From the fable of the bees: Or, private vices, publick benefits 
THE GRUMBLING HIVE: OR, KNAVES TURN’D HONEST
A Spacious Hive well stock’d with Bees,
That lived in Luxury and Ease;
And yet as fam’d for Laws and Arms,
As yielding large and early Swarms;
Was counted the great Nursery
Of Sciences and Industry.
No Bees had better Government,
More Fickleness, or less Content.
They were not Slaves to Tyranny,
Nor ruled by wild Democracy;
But Kings, that could not wrong, because
Their Power was circumscrib’d by Laws.
These Insects lived like Men, and all
Our Actions they perform’d in small:
They did whatever’s done in Town,
And what belongs to Sword, or Gown:
Tho’ th’ Artful Works, by nimble Slight;
Of minute Limbs, ‘scaped Human Sight
Yet we’ve no Engines, Labourers,
Ships, Castles, Arms, Artificers,
Craft, Science, Shop, or Instrument;
But they had an Equivalent:
Which, since their Language is unknown,
Must be call’d, as we do our own.
As grant, that among other Things
They wanted Dice, yet they had Kings;
And those had Guards; from whence we may
Justly conclude, they had some Play;
Unless a Regiment be shewn
Of Soldiers, that make use of none.
Vast Numbers thronged the fruitful Hive;
Yet those vast Numbers made ’em thrive
Millions endeavouring to supply
Each other’s Lust and Vanity
Whilst other Millions were employ’d,
To see their Handy-works destroy’d;
They furnish’d half the Universe;
Yet had more Work than Labourers.
Some with vast Stocks, and little Pains
Jump’d into Business of great Gains;
And some were damn’d to Sythes and Spades,
And all those hard laborious Trades
Where willing Wretches daily sweat,
And wear out Strength and Limbs to eat:
Whilst others follow’d Mysteries,
To which few Folks bind Prentices
That want no Stock, but that of Brass,
And may set up without a Cross;
As Sharpers, Parasites, Pimps, Players,
Pick-Pockets, Coiners, Quacks, Sooth-Sayers,
And all those, that, in Enmity
With down-right Working, cunningly
Convert to their own Use the Labour
Of their good-natur’d heedless Neighbour.
These were called Knaves; but, bar the Name,
The grave Industrious were the Same.
All Trades and Places knew some Cheat,
No Calling was without Deceit.
The Lawyers, of whose Art the Basis
Was raising Feuds and splitting Cases,
Opposed all Registers, that Cheats
Might make more Work with dipt Estates;
As were’t unlawful, that one’s own,
Without a Law-Suit, should be known.
They kept off Hearings wilfully,
To finger the refreshing Fee;
And to defend a wicked Cause,
Examin’d and survey’d the Laws;
As Burglars Shops and Houses do;
To find out where they’d best break through.
Physicians valued Fame and Wealth
Above the drooping Patient’s Health,
Or their own Skill: The greatest Part
Study’d, instead of Rules of Art,
Grave pensive Looks, and dull Behaviour;
To gain th’ Apothecary’s Favour,
The Praise of Mid-wives, Priests and all,
That served at Birth, or Funeral;
To bear with th’ ever-talking Tribe,
And hear my Lady’s Aunt prescribe;
With formal Smile, and kind How d’ye,
To fawn on all the Family;
And, which of all the greatest Curse is,
T’ endure th’ Impertinence of Nurses.
Among the many Priests of Jove,
Hir’d to draw Blessings from Above,
Some few were learn’d and eloquent,
But Thousands hot and ignorant:
Yet all past Muster, that could hide
Their Sloth, Lust, Avarice and Pride;
For which they were as famed, as Taylors
For Cabbage; or for Brandy, Sailors:
Some meagre look’d, and meanly clad
Would mystically pray for Bread,
Meaning by that an ample Store,
Yet lit’rally receiv’d no more;
And, whilst these holy Drudges starv’d,
The lazy Ones, for which they serv’d,
Indulg’d their Ease, with all the Graces
Of Health and Plenty in their Faces.
The Soldiers, that were forced to fight,
If they survived, got Honour by ‘t;
Tho’ some, that shunn’d the bloody Fray,
Had Limbs shot off, that ran away:
Some valiant Generals fought the Foe;
Others took Bribes to let them go:
Some ventur’d always, where ’twas warm;
Lost now a Leg, and then an Arm;
Till quite disabled, and put by,
They lived on half their Salary;
Whilst others never came in Play,
And staid at Home for Double Pay.
