Front Page Titles (by Subject) [V.i.f] article ii: Of the Expence of the Institutions for the Education of a Youth 1 - Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 2b An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. 2
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[V.i.f] article ii: Of the Expence of the Institutions for the Education of a Youth 1 - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 2b An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. 2 
An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. I and II, ed. R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, vol. II of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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[V.i.f] article ii
1The institutions for the education of the youth may, in the same manner, furnish a revenue sufficient for defraying their own expence. The fee or honorary which the scholar pays to the master naturally constitutes a revenue of this kind.
2Even where the reward of the master does not arise altogether from this natural revenue, it still is not necessary that it should be derived from that general revenue of the society, of which the collection and application bisb , in most countries, assigned to the executive power. Through the greater part of Europe, accordingly, the endowment of schools and colleges makes either no charge upon that general revenue, or but a very small one. It every where arises chiefly from some local or provincial revenue, from the rent of some landed estate, or from the interest of some sum of money allotted and put under the management of trustees for this particular purpose, sometimes by the sovereign himself, and sometimes by some private donor.
3 Have those publick endowments contributed in general to promote the end of their institution? Have they contributed to encourage the diligence, and to improve the abilities of the teachers? Have they directed the course of education towards objects more useful, both to the individual and to the publick, than those to which it would naturally have gone of its own accord? It should not seem very difficult to give at least a probable answer to each of those questions.
4In every profession, the exertion of the greater part of those who exercise it, is always in proportion to the necessity they are under of making that exertion.2 This necessity is greatest with those to whom the emoluments of their profession are the only source from which they expect their fortune, or even their ordinary revenue and subsistence. In order to acquire this fortune, or even to get this subsistence, they must, in the course of cac year, execute a certain quantity of work of a known value; and, where the competition is free, the rivalship of competitors, who are all endeavouring to justle one another out of employment, obliges every man to endeavour to execute his work with a certain degree of exactness. The greatness of the objects which are to be acquired by success in some particular professions may, no doubt, sometimes animate the exertion of a few men of extraordinary spirit and ambition. Great objects, however, are evidently not necessary in order to occasion the greatest exertions. Rivalship and emulation render excellency, even in mean professions, an object of ambition, and frequently occasion the very greatest exertions. Great objects, on the contrary, alone and unsupported by the necessity of application, have seldom been sufficient to occasion any considerable exertion. In England, success in the profession of the law leads to some very great objects of ambition; and yet how few men, born to easy fortunes, have ever in this country been eminent in that profession!
5The endowments of schools and colleges have necessarily diminished more or less the necessity of application in the teachers. Their subsistence, so far as it arises from their salaries, is evidently derived from a fund altogether independent of their success and reputation in their particular professions.3
6In some universities the salary makes but a part, and frequently but a small part of the emoluments of the teacher, of which the greater part arises from the honoraries or fees of his pupils.4 The necessity of application, though always more or less diminished, is not in this case entirely taken away. Reputation in his profession is still of some importance to him, and he still has some dependency upon the affection, gratitude, and favourable report of those who have attended upon his instructions; and these favourable sentiments he is likely to gain in no way so well as by deserving them, that is, by the abilities and diligence with which he discharges every part of his duty.5
7In other universities the teacher is prohibited from receiving any honorary or fee from his pupils, and his salary constitutes the whole of the revenue which he derives from his office. His interest is, in this case, set as directly in opposition to his duty as it is possible to set it. It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can; and if his emoluments are to be precisely the same, whether he does, or does not perform some very laborious duty, it is certainly his interest, at least as interest is vulgarly understood, either to neglect it altogether, or, if he is subject to some authority which will not suffer him to do this, to perform it in as careless and slovenly a manner as that authority will permit. If he is naturally active and a lover of labour, it is his interest to employ that activity in any way, from which he can derive some advantage, rather than in the performance of his duty, from which he can derive none.
8If the authority to which he is subject resides in the body corporate, the college, or university, of which he himself is a member, and in which the greater part of the other members are, like himself, persons who either are, or ought to be teachers; they are likely to make a common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own. In the university of Oxford, the greater part of the publick professors have, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.6
9If the authority to which he is subject resides, not so much in the body corporate of which he is a member, as in some other extraneous persons, in the bishop of the diocese for example; in the governor of the province; or, perhaps, in some minister of state; it is not indeed in this case very likely that he will be suffered to neglect his duty altogether. All that such superiors, however, can force him to do, is to attend upon his pupils a certain number of hours, that is, to give a certain number of lectures in the week or in the year. What those lectures shall be, must still depend upon the diligence of the teacher; and that diligence is likely to be proportioned to the motives which he has for exerting it. An extraneous jurisdiction of this kind, besides, is liable to be exercised both ignorantly and capriciously. In its nature it is arbitrary and discretionary, and the persons who exercise it, neither attending upon the lectures of the teacher themselves, nor perhaps understanding the sciences which it is his business to teach, are seldom capable of exercising it with judgment. From the insolence of office too they are frequently indifferent how they exercise it, and are very apt to censure or deprive him of his office wantonly, and without any just cause. The person subject to such jurisdiction is necessarily degraded by it, and, instead of being one of the most respectable, is rendered one of the meanest and most contemptible persons in the society. It is by powerful protection only that he can effectually guard himself against the bad usage to which he is at all times exposed; and this protection he is most likely to gain, not by ability or diligence in his profession, but by obsequiousness to the will of his superiors, and by being ready, at all times, to sacrifice to that will the rights, the interest, and the honour of the body corporate of which he is a member. Whoever has attended for any considerable time to the administration of a French university, must have had occasion to remark the effects which naturally result from an arbitrary and extraneous jurisdiction of this kind.
10Whatever forces a certain number of students to any college or university, independent of the merit or reputation of the teachers, tends more or less to diminish the necessity of that merit or reputation.
11The privileges of graduates in arts, in law,d physick and divinity, when they can be obtained only by residing a certain number of years in certain universities, necessarily force a certain number of students to such universities, independent of the merit or reputation of the teachers. The privileges of graduates are a sort of statutes of apprenticeship, which have contributed to the improvement of education, just as ethee other statutes of apprenticeship have to that of arts and manufactures.7
12The charitable foundations of scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries, &c. necessarily attach a certain number of students to certain colleges,8 independent altogether of the merit of those particular colleges. Were the students upon such charitable foundations left free to chuse what college they liked best, such liberty might perhaps contribute to excite some emulation among different colleges. A regulation, on the contrary, which prohibited even the independent members of every particular college from leaving it, and going to any other, without leave first asked and obtained of that which they meant to abandon, would tend very much to extinguish that emulation.
13If in each college the tutor or teacher, who was to instruct each student in all arts and sciences, should not be voluntarily chosen by the student, but appointed by the head of the college; and if, in case of neglect, inability, or bad usage, the student should not be allowed to change him for another, without leave first asked and obtained; such a regulation would not only tend very much to extinguish all emulation among the different tutors of the same college, but to diminish very much in all of them the necessity of diligence and of attention to their respective pupils. Such teachers, though very well paid by their students, might be as much disposed to neglect them, as those who are not paid by them at all, or who have no other recompence but their salary.
14If the teacher happens to be a man of sense, it must be an unpleasant thing to him to be conscious, while he is lecturing his students, that he is either speaking or reading nonsense, or what is very little better than nonsense. It must too be unpleasant to him to observe that the greater part of his students desert his lectures; or perhaps attend upon them with plain enough marks of neglect, contempt, and derision. If he is obliged, therefore, to give a certain number of lectures, these motives alone, without any other interest, might dispose him to take some pains to give tolerably good ones. Several different expedients, however, may be fallen upon which will effectually blunt the edge of all those incitements to diligence. The teacher, instead of explaining to his pupils himself, the science in which he proposes to instruct them, may read some book upon it; and if this book is written in a foreign and dead language, by interpreting it to them into their own; or, what would give him still less trouble, by making them interpret it to him, and by now and then making an occasional remark upon it, he may flatter himself that he is giving a lecture. The slightest degree of knowledge and application will enable him to do this without exposing himself to contempt or derision, or saying any thing that is really foolish, absurd, or ridiculous. The discipline of the college, at the same time, may enable him to force all his pupils to the most regular attendance upon this sham–lecture, and to maintain the most decent and respectful behaviour during the whole time of the performance.
15The discipline of colleges and universities is in general contrived, not for the benefit of the students, but for the interest, or more properly speaking, for the ease of the masters. Its object is, in all cases, to maintain the authority of the master, and whether he neglects or performs his duty, to oblige the students in all cases to behave to him as if he performed it with the greatest diligence and ability. It seems to presume perfect wisdom and virtue in the one order, and the greatest weakness and folly in the other. Where the masters, however, really perform their duty, there are no examples, I believe, that the greater part of the students ever neglect theirs. No discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such lectures are given. Force and restraint may, no doubt, be in some degree requisite in order to oblige children, or very young boys, to attend to those parts of education which it is thought necessary for them to acquire during that early period of life; but after twelve or thirteen years of age, provided the master does his duty, force or restraint can scarce ever be necessary to carry on any part of education. Such is the generosity of the greater part of young men, that, so far from being disposed to neglect or despise the instructions of their master, provided he shows some serious intention of being of use to them, they are generally inclined to pardon a great deal of incorrectness in the performance of his duty, and sometimes even to conceal from the publick a good deal of gross negligence.
16Those parts of education, it is to be observed, for the teaching of which there are no publick institutions, are generally the best taught. When a young man goes to a fencing or a dancing school, he does not, indeed, always learn to fence or to dance very well; but he seldom fails of learning to fence or to dance. The good effects of the riding school are not commonly so evident. The expence of a riding school is so great, that in most places it is a publick institution. The three most essential parts of literary education, to read, write, and account, it still continues to be more common to acquire in private than in publick schools; and it very seldom happens that any body fails of acquiring them to the degree in which it is necessary to acquire them.
17In England the publick schools are much less corrupted than the universities. In the schools the youth are taught, or at least may be taught, Greek and Latin, that is, every thing which the masters pretend to teach, or which, it is expected, they should teach. In the universities the youth neither are taught, nor always can find any proper means of being taught, the sciences, which it is the business of those incorporated bodies to teach. The reward of the schoolmaster in most cases depends principally, in some cases almost entirely, upon the fees or honoraries of his scholars. Schools have no exclusive privileges. In order to obtain the honours of graduation, it is not necessary that a person should bring a certificate of his having studied a certain number of years at a publick school. If upon examination he appears to understand what is taught there, no questions are asked about the place where he learnt it.
18The parts of education which are commonly taught in universities, it may, perhaps, be said are not very well taught. But had it not been for those institutions they would not have been commonly taught at all, and both the individual and the publick would have suffered a good deal from the want of those important parts of education.
19The present universities of Europe were originally, the greater part of them, ecclesiastical corporations; instituted for the education of churchmen. They were founded by the authority of the pope, and were so entirely under his immediate protection, that their members, whether masters or students, had all of them what was then called the benefit off clergy,9 that is, were exempted from the civil jurisdiction of the countries in which their respective universities were situated, and were amenable only to the ecclesiastical tribunals. What was taught in the greater part of those universities was, suitable to the end of their institution, either theology, or something that was merely preparatory to theology.10
20When christianity was first established by law, a corrupted Latin had become the common language of all the western parts of Europe. The service of the church accordingly, and the translation of the Bible which was read in churches, were both in that corrupted Latin, that is, in the common language of the country. After the irruption of the barbarous nations who overturned the Roman empire, Latin gradually ceased to be the language of any part of Europe. But the reverence of the people naturally preserves the established forms and ceremonies of religion, long after the circumstances which first introduced and rendered them reasonable are no more.11 Though Latin, therefore, was no longer understood any where by the great body of the people, the whole service of the church still continued to be performed in that language. Two different languages were thus established in Europe, in the same manner as in antient Egypt; a language of the priests, and a language of the people; a sacred and a profane; a learned and an unlearned language. But it was necessary that the priests should understand something of that sacred and learned language in which they were to officiate; and the study of the Latin language therefore made, from the beginning, an essential part of university education.
21It was not so with that either of the Greek, or of the Hebrew language. The infallible decrees of the church had pronounced the Latin translation of the Bible, commonly called the Latin Vulgate, to have been equally dictated by divine inspiration, and therefore of equal authority with the Greek and Hebrew originals. The knowledge of those two languages, therefore, not being indispensably requisite to a churchman, the study of them did not for a long time make a necessary part of the common course of university education. There are some Spanish universities, I am assured, in which the study of the Greek language has never yet made any part of that course. The first reformers found the Greek text of the new testament, and even the Hebrew text of the old, more favourable to their opinions than the vulgate translation, which, as might naturally be supposed, had been gradually accommodated to support the doctrines of the catholick church. They set themselves, therefore, to expose the many errors of that translation, which the Roman catholick clergy were thus put under the necessity of defending or explaining. But this could not well be done without some knowledge of the original languages, of which the study was therefore gradually introduced into the greater part of universities; both of those which embraced, and of those which rejected, the doctrines of the reformation. The Greek language was connected with every part of that classical learning, which, though at first principally cultivated by catholicks and Italians, happened to come into fashion much about the same time that the doctrines of the reformation were set on foot. In the greater part of universities, therefore, that language was taught previous to the study of philosophy, and as soon as the student had made some progress in the Latin. The Hebrew language having no connection with classical learning, and, except the holy scriptures, being the language of not a single book in any esteem, the study of it did not commonly commence till after that of philosophy, and when the student had entered upon the study of theology.
22Originally the first rudiments both of the Greek and Latin languages were taught in universities, and gin some universities they still continue to be so.g In others it is expected that the student should have previously acquired at least the rudiments of one or both of those languages, of which the study continues to make every where a very considerable part of university education.
23The antient Greek philosophy was divided into three great branches; physicks, or natural philosophy; ethicks, or moral philosophy; and logick. This general division seems perfectly agreeable to the nature of things.
24The great phenomena of nature, the hrevolutionsh of the heavenly bodies, eclipses, comets, thunder, lightning, and other extraordinary meteors; the generation, the life, growth, and dissolution of plants and animals; are objects which, as they inecessarilyi excite the wonder, so they jnaturallyj call forth the curiosity of mankind to enquire into their causes.12 Superstition first attempted to satisfy this curiosity by referring all those wonderful appearances to the immediate agency of the gods.13 Philosophy afterwards endeavoured to account for them, from more familiar causes, or from such as mankind were better acquainted with, than the agency of the gods. As those great phenomena are the first objects of human curiosity, so the science which pretends to explain them must naturally have been the first branch of philosophy that was cultivated.14 The first philosophers, accordingly, of whom history has preserved any account, appear to have been natural philosophers.
25In every age and country of the world men must have attended to the characters, designs, and actions of one another, and many reputable rules and maxims for the conduct of human life, must have been laid down and approved of by common consent.15 As soon as writing came into fashion, wise men, or those who fancied themselves such, would naturally endeavour to increase the number of those eatablished and respected maxims, and to express their own sense of what was either proper or improper conduct, sometimes in the more artificial form of apologues, like what are called the fables of Æsop; and sometimes in the more simple one of apophthegms, or wise sayings, like the Proverbs of Solomon, the verses of Theognis and Phocyllides, and some part of the works of Hesiod. They might continue in this manner for a long time merely to multiply the number of those maxims of prudence and morality, without even attempting to arrange them in any very distinct or methodical order, much less to connect them together by one or more general principles, from which they were all deducible, like effects from their natural causes. The beauty of a systematical arrangement16 of different observations connected by a few common principles, was first seen in the rude essays of those antient times towards a system of natural philosophy.17 Something of the same kind was afterwards attempted in morals. The maxims of common life were arranged in some methodical order, and connected together by a few common principles, in the same manner as they had attempted to arrange and connect the phenomena of nature. The science which pretends to investigate and explain those connecting principles, is what is properly called moral philosophy.18
26 Different authors gave different systems both of natural and moral philosophy. But the arguments by which they supported those different systems, far from being always demonstrations, were frequently at best but very slender probabilities, and sometimes mere sophisms, which had no other foundation but the inaccuracy and ambiguity of common language. Speculative systems have in all ages of the world been adopted for reasons too frivolous to have determined the judgment of any man of common sense, in a matter of the smallest pecuniary interest.19 Gross sophistry has scarce ever had any influence upon the opinions of mankind, except in matters of philosophy and speculation; and in these it has frequently had the greatest. The patrons of each system of natural and moral philosophy naturally endeavoured to expose the weakness of the arguments adduced to support the systems which were opposite to their own.20 In examining those arguments, they were necessarily led to consider the difference between a probable and a demonstrative argument, between a fallacious and a conclusive one; and Logick, or the science of the general principles of good and bad reasoning, necessarily arose out of the observations which a scrutiny of this kind gave occasion to. Though in its origin posterior both to physicks and to ethicks, it was commonly taught, not indeed in all, but in the greater part of the antient schools of philosophy, previously to either of those sciences. The student, it seems to have been thought, ought to understand well the difference between good and bad reasoning, before he was led to reason upon subjects of so great importance.
27This antient division of philosophy into three parts was in the greater part of the universities of Europe, changed for another into five.
28In the antient philosophy, whatever was taught concerning the nature either of the human mind or of the Deity, made a part of the system of physicks.21 Those beings, in whatever their essence might be supposed to consist, were parts of the great system of the universe, and parts too productive of the most important effects. Whatever human reason could either conclude, or conjecture, concerning them, made, as it were, two chapters, though no doubt two very important ones, of the science which pretended to give an account of the origin and revolutions of the great system of the universe. But in the universities of Europe, where philosophy was taught only as subservient to theology, it was natural to dwell longer upon kthesek two chapters than upon any other of the science. Theyl were gradually more and more extended, and were divided into many inferior chapters, till at last the doctrine of spirits, of which so little can be known, came to take up as much room in the system of philosophy as the doctrine of bodies, of which so much can be known. The doctrines concerning those two subjects were considered as making two distinct sciences. What marem called Metaphysicks or Pneumaticks nweren set in opposition to Physicks, and owereo cultivated not only as the more sublime, but, for the purposes of a particular profession, as the more useful science of the two. The proper subject of experiment and observation, a subject in which a careful attention is capable of making so many useful discoveries, was almost entirely neglected. The subject in which, after a few very simple and almost obvious truths, the most careful attention can discover nothing but obscurity and uncertainty, and can consequently produce nothing but subtleties and sophisms, was greatly cultivated.
29When those two sciences had thus been set in opposition to one another, the comparison between them naturally gave birth to a third, to what was called Ontology, or the science which treated of the qualities and attributes which were common to both the subjects of the other two sciences. But if subtleties and sophisms composed the greater part of the Metaphysicks or Pneumaticks of the schools, they composed the whole of this cobweb science of Ontology, which was likewise sometimes called Metaphysicks.
30Wherein consisted the happiness and perfection of a man, considered not only as an individual, but as the member of a family, of a state, and of the great society of mankind, was the object which the ancient moral philosophy proposed to investigate. In that philosophy the duties of human life were treated of as subservient to the happiness and perfection of human life. But when moral, as well as natural philosophy, came to be taught only as subservient to theology, the duties of human life were treated of as chiefly subservient to the happiness of a life to come. In the antient philosophy the perfection of virtue was represented as necessarily productive, to the person who possessed it, of the most perfect happiness in this life. In the modern philosophy it was frequently represented as generally, or rather as almost always inconsistent with any degree of happiness in this life; and heaven was to be earned only by penance and mortification, by the austerities and abasement of a monk; not by the liberal, generous, and spirited conduct of a man.22 Casuistry and an ascetic morality made up, in most cases, the greater part of the moral philosophy of the schools. By far the most important of all the different branches of philosophy, became in this manner by far the most corrupted.
31Such, therefore, was the common course of philosophical education in the greater part of the universities pinp Europe. Logick was taught first: Ontology came in the second place: Pneumatology, comprehending the doctrine concerning the nature of the human soul and of the Deity, in the third: In the fourth followed a debased system of moral philosophy, which was considered as immediately connected with the doctrines of Pneumatology, with the immortality of the human soul, and with the rewards and punishments which, from the justice of the Deity, were to be expected in a life to come: A short and superficial system of Physicks usually concluded the course.
32The alterations which the universities of Europe thus introduced into the antient course of philosophy, were all meant for the education of ecclesiasticks, and to render it a more proper introduction to the study of theology. But the additional quantity of subtlety and sophistry; the casuistry and the ascetic morality which those alterations introduced into it, certainly did not render it more proper for the education of gentlemen or men of the world, or more likely either to improve the understanding, or to mend the heart.
33This course of philosophy is what still continues to be taught in the greater part of the universities of Europe; with more or less diligence, according as the constitution of each particular university happens to render diligence more or less necessary to the teachers. In some of the richest and best endowed universities, the tutors content themselves with teaching a few unconnected shreds and parcels of this corrupted course; and even these they commonly teach very negligently and superficially.
34The improvements which, in modern times, have been made in several different branches of philosophy, have not, the greater part of them, been made in universities; though some no doubt have. The greater part of universities have not even been very forward to adopt those improvements, after they were made;23 and several of those learned societies have chosen to remain, for a long time, the sanctuaries in which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices found shelter and protection, after they had been hunted out of every other corner of the world. In general, the richest and best endowed universities have been the slowest in adopting those improvements, and the most averse to permit any considerable change in the established plan of education. Those improvements were more easily introduced into some of the poorer universities, in which the teachers, depending upon their reputation for the greater part of their subsistence, were obliged to pay more attention to the current opinions of the world.24
35But though the publick schools and universities of Europe were originally intended only for the education of a particular profession, that of churchmen; and though they were not always very diligent in instructing their pupils even in the sciences which were supposed necessary for that profession, yet they gradually drew to themselves the education of almost all other people, particularly of almost all gentlemen and men of fortune. No better method, it seems, could be fallen upon of spending, with any advantage, the long interval between infancy and that period of life at which men begin to apply in good earnest to the real business of the world, the business which is to employ them during the remainder of their days. The greater part of what is taught in schools and universities, however, does not seem to be the most proper preparation for that business.
36In England, it becomes every day more and more the custom to send young people to travel in foreign countries immediately upon their leaving school, and without sending them to any university.25 Our young people, it is said, generally return home much improved by their travels. A young man who goes abroad at seventeen or eighteen, and returns home at one and twenty, returns three or four years older than he was when he went abroad; and at that age it is very difficult not to improve a good deal in three or four years. In the course of his travels, he generally acquires some knowledge of one or two foreign languages; a knowledge, however, which is seldom sufficient to enable him either to speak or write them with propriety. In other respects he commonly returns home more conceited, more unprincipled, more dissipated, and more incapable of any serious application either to study or to business, then he could well have become in so short a time, had he lived at home. By travelling so very young, by spending in the most frivolous dissipation the most precious years of his life, at a distance from the inspection and controul of his parents and relations, every useful habit, which the earlier parts of his education might have had some tendency to form in him, instead of being rivetted and confirmed, is almost necessarily either weakened or effaced. Nothing but the discredit into which the universities are allowing themselves to fall, could ever have brought into repute so very absurd a practice as that of travelling at this early period of life. By sending his son abroad, a father delivers himself, at least for some time, from so disagreeable an object as that of a son unemployed, neglected, and going to ruin before his eyes.
37 Such have been the effects of some of the modern institutions for education.
38Different plans and different institutions for education seem to have taken place in other ages and nations.
39In the republicks of antient Greece, every free citizen was instructed, under the direction of the publick magistrate, in gymnastic exercises and in musick. By gymnastic exercises it was intended to harden his body, to sharpen his courage, and to prepare him for the fatigues and dangers of war;26 and as the Greek militia was, by all accounts, one of the best that ever was in the world, this part of their publick education must have answered completely the purpose for which it was intended. By the other part, musick, it was proposed, at least by the philosophers and historians who have given us an account of those institutions, to humanize the mind, to soften the temper, and to dispose it for performing all the social and moral duties both of publick and private life.27
40In antient Rome the exercises of the Campus Martius answered the same purpose as those of the Gymnazium in antient Greece, and they seem to have answered it equally well.28 But among the Romans there was nothing which corresponded to the musical education of the Greeks. The morals of the Romans, however, both in private and publick life, seem to have been, not only equal, but upon the whole, a good deal superior to those of the Greeks. That they were superior in private life, we have the express testimony of Polybius29 and of Dionysius of Halicarnassus,30 two authors well acquainted with both nations; and the whole tenor of the Greek and Roman history bears witness to the superiority of the publick morals of the Romans. The good temper and moderation of contending factions seems to be the most essential circumstance in the publick morals of a free people. But the factions of the Greeks were almost always violent and sanguinary; whereas, till the time of the Gracchi, no blood had ever been shed in any Roman faction, and from the time of the Gracchi the Roman republick may be considered as in reality dissolved. Notwithstanding, therefore, the very respectable authority of Plato,31 Aristotle,32 and Polybius,33 and notwithstanding the very ingenious reasons by which Mr. Montesquieu34 endeavours to support that authority, it seems probable that the musical education of the Greeks had no great effect in mending their morals, since, without any such education, those of the Romans were upon the whole superior. The respect, of those antient sages for the institutions of their ancestors, had probably disposed them to find much political wisdom in what was, perhaps, merely an antient custom, continued, without interruption, from the earliest period of those societies, to the times in which they had arrived at a considerable degree of refinement. Musick and dancing are the great amusements of almost all barbarous nations, and the great accomplishments which are supposed to fit any man for entertaining his society. It is so at this day among the negroes on the coast of Africa. It was so among the antient Celtes, among the antient Scandinavians, and, as we may learn from Homer, among the antient Greeks in the times preceding the Trojan war.35 When the Greek tribes had formed themselves into little republicks, it was natural that the study of those accomplishments should, for a long time, make a part of the publick and common education of the people.
41The masters who instructed the young people either in musick or in military exercises, do not seem to have been paid, or even appointed by the state, either in Rome or even in Athens, the Greek republick of whose laws and customs we are the best informed. The state required that every free citizen should fit himself for defending it in war, and should, upon that account, learn his military exercises. But it left him to learn them of such masters as he could find, and it seems to have advanced nothing for this purpose, but a publick field or place of exercise, in which he should practice and perform them.
