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An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Chapter 1, Part 3 continue

1. Introduction And Plan Of The Work

2. Book 1, Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 8 continue

11. Chapter 9

12. Chapter 10

13. Chapter 10 continue

14. Chapter 11

15. Chapter 11 continue

16. Chapter 11 continue.

17. Chapter 11 continue..

18. Chapter 11 continue...

19. Conclusion of the Chapter 11

20. Book 2 Introduction

21. Chapter 1

22. Chapter II

23. Chapter II continue

24. Chapter II continue

25. Chapter 3

26. Chapter 4

27. Chapter 5

28. Book 3, Chapter 1

29. Chapter 2

30. Chapter 3

31. Chapter 4

32. Book 4, Chapter 1

33. Chapter 1 continue

34. Chapter 2

35. Chapter 3, Part 1

36. Chapter 3, Part 2

37. Chapter 4

38. Chapter 5

39. Chapter 5 continue

40. Chapter 6

41. Chapter 7, Part 1

42. Chapter 7, Part 2

43. Chapter 7, Part 3

44. Chapter 7, Part 3 continue

45. Chapter 8

46. Chapter 9

47. Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

48. Chapter 1, Part 2

49. Chapter 1, Part 3

50. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue

51. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue B

52. Chapter 1, Part 4

53. Chapter 2, Part 1

54. Chapter 2, Part 2

55. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue

56. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue B

57. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue C

58. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue D

59. Chapter 3

60. Chapter 3 continue

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 defiance.

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 Youth.

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 donor.

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 questions.

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

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

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 them.

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 philosophers.

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 Solomon,
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 Philosophy.

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 importance.

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

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

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 corrupted.

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

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 business.

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 education.

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

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.

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