An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
Adam Smith

Part 15 out of 19

not expected that much profit could be made by this trade, both the
Portuguese and French companies, who had enjoyed it upon the same
terms before them, having been ruined by it, they were allowed, as
compensation, to send annually a ship of a certain burden, to trade
directly to the Spanish West Indies. Of the ten voyages which this
annual ship was allowed to make, they are said to have gained
considerably by one, that of the Royal Caroline, in 1731; and to have
been losers, more or less, by almost all the rest. Their ill success
was imputed, by their factors and agents, to the extortion and
oppression of the Spanish government; but was, perhaps, principally
owing to the profusion and depredations of those very factors and
agents; some of whom are said to have acquired great fortunes, even in
one year. In 1734, the company petitioned the king, that they might be
allowed to dispose of the trade and tonnage of their annual ship, on
account of the little profit which they made by it, and to accept of
such equivalent as they could obtain from the king of Spain.

In 1724, this company had undertaken the whale fishery. Of this,
indeed, they had no monopoly; but as long as they carried it on, no
other British subjects appear to have engaged in it. Of the eight
voyages which their ships made to Greenland, they were gainers by one,
and losers by all the rest. After their eighth and last voyage, when
they had sold their ships, stores, and utensils, they found that their
whole loss upon this branch, capital and interest included, amounted
to upwards of 237,000.

In 1722, this company petitioned the parliament to be allowed to
divide their immense capital of more than thirty-three millions eight
hundred thousand pounds, the whole of which had been lent to
government, into two equal parts; the one half, or upwards of
16,900,000, to be put upon the same footing with other government
annuities, and not to be subject to the debts contracted, or losses
incurred, by the directors of the company, in the prosecution of their
mercantile projects; the other half to remain as before, a trading
stock, and to be subject to those debts and losses. The petition was
too reasonable not to be granted. In 1733, they again petitioned the
parliament, that three-fourths of their trading stock might be turned
into annuity stock, and only one-fourth remain as trading stock, or
exposed to the hazards arising from the bad management of their
directors. Both their annuity and trading stocks had, by this time,
been reduced more than two millions each, by several different
payments from government; so that this fourth amounted only to
3,662,784:8:6. In 1748, all the demands of the company upon the king
of Spain, in consequence of the assiento contract, were, by the treaty
of Aix-la-Chapelle, given up for what was supposed an equivalent. An
end was put to their trade with the Spanish West Indies; the remainder
of their trading stock was turned into an annuity stock; and the
company ceased, in every respect, to be a trading company.

It ought to be observed, that in the trade which the South Sea company
carried on by means of their annual ship, the only trade by which it
ever was expected that they could make any considerable profit, they
were not without competitors, either in the foreign or in the home
market. At Carthagena, Porto Bello, and La Vera Cruz, they had to
encounter the competition of the Spanish merchants, who brought from
Cadiz to those markets European goods, of the same kind with the
outward cargo of their ship; and in England they had to encounter that
of the English merchants, who imported from Cadiz goods of the Spanish
West Indies, of the same kind with the inward cargo. The goods, both
of the Spanish and English merchants, indeed, were, perhaps, subject
to higher duties. But the loss occasioned by the negligence,
profusion, and malversation of the servants of the company, had
probably been a tax much heavier than all those duties. That a
joint-stock company should be able to carry on successfully any branch
of foreign trade, when private adventurers can come into any sort of
open and fair competition with them, seems contrary to all experience.

The old English East India company was established in 1600, by a
charter from Queen Elizabeth. In the first twelve voyages which they
fitted out for India, they appear to have traded as a regulated
company, with separate stocks, though only in the general ships of the
company. In 1612, they united into a joint stock. Their charter was
exclusive, and, though not confirmed by act of parliament, was in
those days supposed to convey a real exclusive privilege. For many
years, therefore, they were not much disturbed by interlopers. Their
capital, which never exceeded 744,000, and of which 50 was a share,
was not so exorbitant, nor their dealings so extensive, as to afford
either a pretext for gross negligence and profusion, or a cover to
gross malversation. Notwithstanding some extraordinary losses,
occassioned partly by the malice of the Dutch East India company, and
partly by other accidents, they carried on for many years a successful
trade. But in process of time, when the principles of liberty were
better understood, it became every day more and more doubtful, how far
a royal charter, not confirmed by act of parliament, could convey an
exclusive privilege. Upon this question the decisions of the courts of
justice were not uniform, but varied with the authority of government,
and the humours of the times. Interlopers multiplied upon them; and
towards the end of the reign of Charles II., through the whole of that
of James II., and during a part of that of William III., reduced them
to great distress. In 1698, a proposal was made to parliament, of
advancing two millions to government, at eight per cent. provided the
subscribers were erected into a new East India company, with exclusive
privileges. The old East India company offered seven hundred thousand
pounds, nearly the amount of their capital, at four per cent. upon the
same conditions. But such was at that time the state of public credit,
that it was more convenient for government to borrow two millions at
eight per cent. than seven hundred thousand pounds at four. The
proposal of the new subscribers was accepted, and a new East India
company established in consequence. The old East India company,
however, had a right to continue their trade till 1701. They had, at
the same time, in the name of their treasurer, subscribed very
artfully three hundred and fifteen thousand pounds into the stock of
the new. By a negligence in the expression of the act of parliament,
which vested the East India trade in the subscribers to this loan of
two millions, it did not appear evident that they were all obliged to
unite into a joint stock. A few private traders, whose subscriptions
amounted only to seven thousand two hundred pounds, insisted upon the
privilege of trading separately upon their own stocks, and at their
own risks. The old East India company had a right to a separate trade
upon their own stock till 1701; and they had likewise, both before and
after that period, a right, like that or other private traders, to a
separate trade upon the 315,000, which they had subscribed into the
stock of the new company. The competition of the two companies with
the private traders, and with one another, is said to have well nigh
ruined both. Upon a subsequent occasion, in 1750, when a proposal was
made to parliament for putting the trade under the management of a
regulated company, and thereby laying it in some measure open, the
East India company, in opposition to this proposal, represented, in
very strong terms, what had been, at this time, the miserable effects,
as they thought them, of this competition. In India, they said, it
raised the price of goods so high, that they were not worth the
buying; and in England, by overstocking the market, it sunk their
price so low, that no profit could be made by them. That by a more
plentiful supply, to the great advantage and conveniency of the
public, it must have reduced very much the price of India goods in the
English market, cannot well be doubted; but that it should have raised
very much their price in the Indian market, seems not very probable,
as all the extraordinary demand which that competition could occasion
must have been but as a drop of water in the immense ocean of Indian
commerce. The increase of demand, besides, though in the beginning it
may sometimes raise the price of goods, never fails to lower it in the
long-run. It encourages production, and thereby increases the
competition of the producers, who, in order to undersell one another,
have recourse to new divisions or labour and new improvements of art,
which might never otherwise have been thought of. The miserable
effects of which the company complained, were the cheapness of
consumption, and the encouragement given to production; precisely the
two effects which it is the great business of political economy to
promote. The competition, however, of which they gave this doleful
account, had not been allowed to be of long continuance. In 1702, the
two companies were, in some measure, united by an indenture
tripartite, to which the queen was the third party; and in 1708, they
were by act of parliament, perfectly consolidated into one company, by
their present name of the United Company of Merchants trading to the
East Indies. Into this act it was thought worth while to insert a
clause, allowing the separate traders to continue their trade till
Michaelmas 1711; but at the same time empowering the directors, upon
three years notice, to redeem their little capital of seven thousand
two hundred pounds, and thereby to convert the whole stock of the
company into a joint stock. By the same act, the capital of the
company, in consequence of a new loan to government, was augmented
from two millions to three millions two hundred thousand pounds. In
1743, the company advanced another million to government. But this
million being raised, not by a call upon the proprietors, but by
selling annuities and contracting bond-debts, it did not augment the
stock upon which the proprietors could claim a dividend. It augmented,
however, their trading stock, it being equally liable with the other
three millions two hundred thousand pounds, to the losses sustained,
and debts contracted by the company in prosecution of their mercantile
projects. From 1708, or at least from 1711, this company, being
delivered from all competitors, and fully established in the monopoly
of the English commerce to the East Indies, carried on a successful
trade, and from their profits, made annually a moderate dividend to
their proprietors. During the French war, which began in 1741, the
ambition of Mr. Dupleix, the French governor of Pondicherry, involved
them in the wars of the Carnatic, and in the politics of the Indian
princes. After many signal successes, and equally signal losses, they
at last lost Madras, at that time their principal settlement in India.
It was restored to them by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle; and, about
this time the spirit of war and conquest seems to have taken
possession of their servants in India, and never since to have left
them. During the French war, which began in 1755, their arms partook
of the general good fortune of those of Great Britain. They defended
Madras, took Pondicherry, recovered Calcutta, and acquired the
revenues of a rich and extensive territory, amounting, it was then
said, to upwards of three millions a-year. They remained for several
years in quiet possession of this revenue; but in 1767, administration
laid claim to their territorial acquisitions, and the revenue arising
from them, as of right belonging to the crown; and the company, in
compensation for this claim, agreed to pay to government 400,000
a-year. They had, before this, gradually augmented their dividend from
about six to ten per cent.; that is, upon their capital of three
millions two hundred thousand pounds, they had increased it by
128,000, or had raised it from one hundred and ninety-two thousand to
three hundred and twenty thousand pounds a-year. They were attempting
about this time to raise it still further, to twelve and a-half per
cent., which would have made their annual payments to their
proprietors equal to what they had agreed to pay annually to
government, or to 400,000 a-year. But during the two years in which
their agreement with government was to take place, they were
restrained from any further increase of dividend by two successive
acts of parliament, of which the object was to enable them to make a
speedier progress in the payment of their debts, which were at this
time estimated at upwards of six or seven millions sterling. In 1769,
they renewed their agreement with government for five years more, and
stipulated, that during the course of that period, they should be
allowed gradually to increase their dividend to twelve and a-half per
cent; never increasing it, however, more than one per cent. in one
year. This increase of dividend, therefore, when it had risen to its
utmost height, could augment their annual payments, to their
proprietors and government together, but by 680,000, beyond what
they had been before their late territorial acquisitions. What the
gross revenue of those territorial acquisitions was supposed to amount
to, has already been mentioned; and by an account brought by the
Cruttenden East Indiaman in 1769, the neat revenue, clear of all
deductions and military charges, was stated at two millions
forty-eight thousand seven hundred and forty-seven pounds. They were
said, at the same time, to possess another revenue, arising partly
from lands, but chiefly from the customs established at their
different settlements, amounting to 439,000. The profits of their
trade, too, according to the evidence of their chairman before the
house of commons, amounted, at this time, to at least 400,000 a-year;
according to that of their accountant, to at least 500,000; according
to the lowest account, at least equal to the highest dividend that was
to be paid to their proprietors. So great a revenue might certainly
have afforded an augmentation of 680,000 in their annual payments;
and, at the same time, have left a large sinking fund, sufficient for
the speedy reduction of their debt. In 1773, however, their debts,
instead of being reduced, were augmented by an arrear to the treasury
in the payment of the four hundred thousand pounds; by another to the
custom-house for duties unpaid; by a large debt to the bank, for money
borrowed; and by a fourth, for bills drawn upon them from India, and
wantonly accepted, to the amount of upwards of twelve hundred thousand
pounds. The distress which these accumulated claims brought upon them,
obliged them not only to reduce all at once their dividend to six per
cent. but to throw themselves upon the mercy of govermnent, and to
supplicate, first, a release from the further payment of the
stipulated 400,000 a-year; and, secondly, a loan of fourteen hundred
thousand, to save them from immediate bankruptcy. The great increase
of their fortune had, it seems, only served to furnish their servants
with a pretext for greater profusion, and a cover for greater
malversation, than in proportion even to that increase of fortune. The
conduct of their servants in India, and the general state of their
affairs both in India and in Europe, became the subject of a
parliamentary inquiry: in consequence of which, several very important
alterations were made in the constitution of their government, both at
home and abroad. In India, their principal settlements or Madras,
Bombay, and Calcutta, which had before been altogether independent of
one another, were subjected to a governor-general, assisted by a
council of four assessors, parliament assuming to itself the first
nomination of this governor and council, who were to reside at
Calcutta; that city having now become, what Madras was before, the
most important of the English settlements in India. The court of the
Mayor of Calcutta, originally instituted for the trial of mercantile
causes, which arose in the city and neighbourhood, had gradually
extended its jurisdiction with the extension of the empire. It was now
reduced and confined to the original purpose of its institution.
Instead of it, a new supreme court of judicature was established,
consisting of a chief justice and three judges, to be appointed by the
crown. In Europe, the qualification necessary to entitle a proprietor
to vote at their general courts was raised, from five hundred pounds,
the original price of a share in the stock of the company, to a
thousand pounds. In order to vote upon this qualification, too, it was
declared necessary, that he should have possessed it, if acquired by
his own purchase, and not by inheritance, for at least one year,
instead of six months, the term requisite before. The court of
twenty-four directors had before been chosen annually; but it was now
enacted, that each director should, for the future, be chosen for four
years; six of them, however, to go out of office by rotation every
year, and not be capable of being re-chosen at the election of the six
new directors for the ensuing year. In consequence of these
alterations, the courts, both of the proprietors and directors, it was
expected, would be likely to act with more dignity and steadiness than
they had usually done before. But it seems impossible, by any
alterations, to render those courts, in any respect, fit to govern, or
even to share in the government of a great empire; because the greater
part of their members must always have too little interest in the
prosperity of that empire, to give any serious attention to what may
promote it. Frequently a man of great, sometimes even a man of small
fortune, is willing to purchase a thousand pounds share in India
stock, merely for the influence which he expects to aquire by a vote
in the court of proprietors. It gives him a share, though not in the
plunder, yet in the appointment of the plunderers of India; the court
of directors, though they make that appointment, being necessarily
more or less under the influence of the proprietors, who not only
elect those directors, but sometimes over-rule the appointments of
their servants in India. Provided he can enjoy this influence for a
few years, and thereby provide for a certain number of his friends, he
frequently cares little about the dividend, or even about the value of
the stock upon which his vote is founded. About the prosperity of the
great empire, in the government of which that vote gives him a share,
he seldom cares at all. No other sovereigns ever were, or, from the
nature of things, ever could be, so perfectly indifferent about the
happiness or misery of their subjects, the improvement or waste of
their dominions, the glory or disgrace of their administration, as,
from irresistible moral causes, the greater part of the proprietors of
such a mercantile company are, and necessarily must be. This
indifference, too, was more likely to be increased than diminished by
some of the new regulations which were made in consequence of the
parliamentary inquiry. By a resolution of the house of commons, for
example, it was declared, that when the 1,400,000 lent to the company
by government, should be paid, and their bond-debts be reduced to
1,500,000, they might then, and not till then, divide eight per cent.
upon their capital; and that whatever remained of their revenues and
neat profits at home should be divided into four parts; three of them
to be paid into the exchequer for the use of the public, and the
fourth to be reserved as a fund, either for the further reduction of
their bond-debts, or for the discharge of other contingent exigencies
which the company might labour under. But if the company were bad
stewards and bad sovereigns, when the whole of their neat revenue and
profits belonged to themselves, and were at their own disposal, they
were surely not likely to be better when three-fourths of them were to
belong to other people, and the other fourth, though to be laid out
for the benefit of the company, yet to be so under the inspection and
with the approbation of other people.