42In the early ages both of the Greek and Roman republicks, the other parts of education seem to have consisted in learning to read, write, and account according to the arithmetick of the times. These accomplishments the richer citizens seem frequently to have acquired at home, by the assistance of some domestic pedagogue who was generally, either a slave, or a freed–man; and the poorer citizens, in the schools of such masters as made a trade of teaching for hire. Such parts of education, however, were abandoned altogether to the care of the parents or guardians of each individual. It does not appear that the state ever assumed any inspection or direction of them.36 By a law of Solon, indeed, the children were acquitted from maintaining qthose parents in their old ageq who had neglected to instruct them in some profitable trade or business.37
43In the progress of refinement, when philosophy and rhetorick came into fashion, the better sort of people used to send their children to the schools of philosophers and rhetoricians, in order to be instructed in rtheser fashionable sciences.38 But those schools were not supported by the publick. They were for a long time barely tolerated by it. The demand for philosophy and rhetorick was for a long time so small, that the first professed teachers of either could not find constant employment in any one city, but were obliged to travel about from place to place. In this manner lived Zeno of Elea, Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, and many others. As the demand increased, the schools both of philosophy and rhetorick became stationary; first in Athens, and afterwards in several other cities. The state, however, seems never to have encouraged them further than by assigning to some of them a particular place to teach in, which was sometimes done too by private donors. The state seems to have assigned the Academy to Plato, the Lyceum to Aristotle, and the Portico to Zeno of Citta the founder of the Stoics. But Epicurus bequeathed his gardens to his own school. Till about the time of Marcus Antoninus, however, no teacher appears to have had any salary from the publick, or to have had any other emoluments, but what arose from the honoraries or fees of his scholars.39 The bounty which that philosophical emperor, as we learn from Lucian,40 bestowed upon sone ofs the teachers of philosophy, probably lasted no longer than his own life. There was nothing equivalent to the privileges of graduation, and to have attended any of those schools was not necessary, in order to be permitted to practise any particular trade or profession. If the opinion of their own utility could not draw scholars to them, the law neither forced any body to go to them, nor rewarded any body for having gone to them. The teachers had no jurisdiction over their pupils, nor any other authority besides that natural authority, which superior virtue and abilities never fail to procure from young people, towards those who are entrusted with any part of their education.
44At Rome, the study of the civil law made a part of the education, not of the greater part of the citizens, but of some particular families. The young people, however, who wished to acquire knowledge in the law, had no publick school to go to, and had no other method of studying it, than by frequenting the company of such of their relations and friends, as were supposed to understand it. It is perhaps worth while to remark, that though the laws of the twelve tables were, many of them, copied from those of some antient Greek republicks, yet law never seems to have grown up to be a science in any republick of antient Greece. In Rome it became a science very early, and gave a considerable degree of illustration to those citizens who had the reputation of understanding it. In the republicks of antient Greece, particularly in Athens, the ordinary courts of justice consisted of numerous and, therefore, disorderly bodies of people, who frequently decided almost at random, or ast clamour, faction and party spirit happened to determine.41 The ignominy of an unjust decision, when it was to be divided among five hundred, a thousand, or fifteen hundred people (for some of their courts were so very numerous), could not fall very heavy upon any individual. At Rome, on the contrary, the principal courts of justice consisted either of a single judge, or of a small number of judges, whose characters, especially as they deliberated always in publick, could not fail to be very much affected by any rash or unjust decision. In doubtful cases, such courts, from their anxiety to avoid blame, would naturally endeavour to shelter themselves under the example, or precedent, of the judges who had sat before them, either in the same, or in some other court. This attention, to practice and precedent, necessarily formed the Roman law into that regular and orderly system in which it has been delivered down to us; and the like attention has had the like effects upon the laws of every other country where such attention has taken place. The superiority of character in the Romans over that of the Greeks, so much remarked by Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus,42 was probably more owing to the better constitution of their courts of justice, than to any of the circumstances to which those authors ascribe it. The Romans are said to have been particularly distinguished for their superior respect to an oath. But the people who were accustomed to make oath only before some diligent and well–informed court of justice, would naturally be much more attentive to what they swore, than they who were accustomed to do the same thing before mobbish and disorderly assemblies.
45The abilities, both civil and military, of the Greeks and Romans, will readily be allowed to have been, at least, equal to those of any modern nation. Our prejudice is perhaps rather to over rate them. But except in what related to military exercises, the state seems to have been at no pains to form those great abilities: for I cannot be induced to believe that the musical education of the Greeks could be of much consequence in forming them. Masters, however, had been found, it seems, for instructing the better sort of people among those nations in every art and science in which the circumstances of their society rendered it necessary or convenient for them to be instructed. The demand for such instruction produced, what it always produces, the talent for giving it; and the emulation which an unrestrained competition never fails to excite, appears to have brought that talent to a very high degree of perfection.43 In the attention which the antient philosophers excited, in the empire which they acquired over the opinions and principles of their auditors, in the faculty which they possessed of giving a certain tone and character to the conduct and conversation of those auditors; they appear to have been much superior to any modern teachers. In modern times, the diligence of publick teachers is more or less corrupted by the circumstances, which render them more or less independent of their success and reputation in their particular professions.44 Their salaries too put the private teacher, who would pretend to come into competition with them, in the same state with a merchant who attempts to trade without a bounty, in competition with those who trade with a considerable one. If he sells his goods at nearly the same price, he cannot have the same profit, and poverty and beggary at least, if not bankruptcy and ruin, will infallibly be his lot. If he attempts to sell them much dearer, he is likely to have so few customers that his circumstances will not be much mended. The privileges of graduation, besides, are in many countries necessary, or at least extremely convenient to most men of learned professions, that is, to the far greater part of those who have occasion for a learned education. But those privileges can be obtained only by attending the lectures of the publick teachers. The most careful attendance upon the ablest instructions of any private teacher, cannot always give any title to demand them. It is from these different causes that the private teacher of any of the sciences which are commonly taught in universities, is in modern times generally considered as in the very lowest order of men of letters. A man of real abilities can scarce find out a more humiliating or a more unprofitable employment to turn them to. The endowments of schools and colleges have, in this manner, not only corrupted the diligence of publick teachers, but have rendered it almost impossible to have any good private ones.
46Were there no publick institutions for education, no system, no science would be taught for which there was not some demand; or which the circumstances of the times did not render it, either necessary, or convenient, or at least fashionable to learn. A private teacher could never find his account in teaching, either an exploded and antiquated system of a science acknowledged to be useful,45 or a science universally believed to be a mere useless and pedantick heap of sophistry and nonsense. Such systems, such sciences, can subsist no where, but in those incorporated societies for education whose prosperity and revenue are in a great measure independent of their reputation, and altogether independent of their industry. Were there no publick institutions for education, a gentleman, after going through, with application and abilities, the most complete course of education, which the circumstances of the times were supposed to afford, could not come into the world completely ignorant of every thing which is the common subject of conversation among gentlemen and men of the world.
47 There are no publick institutions for the education of women, and there is accordingly nothing useless, absurd, or fantastical in the common course of their education. They are taught what their parents or guardians judge it necessary or useful for them to learn; and they are taught nothing else. Every part of their education tends evidently to some useful purpose; either to improve the natural attractions of their person, or to form their mind to reserve, to modesty, to chastity, and to œconomy: to render them both likely to become the mistresses of a family, and to behave properly when they have become such. In every part of her life a woman feels some conveniency or advantage from every part of her education. It seldom happens that a man, in any part of his life, derives any conveniency or advantage from some of the most laborious and troublesome parts of his education.
48Ought the publick, therefore, to give no attention, it may be asked, to the education of the people? Or if it ought to give any, what are the different parts of education which it ought to attend to in the different orders of the people? and in what manner ought it to attend to them?
49In some cases the state of utheu society necessarily places the greater part of individuals in such situations as naturally form in them, without any attention of government, almost all the abilities and virtues which that state requires, or perhaps can admit of. In other cases the state of the society does not place the greater part of individuals in such situations, and some attention of government is necessary in order to prevent the almost entire corruption and degeneracy of the great body of the people.
