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Title: An Essay on the History of Civil Society, Eighth Edition
Author: Ferguson, Adam
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 Essay on the History of Civil Society, Eighth Edition" ***

This is an authorized facsimile of the original book, and was produced in
1971 by microfilm-xerography by University Microfilms, A Xerox Company, Ann
Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.


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       *       *       *       *       *


SECTION I. Of the question relating to the State of Nature

SECTION II. Of the principles of Self Preservation

SECTION III. Of the principles of Union among Mankind

SECTION IV. Of the principles of War and Dissention

SECTION V. Of Intellectual Powers

SECTION VI. Of Moral Sentiment

SECTION VII. Of Happiness

SECTION VIII. The same subject continued

SECTION IX. Of National Felicity

SECTION X. The same subject continued


SECTION I. Of the informations on this subject, which are derived from

SECTION II. Of Rude Nations prior to the Establishment of Property

SECTION III. Of rude Nations, under the impressions of Property and

       *       *       *       *       *


SECTION I. Of the Influences of Climate and Situation

SECTION II. The History of Political Establishments

SECTION III. Of National Objects in general, and of Establishments and
Manners relating to them

SECTION IV. Of Population and Wealth

SECTION V. Of National Defence and Conquest

SECTION VI. Of Civil Liberty

SECTION VII. Of the History of Arts

SECTION VIII. Of the History of Literature


SECTION I. Of the Separation of Arts and Professions

SECTION II. Of the Subordination consequent to the Separation of Arts and

SECTION III. Of the Manners of Polished and Commercial Nations

SECTION IV. The same subject continued

       *       *       *       *       *


SECTION I. Of supposed National Eminence, and of the Vicissitudes of Human

SECTION II. Of the Temporary Efforts and Relaxations of the National Spirit

SECTION III. Of Relaxations in the National Spirit incident to Polished

SECTION IV. The same subject continued

SECTION V. Of National Waste


SECTION I. Of corruption in general


SECTION III. Of the Corruption incident to Polished Nations

SECTION IV. The same subject continued

SECTION V. Of Corruption, as it tends to Political Slavery

SECTION VI. Of the Progress and Termination of Despotism




       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *



Natural productions are generally formed by degrees. Vegetables are raised
from a tender shoot, and animals from an infant state. The latter, being
active, extend together their operations and their powers, and have a
progress in what they perform, as well as in the faculties they acquire.
This progress in the case of man is continued to a greater extent than in
that of any other animal. Not only the individual advances from infancy to
manhood, but the species itself from rudeness to civilization. Hence the
supposed departure of mankind from the state of their nature; hence our
conjectures and different opinions of what man must have been in the first
age of his being. The poet, the historian, and the moralist frequently
allude to this ancient time; and under the emblems of gold, or of iron,
represent a condition, and a manner of life, from which mankind have either
degenerated, or on which they have greatly improved. On either supposition,
the first state of our nature must have borne no resemblance to what men
have exhibited in any subsequent period; historical monuments, even of the
earliest date, are to be considered as novelties; and the most common
establishments of human society are to be classed among the encroachments
which fraud, oppression, or a busy invention, have made upon the reign of
nature, by which the chief of our grievances or blessings were equally

Among the writers who have attempted to distinguish, in the human
character, its original qualities, and to point out the limits between
nature and art, some have represented mankind in their first condition, as
possessed of mere animal sensibility, without any exercise of the faculties
that render them superior to the brutes, without any political union,
without any means of explaining their sentiments, and even without
possessing any of the apprehensions and passions which the voice and the
gesture are so well fitted to express. Others have made the state of nature
to consist in perpetual wars kindled by competition for dominion and
interest, where every individual had a separate quarrel with his kind, and
where the presence of a fellow creature was the signal of battle.

The desire of laying the foundation of a favourite system, or a fond
expectation, perhaps, that we may be able to penetrate the secrets of
nature, to the very source of existence, have, on this subject, led to many
fruitless inquiries, and given rise to many wild suppositions. Among the
various qualities which mankind possess, we select one or a few particulars
on which to establish a theory, and in framing our account of what man was
in some imaginary state of nature, we overlook what he has always appeared
within the reach of our own observation, and in the records of history.

In every other instance, however, the natural historian thinks himself
obliged to collect facts, not to offer conjectures. When he treats of any
particular species of animals, he supposes that their present dispositions
and instincts are the same which they originally had, and that their
present manner of life is a continuance of their first destination. He
admits, that his knowledge of the material system of the world consists in
a collection of facts, or at most, in general tenets derived from
particular observations and experiments. It is only in what relates to
himself, and in matters the most important and the most easily known, that
he substitutes hypothesis instead of reality, and confounds the provinces
of imagination and reason, of poetry and science.

But without entering any further on questions either in moral or physical
subjects, relating to the manner or to the origin of our knowledge; without
any disparagement to that subtilty which would analyze every sentiment, and
trace every mode of being to its source; it may be safely affirmed, that
the character of man, as he now exists, that the laws of his animal and
intellectual system, on which his happiness now depends, deserve our
principal study; and that general principles relating to this or any other
subject, are useful only so far as they are founded on just observation,
and lead to the knowledge of important consequences, or so far as they
enable us to act with success when we would apply either the intellectual
or the physical powers of nature, to the purposes of human life.

If both the earliest and the latest accounts collected from every quarter
of the earth, represent mankind as assembled in troops and companies; and
the individual always joined by affection to one party, while he is
possibly opposed to another; employed in the exercise of recollection and
foresight; inclined to communicate his own sentiments, and to be made
acquainted with those of others; these facts must be admitted as the
foundation of all our reasoning relative to man. His mixed disposition to
friendship or enmity, his reason, his use of language and articulate
sounds, like the shape and the erect position of his body, are to be
considered as so many attributes of his nature: they are to be retained in
his description, as the wing and the paw are in that of the eagle and the
lion, and as different degrees of fierceness, vigilance, timidity, or
speed, have a place in the natural history of different animals.

If the question be put, What the mind of man could perform, when left to
itself, and without the aid of any foreign direction? we are to look for
our answer in the history of mankind. Particular experiments which have
been found so useful in establishing the principles of other sciences,
could probably, on this subject, teach us nothing important, or new: we are
to take the history of every active being from his conduct in the situation
to which he is formed, not from his appearance in any forced or uncommon
condition; a wild man therefore, caught in the woods, where he had always
lived apart from his species, is a singular instance, not a specimen of any
general character. As the anatomy of an eye which had never received the
impressions of light, or that of an ear which had never felt the impulse of
sounds, would probably exhibit defects in the very structure of the organs
themselves, arising from their not being applied to their proper functions;
so any particular case of this sort would only show in what degree the
powers of apprehension and sentiment could exist where they had not been
employed, and what would be the defects and imbecilities of a heart in
which the emotions that arise in society had never been felt.

Mankind are to be taken in groupes, as they, have always subsisted. The
history of the individual is but a detail of the sentiments and the
thoughts he has entertained in the view of his species: and every
experiment relative to this subject should be made with entire societies,
not with single men. We have every reason, however, to believe, that in the
case of such an experiment made, we shall suppose, with a colony of
children transplanted from the nursery, and left to form a society apart,
untaught, and undisciplined, we should only have the same things repeated,
which, in so many different parts of the earth, have been transacted
already. The members of our little society would feed and sleep, would herd
together and play, would have a language of their own, would quarrel and
divide, would be to one another the most important objects of the scene,
and, in the ardour of their friendships and competitions, would overlook
their personal danger, and suspend the care of their self-preservation. Has
not the human race been planted like the colony in question? Who has
directed their course? whose instruction have they heard? or whose example
have they followed?

Nature, therefore, we shall presume, having given to every animal its mode
of existence, its dispositions and manner of life, has dealt equally with
the human race; and the natural historian who would collect the properties
of this species, may fill up every article now as well as he could have
done in any former age. The attainments of the parent do not descend in the
blood of his children, nor is the progress of man to be considered as a
physical mutation of the species. The individual, in every age, has the
same race to run from infancy to manhood, and every infant, or ignorant
person, now, is a model of what man was in his original state. He enters on
his career with advantages peculiar to his age; but his natural talent is
probably the same. The use and application of this talent is changing, and
men continue their works in progression through many ages together: they
build on foundations laid by their ancestors; and in a succession of years,
tend to a perfection in the application of their faculties, to which the
aid of long experience is required, and to which many generations must have
combined their endeavours. We observe the progress they have made; we
distinctly enumerate many of its steps; we can trace them back to a distant
antiquity, of which no record remains, nor any monument is preserved, to
inform us what were the openings of this wonderful scene. The consequence
is, that instead of attending to the character of our species, were the
particulars are vouched by the surest authority, we endeavour to trace it
through ages and scenes unknown; and, instead of supposing that the
beginning of our story was nearly of a piece with the sequel, we think
ourselves warranted to reject every circumstance of our present condition
and frame, as adventitious, and foreign to our nature. The progress of
mankind, from a supposed state of animal sensibility, to the attainment of
reason, to the use of language, and to the habit of society, has been
accordingly painted with a force of imagination, and its steps have been
marked with a boldness of invention, that would tempt us to admit, among
the materials of history, the suggestions of fancy, and to receive,
perhaps, as the model of our nature in its original state, some of the
animals whose shape has the greatest resemblance to ours. [Footnote:
_Rousseau_ sur l'origine de l'inegalité parmi les hommes.]

It would be ridiculous to affirm, as a discovery, that the species of the
horse was probably never the same with that of the lion; yet, in opposition
to what has dropped from the pens of eminent writers, we are obliged to
observe, that men have always appeared among animals a distinct and a
superior race; that neither the possession of similar organs, nor the
approximation of shape, nor the use of the hand, [Footnote: Traité de
l'esprit.] nor the continued intercourse with this sovereign artist, has
enabled any other species to blend their nature or their inventions with
his; that, in his rudest state, he is found to be above them; and in his
greatest degeneracy, never descends to their level. He is, in short, a man
in every condition; and we can learn nothing of his nature from the analogy
of other animals. If we would know him, we must attend to himself, to the
course of his life, and the tenor of his conduct. With him the society
appears to be as old as the individual, and the use of the tongue as
universal as that of the hand or the foot. If there was a time in which he
had his acquaintance with his own species to make, and his faculties to
acquire, it is a time of which we have no record, and in relation to which
our opinions can serve no purpose, and are supported by no evidence.

We are often tempted into these boundless regions of ignorance or
conjecture, by a fancy which delights in creating rather than in merely
retaining the forms which are presented before it: we are the dupes of a
subtilty, which promises to supply every defect of our knowledge, and, by
filling up a few blanks in the story of nature, pretends to conduct our
apprehension nearer to the source of existence. On the credit of a few
observations, we are apt to presume, that the secret may soon be laid open,
and that what is termed _wisdom_ in nature, may be referred to the
operation of physical powers. We forget that physical powers employed in
succession or together, and combined to a salutary purpose, constitute
those very proofs of design from which we infer the existence of God; and
that this truth being once admitted, we are no longer to search for the
source of existence; we can only collect the laws which the Author of
nature has established; and in our latest as well as our earliest
discoveries, only perceive a mode of creation or providence before unknown.

We speak of art as distinguished from nature; but art itself is natural to
man. He is in some measure the artificer of his own frame, as well as of
his fortune, and is destined, from the first age of his being, to invent
and contrive. He applies the same talents to a variety of purposes, and
acts nearly the same part in very different scenes. He would be always
improving on his subject, and he carries this intention wherever he moves,
through the streets of the populous city, or the wilds of the forest. While
he appears equally fitted to every condition, he is upon this account
unable to settle in any. At once obstinate and fickle, he complains of
innovations, and is never sated with novelty. He is perpetually busied in
reformations, and is continually wedded to his errors. If he dwells in a
cave, he would improve it into a cottage; if he has already built, he would
still build to a greater extent. But he does, not propose to make rapid and
hasty transitions; his steps are progressive and slow; and his force, like
the power of a spring, silently presses on every resistance; an effect is
sometimes produced before the cause is perceived; and with all his talent
for projects, his work is often accomplished before the plan is devised. It
appears, perhaps, equally difficult to retard or to quicken his pace; if
the projector complain he is tardy, the moralist thinks him unstable; and
whether his motions be rapid or slow, the scenes of human affairs
perpetually change in his management: his emblem is a passing stream, not a
stagnating pool. We may desire to direct his love of improvement to its
proper object, we may wish for stability of conduct; but we mistake human
nature, if we wish for a termination of labour, or a scene of repose.

The occupations of men, in every condition, bespeak their freedom of
choice, their various opinions, and the multiplicity of wants by which they
are urged: but they enjoy, or endure, with a sensibility, or a phlegm,
which are nearly the same in every situation. They possess the shores of
the Caspian, or the Atlantic, by a different tenure, but with equal ease.
On the one they are fixed to the soil, and seem to be formed for,
settlement, and the accommodation of cities: the names they bestow on a
nation, and on its territory, are the same. On the other they are mere
animals of passage, prepared to roam on the face of the earth, and with
their herds, in search of new pasture and favourable seasons, to fallow the
sun in his annual course.

Man finds his lodgment alike in the cave, the cottage, and the palace; and
his subsistence equally in the woods, in the dairy, or the farm. He assumes
the distinction of titles, equipage, and dress; he devises regular systems
of government, and a complicated body of laws; or naked in the woods has no
badge of superiority but the strength of his limbs and the sagacity of his
mind; no rule of conduct but choice; no tie with his fellow creatures but
affection, the love of company, and the desire of safety. Capable of a
great variety of arts, yet dependent on none in particular for the
preservation of his being; to whatever length he has carried his artifice,
there he seems to enjoy the conveniences that suit his nature, and to have
found the condition to which he is destined. The tree which an American, on
the banks of the Oroonoko [Footnote: Lafitau, moeurs des sauvages.], has
chosen to climb for the retreat, and the lodgment of his family, is to him
a convenient dwelling. The sopha, the vaulted dome, and the colonade, do
not more effectually content their native inhabitant.

If we are asked therefore, where the state of nature is to be found? we may
answer, it is here; and it matters not whether we are understood to speak
in the island of Great Britain, at the Cape of Good Hope, or the Straits of
Magellan. While this active being is in the train of employing his talents,
and of operating on the subjects around him, all situations are equally
natural. If we are told, that vice, at least, is contrary to nature; we may
answer, it is worse; it is folly and wretchedness. But if nature is only
opposed to art, in what situation of the human race are the footsteps of
art unknown? In the condition of the savage, as well as in that of the
citizen, are many proofs of human invention; and in either is not any
permanent station, but a mere stage through which this' travelling being is
destined to pass. If the palace be unnatural, the cottage is so no less;
and the highest refinements of political and moral apprehension, are not
more artificial in their kind, than the first operations of sentiment and

If we admit that man is susceptible of improvement, and has in himself a
principle of progression, and a desire of perfection, it appears improper
to say, that he has quitted the state of his nature, when he has begun to
proceed; or that he finds a station for which he was not intended, while,
like other animals, he only follows the disposition, and employs the powers
that nature has given.

The latest efforts of human invention are but a continuation of certain
devices which were practised in the earliest ages of the world, and in the
rudest state of mankind. What the savage projects, or observes, in the
forest, are the steps which led nations, more advanced, from the
architecture of the cottage to that of the palace, and conducted the human
mind from the perceptions of sense, to the general conclusions of science.

Acknowledged defects are to man in every condition matter of dislike.
Ignorance and imbecility are objects of contempt: penetration and conduct
give eminence and procure esteem. Whither should his feelings and
apprehensions on these subjects lead him? To a progress, no doubt, in which
the savage, as well as the philosopher, is engaged; in which they have made
different advances, but in which their ends are the same. The admiration
which Cicero entertained for literature, eloquence, and civil
accomplishments, was not more real than that of a Scythian for such a
measure of similar endowments as his own apprehension could reach. "Were I
to boast," says a Tartar prince, [Footnote: Abulgaze Bahadur Chan; History
of the Tartars.] "it would be of that wisdom I have received from God.
For as, on the one hand, I yield to none in the conduct of war, in the
disposition of armies, whether of horse or of foot, and in directing the
movements of great or small bodies; so, on the other, I have my talent in
writing, inferior perhaps only to those who inhabit the great cities of
Persia or India. Of other nations, unknown to me, I do not speak."

Man may mistake the objects of his pursuit; he may misapply his industry,
and misplace his improvements: If, under a sense of such possible errors,
he would find a standard by which to judge of his own proceedings, and
arrive at the best state of his nature, he cannot find it perhaps in the
practice of any individual; or of any nation whatever; not even in the
sense of the majority, or the prevailing opinion of his kind. He must look
for it in the best conceptions of his understanding, in the best movements
of his heart; he must thence discover what is the perfection and the
happiness of which he is capable. He will find, on the scrutiny, that the
proper state of his nature, taken in this sense, is not a condition from
which mankind are for ever removed, but one to which they may now attain;
not prior to the exercise of their faculties, but procured by their just

Of all the terms that we employ in treating of human affairs, those of
_natural_ and _unnatural_ are the least determinate in their
meaning. Opposed to affectation, frowardness, or any other defect of the
temper or character, the natural is an epithet of praise; but employed to
specify a conduct which proceeds from the nature of man, can serve to
distinguish nothing; for all the actions of men are equally the result of
their nature. At most, this language can only refer to the general and
prevailing sense or practice of mankind; and the purpose of every important
enquiry on this subject may be served by the use of a language equally
familiar and more precise. What is just, or unjust? What is happy or
wretched, in the manners of men? What, in their various situations, is
favourable or adverse to their amiable qualities? are questions to which we
may expect a satisfactory answer; and whatever may have been the original
state of our species, it is of more importance to know the condition to
which we ourselves should aspire, than that which our ancestors may be
supposed to have left.



If in human nature there are qualities by which it is distinguished from
every other part of the animal creation, this nature itself is in different
climates and in different ages greatly diversified. The varieties merit our
attention, and the course of every stream into which this mighty current
divides, deserves to be followed to its source. It appears necessary,
however, that we attend to the universal qualities of our nature, before we
regard its varieties, or attempt to explain differences consisting in the
unequal possession or application of dispositions and powers that are in
some measure common to all mankind.

Man, like the other animals, has certain instinctive propensities, which;
prior to the perception of pleasure or pain, and prior to the experience of
what is pernicious or useful, lead him to perform many functions which
terminate in himself, or have a relation to his fellow creatures. He has
one set of dispositions which tend to his animal preservation, and to the
continuance of his race; another which lead to society, and by inlisting
him on the side of one tribe or community, frequently engage him in war and
contention with the rest of mankind. His powers of discernment, or his
intellectual faculties, which, under the appellation of _reason_, are
distinguished from the analogous endowments of other animals, refer to the
objects around him, either as they are subjects of mere knowledge, or as
they are subjects of approbation or censure. He is formed not only to know,
but likewise to admire and to contemn; and these proceedings of his mind
have a principal reference to his own character, and to that of his fellow
creatures, as being the subjects on which he is chiefly concerned to
distinguish what is right from what is wrong. He enjoys his felicity
likewise on certain fixed and determinate conditions; and either as an
individual apart, or as a member of civil society, must take a particular
course, in order to reap the advantages of his nature. He is, withal, in a
very high degree susceptible of habits; and can, by forbearance or
exercise, so far weaken, confirm, or even diversify his talents, and his
dispositions, as to appear, in a great measure, the arbiter of his own rank
in nature, and the author of all the varieties which are exhibited in the
actual history of his species. The universal characteristics, in the mean
time, to which we have now referred, must, when we would treat of any part
of this history, constitute the first subject of our attention; and they
require not only to be enumerated, but to be distinctly considered.

The dispositions which tend to the preservation of the individual, while
they continue to operate in the manner of instinctive desires; are nearly
the same in man that they are in the other animals; but in him they are
sooner or later combined with reflection and foresight; they give rise to
his apprehensions on the subject of property, and make him acquainted with
that object of care which he calls his interest. Without the instincts
which teach the beaver and the squirrel, the ant and the bee, to make up
their little hoards for winter, at first improvident, and where no
immediate object of passion is near, addicted to sloth, he becomes, in
process of time, the great storemaster among animals. He finds in a
provision of wealth, which he is probably never to employ, an object of his
greatest solicitude, and the principal idol of his mind. He apprehends a
relation between his person and his property, which renders what he calls
his own in a manner a part of himself, a constituent of his rank, his
condition, and his character; in which, independent of any real enjoyment,
he may be fortunate or unhappy; and, independent of any personal merit, he
may be an object of consideration or neglect; and in which he may be
wounded and injured, while his person is safe, and every want of his nature
is completely supplied.

In these apprehensions, while other passions only operate occasionally, the
interested find the object of their ordinary cares; their motive to the
practice of mechanic and commercial arts; their temptation to trespass on
the laws of justice; and, when extremely corrupted, the price of their
prostitutions, and the standard of their opinions on the subject of good
and of evil. Under this influence, they would enter, if not restrained by
the laws of civil society, on a scene of violence or meanness, which would
exhibit our species, by turns, under an aspect more terrible and odious, or
more vile and contemptible, than that of any animal which inherits the

Although the consideration of interest is founded on the experience of
animal wants and desires, its object is not to gratify any particular
appetite, but to secure the means of gratifying all; and it imposes
frequently a restraint on the very desires from which it arose, more
powerful and more severe than those of religion or duty. It arises from the
principles of self preservation in the human frame; but is a corruption, or
at least a partial result, of those principles, and is upon many accounts
very improperly termed _self-love_.

Love is an affection which carries the attention of the mind beyond itself,
and is the sense of a relation to some fellow creature as to its object.
Being a complacency and a continued satisfaction in this object, it has,
independent of any external event, and in the midst of disappointment and
sorrow, pleasures and triumphs unknown to those who are guided by mere
considerations of interest; in every change of condition, it continues
entirely distinct from the sentiments which we feel on the subject of
personal success or adversity. But as the care a man entertains for his own
interest, and the attention his affection makes him pay to that of another,
may have similar effects, the one on his own fortune, the other on that of
his friend, we confound the principles from which he acts; we suppose that
they are the same in kind, only referred to different objects; and we not
only misapply the name of love, in conjunction with self, but, in a manner
tending to degrade our nature, we limit the aim of this supposed selfish
affection to the securing or accumulating the constituents of interest, of
the means of mere animal life.

It is somewhat remarkable, that notwithstanding men value themselves so
much on qualities of the mind, on parts, learning, and wit, on courage,
generosity, and honour, those men are still supposed to be in the highest
degree selfish or attentive to themselves, who are most careful of animal
life, and who are least mindful of rendering that life an object worthy of
care. It will be difficult, however, to tell why a good understanding, a
resolute and generous mind, should not, by every man in his senses, be
reckoned as much parts of himself, as either his stomach or his palate, and
much more than his estate or his dress. The epicure, who consults his
physician, how he may restore his relish for food, and, by creating an
appetite, renew his enjoyment, might at least with an equal regard to
himself, consult how he might strengthen his affection to a parent or a
child, to his country or to mankind; and it is probable that an appetite of
this sort would prove a source of enjoyment not less than the former.

By our supposed selfish maxims, notwithstanding, we generally exclude from
among the objects of our personal cares, many of the happier and more
respectable qualities of human nature. We consider affection and courage as
mere follies, that lead us to neglect, or expose ourselves; we make wisdom
consist in a regard to our interest; and without explaining what interest
means, we would have it understood as the only reasonable motive of action
with mankind. There is even a system of philosophy founded upon tenets of
this sort, and such is our opinion of what men are likely to do upon
selfish principles, that we think it must have a tendency very dangerous to
virtue. But the errors of this system do not consist so much in general
principles, as in their particular applications; not so much in teaching
men to regard themselves, as in leading them to forget, that their happiest
affections, their candour, and their independence of mind, are in reality
parts of themselves. And the adversaries of this supposed selfish
philosophy, where it makes self-love the ruling passion with mankind, have
had reason to find fault, not so much with its general representations of
human nature, as with the obtrusion of a mere innovation in language for a
discovery in science.

When the vulgar speak of their different motives, they are satisfied with
ordinary names, which refer to known and obvious distinctions. Of this kind
are the terms _benevolence_ and _selfishness_, by the first of
which they express their friendly affections, and by the second their
interest. The speculative are not always satisfied with this proceeding;
they would analyze, as well as enumerate the principles of nature; and the
chance is, that, merely to gain the appearance of something new, without
any prospect of real advantage, they will attempt to change the application
of words. In the case before us, they have actually found, that benevolence
is no more than a species of self-love; and would oblige us, if possible,
to look out for a new set of names, by which we may distinguish the
selfishness of the parent when he takes care of his child, from his
selfishness when he only takes care of himself. For, according to this
philosophy, as in both cases he only means to gratify a desire of his own,
he is in both cases equally selfish. The term _benevolent_, in the
mean time, is not employed to characterize persons who have no desires of
their own, but persons whose own desires prompt them to procure the welfare
of others. The fact is, that we should need only a fresh supply of
language, instead of that which by this seeming discovery we should have
lost, in order to make our reasonings proceed as they formerly did. But it
is certainly impossible to live and to act with men, without employing
different names to distinguish the humane from the cruel, and the
benevolent from the selfish.

These terms have their equivalents in every tongue; they were invented by
men of no refinement, who only meant to express what they distinctly
perceived, or strongly felt. And if a man of speculation should prove, that
we are selfish in a sense of his own, it does not follow that we are so in
the sense of the vulgar; or, as ordinary men would understand his
conclusion, that we are condemned in every instance to act on motives of
interest, covetousness, pusillanimity, and cowardice; for such is conceived
to be the ordinary import of selfishness in the character of man.

An affection or passion of any kind is sometimes said to give us an
interest in its object; and humanity itself gives an interest in the
welfare of mankind. This term _interest_, which commonly implies
little more than our property, is sometimes put for utility in general, and
this for happiness; insomuch, that, under these ambiguities, it is not
surprising we are still unable to determine, whether interest is the only
motive of human action, and the standard by which to distinguish our good
from our ill.

So much is said in this place, not from a desire to partake in any such
controversy, but merely to confine the meaning of the term _interest_
to its most common acceptation, and to intimate a design to employ it in
expressing those objects of care which refer to our external condition, and
the preservation of our animal nature. When taken in this sense, it will
not surely be thought to comprehend at once all the motives of human
conduct. If men be not allowed to have disinterested benevolence, they will
not be denied to have disinterested passions of another kind. Hatred,
indignation, and rage, frequently urge them to act in opposition to their
known interest, and even to hazard their lives, without any hopes of
compensation in any future returns of preferment or profit.



Mankind have always wandered or settled, agreed or quarrelled, in troops
and companies. The cause of their assembling, whatever it be, is the
principle of their alliance or union.

In collecting the materials of history, we are seldom willing to put up
with our subject merely as we find it. We are loth to be embarrassed with a
multiplicity of particulars, and apparent inconsistencies. In theory we
profess the investigation of general principles; and in order to bring the
matter of our inquiries within the reach of our comprehension, are disposed
to adopt any system. Thus, in treating of human affairs, we would draw
every consequence from a principle of union, or a principle of dissention.
The state of nature is a state of war, or of amity, and men are made to
unite from a principle of affection, or from a principle of fear, as is
most suitable to the system of different writers. The history of our
species indeed abundantly shows, that they are to one another mutual
objects both of fear and of love; and they who would prove them to have
been originally either in a state of alliance, or of war, have arguments in
store to maintain their assertions. Our attachment to one division, or to
one sect, seems often to derive much of its force from an animosity
conceived to an opposite one: and this animosity in its turn, as often
arises from a zeal in behalf of the side we espouse, and from a desire to
vindicate the rights of our party.

"Man is born in society," says Montesquieu, "and there he remains." The
charms that detain him are known to be manifold. Together with the parental
affection, which, instead of deserting the adult, as among the brutes,
embraces more close, as it becomes mixed with esteem, and the memory of its
early effects; we may reckon a propensity common to man and other animals,
to mix with the herd, and, without reflection, to follow the crowd of his
species. What this propensity was in the first moment of its operation, we
know not; but with men accustomed to company, its enjoyments and
disappointments are reckoned among the principal pleasures or pains of
human life. Sadness and melancholy are connected with solitude; gladness
and pleasure with the concourse of men. The track of a Laplander on the
snowy shore, gives joy to the lonely mariner; and the mute signs of
cordiality and kindness which are made to him, awaken the memory of
pleasures which he felt in society. In fine, says the writer of a voyage to
the North, after describing a mute scene of this sort, "We were extremely
pleased to converse with men, since in thirteen months we had seen no human
creature." [Footnote: Collection of Dutch voyages.]

But we need no remote observation to confirm this position: the wailings of
the infant, and the languors of the adult, when alone; the lively joys of
the one, and the cheerfulness of the other, upon the return of company, are
a sufficient proof of its solid foundations in the frame of our nature.

In accounting for actions we often forget that we ourselves have acted; and
instead of the sentiments which stimulate the mind in the presence of its
object, we assign as the motives of conduct with men, those considerations
which occur in the hours of retirement and cold reflection. In this mood
frequently we can find nothing important, besides the deliberate prospects
of interest; and a great work, like that of forming society, must in our
apprehension arise from deep reflections, and be carried on with a view to
the advantages which mankind derive from commerce and mutual support. But
neither a propensity to mix with the herd, nor the sense of advantages
enjoyed in that condition, comprehend all the principles by which men are
united together. Those bands are even of a feeble texture, when compared to
the resolute ardour with which a man adheres to his friend, or to his
tribe, after they have for some time run the career of fortune together.
Mutual discoveries of generosity, joint trials of fortitude redouble the
ardours of friendship, and kindle a flame in the human breast, which the
considerations of personal interest or safety cannot suppress. The most
lively transports of joy are seen, and the loudest shrieks of despair are
heard, when the objects of a tender affection are beheld in a state of
triumph or of suffering. An Indian recovered his friend unexpectedly on the
island of Juan Fernandes: he prostrated himself on the ground, at his feet.
"We stood gazing in silence," says Dampier, "at this tender scene." If we
would know what is the religion of a wild American, what it is in his heart
that most resembles devotion; it is not his fear of the sorcerer, nor his
hope of protection from the spirits of the air or the wood: it is the
ardent affection with which he selects and embraces his friend; with which
he clings to his side in every season of peril; and with which he invokes
his spirit from a distance, when dangers surprise him alone. [Footnote:
Charlevoix, Hist. of Canada.]

Whatever proofs we may have of the social disposition of man in familiar
and contiguous scenes, it is possibly of importance, to draw our
observations from the examples of men who live in the simplest condition,
and who have not learned to affect what they do not actually feel.

Mere acquaintance and habitude nourish affection, and the experience of
society brings every passion of the human mind upon its side. Its triumphs
and prosperities, its calamities and distresses, bring a variety and a
force of emotion, which can only have place in the company of our fellow
creatures. It is here that a man is made to forget his weakness, his cares
of safety, and his subsistence; and to act from those passions which make
him discover his force. It is here he finds that his arrows fly swifter
than the eagle, and his weapons wound deeper than the paw of the lion, or
the tooth of the boar. It is not alone his sense of a support which is
near, nor the love of distinction in the opinion of his tribe, that inspire
his courage, or swell his heart with a confidence that exceeds what his
natural force should bestow. Vehement passions of animosity or attachment
are the first exertions of vigour in his breast; under their influence
every consideration, but that of his object, is forgotten; dangers and
difficulties only excite him the more.

That condition is surely favourable to the nature of any being, in which
his force is increased; and if courage be the gift of society to man, we
have reason to consider his union with his species as the noblest part of
his fortune. From this source are derived, not only the force, but the very
existence of his happiest emotions; not only the better part, but almost
the whole of his rational character. Send him to the desert alone, he is a
plant torn from his roots: the form indeed may remain, but every faculty
droops and withers; the human personage and the human character cease to

Men are so far from valuing society on account of its mere external
conveniencies, that they are commonly most attached where those
conveniencies are least frequent; and are there most faithful, where the
tribute of their allegiance is paid in blood. Affection operates with the
greatest force, where it meets with the greatest difficulties: in the
breast of the parent, it is most solicitous amidst the dangers and
distresses of the child; in the breast of a man, its flame redoubles where
the wrongs or sufferings of his friend, or his country, require his aid. It
is, in short, from this principle alone that we can account for the
obstinate attachment of a savage to his unsettled and defenceless tribe,
when temptations on the side of ease and of safety might induce him to fly
from famine and danger, to a station more affluent, and more secure. Hence
the sanguine affection which every Greek bore to his country, and hence the
devoted patriotism of an early Roman. Let those examples be compared with
the spirit which reigns in a commercial state, where men may be supposed to
have experienced, in its full extent, the interest which individuals have
in the preservation of their country. It is here indeed, if ever, that man
is sometimes found a detached and a solitary being: he has found an object
which sets him in competition with his fellow creatures, and he deals with
them as he does with his cattle and his soil, for the sake of the profits
they bring. The mighty engine which we suppose to have formed society, only
tends to set its members at variance, or to continue their intercourse
after the bands of affection are broken.



"There are some circumstances in the lot of mankind," says Socrates, "that
show them to be destined to friendship and amity: Those are, their mutual
need of each other; their mutual compassion; their sense of mutual benefit;
and the pleasures arising in company. There are other circumstances which
prompt them to war and dissention; the admiration and the desire which they
entertain for the same subjects; their opposite pretensions; and the
provocations which they mutually offer in the course of their

When we endeavour to apply the maxims of natural justice to the solution of
difficult questions, we find that some cases may be supposed, and actually
happen, where oppositions take place, and are lawful, prior to any
provocation, or act of injustice; that where the safety and preservation of
numbers are mutually inconsistent, one party may employ his right of
defence, before the other has begun an attack. And when we join with such
examples, the instances of mistake, and misunderstanding, to which mankind
are exposed, we may be satisfied that war does not always proceed from an
intention to injure; and that even the best qualities of men, their
candour, as well as their resolution, may operate in the midst of their

There is still more to be observed on this subject. Mankind not only find
in their condition the sources of variance and dissention; they appear to
have in their minds the seeds of animosity, and to embrace the occasions of
mutual opposition, with alacrity and pleasure. In the most pacific
situation, there are few who have not their enemies, as well as their
friends; and who are not pleased with opposing the proceedings of one, as
much as with favouring the designs of another. Small and simple tribes, who
in their domestic society have the firmest union, are in their state of
opposition as separate nations, frequently animated with the most
implacable hatred. Among the citizens of Rome, in the early ages of that
republic, the name of a foreigner, and that of an enemy, were the same.
Among the Greeks, the name of Barbarian, under which that people
comprehended every nation that was of a race, and spoke a language,
different from their own, became a term of indiscriminate contempt and
aversion. Even where no particular claim to superiority is formed, the
repugnance to union, the frequent wars, or rather the perpetual hostilities
which take place among rude nations and separate clans, discover how much
our species is disposed to opposition, as well as to concert.

Late discoveries have brought to our knowledge almost every situation in
which mankind are placed. We have found them spread over large and
extensive continents, where communications are open, and where national
confederacy might be easily formed. We have found them in narrower
districts, circumscribed by mountains, great rivers, and arms of the sea.
They have been found in small islands, where the inhabitants might be
easily assembled, and derive an advantage from their union. But in all
those situations, alike, they were broke into cantons, and affected a
distinction of name and community. The titles of _fellow citizen_ and
_countrymen_, unopposed to those of _alien_ and _foreigner_, to which
they refer, would fall into disuse, and lose their meaning. We love
individuals on account of personal qualities; but we love our country,
as it is a party in the divisions of mankind; and our zeal for its
interest, is a predilection in behalf of the side we maintain.

In the promiscuous concourse of men, it is sufficient that we have an
opportunity of selecting our company. We turn away from those who do not
engage us, and we fix our resort where the society is more to our mind. We
are fond of distinctions; we place ourselves in opposition, and quarrel
under the denominations of faction and party, without any material subject
of controversy. Aversion, like affection, is fostered by a continued
direction to its particular object. Separation and estrangement, as well as
opposition, widen a breach which did not owe its beginnings to any offence.
And it would seem, that till we have reduced mankind to the state of a
family, or found some external consideration to maintain their connection
in greater numbers, they will be for ever separated into bands, and form a
plurality of nations.

The sense of a common danger, and the assaults of an enemy, have been
frequently useful to nations, by uniting their members more firmly
together, and by preventing the secessions and actual separations in which
their civil discord might otherwise terminate. And this motive to union
which is offered from abroad, may be necessary, not only in the case of
large and extensive nations, where coalitions are weakened by distance, and
the distinction of provincial names; but even in the narrow society of the
smallest states. Rome itself was founded by a small party which took its
flight from Alba; her citizens were often in danger of separating; and if
the villages and cantons of the Volsci had been further removed from the
scene of their dissentions, the Mons Sacer might have received a new colony
before the mother country was ripe for such a discharge. She continued long
to feel the quarrels of her nobles and her people; and kept open the gates
of Janus, to remind those parties of the duties they owed to their country.

Societies, as well as individuals, being charged with the care of their own
preservation, and having separate interests, which give rise to jealousies
and competitions, we cannot be surprised to find hostilities arise from
this source. But were there no angry passions of a different sort, the
animosities which attend an opposition of interest, should bear a
proportion to the supposed value of the subject. "The Hottentot nations,"
says Kolben, "trespass on each other by thefts of cattle and of women; but
such injuries are seldom committed, except with a view to exasperate their
neighbours, and bring them to a war." Such depredations then, are not the
foundation of a war, but the effects of a hostile intention already
conceived. The nations of North America, who have no herds to preserve, nor
settlements to defend, are yet engaged in almost perpetual wars, for which
they can assign no reason, but the point of honour, and a desire to
continue the struggle their fathers maintained. They do not regard the
spoils of an enemy; and the warrior who has seized any booty, easily parts
with it to the first person who comes in his way. [Footnote: See
Charlevoix's History of Canada.]

But we need not cross the Atlantic to find proofs of animosity, and to
observe, in the collision of separate societies, the influence of angry
passions, that do not arise from an opposition of interest. Human nature
has no part of its character of which more flagrant examples are given on
this side of the globe. What is it that stirs in the breasts of ordinary
men when the enemies of their country are named? Whence are the prejudices
that subsist between different provinces, cantons, and villages, of the
same empire and territory? What is it that excites one half of the nations
of Europe against the other? The statesman may explain his conduct on
motives of national jealousy and caution, but the people have dislikes and
antipathies, for which they cannot account. Their mutual reproaches of
perfidy and injustice, like the Hottentot depredations, are but symptoms of
an animosity, and the language of a hostile disposition, already conceived.
The charge of cowardice and pusillanimity, qualities which the interested
and cautious enemy should, of all others, like best to find in his rival,
is urged with aversion, and made the ground of dislike. Hear the peasants
on different sides of the Alps, and the Pyrenees, the Rhine, or the British
channel, give vent to their prejudices, and national passions; it is among
them that we find the materials of war and dissention laid without the
direction of government, and sparks ready to kindle into a flame, which the
statesman is frequently disposed to extinguish. The fire will not always
catch where his reasons of state would direct, nor stop where the
concurrence of interest has produced an alliance. "My father," said a
Spanish peasant, "would rise from his grave, if he could foresee a war with
France." What interest had he, or the bones of his father, in the quarrels
of princes?

These observations seem to arraign our species, and to give an unfavourable
picture of mankind; and yet the particulars we have mentioned are
consistent with the most amiable qualities of our nature, and often furnish
a scene North America, who have no herds to preserve, nor settlements to
defend, are yet engaged in almost perpetual wars, for which they can assign
no reason, but the point of honour, and a desire to continue the struggle
their fathers maintained. They do not regard the spoils of an enemy; and
the warrior who has seized any booty, easily parts with it to the first
person who comes in his way. [Footnote: See Charlevoix's History of

But we need not cross the Atlantic to find proofs of animosity, and to
observe, in the collision of separate societies, the influence of angry
passions, that do not arise from an opposition of interest. Human nature
has no part of its character of which more flagrant examples are given on
this side of the globe. What is it that stirs in the breasts of ordinary
men when the enemies of their country are named? Whence are the prejudices
that subsist between different provinces, cantons, and villages, of the
same empire and territory? What is it that excites one half of the nations
of Europe against the other? The statesman may explain his conduct on
motives of national jealousy and caution, but the people have dislikes and
antipathies, for which they cannot account. Their mutual reproaches of
perfidy and injustice, like the Hottentot depredations, are but symptoms of
an animosity, and the language of a hostile disposition, already conceived.
The charge of cowardice and pusillanimity, qualities which the interested
and cautious enemy should, of all others, like best to find in his rival,
is urged with aversion, and made the ground of dislike. Hear the peasants
on different sides of the Alps, and the Pyrenees, the Rhine, or the British
channel, give vent to their prejudices and national passions; it is among
them that we find the materials of war and dissention laid without the
direction of government, and sparks ready to kindle into a flame, which the
statesman is frequently disposed to extinguish. The fire will not always
catch where his reasons of state would direct, nor stop where the
concurrence of interest has produced an alliance. "My father," said a
Spanish peasant, "would rise from his grave, if he could foresee a war with
France." What interest had he, or the bones of his father, in the quarrels
of princes?

These observations seem to arraign our species, and to give an unfavourable
picture of mankind; and yet the particulars we have mentioned are
consistent with the most amiable qualities of our nature, and often furnish
a scene for the exercise of our greatest abilities. They are sentiments of
generosity and self denial that animate the warrior in defence of his
country; and they are dispositions most favourable to mankind, that become
the principles of apparent hostility to men. Every animal is made to
delight in the exercise of his natural talents and forces. The lion and the
tyger sport with the paw; the horse delights to commit his mane to the
wind, and forgets his pasture to try his speed in the field; the bull even
before his brow is armed, and the lamb while yet an emblem of innocence,
have a disposition to strike with the forehead, and anticipate, in play,
the conflicts they are doomed to sustain. Man too is disposed to
opposition, and to employ the forces of his nature against an equal
antagonist; he loves to bring his reason, his eloquence, his courage, even
his bodily strength to the proof. His sports are frequently an image of
war; sweat and blood are freely expended in play; and fractures or death
are often made to terminate the pastime of idleness and festivity. He was
not made to live for ever, and even his love of amusement has opened a way
to the grave.

Without the rivalship of nations, and the practice of war, civil society
itself could scarcely have found an object, or a form. Mankind might have
traded without any formal convention, but they cannot be safe without a
national concert. The necessity of a public defence, has given rise to many
departments of state, and the intellectual talents of men have found their
busiest scene in wielding their national forces. To overawe, or intimidate,
or, when we cannot persuade with reason, to resist with fortitude, are the
occupations which give its most animating exercise, and its greatest
triumphs, to a vigorous mind; and he who has never struggled with his
fellow creatures, is a stranger to half the sentiments of mankind.

The quarrels of individuals, indeed, are frequently the operations of
unhappy and detestable passions, malice, hatred, and rage. If such passions
alone possess the breast, the scene of dissention becomes an object of
horror; but a common opposition maintained by numbers, is always allayed by
passions of another sort. Sentiments of affection and friendship mix with
animosity; the active and strenuous become the guardians of their society;
and violence itself is, in their case, an exertion of generosity, as well
as of courage. We applaud, as proceeding from a national or party spirit,
what we could not endure as the effect of a private dislike; and, amidst
the competitions of rival states, think we have found, for the patriot and
the warrior, in the practice of violence and stratagem, the most
illustrious career of human virtue. Even personal opposition here does not
divide our judgment on the merits of men. The rival names of Agesilaus and
Epaminondas, of Scipio and Hannibal, are repeated with equal praise; and
war itself, which in one view appears so fatal, in another is the exercise
of a liberal spirit; and in the very effects which we regret, is but one
distemper more, by which the Author of nature has appointed our exit from
human life.

These reflections may open, our view into the state of mankind; but they
tend to reconcile us to the conduct of Providence, rather than to make us
change our own; where, from a regard to the welfare of our fellow
creatures, we endeavour to pacify their animosities, and unite them by the
ties of affection. In the pursuit of this amiable intention, we may hope,
in some instances, to disarm the angry passions of jealousy and envy; we
may hope to instil into the breasts of private men sentiments of candour
towards their fellow creatures, and a disposition to humanity and justice.
But it is vain to expect that we can give to the multitude of a people a
sense of union among themselves, without admitting hostility to those who
oppose them. Could we at once, in the case of any nation, extinguish the
emulation which is excited from abroad, we should probably break or weaken
the bands of society at home, and close the busiest scenes of national
occupations and virtues.



Many attempts have been made to analyze the dispositions which we have now
enumerated; but one purpose of science, perhaps the most important, is
served, when the existence of a disposition is established. We are more
concerned in its reality, and in its consequences, than we are in its
origin, or manner of formation.

The same observation may be applied to the other powers and faculties of
our nature. Their existence and use are the principal objects of our study.
Thinking and reasoning, we say, are the operations of some faculty; but in
what manner the faculties of thought or reason remain, when they are not
exerted, or by what difference in the frame they are unequal in different
persons, are questions which we cannot resolve. Their operations alone
discover them; when unapplied, they lie hid even from the person to whom
they pertain; and their action is so much a part of their nature, that the
faculty itself, in many cases, is scarcely to be distinguished from a habit
acquired in its frequent exertion.

Persons who are occupied with different subjects, who act in different
scenes, generally appear to have different talents, or at least to have the
same faculties variously formed, and suited to different purposes. The
peculiar genius of nations, as well as of individuals, may in this manner
arise from the state of their fortunes. And it is proper that we endeavour
to find some rule, by which to judge of what is admirable in the capacities
of men, or fortunate in the application of their faculties, before we
venture to pass a judgment on this branch of their merits, or pretend to
measure the degree of respect they may claim by their different

To receive the informations of sense, is perhaps the earliest function of
an animal combined with an intellectual nature; and one great
accomplishment of the living agent consists in the force and sensibility of
his animal organs. The pleasures or pains to which he is exposed from this
quarter, constitute to him an important difference between the objects
which are thus brought to his knowledge; and it concerns him to distinguish
well, before he commits himself to the direction of appetite. He must
scrutinize the objects of one sense, by the perceptions of another; examine
with the eye, before he ventures to touch; and employ every means of
observation, before he gratifies the appetites of thirst and of hunger. A
discernment acquired by experience, becomes a faculty of his mind; and the
inferences of thought are sometimes not to be distinguished from the
perceptions of sense.

The objects around us, beside their separate appearances, have their
relations to each other. They suggest, when compared, what would not occur
when they are considered apart; they have their effects, and mutual
influences; they exhibit, in like circumstances, similar operations, and
uniform consequences. When we have found and expressed the points in which
the uniformity of their operations consists, we have ascertained a physical
law. Many such laws, and even the most important, are known to the vulgar,
and occur upon the smallest degrees of reflection; but others are hid under
a seeming confusion, which ordinary talents cannot remove; and are
therefore the objects of study, long observation, and superior capacity.
The faculties of penetration and judgment, are, by men of business, as well
as of science, employed to unravel intricacies of this sort; and the degree
of sagacity with which either is endowed, is to be measured by the success
with which they are able to find general rules, applicable to a variety of
cases that seemed to have nothing in common, and to discover important
distinctions between subjects which the vulgar are apt to confound.

To collect a multiplicity of particulars under general heads, and to refer
a variety of operations to their common principle, is the object of
science. To do the same thing, at least within the range of his active
engagements, is requisite to the man of pleasure, or business; and it would
seem, that the studious and the active are so far employed in the same
task, from observation and experience, to find the general views under
which their objects may be considered, and the rules which may be usefully
applied in the detail of their conduct. They do not always apply their
talents to different subjects; and they seem to be distinguished chiefly by
the unequal reach and variety of their remarks, or by the intentions which
they severally have in collecting them.

Whilst men continue to act from appetites and passions, leading to the
attainment of external ends, they seldom quit the view of their objects in
detail, to go far in the road of general inquiries. They measure the extent
of their own abilities, by the promptitude with which they apprehend what
is important in every subject, and the facility with which they extricate
themselves on every trying occasion. And these, it must be confessed, to a
being who is destined to act in the midst of difficulties, are the proper
test of capacity and force. The parade of words and general reasonings,
which sometimes carry an appearance of so much learning and knowledge, are
of little avail in the conduct of life. The talents from which they
proceed, terminate in mere ostentation, and are seldom connected with that
superior discernment which the active apply in times of perplexity; much
less with that intrepidity and force of mind which are required in passing
through difficult scenes.

The abilities of active men, however, have a variety corresponding to that
of the subjects on which they are occupied. A sagacity applied to external
and inanimate nature, forms one species of capacity; that which is turned
to society and human affairs, another. Reputation for parts in any scene is
equivocal, till we know by what kind of exertion that reputation is gained.
No more can be said, in commending men of the greatest abilities, than that
they understand well the subjects to which they have applied; and every
department, every profession, would have its great men, if there were not a
choice of objects for the understanding, and of talents for the mind, as
well as of sentiments for the heart, and of habits for the active

The meanest professions, indeed, so far sometimes forget themselves, or the
rest of mankind, as to arrogate, in commending what is distinguished in
their own way, every epithet the most respectable claim as the right of
superior abilities. Every mechanic is a great man with the learner, and the
humble admirer, in his particular calling: and we can, perhaps with more
assurance pronounce what it is that should make a man happy and amiable,
than what should make his abilities respected, and his genius admired.
This, upon a view of the talents themselves, may perhaps be impossible. The
effect, however, will point out the rule and the standard of our judgment.
To be admired and respected, is to have an ascendant among men. The talents
which most directly procure that ascendant, are those which operate on
mankind, penetrate their views, prevent their wishes, or frustrate their
designs. The superior capacity leads with a superior energy, where every
individual would go, and shews the hesitating and irresolute a clear
passage to the attainment of their ends.

This description does not pertain to any particular craft or profession; or
perhaps it implies a kind of ability, which the separate application of men
to particular callings, only tends to suppress or to weaken. Where shall we
find the talents which are fit to act with men in a collective body, if we
break that body into parts, and confine the observation of each to a
separate track?

To act in the view of his fellow creatures, to produce his mind in public,
to give it all the exercise of sentiment and thought, which pertain to man
as a member of society, as a friend, or an enemy, seems to be the principal
calling and occupation of his nature. If he must labour, that he may
subsist, he can subsist for no better purpose than the good of mankind; nor
can he have better talents than those which qualify him to act with men.
Here, indeed, the understanding appears to borrow very much from the
passions; and there is a felicity of conduct in human affairs, in which it
is difficult to distinguish the promptitude of the head from the ardour and
sensibility of the heart. Where both are united, they constitute that
superiority of mind, the frequency of which among men, in particular ages
and nations, much more than the progress they have made in speculation, or
in the practice of mechanic and liberal arts, should determine the rate of
their genius, and assign the palm of distinction and honour.

When nations succeed one another in the career of discoveries and
inquiries, the last is always the most knowing. Systems of science are
gradually formed. The globe itself is traversed by degrees, and the history
of every age, when past, is an accession of knowledge to those who succeed.
The Romans were more knowing than the Greeks; and every scholar of modern
Europe is, in this sense, more learned than the most accomplished person
that ever bore either of those celebrated names. But is he on that account
their superior?

Men are to be estimated, not from what they know, but from what they are
able to perform; from their skill in adapting materials to the several
purposes of life; from their vigour and conduct in pursuing the objects of
policy, and in finding the expedients of war and national defence. Even in
literature, they are to be estimated from the works of their genius, not
from the extent of their knowledge. The scene of mere observation was
extremely limited in a Grecian republic; and the bustle of an active life
appeared inconsistent with study: but there the human mind,
notwithstanding, collected its greatest abilities, and received its best
informations, in the midst of sweat and of dust.

It is peculiar to modern Europe, to rest so much of the human character on
what may be learned in retirement, and from the information of books. A
just admiration of ancient literature, an opinion that human sentiment, and
human reason, without this aid, were to have vanished from the societies of
men, have led us into the shade, where we endeavour to derive from
imagination and study what is in reality matter of experience and
sentiment; and we endeavour, through the grammar of dead languages, and the
channel of commentators, to arrive at the beauties of thought and
elocution, which sprang from the animated spirit of society, and were taken
from the living impressions of an active life. Our attainments are
frequently limited to the elements of every science, and seldom reach to
that enlargement of ability and power, which useful knowledge should give.
Like mathematicians, who study the Elements of Euclid, but, never think of
mensuration; we read of societies, but do not propose to act with men; we
repeat the language of politics, but feel not the spirit of nations; we
attend to the formalities of a military discipline, but know not how to
employ numbers of men to obtain any purpose by stratagem or force.

But for what end, it may be said, point out an evil that cannot be
remedied? If national affairs called for exertion, the genius of men would
awake; but in the recess of better employment, the time which is bestowed
on study, if even attended with no other advantage, serves to occupy with
innocence the hours of leisure, and set bounds to the pursuit of ruinous
and frivolous amusements. From no better reason than this, we employ so
many of our early years, under the rod, to acquire, what it is not expected
we should retain beyond the threshold of the school; and whilst we carry
the same frivolous character in our studies that we do in our amusements,
the human mind could not suffer more from a contempt of letters, than it
does from the false importance which is given to literature, as a business
for life, not as a help to our conduct, and the means of forming a
character that may be happy in itself, and useful to mankind.

If that time which is passed in relaxing the powers of the mind, and in
withholding every object but what tends to weaken and to corrupt, were
employed in fortifying those powers, and in teaching the mind to recognize
its objects, and its strength, we should not, at the years of maturity, be
so much at a loss for occupation; nor, in attending the chances of a gaming
table, misemploy our talents, or waste the fire which remains in the
breast. They, at least, who by their stations have a share in the
government of their country, might believe themselves capable of business;
and, while the state had its armies and councils, might find objects enough
to amuse, without throwing a personal fortune into hazard, merely to cure
the yawnings of a listless and insignificant life. It is impossible for
ever to maintain the tone of speculation; it is impossible not sometimes to
feel that we live among men.



Upon a slight observation of what passes in human life, we should be apt to
conclude, that the care of subsistence is the principal spring of human
actions. This consideration leads to the invention and practice of
mechanical arts; it serves to distinguish amusement from business; and,
with many, scarcely admits into competition any other subject of pursuit or
attention. The mighty advantages of property and fortune, when stript of
the recommendations they derive from vanity, or the more serious regards to
independence and power, only mean a provision that is made for animal
enjoyment; and if our solicitude on this subject were removed, not only the
toils of the mechanic, but the studies of the learned, would cease; every
department of public business would become unnecessary; every senate house
would be shut up, and every palace deserted.

Is man therefore, in respect to his object, to be classed with the mere
brutes, and only to be distinguished by faculties that qualify him to
multiply contrivances for the support and convenience of animal life, and
by the extent of a fancy that renders the care of animal preservation to
him more burthensome than it is to the herd with which he shares in the
bounty of nature? If this were his case, the joy which attends on success,
or the griefs which arise from disappointment, would make the sum of his
passions. The torrent that wasted, or the inundation that enriched, his
possessions, would give him all the emotion with which he is seized, on the
occasion of a wrong by which his fortunes are impaired, or of a benefit by
which they are preserved and enlarged. His fellow creatures would be
considered merely as they affected his interest. Profit or loss would serve
to mark the event of every transaction; and the epithets _useful_ or
_detrimental_ would serve to distinguish his mates in society, as they
do the tree which bears plenty of fruit, from that which only cumbers the
ground, or intercepts his view.

This, however, is not the history of our species. What comes from a fellow
creature is received with peculiar emotion; and every language abounds with
terms that express somewhat in the transactions of men, different from
success and disappointment. The bosom kindles in company, while the point
of interest in view has nothing to inflame; and a matter frivolous in
itself, becomes important, when it serves to bring to light the intentions
and characters of men. The foreigner, who believed that Othello, on the
stage, was enraged for the loss of his handkerchief, was not more mistaken,
than the reasoner who imputes any of the more vehement passions of men to
the impressions of mere profit or loss.

Men assemble to deliberate on business; they separate from jealousies of
interest; but in their several collisions, whether as friends or as
enemies, a fire is struck out which the regards to interest or safety
cannot confine. The value of a favour is not measured when sentiments of
kindness are perceived; and the term _misfortune_ has but a feeble
meaning, when compared to that of _insult_ and _wrong_.

As actors or spectators, we are perpetually made to feel the difference of
human conduct, and from a bare recital of transactions, which have passed
in ages and countries remote from our own, are moved with admiration and
pity, or transported with indignation and rage. Our sensibility on this
subject gives their charm in retirement, to the relations of history and to
the fictions of poetry; sends forth the tear of compassion, gives to the
blood its briskest movement, and to the eye its liveliest glances of
displeasure or joy. It turns human life into an interesting spectacle, and
perpetually solicits even the indolent to mix, as opponents or friends, in
the scenes which are acted before them. Joined to the powers of
deliberation and reason, it constitutes the basis of a moral nature; and,
whilst it dictates the terms of praise and of blame, serves to class our
fellow creatures, by the most admirable and engaging, or the most odious
and contemptible denominations.

It is pleasant to find men, who in their speculations deny the reality of
moral distinctions, forget in detail the general positions they maintain,
and give loose to ridicule, indignation, and scorn, as if any of these
sentiments could have place, were the actions of men indifferent; or with
acrimony pretend to detect the fraud by which moral restraints have been
imposed, as if to censure a fraud were not already to take a part on the
side of morality. [Footnote: Mandeville.]

Can we explain the principles upon which mankind adjudge the preference of
characters, and upon which they indulge such vehement emotions of
admiration or contempt? If it be admitted that we cannot, are the facts
less true? Or must we suspend the movements of the heart, until they who
are employed in framing systems of science have discovered the principle
from which those movements proceed? If a finger burn, we care not for
information on the properties of fire: if the heart be torn, or the mind
overjoyed, we have not leisure for speculations on the subjects of moral

It is fortunate in this, as in other articles to which speculation and
theory are applied, that nature proceeds in her course, whilst the curious
are busied in the search of her principles. The peasant, or the child, can
reason, and judge, and speak his language with a discernment, a
consistency, and a regard to analogy, which perplex the logician, the
moralist, and the grammarian, when they would find the principle upon which
the proceeding is founded, or when they would bring to general rule, what
is so familiar, and so well sustained in particular cases. The felicity of
our conduct is more owing to the talent we possess for detail, and to the
suggestion of particular occasions, than it is to any direction we can find
in theory and general speculations.

We must, in the result of every inquiry, encounter with facts which we
cannot explain; and to bear with this mortification would save us
frequently a great deal of fruitless trouble. Together with the sense of
our existence, we must admit many circumstances which come to our knowledge
at the same time, and in the same manner; and which do, in reality,
constitute the mode of our being. Every peasant will tell us, that a man
hath his rights; and that to trespass on those rights is injustice. If we
ask him farther, what he means by the term _right?_ we probably force
him to substitute a less significant, or less proper term, in the place of
this; or require him to account for what is an original mode of his mind,
and a sentiment to which he ultimately refers, when he would explain
himself upon any particular application of his language.

