
dependent on humanity, from those connected with any other passion, or
to satisfy us, why the former are the origin of morals, not the latter?
Whatever conduct gains my approbation, by touching my humanity, procures
also the applause of all mankind, by affecting the same principle in
them; but what serves my avarice or ambition pleases these passions
in me alone, and affects not the avarice and ambition of the rest of
mankind. There is no circumstance of conduct in any man, provided
it have a beneficial tendency, that is not agreeable to my humanity,
however remote the person; but every man, so far removed as neither
to cross nor serve my avarice and ambition, is regarded as wholly
indifferent by those passions. The distinction, therefore, between these
species of sentiment being so great and evident, language must soon be
moulded upon it, and must invent a peculiar set of terms, in order to
express those universal sentiments of censure or approbation, which
arise from humanity, or from views of general usefulness and its
contrary. Virtue and Vice become then known; morals are recognized;
certain general ideas are framed of human conduct and behaviour; such
measures are expected from men in such situations. This action is
determined to be conformable to our abstract rule; that other, contrary.
And by such universal principles are the particular sentiments of
self-love frequently controlled and limited.

     [Footnote: It seems certain, both from reason and experience,
that a rude, untaught savage regulates chiefly his love and hatred by
the ideas of private utility and injury, and has but faint conceptions
of a general rule or system of behaviour. The man who stands opposite
to him in battle, he hates heartedly, not only for the present moment,
which is almost unavoidable, but for ever after; nor is he satisfied
without the most extreme punishment and vengeance. But we, accustomed
to society, and to more enlarged reflections, consider, that this man
is serving his own country and community; that any man, in the same
situation, would do the same; that we ourselves, in like circumstances,
observe a like conduct; that; in general, human society is best
supported on such maxims: and by these suppositions and views, we
correct, in some measure, our ruder and narrower positions. And though
much of our friendship and enemity be still regulated by private
considerations of benefit and harm, we pay, at least, this homage to
general rules, which we are accustomed to respect, that we commonly
perver our adversary's conduct, by imputing malice or injustice to him,
in order to give vent to those passions, which arise from self-love
and private interest. When the heart is full of rage, it never wants
pretences of this nature; though sometimes as frivolous, as those from
which Horace, being almost crushed by the fall of a tree, effects to
accuse of parricide the first planter of it.]

From instances of popular tumults, seditions, factions, panics, and
of all passions, which are shared with a multitude, we may learn the
influence of society in exciting and supporting any emotion; while the
most ungovernable disorders are raised, we find, by that means, from the
slightest and most frivolous occasions. Solon was no very cruel, though,
perhaps, an unjust legislator, who punished neuters in civil wars; and
few, I believe, would, in such cases, incur the penalty, were their
affection and discourse allowed sufficient to absolve them. No
selfishness, and scarce any philosophy, have there force sufficient to
support a total coolness and indifference; and he must be more or less
than man, who kindles not in the common blaze. What wonder then, that
moral sentiments are found of such influence in life; though springing
from principles, which may appear, at first sight, somewhat small
and delicate? But these principles, we must remark, are social and
universal; they form, in a manner, the PARTY of humankind against vice
or disorder, its common enemy. And as the benevolent concern for others
is diffused, in a greater or less degree, over all men, and is the same
in all, it occurs more frequently in discourse, is cherished by society
and conversation, and the blame and approbation, consequent on it, are
thereby roused from that lethargy into which they are probably lulled,
in solitary and uncultivated nature. Other passions, though perhaps
originally stronger, yet being selfish and private, are often
overpowered by its force, and yield the dominion of our breast to those
social and public principles.

Another spring of our constitution, that brings a great addition of
force to moral sentiments, is the love of fame; which rules, with such
uncontrolled authority, in all generous minds, and is often the grand
object of all their designs and undertakings. By our continual and
earnest pursuit of a character, a name, a reputation in the world, we
bring our own deportment and conduct frequently in review, and consider
how they appear in the eyes of those who approach and regard us. This
constant habit of surveying ourselves, as it were, in reflection,
keeps alive all the sentiments of right and wrong, and begets, in noble
natures, a certain reverence for themselves as well as others, which
is the surest guardian of every virtue. The animal conveniencies and
pleasures sink gradually in their value; while every inward beauty and
moral grace is studiously acquired, and the mind is accomplished in
every perfection, which can adorn or embellish a rational creature.

Here is the most perfect morality with which we are acquainted: here is
displayed the force of many sympathies. Our moral sentiment is itself
a feeling chiefly of that nature, and our regard to a character with
others seems to arise only from a care of preserving a character with
ourselves; and in order to attain this end, we find it necessary to prop
our tottering judgement on the correspondent approbation of mankind.

But, that we may accommodate matters, and remove if possible every
difficulty, let us allow all these reasonings to be false. Let us allow
that, when we resolve the pleasure, which arises from views of utility,
into the sentiments of humanity and sympathy, we have embraced a wrong
hypothesis. Let us confess it necessary to find some other explication
of that applause, which is paid to objects, whether inanimate, animate,
or rational, if they have a tendency to promote the welfare and
advantage of mankind. However difficult it be to conceive that an object
is approved of on account of its tendency to a certain end, while the
end itself is totally indifferent: let us swallow this absurdity,
and consider what are the consequences. The preceding delineation
or definition of Personal Merit must still retain its evidence and
authority: it must still be allowed that every quality of the mind,
communicates a pleasure to the spectator, engages his esteem, and is
admitted under the honourable denomination of virtue or merit. Are not
justice, fidelity, honour, veracity, allegiance, chastity, esteemed
solely on account of their tendency to promote the good of society?
Is not that tendency inseparable from humanity, benevolence, lenity,
generosity, gratitude, moderation, tenderness, friendship, and all
the other social virtues? Can it possibly be doubted that industry,
discretion, frugality, secrecy, order, perseverance, forethought,
judgement, and this whole class of virtues and accomplishments, of which
many pages would not contain the catalogue; can it be doubted, I
say, that the tendency of these qualities to promote the interest and
happiness of their possessor, is the sole foundation of their merit?
Who can dispute that a mind, which supports a perpetual serenity and
cheerfulness, a noble dignity and undaunted spirit, a tender affection
and good-will to all around; as it has more enjoyment within itself,
is also a more animating and rejoicing spectacle, than if dejected with
melancholy, tormented with anxiety, irritated with rage, or sunk into
the most abject baseness and degeneracy? And as to the qualities,
immediately AGREEABLE to OTHERS, they speak sufficiently for themselves;
and he must be unhappy, indeed, either in his own temper, or in his
situation and company, who has never perceived the charms of a facetious
wit or flowing affability, of a delicate modesty or decent genteelness
of address and manner.

I am sensible, that nothing can be more unphilosophical than to be
positive or dogmatical on any subject; and that, even if excessive
scepticism could be maintained, it would not be more destructive to all
just reasoning and inquiry. I am convinced that, where men are the most
sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken, and have there
given reins to passion, without that proper deliberation and suspense,
which can alone secure them from the grossest absurdities. Yet, I must
confess, that this enumeration puts the matter in so strong a light,
that I cannot, at PRESENT, be more assured of any truth, which I learn
from reasoning and argument, than that personal merit consists entirely
in the usefulness or agreeableness of qualities to the person himself
possessed of them, or to others, who have any intercourse with him. But
when I reflect that, though the bulk and figure of the earth have been
measured and delineated, though the motions of the tides have been
accounted for, the order and economy of the heavenly bodies subjected to
their proper laws, and Infinite itself reduced to calculation; yet men
still dispute concerning the foundation of their moral duties. When I
reflect on this, I say, I fall back into diffidence and scepticism, and
suspect that an hypothesis, so obvious, had it been a true one, would,
long ere now, have been received by the unanimous suffrage and consent
of mankind.


Having explained the moral APPROBATION attending merit or virtue, there
remains nothing but briefly to consider our interested OBLIGATION to
it, and to inquire whether every man, who has any regard to his own
happiness and welfare, will not best find his account in the practice of
every moral duty. If this can be clearly ascertained from the foregoing
theory, we shall have the satisfaction to reflect, that we have
advanced principles, which not only, it is hoped, will stand the test
of reasoning and inquiry, but may contribute to the amendment of men's
lives, and their improvement in morality and social virtue. And though
the philosophical truth of any proposition by no means depends on its
tendency to promote the interests of society; yet a man has but a bad
grace, who delivers a theory, however true, which, he must confess,
leads to a practice dangerous and pernicious. Why rake into those
corners of nature which spread a nuisance all around? Why dig up the
pestilence from the pit in which it is buried? The ingenuity of your
researches may be admired, but your systems will be detested; and
mankind will agree, if they cannot refute them, to sink them, at least,
in eternal silence and oblivion. Truths which are pernicious to society,
if any such there be, will yield to errors which are salutary and

But what philosophical truths can be more advantageous to society, than
those here delivered, which represent virtue in all her genuine and most
engaging charms, and makes us approach her with ease, familiarity, and
affection? The dismal dress falls off, with which many divines, and
some philosophers, have covered her; and nothing appears but gentleness,
humanity, beneficence, affability; nay, even at proper intervals, play,
frolic, and gaiety. She talks not of useless austerities and rigours,
suffering and self-denial. She declares that her sole purpose is to make
her votaries and all mankind, during every instant of their existence,
if possible, cheerful and happy; nor does she ever willingly part with
any pleasure but in hopes of ample compensation in some other period
of their lives. The sole trouble which she demands, is that of just
calculation, and a steady preference of the greater happiness. And if
any austere pretenders approach her, enemies to joy and pleasure, she
either rejects them as hypocrites and deceivers; or, if she admit them
in her train, they are ranked, however, among the least favoured of her

And, indeed, to drop all figurative expression, what hopes can we
ever have of engaging mankind to a practice which we confess full of
austerity and rigour? Or what theory of morals can ever serve any useful
purpose, unless it can show, by a particular detail, that all the duties
which it recommends, are also the true interest of each individual?
The peculiar advantage of the foregoing system seems to be, that it
furnishes proper mediums for that purpose.

That the virtues which are immediately USEFUL or AGREEABLE to the person
possessed of them, are desirable in a view to self-interest, it would
surely be superfluous to prove. Moralists, indeed, may spare themselves
all the pains which they often take in recommending these duties.
To what purpose collect arguments to evince that temperance is
advantageous, and the excesses of pleasure hurtful, when it appears that
these excesses are only denominated such, because they are hurtful;
and that, if the unlimited use of strong liquors, for instance, no more
impaired health or the faculties of mind and body than the use of air or
water, it would not be a whit more vicious or blameable?

It seems equally superfluous to prove, that the COMPANIONABLE virtues of
good manners and wit, decency and genteelness, are more desirable than
the contrary qualities. Vanity alone, without any other consideration,
is a sufficient motive to make us wish for the possession of these
accomplishments. No man was ever willingly deficient in this particular.
All our failures here proceed from bad education, want of capacity, or a
perverse and unpliable disposition. Would you have your company coveted,
admired, followed; rather than hated, despised, avoided? Can any one
seriously deliberate in the case? As no enjoyment is sincere, without
some reference to company and society; so no society can be agreeable,
or even tolerable, where a man feels his presence unwelcome, and
discovers all around him symptoms of disgust and aversion.

But why, in the greater society or confederacy of mankind, should not
the case be the same as in particular clubs and companies? Why is
it more doubtful, that the enlarged virtues of humanity, generosity,
beneficence, are desirable with a view of happiness and self-interest,
than the limited endowments of ingenuity and politeness? Are we
apprehensive lest those social affections interfere, in a greater and
more immediate degree than any other pursuits, with private utility,
and cannot be gratified, without some important sacrifice of honour and
advantage? If so, we are but ill-instructed in the nature of the human
passions, and are more influenced by verbal distinctions than by real

Whatever contradiction may vulgarly be supposed between the SELFISH and
SOCIAL sentiments or dispositions, they are really no more opposite than
selfish and ambitious, selfish and revengeful, selfish and vain. It is
requisite that there be an original propensity of some kind, in order
to be a basis to self-love, by giving a relish to the objects of
its pursuit; and none more fit for this purpose than benevolence
or humanity. The goods of fortune are spent in one gratification or
another: the miser who accumulates his annual income, and lends it out
at interest, has really spent it in the gratification of his avarice.
And it would be difficult to show why a man is more a loser by a
generous action, than by any other method of expense; since the utmost
which he can attain by the most elaborate selfishness, is the indulgence
of some affection.

Now if life, without passion, must be altogether insipid and tiresome;
let a man suppose that he has full power of modelling his own
disposition, and let him deliberate what appetite or desire he would
choose for the foundation of his happiness and enjoyment. Every
affection, he would observe, when gratified by success, gives a
satisfaction proportioned to its force and violence; but besides this
advantage, common to all, the immediate feeling of benevolence and
friendship, humanity and kindness, is sweet, smooth, tender, and
agreeable, independent of all fortune and accidents. These virtues are
besides attended with a pleasing consciousness or remembrance, and keep
us in humour with ourselves as well as others; while we retain the
agreeable reflection of having done our part towards mankind and
society. And though all men show a jealousy of our success in the
pursuits of avarice and ambition; yet are we almost sure of their
good-will and good wishes, so long as we persevere in the paths of
virtue, and employ ourselves in the execution of generous plans and
purposes. What other passion is there where we shall find so many
advantages united; an agreeable sentiment, a pleasing consciousness, a
good reputation? But of these truths, we may observe, men are, of
themselves, pretty much convinced; nor are they deficient in their duty
to society, because they would not wish to be generous, friendly, and
humane; but because they do not feel themselves such.

Treating vice with the greatest candour, and making it all possible
concessions, we must acknowledge that there is not, in any instance, the
smallest pretext for giving it the preference above virtue, with a view
of self-interest; except, perhaps, in the case of justice, where a man,
taking things in a certain light, may often seem to be a loser by his
integrity. And though it is allowed that, without a regard to property,
no society could subsist; yet according to the imperfect way in which
human affairs are conducted, a sensible knave, in particular incidents,
may think that an act of iniquity or infidelity will make a considerable
addition to his fortune, without causing any considerable breach in the
social union and confederacy. That HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY, may be
a good general rule, but is liable to many exceptions; and he, it may
perhaps be thought, conducts himself with most wisdom, who observes the
general rule, and takes advantage of all the exceptions. I must confess
that, if a man think that this reasoning much requires an answer,
it would be a little difficult to find any which will to him appear
satisfactory and convincing. If his heart rebel not against such
pernicious maxims, if he feel no reluctance to the thoughts of villainy
or baseness, he has indeed lost a considerable motive to virtue; and we
may expect that this practice will be answerable to his speculation. But
in all ingenuous natures, the antipathy to treachery and roguery is
too strong to be counter-balanced by any views of profit or pecuniary
advantage. Inward peace of mind, consciousness of integrity, a
satisfactory review of our own conduct; these are circumstances, very
requisite to happiness, and will be cherished and cultivated by every
honest man, who feels the importance of them.

Such a one has, besides, the frequent satisfaction of seeing knaves,
with all their pretended cunning and abilities, betrayed by their own
maxims; and while they purpose to cheat with moderation and secrecy, a
tempting incident occurs, nature is frail, and they give into the snare;
whence they can never extricate themselves, without a total loss of
reputation, and the forfeiture of all future trust and confidence with

But were they ever so secret and successful, the honest man, if he has
any tincture of philosophy, or even common observation and reflection,
will discover that they themselves are, in the end, the greatest dupes,
and have sacrificed the invaluable enjoyment of a character, with
themselves at least, for the acquisition of worthless toys and gewgaws.
How little is requisite to supply the necessities of nature? And in a
view to pleasure, what comparison between the unbought satisfaction of
conversation, society, study, even health and the common beauties of
nature, but above all the peaceful reflection on one's own conduct; what
comparison, I say, between these and the feverish, empty amusements of
luxury and expense? These natural pleasures, indeed, are really without
price; both because they are below all price in their attainment, and
above it in their enjoyment.


IF the foregoing hypothesis be received, it will now be easy for us to
determine the question first started, [FOOTNOTE: Sect. 1.] concerning
the general principles of morals; and though we postponed the
decision of that question, lest it should then involve us in intricate
speculations, which are unfit for moral discourses, we may resume it at
present, and examine how far either REASON or SENTIMENT enters into all
decisions of praise or censure.

One principal foundation of moral praise being supposed to lie in the
usefulness of any quality or action, it is evident that REASON must
enter for a considerable share in all decisions of this kind; since
nothing but that faculty can instruct us in the tendency of qualities
and actions, and point out their beneficial consequences to society
and to their possessor. In many cases this is an affair liable to great
controversy: doubts may arise; opposite interests may occur; and a
preference must be given to one side, from very nice views, and a small
overbalance of utility. This is particularly remarkable in questions
with regard to justice; as is, indeed, natural to suppose, from that
species of utility which attends this virtue [Footnote: See App. II.].
Were every single instance of justice, like that of benevolence, useful
to society; this would be a more simple state of the case, and seldom
liable to great controversy. But as single instances of justice are
often pernicious in their first and immediate tendency, and as the
advantage to society results only from the observance of the general
rule, and from the concurrence and combination of several persons in
the same equitable conduct; the case here becomes more intricate and
involved. The various circumstances of society; the various consequences
of any practice; the various interests which may be proposed; these,
on many occasions, are doubtful, and subject to great discussion and
inquiry. The object of municipal laws is to fix all the questions
with regard to justice: the debates of civilians; the reflections of
politicians; the precedents of history and public records, are all
directed to the same purpose. And a very accurate REASON or JUDGEMENT is
often requisite, to give the true determination, amidst such intricate
doubts arising from obscure or opposite utilities.

But though reason, when fully assisted and improved, be sufficient
to instruct us in the pernicious or useful tendency of qualities and
actions; it is not alone sufficient to produce any moral blame or
approbation. Utility is only a tendency to a certain end; and were the
end totally indifferent to us, we should feel the same indifference
towards the means. It is requisite a SENTIMENT should here display
itself, in order to give a preference to the useful above the pernicious
tendencies. This SENTIMENT can be no other than a feeling for the
happiness of mankind, and a resentment of their misery; since these are
the different ends which virtue and vice have a tendency to promote.
Here therefore REASON instructs us in the several tendencies of actions,
and HUMANITY makes a distinction in favour of those which are useful and

This partition between the faculties of understanding and sentiment, in
all moral decisions, seems clear from the preceding hypothesis. But I
shall suppose that hypothesis false: it will then be requisite to look
out for some other theory that may be satisfactory; and I dare venture
to affirm that none such will ever be found, so long as we suppose
reason to be the sole source of morals. To prove this, it will be proper
t o weigh the five following considerations.

I. It is easy for a false hypothesis to maintain some appearance of
truth, while it keeps wholly in generals, makes use of undefined terms,
and employs comparisons, instead of instances. This is particularly
remarkable in that philosophy, which ascribes the discernment of
all moral distinctions to reason alone, without the concurrence of
sentiment. It is impossible that, in any particular instance, this
hypothesis can so much as be rendered intelligible, whatever specious
figure it may make in general declamations and discourses. Examine the
crime of INGRATITUDE, for instance; which has place, wherever we observe
good-will, expressed and known, together with good-offices performed, on
the one side, and a return of ill-will or indifference, with ill-offices
or neglect on the other: anatomize all these circumstances, and examine,
by your reason alone, in what consists the demerit or blame. You never
will come to any issue or conclusion.

Reason judges either of MATTER OF FACT or of RELATIONS. Enquire then,
first, where is that matter of fact which we here call crime; point
it out; determine the time of its existence; describe its essence or
nature; explain the sense or faculty to which it discovers itself. It
resides in the mind of the person who is ungrateful. He must, therefore,
feel it, and be conscious of it. But nothing is there, except the
passion of ill-will or absolute indifference. You cannot say that these,
of themselves, always, and in all circumstances, are crimes. No, they
are only crimes when directed towards persons who have before expressed
and displayed good-will towards us. Consequently, we may infer, that the
crime of ingratitude is not any particular individual FACT; but arises
from a complication of circumstances, which, being presented to the
spectator, excites the SENTIMENT of blame, by the particular structure
and fabric of his mind.

This representation, you say, is false. Crime, indeed, consists not in
a particular FACT, of whose reality we are assured by reason; but it
consists in certain MORAL RELATIONS, discovered by reason, in the same
manner as we discover by reason the truths of geometry or algebra.
But what are the relations, I ask, of which you here talk? In the case
stated above, I see first good-will and good-offices in one person;
then ill-will and ill-offices in the other. Between these, there is a
relation of CONTARIETY. Does the crime consist in that relation? But
suppose a person bore me ill-will or did me ill-offices; and I, in
return, were indifferent towards him, or did him good offices. Here is
the same relation of CONTRARIETY; and yet my conduct is often highly
laudable. Twist and turn this matter as much as you will, you can never
rest the morality on relation; but must have recourse to the decisions
of sentiment.

When it is affirmed that two and three are equal to the half of ten,
this relation of equality I understand perfectly. I conceive, that if
ten be divided into two parts, of which one has as many units as the
other; and if any of these parts be compared to two added to three, it
will contain as many units as that compound number. But when you draw
thence a comparison to moral relations, I own that I am altogether at a
loss to understand you. A moral action, a crime, such as ingratitude, is
a complicated object. Does the morality consist in the relation of its
parts to each other? How? After what manner? Specify the relation: be
more particular and explicit in your propositions, and you will easily
see their falsehood.

No, say you, the morality consists in the relation of actions to the
rule of right; and they are denominated good or ill, according as they
agree or disagree with it. What then is this rule of right? In what does
it consist? How is it determined? By reason, you say, which examines the
moral relations of actions. So that moral relations are determined
by the comparison of action to a rule. And that rule is determined by
considering the moral relations of objects. Is not this fine reasoning?

All this is metaphysics, you cry. That is enough; there needs nothing
more to give a strong presumption of falsehood. Yes, reply I, here
are metaphysics surely; but they are all on your side, who advance an
abstruse hypothesis, which can never be made intelligible, nor quadrate
with any particular instance or illustration. The hypothesis which we
embrace is plain. It maintains that morality is determined by sentiment.
We then proceed to examine a plain matter of fact, to wit, what actions
have this influence. We consider all the circumstances in which these
actions agree, and thence endeavour to extract some general observations
with regard to these sentiments. If you call this metaphysics, and find
anything abstruse here, you need only conclude that your turn of mind is
not suited to the moral sciences.

II. When a man, at any time, deliberates concerning his own conduct (as,
whether he had better, in a particular emergence, assist a brother or
a benefactor), he must consider these separate relations, with all the
circumstances and situations of the persons, in order to determine the
superior duty and obligation; and in order to determine the proportion
of lines in any triangle, it is necessary to examine the nature of that
figure, and the relation which its several parts bear to each other. But
notwithstanding this appearing similarity in the two cases, there is,
at bottom, an extreme difference between them. A speculative reasoner
concerning triangles or circles considers the several known and given
relations of the parts of these figures; and thence infers some unknown
relation, which is dependent on the former. But in moral deliberations
we must be acquainted beforehand with all the objects, and all their
relations to each other; and from a comparison of the whole, fix our
choice or approbation. No new fact to be ascertained; no new relation to
be discovered. All the circumstances of the case are supposed to be laid
before us, ere we can fix any sentence of blame or approbation. If any
material circumstance be yet unknown or doubtful, we must first employ
our inquiry or intellectual faculties to assure us of it; and must
suspend for a time all moral decision or sentiment. While we are
ignorant whether a man were aggressor or not, how can we determine
whether the person who killed him be criminal or innocent? But after
every circumstance, every relation is known, the understanding has no
further room to operate, nor any object on which it could employ itself.
The approbation or blame which then ensues, cannot be the work of the
judgement, but of the heart; and is not a speculative proposition or
affirmation, but an active feeling or sentiment. In the disquisitions of
the understanding, from known circumstances and relations, we infer some
new and unknown. In moral decisions, all the circumstances and relations
must be previously known; and the mind, from the contemplation of the
whole, feels some new impression of affection or disgust, esteem or
contempt, approbation or blame.

Hence the great difference between a mistake of FACT and one of RIGHT;
and hence the reason why the one is commonly criminal and not the other.
When Oedipus killed Laius, he was ignorant of the relation, and from
circumstances, innocent and involuntary, formed erroneous opinions
concerning the action which he committed. But when Nero killed
Agrippina, all the relations between himself and the person, and all the
circumstances of the fact, were previously known to him; but the motive
of revenge, or fear, or interest, prevailed in his savage heart over the
sentiments of duty and humanity. And when we express that detestation
against him to which he himself, in a little time, became insensible,
it is not that we see any relations, of which he was ignorant; but that,
for the rectitude of our disposition, we feel sentiments against which
he was hardened from flattery and a long perseverance in the most
enormous crimes.

In these sentiments then, not in a discovery of relations of any kind,
do all moral determinations consist. Before we can pretend to form any
decision of this kind, everything must be known and ascertained on the
side of the object or action. Nothing remains but to feel, on our part,
some sentiment of blame or approbation; whence we pronounce the action
criminal or virtuous.

III. This doctrine will become still more evident, if we compare moral
beauty with natural, to which in many particulars it bears so near a
resemblance. It is on the proportion, relation, and position of parts,
that all natural beauty depends; but it would be absurd thence to
infer, that the perception of beauty, like that of truth in geometrical
problems, consists wholly in the perception of relations, and was
performed entirely by the understanding or intellectual faculties. In
all the sciences, our mind from the known relations investigates the
unknown. But in all decisions of taste or external beauty, all the
relations are beforehand obvious to the eye; and we thence proceed to
feel a sentiment of complacency or disgust, according to the nature of
the object, and disposition of our organs.

Euclid has fully explained all the qualities of the circle; but has not
in any proposition said a word of its beauty. The reason is evident. The
beauty is not a quality of the circle. It lies not in any part of the
line, whose parts are equally distant from a common centre. It is only
the effect which that figure produces upon the mind, whose peculiar
fabric of structure renders it susceptible of such sentiments. In vain
would you look for it in the circle, or seek it, either by your senses
or by mathematical reasoning, in all the properties of that figure.

Attend to Palladio and Perrault, while they explain all the parts and
proportions of a pillar. They talk of the cornice, and frieze, and base,
and entablature, and shaft, and architrave; and give the description and
position of each of these members. But should you ask the description
and position of its beauty, they would readily reply, that the beauty
is not in any of the parts or members of a pillar, but results from the
whole, when that complicated figure is presented to an intelligent mind,
susceptible to those finer sensations. Till such a spectator appear,
there is nothing but a figure of such particular dimensions and
proportions: from his sentiments alone arise its elegance and beauty.

Again; attend to Cicero, while he paints the crimes of a Verres or a
Catiline. You must acknowledge that the moral turpitude results, in the
same manner, from the contemplation of the whole, when presented to a
being whose organs have such a particular structure and formation. The
orator may paint rage, insolence, barbarity on the one side; meekness,
suffering, sorrow, innocence on the other. But if you feel no
indignation or compassion arise in you from this complication of
circumstances, you would in vain ask him, in what consists the crime or
villainy, which he so vehemently exclaims against? At what time, or
on what subject it first began to exist? And what has a few months
afterwards become of it, when every disposition and thought of all the
actors is totally altered or annihilated? No satisfactory answer can be
given to any of these questions, upon the abstract hypothesis of morals;
and we must at last acknowledge, that the crime or immorality is
no particular fact or relation, which can be the object of the
understanding, but arises entirely from the sentiment of disapprobation,
which, by the structure of human nature, we unavoidably feel on the
apprehension of barbarity or treachery.

IV. Inanimate objects may bear to each other all the same relations
which we observe in moral agents; though the former can never be the
object of love or hatred, nor are consequently susceptible of merit or
iniquity. A young tree, which over-tops and destroys its parent, stands
in all the same relations with Nero, when he murdered Agrippina; and
if morality consisted merely in relations, would no doubt be equally

V. It appears evident that--the ultimate ends of human actions can
never, in any case, be accounted for by reason, but recommend themselves
entirely to the sentiments and affections of mankind, without any
dependance on the intellectual faculties. Ask a man WHY HE USES
you then enquire, WHY HE DESIRES HEALTH, he will readily reply, BECAUSE
SICKNESS IS PAINFUL. If you push your enquiries farther, and desire a
reason WHY HE HATES PAIN, it is impossible he can ever give any. This is
an ultimate end, and is never referred to any other object.

Perhaps to your second question, WHY HE DESIRES HEALTH, he may also
And beyond this it is an absurdity to ask for a reason. It is impossible
there can be a progress IN INFINITUM; and that one thing can always be a
reason why another is desired. Something must be desirable on its own
account, and because of its immediate accord or agreement with human
sentiment and affection.

Now as virtue is an end, and is desirable on its own account, without
fee and reward, merely for the immediate satisfaction which it conveys;
it is requisite that there should be some sentiment which it touches,
some internal taste or feeling, or whatever you may please to call it,
which distinguishes moral good and evil, and which embraces the one and
rejects the other.

Thus the distinct boundaries and offices of REASON and of TASTE are
easily ascertained. The former conveys the knowledge of truth and
falsehood: the latter gives the sentiment of beauty and deformity, vice
and virtue. The one discovers objects as they really stand in nature,
without addition and diminution: the other has a productive faculty, and
gilding or staining all natural objects with the colours, borrowed from
internal sentiment, raises in a manner a new creation. Reason being cool
and disengaged, is no motive to action, and directs only the impulse
received from appetite or inclination, by showing us the means of
attaining happiness or avoiding misery: Taste, as it gives pleasure or
pain, and thereby constitutes happiness or misery, becomes a motive to
action, and is the first spring or impulse to desire and volition. From
circumstances and relations, known or supposed, the former leads us to
the discovery of the concealed and unknown: after all circumstances and
relations are laid before us, the latter makes us feel from the whole
a new sentiment of blame or approbation. The standard of the one, being
founded on the nature of things, is eternal and inflexible, even by the
will of the Supreme Being: the standard of the other arising from the
eternal frame and constitution of animals, is ultimately derived from
that Supreme Will, which bestowed on each being its peculiar nature, and
arranged the several classes and orders of existence.


THERE is a principle, supposed to prevail among many, which is utterly
incompatible with all virtue or moral sentiment; and as it can proceed
from nothing but the most depraved disposition, so in its turn it tends
still further to encourage that depravity. This principle is, that
all BENEVOLENCE is mere hypocrisy, friendship a cheat, public spirit a
farce, fidelity a snare to procure trust and confidence; and that while
all of us, at bottom, pursue only our private interest, we wear these
fair disguises, in order to put others off their guard, and expose them
the more to our wiles and machinations. What heart one must be possessed
of who possesses such principles, and who feels no internal sentiment
that belies so pernicious a theory, it is easy to imagine: and also what
degree of affection and benevolence he can bear to a species whom he
represents under such odious colours, and supposes so little susceptible
of gratitude or any return of affection. Or if we should not ascribe
these principles wholly to a corrupted heart, we must at least account
for them from the most careless and precipitate examination. Superficial
reasoners, indeed, observing many false pretences among mankind, and
feeling, perhaps, no very strong restraint in their own disposition,
might draw a general and a hasty conclusion that all is equally
corrupted, and that men, different from all other animals, and indeed
from all other species of existence, admit of no degrees of good or bad,
but are, in every instance, the same creatures under different disguises
and appearances.

There is another principle, somewhat resembling the former; which has
been much insisted on by philosophers, and has been the foundation of
many a system; that, whatever affection one may feel, or imagine he
feels for others, no passion is, or can be disinterested; that the most
generous friendship, however sincere, is a modification of self-love;
and that, even unknown to ourselves, we seek only our own gratification,
while we appear the most deeply engaged in schemes for the liberty
and happiness of mankind. By a turn of imagination, by a refinement of
reflection, by an enthusiasm of passion, we seem to take part in the
interests of others, and imagine ourselves divested of all selfish
considerations: but, at bottom, the most generous patriot and most
niggardly miser, the bravest hero and most abject coward, have, in every
action, an equal regard to their own happiness and welfare.

Whoever concludes from the seeming tendency of this opinion, that those,
who make profession of it, cannot possibly feel the true sentiments
of benevolence, or have any regard for genuine virtue, will often find
himself, in practice, very much mistaken. Probity and honour were no
strangers to Epicurus and his sect. Atticus and Horace seem to have
enjoyed from nature, and cultivated by reflection, as generous and
friendly dispositions as any disciple of the austerer schools. And
among the modern, Hobbes and Locke, who maintained the selfish system of
morals, lived irreproachable lives; though the former lay not under any
restraint of religion which might supply the defects of his philosophy.

An epicurean or a Hobbist readily allows, that there is such a thing as
a friendship in the world, without hypocrisy or disguise; though he may
attempt, by a philosophical chymistry, to resolve the elements of this
passion, if I may so speak, into those of another, and explain every
affection to be self-love, twisted and moulded, by a particular turn
of imagination, into a variety of appearances. But as the same turn of
imagination prevails not in every man, nor gives the same direction to
the original passion; this is sufficient even according to the selfish
system to make the widest difference in human characters, and denominate
one man virtuous and humane, another vicious and meanly interested. I
esteem the man whose self-love, by whatever means, is so directed as to
give him a concern for others, and render him serviceable to society:
as I hate or despise him, who has no regard to any thing beyond his
own gratifications and enjoyments. In vain would you suggest that these
characters, though seemingly opposite, are at bottom the same, and that
a very inconsiderable turn of thought forms the whole difference between
them. Each character, notwithstanding these inconsiderable differences,
appears to me, in practice, pretty durable and untransmutable. And
I find not in this more than in other subjects, that the natural
sentiments arising from the general appearances of things are easily
destroyed by subtile reflections concerning the minute origin of these
appearances. Does not the lively, cheerful colour of a countenance
inspire me with complacency and pleasure; even though I learn from
philosophy that all difference of complexion arises from the most minute
differences of thickness, in the most minute parts of the skin; by
means of which a superficies is qualified to reflect one of the original
colours of light, and absorb the others?

But though the question concerning the universal or partial selfishness
of man be not so material as is usually imagined to morality and
practice, it is certainly of consequence in the speculative science of
human nature, and is a proper object of curiosity and enquiry. It
may not, therefore, be unsuitable, in this place, to bestow a few
reflections upon it.

     [Footnote: Benevolence naturally divides into two kinds, the
GENERAL and the PARTICULAR. The first is, where we have no friendship
or connexion or esteem for the person, but feel only a general sympathy
with him or a compassion for his pains, and a congratulation with his
pleasures. The other species of benevolence is founded on an opinion
of virtue, on services done us, or on some particular connexions. Both
these sentiments must be allowed real in human nature: but whether they
will resolve into some nice considerations of self-love, is a question
more curious than important. The former sentiment, to wit, that of
general benevolence, or humanity, or sympathy, we shall have occasion
frequently to treat of in the course of this inquiry; and I assume it as
real, from general experience, without any other proof.]

The most obvious objection to the selfish hypothesis is, that, as it is
contrary to common feeling and our most unprejudiced notions, there is
required the highest stretch of philosophy to establish so extraordinary
a paradox. To the most careless observer there appear to be such
dispositions as benevolence and generosity; such affections as love,
friendship, compassion, gratitude. These sentiments have their causes,
effects, objects, and operations, marked by common language and
observation, and plainly distinguished from those of the selfish
passions. And as this is the obvious appearance of things, it must
be admitted, till some hypothesis be discovered, which by penetrating
deeper into human nature, may prove the former affections to be nothing
but modifications of the latter. All attempts of this kind have hitherto
proved fruitless, and seem to have proceeded entirely from that love
of SIMPLICITY which has been the source of much false reasoning in
philosophy. I shall not here enter into any detail on the present
subject. Many able philosophers have shown the insufficiency of these
systems. And I shall take for granted what, I believe, the smallest
reflection will make evident to every impartial enquirer.

But the nature of the subject furnishes the strongest presumption, that
no better system will ever, for the future, be invented, in order to
account for the origin of the benevolent from the selfish affections,
and reduce all the various emotions of the human mind to a perfect
simplicity. The case is not the same in this species of philosophy as
in physics. Many an hypothesis in nature, contrary to first appearances,
has been found, on more accurate scrutiny, solid and satisfactory.
Instances of this kind are so frequent that a judicious, as well as
witty philosopher, [Footnote: Mons. Fontenelle.] has ventured to affirm,
if there be more than one way in which any phenomenon may be produced,
that there is general presumption for its arising from the causes which
are the least obvious and familiar. But the presumption always lies on
the other side, in all enquiries concerning the origin of our passions,
and of the internal operations of the human mind. The simplest and
most obvious cause which can there be assigned for any phenomenon, is
probably the true one. When a philosopher, in the explication of his
system, is obliged to have recourse to some very intricate and refined
reflections, and to suppose them essential to the production of any
passion or emotion, we have reason to be extremely on our guard against
so fallacious an hypothesis. The affections are not susceptible of any
impression from the refinements of reason or imagination; and it
is always found that a vigorous exertion of the latter faculties,
necessarily, from the narrow capacity of the human mind, destroys all
activity in the former. Our predominant motive or intention is, indeed,
frequently concealed from ourselves when it is mingled and confounded
with other motives which the mind, from vanity or self-conceit, is
desirous of supposing more prevalent: but there is no instance that a
concealment of this nature has ever arisen from the abstruseness and
intricacy of the motive. A man that has lost a friend and patron may
flatter himself that all his grief arises from generous sentiments,
without any mixture of narrow or interested considerations: but a
man that grieves for a valuable friend, who needed his patronage and
protection; how can we suppose, that his passionate tenderness arises
from some metaphysical regards to a self-interest, which has no
foundation or reality? We may as well imagine that minute wheels and
springs, like those of a watch, give motion to a loaded waggon, as
account for the origin of passion from such abstruse reflections.

Animals are found susceptible of kindness, both to their own species and
to ours; nor is there, in this case, the least suspicion of disguise or
artifice. Shall we account for all THEIR sentiments, too, from refined
deductions of self-interest? Or if we admit a disinterested benevolence
in the inferior species, by what rule of analogy can we refuse it in the

Love between the sexes begets a complacency and good-will, very distinct
from the gratification of an appetite. Tenderness to their offspring,
in all sensible beings, is commonly able alone to counter-balance the
strongest motives of self-love, and has no manner of dependance on that
affection. What interest can a fond mother have in view, who loses
her health by assiduous attendance on her sick child, and afterwards
languishes and dies of grief, when freed, by its death, from the slavery
of that attendance?

Is gratitude no affection of the human breast, or is that a word merely,
without any meaning or reality? Have we no satisfaction in one man's
company above another's, and no desire of the welfare of our friend,
even though absence or death should prevent us from all participation in
it? Or what is it commonly, that gives us any participation in it, even
while alive and present, but our affection and regard to him?

These and a thousand other instances are marks of a general benevolence
in human nature, where no REAL interest binds us to the object. And how
an IMAGINARY interest known and avowed for such, can be the origin of
any passion or emotion, seems difficult to explain. No satisfactory
hypothesis of this kind has yet been discovered; nor is there the
smallest probability that the future industry of men will ever be
attended with more favourable success.

But farther, if we consider rightly of the matter, we shall find that
the hypothesis which allows of a disinterested benevolence, distinct
from self-love, has really more SIMPLICITY in it, and is more
conformable to the analogy of nature than that which pretends to resolve
all friendship and humanity into this latter principle. There are bodily
wants or appetites acknowledged by every one, which necessarily precede
all sensual enjoyment, and carry us directly to seek possession of the
object. Thus, hunger and thirst have eating and drinking for their end;
and from the gratification of these primary appetites arises a pleasure,
which may become the object of another species of desire or inclination
that is secondary and interested. In the same manner there are mental
passions by which we are impelled immediately to seek particular
objects, such as fame or power, or vengeance without any regard to
interest; and when these objects are attained a pleasing enjoyment
ensues, as the consequence of our indulged affections. Nature must,
by the internal frame and constitution of the mind, give an original
propensity to fame, ere we can reap any pleasure from that acquisition,
or pursue it from motives of self-love, and desire of happiness. If I
have no vanity, I take no delight in praise: if I be void of ambition,
power gives me no enjoyment: if I be not angry, the punishment of an
adversary is totally indifferent to me. In all these cases there is a
passion which points immediately to the object, and constitutes it
our good or happiness; as there are other secondary passions which
afterwards arise, and pursue it as a part of our happiness, when once it
is constituted such by our original affections. Were there no appetite
of any kind antecedent to self-love, that propensity could scarcely ever
exert itself; because we should, in that case, have felt few and slender
pains or pleasures, and have little misery or happiness to avoid or to

Now where is the difficulty in conceiving, that this may likewise be the
case with benevolence and friendship, and that, from the original frame
of our temper, we may feel a desire of another's happiness or good,
which, by means of that affection, becomes our own good, and is
afterwards pursued, from the combined motives of benevolence and
self-enjoyments? Who sees not that vengeance, from the force alone of
passion, may be so eagerly pursued, as to make us knowingly neglect
every consideration of ease, interest, or safety; and, like some
vindictive animals, infuse our very souls into the wounds we give an
enemy; [Footnote: Animasque in vulnere ponunt. VIRG, Dum alteri noceat,
sui negligens says Seneca of Anger. De Ira, I. i.] and what a malignant
philosophy must it be, that will not allow to humanity and friendship
the same privileges which are undisputably granted to the darker
passions of enmity and resentment; such a philosophy is more like a
satyr than a true delineation or description of human nature; and may
be a good foundation for paradoxical wit and raillery, but is a very bad
one for any serious argument or reasoning.


The intention of this Appendix is to give some more particular
explication of the origin and nature of Justice, and to mark some
differences between it and the other virtues.

The social virtues of humanity and benevolence exert their influence
immediately by a direct tendency or instinct, which chiefly keeps in
view the simple object, moving the affections, and comprehends not any
scheme or system, nor the consequences resulting from the concurrence,
imitation, or example of others. A parent flies to the relief of his
child; transported by that natural sympathy which actuates him, and
which affords no leisure to reflect on the sentiments or conduct of
the rest of mankind in like circumstances. A generous man cheerfully
embraces an opportunity of serving his friend; because he then feels
himself under the dominion of the beneficent affections, nor is he
concerned whether any other person in the universe were ever before
actuated by such noble motives, or will ever afterwards prove their
influence. In all these cases the social passions have in view a single
individual object, and pursue the safety or happiness alone of the
person loved and esteemed. With this they are satisfied: in this they
acquiesce. And as the good, resulting from their benign influence, is
in itself complete and entire, it also excites the moral sentiment of
approbation, without any reflection on farther consequences, and without
any more enlarged views of the concurrence or imitation of the other
members of society. On the contrary, were the generous friend or
disinterested patriot to stand alone in the practice of beneficence,
this would rather enhance his value in our eyes, and join the praise of
rarity and novelty to his other more exalted merits.

The case is not the same with the social virtues of justice and
fidelity. They are highly useful, or indeed absolutely necessary to the
well-being of mankind: but the benefit resulting from them is not the
consequence of every individual single act; but arises from the whole
scheme or system concurred in by the whole, or the greater part of the
society. General peace and order are the attendants of justice or a
general abstinence from the possessions of others; but a particular
regard to the particular right of one individual citizen may frequently,
considered in itself, be productive of pernicious consequences. The
result of the individual acts is here, in many instances, directly
opposite to that of the whole system of actions; and the former may
be extremely hurtful, while the latter is, to the highest degree,
advantageous. Riches, inherited from a parent, are, in a bad man's
hand, the instrument of mischief. The right of succession may, in one
instance, be hurtful. Its benefit arises only from the observance of the
general rule; and it is sufficient, if compensation be thereby made for
all the ills and inconveniences which flow from particular characters
and situations.

Cyrus, young and unexperienced, considered only the individual case
before him, and reflected on a limited fitness and convenience, when he
assigned the long coat to the tall boy, and the short coat to the other
of smaller size. His governor instructed him better, while he pointed
out more enlarged views and consequences, and informed his pupil of the
general, inflexible rules, necessary to support general peace and order
in society.

The happiness and prosperity of mankind, arising from the social virtue
of benevolence and its subdivisions, may be compared to a wall, built by
many hands, which still rises by each stone that is heaped upon it,
and receives increase proportional to the diligence and care of each
workman. The same happiness, raised by the social virtue of justice and
its subdivisions, may be compared to the building of a vault, where each
individual stone would, of itself, fall to the ground; nor is the whole
fabric supported but by the mutual assistance and combination of its
corresponding parts.

All the laws of nature, which regulate property, as well as all civil
laws, are general, and regard alone some essential circumstances of the
case, without taking into consideration the characters, situations, and
connexions of the person concerned, or any particular consequences which
may result from the determination of these laws in any particular case
which offers. They deprive, without scruple, a beneficent man of all his
possessions, if acquired by mistake, without a good title; in order to
bestow them on a selfish miser, who has already heaped up immense stores
of superfluous riches. Public utility requires that property should be
regulated by general inflexible rules; and though such rules are adopted
as best serve the same end of public utility, it is impossible for them
to prevent all particular hardships, or make beneficial consequences
result from every individual case. It is sufficient, if the whole plan
or scheme be necessary to the support of civil society, and if the
balance of good, in the main, do thereby preponderate much above that of
evil. Even the general laws of the universe, though planned by infinite
wisdom, cannot exclude all evil or inconvenience in every particular

It has been asserted by some, that justice arises from Human
Conventions, and proceeds from the voluntary choice, consent, or
combination of mankind. If by CONVENTION be here meant a PROMISE (which
is the most usual sense of the word) nothing can be more absurd than
this position. The observance of promises is itself one of the most
considerable parts of justice, and we are not surely bound to keep our
word because we have given our word to keep it. But if by convention be
meant a sense of common interest, which sense each man feels in his
own breast, which he remarks in his fellows, and which carries him, in
concurrence with others, into a general plan or system of actions, which
tends to public utility; it must be owned, that, in this sense, justice
arises from human conventions. For if it be allowed (what is, indeed,
evident) that the particular consequences of a particular act of justice
may be hurtful to the public as well as to individuals; it follows that
every man, in embracing that virtue, must have an eye to the whole plan
or system, and must expect the concurrence of his fellows in the same
conduct and behaviour. Did all his views terminate in the consequences
of each act of his own, his benevolence and humanity, as well as
his self-love, might often prescribe to him measures of conduct very
different from those which are agreeable to the strict rules of right
and justice.

