1The vulgar [men without sense]often carry all national characters to extremes.
They think that any people are knavish, cowardly, or ignorant without exception.
They categorize everyone.
Men of sense condemn these undistinguishing judgments.
But at the same time, they say that each nation has:
a peculiar set of manners, and
some particular qualities are more frequently seen among one people than others.
The common people in Switzerland are probably more honest than those Ireland.
From that circumstance alone, every prudent man will make a difference in the trust which he gives to a Swiss and an Irish man.
We expect greater wit and gaiety in a Frenchman than in a Spaniard even if Cervantes was a Spaniard.
An Englishman will naturally be supposed to have more knowledge than a Dane, even if Tycho Brahe was Danish.
2These national characters have moral and physical causes.
Moral causes are circumstances which
are fitted to work on the mind as motives or reasons, and
which render a peculiar set of manners habitual to us.
Under moral causes are:
the nature of the government
the revolutions of public affairs
the wealth or poverty of the people
the nation's situation with regard to its neighbours,
and other similar circumstances.
Physical causes are the qualities of the air and climate, which are supposed to work insensibly on the temper.
They alter the body's tone and habit
They give a particular complexion which reflection and reason may sometimes overcome.
But it will still:
prevail among the generality of mankind, and
have an influence on their manners.
3A nation's character will much depend on moralcauses, since a nation is just a collection of individuals.
The manners of individuals are frequently determined by these causes.
Poverty and hard labour debase the minds of the common people.
It renders them unfit for any science and ingenious profession.
The oppression of any government has a proportional effect on their peoples' temper and genius.
It must banish all the liberal arts from them.
fixes the character of different professions
alters even the disposition which nature gives to particular members.
A soldier and a priest are different characters, in all nations and ages.
This difference is founded on circumstances which are eternal and unalterable.
5 The uncertainty of a soldier's life makes the soldier lavish, generous, and brave.
Their idleness in large societies, such as camps or garrisons, inclines them to pleasure and gallantry.
They acquire good breeding and an openness of behaviour by the frequent change of company.
Being employed only against a public and an open enemy, they become candid, honest, and undesigning.
They are commonly thoughtless and ignorant as they use more the labour of the body than that of the mind.
6 It is a trite, but not altogether a false maxim, that priests of all religions are the same.
The character of the profession will not always prevail over the personal character
Yet is it sure always to predominate with most of them.
Chemists observe that spirits, when raised to a certain height, are all the same, from whatever materials they be extracted.
So these men, being elevated above humanity, acquire a uniform character entirely their own.
I think it generally is not the most amiable one.
It is opposite to that of a soldier; as is the way of life, from which it is derived.
7 I doubt physical causes.
I do not think that men owe anything of their temper or genius to the air, food, or climate.
A contrary opinion might be at first sight seem probable since we find, that:
these circumstances influence every animal, and
even those creatures fitted to live in all climates, such as dogs, horses, etc. do not attain the same perfection in all.
The courage of bull-dogs and game-cocks seems peculiar to England.
Flanders is remarkable for large and heavy horses:
Spain is remarkable for horses light, and of good mettle.
And any breed of these creatures, transplanted from one country to another, will soon lose the qualities, which they derived from their native climate.
Why not the same with men?
8 This is a very common question regarding human affairs.
So we should examine it fully.
9 The human mind is of a very imitative nature.
It is impossible for men to converse often without acquiring similar manners and communicating to each other their vices and virtues.
The propensity to company and society is strong in all rational creatures.
The same disposition, which gives us this propensity, makes us enter deeply into each other's sentiments.
It causes similar passions and inclinations to run by contagion through the whole club or knot of companions.
A people united into one political body would have frequent dealings for defence, commerce, and government.
With the same language, they must together:
acquire a resemblance in their manners, and
a common or national character,
as well as a personal one, peculiar to each individual.
Nature produces all kinds of temper and understanding.
But it does not follow that:
she always produces them in the same proportions, and
the following ingredients will be mixed in the same way in every society:
industry and indolence
valour and cowardice
humanity and brutality
wisdom and folly
In the infancy of society, if any of these dispositions are more common, it will naturally:
prevail in that society, and
give a tincture to the national character.
It could be presumed that:
no character predominates, even in small societies, and
the same proportions will always be preserved in the mixture.
Yet surely the persons in credit and authority are still fewer.
It cannot always be presumed that:
they are of the same character; and
their influence on the people's manners is always very considerable.
If a Brutus were made leader of a new republic and was enthusiastic about its liberty and public good, as to overlook all the ties of nature and private interest, it would naturally:
have an effect on the whole society.
kindle the same passion in every bosom.
Whatever forms the manners of one generation, the next generation must imbibe a deeper tincture of the same dye.
Men are more susceptible of all impressions during infancy,
They retain these impressions for the rest of their life.