Their Kings were serv’d; but Knavishly
Cheated by their own Ministry;
Many, that for their Welfare slaved,
Robbing the very Crown they saved:
Pensions were small, and they lived high,
Yet boasted of their Honesty.
Calling, whene’er they strain’d their Right,
The slipp’ry Trick a Perquisite;
And, when Folks understood their Cant,
They chang’d that for Emolument;
Unwilling to be short, or plain,
In any thing concerning Gain:
For there was not a Bee, but would
Get more, I won’t say, than he should;
But than he dared to let them know,
That pay’d for ‘t; as your Gamesters do,
That, tho’ at fair Play, ne’er will own
Before the Losers what they’ve won.
But who can all their Frauds repeat!
The very Stuff, which in the Street
They sold for Dirt t’ enrich the Ground,
Was often by the Buyers found
Sophisticated with a Quarter
0f Good-for-nothing, Stones and Mortar;
Tho’ Flail had little Cause to mutter,
Who sold the other Salt for Butter.
Justice her self, famed for fair Dealing,
By Blindness had not lost her Feeling;
Her Left Hand, which the Scales should hold,
Had often drops’em, bribed with Gold;
And, tho’ she seem’d impartial,
Where Punishment was corporal,
Pretended to a reg’lar Course,
In Murther, and all Crimes of Force;
Tho’ some, first Pillory’d for Cheating,
Were hang’d m Hemp of their own beating;
Yet, it was thought, the Sword she bore
Chcck’d but the Desp’rate and the Poor;
That, urged by mere Necessity,
Were tied up to the wretched Tree
For Crimes, which not deserv’d that Fate,
But to secure the Rich, and Great.
Thus every Part was full of Vice,
Yet the whole Mass a Paradice;
Flatter’d in Peace, and fear’d in Wars
They were th’ Esteem of Foreigners,
And lavish of their Wealth and Lives,
The Ballance of all other Hives.
Such were the Blessings of that State;
Their Crimes conspired to make ’em Great;
And Vertue, who from Politicks
Had learn’d a Thousand cunning Tricks,
Was, by their happy Influence,
Made Friends with Vice: And ever since
The Worst of all the Multitude
Did something for the common Good.
This was the State’s Craft, that maintain’d
The Whole, of which each Part complain’d:
This, as in Musick Harmony,
Made Jarrings in the Main agree;
Parties directly opposite
Assist each oth’r, as ’twere for Spight;
And Temp’rance with Sobriety
Serve Drunkenness and Gluttony.
The Root of evil Avarice,
That damn’d ill-natur’d baneful Vice,
Was Slave to Prodigality,
That Noble Sin; whilst Luxury
Employ’d a Million of the Poor,
And odious Pride a Million more.
Envy it self, and Vanity
Were Ministers of Industry;
Their darling Folly, Fickleness
In Diet, Furniture, and Dress,
That strange ridic’lous Vice, was made
The very Wheel, that turn’d the Trade.
Their Laws and Cloaths were equally
Objects of Mutability;
For, what was well done for a Time,
In half a Year became a’Crime;
Yet whilst they alter’d thus their Laws,
Still finding and correcting Flaws,
They mended by Inconstancy
Faults, which no Prudence could foresee.
Thus Vice nursed Ingenuity,
Which join’d with Time, and Industry
Had carry’d Life’s Conveniencies,
It’s real Pleasures, Comforts, Ease,
To such a Height, the very Poor
Lived better than the Rich before;
And nothing could be added more:
How vain is Mortal Happiness!
Had they but known the Bounds of Bliss;
And, that Perfection here below
Is more, than Gods can well bestow,
The grumbling Brutes had been content
With Ministers and Government.
But they, at every ill Success,
Like Creatures lost without Redress,
Cursed Politicians, Armies, Fleets;
Whilst every one cry’d, Damn the Cheats,
And would, tho’ Conscious of his own,
In Others barb’rously bear none.
One, that had got a Princely Store,
By cheating Master, King, and Poor,
Dared cry aloud; The Land must sink
For all it’s Fraud; And whom d’ye think
The Sermonizing Rascal chid?
A Glover that sold Lamb for Kid.
The least Thing was not done amiss,
Or cross’d the Publick Business;
But all the Rogues cry’d brazenly,
Good Gods, had we but Honesty!
Merc’ry smiled at th’ Impudence;
And Others call’d it want of Sence,
Always to rail at what they loved:
But Jove, with Indignation moved,
At last in Anger swore, he’d rid
The bawling Hive of Fraud, and did.
The very Moment it departs,
And Honesty fills all their Hearts;
There shews ’em, like th’ Instructive Tree,
Those Crimes, which they’re ashamed to see;
Which now in Silence they confess,
By Blushing at their Uglyness;
Like Children, that would hide their Faults,
And by their Colour own their Thoughts;
Imag’ning, when they’re look’d upon,
That Others see, what they have done.
