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Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, vol. I of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter: chap. i: Of Sympathy
Accessed from oll.libertyfund.org/title/192/200058 on 2010-03-04
The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith and the associated volumes are published in hardcover by Oxford University Press. The six titles of the Glasgow Edition, but not the associated volumes, are being published in softcover by Liberty Fund. The online edition is published by Liberty Fund under license from Oxford University Press.
©Oxford University Press 1976. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be stored transmitted retransmitted lent or reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of Oxford University Press.
1How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.
2As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. Neither can that faculty help us to this any other way, than by representing to us what would be our own, if we were in his case. It is the impressions of our own senses only, not those of his, which our imaginations copy. By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him, and thence form some idea of his sensations, and even feel something which, though weaker in degree, is not altogether unlike them. His agonies, when they are thus brought home to ourselves, when we have thus adopted and made them our own, begin at last to affect us, and we then tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels. For as to be in pain or distress of any kind excites the most excessive sorrow, so to conceive or to imagine that we are in it, excites some degree of the same emotion, in proportion to the vivacity or dulness of the conception.
3That this is the source of our fellow–feeling for the misery of others, that it is by changing places in fancy with the sufferer, that we come either to conceive or to be affected by what he feels, may be demonstrated by many obvious observations, if it should not be thought sufficiently evident of itself. When we see a stroke aimed and just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another person, we naturally shrink and draw back our own leg or our own arm; and when it does fall, we feel it in some measure, and are hurt by it as well as the sufferer. The mob, when they are gazing at a dancer on the slack rope, naturally writhe and twist and balance their own bodies, as they see him do, and as they feel that they themselves must do if in his situation. Persons of delicate fibres and a weak constitution of body complain, that in looking on the sores and ulcers which are exposed by beggars in the streets, they are apt to feel an itching or uneasy sensation in the correspondent part of their own bodies. The horror which they conceive at the misery of those wretches affects that particular part in themselves more than any other; because that horror arises from conceiving what they themselves would suffer, if they really were the wretches whom they are looking upon, and if that particular part in themselves was actually affected in the same miserable manner. The very force of this conception is sufficient, in their feeble frames, to produce that itching or uneasy sensation complained of. Men of the most robust make, observe that in looking upon sore eyes they often feel a very sensible soreness in their own, which proceeds from the same reason; that organ being in the strongest man more delicate, than any other part of the body is in the weakest.
4Neither is it those circumstances only, which create pain or sorrow, that call forth our fellow–feeling. Whatever is the passion which arises from any object in the person principally concerned, an analogous emotion springs up, at the thought of his situation, in the breast of every attentive spectator. Our joy for the deliverance of those heroes of tragedy or romance who interest us, is as sincere as our grief for their distress, and our fellow–feeling with their misery is not more real than that with their happiness. We enter into their gratitude towards those faithful friends who did not desert them in their difficulties; and we heartily go along with their resentment against those perfidious traitors who injured, abandoned, or deceived them. In every passion of which the mind of man is susceptible, the emotions of the by–stander always correspond to what, by bringing the case home to himself, he imagines should be the sentiments of the sufferer.
5Pity and compassion are words appropriated to signify our fellow–feeling with the sorrow of others. Sympathy, though its meaning was, perhaps, originally the same, may now, however, without much impropriety, be made use of to denote our fellow–feeling with any passion whatever.1
6Upon some occasions sympathy may seem to arise merely from the view of a certain emotion in another person. The passions, upon some occasions, may seem to be transfused from one man to another, instantaneously, and antecedent to any knowledge of what excited them in the person principally concerned. Grief and joy, for example, strongly expressed in the look and gestures of any one, at once affect the spectator with some degree of a like painful or agreeable emotion. A smiling face is, to every body that sees it, a cheerful object; as a sorrowful countenance, on the other hand, is a melancholy one.
7This, however, does not hold universally, or with regard to every passion. There are some passions of which the expressions excite no sort of sympathy, but before we are acquainted with what gave occasion to them, serve rather to disgust and provoke us against them. The furious behaviour of an angry man is more likely to exasperate us against himself than against his enemies. As we are unacquainted with his provocation, we cannot bring his case home to ourselves, nor conceive any thing like the passions which it excites. But we plainly see what is the situation of those with whom he is angry, and to what violence they may be exposed from so enraged an adversary. We readily, therefore, sympathize with their fear or resentment, and are immediately disposed to take part against the man from whom they appear to be in so much danger.
8If the very appearances of grief and joy inspire us with some degree of the like emotions, it is because they suggest to us the general idea of some good or bad fortune that has befallen the person in whom we observe them: and in these passions this is sufficient to have some little influence upon us. The effects of grief and joy terminate in the person who feels those emotions, of which the expressions do not, like those of resentment, suggest to us the idea of any other person for whom we are concerned, and whose interests are opposite to his. The general idea of good or bad fortune, therefore, creates some concern for the person who has met with it, but the general idea of provocation excites no sympathy with the anger of the man who has received it. Nature, it seems, teaches us to be more averse to enter into this passion, and, till informed of its cause, to be disposed rather to take part against it.
9Even our sympathy with the grief or joy of another, before we are informed of the cause of either, is always extremely imperfect. General lamentations, which express nothing but the anguish of the sufferer, create rather a curiosity to inquire into his situation, along with some disposition to sympathize with him, than any actual sympathy that is very sensible. The first question which we ask is, What has befallen you? Till this be answered, though we are uneasy both from the vague idea of his misfortune, and still more from torturing ourselves with conjectures about what it may be, yet our fellow–feeling is not very considerable.
10Sympathy, therefore, does not arise so much from the view of the passion, as from that of the situation which excites it. We sometimes feel for another, a passion of which he himself seems to be altogether incapable; because, when we put ourselves in his case, that passion arises in our breast from the imagination, though it does not in his from the reality. We blush for the impudence and rudeness of another, though he himself appears to have no sense of the impropriety of his own behaviour; because we cannot help feeling with what confusion we ourselves should be covered, had we behaved in so absurd a manner.
11Of all the calamities to which the condition of mortality exposes mankind, the loss of reason appears, to those who have the least spark of humanity, by far the most dreadful, and they behold that last stage of human awretchednessa with deeper commiseration than any other. But the poor wretch, who is in it, laughs and sings perhaps, and is altogether insensible of his own misery. The anguish which humanity feels, therefore, at the sight of such an object, cannot be the reflection of any sentiment of the sufferer. The compassion of the spectator must arise altogether from the consideration of what he himself would feel if he was reduced to the same unhappy situation, and, what perhaps is impossible, was at the same time able to regard it with his present reason and judgment.
12What are the pangs of a mother, when she hears the moanings of her infant that during the agony of disease cannot express what it feels? In her idea of what it suffers, she joins, to its real helplessness, her own consciousness of that helplessness, and her own terrors for the unknown consequences of its disorder; and out of all these, forms, for her own sorrow, the most complete image of misery and distress. The infant, however, feels only the uneasiness of the present instant, which can never be great. With regard to the future, it is perfectly secure, and in its thoughtlessness and want of foresight, possesses an antidote against fear and anxiety, the great tormentors of the human breast, from bwhichb reason and philosophy will, in vain, attempt to defend it, when it grows up to a man.
13We sympathize even with the dead, and overlooking what is of real importance in their situation, that awful futurity which awaits them, we are chiefly affected by those circumstances which strike our senses, but can have no influence upon their happiness. It is miserable, we think, to be deprived of the light of the sun; to be shut out from life and conversation; to be laid in the cold grave, a prey to corruption and the reptiles of the earth; to be no more thought of in this world, but to be obliterated, in a little time, from the affections, and almost from the memory, of their dearest friends and relations. Surely, we imagine, we can never feel too much for those who have suffered so dreadful a calamity. The tribute of our fellowfeeling seems doubly due to them now, when they are in danger of being forgot by every body; and, by the vain honours which we pay to their memory, we endeavour, for our own misery, artificially to keep alive our melancholy remembrance of their misfortune. That our sympathy can afford them no consolation seems to be an addition to their calamity; and to think that all we can do is unavailing, and that, what alleviates all other distress, the regret, the love, and the lamentations of their friends, can yield no comfort to them, serves only to exasperate our sense of their misery. The happiness of the dead, however, most assuredly, is affected by none of these circumstances; nor is it the thought of these things which can ever disturb the cprofoundc security of their repose. The idea of that dreary and endless melancholy, which the fancy naturally ascribes to their condition, arises altogether from our joining to the change which has been produced upon them, our own consciousness of that change, from our putting ourselves in their situation, and from our lodging, if I may be allowed to say so, our own living souls in their inanimated bodies, and thence conceiving what would be our emotions in this case. It is from this very illusion of the imagination, that the foresight of our own dissolution is so terrible to us, and that the idea of those circumstances, which undoubtedly can give us no pain when we are dead, makes us miserable while we are alive. And from thence arises one of the most important principles in human nature, the dread of death, the great poison to the happiness, but the great restraint upon the injustice of mankind, which, while it afflicts and mortifies the individual, guards and protects the society.
 Smith’s unusually wide definition of ‘sympathy’ needs to be noted because some scholars, more familiar with his economics than his moral philosophy, have mistakenly equated sympathy with benevolence and have inferred that TMS deals with the altruistic side of human conduct and WN with its egoistic side. See Introduction, section 2(b).
[a–a]1–5 wretchedness, 6 7
[b–b]1–5 which, 6 7
[c–c] om. 1
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, vol. I of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter: a chap. ii: Of the Pleasure of mutual Sympathy
Accessed from oll.libertyfund.org/title/192/200060 on 2010-03-04
The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith and the associated volumes are published in hardcover by Oxford University Press. The six titles of the Glasgow Edition, but not the associated volumes, are being published in softcover by Liberty Fund. The online edition is published by Liberty Fund under license from Oxford University Press.
©Oxford University Press 1976. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be stored transmitted retransmitted lent or reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of Oxford University Press.
1But whatever may be the cause of sympathy, or however it may be excited, nothing pleases us more than to observe in other men a fellowfeeling with all the emotions of our own breast; nor are we ever so much shocked as by the appearance of the contrary. Those who are fond of deducing all our sentiments from certain refinements of self–love, think themselves at no loss to account, according to their own principles, both for this pleasure and this pain. Man, say they, conscious of his own weakness, and of the need which he has for the assistance of others, rejoices whenever he observes that they adopt his own passions, because he is then assured of that assistance; and grieves whenever he observes the contrary, because he is then assured of their opposition.1 But both the pleasure and the pain are always felt so instantaneously, and often upon such frivolous occasions, that it seems evident that neither of them can be derived from any such self–interested consideration. A man is mortified when, after having endeavoured to divert the company, he looks round and sees that nobody laughs at his jests but himself. On the contrary, the mirth of the company is highly agreeable to him, and he regards this correspondence of their sentiments with his own as the greatest applause.
2Neither does his pleasure seem to arise altogether from the additional vivacity which his mirth may receive from sympathy with theirs, nor his pain from the disappointment he meets with when he misses this pleasure; though both the one and the other, no doubt, do in some measure. When we have read a book or poem so often that we can no longer find any amusement in reading it by ourselves, we can still take pleasure in reading it to a companion. To him it has all the graces of novelty; we enter into the surprise and admiration which it naturally excites in him, but which it is no longer capable of exciting in us; we consider all the ideas which it presents rather in the light in which they appear to him, than in that in which they appear to ourselves, and we are amused by sympathy with his amusement which thus enlivens our own. On the contrary, we should be vexed if he did not seem to be entertained with it, and we could no longer take any pleasure in reading it to him. It is the same case here. The mirth of the company, no doubt, enlivens our own mirth, and their silence, no doubt, disappoints us. But though this may contribute both to the pleasure which we derive from the one, and to the pain which we feel from the other, it is by no means the sole cause of either; and this correspondence of the sentiments of others with our own appears to be a cause of pleasure, and the want of it a cause of pain, which cannot be accounted for in this manner. The sympathy, which my friends express with my joy, might, indeed, give me pleasure by enlivening that joy: but that which they express with my grief could give me none, if it served only to enliven that grief. Sympathy, however, enlivens joy and alleviates grief. It enlivens joy by presenting another source of satisfaction; and it alleviates grief by insinuating into the heart almost the only agreeable sensation which it is at that time capable of receiving.
3It is to be observed accordingly, that we are still more anxious to communicate to our friends our disagreeable than our agreeable passions, that we derive still more satisfaction from their sympathy with the former than from that with the latter, and that we are still more shocked by the want of it.
4How are the unfortunate relieved when they have found out a person to whom they can communicate the cause of their sorrow? Upon his sympathy they seem to disburthen themselves of a part of their distress: he is not improperly said to share it with them. He not only feels a sorrow of the same kind with that which they feel, but as if he had derived a part of it to himself, what he feels seems to alleviate the weight of what they feel. Yet by relating their misfortunes they in some measure renew their grief. They awaken in their memory the remembrance of those circumstances which boccasionedb their affliction. Their tears accordingly flow faster than before, and they are apt to abandon themselves to all the weakness of sorrow. They take pleasure, however, in all this, and, it is evident, are sensibly relieved by it; because the sweetness of his sympathy more than compensates the bitterness of that sorrow, which, in order to excite this sympathy, they had thus enlivened and renewed. The cruelest insult, on the contrary, which can be offered to the unfortunate, is to appear to make light of their calamities. To seem not to be affected with the joy of our companions is but want of politeness; but not to wear a serious countenance when they tell us their afflictions, is real and gross inhumanity.
5Love is an agreeable; resentment, a disagreeable passion; and accordingly we are not half so anxious that our friends should adopt our friendships, as that they should enter into our resentments. We can forgive them though they seem to be little affected with the favours which we may have received, but lose all patience if they seem indifferent about the injuries which may have been done to us: nor are we half so angry with them for not entering into our gratitude, as for not sympathizing with our resentment. They can easily avoid being friends to our friends, but can hardly avoid being enemies to those with whom we are at variance. We seldom resent their being at enmity with the first, though upon that account we may sometimes affect to make an awkward quarrel with them; but we quarrel with them in good earnest if they live in friendship with the last. The agreeable passions of love and joy can satisfy and support the heart without any auxiliary pleasure. The bitter and painful emotions of grief and resentment more strongly require the healing consolation of sympathy.
6As the person who is principally interested in any event is pleased with our sympathy, and hurt by the want of it, so we, too, seem to be pleased when we are able to sympathize with him, and to be hurt when we are unable to do so. We run not only to congratulate the successful, but to condole with the afflicted; and the pleasure which we find in the conversation of one whom in all the passions of his heart we can entirely sympathize with, seems to do more than compensate the painfulness of that sorrow with which the view of his situation affects us. On the contrary, it is always disagreeable to feel that we cannot sympathize with him, and instead of being pleased with this exemption from sympathetic pain, it hurts us to find that we cannot share his uneasiness. If we hear a person loudly lamenting his misfortunes, cwhich,c however, upon bringing the case home to ourselves, we feel, can produce no such violent effect upon us, we are shocked at his grief; and, because we cannot enter into it, call it pusillanimity and weakness. It gives us the spleen, on the other hand, to see another too happy or too much elevated, as we call it, with any little piece of good fortune. We are disobliged even with his joy; and, because we cannot go along with it, call it levity and folly. We are even put out of humour if our companion laughs louder or longer at a joke than we think it deserves; that is, than we feel that we ourselves could laugh at it.
[a]Chapters 2–5 form a separate Section in ed. 1.
 Smith presumably has Hobbes and Mandeville in mind as the leading exponents of the view that all sentiments depend on self–love, but in fact neither of them gives this, or any, account of the pleasure and pain felt on observing sympathy and antipathy. Smith may simply be making a reasonable conjecture of what an egoistic theorist would say. It is also possible that, as in I.iii.1.1 below, he is misremembering a passage in Joseph Butler, Fifteen Sermons, v, para. 2 (D. D. Raphael, British Moralists 1650–1800, § 412), where compassion as a distinct feeling is explained by connecting it with the want of assistance. Butler’s explanation is of course not given from an egoistic standpoint, but it follows a lengthy and penetrating criticism of Hobbes’s egoistic account of pity, so that Smith might in memory have confused Butler’s own account with that of Hobbes.
[–b]1 2E occasion 2–7
[c–c]1–5 ∼⁁6 7
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, vol. I of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter: chap. iii: Of the manner in which we judge of the propriety or impropriety of the affections of other men, by their concord or dissonance with our own
Accessed from oll.libertyfund.org/title/192/200062 on 2010-03-04
The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith and the associated volumes are published in hardcover by Oxford University Press. The six titles of the Glasgow Edition, but not the associated volumes, are being published in softcover by Liberty Fund. The online edition is published by Liberty Fund under license from Oxford University Press.
©Oxford University Press 1976. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be stored transmitted retransmitted lent or reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of Oxford University Press.
1When the original passions of the person principally concerned are in perfect concord with the sympathetic emotions of the spectator, they necessarily appear to this last just and proper, and suitable to their objects; and, on the contrary, when, upon bringing the case home to himself, he finds that they do not coincide with what he feels, they necessarily appear to him unjust and improper, and unsuitable to the causes which excite them. To approve of the passions of another, therefore, as suitable to their objects, is the same thing as to observe that we entirely sympathize with them; and not to approve of them as such, is the same thing as to observe that we do not entirely sympathize with them. The man who resents the injuries that have been done to me, and observes that I resent them precisely as he does, necessarily approves of my resentment. The man whose sympathy keeps time to my grief, cannot but admit the reasonableness of my sorrow. He who admires the same poem, or the same picture, and admires them exactly as I do, must surely allow the justness of my admiration. He who laughs at the same joke, and laughs along with me, cannot well deny the propriety of my laughter. On the contrary, the person who, upon these different occasions, either feels no such emotion as that which I feel, or feels none that bears any proportion to mine, cannot avoid disapproving my sentiments on account of their dissonance with his own. If my animosity goes beyond what the indignation of my friend can correspond to; if my grief exceeds what his most tender compassion can go along with; if my admiration is either too high or too low to tally with his own; if I laugh loud and heartily when he only smiles, or, on the contrary, only smile when he laughs loud and heartily; in all these cases, as soon as he comes from considering the object, to observe how I am affected by it, according as there is more or less disproportion between his sentiments and mine, I must incur a greater or less degree of his disapprobation: and upon all occasions his own sentiments are the standards and measures by which he judges of mine.
2To approve of another man’s opinions is to adopt those opinions, and to adopt them is to approve of them. If the same arguments which convince you convince me likewise, I necessarily approve of your conviction; and if they do not, I necessarily disapprove of it: neither can I possibly conceive that I should do the one without the other. To approve or disapprove, therefore, of the opinions of others is acknowledged, by every body, to mean no more than to observe their agreement or disagreement with our own. But this is equally the case with regard to our approbation or disapprobation of the sentiments or passions of others.
3There are, indeed, some cases in which we seem to approve without any sympathy or correspondence of sentiments, and in which, consequently, the sentiment of approbation would seem to be different from the perception of this coincidence. A little attention, however, will convince us that even in these cases our approbation is ultimately founded upon a sympathy or correspondence of this kind. I shall give an instance in things of a very frivolous nature, because in them the judgments of mankind are less apt to be perverted by wrong systems. We may often approve of a jest, and think the laughter of the company quite just and proper, though we ourselves do not laugh, because, perhaps, we are in a grave humour, or happen to have our attention engaged with other objects. We have learned, however, from experience, what sort of pleasantry is upon most occasions capable of making us laugh, and we observe that this is one of that kind. We approve, therefore, of the laughter of the company, and feel that it is natural and suitable to its object; because, though in our present mood we cannot easily enter into it, we are sensible that upon most occasions we should very heartily join in it.
4The same thing often happens with regard to all the other passions. A stranger passes by us in the street with all the marks of the deepest affliction; and we are immediately told that he has just received the news of the death of his father. It is impossible that, in this case, we should not approve of his grief. Yet it may often happen, without any defect of humanity on our part, that, so far from entering into the violence of his sorrow, we should scarce conceive the first movements of concern upon his account. Both he and his father, perhaps, are entirely unknown to us, or we happen to be employed about other things, and do not take time to picture out in our imagination the different circumstances of distress which must occur to him. We have learned, however, from experience, that such a misfortune naturally excites such a degree of sorrow, and we know that if we took time to consider his situation, fully and in all its parts, we should, without doubt, most sincerely sympathize with him. It is upon the consciousness of this conditional sympathy, that our approbation of his sorrow is founded, even in those cases in which that sympathy does not actually take place; and the general rules derived from our preceding experience of what our sentiments would commonly correspond with, correct upon this, as upon many other occasions, the impropriety of our present emotions.
5The sentiment or affection of the heart from which any action proceeds, and upon which its whole virtue or vice must ultimately depend, may be considered under two different aspects, or in two different relations; first, in relation to the cause which excites it, or the motive which gives occasion to it; and secondly, in relation to the end which it proposes, or the effect which it tends to produce.
6In the suitableness or unsuitableness, in the proportion or disproportion which the affection seems to bear to the cause or object which excites it, consists the propriety or impropriety, the decency or ungracefulness of the consequent action.
7In the beneficial or hurtful nature of the effects which the affection aims at, or tends to produce, consists the merit or demerit of the action, the qualities by which it is entitled to reward, or is deserving of punishment.
8Philosophers have, of late years, considered chiefly the tendency of affections, and have given little attention to the relation which they stand in to the cause which excites them. In common life, however, when we judge of any person’s conduct, and of the sentiments which directed it, we constantly consider them under both these aspects. When we blame in another man the excesses of love, of grief, of resentment, we not only consider the ruinous effects which they tend to produce, but the little occasion which was given for them. The merit of his favourite, we say, is not so great, his misfortune is not so dreadful, his provocation is not so extraordinary, as to justify so violent a passion. We should have indulged, we say; perhaps, have approved of the violence of his emotion, had the cause been in any respect proportioned to it.
9When we judge in this manner of any affection, as proportioned or disproportioned to the cause which excites it, it is scarce possible that we should make use of any other rule or canon but the correspondent affection in ourselves. If, upon bringing the case home to our own breast, we find that the sentiments which it gives occasion to, coincide and tally with our own, we necessarily approve of them as proportioned and suitable to their objects; if otherwise, we necessarily disapprove of them, as extravagant and out of proportion.
10Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges of the like faculty in another. I judge of your sight by my sight, of your ear by my ear, of your reason by my reason, of your resentment by my resentment, of your love by my love. I neither have, nor can have, any other way of judging about them.
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, vol. I of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter: chap. iv: The same subject continued
Accessed from oll.libertyfund.org/title/192/200064 on 2010-03-04
1We may judge of the propriety or impropriety of the sentiments of another person by their correspondence or disagreement with our own, upon two different occasions; either, first, when the objects which excite them are considered without any peculiar relation, either to ourselves or to the person whose sentiments we judge of; or, secondly, when they are considered as peculiarly affecting one or other of us.
21. With regard to those objects which are considered without any peculiar relation either to ourselves or to the person whose sentiments we judge of; wherever his sentiments entirely correspond with our own, we ascribe to him the qualities of taste and good judgment. The beauty of a plain, the greatness of a mountain, the ornaments of a building, the expression of a picture, the composition of a discourse, the conduct of a third person, the proportions of different quantities and numbers, the various appearances which the great machine of the universe is perpetually exhibiting, with the secret wheels and springs which produce them; all the general subjects of science and taste, are what we and our acompaniona regard as having no peculiar relation to either of us. We both look at them from the same point of view, and we have no occasion for sympathy, or for that imaginary change of situations from which it arises, in order to produce, with regard to these, the most perfect harmony of sentiments and affections. If, notwithstanding, we are often differently affected, it arises either from the different degrees of attention, which our different habits of life allow us to give easily to the several parts of those complex objects, or from the different degrees of natural acuteness in the faculty of the mind to which they are addressed.
3When the sentiments of our companion coincide with our own in things of this kind, which are obvious and easy, and in which, perhaps, we never found a single person who differed from us, though we, no doubt, must approve of them, yet he seems to deserve no praise or admiration on account of them. But when they not only coincide with our own, but lead and direct our own; when in forming them he appears to have attended to many things which we had overlooked, and to have adjusted them to all the various circumstances of their objects; we not only approve of them, but wonder and are surprised at their uncommon and unexpected acuteness and comprehensiveness, and he appears to deserve a very high degree of admiration and applause. For approbation heightened by wonder and surprise, constitutes the sentiment which is properly called admiration,1 and of which applause is the natural expression. The decision of the man who judges that exquisite beauty is preferable to the grossest deformity, or that twice two are equal to four, must certainly be approved of by all the world, but will not, surely, be much admired. It is the acute and delicate discernment of the man of taste, who distinguishes the minute, and scarce perceptible differences of beauty and deformity; it is the comprehensive accuracy of the experienced mathematician, who unravels, with ease, the most intricate and perplexed proportions; it is the great leader in science and taste, the man who directs and conducts our own sentiments, the extent and superior justness of whose talents astonish us with wonder and surprise, who excites our admiration, and seems to deserve our applause: and upon this foundation is grounded the greater part of the praise which is bestowed upon what are called the intellectual virtues.
4The utility of those qualities, it may be thought,2 is what first recommends them to us; and, no doubt, the consideration of this, when we come to attend to it, gives them a new value. Originally, however, we approve of another man’s judgment, not as something useful, but as right, as accurate, as agreeable to truth and reality: and it is evident we attribute those qualities to it for no other reason but because we find that it agrees with our own. Taste, in the same manner, is originally approved of, not as useful, but as just, as delicate, and as precisely suited to its object. The idea of the utility of all qualities of this kind, is plainly an after–thought, and not what first recommends them to our approbation.
52. With regard to those objects, which affect in a particular manner either ourselves or the person whose sentiments we judge of, it is at once more difficult to preserve this harmony and correspondence, and at the same time, vastly more important. My companion does not naturally look upon the misfortune that has befallen me, or the injury that has been done me, from the same point of view in which I consider them. They affect me much more nearly. We do not view them from the same station, as we do a picture, or a poem, or a system of philosophy, and are, therefore, apt to be very differently affected by them. But I can much more easily overlook the want of this correspondence of sentiments with regard to such indifferent objects as concern neither me nor my companion, than with regard to what interests me so much as the misfortune that has befallen me, or the injury that has been done me. Though you despise that picture, or that poem, or even that system of philosophy, which I admire, there is little danger of our quarrelling upon that account. Neither of us can reasonably be much interested about them. They ought all of them to be matters of great indifference to us both; so that, though our opinions may be opposite, our affections may still be very nearly the same. But it is quite otherwise with regard to those objects by which either you or I are particularly affected. Though your judgments in matters of speculation, though your sentiments in matters of taste, are quite opposite to mine, I can easily overlook this opposition; and if I have any degree of temper, I may still find some entertainment in your conversation, even upon those very subjects. But if you have either no fellow–feeling for the misfortunes I have met with, or none that bears any proportion to the grief which distracts me; or if you have either no indignation at the injuries I have suffered, or none that bears any proportion to the resentment which transports me, we can no longer converse upon these subjects. We become intolerable to one another. I can neither support your company, nor you mine. You are confounded at my violence and passion, and I am enraged at your cold insensibility and want of feeling.
6In all such cases, that there may be some correspondence of sentiments between the spectator and the person principally concerned, the spectator must, first of all, endeavour, as much as he can, to put himself in the situation of the other, and to bring home to himself every little circumstance of distress which can possibly occur to the sufferer. He must adopt the whole case of his companion with all its minutest incidents; and strive to render as perfect as possible, that imaginary change of situation upon which his sympathy is founded.
7After all this, however, the emotions of the spectator will still be very apt to fall short of the violence of what is felt by the sufferer. Mankind, though naturally sympathetic, never conceive, for what has befallen another, that degree of passion which naturally animates the person principally concerned. That imaginary change of situation, upon which their sympathy is founded, is but momentary. The thought of their own safety, the thought that they themselves are not really the sufferers, continually intrudes itself upon them; and though it does not hinder them from conceiving a passion somewhat analogous to what is felt by the sufferer, hinders them from conceiving any thing that approaches to the same degree of violence. The person principally concerned is sensible of this, and at the same time passionately desires a more complete sympathy. He longs for that relief which nothing can afford him but the entire concord of the affections of the spectators with his own. To see the emotions of their hearts, in every respect, beat time to his own, in the violent and disagreeable passions, constitutes his sole consolation. But he can only hope to obtain this by lowering his passion to that pitch, in which the spectators are capable of going along with him. He must flatten, if I may be allowed to say so, the sharpness of its natural tone, in order to reduce it to harmony and concord with the emotions of those who are about him. What they feel, will, indeed, always be, in some respects, different from what he feels, and compassion can never be exactly the same with original sorrow; because the secret consciousness that the change of situations, from which the sympathetic sentiment arises, is but imaginary, not only lowers it in degree, but, in some measure, varies it in kind, and gives it a quite different modification. These two sentiments, however, may, it is evident, have such a correspondence with one another, as is sufficient for the harmony of society. Though they will never be unisons, they may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or required.
8In order to produce this concord, as nature teaches the spectators to assume the circumstances of the person principally concerned, so she teaches this last in some measure to assume those of the spectators. As they are continually placing themselves in his situation, and thence conceiving emotions similar to what he feels; so he is as constantly placing himself in theirs, and thence conceiving some degree of that coolness about his own fortune, with which he is sensible that they will view it. As they are constantly considering what they themselves would feel, if they actually were the sufferers, so he is as constantly led to imagine in what manner he would be affected if he was only one of the spectators of his own situation. As their sympathy makes them look at it, in some measure, with his eyes, so his sympathy makes him look at it, in some measure, with theirs, especially when in their presence and acting under their observation: and as the reflected passion, which he thus conceives, is much weaker than the original one, it necessarily abates the violence of what he felt before he came into their presence, before he began to recollect in what manner they would be affected by it, and to view his situation in this candid and impartial light.
9The mind, therefore, is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquillity and sedateness. The breast is, in some measure, calmed and composed the moment we come into his presence. We are immediately put in mind of the light in which he will view our situation, and we begin to view it ourselves in the same light; for the effect of sympathy is instantaneous. We expect less sympathy from a common acquaintance than from a friend: we cannot open to the former all those little circumstances which we can unfold to the latter: we assume, therefore, more tranquillity before him, and endeavour to fix our thoughts upon those general outlines of our situation which he is willing to consider. We expect still less sympathy from an assembly of strangers, and we assume, therefore, still more tranquillity before them, and always endeavour to bring down our passion to that pitch, which the particular company we are in may be expected to go along with. Nor is this only an assumed appearance: for if we are at all masters of ourselves, the presence of a mere acquaintance will really compose us, still more than that of a friend; and that of an assembly of strangers still more than that of an acquaintance.
10Society and conversation, therefore, are the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self–satisfaction and enjoyment. Men of retirement and speculation, who are apt to sit brooding at home over either grief or resentment, though they may often have more humanity, more generosity, and a nicer sense of honour, yet seldom possess that equality of temper which is so common among men of the world.
[a–a]1 companions 2–7 The singular form is supported by other phrases in the context and especially by our companion at the beginning of § 3.
 In Astronomy, intro. 1, probably written earlier than TMS, Smith regards admiration as distinct from wonder and surprise. ‘What is new and singular, excites that sentiment which, in strict propriety, is called Wonder; what is unexpected, Surprise; and what is great or beautiful, Admiration.’ He goes on to say that we can admire what is neither novel nor unexpected, implying that admiration can exist apart from wonder and surprise.
 Smith has Hume in mind. Cf. IV.2.3–7, where § 3 refers directly to Hume and § 7 refers back to the present passage.
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, vol. I of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter: chap. v: Of the amiable and respectable virtues
Accessed from oll.libertyfund.org/title/192/200066 on 2010-03-04
1Upon these two different efforts, upon that of the spectator to enter into the sentiments of the person principally concerned, and upon that of the person principally concerned, to bring down his emotions to what the spectator can go along with, are founded two different sets of virtues. The soft, the gentle, the amiable virtues, the virtues of candid condescension and indulgent humanity, are founded upon the one: the great, the awful and respectable, the virtues of self–denial, of self–government, of that command of the passions which subjects all the movements of our nature to what our own dignity and honour, and the propriety of our own conduct require, take their origin from the other.1
2How amiable does he appear to be, whose sympathetic heart seems to reecho all the sentiments of those with whom he converses, who grieves for their calamities, who resents their injuries, and who rejoices at their good fortune! When we bring home to ourselves the situation of his companions, we enter into their gratitude, and feel what consolation they must derive from the tender sympathy of so affectionate a friend. And for a contrary reason, how disagreeable does he appear to be, whose hard and obdurate heart feels for himself only, but is altogether insensible to the happiness or misery of others! We enter, in this case too, into the pain which his presence must give to every mortal with whom he converses, to those especially with whom we are most apt to sympathize, the unfortunate and the injured.
3On the other hand, what noble propriety and grace do we feel in the conduct of those who, in their own case, exert that recollection and self–command which constitute the dignity of every passion, and which bring it down to what others can enter ainto!a We are disgusted with that clamorous grief, which, without any delicacy, calls upon our compassion with sighs and tears and importunate lamentations. But we reverence that reserved, that silent and majestic sorrow, which discovers itself only in the swelling of the eyes, in the quivering of the lips and cheeks, and in the distant, but affecting, coldness of the whole behaviour. It imposes the like silence upon us. We regard it with respectful attention, and watch with anxious concern over our whole behaviour, lest by any impropriety we should disturb that concerted tranquillity, which it requires so great an effort to support.
4The insolence and brutality of anger, in the same bmanner,b when we indulge its fury without check or restraint, is, of all objects, the most detestable. But we admire that noble and generous resentment which governs its pursuit of the greatest injuries, not by the rage which they are apt to excite in the breast of the sufferer, but by the indignation which they naturally call forth in that of the impartial spectator; which allows no word, no gesture, to escape it beyond what this more equitable sentiment would dictate; which never, even in thought, attempts any greater vengeance, nor desires to inflict any greater punishment, than what every indifferent person would rejoice to see executed.
5And hence it is, that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety. As to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.
6As taste and good judgment, when they are considered as qualities which deserve praise and admiration, are supposed to imply a delicacy of sentiment and an acuteness of understanding not commonly to be met with; so the virtues of sensibility and self–command are not apprehended to consist in the ordinary, but in the uncommon degrees of those qualities. The amiable virtue of humanity requires, surely, a sensibility, much beyond what is possessed by the rude vulgar of mankind. The great and exalted virtue of magnanimity undoubtedly demands much more than that degree of self–command, which the weakest of mortals is capable of exerting. As in the common degree of the intellectual qualities, there is no abilities; so in the common degree of the moral, there is no virtue. Virtue is excellence, something uncommonly great and beautiful, which rises far above what is vulgar and ordinary. The amiable virtues consist in that degree of sensibility which surprises by its exquisite and unexpected delicacy and tenderness. The awful and respectable, in that degree of self–command which astonishes by its amazing superiority over the most ungovernable passions of human nature.
