I am sometimes very much troubled, when I reflect upon the three great Professions of Divinity, Law, and Physick; how they are each of them over-burdened with Practitioners, and filled with Multitudes of Ingenious Gentlemen that starve one another.
We may divide the Clergy into Generals, Field-Officers, and Subalterns. Among the first we may reckon Bishops, Deans, and Arch-Deacons. Among the second are Doctors of Divinity, Prebendaries, and all that wear Scarfs. The rest are comprehended under the Subalterns. As for the first Class, our Constitution preserves it from any Redundancy of Incumbents, notwithstanding Competitors are numberless. Upon a strict Calculation, it is found that there has been a great Exceeding of late Years in the Second Division, several Brevets having been granted for the converting of Subalterns into Scarf-Officers; insomuch that within my Memory the price of Lute-string is raised above two Pence in a Yard. As for the Subalterns, they are not to be numbred. Should our Clergy once enter into the corrupt Practice of the Laity, by the splitting of their Free-holds, they would be able to carry most of the Elections in England.
The Body of the Law is no less encumbered with superfluous Members, that are like Virgil's Army, which he tells us was so crouded,  many of them had not Room to use their Weapons. This prodigious Society of Men may be divided into the Litigious and Peaceable. Under the first are comprehended all those who are carried down in Coach-fulls to Westminster-Hall every Morning in Term-time. Martial's description of this Species of Lawyers is full of Humour:
'Iras et verba locant.'
Men that hire out their Words and Anger; that are more or less passionate according as they are paid for it, and allow their Client a quantity of Wrath proportionable to the Fee which they receive from him. I must, however, observe to the Reader, that above three Parts of those whom I reckon among the Litigious, are such as are only quarrelsome in their Hearts, and have no Opportunity of showing their Passion at the Bar. Nevertheless, as they do not know what Strifes may arise, they appear at the Hall every Day, that they may show themselves in a Readiness to enter the Lists, whenever there shall be Occasion for them.
The Peaceable Lawyers are, in the first place, many of the Benchers of the several Inns of Court, who seem to be the Dignitaries of the Law, and are endowed with those Qualifications of Mind that accomplish a Man rather for a Ruler, than a Pleader. These Men live peaceably in their Habitations, Eating once a Day, and Dancing once a Year,  for the Honour of their Respective Societies.
Another numberless Branch of Peaceable Lawyers, are those young Men who being placed at the Inns of Court in order to study the Laws of their Country, frequent the Play-House more than Westminster-Hall, and are seen in all publick Assemblies, except in a Court of Justice. I shall say nothing of those Silent and Busie Multitudes that are employed within Doors in the drawing up of Writings and Conveyances; nor of those greater Numbers that palliate their want of Business with a Pretence to such Chamber-Practice.
If, in the third place, we look into the Profession of Physick, we shall find a most formidable Body of Men: The Sight of them is enough to make a Man serious, for we may lay it down as a Maxim, that When a Nation abounds in Physicians, it grows thin of People. Sir William Temple is very much puzzled to find a Reason why the Northern Hive, as he calls it, does not send out such prodigious Swarms, and over-run the World with Goths and Vandals, as it did formerly;  but had that Excellent Author observed that there were no Students in Physick among the Subjects of _Thor and Woden, and that this Science very much flourishes in the North at present, he might have found a better Solution for this Difficulty, than any of those he has made use of. This Body of Men, in our own Country, may be described like the British Army in Cæsar's time: Some of them slay in Chariots, and some on Foot. If the Infantry do less Execution than the Charioteers, it is, because they cannot be carried so soon into all Quarters of the Town, and dispatch so much Business in so short a Time. Besides this Body of Regular Troops, there are Stragglers, who, without being duly listed and enrolled, do infinite Mischief to those who are so unlucky as to fall into their Hands.
There are, besides the above-mentioned, innumerable Retainers to Physick, who, for want of other Patients, amuse themselves with the stifling of Cats in an Air Pump, cutting up Dogs alive, or impaling of Insects upon the point of a Needle for Microscopical Observations; besides those that are employed in the gathering of Weeds, and the Chase of Butterflies: Not to mention the Cockle-shell-Merchants and Spider-catchers.
