children. To which of them so important a 
preference shall be given, must be determined 
by some general rule, founded not upon the 
doubtful distinctions of personal merit, but 
upon some plain and evident difference which 
can admit of no dispute. Among the children 
of the same family there can be no indisputable 
differences but that of sex, and that of 
age. The male sex is universally preferred 
to the female; and when all other things are 
equal, the elder everywhere takes place of the 
younger. Hence the origin of the right of 
primogeniture, and of what is called lineal 
Laws frequently continue in force long after 
the circumstances which first gave occasion 
to them, and which could alone render 
them reasonable, are no more. In the present 
state of Europe, the proprietor of a single acre 
of land is as perfectly secure in his possession 
as the proprietor of 100,000. The right of 
primogeniture, however, still continues to be 
respected; and as of all institutions it is the 
fittest to support the pride of family distinctions
it is still likely to endure for many centuries
In every other respect, nothing can 
be more contrary to the real interest of a numerous 
family, than a right which, in order 
to enrich one, beggars all the rest of the children
Entails are the natural consequences of the 
law of primogeniture. They were introduced 
to preserve a certain lineal succession, of 
which the law of primogeniture first gave the 
idea, and to hinder any part of the original 
estate from being carried out of the proposed 
line, either by gift, or device, or alienation
either by the folly, or by the misfortune of 
any of its successive owners. They were altogether 
unknown to the Romans. Neither 
their substitutions, nor fidei-commisses, bear 
any resemblance to entails, though some 
French lawyers have thought proper to dress 
the modern institution in the language and 
garb of those ancient ones. 
When great landed estates were a sort of 
principalities, entails might not be unreasonable
Like what are called the fundamental 
laws of some monarchies, they might frequently 
hinder the security of thousands from being 
endangered by the caprice or extravagance of 
one man. But in the present state of Europe
when small as well as great estates derive their 
security from the laws of their country, nothing 
can be more completely absurd. They 
are founded upon the most absurd of all suppositions
the supposition that every successive 
generation of men have not an equal right to 
the earth, and to all that it possesses; but that 
the property of the present generation should 
be restrained and regulated according to the the 
fancy of those who died, perhaps five hundred 
years ago. Entails, however, are still respected
through the greater part of Europe
in those countries, particularly, in which noble 
birth is a necessary qualification for the 
enjoyment either of civil or military honours
Entails are thought necessary for maintaining 
this exclusive privilege of the nobility to the 
great offices and honours of their country; 
and that order having usurped one unjust advantage 
over the rest of their fellow-citizens, 
lest their poverty should render it ridiculous
it is thought reasonable that they should have 
another. The common law of England, indeed, 
is said to abhor perpetuities, and they 
are accordingly more restricted there than in 
any other European monarchy; though even 
England is not altogether without them. In 
Scotland, more than one fifth, perhaps more 
one third part of the whole lands in the 
country, are at present supposed to be under 
strict entail
Great tracts of uncultivated land were in 
this manner not only engrossed by particular 
families, but the possibility of their being divided 
again was as much as possible precluded 
for ever. It seldom happens, however, 
that a great proprietor is a great improver
In the disorderly times which gave birth to 
those barbarous institutions, the great proprietor 
was sufficiently employed in defending his 
own territories, or in extending his jurisdiction 
and authority over those of his neighbours. 
He had no leisure to attend to the 
cultivation and improvement of land. When 
the establishment of law and order afforded 
this leisure, he often wanted the inclination
and almost always the requisite abilities. 
If the expense of his house and person either 
equalled or exceeded his revenue, as it did 
very frequently, he had no stock to employ in 
this manner. If he was an economist, he generally 
found it more profitable to employ his 
annual savings in new purchases than in the 
improvement of his old estate. To improve 
land with profit, like all other commercial projects
requires an exact attention to small savings 
and small gains, of which a man born to 
a great fortune, even though naturally frugal, 
is very seldom capable. The situation of such 
a person naturally disposes him to attend rather 
to ornament, which pleases his fancy, than 
to profit, for which he has so little occasion
The elegance of his dress, of his equipage, of 
his house and household furniture, are objects 
which, from his infancy, he has been accustomed 
to have some anxiety about. The turn 
of mind which this habit naturally forms, follows 
him when he comes to think of the improvement 
of land. He embellishes, perhaps, 
four or five hundred acres in the neighbourhood 
of his house, at ten times the expense 
which the land is worth after all his improvements
and finds, that if he was to improve 
his whole estate in the same manner, and he 
has little taste for any other, he would be a 
bankrupt before he had finished the tenth part 
of it. There still remain, in both parts of the 
united kingdom, some great estates which have