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PART I. deny, That the earth, during early ages, was but thinly peopled, and imperfectly cultivated. And ancient historians, with one accord, inform us, That the inha bitants of Asia, and those of the contiguous part of Africa, were more early civilized and enlightened than the European nations.
Before the date of any remaining records, before the birth of Moses, the illustrious Hebrew legislator, and the father of sacred history, population, policy, and arts, had made considerable progress among the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Phoenicians. But whether this so early population, and consequent civility, were the natural effects of climates more favoured than any in Europe, and greater fertility of soil, or of the more early planting of the human race in the heart of Asia, is a question not yet settled among divines and philosophers; and which is, on each side, attended with many difficulties.
If we receive, in a literal sense, the Mosaic history of the creation, of the antediluvian world, and the dispersion of mankind, after the flood, at Babel, or Babylon, we shall find little difficulty in assigning a reason, why the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris were crowned with great cities, crowded with inhabitants, skilled in all the useful and ingenious arts, before a single city was erected on the banks of the Danube or the Rhine. Yet shall we still be at a loss how to account for the no less early population and improvement of Egypt, India, and China; for the two latter countries were very distant from the scene of dispersion, and the former separated from it by almost impassable deserts.
2. This appears evident from many passages in the writings of Moses, and also in the books of Joshua, Judges and Kings. And similar testimony is borne by Herodotus, the father of civil history, lib. i. ii. passim.
But if, with a liberal antiquarian, we consider that LETTER mysterious narrative of the Hebrew legislator, as a mythical and political apologue, composed for the introduction and support of the Jewish theocracy3; or if, conformable to the opinion of many learned writers, we suppose that, in consequence of the confusion of tongues and the dispersion of mankind, the great body of the human species degenerated, during their emigration, into a state of savage barbarity; and, in that state, spread themselves widely over the face of the earth, the causes of such population and improvement may be deduced in a satisfactory manner. For this purpose we must carry our inquiries to what has been called, the state of Nature.
Various have been the descriptions of poets and historians, and the opinions of philosophers, both ancient and modern, concerning the natural condition of MAN; or that rude state in which he is supposed to have
3. See a Treatise on the Study of Antiquities, as the Commentary to Historical Learning, by T. Pownall, esq. Several of the christian fathers were partly of Mr. Pownall's opinion; and the late learned and celebrated Dr. T. Burnet is very explicit on the subject. "I "have avoided," says he, " to mention Moses's Cosmopola, because, "I think, it is delivered by him rather as a lawgiver, than a philosopher," &c.
"Almost all the christian interpreters," adds Dr. Burnet, "agree with "us, that the Mosaic tobu bobu is the same thing as the chaos of the "ancients; that the darkness, described by Moses, is their tartarus, and “ erebus, and night; that his incubation of the Spirit, or breath of God, "is collusive with the birth of Phanes, Eros, or Love." (Burnet's Theory of the Earth, first edit.) "So far," observes he, "Moses and "the old philosophers agree; but here he breaks off his philosophic "strain, and takes up a human, or a theological strain; in which he has "framed a popular relation of the rise of things, in the manner we all "know." (Id. ibid.) To the same purport writes Mr. Whiston, concerning the creation of the celestial bodies. "Moses, indeed," says he," mentions the making of the sun, &c. in order to accommodate his narrative to vulgar apprehension; but chiefly to secure the Jews "from the worship of the host of Heaven. Whiston, Disc. of the Mosaic Creation, p. 4.
PART I. existed before the establishment of government, the
framing of laws, or the invention of arts. In order to induce mankind to set an higher value upon the benefits of civil society, or for the purpose of debasing the human character, some have represented the state of nature as a state of warfare and wretchedness; in which force was the only law, and where man was on a level with the brutes: while others, of a more benevolent temper, or enemies to refinement, have described the natural state as the happiest of human conditions; a state, wherein men, having few wants, if they had few accommodations, and few interfering interests, had little temptation to violence or fraud, and lived in the most perfect harmony. Hence the fables of the golden age. The former represent the state of nature as the reign of force, cruelty, and misery; the latter of justice, humanity, and felicity.
But a more perfect acquaintance with rude nations, and consequently with undisguised human nature, has proved both those representations to be, in a great measure, false. For as we find no room to believe, that there ever was an age, or a country, in which the human race were not raised above the level of the brute creation, we find none where the presence of une human creature was to others a signal of hostility*.
Man is a complex being. He has found, in every age, country, and condition, the sources of variance and dissension, as well as of concert and union. Nature seems to have sown in his mind the seeds of animosity with those of affection. He embraces with
4. See Hist. Gen. des Voyages, passim. If, in some islands of the southern ocean, all strangers are regarded as enemies, we may seriously question, Whether this hostile antipathy had not its origin in the injuries committed by foreign invaders?
alacrity occasions of personal opposition, and he flies LETTER with ardour to the relief of a fellow-creature in distress; without any motive but the impulse of the heart, or any command but that of sympathetic feeling.
The shouts of joy are to man yet more attractive than the shrieks of woe. Prompted, by a taste for society, to mingle with the herd of his species, he longs to share their happiness, to become acquainted with their sentiments, and to communicate his own. He delights to act in conjunction with them, is ambitious of distinction under their eye, and proud of their approbation. Hence emulation and competition, the two great sources of illustrious actions. Man is equally disposed to friendship and enmity; to return benefits, and resent injuries; to retain a sense of favours con
5. "A state of nature," says the most sagacious of all philosophers, "is a state of society to man. He is by nature a social cnimal; and
although a sense of mutual wants, and mutual aid, did not dictate the necessity of civil union and cohabitation, yet would mankind herd, and "live together." (Aristot. Polit. lib. iii. cap. iv.) To the same effect writes the great geographer: "Man," says he, "is born with "this inclination to associate." It is an appetite common to the hu"man species." (Strabo, Geog. lib. xvi.) I have had recourse to these authorities, in order to overthrow an opinion, which has been propagated, not only by the followers of Hobbes, but by many other respectable writers, on the foundation of society, That men were originally induced to unite in society merely to avoid the injuries to which they were exposed from each other in a state of nature. (See the Divine Legation of Moses, book i. sect. ii. et seq.) Whereas the truth is, That men associated from instinct, or natural affection; and laws were invented, and religion instituted, to bind them more closely together; to curb their irregular passions, and render them more happy in the social state. Hence the general mistake, into which even Warburton has partly fallen: the effect was substituted for the
6. This sentiment is mutual. "The man who, in defence of "others," observes Polybius, "is seen to throw himself foremost "into every danger, and even to sustain the fury of the fiercest ani
mals, never fails to obtain the loudest expressions of applause
PART I. ferred, when he wants ability to repay; and a remembrance of wrongs, when he is unable to retaliate": whence gratitude and revenge.
The seeds of all the virtues as well as vices, and whatever is generous in human nature, may be found in the heart of the savage. In his pride of independency, and his consciousness that no man has a right to injure another in his person or property; because no man is naturally indebted to another for those things, we discover the foundation of justice and natural freedom. And although savage man is commonly more sullen in disposition than the citizen, by reason of his mode of life, he is no stranger to the influence of the social principle. He chuses his dwelling in the neighbourhood of other savages, instead of shunning their sight, or lodging in the solitary cave; he goes in company with them in quest of food; and when he returns from the chace, and has satisfied his hunger, and that of his family, with his prey, he joins his companions in the song and the dance®.
As man is possessed of the social principle in every stage of his being, he has also, at all times, and in all places, been possessed of reason and imagination, the
7. "Man, who alone, of all animals, is endowed with the faculty "of reason, cannot," remarks the same deep discerner of human nature, "overlook such actions with indifference." Polyb. ubi sup.
8. Hist. Gen. des Voyages, passim. If savage man any where appears in a state of degradation, it is in the extreme regions of the north, or toward the south pole; where the rigour of the climate checks the principle of animal life in the human species, and with it all the nobler springs of action, the more generous sentiments, and finer feelings of the soul. Yet, even there, in those regions of darkness and of frost, the social character of man is not utterly destroyed; his intellectual faculty, or his power of dominion over the brute creation. Ibid. art. Iceland, Lapland, Greenland, Kamchatka, Terra del Fuego, &c.