THE BANEFUL INFLUENCE OF DEPEN∣DENCE ON THE MIND.
From The Citizen of the World, by Dr. Goldsmith.
AMONG many who have enforced the duty of Giving, I am surprized there are none to incul∣cate the ignominy of Receiving, to shew that by every favour we accept, we in some measure forfeit our native freedom, and that in a state of continual de∣pendence on the generosity of others in a life of gra∣dual debasement.
Were men taught to despise the receiving obliga∣tions with the same force of reasoning and declama∣tion that they are instructed to confer them, we might Page 275then see every person in society filling up the requi∣site duties of his situation with chearful industry, neither relaxed by hope, nor sullen from disappoint∣ment.
Every favour a man receives, in some measure, sinks him below his dignity, and in proportion to the value of the benefit, or the frequency of its ac∣ceptance, he gives up so much of his natural inde∣pendence. He, therefore, who thrives upon the un∣merited bounty of another, if he has any sensibility, suffers the worst of servitude; the shackled slave may murmur with out reproach, but the humble dependent is taxed with ingratitude upon every symptom of dis∣content; the one may rave round the walls of his cell, but the other lingers in all the silence of mental confinement. To encrease his distress, every new obligation but adds to the former load which kept the vigorous mind from rising; till at last, elastic no longer, it shapes itself to constraint, and puts on ha∣bitual servility.
It is thus with the feeling mind, but there are some who, born without any share of sensibility, receive favour after favour, and still cringe for more, who accept the offer of generosity with as little reluctance as the wages of merit, and even make thanks for past benefits an indirect petition for new; such, I grant, can suffer no debasement from dependence, since they were originally as vile as was possible to be; dependence degrades only the ingenuous, but leaves the sordid mind in pristine meanness. In this man∣ner, therefore, long continued generosity is misplaced, or it is injurious; it either finds a man worthless, or it makes him so; and true it is, that the person who is contented to be often obliged, ought not to have been obliged at all.
It is perhaps one of the severest misfortunes of the great, that they are in general, obliged to live among men whose real value is lessened by dependence, and whose minds are enslaved by obligation. The hum∣ble Page 276companion may have at first accepted patronage with generous views, but soon he feels the mortifying influence of conscious inferiority, by degrees he sinks into a flatterer, and from flartery at last degenerates into STUPID VENERATION. To remedy this, the great often dismiss their old dependents, and take new. Such changes are falsely imputed to levity, falsehood, or caprice, in the patron, since they may be more justly ascribed to the client's gradual de∣terioration, No, my son, a life of independence is ge∣nerally a life of virtue. It is that which fits the soul for every flight of humanity, freedom, and friend∣ship. To give should be our pleasure, but to receive our shame; serenity, health and affluence attend the desire of rising by labour; misery, repentance, and disrespect, that of succeeding by extorted benevo∣lence; the man who can thank himself alone for the happiness he enjoys, is truely so; and lovely, far more lovely the sturdy gloom of laborious indigence, than the fawning simper of thriving adulation.