I assert that:
all national characters, where they do not depend on fixed moralcauses, proceed from such accidents as these, and
physical causes have no discernible operation on the human mind.
It is a maxim in all philosophy, that non-appearing causes are considered as not existing.
Proofs of national characteres coming from the metaphysical sympathy of manners instead of from physical causes
10Everywhere, and all throughout history, there are signs of a sympathy or contagion of manners everywhere, but none of the influence of air or climate.
11 Where a very extensive governmenthas been established for many centuries, it:
spreads a national character over the whole empire, and
communicates to every part a similarity of manners.
Thus, the Chinese have the greatest uniformity of character imaginable even if their air and climate are very varied.
12In small contiguous governments, the people have a different character.
They are often as distinguishable in their manners as the most distant nations.
Athens and Thebes just a short day's journey apart.
But the Athenians were remarkable for ingenuity, politeness, and gaiety
The Thebans were as remarkable for dulness, rusticity, and a phlegmatic temper.
Plutarch talked about the effects of air on the minds of men.
He observed that the inhabitants of the Piraeum had very different tempers from those of the higher town in Athens, which was four miles away.
But no one attributes the difference of manners in Wapping and St. James', to a difference of air or climate.
13 The same national character commonly follows the authority of government to a precise boundary
Upon crossing a river or passing a mountain, one finds a new set of manners, with a new government.
The Languedocians and Gascons are the gayest people in France
But when you pass the Pyrenees, you are among Spaniards.
Could the qualities of the air change exactly with the limits of an empire?
Those limits depend so much on the accidents of battles, negotiations, and marriages.
14 Where any set of men, scattered over distant nations, maintain a close society or communication together, they:
acquire a similarity of manners
have little in common with the nations where they live in.
Thus the European Jews and the Armenians in the east, have a peculiar character.
The Jews are as much noted for fraud, as the Armenians for probity.
The Jesuits, in all Catholic countries, are also observed to have a character peculiar to themselves.
15If two nations inhabiting the same country are prevented from mixing with each other, they will preserve for several centuries a distinct and even opposite set of manners.
This separation could be accidental, such as a difference in language or religion
The integrity, gravity, and bravery of the Turks, form an exact contrast to the deceit, levity, and cowardice of the modern Greeks.
16 The same set of manners will follow a nation, and adhere to them around the world, as well as the same laws and language.
The Spanish, English, French and Dutch colonies are all distinguishable even between the tropics.
17The manners of a people change very considerably from one age to another either by:
great alterations in their government,
mixtures of new people, or
that inconstancy of human affairs
The ingenuity, industry, and activity of the ancient Greeks have nothing in common with the stupidity and indolence of the modern Greeks.
Candour, bravery, and love of liberty formed the character of the ancient Romans.
Subtilty, cowardice, and a slavishness forms the character of the modern Italians.
The old Spaniards were restless, turbulent, and so addicted to war.
Many of them killed themselves, when deprived of their arms by the Romans.
One would find an equal difficulty at present or 50 years ago, to rouse up the modern Spaniards to arms.
The Batavians (Germans) were all soldiers of fortune.
They hired themselves into the Roman armies.
Their descendants use foreigners for the same purpose that the Romans did their ancestors.
A few strokes of the current French character is the same with the Gauls, as described by Caesar.
Yet there is a big difference between the civility, humanity, and knowledge of modern France, and the ignorance, barbarity, and grossness of the ancient Gauls.
There is a great difference between the modern British and those before the Roman conquest.
A few centuries ago, our ancestors were sunk into the most abject superstition.
In the last century, they were inflamed with the most furious enthusiasm.
Now they are most indifferent to religious matters, compared to any nation.
18 Where several neighbouring nations have a very close communication together, either by policy, commerce, or traveling, they acquire a similarity of manners, proportional to the communication.
Thus all the Franks appear to have a uniform character to the eastern nations.
The differences among them are like the peculiar accents of different provinces.
Those accents are distinguishable only to an ear accustomed to them, and not to foreigners
19 We often see a wonderful mixture of manners and characters in the same nation, speaking the same language, and subject to the same government.
The English are the most remarkable people in this sense.
This is not ascribed:
to the mutability and uncertainty of their climate, or
to any other physical causes, since all these causes take place in neighbouring Scotland, without the same effect.
If a nation's government is fully republican, it commonly gets a peculiar set of manners.
If it is fully monarchical, it is more apt to have peculiar manners.
The imitation of superiors spread the national manners faster among the people.
If the governing part of a state consist altogether of merchants, as in Holland, their uniform way of life will fix their character.
If it consists chiefly of nobles and landed gentry, like Germany, France, and Spain, the same effect follows.
The genius of a particular sect or religion also moulds the people's manners.
The English government is a mixture of:
The people in authority are composed of gentry and merchants.
All sects of religion are to be found among them.
The great liberty and independency, which every man enjoys, allows him to display the manners peculiar to him.
Hence the English have the least of a national character, unless this very singularity may pass for such.
20 If men's characters depended on the air and climate, heat and cold should naturally have a mighty influence, since it has the greatest effect on all plants and irrational animals.
There is some reason to think that the nations which live beyond the polar circles or between the tropics are inferior and incapable of all the human mind's higher attainments.
Without having to recourse to physical causes, the following might account for this remarkable difference:
the poverty and misery of the northern inhabitants of the globe, and
the indolence of the southern, from their few necessities,
The characters of nations are certainly very promiscuous in the temperate climates.
But almost all the observations of southern or northern people in these climates are false.
21 If we say that closeness to the sun inflames men's imaginations and gives it a peculiar spirit and vivacity:
The French, Greeks, Egyptians, and Persians are remarkable for gaiety.
The Spaniards, Turks, and Chinese are noted for gravity and a serious deportment, without any such difference of climate as to produce this difference of temper.
22 The Greeks and Romans called all other nations barbarians.
They confined genius and a fine understanding to the more southern climates.
They said the northern nations were incapable of all knowledge and civility.
But our island has produced as great men, either for action or learning, as Greece or Italy has to boast of.
23 It is pretended that:
men's sentiments become more delicate as the country approaches nearer to the sun;
the taste of beauty and elegance is proportionally improved per latitude, as we can observe of the languages.
The southern languages are smooth and melodious.
The northern languages are harsh and untuneable.
But this observation is not universal.
Arabic is uncouth and disagreeable.
Russian is soft and musical.
Energy, strength, and harshness form the character of the Latin tongue.
Italian is the most liquid, smooth, and effeminate language that can possibly be imagined.
Every language will depend somewhat on the people's manners.
But it will depend much more on that original stock of words and sounds, which they received from their ancestors.
Those words and sounds remain unchangeable even if their manners change greatly.
The English are presently more polite and knowing than the Greeks were after the siege of Troy.
Yet is there no comparison between the language of Milton and that of Homer.
The greater the changes to the people's manners, the less changes can be expected in their language.
A few eminent and refined geniuses will communicate their taste and knowledge and produce the greatest improvements.
But they fix the tongue by their writings.
They prevent, in some degree, further changes to the language.
24 Lord Bacon observed that the inhabitants of the south are generally more ingenious than those of the north.
But where the native of a cold climate has genius, he rises to a higher pitch than can be reached by the southern wits.
A late writer confirms this by comparing the southern wits to cucumbers.
They are commonly all good, but at best are an insipid fruit.
While the northern geniuses are like melons.
Not one in 50 is good, but when it is so, it has an exquisite relish.
I believe this remark is just, when confined to:
the European nations, and
the present age, or rather to the preceding one.
But I think it may be accounted for from moral causes.
All the sciences and liberal arts have been imported to us from the south.
The few who were addicted to them would:
carry them to the greatest height, and
stretch every nerve and faculty to perfection.
Emulation and by glory would prompt them to do so.
Such people would:
spread knowledge everywhere, and
begot an universal esteem for the sciences.
Afterwards, that industry relaxes when men:
do not find suitable encouragement
are not given such distinction by their attainments
Learning is then universal diffused among a people.
Gross ignorance and rusticity is entirely banished.
People no longer attain that remarkable perfection in learning as before
Learning seems to be taken for granted in the Dialogusde Oratoribus.
It says that knowledge was much more common in Vespian's time than in the time of Cicero and Augustus.
Quintilian also complains of the profanation of learning, by its becoming too common.
"Formerly, science was confined to Greece and Italy.
Now the whole world emulates Athens and Rome.
Eloquent Gaul has taught Britain, knowing in the laws.
Even Thule entertains thoughts of hiring rhetoricians for its instruction."
This state of learning is remarkable because Juvenal is himself the last of the Roman writers with any genius.
Those who succeeded just had facts.
I hope the recent conversion of Russia to the study of the sciences will not end up like the present period of learning.
25 With regard to candour and sincerity, Cardinal Bentivoglio prefers the northern nations, such as the Flemings and Germans, to the southern, such as the Spaniards and Italians.
But I think that this has happened by accident.
The ancient Romans seem to have been a candid sincere people, as are the modern Turks.
But if this event arose from fixed causes, we may only conclude that all extremes:
are apt to concur
are commonly attended with the same consequences
Treachery usually accompanies ignorance and barbarism.
If civilized nations ever embrace subtle and crooked politics, it is from an excess of refinement.
It makes them disdain the plain direct path to power and glory.
26Most conquests have gone from north to south.
That's why people have inferred that the northern nations are braver and fiercer.
