Introductory Lectures on Political Economy
By Richard Whately
The following pages are presented to the public, in compliance with a requisition of the Statute relative to the Professorship of Political-Economy, that one Lecture at least shall be published every year.Conceiving that one object of that provision must be, that the Public may have some knowledge of what sort of Lectures on the subject are annually delivered at Oxford, I have not thought myself at liberty to make any material alterations in the Lectures as they were delivered. Otherwise, I might, perhaps, have endeavoured, to change the method and the style, adopted with a view to oral delivery, for such as might be more suited to the closet. Perhaps, indeed, I might, but for that requisition, have hesitated as to the publication of such a Work at all. For the title of it is not unlikely to deter one class of readers, and to disappoint another. Those who have never applied themselves to the study, may perhaps be led to anticipate, from the title of Political-Economy, something dry, abstruse, and uninteresting; and those again who are, and have long been, conversant with it, may perhaps expect such discussions of various important questions, as I have thought it best not to enter on, in an introductory Course. [From the Preface]
First Pub. Date
London: B. Fellowes
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
Supposing Wealth to be
naturally, and consequently to have
always been, an object of sufficiently strong desire to mankind, what need can there be, it may be said, to construct a Science, and an Art founded on that Science, relative to the subject? In a matter about which daily practice and daily observation are concerned, and have been, for so many ages, must not the common sense of judicious men, and the experience of practical men, be preferable to the subtle systems of theoretical speculators?
Some again there are, who are far from regarding with disdain the systematic study of the theory of wealth, who yet have no idea of reckoning it an important part of
general education; but as one necessary, perhaps, or useful, to those at the head of public affairs; and to any others, a matter of mere curious speculation.
With respect to the prevailing fallacies connected with the term Common-sense, I have elsewhere remarked, that all who employ it with any distinct meaning, intend to denote by it “an exercise of the judgment unaided by any art or system of rules; such as we must necessarily employ in numberless cases of daily occurrence; in which, having no established principles to guide us—no line of precedure, as it were; distinctly chalked out—we must needs act on the best extemporaneous conjectures we can form. He who is eminently skilful in doing this, is said to possess a superior degree of common-sense. But that common-sense is only our
second-best guide—that the rules of art, if judiciously framed, are always desirable when they can be had, is an assertion, for the truth of which I may appeal to the testimony of mankind in general; which is so much the more valuable, inasmuch as it may be accounted the testimony of adversaries. For the generality have a strong predilection in favour of common-sense, except in those points in which they, respectively, possess the knowledge of a system of rules; but in these points, they deride any one who trusts to unaided common-sense. A sailor, for instance, will, perhaps, despise the pretensions of medical men, and prefer treating a disease by common-sense: but he would ridicule the proposal of navigating a ship by common-sense, without regard to the maxims of nautical art. A physician, again, will perhaps contemn systems of Political-Economy, of Logic, or Metaphysics, and insist on the superior wisdom of trusting to common-sense in such matters; but he would never approve of trusting to common-sense in the treatment of diseases. Neither, again, would the architect recommend a reliance on common-sense alone in building, nor the musician in music, to the neglect of those systems of rules, which, in their respective arts, have been deduced from scientific reasoning aided by experience. And the induction might be extended to every department of practice. Since, therefore, each gives the preference to unassisted common-sense only in those cases where he himself has nothing else to trust to, and invariably resorts to the rules of art, wherever he possesses the knowledge of them, it is plain that mankind universally bear their testimony, though unconsciously and often unwillingly, to the preferableness of systematic knowledge to conjectural judgments.
“There is, however, abundant room for the employment of common-sense in the
application of the system.”
It may be added, that what was said in respect of Logic, holds good no less in the present subject, and indeed in most others; viz. that in the practical application of scientific principles there is abundant room for the employment of common-sense.
*11 There is no fear that we shall ever in practice have too little call for deliberation—too little need of judicious conjecture. Science does not enable us to dispense with commonsense, but only to employ it more profitably; nor does the best-instructed man necessarily deliberate the less; only he exercises his deliberation on
different points from those that occupy the less-instructed; and to better purpose; he does not waste his mental powers in conjectures as to his road, when he has a correct map in his hand; but he still has abundance of other inquiries to make as he travels over it. The adoption of the Arabic numerals and of the Algebraic symbols, does not supersede calculation, but extends its sphere.
With respect to Experience again, which has been made the occasion of so much fallacy, by a careless and inaccurate mode of appealing to it, I have elsewhere remarked, that “in its original and strict sense, Experience is applicable to the
premises from which we argue, not to the
inference we draw. Strictly speaking, we know by experience only the past, and what has passed under our own observation; thus, we know by
experience that the tides
have daily ebbed and flowed, during such a time; and from the testimony of others as to their own experience, that they have formerly done so; and
from this experience, we conclude, by induction, that the same phenomenon will continue.”
And I have remarked, in another place, “that men are apt not to consider with sufficient attention, what it is that constitutes experience in each point; so that frequently one man shall have credit for much experience, in what relates to the matter in hand, and another, who, perhaps, possesses as much, or more, shall be underrated as wanting it. The vulgar, of all ranks, need to be warned, first, that
time alone does not constitute experience; so that many years may have passed over a man’s head, without his even having had the same opportunities of acquiring it, as another, much younger: secondly, that the longest practice in conducting any business in
one way, does not necessarily confer any experience in conducting it in a different way; for instance, an experienced husbandman, or minister of state, in Persia, would be much at a loss in Europe; and if they had some things less to learn than an entire novice, on the other hand they would have much to unlearn: and, thirdly, that merely being conversant about a certain class of
subjects, does not confer experience in a case where the
operations, and the
end proposed, are different. It is said that there was an Amsterdam merchant, who had dealt largely in corn all his life, who had never seen a field of wheat growing; this man had doubtless acquired, by experience, an accurate judgment of the qualities of each description of corn,—of the best methods of storing it,—of the arts of buying and selling it at proper times, &c.; but he would have been greatly at a loss in its cultivation; though he had been, in a certain way, long
conversant about corn. Nearly similar is the experience of a practised lawyer, (supposing him to be nothing more,) in a case of
legislation; because he has been long
conversant about law, the unreflecting attribute great weight to his judgment; whereas his constant habits of fixing his thoughts on what the law
is, and withdrawing it from the irrelevant question of what the law
ought to be;—his careful observance of a multitude of rules, (which afford the more scope for the display of his learning, in proportion as they are arbitrary, unreasonable, and unaccountable,) with a studied indifference as to, that which is foreign from his business, the
inconvenience of those rules,—may be expected to operate unfavourably on his judgment in questions of legislation: and are likely to counterbalance the advantages of his superior knowledge, even in such points as do bear on the question.
“In matters connected with Political-Economy, the
practical men is often appealed to in opposition to those who are called theorists; even though the latter perhaps are deducing conclusions from a wide induction of facts, while the experience of the others will often be found only to amount to their having been long conversant with the details of office, and having all that time gone on in a certain beaten track, from which they never tried, or witnessed, or even imagined, a deviation.
“So also the authority derived from experience of a
practical miner, i.e. one who has wrought all his life in one mine, will sometimes delude a speculator into a vain search for metal or coal, against the opinion perhaps of
theorists, i.e. persons of extensive geological observation.
It may be added, that there is a proverbial maxim which bears witness to the advantage sometimes possessed by an observant bystander over those actually engaged in any transaction. “The looker-on often sees more of the game than the players.” Now the looker-on is precisely (in Greek
When then you find any one
contrasting, in this and in other subjects, what he calls experience, with theory, you will usually perceive on attentive examination, that he is in reality comparing the results of a
confined, with that of a
wider, experience;—a more imperfect and crude theory, with one more cautiously framed, and based on a more copious induction.
It has been remarked by physicians, that no patient or nurse, however conscious of ignorance in medicine, and disavowing all design to theorize, can ever be brought to give such a description of any case of sickness as shall involve no theory, but shall consist merely of a statement of what has actually presented itself to their senses. They will say, for instance, that the patient was disordered
in consequence of this or that;—that he obtained relief
from such and such an application, &c. all which is, in reality, theory. And hence medical writers very prudently inculcate a caution to the practitioner, to ascertain what are the habitual notions of his informant, in order that he may interpret aright the descriptions given. The fact is, that (not in what relates to medicine alone, but in all subjects) men are so formed as (often unconsciously) to reason, whether well or ill, on the phenomena they observe, and to mix up their inferences with their statements of those phenomena, so as in fact to theorize (however scantily and crudely) without knowing it. If you will be at the pains carefully to analyze the simplest descriptions you hear of any transaction or state of things, you will find, that the process which almost invariably takes place is, in logical language, this; that each individual has in his mind certain
major-premises or principles, relative to the subject in question; that observation of what actually presents itself to the senses, supplies
minor-premises; and that the statement given (and which is reported as a thing experienced) consists in fact of the
conclusions drawn from the combinations of those premises.
Hence it is that several different men, who have all had equal, or even the very same, experience, i.e. have been witnesses or agents in the same transactions, will often be found to resemble so many different men looking at the same book: one perhaps, though he distinctly sees black marks on white paper, has never learned his letters; another can read, but is a stranger to the
language in which the book is written; another has an
acquaintance with the language, but understands it imperfectly; another is familiar with the
language, but is a stranger to the
subject of the book, and wants power, or previous instruction, to enable him fully to take in the author’s drift; while another again perfectly comprehends the whole.
The object that strikes the eye is to all of these persons the same; the difference of the impressions produced on the mind of each is referable to the differences in their minds.
And this explains the fact, that we find so much discrepancy in the results of what are called Experience and Common-sense, as contra-distinguished from theory. In former times men knew by experience, that the earth stands still, and the sun rises and sets. Common-sense taught them that there could be no antipodes, since men could not stand with their heads downwards, like flies on the ceiling. Experience taught the King of Bantam that water could not become solid. And (to come to the consideration of human affairs) the experience and common-sense of one of the most observant and intelligent of historians, Tacitus, convinced him, that for a mixed government to be so framed as to combine the elements of Royalty, Aristocracy, and Democracy, must be next to impossible, and that if such a one could be framed, it must inevitably be very speedily dissolved.
“Sed quid sequar? aut quem?”
In points wherein all men agree, they may possibly be all in the right; but where they are utterly at variance, some at least must be mistaken.
The illustrations, however, which I have given from other subjects, are extremely inadequate; for I know of none in which so much theory, and that, most paradoxical theory, has been incorporated with experience, and passed off as a part of it, as in matters concerning Political-Economy. There is no other in which the most subtle refinements of a system (to waive, for the present, the question as to its soundness) have been, not merely admitted, but admitted as the dictates of common-sense. Many such paradoxes, as I allude to, (whether true or false, we will not now consider,) you may meet with in a variety of authors of the present, but much more of the last and preceding centuries; and may not unfrequently hear in conversation. That a state of war is favourable to national prosperity—that it is advantageous to a nation to export goods of more value than it receives in return—that we are losers by purchasing articles where we can get them cheapest—that it is wise for a people to pay, on behalf of a foreign consumer, part of the price for which he purchases their commodities—that it is better to obtain the same results by much labour than by little—that a man is a benefactor to the community by building himself a splendid palace—and many other doctrines that are afloat, may be truths, but they are at least
paradoxical truths; they may be abstruse and recondite wisdom; at any rate, they are
abstruse and recondite;—they may be sense, but at least they are not common-sense.
