If man were a savage, living in the woods by himself, this might be true; but in civilised society we all depend upon each other, and our happiness is very much owing to the good opinions of mankind. Now, sir, in civilised society, external advantages make us more respected. A man with a good coat upon his back meets with a better reception than he who has a bad one. Sir, you may analyse this, and say what is there in it? But that will avail you nothing, for it is part of a general system. Pound St. Paul’s church into atoms, and consider any single atom; it is, to be sure, good for nothing: but, put all these atoms together, and you have St. Paul’s church. So it is with human felicity, which is made up of many ingredients, each of which may be shown to be very insignificant. In civilised society personal merit will not serve you so much as money will. Sur, you may make the experiment. Go into the street and give one man a lecture on morality, and another a shilling, and see which will respect you most. If you wish only to support nature, Sir William Petty fixes your allowance at £3 a year; but as times are much altered, let us call it £6. This sum will fill your belly, shelter you from the weather, and even get you a strong lasting coat, supposing it to be made of good bull’s hide. Now, sir, all beyond this is artificial, and is desired in order to obtain a greater degree of respect from our fellow-creatures. And, sir, if £600 a year procure a man more consequence, and, of course, more happiness, than £6 a year, the same proportion will hold as to £6000, and so on, as far as opulence can be carried. Perhaps he who has a large fortune may not be so happy as he who has a small one; but that must proceed from other causes than from his having the large fortune; for, cæteris paribus, he who is rich in a civilised society must be happier than he who is poor; as riches, if properly used (and it is a man’s own fault if they are not), must be productive of the highest advantages. Money, to be sure, of itself, is of not use; for its only use is to part with it. Rousseau, and all those who deal in paradoxes are led away by a childish desire of novelty. When I was a boy I used to always choose the wrong side of the debate, because most ingenious things, that is to say, most new things, could be said upon it. Sir, there is nothing for which you may not muster up more plausible arguments than those which are urged against wealth and other external advantages. Why, now, there is stealing: why should it be thought a crime? When we consider by what unjust methods property has been often acquired, and that what was unjustly got it must be unjust to keep, where is the harm in one man’s taking the property of another from him? Besides, sir, when we consider the bad use that many people make of their property, and how much better use the thief may make of it, it may be defended as a very allowable practice. Yet, sir, the experience of mankind has discovered stealing to be so bad a thing that they make no scruple to hang a man for it.
When I was running about this town a very poor fellow, I was a great arguer for the advantages of poverty; but I was, at the same time, very sorry to be poor. Sir, all the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil, show it to be evidently a great evil. You never find people labouring to convince you that you may live very happily upon a plentiful fortune. So you hear people talking how miserable a kind must be; and yet they all wish to be in his place. [my emphasis]