It might be more agreeable to the company, that their own servants and
dependants should have either the pleasure of wasting, or the profit
of embezzling, whatever surplus might remain, after paying the
proposed dividend of eight per cent. than that it should come into the
hands of a set of people with whom those resolutions could scarce fail
to set them in some measure at variance. The interest of those
servants and dependants might so far predominate in the court of
proprietors, as sometimes to dispose it to support the authors of
depredations which had been committed in direct violation of its own
authority. With the majority of proprietors, the support even of the
authority of their own court might sometimes be a matter of less
consequence than the support of those who had set that authority at

The regulations of 1773, accordingly, did not put an end to the
disorder of the company's government in India. Notwithstanding that,
during a momentary fit of good conduct, they had at one time collected
into the treasury of Calcutta more than 3,000,000 sterling;
notwithstanding that they had afterwards extended either their
dominion or their depredations over a vast accession of some of the
richest and most fertile countries in India, all was wasted and
destroyed. They found themselves altogether unprepared to stop or
resist the incursion of Hyder Ali; and in consequence of those
disorders, the company is now (1784) in greater distress than ever;
and, in order to prevent immediate bankruptcy, is once more reduced to
supplicate the assistance of government. Different plans have been
proposed by the different parties in parliament for the better
management of its affairs; and all those plans seem to agree in
supposing, what was indeed always abundantly evident, that it is
altogether unfit to govern its territorial possessions. Even the
company itself seems to be convinced of its own incapacity so far, and
seems, upon that account willing to give them up to government.

With the right of possessing forts and garrisons in distant and
barbarous countries is necessarily connected the right of making peace
and war in those countries. The joint-stock companies, which have had
the one right, have constantly exercised the other, and have
frequently had it expressly conferred upon them. How unjustly, how
capriciously, how cruelly, they have commonly exercised it, is too
well known from recent experience.

When a company of merchants undertake, at their own risk and expense,
to establish a new trade with some remote and barbarous nation, it may
not be unreasonable to incorporate them into a joint-stock company,
and to grant them, in case of their success, a monopoly of the trade
for a certain number of years. It is the easiest and most natural way
in which the state can recompense them for hazarding a dangerous and
expensive experiment, of which the public is afterwards to reap the
benefit. A temporary monopoly of this kind may be vindicated, upon the
same principles upon which a like monopoly of a new machine is granted
to its inventor, and that of a new book to its author. But upon the
expiration of the term, the monopoly ought certainly to determine; the
forts and garrisons, if it was found necessary to establish any, to be
taken into the hands of government, their value to be paid to the
company, and the trade to be laid open to all the subjects of the
state. By a perpetual monopoly, all the other subjects of the state
are taxed very absurdly in two different ways: first, by the high
price of goods, which, in the case of a free trade, they could buy
much cheaper; and, secondly, by their total exclusion from a branch of
business which it might be both convenient and profitable for many of
them to carry on. It is for the most worthless of all purposes, too,
that they are taxed in this manner. It is merely to enable the company
to support the negligence, profusion, and malversation of their own
servants, whose disorderly conduct seldom allows the dividend of the
company to exceed the ordinary rate of profit in trades which are
altogether free, and very frequently makes a fall even a good deal
short of that rate. Without a monopoly, however, a joint-stock
company, it would appear from experience, cannot long carry on any
branch of foreign trade. To buy in one market, in order to sell with
profit in another, when there are many competitors in both; to watch
over, not only the occasional variations in the demand, but the much
greater and more frequent variations in the competition, or in the
supply which that demand is likely to get from other people; and to
suit with dexterity and judgment both the quantity and quality of each
assortment of goods to all these circumstances, is a species of
warfare, of which the operations are continually changing, and which
can scarce ever be conducted successfully, without such an unremitting
exertion of vigilance and attention as cannot long be expected from
the directors of a joint-stock company. The East India company, upon
the redemption of their funds, and the expiration of their exclusive
privilege, have a right, by act of parliament, to continue a
corporation with a joint stock, and to trade in their corporate
capacity to the East Indies, in common with the rest of their fellow
subjects. But in this situation, the superior vigilance and attention
of a private adventurer would, in all probability, soon make them
weary of the trade.

An eminent French author, of great knowledge in matters of political
economy, the Abbe Morellet, gives a list of fifty-five joint-stock
companies for foreign trade, which have been established in different
parts of Europe since the year 1600, and which, according to him, have
all failed from mismanagement, notwithstanding they had exclusive
privileges. He has been misinformed with regard to the history of two
or three of them, which were not joint-stock companies and have not
failed. But, in compensation, there have been several joint-stock
companies which have failed, and which he has omitted.

The only trades which it seems possible for a joint-stock company to
carry on successfully, without an exclusive privilege, are those, of
which all the operations are capable of being reduced to what is
called a routine, or to such a uniformity of method as admits of
little or no variation. Of this kind is, first, the banking trade;
secondly, the trade of insurance from fire and from sea risk, and
capture in time of war; thirdly, the trade of making and maintaining a
navigable cut or canal; and, fourthly, the similar trade of bringing
water for the supply of a great city.

Though the principles of the banking trade may appear somewhat
abstruse, the practice is capable of being reduced to strict rules. To
depart upon any occasion from those rules, in consequence of some
flattering speculation of extraordinary gain, is almost always
extremely dangerous and frequently fatal to the banking company which
attempts it. But the constitution of joint-stock companies renders
them in general, more tenacious of established rules than any private
copartnery. Such companies, therefore, seem extremely well fitted for
this trade. The principal banking companies in Europe, accordingly,
are joint-stock companies, many of which manage their trade very
successfully without any exclusive privilege. The bank of England has
no other exclusive privilege, except that no other banking company in
England shall consist of more than six persons. The two banks of
Edinburgh are joint-stock companies, without any exclusive privilege.

The value of the risk, either from fire, or from loss by sea, or by
capture, though it cannot, perhaps, be calculated very exactly,
admits, however, of such a gross estimation, as renders it, in some
degree, reducible to strict rule and method. The trade of insurance,
therefore, may be carried on successfully by a joint-stock company,
without any exclusive privilege. Neither the London Assurance, nor the
Royal Exchange Assurance companies have any such privilege.

When a navigable cut or canal has been once made, the management of it
becomes quite simple and easy, and it is reducible to strict rule and
method. Even the making of it is so, as it may be contracted for with
undertakers, at so much a mile, and so much a lock. The same thing may
be said of a canal, an aqueduct, or a great pipe for bringing water to
supply a great city. Such under-takings, therefore, may be, and
accordingly frequently are, very successfully managed by joint-stock
companies, without any exclusive privilege.

To establish a joint-stock company, however, for any undertaking,
merely because such a company might be capable of managing it
successfully; or, to exempt a particular set of dealers from some of
the general laws which take place with regard to all their neighbours,
merely because they might be capable of thriving, if they had such an
exemption, would certainly not be reasonable. To render such an
establishment perfectly reasonable, with the circumstance of being
reducible to strict rule and method, two other circumstances ought to
concur. First, it ought to appear with the clearest evidence, that the
undertaking is of greater and more general utility than the greater
part of common trades; and, secondly, that it requires a greater
capital than can easily be collected into a private copartnery. If a
moderate capital were sufficient, the great utility of the undertaking
would not be a sufficient reason for establishing a joint-stock
company; because, in this case, the demand for what it was to produce,
would readily and easily be supplied by private adventurers. In the
four trades above mentioned, both those circumstances concur.

The great and general utility of the banking trade, when prudently
managed, has been fully explained in the second book of this Inquiry.
But a public bank, which is to support public credit, and, upon
particular emergencies, to advance to government the whole produce of
a tax, to the amount, perhaps, of several millions, a year or two
before it comes in, requires a greater capital than can easily be
collected into any private copartnery.

The trade of insurance gives great security to the fortunes of private
people, and, by dividing among a great many that loss which would ruin
an individual, makes it fall light and easy upon the whole society. In
order to give this security, however, it is necessary that the
insurers should have a very large capital. Before the establishment of
the two joint-stock companies for insurance in London, a list, it is
said, was laid before the attorney-general, of one hundred and fifty
private usurers, who had failed in the course of a few years.

That navigable cuts and canals, and the works which are sometimes
necessary for supplying a great city with water, are of great and
general utility, while, at the same time, they frequently require a
greater expense than suits the fortunes of private people, is
sufficiently obvious.

Except the four trades above mentioned, I have not been able to
recollect any other, in which all the three circumstances requisite
for rendering reasonable the establishment of a joint-stock company
concur. The English copper company of London, the lead-smelting
company, the glass-grinding company, have not even the pretext of any
great or singular utility in the object which they pursue; nor does
the pursuit of that object seem to require any expense unsuitable to
the fortunes of many private men. Whether the trade which those
companies carry on, is reducible to such strict rule and method as to
render it fit for the management of a joint-stock company, or whether
they have any reason to boast of their extraordinary profits, I do not
pretend to know. The mine-adventurers company has been long ago
bankrupt. A share in the stock of the British Linen company of
Edinburgh sells, at present, very much below par, though less so than
it did some years ago. The joint-stock companies, which are
established for the public-spirited purpose of promoting some
particular manufacture, over and above managing their own affairs ill,
to the diminution of the general stock of the society, can, in other
respects, scarce ever fail to do more harm than good. Notwithstanding
the most upright intentions, the unavoidable partiality of their
directors to particular branches of the manufacture, of which the
undertakers mislead and impose upon them, is a real discouragement to
the rest, and necessarily breaks, more or less, that natural
proportion which would otherwise establish itself between judicious
industry and profit, and which, to the general industry of the
country, is of all encouragements the greatest and the most effectual.

ART. II. -- Of the Expense of the Institution for the Education of

The institutions for the education of the youth may, in the same
manner, furnish a revenue sufficient for defraying their own expense.
The fee or honorary, which the scholar pays to the master, naturally
constitutes a revenue of this kind.

Even where the reward of the master does not arise altogether from
this natural revenue, it still is not necessary that it should be
derived from that general revenue of the society, of which the
collection and application are, in most countries, assigned to the
executive power. Through the greater part of Europe, accordingly, the
endowment of schools and colleges makes either no charge upon that
general revenue, or but a very small one. It everywhere arises chiefly
from some local or provincial revenue, from the rent of some landed
estate, or from the interest of some sum of money, allotted and put
under the management of trustees for this particular purpose,
sometimes by the sovereign himself, and sometimes by some private

Have those public endowments contributed in general, to promote the
end of their institution? Have they contributed to encourage the
diligence, and to improve the abilities, of the teachers? Have they
directed the course of education towards objects more useful, both to
the individual and to the public, than those to which it would
naturally have gone of its own accord? It should not seem very
difficult to give at least a probable answer to each of those

In every profession, the exertion of the greater part of those who
exercise it, is always in proportion to the necessity they are under
of making that exertion. This necessity is greatest with those to whom
the emoluments of their profession are the only source from which they
expect their fortune, or even their ordinary revenue and subsistence.
In order to acquire this fortune, or even to get this subsistence,
they must, in the course of a year, execute a certain quantity of work
of a known value; and, where the competition is free, the rivalship of
competitors, who are all endeavouring to justle one another out of
employment, obliges every man to endeavour to execute his work with a
certain degree of exactness. The greatness of the objects which are to
be acquired by success in some particular professions may, no doubt,
sometimes animate the exertions of a few men of extraordinary spirit
and ambition. Great objects, however, are evidently not necessary, in
order to occasion the greatest exertions. Rivalship and emulation
render excellency, even in mean professions, an object of ambition,
and frequently occasion the very greatest exertions. Great objects, on
the contrary, alone and unsupported by the necessity of application,
have seldom been sufficient to occasion any considerable exertion. In
England, success in the profession of the law leads to some very great
objects of ambition; and yet how few men, born to easy fortunes, have
ever in this country been eminent in that profession?

The endowments of schools and colleges have necessarily diminished,
more or less, the necessity of application in the teachers. Their
subsistence, so far as it arises from their salaries, is evidently
derived from a fund, altogether independent of their success and
reputation in their particular professions.

In some universities, the salary makes but a part, and frequently but
a small part, of the emoluments of the teacher, of which the greater
part arises from the honoraries or fees of his pupils. The necessity
of application, though always more or less diminished, is not, in this
case, entirely taken away. Reputation in his profession is still of
some importance to him, and he still has some dependency upon the
affection, gratitude, and favourable report of those who have attended
upon his instructions; and these favourable sentiments he is likely to
gain in no way so well as by deserving them, that is, by the abilities
and diligence with which he discharges every part of his duty.

In other universities, the teacher is prohibited from receiving any
honorary or fee from his pupils, and his salary constitutes the whole
of the revenue which he derives from his office. His interest is, in
this case, set as directly in opposition to his duty as it is possible
to set it. It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease
as he can; and if his emoluments are to be precisely the same, whether
he does or does not perform some very laborious duty, it is certainly
his interest, at least as interest is vulgarly understood, either to
neglect it altogether, or, if he is subject to some authority which
will not suffer him to do this, to perform it in as careless and
slovenly a manner as that authority will permit. If he is naturally
active and a lover of labour, it is his interest to employ that
activity in any way from which he can derive some advantage, rather
than in the performance of his duty, from which he can derive none.

If the authority to which he is subject resides in the body corporate,
the college, or university, of which he himself is a member, and in
which the greater part of the other members are, like himself, persons
who either are, or ought to be teachers, they are likely to make a
common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man
to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he
himself is allowed to neglect his own. In the university of Oxford,
the greater part of the public professors have, for these many years,
given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.

If the authority to which he is subject resides, not so much in the
body corporate, of which he is a member, as in some other extraneous
persons, in the bishop of the diocese, for example, in the governor of
the province, or, perhaps, in some minister of state, it is not,
indeed, in this case, very likely that he will be suffered to neglect
his duty altogether. All that such superiors, however, can force him
to do, is to attend upon his pupils a certain number of hours, that
is, to give a certain number of lectures in the week, or in the year.
What those lectures shall be, must still depend upon the diligence of
the teacher; and that diligence is likely to be proportioned to the
motives which he has for exerting it. An extraneous jurisdiction of
this kind, besides, is liable to be exercised both ignorantly and
capriciously. In its nature, it is arbitrary and discretionary; and
the persons who exercise it, neither attending upon the lectures of
the teacher themselves, nor perhaps understanding the sciences which
it is his business to teach, are seldom capable of exercising it with
judgment. From the insolence of office, too, they are frequently
indifferent how they exercise it, and are very apt to censure or
deprive him of his office wantonly and without any just cause. The
person subject to such jurisdiction is necessarily degraded by it,
and, instead of being one of the most respectable, is rendered one of
the meanest and most contemptible persons in the society. It is by
powerful protection only, that he can effectually guard himself
against the bad usage to which he is at all times exposed; and this
protection he is most likely to gain, not by ability or diligence in
his profession, but by obsequiousness to the will of his superiors,
and by being ready, at all times, to sacrifice to that will the
rights, the interest, and the honour of the body corporate, of which
he is a member. Whoever has attended for any considerable time to the
administration of a French university, must have had occasion to
remark the effects which naturally result from an arbitrary and
extraneous jurisdiction of this kind.

Whatever forces a certain number of students to any college or
university, independent of the merit or reputation of the teachers,
tends more or less to diminish the necessity of that merit or

The privileges of graduates in arts, in law, physic, and divinity,
when they can be obtained only by residing a certain number of years
in certain universities, necessarily force a certain number of
students to such universities, independent of the merit or reputation
of the teachers. The privileges of graduates are a sort of statutes of
apprenticeship, which have contributed to the improvement of education
just as the other statutes of apprenticeship have to that of arts and

The charitable foundations of scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries,
etc. necessarily attach a certain number of students to certain
colleges, independent altogether of the merit of those particular
colleges. Were the students upon such charitable foundations left free
to choose what college they liked best, such liberty might perhaps
contribute to excite some emulation among different colleges. A
regulation, on the contrary, which prohibited even the independent
members of every particular college from leaving it, and going to any
other, without leave first asked and obtained of that which they meant
to abandon, would tend very much to extinguish that emulation.

If in each college, the tutor or teacher, who was to instruct each
student in all arts and sciences, should not be voluntarily chosen by
the student, but appointed by the head of the college; and if, in case
of neglect, inability, or bad usage, the student should not be allowed
to change him for another, without leave first asked and obtained;
such a regulation would not only tend very much to extinguish all
emulation among the different tutors of the same college, but to
diminish very much, in all of them, the necessity of diligence and of
attention to their respective pupils. Such teachers, though very well
paid by their students, might be as much disposed to neglect them, as
those who are not paid by them at all or who have no other recompense
but their salary.

If the teacher happens to be a man of sense, it must be an unpleasant
thing to him to be conscious, while he is lecturing to his students,
that he is either speaking or reading nonsense, or what is very little
better than nonsense. It must, too, be unpleasant to him to observe,
that the greater part of his students desert his lectures; or perhaps,
attend upon them with plain enough marks of neglect, contempt, and
derision. If he is obliged, therefore, to give a certain number of
lectures, these motives alone, without any other interest, might
dispose him to take some pains to give tolerably good ones. Several
different expedients, however, may be fallen upon, which will
effectually blunt the edge of all those incitements to diligence. The
teacher, instead of explaining to his pupils himself the science in
which he proposes to instruct them, may read some book upon it; and if
this book is written in a foreign and dead language, by interpreting
it to them into their own, or, what would give him still less trouble,
by making them interpret it to him, and by now and then making an
occasional remark upon it, he may flatter himself that he is giving a
lecture. The slightest degree of knowledge and application will enable
him to do this, without exposing himself to contempt or derision, by
saying any thing that is really foolish, absurd, or ridiculous. The
discipline of the college, at the same time, may enable him to force
all his pupils to the most regular attendance upon his sham lecture,
and to maintain the most decent and respectful behaviour during the
whole time of the performance.

The discipline of colleges and universities is in general contrived,
not for the benefit of the students, but for the interest, or, more
properly speaking, for the ease of the masters. Its object is, in all
cases, to maintain the authority of the master, and, whether he
neglects or performs his duty, to oblige the students in all cases to
behave to him as if he performed it with the greatest diligence and
ability. It seems to presume perfect wisdom and virtue in the one
order, and the greatest weakness and folly in the other. Where the
masters, however, really perform their duty, there are no examples, I
believe, that the greater part of the students ever neglect theirs. No
discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which
are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such
lectures are given. Force and restraint may, no doubt, be in some
degree requisite, in order to oblige children, or very young boys, to
attend to those parts of education, which it is thought necessary for
them to acquire during that early period of life; but after twelve or
thirteen years of age, provided the master does his duty, force or
restraint can scarce ever be necessary to carry on any part of
education. Such is the generosity of the greater part of young men,
that so far from being disposed to neglect or despise the instructions
of their master, provided he shews some serious intention of being of
use to them, they are generally inclined to pardon a great deal of
incorrectness in the performance of his duty, and sometimes even to
conceal from the public a good deal of gross negligence.

