Front Page Titles (by Subject) VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. VI—Part I - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VI (Philosophical Dictionary Part 4)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. VI—Part I - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VI (Philosophical Dictionary Part 4) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. VI.
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.
The WORKS of VOLTAIRE
“Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation. * * * * Let us say it with a sentiment of profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED. Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization.”
A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY.
The history of Joseph, considering it merely as an object of curiosity and literature, is one of the most precious monuments of antiquity which has reached us. It appears to be the model of all the Oriental writers; it is more affecting than the “Odyssey”; for a hero who pardons is more touching than one who avenges.
We regard the Arabs as the first authors of these ingenious fictions, which have passed into all languages; but I see among them no adventures comparable to those of Joseph. Almost all in it is wonderful, and the termination exacts tears of tenderness. He was a young man of sixteen years of age, of whom his brothers were jealous; he is sold by them to a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants, conducted into Egypt, and bought by a eunuch of the king. This eunuch had a wife, which is not at all extraordinary; the kislar aga, a perfect eunuch, has a seraglio at this day at Constantinople; they left him some of his senses, and nature in consequence is not altogether extinguished. No matter; the wife of Potiphar falls in love with the young Joseph, who, faithful to his master and benefactor, rejects the advances of this woman. She is irritated at it, and accuses Joseph of attempting to seduce her. Such is the history of Hippolytus and Phædra, of Bellerophon and Zenobia, of Hebrus and Damasippa, of Myrtilus and Hippodamia, etc.
It is difficult to know which is the original of all these histories; but among the ancient Arabian authors there is a tract relating to the adventure of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, which is very ingenious. The author supposes that Potiphar, uncertain between the assertions of his wife and Joseph, regarded not Joseph’s tunic, which his wife had torn as a proof of the young man’s outrage. There was a child in a cradle in his wife’s chamber; and Joseph said that she seized and tore his tunic in the presence of this infant. Potiphar consulted the child, whose mind was very advanced for its age. The child said to Potiphar: “See if the tunic is torn behind or before; if before, it is a proof that Joseph would embrace your wife by force, and that she defended herself; if behind, it is a proof that your wife detained Joseph.” Potiphar, thanks to the genius of the child, recognized the innocence of his slave. It is thus that this adventure is related in the Koran, after the Arabian author. It informs us not to whom the infant belonged, who judged with so much wit. If it was not a son of Potiphar, Joseph was not the first whom this woman had seduced.
However that may be, according to Genesis, Joseph is put in prison, where he finds himself in company with the butler and baker of the king of Egypt. These two prisoners of state both dreamed one night. Joseph explains their dreams; he predicted that in three days the butler would be received again into favor, and that the baker would be hanged; which failed not to happen.
Two years afterwards the king of Egypt also dreams, and his butler tells him that there is a young Jew in prison who is the first man in the world for the interpretation of dreams. The king causes the young man to be brought to him, who foretells seven years of abundance and seven of sterility.
Let us here interrupt the thread of the history to remark, of what prodigious antiquity is the interpretation of dreams. Jacob saw in a dream the mysterious ladder at the top of which was God Himself. In a dream he learned a method of multiplying his flocks, a method which never succeeded with any but himself. Joseph himself had learned by a dream that he should one day govern his brethren. Abimelech, a long time before, had been warned in a dream, that Sarah was the wife of Abraham.
To return to Joseph: after explaining the dream of Pharaoh, he was made first minister on the spot. We doubt if at present a king could be found, even in Asia, who would bestow such an office in return for an interpreted dream. Pharaoh espoused Joseph to a daughter of Potiphar. It is said that this Potiphar was high-priest of Heliopolis; he was not therefore the eunuch, his first master; or if it was the latter, he had another title besides that of high-priest; and his wife had been a mother more than once.
However, the famine happened, as Joseph had foretold; and Joseph, to merit the good graces of his king, forced all the people to sell their land to Pharaoh, and all the nation became slaves to procure corn. This is apparently the origin of despotic power. It must be confessed, that never king made a better bargain; but the people also should no less bless the prime minister.
Finally, the father and brothers of Joseph had also need of corn, for “the famine was sore in all lands.” It is scarcely necessary to relate here how Joseph received his brethren; how he pardoned and enriched them. In this history is found all that constitutes an interesting epic poem—exposition, plot, recognition, adventures, and the marvellous; nothing is more strongly marked with the stamp of Oriental genius.
What the good man Jacob, the father of Joseph, answered to Pharaoh, ought to strike all those who know how to read. “How old art thou?” said the king to him. “The days of the years of my pilgrimage,” said the old man, “are an hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.”
I never was in Judæa, thank God! and I never will go there. I have met with men of all nations who have returned from it, and they have all of them told me that the situation of Jerusalem is horrible; that all the land round it is stony; that the mountains are bare; that the famous river Jordan is not more than forty feet wide; that the only good spot in the country is Jericho; in short, they all spoke of it as St. Jerome did, who resided a long time in Bethlehem, and describes the country as the refuse and rubbish of nature. He says that in summer the inhabitants cannot get even water to drink. This country, however, must have appeared to the Jews luxuriant and delightful, in comparison with the deserts in which they originated. Were the wretched inhabitants of the Landes to quit them for some of the mountains of Lampourdan, how would they exult and delight in the change; and how would they hope eventually to penetrate into the fine and fruitful districts of Languedoc, which would be to them the land of promise!
Such is precisely the history of the Jews. Jericho and Jerusalem are Toulouse and Montpellier, and the desert of Sinai is the country between Bordeaux and Bayonne.
But if the God who conducted the Israelites wished to bestow upon them a pleasant and fruitful land; if these wretched people had in fact dwelt in Egypt, why did he not permit them to remain in Egypt? To this we are answered only in the usual language of theology.
Judæa, it is said, was the promised land. God said to Abraham: “I will give thee all the country between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates.”
Alas! my friends, you never have had possession of those fertile banks of the Euphrates and the Nile. You have only been duped and made fools of. You have almost always been slaves. To promise and to perform, my poor unfortunate fellows, are different things. There was an old rabbi once among you, who, when reading your shrewd and sagacious prophecies, announcing for you a land of milk and honey, remarked that you had been promised more butter than bread. Be assured that were the great Turk this very day to offer me the lordship (seigneurie) of Jerusalem, I would positively decline it.
Frederick III., when he saw this detestable country, said, loudly enough to be distinctly heard, that Moses must have been very ill-advised to conduct his tribe of lepers to such a place as that. “Why,” says Frederick, “did he not go to Naples?” Adieu, my dear Jews; I am extremely sorry that the promised land is the lost land.
By the Baron de Broukans.
Justice is often done at last. Two or three authors, either venal or fanatical, eulogize the cruel and effeminate Constantine as if he had been a god, and treat as an absolute miscreant the just, the wise, and the great Julian. All other authors, copying from these, repeat both the flattery and the calumny. They become almost an article of faith. At length the age of sound criticism arrives; and at the end of fourteen hundred years, enlightened men revise the cause which had been decided by ignorance. In Constantine we see a man of successful ambition, internally scoffing at things divine as well as human. He has the insolence to pretend that God sent him a standard in the air to assure him of victory. He imbrues himself in the blood of all his relations, and is lulled to sleep in all the effeminacy of luxury; but he is a Christian—he is canonized.
Julian is sober, chaste, disinterested, brave, and clement; but he is not a Christian—he has long been considered a monster.
At the present day—after having compared facts, memorials and records, the writings of Julian and those of his enemies—we are compelled to acknowledge that, if he was not partial to Christianity, he was somewhat excusable in hating a sect stained with the blood of all his family; and that although he had been persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, and threatened with death by the Galileans, under the reign of the cruel and sanguinary Constantius, he never persecuted them, but on the contrary even pardoned ten Christian soldiers who had conspired against his life. His letters are read and admired: “The Galileans,” says he, “under my predecessor, suffered exile and imprisonment; and those who, according to the change of circumstances, were called heretics, were reciprocally massacred in their turn. I have called home their exiles, I have liberated their prisoners, I have restored their property to those who were proscribed, and have compelled them to live in peace; but such is the restless rage of these Galileans that they deplore their inability any longer to devour one another.” What a letter! What a sentence, dictated by philosophy, against persecuting fanaticism. Ten Christians conspiring against his life, he detects and he pardons them. How extraordinary a man! What dastardly fanatics must those be who attempt to throw disgrace on his memory!
In short, on investigating facts with impartiality, we are obliged to admit that Julian possessed all the qualities of Trajan, with the exception of that depraved taste too long pardoned to the Greeks and Romans; all the virtues of Cato, without either his obstinacy or ill-humor; everything that deserves admiration in Julius Cæsar, and none of his vices. He possessed the continence of Scipio. Finally, he was in all respects equal to Marcus Aurelius, who was reputed the first of men.
There are none who will now venture to repeat, after that slanderer Theodoret, that, in order to propitiate the gods, he sacrificed a woman in the temple of Carres; none who will repeat any longer the story of the death scene in which he is represented as throwing drops of blood from his hand towards heaven, calling out to Jesus Christ: “Galilean, thou hast conquered”; as if he had fought against Jesus in making war upon the Persians; as if this philosopher, who died with such perfect resignation, had with alarm and despair recognized Jesus; as if he had believed that Jesus was in the air, and that the air was heaven! These ridiculous absurdities of men, denominated fathers of the Church, are happily no longer current and respected.
Still, however, the effect of ridicule was, it seems, to be tried against him, as it was by the light and giddy citizens of Antioch. He is reproached for his ill-combed beard and the manner of his walk. But you, Mr. Abbé de la Bletterie, never saw him walk; you have, however, read his letters and his laws, the monuments of his virtues. Of what consequence was it, comparatively, that he had a slovenly beard and an abrupt, headlong walk, while his heart was full of magnanimity and all his steps tended to virtue!
One important fact remains to be examined at the present day. Julian is reproached with attempting to falsify the prophecy of Jesus Christ, by rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem. Fires, it is asserted, came out of the earth and prevented the continuance of the work. It is said that this was a miracle, and that this miracle did not convert Julian, nor Alypius, the superintendent of the enterprise, nor any individual of the imperial court; and upon this subject the Abbé de la Bletterie thus expresses himself: “The emperor and the philosophers of his court undoubtedly employed all their knowledge of natural philosophy to deprive the Deity of the honor of so striking and impressive a prodigy. Nature was always the favorite resource of unbelievers; but she serves the cause of religion so very seasonably, that they might surely suspect some collusion between them.”
1. It is not true that it is said in the Gospel, that the Jewish temple should not be rebuilt. The gospel of Matthew, which was evidently written after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, prophesies, certainly, that not one stone should remain upon another of the temple of the Idumæan Herod; but no evangelist says that it shall never be rebuilt. It is perfectly false that not one stone remained upon another when Titus demolished it. All its foundations remained together, with one entire wall and the tower Antonia.
2. Of what consequence could it be to the Supreme Being whether there was a Jewish temple, a magazine, or a mosque, on the spot where the Jews were in the habit of slaughtering bullocks and cows?
3. It is not ascertained whether it was from within the circuit of the walls of the city, or from within that of the temple, that those fires proceeded which burned the workmen. But it is not very obvious why the Jews should burn the workmen of the emperor Julian, and not those of the caliph Omar, who long afterwards built a mosque upon the ruins of the temple; or those of the great Saladin who rebuilt the same mosque. Had Jesus any particular predilection for the mosques of the Mussulmans?
4. Jesus, notwithstanding his having predicted that there would not remain one stone upon another in Jerusalem, did not prevent the rebuilding of that city.
5. Jesus predicted many things which God permitted never to come to pass. He predicted the end of the world, and his coming in the clouds with great power and majesty, before or about the end of the then existing generation. The world, however, has lasted to the present moment, and in all probability will last much longer.
6. If Julian had written an account of this miracle, I should say that he had been imposed upon by a false and ridiculous report; I should think that the Christians, his enemies, employed every artifice to oppose his enterprise, that they themselves killed the workmen, and excited and promoted the belief of their being destroyed by a miracle; but Julian does not say a single word on the subject. The war against the Persians at that time fully occupied his attention; he put off the rebuilding of the temple to some other time, and he died before he was able to commence the building.
7. This prodigy is related by Ammianus Marcellinus, who was a Pagan. It is very possible that it may have been an interpolation of the Christians. They have been charged with committing numberless others which have been clearly proved.
But it is not the less probable that at a time when nothing was spoken of but prodigies and stories of witchcraft, Ammianus Marcellinus may have reported this fable on the faith of some credulous narrator. From Titus Livius to de Thou, inclusively, all historians have been infected with prodigies.
8. Contemporary authors relate that at the same period there was in Syria a great convulsion of the earth, which in many places broke out in conflagrations and swallowed up many cities. There was therefore more miracle.
9. If Jesus performed miracles, would it be in order to prevent the rebuilding of a temple in which he had himself sacrificed, and in which he was circumcised? Or would he not rather perform miracles to convert to Christianity the various nations who at present ridicule it? Or rather still, to render more humane, more kind, Christians themselves, who, from Arius and Athanasius down to Roland and the Paladins of the Cévennes, have shed torrents of human blood, and conducted themselves nearly as might be expected from cannibals?
Hence I conclude that “nature” is not in “collusion,” as La Bletterie expresses it, with Christianity, but that La Bletterie is in collusion with some old women’s stories, one of those persons, as Julian phrases it, “quibus cum stolidis aniculis negotium erat.”
La Bletterie, after having done justice to some of Julian’s virtues, yet concludes the history of that great man by observing, that his death was the effect of “divine vengeance.” If that be the case, all the heroes who have died young, from Alexander to Gustavus Adolphus, have, we must infer, been punished by God. Julian died the noblest of deaths, in the pursuit of his enemies, after many victories. Jovian, who succeeded him, reigned a much shorter time than he did, and reigned in disgrace. I see no divine vengeance in the matter; and I see in La Bletterie himself nothing more than a disingenuous, dishonest declaimer. But where are the men to be found who will dare to speak out?
Libanius the Stoic was one of these extraordinary men. He celebrated the brave and clement Julian in the presence of Theodosius, the wholesale murderer of the Thessalonians; but Le Beau and La Bletterie fear to praise him in the hearing of their own puny parish officers.
Let any one suppose for a moment that Julian had abandoned false gods for Christianity; then examine him as a man, a philosopher, and an emperor; and let the examiner then point out the man whom he will venture to prefer to him. If he had lived only ten years longer, there is great probability that he would have given a different form to Europe from that which it bears at present.
The Christian religion depended upon his life; the efforts which he made for its destruction rendered his name execrable to the nations who have embraced it. The Christian priests, who were his contemporaries, accuse him of almost every crime, because he had committed what in their eyes was the greatest of all—he had lowered and humiliated them. It is not long since his name was never quoted without the epithet of apostate attached to it; and it is perhaps one of the greatest achievements of reason that he has at length ceased to be mentioned under so opprobrious a designation. Who would imagine that in one of the “Mercuries of Paris,” for the year 1745, the author sharply rebukes a certain writer for failing in the common courtesies of life, by calling this emperor Julian “the apostate”? Not more than a hundred years ago the man that would not have treated him as an apostate would himself have been treated as an atheist.
What is very singular, and at the same time perfectly true, is that if you put out of consideration the various disputes between Pagans and Christians, in which this emperor was engaged; if you follow him neither to the Christian churches nor idolatrous temples, but observe him attentively in his own household, in camp, in battle, in his manners, his conduct, and his writings, you will find him in every respect equal to Marcus Aurelius.
Thus, the man who has been described as so abominable and execrable, is perhaps the first, or at least the second of mankind. Always sober, always temperate, indulging in no licentious pleasures, sleeping on a mere bear’s skin, devoting only a few hours, and even those with regret, to sleep; dividing his time between study and business, generous, susceptible of friendship, and an enemy to all pomp, and pride, and ostentation. Had he been merely a private individual he must have extorted universal admiration.
If we consider him in his military character, we see him constantly at the head of his troops, establishing or restoring discipline without rigor, beloved by his soldiers and at the same time restraining their excesses, conducting his armies almost always on foot, and showing them an example of enduring every species of hardship, ever victorious in all his expeditions even to the last moments of his life, and at length dying at the glorious crisis when the Persians were routed. His death was that of a hero, and his last words were those of a philosopher: “I submit,” says he, “willingly to the eternal decrees of heaven, convinced that he who is captivated with life, when his last hour is arrived, is more weak and pusillanimous than he who would rush to voluntary death when it is his duty still to live.” He converses to the last moment on the immortality of the soul; manifests no regrets, shows no weakness, and speaks only of his submission to the decrees of Providence. Let it be remembered that this is the death of an emperor at the age of thirty-two, and let it be then decided whether his memory should be insulted.
As an emperor, we see him refusing the title of “Dominus,” which Constantine affected; relieving his people from difficulties, diminishing taxes, encouraging the arts; reducing to the moderate amount of seventy ounces each those presents in crowns of gold, which had before been exacted from every city to the amount of three or four hundred marks; promoting the strict and general observance of the laws; restraining both his officers and ministers from oppression, and preventing as much as possible all corruption.
Ten Christian soldiers conspire to assassinate him; they are discovered, and Julian pardons them. The people of Antioch, who united insolence to voluptuousness, offer him an insult; he revenges himself only like a man of sense; and while he might have made them feel the weight of imperial power, he merely makes them feel the superiority of his mind. Compare with this conduct the executions which Theodosius (who was very near being made a saint) exhibited in Antioch, and the ever dreadful and memorable slaughter of all the inhabitants of Thessalonica, for an offence of a somewhat similar description; and then decide between these two celebrated characters.
Certain writers, called fathers of the Church—Gregory of Nazianzen, and Theodoret—thought it incumbent on them to calumniate him, because he had abandoned the Christian religion. They did not consider that it was the triumph of that religion to prevail over so great a man, and even over a sage, after having resisted tyrants. One of them says that he took a barbarous vengeance on Antioch and filled it with blood. How could a fact so public and atrocious escape the knowledge of all other historians? It is perfectly known that he shed no blood at Antioch but that of the victims sacrificed in the regular services of religion. Another ventures to assert that before his death he threw some of his own blood towards heaven, and exclaimed, “Galilean, thou hast conquered.” How could a tale so insipid and so improbable, even for a moment obtain credit? Was it against the Christians that he was then combating? and is such an act, are such expressions, in the slightest degree characteristic of the man?
Minds of a somewhat superior order to those of Julian’s detractors may perhaps inquire, how it could occur that a statesman like him, a man of so much intellect, a genuine philosopher, could quit the Christian religion, in which he was educated, for Paganism, of which, it is almost impossible not to suppose, he must have felt the folly and ridicule. It might be inferred that if Julian yielded too much to the suggestions of his reason against the mysteries of the Christian religion, he ought, at least in all consistency, to have yielded more readily to the dictates of the same reason, when more correctly and decidedly condemning the fables of Paganism.
Perhaps, by attending a little to the progress of his life, and the nature of his character, we may discover what it was that inspired him with so strong an aversion to Christianity. The emperor Constantine, his great-uncle, who had placed the new religion on the throne, was stained by the murder of his wife, his son, his brother-in-law, his nephew, and his father-in-law. The three children of Constantine began their bloody and baleful reign, with murdering their uncle and their cousins. From that time followed a series of civil wars and murders. The father, the brother, and all the relations of Julian, and even Julian himself, were marked down for destruction by Constantius, his uncle. He escaped this general massacre, but the first years of his life were passed in exile, and he at last owed the preservation of his life, his fortune, and the title of Cæsar, only to Eusebia, the wife of his uncle Constantius, who, after having had the cruelty to proscribe his infancy, had the imprudence to appoint him Cæsar, and the still further and greater imprudence of then persecuting him.
He was, in the first instance, a witness of the insolence with which a certain bishop treated his benefactress Eusebia. He was called Leontius, and was bishop of Tripoli. He sent information to the empress, “that he would not visit her unless she would consent to receive him in a manner corresponding to his episcopal dignity—that is, that she should advance to receive him at the door, that she should receive his benediction in a bending attitude, and that she should remain standing until he granted her permission to be seated.” The Pagan pontiffs were not in the habit of treating princesses precisely in this manner, and such brutal arrogance could not but make a deep impression on the mind of a young man attached at once to philosophy and simplicity.
If he saw that he was in a Christian family, he saw, at the same time, that he was in a family rendered distinguished by parricides; if he looked at the court bishops, he perceived that they were at once audacious and intriguing, and that all anathematized each other in turn. The hostile parties of Arius and Athanasius filled the empire with confusion and carnage; the Pagans, on the contrary, never had any religious quarrels. It is natural therefore that Julian, who had been educated, let it be remembered, by philosophic Pagans, should have strengthened by their discourses the aversion he must necessarily have felt in his heart for the Christian religion. It is not more extraordinary to see Julian quit Christianity for false gods, than to see Constantine quit false gods for Christianity. It is highly probable that both changed for motives of state policy, and that this policy was mixed up in the mind of Julian with the stern loftiness of a stoic soul.
The Pagan priests had no dogmas; they did not compel men to believe that which was incredible; they required nothing but sacrifices, and even sacrifices were not enjoined under rigorous penalties; they did not set themselves up as the first order in the state, did not form a state within a state, and did not mix in affairs of government. These might well be considered motives to induce a man of Julian’s character to declare himself on their side; and if he had piqued himself upon being nothing besides a Stoic, he would have had against him the priests of both religions, and all the fanatics of each. The common people would not at that time have endured a prince who was content simply with the pure worship of a pure divinity and the strict observance of justice. It was necessary to side with one of the opposing parties. We must therefore believe that Julian submitted to the Pagan ceremonies, as the majority of princes and great men attend the forms of worship in the public temples. They are led thither by the people themselves, and are often obliged to appear what in fact they are not; and to be in public the first and greatest slaves of credulity. The Turkish sultan must bless the name of Omar. The Persian sophi must bless the name of Ali. Marcus Aurelius himself was initiated in the mysteries of Eleusis.
We ought not therefore to be surprised that Julian should have debased his reason by condescending to the forms and usages of superstition; but it is impossible not to feel indignant against Theodoret, as the only historian who relates that he sacrificed a woman in the temple of the moon at Carres. This infamous story must be classed with the absurd tale of Ammianus, that the genius of the empire appeared to Julian before his death, and with the other equally ridiculous one, that when Julian attempted to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem, there came globes of fire out of the earth, and consumed all the works and workmen without distinction.
Iliacos intra muros peccatur et extra.
—Horace, book i, ep. ii, 16.
Both Christians and Pagans equally, circulated fables concerning Julian; but the fables of the Christians, who were his enemies, were filled with calumny. Who could ever be induced to believe that a philosopher sacrificed a woman to the moon, and tore out her entrails with his own hands? Is such atrocity compatible with the character of a rigid Stoic?
He never put any Christians to death. He granted them no favors, but he never persecuted them. He permitted them, like a just sovereign, to keep their own property; and he wrote in opposition to them like a philosopher. He forbade their teaching in the schools the profane authors, whom they endeavored to decry—this was not persecuting them; and he prevented them from tearing one another to pieces in their outrageous hatred and quarrels—this was protecting them. They had in fact therefore nothing with which they could reproach him, but with having abandoned them, and with not being of their opinion. They found means, however, of rendering execrable to posterity a prince, who, but for his change of religion, would have been admired and beloved by all the world.
Although we have already treated of Julian, under the article on “Apostate”; although, following the example of every sage, we have deplored the dreadful calamity he experienced in not being a Christian, and have done justice elsewhere to his various excellences, we must nevertheless say something more upon the subject.
We do this in consequence of an imposture equally absurd and atrocious, which we casually met with in one of those petty dictionaries with which France is now inundated, and which unfortunately are so easily compiled. This dictionary of theology which I am now alluding to proceeds from an ex-Jesuit, called Paulian, who repeats the story, so discredited and absurd, that the emperor Julian, after being mortally wounded in a battle with the Persians, threw some of his blood towards heaven, exclaiming, “Galilean, thou hast conquered”—a fable which destroys itself, as Julian was conqueror in the battle, and Jesus Christ certainly was not the God of the Persians.
Paulian, notwithstanding, dares to assert that the fact is incontestable. And upon what ground does he assert it? Upon the ground of its being related by Theodoret, the author of so many distinguished lies; and even this notorious writer himself relates it only as a vague report; he uses the expression, “It is said.” This story is worthy of the calumniators who stated that Julian had sacrificed a woman to the moon, and that after his death a large chest was found among his movables filled with human heads.
This is not the only falsehood and calumny with which this ex-Jesuit Paulian is chargeable. If these contemptible wretches knew what injury they did to our holy religion, by endeavoring to support it by imposture, and by the abominable abuse with which they assail the most respectable characters, they would be less audacious and infuriated. They care not, however, for supporting religion; what they want is to gain money by their libels; and despairing of being read by persons of sense, and taste, and fashion, they go on gathering and compiling theological trash, in hopes that their productions will be adopted in the seminaries.
We sincerely ask pardon of our well-informed and respectable readers for introducing such names as those of the ex-Jesuits Paulian, Nonnotte, and Patouillet; but after having trampled to death serpents, we shall probably be excused for crushing fleas.
JUST AND UNJUST.
Who has given us the perception of just and unjust? God, who gave us a brain and a heart. But when does our reason inform us that there are such things as vice and virtue? Just at the same time it teaches us that two and two make four. There is no innate knowledge, for the same reason that there is no tree that bears leaves and fruit when it first starts above the earth. There is nothing innate, or fully developed in the first instance; but—we repeat here what we have often said—God causes us to be born with organs, which, as they grow and become unfolded, make us feel all that is necessary for our species to feel, for the conservation of that species.
How is this continual mystery performed? Tell me, ye yellow inhabitants of the Isles of Sunda, ye black Africans, ye beardless Indians; and you—Plato, Cicero, and Epictetus. You all equally feel that it is better to give the superfluity of your bread, your rice, or your manioc, to the poor man who meekly requests it, than to kill him or scoop his eyes out. It is evident to the whole world that a benefit is more honorable to the performer than an outrage, that gentleness is preferable to fury.
The only thing required, then, is to exercise our reason in discriminating the various shades of what is right and wrong. Good and evil are often neighbors; our passions confound them; who shall enlighten and direct us? Ourselves, when we are calm and undisturbed. Whoever has written on the subject of human duties, in all countries throughout the world, has written well, because he wrote with reason. All have said the same thing; Socrates and Epictetus, Confucius and Cicero, Marcus Antoninus and Amurath II. had the same morality.
We would repeat every day to the whole of the human race: Morality is uniform and invariable; it comes from God: dogmas are different; they come from ourselves.
Jesus never taught any metaphysical dogmas; He wrote no theological courses; He never said: I am consubstantial; I have two wills and two natures with only one person. He left for the Cordeliers and the Jacobins, who would appear twelve hundred years after Him, the delicate and difficult topic of argument, whether His mother was conceived in original sin. He never pronounced marriage to be the visible sign of a thing invisible; He never said a word about concomitant grace; He instituted neither monks nor inquisitors; He appointed nothing of what we see at the present day.
God had given the knowledge of just and unjust, right and wrong, throughout all the ages which preceded Christianity. God never changed nor can change. The constitution of our souls, our principles of reason and morality, will ever be the same. How is virtue promoted by theological distinctions, by dogmas founded on those distinctions, by persecutions founded on those dogmas? Nature, terrified and horror-struck at all these barbarous inventions, calls aloud to all men: Be just, and not persecuting sophists.
You read in the “Zend-Avesta,” which is the summary of the laws of Zoroaster, this admirable maxim: “When it is doubtful whether the action you are about to perform is just or unjust, abstain from doing it.” What legislator ever spoke better? We have not here the system of “probable opinions,” invented by people who call themselves “the Society of Jesus.”
That “justice” is often extremely unjust, is not an observation merely of the present day; “summum jus, summa injuria,” is one of the most ancient proverbs in existence. There are many dreadful ways of being unjust; as, for example, that of racking the innocent Calas upon equivocal evidence, and thus incurring the guilt of shedding innocent blood by a too strong reliance on vain presumptions.
Another method of being unjust is condemning to execution a man who at most deserves only three months’ imprisonment; this species of injustice is that of tyrants, and particularly of fanatics, who always become tyrants whenever they obtain the power of doing mischief.
We cannot more completely demonstrate this truth than by the letter of a celebrated barrister, written in 1766, to the marquis of Beccaria, one of the most celebrated professors of jurisprudence, at this time, in Europe:
Letter to the Marquis of Beccaria, Professor of Public Law at Milan, on the subject of M. de Morangies, 1772.
—You are a teacher of laws in Italy, a country from which we derive all laws except those which have been transmitted to us by our own absurd and contradictory customs, the remains of that ancient barbarism, the rust of which subsists to this day in one of the most flourishing kingdoms of the earth.
Your book upon crimes and punishments opened the eyes of many of the lawyers of Europe who had been brought up in absurd and inhuman usages; and men began everywhere to blush at finding themselves still wearing their ancient dress of savages.
Your opinion was requested on the dreadful execution to which two young gentlemen, just out of their childhood, had been sentenced; one of whom, having escaped the tortures he was destined to, has become a most excellent officer in the service of the great king, while the other, who had inspired the brightest hopes, died like a sage, by a horrible death, without ostentation and without pusillanimity, surrounded by no less than five executioners. These lads were accused of indecency in action and words, a fault which three months’ imprisonment would have sufficiently punished, and which would have been infallibly corrected by time. You replied, that their judges were assassins, and that all Europe was of your opinion.
I consulted you on the cannibal sentences passed on Calas, on Sirven, and Montbailli; and you anticipated the decrees which you afterwards issued from the chief courts and officers of law in the kingdom, which justified injured innocence and re-established the honor of the nation.
I at present consult you on a cause of a very different nature. It is at once civil and criminal. It is the case of a man of quality, a major-general in the army, who maintains alone his honor and fortune against a whole family of poor and obscure citizens, and against an immense multitude consisting of the dregs of the people, whose execrations against him are echoed through the whole of France. The poor family accuses the general officer of taking from it by fraud and violence a hundred thousand crowns.
The general officer accuses these poor persons of trying to obtain from him a hundred thousand crowns by means equally criminal. They complain that they are not merely in danger of losing an immense property, which they never appeared to possess, but also of being oppressed, insulted, and beaten by the officers of justice, who compelled them to declare themselves guilty and consent to their own ruin and punishment. The general solemnly protests, that these imputations of fraud and violence are atrocious calumnies. The advocates of the two parties contradict each other on all the facts, on all the inductions, and even on all the reasonings; their memorials are called tissues of falsehoods; and each treats the adverse party as inconsistent and absurd,—an invariable practice in every dispute.
When you have had the goodness, sir, to read their memorials, which I have now the honor of sending to you, you will, I trust, permit me to suggest the difficulties which I feel in this case; they are dictated by perfect impartiality. I know neither of the parties, and neither of the advocates; but having, in the course of four and twenty years, seen calumny and injustice so often triumph, I may be permitted to endeavor to penetrate the labyrinth in which these monsters unfortunately find shelter.
Presumptions against the Verron Family.
1. In the first place, there are four bills, payable to order, for a hundred thousand crowns, drawn with perfect regularity by an officer otherwise deeply involved in debt; they are payable for the benefit of a woman of the name of Verron, who called herself the widow of a banker. They are presented by her grandson, Du Jonquay, her heir, recently admitted a doctor of laws, although he is ignorant even of orthography. Is this enough? Yes, in an ordinary case it would be so; but if, in this very extraordinary case, there is an extreme probability, that the doctor of laws never did and never could carry the money which he pretends to have delivered in his grandmother’s name; if the grandmother, who maintained herself with difficulty in a garret, by the miserable occupation of pawnbroking, never could have been in the possession of the hundred thousand crowns; if, in short, the grandson and his mother have spontaneously confessed, and attested the written confession by their actual signatures, that they attempted to rob the general, and that he never received more than twelve hundred francs instead of three hundred thousand livres;—in this case, is not the cause sufficiently cleared up? Is not the public sufficiently able to judge from these preliminaries?
2. I appeal to yourself, sir, whether it is probable that the poor widow of a person unknown in society, who is said to have been a petty stock-jobber, and not a banker, could be in possession of so considerable a sum to lend, at an extreme risk, to an officer notoriously in debt? The general, in short, contends, that this jobber, the husband of the woman in question, died insolvent; that even his inventory was never paid for; that this pretended banker was originally a baker’s boy in the household of the duke of Saint-Agnan, the French ambassador in Spain; that he afterwards took up the profession of a broker at Paris; and that he was compelled by M. Héraut, lieutenant of police, to restore certain promissory notes, or bills of exchange, which he had obtained from some young man by extortion;—such the fatality impending over this wretched family from bills of exchange! Should all these statements be proved, do you conceive it at all probable that this family lent a hundred thousand crowns to an involved officer with whom they were upon no terms of friendship or acquaintance?
3. Do you consider it probable, that the jobber’s grandson, the doctor of laws, should have gone on foot no less than five leagues, have made twenty-six journeys, have mounted and descended three thousand steps, all in the space of five hours, without any stopping, to carry “secretly” twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or to a man, to whom, on the following day, he publicly gives twelve hundred francs? Does not such an account appear to be invented with an utter deficiency of ingenuity, and even of common sense? Do those who believe it appear to be sages? What can you think, then, of those who solemnly affirm it without believing it?
4. Is it probable, that young Du Jonquay, the doctor of laws, and his own mother, should have made and signed a declaration, upon oath, before a superior judge, that this whole account was false, that they had never carried the gold, and that they were confessed rogues, if in fact they had not been such, and if grief and remorse had not extorted this confession of their crime? And when they afterwards say, that they had made this confession before the commissary, only because they had previously been assaulted and beaten at the house of a proctor, would such an excuse be deemed by you reasonable or absurd?
Can anything be clearer than that, if this doctor of laws had really been assaulted and beaten in any other house on account of this cause, he should have demanded justice of the commissary for this violence, instead of freely signing, together with his mother, that they were both guilty of a crime which they had not committed?
Would it be admissible for them to say: We signed our condemnation because we thought that the general had bought over against us all the police officers and all the chief judges?
Can good sense listen for a moment to such arguments? Would any one have dared to suggest such even in the days of our barbarism, when we had neither laws, nor manners, nor cultivated reason?
If I may credit the very circumstantial memorials of the general, the Verrons, when put in prison upon his accusation, at first persisted in the confession of their crime. They wrote two letters to the person whom they had made the depositary of the bills extorted from the general; they were terrified at the contemplation of their guilt, which they saw might conduct them to the galleys or to the gibbet. They afterwards gain more firmness and confidence. The persons with whom they were to divide the fruit of their villainy encourage and support them; and the attractions of the vast sum in their contemplation seduce, hurry, and urge them on to persevere in the original charge. They call in to their assistance all the dark frauds and pettifogging chicanery to which they can gain access, to clear them from a crime which they had themselves actually admitted. They avail themselves with dexterity of the distresses to which the involved officer was occasionally reduced, to give a color of probability to his attempting the re-establishment of his affairs by the robbery or theft of a hundred thousand crowns. They rouse the commiseration of the populace, which at Paris is easily stimulated and frenzied. They appeal successfully for compassion to the members of the bar, who make it a point of indispensable duty to employ their eloquence in their behalf, and to support the weak against the powerful, the people against the nobility. The clearest case becomes in time the most obscure. A simple cause, which the police magistrate would have terminated in four days, goes on increasing for more than a whole year by the mire and filth introduced into it through the numberless channels of chicanery, interest, and party spirit. You will perceive that the whole of this statement is a summary of memorials or documents that appeared in this celebrated cause.
Presumptions in favor of the Verron Family.
We shall consider the defence of the grandmother, the mother, and the grandson (doctor of laws), against these strong presumptions.
1. The hundred thousand crowns (or very nearly that sum), which it is pretended the widow Verron never was possessed of, were formerly made over to her by her husband, in trust, together with the silver plate. This deposit was “secretly” brought to her six months after her husband’s death, by a man of the name of Chotard. She placed them out, and always “secretly,” with a notary called Gilet, who restored them to her, still “secretly,” in 1760. She had therefore, in fact, the hundred thousand crowns which her adversary pretends she never possessed.
2. She died in extreme old age, while the cause was going on, protesting, after receiving the sacrament, that these hundred thousand crowns were carried in gold to the general officer by her grandson, in twenty-six journeys on foot, on Sept. 23, 1771.
3. It is not at all probable, that an officer accustomed to borrowing, and broken down in circumstances, should have given bills payable to order for the sum of three hundred thousand livres, to a person unknown to him, unless he had actually received that sum.
4. There are witnesses who saw counted out and ranged in order the bags filled with this gold, and who saw the doctor of laws carry it to the general on foot, under his great coat, in twenty-six journeys, occupying the space of five hours. And he made these twenty-six astonishing journeys merely to satisfy the general, who had particularly requested secrecy.
5. The doctor of laws adds: “Our grandmother and ourselves lived, it is true, in a garret, and we lent a little money upon pledges; but we lived so merely upon a principle of judicious economy; the object was to buy for me the office of a counsellor of parliament, at a time when the magistracy was purchasable. It is true that my three sisters gain their subsistence by needle-work and embroidery; the reason of which was, that my grandmother kept all her property for me. It is true that I have kept company only with procuresses, coachmen, and lackeys: I acknowledge that I speak and that I write in their style; but I might not on that account be less worthy of becoming a magistrate, by making, after all, a good use of my time.”
6. All worthy persons have commiserated our misfortune. M. Aubourg, a farmer-general, as respectable as any in Paris, has generously taken our side, and his voice has obtained for us that of the public.
This defence appears in some part of it plausible. Their adversary refutes it in the following manner:
Arguments of the Major-General against those of the Verron Family.
1. The story of the deposit must be considered by every man of sense as equally false and ridiculous with that of the six-and-twenty journeys on foot. If the poor jobber, the husband of the old woman, had intended to give at his death so much money to his wife, he might have done it in a direct way from hand to hand, without the intervention of a third person.
