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probation or blame, love or hatred, different from those to which the mind from long custom has been familiarized. And where a man is confident of the rectitude of that moral standard, by which he judges, he is justly jealous of it, and will not pervert the sentiments of his heart for a moment, in complaisance to any writer whatever.
Of all speculative errors, those which regard religion, are the most excusable in compositions of genius; nor is it ever permitted to judge of the civility or wifdom of any people, or even of single persons, by the grossness or refinement of their theological principles. The same good sense, that directs men in the ordinary occurrences of life, is not hearkened to in religious matters, which are supposed to be placed entirely above the cognizance of human reason. Upon this account, all the absurdities of the pagan system of theology must be overlooked by every critic, who would pretend to form a just notion of antient poetry; and our posterity, in their turn, must have the same indulgence to their forefatherse No religious principles can ever be imputed as a fault to any poet, while they remain merely principles, and take not such strong possession of his heart, as to lay him under the imputation of bigotry or superstition. Where that happens, they confound the sentiments of morality, and alter the natural boundaries of vice and virtue. They are therefore eternal blemishes, according to the principle abovementioned ; nor are the prejudices and false opinions of the age sufficient to justify them.
'Tis essential to the Roman Catholic religion to inspire a violent hatred to every other worship, and represent all pagans, mahometans, and heretics as the objects of divine wrath and vengeance. Such sentiments, tho' they are in reality extremely blameable, are considered as virtues by the zealots of that communion, and are represented in their tragedies and epic poems as a kind of divine heroism. This bigotry has disfigured two very fine tragedies of the French theatre, POLIEUCTE and ATHALIA ; where an intemperate zeal for particular modes of worship is set off with all the pomp imaginable, and forms the predominant character of the heroes. " What is this,” says the heroic JOAD to JOSABET, finding her in discourse with MATHAN, the priest of BAAL, “ Does the daughter of David speak to this “ traitor? Are you not afraid, left the earth should open and pour forth fames “ to devour you both? Or left these holy walls should fall and crush you toge" ther? What is his purpose? Why comes that enemy of God hither to poison " the air, which we breathe, with his horrid presence?” Such sentiments are received with great applause on the theatre of PARIS; but at London the spectators would be full as much pleased to hear ACHILLES tell AGAMEMNON, that he was a dog in his forehead, and a deer in his heart, or Jupiter threaten Juno with a sound drubbing, if she will not be quiet.
RELIGIOUS principles are also a blemish in any polite composition, when they rise up to superstition, and intrude themselves into every sentiment, however remote from any connection with religion. 'Tis no excuse for the poet, that the customs of his country had burthened life with so many religious ceremonies and observances, that no part of it was exempt from that yoak. It must be for ever ridiculous in PETRARCH to compare his mistress, LAURA, to Jesus Christ. Nor is it less ridiculous in that agreeable libertine, Boccace, very seriously to give thanks to God Almighty, and the ladies, for their assistance in defending him against his enemies.
E S SAY I.
HE greatest part of mankind may be divided into two classes ; that of T allow thinkers, who fall short of the truth ; and that of abstruse think
1 ers, who go beyond it. The latter class are by far the most uncommon ; and I may add, by far the most useful and valuable. They suggest hints, at least, and start difficulties, which they want, perhaps, skill to pursue ; but which may produce very fine discoveries, when handled by men who have a more just way of thinking. At worst, what they say is uncommon; and if it should cost some pains to comprehend it, one has, however, the pleasure of hearing something that is new. An author is little to be valued, who tells us nothing but what we can learn from every coffeehouse conversation.
All people of shallow thought are apt to decry even those of folid understanding, as abstruse thinkers, and metaphysicians, and refiners; and never will allow any thing to be just, which is beyond their own weak conceptions. There are some cases, I own, where an extraordinary refinement affords a strong presumption of falsehood, and where no reasoning is to be trusted but what is natural and easy. When a man deliberates concerning his conduct in any particular affair, and forms schemes in politics, trade, oeconomy, or any business in life, he never ought to draw his arguments too fine, or connect too long a chain of consequences together. Something is sure to happen, that will disconcert his reasoning, and produce an event different from what he expected. But when we reason upon general subjects, one may juftly affirm, that our speculations can scarce ever be too fine, provided they be just ; and that the difference between a common man and a man of genius, is chiefly seen in the shallowness or depth of the principles upon which they proceed. General reasonings seem intricate, merely because they are general ; nor is it easy for the bulk of mankind to distinguish, in a great number of particulars, that common circumstance in which they all agree, or to extract it, pure and unmixed, from the other superfluous circumstances. Every judgment or conclusion, with them, is particular. They cannot enlarge their view to those universal propositions, which comprehend under them an infinite number of individuals, and include a whole science in a single theorem. Their eye is confounded with such an extensive prospect, and the conclufions derived from it, even tho' clearly expreffed, feem intricate and obscure. But however intricate they may seem, 'tis certain, that general principles, if just and sound, must always prevail in the general course of things, tho' they may fail in particular cases; and 'tis the chief business of philosophers to regard the general course of things. I may add, that 'tis also the chief business of politicians; especially in the domestic government of the state, where the public good, which is, or ought to be their object, depends on the concurrence of a multitude of cases; not, as in foreign politics, on accidents, and chances, and the caprices of a few persons. This therefore makes the difference betwixt particular deliberations and general rasonings, and renders subtilty and refinement much more suitable to the latter than to the former.
I THOUGHT this introduction necessary before the following discourses on commerce, luxury, money, interest, &c. where, perhaps, there will occur some principles, which are uncommon, and which may seem too refined and subtile for such vulgar subjects. If false, let them be rejected : But no one ought to entertain a prejudice against them, merely because they are out of the common road.
The greatness of a state, and the happiness of its subjects, however independent they may be supposed in some respects, are commonly allowed to be inseparable with regard to commerce ; and as private men receive greater security, in the possession of their trade and riches, from the power of the public, so the public becomes powerful in proportion to the riches and extensive commerce of private men. This maxim is true in general; tho' I cannot forbear thinking, that it may possibly admit of some exceptions, and that we often establish it with too little reserve and limitation. There may be some circumstances, where the commerce, and riches, and luxury of individuals, instead of adding strength to the public, will serve only to thin its armies, and diminish its authority among the neigboring nations. Man is a very variable being, and susceptible of many different opinions, principles, and rules of conduct. What may be true while he adheres to one way of thinking, will be found false when he has embraced an opposite set of manners and opinions.
The bulk of every state may be divided into husbandmen and manufafturers. The former are employed in the culture of the land: The latter work up the materials furnished by the former, into all the commodities which are necessary or ornamental to human life. As soon as men quit their savage state, where they live chiefly by hunting and fishing, they must fall into these two classes; tho' the arts of agriculture employ at first the most numerous part of the society *. Time and experience improve so much these arts, that the land may easily maintain a inuch greater number of men, than those who are immediately employed in its cultivation, or who furnish the more necessary manufactures to such as are so employed.
If these superfluous hands apply themselves to the finer arts, which are commonly denominated the arts of luxury, they add to the happiness of the state ; since they afford to many the opportunity of receiving enjoyments, with which they would otherwise have been unacquainted. But may not another scheme be pro
* Mons. Melon in his political essay on com- roneous. In France, ENGLAND, and indeed merce asserts, that even at present, if you divide most parts of Europe, half of the inhabitants FRANCE into 20 parts, 16 are laborers or peasants; live in cities, and even of those who live in the 2 only artizans; one belonging to the law, church, country, a very great number are artisans, perand military; and one merchants, financiers, and haps above a third. bourgeois. This calculation is certainly very er.