Those parts of education, it is to be observed, for the teaching of
which there are no public institutions, are generally the best taught.
When a young man goes to a fencing or a dancing school, he does not,
indeed, always learn to fence or to dance very well; but he seldom
fails of learning to fence or to dance. The good effects of the riding
school are not commonly so evident. The expense of a riding school is
so great, that in most places it is a public institution. The three
most essential parts of literary education, to read, write, and
account, it still continues to be more common to acquire in private
than in public schools; and it very seldom happens, that anybody fails
of acquiring them to the degree in which it is necessary to acquire

In England, the public schools are much less corrupted than the
universities. In the schools, the youth are taught, or at least may be
taught, Greek and Latin; that is, everything which the masters pretend
to teach, or which it is expected they should teach. In the
universities, the youth neither are taught, nor always can find any
proper means of being taught the sciences, which it is the business of
those incorporated bodies to teach. The reward of the schoolmaster, in
most cases, depends principally, in some cases almost entirely, upon
the fees or honoraries of his scholars. Schools have no exclusive
privileges. In order to obtain the honours of graduation, it is not
necessary that a person should bring a certificate of his having
studied a certain number of years at a public school. If, upon
examination, he appears to understand what is taught there, no
questions are asked about the place where he learnt it.

The parts of education which are commonly taught in universities, it
may perhaps be said, are not very well taught. But had it not been for
those institutions, they would not have been commonly taught at all;
and both the individual and the public would have suffered a good deal
from the want of those important parts of education.

The present universities of Europe were originally, the greater part
of them, ecclesiastical corporations, instituted for the education of
churchmen. They were founded by the authority of the pope; and were so
entirely under his immediate protection, that their members, whether
masters or students, had all of them what was then called the benefit
of clergy, that is, were exempted from the civil jurisdiction of the
countries in which their respective universities were situated, and
were amenable only to the ecclesiastical tribunals. What was taught in
the greater part of those universities was suitable to the end of
their institution, either theology, or something that was merely
preparatory to theology.

When Christianity was first established by law, a corrupted Latin had
become the common language of all the western parts of Europe. The
service of the church, accordingly, and the translation of the Bible
which were read in churches, were both in that corrupted Latin; that
is, in the common language of the country, After the irruption of the
barbarous nations who overturned the Roman empire, Latin gradually
ceased to be the language of any part of Europe. But the reverence of
the people naturally preserves the established forms and ceremonies of
religion long after the circumstances which first introduced and
rendered them reasonable, are no more. Though Latin, therefore, was no
longer understood anywhere by the great body of the people, the whole
service of the church still continued to be performed in that
language. Two different languages were thus established in Europe, in
the same manner as in ancient Egypt: a language of the priests, and a
language of the people; a sacred and a profane, a learned and an
unlearned language. But it was necessary that the priests should
understand something of that sacred and learned language in which they
were to officiate; and the study of the Latin language therefore made,
from the beginning, an essential part of university education.

It was not so with that either of the Greek or of the Hebrew language.
The infallible decrees of the church had pronounced the Latin
translation of the Bible, commonly called the Latin Vulgate, to have
been equally dictated by divine inspiration, and therefore of equal
authority with the Greek and Hebrew originals. The knowledge of those
two languages, therefore, not being indispensably requisite to a
churchman, the study of them did not for along time make a necessary
part of the common course of university education. There are some
Spanish universities, I am assured, in which the study of the Greek
language has never yet made any part of that course. The first
reformers found the Greek text of the New Testament, and even the
Hebrew text of the Old, more favourable to their opinions than the
vulgate translation, which, as might naturally be supposed, had been
gradually accommodated to support the doctrines of the Catholic
Church. They set themselves, therefore, to expose the many errors of
that translation, which the Roman catholic clergy were thus put under
the necessity of defending or explaining. But this could not well be
done without some knowledge of the original languages, of which the
study was therefore gradually introduced into the greater part of
universities; both of those which embraced, and of those which
rejected, the doctrines of the reformation. The Greek language was
connected with every part of that classical learning, which, though at
first principally cultivated by catholics and Italians, happened to
come into fashion much about the same time that the doctrines of the
reformation were set on foot. In the greater part of universities,
therefore, that language was taught previous to the study of
philosophy, and as soon as the student had made some progress in the
Latin. The Hebrew language having no connection with classical
learning, and, except the Holy Scriptures, being the language of not a
single book in any esteem the study of it did not commonly commence
till after that of philosophy, and when the student had entered upon
the study of theology.

Originally, the first rudiments, both of the Greek and Latin
languages, were taught in universities; and in some universities they
still continue to be so. In others, it is expected that the student
should have previously acquired, at least, the rudiments of one or
both of those languages, of which the study continues to make
everywhere a very considerable part of university education.

The ancient Greek philosophy was divided into three great branches;
physics, or natural philosophy; ethics, or moral philosophy; and
logic. This general division seems perfectly agreeable to the nature
of things.

The great phenomena of nature, the revolutions of the heavenly bodies,
eclipses, comets; thunder and lightning, and other extraordinary
meteors; the generation, the life, growth, and dissolution of plants
and animals; are objects which, as they necessarily excite the wonder,
so they naturally call forth the curiosity of mankind to inquire into
their causes. Superstition first attempted to satisfy this curiosity,
by referring all those wonderful appearances to the immediate agency
of the gods. Philosophy afterwards endeavoured to account for them
from more familiar causes, or from such as mankind were better
acquainted with, than the agency of the gods. As those great phenomena
are the first objects of human curiosity, so the science which
pretends to explain them must naturally have been the first branch of
philosophy that was cuitivated. The first philosophers, accordingly,
of whom history has preserved any account, appear to have been natural

In every age and country of the world, men must have attended to the
characters, designs, and actions of one another; and many reputable
rules and maxims for the conduct of human life must have been laid
down and approved of by common consent. As soon as writing came into
fashion, wise men, or those who fancied themselves such, would
naturally endeavour to increase the number of those established and
respected maxims, and to express their own sense of what was either
proper or improper conduct, sometimes in the more artificial form of
apologues, like what are called the fables of Aesop; and sometimes in
the more simple one of apophthegms or wise sayings, like the proverbs
of Solmnon, the verses of Theognis and Phocyllides, and some part of
the works of Hesiod. They might continue in this manner, for a long
time, merely to multiply the number of those maxims of prudence and
morality, without even attempting to arrange them in any very distinct
or methodical order, much less to connect them together by one or more
general principles, from which they were all deducible, like effects
from their natural causes. The beauty of a systematical arrangement of
different observations, connected by a few common principles, was
first seen in the rude essays of those ancient times towards a system
of natural philosophy. Something of the same kind was afterwards
attempted in morals. The maxims of common life were arranged in some
methodical order, and connected together by a few common principles,
in the same manner as they had attempted to arrange and connect the
phenomena of nature. The science which pretends to investigate and
explain those connecting principles, is what is properly called Moral

Different authors gave different systems, both of natural and moral
philosophy. But the arguments by which they supported those different
systems, far from being always demonstrations, were frequently at best
but very slender probabilities, and sometimes mere sophisms, which had
no other foundation but the inaccuracy and ambiguity of common
language. Speculative systems, have, in all ages of the world, been
adopted for reasons too frivolous to have determined the judgment of
any man of common sense, in a matter of the smallest pecuniary
interest. Gross sophistry has scarce ever had any influence upon the
opinions of mankind, except in matters of philosophy and speculation;
and in these it has frequently had the greatest. The patrons of each
system of natural and moral philosophy, naturally endeavoured to
expose the weakness of the arguments adduced to support the systems
which were opposite to their own. In examining those arguments, they
were necessarily led to consider the difference between a probable and
a demonstrative argument, between a fallacious and a conclusive one;
and logic, or the science of the general principles of good and bad
reasoning, necessarily arose out of the observations which a scrutiny
of this kind gave occasion to; though, in its origin, posterior both
to physics and to ethics, it was commonly taught, not indeed in all,
but in the greater part of the ancient schools of philosophy,
previously to either of those sciences. The student, it seems to have
been thought, ought to understand well the difference between good and
bad reasoning, before he was led to reason upon subjects of so great

This ancient division of philosophy into three parts was, in the
greater part of the universities of Europe, changed for another into

In the ancient philosophy, whatever was taught concerning the nature
either of the human mind or of the Deity, made a part of the system of
physics. Those beings, in whatever their essence might be supposed to
consist, were parts of the great system of the universe, and parts,
too, productive of the most important effects. Whatever human reason
could either conclude or conjecture concerning them, made, as it were,
two chapters, though no doubt two very important ones, of the science
which pretended to give an account of the origin and revolutions of
the great system of the universe. But in the universities of Europe,
where philosophy was taught only as subservient to theology, it was
natural to dwell longer upon these two chapters than upon any other of
the science. They were gradually more and more extended, and were
divided into many inferior chapters; till at last the doctrine of
spirits, of which so little can be known, came to take up as much room
in the system of philosophy as the doctrine of bodies, of which so
much can be known. The doctrines concerning those two subjects were
considered as making two distinct sciences. What are called
metaphysics, or pneumatics, were set in opposition to physics, and
were cultivated not only as the more sublime, but, for the purposes of
a particular profession, as the more useful science of the two. The
proper subject of experiment and observation, a subject in which a
careful attention is capable of making so many useful discoveries, was
almost entirely neglected. The subject in which, after a very few
simple and almost obvious truths, the most careful attention can
discover nothing but obscurity and uncertainty, and can consequently
produce nothing but subtleties and sophisms, was greatly cultivated.

When those two sciences had thus been set in opposition to one
another, the comparison between them naturally gave birth to a third,
to what was called ontology, or the science which treated of the
qualities and attributes which were common to both the subjects of the
other two sciences. But if subtleties and sophisms composed the
greater part of the metaphysics or pneumatics of the schools, they
composed the whole of this cobweb science of ontology, which was
likewise sometimes called metaphysics.

Wherein consisted the happiness and perfection of a man, considered
not only as an individual, but as the member of a family, of a state,
and of the great society of mankind, was the object which the ancient
moral philosophy proposed to investigate. In that philosophy, the
duties of human life were treated of as subservient to the happiness
and perfection of human life, But when moral, as well as natural
philosophy, came to be taught only as subservient to theology, the
duties of human life were treated of as chiefly subservient to the
happiness of a life to come. In the ancient philosophy, the perfection
of virtue was represented as necessarily productive, to the person who
possessed it, of the most perfect happiness in this life. In the
modern philosophy, it was frequently represented as generally, or
rather as almost always, inconsistent with any degree of happiness in
this life; and heaven was to be earned only by penance and
mortification, by the austerities and abasement of a monk, not by the
liberal, generous, and spirited conduct of a man. Casuistry, and an
ascetic morality, made up, in most cases, the greater part of the
moral philosophy of the schools. By far the most important of all the
different branches of philosophy became in this manner by far the most

Such, therefore, was the common course of philosophical education in
the greater part of the universities in Europe. Logic was taught
first; ontology came in the second place; pneumatology, comprehending
the doctrine concerning the nature of the human soul and of the Deity,
in the third; in the fourth followed a debased system of moral
philosophy, which was considered as immediately connected with the
doctrines of pneumatology, with the immortality of the human soul, and
with the rewards and punishments which, from the justice of the Deity,
were to be expected in a life to come: a short and superficial system
of physics usually concluded the course.

The alterations which the universities of Europe thus introduced into
the ancient course of philosophy were all meant for the education of
ecclesiastics, and to render it a more proper introduction to the
study of theology But the additional quantity of subtlety and
sophistry, the casuistry and ascetic morality which those alterations
introduced into it, certainly did not render it more for the education
of gentlemen or men of the world, or more likely either to improve the
understanding or to mend the heart.