50In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a vfew veryv simple operations; frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments.46 The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.47 The torpor of his mind renders him, not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interests of his country, he is altogether incapable of judging; and unless very particular pains have been taken to render him otherwise, he is equally incapable of defending his country in war.48 The uniformity of his stationary life naturally corrupts the courage of his mind, and makes him regard with abhorrence the irregular, uncertain, and adventurous life of a soldier. It corrupts even the activity of his body, and renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance, in any other employment than that to which he has been bred. His dexterity at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at the expence of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues. But in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.49
51It is otherwise in the barbarous societies, as they are commonly called, of hunters, of shepherds, and even of husbandmen in that rude state of husbandry which precedes the improvement of manufactures, and the extension of foreign commerce. In such societies the varied occupations of every man oblige every man to exert his capacity, and to invent expedients for removing difficulties which are continually occurring.50 Invention is kept alive, and the wmind isw not suffered to fall into that drowsy stupidity, which, in a civilized society, seems to benumb the understanding of almost all the inferior ranks of people.51 In those barbarous societies, as they are called, every man, it has already been observed, is a warrior. Every man too is in some measure a statesman, and can form a tolerable judgment concerning the interest of the society, and the conduct of those who govern it. How far their chiefs are good judges in peace, or good leaders in war, is obvious to the observation of almost every single man among them. In such a society indeed, no man can well acquire that improved and refined understanding, which a few men sometimes possess in a more civilized state. Though in a rude society there is a good deal of variety in the occupations of every individual, there is not a great deal in those of the whole society. Every man does, or is capable of doing, almost every thing which any other man does, or is capable of doing. Every man has a considerable degree of knowledge, ingenuity, and invention; but scarce any man has a great degree. The degree, however, which is commonly possessed, is generally sufficient for conducting the whole simple business of the society. In a civilized state, on the contrary, though there is little variety in the occupations of the greater part of individuals, there is an almost infinite variety in those of the whole society. These varied occupations present an almost infinite variety of objects to the contemplation of those few, who, being attached to no particular occupation themselves, have leisure and inclination to examine the occupations of other people. The contemplation of so great a variety of objects necessarily exercises their minds in endless comparisons and combinations, and renders their understandings, in an extraordinary degree, both acute and comprehensive. Unless those few, however, happen to be placed in some very particular situations, their great abilities, though honourable to themselves, may contribute very little to the good government or happiness of their society.52 Notwithstanding the great abilities of those few, all the nobler parts of the human character may be, in a great measure, obliterated and extinguished in the great body of the people.53
52The education of the common people requires, perhaps, in a civilized and commercial society, the attention of the publick more than that of people of some rank and fortune. People of some rank and fortune are generally eighteen or nineteen years of age before they enter upon that particular business, profession, or trade, by which they propose to distinguish themselves in the world. They have before that full time to acquire, or at least to fit themselves for afterwards acquiring, every accomplishment which can recommend them to the publick esteem, or render them worthy of it. Their parents or guardians are generally sufficiently anxious that they should be so accomplished, and are, in most cases, willing enough to lay out the expence which is necessary for that purpose. If they are not always properly educated, it is seldom from the want of expence laid out upon their education; but from the improper application of that expence. It is seldom from the want of masters; but from the negligence and incapacity of the masters who are to be had, and from the difficulty, or rather from the impossibility which there is, in the present state of things, of finding any better. The employments too in which people of some rank or fortune spend the greater part of their lives, are not, like those of the common people, simple and uniform. They are almost all of them extremely complicated, and such as exercise the head more than the hands. The understandings of those who are engaged in such employments can seldom grow torpid xforx want of exercise. The employments of people of some rank and fortune, besides, are seldom such as harass them from morning to night. They generally have a good deal of leisure, during which they may perfect themselves in every branch either of useful or ornamental knowledge of which they may have laid the foundation, or for which they may have acquired some taste in the earlier part of life.
53It is otherwise with the common people. They have little time to spare for education. Their parents can scarce afford to maintain them even in infancy. As soon as they are able to work, they must apply to some trade by which they can earn their subsistence.54 That trade too is generally so simple and uniform as to give little exercise to the understanding; while, at the same time, their labour is both so constant and so severe, that it leaves them little leisure and less inclination to apply to, or even to think of any thing else.
54But though the common people cannot, in any civilized society, be so well instructed as people of some rank and fortune, the most essential parts of education, however, to read, write, and account, can be acquired at so early a period of life, that the greater part even of those who are to be bred to the lowest occupations, have time to acquire them before they can be employed in those occupations.55 For a very small expence the publick can facilitate, can encourage, and can even impose upon almost the whole body of the people, the necessity of acquiring those most essential parts of education.
55The publick can facilitate this acquisition by establishing in every parish or district a little school, where children may be taught for a reward so moderate, that even a common labourer may afford it; the master being partly, but not wholly paid by the publick; because if he was wholly, or even principally paid by it, he would soon learn to neglect his business. In Scotland the establishment of such parish schools has taught almost the whole common people to read, and a very great proportion of them to write and account. In England the establishment of charity schools has had an effect of the same kind, though not so universally, because the establishment is not so universal. If in those little schools the books, by which the children are taught to read, were a little more instructive than they commonly are: and if, instead of vav little smattering of Latin; which the children of the common people are sometimes taught there, and which can scarce ever be of any use to them: they were instructed in the elementary parts of geometry and mechanicks, the literary education of this rank of people would perhaps be as complete as it zcan bez There is scarce a common trade which does not afford some opportunities of applying to it the principles of geometry and mechanicks, and which would not therefore gradually exercise and improve the common people in those principles, the necessary introduction to the most sublime as well as to the most useful sciences.56
56The publick can encourage the acquisition of those most essential parts of education by giving small premiums, and little badges of distinction, to the children of the common people who excel in them.57
57The publick can impose upon almost the whole body of the people the necessity of acquiring those most essential parts of education, by obliging every man to undergo an examination or probation in them before he can obtain the freedom in any corporation, or be allowed to set up any trade either in a village or town corporate.58
58It was in this manner, by facilitating the acquisition of their military and gymnastic exercises, by encouraging it, and even by imposing upon the whole body of the people the necessity of learning those exercises, that the Greek and Roman republicks maintained the martial spirit of their respective citizens.59 They facilitated the acquisition of those exercises by appointing a certain place for learning and practising them, and by granting to certain masters the privilege of teaching in that place. Those masters do not appear to have had either salaries or exclusive privileges of any kind. Their reward consisted altogether in what they got from their scholars; and a citizen who had learnt his exercises in the publick Gymnasia, had no sort of legal advantage over one who had learnt them privately, provided the latter had learnt them equally well. Those republicks encouraged the acquisition of those exercises, by bestowing little premiums and badges of distinction upon those who excelled in them. To have gained a prize in the Olympic, Isthmian or Nemaean games, gave illustration, not only to the person who gained it, but to his whole family and kindred. The obligation which every citizen was under to serve a certain number of years, if called upon, in the armies of the republick, sufficiently imposed the necessity of learning those exercises without which he could not be fit for that service.
59That in the progress of improvement the practice of military exercises, unless government takes proper pains to support it, goes gradually to decay, and, together with it, the martial spirit of the great body of the people, the example of modern Europe sufficiently demonstrates.60 But the security of every society must always depend, more or less, upon the martial spirit of the great body of the people. In the present times, indeed, that martial spirit alone, and unsupported by a well–disciplined standing army, would not, perhaps, be sufficient for the defence and security of any society. But where every citizen had the spirit of a soldier, a smaller standing army would surely be requisite. That spirit, besides, would necessarily diminish very much the dangers to liberty, whether real or imaginary, which are commonly apprehended from a standing army.61 As it would very much facilitate the operations of that army against a foreign invader, so it would obstruct them as much if unfortunately they should ever be directed against the constitution of the state.
60The antient institutions of Greece and Rome seem to have been much more effectual, for maintaining the martial spirit of the great body of the people, than the establishment of what are called the militias of modern times. They were much more simple. When they were once established, they executed themselves, and it required little or no attention from government to maintain them in the most perfect vigour. Whereas to maintain even in tolerable execution the complex regulations of any modern militia, requires the continual and painful attention of government, without which they are constantly falling into total neglect and disuse. The influence, besides, of the antient institutions was much more universal. By means of them the whole body of the people was compleatly instructed in the use of arms. Whereas it is but a very small part of them who can ever be so instructed by the regulations of any modern militia; except, perhaps, that of Switzerland. But a coward, a man incapable either of defending or of revenging himself, evidently wants one of the most essential parts of the character of a man. He is as much mutilated and deformed in his mind, as another is in his body, who is either deprived of some of its most essential members, or has lost the use of athema . He is evidently the more wretched and miserable of the two; because happiness and misery, which reside altogether in the mind, must necessarily depend more upon the healthful or unhealthful, the mutilated or entire state of the mind, than upon that of the body. Even though the martial spirit of the people were of no use towards the defence of the society, yet to prevent that sort of mental mutilation, deformity and wretchedness, which cowardice necessarily involves in it, from spreading themselves through the great body of the people, would still deserve the most serious attention of government; in the same manner as it would deserve its most serious attention to prevent a leprosy or any other loathsome and offensive disease, though neither mortal nor dangerous, from spreading itself among them; though, perhaps, no other publick good might result from such attention besides the prevention of so great a publick evil.
61The same thing may be said of the gross ignorance and stupidity which, in a civilized society, seem so frequently to benumb the understandings of all the inferior ranks of people. A man, without the proper use of the intellectual faculties of a man, is, if possible, more contemptible than even a coward, and seems to be mutilated and deformed in a still more essential part of the character of human nature. Though the state was to derive no advantage from the instruction of the inferior ranks of people, it would still deserve its attention that they should not be altogether uninstructed. The state, however, derives no inconsiderable advantage from their instruction. The more they are instructed, the less liable they are to the delusions of enthusiasm and superstition, which, among ignorant nations, frequently occasion the most dreadful disorders. An instructed and intelligent people besides are always more decent and orderly than an ignorant and stupid one. They feel themselves, each individually, more respectable, and more likely to obtain the respect of their lawful superiors, and they are therefore more disposed to respect those superiors. They are more disposed to examine, and more capable of seeing through, the interested complaints of faction and sedition, and they are, upon that account, less apt to be misled into any wanton or unnecessary opposition to the measures of government. In free countries, where the safety of government depends very much upon the favourable judgment which the people may form of its conduct, it must surely be of the highest importance that they should not be disposed to judge rashly or capriciously concerning it.
[1 ]Many of the views first expressed in this section appeared in Letter 143 addressed to William Cullen, dated 20 September 1774, where Smith commented on the current practice of some Scottish Universities with regard to the granting (and sale!) of medical degrees. It would appear from this letter that the organization of university education had already attracted Smith’s attention: ‘I have thought a great deal upon this subject, and have enquired very carefully into the constitution and history of several of the principal Universities of Europe: . . . ’
[2 ]See below, V.i.g.42, and above, V.i.b.20, where the point is illustrated by reference to the courts. Piece–work is discussed at I.viii.44 in connection with the problems of overexertion. In the Sixth Dialogue, Cleo. remarks that: ‘you never saw Men so entirely devote themselves to their Calling, and pursue Business with that Eagerness, Dispatch and Perserverance in any Office or Preferment, in which the yearly Income is certain and unalterable, as they often do in those Professions, where the Reward continually accompanies the Labour, and the Fee immediately, either precedes the Service they do to others, as it is with the Lawyers, or follows it, as it is with the Physicians.’ (The Fable of the Bees, pt.ii.430, ed. Kaye ii.355.)
[3 ]A related point is made below, § 34. It is remarked at V.i.g.39 that the situation was worsened in some countries by the fact that high levels of Church benefices drew off the best men of letters.
[4 ]As was the case in the Scottish universities.
[5 ]‘Professors should, besides their Stipends allowed ‘em by the Publick, have Gratifications from every Student they teach, that Self–Interest as well as Emulation and the Love of Glory might spur them on to Labour and Assiduity . . . Universities should be publick Marts for all manner of Literature . . .’ (Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, pt.i.335, ed. Kaye i.293–4.)
[6 ]See the Index s.v. ‘Oxford’: ‘the professorships there, sinecures’. In Letter 1 addressed to William Smith, dated 24 August 1740, Smith commented that ‘it will be his own fault if anyone should endanger his health at Oxford by excessive study’. In Letter 27 addressed to Smith, dated 14 November 1758, Sir Gilbert Elliot wrote with reference to the education of Lord Fitzmaurice’s brother and commented that ‘I find every thinking man here begins to discover the very absurd constitution of the English Universitys.’ Elliot went on: ‘I have very little doubt, but you might even draw a good many of the youth of this part of the world to pass a winter or two at Glasgow, notwithstanding the distance & disadvantage of the dialect . . .’ See also Letter 32 addressed to Smith, dated 26 April 1759, wherein Lord Shelburne expressed his satisfaction with the regimen which Smith had imposed upon his son, and stated that: ‘The great fault I find with Oxford & Cambridge, is that Boys sent thither, instead of being Governed, become the Governors of the Colleges, & that Birth & Fortune there are more respected than Literary Merit: . . .’ In contrast, Smith believed that ‘In the present state of the Scotch Universities, I do most sincerely look upon them as, in spite of all their faults, without exception the best seminaries of learning that are to be found any where in Europe.’ (Letter 143). William Thom, a Glasgow minister, disagreed with Smith’s assessment of the Scottish Universities, and of Glasgow in particular, in his Defects of an University Education, and its Unsuitableness to a Commercial People (Glasgow, 1762). The alleged defects of university education at this time were associated with the rise of the academy movement in Scotland.
[7 ]The statute of apprenticeship is discussed at I.x.c.7–14. In Letter 143 addressed to Cullen, dated 20 September 1774, Smith wrote:
[8 ]See above, I.x.c.34. In his letter to Cullen (143) Smith gave two reasons to explain the ‘present state of degradation and contempt’ into which most universities and university teachers had fallen: first, the large salaries paid irrespective of industry or competence, which render them ‘altogether independent of their diligence and success in their professions’, and secondly ‘the great number of students who, in order to get degrees or to be admitted to exercise certain professions or who, for the sake of bursaries, exhibitions, scholarships, fellowships, &c., are obliged to resort to certain societies of this kind, whether the instructions which they are likely to receive there are or are not worth the receiving.’
[9 ]See below, V.i.g.23.
[10 ]In Letter 143 addressed to Cullen, Smith stated that ‘All universities being ecclesiastical establishments, under the immediate protection of the Pope, a degree from one of them gave, all over Christendom, very nearly the same privileges which a degree from any other could have given; and the respect which is to this day paid to foreign degrees, even in Protestant countries, must be considered as a remnant of Popery.’
[11 ]Smith makes a related point at III.ii.4.
[g–g]they still continue to be so in some universities. 1
[12 ]Cf. Astronomy, IV.1.: ‘Of all phænomena of nature, the celestial appearances are, by their greatness and beauty, the most universal objects of the curiosity of mankind.’ In LRBL the ‘grand’ and the ‘beautiful’ are cited as the ‘two sorts of objects that excite our attention’ and Smith notes at ii.v.18–v.19 ed. Lothian 87, that:
[13 ]‘Hence the origin of Polytheism, and of that vulgar superstition which ascribes all the irregular events of nature to the favour or displeasure of intelligent, though invisible beings . . . For it may be observed, that in all Polytheistic religions . . . it is the irregular events of nature only that are ascribed to the agency and power of their gods. Fire burns, and water refreshes; heavenly bodies descend, and lighter substances fly upwards, by the necessity of their own nature; nor was the invisible hand of Jupiter ever apprehended to be employed in those matters. But thunder and lightning, storms and sunshine, those more irregular events, were ascribed to his favour, or his anger.’ (Astronomy, III.2.) In TMS III.5.4 Smith argued that in ‘the ignorance and darkness of pagan superstition, mankind seem to have formed the ideas of their divinities with so little delicacy, that they ascribed to them, indiscriminately, all the passions of human nature, those not excepted which do the least honour to our species, . . . ’
[14 ]Although Smith argued that the development of knowledge represents a response to the needs of the imagination, without any necessarily practical purpose, he did come closer to D’Alembert’s general position as outlined in his ‘Discours préliminaire’ to the Encyclopédie of Diderot in remarking that all the arts are subservient to the natural wants of man:
[15 ]A similar point is made in LRBL i.133, ed. Lothian 51, where it is stated that “all the Rules of Criticism and morality, when traced to their foundation, turn out to be some principles of Common Sence which every one assents to.’ Smith also argues with regard to the development of language that after it has made some progress, ‘it was natural to imagine that men would form some rules according to which they should regulate their language.’ In the First Formation of Languages, 16, it is suggested that ‘The general rule would establish itself insensibly, and by slow degrees, in consequence of that love of analogy and similarity of sound, which is the foundation of by far the greater part of the rules of grammar.’ Cf. § 25. One of the main features of the TMS is the interest shown in the question of the way in which we form judgements concerning what is fit and proper to be done or to be avoided. Smith went on from this basis to argue that our ability to form judgements in particular cases enables us to form some notion of general rules of morality. Smith indicated that the content of general rules was a function of experience, and that they would be found in all societies. See TMS III, especially 4 and 5.
[16 ]Systematic arrangement, stemming in part from a perception of its beauty, was something of a feature of Smith’s own thought. Dugald Stewart often noted his ‘love of system’ (see, for example, Stewart, III.15), and went so far as to claim that ‘it may be doubted, with respect to Mr. Smith’s Inquiry, if there exists any book beyond the circle of the mathematical and physical sciences, which is at once so agreeable . . . to the rules of sound logic, and so accessible to the examination of ordinary readers’ (IV.22). The systematic character of the WN was also noted by Hugh Blair, in Letter 151 addressed to Smith, dated 3 April 1776; by Joseph Black, in Letter 152 addressed to Smith, dated April 1776; by William Robertson, in Letter 153, dated 8 April 1776; and by Edward Gibbon, in Letter 187 addressed to Smith, dated 26 November 1777. In the opening paragraph of his Letter, Pownall refers to the ‘plan and superstructure’ of the WN as having given ‘a compleat idea of that system, which I had long wished to see the publick in possession of. A system, that might fix some first principles in the most important of sciences, the knowledge of the human community, and its operations. That might become principia to the knowledge of politick operations; as Mathematicks are to Mechanicks, Astronomy, and the other Sciencies.’ He also refers to the WN (Letter, 23) as an ‘Institute of the Principia of those laws of motion, by which the operations of the community are directed and regulated, and by which they should be examined’. Indeed, Pownall expressed the hope (Letter, 48) that Smith’s work, no doubt duly corrected, might be taken up by ‘some understanding Tutor in our Universities’ as a ‘basis of lectures on this subject’.
[17 ]Two approaches to scientific discourse, the Aristotelian and the Newtonian, are mentioned in LRBL ii.133–4, ed. Lothian 140. In the former ‘method’ a principle, ‘commonly a new one’ is used in explaining each problem, whereas in the latter case:
[18 ]In his Short Introduction, Hutcheson commented on the ‘multiplicity of natural desires’ to which man was subject, and added: ‘This complex view, I say, must at first make human nature appear a strange chaos, or a confused combination of jarring principles, until we can discover by a closer attention, some natural connexion or order among them, some governing principles naturally fitted to regulate all the rest. To discover this is the main business of Moral Philosophy, and to show how all these parts are to be ranged in order . . .’ (36).