The rights of individuals may relate to a variety of subjects, and be
comprehended under different heads. Prior to the establishment of property,
and the distinction of ranks, men have a right to defend their persons, and
to act with freedom; they have a right to maintain the apprehensions of
reason, and the feelings of the heart; and they cannot for a moment
associate together, without feeling that the treatment they give or receive
may be just or unjust. It is not, however, our business here to carry the
notion of a right into its several applications, but to reason on the
sentiment of favour with which that notion is entertained in the mind. If
it be true, that men are united by instinct, that they act in society from
affections of kindness and friendship; if it be true, that even prior to
acquaintance and habitude, men, as such, are commonly to each other objects
of attention, and some degree of regard; that while their, prosperity is
beheld with indifference, their afflictions are considered with
commiseration; if calamities be measured by the numbers and the qualities
of men they involve; and if every suffering of a fellow creature draws a
crowd of attentive spectators; if, even in the case of those to whom we do
not habitually wish any positive good, we are still averse to be the
instruments of harm; it should seem, that in these various appearances of
an amicable disposition, the foundations of a moral apprehension are
sufficiently laid, and the sense of a right which we maintain for
ourselves, is by a movement of humanity and candour extended to our fellow

What is it that prompts the tongue when we censure an act of cruelty or
oppression? What is it that constitutes our restraint from offences that
tend to distress our fellow creatures? It is probably, in both cases, a
particular application of that principle, which, in presence of the
sorrowful, sends forth the tear of compassion; and a combination of all
those sentiments, which constitute a benevolent disposition; and if not a
resolution to do good, at least an aversion to be the instrument of harm.
[Footnote: Mankind, we are told, are devoted to interest; and this, in all
commercial nations, is undoubtedly true. But it does not follow, that they
are, by their natural dispositions, averse to society and mutual affection:
proofs of the contrary remain, even where interest triumphs most. What must
we think of the force of that disposition to compassion, to candour, and
good will, which, notwithstanding the prevailing opinion that the happiness
of a man consists in possessing the greatest possible share of riches,
preferments, and honours, still keeps the parties who are in competition
for those objects, on a tolerable footing of amity, and leads them to
abstain even from their own supposed good, when their seizing it appears in
the light of a detriment to others? What might we not expect from the human
heart in circumstances which prevented this apprehension on the subject of
fortune, or under the influence of an opinion as steady and general as the
former, that human felicity does not consist in the indulgences of animal
appetite, but in those of a benevolent heart; not in fortune or interest,
but in the contempt of this very object, in the courage and freedom which
arise from this contempt, joined to a resolute choice of conduct, directed
to the good of mankind, or to the good of that particular society to which
the party belongs?]

It may be difficult, however, to enumerate the motives of all the censures
and commendations which are applied to the actions of men. Even while we
moralize, every disposition of the human mind may have its share in forming
the judgment, and in prompting the tongue. As jealousy is often the most
watchful guardian of chastity, so malice is often the quickest to spy the
failings of our neighbour. Envy, affectation, and vanity, may dictate the
verdicts we give, and the worst principles of our nature may be at the
bottom of our pretended zeal for morality; but if we only mean to inquire,
why they who are well disposed to mankind apprehend, in every instance,
certain rights pertaining to their fellow creatures, and why they applaud
the consideration that is paid to those rights, we cannot assign a better
reason, than that the person who applauds, is well disposed to the welfare
of the parties to whom his applauses refer. Applause, however, is the
expression of a peculiar sentiment; an expression of esteem the reverse of
contempt. Its object is perfection, the reverse of defect. This sentiment
is not the love of mankind; it is that by which we estimate the qualities
of men, and the objects of our pursuit; that which doubles the force of
every desire or aversion, when we consider its object as tending to raise
or to sink our nature.

When we consider, that the reality of any amicable propensity in the human
mind has been frequently contested; when we recollect the prevalence of
interested competitions, with their attendant passions of jealousy, envy,
and malice; it may seem strange to allege, that love and compassion are,
next to the desire of elevation, the most powerful motives in the human
breast: That they urge, on many occasions, with the most irresistible
vehemence; and if the desire of self preservation be more constant, and
more uniform, these are a more plentiful source of enthusiasm,
satisfaction, and joy. With a power not inferior to that of resentment and
rage, they hurry the mind into every sacrifice of interest, and bear it
undismayed through every hardship and danger.

The disposition on which friendship is grafted, glows with satisfaction in
the hours of tranquillity, and is pleasant, not only in its triumphs, but
even in its sorrows. It throws a grace on the external air, and, by its
expression on the countenance, compensates for the want of beauty, or gives
a charm which no complexion or features can equal. From this source the
scenes of human life derive their principal felicity; and their imitations
in poetry, their principal ornament. Descriptions of nature, even
representations of a vigorous conduct, and a manly courage, do not engage
the heart, if they be not mixed with the exhibition of generous sentiments,
and the pathetic, which is found to arise in the struggles, the triumphs,
or the misfortunes of a tender affection. The death of Polites, in the
Aeneid, is not more affecting than that of many others who perished in the
ruins of Troy; but the aged Priam was present when this last of his sons
was slain; and the agonies of grief and sorrow force the parent from his
retreat, to fall by the hand that shed the blood of his child. The pathetic
of Homer consists in exhibiting the force of affections, not in exciting
mere terror and pity; passions he has never perhaps, in any instance,
attempted to raise.

With this tendency to kindle into enthusiasm, with this command over the
heart, with the pleasure that attends its emotions, and with all its
effects in meriting confidence and procuring esteem, it is not surprising,
that a principle of humanity should give the tone to our commendations and
our censures, and even where it is hindered from directing our conduct,
should still give to the mind, on reflection, its knowledge of what is
desirable in the human character. _What hast thou done with thy brother
Abel?_ was the first expostulation in behalf of morality; and if the
first answer has been often repeated, mankind have notwithstanding, in one
sense, sufficiently acknowledged the charge of their nature. They have
felt, they have talked, and even acted, as the keepers of their fellow
creatures: they have made the indications of candour and mutual affection
the test of what is meritorious and amiable in the characters of men: they
have made cruelty and oppression the principal objects of their indignation
and rage: even while the head is occupied with projects of interest, the
heart is often seduced into friendship; and while business proceeds on the
maxims of self preservation, the careless hour is employed in generosity
and kindness.

Hence the rule by which men commonly judge of external actions, is taken
from the supposed influence of such actions on the general good. To abstain
from harm, is the great law f natural justice; to diffuse happiness, is the
law of morality; and when we censure the conferring a favour on one or a
few at the expense of many, we refer to public utility, as the great object
at which the actions of men should be aimed.

After all, it must be confessed, that if a principle of affection to
mankind be the basis of our moral approbation and dislike, we sometimes
proceed in distributing applause or censure, without precisely attending to
the degree in which our fellow creatures are hurt or obliged; and that,
besides the virtues of candour, friendship, generosity, and public spirit,
which bear an immediate reference to this principle, there are others which
may seem to derive their commendation from a different source. Temperance,
prudence, fortitude, are those qualities likewise admired from a principle
of regard to our fellow creatures? Why not, since they render men happy in
themselves, and useful to others? He who is qualified to promote the
welfare of mankind, is neither a sot, a fool, nor a coward. Can it be more
clearly expressed, that temperance, prudence, and fortitude, are necessary
to the character we love and admire? I know well why I should wish for them
in myself; and why likewise I should wish for them in my friend, and in
every person who is an object of my affection. But to what purpose seek for
reasons of approbation, where qualities are so necessary to our happiness,
and so great a part in the perfection of our nature? We must cease to
esteem ourselves, and to distinguish what is excellent, when such
qualifications incur our neglect.

A person of an affectionate mind, possessed of a maxim, that he himself, as
an individual, is no more than a part of the whole that demands his regard,
has found, in that principle, a sufficient foundation for all the virtues;
for a contempt of animal pleasures, that would supplant his principal
enjoyment; for an equal contempt of danger or pain, that come to stop his
pursuits of public good. "A vehement and steady affection magnifies its
object, and lessens every difficulty or danger that stands in the way."
"Ask those who have been in love," says Epictetus, "they will know that I
speak the truth."

"I have before me," says another eminent moralist, [Footnote: Persian
Letters.] "an idea of justice, which if I could follow in every instance, I
should think myself the most happy of men." And it is of consequence to
their happiness, as well as to their conduct, if those can be disjoined,
that men should have this idea properly formed. It is perhaps but another
name for that good of mankind, which the virtuous are engaged to promote.
If virtue be the supreme good, its best and most signal effect is, to
communicate and diffuse itself.

To distinguish men by the difference of their moral qualities, to espouse
one party from a sense of justice, to oppose another even with indignation
when excited by iniquity, are the common indications of probity, and the
operations of an animated, upright, and generous spirit. To guard against
unjust partialities, and ill grounded antipathies; to maintain that
composure of mind, which, without impairing its sensibility or ardour,
proceeds in every instance with discernment and penetration, are the marks
of a vigorous and cultivated spirit. To be able to follow the dictates of
such a spirit through all the varieties of human life, and with a mind
always master of itself, in prosperity or adversity, and possessed of all
its abilities, when the subjects in hazard are life, or freedom, as much as
in treating simple questions of interest, are the triumphs of magnanimity,
and true elevation of mind. "The event of the day is decided. Draw this
javelin from my body now," said Epaminondas, "and let me bleed."

In what situation, or by what instruction, is this wonderful character to
be formed? Is it found in the nurseries of affectation, pertness, and
vanity, from which fashion is propagated, and the genteel is announced? In
great and opulent cities, where men vie with each other in equipage, dress,
and the reputation of fortune? Is it within the admired precincts of a
court, where we may learn to smile without being pleased, to caress without
affection, to wound with the secret weapons of envy and jealousy, and to
rest our personal importance on circumstances which we cannot always with
honour command? No: but in a situation where the great sentiments of the
heart are awakened; where the characters of men, not their situations and
fortunes, are the principal distinction; where the anxieties of interest,
or vanity, perish in the blaze of more vigorous emotions; and where the
human soul, having felt and recognised its objects, like an animal who has
tasted the blood of his prey, cannot descend to pursuits that leave its
talents and its force unemployed.

Proper occasions alone operating on a raised and a happy disposition, may
produce this admirable effect, whilst mere instruction may, always find
mankind at a loss to comprehend its meaning, or insensible to its dictates.
The case, however, is not desperate, till we have formed our system of
politics, as well as manners; till we have sold our freedom for titles,
equipage, and distinctions; till we see no merit but prosperity and power,
no disgrace but poverty and neglect. What charm of instruction can cure the
mind that is stained with this disorder? What syren voice can awaken a
desire of freedom, that is held to be meanness and a want of ambition? Or
what persuasion can turn the grimace of politeness into real sentiments of
humanity and candour?



Having had under our consideration the active powers and the moral
qualities which distinguish the nature of man, is it still necessary that
we should treat of his happiness apart? This significant term, the most
frequent, and the most familiar, in our conversation, is, perhaps, on
reflection, the least understood. It serves to express our satisfaction,
when any desire is gratified; it is pronounced with a sigh, when our object
is distant: it means what we wish to obtain, and what we seldom stay to
examine. We estimate the value of every subject by its utility, and its
influence on happiness; but we think that utility itself, and happiness,
require no explanation.

Those men are commonly esteemed the happiest, whose desires are most
frequently ratified. But if, in reality, the possession of what they
desire, and a continued fruition, were requisite to happiness, mankind for
the most part would have reason to complain of their lot. What they call
their enjoyments, are generally momentary; and the object of sanguine
expectation, when obtained, no longer continues to occupy the mind: a new
passion succeeds, and the imagination, as before, is intent on a distant

How many reflections of this sort are suggested by melancholy, or by the
effects of that very languor and inoccupation into which we would willingly
sink, under the notion of freedom from care and trouble?

When we enter on a formal computation of the enjoyments or sufferings which
are prepared for mankind, it is a chance but we find that pain, by its
intenseness, its duration, or frequency, is greatly predominant. The
activity and eagerness with which we press from one stage of life to
another, our unwillingness to return on the paths we have trod, our
aversion in age to renew the frolics of youth, or to repeat in manhood the
amusements of children, have been accordingly stated as proofs, that our
memory of the past, and our feeling of the present, are equal subjects of
dislike and displeasure. [Footnote: Maupertuis; Essai de Morale.]

This conclusion, however, like many others, drawn from our supposed
knowledge of causes, does not correspond with experience in every street,
in every village, in every field, the greater number of persons we meet,
carry an aspect that is cheerful or thoughtless, indifferent, composed,
busy or animated. The labourer whistles to his team, and the mechanic is at
ease in his calling; the frolicksome and gay feel a series of pleasures, of
which we know not the source; even they who demonstrate the miseries of
human life, when intent on their argument, escape from their sorrows, and
find a tolerable pastime in proving that men are unhappy.

The very terms _pleasure_ and _pain,_ perhaps, are equivocal; but
if they are confined, as they appear to be in many of our reasonings, to
the mere sensations which have a reference to external objects, either in
the memory of the past, the feeling of the present, or the apprehension of
the future, it is a great error to suppose, that they comprehend all the
constituents of happiness or misery; or that the good humour of an ordinary
life is maintained by the prevalence of those pleasures, which have their
separate names, and are, on reflection, distinctly remembered.

The mind, during the greater part of its existence, is employed in active
exertions, not in merely attending to its own feelings of pleasure or pain;
and the list of its faculties, understanding, memory, foresight, sentiment,
will, and intention, only contains the names of its different operations.

If, in the absence of every sensation to which we commonly give the names
either of _enjoyment_ or _suffering,_ our very existence may have
its opposite qualities of _happiness_ or _misery;_ and if what we
call _pleasure_ or _pain,_ occupies but a small part of human
life, compared to what passes in contrivance and execution, in pursuits and
expectations, in conduct, reflection, and social engagements; it must
appear, that our active pursuits, at least on account of their duration,
deserve the greater part of our attention. When their occasions have
failed, the demand is not for pleasure, but for something to do; and the
very complaints of a sufferer are not so sure a mark of distress, as the
stare of the languid.

We seldom, however, reckon any task, which we are bound to perform, among
the blessings of life. We always aim at a period of pure enjoyment, or a
termination of trouble; and overlook the source from which most of our
present satisfactions are really drawn. Ask the busy, where is the
happiness to which they aspire? they will answer, perhaps, that it is to be
found in the object of some present pursuit. If we ask, why they are not
miserable in the absence of that happiness? they will say, that they hope
to attain it. But is it hope alone that supports the mind is the midst of
precarious and uncertain prospects? And would assurance of success fill the
intervals of expectation with more pleasing emotions? Give the huntsman his
prey, give the gamester the gold which is staked on the game, that the one
may not need to fatigue his person, nor the other to perplex his mind, and
both will probably laugh at our folly: the one will stake his money anew,
that he may be perplexed; the other will turn his stag to the field, that
he may hear the cry of the dogs, and follow through danger and hardship.
Withdraw the occupations of men, terminate their desires, existence is a
burden, and the iteration of memory is a torment.

The men of this country, says one lady, should learn to sew and to knit; it
would hinder their time from being a burden to themselves, and to other
people. That is true, says another; for my part, though I never look
abroad, I tremble at the prospect of bad weather; for then the gentlemen
come moping to us for entertainment; and the sight of a husband in
distress, is but a melancholy spectacle.

The difficulties and hardships of human life are supposed to detract from
the goodness of God; yet many of the pastimes men devise for themselves are
fraught with difficulty and danger The great inventor of the game of human
life, knew well how to accommodate the players. The chances are matter of
complaint; but if these were removed, the game itself would no longer amuse
the parties. In devising, or in executing a plan, in being carried on the
tide of emotion and sentiment, the mind seems to unfold its being, and to
enjoy itself. Even where the end and the object are known to be of little
avail, the talents and the fancy are often intensely applied, and business
or play may amuse them alike. We only desire repose to recruit our limited
and our wasting force: when business fatigues, amusement is often but a
change of occupation. We are not always unhappy, even when we complain.
There is a kind of affliction which makes an agreeable state of the mind;
and lamentation itself is sometimes an expression of pleasure. The painter
and the poet have laid hold of this handle, and find, among the means of
entertainment, a favourable reception for works that are composed to awaken
our sorrows.

To a being of this description, therefore, it is a blessing to meet with
incentives to action, whether in the desire of pleasure, or the aversion to
pain. His activity is of more importance than the very pleasure he seeks,
and languor a greater evil than the suffering he shuns.

The gratifications of animal appetite are of short duration; and sensuality
is but a distemper of the mind, which ought to be cured by remembrance, if
it were not perpetually inflamed by hope. The chase is not more surely
terminated by the death of the game, than the joys of the voluptuary by the
means of completing his debauch. As a band of society, as a matter of
distant pursuit, the objects of sense make an important part in the system
of human life. They lead us to fulfil the purposes of nature, in preserving
the individual, and in perpetuating the species; but to rely on their use
as a principal constituent of happiness, were an error in speculation, and
would be still more an error in practice. Even the master of the seraglio,
for whom all the treasures of empire are extorted from the hoards of its
frighted inhabitants, for whom alone the choicest emerald and the diamond
are drawn from the mine, for whom every breeze is enriched with perfumes,
for whom beauty is assembled from every quarter, and, animated by passions
that ripen under the vertical sun, is confined to the grate for his use, is
still, perhaps, more wretched than the very herd of the people, whose
labours and properties are devoted to relieve him of trouble, and to
procure him enjoyment.

Sensuality is easily overcome by any of the habits of pursuit which usually
engage an active mind. When curiosity is awake, or when passion is excited,
even in the midst of the feast when conversation grows warm, grows jovial,
or serious, the pleasures of the table we know are forgotten. The boy
contemns them for play, and the man of age declines them for business.

When we reckon the circumstances that correspond to the nature of any
animal, or to that of man in particular, such as safety, shelter, food, and
the other means of enjoyment, or preservation, we sometimes think that we
have found a sensible and a solid foundation on which to rest his felicity.
But those who are least disposed to moralize, observe, that happiness is
not connected with fortune, although fortune includes at once all the means
of subsistence, and the means of sensual indulgence. The circumstances that
require abstinence, courage, and conduct, expose us to hazard, and are in
description of the painful kind; yet the able, the brave, and the ardent,
seem most to enjoy themselves when placed in the midst of difficulties, and
obliged to employ the powers they possess.

Spinola being told, that Sir Francis Vere died of having nothing to do,
said, "That was enough, to kill a general." [Footnote: Life of Lord
Herbert.] How many are there to whom war itself is a pastime, who choose
the life of a soldier, exposed to dangers and continued fatigues; of a
mariner, in conflict with every hardship, and bereft of every conveniency;
of a politician, whose sport is the conduct of parties and factions; and
who, rather than be idle, will do the business of men and of nations for
whom he has not the smallest regard? Such men do not choose pain as
preferable to pleasure, but they are incited by a restless disposition to
make continued exertions of capacity and resolution; they triumph in the
midst of their struggles; they droop, and they languish, when the occasion
of their labour has ceased.

What was enjoyment, in the sense of that youth, who, according to Tacitus,
loved danger itself, not the rewards of courage? What is the prospect of
pleasure, when the sound of the horn or the trumpet, the cry of the dogs,
'or the shout of war, awaken the ardour of the sportsman and the soldier?
The most animating occasions of human life, are calls to danger and
hardship, not invitations to safety and case: and man himself, in his
excellence, is not an animal of pleasure, nor destined merely to enjoy what
the elements bring to his use; but like his associates the dog and the
horse, to follow the exercises of his nature, in preference to what are
called its enjoyments; to pine in the lap of case, and of affluence, and to
exult in the midst of alarms that seem to threaten his being, in all which,
his disposition to action only keeps pace with the variety of powers with
which he is furnished; and the most respectable attributes of his nature,
magnanimity, fortitude, and wisdom, carry a manifest reference to the
difficulties with which he is destined to struggle.

If animal pleasure becomes insipid when the spirit is roused by a different
object, it is well known, likewise, that the sense of pain is prevented by
any vehement affection of the soul. Wounds received in a heat of passion,
in the hurry, the ardour, or consternation of battle, are never felt till
the ferment of the mind subsides. Even torments, deliberately applied, and
industriously prolonged, are borne with firmness, and with an appearance of
ease, when the mind is possessed with some vigorous sentiment, whether of
religion, enthusiasm, or love to mankind. The continued mortifications of
superstitious devotees in several ages of the Christian church; the wild
penances, still voluntarily borne, during many years, by the religionists
of the east; the contempt in which famine and torture are held by most
savage nations; the cheerful or obstinate patience of the soldier in the
field; the hardships endured by the sportsman in his pastime, show how much
we may err in computing the miseries of men, from the measures of trouble
and of suffering they seem to incur. And if there be a refinement in
affirming that their happiness is not to be measured by the contrary
enjoyments, it is a refinement which was made by Regulus and Cincinnatus
before the date of philosophy. Fabricius knew it while he had heard
arguments only on the opposite side. [Footnote: Plutarch in Vit. Pyrrh.] It
is a refinement, which every boy knows at his play, and every savage
confirms, when he looks from his forest on the pacific city, and scorns the
plantation, whose master he cares not to imitate.

Man, it must be confessed, notwithstanding all this activity of his mind,
is an animal in the full extent of that designation. When the body sickens,
the mind droops; and when the blood ceases to flow, the soul takes its
departure. Charged with the care of his preservation, admonished by a sense
of pleasure or pain, and guarded by an instinctive fear of death, nature
has not intrusted his safety to the mere vigilance of his understanding,
nor to the government of his uncertain reflections.

The distinction betwixt mind and body is followed by consequences of the
greatest importance; but the facts to which we now refer, are not founded
on any tenets whatever. They are equally true, whether we admit or reject,
the distinction in question, or whether we suppose, that this living agent
is formed of one, or is an assemblage of separate natures. And the
materialist, by treating of man as of an engine, cannot make any change in
the state of his history. He is a being, who, by a multiplicity of visible
organs, performs a variety of functions. He bends his joints, contracts or
relaxes his muscles in our sight. He continues the beating of the heart in
his breast, and the flowing of the blood to every part of his frame. He
performs other operations which we cannot refer to any corporeal organ. He
perceives, he recollects, and forecasts; he desires, and he shuns; he
admires, and contemns. He enjoys his pleasures, or he endures his pain. All
these different functions, in some measure, go well or ill together. When
the motion of the blood is languid, the muscles relax, the understanding is
tardy, and the fancy is dull: when distemper assails him, the physician
must attend no less to what he thinks, than, to what he eats, and examine
the returns of his passion, together with the strokes of his pulse.

With all his sagacity, his precautions, and his instincts, which are given
to preserve his being, he partakes in the fate of other animals, and seems
to be formed only that he may die. Myriads perish before they reach the
perfection of their kind; and the individual, with an option to owe the
prolongation of his temporary course to resolution and conduct, or to
abject fear, frequently chooses the latter, and, by a habit of timidity,
embitters the life he is so intent to preserve.

Man, however, at times, exempted from this mortifying lot, seems to act
without any regard to the length of his period. When he thinks intensely,
or desires with ardour, pleasures and pains from any other quarter assail
him in vain. Even in his dying hour, the muscles acquire a tone from his
spirit, and the mind seems to depart in its vigour, and in the midst of a
struggle to obtain the recent aim of its toil. Muley Moluck, borne on his
litter, and spent with disease, still fought the battle, in the midst of
which he expired; and the last effort he made, with a finger on his lips,
was a signal to conceal his death; [Footnote: Verlot's Revolutions of
Portugal] the precaution, perhaps, of all which he had hitherto taken, the
most necessary to prevent a defeat.

Can no reflections aid us in acquiring this habit of the soul, so useful in
carrying us through many of the ordinary scenes of life? If we say, that
they cannot, the reality of its happiness is not the less evident. The
Greeks and the Romans considered contempt of pleasure, endurance of pain,
and neglect of life, as eminent qualities of a man, and a principal subject
of discipline. They trusted, that the vigorous spirit would find worthy
objects on which to employ its force; and that the first step towards a
resolute choice of such objects, was to shake off the meanness of a
solicitous and timorous mind.

Mankind, in general, have courted occasions to display their courage, and
frequently, in search of admiration, have presented a spectacle, which to
those who have ceased to regard fortitude on its own account, becomes a
subject of horror. Scevola held his arm in the fire, to shake the soul of
Porsenna. The savage inures his body to the torture, that in the hour of
trial he may exult over his enemy. Even the Mussulman tears his flesh to
win the heart of his mistress, and comes in gaiety streaming with blood, to
shew that he deserves her esteem. [Footnote: Letters of the Right
Honourable Lady M----y W------ M-------e.]

Some nations carry the practice of inflicting, or of sporting with pain, to
a degree that is either cruel or absurd; others regard every prospect of
bodily suffering as the greatest of evils; and in the midst of their
troubles, embitter every real affliction, with the terrors of a feeble and
dejected imagination. We are not bound to answer for the follies of either,
nor, in treating a question which relates to the nature of man, make an
estimate of its strength or its weakness, from the habits or apprehensions
peculiar to any nation or age.



Whoever has compared together the different conditions and manners of men,
under varieties of education or fortune, will be satisfied, that mere
situation does not constitute their happiness or misery; nor a diversity of
external observances imply any opposition of sentiments on the subject of
morality. They express their kindness and their enmity, in different
actions; but kindness or enmity is still the principal article of
consideration in human life. They engage in different pursuits, or
acquiesce in different conditions; but act from passions nearly the same.
There is no precise measure of accommodation required to suit their
conveniency, nor any degree of danger or safety under which they are
peculiarly fitted to act. Courage and generosity, fear and envy, are not
peculiar to any station or order of men; nor is there any condition in
which some of the human race have not shown, that it is possible to employ,
with propriety, the talents and virtues of their species.

What, then, is that mysterious thing called _Happiness_ which may have
place in such a variety of stations, and to which circumstances, in one age
or nation thought necessary, are in another held to be destructive or of no
effect? It is not the succession of mere animal pleasures, which, apart
from the occupation or the company in which they engage us, can fill up but
a few moments in human life. On too frequent a repetition, those pleasures
turn to satiety and disgust; they tear the constitution to which they are
applied in excess, and, like the lightning of night, only serve to darken
the gloom through which they occasionally break. Happiness is not that
state of repose, or that imaginary freedom from care, which at a distance
is so frequent an object of desire, but with its approach brings a tedium,
or a languor, more unsupportable than pain itself. If the preceding
observations on this subject be just, it arises more from the pursuit, than
from the attainment of any end whatever; and in every new situation to
which we arrive, even in the course of a prosperous life, it depends more
on the degree in which our minds are properly employed, than it does on the
circumstances in which we are destined to act, on the materials which are
placed in our hands, or the tools with which we are furnished.

If this be confessed in respect to that class of pursuits which are
distinguished by the name of _amusement_, and which, in the case of
men who are commonly deemed the most happy, occupy the greater part of
human life, we may apprehend, that it holds, much more than is commonly
suspected, in many cases of business, where the end to be gained, and not
the occupation, is supposed to have the principal value.

The miser himself, we are told, can sometimes consider the care of his
wealth as a pastime, and has challenged his heir, to have more pleasure in
spending, than he in amassing his fortune. With this degree of indifference
to what may be the conduct of others; with this confinement of his care to
what he has chosen as his own province, more especially if he has conquered
in himself the passions of jealousy and envy, which tear the covetous mind;
why may not the man whose object is money, be understood to lead a life of
amusement and pleasure, not only more entire than that of the spendthrift,
but even as much as the virtuoso, the scholar, the man of taste, or any of
that class of persons who have found out a method of passing their leisure
without offence, and to whom the acquisitions made, or the works produced,
in their several ways, perhaps, are as useless as the bag to the miser, or
the counter to those who play from mere dissipation at any game of skill or
of chance?

We are soon tired of diversions that do not approach to the nature of
business; that is, that do not engage some passion, or give an exercise
proportioned to our talents, and our faculties. The chace and the gaming
table have each their dangers and difficulties, to excite and employ the
mind. All games of contention animate our emulation, and give a species of
party zeal. The mathematician is only to be amused with intricate problems,
the lawyer and the casuist with cases that try their subtilty, and occupy
their judgment.

The desire of active engagements, like every other natural appetite, may be
carried to excess; and men may debauch in amusements, as well as in the use
of wine, or other intoxicating liquors. At first, a trifling stake, and the
occupation of a moderate passion, may have served to amuse the gamester;
but when the drug becomes familiar, it fails to produce its effect: The
play is made deep, and the interest increased, to awaken his attention; he
is carried on by degrees, and in the end comes to seek for amusement, and
to find it only in those passions of anxiety, hope, and despair, which are
roused by the hazard into which he has thrown the whole of his fortunes.

If men can thus turn their amusements into a scene more serious and
interesting than that of business itself, it will be difficult to assign a
reason why business, and many of the occupations of human life, independent
of any distant consequences of future events, may not be chosen as an
amusement, and adopted on account of the pastime they bring. This is,
perhaps, the foundation, on which, without the aid of reflection, the
contented and the cheerful have rested the gaiety of their tempers. It is,
perhaps, the most solid basis of fortitude which any reflection can lay;
and happiness itself is secured by making a certain species of conduct our
amusements; and, by considering life in the general estimate of its value,
as well on every particular occasion, as a mere scene for the exercise of
the mind, and the engagements of the heart. "I will try and attempt every
thing," says Brutus; "I will never cease to recal my country from this
state of servility. If the event be favourable, it will prove matter of joy
to us all; if not, yet I, notwithstanding, shall rejoice." Why rejoice in a
disappointment? Why not be dejected, when his country was overwhelmed?
Because sorrow, perhaps, and dejection, can do no good. Nay, but they must
be endured when they come. And whence should they come to me? might the
Roman say: I have followed my mind, and can follow it still. Events may
have changed the situation in which I am destined to act; but can they
hinder my acting the part of a man? Shew me a situation in which a man can
neither act nor die, and I will own he is wretched.

Whoever has the force of mind steadily to view human life under this
aspect, has only to choose well his occupations, in order to command that
state of enjoyment, and freedom of soul, which probably constitute the
peculiar felicity to which his active nature is destined.

The dispositions of men, and consequently their occupations, are commonly
divided into two principal classes; the selfish, and the social. The first
are indulged in solitude; and if they carry a reference to mankind, it is
that of emulation, competition, and enmity. The second incline us to live
with our fellow creatures, and to do them good; they tend to unite the
members of society together; they terminate in a mutual participation of
their cares and enjoyments, and render the presence of men an occasion of
joy. Under this class may be enumerated the passions of the sexes, the
affections of parents and children, general humanity, or singular
attachments; above all, that habit of the soul by which we consider
ourselves as but a part of some beloved community, and as but individual
members of some society, whose general welfare is to us the supreme object
of zeal, and the great rule of our conduct. This affection is a principle
of candour, which knows no partial distinctions, and is confined to no
bounds; it may extend its effects beyond our personal acquaintance; it may,
in the mind, and in thought, at least, make us feel a relation to the
universe, and to the whole creation of God. "Shall any one," says
Antoninus, "love the city of Cecrops, and you not love the city of God?"

No emotion of the heart is indifferent. It is either an act of vivacity and
joy, or a feeling of sadness; a transport of pleasure, or a convulsion of
anguish; and the exercises of our different dispositions, as well as their
gratifications, are likely to prove matter of the greatest importance to
our happiness or misery.

The individual is charged with the care of his animal preservation. He may
exist in solitude, and, far removed from society, perform many functions of
sense, imagination, and reason. He is even rewarded for the proper
discharge of those functions; and all the natural exercises which relate to
himself, as well as to his fellow creatures, not only occupy without
distressing him, but, in many instances, are attended with positive
pleasures, and fill up the hours of life with agreeable occupation.

There is a degree, however, in which we suppose that the care of ourselves
becomes a source of painful anxiety and cruel passions; in which it
degenerates into avarice, vanity, or pride; and in which, by fostering
habits of jealousy and envy, of fear and malice, it becomes as destructive
of our own enjoyments, as it is hostile to the welfare of mankind. This
evil, however, is not to be charged upon any excess in the care of
ourselves, but upon a mere mistake in the choice of our objects. We look
abroad for a happiness which is to be found only in the qualities of the
heart: we think ourselves dependent on accidents; and are therefore kept in
suspense and solicitude. We think ourselves dependent on the will of other
men; and are therefore servile and timid: we think our felicity is placed
in subjects for which our fellow creatures are rivals and competitors; and
in pursuit of happiness, we engage in those scenes of emulation, envy,
hatred, animosity, and revenge, that lead to the highest pitch of distress.
We act, in short, as if to preserve ourselves were to retain our weakness,
and perpetuate our sufferings. We charge the ills of a distempered
imagination, and a corrupt heart, to the account of our fellow creatures,
to whom we refer the pangs of our disappointment or malice; and while we
foster our misery, are surprised that the care of ourselves is attended
with no better effects. But he who remembers that he is by nature a
rational being, and a member of society; that to preserve himself, is to
preserve his reason, and to preserve the best feelings of his heart; will
encounter with none of these inconveniencies; and in the care of himself,
will find subjects only of satisfaction and triumph.

The division of our appetites into benevolent and selfish, has probably, in
some degree, helped to mislead our apprehension on the subject of personal
enjoyment and private good; and our zeal to prove that virtue is
disinterested, has not greatly promoted its cause. The gratification of a
selfish desire, it is thought, brings advantage or pleasure to ourselves;
that of benevolence terminates in the pleasure or advantage of others:
whereas, in reality, the gratification of every desire is a personal
enjoyment, and its value being proportioned to the particular quality or
force of the sentiment, it may happen that the same, person may reap a
greater advantage from the good fortune he has procured to another, than
from that he has obtained for himself.

While the gratifications of benevolence, therefore, are as much our own as
those of any other desire whatever, the mere exercises of this disposition
are, on many accounts, to be considered as the first and the principal
constituent of human happiness. Every act of kindness, or of care, in the
parent to his child; every emotion of the heart, in friendship or in love,
in public zeal, or general humanity, are so many acts of enjoyment and
satisfaction. Pity itself, and compassion, even grief and melancholy, when
grafted on some tender affection, partake of the nature of the stock; and
if they are not positive pleasures, are at least pains of a peculiar
nature, which we do not even wish to exchange but for a very real
enjoyment, obtained in relieving our object. Even extremes in this class of
our dispositions, as they are the reverse of hatred, envy, and malice, so
they are never attended with those excruciating anxieties, jealousies, and
fears, which tear the interested mind; or if, in reality, any ill passion
arise from a pretended attachment to, our fellow creatures, that attachment
may, be safely condemned, as not genuine. If we be distrustful or jealous,
our pretended affection is probably no more than a desire of attention and
personal consideration; a motive which frequently inclines us to be
connected with our fellow creatures; but to which we are as frequently
willing to sacrifice their happiness. We consider them as the tools of our
vanity, pleasure, or interest; not as the parties on whom we may bestow the
effects of our good will, and our love.

A mind devoted to this class of its affections, being occupied with an
object that may engage it habitually, is not reduced to court the
amusements or pleasures with which persons of an ill temper are obliged to
repair their disgusts: and temperance becomes an easy task when
gratifications of sense are supplanted by those of the heart. Courage, too,
is most easily assumed, or is rather inseparable from that ardour of the
mind, in society, friendship, or in public action, which makes us forget
subjects of personal anxiety or fear, and attend chiefly to the object of
our zeal or affection, not to the trifling inconveniences, dangers, or
hardships, which we ourselves may encounter in striving to maintain it.

It should seem, therefore, to be the happiness of man, to make his social
dispositions the ruling spring of his occupations; to state himself as the
member of a community, for whose general good his heart may glow with an
ardent zeal, to the suppression of those personal cares which are the
foundation of painful anxieties, fear, jealousy, and envy; or, as Mr. Pope
expresses the same sentiment.

  "Man, like the generous vine, supported lives;
  The strength he gains, is from th' embrace he gives."
  [Footnote: The same maxim will apply throughout every part of
  nature. _To love, is to enjoy pleasure: to hate, is to be
  in pain._]

We commonly apprehend, that it is our duty to do kindnesses, and our
happiness to receive them; but if, in reality, courage, and a heart devoted
to the good of mankind, are the constituents of human felicity, the
kindness which is done infers a happiness in the person from whom it
proceeds, not in him on whom it is bestowed; and the greatest good which
men possessed of fortitude and generosity can procure to their fellow
creatures, is a participation of this happy character.

If this be the good of the individual, it is likewise that of mankind; and
virtue no longer imposes a task by which we are obliged to bestow upon
others that good from which we ourselves refrain; but supposes, in the
highest degree, as possessed by ourselves, that state of felicity which we
are required to promote in the world. "You will confer the greatest benefit
on your city," says Epictetus, "not by raising the roofs, but by exalting
the souls of your fellow citizens; for it is better that great souls should
live in small habitations, than that abject slaves should burrow in great
houses." [Footnote: Mrs. Carter's translation of the works of Epictetus.]

To the benevolent, the satisfaction of others is a ground of enjoyment; and
existence itself, in a world that is governed by the wisdom of God, is a
blessing. The mind, freed from cares that lead to pusillanimity and
meanness, becomes calm, active, fearless, and bold; capable of every
enterprise, and vigorous in the exercise of every talent, by which the
nature of man is adorned. On this foundation was raised the admirable
character, which, during a certain period of their story, distinguished the
celebrated nations of antiquity, and rendered familiar and ordinary in
their manners, examples of magnanimity, which, under governments less
favourable to the public affections, rarely occur; or which, without being
much practised, or even understood, are made subjects of admiration and
swelling panegyric. "Thus," says Xenophon, "died Thrasybulus; who indeed
appears to have been a good man." What valuable praise, and how significant
to those who know the story of this admirable person! The members of those
illustrious states, from the habit of considering themselves as part of a
community, or at least as deeply involved with some order of men in the
state, were regardless of personal considerations: they had a perpetual
view to objects which excite a great ardour in the soul; which led them to
act perpetually in the view of their fellow citizens, and to practise those
arts of deliberation, elocution, policy, and war, on which the fortunes of
nations, or of men, in their collective body, depend. To the force of mind
collected in this career, and to the improvements of wit which were made in
pursuing it, these nations owed, not only their magnanimity, and the
superiority of their political and military conduct, but even the arts of
poetry and literature, which among them were only the inferior appendages
of a genius otherwise excited, cultivated, and refined.

To the ancient Greek, or the Roman, the individual was nothing, and the
public every thing. To the modern, in too many nations of Europe, the
individual is every thing, and the public nothing. The state is merely a
combination of departments, in which consideration, wealth, eminence, or
power, are offered as the reward of service. It was the nature of modern
government, even in its first institution, to bestow on every individual a
fixed station and dignity, which he was to maintain for himself. Our
ancestors, in rude ages, during the recess of wars from abroad, fought for
their personal claims at home, and by their competitions, and the balance
of their powers, maintained a kind of political freedom in the state, while
private parties were subject to continual wrongs and oppressions. Their
posterity, in times more polished, have repressed the civil disorders in
which the activity of earlier ages chiefly consisted; but they employ the
calm they have gained, not in fostering a zeal for those laws, and that
constitution of government, to which they owe their protection, but in
practising apart, and each for himself, the several arts of personal
advancement, or profit, which their political establishments may enable
them to pursue with success. Commerce, which may be supposed to comprehend
every lucrative art, is accordingly considered as the great object of
nations, and the principal study of mankind.

So much are we accustomed to consider personal fortune as the sole object
of care, that even under popular establishments, and in states where
different orders of men are summoned to partake in the government of their
country, and where the liberties they enjoy cannot be long preserved,
without vigilance and activity on the part of the subject; still they, who,
in the vulgar phrase, have not their fortunes to make, are supposed to be
at a loss for occupation, and betake themselves to solitary pastimes, or
cultivate what they are pleased to call a taste for gardening, building,
drawing, or music. With this aid, they endeavour to fill up the blanks of a
listless life, and avoid the necessity of curing their languors by any
positive service to their country, or to mankind.

The weak or the malicious are well employed in any thing that is innocent,
and are fortunate in finding any occupation which prevents the effects of a
temper that would prey upon themselves, or upon their fellow creatures. But
they who are blessed with a happy disposition, with capacity and vigour,
incur a real debauchery, by having any amusement that occupies an improper
share of their time; and are really cheated of their happiness, in being
made to believe, that any occupation or pastime is better fitted to amuse
themselves, than that which at the same time produces some real good to
their fellow creatures.

This sort of entertainment, indeed, cannot be the choice of the mercenary,
the envious, or the malicious. Its value is known only to persons of an
opposite temper; and to their experience alone, we appeal. Guided by mere
disposition, and without the aid of reflection, in business, in friendship,
and in public life, they often acquit themselves well; and borne with
satisfaction on the tide of their emotions and sentiments, enjoy the
present hour, without recollection of the past, or hopes of the future. It
is in speculation, not in practice, they are made to discover, that virtue
is a task of severity and self denial.



Man is, by nature, the member of a community; and when considered in this
capacity, the individual appears to be no longer made for himself. He must
forego his happiness and his freedom, where these interfere with the good
of society. He is only part of a whole; and the praise we think due to his
virtue, is but a branch of that more general commendation we bestow on the
member of a body, on the part of a fabric, or engine, for being well fitted
to occupy its place, and to produce its effect.

If this follow from the relation of a part to its whole, and if the public
good be the principal object with individuals, it is likewise true, that
the happiness of individuals is the great end of civil society; for, in
what sense can a public enjoy any good, if its members, considered apart,
be unhappy?

The interests of society, however, and of its members, are easily
reconciled. If the individual owe every degree of consideration to the
public, he receives, in paying that very consideration, the greatest
happiness of which his nature is capable; and the greatest blessing the
public can bestow on its members, is to keep them attached to itself. That
is the most happy state, which is most beloved by its subjects; and they
are the most happy men, whose hearts are engaged to a community, in which
they find every object of generosity and zeal, and a scope to the exercise
of every talent, and of every virtuous disposition.

After we have thus found general maxims, the greater part of our trouble
remains, their just application to particular cases. Nations are different
in respect to their extent, numbers of people, and wealth; in respect to
the arts they practise, and the accommodations they have procured. These
circumstances may not only affect the manners of men; they even, in our
esteem, come into competition with the article of manners itself; are
supposed to constitute a national felicity, independent of virtue; and give
a title, upon which we indulge our own vanity, and that of other nations,
as we do that of private men, on the score of their fortunes and honours.

But if this way of measuring happiness, when applied to private men, be
ruinous and false, it is so no less when applied to nations. Wealth,
commerce, extent of territory, and the knowledge of arts, are, when
properly employed, the means of preservation, and the foundations of power.
If they fail in part, the nation is weakened; if they were entirely
withheld, the race would perish: Their tendency is to maintain numbers of
men, but not to constitute happiness. They will accordingly maintain the
wretched as well as the happy. They answer one purpose, but are not
therefore sufficient for all; and are of little significance, when only
employed to maintain a timid, dejected, and servile people.

Great and powerful states are able to overcome and subdue the weak;
polished and commercial nations have more wealth, and practise a greater
variety of arts, than the rude: but the happiness of men, in all cases
alike, consists in the blessings of a candid, an active, and strenuous
mind. And if we consider the state of society merely as that into which
mankind are led by their propensities, as a state to be valued from its
effect in preserving the species, in ripening their talents, and exciting
their virtues, we need not enlarge our communities, in order to enjoy these
advantages. We frequently obtain them in the most remarkable degree, where
nations remain independent, and are of a small extent.

To increase the numbers of mankind, may be admitted as a great and
important object; but to extend the limits of any particular state, is not,
perhaps, the way to obtain it: while we desire that our fellow creatures
should multiply, it does not follow, that the whole should, if possible, be
united under one head. We are apt to admire the empire of the Romans, as a
model of national greatness and splendour; but the greatness we admire, in
this case, was ruinous to the virtue and the happiness of mankind; it was
found to be inconsistent with all the advantages which that conquering
people had formerly enjoyed in the articles of government and manners.

The emulation of nations proceeds from their division. A cluster of states,
like a company of men, find the exercise of their reason, and the test of
their virtues, in the affairs they transact, upon a foot of equality, and
of separate interest. The measures taken for safety, including great part
of the national policy, are relative in every state to what is apprehended
from abroad. Athens was necessary to Sparta in the exercise of her virtue,
as steel is to flint in the production of fire; and if the cities of Greece
had been united under one head, we should never have heard of Epaminondas
or Thrasybulus, of Lycurgus or Solon.

When we reason in behalf of our species, therefore, although we may lament
the abuses which sometimes arise from independence, and opposition of
interest; yet, whilst any degrees of virtue remain with mankind, we cannot
wish to crowd, under one establishment, numbers of men who may serve to
constitute several; or to commit affairs to the conduct of one senate, one
legislative or executive power, which, upon a distinct and separate
footing, might furnish an exercise of ability, and a theatre of glory to

This may be a subject upon which no determinate rule can be given; but the
admiration of boundless dominion is a ruinous error; and in no instance,
perhaps, is the real interest of mankind more entirely mistaken.

The measure of enlargement to be wished for in any particular state, is
often to be taken from the condition of its neighbours. Where a number of
states are contiguous, they should be near an equality, in order that they
may be mutually objects of respect and consideration, and in order that
they may possess that independence in which the political life of a nation
consists. When the kingdoms of Spain were united, when the great fiefs in
France were annexed to the crown, it was no longer expedient for the
nations of Great Britain to continue disjoined.

The small republics of Greece, indeed, by their subdivisions, and the
balance of their power, found almost in every village the object of
nations. Every little district was a nursery of excellent men, and what is
now the wretched corner of a great empire, was the field on which mankind
have reaped their principal honours. But in modern Europe, republics of a
similar extent are like shrubs, under the shade of a taller wood, choaked
by the neighbourhood of more powerful states. In their case, a certain
disproportion of force frustrates, in a great measure, the advantage of
separation. They are like the trader in Poland, who is the more despicable,
and the less secure, that he is neither master nor slave.

Independent communities, in the mean time, however weak, are averse to a
coalition, not only where it comes with an air of imposition, or unequal
treaty, but even where it implies no more than the admission of new members
to an equal share of consideration with the old. The citizen has no
interest in the annexation of kingdoms; he must find his importance
diminished, as the state is enlarged. But ambitious men, under the
enlargement of territory, find a more plentiful harvest of power, and of
wealth, while government itself is an easier task. Hence the ruinous
progress of empire; and hence free nations, under the show of acquiring
dominion, suffer themselves, in the end, to be yoked with the slaves they
had conquered.

Our desire to augment the force of a nation is the only pretext for
enlarging its territory; but this measure, when pursued to extremes, seldom
fails to frustrate itself.

Notwithstanding the advantage of numbers, and superior resources in war,
the strength of a nation is derived from the character, not from the
wealth, nor from the multitude of its people. If the treasure of a state
can hire numbers of men, erect ramparts, and furnish the implements of war;
the possessions of the fearful are easily seized; a timorous multitude
falls into rout of itself; ramparts may be scaled where they are not
defended by valour; and arms are of consequence only in the hands of the
brave. The band to which Agesilaus pointed as the wall of his city, made a
defence for their country more permanent, and more effectual, than the rock
and the cement with which other cities were fortified.

We should owe little to that statesman, who were to contrive a defence that
might supersede the external uses of virtue. It is wisely ordered for man,
as a rational being, that the employment of reason is necessary to his
preservation; it is fortunate for him, in the pursuit of distinction, that
his personal consideration depends on his character; and it is fortunate
for nations, that, in order to be powerful and safe, they must strive to
maintain the courage, and cultivate the virtues, of their people. By the
use of such means, they at once gain their external ends, and are happy.

Peace and unanimity are commonly considered as the principal foundations of
public felicity; yet the rivalship of separate communities, and the
agitations of a free people, are the principles of political life, and the
school of men. How shall we reconcile these jarring and opposite tenets? It
is, perhaps, not necessary to reconcile them. The pacific may do what they
can to allay the animosities, and to reconcile the opinions, of men; and it
will be happy if they can succeed in repressing their crimes, and in
calming the worst of their passions. Nothing, in the mean time, but
corruption or slavery can suppress the debates that subsist among men of
integrity, who bear an equal part in the administration of state.

A perfect agreement in matters of opinion is not to be obtained in the most
select company; and if it were, what would become of society? "The
Spartan legislator," says Plutarch, "appears to have sown the seeds of
variance and dissention among his countrymen: he meant that good citizens
should be led to dispute; he considered emulation as the brand by which
their virtues were kindled; and seemed to apprehend, that a complaisance,
by which men submit their opinions without examination, is a principal
source of corruption."

Forms of government are supposed to decide of the happiness or misery of
mankind. But forms of government must be varied, in order to suit the
extent, the way of subsistence, the character, and the manners of different
nations. In some cases, the multitude may be suffered to govern themselves;
in others they must be severely restrained. The inhabitants of a village,
in some primitive age, may have been safely entrusted to the conduct of
reason, and to the suggestion of their innocent views; but the tenants of
Newgate can scarcely be trusted, with chains locked to their bodies, and
bars of iron fixed to their legs. How is it possible, therefore, to find
any single form of government that would suit mankind in every condition?

We proceed, however, in the following section, to point out the
distinctions, and to explain the language which occurs in this place, on
the head of different models for subordination and government.



It is a common observation, that mankind were originally equal. They have
indeed by nature equal right to their preservation, and to the use of their
talents; but they are fitted for different stations; and when they are
classed by a rule taken from this circumstance, they suffer no injustice on
the side of their natural rights. It is obvious, that some mode of
subordination is as necessary to men as society itself; and this, not only
to attain the ends of government, but to comply with an order established
by nature.

Prior to any political institution whatever, men are qualified by a great
diversity of talents, by a different tone of the soul, and ardour of the
passions, to act a variety of parts. Bring them together, each will find
his place. They censure or applaud in a body; they consult and deliberate
in more select parties; they take or give an ascendant as individuals; and
numbers are by this means fitted to act in company, and to preserve their
communities, before any formal distribution of office is made. We are
formed to act in this manner; and if we have any doubts with relation to
the rights of government in general, we owe our perplexity more to the
subtilties of the speculative, than to any uncertainty in the feelings of
the heart. Involved in the resolutions of our company, we move with the
crowd before we have determined the rule by which its will is collected. We
follow a leader, before we have settled the ground of his pretensions, or
adjusted the form of his election; and it is not till after mankind have
committed many errors in the capacities of magistrate and subject, that
they think of making government itself a subject of rules.

If, therefore, in considering the variety of forms under which societies
subsist, the casuist is pleased to inquire, what title one man, or any
number of men, have to control his actions? he may be answered, none at
all, provided that his actions have no effect to the prejudice of his
fellow creatures; but if they have, the rights of defence, and the
obligation to repress the commission of wrongs, belong to collective
bodies, as well as to individuals. Many rude nations, having no formal
tribunals for the judgment of crimes, assemble, when alarmed by any
flagrant offence, and take their measures with the criminal as they would
with an enemy. But will this consideration, which confirms the title to
sovereignty, where it is exercised by the society in its collective
capacity, or by those to whom the powers of the whole are committed,
likewise support the claim to dominion, wherever it is casually lodged, or
even where it is only maintained by force?

This question may be sufficiently answered, by observing, that a right to
do justice, and to do good, is competent to every individual, or order of
men; and that the exercise of this right has no limits but in the defect of
power. Whoever, therefore, has power, may employ it to this extent; and no
previous convention is required to justify his conduct. But a right to do
wrong, or to commit injustice, is an abuse of language, and a contradiction
in terms. It is no more competent to the collective body of a people, than
it is to any single usurper. When we admit such a prerogative in the case
of any sovereign, we can only mean to express the extent of his power, and
the force with which he is enabled to execute his pleasure. Such a
prerogative is assumed by the leader of banditti at the head of his gang,
or by a despotic prince at the head of his troops. When the sword is
presented by either, the traveller or the inhabitant may submit from a
sense of necessity or fear; but he lies under no obligation from a motive
of duty or justice.

The multiplicity of forms, in the mean time, which different societies
offer to our view, is almost infinite. The classes into which they
distribute their members, the manner in which they establish the
legislative and executive powers, the imperceptible circumstances by which
they are led to have different customs, and to confer on their governors
unequal measures of power and authority, give rise to perpetual
distinctions between constitutions the most nearly resembling each other,
and give to human affairs a variety in detail, which, in its full extent,
no understanding can comprehend, and no memory retain.

In order to have a general and comprehensive knowledge of the whole, we
must be determined on this, as on every other subject, to overlook many
particulars and singularities, distinguishing different governments; to fix
our attention on certain points, in which many agree; and thereby establish
a few general heads, under which the subject may be distinctly considered.
When we have marked the characteristics which form the general points of
coincidence; when we have pursued them to their consequences in the several
modes of legislation, execution, and judicature, in the establishments
which relate to police, commerce, religion, or domestic life; we have made
an acquisition of knowledge, which, though it does not supersede the
necessity of experience, may serve to direct our inquiries, and, in the
midst of affairs, give an order and a method for the arrangement of
particulars that occur to our observation.

When I recollect what the President Montesquieu has written, I am at a loss
to tell, why I should treat of human affairs; but I too am instigated by my
reflections, and my sentiments; and I may utter them more to the
comprehension of ordinary capacities, because I am more on the level of
ordinary men. If it be necessary to pave the way for what follows on the
general history of nations, by giving some account of the heads under which
various forms of government may be conveniently ranged, the reader should
perhaps be referred to what has been already delivered on the subject by
this profound politician and amiable moralist. In his writings will be
found, not only the original of what I am now, for the sake of order, to
copy from him, but likewise probably the source of many observations,
which, in different places, I may, under the belief of invention, have
repeated, without quoting their author.

The ancient philosophers treated of government commonly under three heads;
the Democratic, the Aristocratic, and the Despotic. Their attention was
chiefly occupied with the varieties of republican government, and they paid
little regard to a very important distinction, which Mr. Montesquieu has
made, between despotism and monarchy. He too has considered government as
reducible to three general forms; and, "to understand the nature of each,"
he observes, "it is sufficient to recal ideas which are familiar with men
of the least reflection, who admit three definitions, or rather three
facts: that a republic is a state in which the people in a collective body,
or a part of the people, possess the sovereign power; that monarchy is that
in which one man governs, according to fixed and determinate laws; and a
despotism is that in which one man, without law, or rule of administration,
by the mere impulse of will or caprice, decides, and carries every thing
before him."

Republics admit of a very material distinction, which is pointed out in the
general definition; that between democracy and aristocracy. In the first,
supreme power remains in the hands of the collective body. Every office of
magistracy, at the nomination of this sovereign, is open to every citizen;
who, in the discharge of his duty, becomes the minister of the people, and
accountable to them for every object of his trust.

In the second, the sovereignty is lodged in a particular class, or order of
men; who, being once named, continue for life; or, by the hereditary
distinctions of birth and fortune, are advanced to a station of permanent
superiority. From this order, and by their nomination, all the offices of
magistracy are filled; and in the different assemblies which they
constitute, whatever relates to the legislation, the execution, or
jurisdiction, is finally determined.

Mr. Montesquieu has pointed out the sentiments or maxims from which men
must be supposed to act under these different governments.

In democracy, they must love equality; they must respect the rights of
their fellow citizens; they must unite by the common ties of affection to
the state.

In forming personal pretensions, they must be satisfied with that degree of
consideration they can procure by their abilities fairly measured with
those of an opponent; they must labour for the public without hope of
profit; they must reject every attempt to create a personal dependence.
Candour, force, and elevation of mind, in short, are the props of
democracy; and virtue is the principle of conduct required to its

How beautiful a pre-eminence on the side of popular government! And how
ardently should mankind wish for the form, if it tended to establish the
principle, or were, in every instance, a sure indication of its presence!

But perhaps we must have possessed the principle, in order, with any hopes
of advantage, to receive the form; and where the first is entirely
extinguished, the other may be fraught with evil, if any additional evil
deserves to be shunned where men are already unhappy.

At Constantinople or Algiers, it is a miserable spectacle when men pretend
to act on a foot of equality: they only mean to shake off the restraints of
government, and to seize as much as they can of that spoil, which, in
ordinary times, is engrossed by the master they serve.

It is one advantage of democracy, that the principal ground of distinction
being personal qualities, men are classed according to their abilities, and
to the merit of their actions. Though all have equal pretensions to power,
yet the state is actually governed by a few. The majority of the people,
even in their capacity of sovereign, only pretend to employ their senses;
to feel, when pressed by national inconveniencies, or threatened by public
dangers; and with the ardour which is apt to arise in crowded assemblies,
to urge the pursuits in which they are engaged, or to repel the attacks
with which they are menaced.

The most perfect equality of rights can never exclude the ascendant of
superior minds, nor the assemblies of a collective body govern without the
direction of select councils. On this as count, popular government may be
confounded with aristocracy. But this alone does not constitute the
character of aristocratical government. Here the members of the state are
divided, at least, into two classes; of which one is destined to command,
the other to obey. No merits or defects can raise or sink a person from one
class to the other. The only effect of personal character is, to procure to
the individual a suitable degree of consideration with his own order, not
to vary his rank. In one situation he is taught to assume, in another to
yield the pre-eminence. He occupies the station of patron or client, and is
either the sovereign or the subject of his country. The whole citizens may
unite in executing the plans of state, but never in deliberating on its
measures, or enacting its laws. What belongs to the whole people under
democracy, is here confined to a part. Members of the superior order are
among themselves, possibly, classed according to their abilities, but
retain a perpetual ascendant over those of inferior station. They are at
once the servants and the masters of the state, and pay, with their
personal attendance and with their blood, for the civil or military honours
they enjoy.

To maintain for himself, and to admit in his fellow citizen, a perfect
equality of privilege and station, is no longer the leading maxim of the
member of such a community. The rights of men are modified by their
condition. One order claims more than it is willing to yield; the other
must be ready to yield what it does not assume to itself; and it is with
good reason that Mr. Montesquieu gives to the principle of such governments
the name of _moderation_, not of _virtue_.

The elevation of one class is a moderated arrogance; the submission of the
other a limited deference. The first must be careful, by concealing the
invidious part of their distinction, to palliate what is grievous in the
public arrangement, and by their education, their cultivated manners, and
improved talents, to appear qualified for the stations they occupy. The
other, must be taught to yield, from respect and personal attachment, what
could not otherwise be extorted by force. When this moderation fails on
either side, the constitution totters. A populace enraged to mutiny, may
claim the right of equality to which they are admitted in democratical
states; or a nobility bent on dominion, may choose among themselves, or
find already pointed out to them, a sovereign, who, by advantages of
fortune, popularity, or abilities, is ready to seize for his own family,
that envied power which has already carried his order beyond the limits of
moderation, and infected particular men with a boundless ambition.
Monarchies have accordingly been found with the recent marks of
aristocracy. There, however, the monarch is only the first among the
nobles; he must be satisfied with a limited power; his subjects are ranged
into classes; he finds on every quarter a pretence to privilege that
circumscribes his authority; and he finds a force sufficient to confine his
administration within certain bounds of equity and determinate laws. Under
such governments, however, the love of equality is preposterous, and
moderation itself is unnecessary. The object of every rank is precedency,
and every order may display its advantages to their full extent. The
sovereign himself owes great part of his authority to the sounding titles
and the dazzling equipage which he exhibits in public. The subordinate
ranks lay claim to importance by a like exhibition, and for that purpose
carry in every instant the ensigns of their birth, or the ornaments of
their fortune. What else could mark out to the individual the relation in
which he stands to his fellow subjects, or distinguish the numberless ranks
that fill up the interval between the state of the sovereign and that of
the peasant? Or what else could, in states of a great extent, preserve any
appearance of order, among members disunited by ambition and interest, and
destined to form a community, without the sense of any common concern?

Monarchies are generally found where the state is enlarged, in population
and in territory, beyond the numbers and dimensions that are consistent
with republican government. Together with these circumstances, great
inequalities arise in the distribution of property; and the desire of
pre-eminence becomes the predominant passion. Every rank would exercise its
prerogative, and the sovereign is perpetually tempted to enlarge his own;
if subjects, who despair of precedence, plead for equality, he is willing
to favour their claims, and to aid them in reducing pretensions, with which
he himself is, on many occasions, obliged to contend. In the event of such
a policy, many invidious distinctions and grievances peculiar to
monarchical government, may, in appearance, be removed; but the state of
equality to which the subjects approach is that of slaves, equally
dependent on the will of a master, not that of freemen, in a condition to
maintain their own.

The principle of monarchy, according to Montesquieu, is honour. Men may
possess good qualities, elevation of mind, and fortitude; but the sense of
equality, that will hear no encroachment on the personal rights of the
meanest citizen; the indignant spirit, that will not court a protection,
nor accept as a favour what is due as a right; the public affection, which
is founded on the neglect of personal considerations, are neither
consistent with the preservation of the constitution, nor agreeable to the
habits acquired in any station assigned to its members.

Every condition is possessed of peculiar dignity, and points out a
propriety of conduct, which men of station are obliged to maintain. In the
commerce of superiors and inferiors, it is the object of ambition, and of
vanity, to refine on the advantages of rank; while, to facilitate the
intercourse of polite society, it is the aim of good breeding to disguise,
or reject them.

Though the objects of consideration are rather the dignities of station
than personal qualities; though friendship cannot be formed by mere
inclination, nor alliances by the mere choice of the heart; yet men so
united, and even without changing their order, are highly susceptible of
moral excellence, or liable to many different degrees of corruption. They
may act a vigorous part as members of the state, an amiable one in the
commerce of private society; or they may yield up their dignity as
citizens, even while they raise their arrogance and presumption as private

In monarchy, all orders of men derive their honours from the crown; but
they continue to hold them as a right, and they exercise a subordinate
power in the state, founded on the permanent rank they enjoy, and on the
attachment of those whom they are appointed to lead and protect. Though
they do not force themselves into national councils and public assemblies,
and though the name of senate is unknown, yet the sentiments they adopt
must have weight with the sovereign; and every individual, in his separate
capacity, in some measure, deliberates for his country. In whatever does
not derogate from his rank, he has an arm ready to serve the community; in
whatever alarms his sense of honour, he has aversions and dislikes, which
amount to a negative on the will of his prince.

Entangled together by the reciprocal ties of dependence and protection,
though not combined by the sense of a common interest, the subjects of
monarchy, like those of republics, find themselves occupied as the members
of an active society, and engaged to treat with their fellow creatures on a
liberal footing. If those principles of honour which save the individual
from servility in his own person, or from becoming an engine of oppression
in the hands of another, should fail; if they should give way to the maxims
of commerce, to the refinements of a supposed philosophy, or to the
misplaced ardours of a republican spirit; if they are betrayed by the
cowardice of subjects, or subdued by the ambition of princes; what must
become of the nations of Europe?

Despotism is monarchy corrupted, in which a court and a prince in
appearance remain, but in which every subordinate rank is destroyed; in
which the subject is told, that he has no rights; that he cannot possess
any property, nor fill any station independent of the momentary will of his
prince. These doctrines are founded on the maxims of conquest; they must be
inculcated with the whip and the sword; and are best received under the
terror of chains and imprisonment. Fear, therefore, is the principle which
qualifies the subject to occupy his station; and the sovereign, who holds
out the ensigns of terror so freely to others, has abundant reason to give
this passion a principal place with himself. That tenure which he has
devised for the rights of others, is soon applied to his own; and from his
eager desire to secure, or to extend his power, he finds it become, like
the fortunes of his people, a creature of mere imagination and unsettled

Whilst we thus, with so much accuracy, can assign the ideal limits that may
distinguish constitutions of government, we find them, in reality, both in
respect to the principle and the form, variously blended together. In what
society are not men classed by external distinctions, as well as personal
qualities? In what state are they not actuated by a variety of principles;
justice, honour, moderation, and fear? It is the purpose of science not to
disguise this confusion in its object, but, in the multiplicity and
combination of particulars, to find the principal points which deserve our
attention; and which, being well understood, save us from the embarrassment
which the varieties of singular cases might otherwise create. In the same
degree in which governments require men to act from principles of virtue,
of honour, or of fear, they are more or less fully comprised under the
heads of republic, monarchy, or despotism, and the general theory is more
or less applicable to their particular case.

Forms of government, in fact, mutually approach or recede by many, and
often insensible gradations. Democracy, by admitting certain inequalities
of rank, approaches to aristocracy. In popular, as well as aristocratical
governments, particular men; by their personal authority, and sometimes by
the credit of their family, have maintained a species of monarchical power.
The monarch is limited in different degrees: even the despotic prince is
only that monarch whose subjects claim the fewest privileges, or who is
himself best prepared to subdue them by force. All these varieties are but
steps in the history of mankind, and, mark the fleeting and transient
situations through which they have passed; while supported by virtue, or
depressed by vice.

Perfect democracy and despotism appear to be the opposite extremes at which
constitutions of government farthest recede from each other. Under the
first, a perfect virtue is required; under the second, a total corruption
is supposed: yet, in point of mere form, there being nothing fixed in the
ranks and distinctions of men beyond the casual and temporary possession of
power, societies easily pass from a condition in which every individual has
an equal title to reign, into one in which they are equally destined to
serve. The same qualities in both, courage, popularity, address, and
military conduct, raise the ambitious to eminence. With these qualities,
the citizen or the slave easily passes from the ranks to the command of an
army, from an obscure to an illustrious station. In either, a single person
may rule with unlimited sway; and in both, the populace may break down
every barrier of order, and restraint of law.

If we suppose that the equality established among the subjects of a
despotic state has inspired its members with confidence, intrepidity, and
the love of justice; the despotic prince, having ceased to be an object of
fear, must, sink among the crowd. If, on the contrary, the personal
equality which is enjoyed by the members of a democratical state, should be
valued merely as an equal pretension to the objects of avarice and
ambition, the monarch may start up anew, and be supported by those who mean
to share in his profits. When the rapacious and mercenary assemble in
parties, it is of no consequence under what leader they inlist, whether
Cæsar or Pompey; the hopes of rapine or pay are the only motives from which
they become attached to either.

In the disorder of corrupted societies, the scene has been frequently
changed from democracy to despotism, and from the last too, in its turn, to
the first. From amidst the democracy of corrupt men, and from a scene of
lawless confusion, the tyrant ascends a throne with arms reeking in blood.
But his abuses, or his weaknesses, in the station he has gained, in their
turn awaken and give way to the spirit of mutiny and revenge. The cries of
murder and desolation, which in the ordinary course of military government
terrified the subject in his private retreat, sound through the vaults, and
pierce the grates and iron doors of the seraglio. Democracy seems to revive
in a scene of wild disorder and tumult; but both the extremes are but the
transient fits of paroxysm or languor in a distempered state.

If men be anywhere arrived at this measure of depravity, there appears no
immediate hope of redress. Neither the ascendancy of the multitude, nor
that of the tyrant, will secure the administration of justice; neither the
license of mere tumult, nor the calm of dejection and servitude, will teach
the citizen that he was born for candour and affection to his fellow
creatures. And if the speculative would find that habitual state of war
which they are sometimes pleased to honour with the name of _the state of
nature_, they will find it in the contest that subsists between the
despotical prince and his subjects, not in the first approaches of a rude
and simple tribe to the condition and the domestic arrangement of nations.


       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *



The history of mankind is confined within a limited period, and from every
quarter brings an intimation that human affairs have had a beginning.
Nations, distinguished by the possession of arts, and the felicity of their
political establishments, have been derived from a feeble original, and
still preserve in their story the indications of a slow and gradual
progress, by which this distinction was gained. The antiquities of every
people, however diversified, and however disguised, contain the same
information on this point.

In sacred history, we find the parents of the species, as yet a single
pair, sent forth to inherit the earth, and to force a subsistence for
themselves amidst the briars and thorns which were made to abound on its
surface. Their race, which was again reduced to a few, had to struggle with
the dangers that await a weak and infant species; and after many ages
elapsed, the most respectable nations took their rise from one or a few
families that had pastured their flocks in the desert.

The Grecians derive their own origin from unsettled tribes, whose frequent
migrations are a proof of the rude and infant state of their communities;
and whose warlike exploits, so much celebrated in story, only exhibit the
struggles with which they disputed the possession of a country they
afterwards, by their talent for fable, by their arts, and their policy,
rendered so famous in the history of mankind.

Italy must have been divided into many rude and feeble cantons, when a band
of robbers, as we are taught to consider them, found a secure settlement on
the banks of the Tiber, and when a people, yet composed only of one sex,
sustained the character of a nation. Rome, for many ages, saw, from her
walls, on every side, the territory of her enemies, and found as little to
check or to stifle the weakness of her infant power, as she did afterwards
to restrain the progress of her extended empire. Like a Tartar or a
Scythian horde, which had pitched on a settlement, this nascent community
was equal, if not superior, to every tribe in its neighbourhood; and the
oak which has covered the field with its shade, was once a feeble plant in
the nursery, and not to be distinguished from the weeds by which its early
growth was restrained.

The Gauls and the Germans are come to our knowledge with the marks of a
similar condition; and the inhabitants of Britain, at the time of the first
Roman invasions; resembled, in many things, the present natives of North
America: they were ignorant of agriculture; they painted their bodies; and
used for clothing the skins of beasts.

Such, therefore, appears to have been the commencement of history with all
nations, and in such circumstances are we to look for the original
character of mankind. The inquiry refers to a distant period, and every
conclusion should build on the facts which are preserved for our use. Our
method, notwithstanding, too frequently, is to rest the whole on
conjecture; to impute every advantage of our nature to those arts which we
ourselves possess; and to imagine, that a mere negation of all our virtues
is a sufficient description of man in his original state. We are ourselves
the supposed standards of politeness and civilization; and where our own
features do not appear, we apprehend, that there is nothing which deserves
to be known. But it is probable that here, as in many other cases, we are
ill qualified, from our supposed knowledge of causes, to prognosticate
effects, or to determine what must have been the properties and operations,
even of our own nature, in the absence of those circumstances in which we
have seen it engaged. Who would, from mere conjecture, suppose, that the
naked savage would be a coxcomb and a gamester? that he would be proud or
vain, without the distinctions of title and fortune? and that his principal
care would be to adorn his person, and to find an amusement? Even if it
could be supposed that he would thus share in our vices, and, in the midst
of his forest, vie with the follies which are practised in the town; yet no
one would be, so bold as to affirm, that he would likewise, in any
instance, excel us in talents and virtues; that he would have a
penetration, a force of imagination and elocution, an ardour of mind, an
affection and courage, which the arts, the discipline, and the policy of
few nations would be able to improve. Yet these particulars are a part in
the description which is delivered by those who have had opportunities of
seeing mankind in their rudest condition; and beyond the reach of such
testimony, we can neither safely take, nor pretend to give, information on
the subject.

If conjectures and opinions formed at a distance, have not sufficient
authority in the history of mankind, the domestic antiquities of every
nation must, for this very reason, be received with caution. They are, for
the most part, the mere conjectures or the fictions of subsequent ages; and
even where at first they contained some resemblance of truth, they still
vary with the imagination of those by whom they are transmitted, and in
every generation receive a different form. They are made to bear the stamp
of the times through which they have passed in the form of tradition, not
of the ages to which their pretended descriptions relate. The information
they bring, is not like the light reflected from a mirror, which delineates
the object from which it originally came; but, like rays that come broken
and dispersed from an opaque or unpolished surface, only give the colours
and features of the body from which they were last reflected.

When traditionary fables are rehearsed by the vulgar, they bear the marks
of a national character; and though mixed with absurdities, often raise the
imagination, and move the heart: when made the materials of poetry, and
adorned by the skill and the eloquence of an ardent and superior mind, they
instruct the understanding, as well as engage the passions. It is only in
the management of mere antiquaries, or stript of the ornaments which the
laws of history forbid them to wear, that they become even unfit to amuse
the fancy, or to serve any purpose whatever.

It were absurd to quote the fable of the Iliad or the Odyssey, the legends
of Hercules, Theseus, or Oedipus, as authorities in matter of fact relating
to the history of mankind; but they may, with great justice, be cited to
ascertain what were the conceptions and sentiments, of the age in which
they were composed, or to characterize the genius of that people, with
whose imaginations they were blended, and by whom they were fondly
rehearsed and admired.

In this manner fiction may be admitted to vouch for the genius of nations,
while history has nothing to offer that is entitled to credit. The Greek
fable accordingly conveying a character of its authors, throws light on
some ages of which no other record remains. The superiority of this people
is indeed in no circumstance more evident than in the strain of their
fictions, and in the story of those fabulous heroes, poets, and sages,
whose tales, being invented or embellished by an imagination already filled
with the subject for which the hero was celebrated, served to inflame that
ardent enthusiasm, with which so many different republics afterwards
proceeded in the pursuit of every national object.

It was no doubt of great advantage to those nations, that their system of
fable was original, and being already received in popular traditions,
served to diffuse those improvements of reason, imagination, and sentiment,
which were afterwards, by men of the finest talents, made on the fable
itself, or conveyed in its moral. The passions of the poet pervaded the
minds of the people, and the conceptions of men of genius, being
communicated to the vulgar, became the incentives of a national spirit.

A mythology borrowed from abroad, a literature founded on references to a
strange country, and fraught with foreign allusions, are much more confined
in their use: they speak to the learned alone; and though intended to
inform the understanding, and to mend the heart, may, by being confined to
a few, have an opposite effect. They may foster conceit on the ruins of
common sense, and render what was, at least innocently, sung by the
Athenian mariner at his oar, or rehearsed by the shepherd in attending his
flock, an occasion of vice, or the foundation of pedantry and scholastic

Our very learning, perhaps, where its influence extends, serves, in some
measure, to depress our national spirit. Our literature being derived from
nations of a different race, who flourished at a time when our ancestors
were in a state of barbarity, and consequently, when they were despised by
those who had attained to the literary arts, has given rise to a humbling
opinion, that we ourselves are the offspring of mean and contemptible
nations, with whom the human imagination and sentiment had no effect, till
the genius was in a manner inspired by examples, and directed by lessons
that were brought from abroad. The Romans, from whom our accounts are
chiefly derived, have admitted, in the rudeness of their own ancestors, a
system of virtues, which all simple nations perhaps equally possess; a
contempt of riches; love of their country, patience of hardship, danger,
and fatigue. They have, notwithstanding vilified, our ancestors for having
resembled their own; at least, in the defect of their arts, and in the
neglect of conveniencies which those arts are employed to procure.

It is from the Greek and the Roman historians, however, that we have not
only the most authentic and instructive, but even the most engaging
representations of the tribes from whom we descend. Those sublime and
intelligent writers understood human nature, and could collect its
features, and exhibit its characters, in every situation. They were ill
succeeded in this task by the early historians of modern Europe; who,
generally bred to the profession of monks, and confined to the monastic
life, applied themselves to record what they were pleased to denominate
facts, while they suffered the productions of genius to perish, and were
unable, either by the matter they selected, or the style of their
compositions, to give any representation of the active spirit of mankind in
any condition. With them, a narration was supposed to constitute history,
whilst it did not convey any knowledge of men; and history itself was
allowed to be complete, while, amidst the events and the succession of
princes that are recorded in the order of time, we are left to look in vain
for those characteristics of the understanding and the heart, which alone,
in every human transaction, render the story either engaging or useful.

We therefore willingly quit the history of our early ancestors, where Cæsar
and Tacitus have dropped them; and perhaps till we come within the reach of
what is connected with present affairs, and makes a part in the system on
which we now proceed, have little reason to expect any subject to interest
or inform the mind. We have no reason, however, from hence to conclude,
that the matter itself was more barren, or the scene of human affairs less
interesting, in modern Europe, than it has been on every stage where
mankind were engaged to exhibit the movements of the heart, the efforts of
generosity, magnanimity, and courage.

The trial of what those ages contained, is not even fairly made, when men
of genius and distinguished abilities, with the accomplishments of a
learned and a polished age, collect the materials they have found, and,
with the greatest success, connect the story of illiterate ages with
transactions of a later date. It is difficult even for them, under the
names which are applied in a new state of society, to convey a just
apprehension of what mankind were, in situations so different, and in times
so remote from their own.

In deriving from historians of this character the instruction which their
writings are fit to bestow, we are frequently to forget the general terms
that are employed, in order to collect the real manners of any age from the
minute circumstances that are occasionally presented. The titles of
_Royal_ and _Noble_ were applicable to the families of Tarquin,
Collatinus, and Cincinnatus; but Lucretia was employed in domestic industry
with her maids, and Cincinnatus followed the plough. The dignities, and
even the offices, of civil society, were known many ages ago, in Europe, by
their present appellations; but we find in the history of England, that a
king and his court being assembled to solemnize a festival, an outlaw, who
had subsisted by robbery, came to share in the feast. The king himself
arose to force this unworthy guest from the company; a scuffle ensued
between them; and the king was killed. [Footnote: Hume's History, chap. 8.
p. 278] A chancellor and prime minister, whose magnificence and sumptuous
furniture were the subject of admiration and envy, had his apartments
covered every day in winter with clean straw and hay, and in summer with
green rushes or boughs. Even the sovereign himself, in those ages, was
provided with forage for his bed. [Footnote: Hume's History, chap. 8. p.73]
These picturesque features, and characteristical strokes of the times,
recal the imagination from the supposed distinction of monarch and subject,
to that state of rough familiarity in which our ancestors lived, and under
which they acted, with a view to objects, and on principles of conduct,
which we seldom comprehend, when we are employed to record their
transactions, or to study their characters.

Thucydides, notwithstanding the prejudice of his country against the name
of _Barbarian_, understood that it was in the customs of barbarous
nations he was to study the more ancient manners of Greece.

The Romans might have found an image of their own ancestors, in the
representations they have given of ours; and if ever an Arab clan shall
become a civilized nation, or any American tribe escape the poison which is
administered by our traders of Europe, it may be from the relations of the
present times, and the descriptions which are now given by travellers, that
such a people, in after ages, may best collect the accounts of their
origin. It is in their present condition that we are to behold, as in a
mirror, the features of our own progenitors; and from thence we are to draw
our conclusions with respect to the influence of situations, in which we
have reason to believe that our fathers were placed.

What should distinguish a German or a Briton, in the habits of his mind or
his body, in his manners or apprehensions, from an American, who, like him,
with his bow and his dart, is left to traverse the forest; and in a like
severe or variable climate, is obliged to subsist by the chase?

If, in advanced years, we would form a just notion of our progress from the
cradle, we must have recourse to the nursery; and from the example of those
who are still in the period of life we mean to describe, take our
representation of past manners, that cannot, in any other way, be recalled.



From one to the other extremity of America; from Kamtschatka westward to
the river Oby; and from the Northern Sea, over that length of country, to
the confines of China, of India, and Persia; from the Caspian to the Red
Sea, with little exception, and from thence over the inland continent and
the western shores of Africa; we every where meet with nations on whom we
bestow the appellations of barbarous or savage. That extensive tract of the
earth, containing so great a variety of situation, climate, and soil,
should, in the manners of its inhabitants, exhibit all the diversities
which arise from the unequal influence of the sun, joined to a different
nourishment and manner of life. Every question, however, on this subject,
is premature, till we have first endeavoured to form some general
conception of our species in its rude state, and have learned to
distinguish mere ignorance from dulness, and the want of arts from the want
of capacity.

Of the nations who dwell in those, or any other of the less cultivated
parts of the earth, some entrust their subsistence chiefly to hunting,
fishing, or the natural produce of the soil. They have little attention to
property, and scarcely any beginnings of subordination or government.
Others, having possessed themselves of herbs, and depending for their
provision on pasture, know what it is to be poor and rich. They know the
relations of patron and client, of servant and master, and by the measures
of fortune determine their station. This distinction must create a material
difference of character, and may furnish two separate heads, under which to
consider the history, of mankind in their rudest state; that of the savage,
who is not yet acquainted with property; and that of the barbarian, to whom
it is, although not ascertained by laws, a principal object of care and

It must appear very evident, that property is a matter of progress. It
requires, among other particulars, which are the effects of time, some
method of defining possession. The very desire of it proceeds from
experience; and the industry by which it is gained, or improved, requires
such a habit of acting with a view to distant objects, as may overcome the
present disposition either to sloth or to enjoyment. This habit is slowly
acquired, and is in reality a principal distinction of nations in the
advanced state of mechanic and commercial arts.

In a tribe which subsists by hunting and fishing, the arms, the utensils,
and the fur, which the individual carries, are to him the only subjects of
property. The food of to-morrow is yet wild in the forest, or hid in the
lake; it cannot be appropriated before it is caught; and even then, being
the purchase of numbers, who fish or hunt in a body, it accrues to the
community, and is applied to immediate use, or becomes an accession to the
stores of the public.

Where savage nations, as in most parts of America, mix with the practice of
hunting some species of rude agriculture, they still follow, with respect
to the soil and the fruits of the earth, the analogy of their principal
object. As the men hunt, so the women labour together; and, after they have
shared the toils of the seed time, they enjoy the fruits of the harvest in
common. The field in which they have planted, like the district over which
they are accustomed to hunt, is claimed as a property by the nation, but is
not parcelled in lots to its members. They go forth in parties to prepare
the ground, to plant and to reap. The harvest is gathered into the public
granary, and from thence, at stated times, is divided into shares for the
maintenance of separate families. [Footnote: History of the Caribbees.]
Even the returns of the market, when they trade with foreigners, are
brought home to the stock of the nation. [Footnote: Charlevoix. This
account of Rude Nations, in most points of importance, so far as it relates
to the original North Americans, is not founded so much on the testimony of
this or the other writers cited, as it is on the concurring representations
of living witnesses, who, in the course of trade, of war, and of treaties,
have had ample occasion to observe the manners of that people. It is
necessary however, for the sake of those who may not have conversed with
the living witnesses, to refer to printed authorities.]

As the fur and the bow pertain to the individual, the cabin and its
utensils are appropriated to the family; and as the domestic cares are
committed to the women, so the property of the household seems likewise to
be vested in them. The children are considered as pertaining to the mother,
with little regard to descent on the father's side. The males, before they
are married, remain in the cabin in which they are born; but after they
have formed a new connection with the other sex, they change their
habitation, and become an accession to the family in which they have found
their wives. The hunter and the warrior are numbered by the matron as a
part of her treasure; they are reserved for perils and trying occasions;
and in the recess of public councils, in the intervals of hunting or war,
are maintained by the cares of the women, and loiter about in mere
amusement or sloth. [Footnote: Lafitau.]

While one sex continue to value themselves chiefly on their courage, their
talent for policy, and their warlike achievements, this species of property
which is bestowed on the other, is, in reality, a mark of subjection; not,
as some writers allege, of their having acquired an ascendant. [Footnote:
Ibid.] It is the care and trouble of a subject with which the warrior does
not choose to be embarrassed. It is a servitude, and a continual toil,
where no honours are won; and they whose province it is, are in fact the
slaves and the helots of their country. If in this destination of the
sexes, while the men continue to indulge themselves in the contempt of
sordid and mercenary arts, the cruel establishment of slavery is for some
ages deferred; if, in this tender, though unequal alliance, the affections
of the heart prevent the severities practised on slaves; we have in the
custom itself, as perhaps in many other instances, reason to prefer the
first suggestions of nature, to many of her after refinements.

If mankind, in any instance, continue the article of property on the
footing we have now represented, we may easily credit what is further
reported by travellers; that they admit of no distinctions of rank or
condition; and that they have in fact no degree of subordination different
from the distribution of function, which follows the differences of age,
talents, and dispositions. Personal qualities give an ascendant in the
midst of occasions which require their exertion; but in times of
relaxation, leave no vestige of power or prerogative. A warrior who has led
the youth of his nation to the slaughter of their enemies, or who has been
foremost in the chase, returns upon a level with the rest of his tribe; and
when the only business is to sleep, or to feed, can enjoy no pre-eminence;
for he sleeps and he feeds no better than they.

Where no profit attends dominion, one party is as much averse to the
trouble of perpetual command, as the other is to the mortification of
perpetual submission. "I love victory, I love great actions," says
Montesquieu, in the character of Sylla; "but have no relish for the languid
detail of pacific government, or the pageantry of high station." He has
touched perhaps what is a prevailing sentiment in the simplest state of
society, when the weakness of motive suggested by interest, and the
ignorance of any elevation not founded on merit, supplies the place of

The character of the mind, however, in this state, is not founded on
ignorance alone. Men are conscious of their equality, and are tenacious of
its rights. Even when they follow a leader to the field, they cannot brook
the pretensions to a formal command: they listen to no orders; and they
come under no military engagements, but those of mutual fidelity, and equal
ardour in the enterprise. [Footnote: Charlevoix.]

This description, we may believe, is unequally applicable to different
nations, who have made unequal advances in the establishment of property.
Among the Caribbees, and the other natives of the warmer climates in
America, the dignity of chieftain is hereditary, or elective, and continued
for life: the unequal distribution of property creates a visible
subordination. [Footnote: Wafer's Account of the Isthmus of Darien.] But
among the Iroquois, and other nations of the temperate zone, the titles of
_magistrate_ and _subject_, of _noble_ and _mean_, are as little known
as those of _rich_ and _poor_. The old men, without being invested with
any coercive power, employ their natural authority in advising or in
prompting the resolutions of their tribe: the military leader is pointed
out by the superiority of his manhood and valour; the statesman is
distinguished only by the attention with which his counsel is heard; the
warrior by the confidence with which the youth of his nation follow him
to the field; and if their concerts must be supposed to constitute a
species of political government, it is one to which no language of ours
can be applied. Power is more than the natural ascendancy of the mind;
the discharge of office no more than a natural exercise of the personal
character; and while the community acts with an appearance of order,
there is no sense of disparity in the breast of any of its members.
[Footnote: Colden's History of the Five Nations.]

In these happy, though informal proceedings, where age alone gives a place
in the council; where youth, ardour, and valour in the field, give a title
to the station of leader; where the whole community is assembled on any
alarming occasion, we may venture to say, that we have found the origin of
the senate, the executive power, and the assembly of the people;
institutions for which ancient legislators have been so much renowned. The
senate among the Greeks, as well as the Latins, appears, from the etymology
of its name, to have been originally composed of elderly men. The military
leader at Rome, in a manner not unlike to that of the American warrior,
proclaimed his levies, and the citizen prepared for the field, in
consequence of a voluntary engagement. The suggestions of nature, which
directed the policy of nations in the wilds of America, were followed
before on the banks of the Eurotas and the Tyber; and Lycurgus and Romulus
found the model of their institutions, where the members of every rude
nation find the earliest mode of uniting their talents, and combining their

Among the North American nations, every individual is independent; but he
is engaged by his affections and his habits in the cares of a family.
Families, like so many separate tribes, are subject to no inspection or
government from abroad; whatever passes at home, even bloodshed and murder,
are only supposed to concern themselves. They are, in the mean time, the
parts of a canton; the women assemble to plant their maize; the old men go
to council; the huntsman and the warrior joins the youth of his village in
the field. Many such cantons assemble to constitute a national council, or
to execute a national enterprise. When the Europeans made their first
settlements in America, six such nations had formed a league, had their
amphyctiones or states general, and, by the firmness of their union and the
ability of their councils, had obtained an ascendant from the mouth of St.
Lawrence to that of the Mississippi. [Footnote: Lafitau, Charlevoix,
Colden, &c.] They appeared to understand the objects of the confederacy, as
well as those of the separate nation; they studied a balance of power; the
statesman of one country watched the designs and proceedings of another;
and occasionally threw the weight of his tribe into a different scale. They
had their alliances and their treaties, which, like the nations of Europe,
they maintained, or they broke, upon reasons of state; and remained at
peace from a sense of necessity or expediency, and went to war upon any
emergence of provocation or jealousy.

Thus, without any settled form of government, or any bond of union, but
what resembled more the suggestion of instinct, than the invention of
reason, they conducted themselves with the concert and the force of
nations. Foreigners, without being able to discover who is the magistrate,
or in what manner the senate is composed, always find a council with whom
they may treat, or a band of warriors with whom they may fight. Without
police or compulsory, laws, their domestic society is conducted with order,
and the absence of vicious dispositions, is a better security than any
public establishment for the suppression of crimes.

Disorders, however, sometimes occur, especially in times of debauch, when
the immoderate use of intoxicating liquors, to which they are extremely
addicted, suspends the ordinary caution of their demeanour, and, inflaming
their violent passions, engages them in quarrels and bloodshed. When a
person is slain, his murderer is seldom called to an immediate account; but
he has a quarrel to sustain with the family and the friends; or, if a
stranger, with the countrymen of the deceased; sometimes even with his own
nation at home, if the injury committed be of a kind to alarm the society.
The nation, the canton, or the family endeavour, by presents, to atone for
the offence of any of their members; and, by pacifying the parties
aggrieved, endeavour to prevent what alarms the community more than the
first disorder, the subsequent effects of revenge and animosity. [Footnote:
Lafitau.] The shedding of blood, however, if the guilty person remain where
he has committed the crime, seldom escapes unpunished: the friend of the
deceased knows how to disguise, though not to suppress, his resentment; and
even after many years have elapsed, is sure to repay the injury that was
done to his kindred or his house.

These considerations render them cautious and circumspect, put them on
their guard against their passions, and give to their ordinary deportment
an air of phlegm and composure superior to what is possessed among polished
nations. They are, in the mean time, affectionate in their carriage, and in
their conversations, pay a mutual attention and regard, says Charlevoix,
more tender and more engaging, than what we profess in the ceremonial of
polished societies.

This writer has observed, that the nations among whom he travelled in North
America, never mentioned acts of generosity or kindness under the notion of
duty. They acted from affection, as they acted from appetite, without
regard to its consequences. When they had done a kindness, they had
gratified a desire; the business was finished, and it passed from the
memory. When they received a favour, it might, or it might not, prove the
occasion of friendship: if it did not, the parties appeared to have no
apprehensions of gratitude, as a duty by which the one was bound to make a
return, or the other entitled to reproach the person who had failed in his
part. The spirit with which they give or receive presents, is the same
which, Tacitus observed among the ancient Germans; they delight in them,
but do not consider them as matter of obligation. [Footnote: Muneribus
gaudent, sed nec data imputant, nec acceptis obligantur.] Such gifts are of
little consequence, except when employed as the seal of a bargain or

It was their favourite maxim, that no man is naturally indebted to another;
that he is not, therefore, obliged to bear with any imposition, or unequal
treatment. [Footnote: Charlevoix] Thus, in a principle apparently sullen
and inhospitable, they have discovered the foundation of justice, and
observe its rules, with a steadiness and candour which no cultivation has
been found to improve. The freedom which they give in what relates to the
supposed duties of kindness and friendship, serves only to engage the heart
more entirely, where it is once possessed with affection. We love to choose
our object without any restraint, and we consider kindness itself as a
task, when the duties of friendship are exacted by rule. We therefore, by
our demand for attentions, rather corrupt than improve the system of
morality; and by our exactions of gratitude, and out frequent proposals to
enforce its observance, we only shew that we have mistaken its nature; we
only give symptoms of that growing sensibility to interest, from which we
measure the expediency of friendship and generosity itself; and by which we
would introduce the spirit of traffic into the commerce of affection. In
consequence of this proceeding, we are often obliged to decline a favour,
with the same spirit that we throw off a servile engagement, or reject a
bribe. To the unrefined savage every favour is welcome, and every present
received without reserve or reflection.

The love of equality, and the love of justice, were originally the same;
and although, by the constitution of different societies, unequal
privileges are bestowed on their members; and although justice itself
requires a proper regard to be paid to such privileges; yet he who has
forgotten that men were originally equal, easily degenerates into a slave;
or, in the capacity of a master, is not to be trusted with the rights of
his fellow creatures. This happy principle gives to the mind its sense of
independence, renders it indifferent to the favours which are in the power
of other men, checks it in the commission of injuries, and leaves the heart
open to the affections of generosity and kindness. It gives to the
untutored American that sentiment of candour, and of regard to the welfare
of others, which, in some degree, softens the arrogant pride of his
carriage, and in times of confidence and peace, without the assistance of
government or law, renders the approach and commerce of strangers secure.

Among this people, the foundations of honour are eminent abilities, and
great fortitude; not the distinctions of equipage and fortune: the talents
in esteem are such as their situation leads them to employ, the exact
knowledge of a country, and stratagem in war. On these qualifications, a
captain among the Caribbees underwent an examination. When a new leader was
to be chosen, a scout was sent forth to traverse the forests which led to
the enemy's country, and upon his return, the candidate was desired to find
the track in which he had travelled. A brook, or a fountain, was named to
him on the frontier, and he was desired to find the nearest path to a
particular station, and to plant a stake in the place. [Footnote: Lafitau]
They can, accordingly, trace a wild beast, or the human foot, over many
leagues of a pathless forest, and find their way across a woody and
uninhabited continent, by means of refined observations, which escape the
traveller who has been accustomed to different aids. They steer in slender
canoes, across stormy seas, with a dexterity equal to that of the most
experienced pilot. [Footnote: Charlevoix.] They carry a penetrating eye for
the thoughts and intentions of those with whom they have to deal; and when
they mean to deceive, they cover themselves with arts which the most
subtile can seldom elude. They harangue in their public councils with a
nervous and a figurative elocution; and conduct themselves in the
management of their treaties with a perfect discernment of their national

Thus being able masters in the detail of their own affairs, and well
qualified to acquit themselves on particular occasions, they study no
science, and go in pursuit of no general principles. They even seem
incapable of attending to any distant consequences, beyond those they have
experienced in hunting or war. They entrust the provision of every season
to itself; consume the fruits of the earth in summer; and, in winter, are
driven in quest of their prey, through woods, and over deserts covered with
snow. They do not form in one hour those maxims which may prevent the
errors of the next; and they fail in those apprehensions, which, in the
intervals of passion, produce ingenuous shame, compassion, remorse, or a
command of appetite. They are seldom made to repent of any violence; nor is
a person, indeed, thought accountable in his sober mood, for what he did in
the heat of a passion, or in a time of debauch.

Their superstitions are groveling and mean; and did this happen among rude
nations alone, we could not sufficiently admire the effects of politeness;
but it is a subject on which few nations are entitled to censure their
neighbours. When we have considered the superstitions of one people, we
find little variety in those of another. They are but a repetition of
similar weaknesses and absurdities, derived from a common source, a
perplexed apprehension of invisible agents, that are supposed to guide all
precarious events to which human foresight cannot extend.

In what depends on the known or the regular course of nature, the mind
trusts to itself; but in strange and uncommon situations, it is the dupe of
its own perplexity, and, instead of relying on its prudence or courage, has
recourse to divination, and a variety of observances, that, for being
irrational, are always the more revered. Superstition being founded in
doubts and anxiety, is fostered by ignorance and mystery. Its maxims, in
the mean time, are not always confounded with those of common life; nor
does its weakness or folly always prevent the watchfulness, penetration,
and courage, men are accustomed to employ in the management of common
affairs. A Roman consulting futurity by the pecking of birds, or a king of
Sparta inspecting the entrails of a beast, Mithridates consulting his women
on the interpretation of his dreams, are examples sufficient to prove, that
a childish imbecility on this subject is consistent with the greatest
military and political conduct.

Confidence in the effect of charms is not peculiar to any age or nation.
Few, even of the accomplished Greeks and Romans, were able to shake off
this weakness. In their case, it, was not removed by the highest measures
of civilization. It has yielded only to the light of true religion, or to
the study of nature, by which we are led to substitute a wise providence
operating by physical causes, in the place of phantoms that terrify or
amuse the ignorant.

The principal point of honour among the rude nations of America, as indeed
in every instance where mankind are not greatly corrupted, is fortitude.
Yet their way of maintaining this point of honour, is very different from
that of the nations of Europe. Their ordinary method of making war is by
ambuscade; and they strive, by overreaching an enemy, to commit the
greatest slaughter, or to make the greatest number of prisoners, with the
least hazard to themselves. They deem it a folly to expose their own
persons in assaulting an enemy, and do not rejoice in victories which are
stained with the blood of their own people. They do not value themselves,
as in Europe, on defying their enemy upon equal terms. They even boast,
that they approach like foxes, or that they fly like birds, not less than
they devour like lions. In Europe, to fall in battle is accounted an
honour; among the natives of America it is reckoned disgraceful. [Footnote:
Charlevoix.] They reserve their fortitude for the trials they abide when
attacked by surprise, or when fallen into their enemies' hands; and when
they are obliged to maintain their own honour, and that of their own
nation, in the midst of torments that require efforts of patience more than
of valour.

On these occasions, they are far from allowing it to be supposed that they
wish to decline the conflict. It is held infamous to avoid it, even by a
voluntary death; and the greatest affront which can be offered to a
prisoner, is to refuse him the honours of a man, in the manner of his
execution. "Withhold," says an old man, in the midst of his torture, "the
stabs of your knife; rather let me die by fire, that those dogs, your
allies, from beyond the seas, may learn to suffer like men." [Footnote:
Colden.] With terms of defiance, the victim, in those solemn trials,
commonly excites the animosities of his tormentors, as well as his own; and
whilst we suffer for human nature, under the effect of its errors, we must
admire its force.

The people with whom this practice prevailed, were commonly desirous of
repairing their own losses, by adopting prisoners of war into their
families; and even, in the last moment, the hand which was raised to
torment, frequently gave the sign of adoption, by which the prisoner became
the child or the brother of his enemy, and came to share in all the
privileges of a citizen. In their treatment of those who suffered, they did
not appear to be guided by principles of hatred or revenge; they observed
the point of honour in applying as well as in bearing their torments; and,
by a strange kind of affection and tenderness, were directed to be most
cruel where they intend the highest respect; the coward was put to
immediate death by the hands of women; the valiant was supposed to be
entitled to all the trials of fortitude that men could invent or employ.
"It gave me joy," says an old man to his captive, "that so gallant a youth
was allotted to my share; I proposed to have placed you on the couch of my
nephew, who was slain by your countrymen; to have transferred all my
tenderness to you; and to have solaced my age in your company; but, maimed
and mutilated as you now appear, death is better than life; prepare
yourself therefore to die like a man." [Footnote: Charlevoix.]

It is perhaps with a view to these exhibitions, or rather in admiration of
fortitude, the principle from which they proceed, that the Americans are so
attentive, in their earliest years, to harden their nerves. [Footnote:
_Ib_. This writer says, that he has seen a boy and a girl, having
bound their naked arms together, place a burning coal between them, to try
who could endure it longest.] The children are taught to vie with each
other in bearing the sharpest torments; the youth are admitted into the
class of manhood, after violent proofs of their patience; and leaders are
put to the test by famine, burning, and suffocation. [Footnote: Lafitau.]

It might be apprehended, that among rude nations, where the means of
subsistence are procured with so much difficulty, the mind could never
raise itself above the consideration of this subject; and that man would,
in this condition, give examples of the meanest and most mercenary spirit.
The reverse, however, is true. Directed in this particular by the desires
of nature, men, in their simplest state, attend to the objects of appetite
no further than appetite requires; and their desires of fortune extend no
further than the meal which gratifies their hunger: they apprehend no
superiority of rank in the possession of wealth, such as might inspire any
habitual principle of covetousness, vanity, or ambition: they can apply to
no task that engages no immediate passion, and take pleasure in no
occupation that affords no dangers to be braved, and no honours to be won.

It was not among the ancient Romans alone that commercial arts, or a sordid
mind, were held in contempt. A like spirit prevails in every rude and
independent society. "I am a warrior, and not a merchant," said an American
to the governor of Canada, who proposed to give him goods in exchange for
some prisoners he had taken; "your clothes and utensils do not tempt
me; but my prisoners are now in your power, and you may seize them: if you
do, I must go forth and take more prisoners, or perish in the attempt; and
if that chance should befal me, I shall die like a man; but remember, that
our nation will charge you as the cause of my death." [Footnote:
Charlevoix.] With these apprehensions, they have an elevation, and a
stateliness of carriage, which the pride of nobility, where it is most
revered by polished nations, seldom bestows.

They are attentive to their persons, and employ much time, as well as
endure great pain, in the methods they take to adorn their bodies, to give
the permanent stains with which they are coloured, or preserve the paint,
which they are perpetually repairing, in order to appear with advantage.

Their aversion to every sort of employment which they hold to be mean,
makes them pass great part of their time in idleness or sleep; and a man
who, in pursuit of a wild beast, or to surprise his enemy, will traverse a
hundred leagues on snow, will not, to procure his food, submit to any
species of ordinary labour. "Strange," says Tacitus, "that the same person
should be so much averse to repose, and so much addicted to sloth."
[Footnote: Mira diversitas naturae, ut idem homines sic ament intertiam et
oderint quietem.] Games of hazard are not the invention of polished ages;
men of curiosity have looked for their origin in vain, among the monuments
of an obscure antiquity; and it is probable that they belonged to times too
remote and too rude even for the conjectures of antiquarians to reach. The
very savage brings his furs, his utensils, and his beads, to the hazard
table: he finds here the passions and agitations which the applications of
a tedious industry could not excite; and while the throw is depending, he
tears his hair, and beats his breast, with a rage which the more
accomplished gamester has sometimes learned to repress: he often quits the
party naked and stripped of all his possessions; or where slavery is in
use, stakes his freedom to have one chance more to recover his former loss.
[Footnote: Tacitus, Lafitau, Charlevoix.]

With all these infirmities, vices, or respectable qualities, belonging to
the human species in its rudest state; the love of society, friendship, and
public affection, penetration, eloquence, and courage, appear to have been
its original properties, not the subsequent effects of device or invention.
If mankind are qualified to improve their manners, the materials to be
improved were furnished by nature; and the effect of this improvement is
not to inspire the sentiments of tenderness and generosity, nor to bestow
the principal constituents of a respectable character, but to obviate the
casual abuses of passion; and to prevent a mind, which feels the best
dispositions in their greatest force, from being at times likewise the
sport of brutal appetite, and of ungovernable violence.

Were Lycurgus employed anew to find a plan of government for the people we
have described, he would find them, in many important particulars, prepared
by nature herself to receive his institutions. His equality in matters of
property being already established, he would have no faction to apprehend
from the opposite interests of the poor and the rich; his senate, his
assembly of the people, is constituted; his discipline is in some measure
adopted, and the place of his helots is supplied by the task allotted to
one of the sexes. With all these advantages, he would still have had a very
important lesson for civil society to teach, that by which a few learn to
command, and the many are taught to obey: he would have all his precautions
to take against the future intrusion of mercenary arts, the admiration of
luxury, and the passion for interest: he would still perhaps have a more
difficult task than any of the former, in teaching his citizens the command
of appetite, and an indifference to pleasure, as well as a contempt of
pain; in teaching them to maintain in the field the formality of uniform
precautions, and as much to avoid being themselves surprised, as they
endeavour to surprise their enemy.

For want of these advantages, rude nations in general, though they are
patient of hardship and fatigue, though they are addicted to war, and are
qualified by their stratagem and valour to throw terror into the armies of
a more regular enemy; yet, in the course of a continual struggle, always
yield to the superior arts, and the discipline of more civilized nations.
Hence the Romans were able to overrun the provinces of Gaul, Germany, and
Britain; and hence the Europeans have a growing ascendancy over the nations
of Africa and America.

On the credit of a superiority which certain nations possess, they think
that they have a claim to dominion; and even Caesar appears to have
forgotten what were the passions, as well as the rights of mankind, when he
complained, that the Britons, after having sent him a submissive message to
Gaul, perhaps to prevent his invasion, still pretended to fight for their
liberties, and to oppose his descent on their island. [Footnote: Caesar
questus, quod quum ultro in continentem legatis missis pacem a se
petissent, bellum sine causa intulissent. _Lib_. 4.]

There is not, perhaps, in the whole description of mankind, a circumstance
more remarkable than that mutual contempt and aversion which nations, under
a different state of commercial arts, bestow on each other. Addicted to
their own pursuits, and considering their own condition as the standard of
human felicity, all nations pretend to the preference, and in their
practice give sufficient proof of sincerity. Even the savage, still less
than the citizen, can be made to quit that manner of life in which he is
trained: he loves that freedom of mind which will not be bound to any task,
and which owns no superior: however tempted to mix with polished nations,
and to better his fortune, the first moment of liberty brings him back to
the woods again; he droops and he pines in the streets of the populous
city; he wanders dissatisfied over the open and the cultivated field; he
seeks the frontier and the forest, where, with a constitution prepared to
undergo the hardships and the difficulties of the situation, he enjoys a
delicious freedom from care, and a seducing society, where no rules of
behaviour are prescribed, but the simple dictates of the heart.



It was a proverbial imprecation in use among the hunting nations on the
confines of Siberia, that their enemy might be obliged to live like a
Tartar, and have the folly of troubling himself with the charge of cattle.
[Footnote: Abulgaze's Genealogical History of the Tartars] Nature, it
seems, in their apprehension, by storing the woods and desert with game,
rendered the task of the herdsman unnecessary, and left to man only the
trouble of selecting and of seizing his prey.

The indolence of mankind, or rather their aversion to any application in
which they are not engaged by immediate instinct and passion, retards the
progress of industry and of impropriation. It has been found, however, even
while the means of subsistence are left in common, and the stock of the
public is yet undivided, that property is apprehended in different
subjects; that the fur and the bow belong to the individual; that the
cottage, with its furniture, are appropriated to the family.

When the parent begins to desire a better provision for his children than
is found under the promiscuous management of many co-partners, when he has
applied his labour and his skill apart, he aims at an exclusive possession,
and seeks the property of the soil, as well as the use of its fruits.

When the individual no longer finds among his associates the same
inclination to commit every subject to public use, he is seized with
concern for his personal fortune; and is alarmed by the cares which every
person entertains for himself. He is urged as much by emulation and
jealousy, as by the sense of necessity. He suffers considerations of
interest to rest on his mind, and when every present appetite is
sufficiently gratified, he can act with a view to futurity, or, rather
finds an object of vanity in having amassed what is become a subject of
competition, and a matter of universal esteem. Upon this motive, where
violence is restrained, he can apply his hand to lucrative arts, confine
himself to a tedious task, and wait with patience for the distant returns
of his labour.

Thus mankind acquire industry by many and by slow degrees. They are taught
to regard their interest; they are restrained from rapine; and they are
secured in the possession of what they fairly obtain; by these methods the
habits of the labourer, the mechanic, and the trader, are gradually formed.
A hoard, collected from the simple productions of nature, or a herd of
cattle, are, in every rude nation, the first species of wealth. The
circumstances of the soil, and the climate, determine whether the
inhabitant shall apply himself chiefly to agriculture or pasture; whether
he shall fix his residence, or be moving continually about with all his

In the west of Europe; in America, from south to north, with a few
exceptions; in the torrid zone, and every where within the warmer climates;
mankind have generally applied themselves to some species of agriculture,
and have been disposed to settlement. In the north and middle region of
Asia, they depended entirely on their herds, and were perpetually shifting
their ground in search of new pasture. The arts which pertain to settlement
have been practised, and variously cultivated, by the inhabitants of
Europe. Those which are consistent with perpetual migration, have, from the
earliest accounts of history, remained nearly the same, with the Scythian
or Tartar. The tent pitched on a moveable carriage, the horse applied to
every purpose of labour, and of war, of the dairy, and of the butcher's
stall, from the earliest to the latest accounts, have made up the riches
and equipage of this wandering people.

But in whatever way rude nations subsist, there are certain points in
which, under the first impressions of property, they nearly agree. Homer
either lived with a people in this stage of their progress, or found
himself engaged to exhibit their character. Tacitus had made them the
subject of a particular treatise; and if this be an aspect under which
mankind deserve to be viewed, it must be confessed, that we have singular
advantages in collecting their features. The portrait has already been
drawn by the ablest hands, and gives, at one view, in the writings of these
celebrated authors, whatever has been scattered in the relations of
historians, or whatever we have opportunities to observe in the actual
manners of men, who still remain in a similar state.

In passing from the condition we have described, to this we have at present
in view, mankind still retain many marks of their earliest character. They
are still averse to labour, addicted to war, admirers of fortitude, and in
the language of Tacitus, more lavish of their blood than of their sweat.
[Footnote: Pigrum quin immo et iners videtur, sudore acquirere quod possis
sanguine parare.] They are fond of fantastic ornaments in their dress, and
endeavour to fill up the listless intervals of a life addicted to violence,
with hazardous sports, and with games of chance. Every servile occupation
they commit to women or slaves. But we may apprehend, that the individual
having now found a separate interest, the bands of society must become less
firm, and domestic disorders more frequent. The members of every community,
being distinguished among themselves by unequal possessions, the ground of
a permanent and palpable subordination is laid.

These particulars accordingly take place among mankind, in passing from the
savage to what may be called the barbarous state. Members of the same
community enter into quarrels of competition or revenge. They unite in
following leaders, who are distinguished by their fortunes, and by the
lustre of their birth. They join the desire of spoil with the love of
glory; and from an opinion, that what is acquired by force justly pertains
to the victor, they become hunters of men, and bring every contest to the
decision of the sword.

Every nation is a band of robbers, who prey without restraint, or remorse,
on their neighbours. Cattle, says Achilles, may be seized in every field;
and the coasts of the Aegean were accordingly pillaged by the heroes of
Homer, for no other reason than because those heroes chose to possess
themselves of the brass and iron, the cattle, the slaves, and the women,
which were found among the nations around them.

A Tartar mounted on his horse, is an animal of prey, who only enquires
where cattle are to be found, and how far he must go to possess them. The
monk, who had fallen under the displeasure of Mangu Chan, made his peace,
by promising, that the pope, and the Christian princes, should make a
surrender of all their herds. [Footnote: Rubruquis.]

A similar spirit reigned, without exception, in all the barbarous nations
of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The antiquities of Greece and Italy, and the
fables of every ancient poet, contain examples of its force. It was this
spirit that brought our ancestors first into the provinces of the Roman
empire; and that afterward, more perhaps than their reverence for the
cross, led them to the east, to share with the Tartars in the spoils of the
Saracen empire.

From the descriptions contained in the last section, we may incline to
believe, that mankind, in their simplest state; are on the eve of erecting
republics. Their love of equality, their habit of assembling in public
councils, and their zeal for the tribe to which they belong, are
qualifications that fit them to act under that species of government; and
they seem to have but a few steps to make in order to reach its
establishment. They have only to define the numbers of which their councils
shall consist, and to settle the forms of their meeting: they have only to
bestow a permanent authority for repressing disorders, and to enact a few
rules in favour of that justice they have already acknowledged, and from
inclination so strictly observe.

But these steps are far from being so easily made, as they appear on a
slight or a transient view. The resolution of choosing, from among their
equals, the magistrate to whom they give from thenceforward a right to
control their own actions, is far from the thoughts of simple men; and no
persuasion, perhaps, could make them adopt this measure, or give them any
sense of its use.

Even after nations have chosen a military leader, they do not entrust him
with any species of civil authority. The captain among the, Caribbees did
not pretend to decide in domestic disputes; the terms _jurisdiction_
and _government_ were unknown in their tongue. [Footnote: History of
the Caribbees.]

Before this important change was admitted, men must be accustomed to the
distinction of ranks; and before they are sensible that subordination is
requisite, they must have arrived at unequal conditions by chance. In
desiring property, they only mean to secure their subsistence; but the
brave who lead in war, have likewise the largest share in its spoils. The
eminent are fond of devising hereditary honours; and the multitude, who
admire the parent, are ready to extend their esteem to his offspring.

Possessions descend, and the lustre of family grows brighter with age.
Hercules, who perhaps was an eminent warrior, became a god with posterity,
and his race was set apart for royalty and sovereign power. When the
distinctions of fortune and those of birth are conjoined, the chieftain
enjoys a pre-eminence, as well at the feast as in the field. His followers
take their place in subordinate stations; and instead of considering
themselves as parts of a community, they rank as the followers of a chief,
and take their designation from the name of their leader. They find a new
object of public affection in defending his person, and in supporting his
station; they lend of their substance to form his estate; they are guided
by his smiles and his frowns; and court as the highest distinction, a share
in the feast which their own contributions have furnished.

As the former state of mankind seemed to point at democracy, this seems to
exhibit the rudiments of monarchical government. But it is yet far short of
that establishment which is known in after ages by the name of
_monarchy_. The distinction between the leader and the follower, the
prince and the subject, is still but imperfectly marked: their pursuits and
occupations are not different; their minds are not unequally cultivated;
they feed from the same dish; they sleep together on the ground; the
children of the king, as well as those of the subject, are employed in
tending the flock; and the keeper of the swine was a prime counsellor at
the court of Ulysses.

The chieftain, sufficiently distinguished from his tribe, to excite their
admiration, and to flatter their vanity by a supposed affinity to his noble
descent, is the object of their veneration, not of their envy: he is
considered as the common bond of connection, not as their common master; is
foremost in danger, and has a principal share in their troubles: his glory
is placed in the number of his attendants, in his superior magnanimity and
valour; that of his followers, in being ready to shed their blood in his
service. [Footnote: Tacitus de moribus Germanorum.]

The frequent practice of war tends to strengthen the bands of society, and
the practice of depredation itself engages men in trials of mutual
attachment and courage. What threatened to ruin and overset every good
disposition in the human breast, what seemed to banish justice from the
societies of men, tends to unite the species in clans and fraternities;
formidable indeed, and hostile to one another, but, in the domestic society
of each, faithful, disinterested, and generous. Frequent dangers, and the
experience of fidelity and valour, awaken the love of those virtues, render
them a subject of admiration, and endear their possessors.

Actuated by great passions, the love of glory, and the desire of victory;
roused by the menaces of an enemy, or stung with revenge; in suspense
between the prospects of ruin or conquest, the barbarian spends every
moment of relaxation in sloth. He cannot descend to the pursuits of
industry or mechanical labour: the beast of prey is a sluggard; the hunter
and the warrior sleeps, while women or slaves are made to toil for his
bread. But shew him a quarry at a distance, he is bold, impetuous, artful,
and rapacious; no bar can withstand his violence, and no fatigue can allay
his activity.

Even under this description, mankind are generous and hospitable to
strangers, as well as kind, affectionate, and gentle, in their domestic
society. [Footnote: Jean du Plan Carpen. Rubruquis, Caesar, Tacit.]
Friendship and enmity are to them terms of the greatest importance: they
mingle not their functions together; they have singled out their enemy, and
they have chosen their friend. Even in depredation, the principal object is
glory; and spoil is considered as the badge of victory. Nations and tribes
are their prey: the solitary traveller, by whom they can acquire only the
reputation of generosity, is suffered to pass unhurt, or is treated with
splendid munificence.

Though distinguished into small cantons under their several chieftains, and
for the most part separated by jealousy and animosity; yet when pressed by
wars and formidable enemies, they sometimes unite in greater bodies. Like
the Greeks in their expedition to Troy, they follow some remarkable leader,
and compose a kingdom of many separate tribes. But such coalitions are
merely occasional; and even during their continuance, more resemble a
republic than monarchy. The inferior chieftains reserve their importance,
and intrude, with an air of equality, into the councils of their leader, as
the people of their several clans commonly intrude upon them. [Footnote:
Kolbe: Description of the Cape of Good Hope.] Upon what motive indeed could
we suppose, that men who live together in the greatest familiarity, and
amongst whom the distinctions of rank are so obscurely marked, would resign
their personal sentiments and inclinations, or pay an implicit submission
to a leader who can neither overawe nor corrupt?

Military force must be employed to extort, or the hire of the venal to buy,
that engagement which the Tartar comes under to his prince, when he
promises, "That he will go where he shall be commanded; that he will come
when he shall be called; that he will kill whoever is pointed out to him;
and, for the future, that he will consider the voice of the King as a
sword." [Footnote: Simon de St. Quintin.]

These are the terms to which even the stubborn heart of the barbarian has
been reduced, in consequence of a despotism he himself had established; and
men have in that low state of the commercial arts, in Europe, as well as in
Asia, tasted of political slavery. When interest prevails in every breast,
the sovereign and his party cannot escape the infection: he employs the
force with which he is intrusted to turn his people into a property, and to
command their possessions for his profit or his pleasure. If riches are by
any people made the standard of good or of evil, let them beware of the
powers they intrust to their prince. "With the Suiones," says Tacitus,
"riches are in high esteem; and this people are accordingly disarmed, and
reduced to slavery." [Footnote: De moribus Germanorum.]

It is in this woful condition that mankind, being slavish, interested,
insidious, deceitful, and bloody, bear marks, if not of the least curable,
surely of the most lamentable sort of corruption. [Footnote: Chardin's
Travels.] Among them, war is the mere practice of rapine, to enrich the
individual; commerce is turned into a system of snares and impositions; and
government by turns oppressive or weak. It were happy for the human race,
when guided by interest, and not governed by laws, that being split into
nations of a moderate extent, they found in every canton some natural bar
to its farther enlargement, and met with occupation enough in maintaining
their independence, without being able to extend their dominion.

There is not disparity of rank, among men in rude ages, sufficient to give
their communities the form of legal monarchy; and in a territory of
considerable extent, when united under one head, the warlike and turbulent
spirit of its inhabitants seems to require the bridle of despotism and
military force. Where any degree of freedom remains, the powers of the
prince are, as they were in most of the rude monarchies of Europe,
extremely precarious, and depend chiefly on his personal character: where,
on the contrary, the powers of the prince are above the control of his
people, they are likewise above the restrictions of justice. Rapacity and
terror become the predominant motives of conduct, and form the character of
the only parties into which mankind are divided; that of the oppressor, and
that of the oppressed.

This calamity threatened Europe for ages, under the conquest and settlement
of its new inhabitants. [Footnote: See Hume's History of the Tudors. There
seemed to be nothing wanting to establish a perfect despotism in that
house, but a few regiments of troops under the command of the crown.] It
has actually taken place in Asia, where similar conquests have been made;
and even without the ordinary opiates of effeminacy, or a servile weakness,
founded on luxury, it has surprised the Tartar on his wain, in the rear of
his herds. Among this people, in the heart of a great continent, bold and
enterprising warriors arose; they subdued by surprise, or superior
abilities, the contiguous hordes; they gained, in their progress,
accessions of numbers and of strength; and, like a torrent increasing as it
descends, became too strong for any bar that could be opposed to their
passage. The conquering tribe, during a succession of ages, furnished the
prince with his guards; and while they themselves were allowed to share in
its spoils, were the voluntary tools of oppression. In this manner has
despotism and corruption found their way into regions so much renowned for
the wild freedom of nature: a power which was the terror of every
effeminate province is disarmed, and the nursery of nations is itself gone
to decay. [Footnote: See the History of the Huns.]

Where rude nations escape this calamity, they require the exercise of
foreign wars to maintain domestic peace; when no enemy appears from abroad,
they have leisure for private feud, and employ that courage in their
dissentions at home, which in time of war is employed in defence of their

"Among the Gauls," says Caesar, "there are subdivisions, not only in every
nation, and in every district and village, but almost in every house, every
one must fly to some patron for protection." [Footnote: De Bello Gallico,
lib. 6.] In this distribution of parties, not only the feuds of clans, but
the quarrels of families, even the differences and competitions of
individuals, are decided by force. The sovereign, when unassisted by
superstition, endeavours in vain to employ his jurisdiction, or to procure
a submission to the decisions of law. By a people who are accustomed to owe
their possessions to violence, and who despise fortune itself without the
reputation of courage, no umpire is admitted but the sword. Scipio offered
his arbitration to terminate the competition of two Spaniards in a disputed
succession: "That," said they, "we have already refused to our relations:
we do not submit our difference to the judgment of men; and even among the
gods, we appeal to Mars alone." [Footnote: Livy.]

It is well known that the nations of Europe carried this mode of proceeding
to a degree of formality unheard of in other parts of the world: the civil
and criminal judge could, in most cases, do no more than appoint the lists,
and leave the parties to decide their cause by the combat: they apprehended
that the victor had a verdict of the gods in his favour: and when they
dropped in any instance this extraordinary form of process, they
substituted in its place some other more capricious appeal to chance; in
which they likewise thought that the judgment of the gods was declared.

The fierce nations of Europe were even fond of the combat, as an exercise
and a sport. In the absence of real quarrels, companions challenged each
other to a trial of skill, in which one of them frequently perished. When
Scipio celebrated the funeral of his father and his uncle, the Spaniards
came in pairs to fight, and by a public exhibition of their duels, to
increase the solemnity. [Footnote: Livy, lib. 3.]

In this wild and lawless state, where the effects of true religion would
have been so desirable, and so salutary, superstition frequently disputes
the ascendant even with the admiration of valour; and an order of men, like
the Druids among the ancient Gauls and Britons, [Footnote: Caesar.] or some
pretender to divination, as at the Cape of Good Hope, finds, in the credit
which is paid to his sorcery, a way to the possession of power: his magic
wand comes in competition with the sword itself; and, in the manner of the
Druids, gives the first rudiments of civil government to some, or, like the
supposed descendant of the sun among the Natchez, and the Lama among the
Tartars, to others, an early taste of despotism and absolute slavery.

We are generally at a loss to conceive how mankind can subsist under
customs and manners extremely different from our own; and we are apt to
exaggerate the misery of barbarous times, by an imagination of what we
ourselves should suffer in a situation to which we are not accustomed. But
every age hath its consolations, as well as its sufferings. [Footnote:
Priscus, when employed on an embassy to Attila, was accosted in Greek, by a
person who wore the dress of a Scythian. Having expressed surprise, and
being desirous to know the cause of his stay in so wild a company, was
told, that this Greek had been a captive, and for some time a slave, till
he obtained his liberty in reward of some remarkable action. "I live more
happily here," says he, "than ever I did under the Roman government: for
they who live with the Scythians, if they can endure the fatigues of war,
have nothing else to molest them; they enjoy their possessions undisturbed;
whereas you are continually a prey to foreign enemies, or to bad
government; you are forbid to carry arms in your own defence; you suffer
from the remissness and ill conduct of those who are appointed to protect
you; the evils of peace are even worse than those of war; no punishment is
ever inflicted on the powerful or the rich; no mercy is shown to the poor;
although your institutions Footnote: were wisely devised, yet, in the
management of corrupted men, their effects are pernicious and cruel."
_Excerpta de legationibus._] In the interval of occasional outrages,
the friendly intercourse of men, even in their rudest condition, is
affectionate and happy. [Footnote: D'Arvieux's History of the wild Arabs.]
In rude ages the persons and properties of individuals are secure; because
each has a friend, as well as an enemy; and if the one is disposed to
molest, the other is ready to protect; and the very admiration of valour,
which in some instances tends to sanctify violence, inspires likewise
certain maxims of generosity and honour, that tend to prevent the
commission of wrongs.

Men bear with the defects of their policy, as they do with hardships and
inconveniencies in their manner of living. The alarms and the fatigues of
war become a necessary recreation to those who are accustomed to them, and
who have the tone of their passions raised above less animating or trying
occasions. Old men, among the courtiers of Attila, wept when they heard of
heroic deeds, which they themselves could no longer perform. [Footnote:
Ibid.] And among the Celtic nations, when age rendered the warrior unfit
for his former toils, it was the custom, in order to abridge the languors
of a listless and inactive life, to sue for death at the hands of his
friends. [Footnote:
  Ubi transcendit florentes viribus annos,
  Impatiens aevi spernit novisse senectam.
Silius, lib. i. 225.]

With all this ferocity of spirit, the rude nations of the west were subdued
by the policy and more regular warfare of the Romans. The point of honour
which the barbarians of Europe adopted as individuals, exposed them to a
peculiar disadvantage, by rendering them, even in their national wars,
averse to assailing their enemy by surprise, or taking the benefit of
stratagem; and though separately bold and intrepid, yet, like other rude
nations, they were, when assembled in great bodies, addicted to
superstition, and subject to panics.

They were, from a consciousness of their personal courage and force,
sanguine on the eve of battle; they were, beyond the bounds of moderation,
elated on success, and dejected in adversity; and being disposed to
consider every event as a judgment of the gods, they were never qualified
by an uniform application or prudence to make the most of their forces, to
repair their misfortunes, or to improve their advantages.

Resigned to the government of affection and passion, they were generous and
faithful where they had fixed an attachment; implacable, froward, and
cruel, where they had conceived a dislike: addicted to debauchery, and the
immoderate use of intoxicating liquors, they deliberated on the affairs of
state in the heat of their riot; and in the same dangerous moments,
conceived the designs of military enterprise, or terminated their domestic
dissentions by the dagger or the sword.

In their wars they preferred death to captivity. The victorious armies of
the Romans, in entering a town by assault, or in forcing an encampment,
have found the mother in the act of destroying her children, that they
might not be taken; and the dagger of the parent, red with the blood of his
family, ready to be plunged at last into his own breast. [Footnote: Liv.
lib. xli. 11. Dio Cass.]

In all these particulars, we perceive that vigour of spirit, which renders
disorder itself respectable, and which qualifies men, if fortunate in their
situation, to lay the basis of domestic liberty, as well as to maintain
against foreign enemies their national independence and freedom.


       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *



What we have hitherto observed on the condition and manners of nations,
though chiefly derived from what has passed in the temperate climates, may,
in some measure, be applied to the rude state of mankind In every part of
the earth: but if we intend to pursue the history of our species in its
further attainments, we may soon enter on subjects which will confine our
observation to narrower limits. The genius of political wisdom, and of
civil arts, appears to have chosen his seats in particular tracts of the
earth, and to have selected his favourites in particular races of men. Man,
in his animal capacity, is qualified to subsist in every climate. He reigns
with the lion and the tyger under the equatorial heats of the sun, or he
associates with the bear and the reindeer beyond the polar system. His
versatile disposition fits him to assume the habits of either condition, or
his talent for arts enables him to supply its defects. The intermediate
climates, however, appear most to favour his nature; and in whatever manner
we account for the fact, it cannot be doubted, that this animal has always
attained to the principal honours of his species within the temperate zone.
The arts, which he has on this scene repeatedly invented, the extent of his
reason, the fertility of his fancy, and the force of his genius in
literature, commerce, policy, and war, sufficiently declare either a
distinguished advantage of situation, or a natural superiority of mind.

The most remarkable races of men, it is true, have been rude before they
were polished. They have in some cases returned to rudeness again; and it
is not from the actual possession of arts, science, or policy, that we are
to pronounce of their genius.

There is a vigour, a reach of capacity, and a sensibility of mind, which
may characterize as well the savage as the citizen, the slave as well as
the master; and the same powers of the mind may be turned to a variety of
purposes. A modern Greek, perhaps, is mischievous, slavish, and cunning,
from the same animated temperament that made his ancestor ardent,
ingenious, and bold, in the camp, or in the council of his nation. A
modern Italian is distinguished by sensibility, quickness, and art, while
he employs on trifles the capacity of an ancient Roman; and exhibits now,
in the scene of amusement, and in the search of a frivolous applause, that
fire, and those passions, with which Gracchus burned in the forum, and
shook the assemblies of a severer people.

The commercial and lucrative arts have been, in some climates, the
principal object of mankind, and have been retained through every disaster;
in others, even under all the fluctuations of fortune, they have still been
neglected; while in the temperate climates of Europe and Asia, they have
had their ages of admiration as well as contempt.

In one state of society arts are slighted, from that very ardour of mind,
and principle of activity, by which, in another, they are practised with
the greatest success. While men are engrossed by their passions, heated and
roused by the struggles and dangers of their country; while the trumpet
sounds or the alarm of social engagement is rung, and the heart beats high,
it were a mark of dulness, or of an abject spirit, to find leisure for the
study of ease, or the pursuit of improvements, which have mere convenience
or ease for their object.

The frequent vicissitudes and reverses of fortune, which nations have
experienced on that very ground where the arts have prospered, are probably
the effects of a busy, inventive, and versatile spirit, by which men have
carried every national change to extremes. They have raised the fabric of
despotic empire to its greatest height, where they had best understood the
foundations of freedom. They perished in the flames which they themselves
had kindled; and they only, perhaps, were capable of displaying, by turns,
the greatest improvements, or the lowest corruptions, to which the human
mind can be brought.

On this scene, mankind have twice, within the compass of history, ascended
from rude beginnings to very high degrees of refinement. In every age,
whether destined by its temporary disposition to build, or to destroy, they
have left the vestiges of an active and vehement spirit. The pavement and
the ruins of Rome are buried in dust, shaken from the feet of barbarians,
who trod with contempt on the refinements of luxury, and spurned those
arts, the use of which it was reserved for the posterity of the same people
to discover and to admire. The tents of the wild Arab are even now pitched
among the ruins of magnificent cities; and the waste fields which border on
Palestine and Syria, are perhaps become again the nursery of infant
nations. The chieftain of an Arab tribe, like the founder of Rome, may have
already fixed the roots of a plant that is to flourish in some future
period, or laid the foundations of a fabric, that will attain to its
grandeur in some distant age.

Great part of Africa has been always unknown; but the silence of fame, on
the subject of its revolutions, is an argument, where no other proof can be
found, of weakness in the genius of its people. The torrid zone, every
where round the globe, however known to the geographer, has furnished few
materials for history; and though in many places supplied with the arts of
life in no contemptible degree, has no where matured the more important
projects of political wisdom, nor inspired the virtues which are connected
with freedom, and which are required in the conduct of civil affairs.

It was indeed in the torrid zone that mere arts of mechanism and
manufacture were found, among the inhabitants of the new world, to have
made the greatest advance: it is in India, and in the regions of this
hemisphere, which are visited by the vertical sun, that the arts of
manufacture, and the practice of commerce, are of the greatest antiquity,
and have survived, with the smallest diminution, the ruins of time, and the
revolutions of empire.

The sun, it seems, which ripens the pineapple and the tamarind, inspires a
degree of mildness that can even assuage the rigours of despotical
government: and such is the effect of a gentle and pacific disposition in
the natives of the east, that no conquest, no irruption of barbarians,
terminates, as they did among the stubborn natives of Europe, by a total
destruction of what the love of ease and of pleasure had produced.

Transferred, without any great struggle, from one master to another, the
natives of India are ready, upon every change, to pursue their industry, to
acquiesce in the enjoyment of life, and the hopes of animal pleasure: the
wars of conquest are not prolonged to exasperate the parties engaged in
them, or to desolate the land for which those parties contend: even the
barbarous invader leaves untouched the commercial settlement which has not
provoked his rage: though master of opulent cities, he only encamps, in
their neighbourhood, and leaves to his heirs the option of entering, by
degrees, on the pleasures, the vices, and the pageantries which his
acquisitions afford: his successors, still more than himself, are disposed
to foster the hive, in proportion as they taste more of its sweets; and
they spare the inhabitant, together with his dwelling, as they spare the
herd or the stall, of which they are become the proprietors.

The modern description of India is a repetition of the ancient, and the
present state of China is derived from a distant antiquity, to which there
is no parallel in the history of mankind. The succession of monarchs has
been changed; but no revolutions have affected the state. The African and
the Samoiede are not more uniform in their ignorance and barbarity, than
the Chinese and the Indian, if we may credit their own story, have been in
the practice of manufacture, and in the observance of a certain police,
which was calculated only to regulate their traffic, and to protect them in
their application to servile or lucrative arts.

If we pass from these general representations of what mankind have done, to
the more minute description of the animal himself, as he has occupied
different climates, and is diversified in his temper, complexion, and
character, we shall find a variety of genius corresponding to the effects
of his conduct, and the result of his story.

Man, in the perfection of his natural faculties, is quick and delicate in
his sensibility; extensive and various in his imaginations and reflections;
attentive, penetrating, and subtile, in what relates to his fellow
creatures; firm and ardent in his purposes; devoted to friendship or to
enmity; jealous of his independence and his honour, which he will not
relinquish for safety or for profit: under all his corruptions or
improvements, he retains his natural sensibility, if not his force; and his
commerce is a blessing or a curse, according to the direction his mind has

But under the extremes of heat or of cold, the active range of the human
soul appears to be limited; and men are of inferior importance, either as
friends, or as enemies. In the one extreme, they are dull and slow,
moderate in their desires, regular, and pacific in their manner of life; in
the other, they are feverish in their passions, weak in their judgments,
and addicted by temperament, to animal pleasure. In both the heart is
mercenary, and makes important concessions for childish bribes: in both the
spirit is prepared for servitude: in the one it is subdued by fear of the
future; in the other it is not roused even by its sense of the present.

The nations of Europe who would settle or conquer on the south or the north
of their own happier climates, find little resistance: they extend their
dominion at pleasure, and find no where a limit but in the ocean, and in
the satiety of conquest. With few of the pangs and the struggles that
precede the reduction of nations, mighty provinces have been successively
annexed to the territory of Russia; and its sovereign, who accounts within
his domain, entire tribes, with whom perhaps none of his emissaries have
ever conversed, despatched a few geometers to extend his empire, and thus
to execute a project, in which the Romans were obliged to employ their
consuls and their legions. [Footnote: See Russian Atlas.] These modern
conquerors complain of rebellion, where they meet with repugnance; and are
surprised at being treated as enemies, where they come to impose their

It appears, however, that on the shores of the Eastern sea, they have met
with nations [Footnote: The Tchutzi.] who have questioned their title to
reign, and who have considered the requisition of a tax as the demand of
effects for nothing. Here perhaps may be found the genius of ancient
Europe; and under its name of ferocity, the spirit of national
independence; [Footnote: Notes to the Genealogical History of the Tartars,
vouched by Strahlenberg.] that spirit which disputed its ground in the west
with the victorious armies of Rome, and baffled the attempts of the Persian
monarchs to comprehend the villages of Greece within the bounds of their
extensive dominion.

The great and striking diversities which obtain betwixt the inhabitants of
climates far removed from each other, are, like the varieties of other
animals in different regions, easily observed. The horse and the reindeer
are just emblems of the Arab and the Laplander: the native of Arabia, like
the animal for whose race his country is famed, whether wild in the woods,
or tutored by art, is lively, active, and fervent in the exercise on which
he is bent. This race of men, in their rude state, fly to the desert for
freedom, and in roving bands alarm the frontiers of empire, and strike a
terror in the province to which their moving encampments advance.
[Footnote: D'Arvieux.] When roused by the prospect of conquest, or disposed
to act on a plan, they spread their dominion, and their system of
imagination, over mighty tracts of the earth: when possessed of property
and of settlement, they set the example of a lively invention, and superior
ingenuity, in the practice of arts, and the study of science. The
Laplander, on the contrary, like the associate of his climate, is hardy,
indefatigable, and patient of famine; dull rather than tame; serviceable in
a particular tract; and incapable of change. Whole nations continue from
age to age in the same condition, and, with immoveable phlegm, submit to
the appellations of _Dane_, of _Swede_, or of _Muscovite_, according
to the land they inhabit; and suffer their country to be severed
like a common, by the line on which those nations have traced their limits
of empire.

It is not in the extremes alone that these varieties of genius may be
clearly distinguished. Their continual change keeps pace with the
variations of climate with which we suppose them connected: and though
certain degrees of capacity, penetration, and ardour, are not the lot of
entire nations, nor the vulgar properties of any people; yet their unequal
frequency, and unequal measure, in different countries, are sufficiently
manifest from the manners, the tone of conversation, the talent for
business, amusement, and the literary composition, which predominate in

It is to the southern nations of Europe, both ancient and modern, that we
owe the invention and embellishment of that mythology, and those early
traditions, which continue to furnish the materials of fancy, and the field
of poetic allusion. To them we owe the romantic tales of chivalry, as well
as the subsequent models of a more rational style, by which the heart and
the imagination are kindled, and the understanding informed.

The fruits of industry have abounded most in the north, and the study of
science has here received its most solid improvements: the efforts of
imagination and sentiment were most frequent and most successful in the
south. While the shores of the Baltic became famed for the studies of
Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler, those of the Mediterranean were
celebrated for giving birth to men of genius in all its variety, and for
having abounded with poets and historians, as well as with men of science.

On one side, learning took its rise from the heart and the fancy; on the
other, it is still confined to the judgment and the memory. A faithful
detail of public transactions, with little discernment of their comparative
importance; the treaties and the claims of nations, the births and
genealogies of princes, are, in the literature of northern nations, amply
preserved; while the lights of the understanding, and the feelings of the
heart, are suffered to perish. The history of the human character; the
interesting memoir, founded no less on the careless proceedings of a
private life, than on the formal transactions of a public station; the
ingenious pleasantry, the piercing ridicule, the tender, pathetic, or the
elevated strain of elocution, have been confined in modern, as well as
ancient times, with a few exceptions, to the same latitudes with the fig
and the vine.

These diversities of natural genius, if real, must have great part of their
foundation in the animal frame; and it has been often observed, that the
vine flourishes, where, to quicken the ferments of the human blood, it
saids [sic] are the least required. While spirituous liquors are, among
southern nations, from a sense of their ruinous effects, prohibited; or
from a love of decency, and the possession of a temperament sufficiently
warm, not greatly desired; they carry in the north a peculiar charm, while
they awaken the mind, and give a taste of that lively fancy and ardour of
passion, which the climate is found to deny.

The melting desires, or the fiery passions, which in one climate take place
between the sexes, are in another changed into a sober consideration, or a
patience of mutual disgust. This change is remarked in crossing the
Mediterranean, in following the course of the Mississippi, in ascending the
mountains of Caucasus, and in passing from the Alps and the Pyrenees to the
shores of the Baltic.

The female sex domineers on the frontier of Louisiana, by the double engine
of superstition, and of passion. They are slaves among the native
inhabitants of Canada, and are chiefly valued for the toils they endure,
and the domestic service they yield. [Footnote: Charlevoix.]

The burning ardours, and the torturing jealousies of the seraglio and the
haram, which have reigned so long in Asia and Africa, and which, in the
southern parts of Europe, have scarcely given way to the difference of
religion and civil establishments, are found, however, with an abatement of
heat in the climate, to be more easily changed in one latitude, into a
temporary passion which engrosses the mind, without enfeebling it, and
excites to romantic achievements: by a farther progress to the north, it is
changed into a spirit of gallantry, which employs the wit and the fancy
more than the heart; which prefers intrigue to enjoyment; and substitutes
affectation and vanity where sentiment and desire have failed. As it
departs from the sun, the same passion is farther composed into a habit of
domestic connection, or frozen into a state of insensibility, under which
the sexes at freedom scarcely choose to unite their society.

These variations of temperament and character do not indeed correspond with
the number of degrees that are measured from the equator to the pole; nor
does the temperature of the air itself depend on the latitude. Varieties of
soil and position, the distance or neighbourhood of the sea, are known to
affect the atmosphere, and may have signal effects in composing the animal

The climates of America, though taken under the same parallel, are observed
to differ from those of Europe. There, extensive marshes, great lakes,
aged, decayed, and crowded forests, with the other circumstances that mark
an uncultivated country, are supposed to replenish the air with heavy and
noxious vapours, that give a double asperity to the winter; and during many
months, by the frequency and continuance of fogs, snow, and frost, carry
the inconveniencies of the frigid zone far into the temperate. The Samoiede
and the Laplander, however, have their counterpart, though on a lower
latitude, on the shores of America: the Canadian and the Iroquois bear a
resemblance to the ancient inhabitants of the middling climates of Europe.
The Mexican, like the Asiatic of India, being addicted to pleasure, was
sunk in effeminacy; and in the neighbourhood of the wild and the free, had
suffered to be raised on his weakness a domineering superstition, and a
permanent fabric of despotical government.

Great part of Tartary lies under the same parallels with Greece, Italy, and
Spain; but the climates are found to be different; and while the shores,
not only of the Mediterranean, but even those of the Atlantic, are favoured
with a moderate change and vicissitude of seasons, the eastern parts of
Europe, and the northern continent of Asia, are afflicted with all their
extremes. In one season, we are told, that the plagues of an ardent summer
reach almost to the frozen sea; and that the inhabitant is obliged to
screen himself from noxious vermin in the same clouds of smoke in which he
must, at a different time of the year, take shelter from the rigours of
cold. When winter returns, the transition is rapid, and with an asperity
almost equal in every latitude, lays waste the face of the earth, from the
northern confines of Siberia, to the descents of Mount Caucasus and the
frontier of India.

With this unequal distribution of climate, by which the lot, as well as the
national character, of the northern Asiatic may be deemed inferior to that
of Europeans, who lie under the same parallels, a similar gradation of
temperament and spirit, however, has been observed, in following the
meridian on either tract; and the southern Tartar has over the Tonguses and
the Sanmoiede the same pre-eminence, that certain nations of Europe are
known to possess over their northern neighbours, in situations more
advantageous to both.

The southern hemisphere scarcely offers a subject of like observation. The
temperate zone is there still undiscovered, or is only known in two
promontories, the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, which stretch into
moderate latitudes on that side of the line. But the savage of South
America, notwithstanding the interposition of the nations of Peru and of
Mexico, is found to resemble his counterpart on the north; and the
Hottentot, in many things, the barbarian of Europe: he is tenacious of
freedom, has rudiments of policy, and a national vigour, which serve to
distinguish his race from the other African tribes, who are exposed to the
more vertical rays of the sun.

While we have, in these observations, only thrown out what must present
itself on the most cursory view of the history of mankind, or what may be
presumed from the mere obscurity of some nations, who inhabit great tracts
of the earth, as well as from the lustre of others, we are still unable to
explain the manner in which climate may affect the temperament, or foster
the genius of its inhabitant.

That the temper of the heart, and the intellectual operations of the mind,
are, in some measure, dependent on the state of the animal organs, is well
known from experience. Men differ from themselves in sickness and in
health; under a change of diet, of air, and of exercise: but we are, even
in these familiar instances, at a loss how to connect the cause with its
supposed effect: and though climate, by including a variety of such causes,
may, by some regular influence, affect the characters of men, we can never
hope to explain the manner of those influences till we have understood,
what probably we shall never understand, the structure of those finer
organs with which the operations of the soul are connected.

When we point out, in the situation of a people, circumstances which, by
determining their pursuits, regulate their habits, and their manner of
life; and when, instead of referring to the supposed physical source of
their dispositions, we assign their inducements to a determinate conduct;
in this we speak of effects and of causes whose connection is more
familiarly known. We can understand, for instance, why a race of men like
the Samoiede, confined, during great part of the year, to darkness, or
retired into caverns, should differ in their manners and apprehensions from
those who are at liberty in every season; or who, instead of seeking relief
from the extremities of cold, are employed in search of precautions against
the oppressions of a burning sun. Fire and exercise are the remedies of
cold; repose and shade the securities from heat. The Hollander is laborious
and industrious in Europe; he becomes more languid and slothful in India.
[Footnote: The Dutch sailors, who were employed in the siege of Malaco,
tore or burnt the sail cloth which was given them to make tents, that they
might not have the trouble of making or pitching them. _Voy. de

Great extremities, either of heat or cold, are perhaps, in a moral view,
equally unfavourable to the active genius of mankind, and by presenting
alike insuperable difficulties to be overcome, or strong inducements to
indolence and sloth, equally prevent the first applications of ingenuity,
or limit their progress. Some intermediate degrees of inconvenience in the
situation, at once excite the spirit, and, with the hopes of success,
encourage its efforts. "It Is in the least favourable situations," says Mr.
Rousseau, "that the arts have flourished the most. I could show them in
Egypt, as they spread with the overflowing of the Nile; and in Attica, as
they mounted up to the clouds, from a rocky soil and from barren sands;
while on the fertile banks of the Eurotas, they were not able to fasten
their roots."

Where mankind from the first subsist by toil, and in the midst of
difficulties, the defects of their situation are supplied by industry: and
while dry, tempting, and healthful lands are left uncultivated, [Footnote:
Compare the state of Hungary with that of Holland.] the pestilent marsh is
drained with great labour, and the sea is fenced off with mighty barriers,
the materials and the costs of which, the soil to be gained can scarcely
afford, or repay. Harbours are opened, and crowded with shipping, where
vessels of burden, if they are not constructed with a view to the
situation, have not water to float. Elegant and magnificent edifices are
raised on foundations of slime; and all the conveniencies of human life are
made to abound, where nature does not seem to have prepared a reception for
men. It is in vain to expect, that the residence of arts and commerce
should be determined by the possession of natural advantages. Men do more
when they have certain difficulties to surmount, than when they have
supposed blessings to enjoy: and the shade of the barren oak and the pine
are more favourable to the genius of mankind, than that of the palm or the

Among the advantages which enable nations to run the career of policy, as
well as of arts, it may be expected, from the observations already made,
that we should reckon every circumstance which enable them to divide and to
maintain themselves in distinct and independent communities. The society
and concourse of other men are not more necessary to form the individual,
than the rivalship and competition of nations are to invigorate the
principles of political life in a state. Their wars, and their treaties,
their mutual jealousies, and the establishments which they devise with a
view to each other, constitute more than half the occupations of mankind,
and furnish materials for their greatest and most improving exertions. For
this reason, clusters of islands, a continent divided by many natural
barriers, great rivers, ridges of mountains, and arms of the sea, are best
fitted for becoming the nursery of independent and respectable nations. The
distinction of states being clearly maintained, a principle of political
life is established in every division, and the capital of every district,
like the heart of an animal body, communicates with ease the vital blood
and the national spirit to its members.

The most respectable nations have always been found, where at least one
part of the frontier has been washed by the sea. This barrier, perhaps the
strongest of all in the times of ignorance, does not, however, even then
supersede the cares of a national defence; and in the advanced state of
arts, gives the greatest scope and facility to commerce.

Thriving and independent nations were accordingly scattered on the shores
of the Pacific and the Atlantic. They surrounded the Red Sea, the
Mediterranean, and the Baltic; while, a few tribes excepted, who retire
among the mountains bordering on India and Persia, or who have found some
rude establishment among the creeks and the shores of the Caspian and the
Euxine, there is scarcely a people in the vast continent of Asia who
deserves the name of a nation. The unbounded plain is traversed at large by
hordes, who are in perpetual motion, or who are displaced and harassed by
their mutual hostilities. Although they are never perhaps actually blended
together in the course of hunting, or in the search of pasture, they cannot
bear one great distinction of nations, which is taken from the territory,
and which is deeply impressed by an affection to the native seat. They move
in troops, without the arrangement or the concert of nations; they become
easy accessions to every new empire among themselves, or to the Chinese and
the Muscovite, with whom they hold a traffic for the means of subsistence,
and the materials of pleasure.

Where a happy system of nations is formed, they do hot rely for the
continuance of their separate names, and for that of their political
independence, on the barriers erected by nature. Mutual jealousies lead to
the maintenance of a balance of power; and this principle, more than the
Rhine and the Ocean, than the Alps and the Pyrenees in modern Europe; more
than the straits of Thermopylae, the mountains of Thrace, or the bays of
Salamine and Corinth in ancient Greece, tended to prolong the separation,
to which the inhabitants of these happy climates have owed their felicity
as nations, the lustre of their fame, and their civil accomplishments.

If we mean to pursue the history of civil society, our attention must be
chiefly directed to such examples, and we must here bid farewell to those
regions of the earth, on which our species, by the effects of situation or
climate, appear to be restrained in their national pursuits, or inferior in
the powers of the mind.



We have hitherto observed mankind, either united together on terms of
equality, or disposed to admit of a subordination founded merely on the
voluntary respect and attachment which they paid to their leaders; but, in
both cases, without any concerted plan of government, or system of laws.

The savage, whose fortune is comprised in his cabin, his fur, and his arms,
is satisfied with that provision, and with that degree of security, he
himself can procure. He perceives, in treating with his equal, no subject
of discussion that should be referred to the decision of a judge; nor does
he find in any hand the badges of magistracy, or the ensigns of a perpetual

The barbarian, though induced by his admiration of personal qualities, the
lustre of a heroic race, or a superiority of fortune, to follow the banners
of a leader, and to act a subordinate part in his tribe, knows not, that
what he performs from choice, is to be made a subject of obligation. He
acts from affections unacquainted with forms; and when provoked, or when
engaged in disputes, he recurs to the sword, as the ultimate means of
decision, in all questions of right.

Human affairs, in the mean time, continue their progress. What was in one
generation a propensity to herd with the species, becomes in the ages which
follow, a principle of natural union. What was originally an alliance for
common defence, becomes a concerted plan of political force; the care of
subsistence becomes an anxiety for accumulating wealth, and the foundation
of commercial arts.

Mankind, in following the present sense of their minds, in striving to
remove inconveniencies, or to gain apparent and contiguous advantages,
arrive at ends which even their imagination could not anticipate; and pass
on, like other animals, in the track of their nature, without perceiving
its end. He who first said; "I will appropriate this field; I will leave it
to my heirs;" did not perceive, that he was laying the foundation of civil
laws and political establishments. He who first ranged himself under a
leader, did not perceive, that he was setting the example of a permanent
subordination, under the pretence of which, the rapacious were to seize his
possessions, and the arrogant to lay claim to his service.

Men, in general, are sufficiently disposed to occupy themselves in forming
projects and schemes; but he who would scheme and project for others, will
find an opponent in every person who is disposed to scheme for himself.
Like the winds that come we know not whence, and blow whithersoever they
list, the forms of society are derived from an obscure and distant origin;
they arise, long before the date of philosophy, from the instincts, not
from the speculations of men. The crowd of mankind are directed, in their
establishments and measures, by the circumstances in which they are placed;
and seldom are turned from their way, to follow the plan of any single

Every step and every movement of the multitude, even in what are termed
enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations
stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action,
but not the execution of any human design. [Footnote: De Retz's Memoirs.]
If Cromwell said, that a man never mounts higher, than when he knows not
whither he is going; it may with more reason be affirmed of communities,
that they admit of the greatest revolutions where no change is intended,
and that the most refined politicians do not always know whither they are
leading the state by their projects.

If we listen to the testimony of modern history, and to that of the most
authentic parts of the ancient; if we attend to the practice of nations in
every quarter of the world, and in every condition, whether that of the
barbarian or the polished, we shall find very little reason to retract this
assertion. No constitution is formed by concert, no government is copied
from a plan. The members of a small state contend for equality; the members
of a greater, find themselves classed in a certain manner that lays a
foundation for monarchy. They proceed from one form of government to
another, by easy transitions, and frequently under old names adopt a new
constitution. The seeds of every form are lodged in human nature; they
spring up and ripen with the season. The prevalence of a particular species
is often derived from an imperceptible ingredient mingled in the soil.

We are therefore to receive, with caution, the traditionary histories of
ancient legislators, and founders of states. Their names have long been
celebrated; their supposed plans have been admired; and what were probably
the consequences of an early situation, is, in every instance, considered
as an effect of design. An author and a work, like cause and effect, are
perpetually coupled together. This is the simplest form under which we can
consider the establishment of nations: and we ascribe to a previous design,
what came to be known only by experience, what no human wisdom could
foresee, and what, without the concurring humour and disposition of his
age, no authority could enable an individual to execute.

If men, during ages of extensive reflection, and employed in the search of
improvement, are wedded to their institutions; and, labouring under many
acknowledged inconveniencies, cannot break loose from the trammels of
custom; what shall we suppose their humour to have been in the times of
Romulus and Lycurgus? They were not surely more disposed to embrace the
schemes of innovators, or to shake off the impressions of habit: they were
not more pliant and ductile, when their knowledge was less; not more
capable of refinement, when their minds were more circumscribed.

We imagine, perhaps, that rude nations must have so strong a sense of the
defects under which they labour, and be so conscious that reformations are
requisite in their manners, that they must be ready to adopt, with joy,
every plan of improvement, and to receive every plausible proposal with
implicit compliance. And we are thus inclined to believe, that the harp of
Orpheus could effect, in one age, what the eloquence of Plato could not
produce in another. We mistake, however, the characteristic of simple ages:
mankind then appear to feel the fewest defects, and are then least desirous
to enter on reformations.

The reality, in the mean time, of certain establishments at Rome and at
Sparta, cannot be disputed: but it is probable; that the government of both
these states took its rise from the situation and genius of the people, not
from the projects of single men; that the celebrated warrior and statesman,
who are considered as the founders of those nations, only acted a superior
part among numbers who were disposed to the same institutions; and that
they left to posterity a renown, pointing them out as the inventors of many
practices which had been already in use, and which helped to form their own
manners and genius, as well as those of their countrymen.

It has been formerly observed, that, in many particulars, the customs of
simple nations coincide with what is ascribed to the invention of early
statesmen; that the model of republican government, the senate, and the
assembly of the people; that even the equality of property, or the
community of goods, were not reserved to the invention or contrivance of
singular men.

If we consider Romulus as the founder of the Roman state, certainly he who
killed his brother, that he might reign alone, did not desire to come under
restraints from the controling power of the senate, nor to refer the
councils of his sovereignty to the decision of a collective body. Love of
dominion is, by its nature, averse to restraint; and this chieftain, like
every leader in a rude age, probably found a class of men ready to intrude
on his councils, and without whom he could not proceed. He met with
occasions, on which, as at the sound of a trumpet, the body of the people
assembled, and took resolutions, which any individual might in vain
dispute, or attempt to control; and Rome, which commenced on the general
plan of every artless society, found lasting improvements in the pursuit of
temporary expedients, and digested her political frame in adjusting the
pretensions of parties which arose in the state.

Mankind, in very early ages of society, learn to covet riches, and to
admire distinction: they have avarice and ambition, and are occasionally
led by these passions to depredations and conquest: but in their ordinary
conduct, are guided or restrained by different motives; by sloth or
intemperance; by personal attachments, or personal animosities; which
mislead from the attention to interest. These motives or habits render
mankind, at times, remiss or outrageous: they prove the source of civil
peace or of civil disorder, but disqualify those who are actuated by them,
from maintaining any fixed usurpation; slavery and rapine, in the case of
every community, are first threatened from abroad, and war, either
offensive or defensive, is the great business of every tribe. The enemy
occupy their thoughts; they have no leisure for domestic dissentions. It is
the desire of every separate community, however, to secure itself; and in
proportion as it gains this object, by strengthening its barrier, by
weakening its enemy, or by procuring allies, the individual at home
bethinks him of what he may gain or lose for himself: the leader is
disposed to enlarge the advantages which belong to his station; the
follower becomes jealous of rights which are open to encroachment; and
parties who united before, from affection and habit, or from a regard to
their common preservation, disagree in supporting their, several claims to
precedence or profit.

When the animosities of faction are thus awakened at home, and the
pretensions of freedom are opposed to those of dominion, the members of
every society find a new scene upon which to exert their activity. They had
quarrelled, perhaps, on points of interest; they had balanced between
different leaders; but they had never united as citizens, to withstand the
encroachments of sovereignty, or to maintain their common rights as a
people. If the prince, in this contest, finds numbers to support, as well
as to oppose his pretensions, the sword which was whetted against foreign
enemies, may be pointed at the bosom of fellow subjects, and every interval
of peace from abroad, be filled with domestic war. The sacred names of
liberty, justice, and civil order, are made to resound in public
assemblies; and, during the absence of other alarms, give to society,
within itself, an abundant subject of ferment and animosity.

If what is related of the little principalities which, in ancient times,
were formed in Greece, in Italy, and over all Europe, agrees with the
character we have given of mankind under the first impressions of property,
of interest, and of hereditary distinctions; the seditions and domestic
wars which followed in those very states, the expulsion of their kings, or
the questions which arose concerning the prerogatives of the sovereign, or
privilege of the subject, are agreeable to the representation which we now
give of the first step toward political establishment, and the desire of a
legal constitution.

What this constitution may be in its earliest form, depends on a variety of
circumstances in the condition of nations: it depends on the extent of the
principality in its rude state; on the degree of disparity to which mankind
had submitted before they begun to dispute the abuses of power: it depends
likewise on what we term _accidents_, the personal character of an
individual, or the events of a war.

Every community is originally a small one. That propensity by which mankind
at first unite, is not the principle from which they afterwards act in
extending the limits of empire. Small tribes, where they are not assembled
by common objects of conquest or safety, are even averse to a coalition.
If, like the real or fabulous confederacy of the Greeks for the destruction
of Troy, many nations combine in pursuit of a single object, they easily
separate again, and act anew on the maxims of rival states.

There is, perhaps a certain national extent, within which the passions of
men are easily communicated from one, or a few, to the whole; and there are
certain numbers of men who can be assembled, and act in a body. If, while
the society is not enlarged beyond this dimension, and while its members
are easily assembled, political contentions arise, the state seldom fails
to proceed on republican maxims, and to establish democracy. In most rude
principalities, the leader derived his prerogative from the lustre of his
race, and from the voluntary attachment of his tribe: the people he
commanded were his friends, his subjects, and his troops. If we suppose,
upon any change in their manners, that they cease to revere his dignity,
that they pretend to equality among themselves, or are seized with a
jealousy of his assuming too much, the foundations of his power are already
withdrawn. When the voluntary subject becomes refractory; when considerable
parties, or the collective body, choose to act for themselves; the small
kingdom, like that of Athens, becomes of course a republic.

The changes of condition, and of manners, which, in the progress of
mankind, raise up to nations a leader and a prince, create, at the same
time, a nobility and a variety of ranks, who have, in a subordinate degree,
their claim to distinction. Superstition, too, may create an order of men,
who, under the title of priesthood, engage in the pursuit of a separate
interest; who, by their union and firmness as a body, and by their
incessant ambition, deserve to be reckoned in the list of pretenders to
power. These different orders of men are the elements of whose mixture the
political body is generally formed; each draws to its side some part from
the mass of the people. The people themselves are a party upon occasion;
and numbers of men, however classed and distinguished, become, by their
jarring pretensions and separate views, mutual interruptions and checks;
and have, by bringing to the national councils the maxims and apprehensions
of a particular order, and by guarding a particular interest, a share in
adjusting or preserving the political form of the state.

The pretensions of any particular order, if not checked by some collateral
power, would terminate in tyranny; those of a prince, in despotism; those
of a nobility or priesthood, in the abuses of aristocracy; of a populace,
in the confusions of anarchy. These terminations, as they are never the
professed, so are they seldom even the disguised object of party: but the
measures which any party pursues, if suffered to prevail, will lead, by
degrees, to every extreme.

In their way to the ascendant they endeavour to gain, and in the midst of
interruptions which opposite interests mutually give, liberty may have a
permanent or a transient existence; and the constitution may bear a form
and a character as various as the casual combination of such multiplied
parts can effect.

To bestow on communities some degree of political freedom, it is perhaps
sufficient, that their members, either singly, or as they are involved with
their several orders, should insist on their rights; that under republics,
the citizen should either maintain his own equality with firmness, or
restrain the ambition of his fellow citizen within moderate bounds; that
under monarchy, men of every rank should maintain the honours of their
private or their public stations; and sacrifice neither to the impositions
of a court, nor to the claims of a populace, those dignities which are
destined, in some measure, independent of fortune, to give stability to the
throne, and to procure a respect to the subject.

Amidst the contentions of party, the interests of the public, even the
maxims of justice and candour, are sometimes forgotten; and yet those fatal
consequences which such a measure of corruption seems to portend, do not
unavoidably follow. The public interest is often secure, not because
individuals are disposed to regard it as the end of their conduct, but
because each, in his place, is determined to preserve his own. Liberty is
maintained by the continued differences and oppositions of numbers, not by
their concurring zeal in behalf of equitable government. In free states,
therefore, the wisest laws are never, perhaps, dictated by the interest and
spirit of any order of men: they are moved, they are opposed, or amended,
by different hands; and come at last to express that medium and composition
which contending parties have forced one another to adopt.

When we consider the history of mankind in this view, we cannot be at a
loss for the causes which, in small communities, threw the balance on the
side of democracy; which, in states more enlarged in respect to territory
and number of people, gave the ascendant to monarchy; and which, in a
variety of conditions and of different ages, enabled mankind to blend and
unite the characters of different forms; and, instead of any of the simple
constitutions we have mentioned, [Footnote: Part I. Sect. 10.] to exhibit a
medley of all.

In emerging from a state of rudeness and simplicity, men must be expected
to act from that spirit of equality, or moderate subordination, to which
they have been accustomed. When crowded together in cities, or within the
compass of a small territory, they act by contagious passions, and every
individual feels a degree of importance proportioned to his figure in the
crowd, and the smallness of its numbers. The pretenders to power and
dominion appear in too familiar a light to impose upon the multitude, and
they have no aids at their call, by which they can bridle the refractory
humours of a people who resist their pretensions. Theseus, king of Attica,
we are told, assembled the inhabitants of its twelve cantons into one city.
In this he took an effectual method to unite into one democracy, what were
before the separate members of his monarchy, and to hasten the downfal of
the regal power.

The monarch of an extensive territory has many advantages in maintaining
his station. Without any grievance to his subjects, he can support the
magnificence of a royal estate, and dazzle the imagination of his people,
by that very wealth which themselves have bestowed. He can employ the
inhabitants of one district against those of another; and while the
passions that lead to mutiny and rebellion, can at any one time seize only
on a part of his subjects, he feels himself strong in the possession of a
general authority. Even the distance at which he resides from many of those
who receive his commands, augments the mysterious awe and respect which are
paid to his government.

With these different tendencies, accident and corruption, however, joined
to a variety of circumstances, may throw particular states from their bias,
and produce exceptions to every general rule. This has actually happened in
some of the later principalities of Greece, and modern Italy, in Sweden,
Poland, and the German Empire. But the united states of the Netherlands,
and the Swiss cantons, are, perhaps, the most extensive communities, which,
maintaining the union of nations, have, for any considerable time, resisted
the tendency to monarchical government; and Sweden is the only instance of
a republic established in a great kingdom on the ruins of monarchy.

The sovereign of a petty district, or a single city, when not supported, as
in modern Europe, by the contagion of monarchical manners, holds the
sceptre by a precarious tenure, and is perpetually alarmed by the spirit of
mutiny in his people, is guided by jealousy, and supports himself by
severity, prevention, and force.

The popular and aristocratical powers in a great nation, as in the case of
Germany and Poland, may meet with equal difficulty in maintaining their
pretensions; and, in order to avoid their danger on the side of kingly
usurpation, are obliged to withhold from the supreme magistrate even the
necessary trust of an executive power.

The states of Europe, in the manner of their first settlement, laid the
foundations of monarchy, and were prepared to unite under regular and
extensive governments. If the Greeks, whose progress at home terminated in
the establishment of so many independent republics, had under Agamemnon
effected a conquest and settlement in Asia, it is probable that they might
have furnished an example of the same kind. But the original inhabitants of
any country, forming many separate cantons, come by slow degrees to that
coalition and union into which conquering tribes, in effecting their
conquests, or in securing their possessions, are hurried at once.
Cæsar encountered some hundreds of independent nations in Gaul, whom even
their common danger did not sufficiently unite. The German invaders, who
settled in the lands of the Romans, made, in the same district, a number
of separate establishments, but far more extensive than what the ancient
Gauls, by their conjunction and treaties, or in the result of their wars,
could, after many ages, have reached.

The seeds of great monarchies, and the roots of extensive dominion, were
every where planted with the colonies that divided the Roman empire. We
have no exact account of the numbers, who, with a seeming concert,
continued, during some ages, to invade and to seize this tempting prize.
Where they expected resistance, they endeavoured to muster up a
proportional force; and when they proposed to settle, entire nations
removed to share in the spoil. Scattered over an extensive province, where
they could not be secure, without maintaining their union, they continued
to acknowledge the leader under whom they had fought; and, like an army
sent by divisions into separate stations, were prepared to assemble
whenever occasion should require their united operations or counsels.

Every separate party had its post assigned, and every subordinate chieftain
his possessions, from which he was to provide his own subsistence, and that
of his followers. The model of government was taken from that of a military
subordination, and a fief was the temporary pay of an officer proportioned
to his rank. [Footnote: See Dr. Robertson's History of Scotland, B.
1.--Dalrymple's Hist. of Feudal Tenures.] There was a class of the people
destined to military service, another to labour, and to cultivate lands for
the benefit of their masters. The officer improved his tenure by degrees,
first changing a temporary grant into a tenure for his life; and this also,
upon the observance of certain conditions, into a grant including his

The rank of the nobles became hereditary in every quarter, and formed a
powerful and permanent order of men in every state. While they held the
people in servitude, they disputed the claims of their sovereign; they
withdrew their attendance upon occasion, or turned their arms against him.
They formed a strong and insurmountable barrier against a general despotism
in the state; but they were themselves, by means of their warlike
retainers, the tyrants of every little district, and prevented the
establishment of order, or any regular applications of law. They took the
advantage of weak reigns or minorities, to push their encroachments on the
sovereign; or having made the monarchy elective, they, by successive
treaties and stipulations, at every election, limited or undermined the
monarchical power. The prerogatives of the prince have been, in some
instances, as in that of the German empire in particular, reduced to a mere
title; and the national union itself preserved in the observance only of a
few insignificant formalities.

Where the contest of the sovereign, and of his vassals, under hereditary
and ample prerogatives annexed to the crown, had a different issue, the
feudal lordships were gradually stript of their powers, the nobles were
reduced to the state of subjects, and, obliged to hold their honours, and
exercise their jurisdictions, in a dependence on the prince. It was his
supposed interest to reduce them to a state of equal subjection with the
people, and to extend his own authority, by rescuing the labourer and the
dependent from the oppressions of their immediate superiors.

In this project the princes of Europe have variously succeeded. While they
protected the people, and thereby encouraged the practice of commercial and
lucrative arts, they paved the way for despotism in the state; and with the
same policy by which they relieved the subject from many oppressions, they
increased the powers of the crown.

But where the people had, by the constitution, a representative in the
government, and a head, under which they could avail themselves of the
wealth they acquired, and of the sense of their personal importance, this
policy turned against the crown; it formed a new power to restrain the
prerogative, to establish the government of law, and to exhibit a spectacle
new in the history of mankind; monarchy mixed with republic, and extensive
territory governed, during some ages, without military force.

Such were the steps by which the nations of Europe have arrived at their
present establishments: in some instances they have come to the possession
of legal constitutions; in others, to the exercise of a mitigated
despotism; or they continue to struggle with the tendency which they
severally have to these different extremes.

The progress of empire, in the early ages of Europe, threatened to be
rapid, and to bury the independent spirit of nations in a grave like that
which the Ottoman conquerors found for themselves, and for the wretched
race they had vanquished. The Romans had by slow degrees extended their
empire; they had made every new acquisition in the result of a tedious war,
and had been obliged to plant colonies, and to employ a variety of
measures, to secure every new possession. But the feudal superior being
animated, from the moment he gained an establishment, with a desire of
extending his territory, and of enlarging the list of his vassals,
procured, by merely bestowing investiture, the annexation of new provinces,
and became the master of states, before independent, without making any
material innovation in the form of their policy.

Separate principalities were, like the parts of an engine, ready to be
joined, and, like the wrought materials of a building, ready to be erected.
They were in the result of their struggles put together or taken asunder
with facility. The independence of weak states was preserved only by the
mutual jealousies of the strong, or by the general attention of all to
maintain a balance of power.

The happy system of policy on which European states have proceeded in
preserving this balance; the degree of moderation which is, in adjusting
their treaties, become habitual even to victorious and powerful monarchies,
does honour to mankind, and may give hopes of a lasting felicity, to be
derived from a prepossession, never, perhaps, equally strong in any former
period, or among any number of nations, that the first conquering people
will ruin themselves, as well as their rivals.

It is in such states, perhaps, as in a fabric of a large dimension, that we
can perceive most distinctly the several parts of which a political body
consists; and observe that concurrence or opposition of interests, which
serve to unite or to separate different orders of men, and lead them, by
maintaining their several claims, to establish a variety of political
forms. The smallest republics, however, consist of parts similar to these,
and of members who are actuated by, a similar spirit. They furnish examples
of government diversified by the casual combinations of parties, and by the
different advantages with which those parties engage in the conflict.

In every society there is a casual subordination, independent of its formal
establishment, and frequently adverse to its constitution. While the
administration and the people speak the language of a particular form, and
seem to admit no pretensions to power, without a legal nomination in one
instance, or without the advantage of hereditary honours in another, this
casual subordination, possibly arising from the distribution of property,
or from some other circumstance that bestows unequal degrees of influence,
gives the state its tone, and fixes its character.

The plebeian order at Rome having been long considered as of an inferior
condition, and excluded from the higher offices of magistracy, had
sufficient force, as a body, to get, this invidious distinction removed;
but the individual still acting under the impressions of a subordinate
rank, gave in every competition his suffrage to a patrician, whose
protection he had experienced; and whose personal authority he felt. By
this means the ascendancy of the patrician families was, for a certain
period, as regular as it could be made by the avowed maxims of aristocracy:
but the higher offices of state being gradually shared by plebeians, the
effects of former distinctions were prevented or weakened. The laws that
were made to adjust the pretensions of different orders were easily eluded.
The populace became a faction, and their alliance was the surest road to
dominion. Clodius, by a pretended adoption into a plebeian family, was
qualified to become tribune of the people; and Caesar, by espousing the
cause of this faction, made his way to usurpation and tyranny.

In such fleeting and transient scenes, forms of government are only modes
of proceeding, in, which successive ages differ from one another. Faction
is ever ready to seize all occasional advantages; and mankind, when in
hazard from any party, seldom find a better protection than that of its
rival. Cato united with Pompey in opposition to Caesar, and guarded against
nothing so much as that reconciliation of parties, which was in effect to
be a combination of different leaders against the freedom of the republic.
This illustrious personage stood distinguished in his age like a man among
children, and was raised above his opponents, as much by the justness of
his understanding, and the extent of his penetration, as he was by the
manly fortitude and disinterestedness with which he strove to baffle the
designs of a vain and childish ambition, that was operating to the ruin of

Although free constitutions of government seldom or never take their rise
from the scheme of any single projector, yet are they often preserved by
the vigilance, activity, and zeal of single men. Happy are they who
understand and who choose this object of care; and happy it is for mankind
when it is not chosen too late. It has been reserved to signalize the lives
of a Cato or a Brutus, on the eve of fatal revolutions; to foster in secret
the indignation of Thrasea and Helvidius; and to occupy the reflections of
speculative men in times of corruption. But even in such late and
ineffectual examples, it was happy to know, and to value, an object which
is so important to mankind. The pursuit, and the love of it, however
unsuccessful, has thrown its principal lustre on human nature.



While the mode of subordination is casual, and forms of government take
their rise, chiefly from the manner in which the members of a state have
been originally classed, and from a variety of circumstances that procure
to particular orders of men a sway in their country, there are certain
objects that claim the attention of every government, that lead the
apprehensions and the reasonings of mankind in every society, and that not
only furnish an employment to statesmen, but in some measure direct the
community to those institutions, under the authority of which the
magistrate holds his power. Such are the national defence, the distribution
of justice, the preservation and internal prosperity of the state. If these
objects be neglected, we must apprehend that the very scene in which
parties contend for power, for privilege, or equality, must disappear, and
society itself no longer exist.

The consideration due to these objects will be pleaded in every public
assembly, and will produce, in every political contest, appeals to that
common sense and opinion of mankind, which, struggling with the private
views of individuals, and the claims of party, may be considered as the
great legislator of nations.

The measures required for the attainment of most national objects are
connected together, and must be jointly pursued; they are often the same.
The force which is prepared for defence against foreign enemies, may be
likewise employed to keep the peace at home: the laws made to secure the
rights and liberties of the people, may serve as encouragements to
population and commerce; and every community, without considering how its
objects may be classed or distinguished by speculative men, is, in every
instance, obliged to assume or to retain that form which is best fitted to
preserve its advantages, or to avert its misfortunes.

Nations, however, like private men, have their favourite ends, and their
principal pursuits, which diversify their manners, as well as their
establishments. They even attain to the same ends by different means; and,
like men who make their fortune by different professions, retain the habits
of their principal calling in every condition at which they arrive. The
Romans became wealthy in pursuing their conquests; and probably, for a
certain period, increased the numbers of mankind, while their disposition
to war seemed to threaten the earth with desolation. Some modern nations
proceed to dominion and enlargement on the maxims of commerce; and while
they only intend to accumulate riches at home, continue to gain an imperial
ascendant abroad.

The characters of the warlike and the commercial are variously combined:
they are formed in different degrees by the influence of circumstances,
that more or less frequently give rise to war, and excite the desire of
conquest; of circumstances, that leave a people in quiet to improve their
domestic resources, or to purchase, by the fruits of their industry, from
foreigners, what their own soil and their climate deny.

The members of every community are more or less occupied with matters of
state, in proportion as their constitution admits them to share in the
government, and summons up their attention to objects of a public nature. A
people are cultivated or unimproved in their talents, in proportion as
those talents are employed in the practice of arts, and in the affairs of
society they are improved or corrupted in their manners, in proportion as
they are encouraged and directed to act on the maxims of freedom and
justice, or as they as they are degraded into a state of meanness and
servitude. But whatever advantages are obtained, or whatever evils are
avoided, by nations, in any of these important respects, are generally
considered as mere occasional incidents: they are seldom admitted among the
objects of policy, or entered among the reasons of state.

We hazard being treated with ridicule, when we require political
establishments, merely to cultivate the talents of men, and to inspire then
sentiments of a liberal mind: we must offer some motive of interest, or
some hopes of external advantage, to animate the pursuits, or to direct the
measures, of ordinary men. They would be brave, ingenious, and eloquent,
only from necessity, or for the sake of profit: they magnify the uses of
wealth, population, and the other resources of war; but often forget that
these are of no consequence without the direction of able capacities, and
without the supports of a national vigour. We may expect, therefore, to
find among states the bias to a particular policy taken from the regards to
public safety; from the desire of securing personal freedom or private
property; seldom from the consideration of moral effects, or from a view to
the real improvement of mankind.



When we imagine what the Romans must have felt when the tidings came that
the flower of their city had perished at Cannæ; when we think of what the
orator had in his mind when he said, "That the youth among the people was
like the spring among the seasons;" when we hear of the joy with which the
huntsman and the warrior is adopted, in America, to sustain the honours of
the family and the nation; we are made to feel the most powerful motives to
regard the increase and preservation of our fellow citizens. Interest,
affection, and views of policy, combine to recommend this object; and it is
treated with entire neglect only by the tyrant who mistakes his own
advantage, by the statesman who trifles with the charge committed to his
care, or by the people who are become corrupted, and who consider their
fellow subjects as rivals in interest, and competitors in their lucrative

Among rude societies, and among small communities in general, who are
engaged in frequent struggles and difficulties, the preservation and
increase of their members is a most important object. The American rates
his defeat from the numbers of men he has lost, or he estimates his victory
from the prisoners he has made; not from his having remained the master of
a field, or being driven from a ground on which he encountered his enemy. A
man with whom he can associate in all his pursuits, whom he can embrace as
his friend; in whom he finds an object to his affections, and an aid in his
struggles, is to him the most precious accession of fortune.

Even where the friendship of particular men is out of the question, the
society, being occupied in forming a party that may defend itself, or annoy
its enemy, finds no object of greater moment than the increase of its
numbers. Captives who may be adopted, or children of either sex who may be
reared for the public, are accordingly considered as the richest spoil of
an enemy. The practice of the Romans in admitting the vanquished to share
in the privileges of their city, the rape of the Sabines, and the
subsequent coalition with that people, were not singular or uncommon
examples in the history of mankind. The same policy has been followed, and
was natural and obvious wherever the strength of it state consisted in the
arms of a few, and where men were valued in themselves, without regard to
estate or fortune.

In rude ages, therefore, while mankind subsist in small divisions, it
should appear, that if the earth be thinly peopled, this defect does not
arise from the negligence of those who ought to repair it. It is even
probable, that the most effectual course that could be taken to increase
the species, would be, to prevent the coalition of nations, and to oblige
mankind to act in such small bodies as would make the preservation of their
numbers a principal object of their care. This alone, it is true, would not
be sufficient; we must probably add the encouragement for rearing families,
which mankind enjoy under a favourable policy, and the means of subsistence
which they owe to the practice of arts.

The mother is unwilling to increase her offspring, and is ill provided to
rear them, where she herself is obliged to undergo great hardships in the
search of her food. In North America, we are told, that she joins to the
reserves of a cold or a moderate temperament, the abstinencies to which she
submits, from the consideration of this difficulty. In her apprehension, it
is matter of prudence, and of conscience, to bring one child to the
condition of feeding on venison, and of following on foot, before she will
hazard a new burden in travelling the woods.

In warmer latitudes, by the different temperament, perhaps, which the
climate bestows, and by a greater facility in procuring subsistence, the
numbers of mankind increase, while the object itself is neglected; and the
commerce of the sexes, without any concern for population, is made a
subject of mere debauch. In some places, we are told, it is even made the
object of a barbarous policy, to defeat or to restrain the intentions of
nature. In the island of Formosa, the males are prohibited to marry before
the age of forty; and females, if pregnant before the age of thirty six,
have an abortion procured by order of the magistrate, who employs a
violence that endangers the life of the mother, together with that of the
child. [Footnote: Collection of Dutch Voyages.]

In China the permission given to parents to kill or to expose their
children, was probably meant as a relief from the burden of a numerous
offspring. But notwithstanding what we hear of a practice so repugnant to
the human heart, it has not, probably, the effects in restraining; which it
seems to threaten; but, like many other institutions, has an influence the
reverse of what it seemed to portend. The parents marry with this means of
relief in their view, and the children are saved.

However important the object of population may be held by mankind, it will
be difficult to find, in the history of civil policy, any wise or effectual
establishments, solely calculated to obtain it. The practice of rude or
feeble nations is inadequate, or cannot surmount the obstacles which are
found in their manner of life. The growth of industry, the endeavours of
men to improve their arts, to extend their commerce, to secure their
possessions, and to establish their rights, are indeed the most effectual
means to promote population: but they arise from a different motive; they
arise from regards to interest and personal safety. They are intended for
the benefit of those who exist, not to procure the increase of their

It is, in the mean time, of importance to know, that where a people are
fortunate in their political establishments, and successful in the pursuits
of industry, their population is likely to grow in proportion. Most of the
other devices thought of for this purpose, only serve to frustrate, the
expectations of mankind or to mislead their attention.

In planting a colony, in striving to repair the occasional wastes of
pestilence or war, the immediate contrivance of statesmen may be useful;
but if, in reasoning on the increase of mankind in general, we overlook
their freedom and their happiness, our aids to population become weak and
ineffectual. They only lead us to work on the surface, or to pursue a
shadow, while we neglect the substantial concern; and in a decaying state,
make us tamper with palliatives, while the roots of an evil are suffered to
remain. Octavius revived or enforced the laws that related to population at
Rome; but it may be said of him, and of many sovereigns in a similar
situation, that they administer the poison, while they are devising the
remedy; and bring a damp and a palsy on the principles of life, while they
endeavour, by external applications to the skin; to restore the bloom of a
decayed and sickly body.

It is indeed happy for mankind, that this important object is not always
dependent on the wisdom of sovereigns, or the policy of single men. A
people intent on freedom, find for themselves a condition in which they may
follow the propensities of nature with a more signal effect, than any which
the councils of state could devise. When sovereigns, or projectors, are the
supposed masters of this subject, the best they can do, is to be cautious
of hurting an interest they cannot greatly promote, and of making breaches
they cannot repair.

"When nations were divided into small territories, and petty commonwealths,
where each man had his house and his field to himself, and each county had
its capital free and independent; what a happy situation for mankind," says
Mr. Hume; "how favourable to industry and agriculture, to marriage and to
population!" Yet here were, probably no schemes of the statesman, for
rewarding the married, or for punishing the single; for inviting foreigners
to settle, or for prohibiting the departure of natives. Every citizen
finding a possession secure, and a provision for his heirs, was not
discouraged by the gloomy fears of oppression or want; and where every
other function of nature was free, that which furnished the nursery could
not be restrained. Nature has required the powerful to be just; but she has
not otherwise intrusted the preservation of her works to their visionary
plans. What fuel can the statesman add to the fires of youth? Let him only
not smother it, and the effect is secure. Where we oppress or degrade
mankind with one hand, it is vain, like Octavius, to hold out in the other,
the baits of marriage, or the whip to barrenness. It is vain to invite new
inhabitants from abroad, while those we already possess are made to hold
their tenure with uncertainty; and to tremble, not only under the prospect
of a numerous family, but even under that of a precarious and doubtful
subsistence for themselves. The arbitrary sovereign who has made this the
condition of his subjects, owes the remains of his people to the powerful
instincts of nature, not to any device of his own.

Men will crowd where the situation is tempting, and, in a few generations,
will people every country to the measure of its means of subsistence. They
will even increase under circumstances that portend a decay. The frequent
wars of the Romans, and of many a thriving community; even the pestilence,
and the market for slaves, find their supply, if, without destroying the
source, the drain become regular; and if an issue is made for the
offspring, without unsettling the families from which they arise. Where a
happier provision is made for mankind, the statesman, who by premiums to
marriage, by allurements to foreigners, or by confining the natives at
home, apprehends, that he has made the numbers of his people to grow, is
often like the fly in the fable, who admired its success in turning the
wheel, and in moving the carriage: he has only accompanied what was already
in motion; he has dashed with his oar, to hasten the cataract; and waved
with his fan, to give speed to the winds.

Projects of mighty settlement, and of sudden population, however successful
in the end, are always expensive to mankind. Above a hundred thousand
peasants, we are told, were yearly driven, like so many cattle, to
Petersburgh, in the first attempts to replenish that settlement, and yearly
perished for want of subsistence. [Footnote: Strachlenberg.] The Indian
only attempts to settle in the neighbourhood of the plantain, [Footnote:
Dampier.] and while his family increases, he adds a tree to the walk.

If the plantain, the cocoa, or the palm, were sufficient to maintain an
inhabitant, the race of men in the warmer climates might become as numerous
as the trees of the forest. But in many, parts of the earth, from the
nature of the climate, and the soil, the spontaneous produce being next to
nothing, the means of subsistence are the fruits only of labour and skill.
If a people, while they retain their frugality, increase their industry,
and improve their arts, their numbers must grow in proportion. Hence it is,
that the cultivated fields of Europe are more peopled than the wilds of
America, or the plains of Tartary.

But even the increase of mankind which attends the accumulation of wealth,
has its limits. The _necessary of life_ is a vague and a relative
term: it is one thing in the opinion of the savage; another in that of the
polished citizen: it has a reference to the fancy, and to the habits of
living. While arts improve, and riches increase; while the possessions of
individuals, or their prospects of gain, come up to their opinion of what
is required to settle a family, they enter on its cares with alacrity. But
when the possession, however redundant, falls short of the standard, and a
fortune supposed sufficient for marriage is attained with difficulty,
population is checked, or begins to decline. The citizen, in his own
apprehension, returns to the state of the savage; his children, he thinks,
must perish for want; and he quits a scene overflowing with plenty, because
he has not the fortune which his supposed rank, or his wishes, require. No
ultimate remedy is applied to this evil, by merely accumulating wealth; for
rare and costly materials, whatever these are, continue to be sought; and
if silks and pearl are made common, men will begin to covet some new
decorations, which the wealthy alone can procure. If they are indulged in
their humour, their demands are repeated; for it is the continual increase
of riches, not any measure attained, that keeps the craving imagination at

Men are tempted to labour, and to practise lucrative arts, by motives of
interest. Secure to the workman the fruit of his labour, give him the
prospects of independence or freedom, the public has found a faithful
minister in the acquisition of wealth, and a faithful steward in hoarding
what he has gained. The statesman, in this, as in the case of population
itself, can do little more than avoid doing mischief. It is well, if, in
the beginnings of commerce, he knows how to repress the frauds to which it
is subject. Commerce, if continued, is the branch in which men, committed
to the effects of their own experience, are least apt to go wrong.

The trader, in rude ages, is short sighted, fraudulent and mercenary; but
in the progress and advanced state of his art, his views are enlarged, his
maxims are established: he becomes punctual, liberal, faithful, and
enterprising; and in the period of general corruption, he alone has every
virtue, except the force to defend his acquisitions. He needs no aid from
the state, but its protection; and is often in himself its most intelligent
and respectable member. Even in China, we are informed, where pilfering,
fraud, and corruption, are the reigning practice with all the other orders
of men, the great merchant is ready to give, and to procure confidence:
while his countrymen act on the plans, and under the restrictions, of a
police adjusted to knaves, he acts on the reasons of trade, and the maxims
of mankind.

If population be connected with national wealth, liberty and personal
security is the great foundation of both: and if this foundation be laid in
the state, nature has secured the increase and industry of its members; the
one by desires the most ardent in the human frame, the other by a
consideration the most uniform and constant of any that possesses the mind.
The great object of policy, therefore, with respect to both, is, to secure
to the family its means of subsistence and settlement; to protect the
industrious in the pursuit of his occupation; to reconcile the restrictions
of police, and the social affections of mankind, with their separate and
interested pursuits.

In matters of particular profession, industry, and trade, the experienced
practitioner is the master, and every general reasoner is a novice. The
object in commerce is to make the individual rich; the more he gains for
himself, the more he augments the wealth of his country. If a protection be
required, it must be granted; if crimes and frauds be committed, they must
be repressed; and government can pretend to no more. When the refined
politician would lend an active hand, he only multiplies interruptions and
grounds of complaint; when the merchant forgets his own interest to lay
plans for his country, the period of vision and chimera is near, and the
solid basis of commerce withdrawn. He might be told, that while he pursues
his advantage, and gives no cause of complaint, the interest of commerce is

The general police of France, proceeding on a supposition, that the
exportation of corn must drain the country where it has grown, had, till of
late, laid that branch of commerce under a severe prohibition. The English
landholder and the farmer had credit enough to obtain a premium for
exportation, to favour the sale of their commodity; and the event has
shown, that private interest is a better patron of commerce and plenty,
than the refinements of state. One nation lays the refined plan of a
settlement on the continent of North America, and trusts little to the
conduct of traders and shortsighted men: another leaves men to find their
own position in a state of freedom, and to think for themselves. The active
industry and the limited views of the one, made a thriving settlement; the
great projects of the other were still in idea.

But I willingly quit a subject in which I am not much conversant, and still
less engaged by the object for which I write. Speculations on commerce and
wealth have been delivered by the ablest writers; and the public will
probably soon be furnished with a theory of national economy, equal to what
has ever appeared on any subject of science whatever. [Footnote: Mr. Smith,
author of the Theory of Moral Sentiment] But in the view which I have taken
of human affairs, nothing seems more important than the general caution
which the authors to whom I refer so well understand, not to consider these
articles as making the sum of national felicity, or the principal object of
any state. In science we consider our objects apart; in practice it were an
error not to have them all in our view at once.

One nation, in search of gold and of precious metals, neglect the domestic
sources of wealth; and become dependent on their neighbours for the
necessaries of life: another so intent on improving their internal
resources, and on increasing their commerce, that they become dependent on
foreigners for the defence of what they acquire. It is even painful in
conversation to find the interest of merchants give the tone to our
reasonings, and to find a subject perpetually offered as the great business
of national councils, to which any interposition of government is seldom,
with propriety, applied, or never, beyond the protection it affords.

We complain of a want of public spirit; but whatever may be the effect of
this error in practice, in speculation it is none of our faults: we reason
perpetually for the public; but the want of national views were frequently
better than the possession of those we express: we would have nations, like
a company of merchants, think of nothing but monopolies, and the profit of
trade, and, like them too, intrust their protection to a force which they
do not possess in themselves.

Because men, like other animals, are maintained in multitudes, where the
necessaries of life are amassed, and the store of wealth is enlarged, we
drop our regards for the happiness, the moral and political character of a
people; and, anxious for the herd we would propagate, carry our views no
farther than the stall and the pasture. We forget that the few have often
made a prey of the many; that to the poor there is nothing so enticing as
the coffers of the rich; and that when the price of freedom comes to be
paid, the heavy sword of the victor may fall into the opposite scale.

Whatever be the actual conduct of nations in this matter, it is certain,
that many of our arguments would hurry us, for the sake of wealth and of
population, into a scene where mankind, being exposed to corruption, are
unable to defend their possessions; and where they are, in the end, subject
to oppression and ruin. We cut off the roots, while we would extend the
branches, and thicken the foliage.

It is possibly from an opinion that the virtues of men are secure, that
some, who turn their attention to public affairs, think of nothing but the
numbers and wealth of a people: it is from a dread of corruption, that
others think of nothing but how to preserve the national virtues. Human
society has great obligations to both. They are opposed to one another only
by mistake; and even when united, have not strength sufficient to combat
the wretched party, that refers every object to personal interest, and that
cares not for the safety or increase of any stock but its own.



It is impossible to ascertain how much of the policy of any state has a
reference to war, or to national safety. "Our legislator," says the Cretan
in Plato, "thought that nations were by nature in a state of hostility: he
took his measures accordingly; and observing that all the possessions of
the vanquished pertain to the victor, he held it ridiculous to propose any
benefit to his country, before he had provided that it should not be

Crete, which is supposed to have been a model of military policy, is
commonly considered as the original from which the celebrated laws of
Lycurgus were copied. Mankind, it seems, in every instance, must have some
palpable object to direct their proceedings, and must have a view to some
point of external utility, even in the choice of their virtues. The
discipline of Sparta was military; and a sense of its use in the field,
more than the force of unwritten and traditionary laws, or the supposed
engagement of the public faith obtained by the lawgiver, may have induced
this people to persevere in the observance of many rules, which to other
nations do not appear necessary, except in the presence of an enemy.

Every institution of this singular people gave a lesson of obedience, of
fortitude, and of zeal for the public: but it is remarkable that they chose
to obtain, by their virtues alone, what other nations are fain to buy with
their treasure; and it is well known, that, in the course of their history,
they came to regard their discipline merely on account of its moral
effects. They had experienced the happiness of a mind courageous,
disinterested, and devoted to its best affections; and they studied to
preserve this character in themselves, by resigning the interests of
ambition, and the hopes of military glory, even by sacrificing the numbers
of their people.

It was the fate of Spartans who escaped from the field, not of those who
perished with Cleombrotus at Leuctra, that filled the cottages of Lacedemon
with mourning and serious reflection: [Footnote: Xenophon.] it was the fear
of having their citizens corrupted abroad, by intercourse with servile and
mercenary men, that made them quit the station of leaders in the Persian
war, and leave Athens, during fifty years, to pursue, unrivalled, that
career of ambition and profit, by which she made such acquisitions of power
and of wealth. [Footnote: Thucydides, Book I.]

We have had occasion to observe, that in every rude state the great
business is war; and that in barbarous times, mankind being generally
divided into small parties, are engaged in almost perpetual hostilities.
This circumstance gives the military leader a continued ascendant in his
country, and inclines every people, during warlike ages, to monarchical

The conduct of an army can least of all subjects be divided: and we may be
justly surprised to find that the Romans, after many ages of military
experience, and after having recently felt the arms of Hannibal in many
encounters, associated two leaders at the head of the same army, and left
them to adjust their pretensions, by taking the command, each a day in his
turn. The same people, however, on other occasions, thought it expedient to
suspend the exercise of every subordinate magistracy, and in the time of
great alarms, to intrust all the authority of the state in the hands of one

Republics have generally found it necessary, in the conduct of war, to
place great confidence in the executive branch of their government. When a
consul at Rome had proclaimed his levies, and administered the military
oath, he became from that moment master of the public treasury, and of the
lives of those who were under his command. [Footnote: Polybius.] The axe
and the rods were no longer a mere badge of magistracy, or an empty
pageant, in the hands of the lictor; they were, at the command of the
father, stained with the blood of his own children; and fell, without
appeal, on the mutinous and disobedient of every condition.

In every free state, there is a perpetual necessity to distinguish the
maxims of martial law from those of the civil; and he who has not learned
to give an implicit obedience, where the state has given him a military
leader, and to resign his personal freedom in the field, from the same
magnanimity with which he maintains it in the political deliberations of
his country, has yet to learn the most important lesson of civil society,
and is only fit to occupy a place in a rude, or in a corrupted state, where
the principles of mutiny and of servility being joined, the one or the
other is frequently adopted in the wrong place.

From a regard to what is necessary in war, nations inclined to popular or
aristocratical government, have had recourse to establishments that
bordered on monarchy. Even where the highest office of the state was in
common times administered by a plurality of persons, the whole power and
authority belonging to it was, on particular occasions, committed to one;
and upon great alarms, when the political fabric was shaken or endangered,
a monarchical power has been applied, like a prop, to secure the state
against the rage of the tempest. Thus were the dictators occasionally named
at Rome, and the stadtholders in the United Provinces; and thus, in mixed
governments, the royal prerogative is occasionally enlarged, by the
temporary suspension of laws, [Footnote: In Britain, by the suspension of
the _Habeas Corpus_.] and the barriers of liberty appear to be
removed, in order to vest a dictatorial power in the hands of the king.

Had mankind, therefore, no view but to warfare, it is probable that they
would continue to prefer monarchical government to any other; or at least
that every nation, in order to procure secret and united councils, would
intrust the executive power with unlimited authority. But happily for civil
society, men have objects of a different sort: and experience has taught,
that although the conduct of armies requires an absolute and undivided
command; yet a national force is best formed, where numbers of men are
inured to equality; and where the meanest citizen may consider himself,
upon occasion, as destined to command as well as to obey. It is here that
the dictator finds a spirit and a force prepared to second his councils; it
is here too that the dictator himself is formed, and that numbers of
leaders are presented to the public choice; it is here that the prosperity
of a state is independent of single men, and that a wisdom which never
dies, with a system of military arrangements permanent and regular, can,
even under the greatest misfortunes, prolong the national struggle. With
this advantage the Romans, finding a number of distinguished leaders arise
in succession, were at all times almost equally prepared to contend with
their enemies of Asia or Africa; while the fortune of those enemies, on the
contrary, depended on the casual appearance of singular men, of a
Mithridates, or of a Hannibal.

The soldier, we are told, has his point of honour, and a fashion of
thinking, which he wears with his sword. This point of honour, in free and
uncorrupted states, is a zeal for the public; and war to them is an
operation of passions, not the mere pursuit of a calling. Its good and its
ill effects are felt in extremes: the friend is made to experience the
warmest proofs of attachment, the enemy the severest effects of animosity.
On this system the celebrated nations of antiquity made war under their
highest attainments of civility, and under their greatest degrees of

In small and rude societies, the individual finds himself attacked in every
national war; and none can propose to devolve his defence on another. "The
king of Spain is a great prince," said an American chief to the governor of
Jamaica, who was preparing a body of troops to join in an enterprise
against the Spaniards: "Do you propose to make war upon so great a king
with so small a force?" Being told that the forces he saw were to be joined
by troops from Europe, and that the governor could then command no more:
"Who are these then," said the American, "who form this crowd of
spectators? Are they not your people? And why do you not all go forth to so
great a war?" He was answered, that the spectators were merchants, and
other inhabitants, who took no part in the service: "Would they be
merchants still," continued this statesman, "if the king of Spain, was to
attack you here? For my part, I do not think that merchants should be
permitted to live in any country: when I go to war, I leave nobody at home
but the women." It should seem that this simple warrior considered
merchants as a kind of neutral persons, who took no part in the quarrels of
their country; and that he did not know how much war itself may be made a
subject of traffic; what mighty armies may be put in motion from behind the
counter; how often human blood is, without any national animosity, bought
and sold for bills of exchange; and how often the prince, the nobles, and
the statesmen, in many a polished nation, might, in his account, be
considered as merchants.

In the progress of arts and of policy, the members of every state are
divided into classes; and in the commencement of this distribution, there
is no distinction more serious than that of the warrior and the pacific
inhabitant; no more is required to place men in the relation of master and
slave. Even when the rigours of an established slavery abate, as they have
done in modern Europe, in consequence of a protection, and a property,
allowed to the mechanic and labourer, this distinction serves still to
separate the noble from the base, and to point out that class of men who
are destined to reign and to domineer in their country.

It was certainty never foreseen by mankind, that, in the pursuit of
refinement, they were to reverse this order; or even that they were to
place the government, and the military force of nations, in different
hands. But is it equally unforeseen, that the former order may again take
place? And that the pacific citizen, however distinguished by privilege and
rank, must one day bow to the person with whom he has intrusted his sword?
If such revolutions should actually follow, will this new master revive in
his own order the spirit of the noble and the free? Will he renew the
characters of the warrior and the statesman? Will he restore to his country
the civil and military virtues? I am afraid to reply. Montesquieu observes,
that the government of Rome, even under the emperors, became, in the hands
of the troops, elective and republican: but the Fabii or the Bruti were
heard of no more after the praetorian bands became the republic.

We have enumerated some of the heads under which a people, as they emerge
from barbarity, may come to be classed. Such are, the nobility, the people,
the adherents of the prince; and even the priesthood have not been
forgotten; when we arrive at times of refinement, the army must be joined
to the list. The departments of civil government and of war being severed,
and the pre-eminence being given to the statesman, the ambitious will
naturally devolve the military service on those who are contented with a
subordinate station. They who have the greatest share in the division of
fortune, and the greatest interest in defending their country, having
resigned the sword, must pay for what they have ceased to perform; and
armies, not only at a distance from home, but in the very bosom of their
country, are subsisted by pay. A discipline is invented to inure the
soldier to perform, from habit, and from the fear of punishment, those
hazardous duties, which the love of the public, or a national spirit, no
longer inspire.

When we consider the breach that such an establishment makes in the system
of national virtues, it is unpleasant to observe, that most nations who
have run the career of civil arts, have, in some degree, adopted this
measure. Not only states, which either have wars to maintain, or precarious
possessions to defend at a distance; not only a prince jealous of his
authority, or in haste to gain the advantage of discipline, are disposed to
employ foreign troops, or to keep standing armies; but even republics, with
little of the former occasion, and none of the motives which prevail in
monarchy, have been found to tread in the same path. If military
arrangements occupy so considerable a place in the domestic policy of
nations, the actual consequences of war are equally important in the
history of mankind. Glory and spoil were the earliest subject of quarrels:
a concession of superiority, or a ransom, were the prices of peace. The
love of safety, and the desire of dominion, equally lead mankind to wish
for accessions of strength. Whether as victors or as vanquished, they tend
to a coalition; and powerful nations considering a province, or a fortress
acquired on their frontier, as so much gained, are perpetually intent on
extending their limits.

The maxims of conquest are not always to be distinguished from those of
self defence. If a neighbouring state be dangerous, if it be frequently
troublesome, it is a maxim founded in the consideration of safety, as well
as of conquest, that it ought to be weakened or disarmed: if, being once
reduced, it be disposed to renew the contest, it must from thenceforward be
governed in form. Rome never avowed any other maxims of conquest; and she
every where sent her insolent armies under the specious pretence of
procuring to herself and her allies a lasting peace, which she alone would
reserve the power to disturb.

The equality of those alliances which the Grecian states formed against
each other, maintained, for a time, their independence and separation; and
that time was the shining and the happy period of their story. It was
prolonged more by the vigilance and conduct which they severally applied,
than by the moderation of their councils, or by any peculiarities of
domestic policy which arrested their progress. The victors were sometimes
contented, with merely changing to a resemblance of their own forms, the
government of the states they subdued. What the next step might have been
in the progress of impositions, is hard to determine. But when we consider,
that one party fought for the imposition of tributes, another for the
ascendant in war, it cannot be doubted, that the Athenians, from a national
ambition, and from the desire of wealth; and the Spartans, though they
originally only meant to defend themselves, and their allies, were both, at
last, equally willing to become the masters of Greece; and were preparing
for each other at home that yoke, which both, together with their
confederates, were obliged to receive from abroad.

In the conquests of Philip, the desire of self-preservation and security
seemed to be blended with the ambition natural to princes. He turned his
arms successively to the quarters on which he found himself hurt, from
which he had been alarmed or provoked; and when he had subdued the Greeks,
he proposed to lead them against their ancient enemy of Persia. In this he
laid the plan which was carried into execution by his son.

The Romans, become the masters of Italy, and the conquerors of Carthage,
had been alarmed on the side of Macedon, and were led to cross a new sea in
search of a new field, on which to exercise their military force. In
prosecution of their wars, from the earliest to the latest date of their
history, without intending the very conquest they made, perhaps without
foreseeing what advantage they were to reap from the subjection of distant
provinces, or in what manner they were to govern their new acquisitions,
they still proceeded to seize what came successively within their reach;
and, stimulated by a policy which engaged them in perpetual wars, which led
to perpetual victory and accessions of territory, they extended the
frontier of a state, which, but a few centuries before, had been confined
within the skirts of a village, to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Weser,
the Forth, and the Ocean.

It is vain to affirm that the genius of any nation is adverse to conquest.
Its real interests indeed most commonly are so; but every state, which is
prepared to defend itself, and to obtain victories, is likewise in hazard
of being tempted to conquer.

In Europe, where mercenary and disciplined armies are everywhere formed,
and ready to traverse the earth, where, like a flood pent up by slender
banks, they are only restrained by political forms, or a temporary balance
of power; if the sluices should break, what inundations may we not expect
to behold? Effeminate kingdoms and empires are spread from the sea of Corea
to the Atlantic ocean. Every state, by the defeat of its troops, may be
turned into a province; every army opposed in the field today may be hired
to-morrow; and every victory gained, may give the accession of a new
military force to the victor.

The Romans, with inferior arts of communication by sea and land, maintained
their dominion in a considerable part of Europe, Asia, and Africa, over
fierce and intractable nations: what may not the fleets and armies of
Europe, with the access they have by commerce to every part of the world,
and the facility of their conveyance, effect, if that ruinous maxim should
prevail, that the grandeur of a nation is to be estimated from the extent
of its territory; or, that the interest of any particular people consists
in reducing their neighbours to servitude?



If war, either for depredation or, defence, were the principal object of
nations, every tribe would, from its earliest state, aim at the condition
of a Tartar horde; and in all its successes would hasten to the grandeur of
a Tartar empire. The military leader would supersede the civil magistrate;
and preparations to fly with all their possessions, or to pursue with all
their forces, would in every society make the sum of their public

He who first, on the banks of the Wolga, or the Jenisca, had taught the
Scythian to mount the horse, to move his cottage on wheels, to harass his
enemy alike by his attacks and his flights, to handle at full speed the
lance and the bow, and when beat from his ground, to leave his arrows in
the wind to meet his pursuer; he who had taught his countrymen to use the
same animal for every purpose of the dairy, the shambles, and the field of
battle; would be esteemed the founder of his nation; or like Ceres and
Bacchus among the Greeks, would be invested with the honours of a god, as
the reward of his useful inventions. Amidst such institutions, the names
and achievements of Hercules and Jason might have been transmitted to
posterity; but those of Lycurgus or Solon, the heroes of political society,
could have gained no reputation, either fabulous or real, in the records of

Every tribe of warlike barbarians may entertain among themselves the
strongest sentiments of affection and honour, while they carry to the rest
of mankind the aspect of banditti and robbers. [Footnote: D'Arvieux's
History of the Arabs.] They may be indifferent to interest, and superior to
danger; but our sense of humanity, our regard to the rights of nations, our
admiration of civil wisdom and justice, even our effeminacy itself, make us
turn away with contempt, or with horror, from a scene which exhibits so few
of our good qualities, and which serves so much to reproach our weakness.

It is in conducting the affairs of civil society, that mankind find the
exercise of their best talents, as well as the object of their best
affections. It is in being grafted on the advantages of civil society, that
the art of war is brought to perfection; that the resources of armies, and
the complicated springs to be touched in their conduct, are best
understood. The most celebrated warriors were also citizens: opposed to a
Roman, or a Greek, the chieftain of Thrace, of Germany, or Gaul, was a
novice. The native of Pella learned the principles of his art from
Epaminondas and Pelopidas.

If nations, as hath been observed in the preceding section, must adjust
their policy on the prospect of war from abroad, they are equally bound to
provide for the attainment of peace at home. But there is no peace in the
absence of justice. It may subsist with divisions, disputes, and contrary
opinions; but not with the commission of wrongs. The injurious, and the
injured, are, as implied in the very meaning of the terms, in a state of

Where men enjoy peace, they owe it either to their mutual regards and
affections, or to the restraints of law. Those are the happiest states
which procure peace to their members by the first of these methods: but it
is sufficiently uncommon to procure it even by the second. The first would
withhold the occasions of war and of competition; the second adjusts the
pretensions of men by stipulations and treaties. Sparta taught her citizens
not to regard interest: other free nations secure the interest of their
members, and consider this as a principal part of their rights.

Law is the treaty to which members of the same community have agreed, and
under which the magistrate and the subject continue to enjoy their rights,
and to maintain the peace of society. The desire of lucre is the great
motive to injuries: law therefore has a principal reference to property. It
would ascertain the different methods by which property may be acquired, as
by prescription, conveyance, and succession; and it makes the necessary
provisions for rendering the possession of property secure.

Beside avarice, there are other motives from which men are unjust; such as
pride, malice, envy, and revenge. The law would eradicate the principles
themselves, or at least prevent their effects.

From whatever motive wrongs are committed, there are different particulars
in which the injured may suffer. He may suffer in his goods, in his person,
or in the freedom of his conduct. Nature has made him master of every
action which is not injurious to others. The laws of his particular society
entitle him perhaps to a determinate station, and bestow on, him a certain
share in the government of his country. An injury, therefore, which in this
respect puts him under any unjust restraint, may be called an infringement
of his political rights.

Where the citizen is supposed to have rights of property and of station,
and is protected in the exercise of them, he is said to be free; and the
very restraints by which he is hindered from the commission of crimes, are
a part of his liberty. No person is free, where any person is suffered to
do wrong with impunity. Even the despotic prince on his throne, is not an
exception to this general rule. He himself is a slave, the moment he
pretends that force should decide any contest. The disregard he throws on
the rights of his people recoils on himself; and in the general uncertainty
of all conditions, there is no tenure more precarious than his own.

From the different particulars to which men refer, in speaking of liberty,
whether to the safety of the person and the goods, the dignity of rank, or
the participation of political importance, as well as from the different
methods by which their rights are secured, they are led to differ in the
interpretation of the very term; and every free nation is apt to suppose,
that freedom is to be found only among themselves; they measure it by their
own peculiar habits and system of manners.

Some having thought, that the unequal distribution of wealth is a
grievance, required a new division of property as the foundation of public
justice. This scheme is suited to democratical government; and in such only
it has been admitted with any degree of effect.

New settlements, like that of the people of Israel, and singular
establishments, like those of Sparta and Crete, have furnished examples of
its actual execution; but in most other states, even the democratical
spirit could attain no more than to prolong the struggle for Agrarian laws;
to procure, on occasion, the expunging of debts; and to keep the people in
mind, under all the distinctions of fortune, that they still had a claim to

The citizen at Rome, at Athens, and in many republics, contended for
himself, and his order. The Agrarian law was moved and debated for ages: it
served to awaken the mind; it nourished the spirit of equality, and
furnished a field on which to exert its force; but was never established
with any of its other and more formal effects.

Many of the establishments which serve to defend the weak from oppression,
contribute, by securing the possession of property, to favour its unequal
division, and to increase the ascendant of those from whom the abuses of
power may be feared. Those abuses were felt very early both at Athens and
Rome. [Footnote: Plutarch in the Life of Solon. Livy.]

It has been proposed to prevent the excessive accumulation of wealth in
particular hands, by limiting the increase of private fortunes, by
prohibiting entails, and by withholding the right of primogeniture in the
succession of heirs. It has been proposed to prevent the ruin of moderate
estates, and to restrain the use, and consequently the desire of great
ones, by sumptuary laws. These different methods are more or less
consistent with the interests of commerce, and may be adopted, in different
degrees, by a people whose national object is wealth: and they have their
degree of effect, by inspiring moderation, or a sense of equality, and by
stifling the passions by which mankind are prompted to mutual wrongs.

It appears to be, in a particular manner, the object of sumptuary laws, and
of the equal division of wealth, to prevent the gratification of vanity, to
check the ostentation of superior fortune, and, by this means, to weaken
the desire of riches, and to preserve, in the breast of the citizen, that
moderation and equity which ought to regulate his conduct.

This end is never perfectly attained in any state where the unequal
division of property is admitted, and where fortune is allowed to bestow
distinction and rank. It is indeed difficult, by any methods whatever, to
shut up this source of corruption. Of all the nations whose history is
known with certainty, the design itself, and the manner of executing it,
appear to have been understood in Sparta alone.

There property was indeed acknowledged by law; but in consequence of
certain regulations and practices, the most effectual, it seems, that
mankind have hitherto found out. The manners that prevail among simple
nations before the establishment of property, were in some measure
preserved; [Footnote: See Part II. Sec. 2.] the passion for riches was,
during many ages, suppressed; and the citizen was made to consider himself
as the property of his country, not as the owner of a private estate.

It was held ignominious either to buy or to sell the patrimony of a
citizen. Slaves were, in every family, intrusted with the care of its
effects, and freemen were strangers to lucrative arts; justice was
established on a contempt of the ordinary allurement to crimes; and the
preservatives of civil liberty applied by the state, were the dispositions
that were made to prevail in the hearts of its members.

The individual was relieved from every solicitude that could arise on the
head of his fortune; he was educated, and he was employed for life in the
service of the public; he was fed at a place of common resort, to which he
could carry no distinction but that of his talents and his virtues; his
children were the wards and the pupils of the state; he himself was thought
to be a parent, and a director to the youth of his country, not the anxious
father of a separate family.

This people, we are told, bestowed some care in adorning their persons, and
were known from afar by the red or the purple they wore; but could not make
their equipage, their buildings, or their furniture, a subject of fancy, or
what we call taste. The carpenter and the housebuilder were restricted to
the use of the axe and the saw: their workmanship must have been simple,
and probably, in respect to its form, continued for ages the same. The
ingenuity of the artist was employed in cultivating his own nature, not in
adorning the habitations of his fellow citizens.

On this plan, they had senators, magistrates, leaders of armies, and
ministers of state; but no men of fortune. Like the heroes of Homer, they
distributed honours by the measure of the cup and the platter. A citizen
who, in his political capacity, was the arbiter of Greece, thought himself
honoured by receiving a double portion of plain entertainment at supper. He
was active, penetrating, brave, disinterested, and generous; but his
estate, his table, and his furniture might, in our esteem, have marred the
lustre of all his virtues. Neighbouring nations, however, applied for
commanders to this nursery of statesmen and warriors, as we apply for the
practitioners of every art to the countries in which they excel; for cooks
to France, and for musicians to Italy.

After all, we are, perhaps, not sufficiently instructed in the nature of
the Spartan laws and institutions, to understand in what manner all the
ends of this singular state were obtained; but the admiration paid to its
people, and the constant reference of contemporary historians to their
avowed superiority, will not allow us to question the facts. "When I
observed," says Xenophon, "that this nation, though not the most populous,
was the most powerful state of Greece, I was seized with wonder, and with
an earnest desire to know by what arts it attained its pre-eminence; but
when I came to the knowledge of its institutions, my wonder ceased. As one
man excels another, and as he who is at pains to cultivate his mind, must
surpass the person who neglects it; so the Spartans should excel every,
nation, being the only state in which virtue is studied as the object of

The subjects of property, considered with a view to subsistence, or even to
enjoyment, have little effect in corrupting mankind, or in awakening the
spirit of competition and of jealousy; but considered with a view to
distinction and honour, where fortune constitutes rank, they excite the
most vehement passions, and absorb all the sentiments of the human soul:
they reconcile avarice and meanness with ambition and vanity; and lead men
through the practice of sordid and mercenary arts, to the possession of a
supposed elevation and dignity.

Where this source of corruption, on the contrary, is effectually stopped,
the citizen is dutiful, and the magistrate upright; any form of government
may be wisely, administered; places of trust are likely to be well
supplied; and by whatever rule office and power are bestowed, it is likely
that all the capacity and force that subsists in the state will come to be
employed in its service: for on this supposition, experience and abilities
are the only guides, and the only titles to public confidence; and if
citizens be ranged into separate classes, they become mutual checks by the
difference of their opinions, not by the opposition of their interested

We may easily account for the censures bestowed on the government of
Sparta, by those who considered it merely on the side of its forms. It was
not calculated to prevent the practice of crimes, by balancing against each
other the selfish and partial dispositions of men; but to inspire the
virtues of the soul, to procure innocence by the absence of criminal
inclinations, and to derive its internal peace from the indifference of its
members to the ordinary motives of strife and disorder. It were trifling to
seek for its analogy to any other constitution of state, in which its
principal characteristic and distinguishing feature is not to be found.
The collegiate sovereignty, the senate, and the ephori, had their
counterparts in other republics, and a resemblance has been found in
particular to the government of Carthage: [Footnote: Aristotle.] but what
affinity of consequence can be found between a state whose sole object was
virtue, and another whose principal object was wealth; between a people
whose associated kings, being lodged, in the same cottage, had no fortune
but their daily food; and a commercial republic, in which a proper estate
was required as a necessary qualification for the higher offices of state?

Other petty commonwealths expelled kings, when they became jealous of their
designs, or after having experienced their tyranny; here the hereditary
succession of kings was preserved: other states were afraid of the
intrigues and cabals of their members in competition for dignities; here
solicitation was required as the only condition upon which a place in the
senate was obtained. A supreme inquisitorial power was, in the persons of
the ephori, safely committed to a few men, who were drawn by lot, and
without distinction, from every order of the people: and if a contrast to
this, as well as to many other articles of the Spartan policy, be required,
it may be found in the general history of mankind.

But Sparta, under every supposed error of its form, prospered for ages, by
the integrity of its manners, and by the character of its citizens. When
that integrity was broken, this people did not languish in the weakness of
nations sunk in effeminacy. They fell into the stream by which other states
had been carried in the torrent of violent passions, and in the outrage of
barbarous times. They ran the career of other nations, after that of
ancient Sparta was finished they built walls, and began to improve their
possessions, after they ceased to improve their people; and on this new
plan, in their struggle for political life, they survived the system of
states that perished under the Macedonian dominion: they lived to act with
another which arose in the Achæan league; and were the last community of
Greece that became a village in the empire of Rome.

If it should be thought we have dwelt too long on the history of this
singular people, it may be remembered, in excuse, that they alone, in the
language of Xenophon, made virtue an object of state.

We must be contented to derive our freedom from a different source: to
expect justice from the limits which are set to the powers of the
magistrate, and to rely for protection on the laws which are made to secure
the estate and the person of the subject. We live in societies, where men
must be rich, in order to be great; where pleasure itself is often pursued
from vanity; where the desire of a supposed happiness serves to inflame the
worst of passions, and is itself the foundation of misery; where public
justice, like fetters applied to the body, may, without inspiring the
sentiments of candour and equity, prevent the actual commission of crimes.

Mankind come under this description the moment they are seized with their
passion for riches and power. But their description in every instance is
mixed: in the best there is an alloy of evil; in the worst, a mixture of
good. Without any establishments to preserve their manners, besides penal
laws, and the restraints of police, they derive, from instinctive feelings,
a love of integrity and candour, and from the very contagion of society
itself, an esteem for what is honourable and praiseworthy. They derive,
from their union and joint opposition to foreign enemies, a zeal for their
own community, and courage to maintain its rights. If the frequent neglect
of virtue, as a political object, tend to discredit the understandings of
men, its lustre, and its frequency, as a spontaneous offspring of the
heart, will restore the honours of our nature.

In every casual and mixed state of the national manners, the safety of
every individual, and his political consequence, depends much on himself,
but more on the party to which he is joined. For this reason, all who feel
a common interest, are apt to unite in parties; and, as far as that
interest requires, mutually support each other.

Where the citizens of any free community are of different orders, each
order has a peculiar set of claims and pretensions: relatively to the other
members of the state, it is a party; relatively to the differences of
interest among its own members, it may admit of numberless subdivisions.
But in every state there are two interests very readily apprehended; that
of a prince and his adherents, that of a nobility, or of any temporary
faction, opposed to the people.

Where the sovereign power is reserved by the collected body, it appears
unnecessary to think of additional establishments for securing the rights
of the citizen. But it is difficult, if not impossible, for the collective
body to exercise this power in a manner that supersedes the necessity of
every other political caution.

If popular assemblies assume every function of government; and if, in the
same tumultuous manner in which they can, with great propriety, express
their feelings, the sense of their rights, and their animosity to foreign
or domestic enemies, they pretend to deliberate on points of national
conduct, or to decide questions of equity and justice; the public is
exposed to manifold inconveniencies; and popular governments would, of all
others, be the most subject to errors in administration, and to weakness in
the execution of public measures.

To avoid these disadvantages, the people are always contented to delegate
part of their power. They establish a senate to debate, and to prepare, if
not to determine, questions that are brought to the collective body for a
final resolution. They commit the executive power to some council of this
sort, or to a magistrate who presides in their meetings. Under the use of
this necessary and common expedient, even while democratical forms are most
carefully guarded, there is one party of the few, another of the many. One
attacks, the other defends; and they are both ready to assume in their
turns. But though, in reality, a great danger to liberty arises on the part
of the people themselves, who, in times of corruption, are easily made the
instruments of usurpation and tyranny; yet, in the ordinary aspect of
government, the executive carries an air of superiority, and the rights of
the people seem always exposed to encroachment.

Though, on the day that the Roman people were assembled, the senators mixed
with the crowd, and the consul was no more than the servant of the
multitude; yet, when this awful meeting was dissolved, the senators met to
prescribe business for their sovereign, and the consul went armed with the
axe and the rods, to teach every Roman, in his separate capacity, the
submission which he owed to the state.

Thus, even where the collective body is sovereign, they are assembled only
occasionally; and though, on such occasions, they determine every question
relative to their rights and their interests as a people, and can assert
their freedom with irresistible force; yet they do not think themselves,
nor are they in reality, safe, without a more constant and more uniform
power operating in their favour.

The multitude is every where strong; but requires, for the safety of its
members, when separate as well as when assembled, a head to direct and to
employ its strength. For this purpose, the ephori, we are told, were
established at Sparta, the council of a hundred at Carthage, and the
tribunes at Rome. So prepared, the popular party has, in many instances,
been able to cope with its adversaries, and has even trampled on the
powers, whether aristocratical or monarchical, with which it would have
been otherwise unable to contend. The state, in such cases, commonly
suffered by the delays, interruptions, and confusions, which popular
leaders, from private envy, or a prevailing jealousy of the great, seldom
failed to create in the proceedings of government.

Where the people, as in some larger communities, have only a share in the
legislature, they cannot overwhelm the collateral powers, who having
likewise a share, are in condition to defend themselves: where they act
only by their representatives, their force may be uniformly employed. And
they may make a part in a constitution of government more lasting than any
of those in which the people, possessing or pretending to the entire
legislature, are, when assembled, the tyrants, and, when dispersed, the
slaves of a distempered state. In governments properly mixed, the popular
interest, finding a counterpoise in that of the prince or of the nobles, a
balance is actually established between them, in which the public freedom
and the public order are made to consist.

From some such casual arrangement of different interests, all the varieties
of mixed government proceed; and on that degree of consideration which
every separate interest can procure to itself, depends the equity of the
laws they enact, and the necessity they are able to impose, of adhering
strictly to the terms of law in its execution. States are accordingly
unequally qualified to conduct the business of legislation, and unequally
fortunate in the completeness, and regular observance, of their civil code.

In democratical establishments, citizens, feeling themselves possessed of
the sovereignty, are not equally anxious, with the subjects of other
governments, to have their rights explained, or secured, by actual statute.
They trust to personal vigour, to the support of party, and to the sense of
the public.

If the collective body perform the office of judge, as well as of
legislator, they seldom think of devising rules for their own direction,
and are found still more seldom to follow any determinate rule, after it is
made. They dispense, at one time, with what they enacted at another; and in
their judicative, perhaps even more than in their legislative, capacity,
are guided by passions and partialities that arise from circumstances of
the case before them.

But under the simplest governments of a different sort, whether aristocracy
or monarchy, there is a necessity for law, and there are a variety of
interests to be adjusted in framing every statute. The sovereign wishes to
give stability and order to administration, by express and promulgated
rules. The subject wishes to know the conditions and limits of his duty. He
acquiesces or he revolts, according as the terms on which he is made to
live with the sovereign, or with his fellow subjects, are, or are not,
consistent with the sense of his rights.

Neither the monarch, nor the council of nobles, where either is possessed
of the sovereignty, can pretend to govern, or to judge at discretion. No
magistrate, whether temporary or hereditary, can with safety neglect that
reputation for justice and equity, from which his authority, and the
respect that is paid to his person, are in a great measure derived.
Nations, however, have been fortunate in the tenor, and in the execution of
their laws, in proportion as they have admitted every order of the people,
by representation or otherwise, to an actual share of the legislature.
Under establishments of this sort, law is literally a treaty, to which the
parties concerned have agreed, and have given their opinion in settling its
terms. The interests to be affected by a law, are likewise consulted in
making it. Every class propounds an objection, suggests an addition or an
amendment of its own. They proceed to adjust, by statute, every subject of
controversy: and while they continue to enjoy their freedom, they continue
to multiply laws, and to accumulate volumes, as if they could remove every
possible ground of dispute, and were secure of their rights, merely by
having put them in writing.

Rome and England, under their mixed governments, the one inclining to
democracy, and the other to monarchy, have proved the great legislators
among nations. The first has left the foundation, and great part of the
superstructure of its civil code to the continent of Europe: the other, in
its island, has carried the authority and government of law to a point of
perfection, which they never before attained in the history of mankind.

Under such favourable establishments, known customs, the practice and
decisions of courts, as well as positive statutes, acquire the authority of
laws; and every proceeding is conducted by some fixed and determinate rule.
The best and most effectual precautions are taken for the impartial
application of rules to particular cases; and it is remarkable, that, in
the two examples we have mentioned, a surprising coincidence is found in
the singular methods of their jurisdiction. The people in both reserved in
a manner the office of judgment to themselves, and brought the decision of
civil rights, or of criminal questions, to the tribunal of peers, who, in
judging of their fellow citizens, prescribed a condition of life for

It is not in mere laws, after all, that we are to look for the securities
to justice, but in the powers by which these laws have been obtained, and
without whose constant support they must fall to disuse. Statutes serve to
record the rights of a people, and speak the intention of parties to defend
what the letter of the law has expressed; but without the vigour to
maintain what is acknowledged as a right, the mere record, or the feeble
intention, is of little avail.

A populace roused by oppression, or an order of men possessed of temporary
advantage, have obtained many charters, concessions, and stipulations, in
favour of their claims; but where no adequate preparation was made to
preserve them, the written articles were often forgotten, together with the
occasion on which they were framed.

The history of England, and of every free country, abounds with the example
of statutes enacted when the people or their representatives assembled, but
never executed when the crown or the executive was left to itself. The most
equitable laws on paper are consistent with the utmost despotism in
administration. Even the form of trial by juries in England had its
authority in law, while the proceedings of courts were arbitrary and

We must admire, as the key stone of civil liberty, the statute which forces
the secrets of every prison to be revealed, the cause of every commitment
to be declared, and the person of the accused to be produced, that he may
claim his enlargement, or his trial, within a limited time. No wiser form
was ever opposed to the abuses of power. But it requires a fabric no less
than the whole political constitution of Great Britain, a spirit no less
than the refractory and turbulent zeal of this fortunate people, to secure
its effects.

If even the safety of the person, and the tenure of property, which may be
so well defined in the words of a statute, depend, for their preservation,
on the vigour and jealousy of a free people, and on the degree of
consideration which every order of the state maintains for itself; it is
still more evident, that what we have called the political freedom, or the
right of the individual to act in his station for himself and the public,
cannot be made to rest on any other foundation. The estate may be saved,
and the person released, by the forms of a civil procedure; but the rights
of the mind cannot be sustained by any other force but its own.



We have already observed, that art is natural to man; and that the skill he
acquires after many ages of practice, is only the improvement of a talent
he possessed at the first. Vitruvius finds the rudiments of architecture in
the form of a Scythian cottage. The armourer may find the first productions
of his calling in the sling and the bow; and the shipwright of his in the
canoe of the savage. Even the historian and the poet may find the original
essays of their arts in the tale, and the song, which celebrate the wars,
the loves, and the adventures of men in their rudest condition.

Destined to cultivate his own nature, or to mend his situation, man finds a
continual subject of attention, ingenuity, and labour. Even where he does
not propose any personal improvement, his faculties are strengthened by
those very exercises in which he seems to forget himself: his reason and
his affections are thus profitably engaged in the affairs of society; his
invention and his skill are exercised in procuring his accommodations and
his food; his particular pursuits are prescribed to him by circumstances of
the age, and of the country in which he lives: in one situation, he is
occupied with wars and political deliberations; in another, with the care
of his interest, of his personal ease, or conveniency. He suits his means
to the ends he has in view; and, by multiplying contrivances, proceeds, by
degrees, to the perfection of his arts. In every step of his progress, if
his skill be increased, his desire must likewise have time to extend: and
it would be as vain to suggest a contrivance of which he slighted the use,
as it would be to tell him of blessings which he could not command.

Ages are generally supposed to have borrowed from those who went before
them, and nations to have received their portion of learning or of art from
abroad. The Romans are thought to have learned from the Greeks, and the
moderns of Europe from both. From a few examples of this sort, we learn to
consider every science or art as derived, and admit of nothing original in
the practice or manners of any people. The Greek was a copy of the
Egyptian, and even the Egyptian was an imitator, though we have lost sight
of the model on which he was formed.

It is known, that men improve by example and intercourse; but in the case
of nations, whose members excite and direct each other, why seek from
abroad the origin of arts, of which every society, having the principles in
itself, only requires a favourable occasion to bring them to light? When
such occasion presents itself to any people, they generally seize it; and
while it continues, they improve the inventions to which it gave rise among
themselves, or they willingly copy from others: but they never employ their
own invention, nor look abroad, for instruction on subjects that do not lie
in the way of their common pursuits; they never adopt a refinement of which
they have not discovered the use.

Inventions, we frequently observe, are accidental; but it is probable, that
an accident which escapes the artist in one age, may be seized by one who
succeeds him, and who is better apprized of its use. Where circumstances
are favourable, and where a people is intent on the objects of any art,
every invention is preserved, by being brought into general practice; every
model is studied, and every accident is turned to account. If nations
actually borrow from their neighbours, they probably borrow only what they
are nearly in a condition to have invented themselves.

Any singular practice of one country, therefore, is seldom transferred to
another, till the way be prepared by the introduction of similar
circumstances. Hence our frequent complaints of the dulness or obstinacy of
mankind, and of the dilatory communication of arts from one place to
another. While the Romans adopted the arts of Greece, the Thracians and
Illyrians continued to behold them with indifference. Those arts were,
during one period, confined to the Greek colonies, and during another, to
the Roman. Even where they were spread by a visible intercourse, they were
still received by independent nations with the slowness of invention. They
made a progress not more rapid at Rome than they had done at Athens; and
they passed to the extremities of the Roman empire, only in company with
new colonies, and joined to Italian policy.

The modern race, who came abroad to the possession of cultivated provinces,
retained the arts they had practised at home: the new master hunted the
boar, or pastured his herds, where he might have raised a plentiful
harvest; he built a cottage in the view of a palace; he buried, in one
common ruin, the edifices, sculptures, paintings, and libraries, of the
former inhabitant: he made a settlement upon a plan of his own, be said
with assurance, that although the Roman and the modern literature savour
alike of the Greek original, yet mankind, in either instance, would not
have drank of this fountain, unless they had been hastening to open springs
of their own.

Sentiment and fancy, the use of the hand or the head, are not inventions of
particular men; and the flourishing of arts that depend on them, are, in
the case of any people, a proof rather of political felicity at home, than
of any instruction received from abroad, or of any natural superiority in
point of industry or talents.

When the attentions of men are turned toward particular subjects, when the
acquisitions of one age are left entire to the next, when every individual
is protected in his place, and left to pursue the suggestion of his wants,
inventions accumulate; and it is difficult to find the original of any art.
The steps which lead to perfection are many; and we are at a loss on whom
to bestow the greatest share of our praise; on the first, or on the last,
who may have borne a part in the progress.



If we may rely on the general observations contained in the last section,
the literary, as well as mechanical arts, being a natural produce of the
human mind, will rise spontaneously wherever men are happily placed; and in
certain nations it is not more necessary to look abroad for the origin of
literature, than it is for the suggestion of any of the pleasures or
exercises in which mankind, under a state of prosperity and freedom, are
sufficiently inclined to indulge themselves.

We are apt to consider arts as foreign and adventitious to the nature of
man; but there is no art that did not find its occasion in human life, and
that was not, in some one or other of the situations in which our species
is found, suggested as a means for the attainment of some useful end. The
mechanic and commercial arts took their rise from the love of property, and
were encouraged by the prospects of safety and of gain: the literary and
liberal arts took their rise from the understanding, the fancy, and the
heart. They are mere exercises of the mind in search of its peculiar
pleasures and occupations; and are promoted by circumstances that suffer
the mind to enjoy itself.

Men are equally engaged by the past, the present, and the future, and are
prepared for every occupation that gives scope to their powers.
Productions, therefore, whether of narration, fiction, or reasoning, that
tend to employ the imagination, or move the heart; continue for ages a
subject of attention, and a source of delight. The memory of human
transactions being preserved in tradition or writing, is the natural
gratification of a passion that consists of curiosity, admiration, and the
love of amusement.

Before many books are written, and before science is greatly advanced, the
productions of mere genius are sometimes complete: the performer requires
not the aid of learning where his description of story relates to near and
contiguous objects; where it relates to the conduct and characters of men
with whom he himself has acted, and in whose occupations and fortunes he
himself has borne a part.

With this advantage, the poet is the first to offer the fruits of his
genius, and to lead in the career of those arts by which the mind is
destined to exhibit its imaginations, and to express its passions. Every
tribe of barbarians have their passionate or historic rhymes, which contain
the superstition, the enthusiasm, and the admiration of glory, with which
the breasts of men, in the earliest state of society, are possessed. They
delight in versification, either because the cadence of numbers is natural
to the language of sentiment, or because, not having the advantage of
writing, they are obliged to bring the ear in aid of the memory, in order
to facilitate the repetition, and ensure the preservation of their works.

When we attend to the language which savages employ on any solemn occasion,
it appears that man is a poet by nature. Whether at first obliged by the
mere defects of his tongue, and the scantiness of proper expressions, or
seduced by a pleasure of the fancy in stating the analogy of its objects,
he clothes every conception in image and metaphor. "We have planted the
tree of peace," says an American orator; "we have buried the axe under its
roots: we will henceforth repose under its shade; we will join to brighten
the chain that binds our nations together." Such are the collections of
metaphor which those nations employ in their public harangues. They have
likewise already adopted those lively figures, and that daring freedom of
language, which the learned have afterwards found so well fitted to express
the rapid transitions of the imagination, and the ardours of a passionate

If we are required to explain, how men could be poets, or orators, before
they were aided by the learning of the scholar and the critic? we may
inquire, in our turn, how bodies could fall by their weight, before the
laws of gravitation were recorded in books? Mind, as well as body, has
laws, which are exemplified in the course of nature, and which the critic
collects only after the example has shown what they are.

Occasioned, probably, by the physical connection we have mentioned, between
the emotions of a heated imagination, and the impressions received from
music and pathetic sounds, every tale among rude nations is repeated in
verse, and is made to take the form of a song. The early history of all
nations is uniform in this particular. Priests, statesmen, and
philosophers, in the first ages of Greece, delivered their instructions in
poetry, and mixed with the dealers in music and heroic fable.

It is not so surprising, however, that poetry should be the first species
of composition in every nation, as it is that a style, apparently so
difficult, and so far removed from ordinary use, should be almost as
universally the first to attain its maturity. The most admired of all poets
lived beyond the reach of history, almost of tradition. The artless song of
the savage, the heroic legend of the bard, have sometimes a magnificent
beauty, which no change of language can improve, and no refinements of the
critic reform. [Footnote: See Translations of Gallic Poetry, by James

Under the supposed disadvantage of a limited knowledge, and a rude
apprehension, the simple poet has impressions that more than compensate the
defects of his skill. The best subjects of poetry, the characters of the
violent and the brave, the generous and the intrepid, great dangers, trials
of fortitude and fidelity, are exhibited within his view, or are delivered
in traditions which animate like truth, because they are equally believed.
He is not engaged in recalling, like Virgil or Tasso, the sentiments or
scenery of an age remote from his own; he needs not be told by the critic,
[Footnote: See Longinus.] to recollect what another would have thought, or
in what manner another would have expressed his conception. The simple
passions, friendship, resentment, and love, are the movements of his own
mind, and he has no occasion to copy. Simple and vehement in his
conceptions and feelings, he knows no diversity of thought, or of style, to
mislead or to exercise his judgment. He delivers the emotions of the heart,
in words suggested by the heart; for he knows no other. And hence it is,
that while we admire the judgment and invention of Virgil, and of other
later poets, these terms appear misapplied to Homer. Though intelligent, as
well as sublime, in his conceptions, we cannot anticipate the lights of his
understanding, nor the movements of his heart; he appears to speak from
inspiration, not from invention; and to be guided in the choice of his
thoughts and expressions by a supernatural instinct, not by reflection.

The language of early ages is, in one respect, simple and confined; in
another, it is varied and free: it allows liberties, which, to the poet of
after-times, are denied.

In rude ages men are not separated by distinctions of rank or profession.
They live in one manner, and speak one dialect. The bard is not to choose
his expression among the singular accents of different conditions. He has
not to guard his language from the peculiar errors of the mechanic, the
peasant, the scholar, or the courtier, in order to find that elegant
propriety, and just elevation, which is free from the vulgar of one class,
the pedantic of the second, or the flippant of the third. The name of every
object, and of every sentiment, is fixed; and if his conception has the
dignity of nature, his expression will have a purity which does not depend
on his choice.

With this apparent confinement in the choice of his words, he is at liberty
to break through the ordinary modes of construction; and in the form of a
language not established by rules, may find for himself a cadence agreeable
to the tone of his mind. The liberty he takes, while his meaning is
striking, and his language is raised, appears an improvement, not a
trespass on grammar. He delivers a style to the ages that follow, and
becomes a model from which his posterity judge.

But whatever may be the early disposition of mankind to poetry, or the
advantages they possess in cultivating this species of literature; whether
the early maturity of poetical compositions arise from their being the
first studied, or from their having a charm to engage persons of the
liveliest genius, who are best qualified to improve the eloquence of their
native tongue; it is a remarkable fact, that, not only in countries where
every vein of composition was original, and was opened in the order of
natural succession; but even at Rome, and in modern Europe, where the
learned began early to practise on foreign models, we have poets of every
nation, who are perused with pleasure, while the prose writers of the same
ages are neglected.

As Sophocles and Euripides preceded the historians and moralists of Greece,
not only Naevius and Ennius, who wrote the Roman history in verse, but
Lucilius, Plautus, Terence, and we may add Lucretius, were prior to Cicero,
Sallust, or Caesar. Dante and Petrarch went before any good prose writer in
Italy; Corneille and Racine brought on the fine age of prose compositions
in France; and we had in England, not only Chaucer and Spenser, but
Shakspeare and Milton, while our attempts in history or science were yet in
their infancy; and deserve our attention, only for the sake of the matter
they treat.

Hellanicus, who is reckoned among the first prose writers in Greece, and
who immediately preceded, or was the contemporary of Herodotus, set out
with declaring his intention to remove from history the wild
representations, and extravagant fictions, with which it had been disgraced
by the poets. [Footnote: Quoted by Demetrius Phalerius.] The want of
records or authorities, relating to any distant transactions, may have
hindered him, as it did his immediate successor, from giving truth all the
advantage it might have reaped from this transition to prose. There are,
however, ages in the progress of society, when such a proposition must be
favourably received. When men become occupied on the subjects of policy, or
commercial arts, they wish to be informed and instructed, as well as moved.
They are interested by what was real in past transactions. They build on
this foundation the reflections and reasonings they apply to present
affairs, and wish to receive information on the subject of different
pursuits, and of projects in which they begin to be engaged. The manners of
men, the practice of ordinary life, and the form of society, furnish their
subjects to the moral and political writer. Mere ingenuity, justness of
sentiment, and correct representation, though conveyed in ordinary
language, are understood to constitute literary merit, and by applying to
reason more than to the imagination and passions, meet with a reception
that is due to the instruction they bring.

The talents of men come to be employed in a variety of affairs, and their
inquiries directed to different subjects. Knowledge is important in every
department of civil society, and requisite to the practice of every art.
The science of nature, morals, politics, and history, find their, several
admirers; and even poetry itself, which retains its former station in the
region of warm imagination and enthusiastic passion, appears in a growing
variety of forms.

Matters have proceeded so far, without the aid of foreign examples, or the
direction of schools. The cart of Thespis was changed into a theatre, not
to gratify the learned, but to please the Athenian populace; and the prize
of poetical merit was decided by this populace equally before and after the
invention of rules. The Greeks were unacquainted with every language but
their own; and if they became learned, it was only by studying what they
themselves had produced: the childish mythology, which they are said to
have copied from Asia, was equally of little avail in promoting their love
of arts, or their success in the practice of them.