This course of philosophy is what still continues to be taught in the
greater part of the universities of Europe, with more or less
diligence, according as the constitution of each particular university
happens to render diligence more or less necessary to the teachers. In
some of the richest and best endowed universities, the tutors content
themselves with teaching a few unconnected shreds and parcels of this
corrupted course; and even these they commonly teach very negligently
and superficially.

The improvements which, in modern times have been made in several
different branches of philosophy, have not, the greater part of them,
been made in universities, though some, no doubt, have. The greater
part of universities have not even been very forward to adopt those
improvements after they were made; and several of those learned
societies have chosen to remain, for a long time, the sanctuaries in
which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices found shelter and
protection, after they had been hunted out of every other corner of
the world. In general, the richest and best endowed universities have
been slowest in adopting those improvements, and the most averse to
permit any considerable change in the established plan of education.
Those improvements were more easily introduced into some of the poorer
universities, in which the teachers, depending upon their reputation
for the greater part of their subsistence, were obliged to pay more
attention to the current opinions of the world.

But though the public schools and universities of Europe were
originally intended only for the education of a particular profession,
that of churchmen; and though they were not always very diligent in
instructing their pupils, even in the sciences which were supposed
necessary for that profession; yet they gradually drew to themselves
the education of almost all other people, particularly of almost all
gentlemen and men of fortune. No better method, it seems, could be
fallen upon, of spending, with any advantage, the long interval
between infancy and that period of life at which men begin to apply in
good earnest to the real business of the world, the business which is
to employ them during the remainder of their days. The greater part of
what is taught in schools and universities, however, does not seem to
be the most proper preparation for that business.

In England, it becomes every day more and more the custom to send
young people to travel in foreign countries immediately upon their
leaving school, and without sending them to any university. Our young
people, it is said, generally return home much improved by their
travels. A young man, who goes abroad at seventeen or eighteen, and
returns home at one-and-twenty, returns three or four years older than
he was when he went abroad; and at that age it is very difficult not
to improve a good deal in three or four years. In the course of his
travels, he generally acquires some knowledge of one or two foreign
languages; a knowledge, however, which is seldom sufficient to enable
him either to speak or write them with propriety. In other respects,
he commonly returns home more conceited, more unprincipled, more
dissipated, and more incapable of my serious application, either to
study or to business, than he could well have become in so short a
time had he lived at home. By travelling so very young, by spending in
the most frivolous dissipation the most previous years of his life, at
a distance from the inspection and control of his parents and
relations, every useful habit, which the earlier parts of his
education might have had some tendency to form in him, instead of
being riveted and confirmed, is almost necessarily either weakened or
effaced. Nothing but the discredit into which the universities are
allowing themselves to fall, could ever have brought into repute so
very absurd a practice as that of travelling at this early period of
life. By sending his son abroad, a father delivers himself, at least
for some time, from so disagreeable an object as that of a son
unemployed, neglected, and going to ruin before his eyes.

Such have been the effects of some of the modern institutions for

Different plans and different institutions for education seem to have
taken place in other ages and nations.

In the republics of ancient Greece, every free citizen was instructed,
under the direction of the public magistrate, in gymnastic exercises
and in music. By gymnastic exercises, it was intended to harden his
body, to sharpen his courage, and to prepare him for the fatigues and
dangers of war; and as the Greek militia was, by all accounts, one of
the best that ever was in the world, this part of their public
education must have answered completely the purpose for which it was
intended. By the other part, music, it was proposed, at least by the
philosophers and historians, who have given us an account of those
institutions, to humanize the mind, to soften the temper, and to
dispose it for performing all the social and moral duties of public
and private life.

In ancient Rome, the exercises of the Campus Martius answered the same
purpose as those of the Gymnasium in ancient Greece, and they seem to
have answered it equally well. But among the Romans there was nothing
which corresponded to the musical education of the Greeks. The morals
of the Romans, however, both in private and public life, seem to have
been, not only equal, but, upon the whole, a good deal superior to
those of the Greeks. That they were superior in private life, we have
the express testimony of Polybius, and of Dionysius of Halicarnassus,
two authors well acquainted with both nations; and the whole tenor of
the Greek and Roman history bears witness to the superiority of the
public morals of the Romans. The good temper and moderation of
contending factions seem to be the most essential circumstances in the
public morals of a free people. But the factions of the Greeks were
almost always violent and sanguinary; whereas, till the time of the
Gracchi, no blood had ever been shed in any Roman faction; and from
the time of the Gracchi, the Roman republic may be considered as in
reality dissolved. Notwithstanding, therefore, the very respectable
authority of Plato, Aristotle, and Polybius, and notwithstanding the
very ingenious reasons by which Mr. Montesquieu endeavours to support
that authority, it seems probable that the musical education of the
Greeks had no great effect in mending their morals, since, without any
such education, those of the Romans were, upon the whole, superior.
The respect of those ancient sages for the institutions of their
ancestors had probably disposed them to find much political wisdom in
what was, perhaps, merely an ancient custom, continued, without
interruption, from the earliest period of those societies, to the
times in which they had arrived at a considerable degree of
refinement. Music and dancing are the great amusements of almost all
barbarous nations, and the great accomplishments which are supposed to
fit any man for entertaining his society. It is so at this day among
the negroes on the coast of Africa. It was so among the ancient
Celtes, among the ancient Scandinavians, and, as we may learn from
Homer, among the ancient Greeks, in the times preceding the Trojan
war. When the Greek tribes had formed themselves into little
republics, it was natural that the study of those accomplishments
should for a long time make a part of the public and common education
of the people.

The masters who instructed the young people, either in music or in
military exercises, do not seem to have been paid, or even appointed
by the state, either in Rome or even at Athens, the Greek republic of
whose laws and customs we are the best informed. The state required
that every free citizen should fit himself for defending it in war,
and should upon that account, learn his military exercises. But it
left him to learn them of such masters as he could find; and it seems
to have advanced nothing for this purpose, but a public field or place
of exercise, in which he should practise and perform them.

In the early ages, both of the Greek and Roman republics, the other
parts of education seem to have consisted in learning to read, write,
and account, according to the arithmetic of the times. These
accomplishments the richer citizens seem frequently to have acquired
at home, by the assistance of some domestic pedagogue, who was,
generally, either a slave or a freedman; and the poorer citizens in
the schools of such masters as made a trade of teaching for hire. Such
parts of education, however, were abandoned altogether to the care of
the parents or guardians of each individual. It does not appear that
the state ever assumed any inspection or direction of them. By a law
of Solon, indeed, the children were acquitted from maintaining those
parents who had neglected to instruct them in some profitable trade or

In the progress of refinement, when philosophy and rhetoric came into
fashion, the better sort of people used to send their children to the
schools of philosophers and rhetoricians, in order to be instructed in
these fashionable sciences. But those schools were not supported by
the public. They were, for a long time, barely tolerated by it. The
demand for philosophy and rhetoric was, for a long time, so small,
that the first professed teachers of either could not find constant
employment in any one city, but were obliged to travel about from
place to place. In this manner lived Zeno of Elea, Protagoras,
Gorgias, Hippias, and many others. As the demand increased, the
school, both of philosophy and rhetoric, became stationary, first in
Athens, and afterwards in several other cities. The state, however,
seems never to have encouraged them further, than by assigning to some
of them a particular place to teach in, which was sometimes done, too,
by private donors. The state seems to have assigned the Academy to
Plato, the Lyceum to Aristotle, and the Portico to Zeno of Citta, the
founder of the Stoics. But Epicurus bequeathed his gardens to his own
school. Till about the time of Marcus Antoninus, however, no teacher
appears to have had any salary from the public, or to have had any
other emoluments, but what arose from the honorarius or fees of his
scholars. The bounty which that philosophical emperor, as we learn
from Lucian, bestowed upon one of the teachers of philosophy, probably
lasted no longer than his own life. There was nothing equivalent to
the privileges of graduation; and to have attended any of those
schools was not necessary, in order to be permitted to practise any
particular trade or profession. If the opinion of their own utility
could not draw scholars to them, the law neither forced anybody to go
to them, nor rewarded anybody for having gone to them. The teachers
had no jurisdiction over their pupils, nor any other authority besides
that natural authority which superior virtue and abilities never fail
to procure from young people towards those who are entrusted with any
part of their education.

At Rome, the study of the civil law made a part of the education, not
of the greater part of the citizens, but of some particular families.
The young people, however, who wished to acquire knowledge in the law,
had no public school to go to, and had no other method of studying it,
than by frequenting the company of such of their relations and friends
as were supposed to understand it. It is, perhaps, worth while to
remark, that though the laws of the twelve tables were many of them
copied from those of some ancient Greek republics, yet law never seems
to have grown up to be a science in any republic of ancient Greece. In
Rome it became a science very early, and gave a considerable degree of
illustration to those citizens who had the reputation of understanding
it. In the republics of ancient Greece, particularly in Athens, the
ordinary courts of justice consisted of numerous, and therefore
disorderly, bodies of people, who frequently decided almost at random,
or as clamour, faction, and party-spirit, happened to determine. The
ignominy of an unjust decision, when it was to be divided among five
hundred, a thousand, or fifteen hundred people (for some of their
courts were so very numerous), could not fall very heavy upon any
individual. At Rome, on the contrary, the principal courts of justice
consisted either of a single judge, or of a small number of judges,
whose characters, especially as they deliberated always in public,
could not fail to be very much affected by any rash or unjust
decision. In doubtful cases such courts, from their anxiety to avoid
blame, would naturally endeavour to shelter themselves under the
example or precedent of the judges who had sat before them, either in
the same or in some other court. This attention to practice and
precedent, necessarily formed the Roman law into that regular and
orderly system in which it has been delivered down to us; and the like
attention has had the like effects upon the laws of every other
country where such attention has taken place. The superiority of
character in the Romans over that of the Greeks, so much remarked by
Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, was probably more owing to
the better constitution of their courts of justice, than to any of the
circumstances to which those authors ascribe it. The Romans are said
to have been particularly distinguished for their superior respect to
an oath. But the people who were accustomed to make oath only before
some diligent and well informed court of justice, would naturally be
much more attentive to what they swore, than they who were accustomed
to do the same thing before mobbish and disorderly assemblies.

The abilities, both civil and military, of the Greeks and Romans, will
readily be allowed to have been at least equal to those of any modern
nation. Our prejudice is perhaps rather to overrate them. But except
in what related to military exercises, the state seems to have been at
no pains to form those great abilities; for I cannot be induced to
believe that the musical education of the Greeks could be of much
consequence in forming them. Masters, however, had been found, it
seems, for instructing the better sort of people among those nations,
in every art and science in which the circumstances of their society
rendered it necessary or convenient for them to be instructed. The
demand for such instruction produced, what it always produces, the
talent for giving it; and the emulation which an unrestrained
competition never fails to excite, appears to have brought that talent
to a very high degree of perfection. In the attention which the
ancient philosophers excited, in the empire which they acquired over
the opinions and principles of their auditors, in the faculty which
they possessed of giving a certain tone and character to the conduct
and conversation of those auditors, they appear to have been much
superior to any modern teachers. In modern times, the diligence of
public teachers is more or less corrupted by the circumstances which
render them more or less independent of their success and reputation
in their particular professions. Their salaries, too, put the private
teacher, who would pretend to come into competition with them, in the
same state with a merchant who attempts to trade without a bounty, in
competition with those who trade with a considerable one. If he sells
his goods at nearly the same price, he cannot have the same profit;
and poverty and beggary at least, if not bankruptcy and ruin, will
infallibly be his lot. If he attempts to sell them much dearer, he is
likely to have so few customers, that his circumstances will not be
much mended. The privileges of graduation, besides, are in many
countries necessary, or at least extremely convenient, to most men of
learned professions, that is, to the far greater part of those who
have occasion for a learned education. But those privileges can be
obtained only by attending the lectures of the public teachers. The
most careful attendance upon the ablest instructions of any private
teacher cannot always give any title to demand them. It is from these
different causes that the private teacher of any of the sciences,
which are commonly taught in universities, is, in modern times,
generally considered as in the very lowest order of men of letters. A
man of real abilities can scarce find out a more humiliating or a more
unprofitable employment to turn them to. The endowments of schools and
colleges have in this manner not only corrupted the diligence of
public teachers, but have rendered it almost impossible to have any
good private ones.