But, Oh ye Gods! What Consternation,
How vast and sudden was th’ Alteration!
In half an Hour, the Nation round,
Meat fell a Penny in the Pound.
The Mask Hypocrisie’s flung down,
From the great Statesman to the Clown;
And some, in borrow’d Looks well known,
Appear’d like Strangers in their own.
The Bar was silent from that Day;
For now the willing Debtors pay,
Ev’n what’s by Creditors forgot;
Who quitted them, that had it not.
Those, that were in the Wrong, stood mute,
And drops the patch’d vexatious Suit.
On which, since nothing less can thrive,
Than Lawyers in an honest Hive,
All, except those, that got enough,
With Ink-horns by their Sides troop’d off.
Justice hang’d some, set others free;
And, after Goal-delivery,
Her Presence be’ng no more requir’d,
With all her Train, and Pomp retir’d.
First march’d some Smiths, with Locks and Grates
Fetters, and Doors with Iron-Plates;
Next Goalers, Turnkeys, and Assistants:
Before the Goddess, at some distance,
Her chief and faithful Minister
Squire Catch, and Laws great Finisher,
Bore not th’ imaginary Sword,
But his own Tools, an Ax and Cord:
Then on a Cloud the Hood-wink’d fair
Justice her self was push’d by Air:
About her Chariot, and behind,
Were Sergeants, Bums of every kind,
Tip-staffs, and all those Officers,
That squeeze a Living out of Tears.
Tho’ Physick lived, whilst Folks were ill,
None would prescribe, but Bees of Skill;
Which, through the Hive dispers’d so wide,
That none of ’em had need to ride,
Waved vain Disputes; and strove to free
The Patients of their Misery;
Left Drugs in cheating Countries grown,
And used the Product of their own,
Knowing the Gods sent no Disease
To Nations without Remedies.
Their Clergy rouz’d from Laziness,
Laid not their Charge on Journey-Bees ;
But serv’d themselves, exempt from Vice,
The Gods with Pray’r and Sacrifice;
All those, that were unfit, or knew,
Their Service might be spared, withdrew:
Nor was there Business for so many,
(If th’ Honest stand in need of any.)
Few only with the High-Priest staid,
To whom the rest Obedience paid:
Himself, employ’d in holy Cares,
Resign’d to others State-Affairs:
He chased no Starv’ling from his Door,
Nor pinch’d the Wages of the Poor;
But at his House the Hungry’s fed,
The Hireling finds unmeasur’d Bread,
The needy Trav’ler Board and Bed.
Among the King’s great Ministers,
And all th’ inferiour Officers
The Change was great; for frugally
They now lived on their Salary.
That a poor Bee should Ten times come,
To ask his Due, a trifling Sum,
And by some well-hir’d Clerk be made,
To give a Crown, or ne’er be paid;
Would now be call’d a down-right Cheat,
Tho’ formerly a Perquisite.
All Places; managed first by Three,
Who watch’d each other’s Knavery,
And often for a Fellow-feeling,
Promoted one another’s Stealing;
Are happily supply’d by one;
By which some Thousands more are gone.
No Honour now could be content,
To live, and owe for what was spent.
Liv’ries in Brokers Shops are hung,
They part with Coaches for a Song;
Sell stately Horses by whole Sets;
And Country-Houses to pay Debts.
Vain Cost is shunn’d as much as Fraud;
They have no Forces kept Abroad;
Laugh at th’ Esteem of Foreigners,
And empty Glory got by Wars;
They fight but for their Country’s Sake,
When Right or Liberty’s at Stake.
Now mind the glorious Hive, and see,
How Honesty and Trade agree:
The Shew is gone, it thins apace;
And looks with quite another Face,
For ’twas not only that they went,
By whom vast Sums were Yearly spent;
But Multitudes, that lived on them,
Were daily forc’d to do the Same.
In vain to other Trades they’d fly;
All were o’er-stock’d accordingly.
The Price of Land, and Houses falls;
Mirac’lous Palaces, whose Walls,
Like those of Thebes, were raised by Play,
Are to be lett; whilst the once gay,
Well-seated Houshold Gods would be
More pleased t’ expire in Flames, than see
The mean Inscription on the Door
Smile at the lofty Ones they bore.
The Building Trade is quite destroy’d,
Artificers are not employ’d;
No Limner for his Art is famed;
Stone-cutters, Carvers are not named.