7There is, in this respect, a considerable difference between virtue and mere propriety; between those qualities and actions which deserve to be admired and celebrated, and those which simply deserve to be approved of. Upon many occasions, to act with the most perfect propriety, requires no more than that common and ordinary degree of sensibility or self–command which the most worthless of mankind are possest of, and sometimes even that degree is not necessary. Thus, to give a very low instance, to eat when we are hungry, is certainly, upon ordinary occasions, perfectly right and proper, and cannot miss being approved of as such by every body. Nothing, however, could be more absurd than to say it was virtuous.
8On the contrary, there may frequently be a considerable degree of virtue in those actions which fall short of the most perfect propriety; because they may still approach nearer to perfection than could well be expected upon occasions in which it was so extremely difficult to attain it: and this is very often the case upon those occasions which require the greatest exertions of self–command. There are some situations which bear so hard upon human nature, that the greatest degree of self–government, which can belong to so imperfect a creature as man, is not able to stifle, altogether, the voice of human weakness, or reduce the violence of the passions to that pitch of moderation, in which the impartial spectator can entirely enter into them. Though in those cases, therefore, the behaviour of the sufferer fall short of the most perfect propriety, it may still deserve some applause, and even in a certain sense, may be denominated virtuous. It may still manifest an effort of generosity and magnanimity of which the greater part of men are incapable; and though it fails of absolute perfection, it may be a much nearer approximation towards perfection, than what, upon such trying occasions, is commonly either to be found or to be expected.
9In cases of this kind, when we are determining the degree of blame or applause which seems due to any action, we very frequently make use of two different standards. The first is the idea of complete propriety and perfection, which, in those difficult situations, no human conduct ever did, or ever can come up to; and in comparison with which the actions of all men must for ever appear blameable and imperfect. The second is the idea of that degree of proximity or distance from this complete perfection, which the actions of the greater part of men commonly arrive at. Whatever goes beyond this degree, how far soever it may be removed from absolute perfection, seems to deserve applause; and whatever falls short of it, to deserve blame.
10It is in the same manner that we judge of the productions of all the arts which address themselves to the imagination. When a critic examines the work of any of the great masters in poetry or painting, he may sometimes examine it by an idea of perfection, in his own mind, which neither that nor any other human work will ever come up to; and as long as he compares it with this standard, he can see nothing in it but faults and imperfections. But when he comes to consider the rank which it ought to hold among other works of the same kind, he necessarily compares it with a very different standard, the common degree of excellence which is usually attained in this particular art; and when he judges of it by this new measure, it may often appear to deserve the highest applause, upon account of its approaching much nearer to perfection than the greater part of those works which can be brought into competition with it.
 Smith’s distinction between the ‘amiable’ and the ‘awful’ or ‘respectable’ virtues is influenced, at least in the words used, by some remarks of Hume: ‘The characters of Caesar and Cato, as drawn by Sallust, are both of them virtuous, in the strictest sense of the word; but in a different way: Nor are the sentiments entirely the same, which arise from them. The one produces love; the other esteem: The one is amiable; the other awful: We cou’d wish to meet with the one character in a friend; the other character we wou’d be ambitious of in ourselves.’ (Treatise of Human Nature, III.iii.4; ed. L. A. Selby–Bigge, 607–8. Cf. Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, appendix iv; ed. Selby–Bigge, § 265.) The distinction is, however, far more important for Smith than for Hume. Smith gives the second type of virtue an equal place with benevolence or humanity in constituting human perfection and sets ‘the great precept of nature’ on a par with ‘the great law of Christianity’ (§ 5 below); he combines the Christian ethic of love with the Stoic ethic of self–command. This feature of Smith’s moral philosophy marks a striking divergence from the position of Hutcheson and Hume.
[a–a]5 ∼. 1–3 ∼? 4 6 7 The exclamation mark of ed. 5, which produces consistency with the preceding paragraph, was overlooked when ed. 6 was prepared from a copy of ed. 4.
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, vol. I of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter: b chap. i b: c Of the Principle of Self–approbation and of Self–disapprobation c
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1In the two foregoing parts of this discourse, I have chiefly considered the origin and foundation of our judgments concerning the sentiments and conduct of others. I come now to consider dmore particularlyd the origin of those concerning our own.
2eThe principle by which we naturally either approve or disapprove of our own conduct, seems to be altogether the same with that by which we exercise the like judgments concerning the conduct of other people. We either approve or disapprove of the conduct of another man according as we feel that, when we bring his case home to ourselves, we either can or cannot entirely sympathize with the sentiments and motives which directed it. And, in the same manner, we either approve or disapprove of our own conduct, according as we feel that, when we place ourselves in the situation of another man, and view it, as it were, with his eyes and from his station, we either can or cannot entirely enter into and sympathize with the sentiments and motives which influenced it. We can never survey our own sentiments and motives, we can never form any judgment concerning them; unless we remove ourselves, as it were, from our own natural station, and endeavour to view them as at a certain distance from us. But we can do this in no other way than by endeavouring to view them with the eyes of other people, or as other people are likely to view them.efWhatever judgment we can form concerning them, accordingly, must always bearf some secret reference, either to what are, or to what, upon a certain condition, would be, or to what, we imagine, ought to be the gjudgmentg of others. hWe endeavour to examine our own conduct as we imagine any other fair and impartial spectatorh would examine it. If, upon placing ourselves in his situation, we thoroughly enter into all the passions and motives which influenced it, we approve of it, by sympathy with the approbation of this supposed equitable judge. If otherwise, we enter into his disapprobation, and condemn it.
3Were it possible that a human creature could grow up to manhood in some solitary place, without any communication with his own species, he could no more think of his own character, of the propriety or demerit of his own sentiments and conduct, of the beauty or deformity of his own mind, than of the beauty or deformity of his own face. All these are objects which he cannot easily see, which naturally he does not look at, iand with regard to which he is provided with no mirror which can present them to his view.i Bring him into society, and he is immediately provided with the mirror which he wanted before.1 It is placed in the countenance and behaviour of those he lives with, which always mark when they enter into, and when they disapprove of his sentiments; and it is here that he first views the propriety and impropriety of his own passions, the beauty and deformity of his own mind. To a man who from his birth was a stranger to society, the objects of his passions, the external bodies which either pleased or hurt him, would occupy his whole attention. The passions themselves, the desires or aversions, the joys or sorrows, which those objects excited, though of all things the most immediately present to him, could scarce ever be the objects of his thoughts. The idea of them could never interest him so much as to call upon his attentive consideration. The consideration of his joy could in him excite no new joy, nor that of his sorrow any new sorrow, though the consideration of the causes of those passions might often excite both. Bring him into society, and all his own passions will immediately become the causes of new passions. He will observe that mankind approve of some of them, and are disgusted by others. He will be elevated in the one case, and cast down in the other; his desires and aversions, his joys and sorrows, will now often become the causes of new desires and new aversions, new joys and new sorrows: they will now, therefore, interest him deeply, and often call upon his most attentive consideration.k
4Our first ideas of personal beauty and deformity, are drawn from the shape and appearance of others, not from our own. We soon become sensible, however, that others exercise the same criticism upon us. We are pleased when they approve of our figure, and are disobliged when they seem to be disgusted. We become anxious to know how far our appearance deserves either their blame or approbation. We examine our persons limb by limb, and by placing ourselves before a looking–glass, or by some such expedient, endeavour, as much as possible, to view ourselves at the distance and with the eyes of other people. If, after this examination, we are satisfied with our own appearance, we can more easily support the most disadvantageous judgments of others. If, on the contrary, we are sensible that we are the natural objects of distaste, every appearance of their disapprobation mortifies us beyond all measure. A man who is tolerably handsome, will allow you to laugh at any little irregularity in his person; but all such jokes are commonly unsupportable to one who is really deformed. It is evident, however, that we are anxious about our own beauty and deformity, only upon account of its effect upon others. If we had no connexion with society, we should be altogether indifferent about either.
5In the same manner our first moral criticisms are exercised upon the characters and conduct of other people; and we are all very forward to observe how each of these affects us. But we soon learn, that other people are equally frank with regard to our own. We become anxious to know how far we deserve their censure or applause, and whether to them we must necessarily appear those agreeable or disagreeable creatures which they represent us. We begin, upon this account, to examine our own passions and conduct, and to consider how these must appear to them, by considering how they would appear to us if in their situation. We suppose ourselves the spectators of our own behaviour, and endeavour to imagine what effect it would, in this light, produce upon us. This is the only looking–glass by which we can, in some measure, with the eyes of other people, scrutinize the propriety of our own conduct. If in this view it pleases us, we are tolerably satisfied. We can be more indifferent about the applause, and, in some measure, despise the censure of lthe world;l secure that, however misunderstood or misrepresented, we are the natural and proper objects of approbation. On the contrary, if we are mdoubtful aboutm it, we are often, upon that very account, more anxious to gain their approbation, and, provided we have not already, as they say, shaken hands with infamy, we are altogether distracted at the thoughts of their censure, which then strikes us with double severity.n
6o When I endeavour to examine my own conduct, when I endeavour to pass sentence upon it, and either to approve or condemn it, it is evident that, in all such cases, I divide myself, as it were, into two persons; and that I, the examiner and judge, represent a different character from that other I, the person whose conduct is examined into and judged of. The first is the spectator, whose sentiments with regard to my own conduct I endeavour to enter into, by placing myself in his situation, and by considering how it would appear to me, when seen from that particular point of view. The second is the agent, the person whom I properly call myself, and of whose conduct, under the character of a spectator, I was endeavouring to form some opinion. The first is the judge; the second the pperson judged of.p But that the judge should, in every respect, be the same with the qperson judged of,q is as impossible, as that the cause should, in every respect, be the same with the effect.
7r To be amiable and to be meritorious; that is, to deserve love and to deserve reward, are the great characters of virtue; and to be odious and punishable, of vice. But all these characters have an immediate reference to the sentiments of others. Virtue is not said to be amiable, or to be meritorious, because it is the object of its own love, or of its own gratitude; but because it excites those sentiments in other men. The consciousness that it is the object of such favourable regards, is the source of that inward tranquillity and self–satisfaction with which it is naturally attended, as the suspicion of the contrary gives occasion to the torments of vice. What so great happiness as to be beloved, and to know that we deserve to be beloved? What so great misery as to be hated, and to know that we deserve to be hated?s
[b–b] SECT. I 1
[c–c] Of the consciousness of merited praise or blame 1 idem ital. 2–5 Apart from the first paragraph, the content of Sect. i in ed. 1 (Chap. 1 in eds. 2–5) is largely what became part of Chap. 2 in ed. 6.
[e–e]These five sentences were added in ed. 6. After the end of § 1, ed. 1 (followed by eds. 2–5 with variants as indicated) proceeds:
The desire of the approbation and esteem of those we live with, which is of so much [of such 2–5] importance to our happiness, cannot be fully and intirely [entirely 4 5] contented but by rendering ourselves the just and proper objects of those sentiments, and by adjusting our own character and conduct according to those measures and rules by which esteem and approbation are naturally bestowed. It is not sufficient, that from ignorance or mistake, . . .
The passage continues as in III.2.4 (second sentence) to the end of III.2.5, and then proceeds to give the major part of III.2.9. Sect. i in ed. 1 (Chap. 1 in eds. 2–5) ends there, and Sect. ii (Chap. 2 in eds. 2–5) begins as follows:
sect. ii [chap. ii2–5]
In what manner our own judgments refer to what ought to be the judgments of others: And [and 2–5] of the origin of general rules [ital. 2–5]
A Great part, perhaps the greatest part [part, 2] of human happiness and misery arises from the view of our past conduct, and from the degree of approbation or disapprobation which we feel from the consideration of it. But in whatever manner it may affect us, our sentiments of this kind have always some secret reference. . . .
Sect. ii of ed. 1 (Chap. 2 of eds. 2–5) then proceeds more or less as in the text of ed. 6 at the end of the five new sentences.
[f–f] But in whatever manner it [i.e. our past conduct] may affect us, our sentiments of this kind have always 1–5
[g–g] sentiments 1–5
[h–h] We examine it as we imagine an impartial spectator 1–5
[i–i] and upon which he is provided with no mirror to enable him to turn his eyes. 1
 Cf. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, II.ii.5; ed. Selby–Bigge, 365; (after speaking of sympathy in relation to personal beauty): ‘the minds of men are mirrors to one another, not only because they reflect each others emotions, but also because those rays of passions, sentiments and opinions may be often reverberated . . .’.
[k]Between § 3 and § 4, ed. 1 inserts three further paragraphs. —To be amiable . . . deserve to be hated?—was transferred in ed. 2 so as to follow what is now § 6; it remained there in the subsequent editions, and is now § 7.  and  are given below.  was withdrawn in ed. 2, which substituted an improved expression of its thought in the paragraph that is now § 6.  was retained, with slight revision (noted in the variants below), in ed. 2, but was transferred so as to follow the present § 7; it remained there in eds. 3–5, but was withdrawn in ed. 6. We show variants not only of eds. 2–5 but also of the draft revision for ed. 2 enclosed with Letter 40 addressed to Sir Gilbert Elliot, dated 10 October 1759. The draft is in the hand of an amanuensis with light revision in Smith’s own hand. The commas that the draft adds to the text of ed. 1 were inserted by Smith himself.
 To judge of ourselves as we judge of others, to approve and condemn in ourselves what we approve and condemn in others, is the greatest exertion of candour and impartiality. In order to do this, we must look at ourselves with the same eyes with which we look at others: we must imagine ourselves not the actors, but the spectators of our own character and conduct, and consider how these would affect us when viewed from this new station, in which their excellencies and imperfections can alone be discovered. We must enter, in short, either into what are, or into what ought to be, or into what, if the whole circumstances of our conduct were known, we imagine would be the sentiments of others, before we can either applaud or condemn it.
 A moral being is an accountable being. An [Man is considered as a moral, because he is regarded as an accountable being. But an draft 2–5] accountable being, as the word expresses, is a being that must give an account of its actions to some other, and that consequently [that, consequently, draft] must regulate them according to the good–liking [good liking draft 2–5] of this other. Man is accountable to God and his fellow creatures. [fellow–creatures. 2–5] But tho’ [though 2–5] he is, no doubt, principally accountable to God, [God; 3–5] in the order of time, [time 3] he must necessarily conceive himself as accountable to his fellow creatures, [fellow–creatures, 2–5] before he can form any idea of the Deity, or of the rules by which that Divine Being [divine being 2–5] will judge of his conduct. A child surely [child, surely, draft] conceives itself as accountable to its parents, and is elevated or cast down by the thought of their merited approbation or disapprobation, long before it forms any idea of its accountableness to the Deity, or of the rules by which that Divine Being [Divine being draft divine being 2–5] will judge of its conduct.
[l–l] others; 1–5
[m–m] displeased with 1 3–5 pleased with 2 (corr. 2E)
[n]After the end of § 5, ed. 1 adds a further paragraph:
Unfortunately this moral looking–glass is not always a very good one. Common looking–glasses, it is said, are extremely deceitful, and by the glare which they throw over the face, conceal from the partial eyes of the person many deformities which are obvious to every body besides. But there is not in the world such a smoother of wrinkles as is every man’s imagination, with regard to the blemishes of his own character.
Ed. 1 then proceeds to a passage which in ed. 6 became the major part of Chapter 4, There are two different occasions . . . (III.4.2) to the end of that chapter.
In ed. 2 (followed by eds. 3–5), the short paragraph quoted above was withdrawn, and § 6 was added.
[o] § 6 was added in the draft revision of 1759 and in ed. 2. It is an improved expression of the thought contained in paragraph  of the variants noted at § 3k.
[p–p] pannel. draft 2–5 ‘The panel’ is a Scots term for ‘the accused’ in a criminal law trial.
[q–q] pannel, draft 2–5
[r]See notek to § 3.
[s]After the end of § 7, the draft of 1759 and eds. 2–5 proceed with the slightly revised version of paragraph  given in the variants at § 3k. They then follow this with several paragraphs that give an earlier view of the thought contained in III.2.31–2. These paragraphs are printed in the textual note at III.2.31r . Eds. 2–5 next proceed more or less as in III.3.1–5, 7–9, and 11. (The draft has part of this material.) Thereafter they revert to the text of ed. 1 at what is now III.4.3. In all, ed. 2 has here added sixteen paragraphs to what was contained in ed. 1.
[r]See notek to § 3.
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie, vol. I of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). Chapter: a chap ii: Of the love of Praise, and of that of Praise–worthiness; and of the dread of Blame, and of that of Blame–worthiness
Accessed from oll.libertyfund.org/title/192/200125 on 2010-03-04
1Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love. He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of hatred. He desires, not only praise, but praise–worthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be praised by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of praise. He dreads, not only blame, but blame–worthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be blamed by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of blame.
2The love of praise–worthiness is by no means derived altogether from the love of praise. Those two principles, though they resemble one another, though they are connected, and often blended with one another, are yet, in many respects, distinct and independent of one another.
3The love and admiration which we naturally conceive for those whose character and conduct we approve of, necessarily dispose us to desire to become ourselves the objects of the like agreeable sentiments, and to be as amiable and as admirable as those whom we love and admire the most. Emulation, the anxious desire that we ourselves should excel, is originally founded in our admiration of the excellence of others. Neither can we be satisfied with being merely admired for what other people are admired. We must at least believe ourselves to be admirable for what they are admirable. But, in order to attain this satisfaction, we must become the impartial spectators of our own character and conduct. We must endeavour to view them with the eyes of other people, or as other people are likely to view them. When seen in this light, if they appear to us as we wish, we are happy and contented. But it greatly confirms this happiness and contentment when we find that other people, viewing them with those very eyes with which we, in imagination only, were endeavouring to view them, see them precisely in the same light in which we ourselves had seen them. Their approbation necessarily confirms our own self–approbation. Their praise necessarily strengthens our own sense of our own praise–worthiness. In this case, so far is the love of praise–worthiness from being derived altogether from that of praise; that the love of praise seems, at least in a great measure, to be derived from that of praise–worthiness.
4The most sincere praise can give little pleasure when it cannot be considered as some sort of proof of praise–worthiness. b It is cby no meansc sufficient that, from ignorance or mistake, esteem and dadmirationd should, in some way or other, be bestowed upon us. If we are conscious that we do not deserve to be so favourably thought of, and that if the truth were known, we should be regarded with very different sentiments, our satisfaction is far from being complete. The man who applauds us either for actions which we did not perform, or for motives which had no sort of influence upon our conduct, applauds not us, but another person. We can derive no sort of satisfaction from his praises. To us they should be more mortifying than any censure, and should perpetually call to our minds, the most humbling of all reflections, the reflection of what we ought to be, but what we are not. A woman who epaints, could derive, one should imagine, but little vanity from the compliments that are paid to her complexion.e These, we should expect, ought rather to put her in mind of the sentiments which her real complexion would excite, and mortify her the more by the contrast. To be pleased with such groundless applause is a proof of the most superficial levity and weakness. It is what is properly called vanity, and is the foundation of the most ridiculous and contemptible vices, the vices of affectation and common lying; follies which, if experience did not teach us how common they are, one should imagine the least spark of common sense would save us from. The foolish liar, who endeavours to excite the admiration of the company by the relation of adventures which never had any existence; the important coxcomb, who gives himself airs of rank and distinction which he well knows he has no just pretensions to; are both of them, no doubt, pleased with the applause which they fancy they meet with. But their vanity arises from so gross an illusion of the imagination, that it is difficult to conceive how any rational creature should be imposed upon by it. When they place themselves in the situation of those whom they fancy they have deceived, they are struck with the highest admiration for their own persons. They look upon themselves, not in that light in which, they know, they ought to appear to their companions, but in that in which they believe their companions actually look upon them. Their superficial weakness and trivial folly hinder them from ever turning their eyes inwards, or from seeing themselves in that despicable point of view in which their own consciences fmustf tell them that they would appear to every body, if the real truth should ever come to be known.
5As ignorant and groundless praise can give no solid joy, no satisfaction that will bear any serious examination, so, on the contrary, it often gives real comfort to reflect, that though no praise should actually be bestowed upon us, our conduct, however, has been such as to deserve it, and has been in every respect suitable to those measures and rules by which praise and approbation are naturally and commonly bestowed. We are pleased, not only with praise, but with having done what is praise–worthy. We are pleased to think that we have rendered ourselves the natural objects of approbation, though no approbation should ever actually be bestowed upon us: and we are mortified to reflect that we have justly gmeritedg the blame of those we live with, though that sentiment should never actually be exerted against us. The man who is conscious to himself that he has exactly observed those measures of conduct which experience informs him are generally agreeable, reflects with satisfaction on the propriety of his own behaviour. When he views it in the light in which the impartial spectator would view it, he thoroughly enters into all the motives which influenced it. He looks back upon every part of it with pleasure and approbation, and though mankind should never be acquainted with what he has done, he regards himself, not so much according to the light in which they actually regard him, as according to that in which they would regard him if they were better informed. He anticipates the applause and admiration which in this case would be bestowed upon him, and he applauds and admires himself by sympathy with sentiments, which do not indeed actually take place, but which the ignorance of the public alone hinders from taking place, which he knows are the natural and ordinary effects of such conduct, which his imagination strongly connects with it, and which he has acquired a habit of conceiving as something that naturally and in propriety ought to follow from it. Men hhaveh voluntarily thrown away life to acquire after death a renown which they could no longer enjoy. Their imagination, in the mean time, anticipated that fame which was in future times to be bestowed upon them. Those applauses which they were never to hear rung in their ears; the thoughts of that admiration, whose effects they were never to feel, played about their hearts, banished from their breasts the strongest of all natural fears, and transported them to perform actions which seem almost beyond the reach of human nature. But in point of reality there is surely no great difference between that approbation which is not to be bestowed till we can no longer enjoy it, and that which, indeed, is never to be bestowed, but which would be bestowed, if the world was ever made to understand properly the real circumstances of our behaviour. If the one often produces such violent effects, we cannot wonder that the other should always be highly regarded.f
6Nature, when she formed man for society, endowed him with an original desire to please, and an original aversion to offend his brethren. She taught him to feel pleasure in their favourable, and pain in their unfavourable regard. She rendered their approbation most flattering and most agreeable to him for its own sake; and their disapprobation most mortifying and most offensive.
7But this desire of the approbation, and this aversion to the disapprobation of his brethren, would not alone have rendered him fit for that society for which he was made. Nature, accordingly, has endowed him, not only with a desire of being approved of, but with a desire of being what ought to be approved of; or of being what he himself approves of in other men. The first desire could only have made him wish to appear to be fit for society. The second was necessary in order to render him anxious to be really fit. The first could only have prompted him to the affectation of virtue, and to the concealment of vice. The second was necessary in order to inspire him with the real love of virtue, and with the real abhorrence of vice. In every well–formed mind this second desire seems to be the strongest of the two. It is only the weakest and most superficial of mankind who can be much delighted with that praise which they themselves know to be altogether unmerited. A weak man may sometimes be pleased with it, but a wise man rejects it upon all occasions. But, though a wise man feels little pleasure from praise where he knows there is no praise–worthiness, he often feels the highest in doing what he knows to be praise–worthy, though he knows equally well that no praise is ever to be bestowed upon it. To obtain the approbation of mankind, where no approbation is due, can never be an object of any importance to him. To obtain that approbation where it is really due, may sometimes be an object of no great importance to him. But to be that thing which deserves approbation, must always be an object of the highest.
8To desire, or even to accept of praise, where no praise is due, can be the effect only of the most contemptible vanity. To desire it where it is really due, is to desire no more than that a most essential act of justice should be done to us. The love of just fame, of true glory, even for its own sake, and independent of any advantage which he can derive from it, is not unworthy even of a wise man. He sometimes, however, neglects, and even despises it; and he is never more apt to do so than when he has the most perfect assurance of the perfect propriety of every part of his own conduct. His self–approbation, in this case, stands in need of no confirmation from the approbation of other men. It is alone sufficient, and he is contented with it. This self–approbation, if not the only, is at least the principal object, about which he can or ought to be anxious. The love of it, is the love of virtue.
9As the love and admiration which we naturally conceive for some characters, dispose us to wish to become ourselves the proper objects of such agreeable sentiments; so the hatred and contempt which we as naturally conceive for others, dispose us, perhaps still more strongly, to dread the very thought of resembling them in any respect. Neither is it, in this case, too, so much the thought of being hated and despised that we are afraid of, as that of being hateful and despicable. We dread the thought of doing any thing which can render us the just and proper objects of the hatred and contempt of our fellow–creatures; even though we had the most perfect security that those sentiments were never actually to be exerted against us. k The man who has broke through all those measures of conduct, which can alone render him agreeable to mankind, though he should have the most perfect assurance that what he had done was for ever to be concealed from every human eye, it is all to no purpose. When he looks back upon it, and views it in the light in which the impartial spectator would view it, he finds that he can enter into none of the motives which influenced it. He is abashed and confounded at the thoughts of it, and necessarily feels a very high degree of that shame which he would be exposed to, if his actions should ever come to be generally known. His imagination, in this case too, anticipates the contempt and derision from which nothing saves him but the ignorance of those he lives with. He still feels that he is the natural object of these sentiments, and still trembles at the thought of what he would suffer, if they were ever actually exerted against him. But if what he had been guilty of was not merely one of those improprieties which are the objects of simple disapprobation, but one of those enormous crimes which excite detestation and resentment, he could never think of it, as long as he had any sensibility left, without feeling all the agony of horror and remorse; and though he could be assured that no man was ever to know it, and could even bring himself to believe that there was no God to revenge it, he would still feel enough of both these sentiments to embitter the whole of his life: he would still regard himself as the natural object of the hatred and indignation of all his fellow–creatures; and, if his heart was not grown callous by the habit of crimes, he could not think without terror and astonishment even of the manner in which mankind would look upon him, of what would be the expression of their countenance and of their eyes, if the dreadful truth should ever come to be known. These natural pangs of an affrighted conscience are the daemons, the avenging furies, which, in this life, haunt the guilty, which allow them neither quiet nor repose, which often drive them to despair and distraction, from which no assurance of secrecy can protect them, from which no principles of irreligion can entirely deliver them, and from which nothing can free them but the vilest and most abject of all states, a complete insensibility to honour and infamy, to vice and virtue. Men of the most detestable characters, who, in the execution of the most dreadful crimes, had taken their measures so coolly as to avoid even the suspicion of guilt, have sometimes been driven, by the horror of their situation, to discover, of their own accord, what no human sagacity could ever have investigated. By acknowledging their guilt, by submitting themselves to the resentment of their offended fellow–citizens, and, by thus satiating that vengeance of which they were sensible that they had become the proper objects, they hoped, by their death to reconcile themselves, at least in their own imagination, to the natural sentiments of mankind; to be able to consider themselves as less worthy of hatred and resentment; to atone, in some measure, for their crimes, and lby thus becoming the objects, rather of compassion than of horror,l if mpossiblem to die in peace and with the forgiveness of all their fellow–creatures. Compared to what they felt before the discovery, even the thought of this, it seems, was happiness.n
10o In such cases, the horror of blame–worthiness seems, even in persons who cannot be suspected of any extraordinary delicacy or sensibility of character, completely to conquer the dread of blame. In order to allay that horror, in order to pacify, in some degree, the remorse of their own consciences, they voluntarily submitted themselves both to the reproach and to the punishment which they knew were due to their crimes, but which, at the same time, they might easily have avoided.
11They are the most frivolous and superficial of mankind only who can be much delighted with that praise which they themselves know to be altogether unmerited. Unmerited reproach, however, is frequently capable of mortifying very severely even men of more than ordinary constancy. Men of the most ordinary constancy, indeed, easily learn to despise those foolish tales which are so frequently circulated in society, and which, from their own absurdity and falsehood, never fail to die away in the course of a few weeks, or of a few days. But an innocent man, though of more than ordinary constancy, is often, not only shocked, but most severely mortified by the serious, though false, imputation of a crime; especially when that imputation happens unfortunately to be supported by some circumstances which give it an air of probability. He is humbled to find that any body should think so meanly of his character as to suppose him capable of being guilty of it. Though perfectly conscious of his own innocence, the very imputation seems often, even in his own imagination, to throw a shadow of disgrace and dishonour upon his character. His just indignation, too, at so very gross an injury, which, however, it may frequently be improper, and sometimes even impossible to revenge, is itself a very painful sensation. There is no greater tormentor of the human breast than violent resentment which cannot be gratified. An innocent man, brought to the scaffold by the false imputation of an infamous or odious crime, suffers the most cruel misfortune which it is possible for innocence to suffer. The agony of his mind may, in this case, frequently be greater than that of those who suffer for the like crimes, of which they have been actually guilty. Profligate criminals, such as common thieves and highwaymen, have frequently little sense of the baseness of their own conduct, and consequently no remorse. Without troubling themselves about the justice or injustice of the punishment, they have always been accustomed to look upon the gibbet as a lot very likely to fall to them. When it does fall to them, therefore, they consider themselves only as not quite so lucky as some of their companions, and submit to their fortune, without any other uneasiness than what may arise from the fear of death; a fear which, even by such worthless wretches, we frequently see, can be so easily, and so very completely conquered. The innocent man, on the contrary, over and above the uneasiness which this fear may occasion, is tormented by his own indignation at the injustice which has been done to him. He is struck with horror at the thoughts of the infamy which the punishment may shed upon his memory, and foresees, with the most exquisite anguish, that he is hereafter to be remembered by his dearest friends and relations, not with regret and affection, but with shame, and even with horror for his supposed disgraceful conduct: and the shades of death appear to close round him with a darker and more melancholy gloom than naturally belongs to them. Such fatal accidents, for the tranquillity of mankind, it is to be hoped, happen very rarely in any country; but they happen sometimes in all countries, even in those where justice is in general very well administered. The unfortunate Calas, a man of much more than ordinary constancy (broke upon the wheel and burnt at Tholouse1 for the supposed murder of his own son, of which he was perfectly innocent), seemed, with his last breath, to deprecate, not so much the cruelty of the punishment, as the disgrace which the imputation might bring upon his memory. After he had been broke, and was just going to be thrown into the fire, the monk, who attended the execution, exhorted him to confess the crime for which he had been condemned. My Father, said Calas, can you yourself bring yourself to believe that I am guilty?
12To persons in such unfortunate circumstances, that humble philosophy which confines its views to this life, can afford, perhaps, but little consolation. Every thing that could render either life or death respectable is taken from them. They are condemned to death and to everlasting infamy. Religion can alone afford them any effectual comfort. She alone can tell them, that it is of little importance what man may think of their conduct, while the all–seeing Judge of the world approves of it. She alone can present to them the view of another world; a world of more candour, humanity, and justice, than the present; where their innocence is in due time to be declared, and their virtue to be finally rewarded: and the same great principle which can alone strike terror into triumphant vice, affords the only effectual consolation to disgraced and insulted innocence.
13In smaller offences, as well as in greater crimes, it frequently happens that a person of sensibility is much more hurt by the unjust imputation, than the real criminal is by the actual guilt. A woman of gallantry laughs even at the well–founded surmises which are circulated concerning her conduct. The worst founded surmise of the same kind is a mortal stab to an innocent virgin. The person who is deliberately guilty of a disgraceful action, we may lay it down, I believe, as a general rule, can seldom have much sense of the disgrace; and the person who is habitually guilty of it, can scarce ever have any.
14When every man, even of middling understanding, so readily despises unmerited applause, how it comes to pass that unmerited reproach should often be capable of mortifying so severely men of the soundest and best judgment, may, perhaps, deserve some consideration.
15Pain, I have already had occasion to observe,2 is, in almost all cases, a more pungent sensation than the opposite and correspondent pleasure. The one, almost always, depresses us much more below the ordinary, or what may be called the natural state of our happiness, than the other ever raises us above it. A man of sensibility is apt to be more humiliated by just censure than he is ever elevated by just applause. Unmerited applause a wise man rejects with contempt upon all occasions; but he often feels very severely the injustice of unmerited censure. By suffering himself to be applauded for what he has not performed, by assuming a merit which does not belong to him, he feels that he is guilty of a mean falsehood, and deserves, not the admiration, but the contempt of those very persons who, by mistake, had been led to admire him. It may, perhaps, give him some well–founded pleasure to find that he has been, by many people, thought capable of performing what he did not perform. But, though he may be obliged to his friends for their good opinion, he would think himself guilty of the greatest baseness if he did not immediately undeceive them. It gives him little pleasure to look upon himself in the light in which other people actually look upon him, when he is conscious that, if they knew the truth, they would look upon him in a very different light. A weak man, however, is often much delighted with viewing himself in this false and delusive light. He assumes the merit of every laudable action that is ascribed to him, and pretends to that of many which nobody ever thought of ascribing to him. He pretends to have done what he never did, to have written what another wrote, to have invented what another discovered; and is led into all the miserable vices of plagiarism and common lying. But though no man of middling good sense can derive much pleasure from the imputation of a laudable action which he never performed, yet a wise man may suffer great pain from the serious imputation of a crime which he never committed. Nature, in this case, has rendered the pain, not only more pungent than the opposite and correspondent pleasure, but she has rendered it so in a much greater than the ordinary degree. A denial rids a man at once of the foolish and ridiculous pleasure; but it will not always rid him of the pain. When he refuses the merit which is ascribed to him, nobody doubts his veracity. It may be doubted when he denies the crime which he is accused of. He is at once enraged at the falsehood of the imputation, and mortified to find that any credit should be given to it. He feels that his character is not sufficient to protect him. He feels that his brethren, far from looking upon him in that light in which he anxiously desires to be viewed by them, think him capable of being guilty of what he is accused of. He knows perfectly that he has not been guilty. He knows perfectly what he has done; but, perhaps, scarce any man can know perfectly what he himself is capable of doing. What the peculiar constitution of his own mind may or may not admit of, is, perhaps, more or less a matter of doubt to every man. The trust and good opinion of his friends and neighbours, tends more than any thing to relieve him from this most disagreeable doubt; their distrust and unfavourable opinion to increase it. He may think himself very confident that their unfavourable judgment is wrong: but this confidence can seldom be so great as to hinder that judgment from making some impression upon him; and the greater his sensibility, the greater his delicacy, the greater his worth in short, this impression is likely to be the greater.
