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mind. It is not, that one would recommend many fora mal divisions in a public discourse, unless the subject very evidently offer them : But it is easy, without this form mality, to observe a method, and make that method conspicuous to the hearers, who will be infinitely pleased to see the arguments rise naturally from one another, and will retain a more thorough persuasion, than can arise from the strongest reasons, which are thrown toges ther in confufion.
E SS A Y XIII.
Of the Rise and PROGRESS of the Arts and
OTHING requires greater nicety, in our en
quiries concerning human affairs, than to distinguish exactly what is owing to chance, and what proceeds from causes; nor is there any subject, in which an author is more liable to deceive himself by false subtilties and refinements. To say, that any event is derived from chance, cuts short all father enquiry concerning it, and leaves the writer in the same state of ignorance with the rest of mankind. But when the event is supposed to proceed from certain and stable causes, he may then display his îngenuity, in assigning these causes ; and as a man of any subtilty can never be at a loss in this particular, he has thereby an opportunity of swelling his volumes, and discovering his profound knowledge, in observing what escapes the vulgar and ignorant.
The distinguishing between chance and causes muft depend upon every particular man's fagacity, in confi. dering every particular incident. But, if I were to assign any general rule to help us in applying this diftin&tion, it would be the following, What depends upon 4 f¢w persons is, in a great measure, to be ascribed to chance,
or fecret and unknown causes : What arises from a great num, ber, may often be accounted for by determinate and knową çaufes,
Two natural reasons may be assigned for this rule. First, If you suppose a dye to have any biass, however small, to a particular fide, this biass, though, perhaps, it may not appear in a few throws, will certainly prevail in a great number, and will cast the balance entirely to that fide. In like manner, when any causes beget a particular inclination or passion, at a certain time, and among a certain people; though many individuals may escape the contagion, and be ruled by passions peculiar to themselves; yet the multitude will certainly be seized by the common affection, and be governed by it in all their actions.
Secondly, Those principles or causes, which are fitted to operate on a multitude, are always of a groffer and more stubborn nature, less fubject to accidents, and less influenced by whim and private fancy, than those which operate on a few only. The latter are commonly so de Jicate and refined, that the smallest incident in the health, education, or fortune of a particular person, is sufficient to divert their course, and retard their operation ; nor is it possible to reduce them to any general maxims or observations. Their influence at one time will never assure us concerning their influence at another ; even though all the general circumstances should be the same in both cases,
To judge by this rule, the domestic and the gradual revolutions of a state must be a more proper subject of reasoning and observation, than the foreign and the vio. lent, which are commonly produced by single persons, and are more influenced by whim, folly, or caprice, than by general paffions and interests. The depression of the Jords, and rise of the commons in ENGLAND, after the
statutes of alienation and the encrease of trade and induftry, are more easily accounted for by general principles, than the depression of the SPANISH, and rise of the French monarchy, after the death of CHARLES Quint. Had Harry IV. Cardinal Richliev, and Louis XIV. been SPANIARDS ; and Philip II. III. and IV. and Charles II. been FRENCHMEN, the history of these two nations had been entirely reversed.
For the same reason, it is more easy to account for the rise and progress of commerce in any kingdom, than for that of learning; and a state, which should apply itfelf to the encouragement of the one, would be more assured of success, than one which should cultivate the other, Avarice, or the desire of gain, is an universal passion, which operates at all times, in all places, and upon all persons : But curiosity, or the love of knowledge, has a very limited influence, and requires youth, leisure, education, genius, and example, to make it govern any person. You will never want booksellers, while there are buyers of books: But there may frequently be readers where there are authors. Multitudes of people, neceffity and liberty, have begot commerce in HOLLAND: But study and application have scarcely produced any eminent writers.
We may, therefore, conclude, that there is no subject, in which we must proceed with more caution, than in tracing the history of the arts and sciences; left we affign causes which never existed, and reduce what is merely contingent to stable and universal principles, Those who cultivate the sciences in any state, are always few in number : The passion, which governs them, limited : Their taste and judgment delicate and easily perverted: And their application difturbed with the smallest accident. Chance, therefore, or secret and un5
known causes, must have a great influence on the rise and progress of all the refined arts.
But there is a reason, which induces me not to ascribe the matter altogether to chance. Though the perfons, who cultivate the sciences with such astonishing success, as to attract the admiration of posterity, be always few, in all nations and all ages; it is impoffible but a share of the same spirit and genius must be antecedently diffused throughout the people among whom they arise, in order to produce, form, and cultivate, from their earliest infancy, the taste and judgment of those eminent writers. The mass cannot be altogther insipid, from which such refined spirits are extracted. There is a God within us, fays Ovid, who breathes that divine fire, by which we are animated t. Poets, in all ages, have advanced this claim to inspiration. There is not, however, any thing supernatural in the case. Their fire is not kindled from heaven. It only runs along the earth; is caught from one breast to another; and burns brightest, where the materials are best prepared, and most happily disposed. The queftion, therefore, concerning the rise and progress of the arts and sciences, is not altogether a question concerning the taste, genius, and spirit of a few, but concerning those of a whole people ; and may, therefore, be ac, counted for, in some measure, by general causes and principles. I grant, that a man, who should enquire, why such a particular poet, as HOMER, for instance, existed, at such a place, in such a time, would throw himself headlong into chimæra, and could never treat of such a subject, without a multitude of false subtilties and refinements. He might as well pretend to give a reason, why such particular
+ Eft Deus in nobis ; agitante calescimus illo:
Ovid, Faff. lib. i.