Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

men, swayed as they are by pleasure and pride, together with no small portion of indolence, cannot be expected to mark out such occupation for themselves, especially if it be of a kind both humble and laborious (the species that is often most wanted) unless compelled by the exigency of their situation.

All, therefore, that the best government can reasonably intend, is to preserve its subjects from the necessity of that excessive toil which wastes the health, exhausts the spirits, discourages virtue, and renders life cheerless and uncomfortable; and to promote every measure that may secure a willing and moderate exertion, and leave the mind at sufficient liberty to attend to its own peculiar and most important interests.

Further, let it be observed, that the kind, as well as the degree of labour, under the above system of mediocrity, is favourable to virtue and virtuous enjoyment. For, in this state of things, there would be no demand, or none to produce any sensible effect, for such curiosities or luxuries, in dress or diet, in houses or equipage, as tended to corrupt the imagination, and excite the envy of those who were employed to provide them; and so to render them discontented with their own present situation. On the contrary, the business of the labouring classes would be to supply the simple wants of nature, or those modest conveniences, with which the proudest of their fellow-citizens, and their fathers before them, were used to be satisfied.

It is not meant, however, by what is now advanced, that every one should be engaged in manual occupations, or in such as are of primary necessity; which, even in a small nation, might be inexpedient or impracticable. For suppose such a nation, planted in some favourable climate, where one half of them was sufficient to provide for the physical wants of the whole; of the other half, but a small proportion could properly be employed as physicians, philosophers, ļawyers, or divines; and unless some new occupations be struck out to preserve the rest from idleness, distressing must be the condition, and probably short the duration of this little state. It is enough, therefore, , if no member of a body politic be left unemployed in one way or other, innocently as to himself, and with some advantage to his fellow-citizens,

Such employment is one of the greatest political objects: where this is duly provided for, where every citizen is usefully and honestly engaged, or, in other words, where idleness is excluded, and the arts of luxury are unknown, all must tend to individual and general good.

Whether any people was ever placed precisely in this happy mediocrity, or whether it is an effect within the reach of human policy, may fairly be questioned. It is however certain, that in the progress of nations from barbarism to refinement, there is a point of nearest approach to this middle condition; and that to note when society has arrived at this point, there to arrest its progress and fix its station, or, if this cannot be effected, to hang upon its wheels, that its further advance may be as little and as slow as possible, is a design worthy the best attention, and the best efforts of the legislator, the patriot, or the philosopher.

[ocr errors]

III. On the third and last period, when the number of rich citizens constitutes a considerable part of the community.

(1.) We have shown in the introduction to this work, that the love of pleasure, the love of consequence, and the love of wealth, are the three great principles which rule in the bulk of mankind; with this difference, that wealth, although sometimes sought on its own account, is mostly regarded in subserviency to the two former objects, or as it encourages and promotes the pride and indulgences of life. In what respects it does this, may appear from the following reflections.

1. As a man's consequence in the world much depends on the figure he makes in it, he will commonly be disposed to make the best he can. A tradesman who begins to thrive in his business, will display his growing fortune by his personal appearance, and by the improvement of his house and furniture; if he goes on to prosper, he will increase the number of his servants, set up his carriage, provide himself with a retreat in the country, some ferme ornée, or elegant

villa, with well-stored gardens and ornamented grounds; and at length, perhaps, with almost a princely income, will withdraw himself entirely from mercantile affairs, and, if recommended by a little address and education, may find admission into the higher circles of society, and there form new connections and alliances. A like accession of wealth in any other way, will furnish out a similar career, and conduct to the same splendid distinctions to which others succeed by inheritance. All this must be observed by every one who at all looks abroad into the world, and, by an equitable judge, will be observed without a monkish or a republican severity. But however it may be granted, that in the advanced stages of society, a difference of rank, whether acquired or hereditary, with answerable outward distinctions, may be necessary to the maintenance of social order, and that such distinctions imply inequality of fortune, we must still lament, that this inequality is so often perverted from its proper use, to gratify a spirit of pride, or to the indulgence of a vain parade.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »