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

Part 3 out of 6



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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