But without entering any further on questions either in moral or physical subjects, relating to the manner or to the origin of our knowledge; without any disparagement to that subtilty which would analyse every sentiment, and trace every mode of being to its source; it may be safely affirmed, That the character of man, as he now exists, that the laws of his animal and intellectual system, on which his happiness now depends, deserve our principal study; and that general principles relating to this or any other subject, are useful only so far as they are founded on just observation, and lead to the knowledge of important consequences, or so far as they enable us to act with success when we would apply either the intellectual or the physical powers of nature, to the purposes of human life.
What is it that excites one half of the nations of Europe against the other?
On the credit of a few observations, we are apt to presume, that the secret may soon be laid open, Edition: current; Page:  and that what is termed wisdom in nature, may be referred to the operation of physical powers.
What is happy or wretched, in the manners of men? Hence the sanguine affection which every Greek bore to his country, and hence the devoted patriotism of an early Roman. It appears, perhaps, equally difficult to retard or to quicken his pace; if the projector complain he is tardy, the moralist thinks him unstable; and whether his motions be rapid or flow, the scenes of human affairs perpetually change in his management: His emblem is a passing stream, not a stagnating pool.
And these, it must be confessed, to a being who is destined to act in the midst of difficulties, are the proper test of capacity and force. It is not, however, our business here to carry the notion of a right into its several applications, but to reason on the sentiment of favour with which that notion is entertained in the mind.
If we are asked therefore, Where the state of nature is to be found? Affection operates with the greatest force, where it meets with the greatest difficulties: In the breast of the parent, it is most solicitous amidst the dangers and distresses of the child: In the breast of a man, its flame redoubles where the wrongs or sufferings of his friend, or his country, require his aid.
The history of the individual is but a detail of the sentiments and the thoughts he has entertained in the view of his species: and every experiment relative to this subject should be made with entire societies, not with single men.
The same subject continued, - SECT. When he treats of any particular species of animals, he supposes that their present dispositions and instincts are the same which they originally had, and that their present manner of life is a continuance of their first destination.
If the palace be unnatural, the cottage is so no less; and the highest refinements of political and moral apprehension, are not more artificial in their kind, than the first operations of sentiment and reason.