If he had been possessed of the pretended silver plate, one-half of it must have belonged to the wife, as equal owner of their united goods. She would not have remained quiet for the space of six months, in a paltry lodging of two hundred francs a year, without reclaiming her plate, and exerting her utmost efforts to obtain her right. Chotard also, the alleged friend of her husband and herself, would not have suffered her to remain for six long months in a state of such great indigence and anxiety.
There was, in reality, a person of the name of Chotard; but he was a man ruined by debts and debauchery; a fraudulent bankrupt who embezzled forty thousand crowns from the tax office of the farmers-general in which he held a situation, and who is not likely to have given up a hundred thousand crowns to the grandmother of the doctor in laws.
The widow Verron pretends, that she employed her money at interest, always it appears in secrecy, with a notary of the name of Gilet, but no trace of this fact can be found in the office of that notary.
She declares, that this notary returned her the money, still secretly, in the year 1760: he was at that time dead.
If all these facts be true, it must be admitted that the cause of Du Jonquay and the Verrons, built on a foundation of such ridiculous lies, must inevitably fall to the ground.
2. The will of widow Verron, made half an hour before her death, with death and the name of God on her lips, is, to all appearance, in itself a respectable and even pious document. But if it be really in the number of those pious things which are every day observed to be merely instrumental to crime—if this lender upon pledges, while recommending her soul to God, manifestly lied to God, what importance or weight can the document bring with it? Is it not rather the strongest proof of imposture and villainy?
The old woman had always been made to state, while the suit was carried on in her name, that she possessed only this sum of one hundred thousand crowns which it was intended to rob her of; that she never had more than that sum; and yet, behold! in her will she mentions five hundred thousand livres of her property! Here are two hundred thousand francs more than any one expected, and here is the widow Verron convicted out of her own mouth. Thus, in this singular cause, does the at once atrocious and ridiculous imposture of the family break out on every side, during the woman’s life, and even when she is within the grasp of death.
3. It is probable, and it is even in evidence, that the general would not trust his bills for a hundred thousand crowns to a doctor of whom he knew little or nothing, without having an acknowledgment from him. He did, however, commit this inadvertence, which is the fault of an unsuspecting and noble heart; he was led astray by the youth, by the candor, by the apparent generosity of a man not more than twenty-seven years of age, who was on the point of being raised to the magistracy, who actually, upon an urgent occasion, lent him twelve hundred francs, and who promised in the course of a few days to obtain for him, from an opulent company, the sum of a hundred thousand crowns. Here is the knot and difficulty of the cause. We must strictly examine whether it be probable, that a man, who is admitted to have received nearly a hundred thousand crowns in gold, should on the very morning after, come in great haste, as for a most indispensable occasion, to the man who the evening before had advanced him twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or.
There is not the slightest probability of his doing so. It is still less probable, as we have already observed, that a man of distinction, a general officer, and the father of a family, in return for the invaluable and almost unprecedented kindness of lending him a hundred thousand crowns, should, instead of the sincerest gratitude to his benefactor, absolutely endeavor to get him hanged; and this on the part of a man who had nothing more to do than to await quietly the distant expirations of the periods of payment; who was under no temptation, in order to gain time, to commit such a profligate and atrocious villainy, and who had never in fact committed any villainy at all. Surely it is more natural to think that the man, whose grandfather was a pettifogging, paltry jobber, and whose grandmother was a wretched lender of small sums upon the pledges of absolute misery, should have availed himself of the blind confidence of an unsuspecting soldier, to extort from him a hundred thousand crowns, and that he promised to divide this sum with the depraved and abominable accomplices of his baseness.
4. There are witnesses who depose in favor of Du Jonquay and widow Verron. Let us consider who those witnesses are, and what they depose.
In the first place, there is a woman of the name of Tourtera, a broker, who supported the widow in her peddling, insignificant concern of pawnbroking, and who has been five times in the hospital in consequence of the scandalous impurities of her life; which can be proved with the utmost ease.
There is a coachman called Gilbert, who, sometimes firm, at other times trembling in his wickedness, declared to a lady of the name of Petit, in the presence of six persons, that he had been suborned by Du Jonquay. He subsequently inquired of many other persons, whether he should yet be in time to retract, and reiterated expressions of this nature before witnesses.
Setting aside, however, what has been stated of Gilbert’s disposition to retract, it is very possible that he might be deceived, and may not be chargeable with falsehood and perjury. It is possible, that he might see money at the pawnbroker’s, and that he might be told, and might believe, that three hundred thousand livres were there. Nothing is more dangerous in many persons than a quick and heated imagination, which actually makes men think that they have seen what it was absolutely impossible for them to see.
Then comes a man of the name of Aubriot, a godson of the procuress Tourtera, and completely under her guidance. He deposes, that he saw, in one of the streets of Paris, on Sept. 23, 1771, Doctor Du Jonquay in his great coat, carrying bags.
Surely there is here no conclusive proof that the doctor on that day made twenty-six journeys on foot, and travelled over five leagues of ground, to deliver “secretly” twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or, even admitting all that this testimony states to be true. It appears clear, that Du Jonquay went this journey to the general, and that he spoke to him; and it appears probable, that he deceived him; but it is not clear that Aubriot saw him go and return thirteen times in one morning. It is still less clear, that this witness could at that time see so many circumstances occurring in the street, as he was actually laboring under a disorder which there is no necessity to name, and on that very day underwent for it the severe operation of medicine, with his legs tottering, his head swelled, and his tongue hanging half out of his mouth. This was not precisely the moment for running into the street to see sights. Would his friend Du Jonquay have said to him: Come and risk your life, to see me traverse a distance of five leagues loaded with gold: I am going to deliver the whole fortune of my family, secretly, to a man overwhelmed with debts; I wish to have, privately, as a witness, a person of your character? This is not exceedingly probable. The surgeon who applied the medicine to the witness Aubriot on this occasion, states that he was by no means in a situation to go out; and the son of the surgeon, in his interrogatory, refers the case to the academy of surgery.
But even admitting that a man of a particularly robust constitution could have gone out and taken some turns in the street in this disgraceful and dreadful situation, what could it have signified to the point in question? Did he see Du Jonquay make twenty-six journeys between his garret and the general’s hotel? Did he see twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or carried by him? Was any individual whatever a witness to this prodigy well worthy the “Thousand and One Nights”? Most certainly not; no person whatever. What is the amount, then, of all his evidence on the subject?
5. That the daughter of Mrs. Verron, in her garret, may have sometimes borrowed small sums on pledges; that Mrs. Verron may have lent them, in order to obtain and save a profit, to make her grandson a counsellor of parliament, has nothing at all to do with the substance of the case in question. In defiance of all this, it will ever be evident, that this magistrate by anticipation did not traverse the five leagues to carry to the general the hundred thousand crowns, and that the general never received them.
6. A person named Aubourg comes forward, not merely as a witness, but as a protector and benefactor of oppressed innocence. The advocates of the Verron family extol this man as a citizen of rare and intrepid virtue. He became feelingly alive to the misfortunes of Doctor Du Jonquay, his mother, and grandmother, although he had no acquaintance with them; and offered them his credit and his purse, without any other object than that of assisting persecuted merit.
Upon examination it is found, that this hero of disinterested benevolence is a contemptible wretch who began the world as a lackey, was then successively an upholsterer, a broker, and a bankrupt, and is now, like Mrs. Verron and Tourtera, by profession a pawnbroker. He flies to the assistance of persons of his own profession. The woman Tourtera, in the first place, gave him twenty-five louis d’or, to interest his probity and kindness in assisting a desolate family. The generous Aubourg had the greatness of soul to make an agreement with the old grandmother, almost when she was dying, by which she gives him fifteen thousand crowns, on condition of his undertaking to defray the expenses of the cause. He even takes the precaution to have this bargain noticed and confirmed in the will, dictated, or pretended to be dictated, by this old widow of the jobber on her death-bed. This respectable and venerable man then hopes one day to divide with some of the witnesses the spoils that are to be obtained from the general. It is the magnanimous heart of Aubourg that has formed this disinterested scheme; it is he who has conducted the cause which he seems to have taken up as a patrimony. He believed the bills payable to order would infallibly be paid. He is in fact a receiver who participates in the plunder effected by robbers, and who appropriates the better part to himself.
Such are the replies of the general: I neither subtract from them nor add to them—I simply state them. I have thus explained to you, sir, the whole substance of the cause, and stated all the strongest arguments on both sides.
I request your opinion of the sentence which ought to be pronounced, if matters should remain in the same state, if the truth cannot be irrevocably obtained from one or other of the parties, and made to appear perfectly without a cloud.
The reasons of the general officer are thus far convincing. Natural equity is on his side. This natural equity, which God has established in the hearts of all men, is the basis of all law. Ought we to destroy this foundation of all justice, by sentencing a man to pay a hundred thousand crowns which he does not appear to owe?
He drew bills for a hundred thousand crowns, in the vain hope that he should receive the money; he negotiated with a young man whom he did not know, just as he would have done with the banker of the king or of the empress-queen. Should his bills have more validity than his reasons? A man certainly cannot owe what he has not received. Bills, policies, bonds, always imply that the corresponding sums have been delivered and had; but if there is evidence that no money has been had and delivered, there can be no obligation to return or pay any. If there is writing against writing, document against document, the last dated cancels the former ones. But in the present case the last writing is that of Du Jonquay and his mother, and it states that the opposite party in the cause never received from them a hundred thousand crowns, and that they are cheats and impostors.
What! because they have disavowed the truth of their confession, which they state to have been made in consequence of their having received a blow or an assault, shall another man’s property be adjudged to them?
I will suppose for a moment (what is by no means probable), that the judges, bound down by forms, will sentence the general to pay what in fact he does not owe;—will they not in this case destroy his reputation as well as his fortune? Will not all who have sided against him in this most singular adventure, charge him with calumniously accusing his adversaries of a crime of which he is himself guilty? He will lose his honor, in their estimation, in losing his property. He will never be acquitted but in the judgments of those who examine profoundly. The number of these is always small. Where are the men to be found who have leisure, attention, capacity, impartiality, to consider anxiously every aspect and bearing of a cause in which they are not themselves interested? They judge in the same way as our ancient parliament judged of books—that is, without reading them.
You, sir, are fully acquainted with this, and know that men generally judge of everything by prejudice, hearsay, and chance. No one reflects that the cause of a citizen ought to interest the whole body of citizens, and that we may ourselves have to endure in despair the same fate which we perceive, with eyes and feelings of indifference, falling heavily upon him. We write and comment every day upon the judgments passed by the senate of Rome and the areopagus of Athens; but we think not for a moment of what passes before our own tribunals.
You, sir, who comprehend all Europe in your researches and decisions, will, I sincerely hope, deign to communicate to me a portion of your light. It is possible, certainly, that the formalities and chicanery connected with law proceedings, and with which I am little conversant, may occasion to the general the loss of the cause in court; but it appears to me that he must gain it at the tribunal of an enlightened public, that awful and accurate judge who pronounces after deep investigation, and who is the final disposer of character.
King,basileus, tyrannos, rex, dux, imperator, melch, baal, bel, pharaoh, eli, shadai, adonai, shak, sophi, padisha, bogdan, chazan, kan, krall, kong, könig, etc.—all expressions which signify the same office, but which convey very different ideas.
In Greece, neither “basileus” nor “tyrannos” ever conveyed the idea of absolute power. He who was able obtained this power, but it was always obtained against the inclination of the people.
It is clear, that among the Romans kings were not despotic. The last Tarquin deserved to be expelled, and was so. We have no proof that the petty chiefs of Italy were ever able, at their pleasure, to present a bowstring to the first man of the state, as is now done to a vile Turk in his seraglio, and like barbarous slaves, still more imbecile, suffer him to use it without complaint.
There was no king on this side the Alps, and in the North, at the time we became acquainted with this large quarter of the world. The Cimbri, who marched towards Italy, and who were exterminated by Marius, were like famished wolves, who issued from those forests with their females and whelps. As to a crowned head among these animals, or orders on the part of a secretary of state, of a grand butler, of a chancellor—any notion of arbitrary taxes, commissaries, fiscal edicts, etc.—they knew no more of any of these than of the vespers and the opera.
It is certain that gold and silver, coined and uncoined, form an admirable means of placing him who has them not, in the power of him who has found out the secret of accumulation. It is for the latter alone to possess great officers, guards, cooks, girls, women, jailers, almoners, pages, and soldiers.
It would be very difficult to insure obedience with nothing to bestow but sheep and sheep-skins. It is also very likely, after all the revolutions of our globe, that it was the art of working metals which originally made kings, as it is the art of casting cannon which now maintains them.
Cæsar was right when he said, that with gold we may procure men, and with men acquire gold.
This secret had been known for ages in Asia and Egypt, where the princes and the priests shared the benefit between them.
The prince said to the priest: Take this gold, and in return uphold my power, and prophesy in my favor; I will be anointed, and thou shalt anoint me; constitute oracles, manufacture miracles; thou shalt be well paid for thy labor, provided that I am always master. The priest, thus obtaining land and wealth, prophesies for himself, makes the oracles speak for himself, chases the sovereign from the throne, and very often takes his place. Such is the history of the shotim of Egypt, the magi of Persia, the soothsayers of Babylon, the chazin of Syria (if I mistake the name it amounts to little)—all which holy persons sought to rule. Wars between the throne and the altar have in fact existed in all countries, even among the miserable Jews.
We, inhabitants of the temperate zone of Europe, have known this well for a dozen centuries. Our minds not being so temperate as our climate, we well know what it has cost us. Gold and silver form so entirely the primum mobile of the holy connection between sovereignty and religion, that many of our kings still send it to Rome, where it is seized and shared by priests as soon as it arrives.
When, in this eternal conflict for dominion, leaders have become powerful, each has exhibited his pre-eminence in a mode of his own. It was a crime to spit in the presence of the king of the Medes. The earth must be stricken nine times by the forehead in the presence of the emperor of China. A king of England imagines that he cannot take a glass of beer unless it be presented on the knees. Another king will have his right foot saluted, and all will take the money of their people. In some countries the krall, or chazin, is allowed an income, as in Poland, Sweden, and Great Britain. In others, a piece of paper is sufficient for his treasury to obtain all that it requires.
Since we write upon the rights of the people, on taxation, on customs, etc., let us endeavor, by profound reasoning, to establish the novel maxim, that a shepherd ought to shear his sheep, and not to flay them.
As to the due limits of the prerogatives of kings, and of the liberty of the people, I recommend you to examine that question at your ease in some hotel in the town of Amsterdam.
I ask pardon of young ladies and gentlemen, for they will not find here what they may possibly expect. This article is only for learned and serious people, and will suit very few of them.
There is too much of kissing in the comedies of the time of Molière. The valets are always requesting kisses from the waiting-women, which is exceedingly flat and disagreeable, especially when the actors are ugly and must necessarily exhibit against the grain.
If the reader is fond of kisses, let him peruse the “Pastor Fido”: there is an entire chorus which treats only of kisses, and the piece itself is founded only on a kiss which Mirtillo one day bestows on the fair Amaryllis, in a game at blindman’s buff—“un bacio molto saporito.”
In a chapter on kissing by John de la Casa, archbishop of Benevento, he says, that people may kiss from the head to the foot. He complains, however, of long noses, and recommends ladies who possess such to have lovers with short ones.
To kiss was the ordinary manner of salutation throughout all antiquity. Plutarch relates, that the conspirators, before they killed Cæsar, kissed his face, his hands, and his bosom. Tacitus observes, that when his father-in-law, Agricola, returned to Rome, Domitian kissed him coldly, said nothing to him, and left him disregarded in the surrounding crowd. An inferior, who could not aspire to kiss his superior, kissed his own hand, and the latter returned the salute in a similar manner, if he thought proper.
The kiss was ever used in the worship of the gods. Job, in his parable, which is possibly the oldest of our known books, says that he had not adored the sun and moon like the other Arabs, or suffered his mouth to kiss his hand to them.
In the West there remains of this civility only the simple and innocent practice yet taught in country places to children—that of kissing their right hands in return for a sugar-plum.
It is horrible to betray while saluting; the assassination of Cæsar is thereby rendered much more odious. It is unnecessary to add, that the kiss of Judas has become a proverb.
Joab, one of the captains of David, being jealous of Amasa, another captain, said to him, “Art thou in health, my brother?” and took him by the beard with his right hand to kiss him, while with the other he drew his sword and smote him so that his bowels were “shed upon the ground.”
We know not of any kissing in the other assassinations so frequent among the Jews, except possibly the kisses given by Judith to the captain Holofernes, before she cut off his head in his bed; but no mention is made of them, and therefore the fact is only to be regarded as probable.
In Shakespeare’s tragedy of “Othello,” the hero, who is a Moor, gives two kisses to his wife before he strangles her. This appears abominable to orderly persons, but the partisans of Shakespeare say, that it is a fine specimen of nature, especially in a Moor.
When John Galeas Sforza was assassinated in the cathedral of Milan, on St. Stephen’s day; the two Medicis, in the church of Reparata; Admiral Coligni, the prince of Orange, Marshal d’Ancre, the brothers De Witt, and so many others, there was at least no kissing.
Among the ancients there was something, I know not what, symbolical and sacred attached to the kiss, since the statues of the gods were kissed, as also their beards, when the sculptors represented them with beards. The initiated kissed one another in the mysteries of Ceres, in sign of concord.
The first Christians, male and female, kissed with the mouth at their Agapæ, or love-feasts. They bestowed the holy kiss, the kiss of peace, the brotherly and sisterly kiss, “hagion philema.” This custom, lasted for four centuries, and was finally abolished in distrust of the consequences. It was this custom, these kisses of peace, these love-feasts, these appellations of brother and sister, which drew on the Christians, while little known, those imputations of debauchery bestowed upon them by the priests of Jupiter and the priestesses of Vesta. We read in Petronius and in other authors, that the dissolute called one another brother and sister; and it was thought, that among Christians the same licentiousness was intended. They innocently gave occasion for the scandal upon themselves.
In the commencement, seventeen different Christian societies existed, as there had been nine among the Jews, including the two kinds of Samaritans. Those bodies which considered themselves the most orthodox accused the others of inconceivable impurities. The term “gnostic,” at first so honorable, and which signifies the learned, enlightened, pure, became an epithet of horror and of contempt, and a reproach of heresy. St. Epiphanius, in the third century, pretended that the males and females at first tickled each other, and at length proceeded to lascivious kisses, judging of the degree of faith in each other by the warmth of them. A Christian husband in presenting his wife to a newly-initiated member, would exhort her to receive him, as above stated, and was always obeyed.
We dare not repeat, in our chaste language, all that Epiphanius adds in Greek. We shall simply observe, that this saint was probably a little imposed upon, that he suffered himself to be transported by his zeal, and that all the heretics were not execrable debauchees. The sect of pietists, wishing to imitate the early Christians, at present bestow on each other kisses of peace, on departing from their assemblies, and also call one another brother and sister. The ancient ceremony was a kiss with the lips, and the pietists have carefully preserved it.
There was no other manner of saluting the ladies in France, Italy, Germany, and England. The cardinals enjoyed the privilege of kissing the lips of queens, even in Spain, though—what is singular—not in France, where the ladies have always had more liberties than elsewhere; but every country has its ceremonies, and there is no custom so general but chance may have produced an exception. It was an incivility, a rudeness, in receiving the first visit of a nobleman, if a lady did not kiss his lips—no matter about his mustaches. “It is an unpleasant custom,” says Montaigne, “and offensive to the ladies to have to offer their lips to the three valets in his suite, however repulsive.” This custom is, however, the most ancient in the world.
If it is disagreeable to a young and pretty mouth to glue itself to one which is old and ugly, there is also great danger in the junction of fresh and vermilion lips of the age of twenty to twenty-five—a truth which has finally abolished the ceremony of kissing in mysteries and love-feasts. Hence also the seclusion of women throughout the East, who kiss only their fathers and brothers—a custom long ago introduced into Spain by the Arabs.
Attend to the danger: there is a nerve which runs from the mouth to the heart, and thence lower still, which produces in the kiss an exquisitely dangerous sensation. Virtue may suffer from a prolonged and ardent kiss between two young pietists of the age of eighteen.
It is remarkable that mankind, and turtles, and pigeons alone practise kissing; hence the Latin word “columbatim,” which our language cannot render.
We cannot decorously dwell longer on this interesting subject, although Montaigne says, “It should be spoken of without reserve; we boldly speak of killing, wounding, and betraying, while on this point we dare only whisper.”
That laughter is the sign of joy, as tears are of grief, is doubted by no one that ever laughed. They who seek for metaphysical causes of laughter are not mirthful, while they who are aware that laughter draws the zygomatic muscle backwards towards the ears, are doubtless very learned. Other animals have this muscle as well as ourselves, yet never laugh any more than they shed tears. The stag, to be sure, drops moisture from its eyes when in the extremity of distress, as does a dog dissected alive; but they weep not for their mistresses or friends, as we do. They break not out like us into fits of laughter at the sight of anything droll. Man is the only animal which laughs and weeps.
As we weep only when we are afflicted, and laugh only when we are gay, certain reasoners have pretended that laughter springs from pride, and that we deem ourselves superior to that which we laugh at. It is true that man, who is a risible animal, is also a proud one; but it is not pride which produces laughter. A child who laughs heartily, is not merry because he regards himself as superior to those who excite his mirth; nor, laughing when he is tickled, is he to be held guilty of the mortal sin of pride. I was eleven years of age when I read to myself, for the first time, the “Amphitryon” of Molière, and laughed until I nearly fell backward. Was this pride? We are seldom proud when alone. Was it pride which caused the master of the golden ass to laugh when he saw the ass eat his supper? He who laughs is joyful at the moment, and is prompted by no other cause.
It is not all joy which produces laughter: the greatest enjoyments are serious. The pleasures of love, ambition, or avarice, make nobody laugh.
Laughter may sometimes extend to convulsions; it is even said that persons may die of laughter. I can scarcely believe it; but certainly there are more who die of grief.
Violent emotions, which sometimes move to tears and sometimes to the appearance of laughter, no doubt distort the muscles of the mouth; this, however, is not genuine laughter, but a convulsion and a pain. The tears may sometimes be genuine, because the object is suffering, but laughter is not. It must have another name, and be called the “risus sardonicus”—sardonic smile.
The malicious smile, the “perfidum ridens,” is another thing; being the joy which is excited by the humiliation of another. The grin, “cachinnus,” is bestowed on those who promise wonders and perform absurdities; it is nearer to hooting than to laughter. Our pride derides the vanity which would impose upon us. They hoot our friend Fréron in “The Scotchwoman,” rather than laugh at him. I love to speak of friend Fréron, as in that case I laugh unequivocally.
What is natural law?
The instinct by which we feel justice.
What do you call just and unjust?
That which appears so to the whole world.
The world is made up of a great many heads. It is said that at Lacedæmon thieves were applauded, while at Athens they were condemned to the mines.
That is all a mere abuse of words, mere logomachy and ambiguity. Theft was impossible at Sparta, where all property was common. What you call theft was the punishment of avarice.
It was forbidden for a man to marry his sister at Rome. Among the Egyptians, the Athenians, and even the Jews, a man was permitted to marry his sister by the father’s side. It is not without regret that I cite the small and wretched nation of the Jews, who certainly ought never to be considered as a rule for any person, and who—setting aside religion—were never anything better than an ignorant, fanatical, and plundering horde. According to their books, however, the young Tamar, before she was violated by her brother Ammon, addressed him in these words: “I pray thee, my brother, do not so foolishly, but ask me in marriage of my father: he will not refuse thee.”
All these cases amount to mere laws of convention, arbitrary usages, transient modes. What is essential remains ever the same. Point out to me any country where it would be deemed respectable or decent to plunder me of the fruits of my labor, to break a solemn promise, to tell an injurious lie, to slander, murder, or poison, to be ungrateful to a benefactor, or to beat a father or mother presenting food to you.
Have you forgotten that Jean Jacques, one of the fathers of the modern Church, has said that the first person who dared to enclose and cultivate a piece of ground was an enemy of the human race; that he ought to be exterminated; and that the fruits of the earth belonged to all, and the land to none? Have we not already examined this proposition, so beautiful in itself, and so conducive to the happiness of society?
Who is this Jean Jacques? It is certainly not John the Baptist, nor John the Evangelist, nor James the Greater, nor James the Less; he must inevitably be some witling of a Hun, to write such abominable impertinence, or some ill-conditioned, malicious “bufo magro,” who is never more happy than when sneering at what all the rest of the world deem most valuable and sacred. For, instead of damaging and spoiling the estate of a wise and industrious neighbor, he had only to imitate him, and induce every head of a family to follow his example, in order to form in a short time a most flourishing and happy village. The author of the passage quoted seems to me a thoroughly unsocial animal.
You are of opinion, then, that by insulting and plundering the good man, for surrounding his garden and farmyard with a quick-set hedge, he has offended against natural law.
Yes, most certainly; there is, I must repeat, a natural law; and it consists in neither doing ill to another, nor rejoicing at it, when from any cause whatsoever it befalls him.
I conceive that man neither loves ill nor does it with any other view than to his own advantage. But so many men are urged on to obtain advantage to themselves by the injury of another; revenge is a passion of such violence; there are examples of it so terrible and fatal; and ambition, more terrible and fatal still, has so drenched the world with blood; that when I survey the frightful picture, I am tempted to confess, that a man is a being truly diabolical. I may certainly possess, deeply rooted in my heart, the notion of what is just and unjust; but an Attila, whom St. Leon extols and pays his court to; a Phocas, whom St. Gregory flatters with the most abject meanness; Alexander VI., polluted by so many incests, murders, and poisonings, and with whom the feeble Louis XII., commonly called “the Good,” enters into the most strict and base alliance; a Cromwell, whose protection Cardinal Mazarin eagerly solicits, and to gratify whom he expels from France the heirs of Charles I., cousins-german of Louis XIV.—these, and a thousand similar examples, easily to be found in the records of history, totally disturb and derange my ideas, and I no longer know what I am doing or where I am.
Well; but should the knowledge that storms are coming prevent our enjoying the beautiful sunshine and gentle and fragrant gales of the present day? Did the earthquake that destroyed half the city of Lisbon prevent your making a very pleasant journey from Madrid? If Attila was a bandit, and Cardinal Mazarin a knave, are there not some princes and ministers respectable and amiable men? Has it not been remarked, that in the war of 1701, the Council of Louis XIV. consisted of some of the most virtuous of mankind—the duke of Beauvilliers, the Marquis de Torcy, Marshal Villars, and finally Chamillard, who was not indeed considered a very able but still an honorable man? Does not the idea of just and unjust still exist? It is in fact on this that all laws are founded. The Greeks call laws “the daughters of heaven,” which means simply, the daughters of nature. Have you no laws in your country?
Yes; some good, and others bad.
Where could you have taken the idea of them, but from the notions of natural law which every well-constructed mind has within itself? They must have been derived from these or nothing.
You are right; there is a natural law, but it is still more natural to many people to forget or neglect it.
It is natural also to be one-eyed, humpbacked, lame, deformed, and sickly; but we prefer persons well made and healthy.
Why are there so many one-eyed and deformed minds?
Hush! Consult, however, the article on “Omnipotence.”
He who says that the Salic law was written with a pen from the wing of a two-headed eagle, by Pharamond’s almoner, on the back of the patent containing Constantine’s donation, was not, perhaps, very much mistaken.
It is, say the doughty lawyers, the fundamental law of the French Empire. The great Jerome Bignon, in his book on “The Excellence of France,” says that this law is derived from natural law, according to the great Aristotle, because “in families it was the father who governed, and no dower was given to daughters, as we read in relation to the father, mother, and brothers of Rebecca.”
He asserts that the kingdom of France is so excellent that it has religiously preserved this law, recommended both by Aristotle and the Old Testament. And to prove this excellence of France, he observes also, that the emperor Julian thought the wine of Surêne admirable.
But in order to demonstrate the excellence of the Salic law, he refers to Froissart, according to whom the twelve peers of France said that “the kingdom of France is of such high nobility that it never ought to pass in succession to a female.”
It must be acknowledged that this decision is not a little uncivil to Spain, England, Naples, and Hungary, and more than all the rest to Russia, which has seen on its throne four empresses in succession.
The kingdom of France is of great nobility; no doubt it is; but those of Spain, of Mexico, and Peru are also of great nobility, and there is great nobility also in Russia.
It has been alleged that Sacred Scripture says the lilies neither toil nor spin; and thence it has been inferred that women ought not to reign in France. This certainly is another instance of powerful reasoning; but it has been forgotten that the leopards, which are—it is hard to say why—the arms of England, spin no more than the lilies which are—it is equally hard to say why—the arms of France. In a word, the circumstance that lilies have never been seen to spin does not absolutely demonstrate the exclusion of females from the throne to have been a fundamental law of the Gauls.
Of Fundamental Laws.
The fundamental law of every country is, that if people are desirous of having bread, they must sow corn; that if they wish for clothing, they must cultivate flax and hemp; that every owner of a field should have the uncontrolled management and dominion over it, whether that owner be male or female; that the half-barbarous Gaul should kill as many as ever he can of the wholly barbarous Franks, when they come from the banks of the Main, which they have not the skill and industry to cultivate, to carry off his harvests and flocks; without doing which the Gaul would either become a serf of the Frank, or be assassinated by him.
It is upon this foundation that an edifice is well supported. One man builds upon a rock, and his house stands firm; another on the sands, and it falls to the ground. But a fundamental law, arising from the fluctuating inclinations of men, and yet at the same time irrevocable, is a contradiction in terms, a mere creature of imagination, a chimera, an absurdity; the power that makes the laws can change them. The Golden Bull was called “the fundamental law of the empire.” It was ordained that there should never be more than seven Teutonic electors, for the very satisfactory and decisive reason that a certain Jewish chandelier had had no more than seven branches, and that there are no more than seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. This fundamental law had the epithet “eternal” applied to it by the all-powerful authority and infallible knowledge of Charles IV. God, however, did not think fit to allow of this assumption of “eternal” in Charles’s parchments. He permitted other German emperors, out of their all-powerful authority and infallible knowledge, to add two branches to the chandelier, and two presents to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly the electors are now nine in number.
It was a very fundamental law that the disciples of the Lord Jesus should possess no private property, but have all things in common. There was afterwards a law that the bishops of Rome should be rich, and that the people should choose them. The last fundamental law is, that they are sovereigns, and elected by a small number of men clothed in scarlet, and constituting a society absolutely unknown in the time of Jesus. If the emperor, king of the Romans, always august, was sovereign master of Rome in fact, as he is according to the style of his patents and heraldry, the pope would be his grand almoner, until some other law, forever irrevocable, was announced, to be destroyed in its turn by some succeeding one.
I will suppose—what may very possibly and naturally happen—that an emperor of Germany may have no issue but an only daughter, and that he may be a quiet, worthy man, understanding nothing about war. I will suppose that if Catherine II. does not destroy the Turkish Empire, which she has severely shaken in the very year in which I am now writing my reverie (the year 1771), the Turk will come and invade this good prince, notwithstanding his being cherished and beloved by all his nine electors; that his daughter puts herself at the head of the troops with two young electors deeply enamored of her; that she beats the Ottomans, as Deborah beat General Sisera, and his three hundred thousand soldiers, and his three thousand chariots of war, in a little rocky plain at the foot of Mount Tabor; that this warlike princess drives the Mussulman even beyond Adrianople; that her father dies through joy at her success, or from any other cause; that the two lovers of the princess induce their seven colleagues to crown her empress, and that all the princes of the empire, and all the cities give their consent to it; what, in this case, becomes of the fundamental and eternal law which enacts that the holy Roman Empire cannot possibly pass from the lance to the distaff, that the two-headed eagle cannot spin, and that it is impossible to sit on the imperial throne without breeches? The old and absurd law would be derided, and the heroic empress reign at once in safety and in glory.
How the Salic Law Came to be Established.
We cannot contest the custom which has indeed passed into law, that decides against daughters inheriting the crown in France while there remains any male of the royal blood. This question has been long determined, and the seal of antiquity has been put to the decision. Had it been expressly brought from heaven, it could not be more revered by the French nation than it is. It certainly does not exactly correspond with the gallant courtesy of the nation; but the fact is, that it was in strict and rigorous observance before the nation was ever distinguished for its gallant courtesy.
The president Hénault repeats, in his “Chronicle,” what had been stated at random before him, that Clovis digested the Salic law in 511, the very year in which he died. I am very well disposed to believe that he actually did digest this law, and that he knew how to read and write, just as I am to believe that he was only fifteen years old when he undertook the conquest of the Gauls; but I do sincerely wish that any one would show me in the library of St.-Germain-des-Prés, or of St. Martin, the original document of the Salic law actually signed Clovis, or Clodovic, or Hildovic; from that we should at least learn his real name, which nobody at present knows.
We have two editions of this Salic law; one by a person by the name of Herold, the other by Francis Pithou; and these are different, which is by no means a favorable presumption. When the text of a law is given differently in two documents, it is not only evident that one of the two is false, but it is highly probable that they are both so. No custom or usage of the Franks was written in our early times, and it would be excessively strange that the law of the Salii should have been so. This law, moreover, is in Latin, and it does not seem at all probable that, in the swamps between Suabia and Batavia, Clovis, or his predecessors, should speak Latin.
It is supposed that this law has reference to the kings of France; and yet all the learned are agreed that the Sicambri, the Franks, and the Salii, had no kings, nor indeed any hereditary chiefs.
The title of the Salic law begins with these words: “In Christi nomine”—“In the name of Christ.” It was therefore made out of the Salic territory, as Christ was no more known by these barbarians than by the rest of Germany and all the countries of the North.
This law is stated to have been drawn up by four distinguished lawyers of the Frank nation; these, in Herold’s edition, are called Vuisogast, Arogast, Salegast, and Vuindogast. In Pithou’s edition, the names are somewhat different. It has been unluckily discovered that these names are the old names, somewhat disguised, of certain cantons of Germany.
In whatever period this law was framed in bad Latin, we find, in the article relating to allodial or freehold lands, “that no part of Salic land can be inherited by women.” It is clear that this pretended law was by no means followed. In the first place, it appears from the formulæ of Marculphus that a father might leave his allodial land to his daughter, renouncing “a certain Salic law which is impious and abominable.”
Secondly, if this law be applied to fiefs, it is evident that the English kings, who were not of the Norman race, obtained all their great fiefs in France only through daughters.
Thirdly, it is alleged to be necessary that a fief should be possessed by a man, because he was able as well as bound to fight for his lord; this itself shows that the law could not be understood to affect the rights to the throne. All feudal lords might fight just as well for a queen as for a king. A queen was not obliged to follow the practice so long in use, to put on a cuirass, and cover her limbs with armor, and set off trotting against the enemy upon a carthorse.
It is certain, therefore, that the Salic law could have no reference to the crown, neither in connection with allodial lands, nor feudal holding and service.
Mézeray says, “The imbecility of the sex precludes their reigning.” Mézeray speaks here like a man neither of sense nor politeness. History positively and repeatedly falsifies his assertion. Queen Anne of England, who humbled Louis XIV.; the empress-queen of Hungary, who resisted King Louis XV., Frederick the Great, the elector of Bavaria, and various other princes; Elizabeth of England, who was the strength and support of our great Henry; the empress of Russia, of whom we have spoken already; all these decidedly show that Mézeray is not more correct than he is courteous in his observation. He could scarcely help knowing that Queen Blanche was in fact the reigning monarch under the name of her son; as Anne of Brittany was under that of Louis XII.
Velly, the last writer of the history of France, and who on that very account ought to be the best, as he possessed all the accumulated materials of his predecessors, did not, however, always know how to turn his advantages to the best account. He inveighs with bitterness against the judicious and profound Rapin de Thoyras, and attempts to prove to him that no princess ever succeeded to the crown while any males remained who were capable of succeeding. That we all know perfectly well, and Thoyras never said the contrary.
In that long age of barbarism, when the only concern of Europe was to commit usurpations and to sustain them, it must be acknowledged that kings, being often chiefs of banditti or warriors armed against those banditti, it was not possible to be subject to the government of a woman. Whoever was in possession of a great warhorse would engage in the work of rapine and murder only under the standard of a man mounted upon a great horse like himself. A buckler of oxhide served for a throne. The caliphs governed by the Koran, the popes were deemed to govern by the Gospel. The South saw no woman reign before Joan of Naples, who was indebted for her crown entirely to the affection of the people for King Robert, her grandfather, and to their hatred of Andrew, her husband. This Andrew was in reality of royal blood, but had been born in Hungary, at that time in a state of barbarism. He disgusted the Neapolitans by his gross manners, intemperance, and drunkenness. The amiable king Robert was obliged to depart from immemorial usage, and declare Joan alone sovereign by his will, which was approved by the nation.
In the North we see no queen reigning in her own right before Margaret of Waldemar, who governed for some months in her own name about the year 1377.
Spain had no queen in her own right before the able Isabella in 1461. In England the cruel and bigoted Mary, daughter of Henry VIII., was the first woman who inherited the throne, as the weak and criminal Mary Stuart was in Scotland in the sixteenth century. The immense territory of Russia had no female sovereign before the widow of Peter the Great.
The whole of Europe, and indeed I might say the whole world, was governed by warriors in the time when Philip de Valois supported his right against Edward III. This right of a male who succeeded to a male, seemed the law of all nations. “You are grandson of Philip the Fair,” said Valois to his competitor, “but as my right would be superior to that of the mother, it must be still more decidedly superior to that of the son. Your mother, in fact, could not communicate a right which she did not possess.”
It was therefore perfectly recognized in France that a prince of the blood royal, although in the remotest possible degree, should be heir to the crown in exclusion even of the daughter of the king. It is a law on which there is now not the slightest dispute whatever. Other nations have, since the full and universal recognition of this principle among ourselves, adjudged the throne to princesses. But France has still observed its ancient usage. Time has conferred on this usage the force of the most sacred of laws. At what time the Salic law was framed or interpreted is not of the slightest consequence; it does exist, it is respectable, it is useful; and its utility has rendered it sacred.