Were there no public institutions for education, no system, no
science, would be taught, for which there was not some demand, or
which the circumstances of the times did not render it either
necessary or convenient, or at least fashionable to learn. A private
teacher could never find his account in teaching either an exploded
and antiquated system of a science acknowledged to be useful, or a
science universally believed to be a mere useless and pedantic heap of
sophistry and nonsense. Such systems, such sciences, can subsist
nowhere but in those incorporated societies for education, whose
prosperity and revenue are in a great measure independent of their
industry. Were there no public institutions for education, a
gentleman, after going through, with application and abilities, the
most complete course of education which the circumstances of the times
were supposed to afford, could not come into the world completely
ignorant of everything which is the common subject of conversation
among gentlemen and men of the world.

There are no public institutions for the education of women, and there
is accordingly nothing useless, absurd, or fantastical, in the common
course of their education. They are taught what their parents or
guardians judge it necessary or useful for them to learn, and they are
taught nothing else. Every part of their education tends evidently to
some useful purpose; either to improve the natural attractions of
their person, or to form their mind to reserve, to modesty, to
chastity, and to economy; to render them both likely to became the
mistresses of a family, and to behave properly when they have become
such. In every part of her life, a woman feels some conveniency or
advantage from every part of her education. It seldom happens that a
man, in any part of his life, derives any conveniency or advantage
from some of the most laborious and troublesome parts of his

Ought the public, therefore, to give no attention, it may be asked, to
the education of the people? Or, if it ought to give any, what are the
different parts of education which it ought to attend to in the
different orders of the people? and in what manner ought it to attend
to them?

In some cases, the state of society necessarily places the greater
part of individuals in such situations as naturally form in them,
without any attention of government, almost all the abilities and
virtues which that state requires, or perhaps can admit of. In other
cases, the state of the society does not place the greater part of
individuals in such situations; and some attention of government is
necessary, in order to prevent the almost entire corruption and
degeneracy of the great body of the people.

In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far
greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body
of the people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations;
frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part
of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man
whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of
which the effects, too, are perhaps always the same, or very nearly
the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise
his invention, in finding out expedients for removing difficulties
which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such
exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is
possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind
renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any
rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or
tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment
concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the
great and extensive interests of his country he is altogether
incapable of judging; and unless very particular pains have been taken
to render him otherwise, he is equally incapable of defending his
country in war. The uniformity of his stationary life naturally
corrupts the courage of his mind, and makes him regard, with
abhorrence, the irregular, uncertain, and adventurous life of a
soldier. It corrupts even the activity of his body, and renders him
incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance in any
other employment, than that to which he has been bred. His dexterity
at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at
the expense of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues. But in
every improved and civilized society, this is the state into which the
labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must
necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.

It is otherwise in the barbarous societies, as they are commonly
called, of hunters, of shepherds, and even of husbandmen in that rude
state of husbandry which precedes the improvement of manufactures, and
the extension of foreign commerce. In such societies, the varied
occupations of every man oblige every man to exert his capacity, and
to invent expedients for removing difficulties which are continually
occurring. Invention is kept alive, and the mind is not suffered to
fall into that drowsy stupidity, which, in a civilized society, seems
to benumb the understanding of almost all the inferior ranks of
people. In those barbarous societies, as they are called, every man,
it has already been observed, is a warrior. Every man, too, is in some
measure a statesman, and can form a tolerable judgment concerning the
interest of the society, and the conduct of those who govern it. How
far their chiefs are good judges in peace, or good leaders in war, is
obvious to the observation of almost every single man among them. In
such a society, indeed, no man can well acquire that improved and
refined understanding which a few men sometimes possess in a more
civilized state. Though in a rude society there is a good deal of
variety in the occupations of every individual, there is not a great
deal in those of the whole society. Every man does, or is capable of
doing, almost every thing which any other man does, or is capable of
being. Every man has a considerable degree of knowledge, ingenuity,
and invention but scarce any man has a great degree. The degree,
however, which is commonly possessed, is generally sufficient for
conducting the whole simple business of the society. In a civilized
state, on the contrary, though there is little variety in the
occupations of the greater part of individuals, there is an almost
infinite variety in those of the whole society These varied
occupations present an almost infinite variety of objects to the
contemplation of those few, who, being attached to no particular
occupation themselves, have leisure and inclination to examine the
occupations of other people. The contemplation of so great a variety
of objects necessarily exercises their minds in endless comparisons
and combinations, and renders their understandings, in an
extraordinary degree, both acute anti comprehensive. Unless those few,
however, happen to be placed in some very particular situations, their
great abilities, though honourable to themselves, may contribute very
little to the good government or happiness of their society.
Notwithstanding the great abilities of those few, all the nobler parts
of the human character may be, in a great measure, obliterated and
extinguished in the great body of the people.

The education of the common people requires, perhaps, in a civilized
and commercial society, the attention of the public, more than that of
people of some rank and fortune. People of some rank and fortune are
generally eighteen or nineteen years of age before they enter upon
that particular business, profession, or trade, by which they propose
to distinguish themselves in the world. They have, before that, full
time to acquire, or at least to fit themselves for afterwards
acquiring, every accomplishment which can recommend them to the public
esteem, or render them worthy of it. Their parents or guardians are
generally sufficiently anxious that they should be so accomplished,
and are in most cases, willing enough to lay out the expense which is
necessary for that purpose. If they are not always properly educated,
it is seldom from the want of expense laid out upon their education,
but from the improper application of that expense. It is seldom from
the want of masters, but from the negligence and incapacity of the
masters who are to be had, and from the difficulty, or rather from the
impossibility, which there is, in the present state of things, of
finding any better. The employments, too, in which people of some rank
or fortune spend the greater part of their lives, are not, like those
of the common people, simple and uniform. They are almost all of them
extremely complicated, and such as exercise the head more than the
hands. The understandings of those who are engaged in such
employments, can seldom grow torpid for want of exercise. The
employments of people of some rank and fortune, besides, are seldom
such as harass them from morning to night. They generally have a good
deal of leisure, during which they may perfect themselves in every
branch, either of useful or ornamental knowledge, of which they may
have laid the foundation, or for which they may have acquired some
taste in the earlier part of life.

It is otherwise with the common people. They have little time to spare
for education. Their parents can scarce afford to maintain them, even
in infancy. As soon as they are able to work, they must apply to some
trade, by which they can earn their subsistence. That trade, too, is
generally so simple and uniform, as to give little exercise to the
understanding; while, at the same time, their labour is both so
constant and so severe, that it leaves them little leisure and less
inclination to apply to, or even to think of any thing else.

But though the common people cannot, in any civilized society, be so
well instructed as people of some rank and fortune; the most essential
parts of education, however, to read, write, and account, can be
acquired at so early a period of life, that the greater part, even of
those who are to be bred to the lowest occupations, have time to
acquire them before they can be employed in those occupations. For a
very small expense, the public can facilitate, can encourage and can
even impose upon almost the whole body of the people, the necessity of
acquiring those most essential parts of education.

The public can facilitate this acquisition, by establishing in every
parish or district a little school, where children maybe taught for a
reward so moderate, that even a common labourer may afford it; the
master being partly, but not wholly, paid by the public; because, if
he was wholly, or even principally, paid by it, he would soon learn to
neglect his business. In Scotland, the establishment of such parish
schools has taught almost the whole common people to read, and a very
great proportion of them to write and account. In England, the
establishment of charity schools has had an effect of the same kind,
though not so universally, because the establishment is not so
universal. If, in those little schools, the books by which the
children are taught to read, were a little more instructive than they
commonly are; and if, instead of a little smattering in Latin, which
the children of the common people are sometimes taught there, and
which can scarce ever be of any use to them, they were instructed in
the elementary parts of geometry and mechanics; the literary education
of this rank of people would, perhaps, be as complete as can be. There
is scarce a common trade, which does not afford some opportunities of
applying to it the principles of geometry and mechanics, and which
would not, therefore, gradually exercise and improve the common people
in those principles, the necessary introduction to the most sublime,
as well as to the most useful sciences.

The public can encourage the acquisition of those most essential parts
of education, by giving small premiums, and little badges of
distinction, to the children of the common people who excel in them.

The public can impose upon almost the whole body of the people the
necessity of acquiring the most essential parts of education, by
obliging every man to undergo an examination or probation in them,
before he can obtain the freedom in any corporation, or be allowed to
set up any trade, either in a village or town corporate.

It was in this manner, by facilitating the acquisition of their
military and gymnastic exercises, by encouraging it, and even by
imposing upon the whole body of the people the necessity of learning
those exercises, that the Greek and Roman republics maintained the
martial spirit of their respective citizens. They facilitated the
acquisition of those exercises, by appointing a certain place for
learning and practising them, and by granting to certain masters the
privilege of teaching in that place. Those masters do not appear to
have had either salaries or exclusive privileges of any kind. Their
reward consisted altogether in what they got from their scholars; and
a citizen, who had learnt his exercises in the public gymnasia, had no
sort of legal advantage over one who had learnt them privately,
provided the latter had learned them equally well. Those republics
encouraged the acquisition of those exercises, by bestowing little
premiums and badges of distinction upon those who excelled in them. To
have gained a prize in the Olympic, Isthmian, or Nemaean games, gave
illustration, not only to the person who gained it, but to his whole
family and kindred. The obligation which every citizen was under, to
serve a certain number of years, if called upon, in the armies of the
republic, sufficiently imposed the necessity of learning those
exercises, without which he could not be fit for that service.

That in the progress of improvement, the practice of military
exercises, unless government takes proper pains to support it, goes
gradually to decay, and, together with it, the martial spirit of the
great body of the people, the example of modern Europe sufficiently
demonstrates. But the security of every society must always depend,
more or less, upon the martial spirit of the great body of the people.
In the present times, indeed, that martial spirit alone, and
unsupported by a well-disciplined standing army, would not, perhaps,
be sufficient for the defence and security of any society. But where
every citizen had the spirit of a soldier, a smaller standing army
would surely be requisite. That spirit, besides, would necessarily
diminish very much the dangers to liberty, whether real or imaginary,
which are commonly apprehended from a standing army. As it would very
much facilitate the operations of that army against a foreign invader;
so it would obstruct them as much, if unfortunately they should ever
be directed against the constitution of the state.