Those, that remain’d, grown temp’rate, strive,
Not how to spend; but how to live;
And, when they paid their Tavern Score,
Resolv’d to enter it no more:
No Vintners Jilt in all the Hive
Could wear now Cloth of Gold and thrive;
Nor Torcol such vast Sums advance,
For Burgundy and Ortelans;
The Courtier’s gone, that with his Miss
Supp’d at his House on Christmass Peas ;
Spending as much in Two Hours stay,
As keeps a Troop of Horse a Day.
The haughty Chloe, to live Great,
Had made her Husband rob the State:
But now she sells her Furniture,
Which th’ Indies had been ransack’d for;
Contracts th’ expensive Bill of Fare,
And wears her strong Suit a whole Year:
The slight and fickle Age is past;
And Cloaths, as well as Fashions last.
Weavers that join’d rich Silk with Plate,
And all the Trades subordinate,
Are gone. Still Peace and Plenty reign,
And every Thing is cheap, tho’ plain:
Kind Nature, free from Gard’ners Force,
Allows all Fruits in her own Course;
But Rarities cannot be had,
Where Pains to get ’em are not paid.
As Pride and Luxury decrease,
So by degrees they leave the Seas.
Not Merchants now; but
Companies Remove whole Manufacturies.
All Arts and Crafts neglected lie;
Content the Bane of Industry,
Makes ’em admire their homely Store,
And neither seek, nor covet more.
So few in the vast Hive remain;
The Hundredth part they can’t maintain
Against th’ Insults of numerous Foes;
Whom yet they valiantly oppose:
ill some well-fenced Retreat is found;
And here they die, or stand their Ground.
No Hireling in their Armies known;
But bravely fighting for their own,
Their Courage and Integrity
At last were crown’d with Victory.
They triumph’d not without their Cost;
For many Thousand Bees were lost.
Hard’ned with Toils, and Exercise
They counted Ease it self a Vice;
Which so improved their Temperance;
That, to avoid Extravagance,
They flew into a hollow Tree,
Blest with Content and Honesty.
Then leave Complaints: Fools only strive
To make a Great an honest Hive.
T’ enjoy the World’s Conveniencies,
Befamed in War, yet live in Ease
Without great Vices, is a vain
Eutopia seated in the Brain.
Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live;
Whilst we the Benefits receive.
Hunger’s a dreadful Plague, no doubt,
Yet who digests or thrives without?
Do we not owe the Growth of Wine
To the dry, crooked, shabby Vine?
Which, whilst its Shutes neglected stood,
Choak’d other Plants, and ran to Wood;
But blest us with its Noble Fruit;
As soon as it was tied, and cut:
So Vice is benefcial found,
When it’s by Justice lopt, and bound;
Nay, where the People would be great,
As necessary to the State,
As Hunger is to make ’em eat.
Bare Vertue can’t make Nations live
In Splendour; they, that would revive A Golden Age, must be as free,
For Acorns, as for Honesty.
AN ENQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN OF MORAL VIRTUE
One of the greatest Reasons why so few People understand themselves, is, that most Writers are always teaching Men what they should be, and hardly ever trouble heads with telling them what they really are. As for my part, without any Compliment to the Curteous Reader, or myself, I believe Man (besides Skin, Flesh, Bones, &c that are obvious to the Eye) to be a Compound of various Passions, that all of them, as they are provoked and come uppermost, govern him by turns, whether he will or no. To shew, that these Qualfications, which we all pretend to be asham’d of, are the great support of a flourishing Society has been the subject of the foregoing Poem. But there being some Passages in it seemingly Paradoxical, I have in the Preface promised some explanatory Remarks on it; which, to render more useful, I have thought fit to enquire, how Man no better qualfy’d, might yet by his own Imperfections be taught to distinguish between Virtue and Vice: And here I must desire the Reader once for all to take notice, that when I say Men, I mean neither Jews nor Christians but meer Man, in the State of Nature and Ignorance of the true Deity.
ALL untaught Animals are only Sollicitous of pleasing themselves, and naturally follow the bent of their own Inclinations, without considering the good or harm that from their being pleased will accrue to others. This is the Reason, that in the wild State of Nature those Creatures are fittest to live peaceably together in great Numbers, that discovered the least of Understanding, and have the fewest Appetites to gratify, and consequently no Species of Animals is, without the Curb of Government, less capable of agreeing long together in Multitudes than that of Man yet such are his Qualities, whether good or bad, I shall not determine, that no Creature besides himself can ever be made sociable: But being an extraordinary selfish and headstrong as well as cunning Animal, however he may be subdued by superior Strength, it is impossible by force alone to make him tractable, and receive the Improvements he is capable of.