Examination Whether Daughters Are in all Cases Deprived of Every Species of Inheritance by This Salic Law.
I have already bestowed the empire on a daughter in defiance of the Golden Bull. I shall have no difficulty in conferring on a daughter the kingdom of France. I have a better right to dispose of this realm than Pope Julian II., who deprived Louis XII. of it, and transferred it by his own single authority to the emperor Maximilian. I am better authorized to plead in behalf of the daughters of the house of France, than Pope Gregory XIII. and Cordelier Sextus-Quintus were to exclude from the throne our princes of the blood, under the pretence actually urged by these excellent priests, that Henry IV. and the princes of Condé were a “bastard and detestable race” of Bourbon—refined and holy words, which deserve ever to be remembered in order to keep alive the conviction of all we owe to the bishops of Rome. I may give my vote in the states-general, and no pope certainly can have any suffrage on it. I therefore give my vote without hesitation, some three or four hundred years from the present time, to a daughter of France, then the only descendant remaining in a direct line from Hugh Capet. I constitute her queen, provided she shall have been well educated, have a sound understanding, and be no bigot. I interpret in her favor that law which declares “que fille ne doit mie succéder”—that a daughter must in no case come to her succession. I understand by the words, that she must in no case succeed as long as there shall be any male. But on failure of males, I prove that the kingdom belongs to her by nature, which ordains it, and for the benefit of the nation.
I invite all good Frenchmen to show the same respect as myself for the blood of so many kings. I consider this as the only method of preventing factions which would dismember the state. I propose that she shall reign in her own right, and that she shall be married to some amiable and respectable prince, who shall assume her name and arms, and who, in his own right, shall possess some territory which shall be annexed to France; as we have seen Maria Theresa of Hungary united in marriage to Francis, duke of Lorraine, the most excellent prince in the world.
What Celt will refuse to acknowledge her, unless we should discover some other beautiful and accomplished princess of the issue of Charlemagne, whose family was expelled by Hugh Capet, notwithstanding the Salic law? or unless indeed we should find a princess fairer and more accomplished still, an unquestionable descendant from Clovis, whose family was before expelled by Pepin, his own domestic, notwithstanding, be it again remembered, the Salic law.
I shall certainly find no involved and difficult intrigues necessary to obtain the consecration of my royal heroine at Rheims, or Chartres, or in the chapel of the Louvre—for either would effectually answer the purpose; or even to dispense with any consecration at all. For monarchs reign as well when not consecrated as when consecrated. The kings and queens of Spain observe no such ceremony.
Among all the families of the king’s secretaries, no person will be found to dispute the throne with this Capetian princess. The most illustrious houses are so jealous of each other that they would infinitely prefer obeying the daughter of kings to being under the government of one of their equals.
Recognized by the whole of France, she will receive the homage of all her subjects with a grace and majesty which will induce them to love as much as they revere her; and all the poets will compose verses in her honor.
LAW (CIVIL AND ECCLESIASTICAL).
The following notes were found among the papers of a lawyer, and are perhaps deserving some consideration:
That no ecclesiastical law should be of any force until it has received the express sanction of government. It was upon this principle that Athens and Rome were never involved in religious quarrels.
These quarrels fall to the lot of those nations only that have never been civilized, or that have afterwards been again reduced to barbarism.
That the magistrate alone should have authority to prohibit labor on festivals, because it does not become priests to forbid men to cultivate their fields.
That everything relating to marriages depends solely upon the magistrate, and that the priests should be confined to the august function of blessing them.
That lending money at interest is purely an object of the civil law, as that alone presides over commerce.
That all ecclesiastical persons should be, in all cases whatever, under the perfect control of the government, because they are subjects of the state.
That men should never be so disgracefully ridiculous as to pay to a foreign priest the first year’s revenue of an estate, conferred by citizens upon a priest who is their fellow-citizen.
That no priest should possess authority to deprive a citizen even of the smallest of his privileges, under the pretence that that citizen is a sinner; because the priest, himself a sinner, ought to pray for sinners, and not to judge them.
That magistrates, cultivators, and priests, should alike contribute to the expenses of the state, because all alike belong to the state.
That there should be only one system of weights and measures, and usages.
That the punishment of criminals should be rendered useful. A man that is hanged is no longer useful; but a man condemned to the public works is still serviceable to his country, and a living lecture against crime.
That the whole law should be clear, uniform, and precise; to interpret it is almost always to corrupt it.
That nothing should be held infamous but vice.
That taxes should be imposed always in just proportion.
That law should never be in contradiction to usage; for, if the usage is good, the law is worth nothing.
It is difficult to point out a single nation living under a system of good laws. This is not attributable merely to the circumstance that laws are the productions of men, for men have produced works of great utility and excellence; and those who invented and brought to perfection the various arts of life were capable of devising a respectable code of jurisprudence. But laws have proceeded, in almost every state, from the interest of the legislator, from the urgency of the moment, from ignorance, and from superstition, and have accordingly been made at random, and irregularly, just in the same manner in which cities have been built. Take a view of Paris, and observe the contrast between that quarter of it where the fish-market (Halles) is situated, the St. Pierre-aux-bœufs, the streets Brisemiche and Pet-au-diable and the beauty and splendor of the Louvre and the Tuileries. This is a correct image of our laws.
It was only after London had been reduced to ashes that it became at all fit to be inhabited. The streets, after that catastrophe, were widened and straightened. If you are desirous of having good laws, burn those which you have at present, and make fresh ones.
The Romans were without fixed laws for the space of three hundred years; they were obliged to go and request some from the Athenians, who gave them such bad ones that they were almost all of them soon abrogated. How could Athens itself be in possession of a judicious and complete system? That of Draco was necessarily abolished, and that of Solon soon expired.
Our customary or common law of Paris is interpreted differently by four-and-twenty commentaries, which decidedly proves, the same number of times, that it is ill conceived. It is in contradiction to a hundred and forty other usages, all having the force of law in the same nation, and all in contradiction to each other. There are therefore, in a single department in Europe, between the Alps and the Pyrenees, more than forty distinct small populations, who call themselves fellow-countrymen, but who are in reality as much strangers to one another as Tonquin is to Cochin China.
It is the same in all provinces of Spain. It is in Germany much worse. No one there knows what are the rights of the chief or of the members. The inhabitant of the banks of the Elbe is connected with the cultivator of Suabia only in speaking nearly the same language, which, it must be admitted, is rather an unpolished and coarse one.
The English nation has more uniformity; but having extricated itself from servitude and barbarism only by occasional efforts, by fits and convulsive starts, and having even in its state of freedom retained many laws formerly promulgated, either by the great tyrants who contended in rivalship for the throne, or the petty tyrants who seized upon the power and honors of the prelacy, it has formed altogether a body of laws of great vigor and efficacy, but which still exhibit many bruises and wounds, very clumsily patched and plastered.
The intellect of Europe has made greater progress within the last hundred years than the whole world had done before since the days of Brahma, Fohi, Zoroaster, and the Thaut of Egypt. What then is the cause that legislation has made so little?
After the fifth century, we were all savages. Such are the revolutions which take place on the globe; brigands pillaging and cultivators pillaged made up the masses of mankind from the recesses of the Baltic Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar; and when the Arabs made their appearance in the South, the desolation of ravage and confusion was universal.
In our department of Europe, the small number, being composed of daring and ignorant men, used to conquest and completely armed for battle, and the greater number, composed of ignorant, unarmed slaves, scarcely any one of either class knowing how to read or write—not even Charlemagne himself—it happened very naturally that the Roman Church, with its pen and ceremonies, obtained the guidance and government of those who passed their life on horseback with their lances couched and the morion on their heads.
The descendants of the Sicambri, the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Lombards, Heruli, etc., felt the necessity of something in the shape of laws. They sought for them where they were to be found. The bishops of Rome knew how to make them in Latin. The barbarians received them with greater respect in consequence of not understanding them. The decretals of the popes, some genuine, others most impudently forged, became the code of the new governors, “regas”; lords, “leus”; and barons, who had appropriated the lands. They were the wolves who suffered themselves to be chained up by the foxes. They retained their ferocity, but it was subjugated by credulity and the fear which credulity naturally produces. Gradually Europe, with the exception of Greece and what still belonged to the Eastern Empire, became subjected to the dominion of Rome, and the poet’s verse might be again applied as correctly as before: Romanos rerum dominos gentemque togatam.—Æneid, i, 286.
Almost all treaties being accompanied by the sign of the cross, and by an oath which was frequently administered over some relics, everything was thus brought within the jurisdiction of the Church. Rome, as metropolitan, was supreme judge in causes, from the Cimbrian Chersonesus to Gascony; and a thousand feudal lords, uniting their own peculiar usages with the canon law, produced in the result that monstrous jurisprudence of which there at present exist so many remains. Which would have been better—no laws at all, or such as these?
It was beneficial to an empire of more vast extent than that of Rome to remain for a long time in a state of chaos; for, as every valuable institution was still to be formed, it was easier to build a new edifice than to repair one whose ruins were looked upon as sacred.
The legislatrix of the North, in 1767, collected deputies from all the provinces which contained about twelve hundred thousand square leagues. There were Pagans, Mahometans of the sect of Ali, and others of the sect of Omar, and about twelve different sects of Christians. Every law was distinctly proposed to this new synod; and if it appeared conformable to the interest of all the provinces, it then received the sanction of the empress and the nation.
The first law that was brought forward and carried, was a law of toleration, that the Greek priest might never forget that the Latin priest was his fellow-man; that the Mussulman might bear with his Pagan brother; and that the Roman Catholic might not be tempted to sacrifice his brother Presbyterian.
The empress wrote with her own hand, in this grand council of legislation, “Among so many different creeds, the most injurious error would be intolerance.”
It is now unanimously agreed that there is in a state only one authority; that the proper expressions to be used are, “civil power,” and “ecclesiastical discipline”; and that the allegory of the two swords is a dogma of discord.
She began with emancipating the serfs of her own particular domain. She emancipated all those of the ecclesiastical domains. She might thus be said to have created men out of slaves.
The prelates and monks were paid out of the public treasury. Punishments were proportioned to crimes, and the punishments were of a useful character; offenders were for the greater part condemned to labor on public works, as the dead man can be of no service to the living.
The torture was abolished, because it punishes a man before he is known to be guilty; because the Romans never put any to the torture but their slaves; and because torture tends to saving the guilty and destroying the innocent.
This important business had proceeded thus far, when Mustapha III., the son of Mahmoud, obliged the empress to suspend her code and proceed to fighting.
I have attempted to discover some ray of light in the mythological times of China which precede Fohi, but I have attempted in vain.
At the period, however, in which Fohi flourished, which was about three thousand years before the new and common era of our northwestern part of the world, I perceive wise and mild laws already established by a beneficent sovereign. The ancient books of the Five Kings, consecrated by the respect of so many ages, treat of the institution of agriculture, of pastoral economy, of domestic economy, of that simple astronomy which regulates the different seasons, and of the music which, by different modulations, summoned men to their respective occupations. Fohi flourished, beyond dispute, more than five thousand years ago. We may therefore form some judgment of the great antiquity of an immense population, thus instructed by an emperor on every topic that could contribute to their happiness. In the laws of that monarch I see nothing but what is mild, useful and amiable.
I was afterwards induced to inspect the code of a small nation, or horde, which arrived about two thousand years after the period of which we have been speaking, from a frightful desert on the banks of the river Jordan, in a country enclosed and bristled with peaked mountains. These laws have been transmitted to ourselves, and are daily held up to us as the model of wisdom. The following are a few of them:
“Not to eat the pelican, nor the ossifrage, nor the griffin, nor the ixion, nor the eel, nor the hare, because the hare ruminates, and has not its foot cloven.”
“Against men sleeping with their wives during certain periodical affections, under pain of death to both of the offending parties.”
“To exterminate without pity all the unfortunate inhabitants of the land of Canaan, who were not even acquainted with them; to slaughter the whole; to massacre all, men and women, old men, children, and animals, for the greater glory of God.”
“To sacrifice to the Lord whatever any man shall have devoted as an anathema to the Lord, and to slay it without power of ransom.”
“To burn widows who, not being able to be married again to their brothers-in-law, had otherwise consoled themselves on the highway or elsewhere,” etc.
A Jesuit, who was formerly a missionary among the cannibals, at the time when Canada still belonged to the king of France, related to me that once, as he was explaining these Jewish laws to his neophytes, a little impudent Frenchman, who was present at the catechising, cried out, “They are the laws of cannibals.” One of the Indians replied to him, “You are to know, Mr. Flippant, that we are people of some decency and kindness. We never had among us any such laws; and if we had not some kindness and decency, we should treat you as an inhabitant of Canaan, in order to teach you civil language.”
It appears upon a comparison of the code of the Chinese with that of the Hebrews, that laws naturally follow the manners of the people who make them. If vultures and doves had laws, they would undoubtedly be of a very different character.
Sheep live in society very mildly and agreeably; their character passes for being a very gentle one, because we do not see the prodigious quantity of animals devoured by them. We may, however, conceive that they eat them very innocently and without knowing it, just as we do when we eat Sassenage cheese. The republic of sheep is a faithful image of the age of gold.
A hen-roost exhibits the most perfect representation of monarchy. There is no king comparable to a cock. If he marches haughtily and fiercely in the midst of his people, it is not out of vanity. If the enemy is advancing, he does not content himself with issuing an order to his subjects to go and be killed for him, in virtue of his unfailing knowledge and resistless power; he goes in person himself, ranges his young troops behind him, and fights to the last gasp. If he conquers, it is himself who sings the “Te Deum.” In his civil or domestic life, there is nothing so gallant, so respectable, and so disinterested. Whether he has in his royal beak a grain of corn or a grub-worm, he bestows it on the first of his female subjects that comes within his presence. In short, Solomon in his harem was not to be compared to a cock in a farm-yard.
If it be true that bees are governed by a queen to whom all her subjects make love, that is a more perfect government still.
Ants are considered as constituting an excellent democracy. This is superior to every other state, as all are, in consequence of such a constitution, on terms of equality, and every individual is employed for the happiness of all. The republic of beavers is superior even to that of ants; at least, if we may judge by their performances in masonry.
Monkeys are more like merry-andrews than a regularly governed people; they do not appear associated under fixed and fundamental laws, like the species previously noticed.
We resemble monkeys more than any other animals in the talent of imitation, in the levity of our ideas, and in that inconstancy which has always prevented our having uniform and durable laws.
When nature formed our species, and imparted to us a certain portion of instinct, self-love for our own preservation, benevolence for the safety and comfort of others, love which is common to every class of animal being, and the inexplicable gift of combining more ideas than all the inferior animals together—after bestowing on us this outfit she said to us: “Go, and do the best you can.”
There is not a good code of laws in any single country. The reason is obvious: laws have been made for particular purposes, according to time, place, exigencies, and not with general and systematic views.
When the exigencies upon which laws were founded are changed or removed, the laws themselves become ridiculous. Thus the law which forbade eating pork and drinking wine was perfectly reasonable in Arabia, where pork and wine are injurious; but at Constantinople it is absurd.
The law which confers the whole fief or landed property on the eldest son, is a very good one in a time of general anarchy and pillage. The eldest is then the commander of the castle, which sooner or later will be attacked by brigands; the younger brothers will be his chief officers, and the laborers his soldiers. All that is to be apprehended is that the younger brother may assassinate or poison the elder, his liege lord, in order to become himself the master of the premises; but such instances are uncommon, because nature has so combined our instincts and passions, that we feel a stronger horror against assassinating our elder brother, than we feel a desire to succeed to his authority and estate. But this law, which was suitable enough to the owners of the gloomy, secluded, and turreted mansions, in the days of Chilperic, is detestable when the case relates wholly to the division of family property in a civilized and well-governed city.
To the disgrace of mankind, the laws of play or gaming are, it is well known, the only ones that are throughout just, clear, inviolable, and carried into impartial and perfect execution. Why is the Indian who laid down the laws of a game of chess willingly and promptly obeyed all over the world, while the decretals of the popes, for example, are at present an object of horror and contempt? The reason is, that the inventor of chess combined everything with caution and exactness for the satisfaction of the players, and that the popes in their decretals looked solely to their own advantage. The Indian was desirous at once of exercising the minds of men and furnishing them with amusement; the popes were desirous of debasing and brutifying them. Accordingly, the game of chess has remained substantially the same for upwards of five thousand years, and is common to all the inhabitants of the earth; while the decretals are known only at Spoleto, Orvieto, and Loretto, and are there secretly despised even by the most shallow and contemptible of the practitioners.
During the reigns of Vespasian and Titus, when the Romans were disembowelling the Jews, a rich Israelite fled with all the gold he had accumulated by his occupation as a usurer, and conveyed to Ezion-Geber the whole of his family, which consisted of his wife, then far advanced in years, a son, and a daughter; he had in his train two eunuchs, one of whom acted as a cook, and the other as a laborer and vine-dresser; and a pious Essenian, who knew the Pentateuch completely by heart, acted as his almoner. All these embarked at the port of Ezion-Geber, traversed the sea commonly called Red, although it is far from being so, and entered the Persian Gulf to go in search of the land of Ophir, without knowing where it was. A dreadful tempest soon after this came on, which drove the Hebrew family towards the coast of India; and the vessel was wrecked on one of the Maldive islands now called Padrabranca, but which was at that time uninhabited.
The old usurer and his wife were drowned; the son and daughter, the two eunuchs, and the almoner were saved. They took as much of the provisions out of the wreck as they were able; erected for themselves little cabins on the island, and lived there with considerable convenience and comfort. You are aware that the island of Padrabranca is within five degrees of the line, and that it furnishes the largest cocoanuts and the best pineapples in the world; it was pleasant to have such a lovely asylum at a time when the favorite people of God were elsewhere exposed to persecution and massacre; but the Essenian could not refrain from tears when he reflected, that perhaps those on that happy island were the only Jews remaining on the earth, and that the seed of Abraham was to be annihilated.
“Its restoration depends entirely upon you,” said the young Jew; “marry my sister.” “I would willingly,” said the almoner, “but it is against the law. I am an Essenian; I have made a vow never to marry; the law enjoins the strictest observance of a vow; the Jewish race may come to an end, if it must be so; but I will certainly not marry your sister in order to prevent it, beautiful and amiable as I admit she is.”
“My two eunuchs,” resumed the Jew, “can be of no service in this affair; I will therefore marry her myself, if you have no objection; and you shall bestow the usual marriage benediction.”
“I had a hundred times rather be disembowelled by the Roman soldiers,” said the almoner, “than to be instrumental to your committing incest; were she your sister by the father’s side only, the law would allow of your marriage; but as she is your sister by the same mother, such a marriage would be abominable.”
“I can readily admit,” returned the young man, “that it would be a crime at Jerusalem, where I might see many other young women, one of whom I might marry; but in the isle of Padrabranca, where I see nothing but cocoanuts, pineapples, and oysters, I consider the case to be very allowable.”
The Jew accordingly married his sister, and had a daughter by her, notwithstanding all the protestations of the Essenian; and this was the only offspring of a marriage which one of them thought very legitimate, and the other absolutely abominable.
After the expiration of fourteen years, the mother died; and the father said to the almoner, “Have you at length got rid of your old prejudices? Will you marry my daughter?” “God preserve me from it,” said the Essenian. “Then,” said the father, “I will marry her myself, come what will of it; for I cannot bear that the seed of Abraham should be totally annihilated.” The Essenian, struck with inexpressible horror, would dwell no longer with a man who thus violated and defiled the law, and fled. The new-married man loudly called after him, saying, “Stay here, my friend. I am observing the law of nature, and doing good to my country; do not abandon your friends.” The other suffered him to call, and continue to call, in vain; his head was full of the law; and he stopped not till he had reached, by swimming, another island.
This was the large island of Attola, highly populous and civilized; as soon as he landed he was made a slave. He complained bitterly of the inhospitable manner in which he had been received; he was told that such was the law, and that, ever since the island had been very nearly surprised and taken by the inhabitants of that of Ada, it had been wisely enacted that all strangers landing at Attola should be made slaves. “It is impossible that can ever be a law,” said the Essenian, “for it is not in the Pentateuch.” He was told in reply, that it was to be found in the digest of the country; and he remained a slave: fortunately he had a kind and wealthy master, who treated him very well, and to whom he became strongly attached.
Some murderers once came to the house in which he lived, to kill his master and carry off his treasure. They inquired of the slaves if he was at home, and had much money there. “We assure you, on our oaths,” said the slaves, “that he is not at home.” But the Essenian said: “The law does not allow lying; I swear to you that he is at home, and that he has a great deal of money.” The master was, in consequence, robbed and murdered; the slaves accused the Essenian, before the judges, of having betrayed his master. The Essenian said, that he would tell no lies, and that nothing in the world should induce him to tell one; and he was hanged.
This history was related to me, with many similar ones, on the last voyage I made from India to France. When I arrived, I went to Versailles on business, and saw in the street a beautiful woman, followed by many others who were also beautiful. “Who is that beautiful woman?” said I to the barrister who had accompanied me; for I had a cause then depending before the Parliament of Paris about some dresses that I had had made in India, and I was desirous of having my counsel as much with me as possible. “She is the daughter of the king,” said he, “she is amiable and beneficent; it is a great pity that, in no case or circumstance whatever, such a woman as that can become queen of France.” “What!” I replied, “if we had the misfortune to lose all her relations and the princes of the blood—which God forbid—would not she, in that case, succeed to the throne of her father?” “No,” said the counsellor; “the Salic law expressly forbids it.” “And who made this Salic law?” said I to the counsellor. “I do not at all know,” said he; “but it is pretended, that among an ancient people called the Salii, who were unable either to read or write, there existed a written law, which enacted, that in the Salic territory a daughter should not inherit any freehold.” “And I,” said I to him, “I abolish that law; you assure me that this princess is amiable and beneficent; she would, therefore, should the calamity occur of her being the last existing personage of royal blood, have an incontestable right to the crown: my mother inherited from her father; and in the case supposed, I am resolved that this princess shall inherit from hers.”
On the ensuing day, my suit was decided in one of the chambers of parliament, and I lost everything by a single vote; my counsellor told me, that in another chamber I should have gained everything by a single vote. “That is a very curious circumstance,” said I: “at that rate each chamber proceeds by a different law.” “That is just the case,” said he: “there are twenty-five commentaries on the common law of Paris: that is to say, it is proved five and twenty times over, that the common law of Paris is equivocal; and if there had been five and twenty chambers of judges, there would be just as many different systems of jurisprudence. We have a province,” continued he, “fifteen leagues distant from Paris, called Normandy, where the judgment in your cause would have been very different from what it was here.” This statement excited in me a strong desire to see Normandy; and I accordingly went thither with one of my brothers. At the first inn, we met with a young man who was almost in a state of despair. I inquired of him what was his misfortune; he told me it was having an elder brother. “Where,” said I, “can be the great calamity of having an elder brother? The brother I have is my elder, and yet we live very happily together.” “Alas! sir,” said he to me, “the law of this place gives everything to the elder brother, and of course leaves nothing for the younger ones.” “That,” said I, “is enough, indeed, to disturb and distress you; among us everything is divided equally; and yet, sometimes, brothers have no great affection for one another.”
These little adventures occasioned me to make some observations, which of course were very ingenious and profound, upon the subject of laws; and I easily perceived that it was with them as it is with our garments: I must wear a doliman at Constantinople, and a coat at Paris.
“If all human laws,” said I, “are matters of convention, nothing is necessary but to make a good bargain.” The citizens of Delhi and Agra say that they have made a very bad one with Tamerlane: those of London congratulate themselves on having made a very good one with King William of Orange. A citizen of London once said to me: “Laws are made by necessity, and observed through force.” I asked him if force did not also occasionally make laws, and if William, the bastard and conqueror, had not chosen simply to issue his orders without condescending to make any convention or bargain with the English at all. “True,” said he, “it was so: we were oxen at that time; William brought us under the yoke, and drove us with a goad; since that period we have been metamorphosed into men; the horns, however, remain with us still, and we use them as weapons against every man who attempts making us work for him and not for ourselves.”
With my mind full of all these reflections, I could not help feeling a sensible gratification in thinking, that there exists a natural law entirely independent of all human conventions: The fruit of my labor ought to be my own: I am bound to honor my father and mother: I have no right over the life of my neighbor, nor has my neighbor over mine, etc. But when I considered, that from Chedorlaomer to Mentzel, colonel of hussars, every one kills and plunders his neighbor according to law, and with his patent in his pocket, I was greatly distressed.
I was told that laws existed even among robbers, and that there were laws also in war. I asked what were the laws of war. “They are,” said some one, “to hang up a brave officer for maintaining a weak post without cannon; to hang a prisoner, if the enemy have hanged any of yours; to ravage with fire and sword those villages which shall not have delivered up their means of subsistence by an appointed day, agreeably to the commands of the gracious sovereign of the vicinage.” “Good,” said I, “that is the true spirit of laws.” After acquiring a good deal of information, I found that there existed some wise laws, by which a shepherd is condemned to nine years’ imprisonment and labor in the galleys, for having given his sheep a little foreign salt. My neighbor was ruined by a suit on account of two oaks belonging to him, which he had cut down in his wood, because he had omitted a mere form of technicality with which it was almost impossible that he should have been acquainted; his wife died, in consequence, in misery; and his son is languishing out a painful existence. I admit that these laws are just, although their execution is a little severe; but I must acknowledge I am no friend to laws which authorize a hundred thousand neighbors loyally to set about cutting one another’s throats. It appears to me that the greater part of mankind have received from nature a sufficient portion of what is called common sense for making laws, but that the whole world has not justice enough to make good laws.
Simple and tranquil cultivators, collected from every part of the world, would easily agree that every one should be free to sell the superfluity of his own corn to his neighbor, and that every law contrary to it is both inhuman and absurd; that the value of money, being the representative of commodities, ought no more to be tampered with than the produce of the earth; that the father of a family should be master in his own house; that religion should collect men together, to unite them in kindness and friendship, and not to make them fanatics and persecutors; and that those who labor ought not to be deprived of the fruits of their labor, to endow superstition and idleness. In the course of an hour, thirty laws of this description, all of a nature beneficial to mankind, would be unanimously agreed to.
But let Tamerlane arrive and subjugate India, and you will then see nothing but arbitrary laws. One will oppress and grind down a whole province, merely to enrich one of Tamerlane’s collectors of revenue; another will screw up to the crime of high treason, speaking contemptuously of the mistress of a rajah’s chief valet; a third will extort from the farmer a moiety of his harvest, and dispute with him the right to the remainder; in short, there will be laws by which a Tartar sergeant will be authorized to seize your children in the cradle—to make one, who is robust, a soldier—to convert another, who is weak, into a eunuch—and thus to leave the father and mother without assistance and without consolation.
But which would be preferable, being Tamerlane’s dog or his subject? It is evident that the condition of his dog would be by far the better one.
LAWS (SPIRIT OF).
It would be admirable, if from all the books upon laws by Bodin, Hobbes, Grotius, Puffendorf, Montesquieu, Barbeyrac, and Burlamaqui, some general law was adopted by the whole of the tribunals of Europe upon succession, contracts, revenue offences, etc. But neither the citations of Grotius, nor those of Puffendorf, nor those of the “Spirit of Laws,” have ever led to a sentence in the Châtelet of Paris or the Old Bailey of London. We weary ourselves with Grotius, pass some agreeable moments with Montesquieu; but if process be deemed advisable, we run to our attorney.
It has been said that the letter kills, but that in the spirit there is life. It is decidedly the contrary in the book of Montesquieu; the spirit is diffusive, and the letter teaches nothing.
False Citations in the “Spirit of Laws,” and False Consequences Drawn from Them by the Author.
It is observed, that “the English, to favor liberty, have abstracted all the intermediate powers which formed part of their constitution.”
On the contrary, they have preserved the Upper House, and the greater part of the jurisdictions which stand between the crown and the people.
“The establishment of a vizier in a despotic state is a fundamental law.”
A judicious critic has remarked that this is as much as to say that the office of the mayors of the palace was a fundamental office. Constantine was highly despotic, yet had no grand vizier. Louis XIV. was less despotic, and had no first minister. The popes are sufficiently despotic, and yet seldom possess them.
“The sale of employments is good in monarchical states, because it makes it the profession of persons of family to undertake employments, which they would not fulfil from disinterested motives alone.”
Is it Montesquieu who writes these odious lines? What! because the vices of Francis I. deranged the public finances, must we sell to ignorant young men the right of deciding upon the honor, fortune, and lives of the people? What! is it good in a monarchy, that the office of magistrate should become a family provision? If this infamy was salutary, some other country would have adopted it as well as France; but there is not another monarchy on earth which has merited the opprobrium. This monstrous anomaly sprang from the prodigality of a ruined and spendthrift monarch, and the vanity of certain citizens whose fathers possessed money; and the wretched abuse has always been weakly attacked, because it was felt that reimbursement would be difficult. It would be a thousand times better, said a great jurisconsult, to sell the treasure of all the convents, and the plate of all the churches, than to sell justice. When Francis I. seized the silver grating of St. Martin, he did harm to no one; St. Martin complained not, and parted very easily with his screen; but to sell the place of judge, and at the same time make the judge swear that he has not bought it, is a base sacrilege.
Let us complain that Montesquieu has dishonored his work by such paradoxes—but at the same time let us pardon him. His uncle purchased the office of a provincial president, and bequeathed it to him. Human nature is to be recognized in everything, and there are none of us without weakness.
“Behold how industriously the Muscovite government seeks to emerge from despotism.”
Is it in abolishing the patriarchate and the active militia of the strelitzes; in being the absolute master of the troops, of the revenue, and of the church, of which the functionaries are paid from the public treasury alone? or is it proved by making laws to render that power as sacred as it is mighty? It is melancholy, that in so many citations and so many maxims, the contrary of what is asserted should be almost always the truth.
“The luxury of those who possess the necessaries of life only, will be zero; the luxury of those who possess as much again, will be equal to one; of those who possess double the means of the latter, three; and so on.”
The latter will possess three times the excess beyond the necessaries of life; but it by no means follows that he will possess three times as many luxuries; for he may be thrice as avaricious, or may employ the superfluity in commerce, or in portions to his daughters. These propositions are not affairs of arithmetic, and such calculations are miserable quackery.
“The Samnites had a fine custom, which must have produced admirable results. The young man declared the most worthy chose a wife where he pleased; he who had the next number of suffrages in his favor followed, and so on throughout.”
The author has mistaken the Sunites, a people of Scythia, for the Samnites, in the neighborhood of Rome. He quotes a fragment of Nicholas de Demas, preserved by Stobæus: but is the said Nicholas a sufficient authority? This fine custom would moreover be very injurious in a well-governed country; for if the judges should be deceived in the young man declared the most worthy; if the female selected should not like him; or if he were objectionable in the eyes of the girl’s parents, very fatal results might follow.
“On reading the admirable work of Tacitus on the manners of the Germans, it will be seen that it is from them the English drew the idea of their political government. That admirable system originated in the woods.”
The houses of peers and of commons, and the English courts of law and equity, found in the woods! Who would have supposed it? Without doubt, the English owe their squadrons and their commerce to the manners of the Germans; and the sermons of Tillotson to those pious German sorcerers who sacrificed their prisoners, and judged of their success in war by the manner in which the blood flowed. We must believe, also, that the English are indebted for their fine manufactures to the laudable practice of the Germans, who, as Tacitus observers, preferred robbery to toil.
“Aristotle ranked among monarchies the governments both of Persia and Lacedæmon; but who cannot perceive that the one was a despotism, the other a republic?”
Who, on the contrary, cannot perceive that Lacedæmon had a single king for four hundred years, and two kings until the extinction of the Heraclidæ, a period of about a thousand years? We know that no king was despotic of right, not even in Persia; but every bold and dissembling prince who amasses money, becomes despotic in a little time, either in Persia or Lacedæmon; and, therefore, Aristotle distinguishes every state possessing perpetual and hereditary chiefs, from republics.
“People of warm climates are timid, like old men; those of cold countries are courageous, like young ones.”
We should take great care how general propositions escape us. No one has ever been able to make a Laplander or an Esquimaux warlike, while the Arabs in fourscore years conquered a territory which exceeded that of the whole Roman Empire. This maxim of M. Montesquieu is equally erroneous with all the rest on the subject of climate.
“Louis XIII. was extremely averse to passing a law which made the negroes of the French colonies slaves; but when he was given to understand that it was the most certain way of converting them, he consented.”
Where did the author pick up this anecdote? The first arrangement for the treatment of the negroes was made in 1673, thirty years after the death of Louis XIII. This resembles the refusal of Francis I. to listen to the project of Christopher Columbus, who had discovered the Antilles before Francis I. was born.
“The Romans never exhibited any jealousy on the score of commerce. It was as a rival, not as a commercial nation, that they attacked Carthage.”
It was both as a warlike and as a commercial nation, as the learned Huet proves in his “Commerce of the Ancients,” when he shows that the Romans were addicted to commerce a long time before the first Punic war.
“The sterility of the territory of Athens established a popular government there, and the fertility of that of Lacedæmon an aristocratic one.”
Whence this chimera? From enslaved Athens we still derive cotton, silk, rice, corn, oil, and skins; and from the country of Lacedæmon nothing. Athens was twenty times richer than Lacedæmon. With respect to the comparative fertility of the soil, it is necessary to visit those countries to appreciate it; but the form of a government is never attributed to the greater or less fertility. Venice had very little corn when her nobles governed. Genoa is assuredly not fertile, and yet is an aristocracy. Geneva is a more popular state, and has not the means of existing a fortnight upon its own productions. Sweden, which is equally poor, has for a long time submitted to the yoke of a monarchy; while fertile Poland is aristocratic. I cannot conceive how general rules can be established, which may be falsified upon the slightest appeal to experience.
“In Europe, empires have never been able to exist.” Yet the Roman Empire existed for five hundred years, and that of the Turks has maintained itself since the year 1453.
“The duration of the great empires of Asia is principally owing to the prevalence of vast plains.” M. Montesquieu forgets the mountains which cross Natolia and Syria, Caucasus, Taurus, Ararat, Imaus, and others, the ramifications of which extend throughout Asia.
After thus convincing ourselves that errors abound in the “Spirit of Laws”; after everybody is satisfied that this work wants method, and possesses neither plan nor order, it is proper to inquire into that which really forms its merit, and which has led to its great reputation.
In the first place, it is written with great wit, while the authors of all the other books on this subject are tedious. It was on this account that a lady, who possessed as much wit as Montesquieu, observed, that his book was “l’esprit sur les lois.” It can never be more correctly defined.
A still stronger reason is that the book exhibits grand views, attacks tyranny, superstition, and grinding taxation—three things which mankind detest. The author consoles slaves in lamenting their fetters, and the slaves in return applaud him.
One of the most bitter and absurd of his enemies, who contributed most by his rage to exalt the name of Montesquieu throughout Europe, was the journalist of the Convulsionaries. He called him a Spinozist and deist; that is to say, he accused him at the same time of not believing in God and of believing in God alone.
He reproaches him with his esteem for Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and the Stoics; and for not loving Jansenists—the Abbé de St. Cyran and Father Quesnel. He asserts that he has committed an unpardonable crime in calling Bayle a great man.
He pretends that the “Spirit of Laws” is one of those monstrous works with which France has been inundated since the Bull Unigenitus, which has corrupted the consciences of all people.
This tatterdemalion from his garret, deriving at least three hundred per cent. from his ecclesiastical gazette, declaimed like a fool against interest upon money at the legal rate. He was seconded by some pedants of his own sort; and the whole concluded in their resembling the slaves placed at the foot of the statue of Louis XIV.; they are crushed, and gnaw their own flesh in revenge.
Montesquieu was almost always in error with the learned, because he was not learned; but he was always right against the fanatics and promoters of slavery. Europe owes him eternal gratitude.
Our questions on Lent will merely regard the police. It appeared useful to have a time in the year in which we should eat fewer oxen, calves, lambs, and poultry. Young fowls and pigeons are not ready in February and March, the time in which Lent falls; and it is good to cease the carnage for some weeks in countries in which pastures are not so fertile as those of England and Holland.
The magistrates of police have very wisely ordered that meat should be a little dearer at Paris during this time, and that the profit should be given to the hospitals. It is an almost insensible tribute paid by luxury and gluttony to indigence; for it is the rich who are not able to keep Lent—the poor fast all the year.
There are very few farming men who eat meat once a month. If they ate of it every day, there would not be enough for the most flourishing kingdom. Twenty millions of pounds of meat a day would make seven thousand three hundred millions of pounds a year. This calculation is alarming.
The small number of the rich, financiers, prelates, principal magistrates, great lords, and great ladies who condescend to have maigre served at their tables, fast during six weeks on soles, salmon, turbots, sturgeons, etc.
One of our most famous financiers had couriers, who for a hundred crowns brought him fresh sea fish every day to Paris. This expense supported the couriers, the dealers who sold the horses, the fishermen who furnished the fish, the makers of nets, constructors of boats, and the druggists from whom were procured the refined spices which give to a fish a taste superior to that of meat. Lucullus could not have kept Lent more voluptuously.
It should further be remarked that fresh sea fish, in coming to Paris, pays a considerable tax. The secretaries of the rich, their valets de chambre, ladies’ maids, and stewards, partake of the dessert of Crœsus, and fast as deliciously as he.
It is not the same with the poor; not only if for four sous they partake of a small portion of tough mutton do they commit a great sin, but they seek in vain for this miserable aliment. What do they therefore feed upon? Chestnuts, rye bread, the cheeses which they have pressed from the milk of their cows, goats or sheep, and some few of the eggs of their poultry.
There are churches which forbid them the eggs and the milk. What then remains for them to eat? Nothing. They consent to fast; but they consent not to die. It is absolutely necessary that they should live, if it be only to cultivate the lands of the fat rectors and lazy monks.
We therefore ask, if it belongs not to the magistrates of the police of the kingdom, charged with watching over the health of the inhabitants, to give them permission to eat the cheeses which their own hands have formed, and the eggs which their fowls have laid?