The ancient institutions of Greece and Rome seem to have been much
more effectual for maintaining the martial spirit of the great body of
the people, than the establishment of what are called the militias of
modern times. They were much more simple. When they were once
established, they executed themselves, and it required little or no
attention from government to maintain them in the most perfect vigour.
Whereas to maintain, even in tolerable execution, the complex
regulations of any modern militia, requires the continual and painful
attention of government, without which they are constantly falling
into total neglect and disuse. The influence, besides, of the ancient
institutions, was much more universal. By means of them, the whole
body of the people was completely instructed in the use of arms;
whereas it is but a very small part of them who can ever be so
instructed by the regulations of any modern militia, except, perhaps,
that of Switzerland. But a coward, a man incapable either of defending
or of revenging himself, evidently wants one of the most essential
parts of the character of a man. He is as much mutilated and deformed
in his mind as another is in his body, who is either deprived of some
of its most essential members, or has lost the use of them. He is
evidently the more wretched and miserable of the two; because
happiness and misery, which reside altogether in the mind, must
necessarily depend more upon the healthful or unhealthful, the
mutilated or entire state of the mind, than upon that of the body.
Even though the martial spirit of the people were of no use towards
the defence of the society, yet, to prevent that sort of mental
mutilation, deformity, and wretchedness, which cowardice necessarily
involves in it, from spreading themselves through the great body of
the people, would still deserve the most serious attention of
government; in the same manner as it would deserve its most serious
attention to prevent a leprosy, or any other loathsome and offensive
disease, though neither mortal nor dangerous, from spreading itself
among them; though, perhaps, no other public good might result from
such attention, besides the prevention of so great a public evil.

The same thing may be said of the gross ignorance and stupidity which,
in a civilized society, seem so frequently to benumb the
understandings of all the inferior ranks of people. A man without the
proper use of the intellectual faculties of a man, is, if possible,
more contemptible than even a coward, and seems to be mutilated and
deformed in a still more essential part of the character of human
nature. Though the state was to derive no advantage from the
instruction of the inferior ranks of people, it would still deserve
its attention that they should not be altogether uninstructed. The
state, however, derives no inconsiderable advantage from their
instruction. The more they are instructed, the less liable they are to
the delusions of enthusiasm and superstition, which, among ignorant
nations frequently occasion the most dreadful disorders. An instructed
and intelligent people, besides, are always more decent and orderly
than an ignorant and stupid one. They feel themselves, each
individually, more respectable, and more likely to obtain the respect
of their lawful superiors, and they are, therefore, more disposed to
respect those superiors. They are more disposed to examine, and more
capable of seeing through, the interested complaints of faction and
sedition; and they are, upon that account, less apt to be misled into
any wanton or unnecessary opposition to the measures of government. In
free countries, where the safety of government depends very much upon
the favourable judgment which the people may form of its conduct, it
must surely be of the highest importance, that they should not be
disposed to judge rashly or capriciously concerning it.

Art. III. -- Of the Expense of the Institutions for the Instruction of
People of all Ages.

The institutions for the instruction of people of all ages, are
chiefly those for religious instruction. This is a species of
instruction, of which the object is not so much to render the people
good citizens in this world, as to prepare them for another and a
better world in the life to come. The teachers of the doctrine which
contains this instruction, in the same manner as other teachers, may
either depend altogether for their subsistence upon the voluntary
contributions of their hearers; or they may derive it from some other
fund, to which the law of their country may entitle them; such as a
landed estate, a tythe or land tax, an established salary or stipend.
Their exertion, their zeal and industry, are likely to be much greater
in the former situation than in the latter. In this respect, the
teachers of a new religion have always had a considerable advantage in
attacking those ancient and established systems, of which the clergy,
reposing themselves upon their benefices, had neglected to keep up the
fervour of faith and devotion in the great body of the people; and
having given themselves up to indolence, were become altogether
incapable of making any vigorous exertion in defence even of their own
establishment. The clergy of an established and well endowed religion
frequently become men of learning and elegance, who possess all the
virtues of gentlemen, or which can recommend them to the esteem of
gentlemen; but they are apt gradually to lose the qualities, both good
and bad, which gave them authority and influence with the inferior
ranks of people, and which had perhaps been the original causes of the
success and establishment of their religion. Such a clergy, when
attacked by a set of popular and bold, though perhaps stupid and
ignorant enthusiasts, feel themselves as perfectly defenceless as the
indolent, effeminate, and full fed nations of the southern parts of
Asia, when they were invaded by the active, hardy, and hungry Tartars
of the north. Such a clergy, upon such an emergency, have commonly no
other resource than to call upon the civil magistrate to persecute,
destroy, or drive out their adversaries, as disturbers of the public
peace. It was thus that the Roman catholic clergy called upon the
civil magistrate to persecute the protestants, and the church of
England to persecute the dissenters; and that in general every
religious sect, when it has once enjoyed, for a century or two, the
security of a legal establishment, has found itself incapable of
making any vigorous defence against any new sect which chose to attack
its doctrine or discipline. Upon such occasions, the advantage, in
point of learning and good writing, may sometimes be on the side of
the established church. But the arts of popularity, all the arts of
gaining proselytes, are constantly on the side of its adversaries. In
England, those arts have been long neglected by the well endowed
clergy of the established church, and are at present chiefly
cultivated by the dissenters and by the methodists. The independent
provisions, however, which in many places have been made for
dissenting teachers, by means of voluntary subscriptions, of trust
rights, and other evasions of the law, seem very much to have abated
the zeal and activity of those teachers. They have many of them become
very learned, ingenious, and respectable men; but they have in general
ceased to be very popular preachers. The methodists, without half the
learning of the dissenters, are much more in vogue.

In the church of Rome the industry and zeal of the inferior clergy are
kept more alive by the powerful motive of self-interest, than perhaps
in any established protestant church. The parochial clergy derive many
of them, a very considerable part of their subsistence from the
voluntary oblations of the people; a source of revenue, which
confession gives them many opportunities of improving. The mendicant
orders derive their whole subsistence from such oblations. It is with
them as with the hussars and light infantry of some armies; no
plunder, no pay. The parochial clergy are like those teachers whose
reward depends partly upon their salary, and partly upon the fees or
honoraries which they get from their pupils; and these must always
depend, more or less, upon their industry and reputation. The
mendicant orders are like those teachers whose subsistence depends
altogether upon their industry. They are obliged, therefore, to use
every art which can animate the devotion of the common people. The
establishment of the two great mendicant orders of St Dominic and St.
Francis, it is observed by Machiavel, revived, in the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries, the languishing faith and devotion of the
catholic church. In Roman catholic countries, the spirit of devotion
is supported altogether by the monks, and by the poorer parochial
clergy. The great dignitaries of the church, with all the
accomplishments of gentlemen and men of the world, and sometimes with
those of men of learning, are careful to maintain the necessary
discipline over their inferiors, but seldom give themselves any
trouble about the instruction of the people.

"Most of the arts and professions in a state," says by far the most
illustrious philosopher and historian of the present age, "are of such
a nature, that, while they promote the interests of the society, they
are also useful or agreeable to some individuals; and, in that case,
the constant rule of the magistrate, except, perhaps, on the first
introduction of any art, is, to leave the profession to itself, and
trust its encouragement to the individuals who reap the benefit of it.
The artizans, finding their profits to rise by the favour of their
customers, increase, as much as possible, their skill and industry;
and as matters are not disturbed by any injudicious tampering, the
commodity is always sure to be at all times nearly proportioned to the

"But there are also some callings which, though useful and even
necessary in a state, bring no advantage or pleasure to any
individual; and the supreme power is obliged to alter its conduct with
regard to the retainers of those professions. It must give them public
encouragement in order to their subsistence; and it must provide
against that negligence to which they will naturally be subject,
either by annexing particular honours to profession, by establishing
a long subordination of ranks, and a strict dependence, or by some
other expedient. The persons employed in the finances, fleets, and
magistracy, are instances of this order of men.

"It may naturally be thought, at first sight, that the ecclesiastics
belong to the first class, and that their encouragement, as well as
that of lawyers and physicians, may safely be entrusted to the
liberality of individuals, who are attached to their doctrines, and
who find benefit or consolation from their spiritual ministry and
assistance. Their industry and vigilance will, no doubt, be whetted by
such an additional motive; and their skill in the profession, as well
as their address in governing the minds of the people, must receive
daily increase, from their increasing practice, study, and attention.

"But if we consider the matter more closely, we shall find that this
interested diligence of the clergy is what every wise legislator will
study to prevent; because, in every religion except the true, it is
highly pernicious, and it has even a natural tendency to pervert the
truth, by infusing into it a strong mixture of superstition, folly,
and delusion. Each ghostly practitioner, in order to render himself
more precious and sacred in the eyes of his retainers, will inspire
them with the most violent abhorrence of all other sects, and
continually endeavour, by some novelty, to excite the languid devotion
of his audience. No regard will be paid to truth, morals, or decency,
in the doctrines inculcated. Every tenet will be adopted that best
suits the disorderly affections of the human frame. Customers will be
drawn to each conventicle by new industry and address, in practising
on the passions and credulity of the populace. And, in the end, the
civil magistrate will find that he has dearly paid for his intended
frugality, in saving a fixed establishment for the priests; and that,
in reality, the most decent and advantageous composition, which he can
make with the spiritual guides, is to bribe their indolence, by
assigning stated salaries to their profession, and rendering it
superfluous for them to be farther active, than merely to prevent
their flock from straying in quest of new pastors. And in this manner
ecclesiastical establishments, though commonly they arose at first
from religious views, prove in the end advantageous to the political
interests of society."

But whatever may have been the good or bad effects of the independent
provision of the clergy, it has, perhaps, been very seldom bestowed
upon them from any view to those effects. Times of violent religious
controversy have generally been times of equally violent political
faction. Upon such occasions, each political party has either found
it, or imagined it, for his interest, to league itself with some one
or other of the contending religious sects. But this could be done
only by adopting, or, at least, by favouring the tenets of that
particular sect. The sect which had the good fortune to be leagued
with the conquering party necessarily shared in the victory of its
ally, by whose favour and protection it was soon enabled, in some
degree, to silence and subdue all its adversaries. Those adversaries
had generally leagued themselves with the enemies of the conquering
party, and were, therefore the enemies of that party. The clergy of
this particular sect having thus become complete masters of the field,
and their influence and authority with the great body of the people
being in its highest vigour, they were powerful enough to overawe the
chiefs and leaders of their own party, and to oblige the civil
magistrate to respect their opinions and inclinations. Their first
demand was generally that he should silence and subdue all their
adversaries; and their second, that he should bestow an independent
provision on themselves. As they had generally contributed a good deal
to the victory, it seemed not unreasonable that they should have some
share in the spoil. They were weary, besides, of humouring the people,
and of depending upon their caprice for a subsistence. In making this
demand, therefore, they consulted their own ease and comfort, without
troubling themselves about the effect which it might have, in future
times, upon the influence and authority of their order. The civil
magistrate, who could comply with their demand only by giving them
something which he would have chosen much rather to take, or to keep
to himself, was seldom very forward to grant it. Necessity, however,
always forced him to submit at last, though frequently not till after
many delays, evasions, and affected excuses.

