fortune, and sometimes our life and reputation
to the lawyer and attorney. Such confidence 
could not safely be reposed in people of 
a very mean or low condition. Their reward 
must be such, therefore, as may give them 
that rank in the society which so important
trust requires. The long time and the great 
expense which must be laid out in their education
when combined with this circumstance
necessarily enhance still further the price of 
their labour
When a person employs only his own stock 
in trade, there is no trust; and the credit 
which he may get from other people, depends
not upon the nature of the trade, but upon 
their opinion of his fortune, probity and prudence
The different rates of profit, therefore, 
in the different branches of trade, cannot arise 
from the different degrees of trust reposed in 
the traders. 
Fifthly, the wages of labour in different 
employments vary according to the probability 
or improbability of success in them. 
The probability that any particular person 
shall ever be qualified for the employments 
to which he is educated, is very different in 
different occupations. In the greatest part of 
mechanic trades, success is almost certain; 
but very uncertain in the liberal professions
Put your son apprentice to a shoemaker, there 
is little doubt of his learning to make a pair of 
shoes; but send him to study the law, it as 
at least twenty to one if he ever makes such 
proficiency as will enable him to live by the 
business. In a perfectly fair lottery, those 
who draw the prizes ought to gain all that is 
lost by those who draw the blanks. In a profession
where twenty fail for one that succeeds
that one ought to gain all that should 
have been gained by the unsuccessful twenty
The counsellor at law, who, perhaps, at near 
forty years of age, begins to make something 
by his profession, ought to receive the retribution
not only of his own so tedious and expensive 
education, but of that of more than 
twenty others, who are never likely to make 
any thing by it. How extravagant soever the 
fees of counsellors at law may sometimes appear, 
their real retribution is never equal to 
this. Compute, in any particular place, what 
is likely to be annually gained, and what is 
likely to be annually spent, by all the different 
workmen in any common trade, such as 
that of shoemakers or weavers, and you will 
find that the former sum will generally exceed 
the latter. But make the same computation 
with regard to all the counsellors and students 
of law, in all the different Inns of court, 
and you will find that their annual gains bear 
but a very small proportion to their annual 
expense, even though you rate the former as 
high, and the latter as low, as can well be 
done. The lottery of the law, therefore, is 
very far from being a perfectly fair lottery
and that, as well as many other liberal and 
honourable professions, is, in point of pecuniary 
gain, evidently under-recompensed
Those professions keep their level, however, 
with other occupations; and, notwithstanding 
these discouragements, all the most generous 
and liberal spirits are eager to crowd into 
them. Two different causes contribute to recommend 
them. First, the desire of the reputation 
which attends upon superior excellence 
in any of them; and, secondly, the natural 
confidence which every man has, more 
or less, not only in his own abilities, but in 
his own good fortune
To excel in any profession, in which but 
few arrive at mediocrity, it is the most decisive 
mark of what is called genius, or superior 
talents. The public admiration which attends 
upon such distinguished abilities makes 
always a part of their reward; a greater of 
smaller, in proportion as it is higher or lower 
in degree. It makes a considerable part of 
that reward in the profession of physic; a still 
greater, perhaps, in that of law; in poetry 
and philosophy it makes almost the whole. 
There are some very agreeable and beautiful 
talents, of which the possession commands 
a certain sort of admiration, but of which the 
exercise, for the sake of gain, is considered
whether from reason or prejudice, as a sort of 
public prostitution. The pecuniary recompence
therefore, of those who exercise them 
in this manner, must be sufficient, not only to 
pay for the time, labour, and expense for acquiring 
the talents, but for the discredit which 
attends the employment of them as the means 
of subsistence. The exorbitant rewards of 
players, opera-singers, opera-dancers, &c. are 
founded upon those two principles; the rarity 
and beauty of the talent, and the discredit of 
employing them in this manner. It seems 
absurd at first sight, that we should despise 
their persons, and yet reward their talents with 
the most profuse liberality. While we do the 
one, however, we must of necessity do the 
other. Should the public opinion of prejudice 
ever alter with regard to such occupations
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 so rare as imagined. Many people 
possess them in great perfection, who disdain 
to make this use of them; and many more 
are capable of acquiring them, if any thing 
could be made honourably by them. 
The over-weening conceit which the great 
part of men have of their own abilities, is an 
ancient evil remarked by the philosophers and 
moralists of all ages. Their absurd presumption 
in their own good fortune has been less 
taken notice of. It is, however, if possible, 
still more universal. There is no man living
who, when in tolerable health and spirits, has 
not some share of it. The chance of gain is