16The agreement or disagreement both of the sentiments and judgments of other people with our own, is, in all cases, it must be observed, of more or less importance to us, exactly in proportion as we ourselves are more or less uncertain about the propriety of our own sentiments, about the accuracy of our own judgments.
17A man of sensibility may sometimes feel great uneasiness lest he should have yielded too much even to what may be called an honourable passion; to his just indignation, perhaps, at the injury which may have been done either to himself or to his friend. He is anxiously afraid lest, meaning only to act with spirit, and to do justice, he may, from the too great vehemence of his emotion, have done a real injury to some other person; who, though not innocent, may not have been altogether so guilty as he at first apprehended. The opinion of other people becomes, in this case, of the utmost importance to him. Their approbation is the most healing balsam; their disapprobation, the bitterest and most tormenting poison that can be poured into his uneasy mind. When he is perfectly satisfied with every part of his own conduct, the judgment of other people is often of less importance to him.
18There are some very noble and beautiful arts, in which the degree of excellence can be determined only by a certain nicety of taste, of which the decisions, however, appear always, in some measure, uncertain. There are others, in which the success admits, either of clear demonstration, or very satisfactory proof. Among the candidates for excellence in those different arts, the anxiety about the public opinion is always much greater in the former than in the latter.
19The beauty of poetry is a matter of such nicety, that a young beginner can scarce ever be certain that he has attained it. Nothing delights him so much, therefore, as the favourable judgments of his friends and of the public; and nothing mortifies him so severely as the contrary. The one establishes, the other shakes, the good opinion which he is anxious to entertain concerning his own performances. Experience and success may in time give him a little more confidence in his own judgment. He is at all times, however, liable to be most severely mortified by the unfavourable judgments of the public. Racine was so disgusted by the indifferent success of his Phaedra, the finest tragedy, perhaps, that is extant in any language, that, though in the vigour of his life, and at the height of his abilities, he resolved to write no more for the stage. That great poet used frequently to tell his son, that the most paltry and impertinent criticism had always given him more pain, than the highest and justest eulogy had ever given him pleasure.3 The extreme sensibility of Voltaire to the slightest censure of the same kind is well known to every body.4 The Dunciad of Mr. Pope is an everlasting monument of how much the most correct, as well as the most elegant and harmonious of all the English poets, had been hurt by the criticisms of the lowest and most contemptible authors.5 Gray (who joins to the sublimity of Milton the elegance and harmony of Pope, and to whom nothing is wanting to render him, perhaps, the first poet in the English language, but to have written a little more) is said to have been so much hurt, by a foolish and impertinent parody of two of his finest odes, that he never afterwards attempted any considerable work.6 Those men of letters who value themselves upon what is called fine writing in prose, approach somewhat to the sensibility of poets.
20Mathematicians, on the contrary, who may have the most perfect assurance, both of the truth and of the importance of their discoveries, are frequently very indifferent about the reception which they may meet with from the public. The two greatest mathematicians that I ever have had the honour to be known to, and, I believe, the two greatest that have lived in my time, Dr. Robert Simpson of Glasgow, and Dr. Matthew Stewart of Edinburgh,7 never seemed to feel even the slightest uneasiness from the neglect with which the ignorance of the public received some of their most valuable works. The great work of Sir Isaac Newton, phispMathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, I have been told, was for several years neglected by the public. The tranquillity of that great man, it is probable, never suffered, upon that account, the interruption of a single quarter of an hour. Natural philosophers, in their independency upon the public opinion, approach nearly to mathematicians, and, in their judgments concerning the merit of their own discoveries and observations, enjoy some degree of the same security and tranquillity.
21The morals of those different classes of men of letters are, perhaps, sometimes somewhat affected by this very great difference in their situation with regard to the public.
22Mathematicians and natural philosophers, from their independency upon the public opinion, have little temptation to form themselves into factions and cabals, either for the support of their own reputation, or for the depression of that of their rivals. They are almost always men of the most amiable simplicity of manners, who live in good harmony with one another, are the friends of one another’s reputation, enter into no intrigue in order to secure the public applause, but are pleased when their works are approved of, without being either much vexed or very angry when they are neglected.
23It is not always the same case with poets, or with those who value themselves upon what is called fine writing. They are very apt to divide themselves into a sort of literary factions; each cabal being often avowedly, and almost always secretly, the mortal enemy of the reputation of every other, and employing all the mean arts of intrigue and solicitation to preoccupy the public opinion in favour of the works of its own members, and against those of its enemies and rivals. In France, Despreaux and Racine did not think it below them to set themselves at the head of a literary cabal, in order to depress the reputation, first of Quinault and Perreault, and afterwards of Fontenelle and La Motte, and even to treat the good La Fontaine with a species of most disrespectful kindness.8 In England, the amiable Mr. Addison did not think it unworthy of his gentle and modest character to set himself at the head of a little cabal of the same kind, in order to keep down the rising reputation of Mr. Pope.9 Mr. Fontenelle, in writing the lives and characters of the members of the academy of sciences, a society of mathematicians and natural philosophers, has frequent opportunities of celebrating the amiable simplicity of their manners; a quality which, he observes, was so universal among them as to be characteristical, rather of that whole class of men of letters, than of any individual10 Mr. D’Alembert, in writing the lives and characters of the members of the French academy, a society of poets and fine writers, or of those who are supposed to be such, seems not to have had such frequent opportunities of making any remark of this kind, and nowhere pretends to represent this amiable quality as characteristical of that class qofq men of letters whom he celebrates.11
24Our uncertainty concerning our own merit, and our anxiety to think favourably of it, should together naturally enough make us desirous to know the opinion of other people concerning it; to be more than ordinarily elevated when that opinion is favourable, and to be more than ordinarily mortified when it is otherwise: but they should not make us desirous either of obtaining the favourable, or of avoiding the unfavourable opinion, by intrigue and cabal. When a man has bribed all the judges, the most unanimous decision of the court, though it may gain him his law–suit, cannot give him any assurance that he was in the right: and had he carried on his law–suit merely to satisfy himself that he was in the right, he never would have bribed the judges. But though he wished to find himself in the right, he wished likewise to gain his law–suit; and therefore he bribed the judges. If praise were of no consequence to us, but as a proof of our own praise–worthiness, we never should endeavour to obtain it by unfair means. But, though to wise men it is, at least in doubtful cases, of principal consequence upon this account; it is likewise of some consequence upon its own account: and therefore (we cannot, indeed, upon such occasions, call them wise men, but) men very much above the common level have sometimes attempted both to obtain praise, and to avoid blame, by very unfair means.
25Praise and blame express what actually are; praise–worthiness and blame–worthiness, what naturally ought to be the sentiments of other people with regard to our character and conduct. The love of praise is the desire of obtaining the favourable sentiments of our brethren. The love of praise–worthiness is the desire of rendering ourselves the proper objects of those sentiments. So far those two principles resemble and are akin to one another. The like affinity and resemblance take place between the dread of blame and that of blame–worthiness.
26The man who desires to do, or who actually does, a praise–worthy action, may likewise desire the praise which is due to it, and sometimes, perhaps, more than is due to it. The two principles are in this case blended together. How far his conduct may have been influenced by the one, and how far by the other, may frequently be unknown even to himself. It must almost always be so to other people. They who are disposed to lessen the merit of his conduct, impute it chiefly or altogether to the mere love of praise, or to what they call mere vanity. They who are disposed to think more favourably of it, impute it chiefly or altogether to the love of praise–worthiness; to the love of what is really honourable and noble in human conduct; to the desire, not merely of obtaining, but of deserving the approbation and applause of his brethren. The imagination of the spectator throws upon it either the one colour or the other, according either to his habits of thinking, or to the favour or dislike which he may bear to the person whose conduct he is considering.
27Some splenetic philosophers, in judging of human nature, have done as peevish individuals are apt to do in judging of the conduct of one another, and have imputed to the love of praise, or to what they call vanity, every action which ought to be ascribed to that of praise–worthiness. I shall here–after have occasion to give an account of some of their systems, and shall not at present stop to examine them.12
28Very few men can be satisfied with their own private consciousness that they have attained those qualities, or performed those actions, which they admire and think praise–worthy in other people; unless it is, at the same time, generally acknowledged that they possess the one, or have performed the other; or, in other words, unless they have actually obtained that praise which they think due both to the one and to the other. In this respect, however, men differ considerably from one another. Some seem indifferent about the praise, when, in their own minds, they are perfectly satisfied that they have attained the praise–worthiness. Others appear much less anxious about the praise–worthiness than about the praise.
29No man can be completely, or even tolerably satisfied, with having avoided every thing blame–worthy in his conduct; unless he has likewise avoided the blame or the reproach. A wise man may frequently neglect praise, even when he has best deserved it; but, in all matters of serious consequence, he will most carefully endeavour so to regulate his conduct as to avoid, not only blame–worthiness, but, as much as possible, every probable imputation of blame. He will never, indeed, avoid blame by doing any thing which he judges blame–worthy; by omitting any part of his duty, or by neglecting any opportunity of doing any thing which he judges to be really and greatly praise–worthy. But, with these modifications, he will most anxiously and carefully avoid it. To show much anxiety about praise, even for praise–worthy actions, is seldom a mark of great wisdom, but generally of some degree of weakness. But, in being anxious to avoid the shadow of blame or reproach, there may be no weakness, but frequently the most praise–worthy prudence.
30‘Many people,’ says Cicero, ‘despise glory, who are yet most severely mortified by unjust reproach; and that most inconsistently.’13 This inconsistency, however, seems to be founded in the unalterable principles of human nature.
31r The all–wise Author of Nature has, in this manner, taught man to respect the sentiments and judgments of his brethren; to be more or less pleased when they approve of his conduct, and to be more or less hurt when they disapprove of it. He has made man, if I may say so, the immediate judge of mankind; and has, in this respect, as in many others, created him after his own image, and appointed him his vicegerent upon earth, to superintend the behaviour of his brethren. They are taught by nature, to acknowledge that power and jurisdiction which has thus been conferred upon him, to be more or less humbled and mortified when they have incurred his censure, and to be more or less elated when they have obtained his applause.
32But though man has, in this manner, been rendered the immediate judge of mankind, he has been rendered so only in the first instance; and an appeal lies from his sentence to a much higher tribunal, to the tribunal of their own consciences, to that of the supposed impartial and well–informed spectator, to that of the man within the breast, the great judge and arbiter of their conduct. The jurisdictions of those two tribunals are founded upon principles which, though in some respects resembling and akin, are, however, in reality different and distinct. The jurisdiction of the man without, is founded altogether in the desire of actual praise, and in the aversion to actual blame. The jurisdiction of the man within, is founded altogether in the desire of praise–worthiness, and in the aversion to blame–worthiness; in the desire of possessing those qualities, and performing those actions, which we love and admire in other people; and in the dread of possessing those qualities, and performing those actions, which we hate and despise in other people. If the man without should applaud us, either for actions which we have not performed, or for motives which had no influence upon us; the man within can immediately humble that pride and elevation of mind which such groundless acclamations might otherwise occasion, by telling us, that as we know that we do not deserve them, we render ourselves despicable by accepting them. If, on the contrary, the man without should reproach us, either for actions which we never performed, or for motives which had no influence upon those which we may have performed; the man within may immediately correct this false judgment, and assure us, that we are by no means the proper objects of that censure which has so unjustly been bestowed upon us. But in this and in some other cases, the man within seems sometimes, as it were, astonished and confounded by the vehemence and clamour of the man without. The violence and loudness, with which blame is sometimes poured out upon us, seems to stupify and benumb our natural sense of praise–worthiness and blame–worthiness; and the judgments of the man within, though not, perhaps, absolutely altered or perverted, are, however, so much shaken in the steadiness and firmness of their decision, that their natural effect, in securing the tranquillity of the mind, is frequently in a great measure destroyed. We scarce dare to absolve ourselves, when all our brethren appear loudly to condemn us. The supposed impartial spectator of our conduct seems to give his opinion in our favour with fear and hesitation; when that of all the real spectators, when that of all those with whose eyes and from whose station he endeavours to consider it, is unanimously and violently against us. In such cases, this demigod within the breast appears, like the demigods of the poets, though partly of immortal, yet partly too of mortal extraction. When his judgments are steadily and firmly directed by the sense of praise–worthiness and blame–worthiness, he seems to act suitably to his divine extraction: But when he suffers himself to be astonished and confounded by the judgments of ignorant and weak man, he discovers his connexion with mortality, and appears to act suitably, rather to the human, than to the divine, part of his origin.
33In such cases, the only effectual consolation of humbled and afflicted man lies in an appeal to a still higher tribunal, to that of the all–seeing Judge of the world, whose eye can never be deceived, and whose judgments can never be perverted. A firm confidence in the unerring rectitude of this great tribunal, before which his innocence is in due time to be declared, and his virtue to be finally rewarded, can alone support him under the weakness and despondency of his own mind, under the perturbation and astonishment of the man within the breast, whom nature has set up as, in this life, the great guardian, not only of his innocence, but of his tranquillity. Our happiness in this life is thus, upon many occasions, dependent upon the humble hope and expectation of a life to come: a hope and expectation deeply rooted in human nature; which can alone support its lofty ideas of its own dignity; can alone illumine the dreary prospect of its continually approaching mortality, and maintain its cheerfulness under all the heaviest calamities to which, from the disorders of this life, it may sometimes be exposed. That there is a world to come, where exact justice will be done to every man, where every man will be ranked with those who, in the moral and intellectual qualities, are really his equals; where the owner of those humble talents and virtues which, from being depressed by fortune, had, in this life, no opportunity of displaying themselves; which were unknown, not only to the public, but which he himself could scarce be sure that he possessed, and for which even the man within the breast could scarce venture to afford him any distinct and clear testimony; where that modest, silent, and unknown merit, will be placed upon a level, and sometimes above those who, in this world, had enjoyed the highest reputation, and who, from the advantage of their situation, had been enabled to perform the most splendid and dazzling actions; is a doctrine, in every respect so venerable, so comfortable to the weakness, so flattering to the grandeur of human nature, that the virtuous man who has the misfortune to doubt of it, cannot possibly avoid wishing most earnestly and anxiously to believe it. It could never have been exposed to the derision of the scoffer, had not the distributions of rewards and punishments, which some of its most zealous assertors have taught us was to be made in that world to come, been too frequently in direct opposition to all our moral sentiments.
34That the assiduous courtier is often more favoured than the faithful and active servant; that attendance and adulation are often shorter and surer roads to preferment than merit or service; and that a campaign at Versailles or St. James’s14 is often worth two either in Germany or Flanders, is a complaint which we have all heard from many a venerable, but discontented, old officer. But what is considered as the greatest reproach even to the weakness of earthly sovereigns, has been ascribed, as an act of justice, to divine perfection; and the duties of devotion, the public and private worship of the Deity, have been represented, even by men of virtue and abilities, as the sole virtues which can either entitle to reward or exempt from punishment in the life to come. They were the virtues, perhaps, most suitable to their station, and in which they themselves chiefly excelled; and we are all naturally disposed to over–rate the excellencies of our own characters. In the discourse which the eloquent and philosophical Massillon15 pronounced, on giving his benediction to the standards of the regiment of Catinat, there is the following address to the officers: ‘What is most deplorable in your situation, Gentlemen, is, that in a life hard and painful, in which the services and the duties sometimes go beyond the rigour and severity of the most austere cloisters; you suffer always in vain for the life to come, and frequently even for this life. Alas! the solitary monk in his cell, obliged to mortify the flesh and to subject it to the spirit, is supported by the hope of an assured recompence, and by the secret unction of that grace which softens the yoke of the Lord. But you, on the bed of death, can you dare to represent to Him your fatigues and the daily hardships of your employment? can you dare to solicit Him for any recompence? and in all the exertions that you have made, in all the violences that you have done to yourselves, what is there that He ought to place to His own account? The best days of your life, however, have been sacrificed to your profession, and ten years service has more worn out your body, than would, perhaps, have done a whole life of repentance and mortification. Alas! my brother, one single day of those sufferings, consecrated to the Lord, would, perhaps, have obtained you an eternal happiness. One single action, painful to nature, and offered up to Him, would, perhaps, have secured to you the inheritance of the Saints. And you have done all this, and in vain, for this world.’
35To compare, in this manner, 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; to all the principles by which nature has taught us to regulate our contempt or admiration. It is this spirit, however, 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; all the great protectors, instructors, and benefactors of mankind; all those to whom our natural sense of praise–worthiness forces us to ascribe the highest merit and most exalted virtue. Can we wonder that so strange an application of this most respectable doctrine should sometimes have exposed it to contempt and derision; with those at least who had themselves, perhaps, no great taste or turn for the devout and contemplative virtues* ?
[a]Most of the content of this chapter was added or re–written for ed. 6. §§ 1–3, §§ 6–8, the beginning of § 9, §§ 10–30, and §§ 33–5 are quite new, while §§ 31–2 re–state in a new form the thought of several paragraphs that were added in the draft revision of 1759 and in ed. 2 and were then withdrawn in ed. 6. §§ 4–5 and most of § 9 repeat, with light revision, what formed the major part of Section i in ed. 1 and of Chapter 1 in ed. 2. See notek at III.1.2.
[b]The passage from this point to the end of § 5 formed part of Sect. i in ed. 1, and of Chap. 1 in ed. 2.
[c–c] not 1–5
[d–d] approbation 1–5
[e–e] paints to conceal her ugliness, could derive, . . . paid to her beauty. 1–5
[f–f] should 1–5
[g–g] incurred 1–5
[h–h] have often 1–5
[f]After the end of § 5, eds. 1–5 proceed with a paragraph which begins On the contrary, the man who has broke . . . and which continues as at § 9k.
[k]In eds. 1–5, a new paragraph, following § 5, begins here: On the contrary, the man . . .
[m–m]7 possible, 1–6 The addition of l– in ed. 6 rendered this comma unintentionally ambiguous.
[n]At this point, ed. 1 ends Sect. i and begins Sect. ii as shown in notec–c to III.1.2. Eds. 2–5 follow ed. 1 but with chapters instead of sections.
[o]The remainder of this chapter was added in ed. 6. But see also noter at § 31.
 On 10 March 1762. Jean Calas was a Calvinist, whose eldest son decided to renounce the family faith for Roman Catholicism in order to be eligible for the bar but then committed suicide in a fit of remorse. The father was accused of murdering him and was found guilty with no shred of proof. Owing to the efforts of Voltaire a new trial was eventually held on 9 March 1765. Calas was declared innocent and his family was granted compensation.
Adam Smith will have heard much of this cause célèbre when he resided at Toulouse for eighteen months in 1764–5, and his anecdote of Calas’s last words to the monk is doubtless recalled from conversations at that time.
 Racine’s Phèdre was first produced on 1 January 1677. Its lack of success was partly due to the plot of a hostile faction who engaged Nicolas Pradon to treat of the same subject in a play called Phèdre et Hippolyte, produced two days later. Modern scholars take the view that Racine’s withdrawal from dramatic poetry for twelve years had more than one cause, his appointment as a royal historiographer, his return to religion, and his resentment of the plot against the success of Phèdre. They attach least weight to the third of these.
 An instance that Smith will have had in mind was Voltaire’s pique at Lord Kames’s disapproval, in Elements of Criticism, of the Henriade. Not content with ridiculing the Elements in a review, Voltaire showed on several subsequent occasions that he could neither forgive nor forget Kames’s criticism.
 Alexander Pope’s satiric poem, The Dunciad, is directed against a number of his critics but especially (in its first version, 1728) against Lewis Theobald, who had attacked Pope’s edition of Shakespeare.
 Thomas Gray’s two Pindaric odes, ‘The Progress of Poesy’ and ‘The Bard’ (1757), were parodied by Robert Lloyd and George Colman the elder in an ode ‘To Obscurity’, published in 1760 together with a second ode ‘To Oblivion’ parodying the ‘Ode to Memory’ (1756) by Gray’s friend William Mason. Mason was indeed hurt but there is doubt whether Gray was. Overtly at least, Gray took the parody in good part. See R. Halsband, ‘A Parody of Thomas Gray’, Philological Quarterly, xxii (1943), 255–66. (On p. 264, note 42, Mr. Halsband says that Adam Smith’s account of the matter was first printed in ed. 7 of TMS, ‘which was revised by Smith and published posthumously in 1792’. This is incorrect. It appeared in ed. 6, and there is no reason to believe that Smith did any revision for ed. 7.)
For Smith’s praise of Gray, cf. LRBL ii.96 (Lothian ed., 123), where Smith says that the best of Horace’s Odes are inferior to Gray’s. Cf. also a report in The Bee, iii (11 May 1791), 6, of views expressed by Smith in an interview given in 1780: ‘At the same time, he mentioned Gray’s odes, which Johnson has damned so completely, and in my humble opinion with so much justice, as the standard of lyric excellence.’ Smith uses a line from ‘The Progress of Poesy’ (‘Yet oft, before his infant eyes, would run’) as an illustration in English and Italian Verses, 21, written after 1781 (and published in EPS).
 Robert Simson (1687–1768), Professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow, 1711–61. Matthew Stewart (1717–85), Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, 1747–75. Matthew Stewart, the father of Dugald Stewart, was a fellow–student of Smith when both were pupils of Simson. Rae (Life, 11) reminds us that when Smith wrote that these two men were the greatest mathematicians to whom he had been known, he had also been for many years a friend of d’Alembert.
[p–p]his 6 7
 Boileau (Nicolas Boileau–Despréaux) and Racine, who were close friends, espoused the cause of the ancients in the ‘Querelle des anciens et des modernes’. Philippe Quinault, dramatist, was parodied by Boileau. Charles Perrault, Fontenelle, and Houdar de La Motte were advocates of modernism in the ‘Querelle’. Perrault’s poem Siècle de Louis le Grand was attacked by Boileau; Fontenelle’s election to the Académie française was blocked on four occasions by Racine, Boileau, and their friends; La Motte incautiously showed his ‘modern’ adaptation of Homer’s Iliad to Boileau, who made fun of it. La Fontaine supported the ancients and was a fellow–member with Racine, Boileau, and Molière of a famous literary circle; Smith is probably thinking of a report, in Louis Racine’s Mémoires of his father, that Molière once protested when the others were teasing La Fontaine and that they all used to call him ‘le bonhomme’ because of his ingenuousness: Oeuvres de J. Racine, ed. Mesnard (Paris, 1912), i.270.
 Pope quarrelled with Addison in 1715 for describing Thomas Tickell’s verse translation of Homer as more accurate than Pope’s. His resentment was shown in some verses, written at this time but published later (and best known from the revised version in ‘An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot’), satirizing Addison and his ‘little senate’. There is no justification for Smith’s view that Addison’s literary circle was set up in order to decry Pope.
 Fontenelle was Secretary of the Académie des Sciences from 1699 to 1740 and wrote finely styled éloges of its deceased members. The general observation quoted by Smith comes at the end of the éloge of Lemery.
[q–q]om. 6 7
 D’Alembert became Secretary of the Académie française in 1772 and wrote éloges of members who had died between 1700 and 1772.
 Smith has Mandeville mainly in mind. Cf. VII.ii.4, especially § 7. Smith writes here in the plural, no doubt recalling the plural title of VII.ii.4, which in eds. 1–5 classed La Rochefoucauld together with Mandeville. But when Smith wrote the present passage for ed. 6, he was already committed to deleting the references to La Rochefoucauld; and indeed § 7, on the doctrine that moral motives can be reduced to vanity, always had reference to Mandeville alone.
 Cicero, De Officiis, I.xxi.71. Smith’s translation is somewhat free.
[r] §§ 31–2 were added in ed. 6, like the preceding and succeeding paragraphs of this chapter, but these two paragraphs revise the thought of the following passage, which was added in ed. 2 (and in the draft revision of 1759) after the paragraph that is now III.1.7 and the one that is printed as  in the variants at III.1.3k. Eds. 3–5 follow ed. 2 with minor variants, which we note below together with variants in the draft of 1759.
The great judge [Great Judge draft] of the world, has, for the wisest reasons, thought proper to interpose, between the weak eye of human reason, [reason draft] and the throne of his eternal justice, a degree of obscurity and darkness, which though [darkness which, tho draft darkness, which, though 5] it does not intirely [entirely draft] cover that great tribunal from the view of mankind, yet renders the impression of it faint and feeble in comparison of what might be expected from the grandeur and importance of so mighty an object. If those infinite rewards and punishments [punishments, draft] which the Almighty has prepared for those who obey or transgress his will, were perceived as distinctly as we foresee the frivolous and temporary retaliations [relations 2 corr. 2E] which we may expect from one another, the weakness of human nature, astonished at the immensity of objects so little fitted to its comprehension, could no longer attend to the little affairs of this world; and it is absolutely impossible that the business of society could have been carried on, if, in this respect, there had been a fuller revelation of the intentions of providence [Providence 4 5] than that which has already been made. That men, however, might never be without a rule to direct their conduct by, nor without a judge whose authority should enforce its observation, the author [Author 4 5] of nature has made man the immediate judge of mankind, and has, in this respect, as in many others, created him after his own image, and appointed him his vicegerent upon earth to superintend the behaviour of his brethren. [bretheren. draft] They are taught by nature [Nature draft] to acknowledge that power and jurisdiction which has thus been conferred upon him, and to tremble and [or draft] exult according as they imagine that they have either merited his censure, [censure draft] or deserved his applause.
But whatever may be the authority of this inferiour tribunal [inferior tribunal, draft] which is continually before their eyes, if at any time it should decide contrary to those principles and rules, [these rules and principles draft] which nature [Nature 4 5] has established for regulating its judgments, [judgements, draft 4] men feel that they may appeal [men appeal draft] from this unjust decision, and call upon a superiour [superior draft] tribunal, the tribunal established in their own breasts, [own minds, draft] to redress the injustice of this weak or partial judgment. [judgement. draft]
There are certain principles established by nature [Nature 4 5] for governing our judgments [judgements draft judgment 3–5] concerning the conduct of those we live with. As long as we decide according to those principles, and neither applaud nor condemn any thing which nature [Nature 4 5] has not rendered the proper object of applause or condemnation, nor any further than she has rendered it such, as our sentence is, in this case, if I may say so, quite agreeable to law, it is liable neither to repeal nor to correction of any kind. The person [than she has rendered them such, the person, draft] concerning whom we form these judgments, [judgements draft] must himself necessarily approve of them. When he puts himself into our situation, he cannot avoid viewing his own conduct [he cannot avoid entering into those views of his own conduct which, he feels, must naturally occur to us, and he is obliged to consider it himself draft] in the very same light in which we appear to view it. He is sensible, that to us, and to every impartial spectator, he must necessarily appear the natural and proper object of those sentiments which we express with regard to him. Those [same light in which we represent it. Our draft] sentiments, therefore, must necessarily produce their full effect upon him, and he cannot fail [faill draft] to conceive all the triumph of self–approbation [self approbation draft] from, what appears to him, [from what appears to him draft 5] such merited applause, as well as all the horrors of shame from, [from draft 5] what, he is sensible, is such deserved condemnation. [Draft runs on.]
But it is otherwise, [otherwise draft] if we have either applauded or condemned him, contrary to those principles and rules which nature [Nature 4 5] has established for the direction of our judgments [judgements draft] concerning every thing of this kind. If we have either applauded or condemned him for what, when he puts himself into [in draft] our situation, does not appear to him to be the object either of applause or condemnation; as in this case [as, in this case, draft] he cannot enter into our sentiments, provided [if draft] he has any constancy or firmness, he is but little affected by them, and can neither be much elevated [be elevated draft] by the favourable, nor greatly mortified [favourable nor mortified draft] by the unfavourable decision. The applause of the whole world will avail but little, [little draft] if our own conscience condemn [condemns draft] us; and the disapprobation of all mankind is not capable of oppressing us, [us draft] when we are absolved by the tribunal within our own breast, and when our own mind tells us that mankind are in the wrong.
But though [tho draft] this tribunal within the breast be thus the supreme arbiter of all our actions, though [tho’ draft] it can reverse the decisions of all mankind with regard to our character and conduct, and [conduct, tho it can draft] mortify us amidst the applause, or [applauses and draft] support us under the censure of the world; yet, [world, yet draft] if we enquire [inquire 4 5] into the origin of its institution, its jurisdiction we shall find [jurisdiction, we shall find, draft] is in a great measure derived from the authority of that very tribunal, whose decisions it so often and so justly reverses. [Draft runs on.]
When we first come into the world, from the natural desire to please, we accustom ourselves [world, being desireous to please those we live with, we are accustomed draft] to consider what behaviour is likely to be agreeable [agreable draft] to every person we converse with, to our parents, to our masters, to our companions. We address ourselves to individuals, and for some time fondly pursue the impossible and absurd project of gaining [project of rendering ourselves universally agreable, and of gaining draft] the good–will [good will draft] and approbation of every body. We are soon taught by experience, however, [We soon learn, however, from experience draft] that this universal approbation is altogether unattainable. As soon as we come to have more important interests to manage, we find, that by pleasing one man, [man draft] we almost certainly disoblige another, and that by humouring an individual, we may often irritate a whole people. The fairest and most equitable conduct must frequently obstruct the interests, [interests draft] or thwart the inclinations of particular persons, who will seldom [seldome draft] have candour enough to enter into the propriety of our motives, or to see that this [that our draft] conduct, how disagreeable [disagreable draft] soever to them, is perfectly suitable to our situation. In order to defend ourselves from such partial judgments, we soon learn to set [situation. We soon learn, therefore, to sett draft] up in our own minds a judge between ourselves and those we live with. We conceive ourselves as acting in the presence of a person quite candid and equitable, of one who has no particular relation [relation, draft] either to ourselves, or to those whose interests are affected by our conduct, [conduct; draft] who is neither father, nor brother, nor friend [friend, draft] either to them [them, draft] or to us, [us; draft] but is merely [meerly draft] a man in general, an impartial spectator who considers our conduct with the same indifference with which we regard that of other people. If, [If draft] when we place ourselves in the situation of such a person, our own actions appear to us under an agreeable [agreable draft] aspect, if we feel that such a spectator cannot avoid entering into all the motives which influenced us, whatever may be the judgments [judgements draft] of the world, we must still be [we cannot help being draft] pleased with our own behaviour, and regard [regarding draft] ourselves, in spite of the censure of our companions, as the just and proper objects of approbation. [Draft runs on.]
On the contrary, if the man within condemns us, the loudest acclamations of mankind appear but as the noise of ignorance and folly, and whenever we assume the character of this impartial judge, we cannot avoid viewing our own actions with his distaste and dissatisfaction. The weak, the vain, [vain draft] and the frivolous, indeed, may be mortified by the most groundless censure, [censure draft] or elated by the most absurd applause. Such persons are not accustomed to consult the judge within concerning the opinion [oppinion draft] which they ought to form of their own conduct. This inmate of the breast, this abstract man, the representative of mankind, [mankind draft] and substitute of the Deity, whom nature [Nature draft 4] has constituted [has appointed draft] the supreme judge [supreme arbiter draft] of all their actions, [actions draft] is seldom [seldome draft] appealed to by them. They are contented with the decision of the inferiour [inferior draft] tribunal. The approbation of their companions, of the particular persons whom they have lived and conversed with, has generally been the ultimate object of all their wishes. If they obtain this, [If they succeed in this draft] their joy is compleat; [complete; 4 5] and if they fail, [faill draft] they are entirely disappointed. They never think of appealing to the superior court. They have seldom [seldome draft] enquired [inquired 4 5] after its decisions, [decisions draft] and are altogether unacquainted with the rules and forms of its procedure. When the world injures them, therefore, they are incapable of doing themselves justice, and are, in consequence, [justice and are in consequence draft] necessarily the slaves of the world. But it is otherwise with the man who has, upon all occasions, been accustomed to have recourse to the judge within, [within draft 3] and to consider, not what the world approves or disapproves of, but what appears to this impartial spectator, [spectator draft] the natural and proper object of approbation or [and draft] disapprobation. The judgment [judgement draft] of this supreme arbiter of his conduct, [conduct draft] is the applause, [applause draft] which he has been accustomed principally to court, is the censure which he has been accustomed principally to fear. Compared with this final decision, the sentiments of all mankind, though [tho’ draft] not altogether indifferent, appear to be but of small moment; and he is incapable of being either much elevated by their favourable, or greatly depressed by their most disadvantageous [disadvantageous, 5] judgment. [judgement. draft]
The draft and eds. 2–5 then continue as in III.3.1: It is only by consulting this judge within, [within draft] . . .
 St. James’s Palace. Ambassadors to the United Kingdom are still said to be accredited to the Court of St. James.
 Jean Baptiste Massillon (1663–1742), Bishop of Clermont. The passage occurs in ‘Discours prononcé à une bénédiction des drapeaux du régiment de Catinat’, usually bound up with ‘Le Petit Carême’; Oeuvres complètes (Paris 1821), i.273–4.
The English translation is probably Smith’s own. It departs from the French in certain minor details: (1) ‘in all the exertions that you have made’ is an addition in the English version; (2) Massillon twice writes of ‘le Seigneur’ followed shortly by ‘Jésus–Christ’, and on both occasions Smith’s English translation is ‘the Lord . . . Him’; (3) where Smith’s translation has ‘a whole life of repentance and mortification’, Massillon says simply ‘une vie entière de pénitence’ (though he does use the word ‘mortifier’ earlier of the monk, as in the English translation). The first of these changes does not seem significant; the second and third are.
As regards the third, Smith picks up his added word ‘mortification’ at the beginning of § 35, ‘the futile mortifications of a monastery’. The whole of the present passage was added in ed. 6. Cf. a passage written earlier in WN V.i.e.29: ‘But when moral, as well as natural philosophy, came to be taught only as subservient to theology, . . . 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.’ Both passages may recall Hume, Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, IX.i; ed. Selby–Bigge, § 219: ‘penance, mortification, . . . and the whole train of monkish virtues . . . are . . . everywhere rejected by men of sense’.
The printing of this extract shows that the compositors followed their copy closely. An initial capital for ‘He’ and ‘Him’, referring to God, is unusual in printed texts of this period, and ‘recompence’ is at variance with the spelling of this word elsewhere in ed. 6. Smith probably had the translated extract by him from an earlier date and inserted it into his manuscript of the new material for ed. 6.
[*] See Voltaire.
 Voltaire, La Pucelle d’Orléans, chant 5; Oeuvres complètes, ed. Besterman and others (Genève, 1968–), 7.348.
David Hume, Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, M.A. 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902). Chapter: SECTION XII.: of the academical or sceptical philosophy.
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There is not a greater number of philosophical reasonings, displayed upon any subject, than those, which prove the existence of a Deity, and refute the fallacies of Atheists; and yet the most religious philosophers still dispute whether any man can be so blinded as to be a speculative atheist. How shall we reconcile these contradictions? The knightserrant, who wandered about to clear the world of dragons and giants, never entertained the least doubt with regard to the existence of these monsters.
