The third of those causes or circumstances
is the superiority of fortune. The authority 
of riches, however, though great in every age 
of society, is, perhaps, greatest in the rudest 
ages of society, which admits of any considerable 
inequality of fortune. A Tartar chief
the increase of whose flocks and herds is 
sufficient to maintain a thousand men, cannot 
well employ that increase in any other way 
than in maintaining a thousand men. The 
rude state of his society does not afford him 
any manufactured produce; any trinkets or 
baubles of any kind, for which he can exchange 
that part of his rude produce which 
is over and above his own consumption. The 
thousand men whom he thus maintains, depending 
entirely upon him for their subsistence
must both obey his orders in war, and 
submit to his jurisdiction in peace. He is necessarily 
both their general and their judge
and his chieftainship is the necessary effect of 
the superiority of his fortune. In an opulent 
and civilized society, a man may possess
much greater fortune, and yet not be able to 
command a dozen of people. Though the 
produce of his estate may be sufficient to maintain
and may, perhaps, actually maintain
more than a thousand people, yet, as those 
people pay for every thing which they get 
from him, as he gives scarce any thing to any 
body but in exchange for an equivalent, there 
is scarce any body who considers himself as 
entirely dependent upon him, and his authority 
extends only over a few menial servants. 
The authority of fortune, however, is very 
great, even in an opulent and civilized society
That it is much greater than that either of age 
or of personal qualities, has been the constant 
complaint of every period of society which 
admitted of any considerable inequality of fortune. 
The first period of society, that of 
hunters, admits of no such inequality. Universal 
poverty establishes their universal equality
and the superiority, either of age or of 
personal qualities, are the feeble, but the sole 
foundations of authority and subordination
There is, therefore, little or no authority or 
subordination in this period of society. The 
second period of society, that of shepherds
admits of very great inequalities of fortune
and there is no period in which the superiority 
of fortune gives so great authority to those 
who possess it. There is no period, accordingly, 
in which authority and subordination 
are more perfectly established. The authority 
of an Arabian scherif is very great; that of a 
Tartar khan altogether despotical. 
The fourth of those causes or circumstances
is the superiority of birth. Superiority of 
birth supposes an ancient superiority of fortune 
in the family of the person who claims 
it. All families are equally ancient; and the 
ancestors of the prince, though they may be 
better known, cannot well be more numerous 
than those of the beggar. Antiquity of family 
means everywhere the antiquity either 
of wealth, or of that greatness which is commonly 
either founded upon wealth, or accompanied 
with it. Upstart greatness is everywhere 
less respected than ancient greatness. 
The hatred of usurpers, the love of the family 
of an ancient monarch, are in a great measure 
founded open the contempt which men 
naturally have for the former, and upon their 
veneration for the latter. As a military officer 
submits, without reluctance, to the authority 
of a superior by whom he has always been 
commanded, but cannot bear that his inferior 
should be set over his head; so men easily 
submit to a family to whom they and their 
ancestors have always submitted; but are 
fired with indignation when another family
in whom they had never acknowledged any 
such superiority, assumes a dominion over 
The distinction of birth, being subsequent 
to the inequality of fortune, can have no place 
in nations of hunters, among whom all men
being equal in fortune, must likewise be very 
nearly equal in birth. The son of a wise and 
brave man may, indeed, even among them, 
be somewhat more respected than a man of 
equal merit, who has the misfortune to be 
the son of a fool or a coward. The difference
however, will not be very great; and 
there never was, I believe, a great family in 
the world, whose illustration was entirely derived 
from the inheritance of wisdom and 
The distinction of birth not only may, but 
always does, take place among nations of 
shepherds. Such nations are always strangers 
to every sort of luxury, and great wealth can 
scarce ever be dissipated among them by improvident 
profusion. There are no nations, 
accordingly, who abound more in families revered 
and honoured on account of their descent 
from a long race of great and illustrious 
ancestors; because there are no nations 
among whom wealth is likely to continue 
longer in the same families
Birth and fortune are evidently the two circumstances 
which principally set one man above 
another. They are the two great sources of personal 
distinction, and are, therefore, the principal 
causes which naturally establish authority 
and subordination among men. Among 
nations of shepherds, both those causes operate 
with their full force. The great shepherd 
or herdsman, respected on account of 
his great wealth, and of the great number of 
those who depend upon him for subsistence
and revered on account of the nobleness of 
his birth, and of the immemorial antiquity of 
his illustrious family, has a natural authority 
over all the inferior shepherds or herdsmen of 
his horde or clan. He can command the 
united force of a greater number of people 
than any of them. His military power is 
greater than that of any of them. In time of