It appears that milk, eggs, cheese, and all which can nourish the farmer, are regulated by the police, and not by a religious rule.
We hear not that Jesus Christ forbade omelets to His apostles; He said to them: “Eat such things as are set before you.”
The Holy Church has ordained Lent, but in quality of the Church it commands it only to the heart; it can inflict spiritual pains alone; it cannot as formerly burn a poor man, who, having only some rusty bacon, put a slice of it on a piece of black bread the day after Shrove Tuesday.
Sometimes in the provinces the pastors go beyond their duty, and forgetting the rights of the magistracy, undertake to go among the innkeepers and cooks, to see if they have not some ounces of meat in their saucepans, some old fowls on their hooks, or some eggs in a cupboard; for eggs are forbidden in Lent. They intimidate the poor people, and proceed to violence towards the unfortunates, who know not that it belongs alone to the magistracy to interfere. It is an odious and punishable inquisition.
The magistrates alone can be rightly informed of the more or less abundant provisions required by the poor people of the provinces. The clergy have occupations more sublime. Should it not therefore belong to the magistrates to regulate what the people eat in Lent? Who should pry into the legal consumption of a country if not the police of that country?
Did the first who were advised to fast put themselves under this regimen by order of the physician, for indigestion? The want of appetite which we feel in grief—was it the first origin of fast-days prescribed in melancholy religions?
Did the Jews take the custom of fasting from the Egyptians, all of whose rites they imitated, including flagellation and the scape-goat? Why fasted Jesus for forty days in the desert, where He was tempted by the devil—by the “Chathbull”? St. Matthew remarks that after this Lent He was hungry; He was therefore not hungry during the fast.
Why, in days of abstinence, does the Roman Church consider it a crime to eat terrestrial animals, and a good work to be served with soles and salmon? The rich Papist who shall have five hundred francs’ worth of fish upon his table shall be saved, and the poor wretch dying with hunger, who shall have eaten four sous’ worth of salt pork, shall be damned.
Why must we ask permission of the bishop to eat eggs? If a king ordered his people never to eat eggs, would he not be thought the most ridiculous of tyrants? How strange the aversion of bishops to omelets!
Can we believe that among Papists there have been tribunals imbecile, dull, and barbarous enough to condemn to death poor citizens, who had no other crimes than that of having eaten of horseflesh in Lent? The fact is but too true; I have in my hands a sentence of this kind. What renders it still more strange is that the judges who passed such sentences believed themselves superior to the Iroquois.
Foolish and cruel priests, to whom do you order Lent? Is it to the rich? they take good care to observe it. Is it to the poor? they keep Lent all the year. The unhappy peasant scarcely ever eats meat, and has not wherewithal to buy fish. Fools that you are, when will you correct your absurd laws?
This article relates to two powerful divinities, one ancient and the other modern, which have reigned in our hemisphere. The reverend father Dom Calmet, a great antiquarian, that is, a great compiler of what was said in former times and what is repeated at the present day, has confounded lues with leprosy. He maintains that it was the lues with which the worthy Job was afflicted, and he supposes, after a confident and arrogant commentator of the name of Pineida, that the lues and leprosy are precisely the same disorder. Calmet is not a physician, neither is he a reasoner, but he is a citer of authorities; and in his vocation of commentator, citations are always substituted for reasons. When Astruc, in his history of lues, quotes authorities that the disorder came in fact from San Domingo, and that the Spaniards brought it from America, his citations are somewhat more conclusive.
There are two circumstances which, in my opinion, prove that lues originated in America; the first is, the multitude of authors, both medical and surgical, of the sixteenth century, who attest the fact; and the second is, the silence of all the physicians and all the poets of antiquity, who never were acquainted with this disease, and never had even a name for it. I here speak of the silence of physicians and of poets as equally demonstrative. The former, beginning with Hippocrates, would not have failed to describe this malady, to state its symptoms, to apply to it a name, and suggest some remedy. The poets, equally as malicious and sarcastic as physicians are studious and investigative, would have detailed in their satires, with minute particularity, all the symptoms and consequences of this dreadful disorder; you do not find, however, a single verse in Horace or Catullus, in Martial or Juvenal, which has the slightest reference to lues, although they expatiate on all the effects of debauchery with the utmost freedom and delight.
It is very certain that smallpox was not known to the Romans before the sixth century; that the American lues was not introduced into Europe until the fifteenth century; and that leprosy is as different from those two maladies, as palsy from St. Guy’s or St. Vitus’ dance.
Leprosy was a scabious disease of a dreadful character. The Jews were more subject to it than any other people living in hot climates, because they had neither linen, nor domestic baths. These people were so negligent of cleanliness and the decencies of life that their legislators were obliged to make a law to compel them even to wash their hands.
All that we gained in the end by engaging in the crusades, was leprosy; and of all that we had taken, that was the only thing that remained with us. It was necessary everywhere to build lazarettos, in which to confine the unfortunate victims of a disease at once pestilential and incurable.
Leprosy, as well as fanaticism and usury, had been a distinguishing characteristic of the Jews. These wretched people having no physicians, the priests took upon themselves the management and regulation of leprosy, and made it a concern of religion. This has occasioned some indiscreet and profane critics to remark that the Jews were no better than a nation of savages under the direction of their jugglers. Their priests in fact never cured leprosy, but they cut off from society those who were infected by it, and thus acquired a power of the greatest importance. Every man laboring under this disease was imprisoned, like a thief or a robber; and thus a woman who was desirous of getting rid of her husband had only to secure the sanction of the priest, and the unfortunate husband was shut up—it was the “lettre de cachet” of the day. The Jews and those by whom they were governed were so ignorant that they imagined the moth-holes in garments, and the mildew upon walls, to be the effects of leprosy. They actually conceived their houses and clothes to have leprosy; thus the people themselves, and their very rags and hovels, were all brought under the rod of the priesthood.
One proof that, at the time of the first introduction of the lues, there was no connection between that disorder and leprosy, is that the few lepers that remained at the conclusion of the fifteenth century were offended at any kind of comparison between themselves and those who were affected by lues.
Some of the persons thus affected were in the first instance sent to the hospital for lepers, but were received by them with indignation. The lepers presented a petition to be separated from them; as persons imprisoned for debt or affairs of honor claim a right not to be confounded with the common herd of criminals.
We have already observed that the Parliament of Paris, on March 6, 1496, issued an order, by which all persons laboring under lues, unless they were citizens of Paris, were enjoined to depart within twenty-four hours, under pain of being hanged. This order was neither Christian, legal, nor judicious; but it proves that lues was regarded as a new plague which had nothing in common with leprosy; as lepers were not hanged for residing in Paris, while those afflicted by lues were so.
Men may bring the leprosy on themselves by their uncleanliness and filth, just as is done by a species of animals to which the very lowest of the vulgar may too naturally be compared; but with respect to lues, it was a present made to America by nature. We have already reproached this same nature, at once so kind and so malicious, so sagacious and yet so blind, with defeating her own object by thus poisoning the source of life; and we still sincerely regret that we have found no solution of this dreadful difficulty.
We have seen elsewhere that man in general, one with another, or (as it is expressed) on the average, does not live above two-and-twenty years; and during these two-and-twenty years he is liable to two-and-twenty thousand evils, many of which are incurable.
Yet even in this dreadful state men still strut and figure on the stage of life; they make love at the hazard of destruction; and intrigue, carry on war, and form projects, just as if they were to live in luxury and delight for a thousand ages.
LETTERS (MEN OF).
In the barbarous times when the Franks, Germans, Bretons, Lombards, and Spanish Mozarabians knew neither how to read nor write, we instituted schools and universities almost entirely composed of ecclesiastics, who, knowing only their own jargon, taught this jargon to those who would learn it. Academies were not founded until long after; the latter have despised the follies of the schools, but they have not always dared to oppose them, because there are follies which we respect when they are attached to respectable things.
Men of letters who have rendered the most service to the small number of thinking beings scattered over the earth are isolated scholars, true sages shut up in their closets, who have neither publicly disputed in the universities, nor said things by halves in the academies; and such have almost all been persecuted. Our miserable race is so created that those who walk in the beaten path always throw stones at those who would show them a new one.
Montesquieu says that the Scythians put out the eyes of their slaves that they might be more attentive to the making of their butter. It is thus that the Inquisition acts, and almost every one is blinded in the countries in which this monster reigns. In England people have had two eyes for more than a hundred years. The French are beginning to open one eye—but sometimes men in place will not even permit us to be one-eyed.
These miserable statesmen are like Doctor Balouard of the Italian comedy, who will only be served by the fool Harlequin, and who fears to have too penetrating a servant.
Compose odes in praise of Lord Superbus Fatus, madrigals for his mistress; dedicate a book of geography to his porter, and you will be well received. Enlighten men, and you will be crushed.
Descartes is obliged to quit his country; Gassendi is calumniated; Arnaud passes his days in exile; all the philosophers are treated as the prophets were among the Jews.
Who would believe that in the eighteenth century, a philosopher has been dragged before the secular tribunals, and treated as impious by reasoning theologians, for having said that men could not practise the arts if they had no hands? I expect that they will soon condemn to the galleys the first who shall have the insolence to say that a man could not think if he had no head; for a learned bachelor will say to him, the soul is a pure spirit, the head is only matter; God can place the soul in the heel as well as in the brain; therefore I denounce you as a blasphemer.
The great misfortune of a man of letters is not perhaps being the object of the jealousy of his brothers, the victim of cabals, and the contempt of the powerful of the world—it is being judged by fools. Fools sometimes go very far, particularly when fanaticism is joined to folly, and folly to the spirit of vengeance. Further, the great misfortune of a man of letters is generally to hold to nothing. A citizen buys a little situation, and is maintained by his fellow-citizens. If any injustice is done to him, he soon finds defenders. The literary man is without aid; he resembles the flying fish; if he rises a little, the birds devour him; if he dives, the fishes eat him up. Every public man pays tribute to malignity; but he is repaid in deniers and honors.
Small, offensive books are termed libels. These books are usually small, because the authors, having few reasons to give, and usually writing not to inform, but mislead, if they are desirous of being read, must necessarily be brief. Names are rarely used on these occasions, for assassins fear being detected in the employment of forbidden weapons.
In the time of the League and the Fronde, political libels abounded. Every dispute in England produces hundreds; and a library might be formed of those written against Louis XIV.
We have had theological libels for sixteen hundred years; and what is worse, these are esteemed holy by the vulgar. Only see how St. Jerome treats Rufinus and Vigilantius. The latest libels are those of the Molinists and Jansenists, which amount to thousands. Of all this mass there remains only “The Provincial Letters.”
Men of letters may dispute the number of their libels with the theologians. Boileau and Fontenelle, who attacked one another with epigrams, both said that their chambers would not contain the libels with which they had been assailed. All these disappear like the leaves in autumn. Some people have maintained that anything offensive written against a neighbor is a libel.
According to them, the railing attacks which the prophets occasionally sang to the kings of Israel, were defamatory libels to excite the people to rise up against them. As the populace, however, read but little anywhere, it is believed that these half-disclosed satires never did any great harm. Sedition is produced by speaking to assemblies of the people, rather than by writing for them. For this reason, one of the first things done by Queen Elizabeth of England on her accession, was to order that for six months no one should preach without express permission.
The “Anti-Cato” of Cæsar was a libel, but Cæsar did more harm to Cato by the battle of Pharsalia, than by his “Diatribes.” The “Philippics” of Cicero were libels, but the proscriptions of the Triumvirs were far more terrible libels.
St. Cyril and St. Gregory Nazianzen compiled libels against the emperor Julian, but they were so generous as not to publish them until after his death.
Nothing resembles libels more than certain manifestoes of sovereigns. The secretaries of the sultan Mustapha made a libel of his declaration of war. God has punished them for it; but the same spirit which animated Cæsar, Cicero, and the secretaries of Mustapha, reigns in all the reptiles who spin libels in their garrets. “Natura est semper sibi consona.” Who would believe that the souls of Garasse, Nonnotte, Paulian, Fréron, and he of Langliviet, calling himself La Beaumelle, were in this respect of the same temper as those of Cæsar, Cicero, St. Cyril, and of the secretary of the grand seignior? Nothing is, however, more certain.
Either I am much deceived, or Locke has very well defined liberty to be “power.” I am still further deceived, or Collins, a celebrated magistrate of London, is the only philosopher who has profoundly developed this idea, while Clarke has only answered him as a theologian. Of all that has been written in France on liberty, the following little dialogue has appeared to me the most comprehensive:
A battery of cannon is discharged at our ears; have you the liberty to hear it, or not to hear it, as you please?
Undoubtedly I cannot hinder myself from hearing it.
Are you willing that these cannon shall take off your head and those of your wife and daughter who walk with you?
What a question! I cannot, at least while I am in my right senses, wish such a thing; it is impossible.
Good; you necessarily hear these cannon, and you necessarily wish not for the death of yourself and your family by a discharge from them. You have neither the power of not hearing it, nor the power of wishing to remain here.
That is clear.
You have, I perceive, advanced thirty paces to be out of the reach of the cannon; you have had the power of walking these few steps with me.
That is also very clear.
And if you had been paralytic, you could not have avoided being exposed to this battery; you would necessarily have heard, and received a wound from the cannon; and you would have as necessarily died.
Nothing is more true.
In what then consists your liberty, if not in the power that your body has acquired of performing that which from absolute necessity your will requires?
You embarrass me. Liberty then is nothing more than the power of doing what I wish?
Reflect; and see whether liberty can be understood otherwise.
In this case, my hunting dog is as free as myself; he has necessarily the will to run when he sees a hare; and the power of running, if there is nothing the matter with his legs. I have therefore nothing above my dog; you reduce me to the state of the beasts.
These are poor sophisms, and they are poor sophists who have instructed you. You are unwilling to be free like your dog. Do you not eat, sleep, and propagate like him, and nearly in the same attitudes? Would you smell otherwise than by your nose? Why would you possess liberty differently from your dog?
But I have a soul which reasons, and my dog scarcely reasons at all. He has nothing beyond simple ideas, while I have a thousand metaphysical ideas.
Well, you are a thousand times more free than he is; you have a thousand times more power of thinking than he has; but still you are not free in any other manner than your dog is free.
What! am I not free to will what I like?
What do you understand by that?
I understand what all the world understands. Is it not every day said that the will is free?
An adage is not a reason; explain yourself better.
I understand that I am free to will as I please.
With your permission, that is nonsense; see you not that it is ridiculous to say—I will will? Consequently, you necessarily will the ideas only which are presented to you. Will you be married, yes or no?
Suppose I answer that I will neither the one nor the other.
In that case you would answer like him who said: Some believe Cardinal Mazarin dead, others believe him living; I believe neither the one nor the other.
Well, I will marry!
Aye, that is an answer. Why will you marry?
Because I am in love with a young, beautiful, sweet, well-educated, rich girl, who sings very well, whose parents are very honest people, and I flatter myself that I am beloved by her and welcome to the family.
There is a reason. You see that you cannot will without a motive. I declare to you that you are free to marry, that is to say, that you have the power of signing the contract, keeping the wedding, and sleeping with your wife.
How! I cannot will without a motive? Then what will become of the other proverb—“Sit pro ratione voluntas”—my will is my reason—I will because I will?
It is an absurd one, my dear friend; you would then have an effect without a cause.
What! when I play at odd or even, have I a reason for choosing even rather than odd?
And what is the reason, if you please?
It is, that the idea of even is presented to your mind rather than the opposite idea. It would be extraordinary if there were cases in which we will because there is a motive, and others in which we will without one. When you would marry, you evidently perceive the predominant reason for it; you perceive it not when you play at odd or even, and yet there must be one.
Therefore, once more, I am not free.
Your will is not free, but your actions are. You are free to act when you have the power of acting.
But all the books that I have read on the liberty of indifference—
What do you understand by the liberty of indifference?
I understand spitting on the right or the left hand—sleeping on the right or left side—walking up and down four times or five.
That would be a pleasant liberty, truly! God would have made you a fine present, much to boast of, certainly! What use to you would be a power which could only be exercised on such futile occasions? But in truth it is ridiculous to suppose the will of willing to spit on the right or left. Not only is the will of willing absurd, but it is certain that several little circumstances determine these acts which you call indifferent. You are no more free in these acts than in others. Yet you are free at all times, and in all places, when you can do what you wish to do.
I suspect that you are right. I will think upon it.
LIBERTY OF OPINION.
Towards the year 1707, the time at which the English gained the battle of Saragossa, protected Portugal, and for some time gave a king to Spain, Lord Boldmind, a general officer who had been wounded, was at the waters of Barèges. He there met with Count Medroso, who having fallen from his horse behind the baggage, at a league and a half from the field of battle, also came to take the waters. He was a familiar of the Inquisition, while Lord Boldmind was only familiar in conversation. One day after their wine, he held this dialogue with Medroso:
—It is true; but I would rather be their servant than their victim, and I have preferred the unhappiness of burning my neighbor to that of being roasted myself.)
—What would you have? It is not permitted us either to write, speak, or even to think. If we speak, it is easy to misinterpret our words, and still more our writings; and as we cannot be condemned in an auto-da-fé for our secret thoughts, we are menaced with being burned eternally by the order of God himself, if we think not like the Jacobins. They have persuaded the government that if we had common sense the entire state would be in combustion, and the nation become the most miserable upon earth.)
—Who is this Tullius Cicero? I have never heard his name pronounced at St. Hermandad.)
—I know none of them; but I am told that the Catholic religion, Biscayan and Roman, is lost if we begin to think.)
—No; but it may be reduced to very little; and it is through having thought, that Sweden, Denmark, all your island, and the half of Germany groan under the frightful misfortune of not being subjects of the pope. It is even said that, if men continue to follow their false lights, they will soon have merely the simple adoration of God and of virtue. If the gates of hell ever prevail so far, what will become of the holy office?)
—I understand you not.)
—You are a man, and that is sufficient.)
—You have only to teach yourself to think; you are born with a mind, you are a bird in the cage of the Inquisition, the holy office has clipped your wings, but they will grow again. He who knows not geometry can learn it: all men can instruct themselves. Is it not shameful to put your soul into the hands of those to whom you would not intrust your money? Dare to think for yourself.)
—Quite the contrary. When we assist at a spectacle, every one freely tells his opinion of it, and the public peace is not thereby disturbed; but if some insolent protector of a poet would force all people of taste to proclaim that to be good which appears to them bad, blows would follow, and the two parties would throw apples of discord at one another’s heads, as once happened at London. Tyrants over mind have caused a part of the misfortunes of the world. We are happy in England only because every one freely enjoys the right of speaking his opinion.)
—You are tranquil, but you are not happy: it is the tranquillity of galley-slaves, who row in cadence and in silence.)
—Yes, and I would deliver it.)
—But if I find myself well at the galleys?
—Why, then, you deserve to be there.
LIBERTY OF THE PRESS.
What harm can the prediction of Jean Jacques do to Russia? Any? We allow him to explain it in a mystical, typical, allegorical sense, according to custom. The nations which will destroy the Russians will possess the belles-lettres, mathematics, wit, and politeness, which degrade man and pervert nature.
From five to six thousand pamphlets have been printed in Holland against Louis XIV., none of which contributed to make him lose the battles of Blenheim, Turin, and Ramillies.
In general, we have as natural a right to make use of our pens as our language, at our peril, risk, and fortune. I know many books which fatigue, but I know of none which have done real evil. Theologians, or pretended politicians, cry: “Religion is destroyed, the government is lost, if you print certain truths or certain paradoxes. Never attempt to think, till you have demanded permission from a monk or an officer. It is against good order for a man to think for himself. Homer, Plato, Cicero, Virgil, Pliny, Horace, never published anything but with the approbation of the doctors of the Sorbonne and of the holy Inquisition.”
“See into what horrible decay the liberty of the press brought England and Holland. It is true that they possess the commerce of the whole world, and that England is victorious on sea and land; but it is merely a false greatness, a false opulence: they hasten with long strides to their ruin. An enlightened people cannot exist.”
None can reason more justly, my friends; but let us see, if you please, what state has been lost by a book. The most dangerous, the most pernicious of all, is that of Spinoza. Not only in the character of a Jew he attacks the New Testament, but in the character of a scholar he ruins the Old; his system of atheism is a thousand times better composed and reasoned than those of Straton and of Epicurus. We have need of the most profound sagacity to answer to the arguments by which he endeavors to prove that one substance cannot form another.
Like yourself, I detest this book, which I perhaps understand better than you, and to which you have very badly replied; but have you discovered that this book has changed the face of the world? Has any preacher lost a florin of his income by the publication of the works of Spinoza? Is there a bishop whose rents have diminished? On the contrary, their revenues have doubled since his time: all the ill is reduced to a small number of peaceable readers, who have examined the arguments of Spinoza in their closets, and have written for or against them works but little known.
For yourselves, it is of little consequence to have caused to be printed “ad usum Delphini,” the atheism of Lucretius—as you have already been reproached with doing—no trouble, no scandal, has ensued from it: so leave Spinoza to live in peace in Holland. Lucretius was left in repose at Rome.
But if there appears among you any new book, the ideas of which shock your own—supposing you have any—or of which the author may be of a party contrary to yours—or what is worse, of which the author may not be of any party at all—then you cry out “Fire!” and let all be noise, scandal, and uproar in your small corner of the earth. There is an abominable man who has printed that if we had no hands we could not make shoes nor stockings. Devotees cry out, furred doctors assemble, alarms multiply from college to college, from house to house, and why? For five or six pages, about which there no longer will be a question at the end of three months. Does a book displease you? refute it. Does it tire you? read it not.
Oh! say you to me, the books of Luther and Calvin have destroyed the Roman Catholic religion in one-half of Europe? Why say not also, that the books of the patriarch Photius have destroyed this Roman religion in Asia, Africa, Greece, and Russia?
You deceive yourself very grossly, when you think that you have been ruined by books. The empire of Russia is two thousand leagues in extent, and there are not six men who are aware of the points disputed by the Greek and Latin Church. If the monk Luther, John Calvin, and the vicar Zuinglius had been content with writing, Rome would yet subjugate all the states that it has lost; but these people and their adherents ran from town to town, from house to house, exciting the women, and were maintained by princes. Fury, which tormented Amata, and which, according to Virgil, whipped her like a top, was not more turbulent. Know, that one enthusiastic, factious, ignorant, supple, vehement Capuchin, the emissary of some ambitious monks, preaching, confessing, communicating, and caballing, will much sooner overthrow a province than a hundred authors can enlighten it. It was not the Koran which caused Mahomet to succeed: it was Mahomet who caused the success of the Koran.
No! Rome has not been vanquished by books; it has been so by having caused Europe to revolt at its rapacity; by the public sale of indulgences; for having insulted men, and wishing to govern them like domestic animals; for having abused its power to such an extent that it is astonishing a single village remains to it. Henry VIII., Elizabeth, the duke of Saxe, the landgrave of Hesse, the princes of Orange, the Condés and Colignys, have done all, and books nothing. Trumpets have never gained battles, nor caused any walls to fall except those of Jericho.
You fear books, as certain small cantons fear violins. Let us read, and let us dance—these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.
The following passage is found in the “Système de la Nature,” London edition, page 84: “We ought to define life, before we reason concerning soul; but I hold it to be impossible to do so.”
On the contrary, I think a definition of life quite possible. Life is organization with the faculty of sensation. Thus all animals are said to live. Life is attributed to plants, only by a species of metaphor or catachresis. They are organized and vegetate; but being incapable of sensation, do not properly possess life.
We may, however, live without actual sensation; for we feel nothing in a complete apoplexy, in a lethargy, or in a sound sleep without dreams; but yet possess the capacity of sensation. Many persons, it is too well known, have been buried alive, like Roman vestals, and it is what happens after every battle, especially in cold countries. A soldier lies without motion, and breathless, who, if he were duly assisted, might recover; but to settle the matter speedily, they bury him.
What is this capacity of sensation? Formerly, life and soul meant the same thing, and the one was no better understood than the other; at bottom, is it more understood at present?
In the sacred books of the Jews, soul is always used for life.
“Dixit etiam Deus, producant aquæ reptile animæ viventis.” (And God said, let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature which hath a living soul.)
“Creavit Deus cete grandia, et omnem animam viventem, atque motabilem quam produxerant aquæ.” (And God created great dragons (tannitiim), and every living soul that moveth, which the waters brought forth.) It is difficult to explain the creation of these watery dragons, but such is the text, and it is for us to submit to it.
“Producat terra animam viventem in genere suo, jumenta et reptilia.” (Let the earth produce the living soul after its kind, cattle and creeping things.)
“Et in quibus est anima vivens, ad vescendum.” (And to everything wherein there is a living soul [every green herb], for meat.)
“Et inspiravit in faciem ejus spiraculum vitæ, et factus est homo in animam viventem.” (And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.)
“Sanguinem enim animarum vestrarum requiram de manu cunctarum betiarum, et de manu hominis,” etc. (I shall require back your souls from the hands of man and beast.)
Souls here evidently signify lives. The sacred text certainly did not mean that beasts had swallowed the souls of men, but their blood, which is their life; and as to the hands given by this text to beasts, it signifies their claws.
In short, more than two hundred passages may be quoted in which the soul is used for the life, both of beasts and man; but not one which explains either life or soul.
If life be the faculty of sensation, whence this faculty? In reply to this question, all the learned quote systems, and these systems are destructive of one another. But why the anxiety to ascertain the source of sensation? It is as difficult to conceive the power which binds all things to a common centre as to conceive the cause of animal sensation. The direction of the needle towards the pole, the paths of comets, and a thousand other phenomena are equally incomprehensible.
Properties of matter exist, the principle of which will never be known to us; and that of sensation, without which there cannot be life, is among the number.
Is it possible to live without experiencing sensation? No. An infant which dies in a lethargy that has lasted from its birth has existed, but not lived.
Let us imagine an idiot unable to form complex ideas, but who possesses sensation; he certainly lives without thinking, forming simple ideas from his sensations. Thought, therefore, is not necessary to life, since this idiot has lived without thinking.
Hence, certain thinkers think that thought is not of the essence of man. They maintain that many idiots who think not, are men; and so decidedly men as to produce other men, without the power of constructing a single argument.
The doctors who maintain the essentiality of thought, reply that these idiots have certain ideas from their sensation. Bold reasoners rejoin, that a well-taught mind possesses more consecutive ideas, and is very superior to these idiots, whence has sprung a grand dispute upon the soul, of which we shall speak—possibly at too great a length—in the article on “Soul.”
There are so many kinds of love, that in order to define it, we scarcely know which to direct our attention to. Some boldly apply the name of “love” to a caprice of a few days, a connection without attachment, passion without affection, the affectations of cicisbeism, a cold usage, a romantic fancy, a taste speedily followed by a distaste. They apply the name to a thousand chimeras.
Should any philosophers be inclined profoundly to investigate a subject in itself so little philosophical, they may recur to the banquet of Plato, in which Socrates, the decent and honorable lover of Alcibiades and Agathon, converses with them on the metaphysics of love.
Lucretius speaks of it more as a natural philosopher; and Virgil follows the example of Lucretius. “Amor omnibus idem.”
It is the embroidery of imagination on the stuff of nature. If you wish to form an idea of love, look at the sparrows in your garden; behold your doves; contemplate the bull when introduced to the heifer; look at that powerful and spirited horse which two of your grooms are conducting to the mare that quietly awaits him, and is evidently pleased at his approach; observe the flashing of his eyes, notice the strength and loudness of his neighings, the boundings, the curvetings, the ears erect, the mouth opening with convulsive gaspings, the distended nostrils, the breath of fire, the raised and waving mane, and the impetuous movement with which he rushes towards the object which nature has destined for him; do not, however, be jealous of his happiness; but reflect on the advantages of the human species; they afford ample compensation in love for all those which nature has conferred on mere animals—strength, beauty, lightness, and rapidity.
There are some classes, however, even of animals totally unacquainted with sexual association. Fishes are destitute of this enjoyment. The female deposits her millions of eggs on the slime of the waters, and the male that meets them passes over them and communicates the vital principle, never consorting with, or perhaps even perceiving the female to whom they belong.
The greater part of those animals which copulate are sensible of the enjoyment only by a single sense; and when appetite is satisfied, the whole is over. No animal, besides man, is acquainted with embraces; his whole frame is susceptible; his lips particularly experience a delight which never wearies, and which is exclusively the portion of his species; finally, he can surrender himself at all seasons to the endearments of love, while mere animals possess only limited periods. If you reflect on these high pre-eminences, you will readily join in the earl of Rochester’s remark, that love would impel a whole nation of atheists to worship the divinity.
As men have been endowed with the talent of perfecting whatever nature has bestowed upon them, they have accordingly perfected the gift of love. Cleanliness, personal attention, and regard to health render the frame more sensitive, and consequently increase its capacity of gratification. All the other amiable and valuable sentiments enter afterwards into that of love, like the metals which amalgamate with gold; friendship and esteem readily fly to its support; and talents both of body and of mind are new and strengthening bonds.
Self-love, above all, draws closer all these various ties. Men pride themselves in the choice they have made; and the numberless illusions that crowd around constitute the ornament of the work, of which the foundation is so firmly laid by nature.
Such are the advantages possessed by man above the various tribes of animals. But, if he enjoys delights of which they are ignorant, howe many vexations and disgusts, on the other hand, is he exposed to, from which they are free! The most dreadful of these is occasioned by nature’s having poisoned the pleasures of love and sources of life over three-quarters of the world by a terrible disease, to which man alone is subject; nor is it with this pestilence as with various other maladies, which are the natural consequences of excess. It was not introduced into the world by debauchery. The Phrynes and Laises, the Floras and Messalinas, were never attacked by it. It originated in islands where mankind dwelt together in innocence, and has thence been spread throughout the Old World.
If nature could in any instance be accused of despising her own work, thwarting her own plan, and counteracting her own views, it would be in this detestable scourge which has polluted the earth with horror and shame. And can this, then, be the best of all possible worlds? What! if Cæsar and Antony and Octavius never had this disease, was it not possible to prevent Francis the First from dying of it? No, it is said; things were so ordered all for the best; I am disposed to believe it; but it is unfortunate for those to whom Rabelais has dedicated his book.
Erotic philosophers have frequently discussed the question, whether Héloïse could truly love Abelard after he became a monk and mutilated? One of these states much wronged the other.
Be comforted, however, Abelard, you were really beloved; imagination comes in aid of the heart. Men feel a pleasure in remaining at table, although they can no longer eat. Is it love? is it simply recollection? is it friendship? It is a something compounded of all these. It is a confused feeling, resembling the fantastic passions which the dead retained in the Elysian Fields. The heroes who while living had shone in the chariot races, guided imaginary chariots after death. Héloïse lived with you on illusions and supplements. She sometimes caressed you, and with so much the more pleasure as, after vowing at Paraclet that she would love you no more, her caresses were become more precious to her in proportion as they had become more culpable. A woman can never form a passion for a eunuch, but she may retain her passion for her lover after his becoming one, if he still remains amiable.
The case is different with respect to a lover grown old in the service; the external appearance is no longer the same; wrinkles affright, grizzly eyebrows repel, decaying teeth disgust, infirmities drive away; all that can be done or expected is to have the virtue of being a patient and kind nurse, and bearing with the man that was once beloved, all which amounts to—burying the dead.
LOVE OF GOD.
The disputes that have occurred about the love of God have kindled as much hatred as any theological quarrel. The Jesuits and Jansenists have been contending for a hundred years as to which party loved God in the most suitable and appropriate manner, and which should at the same time most completely harass and torment their neighbor.
When the author of “Telemachus,” who was in high reputation at the court of Louis XIV., recommended men to love God in a manner which did not happen to coincide with that of the author of the “Funeral Orations,” the latter, who was a complete master of the weapons of controversy, declared open war against him, and procured his condemnation in the ancient city of Romulus, where God was the very object most loved, after domination, ease, luxury, pleasure, and money.
If Madame Guyon had been acquainted with the story of the good old woman, who brought a chafingdish to burn paradise, and a pitcher of water to extinguish hell, that God might be loved for Himself alone, she would not perhaps have written so much as she did. She must inevitably have felt that she could herself never say anything better than that; but she loved God and nonsense so sincerely that she was imprisoned for four months, on account of her affectionate attachment; treatment decidedly rigorous and unjust. Why punish as a criminal a woman whose only offence was composing verse in the style of the Abbé Cotin, and prose in the taste of the popular favorite Punchinello? It is strange that the author of “Telemachus” and the frigid loves of Eucharis should have said in his “Maxims of Saints,” after the blessed Francis de Sales: “I have scarcely any desires; but, were I to be born again, I should not have any at all. If God came to me, I would also go to Him; if it were not His will to come to me, I would stay where I was, and not go to Him.”
His whole work turns upon this proposition. Francis de Sales was not condemned, but Fénelon was. Why should that have been? the reason is, that Francis de Sales had not a bitter enemy at the court of Turin, and that Fénelon had one at Versailles.
The most sensible thing that was written upon this mystical controversy is to be found perhaps in Boileau’s satire, “On the Love of God,” although that is certainly by no means his best work.
If we must pass from the thorns of theology to those of philosophy, which are not so long and are less piercing, it seems clear that an object may be loved by any one without any reference to self, without any mixture of interested self-love. We cannot compare divine things to earthly ones, or the love of God to any other love. We have an infinity of steps to mount above our grovelling human inclinations before we can reach that sublime love. Since, however, we have nothing to rest upon except the earth, let us draw our comparisons from that. We view some masterpiece of art, in painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, or eloquence; we hear a piece of music that absolutely enchants our ears and souls; we admire it, we love it, without any return of the slightest advantage to ourselves from this attachment; it is a pure and refined feeling; we proceed sometimes so far as to entertain veneration or friendship for the author; and were he present should cordially embrace him.
This is almost the only way in which we can explain our profound admiration and the impulses of our heart towards the eternal architect of the world. We survey the work with an astonishment made up of respect and a sense of our own nothingness, and our heart warms and rises as much as possible towards the divine artificer.
But what is this feeling? A something vague and indeterminate—an impression that has no connection with our ordinary affections. A soul more susceptible than another, more withdrawn from worldly business and cares, may be so affected by the spectacle of nature as to feel the most ardent as well as pious aspirations towards the eternal Lord who formed it. Could such an amiable affection of the mind, could so powerful a charm, so strong an evidence of feeling, incur censure? Was it possible in reality to condemn the affectionate and grateful disposition of the archbishop of Cambray? Notwithstanding the expressions of St. Francis de Sales, above given, he adhered steadily to this assertion, that the author may be loved merely and simply for the beauty of his works. With what heresy could he be reproached? The extravagances of style of a lady of Montargis, and a few unguarded expressions of his own, were not a little injurious to him.
Where was the harm that he had done? Nothing at present is known about the matter. This dispute, like numberless others, is completely annihilated. Were every dogmatist to say to himself: “A few years hence no one will care a straw for my dogmas,” there would be far less dogmatizing in the world than there is! Ah! Louis the Fourteenth! Louis the Fourteenth! when two men of genius had departed so far from the natural scope and direction of their talents, as to write the most obscure and tiresome works ever written in your dominions, how much better would it have been to have left them to their own wranglings!
It is observable under all the articles of morality and history, by what an invisible chain, by what unknown springs, all the ideas that disturb our minds and all the events that poison our days are bound together and brought to co-operate in the formation of our destinies. Fénelon dies in exile in consequence of holding two or three mystical conversations with a pious but fanciful woman. Cardinal Bouillon, nephew of the great Turenne, is persecuted in consequence of not himself persecuting at Rome the archbishop of Cambray, his friend: he is compelled to quit France, and he also loses his whole fortune.
By a like chain of causes and effects, the son of a solicitor at Vire detects, in a dozen of obscure phrases of a book printed at Amsterdam, what is sufficient to fill all the dungeons of France with victims; and at length, from the depth of those dungeons arises a cry for redress and vengeance, the echo of which lays prostrate on the earth an able and tyrannical society which had been established by an ignorant madman.
LOVE (SOCRATIC LOVE).
If the love called Socratic and Platonic is only a becoming sentiment, it is to be applauded; if an unnatural license, we must blush for Greece.
It is as certain as the knowledge of antiquity can well be, that Socratic love was not an infamous passion. It is the word “love” which has deceived the world. Those called the lovers of a young man were precisely such as among us are called the minions of our princes—honorable youths attached to the education of a child of distinction, partaking of the same studies and the same military exercises—a warlike and correct custom, which has been perverted into nocturnal feasts and midnight orgies.
The company of lovers instituted by Laius was an invincible troop of young warriors, bound by oath each to preserve the life of any other at the expense of his own. Ancient discipline never exhibited anything more fine.
Sextus Empiricus and others have boldly affirmed that this vice was recommended by the laws of Persia. Let them cite the text of such a law; let them exhibit the code of the Persians; and if such an abomination be even found there, still I would disbelieve it, and maintain that the thing was not true, because it is impossible. No; it is not in human nature to make a law which contradicts and outrages nature itself—a law which would annihilate mankind, if it were literally observed. Moreover, I will show you the ancient law of the Persians as given in the “Sadder.” It says, in article or gate 9, that the greatest sin must not be committed. It is in vain that a modern writer seeks to justify Sextus Empiricus and pederasty. The laws of Zoroaster, with which he is unacquainted, incontrovertibly prove that this vice was never recommended to the Persians. It might as well be said that it is recommended to the Turks. They boldly practise it, but their laws condemn it.
How many persons have mistaken shameful practices, which are only tolerated in a country, for its laws. Sextus Empiricus, who doubted everything, should have doubted this piece of jurisprudence. If he had lived in our days, and witnessed the proceedings of two or three young Jesuits with their pupils, would he have been justified in the assertion that such practices were permitted by the institutes of Ignatius Loyola?
It will be permitted to me here to allude to the Socratic love of the reverend father Polycarp, a Carmelite, who was driven away from the small town of Gex in 1771, in which place he taught religion and Latin to about a dozen scholars. He was at once their confessor, tutor, and something more. Few have had more occupations, spiritual and temporal. All was discovered; and he retired into Switzerland, a country very distant from Greece.
The monks charged with the education of youth have always exhibited a little of this tendency, which is a necessary consequence of the celibacy to which the poor men are condemned.
This vice was so common at Rome that it was impossible to punish a crime which almost every one committed. Octavius Augustus, that murderer, debauchee, and coward, who exiled Ovid, thought it right in Virgil to sing the charms of Alexis. Horace, his other poetical favorite, constructed small odes on Ligurinus; and this same Horace, who praised Augustus for reforming manners, speak in his satires in much the same way of both boys and girls. Yet the ancient law “Scantinia,” which forbade pederasty, always existed, and was put in force by the emperor Philip, who drove away from Rome the boys who made a profession of it. If, however, Rome had witty and licentious students, like Petronius, it had also such preceptors as Quintilian; and attend to the precautions he lays down in his chapter of “The Preceptor,” in order to preserve the purity of early youth. “Cavendum non solum crimine turpitudinis, sed etiam suspicione.” We must not only beware of a shameful crime but even of the suspicion of it. To conclude, I firmly believe that no civilized nation ever existed which made formal laws against morals.
Observations by Another Hand.
We may be permitted to make a few additional reflections on an odious and disgusting subject, which however, unfortunately, forms a part of the history of opinions and manners.
This offence may be traced to the remotest periods of civilization. Greek and Roman history in particular allows us not to doubt it. It was common before people formed regular societies, and were governed by written laws.
The latter fact is the reason that the laws have treated it with so much indulgence. Severe laws cannot be proposed to a free people against a vice, whatever it may be, which is common and habitual. For a long time many of the German nations had written laws which admitted of composition and murder. Solon contented himself with forbidding these odious practices between the citizens and slaves. The Athenians might perceive the policy of this interdiction, and submit to it; especially as it operated against the slaves only, and was enacted to prevent them from corrupting the young free men. Fathers of families, however lax their morals, had no motive to oppose it.
The severity of the manners of women in Greece, the use of public baths, and the passion for games in which men appeared altogether naked, fostered this turpitude, notwithstanding the progress of society and morals. Lycurgus, by allowing more liberty to the women, and by certain other institutions, succeeded in rendering this vice less common in Sparta than in the other towns of Greece.
When the manners of a people become less rustic, as they improve in arts, luxury, and riches, if they retain their former vices, they at least endeavor to veil them. Christian morality, by attaching shame to connections between unmarried people, by rendering marriage indissoluble, and proscribing concubinage by ecclesiastical censures, has rendered adultery common. Every sort of voluptuousness having been equally made sinful, that species is naturally preferred which is necessarily the most secret; and thus, by a singular contradiction, absolute crimes are often made more frequent, more tolerated, and less shameful in public opinion, than simple weaknesses. When the western nations began a course of refinement, they sought to conceal adultery under the veil of what is called gallantry. Then men loudly avowed a passion in which it was presumed the women did not share. The lovers dared demand nothing; and it was only after more than ten years of pure love, of combats and victories at tournaments that a cavalier might hope to discover a moment of weakness in the object of his adoration. There remains a sufficient number of records of these times to convince us that the state of manners fostered this species of hypocrisy. It was similar among the Greeks, when they had become polished. Connections between males were not shameful; young people united themselves to each other by oaths, but it was to live and die for their country. It was usual for a person of ripe age to attach himself to a young man in a state of adolescence, ostensibly to form, instruct, and guide him; and the passion which mingled in these friendships was a sort of love—but still innocent love. Such was the veil with which public decency concealed vices which general opinion tolerated.
In short, in the same manner as chivalric gallantry is often made a theme for eulogy in modern society, as proper to elevate the soul and inspire courage, was it common among the Greeks to eulogize that love which attached citizens to each other.
Plato said that the Thebans acted laudably in adopting it, because it was necessary to polish their manners, supply greater energy to their souls and to their spirits, which were benumbed by the nature of their climate. We perceive by this, that a virtuous friendship alone was treated of by Plato. Thus, when a Christian prince proclaimed a tournament, at which every one appeared in the colors of his mistress, it was with the laudable intention of exciting emulation among its knights, and to soften manners; it was not adultery, but gallantry, that he would encourage within his dominions. In Athens, according to Plato, they set bounds to their toleration. In monarchical states, it was politic to prevent these attachments between men, but in republics they materially tended to prevent the double establishment of tyranny. In the sacrifice of a citizen, a tyrant knew not whose vengeance he might arm against himself, and was liable, without ceasing, to witness conspiracies grow out of the resolutions which this ambiguous affection produced among men.
In the meantime, in spite of ideas so remote from our sentiments and manners, this practice was regarded as very shameful among the Greeks, every time it was exhibited without the excuse of friendship or political ties. When Philip of Macedon saw extended on the field of battle of Chæronea, the soldiers who composed the sacred battalion or band of friends at Thebes, all killed in the ranks in which they had combated: “I will never believe,” he exclaimed, “that such brave men have committed or suffered anything shameful.” This expression from a man himself soiled with this infamy furnishes an indisputable proof of the general opinion of Greece.
At Rome, this opinion was still stronger. Many Greek heroes, regarded as virtuous men, have been supposed addicted to the vice; but among the Romans it was never attributed to any of those characters in whom great virtue was acknowledged. It only seems, that with these two nations no idea of crime or even dishonor was attached to it unless carried to excess, which renders even a passion for women disgraceful. Pederasty is rare among us, and would be unknown, but for the defects of public education.
Montesquieu pretends that it prevails in certain Mahometan nations, in consequence of the facility of possessing women. In our opinion, for “facility” we should read “difficulty.”
In a country where all the inhabitants went bare-footed, could luxury be imputed to the first man who made a pair of shoes for himself? Or rather, was he not a man of sense and industry?
Is it not just the same with him who procured the first shirt? With respect to the man who had it washed and ironed, I consider him as an absolute genius, abundant in resources, and qualified to govern a state. Those however who were not used to wear clean shirts, considered him as a rich, effeminate coxcomb who was likely to corrupt the nation.
“Beware of luxury,” said Cato to the Romans; “you have conquered the province of Phasis, but never eat any pheasants. You have subjugated the country in which cotton grows; still however continue to sleep on the bare ground. You have plundered the gold, and silver, and jewels of innumerable nations, but never become such fools as to use them. After taking everything, remain destitute of everything. Highway robbers should be virtuous and free.”
Lucullus replied, “You should rather wish, my good friend, that Crassus, and Pompey, and Cæsar, and myself should spend all that we have taken in luxury. Great robbers must fight about the division of the spoil; but Rome will inevitably be enslaved, and it will be enslaved by one or other of us much more speedily, and much more securely, if we place that value upon money that you do, than if we spend it in superfluities and pleasures. Wish that Pompey and Cæsar may so far impoverish themselves as not to have money enough to pay the armies.”
Not long since a Norwegian was upbraiding a Dutchman with luxury. “Where now,” says he, “are the happy times when a merchant, quitting Amsterdam for the great Indies, left a quarter of smoked beef in his kitchen and found it untouched on his return? Where are your wooden spoons and iron forks? Is it not shameful for a sensible Dutchman to sleep in a bed of damask?”
“Go to Batavia,” replied the Amsterdammer; “gain, as I have done, ten tons of gold; and then see if you have not some inclination to be well clothed, well fed, and well lodged.”
Since this conversation, twenty volumes have been written about luxury, and these books have neither increased nor diminished it.
Luxury has been declaimed against for the space of two thousand years, both in verse and prose; and yet it has been always liked.
What has not been said of the Romans? When, in the earlier periods of their history, these banditti ravaged and carried off their neighbor’s harvests; when, in order to augment their own wretched village, they destroyed the poor villages of the Volsci and Samnites, they were, we are told, men disinterested and virtuous. They could not as yet, be it remembered, carry away gold, and silver; and jewels, because the towns which they sacked and plundered had none; nor did their woods and swamps produce partridges or pheasants; yet people, forsooth, extol their temperance!
When, by a succession of violences, they had pillaged and robbed every country from the recesses of the Adriatic to the Euphrates, and had sense enough to enjoy the fruit of their rapine; when they cultivated the arts, and tasted all the pleasures of life, and communicated them also to the nations which they conquered; then, we are told, they ceased to be wise and good.
All such declamations tend just to prove this—that a robber ought not to eat the dinner he has taken, nor wear the habit he has stolen, nor ornament his finger with the ring he has plundered from another. All this, it is said, should be thrown into the river, in order to live like good people; but how much better would it be to say, never rob—it is your duty not to rob? Condemn the brigands when they plunder; but do not treat them as fools or madmen for enjoying their plunder. After a number of English sailors have obtained their prize money for the capture of Pondicherry, or Havana, can they be blamed for purchasing a little pleasure in London, in return for the labor and pain they have suffered in the uncongenial climes of Asia or America?
The declaimers we have mentioned would wish men to bury the riches that might be accumulated by the fortune of war, or by agriculture, commerce, and industry in general. They cite Lacedæmon; why do they not also cite the republic of San Marino? What benefit did Sparta do to Greece? Had she ever a Demosthenes, a Sophocles, an Apelles, or a Phidias? The luxury of Athens formed great men of every description. Sparta had certainly some great captains, but even these in a smaller number than other cities. But allowing that a small republic like Lacedæmon may maintain its poverty, men uniformly die, whether they are in want of everything, or enjoying the various means of rendering life agreeable. The savage of Canada subsists and attains old age, as well as the English citizen who has fifty thousand guineas a year. But who will ever compare the country of the Iroquois to England?
Let the republic of Ragusa and the canton of Zug enact sumptuary laws; they are right in so doing. The poor must not expend beyond their means; but I have somewhere read, that if partially injurious, luxury benefits a great nation upon the whole.
If by luxury you mean excess, we know that excess is universally pernicious, in abstinence as well as gluttony, in parsimony or profusion. I know not how it has happened, that in my own village, where the soil is poor and meagre, the imposts heavy, and the prohibition against a man’s exporting the corn he has himself sown and reaped, intolerable, there is hardly a single cultivator who is not well clothed, and who has not an ample supply of warmth and food. Should this cultivator go to plough in his best clothes and with his hair dressed and powdered, there would in that case exist the greatest and most absurd luxury; but were a wealthy citizen of Paris or London to appear at the play in the dress of this peasant, he would exhibit the grossest and most ridiculous parsimony.
On the invention of scissors, which are certainly not of the very highest antiquity, what was not said of those who pared their nails and cut off some of their hair that was hanging down over their noses? They were undoubtedly considered as prodigals and coxcombs, who bought at an extravagant price an instrument just calculated to spoil the work of the Creator. What an enormous sin to pare the horn which God Himself made to grow at our fingers’ ends! It was absolutely an insult to the Divine Being Himself. When shirts and socks were invented, it was far worse. It is well known with what wrath and indignation the old counsellors, who had never worn socks, exclaimed against the young magistrates who encouraged so dreadful and fatal a luxury.
What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions, and to reason correctly from them? Let the wisest man, if he would understand madness, attend to the succession of his ideas while he dreams. If he be troubled with indigestion during the night, a thousand incoherent ideas torment him; it seems as if nature punished him for having taken too much food, or for having injudiciously selected it, by supplying involuntary conceptions; for we think but little during sleep, except when annoyed by a bad digestion. Unquiet dreams are in reality a transient madness.
Madness is a malady which necessarily hinders a man from thinking and acting like other men. Not being able to manage property, the madman is withheld from it; incapable of ideas suitable to society, he is shut out from it; if he be dangerous, he is confined altogether; and if he be furious, they bind him. Sometimes he is cured by baths, by bleeding, and by regimen.
This man is not, however, deprived of ideas; he frequently possesses them like other men, and often when he sleeps. We might inquire how the spiritual and immortal soul, lodged in his brain, receives all its ideas correctly and distinctly, without the capacity of judgment. It perceives objects, as the souls of Aristotle, of Plato, of Locke, and of Newton, perceived them. It hears the same sounds, and possesses the same sense of feeling—how therefore, receiving impressions like the wisest, does the soul of the madman connect them extravagantly, and prove unable to disperse them?
If this simple and eternal substance enjoys the same properties as the souls which are lodged in the sagest brains, it ought to reason like them. Why does it not? If my madman sees a thing red, while the wise men see it blue; if when my sages hear music, my madman hears the braying of an ass; if when they attend a sermon, he imagines himself to be listening to a comedy; if when they understand yes, he understands no; then I conceive clearly that his soul ought to think contrary to theirs. But my madman having the same perceptions as they have, there is no apparent reason why his soul, having received all the necessary materials, cannot make a proper use of them. It is pure, they say, and subject to no infirmity; behold it provided with all the necessary assistance; nothing which passes in the body can change its essence; yet it is shut up in a close carriage, and conveyed to Charenton.
This reflection may lead us to suspect that the faculty of thought, bestowed by God upon man, is subject to derangement like the other senses. A madman is an invalid whose brain is diseased, while the gouty man is one who suffers in his feet and hands. People think by means of the brain, and walk on their feet, without knowing anything of the source of either this incomprehensible power of walking, or the equally incomprehensible power of thinking; besides, the gout may be in the head, instead of the feet. In short, after a thousand arguments, faith alone can convince us of the possibility of a simple and immaterial substance liable to disease.
The learned may say to the madman: “My friend, although deprived of common sense, thy soul is as pure, as spiritual, and as immortal, as our own; but our souls are happily lodged, and thine not so. The windows of its dwelling are closed; it wants air, and is stifled.”
The madman, in a lucid interval, will reply to them: “My friends, you beg the question, as usual. My windows are as wide open as your own, since I can perceive the same objects and listen to the same sounds. It necessarily follows that my soul makes a bad use of my senses; or that my soul is a vitiated sense, a depraved faculty. In a word, either my soul is itself diseased, or I have no soul.”
One of the doctors may reply: “My brother, God has possibly created foolish souls, as well as wise ones.”
The madman will answer: “If I believed what you say, I should be a still greater madman than I am. Have the kindness, you who know so much, to tell me why I am mad?”
Supposing the doctors to retain a little sense, they would say: “We know nothing about the matter.”
Neither are they more able to comprehend how a brain possesses regular ideas, and makes a due use of them. They call themselves sages, and are as weak as their patient.
If the interval of reason of the madman lasts long enough, he will say to them: “Miserable mortals, who neither know the cause of my malady, nor how to cure it! Tremble, lest ye become altogether like me, or even still worse than I am! You are not of the highest rank, like Charles VI. of France, Henry VI. of England, and the German emperor Wincenslaus, who all lost their reason in the same century. You have not nearly so much wit as Blaise Pascal, James Abadie, or Jonathan Swift, who all became insane. The last of them founded a hospital for us; shall I go there and retain places for you?”
N. B. I regret that Hippocrates should have prescribed the blood of an ass’s colt for madness; and I am still more sorry that the “Manuel des Dames” asserts that it may be cured by catching the itch. Pleasant prescriptions these, and apparently invented by those who were to take them!
Magic is a more plausible science than astrology and the doctrine of genii. As soon as we began to think that there was in man a being quite distinct from matter, and that the understanding exists after death, we gave this understanding a fine, subtile, aerial body, resembling the body in which it was lodged. Two quite natural reasons introduced this opinion; the first is, that in all languages the soul was called spirit, breath, wind. This spirit, this breath, this wind, was therefore very fine and delicate. The second is, that if the soul of a man had not retained a form similar to that which it possessed during its life, we should not have been able after death to distinguish the soul of one man from that of another. This soul, this shade, which existed, separated from its body, might very well show itself upon occasion, revisit the place which it had inhabited, its parents and friends, speak to them and instruct them. In all this there is no incompatibility.
As departed souls might very well teach those whom they came to visit the secret of conjuring them, they failed not to do so; and the word “Abraxa,” pronounced with some ceremonies, brought up souls with whom he who pronounced it wished to speak. I suppose an Egyptian saying to a philosopher: “I descend in a right line from the magicians of Pharaoh, who changed rods into serpents, and the waters of the Nile into blood; one of my ancestors married the witch of Endor, who conjured up the soul of Samuel at the request of Saul; she communicated her secrets to her husband, who made her the confidant of his own; I possess this inheritance from my father and mother; my genealogy is well attested; I command the spirits and elements.”
The philosopher, in reply, will have nothing to do but to demand his protection; for if disposed to deny and dispute, the magician will shut his mouth by saying: “You cannot deny the facts; my ancestors have been incontestably great magicians, and you doubt it not; you have no reason to believe that I am inferior to them, particularly when a man of honor like myself assures you that he is a sorcerer.”
The philosopher, to be sure, might say to him: “Do me the pleasure to conjure up a shade; allow me to speak to a soul; change this water into blood, and this rod into a serpent.”
The magician will answer: “I work not for philosophers; but I have shown spirits to very respectable ladies, and to simple people who never dispute; you should at least believe that it is very possible for me to have these secrets, since you are forced to confess that my ancestors possessed them. What was done formerly can be done now; and you ought to believe in magic without my being obliged to exercise my art before you.”
These reasons are so good that all nations have had sorcerers. The greatest sorcerers were paid by the state, in order to discover the future clearly in the heart and liver of an ox. Why, therefore, have others so long been punished with death? They have done more marvellous things; they should, therefore, be more honored; above all, their power should be feared. Nothing is more ridiculous than to condemn a true magician to be burned; for we should presume that he can extinguish the fire and twist the necks of his judges. All that we can do is to say to him: “My friend, we do not burn you as a true sorcerer, but as a false one; you boast of an admirable art which you possess not; we treat you as a man who utters false money; the more we love the good, the more severely we punish those who give us counterfeits; we know very well that there were formerly venerable conjurors, but we have reason to believe that you are not one, since you suffer yourself to be burned like a fool.”
It is true, that the magician so pushed might say: “My conscience extends not so far as to extinguish a pile without water, and to kill my judges with words. I can only call up spirits, read the future, and change certain substances into others; my power is bounded; but you should not for that reason burn me at a slow fire. It is as if you caused a physician to be hanged who could cure fever, and not a paralysis.”
The judges might, however, still reasonably observe: “Show us then some secret of your art, or consent to be burned with a good grace.”
I will suppose that a fair princess who never heard speak of anatomy is ill either from having eaten or danced too much, or having done too much of what several princesses occasionally do. I suppose the following controversy takes place:
Well, sir, the king pays you to attend to all this: fail not to put all things in their place, and to make my liquids circulate so that I may be comfortable. I warn you that I will not suffer with impunity.)
What! are you a physician, and can you prescribe nothing?)
You make me tremble; I believed that physicians cured all maladies.)
What! all these secrets for purifying the blood, of which my ladies have spoken to me; this Baume de Vie of the Sieur de Lievre; these packets of the Sieur Arnauld; all these pills so much praised by femmes de chambre—)
But there are specifics?)
In what, then, consists medicine?)
There are, however, salutary things, and others hurtful?)
You puff not your merchandise. You are an honest man. When I am queen, I will make you my first physician.)
Let nature be your first physician. It is she who made all. Of those who have lived beyond a hundred years, none were of the faculty. The king of France has already buried forty of his physicians, as many chief physicians, besides physicians of the establishment, and others.
And, truly, I hope to bury you also.
To know the natural philosophy of the human race, it is necessary to read works of anatomy, or rather to go through a course of anatomy.
To be acquainted with the man we call “moral,” it is above all necessary to have lived and reflected. Are not all moral works contained in these words of Job? “Man that is born of a woman hath but a few days to live, and is full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth as a shadow, and continueth not.”
We have already seen that the human race has not above two-and-twenty years to live, reckoning those who die at their nurses’ breasts, and those who for a hundred years drag on the remains of a miserable and imbecile life.
It is a fine apologue, that ancient fable of the first man who was at first destined to live twenty years at most, and who reduced it to five years by estimating one life with another. The man was in despair, and had near him a caterpillar, a butterfly, a peacock, a horse, a fox, and an ape.
“Prolong my life,” said he to Jupiter; “I am more worthy than these animals; it is just that I and my family should live long to command all beasts.” “Willingly,” said Jupiter; “but I have only a certain number of days to divide among the whole of the beings to whom I have granted life. I can only give to thee by taking away from others; for imagine not, that because I am Jupiter, I am infinite and all-powerful; I have my nature and my limits. Now I will grant thee some years more, by taking them from these six animals, of which thou art jealous, on condition that thou shalt successively assume their manner of living. Man shall first be a caterpillar, dragging himself along in his earliest infancy. Until fifteen, he shall have the lightness of a butterfly; in his youth, the vanity of a peacock. In manhood he must undergo the labors of a horse. Towards fifty, he shall have the tricks of a fox; and in his old age, be ugly and ridiculous like an ape. This, in general, is the destiny of man.”
Remark further, that notwithstanding these bounties of Jupiter, the animal man has still but two or three and twenty years to live, at most. Taking mankind in general, of this a third must be taken away for sleep, during which we are in a certain sense dead; thus there remain fifteen, and from these fifteen we must take at least eight for our first infancy, which is, as it has been called, the vestibule of life. The clear product will be seven years, and of these seven years the half at least is consumed in grief of all kinds. Take three years and a half for labor, fatigue, and dissatisfaction, and we shall have none remaining. Well, poor animal, will you still be proud?
Unfortunately, in this fable Jupiter forgot to dress this animal as he clothed the ass, horse, peacock, and even the caterpillar. Man had only his bare skin, which, continually exposed to the sun, rain, and hail, became chapped, tanned, and spotted. The male in our continent was disfigured by spare hairs on his body, which rendered him frightful without covering him. His face was hidden by these hairs. His skin became a rough soil which bore a forest of stalks, the roots of which tended upwards, and the branches of which grew downwards. It was in this state and in this image, that this animal ventured to paint God, when in course of time he learned the art of description.
The female being more weak, became still more disgusting and frightful in her old age; and, in short, without tailors, and mantua-makers, one-half of mankind would never have dared to show itself to the other. Yet, before having clothes, before even knowing how to speak, some ages must have passed away—a truth which has been proved, but which must be often repeated.
It is a little extraordinary that we should have harassed an innocent, estimable man of our time, the good Helvetius, for having said that if men had not hands, they could not build houses and work tapestry. Apparently, those who have condemned this proposition, have discovered a secret for cutting stones and wood, and working at the needle with their feet.
I liked the author of the work “On Mind.” This man was worth more than all his enemies together; but I never approved either the errors of his book, or the trivial truths which he so emphatically enforced. I have, however, boldly taken his part when absurd men have condemned him for these same truths.
I have no terms to express the excess of my contempt for those who, for example’s sake, would magisterially proscribe this passage: “The Turks can only be considered deists.” How then, pedant! would you have them regarded as atheists, because they adore only one God!
You condemn this other proposition: “The man of sense knows that men are what they must be; that all hatred against them is unjust; that a fool commits fooleries as a wild stock bears bitter fruits.”
So, crabbed stocks of the schools, you persecute a man because he hates you not! Let us, however, leave the schools, and pursue our subject.
Reason, industrious hands, a head capable of generalizing ideas, a language pliant enough to express them—these are great benefits granted by the Supreme Being to man, to the exclusion of other animals.
The male in general lives rather a shorter time than the female. He is also generally larger in proportion. A man of the loftiest stature is commonly two or three inches higher than the tallest woman.
His strength is almost always superior; he is more active; and having all his organs stronger, he is more capable of a fixed attention. All arts have been invented by him, and not by woman. We should remark, that it is not the fire of imagination, but persevering meditation and combination of ideas which have invented arts, as mechanics, gunpowder, printing, dialling, etc.
Man alone knows that he must die, and knows it only by experience. A child brought up alone, and transported into a desert island, would dream of death no more than a plant or a cat.
A singular man has written that the human body is a fruit, which is green until old age, and that the moment of death is that of maturity. A strange maturity, ashes and putrefaction! The head of this philosopher was not ripe. How many extravagances has the rage for telling novelties produced?
The principal occupations of our race are the provision of food, lodging, and clothing; all the rest are nearly accessory; and it is this poor accessory which has produced so many ravages and murders.
Different Races of Men.
We have elsewhere seen how many different races of men this globe contains, and to what degrees the first negro and the first white who met were astonished at one another.
It is likely enough that several weakly species of men and animals have perished. It is thus that we no longer discover any of the murex, of which the species has probably been devoured by other animals who several ages after visited the shores inhabited by this little shellfish.
St. Jerome, in his “History of the Father of the Desert,” speaks of a centaur who had a conversation with St. Anthony the hermit. He afterwards gives an account of a much longer discourse that the same Anthony had with a satyr.
St. Augustine, in his thirty-third sermon, addressed “To his Brothers in the Desert,” tell things as extraordinary as Jerome. “I was already bishop of Hippo, when I went into Ethiopia with some servants of Christ, there to preach the gospel. In this country we saw many men and women without heads, who had two great eyes in their breasts. In countries still more southerly, we saw a people who had but one eye in their foreheads,” etc.
Apparently, Augustine and Jerome then spoke “with economy;” they augmented the works of creation to raise greater admiration of the works of God. They sought to astonish men by fables, to render them more submissive to the yoke of faith.
We can be very good Christians without believing in centaurs, men without heads, or with only one eye, one leg, etc. But can we doubt that the interior structure of a negro may be different to that of a white, since the mucous netted membrane beneath the skin is white in the one, and black in the other? I have already told you so, but you are deaf.
The Albinos and the Darians—the first originally of Africa, and the second of the middle of America—are as different from us as from the negroes. There are yellow, red, and gray races. We have already seen that all the Americans are without beards or hair on their bodies, except the head and eyebrows. All are equally men, but only as a fir, an oak, and a pear tree are equally trees; the pear tree comes not from the fir, nor the fir from the oak.
But whence comes it, that in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, in an island named Otaheite, the men are bearded? It is to ask why we are so, while the Peruvians, Mexicans, and Canadians are not. It is to ask, why apes have tails, and why nature has refused us an ornament which, at least among us, is an extreme rarity.
The inclinations and characters of men differ as much as their climates and governments. It has never been possible to compose a regiment of Laplanders and Samoyeds, whilst the Siberians, their neighbors, become intrepid soldiers.
Neither can you make good grenadiers of a poor Darian or an Albino. It is not because they have partridge eyes, or that their hair and eyebrows are like the finest and whitest silk; but it is because their bodies, and consequently their courage, partake of the most extreme weakness. There is none but a blind man, and even an obstinate blind man, who can deny the existence of all these different species. It is as great and remarkable as that of apes.
That All Races of Men Have Constantly Lived in Society.
All the men whom we have discovered in the most uncultivated and frightful countries herd together like beavers, ants, bees, and several other species of animals.
We have never seen countries in which they lived separate; or in which the male only joined with the female by chance, and abandoned her the moment after in disgust; or in which the mother estranged herself from her children, after having brought them up; or in which human beings lived without family and society. Some poor jesters have abused their understandings so far as to hazard the astonishing paradox, that man is originally created to live alone, and that it is society which has depraved his nature. They might as well say that herrings were created to swim alone in the sea; and that it is by an excess of corruption, that they pass in a troop from the Frozen Ocean to our shores; that formerly cranes flew in the air singly, and that, by a violation of their natural instinct, they have subsequently chosen to travel in company.
Every animal has its instinct, and the instinct of man, fortified by reason, disposes him towards society, as towards eating and drinking. So far from the want of society having degraded man, it is estrangement from society which degrades him. Whoever lived absolutely alone, would soon lose the faculty of thinking and expressing himself; he would be a burden to himself, and it would only remain to metamorphose him into a beast. An excess of powerless pride, which rises up against the pride of others, may induce a melancholy man to fly from his fellows; but it is a species of depravity, and punishes itself. That pride is its own punishment, which frets itself into solitude and secretly resents being despised and forgotten. It is enduring the most horrible slavery, in order to be free.
We have enlarged the bounds of ordinary folly so far as to say that it is not natural for a man to be attached to a woman during the nine months of her pregnancy. The appetite is satisfied, says the author of these paradoxes; the man has no longer any want of woman, nor the woman of man; and the latter need not have the least care, nor perhaps the least idea of the effects of the transient intercourse. They go different ways, and there is no appearance, until the end of nine months, that they have ever been known to one another. Why should he help her after her delivery? Why assist to bring up a child whom he cannot instinctively know belongs to him alone?
All this is execrable; but happily nothing is more false. If this barbarous indifference was the true instinct of nature, mankind would always have acted thus. Instinct is unchangeable, its inconsistencies are very rare; the father would always abandon the mother, and the mother would abandon her child. There would have been much fewer men on earth than voracious animals; for the wild beasts better provided and better armed, have a more prompt instinct, more sure means of living, and a more certain nourishment than mankind.
Our nature is very different from the frightful romance which this man, possessed of the devil, has made of it. Except some barbarous souls entirely brutish, or perhaps a philosopher more brutal still, the roughest man, by a prevailing instinct, loves the child which is not yet born, the womb which bears it; and the mother redoubles her love for him from whom she has received the germ of a being similar to himself.
The instinct of the colliers of the Black Forest speaks to them as loudly, and animates them as strongly in favor of their children as the instinct of pigeons and nightingales induces them to feed their little ones. Time has therefore been sadly lost in writing these abominable absurdities.
The great fault of all these paradoxical books lies in always supposing nature very different from what it is. If the satires on man and woman written by Boileau were not pleasantries, they would sin in the essential point of supposing all men fools and all women coquettes.
The same author, an enemy to society, like the fox without a tail who would have his companions cut off theirs, thus in a magisterial style expresses himself:
“The first who, having enclosed an estate, took upon himself to say: ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of society. What crimes, wars, murders, miseries, and horrors, might have been spared to mankind if some one, seizing the stakes, or filling up the pit, had cried to his companions: ‘Take care how you listen to this impostor; you are lost if you forget that the fruits are common to all, and that the earth belongs to nobody!’ ”
Thus, according to this fine philosopher, a thief, a destroyer, would have been the benefactor of mankind, and we should punish an honest man who says to his children: “Let us imitate our neighbor; he has enclosed his field, the beasts will no longer ravage it, his land will become more fertile; let us work ours as he has labored his; it will aid us, and we shall improve it. Each family cultivating its own enclosure, we shall be better fed, more healthy, more peaceable, and less unhappy. We will endeavor to establish a distributive justice, which will console our unhappy race; and we shall be raised above the foxes and polecats, to whom this babbler would compare us.”
Would not this discourse be more sensible and honest than that of the savage fool who would destroy the good man’s orchard? What philosophy therefore is that which says things that common sense disclaims from China to Canada? Is it not that of a beggar, who would have all the rich robbed by the poor, in order that fraternal union might be better established among men?
It is true, that if all the hedges, forests, and plains were covered with wholesome and delicious fruits, it would be impossible, unjust, and ridiculous, to guard them.
If there are any islands in which nature produces food and all necessaries without trouble, let us go and live there, far from the trash of our laws; but as soon as you have peopled them, we must return to meum and tuum, and to laws which are often very bad, but which we cannot rationally abolish.
Is Man Born Wicked?
Is it not demonstrated that man is not born perverse and the child of the devil? If such was his nature, he would commit enormous crimes and barbarities as soon as he could walk; he would use the first knife he could find, to wound whoever displeased him. He would necessarily resemble little wolves and foxes, who bite as soon as they can.
On the contrary, throughout the world, he partakes of the nature of the lamb, while he is an infant. Why, therefore, and how is it, that he so often becomes a wolf and fox? Is it not that, being born neither good nor wicked, education, example, the government into which he is thrown—in short, occasion of every kind—determines him to virtue or vice?
Perhaps human nature could not be otherwise. Man could not always have false thoughts, nor always true affections; be always sweet, or always cruel.
It is demonstrable that woman is elevated beyond men in the scale of goodness. We see a hundred brothers enemies to each other, to one Clytemnestra.
There are professions which necessarily render the soul pitiless—those of the soldier, the butcher, the officer of justice, and the jailer; and all trades which are founded on the annoyance of others.
The officer, the soldier, the jailer, for example, are only happy in making others miserable. It is true, they are necessary against malefactors, and so far useful to society; but of a thousand men of the kind, there is not one who acts from the motive of the public good, or who even reflects that it is a public good.
It is above all a curious thing to hear them speak of their prowess as they count the number of their victims; their snares to entrap them, the ills which they have made them suffer, and the money which they have got by it.
Whoever has been able to descend to the subaltern detail of the bar; whoever has only heard lawyears reason familiarly among themselves, and applaud themselves for the miseries of their clients, must have a very poor opinion of human nature.
There are more frightful possessions still, which are, however, canvassed for like a canonship. There are some which change an honest man into a rogue, and which accustom him to lie in spite of himself, to deceive almost without perceiving it, to put a blind before the eyes of others, to prostrate himself by the interest and vanity of his situation, and without remorse to plunge mankind into stupid blindness.
Women, incessantly occupied with the education of their children, and shut up in their domestic cares, are excluded from all these professions, which pervert human nature and render it atrocious. They are everywhere less barbarous than men.
Physics join with morals to prevent them from great crimes; their blood is milder; they are less addicted to strong liquors, which inspire ferocity. An evident proof is, that of a thousand victims of justice in a thousand executed assassins, we scarcely reckon four women. It is also proved elsewhere, I believe, that in Asia there are not two examples of women condemned to a public punishment. It appears, therefore, that our customs and habits have rendered the male species very wicked.
If this truth was general and without exceptions, the species would be more horrible than spiders, wolves, and polecats are to our eyes. But happily, professions which harden the heart and fill it with odious passions, are very rare. Observe, that in a nation of twenty millions, there are at most two hundred thousand soldiers. This is but one soldier to two hundred individuals. These two hundred thousand soldiers are held in the most severe discipline, and there are among them very honest people, who return to their villages and finish their old age as good fathers and husbands.
The number of other trades which are dangerous to manners, is but small. Laborers, artisans, and artists are too much occupied often to deliver themselves up to crime. The earth will always bear detestable wretches, and books will always exaggerate the number, which, rather than being greater, is less than we say.
If mankind had been under the empire of the devil, there would be no longer any person upon earth. Let us console ourselves: we have seen, and we shall always see, fine minds from Pekin to la Rochelle; and whatever licentiates and bachelors may say, the Tituses, Trajans, Antoninuses, and Peter Bayles were very honest men.
Of Man in the State of Pure Nature.
What would man be in the state which we call that of pure nature? An animal much below the first Iroquois whom we found in the north of America. He would be very inferior to these Iroquois, since they knew how to light fires and make arrows. He would require ages to arrive at these two arts.
Man, abandoned to pure nature, would have, for his language, only a few inarticulate sounds; the species would be reduced to a very small number, from the difficulty of getting nourishment and the want of help, at least in our harsh climates. He would have no more knowledge of God and the soul, than of mathematics; these ideas would be lost in the care of procuring food. The race of beavers would be infinitely preferable.
Man would then be only precisely like a robust child; and we have seen many men who are not much above that state, as it is. The Laplanders, the Samoyeds, the inhabitants of Kamchatka, the Kaffirs, and Hottentots are—with respect to man in a state of pure nature—that which the courts of Cyrus and Semiramis were in comparison with the inhabitants of the Cévennes. Yet the inhabitants of Kamchatka and the Hottentots of our days, so superior to men entirely savage, are animals who live six months of the year in caverns, where they eat the vermin by which they are eaten.
In general, mankind is not above two or three degrees more civilized than the Kamchatkans. The multitude of brute beasts called men, compared with the little number of those who think, is at least in the proportion of a hundred to one in many nations.
It is pleasant to contemplate on one side, Father Malebranche, who treats familiarly of “the Word”; and on the other, these millions of animals similar to him, who have never heard speak of “the Word,” and who have not one metaphysical idea.
Between men of pure instinct and men of genius floats this immense number occupied solely with subsisting.
This subsistence costs us so much pains, that in the north of America an image of God often runs five or six leagues to get a dinner; whilst among us the image of God bedews the ground with the sweat of his brow, in order to procure bread.
Add to this bread—or the equivalent—a hut, and a poor dress, and you will have man such as he is in general, from one end of the universe to the other: and it is only in a multitude of ages that he has been able to arrive at this high degree of attainment.
Finally, after other ages, things got to the point at which we see them. Here we represent a tragedy in music; there we kill one another on the high seas of another hemisphere, with a thousand pieces of cannon. The opera and a ship of war of the first rank always astonish my imagination. I doubt whether they can be carried much farther in any of the globes with which the heavens are studded. More than half the habitable world, however, is still peopled with two-footed animals, who live in the horrible state approaching to pure nature, existing and clothing themselves with difficulty, scarcely enjoying the gift of speech, scarcely perceiving that they are unfortunate, and living and dying almost without knowing it.
Examination of a Thought of Pascal on Man.
“I can conceive a man without hands or feet, and I could even conceive him without a head, if experience taught me not that it is with the head he thinks. It is therefore thought which makes the being of man, without which we cannot conceive him.”—(Thoughts of Pascal.)
How! conceive a man, without feet, hands, and head? This would be as different a thing from a man as a gourd.
If all men were without heads, how could yours conceive that there are animals like yourselves, since they would have nothing of what principally constitutes your being? A head is something; the five senses are contained in it, and thought also. An animal, which from the nape of its neck downwards might resemble a man, or one of those apes which we call ourang-outang or the man of the woods, would no more be a man than an ape or a bear whose head and tail were cut off.
It is therefore thought which makes the being of a man. In this case, thought would be his essence, as extent and solidity are the essence of matter. Man would think essentially and always, as matter is always extended and solid. He would think in a profound sleep without dreams, in a fit, in a lethargy, in the womb of his mother. I well know that I never thought in any of these states; I confess it often; and I doubt not that others are like myself.
If thought was as essential to man as extent is to matter, it would follow that God cannot deprive this animal of understanding, since he cannot deprive matter of extent—for then it would be no longer matter. Now, if understanding be essential to man, he is a thinking being by nature, as God is God by nature.
If desirous to define God, as such poor beings as ourselves can define Him, I should say, that thought is His being, His essence; but as to man—!