And again, many conclusions maintained by men who have had much experience, of one kind or other, though they may be
just conclusions, yet cannot be said to have been brought to the test of experience. For instance, that a country would be enriched, by having, what is called, a favourable balance of trade with all the world, i.e. by continually exporting more in value than the goods it imports, and consequently receiving the overplus year by year in money, and exporting none of that money—this has been held by a great number of men, long conversant with public affairs, and so far, men of experience. But the doctrine itself, whether true or false, cannot be said to have been established by experience, because the experiment has never been tried. Many, indeed,
have tried, for ages together, to
bring about such a state of things; but as it is notorious, that they have never succeeded—that no country ever has been so circumstanced—the experiment cannot be said to have ever been tried, what would be the
consequences of attaining such an object; nor can they therefore be said, (however
right they may be as to the desirableness of the object,) to know by experience that it is conducive to prosperity. Such experiments, therefore, are like those of the Alchemists; who did indeed try innumerable, with a view to discover the philosopher’s stone; but cannot be said to have tried the experiment, whether that stone which converts all things into gold, is, or is not, a universal medicine. That it is possible to find a method of transmuting metals, and that it would be connected with the art of healing, has never been disproved; but one who believes this, however rightly, cannot be said to found his belief on experience.
If, again, you should be told, that those who have long been conversant about any subject are likely to have exhausted it—to have ascertained all that
can be ascertained in it, and to have introduced every practicable improvement—and if you are called on to produce instances to the contrary, you cannot perhaps employ better than the introduction of so seemingly obvious and simple a contrivance as that of the
Arabic numerals, after so many ages during which ingenious men have been devoting their lives to the search after improvements in calculation. This is an instance of an Invention: a similar one, of a Discovery, is that of the circulation of the blood, by Hervey; who came after such a multitude of physicians, occupied all their lives with the study of the animal frame, and in the daily habit of feeling the pulse. Neither of these novelties were struck out, like the improvements in some sciences, through the aid of new instruments, or the casual discovery of new substances. Both lay, as it were, under our feet; and yet for how many ages were they missed by common-sense, and experience, and science, both separate and united.
I have dwelt at greater length than perhaps may have appeared necessary, on some of the topics which you may have occasion to employ against the vague notions that are afloat respecting common-sense and experience; and by which you may shew the preferableness of systematic study, to judgments either founded on extemporaneous conjecture, or distorted by popular prejudice; topics by which (to recur to a former illustration) men may be incited to
learn to read the great book of human transactions which is before them, and to read it according to its true sense, not perverted by a blind acquiescence in the interpretation of unskilful commentators. But you must not expect that reason will universally make its way. “Remedia,” says the medical aphorism, “non agunt in cadaver.” Those in whom indolence is combined with pride, will be induced, by the one, to remain in their position, and, by the other, to fortify it as well as they can.
I shall proceed to offer a few remarks on that very prevailing idea, that Political-Economy is a subject which may be studied by any one whose taste particularly leads him to it, but which (with the exception perhaps of a few who take a leading part in public affairs) may safely be disregarded by the generality, as by no means necessary to make up the character of a well-educated man.
It may perhaps be conceded, that each should direct and regulate his studies according to his own judgment and inclination, provided he will consent to refrain from taking a part in matters to which he has not turned his attention: but this at least seems an equitable condition: “Ludere qui nescit, campestribus abstinet armis.” It is a condition, however, which in the present subject is very little observed. The most difficult questions in Political-Economy are every day discussed with the most unhesitating confidence, not merely by empty pretenders to Science, (for that takes place, and must be expected, in all subjects,) but by persons not only ignorant, but professedly ignorant, and designing to continue so, of the whole subject;—neither having, nor pretending to have, nor wishing for, any fixed principles by which to regulate their judgment on each point. Questions concerning taxation, tithes, the national debt, the poor-laws—the wages which labourers earn, or ought to earn,—the comparative advantages of different modes of charity,—and numberless others belonging to Political-Economy, and many of them among the most difficult, and in which there is the greatest diversity of opinion, are debated perpetually, not merely at public meetings, but in the course of conversation, and decisions of them boldly pronounced, by many who utterly disclaim having turned their attention to Political-Economy.
