In ruder and more simple times, before labor is much subdivided, the whole stock of knowledge existing in a country will be scanty, but it will be more equally diffused over the different ranks, and each individual of the lower orders will have nearly the same opportunities and motives with his superiors, for exerting the different powers of his mind.
The rude mechanic, residing in a small town, is forced to bestow his attention, successively, on many objects different from each other. Not finding constant employment in one branch of manufacture, he exercises several, and furnishes himself with many of the tools requisite for each; he probably makes part of his own clothes, assists in building his own house and those of his neighbors, and cultivates, or directs his wife and children in cultivating, a small patch of ground, on which he raises part of his provisions.
As he must buy the materials, and sell or barter the produce of his labour, he is also, in some respects, a merchant; and, in this capacity, he is led to the observation of character, as well as to some speculation respecting the most advantageous times and places, for making his little bargains.
When we add, that he is likewise trained to arms, for the purpose of assisting in defending the town of which he is a citizen, we must see that his situation, and consequently, his character, will be very different from that of a mechanic, in a more advanced society.
In this manner, all the members of a rude nation, being forced to exercise a great number of unconnected professions and individually to provide for themselves, what each stands in need of, their attention is directed to a variety of objects: and their knowledge is extended in proportion. No man relies upon the exertions of his neighbor; but each employs, for the relief of his wants, or in defence of what belongs to him, either the strength of his body or the ingenuity of his mind, all the talents which he has been able to acquire, all the faculties with which nature has endowed him….
Unlike the mechanics of a commercial nation, who have each permitted all of their talents… to lie dormant and useless; but who combine, like the wheels of a machine, in producing a complicated system of operations, the inhabitants of a rude country have separately preserved, and kept in action, all the original powers of man….
— John Millar, “An Historical View of the English Government: From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688” (1803). Thanks to Jeff Burks for exhuming this one.