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1. Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion 

2. Of the Liberty of the Press 

3. That Politics may be reduced to a Science 

4. Of the First Principles of Government 

5. Of the Origin of Government 

6. Of the Independence of Parliament . 

7. Whether the British Government inclines to absolute 

to a Republic 

8. Of Parties in general 

9. Of the Parties of Great Britain 

10. Of Superstition and Enthusiasm 

11. Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature 

12. Of Civil Liberty 

13. Of Eloquence 

14. Of the Rise and Progress of the 

15. The Epicurean . 
1G. The Stoic .... 

1 7. The Platonist 

18. The Sceptic 

19. Of Polygamy and Divorces 

20. Of Simplicity and Refinement in 

21. Of National Characters 

22. Of Tragedy 

23. Of the Standard of Taste . 

'Irts and Sciences 








77 v 




119 ' 






21 lV 







P A R T I I 

1. Of Commerce 

2. Of Refinement in the Arts . 

3. Of Money 

4. Of Interest 

5. Of the Balance of Trade . 
G. Of the Jealousy of Trade . 

7. Of the Balance of Power . 

8. Of Taxes .... 

9. Of Public Credit 

10. Of some remarkable Customs 

11. Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations 

12. Of the Original Contract . 

13. Of Passive Obedience 

14. Of the Coalition of Parties 

15. Of the Protestant Succession 
1G. Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth 












494 y/ 

518 v' 


533 V 

546 1/ 

E S S A Y S 


PART 1. 




Some people are subject to a certain delicacy of passion, 
which makes them extremely sensible to all the acci- 
dents of life, and gives them a lively joy upon every 
prosperous event, as well as a piercing grief when they 
meet with misfortune and adversity. Favors and good 
offices easily engage their friendship, while the smallest 
injury provokes their resentment. Any honor or mark 
of distinction elevates them above measure, but they are 
sensibly touched with contempt. People of this charac- 
ter have, no doubt, more lively enjoyments, as well as 
more pungent sorrows, than men of cool and sedate 
tempers. But, I believe, when every thing is balanced, 
there is no one who would not rather be of the latter 
character, were he entirely master of his own disposition. 
Good or ill fortune is very little at our disposal; and 
when a person that has this sensibility of temper meets 
with any misfortune, his sorrow or resentment takes 
entire possession of him, and deprives him of all relish 
in the common occurrences of life, the right enjoyment 
of which forms the chief part of our happiness. Great 
pleasures are much less frequent than great pains, so 
that a sensible temper must meet with fewer trials in 
the former wav than in the latter. Not to mention, 

VOL. III. 1 


that men of such lively passions are apt to be trans- 
ported beyond all bounds of prudence and discretion, 
and to take false steps in the conduct of life, which are 
often irretrievable. 

There is a delicacy of taste observable in some men, 
which very much resembles this delicacy of passion, and 
produces the same sensibility to beauty and deformity 
of every kind, as that does to prosperity and adversity, 
obligations and injuries. When you present a poem or 
a picture to a man possessed of this talent, the delicacy 
of his feeling makes him be sensibly touched with every 
part of it ; nor are the masterly strokes perceived with 
more exquisite relish and satisfaction, than the negli- 
gences or absurdities with disgust and uneasiness. A 
polite and judicious conversation affords him the highest 
entertainment ; rudeness or impertinence is as great 
punishment to him. In short, delicacy of taste has the 
same effect as delicacy of passion. It enlarges the 
sphere both of our happiness and misery, and makes us 
sensible to pains as well as pleasures which escape the 
rest of mankind. 

I believe, however, every one will agree with me, 
that notwithstanding this resemblance, delicacy of taste 
is as much to be desired and cultivated, as delicacy of 
passion is to be lamented, and to be remedied, if possible. 
The good or ill accidents of life are very little at our 
disposal ; but we are pretty much masters what books 
we shall read, what diversions we shall partake of, and 
what company we shall keep. Philosophers have en- 
deavored to render happiness entirely independent of 
every thing external. The degree of perfection is im- 
possible to be attained; but every wise man will endeavor 
to place his happiness on such objects chiefly as depend 
upon himself; and that is not to be attained so much by 


any other means as by this delicacy of sentiment. 
When a man is possessed of that talent, he is more 
happy by what pleases his taste, than by what gratifies 
his appetites, and receives more enjoyment from a 
poem, or a piece of reasoning, than the most expensive 
luxury can afford.* 

Whatever connection there may be originally between 
these two species of delicacy, I am persuaded that noth- 
ing is so proper to cure us of this delicacy of passion, as 
the cultivating of that higher and more refined taste, 
which enables us to judge of the characters of men, of 
the compositions of genius, and of the productions of the 
nobler arts. A greater or less relish for those obvious 
beauties which strike the senses, depends entirely upon 
the greater or less sensibility of the temper ; but with 
regard to the sciences and liberal arts, a fine taste is, in 
some measure, the same with strong sense, or at least 
depends so much upon it that they are inseparable. In 
order to judge aright of a composition of genius, there 
are so many views to be taken in, so many circumstances 
to be compared, and such a knowledge of human nature 
requisite, that no man, who is not possessed of the 
soundest judgment, will ever make a tolerable critic in 
such performances. And this is a new reason for culti- 
vating a relish in the liberal arts. Our judgment will 
strengthen by this exercise. We shall form juster 
notions of life. Many things which please or afflict 
others, will appear to us too frivolous to engage our 

* How far the delicacy of taste, and that of passion are connected together 
in the original frame of the mind, it is hard to determine. To me there ap- 
pears to he a very considerable connection betwixt them. For we may 
observe that women, who have more delicate passions than men, have also a 
more delicate taste of the ornaments of life, of dress, equipage, and the ordi- 
nal 1 }- decencies of behavior. Any excellency in these hits their taste much 
sooner than ours; and when yon please their taste, you soon engage their 
affections. — Editions A. C, JD, X. 


attention ; and we shall lose by degrees that sensibility 
and delicacy of passion which is so incommodious. 

But perhaps I have gone too far, in saying that a 
cultivated taste for the polite arts extinguishes the pas- 
sions, and renders us indifferent to those objects which 
are so fondly pursued by the rest of mankind. On fur- 
ther reflection, I find, that it rather improves our sensi- 
bility for all the tender and agreeable passions; at the 
same time that it renders the mind incapable of the 
rougher and more boisterous emotions. 

Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes, 
Emollit mores, nee sinit esse feros. 

For this, I think, there may be assigned two very 
natural reasons. In the first place, nothing is so improv- 
ing to the temper as the study of the beauties either of 
poetry, eloquence, music, or painting. They give a 
certain elegance of sentiment to which the rest of man- 
kind are strangers. The emotions which they excite 
are soft and tender. They draw off the mind from the 
hurry of business and interest; cherish reflection; dis- 
pose to tranquillity; and produce an agreeable melan- 
choly, which, of all dispositions of the mind, is the best 
suited to love and friendship. 

In the second place, a delicacy of taste is favorable to 
love and friendship, by confining our choice to few peo- 
ple, and making us indifferent to the company and con- 
versation of the greater part of men. You will seldom 
find that mere men of the world, whatever strong sense 
they may be endowed with, are very nice in distinguish- 
ing characters, or in marking those insensible differences 
and gradations, which make one man preferable to 
another. Any one that has competent sense is sufficient 
for their entertainment. They talk to him of their 



pleasures and affairs, with the same frankness that they 
would to another; and finding many who are lit to 
supply his place, they never feel any vacancy or want 
in his absence. But to make use of the allusion of a 
celebrated French* author, the judgment may be com- 
pared to a clock or watch, where the most ordinary 
machine is sufficient to tell the hours; but the most 
elaborate alone can point out the minutes and seconds, 
and distinguish the smallest differences of time. One 
that has well digested his knowledge both of books 
and men, has little enjoyment but in the company of a 
few select companions. He feels too sensibly, how much 
all the rest of mankind fall short of the notions which 
he has entertained. And, his affections being thus con- 
fined within a narrow circle, no wonder he carries them 
farther than if they were more general and undistin- 
guished. The gaiety and frolic of a bottle companion 
improves with him into a solid friendship ; and the 
ardors of a youthful appetite become an elegant passion. 

* Mons. Fontenelle, Pluralite des Alondes, Soir 6. 



Nothing is more apt to surprise a foreigner, than the 
extreme liberty which we enjoy in this country, of com- 
municating whatever we please to the public, and of 
openly censuring every measure entered into by the 
kino; or his ministers. If the administration resolve 
upon war, it is affirmed, that, either wilfully or igno- 
rantly, they mistake the interests of the nation • and that 
peace, in the present situation of affairs, is infinitely 
preferable. If the passion of the ministers lie towards 
peace, our political writers breathe nothing but war and 
devastation, and represent the specific conduct of the 
government as mean and pusillanimous. As this liberty 
is not indulged in any other government, either repub- 
lican or monarchical ; in Holland and Venice, more than 
in France or Spain ; it may very naturally give occasion 
to the question, Hoiv it happens that Great Britain atone 
enjoys this peculiar privilege ? * 

The reason why the laws indulge us in such a liberty, 
seems to be derived from our mixed form of government, 
which is neither wholly monarchical, nor wholly republi- 

* And whether the unlimited exercise of this liberty lie advantageous or 
prejudicial to the public. — Editions .V, (', 1) ; N. 


can. It will be found, if I mistake not, a true observation 
in politics, that the two extremes in government, liberty 
and slavery, commonly approach nearest to each other ; 
and that, as you depart from the extremes, and mix a 
little of monarchy with liberty, the government becomes 
always the more free ; and, on the other hand, when 
you mix a little of liberty with monarchy, the yoke be- 
comes always the more grievous and intolerable. In a 
government, such as that of France, which is absolute, 
and where law, custom, and religion concur, all of them, 
to make the people fully satisfied with their condition, 
the monarch cannot entertain any jealousy against his 
subjects, and therefore is apt to indulge them in great 
liberties, both of speech and action. In a government 
altogether republican, such as that of Holland, wdiere 
there is no magistrate so eminent as to give jealousy to 
the state, there is no clanger in intrusting the magis- 
trates with large discretionary powers; and though 
many advantages result from such powers, in preserving 
peace and order, yet they lay a considerable restraint 
on men's actions, and make every private citizen pay a 
great respect to the government. Thus it seems evi- 
dent, that the two extremes of absolute monarchy and 
of a republic, approach near to each other in some mate- 
rial circumstances. In the first, the magistrate has no 
jealousy of the people ; in the second, the people have 
none of the magistrate : which want of jealousy begets 
a mutual confidence and trust in both cases, and pro- 
duces a species of liberty in monarchies, and of arbitrary 
power in republics. 

To justify the other part of the foregoing observa- 
tion, that, in every government, the means are most 
wide of each other, and that the mixtures of monarchy 
and liberty render the yoke either more grievous; I 


must take notice of a remark in Tacitus with regard to 
the Romans under the Emperors, that they neither 
could bear total slavery nor total liberty, Nee totam ser- 
vitutem, nee totam libertatem pati possunt. This remark a 
celebrated poet has translated and applied to the Eng- 
lish, in his lively description of Queen Elizabeth's policy 
and government. 

Et lit aimer son jong a PAnglois indompte, 
Qui ne peut ni servir, ni vivre en liberte. 

Henriade, liv. i. 

According to these remarks, we are to consider the 
Roman government under the Emperors as a mixture 
of despotism and liberty, where the despotism prevailed ; 
and the English government as a mixture of the same 
kind, where the liberty predominates. The conse- 
quences are conformable to the foregoing observation, 
and such as may be expected from those mixed forms 
of government, which beget a mutual watchfulness and 
jealousy. The Roman emperors were, many of them, 
the most frightful tyrants that ever disgraced human 
nature ; and it is evident, that their cruelty was chiefly 
excited by their jealousy, and by their observing that all 
the great men of Rome bore with impatience the 
dominion of a family, which, but a little before, was no- 
wise superior to their own. On the other hand, as the 
republican part of the government prevails in England, 
though with a great mixture of monarchy, it is obliged, 
for its own preservation, to maintain a watchful jealousy 
over the magistrates, to remove all discretionary powers, 
and to secure every one's life and fortune by general 
and inflexible laws. No action must be deemed a crime 
but what the law has plainly determined to be such : 
no crime must be imputed to a man but from a legal 
proof before his judges; and even these judges must be 


his fellow-subjects, who are obliged, by their own in- 
terest, to have a watchful eye over the encroachments 
and violence of the ministers. From these causes it 
proceeds, that there is as much liberty, and even per- 
haps licentiousness, in Great Britain, as there were for- 
merly slavery and tyranny in Rome. 

These principles account for the great liberty of the 
press in these kingdoms, beyond what is indulged in any 
other government. It is apprehended that arbitrary 
power would steal in upon us, were we not careful to 
prevent its progress, and were there not an easy method 
of conveying the alarm from one end of the kingdom 
to the other. The spirit of the people must frequently 
be roused, in order to curb the ambition of the court ; 
and the dread of rousing this spirit must be employed 
to prevent that ambition. Nothing so effectual to this 
purpose as the liberty of the press ; by which all the 
learning, wit, and genius of the nation, may be employed 
on the side of freedom, and every one be animated to 
its defence. As long, therefore, as the republican part 
of our government can maintain itself against the mo- 
narchical, it will naturally be careful to keep the press 
open, as of importance to its own preservation* 

* Since, therefore, the liberty of the press is so essential to the support of 
our mixed government, this sufficiently decides the second question, Whether 
this liberty he advantageous or prejudicial, there being nothing of greater 
importance in every state than the preservation of the ancient government, 
especially if it be a free one. But I would fain go a step further, and assert, 
that such a liberty is attended with so few inconveniences, that it may be 
claimed as the common right of mankind, and ought to be indulged them 
almost in every government except the ecclesiastical, to which, indeed, it 
would be fatal. We need not dread from this liberty any such ill conse- 
quences as followed from the harangues of the popular demagogues of Athens 
and Tribunes of Rome. A man reads a book or pamphlet alone and coolly. 
There is none present from whom he can catch the passion by contagion. 
He is not hurried away by the tone and energy of action. And should he 
be wrought up to never so seditious a humor, there is no violent resolution 
VOL. III. 2 


It must however be allowed, that the unbounded lib- 
erty of the press, though it be difficult, perhaps impos- 
sible, to propose a suitable remedy for it, is one of the 
evils attending those mixed forms of government. 

presented to him by which he can immediately vent his passion. The liberty 
of the press, therefore, however abused, can scarce ever excite popular 
tumults or rebellion. And as to those murmurs or secret discontents it may 
occasion, it is better they should get vent in words, that they may come to 
the knowledge of the magistrate before it be too late, in order to his provid- 
ing a remedy against them. Mankind, it is true, have always a greater pro- 
pension to believe what is said to the disadvantage of their governors than 
the contrary ; but this inclination is inseparable from them whether they 
have liberty or not. A whisper may fly as quick, and be as pernicious as a 
pamphlet. Nay, it will be more pernicious, where men are not accustomed 
to think freely, or distinguish betwixt truth and falsehood. 

It has also been found, as the experience of mankind increases, that the 
people are no such dangerous monsters as they have been represented, and 
that it is in every respect better to guide them like rational creatures than to 
lead or drive them like brute beasts. Before the United Provinces set the 
example, toleration was deemed incompatible with good government; and it 
was thought impossible that a number of religious sects could live together in 
harmony and peace, and have all of them an equal affection to their common 
country and to each other. England has set a like example of civil liberty ; and 
though this liberty seems to occasion some small ferment at present, it has not 
as yet produced any pernicious effects ; and it is to be hoped that men, being 
every day more accustomed to the free discussion of public affairs, will im- 
prove in their judgment of them, and be with greater difficulty seduced by 
every idle rumor and popular clamor. 

It is a very comfortable reflection to the lovers of liberty, that this peculiar 
privilege of Britain is of a kind that cannot easily be wrested from us, and 
must last as long as our government remains in any degree free and inde- 
pendent. It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. Slavery 
has so frightful an aspect to men accustomed to freedom, that it must steal in 
upon them by degrees, and must disguise itself in a thousand shapes in order 
to be received. But if the liberty of the press ever be lost, it must be lost at 
once. The general laws against sedition and libelling are at present as strong 
as they possibly can be made. Nothing can impose a further restraint but 
either the clapping an imprimatur upon the press, or the giving very large 
discretionary powers to the court to punish whatever displeases them. But 
these concessions would be such a barefaced violation of liberty, that they 
will probably be the last efforts of a despotic government. We may conclude 
that the liberty of Britain is gone for ever when these attempts shall succeed. 
— Editions A, C, D, N. 



It is a question with several, whether there he any 
essential difference between one form of government 
and another ? and, whether every form may not become 
good or bad, according as it is well or ill administered ? :;: 
Were it once admitted, that all governments are alike, 
and that the only difference consists in the character 
and conduct of the governors, most political disputes 
would be at an end, and all Zeal for one constitution 
above another must be esteemed mere bigotry and folly. 
But, though a friend to moderation, I cannot forbear 
condemning this sentiment, and should be sorry to think, 
that human affairs admit of no greater stability, than 
what they receive from the casual humors and charac- 
ters of particular men. 

It is true, those who maintain that the goodness of all 
government consists in the goodness of the administra- 
tion, may cite many particular instances in history, 
where the very same government, in different hands, 
has varied suddenly into the two opposite extremes of 

* For forms of government let fools contest, 
Whate'er is best administered is best. 

Essay on Max, Book 3. 


good and bad. Compare the French government under 
Henry III. and under Henry IY. Oppression, levity, 
artifice on the part of the rulers; faction, sedition, 
treachery, rebellion, disloyalty on the part of the sub- 
jects : these compose the character of the former miser- 
able era. But when the patriot and heroic prince, who 
succeeded, was once firmly seated on the throne, the 
government, the people, every thing, seemed to be 
totally changed ; and all from the difference of the tem- 
per and conduct of these two sovereigns* Instances of 
this kind may be multiplied, almost without number, 
from ancient as well as modern history, foreign as well 
as domestic. 

But here it may be proper to make a distinction. All 
absolute governments must very much depend on the 
administration ; and this is one of the great incon- 
veniences attending that form of government. But a 
republican and free government would be an obvious 
absurdity, if the particular checks and controls, provided 
by the constitution, had really no influence, and made 
it not the interest, even of bad men, to act for the pub- 
lic good. Such is the intention of these forms of gov- 
ernment, and such is their real effect, where they are 
wisely constituted : as, on the other hand, they are the 
source of all disorder, and of the blackest crimes, where 
either skill or honesty has been wanting in their origi- 
nal frame and institution. 

So great is the force of laws, and of particular forms 
of government, and so little dependence have they on 
the humors and tempers of men, that consequences 
almost as general and certain may sometimes be 

* An equal difference of a contrary kind may be found in comparing the 
reigns of Elizabeth and James, at least with regard to foreign affairs. — Edi- 
tions A, C, D, N. 


deduced from them, as any which the mathematical 
sciences afford us. 

The constitution of the Roman republic gave the 
whole legislative power to the people, without allowing 
a negative voice either to the nobility or consuls. This 
unbounded power they possessed in a collective, not in 
a representative body. The consequences were : when 
the people, by success and conquest, had become very 
numerous, and had spread themselves to a great distance 
from the capital, the city tribes, though the most con- 
temptible, carried almost every vote : they were, there- 
fore, most cajoled by every one that affected popularity: 
they were supported in idleness by the general distribu- 
tion of corn, and by particular bribes, which they 
received from almost every candidate : by this means, 
they became every day more licentious, and the Cam- 
pus Martius was a perpetual scene of tumult and sedi- 
tion : armed slaves were introduced among these rascally 
citizens, so that the whole government fell into anarchy ; 
and the greatest happiness which the Romans could 
look for, was the despotic power of the Csesars. Such 
are the effects of democracy without a representative. 

A Nobility may possess the whole, or any part of the 
legislative power of a state, in two different ways. 
Either every nobleman shares the power as a part of 
the whole body, or the whole body enjoys the power as 
composed of parts, which have each a distinct power 
and authority. The Venetian aristocracy is an instance 
of the first kind of government; the Polish, of the 
second. In the Venetian government the whole body 
of nobility possesses the whole power, and no nobleman 
has any authority which he receives not from the whole. 
In the Polish government every nobleman, by means of 
his fiefs, has a distinct hereditary authority over his 


vassals, and the whole body has no authority but what 
it receives from the concurrence of its parts. The dif- 
ferent operations and tendencies of these two species of 
government might be made apparent even a priori. A 
Venetian nobility is preferable to a Polish, let the 
humors and education of men be ever so much varied. 
A nobility, who possess their power in common, will 
preserve peace and order, both among themselves, and 
their subjects; and no member can have authority 
enough to control the laws for a moment. The nobles 
will preserve their authority over the people, but with- 
out any grievous tyranny, or any breach of private 
property; because such a tyrannical government pro- 
motes not the interests of the whole body, however it 
may that of some individuals. There will be a distinc- 
tion of rank between the nobility and people, but this 
will be the only distinction in the state. The whole 
nobility will form one body, and the whole people 
another, without any of those private feuds and animos- 
ities, which spread ruin and desolation everywhere. It 
is easy to see the disadvantages of a Polish nobility in 
every one of these particulars. 

It is possible so to constitute a free government, as 
that a single person, call him a doge, prince, or king, 
shall possess a large share of power, and shall form a 
proper balance or counterpoise to the other parts of the 
legislature. This chief magistrate may be either elective 
or hereditary ; and though the former institution may, 
to a superficial view, appear the most advantageous ; 
yet a more accurate inspection will discover in it 
greater inconveniences than in the latter, and such as 
are founded on causes and principles eternal and im- 
mutable. The filling of the throne, in such a govern- 
ment, is a point of too great and too general interest, 


not to divide the whole people into factions : whence 
a civil war, the greatest of ills, may be apprehended, 
almost with certainty, upon every vacancy. The prince 
elected must be either a Foreigner or a Native : the 
former will be ignorant of the people whom he is to 
govern ; suspicious of his new subjects, and suspected 
by them ; giving his confidence entirely to strangers, 
who will have no other care but of enriching themselves 
in the quickest manner, while their master's favor and 
authority are able to support them. A native will carry 
into the throne all his private animosities and friend- 
ships, and will never be viewed in his elevation without 
exciting the sentiment of envy in those who formerly 
considered him as their equal. Not to mention that a 
crown is too high a reward ever to be given to merit 
alone, and will always induce the candidates to employ 
force, or money, or intrigue, to procure the votes of the 
electors : so that such an election will give no better 
chance for superior merit in the prince, than if the state 
had trusted to birth alone for determining the sovereign. 

It may, therefore, be pronounced as an universal 
axiom in politics, That an hereditary prince, a nobility with- 
out vassals, and a people voting by their reprcscntcdivcs, form 
the best monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. But in 
order to prove more fully, that politics admit of general 
truths, which are invariable by the humor or education 
either of subject or sovereign, it may not be amiss to 
observe some other principles of this science, which 
may seem to deserve that character. 

It may easily be observed, that though free govern- 
ments have been commonly the most happy for those 
who partake of their freedom ; yet are they the most 
ruinous and oppressive to their provinces : and this 
observation may, I believe, be fixed as a maxim of the 


kind we are here speaking of. When a monarch ex- 
tends his dominions by conquest, he soon learns to 
consider his old and his new subjects as on the same 
footing ; because, in reality, all his subjects are to him 
the same, except the few friends and favorites with 
whom he is personally acquainted. He does not, there- 
fore, make any distinction between them in his general 
laws ; and, at the same time, is careful to prevent all 
particular acts of oppression on the one as well as the 
other. But a free state necessarily makes a great dis- 
tinction, and must always do so, till men learn to love 
their neighbors as w x ell as themselves. The conquerors, 
in such a government, are all legislators, and will be 
sure to contrive matters, by restrictions on trade, and 
by taxes, so as to draw some private, as well as public 
advantage from their conquests. Provincial governors 
have also a better chance, in a republic, to escape with 
their plunder, by means of bribery or intrigue ; and 
their fellow-citizens, who find their own state to be 
enriched by the spoils of the subject provinces, will be 
the more inclined to tolerate such abuses. Not to men- 
tion, that it is a necessary precaution in a free state to 
change the governors frequently ; which obliges these 
temporary tyrants to be more expeditious and rapa- 
cious, that they may accumulate sufficient wealth before 
they give place to their successors. What cruel tyrants 
were the Romans over the world during the time of 
their commonwealth ! It is true, they had laws to 
prevent oppression in their provincial magistrates ; but 
Cicero informs us, that the Eomans could not better 
consult the interests of the provinces than by repealing 
these very laws. For, in that case, says he, our magis- 
trates, having entire impunity, would plunder no more 
than would satisfy their own rapaciousness ; whereas, at 


present, they must also satisfy that of their judges, and 
of all the great men in Rome, of whose protection they 
stand in need. Who can read of the cruelties and 
oppressions of Yerres without horror and astonishment ? 
And who is not touched with indignation to hear, that, 
after Cicero had exhausted on that abandoned criminal 
all the thunders of his eloquence, and had prevailed so 
far as to get him condemned to the utmost extent of 
the laws, yet that cruel tyrant lived peaceably to old 
age, in opulence and ease, and, thirty years afterwards, 
was put into the proscription by Mark Antony, on 
account of his exorbitant wealth, where he fell with 
Cicero himself, and all the most virtuous men of Rome ? 
After the dissolution of the commonwealth, the Roman 
yoke became easier upon the provinces, as Tacitus in- 
forms us ; * and it may be observed, that many of the 
worst emperors, Domitian,f for instance, were careful to 
prevent all oppression on the provinces. In Tiberius's J 
time, Gaul was esteemed richer than Italy itself: nor do 
I find, during the whole time of the Roman monarchy, 
that the empire became less rich or populous in any of 
its provinces ; though indeed its valor and military dis- 
cipline were always upon the decline. The oppression 
and tyranny of the Carthaginians over their subject 
states in Africa went so far, as we learn from Polybius, § 
that, not content with exacting the half of all the pro- 
duce of the land, which of itself was a very high rent, 
they al*o loaded them with many other taxes. If we 
pass from ancient to modern times, we shall still find 

* Ann. lib. i. cap. 2. f Suet, in vita Doniit. 

t Kgregium resumendae libertati tempus, si ipsi florentes, quani inops 
Italia, quam imbellis urbana plebs, nihil validum in exereitibus, nisi quod 
externum cogitarent. — Tacit. Ann. lib. iii. 

§ Lib. i. cap. 72. 
VOL. III. 3 


the observation to hold. The provinces of absolute 
monarchies are always better treated than those of free 
states. Compare the Pais conqnis of France with Ireland, 
and you will be convinced of this truth ; though this 
latter kingdom, being in a good measure peopled from 
England, possesses so many rights and privileges as 
should naturally make it challenge better treatment 
than that of a conquered province. Corsica is also an 
obvious instance to the same purpose. 

There is an observation of Machiavel, with regard to 
the conquests of Alexander the Great, which, I think, 
may be regarded as one of those eternal political truths, 
which no time nor accidents can vary. It may seem 
strange, says that politician, that such sudden conquests, 
as those of Alexander, should be possessed so peaceably 
by his successors, and that the Persians, during all the 
confusions and civil wars among the Greeks, never made 
the smallest effort towards the recovery of their former 
independent government. To satisfy us concerning the 
cause of this remarkable event, we may consider, that a 
monarch may govern his subjects in two different w x ays. 
He may either follow the maxims of the Eastern princes, 
and stretch his authority so far as to leave no distinction 
of rank among his subjects, but what proceeds immedi- 
ately from himself; no advantages of birth ; no heredi- 
tary honors and possessions ; and, in a word, no credit 
among the people, except from his commission alone. 
Or a monarch may exert his power after a milder man- 
ner, like other European princes ; and leave other 
sources of honor, beside his smile and favor : birth, 
titles, possessions, valor, integrity, knowledge, or great 
and fortunate achievements. In the former species of 
government, after a conquest, it is impossible ever to 
shake off the yoke ; since no one possesses, among 


the people, so much personal credit and authority as 
to begin such an enterprise : whereas, in the latter, 
the least misfortune, or discord among the victors, will 
encourage the vanquished to take arms, who have 
leaders ready to prompt and conduct them in every 

* I have taken it for granted, according to the supposition of Machiavel, 
that the ancient Persians had no nobility ; though there is reason to suspect, 
that the Florentine secretary, who seems to have been better acquainted 
with the Roman than the Greek authors, was mistaken in this particular. 
The more ancient Persians, whose manners are described by Xenophon, were 
a free people, and had nobility. Their o/jotlixol were preserved even after the 
extending of their conquests and the consequent change of their government. 
Arrian mentions them in Darius's time, Be exped. Alex. lib. ii. Historians 
also speak often of the persons in command as men of family. Tygranes, 
who was general of the Medes under Xerxes, was of the race of Achmaenes, 
Heriod. lib. vii. cap. G2. Artaclueus, who directed the cutting of the canal 
about Mount Athos, was of the same family. Id. cap. 117. Megabyzus was 
one of the seven eminent Persians who conspired against the Magi. His son, 
Zopyrus, was in the highest command under Darius, and delivered Babylon 
to him. His grandson, Megabyzus, commanded the army defeated at Mara- 
thon. His great-grandson, Zopyrus, was also eminent, and was banished Persia. 
Herod, lib. iii. Time. lib. i. Rosaces, who commanded an army in Egypt 
under Artaxerxes, was also descended from one of the seven conspirators, 
Diod. Sic. lib. xvi. Agesilaus, in Xenophon. Hist. Graec. lib. iv. being de- 
sirous of making a marriage betwixt king Cotys his ally, and the daughter of 
Spithridates, a Persian of rank, who had deserted to him, first asks Cotys 
what family Spithridates is of. One of the most considerable in Persia, says 
Cotys. Ariaeus, when offered the sovereignty by Clearchus and the ten thou- 
sand Greeks, refused it as of too low a rank, and said, that so many eminent 
Persians would never endure his rule. Id. de exped. lib. ii. Some of the 
families descended from the seven Persians above mentioned remained during 
Alexanders successors ; and Mithridates, in Antiochus's time, is said by 
Polybius to be descended from one of them, lib. v. cap. 43. Artabazus was 
esteemed as Arrian says, ev rote Tzpcorotr Htpctov, lib. iii. And when Alexander 
married in one day 80 of his captains to Persian women, his intention plainly 
was to ally the Macedonians with the most eminent Persian families. Id. lib. 
vii. Diodorus Siculus says, they were of the most noble birth in Persia, lib. 
xvii. The government of Persia was despotic, and conducted in many 
respects after the Eastern manner, but was not carried so far as to extirpate 
all nobility, and confound all ranks and orders. It left men who were still 
great, by themselves and their family, independent of their office and com- 


Such is the reasoning of Machiavel, which seems solid 
and conclusive ; though I wish he had not mixed false- 
hood with truth, in asserting that monarchies, governed 
according to Eastern policy, though more easily kept 
when once subdued, yet are the most difficult to sub- 
due ; since they cannot contain any powerful subject, 
whose discontent and faction may facilitate the enter- 
prises of an enemy. For, besides, that such a tyranni- 
cal government enervates the courage of men, and 
renders them indifferent towards the fortunes of their 
sovereigns ; besides this, I say, we find by experience, 
that even the temporary and delegated authority of the 
generals and magistrates, being always, in such govern- 
ments, as absolute within its sphere as that of the prince 
himself, is able, with barbarians accustomed to a blind 
submission, to produce the most dangerous and fatal 
revolutions. So that in every respect, a gentle govern- 
ment is preferable, and gives the greatest security to 
the sovereign as well as to the subject. 

Legislators, therefore, ought not to trust the future 
government of a state entirely to chance, but ought to 
provide a system of laws to regulate the administration 
of public affairs to the latest posterity. Effects will 
always correspond to causes ; and wise regulations, in 
any commonwealth, are the most valuable legacy that 
can be left to future ages. In the smallest court or 
office, the stated forms and methods by which business 
must be conducted, are found to be a considerable check 
on the natural depravity of mankind. Why should not 
the case be the same in public affairs ? Can we ascribe 

mission. And the reason why the Macedonians kept so easily dominion over 
them, was owing to other causes easy to be found in the historians ; though it 
must be owned that Machiavel's reasoning is, in itself, just, however doubtful 
its application to the present case. 


the stability and wisdom of the Venetian government, 
through so many ages, to any thing but the form of 
government ? And is it not easy to point out those 
defects in the original constitution, which produced the 
tumultuous governments of Athens and Rome, and 
ended at last in the ruin of these two famous republics ? 
And so little dependence has this affair on the humors 
and education of particular men, that one part of the 
same republic may be wisely conducted, and another 
weakly, by the very same men, merely on account of 
the differences of the forms and institutions by which 
these parts are regulated. Historians inform us that 
this was actually the case with Genoa. For while the 
state was always full of sedition, and tumult, and dis- 
order, the bank of St. George, which had become a con- 
siderable part of the people, was conducted, for several 
ages, with the utmost integrity and wisdom* 

The ages of greatest public spirit are not always most 
eminent for private virtue. Good laws may beget order 
and moderation in the government, where the manners 
and customs have instilled little humanity or justice 
into the tempers of men. The most illustrious period 
of the Roman history, considered in a political view, is 
that between the beginning of the first and end of the 
last Punic war ; the due balance between the nobilitv 
and people being then fixed by the contests of the 
tribunes, and not being yet lost by the extent of con- 

* Esempio veramente raro. et da' filosofi in tante loro ininiaginate e vedute 
Repubbliche mai non trovato. vedere dentro ad un medesiino cerchio, f'ra 
medesimi cittadini. la liberta e la tirannide. la vita civile e la corrotta. la 
giustizia c la licenza : perehe quello ordine solo mantiene quella citta plena 
di costuini antlehi e venerabili. E s'egli avvenisse. ehe col tempo in ogni 
modo avverra, cbe San Giorgio tutta quella citta occupasse, sarebbe quella 
•una Repubblica piu cbe la Veneziana memorabile. — Delle Istorie Florentine, 
lib. viii. 437. — Florent. 1782. 


quests. Yet at this very time, the horrid practice of 
poisoning was so common, that, during part of the 
season, a Prcetor punished capitally for this crime above 
three thousand * persons in a part of Italy ; and found 
informations of this nature still multiplying upon him. 
There is a similar, or rather a worse instance,"!" in the 
more early times of the commonwealth ; so depraved in 
private life were that people, whom in their histories 
we so much admire. I doubt not but they were really 
more virtuous during the time of the two Triumvirates ; 
when they were tearing their common country to 
pieces, and spreading slaughter and desolation over the 
face of the earth, merely for the choice of tyrants. J 

Here, then, is a sufficient inducement to maintain, 
with the utmost zeal, in every free state, those forms 
and institutions by which liberty is secured, the public 
good consulted, and the avarice or ambition of particu- 
lar men restrained and punished. Nothing does more 
honor to human nature, than to see it susceptible of so 
noble a passion ; as nothing can be a greater indication 
of meanness of heart in any man than to see him desti- 
tute of it. A man who loves only himself, without 
regard to friendship and desert, merits the severest 
blame ; and a man, who is only susceptible of friend- 
ship, without public spirit, or a regard to the community, 
is deficient in the most material part of virtue. 

But this is a subject which needs not be longer in- 
sisted on at present. There are enow of zealots on 
both sides, who kindle up the passions of their partisans, 

* T. Livii, lib. xl. cap. 43. 

f T. Livii, lib. viii. cap. 18. 

% L'Aigle contre I'Aigle, Romains contre Romains, 

Conibatans seulement pour lc choix clc tyrans. 



and, under pretence of public good, pursue the interests 
and ends of their particular faction. For my part, I 
shall always be more fond of promoting moderation 
than zeal; though perhaps the surest way of producing 
moderation in every party is to increase our zeal for the 
public. Let us therefore try, if it be possible, from the 
foregoing; doctrine, to draw a lesson of moderation with 
regard to the parties into which our country is at 
present divided ; at the same time, that we allow r not 
this moderation to abate the industry and passion, with 
which every individual is bound to pursue the good of 
his country. 

Those who either attack or defend a minister in such 
a government as ours, where the utmost liberty is 
allowed, always carry matters to an extreme, and exag- 
gerate his merit or demerit with regard to the public. 
His enemies are sure to charge him w T ith the greatest 
enormities, both in domestic and foreign management ; 
and there is no meanness or crime, of which, in their 
account, he is not capable. Unnecessary wars, scanda- 
lous treaties, profusion of public treasure, oppressive 
taxes, every kind of maladministration is ascribed to 
him. To aggravate the charge, his pernicious conduct, 
it is said, will extend its baneful influence even to pos- 
terity, by undermining the best constitution in the 
world, and disordering that wise system of laws, institu- 
tions, and customs, by which our ancestors, during so 
many centuries, have been so happily governed. He is 
not only a wicked minister in himself, but has removed 
every security provided against wicked ministers for the 

On the other hand, the partisans of the minister make 
his panegyric run as high as the accusation against him, 
and celebrate his wise, steady, and moderate conduct in 


every part of his administration. The honor and inter- 
est of the nation supported abroad, public credit main- 
tained at home, persecution restrained, faction subdued ; 
the merit of all these blessings is ascribed solely to the 
minister. At the same time, he crowns all his other 
merits by a religious care of the best constitution in the 
world, which he has preserved in all its parts, and has 
transmitted entire, to be the happiness and security of 
the latest posterity. 

When this accusation and panegyric are received by 
the partisans of each party, no wonder they beget an 
extraordinary ferment on both sides, and fill the nation 
with violent animosities. But I would fain persuade 
these party zealots, that there is a flat contradiction both 
in the accusation and panegyric, and that it were impos- 
sible for either of them to run so high, were it not for 
this contradiction. If our constitution be really that 
noble fabric, the pride of Britain, the envy of our neighbors, 
raised by the labor of so many centuries, repaired at the expense 
of so many millions, and cemented by such a profusion of 
blood;* I say, if our constitution does in any degree 
deserve these eulogies, it would never have suffered a 
wicked and weak minister to govern triumphantly for a 
course of twenty years, when opposed by the greatest 
geniuses in the nation, who exercised the utmost liberty 
of tongue and pen, in parliament, and in their frequent 
appeals to the people. But, if the minister be wicked 
and weak, to the degree so strenuously insisted on, the 
constitution must be faulty in its original principles, and 
he cannot consistently be charged with undermining the 
best form of government in the world. A constitution 
is only so far good, as it provides a remedy against mal- 

* Dissertation on Parties, Letter X. 


administration; and if the British, when in its greatest 
vigor, and repaired by two such remarkable events as 
the Revolution and Accession, by which our ancient royal 
family was sacrificed to it ; if our constitution, I say, 
with so great advantages, does not, in fact, provide any 
such reined}', we are rather beholden to any minister 
who undermines it, and affords us an opportunity of 
erecting a better in its place. 

I would employ the same topics to moderate the zeal 
of those who defend the minister. Is our constitution so 
excellent ? Then a change of ministry can be no such 
dreadful event ; since it is essential to such a constitu- 
tion, in every ministry, both to preserve itself from vio- 
lation, and to prevent all enormities in the administra- 
tion. Is our constitution very had? Then so extraordinary 
a jealousy and apprehension, on account of changes, is 
ill placed ; and a man should no more be anxious in this 
case, than a husband, who had married a woman from 
the stews, should be watchful to prevent her infidelity. 
Public affairs, in such a government, must necessarily go 
to confusion, by whatever hands they are conducted ; 
and the zeal of patriots is in that case much less requisite 
than the patience and submission of philosophers. The 
virtue and good intention of Cato and Brutus are highly 
laudable ; but to what purpose did their zeal serve ? 
Only to hasten the fatal period of the Roman govern- 
ment, and render its convulsions and dying agonies 
more violent and painful. 

I would not be understood to mean, that public affairs 
deserve no care and attention at all. Would men be 
moderate and consistent, their claims might be admit- 
ted ; at least might be examined. The country party 
might still assert, that our constitution, though excel- 
lent, will admit of maladministration to a certain de- 

vol. in. 4 



gree ; and therefore, if the minister be bad, it is proper 
to oppose him with a suitable degree of zeal. And, on 
the other hand, the court parti/ may be allowed, upon the 
supposition that the minister were good, to defend, and 
with some zeal too, his administration. I would only 
persuade men not to contend, as if they were fighting 
pro arts ct focis, and change a good constitution into a 
bad one, by the violence of their factions. 

I have not here considered any thing that is personal 
in the present controversy. In the best civil constitu- 
tions, where every man is restrained by the most rigid 
laws, it is easy to discover either the good or bad inten- 
tions of a minister, and to judge whether his personal 
character deserve love or hatred. But such questions 
are of little importance to the public, and lay those 
who employ their pens upon them, under a just suspi- 
cion either of malevolence or of flattery.* 

* What our author's opinion was of the famous minister here pointed at, may 
be learned from that Essay, printed in the former edition, under the title of u A 
Character of Sir Robert Walpole." It was as follows: — There never Avas a 
man whose actions and character have been more earnestly and openly can- 
vassed than those of the present minister, who, having governed a learned 
and free nation for so long a time, amidst such mighty opposition, may make 
a large library of what has been wrote for and against him, and is the subject 
of above half the paper that has been blotted in the nation within these twenty 
years. I wish, for the honor of our country, that any one character of him had 
been drawn with such judgment and impartiality as to have some credit with 
posterity, and to show that our liberty has, once at least, been employed to 
good purpose. I am only afraid of failing in the former quality of judgment : 
but if it should be so, it is but one page more thrown away, after an hundred 
thousand upon the same subject, that have perished and become useless. In 
the mean time, I shall flatter myself with the pleasing imagination, that the 
following character will be adopted by future historians. 

Sir Robert Walpole, Prime Minister of Great Britain, is a man of ability, 
not a genius; good-natured, not virtuous ; constant, not magnanimous; mod- 
erate, not equitable.f His virtues, in some instances, are free from the alloy 

t Moderate in the exercise of power, not equitable in engrossing it. 


of those vices which usually accompany such virtues : he is a generous friend, 
without being a bitter enemy. His vices, in other instances, arc not compen- 
sated by those virtues which are nearly allied to them: his want of enterprise 
is not attended with frugality. The private character of the man is better 
than the public : his virtues more than his vices : his fortune greater than his 
fame. With many good qualities, he has incurred the public hatred : Avith 
good capacity, he has not escaped ridicule. He would have been esteemed 
more worthy of his high station, had he never possessed it ; and is better quali- 
fied for the second than for the first place in any government : his ministry 
has been more advantageous to his family than to the public, better for this 
age than for posterity ; and more pernicious by bad precedents than by real 
grievances. During his time trade has flourished, liberty declined, and learn- 
ing gone to ruin. As I am a man, I love him ; as I am a scholar, I hate him ; 
as I am a Briton. I calmly wish his fall. And were I a member of either 
House, I would give my vote for removing him from St. James's ; but should 
be glad to see him retire to Houghton-Hall, to pass the remainder of his days 
in ease and pleasure. 

The author is pleased to find \ that after animosities are laid, and calumny has 
ceased, the whole nation almost have returned to the same moderate sentiments 
with regard to this great man ; if they are not rather become more favorable to 
him, by a very natural transition, from one extreme to another. The author 
would not oppose these humane sentiments towards the dead ; though he cannot 
forbear observing, that the not paying more of our public debts was, as hinted in 
this character, a great, and the only great, error in that long administration. — 
Note in Editions D and X, and published as a separate Essay in Edition B. 



Nothing appears more surprising to those who con- 
sider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the 
easiness with which the many are governed by the few ; 
and the implicit submission, with which men resign their 
own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. 
When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, 
we shall find, that, as Force is always on the side of the 
governed, the governors have nothing to support them 
but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that gov- 
ernment is founded ; and this maxim extends to the 
most despotic and most military governments, as well 
as to the most free and most popular. The soldan of 
Egypt, or the emperor of Home, might drive his harm- 
less subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments 
and inclination. But he must, at least, have led his 
mamalukcs or prwtorian bands, like men, by their opinion. 

Opinion is of two kinds, to wit, opinion of interest, 
and opinion of right. By opinion of interest, I chiefly 
understand the sense of the general advantage which is 
reaped from government ; together with the persuasion, 
that the particular government which is established is 
equally advantageous with any other that could easily 
be settled. When this opinion prevails among the gen- 


erality of a state, or among those who have the force in 
their hands, it gives great security to any government. 

Right is of two kinds; right to Power, and right to 
Property. What prevalence opinion of the first kind 
has over mankind, may easily be understood, by observ- 
ing the attachment which all nations have to their an- 
cient government, and even to those names which have 
had the sanction of antiquity. Antiquity always begets 
the opinion of right ; and whatever disadvantageous 
sentiments we may entertain of mankind, they are 
always found to be prodigal both of blood and treasure 
in the maintenance of public justice* There is, indeed, 
no particular in which, at first sight, there may appear 
a greater contradiction in the frame of the human mind 
than the present. When men act in a faction, they are 
apt, without shame or remorse, to neglect all the ties of 
honor and morality, in order to serve their party ; and 
yet, when a faction is formed upon a point of right or 
principle, there is no occasion where men discover a 
greater obstinacy, and a more determined sense of jus- 
tice and equity. The same social disposition of man- 
kind is the cause of these contradictory appearances. 

It is sufficiently understood, that the opinion of right 
to property is of moment in all matters of government. 
A noted author has made property the foundation of all 
government ; and most of our political writers seem 
inclined to follow him in that particular. This is car- 
rying the matter too far ; but still it must be owned, 
that the opinion of right to property has a great in- 
fluence in this subject. 

* This passion we may denominate enthusiasm, or we may <rive it what 
appellation we please; but a politician who should overlook its influence on 
human affairs, would prove himself to have but a very limited understanding. 
— Editions, A, C, D, X. 


Upon these three opinions, therefore, of public interest, 
of right to power, and of right to property, are all govern- 
ments founded, and all authority of the few over the 
many. There are indeed other principles which add 
force to these, and determine, limit, or alter their opera- 
tion; such as self -interest, fear, and affection. But still 
we may assert, that these other principles can have no 
influence alone, but suppose the antecedent influence of 
those opinions above mentioned. They are, therefore, 
to be esteemed the secondary, not the original, principles 
of government. 

For, first, as to self-interest, by which I mean the expec- 
tation of particular rewards, distinct from the general 
protection which we receive from government, it is 
evident that the magistrate's authority must be antece- 
dently established, at least be hoped for, in order to 
produce this expectation. The prospect of reward may 
augment his authority with regard to some particular 
persons, but can never give birth to it, with regard to 
the public. Men naturally look for the greatest favors 
from their friends and acquaintance ; and therefore, the 
hopes of any considerable number of the state would 
never centre in any particular set of men, if these men 
had no other title to magistracy, and had no separate 
influence over the opinions of mankind. The same 
observation may be extended to the other two principles 
of fear and affection. No man would have any reason 
to fear the fury of a tyrant, if he had no authority over 
any but from fear ; since, as a single man, his bodily 
force can reach but a small way, and all the further 
power he possesses must be founded either on our own 
opinion, or on the presumed opinion of others. And 
though affection to wisdom and virtue in a sovereign 
extends very far, and has great influence, yet he must 


antecedently be supposed invested with a public charac- 
ter, otherwise the public esteem will serve him in no 
stead, nor will his virtue have any influence beyond a 
narrow sphere. 

A government may endure for several ages, though 
the balance of power and the balance of property do 
not coincide. This chiefly happens where any rank or 
order of the state has acquired a large share in the 
property ; but, from the original constitution of the 
government, has no share in the power. Under what 
pretence would any individual of that order assume 
authority in public affairs? As men are commonly 
much attached to their ancient government, it is not to 
be expected, that the public would ever favor such 
usurpations. But where the original constitution allows 
any share of power, though small, to an order of men 
who possess a large share of property, it is easy for 
them gradually to stretch their authority, and bring the 
balance of power to coincide with that of property. 
This has been the case with the House of Commons in 

Most writers that have treated of the British govern- 
ment, have supposed, that, as the Lower House repre- 
sents all the Commons of Great Britain, its weight in 
the scale is proportioned to the property and power of 
all whom it represents. But this principle must not 
be received as absolutely true. For though the people 
are apt to attach themselves more to the House of 
Commons than to any other member of the constitu- 
tion, that Plouse being chosen by them as their repre- 
sentatives, and as the public guardians of their liberty : 
yet are there instances where the House, even when in 
opposition to the crown, has not been followed by the 
people, as we may particularly observe of the Tor// 


House of Commons in the reign of King William. 
Were the members obliged to receive instructions from 
their constituents, like the Dutch deputies, this would 
entirely alter the case ; and if such immense power and 
riches, as those of all the Commons of Great Britain, 
were brought into the scale, it is not easy to conceive, 
that the crown could either influence that multitude of 
people, or withstand that balance of property. It is 
true, the crown has great influence over the collective 
body in the elections of members ; but were this influ- 
ence, which at present is only exerted once in seven 
years, to be employed in bringing over the people to 
every vote, it would soon be wasted, and no skill, popu- 
larity, or revenue, could support it. I must, therefore, 
be of opinion, that an alteration in this particular would 
introduce a total alteration in our government, and 
would soon reduce it to a pure republic ; and, perhaps, 
to a republic of no inconvenient form. For though the 
people, collected in a body like the Roman tribes, be 
quite unfit for government, yet, when dispersed in small 
bodies, they are more susceptible both of reason and 
order ; the force of popular currents and tides is in a 
great measure broken ; and the public interests may be 
pursued with some method and constancy. But it is 
needless to reason any further concerning a form of 
government which is never likely to have place in Great 
Britain, and which seems not to be the aim of any party 
amongst us. Let us cherish and improve our ancient 
government as much as possible, without encouraging a 
passion for such dangerous novelties.* 

* I shall conclude this subject with observing, that the present political 
controversy with regard to instructions, is a very frivolous one, and can never 
be brought to any decision, as it is managed by both parties. The country 
party do not pretend that a member is absolutely bound to follow instructions 


as an ambassador or general is confined by his orders, and that his vote is not 
to be received in the House but so far as it is conformable to them. The 
court party, again, do not pretend that the sentiments of the people ought to 
have no weight with every member ; much less that he ought to despise the 
sentiments of those whom he represents, and with whom he is more particu- 
larly connected. And if their sentiments be of weight, why ought they not 
to express these sentiments ? The rpiestion then is only concerning the 
degrees of weight which ought to be placed on instructions. But such is the 
nature of language, that it is impossible for it to express distinctly these 
different degrees ; and if men will carry on a controversy on this head, it may 
well happen that they differ in the language, and yet agree in their senti- 
ments ; or differ in their sentiments, and yet agree in their language. Be- 
sides, how is it possible to fix these degrees, considering the variety of affairs 
that come before the House, and the variety of places which members repre- 
sent ? Ought the instructions of Totness to have the same weight as those of 
London ? or instructions with regard to the Convention which respected 
foreign politics, to have the same weight as those with regard to the Excise, 
which respected only our domestic affairs ? — Editions A, C, 1). 




Man, born in a family, is compelled to maintain society 
from necessity, from natural inclination, and from habit. 
The same creature, in his further progress, is engaged to 
establish political society, in order to administer justice, 
without which there can be no peace among them, nor 
safety, nor mutual intercourse. We are, therefore, to 
look upon all the vast apparatus of our government, as 
having ultimately no other object or purpose but the 
distribution of justice, or, in other words, the support of 
the twelve judges. Kings and parliaments, fleets and 
armies, officers of the court and revenue, ambassadors, 
ministers, and privy counsellors, are all subordinate in 
their end to this part of administration. Even the 
clergy, as their duty leads them to inculcate morality, 
may justly be thought, so far as regards this world, to 
have no other useful object of their institution. 

All men are sensible of the necessity of justice to 
maintain peace and order ; and all men are sensible of 
the necessity of peace and order for the maintenance of 
society. Yet, notwithstanding this strong and obvious 

* This Essay is not published in any of the Editions prior to Edition O. 


necessity, such is the frailty or perverseness of our 
nature ! it is impossible to keep men faithfully and 
unerringly in the paths of justice. Some extraordinary 
circumstances may happen, in which a man finds his in- 
terests to be more promoted by fraud or rapine, than 
hurt by the breach which his injustice makes in the 
social union. But much more frequently he is seduced 
from his great and important, but distant interests, by 
the allurement of present, though often very frivolous 
temptations. This great weakness is incurable in hu- 
man nature. 

Men must, therefore, endeavor to palliate what they 
cannot cure. They must institute some persons under 
the appellation of magistrates, whose peculiar office it 
is to point out the decrees of equity, to punish trans- 
gressors, to correct fraud and violence, and to oblige 
men, however reluctant, to consult their own real and 
/ permanent interests. In a word, obedience is a new 
-) duty which must be invented to support that of justice, 
/ and the ties of equity must be corroborated by those of 
I allegiance. 

But still, viewing matters in an abstract light, it may 
be thought that nothing is gained by this alliance, and 
that the factitious duty of obedience, from its very na- 
ture, lays as feeble a hold of the human mind, as the 
primitive and natural duty of justice. Peculiar in- 
terests and present temptations may overcome the one 
as well as the other. They are equally exposed to 
the same inconvenience ; and the man who is inclined 
to be a bad neighbor, must be led by the same 
motives, w T ell or ill understood, to be a bad citizen or 
subject. Not to mention, that the magistrate himself 
may often be negligent, or partial, or unjust in his 

36 ESSAY V. 

Experience, however, proves that there is a great 
difference between the cases. Order in society, we rind, 
is much better maintained bv means of government ; 
and our duty to the magistrate is more strictly guarded 
by the principles of human nature, than our duty to 
our fellow-citizens. The love of dominion is so strong; 
in the breast of man, that many not only submit to, but 
court all the dangers, and fatigues, and cares of govern- 
ment; and men, once raised to that station, though 
often led astray by private passions, find, in ordinary 
cases, a visible interest in the impartial administration 
of justice. The persons who first attain this distinction, 
by the consent, tacit or express, of the people, must be 
endowed with superior personal qualities of valor, force, 
integrity, or prudence, which command respect and con- 
fidence ; and, after government is established, a regard 
to birth, rank, and station, has a mighty influence over 
men, and enforces the decrees of the magistrate. The 
prince or leader exclaims against every disorder which 
disturbs his society. He summons all his partisans and 
all men of probity to aid him in correcting and redress- 
ing it ; and he is readily followed by all indifferent per- 
sons in the execution of his office. He soon acquires 
the power of rewarding these services ; and in the pro- 
gress of society, he establishes subordinate ministers, 
and often a military force, who find an immediate and a 
visible interest in supporting his authority. Habit soon 
consolidates what other principles of human nature had 
imperfectly founded ; and men, once accustomed to 
obedience, never think of departing from that path, in 
which they and their ancestors have constantly trod, 
and to which they are confined by so many urgent and 
visible motives. 

But though this progress of human affairs may appear 


certain and inevitable, and though the support which 
allegiance brings to justice be founded on obvious prin- 
ciples of human nature, it cannot be expected that men 
should beforehand be able to discover them, or foresee 
their operation. Government commences more casually 
and more imperfectly. It is probable, that the first 
ascendent of one man over multitudes begun during a 
state of war; where the superiority of courage and of 
genius discovers itself most visibly, where unanimity 
and concert are most requisite, and where the pernicious 
effects of disorder are most sensibly felt. The long con- 
tinuance of that state, an incident common among 
savage tribes, inured the people to submission ; and if 
the chieftain possessed as much equity as prudence and 
valor, he became, even during peace, the arbiter of all 
differences, and could gradually, by a mixture of force 
and consent, establish his authority. The benefit sensi- 
bly felt from his influence, made it be cherished by the 
people, at least by the peaceable and well disposed 
among them ; and if his son enjoyed the same good 
qualities, government advanced the sooner to maturity 
and perfection ; but was still in a feeble state, till the 
further progress of improvement procured the magis- 
trate a revenue, and enabled him to bestow rewards on 
the several instruments of his administration, and to 
inflict punishments on the refractory and disobedient. 
Before that period, each exertion of his influence must 
have been particular, and founded on the peculiar cir- 
cumstances of the case. After it, submission was no 
longer a matter of choice in the bulk of the community, 
but was rigorously exacted by the authority of the 
supreme magistrate. 

In all governments, there is a perpetual intestine 
struggle, open or secret, between Authority and Lib- 

6$ ESSAY V. 

erty ; and neither of them can ever absolutely prevail 
in the contest. A great sacrifice of liberty must neces- 
sarily be made in every government ; yet even the 
authority, which confines liberty, can never, and per- 
haps ought never, in any constitution, to become quite 
entire and uncontrollable. The sultan is master of the 
life and fortune of any individual ; but will not be per- 
mitted to impose new taxes on his subjects : a French 
monarch can impose taxes at pleasure ; but would find 
it dangerous to attempt the lives and fortunes of indi- 
viduals. Religion also, in most countries, is commonly 
found to be a very intractable principle ; and other 
principles or prejudices frequently resist all the author- 
ity of the civil magistrate ; whose power, being founded 
on opinion, can never subvert other opinions equally 
rooted with that of his title to dominion. The govern- 
ment, which, in common appellation, receives the appel- 
lation of free, is that which admits of a partition of 
power among several members, whose united authority 
is no less, or is commonly greater, than that of any 
monarch ; but who, in the usual course of administra- 
tion, must act by general and equal laws, that are pre- 
viously known to all the members, and to all their 
subjects. In this sense, it must be owned, that liberty is 
the perfection of civil society; but still authority must 
be acknowledged essential to its very existence : and in 
those contests which so often take place between the 
one and the other, the latter may, on that account, 
challenge the preference. Unless perhaps one may say 
(and it may be said with some reason) that a circum- 
stance, which is essential to the existence of civil 
society, must always support itself, and needs be 
guarded with less jealousy, than one that contributes 
only to its perfection, which the indolence of men is so 
apt to neglect, or their ignorance to overlook. 



Political writers have established it as a maxim, that, 
in contriving any system of government, and fixing the 
several checks and controls of the constitution, every 
man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other 
end, in all his actions, than private interest. By this 
interest we must govern him, and, by means of it, make 
him, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambi- 

* In the Editions A, C, and D, this Essay is introduced by the following 
examination of the spirit of parties. — I have frequently observed, in compar- 
ing the conduct of the court and country party, that the former are commonly 
less assuming and dogmatical in conversation, more apt to make concessions, 
and though not, perhaps, more susceptible of conviction, yet more able to 
bear contradiction than the latter, who are apt to fly out upon any opposition, 
and to regard one as a mercenary, designing fellow, if he argues with any 
coolness and impartiality, or makes any concessions to their adversaries. 
This is a fact, which. I believe, every one may have observed who has been 
much in companies where political questions have been discussed ; though, 
were one to ask the reason of this difference, every party would be apt to 
assign a different reason. Gentlemen in the opposition will ascribe it to the 
very nature of their party, which, being founded on public spirit, and a zeal 
for the constitution, cannot easily endure such doctrines as are of pernicious 
consequence to liberty. The courtiers, on the other hand, will be apt to put 
us in mind of the clown mentioned by Lord Shaftesbury. " A clown," says 
that excellent author,f " once took a fancy to hear the Latin disputes of doc- 

t Miscellaneous Reflections, page 107. 


tion, cooperate to public good. Without this, say they, 
we shall in vain boast of the advantages of any consti- 

tors at an university. lie was asked what pleasure lie could take in viewing 
such combatants, when he could never know so much as which of the parties 
had the better." — " For that matter" replied the clown, " I dr£t such a fool 
neither, but lean see icho' s the Jirst that puts father into a passion." Nature 
herself dictated this lesson to the clown, that he who had the better of the 
argument would be easy and well humored : but he who was unable to 
support his cause by reason w T ould naturally lose his temper, and grow 

To which of these reasons will we adhere ? To neither of them, in my 
opinion ; unless we have a mind to enlist ourselves and become zealots in 
either party. I believe I can assign the reason of this different conduct of 
the two parties, without offending either. The country party are plainly most 
popular at present, and perhaps have been so in most administrations : so 
that, being accustomed to prevail in company, they cannot endure to bear 
their opinions controverted, but are so confident on the public favor, as if 
they were supported in all their sentiments by the most infallible demonstra- 
tion. The courtiers, on the other hand, are commonly run down by your 
popular talkers, that if you speak to them with any moderation, or make 
them the smallest concessions, they think themselves extremely obliged to 
you, and are apt to return the favor by a like moderation and facility on their 
part. To be furious and passionate, they know, would only gain them the 
character of shameless mercenaries, not that of zealous patriots, which is the 
character that such a warm behavior is apt to acquire to the other party. 

In all controversies, we find, without resardino; the truth or falsehood on 
either side, that those who defend the established and popular opinions are 
always most dogmatical and imperious in their style : while their adversaries 
affect almost extraordinary gentleness and moderation, in order to soften, as 
much as possible, any prejudices that may be against them. Consider the 
behavior of our Freethinkers of all denominations, whether they be such as 
decry all revelation, or only oppose the exorbitant power of the clergy ; Col- 
lins, Tindal, Foster, Hoadley. Compare their moderation and good manners 
with the furious zeal and scurrility of their adversaries, and you will be con- 
vinced of the truth of my observation. A like difference may be observed 
in the conduct of those French writers, who maintained the controversy 
with regard to ancient and modern learning. Boileau, Monsieur and Madame 
Dacier, l'Abbe de Bos, who defended the party of the ancients, mixed their 
reasonings with satire and invective ; while Fontenelle, la Alotte, Charpentier, 
and even Ferrault, never transgressed the bounds of moderation and good 
breeding, though provoked by the most injurious treatment of their adver- 

I must however observe, that this remark with regard to the seeming mod- 


tution. and shall find, in the end. that we have no secu- 
rity for our liberties or possessions, except the good- 
will of our rulers ; that is. we shall have no security 
at all. 

It is, therefore, a just political maxim. ///(// every man 
must be supposed a knave; though, at the same time, it 
appears somewhat strange, that a maxim should be true 
in politics which is false in fact. But to satisfy us on 
this head, we may consider, that men are eenerallv 
more honest in their private than in their public capa- 
city, and will go greater lemxths to serve a party, than 
when their own private interest is alone concerned. 
Honor is a great check upon mankind : but where a 
considerable body of men act together, this check is in 
a great measure removed, since a man is sure to be 
approved of by his own party, for what promotes the 
common interest ; and he soon learns to despise the 
clamors of adversaries. To which we may add. that 

eration of the court party, is entirely confined to conversation, and to gentle- 
men who have been engaged by interest or inclination in that party. For as 
to the court writers, being commonly hired scribblers, they are altogether as 
scurrilous as the mercenaries of the other party : nor has the Gazetteer any 
advantage. in this respect, above common sense. A man of education will, in 
any party, discover himself to be such by his goodbreeding and decern}-, as 
a scoundrel will always betray the opposite qualities. The false accusers 
accused. CScc. is very scurrilous, though that side of the question, being least 
popular, should be defended with most moderation. When L — d B — e, 
I- — d M — t. Mr. L — n, take the pen in hand, though they write with warmth, 
they presume not upon their popularity so tar as to transgress the bounds 
of decency. 

I am led into this train of reflection by considering some papers wrote upon 
that grand topic of court influence and parliamentary dependence, where, in 
my humble opinion, the country party show too rigid an inflexibility, and too 
great a jealousy of making concessions to their adversaries. Their reason- 
ings lose their force by being carried too far : and the popularity of their 
opinions has seduced them to neglect in some measure their justness and 
solidity. The following reasoning will, I hope, serve to justify me in this 

VOL. III. 6 


every court or senate is determined by the greater 
number of voices ; so that, if self-interest influences only 
the majority (as it will always do), the whole senate 
follows the allurements of this separate interest, and acts 
as if it contained not one member who had any regard 
to public interest and liberty. 

When there offers, therefore, to our censure and ex- 
amination, any plan of government, real or imaginary, 
where the power is distributed among several courts, 
and several orders of men, w T e should always consider 
the separate interest of each court, and each order ; and 
if we find that, by the skilful division of power, this 
interest must necessarily, in its operation, concur with 
the public, we may pronounce that government to be 
wise and happy. If, on the contrary, separate interest 
be not checked, and be not directed to the public, we 
ought to look for nothing but faction, disorder, and 
tyranny from such a government. In this opinion I am 
justified by experience, as well as by the authority of all 
philosophers and politicians, both ancient and modern. 

How much, therefore, would it have surprised such a 
genius as Cicero or Tacitus, to have been told, that in a 
future age there should arise a very regular system of 
mixed government, where the authority was so distrib- 
uted, that one rank, whenever it pleased, might swallow 
up all the rest, and engross the whole power of the 
constitution ! Such a government, they would say, will 
not be a mixed government. For so great is the natural 
ambition of men, that they are never satisfied with 
power ; and if one order of men, by pursuing its own 
interest, can usurp upon every other order, it will cer- 
tainly do so, and render itself, as far as possible, absolute 
and uncontrollable. 

But, in this opinion, experience shows they would 


have been mistaken. For this is actually the case with 
the British constitution. The share of power allotted 
by our constitution to the House of Commons, is so 
great, that it absolutely commands all the other parts 
of the government. The king's legislative power is 
plainly no proper check to it. For though the king has 
a negative in framing laws, yet this, in fact, is esteemed 
of so little moment, that whatever is voted by the two 
Houses, is always sure to pass into a law, and the royal 
assent is little better than a form. The principal weight 
of the crown lies in the executive power. But, besides 
that the executive power in every government is alto- 
gether subordinate to the legislative ; besides this, I say, 
the exercise of this power requires an immense expense, 
and the Commons have assumed to themselves the sole 
right of granting money. How easy, therefore, w r ould 
it be for that house to wrest from the crown all these 
powers, one after another, by making every grant con- 
ditional, and choosing their time so well, that their 
refusal of supply should only distress the government, 
without giving foreign powers any advantage over us ! 
Did the House of Commons depend in the same manner 
upon the king, and had none of the members any prop- 
erty but from his gift, would not he command all their 
resolutions, and be from that moment absolute ? As to 
the House of Lords, they are a very powerful support to 
the crown, so long as they are, in their turn, supported 
by it ; but both experience and reason show, that they 
have no force or authority sufficient to maintain them- 
selves alone, without such support. 

How, therefore, shall we solve this paradox ? And by 
what means is this member of our constitution confined 
within the proper limits, since, from our very constitu- 
tion, it must necessarily have as much power as it 


demands, and can only be confined by itself ? How is 
this consistent with our experience of human nature ? 
I answer, that the interest of the body is here restrained 
by that of the individuals, and that the House of Com- 
mons stretches not its power, because such an usurpa- 
tion would be contrary to the interest of the majority of 
its members. The crown has so many offices at its 
disposal, that, when assisted by the honest and disin- 
terested part of the House, it will always command the 
resolutions of the whole, so far, at least, as to preserve 
the ancient constitution from danger. We may, there- 
fore, give to this influence what name we please ; we 
may call it by the invidious appellations of corruption 
and dependence; but some degree and some kind of it 
are inseparable from the very nature of the constitution, 
and necessary to the preservation of our mixed govern- 

Instead, then, of asserting * absolutely, that the de- 
pendence of parliament, in every degree, is an infringe- 
ment of British liberty, the country party should have 
made some concessions to their adversaries, and have 
only examined what was the proper degree of this 
dependence, beyond which it became dangerous to lib- 
erty. But such a moderation is not to be expected in 
party men of any kind. After a concession of this nature, 
all declamation must be abandoned ; and a calm inquiry 
into the proper degree of court influence and parliamen- 
tary dependence would have been expected by the 
readers. And though the advantage, in such a contro- 
versy, might possibly remain to the country party, yet 
the victory would not be so complete as they wish for, 
nor would a true patriot have given an entire loose to 

* Sec Dissertation on Parties, throughout. 


his zeal, for fear of running matters into a contrary ex- 
treme, by diminishing too * far the influence of the 
crown. It was, therefore, thought best to deny that 
this extreme could ever be dangerous to the constitution, 
or that the crown could ever have too little influence 
over members of parliament. 

All questions concerning the proper medium between 
extremes are difficult to be decided ; both because it is 
not easy to find ivords proper to fix this medium, and 
because the good and ill, in such cases, run so gradually 
into each other, as even to render our sentiments doubtful 
and uncertain. But there is a peculiar difficulty in the 
present case, which would embarrass the most knowing 
and most impartial examiner. The power of the crown 
is always lodged in a single person, either king or min- 
ister ; and as this person may have either a greater or 
less degree of ambition, capacity, courage, popularity, 
or fortune, the power, which is too great in one hand, 
may become too little in another. In pure republics, 
where the authority is distributed among several assem- 
blies or senates, the checks and controls are more regu- 
lar in their operation ; because the members of such 
numerous assemblies may be presumed to be always 
nearly equal in capacity and virtue ; and it is only their 
number, riches, or authority, which enter into considera- 
tion. But a limited monarchy admits not of any such 

* By that Influence of the crown, which I would justify, I mean only that 
which arises from the offices and honors that are at the disposal of the crown. 
As to private bribery, it may be considered in the same light as the practice 
of employing spies, which is scarcely justifiable in a good minister, and is 
infamous in a bad one : but to be a spy, or to be corrupted, is always infamous 
under all ministers, and is to be regarded as a shameless prostitution. Polyb- 
ius justly esteems the pecuniary iniluence of the senate and censors to be one 
of the regular and constitutional weights which preserved the balance of the 
ltoman government. — Lib. vi. cap. 15. 


stability ; nor is it possible to assign to the crown such 
a determinate degree of power, as will, in every hand, 
form a proper counterbalance to the other parts of the 
constitution. This is an unavoidable disadvantage, 
among the many advantages attending that species of 



It affords a violent prejudice against almost every 
science, that no prudent man, however sure of his prin- 
ciples, dares prophesy concerning any event, or foretell 
the remote consequences of things. A physician will 
not venture to pronounce concerning the condition of 
his patient a fortnight or a month after : and still less 
dares a politician foretell the situation of public affairs a 
few years hence. Harrington thought himself so sure 
of his general principles, that the balance of power depends 
on that of property, that he ventured to pronounce it im- 
possible ever to reestablish monarchy in England : but 
his book was scarcely published when the king was 
restored ; and we see that monarchy has ever since sub- 
sisted upon the same footing as before. Notwithstand- 
ing this unlucky example, I will venture to examine 
an important question, to wit, Whether the British Govern- 
ment inclines more to absolute monarchy or to a republic ; and 
in which of these two species of government it ivill most probably 
terminate ? As there seems not to be any great danger 
of a sudden revolution either way, I shall at least 
escape the shame attending my temerity, if I should be 
found to have been mistaken. 


Those who assert that the balance of our government 
inclines towards absolute monarchy, may support their 
opinion by the following reasons : That property has a 
great influence on power cannot possibly be denied ; 
but yet the general maxim, that the balance of the one 
depends on the balance of the other, must be received with 
several limitations. It is evident, that much less prop- 
erty in a single hand will be able to counterbalance a 
greater property in several ; not only because it is diffi- 
cult to make many persons combine in the same views 
and measures, but because property, when united, 
causes much greater dependence than the same prop- 
erty when dispersed. A hundred persons of £1,000 a 
year apiece, can consume all their income, and nobody 
shall ever be the better for them, except their servants 
and tradesmen, who justly regard their profits as the 
product of their own labor. But a man possessed of 
£100,000 a year, if he has either any generosity or any 
cunning, may create a great dependence by obligations, 
and still a greater by expectations. Hence we may 
observe, that, in all free governments, any subject ex- 
orbitantly rich has always created jealousy, even though 
his riches bore no proportion to those of the state. 
Crassus's fortune, if I remember well, amounted only to 
about two millions and a half of our money ; yet we 
find, that though his genius was nothing extraordinary, 
he was able, by means of his riches alone, to counter- 
balance, during his lifetime, the power of Pompey, as 
well as that of Csesar, who afterwards became master of 
the world. The wealth of the Medici made them mas- 
ters of Florence, though it is probable it was not consid- 
erable, compared to the united property of that opulent 

These considerations are apt to make one entertain a 


magnificent idea of the British spirit and love of liberty, 
since we could maintain our free government, during so 
many centuries, against our sovereigns, who, besides the 
power, and dignity, and majesty of the crown, have 
always been possessed of much more property than any 
subject has ever enjoyed in any commonwealth. But it 
may be said that this spirit, how r ever great, will never 
be able to support itself against that immense property 
which is now lodged in the kino;, and which is still 
increasing. Upon a moderate computation, there are 
near three millions a year at the disposal of the crown. 
The civil list amounts to near a million; the collection 
of all taxes to another; and the employments in the 
army and navy, together with ecclesiastical preferments, 
to above a third million : — an enormous sum, and what 
may fairly be computed to be more than a thirtieth part 
of the whole income and labor of the kingdom. When 
we add to this great property the increasing luxury of 
the nation, our proneness to corruption, together with 
the great power and prerogatives of the crown, and the 
command of military force, there is no one but must 
despair of being able, without extraordinary efforts, to 
support our free government much longer under these 

On the other hand, those who maintain that the bias 
of the British government leans towards a republic, may 
support their opinions by specious arguments. It may 
be said, that though this immense property in the crown 
be joined to the dignity of first magistrate, and to many 
other legal powers and prerogatives, which should natu- 
rally give it greater influence ; yet it really becomes 
less dangerous to liberty upon that very account. Were 
England a republic, and were any private man possessed 
of a revenue, a third, or even a tenth part as large as 

VOL. III. 7 


that of the crown, he would very justly excite jealousy; 
because he would infallibly have great authority in 
the government. And such an irregular authority, not 
avowed by the laws, is always more dangerous than 
a much greater authority derived from them. A man 
possessed of usurped power can set no bounds to his 
pretensions : his partisans have liberty to hope for every 
thing in his favor : his enemies provoke his ambition 
with his fears, by the violence of their opposition : and 
the government being thrown into a ferment, every cor- 
rupted humor in the state naturally gathers to him. 
On the contrary, a legal authority, though great, has 
always some bounds, which terminate both the hopes 
and pretensions of the person possessed of it : the laws 
must have provided a remedy against its excesses : such 
an eminent magistrate has much to fear, and little to 
hope, from his usurpations : and as his legal authority is 
quietly submitted to, he has small temptation and small 
opportunity of extending it further. Besides, it hap- 
pens, with regard to ambitious aims and projects, what 
may be observed with regard to sects of philosophy and 
religion. A new sect excites such a ferment, and is 
both opposed and defended with such vehemence, that 
it always spreads faster, and multiplies its partisans with 
greater rapidity than any old established opinion, recom- 
mended by the sanction of the laws and of antiquity. 
Such is the nature of novelty, that, where any thing 
pleases, it becomes doubly agreeable, if new : but if it dis- 
pleases, it is doubly displeasing upon that very account. 
And, in most cases, the violence of enemies is favorable 
to ambitious projects, as well as the zeal of partisans. 

It may further be said, that, though men be much 
governed by interest, }-et even interest itself, and all hu- 
man affairs, are entirely governed by opinion. Now, 


there lias been a sudden and sensible change in the 
opinions of men within these last fifty years, by the 
progress of learning and of liberty. Most people in 
this Island have divested themselves of all superstitious 
reverence to names and authority : the clergy have 
much lost their credit : their pretensions and doctrines 
have been ridiculed ; and even religion can scarcely 
support itself in the world. The mere name of Icing 
commands little respect ; and to talk of a king as God's 
vicegerent on earth, or to give him any of those mag- 
nificent titles which formerly dazzled mankind, would 
but excite laughter in every one. Though the crown, 
by means of its large revenue, may maintain its author- 
ity, in times of tranquillity, upon private interest and 
influence, yet, as the least shock or convulsion must 
break all these interests to pieces, the royal power, 
being no longer supported by the settled principles 
and opinions of men, will immediately dissolve. Had 
men been in the same disposition at the Revolution, as 
they are at present, monarchy would have run a great 
risk of being entirely lost in this Island. 

Durst I venture to deliver my own sentiments amidst 
these opposite arguments, I would assert, that, unless 
there happen some extraordinary convulsion, the power 
of the crown, by means of its large revenue, is rather 
upon the increase ; though at the same time, I own that 
its progress seems very slow, and almost insensible. 
The tide has run long, and with some rapidity, to the 
side of popular government, and is just beginning to 
turn towards monarchy. 

It is well known, that every government must come 
to a period, and that death is unavoidable to the politi- 
cal, as well as to the animal body. But, as one kind of 
death may be preferable to another, it may be inquired, 



whether it be more desirable for the British constitution 
to terminate in a popular government, or in an absolute 
monarchy ? Here I would frankly declare, that though 
liberty be preferable to slavery, in almost every case ; 
yet I should rather wish to see an absolute monarch 
than a republic in this Island. For let us consider what 
kind of republic we have reason to expect. The ques- 
tion is not concerning any fine imaginary republic, of 
which a man forms a plan in his closet. There is no 
doubt but a popular government may be imagined more 
perfect than an absolute monarchy, or even than our 
present constitution. But what reason have we to 
expect that any such government will ever be estab- 
lished in Great Britain, upon the dissolution of our 
monarchy? If any single person acquire power enough 
to take our constitution to pieces, and put it up anew, 
he is really an absolute monarch ; and we have already 
had an instance of this kind, sufficient to convince us, 
that such a person will never resign his power, or estab- 
lish any free government. Matters, therefore, must be 
trusted to their natural progress and operation ; and the 
House of Commons, according to its present constitu- 
tion, must be the only legislature in such a popular 
government. The inconveniences attending such a 
situation of affairs present themselves by thousands. If 
the House of Commons, in such a case, ever dissolve 
itself, which is not to be expected, we may look for a 
civil war every election. If it continue itself, we shall 
suffer all the tyranny of a faction subdivided into new 
factions. And, as such a violent government cannot 
long subsist, we shall, at last, after many convulsions and 
civil wars, find repose in absolute monarchy, which it 
would have been happier for ns to have established 
peaceably from the beginning. Absolute monarchy, 


therefore, is the easiest death, the true Euthanasia of the 
British constitution. 

Thus, if we have reason to be more jealous of mon- 
archy, because the danger is more imminent from that 
quarter; we have also reason to be more jealous of 
popular government, because that danger is more terri- 
^ ble. This may teach us a lesson of moderation in all 
our political controversies. 



Of all men that distinguish themselves by memorable 
achievements, the first place of honor seems due to 
Legislators and founders of states, who transmit a sys- 
tem of laws and institutions to secure the peace, happi- 
ness, and liberty of future generations. The influence of 
useful inventions in the arts and sciences may, perhaps, 
extend further than that of wise laws, whose effects are 
limited both in time and place ; but the benefit arising 
from the former is not so sensible as that which results 
from the latter. Speculative sciences do, indeed, im- 
prove the mind, but this advantage reaches only to a few 
persons, who have leisure to apply themselves to them. 
And as to practical arts, which increase the commodities 
and enjoyments of life, it is w^ell known that men's hap- 
piness consists not so much in an abundance of these, as 
in the peace and security with which they possess them : 
and those blessings can only be derived from good gov- 
ernment. Not to mention, that general virtue and good 
morals in a state, which are so requisite to happiness, 
can never arise from the most refined precepts of phi- 
losophy, or even the severest injunctions of religion; 
but must proceed entirely from the virtuous education 
of youth, the effect of wise laws and institutions. I 


must, therefore, presume to differ from Lord Bacon in 
this particular, and must regard antiquity as somewhat 
unjust in its distribution of honors, when it made gods 
of all the inventors of useful arts, such as Ceres, Bacchus, 
iEsculapius ; and dignified legislators, such as Romulus 
and Theseus, only with the appellation of demigods and 

As much as legislators and founders of states ought to 
be honored and respected among men, as much ought 
the founders of sects and factions to be detested and 
hated ; because the influence of faction is directly con- 
trary to that of laws. Factions subvert government, 
render laws impotent, and beget the fiercest animosities 
among men of the same nation, who ought to give 
mutual assistance and protection to each other. And 
what should render the founders of parties more odious, 
is the difficulty of extirpating these w T eeds, when once 
they have taken root in any state. They naturally 
propagate themselves for many centuries, and seldom 
end but by the total dissolution of that government, in 
which they are sow r n. They are, besides, plants which 
grow most plentiful in the richest soil ; and though 
absolute governments be not wholly free from them, it 
must be confessed, that they rise more easily, and propa- 
gate themselves faster in free governments, where they 
always infect the legislature itself, which alone could be 
able, by the steady application of rewards and punish- 
ments, to eradicate them. 

Factions may be divided into Personal and Real ; that 
is, into factions founded on personal friendship or ani- 
mosity among such as compose the contending parties, 
and into those founded on some real difference of senti- 
ment or interest. The reason of this distinction is 
obvious ; though I must acknowledge, that parties are 


seldom found pure and unmixed, either of the one kind 
or the other. It is not often seen, that a government 
divides into factions, where there is no difference in the 
views of the constituent members, either real or appar- 
ent, trivial or material : and in those factions, which are 
founded on the most real and most material difference, 
there is always observed a great deal of personal ani- 
mosity or affection. But notwithstanding this mixture, 
a party may be denominated either personal or real, 
according to that principle w T hich is predominant, and is 
found to have the greatest influence. 

Personal factions arise most easily in small republics. 
Every domestic quarrel, there, becomes an affair of 
state. Love, vanity, emulation, any passion, as well as 
ambition and resentment, begets public division. The 
Neri and Bianciii of Florence, the Fregosi and Adorni 
of Genoa, the Colonnesi and Orsini of modern Koine, 
were parties of this kind. 

Men have such a propensity to divide into personal 
factions, that the smallest appearance of real difference 
will produce them. What can be imagined more trivial 
than the difference between one color of livery and 
another in horse races ? Yet this difference begat two 
most inveterate factions in the Greek empire, the Pra- 
sini and Veneti, who never suspended their animosities 
till they ruined that unhappy government. 

We find in the Koman history a remarkable dissension 
between two tribes, the Pollia and Papiria, which con- 
tinued for the space of near three hundred years, and 
discovered itself in their suffrages at every election of 
magistrates.* This faction was the more remarkable, 

* As this fact has not been much observed by antiquaries or politicians, I 
shall deliver it in the words of the Roman historian. " Populus Tusculanus 
cum conjugibus ac liberis liomam venit: Ea multitudo veste mutata, et specie 


as it could continue for so long a tract of time ; even 
though it did not spread itself, nor draw any of the 
other tribes into a share of the quarrel. If mankind 
had not a strong propensity to such divisions, the 
indifference of the rest of the community must have 
suppressed this foolish animosity, that had not any 
aliment of new benefits and injuries, of general sym- 
pathy and antipathy, which never fail to take place, 
when the whole state is rent into equal factions. 

Nothing is more usual than to see parties, which have 
begun upon a real difference, continue even after that 
difference is lost. When men are once enlisted on 
opposite sides, they contract an affection to the persons 
with whom they are united, and an animosity against 
their antagonists ; and these passions they often trans- 
mit to their posterity. The real difference between 
Guelf and Ghibbeline was long lost in Italy, before 
these factions were extinguished. The Guelfs adhered 
to the pope, the Ghibbelines to the emperor ; yet the 
family of Sforza, who were in alliance with the emperor, 
though they were Guelfs, being expelled Milan by the 
king * of France, assisted by Jacomo Trivulzio and the 
Ghibbelines, the pope concurred with the latter, and 
they formed leagues with the pope against the emperor. 

The civil wars which arose some few years ago in 

reorum, tribus circuit, genibus se omnium advolvens. Plus itaque misericor- 
dia ad poenae vcniam impctrandam, quam causa ad crimen purgandum valuit. 
Tribus omncs, prater Polliam, antiquarunt legem. Polliam sententia fuit, 
puberes verberatos necari ; liberos conjugesquc sub corona lege belli venire : 
Memoriamque ejus irae Tusculanis in poenre tarn atrocis auetores, mansisse ad 
patrum aetatem constat, ncc quemquam ferme ex Pollia tribu candidatum 
Papiriam ferre solitum." — T. Livii, lib. 8. The Castklaxi and Nicolloti 
are two mobbish factions in Venice, who frequently box together, and then 
lay aside their quarrels presently. 
* Lewis XII. 

VOL. III. 8 


Morocco between the Blacks and Whites, merely on 
account of their complexion, are founded on a pleasant 
difference. We laugh at them ; but, I believe, were 
things rightly examined, we afford much more occasion 
of ridicule to the Moors. For, what are all the wars 
of religion, which have prevailed in this polite and 
knowing part of the world ? They are certainly more 
absurd than the Moorish civil wars. The difference of 
complexion is a sensible and a real difference ; but the 
controversy about an article of faith, which is utterly 
absurd and unintelligible, is not a difference in senti- 
ment, but in a few phrases and expressions, which one 
party accepts of without understanding them, and the 
other refuses in the same manner.* 

Ileal factions may be divided into those from interest, 
from principle, and from affection. Of all factions, the 
first are the most reasonable, and the most excusable. 
Where two orders of men, such as the nobles and 
people, have a distinct authority in a government, not 
very accurately balanced and modelled, they naturally 
follow a distinct interest ; nor can we reasonably expect 
a different conduct, considering that degree of selfish- 
ness implanted in human nature. It requires great skill 
in a legislator to prevent such parties ; and many phi- 
losophers are of opinion, that this secret, like the grand 
elixir, or perpetual motion, may amuse men in theory, but 
can never possibly be reduced to practice. In despotic 
governments, indeed, factions often do not appear ; but 

* Besides I do not find that the Whites in Morocco ever imposed on the 
Blacks any necessity of altering their complexion, or frightened them with 
inquisitions and penal laws in case of obstinacy. Nor have the Blacks been 
more unreasonable in this particular. But is a man's opinion, where he is 
able to form a real opinion, more at his disposal than his complexion ? And 
can one be induced by force or fear to do more than paint and disguise in 
the one case as well as in the other V — Editions A, C, D, X. 


they are not the less real ; or rather, they are more real 
and more pernicious upon that very account. The 
distinct orders of men, nobles and people, soldiers and 
merchants, have all a distinct interest ; but the more 
powerful oppresses the weaker with impunity, and 
without resistance ; which begets a seeming tranquillity 
in such governments. 

There has been an attempt in England to divide the 
landed and trading part of the nation ; but without 
success. The interests of these two bodies are not 
really distinct, and never will be so, till our public debts 
increase to such a degree as to become altogether 
oppressive and intolerable. 

Parties from principle, especially abstract speculative 
principle, are known only to modern times, and are, 
perhaps, the most extraordinary and unaccountable 
phenomenon that has yet appeared in human affairs. 
Where different principles beget a contrariety of con- 
duct, which is the case with all different political prin- 
ciples, the matter may be more easily explained. A 
man who esteems the true right of government to lie 
in one man, or one family, cannot easily agree with his 
fellow-citizen, who thinks that another man or family 
is possessed of this right. Each naturally wishes that 
right may take place, according to his own notions of 
it. But where the difference of principle is attended 
with no contrariety of action, but every one may follow 
his own way, without interfering with his neighbor, as 
happens in all religious controversies, what madness, 
what fury, can beget such an unhappy and such fatal 
divisions ? 

Two men travelling on the highway, the one east, the 
other west, can easily pass each other, if the way be 
broad enough : but two men, reasoning upon opposite 


principles of religion, cannot so easily pass, without 
shocking, though one should think, that the way were 
also, in that case, sufficiently broad, and that each 
might proceed, without interruption, in his own course. 
But such is the nature of the human mind, that it 
always lays hold on every mind that approaches it ; 
and as it is wonderfully fortified by an unanimity of 
sentiments, so it is shocked and disturbed by any con- 
trariety. Hence the eagerness which most people 
discover in a dispute ; and hence their impatience of 
opposition, even in the most speculative and indifferent 

This principle, however frivolous it may appear, seems 
to have been the origin of all religious wars and divi- 
sions. But as this principle is universal in human 
nature, its effects would not have, been confined to one 
ao;e, and to one sect of religion, did it not there concur 
with other more accidental causes, which raise it to such 
a height as to produce the greatest misery and devasta- 
tion. Most religions of the ancient world arose in the 
unknown ages of government, when men were as yet 
barbarous and uninstructed, and the prince, as well as 
peasant, was disposed to receive, with implicit faith, 
every pious tale or fiction which was offered him. The 
magistrate embraced the religion of the people, and, 
entering cordially into the care of sacred matters, natu- 
rally acquired an authority in them, and united the 
ecclesiastical with the civil power. But the Christian 
religion arising, while principles directly opposite to it 
were firmly established in the polite part of the world, 
who despised the nation that first broached this novelty; 
no w r onder that, in such circumstances, it was but little 
countenanced by the civil magistrate, and that the 
priesthood w T as allowed to engross all the authority in 


the new sect. So bad a use did they make of this 
power, even in those early times, that the primitive per- 
secutions may, perhaps in part* be ascribed to the vio- 
lence instilled by them into their followers. 

And the same principles of priestly government con- 
tinuing, after Christianity became the established reli- 
gion, they have engendered a spirit of persecution, which 
has ever since been the poison of human society, and 
the source of the most inveterate factions in every gov- 
ernment. Such divisions, therefore, on the part of the 
people, may justly be esteemed factions of principle ; but, 
on the part of the priests, who are the prime movers, 
they are really factions of interest. 

There is another cause (beside the authority of the 
priests, and the separation of the ecclesiastical and civil 
powers), which has contributed to render Christendom 
the scene of religious wars and divisions. Religions 
that arise in ages totally ignorant and barbarous, consist 

* I say in part ; for it Is a vulgar error to imagine, that the ancients were 
as great friends to toleration as the English or Dutch are at present. The 
laws against external superstition, among the Romans, were as ancient as the 
time of the Twelve Tables ; and the Jews, as well as Christians, were some- 
times punished by them ; though, in general, these laws were not rigorously 
executed. Immediately after the conquest of Gaul, they forbade all but the 
natives to be initiated into the religion of the Druids ; and this was a kind of 
persecution. In about a century after this conquest, the emperor Claudius 
quite abolished that superstition by penal laws ; which would have been a 
very grievous persecution, if the imitation of the Roman manners had not, 
beforehand, weaned the Gauls from their ancient prejudices. Suetonius in 
vita Claudii. Pliny ascribes the abolition of the Druidical superstitions to 
Tiberius, probably because that emperor had taken some steps towards restrain- 
ing them (lib. xxx. cap. i.) This is an instance of the usual caution and 
moderation of the Romans in such cases ; and very different from their vio- 
lent and sanguinary method of treating the Christians. Hence we mav cnter- 
tain a suspicion, that those furious persecutions of Christian it// were in some 
measure owing to the imprudent zeal and bigotry of the first propagators of 
that sect ; and ecclesiastical history affords us many reasons to confirm this 


mostly of traditional tales and fictions, which may be 
different in every sect, without being contrary to each 
other ; and even when they are contrary, every one ad- 
heres to the tradition of his own sect, without much 
reasoning or disputation. But as philosophy was widely 
spread over the world at the time when Christianity 
arose, the teachers of the new sect were obliged to form 
a system of speculative opinions, to divide, with some 
accuracy, their articles of faith, and to explain, com- 
ment, confute, and defend, with all the subtlety of argu- 
ment and science. Hence naturally arose keenness in 
dispute, when the Christian religion came to be split 
into new 7 divisions and heresies : and this keenness as- 
sisted the priests in their policy of begetting a mutual 
hatred and antipathy among their deluded followers. 
Sects of philosophy, in the ancient world, w^ere more 
zealous than parties of religion ; but, in modern times, 
parties of religion are more furious and enraged than 
the most cruel factions that ever arose from interest and 

I have mentioned parties from affection as a kind of 
real parties, beside those from interest and principle. By 
parties from affection, I understand those which are 
founded on the different attachments of men towards 
particular families and persons whom they desire to 
rule over them. These factions are often very violent ; 
though, I must own, it may seem unaccountable that 
men should attach themselves so strongly to persons 
with whom they are nowise acquainted, whom perhaps 
they never saw, and from whom they never received, 
nor can ever hope for, any favor. Yet this we often 
find to be the case, and even with men, who, on other 
occasions, discover no great generosity of spirit, nor are 
found to be easily transported by friendship beyond 


their own interest. We are apt to think the relation 
between us and our sovereign very close and intimate. 
The splendor of majesty and power bestows an impor- 
tance on the fortunes even of a single person. And 
when a man's good-nature does not give him this 
imaginary interest, his illnature will, from spite and 
opposition to persons whose sentiments are different 
from his own. 



Were the British government proposed as a subject 
of speculation, one would immediately perceive in it a 
source of division and party, which it would be almost 
impossible for it, under any administration, to avoid. 
The just balance between the republican and monar- 
chical part of our constitution is really in itself so ex- 
tremely delicate and uncertain, that, when joined to 
men's passions and prejudices, it is impossible but dif- 
ferent opinions must arise concerning it, even among 
persons of the best understanding. Those of mild tem- 
pers, who love peace and order, and detest sedition and 
civil wars, will alwaj^s entertain more favorable senti- 
ments of monarchy than men of bold and generous 
spirits, who are passionate lovers of liberty, and think 
no evil comparable to subjection and slavery. And 
though all reasonable men agree in general to preserve 
our mixed government, yet, when they come to particu- 
lars, some will incline to trust greater powers to the 
crown, to bestow on it more influence, and to guard 
against its encroachments with less caution, than others 
who are terrified at the most distant approaches of 
tyranny and despotic power. Thus are there parties 
of Principle involved in the very nature of our consti- 


tution, which may properly enough be denominated 
those of Court and Country* The strength and vio- 
lence of each of these parties will much depend upon 
the particular administration. An administration may 
be so bad, as to throw a great majority into the opposi- 
tion ; as a good administration will reconcile to the 
court many of the most passionate lovers of liberty. 
But however the nation may fluctuate between them, 
the parties themselves will always subsist, so long as 
we are governed by a limited monarchy. 

But, besides this difference of Principle, those parties 
are very much fomented by a difference of Interest, 
without which they could scarcely ever be dangerous 
or violent. The crown will naturally bestow all trust 
and power upon those whose principles, real or pre- 
tended, are most favorable to monarchical government ; 
and this temptation will naturally engage them to go 
greater lengths than their principles would otherwise 
carry them. Their antagonists, who are disappointed 
in their ambitious aims, throw themselves into the party 
whose sentiments incline them to be most jealous of 
royal power, and naturally carry those sentiments to a 
greater height than sound politics will justify. Thus 
Court and Country, which are the genuine offspring of 

* These words have become of general use, and therefore I shall employ 
them without intending to express by them an universal blame of the one 
party, or approbation of the other. The Court party may no doubt, on 
some occasions, consult best the interest of the country, and the Country 
party oppose it. In like manner, the Roman parties were denominated Opti- 
mates and Populares ; and Cicero, like a true party man, defines the Opti- 
mates to be such as, in all their public conduct, regulated themselves by the 
sentiments of the best and worthiest Romans ; pro Sextio. The term of 
Country party may afford a favorable definition or etymology of the same 
kind ; but it would be folly to draw any argument from that head, and I have 
no regard to it in employing these terms. — Note in Editions A, C, D, X. 
VOL. III. 9 


the British government, are a kind of mixed parties, 
and are influenced both by principle and by interest. 
The heads of the factions are commonly most governed 
by the latter motive ; the inferior members of them by 
the former * 

As to ecclesiastical parties, we may observe, that, in 
all ages of the world, priests have been enemies to lib- 
erty;-)- and, it is certain, that this steady conduct of 
theirs must have been founded on fixed reasons of inter- 
est and ambition. Liberty of thinking, and of express- 
ing our thoughts, is always fatal to priestly power, and 
to those pious frauds on which it is commonly founded ; 
and, by an infallible connection, which prevails among 
all kinds of liberty, this privilege can never be enjoyed, 
at least has never yet been enjoyed, but in a free gov- 
ernment. Hence it must happen, in such a constitution 
as that of Great Britain, that the established clergy, 
while things are in their natural situation, will always 
be of the Court party ; as, on the contrary, dissenters of 
all kinds will be of the Country party ; since they can 
never hope for that toleration which they stand in need 
of, but by means of our free government. All princes 
that have aimed at despotic power have known of 
what importance it was to gain the established clergy ; 

* I must be understood to mean this of persons who have any motive for 
taking party on any side. For, to tell the truth, the greatest part are com- 
monly men who associate themselves they know not why ; from example, 
from passion, from idleness. But still it is requisite there be some source of 
division, either in principle or interest; otherwise such persons would not 
find parties to which they could associate themselves. — Editions A, C, D, N. 

f This proposition is true, notwithstanding that, in the early times of the 
English government, the clergy were the great and principal opposers of the 
crown ; but at that time their possessions were so immensely great, that they 
composed a considerable part of the proprietors of England, and in many 
contests were direct rivals of the crown. — Note in Editions C, D, N. 


as the clergy, on their part, have shown a great facility 
in entering into the views of such princes. :;: Gustavus 
Yasa was, perhaps, the only ambitious monarch that 
ever depressed the church, at the same time that he dis- 
couraged liberty. But the exorbitant power of the 
bishops in Sweden, who at that time overtopped the 
crown itself, together with their attachment to a foreign 
family, was the reason of his embracing such an unusual 
system of politics. 

This observation, concerning the propensity of priests 
to the government of a single person, is not true with 
regard to one sect only. The Presbyterian and Calvin- 
istic clergy in Holland, w T ere professed friends to the 
family of Orange ; as the Arminians, w r ho w T ere es- 
teemed heretics, were of the Louvestein faction, and 
zealous for liberty. But if a prince have the choice of 
both, it is easy to see that he will prefer the Episcopal 
to the Presbyterian form of government, both because 
of the greater affinity between monarchy and episco- 
pacy, and because of the facility which he will find, in 
such a government, of ruling the clergy by means of 
their ecclesiastical superiors.^ 

If we consider the first rise of parties in England, 
during the great rebellion, we shall observe that it was 
conformable to this general theory, and that the species 
of government gave birth to them by a regular and 
infallible operation. The English constitution, before 
that period, had lain in a kind of confusion, yet so as 

* Judaei sibi ipsi reges imposuere, qui mobilitate vulgi expulsi, resumpta 
per arma dominatione, fugas civium, urbium eversioncs, fratrum, conjugum, 
parentum neces, aliaque solita regibus ausi, superstitionem fovebant ; quia 
honor sacerdotii firmamcntum potentia?, assumebatur. Tacit. Hist. lib. v. 

f Populi imperium, juxta libertatem : paucorum dominatio, regia? libidini 
propior est. Tacit. Ann. lib. vi. 


that the subjects possessed many noble privileges, which, 
though not exactly bounded and secured by law, were 
universally deemed, from long possession, to belong to 
them as their birthright. An ambitious, or rather a mis- 
guided, prince arose, who deemed all these privileges to 
be concessions of his predecessors, revocable at pleas- 
ure ; and, in prosecution of this principle, he openly 
acted in violation of liberty during the course of several 
years. Necessity, at last, constrained him to call a par- 
liament : the spirit of liberty arose and spread itself: 
the prince, being without any support, was obliged to 
grant every thing required of him : and his enemies, 
jealous and implacable, set no bounds to their preten- 
sions. Here, then, began those contests, in which it was 
no wonder that men of that age were divided into dif- 
ferent parties ; since, even at this day, the impartial are 
at a loss to decide concerning the justice of the quarrel. 
The pretensions of the parliament, if yielded to, broke 
the balance of the constitution, by rendering the gov- 
ernment almost entirely republican. If not yielded to, 
the nation was, perhaps, still in danger of absolute 
power, from the settled principles and inveterate habits 
of the king, which had plainly appeared in every con- 
cession that he had been constrained to make to his 
people. In this question, so delicate and uncertain, men 
naturally fell to the side which was most comformable to 
their usual principles ; and the more passionate favorers 
of monarchy declared for the king, as the zealous friends 
of liberty sided with the parliament. The hopes of suc- 
cess being nearly equal on both sides, interest had no 
general influence in this contest : so that Roundhead and 
Cavalier were merely parties of principle, neither of 
which disowned either monarchy or liberty ; but the 
former party inclined most to the republican part of our 


government, the latter to the monarchical. In this 
respect, they may be considered as court and country 
party, inflamed into a civil war, by an unhappy concur- 
rence of circumstances, and by the turbulent spirit of 
the age. The commonwealth's men, and the partisans 
of absolute power, lay concealed in both parties, and 
formed but an inconsiderable part of them. 

The clergy had concurred with the king's arbitrary 
designs ; and, in return, were allowed to persecute 
their adversaries, whom they called heretics and schis- 
matics. The established clergy were Episcopal, the 
nonconformists Presbyterian ; so that all things con- 
curred to throw the former, without reserve, into the 
king's party, and the latter into that of the parlia- 

Every one knows the event of this quarrel ; fatal to 
the king first, to the parliament afterwards. After 
many confusions and revolutions, the royal family was 
at last restored, and the ancient government reestab- 
lished. Charles II. was not made wiser by the example 
of his father, but prosecuted the same measures, though, 
at first, with more secrecy and caution. New parties 
arose, under the appellation of Whig and Tory, which 
have continued ever since to confound and distract our 

* The clergy had concurred in a shameless manner with the King's arbi- 
trary designs, according to their usual maxims in such cases, and, in return, 
were allowed to persecute their adversaries, whom they called heretics and 
schismatics. The established clergy were Episcopal, the nonconformists 
Presbyterians ; so that all things concurred to throw the former, without 
reserve, into the King's party, and the latter into that of the Parliament. The 
Cavaliers being the Court party, and the Roundheads the Country party, the 
union was infallible betwixt the former and the established prelacy, and be- 
twixt the latter and Presbyterian nonconformists. This union is so natural, 
according to the general principles of politics, that it requires some very ex- 
traordinary situation of affairs to break it. — Editions A, C, D, N. 


government. To determine the nature of these parties 
is perhaps one of the most difficult problems that can 
be met with, and is a proof that history may contain 
questions as uncertain as any to be found in the most 
abstract sciences. We have seen the conduct of the 
two parties, during the course of seventy years, in a 
vast variety of circumstances, possessed of power, and 
deprived of it, during peace, and during war : persons, 
who profess themselves of one side or other, we meet 
with every hour, in company, in our pleasures, in our 
serious occupations : w r e ourselves are constrained, in a 
manner, to take party ; and, living in a country of the 
highest liberty, every one may openly declare all his 
sentiments and opinions : yet are we at a loss to tell 
the nature, pretensions, and principles, of the different 

When we compare the parties of Whig and Tory with. 
those of Roundhead and Cavalier, the most obvious dif- 
ference that appears between them consists in the prin- 
ciples of passive obedience, and indefceisible right, which were 
but little heard of among the Cavaliers, but became the 
universal doctrine, and were esteemed the true charac- 
teristic of a Tory. Were these principles pushed into 
their most obvious consequences, they imply a formal 
renunciation of all our liberties, and an avowal of abso- 
lute monarchy ; since nothing can be a greater absurd- 
ity than a limited power, which must not be resisted, 
even when it exceeds its limitations. But, as the most 
rational principles are often but a weak counterpoise to 

* The question is perhaps in itself somewhat difficult, but has been ren- 
dered more so by the prejudices and violence of party. — Editions A, C, 
D, N. 


passion, it is no wonder that these absurd principles* 
were found too weak for that effect. The Tories, as 
men, were enemies to oppression ; and also as English- 
men, they were enemies to arbitrary power. Their zeal 
for liberty was, perhaps, less fervent than that of their 
antagonists, but was sufficient to make them forget all 
their general principles, when they saw themselves 
openly threatened with a subversion of the ancient 
government. From these sentiments arose the Revo- 
lution ; an event of mighty consequence, and the firmest 
foundation of British liberty. The conduct of the 
Tories during that event, and after it, will afford us a 
true insight into the nature of that party. 

In the first place, they appear to have had the genuine 
sentiments of Britons in their affection for liberty, and 
in their determined resolution not to sacrifice it to any 
abstract principle whatsoever, or to any imaginary rights 
of princes. This part of their character might justly 
have been doubted of before the Revolution, from the 
obvious tendency of their avowed principles, and from 
their f compliances with a court, which seemed to make 
little secret of its arbitrary designs. The Revolution 
showed them to have been, in this respect, nothing but 
a genuine court part//, such as might be expected in 
a British government ; that is, lovers of liberty, but greater 
lovers of monarchy. It must, however, be confessed, 
that they carried their monarchical principles further 
even in practice, but more so in theory, than was in any 
degree consistent with a limited government. 

* Editions A, C, D, X, sufficient, according to a justly celebrated author^ 
to shock the common sense of a Hottentot or Samoiedc. 

f In Editions A, C, and D, we read almost unbounded compliances. 

X Dissertation on Parties, Letter X. 


Secondly, Neither their principles nor affections con- 
curred, entirely or heartily, with the settlement made at 
the Revolution, or with that which has since taken place. 
This part of their character may seem opposite to the 
former, since any other settlement, in those circum- 
stances of the nation, must probably have been danger- 
ous, if not fatal, to liberty. But the heart of man is 
made to reconcile contradictions ; and this contradiction 
is not greater than that between passive obedience, and 
the resistance employed at the Revolution. A Tory, 
therefore, since the Revolution, may be defined, in a few 
words, to be a lover of monarchy, though without abandoning 
liberty, and a partisan of the family of Stuart : as a Whig 
may be defined to be a lover of liberty, though without re- 
nouncing monarchy, and a friend to the settlement in the Pro- 
testant line* 

* In Editions A and C, the definitions of Whig and Tory were followed 
by remarks in the text, which are thrown into a note in Editions D and N, 
and omitted altogether in O. 

The celebrated writer above cited has asserted, that the real distinction be- 
twixt Whig and Tory was lost at the Revolution, and that ever since they have 
continued to be mere personal parties, like the Guelfs and Ghibbellines, after 
the Emperors had lost all authority in Italy. Such an opinion, were it re- 
ceived, would turn our whole history into an enigma. 

I shall first mention, as a proof of a real distinction betwixt these parties, 
what every one may have observed or heard concerning the conduct and con- 
versation of all his friends and acquaintance on both sides. Have not the 
Tories always bore an avowed affection to the family of Stuart, and have not 
their adversaries always opposed with vigor the succession of that family ? 

The Tory principles are confessedly the most favorable to monarchy. Yet 
the Tories have almost always opposed the court tiiese fifty years ; nor were 
they cordial friends to King William, even when employed by him. Their 
quarrel, therefore, cannot be supposed to have lain with the throne, but with 
the person who sat on it. 

They concurred heartily with the court during the four last years of Queen 
Anne. But is any one at a loss to find the reason ? 

The succession of the crown in the British government is a point of too 
great consequence to be absolutely indifferent to persons who concern them- 
selves, in any degree, about the fortune of the public ; much less can it be 


These different views, with regard to the settlement 
of the crown, were accidental, but natural additions, to 

supposed that the Tory party, who never valued themselves upon moderation, 
could maintain a stoical indifference in a point of so great importance. Were 
they, therefore, zealous for the house of Hanover ? or was there any thing that 
kept an opposite zeal from openly appearing, if it did not openly appear, hut 
prudence, and a sense of decency ? 

It is monstrous to sec an established Episcopal clergy in declared opposition 
to the court, and a non-conformist Presbyterian clergy in conjunction with it. 
What can produce such an unnatural conduct in both ? Nothing, but that 
the former have espoused monarchical principles too high for the present set- 
tlement, which is founded on the principles of liberty : and the latter, being 
afraid of the prevalence of those high principles, adhere to that party from 
whom they have reason to expect liberty and toleration. 

The different conduct of the two parties, with regard to foreign politics, is 
also a proof to the same purpose. Holland has always been most favored by 
one, and France by the other. In short, the proofs of this kind seem so pal- 
pable and evident, that it is almost needless to collect them. 

It is however remarkable, that though the principles of Whig and Tory be 
both of them of a compound nature, yet the ingredients which predominated 
in both were not correspondent to each other. A Tory loved monarchy, and 
bore an affection to the family of Stuart ; but the latter affection was the pre- 
dominant inclination of the party. A Whig loved liberty, and was a friend to 
the settlement in the Protestant line ; but the love of liberty was professedly 
his predominant inclination. The Tories have frequently acted as republi- 
cans, where either policy or revenge has engaged them to that conduct ; and 
there was none of the party who, upon the supposition that they were to be 
disappointed in their views with regard to the succession, would not have de- 
sired to impose the strictest limitations on the crown, and to bring our form of 
government as near republican as possible, in order to depress the family, 
that, according to their apprehension, succeeded without any just title. The 
Whigs, it is true, have also taken steps dangerous to liberty, under pretext of 
securing the succession and settlement of the crown according to their views ; 
but, as the body of the party had no passion for that succession, otherwise 
than as the means of securing liberty, they have been betrayed into these steps 
by ignorance or frailty, or the interest of their leaders. The succession of 
the crown was, therefore, the chief point with the Tories; the security of our 
liberties with the Whigs.* 

It is difficult to penetrate into the thoughts and sentiments of any particu- 

* In Editions D and X there follows a passage not found in A, C, or 0. 

Nor is this seeming irregularity at all difficult to be accounted for by our present 
theory. Court and Country parties are the true parents of Tory and Whig. But it is 
almost impossible that the attachment of the court party to monarchy should not degene- 

V0L. III. 10 


the principles of the Court and Country parties, which 
arc the genuine divisions in the British government. A 

lar man ; but it is almost impossible to distinguish those of a whole party, 
where it often happens that no two persons agree precisely in the same way 
of thinking. Yet I will venture to affirm, that it was not so much principle, 
or an opinion of indefeasible right, that attached the Tories to the ancient 
family, as atfection, or a certain love and esteem for their persons. The same 
cause divided England formerly betwixt the houses of York and Lancaster, 
and Scotland betwixt the families of Bruce and Baliol, in an age when politi- 
cal disputes Avere but little in fashion, and when political principles must of 
course have had but little influence on mankind. The doctrine of passive 
obedience is so absurd in itself, and so opposite to our liberties, that it seems 
to have been chiefly left to pulpit declaimers, and to their deluded followers 
among the mob. Men of better sense were guided by affection ; and as to 
the leaders of this party, it is probable that interest was their sole motive, and 
that they acted more contrary to their private sentiments than the leaders of 
the opposite party. 

[Though it is almost impossible to maintain with zeal the right of any per- 
son or family, without acquiring a good-Avill to them, and changing the princi- 
ple into affection, yet is this less natural to people of an elevated station and 
liberal education, who have had full opportunity of observing the weakness, 
folly, and arrogance of monarchs, and have found them to be nothing supe- 
rior, if not rather inferior to the rest of mankind. The interest, therefore, 
of being heads of a party, does often, with such people, supply the place both 
of principle and affection.]* 

Some who will not venture to assert, that the real difference between Whig 
and Tory, was lost at the Revolution, seem inclined to think that the differ- 
ence is now abolished, and that affairs are so far returned to their natural state, 
that there are at present no other parties amongst us but Court and Country ; 
that is, men who, by interest or principle, are attached either to Monarchy 
or to Liberty. It must indeed be confessed, that the Tory party seem 
of late to have decayed much in their numbers, still more in their zeal, and I 
may venture to say, still more in their credit and authority. [There are few 
men of knowledge or learning, at least few philosophers since Mr. Locke has 
wrote, who would not be ashamed to be thought of that party ; and in almost 

rate into an attachment to the monarch, there being so close a connection between them 
and the latter being so much the more natural object. How easily does the worship of 
the Divinity degenerate into a worship of the idol! The connection is not so great be- 
tween liberty, the divinity of the old Country party or Whigs, and any monarch or royal 
family; nor is it so reasonable to suppose, that in that party the worship can be so easily 
transferred from the one to the other, though even that would be no great miracle. 

* The passage within brackets is not in editions A and C, but is found in D and X. 
What follows is found in all the early editions, A, C, D, X. 


passionate lover of monarchy is apt to be displeased at 
any change of the succession, as savoring too much of 

all companies, the name of Old Whig is mentioned as an incontestable appella- 
tion of honor and dignity. Accordingly, the enemies of the ministry, as a 
reproach, call the courtiers the true Tories : and, as an honor, denominate the 
gentlemen in the Opposition the true Whigs."]* The Tories have been so long 
obliged to talk in the republican style, that they seem to have made converts 
of themselves by their hypocrisy, and to have embraced the sentiments as well 
as language of their adversaries. There are, however, very considerable re- 
mains of that party in England, with all their old prejudices; and a proof 
that Court and Country are not our only parties, is, that almost all our dis- 
senters side with the Court, and the lower clergy, at least of the Church of 
England, with the Opposition. This may convince us that some bias still 
hangs upon our constitution, some extrinsic weight which turns it from its 
natural course, and causes a confusion in our parties. 

I shall conclude this subject with observing, that we never had any Tories 
in Scotland, according to the proper signification of the word, and that the 
division of parties in this country was really into Whigs and Jacobites. A 
Jacobite seems to be a Tory, who has no regard to the constitution, but is 
either a zealous partisan of absolute monarchy, or at least willing to sacrifice 
our liberties to the obtaining the succession in that family to which he is 
attaehed. The reason of the difference betwixt England and Scotland I take 
to be this. Our political and religious divisions in this country have been, 
since the Revolution, regularly correspondent to each other. The Presln te- 
rians Avere all Whigs, without exception ; the Episcopalians of the opposite 
party. And as the clergy of the latter sect were turned out of their churches 
at the Revolution, they had no motive to make any compliances with the gov- 
ernment in their oaths or forms of prayer, but openly avowed the highest 
principles of their party ; which is the cause why their followers have been 
more barefaced and violent than their brethren of the Tory party in Eng- 
land. [As violent things have not commonly so long a duration as moderate, 
we actually find that the Jacobite party is almost entirely vanished from 
among us, and that the distinction of (hurt and Country, which is but creep- 
ing in at London, is the only one that is ever mentioned in this kingdom. 
Beside the violence and openness of the Jacobite party, another reason has 
perhaps contributed to produce so' sudden and so visible an alteration in this 
part of Britain. There are only two ranks of men among us; gentlemen 
who have some fortune and education, and the meanest slaving poor ; without 
any considerable number of that middling rank of men, which abounds more 
in England, both in cities and in the country, than in any other part of the 
world. The slaving poor are incapable of any principles : gentlemen may be 

* The passage within brackets is in editions A, C, D, not in X. 


a commonwealth : a passionate lover of liberty is apt to 
think that every part of the government ought to be 
subordinate to the interests of liberty. 

Some, who will not venture to assert that the real dif- 
ference between Whig and Tory was lost at the Rcvolu- 
tion, seem inclined to think, that the difference is now 
abolished, and that affairs are so far returned to their 
natural state, that there are at present no other parties 
among us but Court and Country ; that is, men who, by 
interest or principle, are attached either to monarchy or 
liberty. The Tories have been so long obliged to talk 
in the republican style, that they seem to have made 
converts of themselves by their hypocrisy, and to have 
embraced the sentiments, as well as language of their 
adversaries. There are, however, very considerable 
remains of that party in England, with all their old 
prejudices; and a proof that Court and Country are not 
our only parties, is, that almost all the dissenters side 
with the court, and the lower clergy, at least of the 
church of England, with the opposition. This may con- 
vince us, that some bias still hangs upon our constitu- 
tion, some extrinsic weight, which turns it from its natu- 
ral course, and causes a confusion in our parties. ::: 

converted to true principles, by time and experience. The middling rank of 
men have curiosity and knowledge enough to form principles, but not enough 
to form true ones, or correct any prejudices that they may have imbibed : and 
it is among the middling rank of people that Tory principles do at present 
prevail most in England. ]f 

* Some of the opinions delivered in these Essays, with regard to the public 
transactions in the last century, the Author, on more accurate examination, 
found reason to retract in his History of Great Britain. And as he would 
not enslave himself to the systems of either party, neither would he fetter his 
judgment by his own preconceived opinions and principles ; nor is he ashamed 
to acknowledge his mistakes. These mistakes were indeed, at that time, 
almost universal in this kingdom. 

f The passage within brackets is found in A and C, not in D and X. 



That the corruption of the lest of things produces the 
worst, is grown into a maxim, and is commonly proved, 
among other instances, by the pernicious effects of 
superstition and enthusiasm, the corruptions of true reli- 

These two species of false religion, though both per- 
nicious, are yet of a very different, and even of a con- 
trary nature. The mind of man is subject to certain 
unaccountable terrors and apprehensions, proceeding 
either from the unhappy situation of private or public 
affairs, from ill health, from a gloomy and melancholy 
disposition, or from the concurrence of all these circum- 
stances. In such a state of mind, infinite unknown 
evils are dreaded from unknown agents; and where 
real objects of terror are wanting, the soul, active to 
its own prejudice, and fostering its predominant incli- 
nation, finds imaginary ones, to whose power and 
malevolence it sets no limits. As these enemies are 
entirely invisible and unknown, the methods taken to 
appease them are equally unaccountable, and consist in 
ceremonies, observances, mortifications, sacrifices, pres- 
ents, or in any practice, however absurd or frivolous, 

78 ESSAY X. 

which either folly or knavery recommends to a blind 
and terrified credulity. Weakness, fear, melancholy, 
together with ignorance, are, therefore, the true sources 
of Superstition. 

But the mind of man is also subject to an unaccount- 
able elevation and presumption, arising from prosperous 
success, from luxuriant health, from strong spirits, or 
from a bold and confident disposition. In such a state 
of mind, the imagination swells with great, but confused 
conceptions, to which no sublunary beauties or enjoy- 
ments can correspond. Every thing mortal and perish- 
able vanishes as unworthy of attention ; and a full range 
is given to the fancy in the invisible regions, or world 
of Spirits, where the soul is at liberty to indulge itself 
in every imagination, which may best suit its present 
taste and disposition. Hence arise raptures, transports, 
and surprising flights of fancy ; and, confidence and 
presumption still increasing, these raptures, being alto- 
gether unaccountable, and seeming quite beyond the 
reach of our ordinary faculties, are attributed to the 
immediate inspiration of that Divine Being who is the 
object of devotion. In a little time, the inspired person 
comes to regard himself as a distinguished favorite of 
the Divinity ; and when this phrensy once takes place, 
which is the summit of enthusiasm, every whimsey is con- 
secrated : human reason, and even morality, are rejected 
as fallacious guides; and the fanatic madman delivers 
himself over, blindly and without reserve, to the sup- 
posed illapses of the Spirit, and to inspiration from 
above. — Hope, pride, presumption, a w T arm imagination, 
together with ignorance, are therefore the true sources 
of Enthusiasm. 

These two species of false religion might afford occa- 
sion to many speculations ; but I shall confine myself, 


at present, to a few reflections concerning their differ- 
ent influence on government and society. 

* My first reflection is, that superstition is favorable to 

* My first reflection is, that religions which partake of enthusiasm are, on 
their first rise, much more furious and violent than those which partake of 
superstition ; but in a little time become much more gentle and moderate. 
The violence of this species of religion, when excited by novelty, and ani- 
mated by opposition, appears from numberless instances ; of the Anabaptists 
in Germany, the Camisars in France, the Levellers, and other fanatics in 
England, and the Covenanters in Scotland. As enthusiasm is founded on 
strong spirits and a presumptuous boldness of character, it naturally begets 
the most extreme resolutions ; especially after it rises to that height as to in- 
spire the deluded fanatics with the opinion of Divine illuminations, and with 
a contempt of the common rules of reason, morality, and prudence. 

It is thus enthusiasm produces the most cruel desolation in human society : 
but its fury is like that of thunder and tempest, which exhaust themselves in 
a little time, and leave the air more calm and serene than before. The reason 
of this will appear evidently, by comparing enthusiasm to superstition, the 
other species of false religion, and tracing the natural consequences of each. 
As superstition is founded on fear, sorrow, and a depression of spirits, it rep- 
resents the person to himself in such despicable colors, that he appears un- 
worthy, in his own eyes, of approaching the Divine presence, and naturally 
has recourse to any other person whose sanctity of life, or perhaps impudence 
and cunning, have made him be supposed to be more favored by the Divinity. 
To him they intrust their devotions : to his care they recommend their prayers, 
petitions, and sacrifices : and by his means hope to render their addresses 
acceptable to their incensed Deity. Hence the origin of Priests,f who may 
justly be regarded as proceeding from one of the grossest inventions of a 
timorous and abject superstition, which, ever diffident of itself, dares not offer 
up its own devotions, but ignorantly thinks to recommend itself to the Divin- 
ity by the mediation of his supposed friends and servants. As superstition is 
a considerable ingredient of almost all religions, even the most fanatical, there 
being nothing but philosophy able to conquer entirely these unaccountable 
terrors ; hence it proceeds, that in almost every sect of religion there are 
priests to be found. But the stronger mixture there is of superstition, the 
higher is the authority of the priesthood. Modern Judaism and Popery, es- 
pecially the latter, being the most barbarous and absurd superstitions that 
have yet been known in the world, are the most enslaved by their priests. 

f By priest, I understand only the pretenders to power and dominion, and to a supe- 
rior sanctity of character, distinct from virtue and good morals. These are very differ- 
ent from clergymen, who are set apart to the care of sacred matters, and the conducting 
our public devotions with greater decency and order. There is no rank of men more to 
be respected than the latter. 

80 ESSAY X. 

priestly power, and enthusiasm not less, or rather more con- 
trary to it, than sound reason and philosophy. As supersti- 

As the church of England has a strong mixture of Popish superstition, it par- 
takes also, in its original constitution, of a propensity to priestly power and 
dominion, particularly in the respect it exacts to the priest. And though, 
according to the sentiments of that church, the prayers of the priest must be 
accompanied with those of the laity, yet is he the mouth of the congregation ; 
his person is sacred, and without his presence few would think their public 
devotions, or the sacraments and other rites, acceptable to the Divinity. 

On the other hand, it may be observed, that all enthusiasts have been free 
from the yoke of Ecclesiastics, and have expressed a great independence in 
their devotion ; with a contempt of forms, traditions, and authorities. The 
Quakers are the most egregious, though at the same time the most innocent 
enthusiasts that have been yet known ; and are, perhaps, the only sect that 
have never admitted priests amongst them. The Independents, of all the 
English sectaries, approach nearest to the Quakers in fanaticism, and in their 
freedom from priestly bondage. The Presbyterians follow after at an equal 
distance in both these particulars. In short, this observation is founded on 
the most certain experience ; and will also appear to be founded on reason, if 
we consider, that as enthusiasm arises from a presumptuous pride and confi- 
dence, it thinks itself sufficiently qualified to approach the Divinity Avithout 
any human mediator. Its rapturous devotions are so fervent, that it even im- 
agines itself actually to approach him by the way of contemplation and in- 
ward converse, — which makes it neglect all those outward ceremonies and 
observances, to which the assistance of the priest appears so requisite in the 
eyes of their superstitious votaries. The fanatic consecrates himself, and 
bestows on his own person a sacred character, much superior to what forms 
and ceremonious institutions can confer on any other. 

It is therefore an infallible rule that superstition is favorable to priestly 
power, and enthusiasm as much, or rather more, contrary to it, than sound 
reason and philosophy. The consequences are evident. When the first fire 
of enthusiasm is spent, man naturally, in such fanatical sects, sinks into the 
greatest remissness and coolness in sacred matters ; there being no body of 
men amongst them endowed with sufficient authority, whose interest is con- 
cerned, to support the religious spirit. Superstition, on the contrary, steals 
in gradually and insensibly ; renders men tame and submissive ; is accepta- 
ble to the magistrate, and seems inoffensive to the people : till at last the 
priest, having firmly established his authority, becomes the tyrant and dis- 
turber of human society, by his endless contentions, persecutions, and reli- 
gious Avars. Hoav smoothly did the Romish church advance in their acquisi- 
tion of power ! But into Avhat dismal convulsions did they throAv all Europe, 
in order to maintain it ! On the other hand, our sectaries, Avho Avere formerly 
such dangerous bigots, are noAv become our greatest freethinkers ; and the 


tion is founded on fear, sorroV, and a depression of 
spirits, it represents the man to himself in such despica- 
ble colors, that he appears unworthy, in his own eyes, 
of approaching the Divine presence, and naturally has 
recourse to any other person, whose sanctity of life, or 
perhaps impudence and cunning, have made him be sup- 
posed more favored by the Divinity. To him the 
superstitious intrust their devotions : to his care they 
recommend their prayers, petitions, and sacrifices : and 
by his means, they hope to render their addresses accept- 
able to their incensed Deity. Hence the origin of 
Priests, who may justly be regarded as an invention of 
a timorous and abject superstition, which, ever diffident 
of itself, dares not offer up its own devotions, but igno- 
rantly thinks to recommend itself to the Divinity, by 
the mediation of his supposed friends and servants. 
As superstition is a considerable ingredient in almost all 
religions, even the most fanatical ; there being nothing 
but philosophy able entirely to conquer these unac- 
countable terrors ; hence it proceeds, that in almost 
every sect of religion there are priests to be found : but 
the stronger mixture there is of superstition, the higher 
is the authority of the priesthood. 

On the other hand, it may be observed, that all en- 
thusiasts have been free from the yoke of ecclesiastics, 
and have expressed great independence in their devo- 
tion, with a contempt of forms, ceremonies, and tradi- 
tions. The Quakers are the most egregious, though, at 

Quakers are perhaps the only regular body of Deists in the universe, except 
the literati, or disciples of Confucius in China. 

My second observation with regard to these species of false religion is, thai 
superstition is an enemy to civil liberty, and enthusiasm a friend to it, &c — 
Editions A and C. 

VOL. III. 11 

82 ESSAY X. 

the same time, the most innocent enthusiasts that have 
yet been known ; and are perhaps the only sect that 
have never admitted priests among them. The Inde- 
pendents, of all the English sectaries, approach nearest to 
the Quakers in fanaticism, and in their freedom from 
priestly bondage. The Presbyterians follow after, at an 
equal distance, in both particulars. In short, this obser- 
vation is founded in experience ; and will also appear to 
be founded in reason, if we consider, that, as enthusiasm 
arises from a presumptuous pride and confidence, it 
thinks itself sufficiently qualified to approach the Divin- 
ity, without any human mediator. Its rapturous devo- 
tions are so fervent, that it even imagines itself actually 
to approach him by the way of contemplation and inward 
converse; which makes it neglect all those outward cere- 
monies and observances, to which the assistance of the 
priests appears so requisite in the eyes of their super- 
stitious votaries. The fanatic consecrates himself, and 
bestows on his own person a sacred character, much 
superior to what forms and ceremonious institutions can 
confer on any other. 

My second reflection with regard to these species of 
false religion is, that religions which partake of enthusiasm, 
are, on their first rise, more fur ions and violent than those which 
partake of superstition ; but in a little time become more gentle 
and moderate. The violence of this species of religion, 
when excited by novelty, and animated by opposition, 
appears from numberless instances; of the Anabaptists in 
Germany, the Camisars in France, the Levellers, and 
other fanatics in England, and the Covenanters in Scot- 
land. Enthusiasm being founded on strong spirits, and 
a presumptuous boldness of character, it naturally be- 
gets the most extreme resolutions ; especially after it 


rises to that height as to inspire the deluded fanatic 
with the opinion of Divine illuminations, and with a 
contempt for the common rules of reason, morality, and 

/ It is thus enthusiasm produces the most cruel disor- 
ders in human society ; but its fury is like that of thun- 
der and tempest, which exhaust themselves in a little 
time, and leave the air more calm and serene than be- 
fore. When the first fire of enthusiasm is spent, men 
naturally, in all fanatical sects, sink into the greatest re- 
missness and coolness in sacred matters ; there being no 
body of men among them endowed with sufficient au- 
thority, whose interest is concerned to support the relig- 
ious spirit ; no rites, no ceremonies, no holy observances, 
which may enter into the common train of life, and pre- 
serve the sacred principles from oblivion. Superstition, 
on the contrary, steals in gradually and insensibly ; ren- 
ders men tame and submissive ; is acceptable to the 
magistrate, and seems inoffensive to the people : till at 
last the priest, having firmly established his authority, 
becomes the tyrant and disturber of human society, by 
his endless contentions, persecutions, and religious wars. 
How smoothly did the Romish church advance in her 
acquisition of power! But into what dismal convul- 
sions did she throw all Europe, in order to maintain it ! 
On the other hand, our sectaries, who were formerly 
such dangerous bigots, are now become very free rea- 
soners ; and the Quakers seem to approach nearly the 
only regular body of .Deists in the universe, the literati) 
or the disciples of Confucius in China* 

My third observation on this head is, that superstition is 
an enemy to civil liberty, and eidJiusiasm a friend to it. As 

* The Chinese literati have no priests or ecclesiastical establishment. 

84 ESSAY X. 

superstition groans under the dominion of priests, and 
enthusiasm is destructive of all ecclesiastical power, this 
sufficiently accounts for the present observation. Not 
to mention that enthusiasm, being the infirmity of bold 
and ambitious tempers, is naturally accompanied with a 
spirit of liberty ; as superstition, on the contrary, ren- 
ders men tame and abject, and fits them for slavery. 
We learn from English history, that, during the civil wars, 
the Independents and Deists, though the most opposite in 
their religious principles, yet were united in their politi- 
cal ones, and were alike passionate for a commonwealth. 
And since the origin of Whig and Tory, the leaders of the 
Whigs have either been Deists or professed Latihidinarians 
in their principles ; that is, friends to toleration, and in- 
different to any particular sect of Christians : while the 
sectaries, who have all a strong tincture of enthusiasm, 
have always, without exception, concurred with that 
party in defence of civil liberty. The resemblance in 
their superstitions long united the High-Church Tories 
and the Roman Catholics, in support of prerogative and 
kingly power • though experience of the tolerating spirit 
of the Whigs seems of late to have reconciled the 
Catholics to that party. 

The violinists and Janscnists in France have a thousand 
unintelligible disputes, which are not worthy the reflec- 
tion of a man of sense : but what principally dis- 
tinguishes these two sects, and alone merits attention, 
is the different spirit of their religion. The Violinists, 
conducted by the Jesuits, are great friends to supersti- 
tion, rigid observers of external forms and ceremonies, 
and devoted to the authority of the priests, and to tra- 
dition. The Janscnists are enthusiasts, and zealous pro- 
moters of the passionate devotion, and of the inward 
life; little influenced by authority; and, in a word, but 


half Catholics. The consequences are exactly conforma- 
ble to the foregoing reasoning. The Jesuits are the 
tyrants of the people, and the slaves of the court : 
and the Jansenists preserve alive the small sparks of 
the love of liberty which are to be found in the French 



There are certain sects which secretly form themselves 
in the learned world, as well as factions in the political ; 
and though sometimes they come not to an open rup- 
ture, they give a different turn to the ways of thinking 
of those who have taken part on either side. The most 
remarkable of this kind are the sects founded on the 
different sentiments with regard to the dignity of human 
nature ; which is a point that seems to have divided phi- 
losophers and poets, as well as divines, from the begin- 
ning of the world to this day. Some exalt our species 
to the skies, and represent man as a kind of human 
demigod, who derives his origin from heaven, and retains 
evident marks of his lineage and descent. Others insist 
upon the blind sides of human nature, and can discover 
nothing, except vanity, in which man surpasses the 
other animals, whom he affects so much to despise. If 
an author possess the talent of rhetoric and declamation, 
he commonly takes part with the former : if his turn lie 
towards irony and ridicule, he naturally throws himself 
into the other extreme. 

I am far from thinking that all those who have depre- 
ciated our species have been enemies to virtue, and have 


exposed the frailties of their fellow-creatures with any 
bad intention. On the contrary, I am sensible that a 
delicate sense of morals, especially when attended with 
a splenetic temper, is apt to give a man a disgust of the 
world, and to make him consider the common course of 
human affairs with too much indignation. I must, how- 
ever, be of opinion, that the sentiments of those who 
are inclined to think favorably of mankind, are more 
advantageous to virtue than the contrary principles, 
which give us a mean opinion of our nature. When a 
man is prepossessed with a high notion of his rank 
and character in the creation, he will naturally en- 
deavor to act up to it, and will scorn to do a base 
or vicious action which might sink him below that 
figure which he makes in his own imagination. Accord- 
ingly we find, that all our polite and fashionable 
moralists insist upon this topic, and endeavor to rep- 
resent vice unworthy of man, as well as odious in 

We find few disputes that are not founded on some 
ambiguity in the expression ; and I am persuaded that 
the present dispute, concerning the dignity or meanness 
of human nature, is not more exempt from it than any 
other. It may therefore be worth while to consider 
what is real, and what is only verbal, in this contro- 

That there is a natural difference between merit and 
demerit, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly, no reason- 
able man will deny : yet it is evident that, in affixing 

* Women are generally much more flattered in their youth than men, which 
may pro eed from this reason among others, that their chief point of honor 
is considered as much more difficult than ours, and requires to be supported 
by all that decent pride which can be instilled into them. Editions A, C, 
D, and N. 


the terra, which denotes either our approbation or 
blame, we are commonly more influenced by com- 
parison than by any fixed unalterable standard in the 
nature of things. In like manner, quantity, and exten- 
sion, and bulk, are by every one acknowledged to be 
real things : but when we call any animal great or little, 
we always form a secret comparison between that ani- 
mal and others of the same species ; and it is that 
comparison which regulates our judgment concerning 
its greatness. A dog and a horse may be of the very 
same size, while the one is admired for the greatness of 
its bulk, and the other for the smallness. When I am 
present, therefore, at any dispute, I always consider 
with myself whether it be a question of comparison 
or not that is the subject of controversy ; and if it 
be, whether the disputants compare the same objects 
together, or talk of things that are w 7 idely different. 

In forming our notions of human nature, we are apt 
to make a comparison between men and animals, the 
only creatures endowed with thought that fall under 
our senses. Certainly this comparison is favorable to 
mankind. On the one hand, we see a creature whose 
thoughts are not limited by any narrow bounds, either 
of place or time ; who carries his researches into the 
most distant regions of this globe, and beyond this globe, 
to the planets and heavenly bodies ; looks backward to 
consider the first origin, at least the history of the 
human race ; casts his eye forward to see the influence 
of his actions upon posterity, and the judgments which 
will be formed of his character a thousand years hence ; 
a creature, who traces causes and effects to a great 
length and intricacy; extracts general principles from 
particular appearances; improves upon his discoveries; 
corrects his mistakes ; and makes his very errors profit- 


able. On the other hand, we arc presented with a 
creature the very reverse of this ; limited in its observa- 
tions and reasonings to a few sensible objects which sur- 
round it; without curiosity, without foresight; blindly 
conducted by instinct, and attaining, in a short time, its 
utmost perfection, beyond which it is never able to 
advance a single step. What a wide difference is there 
between these creatures! And how exalted a notion 
must we entertain of the former, in comparison of the 

There are two means commonly employed to destroy 
this conclusion: First, By making an unfair representa- 
tion of the case, and insisting only upon the weakness 
of human nature. And, secondly. By forming a new and 
secret comparison between man and beings of the most 
perfect wisdom. Among the other excellences of man, 
this is one, that he can form an idea of perfections much 
beyond what he has experience of in himself; and is not 
limited in his conception of wisdom and virtue. He 
can easily exalt his notions, and conceive a degree of 
knowledge, which, when compared to his own, will make 
the latter appear very contemptible, and will cause the 
difference between that and the sagacity of animals, in a 
manner, to disappear and vanish. Now this being a 
point in which all the world is agreed, that human 
understanding falls infinitely short of perfect wisdom, it 
is proper we should know when this comparison takes 
place, that we may not dispute where there is no real 
difference in our sentiments. Man falls much more 
short of perfect wisdom, and even of his own ideas of 
perfect wisdom, than animals do of man; yet the latter 
difference is so considerable, that nothing but a com- 
parison with the former can make it appear of little 

VOL. III. 12 


It is also usual to compare one man with another ; 
and finding very few whom we can call wise or virtuous, 
we are apt to entertain a contemptible notion of our 
species in general. That we may be sensible of the 
fallacy of this way of reasoning, we may observe, that 
the honorable appellations of wise and virtuous are not 
annexed to any particular degree of those qualities of 
wisdom and virtue, but arise altogether from the com- 
parison we make between one man and another. When 
we find a man who arrives at such a pitch of wisdom as 
is very uncommon, we pronounce him a wise man : so 
that to say there are few wise men in the world, is 
really to say nothing ; since it is only by their scarcity 
that they merit that appellation. Were the lowest of 
our species as wise as Tully or Lord Bacon, we should 
still have reason to say that there are few wise men. 
For in that case we should exalt our notions of wisdom, 
and should not pay a singular homage to any one who 
was not singularly distinguished by his talents. In like 
manner, I have heard it observed by thoughtless people, 
that there are few women possessed of beauty in com- 
parison of those who want it ; not considering that we 
bestow the epithet of beautiful only on such as possess a 
degree of beauty that is common to them with a few. 
The same degree of beauty in a woman is called de- 
formity, which is treated as real beauty in one of our sex. 

As it is usual, in forming a notion of our species, to 
compare it with the other species above or below it, or to 
compare the individuals of the species among them- 
selves ; so we often compare together the different mo- 
tives or actuating principles of human nature, in order 
to regulate our judgment concerning it. And, indeed, 
this is the only kind of comparison which is worth our 
attention, or decides any thing in the present question. 


Were our selfish and vicious principles so much pre- 
dominant above our social and virtuous, as is asserted by 
some philosophers, we ought undoubtedly to entertain a 
contemptible notion of human nature.* 

There is much of a dispute of words in all this con- 
troversy."!* When a man denies the sincerity of all 
public spirit or affection to a country and community, 
I am at a loss what to think of him. Perhaps he never 
felt this passion in so clear and distinct a manner as to 
remove all his doubts concerning its force and reality. 
But when he proceeds afterwards to reject all private 
friendship, if no interest or self-love intermix itself; I 
am then confident that he abuses terms, and confounds 
the ideas of things ; since it is impossible for any one 
to be so selfish, or rather so stupid, as to make no dif- 
ference between one man and another, and give no 
preference to qualities which engage his approbation 
and esteem. Is he also, say I, as insensible to anger as 
he pretends to be to friendship? And does injury and 
wrong no more affect him than kindness or benefits ? 
Impossible : he does not know himself: he has forgotten 
the movements of his heart ; or rather, he makes use 
of a different language from the rest of his countrymen, 
and calls not things by their proper names. What say 
you of natural affection ? (I subjoin), Is that also a 

* I may perhaps treat more fully of this subject in some future Essay. In 
the mean time I shall observe, what has been proved beyond question by 
several great moralists of the present age, that the social passions are by far 
the most powerful of any, and that even all the other passions receive from 
them their chief force and influence. Whoever desires to sec this question 
treated at large, with the greatest force of argument and eloquence, may con- 
sult my Lord Shaftesbury's Enquiry concerning Virtue. — Editions A, C, 
D, N. 

t This passage is not in the early editions. It is found in Edition N. 


species of self-love ? Yes ; all is self-love. Your chil- 
dren are loved only because they are yours: your friend 
for a like reason : and your country engages you only so 
far as it has a connection with yourself. Were the idea 
of self removed, nothing would affect you : you would be 
altogether unactive and insensible : or, if you ever give 
yourself any movement, it would only be from vanity, 
and a desire of fame and reputation to this same self. 
I am willing, reply I, to receive your interpretation of 
human actions, provided you admit the facts. That 
species of self-love which displays itself in kindness to 
others, you must allow to have great influence over 
human actions, and even greater, on many occasions, 
than that which remains in its original shape and form. 
For how few are there, having a family, children, and 
relations, who do not spend more on the maintenance 
and education of these than on their own pleasures? 
This, indeed, you justly observe, may proceed from their 
self-love, since the prosperity of their family and friends 
is one, or the chief, of their pleasures, as well as their 
chief honor. Be you also one of these selfish men, and 
you are sure of every one's good opinion and good-will ; 
or, not to shock your ears with these expressions, the 
self-love of every one, and mine among the rest, will 
then incline us to serve you, and speak well of you. 

In my opinion, there are two things which have led 
astray those philosophers that have insisted so much 
on the selfishness of man. In the first place, they found 
that every act of virtue or friendship was attended with 
a secret pleasure; whence they concluded, that friend- 
ship and virtue could not be disinterested. But the 
fallacy of this is obvious. The virtuous sentiment or 
passion produces the pleasure, and does not arise from 


it. I foci a pleasure in doing good to my friend, because 
I love him; but do not love him for the sake of that 

In the second place, it has always been found, that 
the virtuous are far from being indifferent to praise ; 
and therefore they have been represented as a set of 
vainglorious men, who had nothing in view but the 
applauses of others. But this also is a fallacy. It is 
very unjust in the world, when they find any tincture 
of vanity in a laudable action, to depreciate it upon that 
account, or ascribe it entirely to that motive. The case 
is not the same with vanity, as with other passions. 
Where avarice or revenge enters into any seemingly 
virtuous action, it is difficult for us to determine how 
far it enters, and it is natural to suppose it the sole 
actuating principle. But vanity is so closely allied to 
virtue, and to love the fame of laudable actions ap- 
proaches so near the love of laudable actions for their 
own sake, that these passions are more capable of mix- 
ture, than any other kinds of affection ; and it is almost 
impossible to have the latter without some degree of 
the former. Accordingly we find, that this passion for 
glory is always warped and varied according to the 
particular taste or disposition of the mind on which it 
falls. Xero had the same vanity in driving a chariot, 
that Trajan had in governing the empire with justice 
and ability. To love the glory of virtuous deeds is a 
sure proof of the love of virtue. 



Those who employ their pens on political subjects, 
free from party rage, and party prejudices, cultivate a 
science, which, of all others, contributes most to public 
utility, and even to the private satisfaction of those 
who addict themselves to the study of it. I am apt, 
however, to entertain a suspicion, that the world is still 
too young to fix many general truths in politics, which 
will remain true to the latest posteritj^. We have not 
as yet had experience of three thousand years ; so that 
not only the art of reasoning is still imperfect in this 
science, as in all others, but we even want sufficient 
materials upon which we can reason. It is not fully 
known what degree of refinement, either in virtue or 
vice, human nature is susceptible of, nor what may be 
expected of mankind from any great revolution in their 
education, customs, or principles. Machiavel was cer- 
tainly a great genius ; but, having confined his study to 
the furious and tyrannical governments of ancient times, 
or to the little disorderly principalities of Italy, his rea- 
sonings, especially upon monarchical government, have 

* In Editions A, C, and D, this Essay is entitled, " Of Liberty and 


been found extremely defective ; and there scarcely is 
any maxim in his Prince which subsequent experience 
has not entirely refuted. " A weak prince," says he, 
" is incapable of receiving good counsel ; for, if he con- 
sult with several, he will not be able to choose among 
their different counsels. If he abandon himself to one, 
that minister may perhaps have capacity, but he will 
not long be a minister. He will be sure to dispossess 
his master, and place himself and his family upon the 
throne." I mention this, among many instances of the 
errors of that politician, proceeding, in a great measure, 
from his having lived in too early an age of the world, 
to be a good judge of political truth. Almost all the 
princes of Europe are at present governed by their 
ministers, and have been so for near two centuries ; and 
yet no such event has ever happened, or can possibly 
happen. Sejanus might project dethroning the Caesars, 
but Fleury, though ever so vicious, could not, while in 
his senses, entertain the least hopes of dispossessing the 

Trade was never esteemed an affair of state till the 
last century ; and there scarcely is any ancient writer 
on politics who has made mention of it.* Even the 
Italians have kept a profound silence with regard to it, 
though, it has now engaged the chief attention, as well 
of ministers of state, as of speculative reasoners. The 
great opulence, grandeur, and military achievements of 
the two maritime powers, seem first to have instructed 
mankind in the importance of an extensive commerce. 

Having therefore intended, in this Essay, to make a 
full comparison of civil liberty and absolute government, 

* Xenophon mentions it, but with a doubt if it be of any advantage to a 
state. El 6e ical ku-opia axpetei n, &c. Xex. Hiero. — Plato totally 
excludes it from liis imaginary republic. De Lcgibus, lib. iv. 


and to show the great advantages of the former above 
the latter ; * I began to entertain a suspicion that no 
man in this age was sufficiently qualified for such an 
undertaking, and that, whatever any one should ad- 
vance on that head, would in all probability be refuted 
by further experience, and be rejected by posterity. 
Such mighty revolutions have happened in human 
affairs, and so many events have arisen contrary to the 
expectation of the ancients, that they are sufficient to 
beget the suspicion of still further changes. 

It had been observed by the ancients, that all the 
arts and sciences arose among free nations ; and that 
the Persians and Egyptians, notwithstanding their ease, 
opulence, and luxury, made but faint efforts towards a 
relish in those finer pleasures, which were carried to 
such perfection by the Greeks, amidst continual wars, 
attended with poverty, and the greatest simplicity of 
life and manners. It had also been observed, that, 
when the Greeks lost their liberty, though they in- 
creased mightily in riches by means of the conquests 
of Alexander, yet the arts, from that moment, declined 
among them, and have never since been able to raise 
their head in that climate. Learning was transplanted 
to Rome, the only free nation at that time in the uni- 
verse ; and having met with so favorable a soil, it made 
prodigious shoots for above a century ; till the decay of 
liberty produced also the decay of letters, and spread a 
total barbarism over the world. From these two ex- 
periments, of which each was double in its kind, and 
showed the fall of learning in absolute governments, as 
well as its rise in popular ones, Longinus thought him- 
self sufficiently justified in asserting, that the arts and 

* " The advantages and disadvantages of each." — Editions A, C, D. 


sciences could never flourish but in a free government. 
And in this opinion he has been followed by several 
eminent writers* in our own country, who either con- 
fined their view merely to ancient facts, or entertained 
too great a partiality in favor of that form of govern- 
ment established among us. 

But what would these writers have said to the in- 
stances of modern Rome and Florence ? Of which the 
former carried to perfection all the finer arts of sculp- 
ture, painting, and music, as well as poetry, though it 
groaned under tyranny, and under the tyranny of 
priests : while the latter made its chief progress in 
the arts and sciences after it began to lose its liberty 
by the usurpation of the family of Medici. Ariosto, 
Tasso, Galileo, no more than Raphael or Michael Angelo, 
were not born in republics. And though the Lombard 
school was famous as well as the Roman, yet the Vene- 
tians have had the smallest share in its honors, and 
seem rather inferior to the other Italians in their genius 
for the arts and sciences. Rubens established his school 
at Antwerp, not at Amsterdam. Dresden, not Ham- 
burgh, is the centre of politeness in Germany. 

But the most eminent instance of the flourishing of 
learning in absolute governments is that of France, 
which scarcely ever enjoyed any established liberty, 
and yet has carried the arts and sciences as near per- 
fection as any other nation. The English are, perhaps, 
greater philosophers ; *j- the Italians better painters and 
musicians ; the Romans were greater orators : but the 
French are the only people, except the Greeks, who 
have been at once philosophers, poets, orators, historians, 

* Mr. Addison and Lord Shaftesbury, 
f "N. B. This was published in 1742." — Edition N. 
VOL. III. 13 


painters, architects, sculptors, and musicians. With re- 
gard to the stage, they have excelled even the Greeks, 
who far excelled the English. And, in common life, 
they have, in a great measure, perfected that art, the 
most useful and agreeable of any, TArt de Vivre, the art 
of society and conversation. 

If we consider the state of the sciences and polite 
arts in our own country, Horace's observation, with 
regard to the Romans, may in a great measure be 
applied to the British. 

Sed in Ion sum tamen aevum 

Manserunt, hodieque manent vestigia ruris. 

The elegance and propriety of style have been very 
much neglected among us. We have no dictionary of 
our language, and scarcely a tolerable grammar. The 
first polite prose we have was writ by a man who is 
still alive.* As to Sprat, Locke, and even Temple, they 
knew too little of the rules of art to be esteemed 
elegant writers. The prose of Bacon, Harrington, and 
Milton, is altogether stiff and pedantic, though their 
sense be excellent. Men, in this country, have been 
so much occupied in the great disputes of .Religion, 
Politics, and Philosophy, that they had no relish for the 
seemingly minute observations of grammar and criticism. 
And, though this turn of thinking must have consider- 
ably improved our sense and our talent of reasoning, 
it must be confessed, that even in those sciences above 
mentioned, we have not any standard book which we 
can transmit to posterity : and the utmost we have to 
boast of, are a few essays towards a more just philoso- 
phy, which indeed promise well, but have not as yet 
reached any degree of perfection. 

* Dr. Swift. 


It has become an established opinion, that commerce 
can never nourish but in a free government ; and this 
opinion seems to be founded on a longer and larger 
experience than the foregoing, with regard to the arts 
and sciences. If we trace commerce in its progress 
through Tyre, Athens, Syracuse, Carthage, Venice, 
Florence, Genoa, Antwerp, Holland, England, &c, we 
shall always find it to have fixed its seat in free govern- 
ments. The three greatest trading towns now in Europe, 
are London, Amsterdam, and Hamburgh ; all free cities, 
and Protestant cities ; that is, enjoying a double ib- 
erty. It must, however, be observed, that the great 
jealousy entertained of late with regard to the commerce 
of France, seems to prove that this maxim is no more 
certain and infallible than the foregoing, and that the 
subjects of an absolute prince may become our rivals in 
commerce as well as in learning. 

Durst I deliver my opinion in an affair of so much 
uncertainty, I would assert, that notwithstanding the 
efforts of the French, there is something hurtful to com- 
merce inherent in the very nature of absolute govern- 
ment, and inseparable from it ; though the reason I 
should assign for this opinion is somewhat different from 
that which is commonly insisted on. Private property 
seems to me almost as secure in a civilized European 
monarchy as in a republic ; nor is danger much appre- 
hended, in such a government, from the violence of the 
sovereign, more than we commonly dread harm from 
thunder, or earthquakes, or any accident the most 
unusual and extraordinary. Avarice, the spur of indus- 
try, is so obstinate a passion, and works its way through 
so many real dangers and difficulties, that it is not likely 
to be scared by an imaginary danger, which is so small, 


that it scarcely admits of calculation. Commerce, there- 
fore, in my opinion, is apt to decay in absolute govern- 
ments, not because it is there less secure, but because it 
is less honorable. A subordination of rank is absolutely 
necessary to the support of monarchy. Birth, titles, 
and place, must be honored above industry and riches; 
and while these notions prevail, all the considerable 
traders will be tempted to throw up their commerce, in 
order to purchase some of those employments, to which 
privileges and honors are annexed. 

Since I am upon this head, of the alterations which 
time has produced, or may produce in politics, I must 
observe, that all kinds of government, free and absolute, 
seem to have undergone, in modern times, a great change 
for the better, with regard both to foreign and domestic 
management. The balance of power is a secret in poli- 
tics, fully known only to the present age; and I must 
add, that the internal police of states has also received 
great improvements within the last century. We are 
informed by Sallust, that Catiline's army was much aug- 
mented by the accession of the highwaymen about 
Rome ; though I believe, that all of that profession who 
are at present dispersed over Europe would not amount 
to a regiment. In Cicero's pleadings for Milo, I find 
this argument, among others, made use of to prove that 
his client had not assassinated Clodius. Had Milo, said 
he, intended to have killed Clodius, he had not attacked 
him in the daytime, and at such a distance from the 
city ; he had waylaid him at night, near the suburbs, 
where it might have been pretended that he was killed 
by robbers ; and the frequency of the accident would 
have favored the deceit. This is a surprising proof of 
the loose policy of Rome, and of the number and force 


of these robbers, since Clodius* was at that time attended 
by thirty slaves, who were completely armed, and suf- 
ficiently accustomed to blood and danger in the frequent 
tumults excited by that seditious tribune. 

But though all kinds of government be improved in 
modern times, yet monarchical government seems to 
have made the greatest advances towards perfection. It 
may now be affirmed of civilized monarchies, what was 
formerly said in praise of republics alone, that they are a 
government of Laws, not of Men. They are found suscepti- 
ble of order, method, and constancy, to a surprising de- 
gree. Property is there secure, industry encouraged, 
the arts flourish, and the prince lives secure among his 
subjects, like a father among his children. There are, 
perhaps, and have been for two centuries, near two hun- 
dred absolute princes, great and small, in Europe ; and 
allowing twenty years to each reign, we may suppose, 
that there have been in the whole two thousand mon- 
archs, or tyrants, as the Greeks would have called them ; 
yet of these there has not been one, not even Philip II. 
of Spain, so bad as Tiberius, Caligula, Xero, or Domi- 
tian, who were four in twelve among the Roman empe- 
rors. It must, however, be confessed, that though mon- 
archical governments have approached nearer to popu- 
lar ones in gentleness and stability, they are still inferior. 
Our modern education and customs instil more human- 
ity and moderation than the ancient ; but have not as 
yet been able to overcome entirely the disadvantages 
of that form of government. 

But here I must beg leave to advance a conjecture, 
which seems probable, but which posterity alone can 
fully judge of. I am apt to think, that in monarchical 

* Vide Asc. Ped. in Orat. pro Milone. 


governments there is a source of improvement, and in 
popular governments a source of degeneracy, which in 
time will bring these species of civil polity still nearer 
an equality. The greatest abuses which arise in France, 
the most perfect model of pure monarchy, proceed not 
from the number or weight of the taxes, beyond what 
are to be met with in free countries ; but from the ex- 
pensive, unequal, arbitrary, and intricate method of levy- 
ing them, by which the industry of the poor, especially 
of the peasants and farmers, is in a great measure dis- 
couraged, and agriculture rendered a beggarly and 
slavish employment. But to whose advantage do these 
abuses tend ? If to that of the nobility, they might be 
esteemed inherent in that form of government, since the 
nobility are the true supports of monarchy; and it is 
natural their interest should be more consulted in such 
a constitution, than that of the people. But the nobil- 
ity are, in reality, the chief losers by this oppression, 
since it ruins their estates, and beggars their tenants. 
The only gainers by it are the Financiers ; a race of men 
rather odious to the nobility and the whole kingdom. 
If a prince or minister, therefore, should arise, endowed 
with sufficient discernment to know his own and the 
public interest, and with sufficient force of mind to 
break through ancient customs, we might expect to see 
these abuses remedied ; in which case, the difference be- 
tween that absolute government and our free one would 
not appear so considerable as at present. 

The source of degeneracy which may be remarked in 
free governments, consists in the practice of contracting 
debt, and mortgaging the public revenues, by which 
taxes may, in time, become altogether intolerable, and 
all the property of the state be brought into the hands 
of the public. The practice is of modern date. The 


Athenians, though governed by a republic, paid near 
two hundred per cent, for those sums of money which 
any emergence made it necessary for them to borrow ; 
as we learn from Xenophon * Among the moderns, the 
Dutch first introduced the practice of borrowing great 
sums at low interest, and have wellnigh ruined them- 
selves by it. Absolute princes have also contracted debt ; 
but as an absolute prince may make a bankruptcy 
when he pleases, his people can never be oppressed 
by his debts. In popular governments, the people, 
and chiefly those who have the highest offices, being 
commonly the public creditors, it is difficult for the 
state to make use of this remedy, which, however it 
may sometimes be necessary, is always cruel and bar- 
barous. This, therefore, seems to be an inconvenience 
which nearly threatens all free governments, especially 
our own, at the present juncture of affairs. And what a 
strong motive is this to increase our frugality of public 
money, lest, for want of it, we be reduced, by the 
multiplicity of taxes, or, what is worse, by our public 
impotence and inability for defence, to curse our very 
liberty, and wish ourselves in the same state of servi- 
tude with all the nations who surround us ? 

* Kn/oiv 6e a~' oidevbg av ovru na/j/v Krijnairro uo—ep uo' ov av Trpore/xcuGLV eig ~//v 
uoopujjV. — 01 6e }e 77/elcroi 'Adi/vaiuv ~'/.elova '/ i^bovrat kclt' kvtavrbv '// baa av elaevey- 
Kooiv. 01 yap fivav rcpoTeAeaavreq, eyyvg dvolv fivalv rrpbaodov t^ovot. — r O 6oh.el ruv 
avdpu-ivtov aooa/.eGarov re nal Tro/x'XpovLojTarov elvai. £EN. IIOPOI. 



Those who consider the periods and revolutions of 
human kind, as represented in history, are entertained 
with a spectacle full of pleasure and variety, and see 
with surprise the manners, customs, and opinions of the 
same species susceptible of such prodigious changes in 
different periods of time. It may, however, be observed, 
that, in civil history, there is found a much greater uni- 
formity than in the history of learning and science, and 
that the wars, negotiations, and politics of one age, 
resemble more those of another than the taste, wit, and 
speculative principles. Interest and ambition, honor 
and shame, friendship and enmity, gratitude and re- 
venge, are the prime movers in all public transactions ; 
and these passions are of a very stubborn and untract- 
able nature, in comparison of the sentiments and under- 
standing, which are easily varied by education and 
example. The Goths were much more inferior to the 
Romans in taste and science than in courage and virtue. 

But not to compare together nations so widely differ- 
ent, it may be observed, that even this latter period of 
human learning is, in many respects, of an opposite 
character to the ancient ; and that, if we be superior in 


philosophy, we are still, notwithstanding all our refine- 
ments, much inferior in eloquence. 

In ancient times, no work of genius was thought to 
require so great parts and capacity as the speaking in 
public; and some eminent writers have pronounced the 
talents even of a great poet or philosopher to be of an 
inferior nature to those which are requisite for such an 
undertaking. Greece and Rome produced, each of 
them, but one accomplished orator ; and, whatever 
praises the other celebrated speakers might merit, they 
were still esteemed much inferior to those great models 
of eloquence. It is observable, that the ancient critics 
could scarcely find two orators in any age who deserved 
to be placed precisely in the same rank, and possessed 
the same degree of merit. Calvus, CaMius, Curio, Hor- 
tensius, Caesar, rose one above another : but the greatest 
of that age was inferior to Cicero, the most eloquent 
speaker that had ever appeared in Rome. Those of fine 
taste, however, pronounced this judgment of the Roman 
orator, as well as of the Grecian, that both of them sur- 
passed in eloquence all that had ever appeared, but that 
they were far from reaching the perfection of their art, 
which was infinite, and not only exceeded human force 
to attain, but human imagination to conceive. Cicero 
declares himself dissatisfied with his own performances, 
nay, even with those of Demosthenes. Ita sunt avidce ct 
capaccs niece aures, says he, ct semper aliqidd immensum, in- 
fiaUumque desiderant. 

Of all the polite and learned nations, England alone 
possesses a popular government, or admits into the leg- 
islature such numerous assemblies as can be supposed to 
lie under the dominion of eloquence. Rut what has 
England to boast of in this particular? In enumerat- 
ing the great men who have done honor to our country, 

VOL. III. 14 


we exult in our poets and philosophers ; but what ora- 
tors are ever mentioned ? or where are the monuments 
of their genius to be met with ? There are found, in- 
deed, in our histories, the names of several, who directed 
the resolutions of our parliament : but neither them- 
selves nor others have taken the pains to preserve their 
speeches : and the authority, which they possessed, 
seems to have been owing to their experience, wisdom, 
or power, more than to their talents for oratory. At 
present there are above half a dozen speakers in the 
two Houses, who, in the judgment of the public, have 
reached very near the same pitch of eloquence ; and no 
man pretends to give any one the preference above the 
rest. This seems to me a certain proof, that none of 
them have attained much beyond a mediocrity in their 
art, and that the species of eloquence, which they 
aspire to, gives no exercise to the sublimer faculties of 
the mind, but may be reached by ordinary talents and 
a slight application. A hundred cabinet-makers in Lon- 
don can work a table or a chair equally w r ell ; but no 
one poet can write verses with such spirit and elegance 
as Mr. Pope. 

We are told, that, when Demosthenes was to plead, 
all ingenious men flocked to Athens from the most 
remote parts of Greece, as to the most celebrated spec- 
tacle of the w r orld. ::: At London, you may see men 
sauntering in the court of requests, while the most im- 
portant debate is carrying on in the two Houses ; and 
many do not think themselves sufficiently compensated 

* Xe illud quidem intelligunt, non modo ita memoriae proditum esse, sed 
ita nccesse fuisse, cum Demosthenes dicturus essct, ut concursus, audiendi 
causa, ex tota Graccia fierent. At cum isti Attici dicunt, non modo a corona 
(quod est ipsum miserabile) sed etiam ab advocatis relinquuntur. — Cicero de 
Claris Oratoribus. 


for the losing of their dinners, by all the eloquence of 
our most celebrated speakers. When old Gibber is to 
act, the curiosity of several is more excited, than when 
our prime minister is to defend himself from a motion 
for his removal or impeachment. 

Even a person, unacquainted with the noble remains 
of ancient orators, may judge, from a few strokes, that 
the style or species of their eloquence was infinitely 
more sublime than that which modern orators aspire to. 
How absurd would it appear, in our temperate and calm 
speakers, to make use of an Apostrophe, like that noble 
one of Demosthenes, so much celebrated by Quintilian 
and Longinus, when, justifying the unsuccessful battle of 
Chseronea, he breaks out, " No, my fellow-citizens, No : 
you have not erred. I swear by the manes of those 
heroes, who fought for the same cause in the plains of 
Marathon and Platrea." Who could now endure such a 
bold and poetical figure as that which Cicero employs, 
after describing, in the most tragical terms, the crucifix- 
ion of a Roman citizen ? i; Should I paint the horrors 
of this scene, not to Roman citizens, not to the allies 
of our state, not to those who have ever heard of the 
Roman name, not even to men, but to brute creatures ; 
or, to go further, should I lift up my voice in the most 
desolate solitude, to the rocks and mountains, yet should 
I surely see those rude and inanimate parts of nature 
moved with horror and indignation at the recital of so 
enormous an action."* With what a blaze of elo- 

* The original is : " Quod si haec non ad cives Romanos, non ad aliquos 
amicos nostrae civitatis, non ad eos qui populi Romani nomen audissent ; deni- 
que, si non ad homines, verum ad bestias ; aut etiam, ut longius progrediar, si 
in aliqua desertissima solitudine, ad saxa et ad scopulos haec conqueri et de- 
plorare vellem, tamen omnia muta atque inanima, tanta et tarn indigna re rum 
atrocitate commoverentur." — Cic. in Ver. 


quence must such a sentence be surrounded to give it 
grace, or cause it to make any impression on the 
hearers ! And what noble art and sublime talents are 
requisite to arrive, by just degrees, at a sentiment so 
bold and excessive ! To inflame the audience, so as to 
make them accompany the speaker in such violent pas- 
sions, and such elevated conceptions ; and to conceal, 
under a torrent of eloquence, the artifice by which all 
this is effectuated ! Should this sentiment even appear 
to us excessive, as perhaps justly it may, it will at least 
serve to give an idea of the style of ancient eloquence, 
where such swelling expressions were not rejected as 
wholly monstrous and gigantic. 

Suitable to this vehemence of thought and expression, 
was the vehemence of action, observed in the ancient 
orators. The mpplosio pedis* or stamping with the foot, 
w r as one of the most usual and moderate gestures which 
they made use of; :;: though that is now esteemed too 
violent, either for the senate, bar, or pulpit, and is only 
admitted into the theatre to accompany the most violent 
passions which are there represented. 

One is somewhat at a loss to what cause w T e mav 


ascribe so sensible a decline of eloquence in latter ages. 
The genius of mankind, at all times, is perhaps equal : 
the moderns have applied themselves, with great indus- 
try and success, to all the other arts and sciences : and 
a learned nation possesses a popular government ; a cir- 
cumstance which seems requisite for the full display of 
these noble talents: but notwithstanding all these ad- 

* Ubi dolor? Ubi ardor animi, qui etiam ex infantium ingeniis elicere voces 
et querelas solet ? nulla perturbatio animi. nulla corporis ; frons non percussa, 
non femur; pedis ((/nod minimum est) nulla supplosio. Itaque tantum abfuit 
ut infl nnmares nostros animos ; somnum isto loco vix tenebamus. — Cicero tie 
Claris Orator ib us. 


vantages, our progress in eloquence is very inconsidera- 
ble, in comparison of the advances which we have made 
in all other parts of learning. 

Shall we assert, that the strains of ancient eloquence 
are unsuitable to our age, and ought not to be imitated 
by modern orators ? ^Yhatever reasons may be made 
use of to prove this, I am persuaded they will be found, 
upon examination, to be unsound and unsatisfactory. 

First, It may be said, that, in ancient times, during 
the flourishing period of Greek and Roman learning, 
the municipal laws, in every state, were but few and sim- 
ple, and the decision of causes was, in a great measure, 
left to the equity and common sense of the judges. The 
study of the laws was not then a laborious occupation, 
requiring the drudgery of a whole life to finish it, and 
incompatible with every other study or profession. The 
great statesmen and generals among the Romans were 
all lawyers ; and Cicero, to show the facility of acquiring 
this science, declares, that in the midst of all his occupa- 
tions, he would undertake, in a few days, to make him- 
self a complete civilian. Xow, where a pleader addresses 
himself to the equity of his judges, he has much more 
room to display his eloquence, than where he must 
draw his arguments from strict laws, statutes, and pre- 
cedents. In the former case many circumstances must 
be taken in, many personal considerations regarded, and 
even favor and inclination, which it belongs to the ora- 
tor, by his art and eloquence, to conciliate, may be 
disguised under the appearance of equity. But how 
shall a modern lawyer have leisure to quit his toilsome 
occupations, in order to gather the flowers of Parnassus? 
Or what opportunity shall he have of displaying them, 
amidst the rigid and subtile arguments, objections, and 
replies, w T hich he is obliged to make use of? The 


greatest genius, and greatest orator, who should pretend 
to plead before the Chancellor, after a month's study of 
the laws, would only labor to make himself ridiculous. 

I am ready to own, that this circumstance, of the 
multiplicity and intricacy of laws, is a discouragement 
to eloquence in modern times: but I assert, that it will 
not entirely account for the decline of that noble art. It 
may banish oratory from Westminster Hall, but not 
from either house of Parliament. Among the Athenians, 
the Areopagites expressly forbade all allurements of elo- 
quence ; and some have pretended, that in the Greek 
orations, written in the judiciary form, there is not so 
bold and rhetorical a style as appears in the Roman. 
But to what a pitch did the Athenians carry their 
eloquence in the deliberative kind, when affairs of state 
were canvassed, and the liberty, happiness, and honor of 
the republic, were the subject of debate ! Disputes of 
this nature elevate the genius above all others, and give 
the fullest scope to eloquence ; and such disputes are 
very frequent in this nation. 

Secondly. It may be pretended, that the decline of 
eloquence is owing to the superior good sense of the 
moderns, who reject with disdain all those rhetorical 
tricks employed to seduce the judges, and will admit of 
nothing but solid argument in any debate of delibera- 
tion. If a man be accused of murder, the fact must be 
proved by witnesses and evidence, and the laws will 
afterwards determine the punishment of the criminal. 
It would be ridiculous to describe, in strong colors, the 
horror and cruelty of the action ; to introduce the rela- 
tions of the dead, and, at a signal, make them throw 
themselves at the feet of the judges, imploring justice, 
with tears and lamentations : and still more ridiculous 
would it be, to employ a picture representing the bloody 


deed, in order to move the judges by the display of so 
tragical a spectacle, though we know that this artifice 
was sometimes practised by the pleaders of old.* Now, 
banish the pathetic from public discourses, and you 
reduce the speakers merely to modern eloquence; that 
is, to good sense, delivered in proper expressions. 

Perhaps it may be acknowledged, that our modern 
customs, or our superior good sense, if you will, should 
make our orators more cautious and reserved than the 
ancient, in attempting to inflame the passions, or elevate 
the imagination of their audience : but I see no reason 
why it should make them despair absolutely of succeed- 
ing in that attempt. It should make them redouble 
their art, not abandon it entirely. The ancient orators 
seem also to have been on their guard against this jeal- 
ousy of their audience ; but they took a different way 
of eluding it.f They hurried away with such a torrent 
of sublime and pathetic, that they left their hearers no 
leisure to perceive the artifice by which they were 
deceived. Nay, to consider the matter aright, they 
were not deceived by any artifice. The orator, by the 
force of his own genius and eloquence, first inflamed 
himself with anger, indignation, pity, sorrow; and then 
communicated those impetuous movements to his au- 

Does any man pretend to have more good sense than 
Julius Ciusar? yet that haughty conqueror, we know, 
was so subdued by the charms of Cicero's eloquence, 
that he was, in a manner, constrained to change his 
settled purpose and resolution, and to absolve a crimi- 
nal, whom, before that orator pleaded, he was deter- 
mined to condemn. 

* Quixtil. lib. vi. cap. 1. f Loxgixus, cap. 15. 


* Some objections, I own, notwithstanding his vast 
success, may lie against some passages of the Roman 
orator. He is too florid and rhetorical : his figures are 
too striking and palpable : the divisions of his discourse 
are drawn chiefly from the rules of the schools : and his 
wit disdains not always the artifice even of a pun, rhyme, 
or jingle of words. The Grecian addressed himself to 
an audience much less refined than the Roman senate 
or judges. The lowest vulgar of Athens w T ere his sove- 
reigns, and the arbiters of his eloquence.^ Yet is his 
manner more chaste and austere than that of the other. 
Could it be copied, its success would be infallible over a 
modern assembly. It is rapid harmony, exactly adjusted 
to the sense : it is vehement reasoning, without any 
appearance of art : it is disdain, anger, boldness, freedom, 
involved in a continued stream of argument : and, of all 
human productions, the orations of Demosthenes present 
to us the models which approach the nearest to per- 

Thirdly ', It may be pretended, that the disorders of the 
ancient governments, and the enormous crimes of which 
the citizens were often guilty, afforded much ampler 
matter for eloquence than can be met with among the 
moderns. Were there no Verres or Catiline, there 
would be no Cicero. But that this reason can have no 

* This passage is not in the first Editions, it occurs in Edition N. 

f The orators formed the taste of the Athenian people, not the people of 
the orators. Gorgias Leontinus was very taking with them, till they became 
acquainted with a better manner. His figures of speech, says Diodorus Sicu- 
lus, his antithesis, his iookt/zmc, his o/wire/.evrov, which are now despised, had a 
great effect upon the audience. Lib. xii. p. 10G, ex editione Rliod. It is in 
vain, therefore, for modern orators to plead the taste of their hearers as an 
apology for their lame performances. It would be strange prejudice in favor 
of antiquity, not to allow a British Parliament to be naturally superior in 
judgment and delicacy to an Athenian mob. 


great influence, is evident. It would be easy to find 
a Philip in modern times, but where shall we find a De- 
mosthenes ? 

What remains, then, but that we lay the blame on the 
want of genius, or of judgment, in our speakers, who 
either found themselves incapable of reaching the heights 
of ancient eloquence, or rejected all such endeavors, as 
unsuitable to the spirit of modern assemblies ? A few 
successful attempts of this nature might rouse the genius 
of the nation, excite the emulation of the youth, and 
accustom our ears to a more sublime and more pathetic 
elocution, than what we have been hitherto entertained 
with. There is certainly something accidental in the 
first rise and progress of the arts in any nation. I doubt 
whether a very satisfactory reason can be given why 
ancient Rome, though it received all its refinements 
from Greece, could attain only to a relish for statuary, 
painting, and architecture, without reaching the practice 
of these arts. While modern Rome has been excited by 
a few remains found among the ruins of antiquity, and 
has produced artists of the greatest eminence and dis- 
tinction.* Had such a cultivated genius for oratory, as 
Waller's for poetry, arisen during the civil wars, when 
liberty began to be fully established, and popular assem- 
blies to enter into all the most material points of gov- 
ernment, I am persuaded so illustrious an example 
would have given a quite different turn to British elo- 
quence, and made us reach the perfection of the ancient 
model. Our orators would then have done honor to 
their country, as well as our poets, geometers, and phi- 

* In the early editions the sentence runs thus. Had such a cultivated 
genius as my Lord Bolingbroke arisen during the civil wars, etc. etc. 
VOL. III. 15 


losophers ; and British Ciceros have appeared, as well as 
British Archimedeses and Virgils* 

* I have confessed that there is something accidental in the origin and pro- 
gress of the arts in any nation ; and yet I cannot forbear thinking, that if the 
other learned and polite nations of Europe had possessed the same advan- 
tages of a popular government, they would probably have carried eloquence 
to a greater height than it has yet reached in Britain. The French sermons, 
especially those of Flechier and Bourdaloue, are much superior to the Eng- 
lish in this particular ; and in Flechier there are many strokes of the most 
sublime poetry. His funeral sermon on the Marechal de Turenne, is a good 
instance. None but private causes in that country, are ever debated before 
their Parliament or Courts of Judicature ; but, notwithstanding this disadvan- 
tage, there appears a spirit of eloquence in many of their lawyers, which, with 
proper cultivation and encouragement, might rise to the greatest heights. The 
pleadings of Patru are very elegant, and give us room to imagine what so fine 
a genius could have performed in questions concerning public liberty or 
slavery, peace or war, who exerts himself with such success, in debates con- 
cerning the price of an old horse, or the gossiping story of a quarrel betwixt 
an abbess and her nuns. For it is remarkable, that this polite writer, though 
esteemed by all the men of wit in his time, was never employed in the most 
considerable causes of their courts of judicature, but lived and died in poverty ; 
from an ancient prejudice industriously propagated by the Dunces in all coun- 
tries, That a man of genius is unfit for business. The disorders produced by 
the ministry of Cardinal Mazarine, made the Parliament of Paris enter into 
the discussion of public affairs ; and during that short interval, there appeared 
many symptoms of the revival of ancient eloquence. The Avocat- General, 
Talon, in an oration, invoked on his knees the spirit of St. Louis to look down 
with compassion on his divided and unhappy people, and to inspire them, from 
above, with the love of concord and unanimity .f The members of the French 
Academy have attempted to give us models of eloquence in their harangues 
at their admittance; but having no subject to discourse upon, they have run 
altogether into a fulsome strain of panegyric and flattery, the most barren of 
all subjects. Their style, however, is commonly, on these occasions, very ele- 
vated and sublime, and might reach the greatest heights, were it employed on 
a subject more favorable and engaging. 

There are some circumstances in the English temper and genius, which are 
disadvantageous to the progress of eloquence, and render all attempts of that 
kind more dangerous and difficult among them, than among any other nation 
in the universe. The English are conspicuous for good sense, which makes 
them very jealous of any attempts to deceive them, by the flowers of rhetoric 
and elocution. They are also peculiarly modest ; which makes them consider 

f De Uetz's Memoirs. 


It is seldom or never found, when a false taste in po- 
etry or eloquence prevails among any people, that it has 
been preferred to a true, upon comparison and reflection. 
It commonly prevails merely from ignorance of the 
true, and from the want of perfect models to lead men 
into a juster apprehension, and more refined relish of 
those productions of genius. When these appear, they 
soon unite all suffrages in their favor, and, by their nat- 
ural and powerful charms, gain over even the most 
prejudiced to the love and admiration of them. The 
principles of every passion, and of every sentiment, is 
in every man ; and, when touched properly, they rise 
to life, and warm the heart, and convey that satisfaction, 
by which a work of genius is distinguished from the 
adulterate beauties of a capricious wit and fancy. And, 
if this observation be true, with regard to all the liberal 
arts, it must be peculiarly so with regard to eloquence ; 
which, being merely calculated for the public, and for 
men of the world, cannot, with any pretence of reason, 

it as a piece of arrogance to offer any thing but reason to public assemblies, 
or attempt to guide them by passion or fancy. I may, perhaps, be allowed to 
add, that the people in general are not remarkable for delicacy of taste, or for 
sensibility to the charms of the Muses. Their musical parts, to use the ex- 
pression of a noble author, are but indilferent. Hence their comic poets, to 
move them, must have recourse to obscenity ; their tragic poets to blood and 
slaughter. And hence, their orators, being deprived of any such resource, 
have abandoned altogether the hopes of moving them, and have confined 
themselves to plain argument and reasoning. 

These circumstances, joined to particular accidents, may, perhaps, have re- 
tarded the growth of eloquence in this kingdom ; but will not be able to pre- 
vent its success, if ever it appear amongst us. And one may safely pro- 
nounce, that this is a field in which the most nourishing laurels may yet be 
gathered, if any youth of accomplished genius, thoroughly acquainted with all 
the polite arts, and not ignorant of public business, should appear in Par- 
liament, and accustom our ears to an eloquence more commanding and pa- 
thetic. And to confirm me in this opinion, there occur two considerations, the 
one derived from ancient, the other from modern times. 


appeal from the people to more refined judges, but must 
submit to the public verdict without reserve or limita- 
tion. Whoever, upon comparison, is deemed by a com- 
mon audience the greatest orator, ought most certainly 
to be pronounced such by men of science and erudition. 
And though an indifferent speaker may triumph for a 
long time, and be esteemed altogether perfect by the 
vulgar, who are satisfied with his accomplishments, and 
know not in what he is defective ; yet, whenever the 
true genius arises, he draws to him the attention of 
every one, and immediately appears superior to his 

Now, to judge by this rule, ancient eloquence, that is, 
the sublime and passionate, is of a much juster taste 
than the modern, or the argumentative and rational, 
and, if properly executed, will always have more com- 
mand and authority over mankind. We are satisfied 
with our mediocrity, because we have had no experi- 
ence of any thing better : but the ancients had experi- 
ence of both ; and upon comparison, gave the prefer- 
ence to that kind of which they have left us such ap- 
plauded models. For, if I mistake not, our modern 
eloquence is of the same style or species with that 
which ancient critics denominated Attic eloquence, that 
is, calm, elegant, and subtile, w T hich instructed the reason 
more than affected the passions, and never raised its 
tone above argument or common discourse. Such was 
the eloquence of Lysias among the Athenians, and of 
Calvus among the Romans. These were esteemed in 
their time ; but, when compared with Demosthenes and 
Cicero, were eclipsed like a taper when set in the rays 
of a meridian sun. Those latter orators possessed the 
same elegance, and subtilty, and force of argument with 
the former ; but, what rendered them chiefly admirable, 


was that pathetic and sublime, which, on proper occa- 
sions, they threw into their discourse, and by which they 
commanded the resolution of their audience. 

Of this species of eloquence we have scarcely had 
any instance in England, at least in our public speakers. 
In our writers, we have had some instances which have 
met with great applause, and might assure our ambi- 
tious youth of equal or superior glory in attempts for 
the revival of ancient eloquence. Lord Bolingbroke's 
productions, with all their defects in argument, method, 
and precision, contain a force and energy which our ora- 
tors scarcely ever aim at ; though it is evident that such 
an elevated style has much better grace in a speaker 
than in a writer, and is assured of more prompt and 
more astonishing success. It is there seconded by the 
graces of voice and action : the movements are mutually 
communicated between the orator and the audience : 
and the very aspect of a large assembly, attentive to 
the discourse of one man, must inspire him with a pecu- 
liar elevation, sufficient to give a propriety to the 
strongest figures and expressions. It is true, there is a 
great prejudice against set speeches; and a man cannot 
escape ridicule, who repeats a discourse as a school-boy 
does his lesson, and takes no notice of any thing that 
has been advanced in the course of the debate. But 
where is the necessity of falling into this absurdity ? A 
public speaker must know beforehand the question 
under debate. He may compose all the arguments, ob- 
jections, and answers, such as he thinks will be most 
proper for his discourse.* If any thing new occur, he 

* The first of the Athenians, who composed and wrote his speeches, was 
Pericles, a man of business and a man of sense, if ever there was one, TlpibTog 
ypa-rbv ?.6yov kv dtKacTTjpio) elrce, tuv repb avru axc^a^ovTuv. Suidas in UepLKAr/g. 


may supply it from his own invention ; nor will the dif- 
ference be very apparent between his elaborate and his 
extemporary compositions. The mind naturally con- 
tinues with the same impetus or force, which it has ac- 
quired by its motion, as a vessel, once impelled by the 
oars, carries on its course for some time when the origi- 
nal impulse is suspended. 

I shall conclude this subject with observing, that, 
even though our modern orators should not elevate 
their style, or aspire to a rivalship with the ancient ; 
yet there is, in most of their speeches, a material 
defect which they might correct, without departing 
from that composed air of argument and reasoning to 
which they limit their ambition. Their great affecta- 
tion of extemporary discourses has made them reject 
all order and method, which seems so requisite to argu- 
ment, and without which it is scarcely possible to pro- 
duce an entire conviction on the mind. It is not that 
one would recommend many divisions in a public dis- 
course, unless the subject very evidently offer them : 
but it is easy, without this formality, to observe a 
method, and make that method conspicuous to the 
hearers, who will be infinitely pleased to see the ar- 
guments rise naturally from one another, and will re- 
tain a more thorough persuasion than can arise from 
the strongest reasons which are thrown together in con- 



Nothing requires greater nicety, in our inquiries con- 
cerning human affairs, than to distinguish exactly what 
is owing to chance, and what proceeds from causes ; nor 
is there any subject in which an author is more liable to 
deceive himself by false subtilties and refinements. To 
say that any event is derived from chance, cuts short all 
further inquiry concerning it, and leaves the writer in 
the same state of ignorance with the rest of mankind. 
But when the event is supposed to proceed from certain 
and stable causes, he may then display his ingenuity in 
assigning these causes ; and as a man of any subtilty 
can never be at a loss in this particular, he has thereby 
an opportunity of swelling his volumes, and discovering 
his profound knowledge in observing what escapes the 
vulgar and ignorant. 

The distinguishing between chance and causes must 
depend upon every particular man's sagacity in consid- 
ering every particular incident. But if I were to as- 
sign any general rule to help us in applying this dis- 
tinction, it would be the following : What depends upon 
a few persons is, in a great measure, to be ascribed to chance, 
or secret and unknown causes : what arises from a great num- 


her, may often he accounted for hy determinate and known 

Two natural reasons may be assigned for this rule. 
First, If you suppose a die to have any bias, however 
small, to a particular side, this bias, though perhaps it 
may not appear in a few throws, will certainly prevail 
in a great number, and will cast the balance entirely 
to that side. In like manner, when any causes beget a 
particular inclination or passion, at a certain time, and 
among a certain people, though many individuals may 
escape the contagion, and be ruled by passions peculiar 
to themselves, yet the multitude will certainly be seized 
by the common affection, and be governed by it in all 
their actions. 

Secondly, Those principles or causes which are fitted 
to operate on a multitude, are always of a grosser and 
more stubborn nature, less subject to accidents, and less 
influenced by whim and private fancy, than those which 
operate on a few only. The latter are commonly so 
delicate and refined, that the smallest incident in the 
health, education, or fortune of a particular person, is 
sufficient to divert their course and retard their opera- 
tion; nor is it possible to reduce them to any general 
maxims or observations. Their influence at one time 
will never assure us concerning their influence at 
another, even though all the general circumstances 
should be the same in both cases. 

To judge by this rule, the domestic and the gradual 
revolutions of a state must be a more proper subject 
of reasoning and observation than the foreign and the 
violent, which are commonly produced by single per- 
sons, and are more influenced by whim, folly, or caprice, 
than by general passions and interests. The depression 
of the Lords, and rise of the Commons in England, 


after the statutes of alienation, and the increase of trade 
and industry, are more easily accounted for by general 
principles, than the depression of the Spanish, and rise 
of the French monarchy, after the death of Charles 
Quint. Had Harry IV., Cardinal Richelieu, and Louis 
XIV. been Spaniards, and Philip II., III., and IV., and 
Charles II. been Frenchmen, the history of these two 
nations had been entirely reversed. 

For the same reason, it is more easy to account for 
the rise and progress of commerce in any kingdom 
than for that of learning; and a state, which should 
apply itself to the encouragement of one, would be 
more assured of success than one which should culti- 
vate the other. Avarice, or the desire of gain, is an 
universal passion, which operates at all times, in all 
places, and upon all persons : but curiosity, or the love 
of knowledge, has a very limited influence, and requires 
youth, leisure, education, genius, and example, to make 
it govern any person. You will never want booksellers 
while there are buyers of books : but there may fre- 
quently be readers where there are no authors. Multi- 
tudes of people, necessity and liberty, have begotten 
commerce in Holland : but study and application have 
scarcely produced any eminent w r riters. 

We may therefore conclude, that there is no subject 
in which we must proceed with more caution than in 
tracing the history of the arts and sciences, lest we 
assign causes which never existed, and reduce what is 
merely contingent to stable and universal principles. 
Those who cultivate the sciences in any state are always 
few in number ; the passion which governs them 
limited ; their taste and judgment delicate and easily 
perverted ; and their application disturbed with the 
smallest accident. Chance, therefore, or secret and 

vol. in. 16 


unknown causes, must have a great influence on the 
rise and progress of all the refined arts. 

But there is a reason which induces me not to ascribe 
the matter altogether to chance. Though the persons 
who cultivate the sciences with such astonishing success 
as to attract the admiration of posterity, be always few 
in all nations and all ages, it is impossible but a share 
of the same spirit and genius must be antecedently 
diffused throughout the people among whom they arise, 
in order to produce, form, and cultivate, from their 
earliest infancy, the taste and judgment of those 
eminent writers. The mass cannot be altogether in- 
sipid from which such refined spirits are extracted. 
There is a God within us, says Ovid, who breathes that 
divine fire by which ive arc animated* Poets in all 
ages have advanced this claim to inspiration. There 
is not, however, any thing supernatural in the case. 
Their fire is not kindled from heaven. It only runs 
along the earth, is caught from one breast to another, 
and burns brightest where the materials are best pre- 
pared and most happily disposed. The question, there- 
fore, concerning the rise and progress of the arts and 
sciences is not altogether a question concerning the 
taste, genius, and spirit of a few, but concerning those 
of a whole people, and may therefore be accounted for, 
in some measure, by general causes and principles. I 
grant that a man, who should inquire why such a 
particular poet, as Homer, for instance, existed at such 
a place, in such a time, w T ould throw himself headlong 
into chimera, and could never treat of such a subject 
without a multitude of false suhtilties and refinements. 

* Est Deus in nobis ; agitante ealescimus illo : 
Impetus hie, sacne semina mentis liabet. Ovid. Fast. lib. i. 


He might as well pretend to give a reason why such 
particular generals as Fabius and Scipio lived in Rome 
at such a time, and why Fabius came into the world 
before Scipio. For such incidents as these no other 
reason can be driven than that of Horace : — 

Scit genius, natale comes, qui temperat astrum, 
Xatura? Deus humana?, raortalis in unum 

Quodque caput, vultu mutabilis, albus et ater. 

But I am persuaded that in many cases good reasons 
might be given why such a nation is more polite and 
learned, at a particular time, than any of its neighbors. 
At least this is so curious a subject, that it were a pity 
to abandon it entirely before we have found whether it 
be susceptible of reasoning, and can be reduced to any 
general principles. 

My first observation on this head is, That it is impossi- 
ble for the arts and sciences to arise, at first, among any 
people, unless that people enjoy the Messing of a free govern- 

In the first ages of the world, when men are as yet 
barbarous and ignorant, they seek no further security 
against mutual violence and injustice than the choice of 
some rulers, few or many, in whom they place an 
implicit confidence, without providing any security, by 
laws or political institutions, against the violence and 
injustice of these rulers. If the authority be centred 
in a single person, and if the people, either by conquest 
or by the ordinary course of propagation, increase to a 
great multitude, the monarch, finding it impossible, in 
his own person, to execute every office of sovereignty, 
in every place, must delegate his authority to inferior 
magistrates, who preserve peace and order in their 
respective districts. As experience and education have 


not yet refined the judgments of men to any consider- 
able degree, the prince, who is himself unrestrained, 
never dreams of restraining his ministers, but delegates 
his full authority to every one whom he sets over any 
portion of the people. All general laws are attended 
with inconveniences, when applied to particular cases ; 
and it requires great penetration and experience, both 
to perceive that these inconveniences are fewer than 
what result from full discretionary powers in every 
magistrate, and also to discern what general laws are, 
upon the whole, attended with fewest inconveniences. 
This is a matter of so great difficulty, that men may 
have made some advances, even in the sublime arts of 
poetry and eloquence, where a rapidity of genius and 
imagination assists their progress, before they have 
arrived at any great refinement in their municipal laws, 
where frequent trials and diligent observation can alone 
direct their improvements. It is not, therefore, to be 
supposed, that a barbarous monarch, unrestrained and 
uninstructed, will ever become a legislator, or think of 
restraining his Bashaws in every province, or even his 
Cadis in every village. We are told, that the late Czar, 
though actuated with a noble genius, and smit with the 
love and admiration of European arts ; yet professed 
an esteem for the Turkish policy in this particular, and 
approved of such summary decisions of causes, as are 
practised in that barbarous monarchy, where the judges 
are not restrained by any methods, forms, or laws. He 
did not perceive, how contrary such a practice would 
have been to all his other endeavors for refining his 
people. Arbitrary power, in all cases, is somewhat 
oppressive and debasing : but it is altogether ruinous 
and intolerable, when contracted into a small compass ; 
and becomes still w T orse, when the person, who possesses 


it, knows that the time of his authority is limited and 
uncertain. Ilabet subjectos tanquam saos ; vilcs nl alienos.* 
He governs the subjects with full authority, as if they 
were his own ; and with negligence or tyranny, as 
belonging to another. A people, governed after such 
a manner, are slaves in the full and proper sense of the 
word ; and it is impossible they can ever aspire to any 
refinements of taste or reason. They dare not so much 
as pretend to enjoy the necessaries of life in plenty or 

To expect, therefore, that the arts and sciences should 
take their first rise in a monarchy, is to expect a contra- 
diction. Before these refinements have taken place, the 
monarch is ignorant and uninstructed ; and not having 
knowledge sufficient to make him sensible of the neces- 
sity of balancing his government upon general laws, he 
delegates his full power to all inferior magistrates. This 
barbarous policy debases the people, and for ever pre- 
vents all improvements. Were it possible, that, before 
science were known in the world, a monarch could 
possess so much wisdom as to become a legislator, and 
govern his people by law, not by the arbitrary will of 
their fellow-subjects, it might be possible for that species 
of government to be the first nursery of arts and 
sciences. But that supposition seems scarcely to be con- 
sistent or rational. 

It may happen, that a republic, in its infant state, may 
be supported by as few laws as a barbarous monarchy, 
and may intrust as unlimited an authority to its magis- 
trates or judges. But, besides that the frequent elec- 
tions by the people are a considerable check upon au- 
thority ; it is impossible, but in time, the necessity of 

* Tacit. Hist lit* i. 


restraining the magistrates, in order to preserve liberty, 
must at last appear, and give rise to general laws and 
statutes. The Roman Consuls, for some time, decided 
all causes, without being confined by any positive stat- 
utes, till the people, bearing this yoke with impatience, 
created the decemvirs, who promulgated the Twelve 
Tables; a body of laws which, though perhaps they 
were not equal in bulk to one English act of Parlia- 
ment, were almost the only written rules, which regu- 
lated property and punishment, for some ages, in that 
famous republic. They were, however, sufficient, to- 
gether with the forms of a free government, to secure 
the lives and properties of the citizens ; to exempt one 
man from the dominion of another ; and to protect 
every one against the violence or tyranny of his fellow- 
citizens. In such a situation, the sciences may raise 
their heads and flourish ; but never can have being 
amidst such a scene of oppression and slavery, as always 
results from barbarous monarchies, where the people 
alone are restrained by the authority of the magistrates, 
and the magistrates are not restrained by any law or 
statute. An unlimited despotism of this nature, while 
it exists, effectually puts a stop to all improvements, and 
keeps men from attaining that knowledge, which is 
requisite to instruct them in the advantages arising from 
a better police, and more moderate authority. 

Here then are the advantages of free states. Though 
a republic should be barbarous, it necessarily, by an in- 
fallible operation, gives rise to Law, even before man- 
kind have made any considerable advances in the other 
sciences. From law arises security; from security curi- 
osity ; and from curiosity knowledge. The latter steps 
of this progress maybe more accidental; but the former 
are altogether necessary. A republic without laws can 


never have any duration. On the contrary, in a mon- 
archical government, law arises not necessarily from the 
forms of government. Monarchy, when absolute, con- 
tains even something repugnant to law. Great wisdom 
and reflection can alone reconcile them. But such a 
degree of wisdom can never be expected, before the 
greater refinements and improvements of human reason. 
These refinements require curiosity, security, and law. 
The first growth, therefore, of the arts and sciences, can 
never be expected in despotic governments.* 

There are other causes, which discourage the rise of 
the refined arts in despotic governments; though I take 
the want of laws, and the delegation of full powers to 
every petty magistrate, to be the principal. Eloquence 
certainly springs up more naturally in popular govern- 
ments. Emulation, too, in every accomplishment, must 
there be more animated and enlivened ; and genius and 
capacity have a fuller scope and career. All these 
causes render free governments the only proper nursery 
for the arts and sciences. 

The next observation which I shall make on this head 
is, That nothing is more favorable to the rise of politeness and 
learning, than a number of neighboring and independent states, 
connected together by commerce and policy. The emulation 
which naturally arises among those neighboring states 
is an obvious source of improvement. But what I would 
chiefly insist on is the stop which such limited territories 
give both to power and to authority. 

* According to the necessary progress of things, law must precede science. 
In republics, law may precede science, and may arise from the very nature of 
the government. In monarchies, it arises not from the nature of the govern- 
ment, and cannot precede science. An absolute prince, that is barbarous, 
renders all his ministers and magistrates as absolute as himself: and there 
needs no more to prevent, for ever, all industry, curiosity, and science. — Edi- 
tions B, D, and N. 

128 ESSAY XI V. 

Extended governments, where a single person has 
great influence, soon become absolute; but small ones 
change naturally into commonwealths. A large gov- 
ernment is accustomed by degrees to tyranny, because 
each act of violence is at first performed upon a part, 
which, being distant from the majority, is not taken 
notice of, nor excites any violent ferment. Besides, a 
large government, though the whole be discontented, 
may, by a little art, be kept in obedience ; while each 
part, ignorant of the resolutions of the rest, is afraid to 
begin any commotion or insurrection : not to mention 
that there is a superstitious reverence for princes, which 
mankind naturally contract when they do not often see 
the sovereign, and when many of them become not 
acquainted with him so as to perceive his weaknesses. 
And as large states can afford a great expense in order 
to support the pomp of majesty, this is a kind of fasci- 
nation on men, and naturally contributes to the enslav- 
ing of them. 

In a small government any act of oppression is imme- 
diately known throughout the whole ; the murmurs and 
discontents proceeding from it are easily communicated ; 
and the indignation arises the higher, because the sub- 
jects are not to aj)prehend, in such states, that the 
distance is very wide between themselves and their 
sovereign. " No man," said the Prince of Conde, u is a 
hero to his valet de chambre." It is certain that admiration 
and acquaintance are altogether incompatible tow r ards 
any mortal creature. Sleep and love convinced even 
Alexander himself that he was not a God. But I sup- 
pose that such as daily attended him could easily, from 
the numberless weaknesses to which he was subject, 
have given him many still more convincing proofs of 
his humanity. 


But the divisions into small states are favorable to 
learning, by stopping the progress of authority as well as 
that ot'poiver. Reputation is often as great a fascination 
upon men as sovereignty, and is equally destructive to 
the freedom of thought and examination. But where a 
number of neighboring states have a great intercourse 
of arts and commerce, their mutual jealousy keeps them 
from receiving too lightly the law from each other, in 
matters of taste and of reasoning and makes them 
examine every work of art with the greatest care and 
accuracy. The contagion of popular opinion spreads 
not so easily from one place to another. It readily 
receives a check in some state or other, where it con- 
curs not with the prevailing prejudices. And nothing 
but nature and reason, or at least what bears them a 
strong resemblance, can force its way through all obsta- 
cles, and unite the most rival nations into an esteem 
and admiration of it. 

Greece was a cluster of little principalities, which 
soon became republics ; and being united both by their 
near neighborhood, and by the ties of the same language 
and interest, they entered into the closest intercourse 
of commerce and learning. There concurred a happy 
climate, a soil not unfertile, and a most harmonious and 
comprehensive language ; so that every circumstance 
among that people seemed to favor the rise of the arts 
and sciences. Each city produced its several artists and 
philosophers, who refused to yield the preference to 
those of the neighboring republics; their contention 
and debates sharpened the wits of men ; a variety of 
objects was presented to the judgment, while each chal- 
lenged the preference to the rest ; and the sciences, not 
being dwarfed by the restraint of authority, were enabled 
to make such considerable shoots as are even at this 

vol. in. IT 


time the objects of our admiration. After the Roman 
Christian or Catholic church had spread itself over the 
civilized world, and had engrossed all the learning of 
the times, being really one large state within itself, and 
united under one head, this variety of sects immediately 
disappeared, and the Peripatetic philosophy was alone 
admitted into all the schools, to the utter depravation 
of every kind of learning. But mankind having at 
length thrown off this yoke, affairs are now returned 
nearly to the same situation as before, and Europe is at 
present a copy, at large, of what Greece was formerly a 
pattern in miniature. We have seen the advantage of 
this situation in several instances. What checked the 
progress of the Cartesian philosophy, to which the French 
nation showed such a strong propensity towards the end 
of the last century, but the opposition made to it by the 
other nations of Europe, who soon discovered the weak 
sides of that philosophy ? The severest scrutiny which 
Newton's theory has undergone proceeded not from his 
own countrymen, but from foreigners ; and if it can 
overcome the obstacles which it meets with at present 
in all parts of Europe, it will probably go down trium- 
phant to the latest posterity. The English are become 
sensible of the scandalous licentiousness of their stage, 
from the example of the French decency and morals. 
The French are convinced that their theatre has become 
somewhat effeminate by too much love and gallantry, 
and begin to approve of the more masculine taste of 
some neighboring nations. 

In China, there seems to be a pretty considerable 
stock of politeness and science, which, in the course of so 
many centuries, might naturally be expected to ripen 
into something more perfect and finished than what has 
yet arisen from them. But China is one vast empire, 


speaking one language, governed by one law, and sym- 
pathizing in the same manners. The authority of any 
teacher, such as Confucius, was propagated easily from 
one corner of the empire to the other. None had courage 
to resist the torrent of popular opinion : and posterity was 
not bold enough to dispute what had been universally 
received by their ancestors. This seems to be one nat- 
ural reason why the sciences have made so slow a 
progress in that mighty empire.* 

If we consider the face of the globe, Europe, of all 
the four parts of the world, is the most broken by seas, 
rivers, and mountains, and Greece of all countries of 
Europe. Hence these regions were naturally divided 
into several distinct governments ; and hence the sci- 
ences arose in Greece, and Europe has been hitherto the 
most constant habitation of them. 

I have sometimes been inclined to think, that inter- 
ruptions in the periods of learning, were they not at- 
tended with such a destruction of ancient books, and 

* If it be asked how we can reconcile to the foregoing principles the happi- 
ness, riches, and good police of the Chinese, who have always been governed 
by a monarch, and can scarcely form an idea of a free government; I would 
answer, that though the Chinese government be a pure monarchy, it is not, 
properly speaking, absolute. This proceeds from a peculiarity in the situa- 
tion of that country : they have no neighbors, except the Tartars, from whom 
they were, in some measure, secured, at least seemed to be secured, by their 
famous wall, and by the great superiority of their numbers. By this means, 
military discipline has always been much neglected amongst them: and their 
standing forces are mere militia of the worst kind, and unfit to suppress any 
general insurrection in countries so extremely populous. The sword, there- 
fore, may properly be said to be always in the hands of the people ; which is a 
sufficient restraint upon the monarch, and obliges him to lay his mandarins, or 
governors of provinces, under the restraint of general laws, in order to pre- 
vent those rebellions which we learn from history to have been so frequent 
and dangerous in that government. Perhaps a pure monarchy of this kind, 
were it fitted for defence against foreign enemies, would be the best of all 
governments, as having both the tranquillity attending kingly power, and the 
moderation and liberty of popular assemblies. 


the records of history, would be rather favorable to the 
arts and sciences, by breaking the progress of authority, 
and dethroning the tyrannical usurpers over human 
reason. In this particular, they have the same influence 
as interruptions in political governments and societies. 
Consider the blind submission of the ancient philoso- 
phers to the several masters in each school, and you 
will be convinced, that little good could be expected 
from a hundred centuries of such a servile philosophy. 
Even the Eclectics, who arose about the age of Aiums- 
tus, notwithstanding their professing to choose freely 
what pleased them from every different sect, were yet, 
in the main, as slavish and dependent as any of their 
brethren ; since they sought for truth, not in Nature, 
but in the several schools ; where they supposed she 
must necessarily be found, though not united in a body, 
yet dispersed in parts. Upon the revival of learning, 
those sects of Stoics and Epicureans, Platonists and 
Pythagoreans, could never regain any credit or author- 
ity ; and, at the same time, by the example of their fall, 
kept men from submitting, with such blind deference, to 
those new sects, which have attempted to gain an as- 
cendant over them. 

The third observation, which I shall form on this head, 
of the rise and progress of the arts and sciences, is, 
That, though the out// proper nursery of these nolle plants he 
a free stale, yet may they he transplanted into any government ; 
and that a republic is most favorable to the growth of the sci- 
ences, and a civilized monarchy to that of the polite arts. 

To balance a lar^e state or societv, whether monarch- 
ical or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great 
difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehen- 
sive, is able, by the mere dint of reason and reflection, 
to effect it. The judgments of many must unite in 


this work : experience must guide their labor : time 
must bring it to perfection : and the feeling of incon- 
veniences must correct the mistakes, which they inevi- 
tably fall into, in their first trials and experiments. 
Hence appears the impossibility that this undertaking 
should be begun and carried on in any monarchy ; since 
such a form of government, ere civilized, knows no 
other secret or policy, than that of intrusting unlimited 
powers to every governor or magistrate, and subdividing 
the people into so many classes and orders of slavery. 
From such a situation, no improvement can ever be ex- 
pected in the sciences, in the liberal arts, in laws, and 
scarcely in the manual arts and manufactures. The 
same barbarism and ignorance, with which the orovern- 
ment commences, is propagated to all posterity, and can 
never come to a period by the efforts or ingenuity of 
such unhappy slaves. 

But though law, the source of all security and happi- 
ness, arises late in any government, and is the slow 
product of order and of liberty, it is not preserved with 
the same difficulty with which it is produced ; but when 
it has once taken root, is a hardy plant, which will 
scarcely ever perish through the ill culture of men, or 
the rigor of the seasons. The arts of luxury, and much 
more the liberal arts, which depend on a refined taste 
or sentiment, are easily lost ; because they are always 
relished by a few only, whose leisure, fortune, and genius, 
fit them for such amusements. But what is profitable to 
every mortal, and in common life, when once discovered, 
can scarcely fall into oblivion, but by the total subver- 
sion of society, and by such furious inundations of bar- 
barous invaders, as obliterate all memory of former arts 
and civility. Imitation also is apt to transport these 
coarser and more useful arts from one climate to 


another, and to make them precede the refined arts in 
their progress ; though, perhaps, they sprang after them 
in their first rise and propagation. From these causes 
proceed civilized monarchies, where the arts of gov- 
ernment, first invented in free states, are preserved 
to the mutual advantage and security of sovereign and 

However perfect, therefore, the monarchical form 
may appear to some politicians, it owes all its perfec- 
tion to the republican ; nor is it possible that a pure 
despotism, established among a barbarous people, can 
ever, by its native force and energy, refine and polish 
itself. It must borrow its laws, and methods, and insti- 
tutions, and consequently its stability and order, from 
free governments. These advantages are the sole 
growth of republics. The extensive despotism of a 
barbarous monarchy, by entering into the detail of the 
government, as well as into the principal points of ad- 
ministration, for ever prevents all such improvements. 

In a civilized monarchy, the prince alone is unre- 
strained in the exercise of his authority, and possesses 
alone a power, which is not bounded by any thing but 
custom, example, and the sense of his own interest. 
Every minister or magistrate, however eminent, must 
submit to the general laws which govern the whole so- 
ciety, and must exert the authority delegated to him 
after the manner which is prescribed. The people de- 
pend on none but their sovereign for the security of 
their property. He is so far removed from them, and 
is so much exempt from private jealousies or interests, 
that this dependence is scarcely felt. And thus a species 
of government arises, to which, in a high political rant, 
we may give the name of Tyranny, but which, by a just 
and prudent administration, may afford tolerable secu- 


rity to the people, and may answer most of the ends of 
political society. 

But though in a civilized monarchy, as well as in a 
republic, the people have security for the enjoyment of 
their property, yet in both these forms of government, 
those who possess the supreme authority have the dis- 
posal of many honors and advantages, which excite 
the ambition and avarice of mankind. The only differ- 
ence is, that, in a republic, the candidates for office 
must look downwards to gain the suffrages of the peo- 
ple ; in a monarchy, they must turn their attention 
upwards, to court the good graces and favor of the 
great. To be successful in the former w r ay, it is neces- 
sary for a man to make himself useful by his industry, 
capacity, or knowledge : to be prosperous in the latter 
way, it is requisite for him to render himself agreeable 
by his wit, complaisance, or civility. A strong genius 
succeeds best in republics ; a refined taste in mon- 
archies. And, consequently, the sciences are the more 
natural growth of the one, and the polite arts of the 

Not to mention, that monarchies, receiving their chief 
stability from a superstitious reverence to priests and 
princes, have commonly abridged the liberty of reason- 
ing, with regard to religion and politics, and conse- 
quently metaphysics and morals. All these form the 
most considerable branches of science. Mathematics and 
natural philosophy, which only remain, are not half so 
valuable/ 11 

* Immediately after this passage, we find in the early Editions B, D, 
and N : — 

There is a very great connection among- all the arts, that contribute to 
pleasure ; and the same delicacy of taste which enables us to make improve- 
ments in one, will not allow the others to remain altogether rude and bar- 


Among the arts of conversation, no one pleases more 
than mutual deference or civility, which leads us to resign 
our own inclinations to those of our companion, and to 
curb and conceal that presumption and arrogance so 
natural to the human mind. A good-natured man, who 
is well educated, practises this civility to every mortal, 
without premeditation or interest. But in order to ren- 
der that valuable quality general among any people, it 
seems necessary to assist the natural disposition by some 
general motive. Where pow r er rises upwards from the 
people to the great, as in all republics, such refinements 
of civility are apt to be little practised, since the whole 
state is, by that means, brought near to a level, and 
every member of it is rendered, in a great measure, in- 
dependent of another. The people have the advantage, 
by the authority of their suffrages; the great by the 
superiority of their station. But in a civilized monarchy, 
there is a long train of dependence from the prince to 
the peasant, which is not great enough to render prop- 
erty precarious, or depress the minds of the people ; but 
is sufficient to beget in every one an inclination to 
please his superiors, and to form himself upon those 
models which are most acceptable to people of condition 
and education. Politeness of manners, therefore, arises 
most naturally in monarchies and courts ; and where 
that flourishes, none of the liberal arts will be altogether 
neglected or despised. 

The republics in Europe are at present noted for want 
of politeness. The good manners of a Swiss civilized in Hol- 
land* is an expression for rusticity among the French. 
The English, in some degree, fall under the same censure, 
notwithstanding their learning and genius. And if the 

* C'est la politesse d'un Suisse 
En Ilollande civilise. Rousseau. 


Venetians be an exception to the rule, they owe it, per- 
haps, to their communication with the other Italians, 
most of whose governments beget a dependence more 
than sufficient for civilizing their manners. 

It is difficult to pronounce any judgment concerning 
the refinements of the ancient republics in this particu- 
lar : but I am apt to suspect, that the arts of conversa- 
tion were not brought so near to perfection among them 
as the arts of writing and composition. The scurrility 
of the ancient orators, in many instances, is quite shock- 
ing, and exceeds all belief. Vanity, too, is often not a 
little offensive in authors of those ages; :;: as well as the 
common licentiousness and immodesty of their style. 
Quicunque impudicus, adulter ', ganeo, manu, ventre, pene, bona 
patria laceraverat, says Sallust, in one of the gravest and 
most moral passages of his history. Nam full ante Ilcle- 
nam Cumins, teterrima belli causa, is an expression of 
Horace, in tracing the origin of moral good and evil. 
Ovid and Lucretius f are almost as licentious in their 
style as Lord Eochester ; though the former were fine 
gentlemen and delicate writers, and the latter, from the 
corruptions of that court in which he lived, seems to 
have thrown off all regard to shame and decency. 
Juvenal inculcates modesty with great zeal; but sets a 
very bad example of it, if we consider the impudence 
of his expressions. 

* It is needless to cite Cicero or Pliny on this head : they are loo much 
noted. But one is a little surprised to find Arrian, a very grave, judicious 
writer, interrupt the thread of his narration all of a sudden, to tell his 
readers that he himself is as eminent among the Greeks for eloquence, as 
Alexander was for arms. — Lib. i. 

f This poet (see lib. iv. 1165) recommends a very extraordinary cure for 
love, and what one expects not to meet with in so elegant and philosophical a 
poem. It seems to have been the original of some of Dr. Swift's images. 
The elegant Catullus and Phaxlrus fall under the same censure. 
VOL. III. 18 


I shall also be bold to affirm, that among the ancients, 
there was not much delicacy of breeding, or that polite 
deference and respect, which civility obliges us either to 
express or counterfeit towards the persons with whom 
we converse. Cicero was certainly one of the finest 
gentlemen of his age ; yet, I must confess, I have fre- 
quently been shocked with the poor figure under which 
he represents his friend Atticus, in those dialogues where 
he himself is introduced as a speaker. That learned 
and virtuous Roman, whose dignity, though he was only 
a private gentleman, was inferior to that of no one in 
Rome, is there shown in rather a more pitiful light than 
Philalethes's friend in our modern dialogues. He is a 
humble admirer of the orator, pays him frequent com- 
pliments, and receives his instructions, with all the defer- 
ence which a scholar owes to his master* Even Cato 
is treated in somewhat of a cavalier manner in the dia- 
logues De Finibiisr\ 

One of the most particular details of a real dialogue, 
which we meet with in antiquity, is related by Polyb- 

* Att. Xon milii videtur ad beate vivendum satis esse virtutem. Mar. 
At hcrcule Bruto meo videtur; cujus ego judicium, pace tua dixerim, longe 
autepono tuo. — Tusc. Qcest. lib. v. 

f These observations regarding politeness in different ages and nations, 
occur in all the early Editions, but have been since omitted. And it is 
remarkable, that Cicero, being a great sceptic in matters of religion, and being- 
unwilling to determine any thing on that head among the different sects of 
philosophy, introduces his friends disputing concerning the being and nature 
of the gods, while he is only a hearer ; because, forsooth, it would have been 
an impropriety for so great a genius as himself had he spoke, not to have said 
something decisive on the subject, and have carried every thing before him, 
as he always does on other occasions. There is also a spirit of dialogue 
observed in the charming books de Oralore, and a tolerable equality main- 
tained among the speakers; but then these speakers are the great men of 
the age preceding our author, and he recounts the conference as only from 

It is but a very indifferent compliment which Horace pays to his friend 


ius ; * when Philip king of Macedon, a prince of wit and 
parts, met with Titus Flamininus, one of the politest of the 

Grosphus, in the ode addressed to him.f No one, says he, is happy in every 
respect. And I may, perhaps, enjoy some advantages, which you are deprived 
of. You possess great riches : your bellowing herds cover the Silician plains : 
your chariot is drawn by the finest horses: and you are arrayed in the richest 
purple. But the indulgent Fates, with a small inheritance have given me a fine 
genius, and have endowed me with a contempt for the malignant judgments of 
the vulgar. Phcedrus says to his patron, Eutychus, if you design to read my 
works, I shall be pleased : if not, 1 shall, at least, have the advantage of pleasing 
posterity.^ I am apt to think, that a modern poet would not have been guilty 
of such an impropriety, as that which may be observed in Virgil's address to 
Augustus, when, after a great deal of extravagant flattery, and after having 
deified the emperor, according to the custom of those times, he at last places 
this god on the same level with himself. §By your gracious nod, says he, ren- 
der my undertaking prosperous ; and taking pity, along with me, of the swains 
ignorant of husbandry, bestow your favorable influence on this work. Had men 
in that age been accustomed to observe such niceties, a writer so delicate as 
Virgil, would certainly have given a different turn to this sentence. The 
court of Augustus, however polite, had not yet, it seems, wore off the manners 
of the republic. 

t Nihil est ab orani 

Parte beatum. 
Abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem, 
Longa Tithonuin minuit senectus, 
Et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit, 

Porriget bora. 
Te greges centum, Sicula?que circum 
Mugiunt vaccffi: tibi tollit liiimi- 
Tum apta quadrigis equa: te bis Afro 

Murice tinctae 
Vestinut lanse: mihi parva rura, et 
Spiritum Graiae tenuem Camoenae 
Parca non mendax dedit, et malignum 

Spernere vulgus. — Lib. 2, Ode 16. 

X Quern si leges, la?tabor; sin autem minus, habebunt certe quo se oblectent posted. 

§ Ignarosque viae mecum miseratus agrestes 
Ingredere, et votis jam nunc assuesce vocari. 
One would not say to a prince or great man, When you and I were in such a place, we 
saiv such a thing happen. But when you were in such a place, I attended on you; and such 
a thing happened. 
Here I cannot forbear mentioning a piece of delicacy observed in France, which 

* Lib. xvii. 


Romans, as we learn from Plutarch,* accompanied with 
ambassadors from almost all the Greek cities. The 
iEtolian ambassador very abruptly tells the king, that 
he talked like a fool or madman (hjqtiv). "That's 
evident (says his Majesty), even to a blind man;" 
which was a raillery on the blindness of his excellency. 
Yet all this did not pass the usual bounds : for the con- 
ference was not disturbed ; and Flamininus was very 
well diverted with these strokes of humor. At the end, 
when Philip craved a little time to consult with his 
friends, of whom he had none present, the Roman 
general, being desirous also to show his wit, as the 
historian says, tells him, " That perhaps the reason why 
he had none of his friends with him, was because he 
had murdered them all ; " which was actually the case. 
This unprovoked piece of rusticity is not condemned 
by the historian ; caused no further resentment in 
Philip than to excite a Sardonian smile, or what we 
call a grin ; and hindered him not from renewing the 
conference next day. Plutarch, "j* too, mentions this 
raillery amongst the witty and agreeable sayings of 

seems to me excessive and ridiculous. You must not say, That is a very fine, dog, 
Madam, — But, Madam, that is a very fine dog. They think it indecent that those words 
Dog and Madam should be coupled together in the sentence, though they have no refer- 
ence to each other in the sense. 

After all, I acknowledge, that this reasoning from single passages of ancient authors 
may seem fallacious, and that the foregoing arguments cannot have great force, but with 
those who are well acquainted with the~e authors, and know the truth of the general 
position. For instance, what absurdity would it he to assert that Virgil understood not 
the force of the terms he employs, and could not choose his epithets with propriety; 
because, in the following line- addressed also to Augustus, he has failed in that par- 
ticular, and lias ascribed to the Indians a quality which seems, in a manner, to turn his 
hero into ridicule ! 

Et te, maximc Ca^ar, 

Qui nunc, extremis Asia 1 jam victor in oris, 
Imbellem avertis Romanis arcibus Indum. — Georg. lib. ii. 
Editions B, I), and X. 

* In Vita Flamin. f Plut. in Vita Flamin. 


Cardinal Wolsey apologized for his famous piece of 
insolence, in saying, Ego et rex meus, I and my king, by 
observing, that this expression was conformable to the 
Latin idiom, and that a Roman always named himself 
before the person to whom, or of whom, he spake. Yet 
this seems to have been an instance of want of civility 
among that people. The ancients made it a rule, that 
the person of the greatest dignity should be mentioned 
first in the discourse ; insomuch, that w T e find the spring 
of a quarrel and jealousy between the Romans and 
iEtolians, to have been a poet's naming the aEtolians 
before the Romans in celebrating a victory gained by 
their united arms over the Macedonians.* Thus Livia 
disgusted Tiberius by placing her own name before his 
in an inscription.*!* 

No advantages in this world are pure and unmixed. 
In like manner, as modern politeness, which is naturally 
so ornamental, runs often into affectation and foppery, 
disguise and insincerity ; so the ancient simplicity, 
which is naturally so amiable and affecting, often 
degenerates into rusticity and abuse, scurrility and 

If the superiority in politeness should be allowed to 
modern times, the modern notions of gallantry, the 
natural produce of courts and monarchies, will probably 
be assigned as the causes of this refinement. Xo one 
denies this invention to be modern : t but some of the 
more zealous partisans of the ancients have asserted it 
to be foppish and ridiculous, and a reproach, rather 
than a credit, to the present age. § It may here be 
proper to examine this question. 

* Pint, in Yita Flamin. f Tacit. Ann. lib. iii. cap. G4. 

% In the Self-Tormentor of Terence, Clinias, whenever lie comes to town, 
instead of "waiting on his mistress, sends for her to come to him. 
§ Lord Shaftesbury, bee his Moralists. 


Nature has implanted in all living creatures an affec- 
tion between the sexes, which, even in the fiercest and 
most rapacious animals, is not merely confined to the 
satisfaction of the bodily appetite, but begets a friend- 
ship and mutual sympathy, which runs through the 
whole tenor of their lives. Nay, even in those species, 
where nature limits the indulgence of this appetite to 
one season and to one object, and forms a kind of mar- 
riage or association between a single male and female, 
there is yet a visible complacency and benevolence, 
which extends further, and mutually softens the affec- 
tions of the sexes towards each other. How much 
more must this have place in man, where the confine- 
ment of the appetite is not natural, but either is derived 
accidentally from some strong charm of love, or arises 
from reflections on duty and convenience ! Nothing, 
therefore, can proceed less from affectation than the 
passion of gallantry. It is natural in the highest degree. 
Art and education, in the most elegant courts, make 
no more alteration on it than on all the other laudable 
passions. They only turn the mind more towards it ; 
they refine it ; they polish it ; and give it a proper 
grace and expression. 

But gallantry is as generous as it is natural. To cor- 
rect such gross vices as lead us to commit real injury 
on others, is the part of morals, and the object of the 
most ordinary education. Where that is not attended 
to in some degree, no human society can subsist. But, 
in order to render conversation, and the intercourse of 
minds more easy and agreeable, good manners have 
been invented, and have carried the matter somewhat 
further. Wherever nature has given the mind a pro- 
pensity to any vice, or to any passion disagreeable to 
others, refined breeding has taught men to throw the 
bias on the opposite side, and to preserve, in all their 


behavior, the appearance of sentiments different from 
those to which they naturally incline. Thus, as we are 
commonly proud and selfish, and apt to assume the 
preference above others, a polite man learns to behave 
with deference towards his companions, and to yield the 
superiority to them in all the common incidents of 
society. In like manner, wherever a person's situation 
may naturally beget any disagreeable suspicion in him, 
it is the part of good manners to prevent it, by a studied 
display of sentiments, directly contrary to those of which 
he is apt to be jealous. Thus, old men know their in- 
firmities, and naturally dread contempt from the youth : 
hence well-educated 3-outh redouble the instances of 
respect and deference to their elders. Strangers and 
foreigners are without protection : hence, in all polite 
countries, they receive the highest civilities, and are 
entitled to the first place in every company. A man is 
lord in his own family ; and his guests are, in a manner, 
subject to his authority : hence, he is always the lowest 
person in the company, attentive to the wants of every 
one, and giving himself all the trouble in order to 
please, which may not betray too visible an affectation, 
or impose too much constraint on his guests.* Gallan- 
try is nothing but an instance of the same generous 
attention. As nature has given man the superiority 
above tvoman, by endowing him with greater strength 
both of mind and body, it is his part to alleviate that 
superiority, as much as possible, by the generosity of his 

* The frequent mention in ancient authors of that illbred custom of the 
master of the family's eating better bread, or drinking better wine at table, 
than he afforded his guests, is but an indifferent mark of the civility of those 
ages. See Juvenal, sat. 5; Plin. lib. xiv. cap. 13; also Plinii Epist. Lucian 
de mercede conductis, Saturnalia, etc. There is scarcely any part of Europe 
at present so uncivilized as to admit of such a custom. 


behavior, and by a studied deference and complaisance 
for all her inclinations and opinions. Barbarous nations 
display this superiority, by reducing their females to the 
most abject slavery ; by confining them, by beating 
them, by selling them, by killing them. But the male 
sex, among a polite people, discover their authority in 
a more generous, though not a less evident manner; 
by civility, by respect, by complaisance, and, in a word, 
by gallantry. In good company, you need not ask, who 
is the master of the feast ? The man who sits in the 
lowest place, and who is always industrious in helping 
every one, is certainly the person. We must either 
condemn all such instances of generosity as foppish 
and affected, or admit of gallantry among the rest. 
The ancient Muscovites wedded their wives with a 
whip, instead of a ring. The same people, in their 
own houses, took always the precedency above foreign- 
ers, even * foreign ambassadors. These two instances 
of their generosity and politeness are much of apiece. 
Gallantry is not less compatible with wisdom and 
prudence, than with nature and generosity ; and, when 
under proper regulations, contributes more than any 
other invention to the entertainment and improvement of 
the youth of both sexes. Among every species of ani- 
mals, nature has founded on the love between the sexes 
their sweetest and best enjoyment. But the satisfaction 
of the bodily appetite is not alone sufficient to gratify 
the mind ; and, even among brute creatures, we find 
that their play and dalliance, and other expressions of 
fondness, form the greatest part of the entertainment. 
In rational beings, we must certainly admit the mind 
for a considerable share. \Yere we to rob the feast of 

* See Relation of Three Embassies, by the Earl of Carlisle. 


all its garniture of reason, discourse, sympathy, friend- 
ship, and gaiety, what remains would scarcely be worth 
acceptance, in the judgment of the truly elegant and 

What better school for manners than the company of 
virtuous women, where the mutual endeavor to please 
must insensibly polish the mind, where the example of 
the female softness and modesty must communicate 
itself to their admirers, and where the delicacy of that 
sex puts every one on his guard, lest he give offence by 
any breach of decency ? * 

Among the ancients, the character of the fair sex 
was considered as altogether domestic ; nor were they 
regarded as part of the polite world, or of good com- 
pany. This, perhaps, is the true reason why the ancients 
have not left us one piece of pleasantry that is excellent 
(unless one may except the Banquet of Xenophon, and 
the Dialogues of Lucian), though many of their serious 
compositions are altogether inimitable. Horace con- 
demns the coarse railleries and cold jests of Plautus : 
but, though the most easy, agreeable, and judicious 
writer in the world, is his own talent for ridicule very 
striking or refined ? This, therefore, is one considerable 
improvement which the polite arts have received from 
gallantry, and from courts where it first arose.f 

* I must confess that my own particular choice rather leads me to prefer the 
company of a few select companions, with whom I can calmly and peaceably 
enjoy the feast of reason, and try the justness of every reflection, whether n;iy 
or serious, that may occur to me. But as such a delightful society is not 
every day to be met with, I must think that mixed companies without the fair 
sex, are the most insipid entertainment in the world, and destitute of gaiety 
and politeness, as much as of sense and reason. Nothing can keep them from 
excessive dulness but hard drinking, a remedy worse than the disease. — Edi- 
tions B & D. 

t The point of honor is a modern invention, as well as gallantry ; and by 
some esteemed equally useful for the refining of manners : but how it has con- 
VOL. III. 10 


But to return from this digression, I shall advance it 
as a fourth observation on this subject, of the rise and 
jDrogress of the arts and sciences, That when the arts and 
sciences come to perfection in any state, from that moment they 
naturally, or rather necessarily, decline, and seldom or never 
revive in that nation where they formerly flourished. 

It must be confessed, that this maxim, though con- 
formable to experience, may at first sight be esteemed 
contrary to reason. If the natural genius of mankind 
be the same in all ages, and in almost all countries (as 
seems to be the truth), it must very much forward and 
cultivate this genius, to be possessed of patterns in every 
art, which may regulate the taste, and fix the objects of 
imitation. The models left us by the ancients gave 
birth to all the arts about two hundred years ago, and 

tributed to that effect, I am at a loss to determine. Conversation among the 
greatest rustics, is not commonly infested with such rudeness as can give 
occasion to duels, even according to the most refined laws of this fantastic 
honor ; and as to the other smaller indecencies, which are the most offensive, 
because the most frequent, they can never be cured by the practice of duel- 
ling. But these notions are not only useless but pernicious. By separating 
the man of honor from the man of virtue, the greatest profligates have got 
something to value themselves upon, and have been able to keep themselves 
in countenance, though guilty of the most shameful and most dangerous vices. 
They are debauchees, spendthrifts, and never pay a farthing they owe ; but 
they are men of honor, and therefore are to be received as gentlemen in all 

There arc some of the parts of modern honor which are the most essential 
parts of morality, such as fidelity, the observing promises, and telling truth. 
These points of honor Mr. Addison had in his eye, when he made Juba say, 
" Honor's a sacred tie, the law of kings, 

The noble mind's distinguishing perfection, 

That aids and strengthens virtue, when it meets her, 

And imitates her actions where she is not : 

It ought not to be sported with." 
These lines are very beautiful ; but I am afraid that Mr. Addison has here 
been guilty of that impropriety of sentiment with which he has so justly 
reproved other poets. The ancients certainly never had any notion of honor 
as distinct from virtue. — Editions B, D, and N. 


have mightily advanced their progress in every country 
of Europe. Why had they not a like effect during the 
reign of Trajan and his successors, when they were 
much more entire, and were still admired and studied 
by the whole world ? So late as the emperor Justinian, 
the Poet, by way of distinction, was understood, among 
the Greeks, to be Homer ; among the Eomans, Virgil. 
Such admirations still remained for these divine gen- 
iuses ; though no poet had appeared for many centuries, 
who could justly pretend to have imitated them. 

A man's genius is always, in the beginning of life, as 
much unknown to himself as to others ; and it is only 
after frequent trials, attended with success, that he dares 
think himself equal to those undertakings, in which 
those who have succeeded have fixed the admiration of 
mankind. If his own nation be already possessed of 
many models of eloquence, he naturally compares his 
own juvenile exercises with these ; and, being sensible 
of the great disproportion, is discouraged from any fur- 
ther attempts, and never aims at a rivalship with those 
authors whom he so much admires. A noble emulation 
is the source of every excellence. Admiration and 
modesty naturally extinguish this emulation ; and no 
one is so liable to an excess of admiration and modesty 
as a truly great genius. 

Next to emulation, the greatest encourager of the 
noble arts is praise and glory. A writer is animated 
with new force when he hears the applauses of the 
world for his former productions ; and, being roused by 
such a motive, he often reaches a pitch of perfection, 
which is equally surprising to himself and to his readers. 
But when the posts of honor are all occupied, his first 
attempts are but coldly received by the public ; being 
compared to productions which are both in themselves 


more excellent, and have already the advantage of an 
established reputation. Were Moliere and Corneille to 
bring upon the stage at present their early productions, 
which were formerly so well received, it would discour- 
age the young poets to see the indifference and disdain 
of the public. The ignorance of the age alone could 
have given admission to the Prince of Tyre ; but it is to 
that we owe the Moor. Had Every Man in his Humor 
been rejected, we had never seen Volpone. 

Perhaps it may not be for the advantage of any nation 
to have the arts imported from their neighbors in too 
great perfection. This extinguishes emulation, and 
sinks the ardor of the generous youth. So many models 
of Italian painting brought to England, instead of excit- 
ing our artists, is the cause of their small progress in 
that noble art. The same, perhaps, was the case of 
Borne when it received the arts from Greece. That 
multitude of polite productions in the French language, 
dispersed all over Germany and the North, hinder these 
nations from cultivating their own language, and keep 
them still dependent on their neighbors for those elegant 

It is true, the ancients had left us models in every 
kind of writing, which are highly worthy of admiration. 
Bat besides that they were written in languages known 
only to the learned ; besides this, I say, the comparison 
is not so perfect or entire between modern wits, and 
those who lived in so remote an age. Had Waller been 
born in Borne, during the reign of Tiberius, his first 
productions had been despised, when compared to 
the finished odes of Horace. But in this Island, 
the superiority of the Roman poet diminished nothing 
from the fame of the English. We esteemed our- 
selves sufficiently happy that our climate and language 


could produce but a faint copy of so excellent an 

In short, the arts and sciences, like some plants, require 
a fresh j soHj an d however rich the land may be, and 
however you may recruit it by art or care, it will never, 
when once exhausted, produce any thing that is perfect 
or finished in the kind. 




It is a great mortification to the vanity of man, that 
his utmost art and industry can never equal the mean- 
est of Nature's productions, either for beauty or value. 
Art is only the under-workman, and is employed to give 
a few strokes of embellishment to those pieces which 
come from the hand of the master. Some of the dra- 
pery may be of his drawing, but he is not allowed to 
touch the principal figure. Art may make a suit of 
clothes, but Nature must produce a man. 

Even in those productions commonly denominated 
works of art, we find that the noblest of the kind are 
beholden for their chief beauty to the force and happy 
influence of nature. To the native enthusiasm of the 
poets we owe whatever is admirable in their productions. 
The greatest genius, where nature at any time fails him 
(for she is not equal), throws aside the lyre, and hopes 
not, from the rules of art, to reach that divine harmony 

* Or, The man of elegance and pleasure. The intention of this and the 
three following Essays, is not so much to explain accurately the sentiments of 
the ancient sects of philosophy, as to deliver the sentiments of sects that natu- 
rally form themselves in the world, and entertain different ideas of human 
life and happiness. I have given each of them the name of the philosophical 
sect to which it bears the greatest affinity. 


which must proceed from her inspiration alone. How 
poor are those songs where a happy flow of fancy 
has not furnished materials for art to embellish and 
refine ! 

But of all the fruitless attempts of art, no one is so 
ridiculous as that which the severe philosophers have 
undertaken, the producing of an artificial happiness, and 
making us be pleased by rules of reason and by reflec- 
tion. Why did none of them claim the reward which 
Xerxes promised to him who should invent a new pleas- 
ure ? Unless, perhaps, they invented so many pleasures 
for their own use, that they despised riches, and stood 
in no need of any enjoyments which the rewards of that 
monarch could produce them. I am apt, indeed, to 
think, that they were not willing to furnish the Persian 
court with a new pleasure, by presenting it with so new 
and unusual an object of ridicule. Their speculations, 
when confined to theory, and gravely delivered in the 
schools of Greece, might excite admiration in their 
ignorant pupils ; but the attempting to reduce such 
principles to practice would soon have betrayed their 

You pretend to make me happy, by reason and by 
rules of art. You must then create me anew by rules 
of art, for on my original frame and structure does my 
happiness depend. But you want power to effect this, 
and skill too, I am afraid ; nor can I entertain a less 
opinion of Nature's wisdom than yours ; and let her 
conduct the machine which she has so wisely framed ; I 
find that I should only spoil it by tampering. 

To what purpose should I pretend to regulate, re- 
fine, or invigorate any of those springs or principles 
which nature has implanted in me ? Is this the road 
by which I must reach happiness ? But happiness im- 

152 ESSAY XV. 

plies ease, contentment, repose, and pleasure ; not watch- 
fulness, care, and fatigue. The health of my body con- 
sists in the facility with which all its operations are per- 
formed. The stomach digests the aliments; the heart 
circulates the blood ; the brain separates and refines the 
spirits : and all this without my concerning myself in 
the matter. When by my will alone I can stop the 
blood, as it runs with impetuosity along its canals, then 
may I hope to change the course of my sentiments and 
passions. In vain should I strain my faculties, and en- 
deavor to receive pleasure from an object which is not 
fitted by nature to affect my organs with delight. I 
may give myself pain by my fruitless endeavors, but 
shall never reach any pleasure. 

Away then with all those vain pretences of making 
ourselves happy within ourselves, of feasting on our 
own thoughts, of beings satisfied with the consciousness 
of well-doing, and of despising all assistance and all 
supplies from external objects. This is the voice of 
pride, not of nature. And it were well if even this 
pride could support itself, and communicate a real in- 
ward pleasure, however melancholy or severe. But 
this impotent pride can do no more than regulate the 
outside, and, with infinite pains and attention, compose 
the language and countenance to a philosophical dig- 
nity, in order to deceive the ignorant vulgar. The 
heart, meanwhile, is empty of all enjoyment, and the 
mind, unsupported by its proper objects, sinks into the 
deepest sorrow and dejection. Miserable, but vain mor- 
tal ! Thy mind be happy within itself! With what 
resources is it endowed to fill so immense a void, and 
supply the place of all thy bodily senses and faculties ? 
Can thy head subsist without thy other members ? In 
such a situation, 

tin: i:ri< Mi!i;.\.\. I-m 

What foolish figure must it make V 
Do nothing; else but sleep and ake. 

Into such a lethargy, or such a melancholy, must thy 
mind be plunged, when deprived of foreign occupations 
and enjoyments. 

Keep me, therefore, no longer in this violent con- 
straint. Confine me not within myself, but point out 
to me those objects and pleasures which afford the chief 
enjoyment. But why do I apply to you, proud and ig- 
norant sages, to show me the road to happiness ? Let 
me consult my own passions and inclinations. In them 
must I read the dictates of nature, not in your frivolous 

But see, propitious to nry wishes, the divine, the ami- 
able Pleasure,* the supreme love of Gods and men, 
advances towards me. At her approach my heart beats 
with genial heat, and every sense and every faculty is 
dissolved in joy, while she pours around me all the em- 
bellishments of the spring, and all the treasures of the 
autumn. The melody of her voice charms my ears 
with the softest music, as she invites me to partake of 
those delicious fruits, which, with a smile that diffuses a 
glory on the heavens and the earth, she presents to me. 
The sportive cupids who attend her, or fan me with 
their odoriferous wings, or pour on my head the most 
fragrant oils, or offer me their sparkling nectar in golden 
goblets ; ! for ever let me spread my limbs on this 
bed of roses, and thus, thus feel the delicious moments, 
with soft and downy steps, glide along. But cruel 
chance ! Whither do you fly so fast ? Why do my 
ardent wishes, and that load of pleasures under which 

* Dia Voluptas. Lucret. 
VOL. III. 20 

154 ESSAY XV. 

you labor, rather hasten than retard your unrelenting 
pace ? Suffer me to enjoy this soft repose, after all my 
fatigues in search of happiness. Suffer me to satiate 
myself with these delicacies, after the pains of so long 
and so foolish an abstinence. 

But it will not do. The roses have lost their hue, the 
fruit its flavor, and that delicious wine, whose fumes so 
late intoxicated all my senses with such delight, now 
solicits in vain the sated palate. Pleasure smiles at my 
languor. She beckons her sister, Virtue, to come to her 
assistance. The gay, the frolic Virtue, observes the call, 
and brings along the whole troop of my jovial friends. 
Welcome, thrice welcome, my ever dear companions, to 
these shady bowers, and to this luxurious repast. Your 
presence has restored to the rose its hue, and to the 
fruit its flavor. The vapors of this sprightly nectar now 
again ply round my heart; while you partake of my 
delights, and discover, in your cheerful looks, the 
pleasure which you receive from my happiness and sat- 
isfaction. The like do I receive from yours; and, en- 
couraged by your joyous presence, shall again renew 
the feast, with which, from too much enjoyment, my 
senses are wellnigh sated, while the mind kept not 
pace with the body, nor afforded relief to her overbur- 
dened partner. 

In our cheerful discourses, better than in the formal 
reasoning of the schools, is true wisdom to be found. 
In our friendly endearments, better than in the hollow 
debates of statesmen and pretended patriots, does true 
virtue display itself. Forgetful of the past, secure of 
the future, let us here enjoy the present ; and while we 
yet possess a being, let us fix some good, beyond the 
power of fate or fortune. To-morrow will bring its own 


pleasures along with it : or, should it disappoint our fond 
wishes, we shall at least enjoy the pleasure of reflecting 
on the pleasures of today. 

Fear not, my friends, that the barbarous dissonance of 
Bacchus, and of his revellers should break in upon this 
entertainment, and confound us with their turbulent and 
clamorous pleasures. The sprightly Muses wait around, 
and, with their charming symphony, sufficient to soften 
the wolves and tigers of the savage desert, inspire a soft 
joy into every bosom. Peace, harmony, and concord, 
reign in this retreat ; nor is the silence ever broken but 
by the music of our songs, or the cheerful accents of 
our friendly voices. 

But hark! the favorite of the Muses, the gentle Da- 
mon strikes the lyre • and, while he accompanies its har- 
monious notes with his more harmonious song, he 
inspires us with the same happy debauch of fancy by 
which he is himself transported. " Ye happy youth ! " 
he sings, " Ye favored of Heaven ! * while the wanton 
spring pours upon you all her blooming honors, let not 
glory seduce you with her delusive blaze, to pass in perils 
and dangers this delicious season, this prime of life. 
Wisdom points out to you the road to pleasure : Nature, 
too, beckons you to follow her in ( that smooth and 
flowery path. Will you shut your ears to their com- 
manding voice ? Will you harden your heart to their 
soft allurements ? Oh, deluded mortals ! thus to lose 
your youth, thus to throw away so invaluable a present, 
to trifle with so perishing a blessing. Contemplate well 
your recompense. Consider that glory, which so allures 

* An imitation of the Syren's song in Tasso : — 

" O Giovenetti, mentre Aprile et Maggio 
V ammantan di fiorite et verde spoglie," etc. 

Giuresalemme Liberate^ Canto 14. 

156 ESSAY XV. 

your proud hearts, and seduces you with your own 
praises. It is an echo, a dream, nay the shadow of a 
dream, dissipated by every wind, and lost by every 
contrary breath of the ignorant and ill-judging multi- 
tude. You fear not that even death itself shall ravish 
it from you. But behold ! while you are yet alive, 
calumny bereaves you of it ; ignorance neglects it ; 
nature enjoys it not ; fancy alone, renouncing every 
pleasure, receives this airy recompense, empty and un- 
stable as herself." 

Thus the hours pass unperceived along, and lead in 
their wanton train all the pleasures of sense, and all the 
joys of harmony and friendship. Smiling Innocence closes 
the procession ; and, while she presents herself to our 
ravished eyes, she embellishes the whole scene, and ren- 
ders the view of these pleasures as transporting after 
they have passed us, as when, with laughing counte- 
nances, they were yet advancing towards us. 

But the sun has sunk below the horizon ; and dark- 
ness, stealing silently upon us, has now buried all na- 
ture in an universal shade. " Rejoice, my friends, con- 
tinue your repast, or change it for soft repose. Though 
absent, your joy or your tranquillity shall still be 
mine." But whither do you go ? Or what new pleasures 
call you from our society? Is there aught agreeable without 
your friends ? And can aught please in which ive partake not ? 
" Yes, my friends, the joy which I now seek admits not 
of your participation. Here alone I wish your absence : 
and here alone can I find a sufficient compensation for 
the loss of your society." 

But I have not advanced far through the shades of 
the thick wood, which spreads a double night around 
me, ere, methinks, I perceive through the gloom the 
charming Cajlia, the mistress of my wishes, who wanders 


impatient through the grove, and, preventing the 
appointed hour, silently chides my tardy steps. But the 
joy which she receives from my presence best pleads my 
excuse, and, dissipating every anxious and every angry 
thought, leaves room for nought but mutual joy and 
rapture. With what words, my fair one, shall I express 
my tenderness, or describe the emotions which now 
warm my transported bosom ! Words are too faint to 
describe my love ; and if, alas ! you feel not the same 
flame within you, in vain shall I endeavor to convey to 
you a just conception of it. But your every w r ord and 
every motion suffice to remove this doubt ; and while 
they express your passion, serve ■ also to inflame mine. 
How amiable this solitude, this silence, this darkness ! 
Xo objects now importune the ravished soul. The 
thought, the sense, all full of nothing but our mutual 
happiness, wholly possess the mind, and convey a 
pleasure which deluded mortals vainly seek for in every 

other enjoyment. 

But why does your bosom heave with these sighs, 
while tears bathe your glowing cheeks ? Why distract 
your heart with such vain anxieties? Why so often 
ask me, How long my love shall yet endure ? Alas ! my 
Ca?lia, can I resolve this question ? Do 1 Jcnoiv hoiv long 
my life shall yet endure ? But does this also disturb your 
tender breast ? And is the image of our frail mortality 
for ever present with you, to throw a damp on your 
gayest hours, and poison even those joys which love 
inspires ? Consider rather, that if life be frail, if youth 
be transitory, we should well employ the present mo- 
ment, and lose no part of so perishable an existence. 
Yet a little moment, and these shall be no more. We 
shall be as if we had never been. Not a memory of us 
be left upon earth ; and even the fabulous shades below 

158 ESSAY XV. 

will not afford us a habitation. Our fruitless anxieties, 
our vain projects, our uncertain speculations, shall all 
be swallowed up and lost. Our present doubts, con- 
cerning the original cause of all things, must never, 
alas ! be resolved. This alone we may be certain of, 
that if any governing mind preside, he must be pleased 
to see us fulfil the ends of our being, and enjoy that 
pleasure for which alone we were created. Let this 
reflection give ease to your anxious thoughts; but 
render not your joys too serious, by dwelling for ever 
upon it. It is sufficient once to be acquainted with 
this philosophy, in order to give an unbounded loose 
to love and jollity, and remove all the scruples of a 
vain superstition : but while youth and passion, my fair 
one, prompt our eager desires, we must find gayer 
subjects of discourse to intermix with these amorous 


the stoics- 

There is this obvious and material difference in the 
conduct of nature, with regard to man and other ani- 
mals, that, having endowed the former with a sublime 
celestial spirit, and having given him an affinity with 
superior beings, she allows not such noble faculties to 
lie lethargic or idle, but urges him by necessity to em- 
ploy, on every emergence, his utmost art and industry. 
Brute creatures have many of their necessities supplied 
by nature, being clothed and armed by this beneficent 
parent of all things : and where their own industry is 
requisite on any occasion, nature, by implanting instincts, 
still supplies them with the art, and guides them to 
their good by her unerring precepts. But man, ex- 
posed naked and indigent to the rude elements, rises 
slowly from that helpless state by the care and vigilance 
of his parents ; and, having attained his utmost growth 
and perfection, reaches only a capacity of subsisting by 
his own care and vigilance. Every thing is sold to skill 
and labor ; and where nature furnishes the materials, 
they are still rude and unfinished, till industry, ever 
active and intelligent, refines them from their brute 
state, and fits them for human use and convenience. 

* Or the man of action and virtue. 

1G0 ESSAY Ml. 

Acknowledge, therefore, O man ! the beneficence of 
nature ; for she has given thee that intelligence which 
supplies all thy necessities. But let not indolence, un- 
der the false appearance of gratitude, persuade thee to 
rest contented with her presents. Wouldst thou return 
to the raw herbage for thy food, to the open sky for 
thy covering, and to stones and clubs for thy defence 
against the ravenous animals of the desert ? Then 
return also to thy savage manners, to thy timorous 
superstition, to thy brutal ignorance, and sink thyself 
below those animals whose condition thou admirest 
and wouldst so fondly imitate. 

Thy kind parent, Nature, having given thee art and 
intelligence, has filled the whole globe with materials to 
employ these talents. Hearken to her voice, which so 
plainly tells thee that though thyself shouldst also be 
the object of thy industry, and that by art and atten- 
tion alone thou canst acquire that ability which will 
raise thee to thy proper station in the universe. Be- 
hold this artisan who converts a rude and shapeless 
stone into a noble metal ; and, moulding that medal by 
his cunning hands, creates, as it were, by magic, every 
weapon for his defence, and every utensil for his con- 
venience. He has not this skill from nature : use and 
practice have taught it him ; and if thou wouldst emu- 
late his success, thou must follow his laborious foot- 

But while thou ambitiously aspirest to perfecting thy 
bodily powers and faculties, wouldst thou meanly neg- 
lect thy mind, and, from a preposterous sloth, leave it 
still rude and uncultivated, as it came from the hands of 
nature ? Far be such folly and negligence from every 
rational being. If nature has been frugal in her gifts 
and endowments, there is the more need of art to sup- 

THE STOIC. 16 1 

ply her defects. If she has been generous and liberal, 
know that she still expects industry and application on 
our part, and revenges herself in proportion to our neg- 
ligent ingratitude. The richest genius, like the most fer- 
tile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest 
weeds ; and instead of vines and olives for the pleasure 
and use of man, produces, to its slothful owner, the 
most abundant crop of poisons. 

The great end of all human industry, is the attain- 
ment of happiness. For this were arts invented, sci- 
ences cultivated, laws ordained, and societies modelled, 
by the most profound wisdom of patriots and legisla- 
tors. Even the lonely savage, who lies exposed to the 
inclemency of the elements and the fury of wild beasts, 
forgets not, for a moment, this grand object of his being. 
Ignorant as he is of every art of life, he still keeps in 
view the end of all those arts, and eagerly seeks for 
felicity amidst that darkness with which he is environed. 
But as much as the wildest savage is inferior to the pol- 
ished citizen, who, under the protection of laws, enjoys 
every convenience which industry has invented, so 
much is this citizen himself inferior to the man of virtue, 
and the true philosopher, who governs his appetites, 
subdues his passions, and has learned, from reason, to 
set a just value on every pursuit and enjoyment. For 
is there an art and apprenticeship necessary for every 
other attainment ? And is there no art of life, no rule, 
no precepts, to direct us in this principal concern ? Can 
no particular pleasure be attained without skill ; and 
can the whole be regulated, without reflection or intelli- 
gence, by the blind guidance of appetite and instinct ? 
Sure then no mistakes are ever committed in this affair ; 
but every man, however dissolute and negligent, pro- 
ceeds in the pursuit of happiness with as unerring a 

VOL. III. 21 


motion as that which the celestial bodies observe, 
when, conducted by the hand of the Almighty, they 
roll along the ethereal plains. But if mistakes be 
often, be inevitably committed, let us register these 
mistakes ; let us consider their causes ; let us weigh 
their importance ; let us inquire for their remedies. 
When from this we have fixed all the rules of conduct, 
we are philosophers. When w 7 e have reduced these rules 
to practice, we are sages. 

Like many subordinate artists, employed to form the 
several wheels and springs of a machine, such are those 
w T ho excel in all the particular arts of life. lie is the 
master workman who puts those several parts together, 
moves them according to just harmony and proportion, 
and produces true felicity as the result of their conspir- 
ing order. 

While thou hast such an alluring object in view, 
shall that labor and attention, requisite to the attain- 
ment of thy end, ever seem burdensome and intolera- 
ble ? Know, that this labor itself is the chief ingre- 
dient of the felicity to which thou aspirest, and that 
every enjoyment soon becomes insipid and distasteful, 
when not acquired by fatigue and industry. See the 
hardy hunters rise from their downy couches, shake off 
the slumbers which still weigh down their heavy eye- 
lids, and, ere Aurora has yet covered the heavens with 
her naming mantle, hasten to the forest. They leave 
behind, in their own houses, and in the nemliborino; 
plains, animals of every kind, whose flesh furnishes the 
most delicious fare, and which offer themselves to the 
fatal stroke. Laborious man disdains so easy a pur- 
chase. He seeks for a prey, which hides itself from 
his search, or ilies from his pursuit, or defends itself 
from his violence. Having exerted in the chase every 


passion of the mind, and every member of the body, he 
then finds the charms of repose, and with joy compares 
his pleasures to those of his engaging labors. 

And can vigorous industry give pleasure to the pur- 
suit even of the most worthless prey, which frequently 
escapes our toils ? And cannot the same industry ren- 
der the cultivating of our mind, the moderating;; of 
our passions, the enlightening of our reason, an agree- 
able occupation ; while w T e are every day sensible of 
our progress, and behold our inward features and 
countenance brightening incessantly with new charms ? 
Begin by curing yourself of this lethargic indolence ; 
the task is not difficult : you need but taste the sweets 
of honest labor. Proceed to learn the just value of 
every pursuit; long study is not requisite. Compare, 
though but for once, the mind to the body, virtue to 
fortune, and glory to pleasure. You w T ill then perceive 
the advantages of industry ; you w T ill then be sensible 
what are the proper objects of your industry. 

In vain do you seek repose from beds of roses : in vain 
do you hope for enjoyment from the most delicious wines 
and fruits. Your indolence itself becomes a fatigue ; 
your pleasure itself creates disgust. The mind, unexer- 
cised, finds every delight insipid and loathsome ; and ere 
yet the body, full of noxious humors, feels the torment 
of its multiplied diseases, your nobler part is sensible of 
the invading poison, and seeks in vain to relieve its 
anxiety by new T pleasures, which still augment the fatal 

I need not tell you, that, by this eager pursuit of 
pleasure, you more and more expose yourself to fortune 
and accidents, and rivet your affections on external 
objects, which chance may, in a moment, ravish from 
you. I shall suppose that your indulgent stars favor 


you still with the enjoyment of your riches and 
possessions. I prove to you, that, even in the midst 
of your luxurious pleasures, you are unhappy ; and 
that, by too much indulgence, you are incapable of 
enjoying what prosperous fortune still allows you to 

But surely the instability of fortune is a considera- 
tion not to be overlooked or neglected. Happiness can- 
not possibly exist where there is no security ; and secu- 
rity can have no place where fortune has any dominion. 
Though that unstable deity should not exert her rage 
against you, the dread of it would still torment you ; 
would disturb your slumbers, haunt your dreams, and 
throw a damp on the jollity of your most delicious ban- 

The temple of wisdom is seated on a rock, above the 
rage of the fighting elements, and inaccessible to all the 
malice of man. The rolling thunder breaks below ; 
and those more terrible instruments of human fury 
reach not to so sublime a height. The sage, while he 
breathes that serene air, looks down with pleasure, 
mixed with compassion, on the errors of mistaken 
mortals, who blindly seek for the true path of life, and 
pursue riches, nobility, honor, or power, for genuine 
felicity. The greater part he beholds disappointed of 
their fond wishes : some lament, that having once pos- 
sessed the object of their desires, it is ravished from 
them by envious fortune ; and all complain, that even 
their own vows, though granted, cannot give them 
happiness, or relieve the anxiety of their distracted 

But does the sage always preserve himself in this phi- 
losophical indifference, and rest contented with lament- 
ing the miseries of mankind, without ever employing 



himself for their relief? Does he constantly indulge 
this severe wisdom, which, by pretending to elevate him 
above human accidents, does in reality harden his heart, 
and render him careless of the interests of mankind, 
and of society ? No ; he knows that in this sullen Apalhy 
neither true wisdom nor true happiness can be found. 
He feels too strongly the charm of the social affections, 
ever to counteract so sweet, so natural, so virtuous a 
propensity. Even when, bathed in tears, he laments the 
miseries of the human race, of his country, of his 
friends, and, unable to give succor, can only relieve 
them by compassion ; he yet rejoices in the generous 
disposition, and feels a satisfaction superior to that of 
the most indulged sense. So engaging are the senti- 
ments of humanity, that they brighten up the very face 
of sorrow, and operate like the sun, which, shining on a 
dusky cloud or falling rain, paints on them the most 
glorious colors which are to be found in the whole circle 
of nature. 

But it is not here alone that the social virtues display 
their energy. With whatever ingredients you mix them, 
they are still predominant. As sorrow cannot overcome 
them, so neither can sensual pleasure obscure them. 
The joys of love, however tumultuous, banish not the 
tender sentiments of sympathy and affection. They 
even derive their chief influence from that generous 
passion : and when presented alone, afford nothing to 
the unhappy mind but lassitude and disgust. Behold 
this sprightly debauchee, who professes a contempt of 
all other pleasures but those of wine and jollity : sep- 
arate him from his companions, like a spark from a fire, 
where before it contributed to the general blaze : his 
alacrity suddenly extinguishes ; and, though surrounded 
with every other means of delight, he loathes the sump- 


tuous banquet, and prefers even the most abstracted 
study and speculation, as more agreeable and enter- 

But the social passions never afford such transporting 
pleasures, or make so glorious an appearance in the eyes 
both of God and man, as when, shaking off every earthly 
mixture, they associate themselves with the sentiments 
of virtue, and prompt us to laudable and worthy actions. 
As harmonious colors mutually give and receive a lustre 
by their friendly union, so do these ennobling sentiments 
of the human mind. See the triumph of nature in paren- 
tal affection ! What selfish passion, what sensual delight 
is a match for it, whether a man exults in the prosperity 
and virtue of his offspring, or flies to their succor through 
the most threatening and tremendous dangers? 

Proceed still in purifying the generous passions, you 
will still the more admire its shining glories. What 
charms are there in the harmony of minds, and in a 
friendship founded on mutual esteem and gratitude ! 
What satisfaction in relieving the distressed, in comfort- 
ing the afflicted, in raising the fallen, and in stopping 
the career of cruel fortune, or of more cruel man, in 
their insults over the good and virtuous! But what 
supreme joy in the victories over vice as well as misery, 
when, by virtuous example or wise exhortation, our 
fellow-creatures are taught to govern their passions, 
reform their vices, and subdue their worst enemies, 
which inhabit within their own bosoms ! 

But these objects are still too limited for the human 
mind, which, being of celestial origin, swells with the 
divinest and most enlarged affections, and, carrying its 
attention beyond kindred and acquaintance, extends its 
benevolent wishes to the most distant posterity. It 
views liberty and laws as the source of human happi- 


ness, and devotes itself* with the utmost alacrity, to their 
guardianship and protection. Toils, dangers, death itself, 
carry their charms, when we brave them for the public 
good, and ennoble that being which we generously 
sacrifice for the interests of our country. Happy the 
man whom indulgent fortune allows to pay to virtue 
what he owes to nature, and to make a generous gift of 
what must otherwise be ravished from him by cruel 

In the true sage and patriot are united whatever can 
distinguish human nature, or elevate mortal man to a 
resemblance with the Divinity. The softest benevolence, 
the most undaunted resolution, the tenderest sentiments, 
the most sublime love of virtue, all these animate succes- 
sively his transported bosom. What satisfaction, when 
he looks within, to find the most turbulent passions 
tuned to just harmony and concord, and every jarring 
sound banished from this enchanting music ! If the con- 
templation, even of inanimate beauty, is so delightful ; 
if it ravishes the senses, even when the fair form is for- 
eign to us ; what must be the effects of moral beauty ? 
and what influence must it have, when it embellishes 
our own mind, and is the result of our own reflection 
and industry ? 

But where is the reward of virtue ? And what recompense 
has Nature provided for such important sacrifices as those of 
life and fortune, which zve must often make to it ? Oh, sons 
of earth ! Are ye ignorant of the value of this celestial 
mistress? And do ye meanly inquire for her portion, 
when ye observe her genuine charms? But know, that 
Nature has been indulgent to human weakness, and has 
not left this favorite child naked and unendowed. She 
has provided virtue with the richest dowry ; but being 
careful lest the allurements of interest should engage 


such suitors as were insensible of the native worth of so 
divine a beauty, she has wisely provided, that this dmvry 
can have no charms but in the eyes of those who are 
already transported with the love of virtue. Glory is 
the portion of virtue, the sweet reward of honorable 
toils, the triumphant crown which covers the thoughtful 
head of the disinterested patriot, or the dusty brow of 
the victorious warrior. Elevated by so sublime a prize, 
the man of virtue looks down with contempt on all the 
allurements of pleasure, and all the menaces of danger. 
Death itself loses its terrors, when he considers, that its 
dominion extends only over a part of him, and that, in 
spite of death and time, the rage of the elements, and 
the endless vicissitude of human affairs, he is assured of 
an immortal fame among all the sons of men. 

There surely is a Being who presides over the uni- 
verse, and who, with infinite wisdom and power, has 
reduced the jarring elements into just order and propor- 
tion. Let the speculative reasoners dispute, how far this 
beneficent Being extends his care, and whether he pro- 
longs our existence beyond the grave, in order to bestow 
on virtue its just reward, and render it fully triumphant. 
The man of morals, without deciding any thing on so 
dubious a subject, is satisfied with the portion marked 
out to him by the Supreme Disposer of all things. 
Gratefully he accepts of that further reward prepared 
for him ; but if disappointed, he thinks not virtue an 
empty name; but, justly esteeming it his own reward, 
he gratefully acknowledges the bounty of his Creator, 
who, by calling him into existence, has thereby afforded 
him an opportunity of once acquiring so invaluable a 



To some philosophers it appears matter of surprise, 
that all mankind, possessing the same nature, and being 
endowed with the same faculties, should yet differ so 
widely in their pursuits and inclinations, and that one 
should utterly condemn what is fondly sought after by 
another. To some it appears matter of still more sur- 
prise, that a man should differ so widely from himself at 
different times ; and, after possession, reject with disdain 
what before was the object of all his vows and wishes. 
To me this feverish uncertainty and irresolution, in hu- 
man conduct, seems altogether unavoidable ; nor can a 
rational soul, made for the contemplation of the Su- 
preme Being, and of his works, ever enjoy tranquillity 
or satisfaction, while detained in the ignoble pursuits of 
sensual pleasure or popular applause. The Divinity is a 
boundless ocean of bliss and glory : human minds are 
smaller streams, which, arising at first from this ocean, 
seek still, amid all their wanderings, to return to it, and 
to lose themselves in that immensity of perfection. 
When checked in this natural course by vice or folly, 

* Or the man of contemplation and philosophical devotion. 

vol. in. 22 


they become furious and enraged ; and, swelling to a 
torrent, do then spread horror and devastation on the 
neighboring plains. 

In vain, by pompous phrase and passionate expres- 
sion, each recommends his own pursuit, and invites the 
credulous hearers to an imitation of his life and man- 
ners. The heart belies the countenance, and sensibly 
feels, even amid the highest success, the unsatisfactory 
nature of all those pleasures which detain it from its 
true object. I examine the voluptuous man before en- 
joyment ; I measure the vehemence of his desire, and 
the importance of his object; I find that all his happi- 
ness proceeds only from that hurry of thought, which 
takes him from himself, and turns his view from his 
guilt and misery. I consider him a moment after ; he 
has now enjoyed the pleasure which he fondly sought 
after. The sense of his guilt and misery returns upon 
him with double anguish : his mind tormented with 
fear and remorse ; his body depressed with disgust and 

But a more august, at least a more haughty person- 
age, presents himself boldly to our censure ; and, as- 
suming the title of a philosopher and man of morals, 
offers to submit to the most rigid examination. He 
challenges with a visible, though concealed impatience, 
our approbation and applause ; and seems offended, 
that we should hesitate a moment before we break out 
into admiration of his virtue. Seeing this impatience, 
I hesitate still more ; I begin to examine the motives 
of his seeming virtue : but, behold ! ere I can enter 
upon this inquiry, he flings himself from me ; and, 
addressing his discourse to that crowd of heedless audi- 
tors, fondly amuses them by his magnificent preten- 


philosopher ! thy wisdom is vain, and thy virtue 
unprofitable. Thou seekest the ignorant applauses of 
men, not the solid reflections of thy own conscience, or 
the more solid approbation of that Being, who, with one 
regard of his all-seeing eye, penetrates the universe. 
Thou surely art conscious of the hollowness of thy pre- 
tended probity ; whilst calling thyself a citizen, a son, 
a friend, thou forget test thy higher sovereign, thy true 
father, thy greatest benefactor. Where is the adoration 
due to infinite perfection, whence every thing good and 
valuable is derived ! Where is the gratitude owing to 
thy Creator, who called thee forth from nothing, who 
placed thee in all these relations to thy fellow-creatures, 
and, requiring thee to fulfil the duty of each relation, 
forbids thee to neglect what thou owest to himself, the 
most perfect being, to whom thou art connected by the 
closest tie ? 

But thou art thyself thy own idol. Thou w r orship- 
pest thy imaginary perfections ; or rather, sensible of thy 
real imperfections, thou seekest only to deceive the 
world, and to please thy fancy, by multiplying thy 
ignorant admirers. Thus, not content with neglecting 
what is most excellent in the universe, thou clesirest 
to substitute in his place what is most vile and con- 

Consider all the works of men's hands, all the inven- 
tions of human wit, in which thou affectest so nice a 
discernment. Thou wilt find, that the most perfect pro- 
duction still proceeds from the most perfect thought, 
and that it is mind alone which we admire, while we 
bestow our applause on the graces of a w r ell-propor- 
tioned statue, or the symmetry of a noble pile. The 
statuary, the architect, come still in view, and makes 
us reflect on the beauty of his art and contrivance, 


which, from a heap of unformed matter, could extract 
such expressions and proportions. This superior beauty 
of thought and intelligence thou thyself acknowledges^ 
while thou invitest us to contemplate, in thy conduct, 
the harmony of affections, the dignity of sentiments, 
and all those graces of a mind which chiefly merit our 
attention. But why stoppest thou short ? Seest thou 
nothing further that is valuable ? Amid thy rapturous 
applauses of beauty and order, art thou still ignorant 
where is to be found the most consummate beauty, the 
most perfect order ? Compare the works of art with 
those of nature. The one are but imitations of the 
other. The nearer art approaches to nature, the more 
perfect is it esteemed. But still how wide are its nearest 
approaches, and what an immense interval may be ob- 
served between them ! Art copies only the outside of 
nature, leaving the inward and more admirable springs 
and principles as exceeding her imitation, as beyond her 
comprehension. Art copies only the minute produc- 
tions of nature, despairing to reach that grandeur and 
magnificence which are so astonishing in the masterly 
works of her original. Can we then be so blind as not 
to discover an intelligence and a design in the exquisite 
and most stupendous contrivance of the universe ? Can 
w r e be so stupid as not to feel the warmest raptures of 
worship and adoration upon the contemplation of that 
intelligent Being, so infinitely good and wise ? 

The most perfect happiness surely must arise from the 
contemplation of the most perfect object. But what 
more perfect than beauty and virtue ? And where is 
beauty to be found equal to that of the universe, or 
virtue which can be compared to the benevolence and 
justice of the Deity ? If aught can diminish the pleas- 
ure of this contemplation, it must be either the narrow- 


ness of our faculties, which conceals from us the greatest 
part of beauties and perfections, or the shortness 
of our lives, which allows not time sufficient to instruct 
us in them. But it is our comfort, that if we employ 
worthily the faculties here assigned us, they will be en- 
larged in another state of existence, so as to render us 
more suitable worshippers of our Maker; and that the 
task, which can never be finished in time, will be the 
business of an eternity. 



I have long entertained a suspicion with regard to 
the decisions of philosophers upon all subjects, and 
found in myself a greater inclination to dispute than 
assent to their conclusions. There is one mistake to 
which they seem liable, almost without exception ; they 
confine too much their principles, and make no account 
of that vast variety which nature has so much affected 
in all her operations. When a philosopher has once 
laid hold of a favorite principle, which perhaps accounts 
for many natural effects, he extends the same principle 
over the whole creation, and reduces to it every phe- 
nomenon, though by the most violent and absurd rea- 
soning. Our own mind being narrow and contracted, 
we cannot extend our conception to the variety and 
extent of nature, but imagine that she is as much 
bounded in her operations as we are in our speculation. 

But if ever this infirmity of philosophers is to be sus- 
pected on any occasion, it is in their reasonings concern- 
ing human life, and the methods of attaining happiness. 
In that case they are led astray, not only by the nar- 
rowness of their understandings, but by that also of 
their passions. Almost every one has a predominant 



inclination, to which his other desires and affections sub- 
mit, and which governs him, though perhaps with some 
intervals, through the whole course of his life. It is 
difficult for him to apprehend, that any thing which 
appears totally indifferent to him can ever give enjoy- 
ment to any person, or can possess charms which alto- 
gether escape his observation. His own pursuits are 
always, in his account, the most engaging, the objects of 
his passion the most valuable, and the road which he pur- 
sues the only one that leads to happiness. 

But would these prejudiced reasoners reflect a mo- 
ment, there are many obvious instances and arguments 
sufficient to undeceive them, and make them enlarge 
their maxims and principles. Do they not see the vast 
variety of inclinations and pursuits among our species, 
where each man seems fully satisfied with his own course 
of life, and would esteem it the greatest unhappiness to 
be confined to that of his neighbor ? Do they not feel 
in themselves, that what pleases at one time, displeases 
at another, by the change of inclination, and that it is 
not in their power, by their utmost efforts, to recall that 
taste or appetite which formerly bestowed charms on 
what now appears indifferent or disagreeable ? What is 
the meaning, therefore, of those general preferences of 
the town or country life, of a life of action or one of 
pleasure, of retirement or society ; when, besides the 
different inclinations of different men, every one's expe- 
rience may convince him that each of these kinds of 
life is agreeable in its turn, and that their variety or 
their judicious mixture chiefly contributes to the render- 
ing all of them agreeable ? 

But shall this business be allowed to go altogether at 
adventures ? and must a man only consult his humor 
and inclination, in order to determine his course of life, 


without employing his reason to inform him what road 
is preferable, and leads most surely to happiness ? Is 
there no difference, then, between one man's conduct 
and another ? 

I answer, there is a great difference. One man, fol- 
lowing his inclination, in choosing his course of life, may 
employ much surer means for succeeding than another, 
who is led by his inclination into the same course of 
life, and pursues the same object. Are riches the chief 
object of your desires? Acquire skill in your profession; 
be diligent in the exercise of it ; enlarge the circle of 
your friends and acquaintance ; avoid pleasure and ex- 
pense ; and never be generous, but with a view of gain- 
ing more than you could save by frugality. Would you 
acquire the public esteem ? Guard equally against the ex- 
tremes of arrogance and fawning. Let it appear that 
you set a value upon yourself, but without despising 
others. If you fall into either of the extremes, you 
either provoke men's pride by your insolence, or teach 
them to despise you by your timorous submission, and 
by the mean opinion which you seem to entertain of 

These, you say, are the maxims of common prudence 
and discretion ; what every parent inculcates on his 
child, and what every man of sense pursues in the 
course of life which he has chosen. What is it then you 
desire more ? Do you come to a philosopher as to a 
cunning man, to learn something by magic or witchcraft, 
beyond what can be known by common prudence and 
discretion ? — Yes ; we come to a philosopher to be in- 
structed, how we shall choose our ends, more than the 
means for attaining these ends : we want to know what 
desire we shall gratify? what passion we shall comply 
with, what appetite we shall indulge. As to the rest, 


we trust to common sense, and the general maxims of 
the world, for our instruction. 

I am sorry, then, I have pretended to be a philoso- 
pher ; for I find your questions very perplexing, and am 
in danger, if my answer be too rigid and severe, of pass- 
ing for a pedant and scholastic ; if it be too easy and 
free, of being taken for a preacher of vice and immo- 
rality. However, to satisfy you, I shall deliver my opin- 
ion upon the matter, and shall only desire you to esteem 
it of as little consequence as I do myself. By that 
means you will neither think it worthy of your ridicule 
nor your anger. 

If we can depend upon any principle which we learn 
from philosophy, this, I think, may be considered as cer- 
tain and undoubted, that there is nothing, in itself, valu- 
able or despicable, desirable or hateful, beautiful or de- 
formed ; but that these attributes arise from the particu- 
lar constitution and fabric of human sentiment and 
affection. What seems the most delicious food to one 
animal, appears loathsome to another ; what affects the 
feeling of one with delight, produces uneasiness in 
another. This is confessedly the case with regard to all 
the bodily senses. But, if we examine the matter more 
accurately, we shall find that the same observation holds 
even where the mind concurs with the body, and 
mingles its sentiment with the exterior appetite. 

Desire this passionate lover to give you a character 
of his mistress : he will tell you, that he is at a loss for 
words to describe her charms, and will ask you very seri- 
ously, if ever you were acquainted with a goddess or an 
angel ? If you answer that you never were, he will then 
say that it is impossible for you to form a conception of 
such divine beauties as those which his charmer pos- 
sesses ; so complete a shape ; such well-proportioned 

vol. in. 23 


features ; so engaging an air ; such sweetness of disposi- 
tion ; such gaiety of humor. You can infer nothing, 
however, from all this discourse, but that the poor man 
is in love ; and that the general appetite between the 
sexes, which nature has infused into all animals, is in 
him determined to a particular object by some qualities 
which give him pleasure. The same divine creature, 
not only to a different animal, but also to a different 
man, appears a mere mortal being, and is beheld with 
the utmost indifference. 

Nature has given all animals a like prejudice in favor 
of their offspring. As soon as the helpless infant sees 
the light, though in every other eye it appears a despi- 
cable and a miserable creature, it is regarded by its fond 
parent with the utmost affection, and is preferred to 
every other object, however perfect and accomplished. 
The passion alone, arising from the original structure 
and formation of human nature, bestows a value on the 
most insignificant object. 

We may push the same observation further, and may 
conclude that, even when the mind operates alone, and 
feeling the sentiment of blame or approbation, pro- 
nounces one object deformed and odious, another beau- 
tiful and amiable ; I say that, even in this case, those 
qualities are not really in the objects, but belong entirely 
to the sentiment of that mind which blames or praises. 
I grant, that it will be more difficult to make this pro- 
position evident, and, as it were, palpable, to negligent 
thinkers ; because nature is more uniform in the senti- 
ments of the mind than in most feelings of the body, 
and produces a nearer resemblance in the inward than 
in the outward part of human kind. There is some- 
thing approaching to principles in mental taste ; and 
critics can reason and dispute more plausibly than cooks 


or perfumers. We may observe, however, that this uni- 
formity among human kind hinders not, but that there 
is a considerable diversity in the sentiments of beauty 
and worth, and that education, custom, prejudice, caprice, 
and humor, frequently vary our taste of this kind. You 
will never convince a man, who is not accustomed to 
Italian music, and has not an ear to follow its intricacies, 
that a Scots tune is not preferable. You have not even 
any single argument beyond your own taste, which you 
can employ in your behalf: and to your antagonist his 
particular taste will always appear a more convincing 
argument to the contrary. If you be wise, each of 
you will allow that the other may be in the right ; and 
having many other instances of this diversity of taste, 
you will both confess, that beauty and worth are 
merely of a relative nature, and consist in an agree- 
able sentiment, produced by an object in a particular 
mind, according to the peculiar structure and constitu- 
tion of that mind. 

By this diversity of sentiment, observable in human 
kind, nature has, perhaps, intended to make us sensible 
of her authority, and let us see what surprising changes 
she could produce on the passions and desires of man- 
kind, merely by the change of their inward fabric, 
without any alteration on the objects. The vulgar 
may even be convinced by this argument. But men, 
accustomed to thinking, may draw a more convincing, 
at least' a more general argument, from the very nature 
of the subject. 

In the operation of reasoning, the mind does nothing 
but run over its objects, as they are supposed to stand 
in reality, without adding any thing to them, or dimin- 
ishing any thing from them. If I examine the Ptolo- 
maic and Copernican systems, I endeavor only, by my 


inquiries, to know the real situation of the planets ; 
that is, in other words, I endeavor to give them, in my 
conception, the same relations that they bear towards 
each other in the heavens. To this operation of the 
mind, therefore, there seems to be always a real, though 
often an unknown standard, in the nature of things ; 
nor is truth or falsehood variable by the various appre- 
hensions of mankind. Though all human race should 
for ever conclude that the sun moves, and the earth 
remains at rest, the sun stirs not an inch from his place 
for all these reasonings ; and such conclusions are 
eternally false and erroneous. 

But the case is not the same with the qualities of 
beautiful and deformed, desireible and odious, as with truth 
and falsehood. In the former case, the mind is not 
content with merely surveying its objects, as they stand 
in themselves : it also feels a sentiment of delight or 
uneasiness, approbation or blame, consequent to that 
survey ; and this sentiment determines it to affix the 
epithet beautiful or deformed, desirable or odious. Now, it 
is evident, that this sentiment must depend upon the 
particular fabric or structure of the mind, which enables 
such particular forms to operate in such a particular 
manner, and produces a sympathy or conformity be- 
tween the mind and its objects. Vary the structure of 
the mind or inward organs) the sentiment no longer 
follows, though the form remains the same. The senti- 
ment being different from the object, and arising from 
its operation upon the organs of the mind, an alteration 
upon the latter must vary the effect ; nor can the same 
object, presented to a mind totally different, produce 
the same sentiment. 

This conclusion every one is apt to draw of himself, 
without much philosophy, where the sentiment is evi- 


dently distinguishable from the object. Who is not 
sensible that power, and glory, and vengeance, are not 
desirable of themselves, but derive all their value from 
the structure of human passions, which begets a desire 
towards such particular pursuits ? But with regard to 
beauty, either natural or moral, the case is commonly 
supposed to be different. The agreeable quality is 
thought to lie in the object, not in the sentiment ; and 
that merely because the sentiment is not so turbulent 
and violent as to distinguish itself, in an evident man- 
ner, from the perception of the object. 

But a little reflection suffices to distinguish them. 
A man may know exactly all the circles and ellipses of 
the Copernican system, and all the irregular spirals of 
the Ptolomaic, without perceiving that the former is 
more beautiful than the latter. Euclid has fully ex- 
plained every quality of the circle, but has not, in any 
proposition, said a word of its beauty. The reason is 
evident. Beauty is not a quality of the circle. It lies 
not in any part of the line, whose parts are all equally 
distant from a common centre. It is only the effect, 
which that figure produces upon a mind, wdiose particu- 
lar fabric or structure renders it susceptible of such 
sentiments. In vain would you look for it in the circle, 
or seek it, either by your senses, or by mathematical 
reasonings, in all the properties of that figure. 

The mathematician, who took no other pleasure in 
reading Virgil, but that of examining ^Eneas's voyage 
by the map, might perfectly understand the meaning 
of every Latin w T ord employed by that divine author ; 
and, consequently, might have a distinct idea of the 
wdiole narration. He would even have a more distinct 
idea of it, than they could attain who had not studied 
so exactly the geography of the poem. He knew, 


therefore, every thing in the poem : but he was igno- 
rant of its beauty, because the beauty, properly speak- 
ing, lies not in the poem, but in the sentiment or taste 
of the reader. And where a man has no such delicacy 
of temper as to make him feel this sentiment, he must 
be ignorant of the beauty, though possessed of the 
science and understanding of an an^el* 

The inference upon the whole is, that it is not from 
the value or worth of the object which any person pur- 
sues, that we can determine his enjoyment, but merely 
from the passion with which he pursues it, and the 
success which he meets with in his pursuit. Objects 
have absolutely no worth or value in themselves. They 
derive their worth merely from the passion. If that be 
strong and steady, and successful, the person is happy. 
It cannot reasonably be doubted, but a little miss, 
dressed in a new gown for a dancing-school ball, re- 
ceives as complete enjoyment as the greatest orator, 
who triumphs in the splendor of his eloquence, while 
he governs the passions and resolutions of a numerous 

All the difference, therefore, between one man and 

* Were I not afraid of appearing too philosophical, I should remind my 
reader of that famous doctrine, supposed to be fully proved in modern times, 
" That tastes and colors, and all other sensible qualities, lie not in the bodies, 
but merely in the senses." The case is the same with beauty and deformity, 
virtue and vice. This doctrine, however, takes off no more from the reality 
of the latter qualities, than from that of the former ; nor need it give any 
umbrage either to critics or moralists. Though colors were allowed to lie 
only in the eye, would dyers or painters ever be less regarded or esteemed V 
Then- is a sufficient uniformity in the senses and feelings of mankind, to 
make all these qualities the objects of art and reasoning, and to have the 
greatest influence on life and manners. And as it is certain, that the dis- 
covery above mentioned in natural philosophy, makes no alteration on action 
and conduct, why should a like discovery in moral philosophy make any 
alteration ? 


another, with regard to life, consists either in the pas- 
sion, or in the enjoyment: and these differences are suffi- 
cient to produce the wide extremes of happiness and 

To he happy, the passion must neither be too violent, 
nor too remiss. In the first case, the mind is in a per- 
petual hurry and tumult ; in the second, it sinks into a 
disagreeable indolence and lethargy. 

To be happy, the passion must be benign and social, 
not rou^h or fierce. The affections of the latter kind 
are not near so agreeable to the feeling as those of 
the former. Who will compare rancor and animosity, 
envy and revenge, to friendship, benignity, clemency, 
and gratitude ? 

To be happy, the passion must be cheerful and gay, 
not gloomy and melancholy. A propensity to hope 
and joy is real riches ; one to fear and sorrow, real 

Some passions or inclinations, in the enjoyment of their 
object, are not so steady or constant as others, nor con- 
vey such durable pleasure and satisfaction. Philosophi- 
cal devotion, for instance, like the enthusiasm of a poet, 
is the transitory effect of high spirits, great leisure, a 
fine genius, and a habit of study and contemplation : 
but notwithstanding all these circumstances, an abstract, 
invisible object, like that which natural religion alone 
presents to us, cannot long actuate the mind, or be of 
any moment in life. To render the passion of continu- 
ance, we must find some method of affecting; the senses 
and imagination, and must embrace some historical as 
well as philosophical account of the Divinity. Popular 
superstitions and observances are even found to be of 
use in this particular. 

Though the tempers of men be very different, yet we 


may safely pronounce in general, that a life of pleasure 
cannot support itself so long as one of business, but is 
much more subject to satiety and disgust. The amuse- 
ments which are the most durable, have all a mixture of 
application and attention in them ; such as gaming and 
hunting. And in general, business and action fill up all 
the great vacancies in human life. 

But where the temper is the best disposed for any 
enjoyment, the object is often wanting : and in this re- 
spect, the passions, which pursue external objects, con- 
tribute not so much to happiness as those which rest in 
ourselves : since we are neither so certain of attaining 
such objects, nor so secure in possessing them. A pas- 
sion for learning is preferable, with regard to happiness, 
to one for riches. 

Some men are possessed of great strength of mind • 
and even when they pursue external objects, are not 
much affected by a disappointment, but renew their 
application and industry with the greatest cheerfulness. 
Nothing contributes more to happiness than such a turn 
of mind. 

According to this short and imperfect sketch of human 
life, the happiest disposition of mind is the virtuous ; or, 
in other words, that which leads to action and employ- 
ment, renders us sensible to the social passions, steels the 
heart against the assaults of fortune, reduces the affec- 
tions to a just moderation, makes our own thoughts an 
entertainment to us, and inclines us rather to the pleas- 
ures of society and conversation than to those of the 
senses. This, in the mean time, must be obvious to the 
most careless reasoner, that all dispositions of mind are 
not alike favorable to happiness, and that one passion or 
humor may be extremely desirable, while another is 
equally disagreeable. And, indeed, all the difference 



between the conditions of life depends upon the mind ; 
nor is there any one situation of affairs, in itself, prefer- 
able to another. Good and ill, both natural and moral, 
are entirely relative to human sentiment and affection. 
Xo man would ever be unhappy, could he alter his feel- 
ings. Proteus-like, he would elude all attacks, by the 
continual alterations of his shape and form. 

But of this resource nature has, in a great measure, 
deprived us. The fabric and constitution of our mind 
no more depends on our choice, than that of our body. 
The generality of men have not even the smallest notion 
that any alteration in this respect can ever be desirable. 
As a stream necessarily follows the several inclinations 
of the ground on which it runs, so are the ignorant and 
thoughtless part of mankind actuated by their natural 
propensities. Such are effectually excluded from all 
pretensions to philosophy, and the medicine of the mind, so 
much boasted. But even upon the wise and thoughtful, 
nature has a prodigious influence ; nor is it always in a 
man's power, by the utmost art and industry, to cor- 
rect his temper, and attain that virtuous character to 
which he aspires. The empire of philosophy extends 
over a few ; and with regard to these, too, her authority 
is very weak and limited. Men may well be sensible of 
the value of virtue, and may desire to attain it ; but it 
is not always certain that they will be successful in their 

Whoever considers, without prejudice, the course of 
human actions, will find, that mankind are almost en- 
tirely guided by constitution and temper, and that gen- 
eral maxims have little influence, but so far as they 
affect our taste or sentiment. If a man have a lively 
sense of honor and virtue, with moderate passions, his 
conduct will always be conformable to the rules of mo- 

vol. in. 24 


rality : or if he depart from them, his return will be easy 
and expeditious. On the other hand, where one is born 
of so perverse a frame of mind, of so callous and insen- 
sible a disposition, as to have no relish for virtue and 
humanity, no sympathy with his fellow-creatures, no de- 
sire of esteem and applause, such a one must be allowed 
entirely incurable ; nor is there any remedy in philoso- 
phy. He reaps no satisfaction but from low and sensual 
objects, or from the indulgence of malignant passions : 
he feels no remorse to control his vicious inclinations : 
he has not even that sense or taste, which is requisite to 
make him desire a better character. For my part, I 
know not how I should address myself to such a one, 
or by what arguments I should endeavor to reform him. 
Should I tell him of the inward satisfaction which re- 
sults from laudable and humane actions, and delicate 
pleasure of disinterested love and friendship, the lasting 
enjoyments of a good name and an established char- 
acter, he might still reply, that these were, perhaps, 
pleasures to such as were susceptible of them ; but 
that, for his part, he finds himself of a quite different 
turn and disposition. I must repeat it, my philosophy 
affords no remedy in such a case ; nor could I do any 
thing but lament this person's unhappy condition. But 
then I ask, If any other philosophy can afford a rem- 
edy ; or if it be possible, by any system, to render all 
mankind virtuous, however perverse may be their nat- 
ural frame of mind ? Experience will soon convince us 
of the contrary ; and I will venture to affirm, that, per- 
haps, the chief benefit which results from philosophy, 
arises in an indirect manner, and proceeds more from its 
secret insensible influence, than from its immediate ap- 

It is certain, that a serious attention to the sciences 


and liberal arts softens and humanizes the temper, and 
cherishes those fine emotions, in which true virtue and 
honor consists. It rarely, very rarely happens, that a 
man of taste and learning is not, at least, an honest 
man, whatever frailties may attend him. The bent of 
his mind to speculative studies must mortify in him the 
passions of interest and ambition, and must, at the 
same time, give him a greater sensibility of all the 
decencies and duties of life. He feels more fully a 
moral distinction in characters and manners ; nor is his 
sense of this kind diminished, but, on the contrary, it is 
much increased, by speculation. 

Besides such insensible changes upon the temper and 
disposition, it is highly probable, that others may be 
produced by study and application. The prodigious 
effects of education may convince us, that the mind is 
not altogether stubborn and inflexible, but will admit of 
many alterations from its original make and structure. 
Let a man propose to himself the model of a character 
which he approves : let him be well acquainted with 
those particulars in which his own character deviates 
from this model : let him keep a constant watch over 
himself, and bend his mind, by a continual effort, from 
the vices, towards the virtues • and I doubt not but, in 
time, he will find, in his temper, an alteration for the 

Habit is another powerful means of reforming the 
mind, and implanting in it good dispositions and inclina- 
tions. A man, who continues in a course of sobriety 
and temperance, will hate riot and disorder : if he 
engage in business or study, indolence will seem a 
punishment to him : if he constrain himself to practise 
beneficence and affability, he will soon abhor all in- 
stances of pride and violence. Where one is thoroughly 


convinced that the virtuous course of life is preferable ; 
if he have but resolution enough, for some time, to 
impose a violence on himself; his reformation needs 
not be despaired of. The misfortune is, that this con- 
viction and this resolution never can have place, unless 
a man be, befroehand, tolerably virtuous. 

Here then is the chief triumph of art and philosophy : 
it insensibly refines the temper, and it points out to us 
those dispositions which we should endeavor to attain, 
by a constant bent of mind, and by repeated habit. Be- 
yond this I cannot acknowledge it to have great in- 
fluence ; and I must entertain doubts concerning all 
those exhortations and consolations, which are in such 
vogue among speculative reasoners. 

We have already observed, that no objects are, in 
themselves, desirable or odious, valuable or despicable ; 
but that objects acquire these qualities from the par- 
ticular character and constitution of the mind which 
surveys them. To diminish, therefore, or augment any 
person's value for an object, to excite or moderate his 
passions, there are no direct arguments or reasons, 
which can be employed with any force or influence. 
The catching of flies, like Domitian, if it give more 
pleasure, is preferable to the hunting of wild beasts, 
like William Rufus, or conquering of kingdoms like 

But though the value of every object can be deter- 
mined only by the sentiment or passion of every indi- 
vidual, we may observe, that the passion, in pronounc- 
ing its verdict, considers not the object simply, as it 
is in itself, but surveys it with all the circumstances 
which attend it. A man, transported with joy on ac- 
count of his possessing a diamond, confines not his view 
to the glittering stone before him. He also considers 


its rarity ; and thence chiefly arises his pleasure and 
exultation. Here, therefore, a philosopher may step in, 
and suggest particular views, and considerations, and 
circumstances, which otherwise would have escaped us, 
and by that means he may either moderate or excite 
any particular passion. 

It may seem unreasonable absolutely to deny the 
authority of philosophy in this respect : but it must be 
confessed, that there lies this strong presumption against 
it, that, if these views be natural and obvious, they 
would have occurred of themselves without the assist- 
ance of philosophy : if they be not natural, they never 
can have any influence on the affections. These are of 
a very delicate nature, and cannot be forced or con- 
strained by the utmost art or industry. A consideration 
which we seek for on purpose, which w^e enter into 
with difficulty, which we cannot retain without care 
and attention, will never produce those genuine and 
durable movements of passion which are the result of 
nature, and the constitution of the mind. A man may 
as well pretend to cure himself of love, by viewing his 
mistress through the artificial medium of a microscope 
or prospect, and beholding there the coarseness of her 
skin, and monstrous disproportion of her features, as hope 
to excite or moderate any passion by the artificial argu- 
ments of a Seneca or an Epictetus. The remembrance 
of the natural aspect and situation of the object will, 
in both cases, still recur upon him. The reflections of 
philosophy are too subtile and distant to take place in 
common life, or eradicate any affection. The air is too 
fine to breathe in, where it is above the winds and 
clouds of the atmosphere. 

Another defect of those refined reflections which 
philosophy suggests to us, is, that commonly they can- 


not diminish or extinguish our vicious passions, without 
diminishing or extinguishing such as are virtuous, and 
rendering the mind totally indifferent and inactive. 
They are, for the most part, general, and are applicable 
to all our affections. In vain do we hope to direct 
their influence only to one side. If by incessant study 
and meditation we have rendered them intimate and 
present to us, they will operate throughout, and spread 
an universal insensibility over the mind. When we 
destroy the nerves, we extinguish the sense of pleasure, 
together with that of pain, in the human body. 

It will be easy, by one glance of the eye, to find one 
or other of these defects in most of those philosophical 
reflections, so much celebrated both in ancient and 
modern times. Let not the injuries or violence of men, say 
the philosophers,* ever discompose you by anger or hatred. 
Would you be angry at the ape for its malice, or the tiger for 
its ferocity ? This reflection leads us into a bad opinion 
of human nature, and must extinguish the social affec- 
tions. It tends also to prevent all remorse for a man's 
own crimes, when he considers that vice is as natural to 
mankind as the particular instincts to brute creatures. 

All ills arise from the order of the universe, which is 
absolutely perfect. Would you wish to disturb so divine 
an order for the sake of your own particular interest ? 
What if the ills I suffer arise from malice or oppression ? 
But the vices and imperfections of men are also comprehended 
in the order of the universe. 

If plagues and earthquakes break not heaven's design, 
Why then a Borgia or a Catiline ? 

Let this be allowed, and my own vices will also be a part 
of the same order. 

* Plut. Be Ira eoldhcnda. 


To one who said that none were happy who were not 
above opinion, a Spartan replied, Then none are happy but 
knaves and rollers* 

Man is lorn to le miserable ; and is he surprised at any 
particular misfortune ? And can he give way to sorrow and 
lamentation upon account of any disaster ? Yes : he very 
reasonably laments that he should be born to be miser- 
able. Your consolation presents a hundred ills for one, 
of which you pretend to ease him. 

You should always have before your eyes death, disease, pov- 
erty, blindness, exile, calumny, and infamy, as ills which are in- 
cident to human nature. If any one of these ills fall to your 
lot, you ivitt bear it the letter when you have reckoned upon it. 
I answer, if we confine ourselves to a general and dis- 
tant reflection on the ills of human life, that can have no 
effect to prepare us for them. If by close and intense 
meditation we render them present and intimate to us, 
that is the true secret for poisoning all our pleasures, and 
rendering us perpetually miserable. 

Your sorrow is fruitless, and will not change the course of 
destiny. Very true ; and for that very reason I am 

Cicero's consolation for deafness is somewhat curious. 
How many languages are there, says he, which you do not 
understand? The Tunic, Spanish, Gallic, Egyptian, etc. 
With regard to all these, you are as if you ivere deaf, yet you 
are indifferent about the matter. Is it then so greed a misfor- 
tune to le deaf to one language more ?-\ 

I like better the repartee of Antipater the Cyrenaic, 
when some women were condoling with him for his 
blindness : What ! says he, Bo you think there are no 
pleasures in the dark ? 

* Plut. Lacon. Apophtlteg. f Tusc. Quest, lib. v. 


Nothing can be more destructive, says Fontenelle, to ambi- 
tion, and the passion for conquest, than the true system of 
astronomy. What a poor thing is even the whole globe in com- 
parison of the infinite extent of nature ! This consideration 
is evidently too distant ever to have any effect ; or, if 
it had any, would it not destroy patriotism as well as 
ambition ? The same gallant author adds, with some 
reason, that the bright eyes of the ladies are the only 
objects which lose nothing of their lustre or value from 
the most extensive views of astronomy, but stand proof 
against every system. Would philosophers advise us to 
limit our affection to them ? 

Exile, says Plutarch to a friend in banishment, is no 
evil : Mathematicians tell us that the whole earth is but a point, 
compared to the heavens. To change one's count rg, then, is 
little more than to remove from one street to another. Man is 
not a plant, rooted to a certain spot of earth : all soils and all 
climates are cdiJce suited to him* These topics are admira- 
ble, could they fall only into the hands of banished per- 
sons. But what if they come also to the knowledge of 
those who are employed in public affairs, and destroy all 
their attachment to their native country ? Or will they 
operate like the quack's medicine, which is equally good 
for a diabetes and a dropsy ? 

It is certain, were a superior being thrust into a hu- 
man body, that the whole of life would to him appear 
so mean, contemptible, and puerile, that he never could 
be induced to take part in any thing, and would scarcely 
give attention to what passes around him. To engage 
him to such a condescension as to play even the part of 
a Philip with zeal and alacrity, would be much more 
difficult than to constrain the same Philip, after having 

* De Exilio. 


been a king and a conqueror during fifty years, to mend 
old shoes with proper care and attention, the occupation 
which Lucian assigns him in the infernal regions. Now, 
all the same topics of disdain towards human affairs, 
which could operate on this supposed being, occur also 
to a philosopher ; but being, in some measure, dispro- 
portioned to human capacity, and not being fortified by 
the experience of any thing better, they make not a 
full impression on him. He sees, but he feels not suffi- 
ciently their truth ; and is always a sublime philosopher 
when he needs not ; that is, as long as nothing disturbs 
him, or rouses his affections. While others play, he 
wonders at their keenness and ardor; but he no sooner 
puts in his own stake, than he is commonly transported 
with the same passions that he had so much condemned 
while he remained a simple spectator. 

There are two considerations chiefly to be met with 
in books of philosophy, from which any important effect 
is to be expected, and that because these considerations 
are drawn from common life, and occur upon the most 
superficial view of human affairs. When we reflect on 
the shortness and uncertainty of life, how despicable 
seem all our pursuits of happiness ! And even if we 
would extend our concern beyond our own life, how 
frivolous appear our most enlarged and most generous 
projects, when we consider the incessant changes and 
revolutions of human affairs, by which laws and learn- 
ing, books and governments, are hurried away by time, 
as by a rapid stream, and are lost in the immense ocean 
of matter ! Such a reflection certainly tends to mortify 
all our passions : but does it not thereby counterwork 
the artifice of nature, who has happily deceived us into 
an opinion, that human life is of some importance? 

vol. in. 25 


And may not such a reflection be employed with success 
by voluptuous reasoners, in order to lead us from the 
paths of action and virtue, into the flowery fields of in- 
dolence and pleasure ? 

We are informed by Thucydides, that, during the 
famous plague of Athens, when death seemed present to 
every one, a dissolute mirth and gaiety prevailed among 
the people, who exhorted one another to make the most 
of life as Ions; as it endured. The same observation is 
made by Boccace, with regard to the plague of Florence. 
A like principle makes soldiers, during war, be more 
addicted to riot and expense, than any other race 
of men* Present pleasure is always of importance ; 
and whatever diminishes the importance of all other 
objects, must bestow on it an additional influence and 

The second philosophical consideration, which may 
often have an influence on the affections, is derived from 
a comparison of our own condition with the condition 
of others. This comparison we are continually making 
even in common life ; but the misfortune is, that we are 
rather apt to compare our situation with that of our 
superiors, than with that of our inferiors. A philoso- 
pher corrects this natural infirmity, by turning his view 
to the other side, in order to render himself easy in the 
situation to which fortune has confined him. There are 
few people who are not susceptible of some consolation 
from this reflection, though, to a very good-natured man, 
the view of human miseries should rather produce sor- 
row than comfort, and add, to his lamentations for his 
own misfortunes, a deep compassion for those of others. 

* And it is observable, in this kingdom, that long' peace, by producing secu- 
rity, has much altered them in this particular, and has quite removed our offi- 
cers from the generous character of their profession. Editions 13 and 1). 



Such is the imperfection, even of the best of these phi- 
losophical topics of consolation. ::: 

* The Sceptic, perhaps, carries the matter too far, when he limits all philo- 
sophical topics and reflections to these two. There seem to be others, whose 
truth is undeniable, and whose natural tendency is to tranquillize and soften 
all the passions. Philosophy greedily seizes these ; studies them, weighs them, 
commits them to the memory, and familiarizes them to the mind : and their 
influence on tempers which are thoughtful, gentle, and moderate, may be con- 
siderable. But what is their influence, you will say, if the temper be antece- 
dently disposed after the same manner as that to which they pretend to form 
it ? They may. at least, fortify that temper, and furnish it with views, by 
which it may entertain and nourish itself. Here are a few examples of such 
philosophical reflections. 

1. Is it not certain, that every condition has concealed ills? Then why 
envy anybody ? 

2. Every one has known ills ; and there is a compensation throughout. 
Why not be contented with the present ? 

3. Custom deadens the sense both of the good and the ill, and levels every 

4. Health and humor all. The rest of little consequence, except these be 

5. How many other good things have I ? Then why be vexed for one ill ? 
G. How many are happy in the condition of which I complain ? How many 

envy me ? 

7. Every good must be paid for : fortune by labor, favor by flattery. Would 
I keep the price, yet have the commodity? 

8. Expect not too great happiness in life. Human nature admits it not. 

9. Pi'opose not a happiness too complicated. But does that depend on me ? 
Yes : the first choice does. Life is like a game : one may choose the game : 
and passion, by degrees, seizes the proper object. 

10. Anticipate by your hopes and fancy future consolation, which time in- 
fallibly brings to every affliction. 

11. I desire to be rich. Why? That I may possess many fine objects ; 
houses, gardens, equipage, etc. How many fine objects does nature offer to 
every one without expense? if enjoyed, sufficient. If not: see the effect 
of custom or of temper, which would soon take off the relish of the riches. 

12. I desire fame. Let this occur: if I act well, I shall have the esteem of 
all my acquaintance. And what is all the rest to me ? 

These reflections are so obvious, that it is a wonder they occur not to every 
man. So convincing, that it is a wonder they persuade not every man. But, 
perhaps, they do occur to, and persuade most men, when they consider human 
life by a general and calm survey : but where any real, affecting incident 
happens; when passion is awakened, fancy agitated, example draws, and 


I shall conclude this subject with observing, that, 
though virtue be undoubtedly the best choice, when it 
is attainable, yet such is the disorder and confusion of 
human affairs, that no perfect or regular distribution of 
happiness and misery is ever in this life to be expected. 
Not only the goods of fortune, and the endowments of 
the body (both of which are important), not only these 
advantages, I sa}^, are unequally divided between the 
virtuous and vicious, but even the mind itself partakes, 
in some degree, of this disorder ; and the most worthy 
character, by the very constitution of the passions, en- 
joys not always the highest felicity. 

It is observable, that though every bodily pain pro- 
ceeds from some disorder in the part or organ, yet the 
pain is not always proportioned to the disorder, but is 
greater or less, according to the greater or l'ess sensibility 
of the part upon which the noxious humors exert their 
influence. A toothache produces more violent convul- 
sions of pain than a phthisis or a dropsy. In like manner, 
with regard to the economy of the mind, we may 
observe, that all vice is indeed pernicious ; yet the dis- 
turbance or pain is not measured out by nature with 
exact proportion to the degrees of vice • nor is the man 

counsel urges ; the philosopher is lost in the man, and he seeks in vain for 
that persuasion 'which before seemed so firm and unshaken. What remedy 
for this inconvenience ? Assist yourself by a frequent perusal of the enter- 
taining moralists : have recourse to the learning of Plutarch, the imagination 
of Lucian, the eloquence of Cicero, the wit of Seneca, the gaiety of Mon- 
taigne, the sublimity of Shaftesbury. Moral precepts, so couched, strike deep, 
and fortify the mind against the illusions of passion. But trust not altogether 
to external aid : by habit and study acquire that philosophical temper which 
both gives force to relle.-tion, and by rendering a great part of your happiness 
independent, takes off the edge from all disorderly passions, and tranquillizes 
the mind. Despise not these helps; but confide not too much in them neither; 
unless nature has been favorable in the temper with which she has endowed 


of highest virtue, even abstracting from external acci- 
dents, always the most happy. A gloomy and melan- 
choly disposition is certainly, to our sentiments, a vice or 
imperfection ; but as it may be accompanied with great 
sense of honor and great integrity, it may be found in 
very worthy characters, though it is sufficient alone to 
embitter life, and render the person affected with it com- 
pletely miserable. On the other hand, a selfish villain 
may possess a spring and alacrity of temper, a certain 
gaiety of heart, which is indeed a good quality, but which 
is rewarded much beyond its merit, and when attended 
with good fortune, will compensate for the uneasiness 
and remorse arising from all the other vices. 

I shall add, as an observation to the same purpose, 
that, if a man be liable to a vice or imperfection, it may 
often happen, that a good quality, which he possesses 
along with it, will render him more miserable, than if 
he were completely vicious. A person of such imbecil- 
ity of temper, as to be easily broken by affliction, is 
more unhappy for being endowed with a generous and 
friendly disposition, which gives him a lively concern 
for others, and exposes him the more to fortune and 
accidents. A sense of shame, in an imperfect character, 
is certainly a virtue ; but produces great uneasiness and 
remorse, from which the abandoned villain is entirely 
free. A very amorous complexion, with a heart incapa- 
ble of friendship, is happier than the same excess in 
love, with a generosity of temper, which transports a 
man beyond himself, and renders him a total slave to 
the object of his passion. 

In a word, human life is more governed by fortune 
than by reason ; is to be regarded more as a dull pas- 
time than a serious occupation ; and is more influenced 
by particular humor, than by general principles. Shall 


we engage ourselves in it with passion and anxiety ? It 
is not worthy of so much concern. Shall we be indif- 
ferent about what happens ? We lose all the pleasure 
of the game by our phlegm and carelessness. While we 
are reasoning concerning life, life is gone ; and death, 
though perhaps they receive him differently, yet treats 
alike the fool and the philosopher. To reduce life to 
exact rule and method is commonly a painful, oft a fruit- 
less occupation : and is it not also a proof, that we over- 
value the prize for which we contend ? Even to reason 
so carefully concerning it, and to fix with accuracy its 
just idea, would be overvaluing it, were it not that, to 
some tempers, this occupation is one of the most amus- 
ing in which life could possibly be employed. 



As marriage is an engagement entered into by mutual 
consent, and has for its end the propagation of the species, 
it is evident that it must be susceptible of all the variety 
of conditions which consent establishes, provided they 
be not contrary to this end. 

A man, in conjoining himself to a woman, is bound to 
her according to the terms of his engagement : in be- 
getting children, he is bound, by all the ties of nature 
and humanity, to provide for their subsistence and 
education. When he has performed these two parts 
of duty, no one can reproach him with injustice or 
injury. And as the terms of his engagement, as well 
as the methods of subsisting his offspring, may be vari- 
ous, it is mere superstition to imagine, that marriage 
can be entirely uniform, and will admit only of one 
mode or form. Did not human laws restrain the natu- 
ral liberty of men, every particular marriage would be 
as different as contracts or bargains of any other kind 
or species. 

As circumstances vary, and the laws propose different 
advantages, we find, that, in different times and places, 
they impose different conditions on this important con- 
tract. In Tonquin, it is usual for the sailors, when the 


ship comes into harbor, to marry for the season ; and, 
notwithstanding this precarious engagement, they are 
assured, it is said, of the strictest fidelity to their bed, 
as well as in the whole management of their affairs, 
from those temporary spouses. 

I cannot, at present, recollect my authorities ; but I 
have somewhere read, that the republic of Athens, 
having lost many of its citizens by war and pestilence, 
allowed every man to marry two w T ives, in order the 
sooner to repair the waste which had been made by 
these calamities. The poet Euripides happened to be 
coupled to two noisy vixens, who so plagued him with 
their jealousies and quarrels, that he became ever after 
a professed ivoman-hater ; and is the only theatrical 
writer, perhaps the only poet, that ever entertained an 
aversion to the sex. 

In that agreeable romance called the History of the 
Sevarambians, where a great many men and a few r women 
are supposed to be shipwrecked on a desert coast, the 
captain of the troop, in order to obviate those endless 
quarrels which arose, regulates their marriages after the 
following manner : He takes a handsome female to him- 
self alone ; assigns one to every couple of inferior offi- 
cers, and to five of the lowest rank he gives one wife in 

The ancient Britons had a singular kind of marriage, 
to be met with among no other people. Any number 
of them, as ten or a dozen, joined in a society together, 
which w T as perhaps requisite for mutual defence in those 
barbarous times. In order to link this society the closer, 
they took an equal number of wives in common ; and 
whatever children were born, were reputed to belong to 
all of them, and w r ere accordingly provided for by the 
■whole community. 


Among the inferior creatures, nature herself, being 
the supreme legislator, prescribes all the laws which 
regulate their marriages, and varies those laws accord- 
in o- to the different circumstances of the creature. 
Where she furnishes with ease, food and defence to the 
new-born animal, the present embrace terminates the 
marriage ; and the care of the offspring is committed 
entirely to the female. Where the food is of more 
difficult purchase, the marriage continues for one season, 
till the common progeny can provide for itself; and 
then the union immediately dissolves, and leaves each 
of the parties free to enter into a new engagement at 
the ensuing season. But nature, having endowed man 
with reason, has not so exactly regulated every article 
of his marriage contract, but has left him to adjust them, 
by his own prudence, according to his particular circum- 
stances and situation. Municipal laws are a supply to 
the wisdom of each individual; and, at the same time, 
by restraining the natural liberty of men, make private 
interest submit to the interest of the public. All regula- 
tions, therefore, on this head, are equally lawful and 
equally conformable to the principles of nature ; though 
they are not all equally convenient, or equally useful to 
society. The laws may allow of polygamy, as among 
the Eastern nations ; or of voluntary divorces, as among 
the Greeks and Romans ; or they may confine one man 
to one woman during the whole course of their lives, as 
among the modern Europeans. It may not be disagree- 
able to consider the advantages and disadvantages which 
result from each of these institutions. 

The advocates for polygamy may recommend it as 

the only effectual remedy for the disorders of love, and 

the only expedient for freeing men from that slavery to 

the females, which the natural violence of our passions 

vol. in. 20 


has imposed upon us. By this means alone can we 
regain our right of sovereignty ; and, sating our appetite, 
reestablish the authority of reason in our minds, and, of 
consequence, our own authority in our families. Man, 
like a weak sovereign, being unable to support himself 
against the wiles and intrigues of his subjects, must play 
one faction against another, and become absolute by 
the mutual jealousy of the females. To divide and to 
govern, is an universal maxim ; and, by neglecting it, 
the Europeans undergo a more grievous and a more 
ignominious slavery than the Turks or Persians, who 
are subjected indeed to a sovereign that lies at a dis- 
tance from them, but in their domestic affairs rule with 
uncontrollable sway. :;: 

On the other hand, it may be urged with better 
reason, that this sovereignty of the male is a real usur- 
pation, and destroys that nearness of rank, not to say 
equality, which nature has established between the sexes. 
We are, by nature, their lovers, their friends, their pa- 
trons : would we willingly exchange such endearing 
appellations for the barbarous title of master and 
tyrant ? 

In what capacity shall we gain by this inhuman 
proceeding ? As lovers, or as husbands ? The lover is 
totally annihilated ; and courtship, the most agreeable 
scene in life, can no longer have place where women 
have not the free disposal of themselves, but are bought 
and sold, like the meanest animal. The husband is as 
little a gainer, having found the admirable secret of 

* An honest Turk who should come from his seraglio, where every one 
trembles before him, would be surprised to see Sylvia in her drawing-room, 
adored by all the beans and pretty fellows about town : and he would certainly 
take her for some mighty despotic queen, surrounded by her guard of obsequi- 
ous slaves and eunuchs. — Editions B, D, N. 


extinguishing every part of love, except its jealousy. 
No rose without its thorn ; but he must be a foolish 
wretch indeed, that throws away the rose and preserves 
only the thorn.* 

But the Asiatic manners are as destructive to friend- 
ship as to love. Jealousy excludes men from all intimacies 
and familiarities with each other. No one dares bring 
his friend to his house or table, lest he bring a lover to 
his numerous wives. Hence, all over the East, each 
family is as much separate from another, as if they were 
so many distinct kingdoms. No wonder then that Sol- 
omon, living like an Eastern prince, with his seven hun- 
dred wives and three hundred concubines, without one 
friend, could write so pathetically concerning the vanity 
of the world. Had he tried the secret of one w T ife or 
mistress, a few friends, and a great many companions, 
he might have found life somewhat more agreeable. 
Destroy love and friendship, what remains in the world 
worth accepting? 

The bad education of children, especially children of 
condition, is another unavoidable consequence of these 
Eastern institutions. Those who pass the early part of 
life among slaves, are only qualified to be, themselves, 
slaves and tyrants; and in every future intercourse, 
either with their inferiors or superiors, are apt to forget 
the natural equality of mankind. What attention, too, 

* I would not willingly insist upon it as an advantage in our European cus- 
toms, what was observed by Mahomet Effendi, the last Turkish Ambassador in 
France. We Turks, says he, are great simpleton* in comparison of the Chris- 
tians ; we are at the expense and trouble of keeping « seraglio, each in his own 
house: but you ease yourselves of this burden, and hare your seraglio in your 
friends' houses. The known virtue of our British ladies free them sufficiently 
from this imputation: and the Turk himself, however great a Turk, must own, 
that our free commerce with the lair sex, more than any other invention, em- 
bellishes, enlivens, and polishes society. — Editions B, D, and N. 


can it be supposed a parent, whose seraglio affords him 
fifty sons, will give to instilling principles of morality or 
science into a progeny, with whom he himself is scarcely 
acquainted, and whom he loves with so divided an affec- 
tion ? Barbarism therefore appears, from reason as well 
as experience, to be the inseparable attendant of po- 

To render polygamy more odious, I need not recount 
the frightful effects of jealousy, and the constraint in 
which it holds the fair sex all over the East. In those 
countries, men are not allowed to have any commerce 
with the females, not even physicians, when sickness 
may be supposed to have extinguished all wanton pas- 
sions in the bosoms of the fair, and, at the same time, 
has rendered them unfit objects of desire. Tournefort 
tells ns, that w T hen he was brought into the Grand Seig- 
niors seraglio as a physician, he was not a little sur- 
prised, in looking along a gallery, to see a great num- 
ber of naked arms standing out from the sides of the 
room. He could not imagine what this could mean, 
till he was told that those arms belonged to bodies 
which he must cure, without knowing any more about 
them than what he could learn from the arms. He was 
not allowed to ask a question of the patient, or even of 
her attendants, lest he might find it necessary to inquire 
concerning circumstances which the delicacy of the 
seraglio allows not to be revealed. Hence physicians 
in the East pretend to know all diseases from the pulse, 
as our quacks in Europe undertake to cure a person 
merely from seeing his water. I suppose, had Mon- 
sieur Tournefort been of this latter kind, he would not, 
in Constantinople, have been allowed by the jealous 
Turks to be furnished with materials requisite for 
exercising his art, 


In another country, where polygamy is also allowed, 
they render their wives cripples, and make their feet of 
no use to them, in order to confine them to their own 
houses. But it will perhaps appear strange, that, in a 
European country, jealousy can yet be carried to such 
a height, that it is indecent so much as to suppose that 
a woman of rank can have feet or leg^s. Witness the 
following story, which w r e have from very good autho- 
rity.* When the mother of the late king of Spain w r as 
on her road towards Madrid, she passed through a little 
town in Spain famous for its manufactory of gloves 
and stockings. The magistrates of the place thought 
they could not better express their joy for the recep- 
tion of their new queen, than by presenting her with a 
sample of those commodities for which alone their town 
was remarkable. The major domo, w r ho conducted the 
princess, received the gloves very graciously ; but, when 
the stockings were presented, he flung them away with 
great indignation, and severely reprimanded the magis- 
trates for this egregious piece of indecency. Knotv, says 
he, that a queen of Spain has no legs. The young queen, 
who at that time understood the language but im- 
perfectly, and had often been frightened with stories 
of Spanish jealousy, imagined that they were to cut off 
her legs. Upon which she fell a crying, and begged 
them to conduct her back to Germany, for that she 
never could endure the operation ; and it was with some 
difficulty they could appease her. Philip IV. is said 
never in his life to have laughed heartily but at the 
recital of this story .f 

* Memoires de la (Jour d'Espagne, par Madame d'Aunoy. 

