An Essay on the History of Civil Society 1767
“Adam Perguson, a non-expatriate Scot who was held in great affection by the Edinburgh men of letters, had been manoeuvred into the Professorship of Natural Philosophy in 1759, and four years later - where he more properly belonged - into the Professorship of Moral Philosophy. The first fruits of academic life, a proposed ‘Treatise on Refinement’, had met with Hume’s qualified approval, but when developed into an Essay on the History of Civil Society, with his dismay. Some chapters of the completed manuscript had been put into Hume’s hands soon after his return from France. ‘I sat down to read them’ he told Blair, ‘with great Prepossession, founded on my good Opinion of him, on a small Specimen I had seen of them some years ago, and on yours and Dr.Robertson’s Esteem of them: But I am sorry to say it, they have no-wise answer’d my Expectation. I do not think them fit to be given to the Public, neither on account of the Style nor the Reasoning: the Form nor the Matter. My Concern for his Reputation obliges me to tell you my Opinion...’ He concludes, ‘I shall be agreeable disappointed if the Success prove contrary to my Opinion’... Hume nowhere specifies his disapproval of Ferguson’s reasonings, which were no little indebted to his own. Yet what he found alien and untenable was surely the insistence upon the inevitability of progress, upon the principle of perfection. These doctrines Hume had repudiated in the philosophes; it is thus no coincidence that the philosophes, for their part, approved of Ferguson.” Mosser, The Life of David Hume.
“Mankind not only find in their condition the sources of variance and dissension; they embrace the occasions of mutual opposition, with alcarity and pleasure . . . To overawe, or intimidate, or, when we cannot persuade with reason, to resist with fortitude, are the occupations which give its most animating exercise, and its greatest triumphs, to a vigorous mind . . . It is vain to expect that we can give to the multitude of a people a sense of union among themselves, without admitting hostility to those who oppose them . . . Athens was necessary to Sparta, in the exercise of her virtue, as steel is to flint in the production of fire.”
The first French translation appeared in 1783 and a German translation, with some comments by Christian Garve, appeared in Leipzig in 1772. Garve also translated Smith and was Kant’s first critic.