The chief Thing therefore, which Lawgivers and other Wise Men, that have laboured for the Establishment of Society, have endeavour’d, has been to make the People they were to govern, believe, that it was more beneficial for every body to conquer than indulge his Appetites, and much better to mind the Publick than what seem’d his private Interest. As this has always been a very difficult Task, so no Wit or Eloquence has been left untried to compass it; and the Moralists and Philosophers of all Ages employ’d their utmost Skill to prove the truth of so useful an Assertion. But whether Mankind would have ever believ’d it or not, it is not likely that any body could have perswaded them to disapprove of their natural Inclinations, or prefer the good of others to their own, if at the same time he had not shew’d them an Equivalent to be enjoy’d as a Reward for the Violence, which by so doing they of necessity must commit upon themselves. Those that have undertaken to civilise Mankind, were not ignorant of this; but being unable to give so many real Rewards as would satisfy all Persons for every individual Action, they were forc’d to contrive an imaginary one, that as a general Equivalent for the trouble of Self-denial should serve on all occasions, and without costing any thing either to themselves or others, be yet a most acceptable Recompence to the Receivers.
They thoroughly examin’d all the Strength and Frailties of our Nature, and observing that none were either so savage as not to be charm’d with Praise, or so despicable as patiently to bear Contempt, justly concluded, that Flattery must be the most powerful Argument that cou’d be used to Human Creatures. Making use of this bewitching Engine, they extoll’d the Excellency of our Nature above other Animals, and setting forth with unbounded Praises the Wonders of our Sagacity and vastness of Understanding, bestow’d a thousand Encomiums on the Rationality of our Souls, by the help of which we were capable of performing the most noble Atchievements. Having by this artful way of Flattery insinuated themselves into the Hearts of Men, they began to instruct them in the Notions of Honour and Shame; representing the one as the worst of all Evils, and the other as the highest good to which Mortals could aspire: Which being done, they laid before them how unbecoming it was the Dignity of such sublime Creatures to be sollicitous about gratifying those Appetites, which they had in common with Brutes, and at the same time unmindful of those higher qualities that gave them the preeminence over all visible Beings. They indeed confess’d, that those impulses of Nature were very pressing; that it was troublesome to resist, and very difficult wholly to subdue them: But this they only used as an Argument to demonstrate, how glorious the Conquest of them was on the one hand, and how scandalous on the other not to attempt it.
To introduce moreover an Emulation amongst Men, they divided the whole Species in two Classes, vastly differing from one another: The one consisted of abject, low minded People, that always htmting after immediate Enjoyment, were wholly incapable of Self-denial, and without regard to the good of others, had no higher Aim than their private Advantage; such as being enslaved by Voluptuousness, yielded without Resistance to every gross desire, and made no use of their Rational Faculties but to heighten their Sensual Pleasures. These vile grov’ling Wretches, they said, were the Dross of their kind, and having only the Shape of Men, differ’d from Brutes in nothing but their outward Figure. But the other Class was made up of lofty high-spirited Creatutes, that free from sordid Selfishness, esteem’d the Improvements of the Mind to be their fairest Possessions; and setting a true value upon themselves, took no delight but in imbellishing that Part in which their Excellency consisted; such as despising whatever they had in common with irrational Creatures, opposed by the help of Reason their most violent Inclinations; and making a continual War with themselves to promote the Peace of others, aim’d at no less than the Publick Welfare and the Conquest of their Own Passions.
Fortior est qui se quam quifortissima Vincit Maenia [“He who conquers himself is stronger than he who conquers the strongest cities”]
These they call’d the true Representatives of their sublime Species, exceeding in worth the first Class by more degrees, than that it self was superior to the Beasts of the Field.
As in all Animals that are not too imperfect to discover Pride, we find, that the finest and such as are the most beautiful and valuable of their kind, have generally the greatest Share of it; so in Man, the most perfect of Animals, it is so inseparable from his very Essence (how cunningly soever some may learn to hide or disguise it) that without it the Compound he is made of would want one of the chiefest Ingredients: Which, if we consider, it is hardly to be doubted but Lessons and Remonstrances, so skillfully adapted to the good Opinion Man has of himself, as those I have mentioned, must, if scatter’d amongst a Multitude, not only gain the assent of most of them, as to the Speculative part, but likewise induce several, especially the fiercest, most resolute, and best among them, to endure a thousand Inconveniencies, and undergo as many hardships, that they may have the pleasure of counting themselves Men of the second Class, and consequently appropriating to themselves all the Excellencies they have heard of it.