We have the faculties of thinking, walking, talking, eating, and sleeping, but we do not always use these faculties, it is not in our nature.
Thought, with us, is it not an attribute? and so much an attribute that it is sometimes weak, sometimes strong, sometimes reasonable, and sometimes extravagant? It hides itself, shows itself, flies, returns, is nothing, is reproduced. Essence is quite another thing; it never varies; it knows nothing of more or less.
What, therefore, would be the animal supposed by Pascal? A being of reason. He might just as well have supposed a tree to which God might have given thought, as it is said that the gods granted voices to the trees of Dodona.
Operation of God on Man.
People who have founded systems on the communication of God with man have said that God acts directly physically on man in certain cases only, when God grants certain particular gifts; and they have called this action “physical premotion.” Diocles and Erophiles, those two great enthusiasts, maintain this opinion, and have partisans.
Now we recognize a God quite as well as these people, because we cannot conceive that any one of the beings which surround us could be produced of itself. By the fact alone that something exists, the necessary Eternal Being must be necessarily the cause of all. With these reasoners, we admit the possibility of God making himself understood to some favorites; but we go farther, we believe that He makes Himself understood by all men, in all places, and in all times, since to all he gives life, motion, digestion, thought, and instinct.
Is there in the vilest of animals, and in the most sublime philosophers, a being who can will motion, digestion, desire, love, instinct, or thought? No; but we act, we love, we have instincts; as for example, an invincible liking to certain objects, an insupportable aversion to others, a promptitude to execute the movements necessary to our preservation, as those of sucking the breasts of our nurses, swimming when we are strong and our bosoms large enough, biting our bread, drinking, stooping to avoid a blow from a stone, collecting our force to clear a ditch, etc. We accomplish a thousand such actions without thinking of them, though they are all profoundly mathematical. In short, we think and feel without knowing how.
In good earnest, is it more difficult for God to work all within us by means of which we are ignorant, than to stir us internally sometimes, by the efficacious grace of Jupiter, of which these gentlemen talk to us unceasingly?
Where is the man who, when he looks into himself, perceives not that he is a puppet of Providence? I think—but can I give myself a thought? Alas! if I thought of myself, I should know what ideas I might entertain the next moment—a thing which nobody knows.
I acquire a knowledge, but I could not give it to myself. My intelligence cannot be the cause of it; for the cause must contain the effect: Now, my first acquired knowledge was not in my understanding; being the first, it was given to me by him who formed me, and who gives all, whatever it may be.
I am astonished, when I am told that my first knowledge cannot alone give me a second; that it must contain it.
The proof that we give ourselves no ideas is that we receive them in our dreams; and certainly, it is neither our will nor attention which makes us think in dreams. There are poets who make verses sleeping; geometricians who measure triangles. All proves to us that there is a power which acts within us without consulting us.
All our sentiments, are they not involuntary? Hearing, taste, and sight are nothing by themselves. We feel, in spite of ourselves: we do nothing of ourselves: we are nothing without a Supreme Power which enacts all things.
The most superstitious allow these truths, but they apply them only to people of their own class. They affirm that God acts physically on certain privileged persons. We are more religious than they; we believe that the Great Being acts on all living things, as on all matter. Is it therefore more difficult for Him to stir all men than to stir some of them? Will God be God for your little sect alone? He is equally so for me, who do not belong to it.
A new philosopher goes further than you; it seemed to him that God alone exists. He pretends that we are all in Him; and we say that it is God who sees and acts in all that has life. “Jupiter est quodcumque vides; quodcumque moveris.”
To proceed. Your physical premotion introduces God acting in you. What need have you then of a soul? Of what good is this little unknown and incomprehensible being? Do you give a soul to the sun, which enlightens so many globes? And if this star so great, so astonishing, and so necessary, has no soul, why should man have one? God who made us, does He not suffice for us? What, therefore, is become of the axiom? Effect not that by many, which can be accomplished by one.
This soul, which you have imagined to be a substance, is therefore really only a faculty, granted by the Great Being, and not by a person. It is a property given to our organs, and not a substance. Man, his reason uncorrupted by metaphysics, could never imagine that he was double; that he was composed of two beings, the one mortal, visible, and palpable—the other immortal, invisible, and impalpable. Would it not require ages of controversy to arrive at this expedient of joining together two substances so dissimilar; tangible and intangible, simple and compound, invulnerable and suffering, eternal and fleeting?
Men have only supposed a soul by the same error which made them suppose in us a being called memory, which being they afterwards made a divinity.
They made this memory the mother of the Muses; they embodied the various talents of nature in so many goddesses, the daughters of memory. They also made a god of the secret power by which nature forms the blood of animals, and called it the god of sanguification. The Roman people indeed had similar gods for the faculties of eating and drinking, for the act of marriage, for the act of voiding excrements. They were so many particular souls, which produced in us all these actions. It was the metaphysics of the populace. This shameful and ridiculous superstition was evidently derived from that which imagined in man a small divine substance, different from man himself.
This substance is still admitted in all the schools; and with condescension we grant to the Great Being, to the Eternal Maker, to God, the permission of joining His concurrence to the soul. Thus we suppose, that for will and deed, both God and our souls are necessary.
But to concur signifies to aid, to participate. God therefore is only second with us; it is degrading Him; it is putting Him on a level with us, or making Him play the most inferior part. Take not from Him His rank and pre-eminence: make not of the Sovereign of Nature the mere servant of mankind.
Two species of reasoners, well credited in the world—atheists and theologians—will oppose our doubts.
The atheists will say, that in admitting reason in man and instinct in brutes, as properties, it is very useless to admit a God into this system; that God is still more incomprehensible than a soul; that it is unworthy a sage to believe that which he conceives not. They let fly against us all the arguments of Straton and Lucretius. We will answer them by one word only: “You exist; therefore there is a God.”
Theologians will give us more trouble. They will first tell us: “We agree with you that God is the first cause of all; but He is not the only one.” A high priest of Minerva says expressly: “The second agent operates by virtue of the first; the first induces a second; the second involves a third; all are acting by virtue of God, and He is the cause of all actions acting.”
We will answer, with all the respect we owe to this high priest: “There is, and there can only exist, one true cause. All the others, which are subsequent, are but instruments. I discover a spring—I make use of it to move a machine; I discovered the spring and made the machine. I am the sole cause. That is undoubted.”
The high priest will reply: “You take liberty away from men.” I reply: “No; liberty consists in the faculty of willing, and in that of doing what you will, when nothing prevents you. God has made man upon these conditions, and he must be contented with them.”
My priest will persist, and say, that we make God the author of sin. Then we shall answer him: “I am sorry for it; but God is made the author of sin in all systems, except in that of the atheists. For if He concurs with the actions of perverse men, as with those of the just, it is evident that to concur is to do, since He who concurs is also the creator of all.”
If God alone permits sin, it is He who commits it; since to permit and to do is the same thing to the absolute master of all. If He foresees that men will do evil, he should not form men. We have never eluded the force of these ancient arguments; we have never weakened them. Whoever has produced all, has certainly produced good and evil. The system of absolute predestination, the doctrine of concurrence, equally plunge us into this labyrinth, from which we cannot extricate ourselves.
All that we can say is, that evil is for us, and not for God. Nero assassinates his preceptor and his mother; another murders his relations and neighbors; a high priest poisons, strangles, and beheads twenty Roman lords, on rising from the bed of his daughter. This is of no more importance to the Being, the Universal Soul of the World, than sheep eaten by the wolves or by us, or than flies devoured by spiders. There is no evil for the Great Being; to Him it is only the play of the great machine which incessantly moves by eternal laws. If the wicked become—whether during their lives or subsequently—more unhappy than those whom they have sacrificed to their passions; if they suffer as they have made others suffer, it is still an inevitable consequence of the immutable laws by which the Great Being necessarily acts. We know but a very small part of these laws; we have but a very weak portion of understanding; we have only resignation in our power. Of all systems, is not that which makes us acquainted with our insignificance the most reasonable? Men—as all philosophers of antiquity have said—made God in their own image; which is the reason why the first Anaxagoras, as ancient as Orpheus, expresses himself thus in his verses: “If the birds figured to themselves a God, he would have wings; that of horses would run with four legs.”
The vulgar imagine God to be a king, who holds his seat of justice in his court. Tender hearts represent him as a father who takes care of his children. The sage attributes to Him no human affection. He acknowledges a necessary eternal power which animates all nature, and resigns himself to it.
General Reflection on Man.
It requires twenty years to raise man from the state of a plant, in which he abides in his mother’s womb, and from the pure animal state, which is the lot of his earliest infancy, to that in which the maturity of reason begins to dawn. He has required thirty ages to become a little acquainted with his own bodily structure. He would require eternity to become acquainted with his soul. He requires but an instant to kill himself.
I once met with a reasoner who said: “Induce your subjects to marry as early as possible. Let them be exempt from taxes the first year; and let their portion be assessed on those who at the same age are in a state of celibacy.
“The more married men you have, the fewer crimes there will be. Examine the frightful columns of your criminal calendars; you will there find a hundred youths executed for one father of a family.
“Marriage renders men more virtuous and more wise. The father of a family is not willing to blush before his children; he is afraid to make shame their inheritance.
“Let your soldiers marry, and they will no longer desert. Bound to their families, they will be bound to their country. An unmarried soldier is frequently nothing but a vagabond, to whom it matters not whether he serves the king of Naples or the king of Morocco.”
The Roman warriors were married: they fought for their wives and their children; and they made slaves of the wives and the children of other nations.
A great Italian politician, who was, besides, learned in the Eastern tongues, a thing rare among our politicians, said to me in my youth: “Caro figlio,” remember that the Jews never had but one good institution—that of abhorring virginity. If that little nation of superstitious jobbers had not regarded marriage as the first of the human obligations—if there had been among them convents of nuns—they would have been inevitably lost.”
The Marriage Contract.
Marriage is a contract in the law of nations, of which the Roman Catholics have made a sacrament.
But the sacrament and the contract are two very different things; with the one are connected the civil effects, with the other the graces of the church.
So when the contract is conformable to the law of nations, it must produce every civil effect. The absence of the sacrament can operate only in the privation of spiritual graces.
Such has been the jurisprudence of all ages, and of all nations, excepting the French. Such was the opinion of the most accredited fathers of the Church. Go through the Theodosian and Justinian codes, and you will find no law proscribing the marriages of persons of another creed, not even when contracted between them and Catholics.
It is true, that Constantius—that son of Constantine as cruel as his father—forbade the Jews, on pain of death, to marry Christian women; and that Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius made the same prohibition, under the like penalty, to the Jewish women. But under the emperor Marcian these laws had ceased to be observed; and Justinian rejected them from his code. Besides, they were made against the Jews only; no one ever thought of applying them to the marriage of pagans or heretics with the followers of the prevailing religion.
Consult St. Augustine, and he will tell you that in his time the marriages of believers with unbelievers were not considered illicit, because no gospel text had condemned them: “Quæ matrimonia cum in fidelibus, nostris temporibus, jam non putantur esse peccata; quoniam in Novo Testamento nihil inde preceptum est, et ideo aut licere creditum est, aut velut dubium derelictum.”
Augustine says, moreover, that these marriages often work the conversion of the unbelieving party. He cites the example of his own father, who embraced the Christian religion because his wife, Manica, professed Christianity. Clotilda, by the conversion of Clovis, and Theolinda, by that of Agilulf, king of the Lombards, rendered greater service to the Church than if they had married orthodox princes.
Consult the declaration of Pope Benedict XIV. of Nov. 4, 1741. You will find in it these words: “Quod vero spectat ad ea conjugia quæ, absque forma a Tridentino statuta, contrahuntur a catholicis cum hæreticis, sive catholicus vir hæriticam feminam ducat, sive catholica fæmina heretico viro nubat; si hujusmodi matrimonium sit contractum aut in posterum contracti contingat, Tridentini forma non servata, declarat Sanctitas sua, alio non concurrente impedimento, validum habendum esse, sciat conjux catholicus se istius matrimonii vinculo perpetuo ligatum.”—“With respect to such marriages as, transgressing the enactment of the Council of Trent, are contracted by Catholics with heretics; whether by a Catholic man with a heretical woman, or by a Catholic woman with a heretical man; if such matrimony already is, or hereafter shall be contracted, the rules of the council not being observed, his holiness declares, that if there be no other impediment, it shall be held valid, the Catholic man or woman understanding that he or she is by such matrimony bound until death.”
By what astonishing contradiction is it, that the French laws in this matter are more severe than those of the Church? The first law by which this severity was established in France was the edict of Louis XIV., of November, 1680, which deserves to be repeated.
“Louis, . . . . The canons of the councils having forbidden marriages of Catholics with heretics, as a public scandal and a profanation of the sacrament, we have deemed it the more necessary to prevent them for the future, as we have found that the toleration of such marriages exposes Catholics to the continual temptation of perverting it, etc. For these causes, . . . . it is our will and pleasure, that in future our subjects of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic religion may not, under any pretext whatsoever, contract marriage with those of the pretended reformed religion, declaring such marriages to be invalid, and the issue of them illegitimate.”
It is singular enough, that the laws of the Church should have been made the foundation for annulling marriages which the Church never annulled. In this edict we find the sacrament confounded with the civil contract; and from this confusion have proceeded the strange laws in France concerning marriage.
St. Augustine approved marriages of the orthodox with heretics, for he hoped that the faithful spouse would convert the other; and Louis XIV. condemns them, lest the heterodox should pervert the believer.
In Franche-Comté there exists a yet more cruel law. This is an edict of the archduke Albert and his wife Isabella, of Dec. 20, 1599, which forbids Catholics to marry heretics, on pain of confiscation of body and goods.
The same edict pronounces the same penalty on such as shall be convicted of eating mutton on Friday or Saturday. What laws! and what law-givers!—“A quels maîtres, grand Dieu, livrez-vous l’univers!”
If our laws reprove marriages of Catholics with persons of a different religion, do they grant the civil effects at least to marriages of French Protestants with French persons of the same sect?
There are now in the kingdom a million of Protestants; yet the validity of their marriage is still a question in the tribunals.
Here again is one of those cases in which our jurisprudence is contradictory to the decisions of the Church, and also to itself.
In the papal declaration, quoted in the foregoing section, Benedict XIV. decides that marriages of Protestants, contracted according to their rites, are no less valid than if they had been performed according to the forms established by the Council of Trent; and that a husband who turns Catholic cannot break this tie and form a new one with a person of his new religion.
Barak Levi, by birth a Jew, and a native of Haguenan, had there married Mendel Cerf, of the same town and the same religion.
This Jew came to Paris in 1752; and on May 13, 1754, he was baptized. He sent a summons to his wife at Haguenan to come and join him at Paris. In a second summons he consented that this wife, when she had come to join him, should continue to live in her own Jewish sect.
To these summonses Mendel Cerf replied that she would not return with him, and that she required him to send her, according to the Jewish forms, a bill of divorce, in order that she might marry another Jew.
Levi was not satisfied with this answer; he sent no bill of divorce; but he caused his wife to appear before the official of Strasburg, who, by a sentence of Sept. 7, 1754, declared that, in the sight of the Church, he was at liberty to marry a Catholic woman.
Furnished with this sentence, the Christianized Jew came into the diocese of Soissons, and there made promise of marriage to a young woman of Villeneuve. The clergyman refused to publish the banns. Levi communicated to him the summonses he had sent to his wife, the sentence of the official of Strasburg, and a certificate from the secretary of the bishopric of that place, attesting, that in that diocese baptized Jews had at all times been permitted to contract new marriages with Catholics, and that this usage had constantly been recognized by the Supreme Council of Colmar. But these documents appeared to the parson of Villeneuve to be insufficient. Levi was obliged to summon him before the official of Soissons.
This official did not think, like him of Strasburg, that the marriage of Levi with Mendel Cerf was null or dissoluble. By his sentence of Feb. 5, 1756, he declared the Jew’s claim to be inadmissible. The latter appealed from this sentence to the Parliament of Paris, where he was not only opposed by the public ministry, but, by a decree of Jan. 2, 1758, the sentence was confirmed, and Levi was again forbidden to contract any marriage during the life of Mendel Cerf.
Here, then, a marriage contracted between French Jews, according to the Jewish rites, was declared valid by the first court in the kingdom.
But, some years afterwards, the same question was decided differently in another parliament, on the subject of a marriage contracted between two French Protestants, who had been married in the presence of their parents by a minister of their own communion. The Protestant spouse had, like the Jew, changed his religion; and after he had concluded a second marriage with a Catholic, the Parliament of Grenoble confirmed this second marriage, and declared the first to be null.
If we pass from jurisprudence to legislation, we shall find it as obscure on this important matter as on so many others.
A decree of the council, of Sept. 15, 1685, says: “Protestants may marry, provided, however, that it be in the presence of the principal officer of justice, and that the publication preceding such marriages shall be made at the royal see nearest the place of abode of each of the Protestants desirous of marrying, and at the audience only.”
This decree was not revoked by the edict which, three weeks after, suppressed the Edict of Nantes. But after the declaration of May 14, 1724, drawn up by Cardinal Fleury, the judges would no longer preside over the marriages of Protestants, nor permit their banns to be published in their audiences.
By Article XV. of this law, the forms prescribed by the canons are to be observed in marriages, as well of new converts as of all the rest of the king’s subjects.
This general expression, “all the rest of the king’s subjects,” has been thought to comprehend the Protestants, as well as the Catholics, and on this interpretation, such marriages of Protestants as were not solemnized according to the canonical forms have been annulled.
Nevertheless, it seems that the marriages of Protestants having been authorized by an express law, they cannot now be admitted but by another express law carrying with it this penalty. Besides, the term “new converts,” mentioned in the declaration, appears to indicate that the term that follows relates to the Catholics only. In short, when the civil law is obscure or ambiguous, ought not the judges to decide according to the natural and the moral law?
Does it not result from all this that laws often have need of reformation, and princes of consulting better informed counsellors, rejecting priestly ministers, and distrusting courtiers in the garb of confessors?
I must own that I know not where the author of the “Critical History of Jesus Christ” found that “St. Mary Magdalen had a criminal intimacy (des complaisances criminelles) with the Saviour of the world.” He says (page 130, line 11 of the note) that this is an assertion of the Albigenses. I have never read this horrible blasphemy either in the history of the Albigenses, or in their profession of faith. It is one of the great many things of which I am ignorant. I know that the Albigenses had the dire misfortune of not being Roman Catholics; but, otherwise, it seems to me, they had the most profound reverence for the person of Jesus.
This author of the “Critical History of Jesus Christ” refers us to the “Christiade,” a sort of poem in prose—granting that there are such things as poems in prose. I have, therefore, been obliged to consult the passage of the “Christiade” in which this accusation is made. It is in the fourth book or canto, page 335, note 1; the poet of the “Christiade” cites no authority. In an epic poem, indeed, citations may be spared; but great authorities are requisite in prose, when so grave an assertion is made—one which makes every Christian’s hair stand erect.
Whether the Albigenses advanced this impiety or not, the only result is that the author of the “Christiade” sports on the brink of criminality. He somewhat imitates the famous sermon of Menot. He introduces us to Mary Magdalen, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, brilliant with all the charms of youth and beauty, burning with every desire, and immersed in every voluptuousness. According to him, she is a lady at court, exalted in birth and in riches; her brother Lazarus was count of Bethany, and herself marchioness of Magdalet. Martha had a splendid portion, but he does not tell us where her estates lay. “She had,” says the man of the “Christiade,” “a hundred servants, and a crowd of lovers; she might have threatened the liberty of the whole world. But riches, dignities, ambitions, grandeur, never were so dear to Magdalen as the seductive error which caused her to be named the sinner. Such was the sovereign beauty of the capital when the young and divine hero arrived there from the extremities of Galilee. Her other passions yielded to the ambition of subduing the hero of whom she had heard.”
The author of the “Christiade” then imitates Virgil. The marchioness of Magdalet conjures her portioned sister to furnish her coquettish designs upon her young hero, as Dido employed her sister Anna to gain the pious Æneas.
She goes to hear Christ’s sermon in the temple, although he never preached there. “Her heart flies before her to the hero she adores; she awaits but one favorable look to triumph over him, to subdue this master of hearts and make him her captive.”
She then goes to him at the house of Simon the Leper, a very rich man, who was giving him a grand supper, although the women were never admitted at these feastings, especially among the Pharisees. She pours a large pot of perfumes upon his legs, wipes them with her beautiful fair hair, and kisses them.
I shall not inquire whether the picture which the author draws of Magdalen’s holy transports is not more worldly than devout; whether the kisses given are not expressed rather too warmly; nor whether this fine hair with which she wipes her hero’s legs, does not remind one too strongly of Trimalcion, who, at dinner, wiped his hands with the hair of a young and beautiful slave. He must himself have felt that his pictures might be fancied too glowing; for he anticipates criticism by giving some pieces from a sermon of Massillon’s on Magdalen. One passage is as follows:
“Magdalen had sacrificed her reputation to the world. Her bashfulness and her birth at first defended her against the emotions of her passion; and it is most likely, that to the first shaft which assailed her, she opposed the barrier of her modesty and her pride; but when she had lent her ear to the serpent, and consulted her own wisdom, her heart was open to all assaults of passion. Magdalen loved the world, and thenceforward all was sacrificed to this love; neither the pride that springs from birth, nor the modesty which is the ornament of her sex, is spared in this sacrifice; nothing can withhold her; neither the railleries of worldlings, nor the infidelities of her infatuated lovers, whom she fain would please, but by whom she cannot make herself esteemed—for virtue only is estimable; nothing can make her ashamed; and like the prostitute in the “Apocalypse,” she bears on her forehead the name of mystery; that is, she was veiled, and was no longer known but in the character of the foolish passion.”
I have sought this passage in Massillon’s sermons, but it certainly is not in the edition which I possess. I will venture to say more—it is not in his style.
The author of the “Christiade” should have informed us where he picked up this rhapsody of Massillon’s, as he should have told us where he read that the Albigenses dared to impute to Jesus Christ an unworthy intercourse with Mary Magdalen.
As for the marchioness, she is not again mentioned in the work. The author spares us her voyage to Marseilles with Lazarus, and the rest of her adventures.
What could induce a man of learning, and sometimes of eloquence, as the author of the “Christiade” appears to be, to compose this pretended poem? It was, as he tells us in his preface, the example of Milton; but we well know how deceitful are examples. Milton, who—be it observed—did not hazard that weakly monstrosity, a poem in prose—Milton, who in his “Paradise Lost,” has, amid the multitude of harsh and obscure lines of which it is full, scattered some very fine blank verse—could not please any but fanatical Whigs, as the Abbé Grécourt says:
He might delight the Presbyterians by making Sin cohabit with Death; by firing off twenty-four pounders in heaven; by making dryness fight with damp, and heat with cold; by cleaving angels in two, whose halves immediately joined again; by building a bridge over chaos; by representing the Messiah taking from a chest in heaven a great pair of compasses to describe the circuit of the earth, etc. Virgil and Horace would, perhaps, have thought these ideas rather strange. But if they succeeded in England by the aid of some very happy lines, the author of the “Christiade” was mistaken in expecting his romance to succeed without the assistance of fine verses, which are indeed very difficult to make.
But, says our author, one Jerome Vida, bishop of Alba, once wrote a very powerful Christiade in Latin verse, in which he transcribes many lines from Virgil. Well, my friend, why did you write yours in French prose? Why did not you, too, imitate Virgil?
But the late M. d’Escorbiac, of Toulouse, also wrote a Christiade. Alas! why were you so unfortunate as to become the ape of M. d’Escorbiac?
But Milton, too, wrote his romance of the New Testament, his “Paradise Regained,” in blank verse, frequently resembling the worst prose. Leave it, then, to Milton to set Satan and Jesus constantly at war. Let it be his to cause a drove of swine to be driven along by a legion of devils; that is, by six thousand seven hundred, who take possession of these swine—there being three devils and seven-twentieths per pig—and drown them in a lake. It well becomes Milton to make the devil propose to God that they shall take a good supper together. In Milton, the devil may at his ease cover the table with ortolans, partridges, soles, sturgeons, and make Hebe and Ganymede hand wine to Jesus Christ. In Milton, the devil may take God up a little hill, from the top of which he shows him the capital, the Molucca Islands, and the Indian city; the birthplace of the beauteous Angelica, who turned Orlando’s brain; after which he may offer to God all this, provided that God will adore him. But even Milton labored in vain; people have laughed at him. They have laughed at poor brother Berruyer, the Jesuit. They have laughed at you. Bear it with patience!
Martyr, “witness”; martyrdom, testimony. The early Christian community at first gave the name of “martyrs” to those who announced new truths to mankind, who gave testimony to Jesus; who confessed Jesus; in the same manner as they gave the name of “saints” to the presbyters, to the supervisors of the community, and to their female benefactors; this is the reason why St. Jerome, in his letters, often calls his initiated Paul, St. Paul. All the first bishops were called saints.
Subsequently, the name of martyrs was given only to deceased Christians, or to those who had been tortured for punishment; and the little chapels that were erected to them received afterwards the name of “martyrion.”
It is a great question, why the Roman Empire always tolerated in its bosom the Jewish sect, even after the two horrible wars of Titus and Adrian; why it tolerated the worship of Isis at several times; and why it frequently persecuted Christianity. It is evident that the Jews, who paid dearly for their synagogues, denounced the Christians as mortal foes, and excited the people against them. It is moreover evident that the Jews, occupied with the trade of brokers and usurers, did not preach against the ancient religion of the empire, and that the Christians, who were all busy in controversy, preached against the public worship, sought to destroy it, often burned the temples, and broke the consecrated statues, as St. Theodosius did at Amasia, and St. Polyeuctus in Mitylene.
The orthodox Christians, sure that their religion was the only true one, did not tolerate any other. In consequence, they themselves were hardly tolerated. Some of them were punished and died for the faith—and these were the martyrs.
This name is so respectable that it should not be prodigally bestowed; it is not right to assume the name and arms of a family to which one does not belong. Very heavy penalties have been established against those who have the audacity to decorate themselves with the cross of Malta or of St. Louis, without being chevaliers of those orders.
The learned Dodwell, the dexterous Middleton, the judicious Blondel, the exact Tillemont, the scrutinizing Launoy, and many others, all zealous for the glory of the true martyrs, have excluded from their catalogue an obscure multitude on whom this great title had been lavished. We have remarked that these learned men were sanctioned by the direct acknowledgment of Origen, who, in his “Refutation of Celsus,” confesses that there are very few martyrs, and those at a great distance of time, and that it is easy to reckon them.
Nevertheless, the Benedictine Ruinart—who calls himself Don Ruinart, although he was no Spaniard—has contradicted all these learned persons! He has candidly given us many stories of martyrs which have appeared to the critics very suspicious. Many sensible persons have doubted various anecdotes relating to the legends recounted by Don Ruinart, from beginning to end.
1. Of Saint Symphorosia and her Seven Children.
Their scruples commence with St. Symphorosia and her seven children who suffered martyrdom with her; which appears, at first sight, too much imitated from the seven Maccabees. It is not known whence this legend comes; and that is at once a great cause of skepticism.
It is therein related that the emperor Adrian himself wished to interrogate the unknown Symphorosia, to ascertain if she was a Christian. This would have been more extraordinary than if Louis XIV. had subjected a Huguenot to an interrogatory. You will further observe that Adrian, far from being a persecutor of the Christians, was their greatest protector.
He had then a long conversation with Symphorosia, and putting himself in a passion, he said to her: “I will sacrifice you to the gods”; as if the Roman emperors sacrificed women in their devotions. In the sequel, he caused her to be thrown into the Anio—which was not a usual mode of immolation. He afterwards had one of her sons cloven in two from the top of his head to his middle; a second from side to side; a third was broken on the wheel; a fourth was only stabbed in the stomach; a fifth right to the heart; a sixth had his throat cut; the seventh died of a parcel of needles thrust into his breast. The emperor Adrian was fond of variety. He commanded that they should be buried near the temple of Hercules—although no one is ever buried in Rome, much less near the temples, which would have been a horrible profanation. The legend adds that the chief priest of the temple named the place of their interment “the Seven Biotanates.”
If it was extraordinary that a monument should be erected at Rome to persons thus treated, it was no less so that a high priest should concern himself with the inscription; and further, that this Roman priest should make a Greek epitaph for them. But what is still more strange is that it is pretended that this word “biotanates” signifies the seven tortured. “Biotanates” is a fabricated word, which one does not meet with in any author; and this signification can only be given to it by a play upon words, falsely using the word “thenon.” There is scarcely any fable worse constructed. The writers of legends knew how to lie, but none of them knew how to lie skilfully.
The learned Lacroze, librarian to Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, observed: “I know not whether Ruinart is sincere, but I am afraid he is silly.”
2. Of St. Felicita and Seven More Children.
It is from Surius that this legend is taken. This Surius is rather notorious for his absurdities. He was a monk of the sixteenth century, who writes about the martyrs of the second as if he had been present.
He pretends that that wicked man, that tyrant, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius, ordered the prefect of Rome to institute a process against St. Felicita, to have her and her seven children put to death, because there was a rumor that she was a Christian.
The prefect held his tribunal in the Campus Martius, which, however, was at that time used only for the reviewing of troops; and the first thing the prefect did was to cause a blow to be given her in full assembly.
The long discourses of the magistrates and the accused are worthy of the historian. He finishes by putting the seven brothers to death by different punishments, like the seven children of St. Symphorosia. This is only a duplicate affair. But as for St. Felicita, he leaves her there, and does not say another word about her.
3. Of Saint Polycarp.
Eusebius relates that St. Polycarp, being informed in a dream that he should be burned in three days, made it known to his friends. The legend-maker adds that the lieutenant of police at Smyrna, whose name was Herodius, had him seized by his archers; that he was abandoned to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre; that the sky opened, and a heavenly voice cried to him: “Be of good courage, Polycarp”; that the hour of letting loose the lions in the amphitheatre having passed, the people went about collecting wood from all the houses to burn him with; that the saint addressed himself to the God of the “archangels”—although the word archangel was not then known—that the flames formed themselves round him into a triumphal arch without touching him; that his body had the smell of baked bread; but that, having resisted the fire, he could not preserve himself against a sabre-cut; that his blood put out the burning pile, and that there sprung from it a dove which flew straight to heaven. To which planet is not precisely known.
4. Of Saint Ptolomais.
We follow the order of Don Ruinart; but we have no wish to call in question the martyrdom of St. Ptolomais, which is extracted from “St. Justin’s Apology.”
We could make some difficulties with regard to the woman who was accused by her husband of being a Christian, and who baffled him by giving him a bill of divorce. We might ask why, in this history, there is no further mention of this woman? We might make it manifest that in the time of Marcus Aurelius, women were not permitted to demand divorces of their husbands; that this permission was only granted them under the emperor Julian; and that this so much repeated story of the Christian woman who repudiated her husband—while no pagan would have dared to imagine such a thing—cannot well be other than a fable. But we do not desire to raise unpleasant disputes. As for the little probability there is in the compilation of Don Ruinart, we have too much respect for the subject he treats of to start objections.
We have not made any to the “Letter of the Churches of Vienna and Lyons,” because there is still a great deal of obscurity connected with it; but we shall be pardoned for defending the memory of the great Marcus Aurelius, thus outraged in the life of “St. Symphorian of Autun,” who was probably a relation of St. Symphorosia.
5. Of St. Symphorian of Autun.
This legend, the author of which is unknown, begins thus: “The emperor Marcus Aurelius had just raised a frightful tempest against the Church, and his fulminating edicts assailed on all sides the religion of Jesus Christ, at the time when St. Symphorian lived at Autun in all the splendor that high birth and uncommon virtue can confer. He was of a Christian family, one of the most considerable of the city,” etc.
Marcus Aurelius issued no sanguinary edicts against the Christians. It is a very criminal calumny. Tillemont himself admits that “he was the best prince the Romans ever had; that his reign was a golden age; and that he verified what he often quoted from Plato, that nations would only be happy when kings were philosophers.”
Of all the emperors, this was the one who promulgated the best laws; he protected the wise, but persecuted no Christians, of whom he had a great many in his service.
The writer of the legend relates that St. Symphorian having refused to adore Cybele, the city judge inquired: “Who is this man?” Now it is impossible that the judge of Autun should not have known the most considerable person in Autun.
He was declared by the sentence to be guilty of treason, “divine and human.” The Romans never employed this formula; and that alone should deprive the pretended martyr of Autun of all credit.
In order the better to refute this calumny against the sacred memory of Marcus Aurelius, let us bring under view the discourse of Meliton, bishop of Sardis, to this best of emperors, reported verbatim by Eusebius:
“The continual succession of good fortune which has attended the empire, without its happiness being disturbed by a single disgrace, since our religion, which was born with it, has grown in its bosom, is an evident proof that it contributes eminently to its greatness and glory. Among all the emperors, Nero and Domitian alone, deceived by certain impostors, have spread calumnies against us, which, as usual, have found some partial credence among the people. But your pious ancestors have corrected the people’s ignorance, and by public edicts have repressed the audacity of those who attempted to treat us ill. Your grandfather Adrian wrote in our favor to Fundanus, governor of Asia, and to many other persons. The emperor, your father, during the period when you divided with him the cares of government, wrote to the inhabitants of Larissa, of Thessalonica, of Athens, and in short to all the people of Greece, to repress the seditions and tumults which have been excited against us.”
This declaration by a most pious, learned, and veracious bishop is sufficient to confound forever all the lies and legends which may be regarded as the Arabian tales of Christianity.
6. Of Another Saint Felicita, and of Saint Perpetua.
If it were an object to dispute the legend of Felicita and Perpetua, it would not be difficult to show how suspicious it is. These Carthaginian martyrs are only known by a writing, without date, of the church of Salzburg. Now, it is a great way from this part of Bavaria to Goletta. We are not informed under what emperor this Felicita and this Perpetua received the crown of martyrdom. The astounding sights with which this history is filled do not discover a very profound historian. A ladder entirely of gold, bordered with lances and swords; a dragon at the top of the ladder; a large garden near the dragon; sheep from which an old man drew milk; a reservoir full of water; a bottle of water whence they drank without diminishing the liquid; St. Perpetua fighting entirely naked against a wicked Egyptian; some handsome young men, all naked, who took her part; herself at last become a man and a vigorous wrestler; these are, it appears to me, conceits which should not have place in a respectable book.
There is one other reflection very important to make. It is that the style of all these stories of martyrdom, which took place at such different periods, is everywhere alike, everywhere equally puerile and bombastic. You find the same turns of expression, the same phrases, in the history of a martyr under Domitian and of another under Galerius. There are the same epithets, the same exaggerations. By the little we understand of style, we perceive that the same hand has compiled them all.
I do not here pretend to make a book against Don Ruinart; and while I always respect, admire, and invoke the true martyrs with the Holy Church, I confine myself to making it perceived, by one or two striking examples, how dangerous it is to mix what is purely ridiculous with what ought to be venerated.
7. Of Saint Theodotus of the City of Ancyra, and of the Seven Virgins; Written by Nisus, an Eye-Witness, and Extracted from Bollandus.
Many critics, as eminent for wisdom as for true piety, have already given us to understand that the legend of St. Theodotus the Publican is a profanation and a species of impiety which ought to have been suppressed. The following is the story of Theodotus. We shall often employ the exact words of the “Genuine Acts,” compiled by Don Ruinart.
“His trade of publican supplied him with the means of exercising his episcopal functions. Illustrious tavern! consecrated to piety instead of debauchery. . . . . Sometimes Theodotus was a physician, sometimes he furnished tit-bits to the faithful. A tavern was seen to be to the Christians what Noah’s ark was to those whom God wished to save from the deluge.”
This publican Theodotus, walking by the river Halis with his companions towards a town adjacent to the city of Ancyra, “a fresh and soft plot of turf offered them a delicious couch; a spring which issued a few steps off, from the foot of the rock, and which by a channel crowned with flowers came running past them in order to quench their thirst, offered them clear and pure water. Trees bearing fruit, mixed with wild ones, furnished them with shade and fruits; and an assemblage of skilful nightingales, whom the grasshoppers relieved every now and then, formed a charming concert,” etc.
The clergyman of the place, named Fronton, having arrived, and the publican having drunk with him on the grass, “the fresh green of which was relieved by the various gradations of color in the flowers, he said to the clergyman: ‘Ah, father! what a pleasure it would be to build a chapel here.’ ‘Yes,’ said Fronton, ‘but it would be necessary to have some relics to begin with.’ ‘Well, well,’ replied St. Theodotus, ‘you shall have some soon, I give you my word; here is my ring, which I give you as a pledge; build your chapel quickly.’ ”
The publican had the gift of prophecy, and knew well what he was saying. He went away to the city of Ancyra, while the clergyman Fronton set himself about building. He found there the most horrible persecution, which lasted very long. Seven Christian virgins, of whom the youngest was seventy years old, had just been condemned, according to custom, to lose their virginity, through the agency of all the young men of the city. The youth of Ancyra, who had probably more urgent affairs, were in no hurry to execute the sentence. One only could be found obedient to justice. He applied himself to St. Thecusa, and carried her into a closet with surprising courage. Thecusa threw herself on her knees, and said to him, “For God’s sake, my son, a little shame! Behold these lacklustre eyes, this half-dead flesh, these greasy wrinkles, which seventy years have ploughed in my forehead, this face of the color of the earth; abandon thoughts so unworthy of a young man like you—Jesus Christ entreats you by my mouth. He asks it of you as a favor, and if you grant it Him, you may expect His entire gratitude.” The discourse of the old woman, and her countenance made the executioner recollect himself. The seven virgins were not deflowered.
The irritated governor sought for another punishment; he caused them to be initiated forthwith in the mysteries of Diana and Minerva. It is true that great feasts had been instituted in honor of those divinities, but the mysteries of Diana and Minerva were not known to antiquity. St. Nil, an intimate friend of the publican Theodotus, and the author of this marvellous story, was not quite correct.