When I consider how each of these Professions are crouded with Multitudes that seek their Livelihood in them, and how many Men of Merit there are in each of them, who may be rather said to be of the Science, than the Profession; I very much wonder at the Humour of Parents, who will not rather chuse to place their Sons in a way of Life where an honest Industry cannot but thrive, than in Stations where the greatest Probity, Learning and Good Sense may miscarry. How many Men are Country-Curates, that might have made themselves Aldermen of London by a right Improvement of a smaller Sum of Mony than what is usually laid out upon a learned Education? A sober, frugal Person, of slender Parts and a slow Apprehension, might have thrived in Trade, tho' he starves upon Physick; as a Man would be well enough pleased to buy Silks of one, whom he would not venture to feel his Pulse. Vagellius is careful, studious and obliging, but withal a little thick-skull'd; he has not a single Client, but might have had abundance of Customers. The Misfortune is, that Parents take a Liking to a particular Profession, and therefore desire their Sons may be of it. Whereas, in so great an Affair of Life, they should consider the Genius and Abilities of their Children, more than their own Inclinations.
It is the great Advantage of a trading Nation, that there are very few in it so dull and heavy, who may not be placed in Stations of Life which may give them an Opportunity of making their Fortunes. A well-regulated Commerce is not, like Law, Physick or Divinity, to be overstocked with Hands; but, on the contrary, flourishes by Multitudes, and gives Employment to all its Professors. Fleets of Merchantmen are so many Squadrons of floating Shops, that vend our Wares and Manufactures in all the Markets of the World, and find out Chapmen under both the Tropicks.
[Footnote 1: At this time, and until the establishment of New Style, from 1752, the legal year began in England on the 25th of March, while legally in Scotland, and by common usage throughout the whole kingdom, the customary year began on the 1st of January. The Spectator dated its years, according to custom, from the first of January; and so wrote its first date March 1, 1711. But we have seen letters in it dated in a way often adopted to avoid confusion (1710-11) which gave both the legal and the customary reckoning. March 24 being the last day of the legal year 1710, in the following papers, until December 31, the year is 1711 both by law and custom. Then again until March 24, while usage will be recognizing a new year, 1712, it will be still for England (but not for Scotland) 1711 to the lawyers. The reform initiated by Pope Gregory XIII. in 1582, and not accepted for England and Ireland until 1751, had been adopted by Scotland from the 1st of January, 1600.
[This reform was necessary to make up for the inadequate shortness of the previous calendar (relative to the solar year), which had resulted in some months' discrepancy by the eighteenth century.]]
[Footnote 2: [that]
[Footnote 3: In Dugdale's 'Origines Juridiciales' we read how in the Middle Temple, on All Saints' Day, when the judges and serjeants who had belonged to the Inn were feasted,
'the music being begun, the Master of the Revels was twice called. At the second call, the Reader with the white staff advanced, and began to lead the measures, followed by the barristers and students in order; and when one measure was ended, the Reader at the cupboard called for another.']
[Footnote 4: See Sir W. Temple's Essay on Heroic Virtue, Section 4.
'This part of Scythia, in its whole Northern extent, I take to have been the vast Hive out of which issued so many mighty swarms of barbarous nations,' &c. And again, 'Each of these countries was like a mighty hive, which, by the vigour of propagation and health of climate, growing too full of people, threw out some new swarm at certain periods of time, that took wing and sought out some new abode, expelling or subduing the old inhabitants, and seating themselves in their rooms, if they liked the conditions of place and commodities of life they met with; if not, going on till they found some other more agreeable to their present humours and dispositions.' He attributes their successes and their rapid propagation to the greater vigour of life in the northern climates; and the only reason he gives for the absence of like effects during the continued presence of like causes is, that Christianity abated their enthusiasm and allayed 'the restless humour of perpetual wars and actions.']Translation of motto: