An Essay on the History of Civil Society, Eighth Edition
Adam Ferguson, L.L.D.

Part 2 out of 6

sense, imagination, and reason. He is even rewarded for the proper
discharge of those functions; and all the natural exercises which relate to
himself, as well as to his fellow creatures, not only occupy without
distressing him, but, in many instances, are attended with positive
pleasures, and fill up the hours of life with agreeable occupation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * * * *



* * * * *



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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