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fuity, are alike unknown; where, all being equal, the general harmony meets with no interruption, and the abundance of one ministers to the necessities of another ?
But as, in seeing a complicated piece of machinery, the most experienced artisan could not judge of its powers or defects without the opportunity of observing its action and operation : so the wisest philosopher can only reason upon the effect of peculiar situation on the intricate habits and passions of mankind, from what he knows by recorded experience and observation. And judging thus of the effect of equality upon the energies and happiness of mankind, it becomes no less undesirable in theory, than it is unattainable in general practice. Wherever equality is found to exist, and we have now a tolerable acquaintance with almost every region of the world, mankind are in the lowest and most savage state. Accordingly, those writers who have traced all the evils of human life to the inequalities of rank and condition, have been forced to
lay this paradox as their foundation : that the savage life, which is unwarrantably called the state of nature, is that state of happy security, every deviation from which begins in error, and terminates in wretchedness.
Rousseau laments the necessity of acknowledging, that “ the very distinctive faculty of man, that of progressive improvement, is the source of all his evils, because it carries him from the original condition in which he might pass his days in tranquillity and indolence.”* The of the Caribbee islands, who barter their hammock in the morning for some trifling gratification, and weep in the evening for its loss, are, according to one of their eulogists, “the most happy, the least vicious, the most social, the most healthy, and the least counterfeit of all the nations of the world.”+
- Is the savage op
* Discours sur l'Inégalité. He afterwards adds, “ Inequality, scarcely existing in a state of nature, grows with the growth of man's faculties and reason, and is permanently authorised by the establishment of property and laws."
+ Père du Tertre. Raynal was also a great admirer of savage life. These defend equality as it is found. Condorcet, Godwin, &c. only recommend an ideal equality, united with civilization.
pressed by superior fierceness and strength ? Let his enemy," says Rousseau, “ but once turn his head, the weaker darts twenty paces into the forest, his chains are broken, and he loses sight of his enemy for ever.”
That this freedom, carelessness, and indolence, are the compensations which savages enjoy for many of the advantages which their circumstances deny them, I shall have occasion hereafter to prove more explicitly : but it never can be allowed that the perfection of existence is compatible with insensibility to improvement, or that happiness is consistent with ignorance of rational enjoyment. It is forgotten by the querulous and disappointed advocates of savage life, that the evils of society do not owe their birth to civilization, but spring up in spite of it; and are to be referred to the nature of man, not to the constitution of society. The same course of argument might reject agriculture, because weeds thrive quickest in the richest soil.
A partial survey of civilized life represents, it is true, each individual neglectful of the general good, and struggling merely for the advancement of his own; flourishing by the discomfiture of competitors, and elevated by the depression of his brethren. But the other side of the picture shows individual advantage terminating in public benefits, and the desire of aggrandizement which is stimulated by ambition domestic partialities, contributing towards the welfare of the community at large. Man, in all situations, has both opportunity and inclination for vice, though all vices do not flourish equally in all situations. But ferocity, intemperance, and revenge, if they are not worse, certainly are not better than avarice, rapacity, or luxury : whilst the savage vices have no compensation of delicate taste, refined manners, improved understanding, or exalted virtues. A contest for riches or power does not more disturb the harmony of life, than the disputed possession of a palm-tree or a cabin : but the latter produces no other fruit than private rancour or revengeful malice: the former enriches the state by the addition of two active and useful citizens.
The argument, however, requires that it should be distinctly shown, why that state of civilization which admits and consists of a gradation of ranks and of unequal conditions, is precisely the situation which affords to man the best opportunities of performing the purposes of his being
I. If we except that lowest species of the human race which the increase of population has driven to seek subsistence at the utmost verge of the habitable globe, and which seem to mark the ultimate point of degradation to which man can descend, no country is known to which the distinction of ranks is altogether wanting. The bravest warrior, or the most skilful hunter, becomes the chief of his tribe : nor can precedence exist, even of this rude sort, without exciting some emulation. But as this influence does not extend to the division of property,