From what has been said we ought to expect in the first place, that the Heroes who took such extraordinary Pains to master some of their natural Appetites, and preferr’d the good of others to any visible Interest of their own, would not recede an Inch from the fine Notions they had receiv’d concerning the Dignity of Rational Creatures; and having ever the Authority of the Government on their side, with all imaginable Vigour assert the Esteem that was due to those of the second Class, as well as their superiority over the rest of their kind. In the second, that those who wanted a sufficient Stock of either Pride or Resolution, to buoy them up in mortifying of what was dearest to them, follow’d the sensual dictates of Nature, would yet be asham’d of confessing themselves to be those despicable Wretches that belong’d to the inferior Class, and were generally reckon’d to be so little remov’d from Brutes; and that therefore in their own Defence they would say, as others did, and hiding their own Imperfections as well as they could, cry ups Self-denial and Publick-spiritedness as much as any: For it is highly probable, that some of them, convinced by the real Proofs of Fortitude and Self- Conquest they had seen, would admire in others what they found wanting in themselves; others be afraid of the Resolution and Prowess of those of the second Class, and that all of them were kept in awe by the Power of their Rulers, wherefore it is reasonable to think, that none of them (whatever they thought in themselves) would dare openly contradict, what by every body else was thought Criminal to doubt of.
This was (or at least might have been) the manner after which Savage Man was broke; from whence it is evident, that the first Rudiments of Morality broach’d by skilfull Politicians, to render Men usefuI to each other as well as tractable, were chiefly contriv’d; that the Ambitious might reap the more Benefit from, and govern vast Numbers of them with the greater Ease and Security. This Foundation of Politicks being once laid, it is impossible that Man should long remain uncivilis’d: For even those who only strove to gratify their Appetites, being continually cross’d by others of the same Stamp, could not but observe, that whenever they check’d their Inclinations, or but follow’d them with more Circumspection, they avoided a world of Troubles, and often escap’d many of the Calamities that generally attended the too eager pursuit after Pleasure.
First, they receiv’d, as well as others, the benefit of those Actions that were done for the good of the whole Society, and consequently could not forbear wishing well to those of the superior Class that perform’d them. Secondly, the more intent they were in seeking their own Advantage, without Regard to others, the more they were hourly convinced, that none stood so much in their way as those that were most like themselves.
It being the Interest then of the very worst of them, more than any, to preach up Publick-spiritedness, that they might reap the Fruits of the Labour and Self- denial of others, and at the same time indulge their own Appetites with less disturbance, they agreed with the rest, to call every thing, which, without Regard to the Publick, Man should commit to gratify any of his Appetites, VICE; if in that Action there could be observ’d the least prospect, that it might either be injurious to any of the Society, or ever render himself less serviceable to others: And to give the Name of VIRTUE to every Performance, by which Man, contrary to the impulse of Nature, should endeavour the Benefit of others, or the Conquest of his own Passions, out of a Rational Ambition of being good.
It shall be objected, that no Society was ever any ways civilis’d before the major part had agreed upon some Worship or other of an over ruling Power, and consequently that the Notions of Good and Evil, and the Distinction between Virtue and Vice, were never the Contrivance of Politicians, but the pure effect of Religion. Before I answer this Objection, I must epeat what I have said already, that in this Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue I speak neither of Jews or Christians, but Man in his State of Nature and ignorance of the true Deity; and then I affirm, that the Idolatrous Superstitions of all other Nations, and the pitiful Notions they had of the Supreme Being were incapable of exciting Man to Virtue, and good for nothing but to awe and amuse a rude and unthinking Multitude. It is evident from History, that in all considerable Societies, how stupid or ridiculous soever Peoples received Notions have been, as to the Deities they worship’d, Human Nature has ever exerted itself in all its branches, and that there is no Earthly Wisdom or Moral Virtue, but at one time or other Men have excelltd in it in all Monarchies and Commonwealths, that for Riches and Power have been any ways remarkable.
The Egyptians not satisfy’d with having Deify’d all the ugly Monsters they could think on, were so silly as to adore the Onions of their own sowing; yet at the same time their Country was the most famous Nursery of Arts and Sciences in the World, and themselves more eminently skill’d in the deepest Mysteries of Nature than any Nation has been since.