According to him, these seven pretty lasses were placed quite naked on the car which carried the great Diana and the wise Minerva to the banks of a neighboring lake. The Thucydides St. Nil still appears to be very ill-informed here. The priestesses were always covered with veils; and the Roman magistrates never caused the goddesses of chastity and wisdom to be attended by girls who showed themselves both before and behind to the people.
St. Nil adds that the car was preceded by two choirs of priestesses of Bacchus, who carried the thyrses in their hands. St. Nil has here mistaken the priestesses of Minerva for those of Bacchus. He was not versed in the liturgy of Ancyra.
Entering the city, the publican saw this sad spectacle—the governor, the priestesses, the car, Minerva, and the seven maidens. He runs to throw himself on his knees in a hut, along with a nephew of St. Thecusa. He beseeches heaven that the seven ladies should be dead rather than naked. His prayer is heard; he learns that the seven damsels, instead of being deflowered, have been thrown into the lake with stones round their necks, by order of the governor. Their virginity is in safe-keeping. At this news the saint, raising himself from the ground and placing himself upon his knees, turned his eyes towards heaven; and in the midst of the various emotions he experienced of love, joy, and gratitude, he said, “I give Thee thanks, O Lord! that Thou has not rejected the prayer of Thy servant.”
He slept; and during his sleep, St. Thecusa, the youngest of the drowned women, appeared to him. “How now, son Theodotus!” she said, “you are sleeping without thinking of us: have you forgotten so soon the care I took of your youth? Do not, dear Theodotus, suffer our bodies to be devoured by the fishes. Go to the lake, but beware of a traitor.” This traitor was, in fact, the nephew of St. Thecusa.
I omit here a multitude of miraculous adventures that happened to the publican, in order to come to the most important. A celestial cavalier, armed cap-a-pie, preceded by a celestial flambeau, descends from the height of the empyrean, conducts the publican to the lake in the midst of storms, drives away all the soldiers who guard the shore, and gives Theodotus time to fish up the seven old women and to bury them.
The nephew of St. Thecusa unfortunately went and told all. Theodotus was seized, and for three days all sorts of punishments were tried in vain to kill him. They could only attain their object by cleaving his skull; an operation which saints are never proof against.
He was still to be buried. His friend the minister Fronton—to whom Theodotus, in his capacity of publican, had given two leathern bottles filled with wine—made the guards drunk, and carried off the body. Theodotus then appeared in body and spirit to the minister: “Well, my friend,” he said to him, “did I not say well, that you should have relics for your chapel?”
Such is what is narrated by St. Nil, an eye-witness, who could neither be deceived nor deceive; such is what Don Ruinart has quoted as a genuine act. Now every man of sense, every intelligent Christian, will ask himself, whether a better mode could be adopted of dishonoring the most holy and venerated religion in the world, and of turning it into ridicule?
I shall not speak of the Eleven Thousand Virgins; I shall not discuss the fable of the Theban legion, composed—says the author—of six thousand six hundred men, all Christians coming from the East by Mount St. Bernard, suffering martyrdom in the year 286, the period of the most profound peace as regarded the Church, and in the gorge of a mountain where it is impossible to place 300 men abreast; a fable written more than 550 years after the event; a fable in which a king of Burgundy is spoken of who never existed; a fable, in short, acknowledged to be absurd by all the learned who have not lost their reason.
Behold what Don Ruinart narrates seriously! Let us pray to God for the good sense of Don Ruinart!
How does it happen that, in the enlightened age in which we live, learned and useful writers are still found who nevertheless follow the stream of old errors, and who corrupt many truths by admitted fables? They reckon the era of the martyrs from the first year of the empire of Diocletian, who was then far enough from inflicting martyrdom on anybody. They forget that his wife Prisca was a Christian, that the principal officers of his household were Christians; that he protected them constantly during eighteen years; that they built at Nicomedia a church more sumptuous than his palace; and that they would never have been persecuted if they had not outraged the Cæsar Valerius.
Is it possible that any one should still dare to assert “that Diocletian died of age, despair, and misery”; he who was seen to quit life like a philosopher, as he had quitted the empire; he who, solicited to resume the supreme power loved better to cultivate his fine gardens at Salonica, than to reign again over the whole of the then known world?
Oh, ye compilers! will you never cease to compile? You have usefully employed your three fingers; employ still more usefully your reason.
What! you repeat to me that St. Peter reigned over the faithful at Rome for twenty-five years, and that Nero had him put to death together with St. Paul, in order to avenge the death of Simon the Magician, whose legs they had broken by their prayers?
To report such fables, though with the best motive, is to insult Christianity.
The poor creatures who still repeat these absurdities are copyists who renew in octavo and duodecimo old stories that honest men no longer read, and who have never opened a book of wholesome criticism. They rake up the antiquated tales of the Church; they know nothing of either Middleton, or Dodwell, or Bruker, or Dumoulin, or Fabricius, or Grabius, or even Dupin, or of any one of those who have lately carried light into the darkness.
We are fooled with martyrdoms that make us break out into laughter. The Tituses, the Trajans, the Marcus Aureliuses, are painted as monsters of cruelty. Fleury, abbé of Loc Dieu, has disgraced his ecclesiastical history by tales which a sensible old woman would not tell to little children.
Can it be seriously repeated, that the Romans condemned seven virgins, each seventy years old, to pass through the hands of all the young men of the city of Ancyra—those Romans who punished the Vestals with death for the least gallantry?
A hundred tales of this sort are found in the martyrologies. The narrators have hoped to render the ancient Romans odious, and they have rendered themselves ridiculous. Do you want good, well-authenticated barbarities—good and well-attested massacres, rivers of blood which have actually flowed—fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, infants at the breast, who have in reality had their throats cut, and been heaped on one another? Persecuting monsters! seek these truths only in your own annals: you will find them in the crusades against the Albigenses, in the massacres of Merindol and Cabrière, in the frightful day of St. Bartholomew, in the massacres of Ireland, in the valleys of the Pays de Vaud. It becomes you well, barbarians as you are, to impute extravagant cruelties to the best of emperors; you who have deluged Europe with blood, and covered it with corpses, in order to prove that the same body can be in a thousand places at once, and that the pope can sell indulgences! Cease to calumniate the Romans, your law-givers, and ask pardon of God for the abominations of your forefathers!
It is not the torture, you say, which makes martyrdom; it is the cause. Well! I agree with you that your victims ought not to be designated by the name of martyr, which signifies witness; but what name shall we give to your executioners? Phalaris and Busiris were the gentlest of men in comparison with you. Does not your Inquisition, which still remains, make reason, nature, and religion boil with indignation! Great God! if mankind should reduce to ashes that infernal tribunal, would they be unacceptable in thy avenging eyes?
The mass, in ordinary language, is the greatest and most august of the ceremonies of the Church. Different names are given to it, according to the rites practised in the various countries where it is celebrated; as the Mozarabian or Gothic mass, the Greek mass, the Latin mass. Durandus and Eckius call those masses dry, in which no consecration is made, as that which is appointed to be said in particular by aspirants to the priesthood; and Cardinal Bona relates, on the authority of William of Nangis, that St. Louis, in his voyage abroad, had it said in this manner, lest the motion of the vessel should spill the consecrated wine. He also quoted Génébrard, who says that he assisted at Turin, in 1587, at a similar mass, celebrated in a church, but after dinner and very late, for the funeral of a person of rank.
Pierre le Chantre also speaks of the two-fold, three-fold, and even four-fold mass, in which the priest celebrated the mass of the day or the feast, as far as the offertory, then began a second, third, and sometimes a fourth, as far as the same place; after which he said as many secretas as he had begun masses; he recited the canon only once for the whole; and at the end he added as many collects as he had joined together masses.
It was not until about the close of the fourth century that the word “mass” began to signify the celebration of the eucharist. The learned Beatus Rhenanus, in his notes on Tertullian, observes, that St. Ambrose consecrated this popular expression, “missa,” taken from the sending out of the catechumens, after the reading of the gospel.
In the “Apostolical Constitutions,” we find a liturgy in the name of St. James, by which it appears, that instead of invoking the saints in the canon of the mass, the primitive Church prayed for them. “We also offer to Thee, O Lord,” said the celebrator, “this bread and this chalice for all the saints that have been pleasing in Thy sight from the beginning of ages: for the patriarchs, the prophets, the just, the apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, readers, chanters, virgins, widows, laymen, and all whose names are known unto Thee.” But St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth century, substituted this explanation: “After which,” says he, “we commemorate those who die before us, and first the patriarchs, apostles, and martyrs, that God may receive our prayers through their intercession.” This proves—as will be said in the article on “Relics”—that the worship of the saints was then beginning to be introduced into the Church.
Noel Alexander cites acts of St. Andrew, in which that apostle is made to say: “I offer up every day, on the altar of the only true God, not the flesh of bulls, nor the blood of goats, but the unspotted lamb, which still remains living and entire after it is sacrificed, and all the faithful eat of its flesh”; but this learned Dominican acknowledges that this piece was unknown until the eighth century. The first who cited it was Ætherius, bishop of Osma in Spain, who wrote against Ælipard in 788.
Abdias relates that St. John, being warned by the Lord of the termination of his career, prepared for death and recommended his Church to God. He then had bread brought to him, which he took, and lifting up his hands to heaven, blessed it, broke it, and distributed it among those who were present, saying: “Let my portion be yours, and let yours be mine.” This manner of celebrating the eucharist—which means thanksgiving—is more conformable to the institution of that ceremony.
St. Luke indeed informs us, that Jesus, after distributing bread and wine among his apostles, who were supping with him, said to them: “Do this in memory of me.” St. Matthew and St. Mark say, moreover, that Jesus sang a hymn. St. John, who in his gospel mentions neither the distribution of the bread and wine, nor the hymn, speaks of the latter at great length in his Acts, of which we give the text, as quoted by the Second Council of Nice:
“Before our Lord was taken by the Jews,” says this well-beloved apostle of Jesus, “He assembled us all together, and said to us: ‘Let us sing a hymn in honor of the Father, after which we will execute the design we have conceived.’ He ordered us therefore to form a circle, holding one another by the hand; then, having placed Himself in the middle of the circle, He said to us: ‘Amen; follow me.’ Then He began the canticle, and said: ‘Glory be to Thee, O Father!’ We all answered, ‘Amen.’ Jesus continued, saying, ‘Glory to the Word,’ etc. ‘Glory to the Spirit,’ etc. ‘Glory to Grace,’ etc., and the apostles constantly answered, ‘Amen.’ ”
After some other doxologies, Jesus said, “I will save, and I will be saved, Amen. I will unbind, and I will be unbound, Amen. I will be wounded, and I will wound, Amen. I will be born, and I will beget, Amen. I will eat, and I will be consumed, Amen. I will be hearkened to, and I will hearken, Amen. I will be comprehended by the spirit, being all spirit, all understanding, Amen. I will be washed, and I will wash, Amen. Grace brings dancing; I will play on the flute; all of you dance, Amen. I will sing sorrowful airs; now all of you lament, Amen.”
St. Augustine, who begins a part of this hymn in his “Epistle to Ceretius,” gives also the following: “I will deck, and I will be decked. I am a lamp to those who see me and know me. I am the door for all who will knock at it. Do you, who see what I do, be careful not to speak of it.”
This dance of Jesus and the apostles is evidently imitated from that of the Egyptian Therapeutæ, who danced after supper in their assemblies, at first divided into two choirs, then united the men and the women together, as at the feast of Bacchus, after swallowing plenty of celestial wine as Philo says.
Besides we know, that according to the Jewish tradition, after their coming out of Egypt, and passing the Red Sea, whence the solemnity of the Passover took its name, Moses and his sister assembled two musical choirs, one composed of men, the other of women, who, while dancing, sang a canticle of thanksgiving. These instruments instantaneously assembled, these choirs arranged with so much promptitude, the facility with which the songs and dances are executed, suppose a training in these two exercises much anterior to the moment of execution.
The usage was afterwards perpetrated among the Jews. The daughters of Shiloh were dancing according to custom, at the solemn feast of the Lord, when the young men of the tribe of Benjamin, to whom they had been refused for wives, carried them off by the counsel of the old men of Israel. And at this day, in Palestine, the women, assembled near the tombs of their relatives, dance in a mournful manner, and utter cries of lamentation.
We also know that the first Christians held among themselves agapæ, or feasts of charity, in memory of the last supper which Jesus celebrated with his apostles, from which the Pagans took occasion to bring against them the most odious charges; on which, to banish every shadow of licentiousness, the pastors forbade the kiss of peace, that concluded the ceremony to be given between persons of different sexes. But various abuses, which were even then complained of by St. Paul, and which the Council of Gangres, in the year 324, vainly undertook to reform, at length caused the agapæ to be abolished in 397, by the Third Council of Carthage, of which the forty-first canon ordained, that the holy mysteries should be celebrated fasting.
It will not be doubted that these feastings were accompanied by dances, when it is recollected that, according to Scaliger, the bishops were called in the Latin Church “præsules,” (from præsiliendo) only because they led off the dance. Heliot, in his “History of the Monastic Orders,” says also, that during the persecutions which disturbed the peace of the first Christians, congregations were formed of men and women, who, after the manner of the Therapeutæ, retired into the deserts, where they assembled in the hamlets on Sundays and feast days, and danced piously, singing the prayers of the Church.
In Portugal, in Spain, and in Roussillon, solemn dances are still performed in honor of the mysteries of Christianity. On every vigil of a feast of the Virgin, the young women assemble before the doors of the churches dedicated to her, and pass the night in dancing round, and singing hymns and canticles in honor of her. Cardinal Ximenes restored in his time, in the cathedral of Toledo, the ancient usage of the Mozarabian mass, during which dances are performed in the choir and the nave, with equal order and devotion. In France too, about the middle of the last century, the priests and all the people of the Limoges might be seen dancing round in the collegiate church, singing: “Sant Marcian pregas pernous et nous epingaren per bous”—that is, “St. Martian, pray for us, and we will dance for you.”
And lastly, the Jesuit Menestrier, in the preface to his “Treatise on Ballets,” published in 1682, says, that he had himself seen the canons of some churches take the singing boys by the hand on Easter day, and dance in the choir, singing hymns of rejoicing. What has been said in the article on “Calends,” of the extravagant dances of the feast of fools, exhibits a part of the abuses which have caused dancing to be discontinued in the ceremonies of the mass, which, the greater their gravity, are the better calculated to impose on the simple.
It is perhaps as difficult as it is useless to ascertain whether “mazzacrium,” a word of the low Latin, is the root of “massacre,” or whether “massacre” is the root of “mazzacrium.”
A massacre signifies a number of men killed. There was yesterday a great massacre near Warsaw—near Cracow. We never say: “There has been a massacre of a man”; yet we do say: “A man has been massacred”: in that case it is understood that he has been killed barbarously by many blows.
Poetry makes use of the word “massacred” for killed, assassinated: “Que par ses propres mains son père massacré.”—Cinna.
An Englishman has made a compilation of all the massacres perpetrated on account of religion since the first centuries of our vulgar era. I have been very much tempted to write against the English author; but his memoir not appearing to be exaggerated, I have restrained myself. For the future I hope there will be no more such calculations to make. But to whom shall we be indebted for that?
“How unfortunate am I to have been born!” said Ardassan Ougli, a young icoglan of the grand sultan of the Turks. “Yet if I depended only on the sultan—but I am also subject to the chief of my oda, to the cassigi bachi; and when I receive my pay, I must prostrate myself before a clerk of the teftardar, who keeps back half of it. I was not seven years old, when, in spite of myself, I was circumcised with great ceremony, and was ill for a fortnight after it. The dervish who prays to us is also my master; an iman is still more my master, and the mullah still more so than the iman. The cadi is another master, the kadeslesker a greater; the mufti a greater than all these together. The kiaia of the grand vizier with one word could cause me to be thrown into the canal; and finally, the grand vizier could have me beheaded, and the skin of my head stripped off, without any person caring about the matter.
“Great God, how many masters! If I had as many souls and bodies as I have duties to fulfil, I could not bear it. Oh Allah! why hast thou not made me an owl? I should live free in my hole and eat mice at my ease, without masters or servants. This is assuredly the true destiny of man; there were no masters until it was perverted; no man was made to serve another continually. If things were in order, each should charitably help his neighbor. The quick-sighted would conduct the blind, the active would be crutches to the lame. This would be the paradise of Mahomet, instead of the hell which is formed precisely under the inconceivably narrow bridge.”
Thus spoke Ardassan Ougli, after being bastinadoed by one of his masters.
Some years afterwards, Ardassan Ougli became a pasha with three tails. He made a prodigious fortune, and firmly believed that all men except the grand Turk and the grand vizier were born to serve him, and all women to give him pleasure according to his wishes.
How can one man become the master of another? And by what kind of incomprehensible magic has he been able to become the master of several other men? A great number of good volumes have been written on this subject, but I give the preference to an Indian fable, because it is short, and fables explain everything.
Adimo, the father of all the Indians, had two sons and two daughters by his wife Pocriti. The eldest was a vigorous giant, the youngest was a little hunchback, the two girls were pretty. As soon as the giant was strong enough, he lay with his two sisters, and caused the little hunchback to serve him. Of his two sisters, the one was his cook, the other his gardener. When the giant would sleep, he began by chaining his little brother to a tree; and when the latter fled from him, he caught him in four strides, and gave him twenty blows with the strength of an ox.
The dwarf submitted and became the best subject in the world. The giant, satisfied with seeing him fulfil the duties of a subject, permitted him to sleep with one of his sisters, with whom he was disgusted. The children who sprang from this marriage were not quite hunchbacks, but they were sufficiently deformed. They were brought up in the fear of God and of the giant. They received an excellent education; they were taught that their uncle was a giant by divine right, who could do what he pleased with all his family; that if he had some pretty niece or grand-niece, he should have her without difficulty, and not one should marry her unless he permitted it.
The giant dying, his son, who was neither so strong or so great as he was, believed himself to be like his father, a giant by divine right. He pretended to make all the men work for him, and slept with all the girls. The family lagued against him: he was killed, and they became a republic.
The Siamese pretend, that on the contrary the family commenced by being republican; and that the giant existed not until after a great many years and dissensions: but all the authors of Benares and Siam agree that men lived an infinity of ages before they had the wit to make laws, and they prove it by an unanswerable argument, which is that even at present, when all the world piques itself upon having wit, we have not yet found the means of making a score of laws passably good.
It is still, for example, an insoluble question in India, whether republics were established before or after monarchies; if confusion has appeared more horrible to men than despotism! I am ignorant how it happened in order of time, but in that of nature we must agree that men are all born equal: violence and ability made the first masters; laws have made the present.
A Polite Dialogue Between a Demoniac and a Philosopher.
Yes, thou enemy of God and man, who believest that God is all-powerful, and is at liberty to confer the gift of thought on every being whom He shall vouchsafe to choose, I will go and denounce thee to the inquisitor; I will have thee burned. Beware, I warn thee for the last time.)
Come, I will be patient for a moment while the fagots are preparing. Answer me: What is spirit?)
What is matter?)
A thousand other qualities, traitor! I see what thou wouldst be at; thou wouldst tell me that God can animate matter, that He has given instinct to animals, that He is the Master of all.)
Which I cannot comprehend, villain!)
His power! His power! thou talkest like a true atheist.)
Go to, go to: neither God nor they shall prevent us from burning thee alive—the death inflicted on parricides and on philosophers who are not of our opinion.)
Vile wretch! darest thou to couple my name with the devil’s?
(Here the demoniac strikes the philosopher, who returns him the blow with interest.))
Holy brotherhood! help!
(Here half a dozen philosophers arrive on one side, and on the other rush in a hundred Dominicans, with a hundred Familiars of the Inquisition, and a hundred alguazils. The contest is too unequal.)
When wise men are asked what is the soul they answer that they know not. If they are asked what matter is, they make the same reply. It is true that there are professors, and particularly scholars, who know all this perfectly; and when they have repeated that matter has extent and divisibility, they think they have said all; being pressed, however, to say what this thing is which is extended, they find themselves considerably embarrassed. It is composed of parts, say they. And of what are these parts composed? Are the elements of the parts divisible? Then they are mute, or they talk a great deal; which are equally suspicious. Is this almost unknown being called matter, eternal? Such was the belief of all antiquity. Has it of itself force? Many philosophers have thought so. Have those who deny it a right to deny it? You conceive not that matter can have anything of itself; but how can you be assured that it has not of itself the properties necessary to it? You are ignorant of its nature, and you refuse it the modes which nevertheless are in its nature: for it can no sooner have been, than it has been in a certain fashion—it has had figure, and having necessarily figure, is it impossible that it should not have had other modes attached to its configuration? Matter exists, but you know it only by your sensations. Alas! of what avail have been all the subtleties of the mind since man first reasoned? Geometry has taught us many truths, metaphysics very few. We weigh matter, we measure it, we decompose it; and if we seek to advance one step beyond these gross operations, we find ourselves powerless, and before us an immeasurable abyss.
Pray forgive all mankind who were deceived in thinking that matter existed by itself. Could they do otherwise? How are we to imagine that what is without succession has not always been? If it were not necessary for matter to exist, why should it exist? And if it were necessary that it should be, why should it not have been forever? No axiom has ever been more universally received than this: “Of nothing, nothing comes.” Indeed the contrary is incomprehensible. With every nation, chaos preceded the arrangement which a divine hand made of the whole world. The eternity of matter has with no people been injurious to the worship of the Divinity. Religion was never startled at the recognition of an eternal God as the master of an eternal matter. We of the present day are so happy as to know by faith that God brought matter out of nothing; but no nation has ever been instructed in this dogma; even the Jews were ignorant of it. The first verse of Genesis says, that the Gods—Eloïm, not Eloi—made heaven and earth. It does not say, that heaven and earth were created out of nothing.
Philo, who lived at the only time when the Jews had any erudition, says, in his “Chapter on the Creation,” “God, being good by nature, bore no envy against substance, matter; which of itself had nothing good, having by nature only inertness, confusion, and disorder; it was bad, and He vouchsafed to make it good.”
The idea of chaos put into order by a God, is to be found in all ancient theogonies. Hesiod repeated the opinion of the Orientals, when he said in his “Theogony,” “Chaos was that which first existed.” The whole Roman Empire spoke in these words of Ovid: “Sic ubi dispositam quisquis fuit ille Deorum Congeriem secuit.”
Matter then, in the hands of God, was considered like clay under the potter’s wheel, if these feeble images may be used to express His divine power.
Matter, being eternal, must have had eternal properties—as configuration, the vis inertiæ, motion, and divisibility. But this divisibility is only a consequence of motion; for without motion nothing is divided, nor separated, nor arranged. Motion therefore was regarded as essential to matter. Chaos had been a confused motion, and the arrangement of the universe was a regular motion, communicated to all bodies by the Master of the world. But how can matter have motion by itself, as it has, according to all the ancients, extent and divisibility?
But it cannot be conceived to be without extent, and it may be conceived to be without motion. To this it was answered: It is impossible that matter should not be permeable; and being permeable, something must be continually passing through its pores. Why should there be passages, if nothing passes?
Reply and rejoinder might thus be continued forever. The system of the eternity of matter, like all other systems, has very great difficulties. That of the formation of matter out of nothing is no less incomprehensible. We must admit it, and not flatter ourselves with accounting for it; philosophy does not account for everything. How many incomprehensible things are we not obliged to admit, even in geometry! Can any one conceive two lines constantly approaching each other, yet never meeting?
Geometricians indeed will tell you, the properties of asymptotes are demonstrated; you cannot help admitting them—but creation is not; why then admit it? Why is it hard for you to believe, like all the ancients, in the eternity of matter? The theologian will press you on the other side, and say: “If you believe in the eternity of matter then you acknowledge two principles—God and matter; you fall into the error of Zoroaster and of Manes.”
No answer can be given to the geometricians, for those folks know of nothing but their lines, their superficies, and their solids; but you may say to the theologians: “Wherein am I a Manichæan? Here are stones which an architect has not made, but of which he has erected an immense building. I do not admit two architects; the rough stones have obeyed power and genius.”
Happily, whatever system a man embraces, it is in no way hurtful to morality; for what imports it whether matter is made or arranged? God is still an absolute master. Whether chaos was created out of nothing, or only reduced to order, it is still our duty to be virtuous; scarcely any of these metaphysical questions affect the conduct of life. It is with disputes as with table talk; each one forgets after dinner what he has said, and goes whithersoever his interest or his inclination calls him.
Meeting,“assemblée,” is a general term applicable to any collection of people for secular, sacred, political, conversational, festive, or corporate purposes; in short, to all occasions on which numbers meet together.
It is a term which prevents all verbal disputes, and all abusive and injurious implications by which men are in the habit of stigmatizing societies to which they do not themselves belong.
The legal meeting or assembly of the Athenians was called the “church.” This word “church,” being peculiarly appropriated among us to express a convocation of Catholics in one place, we did not in the first instance apply it to the public assembly of Protestants; but used indeed the expression—“a flock of Huguenots.” Politeness however, which in time explodes all noxious terms, at length employed for the purpose the term “assembly” or “meeting,” which offends no one. In England the dominant Church applies the name of “meeting” to the churches of all the non-conformists.
The word “assembly” is particularly suitable to a collection of persons invited to go and pass their evening at a house where the host receives them with courtesy and kindness, and where play, conversation, supper, and dancing, constitute their amusements. If the number invited be small, it is not called an “assembly,” but a “rendezvous of friends”; and friends are never very numerous.
Assemblies are called, in Italian, “conversazione,” “ridotto.” The word “ridotto” is properly what we once signified by the word “reduit,” intrenchment; but “reduit” having sunk into a term of contempt among us, our editors translated “ridout” by “redoubt.” The papers informed us, among the important intelligence contained in them relating to Europe, that many noblemen of the highest consideration went to take chocolate at the house of the princess Borghese; and that there was a redoubt there. It was announced to Europe, in another paragraph, that there would be a redoubt on the following Tuesday at the house of her excellency the marchioness of Santafior.
It was found, however, that in relating the events of war, it was necessary to speak of real redoubts, which in fact implied things actually redoubtable and formidable, from which cannon were discharged. The word was, therefore, in such circumstances, obviously unsuitable to the “ridotti pacifici,” the pacific redoubts of mere amusement; and the old term “assembly” was restored, which is indeed the only proper one. “Rendezvous” is occasionally used, but it is more adapted to a small company, and most of all for two individuals.
This article is by M. Polier de Bottens, of an old French family, settled for two hundred years in Switzerland. He is first pastor of Lausanne, and his knowledge is equal to his piety. He composed this article for the great “Encyclopædia,” in which it was inserted. Only those passages were suppressed which the examiners thought might be abused by the Catholics, less learned and less pious than the author. It was received with applause by all the wise.
It was printed at the same time in another small dictionary, and was attributed in France to a man whom there was no reluctance to molest. The article was supposed to be impious, because it was supposed to be by a layman; and the work and its pretended author were violently attacked. The man thus accused contented himself with laughing at the mistake. He beheld with compassion this instance of the errors and injustices which men are every day committing in their judgments; for he had the wise and learned priest’s manuscript, written by his own hand. It is still in his possession, and will be shown to whoever may choose to examine it. In it will be found the very erasures made by this layman himself, to prevent malignant interpretations.
Now we reprint this article in all the integrity of the original. We have contracted it only to prevent repeating what we have printed elsewhere; but we have not added a single word.
The best of this affair is, that one of the venerable author’s brethren wrote the most ridiculous things in the world against this article of his reverend brother’s, thinking that he was writing against a common enemy. This is like fighting in the dark, when one is attacked by one’s own party.
It has a thousand times happened that controversialists have condemned passages in St. Augustine and St. Jerome, not knowing that they were by those fathers. They would anathematize a part of the New Testament if they had not heard by whom it was written. Thus it is that men too often judge.
Messiah, “Messias.” This word comes from the Hebrew, and is synonymous with the Greek word “Christ.” Both are terms consecrated in religion, which are now no longer given to any but the anointed by eminence—the Sovereign Deliverer whom the ancient Jewish people expected, for whose coming they still sigh, and whom the Christians find in the person of Jesus the Son of Mary, whom they consider as the anointed of the Lord, the Messiah promised to humanity. The Greeks also use the word “Elcimmeros,” meaning the same thing as “Christos.”
In the Old Testament we see that the word “Messiah,” far from being peculiar to the Deliverer, for whose coming the people of Israel sighed, was not even so to the true and faithful servants of God, but that this name was often given to idolatrous kings and princes, who were, in the hands of the Eternal, the ministers of His vengeance, or instruments for executing the counsels of His wisdom. So the author of “Ecclesiasticus” says of Elisha: “Qui ungis reges ad penitentiam”; or, as it is rendered by the “Septuagint,” “ad vindictam”—“You anoint kings to execute the vengeance of the Lord.” Therefore He sent a prophet to anoint Jehu, king of Israel, and announced sacred unction to Hazael, king of Damascus and Syria; those two princes being the Messiahs of the Most High, to revenge the crimes and abominations of the house of Ahab.
But in Isaiah, xlv., 1, the name of Messiah is expressly given to Cyrus: “Thus saith the Lord to Cyrus, His anointed, His Messiah, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him.” etc.
Ezekiel, in his Revelations, xxviii., 14, gives the name of Messiah to the king of Tyre, whom he also calls Cherubin, and speaks of him and his glory in terms full of an emphasis of which it is easier to feel the beauties than to catch the sense. “Son of man,” says the Eternal to the prophet, “take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyre, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; thou sealest up the sun, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been the Lord’s Garden of Eden”—or, according to other versions, “Thou wast all the Lord’s delight”—“every precious stone was thy covering; the sardius, topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou wast a Cherubin, a Messiah, for protection, and I set thee up; thou hast been upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created till iniquity was found in thee.”
And the name of Messiah, in Greek, Christ, was given to the king, prophets, and high priests of the Hebrews. We read, in I. Kings, xii., 5: “The Lord is witness against you, and his Messiah is witness”; that is, the king whom he has set up. And elsewhere: “Touch not my Anointed; do no evil to my prophets. . . . .” David, animated by the Spirit of God, repeatedly gives to his father-in-law Saul, whom he had no cause to love—he gives, I say, to this reprobate king, from whom the Spirit of the Eternal was withdrawn, the name and title of Anointed, or Messiah of the Lord. “God preserve me,” says he frequently, “from laying my hand upon the Lord’s Anointed, upon God’s Messiah.”
If the fine title of Messiah, or Anointed of the Eternal, was given to idolatrous kings, to cruel and tyrannical princes, it very often indeed, in our ancient oracles, designated the real Anointed of the Lord, the Messiah by eminence; the object of the desire and expectation of all the faithful of Israel. Thus Hannah, the mother of Samuel, concluded her canticle with these remarkable words, which cannot apply to any king, for we know that at that time the Jews had not one: “The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His king, and exalt the horn of His Messiah.” We find the same word in the following oracles: Psalm ii, 2; Jeremiah, Lamentations, iv, 20; Daniel, ix, 25; Habakkuk, iii, 13.
If we compare all these different oracles, and in general all those ordinarily applied to the Messiah, there will result contradictions, almost irreconcilable, justifying to a certain point the obstinacy of the people to whom these oracles were given.
How indeed could these be conceived, before the event had so well justified it in the person of Jesus, Son of Mary? How, I say, could there be conceived an intelligence in some sort divine and human together; a being both great and lovely, triumphing over the devil, yet tempted and carried away by that infernal spirit, that prince of the powers of the air, and made to travel in spite of himself; at once master and servant, king and subject, sacrificer and victim, mortal and immortal, rich and poor, a glorious conqueror, whose reign shall have no end, who is to subdue all nature by prodigies, and yet a man of sorrows, without the conveniences, often without the absolute necessaries of this life, of which he calls himself king; and that he comes, covered with glory and honor, terminating a life of innocence and wretchedness, of incessant crosses and contradictions, by a death alike shameful and cruel, finding in this very humiliation, this extraordinary abasement, the source of an unparalleled elevation, which raises him to the summit of glory, power, and felicity; that is, to the rank of the first of creatures?
All Christians agree in finding these characteristics, apparently so incompatible, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call the “Christ”; His followers gave Him this title by eminence, not that He had been anointed in a sensible and material manner, as some kings, prophets, and sacrificers anciently were, but because the Divine Spirit had designated Him for those great offices, and He had received the spiritual unction necessary thereunto.
We had proceeded thus far on so competent an article, when a Dutch preacher, more celebrated for this discovery than for the indifferent productions of a genius otherwise feeble and ill-formed, showed to us that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of God, was anointed at the three grand periods of His life, as our King, our Prophet, and our Sacrificer.
At the time of His baptism, the voice of the Sovereign Master of nature declared Him to be His Son, His only, His well-beloved Son, and for that very reason His representative.
When on Mount Tabor He was transfigured and associated with Moses and Elias, the same supernatural voice announces Him to humanity as the Son of Him who loves and who sends the prophets; as He who is to be hearkened to in preference to all others.
In Gethsemane, an angel comes down from heaven to support Him in the extreme anguish occasioned by the approach of His torments, and strengthen Him against the terrible apprehensions of a death which He cannot avoid, and enable Him to become a sacrificer the more excellent, as Himself is the pure and innocent victim that He is about to offer.
The judicious Dutch preacher, a disciple of the illustrious Cocceius, finds the sacramental oil of these different celestial unctions in the visible signs which the power of God caused to appear on His anointed; in His baptism, “the shadow of the dove,” representing the Holy Ghost coming down from Him; on Tabor, the “miraculous cloud,” which enveloped Him; in Gethsemane, the “bloody sweat,” which covered His whole body.
After this, it would indeed be the height of incredulity not to recognize by these marks the Lord’s Anointed by eminence—the promised Messiah; nor doubtless could we sufficiently deplore the inconceivable blindness of the Jewish people, but that it was part of the plan of God’s infinite wisdom, and was, in His merciful views, essential to the accomplishment of His work and the salvation of humanity.
But it must also be acknowledged, that in the state of oppression in which the Jewish people were groaning, and after all the glorious promises which the Eternal had so often made them, they must have longed for the coming of a Messiah, and looked towards it as the period of their happy deliverance; and that they are therefore to an extent excusable for not having recognized a deliverer in the person of the Lord Jesus, since it is in man’s nature to care more for the body than for the spirit, and to be more sensible to present wants than flattered by advantages “to come,” and for that very reason, always uncertain.
It must indeed be believed that Abraham, and after him a very small number of patriarchs and prophets, were capable of forming an idea of the nature of the spiritual reign of the Messiah; but these ideas would necessarily be limited to the narrow circle of the inspired, and it is not astonishing that, being unknown to the multitude, these notions were so far altered that, when the Saviour appeared in Judæa, the people, their doctors, and even their princes, expected a monarch—a conqueror—who, by the rapidity of his conquests was to subdue the whole world. And how could these flattering ideas be reconciled with the abject and apparently miserable condition of Jesus Christ? So, feeling scandalized by His announcing Himself as the Messiah, they persecuted Him, rejected Him, and put Him to the most ignominious death. Having since then found nothing tending to the fulfilment of their oracles, and being unwilling to renounce them, they indulge in all sorts of ideas, each one more chimerical than the one preceding.
Thus, when they beheld the triumphs of the Christian religion, and found that most of their ancient oracles might be explained spiritually, and applied to Jesus Christ, they thought proper, against the opinion of their fathers, to deny that the passages which we allege against them are to be understood of the Messiah, thus torturing our Holy Scriptures to their own loss.
Some of them maintain that their oracles have been misunderstood; that it is in vain to long for the coming of a Messiah, since He has already come in the person of Ezechias. Such was the opinion of the famous Hillel. Others more lax, or politely yielding to times and circumstances, assert that the belief in the coming of a Messiah is not a fundamental article of faith, and that the denying of this dogma either does not injure the integrity of the law, or injures it but slightly. Thus the Jew Albo said to the pope, that “to deny the coming of the Messiah was only to cut off a branch of the tree without touching the root.”
The celebrated rabbi, Solomon Jarchi or Raschi, who lived at the commencement of the twelfth century, says, in his “Talmudes,” that the ancient Hebrews believed the Messiah to have been born on the day of the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies. This is indeed calling in the physician when the man is dead.
The rabbi Kimchi, who also lived in the twelfth century, announced that the Messiah, whose coming he believed to be very near, would drive the Christians out of Judæa, which was then in their possession; and it is true that the Christians lost the Holy Land; but it was Saladin who vanquished them. Had that conqueror but protected the Jews, and declared for them, it is not unlikely that in their enthusiasm they would have made him their Messiah.
Sacred writers, and our Lord Jesus Himself, often compare the reign of the Messiah and eternal beatitude to a nuptial festival or a banquet; but the Talmudists have strangely abused these parables; according to them, the Messiah will give to his people, assembled in the land of Canaan, a repast in which the wine will be that which was made by Adam himself in the terrestrial paradise, and which is kept dry, in vast cellars, by the angels at the centre of the earth.
At the first course will be served up the famous fish called the great Leviathan, which swallows up at once a smaller fish, which smaller fish is nevertheless three hundred leagues long; the whole mass of the waters is laid upon Leviathan. In the beginning God created a male and a female of this fish; but lest they should overturn the land, and fill the world with their kind, God killed the female, and salted her for the Messiah’s feast.
The rabbis add, that there will also be killed for this repast the bull Behemoth, which is so large that he eats each day the hay from a thousand mountains. The female of this bull was killed in the beginning of the world, that so prodigious a species might not multiply, since this could only have injured the other creatures; but they assure us that the Eternal did not salt her, because dried cow is not so good as she-Leviathan. The Jews still put such faith in these rabbinical reveries that they often swear by their share of the bull Behemoth, as some impious Christians swear by their share of paradise.
After such gross ideas of the coming of the Messiah, and of His reign, is it astonishing that the Jews, ancient as well as modern, and also some of the primitive Christians unhappily tinctured with all these reveries, could not elevate themselves to the idea of the divine nature of the Lord’s Anointed, and did not consider the Messiah as God? Observe how the Jews express themselves on this point in the work entitled “Judæi Lusitani Quæstiones ad Christianos”. “To acknowledge a God-man,” say they, “is to abuse your own reason, to make to yourself a monster—a centaur—the strange compound of two natures which cannot coalesce.” They add, that the prophets do not teach that the Messiah is God-man; that they expressly distinguish between God and David, declaring the former to be Master, the latter servant.