When the historian is struck with the events he has witnessed, or heard;
when he is excited to relate them by his reflections or his passions; when
the statesman, who is required to speak in public, is obliged to prepare
for every remarkable appearance in studied harangues; when conversation
becomes extensive and refined; and when the social feelings and reflections
of men are committed to writing, a system of learning may arise from the
bustle of an active life. Society itself is the school, and its lessons are
delivered in the practice of real affairs. An author writes from
observations he has made on his subject, not from the suggestion of books;
and every production carries the mark of his character as a man, not of his
mere proficiency as a student or scholar. It may be made a question,
whether the trouble of seeking for distant models, and of wading for
instruction, through dark allusions and languages unknown, might not have
quenched his fire, and rendered him a writer of a very inferior class.

If society may thus be considered as a school for letters, it is probable
that its lessons are varied in every separate state, and in every age. For
a certain period, the severe applications of the Roman people to policy and
war suppressed the literary arts, and appear to have stifled the genius
even of the historian and the poet. The institutions of Sparta gave a
professed contempt for whatever was not connected with the practical
virtues of a vigorous and resolute spirit: the charms of imagination, and
the parade of language, were by this people classed with the arts of the
cook and the perfumer: their songs in praise of fortitude are mentioned by
some writers; and collections of their witty sayings and repartees are
still preserved: they indicate the virtues and the abilities of an active
people, not their proficiency in science or literary taste. Possessed of
what was essential to happiness in the virtues of the heart, they had a
discernment of its value, unembarrassed by the numberless objects on which
mankind in general are so much at a loss to adjust their esteem: fixed in
their own apprehension, they turned a sharp edge on the follies of mankind.
"When will you begin to practise it?" was the question of a Spartan to a
person who, in an advanced age of life, was still occupied with questions
on the nature of virtue.

While this people confined their studies to one question, how to improve
and to preserve the courage and disinterested affections of the human
heart; their rivals, the Athenians, gave a scope to refinement on every
object of reflection or passion. By the rewards, either of profit or of
reputation, which they bestowed on every effort of ingenuity employed in
ministering to the pleasure, the decoration, or the conveniency of life; by
the variety of conditions in which their citizens were placed; by their
inequalities of fortune, and their several pursuits in war, politics,
commerce, and lucrative arts, they awakened whatever was either good or bad
in the natural dispositions of men. Every road to eminence was opened:
eloquence, fortitude, military skill, envy, detraction, faction, and
treason, even the muse herself, was courted to bestow importance among a
busy, acute, and turbulent people.

From this example, we may safely conclude, that although business is
sometimes a rival to study, retirement and leisure are not the principal
requisites to the improvement, perhaps not even to the exercise, of
literary talents. The most striking exertions of imagination and sentiment
have a reference to mankind: they are excited by the presence and
intercourse of men: they have most vigour when actuated in the mind by the
operation of its principal springs, by the emulations, the friendships, and
the oppositions which subsist among a forward and aspiring people. Amidst
the great occasions which put a free, and even a licentious society in
motion, its members become capable of every exertion; and the same scenes
which gave employment to Themistocles and Thrasybulus, inspired, by
contagion, the genius of Sophocles and Plato. The petulant and the
ingenious find an equal scope to their talents; and literary monuments
become the repositories of envy and folly, as well as of wisdom and virtue.

Greece, divided into many little states, and agitated, beyond any spot on
the globe, by domestic contentions and foreign wars, set the example in
every species of literature. The fire was communicated to Rome; not when
the state ceased to be warlike, and had discontinued her political
agitations, but when she mixed the love of refinement and of pleasure with
her national pursuits, and indulged an inclination to study in the midst of
ferments, occasioned by the wars and pretensions of opposite factions. It
was revived in modern Europe among the turbulent states of Italy, and
spread to the north, together with the spirit which shook the fabric of the
Gothic policy: it rose while men were divided into parties, under civil or
religious denominations, and when they were at variance on subjects held
the most important and sacred.

We may be satisfied, from the example of many ages, that liberal endowments
bestowed on learned societies, and the leisure with which they were
furnished for study, are not the likeliest means to excite the exertions of
genius: even science itself, the supposed offspring of leisure, pined in
the shade of monastic retirement. Men at a distance from the objects of
useful knowledge, untouched by the motives that animate an active and a
vigorous mind, could produce only the jargon of a technical language, and
accumulate the impertinence of academical forms.

To speak or to write justly from an observation of nature, it is necessary
to have felt the sentiments of nature. He who is penetrating and ardent in
the conduct of life, will probably exert a proportional force and ingenuity
in the exercise of his literary talents: and although writing may become a
trade, and require all the application and study which are bestowed on any
other calling; yet the principal requisites in this calling are, the spirit
and sensibility of a vigorous mind.

In one period, the school may take its light and direction from active
life; in another, it is true, the remains of an active spirit are greatly
supported by literary monuments, and by the history of transactions that
preserve the examples and the experience of former and of better times. But
in whatever manner men are formed for great efforts of elocution or
conduct, it appears the most glaring of all deceptions, to look for the
accomplishments of a human character in the mere attainments of
speculation, whilst we neglect the qualities of fortitude and public
affection, which are so necessary to render our knowledge an article of
happiness or of use.



       *       *       *       *       *



It is evident, that, however urged by a sense of necessity, and a desire of
convenience, or favoured by any advantages of situation and policy, a
people can make no great progress in cultivating the arts of life, until
they have separated, and committed to different persons, the several tasks
which require a peculiar skill and attention. The savage, or the barbarian,
who must build and plant, and fabricate for himself, prefers, in the
interval of great alarms and fatigues, the enjoyments of sloth to the
improvement of his fortune: he is, perhaps, by the diversity of his wants,
discouraged from industry; or, by his divided attention, prevented from
acquiring skill in the management of any particular subject.

The enjoyment of peace, however, and the prospect of being able to exchange
one commodity for another, turns, by degrees, the hunter and the warrior
into a tradesman and a merchant. The accidents which distribute the means
of subsistence unequally, inclination, and favourable opportunities, assign
the different occupations of men; and a sense of utility leads them,
without end, to subdivide their professions.

The artist finds, that the more he can confine his attention to a
particular part of any work, his productions are the more perfect, and grow
under his hands in the greater quantities. Every undertaker in manufacture
finds, that the more he can subdivide the tasks of his workmen, and the
more hands he can employ on separate articles, the more are his expenses
diminished, and his profits increased. The consumer too requires, in every
kind of commodity, a workmanship more perfect than hands employed on a
variety of subjects can produce; and the progress of commerce is but a
continued subdivision of the mechanical arts.

Every craft may engross the whole of a man's attention, and has a mystery
which must be studied or learned by a regular apprenticeship. Nations of
tradesmen come to consist of members, who, beyond their own particular
trade, are ignorant of all human affairs, and who may contribute to the
preservation and enlargement of their commonwealth, without making its
interest an object of their regard or attention. Every individual is
distinguished by his calling, and has a place to which he is fitted. The
savage, who knows no distinction but that of his merit, of his sex, or of
his species, and to whom his community is the sovereign object of
affection, is astonished to find, that in a scene of this nature, his being
a man does not qualify him for any station whatever: he flies to the woods
with amazement, distaste, and aversion.

By the separation of arts and professions, the sources of wealth are laid
open; every species of material is wrought up to the greatest perfection,
and every commodity is produced in the greatest abundance. The state may
estimate its profits and its revenues by the number of its people. It may
procure, by its treasure, that national consideration and power, which the
savage maintains at the expense of his blood.

The advantage gained in the inferior branches of manufacture by the
separation of their parts, seem to be equalled by those which arise from a
similar device in the higher departments of policy and war. The soldier is
relieved from every care but that of his service; statesmen divide the
business of civil government into shares; and the servants of the public,
in every office, without being skilful in the affairs of state, may
succeed, by observing forms which are already established on the experience
of others. They are made, like the parts of an engine, to concur to a
purpose, without any concert of their own: and equally blind with the
trader to any general combination, they unite with him, in furnishing to
the state its resources, its conduct, and its force.

The artifices of the beaver, the ant, and the bee, are ascribed to the
wisdom of nature. Those of polished nations are ascribed to themselves, and
are supposed to indicate a capacity superior to that of rude minds. But the
establishments of men, like those of every animal, are suggested by nature,
and are the result of instinct, directed by the variety of situations in
which mankind are placed. Those establishments arose from successive
improvements that were made, without any sense of their general effect; and
they bring human affairs to a state of complication, which the greatest
reach of capacity with which human nature was ever adorned, could not have
projected; nor even when the whole is carried into execution, can it be
comprehended in its full extent.

Who could anticipate, or even enumerate, the separate occupations and
professions by which the members of any commercial state are distinguished;
the variety of devices which are practised in separate cells, and which the
artist, attentive to his own affair, has invented, to abridge or to
facilitate his separate task? In coming to this mighty end, every
generation, compared to its predecessors, may have appeared to be
ingenious; compared to its followers, may have appeared to be dull: and
human ingenuity, whatever heights it may have gained in a succession of
ages, continues to move with an equal pace, and to creep in making the
last, as well as the first, step of commercial or civil improvement.

It may even be doubted, whether the measure of national capacity increases
with the advancement of arts. Many mechanical arts, indeed, require no
capacity; they succeed best under a total suppression of sentiment and
reason; and ignorance is the mother of industry as well as of superstition.
Reflection and fancy are subject to err; but a habit of moving the hand, or
the foot, is independent of either. Manufactures, accordingly, prosper most
where the mind is least consulted, and where the workshop may, without any
great effort of imagination, be considered as an engine, the parts of which
are men.

The forest has been felled by the savage without the use of the axe, and
weights have been raised without the aid of the mechanical powers. The
merit of the inventor, in every branch, probably deserves a preference to
that of the performer; and he who invented a tool, or could work without
its assistance, deserved the praise of ingenuity in a much higher degree
than the mere artist, who, by its assistance, produces a superior work.

But if many parts in the practice of every art, and in the detail of every
department, require no abilities, or actually tend to contract and to limit
the views of the mind, there are others which lead to general reflections,
and to enlargement of thought. Even in manufacture, the genius of the
master, perhaps, is cultivated, while that of the inferior workman lies
waste. The statesman may have a wide comprehension of human affairs, while
the tools he employs are ignorant of the system in which they are
themselves combined. The general officer may be a great proficient in the
knowledge of war, while the skill of the soldier is confined to a few
motions of the hand and the foot. The former may have gained what the
latter has lost; and being occupied in the conduct of disciplined armies,
may practise on a larger scale all the arts of preservation, of deception,
and of stratagem, which the savage exerts in leading a small party, or
merely in defending himself.

The practitioner of every art and profession may afford matter of general
speculation to the man of science; and thinking itself, in this age of
separations, may become a peculiar craft. In the bustle of civil pursuits
and occupations, men appear in a variety of lights, and suggest matter of
inquiry and fancy, by which conversation is enlivened, and greatly
enlarged. The productions of ingenuity are brought to the market; and men
are willing to pay for whatever has a tendency to inform or amuse. By this
means the idle, as well as the busy, contribute to forward the progress of
arts, and bestow on polished nations that air of superior ingenuity, under
which they appear to have gained the ends that were pursued by the savage
in his forest, knowledge, order, and wealth.



There is one ground of subordination in the difference of natural talents
and dispositions; a second in the unequal division of property; and a
third, not less sensible, in the habits which are acquired by the practice
of different arts.

Some employments are liberal, others mechanic. They require different
talents, and inspire different sentiments; and whether or not this be the
cause of the preference we actually give, it is certainly reasonable to
form our opinion of the rank that is due to men of certain professions and
stations, from the influence of their manner of life in cultivating the
powers of the mind, or in preserving the sentiments of the heart.

There is an elevation natural to man, by which he would be thought, in his
rudest state, however urged by necessity, to rise above the consideration
of mere subsistence, and the regards of interest: he would appear to act
only, from the heart, in its engagements of friendship or opposition; he
would shew himself only upon occasions of danger or difficulty, and leave
ordinary cares to the weak or the servile.

The same apprehensions, in every situation, regulate his notions of
meanness or of dignity. In that of polished society, his desire to avoid
the character of sordid, makes him conceal his regard for what relates
merely to his preservation or his livelihood. In his estimation, the
beggar, who depends upon charity; the labourer, who toils that he may eat;
the mechanic, whose art requires no exertion of genius, are degraded by the
object they pursue, and by the means they employ to attain it. Professions
requiring more knowledge and study; proceeding on the exercise of fancy,
and the love of perfection; leading to applause as well as to profit, place
the artist in a superior class, and bring him nearer to that station in
which men, because they are bound to no task, because they are left to
follow the disposition of the mind, and to take that part in society to
which they are led by the sentiments of the heart, or by the calls of the
public, are supposed to be highest.

This last was the station, which, in the distinction betwixt freemen and
slaves, the citizens of every ancient republic strove to gain, and to
maintain for themselves. Women, or slaves, in the earliest ages, had been
set apart for the purposes of domestic care, or bodily labour; and in the
progress of lucrative arts, the latter were bred to mechanical professions,
and were even intrusted with merchandise for the benefit of their masters.
Freemen would be understood to have no object beside those of politics and
war. In this manner, the honours of one half of the species were sacrificed
to those of the other; as stones from the same quarry are buried in the
foundation, to sustain the blocks which happen to be hewn for the superior
parts of the pile. In the midst of our encomiums bestowed on the Greeks and
the Romans, we are, by this circumstance, made to remember, that no human
institution is perfect.

In many of the Grecian states, the benefits arising to the free from this
cruel distinction, were not conferred equally on all the citizens. Wealth
being unequally divided, the rich alone were exempted from labour; the poor
were reduced to work for their own subsistence: interest was a reigning
passion in both, and the possession of slaves, like that of any other
lucrative property, became an object of avarice, not an exemption from
sordid attentions. The entire effects of the institution were obtained, or
continued to be enjoyed for any considerable time, at Sparta alone. We feel
its injustice; we suffer for the helot, under the severities and unequal
treatment to which he was exposed: but when we think only of the superior
order of men in this state; when we attend to that elevation and
magnanimity of spirit, for which danger had no terror, interest no means to
corrupt; when we consider them as friends, or as citizens, we are apt to
forget, like themselves, that slaves have a title to be treated like men.

We look for elevation of sentiment, and liberality of mind, among those
orders of citizens, who, by their condition, and their fortunes, are
relieved from sordid cares and attentions. This was the description of a
free man at Sparta; and if the lot of a slave among the ancients was really
more wretched than that of the indigent labourer and the mechanic among the
moderns, it may be doubted whether the superior orders, who are in
possession of consideration and honours, do not proportionally fail in the
dignity which befits their condition. If the pretensions to equal justice
and freedom should terminate in rendering every class equally servile and
mercenary, we make a nation of helots, and have no free citizens.

In every commercial state, notwithstanding any pretension to equal rights,
the exaltation of a few must depress the many. In this arrangement, we
think that the extreme meanness of some classes must arise chiefly from the
defect of knowledge, and of liberal education; and we refer to such
classes, as to an image of what our species must have been in its rude and
uncultivated state. But we forget how many circumstances, especially in
populous cities, tend to corrupt the lowest orders of men. Ignorance is the
least of their failings. An admiration of wealth unpossessed, becoming a
principle of envy, or of servility; a habit of acting perpetually with a
view to profit, and under a sense of subjection; the crimes to which they
are allured, in order to feed their debauch, or to gratify their avarice,
are examples, not of ignorance, but of corruption and baseness. If the
savage has not received our instructions, he is likewise unacquainted with
our vices. He knows no superior, and cannot be servile; he knows no
distinctions of fortune, and cannot be envious; he acts from his talents in
the highest station which human society can offer, that of the counsellor,
and the soldier of his country. Toward forming his sentiments, he knows all
that the heart requires to be known; he can distinguish the friend whom he
loves, and the public interest which awakens his zeal.

The principal objections, to democratical or popular government, are taken
from the inequalities which arise among men in the result of commercial
arts. And it must be confessed, that popular assemblies, when composed of
men whose dispositions are sordid, and whose ordinary applications are
illiberal, however they may be intrusted with the choice of their masters
and leaders, are certainly, in their own persons, unfit to command. How can
he who has confined his views to his own subsistence or preservation, be
intrusted with the conduct of nations? Such men, when admitted to
deliberate on matters of state, bring to its councils confusion and tumult,
or servility and corruption; and seldom suffer it to repose from ruinous
factions, or the effect of resolutions ill formed or ill conducted.

The Athenians retained their popular government under all these defects.
The mechanic was obliged, under a penalty, to appear in the public
market-place, and to hear debates on the subjects of war and of peace. He
was tempted by pecuniary rewards, to attend on the trial of civil and
criminal causes. But, notwithstanding an exercise tending so much to
cultivate their talents, the indigent came always with minds intent upon
profit, or with the habits of an illiberal calling. Sunk under the sense of
their personal disparity and weakness, they were ready to resign themselves
entirely to the influence of some popular leader, who flattered their
passions, and wrought on their fears; or, actuated by envy, they were ready
to banish from the state whomsoever was respectable and eminent in the
superior order of citizens; and whether from their neglect of the public at
one time, or their mal-administration at another, the sovereignty was every
moment ready to drop from their hands.

The people, in this case, are, in fact, frequently governed by one, or a
few, who know how to conduct them. Pericles possessed a species of princely
authority at Athens; Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar, either jointly or
successively, possessed for a considerable period the sovereign direction
at Rome.

Whether in great or in small states, democracy is preserved with
difficulty, under the disparities of condition, and the unequal cultivation
of the mind, which attend the variety of pursuits, and applications, that
separate mankind in the advanced state of commercial arts. In this,
however, we do but plead against the form of democracy, after the principle
is removed; and see the absurdity of pretensions to equal influence and
consideration, after the characters of men have ceased to be similar.



Mankind, when in their rude state, have a great uniformity of manners; but
when civilized, they are engaged in a variety of pursuits; they tread on a
larger field, and separate to a greater distance. If they be guided,
however, by similar dispositions, and by like suggestions of nature, they
will probably in the end, as well as in the beginning of their progress,
continue to agree in many particulars; and while communities admit, in
their members, that diversity of ranks and professions which we have
already described as the consequence or the foundation of commerce, they
will resemble each other in many effects of this distribution, and of other
circumstances in which they nearly concur.

Under every form of government, statesmen endeavour to remove the dangers
by which they are threatened from abroad, and the disturbances which molest
them at home. By this conduct, if successful, they in a few ages gain an
ascendant for their country; establish a frontier at a distance from its
capital; they find, in the mutual desires of tranquillity, which come to
possess mankind, and in those public establishments which tend to keep the
peace of society, a respite from foreign wars, and a relief from domestic
disorders. They learn to decide every contest without tumult, and to
secure, by the authority of law, every citizen in the possession of his
personal rights.

In this condition, to which thriving nations aspire, and which they in some
measure attain, mankind having laid the basis of safety, proceed to erect a
superstructure suitable to their views. The consequence is various in
different states; even in different orders of men of the same community;
and the effect to every individual corresponds with his station. It enables
the statesman and the soldier to settle the forms of their different
procedure; it enables the practitioner in every profession to pursue his
separate advantage; it affords the man of pleasure a time for refinement,
and the speculative, leisure for literary conversation or study.

In this scene, matters that have little reference to the active pursuits of
mankind, are made subjects of inquiry, and the exercise of sentiment and
reason itself becomes a profession. The songs of the bard, the harangues of
the statesman and the warrior, the tradition and the story of ancient
times, are considered as the models, or the earliest production, of so many
arts, which it becomes the object of different professions to copy or to
improve. The works of fancy, like the subjects of natural history, are
distinguished into classes and species; the rules of every particular kind
are distinctly collected; and the library is stored, like the warehouse,
with the finished manufacture of different artists, who, with the aids of
the grammarian and the critic, aspire, each in his particular way, to
instruct the head, or to move the heart.

Every nation is a motley assemblage of different characters, and contains,
under any political form, some examples of that variety, which the humours,
tempers, and apprehensions of men, so differently employed, are likely to
furnish. Every profession has its point of honour, and its system of
manners; the merchant his punctuality and fair dealing; the statesman his
capacity and address; the man of society his good breeding and wit. Every
station has a carriage, a dress, a ceremonial, by which it is
distinguished, and by which it suppresses the national character under that
of the rank, or of the individual.

This description may be applied equally to Athens and Rome, to London and
Paris. The rude, or the simple observer, would remark the variety he saw in
the dwellings and in the occupations, of different men, not in the aspect
of different nations. He would find, in the streets of the same city, as
great a diversity, as in the territory of a separate people. He could not
pierce through the cloud that was gathered before him, nor see how the
tradesman, mechanic, or scholar, of one country, should differ from those
of another. But the native of every province can distinguish the foreigner;
and when he himself travels, is struck with the aspect of a strange
country, the moment he passes the bounds of his own. The air of the person,
the tone of the voice, the idiom of language, and the strain of
conversation, whether pathetic or languid, gay or severe, are no longer the

Many such differences may arise among polished nations, from the effects of
climate, or from sources of fashion, that are still more hidden or
unobserved; but the principal distinctions on which we can rest, are
derived from the part a people are obliged to act in their national
capacity; from the objects placed in their view by the state; or from the
constitution of government, which, prescribing the terms of society to its
subjects, had a great influence in forming their apprehensions and habits.

The Roman people, destined to acquire wealth by conquest, and by the spoil
of provinces; the Carthaginians, intent on the returns of merchandise, and
the produce of commercial settlements, must have filled the streets of
their several capitals with men of a different disposition and aspect. The
Roman laid hold of his sword when he wished to be great, and the state
found her armies prepared in the dwellings of her people. The Carthaginian
retired to his counter on a similar project; and, when the state was
alarmed, or had resolved on a war, lent of his profits to purchase an army

The member of a republic, and the subject of a monarchy, must differ;
because they have different parts assigned to them by the forms of their
country: the one destined to live with his equals, or to contend, by his
personal talents and character, for pre-eminence; the other, born to a
determinate station, where any pretence to equality creates a confusion,
and where nought but precedence is studied. Each, when the institutions of
his country are mature, may find in the laws a protection to his personal
rights; but those rights themselves are differently understood, and with a
different set of opinions, give rise to a different temper of mind. The
republican must act in the state, to sustain his pretensions; he must join
a party, in order to be safe; he must lead one, in order to be great. The
subject of monarchy refers to his birth for the honour he claims; he waits
on a court, to shew his importance; and holds out the ensigns of dependence
and favour, to gain him esteem with the public.

If national institutions, calculated for the preservation of liberty,
instead of calling upon the citizen to act for himself, and to maintain his
rights, should give a security, requiring, on his part, no personal
attention or effort; this seeming perfection of government might weaken the
bands of society, and, upon maxims of independence, separate and estrange
the different ranks it was meant to reconcile. Neither the parties formed
in republics, nor the courtly assemblies, which meet in monarchical
governments, could take place, where the sense of a mutual dependence
should cease to summon their members together. The resorts for commerce
might be frequented, and mere amusement might be pursued in the crowd,
while the private dwelling became a retreat for reserve, averse to the
trouble arising from regards and attentions, which it might be part of the
political creed to believe of no consequence, and a point of honour to hold
in contempt.

This humour is not likely to grow either in republics or monarchies: it
belongs more properly to a mixture of both; where the administration of
justice may be better secured; where the subject is tempted to look for
equality, but where he finds only independence in its place; and where he
learns, from a spirit of equality, to hate the very distinctions to which,
on account of their real importance, he pays a remarkable deference.

In either of the separate forms of republic or monarchy, or in acting on
the principles of either, men are obliged to court their fellow citizens,
and to employ parts and address to improve their fortunes, or even to be
safe. They find in both a school for discernment and penetration; but in
the one, are taught to overlook the merits of a private character for the
sake of abilities that have weight with the public; and in the other to
overlook great and respectable talents, for the sake of qualities engaging
or pleasant in the scene of entertainment and private society. They are
obliged, in both, to adapt themselves with care to the fashion and manners
of their country. They find no place for caprice or singular humours. The
republican must be popular, and the courtier polite. The first must think
himself well placed in every company; the other must choose his resorts,
and desire to be distinguished only where the society itself is esteemed.
With his inferiors, he takes an air of protection; and suffers, in his
turn, the same air to be taken with himself. It did not, perhaps, require
in a Spartan, who feared nothing but a failure in his duty, who loved
nothing but his friend and the state, so constant a guard on himself to
support his character, as it frequently does in the subject of a monarchy,
to adjust his expense and his fortune to the desires of his vanity, and to
appear in a rank as high as his birth, or ambition, can possibly reach.

There is no particular, in the mean time, in which we are more frequently
unjust, than in applying to the individual the supposed character of his
country; or more frequently misled; than in taking our notion of a people
from the example of one, or a few of their members. It belonged to the
constitution of Athens, to have produced a Cleon, and a Pericles; but all
the Athenians were not, therefore, like Cleon, or Pericles. Themistocles
and Aristides lived in the same age; the one advised what was profitable,
the other told his country what was just.



The law of nature, with respect to nations, is the same that it is with
respect to individuals: it gives to the collective body a right to preserve
themselves; to employ undisturbed the means of life; to retain the fruits
of labour; to demand the observance of stipulations and contracts. In the
case of violence, it condemns the aggressor, and establishes, on the part
of the injured, the right of defence, and a claim to retribution. Its
applications, however, admit of disputes, and give rise to variety in the
apprehension, as well as the practice of mankind.

Nations have agreed universally, in distinguishing right from wrong; in
exacting the reparation of injuries by consent or by force. They have
always reposed, in a certain degree, on the faith of treaties; but have
acted as if force were the ultimate arbiter in all their disputes, and the
power to defend themselves, the surest pledge of their safety. Guided by
these common apprehensions, they have differed from one another, not merely
in points of form, but in points of the greatest importance, respecting the
usage of war, the effects of captivity, and the rights of conquest and

When a number of independent communities have been frequently involved in
wars, and have had their stated alliances and oppositions, they adopt
customs which they make the foundation of rules, or of laws, to be
observed, or alleged, in all their mutual transactions. Even in war itself,
they would follow a system, and plead for the observance of forms in their
very operations for mutual destruction.

The ancient states of Greece and Italy derived their manners in war from
the nature of their republican government; those of modern Europe, from the
influence of monarchy, which, by its prevalence in this part of the world,
has a great effect on nations, even where it is not the form established.
Upon the maxims of this government, we apprehend a distinction between the
state and its members, as that between the king and the people, which
renders war an operation of policy, not of popular animosity. While we
strike at the public interest, we would spare the private; and we carry a
respect and consideration for individuals, which often stops the issues of
blood in the ardour of victory, and procures to the prisoner of war a
hospitable reception in the very city which he came to destroy. These
practices are so well established, that scarcely any provocation on the
part of an enemy, or any exigence of service, can excuse a trespass on the
supposed rules of humanity, or save the leader who commits it from becoming
an object of detestation and horror.

To this, the general practice of the Greeks and the Romans was opposite.
They endeavoured to wound the state by destroying its members, by
desolating its territory, and by ruining the possessions of its subjects.
They granted quarter only to enslave, or to bring the prisoner to a more
solemn execution; and an enemy, when disarmed, was, for the most part,
either sold in the market or killed, that he might never return to
strengthen his party. When this was the issue of war, it was no wonder that
battles were fought with desperation, and that every fortress was defended
to the last extremity. The game of human life went upon a high stake, and
was played with a proportional zeal.

The term _barbarian_, in this state of manners, could not be employed
by the Greeks or the Romans in that sense in which we use it: to
characterize, a people regardless of commercial arts; profuse of their own
lives, and those of others; vehement in their attachment to one society,
and implacable in their antipathy to another. This, in a great and shining
part of their history, was their own character, as well as that of some
other nations, whom, upon this very account, we distinguish by the
appellations of _barbarous_ or _rude._

It has been observed, that those celebrated nations are indebted, for a
great part of their estimation, not to the matter of their history, but to
the manner in which it has been delivered, and to the capacity of their
historians, and other writers. Their story has been told by men who knew
how to draw our attention on the proceedings of the understanding and of
the heart, more than on external effects; and who could exhibit characters
to be admired and loved, in the midst of actions which we should now
universally hate or condemn. Like Homer, the model of Grecian literature,
they could make us forget the horrors of a vindictive, cruel, and
remorseless treatment of an enemy, in behalf of the strenuous conduct, the
courage, and vehement affections, with which the hero maintained the cause
of his friend and of his country.

Our manners are so different, and the system upon which we regulate our
apprehensions, in many things so opposite, that no less could make us
endure the practice of ancient nations. Were that practice recorded by the
mere journalist, who retains only the detail of events, without throwing
any light on the character of the actors; who, like the Tartar historian,
tells us only what blood was spilt in the field, and how many inhabitants
were massacred in the city; we should never have distinguished the Greeks
from their barbarous neighbours, nor have thought, that the character of
civility pertained even to the Romans, till very late in their history, and
in the decline of their empire.

It would, no doubt, be pleasant to see the remarks of such a traveller as
we sometimes send abroad to inspect the manners of mankind, left,
unassisted by history, to collect the character of the Greeks from the
state of their country, or from their practice in war. "This country," he
might say, "compared to ours, has an air of barrenness and desolation. I
saw upon the road troops of labourers, who were employed in the fields; but
no where the habitations of the master and the landlord. It was unsafe, I
was told, to reside in the country; and the people of every district
crowded into towns to find a place of defence. It is, indeed, impossible,
that they can be more civilized, till they have established some regular
government, and have courts of justice to hear their complaints. At present
every town, nay, I may say, every village, acts for itself, and the
greatest disorders prevail. I was not indeed molested; for you must know,
that they call themselves nations, and do all their mischief under the
pretence of war.

"I do not mean to take any of the liberties of travellers, nor to vie with
the celebrated author of the voyage to Lilliput; but cannot help
endeavouring to communicate what I felt on hearing them speak of their
territory, their armies, their revenues, treaties, and alliances. Only
imagine the church-wardens and constables of Highgate or Hampstead turned
statesmen and generals, and you will have a tolerable conception of this
singular country. I passed through one state, where the best house in the
capital would not lodge the meanest of your labourers, and where your very
beggars would not choose to dine with the king; and yet they are thought a
great nation, and have no less than two kings. I saw one of them; but such
a potentate! He had scarcely clothes to his back; and for his majesty's
table, he was obliged to go to the eating-house with his subjects. They
have not a single farthing of money; and I was obliged to get food at the
public expense, there being none to be had in the market. You will imagine,
that there must have been a service of plate, and great attendance, to wait
on the illustrious stranger; but my fare was a mess of sorry pottage,
brought me by a naked slave, who left me to deal with it as I thought
proper: and even this I was in continual danger of having stolen from me by
the children; who are as vigilant to seize opportunities, and as dexterous
in snatching their food, as any starved greyhound you ever saw. The misery
of the whole people, in short, as well as my own, while I staid there, was
beyond description. You would think that their whole attention were to
torment themselves as much as they can: they are even displeased with one
of their kings for being well liked. He had made a present, while I was
there, of a cow to one favourite, and of a waistcoat to another; [Footnote:
Plutarch in the life of Agesilaus,] and it was publicly said, that this
method of gaining friends was robbing the public. My landlord told me very
gravely, that a man should come under no obligation that might weaken the
love which he owes to his country; nor form any personal attachment beyond
the mere habit of living with his friend, and of doing him a kindness when
he can.

"I asked him once, why they did not, for their own sakes, enable their
kings to assume a little more state? Because, says he, we intend them the
happiness of living with men. When I found fault with their houses, and
said, in particular, that I was surprised they did not build better
churches: What would you be then, says he, if you found religion in stone
walls? This will suffice for a sample of our conversation; and sententious
as it was, you may believe I did not stay long to profit by it.

"The people of this place are not quite so stupid. There is a pretty large
square of a market-place, and some tolerable buildings; and, I am told,
they have some barks and lighters employed in trade, which they likewise,
upon occasion, muster into a fleet, like my lord mayor's show. But what
pleases me most is, that I am likely to get a passage from hence, and bid
farewell to this wretched country. I have been at some pains to observe
their ceremonies of religion, and to pick up curiosities. I have copied
some inscriptions, as you will see when you come to peruse my journal, and
will then judge, whether I have met with enough to compensate the fatigues
and bad entertainment to which I have submitted. As for the people, you
will believe, from the specimen I have given you, that they could not be
very engaging company: though poor and dirty, they still pretend to be
proud; and a fellow who is not worth a groat, is above working for his
livelihood. They come abroad barefooted, and without any cover to the head,
wrapt up in the coverlets under which you would imagine they had slept.
They throw all off, and appear like so many naked cannibals, when they go
to violent sports and exercises; at which they highly value feats of
dexterity and strength. Brawny limbs, and muscular arms, the faculty of
sleeping out all nights, of fasting long, and of putting up with any kind
of food, are thought genteel accomplishments. They have no settled
government that I could learn; sometimes the mob, and sometimes the better
sort, do what they please: they meet in great crowds in the open air, and
seldom agree in any thing. If a fellow has presumption enough, and a loud
voice, he can make a great figure. There was a tanner here, some time ago,
who, for a while, carried every thing before him. He censured so loudly
what others had done, and talked so big of what might be performed, that he
was sent out at last to make good his words, and to curry the enemy instead
of his leather. [Footnote: Thucydides, lib. 4. Aristophanes] You will
imagine, perhaps, that he was pressed for a recruit; no; he was sent to
command the army. They are indeed seldom long of one mind, except in their
readiness to harass their neighbours. They go out in bodies, and rob,
pillage, and murder wherever they come." So far may we suppose our
traveller to have written; and upon a recollection of the reputation which
those nations have acquired at a distance, he might have added, perhaps,
"That he could not understand how scholars, fine gentlemen, and even women,
should combine to admire a people, who so little resemble themselves."

To form a judgment of the character from which they acted in the field, and
in their competitions with neighbouring nations, we must observe them at
home. They were bold and fearless in their civil dissentions; ready to
proceed to extremities, and to carry their debates to the decision of
force. Individuals stood distinguished by their personal spirit and vigour,
not by the valuation of their estates, or the rank of their birth. They had
a personal elevation founded on the sense of equality, not of precedence.
The general of one campaign was, during the next, a private soldier, and
served in the ranks. They were solicitous to acquire bodily strength;
because, in the use of their weapons, battles were a trial of the soldier's
strength, as well as of the leader's conduct. The remains of their statuary
shows a manly grace, an air of simplicity and ease, which being frequent in
nature, were familiar to the artist. The mind, perhaps, borrowed a
confidence and force, from the vigour and address of the body; their
eloquence and style bore a resemblance to the carriage of the person. The
understanding was chiefly cultivated in the practice of affairs. The most
respectable personages were obliged to mix with the crowd, and derived
their degree of ascendancy only from their conduct, their eloquence, and
personal vigour. They had no forms of expression, to mark a ceremonious and
guarded respect. Invective proceeded to railing, and the grossest terms
were often employed by the most admired and accomplished orators.
Quarrelling had no rules but the immediate dictates of passion, which ended
in words of reproach, in violence and blows. They fortunately went always
unarmed; and to wear a sword in times of peace, was among them the mark of
a barbarian. When they took arms in the divisions of faction, the
prevailing party supported itself by expelling their opponents, by
proscriptions, and bloodshed. The usurper endeavoured to maintain his
station by the most violent and prompt executions. He was opposed, in his
turn, by conspiracies and assassinations, in which the most respectable
citizens were ready to use the dagger.

Such was the character of their spirit, in its occasional ferments at home;
and it burst commonly with a suitable violence and force, against their
foreign rivals and enemies. The amiable plea of humanity was little
regarded by them in the operations of war. Cities were razed, or enslaved;
the captive sold, mutilated, or condemned to die.

When viewed on this side, the ancient nations have but a sorry plea for
esteem with the inhabitants of modern Europe, who profess to carry the
civilities of peace into the practice of war; and who value the praise of
indiscriminate lenity at a higher rate than even that of military prowess,
or the love of their country. And yet they have, in other respects, merited
and obtained our praise. Their ardent attachment to their country; their
contempt of suffering, and of death, in its cause; their manly
apprehensions of personal independence, which rendered every individual,
even under tottering establishments and imperfect laws, the guardian of
freedom to his fellow citizens; their activity of mind; in short, their
penetration, the ability of their conduct, and force of their spirit, have
gained them the first rank among nations.

If their animosities were great, their affections were proportionate; they,
perhaps, loved, where we only pity; and were stern and inexorable, where we
are not merciful, but only irresolute. After all, the merit of a man is
determined by his candour and generosity to his associates, by his zeal for
national objects, and by his vigour in maintaining political rights; not by
moderation alone, which proceeds frequently from indifference to national
and public interest, and which serves to relax the nerves on which the
force of a private, as well as a public, character depends.

When under the Macedonian and the Roman monarchies, a nation came to be
considered as, the estate of a prince, and the inhabitants of a province to
be regarded as a lucrative property, the possession of territory, not the
destruction of its people, became the object of conquest. The pacific
citizen had little concern in the quarrels of sovereigns; the violence of
the soldier was restrained by discipline. He fought, because he was taught
to carry arms, and to obey: he sometimes shed unnecessary blood in the
ardour of victory; but, except in the case of civil wars, had no passions
to excite his animosity beyond the field and the day of battle. Leaders
judged of the objects of an enterprise, and they arrested the sword when
these were obtained.

In the modern nations of Europe, where extent of territory admits of a
distinction between the state and its subjects, we are accustomed to think
of the individual with compassion, seldom of the public with zeal. We have
improved on the laws of war, and on the lenitives which have been devised
to soften its rigours; we have mingled politeness with the use of the
sword; we have learned to make war under the stipulations of treaties and
cartels, and trust to the faith of an enemy whose ruin we meditate. Glory
is more successfully obtained by saving and protecting, than by destroying
the vanquished: and the most amiable of all objects is, in appearance,
attained; the employing of force, only for the obtaining of justice, and
for the preservation of national rights.

This is, perhaps, the principal characteristic, on which, among modern
nations, we bestow the epithets of _civilized_ or of _polished_.
But we have seen, that it did not accompany the progress of sorts among the
Greeks, nor keep pace with the advancement of policy, literature, and
philosophy. It did not await the returns of learning and politeness among
the moderns; it was found in an early period of our history, and
distinguished, perhaps more than at present; the manners of the ages
otherwise rude and undisciplined. A king of France, prisoner in the hands
of his enemies, was treated, about four hundred years ago, with as much
distinction and courtesy as a crowned head, in the like circumstances,
could possibly expect in this age of politeness. [Footnote: Hume's History
of England.] The prince of Conde, defeated and taken in the battle of
Dreux, slept at night in the same bed with his enemy the duke of
Guise. [Footnote: Davila.]

If the moral of popular traditions, and the taste of fabulous legends,
which are the productions or entertainment of particular ages, are likewise
sure indications of their notions and characters, we may presume, that the
foundation of what is now held to be the law of war, and, of nations, was
laid in the manners of Europe, together with the sentiments which are
expressed in the tales of chivalry, and of gallantry. Our system of war
differs not more from that of the Greeks, than the favourite characters of
our early romance differed from those of the Iliad, and of every ancient
poem. The hero of the Greek fable, endued with superior force, courage, and
address, takes every advantage of an enemy, to kill with safety to himself;
and, actuated by a desire of spoil, or by a principle of revenge, is never
stayed in his progress by interruptions of remorse or compassion. Homer,
who, of all poets, knew best how to exhibit the emotions of a vehement
affection, seldom attempts to excite commiseration. Hector falls unpitied,
and his body is insulted by every Greek.

Our modern fable, or romance, on the contrary, generally couples an object
of pity, weak, oppressed, and defenceless, with an object of admiration,
brave, generous, and victorious; or sends the hero abroad in search of mere
danger, and of occasions to prove his valour. Charged with the maxims of a
refined courtesy, to be observed even towards an enemy; and of a scrupulous
honour, which will not suffer him to take any advantages by artifice or
surprise; indifferent to spoil, he contends only for renown, and employs
his valour to rescue the distressed, and to protect the innocent. If
victorious, he is made to rise above nature as much in his generosity and
gentleness, as in his military prowess and valour.

It may be difficult, upon stating this contrast between the system of
ancient and modern fable, to assign, among nations, equally rude, equally
addicted to war, and equally fond of military glory, the origin of
apprehensions on the point of honour, so different, and so opposite. The
hero of Greek poetry proceeds on the maxims of animosity and hostile
passion. His maxims in war are like those which prevail in the woods of
America. They require him to be brave, but they allow him to practise
against his enemy every sort of deception. The hero of modern romance
professes a contempt of stratagem, as well as of danger, and unites in the
same person, characters and dispositions seemingly opposite; ferocity with
gentleness, and the love of blood with sentiments of tenderness and pity.

The system of chivalry, when completely formed, proceeded on a marvellous
respect and veneration to the fair sex, on forms of combat established, and
on a supposed junction of the heroic and sanctified character. The
formalities of the duel, and a kind of judicial challenge, were known among
the ancient Celtic nations of Europe. [Footnote: Liv., lib. 28. c. 21.] The
Germans, even in their native forests, paid a kind of devotion to the
female sex. The Christian religion enjoined meekness and compassion to
barbarous ages. These different principles combined together, may have
served as the foundation of a system, in which courage was directed by
religion and love, and the warlike and gentle were united together. When
the characters of the hero and the saint were mixed, the mild spirit of
Christianity, though often turned into venom by the bigotry of opposite
parties, though it could not always subdue the ferocity of the warrior, nor
suppress the admiration of courage and force, may have confirmed the
apprehensions of men in what was to be held meritorious and splendid in the
conduct of their quarrels.

In the early and traditionary history of the Greeks and the Romans, rapes
were assigned as the most frequent occasions of war; and the sexes were, no
doubt, at all times, equally important to each other. The enthusiasm of
love is most powerful in the neighbourhood of Asia and Africa; and beauty,
as a possession, was probably more valued by the countrymen of Homer, than
it was by those of Amadis de Gaul, or by the authors of modern gallantry.
"What wonder," says the old Priam, when Helen appeared, "that nations
should contend for the possession of so much beauty?" This beauty, indeed,
was possessed by different lovers; a subject on which the modern hero had
many refinements, and seemed to soar in the clouds. He adored at a
respectful distance, and employed his valour to captivate the admiration,
not to gain the possession of his mistress. A cold and unconquerable
chastity was set up, as an idol to be worshipped, in the toils, the
sufferings, and the combats of the hero and the lover.

The feudal establishments, by the high rank to which they elevated certain
families, no doubt, greatly favoured this romantic system. Not only the
lustre of a noble descent, but the stately castle beset with battlements
and towers, served to inflame the imagination, and to create a veneration
for the daughter and the sister of gallant chiefs, whose point of honour it
was to be inaccessible and chaste, and who could perceive no merit but that
of the high minded and the brave, nor be approached in any other ascents
than those of gentleness and respect.

What was originally singular in these apprehensions, was, by the writer of
romance, turned to extravagance; and under the title of chivalry was
offered as a model of conduct, even in common affairs: the fortunes of
nations were directed by gallantry; and human life, on its greatest
occasions, became a scene of affectation and folly. Warriors went forth to
realize the legends they had studied; princes and leaders of armies
dedicated their most serious exploits to a real or to a fancied mistress.

But whatever was the origin of notions, often so lofty and so ridiculous,
we cannot doubt of their lasting effects on our manners. The point of
honour, the prevalence of gallantry in our conversations, and on our
theatres, many of the opinions which the vulgar apply even to the conduct
of war; their notion, that the leader of an army, being offered battle upon
equal terms, is dishonoured by declining it, are undoubtedly remains of
this antiquated system: and chivalry, uniting with the genius of our
policy, has probably suggested those peculiarities in the law of nations,
by which modern states are distinguished from the ancient. And if our rule
in measuring degrees of politeness and civilization is to be taken from
hence, or from the advancement of commercial arts, we shall be found to
have greatly excelled any of the celebrated nations of antiquity.


       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *



No nation is so unfortunate as to think itself inferior to the rest of
mankind: few are even willing to put up with the claim to equality. The
greater part having chosen themselves, as at once, the judges and the
models of what is excellent in their kind, are first in their own opinion,
and give to others consideration or eminence, so far only as they approach
to their own condition. One nation is vain of the personal character, or of
the learning of a few of its members; another, of its policy, its wealth,
its tradesmen, its gardens, and its buildings; and they who have nothing to
boast are vain, because they are ignorant. The Russians, before the reign
of Peter the Great, thought themselves possessed of every national honour,
and held the _Nemei_, or _dumb nations_, the name which they
bestowed on then western neighbours of Europe, in a proportional degree of
contempt. [Footnote: Strahlenberg.] The map of the world, in China, was a
square plate, the greater part of which was occupied by the provinces of
this great empire, leaving on its skirts a few obscure corners, into which
the wretched remainder of mankind were supposed to be driven. "If you have
not the use of our letters, nor the knowledge of our books," said the
learned Chinese to the European missionary, "what literature, or what
science can you have?" [Footnote: Gemelli Carceri.]

The term _polished_, if we may judge from its etymology, originally
referred to the state of nations in respect to their laws and government;
and men civilized were men practised in the duty of citizens. In its later
applications, it refers no less to the proficiency of nations in the
liberal and mechanical arts, in literature, and in commerce; and men
civilized are scholars, men of fashion and traders. But whatever may be its
application, it appears, that if there were a name still more respectable
than this, every nation, even the most barbarous, or the most corrupted,
would assume it; and bestow its reverse where they conceived a dislike, or
apprehended a difference. The names of _alien_ or _foreigner_,
are seldom pronounced without some degree of intended reproach. That of
_barbarian_, in use with one arrogant people, and that of
_gentile_, with another, only served to distinguish the stranger,
whose language and pedigree differed from theirs.

Even where we pretend to found our opinions on reason, and to justify our
preference of one nation to another, we frequently bestow our esteem on
circumstances which do not relate to national character, and which have
little tendency to promote the welfare of mankind. Conquest, or great
extent of territory, however peopled, and great wealth, however distributed
or employed, are titles upon which we indulge our own, and the vanity of
other nations, as we do that of private men on the score of their fortunes
and honours. We even sometimes contend, whose capital is the most
overgrown; whose king has the most absolute power; and at whose court the
bread of the subject is consumed in the most senseless riot. These indeed
are the notions of vulgar minds; but it is impossible to determine, how far
the notions of vulgar minds may lead mankind.

There have certainly, been very few examples of states, who have, by arts
of policy, improved the original dispositions of human nature, or
endeavoured, by wise and effectual precautions, to prevent its corruption.
Affection, and force of mind, which are the band and the strength of
communities, were the inspiration of God, and original attributes in the
nature of man. The wisest policy of nations, except in a few instances, has
tended, we may suspect, rather to maintain the peace of society, and to
repress the external effects of bad passions, than to strengthen the
disposition of the heart itself to justice and goodness. It has tended, by
introducing a variety of arts, to exercise the ingenuity of men, and by
engaging them in a variety of pursuits, inquiries, and studies, to inform,
but frequently to corrupt the mind. It has tended to furnish matter of
distinction and vanity; and by incumbering the individual with new subjects
of personal care, to substitute the anxiety he entertains for a separate
fortune, instead of the confidence and the affection with which he should
unite with his fellow creatures, for their joint preservation.

Whether this suspicion be just or no, we are come to point at circumstances
tending to verify, or to disprove it: and if to understand the real
felicity of nations be of importance, it is certainly so likewise, to know
what are those weaknesses, and those vices, by which men not only mar this
felicity, but in one age forfeit all the external advantages they had
gained in a former.

The wealth, the aggrandizement, and power of nations, are commonly the
effects of virtue; the loss of these advantages is often a consequence of
vice. Were we to suppose men to have succeeded in the discovery and
application of every art by which states are preserved and governed; to
have attained, by efforts of wisdom and magnanimity, the admired
establishments and advantages of a civilized and flourishing people; the
subsequent part of their history, containing, according to vulgar
apprehension, a full display of those fruits in maturity, of which they had
till then carried only the blossom, and the first formation, should, still
more than the former, merit our attention, and excite our admiration.

The event, however, has not corresponded to this expectation. The virtues
of men have shone most during their struggles, not after the attainment of
their ends. Those ends themselves, though attained by virtue, are
frequently the causes of corruption and vice. Mankind, in aspiring to
national felicity, have substituted arts which increase their riches,
instead of those which improve their nature. They have entertained
admiration of themselves, under the titles of _civilized_ and of
_polished_, where they should have been affected with shame; and even
where they have, for a while, acted on maxims tending to raise, to
invigorate, and to preserve the national character, they have, sooner or
later, been diverted from their object, and fallen a prey to misfortune, or
to the neglects which prosperity itself had encouraged.

War, which furnishes mankind with a principal occupation of their restless
spirit, serves, by the variety of its events, to diversify their fortunes.
While it opens to one tribe or society, the way to eminence, and leads to
dominion, it brings another to subjection, and closes the scene of their
national efforts. The celebrated rivalship of Carthage and Rome was, in
both parties, the natural exercise of an ambitious spirit, impatient of
opposition, or even of equality. The conduct and the fortune of leaders
held the balance for some time in suspense; but to which ever side it had
inclined, a great nation was to fall; a seat of empire, and of policy, was
to be removed from its place; and it was then to be determined, whether the
Syriac or the Latin should contain the erudition that was, in future ages,
to occupy the studies of the learned.

States have been thus conquered from abroad, before they gave any signs of
internal decay, even in the midst of prosperity, and in the period of their
greatest ardour for national objects. Athens, in the height of her
ambition, and of her glory, received a fatal wound, in striving to extend
her maritime power beyond the Grecian seas. And nations of every
description, formidable by their rude ferocity, respected for their
discipline and military experience, when advancing, as well as when
declining, in their strength, fell a prey by turns to the ambition and
arrogant spirit of the Romans. Such examples may excite and alarm the
jealousy and caution of states; the presence of similar dangers may
exercise the talents of politicians and statesmen; but mere reverses of
fortune are the common materials of history, and must long since have
ceased to create our surprise.

Did we find, that nations advancing from small beginnings, and arrived at
the possession of arts which lead to dominion, became secure of their
advantages, in proportion as they were qualified to gain them; that they
proceeded in a course of uninterrupted felicity, till they were broke by
external calamities; and that they retained their force, till a more
fortunate or vigorous power arose to depress them; the subject in
speculation could not be attended with many difficulties, nor give rise to
many reflections. But when we observe, among many nations, a kind of
spontaneous return to obscurity and weakness; when, in spite of perpetual
admonitions of the danger they run, they suffer themselves to be subdued,
in one period, by powers which could not have entered into competition with
them in a former, and by forces which they had often baffled and despised,
the subject becomes more curious, and its explanation more difficult.

(The fact itself is known in a variety of different examples. The empire of
Asia was, more than once, transferred from the greater to the inferior
power. The states of Greece, once so warlike, felt a relaxation of their
vigour, and yielded the ascendant they had disputed with the monarchs of
the east, to the forces of an obscure principality, become formidable in a
few years, and raised to eminence under the conduct of a single man. The
Roman empire, which stood alone for ages, which had brought every rival
under subjection, and saw no power from whom a competition could be feared,
sunk at last before an artless and contemptible enemy. Abandoned to inroad,
to pillage, and at last to conquest, on her frontier, she decayed in all
her extremities, and shrunk on every side. Her territory was dismembered,
and whole provinces gave way, like branches fallen down with age, not
violently torn by superior force. The spirit with which Marius had baffled
and repelled the attacks of barbarians in a former age, the civil and
military force with which the consul and his legions had extended this
empire, were now no more. The Roman greatness, doomed to sink as it rose,
by slow degrees, was impaired in every encounter. It was reduced to its
original dimensions, within the compass of a single city; and depending for
its preservation on the fortune of a siege, it was extinguished at a blow;
and the brand, which had filled the world with its flames, sunk like a
taper in the socket.

Such appearances have given rise to a general apprehension, that the
progress of societies to what we call the heights of national greatness, is
not more natural, than their return to weakness and obscurity is necessary
and unavoidable. The images of youth, and of old age, are applied to
nations; and communities, like single men, are supposed to have a period of
life, and a length of thread, which is spun by the fates in one part
uniform and strong, in another weakened and shattered by use; to be cut,
when the destined era is come, and to make way for a renewal of the emblem
in the case of those who arise in succession. Carthage being so much older
than Rome, had felt her decay, says Polybius, so much the sooner; and the
survivor too, he foresaw, carried in her bosom the seeds of mortality.

The image indeed is apposite, and the history of mankind renders the
application familiar. But it must be obvious, that the case of nations, and
that of individuals, are very different. The human frame has a general
course: it has in every individual a frail contexture and limited duration;
it is worn by exercise, and exhausted by a repetition of its functions: but
in a society, whose constituent members are renewed in every generation,
where the race seems to enjoy perpetual youth, and accumulating advantages,
we cannot, by any parity of reason, expect to find imbecilities connected
with mere age and length of days.

The subject is not new, and reflections will crowd upon every reader. The
notions, in the mean time, which we entertain, even in speculation, upon a
subject so important, cannot be entirely fruitless to mankind; and however
little the labours of the speculative may influence the conduct of men, one
of the most pardonable errors a writer can commit, is to believe that he is
about to do a great deal of good. But, leaving the care of effects to
others, we proceed to consider the grounds of inconstancy among mankind,
the sources of internal decay, and the ruinous corruptions to which nations
are liable, in the supposed condition of accomplished civility.



From what we have already observed on the general characteristics of human
nature, it has appeared that man is not made for repose. In him every
amiable and respectable quality, is an active power, and every subject of
commendation an effort. If his errors and his crimes are the movements of
an active being, his virtues and his happiness consist likewise in the
employment of his mind; and all the lustre which he casts around him, to
captivate or engage the attention of his fellow creatures, like the flame
of a meteor, shines only while his motion continues; the moments of rest
and obscurity are the same. We know, that the tasks assigned him frequently
may exceed, as well as come short of, his powers; that he may be agitated
too much, as well as too little; but cannot ascertain a precise medium
between the situations in which he would be harassed, and those in which he
would fall into languor. We know that he may be employed on a great variety
of subjects, which occupy different passions; and that, in consequence of
habit, he becomes reconciled to very different scenes. All we can determine
in general is, that whatever be the subjects with which he is engaged, the
frame of his nature requires him to be occupied, and his happiness requires
him to be just.

We are now to inquire, why nations cease to be eminent; and why societies
which have drawn the attention of mankind by great examples of magnanimity,
conduct, and national success, should sink from the height of their
honours, and yield, in one age, the palm which they had won in a former.
Many reasons will probably occur. One may be taken from the fickleness and
inconstancy of mankind, who become tired of their pursuits and exertions,
even while the occasions that gave rise to those pursuits; in some measure,
continue; another, from the change of situations, and the removal of
objects which served to excite their spirit.

The public safety, and the relative interests of states; political
establishments, the pretensions of party, commerce, and arts, are subjects
which engage the attention of nations. The advantages gained in some of
these particulars, determine the degree of national prosperity. The ardour
and vigour with which they are at any one time pursued, is the measure of a
national spirit. When those objects cease to animate, nations may be said
to languish; when they are during a considerable time neglected, states
must decline, and their people degenerate.

In the most forward, enterprising, inventive, and industrious nations, this
spirit is fluctuating; and they who continue longest to gain advantages, or
to preserve them, have periods of remissness, as well as of ardour. The
desire of public safety, is, at all times, a powerful motive of conduct;
but it operates most when combined with occasional passions, when
provocations inflame, when successes encourage, or mortifications

A whole people, like the individuals of whom they are composed, act under
the influence of temporary humours, sanguine hopes, or vehement
animosities. They are disposed, at one time, to enter on national struggles
with vehemence; at another, to drop them from mere lassitude and disgust.
In their civil debates and contentions at home, they are occasionally
ardent or remiss. Epidemical passions arise or subside on trivial as well
as important grounds. Parties are ready, at one time, to take their names
and the pretence of their oppositions, from mere caprice or accident; at
another time, they suffer the most serious occasions to pass in silence. If
a vein of literary genius be casually opened, or a new subject of
disquisition be started, real or pretended discoveries suddenly multiply,
and every conversation is inquisitive and animated. If a new source of
wealth be found, or a prospect of conquest be offered, the imaginations of
men are inflamed, and whole quarters of the globe are suddenly engaged in
ruinous or in successful adventures.

Could we recall the spirit that was exerted, or enter into the views that
were entertained, by our ancestors, when they burst, like a deluge, from
their ancient seats, and poured into the Roman empire, we should probably,
after their first success at least, find a ferment in the minds of men, for
which no attempt was too arduous, no difficulties insurmountable.

The subsequent ages of enterprise in Europe, were those in which the alarm
of enthusiasm was rung, and the followers of the cross invaded the east, to
plunder a country, and to recover a sepulchre; those in which the people in
different states contended for freedom, and assaulted the fabric of civil
or religious usurpation; that in which, having found means to cross the
Atlantic, and to double the Cape of Good Hope, the inhabitants of one half
the world were let loose on the other, and parties from every quarter,
wading in blood, and at the expense of every crime, and of every danger,
traversed the earth in search of gold.

Even the weak and the remiss are roused to enterprise, by the contagion of
such remarkable ages; and states, which have not in their form the
principles of a continued exertion, either favourable or adverse to the
welfare of mankind, may have paroxysms of ardour, and a temporary
appearance of national vigour. In the case of such nations, indeed, the
returns of moderation are but a relapse to obscurity, and the presumption
of one age is turned to dejection in that which succeeds.

But in the case of states that are fortunate in, their domestic policy,
even madness itself may, in the result of violent convulsions, subside into
wisdom; and a people return to their ordinary mood, cured of their follies,
and wiser by experience; or, with talents improved, in conducting the very
scenes which frenzy had opened, they may then appear best qualified to
pursue with success the object of nations. Like the ancient republics,
immediately after some alarming sedition, or like the kingdom of Great
Britain, at the close of its civil wars, they retain the spirit of activity
which was recently awakened, and are equally vigorous in every pursuit,
whether of policy, learning, or arts. From having appeared on the brink of
ruin, they pass to the greatest prosperity.)

Men engage in pursuits with degrees of ardour not proportioned to the
importance of their object. When they are stated in opposition, or joined
in confederacy, they only wish for pretences to act. They forget, in the
heat of their animosities, the subject of their controversy; or they seek,
in their formal reasonings concerning it, only a disguise for their
passions. When the heart is inflamed, no consideration can repress its
ardour; when its fervour subsides, no reasoning can excite, and no
eloquence awaken its former emotions.