But it would be fairer to say that most conquests are made by :
want on plenty and riches.
The Arabs left the deserts of Arabia.
They carried their conquests north on all the fertile provinces of the Roman empire.
They met the Turks half way, who were coming southwards from the deserts of Tartary.
Sir William Temple remarked that:
all courageous animals are also carnivorous, and
greater courage is to be expected in a people, such as the English, whose food is strong and hearty, than in the half-starved people of other countries.
But the Swedes have disadvantages in food and are not inferior to any nation in terms of martial courage.
Mentality Creates Reality
28 In general, of all national qualities, courage is the most precarious because it is exerted:
only at intervals, and
by a few in every nation.
Whereas industry, knowledge, civility, are used constantly and universally.
For several ages, these may become habitual to the whole people.
If courage be preserved, it must be by discipline, example, and opinion.
The tenth legion of Caesar and the regiment of Picardy in France were formed promiscuously from the citizens.
But having once entertained a notion that they were the best troops in the service, this very opinion really made them such.
29 The proof of how much courage depends on opinion can be seen in the Greek Dorians and Ionians.
The Dorians were always esteemed.
They always appeared more brave and manly than the Ionians, even if the colonies of both were interspersed and intermingled throughout:
the Aegean islands.
The Athenians were the only Ionians that ever had any reputation for valour or military achievements.
But even these were inferior to the Spartans, the bravest of the Dorians.
30 The vulgar observation that people in the northern regions prefer strong liquors and those in the southern regions prefer love and women, is important.
One can assign a very probable physical cause for this difference.
Wine and distilled waters warm the frozen blood in the colder climates.
It fortifies men against the injuries of the weather
The genial heat of the sun in southern countries inflames the blood.
It exalts the passion between the sexes
31Perhaps too, the matter may be accounted for by moral causes.
All strong liquors are rarer in the north.
Consequently they are more coveted.
Diodorus Siculus tells us that the Gauls in his time were great drunkards.
I suppose they were addicted to wine chiefly from its rarity and novelty.
On the other hand, the heat in the southern climates, obliges men and women to go half naked.
It renders their frequent commerce more dangerous.
It inflames their mutual passion.
This makes parents and husbands more jealous and reserved, which still farther inflames the passion
Not to mention, that women ripen sooner in the southern regions.
It is necessary to observe greater jealousy and care in their education.
A 12-year old girl cannot possess equal discretion to govern this passion, with one who does not feel it strongly until she be 17 or 18.
Ease and leisure encourages most the passion of love.
Industry and hard labour destroys it best.
The necessities of men are evidently fewer in the warm climates than in the cold ones.
This circumstance alone may make a considerable difference between them.
32 I doubt that nature has, either from moral or physical causes, distributed these respective inclinations to the different climates.
The ancient Greeks were born in a warm climate.
They seem to have been much addicted to wine.
Their parties of pleasure were just drinking matches among men who passed their time away from the fair.
Yet when Alexander led the Greeks into Persia, a still more southern climate, they multiplied their debauches of this kind, in imitation of the Persian manners.
Persians so honoured drunkards.
Cyrus the younger solicited the sober Lacedemonians for succour against his brother Artaxerxes.
Cyrus claims it chiefly on account of his superior endowments, as more valorous, more bountiful, and a better drinker.
Darius Hystaspes made it be inscribed on his tomb-stone, among his other virtues and princely qualities, that no one could drink more than him.
You can get anything from the Negroes by offering them strong drink.
You may easily prevail with them to sell, not only their children, but their wives and mistresses, for a cask of brandy.
In France and Italy, few drink pure wine, except in the greatest heats of summer.
The heat evaporates the spirits so it must be recruited by wine, just as it is necessary in Sweden to warm bodies congealed by winter.
33 If jealousy were regarded as a proof of an amorous disposition, the Russians are most jealous, before their contact with Europe changed this manner.
34 If it were true that nature physically regularly distributed the love of wine to the north and amorous love to the south, the climate may affect our bigger bodily organs than our finer organs which control the mind and understanding.
This is agreeable to the analogy of nature.
The races of animals never degenerate when carefully tended.
Horses, in particular, always show their blood in their shape, spirit, and swiftness.
But a vain man may have a philosopher son
A virtuous man may have a worthless son
35 The passion for liquor is more brutal and debasing than amorous love.
When properly managed, amorous love is the source of all politeness and refinement.
Yet this gives not so great an advantage to the southern climates, as we might initially imagine.
When love goes beyond a certain pitch, it renders men jealous.
It cuts off the free intercourse between the sexes, on which a nation's politeness will commonly depend.
People in very temperate climates are the most likely to attain all sorts of improvement.
Their blood is not so inflamed as to render them jealous.
Yet it is warm enough to make them set a due value on the charms and endowments of women.