The Sceptic is another enemy of religion, who naturally provokes the indignation of all divines and graver philosophers; though it is certain, that no man ever met with any such absurd creature, or conversed with a man, who had no opinion or principle concerning any subject, either of action or speculation. This begets a very natural question; What is meant by a sceptic? And how far it is possible to push these philosophical principles of doubt and uncertainty?
There is a species of scepticism, antecedent to all study and philosophy, which is much inculcated by Des Cartes and others, as a sovereign preservative against error and precipitate judgement. It recommends an universal doubt, not only of all our former opinions and principles, but also of our very faculties; of whose veracity, say they, we must assure ourselves, by a chain of reasoning, deduced from some original principle, which cannot possibly be fallacious or deceitful. But neither is there any such original principle, which has a prerogative above others, that are self-evident and convincing: or if there were, could we advance a step beyond it, but by the use of those very faculties, of which we are supposed to be already diffident. The Cartesian doubt, therefore, were it ever possible to be attained by any human creature (as it plainly is not) would be entirely incurable; and no reasoning could ever bring us to a state of assurance and conviction upon any subject.
It must, however, be confessed, that this species of scepticism, when more moderate, may be understood in a very reasonable sense, and is a necessary preparative to the study of philosophy, by preserving a proper impartiality in our judgements, and weaning our mind from all those prejudices, which we may have imbibed from education or rash opinion. To begin with clear and self-evident principles, to advance by timorous and sure steps, to review frequently our conclusions, and examine accurately all their consequences; though by these means we shall make both a slow and a short progress in our systems; are the only methods, by which we can ever hope to reach truth, and attain a proper stability and certainty in our determinations.
There is another species of scepticism, consequent to science and enquiry, when men are supposed to have discovered, either the absolute fallaciousness of their mental faculties, or their unfitness to reach any fixed determination in all those curious subjects of speculation, about which they are commonly employed. Even our very senses are brought into dispute, by a certain species of philosophers; and the maxims of common life are subjected to the same doubt as the most profound principles or conclusions of metaphysics and theology. As these paradoxical tenets (if they may be called tenets) are to be met with in some philosophers, and the refutation of them in several, they naturally excite our curiosity, and make us enquire into the arguments, on which they may be founded.
I need not insist upon the more trite topics, employed by the sceptics in all ages, against the evidence of sense; such as those which are derived from the imperfection and fallaciousness of our organs, on numberless occasions; the crooked appearance of an oar in water; the various aspects of objects, according to their different distances; the double images which arise from the pressing one eye; with many other appearances of a like nature. These sceptical topics, indeed, are only sufficient to prove, that the senses alone are not implicitly to be depended on; but that we must correct their evidence by reason, and by considerations, derived from the nature of the medium, the distance of the object, and the disposition of the organ, in order to render them, within their sphere, the proper criteria of truth and falsehood. There are other more profound arguments against the senses, which admit not of so easy a solution.
It seems evident, that men are carried, by a natural instinct or prepossession, to repose faith in their senses; and that, without any reasoning, or even almost before the use of reason, we always suppose an external universe, which depends not on our perception, but would exist, though we and every sensible creature were absent or annihilated. Even the animal creation are governed by a like opinion, and preserve this belief of external objects, in all their thoughts, designs, and actions.
It seems also evident, that, when men follow this blind and powerful instinct of nature, they always suppose the very images, presented by the senses, to be the external objects, and never entertain any suspicion, that the one are nothing but representations of the other. This very table, which we see white, and which we feel hard, is believed to exist, independent of our perception, and to be something external to our mind, which perceives it. Our presence bestows not being on it: our absence does not annihilate it. It preserves its existence uniform and entire, independent of the situation of intelligent beings, who perceive or contemplate it.
But this universal and primary opinion of all men is soon destroyed by the slightest philosophy, which teaches us, that nothing can ever be present to the mind but an image or perception, and that the senses are only the inlets, through which these images are conveyed, without being able to produce any immediate intercourse between the mind and the object. The table, which we see, seems to diminish, as we remove farther from it: but the real table, which exists independent of us, suffers no alteration: it was, therefore, nothing but its image, which was present to the mind. These are the obvious dictates of reason; and no man, who reflects, ever doubted, that the existences, which we consider, when we say, this house and that tree, are nothing but perceptions in the mind, and fleeting copies or representations of other existences, which remain uniform and independent.
So far, then, are we necessitated by reasoning to contradict or depart from the primary instincts of nature, and to embrace a new system with regard to the evidence of our senses. But here philosophy finds herself extremely embarrassed, when she would justify this new system, and obviate the cavils and objections of the sceptics. She can no longer plead the infallible and irresistible instinct of nature: for that led us to a quite different system, which is acknowledged fallible and even erroneous. And to justify this pretended philosophical system, by a chain of clear and convincing argument, or even any appearance of argument, exceeds the power of all human capacity.
By what argument can it be proved, that the perceptions of the mind must be caused by external objects, entirely different from them, though resembling them (if that be possible) and could not arise either from the energy of the mind itself, or from the suggestion of some invisible and unknown spirit, or from some other cause still more unknown to us? It is acknowledged, that, in fact, many of these perceptions arise not from anything external, as in dreams, madness, and other diseases. And nothing can be more inexplicable than the manner, in which body should so operate upon mind as ever to convey an image of itself to a substance, supposed of so different, and even contrary a nature.
It is a question of fact, whether the perceptions of the senses be produced by external objects, resembling them: how shall this question be determined? By experience surely; as all other questions of a like nature. But here experience is, and must be entirely silent. The mind has never anything present to it but the perceptions, and cannot possibly reach any experience of their connexion with objects. The supposition of such a connexion is, therefore, without any foundation in reasoning.
To have recourse to the veracity of the supreme Being, in order to prove the veracity of our senses, is surely making a very unexpected circuit. If his veracity were at all concerned in this matter, our senses would be entirely infallible; because it is not possible that he can ever deceive. Not to mention, that, if the external world be once called in question, we shall be at a loss to find arguments, by which we may prove the existence of that Being or any of his attributes.
This is a topic, therefore, in which the profounder and more philosophical sceptics will always triumph, when they endeavour to introduce an universal doubt into all subjects of human knowledge and enquiry. Do you follow the instincts and propensities of nature, may they say, in assenting to the veracity of sense? But these lead you to believe that the very perception or sensible image is the external object. Do you disclaim this principle, in order to embrace a more rational opinion, that the perceptions are only representations of something external? You here depart from your natural propensities and more obvious sentiments; and yet are not able to satisfy your reason, which can never find any convincing argument from experience to prove, that the perceptions are connected with any external objects.
There is another sceptical topic of a like nature, derived from the most profound philosophy; which might merit our attention, were it requisite to dive so deep, in order to discover arguments and reasonings, which can so little serve to any serious purpose. It is universally allowed by modern enquirers, that all the sensible qualities of objects, such as hard, soft, hot, cold, white, black, &c. are merely secondary, and exist not in the objects themselves, but are perceptions of the mind, without any external archetype or model, which they represent. If this be allowed, with regard to secondary qualities, it must also follow, with regard to the supposed primary qualities of extension and solidity; nor can the latter be any more entitled to that denomination than the former. The idea of extension is entirely acquired from the senses of sight and feeling; and if all the qualities, perceived by the senses, be in the mind, not in the object, the same conclusion must reach the idea of extension, which is wholly dependent on the sensible ideas or the ideas of secondary qualities. Nothing can save us from this conclusion, but the asserting, that the ideas of those primary qualities are attained by Abstraction, an opinion, which, if we examine it accurately, we shall find to be unintelligible, and even absurd. An extension, that is neither tangible nor visible, cannot possibly be conceived: and a tangible or visible extension, which is neither hard nor soft, black nor white, is equally beyond the reach of human conception. Let any man try to conceive a triangle in general, which is neither Isosceles nor Scalenum, nor has any particular length or proportion of sides; and he will soon perceive the absurdity of all the scholastic notions with regard to abstraction and general ideas1 .
Thus the first philosophical objection to the evidence of sense or to the opinion of external existence consists in this, that such an opinion, if rested on natural instinct, is contrary to reason, and if referred to reason, is contrary to natural instinct, and at the same time carries no rational evidence with it, to convince an impartial enquirer. The second objection goes farther, and represents this opinion as contrary to reason: at least, if it be a principle of reason, that all sensible qualities are in the mind, not in the object. Bereave matter of all its intelligible qualities, both primary and secondary, you in a manner annihilate it, and leave only a certain unknown, inexplicable something, as the cause of our perceptions; a notion so imperfect, that no sceptic will think it worth while to contend against it.
It may seem a very extravagant attempt of the sceptics to destroy reason by argument and ratiocination; yet is this the grand scope of all their enquiries and disputes. They endeavour to find objections, both to our abstract reasonings, and to those which regard matter of fact and existence.
The chief objection against all abstract reasonings is derived from the ideas of space and time; ideas, which, in common life and to a careless view, are very clear and intelligible, but when they pass through the scrutiny of the profound sciences (and they are the chief object of these sciences) afford principles, which seem full of absurdity and contradiction. No priestly dogmas, invented on purpose to tame and subdue the rebellious reason of mankind, ever shocked common sense more than the doctrine of the infinitive divisibility of extension, with its consequences; as they are pompously displayed by all geometricians and metaphysicians, with a kind of triumph and exultation. A real quantity, infinitely less than any finite quantity, containing quantities infinitely less than itself, and so on in infinitum; this is an edifice so bold and prodigious, that it is too weighty for any pretended demonstration to support, because it shocks the clearest and most natural principles of human reason1 . But what renders the matter more extraordinary, is, that these seemingly absurd opinions are supported by a chain of reasoning, the clearest and most natural; nor is it possible for us to allow the premises without admitting the consequences. Nothing can be more convincing and satisfactory than all the conclusions concerning the properties of circles and triangles; and yet, when these are once received, how can we deny, that the angle of contact between a circle and its tangent is infinitely less than any rectilineal angle, that as you may increase the diameter of the circle in infinitum, this angle of contact becomes still less, even in infinitum, and that the angle of contact between other curves and their tangents may be infinitely less than those between any circle and its tangent, and so on, in infinitum? The demonstration of these principles seems as unexceptionable as that which proves the three angles of a triangle to be equal to two right ones, though the latter opinion be natural and easy, and the former big with contradiction and absurdity. Reason here seems to be thrown into a kind of amazement and suspence, which, without the suggestions of any sceptic, gives her a diffidence of herself, and of the ground on which she treads. She sees a full light, which illuminates certain places; but that light borders upon the most profound darkness. And between these she is so dazzled and confounded, that she scarcely can pronounce with certainty and assurance concerning any one object.
The absurdity of these bold determinations of the abstract sciences seems to become, if possible, still more palpable with regard to time than extension. An infinite number of real parts of time, passing in succession, and exhausted one after another, appears so evident a contradiction, that no man, one should think, whose judgement is not corrupted, instead of being improved, by the sciences, would ever be able to admit of it.
Yet still reason must remain restless, and unquiet, even with regard to that scepticism, to which she is driven by these seeming absurdities and contradictions. How any clear, distinct idea can contain circumstances, contradictory to itself, or to any other clear, distinct idea, is absolutely incomprehensible; and is, perhaps, as absurd as any proposition, which can be formed. So that nothing can be more sceptical, or more full of doubt and hesitation, than this scepticism itself, which arises from some of the paradoxical conclusions of geometry or the science of quantity1 .
The sceptical objections to moral evidence, or to the reasonings concerning matter of fact, are either popular or philosophical. The popular objections are derived from the natural weakness of human understanding; the contradictory opinions, which have been entertained in different ages and nations; the variations of our judgement in sickness and health, youth and old age, prosperity and adversity; the perpetual contradiction of each particular man’s opinions and sentiments; with many other topics of that kind. It is needless to insist farther on this head. These objections are but weak. For as, in common life, we reason every moment concerning fact and existence, and cannot possibly subsist, without continually employing this species of argument, any popular objections, derived from thence, must be insufficient to destroy that evidence. The great subverter of Pyrrhonism or the excessive principles of scepticism is action, and employment, and the occupations of common life. These principles may flourish and triumph in the schools; where it is, indeed, difficult, if not impossible, to refute them. But as soon as they leave the shade, and by the presence of the real objects, which actuate our passions and sentiments, are put in opposition to the more powerful principles of our nature, they vanish like smoke, and leave the most determined sceptic in the same condition as other mortals.
The sceptic, therefore, had better keep within his proper sphere, and display those philosophical objections, which arise from more profound researches. Here he seems to have ample matter of triumph; while he justly insists, that all our evidence for any matter of fact, which lies beyond the testimony of sense or memory, is derived entirely from the relation of cause and effect; that we have no other idea of this relation than that of two objects, which have been frequently conjoined together; that we have no argument to convince us, that objects, which have, in our experience, been frequently conjoined, will likewise, in other instances, be conjoined in the same manner; and that nothing leads us to this inference but custom or a certain instinct of our nature; which it is indeed difficult to resist, but which, like other instincts, may be fallacious and deceitful. While the sceptic insists upon these topics, he shows his force, or rather, indeed, his own and our weakness; and seems, for the time at least, to destroy all assurance and conviction. These arguments might be displayed at greater length, if any durable good or benefit to society could ever be expected to result from them.
For here is the chief and most confounding objection to excessive scepticism, that no durable good can ever result from it; while it remains in its full force and vigour. We need only ask such a sceptic, What his meaning is? And what he proposes by all these curious researches? He is immediately at a loss, and knows not what to answer. A Copernican or Ptolemaic, who supports each his different system of astronomy, may hope to produce a conviction, which will remain constant and durable, with his audience. A Stoic or Epicurean displays principles, which may not be durable, but which have an effect on conduct and behaviour. But a Pyrrhonian cannot expect, that his philosophy will have any constant influence on the mind: or if it had, that its influence would be beneficial to society. On the contrary, he must acknowledge, if he will acknowledge anything, that all human life must perish, were his principles universally and steadily to prevail. All discourse, all action would immediately cease; and men remain in a total lethargy, till the necessities of nature, unsatisfied, put an end to their miserable existence. It is true; so fatal an event is very little to be dreaded. Nature is always too strong for principle. And though a Pyrrhonian may throw himself or others into a momentary amazement and confusion by his profound reasonings; the first and most trival event in life will put to flight all his doubts and scruples, and leave him the same, in every point of action and speculation, with the philosophers of every other sect, or with those who never concerned themselves in any philosophical researches. When he awakes from his dream, he will be the first to join in the laugh against himself, and to confess, that all his objections are mere amusement, and can have no other tendency than to show the whimsical condition of mankind, who must act and reason and believe; though they are not able, by their most diligent enquiry, to satisfy themselves concerning the foundation of these operations, or to remove the objections, which may be raised against them.
There is, indeed a more mitigated scepticism or academical philosophy, which may be both durable and useful, and which may, in part, be the result of this Pyrrhonism, or excessive scepticism, when its undistinguished doubts are, in some measure, corrected by common sense and reflection. The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while they see objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counterpoising argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the principles, to which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence for those who entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance perplexes their understanding, checks their passion, and suspends their action. They are, therefore, impatient till they escape from a state, which to them is so uneasy: and they think, that they could never remove themselves far enough from it, by the violence of their affirmations and obstinacy of their belief. But could such dogmatical reasoners become sensible of the strange infirmities of human understanding, even in its most perfect state, and when most accurate and cautious in its determinations; such a reflection would naturally inspire them with more modesty and reserve, and diminish their fond opinion of themselves, and their prejudice against antagonists. The illiterate may reflect on the disposition of the learned, who, amidst all the advantages of study and reflection, are commonly still diffident in their determinations: and if any of the learned be inclined, from their natural temper, to haughtiness and obstinacy, a small tincture of Pyrrhonism might abate their pride, by showing them, that the few advantages, which they may have attained over their fellows, are but inconsiderable, if compared with the universal perplexity and confusion, which is inherent in human nature. In general, there is a degree of doubt, and caution, and modesty, which, in all kinds of scrutiny and decision, ought for ever to accompany a just reasoner.
Another species of mitigated scepticism which may be of advantage to mankind, and which may be the natural result of the Pyrrhonian doubts and scruples, is the limitation of our enquiries to such subjects as are best adapted to the narrow capacity of human understanding. The imagination of man is naturally sublime, delighted with whatever is remote and extraordinary, and running, without control, into the most distant parts of space and time in order to avoid the objects, which custom has rendered too familiar to it. A correct Judgement observes a contrary method, and avoiding all distant and high enquiries, confines itself to common life, and to such subjects as fall under daily practice and experience; leaving the more sublime topics to the embellishment of poets and orators, or to the arts of priests and politicians. To bring us to so salutary a determination, nothing can be more serviceable, than to be once thoroughly convinced of the force of the Pyrrhonian doubt, and of the impossibility, that anything, but the strong power of natural instinct, could free us from it. Those who have a propensity to philosophy, will still continue their researches; because they reflect, that, besides the immediate pleasure, attending such an occupation, philosophical decisions are nothing but the reflections of common life, methodized and corrected. But they will never be tempted to go beyond common life, so long as they consider the imperfection of those faculties which they employ, their narrow reach, and their inaccurate operations. While we cannot give a satisfactory reason, why we believe, after a thousand experiments, that a stone will fall, or fire burn; can we ever satisfy ourselves concerning any determination, which we may form, with regard to the origin of worlds, and the situation of nature, from, and to eternity?
This narrow limitation, indeed, of our enquiries, is, in every respect, so reasonable, that it suffices to make the slightest examination into the natural powers of the human mind and to compare them with their objects, in order to recommend it to us. We shall then find what are the proper subjects of science and enquiry.
It seems to me, that the only objects of the abstract science or of demonstration are quantity and number, and that all attempts to extend this more perfect species of knowledge beyond these bounds are mere sophistry and illusion. As the component parts of quantity and number are entirely similar, their relations become intricate and involved; and nothing can be more curious, as well as useful, than to trace, by a variety of mediums, their equality or inequality, through their different appearances. But as all other ideas are clearly distinct and different from each other, we can never advance farther, by our utmost scrutiny, than to observe this diversity, and, by an obvious reflection, pronounce one thing not to be another. Or if there be any difficulty in these decisions, it proceeds entirely from the undeterminate meaning of words, which is corrected by juster definitions. That the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the other two sides, cannot be known, let the terms be ever so exactly defined, without a train of reasoning and enquiry. But to convince us of this proposition, that where there is no property, there can be no injustice, it is only necessary to define the terms, and explain injustice to be a violation of property. This proposition is, indeed, nothing but a more imperfect definition. It is the same case with all those pretended syllogistical reasonings, which may be found in every other branch of learning, except the sciences of quantity and number; and these may safely, I think, be pronounced the only proper objects of knowledge and demonstration.
All other enquiries of men regard only matter of fact and existence; and these are evidently incapable of demonstration. Whatever is may not be. No negation of a fact can involve a contradiction. The non-existence of any being, without exception, is as clear and distinct an idea as its existence. The proposition, which affirms it not to be, however false, is no less conceivable and intelligible, than that which affirms it to be. The case is different with the sciences, properly so called. Every proposition, which is not true, is there confused and unintelligible. That the cube root of 64 is equal to the half of 10, is a false proposition, and can never be distinctly conceived. But that Cæsar, or the angel Gabriel, or any being never existed, may be a false proposition, but still is perfectly conceivable, and implies no contradiction.
The existence, therefore, of any being can only be proved by arguments from its cause or its effect; and these arguments are founded entirely on experience. If we reason a priori, anything may appear able to produce anything. The falling of a pebble may, for aught we know, extinguish the sun; or the wish of a man control the planets in their orbits. It is only experience, which teaches us the nature and bounds of cause and effect, and enables us to infer the existence of one object from that of another1 . Such is the foundation of moral reasoning, which forms the greater part of human knowledge, and is the source of all human action and behaviour.
Moral reasonings are either concerning particular or general facts. All deliberations in life regard the former; as also all disquisitions in history, chronology, geography, and astronomy.
The sciences, which treat of general facts, are politics, natural philosophy, physic, chemistry, &c. where the qualities, causes and effects of a whole species of objects are enquired into.
Divinity or Theology, as it proves the existence of a Deity, and the immortality of souls, is composed partly of reasonings concerning particular, partly concerning general facts. It has a foundation in reason, so far as it is supported by experience. But its best and most solid foundation is faith and divine revelation.
Morals and criticism are not so properly objects of the understanding as of taste and sentiment. Beauty, whether moral or natural, is felt, more properly than perceived. Or if we reason concerning it, and endeavour to fix its standard, we regard a new fact, to wit, the general tastes of mankind, or some such fact, which may be the object of reasoning and enquiry.
When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
[1 ]This argument is drawn from Dr. Berkeley; and indeed most of the writings of that very ingenious author form the best lessons of scepticism, which are to be found either among the ancient or modern philosophers, Bayle not excepted. He professes, however, in his title-page (and undoubtedly with great truth) to have composed his book against the sceptics as well as against the atheists and free-thinkers. But that all his arguments, though otherwise intended, are, in reality, merely sceptical, appears from this, that they admit of no answer and produce no conviction. Their only effect is to cause that momentary amazement and irresolution and confusion, which is the result of scepticism.
[1 ]Whatever disputes there may be about mathematical points, we must allow that there are physical points; that is, parts of extension, which cannot be divided or lessened, either by the eye or imagination. These images, then, which are present to the fancy or senses, are absolutely indivisible, and consequently must be allowed by mathematicians to be infinitely less than any real part of extension; and yet nothing appears more certain to reason, than that an infinite number of them composes an infinite extension. How much more an infinite number of those infinitely small parts of extension, which are still supposed infinitely divisible.
[1 ]It seems to me not impossible to avoid these absurdities and contradictions, if it be admitted, that there is no such thing as abstract or general ideas, properly speaking; but that all general ideas are, in reality, particular ones, attached to a general term, which recalls, upon occasion, other particular ones, that resemble, in certain circumstances, the idea, present to the mind. Thus when the term Horse is pronounced, we immediately figure to ourselves the idea of a black or a white animal, of a particular size or figure: But as that term is also usually applied to animals of other colours, figures and sizes, these ideas, though not actually present to the imagination, are easily recalled; and our reasoning and conclusion proceed in the same way, as if they were actually present. If this be admitted (as seems reasonable) it follows that all the ideas of quantity, upon which mathematicians reason, are nothing but particular, and such as are suggested by the senses and imagination, and consequently, cannot be infinitely divisible. It is sufficient to have dropped this hint at present, without prosecuting it any farther. It certainly concerns all lovers of science not to expose themselves to the ridicule and contempt of the ignorant by their conclusions; and this seems the readiest solution of these difficulties.
[1 ]That impious maxim of the ancient philosophy, Ex nihilo, nihil fit, by which the creation of matter was excluded, ceases to be a maxim, according to this philosophy. Not only the will of the supreme Being may create matter; but, for aught we know a priori, the will of any other being might create it, or any other cause, that the most whimsical imagination can assign.
David Hume, Essays Moral, Political, Literary, edited and with a Foreword, Notes, and Glossary by Eugene F. Miller, with an appendix of variant readings from the 1889 edition by T.H. Green and T.H. Grose, revised edition (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1987). Chapter: ESSAY III: THAT POLITICS MAY BE REDUCED TO A SCIENCE
Accessed from oll.libertyfund.org/title/704/137482 on 2010-03-04
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It is a question with several, whether there be any essential difference between one form of government and another? and, whether every form may not become good or bad, according as it is well or ill administered?1 Were it once admitted, that all governments are alike, and that the only difference consists in the character and conduct of the governors, most political disputes would be at an end, and all Zeal for one constitution above another, must be esteemed mere bigotry and folly. But, though a friend to moderation, I cannot forbear condemning this sentiment, and should be sorry to think, that human affairs admit of no greater stability, than what they receive from the casual humours and characters of particular men.
It is true; those who maintain, that the goodness of all government consists in the goodness of the administration, may cite many particular instances in history, where the very same government, in different hands, has varied suddenly into the two opposite extremes of good and bad. Compare the French government under Henry III.2 and under Henry IV.3 Oppression, levity,°artifice° on the part of the rulers; faction,° sedition, treachery, rebellion, disloyalty on the part of the subjects: These compose the character of the former miserable æra. But when the patriot and heroic prince, who succeeded, was once firmly seated on the throne, the government, the people, every thing seemed to be totally changed; and all from the difference of the temper and conduct of these two sovereigns.a Instances of this kind may be multiplied, almost without number, from ancient as well as modern history, foreign as well as domestic.
But here it may be proper to make a distinction. All absolute governmentsb must very much depend on the administration; and this is one of the great inconveniences attending that form of government. But a republican and free government would be an obvious absurdity, if the particular checks and controuls, provided by the constitution, had really no influence, and made it not the interest, even of bad men, to act for the public good. Such is the intention of these forms of government, and such is their real effect, where they are wisely constituted: As on the other hand, they are the source of all disorder, and of the blackest crimes, where either skill or honesty has been wanting in their original frame and institution.
So great is the force of laws, and of particular forms of government, and so little dependence have they on the humours° and tempers of men, that consequences almost as general and certain may sometimes be deduced from them, as any which the mathematical sciences afford us.
The constitution of the Roman republic gave the whole legislative power to the people, without allowing a negative voice either to the nobility or consuls. This unbounded power they possessed in a collective, not in a representative body. The consequences were: When the people, by success and conquest, had become very numerous, and had spread themselves to a great distance from the capital, the city-tribes, though the most contemptible, carried almost every vote: They were, therefore, most cajoled by every one that affected popularity:° They were supported in idleness by the general distribution of corn, and by particular bribes, which they received from almost every candidate: By this means, they became every day more licentious,° and the Campus Martius4 was a perpetual scene of tumult and sedition: Armed slaves were introduced among these rascally citizens; so that the whole government fell into anarchy, and the greatest happiness, which the Romans could look for, was the despotic power of the Cæsars. Such are the effects of democracy without a representative.
A Nobility may possess the whole, or any part of the legislative power of a state, in two different ways. Either every nobleman shares the power as part of the whole body, or the whole body enjoys the power as composed of parts, which have each a distinct power and authority. The Venetian aristocracy is an instance of the first kind of government: The Polish of the second. In the Venetian government the whole body of nobility possesses the whole power, and no nobleman has any authority which he receives not from the whole. In the Polish government every nobleman, by means of his fiefs,° has a distinct hereditary authority over his vassals, and the whole body has no authority but what it receives from the concurrence of its parts. The different operations and tendencies of these two species of government might be made apparent even a priori.5 A Venetian nobility is preferable to a Polish, let the humours and education of men be ever so much varied. A nobility, who possess their power in common, will preserve peace and order, both among themselves, and their subjects; and no member can have authority enough to controul the laws for a moment. The nobles will preserve their authority over the people, but without any grievous tyranny, or any breach of private property; because such a tyrannical government promotes not the interests of the whole body, however it may that of some individuals. There will be a distinction of rank between the nobility and people, but this will be the only distinction in the state. The whole nobility will form one body, and the whole people another, without any of those private feuds and animosities, which spread ruin and desolation every where. It is easy to see the disadvantages of a Polish nobility in every one of these particulars.
It is possible so to constitute a free government, as that a single person, call him doge,° prince, or king, shall possess a large share of power, and shall form a proper balance or counterpoise to the other parts of the legislature. This chief magistrate may be either elective or hereditary; and though the former institution may, to a superficial view, appear the most advantageous; yet a more accurate inspection will discover in it greater inconveniencies than in the latter, and such as are founded on causes and principles eternal and immutable. The filling of the throne, in such a government, is a point of too great and too general interest, not to divide the whole people into factions:° Whence a civil war, the greatest of ills, may be apprehended, almost with certainty, upon every vacancy. The prince elected must be either a Foreigner or a Native: The former will be ignorant of the people whom he is to govern; suspicious of his new subjects, and suspected by them; giving his confidence entirely to strangers, who will have no other care but of enriching themselves in the quickest manner, while their master’s favour and authority are able to support them. A native will carry into the throne all his private animosities and friendships, and will never be viewed in his elevation,° without exciting the sentiment of envy in those, who formerly considered him as their equal. Not to mention that a crown is too high a reward ever to be given to merit alone, and will always induce the candidates to employ force, or money, or intrigue, to procure the votes of the electors: So that such an election will give no better chance for superior merit in the prince, than if the state had trusted to birth alone for determining their sovereign.
It may therefore be pronounced as an universal axiom in politics, That an hereditary prince, a nobility without vassals, and a people voting by their representatives, form the bestmonarchy, aristocracy, anddemocracy. But in order to prove more fully, that politics admit of general truths, which are invariable by the humour or education either of subject or sovereign, it may not be amiss to observe some other principles of this science, which may seem to deserve that character.
It may easily be observed, that, though free governments have been commonly the most happy for those who partake of their freedom; yet are they the most ruinous and oppressive to their provinces: And this observation may, I believe, be fixed as a maxim of the kind we are here speaking of. When a monarch extends his dominions by conquest, he soon learns to consider his old and his new subjects as on the same footing; because, in reality, all his subjects are to him the same, except the few friends and favourites, with whom he is personally acquainted. He does not, therefore, make any distinction between them in his general laws; and, at the same time, is careful to prevent all particular acts of oppression on the one as well as on the other. But a free state necessarily makes a great distinction, and must always do so, till men learn to love their neighbours as well as themselves. The conquerors, in such a government, are all legislators, and will be sure to contrive matters, by restrictions on trade, and by taxes, so as to draw some private, as well as public, advantage from their conquests. Provincial governors have also a better chance, in a republic, to escape with their plunder, by means of bribery or intrigue; and their fellow-citizens, who find their own state to be enriched by the spoils of the subject provinces, will be the more inclined to tolerate such abuses. Not to mention, that it is a necessary precaution in a free state to change the governors frequently; which obliges these temporary tyrants to be more expeditious and rapacious, that they may accumulate sufficient wealth before they give place to their successors. What cruel tyrants were the Romans over the world during the time of their commonwealth! It is true, they had laws to prevent oppression in their provincial magistrates; but Cicero informs us, that the Romans could not better consult the interests of the provinces than by repealing these very laws. For, in that case, says he, our magistrates, having entire impunity, would plunder no more than would satisfy their own rapaciousness; whereas, at present, they must also satisfy that of their judges, and of all the great men in Rome, of whose protection they stand in need.6 Who can read of the cruelties and oppressions of Verres without horror and astonishment? And who is not touched with indignation to hear, that, after Cicero had exhausted on that abandoned criminal all the thunders of his eloquence, and had prevailed so far as to get him condemned to the utmost extent of the laws; yet that cruel tyrant lived peaceably to old age, in opulence and ease, and, thirty years afterwards, was put into the proscription° by Mark Anthony, on account of his exorbitant wealth, where he fell with Cicero himself, and all the most virtuous men of Rome?7 After the dissolution of the commonwealth, the Roman yoke became easier upon the provinces, as Tacitus informs us;8 and it may be observed, that many of the worst emperors, Domitian,9 for instance, were careful to prevent all oppression on the provinces. In10Tiberius’s time, Gaul was esteemed richer than Italy itself: Nor, do I find, during the whole time of the Roman monarchy, that the empire became less rich or populous in any of its provinces; though indeed its valour and military discipline were always upon the decline. The oppression and tyranny of the Carthaginians over their subject states in Africa went so far, as we learn from Polybius,11 that, not content with exacting the half of all the produce of the land, which of itself was a very high rent, they also loaded them with many other taxes.d If we pass from ancient to modern times, we shall still find the observation to hold. The provinces of absolute monarchies are always better treated than those of free states. Compare the Païs conquis° of France with Ireland, and you will be convinced of this truth; though this latter kingdom, being, in a good measure, peopled from England, possesses so many rights and privileges as should naturally make it challenge better treatment than that of a conquered province. Corsica is also an obvious instance to the same purpose.12
There is an observation in Machiavel, with regard to the conquests of Alexander the Great, which I think, may be regarded as one of those eternal political truths, which no time nor accidents can vary. It may seem strange, says that politician, that such sudden conquests, as those of Alexander, should be possessed so peaceably by his successors, and that the Persians, during all the confusions and civil wars among the Greeks, never made the smallest effort towards the recovery of their former independent government.13 To satisfy us concerning the cause of this remarkable event, we may consider, that a monarch may govern his subjects in two different ways. He may either follow the maxims of the eastern princes, and stretch his authority so far as to leave no distinction of rank among his subjects, but what proceeds immediately from himself; no advantages of birth; no hereditary honours and possessions; and, in a word, no credit among the people, except from his commission alone. Or a monarch may exert his power after a milder manner, like other European princes; and leave other sources of honour, beside his smile and favour: Birth, titles, possessions, valour, integrity, knowledge, or great and fortunate atchievements. In the former species of government, after a conquest, it is impossible ever to shake off the yoke; since no one possesses, among the people, so much personal credit and authority as to begin such an enterprize: Whereas, in the latter, the least misfortune, or discord among the victors, will encourage the vanquished to take arms, who have leaders ready to prompt and conduct them in every undertaking.14
Such is the reasoning of Machiavel, which seems solid and conclusive; though I wish he had not mixed falsehood with truth, in asserting, that monarchies, governed according to eastern policy, though more easily kept when once subdued, yet are the most difficult to subdue; since they cannot contain any powerful subject, whose discontent and faction may facilitate the enterprizes of an enemy. For besides, that such a tyrannical government enervates the courage of men, and renders them indifferent towards the fortunes of their sovereign; besides this, I say, we find by experience, that even the temporary and delegated authority of the generals and magistrates; being always, in such governments, as absolute within its sphere, as that of the prince himself; is able, with barbarians, accustomed to a blind submission, to produce the most dangerous and fatal revolutions. So that, in every respect, a gentle government is preferable, and gives the greatest security to the sovereign as well as to the subject.