Thus, two men pull the oars of a boat by common convention for common
interest, without any promise or contract; thus gold and silver are made
the measures of exchange; thus speech and words and language are fixed
by human convention and agreement. Whatever is advantageous to two or
more persons, if all perform their part; but what loses all advantage
if only one perform, can arise from no other principle There would
otherwise be no motive for any one of them to enter into that scheme of

     [Footnote: This theory concerning the origin of property, and
consequently of justice, is, in the main, the same with that hinted at
and adopted by Grotius, 'Hinc discimus, quae fuerit causa, ob quam a
primaeva communione rerum primo mobilium, deinde et immobilinm discessum
est: nimirum quod cum non contenti homines vesci sponte natis, antra
habitare, corpore aut nudo agere, aut corticibus arborum ferarumve
pellibus vestito, vitae genus exquisitius delegissent, industria opus
fuit, quam singuli rebus singulls adhiberent. Quo minus autem fructus
in commune conferrentur, primum obstitit locorum, in quae homines
discesserunt, distantia, deinde justitiae et amoris defectus, per quem
fiebat, ut nee in labore, nee in consumtione fructuum, quae debebat,
aequalitas servaretur. Simul discimus, quomodo res in proprietatem
iverint; non animi actu solo, neque enim scire alii poterant, quid alil
suum esse vellent, ut eo abstinerent, et idem velle plures poterant;
sed pacto quodam aut expresso, ut per divisionem, aut tacito, ut per
occupationem.' De jure belli et pacis. Lib. ii. cap. 2. sec. 2. art. 4
and 5.]

The word NATURAL is commonly taken in so many senses and is of so
loose a signification, that it seems vain to dispute whether justice
be natural or not. If self-love, if benevolence be natural to man; if
reason and forethought be also natural; then may the same epithet
be applied to justice, order, fidelity, property, society. Men's
inclination, their necessities, lead them to combine; their
understanding and experience tell them that this combination is
impossible where each governs himself by no rule, and pays no regard
to the possessions of others: and from these passions and reflections
conjoined, as soon as we observe like passions and reflections in
others, the sentiment of justice, throughout all ages, has infallibly
and certainly had place to some degree or other in every individual of
the human species. In so sagacious an animal, what necessarily arises
from the exertion of his intellectual faculties may justly be esteemed

     [Footnote: Natural may be opposed, either to what is UNUSUAL,
MIRACULOUS or ARTIFICIAL. In the two former senses, justice and property
are undoubtedly natural. But as they suppose reason, forethought,
design, and a social union and confederacy among men, perhaps that
epithet cannot strictly, in the last sense, be applied to them. Had
men lived without society, property had never been known, and neither
justice nor injustice had ever existed. But society among human
creatures had been impossible without reason and forethought. Inferior
animals, that unite, are guided by instinct, which supplies the place
for reason. But all these disputes are merely verbal.]

Among all civilized nations it has been the constant endeavour to remove
everything arbitrary and partial from the decision of property, and to
fix the sentence of judges by such general views and considerations as
may be equal to every member of society. For besides, that nothing
could be more dangerous than to accustom the bench, even in the smallest
instance, to regard private friendship or enmity; it is certain,
that men, where they imagine that there was no other reason for the
preference of their adversary but personal favour, are apt to entertain
the strongest ill-will against the magistrates and judges. When natural
reason, therefore, points out no fixed view of public utility by which
a controversy of property can be decided, positive laws are often
framed to supply its place, and direct the procedure of all courts
of judicature. Where these too fail, as often happens, precedents are
called for; and a former decision, though given itself without any
sufficient reason, justly becomes a sufficient reason for a new
decision. If direct laws and precedents be wanting, imperfect and
indirect ones are brought in aid; and the controverted case is ranged
under them by analogical reasonings and comparisons, and similitudes,
and correspondencies, which are often more fanciful than real. In
general, it may safely be affirmed that jurisprudence is, in this
respect, different from all the sciences; and that in many of its nicer
questions, there cannot properly be said to be truth or falsehood on
either side. If one pleader bring the case under any former law or
precedent, by a refined analogy or comparison; the opposite pleader
is not at a loss to find an opposite analogy or comparison: and the
preference given by the judge is often founded more on taste and
imagination than on any solid argument. Public utility is the general
object of all courts of judicature; and this utility too requires a
stable rule in all controversies: but where several rules, nearly equal
and indifferent, present themselves, it is a very slight turn of thought
which fixes the decision in favour of either party.

     [Footnote: That there be a separation or distinction of
     possessions, and that this separation be steady and
     constant; this is absolutely required by the interests of
     society, and hence the origin of justice and property. What
     possessions are assigned to particular persons; this is,
     generally speaking, pretty indifferent; and is often
     determined by very frivolous views and considerations. We
     shall mention a few particulars.

     Were a society formed among several independent members, the
     most obvious rule, which could be agreed on, would be to
     annex property to PRESENT possession, and leave every one a
     right to what he at present enjoys. The relation of
     possession, which takes place between the person and the
     object, naturally draws on the relation of property.

     For a like reason, occupation or first possession becomes
     the foundation of property.

     Where a man bestows labour and industry upon any object,
     which before belonged to no body; as in cutting down and
     shaping a tree, in cultivating a field, &c., the
     alterations, which he produces, causes a relation between
     him and the object, and naturally engages us to annex it to
     him by the new relation of property. This cause here concurs
     with the public utility, which consists in the encouragement
     given to industry and labour.

     Perhaps too, private humanity towards the possessor concurs,
     in this instance, with the other motives, and engages us to
     leave with him what he has acquired by his sweat and labour;
     and what he has flattered himself in the constant enjoyment
     of. For though private humanity can, by no means, be the
     origin of justice; since the latter virtue so often
     contradicts the former; yet when the rule of separate and
     constant possession is once formed by the indispensable
     necessities of society, private humanity, and an aversion to
     the doing a hardship to another, may, in a particular
     instance, give rise to a particular rule of property.

     I am much inclined to think, that the right succession or
     inheritance much depends on those connexions of the
     imagination, and that the relation to a former proprietor
     begetting a relation to the object, is the cause why the
     property is transferred to a man after the death of his
     kinsman. It is true; industry is more encouraged by the
     transference of possession to children or near relations:
     but this consideration will only have place in a cultivated
     society; whereas the right of succession is regarded even
     among the greatest Barbarians.

     Acquisition of property by accession can be explained no way
     but by having recourse to the relations and connexions of
     the imaginations.

     The property of rivers, by the laws of most nations, and by
     the natural turn of our thoughts, is attributed to the
     proprietors of their banks, excepting such vast rivers as
     the Rhine or the Danube, which seem too large to follow as
     an accession to the property of the neighbouring fields. Yet
     even these rivers are considered as the property of that
     nation, through whose dominions they run; the idea of a
     nation being of a suitable bulk to correspond with them, and
     bear them such a relation in the fancy.

     The accessions, which are made to land, bordering upon
     rivers, follow the land, say the civilians, provided it be
     made by what they call alluvion, that is, insensibly and
     imperceptibly; which are circumstances, that assist the
     imagination in the conjunction.

     Where there is any considerable portion torn at once from
     one bank and added to another, it becomes not his property,
     whose land it falls on, till it unite with the land, and
     till the trees and plants have spread their roots into both.
     Before that, the thought does not sufficiently join them.

     In short, we must ever distinguish between the necessity of
     a separation and constancy in men's possession, and the
     rules, which assign particular objects to particular
     persons. The first necessity is obvious, strong, and
     invincible: the latter may depend on a public utility more
     light and frivolous, on the sentiment of private humanity
     and aversion to private hardship, on positive laws, on
     precedents, analogies, and very fine connexions and turns of
     the imagination.]

We may just observe, before we conclude this subject, that after the
laws of justice are fixed by views of general utility, the injury, the
hardship, the harm, which result to any individual from a violation of
them, enter very much into consideration, and are a great source of that
universal blame which attends every wrong or iniquity. By the laws of
society, this coat, this horse is mine, and OUGHT to remain perpetually
in my possession: I reckon on the secure enjoyment of it: by depriving
me of it, you disappoint my expectations, and doubly displease me, and
offend every bystander. It is a public wrong, so far as the rules of
equity are violated: it is a private harm, so far as an individual is
injured. And though the second consideration could have no place, were
not the former previously established: for otherwise the distinction of
MINE and THINE would be unknown in society: yet there is no question
but the regard to general good is much enforced by the respect to
particular. What injures the community, without hurting any individual,
is often more lightly thought of. But where the greatest public wrong
is also conjoined with a considerable private one, no wonder the highest
disapprobation attends so iniquitous a behaviour.


Nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach upon the
province of grammarians; and to engage in disputes of words, while they
imagine that they are handling controversies of the deepest importance
and concern. It was in order to avoid altercations, so frivolous and
endless, that I endeavoured to state with the utmost caution the object
of our present enquiry; and proposed simply to collect, on the one hand,
a list of those mental qualities which are the object of love or esteem,
and form a part of personal merit; and on the other hand, a catalogue of
those qualities which are the object of censure or reproach, and which
detract from the character of the person possessed of them; subjoining
some reflections concerning the origin of these sentiments of praise or
blame. On all occasions, where there might arise the least hesitation,
I avoided the terms VIRTUE and VICE; because some of those qualities,
which I classed among the objects of praise, receive, in the English
language, the appellation of TALENTS, rather than of virtues; as some of
the blameable or censurable qualities are often called defects, rather
than vices. It may now, perhaps, be expected that before we conclude
this moral enquiry, we should exactly separate the one from the other;
should mark the precise boundaries of virtues and talents, vices and
defects; and should explain the reason and origin of that distinction.
But in order to excuse myself from this undertaking, which would,
at last, prove only a grammatical enquiry, I shall subjoin the four
following reflections, which shall contain all that I intend to say on
the present subject.

First, I do not find that in the English, or any other modern tongue,
the boundaries are exactly fixed between virtues and talents, vices
and defects, or that a precise definition can be given of the one as
contradistinguished from the other. Were we to say, for instance, that
the esteemable qualities alone, which are voluntary, are entitled to
the appellations of virtues; we should soon recollect the qualities of
courage, equanimity, patience, self-command; with many others, which
almost every language classes under this appellation, though they depend
little or not at all on our choice. Should we affirm that the qualities
alone, which prompt us to act our part in society, are entitled to that
honourable distinction; it must immediately occur that these are indeed
the most valuable qualities, and are commonly denominated the SOCIAL
virtues; but that this very epithet supposes that there are also virtues
of another species. Should we lay hold of the distinction between
INTELLECTUAL and MORAL endowments, and affirm the last alone to be the
real and genuine virtues, because they alone lead to action; we should
find that many of those qualities, usually called intellectual virtues,
such as prudence, penetration, discernment, discretion, had also a
considerable influence on conduct. The distinction between the heart and
the head may also be adopted: the qualities of the first may be defined
such as in their immediate exertion are accompanied with a feeling
of sentiment; and these alone may be called the genuine virtues: but
industry, frugality, temperance, secrecy, perseverance, and many other
laudable powers or habits, generally stilled virtues are exerted without
any immediate sentiment in the person possessed of them, and are only
known to him by their effects. It is fortunate, amidst all this seeming
perplexity, that the question, being merely verbal, cannot possibly be
of any importance. A moral, philosophical discourse needs not enter
into all these caprices of language, which are so variable in different
dialects, and in different ages of the same dialect. But on the whole,
it seems to me, that though it is always allowed, that there are virtues
of many different kinds, yet, when a man is called virtuous, or is
denominated a man of virtue, we chiefly regard his social qualities,
which are, indeed, the most valuable. It is, at the same time, certain,
that any remarkable defect in courage, temperance, economy, industry,
understanding, dignity of mind, would bereave even a very good-natured,
honest man of this honourable appellation. Who did ever say, except
by way of irony, that such a one was a man of great virtue, but an
egregious blockhead?

But, Secondly, it is no wonder that languages should not be very
precise in marking the boundaries between virtues and talents, vices
and defects; since there is so little distinction made in our internal
estimation of them. It seems indeed certain, that the SENTIMENT of
conscious worth, the self-satisfaction proceeding from a review of a
man's own conduct and character; it seems certain, I say, that this
sentiment, which, though the most common of all others, has no proper
name in our language,

     [Footnote: The term, pride, is commonly taken in a bad sense; but
this sentiment seems indifferent, and may be either good or bad,
according as it is well or ill founded, and according to the other
circumstances which accompany it. The French express this sentiment by
the term, AMOUR PROPRE, but as they also express self-love as well
as vanity by the same term, there arises thence a great confusion in
Rochefoucault, and many of their moral writers.]

arises from the endowments of courage and capacity, industry and
ingenuity, as well as from any other mental excellencies. Who, on the
other hand, is not deeply mortified with reflecting on his own folly and
dissoluteness, and feels not a secret sting or compunction whenever his
memory presents any past occurrence, where he behaved with stupidity of
ill-manners? No time can efface the cruel ideas of a man's own foolish
conduct, or of affronts, which cowardice or impudence has brought
upon him. They still haunt his solitary hours, damp his most aspiring
thoughts, and show him, even to himself, in the most contemptible and
most odious colours imaginable.

What is there too we are more anxious to conceal from others than such
blunders, infirmities, and meannesses, or more dread to have exposed by
raillery and satire? And is not the chief object of vanity, our bravery
or learning, our wit or breeding, our eloquence or address, our taste or
abilities? These we display with care, if not with ostentation; and
we commonly show more ambition of excelling in them, than even in the
social virtues themselves, which are, in reality, of such superior
excellence. Good-nature and honesty, especially the latter, are so
indispensably required, that, though the greatest censure attends
any violation of these duties, no eminent praise follows such common
instances of them, as seem essential to the support of human society.
And hence the reason, in my opinion, why, though men often extol so
liberally the qualities of their heart, they are shy in commending the
endowments of their head: because the latter virtues, being supposed
more rare and extraordinary, are observed to be the more usual objects
of pride and self-conceit; and when boasted of, beget a strong suspicion
of these sentiments.

It is hard to tell, whether you hurt a man's character most by calling
him a knave or a coward, and whether a beastly glutton or drunkard be
not as odious and contemptible, as a selfish, ungenerous miser. Give me
my choice, and I would rather, for my own happiness and self-enjoyment,
have a friendly, humane heart, than possess all the other virtues of
Demosthenes and Philip united: but I would rather pass with the world
for one endowed with extensive genius and intrepid courage, and should
thence expect stronger instances of general applause and admiration. The
figure which a man makes in life, the reception which he meets with in
company, the esteem paid him by his acquaintance; all these advantages
depend as much upon his good sense and judgement, as upon any other part
of his character. Had a man the best intentions in the world, and were
the farthest removed from all injustice and violence, he would never
be able to make himself be much regarded, without a moderate share, at
least, of parts and understanding.

What is it then we can here dispute about? If sense and courage,
temperance and industry, wisdom and knowledge confessedly form a
considerable part of PERSONAL MERIT: if a man, possessed of these
qualities, is both better satisfied with himself, and better entitled
to the good-will, esteem, and services of others, than one entirely
destitute of them; if, in short, the SENTIMENTS are similar which arise
from these endowments and from the social virtues; is there any reason
for being so extremely scrupulous about a WORD, or disputing whether
they be entitled to the denomination of virtues? It may, indeed,
be pretended, that the sentiment of approbation, which those
accomplishments produce, besides its being INFERIOR, is also somewhat
DIFFERENT from that which attends the virtues of justice and humanity.
But this seems not a sufficient reason for ranking them entirely under
different classes and appellations. The character of Caesar and that of
Cato, as drawn by Sallust, are both of them virtuous, in the strictest
and most limited sense of the word; but in a different way: nor are the
sentiments entirely the same which arise from them. The one produces
love, the other esteem: the one is amiable, the other awful: we should
wish to meet the one character in a friend; the other we should be
ambitious of in ourselves. In like manner the approbation, which attends
temperance or industry or frugality, may be somewhat different from that
which is paid to the social virtues, without making them entirely of a
different species. And, indeed, we may observe, that these endowments,
more than the other virtues, produce not, all of them, the same kind
of approbation. Good sense and genius beget esteem and regard: wit and
humour excite love and affection.

     [Footnote: Love and esteem are nearly the same passion, and arise
from similar causes. The qualities, which produce both, are such as
communicate pleasures. But where this pleasure is severe and serious;
or where its object is great, and makes a strong impression, or where
it produces any degree of humility and awe; in all these cases, the
passion, which arises from the pleasure, is more properly denominated
esteem than love. Benevolence attends both; but is connected with love
in a more eminent degree. There seems to be still a stronger mixture of
pride in contempt than of humility in esteem; and the reason would not
be difficulty to one, who studied accurately the passions. All these
various mixtures and compositions and appearances of sentiment from
a very curious subject of speculation, but are wide for our present
purpose. Throughout this enquiry, we always consider in general, what
qualities are a subject of praise or of censure, without entering
into all the minute differences of sentiment, which they excite. It is
evident, that whatever is contemned, is also disliked, as well as what
is hated; and we here endeavour to take objects, according to their most
simple views and appearances. These sciences are but too apt to appear
abstract to common readers, even with all the precautions which we can
take to clear them from superfluous speculations, and bring them down to
every capacity.]

