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wards when they are no longer necessary. In the savage state of our species, there are instincts which seem to form a part of the human constitution, and of which no traces remain in those periods of society in which their use is superseded by a more enlarged experience. Why, then, should we deny the probability of something similar to this, in the history of mankind considered in their political capacity ? I have already had occasion to observe, that the governments which the world has hitherto seen, have seldom or never taken their rise from deep-laid schemes of human policy. In every state of society which has yet existed, the multitude has, in general, acted from the immediate impulse of passion, or from the pressure of their wants and necessities; and, therefore, what we commonly call the political order, is, at least in a great measure, the result of the passions and wants of man, combined with the circumstances of his situation; or, in other words, it is chiefly the result of the wisdom of nature. So beautifully, indeed, do these passions and circumstances act in subserviency to her designs, and so invariably have they been found, in the history of past ages, to conduct him in time to certain beneficial arrangements, that we can hardly bring ourselves to believe, that the end was not foreseen by those who were engaged in the pursuit. Even in those rude periods of society, when, like the lower animals, he follows blindly his instinctive principles of action, he is led by an invisible hand, and contributes his share to the execution of a plan, of the nature and advantages of which he has no conception. The operations of the bee, when it begins, for the first time, to form its cell, convey to us a striking image of the efforts of unenlightened Man, in conducting the operations of an infant government.

A great variety of prejudices might be mentioned, which are found to prevail universally among our species in certain periods of society, and which seem to be essentially necessary for maintaining its order, in ages when men are unable to comprehend the purposes for which governments are instituted. As society advances, these prejudices gradually lose their influence on the higher classes, and would probably soon dis

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appear altogether, if it were not found expedient to prolong their existence, as a source of authority over the multitude. In an age, however, of universal and of unrestrained discussion, it is impossible that they can long maintain their empire; nor ought we to regret their decline, if the important ends to which they have been subservient in the past experience of mankind, are found to be accomplished by the growing light of philosophy. On this supposition, a history of human prejudices, as far as they have supplied the place of more enlarged political views, may, at some future period, furnish to the philosopher a subject of speculation, no less pleasing and instructive than that beneficent wisdom of nature which guides the operations of the lower animals, and which, even in our own species, takes upon

itself the care of the individual in the infancy of human reason. 1

I have only to observe farther, that, in proportion as these prospects, with respect to the progress of

reason, the diffusion of knowledge, and the consequent improvement of mankind, shall be realized, the political history of the world will be regulated by steady and uniform causes, and the philosopher will be enabled to form probable conjectures with respect to the future course of human affairs.

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[Many years after this volume was published, I found that in the foregoing remark on the analogy between the utility of our instincts, and that of certain classes of our prejudices, I had been anticipated by Bayle. My attention to the passage in question was first attracted by the following observations of Mr. Gibbon in his Miscellaneous Works. “Bayle’s Two Letters on the Love of Parents towards their Children, and on Jealousy, contain a profound philosophy, in which he unfolds a chain of prejudices connected with our existence, necessary for our happiness, and intended by the Supreme Being to supply the place of a reason too exalted

for the bulk of mankind, and too weak to be a principle of action.”—Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works, vol. ii. pp. 300, 301.

The Letters of Bayle here alluded to, form part of his general criticism on Maimbourg's History of Calvinism, published in his Euvres Diverses. See tom. ii. pp. 272, 280. They contain various ideas which I agree with Gibbon in thinking profoundly philosophical. Like all Bayle's compositions, however, they involve much exceptionable matter blended with the truth. The author, in particular, uses throughout the word prejudice with a very illogical latitude.]


It is justly remarked by Mr. Hume, that “what depends on a few persons, is, in a great measure, to be ascribed to chance, or secret and unknown causes : what arises from a great number, may often be accounted for by determinate and known causes.” “To judge by this rule," he continues, "the domestic and the gradual revolutions of a state must be a more proper object of reasoning and observation, than the foreign and the violent, which are commonly produced by single persons, and are more influenced by whim, folly, or caprice, than by general passions and interests. The depression of the Lords, and rise of the Commons, in England, after the statutes of alienation and the increase of trade and industry, are more easily accounted for by general principles, than the depression of the Spanish, and rise of the French monarchy, after the death of Charles the Fifth. Had Harry the Fourth, Cardinal Richelieu, and Louis the Fourteenth, been Spaniards; and Philip the Second, Third, and Fourth, and Charles the Second, been Frenchmen, the history of these nations had been entirely reversed."

From these principles, it would seem to be a necessary consequence, that, in proportion as the circumstances shall operate which I have been endeavouring to illustrate, the whole system of human affairs, including both the domestic order of society in particular states, and the relations which exist among different communities, in consequence of war and negotiation, will be subjected to the influence of causes which are "known and determinate." Those domestic affairs, which, according to Mr. Hume, are already proper subjects of reasoning and observation, in consequence of their dependence on general interests and passions, will become so more and more daily, as prejudices shall decline, and knowledge shall be diffused among the lower orders: while the relations among different states which have depended hitherto, in a great measure, on the “ whim, folly, and caprice” of single persons, will be gradually more and more regulated by the general interests of the individuals who compose them, and by the popular opinions of more enlightened times. Already, during the very short in

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terval which has elapsed since the publication of Mr. Hume's writings, an astonishing change has taken place in Europe. The mysteries of courts have been laid open,—the influence of secret negotiation on the relative situation of states has declined,—and the studies of those men whose public spirit or ambition devotes them to the service of their country, have been diverted from the intrigues of cabinets, and the details of the diplomatic code, to the liberal and manly pursuits of political philosophy.



The subject on which I am now to enter, naturally divides itself into two Parts. The First relates to the influence of Association in regulating the succession of our thoughts; the Second, to its influence on the intellectual powers and on the moral character, by the more intimate and indissoluble combinations which it leads us to form in infancy and in early youth. The two inquiries, indeed, run into each other; but it will contribute much to the order of our speculations, to keep the foregoing arrangement in view.






That one thought is often suggested to the mind by another, and that the sight of an external object often recalls former occurrences and revives former feelings, are facts which are perfectly familiar even to those who are the least disposed to speculate concerning the principles of their nature. In passing along a road which we have formerly travelled in the company of a friend, the particulars of the conversation in which we were then engaged are frequently suggested to us by the objects we meet with. In such a scene, we recollect that a particular sub

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