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"He was distinguished," says Mr. Duff, "for a remarkable diffidence in his own abilities, uncommon though they were. An instance of this occurred during his second session. The subject of a prize Essay was proposed by the Professor of Logic. Mr. Urquhart began to write the Essay, and brought it nearly to a close; when, upon reading it, he was so dissatisfied with its merits, that he threw it into the fire. He was, however, encouraged to renew the attempt, and prosecuted the subject with vigor. He submitted the performance to a fellow-student, whose tried abilities rendered him capable of estimating the talent with which it was executed. He was much struck with the superior excellence of the Essay, and strongly advised Mr. Urquhart to give it to the Professor. Notwithstanding this encouragement, having once more read the Essay himself, he was so much displeased with its execution, that he burnt it without any hesitation."
The highest prize was assigned him for the essay composed under the circumstances which have been adverted to. The opinion of Dr. Chalmers is evident, from his having awarded it, and from the sentence which he has written the upon last page of the Essay itself. In this opinion, not only did the class in general concur, but even
those individuals from whom he had carried off the boon. The reader is now furnished with that Essay, and will thus be enabled to form his own opinion:
ON THE MUTUAL INFLUENCES AND AFFINITIES, WHICH OBTAIN BETWEEN THE MORAL AND THE ECONOMIC CONDITION OF SOCIETY.
With those who wish to prove from natural religion, the existence of a state of retribution, beyond the grave, the unequal distribution of rewards and punishments in the present life, has always been a favorite argument. Such individuals have usually placed before us, in strongest coloring, that success which sometimes crowns the fraudulent schemes of the vicious; which they have rendered doubly impressive, by contrasting it with those unforeseen calamities, which so often, in this world of uncertainty, crush the most strenuous exertions of aspiring virtue. In order to reconcile this seeming injustice with the assumed goodness of the Deity, they argue that there must be some future state of existence, where a recompense shall be rendered to the virtuous for all his sufferings on earth; and where that vengeance, which has been long delayed, shall at last overtake, and utterly overwhelm the vicious.
Now, though we perfectly agree with those who thus reason, and think that their conclusions are most legitimately deducible from the premises; yet we cannot help the conviction that they have somewhat overstrained their argument, and that
in their zeal to prove that the present life is but a state of probation, they have sometimes represented the moral government of God in our world, as more deranged, and farther from equity than actually is the case. Notwithstanding all that has been advanced to the contrary, we think we are entitled, from the strongest historical evidence, to believe that the proverb, though not universally, yet very generally, holds true, even when we confine our regards to man's present existence, that virtue is her own reward, and that vice involves its own punishment; or, in other words, that there is a very intimate connexion between a man's moral character, and his economic circumstances. Idleness and vice, are, with few exceptions, the harbingers of disease and misery, while sobriety and industry seldom fail to procure for their possessor, respectability and comfort. So that we shall in general find, that if a virtuous man come to ruin, it is not because of, but in spite of his virtue; and that on the other hand, if a vicious man prosper, it is not because of, but in spite of his immorality. And these remarks are not only consonant to experience and sound philosophy, but they also receive additional confirmation from the announcements of revelation, which ever describes moral evil as the sole cause of all the misery that is to be found in our world; and which holds out to him who is obedient to its precepts, the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that life which is to come.
But if these remarks hold, generally, with regard to individuals, they are still more universally true when applied to nations. An individual may get rich by fraud and injustice; but we know of no vice that can aggrandize a nation. Some
unforeseen calamity, on the other hand, may overwhelm the most virtuous individual; but we know not of any obstacle which can impede the rising greatness of a country, whose inhabitants are sober and industrious, and which is governed with justice and liberality. So that we may safely aver, if not of individuals, at least of communities, that there is a very close and intimate connexion between their moral, and their economic condition.
To point out a few of the mutual influences and affinities which obtain between the moral and the economic condition of mankind, will, therefore, be the object of the following observations. And we shall consider the subject,-First; As it may illustrated in savage life, and in the subsequent progress of a community from barbarism to refinement. And, Secondly, In its relation to civilized society.
The most degraded condition in which we can suppose human beings to be placed, and that in which man most nearly resembles the animals of the inferior creation, is that condition in which there is no mental culture, no moral instruction whatever. As this is the lowest condition in which a community can be placed in point of morals, so is it the lowest in point of economic comfort. The untutored savage comes into the world, and feels himself actuated by certain appetites and passions, which, as he has never been taught to restrain, he makes it his sole employment to gratify. His present wants occupy so much of his attention, that he seldom thinks of making provision for those that are future. His subsistence, therefore, consists entirely in the spontaneous productions of the earth and the sea; in the animals which he
can succeed in capturing, and in the scanty fruits which the soil may produce without the labor of human hands. The latter are so insignificant that they can scarcely be taken into account; and accordingly, we find, that fishing, and the chase, constitute, in general, the sole employments of nations sunk in this lowest state of barbarism.
Nothing can be more uncertain, however, than the returns which such occupations yield; and the savage has too little foresight to make the success of one expedition compensate for the failure of another. If he catch a deer, he does not think of laying up part of it against the emergencies of future bad fortune, but proceeds forthwith to gratify the voracious appetite of himself and his family, which has in all likelihood, been whetted by long fasting, or by a long succession of scanty meals. After he has thus profusely wasted his whole stock of provisions, he must again fast, perhaps, for days, or support existence, by means of the few miserable berries which the woods can afford him, till another deer falls in his way, when the same scene of gluttony takes place, and the same course of misery follows. If another has been more successful than himself, his sense of justice is by far too weak to deter him from satisfying the cravings of a famished appetite at what- . ever expense. He will not hesitate to fight with his enemy for the sake of the animals he may have caught, or even in some instances, to murder him for the sake of the horrid repast which his flesh may furnish. A want of the necessaries of life is said to be the cause of those bloody contentions which are ever bursting forth among savage tribes. And the cruel and merciless nature of that warfare may be imagined, where the contest is not, as