Most people, I believe, will naturally, without premeditation, assent to
the definition of the elegant and judicious poet:

Virtue (for mere good-nature is a fool) Is sense and spirit with

     [Footnote: The Art of preserving Health. Book 4]

What pretensions has a man to our generous assistance or good offices,
who has dissipated his wealth in profuse expenses, idle vanities,
chimerical projects, dissolute pleasures or extravagant gaming? These
vices (for we scruple not to call them such) bring misery unpitied, and
contempt on every one addicted to them.

Achaeus, a wise and prudent prince, fell into a fatal snare, which cost
him his crown and life, after having used every reasonable precaution to
guard himself against it. On that account, says the historian, he is a
just object of regard and compassion: his betrayers alone of hatred and
contempt [Footnote: Polybius, lib. iii. cap. 2].

The precipitate flight and improvident negligence of Pompey, at the
beginning of the civil wars, appeared such notorious blunders to Cicero,
as quite palled his friendship towards that great man. In the same
manner, says he, as want of cleanliness, decency, or discretion in
a mistress are found to alienate our affections. For so he expresses
himself, where he talks, not in the character of a philosopher, but in
that of a statesman and man of the world, to his friend Atticus. [Lib.
ix. epist. 10]. But the same Cicero, in imitation of all the ancient
moralists, when he reasons as a philosopher, enlarges very much his
ideas of virtue, and comprehends every laudable quality or endowment
of the mind, under that honourable appellation. This leads to the
THIRD reflection, which we proposed to make, to wit, that the ancient
moralists, the best models, made no material distinction among the
different species of mental endowments and defects, but treated
all alike under the appellation of virtues and vices, and made them
indiscriminately the object of their moral reasonings. The prudence
explained in Cicero's Offices [Footnote: Lib. i. cap. 6.] is that
sagacity, which leads to the discovery of truth, and preserves us from
error and mistake. MAGNANIMITY, TEMPERANCE, DECENCY, are there also at
large discoursed of. And as that eloquent moralist followed the common
received division of the four cardinal virtues, our social duties form
but one head, in the general distribution of his subject.

     [Footnote: The following passage of Cicero is worth quoting, as
being the most clear and express to our purpose, that any thing can be
imagined, and, in a dispute, which is chiefly verbal, must, on account
of the author, carry an authority, from which there can be no appeal.

'Virtus autem, quae est per se ipsa laudabilis, et sine qua nihil
laudari potest, tamen habet plures partes, quarum alia est alia ad
laudationem aptior. Sunt enim aliae virtutes, quae videntur in moribus
hominum, et quadam comitate ac beneficentia positae: aliae quae
in ingenii aliqua facultate, aut animi magnitudine ac robore. Nam
clementia, justitia, benignitas, fides, fortitudo in periculis
communibus, jucunda est auditu in laudationibus. Omnes enim hae virtutes
non tam ipsis, qui eas in se habent, quam generi hominum fructuosae
putantur. Sapientia et magnitude animi, qua omnes res humanae tenues
et pro nihilo putantur, et in cogitando vis quaedam ingenii, et ipsa
eloquentia admirationis habet non minus, jucunditatis minus. Ipsos enim
magis videntur, quos laudamus, quam illos, apud quos laudamus ornare ac
tueri: sed tamen in laudenda jungenda sunt eliam haec genera virtutum.
Ferunt enim aures bominum, cum ilia quae jucunda et grata, tum etiam
ilia, quae mirabilia sunt in virtute, laudari.' De orat. lib. ii. cap.

I suppose, if Cicero were now alive, it would be found difficult to
fetter his moral sentiments by narrow systems; or persuade him, that no
qualities were to be admitted as virtues, or acknowledged to be a part
of PERSONAL MERIT, but what were recommended by The Whole Duty of Man.]

We need only peruse the titles of chapters in Aristotle's Ethics to be
convinced that he ranks courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity,
modesty, prudence, and a manly openness, among the virtues, as well as
justice and friendship.

To SUSTAIN and to ABSTAIN, that is, to be patient and continent,
appeared to some of the ancients a summary comprehension of all morals.

Epictetus has scarcely ever mentioned the sentiment of humanity and
compassion, but in order to put his disciples on their guard against it.
The virtue of the Stoics seems to consist chiefly in a firm temper and
a sound understanding. With them, as with Solomon and the eastern
moralists, folly and wisdom are equivalent to vice and virtue.

Men will praise thee, says David, [Footnote: Psalm 49th.] when thou dost
well unto thyself. I hate a wise man, says the Greek poet, who is
not wise to himself [Footnote: Here, Hume quotes Euripedes in Greek].
Plutarch is no more cramped by systems in his philosophy than in his
history. Where he compares the great men of Greece and Rome, he fairly
sets in opposition all their blemishes and accomplishments of whatever
kind, and omits nothing considerable, which can either depress or exalt
their characters. His moral discourses contain the same free and natural
censure of men and manners.

The character of Hannibal, as drawn by Livy, [Footnote: Lib. xxi. cap.
4] is esteemed partial, but allows him many eminent virtues. Never
was there a genius, says the historian, more equally fitted for those
opposite offices of commanding and obeying; and it were, therefore,
difficult to determine whether he rendered himself DEARER to the general
or to the army. To none would Hasdrubal entrust more willingly the
conduct of any dangerous enterprize; under none did the soldiers
discover more courage and confidence. Great boldness in facing danger;
great prudence in the midst of it. No labour could fatigue his body or
subdue his mind. Cold and heat were indifferent to him: meat and
drink he sought as supplies to the necessities of nature, not as
gratifications of his voluptuous appetites. Waking or rest he used
indiscriminately, by night or by day.--These great Virtues were balanced
by great Vices; inhuman cruelty; perfidy more than punic; no truth, no
faith, no regard to oaths, promises, or religion.

The character of Alexander the Sixth, to be found in Guicciardin,
[Footnote: Lib. i.] is pretty similar, but juster; and is a proof that
even the moderns, where they speak naturally, hold the same language
with the ancients. In this pope, says he, there was a singular capacity
and judgement: admirable prudence; a wonderful talent of persuasion; and
in all momentous enterprizes a diligence and dexterity incredible. But
these VIRTUES were infinitely overbalanced by his VICES; no faith,
no religion, insatiable avarice, exorbitant ambition, and a more than
barbarous cruelty.

Polybius, [Footnote: Lib. xii.] reprehending Timaeus for his partiality
against Agathocles, whom he himself allows to be the most cruel and
impious of all tyrants, says: if he took refuge in Syracuse, as asserted
by that historian, flying the dirt and smoke and toil of his former
profession of a potter; and if proceeding from such slender beginnings,
he became master, in a little time, of all Sicily; brought the
Carthaginian state into the utmost danger; and at last died in old age,
and in possession of sovereign dignity: must he not be allowed something
prodigious and extraordinary, and to have possessed great talents and
capacity for business and action? His historian, therefore, ought not to
have alone related what tended to his reproach and infamy; but also what
might redound to his Praise and Honour.

In general, we may observe, that the distinction of voluntary or
involuntary was little regarded by the ancients in their moral
reasonings; where they frequently treated the question as very doubtful,
WHETHER VIRTUE COULD BE TAUGHT OR NOT [Vid. Plato in Menone, Seneca de
otio sap. cap. 31. So also Horace, Virtutem doctrina paret, naturane
donet, Epist. lib. I. ep. 18. Aeschines Socraticus, Dial. I.]? They
justly considered that cowardice, meanness, levity, anxiety, impatience,
folly, and many other qualities of the mind, might appear ridiculous and
deformed, contemptible and odious, though independent of the will. Nor
could it be supposed, at all times, in every man's power to attain every
kind of mental more than of exterior beauty.

And here there occurs the FOURTH reflection which I purposed to make,
in suggesting the reason why modern philosophers have often followed a
course in their moral enquiries so different from that of the ancients.
In later times, philosophy of all kinds, especially ethics, have been
more closely united with theology than ever they were observed to be
among the heathens; and as this latter science admits of no terms of
composition, but bends every branch of knowledge to its own purpose,
without much regard to the phenomena of nature, or to the unbiassed
sentiments of the mind, hence reasoning, and even language, have been
warped from their natural course, and distinctions have been endeavoured
to be established where the difference of the objects was, in a manner,
imperceptible. Philosophers, or rather divines under that disguise,
treating all morals as on a like footing with civil laws, guarded by the
sanctions of reward and punishment, were necessarily led to render this
circumstance, of VOLUNTARY or INVOLUNTARY, the foundation of their whole
theory. Every one may employ TERMS in what sense he pleases: but
this, in the mean time, must be allowed, that SENTIMENTS are every day
experienced of blame and praise, which have objects beyond the dominion
of the will or choice, and of which it behoves us, if not as moralists,
as speculative philosophers at least, to give some satisfactory theory
and explication.

A blemish, a fault, a vice, a crime; these expressions seem to denote
different degrees of censure and disapprobation; which are, however, all
of them, at the bottom, pretty nearly all the same kind of species. The
explication of one will easily lead us into a just conception of the
others; and it is of greater consequence to attend to things than to
verbal appellations. That we owe a duty to ourselves is confessed even
in the most vulgar system of morals; and it must be of consequence to
examine that duty, in order to see whether it bears any affinity to that
which we owe to society. It is probable that the approbation attending
the observance of both is of a similar nature, and arises from similar
principles, whatever appellation we may give to either of these

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