No States or Kingdoms under Heaven have yielded more or greater Paterns in all sorts of Moral Virtues rhan the Greek and Roman Empires, more especially the latter; and yet how loose, absurd, and ridiculous were their Sentiments as to Sacred Matters: For without reflecting on the extravagant Number of their Deities, if we only consider the infamous Stories they father’d upon them, it is not to be denied but that their Religion, far from teaching Men the Conquest of their Passions, and the way to Virtue, seem’d rather contriv’d to justify their Appetites, and encourage their Vices. But if we would know what made ’em excel in Fortitude, Courage and Magnanimity, we must cast our Eyes on the Pomp of their Triumphs, the Magnificence of their Monuments and Arches, their Trophies, Statues, and Inscriptions; the variety of their Military Crowns, their Honours decreed to the Dead, Publick Encomiums on the Living, and other imaginary Rewards they bestow’d on Men of Merit; and we shall find, that what carried so many of them to the utmost Pitch of Self-denial, was nothing but their Policy in making use of the most effectual Means that human Pride could be flatter’d with.
It is visible then that it was not any Heathen Religion or other Idolatrous Superstition; that first put Man upon crossing his Appetites and subduing his dearest Inclinations, but the skilful Management of wary Politicians; and the nearer we search into human Nature, the more we shall be convinc’d, that the Moral Virtues are the Political Offspring which Flattery begot upon Pride.
There is no Man of what Capacity or Penetration soever, that is wholly Proof against the witchcraft of Flattery, if artfully perform’d, and suited to his Abilities. Children and Fools will swallow Personal Praise, but those that are more cunning, must be manag’d with greater Circumspection; and the more general the Flattery is, the less it is suspected by those it is levell’d at. What you say in Commendation of a whole Town is receiv’d with Pleasure by all the Inhabitants: Speak in Commendation of Letters in general, and every Man of Learning will think himself Iin particular obliged to you. You may safely praise the Employment a Man is of, or the Country he was born in; because you give him an opportunity of screening the Joy he feels upon his own account, under the Esteem which he pretends to have for others.
It is common among cunning Men, that understand the Power which Flattery has upon Pride, when they are afraid they shall be impos’d upon to enlarge, tho’ much against their Conscience, upon the Honour, fair Dealing and Integrity of the Family, Country, or sometimes the Profession of him they suspect; because they know that Men often will change their Resolution, and act against their Inclination, that they may have the Pleasure of continuing to appear in the Opinion of some what they are conscious not to be in reality. Thus Sagacious Moralists draw Men like Angels, in hopes that the Pride at least of some will put ’em upon copying after the beautiful Originals which they are represented to be.
When the Incomparable Sir Richard Steele, in the usual Elegance of his easy Style, dwells on the Praises of his sublime Species, and with all the Embellishments of Rhetorick, sets forth the Excellency of Human Nature, it is impossible not to be charm’d with his happy Turns of Thought, and the Politeness of his Expressions. But tho’ I have been often moved by the Force of his Eloquence, and ready to swallow the ingenious Sophistry with Pleasure, yet I could never be so serious but reflecting on his artful Encomiums, I thought on the Tricks made use of by the Women that would teach Children to be mannerly. When an awkward Girl before she can either Speak or Go, begins after many entreaties to make the first rude Essays of Curt’sying: The Nurse falls in an extasy of Praise; There’s a delicate Curt’sy! O fine Miss! There’s a pretty Lady! Mama! Miss can make a better Curt’sy than her Sister Molly! The same is eccho’d over by the Maids, whilst Mama almost hugs the Child to pieces; only Miss Molly, who being four Years older, knows how to make a very handsome Curt’sy, wonders at the Perverseness of their Judgment, and swelling with Indignation, is ready to cry at the Injustice that is done her, till being whisper’d in the Ear that it is only to please the Baby, and that she is a Woman; she grows Proud at being let into the Secret, and rejoicing at the Superiority of her Understanding, repeats what has been said with large Additions, and insults over the weakness of her Sister, whom all this while she fancies to be the only Bubble among them. These extravagant Praises would by any one, above the Capacity of an Infant, be call’d fulsome Flatteries, and, if you will, abominable Lies; yet Experience teaches us, that by the help of such gross Encomiums, young Misses will be brought to make pretty Curt’sies, and behave themselves womanly much sooner, and with less trouble, than they would without them. ‘Tis the same with Boys, whom they’ll strive to perswade, that all fine Gentlemen do as they are bid, and that none but Beggar Boys are rude, or dirty their Cloaths; nay, as soon as the wild Brat with his untaught Fist begins to fumble for his Hat, the Mother, to make him pull it off, tells him before he is two Years old, that he is a Man; and if he repeats that Action when she desires him, he’s presently a Captain, a Lord Mayor, a King, or something higher if she can think of it, till egg’d on by the force of Praise, the little Urchin endeavours to imitate Man as well as he can, and strains all his Faculties to appear what his shallow Noddle imagines he is believ’d to be.