•j- If a Spanish lady must not be supposed to have legs, what must be 
supposed of a Turkish lady ? She must not be supposed to have a being 
at all. Accordingly, it is esteemed a piece of rudeness and indecency at 


Having rejected polygamy, and matched one man 
with one woman, let us now consider what duration 
we shall assign to their union, and whether we shall 
admit of those voluntary divorces which were cus- 
tomary among the Greeks and Romans. Those who 
would defend this practice, may employ the following 

How often does disgust and aversion arise after mar- 
riage, from the most trivial accidents, or from an incom- 
patibility of humor ; where time, instead of curing the 
wounds proceeding from mutal injuries, festers them 
every day the more, by new quarrels and reproaches ? 
Let us separate hearts which were not made to associate 
together. Either of them may, perhaps, find another 
for which it is better fitted. At least, nothing can be 
more cruel than to preserve, by violence, an union 
which, at first, was made by mutual love, and is now, in 
effect, dissolved by mutual hatred. 

But the liberty of divorces is not only a cure to hatred 
and domestic quarrels ; it is also an admirable preserv- 
ative against them, and the only secret for keeping 
alive that love which first united the married couple. 
The heart of man delights in liberty : the very image 
of constraint is grievous to it. When you would con- 
fine it by violence, to what would otherwise have been 

Constantinople, ever to make mention of a man's wives before him.* In 
Europe, it is true, fine bred people make it also a rule never to talk of 
their wives : but the reason is not founded on our jealousy. I suppose it is, 
because we should be apt, were it not for this rule, to become troublesome 
to company, by talking too much of them. 

The President Montesquieu has given a different reason for this polite 
maxim. Men, says lie, never care to mention their wives in company, lest 
they should tall- of them before people that know them letter than the?/ do 
themselves. — Editions B, 1), and N. 

* Mux >ire$ de Marquis rTArgens. 


its choice, the inclination immediately changes, and 
desire is turned into aversion. If the public interest 
will not allow ns to enjoy in polygamy that variety 
which is so agreeable in love : at least, deprive ns not 
of that liberty which is so essentially requisite. In 
vain yon tell me, that I had my choice of the person 
with whom I would conjoin myself. I had my choice, 
it is true, of my prison ; but this is but a small comfort, 
since it must still be a prison. 

Such are the arguments which may be urged in favor 
of divorces : but there seem to be these three unanswer- 
able objections against them. First, What must become 
of the children upon the separation of the parents ? 
Must they be committed to the care of a step-mother, 
and, instead of the fond attention and concern of a 
parent, feel all the indifference or hatred of a stranger, or 
an enemy ? These inconveniences are sufficiently felt, 
where nature has made the divorce by the doom in- 
evitable to all mortals : and shall we seek to multiply 
those inconveniences by multiplying divorces, and put- 
ting it in the power of parents, upon every caprice, to 
render their posterity miserable ? 

Secondly, If it be true, on the one hand, that the 
heart of man naturally delights in liberty, and hates 
every thing to which it is confined ; it is also true, on 
the other, that the heart of man naturally submits to 
necessity, and soon loses an inclination, when there 
appears an absolute impossibility of gratifying it. These 
principles of human nature, you will say, are contra- 
dictory : but what is man but a heap of contradictions ! 
Though it is remarkable, that where principles are, 
after this manner, contrary in their operation, they do 
not always destroy each other ; but the one or the 
other may predominate on any particular occasion, 


according as circumstances are more or less favorable 
to it. For instance, love is a restless and impatient 
passion, full of caprices and variations : arising in a 
moment from a feature, from an air, from nothing, and 
suddenly extinguishing after the same manner. Such 
a passion requires liberty above all things ; and there- 
fore Eloisa had reason, when, in order to preserve this 
passion, she refused to marry her beloved Abelard. 

How oft, when pressed to marriage, have I said, 
Curse on all laws but those which love has made : 
Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, 
Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies. 

But friendship is a calm and sedate affection, conducted 
by reason and cemented by habit ; springing from long 
acquaintance and mutual obligations ; without jealousies 
or fears, and without those feverish fits of heat and 
cold, which cause such an agreeable torment in the am- 
orous passion. So sober an affection, therefore, as friend- 
ship, rather thrives under constraint, and never rises to 
such a height, as when any strong interest or necessity 
binds two persons together, and gives them some com- 
mon object of pursuit.* We need not, therefore, be 
afraid of drawing the marriage knot, which chiefly sub- 
sists by friendship, the closest possible. The amity be- 
tween the persons, where it is solid and sincere, will 

* Let us consider, then, whether love or friendship should most predomi- 
nate in marriage, and we shall soon determine whether liberty or constraint 
be most favorable to it. The happiest marriages, to be sure, are found where 
love, by long acquaintance, is consolidated into friendship. Whoever dreams 
of ecstasies beyond the honey-moon, is a fool. Even romances themselves, 
with all their liberty of fiction, are obliged to drop their lovers the very day 
of their marriage, and find it easier to support the passion for a dozen of 
years under coldness, disdain, and difficulties, than a week under possession 
and security. — Editions B.I), N. 


rather gain by it : and where it is wavering and uncer- 
tain, that is the best expedient for fixing it. How many 
frivolous quarrels and disgusts are there, which people 
of common prudence endeavor to forget, when they lie 
under a necessity of passing their lives together ; but 
which would soon be inflamed into the most deadly 
hatred, were they pursued to the utmost, under the 
prospect of an easy separation ? 

In the third place, We must consider, that nothing is 
more dangerous than to unite two persons so closely 
in all their interests and concerns, as man and wife, 
without rendering the union entire and total. The 
least possibility of a separate interest must be the 
source of endless quarrels and suspicions. The wife, 
not secure of her establishment, will still be driving 
some separate end or project ; and the husband's selfish- 
ness, being accompanied with more power, may be still 
more dangerous. 

Should these reasons against voluntary divorces be 
deemed insufficient, I hope nobody will pretend to re- 
fuse the testimony of experience. At the time when 
divorces were most frequent among the Romans, mar- 
riages were most rare ; and Augustus was obliged, by 
penal laws, to force men of fashion into the married 
state ; a circumstance which is scarcely to be found in 
any other age or nation. The more ancient laws of 
Rome, which prohibited divorces, are extremely praised 
by Dionysius Halicarnassus. ::: Wonderful was the har- 
mony, says the historian, which this inseparable union of 
interests produced between married persons ; while each 
of them considered the inevitable necessity by which 

* Lib. ii. 

vol. in. 27 


they were linked together, and abandoned all prospect 
of any choice or establishment. 

The exclusion of polygamy and divorces sufficiently 
recommends our present European practice with regard 
to marriage. 



Fine writing, according to Mr. Addison, consists of 
sentiments which are natural, without being obvious. 
There cannot be a juster and more concise definition of 
fine writing. 

Sentiments, which are merely natural, affect not the 
mind with any pleasure, and seem not worthy of our 
attention. The pleasantries of a waterman, the obser- 
vations of a peasant, the ribaldry of a porter or hackney 
coachman, all of these are natural and disagreeable. 
What an insipid comedy should we make of the chit- 
chat of the tea-table, copied faithfully and at full length ? 
Nothing can please persons of taste, but nature drawn 
with all her graces and ornaments, la hellc nature ; or if 
we copy low life, the strokes must be strong and re- 
markable, and must convey a lively image to the mind. 
The absurd * naivete of Sancho Panza is represented in 
such inimitable colors by Cervantes, that it entertains 
as much as the picture of the most magnanimous hero 
or the softest lover. 

The case is the same with orators, philosophers, critics, 

* Naivete, a word which I have borrowed from the French, and which is 
much wanted in our language. — Note ix Editions B, D. 

212 ESSAY XX. 

or any author who speaks in his own person, without 
introducing other speakers or actors. If his language 
be not elegant, his observations uncommon, his sense 
strong and masculine, he will in vain boast his nature 
and simplicity. He may be correct ; but he never will 
be agreeable. It is the unhappiness of such authors, 
that they are never blamed or censured. The good 
fortune of a book, and that of a man, are not the same. 
The secret deceiving path of life, which Horace talks 
of, fallentis scmita vitw, may be the happiest lot of the 
one ; but it is the greatest misfortune which the other 
can possibly fall into. 

On the other hand, productions which are merely sur- 
prising, without being natural, can never give any last- 
ing entertainment to the mind. To draw chimeras, is 
not, properly speaking, to copy or imitate. The justness 
of the representation is lost, and the mind is displeased 
to find a picture which bears no resemblance to any 
original. Nor are such excessive refinements more 
agreeable in the epistolary or philosophic style, than in 
the epic or tragic. Too much ornament is a fault in 
every kind of production. Uncommon expressions, 
strong flashes of wit, pointed similes, and epigrammatic 
turns, especially when they recur too frequently, are a 
disfigurement, rather than any embellishment of dis- 
course. As the eye, in surveying a Gothic building, is 
distracted by the multiplicity of ornaments, and loses 
the whole by its minute attention to the parts ; so the 
mind, in perusing a work overstocked with wit, is fa- 
ticmed and disgusted with the constant endeavor to 
shine and surprise. This is the case where a writer 
overabounds in wit, even though that wit, in itself, 
should be just and agreeable. But it commonly hap- 
pens to such writers, that they seek for their favorite 


ornaments, even where the subject does not afford them ; 
and by that means have twenty insipid conceits for one 
thought which is really beautiful. 

There is no object in critical learning more copious 
than this, of the just mixture of simplicity and refine- 
ment in writing ; and therefore, not to wander in too 
large a field, I shall confine myself to a few general ob- 
servations on that head. 

First, I observe, That though excesses of both lands are to 
be avoided, and though a proper medium ought to be studied in 
all productions, get tins medium lies not in a point, but admits 
of a considerable latitude. Consider the wide distance, in 
this respect, between Mr. Pope and Lucretius. These 
seem to lie in the two greatest extremes of refinement 
and simplicity in which a poet can indulge himself, 
without being guilty of any blamable excess. All this 
interval may be filled with poets who may differ from 
each other, but may be equally admirable, each in his 
peculiar style and manner. Corneille and Congreve, 
who carry their wit and refinement somewhat further 
than Mr. Pope, (if poets of so different a kind can be 
compared together,) and Sophocles and Terence, who 
are more simple than Lucretius, seem to have gone out 
of that medium in which the most perfect productions 
are found, and to be guilty of some excess in these op- 
posite characters. Of all the great poets, Virgil and 
Eacine, in my opinion, lie nearest the centre, and are 
the furthest removed from both the extremities. 

My second observation on this head is, That it is vcrg 
difficult, if not impossible, to explain bg words where the just 
medium lies between the excesses of simplicity and refinement, 
or to give ang rule bg which ive can hioiv preciselg the bounds 
between the fault and the beauty. A critic may discourse 
not only very judiciously on this head without instruct- 

214 ESSAY XX. 

ing his readers, but even without understanding the 
matter perfectly himself. There is not a finer piece of 
criticism than the Dissertation on Pastorals by Fontenelle, 
in which, by a number of reflections and philosophical 
reasonings, he endeavors to fix the just medium which 
is suitable to that species of writing. But let any one 
read the pastorals of that author, and he will be con- 
vinced that this judicious critic, notwithstanding his fine 
reasonings, had a false taste, and fixed the point of per- 
fection much nearer the extreme of refinement than 
pastoral poetry will admit of. The sentiments of his 
shepherds are better suited to the toilettes of Paris than 
to the forests of Arcadia. But this it is impossible to 
discover from his critical reasonings. He blames all 
excessive painting and ornament as much as Yirgil 
could have done, had that great poet wrote a disserta- 
tion on this species of poetry. However different the 
tastes of men, their general discourse on these subjects 
is commonly the same. No criticism can be instructive 
which descends not to particulars, and is not full of ex- 
amples and illustrations. It is allowed on all hands, 
that beauty, as well as virtue, always lies in a medium ; 
but where this medium is placed is a great question, 
and can never be sufficiently explained by general rea- 

I shall deliver it as a third observation on this subject, 
That we ought to be more on our guard against the excess of 
refinement than that of simplicity ; and that because the for- 
mer excess is both less beautiful, and more dangerous than 
the latter. 

It is a certain rule, that wit and passion are entirely 
incompatible. When the affections are moved, there 
is no place for the imagination. The mind of man 
being naturally limited, it is impossible that all his fac- 


ulties can operate at once ; and the more any one pre- 
dominates, the less room is there for the others to exert 
their vigor. For this reason, a greater degree of sim- 
plicity is required in all compositions where men, and 
actions, and passions are painted, than in such as con- 
sist of reflections and observations. And as the for- 
mer species of writing is the more engaging and beau- 
tiful, one may safely, upon this account, give the prefer- 
ence to the extreme of simplicity above that of refine- 

>Ve may also observe, that those compositions which 
we read the oftenest, and which every man of taste has 
got by heart, have the recommendation of simplicity, 
and have nothing surprising in the thought, when di- 
vested of that elegance of expression, and harmony of 
numbers, with which it is clothed. If the merit of the 
composition lie in a point of wit, it may strike at first ; 
but the mind anticipates the thought in the second pe- 
rusal, and is no longer affected by it. When I read an 
epigram of Martial, the first line recalls the whole ; and 
I have no pleasure in repeating to myself what I know 
already. But each line, each word in Catullus has its 
merit, and I am never tired with the perusal of him. 
It is sufficient to run over Cowley once • but Parnell, 
after the fiftieth reading, is as fresh as at the first. Be- 
sides it is with books as with woman, where a certain 
plainness of manner and of dress is more engaging than 
that glare of paint, and airs, and apparel, which may 
dazzle the eye, but reaches not the affections. Terence 
is a modest and bashful beauty, to whom we grant every 
thing, because he assumes nothing, and whose purity 
and nature make a durable, though not a violent impres- 
sion on us. 

But refinement, as it is the less beautiful, so is it the 

216 ESSAY XX. 

more dangerous extreme, and what we are the aptest to 
fall into. Simplicity passes for dulness, when it is not 
accompanied with great elegance and propriety. On 
the contrary, there is something surprising in a blaze of 
wit and conceit. Ordinary readers are mightily struck 
with it, and falsely imagine it to be the most difficult, 
as well as the most excellent way of writing. Seneca 
abounds with agreeable faults, says Quintilian, abundat 
dulcibus viliis ; and for that reason is the more danger- 
ous, and the more apt to pervert the taste of the young 
and inconsiderate. 

I shall add, that the excess of refinement is now more 
to be guarded against than ever ; because it is the 
extreme which men are the most apt to fall into, after 
learning has made some progress, and after eminent 
writers have appeared in every species of composition. 
The endeavor to please by novelty leads men wide of 
simplicity and nature, and fills their writings with affec- 
tation and conceit. It was thus the Asiatic eloquence 
degenerated so much from the Attic. It was thus the 
age of Claudius and Nero became so much inferior to 
that of Augustus in taste and genius. And perhaps 
there are, at present, some symptoms of a like degen- 
eracy of taste in France, as well as in England. 



The vulgar are apt to carry all national characters to 
extremes ; and, having once established it as a principle 
that any people are knavish, or cowardly, or ignorant, 
they will admit of no exception, but comprehend every 
individual under the same censure. Men of sense con- 
demn these undistinguishing judgments ; though, at the 
same time, they allow that each nation has a peculiar 
set of manners, and that some particular qualities are 
more frequently to be met with among one people than 
among their neighbors. The common people in Switzer- 
land have probably more honesty than those of the same 
rank in Ireland ; and every prudent man will, from that 
circumstance alone, make a difference in the trust which 
he reposes in each. We have reason to expect greater 
wit and gaiety in a Frenchman than in a Spaniard, 
though Cervantes was born in Spain. An Englishman 
will naturally be supposed to have more knowledge than 
a Dane, though Tycho Brahe was a native of Denmark. 

Different reasons are assigned for these national char- 
acters ; while some account for them from moral, others 
from physical causes. By moral causes, I mean all cir- 
cumstances which are fitted to work on the mind as 

vol. in. 28 


motives or reasons, and which render a peculiar set of 
manners habitual to ns. Of this kind are, the nature of the 
government, the revolutions of public affairs, the plenty 
or penury in which the people live, the situation of the 
nation with regard to its neighbors, and such like cir- 
cumstances. By physical causes, I mean those qualities 
of the air and climate which are supposed to work insen- 
sibly on the temper, by altering the tone and habit of 
the body, and giving a particular complexion, which, 
though reflection and reason may sometimes overcome 
it, will yet prevail among the generality of mankind, 
and have an influence on their manners. 

That the character of a nation will much depend on 
moral causes, must be evident to the most superficial 
observer ; since a nation is nothing but a collection of 
individuals, and the manners of individuals are fre- 
quently determined by these causes. As poverty and 
hard labor debase the minds of the common people, and 
render them unfit for any science and ingenious profes- 
sion, so, where any government becomes very oppressive 
to all its subjects, it must have a proportional effect on 
their temper and genius, and must banish all the liberal 
arts from among them. 

The same principle of moral causes fixes the character 
of different professions, and alters even that disposition 
which the particular members receive from the hand of 
nature. A soldier and a priest are different characters, 
in all nations, and all ages ; and this difference is found- 
ed on circumstances whose operation is eternal and 

The uncertainty of their life makes soldiers lavish and 
generous, as well as brave : their idleness, together with 
the large societies which they form in camps or garri- 
sons, inclines them to pleasure and gallantry : by their 


frequent change of company, they acquire goodbreed- 
ing and an openness of behavior : being employed only 
against a public and an open enemy, they become can- 
did, honest, and unclesigning : and as they use more the 
labor of the body than that of the mind, they are com- 
monly thoughtless and ignorant.* 

It is a trite, but not altogether a false maxim, that 
priests of all religions are the same; and though the char- 
acter of the profession will not, in every instance, prevail 
over the personal character, yet it is sure always to pre- 
dominate with the greater number. For as chemists 
observe, that spirits, when raised to a certain height, are 
all the same, from whatever materials they be extracted ; 
so these men, being elevated above humanity, acquire a 
uniform character, which is entirely their own, and which, 
in my opinion, is, generally speaking, not the most 
amiable that is to be met with in human society. It is, 
in most points, opposite to that of a soldier ; as is the 
way of life from which it is derived, j- 

* It is a saying of Menander, KouMmq aparcG)r?jc, ovd' uv d -/.uttel deog Ov-&elg 
-jivoLf uv. Men. apnd Stobauim. It is not in the power even of God to make 
a polite soldier. The contrary observation with regard to the manners of sol- 
diers take- place in our days. This seems to me a presumption, that the 
ancients owed all their refinement and civility to books and study ; for which, 
indeed, a soldier's life is not so well calculated. Company and the world is 
their sphere. And if there be any politeness to be learned from company, 
they will certainly have a considerable share of it. 

f Though all mankind have a strong propensity to religion at certain times 
and in certain dispositions, yet are there few or none who have it to that de- 
gree, and with that constancy, which is requisite to support the character of 
this profession. It must therefore happen, that clergymen, being drawn from 
the common mass of mankind, as people are to other employments, by the 
views of profit, the greater part, though no atheists or free-thinkers, will find 
it necessary, on particular occasions, to feign more devotion than they arc at 
that time possessed of, and to maintain the appearance of fervor and serious- 
ness, even when jaded with the exercises of their religion, or when the)- have 
their minds engaged in the common occupations of life. They must not, like 


As to physical causes, I am inclined to doubt altogether 
of their operation in this particular ; nor do I think 

the rest of the world, give scope to their natural movements and sentiments : 
they must set a guard over their looks, and words, and actions : and in order 
to support the veneration paid them by the multitude, they must not only 
keep a remarkable reserve, but must promote the spirit of superstition, by a 
continued grimace and hypocrisy. This dissimulation often destroys the can- 
dor and ingenuity of their temper, and makes an irreparable breach in their 

If by chance any of them be possessed of a temper more susceptible of de- 
votion than usual, so that he has but little occasion for hypocrisy to support 
the character of his profession, it is so natural for him to overrate this advan- 
tage, and to think that it atones for every violation of morality, that frequently 
he is not more virtuous than the hypocrite. And though few dare openly 
avow those exploded opinions, that every thing is lawful to the saints, and that 
they alone have property in their goods; yet may we observe, that these princi- 
ples lurk in every bosom, and represent a zeal for religious observances as so 
great a merit, that it may compensate for many vices and enormities. This 
observation is so common, that all prudent men are on their guard when they 
meet with any extraordinary appearance of religion ; though at the same time 
they confess, that there are many exceptions to this general rule, and that 
probity and superstition, or even probity and fanaticism, are not altogether 
and in every instance incompatible. 

IN Tost men are ambitious ; but the ambition of other men may commonly be 
satisfied by excelling in their particular profession, and thereby promoting the 
interests of society. The ambition of the clergy can often be satisfied only 
by promoting ignorance and superstition, and implicit faith, and pious frauds. 
And having got what Archimedes only wanted, (namely, another world, on 
which he could fix his engines,) no wonder they move this world at their 

Most men have an overweening conceit of themselves ; but these have a 
peculiar temptation to that vice, who are regarded with such veneration, and 
are even deemed sacred, by the ignorant multitude. 

Most men are apt to bear a particular regard for members of their own pro- 
fession ; but as a lawyer, or physician, or merchant, docs each of them follow 
out his business apart, the interests of men of these professions are not so 
closely united as the interests of clergymen of the same religion ; where the 
whole body gains by the veneration paid to their common tenets, and by the 
suppression of antagonists. 

Few men can bear contradiction with patience ; but the clergy too often 
proceed even to a degree of fury on this head: because all their credit and 
livelihood depend upon the belief which their opinions meet with : and they 
alone pretend to a divine and supernatural authority, or have any color for 


that men owe any thing of their temper or genius to 
the air. food, or climate. I confess, that the contrary 
opinion may justly, at first sight, seem probable; since 
we find, that these circumstances have an influence over 
every other animal, and that even those creatures, 
which are fitted to live in all climates, such as dogs, 
horses, etc., do not attain the same perfection in all. 
The courage of bull-dogs and game-cocks seems pecu- 
liar to England. Flanders is remarkable for large and 

representing their antagonists as impious and profane. The Odium Theologi- 
cmn, or Theological Hatred, is noted even to a proverb, and means that degree 
of rancor which is the most furious and implacable. 

Revenge is a natural passion to mankind ; but seems to reign with the 
greatest force in priests and women : because, being deprived of the imme- 
diate exertion of anger, in violence and combat, they are apt to fancy them- 
selves despised on that account ; and their pride supports their vindictive dis- 

Thus many of the vices of human nature are, by fixed moral causes, in- 
flamed in that profession ; and though several individuals escape the contagion, 
yet all wise governments will be on their guard against the attempts of a 
society, who will for ever combine into one faction ; and while it acts as a 
society, will for ever be actuated by ambition, pride, revenge, and a perse- 
cuting spirit. 

The temper of religion is grave and serious ; and this is the character re- 
quired of priests, which confines them to strict rules of decency, and com- 
monly prevents irregularity and intemperance amongst them. The gaiety, 
much less the excesses of pleasure, is not permitted in that body; and this 
virtue is. perhaps, the only one which they owe to their profession. In reli- 
gions, indeed, founded on speculative principles, and where public discourses 
make a part of religious service, it may also be supposed that the clergy will 
have a considerable share in the learning of the times ; though it is certain 
that their taste in eloquence will always be greater than their proficiency in 
reasoning and philosophy. But whoever possesses the other noble virtues 
of humanity, meekness, and moderation, as very many of them no doubt 
do, is beholden for them to nature or reflection, not to the genius of his 

It was no bad expedient in the old Romans, for preventing the strong 
effect of the priestly character, to make it a law, that no one should be 
received into the sacerdotal office till he was past fifty years of age. — 
1 'huii. llnh lib. i. The living a layman till that age, it is presumed, would 
be able to fix the character. 


heavy horses : Spain for horses light, and of good mettle. 
And any breed of these creatures, transplanted from 
one country to another, will soon lose the qualities 
which they derived from their native climate. It may 
be asked, why not the same with men? :;: 

There are few questions more curious than this, or 
which will oftener occur in our inquiries concerning 
human affairs ; and therefore it may be proper to give 
it a full examination. 

The human mind is of a very imitative nature ; nor is 
it possible for any set of men to converse often together, 
without acquiring a similitude of manner, and com- 
municating to each other their vices as w^ell as virtues. 
The propensity to company and society is strong in all 
rational creatures ; and the same disposition, which 
gives us this propensity, makes us enter deeply into 
each other's sentiments, and causes like passions and 
inclinations to run, as it were, by contagion, through 
the whole club or knot of companions. Where a num- 
ber of men are united into one political body, the 
occasions of their intercourse must be so frequent for 
defence, commerce, and government, that, together with 

* Caesar (de Hello Galileo, lib. 1,) says, that the Gallic horses were very 
good, the German very bad. We find in lib. vii. that he was obliged to 
remount some German cavalry with Gallic horses. At present no part of 
Europe has so bad horses of all kinds as France : but Germany abounds 
with excellent war-horses. This may beget a little suspicion, that even 
animals depend not on the climate, but on the different breeds, and on the 
skill and care in rearing them. The north of England abounds in the best 
horses of all kinds which are perhaps in the world. In the neighboring 
counties, north side of the Tweed, no good horses of any kind are to be met 
with. Strabo, lib. ii. rejects, in a great measure, the influence of climates 
upon men. All is custom and education, says he. It is not from nature that 
the Athenians are learned, the Lacedemonians ignorant, and the Thebans 
too, who are still nearer neighbors to the former. Even the difference of 
animals, he adds, depends not on climate. 


the same speech or language, they must acquire a re- 
semblance in their manners, and have a common or 
national character, as well as a personal one, peculiar 
to each individual. Now, though nature produces all 
kinds of temper and understanding in great abundance, 
it does not follow, that she always produces them in 
like proportions, and that in every society the ingre- 
dients of industry and indolence, valor and cowardice, 
humanity and brutality, wisdom and folly, will be 
mixed after the same manner. In the infancy of 
society, if any of these dispositions be found in greater 
abundance than the rest, it will naturally prevail in 
the composition, and give a tincture to the national 
character. Or, should it be asserted that no species of 
temper can reasonably be presumed to predominate, 
even in those contracted societies, and that the same 
proportions will always be preserved in the mixture ; 
yet surely the persons in credit and authority, being 
still a more contracted body, cannot always be presumed 
to be of the same character ; and their influence on the 
manners of the people must, at all times, be very con- 
siderable. If, on the first establishment of a republic, 
a Brutus should be placed in authority, and be trans- 
ported with such an enthusiasm for liberty and public 
good, as to overlook all the ties of nature, as well as 
private interest, such an illustrious example will natu- 
rally have an effect on the whole society, and kindle 
the same passion in every bosom. Whatever it be that 
forms the manners of one generation, the next must 
imbibe a deeper tincture of the same dye ; men being 
more susceptible of all impressions during infancy, and 
retaining these impressions as long as they remain in 
the world. I assert, then, that all national characters, 
where they depend not on fixed moral causes, proceed 


from such accidents as these, and that physical causes 
have no discernible operation on the human mind. It 
is a maxim in all philosophy, that causes which do not 
appear are to be considered as not existing. 

If we run over the globe, or revolve the annals of 
history, we shall discover everywhere signs of a sym- 
pathy or contagion of manners, none of the influence 
of air or climate. 

First, We may observe, that where a very extensive 
government has been established for many centuries, it 
spreads a national character over the whole empire, and 
communicates to every part a similarity of manners. 
Thus the Chinese have the greatest uniformity of 
character imaginable, though the air and climate, in 
different parts of those vast dominions, admit of very 
considerable variations. 

Secondly, In small governments which are contiguous, 
the people have, notwithstanding, a different character, 
and are often as distinguishable in their manners as the 
most distant nations. Athens and Thebes were but a 
short day's journey from each other, though the Athe- 
nians were as remarkable for ingenuity, politeness, and 
gaiety, as the Thebans for dulness, rusticity, and a 
phlegmatic temper. Plutarch, discoursing of the effects 
of air on the minds of men, observes, that the inhabi- 
tants of the Piraeum possessed very different tempers 
from those of the higher town in Athens, which was 
distant about four miles from the former. But I believe 
no one attributes the difference of manners, in Wapping 
and St. James's, to a difference of air or climate. 

Third///, The same national character commonly fol- 
lows the authority of government to a precise boundary ; 
and upon crossing a river or passing a mountain, one 
finds a new set of manners, with a new government. 


The Languedocians and Gascons are the gayest people 
in France ; but whenever you pass the Pyrenees, you 
are among Spaniards. Is it conceivable that the quali- 
ties of the air should change exactly with the limits of 
an empire, which depends so much on the accidents of 
battles, negotiations, and marriages ? 

Fourthly, Where any set of men, scattered over dis- 
tant nations, maintain a close society or communication 
together, they acquire a similitude of manners, and have 
but little in common with the nations amongst whom 
they live. Thus the Jews in Europe, and the Arme- 
nians in the East, have a peculiar character ; and the 
former are as much noted for fraud as the latter for 
probity. :;: The Jesuits, in all Roman Catholic countries, 
are also observed to have a character peculiar to them- 

Fifthly, Where any accident, as a difference in lan- 
guage or religion, keeps two nations, inhabiting the 
same country, from mixing with each other, they will 
preserve, during several centuries, a distinct and even 
opposite set of manners. The integrity, gravity, and 
bravery of the Turks, form an exact contrast to the 
deceit, levity, and cowardice of the modern Greeks. 

Sixthly, The same set of manners will follow a nation, 
and adhere to them over the whole globe, as well as 
the same laws and language. The Spanish, English, 

* A small sect or society amidst a greater, are commonly most regular in 
their morals ; because they are more remarked, and the faults of individuals 
draw dishonor on the whole. The only exception to this rule is, when the 
superstition and prejudices of the large society are so strong as to throw an 
infamy on the smaller society, independent of their morals. For in that 
case, having no character either to save or gain, they become careless of their 
behavior, except among themselves. 

vol. in. 29 



French, and Dutch colonies, are all distinguishable even 
between the tropics. 

Seventhly, The manners of a people change very con- 
siderably from one age to another, either by great alter- 
ations in their government, by the mixtures of new 
people, or by that inconstancy to which all human 
affairs are subject. The ingenuity, industry, and activity 
of the ancient Greeks, have nothing in common with 
the stupidity and indolence of the present inhabitants 
of those regions. Candor, bravery, and love of liberty, 
formed the character of the ancient Romans, as subtilty, 
cowardice, and a slavish disposition, do that of the mod- 
ern. The old Spaniards were restless, turbulent, and so 
addicted to war, that many of them killed themselves 
when deprived of their arms by the Romans* One 
would find an equal difficulty at present (at least one 
would have found it fifty years ago) to rouse up the 
modern Spaniards to arms. The Batavians were all 
soldiers of fortune, and hired themselves into the Ro- 
man armies. Their posterity make use of foreigners 
for the same purpose that the Romans did their ances- 
tors. Though some few strokes of the French charac- 
ter be the same with that which Ca)sar has ascribed to 
the Gauls; yet what comparison between the civility, 
humanity, and knowledge of the modern inhabitants of 
that country, and the ignorance, barbarity, and gross- 
ness of the ancient ? Not to insist upon the great dif- 
ference between the present possessors of Britain, and 
those before the Roman conquest, we may observe, 
that our ancestors, a few centuries ago, were sunk into 
the most abject superstition. Last century they were 
inflamed with the most furious enthusiasm, and arc now 

* Tit. Livii, lib. xxxiv. cap. 17. 


settled into the most cool indifference, with regard to 
religions matters, that is to be found in any nation of 
the world. 

Eighthly, Where several neighboring nations have a 
very close communication together, either by policy, 
commerce, or travelling, they acquire a similitude of 
manners, proportioned to the communication. Thus, all 
the Franks appear to have a uniform character to the 
Eastern nations. The differences among them are like 
the peculiar accents of different provinces, which are 
not distinguishable except by an ear accustomed to them, 
and which commonly escape a foreigner. 

Ninthly, We may often remark a wonderful mixture 
of manners and characters in the same nation, speaking 
the same language, and subject to the same government : 
and in this particular the English are the most remarka- 
able of any people that perhaps ever were in the world. 
Nor is this to be ascribed to the mutability and un- 
certainty of their climate, or to any other physical 
causes, since all these causes take place in the neighbor- 
ing country of Scotland, without having the same effect. 
Where the government of a nation is altogether repub- 
lican, it is apt to beget a peculiar set of manners. Where 
it is altogether monarchical, it is more apt to have the 
same effect ; the imitation of superiors spreading the 
national manners faster among the people. If the gov- 
erning part of a state consist altogether of merchants, 
as in Holland, their uniform way of life will fix their 
character. If it consists chiefly of nobles and landed 
gentry, like Germany, France, and Spain, the same effect 
follows. The genius of a particular sect or religion is 
also apt to mould the manners of a people. But the 
English government is a mixture of monarchy, aris- 
tocracy, and democracy. The people in authority are 


composed of gentry and merchants. All sects of reli- 
gion are to be found among them ; and the great lib- 
erty and independency which every man enjoys, allows 
him to display the manners peculiar to him. Hence the 
English, of any people in the universe, have the least of 
a national character, unless this very singularity may 
pass for such. 

If the characters of men depended on the air and cli- 
mate, the degrees of heat and cold should naturally be 
expected to have a mighty influence, since nothing has 
a greater effect on all plants and irrational animals. 
And indeed there is some reason to think, that all the 
nations which live beyond the polar circles or between 
the tropics, are inferior to the rest of the species, and 
are incapable of all the higher attainments of the human 
mind. The poverty and misery of the northern inhab- 
itants of the globe, and the indolence of the southern, 
from their few necessities, may, perhaps, account for 
this remarkable difference, without our having recourse 
to physical causes. This, however, is certain, that the 
characters of nations are very promiscuous in the tem- 
perate climates, and that almost all the general observa- 
tions which have been formed of the more southern or 
more northern people in these climates, are found to be 
uncertain and fallacious/ 11 

* I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. 
There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any 
individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufac- 
tures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude 
and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tar- 
tars, have still something eminent about them, in their valor, form of govern- 
ment, or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference could 
not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an origi- 
nal distinction between these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, 
there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discov- 
ered any symptoms of ingenuity ; though low people, without education, will 


Shall we say, that the neighborhood of the sun in- 
flames the imagination of men, and gives it a peculiar 
spirit and vivacity ? The French, Greeks, Egyptians, 
and Persians, are remarkable for gaiety ; the Spaniards, 
Turks, and Chinese, are noted for gravity and a serious 
deportment, without any such difference of climate as 
to produce this difference of temper. 

The Greeks and Komans, who called all other na- 
tions barbarians, confined genius and a fine under- 
standing to the more southern climates, and pronounced 
the northern nations incapable of all knowledge and 
civility. But our Island has produced as great men, 
either for action or learning, as Greece or Italy has to 
boast of. 

It is pretended, that the sentiments of men become 
more delicate as the country approaches nearer to the 
sun ; and that the taste of beauty and elegance receives 
proportional improvements in every latitude, as we may 
particularly observe of the languages, of which the 
more southern are smooth and melodious, the northern 
harsh and unt unable. But this observation holds not 
universally. The Arabic is uncouth and disagreeable ; 
the Muscovite soft and musical. Energy, strength, and 
harshness, form the character of the Latin tongue. The 
Italian is the most liquid, smooth, and effeminate lan- 
guage that can possibly be imagined. Every language 
will depend somewhat on the manners of the people ; 
but much more on that original stock of words and 
sounds which they received from their ancestors, and 
which remain unchangeable, even while their manners 

start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In 
Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning; but 
it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks 
a few words plainly. 


admit of the greatest alterations. Who can doubt, but 
the English are at present a more polite and knowing 
people than the Greeks were for several ages after the 
siege of Troy ? Yet there is no comparison between 
the language of Milton and that of Homer. Nay, the 
greater are the alterations and improvements which 
happen in the manners of a people, the less can be ex- 
pected in their language. A few eminent and refined 
geniuses will communicate their taste and knowledge to 
a whole people, and produce the greatest improvements; 
but they fix the tongue by their writings, and prevent, 
in some degree, its further changes. 

Lord Bacon has observed, that the inhabitants of the 
south are, in general, more ingenious than those of the 
north ; but that, where the native of a cold climate has 
genius, he rises to a higher pitch than can be reached 
by the southern wits. This observation a late ::: writer 
confirms, by comparing the southern wits to cucumbers, 
which are commonly all good in their kind, but, at best, 
are an insipid fruit ; while the northern geniuses are like 
melons, of which not one in fifty is good, but when it is 
so, it has an exquisite relish. I believe this remark may 
be allowed just, when confined to the European nations, 
and to the present age, or rather to the preceding one. 
But I think it may be accounted for from moral causes. 
All the sciences and liberal arts have been imported to 
us from the south; and it is easy to imagine, that, 
in the first order of application, when excited by emula- 
tion and by glory, the few who were addicted to them 
would carry them to the greatest height, and stretch 
every nerve, and every faculty, to reach the pinnacle of 
perfection. Such illustrious examples spread knowledge 

* Dr. Berkeley. Minute Philosopher. 


everywhere, and begot an universal esteem for the 
sciences; after which, it is no wonder that industry 
relaxes, while men meet not with suitable encourage- 
ment, nor arrive at such distinction by their attainments. 
The universal diffusion of learning among a people, and 
the entire banishment of gross ignorance and rusticity, 
is, therefore, seldom attended with any remarkable per- 
fection in particular persons. It seems to be taken for 
granted in the dialogue tie Oratoribus, that knowledge 
was much more common in Vespasian's age than in that 
of Cicero and Augustus. Quintilian also complains of 
the profanation of learning, by its becoming too com- 
mon. " Formerly," says Juvenal, " science was confined 
to Greece and Italy. Now the whole world emulates 
Athens and Rome. Eloquent Gaul has taught Britain, 
knowing in the laws. Even Thule entertains thoughts 
of hiring rhetoricians for its instruction." :|: This state of 
learning is remarkable ; because Juvenal is himself the 
last of the Roman writers that possessed any degree of 
genius. Those who succeeded are valued for nothing 
but the matters of fact of which they give us informa- 
tion. I hope the late conversion of Muscovy to the 
study of the sciences, will not prove a like prognostic to 
the present period of learning. 

Cardinal Bentivoglio gives the preference to the 
northern nations above the southern with regard to can- 
dor and sincerity ; and mentions, on the one hand, the 
Spaniards and Italians, and, on the other, the Flemings 
and Germans. But I am apt to think that this has hap- 

* " Sod Cantaber undo 
Stoicus V antiqui prajsertim a?tate Metelli. 
Nunc totus Graias, nostrasque habet orbis Athenas. 
Gallia causidicos docuit facunda Britannos: 
Dc conducendo loquitur jam rhethore Thule." — Sat. 15. 


pened by accident. The ancient Romans seem to have 
been a candid, sincere people, as are the modern Turks. 
But if we must needs suppose that this event has arisen 
from fixed causes, we may only conclude from it, that 
all extremes are apt to concur, and are commonly at- 
tended with the same consequences. Treachery is the 
usual concomitant of ignorance and barbarism ; and if 
civilized nations ever embrace subtle and crooked 
politics, it is from an excess of refinement, which 
makes them disdain the plain direct path to power and 

Most conquests have gone from north to south ; and 
it has hence been inferred, that the northern nations 
possess a superior degree of courage and ferocity. But 
it would have been juster to have said, that most con- 
quests are made by poverty and want upon plenty and 
riches. The Saracens, leaving the deserts of Arabia, car- 
ried their conquests northwards upon all the fertile pro- 
vinces of the Roman empire, and met the Turks half 
way, who were coming southwards from the deserts of 

An eminent writer* has remarked, that all courageous 
animals are also carnivorous, and that greater courage 
is to be expected in a people, such as the English, 
whose food is strong and hearty, than in the half-starved 
commonalty of other countries. But the Swedes, not- 
withstanding their disadvantages in this particular, are 
not inferior, in martial courage, to any nation that ever 
was in the world. 

In general, we may observe, that courage, of all na- 
tional qualities, is the most precarious ; because it is ex- 
erted only at intervals, and by a few in every nation ; 

* Sir William Temple's Account of the Netherlands. 


whereas industry, knowledge, civility, may be of con- 
stant and universal use, and for several ages may be- 
come habitual to the whole people. If courage be pre- 
served, it must be by discipline, example, and opinion. 
The tenth legion of Caesar, and the regiment of Picardy 
in France, were formed promiscuously from among the 
citizens ; but having once entertained a notion that they 
were the best troops in the service, this very opinion 
really made them such. 

As a proof how much courage depends on opinion, w r e 
may observe, that, of the two chief tribes of the Greeks, 
the Dorians and Ionians, the former w r ere always es- 
teemed, and always appeared, more brave and manly 
than the latter, though the colonies of both the tribes 
were interspersed and intermingled throughout all the 
extent of Greece, the Lesser Asia, Sicily, Italy, and the 
islands of the ^Egean Sea. The Athenians w r ere the 
only Ionians that ever had any reputation for valor or 
military achievements, though even these were deemed 
inferior to the Lacedemonians, the bravest of the Do- 

The only observation with regard to the difference 
of men in different climates, on which we can rest any 
weight, is the vulgar one, that people, in the northern 
regions, have a greater inclination to strong liquors, and 
those in the southern to love and women. One can 
assign a very probable physical cause for this difference. 
Wine and distilled waters warm the frozen blood in the 
colder climates, and fortify men against the injuries 
of the weather; as the genial heat of the sun, in the 
countries exposed to his beams, inflames the blood, and 
exalts the passion between the sexes. 

Perhaps, too, the matter may be accounted for by 
moral causes. All strong liquors are rarer in the north, 

vol. in. 30 

284: ESSAY XXI. 

and consequently are more coveted. Diodorus Siculus* 
tells us that the Gauls, in his time, were great drunk- 
ards, and much addicted to wine ; chiefly, I suppose, 
from its rarity and novelty. On the other hand, the 
heat in the southern climates obliging men and women to 
go half naked, thereby renders their frequent commerce 
more dangerous, and inflames their mutual passion. 
This makes parents and husbands more jealous and 
reserved, which still further inflames the passion. Not 
to mention, that as women ripen sooner in the southern 
regions, it is necessary to observe greater jealousy and 
care in their education ; it being evident, that a girl of 
twelve cannot possess equal discretion to govern this 
passion with one who feels not its violence till she be 
seventeen or eighteen. Nothing so much encourages 
the passion of love as ease and leisure, or is more 
destructive to it than industry and hard labor ; and as 
the necessities of men are evidently fewer in the warm 
climates than in the cold ones, this circumstance alone 
may make a considerable difference between them. 

But perhaps the fact is doubtful, that nature has, 
either from moral or physical causes, distributed these 
respective inclinations to the different climates. The 
ancient Greeks, though born in a warm climate, seem 
to have been much addicted to the bottle ; nor were 
their parties of pleasure any thing but matches of 
drinking among men, who passed their time altogether 
apart from the fair. Yet when Alexander led the Greeks 
into Persia, a still more southern climate, they multiplied 
their debauches of this kind, in imitation of the Persian 

* Lib. v. The same author ascribes taciturnity to that people; a new proof 
that national characters may alter very much. Taciturnity as a national 
character, implies unsociableness. Aristotle, in his Politics, book ii. cap. 2, 
says, that the Gauls are the only warlike nation who are negligent of women. 


manners.* So honorable was the character of a drunk- 
ard among the Persians, that Cyrus the younger, soliciting 
the sober Lacedemonians for succor against his brother 
Artaxerxes, claims it chiefly on account of his superior 
endowments, as more valorous, more bountiful, and a bet- 
ter drinker.f Darius Hystaspes made it be inscribed on 
his tombstone, among his other virtues and princely qual- 
ities, that no one could bear a greater quantity of liquor. 
You may obtain any thing of the Negroes by offering 
them strong drink, and may easily prevail with them to 
sell, not only their children, but their wives and mis- 
tresses, for a cask of brandy. In France and Italy, few 
drink pure wine, except in the greatest heats of summer ; 
and, indeed, it is then almost as necessary, in order to 
recruit the spirits, evaporated by heat, as it is in Sweden 
during the winter, in order to warm the bodies con- 
gealed by the rigor of the season. If jealousy be re- 
garded as a proof of an amorous disposition, no people 
were more jealous than the Muscovites, before their 
communication with Europe had somewhat altered their 
manners in this particular. 

But supposing the fact true, that nature, by physical 
principles, has regularly distributed these two passions, 
the one to the northern, the other to the southern 
regions, we can only infer, that the climate may affect 
the grosser and more bodily organs of our frame, not 
that it can work upon those finer organs on which the 
operations of the mind and understanding depend. And 
this is agreeable to the analogy of nature. The races of 
animals never degenerate when carefully attended to ; 
and horses, in particular, always show their blood in 

* Babyhnii maxime in vinum, et quce ebrietatem sequuntur, effusi sunt. 
Quint. Cur. lib. v. cap. 1. 
f Plut. Symp. lib. i. quaest. 4. 


their shape, spirit, and swiftness. But a coxcomb may 
beget a philosopher, as a man of virtue may leave a 
worthless progeny. 

I shall conclude this subject with observing, that 
though the passion for liquor be more brutal and debas- 
ing than love, which, when properly managed, is the 
source of all politeness and refinement ; yet this gives 
not so great an advantage to the southern climates as 
we may be apt, at first sight, to imagine. When love 
goes beyond a certain pitch, it renders men jealous, and 
cuts off the free intercourse between the sexes, on 
which the politeness of a nation will commonly much 
depend. And if we would subtilize and refine upon 
this point, we might observe, that the people, in very 
temperate climates, are the most likely to attain all 
sorts of improvement, their blood not being so inflamed 
as to render them jealous, and yet being warm enough 
to make them set a clue value on the charms and en- 
dowments of the fair sex. 



It seems an unaccountable pleasure which the spec- 
tators of a well-written tragedy receive from sorrow, 
terror, anxiety, and other passions that are in them- 
selves disagreeable and uneasy. The more they are 
touched and affected, the more are they delighted with 
the spectacle ; and as soon as the uneasy passions cease 
to operate, the piece is at an end. One scene of full 
joy and contentment and security is the utmost that 
any composition of this kind can bear ; and it is sure 
always to be the concluding one. If in the texture of 
the piece there be interwoven any scenes of satisfaction, 
they afford only faint gleams of pleasure, which are 
thrown in by way of variety, and in order to plunge 
the actors into deeper distress by means of that contrast 
and disappointment. The whole art of the poet is em- 
ployed in rousing and supporting the compassion and 
indignation, the anxiety and resentment, of his audi- 
ence. They are pleased in proportion as they are af- 
flicted, and never are so happy as when they employ 
tears, sobs, and cries, to give vent to their sorrow, and 
relieve their heart, swoln With the tenderest sympathy 
and compassion. 


The few critics who have had some tincture of philo- 
sophy have remarked this singular phenomenon, and 
have endeavored to account for it. 

L'Abbe Dubos, in his Reflections on Poetry and Paint- 
ing, asserts, that nothing is in general so disagreeable to 
the mind as the languid, listless state of indolence into 
which it falls upon the removal of all passion and occu- 
pation. To get rid of this painful situation, it seeks 
every amusement and pursuit ; business, gaming, shows, 
executions ; whatever will rouse the passions and take 
its attention from itself. No matter what the passion 
is ; let it be disagreeable, afflicting, melancholy, disor- 
dered ; it is still better than that insipid languor which 
arises from perfect tranquillity and repose. 

It is impossible not to admit this account as being, 
at least in part, satisfactory. You may observe, when 
there are several tables of gaming, that all the com- 
pany run to those where the deepest play is, even 
though they find not there the best players. The view, 
or, at least, imagination of high passions, arising from 
great loss or gain, affects the spectator by sympathy, 
gives him some touches of the same passions, and serves 
him for a momentary entertainment. It makes the 
time pass the easier with him, and is some relief to 
that oppression under which men commonly labor when 
left entirely to their own thoughts and meditations. 

We find that common liars always magnify, in their 
narrations, all kinds of clanger, pain, distress, sickness, 
deaths, murders, and cruelties, as well as joy, beauty, 
mirth, and magnificence. It is an absurd secret which 
they have for pleasing their company, fixing their at- 
tention, and attaching them to such marvellous rela- 
tion by the passions and emotions which they excite. 

There is, however, a difficulty in applying to the 


present subject, in its full extent, this solution, however 
ingenious and satisfactory it may appear. It is certain 
that the same object of distress, which pleases in a tra- 
gedy, were it really set before us, would give the most 
unfeigned uneasiness, though it be then the most effect- 
ual cure to languor and indolence. Monsieur Fonte- 
nelle seems to have been sensible of this difficulty, and 
accordingly attempts another solution of the phenome- 
non, at least makes some addition to the theory above 

"Pleasure and pain," says he, "which are two senti- 
ments so different in themselves, differ not so much in 
their cause. From the instance of tickling it appears, 
that the movement of pleasure, pushed a little too far, 
becomes pain, and that the movement of pain, a little 
moderate, becomes pleasure. Hence it proceeds, that 
there is such a thing as a sorrow, soft and agreeable : it 
is a pain weakened and diminished. The heart likes 
naturally to be moved and affected. Melancholy objects 
suit it, and even disastrous and sorrowful, provided they 
are softened by some circumstance. It is certain, that, 
on the theatre, the representation has almost the effect 
of reality; yet it has not altogether that effect. How- 
ever we may be hurried away by the spectacle, what- 
ever dominion the senses and imagination may usurp 
over the reason, there still lurks at the bottom a certain 
idea of falsehood in the whole of what we see. This 
idea, though weak and disguised, suffices to diminish the 
pain which we suffer from the misfortunes of those 
whom we love, and to reduce that affliction to such a 
pitch as converts it into a pleasure. AVe weep for the 
misfortune of a hero to whom we are attached. In the 

* Reflections sur la Poetique, § 3G. 


same instant we comfort ourselves by reflecting, that it 
is nothing but a fiction : and it is precisely that mixture 
of sentiments which composes an agreeable sorrow, and 
tears that delight us. But as that affliction which is 
caused by exterior and sensible objects is stronger than 
the consolation which arises from an internal reflection, 
they are the effects and symptoms of sorrow that ought 
to predominate in the composition." 

This solution seems just and convincing; but perhaps 
it wants still some new addition, in order to make it an- 
swer, full} 7 the phenomenon which we here examine. 
All the passions, excited by eloquence, are agreeable in 
the highest degree, as well as those which are moved by 
painting and the theatre. The Epilogues of Cicero are, 
on this account chiefly, the delight of every reader of 
taste ; and it is difficult to read some of them without 
the deepest sympathy and sorrow. His merit as an 
orator, no doubt, depends much on his success in this 
particular. When he had raised tears in his j udges and all 
his audience, they were then the most highly delighted, 
and expressed the greatest satisfaction with the pleader. 
The pathetic description of the butchery made by Verres 
of the Sicilian captains, is a masterpiece of this kind : 
but I believe none will affirm, that the being present at 
a melancholy scene of that nature would afford any 
entertainment. Neither is the sorrow here softened by 
fiction ; for the audience were convinced of the reality 
of every circumstance. What is it then which in this 
case raises a pleasure from the bosom of uneasiness, so 
to speak, and a pleasure whicji still retains all the 
features and outward symptoms of distress and sorrow ? 

I answer : this extraordinary effect proceeds from that 
very eloquence with which the melancholy scene is 
represented. The genius required to paint objects in a 


lively manner, the art employed in collecting all the 
pathetic circumstances, the judgment displayed in dis- 
posing them ; the exercise, I say, of these noble talents, 
together with the force of expression, and beauty of 
oratorial numbers, diffuse the highest satisfaction on the 
audience, and excite the most delightful movements. 
By this means, the uneasiness of the melancholy pas- 
sions is not only overpowered and effaced by something 
stronger of an opposite kind, but the whole impulse of 
those passions is converted into pleasure, and swells the 
delight which the eloquence raises in us. The same 
force of oratory, employed on an uninteresting subject, 
would not please half so much, or rather would appear 
altogether ridiculous ; and the mind, being left in abso- 
lute calmness and indifference, would relish none of those 
beauties of imagination or expression, which, if joined 
to passion, give it such exquisite entertainment. The 
impulse or vehemence arising from sorrow, compassion, 
indignation, receives a new direction from the senti- 
ments of beauty. The latter, being the predominant 
emotion, seize the whole mind, and convert the former 
into themselves, at least tincture them so strongly as 
totally to alter their nature. And the soul being at the 
same time roused by passion and charmed by eloquence, 
feels on the whole a strong movement, which is alto- 
gether delightful. 

The same principle takes place in tragedy ; with this 
addition, that tragedy is an imitation, and imitation is 
always of itself agreeable. This circumstance serves 
still further to smooth the motions of passion, and con- 
vert the whole feeling into one uniform and strong 
enjoyment. Objects of the greatest terror and distress 
please in painting, and please more than the most beau- 

vol. in. 31 


tiful objects that appear calm and indifferent.* The af- 
fection, rousing the mind, excites a large stock of spirit 
and vehemence ; which is all transformed into pleasure 
by the force of the prevailing movement. It is thus the 
fiction of tragedy softens the passion, by an infusion of 
a new feeling, not merely by weakening or diminishing 
the sorrow. You may by degrees weaken a real sorrow, 
till it totally disappears; yet in none of its gradations 
will it ever give pleasure ; except, perhaps, by accident, 
to a man sunk under lethargic indolence, whom it rouses 
from that languid state. 

To confirm this theory, it will be sufficient to produce 
other instances, where the subordinate movement is con- 
verted into the predominant, and gives force to it, 
though of a different, and even sometimes though of a 
contrary nature. 

Novelty naturally rouses the mind, and attracts our 
attention ; and the movements which it causes are 
always converted into any passion belonging to the 
object, and join their force to it. Whether an event 
excite joy or sorrow, pride or shame, anger or good-will, 
it is sure to produce a stronger affection, when new or 
unusual. And though novelty of itself be agreeable, it 
fortifies the painful, as well as agreeable passions. 

Had you any intention to move a person extremely 
by the narration of any event, the best method of in- 

* Painters make no scruple of representing distress and sorrow, as well as 
any other passion ; but they seem not to dwell so much on these melancholy 
affections as the poets, who, though they copy every motion of the human 
breast, yet pass quickly over the agreeable sentiments. A painter represents 
only one instant ; and if that be passionate enough, it is sure to affect and de- 
light the spectator ; but nothing can furnish to the poet a variety of scenes, 
and incidents, and sentiments, except distress, terror, or anxiety. Complete 
joy and satisfaction is attended with security, and leaves no further room for 


creasing its effect would be artfully to delay informing 
him of it, and first to excite his curiosity and impa- 
tience before you let him into the secret. This is the 
artifice practised by Iago in the famous scene of Shak- 
speare ; and every spectator is sensible, that Othello's 
jealousy acquires additional force from his preceding 
impatience, and that the subordinate passion is here 
readily transformed into the predominant one. 

Difficulties increase passions of every kind ; and by 
rousing our attention, and exciting our active powers, 
they produce an emotion which nourishes the prevail- 
ing affection. 

Parents commonly love that child most whose sickly 
infirm frame of body has occasioned them the greatest 
pains, trouble, and anxiety, in rearing him. The agree- 
able sentiment of affection here acquires force from 
sentiments of uneasiness. 

Nothing endears so much a friend as sorrow for his 
death. The pleasure of his company has not so power- 
ful an influence. 

Jealousy is a painful passion ; yet without some share 
of it, the agreeable affection of love has difficulty to 
subsist in its full force and violence. Absence is also 
a great source of complaint among lovers, and gives 
them the greatest uneasiness : yet nothing is more favor- 
able to their mutual passion than short intervals of that 
kind. And if long intervals often prove fatal, it is only 
because, through time, men are accustomed to them, 
and they cease to give uneasiness. Jealousy and ab- 
sence in love compose the dolce peccanfe of the Italians, 
which they suppose so essential to all pleasure. 

There is a fine observation of the elder Pliny, which 
illustrates the principle here insisted on. " It is very 
remarkable," says he, " that the last works of celebrated 


artists, which they left imperfect, are always the most 
prized, such as the Iris of Aristides, the Tyndarides of 
Nicomachus, the Medea of Timomachus, and the Venus 
of Apelles. These are valued even above their finished 
productions. The broken lineaments of the piece, and 
the half-formed idea of the painter, are carefully studied ; 
and our very grief for that curious hand, which had 
been stopped by death, is an additional increase to our 
pleasure." :;: 

These instances (and many more might be collected) 
are sufficient to afford us some insight into the analogy 
of nature, and to show us, that the pleasure which poets, 
orators, and musicians give us, by exciting grief, sorrow, 
indignation, compassion, is not so extraordinary or para- 
doxical as it may at first sight appear. The force of 
imagination, the energy of expression, the power of 
numbers, the charms of imitation • all these are natu- 
rally, of themselves, delightful to the mind : and when 
the object presented lays also hold of some affection, the 
pleasure still rises upon us, by the conversion of this 
subordinate movement into that which is predominant. 
The passion, though perhaps naturally, and when ex- 
cited by the simple appearance of a real object, it may 
be painful ; yet is so smoothed, and softened, and molli- 
fied, when raised by the finer arts, that it affords the 
highest entertainment. 

To confirm this reasoning, we may observe, that if 
the movements of the imagination be not predominant 

* Illud vero perquam rarum ac memoria (lignum, etiam suprema opera 
artificum, imperfectasque tabulas, sicut, Irin Aristidis, Tyndaridas Ki- 
comachi, Mkdeam Timomachi, et quam diximus Venerem Apellis, in majori 
admiratione esse quam perfecta. Quippe in iis lincamenta reliqua, ipsaeque 
cogitationes artificum spectantur, atque in lenocinio commendationis dolor est 
manus, cum id ageret, extinctae. Lib. xxxv. cap. 11. 



above those of the passion, a contrary effect follows ; 
and the former, being now subordinate, is converted 
into the latter, and still further increases the pain and 
affliction of the sufferer. 

Who could ever think of it as a good expedient for 
comforting an afflicted parent, to exaggerate, with all 
the force of elocution, the irreparable loss which he has 
met with by the death of a favorite child ? The more 
power of imagination and expression you here employ, 
the more you increase his despair and affliction. 

The shame, confusion, and terror of Yerres, no doubt, 
rose in proportion to the noble eloquence and vehe- 
mence of Cicero : so also did his pain and uneasiness. 
These former passions were too strong for the pleasure 
arising from the beauties of elocution • and operated, 
though from the same principle, yet in a contrary man- 
ner, to the sympathy, compassion, and indignation of 
the audience. 

Lord Clarendon, when he approaches towards the 
catastrophe of the royal party, supposes that his narra- 
tion must then become infinitely disagreeable ; and he 
hurries over the king's death without giving us one 
circumstance of it. He considers it as too horrid a 
scene to be contemplated with any satisfaction, or even 
without the utmost pain and aversion. He himself, as 
well as the readers of that age, were too deeply con- 
cerned in the events, and felt a pain from subjects which 
an historian and a reader of another age would regard 
as the most pathetic and most interesting, and, by con- 
sequence, the most agreeable. 

An action, represented in tragedy, may be too bloody 
and atrocious. It may excite such movements of hor- 
ror as will not soften into pleasure ; and the greatest 


energy of expression, bestowed on descriptions of that 
nature, serves only to augment our uneasiness. Such 
is that action represented in the Ambitious Step-mother, 
where a venerable old man, raised to the height of fury 
and despair, rushes against a pillar, and, striking his 
head upon it, besmears it all over with mingled brains 
and gore. The English theatre abounds too much with 
such shocking images. 

Even the common sentiments of compassion require 
to be softened by some agreeable affection, in order to 
give a thorough satisfaction to the audience. The mere 
suffering of plaintive virtue, under the triumphant 
tyranny and oppression of vice, forms a disagreeable 
spectacle, and is carefully avoided by all masters of the 
drama. In order to dismiss the audience with entire 
satisfaction and contentment, the virtue must either 
convert itself into a noble courageous despair, or the 
vice receive its proper punishment. 

Most painters appear in this light to have been very 
unhappy in their subjects. As they wrought much for 
churches and convents, they have chiefly represented 
such horrible subjects as crucifixions and martyrdoms, 
where nothing appears but tortures, wounds, executions, 
and passive suffering, without any action or affection. 
When they turned their pencil from this ghastly my- 
thology, they had commonly recourse to Ovid, whose 
fictions, though passionate and agreeable, are scarcely 
natural or probable enough for painting. 

The same inversion of that principle which is here 
insisted on, displays itself in common life, as in the 
effects of oratory and poetry. Eaise so the subordinate 
passion that it becomes the predominant, it swallows up 
that affection which it before nourished and increased. 


Too much jealousy extinguishes love ; too much diffi- 
culty renders us indifferent ; too much sickness and in- 
firmity disgusts a selfish and unkind parent. 

What so disagreeable as the dismal, gloomy, disastrous 
stories, with which melancholy people entertain their 
companions ? The uneasy passion being there raised 
alone, unaccompanied with any spirit, genius, or elo- 
quence, conveys a pure uneasiness, and is attended with 
nothing that can soften it into pleasure or satisfaction. 



The great variety of Taste, as well as of opinion, 
which prevails in the world, is too obvious not to have 
fallen under every one's observation. Men of the most 
confined knowledge are able to remark a difference of 
taste in the narrow circle of their acquaintance, even 
where the persons have been educated under the same 
government, and have early imbibed the same prejudices. 
But those who can enlarge their view to contemplate 
distant nations and remote ages, are still more surprised 
at the great inconsistence and contrariety. We are apt 
to call barbarous whatever departs widely from our own 
taste and apprehension ; but soon find the epithet of 
reproach retorted on us. And the highest arrogance 
and self-conceit is at last startled, on observing an equal 
assurance on all sides, and scruples, amidst such a con- 
test of sentiment, to pronounce positively in its own 

As this variety of taste is obvious to the most careless 
inquirer, so will it be found, on examination, to be still 
greater in reality than in appearance. The sentiments 
of men often differ with regard to beauty and deformity 
of all kinds, even while their general discourse is the 


same. There are certain terms in every language which 
import blame, and others praise ; and all men who use 
the same tongue must agree in their application of them. 
Every voice is united in applauding elegance, propriety, 
simplicity, spirit in writing ; and in blaming fustian, 
affectation, coldness, and a false brilliancy. But when 
critics come to particulars, this seeming unanimity van- 
ishes ; and it is found, that they had affixed a very dif- 
ferent meaning to their expressions. In all matters of 
opinion and science, the case is opposite ; the difference 
among men is there oftener found to lie in generals than 
in particulars, and to be less in reality than in appear- 
ance. An explanation of the terms commonly ends the 
controversy : and the disputants are surprised to find 
that they had been quarrelling, while at bottom they 
agreed in their judgment. 

Those wdio found morality on sentiment, more than on 
reason, are inclined to comprehend ethics under the for- 
mer observation, and to maintain, that, in all questions 
which regard conduct and manners, the difference anions 
men is really greater than at first sight it appears. It 
is indeed obvious, that writers of all nations and all a^es 
concur in applauding justice, humanity, magnanimity, 
prudence, veracity ; and in blaming the opposite quali- 
ties. Even poets and other authors, whose compositions 
are chiefly calculated to please the imagination, are yet 
found, from Homer down to Fenelon, to inculcate the 
same moral precepts, and to bestow their applause and 
blame on the same virtues and vices. This great una- 
nimity is usually ascribed to the influence of plain rea- 
son, which, in all these cases, maintains similar senti- 
ments in all men, and prevents those controversies to 
which the abstract sciences are so much exposed. So 
far as the unanimity is real, this account may be admit- 

vol. in. 32 


ted as satisfactory. But we must also allow, that some 
part of the seeming harmony in morals may be ac- 
counted for from the very nature of language. The 
word virtue, with its equivalent in every tongue, implies 
praise, as that of vice does blame ; and no one, without 
the most obvious and grossest impropriety, could affix 
reproach to a term, which in general acceptation is un- 
derstood in a good sense : or bestow applause, where the 
idiom requires disapprobation. Homer's general pre- 
cepts, where he delivers any such, will never be contro- 
verted ; but it is obvious, that, when he draws particu- 
lar pictures of manners, and represents heroism in 
Achilles, and prudence in Ulysses, he intermixes a much 
greater degree of ferocity in the former, and of cunning 
and fraud in the latter, than Fenelon would admit of. 
The sage Ulysses, in the Greek poet, seems to delight in 
lies and fictions, and often employs them without any 
necessity, or even advantage. But his more scrupulous 
son, in the French epic writer, exposes himself to the 
most imminent perils, rather than depart from the most 
exact line of truth and veracity. 

The admirers and followers of the Alcoran insist on 
the excellent moral precepts interspersed throughout 
that wild and absurd performance. But it is to be sup- 
posed, that the Arabic words, which correspond to the 
English, equity, justice, temperance, meekness, charity, 
were such as, from the constant use of that tongue, must 
always be taken in a good sense : and it would have 
argued the greatest ignorance, not of morals, but of 
language, to have mentioned them with any epithets, 
besides those of applause and approbation. But would 
we know, whether the pretended prophet had really 
attained a just sentiment of morals, let us attend to his 
narration, and we shall soon find, that he bestows praise 


on such instances of treachery, inhumanity, cruelty, re- 
venge, bigotry, as are utterly incompatible with civil- 
ized society. No steady rule of right seems there 
to be attended to ; and every action is blamed or 
praised, so far only as it is beneficial or hurtful to the 
true believers. 

The merit of delivering true general precepts in 
ethics is indeed very small. Whoever recommends any 
moral virtues, really does no more than is implied in 
the terms themselves. That people who invented the 
word charity, and used it in a good sense, inculcated more 
clearly, and much more efficaciously, the precept, Be 
charitable, than any pretended legislator or prophet, who 
should insert such a maxim in his writings. Of all ex- 
pressions, those which, together with their other mean- 
ing, imply a degree either of blame or approbation, are 
the least liable to be perverted or mistaken. 

It is natural for us to seek a Standard of Taste ; a rule 
by which the various sentiments of men may be recon- 
ciled ; at least a decision afforded confirming one senti- 
ment, and condemning another. 

There is a species of philosophy, which cuts off all 
hopes of success in such an attempt, and represents the 
impossibility of ever attaining any standard of taste. 
The difference, it is said, is very wide between judgment 
and sentiment. All sentiment is right ; because senti- 
ment has a reference to nothing beyond itself, and is 
always real, wherever a man is conscious of it. But all 
determinations of the understanding: are not right ; be- 
cause they have a reference to something beyond them- 
selves, to wit, real matter of fact ; and are not always 
conformable to that standard. Among a thousand dif- 
ferent opinions which different men may entertain of 
the same subject, there is one, and but one, that is just 


and true : and the only difficulty is to fix and ascertain 
it. On the contrary, a thousand different sentiments, 
excited by the same object, are all right; because no 
sentiment represents what is really in the object. It 
only marks a certain conformity or relation between the 
object and the organs or faculties of the mind ; and if 
that conformity did not really exist, the sentiment could 
never possibly have being. Beauty is no quality in 
things themselves : it exists merely in the mind which 
contemplates them ; and each mind perceives a differ- 
ent beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, 
where another is sensible of beauty ; and every indi- 
vidual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, with- 
out pretending to regulate those of others. To seek 
the real beauty, or real deformity, is as fruitless an in- 
quiry, as to pretend to ascertain the real sweet or real 
bitter. According to the disposition of the organs, the 
same object may be both sweet and bitter ; and the 
proverb has justly determined it to be fruitless to dis- 
pute concerning tastes. It is very natural, and even 
quite necessary, to extend this axiom to mental, as well 
as bodily taste ; and thus common sense, which is so 
often at variance with philosophy, especially with the 
sceptical kind, is found, in one instance at least, to agree 
in pronouncing the same decision. 

But though this axiom, by passing into a proverb, 
seems to have attained the sanction of common sense ; 
there is certainly a species of common sense, which op- 
poses it, at least serves to modify and restrain it. Who- 
ever would assert an equality of genius and elegance 
between Ogilby and Milton, or Bunyan and Addison, 
would be thought to defend no less an extravagance, 
than if he had maintained a mole-hill to be as high as 
Tencriffe, or a pond as extensive as the ocean. Though 


there may be found persons, who give the preference to 
the former authors ; no one pays attention to such a 
taste ; and we pronounce, without scruple, the senti- 
ment of these pretended critics to be absurd and ridicu- 
lous. The principle of the natural equality of tastes is 
then totally forgot, and while we admit it on some oc- 
casions, where the objects seem near an equality, it 
appears an extravagant paradox, or rather a palpable 
absurdity, where objects so disproportioned are com- 
pared together. 

It is evident that none of the rules of composition 
are fixed by reasonings el priori, or can be esteemed ab- 
stract conclusions of the understanding, from comparing 
those habitudes and relations of ideas, which are eternal 
and immutable. Their foundation is the same with that 
of all the practical sciences, experience ; nor are they 
any thing but general observations, concerning what 
has been universally found to please in all countries and 
in all ages. Many of the beauties of poetry, and even 
of eloquence, are founded on falsehood and fiction, on 
hyperboles, metaphors, and an abuse or perversion of 
terms from their natural meaning. To check the sallies 
of the imagination, and to reduce every expression to 
geometrical truth and exactness, would be the most con- 
trary to the laws of criticism ; because it would produce 
a work, which, by universal experience, has been found 
the most insipid and disagreeable. But though poetry 
can never submit to exact truth, it must be confined by 
rules of art, discovered to the author either by genius 
or observation. If some ne«;lia;ent or irregular writers 


have pleased, they have not pleased by their transgres- 
sions of rule or order, but in spite of these transgres- 
sions : they have possessed other beauties, which were 
conformable to just criticism; and the force of these 


beauties has been able to overpower censure, and give 
the mind a satisfaction superior to the disgust arising 
from the blemishes. Ariosto pleases ; but not by his 
monstrous and improbable fictions, by his bizarre mix- 
ture of the serious and comic styles, by the want of 
coherence in his stories, or by the continual interrup- 
tions of his narration. He charms by the force and 
clearness of his expression, by the readiness and va- 
riety of his inventions, and by his natural pictures of 
the passions, especially those of the gay and amorous 
kind : and, however his faults may diminish our sat- 
isfaction, they are not able entirely to destroy it. Did 
our pleasure really arise from those parts of his poem, 
which we denominate faults, this would be no objection 
to criticism in general : it would only be an objection 
to those particular rules of criticism, which would es- 
tablish such circumstances to be faults, and would rep- 
resent them as universally blamable. If they are found 
to please, they cannot be faults, let the pleasure which 
they produce be ever so unexpected and unaccount- 

But though all the general rules of art are founded 
only on experience, and on the observation of the com- 
mon sentiments of human nature, we must not imagine, 
that, on every occasion, the feelings of men will be 
conformable to these rules. Those finer emotions of 
the mind are of a very tender and delicate nature, and 
require the concurrence of many favorable circum- 
stances to make them play with facility and exactness, 
according to their general and established principles. 
The least exterior hinderance to such small springs, or 
the least internal disorder, disturbs their motion, and 
confounds the operations of the whole machine. When 
we would make an experiment of this nature, and would 


try the force of any beauty or deformity, we must 
choose with care a proper time and place, and bring 
the fancy to a suitable situation and disposition. A per- 
fect serenity of mind, a recollection of thought, a due 
attention to the object ; if any of these circumstances 
be wanting, our experiment will be fallacious, and we 
shall be unable to judge of the catholic and universal 
beauty. The relation, which nature has placed between 
the form and the sentiment, will at least be more obscure; 
and it will require greater accuracy to trace and discern 
it. We shall be able to ascertain its influence, not so 
much from the^ operation of each particular beauty, as 
from the durable admiration wdiich attends those works 
that have survived all the caprices of mode and fashion, 
all the mistakes of ignorance and envy. 

The same Homer who pleased at Athens and Borne 
two thousand years ago, is still admired at Paris and at 
London. All the changes of climate, government, reli- 
gion, and language, have not been able to obscure his 
glory. Authority or prejudice may give a temporary 
vogue to a bad poet or orator ; but his reputation will 
never be durable or general. When his compositions 
are examined by posterity or by foreigners, the enchant- 
ment is dissipated, and his faults appear in their true 
colors. On the contrary, a real genius, the longer his 
works endure, and the more wide they are spread, the 
more sincere is the admiration which he meets with. 
Envy and jealousy have too much place in a narrow 
circle ; and even familiar acquaintance with his person 
may diminish the applause due to his performances : 
but when these obstructions are removed, the beauties, 
which are naturally fitted to excite agreeable senti- 
ments, immediately display their energy; and while 


the world endures, they maintain their authority over 
the minds of men. 

It appears, then, that amidst all the variety and 
caprice of taste, there are certain general principles of 
approbation or blame, whose influence a careful eye may 
trace in all operations of the mind. Some particular 
forms or qualities, from the original structure of the 
internal fabric are calculated to please, and others to 
displease ; and if they fail of their effect in any particular 
instance, it is from some apparent defect or imperfection 
in the organ. A man in a fever would not insist on his 
palate as able to decide concerning flavors ; nor would one 
affected with the jaundice pretend to give a verdict with 
regard to colors. In each creature there is a sound and 
a defective state ; and the former alone can be supposed 
to afford us a true standard of taste and sentiment. If, 
in the sound state of the organ, there be an entire or a 
considerable uniformity of sentiment among men, we 
may thence derive an idea of the perfect beauty ; in 
like manner as the appearance of objects in daylight, to 
the eye of a man in health, is denominated their true 
and real color, even while color is allowed to be merely 
a phantasm of the senses. 

Many and frequent are the defects in the internal 
organs, which prevent or weaken the influence of those 
general principles, on which depends our sentiment of 
beauty or deformity. Though some objects, by the struc- 
ture of the mind, be naturally calculated to give pleasure, 
it is not to be expected that in every individual the 
pleasure will be equally felt. Particular incidents and 
situations occur, which either throw a false light on the 
objects, or hinder the true from conveying to the imag- 
ination the proper sentiment and perception. 

One obvious cause why many feel not the proper 


sentiment of beauty, is the want of that delicacy of 
imagination which is requisite to convey a sensibility 
of those finer emotions. This delicacy every one pre- 
tends to : every one talks of it ; and would reduce every 
kind of taste or sentiment to its standard. But as our 
intention in this Essay is to mingle some light of the 
understanding with the feelings of sentiment, it will be 
proper to give a more accurate definition of delicacy 
than has hitherto been attempted. And not to draw 
our philosophy from too profound a source, we shall 
have recourse to a noted story in Don Quixote. 

It is with good reason, says Sancho to the squire with 
the great nose, that I pretend to have a judgment in 
wine : this is a quality hereditary in our family. Two 
of my kinsmen were once called to give their opinion 
of a hogshead, which was supposed to be excellent, being 
old and of a good vintage. One of them tastes it, con- 
siders it ; and, after mature reflection, pronounces the 
wine to be good, were it not for a small taste of leather 
which he perceived in it. The other, after using the 
same precautions, gives also his verdict in favor of the 
wine ; but with the reserve of a taste of iron, which he 
could easily distinguish. You cannot imagine how 
much they were both ridiculed for their judgment. 
But who laughed in the end ? On emptying the hogs- 
head, there was found at the bottom an old key with a 
leathern thono; tied to it. 

The great resemblance between mental and bodily 
taste will easily teach us to apply this story. Though 
it be certain that beauty and deformity, more than 
sweet and bitter, are not qualities in objects, but belong 
entirely to the sentiment, internal or external, it must 
be allowed, that there are certain qualities in objects 
which are fitted by nature to produce those particular 

vol. in. 33 


feelings. Now, as these qualities may be found in a 
small degree, or may be mixed and confounded with 
each other, it often happens that the taste is not affected 
with such minute qualities, or is not able to distinguish 
all the particular flavors, amidst the disorder in which 
they are presented. Where the organs are so fine as to 
allow nothing to escape them, and at the same time so 
exact as to perceive every ingredient in the composition, 
this we call delicacy of taste, whether we employ these 
terms in the literal or metaphorical sense. Here then 
the general rules of beauty are of use, being drawn 
from established models, and from the observation of 
what pleases or displeases, when presented singly and 
in a high degree ; and if the same qualities, in a con- 
tinued composition, and in a smaller degree, affect not 
the organs with a sensible delight or uneasiness, we 
exclude the person from all pretensions to this delicacy. 
To produce these general rules or avowed patterns of 
composition, is like finding the key with the leathern 
thong, which justified the verdict of Sancho's kinsmen, 
and confounded those pretended judges who had con- 
demned them. Though the hogshead had never been 
emptied, the taste of the one was still equally delicate, 
and that of the other equally dull and languid ; but it 
w^ould have been more difficult to have proved the 
superiority of the former, to the conviction of every 
bystander. In like manner, though the beauties of 
writing had never been methodized, or reduced to 
general principles ; though no excellent models had 
ever been acknowledged, the different degrees of taste 
would still have subsisted, and the judgment of one 
man been preferable to that of another ; but it would 
not have been so easy to silence the bad critic, who 
might always insist upon his particular sentiment, and 


refuse to submit to his antagonist. But when we show 
him an avowed principle of art ; when we illustrate this 
principle by examples, whose operation, from his own 
particular taste, he acknowledges to be conformable to 
the principle ; when we prove that the same principle 
may be applied to the present case, where he did not 
perceive or feel its influence :' he must conclude, npon 
the whole, that the fault lies in himself, and that he 
wants the delicacy which is requisite to make him sensi- 
ble of every beauty and every blemish in any composi- 
tion or discourse. 

It is acknowledged to be the perfection of every sense 
or faculty, to perceive with exactness its most minute 
objects, and allow nothing to escape its notice and obser- 
vation. The smaller the objects are which become 
sensible to the eye, the finer is that organ, and the more 
elaborate its make and composition. A good palate is 
not tried by strong flavors, but by a mixture of small 
ingredients, where we are still sensible of each part, 
notwithstanding its minuteness and its confusion with 
the rest. In like manner, a quick and acute perception 
of beauty and deformity must be the perfection of our 
mental taste ; nor can a man be satisfied with himself 
while he suspects that any excellence or blemish in a 
discourse has passed him unobserved. In this case, the 
perfection of the man, and the perfection of the sense 
of feeling, are found to be united. A very delicate 
palate, on many occasions, may be a great inconven- 
ience both to a man himself and to his friends. But a 
delicate taste of wit or beauty must always be a desir- 
able quality, because it is the source of all the finest 
and most innocent enjoyments of which human nature 
is susceptible. In this decision the sentiments of all 
mankind are agreed. Wherever you can ascertain a 


delicacy of taste, it is sure to meet with approbation ; 
and the best way of ascertaining it is, to appeal to those 
models and principles which have been established by 
the uniform consent and experience of nations and ages. 
But though there be naturally a wide difference, in 
point of delicacy, between one person and another, 
nothing tends further to increase and improve this 
talent, than practice in a particular art, and the frequent 
survey or contemplation of a particular species of beauty. 
When objects of any kind are first presented to the eye 
or imagination, the sentiment which attends them is 
obscure and confused ; and the mind is, in a great mea- 
sure, incapable of pronouncing concerning their merits 
or defects. The taste cannot perceive the several excel- 
lences of the performance, much less distinguish the 
particular character of each excellency, and ascertain 
its quality and degree. If it pronounce the whole in 
general to be beautiful or deformed, it is the utmost 
that can be expected ; and even this judgment, a per- 
son so unpractised will be apt to deliver with great 
hesitation and reserve. But allow him to acquire ex- 
perience in those objects, his feeling becomes more 
exact and nice : he not only perceives the beauties and 
defects of each part, but marks the distinguishing species 
of each quality, and assigns it suitable praise or blame. 
A clear and distinct sentiment attends him through the 
whole survey of the objects ; and he discerns that very 
degree and kind of approbation or displeasure which 
each part is naturally fitted to produce. The mist dissi- 
pates which seemed formerly to hang over the object ; 
the organ acquires greater perfection in its operations, 
and can pronounce, without danger of mistake, concern- 
ing the merits of every performance. In a word, the 
same address and dexterity which practice gives to the 


execution of any work, is also acquired by the same 
means in the judging of it. 

So advantageous is practice to the discernment of 
beauty, that, before we can give judgment on any work 
of importance, it will even be requisite that that very 
individual performance be more than once perused by 
us, and be surveyed in different lights with attention 
and deliberation. There is a flutter or hurrv of thought 
which attends the first perusal of any piece, and which 
confounds the genuine sentiment of beauty. The rela- 
tion of the parts is not discerned : the true characters 
of style are little distinguished. The several perfections 
and defects seem wrapped up in a species of confusion, 
and present themselves indistinctly to the imagination. 
Not to mention, that there is a species of beauty, which, 
as it is florid and superficial, pleases at first ; but being 
found incompatible with a just expression either of 
reason or passion, soon palls upon the taste, and is then 
rejected with disdain, at least rated at a much lower 

It is impossible to continue in the practice of con- 
templating any order of beauty, without being fre- 
quently obliged to form comparisons between the several 
species and degrees of excellence, and estimating their 
proportion to each other. A man who has had no 
opportunity of comparing the different kinds of beauty, 
is indeed totally unqualified to pronounce an opinion 
with regard to any object presented to him. By com- 
parison alone we fix the epithets of praise or blame, 
and learn how to assign the due decree of each. The 
coarsest daubing contains a certain lustre of colors and 
exactness of imitation, which are so far beauties, and 
would affect the mind of a peasant or Indian with the 
highest admiration. The most vulvar ballads are not 


entirely destitute of harmony or nature ; and none but 
a person familiarized to superior beauties would pro- 
nounce their members harsh, or narration uninteresting. 
A great inferiority of beauty gives pain to a person 
conversant in the highest excellence of the kind, and 
is for that reason pronounced a deformity ; as the most 
finished object with which we are acquainted is natu- 
rally supposed to have reached the pinnacle of perfec- 
tion, and to be entitled to the highest applause. One 
accustomed to see, and examine, and weigh the several 
performances, admired in different ages and nations, can 
alone rate the merits of a work exhibited to his view, 
and assign its proper rank among the productions of 

But to enable a critic the more fully to execute this 
undertaking, he must preserve his mind free from all 
prejudice, and allow nothing to enter into his considera- 
tion, but the very object which is submitted to his 
examination. We may observe, that every work of 
art, in order to produce its due effect on the mind, 
must be surveyed in a certain point of view, and can- 
not be fully relished by persons whose situation, real 
or imaginary, is not conformable to that which is re- 
quired by the performance. An orator addresses him- 
self to a particular audience, and must have a regard to 
their particular genius, interests, opinions, passions, and 
prejudices; otherwise he hopes in vain to govern their 
resolutions, and inflame their affections. Should they 
even have entertained some prepossessions against him, 
however unreasonable, he must not overlook this disad- 
vantage ; but, before he enters upon the subject, must 
endeavor to conciliate their affection, and acquire their 
good graces. A critic of a different age or nation, who 
should peruse this discourse, must have all these circum- 


stances in his eye, and must place himself in the same 
situation as the audience, in order to form a true judg- 
ment of the oration. In like manner, when any work 
is addressed to the public, though I should have a 
friendship or enmity with the author, I must depart 
from this situation, and, considering myself as a man 
in general, forget, if possible, my individual being, and 
my peculiar circumstances. A person influenced by 
prejudice complies not with this condition, but obsti- 
nately maintains his natural position, without placing 
himself in that point of view which the performance 
supposes. If the work be addressed to persons of a 
different age or nation, he makes no allowance for their 
peculiar views and prejudices; but, full of the manners 
of his own age and country, rashly condemns what 
seemed admirable in the eyes of those for whom alone 
the discourse was calculated. If the work be executed 
for the public, he never sufficiently enlarges his compre- 
hension, or forgets his interest as a friend or enemy, as 
a rival or commentator. By this means his sentiments 
are perverted ; nor have the same beauties and blem- 
ishes the same influence upon him, as if he had imposed 
a proper violence on his imagination, and had forgotten 
himself for a moment. So far his taste evidently de- 
parts from the true standard, and of consequence loses 
all credit and authority. 

It is well known, that, in all questions submitted to 
the understanding, prejudice is destructive of sound 
judgment, and perverts all operations of the intellec- 
tual faculties : it is no less contrary to good taste ; nor 
has it less influence to corrupt our sentiment of beauty. 
It belongs to good sense to check its influence in both 
cases ; and in this respect, as well as in many others, 
reason, if not an essential part of taste, is at least re- 


quisite to the operations of this latter faculty. In all 
the nobler productions of genius, there is a mutual rela- 
tion and correspondence of parts ; nor can either the 
beauties or blemishes be perceived by him whose 
thought is not capacious enough to comprehend all 
those parts, and compare them with each other, in 
order to perceive the consistence and uniformity of the 
whole. Every work of art has also a certain end or 
purpose for which it is calculated ; and is to be deemed 
more or less perfect, as it is more or less fitted to attain 
this end. The object of eloquence is to persuade, of 
history to instruct, of poetry to please, by means of the 
passions and the imagination. These ends we must 
carry constantly in our view when we peruse any per- 
formance • and we must be able to judge how far the 
means employed are adapted to their respective pur- 
poses. Besides, every kind of composition, even the 
most poetical, is nothing but a chain of propositions and 
reasonings ; not always, indeed, the justest and most 
exact, but still plausible and specious, however disguised 
by the coloring of the imagination. The persons in- 
troduced in tragedy and epic poetry must be repre- 
sented as reasoning, and thinking, and concluding, and 
acting, suitably to their character and circumstances ; 
and without judgment, as well as taste and invention, a 
poet can never hope to succeed in so delicate an under- 
taking. Not to mention, that the same excellence of 
faculties which contributes to the improvement of rea- 
son, the same clearness of conception, the same exact- 
ness of distinction, the same vivacity of apprehension, 
are essential to the operations of true taste, and are its 
infallible concomitants. It seldom or never happens, 
that a man of sense, who has experience in any art, 
cannot judge of its beauty; and it is no less rare to 


meet with a man who has a just taste without a sound 

Thus, though the principles of taste be universal, and 
nearly, if not entirely, the same in all men ; yet few 
are qualified to give judgment on any work of art, or 
establish their o^Yn sentiment as the standard of beauty. 
The organs of internal sensation are seldom so perfect 
as to allow the general principles their full play, and 
produce a feeling correspondent to those principles. 
They either labor under some defect, or are vitiated by 
some disorder ; and by that means excite a sentiment, 
which may be pronounced erroneous. When the critic 
has no delicacy, he judges without any distinction, and 
is only affected by the grosser and more palpable qual- 
ities of the object : the finer touches pass unnoticed and 
disregarded. Where he is not aided by practice, his 
verdict is attended with confusion and hesitation. Where 
no comparison has been employed, the most frivolous 
beauties, such as rather merit the name of defects, are 
the object of his admiration. Where he lies under the 
influence of prejudice, all his natural sentiments are 
perverted. Where good sense is wanting, he is not 
qualified to discern the beauties of design and reasoning, 
which are the highest and most excellent. Under some 
or other of these imperfections, the generality of men 
labor; and hence a true judge in the finer arts is ob- 
served, even during the most polished ages, to be so 
rare a character : strong sense, united to delicate senti- 
ment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, 
and cleared of all prejudice, can alone entitle critics to 
this valuable character ; and the joint verdict of such, 
wherever they are to be found, is the true standard of 
taste and beauty. 

But where are such critics to be found ? By what 

vol. in. 34 


marks are they to be known ? How distinguish them 
from pretenders ? These questions are embarrassing ; 
and seem to throw us back into the same uncertainty 
from which, during the course of this Essay, we have 
endeavored to extricate ourselves. 

But if w T e consider the matter aright, these are ques- 
tions of fact, not of sentiment. Whether any particu- 
lar person be endowed with good sense and a delicate 
imagination, free from prejudice, may often be the sub- 
ject of dispute, and be liable to great discussion and 
inquiry : but that such a character is valuable and esti- 
mable, will be agreed in by all mankind. Where these 
doubts occur, men can do no more than in other disput- 
able questions which are submitted to the understand- 
ing : they must produce the best arguments that their 
invention suggests to them ; they must acknowledge a 
true and decisive standard to exist somewhere, to wit, 
real existence and matter of fact ; and they must have 
indulgence to such as differ from them in their appeals 
to this standard. It is sufficient for our present pur- 
pose, if we have proved, that the taste of all individu- 
als is not upon an equal footing, and that some men in 
general, however difficult to be particularly pitched 
upon, will be acknowledged by universal sentiment to 
have a preference above others. 

But, in reality, the difficulty of finding, even in par- 
ticulars, the standard of taste, is not so great as it is 
represented. Though in speculation we may readily 
avow a certain criterion in science, and deny it in sen- 
timent, the matter is found in practice to be much more 
hard to ascertain in the former case than in the latter. 
Theories of abstract philosophy, systems of profound 
theology, have prevailed during one age : in a succes- 
sive period these have been universally exploded : their 


absurdity has been detected : other theories and sys- 
tems have supplied their place, which again gave place 
to their successors : and nothing has been experienced 
more liable to the revolutions of chance and fashion 
than these pretended decisions of science. The case is 
not the same with the beauties of eloquence and poetry. 
Just expressions of passion and nature are sure, after a 
little time, to gain public applause, which they maintain 
for ever. Aristotle, and Plato, and Epicurus, and Des- 
cartes, may successively yield to each other : but Te- 
rence and Virgil maintain an universal, undisputed em- 
pire over the minds of men. The abstract philosophy 
of Cicero has lost its credit : the vehemence of his ora- 
tory is still the object of our admiration. 

Though men of delicate taste be rare, they are easily 
to be distinguished in society by the soundness of their 
understanding, and the superiority of their faculties 
above the rest of mankind. The ascendant, which they 
acquire, gives a prevalence to that lively approbation 
with which they receive any productions of genius, and 
renders it generally predominant. Many men, when 
left to themselves, have but a faint and dubious percep- 
tion of beauty, who yet are capable of relishing any 
fine stroke which is pointed out to them. Every con- 
vert to the admiration of the real poet or orator, is the 
cause of some new conversion. And though prejudices 
may prevail for a time, they never unite in celebrating 
any rival to the true genius, but yield at last to the 
force of nature and just sentiment. Thus, though a 
civilized nation may easily be mistaken in the choice of 
their admired philosopher, they never have been found 
long to err, in their affection for a favorite epic or tragic 

But notwithstanding all our endeavors to fix a stan- 


dard of taste, and reconcile the discordant apprehensions 
of men, there still remain two sources of variation, which 
are not sufficient indeed to confound all the boundaries 
of beauty and deformity, but will often serve to produce 
a difference in the degrees of our approbation or blame. 
The one is the different humors of particular men • the 
other, the particular manners and opinions of our age 
and country. The general principles of taste are uni- 
form in human nature: where men vary in their judg- 
ments, some defect or perversion in the faculties may 
commonly be remarked • proceeding either from preju- 
dice, from want of practice, or want of delicacy : and 
there is just reason for approving one taste, and con- 
demning another. But where there is such a diversity 
in the internal frame or external situation as is entirely 
blameless on both sides, and leaves no room to give one 
the preference above the other ; in that case a certain 
degree of diversity in judgment is unavoidable, and we 
seek in vain for a standard, by which we can reconcile 
the contrary sentiments. 

A young man, whose passions are warm, will be more 
sensibly touched with amorous and tender images, than 
a man more advanced in years, who takes pleasure in 
wise, philosophical reflections, concerning the conduct of 
life, and moderation of the passions. At twenty, Ovid 
may be the favorite author, Horace at forty, and perhaps 
Tacitus at fifty. Vainly would we, in such cases, 
endeavor to enter into the sentiments of others, and 
divest ourselves of those propensities which are natural 
to ns. We choose our favorite author as we do our 
friend, from a conformity of humor and disposition. 
Mirth or passion, sentiment or reflection ; whichever of 
these most predominates in our temper, it gives us 
a peculiar sympathy with the writer who resembles ns. 


One person is more pleased with the sublime, another 
with the tender, a third with raillery. One has a strong 
sensibility to blemishes, and is extremely studious of cor- 
rectness ; another has a more lively feeling of beauties, 
and pardons twenty absurdities and defects for one ele- 
vated or pathetic stroke. The ear of this man is entirely 
turned towards conciseness and energy ; that man is 
delighted with a copious, rich, and harmonious expres- 
sion. Simplicity is affected by one ; ornament by 
another. Comedy, tragedy, satire, odes, have each its 
partisans, who prefer that particular species of writing 
to all others. It is plainly an error in a critic, to con- 
fine his approbation to one species or style of writing, 
and condemn all the rest. But it is almost impossible 
not to feel a predilection for that which suits our partic- 
ular turn and disposition. Such performances are inno- 
cent and unavoidable, and can never reasonably be the 
object of dispute, because there is no standard by which 
they can be decided. 

For a like reason, we are more pleased, in the course 
of our reading, with pictures and characters that resem- 
ble objects which are found in our own age and country, 
than with those which describe a different set of cus- 
toms. It is not without some effort that we reconcile 
ourselves to the simplicity of ancient manners, and be- 
hold princesses carrying water from the spring, and kings 
and heroes dressing their own victuals. We may allow 
in general, that the representation of such manners is 
no fault in the author, nor deformity in the piece ; but 
we are not so sensibly touched with them. For this 
reason, comedy is not easily transferred from one age or 
nation to another. A Frenchman or Englishman is not 
pleased with the Andria of Terence, or Clitia of Machiavel; 
where the fine lady, upon whom all the play turns, never 


once appears to the spectators, but is always kept be- 
hind the scenes, suitably to the reserved humor of the 
ancient Greeks and modern Italians. A man of learn- 
ing and reflection can make allowance for these pecu- 
liarities of manners ; but a common audience can never 
divest themselves so far of their usual ideas and senti- 
ments, as to relish pictures which nowise resemble them. 
But here there occurs a reflection, which may, perhaps, 
be useful in examining the celebrated controversy con- 
cerning ancient and modern learning ; where we often 
find the one side excusing any seeming absurdity in the 
ancients from the manners of the age, and the other re- 
fusing to admit this excuse, or at least admitting it only 
as an apology for the author, not for the performance. 
In my opinion, the proper boundaries in this subject 
have seldom been fixed between the contending parties. 
Where any innocent peculiarities of manners are repre- 
sented, such as those above mentioned, they ought cer- 
tainly to be admitted ; and a man who is shocked with 
them, gives an evident proof of false delicacy and refine- 
ment. The poet's monument more durable than brass, must 
fall to the ground like common brick or clay, were men 
to make no allowance for the continual revolutions of 
manners and customs, and would admit of nothing but 
what was suitable to the prevailing fashion. Must we 
throw aside the pictures of our ancestors, because of 
their ruffs and farthingales? But where the ideas of 
morality and decency alter from one age to another, and 
where vicious manners are described, without being 
marked with the proper characters of blame and disap- 
probation, this must be allowed to disfigure the poem, 
and to be a real deformity. I cannot, nor is it proper I 
should, enter into such sentiments ; and however I may 
excuse the poet, on account of the manners of his age, 


I can never relish the composition. The want of hu- 
manity and of decency, so conspicuous in the characters 
drawn by several of the ancient poets, even sometimes 
by Homer and the Greek tragedians, diminishes consid- 
erably the merit of their noble performances, and gives 
modern authors an advantage over them. We are not 
interested in the fortunes and sentiments of such rough 
heroes ; we are displeased to find the limits of vice and 
virtue so much confounded ; and whatever indulgence 
we may give to the writer on account of his prejudices, 
we cannot prevail on ourselves to enter into his senti- 
ments, or bear an affection to characters which we 
plainly discover to be blamable. 

The case is not the same with moral principles as 
with speculative opinions of any kind. These are in 
continual flux and revolution. The son embraces a dif- 
ferent system from the father. Nay, there scarcely is 
any man, who can boast of great constancy and uni- 
formity in this particular. Whatever speculative errors 
may be found in the polite writings of any age or coun- 
try, they detract but little from the value of those com- 
positions. There needs but a certain turn of thought 
or imagination to make us enter into all the opinions 
which then prevailed, and relish the sentiments or con- 
clusions derived from them. But a very violent effort 
is requisite to change our judgment of manners, and 
excite sentiments of approbation or blame, love or 
hatred, different from those to which the mind, from 
long custom, has been familiarized. And where a man 
is confident of the rectitude of that moral standard by 
which he judges, he is justly jealous of it, and will not 
pervert the sentiments of his heart for a moment, in 
complaisance to any writer whatsoever. 

Of all speculative errors, those which regard religion 


are the most excusable in compositions of genius ; nor 
is it ever permitted to judge of the civility or wisdom 
of any people, or even of single persons, by the gross- 
ness or refinement of their theological principles. The 
same good sense that directs men in the ordinary occur- 
rences of life, is not hearkened to in religious matters, 
which are supposed to be placed altogether above the 
cognizance of human reason. On this account, all the 
absurdities of the Pagan system of theology must be 
overlooked by every critic, who would pretend to form 
a just notion of ancient poetry; and our posterity, in 
their turn, must have the same indulgence to their fore- 
fathers. No religious principles can ever be imputed as 
a fault to any poet, while they remain merely principles, 
and take not such strong possession of his heart as to 
lay him under the imputation of higotry or superstition. 
Where that happens, they confound the sentiments of 
morality, and alter the natural boundaries of vice and 
virtue. They are therefore eternal blemishes, according 
to the principle above mentioned ; nor are the preju- 
dices and false opinions of the age sufficient to justify 

It is essential to the Roman Catholic religion to in- 
spire a violent hatred of every other worship, and to 
represent all Pagans, Mahometans, and heretics, as the 
objects of divine wrath and vengeance. Such senti- 
ments, though they are in reality very blamable, are 
considered as virtues by the zealots of that communion, 
and are represented in their tragedies and epic poems 
as a kind of divine heroism. This bigotry has disfigured 
two very fine tragedies of the French theatre, Polieucte 
and Athalia ; where an intemperate zeal for particular 
modes of worship is set off with all the pomp imagin- 
able, and forms the predominant character of the heroes. 


" What is this/' says the sublime Joad to Josabet, find- 
ing her in discourse with Mathan the priest of Baal, 
" Does the daughter of David speak to this traitor ? 
Are you not afraid lest the earth should open, and pour 
forth flames to devour you both ? Or lest these holy 
walls should fall and crush you together ? What is his 
purpose ? Why comes that enemy of God hither to 
poison the air, which we breathe, with his horrid pres- 
ence?" Such sentiments are received with great ap- 
plause on the theatre of Paris ; but at London the 
spectators would be full as much pleased to hear 
Achilles tell Agamemnon, that he was a dog in his 
forehead, and a deer in his heart ; or Jupiter threaten 
Juno with a sound drubbing, if she will not be quiet. 
Beligious principles are also a blemish in any polite 
composition, when they rise up to superstition, and in- 
trude themselves into every sentiment, however remote 
from any connection with religion. It is no excuse for 
the poet, that the customs of his country had burdened 
life with so many religious ceremonies and observances, 
that no part of it was exempt from that yoke. It must 
for ever be ridiculous in Petrarch to compare his mis- 
tress, Laura, to Jesus Christ. Nor is it less ridiculous 
in that agreeable libertine, Boccace, very seriously to 
give thanks to God Almighty and the ladies, for their 
assistance in defending him against his enemies. 

vol. in. 35 

E S S A Y S 






The greater part of mankind may be divided into 
two classes ; that of shallow thinkers, who fall short of 
the truth; and that of abstruse thinkers, who go beyond 
it. The latter class are by far the most rare ; and, I 
may add, by far the most useful and valuable. They 
suggest hints at least, and start difficulties, which they 
want perhaps skill to pursue, but which may produce 
fine discoveries when handled by men who have a more 
just way of thinking. At worst, what they say is un- 
common ; and if it should cost some pains to compre- 
hend it, one has, however, the pleasure of hearing some- 
thing that is new. An author is little to be valued who 
tells us nothing but what we can learn from every 
coffee-house conversation. 

All people of shalloiv thought are apt to decry even 
those of solid understanding, as abstruse thinkers, and 
metaphysicians, and refiners ; and never will allow any 
thing to be just which is beyond their own weak con- 
ceptions. There are some cases, I own, where an extra- 
ordinary refinement affords a strong presumption of false- 
hood, and where no reasoning is to be trusted but what 
is natural and easy. When a man deliberates concern- 

278 ESSAY I. 

ing his conduct in any particular affair, and forms schemes 
in politics, trade, economy, or any business in life, he 
never ought to draw his arguments too tine, or connect 
too long a chain of consequences together. Something 
is sure to happen, that will disconcert his reasoning, and 
produce an event different from what he expected. But 
when we reason upon general subjects, one may justly 
affirm, that our speculations can scarcely ever be too 
fine, provided they be just ; and that the difference be- 
tween a common man and a man of genius is chiefly 
seen in the shallowness or depth of the principles upon 
which they proceed. General reasonings seem intricate, 
merely because they are general ; nor is it easy for the 
bulk of mankind to distinguish, in a great number of 
particulars, that common circumstance in which they 
all agree, or to extract it, pure and unmixed, from the 
other superfluous circumstances. Every judgment or 
conclusion with them is particular. They cannot en- 
large their view to those universal propositions which 
comprehend under them an infinite number of individ- 
uals, and include a whole science in a single theorem. 
Their eye is confounded with such an extensive pros- 
pect ; and the conclusions derived from it, even though 
clearly expressed, seem intricate and obscure. But how- 
ever intricate they may seem, it is certain that general 
principles, if just and sound, must always prevail in the 
general course of things, though they may fail in par- 
ticular cases; and it is the chief business of philoso- 
phers to regard the general course of things. I may 
add, that it is also the chief business of politicians, es- 
pecially in the domestic government of the state, where 
the public good, which is or ought to be their object, 
depends on the concurrence of a multitude of causes ; 
not, as in foreign politics, on accidents and chances, 



and the caprices of a few persons. This therefore 
makes the difference between particular deliberations 
and general reasonings, and renders subtilty and refine- 
ment much more suitable to the latter than to the 

I thought this introduction necessary before the fol- 
lowing discourses on Commerce, Money, Interest, Balance of 
Trade, etc., where perhaps there will occur some princi- 
ples which are uncommon, and which may seem too 
refined and subtle for such vulgar subjects. If false, let 
them be rejected ; but no one ought to entertain a pre- 
judice against them merely because they are out of the 
common road. 

The greatness of a state, and the happiness of its sub- 
jects, how independent soever they may be supposed in 
some respects, are commonly allowed to be inseparable 
with regard to commerce ; and as private men receive 
greater security, in the possession of their trade and 
riches, from the power of the public, so the public be- 
comes powerful in proportion to the opulence and ex- 
tensive commerce of private men. This maxim is true 
in general, though I cannot forbear thinking that it may 
possibly admit of exceptions, and that we often estab- 
lish it with too little reserve and limitation. There may 
be some circumstances where the commerce, and riches, 
and luxury of individuals, instead of adding strength 
to the public, will serve only to thin its armies, and di- 
minish its authority among the neighboring nations. 
Man is a very variable being, and susceptible of many 
different opinions, principles, and rules of conduct. 
What may be true, while he adheres to one way of 
thinking, will be found false, when he has embraced an 
opposite set of manners and opinions. 

The bulk of every state may be divided into husband- 

^80 ESSAY I. 

men and manufacturers. The former are employed in the 
culture of the land ; the latter works up the materials 
furnished by the former, into all the commodities which 
are necessary or ornamental to human life. As soon as 
men quit their savage state, where they live chiefly by 
hunting and fishing, they must fall into these two classes, 
though the arts of agriculture employ, at first, the most 
numerous part of the society* Time and experience 
improve so much these arts, that the land may easily 
maintain a much greater number of men than those 
who are immediately employed in its culture, or who 
furnish the more necessary manufactures to such as are 
so employed. 

If these superfluous hands apply themselves to the 
finer arts, which are commonly denominated the arts of 
luxury, they add to the happiness of the state, since they 
afford to many the opportunity of receiving enjoyments 
with which they would otherwise have been unac- 
quainted. But may not another scheme be proposed for 
the employment of these superfluous hands ? May not 
the sovereign lay claim to them, and employ them in 
fleets and armies, to increase the dominions of the state 
abroad, and spread its fame over distant nations ? It is 
certain, that the fewer desires and wants are found in 
the proprietors and laborers of land, the fewer hands do 
they employ ; and consequently, the superfluities of the 
land, instead of maintaining tradesmen and manufac- 
turers, may support fleets and armies to a much greater 

* Mon?. Melon, in his political Essay on Commerce, asserts, that even at 
present, if you divide France into twenty parts, sixteen are laborers or peas- 
ants ; two only artisans ; one belonging to the law, church, and military ; and 
one merchants, financiers, and bourgeois. This calculation is certainly very 
erroneons. In France, England, and indeed most parts of Europe, half of 
the inhabitants live in cities ; and even of those who live in the country, a 
great number are artisans, perhaps above a third. 


extent than where a great many arts are required to 
minister to the luxury of particular persons. Here, 
therefore, seems to be a kind of opposition between the 
greatness of the state and the happiness of the subject. 
A state is never greater than when all its superfluous 
hands are employed in the service of the public. The 
ease and convenience of private persons require that 
these hands should be employed in their service. The 
one can never be satisfied but at the expense of the 
other. As the ambition of the sovereign must entrench 
on the luxury of individuals, so the luxury of individu- 
als must diminish the force, and check the ambition, of 
the sovereign. 

Nor is this reasoning merely chimerical, but is founded 
on history and experience. The republic of Sparta was 
certainly more powerful than any state now in the world, 
consisting of an equal number of people ; and this was 
owing entirely to the want of commerce and luxury. 
The Helotes were the laborers, the Spartans were the 
soldiers or gentlemen. It is evident that the labor of 
the Helotes could not have maintained so great a num- 
ber of Spartans, had these latter lived in ease and deli- 
cacy, and given employment to a great variety of trades 
and manufactures. The like policy may be remarked 
in Rome. And, indeed, throughout all ancient history 
it is observable, that the smallest republics raised and 
maintained greater armies than states, consisting of 
triple the number of inhabitants, are able to support at 
present. It is computed, that, in all European nations, 
the proportion between soldiers and people does not 
exceed one to a hundred. But we read, that the city 
of Rome alone, with its small territory, raised and main- 
tained, in early times, ten legions against the Latins. 
Athens, the whole of whose dominions was not larger 

vol. in. 36 

282 ESSAY I. 

than Yorkshire, sent to the expedition against Sicily 
near forty thousand men* Dionysius the elder, it is 
said, maintained a standing army of a hundred thousand 
foot, and ten thousand horse, besides a large fleet of four 
hundred sail ; f though his territories extended no far- 
ther than the city of Syracuse, about a third of the 
island of Sicily, and some seaport towns and garrisons on 
the coast of Italy and Illyricum. It is true, the ancient 
armies, in time of war, subsisted much upon plunder : 
but did not the enemy plunder in their turn ? which was 
a more ruinous way of levying a tax than any other 
that could be devised. In short, no probable reason can 
be assigned for the great power of the more ancient 
states above the modern, but their want of commerce 
and luxury. Few artisans were maintained by the labor 
of the farmers, and therefore more soldiers might live 
upon it. Livy says, that Borne, in his time, would find 
it difficult to raise as large an army as that which, in her 
early days, she sent out against the Gauls and Latins, t 
Instead of those soldiers who fought for liberty and 

O a/ 

empire in Camillus's time, there were, in Augustus's 
days, musicians, painters, cooks, players, and tailors ; 
and if the land was equally cultivated at both periods, 
it could certainly maintain equal numbers in the one 
profession as in the other. They added nothing to the 
mere necessaries of life, in the latter period more than 
in the former. 

It is natural on this occasion to ask, whether sove- 
reigns may not return to the maxims of ancient policy 

* Tiiucydides, lib. vii. 

f Dioix Sic. lib. vii. This account, I own, is somewhat suspicious, not to 
say worse ; chiefly because this army was not composed of citizens, but of 
mercenary forces. 

X Titi Livii, lib. vii. cap. 24. ' Adeo in qua? laboramus,' says he, ' sola 
crevimus, devitias luxuriemque.' 


and consult their own interest in this respect, more 
than the happiness of their subjects? I answer, that it 
appears to me almost impossible : and that because 
ancient policy was violent, and contrary to the more 
natural and usual course of things. It is well known 
with what peculiar laws Sparta was governed, and what 
a prodigy that republic is justly esteemed by every one 
who has considered human nature, as it has displayed 
itself in other nations, and other ages. Were the testi- 
mony of history less positive and circumstantial, such a 
government would appear a mere philosophical whim or 
fiction, and impossible ever to be reduced to prac- 
tice. And though the Eoman and other ancient 
republics were supported on principles somewhat more 
natural, yet was there an extraordinary concurrence of 
circumstances, to make them submit to such grievous 
burdens. They were free states ; they were small ones ; 
and the age being martial, all their neighbors were con- 
tinually in arms. Freedom naturally begets public 
spirit, especially in small states ; and this public spirit, 
this amor patrice, must increase, when the public is 
almost in continual alarm, and men are obliged every 
moment to expose themselves to the greatest dangers 
for its defence. A continual succession of wars makes 
every citizen a soldier : he takes the field in his turn : 
and during his service he is chiefly maintained by him- 
self. This service is indeed equivalent to a heavy tax ; 
yet is it less felt by a people addicted to arms, who fight 
for honor and revenge more than pay, and are unac- 
quainted with gain and industry, as well as pleasure.* 

* The more ancient Romans lived in perpetual war with all their neighbors : 
and in old Latin, the term hostis, expressed both a stranger and an enemy. 
This is remarked by Cicero ; but by him is ascribed to the humanity of his 
ancestors, who softened as much as possible the denomination of an enemy, 

284 ESSAY I. 

Not to mention the great equality of fortunes among 
the inhabitants of the ancient republics, where every 
field, belonging to a different proprietor, was able to 
maintain a family, and rendered the numbers of citizens 
very considerable, even without trade and manufactures. 
But though the want of trade and manufactures 
among a free and very martial people, may sometimes 
have no other effect than to render the public more 
powerful, it is certain that, in the common course of 
human affairs, it will have a quite contrary tendency. 
Sovereigns must take mankind as they find them, and 
cannot pretend to introduce any violent change in their 
principles and ways of thinking. A long course of 
time, with a variety of accidents and circumstances, are 
requisite to produce those great revolutions, which so 
much diversify the face of human affairs. And the 
less natural any set of principles are, which support a 
particular society, the more difficulty will a legislator 
meet with in raising and cultivating them. It is his 
best policy to comply with the common bent of man- 
kind, and give it all the improvements of which it is 
susceptible. Now, according to the most natural course 
of things, industry, and arts, and trade, increase the 
power of the sovereign, as well as the happiness of the 

by calling hini by the same appellation which signified a stranger. De Off. 
lib. ii. It is however much more probable, from the manners of the times, 
that the ferocity of those people was so great as to make them regard all 
strangers as enemies, and call them by the same name. It is not, besides, 
consistent with the most common maxims of policy or of nature, that a in- 
state should regard its public enemies with a friendly eye, or preserve any 
such sentiments for them as the Roman orator would ascribe to his ancestors. 
Xot to mention, that the early Romans really exercised piracy, as we learn 
from their first treaties with Carthage, preserved by Polybius, lib. iii., and 
consequently, like the Sallee and Algerine rovers, were actually at war with 
most nations, and a stranger and an enemy were with them almost synony- 


subjects; and that policy is violent which aggrandizes 
the public by the poverty of individuals. This will 
easily appear from a few considerations, which will pre- 
sent to us the consequences of sloth and barbarity. 

Where manufactures and mechanic arts are not cul- 
tivated, the bulk of the people must apply themselves 
to agriculture ; and if their skill and industry increase, 
there must arise a great superfluity from their labor, 
beyond what suffices to maintain them. They have no 
temptation, therefore, to increase their skill and indus- 
try ; since they cannot exchange that superfluity for 
any commodities which may serve either to their 
pleasure or vanity. A habit of indolence naturally 
prevails. The greater part of the land lies uncultivated. 
What is cultivated, yields not its utmost, for want of 
skill and assiduity in the farmers. If at any time the 
public exigencies require that great numbers should be 
employed in the public service, the labor of the people 
furnishes now no superfluities by which these numbers 
can be maintained. The laborers cannot increase their 
skill and industry on a sudden. Lands uncultivated 
cannot be brought into tillage for some years. The 
armies, meanwhile, must either make sudden and vio- 
lent conquests, or disband for want of subsistence. A 
regular attack or defence, therefore, is not to be ex- 
pected from such a people, and their soldiers must be 
as ignorant and unskilful as their farmers and manu- 

Every thing in the world is purchased by labor ; and 
our passions are the only causes of labor. When a 
nation abounds in manufactures and mechanic arts, the 
proprietors of land, as well as the farmers, study agricul- 
ture as a science, and redouble their industry and atten- 
tion. The superfluity which arises from their labor is 

286 ESSAY I. 

not lost, but is exchanged with manufactures for those 
commodities which men's luxury now makes them covet. 
By this means, land furnishes a great deal more of the 
necessaries of life than what suffices for those who culti- 
vate it. In times of peace and tranquillity, this super- 
fluity goes to the maintenance of manufacturers, and 
the improvers of liberal arts. But it is easy for the 
public to convert many of these manufacturers into 
soldiers, and maintain them by that superfluity which 
arises from the labor of the farmers. Accordingly we 
find, that this is the case in all civilized governments. 
When the sovereign raises an army, what is the conse- 
quence ? He imposes a tax. This tax obliges all the 
people to retrench what is least necessary to their sub- 
sistence. Those who labor in such commodities must 
either enlist in the troops, or turn themselves to agricul- 
ture, and thereby oblige some laborers to enlist for want 
of business. And to consider the matter abstractedly, 
manufactures increase the power of the state only as 
they store up so much labor, and that of a kind to 
which the public may lay claim, without depriving any 
one of the necessaries of life. The more labor, there- 
fore, that is employed beyond mere necessaries, the 
more powerful is any state ; since the persons engaged 
in that labor may easily be converted to the public 
service. In a state without manufactures, there may be 
the same number of hands ; but there is not the same 
quantity of labor, nor of the same kind. All the labor 
is there bestowed upon necessaries, which can admit of 
little or no abatement. 

Thus the greatness of the sovereign, and the happi- 
ness of the state, are in a great measure united with re- 
gard to trade and manufactures. It is a violent method, 
and in most cases impracticable, to oblige the laborer to 


toil, in order to raise from the land more than what sub- 
sists himself and family. Furnish him with manufac- 
tures and commodities, and he will do it of himself; 
afterwards you will find it easy to seize some part of his 
superfluous labor, and employ it in the public service, 
without giving him his wonted return. Being accus- 
tomed to industry, he will think this less grievous, than 
if at once you obliged him to an augmentation of labor 
without any reward. The case is the same with regard 
to the other members of the state. The greater is the 
stock of labor of all kinds, the greater quantity may be 
taken from the heap, without making any sensible alter- 
ation in it. 

A public granary of corn, a storehouse of cloth, a 
magazine of arms ; all these must be allowed real riches 
and strength in any state. Trade and industry are 
really nothing but a stock of labor, which, in times of 
peace and tranquillity, is employed for the ease and sat- 
isfaction of individuals, but in the exigencies of state, 
may in part be turned to public advantage. Could we 
convert a city into a kind of fortified camp, and infuse 
into each breast so martial a genius, and such a passion 
for public good, as to make every one willing to under- 
go the greatest hardships for the sake of the public, 
these affections might now, as in ancient times, prove 
alone a sufficient spur to industry, and support the com- 
munity. It would then be advantageous, as in camps, 
to banish all arts and luxury ; and by restrictions on 
equipage and tables, make the provisions and forage last 
longer than if the army were loaded with a number of 
superfluous retainers. But as these principles are too 
disinterested, and too difficult to support, it is requisite 
to govern men by other passions, and animate them with 
a spirit of avarice and industry, art and luxury. The 

288 ESSAY I. 

camp is, in this case, loaded with a superfluous retinue, 
but the provisions flow in proportionably larger. The 
harmony of the whole is still supported ; and the natu- 
ral bent of the mind, being more complied with, indi- 
viduals, as well as the public, find their account in the 
observance of those maxims. 

The same method of reasoning will let us see the ad- 
vantage of foreign commerce in augmenting the power 
of the state, as well as the riches and happiness of the 
subject. It increases the stock of labor in the nation ; 
and the sovereign may convert what share of it he finds 
necessary to the service of the public. Foreign trade, 
by its imports, furnishes materials for new manufactures; 
and, by its exports, it produces labor in particular com- 
modities, which could not be consumed at home. Tn 
short, a kingdom that has a large import and export, 
must abound more with industry, and that employed 
upon delicacies and luxuries, than a kingdom which 
rests contented with its native commodities. It is there- 
fore more powerful, as well as richer and happier. The 
individuals reap the benefit of these commodities, so far 
as they gratify the senses and appetites ; and the public 
is also a gainer, while a greater stock of labor is, by this 
means, stored up against any public exigency ; that is, 
a greater number of laborious men are maintained, who 
may be diverted to the public service, without robbing 
any one of the necessaries, or even the chief conven- 
iences of life. 

If we consult history, we shall find, that in most na- 
tions foreign trade has preceded any refinement in home 
manufactures, and given birth to domestic luxury. The 
temptation is stronger to make use of foreign commodi- 
ties which are ready for use, and which are entirely new 
to us, than to make improvements on any domestic com- 



modity, which always advance by slow degrees, and 
never affect us by their novelty. The profit is also very 
great in exporting what is superfluous at home, and what 
bears no price, to foreign nations whose soil or climate 
is not favorable to that commodity. Thus men become 
acquainted with the pleasures of luxury, and the profits 
of commerce ; and their delicacy and industry being once 
awakened, carry them on to further improvements in 
every branch of domestic as well as foreign trade ; and 
this perhaps is the chief advantage which arises from a 
commerce with strangers. It rouses men from their in- 
dolence ; and, presenting the gayer and more opulent 
part of the nation with objects of luxury which they 
never before dreamed of, raises in them a desire of a 
more splendid way of life than what their ancestors en- 
joyed. And at the same time, the few merchants who 
possessed the secret of this importation and exportation, 
make great profits, and, becoming rivals in wealth to the 
ancient nobility, tempt other adventurers to become 
their rivals in commerce. Imitation soon diffuses all 
those arts, while domestic manufacturers emulate the 
foreign in their improvements, and work up every home 
commodity to the utmost perfection of which it is 
susceptible. Their own steel and iron, in such labori- 
ous hands, become equal to the gold and rubies of the 

When the affairs of the society are once brought to 
this situation, a nation may lose most of its foreign trade, 
and yet continue a great and powerful people. If stran- 
gers will not take any particular commodity of ours, w r e 
must cease to labor in it. The same hands will turn 
themselves towards some refinement in other commodi- 
ties which may be wanted at home ; and there must al- 
ways be materials for them to work upon, till every per- 

vol. in. 37 

290 ESSAY I. 

son in the state who possesses riches, enjoys as great 
plenty of home commodities, and those in as great per- 
fection, as he desires ; which can never possibly happen. 
China is represented as one of the most flourishing em- 
pires in the world, though it has very little commerce 
beyond its own territories. 

It will not, I hope, be considered as a superfluous di- 
gression, if I here observe, that as the multitude of me- 
chanical arts is advantageous, so is the great number of 
persons to whose share the productions of these arts fall. 
A too great disproportion among the citizens weakens 
any state. Every person, if possible, ought to enjoy the 
fruits of his labor, in a full possession of all the necessa- 
ries, and many of the conveniences of life. No one can 
doubt but such an equality is most suitable to human 
nature, and diminishes much less from the happiness of 
the rich, than it adds to that of the poor. It also aug- 
ments the power of the state, and makes any extraordinary 
taxes or impositions be paid with more cheerfulness. 
Where the riches are engrossed by a few, these must 
contribute very largely to the supplying of the public 
necessities; but when the riches are dispersed among 
multitudes, the burden feels light on every shoulder, and 
the taxes make not a very sensible difference on any 
one's way of living. 

Add to this, that where the riches are in few hands, 
these must enjoy all the power, and will readily conspire 
to lay the whole burden on the poor, and oppress them 
still further, to the discouragement of all industry. 

In this circumstance consists the great advantage of 
England above any nation at present in the world, or 
that appears in the records of any story. It is true, the 
English feel some disadvantages in foreign trade by the 
high price of labor, which is in part the effect of the 


riches of their artisans, as well as of the plenty of money. 
But as foreign trade is not the most material circum- 
stance, it is not to be put in competition with the hap- 
piness of so many millions ; and if there were no more 
to endear to them that free government under which 
they live, this alone were sufficient. The poverty of 
the common people is a natural, if not an infallible 
effect of absolute monarchy ; though I doubt whether 
it be always true on the other hand, that their riches 
are an infallible result of liberty. Liberty must be 
attended with particular accidents, and a certain turn 
of thinking, in order to produce that effect. Lord 
Bacon, accounting for the great advantages obtained by 
the English in their wars with France, ascribes them 
chiefly to the superior ease and plenty of the common 
people amongst the former ; yet the government of the 
two kingdoms was, at that time, pretty much alike. 
Where the laborers and artisans are accustomed to work 
for low wages, and to retain but a small part of the 
fruits of their labor, it is difficult for them, even in a 
free government, to better their condition, or conspire 
among themselves to heighten their wages ; but even 
where they are accustomed to a more plentiful way of 
life, it is easy for the rich, in an arbitrary government, 
to conspire against them, and throw the whole burden of 
the taxes on their shoulders. 

It may seem an odd position, that the poverty of the 
common people in France, Italy, and Spain, is, in some 
measure, owing to the superior riches of the soil and 
happiness of climate ; yet there want no reasons to jus- 
tify this paradox. In such a fine mould or soil as that 
of those more southern regions, agriculture is an easy 
art ; and one man, with a couple of sorry horses, will be 
able, in a season, to cultivate as much land as will pay a 

292 ESSAY I. 

pretty considerable rent to the proprietor. All the art 
which the farmer knows, is to leave his ground fallow 
for a year, as soon as it is exhausted ; and the warmth 
of the sun alone and temperature of the climate enrich 
it, and restore its fertility. Such poor peasants, there- 
fore, require only a simple maintenance for their labor. 
They have no stock or riches which claim more ; and at 
the same time they are for ever dependent on the land- 
lord, who gives no leases, nor fears that his land will be 
spoiled by the ill methods of cultivation. In England, 
the land is rich, but coarse ; must be cultivated at a 
great expense ; and produces slender crops when not 
carefully managed, and by a method which gives not the 
full profit but in a course of several years. A farmer, 
therefore, in England must have a considerable stock, 
and a long lease ; which beget proportional profits. 
The vineyards of Champagne and Burgundy, that often 
yield to the landlord about five pounds per acre, are cul- 
tivated by peasants who have scarcely bread: the rea- 
son is, that peasants need no stock but their own limbs, 
with instruments of husbandry which they can buy for 
twenty shillings. The farmers are commonly in some 
better circumstances in those countries. But the gra- 
ziers are most at their ease of all those who cultivate the 
land. The reason is still the same. Men must have 
profits proportionable to their expense and hazard. 
Where so considerable a number of the laboring poor, as 
the peasants and farmers, are in very low circumstances, 
all the rest must partake of their poverty, whether the 
government of that nation be monarchical or republican. 
We may form a similar remark with regard to the 
general history of mankind. What is the reason why 
no people living between the tropics, could ever yet 
attain to any art of civility, or reach even any police in 


their government, and any military discipline, while few 
nations in the temperate climates have been altogether 
deprived of these advantages ? It is probable that one 
cause of this phenomenon is the warmth and equality 
of weather in the torrid zone, which render clothes and 
houses less requisite for the inhabitants, and thereby 
remove, in part, that necessity which is the great spur 
to industry and invention. Curls acuens mortalia corda. 
Not to mention, that the fewer goods or possessions of 
this kind any people enjoy, the fewer quarrels are likely 
to arise amongst them, and the less necessity will there 
be for a settled police or regular authority, to protect 
and defend them from foreign enemies, or from each 



Luxury is a word of an uncertain signification, and 
may be taken in a good as well as in a bad sense. In 
general it means great refinement in the gratification 
of the senses ; and any degree of it may be innocent or 
blamable, according to the age, or country, or condi- 
tion of the person. The bounds between the virtue 
and the vice cannot here be exactly fixed, more than in 
other moral subjects. To imagine, that the gratifying 
of any sense, or the indulging of any delicacy in meat, 
drink, or apparel, is of itself a vice, can never enter into 
a head, that is not disordered by the frenzies of enthu- 
siasm. I have, indeed, heard of a monk abroad, who, 
because the windows of his cell opened upon a noble 
prospect, made a covenant with Ms eyes never to turn that 
way, or receive so sensual a gratification. And such is 
the crime of drinking Champagne or Burgundy, prefer- 
ably to small beer or porter. These indulgences are 
only vices, when they are pursued at the expense of 
some virtue, as liberality or charity ; in like manner as 
they are follies, when for them a man ruins his fortune, 
and reduces himself to want and beggary. Where they 

* In Editions F, G, II, this Essay is entitled " Of Luxury." 


entrench upon no virtue, but leave ample subject 
whence to provide for friends, family, and every proper 
object of generosity or compassion, they are entirely 
innocent, and have in every age been acknowledged 
such by almost all moralists. To be entirely occupied 
with the luxury of the table, for instance, without any 
relish for the pleasures of ambition, study, or conversa- 
tion, is a mark of stupidity, and is incompatible with 
any vigor of temper or genius. To confine one's ex- 
pense entirely to such a gratification, without regard to 
friends or family, is an indication of a heart destitute of 
humanity or benevolence. But if a man reserve time 
sufficient for all laudable pursuits, and money sufficient 
for all generous purposes, he is free from every shadow 
of blame or reproach. 

Since luxury may be considered either as innocent or 
blamable, one may be surprised at those preposterous 
opinions which have been entertained concerning it ; 
while men of libertine principles bestow praises even on 
vicious luxury, and represent it as highly advantageous 
to society ; and, on the other hand, men of severe 
morals blame even the most innocent luxury, and rep- 
resent it as the source of all the corruptions, disorders, 
and factions incident to civil government. We shall 
here endeavor to correct both these extremes, by prov- 
ing, first, that the ages of refinement are both the hap- 
piest and most virtuous ; secondly, that wherever luxury 
ceases to be innocent, it also ceases to be beneficial ; and 
when carried a degree too far, is a quality pernicious, 
though perhaps not the most pernicious, to political 

To prove the first point, we need but consider the 
effects of refinement both on private and on public life. 
Human happiness, according to the most received notions, 

296 ESSAY II. 

seems to consist in three ingredients : action, pleasure, 
and indolence : and though these ingredients ought to 
be mixed in different proportions, according to the par- 
ticular disposition of the person ; yet no one ingredient 
can be entirely wanting, without destroying, in some 
measure, the relish of the whole composition. Indo- 
lence or repose, indeed, seems not of itself to contribute 
much to our enjoyment ; but, like sleep, is requisite as 
an indulgence, to the weakness of human nature, which 
cannot support an uninterrupted course of business or 
pleasure. That quick march of the spirits, which takes 
a man from himself, and chiefly gives satisfaction, does in 
the end exhaust the mind, and requires some intervals 
of repose, which, though agreeable for a moment, yet, if 
prolonged, beget a languor and lethargy, that destroy 
all enjoyment. Education, custom, and example, have 
a mighty influence in turning the mind to any of these 
pursuits ; and it must be owned that, where they pro- 
mote a relish for action and pleasure, they are so favor- 
able to human happiness. In times when industry and 
the arts flourish, men are kept in perpetual occupation, 
and enjoy, as their reward, the occupation itself, as well 
as those pleasures which are the fruit of their labor. 
The mind acquires new vigor ; enlarges its powers and 
faculties ; and, by an assiduity in honest industry, both 
satisfies its natural appetites, and prevents the growth 
of unnatural ones, which commonly spring up, when 
nourished by ease and idleness. Banish those arts from 
society, you deprive men both of action and of pleasure ; 
and, leaving nothing but indolence in their place, you 
even destroy the relish of indolence, which never is 
agreeable, but when it succeeds to labor, and recruits 
the spirits, exhausted by too much application and 


Another advantage of industry and of refinements in 
the mechanical arts, is, that they commonly produce 
some refinements in the liberal ; nor can one be carried 
to perfection, without being accompanied, in some de- 
gree, with the other. The same age which produces 
great philosophers and politicians, renowned generals 
and poets, usually abounds with skilful weavers, and 
ship-carpenters. We cannot reasonably expect, that a 
piece of woollen cloth will be wrought to perfection in a 
nation which is ignorant of astronomy, or where ethics 
are neglected. The spirit of the age affects all the arts, 
and the minds of men being once roused from their 
lethargy, and put into a fermentation, turn themselves 
on all sides, and carry improvements into every art 
and science. Profound ignorance is totally banished, 
and men enjoy the privilege of rational creatures, to 
think as well as to act, to cultivate the pleasures of the 
mind as well as those of the body. 

The more these refined arts advance, the more socia- 
ble men become : nor is it possible, that, when enriched 
with science, and possessed of a fund of conversation, 
they should be contented to remain in solitude, or live 
with their fellow-citizens in that distant manner, which 
is peculiar to ignorant and barbarous nations. They 
flock into cities; love to receive and communicate 
knowledge ; to show their wit or their breeding ; their 
taste in conversation or living, in clothes or furniture. 
Curiosity allures the wise ; vanity the foolish ; and plea- 
sure both. Particular clubs and societies are every- 
where formed : both sexes meet in an easy and sociable 
manner ; and the tempers of men, as well as their beha- 
vior, refine apace. So that, beside the improvements 
which they receive from knowledge and the liberal arts, 
it is impossible but they must feel an increase of hu- 

vol. in. 38 

298 ESSAY II. 

manity, from the very habit of conversing together, and 
contributing to each other's pleasure and entertainment. 
Thus industry, knowledge, and humanity, are linked together, 
by an indissoluble chain, and are found, from experi- 
ence as well as reason, to be peculiar to the more 
polished, and, what are commonly denominated, the 
more luxurious ages. 

Nor are these advantages attended with disadvantages 
that bear any proportion to them. The more men refine 
upon pleasure, the less will they indulge in excesses of 
any kind ; because nothing is more destructive to true 
j^leasure than such excesses. One may safely affirm, 
that the Tartars are oftener guilty of beastly gluttony, 
when they feast on their dead horses, than European 
courtiers with all their refinement of cookery. And if 
libertine love, or even infidelity to the marriage-bed, be 
more frequent in polite ages, when it is often regarded 
only as a piece of gallantry ; drunkenness, on the other 
hand, is much less common ; a vice more odious, and 
more pernicious, both to mind and body. And in this 
matter I would appeal, not only to an Ovid or a Petro- 
nius, but to a Seneca or a Cato. We know that Cresar, 
during Catiline's conspiracy, being necessitated to put 
into Cato's hands a littet-doux, which discovered an 
intrigue with Servilla, Cato's own sister, that stern phi- 
losopher threw it back to him with indignation ; and, 
in the bitterness of his wrath, gave him the appellation 
of drunkard, as a term more opprobrious than that with 
which he could more justly have reproached him. 

But industry, knowledge, and humanity, are not ad- 
vantageous in private life alone ; they diffuse their bene- 
ficial influence on the public, and render the government 
as great and flourishing as they make individuals happy 
and prosperous. The increase and consumption of all 


the commodities, which serve to the ornament and plea- 
sure of life, are advantages to society ; because, at the 
same time that they multiply those innocent gratifica- 
tions to individuals, they are a kind of storehouse of labor, 
which, in the exigencies of state, may be turned to the 
public service. In a nation where there is no demand 
for such superfluities, men sink into indolence, lose all 
enjoyment of life, and are useless to the public, which 
cannot maintain or support its fleets and armies from 
the industry of such slothful members. 

The bounds of all the European kingdoms are, at pre- 
sent, nearly the same they were two hundred years ago. 
But what a difference is there in the power and grandeur 
of those kingdoms? which can be ascribed to nothing 
but the increase of art and industry. When Charles 
VIII. of France invaded Italy, he carried with him about 
20,000 men ; yet this armament so exhausted the nation, 
as we learn from Guicciardin, that for some years it was 
not able to make so great an effort. The late king of 
France, in time of war, kept in pay above 400,000 
men ; * though from Mazarine's death to his own, he 
was engaged in a course of wars that lasted near thirty 

This industry is much promoted by the knowledge in- 
separable from ages of art and refinement ; as, on the 
other hand, this knowledge enables the public to make 
the best advantage of the industry of its subjects. Laws, 
order, police, discipline ; these can never be carried to 
any degree of perfection, before human reason has re- 
fined itself by exercise, and by an application to the 
more vulgar arts, at least of commerce and manufacture. 
Can we expect that a government will be well model- 

* The inscription on the Place-de-Yendome says 440,000. 

300 ESSAY II. 

led by a people, who know not how to make a spinning 
wheel, or to employ a loom to advantage ? Not to men- 
tion, that all ignorant ages are infested with superstition, 
which throws the government off its bias, and disturbs 
men in the pursuit of their interest and happiness. 
Knowledge in the arts of government begets mildness 
and moderation, by instructing men in the advantages 
of human maxims above rigor and severity, which drive 
subjects into rebellion, and make the return to submis- 
sion impracticable, by cutting off all hopes of pardon. 
When the tempers of men are softened as well as their 
knowledge improved, this humanity appears still more 
conspicuous, and is the chief characteristic which distin- 
guishes a civilized age from times of barbarity and igno- 
rance. Factions are then less inveterate, revolutions 
less tragical, authority less severe, and seditions less fre- 
quent. Even foreign wars abate of their cruelty ; and 
after the field of battle, where honor and interest 
steel men against compassion, as w r ell as fear, the 
combatants divest themselves of the brute, and resume 
the man. 

Nor need we fear, that men, by losing their ferocity, 
will lose their martial spirit, or become less undaunted 
and vigorous in defence of their country or their liberty. 
The arts have no such effect in enervating either the 
mind or body. On the contrary, industry, their insepa- 
rable attendant, adds new force to both. And if anger, 
which is said to be the whetstone of courage, loses some- 
what of its asperity, by politeness and refinement ; a 
sense of honor, which is a stronger, more constant, and 
more governable principle, acquires fresh vigor by that 
elevation of genius which arises from knowledge and a 
good education. Add to this, that courage can neither 
have any duration, nor be of any use, when not accom- 


paniecl with discipline and martial skill, which are sel- 
dom found among a barbarous people. The ancients 
remarked, that Datames was the only barbarian that 
ever knew the art of war. And Pyrrhus, seeing the 
Romans marshal their army with some art and skill, said 
with surprise, These barbarians have nothing barbarous in 
their discipline I It is observable, that, as the old Bomans, 
by applying themselves solely to war, were almost the 
only uncivilized people that ever possessed military dis- 
cipline ; so the modern Italians are the only civilized 
people, among Europeans, that ever w T anted courage and 
a martial spirit. Those who would ascribe this effemi- 
nacy of the Italians to their luxury, or politeness, or 
application to the arts, need but consider the French 
and English, whose bravery is as incontestable as their 
love for the arts, and their assiduity in commerce. The 
Italian historians give us a more satisfactory reason for 
the degeneracy of their countrymen. They show us how 
the sword w r as dropped at once by all the Italian sove- 
reigns; while the Venetian aristocracy was jealous of its 
subjects, the Florentine democracy applied itself entirely 
to commerce ; Eome w T as governed by priests, and Na- 
ples by women. War then became the business of sol- 
diers of fortune, who spared one another, and, to the 
astonishment of the world, could engage a whole day in 
what they called a battle, and return at night to their 
camp without the least bloodshed. 

What has chiefly induced severe moralists to declaim 
against refinement in the arts, is the example of ancient 
_Ronie^ which, joining to its poverty and rusticity virtue 
and public spirit, rose to such a surprising height of 
grandeur and liberty ; but, having learned from its con- 
quered provinces the Asiatic luxury, fell into every kind 
of corruption ; whence arose sedition and civil wars, at- 

302 ESSAY II. 

tended at last with the total loss of liberty. All the 
Latin classics, whom we peruse in our infancy, are full 
of these sentiments, and universally ascribe the ruin of 
their state to the arts and riches imported from the East ; 
insomuch, that Sallust represents a taste for painting as 
a vice, no less than lewdness and drinking. And so 
popular were these sentiments, during the latter ages of 
the republic, that this author abounds in praises of the 
old rigid Roman virtue, though himself the most egre- 
gious instance of modern luxury and corruption ; speaks 
contemptuously of the Grecian eloquence, though the 
most elegant writer in the world ; nay, employs prepos- 
terous digressions and declamations to this purpose, 
though a model of taste and correctness. 

But it would be easy to prove, that these writers mis- 
took the cause of the disorders in the Roman state, and 
ascribed to luxury and the arts, what really proceeded 
from an ill-modelled government, and the unlimited ex- 
tent of conquests. Refinement on the pleasures and 
conveniences of life has no natural tendency to beget 
venality and corruption. The value which all men put 
upon any particular pleasure, depends on comparison 
and experience ; nor is a porter less greedy of money, 
which he spends on bacon and brandy, than a courtier, 
who purchases champagne and ortolans. Riches are 
valuable at all times, and to all men ; because they al- 
ways purchase pleasures, such as men are accustomed 
to and desire : nor can any thing restrain or regulate 
the love of money, but a sense of honor and virtue ; 
which, if it be not nearly equal at all times, will 
naturally abound most in ages of knowledge and re- 

Of all European kingdoms Poland seems the most 
defective in the arts of war as well as peace, mechanical 


as well as liberal ; yet it is there that venality and cor- 
ruption do most prevail. The nobles seem to have 
preserved their crown elective for no other purpose, 
than regularly to sell it to the highest bidder. This is 
almost the only species of commerce with which that 
people are acquainted. 

The liberties of England, so far from decaying since 
the improvements in the arts, have never flourished so 
much as during that period. And though corruption 
may seem to increase of late years ; this is chiefly to be 
ascribed to our established liberty, when our princes 
have found the impossibility of governing without par- 
liaments, or of terrifying parliaments by the phantom 
of prerogative. Not to mention, that this corruption or 
venality prevails much more among the electors than 
the elected; and therefore cannot justly be ascribed to 
any refinements in luxury. 

If we consider the matter in a proper light, we shall 
find, that a progress in the arts is rather favorable to 
liberty, and has a natural tendency to preserve, if not 
produce a free government. In rude unpolished nations, 
where the arts are neglected, all labor is bestowed on 
the cultivation of the ground ; and the whole society is 
divided into two classes, proprietors of land, and their 
vassals or tenants. The latter are necessarily dependent, 
and fitted for slavery and subjection ; especially where 
they possess no riches, and are not valued for their 
knowledge in agriculture ; as must always be the case 
where the arts are neglected. The former naturally 
erect themselves into petty tyrants ; and must either 
submit to an absolute master, for the sake of peace and 
order ; or, if they will preserve their independency, like 
the ancient barons, they must fall into feuds and con- 
tests among themselves, and throw the whole society 

304 ESSAY II. 

into such confusion, as is perhaps worse than the most 
despotic government. But where luxury nourishes 
commerce and industry, the peasants, by a proper culti- 
vation of the land, become rich and independent : while 
the tradesmen and merchants acquire a share of the 
property, and draw authority and consideration to that 
middling rank of men, who are the best and firmest basis 
of public liberty. These submit not to slavery, like the 
peasants, from poverty and meanness of spirit ; and, 
having no hopes of tyrannizing over others, like the 
barons, they are not tempted, for the sake of that 
gratification, to submit to the tyranny of their sovereign. 
They covet equal laws, which may secure their property, 
and preserve them from monarchical, as well as aristo- 
cratical tyranny. 

The lower house is the support of our popular gov- 
ernment ; and all the world acknowledges, that it owed 
its chief influence and consideration to the increase of 
commerce, which threw such a balance of property into 
the hands of the Commons. How inconsistent, then, is 
it to blame so violently a refinement in the arts, and to 
represent it as the bane of liberty and public spirit ! 

To declaim against present times, and magnify the 
virtue of remote ancestors, is a propensity almost in- 
herent in human nature : and as the sentiments and 
opinions of civilized ages alone are transmitted to pos- 
terity, hence it is that we meet with so many severe 
judgments pronounced against luxury, and even science ; 
and hence it is that at present we give so ready an assent 
to them. But the fallacy is easily perceived, by com- 
paring different nations that are contemporaries ; where 
we both judge more impartially, and can better set in 
opposition those manners, with which we are sufficiently 
acquainted. Treachery and cruelty, the most pernicious 


and most odious of all vices, seem peculiar to uncivilized 
ages; and, by the refined Greeks and Romans, were 
ascribed to all the barbarous nations which surrounded 
them. They might justly, therefore, have presumed, 
that their own ancestors, so highly celebrated, possessed 
no greater virtue, and were as much inferior to their 
posterity in honor and humanity, as in taste and sci- 
ence. An ancient Frank or Saxon may be highly 
extolled : but I believe every man would think his life 
or fortune much less secure in the hands of a Moor or 
Tartar, than in those of a French or English gentleman, 
the rank of men the most civilized in the most civilized 

We come now to the second position which we pro- 
posed to illustrate, to wit, that, as innocent luxury, 
or a refinement in the arts and conveniences of life, is 
advantageous to the public ; so, wherever luxury ceases 
to be innocent, it also ceases to be beneficial ; and when 
carried a degree further, begins to be a quality per- 
nicious, though perhaps not the most pernicious, to 
political society. 

Let us consider what we call vicious luxury. No 
gratification, however sensual, can of itself be esteemed 
vicious. A gratification is only vicious when it en- 
grosses all a man's expense, and leaves no ability for 
such acts of duty and generosity as are required by his 
situation and fortune. Suppose that he correct the vice, 
and employ part of his expense in the education of his 
children, in the support of his friends, and in relieving 
the poor; would any prejudice result to society? On 
the contrary, the same consumption would arise ; and 
that labor, which at present is employed only in produc- 
ing a slender gratification to one man, would relieve the 

vol. in. 39 

306 ESSAY II. 

necessitous, and bestow satisfaction on hundreds. The 
same care and toil that raise a dish of peas at Christmas, 
would give bread to a whole family, during six months. 
To say that, without a vicious luxury, the labor would 
not have been employed at all, is only to say, that 
there is some other defect in human nature, such as 
indolence, selfishness, inattention to others, for which 
luxury, in some measure, provides a remedy ; as one 
poison may be an antidote to another. But virtue, 
like wholesome food, is better than poisons, however cor- 

Suppose the same number of men that are at present 
in Great Britain, with the same soil and climate ; I ask, 
is it not possible for them to be happier, by the most 
perfect way of life that can be imagined, and by the 
greatest reformation that Omnipotence itself could work 
in their temper and disposition ? To assert that they 
cannot, appears evidently ridiculous. As the land is 
able to maintain more than all its present inhabitants, 
they could never in such a Utopian state, feel any other 
ills than those which arise from bodily sickness: and 
these are not the half of human miseries. All other ills 
spring from some vice, either in ourselves or others; 
and even many of our diseases proceed from the same 
origin. Remove the vices, and the ills follow. You 
must only take care to remove all the vices. If you 
remove part, you may render the matter worse. By 
banishing vicious luxury, without curing sloth and an 
indifference to others, you only diminish industry in the 
state, and add nothing to men's charity or their gener- 
osity. Let us, therefore, rest contented with asserting, 
that two opposite vices in a state may be more advan- 
tageous than either of them alone ; but let us never 
pronounce vice in itself advantageous. It is not very 


inconsistent for an author to assert in one page, that 
moral distinctions are inventions of politicians for public 
interest, and in the next page maintain, that vice is 
advantageous to the public/ 1 ' And indeed it seems, upon 
any system of morality, little less than a contradiction in 
terms, to talk of a vice, which is in general beneficial to 
society, f 

I thought this reasoning necessary, in order to give 
some light to a philosophical question, which has been 
much disputed in England. I call it a philosophical ques- 
tion, not a political one. For whatever may be the con- 
sequence of such a miraculous transformation of man- 
kind, as would endow them with every species of virtue, 
and free them from every species of vice, this concerns 
not the magistrate, who aims only at possibilities. He 
cannot cure every vice by substituting a virtue in its 
place. Very often he can only cure one vice by 
another ; and in that case he ought to prefer what is 
least pernicious to society. Luxury, when excessive, is 
the source of many ills, but is in general preferable to 
sloth and idleness, which would commonly succeed in its 
place, and are more hurtful both to private persons and 
to the public. When sloth reigns, a mean uncultivated 
way of life prevails amongst individuals, without society, 

* Fable of the Bees. 

f Prodigality is not to be confounded with a refinement in the arts. It even 
appears that that vice is much less frequent in the cultivated ages. Industry and 
gain beget this frugality among the lower and middle ranks of men, and in all 
the busy professions. Men of high rank, indeed, it may be pretended, arc 
more allured by the pleasures which become more frequent ; but idleness is 
the great source of prodigality at all times ; and there arc pleasures and vani- 
ties in every age, which allure men equally when they are unacquainted with 
better enjoyments, not to mention that the high interest paid in rude times 
quickly consumes the fortunes of the landed gentry, and multiplies their 
necessities. — Edition N. 

308 ESSAY II. 

without enjoyment. And if the sovereign, in such a 
situation, demands the service of his subjects, the labor 
of the state suffices only to furnish the necessaries of 
life to the laborers, and can afford nothing to those who 
are employed in the public service. 



Money is not, properly speaking, one of the subjects 
of commerce, but only the instrument which men have 
agreed upon to facilitate the exchange of one commod- 
ity for another. It is none of the wheels of trade : it is 
the oil which renders the motion of the wheels more 
smooth and easy. If we consider any one kingdom by 
itself, it is evident that the greater or less plenty of 
money is of no consequence, since the prices of com- 
modities are always proportioned to the plenty of money, 
and a crown in Harry VII.'s time served the same pur- 
pose as a pound does at present. It is only the public 
which draws any advantage from the greater plenty of 
money, and that only in its wars and negotiations with 
foreign states. And this is the reason why all rich and 
trading countries, from Carthage to Great Britain and 
Holland, have employed mercenary troops, which they 
hired from their poorer neighbors. Were they to make 
use of their native subjects, they would find less advan- 
tage from their superior riches, and from their great 
plenty of gold and silver, since the pay of all their ser- 
vants must rise in proportion to the public opulence. 
Our small army of 20,000 men is maintained at as great 


expense as a French army twice as numerous. The 
English fleet, during the late war, required as much 
money to support it as all the Eoman legions, which 
kept the whole world in subjection, during the time of 
the emperors.* 

The great number of people, and their greater indus- 
try, are serviceable in all cases, at home and abroad, 
in private and in public. But the greater plenty of 
mone}^ is very limited in its use, and may even 
sometimes be a loss to a nation in its commerce with 

There seems to be a happy concurrence of causes in 
human affairs, which checks the growth of trade and 
riches, and hinders them from being confined entirely to 
one people, as might naturally at first be dreaded from 
the advantages of an established commerce. Where 
one nation has gotten the start of another in trade, it is 
very difficult for the latter to regain the ground it has 
lost, because of the superior industry and skill of the 
former, and the greater stocks of which its merchants 

* A private soldier in the Roman infantry had a denarius a day, somewhat 
less than eighteen pence. The Roman emperors had commonly 25 legions in 
pay, which, allowing 5,000 men to a legion, makes 125,000, Tacit. Ann. lib. 
iv. It is true there were also auxiliaries to the legions ; but their numbers 
are uncertain as well as their pay. To consider only the legionaries, the pay 
of the private men could not exceed 1,600,000 pounds. Now, the parliament 
in the last war commonly allowed for the fleet 2,500,000. We have therefore 
900,000 over for the officers and other expenses of the Roman legions. There 
seem to have been but few officers in the Roman armies in comparison of what 
are employed in all our modern troops, except some Swiss corps. And these 
officers had very small pay : a centurion, for instance, only double a common 
soldier. And as the soldiers from their pay (Tacit. Ann. lib. i.) bought their 
own clothes, arms, tents, and baggage ; this must also diminish considerably 
the other charges of the army. So little expensive was that mighty govern- 
ment, and so easy was its yoke over the world ! And, indeed, this is the more 
natural conclusion from the foregoing calculations. For money, after the con- 
quest of Egypt, seems to have been nearly in as great plenty at Rome as it is 
at present in the richest of the European kingdoms. 

OF MONEY. oil 

are possessed, and which enable them to trade on so 
much smaller profits. But these advantages are com- 
pensated, in some measure, by the low price of labor in 
every nation which has not an extensive commerce, and 
does not much abound in gold and silver. Manufactures, 
therefore, gradually shift their places, leaving those 
countries and provinces which they have already en- 
riched, and flying to others, whither they are allured by 
the cheapness of provisions and labor, till they have 
enriched these also, and are again banished by the 
same causes. And in general we may observe, that 
the dearness of every thing, from plenty of money, is 
a disadvantage which attends an established commerce, 
and sets bounds to it in every country, by enabling the 
poorer states to undersell the richer in all foreign mar- 

This has made me entertain a doubt concerning the 
benefit of hanks and paper-credit, which are so generally 
esteemed advantageous to every nation. That provi- 
sions and labor should become dear by the increase of 
trade and money, is, in many respects, an inconvenience ; 
but an inconvenience that is unavoidable, and the effect 
of that public wealth and prosperity which are the end 
of all our wishes. It is compensated by the advantages 
which we reap from the possession of these precious 
metals, and the weight which they give the nation in 
all foreign wars and negotiations. But there appears 
no reason for increasing that inconvenience by a coun- 
terfeit money, which foreigners will not accept of in any 
payment, and which any great disorder in the state will 
reduce to nothing. There are, it is true, many people 
in every rich state, who, having large sums of money, 
would prefer paper, with good security ; as being of 
more easy transport and more safe custody. If the pub- 


lie provide not a bank, private bankers will take advan- 
tage of this circumstance, as the goldsmiths formerly 
did in London, or as the bankers do at present in Dub- 
lin : and therefore it is better, it may be thought, that a 
public company should enjoy the benefit of that paper- 
credit, which always will have place in every opulent 
kingdom. Bat to endeavor artificially to increase such 
a credit, can never be the interest of any trading; na- 
tion ; but must lay them under disadvantages, by 
increasing money beyond its natural proportion to labor 
and commodities, and thereby heightening their price 
to the merchant and manufacturer. And in this view, 
it must be allowed, that no bank could be more advan- 
tageous than such a one as locked up all the money it 
received,* and never augmented the circulating coin, as 
is usual by returning part of its treasure into commerce. 
A public bank, by this expedient, might cut off much 
of the dealings of private bankers and money-jobbers : 
and though the state bore the charge of salaries to the 
directors and tellers of this bank, (for, according to the 
preceding supposition, it would have no profit from its 
dealings,) the national advantage, resulting from the 
low price of labor and the destruction of paper-credit, 
w T ould be a sufficient compensation. Not to mention, 
that so large a sum, lying ready at command, would be 
a convenience in times of great public danger and dis- 
tress;* and what part of it was used might be replaced 
at leisure, when peace and tranquillity was restored to 
the nation. 

But of this subject of paper-credit we shall treat 
more largely hereafter. And I shall finish this Essay 
on Money, by proposing and explaining two observa- 

* This is tlic case with the bank of Amsterdam. 



tions, which may perhaps serve to employ the thoughts 
of our speculative politicians* 

It was a shrewd observation of Anacharsis f the Scyth- 
ian, who had never seen money in his own country, 
that gold and silver seemed to him of no use to the 
Greeks, but to assist them in numeration and arithmetic. 
It is indeed evident, that money is nothing but the rep- 
resentation of labor and commodities, and serves only 
as a method of rating- or estimating; them. Where coin 
is in greater plenty ; as a greater quantity of it is re- 
quired to represent the same quantity of goods ; it can 
have no effect, either good or bad, taking a nation within 
itself; any more than it would make an alteration on a 
merchant's books, if, instead of the Arabian method of 
notation, which requires few characters, he should make 
use of the Roman, which requires a great many. Nay, 
the greater quantity of money, like the Roman charac- 
ters, is rather inconvenient, and requires greater trouble 
both to keep and transport it. But, notwithstanding 
this conclusion, which must be allowed just, it is certain, 
that, since the discovery of the mines in America, indus- 
try has increased in all the nations of Europe, except in 
the possessors of those mines ; and this may justly be 
ascribed, amongst other reasons, to the increase of gold 
and silver. Accordingly Ave find, that, in every kingdom, 
into which money begins to ilow in greater abundance 
than formerly, every thing takes a new face : labor and 
industry gain life ; the merchant becomes more enter- 
prising, the manufacturer more diligent and skilful, and 

* For to these only I all along address myself. It is enough that I submit 
to the ridicule sometimes in this age attached to the character of a philoso- 
pher, without adding to it that which belongs to a projector. Editions F, 
G, II, X. 

f Plut. Quomodo quis suos profectus in virtute sentire possit, 

vol. in. 40 


even the farmer follows his plough with greater alacrity 
and attention. This is not easily to be accounted for, 
if we consider only the influence which a greater abun- 
dance of coin has in the kingdom itself, by heightening 
the price of commodities, and obliging every one to pay 
a greater number of these little yellow or white pieces 
for every thing he purchases. And as to foreign trade, 
it appears, that great plenty of money is rather disad- 
vantageous, by raising the price of every kind of labor. 
To account, then, for this phenomenon, we must con- 
sider, that though the high price of commodities be a 
necessary consequence of the increase of gold and sil- 
ver, yet it follows not immediately upon that increase ; 
but some time is required before the money circulates 
through the whole state, and makes its effect be felt 
on all ranks of people. At first, no alteration is per- 
ceived ; hy degrees the price rises, first of one commod- 
ity, then of another ; till the whole at last reaches a 
just proportion with the new quantity of specie which 
is in the kingdom. In my opinion, it is only in this 
interval or intermediate situation, between the acquisi- 
tion of money and rise of prices, that the increasing quan- 
tity of gold and silver is favorable to industry. When 
any quantity of money is imported into a nation, it is 
not at first dispersed into many hands • but is confined 
to the coffers of a few persons, who immediately seek to 
employ it to advantage. Here are a set of manufac- 
turers or merchants, we shall suppose, who have re- 
ceived returns of gold and silver for goods which they 
sent to Cadiz. They are thereby enabled to employ 
more workmen than formerly, who never dream of de- 
manding higher wages, but are glad of employment 
from such good paymasters. If workmen become scarce, 
the manufacturer gives higher wages, but at first re- 

OF MONEY. 315 

quires an increase of labor ; and this is willingly sub- 
mitted to by the artisan, who can now eat and drink 
better, to compensate his additional toil and fatigue. 
He carries his money to market, where he finds every 
thing at the same price as formerly, but returns with 
greater quantity, and of better kinds, for the use of his 
family. The farmer and gardener, finding that all their 
commodities are taken off, apply themselves with alac- 
rity to the raising more ; and at the same time can 
afford to take better and more clothes from their trades- 
men, whose price is the same as formerly, and their 
industry only whetted by so much new gain. It is easy 
to trace the money in its progress through the whole 
commonwealth ; where we shall find, that it must first 
quicken the diligence of every individual, before it 
increase the price of labor. 

And that the specie may increase to a considerable 
pitch, before it have this latter effect, appears, amongst 
other instances, from the frequent operations of the 
French king on the money ; where it was always found, 
that the augmenting of the numerary value did not pro- 
duce a proportional rise of the prices, at least for some 
time. In the last year of Louis XIY. money was raised 
three sevenths, but prices augmented only one. Corn 
in France is now sold at the same price, or for the same 
number of livres, it was in 1683; though silver was 
then at 30 livres the mark, and is now at 50.* 

* Those facts I give upon the authority of M. du Tot, in his Reflections Po- 
litiques, an author of reputation ; though I must confess, that the facts which 
he advances on other occasions, are often so suspicious, as to make his author- 
ity less in this matter. However, the general observation, that the augment- 
ing of the money in France does not at first proportionally augment the 
prices, is certainly just. 

By the by, this seems to be one of the best reasons which can be given, for 
a gradual and universal increase of the denomination of money, though it has 


Not to mention the great addition of gold and silver 
which may have come into that kingdom since that 

From the whole of this reasoning we may conclude, 
that it is of no manner of consequence with regard to 
the domestic happiness of a state, whether money be in 
a greater or less quantity. The good policy of the 
magistrate consists only in keeping it, if possible, still 
increasing ; because by that means he keeps alive a spirit 
of industry in the nation, and increases the stock of la- 
bor in which consists all real power and riches. A nation, 
whose money decreases, is actually at that time weaker 
and more miserable than another nation which possesses 
no more money, but is on the increasing hand. This 
will be easily accounted for, if we consider that the 
alterations in the quantity of money, either on one side 
or the other, are not immediately attended with propor- 
tionable alterations in the price of commodities. There 
is always an interval before matters be adjusted to their 
new situation ; and this interval is as pernicious to in- 
dustry, when gold and silver are diminishing, as it is 
advantageous when these metals are increasing. The 
workman has not the same employment from the 

be%n entirely overlooked in all those volumes which have been written on that 
question by Melon du Tot, and Paris de Verney. Were all our money, for 
instance, recoined, and a penny's worth of silver taken from every shilling, 
the new shilling would probably purchase every thing that could have been 
bought by the old; the prices of every thing would thereby be insensibly di- 
minished ; foreign trade enlivened ; and domestic industry, by the circulation 
of a great number of pounds and shillings, would receive some increase and 
encouragement. In executing such a project, it would be better to make the 
new shilling pass for 24 half-pence in order to preserve the illusion, and to 
make it be taken for the same. And as a recoinage of our silver begins to be 
requisite, by the continual wearing of our shillings and sixpences, it may be 
doubtful, whether we ought to imitate the example in King William's reign, 
when the clipt money was raised to the old standard. 

OF MONEY. 317 

manufacturer and merchant ; though he pays the same 
price for every thing in the market. The farmer can- 
not dispose of his corn and cattle, though he must 
pay the same rent to his landlord. The poverty and 
beggary, and sloth, which must ensue, are easily fore- 

IT. The second observation which I proposed to make 
with regard to money, may be explained after the fol- 
lowing manner : There are some kingdoms, and many 
provinces in Europe, (and all of them were once in the 
same condition,) where money is so scarce, that the land- 
lord can get none at all from his tenants, but is obliged 
to take his rent in kind, and either to consume it him- 
self, or transport it to places where he may find a mar- 
ket. In those countries, the prince can levy few or no 
taxes but in the same manner ; and as he will receive 
small benefit from impositions so paid, it is evident that 
such a kingdom has little force even at home, and can- 
not maintain fleets and armies to the same extent as if 
every part of it abounded in gold and silver. There is 
surely a greater disproportion between the force of Ger- 
many at present, and what it was three centuries ago,* 
than there is in its industry, people, and manufactures. 
The Austrian dominions in the empire are in general 
well peopled and well cultivated, and are of great ex- 
tent, but have not a proportionable weight in the bal- 
ance of Europe ; proceeding as is commonly supposed, 
from the scarcity of money. How do all these facts 
agree with that principle of reason, that the quantity of 
gold and silver is in itself altogether indifferent ? Ac- 
cording to that principle, wherever a sovereign has nuin- 

* The Italians gave to the emperor Maximilian the nickname of PoCTri- 
Daxari. None of the enterprises of that prince ever succeeded, for want of 


bers of subjects, and these have plenty of commodities, 
he should of course be great and powerful, and they 
rich and happy, independent of the greater or lesser 
abundance of the precious metals. These admit of 
divisions and subdivisions to a great extent ; and where 
the pieces might become so small as to be in danger 
of being lost, it is easy to mix the gold or silver 
with a baser metal, as is practised in some countries 
of Europe, and by that means raise the pieces to a 
bulk more sensible and convenient. They still serve 
the same purposes of exchange, wdiatever their num- 
ber may be, or whatever color they may be supposed 
to have. 

To these difficulties I answer, that the efTect here 
supposed to flow from scarcity of money, really arises 
from the manners and customs of the people ; and 
that w r e mistake, as is too usual, a collateral effect 
for a cause. The contradiction is only apparent ; but 
it requires some thought and reflection to discover 
the principles by which we can reconcile reason to ex- 

It seems a maxim almost self-evident, that the prices 
of every thing depend on the proportion between com- 
modities and money, and that any considerable altera- 
tion on either has the same effect, either of heightening 
or lowering the price. Increase the commodities, they 
become cheaper ; increase the money, they rise in 
their value. As, on the other hand, a diminution of 
the former, and that of the latter, have contrary ten- 

It is also evident that the prices do not so much 
depend on the absolute quantity of commodities and that 
of money which are in a nation, as on that of the com- 
modities which come or may come into market, and of 

OF MONEY. 319 

the money which circulates. If the coin be locked up 
in chests, it is the same thing with regard to prices as 
if it were annihilated. If the commodities be hoarded 
in magazines and granaries, a like effect follows. As 
the money and commodities in these cases never meet, 
they cannot affect each other. Were we at any time to 
form conjectures concerning the price of provisions, the 
corn which the farmer must preserve for seed, and for 
the maintenance of himself and family, ought never to 
enter into the estimation. It is only the overplus, com- 
pared to the demand, that determines the value. 

To apply these principles, we must consider, that, in 
the first and more uncultivated ages of any state, ere 
fancy has confounded her wants with those of nature, 
men, content with the produce of their own fields, or 
with those rude improvements which they themselves 
can work upon them, have little occasion for exchange ; 
at least for money, which, by agreement, is the common 
measure of exchange. The wool of the farmer's own 
flock, spun in his own family, and wrought by a neigh- 
boring weaver, who receives his payment in corn or 
wool, suffices for furniture and clothing. The carpenter, 
the smith, the mason, the tailor, are retained by wages 
of a like nature; and the landlord himself, dwelling in 
the neighborhood, is content to receive his rent in the 
commodities raised by the farmer. The greater part of 
these he consumes at home, in rustic hospitality : the 
rest, perhaps, he disposes of for money to the neighbor- 
ing town, whence he draws the few materials of his 
expense and luxury. 

But after men begin to refine on all these enjoy- 
ments, and live not always at home, nor are content 
with what can be raised in their neighborhood, there 
is more exchange and commerce of all kinds, and more 


money enters into that exchange. The tradesmen will 
not be paid in corn, because they want something more 
than barley to eat. The farmer goes beyond his own 
parish for the commodities he purchases, and cannot 
always carry his commodities to the merchant who sup- 
plies him. The landlord lives in the capital, or in a 
foreign country, and demands his rent in gold and silver, 
which can easily be transported to him. Great under- 
takers, and man ufact ure rs, and merchants, arise in every 
commodity ; and these can conveniently deal in nothing 
but in specie. And consequently, in this situation of 
society, the coin enters into many more contracts, and 
by that means is much more employed than in the 
former. k 

The necessary effect is, that, provided the money 
increase not in the nation, every thing must become 
much cheaper in times of industry and refinement, than 
in rude uncultivated ages. It is the proportion between 
the circulating money, and the commodities in the mar- 
ket, which determines the prices. Goods that are con- 
sumed at home, or exchanged with other goods in the 
neighborhood, never come to market ; they effect not in 
the least the current specie ; with regard to it, they are 
as if totally annihilated ; and consequently this method 
of using them sinks the proportion on the side of the 
commodities, and increases the prices. But after money 
enters into all contracts and sales, and is everywhere 
the measure of exchange, the same national cash has a 
much greater task to perform ; all commodities arc then 
in the market ; the sphere of circulation is enlarged ; it 
is the same case as if that individual sum were to serve 
a larger kingdom ; and therefore, the proportion being 
here lessened on the side of the money, every thing must 
become cheaper, and the prices gradually fall. 

OF MONEY. 321 

By the most exact computations that have been 
formed all over Europe, after making allowance for the 
alteration in the numerary value or the denomination, 
it is found, that the prices of all things have only risen 
three, or, at most, four times since the discovery of the 
West Indies. But will any one assert, that there is not 
much more than four times the coin in Europe that was 
in the fifteenth century, and the centuries preceding it ? 
The Spaniards and Portuguese from their mines, the 
English, French, and Dutch, by their African trade, and 
by their interlopers in the West Indies, bring home 
about six millions a year, of which not above a third 
goes to the East Indies. This sum alone, in ten years, 
would probably double the ancient stock of money in 
Europe. And no other satisfactory reason can be given 
why all prices have not risen to a much more exorbi- 
tant height, except that which is derived from a change 
of customs and manners. Besides that more commodi- 
ties are produced by additional industry, the same com- 
modities come more to market, after men depart from 
their ancient simplicity of manners. And though this 
increase has not been equal to that of money, it has, 
however, been considerable, and has preserved the pro- 
portion between coin and commodities nearer the an- 
cient standard. 

Were the question proposed, Which of these methods 
of living in the people, the simple or refined, is the most 
advantageous to the state or public ? I should, without 
much scruple, prefer the latter, in a view to politics at 
least, and should produce this as an additional reason 
for the encouragement of trade and manufactures. 

While men live in the ancient simple manner, and 
supply all their necessaries from domestic industry, or 
from the neighborhood, the sovereign can levy no taxes 

vol. in. 41 


in money from a considerable part of his subjects ; and 
if lie will impose on them any burdens, he must take 
payment in commodities, with which alone they abound ; 
a method attended with such great and obvious incon- 
veniences, that they need not here be insisted on. All 
the money he can pretend to raise must be from his 
principal cities, where alone it circulates ; and these, it 
is evident, cannot afford him so much as the whole state 
could, did gold and silver circulate throughout the 
whole. But besides this obvious diminution of the 
revenue, there is another cause of the poverty of the 
public in such a situation. Not only the sovereign 
receives less money, but the same money goes not so 
far as in times of industry and general commerce. 
Every thing is dearer where the gold and silver are 
supposed equal; and that because fewer commodities 
come to market, and the whole coin bears a higher pro- 
portion to what is to be purchased by it ; whence alone 
the prices of every thing are fixed and determined. 

Here then we may learn the fallacy of the remark, 
often to be met with in historians, and even in common 
conversation, that any particular state is weak, though 
fertile, populous, and well cultivated, merely because it 
wants money. It appears, that the want of money can 
never injure any state within itself; for men and com- 
modities are the real strength of any community. It is 
the simple manner of living which here hurts the pub- 
lic, by confining the gold and silver to few hands, and 
preventing its universal diffusion and circulation. On 
the contrary, industry and refinements of all kinds incor- 
porate it with the whole state, however small its quan- 
tity may be : they digest it into every vein, so to speak, 
and make it enter into every transaction and contract. 
No hand is entirely empty of it. And as the prices of 

OF MONEY. 323 

every thing fall by that means, the sovereign has a 
double advantage : he may draw money by his taxes 
from every part of the state ; and what he receives goes 
further in every purchase and payment. 

We may infer, from a comparison of prices, that 
money is not more plentiful in China than it was in Eu- 
rope three centuries ago. But what immense power is 
that empire possessed of, if we may judge by the civil 
and military establishment maintained by it ! Polyb- 
ius* tells us, that provisions were so cheap in Italy 
during his time, that in some places the stated price for 
a meal at the inns was a semis a head, little more than a 
farthing! Yet the Roman power had even then sub- 
dued the whole known world. About a century before 
that period, the Carthaginian ambassador said, by way 
of raillery, that no people lived more sociably amongst 
themselves than the Romans ; for that, in every enter- 
tainment, which, as foreign ministers, they received, they 
still observed the same plate at every table.f The 
absolute quantity of the precious metals is a matter of 
great indifference. There are only two circumstances 
of any importance, namely, their gradual increase, and 
their thorough concoction and circulation through the 
state ; and the influence of both these circumstances 
has here been explained. 

In the following Essay we shall see an instance of a 
like fallacy as that above mentioned ; where a collateral 
effect is taken for a cause, and where a consequence is 
ascribed to the plenty of money, though it be really 
owing to a change in the manners and customs of the 

* Lib. ii. cap. 1.3. f Plin. lib. xxxiii. cap. 1 1. 



Nothing is esteemed a more certain sign of the flour- 
ishing condition of any nation than the lowness of 
interest : and with reason, though I believe the cause 
is somewhat different from what is commonly appre- 
hended. Lowness of interest is generally ascribed to 
plenty of money. But money, however plentiful, has 
no other effect, if fixed, than to raise the price of labor. 
Silver is more common than gold, and therefore you 
receive a greater quantity of it for the same commodi- 
ties. But do you pay less interest for it ? Interest in 
Batavia and Jamaica is at 10 per cent., in Portugal at 6, 
though these places, as we may learn from the prices of 
every thing, abound more in gold and silver than either 
London or Amsterdam. 

Were all the gold in England annihilated at once, and 
one and twenty shillings substituted in the place of 
every guinea, would money be more plentiful, or inte- 
rest lower ? No, surely : we should only use silver, in- 
stead of gold. Were gold rendered as common as silver, 
and silver as common as copper, would money be more 
plentiful, or interest lower ? We may assuredly give 
the same answer. Our shillings would then be yellow, 


and our halfpence white ; and we should have no guin- 
eas. No other difference would ever be observed ; no 
alteration on commerce, manufactures, navigation, or in- 
terest ; unless we imagine that the color of the metal is 
of any consequence. 

Now, what is so visible in these greater variations of 
scarcity or abundance in the precious metals, must hold 
in all inferior changes. If the multiplying of gold and 
silver fifteen times makes no difference, much less can 
the doubling or tripling them. All augmentation has no 
other effect than to heighten the price of labor and com- 
modities ; and even this variation is little more than 
that of a name. In the progress towards these changes, 
the augmentation may have some influence, by exciting 
industry ; but after the prices are settled, suitably to 
the new abundance of gold and silver, it has no manner 
of influence. 

An effect always holds proportion with its cause. Prices 
have risen near four times since the discovery of the 
Indies ; and it is probable gold and silver have multi- 
plied much more : but interest has not fallen much 
above half. The rate of interest, therefore, is not de- 
rived from the quantity of the precious metals. 

Money having chiefly a fictitious value, the greater 
or less plenty of it is of no consequence, if w r e consider 
a nation within itself; and the quantity of specie, when 
once fixed, though ever so large, has no other effect 
than to oblige every one to tell out a greater number of 
those shining bits of metal for clothes, furniture, or 
equipage, without increasing any one convenience of 
life. If a man borrow r money to build a house, he then 
carries home a greater load ; because the stone, timber, 
lead, glass, &c. with the labor of the masons and carpen- 
ters, are represented by a greater quantity of gold and 

326 ESSAY IV. 

silver. But as these metals are considered chiefly as 
representations, there can no alteration arise from their 
bulk or quantity, their weight or color, either upon their 
real value or their interest. The same interest, in all 
cases, bears the same proportion to the sum. And if 
you lent me so much labor and so many commodities, by 
receiving five per cent, you always receive proportional 
labor and commodities, however represented, whether 
by yellow or white coin, whether by a pound or an 
ounce. It is in vain, therefore, to look for the cause of 
the fill or rise of interest in the greater or less quantity 
of gold and silver, which is fixed in any nation. 

High interest arises from three circumstances : a great 
demand for borrowing, little riches to supply that de- 
mand, and great profits arising from commerce : and the 
circumstances are a clear proof of the small advance of 
commerce and industry, not of the scarcity of gold and 
silver. Low interest, on the other hand, proceeds from 
the three opposite circumstances : a small demand for 
borrowing ; great riches to supply that demand ; and 
small profits arising from commerce : and these circum- 
stances are all connected together, and proceed from the 
increase of industry and commerce, not of gold and sil- 
ver. We shall endeavor to prove these points ; and 
shall begin with the causes and the effects of a great or 
small demand for borrowing. 

When a people have emerged ever so little from a 
savage state, and their numbers have increased beyond 
the original multitude, there must immediately arise an 
inequality of property ; and while some possess large 
tracts of land, others are confined within narrow limits, 
and some are entirely without landed property. Those 
who possess more land than they can labor, employ 
those who possess none, and agree to receive a deter- 


minate part of the product. Thus the landed interest 
is immediately established ; nor is there any settled gov- 
ernment, however rude, in which affairs are not on 
this footing. Of these proprietors of land, some must 
presently discover themselves to be of different tempers 
from others ; and while one would willingly store up 
the produce of his land for futurity, another desires to 
consume at present what should suffice for many years. 
But as the spending of a settled revenue is a way of 
life entirely without occupation ; men have so much 
need of somewhat to fix and engage them, that plea- 
sures, such as they are, will be the pursuit of the great- 
er part of the landholders, and the prodigals among 
them will always be more numerous than the misers. 
In a state, therefore, where there is nothing but a landed 
interest, as there is little frugality, the borrowers must 
be very numerous, and the rate of interest must hold 
proportion to it. The difference depends not on the 
quantity of money, but on the habits and manners 
which prevail. By this alone the demand for borrowing 
is increased or diminished. Were money so plentiful as 
to make an egg be sold for sixpence ; so long as there 
are only landed gentry and peasants in the state, the 
borrowers must be numerous, and interest high. The 
rent for the same farm would be heavier and more 
bulky : but the same idleness of the landlord, with the 
high price of commodities, would dissipate it in the 
same time, and produce the same necessity and demand 
for borrowing.* 

* I have been informed by a very eminent lawyer, and a man of great 
kno-wledge and observation, that it appears, from ancient papers and records, 
that about four centuries ago, money in Scotland, and probably in other parts 
of Europe, was only at five per cent., and afterwards rose to ten, before the 
discovery of the West Indies. The fact is curious ; but might easily be recon- 

328 ESSAY IV. 

Nor is the case different with regard to the second cir- 
cumstance which we proposed to consider, namely, the 
great or little riches to supply the demand. This effect 
also depends on the habits and way of living of the peo- 
ple, not on the quantity of gold and silver. In order to 
have, in any state, a great number of lenders, it is not 
sufficient nor requisite that there be great abundance of 
the precious metals. It is only requisite that the pro- 
perty or command of that quantity, which is in the 
state, whether great or small, should be collected in par- 
ticular hands, so as to form considerable sums, or com- 
pose a great moneyed interest. This begets a number 
of lenders, and sinks the rate of usury ; and this, I shall 
venture to affirm, depends not on the quantity of specie, 
but on particular manners and customs, which make the 
specie gather into separate sums or masses of considera- 
ble value. 

For, suppose that, by miracle, every man in Great 
Britain should have five pounds slipped into his pocket in 
one night ; this would much more than double the whole 
money that is at present in the kingdom ; yet there 
would not next day, nor for some time, be any more 
lenders, nor any variation in the interest. And were 
there nothing but landlords and peasants in the state, 
this money, however abundant, could never gather into 
sums, and would only serve to increase the prices of 
every thing, without any further consequence. The prod- 
igal landlord dissipates it as fast as he receives it ; and 
the beggarly peasant has no means, nor view, nor am- 

cilcd to the foregoing reasoning. Men in that age lived so much at home, and 
in so very simple and frugal a manner, that they had no occasion for money ; 
and though the lenders were then few, the borrowers were still fewer. The 
hi.<ih rate of interest among the early Romans is accounted for by historians 
from the frequent losses sustained by the inroads of the enemy. — Editions 
F, (J, II. 


bition of obtaining above a bare livelihood. The over- 
plus of borrowers above that of lenders continuing still 
the same, there will follow no reduction of interest. 
That depends upon another principle ; and must pro- 
ceed from an increase of industry and frugality of arts 
and commerce. 

Every thing useful to the life of man arises from the 
ground ; but few things arise in that condition which is 
requisite to render them useful. There must, therefore, 
beside the peasants and the proprietors of land, be 
another rank of men, who, receiving from the former 
the rude materials, work them into their proper form, 
and retain part for their own use and subsistence. In 
the infancy of society, these contracts between the arti- 
sans and the peasants, and between one species of arti- 
sans and another, are commonly entered into immedi- 
ately by the persons themselves, who, being neighbors, 
are easily acquainted with each other's necessities, and 
can lend their mutual assistance to supply them. But 
when men's industry increases, and their views enlarge, 
it is found, that the most remote parts of the state can 
assist each other as well as the more contiguous ; and 
that this intercourse of good offices may be carried on 
to the greatest extent and intricacy. Hence the origin 
of merchants, one of the most useful races of men, who 
serve as agents between those parts of the state that are 
wholly unacquainted, and are ignorant of each other's 
necessities. Here are in a city fifty workmen in silk 
and linen, and a thousand customers ; and these two 
ranks of men, so necessary to each other, can never 
rightly meet, till one man erects a shop, to which all the 
workmen and all the customers repair. In this province, 
grass rises in abundance : the inhabitants abound in 

vol. in. 42 


cheese, and butter, and cattle ; but want bread and 
corn, which, in a neighboring province, are in too great 
abundance for the use of the inhabitants. One man 
discovers this. He brings corn from the one province, 
and returns with cattle ; and, supplying the wants of 
both, he is, so far, a common benefactor. As the peo- 
ple increase in numbers and industry, the difficulty of 
their intercourse increases : the business of the agency 
or merchandise becomes more intricate ; and divides, 
subdivides, compounds, and mixes to a greater variety. 
In all these transactions, it is necessary and reasonable, 
that a considerable part of the commodities and labor 
should belong to the merchant, .to whom, in a great mea- 
sure, they are owing. And these commodities he will 
sometimes preserve in kind, or more commonly convert 
into money, which is their common representation. If 
smld and silver have increased in the state, together 
with the industry, it will require a great quantity of 
these metals to represent a great quantity of commodi- 
ties and labor. If industry alone has increased, the 
prices of every thing must sink, and a small quantity of 
specie will serve as a representation. 

There is no craving or demand of the human mind 
more constant and insatiable than that for exercise and 
employment; and this desire seems the foundation of 
most of our passions and pursuits. Deprive a man of 
all business and serious occupation, he runs restless from 
one amusement to another ; and the weight and oppres- 
sion which he feels from idleness is so great, that he for- 
gets the ruin which must follow him from his immode- 
rate expenses. Give him a more harmless way of em- 
ploying his mind or body, he is satisfied, and feels no 
longer that insatiable thirst after pleasure. But if the 
employment you give him be lucrative, especially if the 


profit be attached to every particular exertion of indus- 
try, he has gain so often in his eye, that he acquires, by 
degrees, a passion for it, and knows no such pleasure as 
that of seeing the daily increase of his fortune. And 
this is the reason why trade increases frugality, and why, 
among merchants, there is the same overplus of misers 
above prodigals, as among the possessors of land there is 
the contraiy. 

Commerce increases industry, by conveying it readily 
from one member of the state to another, and allowing 
none of it to perish or become useless. It increases fru- 
gality, by giving occupation to men, and employing them 
in the arts of gain, which soon engage their affection, 
and remove all relish for pleasure and expense. It is an 
infallible consequence of all industrious professions to 
beget frugality, and make the love of gain prevail over 
the love of pleasure. Among lawyers and physicians 
who have any practice, there are many more who live 
within their income, than who exceed it, or even live up 
to it. But lawyers and physicians beget no industry; 
and it is even at the expense of others they acquire 
their riches ; so that they are sure to diminish the pos- 
sessions of some of their fellow-citizens, as fast as they 
increase their own. Merchants, on the contrary, beget 
industry, by serving as canals to convey it through 
every corner of the state : and, at the same time, by 
their frugality, they acquire great power over that in- 
dustry, and collect a large property in the labor and 
commodities, which they are the chief instruments in 
producing. There is no other profession, therefore, ex- 
cept merchandise, which can make the moneyed interest 
considerable ; or, in other words, can increase industry, 
and, by also increasing frugality, give a great command 
of that industry to particular members of the society. 

332 ESSAY IV. 

Without commerce, the state must consist chiefly of 
landed gentry, whose prodigality and expense make a 
continual demand for borrowing ; and of peasants, who 
have no sums to supply that demand. The money never 
gathers into large stocks or sums, which can be lent at 
interest. It is dispersed into numberless hands, who 
either squander it in idle show and magnificence, or em- 
ploy it in the purchase of the common necessaries of 
life. Commerce alone assembles it into considerable 
sums; and this effect it has merely from the industry 
which it begets, and the frugality which it inspires, inde- 
pendent of that particular quantity of precious metal 
which may circulate in the state. 

Thus an increase of commerce, by a necessary conse- 
quence, raises a great number of lenders, and by that 
means produces lowness of interest. We must now 
consider how far this increase of commerce diminishes 
the profits arising from that profession, and gives rise to 
the third circumstance requisite to produce lowness of 

It may be proper to observe on this head, that low 
interest and low profits of merchandise, are two events 
that mutually forward each other, and are both origi- 
nally derived from that extensive commerce, which pro- 
duces opulent merchants, and renders the monej^ed in- 
terest considerable. Where merchants possess great 
stocks, whether represented by few or many pieces of 
metal, it must frequently happen, that, when they either 
become tired of business, or leave heirs unwilling or 
unfit to engage in commerce, a great proportion of these 
riches naturally seeks an annual and secure revenue. 
The plenty diminishes the price, and makes the lenders 
accept of a low interest. This consideration obliges 
many to keep their stock employed in trade, and rather 


be content with low profits than dispose of their money 
at an undervalue. On the other hand, when commerce 
has become extensive, and employs large stocks, there 
must arise rivalships among the merchants, which dimin- 
ish the profits of trade, at the same time that they in- 
crease the trade itself. The low profits of merchandise 
induce the merchants to accept more willingly of a low 
interest when they leave off business, and begin to in- 
dulge themselves in ease and indolence. It is needless, 
therefore, to inquire, Avhich of these circumstances, to 
wit, low interest or loiv profits, is the cause, and which the 
effect ? They both arise from an extensive commerce, 
and mutually forward each other. No man will accept 
of low profits where he can have high interest ; and no 
man will accept of low interest where he can have high 
profits. An extensive commerce, by producing large 
stocks, diminishes both interest and profits, and is always 
assisted, in its diminution of the one, by the proportional 
sinking of the other. I may add, that, as low profits 
arise from the increase of commerce and industry, they 
serve in their turn to its further increase, by rendering 
the commodities cheaper, encouraging the consumption, 
and heightening the industry. And thus, if we consider 
the whole connection of causes and effects, interest is 
the barometer of the state, and its lowness is a sign, al- 
most infallible, of the flourishing condition of a people. 
It proves the increase of industry, and its prompt circu- 
lation, through the whole state, little inferior to a 
demonstration. And though, perhaps, it may not be 
impossible but a sudden and a great check to commerce 
may have a momentary effect of the same kind, by 
throwing so many stocks out of trade, it must be 
attended with such misery and want of employment 

664: ESSAY IV. 

in the poor, that, besides its short duration, it will not 
be possible to mistake the one case for the other. 

Those who have asserted, that the plenty of money 
was the cause of low interest, seem to have taken a col- 
lateral effect for a cause, since the same industry, which 
sinks the interest, commonly acquires great abundance 
of the precious metals. A variety of fine manufactures, 
witli vigilant enterprising merchants, will soon draw 
money to a state, if it be anywhere to be found in the 
world. The same cause, by multiplying the conve- 
niences of life, and increasing industry, collects great 
riches into the hands of persons who are not proprietors 
of land, and produces, by that means, a lowness of in- 
terest. But though both these effects, plenty of money 
and low interest, naturally arise from commerce and in- 
dustry, they are altogether independent of each other. 
For suppose a nation removed into the Pacific ocean, 
without any foreign commerce, or any knowledge of 
navigation : suppose that this nation possesses always 
the same stock of coin, but is continually increasing in 
its numbers and industry : it is evident that the price of 
every commodity must gradually dimmish in that king- 
dom ; since it is the proportion between money and any 
species of goods which fixes their mutual value ; and, 
upon the present supposition, the conveniences of life 
become every day more abundant, without any altera- 
tion in the current specie. A less quantity of money, 
therefore, among this people, will make a rich man, dur- 
ing the times of industry, than would suffice to that 
purpose in ignorant and slothful ages. Less money will 
build a house, portion a daughter, buy an estate, sup- 
port a manufactory, or maintain a family and equipage. 
These are the uses for which men borrow money ; and 


therefore the greater or less quantity of it in a state 
has no influence on the interest. But it is evident that 
the greater or less stock of labor and commodities 
must have a great influence ; since we really and in 
effect borrow these, when we take money upon interest. 
It is true, when commerce is extended all over the 
globe, the most industrious nations always abound most 
with the precious metals; so that low interest and 
plenty of money are in fact almost inseparable. But 
still it is of consequence to know the principle whence 
any phenomenon arises, and to distinguish between a 
cause and a concomitant effect. Besides that the specu- 
lation is curious, it may frequently be of use in the con- 
duct of public affairs. At least it must be owned, that 
nothing can be of more use than to improve, by prac- 
tice, the method of reasoning on these subjects, which 
of all others are the most important, though they are 
commonly treated in the loosest and most careless 

Another reason of this popular mistake with regard 
to the cause of low interest, seems to be the instance of 
some nations, where, after a sudden acquisition of money, 
or of the precious metals by means of foreign con- 
quest, the interest has fallen not only among them, 
but in all the neighboring states, as soon as that money 
was dispersed, and had insinuated itself into every 
corner. Thus, interest in Spain fell near a half imme- 
diately after the discovery of the West Indies, as we 
are informed by Garcilasso cle la Yega ; and it has 
been ever since gradually sinking in every kingdom 
of Europe. Interest in Borne, after the conquest of 
Egypt, fell from G to 4 per cent., as we learn from Dion. ::: 

* Lib. ii. 

330 ESSAY IV. 

The causes of the sinking of interest, upon such an 
event, seem different in the conquering country and in 
the neighboring states ; but in neither of them can we 
justly ascribe that effect merely to the increase of gold 
and silver. 

In the conquering country, it is natural to imagine 
that this new acquisition of money will fall into a few 
hands, and be gathered into large sums, which seek a 
secure revenue, either by the purchase of land or by in- 
terest ; and consequently the same effect follows, for a 
little time, as if there had been a great accession of in- 
dustry and commerce. The increase of lenders above 
the borrowers sinks the interest, and so much the faster 
if those who have acquired those large sums find no in- 
dustry or commerce in the state, and no method of em- 
ploying their money but by lending it at interest. But 
after this new mass of gold and silver has been digested, 
and has circulated through the whole state, affairs will 
soon return to their former situation, while the landlords 
and new money-holders, living idly, squander above 
their income ; and the former daily contract debt, and 
the latter encroach on their stock till its final extinc- 
tion. The whole money may still be in the state, and 
make itself felt by the increase of prices ; but not being 
now collected into any large masses or stocks, the dis- 
proportion between the borrowers and lenders is the 
same as formerly, and consequently the high interest 

Accordingly we find in Rome, that, so early as Tibe- 
rius's time, interest had again amounted to 6 per cent* 
though no accident had happened to drain the empire 
of money. In Trajan's time, money lent on mortgages 

* Columella, lib. iii. cap. 3. 


in Italy bore G per cent.* on common securities in 
Bithynia 12 ;f and if interest in Spain has not risen to 
its old pitch, this can be ascribed to nothing but the 
continuance of the same cause that sunk it, to wit, the 
large fortunes continually made in the Indies, which 
come over to Spain from time to time, and supply the 
demand of the borrowers. By this accidental and ex- 
traneous cause, more money is to be lent in Spain, that 
is, more money is collected into large sums, than would 
otherwise be found in a state, where there are so little 
commerce and industry. 

As to the reduction of interest which has followed in 
England, France, and other kingdoms of Europe that 
have no mines, it has been gradual, and has not pro- 
ceeded from the increase of money, considered merely 
in itself, but from that of industry, which is the 
natural effect of the former increase in that interval, 
before it raises the price of labor and provisions ; for 
to return to the foregoing supposition, if the industry 
of England had risen as much from other causes, (and 
that rise might easily have happened, though the stock 
of money had remained the same,) must not all the 
same consequences have followed, which we observe at 
present ? The same people would in that case be found 
in the kingdom, the same commodities, the same indus- 
try, manufactures, and commerce ; and consequently 
the same merchants, with the same stocks, that is, with 
the same command over labor and commodities, only 
represented by a smaller number of white or yellow 
pieces, which, being a circumstance of no moment, 
would only affect the wagoner, porter, and trunk- 
maker. Luxury, therefore, manufactures, arts, indus- 

* Plinii Epist. lib. vii. ep. 18. f M. lib- x. ep. G2. 

vol. in. 43 


try, frugality, flourishing equally as at present, it is 
evident that interest must also have been as low, 
since that is the necessary result of all these circum- 
stances, so far as they determine the profits of com- 
merce, and the proportion between the borrowers and 
lenders in any state. 



It is very usual, in nations ignorant of the nature of 
commerce, to prohibit the exportation of commodities, 
and to preserve among themselves whatever they think 
valuable and useful. They do not consider, that in this 
prohibition they act directly contrary to their intention; 
and that the more is exported of any commodit}', the 
more will be raised at home, of which they themselves 
will always have the first offer. 

It is well known to the learned, that the ancient laws 
of Athens rendered the exportation of figs criminal ; that 
being supposed a species of fruit so excellent in Attica, 
that the Athenians deemed it too delicious for the palate 
of any foreigner ; and in this ridiculous prohibition they 
were so much in earnest, that informers were thence 
called sycophants among them, from two Greek words, 
which signify figs and discoverer* There are proofs in 
many old acts of parliament of the same ignorance in 
the nature of commerce, particularly in the reign of 
Edward III. ; and to this day, in France, the exportation 
of corn is almost always prohibited, in order, as they 

* Plut. Do Curiositate. 

340 ESSAY V. 

say, to prevent famines ; though it is evident that noth- 
ing contributes more to the frequent famines which so 
much distress that fertile country. 

The same jealous fear, with regard to money, has 
also prevailed among several nations; and it required 
both reason and experience to convince any people, that 
these prohibitions serve to no other purpose than to 
raise the exchange against them, and produce a still 
greater exportation. 

These errors, one may say, are gross and palpable ; 
but there still prevails, even in nations well acquainted 
with commerce, a strong jealousy with regard to the 
balance of trade, and a fear that all their gold and silver 
may be leaving them. This seems to me, almost in 
every case, a groundless apprehension ; and I should as 
soon dread, that all our springs and rivers should be 
exhausted, as that money should abandon a kingdom 
where there are people and industry. Let us carefully 
preserve these latter advantages, and we need never be 
apprehensive of losing the former. 

It is easy to observe, that all calculations concerning 
the balance of trade are founded on very uncertain facts 
and suppositions. The custom-house books are allowed 
to be an insufficient ground of reasoning ; nor is the rate 
of exchange much better, unless w T e consider it with all 
nations, and know also the proportions of the several 
sums remitted, which one may safely pronounce impos- 
sible. Every man, who has ever reasoned on this sub- 
ject, has always proved his theory, whatever it was, by 
facts and calculations, and by an enumeration of all the 
commodities sent to all foreign kingdoms. 

The writings of Mr. Gee struck the nation with an 
universal panic, when they saw it plainly demonstrated, 
by a detail of particulars, that the balance was against 


them for so considerable a sura, as must leave them 
without a single shilling in five or six years. But 
luckily, twenty years have since elapsed, with an ex- 
pensive foreign war ; yet it is commonly supposed that 
money is still more plentiful among us than in any 
former period. 

Nothing can be more entertaining on this head than 
Dr. Swift ; an author so quick in discerning the mistakes 
and absurdities of others. He says, in his Short View of 
the State of Ireland, that the whole cash of that kingdom 
formerly amounted but to £500,000 ; that out of this 
the Irish remitted every year a neat million to Eng- 
land, and had scarcely any other source from which 
they could compensate themselves, and little other for- 
eign trade than the importation of French wines, for 
which they paid ready money. The consequence of 
this situation, which must be owned to be disadvan- 
tageous, was, that, in a course of three years, the current 
money of Ireland, from £500,000, was reduced to less 
than two. And at present, I suppose, in a course of 
thirty years, it is absolutely nothing. Yet I know not 
how that opinion of the advance of riches in Ireland, 
which gave the Doctor so much indignation, seems still 
to continue, and gain ground with everybody. 

In short, this apprehension of the wrong balance of 
trade, appears of such a nature, that it discovers itself 
wherever one is out of humor with the ministry, or is 
in low spirits ; and as it can never be refuted by a par- 
ticular detail of all the exports which counterbalance 
the imports, it may here be proper to form a general 
argument, that may prove the impossibility of this event, 
so long as we preserve our people and our industry. 

Suppose four fifths of all the money in Great Britain 
to be annihilated in one night, and the nation reduced 

342 ESSAY V. 

to the same condition, with regard to specie, as in the 
reigns of the Harrys and Edwards, what would be the 
consequence ? Must not the price of all labor and com- 
modities sink in proportion, and every thing be sold as 
cheap as they were in those ages ? What nation could 
then dispute with us in any foreign market, or pretend 
to navigate or to sell manufactures at the same price, 
which to us would afford sufficient profit ? In how little 
time, therefore, must this bring back the money which 
we had lost, and raise us to the level of all the neighbor- 
ing nations ? where, after we have arrived, we immedi- 
ately lose the advantage of the cheapness of labor and 
commodities, and the further flowing in of money is 
stopped by our fulness and repletion. 

Again, suppose that all the money of Great Britain 
were multiplied fivefold in a night, must not the con- 
trary effect follow 7 ? Must not all labor and commodities 
rise to such an exorbitant height, that no neighboring 
nations could afford to buy from us ; while their com- 
modities, on the other hand, became comparatively so 
cheap, that, in spite of all the laws which could be 
formed, they would be run in upon us, and our money 
flow out ; till w T e fall to a level with foreigners, and lose 
that great superiority of riches, which had laid us under 
such disadvantages ? 

Now, it is evident, that the same causes which would 
correct these exorbitant inequalities, were they to hap- 
pen miraculously, must prevent their happening in the 
common course of nature, and must forever, in all 
neighboring nations, preserve money nearly proportion- 
able to the art and industry of each nation. All water, 
wherever it communicates, remains always at a level. 
Ask naturalists the reason ; they tell you, that, w T ere it 
to be raised in any one place, the superior gravity of 


that part not being balanced, must depress it, till it 
meets a counterpoise ; and that the same cause, which 
redresses the inequality when it happens, must forever 
prevent it, without some violent external operation * 

Can one imagine that it had ever been possible, by 
any laws, or even by any art or industry, to have kept 
all the money in Spain, which the galleons have brought 
from the Indies ? Or that all commodities could be sold 
in France for a tenth of the price which they would 
yield on the other side of the Pyrenees, without finding 
their way thither, and draining from that immense 
treasure ? What other reason, indeed, is there, why 
all nations at present gain in their trade with Spain and 
Portugal, but because it is impossible to heap up money, 
more than any fluid, beyond its proper level ? The sove- 
reigns of these countries have shown, that they wanted 
not inclination to keep their gold and silver to them- 
selves, had it been in any degree practicable. 

But as any body of water may be raised above the 
level of the surrounding element, if the former has no 
communication with the latter; so in money, if the com- 
munication be cut off, by any material or physical impedi- 
ment (for all laws alone are ineffectual), there may, in 
biich a case, be a very great inequality of money. Thus 
the immense distance of China, together with the monop- 
olies of our India companies obstructing the communi- 
cation, preserve in Europe the gold and silver, especially 
the latter, in much greater plenty than they are found 

* There is another cause, though more limited in its operation, which checks 
the wrong balance of trade, to every particular nation to which the kingdom 
trades. When we import more goods than we export, the exchange turns 
against us, and this becomes a new encouragement to export; as much as the 
charge of carriage and insurance of the money which becomes due would 
amount to. For the exchange can never rise but a little higher than that 

344 ESSAY V. 

in that kingdom. But, notwithstanding this great ob- 
struction; the force of the causes above mentioned is 
still evident. The skill and ingenuity of Europe in 
general surpasses perhaps that of China, with regard to 
manual arts and manufactures, yet are we never able to 
trade thither without great disadvantage. And were it 
not for the continual recruits which we receive from 
America, money would soon sink in Europe, and rise in 
China, till it came nearly to a level in both places. 
Nor can any reasonable man doubt, but that industrious 
nation, were they as near as Poland or Barbary, would 
drain us of the overplus of our specie, and draw to 
themselves a larger share of the West India treasures. 
We need not have recourse to a physical attraction, in 
order to explain the necessity of this operation. There 
is a moral attraction, arising from the interests and pas- 
sions of men, which is full as potent and infallible. 

How is the balance kept in the provinces of every 
kingdom among themselves, but by the force of this 
principle, which makes it impossible for money to lose 
its level, and either to rise or sink beyond the propor- 
tion of the labor and commodities which are in each 
province ? Did not long experience make people easy 
on this head, what a fund of gloomy reflections might 
calculations afford to a melancholy Yorkshireman, while 
he computed and magnified the sums drawn to London 
by taxes, absentees, commodities, and found on compar- 
ison the opposite articles so much inferior ! And no 
doubt, had the Heptarchy subsisted in England, the leg- 
islature of each state had been continuallv alarmed bv 
the fear of a wrong balance ; and as it is probable that 
the mutual hatred of these states would have been ex- 
tremely violent on account of their close neighborhood, 
they would have loaded and oppressed all commerce, by 


a jealous and superfluous caution. Since the Union lias 
removed the barriers between Scotland and England, 
which of these nations gains from the other by this free 
commerce ? Or if the former kingdom has received 
any increase of riches, can it reasonably be accounted 
for by any thing but the increase of its art and indus- 
try ? It was a common apprehension in England before 
the Union, as we learn from L'Abbe du Bos,* that Scot- 
land would soon drain them of their treasures, were an 
open trade allowed • and on the other side of the Tweed 
a contrary apprehension prevailed : with what justice in 
both, time has shown. 

What happens in small portions of mankind must 
take place in greater. The provinces of the Roman 
empire, no doubt, kept their balance with each other, 
and with Italy, independent of the legislature ; as much 
as the several counties of Great Britain, or the several 
parishes of each county. And any man who travels 
over Europe at this day, may see, by the prices of com- 
modities, that money, in spite of the absurd jealousy of 
princes and states, has brought itself nearly to a level ; 
and that the difference between one kingdom and an- 
other is not greater in this respect, than it is often be- 
tween different provinces of the same kingdom. Men 
naturally flock to capital cities, seaports, and navigable 
rivers. There we find more men, more industry, more 
commodities, and consequently more money, but still 
the latter difference holds proportion with the former, 
and the level is preserved.")* 

* Los Interets d'Angleterre mal-entendus. 

f It must carefully be remarked, that throughout this discourse, wherever I 
speak of the level of money, I mean always its proportional level to the com- 
modities, labor, industry, and skill, which is in the several states. And I 
assert, that where these advantages arc double, triple, quadruple, to what they 
are in the neighboring states, the money infallibly will also be double, triple, 

vol. in. 44 

346 ESSAY V. 

Oar jealousy and our hatred of France are without 
bounds; and the former sentiment, at least, must be ac- 
knowledged reasonable and wellgrounded. These pas- 
sions have occasioned innumerable barriers and obstruc- 
tions upon commerce, where we are accused of being 
commonly the aggressors. But what have we gained 
by the bargain ? We lost the French market for our 
woollen manufactures, and transferred the commerce of 
wine to Spain and Portugal, where we buy worse liquor 
at a higher price. There are few Englishmen who 
would not think their country absolutely ruined, were 
French wines sold in England so cheap and in such 
abundance as to supplant, in some measure, all ale and 
home-brew r ed liquors : but would we lay aside preju- 
dice, it would not be difficult to prove, that nothing 
could be more innocent, perhaps advantageous. Each 
new acre of vineyard planted in France, in order to 
supply England with wine, would make it requisite for 
the French to take the produce of an English acre, 
sown in wheat or barley, in order to subsist themselves ; 
and it is evident that we should thereby get command 
of the better commodity. 

There are many edicts of the French king, prohibit- 
ing the planting of new vineyards, and ordering all 
those which are lately planted to be grubbed up ; so 
sensible are they, in that country, of the superior value 
of corn above every other product. 

and quadruple. The only circumstance that can obstruct the exactness of 
these proportions, is the expense of transporting the commodities from one 
place to another ; and this expense is sometimes unequal. Thus the corn, cat- 
tle, cheese, butter of Derbyshire, cannot draw the money of London, so much 
as the manufactures of London draw the money of Derbyshire. But this 
objection is only a seeming one ; for so far as the transport of commodities is 
expensive, so far is the communication between the places obstructed and im- 


Mareschal Vauban complains often, and with reason, 
of the absurd duties which load the entry of those wines 
of Languedoc, Guienne,and other southern provinces, 
that are imported into Britanny and Normandy. He 
entertained no doubt but these latter provinces could 
preserve their balance, notwithstanding the open com- 
merce which he recommends. And it is evident, that a 
few leagues more navigation to England would make no 
difference ; or if it did, that it must operate alike on the 
commodities of both kingdoms. 

There is indeed one expedient by which it is possible 
to sink, and another by which we may raise money be- 
yond its natural level in any kingdom ; but these cases, 
when examined, will be found to resolve into our gene- 
ral theory, and to bring additional authority to it. 

I scarcely know any method of sinking money below 
its level, but those institutions of banks, funds, and 
paper credit, which are so much practised in this king- 
dom. These render paper equivalent to money, circu- 
late it throughout the whole state, make it supply the 
place of gold and silver, raise proportionably the price 
of labor and commodities, and by that means either 
banish a great part of those precious metals, or prevent 
their further increase. What can be more short-sighted 
than our reasonings on this head ? We fancy, because 
an individual would be much richer, were his stock of 
money doubled, that the same good effect would follow, 
were the money of every one increased ; not consider- 
ing that this would raise as much the price of every com- 
modity, and reduce every man in time to the same con- 
dition as before. It is only in our public negotiations 
and transactions with foreigners, that a greater stock of 
money is advantageous ; and as our paper is there abso- 
lutely insignificant, we feel, by its means, all the ill 

348 ESSAY V. 

effects arising from a great abundance of money, with- 
out reaping any of the advantages/ 1 ' 

Suppose that there are 12 millions of paper, which 
circulate in the kingdom as money (for we are not to 
imagine that all our enormous funds are employed in 
that shape), and suppose the real cash of the kingdom 
to be 18 millions : here is a state which is found by ex- 
perience to be able to hold a stock of 30 millions. I 
say, if it be able to hold it, it must of necessity have ac- 
quired it in gold and silver, had we not obstructed the 
entrance of these metals by this new invention of paper. 
Whence would it have acquired that sum? From all the 
kingdoms of the world. Bat why ? Because, if you re- 
move these 12 millions, money in this state is below its 
level, compared with our neighbors ; and we must im- 
mediately draw from all of them, till we be full and satu- 
rate, so to speak, and can hold no more. By our present 
politics, we are as careful to stuff the nation with this 
fine commodity of bank-bills and chequer notes, as if 
we were afraid of being overburdened with the precious 

It is not to be doubted, but the great plenty of 
bullion in France is, in a great measure, owing to the 
want of paper-credit. The French have no banks : 
merchants' bills do not circulate as with us : usury, or 
lending on interest, is not directly permitted ; so that 
many have large sums in their coffers : great quantities 
of plate are used in private houses ; and all the 
churches are full of it. By this means, provisions and 

* Wc observed in Essay III. that money, when increasing, gives encourage- 
ment to industry, during the interval between the increase of money and rise 
of the prices. A good effect of this nature may follow too from paper credit ; 
but it is dangerous to precipitate matters at the risk of losing all by the failing 
of that credit, as must happen upon any violent shock in public affairs. 


labor still remain cheaper among them, than in nations 
that are not half so rich in gold and silver. The 
advantages of this situation, in point of trade, as well 
as in great public emergencies, are too evident to be 

The same fashion a few years ago prevailed in Genoa, 
which still has place in England and Holland, of using 
services of China-ware instead of plate ; but the senate, 
foreseeing the consequence, prohibited the use of that 
brittle commodity beyond a certain extent ; while the 
use of silver plate was left unlimited. And I suppose, 
in their late distresses, they felt the good effect of this 
ordinance. Our tax on plate is, perhaps, in this view, 
somewhat impolitic. 

Before the introduction of paper-money into our colo- 
nies, they had gold and silver sufficient for their circu- 
lation. Since the introduction of that commodity, the 
least inconveniency that has followed is the total banish- 
ment of the precious metals. And after the abolition 
of paper, can it be doubted but money will return, 
while those colonies possess manufactures and commodi- 
ties, the only thing valuable in commerce, and for whose 
sake alone all men desire money ? 

What pity Lycurgus did not think of paper-credit, 
when he wanted to banish gold and silver from Sparta ! 
It would have served his purpose better than the lumps 
of iron he made use of as money ; and would also have 
prevented more effectually all commerce with strangers, 
as being of so much real and intrinsic value. 

It must, however, be confessed, that, as all these ques- 
tions of trade and money are extremely complicated, 
there are certain lights in which this subject may be 
placed, so as to represent the advantages of paper-credit 
and banks to be superior to their disadvantages. That 

350 ESSAY V. 

they banish specie and bullion from a state, is undoubt- 
edly true ; and whoever looks no farther than this cir- 
cumstance, does well to condemn them ; but specie and 
bullion are not of so great consequence as not to admit 
of a compensation, and even an overbalance from the 
increase of industry and of credit, which may be pro- 
moted by the right use of paper-money. It is well 
known of what advantage it is to a merchant to be able 
to discount his bills upon occasion ; and every thing that 
facilitates this species of traffic is favorable to the gene- 
ral commerce of a state. But private bankers are ena- 
bled to give such credit by the credit they receive from 
the depositing of money in their shops ; and the Bank 
of England, in the same manner, from the liberty it has 
to issue its notes in all payments. There was an inven- 
tion of this kind which was fallen upon some years ago 
by the banks of Edinburgh, and which, as it is one of 
the most ingenious ideas that has been executed in com- 
merce, has also been thought advantageous to Scotland. 
It is there called a Bank Credit, and is of this nature. 
A man goes to the bank, and finds surety to the amount, 
we shall suppose, of a thousand pounds. This money, 
or an}^ part of it, he has the liberty of drawing out 
wdienever he pleases, and he pays only the ordinary in- 
terest for it while it is in his hands. ' He may, when he 
pleases, repay any sum so small as twenty pounds, and 
the interest is discounted from the very day of the re- 
payment. The advantages resulting from this contri- 
vance are manifold. As a man may find surety nearly 
to the amount of his substance, and his bank credit is 
equivalent to ready money, a merchant does hereby in 
a manner coin his houses, his household furniture, the 
goods in his warehouse, the foreign debts due to him, 
his ships at sea ; and can, upon occasion, employ them 


in all payments, as if they were the current money of 
the country. If a man borrow a thousand pounds from 
a private hand, besides that it is not always to be found 
when required, he pays interest for it whether he be 
using it or not : his bank credit costs him nothing except 
during the very moment in which it is of service to him : 
and this circumstance is of equal advantage as if he had 
borrowed money at much lower interest. Merchants 
likewise, from this invention, acquire a great facility in 
supporting each other's credit, which is a considerable 
security against bankruptcies. A man, when his own 
bank credit is exhausted, goes to any of his neighbors 
who is not in the same condition, and he gets the mone} r , 
which he replaces at his convenience. 

After this practice had taken place during some years 
at Edinburgh, several companies of merchants at Glas- 
gow carried the matter further. They associated them- 
selves into different banks, and issued notes so low as ten 
shillings, which they used in all payments for goods, 
manufactures, tradesmen's labor of all kinds ; and these 
notes, from the established credit of the companies, 
passed as money in all payments throughout the coun- 
try. By this means, a stock of five thousand pounds 
was able to perform the same operations as if it were 
six or seven • and merchants were thereby enabled to 
trade to a greater extent, and to require less profit in 
all their transactions. But whatever other advantages 
result from these inventions, it must still be allowed, that, 
besides giving too great facility to credit, which is dan- 
gerous, they banish the precious metals : and nothing 
can be a more evident proof of it than a comparison of 
the past and present condition of Scotland in that par- 
ticular. It was found, upon the recoinage made after 
the Union, that there was near a million of specie in 

3o2 ESSAY V. 

that country : but notwithstanding the great increase of 
riches, commerce, and manufactures of all kinds, it is 
thought, that, even where there is no extraordinary drain 
made by England, the current specie will not now amount 
to a third of that sum. 

But as our projects of paper-credit are almost the only 
expedient by which we can sink money below its level, 
so, in my opinion, the only expedient by which we can 
raise money above it, is a practice which we should all 
exclaim against as destructive, namely, the gathering of 
large sums into a public treasure, locking them up, and 
absolutely preventing their circulation. The fluid, not 
communicating with the neighboring element, may, by 
such an artifice, be raised to what height w T e please. To 
prove this, we need only return to our first supposition, 
of annihilating the half or any part of our cash ; where 
we found, that the immediate consequence of such an 
event would be the attraction of an equal sum from all 
the neiixliborinu; kingdoms. Nor docs there seem to be 
any necessary bounds set, by the nature of things, to 
this practice of hoarding. A small city like Geneva, 
continuing this policy for ages, might engross nine tenths 
of the money of Europe. There seems, indeed, in the 
nature of man, an invincible obstacle to that immense 
growth of riches. A weak state, with an enormous 
treasure, will soon become a prey to some of its poorer, 
but more powerful neighbors. A great state would dis- 
sipate its wealth in dangerous and ill-concerted projects, 
and probably destroy, with it, what is much more valu- 
able, the industry, morals, and numbers of its people. 
The fluid, in this case, raised to too great a height, bursts 
and destroys the vessel that contains it ; and, mixing 
itself with the surrounding element, soon falls to its 
proper level. 


So little are we commonly acquainted with this prin- 
ciple, that, though all historians agree in relating uni- 
formly so recent an event as the immense treasure 
amassed by Harry VII. (which they make amount to 
1,700,000 pounds), we rather reject their concurring tes- 
timony than admit of a fact which agrees so ill with our 
inveterate prejudices. It is indeed probable that this 
sum might be three fourths of all the money in England. 
But where is the difficulty in conceiving that such a 
sum might be amassed in twenty years by a cunning, 
rapacious, frugal, and almost absolute monarch ? Nor is 
it probable that the diminution of circulating money 
was ever sensibly felt by the people, or ever did them 
any prejudice. The sinking of the prices of all com- 
modities would immediately replace it, by giving Eng- 
land the advantage in its commerce with the neighbor- 
ins; kingdoms. 

Have we not an instance in the small republic of 
Athens with its allies, who, in about fifty years between 
the Median and Peloponnesian wars, amassed a sum not 
much inferior to that of Harry VII.?* For all the 
Greek historians f and orators f agree, that the Athenians 
collected in the citadel more than 10,000 talents, which 
they afterwards dissipated to their own ruin, in rash and 
imprudent enterprises. But when this money was set a 
running, and began to communicate with the surround- 
ing fluid, what was the consequence ? Did it remain in 
the state ? No. For we find, by the memorable census 
mentioned by Demosthenes § and Polybius, || that, in 

* There were about eight ounces of silver in a pound sterling in Harry 
VII.'s time. 

f Tkucydides, lib. ii. and Diod. Sic. lib. xii. 

i 17'/. iEschinis et Demosthenis Epist. 

§ VLtpi "Evfi/xopiag. || Lib. ii. cap. 62. 

vol. in. 45 

354 ESSAY V. 

about fifty years afterwards, the whole value of the re- 
public, comprehending lands, houses, commodities, slaves, 
and money, was less than 6,000 talents. 

What an ambitious high-spirited people was this, to 
collect and keep in their treasury, with a view to con- 
quests, a sum, which it was every day in the power of 
the citizens, by a single vote, to distribute among them- 
selves, and which would have gone near to triple the 
riches of every individual ! For we must observe, that 
the numbers and private riches of the Athenians are 
said, by ancient writers, to have been no greater at the 
beginning of the Peloponnesian war, than at the begin- 
ning of the Macedonian. 

Money was little more plentiful in Greece during the 
age of Philip and Perseus, than in England during that 
of Harry VII.: yet these two monarchs in thirty years* 
collected from the small kingdom of Macedon, a larger 
treasure than that of the English monarch. Paulus 
iEmilius brought to Rome about 1,700,000 pounds ster- 
ling.f Pliny says, 2,400,000.;!: And that was but a part 
of the Macedonian treasure. The rest was dissipated by 
the resistance and flight of Perseus.§ 

We may learn from Stanian, that the canton of Berne 
had 300,000 pounds lent at interest, and had about six 
times as much in their treasury. Here then is a sum 
hoarded of 1,800,000 pounds Sterling, which is at least 
quadruple what should naturally circulate in such a 
petty state ; and yet no one, who travels in the Pais de 
Yaux, or any part of that canton, observes any want of 
money more than could be supposed in a country of 
that extent, soil, and situation. On the contrary, there 

* Titi Livii, lib. xlv. cap. 40. f Vel Paterc. lib. i. cap. 9. 

J Lib. xxxiii. cap. 3. 


arc scarce any inland provinces in the continent of 
France or Germany, where the inhabitants are at this 
time so opulent, though that canton has vastly increased 
its treasure since 1714, the time when Stanian wrote his 
judicious account of Switzerland* 

The account given by Appianf of the treasure of the 
Ptolemies, is so prodigious, that one cannot admit of it ; 
and so much the less, because the historian says, that the 
other successors of Alexander w r ere also frugal, and had 
many of them treasures not much inferior. For this 
saving humor of the neighboring princes must neces- 
sarily have checked the frugality of the Egyptian mon- 
archs, according to the foregoing theory. The sum he 
mentions is 740,000 talents, or 191,166,666 pounds 13 
shillings and 4 pence, according to Dr. Arbuthnot's com- 
putation. And yet Appian says, that he extracted his 
account from the public records \ and he was himself a 
native of Alexandria. 

From these principles we may learn what judgment 
we ought to form of those numberless bars, obstruc- 
tions, and imposts, which all nations of Europe, and 
none more than England, have put upon trade, from an 
exorbitant desire of amassing money, wdiich never will 
heap up beyond its level, while it circulates ; or from an 
ill-grounded apprehension of losing their specie, which 
never will sink below it. Could any thing scatter our 
riches, it would be such impolitic contrivances. But this 
general ill effect, however, results from them, that they 
deprive neighboring nations of that free communication 

* The poverty which Stanian speaks of is only to be seen in the most 
mountainous cantons, where there is no commodity to bring money. And 
even there the people are not poorer than in the dioccss of Saltsburgh on the 
one hand, or Savoy on the other. 

f Proem. 

356 ESSAY V. 

and exchange which the Author of the world has in- 
tended, by giving them soils, climates, and geniuses, so 
different from each other. 

Our modern politics embrace the only method of ban- 
ishing money, the using of paper-credit ; they reject 
the only method of amassing it, the practice of hoard- 
ing; and they adopt a hundred contrivances, which 
serve to no purpose but to check industry, and rob our- 
selves and our neighbors of the common benefits of art 
and nature. 

All taxes, however, upon foreign commodities, are not 
to be regarded as prejudicial or useless, but those only 
which are founded on the jealousy above mentioned. 
A tax on German linen encourages home manufactures, 
and thereby multiplies our people and industry. A tax 
on brandy increases the sale of rum, and supports our 
southern colonies. And as it is necessary that imposts 
should be levied for the support of government, it may 
be thought more convenient to lay them on foreign 
commodities, which can easily be intercepted at the port, 
and subjected to the impost. We ought however, al- 
ways to remember the maxim of Dr. Swift, that, in the 
arithmetic of the customs, two and two make not four, 
but often make only one. It can scarcely be doubted, 
but if the duties on wine were lowered to a third, 
they would yield much more to the government than 
at present ; our people might thereby afford to drink 
commonly a better and more wholesome liquor ; and no 
prejudice w T ould ensue to the balance of trade, of which 
we are so jealous. The manufacture of ale beyond the 
agriculture is but inconsiderable, and gives employment 
to few hands. The transport of wine and corn would 
not be much inferior. 

But are there not frequent instances, you will say, of 


states and kingdoms, which were formerly rich and 
opulent, and are now poor and beggarly ? Has not the 
money left them, with which they formerly abounded ? 
I answer, if they lose their trade, industry, and people, 
they cannot expect to keep their gold and silver : for 
these precious metals will hold proportion to the former 
advantages. When Lisbon and Amsterdam got the 
East India trade from Venice and Genoa, they also got 
the profits and money which arose from it. Where the 
seat of government is transferred, where expensive 
armies are maintained at a distance, where great funds 
are possessed by foreigners ; there naturally follows 
from these causes a diminution of the specie. But these, 
we may observe, are violent and forcible methods of 
carrying away money, and are in time commonly at- 
tended with the transport of people and industry. But 
where these remain, and the drain is not continued, the 
money always finds its way back again, by a hundred 
canals, of which we have no notion or suspicion. What 
immense treasures have been spent, by so many nations, 
in Flanders, since the Kevolution, in the course of three 
long wars ? More money perhaps than the half of 
what is at present in Europe. But what has now be- 
come of it ? Is it in the narrow compass of the Aus- 
trian provinces ? No, surely : it has most of it returned 
to the several countries whence it came, and has fol- 
lowed that art and industry by which at ilrst it was 
acquired. For above a thousand years, the money of 
Europe has been flowing to Rome, by an open and sen- 
sible current ; but it has been emptied by many secret 
and insensible canals : and the want of industry and 
commerce renders at present the Papal dominions the 
poorest territory in all Italy. 

In short, a government has great reason to preserve 

358 ESSAY V. 

with care its people and its manufactures. Its money, 
it may safely trust to the course of human affairs, 
without fear or jealousy. Or, if it ever give attention 
to this latter circumstance, it ought only to be so far as 
it affects the former. 



Haying endeavored to remove one species of ill- 
founded jealousy, which is so prevalent among commer- 
cial nations, it may not be amiss to mention another, 
which seems equally groundless. Nothing is more 
usual, among states which have made some advances 
in commerce, than to look on the progress of their 
neighbors with a suspicious eye, to consider all trad- 
ing states as their rivals, and to suppose that it is im- 
possible for any of them to flourish, but at their ex- 
pense. In opposition to this narrow and malignant 
opinion, I will venture to assert, that the increase of 
riches and commerce in any one nation, instead of hurt- 
ing, commonly promotes the riches and commerce of all 
its neighbors ; and that a state can scarcely carry its 
trade and industry very far, where all the surrounding 
states are buried in ignorance, sloth, and barbarism. 

It is obvious, that the domestic industry of a people 
cannot be hurt by the greatest prosperity of their 
neighbors ; and as this branch of commerce is undoubt- 
edly the most important in any extensive kingdom, we 
are so far removed from all reason of jealousy. But 
I go further, and observe, that where an open communi- 

360 ESSAY VI. 

cation is preserved among nations, it is impossible but 
the domestic industry of every one must receive an 
increase from the improvements of the others. Com- 
pare the situation of Great Britain at present, with what 
it was two centuries ago. All the arts, both of agricul- 
ture and manufactures, were then extremely rude and 
imperfect. Every improvement which we have since 
made, has arisen from our imitation of foreigners ; and 
we ought so far to esteem it happy, that they had pre- 
viously made advances in arts and ingenuity. But this 
intercourse is still upheld to our great advantage : not- 
withstanding the advanced state of our manufactures, we 
daily adopt, in every art, the inventions and improve- 
ments of our neighbors. The commodity is first imported 
from abroad, to our great discontent, while we imagine 
that it drains us of our money : afterwards, the art itself 
is gradually imported, to our visible advantage : yet we 
continue still to repine, that our neighbors should pos- 
sess any art, industry, and invention ; forgetting that, 
had they not first instructed us, we should have been at 
present barbarians ; and did they not still continue their 
instructions, the arts must fall into a state of languor, 
and lose that emulation and novelty which contribute 
so much to their advancement. 

The increase of domestic industry lays the foundation 
of foreign commerce. Where a great number of com- 
modities are raised and perfected for the home market, 
there will always be found some which can be exported 
with advantage. But if our neighbors have no art or 
cultivation, they cannot take them ; because they will 
have nothing to give in exchange. In this respect, 
states are in the same condition as individuals. A single 
man can scarcely be industrious, where all his fellow- 
citizens are idle. The riches of the several members of 


a community contribute to increase my riches, whatever 
profession I may follow. They consume the produce of 
my industry, and afford me the produce of theirs in 

Nor needs any state entertain apprehensions, that 
their neighbors will improve to such a degree in every 
art and manufacture, as to have no demand from them. 
Nature, by giving a diversity of geniuses, climates, and 
soils to different nations, has secured their mutual inter- 
course and commerce, as long as they all remain indus- 
trious and civilized. Nay, the more the arts increase in 
any state, the more will be its demands from its indus- 
trious neighbors. The inhabitants, having become opu- 
lent and skilful, desire to have every commodity in the 
utmost perfection ; and as they have plenty of commodi- 
ties to give in exchange, they make large importations 
from every foreign country. The industry of the nations, 
from whom they import, receives encouragement : their 
own is also increased, by the sale of the commodities 
which they give in exchange. 

But what if a nation has any staple commodity, such 
as the woollen manufacture is in England ? . Must not 
the interfering of our neighbors in that manufacture be 
a loss to us ? I answer, that, when any commodity is 
denominated the staple of a kingdom, it is supposed that 
this kingdom has some peculiar and natural advantages 
for raising the commodity ; and if, notwithstanding these 
advantages, they lose such a manufacture, they ought to 
blame their own idleness or bad government, not the 
industry of their neighbors. It ought also to be con- 
sidered, that, by the increase of industry among the 
neighboring nations, the consumption of every particular 
species of commodity is also increased ; and though for- 
eign manufactures interfere with them in the market, 

vol. in. 46 


the demand for their product may still continue, or even 
increase. And should it diminish, ought the consequence 
to be esteemed so fatal ? If the spirit of industry be 
preserved, it may easily be diverted from one branch to 
another ; and the manufacturers of wool, for instance, 
be employed in linen, silk, iron, or any other commodi- 
ties for which there appears to be a demand. We need 
not apprehend, that all the objects of industry will be 
exhausted, or that our manufacturers, while they remain 
on an equal footing with those of our neighbors, will be 
in danger of wanting employment. The emulation 
among rival nations serves rather to keep industry 
alive in all of them : and any people is happier who 
possess a variety of manufactures, than if they enjoyed 
one single great manufacture, in which they are all 
employed. Their situation is less precarious ; and they 
will feel less sensibly those revolutions and uncertainties, 
to which every particular branch of commerce will al- 
ways be exposed. 

The only commercial state that ought to dread the 
improvements and industry of their neighbors, is such 
a one as the Dutch, who, enjoying no extent of land, 
nor possessing any number of native commodities, flour- 
ish only by their being the brokers, and factors, and 
carriers of others. Such a people may naturally appre- 
hend, that as soon as the neighboring;; states come to 
know and pursue their interest, they will take into their 
own hands the management of their affairs, and deprive 
their brokers of that profit which they formerly reaped 
from it. But though this consequence may naturally 
be dreaded, it is very long before it takes place ; and by 
art and industry it may be warded off for many genera- 
tions, if not wholly eluded. The advantage of superior 
stocks and correspondence is so great, that it is not 


easily overcome ; and as all the transactions increase by 
the increase of industry in the neighboring states, even 
a people whose commerce stands on this precarious basis, 
may at first reap a considerable profit from the flourish- 
ing condition of their neighbors. The Dutch having mort- 
2;ai>;ed all their revenues, make not such a figure in 
political transactions as formerly ; but their commerce 
is surely equal to what it was in the middle of the last 
century, when they were reckoned among the great 
powers of Europe. 

Were our narrow and malignant politics to meet with 
success, we should reduce all our neighboring nations to 
the same state of sloth and ignorance that prevails in 
Morocco and the coast of Barbary. But what would be 
the consequence ? They could send us no commodities : 
they could take none from us : our domestic commerce 
itself would languish for want of emulation, example, and 
instruction : and we ourselves should soon fall into the 
same abject condition to which we had reduced them. 
I shall therefore venture to acknowledge, that, not only 
as a man, but as a British subject, I pray for the flour- 
ishing commerce of Germany, Spain, Italy, and even 
France itself. I am at least certain that Great Britain, 
and all those nations, would flourish more, did their 
sovereigns and ministers adopt such enlarged and benev- 
olent sentiments towards each other. 



It is a question, whether the idea of the balance of 
power be owing entirely to modern policy, or whether 
the phrase only has been invented in these later ages ? It 
is certain that Xenophon,* in his Institution of Cyrus, 
represents the combination of the Asiatic powers to have 
arisen from a jealousy of the increasing force of the 
Medes and Persians; and though that elegant composi- 
tion should be supposed altogether a romance, this senti- 
ment, ascribed by the author to the Eastern princes, is 
at least a proof of the prevailing notion of ancient times. 

In all the politics of Greece, the anxiety with regard 
to the balance of power, is apparent, and is expressly 
pointed out to us, even by the ancient historians. 
Thucydidesf represents the league which was formed 
against Athens, and which produced the Peloponnesian 
war, as entirely owing to this principle. And after the 
decline of Athens, when the Thebans and Lacedemonians 
disputed for sovereignty, we find that the Athenians (as 
well as many other republics) always threw themselves 
into the lighter scale, and endeavored to preserve the 

* Lib. i. f Lib. i. 


balance. They supported Thebes against Sparta, till the 
great victory gained by Epaminondas at Leuctra ; after 
which they immediately went over to the conquered, 
from generosity, as they pretended, but in reality from 
their jealousy of the conquerors.* 

Whoever will read Demosthenes' oration for the 
Megalopolitans, may see the utmost refinements on this 
principle that ever entered into the head of a Vene- 
tian or English speculatist. And upon the first rise of 
the Macedonian power, this orator immediately dis- 
covered the clanger, sounded the alarm throughout all 
Greece, and at last assembled that confederacy under 
the banners of Athens which fought the great and 
decisive battle of Cha3ronea. 

It is true, the Grecian wars are regarded by historians 
as wars of emulation rather than of politics ; and each 
state seems to have had more in view the honor of lead- 
ing the rest, than any wellgrounded hopes of authority 
and dominion. If we consider, indeed, the small number 
of inhabitants in any one republic compared to the 
whole, the great difficulty of forming sieges in those 
times, and the extraordinary bravery and discipline of 
every freeman among that noble people ; we shall con- 
clude, that the balance of power was, of itself, sufficiently 
secured in Greece, and needed not to have been guarded 
with that caution which may be requisite in other ages. 
But whether we ascribe the shifting of sides in all the 
Grecian republics to jealous emulation or cautious politics, 
the effects were alike, and every prevailing power was 
sure to meet with a confederacy against it, and that 
often composed of its former friends and allies. 

The same principle, call it envy or prudence, which 

* Xenoph. Hist. Grsec. lib. vi. and vii. 


produced the Ostracism of Athens, and Petalism of Syra- 
cuse, and expelled every citizen whose fame or power 
overtopped the rest ; the same principle, I say, naturally 
discovered itself in foreign politics, and soon raised ene- 
mies to the leading state, however moderate in the 
exercise of its authority. 

The Persian monarch was really, in his force, a petty 
prince compared to the Grecian republics ; and, there- 
fore, it behoved him, from views of safety more than 
from emulation, to interest himself in their quarrels, 
and to support the weaker side in every contest. This 
was the advice given by Alcibiades to Tissaphernes,* 
and it prolonged, near a century, the date of the Persian 
empire ; till the neglect of it for a moment, after the 
first appearance of the aspiring genius of Philip, brought 
that lofty and frail edifice to the ground, with a rapid- 
ity of which there are few instances in the history of 

The successors of Alexander showed great jealousy 
of the balance of power • a jealousy founded on true 
politics and prudence, and which preserved distinct for 
several ages the partition made after the death of that 
famous conquerer. The fortune and ambition of An- 
tigonus -j- threatened them anew with a universal mon- 
archy : but their combination, and their victory at Ipsus, 
saved them. And in subsequent times, we find, that, 
as the Eastern princes considered the Greeks and Mace- 
donians as the only real military force with whom they 
had any intercourse, they kept always a watchful eye 
over that part of the world. The Ptolemies, in particu- 
lar, supported first Aratus and the Achseans, and then 
Cleomenes king of Sparta, from no other view than as a 

* Thucyd. lib. viii. f Diocl. Sic. lib. xx. 


counterbalance to the Macedonian monarchs. For this 
is the account which Polybius gives of the Egyptian 

The reason why it is supposed that the ancients were 
entirely ignorant of the balance of power, seems to be 
drawn from the Roman history more than the Grecian ; 
and as the transactions of the former are generally more 
familiar to us, we have thence formed all our conclu- 
sions. It must be owned, that the Romans never met 
with any such general combination or confederacy 
against them, as might naturally have been expected 
from their rapid conquests and declared ambition, but 
were allowed peaceably to subdue their neighbors, one 
after another, till they extended their dominion over 
the whole known world. Not to mention the fabulous 
history of the f Italic wars, there was, upon Hannibal's 

* Lib. ii. cap. 51. 

f There have strong suspicions of late arisen amongst critics, and, in my 
opinion, not without reason, concerning the first ages of the Roman history, 
as if they were almost entirely fabulous, till after the sacking of the city by 
the Gauls, and were even doubtful for some time afterwards, till the Greeks 
began to give attention to Roman affairs, and commit them to writing. This 
scepticism seems to me, however, scarcely defensible in its full extent, with 
regard to the domestic history of Home, which has some air of truth and 
probability, and could scarce be the invention of an historian who had so 
little morals or judgment as to indulge himself in fiction and romance. The 
revolutions seem so well proportioned to their causes, the progress of their 
factions is so conformable to political experience, the manners and maxims of 
the age are so uniform and natural, that scarce any real history affords more 
just reflection and improvement. Is not Machiavel's comment on Livy (a 
work surely of great judgment and genius) founded entirely on this period, 
which is represented as fabulous '? I would willingly, therefore, in my pri- 
vate sentiments, divide the matter with these critics, and allow, that the bat- 
tles and victories and triumphs of those ages had been extremely falsified by 
family memoirs, as Cicero says they were. But as, in the accounts of domes- 
tic factions, there were two opposite relations transmitted to posterity, this 
both served as a check upon fiction, and enabled latter historians to gather 
some truth from comparison and reasoning. Half of the slaughter which 
Livy commits on the JEqui and the Volsci would depopulate France and 


invasion of the Eoman state, a remarkable crisis, which 
ought to have called up the attention of all civilized 
nations. It appeared afterwards (nor was it difficult to 
be observed at the time*) that this was a contest for 
universal empire ; yet no prince or state seems to have 
been in the least alarmed about the event or issue of 
the quarrel. Philip of Macedon remained neuter, till 
he saw the victories of Hannibal; and then most im- 
prudently formed an alliance with the conqueror, upon 
terms still more imprudent. He stipulated, that he was 
to assist the Carthaginian state in their conquest of 
Italy ; after which they engaged to send over forces 
into Greece, to assist him in subduing the Grecian com- 
monwealth s.f 

The Ehodian and Achsean republics are much cele- 
brated by ancient historians for their wisdom and sound 
policy ; yet both of them assisted the Komans in their 
wars against Philip and Antiochus. And what may 
be esteemed still a stronger proof, that this maxim was 
not generally known in those ages, no ancient author 
has remarked the imprudence of these measures, nor 
has even blamed that absurd treaty above mentioned, 
made by Philip with the Carthaginians. Princes and 
statesmen, in all ages, may, beforehand, be blinded in 
their reasonings with regard to events : but it is some- 
what extraordinary that historians, afterwards should 
not form a sounder judgment of them. 

Massinissa, Attalus, Prusias, in gratifying their pri- 

Germany ; and that historian, though perhaps lie may he justly charged as 
superficial, is at last shocked himself with the incredulity of his narration. 
The same love of exaggeration seems to have magnified the numbers of the 
Komans in their armies and census. — Editions F, G. 

* It "svas observed by some, as appears by the speech of Agcsilaus of 
Naupactum, in the general congress of Greece. See Polyb. lib. v. cap. 104. 

f Titi Livii, lib. xxiii. cap. 33. 


vate passions, were all of them the instruments of the 
Roman greatness, and never seem to have suspected, 
that they were forging their own chains, while they ad- 
vanced the conquests of their ally. A simple treaty 
and agreement between Massinissa and the Carthagini- 
ans, so much required by mutual interest, barred the 
Romans from all entrance into Africa, and preserved lib- 
erty to mankind. 

The only prince we meet with in the Roman history, 
who seems to have understood the balance of power, is 
Hiero, king of Syracuse. Though the ally of Rome, 
he sent assistance to the Carthaginians during the war 
of the auxiliaries ; " Esteeming it requisite," says Polyb- 
ius,* "both in order to retain his dominions in Sicily, 
and to preserve the Roman friendship, that Carthage 
should be safe ; lest by its fall the remaining power 
should be able, without contrast or opposition, to exe- 
cute every purpose and undertaking. And here he 
acted with great wisdom and prudence : for that is 
never, on any account, to be overlooked; nor ought 
such a force ever to be thrown into one hand, as to in- 
capacitate the neighboring states from defending their 
rights against it." Here is the aim of modern politics 
pointed out in express terms. 

In short, the maxim of preserving the balance of 
power is founded so much on common sense and ob- 
vious reasoning, that it is impossible it could altogether 
have escaped antiquity, where we find, in other particu- 
lars, so many marks of deep penetration and discern- 
ment. If it was not so generally known and acknowl- 
edged as at present, it had at least an influence on all 
the wiser and more experienced princes and politicians. 

* Lib. i. cap. 83. ' 

vol. in. 47 


And indeed, even at present, however generally known 
and acknowledged among speculative reasoners, it lias 
not, in practice, an authority much more extensive 
among those who govern the world. 

After the fall of the Roman empire, the form of gov- 
ernment, established by the northern conquerors, inca- 
pacitated them, in a great measure, for farther con- 
quests, and long maintained each state in its proper 
boundaries. But when vassalage and the feudal militia 
were abolished, mankind were anew alarmed by the 
clanger of universal monarchy, from the union of so 
many kingdoms and principalities in the person of the 
Emperor Charles. But the power of the house of Aus- 
tria, founded on extensive but divided dominions ; and 
their riches, derived chiefly from mines of gold and 
silver, were more likely to decay of themselves, from 
internal defects, than to overthrow all the bulwarks 
raised against them. In less than a centurv, the force 
of that violent and haughty race was shattered, their 
opulence dissipated, their splendor eclipsed. A new pow- 
er succeeded, more formidable to the liberties of Europe, 
possessing all the advantages of the former, and labor- 
ing under none of its defects, except a share of that 
spirit of bigotry and persecution, with which the house 
of Austria was so long, and still is, so much infatuated* 

* Europe has now, for above a century, remained on the defensive against 
the greatest force that ever perhaps was formed by the civil or political com- 
bination of mankind. And such is the influence of the maxim here treated of 
that, though that ambitious nation, in the five last general wars, have been vic- 
torious in four,f and unsuccessful only in one, % they have not much enlarged 
their dominions, nor acquired a total ascendant over Europe. On the con- 
trary, there remains still some hope of maintaining the resistance so long, that 

t Those concluded by the peace of the Pyrenees, Xhncguen, Ryswick, and Aix-la - 
Chapellc. * 

+ That concluded by the peace of Utrecht. 


In the general wars maintained against this ambi- 
tious power, Great Britain has stood foremost, and she 
still maintains her station. Beside her advantages of 
riches and situation, her people are animated with such 
a national spirit, and are so fully sensible of the bless- 
ings of their government, that we may hope their vigor 
never will languish in so necessary and so just a cause. 
On the contrary, if we may judge by the past, their 
passionate ardor seems rather to require some modera- 
tion ; and they have oftener erred from a laudable ex- 
cess than from a blamable deficiency. 

In the first place, we seem to have been more pos- 
sessed with the ancient Greek spirit of jealous emula- 
tion, than actuated by the prudent views of modern pol- 
itics. Our wars with France have been begun with 
justice, and even perhaps from necessity, but have 
always been too far pushed, from obstinacy and passion. 
The same peace, which was afterwards made at Rys- 
wick in 1607, was offered so early as the year ninety- 
two ; that concluded at Utrecht in 1712, might have 
been finished on as good conditions at Gertruytenberg, 
in the year eight ; and we might have given at Frank- 
fort, in 1713, the same terms which we were glad to 
accept of at Aix-la-Chapelle in the year forty-eight. 
Here then we see, that above half of our wars with 
France, and all our public debts, are owing more to our 
own imprudent vehemence, than to the ambition of our 

In the second place, we are so declared in our opposi- 
tion to French power, and so alert in defence of our 
allies, that they always reckon upon our force as upon 

the natural revolutions of human affairs, together with unforeseen events and 
accidents, may guard us against universal monarchy, and preserve the world 
from so great an evil. — Editions F, G, H, N. 


their own ; and expecting to carry on war at our ex- 
pense, refuse all reasonable terms of accommodation. 
llabent sabjectos, tanqaam snos ; vifes, lit alicnos. All the 
world knows, that the factious vote of the House of 
Commons, in the beginning of the last Parliament, with 
the professed humor of the nation, made the Queen of 
Hungary inflexible in her terms, and prevented that 
agreement with Prussia, which would immediately have 
restored the general tranquillity of Europe. 

In the third place, we are such true combatants, that, 
when once engaged, we lose all concern for ourselves 
and our posterity, and consider only how we may best 
annoy the enemy. To mortgage our revenues at so 
deep a rate in wars where we are only accessaries, was 
surely the most fatal delusion that a nation, which had 
any pretension to politics and prudence, has ever yet 
been guilty of. That remedy of funding, if it be a rem- 
edy, and not rather a poison, ought, in all reason, to be 
reserved to the last extremity ; and no evil, but the 
greatest and most urgent, should ever induce us to em- 
brace so dangerous an expedient. 

These excesses, to which we have been carried, are 
prejudicial, and may, perhaps, in time, become still more 
prejudicial another way, by begetting, as is usual, the 
opposite extreme, and rendering us totally careless and 
supine with regard to the fate of Europe. The Athe- 
nians, from the most bustling, intriguing, warlike, peo- 
ple of Greece, finding their error in thrusting themselves 
into every quarrel, abandoned all attention to foreign 
affairs ; and in no contest ever took part on either side, 
except by their flatteries and complaisance to the victor. 

Enormous monarchies* are probably destructive to 
human nature in their progress, in their continuance,*)* 

* Such as Europe's at present threatened with.— Editions F, (i, II. 
f If the Roman empire was of advantage, it could only proceed from this, 


and even in their downfall, which never can be very dis- 
tant from their establishment. The military genius 
which aggrandized the monarchy, soon leaves the court, 
the capital, and the centre of such a government, while 
the wars are carried on at a great distance, and interest 
so small a part of the state. The ancient nobility, 
whose affections attach them to their sovereign, live all 
at court, and never will accept of military employments, 
which would carry them to remote and barbarous fron- 
tiers, where they are distant both from their pleasures 
and their fortune. The arms of the state must there- 
fore be intrusted to mercenary strangers, without zeal, 
without attachment, without honor, ready on every oc- 
casion to turn them against the prince, and join each 
desperate malcontent who offers pay and plunder. This 
is the necessary progress of human affairs. Thus hu- 
man nature checks itself in its airy elevation ; thus am- 
bition blindly labors for the destruction of the conquer- 
or, of his family, and of every thing near and dear to 
him. The Bourbons, trusting to the support of their 
brave, faithful, and affectionate nobility, would push 
their advantage without reserve or limitation. These, 
while fired with glory and emulation, can bear the fa- 
tigues and dangers of war ; but never would submit to 
languish in the garrisons of Hungary or Lithuania, for- 
got at court, and sacrificed to the intrigues of every 
minion or mistress who approaches the prince. The 
troops are filled with Cravates and Tartars, Hussars and 
Cossacks, intermingled, perhaps, with a few soldiers of for- 
tune from the better provinces; and the melancholy 
fate of the Roman emperors, from the same cause, is re- 
newed over and over again, till the final dissolution of 
the monarchy. 

that mankind were generally in a very disorderly, uncivilized condition before 
its establishment. 



There is a prevailing maxim among some reasoners, 
That ever?/ neiv tax creates a neiv ability in the subject to bear 
it, and that each increase of public burdens increases proportion- 
ably the industry of the people. This maxim is of such a 
nature, as is most likely to be abused, and is so much 
the more dangerous, as its truth cannot be altogether 
denied ; but it must be owned, when kept within cer- 
tain bounds, to have some foundation in reason and ex- 

When a tax is laid upon commodities which are con- 
sumed by the common people, the necessary consequence 
may seem to be, either that the poor must retrench 
something from their way of living, or raise their wages, 
so as to make the burden of the tax fall entirely upon 
the rich. But there is a third consequence which often 
follows upon taxes, namely, that the poor increase their 
industiy, perform more work, and live as w r ell as before, 
without demanding more for their labor. Where taxes 
are moderate, are laid on gradually, and affect not the 
necessaries of life, this consequence naturally follows; 
and it is certain, that such difficulties often serve to 
excite the industry of a people, and render them more 

OF TAXES. 375 

opulent and laborious than others, who enjoy the great- 
est advantages ; for we may observe as a parallel in- 
stance, that the most commercial nations have not 
always possessed the greatest extent of fertile land, but, 
on the contrary, that they have labored under many 
natural disadvantages. Tyre, Athens, Carthage, Rhodes, 
Genoa, Venice,\Holland, are strong examples to this pur- 
pose ; and in all history, we find only three instances of 
large and fertile countries which have possessed much 
trade, the Netherlands, England, and France. The two 
former* seem to have been allured by the advantages 
of their, maritime situation, and the necessity they lay 
under of frequenting foreign ports, in order to procure 
what their own climate refused them ; and as to France, 
trade has come late into that kingdom, and seems to 
have been the effect of reflection and observation in an 
ingenious and enterprising people, who remarked the 
riches acquired by such of the neighboring nations as 
cultivated navigation and commerce. 

The places mentioned by Cicero,* as possessed of the 
greatest commerce in his time, are Alexandria, Colchus, 
Tyre, Sidon, Andros, Cyprus, Famphylia, Lycia, Rhodes, 
Chios, Byzantium, Lesbos, Smyrna, Miletum, Coos. All 
these, except Alexandria, were either small islands, or 
narrow territories ; and that city owed its trade entirely 
to^the happiness of its situation. 

Since, therefore, some natural necessities or disadvan- 
tages may be thought favorable to industry, why may 
not artificial burdens have the same effect ? Sir William 
Temple,-]* we may observe, ascribes the industry of the 
Dutch entirely^to necessity, proceeding from their natu- 

* Epist. ad Att. lib. ix. ep. 11. 

f Account of the Netherlands, chap. G. 



ral disadvantages ; and illustrates his doctrine by a strik- 
ing comparison with Ireland, " where," says he, " by the 
largeness and plenty of the soil, and scarcity of people, 
all things necessary to life are so cheap, that an industri- 
ous man, by two days' labor, may gain enough to feed 
him the rest of the week ; which I take to be a very 
plain ground of the laziness attributed to the people ; 
for men naturally prefer ease before labor, and will not 
take pains if they can live idle ; though when, by neces- 
sity, they have been inured to it, they cannot leave it, 
being grown a custom necessary to their health, and to 
their very entertainment. Nor perhaps is the change 
harder, from constant ease to labor, than from constant 
labor to ease." After which the author proceeds to con- 
firm his doctrine, by enumerating, as above, the places 
where trade has most flourished in ancient and modern 
times, and which are commonly observed to be such 
narrow confined territories, as beget a necessity for in- 

* It is always observed in years of scarcity, if it be not extreme, that the 
poor labor more, and really live better, than in years of great plenty, when 
they indulge themselves in idleness and riot. I have been told, by a consider- 
able manufacturer, that in the year 1740, when bread and provisions of all 
kinds were very dear, his workmen not only made a shift to live, but paid 
debts which they had contracted in former years that were much more favor- 
able and abundant.f 

This doctrine, therefore, with regard to taxes, may be admitted in some de- 
gree ; but beware of the abuse. Taxes, like necessity, when carried too far, 
destroy industry, by engendering despair ; and even before they reach this 
pitch, they raise the wages of the laborer and manufacturer, and heighten the 
price of all commodities. An attentive disinterested legislature will observe 
the point when the emolument ceases, and the prejudice begins ; but as the 
contrary character is much more common, it is to be feared that taxes all over 
Europe are multiplying to such a degree as will entirely crush all art and in- 
dustry, though perhaps their past increase, along with other circumstances, 
might contribute to the growth of these advantages. — Editions F, G, H, N. 

t To this purpose, see also Essay I. at the end. 

OF TAXES. O / / 

The best taxes are such as are levied upon consump- 
tions, especially those of luxury, because such taxes are 
least felt by the people. They seem in some measure 
voluntary, since a man may choose how far he will use 
the commodity which is taxed. They are paid gradu- 
ally and insensibly ; they naturally produce sobriety 
and frugality, if judiciously imposed; and being con- 
founded with the natural price of the commodity, 
they are scarcely perceived by the consumers. Their 
only disadvantage is, that they are expensive in the 

Taxes upon possessions are levied without expense, 
but have every other disadvantage. Most states, how- 
ever, are obliged to have recourse to them, in order to 
supply the deficiencies of the other. 

But the most pernicious of all taxes are the arbitrary. 
They are commonly converted, by their management, 
into punishments on industry ; and also, by their una- 
voidable inequality, are more grievous, than by the 
real burden which they impose. It is surprising, there- 
fore, to see them have place among any civilized people. 

In general, all poll-taxes, even when not arbitrary, 
which they commonly are, may be esteemed dangerous : 
because it is so easy for the sovereign to add a little 
more, and a little more, to the sum demanded, that these 
taxes are apt to become altogether oppressive and intol- 
erable. On the other hand, a duty upon commodities 
checks itself; and a prince will soon find, that an increase 
of the impost is no increase of his revenue. It is not 
easy, therefore, for a people to be altogether ruined by 
such taxes. 

Historians inform us, that one of the chief causes of 
the destruction of the Roman state, was the alteration 
which Constantine introduced into the finances, by sub- 

vol. in. 48 


stituting an universal poll-tax, in lieu of almost all the 
tithes, customs, and excises, which formerly composed 
the revenue of the empire. The people, in all the prov- 
inces, were so grinded and oppressed by the publicans, 
that they were glad to take refuge under the conquer- 
ing arms of the barbarians, whose dominion, as they had 
fewer necessities and less art, was found preferable to 
the refined tyranny of the Romans. 

It is an opinion, zealously promoted by some political 
writers, that, since all taxes, as they pretend, fall ulti- 
mately upon land, it were better to lay them originally 
there, and abolish every duty upon consumptions. But 
it is denied that all taxes fall ultimately upon land. If 
a duty be laid upon any commodity consumed by an 
artisan, he has two obvious expedients for paying it : he 
may retrench somewhat of his expense, or he may in- 
crease his labor. Both these resources are more easy 
and natural than that of heightening his wages. We 
see, that, in years of scarcity, the weaver either con- 
sumes less or labors more, or employs both these expe- 
dients of frugality and industry, by which he is enabled 
to reach the end of the year. It is but just that he 
should subject himself to the same hardships, if they 
deserve the name, for the sake of the public which gives 
him protection. By what contrivance can he raise the 
price of his labor ? The manufacturer who employs 
him will not give him more : neither can he, because the 
merchant who exports the cloth cannot raise its price, 
being limited by the price which it yields in foreign 
markets. Every man, to be sure, is desirous of pushing 
off from himself the burden of any tax which is im- 
posed, and of laying it upon others : but as every man 
has the same inclination, and is upon the defensive, no 
set of men can be supposed to prevail altogether in this 

OF TAXES. 379 

contest. And why the landed gentleman should be the 
victim of the whole, and should not be able to defend 
himself, as well as others are, I cannot readily imagine. 
All tradesmen, indeed, would willingly prey upon him, 
and divide him among them, if they could : but this in- 
clination they always have, though no taxes were levied ; 
and the same methods by which he guards against the 
imposition of tradesmen before taxes, will serve him 
afterwards, and make them share the burden with him. 
They must be very heavy taxes, indeed, and very inju- 
diciously levied, which the artisan will not, of himself, 
be enabled to pay by superior industry and frugality, 
without raising the price of his labor. 

I shall conclude this subject with observing, that we 
have, with regard to taxes, an instance of what fre- 
quently happens in political institutions, that the con- 
sequences of things are diametrically opposite to what 
w T e should expect on the first appearance. It is re- 
garded as a fundamental maxim of the Turkish gov- 
ernment, that the Grand Seignior, though absolute mas- 
ter of the lives and fortunes of each individual, has no 
authority to impose a new tax : and every Ottoman 
prince, who has made such an attempt, either has been 
obliged to retract, or has found the fatal effects of his 
perseverance. One would imagine, that this prejudice 
or established opinion were the firmest barrier in the 
world against oppression : yet it is certain that its 
effect is quite contrary. The emperor, having no regu- 
lar method of increasing his revenue, must allow all the 
bashaws and governors to oppress and abuse the sub- 
jects ; and these he squeezes after their return from 
their government. Whereas, if he could impose a new 
tax, like our European princes, his interest would so 
far be united with that of his people, that he would 


immediately feel the bad effects of these disorderly 
levies of money, and would find, that a pound, raised 
by a general imposition, would have less pernicious 
effects than a shilling taken in so unequal and arbitrary 
a manner. 



It appears to have been the common practice of an- 
tiquity, to make provision, during peace, for the necessi- 
ties of war, and to hoard up treasures beforehand as the 
instruments either of conquest or defence ; without 
trusting to extraordinary impositions, much less to bor- 
rowing in times of disorder and confusion. Besides the 
immense sums above mentioned,* which were amassed 
by Athens, and by the Ptolemies, and other successors 
of Alexander ; we learn from Plato,f that the frugal 
Lacedemonians had also collected a great treasure ; and 
Arrian J and Plutarch § take notice of the riches which 
Alexander got possession of on the conquest of Susa 
and Ecbatana, and which were reserved, some of them, 
from the time of Cyrus. If I remember right, the 
Scripture also mentions the treasure of Hezekiah and 
the Jewish princes ; as profane history does that of 
Philip and Perseus, kings of Macedon. The ancient re- 

* Essay V. f Alcib. 1. J Ltt>. in- 

§ Plat, in vita Alex. He makes these treasures amount to 80,000 talents, 
or about 15 millions Sterling. Quintius Curtius (lib. v. cap. 2,) says, that 
Alexander found in Susa above 50,000 talents. 

382 ESSAY IX. 

publics of Gaul had commonly large sums in reserve* 
Every one knows the treasure seized in Rome by Julius 
Caesar, during the civil wars : and we find afterwards, 
that the wiser emperors, Augustus, Tiberius, Vespasian, 
Severus, etc. always discovered the prudent foresight of 
saving great sums against any public exigency. 

On the contrary, our modern expedient, which has 
become very general, is to mortgage the public reve- 
nues, and to trust that posterity will pay off the incum- 
brances contracted by their ancestors : and they, hav- 
ing before their eyes so good an example of their wise 
fathers, have the same prudent reliance on their poster- 
ity ; who, at last, from necessity more than choice, are 
obliged to place the same confidence in a new posterity. 
But not to waste time in declaiming against a practice 
which appears ruinous beyond all controversy, it seems 
pretty apparent, that the ancient maxims are, in this 
respect, more prudent than the modern ; even though 
the latter had been confined within some reasonable 
bounds, and had ever, in any instance, been attended 
with such frugality, in time of peace, as to discharge the 
debts incurred by an expensive war. For why should 
the case be so different between the public and an indi- 
vidual, as to make us establish different maxims of con- 
duct for each ? If the funds of the former be greater, 
its necessary expenses are proportionably larger ; if its 
resources be more numerous, they are not infinite ; and 
as its frame should be calculated for a much longer du- 
ration than the date of a single life, or even of a fam- 
ily, it should embrace maxims, large, durable, and gen- 
erous, agreeably to the supposed extent of its existence. 
To trust to chances and temporary expedients, is, in- 

* Strabo, lib. iv. 


deed, what the necessity of human affairs frequently 
renders unavoidable ; but whoever voluntarily depend 
on such resources, have not necessity, but their own 
folly to accuse for their misfortunes, when any such be- 
fall them. 

If the abuses of treasures be dangerous, either by 
engaging the state in rash enterprises, or making it neg- 
lect military discipline, in confidence of its riches ; the 
abuses of mortgaging are more certain and inevitable ; 
poverty, impotence, and subjection to foreign powers. 

According to the modern policy, war is attended with 
every destructive circumstance ; loss of men, increase of 
taxes, decay of commerce, dissipation of money, devasta- 
tion by sea and land. According to ancient maxims, the 
opening of the public treasure, as it produced an un- 
common affluence of gold and silver, served as a tem- 
porary encouragement to industry, and atoned, in some 
degree, for the inevitable calamities of war. 

It is very tempting to a minister to employ such an 
expedient, as enables him to make a great figure during 
his administration, without overburdening the people 
with taxes, or exciting any immediate clamors against 
himself. The practice, therefore, of contracting debt, 
will almost infallibly be abused in every government. 
It would scarcely be more imprudent to give a prodigal 
son a credit in every banker's shop in London, than to 
empower a statesman to draw bills, in this manner, upon 

What, then, shall we say to the new paradox, that 
public incumbrances are, of themselves, advantageous, 
independent of the necessity of contracting them ; and 
that any state, even though it were not pressed by a 
foreign enemy, could not possibly have embraced a wiser 
expedient for promoting commerce and riches, than to 

384 ESSAY IX. 

create funds, and debts, and taxes, without limitation ? 
Beasonings such as these might naturally have passed 
for trials of wit among rhetoricians, like the panegyrics 
on folly and fever, on Busiris and Nero, had we not seen 
such absurd maxims patronized by great ministers, and 
by a whole party among us * 

Let us examine the consequences of public debts, 
both in our domestic management, by their influence on 
commerce and industry ; and in our foreign transactions, 
by their effect on wars and negotiations.*]- 

* Immediately after this, in the Editions F, G, H, N, there followed — 
" And these puzzling arguments (for they deserve not the name of specious), 
though they could not be the foundation of Lord Orford's conduct, for he had 
more sense, served at least to keep his partisans in countenance, and perplex 
the understanding of the nation." 

-J- In Editions F, G, II, N, there followed — " There is a word, which is 
here in the mouth of everybody, and which I find has also got abroad, and is 
much employed by foreign writers,:]: in imitation of the English ; and that is 
Circulation. This word serves as an account of every thing; and though I 
confess that I have sought for its meaning in the present subject, ever since 
I was a schoolboy, I have never yet been able to discover it. What possible 
advantage is there which the nation can reap by the easy transference of 
stock from hand to hand ? Or is there any parallel to be drawn from the 
circulation of other commodities to that of Chequer notes and India bonds ? 
Where a manufacturer has a quick sale of his goods to the merchant, the mer- 
chant to the shopkeeper, the shopkeeper to his customers, this enlivens indus- 
try, and gives new encouragement to the first dealer, or the manufacturer and 
all his tradesmen, and makes them produce more and better commodities of 
the same species. A stagnation is here pernicious, wherever it happens, be- 
cause it operates backwards, and stops or benumbs the industrious hand in its 
production of what is useful to human life. But what production we owe to 
Change Alley, or even what consumption, except that of coffee, and pen, ink, 
and paper, I have not yet learned ; nor can one foresee the loss or decay of 
any one beneficial commerce or commodity, though that place, and all its 
inhabitants, were forever buried in the ocean. 

But though this term, circulation, has never been explained by those who 
insist so much on the advantages that result from it, there seems, however, to 
be some benefit of a similar kind arising from our incumbrances : as indeed, 

} Melon, du Tut, Law, in the Pamphlets published in France. 


Public securities are with us become a kind of money, 
and pass as really at the current price as gold or silver. 
Wherever any profitable undertaking offers itself, how 
expensive however, there are never wanting hands 
enough to embrace it ; nor need a trader, who has sums 
in the public stocks, fear to launch out into the most 
extensive trade ; since he is possessed of funds which 
will answer the most sudden demand that can be made 
upon him. No merchant thinks it necessary to keep by 
him any considerable cash. Bank stock, or India bonds, 
especially the latter, serve all the same purposes; be- 
cause he can dispose of them, or pledge them to a 
banker, in a quarter of an hour ; and at the same time 
they are not idle, even when in his scrutoire, but bring 
him in a constant revenue. In short our national debts 
furnish merchants with a species of money that is con- 
tinually multiplying in their hands, and produces sure 
gain, besides the profits of their commerce. This must 
enable them to trade upon less profit. The small profit 
of the merchant renders the commodity cheaper, causes 
a greater consumption, quickens the labor of the com- 
mon people, and helps to spread arts and industry 
throughout the whole society. 

There are also, we may observe, in England and in all 
states which have both commerce and public debts, a 
set of men, who are half merchants, half stockholders, 
and may be supposed willing to trade for small profits ; 
because commerce is not their principal or sole support, 
and their revenues in the funds are a sure resource for 
themselves and their families. Were there no funds, 
great merchants would have no expedient for realizing 

what human evil is there, which is not attended with some advantage ? This 
we shall endeavor to explain, that we may estimate the weight we ought to 
allow it." 

vol. in. 49 

386 ESSAY IX. 

or securing any part of their profit, but by making pur- 
chases of land; and land has many disadvantages in 
comparison of funds. Requiring more care and inspec- 
tion, it divides the time and attention of the merchant : 
upon any tempting offer or extraordinary accident in 
trade, it is not so easily converted into money ; and as it 
attracts too much, both by the many natural pleasures 
it affords, and the authority it gives, it soon converts 
the citizen into the country gentleman. More men, 
therefore, with large stocks and incomes, may naturally 
be supposed to continue in trade, where there are 
public debts; and this, it must be owned, is of some 
advantage to commerce, by diminishing its profits, pro- 
moting circulation, and encouraging industry * 

But, in opposition to these two favorable circum- 
stances, perhaps of no very great importance, weigh the 
many disadvantages which attend our public debts in 
the whole interior economy of the state : you will find 
no comparison between the ill and the good which 
result from them. 

First, It is certain that national debts cause a mighty 
confluence of people and riches to the capital, by the 
great sums levied in the provinces to pay the interest, 
and perhaps, too, by the advantages in trade above men- 
tioned, which they give the merchants in the capital 
above the rest of the kingdom. The question is, 
Whether, in our case, it be for the public interest that 
so many privileges should be conferred on London, 

* In Editions F, G, II, there is the following note. " On this head I shall 
observe, without interrupting the thread of the argument, that the multiplicity 
of our public debts serves rather to sink the interest, and that the more the 
government borrows, the cheaper may they expect to borrow, contrary to past 
experience, and contrary to common opinion. The profits of trade have an 
influence on interest." See Discourse IV. 


"which has already arrived at such an enormous size, 
and seems still increasing? Some men are apprehen- 
sive of the consequences. For my own part, I cannot 
forbear thinking, that, though the head is undoubtedly 
too large for the body, yet that great city is so happily 
situated, that its excessive bulk causes less inconvenience 
than even a smaller capital to a greater kingdom. 
There is more difference between the prices of all pro- 
visions in Paris and Languedoc, than between those in 
London and Yorkshire. The immense greatness, in- 
deed, of London, under a government which admits not 
of discretionary power, renders the people factious, mu- 
tinous, seditious, and even perhaps rebellious. But to 
this evil the national debts themselves tend to provide 
a remedy. The first visible eruption, or even imme- 
diate danger of public disorders, must alarm all the 
stockholders, whose property is the most precarious of 
any ; and will make them fly to the support of govern- 
ment, whether menaced by Jacobitish violence, or demo- 
cratical frenzy. 

Secondly, Public stocks, being a kind of paper-credit, 
have all the disadvantages attending that species of 
money. They banish gold and silver from the most 
considerable commerce of the state, reduce them to 
common circulation, and by that means render all pro- 
visions and labor dearer than otherwise they would be.* 

Thirdly, The taxes which are levied to pay the in- 

* We may also remark, that this increase of prices, derived from paper- 
credit, has a more durable and a more dangerous influence than when it arises 
from a great increase of gold and silver : where an accidental overflow of 
money raises the price of labor and commodities, the evil remedies itself in a 
little time. The money soon flows out into all the neighboring nations : the 
prices fall to a level : and industry may be continued as before ; a relief which 
cannot be expected where the circulating specie consists chiefly of paper, and 
has no intrinsic value. — Edition N. 

388 ESSAY IX. 

terest of these debts are apt either to heighten the 
price of labor, or to be an oppression on the poorer 

Fourthly, As foreigners possess a great share of our 
national funds, they render the public in a manner 
tributary to them, and may in time occasion the trans- 
port of our people and our industry. 

Fifthly, The greater part of the public stock being 
always in the hands of idle people, who live on their 
revenue, our funds, in that view, give great encourage- 
ment to an useless and inactive life. 

But though the injury that arises to commerce and 
industry from our public funds will appear, upon balanc- 
ing the whole, not inconsiderable, it is trivial in compar- 
ison of the prejudice that results to a state considered 
as a body politic, which must support itself in the soci- 
ety of nations, and have various transactions with other 
states in wars and negotiations. The ill there is pure 
and unmixed, without any favorable circumstance to 
atone for it ; and it is an ill too of a nature the highest 
and most important. 

We have indeed been told, that the public is no 
weaker on account of its debts, since they are mostly 
due among ourselves, and bring as much property to 
one as they take from another. It is like transferring 
money from the right hand to the left, which leaves the 
person neither richer nor poorer than before. Such 
loose reasoning and specious comparisons will always 
pass where we judge not upon principles. I ask, Is it 
possible, in the nature of things, to overburden a nation 
with taxes, even where the sovereign resides among 
them ? The very doubt seems extravagant, since it 
is requisite, in every community, that there be a certain 
proportion observed between the laborious and the idle 


part of it. But if all our present taxes be mortgaged, 
must we not invent new ones ? And may not this 
matter be carried to a length that is ruinous and de- 
structive ? 

In every nation there are always some methods of 
levying money more easy than others, agreeably to the 
way of living of the people, and the commodities they 
make use of. In Great Britain, the excises upon malt 
and beer afford a large revenue, because the operations 
of malting and brewing are tedious, and are impossible 
to be concealed ; and, at the same time, these com- 
modities are not so absolutely necessary to life as that 
the raising of their price would very much affect the 
poorer sort. These taxes being all mortgaged, what 
difficulty to find new ones ! what vexation and ruin of 
the poor ! 

Duties upon consumptions are more equal and easy 
than those upon possessions. What a loss to the pub- 
lic that the former are all exhausted, and that we must 
have recourse to the more grievous method of levying 
taxes ! 

Were all the proprietors of land only stewards to 
the public, must not necessity force them to practise all 
the arts of oppression used by stewards, where the ab- 
sence or negligence of the proprietor render them 
secure against injury ? 

It will scarcely be asserted, that no bounds ought 
ever to be set to national debts, and that the public 
would be no weaker were twelve or fifteen shillings in 
the pound, land-tax, mortgaged, with all the present 
customs and excises. There is something, therefore, in 
the case, beside the mere transferring of property from 
the one hand to another. In five hundred years, the 
posterity of those now in the coaches, and of those upon 

390 ESSAY IX. 

the boxes, will probably have changed places, without 
affecting the public by these revolutions. 

Suppose the public once fairly brought to that con- 
dition to which it is hastening with such amazing rapid- 
ity ; suppose the land to be taxed eighteen or nineteen 
shillings in the pound, for it can never bear the whole 
twenty ; suppose all the excises and customs to be 
screwed up to the utmost which the nation can bear, 
without entirely losing its commerce and industry ; and 
suppose that all those funds are mortgaged to perpe- 
tuity, and that the invention and wit of all our projec- 
tors can find no new imposition which may serve as the 
foundation of a new loan ; and let us consider the neces- 
sary consequences of this situation. Though the imper- 
fect state of our political knowledge, and the narrow 
capacities of men, make it difficult to foretell the effects 
which will result from any untried measure, the seeds of 
ruin are here scattered with such profusion as not to 
escape the eye of the most careless observer. 

In this unnatural state of society, the only persons 
who possess any revenue beyond the immediate effects 
of their industry, are the stockholders, who draw almost 
all the rent of the land and houses, besides the produce 
of all the customs and excises. These are men who 
have no connections with the state, who can enjoy their 
revenue in any part of the globe in which they choose 
to reside, who will naturally bury themselves in the cap- 
ital, or in great cities, and who will sink into the leth- 
argy of a stupid and pampered luxury, without spirit, 
ambition, or enjoyment. Adieu to all ideas of nobility, 
gentry, and family. The stocks can be transferred in 
an instant ; and, being in such a fluctuating state, will 
seldom be transmitted during three generations from 
father to son. Or were they to remain ever so long in 


one family, they convey no hereditary authority or 
credit to the possessor ; and by this means the several 
ranks of men, which form a kind of independent magis- 
tracy in a state, instituted by the hand of nature, are 
entirely lost ; and every man in authority derives his 
influence from the commission alone of the sovereign. 
No expedient remains for preventing or suppressing in- 
surrections but mercenary armies : no expedient at all 
remains for resisting tyranny : elections are swayed by 
bribery and corruption alone : and the middle power 
between king and people being totally removed, a 
grievous despotism must infallibly prevail. The land- 
holders, despised for their poverty, and hated for their 
oppressions, will be utterly unable to make any opposi- 
tion to it. 

Though a resolution should be formed by the legis- 
lature never to impose any tax which hurts commerce 
and discourages industry, it will be impossible for men, 
in subjects of such extreme delicacy, to reason so justly 
as never to be mistaken, or, amidst difficulties so urgent, 
never to be seduced from their resolution. The con- 
tinual fluctuations in commerce require continual altera- 
tions in the nature of the taxes, which exposes the legis- 
lature every moment to the danger both of wilful and 
involuntary error. And any great blow given to trade, 
whether by injudicious taxes or by other accidents, 
throws the whole system of government into confusion. 

But what expedient can the public now employ, even 
supposing trade to continue in the most nourishing con- 
dition, in order to support its foreign wars and enter- 
prises, and to defend its own honor and interest, or 
those of its allies ? I do not ask how the public is to 
exert such a prodigious power as it has maintained dur- 
ing our late wars; where we have so much exceeded, 

392 ESSAY IX. 

not only our own natural strength, but even that of the 
greatest empires. This extravagance is the abuse com- 
plained of, as the source of all the dangers to which we 
are at present exposed. But since we must still sup- 
pose great commerce and opulence to remain, even 
after every fund is mortgaged ; these riches must be de- 
fended by proportional power ; and whence is the pub- 
lic to derive the revenue which supports it ? It must 
plainly be from a continual taxation of the annuitants, 
or, which is the same thing, from mortgaging anew, on 
every exigency, a certain part of their annuities ; and 
thus making them contribute to their own defence, and 
to that of the nation. But the difficulties attending 
this system of policy will easily appear, whether we 
suppose the king to have become absolute master, or to 
be still controlled by national councils, in which the 
annuitants themselves must necessarily bear the princi- 
pal sway. 

If the prince has become absolute, as may naturally 
be expected from this situation of affairs, it is so easy 
for him to increase his exactions upon the annuitants, 
which amount only to the retaining of money in his 
own hands, that this species of property would soon lose 
all its credit, and the whole income of every individual 
in the state must lie entirely at the mercy of the sove- 
reign; a degree of despotism which no oriental mon- 
archy has ever yet attained. If, on the contrary, the 
consent of the annuitants be requisite for every taxa- 
tion, they will never be persuaded to contribute suffi- 
ciently even to the support of government; as the 
diminution of their revenue must in that case be very 
sensible, it would not be disguised under the appearance 
of a branch of excise or customs, and would not be 
shared by any other order of the state, who are already 


supposed to be taxed to the utmost. There are in- 
stances, in some republics, of a hundredth penny, and 
sometimes of the fiftieth, being given to the support of 
the state ; but this is always an extraordinary exertion 
of power, and can never become the foundation of a con- 
stant national defence. We have always found, where 
a government has mortgaged all its revenues, that it 
necessarily sinks into a state of languor, inactivity, and 

Such are the inconveniences which may reasonably 
be foreseen of this situation to which Great Britain is 
visibly tending. Not to mention the numberless incon- 
veniences, which cannot be foreseen, and which must 
result from so monstrous a situation as that of making 
the public the chief or sole proprietor of land, besides 
investing it with every branch of customs and excise, 
which the fertile imagination of ministers and projectors 
have been able to invent. 

I must confess that there has a strange supineness, 
from long custom, creeped into all ranks of men, with 
regard to public debts, not unlike what divines so ve- 
hemently complain of with regard to their religious doc- 
trines. We all own that the most sanguine imagination 
cannot hope, either that this or any future ministry will 
be possessed of such rigid and steady frugality, as to 
make a considerable progress in the payment of our 
debts; or that the situation of foreign affairs will, for 
any long time, allow them leisure and tranquillity for 
such an undertaking.* What then is to become of us? 

* In times of peace and security, when alone it is possible to pay debt, the 
moneyed interest are averse to receive partial payments, which they know 
not how to dispose of to advantage ; and the landed interest arc averse to 
continue the taxes requisite for that purpose. Why therefore should a min- 
ister persevere in a measure so disagreeable to all parties ? For the sake, I 
VOL. III. 50 

394 ESSAY IX. 

Were we ever so good Christians, and ever so resigned 
to Providence ; this, methinks, were a curious question, 
even considered as a speculative one, and what it might 
not be altogether impossible to form some conjectural 
solution of. The events here will depend little upon 
the contingencies of battles, negotiations, intrigues, and 
factions. There seems to be a natural progress of 
things which may guide our reasoning. As it would 
have required but a moderate share of prudence, when 
we first began this practice of mortgaging, to have fore- 
told, from the nature of men and of ministers, that 
things would necessarily be carried to the length we 
see ; so now, that they have at last happily reached it, 
it may not be difficult to guess at the consequences. 
It must, indeed, be one of these two events ; either the 
nation must destroy public credit, or public credit will 
destroy the nation. It is impossible that they can both 
subsist, after the manner they have been hitherto man- 
aged, in this, as well as in some other countries. 

There was, indeed, a scheme for the payment of our 
debts, which was proposed by an excellent citizen, Mr. 
Hutchinson, above thirty years ago, and which was 
much approved of by some men of sense, but never was 
likely to take effect. He asserted that there was a fal- 
lacy in imagining that the public owed this debt ; for 
that really every individual owed a proportional share 
of it, and paid, in his taxes, a proportional share of the 
interest, beside the expense of levying these taxes. 
Had we not better, then, says he, make a distribution of 

suppose, of a posterity which he will never see, or of a few reasonable reflect- 
ing people, whose united interest perhaps will not be able to secure him the 
smallest borough in England. It is not likely we shall ever find any minister 
so bad a politician. With regard to these narrow destructive maxims of 
politics, all ministers are expert enough. — Editions F, G, II, N, 


the debt among ourselves, and each of us contribute a 
sum suitable to his property, and by that means dis- 
charge at once all our funds and public mortgages ? 
He seems not to have considered that the laborious 
poor pay a considerable part of the taxes by their an- 
nual consumptions, though they could not advance, at 
once, a proportional part of the sum required. Not to 
mention, that property in money and stock in trade 
might easily be concealed or disguised ; and that visible 
property in lands and houses would really at last answer 
for the whole ; an inequality and oppression which 
never would be submitted to. But though this project 
is not likely to take place, it is not altogether improb- 
able, that when the nation becomes heartily sick of 
their debts, and is cruelly oppressed by them, some 
daring projector may arise with visionary schemes for 
their discharge. And as public credit will begin, by 
that time, to be a little frail, the least touch will destroy 
it, as happened in France during the regency ; and in 
this manner it will die of the doctor* 

But it is more probable, that the breach of national 
faith will be the necessary effect of wars, defeats, mis- 
fortunes, and public calamities, or even perhaps of vic- 

* " Some neighbouring states practice an easy expedient, by which they 
lighten their public debts. The French have a custom (as the Romans for- 
merly had) of augmenting their money ; and this the nation has been so much 
familiarized to, that it hurts not public credit, though it be really cutting oiF 
at once, by an edict, so much of their debts. The Dutch diminish the interest 
without the consent of their creditors, or, which is the same thing, they arbi- 
trarily tax the funds, as well as other property. Could we practise either of 
these methods, we need never be oppressed by the national debt ; and it is 
not impossible but one of these, or some other method, may, at all adventures, 
be tried on the augmentation of our incumbrances and difficulties. But 
people in this country are so good reasoners upon whatever regards their 
interests, that such a practice will deceive nobody ; and public credit will 
probably tremble at once, by so dangerous a trial." — Editions F, G, II, N, 

396 ESSAY IX. 

tories and conquests. I must confess, when I see princes 
and states fighting and quarrelling, amidst their debts, 
funds, and public mortgages, it always brings to my 
mind a match of cudgel-playing fought in a China shop. 
How can it be expected, that sovereigns will spare a 
species of property, which is pernicious to themselves 
and to the public, when they have so little compassion 
on lives and properties that are useful to both ? Let the 
time come (and surely it will come) when the new 
funds, created for the exigencies of the year, are not 
subscribed to, and raise not the money projected. Sup- 
pose either that the cash of the nation is exhausted ; or 
that our faith, which has hitherto been so ample, begins 
to fail us. Suppose that, in this distress, the nation is 
threatened with an invasion ; a rebellion is suspected or 
broken out at home ; a squadron cannot be equipped for 
want of pay, victuals, or repairs ; or even a foreign sub- 
sidy cannot be advanced. What must a prince or min- 
ister do in such an emergence ? The right of self-pres- 
ervation is unalienable in every individual, much more 
in every community. And the folly of our statesmen 
must then be greater than the folly of those who first 
contracted debt ; or what is more, than that of those 
who trusted, or continue to trust this security, if these 
statesmen have the means of safety in their hands, and 
do not employ them. The funds, created and mort- 
gaged, will by that time bring in a large yearly rev- 
enue, sufficient for the defence and security of the na- 
tion : money is perhaps lying in the exchequer, ready 
for the discharge of the quarterly interest : necessity 
calls, fear urges, reason exhorts, compassion alone ex- 
claims : the money will immediately be seized for the 
current service, under the most solemn protestations, 
perhaps of being immediately replaced. But no more 


is requisite. The whole fabric, already tottering, falls to 
the ground, and buries thousands in its ruins. And this, 
I think, may be called the natural death of public credit ; 
for to this period it tends as naturally as an animal body 
to its dissolution and destruction. 

So great dupes are the generality of mankind, that 
notwithstanding such a violent shock to public credit, as 
a voluntary bankruptcy in England would occasion, it 
would not probably be long ere credit would again revive 
in as flourishing a condition as before. The present king 
of France, during the late war, borrowed money at a 
lower interest than ever his grandfather did ; and as low 
as the British Parliament, comparing the natural rate of 
interest in both kingdoms. And though men are com- 
monly more governed by what they have seen, than by 
what they foresee, with whatever certainty ; yet prom- 
ises, protestations, fair appearances, with the allurements 
of present interest, have such powerful influence as few 
are able to resist. Mankind are, in all ages, caught by 
the same baits : the same tricks played over and over 
again, still trepan them. The heights of popularity and 
patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny; 
flattery, to treachery ; standing armies to arbitrary gov- 
ernment ; and the glory of God to the temporal interest 
of the clergy. The fear of an everlasting destruction 
of credit, allowing it to be an evil, is a needless bugbear. 
A prudent man, in reality, would rather lend to the 
public immediately after we had taken a spunge to our 
debts, than at present ; as much as an opulent knave, 
even though one could not force him to pay, is a prefer- 
able debtor to an honest bankrupt : for the former, in 
order to carry on business, may find it his interest to 
discharge his debts, where they are not exorbitant : the 

398 ESSAY IX. 

latter has it not in his power. The reasoning of Tacitus,* 
as it is eternally true, is very applicable to our present 
case. Sed valgus ad magnitudinem beneficiorum aderat : still- 
tissimus qaisque pecuniis mercabatur : apad sajricntes cassa 
habebantur, quce neque dari neque accipi, salva republican pote- 
rant. The public is a debtor, whom no man can oblige 
to pay. The only check which the creditors have upon 
her, is the interest of preserving credit; an interest 
which may easily be overbalanced by a great debt, 
and by a difficult and extraordinary emergence, even 
supposing that credit irrecoverable. Not to men- 
tion, that a present necessity often forces states into 
measures, which are, strictly speaking, against their 

These two events supposed above, are calamitous, but 
not the most calamitous. Thousands are thereby sacri- 
ficed to the safety of millions. But we are not without 
danger, that the contrary event may take place, and 
that millions may be sacrificed for ever to the temporary 
safety of thousands.^ Our popular government, per- 
haps, will render it difficult or dangerous for a minister 
to venture on so desperate an expedient as that of a 
voluntary bankruptcy. And though the House of Lords 

* Hist. lib. iii. 

f I have heard it lias been computed, that all the creditors of the public, 
natives and foreigners, amount only to 17,000. These make a figure at 
present on their income ; but, in case of a public bankruptcy, would, in an 
instant, become the lowest, as well as the most wretched of the people. The 
dignity and authority of the landed gentry and nobility is much better rooted, 
and would render the contention very unequal, if ever we come to that ex- 
tremity. One would incline to assign to this event a very near period, such 
as half a century, had not our fathers' prophecies of this kind been alrcady 
found fallacious, by the duration of our public credit so much beyond all rea- 
sonable expectation. When the astrologers in France were every year fore- 
telling the death of Henry IV., " These fellows," says he, " must be right at 
last." We shall, therefore, be more cautious than to assign any precise date ; 
and shall content ourselves with pointing out the event in general. 


be altogether composed of proprietors of land, and the 
House of Commons chiefly ; and consequently neither 
of them can be supposed to have great property in the 
funds : yet the connections of the members may be so 
great with the proprietors, as to render them more tena- 
cious of public faith than prudence, policy, or even jus- 
tice, strictly speaking, requires. And perhaps, too, our 
foreign enemies may be so politic as to discover, that 
our safety lies in despair, and may not therefore show 
the danger, open and barefaced, till it be inevitable. 
The balance of power in Europe, our grandfathers, our 
fathers, and we, have all deemed too unequal to be pre- 
served without our attention and assistance. But our 
children, weary of the struggle, and fettered with incum- 
brances, may sit down secure, and see their neighbors 
oppressed and conquered ; till, at last, they themselves 
and their creditors lie both at the mercy of the con- 
queror. And this may properly enough be denominated 
the violent death of our public credit. 

These seem to be the events, which are not very re- 
mote, and which reason foresees as clearly almost as she 
can do any thing that lies in the womb of time. And 
though the ancients maintained, that in order to reach 
the gift of prophecy, a certain divine fury or madness 
was requisite, one may safely affirm, that in order to de- 
liver such prophecies as these, no more is necessary than 
merely to be in one's senses, free from the influence of 
popular madness and delusion. 



I shall observe three remarkable customs in three 
celebrated governments; and shall conclude from the 
whole, that all general maxims in politics ought to be 
established with great caution ; and that irregular and 
extraordinary appearances are frequently discovered in 
the moral, as well as in the physical world. The former, 
perhaps, we can better account for after they happen, 
from springs and principles, of which every one has, 
within himself, or from observation, the strongest assur- 
ance and conviction : but it is often fully as impossible 
for human prudence, beforehand, to foresee and foretell 

I. One would think it essential to every supreme coun- 
cil or assembly which debates, that entire liberty of 
speech should be granted to every member, and that all 
motions or reasonings should be received, which can any 
way tend to illustrate the point under deliberation. One 
would conclude, with still greater assurance, that after a 
motion was made, which was voted and approved by 
that assembly in which the legislative power is lodged, 
the member who made the motion must for ever be ex- 
empted from future trial or inquiry. But no political 


maxim can, at first sight, appear more indisputable, than 
that he must, at least, be secured from all inferior juris- 
diction ; and that nothing less than the same supreme 
legislative assembly in their subsequent meetings, could 
make him accountable for those motions and harangues, 
to which they had before given their approbation. But 
these axioms, however irrefragable they may appear, 
have all failed in the Athenian government, from causes 
and principles too, which appear almost inevitable. 

By the yqacprj Tianavoucov, or indictment of illegality , 
(though it has not been remarked by antiquaries or com- 
mentators,) any man was tried and punished in a com- 
mon court of judicature, for any law which had passed 
upon his motion, in the assembly of the people, if that 
law appeared to the court unjust, or prejudicial to the 
public. Thus Demosthenes, finding that ship-money was 
leA'ied irregularly, and that the poor bore the same bur- 
den as the rich in equipping the galleys, corrected this 
inequality by a very useful law, which proportioned the 
expense to the revenue and income of each individual. 
He moved for this law in the assembly ; he proved its 
advantages ; :;: he convinced the people, the only legisla- 
ture in Athens ; the law passed, and was carried into 
execution : yet was he tried in a criminal court for that 
law, upon the complaint of the rich, who resented the 
alteration that he had introduced into the finances.f 
He was indeed acquitted, upon proving anew the useful- 
ness of his law. 

Ctesiphon moved in the assembly of the people, that 
particular honors should be conferred on Demosthenes, 
as on a citizen affectionate and useful to the common- 

* His harangue for it is still extant : Ilepl ^v/ifiopiag. 
f Pro Ctesiphonte. 
VOL. III. 51 

402 ESSAY X. 

wealth : the people, convinced of this truth, voted those 
honors : yet was Ctesiphon tried by the yycccpi] naqavo- 
jncov. It was asserted, among other topics, that Demos- 
thenes was not a good citizen, nor affectionate to the 
commonwealth : and the orator was called upon to de- 
fend his friend, and consequently himself; which he ex- 
ecuted by that sublime piece of eloquence that has ever 
since been the admiration of mankind. 

After the battle of Cha3ronea, a law was passed upon 
the motion of Hyperides, giving liberty to slaves, and 
enrolling them in the troops* On account of this law, 
the orator was afterwards tried by the indictment 
above mentioned, and defended himself, among other 
topics, by that stroke celebrated by Plutarch and Lon- 
ginus. It was not 7, said he, that moved for this law : it was 
the necessities of ivar ; it was the battle of Chceronea. The 
orations of Demosthenes abound with many instances 
of trials of this nature, and prove clearly, that nothing 
was more commonly practised. 

The Athenian Democracy was such a tumultuous 
government as we can scarcely form a notion of in the 
present age of the world. The whole collective body 
of the people voted in every law, without any limita- 
tion of j>roperty, without any distinction of rank, with- 
out control from any magistracy or senate ; f and con- 
sequently without regard to order, justice, or prudence. 
The Athenians soon became sensible of the mischiefs 
attending this constitution : but being averse to check- 

* Plutarclms in vita Decern Oratorum. Demosthenes gives a different ac- 
count of this law. Contra Aristogiton, orat. II. He says, that its purport 
was, to render the utl[iol i-irifioL, or to restore the privilege of bearing offices 
to those who had been declared incapable. Perhaps these were both clauses 
of the same law. 

f The senate of the Bean was only a less numerous mob, chosen by lot 
from among the people, and their authority was not great. 


ing themselves by any rule or restriction, they resolved, 
at least to check their demagogues or counsellors, by 
the fear of future punishment and inquiry. They ac- 
cordingly instituted this remarkable law, a law esteemed 
so essential to their form of government, that iEschines 
insists on it as a known truth, that were it abolished 
or neglected, it were impossible for the Democracy to 

The people feared not any ill consequence to liberty 
from the authority of the criminal courts, because these 
were nothing but very numerous juries, chosen by lot 
from among the people. And they justly considered 
themselves as in a state of perpetual pupilage, where 
they had an authority, after they came to the use of 
reason, not only to retract and control whatever had 
been determined, but to punish any guardian for meas- 
ures which they had embraced by his persuasion. 
The same law had place in Thebes, f and for the same 

It appears to have been a usual practice in Athens, 
on the establishment of any law esteemed very useful 
or popular, to prohibit for ever its abrogation and re- 

Thus the demagogue, who diverted all the public rev- 
enues to the support of shows and spectacles, made it 
criminal so much as to move for a repeal of this law. J 
Thus Leptines moved for a law, not only to recall all the 
immunities formerly granted, but to deprive the people 

* In Ctcsipbontcm. It is remarkable, that the first stop after the dissolution 
of the Democracy by Critias and the thirty, "was to annul the ypao// -aoavouup, 
as we learn from Demosthenes Kara Tulok. The orator in this oration, gives us 
the words of the law, establishing the ypaoy xapavofiuv, page 2!) 7, ex edit. Aldi. 
And he accounts for it from the same principles we here reason upon. 

t Plut in vita Pelop. J Demost. Olynth. 1, 2. 

404 ESSAY X. 

for the future of the power of granting any more.* 
Thus all bills of attainder -j- were forbid, or laws that 
affected one Athenian, without extending to the whole 
commonwealth. These absurd clauses, by which the 
legislature vainly attempted to bind itself for ever, pro- 
ceeded from an universal sense in the people of their 
own levity and inconstancy. 

II. A wheel within a wheel, such as we observe in 
the German empire, is considered by Lord Shaftesbury J 
as an absurdity in politics : but what must w r e say to 
two equal wheels, which govern the same political ma- 
chine, without any mutual check, control, or subordina- 
tion, and yet preserve the greatest harmony and con- 
cord ? To establish two distinct legislatures, each of 
which possesses full and absolute authority within itself, 
and stands in no need of the other's assistance, in order 
to give validity to its acts ; this may appear, beforehand, 
altogether impracticable, as long as men are actuated 
by the passions of ambition, emulation, and avarice, 
which have hitherto been their chief governing princi- 
ples. And should I assert, that the state I have in my 
eye was divided into two distinct factions, each of which 
predominated in a distinct legislature, and yet produced 
no clashing in these independent powers, the supposi- 
tion may appear incredible. And if, to augment the 
paradox, I should affirm, that this disjointed, irregular 
government, was the most active, triumphant, and illus- 
trious commonwealth that ever yet appeared ; I should 
certainly be told, that such a political chimera was as 
absurd as any vision of priests or poets. But there is 
no need for searching long, in order to prove the reality 

* Demost. contra Lept. f Dcmost. contra Aristocratem. 

J Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humor, Tart 3, § 2. 


of the foregoing suppositions : for this was actually the 
case with the Roman republic. 

The legislative power was there lodged in the comitia 
centuriata and comitia tributa. In the former, it is well 
known, the people voted according to their census, so 
that when the first class was unanimous, though it con- 
tained not perhaps the hundreth part of the common- 
wealth, it determined the whole ; and, with the author- 
ity of the senate, established a law. In the latter every 
vote was equal ; and as the authority of the senate was 
not there requisite, the lower people entirely prevailed, 
and gave law to the whole state. In all party divisions, 
at first between the Patricians and Plebeians, afterwards 
between the nobles and the people, the interest of the 
aristocracy was predominant in the first legislature, that 
of the democracy in the second : the one could always 
destroy what the other had established : nay, the one by 
a sudden and unforeseen motion, might take the start 
of the other, and totally annihilate its rival by a vote, 
which, from the nature of the constitution, had the full 
authority of a law. But no such contest is observed in 
the history of Koine : no instance of a quarrel between 
these two legislatures, though many between the parties 
that governed in each. Whence arose this concord, 
which may seem so extraordinary ? 

The legislature established in Home, by the authority 
of Servius Tullius, was the comitia centuriata, which, after 
the expulsion of the kings, rendered the government 
for some time very aristocratical. But the people, hav- 
ing numbers and force on their side, and being elated 
with frequent conquests and victories in their foreign 
wars, always prevailed when pushed to extremity, and 
first extorted from the senate the magistracy of the tri- 
bunes, and next the legislative power of the comitia tri~ 

406 ESSAY X. 

lata. It then behoved the nobles to be more careful 
than ever not to provoke the people. For beside the 
force which the latter were always possessed of, they 
had now got possession of legal authority, and could 
instantly break in pieces any order or institution which 
directly opposed them. By intrigue, by influence, by 
money, by combination, and by the respect paid to their 
character, the nobles might often prevail, and direct the 
whole machine of government: but had they openly 
set their comitia centuriata in opposition to the tributa, 
they had soon lost the advantage of that institution, 
together with their consuls, praetors, ediles, and all the 
magistrates elected by it. But the comitia tributa, not 
having the same reason for respecting the centuriata, fre- 
quently repealed laws favorable to the aristocracy : 
they limited the authority of the nobles, protected the 
people from oppression, and controlled the actions of the 
senate and magistracy. The centuriata found it conven- 
ient always to submit ; and though equal in authority, 
yet being inferior in power, durst never directly give 
any shock to the other legislature, either by repealing 
its laws, or establishing laws which it foresaw would 
soon be repealed by it. 

No instance is found of any opposition or struggle 
between these comitia, except one slight attempt of this 
kind, mentioned by Appian in the third book of his Civil 
Wars. Mark Antony, resolving to deprive Decimus 
Brutus of the government of Cisalpine Gaul, railed in 
the Forum, and called one of the comitia, in order to pre- 
vent the meeting of the other, which had been ordered 
by the senate. But affairs were then fallen into such 
confusion, and the Roman constitution was so near its 
final dissolution, that no inference can be drawn from 
such an expedient. This contest, besides, was founded 


more on form than party. It was the senate who 
ordered the comilla tributa, that they might obstruct the 
meeting of the ceizttiriata, which, by the constitution, or 
at least forms of the government, could alone dispose of 

Cicero was recalled by the comitia centuriata, though 
banished by the iribida, that is, by a plebiscitum. But his 
banishment, we may observe, never was considered as a 
le^al deed, arising from the free choice and inclination 
of the people. It was always ascribed to the violence 
alone of Clodius, and to the disorders introduced by him 
into the government. 

III. The third custom which we purpose to remark re- 
gards England, and, though it be not so important as 
those which we have pointed out in Athens and Borne, 
is no less singular and unexpected. It is a maxim in 
politics, which we readily admit as undisputed and uni- 
versal, that a power, however great, when granted by 
law to an eminent magistrate, is not so dangerous to lib- 
erty as an authority, however inconsiderable, which he 
acquires from violence and usurpation. For besides that 
the law always limits every power which it bestows, the 
very receiving it as a concession establishes the author- 
ity whence it is derived, and preserves the harmony of 
the constitution. By the same right that one preroga- 
tive is assumed without law, another may also be claimed, 
and another, with still greater facility ; while the first 
usurpations both serve as precedents to the following, 
and give force to maintain them. Hence the heroism of 
Hampden's conduct, who sustained the whole violence 
of royal prosecution, rather than pay a tax of twenty 
shillings not imposed by Parliament ; hence the care of 
all English patriots to guard against the first encroach- 
ments of the crown ; and hence alone the existence, at 
this day, of English liberty. 

408 ESSAY X. 

There is, however, one occasion where the Parliament 
has departed from this maxim ; and that is, in the press- 
ing of seamen. The exercise of an irregular power is here 
tacitly permitted in the crown ; and though it has fre- 
quently been under deliberation how that power might 
be rendered legal, and granted, under proper restrictions, 
to the sovereign, no safe expedient could ever be pro- 
posed for that purpose ; and the danger to liberty always 
appeared greater from law than from usurpation. When 
this power is exercised to no other end than to man the 
navy, men willingly submit to it from a sense of its use 
and necessity ; and the sailors, who are alone affected by 
it, find nobody to support them in claiming the rights 
and privileges which the law grants, without distinction, 
to all English subjects. But w T ere this power, on any 
occasion, made an instrument of faction or ministerial 
tyranny, the opposite faction, and indeed all lovers of 
their country, would immediately take the alarm, and 
support the injured party; the liberty of Englishmen 
would be asserted ; juries would be implacable ; and the 
tools of tyranny, acting both against law and equity, 
would meet with the severest vengeance. On the other 
hand, were the Parliament to grant such an authority, 
they would probably fall into one of these two incon- 
veniences. They would either bestow it under so many 
restrictions as would make it lose its effect, by cramp- 
ing the authority of the crown ; or they would render 
it so large and comprehensive as might give occasion to 
great abuses, for which we could, in that case, have no 
remedy. The very irregularity of the practice at pres- 
ent prevents its abuses, by affording so easy a remedy 
against them. 

I pretend not, by this reasoning, to exclude all possi- 
bility of contriving a register for seamen, which might 


man the navy without being dangerous to liberty. I 
only observe, that no satisfactory scheme of that nature 
has yet been proposed. Rather than adopt any project 
hitherto invented, we continue a practice seemingly the 
most absurd and unaccountable. Authority, in times of 
full internal peace and concord, is armed against law. 
A continued violence is permitted in the crown, amidst 
the greatest jealousy and watchfulness in the people ; 
nay, proceeding from those very principles. Liberty, in 
a country of the highest liberty, is left entirely to its 
own defence, without any countenance or protection. 
The wild state of nature is renewed in one of the most 
civilized societies of mankind, and great violence and 
disorder are committed with impunity ; while the one 
party pleads obedience to the supreme magistrate, the 
other the sanction of fundamental laws. 

vol. in. 52 



There is very little ground, either from reason or ob- 
servation, to conclude the world eternal or incorruptible. 

* " An eminent clergyman in Edinburgh, having wrote, some years ago, a 
discourse on the same question with this, of the populousness of ancient na- 
tions, was pleased lately to communicate it to the author. It maintained the 
ojiposite side of the argument, to what is here insisted on, and contained much 
erudition and good reasoning. The author acknowledges to have borrowed, 
with some variations from that discourse, two computations, that with regard 
to the number of inhabitants in Belgium, and that with regard to those in 
Epirus. If this learned gentleman be prevailed on to publish his dissertation, 
it will serve to give great light into the present question, the most curious and 
important of all questions of erudition." 

In Editions II, N, this note is changed as follows. — " An ingenious writer 
has honored this discourse with an answer, full of politeness, erudition, and 
good sense. So learned a refutation would have made the author suspect that 
his reasonings were entirely overthrown, had he not used the precaution, from 
the beginning, to keep himself on the sceptical side ; and having taken this 
advantage of the ground, he was enabled, though with much inferior forces, 
to preserve himself from a total defeat. That Reverend gentleman will always 
find, where his antagonist is so entrenched, that it will be difficult to force him. 
Varro, in such a situation, could defend himself against Hannibal, Pharnaces 
against Crcsar. The author, however, very willingly acknowledges, that his 
antagonist has detected many mistakes both in his authorities and reasonings : 
and it was owing entirely to that gentleman's indulgence, that many more 
errors were not remarked. In this edition, advantage has been taken of his 
learned animadversions, and the Essay has been rendered less imperfect than 
formerly." — Note in Editions F, G. 


The continual and rapid motion of matter, the violent 
revolutions with which every part is agitated, the changes 
remarked in the heavens, the plain traces as well as tra- 
dition of an universal deluge, or general convulsion of 
the elements ; all these prove strongly the mortality of 
this fabric of the world, and its passage, hy corruption 
or dissolution, from one state or order to another. It 
must therefore, as well as each individual form which it 
contains, have its infancy, youth, manhood, and old age; 
and it is probable, that, in all these variations, man, 
equally with every animal and vegetable, will partake. 
In the flourishing age of the world it may be expected, 
that the human species should possess greater vigor both 
of mind and body, more prosperous health, higher spirits, 
longer life, and a stronger inclination and power of gene- 
ration. But if the general system of things, and human 
society of course, have any such gradual revolutions, 
they are too slow to be discernible in that short period 
which is comprehended by history and tradition. Stature 
and force of body, length of life, even courage and ex- 
tent of genius, seem hitherto to have been naturally, in 
all ages, pretty much the same. The arts and sciences, 
indeed, have flourished in one period, and have decayed 
in another; but we may observe, that at the time when 
they rose to greatest perfection among one people, they 
were perhaps totally unknown to all the neighboring 
nations; and though they universally decayed in one 
age, yet in a succeeding generation they again revived, 
and diffused themselves over the world. As far, there- 
fore, as observation reaches, there is no universal differ- 
ence discernible in the human species; and though it 
were allowed, that the universe, like an animal body, 
had a natural progress from infancy to old age, yet as it 
must still be uncertain, whether, at present, it be advanc- 


ing to its point of perfection, or declining from it, we 
cannot thence presuppose any decay in human nature.* 
To prove, therefore, or account for that superior popu- 
lousness of antiquity, which is commonly supposed, by 
the imaginary youth or vigor of the world, will scarcely 
be admitted by any just reasoner. These general physi- 
cal causes ought entirely to be excluded from this ques- 

There are indeed some more particular physical causes 
of importance. Diseases are mentioned in antiquity, 
which are almost unknown to modern medicine ; and 
new diseases have arisen and propagated themselves, of 
which there are no traces in ancient history. In this 
particular we may observe, upon comparison, that the 
disadvantage is much on the side of the moderns. Not 
to mention some others of less moment, the smallpox 
commits such ravages, as would almost alone account 
for the great superiority ascribed to ancient times. The 
tenth or the twelth part of mankind destroyed, every 
generation, should make a vast difference, it may be 
thought, in the numbers of the people ; and when 
joined to venereal distempers, a new plague diffused 
everywhere, this disease is perhaps equivalent, by its 
constant operation, to the three great scourges of man- 
kind, war, pestilence, and famine. Were it certain, 
therefore, that ancient times were more populous than 
the present, and could no moral causes be assigned for 

* Columella says, lib. iii. cap. 8., that in Egypt and Africa the bearing of 
twins was frequent, and even customary; gemini partus familiares, ac pome 
solennes sunt. If tins was true, there is a physical difference both in countries 
and ages. For travellers make no such remarks on these countries at present. 
On the contrary, we are apt to suppose the northern nations more prolific. 
As those two countries were provinces of the Roman empire, it is difficult, 
though not altogether absurd, to suppose that such a man as Columella might 
be mistaken with regard to them. 


so great a change, these physical causes alone, in the 
opinion of many, would be sufficient to give us satisfac- 
tion on that head. 

But is it certain that antiquity was so much more 
populous, as is pretended ? The extravagances of Vos- 
sius, with regard to this subject, are well known. But 
an author of much greater genius and discernment has 
ventured to affirm, that according to the best computa- 
tions which these subjects will admit of, there are not 
now, on the face of the earth, the fiftieth part of man- 
kind, which existed in the time of Julius Caesar* It 
may easily be observed, that the comparison in this case 
must be imperfect, even though we confine ourselves to 
the scene of ancient history ; Europe, and the nations 
round the Mediterranean. We know not exactly the 
numbers of any European kingdom, or even city, at 
present : how can we pretend to calculate those of 
ancient cities and states, where historians have left us 
such imperfect traces ? For my part, the matter ap- 
pears to me so uncertain, that, as I intend to throw to- 
gether some reflections on that head, I shall intermingle 

Q 'ID 

the inquiry concerning causes with that concerning facts; 
which ought never to be admitted, where the facts can 
be ascertained with any tolerable assurance. We shall, 
first, consider whether it be probable, from what we 
know of the situation of society in both periods, that 
antiquity must have been more populous ; secondly, 
whether in reality it was so. If I can make it appear, 
that the conclusion is not so certain as is pretended, in 
favor of antiquity, it is all I aspire to. 

In general, we may observe, that the question with 
regard to the comparative populousness of ages or king- 

* Lettres Persanes. See also L'Esprit de Loix, lib. xxiii. cap. 17, IS, 19. 

414 ESSAY XI. 

doms, implies important consequences, and commonly 
determines concerning the preference of their whole 
police, their manners, and the constitution of their gov- 
ernment, For as there is in all men, both male and 
female, a desire and power of generation, more active 
than is ever universally exerted, the restraints which 
they lie under must proceed from some difficulties in 
their situation, which it belongs to a wise legislature 
carefully to observe and remove. Almost every man, 
who thinks he can maintain a family, will have one ; 
and the human species, at this rate of propagation, 
would more than double every generation. How fast 
do mankind multiply in every colony or new settlement, 
where it is an easy matter to provide for a family, and 
where men are nowise straitened or confined as in lono; 
established governments ? History tells us frequently 
of plagues which have swept away the third or fourth 
part of a people ■; yet in a generation or two, the de- 
struction was not perceived, and the society had again 
acquired their former number. The lands which were 
cultivated, the houses built, the commodities raised, the 
riches acquired, enabled the people, who escaped, imme- 
diately to marry and to rear families, which supplied the 
place of those who had perished* And, for a like rea- 
son, every wise, just, and mild government, by rendering 
the condition of its subjects easy and secure, will always 
abound most in people, as well as in commodities and 
riches. A country, indeed, whose climate and soil are 

* This, too, is a good reason why the smallpox does not depopulate coun- 
tries so much as may at first sight be imagined. Where there is room for 
more people, they will always arise, even without the assistance of naturaliza- 
tion bills. It is remarked by Don Geronimo I)e Ustariz, that the provinces 
of Spain, which send most people to the Indies, are most populous, which 
proceeds from their superior riches. 


fitted for vines, will naturally be more populous than 
one which produces corn only, and that more populous 
than one which is only fitted for pasturage. In general, 
warm climates, as the necessities of the inhabitants are 
there fewer, and vegetation more powerful, are likely to 
be most populous : but if every thing else be equal, it 
seems natural to expect that, wherever there are most 
happiness and virtue, and the wisest institutions, there 
will also be most people. 

The question, therefore, concerning the populousness 
of ancient and modern times, being allowed of great 
importance, it will be requisite, if we would bring it to 
some determination, to compare both the domestic and 
political situation of these two periods, in order to judge 
of the facts by their moral causes ; which is the first 
view in which we proposed to consider them. 

The chief difference between the domestic economy of 
the ancients and that of the moderns, consists in the 
practice of slavery, which prevailed among the former, 
and which has been abolished for some centuries through- 
out the greater part of Europe. Some passionate ad- 
mirers of the ancients, and zealous partisans of civil lib- 
erty, (for these sentiments, as they are both of them in 
the main extremely just, are found to be almost insep- 
arable,) cannot forbear regretting the loss of this insti- 
tution ; and whilst they brand all submission to the gov- 
ernment of a single person with the harsh denomina- 
tion of slavery, they would gladly reduce the greater 
part of mankind to real slavery and subjection. But to 
one who considers coolly on the subject, it will appear 
that human nature, in general, really enjoys more lib- 
erty at present, in the most arbitrary government of 
Europe, than it ever did during the most flourishing 
period of ancient times. As much as submission to a 


petty prince, whose dominions extend not beyond a 
single city, is more grievous than obedience to a great 
monarch • so much is domestic slavery more cruel and 
oppressive than any civil subjection whatsoever. The 
more the master is removed from us in place and rank, 
the greater liberty we enjoy, the less are our actions in- 
spected and controlled, and the fainter that cruel com- 
parison becomes between our own subjection, and the 
freedom, and even dominion of another. The remains 
which are found of domestic slavery, in the American 
colonies, and among some European nations, would 
never surely create a desire of rendering it more uni- 
versal. The little humanity commonly observed in per- 
sons accustomed, from their infancy, to exercise so great 
authority over their fellow-creatures, and to trample 
upon human nature, were sufficient alone to disgust us 
with that unbounded dominion. Nor can a more prob- 
able reason be assigned for the severe, I might say, bar- 
barous manners of ancient times, than the practice of 
domestic slavery ; by which every man of rank was 
rendered a petty tyrant, and educated amidst the flat- 
tery, submission, and low debasement of his slaves. 

According to ancient practice, all checks were on 
the inferior, to restrain him to the duty of submission ; 
none on the superior, to engage him to the reciprocal 
duties of gentleness and humanity. In modern times, 
a bad servant finds not easily a good master, nor a 
bad master a good servant ; and the checks are mutual, 
suitably to the inviolable and eternal laws of reason and 

The custom of exposing old, useless, or sick slaves in 
an island of the Tyber, there to starve, seems to have 
been pretty common in Kome ; and whoever recovered, 
after having been so exposed, had his liberty given him 


by an edict of the Emperor Claudius ; in which it was 
likewise forbidden to kill any slave merely for old age 
or sickness.* But supposing that this edict was strictly 
obeyed, would it better the domestic treatment of slaves, 
or render their lives much more comfortable ? We may 
imagine what others would practise, when it was the 
professed maxim of the elder Cato, to sell his superannu- 
ated slaves for any price, rather than maintain what he 
esteemed a useless burden.*)" 

The ergastula, or dungeons, where slaves in chains were 
forced to work, were very common all over Italy. Colu- 
mella t advises, that they be always built underground ; 
and recommends § it as the duty of a careful overseer, 
to call over every day the names of these slaves, like 
the mustering of a regiment or ship's company, in order 
to know presently when any of them had deserted ; a 
proof of the frequency of these crgastula, and of the 
great number of slaves usually confined in them. 

A chained slave for a porter was usual in Borne, as 
appears from Ovid,|| and other authors.^ Had not these 
people shaken off all sense of compassion towards 
that unhappy part of their species, would they have 
presented their friends, at the first entrance, with such 
an image of the severity of the master and misery of 
the slave ? 

Nothing so common in all trials, even of civil causes, 
as to call for the evidence of slaves ; which was always 
extorted by the most exquisite torments. Demosthenes 
says,** that, where it was possible to produce, for the 

* Suetonius in vita Claudii. f Plut. in vita Catonis. % Lib. i. cap. G. 
§ Lib. xi. cap. 1. || Amor. lib. i. eleg. G. 

* Sueton. de Claris Rhetor. Sec also the ancient poet, Janitoris tintinnire 
impedimenta audio. 

** In Onitercm Orat. 1. 
VOL. III. 53 

418 ESSAY XI. 

same fact, either freemen or slaves, as witnesses, the 
judges always preferred the torturing of slaves as a more 
certain evidence.* 

Seneca draws a picture of that disorderly luxury which 
changes day into night, and night into day, and inverts 
every stated hour of every office in life. Among other 
circumstances, such as displacing the meals and times of 
bathing, he mentions, that, regularly about the third 
hour of the night, the neighbors of one, who indulges 
this false refinement, hear the noise of whips and lashes ; 
and, upon inquiry, find that he is then taking an account 
of the conduct of his servants, and giving them due cor- 
rection and discipline. This is not remarked as an in- 
stance of cruelty, but only of disorder, which, even in 
actions the most usual and methodical, changes the 
fixed hours that an established custom had assigned for 

But our present business is only to consider the influ- 
ence of slavery on the populousness of a state. It is 
pretended, that, in this particular, the ancient practice 
had infinitely the advantage, and was the chief cause of 

* The same practice was very common in Rome ; but Cicero seems not to 
think this evidence so certain as the testimony of free citizens. Pro Ccelio. 

f EriST. 122. The inhuman sports exhibited at Rome, may justly be con- 
sidered too as an effect of the people's contempt for slaves, and was also a 
great cause of the general inhumanity of their princes and rulers. Who can 
read the accounts of the amphitheatrical entertainments without horror ? Or 
who is surprised, that the emperors should treat that people in the same way 
the people treated their inferiors? One's humanity is apt to renew the bar- 
barous wish of Caligula, that the people had but one neck : a man could al- 
most be pleased, by a single blow, to put an end to such a race of monsters. 
You may thank God, says the author above cited (epist. 7), addressing him- 
self to the Roman people, that you have a master (to wit, the mild and mer- 
ciful Xero), who is incapable of learning cruelty from your example. This 
was spoke in the beginning of his reign, but he fitted them very well after- 
wards, and, no doubt, was considerably improved by the sight of the barbar- 
ous objects to which he had, from his infancy, been accustomed. 


that extreme populousness which is supposed in those 
times. At present, all masters discourage the marrying 
of their male servants, and admit not by any means the 
marriage of the female, who are then supposed altogether 
incapacitated for their service. But where the property 
of the servants is lodged in the master, their marriage 
forms his riches, and brings him a succession of slaves, 
that supply the place of those whom age and infirmity 
have disabled. He encourages, therefore, their propaga- 
tion as much as that of his cattle, rears the young w T ith 
the same care, and educates them to some art or calling, 
which may render them more useful or valuable to him. 
The opulent are, by this policy, interested in the being 
at least, though not in the w T ell-being, of the poor ; and 
enrich themselves by increasing the number and indus- 
try of those who are subjected to them. Each man, 
being a sovereign in his own family, has the same inter- 
est with regard to it as the prince with regard to the 
state, and has not, like the prince, any opposite motives 
of ambition or vainglory, which may lead him to de- 
populate his little sovereignty. All of it is, at all times, 
under his eye ; and he has leisure to inspect the most 
minute detail of the marriage and education of his 
subjects. ::: 

Such are the consequences of domestic slavery, accord- 
ing to the first aspect and appearance of things : but if 
we enter more deeply into the subject, we shall perhaps 
find reason to retract our hasty determinations. The 
comparison is shocking between the management of 

* W r e may here observe, that if domestic slavery really increased populous- 
ness, it would be an exception to the general rule, that the happiness of any 
society and its populousness are necessary attendants. A master, from humor 
or interest, may make his slaves very unhappy, yet be careful, from interest, 
to increase their number. Their marriage is not a matter of choice with them, 
more than any other action of their life. 

420 ESSAY XI. 

human creatures and that of cattle ; but being extreme- 
ly just, when applied to the present subject, it may be 
proper to trace the consequences of it. At the capital, 
near all great cities, in all populous, rich, industrious 
provinces, few cattle are bred. Provisions, lodging, 
attendance, labor, are there dear; and men find their 
account better in buying the cattle, after they come to 
a certain stage, from the remoter and cheaper countries. 
These are consequently the only breeding countries for 
cattle ; and, by a parity of reason, for men too, when 
the latter are put on the same footing with the former. 
To rear a child in London till he could be serviceable, 
would cost much dearer than to buy one of the same 
age from Scotland or Ireland, where he had been bred 
in a cottage, covered with rags, and fed on oatmeal or 
potatoes. Those who had slaves, therefore, in all the 
richer and more populous countries, would discourage 
the pregnancy of the females, and either prevent or 
destroy the birth. The human species would perish in 
those places where it ought to increase the fastest, and 
a perpetual recruit be wanted from the poorer and more 
desert provinces. Such a continued drain would tend 
mightily to depopulate the state, and render great cities 
ten times more destructive than with us ; where every 
man is master of himself, and provides for his children 
from the powerful instinct of nature, not the calculations 
of sordid interest. If London at present, without much 
increasing, needs a yearly recruit from the country of 
5,000 people, as is usually computed, what must it 
require if the greater part of the tradesmen and com- 
mon people were slaves, and were hindered from breed- 
ing by their avaricious masters ? 

All ancient authors tell us, that there was a perpetual 
flux of slaves to Italy, from the remoter provinces, par- 


ticularly Syria, Cilicia,* Cappadocia, and the Lesser Asia, 
Thrace, and Egypt : yet the number of people did not 
increase in Italy ; and writers complain of the continual 
decay of industry and agriculture.^ Where then is that 
extreme fertility of the Roman slaves, which is commonly 
supposed ? So far from multiplying, they could not, it 
seems, so much as keep up the stock without immense 
recruits. And though great numbers were continually 
manumitted and converted into Roman citizens, the 
numbers even of these did not increase,^ till the freedom 
of the city was communicated to foreign provinces. 

The term for a slave, born and bred in the family, 
was verna ; § and these slaves seem to have been entitled 

* Ten thousand slaves in a clay have often been sold for the use of the 
Romans, at Delus, in Cilicia. Strabo, lib. xiv. 

f Columella, lib. 1, procem, et cap. 2, et 7. Varro, lib. iii. cap 1. Ilorat. 
lib. ii. od. 15. Tacit. Annal. lib. iii. cap. 54. Sueton. in vita Aug. cap. xlii. 
Plin. lib. xviii. cap. 13. 

% Minore indies plebe ingenua, says Tacitus, Ann. lib. xxiv. cap. 7. 

§ As servus was the name of the genus, and verna of the species, without 
any correlative, this forms a strong presumption, that the latter were by far 
the least numerous. It is an universal observation which we may form upon 
language, that where two related parts of a whole bear any proportion to each 
other, in numbers, rank, or consideration, there are always correlative terms 
invented, which answer to both the parts, and express their mutual relation. 
If they bear no proportion to each other, the term is only invented for the 
less, and marks its distinction from the whole. Thus man and woman, master 
and servant, father and son, prince and subject, stranger and citizen, are cor- 
relative terms. But the words seaman, carpenter, smith, tailor, etc. have no 
correspondent terms which express those which are no seamen, no carpenters, 
etc. Languages differ very much with regard to the particular words Avhere 
this distinction obtains ; and may thence afford very strong inferences con- 
cerning the manners and customs of different nations. The military govern- 
ment of the Roman emperors had exalted the soldiery so high, that they 
balanced all the other orders of the state. Hence miles and paganus became 
relative terms; a thing, till then, unknown to ancient, and still so to modern 
languages. Modern superstition exalted the clergy so high, that they over- 
balanced the whole state : hence the clergy and laity are terms opposed in all 
modern languages ; and in these alone. And from the same principles I infer, 
that if the number of slaves bought by the liomans from foreign countries had 

422 ESSAY XI. 

by custom to privileges and indulgences beyond others ; 
a sufficient reason why the masters would not be fond 
of rearing many of that kind * Whoever is acquainted 
with the maxims of our planters, will acknowledge the 
justness of this observation.^ 

Atticus is much praised by his historian for the care 
which he took in recruiting his family from the slaves 
born in it. J May we not thence infer, that this practice 
was not then very common ? 

The names of slaves in the Greek comedies, Syrus, 
Mysus, Geta, Thrax, Davus, Lydus, Phryx, etc., afford a 
presumption, that, at Athens at least, most of the slaves 
were imported from foreign countries. The Athenians, 
says Strabo,§ gave to their slaves either the names of 
the nations whence they were bought, as Lydus, Syrus, or 
the names that were most common among those nations, 

not extremely exceeded those which were bred at home, verna would have had 
a correlative, which would have expressed the former species of slaves. But 
these, it would seem, composed the main body of the ancient slaves, and the 
latter were but a few exceptions. 

* Verna is used by Roman writers as a word equivalent to scurra, on ac- 
count of the petulance and impudence of those slaves. Mart. lib. i. ep. 42. 
Horace also mentions the vernce procaces : and Petronius, cap. 24, vernula 
urbanitas. Seneca, de Provid. cap. i. vernularum Uccntla. 

f It is computed in the West Indies, that a stock of slaves grow worse f. ve 
per cent, every year, unless new slaves be brought to recruit them. They are 
not able to keep up their number, even in those warm countries, where clothes 
and provisions are so easily got. How much more must this happen in Euro- 
pean countries, and in or near great cities ? I shall add, that, from the ex- 
perience of our planters, slavery is as little advantageous to the master as to 
the slave, wherever hired servants can be procured. A man is obliged to 
clothe and feed his slaves; and he does no more for his servant : the price of 
the first purchase is, therefore, so much loss to him ; not to mention, that the 
fear of punishment will never draw so much labor from a slave, as the dread of 
being turned off, and not getting another service, will from a freeman. 

% Corn. Nepos in vita Attici. We may remark, that Atticus's estate lay 
chiefly in Epirus, which being a remote, desolate place, would render it profit- 
able for him to rear slaves there. 

§ Lib. vii. 


as Manes or Midas to a Phrygian, Tibias to a Paphla- 

Demosthenes, having mentioned a law which forbade 
any man to strike the slave of another, praises the 
humanity of this law ; and adds, that if the barbarians, 
from whom the slaves were bought, had information that 
their countrymen met with such gentle treatment, they 
would entertain a great esteem for the Athenians* 
Isocrates,f too, insinuates that the slaves of the Greeks 
were generally or very commonly barbarians. Aristotle 
in his politics,! plainly supposes, that a slave is always a 
foreigner. The ancient comic writers represented the 
slaves as speaking a barbarous language.^ This was an 
imitation of nature. 

It is well known that Demosthenes, in his nonage, had 
been defrauded of a large fortune by his tutors, and 
that afterwards he recovered, by a prosecution at law, 
the value of his patrimony. His orations, on that occa- 
sion, still remain, and contain an exact detail of the 
whole substance left by his father, || in money, merchan- 
dise, houses, and slaves, together with the value of each 
particular. Among the rest were 52 slaves, handi- 
craftsmen, namely, 32 sword-cutlers, and 20 cabinet- 
makers,^ all males ; not a word of any wives, children, 
or family, which they certainly would have had, had it 
been a common practice at Athens to breed from the 
slaves ; and the value of the whole must have much 
depended on that circumstance. No female slaves are 

* In Midiam, p. 221, ex edit. Aldi.j 
f Panegvr. J Lib. vii. cap. 10. sub. fin. 

§ Aristoph. Equites, L. 17. The ancient scholiast remarks on this passage 
HapSapL&i cog dov'/.og. 

|j In Amphobum, Orat. i. 

% K/.tvoTToioi, makers of those beds which the ancients lay upon at meals. 

424 ESSAY XI. 

even so much as mentioned, except some housemaids, 
who belonged to his mother. This argument has great 
force, if it be not altogether conclusive. 

Consider this passage of Plutarch,* speaking of the 
Elder Cato : " He had a great number of slaves, whom 
he took care to buy at the sales of prisoners of war ; 
and he chose them young, that they might easily be ac- 
customed to any diet or manner of life, and be in- 
structed in any business or labor, as men teach any 
thing to young dogs or horses. And esteeming love the 
chief source of all disorders, he allowed the male slaves 
to have a commerce with the female in his family, upon 
paying a certain sum for this privilege : but he strictly 
prohibited all intrigues out of his family." Are there 
any symptoms in this narration of that care which is 
supposed in the ancients of the marriage and propaga- 
tion of their slaves? If that was a common practice 
founded on general interest, it would surety have been 
embraced by Cato, who was a great economist, and lived 
in times when the ancient frugality and simplicity of 
manners were still in credit and and reputation. 

It is expressly remarked by the writers of the Roman 
law, that scarcely any ever purchased slaves with a view 
of breeding from them.f 

* In vita Catonis. 

f " Xon temere ancillae ejus rei causa comparantur ut pariant." Digest, lib. 
v. tit. 3, de hatred, petit. lex 27. The following texts are to the same purpose : 
" Spadonem morbosum non esse, neque vitiosum, verius mihi videtur ; sed 
sanum esse, secuti ilium qui unum testiculum habet, qui etiam generare po- 
test." Digest, lib. ii. tit. 1, de cedilitio edicto, lex G, § 2. " Sin autem quis ita 
spado sit, ut tarn necessaria pars corporis penitus absit, morbosus est." Id. lex. 
7. His impotence, it seems, was only regarded so far as his health or life 
might be affected by it. In other respects, he was full as valuable. The 
same reasoning is employed with regard to female slaves. " Qmeritur de ea 
muliere quae semper mortnos parit, an morbosa sit ? et ait Sabinus, si vulvae 
vitio hoc contingit, morbosam esse." Id. lex. 14. It had even been doubted, 


Our lackeys and housemaids, I own, do not serve 
much to multiply their species : but the ancients, be- 
sides those who attended on their person, had almost 
all their labor performed, and even manufactures exe- 
cuted by slaves, who lived, many of them, in thair fam- 
ily ; and some great men possessed to the number of 
10,000. If there be any suspicion, therefore, that this 
institution was unfavorable to propagation (and the 
same reason, at least in part, holds with regard to ancient 
slaves as modern servants), how destructive must slavery 
have proved ! 

History mentions a Roman nobleman who had 400 
slaves under the same roof with him : and having been 
assassinated at home by the furious revenge of one of 
them, the law was executed with rigor, and all without 
exception ' were put to death* Many other Roman 
noblemen had families equally, or more numerous ; and 
I believe every one will allow, that this would scarcely 
be practicable, were we to suppose all the slaves mar- 
ried, and the females to be breeders.^ 

So early as the poet Hesiod,J married slaves, whether 
male or female, were esteemed inconvenient. How 

whether a woman pregnant was morbid or vitiated ; and it is determined, that 
she is sound, not on account of the value of her offspring, but because it is 
the natural part or office of woman to bear children. ' ; Si mulier pregnans 
venerit, inter omnes convenit sanam earn esse. Maximum enim ac praecipuum 
munus foeminarum accipere ac tueri conceptum. Puerperam quoque sanam 
esse ; si modo nihil extrinsecus accedit, quod corpus ejus in aliquam valetu- 
dinem immitteret. De sterili Coelius distinguere Trebatium dicit, ut si natura 
sterilis sit, sana sit ; si vitio corporis, contra." /(/. 

* Tacit. Ann. lib. xiv. cap. 43. 

f The slaves in the great houses had little rooms assigned them called cellce. 
Whence the name of cell was transferred to the monk's room in a convent. 
See further on this head, Just. Lipsius, Saturn, i. cap. 14. These form strong 
presumptions against the marriage and propagation of the family slaves. 

J Opera et Dies, lib. ii. 1. 24, also 1. 220. 

vol. in. 54 

426 ESSAY XI. 

much more, where families had increased to such an 
enormous size as in Borne, and where the ancient 
simplicity of manners was banished from all ranks of 
people ! 

Xenophon in his Oeconomics, where he gives direc- 
tions for the management of a farm, recommends a 
strict care and attention of laying the male and the 
female slaves at a distance from each other. He seems 
not to suppose that they are ever married. The only 
slaves among the Greeks that appear to have continued 
their own race, were the Helotes, who had houses apart, 
and were more the slaves of the public than of individ- 

The same author f tells us, that Nicias's overseer, by 
agreement with his master, w T as obliged to pay him an 
obolus a clay for each slave, besides maintaining them 
and keeping up the number. Had the ancient slaves 
been all breeders, this last circumstance of the contract 
had been superfluous. 

The ancients talk so frequently of a fixed, stated por- 
tion of provisions assigned to each slave,J that we are 
naturally led to conclude, that slaves lived almost all 
single, and received that portion as a kind of board- 

The practice, indeed, of marrying slaves, seems not 
to have been very common, even among the country 
laborers, where it is more naturally to be expected. 
Cato,§ enumerating the slaves requisite to labor a vine- 
yard of a hundred acres, makes them amount to 15 ; 
the overseer and his wife, vilUcas and villica, and 13 male 

* Strabo, lib. viii. f De Ratione Redituum. 

% See Cato De Re Rustica, cap. 5G. Donatus in Phormion, l#i. e. !). Sene- 
ca?, Epist. 80. 

§ De Re Rustic, cap. 10, 11. 


slaves ; for an olive plantation of 240 acres, the over- 
seer and his wife, and 11 male slaves; and so in propor- 
tion to a greater or less plantation or vineyard. 

Varro,* quoting this passage of Cato, allows his com- 
putation to he just in every respect except the last. For 
as it is requisite, says he, to have an overseer and his 
wife, whether the vineyard or plantation be great or 
small, this must alter the exactness of the proportion. 
Had Cato's computation been erroneous in any other re- 
spect, it had certainly been corrected by Varro, who 
seems fond of discovering; so trivial an error. 

The same authoiyj* as well as Columella,! recommends 
it as requisite to give a wife to the overseer, in order to 
attach him the more strongly to his master's service. 
This was therefore a peculiar indulgence granted to a 
slave, in whom so great confidence was reposed. 

In the same place, Varro mentions it as an useful pre- 
caution, not to buy too many slaves from the same na- 
tion, lest they beget factions and seditions in the family ; 
a presumption, that in Italy the greater part even of the 
country slaves (for he speaks of no other) were bought 
from the remoter provinces. All the world knows, that 
the family slaves in Rome, who were instruments of show 
and luxury, were commonly imported from the East. 
Hoc profccere, says Pliny, speaking of the jealous care of 
masters, mancipiorum lec/iones, et in dorao turba externa ac 
servorum quocjue causa nomenclator cullribenrfus.^ 

It is indeed recommended by Varro || to propagate 
young shepherds in the family from the old ones. For 
as grazing farms were commonly in remote and cheap 
places, and each shepherd lived in a cottage apart, his 

* Lib. i. cap. 18. f Lib. i. cap. 17. % Lib. i. cap. 18. 

§ Lib. xxxiii. cap. 1. So likewise Tacitus, Annal lib. xiv. cap. 44. 
|| Lib. ii. cap. 10. 


marriage and increase were not liable to the same in- 
convenience as in dearer places, and where many ser- 
vants lived in the family, which was universally the case 
in such of the Roman forms as produced wine or corn. 
If we consider this exception with regard to shepherds, 
and weigh the reasons of it, it will serve for a strong con- 
firmation of all our foregoing suspicions* 

Columella,^" I own, advises the master to give a reward, 
and even liberty to a female slave, that had reared him 
above three children ; a proof that sometimes the 
ancients propagated from their slaves, which indeed 
cannot be denied. Were it otherwise, the practice of 
slavery, being so common in antiquity, must have been 
destructive to a degree which no expedient could repair. 
All I pretend to infer from these reasonings is, that 
slavery is in general disadvantageous both to the hap- 
piness and populousness of mankind, and that its place 
is much better supplied by the practice of hired ser- 

The laws, or, as some writers call them, the seditions 
of the Gracchi, were occasioned by their observing the 
increase of slaves all over Italy, and the diminution of 
free citizens. Appiant ascribes this increase to the pro- 
pagation of the slaves: Plutarch § to the purchasing of 
barbarians, who were chained and imprisoned, fiaQfiaQixa 
dc0Luorrj()ia.\\ It is to be presumed that both causes 

* Pastoris duri est liic filius, ille "bubulei. Juven. Sat. 11. 151. 

f Lib. i. cap. 8. % Do Bell. Civ. lib. i. § In Vita Tib. et C. Gracchi. 

|| To the same purpose is that passage in the elder Seneca, ex controversia, 
5. lib. v. " Arata quondam populis rura, singulorum ergastulorum sunt; latius- 
que nunc villici, quam olim rcges, impcrant." "At nunc eadcm," says Pliny, 
" vincti pedes, damnatae manus, inscripti vultus exercent." Lib. xviii. cap. 3. 
See also Martial. 

" Et sonet innumera compede Thuscus ager." Lib. ix. ep. 23. 


Sicily, says Florus,* was full of ergastula, and was cul- 
tivated by laborers in chains. Eunus and Athenio ex- 
cited the servile war, by breaking up these monstrous 
prisons, and giving liberty to 60,000 slaves. The younger 
Ponipey augmented his army in Spain by the same ex- 
pedient.f If the country laborers throughout the Ro- 
man empire, were so generally in this situation, and if it 
was difficult or impossible to find separate lodgings for 
the families of the city servants, how unfavorable to 
propagation, as well as to humanity, must the institution 
of domestic slavery be esteemed ? 

Constantinople, at present, requires the same recruits 
of slaves from all the provinces that Rome did of old ; 
and these provinces are of consequence far from being 

Egypt, according to Mons. Maillet, sends continual 
colonies of black slaves to the other parts of the 
Turkish empire, and receives annually an equal return 
of white : the one brought from the inland parts of 
Africa, the other from Mingrelia, Circassia, and Tar- 

Our modern convents are, no doubt, bad institutions : 
but there is reason to suspect, that anciently every great 
family in Italy, and probably in other parts of the world, 
was a species of convent. And though we have reason 
to condemn all those Popish institutions as nurseries of 
superstition, burdensome to the public, and oppressive to 
the poor prisoners, male as well as female, yet may it be 

And Lucan. " Turn longos jungere fines 

Agrorum, et quondam duro sulcata Camllli 
Vomere, et antiquos Curiorum passa ligones 
Longa sub ignotis extendere rura colonis." Lib. i. 1. 108. 
" Vincto fossore coluntur 

Hesperiae segetes." Lib. vii. 

* Lib. iii. cap. 19. f Id. lib. iv. cap. 8. 


questioned whether they be so destructive to the popu- 
lousness of a state, as is commonly imagined. Were 
the land which belongs to a convent bestowed on a 
nobleman, he would spend its revenue on dogs, horses, 
grooms, footmen, cooks, and housemaids, and his family 
would not furnish many more citizens than the convent. 

The common reason why any parent thrusts his 
daughters into nunneries, is, that he may not be over- 
burdened with too numerous a family ; but the ancients 
had a method almost as innocent, and more effectual to 
that purpose, to wit, exposing their children in early in- 
fancy. This practice was very common, and is not 
spoken of by any author of those times with the horror 
it deserves, or scarcely * even with disapprobation. Plu- 
tarch, the humane good-natured Plutarch,-j- mentions it 
as a merit in Attalus, king of Pergamus, that he mur- 
dered, or, if you will, exposed all his own children, in 
order to leave his crown to the son of his brother 
Eumenes ; signalizing in this manner his gratitude and 
affection to Eumenes, who had left him his heir, prefer- 
ably to that son. It was Solon, the most celebrated of 
the sages of Greece, that gave parents permission by law 
to kill their children. J 

Shall we then allow these two circumstances to com- 
pensate each other, to wit, monastic vows and the expos- 
ing of children, and to be unfavorable, in equal degrees, 
to the propagation of mankind ? I doubt the advantage 
is here on the side of antiquity. Perhaps, by an odd 
connection of causes, the barbarous practice of the 
ancients might rather render those times more populous. 

* Tacitus blames it. De Morib. Germ. 

f De Fraterno Amore. Seneca also approves of the exposing of sickly in- 
firm children. De Ira, lib. i. cap. 15. 
X Sext. Emp. lib. iii. cap. 21. 


By removing the terrors of too numerous a family, it 
would engage many people in marriage ; and such is 
the force of natural affection, that very few, in compar- 
ison, would have resolution enough, when it came to 
the push, to carry into execution their former inten- 

China, the only country where this practice of expos- 
ing children prevails at present, is the most populous 
country we know of, and every man is married before 
he is twenty. Such early marriages could scarcely be 
general, had not men the prospect of so easy a method 
of ^ettino; rid of their children. I own that Plutarch * 
speaks of it as a very general maxim of the poor to ex- 
pose their children • and as the rich were then averse to 
marriage, on account of the courtship they met with 
from those who expected legacies from them, the public 
must have been in a bad situation between them.f 

Of all sciences, there is none where first appear- 
ances are more deceitful than in politics. Hospitals for 
foundlings seem favorable to the increase of numbers, 
and perhaps may be so, when kept under proper restric- 
tions. But when they open the door to every one with- 
out distinction, they have probably a contrary effect, 
and are penicious to the state. It is computed, that 

* De Amorc Prolis. 

f The practice of leaving great sums of money to friends, though, one had 
near relations, was common in Greece as well as Rome, as we may gather 
from Lucian. This practice prevails much less in modern times ; and Ben 
Johnson's Volpoxe is therefore almost entirely extracted from ancient au- 
thors, and suits better the manners of those times. 

It may justly be thought, that the liberty of divorces in Rome was another 
discouragement to marriage. Such a practice prevents not quarrels from 
humor, but rather increases them ; and occasions also those from interest, which 
are much more dangerous and destructive. See further on this head, Part I. 
Essay XVIII. Perhaps, too, the unnatural lusts of the ancients ought to be 
taken into consideration as of some moment. 

432 ESSAY XI. 

every ninth child born in Paris is sent to the hospital ; 
though it seems certain, according to the common course 
of human affairs, that it is not a hundredth child whose 
parents are altogether incapacitated to rear and educate 
him. The great difference, for health, industry, and mor- 
als, between an education in an hospital and that in a 
private family, should induce us not to make the entrance 
into the former too easy and engaging. To kill one's 
own child is shocking to nature, and must therefore be 
somewhat unusual ; but to turn over the care of him 
upon others, is very tempting to the natural indolence 
of mankind. 

Having considered the domestic life and manners of 
the ancients, compared to those of the moderns, where, 
in the main, we seem rather superior, so far as the pres- 
ent question is concerned, we shall now' examine the 
political customs and institutions of both ages, and weigh 
their influence in retarding or forwarding the propaga- 
tion of mankind. 

Before the increase of the Roman power, or rather 
till its full establishment, almost all the nations, which 
are the scene of ancient history, were divided into small 
territories or petty commonwealths, where of course a 
great equality of fortune prevailed ; and the centre of 
the government was always very near its frontiers. 

This was the situation of affairs not only in Greece 
and Italy, but also in Spain, Gaul, Germany, Africa, 
and a great part of the Lesser Asia : and it must be 
owned, that no institution could be more favorable to 
the propagation of mankind. For though a man of an 
overgrown fortune, not being able to consume more 
than another, must share it with those who serve and 
attend him, yet their possession being precarious, they 
have not the same encouragement to marry as if each 


had a small fortune, secure and independent. Enor- 
mous cities are, besides, destructive to society, beget 
vice and disorder of all kinds, starve the remoter prov- 
inces, and even starve themselves, by the prices to which 
they raise all provisions. Where each man had his little 
house and field to himself, and each county had its cap- 
ital, free and independent, what a happy situation of 
mankind ! how favorable to industry and agriculture, to 
marriage and propagation ! The prolific virtue of men, 
were it to act in its full extent, without that restraint 
which poverty and necessity impose on it, would double 
the number every generation : and nothing surely can 
give it more liberty than such small commonwealths, 
and such an equality of fortune among the citizens. 
All small states naturally produce equality of fortune, 
because they afford no opportunities of great increase ; 
but small commonwealths much more, by that divis- 
ion of power and authority which is essential to them. 

When Xenophon * returned after the famous expe- 
dition with Cyrus, he hired himself and 6,000 of the 
Greeks into the service of Seuthes, a prince of Thrace ; 
and the articles of his agreement were, that each sol- 
dier should receive a daric a month, each captain two 
darks, and he himself, as general, four ; a regulation 
of pay which would not a little surprise our modern 

Demosthenes and zEschines, with eight more, were 
sent ambassadors to Philip of Macedon, and their ap- 
pointments for above four months were a thousand 
drachmas, which is less than a drachma a day for each 

* De Exp. Cyr. lib. vii. 
VOL. III. 55 

4.34 ESSAY XI. 

ambassador* But a drachma a day, nay, sometimes 
two,"]* was the pay of a common foot soldier. 

A centurion among the Romans had only double 
rjay to a private man in Polybius's time ;J and we ac- 
cordingly find the gratuities after a triumph regulated 
by that proportion.^ But Mark Antony and the tri- 
umvirate gave the centurions five times the reward of 
the other -|| so much had the increase of the common- 
wealth increased the inequality among the citizens.^] 

It must be owned, that the situation of affairs in mod- 
ern times, with regard to civil liberty, as well as equal- 
ity of fortune, is not near so favorable either to the 
propagation or happiness of mankind. Europe is 
shared out mostly into great monarchies ; and such 
parts of it as are divided into small territories are com- 
monly governed by absolute princes, who ruin their 
people by a mimicry of the great monarchs, in the 
splendor of their court, and number of their forces. 
Switzerland alone, and Holland, resembles the ancient 
republics ; and though the former is far from possessing 
any advantage, either of soil, climate, or commerce, yet 
the numbers of people with which it abounds, notwith- 
standing their enlisting themselves into every service in 
Europe, prove sufficiently the advantages of their polit- 
ical institutions. 

The ancient republics derived their chief or only secu- 
rity from the numbers of their citizens. The Trachinians 

* Demost. De Falsa Leg. He calls it a considerable sum. 

f Thucyd. lib. iii. % Lib. vi. cap. 3 7. 

§ Tit. Liv. lib. xli. cap. 7. 13. et alibi passim. 

|| Appian. De Bell. Civ. lib. iv. 

^f C;esar gave the centurions ten times the gratuity of the common soldiers. 
De Bello Gallico, lib. viii. In the Rhodian cartel, mentioned afterwards, no 
distinction in the ransom was made on account of ranks in the army. 


having lost great numbers of their people, the remainder, 
instead of enriching themselves by the inheritance of 
their fellow-citizens, applied to Sparta, their metropolis, 
for a new stock of inhabitants. The Spartans immedi- 
ately collected ten thousand men, among whom the old 
citizens divided the lands of which the former proprie- 
tors had perished* 

After Timoleon had banished Dionysius from Syracuse, 
and had settled the affairs of Sicily, finding the cities of 
Syracuse and Sellinuntium extremely depopulated by 
tyranny, war, and faction, he invited over from Greece 
some new inhabitants to repeople them.f Immediately 
forty thousand men (Plutarch J says sixty thousand) 
offered themselves; and he distributed so many lots of 
land among them, to the great satisfaction of the ancient 
inhabitants ; a proof at once of the maxims of ancient 
policy, which affected populousness more than riches, 
and of the good effects of these maxims, in the extreme 
populousness of that small country, Greece, w r hich could 
at once supply so great a colony. The case was not 
much different with the Romans in early times. He is 
a pernicious citizen, said M. Curius, who cannot be con- 
tent with seven § acres. Such ideas of equality could 
not fail of producing great numbers of people. 

We must now consider what disadvantages the an- 

* Diod. Sic. lib. xii. Thucyd. lib. iii. f Diod. Sic. lib. xvi. 

J In vita Timol. 

§ Plin. lib. xviii. cap. 3. The same author, in cap. G, says, Verumque 
fatentibus latifundia perdidere Italiam; jam vera el provincial. Sex domi 
semessem Africa; possidebant, cum interfecit cos Nero princeps. In this view, 
the barbarous butchery committed by the first Iloman emperors was not, per- 
haps, so destructive to the public as we may imagine. These never ceased till 
they had extinguished all the illustrious families which had enjoyed the plun- 
der of the world during the latter ages of the republic. The new nobles who 
rose in their place were less splendid, as we learn from Tacitus. Ann. lib. iii, 
cap. 55. 

436 ESSAY XI. 

cients lay under with regard to populousness, and what 
checks they received from their political maxims and 
institutions. There are commonly compensations in 
every human condition ; and though these compensa- 
tions be not always perfectly equal, yet they serve, at 
least, to restrain the prevailing principle. To compare 
them, and estimate their influence, is indeed difficult, 
even where they take place in the same age, and in 
neighboring countries : but where several ages have 
intervened, and only scattered lights are afforded us by 
ancient authors • what can we do but amuse ourselves 
by talking pv and con on an interesting subject, and 
thereby correcting all hasty and violent determina- 
tions ? 

First, We may observe, that the ancient republics 
were almost in perpetual war ; a natural effect of their 
martial spirit, their love of liberty, their mutual emula- 
tion, and that hatred which generally prevails among 
nations that live in close neighborhood. Now, war in a 
small state is much more destructive than in a great 
one ; both because all the inhabitants, in the former 
case, must serve in the armies, and because the whole 
state is frontier, and is all exposed to the inroads of the 

The maxims of ancient war were much more destruc- 
tive than those of modern, chiefly by that distribution 
of plunder, in which the soldiers were indulged. The 
private men in our armies are such a low set of people, 
that we find any abundance, beyond their simple pay, 
breeds confusion and disorder among them, and a total 
dissolution of discipline. The very wretchedness and 
meanness of those who fill the modern armies, render 
them less destructive to the countries which they in- 


vade ; one instance, among many, of the deceitfulness of 
first appearances in all political reasonings* 

Ancient battles were much more bloody, by the very 
nature of the weapons employed in them. The ancients 
drew up their men sixteen or twenty, sometimes fifty 
men deep, which made a narrow front ; and it was not 
difficult to find a field, in which both armies might be 
marshalled, and might engage with each other. Even 
where any body of the troops was kept off by hedges, 
hillocks, woods, or hollow ways, the battle was not so soon 
decided between the contending parties, but that the 
others had time to overcome the difficulties which op- 
posed them, and take part in the engagement. And as 
the whole army was thus engaged, and each man closely 
buckled to his antagonist, the battles were commonly 
very bloody, and great slaughter was made on both 
sides, especially on the vanquished. The long thin lines, 
required by fire-arms, and the quick decision of the fray, 
render our modern engagements but partial rencounters, 
and enable the general, who is foiled in the beginning 
of the day, to draw off the greater part of his army, 
sound and entire.*)* 

The battles of antiquity, both by their duration and 
their resemblance to single combats, were wrought 

* The ancient soldiers, being free citizens, above the lowest rank, were all 
married. Our modern soldiers are either forced to live unmarried, or their 
marriages turn to small account towards the increase of mankind ; a circum- 
stance which ought, perhaps, to be taken into consideration, as of some conse- 
quence in favor of the ancients. 

f In Editions F, G, II, N, there is the following passage and note. Could 
Folard's project of the column take place (which seems impracticable),^ it 
would render modern battles as destructive as the ancient. 

t What is the advantage of the column after it has broke the enemy's line? Only 
that it then takes them in flank, and dissipates whatever stands near it by a lire from all 
sides. But till it has broke them, does it not present a flank to the enemy, and that ex- 
posed to their musketry, and, what is much worse, to their cannon? 


up to a degree of fury quite unknown to later ages. 
Nothing could then engage the combatants to give 
quarter, but the hopes of profit, by making slaves of 
their prisoners. In civil wars, as we learn from Tacitus,* 
the battles were the most bloody, because the prisoners 
were not slaves. 

What a stout resistance must be made, where the 
vanquished expected so hard a fate ! How inveterate 
the rage, where the maxims of war were, in every 
respect, so bloody and severe ! 

Instances are frequent, in ancient history, of cities 
besieged, whose inhabitants, rather than open their 
gates, murdered their wives and children, and rushed 
themselves on a voluntary death, sweetened perhaps by 
a little prospect of revenge upon the enemy. Greeks,")* 
as well as barbarians, have often been wrought up to 
this degree of fury. And the same determined spirit 
and cruelty must, in other instances less remarkable, 
have been destructive to human society, in those petty 
commonwealths which lived in close neighborhood, and 
were engaged in perpetual wars and contentions. 

Sometimes the wars in Greece, says Plutarch,! were 
carried on entirely by inroads, and robberies, and pira- 
cies. Such a method of war must be more destructive 
in small states, than the bloodiest battles and sieges. 

By the laws of the twelve tables, possession during 
two years formed a prescription for land • one year for 
movables ;§ an indication, that there was not in Italy, 

* Hist. lib. ii. cap. 44. 

f As Abvdus, mentioned by Livy, lib. xxxi. cap. 17, 18, and Polyb. lib. xvi. 
As also the Xanthians, Appian, De Bell. Civil, lib. iv. 

J In vita Arati. 

§ Inst. lib. ii. cap. 6. It is true the same law seems to have been continued 
till the time of Justinian. But abuses introduced by barbarism are not always 
corrected by civility. — Note in Editions F, G, II, N. 


at that time, much more order, tranquillity, and settled 
police, than there is at present among the Tartars. 

The only cartel I remember in ancient history, is that 
between Demetrius Poliorcetes and the Ehodians ; when 
it was agreed, that a free citizen should be restored for 
1,000 drachmas, a slave bearing arms for 500.* 

But, secondly, It appears that ancient manners w T ere 
more unfavorable than the modern, not only in times of 
war, but also in those of peace ; and that too in every 
respect, except the love of civil liberty and of equality, 
which is, I own, of considerable importance. To exclude 
faction from a free government, is very difficult, if not 
altogether impracticable ; but such inveterate rage be- 
tween the factions, and such bloody maxims are found, 
in modern times, amongst religious parties alone.f In 
ancient history we may always observe, where one party 
prevailed, whether the nobles or people (for I can observe 
no difference in this respect),! that they immediately 
butchered all of the opposite party who fell into their 
hands, and banished such as had been so fortunate as to 
escape their fury. No form of process, no law, no trial, 
no pardon. A fourth, a third, perhaps near half of the 
city was slaughtered, or expelled, every revolution ; and 
the exiles always joined foreign enemies, and did all the 
mischief possible to their fellow-citizens, till fortune put 
it in their power to take full revenge by a new revolu- 
tion. And as these were frequent in such violent gov- 
ernments, the disorder, diffidence, jealousy, enmity, which 

* Diod. Sicul. lib. xx. 

f " Where bigoted priests are the accusers, judges, and executioners." 
Thus in Editions F, (r. II. N. 

X Lysias, who was himself of the popular faction, and very narrowly escaped 
from the thirty tyrants, says, that the Democracy was as violent a government 
as the Oligarchy. Orat. 24. De Statu Popul. 


must prevail, are not easy for us to imagine in this age 
of the world. 

There are only two revolutions I can recollect in 
ancient history, which passed without great severity, 
and great effusion of blood in massacres and assassina- 
tions, namely, the restoration of the Athenian Democ- 
racy by Thrasybulus, and the subduing of the Roman 
Republic by Csesar. We learn from ancient history, that 
Thrasybulus passed a general amnesty for all past offences; 
and first introduced that word, as well as practice, into 
Greece/" It appears, however, from many orations of 
Lysias,f that the chief, and even some of the subaltern 
offenders, in the preceding tyranny, were tried and cap- 
itally punished. And as to Caesar's clemency, though 
much celebrated, it would not gain great applause in 
the present age. He butchered, for instance, all Cato's 
senate, when he became master of Utica;J and these, 
we may readily believe, were not the most worthless of 
the party. All those who had borne arms against that 
usurper were attainted, and by Hirtius's law declared 
incapable of all public offices. 

These people were extremely fond of liberty, but 
seem not to have understood it very well. When the 
thirty tyrants first established their dominion at Athens, 
they began with seizing all the sycophants and informers, 
w T ho had been so troublesome during the democracy, and 
putting them to death by an arbitrary sentence and 
execution. Every man, says Sallust§ and Lysias,|| rejoiced 

* Cicero, Philip. I. 

•f As Orat. 11. contra Eratost. ; Orat. 12. contra Agorat. ; Orat. 15. pro 

% Appian. De Bel. Civ. lib. ii. § See Caasar's speech, De Bel. Cat. 

|[ Orat. 24. And in Orat, 29, he mentions the factious spirit of the popu- 
lar assemblies as the only cause why these illegal punishments should dis- 


at these punishments; not considering that liberty was 
from that moment annihilated. 

The utmost energy of the nervous style of Thucydides, 
and the copiousness and expression of the Greek lan- 
guage, seem to sink under that historian, when he at- 
tempts to describe the disorders which arose from faction 
throughout all the Grecian commonwealths. You would 
imagine that he still labors with a thought greater than 
he can find words to communicate. And he concludes 
his pathetic description with an observation, which is at 
once refined and solid : " In these contests," says he, 
" those who were the dullest and most stupid, and had 
the least foresight, commonly prevailed. For being con- 
scious of this weakness, and dreading to be overreached 
by those of greater penetration, they went to work 
hastily, without premeditation, by the sword and poniard, 
and thereby got the start of their antagonists, who were 
forming fine schemes and projects for their destruction." :|: 

Not to mention Dionysiusf the elder, who is computed 
to have butchered in cold blood above 10,000 of his fel- 
low-citizens ; or Agathocles,J Nabis,§ and others, still 
more bloody than he ; the transactions, even in free gov- 
ernments, were extremely violent and destructive. At 
Athens, the thirty tyrants and the nobles, in a twelve- 

* " Lib. 3. — The country in Europe wherein I have observed the factions 
to be most violent, and party hatred the strongest, is Ireland. This goes so. 
far as to cut off even the most common intercourse of civilities betwixt the 
Protestants and Catholics. Their cruel insurrections, and the severe revenges 
■which they have taken of each other, are the causes of this mutual ill-will, 
which is the chief source of disorder, poverty, and depopulation, in that coun- 
try. The Greek factions I imagine to have been inflamed still to a higher de- 
gree of rage : the revolutions being commonly more frequent, and the maxims 
of assassination much more avowed and acknowledged." — Note in Editions 
E, G, H, X. 

f Pint, de virt. et Port. Alex. J Diod. Sic. lib. xviii. xix. 

§ Tit. Liv. xxxi. xxxiii. xxxiv. 
VOL. III. 56 


month, murdered without trial, about 1,200 of the peo- 
ple, and banished above the half of the citizens that 
remained.* In Argos, near the same time, the people 
killed 1,200 of the nobles ; and afterwards their own 
demagogues, because they had refused to carry their 
prosecutions further.-)- The people also in Corey ra 
killed 1,500 of the nobles, and banished a thousand.^ 
These numbers will appear the more surprising, if we 
consider the extreme smallness of these states ; but all 
ancient history is full of such circumstances.§ 

* Diod. Sic. lib. xiv. Isocrates says, there were only 5,000 banished. lie 
makes the number of those killed amount to 1,500. Areop. iLschines contra 
Ctesiph. assigns precisely the same number. Seneca (De Tranq. Anim.) cap. 
v. says 1,300. 

f Diod. Sic. lib. xv. % Diod. Sic. lib. xiii. 

§ We shall mention from Diodorus Siculus alone a few massacres, which 
passed in the course of sixty years, during the most shining age of Greece. 
There were banished from Sybaris 500 of the nobles and their partisans ; lib. 
xii. p. 77, ex edit. Rhodomanni. Of Chians, GOO citizens banished; lib. xiii. 
p. 189. At Ephesus, 340 killed, 1,000 banished; lib. xiii. p. 223. Of Cy- 
renians, 500 nobles killed, all the rest banished ; lib. xiv. p. 2G3. The Corin- 
thians killed 120, banished 500 ; lib. xiv. p. 304. Pha?bidas the Spartan ban- 
ished 300 Boeotians ; lib. xv. p. 342. Upon the fall of the Lacedemonians, 
democracies were restored in many cities, and severe vengeance taken of the 
nobles, after the Greek manner. But matters did not end there. For the 
banished nobles, returning in many places, butchered their adversaries at 
Phialre, in Corinth, in Megara, in Phliasia. In this last place they killed 300 
of the people; but these again revolting, killed above GOO of the nobles, and 
banished the rest; lib. xv. p. 357. In Arcadia 1,400 banished, besides many 
killed. The banished retired to Sparta and to Pallantium : the latter were 
-delivered up to their countrymen, and all killed ; lib. xv. p. 3 73. Of the ban- 
ished from Argos and Thebes, there were 500 in the Spartan army; id.]). 374. 
Here is a detail of the most remarkable of Agathocles's cruelties from the 
same author. The people, before his usurpation, had banished 600 nobles; 
lib. xix. p. G55. Afterwards that tyrant, in concurrence with the people, 
killed 4,000 nobles, and banished 6,000; id. p. G47. He killed 4,000 people 
at Gela; id. p. 741. By Agathocles's brother 8,000 banished from Syracuse; 
lib. xx. p. 75 7. The inhabitants of JEgesta, to the number of 40,000, were 
killed, man, woman, and child ; and with tortures, for the sake of their money; 
id. p. 802. All the relations, to wit, father, brother, children, grandfather, of 
his Libyan army, killed ; id. p. 803. lie killed 7,000 exiles after capitulation ; 


When Alexander ordered all the exiles to be restored 
throughout all the cities, it was found, that the whole 
amounted to 20,000 men;* the remains probably of 
still greater slaughters and massacres. What an aston- 
ishing multitude in so narrow a country as ancient 
Greece ! And what domestic confusion, jealousy, par- 
tiality, revenge, heart-burnings, must have torn those 
cities, where factions were wrought up to such a degree 
of fury and despair ! 

It would be easier, says Isocrates to Philip, to raise an 
army in Greece at present from the vagabonds than from 
the cities. 

Even when affairs came not to such extremities (which 
they failed not to do almost in every city twice or thrice 
every century), property was rendered very precarious 
by the maxims of ancient government. Xenophon, in 
the Banquet of Socrates, gives us a natural unaffected 
description of the tyranny of the Athenian people. 
"In my poverty," says Charmicles, "I am much more 
happy than I ever was while possessed of riches : as 
much as it is happier to be in security than in terrors, 
free than a slave, to receive than to pay court, to be 
trusted than suspected. Formerly I was obliged to 
caress every informer; some imposition was continu- 
ally laid upon me ; and it was never allowed me to 
travel, or be absent from the city. At present, when 
I am poor, I look big, and threaten others. The 
rich are afraid of me, and show me every kind of 
civility and respect ; and I am become a kind of tyrant 
in the city."f 

id. p. 816. It is to be remarked, that Agathocles was a man of great sense 
and courage, and is not to be suspected of wanton cruelty, contrary to the 
maxims of his age. 

* Diod, Sic. lib. xviii. f Pag. 885, ex edit. Leunclav, 

444 ESSAY XI. 

In one of the pleadings of Lysias,* the orator very 
coolly speaks of it, by the by, as a maxim of the Athe- 
nian people, that whenever they wanted money, they 
put to death some of the rich citizens as well as 
strangers, for the sake of the forfeiture. In mentioning 
this, he seems not to have any intention of blaming 
them, still less of provoking them, who were his audience 
and judges. 

Whether a man was a citizen or a stranger among 
that people, it seemed indeed requisite, either that he 
should impoverish himself, or that the people would im- 
poverish him, and perhaps kill him into the bargain. 
The orator last mentioned gives a pleasant account of 
an estate laid out in the public service ; f that is, above 
the third of it in raree-shows and figured dances. 

I need not insist on the Greek tyrannies, which were 

* Orat. 29, in Nicom. 

f In order to recommend his client to the favor of the people, he enume- 
rates all the sums he had expended. When x°pvyoc, 30 minas ; upon a chorus 
of men 20 minas; el iwppixioTag, 8 minas; uvdpuai xopyytiv, 50 minas; kvkTmcu 
X^pti, 3 minas : seven times trierarch, where he spent G talents: taxes, once 30 
minas, another time 40 ; yv/ivaoiapx&v, 12 minas ; x°PVybc TraidinC) x°PV, 15 minas : 
ncdfiudolQ xopvytiv, 18 minas; TroppixiOTaXg, ayevdoig, 7 minas; rpiijpu u/iiA?„6fu.evoc, 
15 minas; upx^eupo^, 30 minas: in the whole ten talents 38 minas. An im- 
mense sum for an Athenian fortune, and what alone would be esteemed great 
riches, Orat. 20. It is true, he says, the law did not oblige him absolutely to 
be at so much expense, not above a fourth. But without the favor of the peo- 
ple, nobody was so much as safe ; and this was the only way to gain it. See 
further, Orat. 24, de pop. statu. In another place, he introduces a speaker, 
who says that he had spent his whole fortune, and an immense one, eighty 
talents, for the people ; Orat. 25, de Prob. Evandri. The (leroLnoi, or strangers, 
find, says he, if they do not contribute largely enough to the people's fancy, 
that they have reason to repent it; Orat. 30, contra Phil. You may sec with 
what care Demosthenes displays his expenses of this nature, when he pleads 
for himself de corona: and how he exaggerates Midias's stinginess in this par- 
ticular, in his accusation of that criminal. All this, by the by, is a mark of a 
very iniquitous judicature : and yet the Athenians valued themselves on hav- 
ing the most legal and regular administration of any people in Greece, 


altogether horrible. Even the mixed monarchies, by 
which most of the ancient states of Greece were gov- 
erned, before the introduction of republics, were very 
unsettled. Scarcely any city, but Athens, says Isocrates, 
could show a succession of kings for four or five gene- 

Besides many other obvious reasons for the instability 
of ancient monarchies, the equal division of property 
among the brothers of private families, must, by a 
necessary consequence, contribute to unsettle and dis- 
turb the state. The universal preference given to the 
elder by modern laws, though it increases the inequal- 
ity of fortunes, has, however, this good effect, that it 
accustoms men to the same idea in public succession, and 
cuts off all claim and pretension of the younger. 

The new settled colony of Heraclea, falling immedi- 
ately into faction, applied to Sparta, who sent Heripidas 
with full authority to quiet their dissensions. This man, 
not provoked by any opposition, not inflamed by party 
rage, knew no better expedient than immediately put- 
ting to death about 500 of the citizens ;f a strong proof 
how deeply rooted these violent maxims of government 
were throughout all Greece. 

If such was the disposition of men's minds among that 
refined people, what may be expected in the common- 
wealths of Italy, Africa, Spain, and Gaul, which were 
denominated barbarous ? Why otherwise did the Greeks 
so much value themselves on their humanity, gentleness, 
and moderation, above all other nations ? This reason- 
ing seems very natural. But unluckily the history of 
the Koman commonwealth, in its earlier times, if we 
give credit to the received accounts, presents an opposite 

* Panath. f Diod. Sic. lib. xiv. 


conclusion. No blood was ever shed in any sedition at 
Rome till the murder of the Gracchi. Dionysius Hali- 
carnassimis,* observing the singular humanity of the Ro- 
man people in this particular, makes use of it as an 
argument that they were originally of Grecian extrac- 
tion : whence we may conclude, that the factions and 
revolutions in the barbarous republics were usually 
more violent than even those of Greece above men- 

If the Romans were so late in coming to blows, they 
made ample compensation after they had once entered 
upon the bloody scene ; and Appian's history of their 
civil wars contains the most frightful picture of mas- 
sacres, proscriptions, and forfeitures, that ever was pre- 
sented to the world. What pleases most, in that histo- 
rian, is, that he seems to feel a proper resentment of 
these barbarous proceedings ; and talks not with that 
provoking coolness and indifference which custom had 
produced in many of the Greek historians.^ 

* Lib. i. 

f The authorities above cited are all historians, orators, and philosophers, 
whose testimony is uncpiestioncd. It is dangerous to rely upon writers who 
deal in ridicule and satire. What will posterity, for instance, infer from this 
passage of Dr. Swift? " I told him, that in the kingdom of Tribnia (Britain), 
by the natives called Langdon (London), where I had sojourned some time 
in my travels, the bulk of the people consist, in a manner, wholly of discov- 
erers, witnesses, informers, accusers, prosecutors, evidences, swearers, to- 
gether with their several subservient and subaltern instruments, all under the 
colors, the conduct, and pay of ministers of state and their deputies. The 
plots in that kingdom are usually the workmanship of those persons," etc. 
Gulliver's Travels. Such a representation might suit the government of 
Athens, not that of England, which is remarkable, even in modern times, for 
humanity, justice, and liberty. Yet the Doctor's satire, though carried to ex- 
tremes, as is usual with him, even beyond other satirical writers, did not alto- 
gether want an object. The Bishop of Rochester, who was his friend, and of 
the same party, had been banished a little before by a bill of attainder, with 
great justice, but without such a proof as was legal, or according to the strict 
forms of common law. 


The maxim of ancient politics contain, in general, so 
little humanity and moderation, that it seems superflu- 
ous to give any particular reason for the acts of violence 
committed at any particular period. Yet I cannot for- 
bear observing, that the laws, in the later period of the 
Roman commonwealth, were so absurdly contrived, that 
they obliged the heads of parties to have recourse to 
these extremities. All capital punishments were abol- 
ished : however criminal, or, what is more, however dan- 
gerous any citizen might be, he could not regularly be 
punished otherwise than by banishment : and it became 
necessary, in the revolutions of party, to draw the sword 
of private vengeance ; nor was it easy, when laws were 
once violated, to set bounds to these sanguinary proceed- 
ings. Had Brutus himself prevailed over the triumvirate ; 
could he, in common prudence, have allowed Octavius 
and Antony to live, and have contented himself with 
banishing them to Rhodes or Marseilles, where they 
might still have plotted new commotions and rebellions ? 
His executing C. Antonius, brother to the triumvir, shows 
evidently his sense of the matter. Did not Cicero, with 
the approbation of all the wise and virtuous of Rome, 
arbitrarily put to death Catiline's accomplices, contrary 
to law, and without any trial or form of process ? and if 
he moderated his executions, did it not proceed, either 
from the clemency of his temper, or the conjunctures of 
the times ? A wretched security in a government which 
pretends to laws and liberty ! 

Thus one extreme produces another. In the same 
manner as excessive severity in the laws is apt to beget 
great relaxation in their execution ; so their excessive 
lenity naturally produces cruelty and barbarity. It is 
dangerous to force us, in any case, to pass their sacred 

448 ESSAY XI. 

One general cause of the disorders, so frequent in all 
ancient governments, seems to have consisted in the 
great difficulty of establishing any aristocracy in those 
ages, and the perpetual discontents and seditions of the 
people, whenever even the meanest and most beggarly 
were excluded from the legislature and from public 
offices. The very quality of freemen gave such a rank, 
being opposed to that of slave, that it seemed to entitle 
the possessor to every power and privilege of the com- 
monwealth. Solon's * laws excluded no freemen from 
votes or elections, but confined some magistracies to a 
particular census ; yet were the people never satisfied 
till those laws were repealed. By the treaty with An- 
tipater,f no Athenian was allowed a vote whose census 
was less than 2,000 drachmas (about 60/. sterling). And 
though such a government would to us appear suffi- 
ciently democratical, it was so disagreeable to that peo- 
ple, that above two thirds of them immediately left their 
country. J Cassander reduced that census to the half;§ 
yet still the government was considered as an oligar- 
chical tyranny, and the effect of foreign violence. 

Servius Tullius's || laws seem equal and reasonable, by 
fixing the power in proportion to the property ; yet the 
Roman people could never be brought quietly to submit 
to them. 

In those days there was no medium between a se- 
vere, jealous aristocracy, ruling over discontented sub- 
jects, and a turbulent, factious, tyrannical democracy.^] 
At present, there is not one republic in Europe, from 
one extremity of it to the other, that is not remarkable 
for justice, lenity, and stability, equal to, or even be- 

* Plutarch, in vita Solon. f Diod. Sic. lib. xviii. 

% Id. ibid. § Id. ibid. || Tit. Liv. lib. i. cap. 43. 

1 This sentence was not in the Editions prior to 0. 


yond Marseilles, Rhodes, or the most celebrated in an- 
tiquity. Almost all of them are well tempered aristoc- 

But, thirdly. There are many other circumstances in 
which ancient nations seem inferior to the modern, both 
for the happiness and increase of mankind. Trade, 
manufactures, industry, were nowhere, in former ages, so 
flourishing as they are at present in Europe. The only 
garb of the ancients, both for males and females, seems 
to have been a kind of flannel, which they wore, com- 
monly white or grey, and which they scoured as often 
as it became dirty. Tyre, which carried on, after 
Carthage, the greatest commerce of any city in the 
Mediterranean, before it was destroyed by Alexander, 
was no mighty city, if we credit Arrian's account of its 
inhabitants* Athens is commonly supposed to have 
been a trading city ; but it was as populous before the 
Median war as at any time after it, according to Herod- 
otus ; *j- yet its commerce at that time was so inconsid- 
erable, that, as the same historian observes,^ even the 
neighboring coasts of Asia were as little frequented by 
the Greeks as the Pillars of Hercules, for beyond these 
he conceived nothing. 

Great interest of money, and great profits of trade, 
are an infallible indication, that industry and commerce 
are but in their infancy. We read in Lysias § of 100 
per cent, profit made on a cargo of two talents, sent to no 
greater distance than from Athens to the Adriatic ; nor 

* Lib. ii. There were 8,000 killed daring the siege, and the captives 
amounted to 30,000. Diodorus Siculus, lib. xvii. says only 13,000; but he 
accounts for this small number by saying, that the Tyrians had sent away be- 
forehand part of their wives and children to Carthage. 

f Lib. v. he makes the number of the citizens amount to 30,000. 

% lb. v. § Orat. 33, advers. Diagit. 

vol. in. 57 


is this mentioned as an instance of extraordinary profit. 
Antidorus, says Demosthenes,* paid three talents and a 
half for a house, which he let at a talent a year ; and 
the orator blames his own tutors for not employing his 
money to like advantage. My fortune, says he, in eleven 
years' minority, ought to have been tripled. The value 
of 20 of the slaves left by his father, he computes at 40 
minas, and the yearly profit of their labor at 12.-|- The 
most moderate interest at Athens (for there was higher J 
often paid), was 12 per cent.,§ and that paid monthly. 
Not to insist upon the high interest to which the vast 
sums distributed in elections had raised money || at 
Borne, we find, that Verres, before that factious period, 
stated 24 per cent, for money which he left in the hands 
of the publicans ; and though Cicero exclaims against 
this article, it is not on account of the extravagant 
usury, but because it had never been customary to state 
any interest on such occasions.]! Interest, indeed, sunk 
at Borne, after the settlement of the empire ; but it 
never remained any considerable time so low as in the 
commercial states of modern times.** 

Among the other inconveniences which the Atheni- 
ans felt from the fortifying of Decelia by the Lacede- 
monians, it is represented by Thucydides,ff as one of the 
most considerable, that they could not bring over their 
corn from Euboea by land, passing by Oropus, but were 
obliged to embark it, and to sail round the promontory 
of Sunium ; a surprising instance of the imperfection of 
ancient navigation, for the water-carriage is not here 
above double the land. 

* Contra Aphob. p. 25. ex edit. Aldi. f Id. p. 19. % Id. ibid. 

§ Id. ibid, and vEschincs contra Ctesiph. 

|| Epist. ad Attic, lib. iv. cpist. 15. 

^1 Contra Verr. Orat, 3. ** Sec Essay IV. ff Lib. vii. 


I do not remember a passage in any ancient author, 
where the growth of a city is ascribed to the establish- 
ment of a manufacture. The commerce, which is said 
to flourish, is chiefly the exchange of those commodities, 
for which different soils and climates were suited. The 
sale of wine and oil into Africa, according to Diodorus 
Siculus,* was the foundation of the riches of Aorigen- 
turn. The situation of the city of Sybaris, according 
to the same author,")* was the cause of its immense pop- 
ulousness, being built near the two rivers Crathys and 
Sybaris. But these two rivers, we may observe, are not 
navigable, and could only produce some fertile valleys 
for agriculture and tillage ; an advantage so inconsider- 
able, that a modern writer would scarcely have taken 
notice of it. 

The barbarity of the ancient tyrants, together with 
the extreme love of liberty which animated those ages, 
must have banished every merchant and manufacturer, 
and have quite depopulated the state, had it subsisted 
upon industry and commerce. While the cruel and sus- 
picious Dionysius was carrying on his butcheries, who, . 
that was not detained by his landed property, and could 
have carried with him any art or skill to procure a sub- 
sistence in other countries, would have remained exposed 
to such implacable barbarity ? The persecutions of 
Philip II. and Louis XIV. filled all Europe with the man- 
ufactures of Flanders and of France. 

I grant, that agriculture is the species of industry 
chiefly requisite to the subsistence of multitudes • and 
it is possible that this industry may flourish, even where 
manufactures and other arts are unknown and neglected. 
Switzerland is at present a remarkable instance, where 

* Lib. xiii. f Lib. xii. 

452 ESSAY XI. 

we find, at once, the most skilful husbandmen, and the 
most bungling tradesmen, that are to be met with in 
Europe. That agriculture flourished in Greece and Italy, 
at least in some parts of them, and at some periods, we 
have reason to presume ; and whether the mechanical 
arts had reached the same degree of perfection, may not 
be esteemed so material, especially if we consider the 
great equality of riches in the ancient republics, where 
each family was obliged to cultivate, with the greatest 
care and industry, its own little field, in order to its sub- 

But is it just reasoning, because agriculture may, in 
some instances, flourish without trade or manufactures, 
to conclude, that, in any great extent of country, and 
for any great tract of time, it would subsist alone ? The 
most natural way, surely, of encouraging husbandry, is, 
first, to excite other kinds of industry, and thereby afford 
the laborer a ready market for his commodities, and a 
return for such goods as may contribute to his pleasure 
and enjoyment. This method is infallible and univer- 
sal ; and, as it prevails more in modern governments 
than in the ancient, it affords a presumption of the 
superior populousness of the former. 

Every man, says Xenophon, :;: may be a farmer: no 
art or skill is requisite : all consists in industry, and in 
attention to the execution ; a strong proof, as Columella 
hints, that agriculture was but little known in the age 
of Xenophon. 

All our later improvements and refinements, have 
they done nothing towards the easy subsistence of men, 
and consequently towards their propagation and in- 
crease ? Our superior skill in mechanics ; the discovery 

* Oecon. 


of new worlds, by which commerce has been so much 
enlarged ; the establishment of posts ; and the use of 
bills of exchange : these seem all extremely useful to 
the encouragement of art, industry, and populousness. 
Were we to strike off these, what a check should we 
give to every kind of business and labor, and what mul- 
titudes of families would immediately perish from want 
and hunger ? And it seems not probable, that we could 
supply the place of these new inventions by any other 
regulation or institution. 

Have we reason to think, that the police of ancient 
states was anywise comparable to that of modern, or 
that men had then equal security, either at home, or in 
their journeys by land or water ? I question not, but 
every impartial examiner would give us the preference 
in this particular* 

Thus, upon comparing the whole, it seems impos- 
sible to assign any just reason, why the world should 
have been more populous in ancient than in modern 
times. The equality of property among the ancients, 
liberty, and the small divisions of their states, were in- 
deed circumstances favorable to the propagation of 
mankind : but their wars were more bloody and 
destructive, their governments more factious and unset- 
tled, commerce and manufactures more feeble and 
languishing, and the general police more loose and 
irregular. These latter disadvantages seem to form a 
sufficient counterbalance to the former advantages ; and 
rather favor the opposite opinion to that which com- 
monly prevails with regard to this subject. 

But there is no reasoning, it may be said, against 
matter of fact. If it appear that the world was then 

* See Part I. Essay XI. 


more populous than at present, we may be assured that 
our conjectures are false, and that we have overlooked 
some material circumstance in the comparison. This I 
readily own : all our preceding reasonings I acknowledge 
to be mere trilling, or, at least, small skirmishes and 
frivolous rencounters, which decide nothing. But un- 
luckily the main combat, where we compare facts, can- 
not be rendered much more decisive. The facts deliv- 
ered by ancient authors are either so uncertain or so 
imperfect as to afford us nothing positive in this matter. 
How indeed could it be otherwise? The very facts 
which we must oppose to them, in computing the popu- 
lousness of modern states, are far from being either cer- 
tain or complete. Many grounds of calculation pro- 
ceeded on by celebrated writers are little better than 
those of the emperor Heliogabalus, who formed an esti- 
mate of the immense greatness of Rome from ten thou- 
sand pounds weight of cobwebs which had been found 
in that city* 

It is to be remarked, that all kinds of numbers are 
uncertain in ancient manuscripts, and have been sub- 
ject to much greater corruptions than any other part of 
the text, and that for an obvious reason. Any altera- 
tion in other places commonly affects the sense of gram- 
mar, and is more readily perceived by the reader and 

Few enumerations of inhabitants have been made of 
any tract of country by any ancient author of good 
authority, so as to afford us a large enough view for 

It is probable that there was formerly a good founda- 
tion for the number of citizens assigned to any free city, 

* JElii Lamprid. in vita Heliogab. cap. 20. 


because they entered for a share in the government, 
and there were exact registers kept of them. But as 
the number of slaves is seldom mentioned, this leaves 
us in as great uncertainty as ever with regard to the 
populousness even of single cities. 

The first page of Thucydides is, in my opinion, the 
commencement of real history. All preceding narra- 
tions are so intermixed with fable, that philosophers 
ought to abandon them, in a great measure, to the em- 
bellishment of poets and orators. :;: 

With regard to remoter times, the numbers of people 
assigned are often ridiculous, and lose all credit and 
authority. The free citizens of Sybaris, able to bear 
arms, and actually drawn out in battle, were 300,000. 
They encountered at Siagra with 100,000 citizens of 
Crotona, another Greek city contiguous to them, and 
were defeated. — This is Diodorus Siculus'sf account, 
and is very seriously insisted on by that historian. Stra- 
bo J also mentions the same number of Sybarites. 

Diodorus Siculus,§ enumerating the inhabitants of 
Agrigentum, when it was destroyed by the Carthagin- 
ians, says that they amounted to 20,000 citizens, 200,000 
strangers, besides slaves, who in so opulent a city as 
he represents it, would probably be at least as numer- 
ous. We must remark, that the women and the children 

* In general, there is more candor and sincerity in ancient historians, but 
less exactness and care, than in the moderns. Our speculative factions, 
especially those of religion, throw such an illusion over our minds, that men 
seem to regard impartiality to their adversaries and to heretics as a vice or 
weakness. But the commonness of books, by means of printing, has obliged 
modern historians to be more careful in avoiding contradictions and incon- 
gruities. Diodorus Siculus is a good writer, but it is with pain I see his nar- 
ration contradict, in so many particulars, the two most authentic pieces of all 
Greek history, to wit, Xcnophon's expedition, and Demosthenes's orations. 
Plutarch and Appian seem scarce ever to have read Cicero's epistles. 

f Lib. xii. J Lib. vi. § Lib. xiii. 


are not included ; and that, therefore, upon the whole, 
this city must have contained near two millions of in- 
habitants.* And what was the reason of so immense an 
increase ? They were industrious in cultivating the 
neighboring fields, not exceeding a small English 
county; and they traded with their wine and oil to 
Africa, which at that time produced none of these com- 

Ptolemy, says Theocritus,f commands 33,339 cities. I 
suppose the singularity of the number was the reason of 
assigning it. Diodorus Siculus J assigns three millions 
of inhabitants to Egypt, a small number : but then he 
makes the number of cities amount to 18,000; an evi- 
dent contradiction. 

He says,§ the people w r ere formerly seven millions. 
Thus remote times are always most envied and admired. 

That Xerxes's army was extremely numerous, I can 
readily believe ; both from the great extent of his em- 
pire, and from the practice among the eastern nations of 
encumbering their camp with a superfluous multitude : 
but will any rational man cite Herodotus's wonderful 
narrations as any authority ? There is something very 
rational, I own, in Lysias's || argument upon this subject. 
Had not Xerxes's army been incredibly numerous, says 
he, he had never made a bridge over the Hellespont : it 
had been much easier to have transported his men over 
so short a passage with the numerous shipping of which 
he was master. 

Polybius says ^j that the Romans, between the first 
and second Punic wars, being threatened with an inva- 

* Diogenes Laertius (in vita Empedoclis) says, that Agrigentum contained 
only 800,000 inhabitants. 

t Idyll. 17. $ Lib. i. § Id. ibid. 

|| Orat. de Funebris. % Lib. ii. 


sion from the Gauls, mustered all their own forces, and 
those of their allies, and found them amount to seven 
hundred thousand men able to bear arms ; a great num- 
ber surely, and which, when joined to the slaves, is 
probably not less, if not rather more, than that extent 
of country affords at presents The enumeration too 
seems to have been made with some exactness; and 
Polybius gives us the detail of the particulars. But 
might not the number be magnified, in order to encour- 
age the people ? 

Diodorus Siculusf makes the same enumeration 
amount to near a million. These variations are sus- 
picious. He plainly too supposes, that Italy, in his time, 
was not so populous; another suspicious circumstance. 
For who can believe that the inhabitants of that country 
diminished from the time of the first Punic war to that 
of the triumvirate ? 

Julius Cresar, according to Appian,J encountered four 
millions of Gauls, killed one million, and made another 
million prisoners.§ Supposing the number of the ene- 
my's army and that of the slain could be exactly 
assigned, which never is possible, how could it be known 
how often the same man returned into the armies, or 
how distinguish the new from the old levied soldiers ? 
No attention ought ever to be given to such loose, ex- 
aggerated calculations, especially where the author does 
not tell us the mediums upon which the calculations 
were founded. 

* The country that supplied this number was not above a third of Italy, 
viz. the Pope's dominions, Tuscany, and a part of the kingdom of Xaples : 
but perhaps in those early times there were very few slaves, except in Rome, 
or the great cities. 

f Lib. ii. % Celtiea. 

§ Plutarch (in vita Caes.) makes the number that Ca?sar fought with amount 
to three millions ; Julian (in Ciesaribus) to two. 
VOL. III. 58 


Paterculus* makes the number of Gauls killed by 
Caesar amount only to 400,000 ; a more probable ac- 
count, and more easily reconciled to the history of these 
wars given by that conqueror himself in his Commen- 
taries.")* The most bloody of his battles were fought 
against the Helvetii and the Germans. 

One would imagine that every circumstance of the life 
and actions of Dionysius the elder might be regarded 
as authentic, and free from all fabulous exaggeration, 
both because he lived at a time when letters flourished 
most in Greece, and because his chief historian was Phil- 
istus, a man allowed to be of great genius, and who was a 
courtier and minister of that prince. But can we admit 
that he had a standing army of 100,000 foot, 10,000 
horse, and a fleet of 400 galleys? J These, we may 
observe, were mercenary forces, and subsisted upon pay, 
like our armies in Europe, for the citizens were all dis- 
armed ; and when Dion afterwards invaded Sicily, and 
called on his countrymen to vindicate their liberty, he 
was obliged to bring arms along with him, which he dis- 
tributed among those who joined him.§ In a state where 
agriculture alone flourishes, there may be many inhabi- 
tants ; and if these be all armed and disciplined, a great 
force may be called out upon occasion : but great bodies 
of mercenary troops can never be maintained without 
either great trade and numerous manufactures, or exten- 
sive dominions. The United Provinces never were mas- 

* Lib. ii. cap. 4 7. 

f Pliny, lib. vii. cap. 25, says, that Cassar used to boast, that there had 
fallen in battle against him one million one hundred and ninety-two thousand 
men, besides those who perished in the civil wars. It is not probable that that 
conqueror could ever pretend to be so exact in his computation. But allow- 
ing the fact, it is likely that the Helvetii, Germans, and Britons, whom he 
slaughtered, would amount to near a half of the number. 

§ Plutarch, in vita Dionys. 


ters of such a force by sea and land as that which is said 
to belong to Dionysius ; yet they possess as large a ter- 
ritory, perfectly well cultivated, and have much more 
resources from their commerce and industry. Diodorus 
Siculus allows, that, even in his time, the army of 
Dionysius appeared incredible ; that is, as I interpret 
it, was entirely a fiction ; and the opinion arose from 
the exaggerated flattery of the courtiers, and perhaps 
from the vanity and policy of the tyrant himself. ::: 

* The critical art may very justly be suspected of temerity, when it pre- 
tends to correct or dispute the plain testimony of ancient historians by any 
probable or analogical reasonings : yet the license of authors upon all subjects, 
particularly with regard to numbers, is so great, that we ought still to retain a 
kind of doubt or reserve, whenever the facts advanced depart in the least from 
the common bounds of nature and experience. I shall give an instance with 
regard to modern history. Sir William Temple tells us, in his Memoirs, that hav- 
ing a free conversation with Charles the II., he took the opportunity of repre- 
senting to that monarch the impossibility of introducing into this island the 
religion and government of France, chiefly on account of the great force 
requisite to subdue the spirit and liberty of so brave a people. " The Romans," 
says Ik.', '• were forced to keep up twelve legions for that purpose" (a great ab- 
surdity),! "and Cromwell left an army of near eighty thousand men." Must 
not this last be regarded as unquestioned by future critics, when they find it 
asserted by a wise and learned minister of state contemporary to the first, and 
who addressed his discourse, upon an ungrateful subject, to a great monarch 
who was also contemporary, and who himself broke those very forces about 
fourteen years before V Yet, by the most undoubted authority, we may insist 
that Cromwell's army, when he died, did not amount to half the number here 

f Strabo, lib. iv. says, that one legion would be sufficient, with a few cavalry; but the 
Romans commonly kept up somewhat a greater force in this island, which they never 
took the pains entirely to subdue. 

X It appears that Cromwell's parliament, in 1656, settled but 1,300,000 pounds a year 
on him for the constant charges of government in all the three kingdoms. Sec Scobel, 
chap. 31. This was to supply the fleet, army, and civil list. It appears from White- 
locke, that in the year 1649, the sum of 80,000 pounds a month was the estimate for 
40,000 men. We must conclude, therefore, that Cromwell had much less than that 
number upon pay in 1G56. In the very instrument of government, 20,000 foot and 10,000 
horse are fixed by Cromwell himself, and afterwards confirmed by parliament, as the 
regular standing army of the commonwealth. That number, indeed, seems not to have 
been much exceeded during the whole time of the Protectorship. See further Thurlo, 

460 ESSAY XI. 

It is a usual fallacy to consider all the ages of anti- 
quity as one period, and to compute the numbers con- 
tained in the great cities mentioned by ancient authors 
as if these cities had been all contemporary. The Greek 
colonies flourished extremely in Sicily during the age of 
Alexander ; but in Augustus's time they were so decayed, 
that almost all the produce of that fertile island was 
consumed in Italy.* 

Let us now examine the numbers of the inhabitants 
assigned to particular cities in antiquity ; and, omitting 
the numbers of Nineveh, Babylon, and the Egyptian 
Thebes, let us confine ourselves to the sphere of real 
history, to the Grecian and Roman states. I must own, 
the more I consider this subject, the more am I inclined 
to scepticism with regard to the great populousness 
ascribed to ancient times. 

Athens is said by Plato f to be a very great city ; and 
it was surely the greatest of all the Greek J cities except 
Syracuse, which was nearly about the same size in 
Thucydides's § time, and afterwards increased beyond it. 
For Cicero || mentions it as the greatest of all the Greek 
cities in his time, not comprehending, I suppose, either 
Antioch or Alexandria under that denomination. Athe- 
noeus^[ says, that, by the enumeration of Demetrius 

* Strabo, lib. vi. f Apolog. Socr. 

X Argos seems also to have been a great city ; for Lysias contents himself 
with saying, that it did not exceed Athens. Orat. 34. 

§ Lib. vi. See also Plutarch in vita Nicia\ 

|| Orat. contra Verrem, lib. iv. cap. 52. Strabo, lib. vi. says, it was twenty- 
two miles in compass. But then we are to consider, that it contained two har- 
bors within it, one of which was a very large one, and might be regarded as 
a kind of bay. 

f Lib. vi. cap. 20. 

Vol. II. pp. 413, 499, 568. We may there see, that though the Protector had more eon 
siderable armies in Ireland and Scotland, he had not sometimes more than 4,000 or 5,000 
men in England. — Editions E, G, II. 


Phalereus, there were in Athens 21,000 citizens, 10,000 
strangers, and 400,000 slaves. This number is much in- 
sisted on by those whose opinion I call in question, and 
is esteemed a fundamental fact to their purpose : but, 
in my opinion, there is no point of criticism more cer- 
tain than that Athenams and Ctesicles, whom he quotes, 
are here mistaken, and that the number of slaves is at 
least augmented by a whole cipher, and ought not to 
be regarded as more than 40,000. 

First, When the number of citizens are said to be 
21,000 by Athen^us,* men of full age are only under- 
stood. For, 1. Herodotus says,f that Aristagoras, ambas- 
sador from the Ionians, found it harder to deceive one 
Spartan than 30,000 Athenians; meaning, in a loose 
way, the whole state, supposed to be met in one popular 
assembly, excluding the women and children. 2. Thucyd- 
ides t says, that, making allowance for all the absentees 
in the fleet, army, garrisons, and for people employed in 
their private affairs, the Athenian assembly never rose 
to five thousand. 3. The forces enumerated by the same 
historian § being all citizens, and amounting to 13,000 
heavy-armed infantry, prove the same method of calcu- 
lation ; as also the whole tenor of the Greek historians, 
who always understand men of full age when they assign 
the number of citizens in any republic. Now, these 
being but the fourth of the inhabitants, the free Athe- 
nians were by this account 84,000; the strangers 40,000; 
and the slaves, calculating by the smaller number, and 
allowing that they married and propagated at the same 
rate with freemen, were 100,000; and the whole of the 
inhabitants 284,000; a number surely large enough. 

* Demosthenes assigns 20,000, contra Aristag. 

f Lib. v. % Lib. viii. 

§ Lib. ii. Diodorus Siculus's account perfectly agrees, lib. xii. 


The other number, 1,720,000, makes Athens larger than 
London and Paris united. 

Secondly, There were but 10,000 houses in Athens* 

Thirdly, Though the extent of the walls, as given us 
by Thucydides,f be great (to wit, eighteen miles, beside 
the seacoast), yet XenophonJ says there was much 
waste ground within the walls. They seem indeed to 
have joined four distinct and separate cities.§ 

Fourthly, No insurrection of the slaves, or suspicion of 
insurrection, is ever mentioned by historians, except one 
commotion of the miners. || 

Fifthly, The treatment of slaves by the Athenians is 
said by Xenophon,^[ and Demosthenes,** and Plautus,ff 
to have been extremely gentle and indulgent ; which 
could never have been the case, had the disproportion 
been twenty to one. The disproportion is not so great 
in any of our colonies ; yet we are obliged to exercise a 
rigorous and military government over the negroes. 

Sixthly, No man is ever esteemed rich for possessing 
what may be reckoned an equal distribution of property 
in any country, or even triple or quadruple that wealth. 
Thus, every person in England is computed by some to 
spend sixpence a day ; yet he is esteemed but poor who 
has five times that sum. Now, Timarchus is said by 

* Xenophon Mem. lib. ii. f Lib. ii. % De Ratione Red. 

§ We are to observe, that when Dionysius Halicarnassams says, that if we 
regard the ancient walls of Rome, the extent of that city will not appear 
greater than that of Athens, he must mean the Acropolis and high town only. 
No ancient author ever speaks of the Pyneus, Phalerus, and Munycliia, as the 
same with Athens. Much less can it be supposed, that Dionysius would con- 
sider the matter in that light, after the walls of Cimon and Pericles were de- 
stroyed, and Athens was entirely separated from these other towns. This 
observation destroys all Vossius's reasonings, and introduces common sense 
into these calculations. 

|| Athen. lib. vi. f De Rep. Athen. ** Philip. 3. ff Sticho. 


YEschines* to have been left in easy circumstances; but 
he was master of only ten slaves employed in manufac- 
tures. Lysias and his brother, two strangers, were pro- 
scribed by the Thirty for their great riches, though they 
had but sixty apiece :f Demosthenes was left very rich 
by his father, yet he had no more than fifty-two slaves.J 
His workhouse of twenty cabinet-makers is said to be a 
very considerable manufactory.! 

Seventhly, During the Decelian war, as the Greek his- 
torians call it, 20,000 slaves deserted, and brought the 
Athenians to great distress, as we learn from Thucyd- 
ides. || This could not have happened had they been 
only the twentieth part. The best slaves would not 

Eighthly, Xenophon ^f proposes a scheme for maintain- 
ing by the public 10,000 slaves : and that so great a 
number may possibly be supported, any one will be con- 
vinced, says he, who considers the numbers we possessed 
before the Decelian war ; a way of speaking altogether 
incompatible with the larger number of iUhenams. 

Ninthly, The whole census of* the state of Athens was 
less than 6,000 talents. And though numbers in ancient 
manuscripts be often suspected by critics, yet this is un- 
exceptionable ; both because Demosthenes,** who gives 
it, gives also the detail, which checks him ; and because 
Polybius -j"5* assigns the same number, and reasons upon 
it. Xow, the most vulgar slave could yield by his labor 
an oholus a day, over and above his maintenance, as we 
learn from Xenophon,t;|; who says, that Xicias's overseer 
paid his master so much for slaves, whom he employed 
in mines. If you will take the pains to estimate an 

* Contra Timarck. f Orat. 11. % Contra Aphob. 

§ Ibid. || Lib. vii. f De Hat. Red. 

** De Classibus. ft Lib. ii. cap. G2. %% De Rat. Red. 


oholus a clay, and the slaves at 400,000, computing only 
at four years' purchase, you will find the sum above 
12,000 talents ; even though allowance be made for the 
great number of holidays in Athens. Besides, many of 
the slaves would have a much greater value from their 
art. The lowest that Demosthenes estimates any of 
his * father's slaves is two minas a head. And upon this 
supposition, it is a little difficult, I confess, to reconcile 
even the number of 40,000 slaves with the census of 
0,000 talents. 

Tenthly, Chios is said by Thucydides,f to contain more 
slaves than any Greek city, except Sparta. Sparta then 
had more than Athens, in proportion to the number of 
citizens. The Spartans were 9,000 in the town, 30,000 
in the country.J The male slaves, therefore, of full age, 
must have been more than 780,000 ; the whole more 
than 3,120,000 ; a number impossible to be maintained 
in a narrow barren country, such as Laconia, which had 
no trade. Had the Helotes been so very numerous, the 
murder of 2,000, mentioned by Thucy elides, § would 
have irritated them, without weakening them. 

Besides, we are to consider, that the number assigned 
by Athena3us,|| whatever it is, comprehends all the in- 
habitants of Attica, as well as those of Athens. The 
Athenians affected much a country life, as we learn from 
Thucydides ;^[ and when they were all chased into town, 
by the invasion of their territory during the Pelopon- 

* Contra Aphobum. f Lib. viii. 

% Plutarch, in vita Lycurg. § Lib. iv. 

|| The same author affirms, that Corinth had once 460,000 slaves ; J^gina 
470,000. But the foregoing arguments hold stronger against these facts, 
which are indeed entirely absurd and impossible. It is however remarkable, 
that Athenaeus cites so great an authority as Aristotle for this last fact : and 
the scholiast on Pindar mentions the same number of slaves in iEgina. 

H Lib. ii. 


nesian war, the city was not able to contain them ; and 
they were obliged to lie in the porticos, temples, and 
even streets, for want of lodging. ::: 

The same remark is to be extended to all the other 
Greek cities; and when the number of citizens is as- 
signed, we must always understand it to comprehend 
the inhabitants of the neighboring country, as well as of 
the city. Yet even with this allowance, it must be con- 
fessed that Greece was a populous country, and ex- 
ceeded what we could imagine concerning so narrow a 
territory, naturally not very fertile, and which drew 
no supplies of corn from other places. For, excepting 
Athens, which traded to Pontus for that commodity, the 
other cities seem to have subsisted chiefly from their 
neighboring territory .f 

Rhodes is well known to have been a city of extensive 
commerce, and of great fame and splendor ; }^et it con- 
tained only 6,000 citizens able to bear arms when it was 
besieged by Demetrius.t 

Thebes was always one of the capital cities of Greece ; § 
but the number of its citizens exceeded not those of 

* Thueyd. lib. ii. 

f Dkmost. contra Left. The Athenians brought yearly from Pontus 
400,000 medimni or bushels of corn, as appeared from the custom-house books. 
And this Avas the greater part of their importation of corn. This, by the by, 
is a strong proof that there is some great mistake in the foregoing passage of 
Athenams. For Attica itself was so barren of corn, that it produced not 
enough even to maintain the peasants. Tit. Liv. lib. xliii. cap. 6. And 
400,000 medimni would scarcely feed 100,000 men during a twelvemonth. 
Lucian, in his navigium sice vota, says, that a ship, which, by the dimensions 
he gives, seems to have been about the size of our third rates, carried as much 
corn as would maintain Attica for a twelvemonth. But perhaps Athens was 
decayed at that time ; and, besides, it is not safe to trust to such loose rhetori- 
cal calculations. 

| Diod. Sic. lib. xx. § Isocr. paneg. 

vol. in. 59 


Rhodes* Phliasia is said to be a small city by Xeno- 
phoivl" yet we find that it contained 6,000 citizens. J I 
pretend not to reconcile these two facts. Perhaps Xeno- 
phon calls Phliasia a small town, because it made but a 
small figure in Greece, and maintained only a subordi- 
nate alliance with Sparta ; or perhaps the country be- 
longing to it was extensive, and most of the citizens 
were employed in the cultivation of it, and dwelt in the 
neighboring villages. 

Mantinea was equal to any city in Arcadia.§ Conse- 
quently it was equal to Megalopolis, which was fifty 
stadia, or six miles and a quarter in circumference. || 
But Mantinea had only 3,000 citizens.^ The Greek 
cities, therefore, contained only fields and gardens, to- 
gether with the houses; and we cannot judge of them 
by the extent of their walls. Athens contained no more 
than 10,000 houses; yet its walls, with the sea-coast, 

* Diod. Sic. lib. xvii. When Alexander attacked Thebes, we may safely 
conclude that almost all the inhabitants were present. Whoever is acquainted 
with the spirit of the Greeks, especially of the Thebans, will never suspect 
that any of them would desert their country when it was reduced to such ex- 
treme peril and distress. As Alexander took the town by storm, all those 
who bore arms were put to the sword without mercy, and they amounted only 
to G,000 men. Among these were some strangers and manumitted slaves. 
The captives, consisting of old men, women, children, and slaves, were sold, 
and they amounted to 30,000. We may therefore conclude, that the free 
citizens in Thebes, of both sexes and all ages, were near 24,000, the strangers 
and slaves about 12,000, These last, we may observe, were somewhat fewer 
in proportion than at Athens, as is reasonable to imagine from this circum- 
stance, that Athens was a town of more trade to support slaves, and of more 
entertainment to allure strangers. It is also to be remarked, that 36,000 was 
the whole number of people, both in the city of Thebes and the neighboring 
territory. A very moderate number, it must be confessed ; and this computa- 
tion, being founded on facts which appear indisputable, must have great weight 
in the present controversy. The above-mentioned number of Rhodians, too, 
were all the inhabitants of the island Avho were free, and able to bear arms. 

f Hist. Grsec. lib. vii. % Id. lib. vii. § Polyb. lib. ii. 

|| Polyb. lib. ix. cap. 20. f Lysias, Oat. 34. 


were above twenty miles in extent. Syracuse was 
twenty-two miles in circumference ; yet was scarcely 
ever spoken of by the ancients as more populous than 
Athens. Babylon was a square of fifteen miles, or sixty 
miles in circuit ; but it contained large cultivated fields 
and inclosures, as we learn from Pliny. Though Aure- 
lian's wall was fifty miles in circumference,* the circuit 
of all the thirteen divisions of Kome, taken apart, 
according to Publius Victor, was only about forty-three 
miles. When an enemy invaded the country, all the 
inhabitants retired within the walls of the ancient cities, 
with their cattle and furniture, and instruments of hus- 
bandry : and the great height to which the walls were 
raised, enabled a small number to defend them with 

Sparta, says Xenophon,j- is one of the cities of Greece 
that has the fewest inhabitants. Yet Polybius t says 
that it was forty-eight stadia in circumference, and was 

All the -zEtolians able to bear arms in Antipater's 
time, deducting some few garrisons, were but 10,000 

Polybius || tells us, that the Acha?an league might, 
without any inconvenience, march 30 or 40,000 men : 
and this account seems probable ; for that league com- 
prehended the greater part of Peloponnesus. Yet 
Pausanias,^ speaking of the same period, says, that 
all the Aclurjans able to bear arms, even when several 
manumitted slaves were joined to them, did not amount 
to 15,000. 

* Vopiscus in vita Aurel. 

f De Rep. Laced. This passage is not easily reconciled with that of Plu- 
tarch above, who says that Sparta had 9,000 citizens. 

+ Polyb. lib. ix. cap. xx. § Diod. Sic. lib. xviii. 

|| Legat. % In Achaicis. 


The Thessalians, till their final conquest by the 
Romans, were, in all ages, turbulent, factious, seditious, 
disorderly * It is not therefore natural to suppose that 
this part of Greece abounded much in people. 

We are told by Thucydides,f that the part of Pelo- 
ponnesus, adjoining to Pylos, was desert and unculti- 
vated. Herodotus says,J that Macedonia was full of 
lions and wild bulls; animals which can only inhabit 
vast unpeopled forests. These were the two extremities 
of Greece. 

All the inhabitants of Epirus, of all ages, sexes, and 
conditions, who were sold by Paulus iEmilius, amounted 
only to 150,000.§ Yet Epirus might be double the ex- 
tent of Yorkshire. 

Justin || tells us, that when Philip of Macedon was de- 
clared head of the Greek confederacy, he called a con- 
gress of all the states, except the Lacedemonians, who 
refused to concur ; and he found the force of the whole, 
upon computation, to amount to 200,000 infantry and 
15,000 cavalry. This must be understood to be all the 
citizens capable of bearing arms. For as the Greek re- 
publics maintained no mercenary forces, and had no 
militia distinct from the whole body of the citizens, it is 
not conceivable what other medium there could be of 
computation. That such an army could ever, by Greece, 
be brought into the field, and be maintained there, is 
contrary to' all history. Upon this supposition, there- 
fore, we may thus reason. The free Greeks of all ages 
and sexes were 860,000. The slaves, estimating them 
by the number of Athenian slaves as above, who seldom 
married or had families, were double the male citizens of 

* Tit Liv. lib. xxiv. cap. 51. Plato in Critone. 

f Lib. vii. X Lib. vii. 

§ Tit. Liv. lib. xlv. cap. 34. || Lib. ix. cap. 5. 


full age. to wit, 430,000. And all the inhabitants of 
ancient Greece, excepting Laconia, were about one mil- 
lion two hundred and ninety thousand ; no mighty num- 
ber, nor exceeding what may be found at present in 
Scotland, a country of not much greater extent, and 
very indifferently peopled. 

We may now consider the numbers of people in 
Rome and Italy, and collect all the lights afforded us by 
scattered passages in ancient authors. We shall find, 
upon the whole, a great difficulty in fixing any opinion 
on that head ; and no reason to support those exag- 
gerated calculations, so much insisted on by modern 

Dionysius Halicarnassaeus * says, that the ancient 
walls of Eome were nearly of the same compass with 
those of Athens, but that the suburbs ran out to a great 
extent ; and it was difficult to tell where the town 
ended, or the country began. In some places of Eome, 
it appears, from the same author,*}* from Juvenal,J and 
from other ancient writers,§ that the houses were high, 
and families lived in separate stories, one above another : 
but is it probable that these were only the poorer citi- 
zens, and only in some few streets? If we may judge 

* Lib. iv. f Lib. x. | Satyr, iii. 1. 269, 270. 

§ Strabo, lib. v. says, that the Emperor Augustus prohibited the raising 
houses higher than seventy feet. In another passage, lib. xvi., he speaks of 
the houses of Rome as remarkably high. See also to the same propose Vitru- 
vius, lib. ii. cap. 8. Aristides the sophist, in his oration uc Vuuriv, says, that 
Rome consisted of cities on the top of cities ; and that if one were to spread 
it out and unfold it, it would cover the whole surface of Italy. Where an 
author indulges himself in such extravagant declamations, and gives so much 
into the hyperbolical style, one knows not how far he must be reduced. But 
this reasoning seems natural : if Rome was built in so scattered a manner as 
Dionysius says, and ran so much into the country, there must have been very 
few streets where the houses were raised so high. It is only for want of room 
that anybody builds in that inconvenient manner. 


from the younger Pliny's :;: account of his own house, 
and from Bartoli's plans of ancient buildings, the men 
of quality had very spacious palaces : and their build- 
ings were like the Chinese houses at this clay, where 
each apartment is separated from the rest, and rises no 
higher than a single story. To which if we add, that 
the Roman nobility much affected extensive porticos, 
and even woods f in town, we may perhaps allow Vos- 
sius (though there is no manner of reason for it), to 
read the famous passage of the elder Pliny J his own 

* Lib. ii. epist. 16, lib. v. epist. G. It is true, Pliny there describes a coun- 
try-house ; but since that was the idea which the ancients formed of a mag- 
nificent and convenient building, the great men would certainly build the 
same way in town. " In laxitatem ruris excurrunt," says Seneca of the rich 
and voluptuous, epist. 114. Valerius Maximus, lib. iv. cap. 4, speaking of 
Cincinnatus's field of four acres, says, " Auguste se habitare nunc putat, cujus 
domus tantum patet quantum Cincinnati rura patuerant." To the same pur- 
pose see lib. xxxvi. cap. 15 ; also lib. xviii. cap. 2. 

f Vitruv. lib. v. cap. 11. Tacit. Annal. lib. xi. cap. 3. Sucton. in vita 
Octav. cap. 72, etc. 

X " Moenia ejus (Roma?) collegere ambitu imperatoribus, censoribusque 
Vespasianis, A. U. C. 828. pass. xiii. MCC. complexa montes septem, ipsa di- 
viditur in regiones quatuordecim, compita earum 2G5. Ejusdem spatii men- 
sura, currente a Milliario in capite Horn. Fori statuto, ad singulas portas, 
qua? sunt hodie numero 3 7, ita ut duodecim porta* semel numerentur, praete- 
rcanturque ex veteribus septem, qua) esse desierunt, efficit passuum per direc- 
tum 30,775. Ad extrema vero tectorum cum castris praatoriis ab eodem 
Milliario, per vicos omnium viarum, mensura collegit paulo amplius septu- 
aginta millia passuum. Quo si quis altitudinem tectorum addat, dignam pro- 
fecto, aestimationem concipiat, fatcaturque nullius urbis magnitudinem in toto 
orbe potuisse ei comparari." Plin. lib. iii. cap. 5. 

All the best manuscripts of Pliny read the passage as here cited, and fix 
the compass of the walls of Rome to be thirteen miles. The question is, 
What Pliny means by 30,775 paces, and how that number was formed ? The 
manner in which I conceive it is this. Home was a semicircular area of thir- 
teen miles circumference. The Forum, and consequently the Milliarium, we 
know, was situated on the banks of the Tyber, and near the centre of the 
circle, or upon the diameter of the semicircular area. Though there were 
thirty-seven gates to Home, yet only twelve of them had straight streets, lead- 
ing from them to the Milliarium. Pliny, therefore, having assigned the cir- 
cumference of Home, and knowing that that alone was not sufficient to give 


way, without admitting the extravagant consequences 
which he draws from it. 

us a just notion of its surface, uses this further method. lie supposes all the 
streets leading from the Milliarium to the twelve gates, to be laid together 
into one straight line, and supposes we run along that line, so as to count each 
gate once ; in which case, he says, that the whole line is 30,775 paces, or, in 
other words, that each street or radius of the semicircular area is upon an av- 
erage two miles and a half; and the whole length of Rome is five miles, and 
its breadth about half as much, besides the scattered suburbs. 

Pere Hardouin understands this passage in the same manner, with regard 
to the laying together the several streets of Rome into one line, in order to 
compose 30.775 paces; but then he supposes that streets led from the Millia- 
rium to every gate, and that no street exceeded 800 paces in length. But, 
1st, A semicircular area, whose radius w r as only 800 paces, could never have 
a circumference near thirteen miles, the compass of Rome as assigned by 
Pliny. A radius of two miles and a half forms very nearly that circumfer- 
ence. 2d, There is an absurdity in supposing a city so built as to have streets 
running to its centre from every gate in its circumference, these streets must 
interfere as they approach. 3d, This diminishes too much from the great- 
ness of ancient Rome, and reduces that city below even Bristol or Rot- 

The sense which Vossius, in his Observations variae, puts on this passage of 
Pliny, errs widely in the other extreme. One manuscript of no authority, in- 
stead of thirteen miles, has assigned thirty miles for the compass of the walls 
of Rome. And Vossius understands this only of the curvilinear part of the 
circumference : supposing that, as the Tyber formed the diameter, there were 
no walls built on that side. But, 1st, This reading is allowed to be contrary 
to almost all the manuscripts. 2d, Why should Pliny, a concise writer, repeat 
the compass of the walls of Rome in two successive sentences ? 3d, Why 
repeat it with so sensible a variation ? 4th, What is the meaifng of Pliny's 
mentioning twice the Milliarium, if a line was measured that had no depen- 
dence on the Milliarum ? 5th, Aurelian's wall is said by Vopiscus to have 
been drawn laxiore ambitu, and to have comprehended all the buildings and 
suburbs on the north side of the Tyber, yet its compass was only fifty miles ; 
and even here critics suspect some mistake or corruption in the text, since the 
walls which remain, and which are supposed to be the same with Aurelian's, 
exceed not twelve miles. It is not probable that Rome would diminish from 
Augustus to Aurelian. It remained still the capital of the same empire ; and 
none of the civil wars in that long period, except the tumults on the death of 
Maximus and Balbinus, ever affected the city. Caracalla is said by Aurelius 
Victor to have increased Rome. 6th, There are no remains of ancient build- 
ings which mark any such greatness of Rome. Vossius's reply to this objec- 
tion seems absurd, that the rubbish would sink sixty or seventy feet under- 
ground. It appears from Spartian (in vita Severi) that the five mile-stone in 

472 * ESSAY XI. 

The number of citizens who received corn by the 
public distribution in the time of Augustus were two 
hundred thousand* This one would esteem a pretty 
certain ground of calculation ; yet it is attended with 
such circumstances as throw us back into doubt and un- 

Did the poorer citizens only receive the distribution ? 
It was calculated, to be sure, chiefly for their benefit. 
But it appears from a passage in Cicero -j* that the rich 
might also take their portion, and that it was esteemed 
no reproach in them to apply for it. 

To whom was the corn given ; whether only to heads 
of families, or to every man, woman, and child ? The 
portion every month was five modii to each J (about five 
sixths of a bushel). This was too little for a family, and 
too much for an individual. A very accurate anti- 
quary^ therefore, infers, that it was given to every 
man of full age : but he allows the matter to be un- 

via Lavicana was out of the city. 7th, Olympiodorus and Publius Victor fix 
the number of houses in Rome to be betwixt fort}' and fifty thousand. 8th, 
The very extravagance of the consequences drawn by this critic, as well as 
Lipsius, if they be necessary, destroy the foundation on which they are 
grounded, that Rome contained fourteen millions of inhabitants, while the 
whole kingdom of France contains only five, according to his computa- 
tion, etc. 

The only objection to the sense which we have affixed above to the pas- 
sage of Pliny, seems to lie in this, that Pliny, after mentioning the thirty- 
seven gates of Rome, assigns only a reason for suppressing the seven old ones, 
and says nothing of the eighteen gates ; the streets leading from which termi- 
nated, according to my opinion, before they reached the Forum. But as 
Pliny was writing to the Romans, who perfectly knew the disposition of the 
streets, it is not strange he should take a circumstance for granted which was 
so familiar to everybody. Perhaps, too, many of these gates led to wharves 
upon the river. 

* Ex monument. Ancyr. f Tusc. Qiuest. lib. iii. cap. 48. 

% Licinius apud Sallust. Hist. Frag. lib. iii. 

§ Xicolaus Hortensius De Re Frumentaria Roman. 


Was it strictly inquired, whether the claimant lived 
within the precincts of Rome ? or was it sufficient that 
he presented himself at the monthly distribution ? This 
last seems more probable.* 

Were there no false claimants ? We are told/)- that 
Cassar struck off at once 170,000, who had creeped in 
without a just title ; and it is very little probable that 
he remedied all abuses. 

But, lastly, what proportion of slaves must we assign 
to these citizens? This is the most material question, 
and the most uncertain. It is very doubtful whether 
Athens can be established as a rule for Rome. Perhaps 
the Athenians had more slaves, because they employed 
them in manufactures, for which a capital city, like 
Rome, seems not so proper. Perhaps, on the other hand, 
the Romans had more slaves on account of their superior 
luxury and riches. 

There were exact bills of mortality kept at Rome ; 
but no ancient author has given us the number of 
burials, except Suetonius,t who tells us, that in one sea- 
son there were 30,000 names carried to the temple of 
Libitina : but this was during a plague, which can afford 
no certain foundation for any inference. 

The public corn, though distributed only to 200,000 
citizens, affected very considerably the whole agricul- 
ture of Italy ; § a fact nowise reconcilable to some 

* Not to take the people too much from their business, Augustus ordained 
the distribution of corn to be made only thrice a year: but the people, find- 
ing the monthly distributions more convenient (as preserving, I suppose, a 
more regular economy in their family), desired to have them restored. Sue- 
ton. August, cap. 40. Had not some of the people come from some distance 
for their corn, Augustus's precaution seems superfluous. 

f Sueton. in Jul. cap. 41. £ In vita Xeronis, 

§ Sueton. Aug. cap. 42. 

vol. in. GO 


modern exaggerations with regard to the inhabitants of 
that country. 

The best ground of conjecture I can find concerning 
the greatness of ancient Kome is this : we are told by 
Herodian,* that Antioch and Alexandria were very little 
inferior to Rome. It appears from Diodorus Siculus f 
that one straight street of Alexandria, reaching from 
gate to gate, was five miles long ; and as Alexandria was 
much more extended in length than breadth, it seems to 
have been a city nearly of the bulk of Paris ; J and Rome 
might be about the size of London. 

There lived in Alexandria, in Diodorus Siculus's time,§ 
300,000 free people, comprehending, I suppose, women 

* Lib. iv. cap. 5. f Lib. xvii. 

X Quintus Curtius says, its walls were ten miles in. circumference, when 
founded by Alexander, lib. iv. cap. 8. Strabo, who had travelled to Alexan- 
dria as well as Diodorus Siculus, says it was scarce four miles long, and in 
most places about a mile broad, lib. xvii. Pliny says it resembled a Mace- 
donian cassock, stretching out in the corners, lib. v. cap. 10. Notwithstanding 
this bulk of Alexandria, which seems but moderate, Diodorus Siculus, speak- 
ing of its circuit as dr^wn by Alexander (which it never exceeded, as Ave 
learn from Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xxii. cap. 16,) says it was neye&EL <5ta- 
cpspovra, extremely great, ibid. The reason which he assigns for its surpassing 
all cities in the world (for he excepts not Rome) is, that it contained 300,000 
free inhabitants. He also mentions the revenues of the kings, to wit, 0,000 
talents, as another circumstance to the same purpose ; no such mighty sum in 
our eyes, even though we make allowance for the different value of money. 
What Strabo says of the neighboring country, means only that it was peopled, 
otKovfieva naluq. Might not one affirm, without any great hyperbole, that the 
whole banks of the river, from Gravesend to Windsor, arc one city ? This is 
even more than Strabo says of the banks of the lake Marcotis, and of the 
canal to Canopus. It is a vulgar saying in Italy, that the king of Sardinia 
has but one town in Piedmont, for it is all a town. Agrippa, in Joteplius de 
hello Judaic, lib. ii. cap. 1G, to make his audience comprehend the excessive 
greatness of Alexandria, which he endeavors to magnify, describes only the 
compass of the city as drawn by Alexander ; a clear proof that the bulk of the 
inhabitants were lodged there, and that the neighboring country was no more 
than what might be expected about all great towns, very well cultivated, and 
well peopled. 

§ Lib. xvii. 


and children* But what number of slaves ? Had we 
any just ground to fix these at an equal number with 
the free inhabitants, it would favor the forc^oino; com- 

There is a passage in Herodian which is a little sur- 
prising. He says positively, that the palace of the Em- 
peror was as large as all the rest of the city.f This was 
Nero's golden house, which is indeed represented by Sue- 
tonius t and Pliny as of an enormous extent • § but no 
power of imagination can make us conceive it to bear 
any proportion to such a city as London. 

We may observe, had the historian been relating Nero's 
extravagance, and had he made use of such an expres- 
sion, it would have had much less weight ; these rhetor- 
ical exaggerations being apt to creep into an author's 
style, even when the most chaste and correct. But it is 
mentioned by Herodian only by the by, in relating the 
quarrels between Geta and Caracalla. 

It appears from the same historian,! | that there was 

* He says k/.evdepoi not rro/Jrac, which last expression must have been under- 
stood of citizens alone, and grown men. 

f Lib. iv. cap. 1 , izaorjc Koleug . Politian interprets it, "acdibus majoribus 
etiam reliqua urbe." 

X He says (in Xerone, cap. 30,) that a portico or piazza of it was 3,000 feet 
long ; " tanta laxitas ut porticus triplices milliarias haberet." He cannot mean 
three miles ; for the -whole extent of the house, from the Palatine to the Es- 
quiline, was not near so great. So when Vopisc. in Aureliano mentions a 
portico in Sallust's gardens, which he calls porticus milliariensis, it must be 
understood of a thousand feet. So also Horace. 
" Nulla decempedis 
Metata privatis opacam 

Porticus excipiebat Arcton." Lib. ii. Ode 15. 
So also in lib. i. satyr 8. 

" Mille pedes in fronte, trecentos cippus in agrum 
Hie dabat." 
§ Plinius, lib. xxxvi. cap. 15. "Bis vidimus urbcm totam cingi domibus 
principum, Caii ac Xeronis." 
|j Lib. ii. cap. 15. 

476 ESSAY XI. 

then much land uncultivated, and put to no manner of 
use ; and he ascribes it as a great praise to Pertinax, 
that he allowed every one to take such land, either in 
Italy or elsewhere, and cultivate it as he pleased, with- 
out paying any taxes. Lands uncultivated, and pat to no 
manner of use ! This is not heard of in any part of 
Christendom, except in some remote parts of Hungary, 
as I have been informed : and it surely corresponds very 
ill with that idea of the extreme populousness of anti- 
quity so much insisted on. 

We learn from Vopiscus,* that there was even in 
Etruria much fertile land uncultivated, which the empe- 
ror Aurelian intended to convert into vineyards, in order 
to furnish the Roman people with a gratuitous distribu- 
tion of wine ; a very proper expedient for depopulating 
still further that capital, and all the neighboring terri- 

It may not be amiss to take notice of the account 
which Polybiusf gives of the great herds of swine to 
be met with in Tuscany and Lombardy, as well as in 
Greece, and of the method of feeding them which was 
then practised. "There are great herds of swine;' says 
he, " throughout all Italy, particularly in former times, 
through Etruria, and Cisalpine Gaul ; and a herd fre- 
quently consists of a thousand or more swine. When 
one of these herds in feeding meets with another, they 
mix together ; and the swine-herds have no other expe- 
dient for separating them than to go to different quar- 
ters, where they sound their horn ; and these animals, 
being accustomed to that signal, run immediately each 
to the horn of his own keeper. Whereas in Greece, if 
the herds of swine happen to mix in the forests, he who 

* In Aurelian, cap. 48. j Lib. xii. cap. 2. 


has the greater Hock takes cunningly the opportunity of 
driving all away. And thieves are very apt to purloin 
the straggling hogs, which have wandered to a great dis- 
tance from their keeper in search of food." 

May we not infer, from this account, that the north 
of Italy, as well as Greece, was then much less peopled, 
and worse cultivated than at present ? How could these 
vast herds be fed in a country so full of inclosures, so 
improved by agriculture, so divided by farms, so planted 
with vines and corn intermingled together ? I must 
confess, that Polybius's relation has more the air of that 
economy which is to be met with in our American 
colonies, than the management of an European country. 

We meet with a reflection in Aristotle's * Ethics, 
which seems unaccountable on any supposition, and, by 
proving too much in favor of our present reasoning, 
may be thought really to prove nothing. That philoso- 
pher, treating of friendship, and observing, that this re- 
lation ought neither to be contracted to a very few, nor 
extended over a great multitude, illustrates his opinion 
by the following argument : " In like manner," says he, 
" as a city cannot subsist, if it either have so few inhabi- 
tants as ten, or so many as a hundred thousand ; so is 
there mediocrity required in the number of friends; 
and you destroy the essence of friendship by running 
into either extreme." What ! impossible that a city can 
contain a hundred thousand inhabitants ! Had Aristotle 
never seen nor heard of a city so populous ? This, I 
must own, passes my comprehension. 

Pliny -j- tells us, that Seleucia, the seat of the Greek 
empire in the East, was reported to contain 600,000 

* Lib. ix. cap. 10. His expression is "Av&pco-og, not rro/irv/c, inhabitant, 
not citizen. 

f Lib. vi. cap. 28. 


p>eople. Carthage is said by Strabo * to have contained 
700,000. The inhabitants of Pekin are not much more 
numerous. London, Paris, and Constantinople, may 
admit of nearly the same computation ; at least, the two 
latter cities do not exceed it. Rome, Alexandria, Anti- 
och, we have already spoken of. From the experience 
of past and present ages, one might conjecture that 
there is a kind of impossibility that any city could ever 
rise much beyond this proportion. Whether the gran- 
deur of a city be founded on commerce or on empire, 
there seem to be invincible obstacles which prevent its 
further progress. The seats of vast monarchies, by in- 
troducing extravagant luxury, irregular expense, idle- 
ness, dependence, and false ideas of rank and superiority, 
are improper for commerce. Extensive commerce 
checks itself, by raising the price of all labor and com- 
modities. When a great court engages the attendance 
of a numerous nobility, possessed of overgrown fortunes, 
the middling gentry remain in their provincial towns, 
where they can make a figure on a moderate income. 
And if the dominions of a state arrive at an enormous 
size, there necessarily arise many capitals, in the re- 
moter provinces, whither all the inhabitants, except a 
few courtiers, repair for education, fortune, and amuse- 
ment.f London, by uniting extensive commerce and 
middling empire, has perhaps arrived at a greatness 
which no city will ever be able to exceed. 

Choose Dover or Calais for a centre : draw a circle of 
two hundred miles radius : you comprehend London, 
Paris, the Netherlands, the United Provinces, and some 

* Lib. xvii. 

f Such were Alexandria, Antioch, Carthage, Ephesus, Lyons, etc. in the 
Roman empire. Such are even Bourcleaux, Tholouse, Dijon, Rennes, Rouen, 
Aix, etc. in France ; Dublin, Edinburgh, York, in the British dominions. 


of the best cultivated parts of France and England. It 
may safely, I think, be affirmed, that no spot of ground 
can be found, in antiquity, of equal extent, which con- 
tained near so many great and populous cities, and was 
so stocked with riches and inhabitants. 

To balance, in both periods, the states which possessed 
most art, knowledge, civility, and the best police, seems 
the truest method of comparison. 

It is an observation of L'abbe du Bos, that * Italy is 
warmer at present than it was in ancient times. " The 
annals of Home tell us," says lie, " that in the year 480 
ab U. C. the winter was so severe that it destroyed the 
trees. The Tyber froze in Rome, and the ground was 
covered with snow for forty days. When Juvenal f 
describes a superstitious woman, he represents her as 
breaking the ice of the Tyber, that she might perform 
her ablutions : — 

Ilyber mini fracta glacie desccndet in amncm, 
Ter matutino Tyberi mergetur. 

He speaks of that river's freezing as a common event. 
Many passages of Horace suppose the streets of Rome 
full of snow and ice. We should have more certainty 
with regard to this point, had the ancients known the 
use of thermometers : but their writers, without intend- 
ing it, give us information sufficient to convince us, that 
the winters are now much more temperate at Rome 
than formerly. At present, the Tyber no more freezes 
at Rome than the Nile at Cairo. The Romans esteem 
the winters very rigorous if the snow lie two days, and 
if one see for eight-and-forty hours a few icicles hang 
from a fountain that has a north exposure." 

* Vol. II. sec. 1G. f Sat. 6, 1. 521. 


The observation of this ingenious critic may be ex- 
tended to other European climates. Who could dis- 
cover the mild climate of France in Diodorus Siculus's * 
description of Gaul ? " As it is a northern climate/' 
says he, " it is infested with cold to an extreme degree. 
In cloudy weather, instead of rain there fall great 
snows ; and in clear weather, it there freezes so exces- 
sive hard, that the rivers acquire bridges of their own 
substance ; over which, not only single travellers may 
pass, but large armies, accompanied with all their bag- 
gage and loaded wagons. And there being many rivers 
in Gaul, the Rhone, the Rhine, etc. almost all of them 
are frozen over; and it is usual, in order to prevent 
falling, to cover the ice with chaff and straw at the 
places where the road passes." Colder than a Gallic ivintcr, 
is used by Petronius as a proverbial expression. Aris- 
totle says, that Gaul is so cold a climate that an ass 
could not live in it.*)* 

North of the Cevennes, says Strabo,J Gaul produces 
not figs and olives : and the vines, which have been 
planted, bear not grapes that will ripen. 

Ovid positively maintains, with all the serious affirma- 
tion of prose, that the Euxine Sea was frozen over every 
winter in his time ; and he appeals to Roman governors, 
whom he names, for the truth of his assertion. § This 
seldom or never happens at present in the latitude of 
Tomi, whither Ovid was banished. All the complaints 
of the same poet seem to mark a rigor of the seasons, 
which is scarcely experienced at present in Petersburgh 
or Stockholm. 

Tournefort, a Provencal, who had travelled into the 

* Lib. iv. 

f De Generat. Anim. lib. ii. % Lib. iv. 

§ Trist. lib. iii. cleg. 9. De Ponto, lib. iv. cleg. 7, 1), 10. 


same country, observes, that there is not a finer climate 
in the world : and he asserts, that nothing but Ovid's 
melancholy could have given him such dismal ideas of 
it. But the facts mentioned by that poet are too cir- 
cumstantial to bear any such interpretation. 

Polybius * says, that the climate in Arcadia was very 
cold, and the air moist. 

c - Italy," says Varro/j" " is the most temperate climate 
in Europe. The inland parts," (Gaul, Germany, and 
Pannonia, no doubt,) " have almost perpetual winter." 

The northern parts of Spain, according to Strabo,J 
are but ill inhabited, because of the great cold. 

Allowing, therefore, this remark to be just, that 
Europe is become warmer than formerly ; how can we 
account for it ? Plainly by no other method than by 
supposing, that the land is at present much better cul- 
tivated, and that the woods are cleared, which formerly 
threw a shade upon the earth, and kept the rays of the 
sun from penetrating to it, Our northern colonies in 
America become more temperate in proportion as the 
woods are felled §; but, in general, every one may re- 
mark, that cold is still much more severely felt, both in 
North and South America, than in places under the 
same latitude in Europe. 

Saserna, quoted by Columella, || affirmed, that the dis- 
position of the heavens was altered before his time, and 
that the air had become much milder and warmer; as 

* Lib. iv. cap. 21. f Lib. i. cap. 2. % Lib. iii. 

§ The warm southern colonics also become more healthful : and it is re- 
markable, that in the Spanish histories of the first discovery and conquest of 
these countries, they appear to have been very healthful, being \\\q\\ well 
peopled and cultivated. No account of the sickness or decay of Cortes's or 
Fizarro's small armies. 

|| Lib. i. cap. 1. 

VOL. III. 61 


appears hence, says he, that many places now abound 
with vineyards and olive plantations, which formerly, 
by reason of the rigor of the climate, could raise none 
of these productions. Such a change, if real, will be 
allowed an evident sign of the better cultivation and 
peopling of countries before the age of Saserna;* and 
if it be continued to the present times, is a proof that 
these advantages have been continually increasing 
throughout this part of the world. 

Let us now cast our eye over all the countries which 
are the scene of ancient and modern history, and com- 
pare their past and present situation : we shall not, per- 
haps, find such foundation for the complaint of the pres- 
ent emptiness and desolation of the world. Egypt is 
represented by Maillet, to whom we owe the best 
account of it, as extremely populous, though he esteems 
the number of its inhabitants to be diminished. Syria 
and the Lesser Asia, as well as the coast of Barbary, I 
can readily own to be desert in comparison of their 
ancient condition. The depopulation of Greece is also 
obvious. But whether the country now called Turkey 
in Europe may not, in general, contain more inhabitants 
than during the flourishing period of Greece, may be a 
little doubtful. The Thracians seem then to have lived 
like the Tartars at present, by pasturage and plunder.")* 
The Getes were still more uncivilized,;!; and the Illyri- 
ans were no better.§ These occupy nine tenths of that 
country : and though the government of the Turks be 
not very favorable to industry and propagation, yet it 

* lie seems to have lived about the time of the younger Afrieanus, lib. i. 
cap. 1. 

f Xenoph. Exp. lib. vii. Polyb. lib. iv. cap. 45. 

$ Ovid, passim, &c, Strabo, lib. vii. § Polyb. lib. ii. cap. 12. 


preserves at least peace and order among the inhab- 
itants, and is preferable to that barbarous, unsettled 
condition in which they anciently lived. 

Poland and Muscovy in Europe are not populous, but 
are certainly much more so than the ancient Sarmatia 
and Scythia, where no husbandry or tillage was ever 
heard of, and pasturage was the sole art by which the 
people were maintained. The like observation may be 
extended to Denmark and Sweden. No one ought to 
esteem the immense swarms of people which formerly 
came from the North, and overran all Europe, to be any 
objection to this opinion. Where a whole nation, or 
even half of it, remove their seat, it is easy to imagine 
what a prodigious multitude they must form, with what 
desperate valor they must make their attacks, and how 
the terror they strike into the invaded nations will make 
these magnify, in their imagination, both the courage 
and multitude of the invaders ! Scotland is neither ex- 
tensive nor populous ; but were the half of its inhabi- 
tants to seek new seats, they would form a colony as 
numerous as the Teutons and Cimbri, and would shake 
all Europe, supposing it in no better condition for 
defence than formerly. 

Germany has surely at present twenty times more 
inhabitants than in ancient times, when they cultivated 
no ground, and each tribe valued itself on the exten- 
sive desolation which it spread around, as we learn 
from Caesar,* and Tacitus,f and Strabo ; t a proof 
that the division into small republics will not alone ren- 
der a nation populous, unless attended with the spirit of 
peace, order, and industry. 

The barbarous condition of Britain in former times 

* De Bello Gallico, lib. vi. f De Moribus Germ. % Lib. vii. 


is well known ; and the thinness of its inhabitants may 
easily be conjectured, both from their barbarity, and 
from a circumstance mentioned by Herodian,* that 
all Britain was marshy, even in Severus's time, after 
the Romans had been fully settled in it above a cen- 

It is. not easily imagined, that the Gauls were an- 
ciently much more advanced in the arts of life than 
their northern neighbors, since they travelled to this 
island for their education in the mysteries of the reli- 
gion and philosophy of the Druids.f I cannot, there- 
fore, think that Gaul was then near so populous as 
France is at present. 

Were we to believe, indeed, and join together, the 
testimony of Appian, and that of Dioclorus Siculus, we 
must admit of an incredible populousness in Gaul. The 
former historian J says, that there were 400 nations in 
that country ; the latter § affirms, that the largest of 
the Gallic nations consisted of 200,000 men, besides 
women and children, and the least of 50,000. Calculat- 
ing, therefore, at a medium, Ave must admit of near 
200,000,000 of people in a country which we esteem 
populous at present, though supposed to contain little 
more than twenty. || Such calculations, therefore, by 
their extravagance, lose all manner of authority. We 
m&y observe, that the equality of property, to which 
the populousness of antiquity may be ascribed, had no 
place among the Gauls.^[ Their intestine wars also, 
before Cresar's time, were almost perpetual.** And 

* Lib. iii. cap. 4 7. 

f Cicsar do Bello Gallico, lib. vi. Strabo, lib. vii. says, the Gauls Mere not 
much more improved than the Germans. 

t Celt, pars 1. § Lib. v. 

|| Ancient Gaul was more extensive than modern France, 
f Ca?sar de Bello Gallico, lib. vi. ** Id. ibid. 


Strabo* observes, that though all Gaul was cultivated, 
yet was it not cultivated with any skill or care ; the 
genius of the inhabitants leading them less to arts than 
arms, till their slavery under Rome produced peace 
anion £? themselves. 

Caesar f enumerates very particularly the great forces 
which were levied in Belgium to oppose his conquests; 
and makes them amount to 208,000. These were not 
the whole people able to bear arms ; for the same his- 
torian tells us, that the Bellovaci could have brought a 
hundred thousand men into the field, though they en- 
gaged only for sixty. Taking the whole, therefore, in 
this proportion of ten to six, the sum of fighting men 
in all the states of Belgium was about 350,000; all the 
inhabitants a million and a half. And Belgium being 
about a fourth of Gaul, that country might contain six 
millions, which is not near the third of its present in- 
habitants.;!; We are informed by Ca3sar, that the Gauls 
had no fixed property in land ; but that the chieftains, 
when any death happened in a family, made a new 
division of all the lands among the several members of 
the family. This is the custom of Tanistry, which so 
long prevailed in Ireland, and which retained that coun- 
try in a state of misery, barbarism, and desolation. 

* Lib. iv. f Do Bello Gallico, lib. ii. 

X It appears from Ca?sar's account, that the Gauls had no domestic slaves, 
who formed a different order from the Plebes. The whole common people 
were indeed a kind of slaves to the nobility, as the people of Poland are at 
this day ; and a nobleman of Gaul had sometimes ten thousand dependents of 
this kind. Xor can Ave doubt that the armies -were composed of the people 
as well as of the nobility. An army of 100,000 noblemen, from a very small 
state, is incredible. The fighting men among the Ilelvetii were the fourth 
part of the inhabitants, a clear proof that all the males of military age bore 
arms. See Ccesar de Bello Gall. lib. i. 

We may remark, that the numbers in Ca?sar's Commentaries can be more 
depended on than those of any other ancient author, because of the Greek 
translation, which still remains, and which checks the Latin original. 


The ancient Helvetia was 250 miles in length, and 
180 in breadth, according to the same author;* yet 
contained only 360,000 inhabitants. The canton of 
Berne alone has, at present, as many people. 

After this computation .of Appian and Dioclorus Sicu- 
lns, I know not whether I dare affirm that the modern 
Dutch are more numerous than the ancient Batavi. 

Spain is perhaps decayed from what it was three 
centuries ago ; but if we step backward two thousand 
years, and consider the restless, turbulent, unsettled con- 
dition of its inhabitants, we may probably be inclined 
to think that it is now much more populous. Many 
Spaniards killed themselves when deprived of their arms 
by the Romans.f It appears from Plutarch,J that rob- 
bery and plunder were esteemed honorable among the 
Spaniards. Hirtius § represents, in the same light, the 
situation of that country in Caesar's time ; and he says, 
that every man was obliged to live in castles and walled 
towns for his security. It w r as not till its final conquest 
under Augustus that these disorders were repressed. || 
The account which Strabo ^[ and Justin :i:::: give of Spain 
corresponds exactly with those above mentioned. How 
much, therefore, must it diminish from our idea of the 
populousness of antiquity, when we find that Tully, 
comparing Italy, Africa, Gaul, Greece, and Spain, men- 
tions the great number of inhabitants as the peculiar 
circumstance which rendered this latter country for- 
midable ? ft 

* Dc Bello Gallico, lib. i. f Titi Livii, lib. xxxiv. cap. 17. 

I In vita Marii. § De Bello Ilisp. 

|| Veil. Paterc. lib. ii. § 00. f Lib. iii. ** Lib. xliv. 

ff " Nee numero Hispanos, nee robore Gallos, nee callidate Poenos, nee arti- 
bus Gnccos, nee dcniqne hoe ipso linjus gentis, ae terra 1 domestico nativoque 

sensu, Italos ipsos ae Latinos superavimus." l)e Harusp. llesp. cap. i). 

The disorders of Spain seem to have been almost proverbial : " Nee impaca- 


Italy, however, it is probable, has decayed : but how 
many great cities does it still contain ? Venice, Genoa, 
Pa via, Turin, Milan, Naples, Florence, Leghorn, which 
either subsisted not in ancient times, or were then very 
inconsiderable ? If we reflect on this, we shall not be 
apt to carry matters to so great an extreme as is usual 
with regard to this subject. 

When the Roman authors complain that Italy, which 
formerly exported corn, became dependent on all the 
provinces for its daily bread, they never ascribe this 
alteration to the increase of its inhabitants, but to the 
neglect of tillage and agriculture ; * a natural effect of 
that pernicious practice of importing corn, in order to 
distribute it gratis among the Roman citizens, and a 
very bad means of multiplying the inhabitants of any 
country.-}- The sportula, so much talked of by Martial 
and Juvenal, being presents regularly made by the great 
lords to their smaller clients, must have had a like ten- 
dency to produce idleness, debauchery, and a continual 
decay among the people. The parish rates have at 
present the same bad consequences in England. 

Were I to assign a period when I imagined this part 
of the world might possibly contain more inhabitants 
than at present, I should pitch upon the age of Trajan 
and the Antonines : the ^reat extent of the Roman 
empire being then civilized and cultivated, settled almost 
in a profound peace, both foreign and domestic, and 

tos a tergo horrebis Iberos." Virg. Georg. lib. iii. The Iberi arc here plainly 
taken, by a poetical figure, tor robbers in general. 

* Varro De lie Ilustica, lib. ii. praef. Columella praef. Sueton. August, 
cap. 42. 

f Though the observations of L'Abbe du Bos should be admitted, that Italy 
is now "warmer than in former times, the consequence may not be necessary, 
that it is more populous or better cultivated. If the other countries of Europe 
were more savage and woody, the cold winds that blew from them might 
affect the climate of Italy. 


living under the same regular police and government * 
But Ave are told that all extensive governments, especi- 
ally absolute monarchies, are pernicious to population, 
and contain a secret vice and poison, which destroy the 

* The inhabitants of Marseilles lost not their superiority over the Gauls in 
commerce and the mechanic arts, till the Roman dominion turned the latter 
from arms to agriculture and civil life, see Strabo, lib. iv. That author, in 
several places, repeats the observation concerning the improvement arising 
from the Roman arts and civility ; and he lived at the time when the change 
was new, and would be more sensible. So also Pliny : " Quis enim non, com- 
munieato orbe terrarum, majestate Romani imperii, profecisse vitam putct, 
commercio rerum ac societate festa? pacis, omniaque ctiam, qua; occulta antea 
fuerant, in promiscuo usu facta. Lib. xiv. prooem. Numinc deiim electa 
(speaking of Italy) qua; crelum ipsum clarius facerct, sparsa congrcgaret im- 
pcria, ritusque molliret, et tot populorum discordes, ferascpie linguas sermonis 
commercio contraheret ad colloquia, et humanitatem honiini daret ; breviter- 
que, una cunctarum gentium in toto orbe patria fieret," lib. ii. cap. 5. Noth- 
ing can be stronger to this purpose than the following passage from Tertul- 
lian, who lived about the age of Severus. " Certe quidem ipse orbis in 
promptu est, cultior de die et instructior pristino. Omnia jam pervia, omnia 
nota, omnia negotiosa. Solitudines famosas retro fundi amoenissimi oblitera- 
verunt, silvas arva domuerunt, feras pecora fugaverunt ; arena? seruntur, saxa 
panguntur, paludes eliquantur, tanta? urbes, quanta? non casa; quondam. Jam 
nee insula; horrent, nee scopuli terrent ; ubique domus, ubique populus, ubi- 
que respublica, ubique vita. Summum testimonium frequentiae humanse, on- 
erosi sumus mundo, vix nobis elementa sufficiunt ; et nessitates arctiores, et 
querela? apud omnes, dum jam nos natura non sustinet." De anima, cap. 30. 
The air of rhetoric and declamation which appears in this passage diminishes 
somewhat from its authority, but does not entirely destroy it. The same re- 
mark may be extended to the following passage of Aristides the sophist, who 
lived in the age of Adrian. " The whole world," says he, addressing himself 
to the Romans, " seems to keep one holiday ; and mankind, laying aside the 
sword which they formerly wore, now betake themselves to feasting and to 
joy. The cities, forgetting their ancient animosities, preserve only one emula- 
tion, which shall embellish itself most by every art and ornament : theatres 
everywhere arise, amphitheatres, porticos, aqueducts, temples, schools, acade- 
mies ; and one may safely pronounce, that the sinking world has been again 
raised by your auspicious empire. Nor have cities alone received an increase 
of ornament and beauty ; but the whole earth, like a garden or paradise, is 
cultivated and adorned : insomuch, that such of mankind as are placed out of 
the limits of your empire (who are but few) seem to merit our sympathy and 

It is remarkable, that though Diodorus Siculus makes the inhabitants of 


effect of all these promising appearances * To confirm 
this, there is a passage cited from Plutarch,*)* which, 
being somewhat singular, we shall here examine it. 

That author, endeavoring to account for the silence 
of many of the oracles, says, that it may be ascribed to 
the present desolation of the world, proceeding from 
former wars and factions • which common calamity, he 
adds, has fallen heavier upon Greece than on any other 
country, insomuch that the whole could scarcely at pres- 
ent furnish three thousand warriors ; a number which, 
in the time of the Median war, was supplied by the 
single city of Megara. The gods, therefore, w T ho affect 
works of dignity and importance, have suppressed many 
of their oracles, and deign not to use so many interpre- 
ters of their will to so diminutive a people. 

I must confess, that this passage contains so many 
difficulties, that I know not what to make of it. You 
may observe, that Plutarch assigns, for a cause of the 
decav of mankind, not the extensive dominion of the 
Eomans, but the former wars and factions of the sev- 

Egypt, when conquered by the llomans, amount only to three millions, yet 
Joseph, de Bella Jud. lib. ii. cap. 1G, says, that its inhabitants, excluding those 
of Alexandria, were seven millions and a half, in the reign of Xero : and he , 
expressly says, that he drew this account from the books of the Roman Pub- 
licans, who levied the poll-tax. Strabo, lib. xvii. praises the superior police of 
the llomans with regard to the finances of Egypt, above that of its former 
monarchs : and no part of administration is more essential to the happiness of 
a people. Vet we read in Athenaeus (lib. i. cap. 25), who flourished during 
the reign of the Antonines, that the town Mareia, near Alexandria, which 
was formerly a large city, had dwindled into a village. This is not, properly 
speaking, a contradiction. Suidas (August.) says, that the Emperor Augus- 
tus, having numbered the whole Roman empire, found it contained only 
4,101,017 men (avdpeg). There is here surely some great mistake, either in 
the author or transcriber. But this authority, feeble as it is, may be sufficient 
to counterbalance the exaggerated accounts of Herodotus and Diodorus Sicu- 
lus with regard to more early times. 

* L'Esprit de Loix, lib. xxiii. chap. 19. f De Orac. Defectus. 


4.90 ESSAY XL 

era! states, all which were quieted by the Roman arms. 
Plutarch's reasoning, therefore, is directly contrary to 
the inference which is drawn from the fact he ad- 

Polybius supposes that Greece had become more 
prosperous and flourishing after the establishment of 
the Roman yoke ; * and though that historian wrote 
before these conquerors had degenerated, from being the 
patrons to be the plunderers of mankind, yet as we find 
from Tacitus,f that the severity of the emperors after- 
wards corrected the license of the governors, we have 
no reason to think that extensive monarchy so destruc- 
tive as it is often represented. 

We learn from Strabo J that the Romans, from their 
regard to the Greeks, maintained, to his time, most of 
the privileges and liberties of that celebrated nation ; 
and Nero afterwards rather increased them.§ How, 
therefore, can we imagine that the Roman yoke was so 
burdensome over that part of the world ? The oppres- 
sion of the proconsuls was checked ; and the magistra- 
cies in Greece being all bestowed, in the several cities, 
by the free votes of the people, there was no necessity 
for the competitors to attend the emperor's court. If 
great numbers went to seek their fortunes in Rome, and 
advance themselves by learning or eloquence, the com- 

* Lib. ii. cap. G2. It may perhaps be imagined, that Polybius, being de- 
pendent on Rome, would naturally extol the lloman dominion. But, in the 
first place, Polybius, though one sees sometimes instances of his caution, dis- 
covers no symptoms of flattery. Secondly, This opinion is only delivered in a 
single stroke, by the by, while he is intent upon another subject; and it is 
allowed, if there be any suspicion of an author's insincerity, that these ob- 
lique propositions discover his real opinion better than his more formal and 
direct assertions. 

f Annal. lib. 1, cap. 2. J Lib. viii. and i.w 

§ Plutarch, I)e his qui sero a Numine puniuntur. 


modities of their native country, many of them would 
return with the fortunes which they had acquired, and 
thereby enrich the Grecian commonwealths. 

But Plutarch says that the general depopulation had 
been more sensibly felt in Greece than in any other 
country. How is this reconcilable to its superior priv- 
ileges and advantages ? 

Besides, this passage, by proving too much, really 
proves nothing. Only three thousand men able to bear arms 
in all Greece ! Who can admit so strange a proposition, 
especially if we consider the great number of Greek 
cities, whose names still remain in history, and which 
are mentioned by writers long after the age of Plu- 
tarch ? There are there surely ten times more peo- 
ple at present, when there scarcely remains a city in 
all the bounds of ancient Greece. That country is 
still tolerably cultivated, and furnishes a sure supply of 
corn, in case of any scarcity in Spain, Italy, or the south 
of France. 

We may observe, that the ancient frugality of the 
Greeks, and their equality of property, still subsisted 
during the age of Plutarch, as appears from Lucian. ::: 
Nor is there any ground to imagine, that the country 
was possessed by a few masters, and a great number of 

It is probable, indeed, that military discipline, being 
entirely useless, was extremely neglected in Greece after 
the establishment of the Roman empire • and if these 
commonwealths, formerly so warlike and ambitious, 
maintained each of them a small city guard, to pre- 
vent mobbish disorders, it is all they had occasion for ; 
and these, perhaps, did not amount to 3,000 men 

* De rnercL'de conductis. 


throughout all Greece. I own, that if Plutarch had 
this fact in his eye, he is here guilty of a gross paralo- 
gism, and assigns causes nowise proportioned to the 
effects. But is it so great a prodigy that an author 
should fall into a mistake of this nature ? * 

But whatever force may remain in this passage of 
Plutarch, we shall endeavor to counterbalance it by as 
remarkable a passage in Diodorus Siculus, where the his- 
torian, after mentioning Ninus's army of 1,700,000 foot, 
and 200,000 horse, endeavors to support the credibility 
of this account by some posterior facts ; and adds, that 
we must not form a notion of the ancient populousness 
of mankind from* the present emptiness and depopula- 

* I must confess that that discourse of Plutarch, concerning the silence of 
the oracles, is in general of so odd a texture and so unlike his other produc- 
tions, that one is at a loss what judgment to form of it. It is written in dia- 
logue, which is a method of composition that Plutarch commonly but little 
affects. The personages he introduces advance very wild, absurd, and contra- 
dictory opinions, more like the visionary systems or ravings of Plato, than the 
plain sense of Plutarch. There runs also through the whole an air of super- 
stition and credulity, which resembles very little the spirit that appears in 
other philosophical compositions of that author. For it is remarkable, that 
though Plutarch be an historian as superstitious as Herodotus or Livy, yet 
there is scarcely, in all antiquity, a philosopher less superstitious, excepting 
Cicero and Lucian. I must therefore confess, that a passage of Plutarch, cited 
from this discourse, has much less authority with me, than if it had been found 
in most of his other compositions. 

There is only one other discourse of Plutarch liable to like objections, to 
wit, that concerning those whose punishment is delayed by the Deity. It is also 
writ in dialogue, contains like superstitious, wild visions, and seems to have 
been chiefly composed in rivalship to Plato, particularly his last book I)e He- 
public a. 

And here I cannot but observe, that Mons. Fontenellc, a writer eminent for 
candor, seems to have departed a little from his usual character, when he en- 
deavors to throw a ridicule upon Plutarch on account of passages to be met 
with in this dialogue concerning oracles. The absurdities here put into the 
mouths of the several personages are not to be ascribed to Plutarch. He 
makes them refute each other ; and, in general, he seems to intend the ridicul- 
ing of those very opinions which Fontenellc would ridicule him for maintain- 
ing. — See Histoire des Oracles. 


tion which is spread over the world.* Thus an author, 
who lived at that very period of antiquity which is rep- 
resented as most populous,-]- complains of the desolation 
which then prevailed, gives the preference to former 
times, and has recourse to ancient fables as a foundation 
for his opinion. The humor of blaming the present, and 
admiring the past, is strongly rooted in human nature, 
and has an influence even on persons endued with the 
profoundest judgment and most extensive learning. 

* Lib. ii. f He was contemporary with Ca?sar and Augustus. 



As no party, in the present age, can well support 
itself without a philosophical or speculative system of 
principles annexed to its political or practical one, we 
accordingly find, that each of the factions into which 
this nation is divided has reared up a fabric of the for- 
mer kind, in order to protect and cover that scheme of 
actions which it pursues. The people being commonly 
very rude builders, especially in this speculative way, 
and more especially still when actuated by party zeal, it 
is natural to imagine that their workmanship must be a 
little unshapely, and discover evident marks of that vio- 
lence and hurry in which it was raised. The one party, 
by tracing up government to the Deity, endeavor to 
render it so sacred and inviolate, that it must be little 
less than sacrilege, however tyrannical it may become, 
to touch or invade it in the smallest article. The other 
party, by founding government altogether on the con- 
sent of the people, suppose that there is a kind of origi- 
nal contract, by which the subjects have tacitly reserved 
the power of resisting their sovereign, whenever they 
find themselves aggrieved by that authority with which 
they have, for certain purposes, voluntarily intrusted 


him. These are the speculative principles of the two 
parties, and these, too, are the practical consequences 
deduced from them. 

I shall venture to affirm, That both these systems of 
speculative principles arc just, though not in the sense intended 
by the parties : and, That both the schemes of practical con- 
sequences are prudent, though not in the extremes to ivhich each 
■parti/, i ]l opposition to the other, has commonly endeavored to 
carry them. 

That the Deity is the ultimate author of all govern- 
ment, will never he denied by any, who admit a general 
providence, and allow, that all events in the universe 
are conducted by an uniform plan, and directed to wise 
purposes. As it is impossible for the human race to 
subsist, at least in any comfortable or secure state, with- 
out the protection of government, this institution must 
certainly have been intended by that beneficent Being, 
who means the good of all his creatures : and as it has 
universally, in fact, taken place in all countries, and all 
ages, we may conclude, with still greater certainty, that 
it was intended by that omniscient Being, who can 
never be deceived by any event or operation. But 
since he gave rise to it, not by any particular or mirac- 
ulous interposition, but by his concealed and universal 
efficacy, a sovereign cannot, properly speaking, be called 
his vicegerent in any other sense than every power or 
force, being derived from him, may be said to act by his 
commission. Whatever actually happens is compre- 
hended in the general plan or intention of Providence ; 
nor has the greatest and most lawful prince any more 
reason, upon that account, to plead a peculiar sacred- 
ness or inviolable authority, than an inferior magistrate, 
or even an usurper, or even a robber and a pirate. The 
same Divine Superintendent, who, for wise purposes, in- 


vested a Titus or a Trajan with authority, did also, for 
purposes no doubt equally wise, though unknown, bestow 
power on a Borgia or an Angria. The same causes, 
which gave rise to the sovereign power in every state, 
established likewise every petty jurisdiction in it, and 
every limited authority. A constable, therefore, no less 
than a king, acts by a divine commission, and possesses 
an indefeasible right. 

When we consider how nearly equal all men are in 
their bodily force, and even in their mental powers and 
faculties, till cultivated by education, we must neces- 
sarily allow, that nothing but their own consent could 
at first associate them together, and subject them to any 
authority. The people, if we trace government to its 
first origin in the woods and deserts, are the source of 
all power and jurisdiction, and voluntarily, for the sake 
of peace and order, abandoned their native liberty, and 
received laws from their equal and companion. The 
conditions upon which they were willing to submit, were 
either expressed, or were so clear and obvious, that it 
might well be esteemed superfluous to express them. If 
this, then, be meant by the original contract, it cannot be 
denied, that all government is, at first, founded on a 
contract, and that the most ancient rude combinations 
of mankind were formed chiefly by that principle. In 
vain are we asked in what records this charter of our 
liberties is registered. It was not written on parchment, 
nor yet on leaves or barks of trees. It preceded the 
use of writing, and all the other civilized arts of life. 
But we trace it plainly in the nature of man, and in the 
equality, or something approaching equality, which we 
find in all the individuals of that species. The force, 
which now prevails, and which is founded on fleets and 
armies, is plainly political, and derived from authority, 


the effect of established government. A man's natural 
force consists only in the vigor of his limbs, and the 
firmness of his courage ; which could never subject mul- 
titudes to the command of one. Nothing but their own 
consent, and their sense of the advantages resulting 
from peace and order, could have had that influence. 

Yet even this consent was long very imperfect, and 
could not be the basis of a regular administration. The 
chieftain, who had probably acquired his influence during 
the continuance of war, ruled more by persuasion than 
command ; and till he could employ force to reduce the 
refractory and disobedient, the society could scarcely be 
said to have attained a state of civil government. No 
compact or agreement, it is evident, was expressly formed 
for general submission ; an idea far beyond the compre- 
hension of savages : each exertion of authority in the 
chieftain must have been particular, and called forth by 
the present exigencies of the case : the sensible utility, 
resulting from his interposition, made these exertions 
become daily more frequent ; and their frequency grad- 
ually produced an habitual, and, if you please to call it 
so, a voluntary, and therefore precarious, acquiescence in 
the people. 

But philosophers who have embraced a party (if that 
be not a contradiction in terms), are not contented with 
these concessions. They assert, not only that govern- 
ment in its earliest infancy arose from consent, or rather 
the voluntary acquiescence of the people ; but also that, 
even at present, when it has attained its full maturity, 
it rests on no other foundation. They affirm, that all 
men are still born equal, and owe allegiance to no 
prince or government, unless bound by the obligation 
and sanction of a promise. And as no man, without 
some equivalent, would forego the advantages of his 

vol. in. 63 


native liberty, and subject himself to the will of another, 
this promise is always understood to be conditional, and 
imposes on him no obligation, unless he meet with jus- 
tice and protection from his sovereign. These advan- 
tages the sovereign promises him in return ; and if he 
fail in the execution, he has broken, on his part, the 
articles of engagement, and has thereby freed his subject 
from all obligations to allegiance. Such, according to 
these philosophers, is the foundation of authority in 
every government, and such the right of resistance pos- 
sessed by every subject. 

But would these reasoners look abroad into the world, 
they would meet with nothing that, in the least, corre- 
sponds to their ideas, or can warrant so refined and philo- 
sophical a system. On the contrary, we find every- 
where princes who claim their subjects as their property, 
and assert their independent right of sovereignty, from 
conquest or succession. We find also everywhere sub- 
jects who acknowledge this right in their prince, and 
suppose themselves born under obligations of obedience 
to a certain sovereign, as much as under the ties of 
reverence and duty to certain parents. These connec- 
tions are always conceived to be equally independent of 
our consent, in Persia and China, in France and Spain, 
and even in Holland and England, wherever the doc- 
trines above mentioned have not been carefully incul- 
cated. Obedience or subjection becomes so familiar, 
that most men never make any inquiry about its origin 
or cause, more than about the principle of gravity, re- 
sistance, or the most universal laws of nature. Or if 
curiosity ever move them, as soon as they learn that 
they themselves and their ancestors have, for several 
ages, or from time immemorial, been subject to such a 
form of government or such a family, they immediately 


acquiesce, and acknowledge their obligation to allegi- 
ance. Were you to preach, in most parts of the world, 
that political connections are founded altogether on 
voluntary consent or a mutual promise, the magistrate 
would soon imprison you as seditious for loosening the 
ties of obedience ; if your friends did not before shut 
you up as delirious, for advancing such absurdities. It 
is strange that an act of the mind, which every indi- 
vidual is supposed to have formed, and after he came to 
the use of reason too, otherwise it could have no author- 
ity ; that this act, I say, should be so much unknown 
to all of them, that over the face of the whole earth, 
there scarcely remain any traces or memory of it. 

But the contract, on which government is founded, is 
said to be the original contract ; and consequently may 
be supposed too old to fall under the knowledge of the 
present generation. If the agreement, by which savage 
men first associated and conjoined their force, be here 
meant, this is acknowledged to be real; but being so 
ancient, and being obliterated by a thousand changes of 
government and princes, it cannot now be supposed to 
retain any authority. If we would say any thing to the 
purpose, we must assert, that every particular govern- 
ment which is lawful, and which imposes any duty of 
allegiance on the subject, was, at first, founded on con- 
sent and a voluntary compact. But, besides that this 
supposes the consent of the fathers to bind the children, 
even to the most remote generations (which republican 
writers will never allow), besides this, I say, it is not 
justified by history or experience in any age or country 
of the world. 

Almost all the governments which exist at present, 
or of which there remains any record in story, have 
been founded originally, either on usurpation or con- 


quest, or both, without any pretence of a fair consent 
or voluntary subjection of the people. When an artful 
and bold man is placed at the head of an army or fac- 
tion, it is often easy for him, by employing, sometimes 
violence, sometimes false pretences, to establish his do- 
minion over a people a hundred times more numerous 
than his partisans. He allows no such open communi- 
cation, that his enemies can know, with certainty, their 
number or force. He gives them no leisure to assemble 
together in a body to oppose him. Even all those who 
are the instruments of his usurpation may wish his fall ; 
but their ignorance of each other's intention keeps them 
in awe, and is the sole cause of his security. By such 
arts as these many governments have been established ; 
and this is all the original contract which they have to 
boast of. 

The face of the earth is continually changing, by the 
increase of small kingdoms into great empires, by the 
dissolution of great empires into smaller kingdoms, by 
the planting of colonies, by the migration of tribes. Is 
there any thing discoverable in all these events but force 
and violence ? Where is the mutual agreement or vol- 
untary association so much talked of? 

Even the smoothest way by which a nation may 
receive a foreign master, by marriage or a will, is not 
extremely honorable for the people ; but supposes them 
to be disposed of like a dowry or a legacy, according to 
the pleasure or interest of their rulers. 

But where no force interposes, and election takes 
place ; what is this election so highly vaunted ? It is 
either the combination of a few great men, who decide 
for the whole, and will allow of no opposition ; or it is 
the fury of a multitude, that follow a seditious ring- 
leader, who is not known, perhaps, to a dozen among 


them, and who owes his advancement merely to his 
own impudence, or to the momentary caprice of his 

Are these disorderly elections, which are rare too, of 
such mighty authority as to be the only lawful founda- 
tion of all government and allegiance ? 

In reality there is not a more terrible event than a 
total dissolution of government, which gives liberty to 
the multitude, and makes the determination or choice 
of a new establishment depend upon a number, which 
nearly approaches to that of the body of the people : 
for it never comes entirely to the whole body of them. 
Every wise man then wishes to see, at the head of a 
powerful and obedient army, a general who may speed- 
ily seize the prize, and give to the people a master which 
they are so unfit to choose for themselves ; so little 
correspondent is fact and reality to those philosophical 

Let not the establishment at the Kevolution deceive 
us, or make us so much in love with a philosophical 
origin to government, as to imagine all others monstrous 
and irregular. Even that event was far from corre- 
sponding to these refined ideas. It w T as only the succes- 
sion, and that only in the regal part of the government, 
which was then changed : and it was only the majority 
of seven hundred, who determined that change for near 
ten millions. I doubt not, indeed, but the bulk of those 
ten millions acquiesced willingly in the determination : 
but was the matter left, in the least, to their choice ? 
"Was it not justly supposed to be, from that moment, 
decided, and every man punished, who refused to sub- 
mit to the new sovereign ? How otherwise could the 
matter have ever been brought to any issue or con- 
clusion ? 


The republic of Athens was, I believe, the most ex- 
tensive democracy that we read of in history : yet if 
we make the requisite allowances for the Avomen, the 
slaves, and the strangers, we shall find, that that estab- 
lishment was not at first made, nor any law ever voted, 
by a tenth part of those who were bound to pay obe- 
dience to it ; not to mention the islands and foreign do- 
minions, which the Athenians claimed as theirs by right 
of conquest. And as it is well known that popular as- 
semblies in that city were always fall of license and dis- 
order, notwithstanding the institutions and laws by which 
they were checked ; how much more disorderly must 
they prove, where they form not the established consti- 
tution, but meet tumultuously on the dissolution of the 
ancient government, in order to give rise to a new one ? 
How chimerical must it be to talk of a choice in such 
circumstances ? 

The Achrcans enjoyed the freest and most perfect de- 
mocracy of all antiquity ; yet they employed force to 
oblige some cities to enter into their league, as we learn 
from Polybius. :;: 

Harry IV. and Harry VII. of England, had really no 
title to the throne but a parliamentary election ; yet 
they never would acknowledge it, lest they should 
thereby weaken their authority. Strange, if the only 
real foundation of all authority be consent and promise ? 

It is in vain to say that all governments are, or should 
be, at first founded on popular consent, as much as the 
necessity of human affairs will admit. This favors en- 
tirely my pretension. I maintain, that human affairs 
will never admit of this consent, seldom of the appear- 
ance of it • but that conquest or usurpation, that is, in 

* Lib. ii. cap. 38. 


plain terms, force, by dissolving the ancient govern- 
ments, is the origin of almost all the new ones which 
were ever established in the world. And that in the 
few cases where consent may seem to have taken place, 
it was commonly so irregular, so confined, or so much 
intermixed either with fraud or violence, that it cannot 
have any great authority. 

My intention here is not to exclude the consent of the 
people from being one just foundation of government. 
Where it has place, it is surely the best and most sacred 
of any. I only contend, that it has very seldom had 
place in any degree, and never almost in its full extent ; 
and that, therefore, some other foundation of govern- 
ment must also be admitted. 

Were all men possessed of so inflexible a regard to 
justice, that of themselves they would totally abstain 
from the properties of others; they had for ever re- 
mained in a state of absolute liberty, without subjection 
to any magistrate or political society : but this is a state 
of perfection of which human nature is justly deemed 
incapable. Again, were all men possessed of so perfect 
an understanding as always to know their own interests, 
no form of government had ever been submitted to but 
what was established on consent, and was fully canvassed 
by every member of the society : but this state of per- 
fection is likewise much superior to human nature. 
Reason, history, and experience show us, that all politi- 
cal societies have had an origin much less accurate and 
regular ; and were one to choose a period of time when 
the people's consent was the least regarded in public 
transactions, it would be precisely on the establish- 
ment of a new government. In a settled constitution 
their inclinations are often consulted ; but during the 
fury of revolutions, conquests, and public convulsions, 


military force or political craft usually decides the con- 

When a new government is established, by whatever 
means, the people are commonly dissatisfied with it, and 
pay obedience more from fear and necessity, than from 
any idea of allegiance or of moral obligation. The 
prince is watchful and jealous, and must carefully guard 
against every beginning or appearance of insurrection. 
Time, by degrees, removes all these difficulties, and 
accustoms the nation to regard, as their lawful or native 
princes, that family which at first they considered as 
usurpers or foreign conquerors. In order to found this 
opinion, they have no recourse to any notion of volun- 
tary consent or promise, which, they know, never was, 
in this case, either expected or demanded. The origi- 
nal establishment was formed by violence, and submitted 
to from necessity. The subsequent administration is 
also supported by power, and acquiesced in by the 
people, not as a matter of choice, but of obligation. 
They imagine not that their consent gives their prince 
a title : but they willingly consent, because they think, 
that, from long possession, he has acquired a title, inde- 
pendent of their choice or inclination. 

Should it be said, that, by living under the dominion 
of a prince which one might leave, every individual has 
given a tacit consent to his authority, and promised him 
obedience ; it may be answered, that such an implied 
consent can only have place where a man imagines that 
the matter depends on his choice. But where he thinks 
(as all mankind do who are born under established gov- 
ernments) that, by his birth, he owes allegiance to a 
certain prince or certain form of government ; it would 
be absurd to infer a consent or choice, which he ex- 
pressly, in this case, renounces and disclaims. 


Can we seriously say, that a poor peasant or artisan 
has a free choice to leave his country, when he knows 
no foreign language or manners, and lives, from day to 
day, by the small wages which he acquires ? We may 
as well assert that a man, by remaining in a vessel, 
freely consents to the dominion of the master ; though 
he was carried on board while asleep, and must leap 
into the ocean and perish, the moment he leaves her. 

"What if the prince forbid his subjects to quit his 
dominions ; as in Tiberius's time, it was regarded as a 
crime in a Roman knight that he had attempted to fly 
to, the Parthians, in order to escape the tyranny of that 
emperor ?* Or as the ancient Muscovites prohibited all 
travelling under pain of death ? And did a prince 
observe, that many of his subjects were seized with the 
frenzy of migrating to foreign countries, he would, 
doubtless, with great reason and justice, restrain them, 
in order to prevent the depopulation of his own king- 
dom. Would he forfeit the allegiance of all his sub- 
jects by so wise and reasonable a law? Yet the free- 
dom of their choice is surely, in that case, ravished from 

A company of men, who should leave their native 
country, in order to people some uninhabited region, 
might dream of recovering their native freedom, but 
they would soon find, that their prince still laid claim 
to them, and called them his subjects, even in their new 
settlement. And in this he would but act conformably 
to the common ideas of mankind. 

The truest tacit consent of this kind that is ever ob- 
served, is when a foreigner settles in any country, and 
is beforehand acquainted with the prince, and govern- 

* Tacit. Ann. lib. vi. cap. 1 i. 

vol. in. 64 


ment, and laws, to which he must submit : yet is his 
allegiance, though more voluntary, much less expected 
or depended on, than that of a natural born subject. 
On the contrary, his native prince still asserts a claim to 
him. And if he punish not the renegade, when he 
seizes him in war with his new prince's commission ; this 
clemency is not founded on the municipal law, which in 
all countries condemns the prisoner; but on the consent 
of princes, who have agreed to this indulgence, in order 
to prevent reprisals. 

Did one generation of men go off the stage at once, 
and another succeed, as is the case with silk-worms 
and butterflies, the new race, if they had sense enough 
to choose their government, which surely is never the 
case with men, might voluntarily, and by general con- 
sent, establish their own form of civil polity, without 
any regard to the laws or precedents which prevailed 
among their ancestors. But as human society is in 
perpetual flux, one man every hour going out of the 
world, another coming into it, it is necessary, in order 
to preserve stability in government, that the new brood 
should conform themselves to the established constitu- 
tion, and nearly follow the path which their ^fathers, 
treading in the footsteps of theirs, had marked out to 
them. Some innovations must necessarily have place 
in every human institution ; and it is happy where the 
enlightened genius of the age give these a direction to 
the side of reason, liberty, and justice : but violent 
innovations no individual is entitled to make : they 
are even dangerous to be attempted by the legislature : 
more ill than good is ever to be expected from them : 
and if history affords examples to the contrary, they 
are not to be drawn into precedent, and are only to be 
regarded as proofs, that the science of politics affords 


few rules, which will not admit of some exception, and 
which may not sometimes be controlled by fortune and 
accident. The violent innovations in the reign of 
Henry VIII. proceeded from an imperious monarch, 
seconded by the appearance of legislative authority: 
those in the reign of Charles I. were derived from fac- 
tion and fanaticism; and both of them have proved 
happy in the issue. But even the former were long 
the source of many disorders, and still more dangers ; 
and if the measures of allegiance were to be taken from 
the latter, a total anarchy must have place in human 
society, and a final period at once be put to every 

Suppose that an usurper, after having banished his 
lawful prince and royal family, should establish his do- 
minion for ten or a dozen years in any country, and 
should preserve so exact a discipline in his troops, and 
so regular a disposition in his garrisons that no insur- 
rection had ever been raised, or even murmur heard 
against his administration : can it be asserted that the 
people, who in their hearts abhor his treason, have 
tacitly consented to his authority, and promised him 
allegiance, merely because, from necessity, they live 
under his dominion ? Suppose again their native prince 
restored, by means of an army, which he levies in 
foreign countries : they receive him with joy and exul- 
tation, and show plainly with what reluctance they had 
submitted to any other yoke. I may now ask, upon 
what foundation the prince's title stands ? Not on pop- 
ular consent surely : for though the people willingly 
acquiesce in his authority, they never imagine that 
their consent made him sovereign. They consent, 
because they apprehend him to be already by birth, 
their lawful sovereign. And as to tacit consent, 


which may now be inferred from their living under 
his dominion, this is no more than what they formerly 
gave to the tyrant and usurper. 

When we assert that all lawful government arises from 
the consent of the people, we certainly do them a great 
deal more honor than they deserve, or even expect and 
desire from us. After the Roman dominions became too 
unwieldy for the republic to govern them, the people 
over the whole world were extremely grateful to Augus- 
tus for that authority which, by violence, he had estab- 
lished over them ; and they showed an equal disposition 
to submit to the successor whom he left them by his last 
will and testament. It was afterwards their misfortune, 
that there never was, in one family, any long regular 
succession ; but that their line of princes was continually 
broken, either by private assassinations or public rebel- 
lions. The prcetorian bands, on the failure of every fam- 
ily, set up one emperor; the legions in the East a 
second ; those in Germany, perhaps, a third ; and the 
sword alone could decide the controversy. The condi- 
tion of the people in that mighty monarchy was to be 
lamented, not because the choice of the emperor was 
never left to them, for that was impracticable, but be- 
cause they never fell under any succession of masters 
who might regularly follow each other. As to the vio- 
lence, and wars, and bloodshed, occasioned by every new 
settlement, these were not blamable, because they were 

The house of Lancaster ruled in this island about sixty 
years ; yet the partisans of the white rose seemed daily 
to multiply in England. The present establishment has 
taken place during a still longer period. Have all views 
of right in another family been utterly extinguished, 
even though scarce any man now alive had arrived at 


the years of discretion when it was expelled, or could 
have consented to its dominion, or have promised it alle- 
giance ? — a sufficient indication, surely, of the general 
sentiment of mankind on this head. For we blame not 
the partisans of the abdicated family merely on account 
of the long time during which they have preserved their 
imaginary loyalty. We blame them for adhering to a 
family which we affirm has been justly expelled, and 
which, from the moment the new settlement took place, 
had forfeited all title to authority. 

But would we have a more regular, at least a more 
philosophical refutation of this principle of an original 
contract, or popular consent, perhaps the following ob- 
servations may suffice. 

All moral duties may be divided into two kinds. The 
first are those to which men are impelled by a natural 
instinct or immediate propensity which operates on them, 
independent of all ideas of obligation, and of all views 
either to public or private utility. Of this nature are 
love of children, gratitude to benefactors, pity to the 
unfortunate. When we reflect on the advantage which 
results to society from such humane instincts, we pay 
them the just tribute of moral approbation and esteem: 
but the person actuated by them feels their power and 
influence antecedent to any such reflection. 

The second kind of moral duties are such as are not 
supported by any original instinct of nature, but are 
performed entirely from a sense of obligation, when we 
consider the necessities of human society, and the im- 
possibility of supporting it, if these duties were neglected. 
It is thus justice, or a regard to the property of others, 
fidelity, or the observance of promises, become obligatory, 
and acquire an authority over mankind. For as it is 
evident that every man loves himself better than any 


other person, he is naturally impelled to extend his 
acquisitions as much as possible ; and nothing can 
restrain him in this propensity but reflection and expe- 
rience, by which he learns the pernicious effects of that 
license, and the total dissolution of society which must 
ensue from it. His original inclination, therefore, or in- 
stinct, is here checked and restrained by a subsequent 
judgment or observation. 

The case is precisely the same with the political or 
civil duty of allegiance as with the natural duties of jus- 
tice and fidelity. Our primary instincts lead us either 
to indulge ourselves in unlimited freedom, or to seek 
dominion over others ; and it is reflection only which 
engages us to sacrifice such strong passions to the inter- 
ests of peace and public order. A small degree of ex- 
perience and observation suffices to teach us, that society 
cannot possibly be maintained without the authority of 
magistrates, and that this authority must soon hill into 
contempt where exact obedience is not paid to it. The 
observation of these general and obvious interests is the 
source of all allegiance, and of that moral obligation 
which we attribute to it. 

What necessity, therefore, is there to found the duty 
of allegiance, or obedience to magistrates, on that of fidelity r , 
or a regard to promises, and to suppose that it is the 
consent of each individual which subjects him to gov- 
ernment, when it appears that both allegiance and fidel- 
ity stand precisely on the same foundation, and are both 
submitted to by mankind, on account of the apparent 
interests and necessities of human society ? We are 
bound to obey our sovereign, it is said, because we have 
given a tacit promise to that purpose. But why are we 
bound to observe our promise ? It must here be asserted, 
that the commerce and intercourse of mankind, which 


are of such mighty advantage, can have no security 
where men pay no regard to their engagements. In 
like manner may it be said that men could not live at 
all in society, at least in a civilized society, without laws, 
and magistrates, and judges, to prevent the encroach- 
ments of the strong upon the weak, of the violent upon 
the just and equitable. The obligation to allegiance 
being of like force and authority with the obligation to 
fidelity, we gain nothing by resolving the one into the 
other. The general interests or necessities of society 
are sufficient to establish both. 

If the reason be asked of that obedience which we 
are bound to pay to government, I readily answer, Be- 
cause society could not otherwise subsist ; and this answer is 
clear and intelligible to all mankind. Your answer is, 
Because we should Jceep our ivord. But besides that nobody, 
till trained in a philosophical system, can either compre- 
hend or relish this answer; besides this, I say, you find 
yourself embarrassed when it is asked, Why we are bound 
to keep our ivord? Nor can you give any answer but 
what would immediately, without any circuit, have ac- 
counted for our obligation to allegiance. 

But to whom is allegiance due, and ivho is our lawful sove- 
reign ? This question is often the most difficult of any, 
and liable to infinite discussions. When people are so 
happy that they can answer, Our present sovereign, who 
inherits, in a direct line, from ancestors that have governed us 
for many ages, this answer admits of no reply, even 
though historians, in tracing up to the remotest anti- 
quity the origin of that royal family, may find, as com- 
monly happens, that its first authority was derived from 
usurpation and violence. It is confessed that private 
justice, or the abstinence from the properties of others, 
is a most cardinal virtue. Yet reason tells us that there 


is no property in durable objects, such as land or houses, 
when carefully examined in passing from hand to hand, 
but must, in some period, have been founded on fraud 
and injustice. The necessities of human society, neither 
in private nor public life, will allow of such an accurate 
inquiry ; and there is no virtue or moral duty but what 
may, with facility, be refined away, if we indulge a false 
philosophy in sifting and scrutinizing it, by every cap- 
tious rule of logic, in every light or position in which it 
may be placed. 

The questions with regard to private property have 
filled infinite volumes of law and philosophy, if in both 
we add the commentators to the original text ; and in 
the end we way safely pronounce, that many of the 
rules there established are uncertain, ambiguous, and 
arbitrary. The like opinion may be formed with re- 
gard to the succession and rights of princes, and forms 
of government. Several cases no doubt occur, espec- 
ially in the infancy of any constitution, which admit of 
no determination from the laws of justice and equity; 
and our historian Eapin pretends, that the controversy 
between Edward the Third and Philip de Yalois was of 
this nature, and could be decided only by an appeal to 
heaven, that is, by war and violence. 

Who shall tell me, whether Germanicus or Drusus 
ought to have succeeded to Tiberius, had he died while 
they were both alive, without naming any of them for 
his successor ? Ought the right of adoption to be re- 
ceived as equivalent to that of blood, in a nation where 
it had the same effect in private families, and had 
already, in two instances, taken place in the public? 
Ought Germanicus to be esteemed the elder son, be- 
cause he was born before Drusus ; or the younger, 
because he was adopted after the birth of his brother ? 


Ought the right of the elder to be regarded in a nation, 
where he had no advantage in the succession of private 
families ? Ought the Roman empire at that time to be 
deemed hereditary, because of two examples ; or ought 
it even so early, to be regarded as belonging to the 
stronger, or to the present possessor, as being founded on 
so recent an usurpation ? 

Commodus mounted the throne after a pretty long 
succession of excellent emperors, who had acquired their 
title, not by birth, or public election, but by the ficti- 
tious rite of adoption. The bloody debauchee being 
murdered by a conspiracy, suddenly formed between his 
wench and her gallant, who happened at that time to be 
Praetorian Prcefed, these immediately deliberated about 
choosing a master to human kind, to speak in the style 
of those ages ; and they cast their eyes on Pertinax. 
Before the tyrant's death was known, the Prcefect went 
secretly to that senator, who, on the appearance of the 
soldiers, imagined that his execution had been ordered 
by Commodus. He was immediately saluted emperor 
by the officer and his attendants, cheerfully proclaimed 
by the populace, unwillingly submitted to by the 
guards, formally recognized by the senate, and pas- 
sively received by the provinces and armies of the 

The discontent of the Prcetorian bands broke out in 
a sudden sedition, which occasioned the murder of that 
excellent prince ; and the world being now without a 
master, and without government, the guards thought 
proper to set the empire formally to sale. Julian, the 
purchaser, was proclaimed by the soldiers, recognized 
by the senate, and submitted to by the people ; and 
must also have been submitted to by the provinces, had 
not the envy of the legions begotten opposition and 

vol. in. 65 


resistance. Pescennius Niger in Syria elected himself 
emperor, gained the tumultuary consent of his army, 
and was attended with the secret good-will of the senate 
and people of Rome. Albinus in Britain found an equal 
right to set up his claim ; but Severus, who governed 
Pannonia, prevailed in the end above both of them. 
That able politician and w r arrior, finding his own birth 
and dignity too much inferior to the imperial crown, 
professed, at first, an intention only of revenging the 
death of Pertinax. He marched as general into Italy, 
defeated Julian, and, without our being able to fix any 
precise commencement even of the soldiers' consent, he 
was from necessity acknowledged emperor by the senate 
and people, and fully established in his violent authority, 
by subduing Niger and Albinus* 

" Inter hcec Gordianus Ccesar" (says Capitolinus, speak- 
ing of another period) " sublatiis a militibus. Imperator 
est appellatus, quia non erat alius in prcesenii" It is to be 
remarked, that Gordian was a boy of fourteen years 
of age. 

Frequent instances of a like nature occur in the his- 
tory of the emperors ; in that of Alexander's successors ; 
and of many other countries : nor can any thing be 
more unhappy than a despotic government of this kind ; 
where the succession is disjointed and irregular, and 
must be determined on every vacancy by force or' elec- 
tion. In a free government, the matter is often una- 
voidable, and is also much less dangerous. The interests 
of liberty may there frequently lead the people, in their 
own defence, to alter the succession of the crown. And 
the constitution, being compounded of parts, may still 
maintain a sufficient stability, by resting on the aristo- 

* Herodian, lib. ii. 


cratical or democratical members, though the monarchi- 
cal be altered, from time to time, in order to accommo- 
date it to the former. 

In an absolute government, when there is no legal 
prince who has a title to the throne, it may safely be 
determined to belong to the first occupant. Instances 
of this kind are but too frequent, especially in the 
eastern monarchies. When any race of princes expires, 
the will or destination of the last sovereign will be 
regarded as a title. Thus the edict of Louis XIV., who 
called the bastard princes to the succession in case of 
the failure of all the legitimate princes, would, in such 
an event, have some authority* Thus the will of 
Charles the Second disposed of the whole Spanish mon- 
archy. The cession of the ancient proprietor, especially 
when joined to conquest, is likewise deemed a good 
title. The general obligation, which binds us to govern- 
ment, is the interest and necessities of society ; and this 
obligation is very strong. The determination of it to 

* It is remarkable, that in the remonstrance of the Duke of Bonrbon and 
the legitimate princes, against this destination of Louis XIV., the doctrine of 
the original contract is insisted on, even in that absolute government. The 
French nation, say they, choosing Hugh Capet and his posterity to rule over 
them and their posterity, where the former line fails, there is a tacit right re- 
served to choose a new royal family ; and this right is invaded by calling the 
bastard princes to the throne, without the consent of the nation. But the 
Comte de Boulainvilliers, who wrote in defence of the bastard princes, ridi- 
cules this notion of an original contract, especially when applied to Hugh 
Capet, who mounted the throne, says he, by the same arts which have ever 
been employed by all conquerors and usurpers. He got his title, indeed, 
recognized by the states after he had put himself in possession : but is this a 
choice or contract ? The Comte de Boulainvilliers, we may observe, was a 
noted republican ; but being a man of learning, and very conversant in his- 
tory, he knew that the people were never almost consulted in these revolu- 
tions and new establishments, and that time alone bestowed right and authority 
on what was commonly at first founded on force and violence. See Etat de 
la France, vol. iii. 


this or that particular prince, or form of government, is 
frequently more uncertain and dubious. Present pos- 
session has considerable authority in these cases, and 
greater than in private property ; because of the dis- 
orders which attend all revolutions and changes of gov- 

We shall only observe, before we conclude, that though 
an appeal to general opinion may justly, in the specula- 
tive sciences of metaphysics, natural philosophy, or 
astronomy, be deemed unfair and inconclusive, yet in all 
questions with regard to morals, as well as criticism, there 
is really no other standard, by which any controversy 
can ever be decided. And nothing is a clearer proof, 
that a theory of this kind is erroneous, than to find, that 
it leads to paradoxes repugnant to the common senti- 
ments of mankind, and to the practice and opinion of 
all nations and all ages. The doctrine, which founds all 
lawful government on an original contract, or consent of 
the people, is plainly of this kind ; nor has the most 
noted of its partisans, in prosecution of it, scrupled to 
affirm, that absolute monarch?/ is inconsistent with civil society, 
and so can be no form of civil government at all ; * and that 
the supreme poiver in a state cannot take from any man, by 
taxes and impositions, any part of his property, aithout his own 
consent or that of his representatives. f What authority 
any moral reasoning can have, which leads into opinions 
so wide of the general j:)ractice of mankind, in every 
place but this single kingdom, it is easy to determine. 

The only passage I meet with in antiquity, where the 
obligation of obedience to government is ascribed to a 
promise, is in Plato's. Crito ; where Socrates refuses to 
escape from prison, because he had tacitly promised to 

* See Locke on Government, chap. vii. § 90. 

f Locke on Government, chap. xi. § 138, 139, 140. 


obey the laws. Thus he builds a Tory consequence of 
passive obedience on a Whig foundation of the original 

New discoveries are not to be expected in these mat- 
ters. If scarce any man, till very lately, ever imagined 
that government was founded on compact, it is certain 
that it cannot, in general, have any such foundation. 

The crime of rebellion among the ancients was com- 
monly expressed by the terms vtcortQL ; StLv novas res 



In the former Essay, we endeavored to refute the 
speculative systems of politics advanced in this nation, as 
well the religious system of the one party, as the philo- 
sophical of the other. We now come to examine the 
practical consequences deduced by each party, with regard 
to the measures of submission due to sovereigns. 

As the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the 
interests of society, which require mutual abstinence 
from property, in order to preserve peace among man- 
kind; it is evident that, when the execution of justice 
would be attended with very pernicious consequences, 
that virtue must be suspended, and give place to public 
utility, in such extraordinary and such pressing emer- 
gencies. The maxim, fiat Jiistitia, mat Owlum, let justice 
be performed, though the universe be destroyed, is appa- 
rently false, and, by sacrificing the end to the means, 
shows a preposterous idea of the subordination of duties. 
What governor of a town makes any scruple of burn- 
ing the suburbs, when they facilitate the approaches of 
the enemy ? Or what general abstains from plundering 
a neutral country, when the necessities of war require 
it, and he cannot otherwise subsist his army ? The case 


is the same with the duty of allegiance ; and common 
sense teaches us, that as government binds us to obedi- 
ence, only on account of its tendency to public utility, 
that duty must always, in extraordinary cases, when 
public ruin would evidently attend obedience, yield to 
the primary and original obligation. Saluspopali suprema 

jLex, the safety of the people is the supreme law. This 
maxim is agreeable to the sentiments of mankind in all 
ages : nor is any one, when he reads of the insurrections 
against Xero or Philip the Second, so infatuated with 
party systems, as not to wish success to the enterprise, 
and praise the undertakers. Even our high monarchical 
party, in spite of their sublime theory, are forced, in 
such cases, to judge, and feel, and approve, in conformity 
to the rest of mankind. 

Kesistance, therefore, being admitted in extraordinary 
emergencies, the question can only be among good rea- 
soners, with regard to the degree of necessity which can 
justify resistance, and render it lawful or commendable. 

/Xnd here, I must confess, that I shall always incline to 
their side, who draw the bond of allegiance very close, 
and consider an infringement of it as the last refuge in 
desperate cases, w r hen the public is in the highest danger 
from violence and tyranny. For, besides the mischiefs 
of a civil war, which commonly attends insurrection, it 
is certain that, where a disposition to rebellion appears 
among any people, it is one chief cause of tyranny in 
the rulers, and forces them into many violent measures 
which they never would have embraced, had every one 
been inclined to submission and obedience. Thus, the 
tyrannicide, or assassination, approved of by ancient 
maxims, instead of keeping tyrants and usurpers in awe, 
made them ten times more fierce and unrelenting ; and 
is now justly, upon that account, abolished by the laws 


of nations, and universally condemned as a base and 
treacherous method of bringing to justice these disturbers 
of society. 

Besides, we must consider, that as obedience is our 
duty in the common course of things, it ought chiefly 
to be inculcated ; nor can any thing be more preposter- 
ous than an anxious care and solicitude in stating all 
the cases in which resistance may be allowed. In like 
manner, though a philosopher reasonably acknowledges, 
in the course of an argument, that the rules of justice 
may be dispensed with in cases of urgent necessity ; 
what should we think of a preacher or casuist, who 
should make it his chief study to find out such cases, 
and enforce them with all the vehemence of argument 
and eloquence ? Would he not be better employed 
in inculcating the general doctrine, than in displaying 
the particular exceptions, which Ave are, perhaps, but 
too much inclined of ourselves to embrace and to ex- 
tend ? 

There are, however, two reasons which may be 
pleaded in defence of that party among us who have, 
with so much industry, propagated the maxims of resist- 
ance ; maxims which, it must be confessed, are, in gene- 
ral, so pernicious and so destructive of civil society. 
The first is, that their antagonists, carrying the doctrine 
of obedience to such an extravagant height, as not only 
never to mention the exceptions in extraordinary cases 
(which might, perhaps, be excusable), but even posi- 
tively to exclude them ; it became necessary to insist 
on these exceptions, and defend the rights of injured 
truth and liberty. The second, and, perhaps, better rea- 
son, is founded on the nature of the British constitution 
and form of government. 

It is almost peculiar to our constitution to establish 


a first magistrate with such high preeminence and dig- 
nity, that, though limited by the laws, he is, in a man- 
ner, so far as regards his own person, above the laws, 
and can neither be questioned nor punished for any 
injury or wrong which may be committed by him. His 
ministers alone, or those who act by his commission, are 
obnoxious to justice ; and while the prince is thus 
allured by the prospect of personal safety, to give the 
laws their free course, an equal security is, in effect, 
obtained by the punishment of lesser offenders; and, 
at the same time, a civil war is avoided, which would be 
the infallible consequence, were an attack at every turn 
made directly upon the sovereign. But, though the 
constitution pays this salutary compliment to the prince, 
it can never be reasonably understood by that maxim 
to have determined its own destruction, or to have 
established a tame submission, where he protects his 
ministers, perseveres in injustice, and usurps the whole 
power of the commonwealth. This case, indeed, is 
never expressly put by the laws ; because it is impossi- 
ble for them, in their ordinary course, to provide a 
remedy for it, or establish any magistrate, with superior 
authority, to chastise the exorbitances of the prince. 
But as a right without a remedy would be an absurdity; 
the remedy, in this case, is the extraordinary one of 
resistance, when affairs come to that extremity, that the 
constitution can be defended by it alone. Resistance, 
therefore, must of course become more frequent in the 
British government, than in others which are simpler, 
and consist of fewer parts and movements. Where the 
king is an absolute sovereign, he has little temptation 
to commit such enormous tyranny as may justly pro- 
voke rebellion. But where he is limited, his impru- 
dent ambition, without any great vices, may run him 
vol. in. 66 


into that perilous situation. This is frequently sup- 
posed to have been the case with Charles the First; 
and if we may now speak truth, after animosities are 
ceased, this was also the case with James the Second. 
These were harmless, if not, in their private character, 
good men ; but mistaking the nature of our constitu- 
tion, and engrossing the whole legislative power, it 
became necessary to oppose them with some vehe- 
mence ; and even to deprive the latter formally of that 
authority, which he had used with such imprudence and 



To abolish all distinctions of party may not be prac- 
ticable, perhaps not desirable in a free government. 
The only dangerous parties are such as entertain oppo- 
site views with regard to the essentials of government, 
the succession of the crown, or the more considerable 
privileges belonging to the several members of the con- 
stitution ; where there is no room for any compromise 
or accommodation, and where the controversy may 
appear so momentous as to justify even an opposition 
by arms to the pretensions of antagonists. Of this 
nature was the animosity continued for above a century 
past, between the parties in England ; an animosity 
which broke out sometimes into civil war, which occa- 
sioned violent revolutions, and which continually endan- 
gered the peace and tranquillity of the nation. But as 
there have appeared of late the strongest symptoms of 
an universal desire to abolish these party distinctions, 
this tendency to a coalition affords the most agreeable 
prospect of future happiness, and ought to be carefully 
cherished and promoted by every lover of his country. 

There is not a more effectual method of promoting so 


good an end, than to prevent all unreasonable insult 
and triumph of the one party over the other, to encour- 
age moderate opinions, to find the proper medium in all 
disputes, to persuade each that its antagonist may possi- 
bly be sometimes in the right, and to keep a balance in 
the praise and blame which we bestow on either side. 
The two former Essays, concerning the original contract 
and passive obedience, are calculated for this purpose with 
regard to the philosophical and practical controversies 
between the parties, and tend to show that neither side 
are in these respects so fully supported by reason as 
they endeavor to flatter themselves. We shall proceed 
to exercise the same moderation with regard to the his- 
torical disputes between the parties, by proving that each 
of them was justified by plausible topics; that there 
were on both sides wise men, who meant well to their 
country ; and that the past animosity between the fac- 
tions had no better foundation than narrow prejudice or 
interested passion. 

The popular party, who afterwards acquired the name 
of Whigs, might justify, by very specious arguments, 
that opposition to the crown, from which our present 
free constitution is derived. Though obliged to ac- 
knowledge, that precedents in favor of prerogative had 
uniformly taken place during many reigns before 
Charles the First, they thought that there was no 
reason for submitting any longer to so dangerous an 
authority. Such might have been their reasoning : as 
the rights of mankind are for ever to be deemed sacred, 
no prescription of tyranny or arbitrary power can have 
authority sufficient to abolish them. Liberty is a bless- 
ing so inestimable, that, wherever there appears any 
probability of recovering it, a nation may willingly run 
many hazards, and ought not even to repine at the 


greatest effusion of blood or dissipation of treasure. 
All human institutions, and none more than government, 
are in continual fluctuation. Kings are sure to embrace 
every opportunity of extending their prerogatives : and 
if favorable incidents be not also laid hold of for ex- 
tending and securing the privileges of the people, an 
universal despotism must for ever prevail amongst man- 
kind. The example of all the neighboring nations 
proves, that it is no longer safe to intrust with the crown 
the same high prerogatives which had formerly been 
exercised during rude and sinrple ages. And though 
the example of many late reigns may be pleaded in 
favor of a power in the prince somewhat arbitrary, more 
remote reigns afford instances of stricter limitations im- 
posed on the crown ; and those pretensions of the par- 
liament now branded with the title of innovations, are 
only a recovery of the just rights of the people. 

These views, far from being odious, are surely large, 
and generous, and noble : to their prevalence and suc- 
cess the kingdom owes its liberty : perhaps its learning, 
its industry, commerce, and naval power : by them 
chiefly the English name is distinguished among the 
society of nations, and aspires to a rivalship with that 
of the freest and most illustrious commonwealths of an- 
tiquity. But as all these mighty consequences could 
not reasonably be foreseen at the time when the contest 
began, the royalists of that age wanted not specious ar- 
guments on their side, by which they could justify their 
defence of the then established prerogatives of the 
prince. We shall state the question, as it might have 
appeared to them at the assembling of that parliament, 
which, by its violent encroachments on the crown, 
began the civil wars. 

The only rule of government, they might have said, 


known and acknowledged among men, is use and prac- 
tice : reason is so uncertain a guide, that it will always 
be exposed to doubt and controversy : could it ever 
render itself prevalent over the people, men had always 
retained it as their sole rule of conduct : they had 
still continued in the primitive unconnected state of 
nature, without submitting to political government, 
whose sole basis is, not pure reason, but authority and 
precedent. Dissolve these ties, you break all the bonds 
of civil society, and leave every man at liberty to con- 
sult his private interest, by those expedients, which his 
appetite, disguised under the appearance of reason, 
shall dictate to him. The spirit of innovation is in 
itself pernicious, however favorable its particular object 
may sometimes appear • a truth so obvious, that the 
popular party themselves are sensible of it, and there- 
fore cover their encroachments on the crown by the 
plausible pretence of their recovering the ancient liber- 
ties of the people. 

But the present prerogatives of the crown, allowing 
all the suppositions of that party, have been incontesta- 
bly established ever since the accession of the House of 
Tudor ; a period which, as it now comprehends a hun- 
dred and sixty years, may be allowed! sufficient to give 
stability to any constitution. Would it not have ap- 
peared ridiculous, in the reign of the Emperor Adrian, 
to have talked of the republican constitution as the rule 
of government ; or to have supposed, that the former 
rights of the senate, and consuls, and tribunes, were still 
subsisting ? 

But the present claims of the English monarchs are 
much more favorable than those of the Roman empe- 
rors during that age. The authority of Augustus was a 
plain usurpation, grounded only on military violence. 


and forms such an epoch in the Roman history as is 
obvious to every reader. But if Henry VII. really, 
as some pretend, enlarged the power of the crown, it 
was only by insensible acquisitions, which escaped the 
apprehensions of the people, and have scarcely been 
remarked even by historians and politicians. r J[he new 
government, if it deserves the epithet, is an impercep- 
tible transition from the former ; is entirely ingrafted 
on it ; derives its title fully from that root ; and is to 
be considered only as one of those gradual revolutions, 
to which human affairs, in every nation, will be for ever 

The house of Tudor, and after them that of Stuart, 
exercised no prerogatives but what had been claimed 
and exercised by the Plantagenets. Not a single branch 
of their authority can be said to be an innovation. The 
only difference is, that perhaps former kings exerted 
these powers only by intervals, and were not able, by 
reason of the opposition of their barons, to render them 
so steady a rule of administration.* But the sole infer- 
ence from this fact is, that those ancient times were 
more turbulent and seditious ; and that royal authority, 
the constitution, and the laws, have happily of late 
gained the ascendant. 

Under what pretence can the popular party now 
speak of recovering the ancient constitution ? The for- 
mer control over the kings was not placed in the com- 
mons, but in the barons : the people had no authority, 

* The author believes that he was the first writer who advanced, that the 
family of Tudor possessed in general more authority than their immediate 
predecessors; an opinion which he hopes will be supported by history, but 
which he proposes with some diffidence. There are strong symptoms of arbi- 
trary power in some former reigns even after signing of the charters. The 
power of the crown in that age depended less on the constitution, than on the 
capacity and vigor of the prince who wore it. — Edition N, 


and even little or no liberty ; till the crown, by sup- 
pressing these factious tyrants, enforced the execution 
of the laws, and obliged all the subjects equally to 
respect each other's rights, privileges, and properties. 
If we must return to the ancient barbarous and feudal 
constitution, let those gentlemen, who now behave them- 
selves with so much insolence to their sovereign, set the 
first example. Let them make court to be admitted as 
retainers to a neighboring baron ; and, by submitting to 
slavery under him, acquire some protection to them- 
selves, together with the power of exercising rapine and 
oppression over their inferior slaves and villains. This 
was the condition of the commons among their remote 

But how far back must we go, in having recourse to 
ancient constitutions and governments ? There was a 
constitution still more ancient than that to which these 
innovators affect so much to appeal. During that period 
there was no Magna Charta : the barons themselves pos- 
sessed few regular, stated privileges ; and the house of 
commons probably had not an existence. 

It is ridiculous to hear the Commons, while they are 
assuming, by usurpation, the wdiole power of govern- 
ment, talk of reviving the ancient institutions. Is it not 
known, that, though representatives received wages from 
their constituents, to be a member of the Lower House 
was always considered as a burden, and an exemption 
from it as a privilege ? Will they persuade us that 
power, which of all human acquisitions is the most 
coveted, and in comparison of which, even reputation, 
and pleasure, and riches, are slighted, could ever be re- 
garded as a burden by any man ? 

The property acquired of late by the Commons, it is 
said, entitles them to more power than their ancestors 


enjoyed. But to what is this increase of their property 
owing but to an increase of their liberty and their secu- 
rity ? Let them therefore acknowledge that their ances- 
tors, while the crown was restrained by the seditious 
barons, really enjoyed less liberty than they themselves 
have attained, after the sovereign acquired the ascend- 
ant : and let them enjoy that liberty with moderation, 
and not forfeit it by new exorbitant claims, and by ren- 
dering it a pretence for endless innovations. 

The true rule of government is the present established 
practice of the age. That has most authority, because 
it is recent : it is also best known, for the same reason. 
"Who has assured those tribunes that the Plantagenets 
did not exercise as high acts of authority as the Tudors ? 
Historians, they say, do not mention them. But histo- 
rians are also silent with regard to the chief exertions 
of prerogative by the Tudors. Where any power or 
prerogative is fully and undoubtedly established, the 
exercise of it passes for a thing of course, and readily 
escapes the notice of history and annals. Had we no 
other monuments of Elizabeth's reign than what are 
preserved even by Camden, the most copious, judicious, 
and exact of our historians, we should be entirely 
ignorant of the most important maxims of her govern- 

Was not the present monarchical government, in its 
full extent, authorized by lawyers, recommended by di- 
vines, acknowledged by politicians, acquiesced in, nay, 
passionately cherished, by the people in general, and all 
this during a period of at least a hundred and sixty 
years, and, till of late, without the smallest murmur or 
controversy? This general consent surely, during so 
long a time, must be sufficient to render a constitution 
legal and valid. If the origin of all power be derived, 

vol. in. 67 


as is pretended, from the people, here is their consent in 
the fullest and most ample terms that can be desired or 

But the people must not pretend, because they can, 
by their consent, lay the foundations of government, 
that therefore they are to be permitted, at their pleasure, 
to overthrow and subvert them. There is no end of 
these seditious and arrogant claims. The power of the 
crown is now openly struck at : the nobility are also in 
visible peril : the gentry will soon follow : the popular 
leaders, who will then assume the name of gentry, 
will next be exposed to danger : and the people 
themselves, having become incapable of civil govern- 
ment, and lying under the restraint of no authority, 
must, for the sake of peace, admit, instead of their 
legal and mild monarchs, a succession of military and 
despotic tyrants. 

These consequences are the more to be dreaded, as 
the present fury of the people, though glossed over by 
pretensions to civil liberty, is in reality incited by the 
fanaticism of religion ; a principle the most blind, head- 
strong and ungovernable, by which human nature can 
possibly be actuated. Popular rage is dreadful, from 
whatever motive derived; but must be attended with 
the most pernicious consequences, when it arises from a 
principle which disclaims all control by human law, rea- 
son, or authority. 

These are the arguments which each party may make 
use of to justify the conduct of their predecessors dur- 
ing that great crisis. The event, if that can be admitted 
as a reason, has shown, that the arguments of the popu- 
lar party were better founded ; but perhaps, according 
to the established maxims of lawyers and politicians, the 
views of the royalists ought, beforehand, to have ap- 


peared more solid, more safe, and more legal. But this 
is certain, that the greater moderation we now employ 
in representing past events, the nearer shall we be to 
produce a full coalition of the parties, and an entire 
acquiescence in our present establishment. Moderation 
is of advantage to every establishment : nothing but 
zeal can overturn a settled power; and an over active 
zeal in friends is apt to beget a like spirit in antagonists. 
The transition from a moderate opposition against an 
establishment, to an entire acquiescence in it, is easy and 

There are many invincible arguments which should 
induce the malecontent party to acquiesce entirely in 
the present settlement of the constitution. They now 
find, that the spirit of civil liberty^, though at first con- 
nected with religious fanaticism, could purge itself from 
that pollution, and appear under a more genuine and 
engaged aspect ; a friend to toleration, and encourager of 
all the enlarged and generous sentiments that do honor 
to human nature. They may observe, that the popular 
claims could stop at a proper period ; and, after re- 
trenching the high claims of prerogative, could still 
maintain a due respect to monarchy, the nobility, and 
to all ancient institutions. Above all, they must be sen- 
sible, that the very principle which made the strength 
of their party, and from which it derived its chief 
authority, has now deserted them, and gone over to 
their antagonists. The plan of liberty is settled ; its 
happy effects are proved by experience ; a long tract of 
time has given it stability ; and whoever would attempt 
to overturn it, and to recall the past government or 
abdicated family, would, besides other more criminal 
imputations, be exposed, in their turn, to the reproach 
of faction and innovation. While they peruse the his- 


tor j of past events, they ought to reflect, both that 
those rights of the crown are long since annihilated, and 
that the tyranny, and violence, and oppression, to which 
they often give rise, are ills from which the established 
liberty of the constitution has now at last happily pro- 
tected the people. These reflections will prove a better 
security to our freedom and privileges than to deny, 
contrary to the clearest evidence of facts, that such 
regal powers ever had an existence. There is not a 
more effectual method of betraying a cause than to lay 
the stress of the argument on a wrong place, and, by dis- 
puting an untenable post, inure the adversaries to suc- 
cess and victory. 



I suppose, that if a Member of Parliament, in the 
reign of King William or Queen Anne, while the estab- 
lishment of the Protestant Succession was yet uncertain, 
were deliberating concerning the party he would choose 
in that important question, and weighing, with impar- 
tiality, the advantages and disadvantages on each side, I 
believe the following particulars would have entered 
into his consideration. 

He would easily perceive the great advantage result- 
ing from the restoration of the Stuart family, by which 
we should preserve the succession clear and undisputed/ 
free from a pretender, with such a specious title as that 
of blood, which, with the multitude, is always the claim 
the strongest and most easily comprehended. It is in 
vain to say, as many have clone, that the question with 
regard to governors, independent of government, is frivo- 
lous, and little worth disputing, much less fighting about. 
The generality of mankind never will enter into these sen- 
timents ; and it is much happier, I believe, for society, 
that they do not, but rather continue in their natural 
(prepossessions. How could stability be preserved in 
Cany monarchical government (which, though perhaps 

534 ESSAY XV. 

not the best, is, and always has been, the most common 
of any), unless men had so passionate a regard for the 
true heir of their royal family • and even though he be 
weak in understanding, or infirm in years, gave him so 
sensible a preference above persons the most accom- 
plished in shining talents, or celebrated for great 
achievements ? Would not every popular leader put 
in his claim at every vacancy, or even without any 
vacancy, and the kingdom become the theatre of per- 
petual wars and convulsions ? The condition of the 
Roman empire, surely, was not in this respect much to 
be envied • nor is that of the Eastern nations, who pay 
little regard to the titles of their sovereign, but sacrifice 
them every day, to the caprice or momentary humor of 
the populace or soldiery. It is but a foolish wisdom, 
which is so carefully displayed in undervaluing princes, 
and placing them on a level with the meanest of man- 
kind. To be sure, an anatomist finds no more in the 
greatest monarch than in the lowest peasant or day- 
laborer ; and a moralist may, perhaps, frequently find 
less. But what do all these reflections tend to ? We 
all of us still retain these prejudices in favor of birth 
and family ; and neither in our serious occupations, nor 
most careless amusements, can we ever get entirely rid 
of them. A tragedy that should represent the adven- 
tures of sailors, or porters, or even of private gentle- 
men, would presently disgust us ; but one that intro- 
duces kings and princes, acquires in our eyes an air of 
importance and dignity. Or should a man be able, by 
his superior wisdom, to get entirely above such prepos- 
sessions, he would soon, by means of the same wisdom, 
again bring himself down to them for the sake of soci- 
ety, whose welfare he would perceive to be intimately 
connected with them. Far from endeavoring to unde- 


ceive the people in this particular, he would cherish 
such sentiments of reverence to their princes, as requi- 
site to preserve a due subordination in society. And 
though the lives of twenty thousand men be often sac- 
rificed to maintain a king in possession of his throne, or 
preserve the right of succession undisturbed, he enter- 
tains no indignation at the loss, on pretence that every 
individual of these was, perhaps, in himself, as valuable 
as the prince he served. He considers the consequences 
of violating the hereditary right of kings ; consequences 
which may be felt for many centuries, while the loss 
of several thousand men brings so little prejudice to a 
large kingdom, that it may not be perceived a few years 

The advantages of the Hanover succession are of an 
opposite nature, and arise from this very circumstance, 
that it violates hereditary right, and places on the throne 
a prince to whom birth gave no title to that dignity. 
It is evident, from the history of this Island, that the 
privileges of the people have, during near two centuries, 
been continually upon the increase, by the division of 
the church lands, by the alienations of the barons' 
estates, by the progress of trade, and above all by the 
happiness of our situation, which, for a long time, gave 
us sufficient security, without any standing army or 
military establishment. On the contrary, public liberty 
has, almost in every other nation of Europe, been, dur- 
ing the same period, extremely on the decline ; while 
the people were disgusted at the hardships of the old 
feudal militia, and rather chose to intrust their prince 
with mercenary armies, which he easily turned against 
themselves. It was nothing extraordinary, therefore, 
that some of our British sovereigns mistook the nature 
of the constitution, at least the genius of the people ; 


and as they embraced all the favorable precedents left 
them by their ancestors, they overlooked all those which 
were contrary, and which supposed a limitation in our 
government. They were encouraged in this mistake, 
by the example of all the neighboring princes, who, 
bearing the same title or appellation, and being adorned 
with the same ensigns of authority, naturally led them 
to claim the same powers and prerogatives. It appears 
from the speeches and proclamations of James I., and 
the whole train of that prince's actions, as well as his 
son's, that he regarded the English government as a 
simple monarchy, and never imagined that any consid- 
erable part of his subjects entertained a contrary idea. 
This opinion made those monarchs discover their preten- 
sions, without preparing any force to support them ; and 
even without reserve or disguise, which are always 
employed by those who enter npon any new project, or 
endeavor to innovate in any government.* The flattery 

* King James told his Parliament plainly, when they meddled in state affairs, 
" Ne sutor ultra crepidam?" lie used also, at his table, in promiscuous com- 
panies, to advance his notions in a manner still more undisguised, as we may 
learn from a story told in the life of Mr. Waller, and which that poet used 
frequently to repeat. When Mr. Waller was young, he had the curiosity to 
go to Court, and he stood in the circle and saw King James dine ; where, 
amongst other company, there sat at table two Bishops. The King openly 
and aloud proposed this question, Whether he might not take hi* subjects' money 
when he had occasion for it, without all this formality of Parliament. The one 
Bishop readily replied, " God forbid you should not, for you are the breath of 
our nostrils." The other Bishop declined answering, and said he was not 
skilled in Parliamentary cases. But upon the King's urging him, and saying- 
he would admit of no evasion, his Lordship replied very pleasantly, " Why, 
then, I think your Majesty may lawfully take my brother's money, for lie offers 
it." In Sir Walter Raleigh's Preface to the History of the World, there is 
this remarkable passage. " Philip the 11., by strong hand and main force, 
attempted to make himself not only an absolute monarch over the Netherlands, 
like unto the kings and sovereigns of England and France, but, Turk like, to 
triad under his feet all their natural and fundamental laws, privileges, and 
ancient rights.'''' Spencer, speaking of some grants of the English Kings to 


of courtiers further confirmed their prejudices; and, 
above all, that of the clergy, who, from several passages 
of Scripture, and these wrested too, had erected a regu- 
lar and avowed system of arbitrary power. The only 
method of destroying, at once, all these high claims and 
pretensions, was to depart from the true hereditary line, 
and choose a prince, who, being plainly a creature of the 
public, and receiving the crown on conditions, expressed 
and avowed, found his authority established on the same 
bottom with the privileges of the people. By electing 
him in the royal line, we cut off all hopes of ambitious 
subjects, who might, in future emergencies, disturb the 
government by their cabals and pretensions : by render- 
ing the crown hereditary in his family, we avoided all 
the inconveniences of elective monarchy : and by exclud- 
ing the lineal heir, we secured all our constitutional 
limitations, and rendered our government uniform, and 
of a piece. The people cherish monarchy, because pro- 
tected by it : the monarch favors liberty, because created 
by it : and thus every advantage is obtained by the new 
establishment, as far as human skill and wisdom can 
extend itself. 

These are the separate advantages of fixing the suc- 
cession, either in the house of Stuart, or in that of 

the Irish corporations, says, ' ; All which, though at the time of their first grant 
they were tolerable and perhaps reasonable, yet now are most unreasonable 
and inconvenient. But all these will easily be cut olF with the superior power 
of her Majesty's prerogative, against which her own grants are not to be 
pleaded or enforced." State of Ireland, page looT, Edit. 170G. 

As these were very common, though not, perhaps, the universal notions of 
the times, the two first Princes of the House of Stuart were the more excusa- 
ble for their mistake. And Kapin, the most judicious of historians,* seems 
sometimes to treat them with too much severity upon account of it. 

* In Editions H, X, the wonts " tlt<- most judicious of historians" which stood in Edi- 
tion:- I-". <i. arc changed to "suitable to his usual malignity and partiality." 

vol. in. 68 

538 ESSAY XV. 

Hanover. There are also disadvantages in each estab- 
lishment, which an impartial patriot would ponder and 
examine, in order to form a just judgment upon the 

The disadvantages of the Protestant succession consist 
in the foreign dominions which are possessed by the 
princes of the Hanover line, and which, it might be 
supposed, would engage us in the intrigues and wars of 
the Continent, and lose us, in some measure, the inesti- 
mable advantage we possess, of being surrounded and 
guarded by the sea, which we command. The disadvan- 
tages of recalling the abdicated family consist chiefly 
/ in their religion, which is more prejudicial to society 
than that established among us ; is contrary to it, and 
affords no toleration, or peace, or security, to any other 

It appears to me, that these advantages and disadvan- 
tages are allowed on both sides ; at least, by every one 
who is at all susceptible of argument or reasoning. No 
subject, however loyal, pretends to deny, that the dis- 
puted title and foreign dominions of the present royal 
family are a loss. Nor is there any partisan of the 
Stuarts but will confess, that the claim of hereditary, 
indefeasible right, and the Eoman Catholic religion, are 
also disadvantages in that family. It belongs, therefore, 
to a philosopher alone, who is of neither party, to put 
all the circumstances in the scale, and assign to each of 
them its proper poise and influence. Such a one will 
readily at first acknowledge, that all political questions 
are infinitely complicated, and that there scarcely ever 
occurs in any deliberation, a choice which is either 
purely good, or purely ill. Consequences, mixed and 
varied, may be foreseen to flow from every measure : 
and many consequences, unforeseen, do always, in fact, 


result from every one. Hesitation, and reserve, and 
suspense, are therefore the only sentiments he brings to 
this essay on trial. Or, if he indulges any passion, it is 
that of derision against the ignorant multitude, who are 
always clamorous and dogmatical, even in the nicest 
questions, of which, from want of temper, perhaps still 
more than of understanding, they are altogether unfit 

But to say something more determinate on this head, 
the following reflections will, I hope, show the temper, 
if not the understanding, of a philosopher. 

Were we to judge merely by iirst appearances, and 
by past experience, we must allow that the advantages 
of a parliamentary title in the house of Hanover are 
greater than those of an undisputed hereditary title in 
the house of Stuart, and that our fathers acted wisely in 
preferring the former to the latter. So long as the house 
of Stuart ruled in Great Britain, which, with some inter- 
ruption, was above eighty years, the government was 
kept in a continual fever, by the contention betpveen the 
privileges of the people and the prerogatives of the 
crown. If arms were dropped, the noise of disputes 
continued : or if these were silenced, jealousy still cor- 
roded the heart, and threw the nation into an unnatural 
ferment and disorder. And while we were thus occu- 
pied in domestic disputes, a foreign power, dangerous 
to public liberty, erected itself in Europe, without any? ^ 
opposition from us, and even sometimes with our assist-] **' 

But during these last sixty years, when a parliamen- 
tary establishment has taken place ; whatever factions 
may have prevailed, either among the people or in 
public assemblies, the whole force of our constitution 
has always fallen to one side, and an uninterrupted liar- 

540 ESSAY XV. 

mony has been preserved between our princes and our 
parliaments. Public liberty, with internal peace and 
order, has flourished almost without interruption : trade 
and manufactures, and agriculture, have increased : the 
arts, and sciences, and philosophy, have been cultivated. 
Even religious parties have been necessitated to lay aside 
their mutual rancour ; and the glory of the nation has 
spread itself all over Europe • derived equally from our 
progress in the arts of peace, and from valor and success 
in war. So long and so glorious a period no nation 
almost can boast of: nor is there another instance in the 
whole history of mankind, that so many millions of peo- 
ple have, during such a space of time, been held together, 
in a manner so free, so rational, and so suitable to the 
dignity of human nature. 

But though this recent experience seems clearly to 
decide in favor of the present establishment, there are 
some circumstances to be thrown into the other scale ; 
and it is dangerous to regulate our judgment by one 
event or example. 

We have had two rebellions during the flourishing 
period above mentioned, besides plots and conspiracies 
without number. And if none of these have produced 
any very fatal event, we may ascribe our escape chiefly 
to the narrow genius of those princes who disputed our 
establishment ; and Ave may esteem ourselves so far for- 
tunate. But the claims of the banished family, I fear, 
are not yet antiquated ; and who can foretell, that their 
future attempts will produce no greater disorder ? 

The disputes between privilege and prerogative may 
easily be composed by laws, and votes, and conferences, 
and concessions, where there is tolerable temper or pru- 
dence on both sides, or on either side. Among contend- 


ing titles, the question can only be determined by the 
sword, and by devastation, and by civil war. 

A prince, who fills the throne with a disputed title, 
dares not arm his subjects ; the only method of securing 
a people fully, both against domestic oppression and 
foreign conquest. 

Notwithstanding our riches and renown, what a criti- 
cal escape did we make, by the late peace, from dangers, 
which were owing not so much to bad conduct and ill 
success in war, as to the pernicious practice of mortgag- 
ing our finances, and the still more pernicious maxim of 
never paying off our incumbrances? Such fatal meas- 
ures would not probably have been embraced, had it not 
been to secure a precarious establishment* 

But to convince us, that an hereditary title is to be 
embraced rather than a parliamentary one, which is not 
supported by any other views or motives, a man needs 
only transport himself back to the era of the Restora- 
tion, and suppose that he had had a seat in that parlia- 
ment which recalled the royal family, and put a period 
to the greatest disorders that ever arose from the oppo- 
site pretensions of prince and people. What would have 
been thought of one that had proposed, at that time, to 
set aside Charles II. and settle the crown on the Duke 
of York or Gloucester, merely in order to exclude all 
high claims, like those of their father and grandfather ? 
Would not such a one have been regarded as an extrav- 
agant projector, who loved dangerous remedies, and 
could tamper and play with a government and national 
constitution, like a quack with a sickly patient.^ 

* Those who consider how universal this pernicious practice of funding lias 
become all over Europe, may perhaps dispute this last opinion. But we lay 
under less necessity than other states. — Note in Edit lorn F, G, II, X. 

f The advantages which result from a parliamentary title, preferably to an 

542 ESSAY XV. 

In reality, the reason assigned by the nation for 
excluding the race of Stuart, and so many other branches 
of the royal family, is not on account of their hereditary 
title, (a reason which would, to vulgar apprehensions, 
have appeared altogether absurd,) but on account of 
their religion, which leads us to compare the disadvan- 
tages above mentioned in each establishment. 

I confess that, considering the matter in general, it 
were much to be wished that our prince had no foreign 
dominions, and could confine all his attention to the 
government of the island. For not to mention some real 
inconveniences that may result from territories on the 
Continent, they afford such a handle for calumny and 
defamation, as is greedily seized by the people, always 
disposed to think ill of their superiors. It must, how- 
ever, be acknowledged, that Hanover is, perhaps, the 
spot of ground in Europe the least inconvenient for a 
King of England. It lies in the heart of Germany, at a 
distance from the great powers, which are our natural 
rivals : it is protected by the laws of the empire, as well 
as by the arms of its own sovereign : and it serves only 
to connect us more closely with the House of Austria, 
our natural ally* 

hereditary one, though they are great, are too refined ever to enter into the 
conception of the vulgar. The bulk of mankind would never allow them to 
be sufficient for committing what would be regarded as an injustice to the 
Prince. They must be supported by some gross, popular, and familiar topics ; 
ami wise men, though convinced of their force, would reject them, in compli- 
ance with the weakness and prejudices of the people. An encroaching tyrant, 
or deluded bigot alone, by his misconduct, is able to enrage the nation, and 
render practicable what was always, perhaps, desirable. — Editions F, G, 
II, X. 

* In the last war, it has been of service t3 us, by furnishing us with a con- 
siderable body of auxiliary troops, the bravest and most faithful in the world