The continuance of emulation among states must depend on the degree of
equality by which their forces are balanced; or on the incentives by which
either party, or all, are urged to continue their struggles. Long
intermissions of war, suffer, equally in every period of civil society, the
military spirit to languish. (The reduction of Athens by Lysander, struck a
fatal blow at the institutions of Lycurgus; and the quiet possession of
Italy, happily perhaps for mankind, had almost put an end to the military
progress of the Romans. After some years repose, Hannibal found Italy
unprepared for his onset, and the Romans in a disposition likely to drop,
on the banks of the Po, that martial ambition, which being roused by the
sense of a new danger, afterwards, carried them to the Euphrates and the

States, even distinguished for military prowess, sometimes lay down their
arms from lassitude, and are weary of fruitless contentions; but if they
maintain the station of independent communities, they will have frequent
occasions to recall, and to exert their vigour. Even under popular
governments, men sometimes drop the consideration of their political
rights, and appear at times remiss or supine; but if they have reserved the
power to defend themselves, the intermission of its exercise cannot be of
long duration. Political rights, when neglected, are always invaded; and
alarms from this quarter must frequently come to renew the attention of
parties. The love of learning, and of arts, may change its pursuits, or
droop for a season; but while men are possessed of freedom, and while the
exercises of ingenuity are not superseded, the public may proceed, at
different times, with unequal fervour; but its progress is seldom
altogether discontinued, or the advantages gained in one age are seldom
entirely lost to the following. If we would find the causes of final
corruption, we must examine those revolutions of state that remove, or
withhold, the objects of every ingenious study or liberal pursuit; that
deprive the citizen of occasions to act as the member of a public; that
crush his spirit; that debase his sentiments, and disqualify his mind for



Improving nations, in the course of their advancement, have to struggle
with foreign enemies, to whom they bear an extreme animosity, and with
whom, in many conflicts, they contend for their existence as a people. In
certain periods, too, they feel in their domestic policy inconveniencies
and grievances, which beget an eager impatience; and they apprehend
reformations and new establishments, from which they have sanguine hopes of
national happiness. In early ages, every art is imperfect, and susceptible
of many improvements. The first principles of every science are yet secrets
to be discovered, and to be successively published with applause and

We may fancy to ourselves, that in ages of progress, the human race, like
scouts gone abroad on the discovery of fertile lands, having the world open
before them, are presented at every step with the appearance of novelty.
They enter on every new ground with expectation and joy: they engage in
every enterprise with the ardour of men, who believe they are going to
arrive at national felicity, and permanent glory; and forget past
disappointments amidst the hopes of future success. From mere ignorance,
rude minds are intoxicated with every passion; and, partial to their own
condition, and to their own pursuits, they think that every scene is
inferior to that in which they are placed. Roused alike by success and by
misfortune, they are sanguine, ardent, and precipitant; and leave, to the
more knowing ages which succeed them, monuments of imperfect skill, and of
rude execution of every art; but they leave likewise the marks of a
vigorous and ardent spirit, which their successors are not always qualified
to sustain, or to imitate.

This may be admitted, perhaps, as a fair description of prosperous
societies, at least during certain periods of their progress. The spirit
with which they advance may be unequal in different ages, and may have its
paroxysms and intermissions, arising from the inconstancy of human
passions, and from the casual appearance or removal of occasions that
excite them. But does this spirit, which for a time continues to carry on
the project of civil and commercial arts, find a natural pause in the
termination of its own pursuits? May the business of civil society be
accomplished, and may the occasion of farther exertion be removed? Do
continued disappointments reduce sanguine hopes, and familiarity with
objects blunt the edge of novelty? Does experience itself cool the ardour
of the mind? May the society be again compared to the individual? And may
it be suspected, although the vigour of a nation, like that of a natural
body, does not waste by a physical decay, that yet it may sicken for want
of exercise, and die in the close of its own exertions? May societies, in
the completion of all their designs, like men in years, who disregard the
amusements, and are insensible to the passions of youth, become cold and
indifferent to objects that used to animate in a ruder age? And may a
polished community be compared to a man who, having executed his plan,
built his house, and made his settlement; who having, in short, exhausted
the charms of every subject, and wasted all his ardour, sinks into languor
and listless indifference? If so, we have found at least another simile to
our purpose. But it is probable, that here too the resemblance is
imperfect; and the inference that would follow, like that of most arguments
drawn from analogy, tends rather to amuse the fancy, than to give any real
information on the subject to which it refers.

The materials of human art are never entirely exhausted, and the
applications of industry are never at an end. The national ardour is not,
at any particular time, proportioned to the occasion there is for activity;
nor the curiosity of the learned to the extent of subject that remains to
be studied.

The ignorant and the artless, to whom objects of science are new, and whose
manner of life is most simple, instead of being more active and more
curious, are commonly more quiescent, and less inquisitive, than those who
are best furnished with knowledge and the conveniencies of life. When we
compare the particulars which occupy mankind in the beginning and in the
advanced age of commercial arts, these particulars will be found greatly
multiplied and enlarged in the last. The questions we have put, however,
deserve to be answered; and if, in the result of commerce, we do not find
the objects of human pursuit removed, or greatly diminished, we may find
them at least changed; and in estimating the national spirit, we may find
a negligence in one part, but ill compensated by the growing attention
which is paid to another.

It is true, in general, that in all our pursuits, there is a termination of
trouble, and a point of repose to which we aspire. We would remove this
inconvenience, or gain that advantage, that our labours may cease. When I
have conquered Italy and Sicily, says Pyrrhus, I shall then enjoy my
repose. This termination is proposed in our national, as well as in our
personal exertions; and, in spite of frequent experience to the contrary,
is considered, at a distance, as the height of felicity. But nature has
wisely, in most particulars, baffled our project; and placed no where
within our reach this visionary blessing of absolute ease. The attainment
of one end is but the beginning of a new pursuit; and the discovery of one
art is but a prolongation of the thread by which we are conducted to
further inquiries, and while we hope to escape from the labyrinth, are led
to its most intricate paths.

Among the occupations that may be enumerated, as tending to exercise the
invention, and to cultivate the talents of men, are the pursuits of
accommodation and wealth, including all the different contrivances which
serve to increase manufactures, and to perfect the mechanical arts. But it
must be owned, that as the materials of commerce may continue to be
accumulated without any determinate limit, so the arts which are applied to
improve them, may admit of perpetual refinements. No measure of fortune, or
degree of skill, is found to diminish the supposed necessities of human
life; refinement and plenty foster new desires, while they furnish the
means, or practise the methods, to gratify them.

In the result of commercial arts, inequalities of fortune are greatly
increased, and the majority, of every people are obliged by necessity, or
at least strongly incited by ambition and avarice; to employ every talent
they possess. After a history of some thousand years employed in
manufacture and commerce, the inhabitants of China are still the most
laborious and industrious of any people on earth.

Some part of this observation may be extended to the elegant and literary
arts. They too have their materials which cannot be exhausted, and proceed
from desires which cannot be satiated. But the respect paid to literary
merit is fluctuating, and matter of transient fashion. When learned
productions accumulate, the acquisition of knowledge occupies the time that
might be bestowed on invention. The object of mere learning is attained
with moderate or inferior talents, and the growing list of pretenders
diminishes the lustre of the few who are eminent. When we only mean to
learn what others have taught, it is probable that even our knowledge will
be less than that of our masters. Great names continue to be repeated with
admiration, after we have ceased to examine the foundations of our praise;
and new pretenders are rejected, not because they fall short of their
predecessors, but because they do not excel them; or because in reality we
have, without examination, taken for granted the merit of the first, and
cannot judge of either.

After libraries are furnished, and every path of ingenuity is occupied, we
are, in proportion to our admiration of what is already done, prepossessed
against farther attempts. We become students and admirers, instead of
rivals; and substitute the knowledge of books, instead of the inquisitive
or animated spirit in which they were written.

The commercial and the lucrative arts may continue to prosper, but they
gain an ascendant at the expense of other pursuits. The desire of profit
stifles the love of perfection. Interest cools the imagination, and hardens
the heart; and, recommending employments in proportion as they are
lucrative, and certain in their gains, it drives ingenuity, and ambition
itself, to the counter and the workshop. But, apart from these
considerations, the separation of professions, while it seems to promise
improvement of skill, and is actually the cause why the productions of
every art become more perfect as commerce advances; yet, in its termination
and ultimate effects, serves, in some measure, to break the bands of
society, to substitute mere forms and rules of art in place of ingenuity,
and to withdraw individuals from the common scene of occupation, on which
the sentiments of the heart, and the mind, are most happily employed.

Under the _distinction_ of callings, by which the members of polished
society are separated from each other, every individual is supposed to
possess his species of talent, or his peculiar skill, in which the others
are confessedly ignorant; and society is made to consist of parts, of which
none is animated with the spirit that ought to prevail in the conduct of
nations. "We see in the same persons," said Pericles, "an equal attention
to private and to public affairs; and in men who have turned to separate
professions, a competent knowledge of what relates to the community; for we
alone consider those who are inattentive to the state, as perfectly
insignificant." This encomium on the Athenians was probably offered under
an apprehension, that the contrary was likely to be charged by their
enemies, or might soon take place. It happened, accordingly, that the
business of state, as well as of war, came to be worse administered at
Athens, when these, as well as other applications, became the object of
separate professions; and the history of this people abundantly shewed,
that men ceased to be citizens, even to be good poets and orators, in
proportion as they came to be distinguished by the profession of these, and
other separate crafts.

Animals less honoured than we, have sagacity enough to procure their food,
and to find the means of their solitary pleasures; but it is reserved for
man to consult, to persuade, to oppose, to kindle in the society of his
fellow creatures, and to lose the sense of his personal interest or safety,
in the ardour of his friendships and his oppositions.

When we are involved in any of the divisions into which mankind are
separated under the denominations of a country, a tribe, or an order of men
any way affected by common interests, and guided by communicating passions,
the mind recognises its natural station; the sentiments of the heart, and
the talents of the understanding, find their natural exercise. Wisdom,
vigilance, fidelity, and fortitude, are the characters requisite in such a
scene, and the qualities which it tends to improve.

In simple or barbarous ages, when nations are weak, and beset with enemies,
the love of a country, of a party, or a faction, are the same. The public
is a knot of friends, and its enemies are the rest of mankind. Death, or
slavery, are the ordinary evils which they are concerned to ward off;
victory and dominion, the objects to which they aspire. Under the sense of
what they may suffer from foreign invasions, it is one object, in every
prosperous society, to increase its force, and to extend its limits. In
proportion as this object is gained, security increases. They who possess
the interior districts, remote from the frontier, are unused to alarms from
abroad. They who are placed on the extremities, remote from the seats of
government, are unused to hear of political interests; and the public
becomes an object perhaps too extensive for the conceptions of either. They
enjoy the protection of its laws, or of its armies; and they boast of its
splendour, and its power; but the glowing sentiments of public affection,
which, in small states, mingle with the tenderness of the parent and the
lover, of the friend and the companion, merely by having their object
enlarged, lose great part of their force.

The manners of rude nations require to be reformed. Their foreign quarrels,
and domestic dissentions, are the operations of extreme and sanguinary
passions. A state of greater tranquillity hath many happy effects. But if
nations pursue the plan of enlargement and pacification, till their members
can no longer apprehend the common ties of society, nor be engaged by
affection in the cause of their country, they must err on the opposite
side, and by leaving too little to agitate the spirits of men, bring on
ages of languor, if not of decay.

The members of a community may, in this manner, like the inhabitants of a
conquered province, be made to lose the sense of every connection, but that
of kindred or neighbourhood; and have no common affairs to transact, but
those of trade: connections, indeed, or transactions, in which probity and
friendship may still take place; but in which the national spirit, whose
ebbs and flows we are now considering, cannot be exerted.

What we observe, however, on the tendency of enlargement to loosen the
bands of political union, cannot be applied to nations who, being
originally narrow, never greatly extended their limits; nor to those who,
in a rude state, had already the extension of a great kingdom.

In territories of considerable extent, subject to one government, and
possessed of freedom, the national union, in rude ages, is extremely
imperfect. Every district forms a separate party; and the descendants of
different families are opposed to each other, under the denomination of
tribes or of clans: they are seldom brought to act with a steady concert;
their feuds and animosities give more frequently the appearance of so many
nations at war, than of a people united by connections of policy. They
acquire a spirit, however, in their private divisions, and in the midst of
a disorder, otherwise hurtful, of which the force, on many occasions,
redounds to the power of the state.

Whatever be the national extent, civil order, and regular government, are
advantages of the greatest importance; but it does not follow, that every
arrangement made to obtain these ends, and which may, in the making,
exercise and cultivate the best qualities of men, is therefore of a nature
to produce permanent effects, and to secure the preservation of that
national spirit from which it arose.

We have reason to dread the political refinements of ordinary men, when we
consider that repose, or inaction itself, is in a great measure their
object; and that they would frequently model their governments, not merely
to prevent injustice and error, but to prevent agitation and bustle; and by
the barriers they raise against the evil actions of men, would prevent them
from acting at all. Every dispute of a free people, in the opinion of such
politicians, amounts to disorder, and a breach of the national peace. What
heart burnings? What delay to affairs? What want of secrecy and despatch?
What defect of police? Men of superior genius sometimes seem to imagine,
that the vulgar have no title to act, or to think. A great prince is
pleased to ridicule the precaution by which judges in a free country are
confined to the strict interpretation of law. [Footnote: Memoirs of

We easily learn to contract our opinions of what men may, in consistence
with public order, be safely permitted to do. The agitations of a republic,
and the license of its members, strike the subjects of monarchy with
aversion and disgust. The freedom with which the European is left to
traverse the streets and the fields, would appear to a Chinese a sure
prelude to confusion and anarchy. "Can men behold their superior and not
tremble? Can they converse without a precise and written ceremonial? What
hopes of peace, if, the streets are not barricaded at an hour? What wild
disorder, if men are permitted in any thing to do what they please?"

If the precautions which men thus take against each other, be necessary to
repress their crimes, and do not arise from a corrupt ambition, or from
cruel jealousy in their rulers, the proceeding itself must be applauded, as
the best remedy of which the vices of men will admit. The viper must be
held at a distance, and the tyger chained. But if a rigorous policy,
applied to enslave, not to restrain from crimes, has an actual tendency to
corrupt the manners, and to extinguish the spirit of nations; if its
severities be applied to terminate the agitations of a free people, not to
remedy their corruptions; if forms be often applauded as salutary, because
they tend merely to silence the voice of mankind, or be condemned as
pernicious, because they allow this voice to be heard; we may expect that
many of the boasted improvements of civil society, will be mere devices to
lay the political spirit at rest, and will chain up the active virtues more
than the restless disorders of men.

If to any people it be the avowed object of policy in all its internal
refinements, to secure only the person and the property of the subject,
without any regard to his political character, the constitution indeed may
be free, but its members may likewise become unworthy of the freedom they
possess, and unfit to preserve it. The effects of such a constitution may
be to immerse all orders of men in their separate pursuits of pleasure,
which they may on this supposition enjoy with little disturbance; or of
gain, which they may preserve without any attention to the commonwealth.

If this be the end of political struggles, the design, when executed, in
securing to the individual his estate, and the means of subsistence, may
put an end to the exercise of those very virtues that were required in
conducting its execution. A man who, in concert with his fellow subjects,
contends with usurpation in defence of his estate or his person, may in
that very struggle have found an exertion of great generosity, and of a
vigorous spirit; but he who, under political establishments, supposed to be
fully confirmed, betakes him, because he is safe, to the mere enjoyment of
fortune, has in fact turned to a source of corruption the advantages which
the virtues of the other procured. Individuals, in certain ages, derive
their protection chiefly from the strength of the party to which they
adhere; but in tithes of corruption they flatter themselves; that they may
continue to derive from the public that safety which, in former ages, they
must have owed to their own vigilance and spirit, to the warm attachment of
their friends, and to the exercise of every talent which could render them
respected, feared, or beloved. In one period, therefore, mere circumstances
serve to excite the spirit, and to preserve the manners of men; in another,
great wisdom and zeal for the good of mankind on the part of their leaders,
are required for the same purposes.

Rome, it may be thought, did not die of a lethargy, nor perish by the
remission of her political ardours at home. Her distemper appeared of a
nature more violent and acute. Yet if the virtues of Cato and of Brutus
found an exercise in the dying hour of the republic, the neutrality, and
the cautious retirement of Atticus, found its security in the same
tempestuous season; and the great body of the people lay undisturbed below
the current of a storm, by which the superior ranks of men were destroyed.
In the minds of the people the sense of a public was defaced; and even the
animosity of faction had subsided: they only could share in the commotion,
who were the soldiers of a legion, or the partisans of a leader. But this
state fell not into obscurity for want of eminent men. If at the time of
which we speak, we look only for a few names distinguished in the history
of mankind, there is no period at which the list was more numerous. But
those names became distinguished in the contest for dominion, not in the
exercise of equal rights: the people was corrupted; so great an empire
stood in need of a master.

Republican governments, in general, are in hazard of ruin from the
ascendant of particular factions, and from the mutinous spirit of a
populace, who, being corrupted, are no longer fit to share in the
administration of state. But under other establishments, where liberty may
be more successfully attained if men are corrupted, the national vigour
declines from the abuse of that very security which is procured by the
supposed perfection of public order.

A distribution of power and office; an execution of law, by which mutual
encroachments and molestations are brought to an end; by which the person
and the property are, without friends, without cabal, without obligation,
perfectly secured to individuals, does honour to the genius of a nation;
and could not have been fully established, without those exertions of
understanding and integrity, those trials of a resolute and vigorous
spirit, which adorn the annals of a people, and leave to future ages a
subject of just admiration and applause. But if we suppose that the end is
attained, and that men no longer act, in the enjoyment of liberty from
liberal sentiments, or with a view to the preservation of public manners;
if individuals think themselves secure without any attention or effort of
their own; this boasted advantage may be found only to give them an
opportunity of enjoying, at leisure, the conveniencies and necessaries of
life; or, in the language of Cato, teach them to value their houses, their
villas, their statues, and their pictures, at a higher rate than they do
the republic. They may be found to grow tired in secret of a free
constitution, of which they never cease to boast in their conversation, and
which they always neglect in their conduct.

The dangers to liberty are not the subject of our present consideration;
but they can never be greater from any cause than they are from the
supposed remissness of a people, to whose personal vigour every
constitution, as it owed its establishment, so must continue to owe its
preservation. Nor is this blessing ever less secure than it is in the
possession of men who think that they enjoy it in safety, and who therefore
consider the public only as it presents to their avarice a number of
lucrative employments; for the sake of which, they may sacrifice those very
rights which render themselves objects of management or of consideration.

From the tendency of these reflections, then, it should appear, that a
national spirit is frequently transient, not on account of any incurable
distemper in the nature of mankind, but on account of their voluntary
neglects and corruptions. This spirit subsisted solely, perhaps, in the
execution of a few projects, entered into for the acquisition of territory
or wealth; it comes, like a useless weapon, to be laid aside after its end
is attained.

Ordinary establishments terminate in a relaxation of vigour, and are
ineffectual to the preservation of states; because they lead mankind to
rely on their arts, instead of their virtues; and to mistake for an
improvement of human nature, a mere accession of accommodation, or of
riches. [Footnote:
  Adeo in quae laboramus sola crevimus
  Divitias luxuriamque.
Liv. lib. vii. c. 25.] Institutions that fortify the mind, inspire courage,
and promote national felicity, can never tend to national ruin.

Is it not possible, amidst our admiration of arts, to find some place for
these? Let statesmen, who are intrusted with the government of nations,
reply for themselves. It is their business to shew, whether they climb into
stations of eminence, merely to display a passion of interest, which they
had better indulge in obscurity; and whether they have capacity to
understand the happiness of a people, the conduct of whose affairs they are
so willing to undertake.



Men frequently, while they are engaged in what is accounted the most
selfish of all pursuits, the improvement of fortune, then most neglect
themselves; and while they reason for their country, forget the
considerations that most deserve their attention. Numbers, riches, and the
other resources of war, are highly important: but nations consist of men;
and a nation consisting of degenerate and cowardly men, is weak; a nation
consisting of vigorous, public spirited, and resolute men, is strong. The
resources of war, where other advantages are equal, may decide a contest;
but the resources of war, in hands that cannot employ them, are of no

Virtue is a necessary constituent of national strength: capacity, and a
vigorous understanding, are no less necessary to sustain the fortune of
states. Both are improved by discipline, and by the exercises in which men
are engaged. We despise, or we pity the lot of mankind, while they lived
under uncertain establishments, and were obliged to sustain in the same
person, the character of the senator, the statesman, and the soldier.
Commercial nations discover, that any one of these characters is sufficient
in one person; and that the ends of each, when disjoined, are more easily
accomplished. The first, however, were circumstances under which nations
advanced and prospered; the second were those in which the spirit relaxed,
and the nation went to decay.

We may, with good reason, congratulate our species on their having escaped
from a state of barbarous disorder and violence, into a state of domestic
peace and regular policy; when they have sheathed the dagger, and disarmed
the animosities of civil contention; when the weapons with which they
contend are the reasonings of the wise, and the tongue of the eloquent. But
we cannot, mean time, help to regret, that they should ever proceed, in
search of perfection, to place every branch of administration behind the
counter, and come to employ, instead of the statesman and warrior, the mere
clerk and accountant.

By carrying this system to its height, men are educated, who could copy for
Caesar his military instructions, or even execute a part of his plans; but
none who could act in all the different scenes for which the leader himself
must be qualified, in the state and in the field, in times of order or of
tumult, in times of division or of unanimity; none who could animate the
council when deliberating on domestic affairs, or when alarmed by attacks
from abroad.

The policy of China is the most perfect model of an arrangement at which
the ordinary refinements of government are aimed; and the inhabitants of
that empire possess, in the highest degree, those arts on which vulgar
minds make the felicity and greatness of nations to depend. The state has
acquired, in a measure unequalled in the history of mankind, numbers of
men, and the other resources of war. They have done what we are very apt to
admire: they have brought national affairs to the level of the meanest
capacity; they have broke them into parts, and thrown them into separate
departments; they have clothed every proceeding with splendid ceremonies,
and majestical forms; and where the reverence of forms cannot repress
disorder, a rigorous and severe police, armed with every species of
corporal punishment, is applied to the purpose. The whip, and the cudgel,
are held up to all orders of men; they are at once employed, and they are
dreaded, by every magistrate. A mandarine is whipped, for having ordered a
pickpocket to receive too few or too many blows.

Every department of state is made the object of a separate profession, and
every candidate for office must have passed through a regular education;
and, as in the graduations of the university, must have obtained by his
proficiency, or his standing, the degree to which he aspires. The tribunals
of state, of war, and of the revenue, as well as of literature, are
conducted by graduates in their different studies; but while learning is
the great road to preferment, it terminates in being able to read, and to
write; and the great object of government consists in raising, and in
consuming the fruits of the earth. With all these resources, and this
learned preparation, which is made to turn these resources to use, the
state is in reality weak; has repeatedly given the example which we seek to
explain; and among the doctors of war or of policy, among the millions who
are set apart for the military profession, can find none of its members who
are fit to stand forth in the dangers of their country, or to form a
defence against the repeated inroads of an enemy reputed to be artless and

It is difficult to tell how long the decay of states might be suspended, by
the cultivation of arts on which their real felicity and strength depend;
by cultivating in the higher ranks those talents for the council and the
field, which cannot, without great disadvantage, be separated; and in the
body of a people, that zeal for their country, and that military character,
which enable them to take a share in defending its rights.

Times may come, when every proprietor must defend his own possessions, and
every free people maintain their own independence. We may imagine, that,
against such an extremity, an army of hired troops is a sufficient
precaution; but their own troops are the very enemy against which a people
is sometimes obliged to fight. We may flatter ourselves, that extremities
of this sort, in any particular case, are remote; but we cannot, in
reasoning on the general fortunes of mankind, avoid putting the case, and
referring to the examples in which it has happened. It has happened in
every instance where the polished have fallen a prey to the rude, and where
the pacific inhabitant has been reduced to subjection by military force.

If the defence and government of a people be made to depend on a few, who
make the conduct of state or of war their profession; whether these be
foreigners or natives; whether they be called away of a sudden, like the
Roman legion from Britain; whether they turn against their employers, like
the army of Carthage; or be overpowered and dispersed by a stroke of
fortune; the multitude of a cowardly and undisciplined people must, upon
such an emergence; receive a foreign or a domestic enemy, as they would a
plague or an earthquake, with hopeless amazement and terror, and by their
numbers, only swell the triumphs, and enrich the spoil of a conqueror.

Statesmen and leaders of armies, accustomed to the mere observance of
forms, are disconcerted by a suspension of customary rules; and on slight
grounds despair of their country. They were qualified only to go the rounds
of a particular track; and when forced from their stations, are in reality
unable to act with men. They only took part in formalities, of which they
understood not the tendency; and together with the modes of procedure, even
the very state itself, in their apprehension, has ceased to exist. The
numbers, possessions, and resources of a great people, only serve, in their
view, to constitute a scene of hopeless confusion and terror.

In rude ages, under the appellations of _a community, a people_, or
_a nation_, was understood a number of men; and the state, while its
members remained, was accounted entire. The Scythians, while they fled
before Darius, mocked at his childish attempt; Athens survived the
devastations of Xerxes; and Rome, in its rude state, those of the Gauls.
With polished and mercantile states, the case is sometimes reversed. The
nation is a territory, cultivated and improved by its owners; destroy the
possession, even while the master remains, the state is undone.

The weakness and effeminacy of which polished nations are sometimes
accused, has its place probably in the mind alone. The strength of animals,
and that of man in particular, depends on his feeding; and the kind of
labour to which he is used. Wholesome food, and hard labour, the portion of
many in every polished and commercial nation, secure to the public a number
of men endued with bodily strength, and inured to hardship and toil.

Even delicate living, and good accommodation, are not found to enervate the
body. The armies of Europe have been obliged to make the experiment; and
the children of opulent families, bred in effeminacy, or nursed with tender
care, have been made to contend with the savage. By imitating his arts,
they have learned, like him, to traverse the forest; and, in every season,
to subsist in the desert. They have, perhaps, recovered a lesson, which it
has cost civilized nations many ages to unlearn, that the fortune of a man
is entire while he remains possessed of himself.

It may be thought, however, that few of the celebrated nations of
antiquity, whose fate has given rise to so much reflection on the
vicissitudes of human affairs, had made any great progress in those
enervating arts we have mentioned; or made those arrangements from which
the danger in question could be supposed to arise. The Greeks, in
particular, at the time they received the Macedonian yoke, had certainly
not carried the commercial arts to so great a height as is common with the
most flourishing and prosperous nations of Europe. They had still retained
the form of independent republics; the people were generally admitted to a
share in the government; and not being able to hire armies, they were
obliged, by necessity, to bear a part in the defence of their country. By
their frequent wars and domestic commotions, they were accustomed to
danger, and were familiar with alarming situations; they were accordingly
still accounted the best soldiers and the best statesmen of the known
world. The younger Cyrus promised himself the empire of Asia by means of
their aid; and after his fall, a body of ten thousand, although bereft of
their leaders, baffled, in their retreat, all the military force of the
Persian empire. The victor of Asia did not think himself prepared for that
conquest, till he had formed an army from the subdued republics of Greece.

It is, however, true, that in the age of Philip, the military and political
spirit of those nations appears to have been considerably impaired, and to
have suffered, perhaps, from the variety of interests and pursuits, as well
as of pleasures, with which their members came to be occupied; they even
made a kind of separation between the civil and military character.
Phocion, we are told by Plutarch, having observed that the leading men of
his time followed different courses, that some applied themselves to civil,
others to military affairs, determined rather to follow the examples of
Themistocles, Aristides, and Pericles, the leaders of a former age, who
were equally prepared for either.

We find in the orations of Demosthenes, a perpetual reference to this state
of manners. We find him exhorting the Athenians not only to declare war,
but to arm themselves for the execution of their own military plans. We
find that there was an order of military men, who easily passed from the
service of one state to that of another; and who, when they were neglected
from home, turned away to enterprises on their own account. There were not,
perhaps, better warriors in any former age; but those warriors were not
attached to any state; and the settled inhabitants of every city thought
themselves disqualified for military service. The discipline of armies was
perhaps improved; but the vigour of nations was gone to decay. When Philip,
or Alexander, defeated the Grecian armies, which were chiefly composed of
soldiers of fortune, they found an easy conquest with the other
inhabitants; and when the latter, afterwards supported by those soldiers,
invaded the Persian empire, he seems to have left little martial spirit
behind him; and by removing the military men, to have taken precaution
enough, in his absence, to secure his dominion over this mutinous and
refractory people.

The subdivision of arts and professions, in, certain examples, tends to
improve the practice of them, and to promote their ends. By having
separated the arts of the clothier and the tanner, we are the better
supplied with shoes and with cloth. But to separate the arts which form the
citizen and the statesman, the arts of policy and war, is an attempt to
dismember the human character, and to destroy those very arts we mean to
improve. By this separation, we in effect deprive a free people of what is
necessary to their safety; or we prepare a defence against invasions from
abroad, which gives a prospect of usurpation, and threatens the
establishment of military government at home.

We may be surprised to find the beginning of certain military instructions
at Rome, referred to a time no earlier than that of the Cimbric war. It was
then, we are told by Valerius Maximus, that Roman soldiers were made to
learn from gladiators the use of a sword: and the antagonists of Pyrrhus
and of Hannibal were, by the account of this writer, still in need of
instruction in the first rudiments of their trade. They had already, by the
order and choice of their encampments, impressed the Grecian invader with
awe and respect; they had already, not by their victories, but by their
national vigour and firmness, under repeated defeats, induced him to sue
for peace. But the haughty Roman, perhaps, knew the advantage of order and
of union, without having been broke to the inferior arts of the mercenary
soldier; and had the courage to face the enemies of his country, without
having practised the use of his weapon under the fear of being whipped. He
could ill be persuaded that a time might come, when refined and intelligent
nations would make the art of war to consist in a few technical forms; that
citizens and soldiers might come to be distinguished as much as women and
men; that the citizen would become possessed of a property which he would
not be able, or required, to defend; that the soldier would be appointed to
keep for another what he would be taught to desire, and what he alone would
be enabled to seize and to keep for himself; that, in short, one set of men
were to have an interest in the preservation of civil establishments,
without the power to defend them; that the other were to have this power,
without either the inclination or the interest.

This people, however, by degrees came to put their military force on the
very footing to which this description alludes. Marius made a capital
change in the manner of levying soldiers at Rome: he filled his legions
with the mean and the indigent, who depended on military pay for
subsistence; he created a force which rested on mere discipline alone, and
the skill of the gladiator; he taught his troops to employ their swords
against the constitution of their country, and set the example of a
practice which was soon adopted and improved by his successors.

The Romans only meant by their armies to encroach on the freedom of other
nations, while they preserved their own. They forgot, that in assembling
soldiers of fortune, and in suffering any leader to be master of a
disciplined army, they actually resigned their political rights, and
suffered a master to arise for the state. This people, in short, whose
ruling passion was depredation and conquest, perished by the recoil of an
engine which they themselves had erected against mankind.

The boasted refinements, then, of the polished age, are not divested of
danger. They open a door, perhaps, to disaster, as wide and accessible as
any of those they have shut. If they build walls and ramparts, they
enervate the minds of those who are placed to defend them; if they form
disciplined armies, they reduce the military spirit of entire nations; and
by placing the sword where they have given a distaste to civil
establishments, they prepare for mankind the government of force.

It is happy for the nations of Europe, that the disparity between the
soldier and the pacific citizen can never be so great as it became among
the Greeks and the Romans. In the use of modern arms, the novice is made to
learn, and to practise with ease, all that the veteran knows; and if to
teach him were a matter of real difficulty, happy are they who are not
deterred by such difficulties, and who can discover the arts which tend to
fortify and preserve, not to enervate and ruin their country.



The strength of nations consists in the wealth, the numbers, and the
character of their people. The history of their progress from a state of
rudeness, is, for the most part, a detail of the struggles they have
maintained, and of the arts they have practised, to strengthen, or to
secure themselves. Their conquests, their population, and their commerce,
their civil and military arrangements, their skill in the construction of
weapons, and in the methods of attack and defence; the very distribution of
tasks, whether in private business or in public affairs, either tend to
bestow, or promise to employ with advantage the constituents of a national
force, and the resources of war.

If we suppose that, together with these advantages, the military character
of a people remains, or is improved, it must follow, that what is gained in
civilization, is a real increase of strength; and that the ruin of nations
could never take its rise from themselves. Where states have stopped short
in their progress, or have actually gone to decay, we may suspect, that
however disposed to advance, they have found a limit, beyond which they
could not proceed; or from a remission of the national spirit, and a
weakness of character, were unable to make the most of their resources, and
natural advantages. On this supposition, from being stationary, they may
begin to relapse, and by a retrograde motion in a succession of ages,
arrive at a state of greater weakness, than that which they quitted in the
beginning of their progress; and with the appearance of better arts, and
superior conduct, expose themselves to become a prey to barbarians, whom,
in the attainment, or the height of their glory, they had easily baffled or

Whatever may be the natural wealth of a people, or whatever may be the
limits beyond which they cannot improve on their stock, it is probable,
that no nation has ever reached those limits, or has been able to postpone
its misfortunes, and the effects of misconduct, until its fund of
materials, and the fertility of its soil, were exhausted, or the numbers of
its people were greatly reduced. The same errors in policy, and weakness of
manners, which prevent the proper use of resources, likewise check their
increase, or improvement. The wealth of the state consists in the fortune
of its members. The actual revenue of the state is that share of every
private fortune, which the public has been accustomed to demand for
national purposes. This revenue cannot be always proportioned to what may
be supposed redundant in the private estate, but to what is, in some
measure, thought so by the owner; and to what he may be made to spare,
without intrenching on his manner of living, and without suspending his
projects of expense, or of commerce. It should appear, therefore, that any
immoderate increase of private expense is a prelude to national weakness:
government, even while each of its subjects consumes a princely estate, may
be straitened in point of revenue, and the paradox be explained by example,
that the public is poor while its members are rich.

We are frequently led into error by mistaking money for riches; we think
that a people cannot be impoverished by a waste of money which is spent
among themselves. The fact is, that men are impoverished only in two ways;
either by having their gains suspended, or by having their substance
consumed; and money expended at home, being circulated, and not consumed,
cannot, any more than the exchange of a tally, or a counter, among a
certain number of hands, tend to diminish the wealth of the company among
whom it is handed about. But while money circulates at home, the
necessaries of life, which are the real constituents of wealth, may be idly
consumed; the industry which might be employed to increase the stock of a
people, may be suspended, or turned to abuse.

Great armies, maintained either at home or abroad, without any national
object, are so many mouths unnecessarily opened to waste the stores of the
public, and so many hands withheld from the arts by which its profits are
made. Unsuccessful enterprises are so many ventures thrown away, and losses
sustained, proportioned to the capital employed in the service. The
Helvetii, in order to invade the Roman province of Gaul, burnt their
habitations, dropt their instruments of husbandry, and consumed in one year
the savings of many. The enterprise failed of success, and the nation was

States have endeavoured, in some instances, by pawning their credit,
instead of employing their capital, to disguise the hazards they ran. They
have found, in the loans they raised, a casual resource, which encouraged
their enterprises. They have seemed, by their manner of erecting
transferable funds, to leave the capital for purposes of trade, in the
hands of the subject, while it is actually expended by the government. They
have, by these means, proceeded to the execution of great national
projects, without suspending private industry, and have left future ages to
answer, in part, for debts contracted with a view to future emolument. So
far the expedient is plausible, and appears to be just. The growing burden
too, is thus gradually laid; and if a nation be to sink in some future age,
every minister hopes it may still keep afloat in his own. But the measure,
for this very reason, is, with all its advantages, extremely dangerous, in
the hands of a precipitant and ambitious administration, regarding only the
present occasion, and imagining a state to be inexhaustible, while a
capital can be borrowed, and the interest be paid.

We are told of a nation who, during a certain period, rivalled the glories
of the ancient world, threw off the dominion of a master armed against them
with the powers of a great kingdom, broke the yoke with which they had been
oppressed, and almost within the course of a century raised, by their
industry and national vigour, a new and formidable power, which struck the
former potentates of Europe with awe and suspense, and turned the badges of
poverty with which they set out, into the ensigns of war and dominion. This
end was attained by the great efforts of a spirit awakened by oppression,
by a successful pursuit of national wealth, and by a rapid anticipation of
future revenue. But this illustrious state is supposed not only, in the
language of a former section, to have pre-occupied the business; they have
sequestered the inheritance of many ages to come.

Great national expense, however, does not imply the necessity of any
national suffering. While revenue is applied with success to obtain some
valuable end, the profits of every adventure, being more than sufficient to
repay its costs, the public should gain, and its resources should continue
to multiply. But an expense, whether sustained at home or abroad, whether a
waste of the present, or an anticipation of future, revenue, if it bring no
proper return, is to be reckoned among the causes of national ruin.


       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *



If the fortune of nations, and their tendency to aggrandizement, or to
ruin, were to be estimated by merely balancing, on the principles of the
last section, articles of profit and loss, every argument in politics would
rest on a comparison of national expense with national gain; on a
comparison of the numbers who consume, with those who produce or amass the
necessaries of life. The columns of the industrious, and the idle, would
include all orders of men; and the state itself, being allowed as many
magistrates, politicians, and warriors, as were barely sufficient for its
defence and its government, should place, on the side of its loss, every
name that is supernumerary on the civil or the military list; all those
orders of men, who, by the possession of fortune, subsist on the gains of
others, and by the nicety of their choice, require a great expense of time
and of labour, to supply their consumption; all those who are idly employed
in the train of persons of rank; all those who are engaged in the
professions of law, physic, or divinity, together with all the learned who
do not, by their studies, promote or improve the practice of some lucrative
trade. The value of every person, in short, should be computed from his
labour; and that of labour itself, from its tendency to procure and amass
the means of subsistence. The arts employed on mere superfluities should be
prohibited, except when their produce could be exchanged with foreign
nations, for commodities that might be employed to maintain useful men for
the public.

These appear to be the rules by which a miser would examine the state of
his own affairs, or those of his country; but schemes of perfect corruption
are at least as impracticable as schemes of perfect virtue. Men are not
universally misers; they will not be satisfied with the pleasure of
hoarding; they must be suffered to enjoy their wealth, in order that they
may take the trouble of becoming rich. Property, in the common course of
human affairs, is unequally divided: we are therefore obliged to suffer the
wealthy to squander, that the poor may subsist: we are obliged to tolerate
certain orders of men, who are above the necessity of labour, in order
that, in their condition, there may be an object of ambition, and a rank to
which the busy aspire. We are not only obliged to admit numbers, who, in
strict economy, may be reckoned superfluous, on the civil, the military,
and the political list; but because we are men, and prefer the occupation,
improvement, and felicity of our nature, to its mere existence, we must
even wish, that as many members as possible, of every community, may be
admitted to a share of its defence and its government.

Men, in fact, while they pursue in society different objects, or separate
views, procure a wide distribution of power, and by a species of chance,
arrive at a posture for civil engagements, more favourable to human nature
than what human wisdom could ever calmly devise.

If the strength of a nation, in the mean-time, consists in the men on whom
it may rely, and who are fortunately or wisely combined for its
preservation, it follows, that manners are as important as either numbers
or wealth; and that corruption is to be accounted a principal cause of the
national declension and ruin.

Whoever perceives what are the qualities of man in his excellence, may
easily, by that standard, distinguish his defects or corruptions. If an
intelligent, a courageous, and an affectionate mind, constitutes the
perfection of his nature, remarkable failings in any of those particulars
must proportionally sink or debase his character.

We have observed, that it is the happiness of the individual to make a
right choice of his conduct; that this choice will lead him to lose in
society the sense of a personal interest; and, in the consideration of what
is due to the whole, to stifle those anxieties which relate to himself as a

The natural disposition of man to humanity, and the warmth of his temper,
may raise his character to this fortunate pitch. His elevation, in a great
measure, depends on the form of his society; but he can, without incurring
the charge of corruption, accommodate himself to great variations in the
constitutions of government. The same integrity, and vigorous spirit,
which, in democratical states, renders him tenacious of his equality, may,
under aristocracy or monarchy, lead him to maintain the subordinations
established. He may entertain, towards the different ranks of men with whom
he is yoked in the state, maxims of respect and of candour: he may, in the
choice of his actions, follow a principle of justice and of honour, which
the considerations of safety, preferment, or profit, cannot efface.

From our complaints of national depravity, it should, notwithstanding,
appear, that whole bodies of men are sometimes infected with an epidemical
weakness of the head, or corruption of heart, by which they become unfit
for the stations they occupy, and threaten the states they compose, however
flourishing, with a prospect of decay, and of ruin.

A change of national manners for the worse, may arise from a discontinuance
of the scenes in which the talents of men were happily cultivated, and
brought into exercise; or from a change in the prevailing opinions relating
to the constituents of honour or of happiness. When mere riches, or court
favour, are supposed to constitute rank; the mind is misled from the
consideration of qualities on which it ought to rely. Magnanimity, courage,
and the love of mankind, are sacrificed to avarice and vanity; or
suppressed under a sense of dependence. The individual considers his
community so far only as it can be rendered subservient to his personal
advancement or profit: he states himself in competition with his fellow
creatures; and, urged by the passions of emulation, of fear and jealousy,
of envy and malice, he follows the maxims of an animal destined to preserve
his separate existence, and to indulge his caprice or his appetite, at the
expense of his species.

On this corrupt foundation, men become either rapacious, deceitful, and
violent, ready to trespass on the rights of others; or servile, mercenary,
and base, prepared to relinquish their own. Talents, capacity, and force of
mind, possessed by a person of the first description, serve to plunge him
the deeper in misery, and to sharpen the agony of cruel passions; which
lead him to wreak on his fellow creatures the torments that prey on
himself. To a person of the second, imagination, and reason itself, only
serve to point out false objects of fear and desire, and to multiply the
subjects of disappointment and of momentary joy. In either case, and
whether we suppose that corrupt men are urged by covetousness, or betrayed
by fear, and without specifying the crimes which from either disposition
they are prepared to commit, we may safely affirm, with Socrates, "That
every master should pray he may not meet with such a slave; and every such
person, being unfit for liberty, should implore that he may meet with a
merciful master."

Man, under this measure of corruption, although he may be bought for a
slave by those who know how to turn his faculties and his labour to profit;
and although, when kept under proper restraints, his neighbourhood may be
convenient or useful; yet is certainly unfit to act on the footing of a
liberal combination or concert with his fellow creatures: his mind is not
addicted to friendship or confidence; he is not willing to act for the
preservation of others, nor deserves that any other should hazard his own
safety for his.

The actual character of mankind, mean time, in the worst as well as the
best condition, is undoubtedly mixed: and nations of the best description
are greatly obliged for their preservation, not only to the good
disposition of their members, but likewise to those political institutions,
by which the violent are restrained from the commission of crimes, and the
cowardly, or the selfish, are made to contribute their part to the public
defence or prosperity. By means of such institutions, and the wise
precautions of government, nations are enabled to subsist, and even to
prosper, under very different degrees of corruption, or of public

So long as the majority of a people are supposed to act on maxims of
probity, the example of the good, and even the caution of the bad, give a
general appearance of integrity, and of innocence. Where men are to one
another objects of affection and of confidence, where they are generally
disposed not to offend, government may be remiss; and every person may be
treated as innocent, till he is found to be guilty. As the subject, in this
case, does not hear of the crimes, so he need not be told of the
punishments inflicted on persons of a different character. But where the
manners of a people are considerably changed for the worse, every subject
must stand on his guard, and government itself must act on suitable maxims
of fear and distrust. The individual, no longer fit to be indulged in his
pretensions to personal consideration, independence, or freedom, each of
which he would turn to abuse, must be taught, by external force, and from
motives of fear, to counterfeit those effects of innocence, and of duty, to
which he is not disposed: he must be referred to the whip, or the gibbet,
for arguments in support of a caution, which the state now requires him to
assume, on a supposition that he is insensible to the motives which
recommend the practice of virtue.

The rules of despotism are made for the government of corrupted men. They
were indeed followed on some remarkable occasions, even under the Roman
commonwealth; and the bloody axe, to terrify the citizen from his crimes,
and to repel the casual and temporary irruptions of vice, was repeatedly
committed to the arbitrary will of the dictator. They were finally
established on the ruins of the republic itself, when either the people
became too corrupted for freedom, or when the magistrate became too
corrupted to resign his dictatorial power. This species of government comes
naturally in the termination of a continued and growing corruption; but
has, no doubt, in some instances, come too soon, and has sacrificed remains
of virtue, that deserved a better fate, to the jealousy of tyrants, who
were in haste to augment their power. This method of government cannot, in
such cases, fail to introduce that measure of corruption, against whose
external effects it is desired as a remedy. When fear is suggested as the
only motive to duty, every art becomes rapacious or base. And this
medicine, if applied to a healthy body, is sure to create the distemper;
which in other cases it is destined to cure.

This is the manner of government into which the covetous, and the arrogant,
to satiate their unhappy desires, would hurry their fellow creatures: it is
a manner of government to which the timorous and the servile submit at
discretion; and when these characters of the rapacious and the timid divide
mankind, even the virtues of Antoninus or Trajan can do no more than apply,
with candour and with vigour, the whip and the sword; and endeavour, by the
hopes of reward, or the fear of punishment, to find a speedy and a
temporary cure for the crimes, or the imbecilities of men.

Other states may be more or less corrupted: this has corruption for its
basis. Here justice may sometimes direct the arm of the despotical
sovereign; but the name of justice is most commonly employed to signify the
interest or the caprice of a reigning power. Human society, susceptible of
such a variety of forms, here finds the simplest of all. The toils and
possessions of many are destined to assuage the passions of one or a few;
and the only parties that remain among, mankind, are the oppressor who
demands, and the oppressed who dare not refuse.

Nations, while they were entitled to a milder fate, as in the case of the
Greeks, repeatedly conquered, have been reduced to this condition by
military force. They have reached it too in the maturity of their own
depravations; when, like the Romans, returned from the conquest, and loaded
with the spoils of the world, they give loose to faction, and to crimes too
bold and too frequent for the correction of ordinary government; and when
the sword of justice, dropping with blood, and perpetually required to
suppress accumulating disorders on every side, could no longer await the
delays and precautions of an administration fettered by laws. [Footnote:
Sallust. Bell. Catalinarium.]

It is, however, well known from the history of mankind, that corruption of
this, or of any other degree, is not peculiar to nations in their decline,
or in the result of signal prosperity, and great advances in the arts of
commerce. The bands of society, indeed, in small and infant establishments,
are generally strong; and their subjects, either by an ardent devotion to
to their own tribe, or a vehement animosity against enemies, and by a
vigorous courage founded on both, are well qualified to urge, or to
sustain, the fortune of a growing community. But the savage and the
barbarian have given, notwithstanding, in the case of entire nations, some
examples of a weak and timorous character. [Footnote: The barbarous nations
of Siberia, in general, are servile and timid.] They have, in more
instances, fallen into that species of corruption which we have already
described in treating of barbarous nations; they have made rapine their
trade, not merely as a species of warfare, or with a view to enrich their
community, but to possess, in property, what they learned to prefer even to
the ties of affection or of blood.

In the lowest state of commercial arts, the passions for wealth, and for
dominion, have exhibited scenes of oppression or servility, which the most
finished corruption of the arrogant, the cowardly, and the mercenary,
founded on the desire of procuring, or the fear of losing, a fortune, could
not exceed. In such cases, the vices of men, unrestrained by forms, and
unawed by police, are suffered to riot at large, and to produce their
entire effects. Parties accordingly unite, or separate, on the maxims of a
gang of robbers; they sacrifice to interest the tenderest affections of
human nature. The parent supplies the market for slaves, even by the sale
of his own children; the cottage ceases to be a sanctuary for the weak and
the defenceless stranger; and the rights of hospitality, often so sacred
among nations in their primitive state, come to be violated, like every
other tie of humanity, without fear or remorse. [Footnote: Chardin's
travels through Mingrelia into Persia.]

Nations which, in later periods of their history, became eminent for civil
wisdom and justice, had, perhaps, in a former age, paroxysms of lawless
disorder, to which this description might in part be applied. The very
policy by which they arrived at their degree of national felicity, was
devised as a remedy for outrageous abuse. The establishment of order was
dated from the commission of rapes and murders; indignation, and private
revenge, were the principles on which nations proceeded to the expulsion of
tyrants, to the emancipation of mankind, and the full explanation of their
political rights.

Defects of government and of law may be, in some cases, considered as a
symptom of innocence and of virtue. But where power is already established,
where the strong are unwilling to suffer restraint, or the weak unable to
find a protection, the defects of law are marks of the most perfect

Among rude nations, government is often defective; both because men are not
yet acquainted with all the evils for which polished nations have
endeavoured to find a redress; and because, even where evils of the most
flagrant nature have long afflicted the peace of society, they have not yet
been able to apply the cure. In the progress of civilization, new
distempers break forth, and new remedies are applied: but the remedy is
not always applied the moment the distemper appears; and laws, though
suggested by the commission of crimes, are not the symptom of a recent
corruption, but of a desire to find a remedy that may cure, perhaps, some
inveterate evil which has long afflicted the state.

There are corruptions, however, under which men still possess the vigour
and the resolution to correct themselves. Such are the violence and the
outrage which accompany the collision of fierce and daring spirits,
occupied in the struggles which sometimes precede the dawn of civil and
commercial improvements. In such cases, men have frequently discovered a
remedy for evils, of which their own misguided impetuosity, and superior
force of mind, were the principal causes. But if to a depraved disposition,
we suppose to be joined a weakness of spirit; if to an admiration and
desire of riches, be joined an aversion to danger or business; if those
orders of men whose valour is required by the public, cease to be brave; if
the members of society in general have not those personal qualities which
are required to fill the stations of equality, or of honour, to which they
are invited by the forms of the state; they must sink to a depth from which
their imbecility, even more than their depraved inclinations, may prevent
their rise.



We are far from being agreed on the application of the term _luxury_,
or on that degree of its meaning which is consistent with national
prosperity, or with the moral rectitude of our nature. It is sometimes
employed to signify a manner of life which we think necessary to
civilization, and even to happiness. It is, in our panegyric of polished
ages, the parent of arts, the support of commerce, and the minister of
national greatness, and of opulence. It is, in our censure of degenerate
manners, the source of corruption, and the presage of national declension
and ruin. It is admired, and it is blamed; it is treated as ornamental and
useful, and it is proscribed as a vice.

With all this diversity in our judgments, we are generally uniform in
employing the term to signify that complicated apparatus which mankind
devise for the ease and convenience of life. Their buildings, furniture,
equipage, clothing, train of domestics, refinement of the table, and, in
general, all that assemblage which is rather intended to please the fancy,
than to obviate real wants, and which is rather ornamental than useful.

When we are disposed, therefore, under the appellation of _luxury_, to rank
the enjoyment of these things among the vices, we either tacitly refer to
the habits of sensuality, debauchery, prodigality, vanity, and arrogance,
with which the possession of high fortune is sometimes attended; or we
apprehend a certain measure of what is necessary to human life, beyond
which all enjoyments are supposed to be excessive and vicious. When, on
the contrary, luxury is made an article of national lustre and felicity, we
only think of it as an innocent consequence of the unequal distribution of
wealth, and as a method by which different ranks are rendered mutually
dependent, and mutually useful. The poor are made to practise arts, and
the rich to reward them. The public itself is made a gainer by what seems
to waste its stock, and it receives a perpetual increase of wealth, from
the influence of those growing appetites, and delicate tastes, which seem
to menace consumption and ruin.

It is certain, that we must either, together with the commercial arts,
suffer their fruits to be enjoyed, and even in some measure admired; or,
like the Spartans, prohibit the art itself, while we are afraid of its
consequences, or while we think that the conveniencies it brings exceed
what nature requires. But we may propose to stop the advancement of arts at
any stage of their progress, and still incur the censure of luxury from
those who are not advanced so far. The housebuilder and the carpenter at
Sparta were limited to the use of the axe and the saw; but a Spartan
cottage might have passed for a palace in Thrace: and if the dispute were
to turn on the knowledge of what is physically necessary to the
preservation of human life, as the standard of what is morally lawful, the
faculties of physic, as well as of morality, would probably divide on the
subject, and leave every individual, as at present, to find some rule for
himself. The casuist, for the most part, considers the practice of his own
age and condition as a standard for mankind. If in one age or condition he
condemn the use of a coach, in another he would have no less censured the
wearing of shoes; and the very person who exclaims against the first, would
probably not have spared the second, if it had not been already familiar in
ages before his own. A censor born in a cottage, and accustomed to sleep
upon straw, does not propose that men should return to the woods and the
caves for shelter; he admits the reasonableness and the utility of what is
already familiar; and apprehends an excess and corruption, only in the
newest refinement of the rising generation.

The clergy of Europe have preached successively against every new fashion,
and every innovation in dress. The modes of youth are a subject of censure
to the old; and modes of the last age, in their turn, a matter of ridicule
to the flippant, and the young. Of this there is not always a better
account to be given, than that the old are disposed to be severe, and the
young to be merry.

The argument against many of the conveniencies of life, drawn from the mere
consideration of their not being necessary, was equally proper in the mouth
of the savage, who dissuaded from the first applications of industry, as it
is in that of the moralist, who insists on the vanity of the last. "Our
ancestors," he might say, "found their dwelling under this rock; they
gathered their food in the forest; they allayed their thirst from the
fountain; and they were clothed in the spoils of the beast they had slain.
Why should we indulge a false delicacy, or require from the earth fruits
which she is not accustomed to yield? The bow of our father is already too
strong for our arms; and the wild beast begins to lord it in the woods."

Thus the moralist may have found, in the proceedings of every age, those
topics of blame, from which he is so much disposed to arraign the manners
of his own; and our embarrassment on the subject is, perhaps, but a part of
that general perplexity which we undergo, in trying to define moral
characters by external circumstances, which may, or may not, be attended
with faults in the mind and the heart. One man finds a vice in the wearing
of linen; another does not, unless the fabric be fine: and if, meantime, it
be true, that a person may be dressed in manufacture either coarse or fine;
that he may sleep in the fields, or lodge in a palace; tread upon carpet,
or plant his foot on the ground; while the mind either retains, or has lost
its penetration, and its vigour, and the heart its affection to mankind, it
is vain, under any such circumstance, to seek for the distinctions of
virtue and vice, or to tax the polished citizen with weakness for any part
of his equipage, or for his wearing a fur, in which, perhaps, some savage
was dressed before him. Vanity is not distinguished by any peculiar species
of dress. It is betrayed by the Indian in the fantastic assortments of his
plumes, his shells, his party coloured furs, and in the time he bestows at
the glass and the toilet. Its projects in the woods and in the town are
the same: in the one, it seeks, with the visage bedaubed, and with teeth
artificially stained, for that admiration, which it courts in the other
with a gilded equipage, and liveries of state.

Polished nations, in their progress, often come to surpass the rude in
moderation, and severity of manners. "The Greeks," says Thucydides, "not
long ago, like barbarians, wore golden spangles in the hair, and went armed
in times of peace." Simplicity of dress in this people, became a mark of
politeness: and the mere materials with which the body is nourished or
clothed, are probably of little consequence to any people. We must look for
the characters of men in the qualities of the mind, not in the species of
their food, or in the mode of their apparel. What are now the ornaments of
the grave and severe; what is owned to be a real conveniency, were once the
fopperies of youth, or were devised to please the effeminate. The new
fashion, indeed, is often the mark of the coxcomb; but we frequently change
our fashions without multiplying coxcombs, or increasing the measures of
our vanity and folly.

Are the apprehensions of the severe, therefore, in every age, equally
groundless and unreasonable? Are we never to dread any error in the article
of a refinement bestowed on the means of subsistence, or the conveniencies
of life? The fact is, that men are perpetually exposed to the commission of
error in this article, not merely where they are accustomed to high
measures of accommodation, or to any particular species of food, but
wherever these objects, in general, may come to be preferred to their
character, to their country, or to mankind; they actually commit such
error, wherever they admire paltry distinctions or frivolous advantages;
wherever they shrink from small inconveniencies, and are incapable of
discharging their duty with vigour. The use of morality on this subject, is
not to limit men to any particular species of lodging, diet, or clothes;
but to prevent their considering these conveniencies as the principal
objects of human life. And if we are asked, where the pursuit of trifling
accommodations should stop, in order that a man may devote himself entirely
to the higher engagements of life? we may answer, that it should stop where
it is. This was the rule followed at Sparta: the object of the rule was, to
preserve the heart entire for the public, and to occupy men in cultivating
their own nature, not in accumulating wealth, and external conveniencies.
It was not expected otherwise, that the axe or the saw should be attended
with greater political advantage, than the plane and the chisel. When Cato
walked the streets of Rome without his robe, and without shoes, he did so,
most probably, in contempt of what his countrymen were so prone to admire;
not in hopes of finding a virtue in one species of dress, or a vice in

Luxury, therefore, considered as a predilection in favour of the objects of
vanity, and the costly materials of pleasure, is ruinous to the human
character; considered as the mere use of accommodations and conveniencies
which the age has procured, rather depends on the progress which the
mechanical arts have made, and on the degree in which the fortunes of men
are unequally parcelled, than on the dispositions of particular men either
to vice or to virtue.

Different measures of luxury are, however, variously suited to different
constitutions of government. The advancement of arts supposes an unequal
distribution of fortune; and the means of distinction they bring, serve to
render the separation of ranks more sensible. Luxury is, upon this account,
apart from all its moral effects, adverse to the form of democratical
government; and, in any state of society, can be safely admitted in that
degree only in which the members of a community are supposed of unequal
rank, and constitute public order by the relations of superior and vassal.
High degrees of it appear salutary, and even necessary, in monarchical and
mixed governments; where, besides the encouragement to arts and commerce,
it serves to give lustre to those hereditary or constitutional dignities
which have a place of importance in the political system. Whether even here
luxury leads to abuse peculiar to ages of high refinement and opulence, we
shall proceed to consider in the following sections.



Luxury and corruption are frequently coupled together, and even pass for
synonymous terms. But, in order to avoid any dispute about words, by the
first we may understand that accumulation of wealth, and that refinement on
the ways of enjoying it, which are the objects of industry, or the fruits
of mechanic and commercial arts: and by the second a real weakness, or
depravity of the human character, which may accompany any state of those
arts, and be found under any external circumstances or condition
whatsoever. It remains to inquire, what are the corruptions incident to
polished nations, arrived at certain measures of luxury, and possessed of
certain advantages, in which they are generally supposed to excel?

We need not have recourse to a parallel between the manners of entire
nations, in the extremes of civilization and rudeness, in order to be
satisfied, that the vices of men are not proportioned to their fortunes; or
that the habits of avarice, or of sensuality, are not founded on any
certain measures of wealth, or determinate kind of enjoyment. Where the
situations of particular men are varied as much by their personal stations,
as they can be by the state of national refinements, the same passions for
interest, or pleasure, prevail in every condition. They arise from
temperament, or an acquired admiration of property; not from any particular
manner of life in which the parties are engaged, nor from any particular
species of property which may have occupied their cares and their wishes.

Temperance and moderation are, at least, as frequent among those whom we
call the superior, as they are among the lower classes of men; and however
we may affix the character of sobriety to mere cheapness of diet, and other
accommodations with which any particular age, or rank of men, appear to be
contented, it is well known, that costly materials are not necessary to
constitute a debauch, nor profligacy less frequent under the thatched roof,
than under the lofty ceiling. Men grow equally familiar with different
conditions, receive equal pleasure, and are equally allured to sensuality
in the palace and in the cave. Their acquiring in either, habits of
intemperance or sloth, depends on the remission of other pursuits, and on
the distaste of the mind to other engagements. If the affections of the
heart be awake, and the passions of love, admiration, or anger, be kindled,
the costly furniture of the palace, as well as the homely accommodations of
the cottage, are neglected: and men, when roused, reject their repose; or,
when fatigued, embrace it alike on the silken bed, or on the couch of

We are not, however, from hence to conclude, that luxury, with all its
concomitant circumstances, which either serve to favour its increase, or
which, in the arrangements of civil society, follow it as consequences, can
have no effect to the disadvantage of national manners. If that respite
from public dangers and troubles which gives a leisure for the practice of
commercial arts, be continued, or increased, into a disuse of national
efforts; if the individual, not called to unite with his country, be left
to pursue his private advantage; we may find him become effeminate,
mercenary, and sensual; not because pleasures and profits are become more
alluring, but because he has fewer calls to attend to other objects; and
because he has more encouragement to study his personal advantages, and
pursue his separate interests.

