An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
riches are the most convenient, being the most fixed and determinate, source of
distinction. But his internal sentiments are more regulated by the personal characters of
men, than by the accidental and capricious favours of fortune.
In most countries of Europe, family, that is, hereditary riches, marked with titles and
symbols from the sovereign, is the chief source of distinction. In England, more regard is
paid to present opulence and plenty. Each practice has its advantages and disadvantages.
Where birth is respected, unactive, spiritless minds remain in haughty indolence, and
dream of nothing but pedigrees and genealogies: the generous and ambitious seek honour
and authority, and reputation and favour. Where riches are the chief idol, corruption,
venality, rapine prevail: arts, manufactures, commerce, agriculture flourish. The former
prejudice, being favourable to military virtue, is more suited to monarchies. The latter,
being the chief spur to industry, agrees better with a republican government. And we
accordingly find that each of these forms of government, by varying the utility of those
customs, has commonly a proportionable effect on the sentiments of mankind.