The right management of public affairs in respect of these and such-like points, is commonly acknowledged to call for men of both powerful and well-cultivated mind; and yet if every man of common sense is competent to form an opinion, at the first glance, on such points, without either having made them the subject of regular study, or conceiving that any such is requisite, it would follow that the art of government (as far at least as regards that extensive and multifarious department of it, pertaining to National Wealth) must be the easiest of all arts;—easier than even the common handicraft trades; in which no one will knowingly employ a man who has not been regularly taught. And the remark of the Chancellor Oxenstiern to his son, “quam parva sapientia regitur mundus,” must be understood to apply not only to what is, but what ought to be the state of things.
Many of you probably have met with the story of some gentleman, (I suppose it is usually fathered on a native of a neighbouring island,) who, on being asked whether he could play on the violin, made answer, that he really did not know whether he could or not, because he had never tried. There is at least more modesty in this expression of doubt, than those shew, who, having never tried to learn the very rudiments of Political-Economy, are yet quite sure of their competence to discuss its most difficult questions.
You may perhaps wonder how it is that men should conceal from themselves and from each other, so glaring an absurdity. I believe it is generally in this way: they profess, and intend, to keep clear of all questions of Political-Economy; and imagine themselves to have done so, by having kept clear of the
subjects which constitute the proper and sole province of the science, they do not scruple to submit to extemporaneous discussion, provided they but avoid the title by which that science is commonly designated. This is as if the gentleman in the story just alluded to, had declared his inability to play on the violin, at the same time expressing his confidence that he could play on the fiddle.
Political-Economy, I have already expressed my objection; but the subjects of which it treats are such as are of deep interest to most men; and what is more, they are subjects on which most men
will form opinions, whether well or ill-founded; and opinions very far from unanimous; and will act on those opinions, whether in their own immediate management of public affairs, or in their choice of persons to be entrusted with the charge. That therefore which most men
will do, whether well or ill, it must be of the utmost importance they should be qualified for doing well; by collecting, arranging, and combining whatever general propositions on the subject can be well established.
You will find, however, that many understand by Political-Economy, certain
particular doctrines maintained by this or that writer on the subject; and that those who profess to dislike Political-Economy, mean really, such and such doctrines. You may meet with some again, who, with rather a greater appearance of precision, find fault with what they call the
modern school of Political-Economy; and this, when perhaps in the next breath they are complaining that the modern writers on the subject are very much at variance with each other, as to the most important principles, and that there are almost as many different schools or sects as there are writers: “Quo teneam vultus mutantem Protea nodo?”
Such trifling as this would not be worth noticing on any other subject; but on this, you will find that it is wonderfully tolerated; and that accordingly full advantage has been taken of the toleration.
is the modern school of Political-Economy, I cannot distinctly ascertain; nor (it is evident) can those who find fault with it; since one of their complaints is, that no such thing exists, and that, on the contrary, the greatest discrepancy prevails between the different authors who profess to teach the science. If there be, however, any points on which, notwithstanding their general discrepancy, most of these writers agree, that is certainly a strong presumption that they are right in those points. It is, however, only a presumption; not a decisive argument; since we know, that there are several points in which various philosophers agreed for many ages, yet in which it has since appeared they were all mistaken.
In fact, however, it will be found, that even much greater discrepancy than is alleged, does exist among political-economists, if we include, as we certainly ought to do, under that description, not merely those who usually bear the appellation, but all who discuss, and in practice decide, questions connected with national wealth;—all who recommend or adopt measures which have that object in view. All such are, properly, political-economists; though many of them may be very bad ones. Those of them who may have never carefully and systematically studied the subject, whether they are in consequence the less likely, or the more likely, to arrive at right conclusions, yet do adopt
some conclusions, and act upon them. Now a man is called a Legislator, who frames and enacts laws, whether they be wise or unwise;—whether he be by nature, or by his studies, well, or ill qualified for his task. A man who attends sick persons, and prescribes for them, is called a Physician, whether he prescribes skilfully or not, and whether he have carefully, or negligently, studied anatomy, pharmacy, and nosology. So also, men are usually called Generals, and Magistrates, who are entrusted, respectively, with the command of armies, and with the administration of justice; however incompetent they may be to—those offices; else we should never speak of an
unskilful General, or an ignorant Magistrate. And on the same principle, one who forms opinions, and frames or discusses measures, relative to the matters we are now speaking of, is a Political-Economist; though he is likely to be a
bad one, if he does so ignorantly, and at random. But in respect of this particular case of Political-Economy, many men are in the condition of the Bourgeois of Moliere, who had been talking prose all his life without knowing it.
And yet he who confines the term Political-Economy to such and such particular doctrines, and because he does not assent to these, professes to disapprove of Political-Economy, would perhaps exclaim against the absurdity of one who should declare his abhorrence of Theology; meaning thereby the works of Bellarmine, or of the School-men; and defending this use of language, on the ground that these were celebrated theological writers.
There is, in fact, no way of keeping clear of Political-Economy, however we may avoid the
name, but by keeping clear of the subjects of it. And if it be felt as inconsistent with the character of a well-educated man to have nothing to say, and to shew no interest, on those subjects, you may easily make it clear to any man of ingenuous mind, that he ought to be still more inwardly ashamed (though he may not be put to shame openly) at discussing them, without having taken due pains to understand them. Specious and shallow declamation may indeed for a time be even more favourably received by the unthinking, than sound reasoning, based on sound knowledge; but this last must have a tendency to prevail ultimately.
And you may add, that consequently
that man most especially who is alive to the interests of Religion, ought to take the more anxious care that this advantage be not left exclusively in the hands of its enemies. As the world always in fact has been, and must be, governed by political-economists, whether they have
called themselves so or not, and whether skilful or unskilful; so, there must always be a tendency, in a country where all stations are open to men of superior qualifications—there must always, I say, be a tendency, in proportion as intellectual culture spreads, towards the placing of this power in the hands of those who have the most successfully studied the subject. Now if such a state of things were to be brought about, as that none of these should be friendly to Christianity, which would be the case, if all the friends of Christianity should refuse to enrol themselves in the number, it is easy to foresee what must be the consequence. This truism, as it appears when formally stated, is often overlooked in practice. If the efforts of the Romish Church, to represent the cultivation of astronomy as adverse to religion, had proved successful, and consequently no Christian had been an astronomer, the result produced by themselves, viz. that no astronomer would have been a Christian, would have been triumphantly appealed to in justification of their censures.
But what Aristotle says of Dialectics and Rhetoric, that all men partake of them in a certain degree, since all occasionally aim (whether skilfully or unskilfully) to accomplish the objects of those arts—this will in a great degree apply, in such a country as this, to Political-Economy. Many are compelled, and most of the rest are led by their own inclination to take some part, more or less, in the questions pertaining to it. The chief distinction is between those who do and those who do not, proceed on fixed and carefully ascertained principles.
I wish for my own part there were no such thing as Political-Economy. I mean not now the mere
name of the study: but I wish there had never been any necessity for directing our attention to the study itself. If men had always been secured in person and property, and left at full liberty to employ both as they saw fit; and had merely been precluded from unjust interference with each other—had the most perfect freedom of intercourse between all mankind been always allowed—had there never been any wars—nor (which in that case would have easily been avoided) any taxation —then, though every exchange that took place would have been one of the phenomena of which Political-Economy takes cognizance, all would have proceeded so smoothly, that probably no attention would ever have been called to the subject. The transactions of society would have been like the play of the lungs, the contractions of the muscles, and the circulation of the blood, in a healthy person; who scarcely knows that these functions exist. But as soon as they are impeded and disordered, our attention is immediately called to them. Indeed one of these functions did exist for several thousand years before it was even suspected. It is probable that (except perhaps among a small number of curious speculators) anatomy and physiology would never have been thought of, had they not been called for in aid of the art of medicine; and this, manifestly, would have had no existence, but for disease. In like manner it may be said to have been diseases, actual or apprehended—evils or imperfections, real or imaginary, that in the first instance directed the attention of men to the subjects about which Political-Economy is conversant: the attention, I mean, not only of those who use that term in a favourable sense, but of those no less who hold it in abhorrence, and of our ancestors who never heard it. Many, no doubt, of those evils have been produced or aggravated by the operation of erroneous views of Political-Economy; just as there are many cases in which erroneous medical treatment has brought on, or heightened diseases; but in these, no one will deny that it is from correct medical views we must hope for a cure.
And you may add this remark; that the greater part of those who do in this way induce disease; are such as make no pretensions to the medical art, nor entertain any respect for it. They are often the foremost to declaim against the folly of trusting in physicians—of dosing one’s self with medicines—of tampering with the constitution; and think themselves secure from any such folly, as long as they abstain from the use of any thing that is
medicine; while perhaps they are actually tampering with their constitution by an excessive use of spirituous liquors, or of other stimulants, not bearing the name of medicines, but not the less powerful in their effects on the human frame. In like manner, you may observe, many have ventured boldly on measures tending to produce the most important results on national wealth, without suspecting that these had any thing to do with Political-Economy, because the name of the science was carefully avoided. Buonaparte detested that name. When he endeavoured by all possible means to destroy the commerce of the continent with this country—means which brought on ultimately the war which ended in his overthrow—there is no doubt he believed himself to be not only injuring us, but consulting the best interests of his own dominions. Indeed, the two ideas were with him inseparable; for all that he himself had ever acquired having been
at the expense of others, he could not understand how we could gain, except by their loss. Yet all the while, he was in the habit of saying that Political-Economy, if an empire were of granite, would crumble it to dust. That
erroneous Political-Economy may do so, he evinced by the experiment he himself tried: but to the last he was not aware that he had been in fact practising such a system:—had been practising Political-Economy in the same sense in which a man is said to be practising Medicine, unskilfully, who through ignorance prescribes to his patient a poisonous dose.
From whatever causes then evils or inconveniences may have sprung, you may easily explain, that the remedy or mitigation of them must be sought in a correct and well-digested knowledge of the subject.
But how much soever we may lament that those evils should ever have existed, to which probably the art and the science of Political-Economy owe their origin—which led, first to the practice, and many ages after, to the study, of it—we must not regard the study itself as therefore no more than a mere necessary evil;—as having in itself nothing of the character of an interesting or dignified pursuit. Anatomy and Physiology, though, as I have said, they probably owe their rise to Medicine as that did to disease, are yet universally acknowledged to be among the most curious and interesting studies, even for those who have no design to apply them professionally in the practice of medicine. In particular, they are found, the more they are studied, to throw more and more light on the stupendous wisdom of contrivance which the structure of organized bodies displays;—in short, to furnish a most important portion of Natural-Theology. And it might have been anticipated, that an attentive study of the constitution of Society, should bring to light a no less admirable apparatus of divinely-wise contrivances, directed no less to beneficial ends;—that as the structure of a single bee is admirable, and still more so that of a hive of bees, instinctively directing their efforts towards a common object, so, the Divine Maker of the human body, has evinced no less benevolent wisdom in his provisions for the progress of society;—and that though in both cases the designs of Divine Wisdom are often counteracted by human folly—by intemperance or neglect, as far as relates to the body—and by mistake or fraud, in respect of the community—still, in each case, attentive study may enable us to trace more and more the designs of a wise Providence, and to devise means for removing the impediments to their completion.
My next and some succeeding Lectures will be occupied with remarks on this view of the subject.