The meanest Wretch puts an inestimable value upon himself, and the highest wish of the Ambitious Man is to have all the World, as to that particular, of his Opinion: So that the most insatiable Thurst after Fame that ever Heroe was inspired with, was never more than an ungovernable Greediness to engross the Esteem and Admiration of others in future Ages as well as his own; and (what Mortification soever this Truth might be to the second Thoughts of an Alexander or a Caesar) the great Recompence in view, for which the most exalted Minds have with so much Alacrity, sacrifis’d their Quiet, Health, sensual Pleasures, and every inch of themselves, has never been any thing else but the Breath of Man, the Aerial Coyn of Praise. Who can forbear laughing when he thinks on all the great Men that have been so serious on the Subject of that Macedonian Madman, his capacious Soul, that mighty Heart, in one Corner of which, according to Lorenzo Gratian, the World was so commodiously Lodged, that in the whole there was room for Six more? Who can forbear Laughing, I say, when he compares the fine things that have been said of Alexander, with the End he proposed to himself from his vast Exploits, to be proved from his own Mouth; when the vast Pains he took to pass the Hydaspes forced him to cry out? Oh ye Athenians, could you believe what Dangers I expose my self to, to be praised by you! To define then the Reward of Glory in the amplest manner, the most that can be said of it, is, that it consists in a superlative Felicity which a Man, who is conscious of having perform’d a noble Action, enjoys in Self love, whilst he is thinking on the Applause he expects of others.
But here I shall be told, that besides the noisy Toils of War and publick Bustle of the Ambitious, there are noble and generous Actions that are perform’d in Silence; that Virtue beimg its own Reward, those who are really Good have a satisfaction in their Consciousness of being so, which is all the Recompence they expect from the most worthy Performances; that among the Heathens there have been Men, who when they did good to others, were so far from coveting Thanks and Applause, that they took all imaginable Care to be for ever conceal’d from those on whom they bestow’d their Benefits, and consequently that Pride has no hand in spurring Man on to the highest pitch of Self-denial.
In Answer to this I say, that it is impossible to judge of a Man’s Performance, unless we are thoroughly acquainted with the Principle and Motive from which he acts. Pity, tho’ it is the most gentle and the least mischievous of all our Passions, is yet as much a Frailty of our Nature, as Anger, Pride, or Fear. The weakest Minds have generally the greatest Share of it, for which Reason none are more Compassionate than Women and Children. It must be own’d, that of all our Weaknesses it is the most amiable, and bears the greatest Resemblance to Virtue; nay, without a considerable mixture of it the Society could hardly subsist: But as it is an impulse of Nature, that consults neither the publick merest nor our own Reason, it may produce Evil as well as Good. It has help’d to destroy the Honour of Virgins, and corrupted the integrity of Judges, and whoever acts from it as a Principle, what good soever he may bring to the Society, has nothmg to boast of but that he has indulged a Passion that has happened to be beneficial to the Publick. There is no Merit in saving an Innocent Babe ready to drop into the Fire: The Action is neither good nor bad, and what Benefit soever the Infant received, we only obliged our selves; for to have seen it fall, and not strove to hinder it, would have caused a Pain which Self-preservation compell’d us to prevent: Nor has a rich Prodigal, that happens to be of a commiserating Temper, and loves to gratify his Passions, greater Virtue to boast of when he relieves an Object of Compassion with what to himself is a trifle.
But such Men as without complying with any weakness of their own, can part from what they value themselves, and from no other Motive but their Love to Goodness, perform a worthy Action in Silence: Such Men, I confess, have acquir’d more refin’d Notions of Virtue than those I have hitherto spoke of; yet even in these (with which the World has yet never swarm’d) we may discover no small Symptoms of Pride, and the humblest Man alive must confess, that the Reward of a Virtuous Action, which is the Satisfaction that ensues upon it, consists in a certain Pleasure he procures to himself by Contemplatmg on his own Worth: Which Pleasure, together with the occasion of it, are as certain Signs of Pride, as looking pale and trembling at any imminent Danger, are the Symptoms of Fear.
If the too scrupulous Reader should at first View condemn these Notions concerning the Origin of Moral Virtue, and think them perhaps offensive to Christianity, I hope he’ll forbear his Censures, when he shall consider, that nothing can render the unsearchable depth of the Divine Wisdom more conspicuous than that Man, whom Providence had designed for Society, should not only by his own Frailties and Imperfections be led into the Road to Temporal Happiness, but likewise receive, from a seeming Necessity of Natural Causes, a Tincture of that Knowledge, in which he was afterwards to be made perfect by the True Religion, to his Eternal Welfare.