Legislators, therefore, ought not to trust the future government of a state entirely to chance, but ought to provide a system of laws to regulate the administration of public affairs to the latest posterity. Effects will always correspond to causes; and wise regulations in any commonwealth are the most valuable legacy that can be left to future ages. In the smallest court or office, the stated forms and methods, by which business must be conducted, are found to be a considerable check on the natural depravity of mankind. Why should not the case be the same in public affairs? Can we ascribe the stability and wisdom of the Venetian government, through so many ages, to any thing but the form of government? And is it not easy to point out those defects in the original constitution, which produced the tumultuous governments of Athens and Rome, and ended at last in the ruin of these two famous republics? And so little dependance has this affair on the humours and education of particular men, that one part of the same republic may be wisely conducted, and another weakly, by the very same men, merely on account of the difference of the forms and institutions, by which these parts are regulated. Historians inform us that this was actually the case with Genoa. For while the state was always full of sedition, and tumult, and disorder, the bank of St. George, which had become a considerable part of the people, was conducted, for several ages, with the utmost integrity and wisdom.15
The ages of greatest public spirit are not always most eminent for private virtue. Good laws may beget order and moderation in the government, where the manners and customs have instilled little humanity or justice into the tempers of men. The most illustrious period of the Roman history, considered in a political view, is that between the beginning of the first and end of the last Punic war; the due balance between the nobility and the people being then fixed by the contests of the tribunes, and not being yet lost by the extent of conquests. Yet at this very time, the horrid practice of poisoning was so common, that, during part of a season, a Prætor punished capitally for this crime above three thousand16 persons in a part of Italy; and found informations of this nature still multiplying upon him. There is a similar, or rather a worse instance,17 in the more early times of the commonwealth. So depraved in private life were that people, whom in their histories we so much admire. I doubt not but they were really more virtuous during the time of the two Triumvirates; when they were tearing their common country to pieces, and spreading slaughter and desolation over the face of the earth, merely for the choice of tyrants.18,f
Here, then, is a sufficient inducement to maintain, with the utmost Zeal, in every free state, those forms and institutions, by which liberty is secured, the public good consulted, and the avarice or ambition of particular men restrained and punished. Nothing does more honour to human nature, than to see it susceptible of so noble a passion; as nothing can be a greater indication of meanness° of heart in any man, than to see him destitute of it. A man who loves only himself, without regard to friendship and desert,° merits the severest blame; and a man, who is only susceptible of friendship, without public spirit, or a regard to the community, is deficient in the most material part of virtue.
But this is a subject which needs not be longer insisted on at present. There are enow° of zealots on both sides who kindle up the passions of their partizans, and under pretence of public good, pursue the interests and ends of their particular faction. For my part, I shall always be more fond of promoting moderation than zeal; though perhaps the surest way of producing moderation in every party is to increase our zeal for the public. Let us therefore try, if it be possible, from the foregoing doctrine, to draw a lesson of moderation with regard to the parties, into which our country is at presentg divided; at the same time, that we allow not this moderation to abate the industry and passion, with which every individual is bound to pursue the good of his country.19
Those who either attack or defend a minister in such a government as ours,20 where the utmost liberty is allowed, always carry matters to an extreme, and exaggerate his merit or demerit with regard to the public. His enemies are sure to charge him with the greatest enormities, both in domestic and foreign management; and there is no meanness or crime, of which, in their account, he is not capable. Unnecessary wars, scandalous treaties, profusion of public treasure, oppressive taxes, every kind of mal-administration is ascribed to him. To aggravate the charge, his pernicious conduct, it is said, will extend its baleful influence even to posterity, by undermining the best constitution in the world, and disordering that wise system of laws, institutions, and customs, by which our ancestors, during so many centuries, have been so happily governed. He is not only a wicked minister in himself, but has removed every security provided against wicked ministers for the future.
On the other hand, the partizans of the minister make his panegyric° run as high as the accusation against him, and celebrate his wise, steady, and moderate conduct in every part of his administration. The honour and interest of the nation supported abroad, public credit maintained at home, persecution restrained, faction subdued; the merit of all these blessings is ascribed solely to the minister. At the same time, he crowns all his other merits by a religious° care of the best constitution in the world, which he has preserved in all its parts, and has transmitted entire, to be the happiness and security of the latest posterity.
When this accusation and panegyric are received by the partizans of each party, no wonder they beget an extraordinary ferment on both sides, and fill the nation with violent animosities. But I would fain° persuade these party-zealots, that there is a flat contradiction both in the accusation and panegyric, and that it were impossible for either of them to run so high, were it not for this contradiction. If our constitution be really that noble fabric, the pride ofBritain, the envy of our neighbours, raised by the labour of so many centuries, repaired at the expence of so many millions, and cemented by such a profusion of blood;21 I say, if our constitution does in any degree deserve these eulogies,h it would never have suffered a wicked and weak minister to govern triumphantly for a course of twenty years, when opposed by the greatest geniuses in the nation, who exercised the utmost liberty of tongue and pen, in parliament, and in their frequent appeals to the people. But, if the minister be wicked and weak, to the degree so strenuously insisted on, the constitution must be faulty in its original principles, and he cannot consistently be charged with undermining the best form of government in the world. A constitution is only so far good, as it provides a remedy against mal-administration; and if the British, when in its greatest vigour, and repaired by two such remarkable events, as the Revolution and Accession, by which our ancient royal family was sacrificed to it;22 if our constitution, I say, with so great advantages, does not, in fact, provide any such remedy, we are rather beholden to any minister who undermines it, and affords us an opportunity of erecting a better in its place.
I would employ the same topics to moderate the zeal of those who defend the minister. Is our constitution so excellent? Then a change of ministry can be no such dreadful event; since it is essential to such a constitution, in every ministry, both to preserve itself from violation, and to prevent all enormities in the administration. Is our constitution very bad? Then so extraordinary a jealousy and apprehension, on account of changes, is ill placed; and a man should no more be anxious in this case, than a husband, who had married a woman from the stews,° should be watchful to prevent her infidelity. Public affairs, in such a government, must necessarily go to confusion, by whatever hands they are conducted; and the zeal of patriots is in that case much less requisite than the patience and submission of philosophers. The virtue and good intentions of Cato and Brutus are highly laudable; but, to what purpose did their zeal serve?23 Only to hasten the fatal period of the Roman government, and render its convulsions and dying agonies more violent and painful.
I would not be understood to mean, that public affairs deserve no care and attention at all. Would men be moderate and consistent, their claims might be admitted; at least might be examined. The country-party might still assert, that our constitution, though excellent, will admit of mal-administration to a certain degree; and therefore, if the minister be bad, it is proper to oppose him with a suitable degree of zeal. And, on the other hand, the court-party may be allowed, upon the supposition that the minister were good, to defend, and with some zeal too, his administration. I would only persuade men not to contend, as if they were fighting pro aris & focis,° and change a good constitution into a bad one, by the violence of their factions.i
I have not here considered any thing that is personal in the present controversy. In the best civil constitution, where every man is restrained by the most rigid laws, it is easy to discover either the good or bad intentions of a minister, and to judge, whether his personal character deserve love or hatred. But such questions are of little importance to the public, and lay those, who employ their pens upon them, under a just suspicion either of malevolence or of flattery.
[Written by Alexander Pope (1688–1744) and published in 1732–34.]
[2. ][French king whose reign (1574–89) was marked by civil and religious strife. He is remembered for his partiality, extravagance, and distaste for hard work as well as for his oppression of Huguenot Protestants.]
[3. ][King of France, 1589–1610. Henry IV succeeded in calming religious warfare, improving the realm’s finances and administration, and curbing Spanish designs through alliances with England and the United Provinces. He won acceptance for the Edict of Nantes (1598), which extended religious toleration to the Huguenots.]
[4. ][A plain stretching from the Tiber River to the hills of Rome, which derived its name from the Altar of Mars that stood there. It was a site for public meetings, worship, and commerce.]
[5. ][As Hume uses the term in the Treatise, a priori reasoning compares ideas in abstraction from experienced relationships. Whereas some of his predecessors, such as Hobbes, had attempted to base moral or political philosophy on a priori reasoning, Hume sets out to establish moral science on the “experimental method of reasoning,” which was introduced by Francis Bacon and utilized by Isaac Newton. Nevertheless, Hume sometimes claims in the Essays that political principles can be derived a priori, i.e., by general reasoning on our ideas or concepts of the things in question and without reference to particular examples.]
[6. ][See Cicero (106–43 bc), In C. Verrem Actio Prima (First Part of the speech against Gaius Verres at the first hearing) 1.14.41.]
[7. ][Verres was Roman governor of Sicily from 73 to 70 bc He plundered the province and committed many acts of extreme cruelty. At the expiration of his term in 70, he was prosecuted before the senatorial Extortion Court at Rome by Cicero, who represented the Sicilians. Cicero’s prosecution of Verres was conducted so brilliantly that Verres withdrew into voluntary exile before the trial could be completed. Cicero thereby established himself as the leading lawyer of Rome, replacing Hortensius, who had defended Verres. Both Verres and Cicero were assassinated, along with hundreds of senators and businessmen, on orders of the ruling Triumvirate (Octavian, Lepidus, Antony) in 43 bc]
[8. ]Ann. lib. I. cap. 2. [Tacitus, Annals 1.8, in the Loeb edition.]
[9. ]Suet. in vita Domit. [Suetonius (ad 70?–141?), Lives of the Caesars, in the life of Domitian, chap. 8. Domitian was emperor from ad 81 to 96.]
[10. ]Egregium resumendæ libertati tempus, si ipsi florentes, quam inopsItalia, quam imbellis urbana plebs, nihil validum in exercitibus, nisi quod externum cogitarent.Tacit. Ann. lib. 3.c [Tacitus, Annals 3.40: “It was an unequalled opportunity for regaining their independence: they had only to look from their own resources to the poverty of Italy, the unwarlike city population, the feebleness of the armies except for the leavening of foreigners” (Loeb translation by John Jackson). Tiberius was emperor from ad 14 to 37.]
[11. ]Lib. I. cap. 72. [Polybius (200?–120? bc), Histories 1.72.]
[12. ][For most of the period between the mid-fifteenth and the early seventeenth centuries, the island of Corsica was subjected to oppressive and corrupt rule by the republic of Genoa. Frequent revolts against Genoese authority occurred during the mid-seventeenth century. Recognizing that it could not subjugate Corsica and fearing its occupation by a hostile power, Genoa finally ceded the island to France in 1768. Although Corsica had sometimes sought French control, a war of conquest in 1768–69 was necessary to establish French authority.]
[13. ][See Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), The Prince, chap. 4. Alexander the Great (356–323 bc) established a vast Macedonian-Greek empire after defeating the forces of the Persian Empire under the command of Darius III in 333–330 bc]
[14. ]I have taken it for granted, according to the supposition of Machiavel, that the ancient Persians had no nobility; though there is reason to suspect, that the Florentine secretary, who seems to have been better acquainted with the Roman than the Greek authors, was mistaken in this particular. The more ancient Persians, whose manners are described by Xenophon, were a free people, and had nobility. Their ὁμότιμοι [chief nobles, peers. See Xenophon (428?–354? bc), Education of Cyrus 2.1.9] were preserved even after the extending of their conquests and the consequent change of their government. Arrian mentions them in Darius’s time, De exped.Alex. lib. ii. [Arrian (ad 96?–180?), Expedition of Alexander.] Historians also speak often of the persons in command as men of family. Tygranes, who was general of the Medes under Xerxes, was of the race of Achmænes, Herod. lib. vii. cap. 62. [Herodotus (484?–420? bc), History.] Artachæas, who directed the cutting of the canal about mount Athos, was of the same family. Id. cap. 117. Megabyzus was one of the seven eminent Persians who conspired against the Magi. His son, Zopyrus, was in the highest command under Darius, and delivered Babylon to him. His grandson, Megabyzus, commanded the army, defeated at Marathon. His great-grandson, Zopyrus, was also eminent, and was banished Persia. Herod. lib. iii. Thuc. lib. i. [Herodotus, History 3.160; Thucydides (472?–after 400 bc), History of the Peloponnesian War 1.109.] Rosaces, who commanded an army in Egypt under Artaxerxes, was also descended from one of the seven conspirators, Diod. Sic. lib. xvi. [Diodorus Siculus (1st cen. bc), Library of History 16.47.] Agesilaus, in Xenophon, Hist. Græc. lib. iv. [Xenophon, Hellenica (History of Greece) 4.1] being desirous of making a marriage betwixt king Cotys his ally, and the daughter of Spithridates, a Persian of rank, who had deserted to him, first asks Cotys what family Spithridates is of. One of the most considerable in Persia, says Cotys. Ariæus, when offered the sovereignty by Clearchus and the ten thousand Greeks, refused it as of too low a rank, and said, that so many eminent Persians would never endure his rule. Id. de exped. lib. ii. [Xenophon, Expedition of Cyrus, bk. 2.] Some of the families descended from the seven Persians abovementioned remained during all Alexander’s successors; and Mithridates, in Antiochus’s time, is said by Polybius to be descended from one of them, lib. v. cap. 43. Artabazus was esteemed, as Arrian says, ὲν τοι̑ς πρώτοις Περσω̑ν [“among the highest of the Persians”]. lib. iii. . And when Alexander married in one day 80 of his captains to Persian women, his intention plainly was to ally the Macedonians with the most eminent Persian families. Id. lib. vii. . Diodorus Siculus says they were of the most noble birth in Persia, lib. xvii. . The government of Persia was despotic, and conducted in many respects, after the eastern manner, but was not carried so far as to extirpate all nobility, and confound all ranks and orders. It left men who were still great, by themselves and their family, independent of their office and commission. And the reason why the Macedonians kept so easily dominion over them was owing to other causes easy to be found in the historians; though it must be owned that Machiavel’s reasoning is, in itself, just, however doubtful its application to the present case.e
[15. ]Essempio veramente raro, & da Filosofi intante loro imaginate & vedute Republiche mai non trovato, vedere dentro ad un medesimo cerchio, fra medesimi cittadini, la liberta, & la tirannide, la vita civile & la corotta, la giustitia & la licenza; perche quello ordine solo mantiere quella citta piena di costumi antichi & venerabili. E s’egli auvenisse (che col tempo in ogni modo auverrà) queSan Giorgiotutta quel la città occupasse, sarrebbe quella una Republica piu dallaVenetianamemorabile. Della Hist. Florentinè, lib. 8. [Niccolò Machiavelli, The History of Florence 8.29: “A truly rare example, and one never found by the philosophers in all their imagined or dreamed of republics, to see in the same circle, among the same citizens, liberty and tyranny, the civil and the corrupt life, justice and license; because that order alone keeps that city full of ancient and venerable customs. And should it happen, which in time will happen anyway, that St. George will occupy all that city, it would be a republic more memorable than the Venetian one.” The republic of Genoa, unable to pay its creditors after war with Venice, conceded to them the revenue of the customhouse until the war debt should be liquidated. The creditors, who took the title of the Bank of St. George, established a form of government among themselves, with a council and an executive body. Genoa came to rely on the bank for credit, assigning towns, castles, and territories as security, so that eventually the bank came to have under its administration most of the towns and cities in the Genoese dominion.]
[16. ]T. Livii, lib. 40. cap. 43. [Livy (59 bc–ad 17), History of Rome (from the founding of the city) 40.43. The Punic Wars were fought between the Romans and the Carthaginians. The first began in 264 bc and the third and last ended in 146 bc with the destruction of Carthage. The Tribunes were elected by the people (Plebeians) to represent their interests against the nobility (Patricians). A Praetor was a high judicial officer or a provincial governor.]
[17. ]Id. lib. 8. cap. 18.
[These lines are adapted loosely from the tragedy Cinna, act 1, sc. 3, which was produced by Pierre Corneille (1606–84) in late 1640 or early 1641. In the original, “Où l’aigle abattoit l’aigle” is followed eight lines later by: “Romains contre Romains, parents contre parents, / Combattoient seulement pour le choix des tyrans.” Cinna, who is plotting to restore liberty to Rome by assassinating the emperor Augustus, describes his efforts to incite his followers thusly: “I painted pictures of those dreadful wars / When savage Rome was bent on suicide, / When eagle swooped on eagle, on all sides / Embattled legions stood against their freedom; / When the best soldiers and the bravest chiefs / Fought for the honor of becoming slaves; / When better to assure their fettered shame / All vied to fix the whole world to their chains; / And the base honor of giving it a master, / Making all hug a traitor’s craven name, / Roman against Roman and kith against kin, / Fought only for the right to choose a tyrant.” Translation by Samuel Solomon (New York: Random House, 1969). The “time of the Triumvirates” to which Hume refers extended from the formation of the so-called First Triumvirate (Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus) in 60 bc until 31 bc, when the Second Triumvirate (Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus) was finally broken, opening the way for Octavian to become the first Roman emperor (Augustus).]
[19. ][Later in this essay, Hume identifies the party division of his time as one between the court party and the country party. See note 21 on Bolingbroke’s use of these terms. Hume discusses the British parties in several of the subsequent essays. See “Of the Parties of Great Britain,” “Of Passive Obedience,” “Of the Coalition of Parties,” and “Of the Protestant Succession.”]
[20. ][In what follows, Hume has in mind the debate that raged in his time over a particular minister, Sir Robert Walpole (1676–1745). As First Lord of the Treasury from 1721 to 1742, Walpole mastered Parliament by the skillful use of the patronage of the Crown to control a majority in the House of Commons. Walpole is usually considered to be England’s first Prime Minister, although this term was applied to Walpole by his enemies. In the 1742 edition of Hume’s Essays, there appeared an essay entitled “A Character of Sir Robert Walpole.” In editions appearing between 1748 and 1768, it was printed as a footnote at the end of the present essay, “That Politics may be reduced to a Science.” This footnote was dropped in the editions of 1770 and later. Hume’s essay on Walpole can be found in the present volume under “Essays Withdrawn and Unpublished.”]
[21. ]Dissertation on parties, Letter 10. [Written by Henry St. John (1678–1751), who became Viscount Bolingbroke in 1712. Bolingbroke, a supporter of the Tory party in Parliament and Secretary of State from 1710 to 1714, went into exile in 1715, following the accession of George I and after articles of impeachment were brought against him in the House of Commons by Robert Walpole. His flirtation with James III, the Pretender, helped to bring the Tory party into disrepute during the period of Whig dominance from 1714 to 1760. After returning to London in 1725, he contributed over the next decade to The Craftsman, a periodical that opposed the Whig government under Walpole. Bolingbroke’s Dissertation Upon Parties, which appeared in The Craftsman in 1733, is a vehement attack on Walpole. Bolingbroke argues that the ground for the old division between Tories and Whigs no longer exists. Both now form a constitutional or country party, which seeks to preserve the British constitution by securing the independency of Parliaments against the new influence of the Crown. Walpole’s anticonstitutional or court party, on the other hand, is attempting to expand the power of the Crown and reduce Parliaments to an absolute dependency.]
[22. ][Hume refers here to the Revolution of 1688, which deposed James II, and to the subsequent accession of Mary, his daughter, and her husband, William of Orange, who was Stadtholder of Holland. William III ruled jointly with Mary from 1689 until her death in 1694 and then as sole sovereign until 1702. William was succeeded by Anne, the second daughter of James II and the last of the Stuart sovereigns. By the Act of Settlement of 1701, the royal line became fixed after Anne’s death (1714) in the house of Hanover.]
[23. ][The reference is probably to Cato Uticensis (95–46 bc), great-grandson of Cato Censorius (234–149 bc), the noted statesman, writer, and orator. The younger Cato was the uncle of Marcus Junius Brutus (85?–42 bc). Brutus later married Cato’s daughter, Porcia. Cato and Brutus supported Pompey against Julius Caesar in the Civil War. Cato committed suicide in 46 bc, following the defeat of the Pompeians at Thapsus. Brutus was pardoned by Caesar, but later became a leader in the patriotic conspiracy that led to Caesar’s murder (44 bc).]
[a]Editions A to P insert the following:—An equal difference of a contrary kind, may be found on comparing the reigns of Elizabeth and James, at least with regard to foreign affairs.
They omit the words “foreign as well as domestic” in the next sentence.
[b]Editions A to Q insert: And such, in a great measure, was that of England, till the middle of the last century, notwithstanding the numerous panegyrics on ancient English liberty. Editions A and B stop at the word century.
[c]Ed. A reads Vespasian’s, and gives no reference.
[d]This sentence and the notes 1  and 2  were added in Edition K.
[e]This note was added in Edition K.
[f]This paragraph was added in Edition D.
[g]Editions D to N gave the date 1742.
[h]Elogiums: Editions A to D. The word is frequently so written in the Treatise.
[i]Editions D to P give in a note the well-known Character of Sir Robert Walpole. [See, under “Essays Withdrawn and Unpublished,” Essay VIII, A Character of Sir Robert Walpole, note 1, for an explanation of the footnote to which Green and Grose here refer.]
[Levity:]inconstancy or changeableness; unsteadiness; trifling gaiety.
[Artifice:]trickery; fraud; stratagem.
[Faction:]tumult, discord, or dissention, especially as arising from disputes among civil or religious parties.
[Humours:]general turn or temper of mind; present disposition.
[Affected popularity:]tried to please the crowd.
[Licentious:]unrestrained by law or morality.
[Doge:]title of the chief magistrate of the republic of Venice.
[Factions:]contending parties in a state.
[Proscription:]a sentence of death and confiscation of one’s property.
[Païs conquis:]conquered lands.
[Meanness:]want of dignity; low rank.
[Desert:]degree of merit or demerit.
[Enow:]the plural of enough.
[Panegyric:]a eulogy or encomium; high praise.
[Fain:]to wish; to desire fondly.
[A woman from the stews:]a prostitute.
[Pro aris & focis:]in defense of our altars and our fires.
Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society, 5th ed. (London: T. Cadell, 1782). Chapter: PART FIRST.: Of the General Characteristics of Human Nature.
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NATURAL productions are generally formed by degrees. Vegetables are raised from a tender shoot, and animals from an infant state. The latter, being active, extend together their operations and their powers, and have a progress in what they perform, as well as in the faculties they acquire. This progress in the case of man is continued to a greater extent than in that of any other animal. Not only the individual advances from infancy to manhood, but the species itself from rudeness to civilization. Hence the supposed departure of mankind from the state of their nature; hence our conjectures and different opinions of what man must have been in the first age of his being. The poet, the historian, and the moralist frequently allude to this ancient time; and under the emblems of gold, or of iron, represent a condition, and a manner of life, from which mankind have either degenerated, or on which they have greatly improved. On either supposition, the first state of our nature must have borne no resemblance to what men have exhibited in any subsequent period; historical monuments, even of the earliest date, are to be considered as novelties; and the most common establishments of human society are to be classed among the encroachments which fraud, oppression, or a busy invention, have made upon the reign of nature, by which the chief of our grievances or blessings were equally with-held.
Among the writers who have attempted to distinguish, in the human character, its original qualities, and to point out the limits between nature and art, some have represented mankind in their first condition, as possessed of mere animal sensibility, without any exercise of the faculties that render them superior to the brutes, without any political union, without any means of explaining their sentiments, and even without possessing any of the apprehensions and passions which the voice and the gesture are so well fitted to express. Others have made the state of nature to consist in perpetual wars kindled by competition for dominion and interest, where every individual had a separate quarrel with his kind, and where the presence of a fellow-creature was the signal of battle.
The desire of laying the foundation of a favourite system, or a fond expectation, perhaps, that we may be able to penetrate the secrets of nature, to the very source of existence, have, on this subject, led to many fruitless inquiries, and given rise to many wild suppositions. Among the various qualities which mankind possess, we select one or a few particulars on which to establish a theory, and in framing our account of what man was in some imaginary state of nature, we overlook what he has always appeared within the reach of our own observation, and in the records of history.
In every other instance, however, the natural historian thinks himself obliged to collect facts, not to offer conjectures. When he treats of any particular species of animals, he supposes that their present dispositions and instincts are the same which they originally had, and that their present manner of life is a continuance of their first destination. He admits, that his knowledge of the material system of the world consists in a collection of facts, or at most, in general tenets derived from particular observations and experiments. It is only in what relates to himself, and in matters the most important and the most easily known, that he substitutes hypothesis instead of reality, and confounds the provinces of imagination and reason, of poetry and science.
But without entering any further on questions either in moral or physical subjects, relating to the manner or to the origin of our knowledge; without any disparagement to that subtilty which would analyse every sentiment, and trace every mode of being to its source; it may be safely affirmed, That the character of man, as he now exists, that the laws of his animal and intellectual system, on which his happiness now depends, deserve our principal study; and that general principles relating to this or any other subject, are useful only so far as they are founded on just observation, and lead to the knowledge of important consequences, or so far as they enable us to act with success when we would apply either the intellectual or the physical powers of nature, to the purposes of human life.
If both the earliest and the latest accounts collected from every quarter of the earth, represent mankind as assembled in troops and companies; and the individual always joined by affection to party, while he is possibly opposed to another; employed in the exercise of recollection and foresight; inclined to communicate his own sentiments, and to be made acquainted with those of others; these facts must be admitted as the foundation of all our reasoning relative to man. His mixed disposition to friendship or enmity, his reason, his use of language and articulate sounds, like the shape and the erect position of his body, are to be considered as so many attributes of his nature: they are to be retained in his description, as the wing and the paw are in that of the eagle and the lion, and as different degrees of fierceness, vigilance, timidity, or speed, have a place in the natural history of different animals.
If the question be put, What the mind of man could perform, when left to itself, and without the aid of any foreign direction? we are to look for our answer in the history of mankind. Particular experiments which have been sound so useful in establishing the principles of other sciences, could probably, on this subject, teach us nothing important, or new: We are to take the history of every active being from his conduct in the situation to which he is formed, not from his appearance in any forced or uncommon condition; a wild man therefore, caught in the woods, where he had always lived apart from his species, is a singular instance, not a specimen of any general character. As the anatomy of the eye which had never received the impressions of light, or that of an ear which had never felt the impulse of sounds, would probably exhibit defects in the very structure of the organs themselves, arising from their not being applied to their proper functions; so any particular case of this sort would only shew in what degree the powers of apprehension and sentiment could exist where they had not been employed, and what would be the defects and imbecilities of a heart in which the emotions that arise in society had never been felt.
Mankind are to be taken in groupes, as they have always subsisted. The history of the individual is but a detail of the sentiments and the thoughts he has entertained in the view of his species: and every experiment relative to this subject should be made with entire societies, not with single men. We have every reason, however, to believe, that in the case of such an experiment made, we shall suppose, with a colony of children transplanted from the nursery, and left to form a society apart, untaught, and undisciplined, we should only have the same things repeated, which, in so many different parts of the earth, have been transacted already. The members of our little society would feed and sleep, would herd together and play, would have a language of their own, would quarrel and divide, would be to one another the most important objects of the scene, and, in the ardour of their friendships and competitions, would overlook their personal danger, and suspend the care of their self-preservation. Has not the human race been planted like the colony in question? Who has directed their course? whose instruction have they heard? or whose example have they followed?
Nature, therefore, we shall presume, having given to every animal its mode of existence, its dispositions and manner of life, has dealt equally with the human race; and the natural historian who would collect the properties of this species, may fill up every article now as well as he could have done in any former age. The attainments of the parent do not descend in the blood of his children, nor is the progress of man to be considered as a physical mutation of the species. The individual, in every age, has the same race to run from infancy to manhood, and every infant, or ignorant person, now, is a model of what man was in his original state. He enters on his career with advantages peculiar to his age; but his natural talent is probably the same. The use and application of this talent is changing, and men continue their works in progression through many ages together: They build on foundations laid by their ancestors; and in a succession of years, tend to a perfection in the application of their faculties, to which the aid of long experience is required, and to which many generations must have combined their endeavours. We observe the progress they have made; we distinctly enumerate many of its steps; we can trace them back to a distant antiquity; of which no record remains, nor any monument is preserved, to inform us what were the openings of this wonderful scene. The consequence is, that instead of attending to the character of our species, where the particulars are vouched by the surest authority, we endeavour to trace it through ages and scenes unknown; and, instead of supposing that the beginning of our story was nearly of a piece with the sequel, we think ourselves warranted to reject every circumstance of our present condition and frame, as adventitious, and foreign to our nature. The progress of mankind, from a supposed state of animal sensibility, to the attainment of reason, to the use of language, and to the habit of society, has been accordingly painted with a force of imagination, and its steps have been marked with a boldness of invention, that would tempt us to admit, among the materials of history, the suggestions of fancy, and to receive, perhaps, as the model of our nature in its original state, some of the animals whose shape has the greatest resemblance to ours* .
It would be ridiculous to affirm, as a discovery, that the species of the horse was probably never the same with that of the lion; yet, in opposition to what has dropped from the pens of eminent writers, we are obliged to observe, that men have always appeared among animals a distinct and a superior race; that neither the possession of similar organs, nor the approximation of shape, nor the use of the hand* , nor the continued intercourse with this sovereign artist, has enabled any other species to blend their nature or their inventions with his; that, in his rudest state, he is found to be above them; and in his greatest degeneracy, never descends to their level. He is, in short, a man in every condition; and we can learn nothing of his nature from the analogy of other animals. If we would know him, we must attend to himself, to the course of his life, and the tenour of his conduct. With him the society appears to be as old as the individual, and the use of the tongue as universal as that of the hand or the foot. If there was a time in which he had his acquaintance with his own species to make, and his faculties to acquire, it is a time of which we have no record, and in relation to which our opinions can serve no purpose, and are supported by no evidence.
We are often tempted into these boundless regions of ignorance or conjecture, by a fancy which delights in creating rather than in merely retaining the forms which are presented before it: we are the dupes of a subtilty, which promises to supply every defect of our knowledge, and, by filling up a few blanks in the story of nature, pretends to conduct our apprehension nearer to the source of existence. On the credit of a few observations, we are apt to presume, that the secret may soon be laid open, and that what is termed wisdom in nature, may be referred to the operation of physical powers. We forget that physical powers employed in succession or together, and combined to a salutary purpose, constitute those very proofs of design from which we infer the existence of God; and that this truth being once admitted, we are no longer to search for the source of existence; we can only collect the laws which the Author of nature has established; and in our latest as well as our earliest discoveries, only perceive a mode of creation or providence before unknown.
We speak of art as distinguished from nature; but art itself is natural to man. He is in some measure the artificer of his own frame, as well as of his fortune, and is destined, from the first age of his being, to invent and contrive. He applies the same talents to a variety of purposes, and acts nearly the same part in very different scenes. He would be always improving on his subject, and he carries this intention wherever he moves, through the streets of the populous city, or the wilds of the forest. While he appears equally fitted to every condition, he is upon this account unable to settle in any. At once obstinate and fickle, he complains of innovations, and is never sated with novelty. He is perpetually busied in reformations, and is continually wedded to his errors. If he dwell in a cave, he would improve it into a cottage; if he has already built, he would still build to a greater extent. But he does not propose to make rapid and hasty transitions; his steps are progressive and slow; and his force, like the power of a spring, silently presses on every resistance; an effect is sometimes produced before the cause is perceived; and with all his talent for projects, his work is often accomplished before the plan is devised. It appears, perhaps, equally difficult to retard or to quicken his pace; if the projector complain he is tardy, the moralist thinks him unstable; and whether his motions be rapid or flow, the scenes of human affairs perpetually change in his management: His emblem is a passing stream, not a stagnating pool. We may desire to direct his love of improvement to its proper object, we may wish for stability of conduct; but we mistake human nature, if we wish for a termination of labour, or a scene of repose.
The occupations of men, in every condition, bespeak their freedom of choice, their various opinions, and the multiplicity of wants by which they are urged: but they enjoy, or endure, with a sensibility, or a phlegm, which are nearly the same in every situation. They possess the shores of the Caspian, or the Atlantic, by a different tenure, but with equal ease. On the one they are fixed to the soil, and seem to be formed for settlement, and the accommodation of cities: The names they bestow on a nation, and on its territory, are the same. On the other they are mere animals of passage, prepared to roam on the face of the earth, and with their herds, in search of new pasture and favourable seasons, to follow the sun in his annual course.
Man finds his lodgment alike in the cave, the cottage, and the palace; and his subsistence equally in the woods, in the dairy, or the farm. He assumes the distinction of titles, equipage, and dress; he devises regular systems of government, and a complicated body of laws; or naked in the woods has no badge of superiority but the strength of his limbs and the sagacity of his mind; no rule of conduct but choice; no tie with his fellow-creatures but affection, the love of company, and the desire of safety. Capable of a great variety of arts, yet dependent on none in particular for the preservation of his being; to whatever length he has carried his artifice, there he seems to enjoy the conveniences that suit his nature, and to have found the condition to which he is destined. The tree which an American, on the banks of the Oroonoko* , has chosen to climb for the retreat, and the lodgment of his family, is to him a convenient dwelling. The sopha, the vaulted dome, and the colonade, do not more effectually content their native inhabitant.
If we are asked therefore, Where the state of nature is to be found? we may answer, It is here; and it matters not whether we are understood to speak in the island of Great Britain, at the Cape of Good Hope, or the Straits of Magellan. While this active being is in the train of employing his talents, and of operating on the subjects around him, all situations are equally natural. If we are told, That vice, at least, is contrary to nature; we may answer, It is worse; it is folly and wretchedness. But if nature is only opposed to art, in what situation of the human race are the footsteps of art unknown? In the condition of the savage, as well as in that of the citizen, are many proofs of human invention; and in either is not in any permanent station, but a mere stage through which this travelling being is destined to pass. If the palace be unnatural, the cottage is so no less; and the highest refinements of political and moral apprehension, are not more artificial in their kind, than the first operations of sentiment and reason.
If we admit that man is susceptible of improvement, and has in himself a principle of progression, and a desire of perfection, it appears improper to say, that he has quitted the state of his nature, when he has begun to proceed; or that he finds a station for which he was not intended, while, like other animals, he only follows the disposition, and employs the powers that nature has given.
The latest efforts of human invention are but a continuation of certain devices which were practised in the earliest ages of the world, and in the rudest state of mankind. What the savage projects, or observes, in the forest, are the steps which led nations, more advanced, from the architecture of the cottage to that of the palace, and conducted the human mind from the perceptions of sense, to the general conclusions of science.
Acknowledged defects are to man in every condition matter of dislike. Ignorance and imbecility are objects of contempt: penetration and conduct give eminence, and procure esteem. Whither should his feelings and apprehensions on these subjects lead him? To a progress, no doubt, in which the savage, as well as the philosopher, is engaged; in which they have made different advances, but in which their ends are the same. The admiration which Cicero entertained for literature, eloquence, and civil accomplishments, was not more real than that of a Scythian for such a measure of similar endowments as his own apprehension could reach. “Were I to boast,” says a Tartar prince* , “it would be of that wisdom I have received from God. For as, on the one hand, I yield to none in the conduct of war, in the disposition of armies, whether of horse or of foot, and in directing the movements of great or small bodies; so, on the other, I have my talent in writing, inferior perhaps only to those who inhabit the great cities of Persia or India. Of other nations, unknown to me, I do not speak.”