[19 ]Cf. the remark of Cicero, quoted at V.ii.k.14.
[20 ]In TMS VII.ii.4.14 Smith drew attention to an interesting difference between systems of natural and moral philosophy with regard to their plausibility: ‘A system of natural philosophy may appear very plausible, and be for a long time very generally received in the world, and yet have no foundation in nature, nor yet any sort of resemblance to the truth. The vortices of Descartes were regarded by a very ingenious nation, for near a century together, as a most satisfactory account of the revolutions of the heavenly bodies . . . But it is otherwise with systems of moral philosophy, and an author who pretends to account for the origin of our moral sentiments, cannot deceive us so grossly, nor depart so very far from all resemblance to the truth.’
[21 ]Smith ascribes the origin of theism to the development of science in classical times: ‘The unity of the system . . . suggested the idea of the unity of that principle, by whose art it was formed; and thus, as ignorance begot superstition, science gave birth to the first theism that arose among those nations, who were not enlightened by divine Revelation.’ (Ancient Physics, 9.)
[l]Those two chapters 1
[22 ]This doctrine is severely criticized in TMS III.2.35: ‘To compare . . . the futile mortifications of a monastery, to the ennobling hardships and hazards of war; to suppose that one day, or one hour, employed in the former should, in the eye of the great Judge of the world, have more merit than a whole life spent honourably in the latter, is surely contrary to all our moral sentiments.’ He added, however, that it is this spirit which ‘while it has reserved the celestial regions for monks and friars, or for those whose conduct and conversation resembled those of monks and friars, has condemned to the infernal all the heroes, all the statesmen and lawgivers, all the poets and philosophers of former ages; all those who have invented, improved, or excelled in the arts which contribute to the subsistence, to the conveniency, or to the ornament of human life’.
[23 ]Cf. LRBL ii.215, ed. Lothian 176: ‘Antiquity is necessary to give anything a very high reputation as a matter of deep knowledge. One who reads a number of modern books, altho they be very excellent, will not get thereby the Character of a learned man: the acquaintaince of the ancients will alone procure him that name.’ It is also suggested at i.61, ed. Lothian 24–5, that ‘we are apt to think everything that is ancient is venerable, whether it is so or not.’
[24 ]See above, V.i.f.6. In Letter 151 addressed to Smith, dated 3 April 1776, Blair wrote that ‘There is so much good Sense & Truth in your doctrine about Universities, and it is so fit that your Doctrine should be preached to the World’, that the want of this section would have been a matter for regret. Blair was less confident about Smith’s treatment of the American colonies and Church affairs.
[25 ]TMS VI.ii.1.10 also comments that: ‘The education of boys at distant great schools, of young men at distant colleges, of young ladies in distant nunneries and boarding schools, seems, in the higher ranks of life, to have hurt most essentially the domestic morals, and consequently the domestic happiness, both of France and England . . . Surely no acquirement, which can possibly be derived from what is called a public education, can make any sort of compensation for what is almost certainly and necessarily lost by it. Domestic education is the institution of nature; public education the contrivance of man. It is surely unnecessary to say, which is likely to be the wisest.’
[26 ]It is pointed out at IV.ix.47 that the citizens were excluded from the practice of mechanic arts in case it affected their military bearing.
[27 ]It is stated in LRBL ii.117, ed. Lothian 132, that ‘music was added to correct the bad effects’ of military education and that ‘These two made the whole of the education of the youth, even in Athens’. Smith added that games were instituted and prizes given to those excelling in athletics and poetry, and that at these games ‘Herodotus read his History and Isocrates his orations (at least had them read by another, for his voice was so bad that he never read himself)’ (ii.120, ed. Lothian 133). Smith considers Herodotus as a historian on LRBL ii.47–9, ed. Lothian 101, and Isocrates at ii.121–2, ed. Lothian 134. The earnings of the latter are calculated in I.x.c. 39 and Vi.g.40.
[28 ]See above, V.i.a.12 and below, § 58.
[29 ]‘The laws and customs relating to the acquisition of wealth are better in Rome than at Carthage. At Carthage nothing which results in profit is regarded as disgraceful; at Rome nothing is considered more so than to accept bribes and seek gain from improper channels. . . . Among the Greeks, apart from other things, members of the government, if they are entrusted with no more than a talent, though they have ten copyists and as many seals and twice as many witnesses, cannot keep their faith; whereas among the Romans those who as magistrates and legates are dealing with large sums of money maintain correct conduct just because they have pledged their faith by oath.’ (Polybius, History, vi. 56, translated by W. R. Paton in Loeb Classical Library (1927), iii.394–5 and 396–7.) In LRBL ii.54–5, ed. Lothian 104 Polybius is described as the first writer ‘who enters into the civill history of the nations he treats of’ and as both ‘instructing and agreable’ in view of the ‘distinctness and accuracy with which he has related a series of events.’
[30 ]Dionysius attributes to Romulus ‘that good discipline . . . by the observance of which the Romans have kept their commonwealth flourishing for many generations; for he established many good and useful laws’. Later he contrasts Roman practice with the ‘lax manners of the Greeks’. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, II.xxiv–xxvii. translated by E. Spelman, revised by E. Cary in Loeb Classical Library (1937), i.377–89. In LRBL ii.57, ed. Lothian 105, Livy is mentioned as having provided a particular account of the Roman constitution and Dion as one who wrote for ‘Greeks unacquainted with these matters’. Dionysius is described at ii.229, ed. Lothian 182, as a ‘critick of great penetration’ and is among the most frequently quoted authorities in these lectures, particularly with regard to Smith’s lectures on the history of historians (lecture 19).
[31 ]‘Then good speech and good music, and grace and good rhythm, follow good nature, not that silliness which we call good nature in compliment, but the mind that is really well and nobly constituted in character.’ (Plato, Republic, iii.400, tranlated by A. D. Lindsay in Everyman Library (1935), 83–4.)
[32 ]‘It is evident what an influence music has over the disposition of the mind, and how variously it can fascinate it: and if it can do this, most certainly it is what youth ought to be instructed in.’ (Aristotle, Politics, 1340b, translated by W. Ellis in Everyman Library (1912), 247.)
[33 ]‘The practice of music . . . is beneficial to all men, but to Arcadians it is a necessity.’ (Polybius, History, iv.20, translated by W. R. Paton in Loeb Classical Library (1925), ii. 348–9.)
[34 ]‘That judicious writer, Polybius, informs us that music was necessary to soften the manners of the Arcadians, who lived in a cold, gloomy country . . . Plato is not afraid to affirm that there is no possibility of making a change in music without altering the frame of government. Aristotle, who seems to have written his ‘Politics’ only in order to contradict Plato, agrees with him, notwithstanding, in regard to the power and influence of music over the manners of the people. . . . Esprit, IV.viii.1. He went on: ‘Thus in the Greek republics the magistrates were extremely embarrassed. They would not have the citizens apply themselves to trade, to agriculture, or to the arts, and yet they would not have them idle. They found, therefore, employment for them in gymnic and military exercises; and none else were allowed by their institution. Hence the Greeks must be considered as a society of wrestlers and boxers. Now these exercises having a natural tendency to render people hardy and fierce, there was a necessity for tempering them with others that might soften their manners. For this purpose, music, which influences the mind by means of the corporeal organs, was extremely proper. It is a kind of medium between manly exercises, which harden the body, and speculative sciences, which are apt to render us unsociable and sour. It cannot be said that music inspired virtue, for this would be inconceivable: but it prevented the effects of a savage institution, and enabled the soul to have such a share in the education as it could never have had without the assistance of harmony.’ (Montesquieu, Esprit, IV.viii.5.)
[35 ]For example: ‘Then Odysseus of many wiles answered him and said: “Then will I tell thee what seems to me to be the best way. First bathe yourselves, and put on your tunics, and bid the handmaids in the halls to take their raiment. But let the divine minstrel with his clear–toned lyre in hand be our leader in the gladsome dance, that any man who hears the sound from without, whether a passer–by or one of those who dwell around, may say that it is a wedding feast; and so the rumour of the slaying of the wooers shall not be spread abroad throughout the city before we go forth to our well–wooded farm. There shall we afterwards devise whatever advantage the Olympians may vouchsafe us” . . . So he spoke, and they all readily hearkened and obeyed. First they bathed, and put on their tunics, and the women arrayed themselves, and the divine minstrel took the hollow lyre and aroused in them the desire of sweet song and goodly dance. So the great hall resounded all about with the tread of dancing men and of fair–girdled women.’ (Homer, Odyssey, xxiii.129–48, translated by A. T. Murray in Loeb Classical Library (1935), ii.382–5. ‘Therein fashioned he also two cities of mortal men exceeding fair. In the one there were marriages and feastings, and by the light of the blazing torches they were leading the brides from their bowers through the city, and loud rose the bridal song. And young men were whirling in the dance, and in their midst flutes and lyres sounded continually; and there the women stood each before her door and marvelled.’ (Homer, Iliad, xviii.490–6, translated by A. T. Murray, in the Loeb Classical Library (1937), ii.334–5.)
[36 ]The same phrase is used above, I.vi.6.
[q–q]in their old age those parents 1
[37 ]‘He enacted a law that no son who had not been taught a trade should be compelled to support his father.’ (Plutarch, Life of Solon, xxii, translated by B. Perrin, Plutarch’s Lives, Loeb Classical Library (1914), i.465. See also: ‘An Athenian law obliged children to provide for their fathers when fallen into poverty; it excepted those who were born of a courtesan, those whose chastity had been infamously prostituted by their father, and those to whom he had not given any means of gaining a livelihood.’ (Montesquieu, Esprit, XXVI.v.1, 2.) ‘At Athens all Children were forced to assist their Parents, if they came to Want: But Solon made a Law, that no Son should be oblig’d to relieve his Father, who had not bred him up to any Calling.’ (Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, pt.i.46, ed. Kaye i.59.)
[38 ]Cf. Astronomy, IV.18: ‘Philosophers, long before the age of Hipparchus, seem to have abandoned the study of nature, to employ themselves chiefly in ethical, rhetorical, and dialectical questions.’ LRBL ii.213–14, ed. Lothian 175, comments: ‘Whatever branch of Philosophy has been most cultivated and has made the greatest progress will necessarily be most agreable in the prosecution. This, therefore, will be the fashionable science, and a knowledge in it will give a man the Character of a deep philosopher and a man of great knowledge . . . Rhetorick and Logick or Dialectick were those undoubtedly which had made the greatest progress amongst the ancients. . .’ A similar point is made with regard to Rome at ii.237, ed. Lothian 187.
[39 ]Smith discusses the emoluments of classical teachers at I.x.c.39. See also V.i.g.40, where it is remarked that the greater part of the eminent men of letters were public or private teachers.
[40 ]‘. . . the Emperor has established, as you know, an allowance, not inconsiderable, for the philosophers according to sect—the Stoics, I mean, the Platonics, and the Epicureans; also those of the Walk, the same amount for each of these. It was stipulated that when one of them died another should be appointed in his stead, after being approved by vote of the first citizens. And the prize was not a shield of hide or a victim as the poet has it [Homer, Iliad, xxii.159], but a matter of ten thousand drachmas a year, for instructing boys.’ (Lucian, Eunuchus, iii, translated by A. M. Harmon in Loeb Classical Library (1936), v.333. Smith comments on the excellence of Lucian’s work as a writer in LRBL 9.
[41 ]In LJ (B) 26, ed. Cannan 19, Smith commented on the powers of the chieftains in the early period of society and stated that ‘They would be afraid to trust matters of importance to a few, and accordingly we find that at Athens, there were 500 judges at the same time.’ The same number is mentioned in LJ (A) iv.17; in LRBL 29 Smith examines the relationship between forms of judicial oratory and the structure of the courts and concluded that in Athens, the orators ‘managed the Courts of Judicature in the same manner as the managers of a play–house do the pit. They place some of their friends in different parts of the pit, and as they clap or hiss the performers the rest join in.’ (ii.207–8, ed. Lothian 173.) He added at ii.200–01, ed. Lothian 169, that: ‘judges, when few in number, will be much more anxious to proceed according to equity than where there is a great number; the blame there is not so easily laid upon any particular person; they are in very little fear of censure.’ In this connection Smith compared the equitable decisions of the House of Lords with those reached by Parliament or the Parlement of Paris; the performance of the praetor at Rome with that of the 500 at Athens. In Rome, with the emergence of the office of judge as a separate employment, the incumbents ‘would be at much greater pains to gain honour and reputation by it. Having less power they would be more timid. They would be at pains even to strengthen their conduct by the authority of their predecessors . . . Whatever, therefore, had been practised by other judges would obtain authority with them, and be received in time as Law. This is the case in England.’ (ii.200, ed. Lothian 168–9.)
[42 ]See above, V.i.f.40.
[43 ]See above, V.i.f.4, where Smith discusses the link between emulation and excellence.
[44 ]See above, V.i.f.7–9.
[45 ]Smith also refers to ‘exploded systems’ at § 34, above.
[v–v]very few 1
[46 ]Cf. LJ (B) 329, ed. Cannan 256: ‘It is remarkable that in every commercial nation the low people are exceedingly stupid. The Dutch vulgar are eminently so, and the English are more so than the Scotch.’ Smith also observed in the same place that the division of labour had adversely affected education by affording an opportunity for employing people very young.
[47 ]The limitation on the division of labour in agriculture is mentioned above, I.i.4, and the variety of knowledge and superior understanding thus required of the agricultural worker at I.x.c.23–4. Cf. I.xi.p.8, where Smith describes the indolence of landlords.
[48 ]Kames also noted that ‘Constant application . . . to a single operation, confines the mind to a single object, and excludes all thought and invention . . . the operator becomes dull and stupid, like a beast of burden.’ (Sketches, V.i.) Adam Ferguson, however, provided what has become perhaps the best–known example in remarking: ‘It may even be doubted, whether the measure of national capacity increases with the advancement of arts. Many mechanical arts, indeed, require no capacity; they succeed best under a total supression of sentiment and reason; and ignorance is the mother of industry as well as of superstition. Reflection and fancy are subject to err; but a habit of moving the hand, or the foot, is independent of either. Manufactures, accordingly, prosper most, where the mind is least consulted, and where the workshop may, without any great effort of imagination, be considered as an engine, the parts of which are men.’ (History of Civil Society, IV.i., ed. Forbes (Edinburgh, 1966), 182–3.)
[49 ]This qualifies the advantages claimed for the division of labour in I.i. See especially I.i.8, where it is claimed the invention reflected the activities of the common workman.
[50 ]Cf. ED 2.14. In TMS V.i.2.8–9 Smith noted a related point with regard to the manners of savage and civilized nations in remarking that the former ‘by the necessity of his situation is inured to every sort of hardship’ and therefore accustomed to ‘give way to none of the passions which . . . distress is apt to excite’. By contrast, ‘The general security and happiness which prevail in ages of civility and politeness, afford little exercise to the contempt of danger, to patience in enduring labour, hunger, and pain.’
[w–w]minds of men are 1
[51 ]See above, I.xi.p.8, where Smith establishes a link between intellectual indolence and security in the case of the landlords as a class.
[52 ]See above, I.ii.4,5.
[53 ]LJ (B) 328–33, ed. Cannan 255–9, reviews the disadvantages of the commercial state and concluded by remarking that ‘The minds of men are contracted, and rendered incapable of elevation, education is despised, or at least neglected, and heroic spirit is almost utterly extinguished. To remedy these defects would be an object worthy of serious attention.’ This form of argument may be related to views which were advanced in the Astronomy. For example, Smith there pointed out that we do not naturally speculate even about complex processes where these are performed in the course of everyday work (II.11) and that the ‘indolent imagination’ does not tend to find exercise in cases where the appearances observed follow an accustomed pattern (II.7). It was essential to Smith’s position that only the unusual encourages thought—exactly the sort of conditions which would be absent in the case of the labourer described in the text.
[54 ]See above, I.viii.23 and n. 17. Cf LJ (B) 329–30, ed. Cannan 256: ‘A boy of 6 or 7 years of age at Birmingham can gain his 3 pence or sixpence a day, and parents find it to be their interest to set them soon to work; thus their education is neglected.’ In the same place, Smith ascribed the superior education of the lower orders in Scotland, not to a different attitude to education, but to the relatively backward condition of the economy: ‘In this country indeed, where the division of labour is not so far advanced, even the meanest porter can read and write, because the price of education is cheap, and because a parent can employ his child no other way at 6 or 7 years of age.’
[55 ]However, Smith noted in TMS VI.iii.49 that people ‘whom nature has formed a good deal below the common level, seem sometimes to rate themselves still more below it than they really are. This humility appears sometimes to sink them into idiotism.’ Smith went on to note that such people, even as adults, may find difficulty in learning ‘notwithstanding that, in their advanced age, they have had spirit enough to attempt to learn what their early education had not taught them’.
[z–z]is capable of being 1
[56 ]LJ (B) 330, ed. Cannan 256, adverts to ‘the benefit of country schools, and, however much neglected, must acknowledge them to be an excellent institution’. In both sets of lectures, Smith associated geometry with its practical uses.
[57 ]See above, IV.v.a.39, where Smith defends the use of premiums designed to encourage particular artists and manufacturers.
[58 ]See below, V.i.g.14, where Smith refers to a rather similar plan for imposing educational requirements on the higher classes.
[59 ]Military training in Greece and Rome is also discussed at V.i.a.12.
[60 ]See above, V.i.a.15.
[61 ]Standing armies as a danger to liberty are mentioned at V.i.a.41.
[a–a]those members 1