Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 6, Section 2, Chapter 2: How Societies are recommended to our Beneficence

Chapter 2: The Order of How Societies are recommended to our Beneficence

26 The same principles that direct the order of how individuals are recommended to our beneficence, direct the order of how societies are recommended to our beneficence.

27 Ordinarily, our good or bad conduct can have much influence on the happiness or misery of the society in which we live and have been born and educated.

We have the most partial admiration for all the illustrious characters it has produced before,  its warriors, statesmen, poets, philosophers, and men of letters of all kinds.


28 The love of our own nation often disposes us to view, the prosperity and aggrandisement of neighbouring nations with the most malignant jealousy and envy.

France and England may have reasons to dread the other's naval and military power.

29  The love of our own country seems not derived from the love of mankind.

30 National prejudices and hatreds seldom extend beyond neighbouring nations.

31 The most extensive public benevolence of the statesmen can commonly be exerted with any considerable effect.

The Count d'Avaux was the plenipotentiary of France at the treaty of Munster.

The State and its Constitution

32 Every independent state is divided into many different orders and societies, each of which has its own particular powers, privileges, and immunities.

33 The 'constitution' of that state depends on:

34 The stability of that constitution depends on the ability of each order or society to maintain its own powers, privileges, and immunities, against the encroachments of every other.

35 All those different orders and societies are dependent on the state to which they owe their security and protection.

36 Ordinarily, the love of our country seems to involve in it two principles:

  1. A certain respect and reverence for that constitution or form of government actually established
  2. An earnest desire to render the condition of our fellow-citizens as safe, respectable, and happy as we can.

37 In peacetime, those two principles generally coincide and lead to the same conduct.

38 The two situations which afford the most splendid opportunities to display public spirit are:

  1. Foreign war and
  2. Civil faction.

The hero who serves his country successfully in a foreign war gratifies his whole nation's wishes.

Thus, the glory acquired by foreign war is almost always more pure and more splendid than the glory acquired in civil faction.

39The leader of the successful party may sometimes render a service to his country, if he has enough authority to prevail on his own friends to act with proper temper and moderation (which he frequently has not).


 Amidst the turbulence and disorder of faction, a certain spirit of system often mixes itself with that public spirit founded on the love of humanity.

41 The man whose public spirit is prompted by humanity and benevolence, will respect the established powers and privileges even of individuals.

42 On the contrary, the man of system is apt to be very wise in his own conceit.

43 Some general, and even systematical, idea of the perfection of policy and law, might be needed to direct the statesman's views.

It is on this account, that of all political speculators, sovereign princes are by far the most dangerous.

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Next: Chapter 3: Universal Benevolence