Man may mistake the objects of his pursuit; he may misapply his industry, and misplace his improvements. If, under a sense of such possible errors, he would find a standard by which to judge of his own proceedings, and arrive at the best state of his nature, he cannot find it perhaps in the practice of any individual, or of any nation whatever; not even in the sense of the majority, or the prevailing opinion of his kind. He must look for it in the best conceptions of his understanding, in the best movements of his heart; he must thence discover what is the perfection and the happiness of which he is capable. He will find, on the scrutiny, that the proper state of his nature, taken in this sense, is not a condition from which mankind are for ever removed, but one to which they may now attain; not prior to the exercise of their faculties, but procured by their just application.
Of all the terms that we employ in treating of human affairs, those of natural and unnatural are the least determinate in their meaning. Opposed to affectation, frowardness, or any other defect of the temper or character, the natural is an epithet of praise; but employed to specify a conduct which proceeds from the nature of man, can serve to distinguish nothing: for all the actions of men are equally the result of their nature. At most, this language can only refer to the general and prevailing sense or practice of mankind; and the purpose of every important inquiry on this subject may be served by the use of a language equally familiar and more precise. What is just, or unjust? What is happy or wretched, in the manners of men? What, in their various situations, is favourable or adverse to their amiable qualities? are questions to which we may expect a satisfactory answer; and whatever may have been the original state of our species, it is of more importance to know the condition to which we ourselves should aspire, than that which our ancestors may be supposed to have left.
IF in human nature there are qualities by which it is distinguished from every other part of the animal creation, this nature itself is in different climates and in different ages greatly diversified. The varieties merit our attention, and the course of every stream into which this mighty current divides, deserves to be followed to its source. It appears necessary, however, that we attend to the universal qualities of our nature, before we regard its varieties, or attempt to explain differences consisting in the unequal possession or application of dispositions and powers that are in some measure common to all mankind.
Man, like the other animals, has certain instinctive propensities, which, prior to the perception of pleasure or pain, and prior to the experience of what is pernicious or useful, lead him to perform many functions which terminate in himself, or have a relation to his fellow-creatures. He has one set of dispositions which tend to his animal preservation, and to the continuance of his race; another which lead to society, and by inlisting him on the side of one tribe or community, frequently engage him in war and contention with the rest of mankind. His powers of discernment, or his intellectual faculties, which, under the appellation of reason, are distinguished from the analogous endowments of other animals, refer to the objects around him, either as they are subjects of mere knowledge, or as they are subjects of approbation or censure. He is formed not only to know, but likewise to admire and to contemn; and these proceedings of his mind have a principal reference to his own character, and to that of his fellow-creatures, as being the subjects on which he is chiefly concerned to distinguish what is right from what is wrong. He enjoys his felicity likewise on certain fixed and determinate conditions; and either as an individual apart, or as a member of civil society, must take a particular course, in order to reap the advantages of his nature. He is, withal, in a very high degree susceptible of habits; and can, by forbearance or exercise, so far weaken, confirm, or even diversify his talents, and his dispositions, as to appear, in a great measure, the arbiter of his own rank in nature, and the author of all the varieties which are exhibited in the actual history of his species. The universal characteristics, in the mean time, to which we have now referred, must, when we would treat of any part of this history, constitute the first subject of our attention; and they require not only to be enumerated, but to be distinctly considered.
The dispositions which tend to the preservation of the individual, while they continue to operate in the manner of instinctive desires, are nearly the same in man that they are in the other animals: But in him they are sooner or later combined with reflection and foresight; they give rise to his apprehensions on the subject of property, and make him acquainted with that object of care which he calls his interest. Without the instincts which teach the beaver and the squirrel, the ant and the bee, to make up their little hoards for winter, at first improvident, and, where no immediate object of passion is near, addicted to sloth, he becomes, in process of time, the great storemaster among animals. He finds in a provision of wealth, which he is probably never to employ, an object of his greatest solicitude, and the principal idol of his mind. He apprehends a relation between his person and his property, which renders what he calls his own in a manner a part of himself, a constituent of his rank, his condition, and his character, in which, independent of any real enjoyment, he may be fortunate or unhappy; and, independent of any personal merit, he may be an object of consideration or neglect; and in which he may be wounded and injured, while his person is safe, and every want of his nature is completely supplied.
In these apprehensions, while other passions only operate occasionally, the interested find the object of their ordinary cares; their motive to the practice of mechanic and commercial arts; their temptation to trespass on the laws of justice; and, when extremely corrupted, the price of their prostitutions, and the standard of their opinions on the subject of good and of evil. Under this influence, they would enter, if not restrained by the laws of civil society, on a scene of violence or meanness, which would exhibit our species, by turns, under an aspect more terrible and odious, or more vile and contemptible, than that of any animal which inherits the earth.
Although the consideration of interest is founded on the experience of animal wants and desires, its object is not to gratify any particular appetite, but to secure the means of gratifying all; and it imposes frequently a restraint on the very desires from which it arose, more powerful and more severe than those of religion or duty. It arises from the principles of self-preservation in the human frame; but is a corruption, or at least a partial result, of those principles, and is upon many accounts very improperly termed self-love.
Love is an affection which carries the attention of the mind beyond itself, and is the sense of a relation to some fellow-creature as to its object. Being a complacency and a continued satisfaction in this object, it has, independent of any external event, and in the midst of disappointment and sorrow, pleasures and triumphs unknown to those who are guided by mere considerations of interest; in every change of condition, it continues entirely distinct from the sentiments which we feel on the subject of personal success or adversity. But as the care a man entertains for his own interest, and the attention his affection makes him pay to that of another, may have similar effects, the one on his own fortune, the other on that of his friend, we confound the principles from which he acts; we suppose that they are the same in kind, only referred to different objects; and we not only misapply the name of love, in conjunction with self, but, in a manner tending to degrade our nature, we limit the aim of this supposed selfish affection to the securing or accumulating the constituents of interest, or the means of mere animal life.
It is somewhat remarkable, that notwithstanding men value themselves so much on qualities of the mind, on parts, learning and wit, on courage, generosity, and honour, those men are still supposed to be in the highest degree selfish or attentive to themselves, who are most careful of animal life, and who are least mindful of rendering that life an object worthy of care. It will be difficult, however, to tell why a good understanding, a resolute and generous mind, should not, by every man in his senses, be reckoned as much parts of himself, as either his stomach or his palate, and much more than his estate or his dress. The epicure, who consults his physician, how he may restore his relish for food, and, by creating an appetite, renew his enjoyment, might at least with an equal regard to himself, consult how he might strengthen his affection to a parent or a child, to his country or to mankind; and it is probable that an appetite of this sort would prove a source of enjoyment not less than the former.
By our supposed selfish maxims, notwithstanding, we generally exclude from among the objects of our personal cares, many of the happier and more respectable qualities of human nature. We consider affection and courage as mere follies, that lead us to neglect or expose ourselves; we make wisdom consist in a regard to our interest; and without explaining what interest means, we would have it understood as the only reasonable motive of action with mankind. There is even a system of philosophy founded upon tenets of this sort, and such is our opinion of what men are likely to do upon selfish principles, that we think it must have a tendency very dangerous to virtue. But the errors of this system do not consist so much in general principles, as in their particular applications; not so much in teaching men to regard themselves, as in leading them to forget, that their happiest affections, their candour, and their independence of mind, are in reality parts of themselves. And the adversaries of this supposed selfish philosophy, where it makes self-love the ruling passion with mankind, have had reason to find fault, not so much with its general representations of human nature, as with the obtrusion of a mere innovation in language for a discovery in science.
When the vulgar speak of their different motives, they are satisfied with ordinary names, which refer to known and obvious distinctions. Of this kind are the terms benevolence and selfishness, by the first of which they express their friendly affections, and by the second their interest. The speculative are not always satisfied with this proceeding; they would analyze, as well as enumerate the principles of nature; and the chance is, that, merely to gain the appearance of something new, without any prospect of real advantage, they will attempt to change the application of words. In the case before us, they have actually found, that benevolence is no more than a species of self-love; and would oblige us, if possible, to look out for a new set of names, by which we may distinguish the selfishness of the parent when he takes care of his child, from his selfishness when he only takes care of himself. For, according to this philosophy, as in both cases he only means to gratify a desire of his own, he is in both cases equally selfish. The term benevolent, in the mean time, is not employed to characterise persons who have no desires of their own, but persons whose own desires prompt them to procure the welfare of others. The fact is, that we should need only a fresh supply of language, instead of that which by this seeming discovery we should have lost, in order to make our reasonings proceed as they formerly did. But it is certainly impossible to live and to act with men, without employing different names to distinguish the humane from the cruel, and the benevolent from the selfish.
These terms have their equivalents in every tongue; they were invented by men of no refinement, who only meant to express what they distinctly perceived, or strongly felt. And if a man of speculation should prove, that we are selfish in a sense of his own, it does not follow that we are so in the sense of the vulgar; or, as ordinary men would understand his conclusion, that we are condemned in every instance to act on motives of interest, covetousness, pusillanimity, and cowardice; for such is conceived to be the ordinary import of selfishness in the character of man.
An affection or passion of any kind is sometimes said to give us an interest in its object; and humanity itself gives an interest in the welfare of mankind. This term interest, which commonly implies little more than our property, is sometimes put for utility in general, and this for happiness; insomuch, that, under these ambiguities, it is not surprising we are still unable to determine, whether interest is the only motive of human action, and the standard by which to distinguish our good from our ill.
So much is said in this place, not from a desire to partake in any such controversy, but merely to confine the meaning of the term interest to its most common acceptation, and to intimate a design to employ it in expressing those objects of care which refer to our external condition, and the preservation of our animal nature. When taken in this sense, it will not surely be thought to comprehend at once all the motives of human conduct. If men be not allowed to have disinterested benevolence, they will not be denied to have disinterested passions of another kind. Hatred, indignation, and rage, frequently urge them to act in opposition to their known interest, and even to hazard their lives, without any hopes of compensation in any future returns of preferment or profit.
Mankind have always wandered or settled, agreed or quarrelled, in troops and companies. The cause of their assembling, whatever it be, is the principle of their alliance or union.
In collecting the materials of history, we are seldom willing to put up with our subject merely as we find it. We are loth to be embarrassed with a multiplicity of particulars, and apparent inconsistencies. In theory we profess the investigation of general principles; and in order to bring the matter of our inquiries within the reach of our comprehension, are disposed to adopt any system. Thus, in treating of human affairs, we would draw every consequence from a principle of union, or a principle of dissension. The state of nature is a state of war, or of amity, and men are made to unite from a principle of affection, or from a principle of fear, as is most suitable to the system of different writers. The history of our species indeed abundantly shews, that they are to one another mutual objects both of fear and of love; and they who would prove them to have been originally either in a state of alliance, or of war, have arguments in store to maintain their assertions. Our attachment to one division, or to one sect, seems often to derive much of its force from an animosity conceived to an opposite one: And this animosity in its turn, as often arises from a zeal in behalf of the side we espouse, and from a desire to vindicate the rights of our party.
“Man is born in society,” says Montesquieu, “and there he remains.” The charms that detain him are known to be manifold. Together with the parental affection, which, instead of deserting the adult, as among the brutes, embraces more close, as it becomes mixed with esteem, and the memory of its early effects; we may reckon a propensity common to man and other animals, to mix with the herd, and, without reflection, to follow the croud of his species. What this propensity was in the first moment of its operation, we know not; but with men accustomed to company, its enjoyments and disappointments are reckoned among the principal pleasures or pains of human life. Sadness and melancholy are connected with solitude; gladness and pleasure with the concourse of men. The track of a Laplander on the snowy shore, gives joy to the lonely mariner; and the mute signs of cordiality and kindness which are made to him, awaken the memory of pleasures which he felt in society. In fine, says the writer of a voyage to the North, after describing a mute scene of this sort, “We were extremely pleased to converse with men, since in thirteen months we had seen no human creature* .” But we need no remote observation to confirm this position: The wailings of the infant, and the languors of the adult, when alone; the lively joys of the one, and the chearfulness of the other, upon the return of company, are a sufficient proof of its solid foundations in the frame of our nature.
In accounting for actions we often forget that we ourselves have acted; and instead of the sentiments which stimulate the mind in the presence of its object, we assign as the motives of conduct with men, those considerations which occur in the hours of retirement and cold reflection. In this mood frequently we can find nothing important, besides the deliberate prospects of interest; and a great work, like that of forming society, must in our apprehension arise from deep reflections, and be carried on with a view to the advantages which mankind derive from commerce and mutual support. But neither a propensity to mix with the herd, nor the sense of advantages enjoyed in that condition, comprehend all the principles by which men are united together. Those bands are even of a feeble texture, when compared to the resolute ardour with which a man adheres to his friend, or to his tribe, after they have for some time run the career of fortune together. Mutual discoveries of generosity, joint trials of fortitude, redouble the ardours of friendship, and kindle a flame in the human breast, which the considerations of personal interest or safety cannot suppress. The most lively transports of joy are seen, and the loudest shrieks of despair are heard, when the objects of a tender affection are beheld in a state of triumph or of suffering. An Indian recovered his friend unexpectedly on the island of Juan Fernandes: He prostrated himself on the ground, at his feet: “We stood gazing in silence,” says Dampier, “at this tender scene.” If we would know what is the religion of a wild American, what it is in his heart that most resembles devotion: it is not his fear of the sorcerer, nor his hope of protection from the spirits of the air or the wood; it is the ardent affection with which he selects and embraces his friend; with which he clings to his side in every season of peril; and with which he invokes his spirit from a distance, when dangers surprise him alone* . Whatever proofs we may have of the social disposition of man in familiar and contiguous scenes, it is possibly of importance, to draw our observations from the examples of men who live in the simplest condition, and who have not learned to affect what they do not actually feel.
Mere acquaintance and habitude nourish affection, and the experience of society brings every passion of the human mind upon its side. Its triumphs and prosperities, its calamities and distresses, bring a variety and a force of emotion, which can only have place in the company of our fellow-creatures. It is here that a man is made to forget his weakness, his cares of safety, and his subsistence; and to act from those passions which make him discover his force. It is here he finds that his arrows fly swifter than the eagle, and his weapons wound deeper than the paw of the lion, or the tooth of the boar. It is not alone his sense of a support which is near, nor the love of distinction in the opinion of his tribe, that inspire his courage, or swell his heart with a confidence that exceeds what his natural force should bestow. Vehement passions of animosity or attachment are the first exertions of vigour in his breast; under their influence, every consideration, but that of his object, is forgotten; dangers and difficulties only excite him the more.
That condition is surely favourable to the nature of any being, in which his force is increased; and if courage be the gift of society to man, we have reason to consider his union with his species as the noblest part of his fortune. From this source are derived, not only the force, but the very existence of his happiest emotions; not only the better part, but almost the whole of his rational character. Send him to the desert alone, he is a plant torn from his roots: the form indeed may remain, but every faculty droops and withers; the human personage and the human character cease to exist.
Men are so far from valuing society on account of its mere external conveniencies, that they are commonly most attached where those conveniencies are least frequent; and are there most faithful, where the tribute of their allegiance is paid in blood. Affection operates with the greatest force, where it meets with the greatest difficulties: In the breast of the parent, it is most solicitous amidst the dangers and distresses of the child: In the breast of a man, its flame redoubles where the wrongs or sufferings of his friend, or his country, require his aid. It is, in short, from this principle alone that we can account for the obstinate attachment of a savage to his unsettled and defenceless tribe, when temptations on the side of ease and of safety might induce him to fly from famine and danger, to a station more affluent, and more secure. Hence the sanguine affection which every Greek bore to his country, and hence the devoted patriotism of an early Roman. Let those examples be compared with the spirit which reigns in a commercial state, where men may be supposed to have experienced, in its full extent, the interest which individuals have in the preservation of their country. It is here indeed, if ever, that man is sometimes found a detached and a solitary being: he has found an object which sets him in competition with his fellow-creatures, and he deals with them as he does with his cattle and his soil, for the sake of the profits they bring. The mighty engine which we suppose to have formed society, only tends to set its members at variance, or to continue their intercourse after the bands of affection are broken.
“There are some circumstances in the lot of mankind,” says Socrates, “that shew them to be destined to friendship and amity: Those are, their mutual need of each other; their mutual compassion; their sense of mutual benefits; and the pleasures arising in company. There are other circumstances which prompt them to war and dissension; the admiration and the desire which they entertain for the same subjects; their opposite pretensions; and the provocations which they mutually offer in the course of their competitions.”
When we endeavour to apply the maxims of natural justice to the solution of difficult questions, we find that some cases may be supposed, and actually happen, where oppositions take place, and are lawful, prior to any provocation, or act of injustice; that where the safety and preservation of numbers are mutually inconsistent, one party may employ his right of defence, before the other has begun an attack. And when we join with such examples, the instances of mistake, and misunderstanding, to which mankind are exposed, we may be satisfied that war does not always proceed from an intention to injure; and that even the best qualities of men, their candour, as well as their resolution, may operate in the midst of their quarrels.
There is still more to be observed on this subject. Mankind not only find in their condition the sources of variance and dissension; they appear to have in their minds the seeds of animosity, and to embrace the occasions of mutual opposition, with alacrity and pleasure. In the most pacific situation, there are few who have not their enemies, as well as their friends; and who are not pleased with opposing the proceedings of one, as much as with favouring the designs of another. Small and simple tribes, who in their domestic society have the firmest union, are in their state of opposition as separate nations, frequently animated with the most implacable hatred. Among the citizens of Rome, in the early ages of that republic, the name of a foreigner, and that of an enemy, were the same. Among the Greeks, the name of Barbarian, under which that people comprehended every nation that was of a race, and spoke a language, different from their own, became a term of indiscriminate contempt and aversion. Even where no particular claim to superiority is formed, the repugnance to union, the frequent wars, or rather the perpetual hostilities which take place among rude nations and separate clans, discover how much our species is disposed to opposition, as well as to concert.
Late discoveries have brought to our knowledge almost every situation in which mankind are placed. We have found them spread over large and extensive continents, where communications are open, and where national confederacy might be easily formed. We have found them in narrower districts, circumscribed by mountains, great rivers, and arms of the sea. They have been found in small islands, where the inhabitants might be easily assembled, and derive an advantage from their union. But in all those situations, alike, they were broke into cantons, and affected a distinction of name and community. The titles of fellow-citizen and countryman, unopposed to those of alien and foreigner, to which they refer, would fall into disuse, and lose their meaning. We love individuals on account of personal qualities; but we love our country, as it is a party in the divisions of mankind; and our zeal for its interest, is a predilection in behalf of the side we maintain.
In the promiscuous concourse of men, it is sufficient that we have an opportunity of selecting our company. We turn away from those who do not engage us, and we fix our resort where the society is more to our mind. We are fond of distinctions; we place ourselves in opposition, and quarrel under the denominations of faction and party, without any material subject of controversy. Aversion, like affection, is fostered by a continued direction to its particular object. Separation and estrangement, as well as opposition, widen a breach which did not owe its beginnings to any offence. And it would seem, that till we have reduced mankind to the state of a family, or found some external consideration to maintain their connection in greater numbers, they will be for ever separated into bands, and form a plurality of nations.
The sense of a common danger, and the assaults of an enemy, have been frequently useful to nations, by uniting their members more firmly together, and by preventing the secessions and actual separations in which their civil discord might otherwise terminate. And this motive to union which is offered from abroad, may be necessary, not only in the case of large and extensive nations, where coalitions are weakened by distance, and the distinction of provincial names; but even in the narrow society of the smallest states. Rome itself was founded by a small party, which took its flight from Alba; her citizens were often in danger of separating; and if the villages and cantons of the Volsci had been further removed from the scene of their dissensions, the Mons Sacer might have received a new colony before the mother-country was ripe for such a discharge. She continued long to feel the quarrels of her nobles and her people; and kept open the gates of Janus, to remind those parties of the duties they owed to their country.
Societies, as well as individuals, being charged with the care of their own preservation, and having separate interests, which give rise to jealousies and competitions, we cannot be surprized to find hostilities arise from this source. But were there no angry passions of a different sort, the animosities which attend an opposition of interest, should bear a proportion to the supposed value of the subject. “The Hottentot nations,” says Kolben, “trespass on each other by thefts of cattle and of women; but such injuries are seldom committed, except with a view to exasperate their neighbours, and bring them to a war.” Such depredations, then, are not the foundation of a war, but the effects of a hostile intention already conceived. The nations of North America, who have no herds to preserve, nor settlements to defend, are yet engaged in almost perpetual wars, for which they can assign no reason, but the point of honour, and a desire to continue the struggle their fathers maintained. They do not regard the spoils of an enemy; and the warrior who has seized any booty, easily parts with it to the first person who comes in his way* .
But we need not cross the Atlantic to find proofs of animosity, and to observe, in the collision of separate societies, the influence of angry passions, that do not arise from an opposition of interest. Human nature has no part of its character of which more flagrant examples are given on this side of the globe. What is it that stirs in the breasts of ordinary men when the enemies of their country are named? Whence are the prejudices that subsist between different provinces, cantons, and villages, of the same empire and territory? What is it that excites one half of the nations of Europe against the other? The statesman may explain his conduct on motives of national jealousy and caution, but the people have dislikes and antipathies, for which they cannot account. Their mutual reproaches of perfidy and injustice, like the Hottentot depredations, are but symptoms of an animosity, and the language of a hostile disposition, aleady conceived. The charge of cowardice and pusillanimity, qualities which the interested and cautious enemy should, of all others, like best to find in his rival, is urged with aversion, and made the ground of dislike. Hear the peasants on different sides of the Alps, and the Pyrenees, the Rhine, or the British channel, give vent to their prejudices and national passions; it is among them that we find the materials of war and dissension laid without the direction of government, and sparks ready to kindle into a flame, which the statesman is frequently disposed to extinguish. The fire will not always catch where his reasons of state would direct, nor stop where the concurrence of interest has produced an alliance. “My father,” said a Spanish peasant, “would rise from his grave, if he could foresee a war with France.” What interest had he, or the bones of his father, in the quarrels of princes?
These observations seem to arraign our species, and to give an unfavourable picture of mankind; and yet the particulars we have mentioned are consistent with the most amiable qualities of our nature, and often furnish a scene for the exercise of our greatest abilities. They are sentiments of generosity and self-denial that animate the warrior in defence of his country; and they are dispositions most favourable to mankind, that become the principles of apparent hostility to men. Every animal is made to delight in the exercise of his natural talents and forces: The lion and the tyger sport with the paw; the horse delights to commit his mane to the wind, and forgets his pasture to try his speed in the field; the bull even before his brow is armed, and the lamb while yet an emblem of innocence, have a disposition to strike with the forehead, and anticipate, in play, the conflicts they are doomed to sustain. Man too is disposed to opposition, and to employ the forces of his nature against an equal antagonist; he loves to bring his reason, his eloquence, his courage, even his bodily strength to the proof. His sports are frequently an image of war; sweat and blood are freely expended in play; and fractures or death are often made to terminate the pastime of idleness and festivity. He was not made to live for ever, and even his love of amusement has opened a way to the grave.
Without the rivalship of nations, and the practice of war, civil society itself could scarcely have sound an object, or a form. Mankind might have traded without any formal convention, but they cannot be safe without a national concert. The necessity of a public defence, has given rise to many departments of state, and the intellectual talents of men have found their busiest scene in wielding their national forces. To overawe, or intimidate, or, when we cannot persuade with reason, to resist with fortitude, are the occupations which give its most animating exercise, and its greatest triumphs, to a vigorous mind; and he who has never struggled with his fellow-creatures, is a stranger to half the sentiments of mankind.
The quarrels of individuals, indeed, are frequently the operations of unhappy and detestable passions; malice, hatred, and rage. If such passions alone possess the breast, the scene of dissension becomes an object of horror; but a common opposition maintained by numbers, is always allayed by passions of another sort. Sentiments of affection and friendship mix with animosity; the active and strenuous become the guardians of their society; and violence itself is, in their case, an exertion of generosity, as well as of courage. We applaud, as proceeding from a national or party spirit, what we could not endure as the effect of a private dislike; and, amidst the competitions of rival states, think we have found, for the patriot and the warrior, in the practice of violence and stratagem, the most illustrious career of human virtue. Even personal opposition here does not divide our judgment on the merits of men. The rival names of Agesilaus and Epaminondas, of Scipio and Hannibal, are repeated with equal praise; and war itself, which in one view appears so fatal, in another is the exercise of a liberal spirit; and in the very effects which we regret, is but one distemper more, by which the Author of nature has appointed our exit from human life.
These reflections may open our view into the state of mankind; but they tend to reconcile us to the conduct of Providence, rather than to make us change our own: where, from a regard to the welfare of our fellow-creatures, we endeavour to pacify their animosities, and unite them by the ties of affection. In the pursuit of this amiable intention, we may hope, in some instances, to disarm the angry passions of jealousy and envy; we may hope to instil into the breasts of private men sentiments of candour towards their fellow-creatures, and a disposition to humanity and justice. But it is vain to expect that we can give to the multitude of a people a sense of union among themselves, without admitting hostility to those who oppose them. Could we at once, in the case of any nation, extinguish the emulation which is excited from abroad, we should probably break or weaken the bands of society at home, and close the busiest scenes of national occupations and virtues.
Many attempts have been made to analyse the dispositions which we have now enumerated; but one purpose of science, perhaps the most important, is served, when the existence of a disposition is established. We are more concerned in its reality, and in its consequences, than we are in its origin, or manner of formation.
The same observation may be applied to the other powers and faculties of our nature. Their existence and use are the principal objects of our study. Thinking and reasoning, we say, are the operations of some faculty; but in what manner the faculties of thought or reason remain, when they are not exerted, or by what difference in the frame they are unequal in different persons, are questions which we cannot resolve. Their operations alone discover them: When unapplied, they lie hid even from the person to whom they pertain; and their action is so much a part of their nature, that the faculty itself, in many cases, is scarcely to be distinguished from a habit acquired in its frequent exertion.
Persons who are occupied with different subjects, who act in different scenes, generally appear to have different talents, or at least to have the same faculties variously formed, and suited to different purposes. The peculiar genius of nations, as well as of individuals, may in this manner arise from the state of their fortunes. And it is proper that we endeavour to find some rule, by which to judge of what is admirable in the capacities of men, or fortunate in the application of their faculties, before we venture to pass a judgment on this branch of their merits, or pretend to measure the degree of respect they may claim by their different attainments.
To receive the informations of sense, is perhaps the earliest function of an animal combined with an intellectual nature; and one great accomplishment of the living agent consists in the force and sensibility of his animal organs. The pleasures or pains to which he is exposed from this quarter, constitute to him an important difference between the objects which are thus brought to his knowledge; and it concerns him to distinguish well, before he commits himself to the direction of appetite. He must scrutinize the objects of one sense by the perceptions of another; examine with the eye, before he ventures to touch; and employ every means of observation, before he gratifies the appetites of thirst and of hunger. A discernment acquired by experience, becomes a faculty of his mind; and the inferences of thought are sometimes not to be distinguished from the perceptions of sense.
The objects around us, beside their separate appearances, have their relations to each other. They suggest, when compared, what would not occur when they are considered apart; they have their effects, and mutual influences; they exhibit, in like circumstances, similar operations, and uniform consequences. When we have found and expressed the points in which the uniformity of their operations consists, we have ascertained a physical law. Many such laws, and even the most important, are known to the vulgar, and occur upon the smallest degrees of reflection: But others are hid under a seeming confusion, which ordinary talents cannot remove; and are therefore the objects of study, long observation, and superior capacity. The faculties of penetration and judgment, are, by men of business, as well as of science, employed to unravel intricacies of this sort; and the degree of sagacity with which either is endowed, is to be measured by the success with which they are able to find general rules, applicable to a variety of cases that seemed to have nothing in common, and to discover important distinctions between subjects which the vulgar are apt to confound.
To collect a multiplicity of particulars under general heads, and to refer a variety of operations to their common principle, is the object of science. To do the same thing, at least within the range of his active engagements, is requisite to the man of pleasure, or business: And it would seem, that the studious and the active are so far employed in the same task, from observation and experience, to find the general views under which their objects may be considered, and the rules which may be usefully applied in the detail of their conduct. They do not always apply their talents to different subjects; and they seem to be distinguished chiefly by the unequal reach and variety of their remarks, or by the intentions which they severally have in collecting them.
Whilst men continue to act from appetites and passions, leading to the attainment of external ends, they seldom quit the view of their objects in detail, to go far in the road of general inquiries. They measure the extent of their own abilities, by the promptitude with which they apprehend what is important in every subject, and the facility with which they extricate themselves on every trying occasion. And these, it must be confessed, to a being who is destined to act in the midst of difficulties, are the proper test of capacity and force. The parade of words and general reasonings, which sometimes carry an appearance of so much learning and knowledge, are of little avail in the conduct of life. The talents from which they proceed, terminate in mere oftentation, and are seldom connected with that superior discernment which the active apply in times of perplexity; much less with that intrepidity and force of mind which are required in passing through difficult scenes.
The abilities of active men, however, have a variety corresponding to that of the subjects on which they are occupied. A sagacity applied to external and inanimate nature, forms one species of capacity; that which is turned to society and human affairs, another. Reputation for parts in any scene is equivocal, till we know by what kind of exertion that reputation is gained. No more can be said, in commending men of the greatest abilities, than that they understand well the subjects to which they have applied: And every department, every profession, would have its great men, if there were not a choice of objects for the understanding, and of talents for the mind, as well as of sentiments for the heart, and of habits for the active character.
The meanest professions, indeed, so far sometimes forget themselves, or the rest of mankind, as to arrogate, in commending what is distinguished in their own way, every epithet the most respectable claim as the right of superior abilities. Every mechanic is a great man with the learner, and the humble admirer, in his particular calling; and we can, perhaps, with more assurance pronounce what it is that should make a man happy and amiable, than what should make his abilities respected, and his genius admired. This, upon a view of the talents themselves, may perhaps be impossible. The effect, however, will point out the rule and the standard of our judgment. To be admired and respected, is to have an ascendant among men. The talents which most directly procure that ascendant, are those which operate on mankind, penetrate their views, prevent their wishes, or frustrate their designs. The superior capacity leads with a superior energy, where every individual would go, and shews the hesitating and irresolute a clear passage to the attainment of their ends.
This description does not pertain to any particular craft or profession; or perhaps it implies a kind of ability, which the separate application of men to particular callings, only tends to suppress or to weaken. Where shall we find the talents which are fit to act with men in a collective body, if we break that body into parts, and confine the observation of each to a separate track?
To act in the view of his fellow-creatures, to produce his mind in public, to give it all the exercise of sentiment and thought, which pertain to man as a member of society, as a friend, or an enemy, seems to be the principal calling and occupation of his nature. If he must labour, that he may subsist, he can subsist for no better purpose than the good of mankind; nor can he have better talents than those which qualify him to act with men. Here, indeed, the understanding appears to borrow very much from the passions; and there is a felicity of conduct in human affairs, in which it is difficult to distinguish the promptitude of the head from the ardour and sensibility of the heart. Where both are united, they constitute that superiority of mind, the frequency of which among men, in particular ages and nations, much more than the progress they have made in speculation, or in the practice of mechanic and liberal arts, should determine the rate of their genius, and assign the palm of distinction and honour.
When nations succeed one another in the career of discoveries and inquiries, the last is always the most knowing. Systems of science are gradually formed. The globe itself is traversed by degrees, and the history of every age, when past, is an accession of knowledge to those who succeed. The Romans were more knowing than the Greeks; and every scholar of modern Europe is, in this sense, more learned than the most accomplished person that ever bore either of those celebrated names. But is he on that account their superior?
Men are to be estimated, not from what they know, but from what they are able to perform; from their skill in adapting materials to the several purposes of life; from their vigour and conduct in pursuing the objects of policy, and in finding the expedients of war and national defence. Even in literature, they are to be estimated from the works of their genius, not from the extent of their knowledge. The scene of mere observation was extremely limited in a Grecian republic; and the bustle of an active life appeared inconsistent with study: But there the human mind, notwithstanding, collected its greatest abilities, and received its best informations, in the midst of sweat and of dust.
It is peculiar to modern Europe, to rest so much of the human character on what may be learned in retirement, and from the information of books. A just admiration of ancient literature, an opinion that human sentiment, and human reason, without this aid, were to have vanished from the societies of men, have led us into the shade, where we endeavour to derive from imagination and study, what is in reality matter of experience and sentiment: and we endeavour, through the grammar of dead languages, and the channel of commentators, to arrive at the beauties of thought and elocution, which sprang from the animated spirit of society, and were taken from the living impressions of an active life. Our attainments are frequently limited to the elements of every science, and seldom reach to that enlargement of ability and power which useful knowledge should give. Like mathematicians, who study the Elements of Euclid, but never think of mensuration; we read of societies, but do not propose to act with men: we repeat the language of politics, but feel not the spirit of nations; we attend to the formalities of a military discipline, but know not how to employ numbers of men to obtain any purpose by stratagem or force.
But for what end, it may be said, point out an evil that cannot be remedied? If national affairs called for exertion, the genius of men would awake; but in the recess of better employment, the time which is bestowed on study, if even attended with no other advantage, serves to occupy with innocence the hours of leisure, and set bounds to the pursuit of ruinous and frivolous amusements. From no better reason than this, we employ so many of our early years, under the rod, to acquire, what it is not expected we should retain beyond the threshold of the school; and whilst we carry the same frivolous character in our studies that we do in our amusements, the human mind could not suffer more from a contempt of letters, than it does from the false importance which is given to literature, as a business for life, not as a help to our conduct, and the means of forming a character that may be happy in itself, and useful to mankind.
If that time which is passed in relaxing the powers of the mind, and in with-holding every object but what tends to weaken and to corrupt, were employed in fortifying those powers, and in teaching the mind to recognise its objects, and its strength, we should not, at the years of maturity, be so much at a loss for occupation; nor, in attending the chances of a gaming-table, misemploy our talents, or waste the fire which remains in the breast. They, at least, who by their stations have a share in the government of their country, might believe themselves capable of business; and, while the state had its armies and councils, might find objects enough to amuse, without throwing a personal fortune into hazard, merely to cure the yawnings of a listless and insignificant life. It is impossible for ever to maintain the tone of speculation; it is impossible not sometimes to feel that we live among men.
Upon a slight observation of what passes in human life, we should be apt to conclude, that the care of subsistence is the principal spring of human actions. This consideration leads to the invention and practice of mechanical arts; it serves to distinguish amusement from business; and, with many, scarcely admits into competition any other subject of pursuit or attention. The mighty advantages of property and fortune, when stript of the recommendations they derive from vanity, or the more serious regards to independence and power, only mean a provision that is made for animal enjoyment; and if our solicitude on this subject were removed, not only the toils of the mechanic, but the studies of the learned, would cease; every department of public business would become unnecessary; every senate-house would be shut up, and every palace deserted.
Is man therefore, in respect to his object, to be classed with the mere brutes, and only to be distinguished by faculties that qualify him to multiply contrivances for the support and convenience of animal life, and by the extent of a fancy that renders the care of animal preservation to him more burthensome than it is to the herd with which he shares in the bounty of nature? If this were his case, the joy which attends on success, or the griefs which arise from disappointment, would make the sum of his passions. The torrent that wasted, or the inundation that enriched, his possessessions, would give him all the emotion with which he is seized, on the occasion of a wrong by which his fortunes are impaired, or of a benefit by which they are preserved and enlarged. His fellow-creatures would be considered merely as they affected his interest. Profit or loss would serve to mark the event of every transaction; and the epithets useful or detrimental would serve to distinguish his mates in society, as they do the tree which bears plenty of fruit, from that which only cumbers the ground, or intercepts his view.
This, however, is not the history of our species. What comes from a fellow-creature is received with peculiar emotion; and every language abounds with terms that express somewhat in the transactions of men, different from success and disappointment. The bosom kindles in company, while the point of interest in view has nothing to inflame; and a matter frivolous in itself, becomes important, when it serves to bring to light the intentions and characters of men. The foreigner, who believed that Othello, on the stage, was enraged for the loss of his handkerchief, was not more mistaken, than the reasoner who imputes any of the more vehement passions of men to the impressions of more profit or loss.
Men assemble to deliberate on business; they separate from jealousies of interest; but in their several collisions, whether as friends or as enemies, a fire is struck out which the regards to interest or safety cannot confine. The value of a favour is not measured when sentiments of kindness are perceived; and the term misfortune has but a feeble meaning, when compared to that of insult and wrong.
As actors or spectators, we are perpetually made to feel the difference of human conduct, and from a bare recital of transactions which have passed in ages and countries remote from our own, are moved with admiration and pity, or transported with indignation and rage. Our sensibility on this subject gives their charm in retirement, to the relations of history and to the fictions of poetry; sends forth the tear of compassion, gives to the blood its briskest movement, and to the eye its liveliest glances of displeasure or joy. It turns human life into an interesting spectacle, and perpetually solicits even the indolent to mix, as opponents or friends, in the scenes which are acted before them. Joined to the powers of deliberation and reason, it constitutes the basis of a moral nature; and, whilst it dictates the terms of praise and of blame, serves to class our fellow-creatures, by the most admirable and engaging, or the most odious and contemptible, denominations.
It is pleasant to find men, who in their speculations deny the reality of moral distinctions, forget in detail the general positions they maintain, and give loose to ridicule, indignation, and scorn, as if any of these sentiments could have place, were the actions of men indifferent; or with acrimony pretend to detect the fraud by which moral restraints have been imposed, as if to censure a fraud were not already to take a part on the side of morality* .
Can we explain the principles upon which mankind adjudge the preference of characters, and upon which they indulge such vehement emotions of admiration or contempt? If it be admitted that we cannot, are the facts less true? or must we suspend the movements of the heart, until they who are employed in framing systems of science have discovered the principle from which those movements proceed? If a finger burn, we care not for information on the properties of fire: If the heart be torn, or the mind overjoyed, we have not leisure for speculations on the subjects of moral sensibility.
It is fortunate in this, as in other articles to which speculation and theory are applied, that nature proceeds in her course, whilst the curious are busied in the search of her principles. The peasant, or the child, can reason, and judge, and speak his language, with a discernment, a consistency, and a regard to analogy, which perplex the logician, the moralist, and the grammarian, when they would find the principle upon which the proceeding is founded, or when they would bring to general rule, what is so familiar, and so well sustained in particular cases. The felicity of our conduct is more owing to the talent we possess for detail, and to the suggestion of particular occasions, than it is to any direction we can find in theory and general speculations.
We must, in the result of every inquiry, encounter with facts which we cannot explain; and to bear with this mortification would save us frequently a great deal of fruitless trouble. Together with the sense of our existence, we must admit many circumstances which come to our knowledge at the same time, and in the same manner; and which do, in reality, constitute the mode of our being. Every peasant will tell us, that a man hath his rights; and that to trespass on those rights is injustice. If we ask him farther, what he means by the term right? we probably force him to substitute a less significant, or less proper term, in the place of this; or require him to account for what is an original mode of his mind, and a sentiment to which he ultimately refers, when he would explain himself upon any particular application of his language.
The rights of individuals may relate to a variety of subjects, and be comprehended under different heads. Prior to the establishment of property, and the distinction of ranks, men have a right to defend their persons, and to act with freedom; they have a right to maintain the apprehensions of reason, and the feelings of the heart; and they cannot for a moment associate together, without feeling that the treatment they give or receive may be just or unjust. It is not, however, our business here to carry the notion of a right into its several applications, but to reason on the sentiment of favour with which that notion is entertained in the mind.
If it be true, that men are united by instinct, that they act in society from affections of kindness and friendship; if it be true, that even prior to acquaintance and habitude, men, as such, are commonly to each other objects of attention, and some degree of regard; that while their prosperity is beheld with indifference, their afflictions are considered with commiseration; if calamities be measured by the numbers and the qualities of men they involve; and if every suffering of a fellow-creature draws a croud of attentive spectators; if, even in the case of those to whom we do not habitually wish any positive good, we are still averse to be the instruments of harm; it should seem, that in these various appearances of an amicable disposition, the foundations of a moral apprehension are sufficiently laid, and the sense of a right which we maintain for ourselves, is by a movement of humanity and candour extended to our fellow-creatures.
What is it that prompts the tongue when we censure an act of cruelty or oppression? What is it that constitutes our restraint from offences that tend to distress our fellow-creatures? It is probably, in both cases, a particular application of that principle, which, in presence of the sorrowful, sends forth the tear of compassion; and a combination of all those sentiments, which constitute a benevolent disposition; and if not a resolution to do good, at least an aversion to be the instrument of harm* .
It may be difficult, however, to enumerate the motives of all the censures and commendations which are applied to the actions of men. Even while we moralize, every disposition of the human mind may have its share in forming the judgment, and in prompting the tongue. As jealousy is often the most watchful guardian of chastity, so malice is often the quickest to spy the failings of our neighbour. Envy, affectation, and vanity, may dictate the verdicts we give, and the worst principles of our nature may be at the bottom of our pretended zeal for morality; but if we only mean to inquire, why they who are well disposed to mankind, apprehend, in every instance, certain rights pertaining to their fellow-creatures, and why they applaud the consideration that is paid to those rights, we cannot assign a better reason, than that the person who applauds, is well disposed to the welfare of the parties to whom his applauses refer. Applause, however, is the expression of a peculiar sentiment; an expression of esteem the reverse of contempt. Its object is perfection, the reverse of defect. This sentiment is not the love of mankind; it is that by which we estimate the qualities of men, and the objects of our pursuit; that which doubles the force of every desire or aversion, when we consider its object as tending to raise or to sink our nature.
When we consider, that the reality of any amicable propensity in the human mind has been frequently contested; when we recollect the prevalence of interested competitions, with their attendant passions of jealousy, envy, and malice; it may seem strange to allege, that love and compassion are, next to the desire of elevation, the most powerful motives in the human breast: That they urge, on many occasions, with the most irresistible vehemence; and if the desire of self-preservation be more constant, and more uniform, these are a more plentiful source of enthusiasm, satisfaction, and joy. With a power not inferior to that of resentment and rage, they hurry the mind into every sacrifice of interest, and bear it undismayed through every hardship and danger.
The disposition on which friendship is grafted, glows with satisfaction in the hours of tranquillity, and is pleasant, not only in its triumphs, but even in its sorrows. It throws a grace on the external air, and, by its expression on the countenance, compensates for the want of beauty, or gives a charm which no complexion or features can equal. From this source the scenes of human life derive their principal felicity; and their imitations in poetry, their principal ornament. Descriptions of nature, even representations of a vigorous conduct, and a manly courage, do not engage the heart, if they be not mixed with the exhibition of generous sentiments, and the pathetic, which is found to arise in the struggles, the triumphs, or the misfortunes of a tender affection. The death of Polites, in the Æneid, is not more affecting than that of many others who perished in the ruins of Troy; but the aged Priam was present when this last of his sons was slain; and the agonies of grief and sorrow force the parent from his retreat, to fall by the hand that shed the blood of his child. The pathetic of Homer consists in exhibiting the force of affections, not in exciting mere terror and pity; passions he has never perhaps, in any instance, attempted to raise.
With this tendency to kindle into enthusiasm, with this command over the heart, with the pleasure that attends its emotions, and with all its effects in meriting confidence, and procuring esteem, it is not surprising, that a principle of humanity should give the tone to our commendations and our censures, and even where it is hindered from directing our conduct, should still give to the mind, on reflection, its knowledge of what is desirable in the human character. What hast thou done with thy brother Abel? was the first expostulation in behalf of morality; and if the first answer has been often repeated, mankind have notwithstanding, in one sense, sufficiently acknowledged the charge of their nature. They have felt, they have talked, and even acted, as the keepers of their fellow-creatures: They have made the indications of candour and mutual affection the test of what is meritorious and amiable in the characters of men: They have made cruelty and oppression the principal objects of their indignation and rage: Even while the head is occupied with projects of interest, the heart is often seduced into friendship; and while business proceeds on the maxims of self-preservation, the careless hour is employed in generosity and kindness.
Hence the rule by which men commonly judge of external actions, is taken from the supposed influence of such actions on the general good. To abstain from harm, is the great law of natural justice; to diffuse happiness, is the law of morality; and when we censure the conferring a favour on one or a few at the expence of many, we refer to public utility, as the great object at which the actions of men should be aimed.
After all, it must be confessed, that if a principle of affection to mankind be the basis of our moral approbation and dislike, we sometimes proceed in distributing applause or censure, without precisely attending to the degree in which our fellow-creatures are hurt or obliged; and that, besides the virtues of candour, friendship, generosity, and public spirit, which bear an immediate reference to this principle, there are others which may seem to derive their commendation from a different source. Temperance, prudence, fortitude, are those qualities likewise admired from a principle of regard to our fellow-creatures? Why not, since they render men happy in themselves, and useful to others? He who is qualified to promote the welfare of mankind, is neither a sot, a fool, nor a coward. Can it be more clearly expressed, that temperance, prudence, and fortitude, are necessary to the character we love and admire? I know well why I should wish for them in myself; and why likewise I should wish for them in my friend, and in every person who is an object of my affection. But to what purpose seek for reasons of approbation, where qualities are so necessary to our happiness, and so great a part in the perfection of our nature? We must cease to esteem curselves, and to distinguish what is excellent, when such qualifications incur our neglect.
A person of an affectionate mind, possessed of a maxim, That he himself, as an individual, is no more than a part of the whole that demands his regard, has found, in that principle, a sufficient foundation for all the virtues; for a contempt of animal pleasures, that would supplant his principal enjoyment; for an equal contempt of danger or pain, that come to stop his pursuits of public good. “A vehement and steady affection magnifies its object, and lessens every difficulty of danger that stands in the way.” “Ask those who have been in love,” says Epictetus, “they will know that I speak truth.”
“I have before me,” says another eminent moralist* , “an idea of justice, which if I could follow in every instance, I should think myself the most happy of men.” And it is of consequence to their happiness, as well as to their conduct, if those can be disjoined, that men should have this idea properly formed: It is perhaps but another name for that good of mankind, which the virtuous are engaged to promote. If virtue be the supreme good, its best and most signal effect is, to communicate and diffuse itself.
To distinguish men by the difference of their moral qualities, to espouse one party from a sense of justice, to oppose another even with indignation when excited by iniquity, are the common indications of probity, and the operations of an animated, upright, and generous spirit. To guard against unjust partialities, and ill-grounded antipathies; to maintain that composure of mind, which, without impairing its sensibility or ardour, proceeds in every instance with discernment and penetration, are the marks of a vigorous and cultivated spirit. To be able to follow the dictates of such a spirit through all the varieties of human life, and with a mind always master of itself, in prosperity or adversity, and possessed of all its abilities, when the subjects in hazard are life, or freedom, as much as in treating simple questions of interest, are the triumphs of magnanimity, and true elevation of mind. “The event of the day is decided. Draw this javelin from my body now,” said Epaminondas, “and let me bleed.”
In what situation, or by what instruction, is this wonderful character to be formed? Is it found in the nurseries of affectation, pertness, and vanity, from which fashion is propagated, and the genteel is announced? in great and opulent cities, where men vie with each other in equipage, dress, and the reputation of fortune? Is it within the admired precincts of a court, where we may learn to smile without being pleased, to caress without affection, to wound with the secret weapons of envy and jealousy, and to rest our personal importance on circumstances which we cannot always with honour command? No: But in a situation where the great sentiments of the heart are awakened; where the characters of men, not their situations and fortunes, are the principal distinction; where the anxieties of interest, or vanity, perish in the blaze of more vigorous emotions; and where the human soul, having felt and recognised its objects, like an animal who has tasted the blood of his prey, cannot descend to pursuits that leave its talents and its force unemployed.
Proper occasions alone operating on a raised and a happy disposition, may produce this admirable effect, whilst mere instruction may always find mankind at a loss to comprehend its meaning, or insensible to its dictates. The case, however, is not desperate, till we have formed our system of politics, as well as manners; till we have sold our freedom for titles, equipage, and distinctions; till we see no merit but prosperity and power, no disgrace but poverty and neglect. What charm of instruction can cure the mind that is tainted with this disorder? What syren voice can awaken a desire of freedom, that is held to be meanness, and a want of ambition? or what persuasion can turn the grimace of politeness into real sentiments of humanity and candour?
Having had under our consideration the active powers and the moral qualities which distinguish the nature of man, is it still necessary that we should treat of his happiness apart? This significant term, the most frequent, and the most familiar, in our conversation, is, perhaps, on reflection, the least understood. It serves to express our satisfaction, when any desire is gratified: It is pronounced with a sigh, when our object is distant: It means what we wish to obtain, and what we seldom stay to examine. We estimate the value of every subject by its utility, and its influence on happiness; but we think that utility itself, and happiness, require no explanation.
Those men are commonly esteemed the happiest, whose desires are most frequently gratified. But if, in reality, the possession of what they desire, and a continued fruition, were requisite to happiness, mankind for the most part would have reason to complain of their lot. What they call their enjoyments, are generally momentary; and the object of sanguine expectation, when obtained, no longer continues to occupy the mind: A new passion succeeds, and the imagination, as before, is intent on a distant felicity.
How many reflections of this sort are suggested by melancholy, or by the effects of that very languor and inoccupation into which we would willingly sink, under the notion of freedom from care and trouble?
When we enter on a formal computation of the enjoyments or sufferings which are prepared for mankind, it is a chance but we find that pain, by its intenseness, its duration, or frequency, is greatly predominant. The activity and eagerness with which we press from one stage of life to another, our unwillingness to return on the paths we have trod, our aversion in age to renew the frolicks of youth, or to repeat in manhood the amusements of children, have been accordingly stated as proofs, that our memory of the past, and our feeling of the present, are equal subjects of dislike and displeasure* .
This conclusion, however, like many others, drawn from our supposed knowledge of causes, does not correspond with experience. In every street, in every village, in every field, the greater number of persons we meet, carry an aspect that is cheerful or thoughtless, indifferent, composed, busy, or animated. The labourer whistles to his team, and the mechanic is at ease in his calling; the frolicsome and gay feel a series of pleasures, of which we know not the source; even they who demonstrate the miseries of human life, when intent on their argument, escape from their sorrows, and find a tolerable pastime in proving that men are unhappy.
The very terms pleasure and pain, perhaps, are equivocal; but if they are confined, as they appear to be in many of our reasonings, to the mere sensations which have a reference to external objects, either in the memory of the past, the feeling of the present, or the apprehension of the future, it is a great error to suppose, that they comprehend all the constituents of happiness or misery; or that the good-humour of an ordinary life is maintained by the prevalence of those pleasures, which have their separate names, and are, on reflection, distinctly remembered.
The mind, during the greater part of its existence, is employed in active exertions, not in merely attending to its own feelings of pleasure or pain, and the list of its faculties, understanding, memory, foresight, sentiment, will, and intention, only contains the names of its different operations.
If, in the absence of every sensation to which we commonly give the names either of enjoyment or suffering, our very existence may have its opposite qualities of happiness or misery; and if what we call pleasure or pain, occupies but a small part of human life, compared to what passes in contrivance and execution, in pursuits and expectations, in conduct, reflection, and social engagements; it must appear, that our active pursuits, at least on account of their duration, deserve the greater part of our attention. When their occasions have failed, the demand is not for pleasure, but for something to do; and the very complaints of a sufferer are not so sure a mark of distress, as the stare of the languid.
We seldom, however, reckon any task, which we are bound to perform, among the blessings of life. We always aim at a period of pure enjoyment, or a termination of trouble; and overlook the source from which most of our present satisfactions are really drawn. Ask the busy, Where is the happiness to which they aspire? they will answer, perhaps, That it is to be found in the object of some present pursuit. If we ask, why they are not miserable in the absence of that happiness? they will say, That they hope to attain it. But is it hope alone that supports the mind in the midst of precarious and uncertain prospects? and would assurance of success fill the intervals of expectation with more pleasing emotions? Give the huntsman his prey, give the gamester the gold which is staked on the game, that the one may not need to fatigue his person, nor the other to perplex his mind, and both will probably laugh at our folly: The one will stake his money anew, that he may be perplexed; the other will turn his stag to the field, that he may hear the cry of the dogs, and follow through danger and hardship. Withdraw the occupations of men, terminate their desires, existence is a burden, and the iteration of memory is a torment.
The men of this country, says one lady, should learn to sow and to knit; it would hinder their time from being a burden to themselves, and to other people. That is true, says another; for my part, though I never look abroad, I tremble at the prospect of bad weather; for then the gentlemen come moping to us for entertainment; and the sight of a husband in distress, is but a melancholy spectacle.
The difficulties and hardships of human life are supposed to detract from the goodness of God; yet many of the pastimes men devise for themselves are fraught with difficulty and danger. The great inventor of the game of human life, knew well how to accommodate the players. The chances are matter of complaint: But if these were removed, the game itself would no longer amuse the parties. In devising, or in executing a plan, in being carried on the tide of emotion and sentiment, the mind seems to unfold its being, and to enjoy itself. Even where the end and the object are known to be of little avail, the talents and the fancy are often intensely applied, and business or play may amuse them alike. We only desire repose to recruit our limited and our wasting force: When business fatigues, amusement is often but a change of occupation. We are not always unhappy, even when we complain. There is a kind of affliction which makes an agreeable state of the mind; and lamentation itself is sometimes an expression of pleasure. The painter and the poet have laid hold of this handle, and find, among the means of entertainment, a favourable reception for works that are composed to awaken our sorrows.
To a being of this description, therefore, it is a blessing to meet with incentives to action, whether in the desire of pleasure, or the aversion to pain. His activity is of more importance than the very pleasure he seeks, and languor a greater evil than the suffering he shuns.
The gratifications of animal appetite are of short duration; and sensuality is but a distemper of the mind, which ought to be cured by remembrance, if it were not perpetually inflamed by hope. The chace is not more surely terminated by the death of the game, than the joys of the voluptuary by the means of completing his debauch. As a band of society, as a matter of distant pursuit, the objects of sense make an important part in the system of human life. They lead us to fulfil the purposes of nature, in preserving the individual, and in perpetuating the species: but to rely on their use as a principal constituent of happiness, were an error in speculation, and would be still more an error in practice. Even the master of the seraglio, for whom all the treasures of empire are extorted from the hoards of its frighted inhabitants, for whom alone the choicest emerald and the diamond are drawn from the mine, for whom every breeze is enriched with perfumes, for whom beauty is assembled from every quarter, and, animated by passions that ripen under the vertical sun, is confined to the grate for his use, is still, perhaps, more wretched than the very herd of the people, whose labours and properties are devoted to relieve him of trouble, and to procure him enjoyment.
Sensuality is easily overcome by any of the habits of pursuit which usually engage an active mind. When curiosity is awake, or when passion is excited, even in the midst of the feast when conversation grows warm, grows jovial, or serious, the pleasures of the table we know are forgotten. The boy contemns them for play, and the man of age declines them for business.
When we reckon the circumstances that correspond to the nature of any animal, or to that of man in particular, such as safety, shelter, food, and the other means of enjoyment or preservation, we sometimes think that we have found a sensible and a solid foundation on which to rest his felicity. But those who are least disposed to moralize, observe, that happiness is not connected with fortune, although fortune includes at once all the means of subsistence, and the means of sensual indulgence. The circumstances that require abstinence, courage, and conduct, expose us to hazard, and are in description of the painful kind; yet the able, the brave, and the ardent, seem most to enjoy themselves when placed in the midst of difficulties, and obliged to employ the powers they possess.
Spinola being told, that Sir Francis Vere died of having nothing to do, said, “That was enough to kill a general* .” How many are there to whom war itself is a pastime, who chuse the life of a soldier, exposed to dangers and continued fatigues; of a mariner, in conflict with every hardship, and bereft of every conveniency; of a politician, whose sport is the conduct of parties and factions; and who, rather than be idle, will do the business of men and of nations for whom he has not the smallest regard. Such men do not chuse pain as preferable to pleasure, but they are incited by a restless disposition to make continued exertions of capacity and resolution; they triumph in the midst of their struggles; they droop, and they languish, when the occasion of their labour has ceased.
What was enjoyment, in the sense of that youth, who, according to Tacitus, loved danger itself, not the rewards of courage? What is the prospect of pleasure, when the sound of the horn or the trumpet, the cry of the dogs, or the shout of war, awaken the ardour of the sportsman and the soldier? The most animating occasions of himself human life, are calls to danger and hardship, not invitations to safety and ease: and man himself, in his excellence, is not an animal of pleasure, nor destined merely to enjoy what the elements bring to his use; but like his associates, the dog and the horse, to follow the exercises of his nature, in preference to what are called its enjoyments; to pine in the lap of ease and of affluence, and to exult in the midst of alarms that seem to threaten his being, in all which, his disposition to action only keeps pace with the variety of powers with which he is furnished; and the most respectable attributes of his nature, magnanimity, fortitude, and wisdom, carry a manifest reference to the difficulties with which he is destined to struggle.
If animal pleasure becomes insipid when the spirit is roused by a different object, it is well known, likewise, that the sense of pain is prevented by any vehement affection of the soul. Wounds received in a heat of passion, in the hurry, the ardour, or consternation of battle, are never felt till the ferment of the mind subsides. Event torments, deliberately applied, and industriously prolonged, are born with firmness, and with an appearance of ease, when the mind is possessed with some vigorous sentiment, whether of religion, enthusiasm, or love to mankind. The continued mortifications of superstitious devotees in several ages of the Christian church; the wild penances, still voluntarily borne, during many years, by the religionists of the east; the contempt in which famine and torture are held by most savage nations; the cheerful or obstinate patience of the soldier in the field; the hardships endured by the sportsman in his pastime, show how much we may err in computing the miseries of men, from the measures of trouble and of suffering they seem to incur. And if there be a refinement in affirming, that their happiness is not to be measured by the contrary enjoyments, it is a refinement which was made by Regulus and Cincinnatus before the date of philosophy. Fabricius knew it while he had heard arguments only on the opposite side* : It is a refinement, which every boy knows at his play, and every savage confirms, when he looks from his forest on the pacific city, and scorns the plantation, whose master he cares not to imitate.
Man, it must be confessed, notwithstanding all this activity of his mind, is an animal in the full extent of that designation. When the body sickens, the mind droops; and when the blood ceases to flow, the soul takes its departure. Charged with the care of his preservation, admonished by a sense of pleasure or pain, and guarded by an instinctive fear of death, nature has not intrusted his safety to the mere vigilance of his understanding, nor to the government of his uncertain reflections.
The distinction betwixt mind and body is followed by consequences of the greatest importance; but the facts to which we now refer, are not founded on any tenets whatever. They are equally true, whether we admit or reject the distinction in question, or whether we suppose, that this living agent is formed of one, or is an assemblage of separate natures. And the materialist, by treating of man as of an engine, cannot make any change in the state of his history. He is a being, who, by a multiplicity of visible organs, performs a variety of functions. He bends his joints, contracts or relaxes his muscles in our sight. He continues the beating of the heart in his breast, and the flowing of the blood to every part of his frame. He performs other operations which we cannot refer to any corporeal organ. He perceives, he recollects, and forecasts; he desires, and he shuns; he admires, and contemns. He enjoys his pleasures, or he endures his pain. All these different functions, in some measure, go well or ill together. When the motion of the blood is languid, the muscles relax, the understanding is tardy, and the fancy is dull: when distemper assails him, the physician must attend no less to what he thinks, than to what he eats, and examine the returns of his passion, together with the strokes of his pulse.
With all his sagacity, his precautions, and his instincts, which are given to preserve his being, he partakes in the fate of other animals, and seems to be formed only that he may die. Myriads perish before they reach the perfection of their kind; and the individual, with an option to owe the prolongation of his temporary course to resolution and conduct, or to abject fear, frequently chuses the latter, and, by a habit of timidity, embitters the life he is so intent to preserve.
Man, however, at times, exempted from this mortifying lot, seems to act without any regard to the length of his period. When he thinks intensely, or desires with ardour, pleasures and pains from any other quarter assail him in vain. Even in his dying hour, the muscles acquire a tone from his spirit, and the mind seems to depart in its vigour, and in the midst of a struggle to obtain the recent aim of its toils. Muley Moluck, borne on his litter, and spent with disease, still fought the battle, in the midst of which he expired; and the last effort he made, with a finger on his lips, was a signal to conceal his death* : The precaution, perhaps, of all which he had hitherto taken, the most necessary to prevent a defeat.
Can no reflections aid us in acquiring this habit of the soul, so useful in carrying us through many of the ordinary scenes of life? If we say, that they cannot, the reality of its happiness is not the less evident. The Greeks and the Romans considered contempt of pleasure, endurance of pain, and neglect of life, as eminent qualities of a man, and a principal subject of discipline. They trusted, that the vigorous spirit would find worthy objects on which to employ its force; and that the first step towards a resolute choice of such objects, was to shake off the meanness of a solicitous and timorous mind.
Mankind, in general, have courted occasions to display their courage, and frequently, in search of admiration, have presented a spectacle, which to those who have ceased to regard fortitude on its own account, becomes a subject of horror. Scevola held his arm in the fire, to shake the soul of Porsenna. The savage inures his body to the torture, that in the hour of trial he may exult over his enemy. Even the Mussulman tears his flesh to win the heart of his mistress, and comes in gaiety streaming with blood, to shew that he deserves her esteem* .
Some nations carry the practice of inflicting, or of sporting with pain, to a degree that is either cruel or absurd; others regard every prospect of bodily suffering as the greatest of evils; and in the midst of their troubles, imbitter every real affliction, with the terrors of a feeble and dejected imagination. We are not bound to answer for the follies of either, nor, in treating a question which relates to the nature of man, make an estimate of its strength or its weakness, from the habits or apprehensions peculiar to any nation or age.
Whoever has compared together the different conditions and manners of men, under varieties of education or fortune, will be satisfied, that mere situation does not constitute their happiness or misery; nor a diversity of external observances imply any opposition of sentiments on the subject of morality. They express their kindness and their enmity in different actions; but kindness or enmity is still the principal article of consideration in human life. They engage in different pursuits, or acquiesce in different conditions; but act from passions nearly the same. There is no precise measure of accommodation required to suit their conveniency, nor any degree of danger or safety under which they are peculiarly fitted to act. Courage and generosity, fear and envy, are not peculiar to any station or order of men; nor is there any condition in which some of the human race have not shewn, that it is possible to employ, with propriety, the talents and virtues of their species.
What, then, is that mysterious thing called Happiness which may have place in such a variety of stations, and to which circumstances, in one age or nation thought necessary, are in another held to be destructive or of no effect? It is not the succession of mere animal pleasures, which, apart from the occupation or the company in which they engage us, can fill up but a few moments in human life. On too frequent a repetition, those pleasures turn to satiety and disgust; they tear the constitution to which they are applied in excess, and, like the lightning of night, only serve to darken the gloom through which they occasionally break. Happiness is not that state of repose, or that imaginary freedom from care, which at a distance is so frequent an object of desire, but with its approach brings a tedium, or a languor, more unsupportable than pain itself. If the preceding observations on this subject be just, it arises more from the pursuit, than from the attainment of any end whatever; and in every new situation to which we arrive, even in the course of a prosperous life, it depends more on the degree in which our minds are properly employed, than it does on the circumstances in which we are destined to act, on the materials which are placed in our hands, or the tools with which we are furnished.
If this be confessed in respect to that class of pursuits which are distinguished by the name of amusement, and which, in the case of men who are commonly deemed the most happy, occupy the greater part of human life, we may apprehend, that it holds, much more than is commonly suspected, in many cases of business, where the end to be gained, and not the occupation, is supposed to have the principal value.
The miser himself, we are told, can sometimes consider the care of his wealth as a pastime, and has challenged his heir, to have more pleasure in spending, than he in amassing his fortune. With this degree of indifference to what may be the conduct of others; with this confinement of his care to what he has chosen as his own province, more especially if he has conquered in himself the passions of jealousy and envy, which tear the covetous mind; why may not the man whose object is money, be understood to lead a life of amusement and pleasure, not only more entire than that of the spendthrift, but even as much as the virtuoso, the scholar, the man of taste, or any of that class of persons who have found out a method of passing their leisure without offence, and to whom the acquisitions made, or the works produced, in their several ways, perhaps, are as useless as the bag to the miser, or the counter to those who play from mere dissipation at any game of skill or of chance?
We are soon tired of diversions that do not approach to the nature of business; that is, that do not engage some passion, or give an exercise proportioned to our talents, and our faculties. The chace and the gaming-table have each their dangers and difficulties, to excite and employ the mind. All games of contention animate our emulation, and give a species of party-zeal. The mathematician is only to be amused with intricate problems, the lawyer and the casuist with cases that try their subtilty, and occupy their judgment.
The desire of active engagements, like every other natural appetite, may be carried to excess; and men may debauch in amusements, as well as in the use of wine, or other intoxicating liquors. At first, a trifling stake, and the occupation of a moderate passion, may have served to amuse the gamester; but when the drug becomes familiar, it fails to produce its effect: The play is made deep, and the interest increased, to awaken his attention; he is carried on by degrees, and in the end comes to seek for amusement, and to find it only in those passions of anxiety, hope, and despair, which are roused by the hazard into which he has thrown the whole of his fortunes.
If men can thus turn their amusements into a scene more serious and interesting than that of business itself, it will be difficult to assign a reason, why business, and many of the occupations of human life, independent of any distant consequences or future events, may not be chosen as an amusement, and adopted on account of the pastime they bring. This is, perhaps, the foundation on which, without the aid of reflection, the contented and the cheerful have rested the gaiety of their tempers. It is, perhaps, the most solid basis of fortitude which any reflection can lay; and happiness itself is secured by making a certain species of conduct our amusement; and, by considering life in the general estimate of its value, as well on every particular occasion, as a mere scene for the exercise of the mind, and the engagements of the heart. “I will try and attempt every thing,” says Brutus; “I will never cease to recall my country from this state of servility. If the event be favourable, it will prove matter of joy to us all; if not, yet I, notwithstanding, shall rejoice.” Why rejoice in a disappointment? Why not be dejected, when his country was overwhelmed? Because sorrow, perhaps, and dejection, can do no good. Nay, but they must be endured when they come. And whence should they come to me? might the Roman say; I have followed my mind, and can follow it still. Events may have changed the situation in which I am destined to act; but can they hinder my acting the part of a man? Shew me a situation in which a man can neither act nor die, and I will own he is wretched.
Whoever has the force of mind steadily to view human life under this aspect, has only to chuse well his occupations, in order to command that state of enjoyment, and freedom of soul, which probably constitute the peculiar felicity to which his active nature is destined.
The dispositions of men, and consequently their occupations, are commonly divided into two principal classes; the selfish, and the social. The first are indulged in solitude; and if they carry a reference to mankind, it is that of emulation, competition, and enmity. The second incline us to live with our fellow-creatures, and to do them good; they tend to unite the members of society together; they terminate in a mutual participation of their cares and enjoyments, and render the presence of men an occasion of joy. Under this class may be enumerated the passions of the sexes, the affections of parents and children, general humanity, or singular attachments; above all, that habit of the soul by which we consider ourselves as but a part of some beloved community, and as but individual members of some society, whose general welsare is to us the supreme object of zeal, and the great rule of our conduct. This affection is a principle of candour, which knows no partial distinctions, and is confined to no bounds: it may extend its effects beyond our personal acquaintance; it may, in the mind, and in thought, at least, make us feel a relation to the universe, and to the whole creation of God. “Shall any one,” says Antoninus, “love the city of Cecrops, and you not love the city of God?”
No emotion of the heart is indifferent. It is either an act of vivacity and joy, or a feeling of sadness; a transport of pleasure, or a convulsion of anguish: and the exercises of our different dispositions, as well as their gratifications, are likely to prove matter of the greatest importance to our happiness or misery.
The individual is charged with the care of his animal preservation. He may exist in solitude, and, far removed from society, perform many functions of sense, imagination, and reason. He is even rewarded for the proper discharge of those functions; and all the natural exercises which relate to himself, as well as to his fellow-creatures, not only occupy without distressing him, but, in many instances, are attended with positive pleasures, and fill up the hours of life with agreeable occupation.
There is a degree, however, in which we suppose that the care of ourselves becomes a source of painful anxiety and cruel passions; in which it degenerates into avarice, vanity, or pride; and in which, by fostering habits of jealousy and envy, of fear and malice, it becomes as destructive of our own enjoyments, as it is hostile to the welfare of mankind. This evil, however, is not to be charged upon any excess in the care of ourselves, but upon a mere mistake in the choice of our objects. We look abroad for a happiness which is to be found only in the qualities of the heart: We think ourselves dependent on accidents; and are therefore kept in suspense and solicitude: We think ourselves dependent on the will of other men; and are therefore servile and timid: We think our felicity is placed in subjects for which our fellow-creatures are rivals and competitors; and in pursuit of happiness, we engage in those scenes of emulation, envy, hatred, animosity, and revenge, that lead to the highest pitch of distress. We act, in short, as if to preserve ourselves were to retain our weakness, and perpetuate our sufferings. We charge the ills of a distempered imagination, and a corrupt heart, to the account of our fellow-creatures, to whom we refer the pangs of our disappointment or malice; and while we foster our misery, are surprised that the care of ourselves is attended with no better effects. But he who remembers that he is by nature a rational being, and a member of society; that to preserve himself, is to preserve his reason, and to preserve the best feelings of his heart; will encounter with none of these inconveniencies; and in the care of himself, will find subjects only of satisfaction and triumph.