But if politics had never called in the aid of religion, had the
conquering party never adopted the tenets of one sect more than those
of another, when it had gained the victory, it would probably have
dealt equally and impartially with all the different sects, and have
allowed every man to choose his own priest, and his own religion, as
he thought proper. There would, and, in this case, no doubt, have
been, a great multitude of religious sects. Almost every different
congregation might probably have had a little sect by itself, or have
entertained some peculiar tenets of its own. Each teacher, would, no
doubt, have felt himself under the necessity of making the utmost
exertion, and of using every art, both to preserve and to increase the
number of his disciples. But as every other teacher would have felt
himself under the same necessity, the success of no one teacher, or
sect of teachers, could have been very great. The interested and
active zeal of religious teachers can be dangerous and troublesome
only where there is either but one sect tolerated in the society, or
where the whole of a large society is divided into two or three great
sects; the teachers of each acting by concert, and under a regular
discipline and subordination. But that zeal must be altogether
innocent, where the society is divided into two or three hundred, or,
perhaps, into as many thousand small sects, of which no one could be
considerable enough to disturb the public tranquillity. The teachers
of each sect, seeing themselves surrounded on all sides with more
adversaries than friends, would be obliged to learn that candour and
moderation which are so seldom to be found among the teachers of those
great sects, whose tenets, being supported by the civil magistrate,
are held in veneration by almost all the inhabitants of extensive
kingdoms and empires, and who, therefore, see nothing round them but
followers, disciples, and humble admirers. The teachers of each little
sect, finding themselves almost alone, would be obliged to respect
those of almost every other sect; and the concessions which they would
mutually find in both convenient and agreeable to make one to another,
might in time, probably reduce the doctrine of the greater part of
them to that pure and rational religion, free from every mixture of
absurdity, imposture, or fanaticism, such as wise men have, in all
ages of the world, wished to see established; but such as positive law
has, perhaps, never yet established, and probably never will establish
in any country; because, with regard to religion, positive law always
has been, and probably always will be, more or less influenced by
popular superstition and enthusiasm. This plan of ecclesiastical
government, or, more properly, of no ecclesiastical government, was
what the sect called Independents (a sect, no doubt, of very wild
enthusiasts), proposed to establish in England towards the end of the
civil war. If it had been established, though of a very
unphilosophical origin, it would probably, by this time, have been
productive of the most philosophical good temper and moderation with
regard to every sort of religious principle. It has been established
in Pennsylvania, where, though the quakers happen to be the most
numerous, the law, in reality, favours no one sect more than another;
and it is there said to have been productive of this philosophical
good temper and moderation,

But though this equality of treatment should not be productive of this
good temper and moderation in all, or even in the greater part of the
religious sects of a particular country; yet, provided those sects
were sufficiently numerous, and each of them consequently too small to
disturb the public tranquillity, the excessive zeal of each for its
particular tenets could not well be productive of any very hurtful
effects, but, on the contrary, of several good ones; and if the
government was perfectly decided, both to let them all alone, and to
oblige them all to let alone one another, there is little danger that
they would not of their own accord, subdivide themselves fast enough,
so as soon to become sufficiently numerous.

In every civilized society, in every society where the distinction of
ranks has once been completely established, there have been always two
different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time; of
which the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the
liberal, or, if you will, the loose system. The former is generally
admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly more
esteemed and adopted by what are called the people of fashion. The
degree of disapprobation with which we ought to mark the vices of
levity, the vices which are apt to arise from great prosperity, and
from the excess of gaiety and good humour, seems to constitute the
principal distinction between those two opposite schemes or systems.
In the liberal or loose system, luxury, wanton, and even disorderly
mirth, the pursuit of pleasure to some degree of intemperance, the
breach of chastity, at least in one of the two sexes, etc. provided
they are not accompanied with gross indecency, and do not lead to
falsehood and injustice, are generally treated with a good deal of
indulgence, and are easily either excused or pardoned altogether. In
the austere system, on the contrary, those excesses are regarded with
the utmost abhorrence and detestation. The vices of levity are always
ruinous to the common people, and a single week's thoughtlessness and
dissipation is often sufficient to undo a poor workman for ever, and
to drive him, through despair, upon committing the most enormous
crimes. The wiser and better sort of the common people, therefore,
have always the utmost abhorrence and detestation of such excesses,
which their experience tells them are so immediately fatal to people
of their condition. The disorder and extravagance of several years, on
the contrary, will not always ruin a man of fashion; and people of
that rank are very apt to consider the power of indulging in some
degree of excess, as one of the advantages of their fortune; and the
liberty of doing so without censure or reproach, as one of the
privileges which belong to their station. In people of their own
station, therefore, they regard such excesses with but a small degree
of disapprobation, and censure them either very slightly or not at

Almost all religious sects have begun among the common people, from
whom they have generally drawn their earliest, as well as their most
numerous proselytes. The austere system of morality has, accordingly,
been adopted by those sects almost constantly, or with very few
exceptions; for there have been some. It was the system by which they
could best recommend themselves to that order of people, to whom they
first proposed their plan of reformation upon what had been before
established. Many of them, perhaps the greater part of them, have even
endeavoured to gain credit by refining upon this austere system, and
by carrying it to some degree of folly and extravagance; and this
excessive rigour has frequently recommended them, more than any thing
else, to the respect and veneration of the common people.

A man of rank and fortune is, by his station, the distinguished member
of a great society, who attend to every part of his conduct, and who
thereby oblige him to attend to every part of it himself. His
authority and consideration depend very much upon the respect which
this society bears to him. He dares not do anything which would
disgrace or discredit him in it; and he is obliged to a very strict
observation of that species of morals, whether liberal or austere,
which the general consent of this society prescribes to persons of his
rank and fortune. A man of low condition, on the contrary, is far from
being a distinguished member of any great society. While he remains in
a country village, his conduct may be attended to, and he may be
obliged to attend to it himself. In this situation, and in this
situation only, he may have what is called a character to lose. But as
soon as he comes into a great city, he is sunk in obscurity and
darkness. His conduct is observed and attended to by nobody; and he
is, therefore, very likely to neglect it himself, and to abandon
himself to every sort of low profligacy and vice. He never emerges so
effectually from this obscurity, his conduct never excites so much the
attention of any respectable society, as by his becoming the member of
a small religious sect. He from that moment acquires a degree of
consideration which he never had before. All his brother sectaries
are, for the credit of the sect, interested to observe his conduct;
and, if he gives occasion to any scandal, if he deviates very much
from those austere morals which they almost always require of one
another, to punish him by what is always a very severe punishment,
even where no evil effects attend it, expulsion or excommunication
from the sect. In little religious sects, accordingly, the morals of
the common people have been almost always remarkably regular and
orderly; generally much more so than in the established church. The
morals of those little sects, indeed, have frequently been rather
disagreeably rigorous and unsocial.

There are two very easy and effectual remedies, however, by whose
joint operation the state might, without violence, correct whatever
was unsocial or disagreeably rigorous in the morals of all the little
sects into which the country was divided.

The first of those remedies is the study of science and philosophy,
which the state might render almost universal among all people of
middling or more than middling rank and fortune; not by giving
salaries to teachers in order to make them negligent and idle, but by
instituting some sort of probation, even in the higher and more
difficult sciences, to be undergone by every person before he was
permitted to exercise any liberal profession, or before he could be
received as a candidate for any honourable office, of trust or profit.
if the state imposed upon this order of men the necessity of learning,
it would have no occasion to give itself any trouble about providing
them with proper teachers. They would soon find better teachers for
themselves, than any whom the state could provide for them. Science is
the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition; and
where all the superior ranks of people were secured from it, the
inferior ranks could not be much exposed to it.

The second of those remedies is the frequency and gaiety of public
diversions. The state, by encouraging, that is, by giving entire
liberty to all those who, from their own interest, would attempt,
without scandal or indecency, to amuse and divert the people by
painting, poetry, music, dancing; by all sorts of dramatic
representations and exhibitions; would easily dissipate, in the
greater part of them, that melancholy and gloomy humour which is
almost always the nurse of popular superstition and enthusiasm. Public
diversions have always been the objects of dread and hatred to all the
fanatical promoters of those popular frenzies. The gaiety and good
humour which those diversions inspire, were altogether inconsistent
with that temper of mind which was fittest for their purpose, or which
they could best work upon. Dramatic representations, besides,
frequently exposing their artifices to public ridicule, and sometimes
even to public execration, were, upon that account, more than all
other diversions, the objects of their peculiar abhorrence.

In a country where the law favoured the teachers of no one religion
more than those of another, it would not be necessary that any of them
should have any particular or immediate dependency upon the sovereign
or executive power; or that he should have anything to do either in
appointing or in dismissing them from their offices. In such a
situation, he would have no occasion to give himself any concern about
them, further than to keep the peace among them, in the same manner as
among the rest of his subjects, that is, to hinder them from
persecuting, abusing, or oppressing one another. But it is quite
otherwise in countries where there is an established or governing
religion. The sovereign can in this case never be secure, unless he
has the means of influencing in a considerable degree the greater part
of the teachers of that religion.

The clergy of every established church constitute a great
incorporation. They can act in concert, and pursue their interest upon
one plan, and with one spirit as much as if they were under the
direction of one man; and they are frequently, too, under such
direction. Their interest as an incorporated body is never the same
with that of the sovereign, and is sometimes directly opposite to it.
Their great interest is to maintain their authority with the people,
and this authority depends upon the supposed certainty and importance
of the whole doctrine which they inculcate, and upon the supposed
necessity of adopting every part of it with the most implicit faith,
in order to avoid eternal misery. Should the sovereign have the
imprudence to appear either to deride, or doubt himself of the most
trifling part of their doctrine, or from humanity, attempt to protect
those who did either the one or the other, the punctilious honour of a
clergy, who have no sort of dependency upon him, is immediately
provoked to proscribe him as a profane person, and to employ all the
terrors of religion, in order to oblige the people to transfer their
allegiance to some more orthodox and obedient prince. Should he oppose
any of their pretensions or usurpations, the danger is equally great.
The princes who have dared in this manner to rebel against the church,
over and above this crime of rebellion, have generally been charged,
too, with the additional crime of heresy, notwithstanding their solemn
protestations of their faith, and humble submission to every tenet
which she thought proper to prescribe to them. But the authority of
religion is superior to every other authority. The fears which it
suggests conquer all other fears. When the authorized teachers of
religion propagate through the great body of the people, doctrines
subversive of the authority of the sovereign, it is by violence only,
or by the force of a standing army, that he can maintain his
authority. Even a standing army cannot in this case give him any
lasting security; because if the soldiers are not foreigners, which
can seldom be the case, but drawn from the great body of the people,
which must almost always be the case, they are likely to be soon
corrupted by those very doctrines. The revolutions which the
turbulence of the Greek clergy was continually occasioning at
Constantinople, as long as the eastern empire subsisted; the
convulsions which, during the course of several centuries, the
turbulence of the Roman clergy was continually occasioning in every
part of Europe, sufficiently demonstrate how precarious and insecure
must always be the situation of the sovereign, who has no proper means
of influencing the clergy of the established and governing religion of
his country.

Articles of faith, as well as all other spiritual matters, it is
evident enough, are not within the proper department of a temporal
sovereign, who, though he may be very well qualified for protecting,
is seldom supposed to be so for instructing the people. With regard to
such matters, therefore, his authority can seldom be sufficient to
counterbalance the united authority of the clergy of the established
church. The public tranquillity, however, and his own security, may
frequently depend upon the doctrines which they may think proper to
propagate concerning such matters. As he can seldom directly oppose
their decision, therefore, with proper weight and authority, it is
necessary that he should be able to influence it; and he can influence
it only by the fears and expectations which he may excite in the
greater part of the individuals of the order. Those fears and
expectations may consist in the fear of deprivation or other
punishment, and in the expectation of further preferment.

In all Christian churches, the benefices of the clergy are a sort of
freeholds, which they enjoy, not during pleasure, but during life or
good behaviour. If they held them by a more precarious tenure, and
were liable to be turned out upon every slight disobligation either of
the sovereign or of his ministers, it would perhaps be impossible for
them to maintain their authority with the people, who would then
consider them as mercenary dependents upon the court, in the sincerity
of whose instructions they could no longer have any confidence. But
should the sovereign attempt irregularly, and by violence, to deprive
any number of clergymen of their freeholds, on account, perhaps, of
their having propagated, with more than ordinary zeal, some factious
or seditious doctrine, he would only render, by such persecution, both
them and their doctrine ten times more popular, and therefore ten
times more troublesome and dangerous, than they had been before. Fear


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