If the disparities of rank and fortune, which are necessary to the pursuit
or enjoyment of luxury, introduce false grounds of precedency and
estimation; if, on the mere considerations of being rich or poor, one order
of men are, in their own apprehension, elevated, another debased; if one be
criminally proud, another meanly dejected; and every rank in its place,
like the tyrant, who thinks that nations are made for himself, be disposed
to assume on the rights of mankind: although, upon the comparison, the
higher order may be least corrupted; or from education, and a sense of
personal dignity, have most good qualities remaining; yet the one becoming
mercenary and servile; the other imperious and arrogant; both regardless of
justice and of merit; the whole mass is corrupted, and the manners of a
society changed for the worse, in proportion as its members cease to act on
principles of equality, independence, or freedom.

Upon this view, and considering the merits of men in the abstract, a mere
change from the habits of a republic to those of a monarchy; from the love
of equality, to the sense of a subordination founded on birth, titles, and
fortune, is a species of corruption to mankind. But this degree of
corruption is still consistent with the safety and prosperity of some
nations; it admits of a vigorous courage, by which the rights of
individuals, and of kingdoms, may be long preserved.

Under the form of monarchy, while yet in its vigour, superior fortune is,
indeed, one mark by which the different orders of men are distinguished;
but there are some other ingredients, without which wealth is not admitted
as a foundation of precedency, and in favour of which it is often despised,
and lavished away. Such are birth and titles, the reputation of courage,
courtly manners, and a certain elevation of mind. If we suppose that these
distinctions are forgotten, and nobility itself only to be known by the
sumptuous retinue which money alone may procure; and by a lavish expense,
which the more recent fortunes can generally best sustain; luxury must then
be allowed to corrupt the monarchical as much as the republican state, and
to introduce a fatal dissolution of manners, under which men of every
condition, although they are eager to acquire, or to display their wealth,
have no remains of real ambition. They have neither the elevation of
nobles, nor the fidelity of subjects; they have changed into effeminate
vanity, that sense of honour which gave rules to the personal courage; and
into a servile baseness that loyalty, which bound each in his place to his
immediate superior, and the whole to the throne.

Nations are most exposed to corruption from this quarter, when the
mechanical arts, being greatly advanced, furnish numberless articles to be
applied in ornament to the person, in furniture, entertainment, or
equipage; when such articles as the rich alone can procure are admired; and
when consideration, precedence, and rank, are accordingly made to depend on

In a more rude state of the arts, although wealth be unequally divided, the
opulent can amass only the simple means of subsistence: they can only fill
the granary, and furnish the stall; reap from more extended fields, and
drive their herds over a larger pasture. To enjoy their magnificence, they
must live in a crowd; and to secure their possessions, they must be
surrounded with friends that espouse their quarrels. Their honours, as well
as their safety, consist in the numbers who attend them; and their personal
distinctions are taken from their liberality, and supposed elevation of
mind. In this manner, the possession of riches serves only to make the
owner assume a character of magnanimity, to become the guardian of numbers,
or the public object of respect and affection. But when the bulky
constituents of wealth, and of rustic magnificence, can be exchanged for
refinements; and when the produce of the soil may be turned into equipage,
and mere decoration; when the combination of many is no longer required for
personal safety; the master may become the sole consumer of his own estate:
he may refer the use of every subject to himself; he may employ the
materials of generosity to feed a personal vanity, or to indulge a sickly
and effeminate fancy, which has learned to enumerate the trappings of
weakness or folly among the necessaries of life.

The Persian satrape, we are told, when he saw the king of Sparta at the
place of their conference stretched on the grass with his soldiers, blushed
at the provision he made for the accommodation of his own person; he
ordered the furs and the carpets to be withdrawn; he felt his own
inferiority; and recollected, that he was to treat with a man, not to vie
with a pageant in costly attire and magnificence.

When, amid circumstances that make no trial of the virtues or talents of
men, we have been accustomed to the air of superiority which people of
fortune derive from their retinue, we are apt to lose every sense of
distinction arising from merit, or even from abilities. We rate our fellow
citizens by the figure they are able to make; by their buildings, their
dress, their equipage, and the train of their followers. All these
circumstances make a part in our estimate of what is excellent; and if the
master himself is known to be a pageant in the midst of his fortune, we
nevertheless pay our court to his station, and look up with an envious,
servile, or dejected mind, to what is, in itself, scarcely fit to amuse
children; though, when it is worn as a badge of distinction, it inflames
the ambition of those we call the great, and strikes the multitude with awe
and respect.

We judge of entire nations by the productions of a few mechanical arts, and
think we are talking of men, while we are boasting of their estates, their
dress, and their palaces. The sense in which we apply the terms,
_great_, and _noble, high rank_, and _high life_, show that we have,
on such occasions, transferred the idea of perfection from the character
to the equipage; and that excellence itself is, in our esteem, a
mere pageant, adorned at a great expense by the labours of many workmen.

To those who overlook the subtile transitions of the imagination, it might
appear, since wealth can do no more than furnish the means of subsistence,
and purchase animal pleasures, that covetousness, and venality itself,
should keep pace with our fears of want, or with our appetite for sensual
enjoyments; and that where the appetite is satiated, and the fear of want
is removed, the mind should be at ease on the subject of fortune. But they
are not the mere pleasures that riches procure, nor the choice of viands
which cover the board of the wealthy, that inflame the passions of the
covetous and the mercenary. Nature is easily satisfied in all her
enjoyments. It is an opinion of eminence, connected with fortune; it is a
sense of debasement attending on poverty, which renders us blind to every
advantage, but that of the rich; and insensible to every disgrace, but that
of the poor. It is this unhappy apprehension, that occasionally prepares us
for the desertion of every duty, for a submission to every indignity, and
for the commission of every crime that can be accomplished in safety.

Aurengzebe was not more renowned for sobriety in his private station, and
in the conduct of a supposed dissimulation, by which he aspired to
sovereign power, than he continued to be, even on the throne of Indostan.
Simple, abstinent, and severe in his diet, and other pleasures, he still
led the life of a hermit, and occupied his time with a seemingly painful
application to the affairs of a great empire. [Footnote: Gemelli Careri.]
He quitted a station in which, if pleasure had been his object, he might
have indulged his sensuality without reserve; he made his way to a scene of
disquietude and care; he aimed at the summit of human greatness, in the
possession of imperial fortune, not at the gratifications of animal
appetite, or the enjoyment of ease. Superior to sensual pleasure, as well
as to the feelings of nature, he dethroned his father, and he murdered his
brothers, that he might roll on a carriage incrusted with diamond and
pearl; that his elephants, his camels, and his horses, on the march, might
form a line extending many leagues; might present a glittering harness to
the sun; and loaded with treasure, usher to the view of an abject and
admiring crowd that awful majesty, in whose presence they were to strike
the forehead on the ground, and be overwhelmed with the sense of his
greatness, and with that of their own debasement.

As these are the objects which prompt the desire of dominion, and excite
the ambitious to aim at the mastery of their fellow creatures; so they
inspire the ordinary race of men with a sense of infirmity and meanness,
that prepares them to suffer indignities, and to become the property of
persons, whom they consider as of a rank and a nature so much superior to
their own. The chains of perpetual slavery, accordingly, appear to be
riveted in the east, no less by the pageantry which is made to accompany
the possession of power, than they are by the fears of the sword, and the
terrors of a military execution. In the west, as well as the east, we are
willing to bow to the splendid equipage, and stand at an awful distance
from the pomp of a princely estate. We too may be terrified by the frowns,
or won by the smiles, of those whose favour is riches and honour, and whose
displeasure is poverty and neglect. We too may overlook the honours of the
human soul, from an admiration of the pageantries that accompany fortune.
The procession of elephants harnessed with gold might dazzle into slaves,
the people who derive corruption and weakness from the effect of their own
arts and contrivances, as well as those who inherit servility from their
ancestors, and are enfeebled by their natural temperament, and the
enervating charms of their soil and their climate.

It appears, therefore, that although the mere use of materials which
constitute luxury, may be distinguished from actual vice; yet nations under
a high state of the commercial arts, are exposed to corruption, by their
admitting wealth, unsupported by personal elevation and virtue, as the
great foundation of distinction, and by having their attention turned on
the side of interest, as the road to consideration and honour.

With this effect, luxury may serve to corrupt democratical states, by
introducing a species of monarchical subordination, without that sense of
high birth and hereditary honours which render the boundaries of rank fixed
and determinate, and which teach men to act in their stations with force
and propriety. It may prove the occasion of political corruption, even in
monarchical governments, by drawing respect towards mere wealth; by casting
a shade on the lustre of personal qualities, or family distinctions; and by
infecting all orders of men, with equal venality, servility, and cowardice.


The Same Subject Continued.

The increasing regard with which men appear, in the progress of commercial
arts, to study their profit, or the delicacy with which they refine on
their pleasures; even industry itself, or the habit of application to a
tedious employment, in which no honours are won, may, perhaps, be
considered as indications of a growing attention to interest, or of
effeminacy, contracted in the enjoyment of ease and conveniency. Every
successive art, by which the individual is taught to improve on his
fortune, is, in reality, an addition to his private engagements, and a new
avocation of his mind from the public.

Corruption, however, does not arise from the abuse of commercial arts
alone; it requires the aid of political situation; and is not produced by
the objects that occupy a sordid and a mercenary spirit, without the aid of
circumstances that enable men to indulge in safety any mean disposition
they have acquired.

Providence has fitted mankind for the higher engagements which they are
sometimes obliged to fulfil; and it is in the midst of such engagements
that they are most likely to acquire or to preserve their virtues. The
habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties, not
in enjoying the repose of a pacific station; penetration and wisdom are the
fruits of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure; ardour and
generosity are the qualities of a mind roused and animated in the conduct
of scenes that engage the heart, not the gifts of reflection or knowledge.
The mere intermission of national and political efforts is,
notwithstanding, sometimes mistaken for public good; and there is no
mistake more likely to foster the vices, or to flatter the weakness, of
feeble and interested men.

If the ordinary arts of policy, or rather if a growing indifference to
objects of a public nature, should prevail, and, under any free
constitution, put an end to those disputes of party, and silence that noise
of dissention which generally accompany the exercise of freedom, we may
venture to prognosticate corruption to the national manners, as well as
remissness to the national spirit. The period is come, when no engagement,
remaining on the part of the public, private interest, and animal pleasure,
become the sovereign objects of care. When men, being relieved from the
pressure of great occasions, bestow their attention on trifles; and having
carried what they are pleased to call _sensibility_ and _delicacy_, on
the subject of ease or molestation, as far as real weakness or folly can
go, have recourse to affectation, in order to enhance the pretended
demands, and accumulate the anxieties, of a sickly fancy, and enfeebled

In this condition, mankind generally flatter their own imbecility under the
name of _politeness_. They are persuaded, that the celebrated ardour,
generosity, and fortitude of former ages bordered on frenzy, or were the
mere effects of necessity, on men who had not the means of enjoying their
ease, or their pleasure. They congratulate themselves on having escaped the
storm which required the exercise of such arduous virtues; and with that
vanity which accompanies the human race in their meanest condition, they
boast of a scene of affectation, of languor, or of folly, as the standard
of human felicity, and as furnishing the properest exercise of a rational

It is none of the least menacing symptoms of an age prone to degeneracy,
that the minds of men become perplexed in the discernment of merit, as much
as the spirit becomes enfeebled in conduct, and the heart misled in the
choice of its objects: The care of mere fortune is supposed to constitute
wisdom; retirement from public affairs, and real indifference to mankind,
receive the applauses of moderation, and of virtue.

Great fortitude, and elevation of mind, have not always, indeed, been
employed in the attainment of valuable ends; but they are always
respectable, and they are always necessary when we would act for the good
of mankind, in any of the more arduous stations of life. While, therefore,
we blame their misapplication, we should beware of depreciating their
value. Men of a severe and sententious morality have not always
sufficiently observed this caution; nor have they been duly aware of the
corruptions they flattered, by the satire they employed against what is
aspiring and prominent in the character of the human soul.

It might have been expected, that, in an age of hopeless debasement, the
talents of Demosthenes and Tully, even the ill governed magnanimity of a
Macedonian, or the daring enterprise of a Carthaginian leader, might have
escaped the acrimony of a satirist, [Footnote: Juvenal's tenth satire] who
had so many objects of correction in his view, and who possessed the arts
of declamation in so high a degree.

  I, demens, et saevos curre per Alpes,
  Ut pueris placeas, et declamatio fias,

is part of the illiberal censure which is thrown by this poet on the person
and action of a leader, who, by his courage and conduct, in the very
service to which the satire referred, had well nigh saved his country from
the ruin with which it was at last at last overwhelmed.

  Heroes are much the same, the point's agreed,
  From Macedonia's madman to the Swede,

is a distich, in which another poet of beautiful talents has attempted to
depreciate a name, to which, probably, few of his readers are found to

If men must go wrong, there is a choice of their errors, as well as of
their virtues. Ambition, the love of personal eminence, and the desire of
fame, although they sometimes lead to the commission of crimes, yet always
engage men in pursuits that require to be supported by some of the greatest
qualities of the human soul; and if eminence is the principal object of
pursuit, there is at least a probability, that those qualities may be
studied on which a real elevation of mind is raised. But when public alarms
have ceased, and contempt of glory is recommended as an article of wisdom,
the sordid habits, and mercenary dispositions, to which, under a general
indifference to national objects, the members of a polished or commercial
state are exposed, must prove at once the most effectual suppression of
every liberal sentiment, and the most fatal reverse of all those principles
from which communities derive their strength and their hopes of

It is noble to possess happiness and independence, either in retirement, or
in public life. The characteristic of the happy, is to acquit themselves
well in every condition; in the court, or in the village; in the senate, or
in the private retreat. But if they affect any particular station, it is
surely that in which their actions may be rendered most extensively useful.
Our considering mere retirement, therefore, as a symptom of moderation and
of virtue, is either a remnant of that system, under which monks and
anchorets, in former ages, have been canonized; or proceeds from a habit of
thinking, which appears equally fraught with moral corruption, from our
considering public life as a scene for the gratification of mere vanity,
avarice, and ambition; never as furnishing the best opportunity for a just
and a happy engagement of the mind and the heart.

Emulation, and the desire of power, are but sorry motives to public
conduct; but if they have been, in any case, the principal inducements from
which men have taken part in the service of their country, any diminution
of their prevalence or force is a real corruption of national manners; and
the pretended moderation assumed by the higher orders of men, has a fatal
effect in the state. The disinterested love of the public is a principle,
without which some constitutions of government cannot subsist: but when we
consider how seldom this has appeared a reigning passion, we have little
reason to impute the prosperity or preservation of nations, in every case,
to its influence.

It is sufficient, perhaps, under one form of government, that men should be
fond of their independence; that they should be ready to oppose usurpation,
and to repel personal indignities: under another, it is sufficient, that
they should be tenacious of their rank, and of their honours; and instead
of a zeal for the public, entertain a vigilant jealousy of the rights which
pertain to themselves. When numbers of men retain a certain degree of
elevation and fortitude, they are qualified to give a mutual check to their
several errors, and are able to act in that variety of situations which the
different constitutions of government have prepared for their members: but,
under the disadvantages of a feeble spirit, however directed, and however
informed, no national constitution is safe; nor can any degree of
enlargement, to which a state has arrived, secure its political welfare.

In states where property, distinction, and pleasure, are thrown out as
baits to the imagination, and incentives to passion, the public seems to
rely for the preservation of its political life, on the degree of emulation
and jealousy with which parties mutually oppose and restrain each other.
The desires of preferment and profit in the breast of the citizen, are the
motives from which he excited to enter on public affairs, and are the
considerations which direct his political conduct. The suppression,
therefore, of ambition, of party animosity, and of public envy, is
probably, in every such case, not a reformation, but a symptom of weakness,
and a prelude to more sordid pursuits, and ruinous amusements.

On the eve of such a revolution in manners, the higher ranks, in every
mixed or monarchical government, have need to take care of themselves. Men
of business, and of industry, in the inferior stations of life, retain
their occupations, and are secured, by a kind of necessity, in the
possession of those habits on which they rely for their quiet; and for the
moderate enjoyments of life. But the higher orders of men, if they
relinquish the state, if they cease to possess that courage and elevation
of mind, and to exercise those talents which are employed in its defence
and in its government, are, in reality, by the seeming advantages of their
station, become the refuse of that society of which they once were the
ornament; and from being the most respectable, and the most happy, of its
members, are become the most wretched and corrupt. In their approach to
this condition, and in the absence of every manly occupation, they feel a
dissatisfaction and languor which they cannot explain: they pine in the
midst of apparent enjoyment; or, by the variety and caprice of their
different pursuits and amusements, exhibit a state of agitation, which,
like the disquiet of sickness, is not a proof of enjoyment or pleasure, but
of suffering and pain. The care of his buildings, his equipage, or his
table, is chosen by one; literary amusement, or some frivolous study, by
another. The sports of the country, and the diversions of the town; the
gaming table, [Footnote: These different occupations differ from each
other, in respect to their dignity and their innocence; but none of them
are the schools from which men are brought to sustain the tottering fortune
of nations; they are equally avocations from what ought to be the principal
pursuit of man, the good of mankind.] dogs, horses, and wine, are employed
to fill up the blank of a listless and unprofitable life. They speak of
human pursuits, as if the whole difficulty were to find something to do;
they fix on some frivolous occupation, as if there was nothing that
deserved to be done: they consider what tends to the good of their fellow
creatures, as a disadvantage to themselves: they fly from every scene in
which any efforts of vigour are required, or in which they might be allured
to perform any service to their country. We misapply our compassion in
pitying the poor; it were much more justly applied to the rich, who become
the first victims of that wretched insignificance, into which the members
of every corrupted state, by the tendency of their weaknesses and their
vices, are in haste to plunge themselves.

It is in this condition, that the sensual invent all those refinements on
pleasure, and devise those incentives to a satiated appetite, which tend
to foster the corruptions of a dissolute age. The effects of brutal
appetite, and the mere debauch, are more flagrant, and more violent,
perhaps, in rude ages, than they are in the later periods of commerce and
luxury: but that perpetual habit of searching for animal pleasure where it
is not to be found, in the gratifications of an appetite that is cloyed,
and among the ruins of an animal constitution, is not more fatal to the
virtues of the soul, than it is even to the enjoyment of sloth, or of
pleasure; it is not a more certain avocation from public affairs, or a
surer prelude to national decay, than it is a disappointment to our hopes
of private felicity.

In these reflections, it has been the object not to ascertain a precise
measure to which corruption has risen in any of the nations that have
attained to eminence, or that have gone to decay; but to describe that
remissness of spirit, that weakness of soul, that state of national
debility, which is likely to end in political slavery; an evil which
remains to be considered as the last object of caution, and beyond which
there is no subject of disquisition, in the perishing fortunes of nations.



Liberty, in one sense, appears to be the portion of polished nations alone.
The savage is personally free, because he lives unrestrained, and acts with
the members of his tribe on terms of equality. The barbarian is frequently
independent, from a continuance of the same circumstances, or because he
has courage and a sword. But good policy alone can provide for the regular
administration of justice, or constitute a force in the state, which is
ready on every occasion to defend the rights of its members.

It has been found, that, except in a few singular cases, the commercial and
political arts have advanced together. These arts have been in modern
Europe so interwoven, that we cannot determine which were prior in the
order of time, or derived most advantage from the mutual influences with
which they act and react on each other. It has been observed, that in some
nations, the spirit of commerce, intent on securing its profits, has led
the way to political wisdom. A people, possessed of wealth, and become
jealous of their properties, have formed the project of emancipation, and
have proceeded, under favour of an importance recently gained, still
farther to enlarge their pretensions, and to dispute the prerogatives which
their sovereign had been in use to employ. But it is in vain that we expect
in one age, from the possession of wealth, the fruit which it is said to
have borne in a former. Great accessions of fortune, when recent, when
accompanied with frugality, and a sense of independence, may render the
owner confident in his strength, and ready to spurn at oppression. The
purse which is open, not to personal expense, or to the indulgence of
vanity, but to support the interests of a faction, to gratify the higher
passions of party, render the wealthy citizen formidable to those who
pretend to dominion; but it does not follow, that in a time of corruption,
equal, or greater, measures of wealth, should operate to the same effect.

On the contrary, when wealth is accumulated only in the hands of the miser,
and runs to waste from those of the prodigal; when heirs of family find
themselves straitened and poor in the midst of affluence; when the cravings
of luxury silence even the voice of party and faction; when the hopes of
meriting the rewards of compliance, or the fear of losing what is held at
discretion, keep men in a state of suspense and anxiety; when fortune, in
short, instead of being considered as the instrument of a vigorous spirit,
becomes the idol of a covetous or a profuse, of a rapacious or a timorous
mind, the foundation on which freedom was built may serve to support a
tyranny; and what, in one age, raised the pretensions, and fostered the
confidence of the subject, may, in another, incline him to servility, and
furnish the price to be paid for his prostitutions. Even those who, in a
vigorous age, gave the example of wealth, in the hands of the people,
becoming an occasion of freedom, may, in times of degeneracy, verify
likewise the maxim of Tacitus, that the admiration of riches leads to
despotical government. [Footnote: Est ápud illos et opibus honos;
eoque unus imperitat, nullis jam exceptionibus, non precario jure
parendi. Nec arms ut apud ceteros Germanos in promiscuo, sed clausa
sub custode et quidem servo, &c. TACITUS _de Mor. Ger._ c.44.]

Men who have tasted of freedom, and who have felt their personal rights,
are not easily taught to bear with encroachments on either, and cannot,
without some preparation, come to submit to oppression. They may receive
this unhappy preparation under different forms of government, from
different hands, and arrive at the same end by different ways. They
follow one direction in republics, another in monarchies and in
mixed governments. But wherever the state has, by means that do not
preserve the virtue of the subject, effectually guarded his safety;
remissness, and neglect of the public, are likely to follow; and polished
nations of every description, appear to encounter a danger, on this
quarter, proportioned to the degree in, which they have, during any
continuance, enjoyed the uninterrupted possession of peace and prosperity.

Liberty results, we say, from the government of laws; and we are apt to
consider statutes, not merely as the resolutions and maxims of a people
determined to be free, not as the writings by which their rights are kept
on record; but as a power erected to guard them, and as a barrier which the
caprice of man cannot transgress.

When a basha, in Asia, pretends to decide every controversy by the rules of
natural equity, we allow that he is possessed of discretionary powers. When
a judge in Europe is left to decide, according to his own interpretation of
written laws, is he in any sense more restrained than the former? Have the
multiplied words of a statute an influence over the conscience and the
heart, more powerful than that of reason and nature? Does the party, in any
judicial proceeding, enjoy a less degree of safety, when his rights are
discussed, on the foundation of a rule that is open to the understandings
of mankind, than when they are referred to an intricate system, which it
has become the object of a separate profession to study and to explain?

If forms of proceeding, written statutes, or other constituents of law,
cease to be enforced by the very spirit from which they arose; they serve
only to cover, not to restrain, the iniquities of power: they are possibly
respected even by the corrupt magistrate, when they favour his purpose; but
they are contemned or evaded, when they stand in his way: and the influence
of laws, where they have any real effect in the preservation of liberty, is
not any magic power descending from shelves that are loaded with books, but
is, in reality, the influence of men resolved to be free; of men who,
having adjusted in writing the terms on which they are to live with the
state, and with their fellow subjects, are determined, by their vigilance
and spirit, to make these terms be fulfilled.

We are taught, under every form of government, to apprehend usurpations,
from the abuse, or from the extension of the executive power. In pure
monarchies, this power is commonly hereditary, and made to descend in a
determinate line. In elective monarchies, it is held for life. In
republics, it is exercised during a limited time. Where men, or families,
are called by election to the possession of temporary dignities, it is more
the object of ambition to perpetuate, than to extend their powers. In
hereditary monarchies, the sovereignty is already perpetual; and the aim of
every ambitious prince is to enlarge his prerogative. Republics, and, in
times of commotion, communities of every form, are exposed to hazard, not
from those only who are formally raised to places of, trust, but from every
person whatsoever, who is incited by ambition, and who is supported by

It is no advantage to a prince, or other magistrate, to enjoy more power
than is consistent with the good of mankind; nor is it of any benefit to a
man to be unjust: but these maxims are a feeble security against the
passions and follies of men. Those who are intrusted with power in any
degree, are disposed, from a mere dislike of constraint, to remove
opposition. Not only the monarch who wears a hereditary crown, but the
magistrate who holds his office for a limited time, grows fond of his
dignity. The, very minister, who depends for his place on the momentary
will of his prince, and whose personal interests are, in every respect,
those of a subject, still has the weakness to take an interest in the
growth of prerogative, and to reckon as gain to himself the encroachments
he has made on the rights of a people, with whom he himself and his family
are soon to be numbered.

Even with the best intentions towards mankind, we are inclined to think
that their welfare depends, not on the felicity of their own inclinations,
or the happy employment of their own talents, but on their ready compliance
with what we have devised for their good. Accordingly, the greatest virtue
of which any sovereign has hitherto shown an example, is not a desire of
cherishing in his people the spirit of freedom and of independence, but
what is in itself sufficiently rare and highly meritorious, a steady regard
to the distribution of justice in matters of property, a disposition to
protect and to oblige, to redress the grievances, and to promote the
interest of his subjects. It was from a reference to these objects, that
Titus computed the value of his time, and judged of its application. But
the sword, which in this beneficent hand was drawn to protect the subject,
and to procure a speedy and effectual distribution of justice, was likewise
sufficient, in the hands of a tyrant, to shed the blood of the innocent,
and to cancel the rights of men. The temporary proceedings of humanity,
though they suspended the exercise of oppression, did not break the
national chains: the prince was even the better enabled to procure that
species of good which he studied; because there was no freedom remaining,
and because there was nowhere a force to dispute his decrees, or to
interrupt their execution.

Was it in vain that Antoninus became acquainted with the characters of
Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dion, and Brutus? Was it in vain, that he
learned to understand the form of a free community, raised on the basis of
equality and justice; or of a monarchy, under which the liberties of the
subject were held the most sacred object of administration?[Footnote: M.
Antoninus, lib. I.] Did he mistake the means of procuring to mankind what
he points out as a blessing? Or did the absolute power with which he was
furnished, in a mighty empire, only disable him from executing what his
mind had perceived as a national good? In such a case, it were vain to
flatter the monarch or his people. The first cannot bestow liberty without
raising a spirit, which may, on occasion, stand in opposition to his own
designs; nor the latter receive this blessing, while they own that it is
in the right of a master to give or to withhold it. The claim of justice
is firm and peremptory. We receive favours with a sense of obligation and
kindness; but we would enforce our rights, and the spirit of freedom in
this exertion cannot take the tone of supplication or of thankfulness,
without betraying itself. "You have intreated Octavius," says Brutus to
Cicero, "that he would spare those who stand foremost among the citizens
of Rome. What if he will not? Must we perish? Yes; rather than owe our
safety to him."

Liberty is a right which every individual must be ready to vindicate for
himself, and which he who pretends to bestow as a favour, has by that very
act in reality denied. Even political establishments, though they appear to
be independent of the will and arbitration of men, cannot be relied on for
the preservation of freedom; they may nourish, but should not supersede
that firm and resolute spirit, with which the liberal mind is always
prepared to resist indignities, and to refer its safety to itself.

Were a nation, therefore, given to be moulded by a sovereign, as the clay
is put into the hands of the potter, this project of bestowing liberty on a
people who are actually servile, is, perhaps, of all others the most
difficult, and requires most to be executed in silence, and with the
deepest reserve. Men are qualified to receive this blessing only in
proportion as they are made to apprehend their own rights; and are made to
respect the just pretensions of mankind; in proportion as they are willing
to sustain, in their own persons, the burden of government, and of national
defence; and are willing to prefer the engagements of a liberal mind to the
enjoyment of sloth, or the delusive hopes of a safety purchased by
submission and fear.

I speak with respect, and, if I may be allowed the expression, even with
indulgence, to those who are intrusted with high prerogatives in the
political system of nations. It is, indeed, seldom their fault that states
are enslaved. What should be expected from them, but that being actuated by
human desires, they should be averse to disappointment, or even to delay;
and in the ardour with which they pursue their object, that they should
break through the barriers that would stop their career? If millions recede
before single men, and senates are passive, as if composed of members who
had no opinion or sense of their own; on whose side have the defences of
freedom given way, or to whom shall we impute their fall? To the subject,
who has deserted his station; or to the sovereign, who has only remained in
his own, and who, if the collateral or subordinate members of government
shall cease to question his power, must continue to govern without

It is well known, that constitutions framed for the preservation of
liberty, must consist of many parts; and that senates, popular assemblies,
courts of justice, magistrates of different orders, must combine to balance
each other, while they exercise, sustain, or check the executive power. If
any part is struck out, the fabric must totter, or fall; if any member is
remiss, the others must encroach. In assemblies constituted by men of
different talents, habits, and apprehensions, it were something more than
human that could make them agree in every point of importance; having
different opinions and views, it were want of integrity to abstain from
disputes: our very praise of unanimity, therefore, is to be considered as a
danger to liberty. We wish for it at the hazard of taking in its place the
remissness of men grown indifferent to the public; the venality of those
who have sold the rights of their country; or the servility of others, who
give implicit obedience to a leader, by whom their minds are subdued. The
love of the public, and respect to its laws, are the points in which
mankind are bound to agree; but if, in matters of controversy, the sense of
any individual or party is invariably pursued, the cause of freedom is
already betrayed.

He whose office it is to govern a supine or an abject people, cannot, for a
moment, cease to extend his powers. Every execution of law, every movement
of the state, every civil and military operation, in which his power is
exerted, must serve to confirm his authority, and present him to the view
of the public as the sole object of consideration, fear, and respect. Those
very establishments which were devised, in one age, to limit or to direct
the exercise of an executive power, will serve, in another, to remove
obstructions, and to smooth its way; they will point out the channels in
which it may run, without giving offence, or without exciting alarms, and
the very councils which were instituted to check its encroachments, will,
in a time of corruption, furnish an aid to its usurpations.

The passion for independence, and the love of dominion, frequently arise
from a common source: there is, in both, an aversion to control; and he
who, in one situation, cannot brook a superior, may, in another, dislike to
be joined with an equal.

What the prince, under a pure or limited monarchy, is, by the constitution
of his country, the leader of a faction would willingly become in
republican governments. If he attains to this envied condition, his own
inclination, or the tendency of human affairs, seem to open before him the
career of a royal ambition: but the circumstances in which he is destined
to act, are very different from those of a king. He encounters with men who
are unused to disparity; he is obliged, for his own security, to hold the
dagger continually unsheathed. When he hopes to be safe, he possibly means
to be just; but is hurried, from the first moment of his usurpation, into
every exercise of despotical power. The heir of a crown has no such quarrel
to maintain with his subjects: his situation is flattering; and the heart
must be uncommonly bad that does not glow with affection to a people, who
are at once his admirers, his support, and the ornaments of this reign. In
him, perhaps, there is no explicit design of trespassing on the rights of
his subjects; but the forms intended to preserve their freedom are not, on
this account, always safe in his hands.

Slavery has been imposed upon mankind in the wantonness of a depraved
ambition, and tyrannical cruelties have been committed in the gloomy hours
of jealousy and terror; yet these demons are not necessary to the creation,
or to the support of an arbitrary power. Although no policy was ever more
successful than that of the Roman republic in maintaining a national
fortune; yet subjects, as well as their princes, frequently imagine that
freedom is a clog on the proceedings of government: they imagine, that
despotical power is best fitted to procure despatch and secrecy in the
execution of public councils; to maintain what they are pleased to call
_political order_, [Footnote: Our notion of order in civil society
being taken from the analogy of subjects inanimate and dead, is frequently
false; we consider commotion and action as contrary to its nature; we think
that obedience, secrecy, and the silent passing of affairs through the
hands of a few, are its real constituents. The good order of stones in a
wall, is their being properly fixed in the places for which they are hewn;
were they to stir, the building must fall: but the good order of men in
society, is their being placed where they are properly qualified to act.
The first is a fabric made of dead and inanimate parts, the second is made
of living and active members. When we seek in society for the order of mere
inaction and tranquillity, we forget the nature of our subject, and find
the order of slaves, not that of freemen.] and to give a speedy redress of
complaints. They even sometimes acknowledge, that if a succession of good
princes could be found, despotical government is best calculated for the
happiness of mankind. While they reason thus, they cannot blame a
sovereign, who, in the confidence that he is to employ his power for good
purposes, endeavours to extend its limits; and, in his own apprehension,
strives only to shake off the restraints which stand in the way of reason,
and which prevent the effect of his friendly intentions.

Thus prepared for usurpation, let him, at the head of a free state, employ
the force with which he is armed, to crush the seeds of apparent disorder
in every corner of his dominions; let him effectually curb the spirit of
dissention and variance among his people; let him remove the interruptions
to government, arising from the refractory humours and the private
interests of his subjects: let him collect the force of the state against
its enemies, by availing himself of all it can furnish in the way of
taxation and personal service: it is extremely probable that, even under
the direction of wishes for the good of mankind, he may break through every
barrier of liberty, and establish a despotism, while he flatters himself
that he only follows the dictates of sense and propriety.

When we suppose government to have bestowed a degree of tranquillity which
we sometimes hope to reap from it, as the best of its fruits, and public
affairs to proceed, in the several departments of legislation and
execution, with the least possible interruption to commerce and lucrative
arts; such a state, like that of China, by throwing affairs into separate
offices, where conduct consists in detail, and in the observance of forms,
by superseding all the exertions of a great or a liberal mind, is more akin
to despotism than we are apt to imagine.

Whether oppression, injustice, and cruelty, are the only evils which attend
on despotical government, may be considered apart. In the mean time it is
sufficient to observe, that liberty is never in greater danger than it is
when we measure national felicity by the blessings which a prince may
bestow, or by the mere tranquillity which may attend on equitable
administration. The sovereign may dazzle with his heroic qualities; he may
protect his subjects in the enjoyment of every animal advantage or
pleasure: but the benefits arising from liberty are of a different sort;
they are not the fruits of a virtue, and of a goodness, which operate in
the breast of one man, but the communication of virtue itself to many; and
such a distribution of functions in civil society, as gives to numbers the
exercises and occupations which pertain to their nature.

The best constitutions of government are attended with inconvenience; and
the exercise of liberty may, on many occasions, give rise to complaints.
When we are intent on reforming abuses, the abuses of freedom may lead us
to encroach on the subject from which they are supposed to arise. Despotism
itself has certain advantages, or at least, in times of civility and
moderation, may proceed with so little offence, as to give no public alarm.
These circumstances may lead mankind, in the very spirit of reformation, or
by mere inattention, to apply or to admit of dangerous innovations in the
state of their policy.

Slavery, however, is not always introduced by mistake; it is sometimes
imposed in the spirit of violence and rapine. Princes become corrupt as
well as their people; and whatever may have been the origin of despotical
government, its pretensions, when fully declared, give rise between the
sovereign and his subjects to a contest which force alone can decide. These
pretensions have a dangerous aspect to the person, the property, or the
life of every subject; they alarm every passion in the human breast; they
disturb the supine; they deprive the venal of his hire; they declare war on
the corrupt as well as the virtuous; they are tamely admitted only by the
coward; but even to him must be supported by a force that can work on his
fears. This force the conqueror brings from abroad; and the domestic
usurper endeavours to find in his faction at home.

When a people is accustomed to arms, it is, difficult for a part to subdue
the whole; or before the establishment of disciplined armies, it is
difficult for any usurper to govern the many by the help of a few. These
difficulties, however, the policy of civilized and commercial nations has
sometimes removed; and by forming a distinction between civil and military
professions, by committing the keeping and the enjoyment of liberty to
different hands, has prepared the way for the dangerous alliance of faction
with military power, in opposition to mere political forms and the rights
of mankind.

A people who are disarmed in compliance with this fatal refinement, have
rested their safety on the pleadings of reason and of justice at the
tribunal of ambition and of force. In such an extremity laws are quoted and
senators are assembled in vain. They who compose a legislature, or who
occupy the civil departments of state, may deliberate on the messages they
receive from the camp or the court; but if the bearer, like the centurion
who brought the petition of Octavius to the Roman senate, shew the hilt of
his sword, [Footnote: Sueton.] they find that petitions are become
commands, and that they themselves are become the pageants, not the
repositories of sovereign power.

The reflections of this section may be unequally applied to nations of
unequal extent. Small communities, however corrupted, are not prepared for
despotical government; their members, crowded together and contiguous to
the seats of power, never forget their relation to the public; they pry,
with habits of familiarity and freedom, into the pretensions of those who
would rule; and where the love of equality, and the sense of justice, have
failed, they act on motives of faction, emulation, and envy. The exiled
Tarquin had his adherents at Rome; but if by their means he had recovered
his station, it is probable that, in the exercise of his royalty, he must
have entered on a new scene of contention with the very party that restored
him to power.

In proportion as territory is extended, its parts lose their relative
importance to the whole. Its inhabitants cease to perceive their connection
with the state, and are seldom united in the execution of any national, or
even any factious designs. Distance from the seats of administration, and
indifference to the persons who contend for preferment, teach the majority
to consider themselves as the subjects of a sovereignty, not as the members
of a political body. It is even remarkable, that enlargement of territory,
by rendering the individual of less consequence to the public, and less
able to intrude with his counsel, actually tends to reduce national affairs
within a narrower compass, as well as to diminish the numbers who are
consulted in legislation, or in other matters of government.

The disorders to which a great empire is exposed, require speedy
prevention, vigilance, and quick execution. Distant provinces must be kept
in subjection by military force; and the dictatorial powers, which, in free
states, are sometimes raised to quell insurrections, or to oppose other
occasional evils, appear, under a certain extent of dominion, at all times
equally necessary to suspend the dissolution of a body, whose parts were
assembled, and must be cemented, by measures forcible, decisive, and
secret. Among the circumstances, therefore, which, in the event of national
prosperity, and in the result of commercial arts, lead to the establishment
of despotism, there is none, perhaps, that arrives at this termination with
so sure an aim, as the perpetual enlargement of territory. In every state,
the freedom of its members depends on the balance and adjustment of its
interior parts; and the existence of any such freedom among mankind,
depends on the balance of nations. In the progress of conquest, those who
are subdued are said to have lost their liberties; but from the history of
mankind, to conquer, or to be conquered, has appeared, in effect, the same.



Mankind, when they degenerate, and tend to their ruin, as well as when they
improve, and gain real advantages, frequently proceed by slow, and almost
insensible steps. If, during ages of activity and vigour, they fill up the
measure of national greatness to a height which no human wisdom could at a
distance foresee; they actually incur, in ages of relaxation and weakness,
many evils which their fears did not suggest, and which, perhaps, they had
thought far removed by the tide of success and prosperity.

We have already observed, that where men are remiss or corrupted, the
virtue of their leaders, or the good intention of their magistrates, will
not always secure them in the possession of political freedom. Implicit
submission to any leader, or the uncontrolled exercise of any power, even
when it is intended to operate for the good of mankind, may frequently end
in the subversion of legal establishments. This fatal revolution, by
whatever means it is accomplished, terminates in military government; and
this, though the simplest of all governments, is rendered complete by
degrees. In the first period of its exercise over men who have acted as
members of a free community, it can have only laid the foundation, not
completed the fabric, of a despotical policy. The usurper who has
possessed, with an army, the centre of a great empire, sees around him,
perhaps, the shattered remains of a former constitution; he may hear the
murmurs of a reluctant and unwilling submission; he may even see danger in
the aspect of many, from whose hands he may have wrested the sword, but
whose minds he has not subdued, nor reconciled to his power.

The sense of personal rights, or the pretension to privilege and honours,
which remain among certain orders of men, are so many bars in the way of a
recent usurpation. If they are not suffered to decay with age, and to wear
away in the progress of a growing corruption, they must be broken with
violence, and the entrance to every new accession of power must be stained
with blood. The effect, even in this case, is frequently tardy. The Roman
spirit, we know, was not entirely extinguished under a succession of
masters, and under a repeated application of bloodshed and poison. The
noble and respectable family still aspired to its original honours; the
history of the republic, the writings of former times, the monuments of
illustrious men, and the lessons of philosophy fraught with heroic
conceptions, continued to nourish the soul in retirement, and formed those
eminent characters, whose elevation, and whose fate, are, perhaps, the most
affecting subjects of human story. Though unable to oppose the general bent
to servility, they became, on account of their supposed inclinations,
objects of distrust and aversion, and were made to pay with their blood,
the price of a sentiment which they fostered in silence, and which glowed
only in the heart.

While despotism proceeds in its progress, by what principle is the
sovereign conducted in the choice of measures that tend to establish his
government? By a mistaken apprehension of his own good, sometimes even that
of his people, and by the desire which he feels on every particular
occasion, to remove the obstructions which impede the execution of his
will. When he has fixed a resolution, whoever reasons or remonstrates
against it is an enemy; when his mind is elated, whoever pretends to
eminence, and is disposed to act for himself, is a rival. He would leave no
dignity in the state, but what is dependent on himself; no active power,
but what carries the expression of his momentary pleasure. [Footnote:
Insurgere paulatim munia senatus, magistratuum, legum in se trahere.]
Guided by a perception as unerring as that of instinct, he never fails to
select the proper objects of his antipathy or of his favour. The aspect of
independence repels him; that of servility attracts. The tendency of his
administration is to quiet every restless spirit, and to assume every
function of government to himself. [Footnote: It is ridiculous to hear men
of a restless ambition, who would be the only actors in every scene,
sometimes complain of a refractory spirit in mankind: as if the same
disposition, from which they desire to usurp every office, did not incline
every other person to reason and to act at least for himself.] When the
power is adequate to the end, it operates as much in the hands of those who
do not perceive the termination, as it does in the hands of others by whom
it is best understood: the mandates of either, when just, should not be
disputed; when erroneous or wrong, they are supported by force.

You must die, was the answer of Octavius to every suit from a people that
implored his mercy. It was the sentence which some of his successors
pronounced against every citizen that was eminent for his birth or his
virtues. But are the evils of despotism confined to the cruel and
sanguinary methods, by which a recent dominion over a refractory and a
turbulent people is established or maintained? And is death the greatest
calamity which can afflict mankind under an establishment by which they are
divested of all their rights? They are, indeed, frequently suffered to
live; but distrust and jealousy, the sense of personal meanness, and the
anxieties which arise from the care of a wretched interest, are made to
possess the soul; every citizen is reduced to a slave; and every charm by
which the community engaged its members, has ceased to exist. Obedience is
the only duty that remains, and this is exacted by force. If, under such an
establishment, it be necessary to witness scenes of debasement and horror,
at the hazard of catching the infection, death becomes a relief; and the
libation which Thrasea was made to pour from his arteries, is to be
considered as a proper sacrifice of gratitude to Jove the Deliverer.
[Footnote: Porrectisque utriusque brachii venis, postquam cruorem effudit,
humum super spargens, proprius vocato Quaestore, _Libemus_, inquit,
_Jovi Liberatori_. Specta juvenis; et omen quidem Dii prohibeant;
ceterum in ea tempora natus es, quibus firmare animum deceat constantibus
exemplis. _Tacit. Ann. lib._ 16.]

Oppression and cruelty are not always necessary to despotical government;
and even when present, are but a part of its evils. It is founded on
corruption, and on the suppression of all the civil and the political
virtues; it requires its subjects to act from motives of fear; it would
assuage the passions of a few men at the expense of mankind; and would
erect the peace of society itself on the ruins of that freedom and
confidence from which alone the enjoyment, the force, and the elevation of
the human mind, are found to arise.

During the existence of any free constitution, and whilst every individual
possessed his rank and his privilege, or had his apprehension of personal
rights, the members of every community were, to one another, objects of
consideration and of respect; every point to be carried in civil society
required the exercise of talents, of wisdom, persuasion, and vigour, as
well as of power. But it is the highest refinement of a despotical
government, to rule by simple commands, and to exclude every art but that
of compulsion. Under the influence of this policy, therefore, the occasions
which employed and cultivated the understandings of men, which awakened
their sentiments, and kindled their imaginations, are gradually removed;
and the progress by which mankind attained to the honours of their nature,
in being engaged to act in society upon a liberal footing, was not more
uniform, or less interrupted, than that by which they degenerate in this
unhappy condition.

When we hear of the silence which reigns in the seraglio, we are made to
believe, that speech itself is become unnecessary; and that the signs of
the mute are sufficient to carry the most important mandates of government.
No arts, indeed, are required to maintain an ascendant where terror alone
is opposed to force, where the powers of the sovereign are delegated entire
to every subordinate officer: nor can any station bestow a liberality of
mind in a scene of silence and dejection, where every breast is possessed
with jealousy and caution, and where no object, but animal pleasure,
remains to balance the sufferings of the sovereign himself, or those of his

In other states, the talents of men are sometimes improved by the exercises
which belong to an eminent station; but here the master himself is probably
the rudest and least cultivated animal of the herd; he is inferior to the
slave whom he raises from a servile office to the first places of trust or
of dignity in his court. The primitive simplicity which formed ties of
familiarity and affection betwixt the sovereign and the keeper of his
herds, [Footnote: See Odyssey.] appears, in the absence of all affections,
to be restored, or to be counterfeited amidst the ignorance and brutality
which equally characterize all orders of men, or rather which level the
ranks, and destroy the distinction of persons in a despotical court.

Caprice and passion are the rules of government with the prince. Every
delegate of power is left to act by the same direction; to strike when he
is provoked; to favour when he is pleased. In what relates to revenue,
jurisdiction, or police, every governor of a province acts like a leader in
an enemy's country; comes armed with the terrors of fire and sword; and
instead of a tax, levies a contribution by force he ruins or spares as
either may serve his purpose. When the clamours of the oppressed, or the
reputation of a treasure amassed at the expense of a province, have reached
the ears of the sovereign, the extortioner is indeed made to purchase
impunity by imparting a share, or by forfeiting the whole of his spoil; but
no reparation is made to the injured; nay, the crimes of the minister are
first employed to plunder the people, and afterwards punished to fill the
coffers of the sovereign.

In this total discontinuance of every art that relates to just government
and national policy, it is remarkable, that even the trade of the soldier
is itself great neglected. Distrust and jealousy, on the part of the
prince, come in aid of his ignorance and incapacity; and these causes
operating together, serve to destroy the very foundation on which his power
is established. Any undisciplined rout of armed men passes for an army,
whilst a weak, dispersed, and unarmed people are sacrificed to military
disorder, or exposed to depredation on the frontier from an enemy, whom the
desire of spoil, or the hopes of conquest, may have drawn to their

The Romans extended their empire till they left no polished nation to be
subdued, and found a frontier which was every where surrounded by fierce
and barbarous tribes; they even pierced through uncultivated deserts, in
order to remove to a greater distance the molestation of such troublesome
neighbours, and in order to possess the avenues through which they feared
their attacks. But this policy put the finishing hand to the internal
corruption of the state. A few years of tranquillity were sufficient to
make even the government forget its danger; and, in the cultivated
province, prepared for the enemy a tempting prize and an easy victory.

When by the conquest and annexation of every rich and cultivated province,
the measure of empire is full, two parties are sufficient to comprehend
mankind; that of the pacific and the wealthy, who dwell within the pale of
empire; and that of the poor, the rapacious, and the fierce, who are inured
to depredation and war. The last bear to the first nearly the same relation
which the wolf and the lion bear to the fold; and they are naturally
engaged in a state of hostility.

Were despotic empire, meantime, to continue for ever unmolested from
abroad, while it retains that corruption on which it was founded, it
appears to have in itself no principle of new life, and presents no hope of
restoration to freedom and political vigour. That which the despotical
_master has sown, cannot quicken unless it die_; it must languish and
expire by the effect of its own abuse, before the human spirit can spring
up anew, or bear those fruits which constitute the honour and the felicity
of human nature. In times of the greatest debasement, indeed, commotions
are felt; but very unlike the agitations of a free people: they are either
the agonies of nature, under the sufferings to which men are exposed; or
mere tumults, confined to a few who stand in arms about the prince, and
who, by, their conspiracies, assassinations, and murders, serve only to
plunge the pacific inhabitants still deeper in the horrors of fear or
despair. Scattered in the provinces, unarmed, unacquainted with the
sentiments of union and confederacy, restricted by habit to a wretched
economy, and dragging a precarious life on those possessions which the
extortions of government have left; the people can nowhere, under these
circumstances, assume the spirit of a community, nor form any liberal
combination for their own defence. The injured may complain; and while he
cannot obtain the mercy of government, he may implore the commiseration of
his fellow subject. But that fellow subject is comforted, that the hand of
oppression has not seized on himself: he studies his interest, or snatches
his pleasure, under that degree of safety which obscurity and concealment

The commercial arts, which seem to require no foundation in the minds of
men, but the regard to interest; no encouragement, but the hopes of gain,
and the secure possession of property, must perish under the precarious
tenure of slavery, and under the apprehension of danger arising from the
reputation of wealth. National poverty, however, and the suppression of
commerce, are the means by which despotism comes to accomplish its own
destruction. Where there are no longer any profits to corrupt, or fears to
deter, the charm of dominion is broken, and the naked slave, as awake from
a dream, is astonished to find he is free. When the fence is destroyed, the
wilds are open, and the herd breaks loose. The pasture of the cultivated
field is no longer preferred to that of the desert. The sufferer willingly
flies where the extortions of government cannot overtake him; where even
the timid and the servile may recollect they are men; where the tyrant may
threaten, but where he is known to be no more than a fellow creature; where
he can take nothing but life, and even this at the hazard of his own.

Agreeably to this description, the vexations of tyranny have overcome, in
many parts of the East, the desire of settlement. The inhabitants of a
village quit their habitations, and infest the public ways; those of the
valleys fly to the mountains, and, equipt for flight, or possessed of a
strong hold, subsist by depredation, and by the war they make on their
former masters.

These disorders conspire with the impositions of government to render the
remaining settlements still less secure: but while devastation and ruin
appear on every side, mankind are forced anew upon those confederacies,
acquire again that personal confidence and vigour, that social attachment,
that use of arms, which, in former times, rendered a small tribe the seed
of a great nation; and which may again enable the emancipated slave to
begin the career of civil and commercial arts. When human nature appears in
the utmost state of corruption, it has actually begun to reform.

In this manner, the scenes of human life have been frequently shifted.
Security and presumption forfeit the advantages of prosperity; resolution
and conduct retrieve the ills of adversity; and mankind while they have
nothing on which to rely but their virtue, are prepared to gain every
advantage; and while they confide most in their good fortune, are most
exposed to feel its reverse. We are apt to draw these observations into
rule; and when we are no longer willing to act for our country, we plead,
in excuse of our own weakness or folly, a supposed fatality in human

The institutions of men, if not calculated for the preservation of virtue,
are, indeed, likely to have an end as well as a beginning: but so long as
they are effectual to this purpose, they have at all times an equal
principle of life, which nothing but an external force can suppress; no
nation ever suffered internal decay but from the vice of its members. We
are sometimes willing to acknowledge this vice in our countrymen; but who
was ever willing to acknowledge it in himself? It may be suspected,
however, that we do more than acknowledge it, when we cease to oppose its
effects, and when we plead a fatality, which, at least, in the breast of
every individual, is dependent on himself. Men of real fortitude,
integrity, and ability, are well placed in every scene; they reap, in every
condition, the principal enjoyments of their nature; they are the happy
instruments of Providence employed for the good of mankind; or, if we must
change this language, they show, that while they are destined to live, the
states they compose are likewise doomed by the fates to survive, and to


and Fourth Streets, Philadelphia._


Towards an analysis of the principles by which men naturally judge
concerning the conduct and character, first of their neighbours, and
afterwards of themselves,

To which is added,

_A Dissertation on the Origin of Languages._ BY ADAM SMITH, LL.D.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Extract from "An Account of the Life and Writings of Dr. Adam Smith, by
Dugald Stewart, F.R.S. Edinburgh."_

(Speaking of Dr. S.'s Theory of Moral Sentiments, he says) "No work,
undoubtedly, can be mentioned, ancient or modern, which exhibits so
complete a view of those facts, with respect to our moral perception, which
it is one great object of this branch of science to refer to their general
laws; and upon this account, it well deserves the careful study of all
whose taste leads them to prosecute similar inquiries. These facts are
indeed frequently expressed in a language which involves the author's
peculiar theories; but they are always presented in the most happy and
beautiful light; and it is easy for an attentive reader, by stripping them
of hypothetical terms, to state them to himself with that logical
precision, which, in such very difficult disquisitions, can alone conduct
us with certainty to the truth.

"It is proper to observe, farther, that, with the theoretical doctrines of
the book, there are every where interwoven, with singular taste and
address, the purest and most elevated maxims concerning the practical
conduct of life; and that it abounds throughout with interesting and
instructive delineations of characters and manners. A considerable part of
it too is employed in collateral inquiries, which, upon every hypothesis
that can be formed concerning the foundation of morals, are of equal
importance. Of this kind is the speculation with respect to the influence
of fortune on our moral sentiments; and another speculation no less
valuable, with respect to the influence of custom and fashion on the same
part of our constitution.

"When the subject of this work leads the author to address the imagination
and the heart: the variety and felicity of his illustrations--the richness
and fluency of his eloquence--and the skill with which he wins the
attention and commands the passions of his readers, leave him, among our
English moralists, without a rival."



_Of the Propriety of Action_.

Section I. _Of the Sense of Propriety_.

Chap. I. Of Sympathy.

Chap. II. Of the Pleasure of Mutual Sympathy.

Chap. III. Of the manner in which we judge of the Propriety or Impropriety
of the Affections of other Men, by their concord or dissonance with our

Chap. IV. The same subject continued.

Chap. V. Of the Amiable and Respectable Virtues.

Section II. _Of the Degrees of the different Passions which are
consistent with Propriety_.


Chap. I. Of the Passions which take their origin from the body.

Chap. II. Of those Passions which take their origin from a particular turn
or habit of the Imagination.

Chap. III. Of the unsocial Passions.

Chap. IV. Of the social Passions.

Chap. V. Of the selfish Passions.

Section III. _Of the Effects of Prosperity and Adversity upon the
Judgment of Mankind with regard to the Propriety of Action; and why it is
more easy to obtain their approbation in the one state than in the

Chap. I. That though our sympathy with sorrow is generally a more lively
sensation than our sympathy with toy, it commonly falls much more short of
the violence of what is naturally felt by the person principally concerned.

Chap. II. Of the origin of Ambition, and of the distinction of Ranks.

Chap. III. Of the corruption of our Moral Sentiments, which is occasioned
by this disposition to admire the rich and the great, and to despise or
neglect persons of poor and mean condition.


_Of Merit and Demerit; or of the objects of reward and punishment_.

Section I. _Of the Sense of Merit and Demerit_.


Chap. I. That whatever appears to be the proper object of gratitude,
appears to deserve reward; and that, in the same manner, whatever appears
to be the proper object of resentment, appears to deserve punishment.

Chap. II. Of the proper objects of gratitude and resentment.

Chap. III. That where there is no approbation of the conduct of the person
who confers the benefit, there is little sympathy with the gratitude of him
who receives it: and that on the contrary, where there is no disapprobation
of the motives of the person who does the mischief, there is no sort of
sympathy with the resentment of him who suffers it.

Chap. IV. Recapitulation of the foregoing chapters.

Chap. V. The Analysis of the sense of Merit and Demerit.

SECTION II. _Of Justice and Beneficence._

Chap. I. Comparison of those two virtues.

Chap. II. Of the sense of Justice, of Remorse, and of the consciousness of

Chap. III. Of the utility of this constitution of Nature.

SECTION III. _Of the Influence of Fortune upon the Sentiments of Mankind,
with regard to the Merit or Demerit of Actions._


Chap. I. Of the causes of this influence of Fortune.

Chap. II. Of the extent of this influence of Fortune.

Chap. III. Of the final cause of this irregularity of Sentiments.

PART III. _Of the Foundation our Judgments concerning our own sentiments
and conduct, and of the sense of Duty._

Chap. I. Of the principle of Self-approbation and of Self-disapprobation.

Chap. II. Of the love of Praise, and of that of Praise-worthiness; and of
the dread of Blame, and that of Blame-worthiness.

Chap. III. Of the Influence and Authority of Conscience.

Chap. IV. Of the nature of Self-deceit, and of the Origin and Use of
general Rules.

Chap. V. Of the Influence and Authority of the general Rules of Morality,
and that they are justly regarded as the laws of the Deity.

Chap. VI. In what cases the Sense of Duty ought to be the sole principle of
our conduct; and in what cases it ought to concur with other motives.

PART IV. _Of the Effect of Utility upon the Sentiment of Approbation._

Chap. I. Of the Beauty which the appearance of Utility bestows upon all the
productions of Art, and of the extensive influence of this species of

Chap. II. Of the Beauty which the appearance of Utility bestows upon the
characters and actions of men; and how far the perception of this beauty
may be regarded as one of the original principles of approbation.

PART V. _Of the Influence of Custom and Fashion upon the Sentiments of
Moral Approbation and Disapprobation._

Chap. I. Of the Influence of Custom and Fashion upon our notions of Beauty
and Deformity.

Chap. II. Of the Influence of Custom and Fashion upon Moral Sentiments.

PART VI. _Of the Character of Virtue._

Introduction. Section I. _Of the Character of the Individual, so far as
it affects his own Happiness; or of Prudence_.

Section II. _Of the Character of the Individual, so far as it can affect
the happiness of other People_.


Chap. I. Of the order in which Individuals are recommended by nature to our
care and attention.

Chap. II. Of the order in which Societies are by nature recommended to our

Chap. III. Of Universal Benevolence.

Section III. _Of Self-Command_.

Conclusion of the Sixth Part.


_Of Systems of Moral Philosophy_.

Section I. _Of the questions which ought to be examined in a Theory of
Moral Sentiments_.

Section II. _Of the different Accounts which have been given of the
nature of Virtue_.


Chap. I. Of those systems which make Virtue consist in propriety.

Chap. II. Of those systems which make Virtue consist in prudence.

Chap. III. Of those systems which make Virtue consist in benevolence.

Chap. IV. Of licentious Systems.

Section III. _Of the different Systems which have been formed concerning
the Principle of Approbation_.


Chap. I. Of those systems which deduce the principle of Approbation from

Chap. II. Of those systems which make Reason the principle of Approbation.

Chap. III. Of those systems which make Sentiment the principle of

Section IV. _Of the manner in which different Authors have treated of the
Practical Rules of Morality_.

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