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phyfic; a still greater perhaps in that of law; CHA P. in poetry and philofophy it makes almost the whole.
There are fome very agreeable and beautiful talents of which the poffeffion commands a certain fort of admiration; but of which the exercife for the fake of gain is confidered, whether from reafon or prejudice, as a fort of public proftitution. The pecuniary recompence, therefore, of those who exercise them in this manner, must be fufficient, not only to pay for the time, labour, and expence of acquiring the talents, but for the difcredit which attends the employment of them as the means of fubfiftence. The exorbitant rewards of players, opera-fingers, operadancers, &c. are founded upon those two principles; the rarity and beauty of the talents, and the difcredit of employing them in this manner. It seems abfurd at firft fight that we fhould despise their perfons, and yet reward their talents with the moft profufe liberality. While we do the one, however, we muft of neceffity do the other. Should the public opinion or prejudice ever alter with regard to fuch occupa tions, their pecuniary recompence would quickly diminish. More people would apply to them, and the competition would quickly reduce the price of their labour. Such talents, though far from being common, are by no means fo rare as is imagined. Many people poffefs them in great perfection, who difdain to make this ufe of them; and many more are capable of acquiring
BOOK them, if any thing could be made honourably by them.
The over-weening conceit which the greater part of men have of their own abilities, is an ancient evil remarked by the philofophers and moralifts of all ages. Their abfurd prefumption in their own good fortune, has been lefs taken notice of. It is, however, if poffible, ftill more univerfal. There is no man living who, when in tolerable health and spirits, has not fome share of it. The chance of gain is by every man more or less over-valued, and the chance of lofs is by moft men undervalued, and by fcarce any man, who is in tolerable health and fpirits, valued more than it is worth.
That the chance of gain is naturally overvalued, we may learn from the univerfal fuccefs of lotteries. The world neither ever faw, nor ever will fee, a perfectly fair lottery; or one in which the whole gain compenfated the whole lofs; because the undertaker could make nothing by it. In the state lotteries the tickets are really not worth the price which is paid by the original fubfcribers, and yet commonly fell in the market for twenty, thirty, and fometimes forty per cent. advance. The vain hope of gaining fome of the great prizes is the fole caufe of this demand. The fobereft people scarce look upon it as a folly to pay a small fum for the chance of gaining ten or twenty thousand pounds; though they know that even that finall fum is perhaps twenty or thirty per cent. more than the chance is worth. In a lottery in which no prize exceeded twenty pounds,
pounds, though in other refpects it approached C HA P. much nearer to a perfectly fair one than the common state lotteries, there would not be the fame demand for tickets. In order to have a better chance for fome of the great prizes, fome people purchase feveral tickets, and others, small fhares in a still greater number. There is not, however, a more certain propofition in mathematics, than that the more tickets you adventure upon, the more likely you are to be a lofer. Adventure upon all the tickets in the lottery, and you lofe for certain; and the greater the number of your tickets the nearer you approach to this certainty.
That the chance of lofs is frequently undervalued, and fcarce ever valued more than it is worth, we may learn from the very moderate profit of infurers. In order to make insurance, either from fire or fea-rifk, a trade at all, the common premium must be fufficient to compenfate the common loffes, to pay the expence of management, and to afford fuch a profit as might have been drawn from an equal capital employed in any common trade. The perfon who pays no more than this, evidently pays no more than the real value of the risk, or the lowest price at which he can reasonably expect to infure it. But though many people have made a little money by infurance, very few have made a great fortune; and from this confideration alone, it seems evident enough, that the ordinary balance of profit and lofs is not more advanta, geous in this, than in other common trades by M 3 which
BOOK which fo many people make fortunes. Moderate, however, as the premium of infurance commonly is, many people defpife the rifk too much to care to pay it. Taking the whole kingdom at an average, nineteen houfes in twenty, or rather, perhaps, ninety-nine in a hundred, are not infured from fire. Sea rifk is more alarming to the greater part of people, and the proportion of fhips infured to thofe not infured is much greater. Many fail, however, at all feafons, and even in time of war, without any insurance. This may fometimes perhaps be done without any imprudence. When a great company, or even a great merchant, has twenty or thirty fhips at fea, they may, as it were, infure one another. The premium faved upon them all, may more than compensate fuch loffes as they are likely to meet with in the common courfe of chances. The neglect of infurance upon fhipping, however, in the fame manner as upon houses, is, in moft cafes, the effect of no fuch nice calculation, but of mere thoughtless rashness and prefumptuous contempt of the risk.
The contempt of risk and the prefumptuous hope of fuccefs, are in no period of life more active than at the age at which young people chufe their profeffions. How little the fear of misfortune is then capable of balancing the hope of good luck, appears ftill more evidently in the readiness of the common people to enlift as foldiers, or to go to fea, than in the eagerness of thofe of better fashion to enter into what are called the liberal profeffions.
What a common foldier may lofe is obvious CHA P. enough. Without regarding the danger, however, young volunteers never enlift fo readily as at the beginning of a new war; and though they have scarce any chance of preferment, they figure to themselves, in their youthful fancies, a thoufand occafions of acquiring honour and diftinction which never occur. Thefe romantic hopes make the whole price of their blood. Their pay is lefs than that of common labourers, and in actual fervice their fatigues are much greater.
The lottery of the sea is not altogether fo difadvantageous as that of the army. The fon of a creditable labourer or artificer may frequently go to fea with his father's confent; but if he enlifts as a foldier it is always without it. Other people fee fome chance of his making fomething. by the one trade: nobody but himself fees any of his making any thing by the other. The great admiral is lefs the object of public admiration than the great general, and the higheft fuccefs in the fea fervice promises a lefs brilliant fortune and reputation than equal fuccefs in the land. The fame difference runs through all the inferior degrees of preferment in both. By the rules of precedency a captain in the navy ranks with a colonel in the army: but he does not rank with him in the common eftimation. As the great prizes in the lottery are lefs, the fmaller ones must be more numerous. Common failors, therefore, more frequently get fome fortune and preferment than common foldiers; and the hope of thofe prizes is what principally recommends