Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: ON THE EXTIRPATION OF HERESY. - An Essay on Crimes and Punishments
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER IV.: ON THE EXTIRPATION OF HERESY. - Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishments 
An Essay on Crimes and Punishments. By the Marquis Beccaria of Milan. With a Commentary by M. de Voltaire. A New Edition Corrected. (Albany: W.C. Little & Co., 1872).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ON THE EXTIRPATION OF HERESY.
It seems necessary to distinguish an heresy of opinion from faction. From the first ages of Christianity opinions have been different. The Christians of Alexandria were, in many points, of a different opinion from those of Antioch. The Achaians differed from the Asiatics. This diversity of opinion existed from the beginning, and probably will continue for ever. Jesus Christ, who could have united all the faithful in the same sentiments, did it not; and therefore we may conclude that it was not his design; but that he chose rather to exercise all his churches in acts of indulgence and charity, by permitting different systems, yet all agreeing to acknowledge him their lord and master. These several sects, so long as they were tolerated by the emperors, or concealed from their sight, had it not in their power to prosecute each other, being equally subject to the Roman magistrates; they could only dispute. If they were persecuted, they equally claimed the privilege of nature: “Suffer us,” they said, “to adore our God in peace, and do not refuse us the liberty you grant to the Jews:” Every sect may now urge the same argument to their oppressors. They may say to those who want privileges to the Jews; “Treat us as you treat the sons of Jacob; let us, like them, pray to God according to our conscience. Our opinion will no more injure your state, than Judaism. You tolerate the enemies of Jesus Christ, tolerate us who adore him, and who differ from you only in theological subtleties. Do not deprive yourselves of useful subjects; useful in your manufactures, your marine, and the cultivation of your lands. Of what importance is it, that their creed be somewhat different from yours? You want their labour, and not their catechism?”
Faction is quite a different thing. It always happens, that a persecuted sect degenerates into faction. The oppressed naturally unite and animate each other; and are generally more industrious in strengthening their party, than their persecutors in their extermination. They must either destroy or be destroyed. So it happened after the persecution excited in 304, by Galerius, in the two last years of Dioclesian. The Christians, having been favoured by that emperor during eighteen years, were become too numerous and too rich to be exterminated. They joined Chlorus; they fought for his son Constantine, and a total revolution of the empire was the consequence.
Small events may be compared with great, when they are produced by the same spirit. Revolutions of a similar kind happened in Holland, in Scotland, and in Switzerland. When Ferdinand and Isabella drove the Jews out of Spain, where they were established not only before the reigning family, but before the Moors, the Goths, or even the Carthaginians; if the Jews had been as warlike as they were rich, they might easily, in conjunction with the Arabs, have effected a revolution.
In short, no sect ever changed the government, unless excited by despair. Mahomed himself succeeded only because he was driven from Mecca, and a reward offered for his head.
Would you prevent a sect from overturning the state, imitate the present wise conduct of England, of Germany, of Holland; use toleration. The only methods, in policy, to be taken with a new sect, are, to put to death the chief and all his adherents, men, women, and children, without sparing one individual; or to tolerate them, when numerous. The first method is that of a monster; the second of a wise man.
Chain your subjects to the state by their interest. Let the Quaker and the Turk find their advantage in living under your laws. Religion is of God to man; the civil law is of you to your people.