. 9
( 13)


not only lose all care about one another, but all remembrance of their
common origin, and of the connection which took place among their
ancestors. Regard for remote relations becomes, in every country, less
and less, according as this state of civilization has been longer and
more completely established. It has been longer and more completely
established in England than in Scotland; and remote relations are,
accordingly, more considered in the latter country than in the for-
mer, though, in this respect, the difference between the two countries
is growing less and less every day. Great lords, indeed, are, in every
country, proud of remembering and acknowledging their connection
with one another, however remote. The remembrance of such illus-
trious relations ¬‚atters not a little the family pride of them all; and
it is neither from affection, nor from any thing which resembles af-
fection, but from the most frivolous and childish of all vanities, that
this remembrance is so carefully kept up. Should some more humble,
though, perhaps, much nearer kinsman, presume to put such great
men in mind of his relation to their family, they seldom fail to tell him
that they are bad genealogists, and miserably ill-informed concerning
their own family history. It is not in that order, I am afraid, that we
are to expect any extraordinary extension of, what is called, natural

± I consider what is called natural affection as more the effect of the
moral than of the supposed physical connection between the parent

Of the character of virtue

and the child. A jealous husband, indeed, notwithstanding the moral
connection, notwithstanding the child™s having been educated in his
own house, often regards, with hatred and aversion, that unhappy
child which he supposes to be the offspring of his wife™s in¬delity. It
is the lasting monument of a most disagreeable adventure; of his own
dishonour, and of the disgrace of his family.

±µ Among well-disposed people, the necessity or conveniency of mutual
accommodation, very frequently produces a friendship not unlike that
which takes place among those who are born to live in the same family.
Colleagues in of¬ce, partners in trade, call one another brothers; and
frequently feel towards one another as if they really were so. Their good
agreement is an advantage to all; and, if they are tolerably reasonable
people, they are naturally disposed to agree. We expect that they should
do so; and their disagreement is a sort of a small scandal. The Romans
expressed this sort of attachment by the word necessitudo, which, from
the etymology, seems to denote that it was imposed by the necessity
of the situation.±µ

± Even the tri¬‚ing circumstance of living in the same neighbourhood,
has some effect of the same kind. We respect the face of a man whom
we see every day, provided he has never offended us. Neighbours can
be very convenient, and they can be very troublesome, to one another.
If they are good sort of people, they are naturally disposed to agree.
We expect their good agreement; and to be a bad neighbour is a very
bad character. There are certain small good of¬ces, accordingly, which
are universally allowed to be due to a neighbour in preference to any
other person who has no such connection.

±· This natural disposition to accommodate and to assimilate, as much
as we can, our own sentiments, principles, and feelings, to those which
we see ¬xed and rooted in the persons whom we are obliged to live and
converse a great deal with, is the cause of the contagious effects of both
good and bad company. The man who associates chie¬‚y with the wise
and the virtuous, though he may not himself become either wise or

±µ The root meanings are need and inevitableness, and the latter came to be used for moral and legal
links, i.e. for friendship and relationship, as in older English ˜necessitude™.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

virtuous, cannot help conceiving a certain respect at least for wisdom
and virtue; and the man who associates chie¬‚y with the pro¬‚igate and
the dissolute, though he may not himself become pro¬‚igate and disso-
lute, must soon lose, at least, all his original abhorrence of pro¬‚igacy
and dissolution of manners. The similarity of family characters, which
we so frequently see transmitted through several successive genera-
tions, may, perhaps, be partly owing to this disposition, to assimilate
ourselves to those whom we are obliged to live and converse a great
deal with. The family character, however, like the family countenance,
seems to be owing, not altogether to the moral, but partly too to the
physical connection. The family countenance is certainly altogether
owing to the latter.

± But of all attachments to an individual, that which is founded alto-
gether upon esteem and approbation of his good conduct and be-
haviour, con¬rmed by much experience and long acquaintance, is, by
far, the most respectable. Such friendships, arising not from a con-
strained sympathy, not from a sympathy which has been assumed and
rendered habitual for the sake of conveniency and accommodation;
but from a natural sympathy, from an involuntary feeling that the per-
sons to whom we attach ourselves are the natural and proper objects of
esteem and approbation; can exist only among men of virtue. Men of
virtue only can feel that entire con¬dence in the conduct and behaviour
of one another, which can, at all times, assure them that they can never
either offend or be offended by one another. Vice is always capricious:
virtue only is regular and orderly. The attachment which is founded
upon the love of virtue, as it is certainly, of all attachments, the most
virtuous; so it is likewise the happiest, as well as the most permanent
and secure. Such friendships need not be con¬ned to a single person,
but may safely embrace all the wise and virtuous, with whom we have
been long and intimately acquainted, and upon whose wisdom and
virtue we can, upon that account, entirely depend. They who would
con¬ne friendship to two persons, seem to confound the wise secu-
rity of friendship with the jealousy and folly of love. The hasty, fond,
and foolish intimacies of young people, founded, commonly, upon
some slight similarity of character, altogether unconnected with good
conduct, upon a taste, perhaps, for the same studies, the same amuse-
ments, the same diversions, or upon their agreement in some singular

Of the character of virtue

principle or opinion, not commonly adopted; those intimacies which
a freak begins, and which a freak puts an end to, how agreeable soever
they may appear while they last, can by no means deserve the sacred
and venerable name of friendship.

± Of all the persons, however, whom nature points out for our pecu-
liar bene¬cence, there are none to whom it seems more properly di-
rected than to those whose bene¬cence we have ourselves already
experienced.± Nature, which formed men for that mutual kindness,
so necessary for their happiness, renders every man the peculiar ob-
ject of kindness, to the persons to whom he himself has been kind.
Though their gratitude should not always correspond to his benef-
icence, yet the sense of his merit, the sympathetic gratitude of the
impartial spectator, will always correspond to it. The general indig-
nation of other people, against the baseness of their ingratitude, will
even, sometimes, increase the general sense of his merit. No benevo-
lent man ever lost altogether the fruits of his benevolence. If he does
not always gather them from the persons from whom he ought to have
gathered them, he seldom fails to gather them, and with a tenfold
increase, from other people. Kindness is the parent of kindness; and
if to be beloved by our brethren be the great object of our ambition,
the surest way of obtaining it is, by our conduct to show that we really
love them.

° After the persons who are recommended to our bene¬cence, either
by their connection with ourselves, by their personal qualities, or
by their past services, come those who are pointed out, not indeed
to, what is called, our friendship, but to our benevolent attention
and good of¬ces; those who are distinguished by their extraordi-
nary situation; the greatly fortunate and the greatly unfortunate, the
rich and the powerful, the poor and the wretched. The distinction
of ranks,±· the peace and order of society, are, in a great measure,
founded upon the respect which we naturally conceive for the for-
mer. The relief and consolation of human misery depend altogether
upon our compassion for the latter. The peace and order of society,

± ±·
Cf. II.ii.±. above. Cf. I.iii. above.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

is of more importance than even the relief of the miserable.± Our
respect for the great, accordingly, is most apt to offend by its excess;
our fellow-feeling for the miserable, by its defect. Moralists exhort
us to charity and compassion. They warn us against the fascination
of greatness. This fascination, indeed, is so powerful, that the rich
and the great are too often preferred to the wise and the virtuous.
Nature has wisely judged that the distinction of ranks, the peace and
order of society, would rest more securely upon the plain and pal-
pable difference of birth and fortune, than upon the invisible and
often uncertain difference of wisdom and virtue. The undistinguish-
ing eyes of the great mob of mankind can well enough perceive the
former: it is with dif¬culty that the nice discernment of the wise and
the virtuous can sometimes distinguish the latter. In the order of all
those recommendations, the benevolent wisdom of nature is equally

± It may, perhaps, be unnecessary to observe, that the combination
of two, or more, of those exciting causes of kindness, increases the
kindness. The favour and partiality which, when there is no envy in
the case, we naturally bear to greatness, are much increased when it
is joined with wisdom and virtue. If, notwithstanding that wisdom
and virtue, the great man should fall into those misfortunes, those
dangers and distresses, to which the most exalted stations are often
the most exposed, we are much more deeply interested in his for-
tune than we should be in that of a person equally virtuous, but in
a more humble situation. The most interesting subjects of tragedies
and romances are the misfortunes of virtuous and magnanimous kings
and princes. If, by the wisdom and manhood of their exertions, they
should extricate themselves from those misfortunes, and recover com-
pletely their former superiority and security, we cannot help viewing
them with the most enthusiastic and even extravagant admiration.
The grief which we felt for their distress, the joy which we feel for
their prosperity, seem to combine together in enhancing that partial
admiration which we naturally conceive both for the station and the
± Cf. II.ii.± above.

Of the character of virtue

 When those different bene¬cent affections happen to draw different
ways, to determine by any precise rules in what cases we ought to com-
ply with the one, and in what with the other, is, perhaps, altogether
impossible. In what cases friendship ought to yield to gratitude, or
gratitude to friendship; in what cases the strongest of all natural af-
fections ought to yield to a regard for the safety of those superiors upon
whose safety often depends that of the whole society; and in what cases
natural affection may, without impropriety, prevail over that regard;
must be left altogether to the decision of the man within the breast,
the supposed impartial spectator, the great judge and arbiter of our
conduct. If we place ourselves completely in his situation, if we really
view ourselves with his eyes, and as he views us, and listen with dili-
gent and reverential attention to what he suggests to us, his voice will
never deceive us. We shall stand in need of no casuistic rules to direct
our conduct.± These it is often impossible to accommodate to all the
different shades and gradations of circumstance, character, and situa-
tion, to differences and distinctions which, though not imperceptible,
are, by their nicety and delicacy, often altogether unde¬nable. In that
beautiful tragedy of Voltaire, the Orphan of China,° while we admire
the magnanimity of Zamti, who is willing to sacri¬ce the life of his
own child, in order to preserve that of the only feeble remnant of
his ancient sovereigns and masters; we not only pardon, but love the
maternal tenderness of Idame, who, at the risque of discovering the
important secret of her husband, reclaims her infant from the cruel
hands of the Tartars, into which it had been delivered.

Chapter II Of the order in which societies are by nature
recommended to our bene¬cence
± The same principles that direct the order in which individuals are
recommended to our bene¬cence, direct that likewise in which soci-
eties are recommended to it. Those to which it is, or may be of most
importance, are ¬rst and principally recommended to it.

± Cf. VII.iv.·“µ below.
° L™Orphelin de la Chine (±·µµ), a favourite of Smith™s, cf. ˜Letter to the Editors of the Edinburgh
Review™, ±· (in EPS).

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

 The state or sovereignty in which we have been born and educated,
and under the protection of which we continue to live, is, in ordinary
cases, the greatest society upon whose happiness or misery, our good
or bad conduct can have much in¬‚uence. It is accordingly, by nature,
most strongly recommended to us.± Not only we ourselves, but all
the objects of our kindest affections, our children, our parents, our
relations, our friends, our benefactors, all those whom we naturally
love and revere the most, are commonly comprehended within it;
and their prosperity and safety depend in some measure upon its
prosperity and safety. It is by nature, therefore, endeared to us, not
only by all our sel¬sh, but by all our private benevolent affections.
Upon account of our own connexion with it, its prosperity and glory
seem to re¬‚ect some sort of honour upon ourselves. When we compare
it with other societies of the same kind, we are proud of its superiority,
and morti¬ed in some degree, if it appears in any respect below them.
All the illustrious characters which it has produced in former times
(for against those of our own times envy may sometimes prejudice us
a little), its warriors, its statesmen, its poets, its philosophers, and men
of letters of all kinds; we are disposed to view with the most partial
admiration, and to rank them (sometimes most unjustly) above those
of all other nations. The patriot who lays down his life for the safety,
or even for the vain-glory of this society, appears to act with the most
exact propriety. He appears to view himself in the light in which
the impartial spectator naturally and necessarily views him, as but
one of the multitude, in the eye of that equitable judge, of no more
consequence than any other in it, but bound at all times to sacri¬ce and
devote himself to the safety, to the service, and even to the glory of the
greater number. But though this sacri¬ce appears to be perfectly just
and proper, we know how dif¬cult it is to make it, and how few people
are capable of making it. His conduct, therefore, excites not only our
entire approbation, but our highest wonder and admiration, and seems
to merit all the applause which can be due to the most heroic virtue.
The traitor, on the contrary, who, in some peculiar situation, fancies
he can promote his own little interest by betraying to the public enemy
that of his native country; who, regardless of the judgment of the man

± Cf. Cicero, De of¬ciis, I.xvii.µ·.

Of the character of virtue

within the breast, prefers himself, in this respect so shamefully and so
basely, to all those with whom he has any connexion; appears to be of
all villains the most detestable.

 The love of our own nation often disposes us to view, with the most
malignant jealousy and envy, the prosperity and aggrandisement of any
other neighbouring nation. Independent and neighbouring nations,
having no common superior to decide their disputes, all live in con-
tinual dread and suspicion of one another. Each sovereign, expecting
little justice from his neighbours, is disposed to treat them with as
little as he expects from them. The regard for the laws of nations, or
for those rules which independent states profess or pretend to think
themselves bound to observe in their dealings with one another, is
often very little more than mere pretence and profession. From the
smallest interest, upon the slightest provocation, we see those rules
every day, either evaded or directly violated without shame or remorse.
Each nation foresees, or imagines it foresees, its own subjugation in
the increasing power and aggrandisement of any of its neighbours;
and the mean principle of national prejudice is often founded upon
the noble one of the love of our own country. The sentence with which
the elder Cato is said to have concluded every speech which he made
in the senate, whatever might be the subject, ˜It is my opinion like-
wise that Carthage ought to be destroyed,™ was the natural expression
of the savage patriotism of a strong but coarse mind, enraged almost
to madness against a foreign nation from which his own had suffered
so much. The more humane sentence with which Scipio Nasica is
said to have concluded all his speeches, ˜It is my opinion likewise that
Carthage ought not to be destroyed,™ was the liberal expression of a more
enlarged and enlightened mind, who felt no aversion to the prosperity
even of an old enemy, when reduced to a state which could no longer
be formidable to Rome. France and England may each of them have
some reason to dread the increase of the naval and military power of
the other; but for either of them to envy the internal happiness and
prosperity of the other, the cultivation of its lands, the advancement

 Plutarch, Lives, Marcus Cato, ·. Concerning Cato, see note  at V..±° above. Scipio Nasica was
consul in ± BC.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

of its manufactures, the increase of its commerce, the security and
number of its ports and harbours, its pro¬ciency in all the liberal arts
and sciences, is surely beneath the dignity of two such great nations.
These are all real improvements of the world we live in. Mankind are
bene¬ted, human nature is ennobled by them. In such improvements
each nation ought, not only to endeavour itself to excel, but from the
love of mankind, to promote, instead of obstructing the excellence of
its neighbours. These are all proper objects of national emulation, not
of national prejudice or envy.

 The love of our own country seems not to be derived from the love of
mankind. The former sentiment is altogether independent of the lat-
ter, and seems sometimes even to dispose us to act inconsistently with
it. France may contain, perhaps, near three times the number of inhab-
itants which Great Britain contains. In the great society of mankind,
therefore, the prosperity of France should appear to be an object of
much greater importance than that of Great Britain. The British sub-
ject, however, who, upon that account, should prefer upon all occasions
the prosperity of the former to that of the latter country, would not be
thought a good citizen of Great Britain. We do not love our country
merely as a part of the great society of mankind: we love it for its
own sake, and independently of any such consideration. That wisdom
which contrived the system of human affections, as well as that of every
other part of nature, seems to have judged that the interest of the great
society of mankind would be best promoted by directing the principal
attention of each individual to that particular portion of it, which was
most within the sphere both of his abilities and of his understanding.

µ National prejudices and hatreds seldom extend beyond neighbouring
nations. We very weakly and foolishly, perhaps, call the French our
natural enemies; and they perhaps, as weakly and foolishly, consider
us in the same manner. Neither they nor we bear any sort of envy
to the prosperity of China or Japan. It very rarely happens, however,
that our good-will towards such distant countries can be exerted with
much effect.
 In WN V.ii.k.· Smith estimates the population of France as  or  million, ˜three times the
number perhaps contained in Great Britain™.

Of the character of virtue

 The most extensive public benevolence which can commonly be ex-
erted with any considerable effect, is that of the statesmen, who project
and form alliances among neighbouring or not very distant nations,
for the preservation either of, what is called, the balance of power,
or of the general peace and tranquillity of the states within the circle
of their negotiations. The statesmen, however, who plan and execute
such treaties, have seldom any thing in view, but the interest of their
respective countries. Sometimes, indeed, their views are more exten-
sive. The Count d™Avaux, the plenipotentiary of France, at the treaty
of Munster, would have been willing to sacri¬ce his life (according
to the Cardinal de Retz, a man not over-credulous in the virtue of
other people) in order to have restored, by that treaty, the general
tranquillity of Europe. King William seems to have had a real zeal
for the liberty and independency of the greater part of the sovereign
states of Europe; which, perhaps, might be a good deal stimulated
by his particular aversion to France, the state from which, during his
time, that liberty and independency were principally in danger. Some
share of the same spirit seems to have descended to the ¬rst ministry
of Queen Anne.µ

· Every independent state is divided into many different orders and
societies, each of which has its own particular powers, privileges, and
immunities. Every individual is naturally more attached to his own
particular order or society, than to any other. His own interest, his own
vanity, the interest and vanity of many of his friends and companions,
are commonly a good deal connected with it. He is ambitious to extend
its privileges and immunities. He is zealous to defend them against
the encroachments of every other order or society.
 Claude de Mesmes, comte d™Avaux (±µµ“±µ°) was French representative at the conferences in
M¨ nster and Osnabr¨ ck which ended the Thirty Years War in Europe in ±, the so-called Peace
u u
of Westphalia. The reference is to de Retz™ M´moires, under September ±µ° (see note to I.iii..±±
µ Both as Stadtholder of the Netherlands (±·“±·°) and as King of England (±“±·°) William
III (±µ°“±·°) sought to contain Louis XIV™s France through shifting alliances and long wars
(±·“ and ±“·). Queen Anne (±µ“±·±) succeeded William in ±·° and her ¬rst ministry
was a coalition of Whigs and Tories dominated by the Earl of Godolphin (Sidney Godolphin,
±µ“±·±) who, as Lord High Treasurer, secured the ¬nancial basis for British participation in
the Grand Alliance against France in the War of the Spanish Succession (±·°±“±) in which the
military leader was the Duke of Marlborough ( John Churchill, ±µ°“±·).

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

 Upon the manner in which any state is divided into the different orders
and societies which compose it, and upon the particular distribution
which has been made of their respective powers, privileges, and im-
munities, depends, what is called, the constitution of that particular

 Upon the ability of each particular order or society to maintain its
own powers, privileges, and immunities, against the encroachments of
every other, depends the stability of that particular constitution. That
particular constitution is necessarily more or less altered, whenever
any of its subordinate parts is either raised above or depressed below
whatever had been its former rank and condition.

±° All those different orders and societies are dependent upon the state
to which they owe their security and protection. That they are all
subordinate to that state, and established only in subserviency to its
prosperity and preservation, is a truth acknowledged by the most par-
tial member of every one of them. It may often, however, be hard to
convince him that the prosperity and preservation of the state require
any diminution of the powers, privileges, and immunities of his own
particular order or society. This partiality, though it may sometimes
be unjust, may not, upon that account, be useless. It checks the spirit
of innovation. It tends to preserve whatever is the established balance
among the different orders and societies into which the state is di-
vided; and while it sometimes appears to obstruct some alterations
of government which may be fashionable and popular at the time, it
contributes in reality to the stability and permanency of the whole

±± The love of our country seems, in ordinary cases, to involve in it
two different principles; ¬rst, a certain respect and reverence for that
constitution or form of government which is actually established; and
secondly, an earnest desire to render the condition of our fellow-
citizens as safe, respectable, and happy as we can. He is not a citizen
who is not disposed to respect the laws and to obey the civil magistrate;
and he is certainly not a good citizen who does not wish to promote,
by every means in his power, the welfare of the whole society of his

Of the character of virtue

± In peaceable and quiet times, those two principles generally coincide
and lead to the same conduct. The support of the established gov-
ernment seems evidently the best expedient for maintaining the safe,
respectable, and happy situation of our fellow-citizens; when we see
that this government actually maintains them in that situation. But in
times of public discontent, faction, and disorder, those two different
principles may draw different ways, and even a wise man may be dis-
posed to think some alteration necessary in that constitution or form
of government, which, in its actual condition, appears plainly unable
to maintain the public tranquillity. In such cases, however, it often
requires, perhaps, the highest effort of political wisdom to determine
when a real patriot ought to support and endeavour to re-establish
the authority of the old system, and when he ought to give way to the
more daring, but often dangerous spirit of innovation.

± Foreign war and civil faction are the two situations which afford the
most splendid opportunities for the display of public spirit. The hero
who serves his country successfully in foreign war grati¬es the wishes
of the whole nation, and is, upon that account, the object of universal
gratitude and admiration. In times of civil discord, the leaders of the
contending parties, though they may be admired by one half of their
fellow-citizens, are commonly execrated by the other. Their characters
and the merit of their respective services appear commonly more
doubtful. The glory which is acquired by foreign war is, upon this
account, almost always more pure and more splendid than that which
can be acquired in civil faction.

± The leader of the successful party, however, if he has authority enough
to prevail upon his own friends to act with proper temper and mod-
eration (which he frequently has not), may sometimes render to his
country a service much more essential and important than the great-
est victories and the most extensive conquests. He may re-establish
and improve the constitution, and from the very doubtful and am-
biguous character of the leader of a party, he may assume the greatest
and noblest of all characters, that of the reformer and legislator of a
great state; and, by the wisdom of his institutions, secure the internal

 Cf. III...

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

tranquillity and happiness of his fellow-citizens for many succeeding

±µ Amidst the turbulence and disorder of faction, a certain spirit of system
is apt to mix itself with that public spirit which is founded upon the
love of humanity, upon a real fellow-feeling with the inconveniencies
and distresses to which some of our fellow-citizens may be exposed.
This spirit of system commonly takes the direction of that more gentle
public spirit; always animates it, and often in¬‚ames it even to the
madness of fanaticism. The leaders of the discontented party seldom
fail to hold out some plausible plan of reformation which, they pretend,
will not only remove the inconveniencies and relieve the distresses
immediately complained of, but will prevent, in all time coming, any
return of the like inconveniencies and distresses. They often propose,
upon this account, to new-model the constitution, and to alter, in some
of its most essential parts, that system of government under which
the subjects of a great empire have enjoyed, perhaps, peace, security,
and even glory, during the course of several centuries together. The
great body of the party are commonly intoxicated with the imaginary
beauty of this ideal system, of which they have no experience, but
which has been represented to them in all the most dazzling colours
in which the eloquence of their leaders could paint it. Those leaders
themselves, though they originally may have meant nothing but their
own aggrandisement, become many of them in time the dupes of
their own sophistry, and are as eager for this great reformation as
the weakest and foolishest of their followers. Even though the leaders
should have preserved their own heads, as indeed they commonly
do, free from this fanaticism, yet they dare not always disappoint the
expectation of their followers; but are often obliged, though contrary
to their principle and their conscience, to act as if they were under the
common delusion. The violence of the party, refusing all palliatives, all
temperaments, all reasonable accommodations, by requiring too much
frequently obtains nothing; and those inconveniencies and distresses
which, with a little moderation, might in a great measure have been
removed and relieved, are left altogether without the hope of a remedy.

± The man whose public spirit is prompted altogether by humanity and
benevolence, will respect the established powers and privileges even

Of the character of virtue

of individuals, and still more those of the great orders and societies,
into which the state is divided. Though he should consider some
of them as in some measure abusive, he will content himself with
moderating, what he often cannot annihilate without great violence.
When he cannot conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason
and persuasion, he will not attempt to subdue them by force; but will
religiously observe what, by Cicero, is justly called the divine maxim of
Plato,· never to use violence to his country no more than to his parents.
He will accommodate, as well as he can, his public arrangements to
the con¬rmed habits and prejudices of the people; and will remedy as
well as he can, the inconveniencies which may ¬‚ow from the want of
those regulations which the people are averse to submit to. When he
cannot establish the right, he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong;
but like Solon, when he cannot establish the best system of laws, he
will endeavour to establish the best that the people can bear.

±· The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own
conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his
own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest devi-
ation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in
all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the
strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he
can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease
as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does
not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other prin-
ciple of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but
that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has
a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which
the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles
coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will
go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and suc-
cessful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably,
and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.
· Plato, Crito, µ±c, cited by Cicero in Epistulae ad Familiares, I.ix.±. In LJ (A) v.± and LJ (B) ±µ
Smith says that the Tories ˜pretend™ that rebellion against government is the same as rebellion
against a parent and hence impious.
 Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Solon, ±µ. Solon (c. °“after µ± reformed many aspects of the
Athenian legal system, including its constitution.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

± Some general, and even systematical, idea of the perfection of policy
and law, may no doubt be necessary for directing the views of the states-
man. But to insist upon establishing, and upon establishing all at once,
and in spite of all opposition, every thing which that idea may seem
to require, must often be the highest degree of arrogance. It is to erect
his own judgment into the supreme standard of right and wrong. It is
to fancy himself the only wise and worthy man in the commonwealth,
and that his fellow-citizens should accommodate themselves to him
and not he to them. It is upon this account, that of all political specula-
tors, sovereign princes are by far the most dangerous. This arrogance
is perfectly familiar to them. They entertain no doubt of the immense
superiority of their own judgment. When such imperial and royal
reformers, therefore, condescend to contemplate the constitution of
the country which is committed to their government, they seldom see
any thing so wrong in it as the obstructions which it may sometimes
oppose to the execution of their own will. They hold in contempt the
divine maxim of Plato, and consider the state as made for themselves,
not themselves for the state. The great object of their reformation,
therefore, is to remove those obstructions; to reduce the authority of
the nobility; to take away the privileges of cities and provinces, and to
render both the greatest individuals and the greatest orders of the state,
as incapable of opposing their commands, as the weakest and most

Chapter III Of universal benevolence
± Though our effectual good of¬ces can very seldom be extended to any
wider society than that of our own country; our good-will is circum-
scribed by no boundary, but may embrace the immensity of the universe.
We cannot form the idea of any innocent and sensible being, whose hap-
piness we should not desire, or to whose misery, when distinctly brought
home to the imagination, we should not have some degree of aversion.
The idea of a mischievous, though sensible, being, indeed, naturally
provokes our hatred: but the ill-will which, in this case, we bear to
it, is really the effect of our universal benevolence. It is the effect of
the sympathy which we feel with the misery and resentment of those
other innocent and sensible beings, whose happiness is disturbed by its

Of the character of virtue

 This universal benevolence, how noble and generous soever, can be
the source of no solid happiness to any man who is not thoroughly
convinced that all the inhabitants of the universe, the meanest as well
as the greatest, are under the immediate care and protection of that
great, benevolent, and all-wise Being, who directs all the movements
of nature; and who is determined, by his own unalterable perfections,
to maintain in it, at all times, the greatest possible quantity of happi-
ness. To this universal benevolence, on the contrary, the very suspicion
of a fatherless world, must be the most melancholy of all re¬‚ections;
from the thought that all the unknown regions of in¬nite and incom-
prehensible space may be ¬lled with nothing but endless misery and
wretchedness. All the splendour of the highest prosperity can never
enlighten the gloom with which so dreadful an idea must necessarily
over-shadow the imagination; nor, in a wise and virtuous man, can all
the sorrow of the most af¬‚icting adversity ever dry up the joy which
necessarily springs from the habitual and thorough conviction of the
truth of the contrary system.

 The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private
interest should be sacri¬ced to the public interest of his own particular
order or society. He is at all times willing, too, that the interest of
this order or society should be sacri¬ced to the greater interest of the
state or sovereignty, of which it is only a subordinate part. He should,
therefore, be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be
sacri¬ced to the greater interest of the universe, to the interest of that
great society of all sensible and intelligent beings, of which God himself
is the immediate administrator and director. If he is deeply impressed
with the habitual and thorough conviction that this benevolent and all-
wise Being can admit into the system of his government, no partial evil
which is not necessary for the universal good, he must consider all the
misfortunes which may befall himself, his friends, his society, or his
country, as necessary for the prosperity of the universe, and therefore
as what he ought, not only to submit to with resignation, but as what
he himself, if he had known all the connexions and dependencies of
things, ought sincerely and devoutly to have wished for.

 Nor does this magnanimous resignation to the will of the great Director
of the universe, seem in any respect beyond the reach of human nature.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Good soldiers, who both love and trust their general, frequently march
with more gaiety and alacrity to the forlorn station, from which they
never expect to return, than they would to one where there was neither
dif¬culty nor danger. In marching to the latter, they could feel no other
sentiment than that of the dulness of ordinary duty: in marching to the
former, they feel that they are making the noblest exertion which it is
possible for man to make. They know that their general would not have
ordered them upon this station, had it not been necessary for the safety
of the army, for the success of the war. They cheerfully sacri¬ce their
own little systems to the prosperity of a greater system. They take an
affectionate leave of their comrades, to whom they wish all happiness
and success; and march out, not only with submissive obedience, but
often with shouts of the most joyful exultation, to that fatal, but splendid
and honourable station to which they are appointed. No conductor of
an army can deserve more unlimited trust, more ardent and zealous
affection, than the great Conductor of the universe. In the greatest
public as well as private disasters, a wise man ought to consider that he
himself, his friends and countrymen, have only been ordered upon the
forlorn station of the universe; that had it not been necessary for the
good of the whole, they would not have been so ordered; and that it is
their duty, not only with humble resignation to submit to this allotment,
but to endeavour to embrace it with alacrity and joy. A wise man should
surely be capable of doing what a good soldier holds himself at all times
in readiness to do.

µ The idea of that divine Being, whose benevolence and wisdom have,
from all eternity, contrived and conducted the immense machine of the
universe, so as at all times to produce the greatest possible quantity of
happiness, is certainly of all the objects of human contemplation by far
the most sublime. Every other thought necessarily appears mean in the
comparison. The man whom we believe to be principally occupied in
this sublime contemplation, seldom fails to be the object of our highest
veneration; and though his life should be altogether contemplative, we
often regard him with a sort of religious respect much superior to that
with which we look upon the most active and useful servant of the
commonwealth. The Meditations of Marcus Antoninus, which turn
 Marcus Aurelius (±±“° AD) became Roman Emperor, adding Antoninus to his name, in ±±. His
Stoic Meditations were written during the last ten years of his life and published posthumously.

Of the character of virtue

principally upon this subject, have contributed more, perhaps, to the
general admiration of his character, than all the different transactions
of his just, merciful, and bene¬cent reign.

 The administration of the great system of the universe, however, the
care of the universal happiness of all rational and sensible beings, is the
business of God and not of man. To man is allotted a much humbler
department, but one much more suitable to the weakness of his powers,
and to the narrowness of his comprehension; the care of his own hap-
piness, of that of his family, his friends, his country: that he is occupied
in contemplating the more sublime, can never be an excuse for his ne-
glecting the more humble department; and he must not expose himself
to the charge which Avidius Cassius is said to have brought, perhaps
unjustly, against Marcus Antoninus; that while he employed himself
in philosophical speculations, and contemplated the prosperity of the
universe, he neglected that of the Roman empire.° The most sublime
speculation of the contemplative philosopher can scarce compensate
the neglect of the smallest active duty.

Section III Of self-command
± The man who acts according to the rules of perfect prudence, of strict
justice, and of proper benevolence, may be said to be perfectly virtuous.
But the most perfect knowledge of those rules will not alone enable
him to act in this manner: his own passions are very apt to mislead
him; sometimes to drive him and sometimes to seduce him to violate
all the rules which he himself, in all his sober and cool hours, approves
of. The most perfect knowledge, if it is not supported by the most
perfect self-command, will not always enable him to do his duty.

 Some of the best of the ancient moralists seem to have considered
those passions as divided into two different classes: ¬rst, into those
which it requires a considerable exertion of self-command to restrain

° Smith is referring to the Historia Augusta (probably latter half of th century AD), a collection of
biographies of emperors and usurpers from ±±· to  AD which contains a great many forged
letters and other documents. Here it is a purported letter in the ˜Life of Avidius Cassius™ (d.
±·µ AD), a seditious commander of the Roman army in the eastern part of the Empire who had
declared himself Emperor. He was quickly assassinated.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

even for a single moment; and secondly, into those which it is easy to
restrain for a single moment, or even for a short period of time; but
which, by their continual and almost incessant solicitations, are, in the
course of a life, very apt to mislead into great deviations.

 Fear and anger, together with some other passions which are mixed
or connected with them, constitute the ¬rst class. The love of ease, of
pleasure, of applause, and of many other sel¬sh grati¬cations, consti-
tute the second. Extravagant fear and furious anger, it is often dif¬cult
to restrain even for a single moment. The love of ease, of pleasure, of
applause, and other sel¬sh grati¬cations, it is always easy to restrain for
a single moment, or even for a short period of time; but, by their con-
tinual solicitations, they often mislead us into many weaknesses which
we have afterwards much reason to be ashamed of. The former set of
passions may often be said to drive, the latter, to seduce us from our
duty. The command of the former was, by the ancient moralists above
alluded to, denominated fortitude, manhood, and strength of mind;
that of the latter, temperance, decency, modesty, and moderation.

 The command of each of those two sets of passions, independent of
the beauty which it derives from its utility; from its enabling us upon
all occasions to act according to the dictates of prudence, of justice, and
of proper benevolence; has a beauty of its own, and seems to deserve
for its own sake a certain degree of esteem and admiration. In the one
case, the strength and greatness of the exertion excites some degree of
that esteem and admiration. In the other, the uniformity, the equality
and unremitting steadiness of that exertion.

µ The man who, in danger, in torture, upon the approach of death,
preserves his tranquillity unaltered, and suffers no word, no gesture
to escape him which does not perfectly accord with the feelings of the
most indifferent spectator, necessarily commands a very high degree
of admiration. If he suffers in the cause of liberty and justice, for
the sake of humanity and the love of his country, the most tender
compassion for his sufferings, the strongest indignation against the
injustice of his persecutors, the warmest sympathetic gratitude for his
bene¬cent intentions, the highest sense of his merit, all join and mix
themselves with the admiration of his magnanimity, and often in¬‚ame

Of the character of virtue

that sentiment into the most enthusiastic and rapturous veneration.
The heroes of ancient and modern history, who are remembered with
the most peculiar favour and affection, are, many of them, those who,
in the cause of truth, liberty, and justice, have perished upon the
scaffold, and who behaved there with that ease and dignity which
became them. Had the enemies of Socrates suffered him to die quietly
in his bed, the glory even of that great philosopher might possibly
never have acquired that dazzling splendour in which it has been
beheld in all succeeding ages. In the English history, when we look
over the illustrious heads which have been engraven by Vertue and
Howbraken, there is scarce any body, I imagine, who does not feel that
the axe, the emblem of having been beheaded, which is engraved under
some of the most illustrious of them; under those of the Sir Thomas
Mores, of the Rhaleighs, the Russels, the Sydneys, etc. sheds a real
dignity and interestingness over the characters to which it is af¬xed,
much superior to what they can derive from all the futile ornaments
of heraldry, with which they are sometimes accompanied.±

 Nor does this magnanimity give lustre only to the characters of inno-
cent and virtuous men. It draws some degree of favourable regard even
upon those of the greatest criminals; and when a robber or highway-
man is brought to the scaffold, and behaves there with decency and
¬rmness, though we perfectly approve of his punishment, we often
cannot help regretting that a man who possessed such great and noble
powers should have been capable of such mean enormities.

· War is the great school both for acquiring and exercising this species
of magnanimity. Death, as we say, is the king of terrors; and the man
who has conquered the fear of death, is not likely to lose his pres-
ence of mind at the approach of any other natural evil. In war, men
become familiar with death, and are thereby necessarily cured of that
superstitious horror with which it is viewed by the weak and unexpe-
rienced. They consider it merely as the loss of life, and as no further

± See Thomas Birch, The Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain, engraven by Mr Houbraken,
and Mr Vertue. With their Lives and Characters (±·). Those listed were all executed: Sir Thomas
More (±·“±µµ) for high treason; Sir Walter Raleigh (±µµ“±±) for conspiracy against James
I; William, Lord Russell (±“) and Algernon Sidney (±?“) for high treason (in the Rye
House plot).

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

the object of aversion than as life may happen to be that of desire.
They learn from experience, too, that many seemingly great dan-
gers are not so great as they appear; and that, with courage, activity,
and presence of mind, there is often a good probability of extricat-
ing themselves with honour from situations where at ¬rst they could
see no hope. The dread of death is thus greatly diminished; and the
con¬dence or hope of escaping it, augmented. They learn to expose
themselves to danger with less reluctance. They are less anxious to
get out of it, and less apt to lose their presence of mind while they
are in it. It is this habitual contempt of danger and death which en-
nobles the profession of a soldier, and bestows upon it, in the natural
apprehensions of mankind, a rank and dignity superior to that of any
other profession. The skilful and successful exercise of this profes-
sion, in the service of their country, seems to have constituted the most
distinguishing feature in the character of the favourite heroes of all

 Great warlike exploit, though undertaken contrary to every principle
of justice, and carried on without any regard to humanity, sometimes
interests us, and commands even some degree of a certain sort of
esteem for the very worthless characters which conduct it. We are
interested even in the exploits of the Buccaneers; and read with
some sort of esteem and admiration, the history of the most worthless
men, who, in pursuit of the most criminal purposes, endured greater
hardships, surmounted greater dif¬culties, and encountered greater
dangers, than, perhaps, any which the ordinary course of history gives
an account of.

 The command of anger appears upon many occasions not less generous
and noble than that of fear. The proper expression of just indignation
composes many of the most splendid and admired passages both of
ancient and modern eloquence. The Philippics of Demosthenes, the
Catalinarians of Cicero, derive their whole beauty from the noble
 Pirates, a familiar phenomenon “ in fact as in literature “ in the seventeenth and eighteenth
 The Athenian statesman Demosthenes™ (“ BC) four speeches against Philip II of Macedon;
Cicero™s four speeches against Lucius Sergius Catilina (d.  BC) which disclosed the latter™s
revolutionary plans in  BC.

Of the character of virtue

propriety with which this passion is expressed. But this just indig-
nation is nothing but anger restrained and properly attempered to
what the impartial spectator can enter into. The blustering and noisy
passion which goes beyond this, is always odious and offensive, and
interests us, not for the angry man, but for the man with whom he
is angry. The nobleness of pardoning appears, upon many occasions,
superior even to the most perfect propriety of resenting. When either
proper acknowledgments have been made by the offending party;
or, even without any such acknowledgments, when the public inter-
est requires that the most mortal enemies should unite for the dis-
charge of some important duty, the man who can cast away all ani-
mosity, and act with con¬dence and cordiality towards the person who
had most grievously offended him, seems justly to merit our highest

±° The command of anger, however, does not always appear in such
splendid colours. Fear is contrary to anger, and is often the motive
which restrains it; and in such cases the meanness of the motive takes
away all the nobleness of the restraint. Anger prompts to attack, and
the indulgence of it seems sometimes to shew a sort of courage and
superiority to fear. The indulgence of anger is sometimes an object of
vanity. That of fear never is. Vain and weak men, among their inferiors,
or those who dare not resist them, often affect to be ostentatiously
passionate, and fancy that they show, what is called, spirit in being so.
A bully tells many stories of his own insolence, which are not true,
and imagines that he thereby renders himself, if not more amiable
and respectable, at least more formidable to his audience. Modern
manners, which, by favouring the practice of duelling, may be said,
in some cases, to encourage private revenge, contribute, perhaps, a
good deal to render, in modern times, the restraint of anger by fear
still more contemptible than it might otherwise appear to be. There is
always something digni¬ed in the command of fear, whatever may be
the motive upon which it is founded. It is not so with the command
of anger. Unless it is founded altogether in the sense of decency, of
dignity, and propriety, it never is perfectly agreeable.

 Cf. LJ (A) ii.±“. Duelling was common in the eighteenth century and a popular object of
moralists™ criticism of upper-class manners.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

±± To act according to the dictates of prudence, of justice, and proper
bene¬cence, seems to have no great merit where there is no temptation
to do otherwise. But to act with cool deliberation in the midst of the
greatest dangers and dif¬culties; to observe religiously the sacred rules
of justice in spite both of the greatest interests which might tempt, and
the greatest injuries which might provoke us to violate them; never to
suffer the benevolence of our temper to be damped or discouraged by
the malignity and ingratitude of the individuals towards whom it may
have been exercised; is the character of the most exalted wisdom and
virtue. Self-command is not only itself a great virtue, but from it all
the other virtues seem to derive their principal lustre.

± The command of fear, the command of anger, are always great and
noble powers. When they are directed by justice and benevolence,
they are not only great virtues, but increase the splendour of those
other virtues. They may, however, sometimes be directed by very dif-
ferent motives; and in this case, though still great and respectable,
they may be excessively dangerous. The most intrepid valour may be
employed in the cause of the greatest injustice. Amidst great provoca-
tions, apparent tranquillity and good humour may sometimes conceal
the most determined and cruel resolution to revenge. The strength of
mind requisite for such dissimulation, though always and necessarily
contaminated by the baseness of falsehood, has, however, been often
much admired by many people of no contemptible judgment. The dis-
simulation of Catharine of Medicis is often celebrated by the profound
historian Davila; that of Lord Digby, afterwards Earl of Bristol, by the
grave and conscientious Lord Clarendon; that of the ¬rst Ashley Earl
of Shaftesbury, by the judicious Mr. Locke.µ Even Cicero seems to
consider this deceitful character, not indeed as of the highest dignity,
but as not unsuitable to a certain ¬‚exibility of manners, which, he
thinks, may, notwithstanding, be, upon the whole, both agreeable and
respectable. He exempli¬es it by the characters of Homer™s Ulysses,
of the Athenian Themistocles, of the Spartan Lysander, and of the

µ Enrico Caterino Davila, Historia delle guerre civili di Francia (±°); Edward Hyde, ±st Earl of
Clarendon, History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (±·°“); John Locke, ˜Memoirs
relating to the life of Anthony, ¬rst Earl of Shaftesbury™, ¬rst published in Posthumous Works

Of the character of virtue

Roman Marcus Crassus. This character of dark and deep dissimula-
tion occurs most commonly in times of great public disorder; amidst
the violence of faction and civil war. When law has become in a great
measure impotent, when the most perfect innocence cannot alone in-
sure safety, regard to self-defence obliges the greater part of men to
have recourse to dexterity, to address, and to apparent accommoda-
tion to whatever happens to be, at the moment, the prevailing party.
This false character, too, is frequently accompanied with the coolest
and most determined courage. The proper exercise of it supposes that
courage, as death is commonly the certain consequence of detection.
It may be employed indifferently, either to exasperate or to allay those
furious animosities of adverse factions which impose the necessity
of assuming it; and though it may sometimes be useful, it is at least
equally liable to be excessively pernicious.

± The command of the less violent and turbulent passions seems much
less liable to be abused to any pernicious purpose. Temperance, de-
cency, modesty, and moderation, are always amiable, and can seldom
be directed to any bad end. It is from the unremitting steadiness of
those gentler exertions of self-command, that the amiable virtue of
chastity, that the respectable virtues of industry and frugality, derive
all that sober lustre which attends them. The conduct of all those who
are contented to walk in the humble paths of private and peaceable
life, derives from the same principle the greater part of the beauty and
grace which belong to it; a beauty and grace, which, though much less
dazzling, is not always less pleasing than those which accompany the
more splendid actions of the hero, the statesman, or the legislator.

± After what has already been said, in several different parts of this dis-
course, concerning the nature of self-command, I judge it unnecessary
to enter into any further detail concerning those virtues. I shall only
observe at present, that the point of propriety, the degree of any pas-
sion which the impartial spectator approves of, is differently situated
in different passions. In some passions the excess is less disagreeable
than the defect; and in such passions the point of propriety seems to
 Cicero, De of¬ciis, (Themistocles, Marcus Crassus and Lysander) and
I.xxx.±°·“ III.xxvi.·

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

stand high, or nearer to the excess than to the defect. In other passions,
the defect is less disagreeable than the excess; and in such passions the
point of propriety seems to stand low, or nearer to the defect than to
the excess. The former are the passions which the spectator is most,
the latter, those which he is least disposed to sympathize with. The
former, too, are the passions of which the immediate feeling or sensa-
tion is agreeable to the person principally concerned; the latter, those
of which it is disagreeable. It may be laid down as a general rule, that
the passions which the spectator is most disposed to sympathize with,
and in which, upon that account, the point of propriety may be said
to stand high, are those of which the immediate feeling or sensation is
more or less agreeable to the person principally concerned: and that,
on the contrary, the passions which the spectator is least disposed
to sympathize with, and in which, upon that account, the point of
propriety may be said to stand low, are those of which the immediate
feeling or sensation is more or less disagreeable, or even painful, to the
person principally concerned. This general rule, so far as I have been
able to observe, admits not of a single exception. A few examples will
at once, both suf¬ciently explain it and demonstrate the truth of it.

±µ The disposition to the affections which tend to unite men in soci-
ety, to humanity, kindness, natural affection, friendship, esteem, may
sometimes be excessive. Even the excess of this disposition, however,
renders a man interesting to every body. Though we blame it, we still
regard it with compassion, and even with kindness, and never with
dislike. We are more sorry for it than angry at it. To the person himself,
the indulgence even of such excessive affections is, upon many occa-
sions, not only agreeable, but delicious. Upon some occasions, indeed,
especially when directed, as is too often the case, towards unworthy
objects, it exposes him to much real and heartfelt distress. Even upon
such occasions, however, a well-disposed mind regards him with the
most exquisite pity, and feels the highest indignation against those
who affect to despise him for his weakness and imprudence. The de-
fect of this disposition, on the contrary, what is called hardness of
heart, while it renders a man insensible to the feelings and distresses
of other people, renders other people equally insensible to his; and,
by excluding him from the friendship of all the world, excludes him
from the best and most comfortable of all social enjoyments.

Of the character of virtue

± The disposition to the affections which drive men from one another,
and which tend, as it were, to break the bands of human society; the
disposition to anger, hatred, envy, malice, revenge; is, on the contrary,
much more apt to offend by its excess than by its defect. The excess
renders a man wretched and miserable in his own mind, and the object
of hatred, and sometimes even of horror, to other people. The defect
is very seldom complained of. It may, however, be defective. The want
of proper indignation is a most essential defect in the manly charac-
ter, and, upon many occasions, renders a man incapable of protecting
either himself or his friends from insult and injustice. Even that princi-
ple, in the excess and improper direction of which consists the odious
and detestable passion of envy, may be defective. Envy is that passion
which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are
really entitled to all the superiority they possess. The man, however,
who, in matters of consequence, tamely suffers other people, who are
entitled to no such superiority, to rise above him or get before him,
is justly condemned as mean-spirited. This weakness is commonly
founded in indolence, sometimes in good nature, in an aversion to
opposition, to bustle and solicitation, and sometimes, too, in a sort of
ill-judged magnanimity, which fancies that it can always continue to
despise the advantage which it then despises, and, therefore, so easily
gives up. Such weakness, however, is commonly followed by much re-
gret and repentance; and what had some appearance of magnanimity
in the beginning frequently gives place to a most malignant envy in
the end, and to a hatred of that superiority, which those who have once
attained it, may often become really entitled to, by the very circum-
stance of having attained it. In order to live comfortably in the world,
it is, upon all occasions, as necessary to defend our dignity and rank,
as it is to defend our life or our fortune.

±· Our sensibility to personal danger and distress, like that to personal
provocation, is much more apt to offend by its excess than by its defect.
No character is more contemptible than that of a coward; no character
is more admired than that of the man who faces death with intrepidity,
and maintains his tranquillity and presence of mind amidst the most
dreadful dangers. We esteem the man who supports pain and even
torture with manhood and ¬rmness; and we can have little regard for
him who sinks under them, and abandons himself to useless outcries

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

and womanish lamentations. A fretful temper, which feels, with too
much sensibility, every little cross accident, renders a man miserable
in himself and offensive to other people. A calm one, which does not
allow its tranquillity to be disturbed, either by the small injuries, or by
the little disasters incident to the usual course of human affairs; but
which, amidst the natural and moral evils infesting the world, lays its
account and is contented to suffer a little from both, is a blessing to
the man himself, and gives ease and security to all his companions.

± Our sensibility, however, both to our own injuries and to our own
misfortunes, though generally too strong, may likewise be too weak.
The man who feels little for his own misfortunes must always feel
less for those of other people, and be less disposed to relieve them.
The man who has little resentment for the injuries which are done
to himself, must always have less for those which are done to other
people, and be less disposed either to protect or to avenge them. A
stupid insensibility to the events of human life necessarily extinguishes
all that keen and earnest attention to the propriety of our own conduct,
which constitutes the real essence of virtue. We can feel little anxiety
about the propriety of our own actions, when we are indifferent about
the events which may result from them. The man who feels the full
distress of the calamity which has befallen him, who feels the whole
baseness of the injustice which has been done to him, but who feels
still more strongly what the dignity of his own character requires; who
does not abandon himself to the guidance of the undisciplined passions
which his situation might naturally inspire; but who governs his whole
behaviour and conduct according to those restrained and corrected
emotions which the great inmate, the great demi-god within the breast
prescribes and approves of; is alone the real man of virtue, the only
real and proper object of love, respect, and admiration. Insensibility
and that noble ¬rmness, that exalted self-command, which is founded
in the sense of dignity and propriety, are so far from being altogether
the same, that in proportion as the former takes place, the merit of the
latter is, in many cases, entirely taken away.

± But though the total want of sensibility to personal injury, to personal
danger and distress, would, in such situations, take away the whole
merit of self-command, that sensibility, however, may very easily be

Of the character of virtue

too exquisite, and it frequently is so. When the sense of propriety,
when the authority of the judge within the breast, can control this
extreme sensibility, that authority must no doubt appear very noble
and very great. But the exertion of it may be too fatiguing; it may have
too much to do. The individual, by a great effort, may behave perfectly
well. But the contest between the two principles, the warfare within
the breast, may be too violent to be at all consistent with internal
tranquillity and happiness. The wise man whom Nature has endowed
with this too exquisite sensibility, and whose too lively feelings have
not been suf¬ciently blunted and hardened by early education and
proper exercise, will avoid, as much as duty and propriety will permit,
the situations for which he is not perfectly ¬tted. The man whose
feeble and delicate constitution renders him too sensible to pain, to
hardship, and to every sort of bodily distress, should not wantonly
embrace the profession of a soldier. The man of too much sensibility
to injury, should not rashly engage in the contests of faction. Though
the sense of propriety should be strong enough to command all those
sensibilities, the composure of the mind must always be disturbed in
the struggle. In this disorder the judgment cannot always maintain its
ordinary acuteness and precision; and though he may always mean to
act properly, he may often act rashly and imprudently, and in a manner
which he himself will, in the succeeding part of his life, be for ever
ashamed of. A certain intrepidity, a certain ¬rmness of nerves and har-
diness of constitution, whether natural or acquired, are undoubtedly
the best preparatives for all the great exertions of self-command.

° Though war and faction are certainly the best schools for forming
every man to this hardiness and ¬rmness of temper, though they are
the best remedies for curing him of the opposite weaknesses, yet, if the
day of trial should happen to come before he has completely learned
his lesson, before the remedy has had time to produce its proper effect,
the consequences might not be agreeable.

± Our sensibility to the pleasures, to the amusements and enjoyments
of human life, may offend, in the same manner, either by its excess or
by its defect. Of the two, however, the excess seems less disagreeable
than the defect. Both to the spectator and to the person principally
concerned, a strong propensity to joy is certainly more pleasing than

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

a dull insensibility to the objects of amusement and diversion. We are
charmed with the gaiety of youth, and even with the playfulness of
childhood: but we soon grow weary of the ¬‚at and tasteless gravity
which too frequently accompanies old age. When this propensity, in-
deed, is not restrained by the sense of propriety, when it is unsuitable
to the time or to the place, to the age or to the situation of the person,
when, to indulge it, he neglects either his interest or his duty; it is
justly blamed as excessive, and as hurtful both to the individual and to
the society. In the greater part of such cases, however, what is chie¬‚y
to be found fault with is, not so much the strength of the propensity
to joy, as the weakness of the sense of propriety and duty. A young
man who has no relish for the diversions and amusements that are
natural and suitable to his age, who talks of nothing but his book or
his business, is disliked as formal and pedantic; and we give him no
credit for his abstinence even from improper indulgences, to which
he seems to have so little inclination.

 The principle of self-estimation may be too high, and it may likewise be
too low. It is so very agreeable to think highly, and so very disagreeable
to think meanly of ourselves, that, to the person himself, it cannot
well be doubted, but that some degree of excess must be much less
disagreeable than any degree of defect. But to the impartial spectator,
it may perhaps be thought, things must appear quite differently, and
that to him, the defect must always be less disagreeable than the excess.
And in our companions, no doubt, we much more frequently complain
of the latter than of the former. When they assume upon us, or set
themselves before us, their self-estimation morti¬es our own. Our own
pride and vanity prompt us to accuse them of pride and vanity, and we
cease to be the impartial spectators of their conduct. When the same
companions, however, suffer any other man to assume over them a
superiority which does not belong to him, we not only blame them, but
often despise them as mean-spirited. When, on the contrary, among
other people, they push themselves a little more forward, and scramble
to an elevation disproportioned, as we think, to their merit, though
we may not perfectly approve of their conduct, we are often, upon the
whole, diverted with it; and, where there is no envy in the case, we are
almost always much less displeased with them, than we should have
been, had they suffered themselves to sink below their proper station.

Of the character of virtue

 In estimating our own merit, in judging of our own character and con-
duct, there are two different standards to which we naturally compare
them.· The one is the idea of exact propriety and perfection, so far
as we are each of us capable of comprehending that idea. The other is
that degree of approximation to this idea which is commonly attained
in the world, and which the greater part of our friends and compan-
ions, of our rivals and competitors, may have actually arrived at. We
very seldom (I am disposed to think, we never) attempt to judge of
ourselves without giving more or less attention to both these different
standards. But the attention of different men, and even of the same
man at different times, is often very unequally divided between them;
and is sometimes principally directed towards the one, and sometimes
towards the other.

 So far as our attention is directed towards the ¬rst standard, the wisest
and best of us all, can, in his own character and conduct, see nothing but
weakness and imperfection; can discover no ground for arrogance and
presumption, but a great deal for humility, regret and repentance. So
far as our attention is directed towards the second, we may be affected
either in the one way or in the other, and feel ourselves, either really
above, or really below, the standard to which we compare ourselves.

µ The wise and virtuous man directs his principal attention to the ¬rst
standard; the idea of exact propriety and perfection. There exists in
the mind of every man, an idea of this kind, gradually formed from his
observations upon the character and conduct both of himself and of
other people. It is the slow, gradual, and progressive work of the great
demigod within the breast, the great judge and arbiter of conduct. This
idea is in every man more or less accurately drawn, its colouring is more
or less just, its outlines are more or less exactly designed, according to
the delicacy and acuteness of that sensibility, with which those obser-
vations were made, and according to the care and attention employed
in making them. In the wise and virtuous man they have been made
with the most acute and delicate sensibility, and the utmost care and
attention have been employed in making them. Every day some feature
is improved; every day some blemish is corrected. He has studied this

· Cf. above I.i.µ..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

idea more than other people, he comprehends it more distinctly, he
has formed a much more correct image of it, and is much more deeply
enamoured of its exquisite and divine beauty. He endeavours as well as
he can, to assimilate his own character to this archetype of perfection.
But he imitates the work of a divine artist, which can never be equalled.
He feels the imperfect success of all his best endeavours, and sees, with
grief and af¬‚iction, in how many different features the mortal copy falls
short of the immortal original. He remembers, with concern and hu-
miliation, how often, from want of attention, from want of judgment,
from want of temper, he has, both in words and actions, both in conduct
and conversation, violated the exact rules of perfect propriety; and has
so far departed from that model, according to which he wished to fash-
ion his own character and conduct. When he directs his attention to-
wards the second standard, indeed, that degree of excellence which his
friends and acquaintances have commonly arrived at, he may be sen-
sible of his own superiority. But, as his principal attention is always di-
rected towards the ¬rst standard, he is necessarily much more humbled
by the one comparison, than he ever can be elevated by the other. He is
never so elated as to look down with insolence even upon those who are
really below him. He feels so well his own imperfection, he knows so
well the dif¬culty with which he attained his own distant approxima-
tion to rectitude, that he cannot regard with contempt the still greater
imperfection of other people. Far from insulting over their inferiority,
he views it with the most indulgent commiseration, and, by his advice
as well as example, is at all times willing to promote their further ad-
vancement. If, in any particular quali¬cation, they happen to be supe-
rior to him (for who is so perfect as not to have many superiors in many
different quali¬cations?), far from envying their superiority, he, who
knows how dif¬cult it is to excel, esteems and honours their excellence,
and never fails to bestow upon it the full measure of applause which
it deserves. His whole mind, in short, is deeply impressed, his whole
behaviour and deportment are distinctly stamped with the character
of real modesty; with that of a very moderate estimation of his own
merit, and, at the same time, of a full sense of the merit of other people.

 In all the liberal and ingenious arts, in painting, in poetry, in music, in
eloquence, in philosophy, the great artist feels always the real imper-
fection of his own best works, and is more sensible than any man how

Of the character of virtue

much they fall short of that ideal perfection of which he has formed
some conception, which he imitates as well as he can, but which he
despairs of ever equalling. It is the inferior artist only, who is ever per-
fectly satis¬ed with his own performances. He has little conception of
this ideal perfection, about which he has little employed his thoughts;
and it is chie¬‚y to the works of other artists, of, perhaps, a still lower
order, that he deigns to compare his own works. Boileau, the great
French poet (in some of his works, perhaps not inferior to the greatest
poet of the same kind, either ancient or modern), used to say, that
no great man was ever completely satis¬ed with his own works. His
acquaintance Santeuil (a writer of Latin verses, and who, on account
of that schoolboy accomplishment, had the weakness to fancy himself
a poet), assured him, that he himself was always completely satis¬ed
with his own. Boileau replied, with, perhaps, an arch ambiguity, That he
certainly was the only great man that ever was so. Boileau, in judging
of his own works, compared them with the standard of ideal perfection,
which, in his own particular branch of the poetic art, he had, I presume,
meditated as deeply, and conceived as distinctly, as it is possible for man
to conceive it. Santeuil, in judging of his own works, compared them, I
suppose, chie¬‚y to those of the other Latin poets of his own time, to the
greater part of whom he was certainly very far from being inferior. But
to support and ¬nish off, if I may say so, the conduct and conversation
of a whole life to some resemblance of this ideal perfection, is surely
much more dif¬cult than to work up to an equal resemblance any of
the productions of any of the ingenious arts. The artist sits down to
his work undisturbed, at leisure, in the full possession and recollec-
tion of all his skill, experience, and knowledge. The wise man must
support the propriety of his own conduct in health and in sickness,
in success and in disappointment, in the hour of fatigue and drowsy
indolence, as well as in that of the most awakened attention. The
most sudden and unexpected assaults of dif¬culty and distress must
never surprise him. The injustice of other people must never provoke
him to injustice. The violence of faction must never confound him.
All the hardships and hazards of war must never either dishearten or
appal him.

 Jean de Santeuil (±°“·). Smith™s reference cannot be traced. For Boileau, see note ±µ to Part
III above.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

· Of the persons who, in estimating their own merit, in judging of their
own character and conduct, direct by far the greater part of their at-
tention to the second standard, to that ordinary degree of excellence
which is commonly attained by other people, there are some who re-
ally and justly feel themselves very much above it, and who, by every
intelligent and impartial spectator, are acknowledged to be so. The
attention of such persons, however, being always principally directed,
not to the standard of ideal, but to that of ordinary perfection, they have
little sense of their own weaknesses and imperfections; they have little
modesty; are often assuming, arrogant, and presumptuous; great ad-
mirers of themselves, and great contemners of other people. Though
their characters are in general much less correct, and their merit much
inferior to that of the man of real and modest virtue; yet their excessive
presumption, founded upon their own excessive self-admiration, daz-
zles the multitude, and often imposes even upon those who are much
superior to the multitude. The frequent, and often wonderful, success
of the most ignorant quacks and imposters, both civil and religious,
suf¬ciently demonstrate how easily the multitude are imposed upon
by the most extravagant and groundless pretensions. But when those
pretensions are supported by a very high degree of real and solid merit,
when they are displayed with all the splendour which ostentation can
bestow upon them, when they are supported by high rank and great
power, when they have often been successfully exerted, and are, upon
that account, attended by the loud acclamations of the multitude; even
the man of sober judgment often abandons himself to the general admi-
ration. The very noise of those foolish acclamations often contributes
to confound his understanding, and while he sees those great men only
at a certain distance, he is often disposed to worship them with a sincere
admiration, superior even to that with which they appear to worship
themselves. When there is no envy in the case, we all take pleasure in
admiring, and are, upon that account, naturally disposed, in our own
fancies, to render complete and perfect in every respect the characters
which, in many respects, are so very worthy of admiration. The exces-
sive self-admiration of those great men is well understood, perhaps,
and even seen through, with some degree of derision, by those wise
men who are much in their familiarity, and who secretly smile at those
lofty pretensions, which, by people at a distance, are often regarded
with reverence, and almost with adoration. Such, however, have been,

Of the character of virtue

in all ages, the greater part of those men who have procured to them-
selves the most noisy fame, the most extensive reputation; a fame and
reputation, too, which have often descended to the remotest posterity.

 Great success in the world, great authority over the sentiments and
opinions of mankind, have very seldom been acquired without some
degree of this excessive self-admiration. The most splendid charac-
ters, the men who have performed the most illustrious actions, who
have brought about the greatest revolutions, both in the situations and
opinions of mankind; the most successful warriors, the greatest states-
men and legislators, the eloquent founders and leaders of the most nu-
merous and most successful sects and parties; have many of them been,
not more distinguished for their very great merit, than for a degree
of presumption and self-admiration altogether disproportioned even
to that very great merit. This presumption was, perhaps, necessary,
not only to prompt them to undertakings which a more sober mind
would never have thought of, but to command the submission and
obedience of their followers to support them in such undertakings.
When crowned with success, accordingly, this presumption has often
betrayed them into a vanity that approached almost to insanity and
folly. Alexander the Great appears, not only to have wished that other
people should think him a God, but to have been at least very well dis-
posed to fancy himself such. Upon his death-bed, the most ungodlike
of all situations, he requested of his friends that, to the respectable
list of Deities, into which himself had long before been inserted, his
old mother Olympia might likewise have the honour of being added.
Amidst the respectful admiration of his followers and disciples, amidst
the universal applause of the public, after the oracle, which probably
had followed the voice of that applause, had pronounced him the wisest
of men,° the great wisdom of Socrates, though it did not suffer him
to fancy himself a God, yet was not great enough to hinder him from
fancying that he had secret and frequent intimations from some invis-
ible and divine Being.± The sound head of C¦sar was not so perfectly

 Quintus Curtius, History of Alexander, IX.vi..
° Cf. Plato, Apology, ± a.
± See, e.g., Apology, ± c“d and ° a“c; Euthyphro,  b; Republic, VI,  c; Theatetus, ±µ± a; Phaedrus
 b“c; Symposium, ° d“e and ± b“c; et al.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

sound as to hinder him from being much pleased with his divine
genealogy from the goddess Venus; and, before the temple of this pre-
tended great-grandmother, to receive, without rising from his seat, the
Roman Senate, when that illustrious body came to present him with
some decrees conferring upon him the most extravagant honours.
This insolence, joined to some other acts of an almost childish vanity,
little to be expected from an understanding at once so very acute and
comprehensive, seems, by exasperating the public jealousy, to have
emboldened his assassins, and to have hastened the execution of their
conspiracy. The religion and manners of modern times give our great
men little encouragement to fancy themselves either Gods or even
Prophets. Success, however, joined to great popular favour, has often so
far turned the heads of the greatest of them, as to make them ascribe to
themselves both an importance and an ability much beyond what they
really possessed; and, by this presumption, to precipitate themselves
into many rash and sometimes ruinous adventures. It is a characteristic
almost peculiar to the great Duke of Marlborough, that ten years of
such uninterrupted and such splendid success as scarce any other gen-
eral could boast of, never betrayed him into a single rash action, scarce
into a single rash word or expression. The same temperate coolness
and self-command cannot, I think, be ascribed to any other great war-
rior of later times; not to Prince Eugene, not to the late King of Prussia,
not to the great Prince of Conde, not even to Gustavus Adolphus.
Turrenne seems to have approached the nearest to it; but several dif-
ferent transactions of his life suf¬ciently demonstrate that it was in
him by no means so perfect as in the great Duke of Marlborough.

 In the humble projects of private life, as well as in the ambitious and
proud pursuits of high stations, great abilities and successful enter-
prise, in the beginning, have frequently encouraged to undertakings
which necessarily led to bankruptcy and ruin in the end.
 Cf. Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, I.·; Cicero, De of¬ciis, I.viii..
 The Duke of Marlborough commanded the British forces from ±·°“±± during the War of the
Spanish Succession.
 Prince Eug` ne of Savoy (±“±·), commander of the Austrian army in the War of the Spanish
Succession; Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia (±·±“); Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of Cond´
(±±“), French general, life-long rival of Turenne; Gustavus Adolphus (±µ“±), King of
Sweden, ±±±“, commander of the Protestant forces in the early part of the Thirty Years™ War.
Henri de La Tour d™Auvergne, vicomte de Turenne (±±±“·µ), marshal of France.

Of the character of virtue

° The esteem and admiration which every impartial spectator conceives
for the real merit of those spirited, magnanimous, and high-minded
persons, as it is a just and well-founded sentiment, so it is a steady and
permanent one, and altogether independent of their good or bad for-
tune. It is otherwise with that admiration which he is apt to conceive
for their excessive self-estimation and presumption. While they are
successful, indeed, he is often perfectly conquered and overborne by
them. Success covers from his eyes, not only the great imprudence, but
frequently the great injustice of their enterprises; and, far from blam-
ing this defective part of their character, he often views it with the most
enthusiastic admiration. When they are unfortunate, however, things
change their colours and their names. What was before heroic mag-
nanimity, resumes its proper appellation of extravagant rashness and
folly; and the blackness of that avidity and injustice, which was before
hid under the splendour of prosperity, comes full into view, and blots
the whole lustre of their enterprise. Had C¦sar, instead of gaining, lost
the battle of Pharsalia, his character would, at this hour, have ranked
a little above that of Catiline, and the weakest man would have viewed
his enterprise against the laws of his country in blacker colours, than,
perhaps, even Cato, with all the animosity of a party-man, ever viewed
it at the time.µ His real merit, the justness of his taste, the simplicity
and elegance of his writings, the propriety of his eloquence, his skill in


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