The division of our appetites into benevolent and selfish, has probably, in some degree, helped to mislead our apprehension on the subject of personal enjoyment and private good; and our zeal to prove that virtue is disinterested, has not greatly promoted its cause. The gratification of a selfish desire, it is thought, brings advantage or pleasure to ourselves; that of benevolence terminates in the pleasure or advantage of others: Whereas, in reality, the gratification of every desire is a personal enjoyment, and its value being proportioned to the particular quality or force of the sentiment, it may happen that the same person may reap a greater advantage from the good fortune he has procured to another, than from that he has obtained for himself.
While the gratifications of benevolence, therefore, are as much our own as those of any other desire whatever, the mere exercises of this disposition are, on many accounts, to be considered as the first and the principal constituent of human happiness. Every act of kindness, or of care, in the parent to his child; every emotion of the heart, in friendship or in love, in public zeal, or general humanity, are so many acts of enjoyment and fatisfaction. Pity itself, and compassion, even grief and melancholy, when grafted on some tender affection, partake of the nature of the stock; and if they are not positive pleasures, are at least pains of a peculiar nature, which we do not even with to exchange but for a very real enjoyment, obtained in relieving our object. Even extremes in this class of our dispositions, as they are the reverse of hatred, envy, and malice, so they are never attended with those excruciating anxieties, jealousies, and fears, which tear the interested mind; or if, in reality, any ill passion arise from a pretended attachment to our fellow-creatures, that attachment may be safely condemned, as not genuine. If we be distrustful or jealous, our pretended affection is probably no more than a desire of attention and personal consideration, a motive which frequently inclines us to be connected with our fellow-creatures; but to which we are as frequently willing to sacrifice their happiness. We consider them as the tools of our vanity, pleasure, or interest; not as the parties on whom we may bestow the effects of our good-will, and our love.
A mind devoted to this class of its affections, being occupied with an object that may engage it habitually, is not reduced to court the amusements or pleasures with which persons of an ill temper are obliged to repair their disgusts: And temperance becomes an easy task when gratifications of sense are supplanted by those of the heart. Courage, too, is most easily assumed, or is rather inseparable from that ardour of the mind, in society, friendship, or in public action, which makes us forget subjects of personal anxiety or fear, and attend chiefly to the object of our zeal or affection, not to the trifling inconveniencies, dangers, or hardships, which we ourselves may encounter in striving to maintain it.
It should seem, therefore, to be the happiness of man, to make his social dispositions the ruling spring of his occupations; to state himself as the member of a community, for whose general good his heart may glow with an ardent zeal, to the suppression of those personal cares which are the foundation of painful anxieties, fear, jealousy, and envy; or, as Mr. Pope expresses the same setiment,
We commonly apprehend, that it is our duty to do kindnesses, and our happiness to receive them: but if, in reality, courage, and a heart devoted to the good of mankind, are the constituents of human felicity, the kindness which is done infers a happiness in the person from whom it proceeds, not in him on whom it is bestowed; and the greatest good which men possessed of fortitude and generosity can procure to their fellowcreatures, is a participation of this happy character.
If this be the good of the individual, it is likewise that of mankind; and virtue no longer imposes a task by which we are obliged to bestow upon others that good from which we ourselves refrain; but supposes, in the highest degree, as possessed by ourselves, that state of felicity which we are required to promote in the world. “You will confer the greatest benefit on your city,” says Epictetus, “not by raising the roofs, but by exalting the souls of your fellow-citizens; for it is better that great souls should live in small habitations, than that abject slaves should burrow in great houses† .”
To the benevolent, the satisfaction of others is a ground of enjoyment; and existence itself, in a world that is governed by the wisdom of God, is a blessing. The mind, freed from cares that lead to pusillanimity and meanness, becomes calm, active, fearless, and bold; capable of every enterprise, and vigorous in the exercise of every talent, by which the nature of man is adorned. On this foundation was raised the admirable character, which, during a certain period of their story, distinguished the celebrated nations of antiquity, and rendered familiar and ordinary in their manners, examples of magnanimity, which, under governments less favourable to the public affections, rarely occur; or which, without being much practised, or even understood, are made subjects of admiration and swelling panegyric. “Thus,” says Xenophon, “died Thrasybulus; who indeed appears to have been a good man.” What valuable praise, and how significant to those who know the story of this admirable person! The members of those illustrious states, from the habit of considering themselves as part of a community, or at least as deeply involved with some order of men in the state, were regardless of personal considerations: they had a perpetual view to objects which excite a great ardour in the soul; which led them to act perpetually in the view of their fellow-citizens, and to practise those arts of deliberation, elocution, policy, and war, on which the fortunes of nations, or of men, in their collective body, depend. To the force of mind collected in this career, and to the improvements of wit which were made in pursuing it, these nations owed, not only their magnanimity, and the superiority of their political and military conduct, but even the arts of poetry and literature, which among them were only the inferior appendages of a genius otherwise excited, cultivated, and refined.
To the ancient Greek, or the Roman, the individual was nothing, and the public every thing. To the modern, in too many nations of Europe, the individual is every thing, and the public nothing. The state is merely a combination of departments, in which consideration, wealth, eminence, or power, are offered as the reward of service. It was the nature of modern government, even in its first institution, to bestow on every individual a fixed station and dignity, which he was to maintain for himself. Our ancestors, in rude ages, during the recess of wars from abroad, fought for their personal claims at home, and by their competitions, and the balance of their powers, maintained a kind of political freedom in the state, while private parties were subject to continual wrongs and oppressions. Their posterity, in times more polished, have repressed the civil disorders in which the activity of earlier ages chiefly consisted; but they employ the calm they have gained, not in fostering a zeal for those laws, and that constitution of government, to which they owe their protection, but in practising apart, and each for himself, the several arts of personal advancement, or profit, which their political establishments may enable them to pursue with success. Commerce, which may be supposed to comprehend every lucrative art, is accordingly considered as the great object of nations, and the principal study of mankind.
So much are we accustomed to consider personal fortune as the sole object of care, that even under popular establishments, and in states where different orders of men are summoned to partake in the government of their country, and where the liberties they enjoy cannot be long preserved, without vigilance and activity on the part of the subject; still they, who, in the vulgar phrase, have not their fortunes to make, are supposed to be at a loss for occupation, and betake themselves to solitary pastimes, or cultivate what they are pleased to call a taste for gardening, building, drawing, or musick. With this aid, they endeavour to fill up the blanks of a listless life, and avoid the necessity of curing their languors by any positive service to their country, or to mankind.
The weak or the malicious are well employed in any thing that is innocent, and are fortunate in finding any occupation which prevents the effects of a temper that would prey upon themselves, or upon their fellow-creatures. But they who are blessed with a happy disposition, with capacity and vigour, incur a real debauchery, by having any amusement that occupies an improper share of their time; and are really cheated of their happiness, in being made to believe, that any occupation or pastime is better fitted to amuse themselves, than that which at the same time produces some real good to their fellow-creatures.
This sort of entertainment, indeed, cannot be the choice of the mercenary, the envious, or the malicious. Its value is known only to persons of an opposite temper; and to their experience alone we appeal. Guided by mere disposition, and without the aid of reflection, in business, in friendship, and in public life, they often acquit themselves well; and borne with satisfaction on the tide of their emotions and sentiments, enjoy the present hour, without recollection of the past, or hopes of the future. It is in speculation, not in practice, they are made to discover, that virtue is a task of severity and self-denial.
MAN is, by nature, the member of a community; and when considered in this capacity, the individual appears to be no longer made for himself. He must forego his happiness and his freedom, where these interfere with the good of society. He is only part of a whole; and the praise we think due to his virtue, is but a branch of that more general commendation we bestow on the member of a body, on the part of a fabric, or engine, for being well fitted to occupy its place, and to produce its effect.
If this follow from the relation of a part to its whole, and if the public good be the principal object with individuals, it is likewise true, that the happiness of individuals is the great end of civil society: for, in what sense can a public enjoy any good, if its members, considered apart, be unhappy?
The interests of society, however, and of its members, are easily reconciled. If the individual owe every degree of consideration to the public, he receives, in paying that very consideration, the greatest happiness of which his nature is capable; and the greatest blessing the public can bestow on its members, is to keep them attached to itself. That is the most happy state, which is most beloved by its subjects; and they are the most happy men, whose hearts are engaged to a community, in which they find every object of generosity and zeal, and a scope to the exercise of every talent, and of every virtuous disposition.
After we have thus found general maxims, the greater part of our trouble remains, their just application to particular cases. Nations are different in respect to their extent, numbers of people, and wealth; in respect to the arts they practise, and the accommodations they have procured. These circumstances may not only affect the manners of men; they even, in our esteem, come into competition with the article of manners itself; are supposed to constitute a national felicity, independent of virtue; and give a title, upon which we indulge our own vanity, and that of other nations, as we do that of private men, on the score of their fortunes and honours.
But if this way of measuring happiness, when applied to private men, be ruinous and false, it is so no less when applied to nations. Wealth, commerce, extent of territory, and the knowledge of arts, are, when properly employed, the means of preservation, and the foundations of power. If they fail in part, the nation is weakened; if they were entirely with-held, the race would perish: Their tendency is to maintain numbers of men, but not to constitute happiness. They will accordingly maintain the wretched as well as the happy. They answer one purpose, but are not therefore sufficient for all; and are of little significance, when only employed to maintain a timid, dejected, and servile people.
Great and powerful states are able to overcome and subdue the weak; polished and commercial nations have more wealth, and practise a greater variety of arts, than the rude: But the happiness of men, in all cases alike, consists in the blessings of a candid, an active, and strenuous mind. And if we consider the state of society merely as that into which mankind are led by their propensities, as a state to be valued from its effect in preserving the species, in ripening their talents, and exciting their virtues, we need not enlarge our communities, in order to enjoy these advantages. We frequently obtain them in the most remarkable degree, where nations remain independent, and are of a small extent.
To increase the numbers of mankind, may be admitted as a great and important object: But to extend the limits of any particular state, is not, perhaps, the way to obtain it; while we desire that our fellow-creatures should multiply, it does not follow, that the whole should, if possible, be united under one head. We are apt to admire the empire of the Romans, as a model of national greatness and splendour: But the greatness we admire in this case, was ruinous to the virtue and the happiness of mankind; it was found to be inconsistent with all the advantages which that conquering people had formerly enjoyed in the articles of government and manners.
The emulation of nations proceeds from their division. A cluster of states, like a company of men, find the exercise of their reason, and the test of their virtues, in the affairs they transact, upon a foot of equality, and of separate interest. The measures taken for safety, including great part of the national policy, are relative in every state to what is apprehended from abroad. Athens was necessary to Sparta in the exercise of her virtue, as steel is to flint in the production of fire; and if the cities of Greece had been united under one head, we should never have heard of Epaminondas or Thrasybulus, of Lycurgus or Solon.
When we reason in behalf of our species, therefore, although we may lament the abuses which sometimes arise from independence, and opposition of interest; yet, whilst any degrees of virtue remain with mankind, we cannot wish to crowd, under one establishment, numbers of men who may serve to constitute several; or to commit affairs to the conduct of one senate, one legislative or executive power, which, upon a distinct and separate footing, might furnish an exercise of ability, and a theatre of glory to many.
This may be a subject upon which no determinate rule can be given; but the admiration of boundless dominion is a ruinous error; and in no instance, perhaps, is the real interest of mankind more entirely mistaken.
The measure of enlargement to be wished for in any particular state, is often to be taken from the condition of its neighbours. Where a number of states are contiguous, they should be near an equality, in order that they may be mutually objects of respect and consideration, and in order that they may possess that independence in which the political life of a nation consists.
When the kingdoms of Spain were united, when the great fiefs in France were annexed to the crown, it was no longer expedient for the nations of Great Britain to continue disjoined.
The small republics of Greece, indeed, by their subdivisions, and the balance of their power, found almost in every village the object of nations. Every little district was a nursery of excellent men, and what is now the wretched corner of a great empire, was the field on which mankind have reaped their principal honours. But in modern Europe, republics of a similar extent are like shrubs, under the shade of a taller wood, choaked by the neighbourhood of more powerful states. In their case, a certain disproportion of force frustrates, in a great measure, the advantage of separation. They are like the trader in Poland, who is the more despicable, and the less secure, that he is neither master nor slave.
Independent communities, in the mean time, however weak, are averse to a coalition, not only where it comes with an air of imposition, or unequal treaty, but even where it implies no more than the admission of new members to an equal share of consideration with the old. The citizen has no interest in the annexation of kingdoms; he must find his importance diminished, as the state is enlarged: But ambitious men, under the enlargement of territory, find a more plentiful harvest of power, and of wealth, while government itself is an easier task. Hence the ruinous progress of empire; and hence free nations, under the shew of acquiring dominion, suffer themselves, in the end, to be yoked with the slaves they had conquered.
Our desire to augment the force of a nation is the only pretext for enlarging its territory; but this measure, when pursued to extremes, seldom fails to frustrate itself.
Notwithstanding the advantage of numbers, and superior resources in war, the strength of a nation is derived from the character, not from the wealth, nor from the multitude of its people. If the treasure of a state can hire numbers of men, erect ramparts, and furnish the implements of war; the possessions of the fearful are easily seized; a timorous multitude falls into rout of itself; ramparts may be scaled where they are not defended by valour; and arms are of consequence only in the hands of the brave. The band to which Agesilaus pointed as the wall of his city, made a defence for their country more permanent, and more effectual, than the rock and the cement with which other cities were fortified.
We should owe little to that statesman who were to contrive a defence that might supersede the external uses of virtue. It is wisely ordered for man, as a rational being, that the employment of reason is necessary to his preservation; it is fortunate for him, in the pursuit of distinction, that his personal consideration depends on his character; and it is fortunate for nations, that, in order to be powerful and safe, they must strive to maintain the courage, and cultivate the virtues, of their people. By the use of such means, they at once gain their external ends, and are happy.
Peace and unanimity are commonly considered as the principal foundations of public felicity; yet the rivalship of separate communities, and the agitations of a free people, are the principles of political life, and the school of men. How shall we reconcile these jarring and opposite tenets? It is, perhaps, not necessary to reconcile them. The pacific may do what they can to allay the animosities, and to reconcile the opinions, of men; and it will be happy if they can succeed in repressing their crimes, and in calming the worst of their passions. Nothing, in the mean time, but corruption or slavery can suppress the debates that subsist among men of integrity, who bear an equal part in the administration of state.
A perfect agreement in matters of opinion is not to be obtained in the most select company; and if it were, what would become of society? “The Spartan legislator,” says Plutarch, “appears to have sown the seeds of variance and dissention among his countrymen: he meant that good citizens should be led to dispute; he considered emulation as the brand by which their virtues were kindled; and seemed to apprehend, that a complaisance, by which men submit their opinions without examination, is a principal source of corruption.”
Forms of government are supposed to decide of the happiness or misery of mankind. But forms of government must be varied, in order to suit the extent, the way of subsistence, the character, and the manners of different nations. In some cases, the multitude may be suffered to govern themselves; in others they must be severely restrained. The inhabitants of a village, in some primitive age, may have been safely intrusted to the conduct of reason, and to the suggestion of their innocent views; but the tenants of Newgate can scarcely be trusted, with chains locked to their bodies, and bars of iron fixed to their legs. How is it possible, therefore, to find any single form of government that would suit mankind in every condition?
We proceed, however, in the following section, to point out the distinctions, and to explain the language which occurs in this place, on the head of different models for subordination and government.
IT is a common observation, That mankind were originally equal. They have indeed by nature equal rights to their preservation, and to the use of their talents; but they are fitted for different stations; and when they are classed by a rule taken from this circumstance, they suffer no injustice on the side of their natural rights. It is obvious, that some mode of subordination is as necessary to men as society itself; and this, not only to attain the ends of government, but to comply with an order established by nature.
Prior to any political institution whatever, men are qualified by a great diversity of talents, by a different tone of the soul, and ardour of the passions, to act a variety of parts. Bring them together, each will find his place. They censure or applaud in a body; they consult and deliberate in more select parties; they take or give an ascendant as individuals; and numbers are by this means fitted to act in company, and to preserve their communities, before any formal distribution of office is made.
We are formed to act in this manner; and if we have any doubts with relation to the rights of government in general, we owe our perplexity more to the subtilties of the speculative, than to any uncertainty in the feelings of the heart. Involved in the resolutions of our company, we move with the crowd before we have determined the rule by which its will is collected. We follow a leader, before we have settled the ground of his pretensions, or adjusted the form of his election: and it is not till after mankind have committed many errors in the capacities of magistrate and subject, that they think of making government itself a subject of rules.
If, therefore, in considering the variety of forms under which societies subsist, the casuist is pleased to inquire, What title one man, or any number of men, have to controul his actions? he may be answered, None at all, provided that his actions have no effect to the prejudice of his fellow-creatures; but if they have, the rights of defence, and the obligation to repress the commission of wrongs, belong to collective bodies, as well as to individuals. Many rude nations, having no formal tribunals for the judgment of crimes, assemble, when alarmed by any flagrant offence, and take their measures with the criminal as they would with an enemy.
But will this consideration, which confirms the title to sovereignty, where it is exercised by the society in its collective capacity, or by those to whom the powers of the whole are committed, likewise support the claim to dominion, wherever it is casually lodged, or even where it is only maintained by force?
This question may be sufficiently answered, by observing, that a right to do justice, and to do good, is competent to every individual, or order of men; and that the exercise of this right has no limits but in the defect of power. Whoever, therefore, has power, may employ it to this extent; and no previous convention is required to justify his conduct. But a right to do wrong, or to commit injustice, is an abuse of language, and a contradiction in terms. It is no more competent to the collective body of a people, than it is to any single usurper. When we admit such a prerogative in the case of any sovereign, we can only mean to express the extent of his power, and the force with which he is enabled to execute his pleasure. Such a prerogative is assumed by the leader of banditti at the head of his gang, or by a despotic prince at the head of his troops. When the sword is presented by either, the traveller or the inhabitant may submit from a sense of necessity or fear; but he lies under no obligation from a motive of duty or justice.
The multiplicity of forms, in the mean time, which different societies offer to our view, is almost infinite. The classes into which they distribute their members, the manner in which they establish the legislative and executive powers, the imperceptible circumstances by which they are led to have different customs, and to confer on their governors unequal measures of power and authority, give rise to perpetual distinctions between constitutions the most nearly resembling each other, and give to human affairs a variety in detail, which, in its full extent, no understanding can comprehend, and no memory retain.
In order to have a general and comprehensive knowledge of the whole, we must be determined on this, as on every other subject, to overlook many particulars and singularities, distinguishing different governments; to fix our attention on certain points, in which many agree; and thereby establish a few general heads, under which the subject may be distinctly considered. When we have marked the characteristics which form the general points of co-incidence; when we have pursued them to their consequences in the several modes of legislation, execution, and judicature, in the establishments which relate to police, commerce, religion, or domestic life; we have made an acquisition of knowledge, which, though it does not supersede the necessity of experience, may serve to direct our inquiries, and, in the midst of affairs, give an order and a method for the arrangement of particulars that occur to our observation.
When I recollect what the President Montesquieu has written, I am at a loss to tell, why I should treat of human affairs: But I too am instigated by my reflections, and my sentiments; and I may utter them more to the comprehension of ordinary capacities, because I am more on the level of ordinary men. If it be necessary to pave the way for what follows on the general history of nations, by giving some account of the heads under which various forms of government may be conveniently ranged, the reader should perhaps be referred to what has been already delivered on the subject by this profound politician and amiable moralist. In his writings will be found, not only the original of what I am now, for the sake of order, to copy from him, but likewise probably the source of many observations, which, in different places, I may, under the belief of invention, have repeated, without quoting their author.
The ancient philosophers treated of government commonly under three heads; the Democratic, the Aristocratic, and the Despotic. Their attention was chiefly occupied with the varieties of republican government, and they paid little regard to a very important distinction, which Mr. Montesquieu has made, between despotism and monarchy. He too has considered government as reducible to three general forms; and, “to understand the nature of each,” he observes, “it is sufficient to recal ideas which are familiar with men of the least reflection, who admit three definitions, or rather three facts: That a republic is a state in which the people in a collective body, or a part of the people, possess the sovereign power: That monarchy is that in which one man governs, according to fixed and determinate laws: And a despotism is that in which one man, without law, or rule of administration, by the mere impulse of will or caprice, decides, and carries every thing before him.”
Republics admit of a very material distinction, which is pointed out in the general definition; that between democracy and aristocracy. In the first, supreme power remains in the hands of the collective body. Every office of magistracy, at the nomination of this sovereign, is open to every citizen; who, in the discharge of his duty, becomes the minister of the people, and accountable to them for every object of his trust.
In the second, the sovereignty is lodged in a particular class, or order of men; who, being once named, continue for life; or, by the hereditary distinctions of birth and fortune, are advanced to a station of permanent superiority. From this order, and by their nomination, all the offices of magistracy are filled; and in the different assemblies which they constitute, whatever relates to the legislation, the execution, or jurisdiction, is finally determined.
Mr. Montesquieu has pointed out the sentiments or maxims from which men must be supposed to act under these different governments.
In democracy, they must love equality; they must respect the rights of their fellow-citizens; they must unite by the common ties of affection to the state. In forming personal pretensions, they must be satisfied with that degree of consideration they can procure by their abilities fairly measured with those of an opponent; they must labour for the public without hope of profit; they must reject every attempt to create a personal dependence. Candour, force, and elevation of mind, in short, are the props of democracy; and virtue is the principle of conduct required to its preservation.
How beautiful a pre-eminence on the side of popular government! and how ardently should mankind wish for the form, if it tended to establish the principle, or were, in every instance, a sure indication of its presence!
But perhaps we must have possessed the principle, in order, with any hopes of advantage, to receive the form; and where the first is entirely extinguished, the other may be fraught with evil, if any additional evil deserves to be shunned where men are already unhappy.
At Constantinople or Algiers, it is a miserable spectacle when men pretend to act on a foot of equality: They only mean to shake off the restraints of government, and to seize as much as they can of that spoil, which, in ordinary times, is ingrossed by the master they serve.
It is one advantage of democracy, that the principal ground of distinction being personal qualities, men are classed according to their abilities, and to the merit of their actions. Though all have equal pretensions to power, yet the state is actually governed by a few. The majority of the people, even in their capacity of sovereign, only pretend to employ their senses; to feel, when pressed by national inconveniences, or threatened by public dangers; and with the ardour which is apt to arise in crowded assemblies, to urge the pursuits in which they are engaged, or to repel the attacks with which they are menaced.
The most perfect equality of rights can never exclude the ascendant of superior minds, nor the assemblies of a collective body govern without the direction of select councils. On this account, popular government may be confounded with aristocracy. But this alone does not constitute the character of aristocratical government. Here the members of the state are divided, at least, into two classes; of which one is destined to command, the other to obey. No merits or defects can raise or sink a person from one class to the other. The only effect of personal character is, to procure to the individual a suitable degree of consideration with his own order, not to vary his rank. In one situation he is taught to assume, in another to yield the pre-eminence. He occupies the station of patron or client, and is either the sovereign or the subject of his country. The whole citizens may unite in executing the plans of state, but never in deliberating on its measures, or enacting its laws. What belongs to the whole people under democracy, is here confined to a part. Members of the superior order, are among themselves, possibly, classed according to their abilities, but retain a perpetual ascendant over those of inferior station. They are at once the servants and the masters of the state, and pay, with their personal attendance and with their blood, for the civil or military honours they enjoy.
To maintain for himself, and to admit in his fellow-citizen, a perfect equality of privilege and station, is no longer the leading maxim of the member of such a community. The rights of men are modified by their condition. One order claims more than it is willing to yield; the other must be ready to yield what it does not assume to itself: and it is with good reason that Mr. Montesquieu gives to the principle of such governments the name of moderation, not of virtue.
The elevation of one class is a moderated arrogance; the submission of the other a limited deference. The first must be careful, by concealing the invidious part of their distinction, to palliate what is grievous in the public arrangement, and by their education, their cultivated manners, and improved talents, to appear qualified for the stations they occupy. The other must be taught to yield, from respect and personal attachment, what could not otherwise be extorted by force. When this moderation fails on either side, the constitution totters. A populace enraged to mutiny, may claim the right of equality to which they are admitted in democratical states; or a nobility bent on dominion, may chuse among themselves, or find already pointed out to them, a sovereign, who, by advantages of fortune, popularity, or abilities, is ready to seize for his own family, that envied power which has already carried his order beyond the limits of moderation, and infected particular men with a boundless ambition.
Monarchies have accordingly been found with the recent marks of aristocracy. There, however, the monarch is only the first among the nobles; he must be satisfied with a limited power; his subjects are ranged into classes; he finds on every quarter a pretence to privilege that circumscribes his authority; and he finds a force sufficient to confine his administration within certain bounds of equity, and determinate laws.
Under such governments, however, the love of equality is preposterous, and moderation itself is unnecessary. The object of every rank is precedency, and every order may display its advantages to their full extent. The sovereign himself owes great part of his authority to the sounding titles and the dazzling equipage which he exhibits in public. The subordinate ranks lay claim to importance by a like exhibition, and for that purpose carry in every instant the ensigns of their birth, or the ornaments of their fortune. What else could mark out to the individual the relation in which he stands to his fellow-subjects, or distinguish the numberless ranks that fill up the interval between the state of the sovereign and that of the peasant? Or what else could, in states of a great extent, preserve any appearance of order, among members disunited by ambition and interest, and destined to form a community, without the sense of any common concern?
Monarchies are generally found, where the state is enlarged, in population and in territory, beyond the numbers and dimensions that are consistent with republican government. Together with these circumstances, great inequalities arise in the distribution of property; and the desire of pre-eminence becomes the predominant passion. Every rank would exercise its prerogative, and the sovereign is perpetually tempted to enlarge his own; if subjects, who despair of precedence, plead for equality, he is willing to favour their claims, and to aid them in reducing pretensions, with which he himself is, on many occasions, obliged to contend. In the event of such a policy, many invidious distinctions and grievances peculiar to monarchical government, may, in appearance, be removed; but the state of equality to which the subjects approach is that of slaves, equally dependent on the will of a master, not that of freemen, in a condition to maintain their own.
The principle of monarchy, according to Montesquieu, is honour. Men may possess good qualities, elevation of mind, and fortitude; but the sense of equality, that will bear no incroachment on the personal rights of the meanest citizen; the indignant spirit, that will not court a protection, nor accept as a favour what is due as a right; the public affection, which is founded on the neglect of personal considerations, are neither consistent with the preservation of the constitution, nor agreeable to the habits acquired in any station assigned to its members.
Every condition is possessed of peculiar dignity, and points out a propriety of conduct, which men of station are obliged to maintain. In the commerce of superiors and inferiors, it is the object of ambition, and of vanity, to refine on the advantages of rank; while, to facilitate the intercourse of polite society, it is the aim of good breeding to disguise, or reject them.
Though the objects of consideration are rather the dignities of station than personal qualities; though friendship cannot be formed by mere inclination, nor alliances by the mere choice of the heart; yet men so united, and even without changing their order, are highly susceptible of moral excellence, or liable to many different degrees of corruption. They may act a vigorous part as members of the state, an amiable one in the commerce of private society; or they may yield up their dignity as citizens, even while they raise their arrogance and presumption as private parties.
In monarchy, all orders of men derive their honours from the crown; but they continue to hold them as a right, and they exercise a subordinate power in the state, founded on the permanent rank they enjoy, and on the attachment of those whom they are appointed to lead and protect. Though they do not force themselves into national councils and public assemblies, and though the name of senate is unknown, yet the sentiments they adopt must have weight with the sovereign; and every individual, in his separate capacity, in some measure, deliberates for his country. In whatever does not derogate from his rank, he has an arm ready to serve the community; in whatever alarms his sense of honour, he has aversions and dislikes, which amount to a negative on the will of his prince.
Intangled together by the reciprocal ties of dependence and protection, though not combined by the sense of a common interest, the subjects of monarchy, like those of republics, find themselves occupied as the members of an active society, and engaged to treat with their fellow-creatures on a liberal footing. If those principles of honour which save the individual from servility in his own person, or from becoming an engine of oppression in the hands of another, should fail; if they should give way to the maxims of commerce, to the refinements of a supposed philosophy, or to the misplaced ardours of a republican spirit; if they are betrayed by the cowardice of subjects, or subdued by the ambition of princes; what must become of the nations of Europe?
Despotism is monarchy corrupted, in which a court and a prince in appearance remain, but in which every subordinate rank is destroyed; in which the subject is told, that he has no rights; that he cannot possess any property, nor fill any station, independent of the momentary will of his prince. These doctrines are founded on the maxims of conquest; they must be inculcated with the whip and the sword; and are best received under the terror of chains and imprisonment. Fear, therefore, is the principle which qualifies the subject to occupy his station: and the sovereign, who holds out the ensigns of terror so freely to others, has abundant reason to give this passion a principal place with himself. That tenure which he has devised for the rights of others, is soon applied to his own; and from his eager desire to secure, or to extend his power, he finds it become, like the fortunes of his people, a creature of mere imagination and unsettled caprice.
Whilst we thus, with so much accuracy, can assign the ideal limits that may distinguish constitutions of government, we find them, in reality, both in respect to the principle and the form, variously blended together. In what society are not men classed by external distinctions, as well as personal qualities? In what state are they not actuated by a variety of principles; justice, honour, moderation, and fear? It is the purpose of science not to disguise this confusion in its object, but, in the multiplicity and combination of particulars, to find the principal points which deserve our attention; and which, being well understood, save us from the embarrassment which the varieties of singular cases might otherwise create. In the same degree in which governments require men to act from principles of virtue, of honour, or of fear, they are more or less fully comprised under the heads of republic, monarchy, or despotism, and the general theory is more or less applicable to their particular case.
Forms of government, in fact, mutually approach or recede by many, and often insensible gradations. Democracy, by admitting certain inequalities of rank, approaches to aristocracy. In popular, as well as aristocratical governments, particular men, by their personal authority, and sometimes by the credit of their family, have maintained a species of monarchical power. The monarch is limited in different degrees: even the despotic prince is only that monarch whose subjects claim the fewest privileges, or who is himself best prepared to subdue them by force. All these varieties are but steps in the history of mankind, and mark the fleeting and transient situations through which they have passed, while supported by virtue, or depressed by vice.
Perfect democracy and despotism appear to be the opposite extremes at which constitutions of government farthest recede from each other. Under the first, a perfect virtue is required; under the second, a total corruption is supposed: yet, in point of mere form, there being nothing fixed in the ranks and distinctions of men beyond the casual and temporary possession of power, societies easily pass from a condition in which every individual has an equal title to reign, into one in which they are equally destined to serve. The same qualities in both, courage, popularity, address, and military conduct, raise the ambitious to eminence. With these qualities, the citizen or the slave easily passes from the ranks to the command of an army, from an obscure to an illustrious station. In either, a single person may rule with unlimited sway; and in both, the populace may break down every barrier of order, and restraint of law.
If we suppose that the equality established among the subjects of a despotic state has inspired its members with confidence, intrepidity, and the love of justice; the despotic prince, having ceased to be an object of fear, must sink among the crowd. If, on the contrary, the personal equality which is enjoyed by the members of a democratical state, should be valued merely as an equal pretension to the objects of avarice and ambition, the monarch may start up anew, and be supported by those who mean to share in his profits. When the rapacious and mercenary assemble in parties, it is of no consequence under what leader they inlist, whether Cæsar or Pompey; the hopes of rapine or pay are the only motives from which they become attached to either.
In the disorder of corrupted societies, the scene has been frequently changed from democracy to despotism, and from the last too, in its turn, to the first. From amidst the democracy of corrupt men, and from a scene of lawless confusion, the tyrant ascends a throne with arms reeking in blood. But his abuses, or his weaknesses, in the station he has gained, in their turn awaken and give way to the spirit of mutiny and revenge. The cries of murder and desolation, which in the ordinary course of military government terrified the subject in his private retreat, sound through the vaults, and pierce the grates and iron doors of the seraglio. Democracy seems to revive in a scene of wild disorder and tumult: but both the extremes are but the transient fits of paroxysm or languor in a distempered state.
If men be any where arrived at this measure of depravity, there appears no immediate hope of redress. Neither the ascendancy of the multitude, nor that of the tyrant, will secure the administration of justice: Neither the licence of mere tumult, nor the calm of dejection and servitude, will teach the citizen that he was born for candour and affection to his fellow-creatures. And if the speculative would find that habitual state of war which they are sometimes pleased to honour with the name of the state of nature, they will find it in the contest that subsists between the despotical prince and his subjects, not in the first approaches of a rude and simple tribe to the condition and the domestic arrangement of nations.
[*]Rousseau sur l’origine de l’inegalité parmi les hommes.
[* ]Traité de l’èsprit.
[* ]Latfiau mœurs des sauvages.
[* ]Abulgaze Bahadur Chan; History of the Tartars.
[* ]Collection of Dutch voyages.
[* ]Charlevoix; Hist. of Canada.
[* ]See Charlevoix’s History of Canada.
[* ]Mankind, we are told, are devoted to interest; and this, in all commercial nations, is undoubtedly true: But it does not follow, that they are, by their natural dispositions, averse to society and mutual affection: Proofs of the contrary remain, even where interest triumphs most. What must we think of the force of that disposition to compassion, to candour, and good-will, which, notwithstanding the prevailing opinion that the happiness of a man consists in possessing the greatest possible share of riches, preferments, and honours, still keeps the parties who are in competition for those objects, on a tolerable footing of amity, and leads them to abstain even from their own supposed good, when their seizing it appears in the light of a detriment to others? What might we not expect from the human heart in circumstances which prevented this apprehension on the subject of fortune, or under the influence of an opinion as steady and general as the former, that human felicity does not consist in the indulgences of animal appetite, but in those of a benevolent heart; not in fortune or interest, but in the contempt of this very object, in the courage and freedom which arise from this contempt, joined to a resolute choice of conduct, directed to the good of mankind, or to the good of that particular society to which the party belongs?
[* ]Persian Letters.
[* ]Maupertuis; Essai de Morale.
[* ]Life of Lord Herbert.
[* ]Plutarch in Vit. Pyrrh.
[* ]Vertot’s Revolutions of Portugal.
[* ]Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M—y W—M—e.
[* ]The same maxim will apply throughout every part of nature. To love, is to enjoy pleasure. To hate, is to be in pain.
[† ]Mrs. Carter’s translation of the works of Epictetus.