When the Saviour appeared, the prophecies, though clear, were unfortunately obscured by the prejudices imbibed even at the mother’s breast. Jesus Christ Himself, either from deference towards or for fear of shocking, the public opinion, seems to have been very reserved concerning His divinity. “He wished,” says St. Chrysostom, “insensibly to accustom His auditors to the belief of a mystery so far above their reason. If He takes upon Him the authority of a God, by pardoning sin, this action raises up against Him all who are witnesses of it. His most evident miracles cannot even convince of His divinity those in whose favor they are worked. When, before the tribunal of the Sovereign Sacrificer, He acknowledges, by a modest intimation, that He is the Son of God, the high priest tears his robe and cries, ‘Blasphemy!’ Before the sending of the Holy Ghost, the apostles did not even suspect the divinity of their dear Master. He asks them what the people think of Him; and they answer, that some take Him for Elias, other for Jeremiah, or some other prophet. A particular revelation is necessary to make known to St. Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The Jews, revolting against the divinity of Christ, have resorted to all sorts of expedients to destroy this great mystery; they distort the meaning of their own oracles, or do not apply them to the Messiah; they assert that the name of God, “Eloï,” is not peculiar to the Divinity, but is given, even by sacred writers, to judges, to magistrates, and in general to such as are high in authority; they do, indeed, cite a great many passages of the Holy Scriptures that justify this observation, but which do not in the least affect the express terms of the ancient oracles concerning the Messiah.
Lastly, they assert, that if the Saviour, and after Him the evangelists, the apostles, and the first Christians, call Jesus the Son of God, this august term did not in the evangelical times signify anything but the opposite of son of Belial—that is, a good man, a servant of God, in opposition to a wicked man, one without the fear of God.
If the Jews have disputed with Jesus Christ His quality of Messiah and His divinity, they have also used every endeavor to bring Him into contempt, by casting on His birth, His life, and His death, all the ridicule and opprobrium that their criminal malevolence could imagine.
Of all the works which the blindness of the Jews has produced, there is none more odious and more extravagant than the ancient book entitled “Sepher Toldos Jeschu,” brought to light by Wagenseil, in the second volume of his work entitled “Tela Ignea,” etc.
In this “Sepher Toldos Jeschu,” we find a monstrous history of the life of our Saviour, forged with the utmost passion and disingenuousness. For instance, they have dared to write that one Panther, or Pandera, an inhabitant of Bethlehem, fell in love with a young woman married to Jokanam. By this impure commerce he had a son called Jesua or Jesu. The father of this child was obliged to fly, and retired to Babylon. As for young Jesu, he was not sent to the schools; but—adds our author—he had the insolence to raise his head and uncover himself before the sacrificers, instead of appearing before them with his head bent down and his face covered, as was the custom—a piece of effrontery which was warmly rebuked; this caused his birth to be inquired into, which was found to be impure, and soon exposed him to ignominy.
This detestable book, “Sepher Toldos Jeschu,” was known in the second century: Celsus confidently cites it and Origen refutes it in his ninth chapter.
There is another book also entitled “Toldos Jeschu,” published by Huldric in 1703, which more closely follows the “Gospel of the Infancy,” but which is full of the grossest anachronisms. It places both the birth and death of Jesus Christ in the reign of Herod the Great, stating that complaints were made of the adultery of Panther and Mary, the mother of Jesus, to that prince.
The author, who takes the name of Jonathan, and calls himself a contemporary of Jesus Christ, living at Jerusalem, pretends that Herod consulted, in the affair of Jesus Christ, the senators of a city in the land of Cæsarea. We will not follow so absurd an author through all his contradictions.
Yet it is under cover of all these calumnies that the Jews keep up their implacable hatred against the Christians and the gospel. They have done their utmost to alter the chronology of the Old Testament, and to raise doubts and difficulties respecting the time of our Saviour’s coming.
Ahmed-ben-Cassum-la-Andacousy, a Moor of Granada, who lived about the close of the sixteenth century, cites an ancient Arabian manuscript, which was found, together with sixteen plates of lead engraved with Arabian characters, in a grotto near Granada. Don Pedro y Quinones, archbishop of Granada, has himself borne testimony to this fact. These leaden plates, called those of Granada, were afterwards carried to Rome, where, after several years’ investigation, they were at last condemned as apocryphal, in the pontificate of Alexander VII.; they contain only fabulous stories relating to the lives of Mary and her Son.
The time of Messiah, coupled with the epithet “false,” is still given to those impostors who, at various times, have sought to abuse the credulity of the Jewish nation. There were some of these false Messiahs even before the coming of the true Anointed of God. The wise Gamaliel mentions one Theodas, whose history we read in Josephus’ “Jewish Antiquities,” book xx. chap. 2. He boasted of crossing the Jordan without wetting his feet; he drew many people after him; but the Romans, having fallen upon his little troop, dispersed them, cut off the head of their unfortunate chief, and exposed it in Jerusalem.
Gamaliel also speaks of Judas the Galilean, who is doubtless the same of whom Josephus makes mention in the second chapter of the second book of the “Jewish War.” He says that this false prophet had gathered together nearly thirty thousand men; but hyperbole is the Jewish historian’s characteristic.
In the apostolic times, there was Simon, surnamed the Magician, who contrived to bewitch the people of Samaria, so that they considered him as “the great power of God.”
In the following century, in the years 178 and 179 of the Christian era, in the reign of Adrian, appeared the false Messiah, Barcochebas, at the head of an army. The emperor sent against them Julius Severus, who, after several encounters, enclosed them in the town of Bither; after an obstinate defence it was carried, and Barcochebas taken and put to death. Adrian thought he could not better prevent the continual revolt of the Jews than by issuing an edict, forbidding them to go to Jerusalem; he also had guards stationed at the gates of the city, to prevent the rest of the people of Israel from entering it.
We read in Socrates, an ecclesiastical historian, that in the year 434, there appeared in the island of Candia a false Messiah calling himself Moses. He said he was the ancient deliverer of the Hebrews, raised from the dead to deliver them again.
A century afterwards, in 530, there was in Palestine a false Messiah named Julian; he announced himself as a great conqueror, who, at the head of his nation, should destroy by arms the whole Christian people. Seduced by his promises, the armed Jews butchered many of the Christians. The emperor Justinian sent troops against him; battle was given to the false Christ; he was taken, and condemned to the most ignominious death.
At the beginning of the eighth century, Serenus, a Spanish Jew, gave himself out as a Messiah, preached, had some disciples, and, like them, died in misery.
Several false Messiahs arose in the twelfth century. One appeared in France in the reign of Louis the Young; he and all his adherents were hanged, without its ever being known what was the name of the master or of the disciples.
The thirteenth century was fruitful in false Messiahs; there appeared seven or eight in Arabia, Persia, Spain, and Moravia; one of them, calling himself David el Roy, passed for a very great magician; he reduced the Jews, and was at the head of a considerable party; but this Messiah was assassinated.
James Zeigler, of Moravia, who lived in the middle of the sixteenth century, announced the approaching manifestation of the Messiah, born, as he declared, fourteen years before; he had seen him, he said, at Strasburg, and he kept by him with great care a sword and a sceptre, to place them in his hands as soon as he should be old enough to teach. In the year 1624, another Zeigler confirmed the prediction of the former.
In the year 1666, Sabatei Sevi, born at Aleppo, called himself the Messiah foretold by the Zeiglers. He began with preaching on the highways and in the fields, the Turks laughing at him, while his disciples admired him. It appears that he did not gain over the mass of the Jewish nation at first; for the chiefs of the synagogue of Smyrna passed sentence of death against him; but he escaped with the fear only, and with banishment.
He contracted three marriages, of which it is asserted he did not consummate one, saying that it was beneath him so to do. He took into partnership one Nathan Levi; the latter personated the prophet Elias, who was to go before the Messiah. They repaired to Jerusalem, and Nathan there announced Sabatei Sevi as the deliverer of nations. The Jewish populace declared for them, but such as had anything to lose anathematized them.
To avoid the storm, Sevi fled to Constantinople, and thence to Smyrna, whither Nathan Levi sent to him four ambassadors, who acknowledged and publicly saluted him as the Messiah. This embassy imposed on the people, and also on some of the doctors, who declared Sabatei Sevi to be the Messiah, and king of the Hebrews. But the synagogue of Smyrna condemned its king to be impaled.
Sabatei put himself under the protection of the cadi of Smyrna, and soon had the whole Jewish people on his side; he had two thrones prepared, one for himself, the other for his favorite wife; he took the title of king of kings, and gave to his brother, Joseph Sevi, that of king of Judah. He promised the Jews the certain conquest of the Ottoman Empire; and even carried his insolence so far as to have the emperor’s name struck out of the Jewish liturgy, and his own substituted.
He was thrown into prison at the Dardanelles; and the Jews gave out that his life was spared only because the Turks well knew he was immortal. The governor of the Dardanelles grew rich by the presents which the Jews lavished, in order to visit their king, their imprisoned Messiah, who, though in irons, retained all his dignity, and made them kiss his feet.
Meanwhile the sultan, who was holding his court at Adrianople, resolved to put an end to this farce: he sent for Sevi, and told him that if he was the Messiah he must be invulnerable; to which Sevi assented. The grand signor then had him placed as a mark for the arrows of his icoglans. The Messiah confessed that he was not invulnerable, and protested that God sent him only to bear testimony to the holy Mussulman religion. Being beaten by the ministers of the law, he turned Mahometan; he lived and died equally despised by the Jews and Mussulmans; which cast such discredit on the profession of false Messiah, that Sevi was the last that appeared.
It may very naturally be supposed that the metamorphoses with which our earth abounds suggested the imagination to the Orientals—who have imagined everything—that the souls of men passed from one body to another. An almost imperceptible point becomes a grub, and that grub becomes a butterfly; an acorn is transformed into an oak; an egg into a bird; water becomes cloud and thunder; wood is changed into fire and ashes; everything, in short, in nature, appears to be metamorphosed. What was thus obviously and distinctly perceptible in grosser bodies was soon conceived to take place with respect to souls, which were considered slight, shadowy, and scarcely material figures. The idea of metempsychosis is perhaps the most ancient dogma of the known world, and prevails still in a great part of India and of China.
It is highly probable, again, that the various metamorphoses which we witness in nature produced those ancient fables which Ovid has collected and embellished in his admirable work. Even the Jews had their metamorphoses. If Niobe was changed into a stone, Edith, the wife of Lot, was changed into a statue of salt. If Eurydice remained in hell for having looked behind her, it was for precisely the same indiscretion that this wife of Lot was deprived of her human nature. The village in which Baucis and Philemon resided in Phrygia is changed into a lake; the same event occurs to Sodom. The daughters of Anius converted water into oil; we have in Scripture a metamorphosis very similar, but more true and more sacred. Cadmus was changed into a serpent; the rod of Aaron becomes a serpent also.
The gods frequently change themselves into men; the Jews never saw angels but in the form of men; angels ate with Abraham. Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, says that an angel of Satan has buffeted him: “Angelus Satanæ me colaphizet.”
“Trans naturam,”—beyond nature. But what is that which is beyond nature? By nature, it is to be presumed, is meant matter, and metaphysics relates to that which is not matter.
For example: to your reasoning, which is neither long, nor wide, nor high, nor solid, nor pointed; your soul, to yourself unknown, which produces your reasoning.
Spirits, which the world has always talked of, and to which mankind appropriated, for a long period, a body so attenuated and shadowy, that it could scarcely be called body; but from which, at length, they have removed every shadow of body, without knowing what it was that was left.
The manner in which these spirits perceive, without any embarrassment, from the five senses; in which they think, without a head; and in which they communicate their thoughts, without words and signs.
Finally, God, whom we know by His works, but whom our pride impels us to define; God, whose power we feel to be immense; God, between whom and ourselves exists the abyss of infinity, and yet whose nature we dare to attempt to fathom.
These are the objects of metaphysics. We might further add to these the principles of pure mathematics, points without extension, lines without width, superficies without thickness, units infinitely divisible, etc.
Bayle himself considered these objects as those which were denominated “entia rationis,” beings of reason; they are, however, in fact, only material things considered in their masses, their superficies, their simple lengths and breadths, and the extremities of these simple lengths and breadths. All measures are precise and demonstrated. Metaphysics has nothing to do with geometry.
Thus a man may be a metaphysician without being a geometrician. Metaphysics is more entertaining; it constitutes often the romance of the mind. In geometry, on the contrary, we must calculate and measure; this is a perpetual trouble, and most minds had rather dream pleasantly than fatigue themselves with hard work.
MIND (LIMITS OF THE HUMAN).
Newton was one day asked why he stepped forward when he was so inclined; and from what cause his arm and his hand obeyed his will? He honestly replied, that he knew nothing about the matter. But at least, said they to him, you who are so well acquainted with the gravitation of planets, will tell us why they turn one way sooner than another? Newton still avowed his ignorance.
Those who teach that the ocean was salted for fear it should corrupt, and that the tides were created to conduct our ships into port, were a little ashamed when told that the Mediterranean has ports and no tide. Muschembrock himself has fallen into this error.
Who has ever been able to determine precisely how a billet of wood is changed into red-hot charcoal, and by what mechanism lime is heated by cold water?
The first motion of the heart in animals—is that accounted for? Has it been exactly discovered how the business of generation is arranged? Has any one divined the cause of sensation, ideas, and memory? We know no more of the essence of matter than the children who touch its superficies.
Who will instruct us in the mechanism by which the grain of corn, which we cast into the earth, disposes itself to produce a stalk surmounted with an ear; or why the sun produces an apple on one tree and a chestnut on the next to it? Many doctors have said: “What know I not?” Montaigne said: “What know I?”
Unbending decider! pedagogue in phrases! furred reasoner! thou inquirest after the limits of the human mind—they are at the end of thy nose.
A miracle, according to the true meaning of the word, is something admirable; and agreeable to this, all is miracle. The stupendous order of nature, the revolution of a hundred millions of worlds around a million of suns, the activity of light, the life of animals, all are grand and perpetual miracles.
According to common acceptation, we call a miracle the violation of these divine and eternal laws. A solar eclipse at the time of the full moon, or a dead man walking two leagues and carrying his head in his arms, we denominate a miracle.
Many natural philosophers maintain, that in this sense there are no miracles; and advance the following arguments:
A miracle is the violation of mathematical, divine, immutable, eternal laws. By the very exposition itself, a miracle is a contradiction in terms: a law cannot at the same time be immutable and violated. But they are asked, cannot a law, established by God Himself, be suspended by its author?
They have the hardihood to reply that it cannot; and that it is impossible a being infinitely wise can have made laws to violate them. He could not, they say, derange the machine but with a view of making it work better; but it is evident that God, all-wise and omnipotent, originally made this immense machine, the universe, as good and perfect as He was able; if He saw that some imperfections would arise from the nature of matter, He provided for that in the beginning; and, accordingly, He will never change anything in it. Moreover, God can do nothing without reason; but what reason could induce him to disfigure for a time His own work?
It is done, they are told, in favor of mankind. They reply: We must presume, then, that it is in favor of all mankind; for it is impossible to conceive that the divine nature should occupy itself only about a few men in particular, and not for the whole human race; and even the whole human race itself is a very small concern; it is less than a small ant-hill, in comparison with all the beings inhabiting immensity. But is it not the most absurd of all extravagances to imagine that the Infinite Supreme should, in favor of three or four hundred emmets on this little heap of earth, derange the operation of the vast machinery that moves the universe?
But, admitting that God chose to distinguish a small number of men by particular favors, is there any necessity that, in order to accomplish this object, He should change what He established for all periods and for all places? He certainly can have no need of this inconstancy in order to bestow favors on any of His creatures: His favors consist in His laws themselves: he has foreseen all and arranged all, with a view to them. All invariably obey the force which He has impressed forever on nature.
For what purpose would God perform a miracle? To accomplish some particular design upon living beings? He would then, in reality, be supposed to say: “I have not been able to effect by my construction of the universe, by my divine decrees, by my eternal laws, a particular object; I am now going to change my eternal ideas and immutable laws, to endeavor to accomplish what I have not been able to do by means of them.” This would be an avowal of His weakness, not of His power; it would appear in such a being an inconceivable contradiction. Accordingly, therefore, to dare to ascribe miracles to God is, if man can in reality insult God, actually offering Him that insult. It is saying to Him: “You are a weak and inconsistent Being.” It is, therefore, absurd to believe in miracles; it is, in fact, dishonoring the divinity.
These philosophers, however, are not suffered thus to declaim without opposition. You may extol, it is replied, as much as you please, the immutability of the Supreme Being, the eternity of His laws, and the regularity of His infinitude of worlds; but our little heap of earth has, notwithstanding all that you have advanced, been completely covered over with miracles in every part and time. Histories relate as many prodigies as natural events. The daughters of the high priest Anius changed whatever they pleased to corn, wine, and oil; Athalide, the daughter of Mercury, revived again several times; Æsculapius resuscitated Hippolytus; Hercules rescued Alcestes from the hand of death; and Heres returned to the world after having passed fifteen days in hell. Romulus and Remus were the offspring of a god and a vestal. The Palladium descended from heaven on the city of Troy; the hair of Berenice was changed into a constellation; the cot of Baucis and Philemon was converted into a superb temple; the head of Orpheus delivered oracles after his death; the walls of Thebes spontaneously constructed themselves to the sound of a flute, in the presence of the Greeks; the cures effected in the temple of Æsculapius were absolutely innumerable, and we have monuments still existing containing the very names of persons who were eyewitnesses of his miracles.
Mention to me a single nation in which the most incredible prodigies have not been performed, and especially in those periods in which the people scarcely knew how to write or read.
The philosophers make no answer to these objections, but by slightly raising their shoulders and by a smile; but the Christian philosophers say: “We are believers in the miracles of our holy religion; we believe them by faith and not by our reason, which we are very cautious how we listen to; for when faith speaks, it is well known that reason ought to be silent. We have a firm and entire faith in the miracles of Jesus Christ and the apostles, but permit us to entertain some doubt about many others: permit us, for example, to suspend our judgment on what is related by a very simple man, although he has obtained the title of great. He assures us, that a certain monk was so much in the habit of performing miracles, that the prior at length forbade him to exercise his talent in that line. The monk obeyed; but seeing a poor tiler fall from the top of a house, he hesitated for a moment between the desire to save the unfortunate man’s life, and the sacred duty of obedience to his superior. He merely ordered the tiler to stay in the air till he should receive further instructions, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him to communicate the urgency of the circumstances to the prior. The prior absolved him from the sin he had committed in beginning the miracle without permission, and gave him leave to finish it, provided he stopped with the same, and never again repeated his fault.” The philosophers may certainly be excused for entertaining a little doubt of this legend.
But how can you deny, they are asked, that St. Gervais and St. Protais appeared in a dream to St. Ambrose, and informed him of the spot in which were deposited their relics? that St. Ambrose had them disinterred? and that they restored sight to a man that was blind? St. Augustine was at Milan at the very time, and it is he who relates the miracle, using the expression, in the twenty-second book of his work called the “City of God,” “immenso populo teste”—in the presence of an immense number of people. Here is one of the very best attested and established miracles. The philosophers, however, say that they do not believe one word about Gervais and Protais appearing to any person whatever; that it is a matter of very little consequence to mankind where the remains of their carcasses lie; that they have no more faith in this blind man than in Vespasian’s; that it is a useless miracle, and that God does nothing that is useless; and they adhere to the principles they began with. My respect for St. Gervais and St. Protais prevents me from being of the same opinion as these philosophers: I merely state their incredulity. They lay great stress on the well-known passage of Lucian, to be found in the death of Peregrinus: “When an expert juggler turns Christian, he is sure to make his fortune.” But as Lucian is a profane author, we ought surely to set him aside as of no authority.
These philosophers cannot even make up their minds to believe the miracles performed in the second century. Even eye-witnesses to the facts may write and attest till the day of doom, that after the bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, was condemned to be burned, and actually in the midst of the flames, they heard a voice from heaven exclaiming: “Courage, Polycarp! be strong, and show yourself a man”; that, at the very instant, the flames quitted his body, and formed a pavilion of fire above his head, and from the midst of the pile there flew out a dove; when, at length, Polycarp’s enemies ended his life by cutting off his head. All these facts and attestations are in vain. For what good, say these unimpressible and incredulous men, for what good was this miracle? Why did the flames lose their nature, and the axe of the executioner retain all its power of destruction? Whence comes it that so many martyrs escaped unhurt out of boiling oil, but were unable to resist the edge of the sword? It is answered, such was the will of God. But the philosophers would wish to see and hear all this themselves, before they believe it.
Those who strengthen their reasonings by learning will tell you that the fathers of the Church have frequently declared that miracles were in their days performed no longer. St. Chrysostom says expressly: “The extraordinary gifts of the spirit were bestowed even on the unworthy, because the Church at that time had need of miracles; but now, they are not bestowed even on the worthy, because the Church has need of them no longer.” He afterwards declares, that there is no one now who raises the dead, or even who heals the sick.
St. Augustine himself, notwithstanding the miracles of Gervais and Protais, says, in his “City of God”: “Why are not such miracles as were wrought formerly wrought now?” and he assigns the same reason as St. Chrysostom for it.
“Cur inquiunt, nunc illa miracula quæ prædicatis facta esse non fiunt? Possem quidem dicere necessaria prius fuisse, quam crederet mundus, ad hoc ut crederet mundus.”
It is objected to the philosophers, that St. Augustine, notwithstanding this avowal, mentions nevertheless an old cobbler of Hippo, who, having lost his garment, went to pray in the chapel of the twenty martyrs, and on his return found a fish, in the body of which was a gold ring; and that the cook who dressed the fish said to the cobbler: “See what a present the twenty martyrs have made you!”
To this the philosophers reply, that there is nothing in the event here related in opposition to the laws of nature; that natural philosophy is not contradicted or shocked by a fish’s swallowing a gold ring, or a cook’s delivering such ring to a cobbler; that, in short, there is no miracle at all in the case.
If these philosophers are reminded that, according to St. Jerome, in his “Life of Paul the Hermit,” that hermit had many conversations with satyrs and fauns; that a raven carried to him every day, for thirty years together, half of a loaf for his dinner, and a whole one on the day that St. Anthony went to visit him, they might reply again, that all this is not absolutely inconsistent with natural philosophy; that satyrs and fauns may have existed; and that, at all events, whether the narrative be a recital of facts, or only a story fit for children, it has nothing at all to do with the miracles of our Lord and His apostles. Many good Christians have contested the “History of St. Simeon Stylites,” written by Theodoret; many miracles considered authentic by the Greek Church have been called in question by many Latins, just as the Latin miracles have been suspected by the Greek Church. Afterwards, the Protestants appeared on the stage, and treated the miracles of both churches certainly with very little respect or ceremony.
A learned Jesuit, who was long a preacher in the Indies, deplores that neither his colleagues nor himself could ever perform a miracle. Xavier laments, in many of his letters, that he has not the gift of languages. He says, that among the Japanese he is merely like a dumb statue: yet the Jesuits have written that he resuscitated eight persons. That was certainly no trifling matter; but it must be recollected that he resuscitated them six thousand leagues distant. Persons have since been found, who have pretended that the abolition of the Jesuits in France is a much greater miracle than any performed by Xavier and Ignatius.
However that may be, all Christians agree that the miracles of Jesus Christ and the apostles are incontestably true; but that we may certainly be permitted to doubt some stated to have been performed in our own times, and which have not been completely authenticated.
It would certainly, for example, be very desirable, in order to the firm and clear establishment of a miracle, that it should be performed in the presence of the Academy of Sciences of Paris, or the Royal Society of London, and the Faculty of Medicine, assisted by a detachment of guards to keep in due order and distance the populace, who might by their rudeness or indiscretion prevent the operation of the miracle.
A philosopher was once asked what he should say if he saw the sun stand still, that is, if the motion of the earth around that star were to cease; if all the dead were to rise again; and if the mountains were to go and throw themselves together into the sea, all in order to prove some important truth, like that, for instance, of versatile grace? “What should I say?” answered the philosopher; “I should become a Manichæan; I should say that one principle counteracted the performance of another.”
Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another. “Miraculum res miranda, prodigium, portentum, monstrum.”—Miracle, something admirable; prodigy, implying something astonishing; portentous, bearing with it novelty; monster, something to show (à montrer) on account of its variety. Such are the first ideas that men formed of miracles.
As everything is refined and improved upon, such also would be the case with this definition. A miracle is said to be that which is impossible to nature. But it was not considered that this was in fact saying all miracle is absolutely impossible. For what is nature? You understand by it the eternal order of things. A miracle would therefore be impossible in such an order. In this sense God could not work a miracle.
If you mean by miracle an effect of which you cannot perceive the cause, in that sense all is miracle. The attraction and direction of the magnet are continual miracles. A snail whose head is renewed is a miracle. The birth of every animal, the production of every vegetable, are miracles of every day.
But we are so accustomed to these prodigies, that they have lost their name of admirable—of miraculous. The Indians are no longer astonished by cannon.
We have therefore formed for ourselves another idea of a miracle. It is, according to the common opinion, what never has happened and never will happen. Such is the idea formed of Samson’s jawbone of an ass; of the conversation between the ass and Balaam, and that between a serpent and Eve; of the chariot with four horses that conveyed away Elijah; of the fish that kept Jonah in its belly seventy-two hours; of the ten plagues of Egypt; of the walls of Jericho, and of the sun and moon standing still at mid-day, etc.
In order to believe a miracle, it is not enough merely to have seen it; for a man may be deceived. A fool is often called a dealer in wonders; and not merely do many excellent persons think that they have seen what they have not seen, and heard what was never said to them; not only do they thus become witnesses of miracles, but they become also subjects of miracles. They have been sometimes diseased, and sometimes cured by supernatural power; they have been changed into wolves; they have travelled through the air on broomsticks; they have become both incubi and succubi.
It is necessary that the miracle should have been seen by a great number of very sensible people, in sound health, and perfectly disinterested in the affair. It is above all necessary, that it should have been solemnly attested by them; for if solemn forms of authentication are deemed necessary with respect to transactions of very simple character, such as the purchase of a house, a marriage contract, or a will, what particular and minute cautionary formalities must not be deemed requisite in order to verify things naturally impossible, on which the destiny of the world is to depend?
Even when an authentic miracle is performed, it in fact proves nothing; for Scripture tells you, in a great variety of places, that impostors may perform miracles, and that if any man, after having performed them, should proclaim another God than that of the Jews, he ought to be stoned to death. It is requisite, therefore, that the doctrine should be confirmed by the miracles, and the miracles by the doctrine.
Even this, however, is not sufficient. As impostors may preach a very correct and pure morality, the better to deceive, and it is admitted that impostors, like the magicians of Pharaoh, may perform miracles; it is in addition necessary, that these miracles should have been announced by prophecies.
In order to be convinced of the truth of these prophecies, it is necessary that they should have been heard clearly announced, and seen really accomplished. It is necessary to possess perfectly the language in which they are preserved.
It is not sufficient, even, that you are a witness of their miraculous fulfilment; for you may be deceived by false appearances. It is necessary that the miracle and prophecy should be verified on oath by the heads of the nation; and even after all this there will be some doubters. For it is possible for a nation to be interested in the forgery of a prophecy or a miracle; and when interest mixes with the transaction, you may consider the whole affair as worth nothing. If a predicted miracle be not as public and as well verified as an eclipse that is announced in the almanac, be assured that it is nothing better than a juggler’s trick or an old woman’s tale.
A theocracy can be founded only upon miracles. Everything in it must be divine. The Great Sovereign speaks to men only in prodigies. These are his ministers and letters patent. His orders are intimated by the ocean’s covering the earth to drown nations, or opening a way through its depths, that they may pass upon dry land.
Accordingly you perceive, that in the Jewish history all is miracle; from the creation of Adam, and the formation of Eve, who was made of one of the ribs of Adam, to the time of the insignificant kingling Saul.
Even in the time of this same Saul, theocracy participates in power with royalty. There are still, consequently, miracles performed from time to time; but there is no longer that splendid train of prodigies which continually astonishes and interrupts nature. The ten plagues of Egypt are not renewed; the sun and moon do not stand still at mid-day, in order to give a commander time to exterminate a few runaways, already nearly destroyed by a shower of stones from the clouds. No Samson again extirpates a thousand Philistines by the jaw-bone of an ass. Asses no longer talk rationally with men; walls no longer fall prostrate at the mere sound of trumpets; cities are not swallowed up in a lake by the fire of heaven; the race of man is not a second time destroyed by a deluge. But the finger of God is still manifested; the shade of Saul is permitted to appear at the invocation of the sorceress, and God Himself promises David that he will defeat the Philistines at Baal-perazim.
“God gathers together His celestial army in the reign of Ahab, and asks the spirits: Who will go and deceive Ahab, and persuade him to go up to war against Ramoth Gilead? And there came forth a lying spirit and stood before the Lord and said, I will persuade him.” But the prophet Micaiah alone heard this conversation, and he received a blow on the cheek from another prophet, called Zedekiah, for having announced the ill-omened prodigy.
Of miracles performed in the sight of the whole nation, and changing the laws of all nature, we see no more until the time of Elijah, for whom the Lord despatched a chariot of fire and horses of fire, which conveyed him rapidly from the banks of the Jordan to heaven, although no one knew where heaven was.
From the commencement of historical times, that is, from the time of the conquests of Alexander, we see no more miracles among the Jews.
When Pompey comes to make himself master of Jerusalem—when Crassus plunders the temple—when Pompey puts to death the king of the Jews by the hands of the executioner—when Anthony confers the kingdom of Judæa on the Arabian Herod—when Titus takes Jerusalem by assault, and when it is razed to the ground by Arian—not a single miracle is ever performed. Thus it is with every nation upon earth. They begin with theocracy; they end in a manner simply and naturally human. The greater the progress made in society and knowledge, the fewer there are of prodigies.
We well know that the theocracy of the Jews was the only true one, and that those of other nations were false; but in all other respects, the case was precisely the same with them as with the Jews.
In Egypt, in the time of Vulcan, and in that of Isis and Osiris, everything was out of the laws of nature; under the Ptolemies everything resumed its natural course.
In the remote periods of Phos, Chrysos, and Ephestes, gods and mortals conversed in Chaldee with the most interesting familiarity. A god warned King Xissuter that there would be a deluge in Armenia, and that it was necessary he should, as soon as possible, build a vessel five stadii in length and two in width. Such things do not happen to the Dariuses and the Alexanders.
The fish Oannes, in former times, came every day out of the Euphrates to preach upon its banks; but there is no preaching fish now. It is true that St. Anthony of Padua went and preached to the fishes; however, such things happen so very rarely that they are scarcely to be taken any account of.
Numa held long conversations with the nymph Egeria; but we never read that Cæsar had any with Venus, although he was descended from her in the direct line. The world, we see, is constantly advancing a little, and refining gradually.
But after being extricated out of one slough for a time, mankind are soon plunged into another. To ages of civilization succeed ages of barbarism; that barbarism is again expelled, and again reappears: it is the regular alternation of day and night.
Of Those Who Have Been so Impiously Rash as to Deny the Miracles of Jesus Christ.
Among the moderns, Thomas Woolston, a learned member of the University of Cambridge, appears to me to have been the first who ventured to interpret the Gospels merely in a typical, allegorical, and spiritual sense, and boldly maintained that not one of the miracles of Jesus was actually performed. He wrote without method or art, and in a style confused and coarse, but not destitute of vigor. His six discourses against the miracles of Jesus Christ were publicly sold at London, in his own house. In the course of two years, from 1737 to 1739, he had three editions of them printed, of twenty thousand copies each, and yet it is now very difficult to procure one from the booksellers.
Never was Christianity so daringly assailed by any Christian. Few writers entertain less awe or respect for the public, and no priest ever declared himself more openly the enemy of priests. He even dared to justify this hatred by that of Jesus Christ against the Pharisees and Scribes; and he said that he should not, like Jesus Christ, become their victim, because he had come into the world in a more enlightened age.
He certainly hoped to justify his rashness by his adoption of the mystical sense; but he employs expressions so contemptuous and abusive that every Christian ear is shocked at them.
If we may believe him, when Jesus sent the devil into the herd of two thousand swine, He did neither more nor less than commit a robbery on their owners. If the story had been told of Mahomet, he would have been considered as “an abominable wizard, and a sworn slave to the devil.” And if the proprietor of the swine, and the merchants who in the outer court of the temple sold beasts for sacrifices, and whom Jesus drove out with a scourge, came to demand justice when he was apprehended, it is clear that he was deservedly condemned, as there never was a jury in England that would not have found him guilty.
He tells her fortune to the woman of Samaria, just like a wandering Bohemian or Gypsy. This alone was sufficient to cause His banishment, which was the punishment inflicted upon fortune-tellers, or diviners, by Tiberius. “I am astonished,” says he, “that the gypsies do not proclaim themselves the genuine disciples of Jesus, as their vocation is the same. However, I am glad to see that He did not extort money from the Samaritan woman, differing in this respect from our clergy, who take care to be well paid for their divinations.”
I follow the order of the pages in his book. The author goes on to the entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. It is not clear, he says, whether He was mounted on a male or female ass, or upon the foal of an ass, or upon all three together.
He compares Jesus, when tempted by the devil, to St. Dunstan, who seized the devil by the nose; and he gives the preference to St. Dunstan.
At the article of the fig-tree, which was cursed with barrenness for not producing figs out of season for them, he describes Jesus as a mere vagabond, a mendicant friar, who before He turned field-preacher was “no better than a journeyman carpenter.” It is surprising, he says, that the court of Rome has not among all its relics some little fancy-box or joint-stool of His workmanship. In a word, it is difficult to carry blasphemy further.
After diverting himself with the probationary fish-pool of Bethesda, the waters of which were troubled or stirred once in every year by an angel, he inquires how it could well be, that neither Flavius Josephus, nor Philo should ever mention this angel; why St. John should be the sole historian of this miracle; and by what other miracle it happened that no Roman ever saw this angel, or ever even heard his name mentioned?
The water changed into wine at the marriage of Cana, according to him, excites the laughter and contempt of all who are not imbruted by superstition.
“What!” says he, “John expressly says that the guests were already intoxicated, ‘methus tosi’; and God comes down to earth and performs His first miracle to enable them to drink still more!”
God, made man, commences His mission by assisting at a village wedding. “Whether Jesus and His mother were drunk, as were others of the company, is not certain. The familiarity of the lady with a soldier leads to the presumption that she was fond of her bottle; that her Son, however, was somewhat affected by the wine, appears from His answering His mother so ‘waspishly and snappishly’ as He did, when He said, ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ It may be inferred from these words that Mary was not a virgin, and that Jesus was not her son; had it been otherwise, He would not have thus insulted His father and mother in violation of one of the most sacred commandments of the law. However, He complied with His mother’s request; He fills eighteen jars with water, and makes punch of it.” These are the very words of Thomas Woolston, and must fill every Christian soul with indignation.
It is with regret, and even with trembling, that I quote these passages; but there have been sixty thousand copies of this work printed, all bearing the name of the author, and all publicly sold at his house. It can never be said that I calumniate him.
It is to the dead raised again by Jesus Christ that he principally directs his attention. He contends that a dead man restored to life would have been an object of attention and astonishment to the universe; that all the Jewish magistracy, and more especially Pilate, would have made the most minute investigations and obtained the most authentic depositions; that Tiberius enjoined all proconsuls, prætors, and governors of provinces to inform him with exactness of every event that took place; that Lazarus, who had been dead four whole days, would have been most strictly interrogated; and that no little curiosity would have been excited to know what had become, during that time, of his soul.
With what eager interest would Tiberius and the whole Roman senate have questioned him, and not indeed only him, but the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow of Nain? Three dead persons restored to life would have been three attestations to the divinity of Jesus, which almost in a single moment would have made the whole world Christian. But instead of all this, the whole world, for more than two hundred years, knew nothing about these resplendent and decisive evidences. It is not till a hundred years have rolled away from the date of the events that some obscure individuals show one another the writings that contain the relation of those miracles. Eighty-nine emperors reckoning those who had only the name of “tyrants,” never hear the slightest mention of these resurrections, although they must inevitably have held all nature in amazement. Neither the Jewish historian Josephus, nor the learned Philo, nor any Greek or Roman historian at all notices these prodigies. In short, Woolston has the imprudence to say that the history of Lazarus is so brimful of absurdities that St. John, when he wrote it, had outlived his senses.
Supposing, says Woolston, that God should in our own times send an ambassador to London to convert the hireling clergy, and that ambassador should raise the dead, what would the clergy say?
He blasphemes the incarnation, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus Christ, just upon the same system; and he calls these miracles: “The most manifest and the most barefaced imposture that ever was put upon the world!”
What is perhaps more singular still is that each of his discourses is dedicated to a bishop. His dedications are certainly not exactly in the French style. He bestows no flattery nor compliments. He upbraids them with their pride and avarice, their ambition and faction, and smiles with triumph at the thought of their being now, like every other class of citizens, in complete subjection to the laws of the state.
At last these bishops, tired of being insulted by an undignified member of the University of Cambridge, determined upon a formal appeal to the laws. They instituted a prosecution against Woolston in the King’s Bench, and he was tried before Chief-Justice Raymond, in 1729, when he was imprisoned, condemned to pay a fine, and obliged to give security to the amount of a hundred and fifty pounds sterling. His friends furnished him with the security, and he did not in fact die in prison, as in some of our careless and ill-compiled dictionaries he is stated to have done. He died at his own house in London, after having uttered these words: “This is a pass that every man must come to.” Some time before his death, a female zealot meeting him in the street was gross enough to spit in his face; he calmly wiped his face and bowed to her. His manners were mild and pleasing. He was obstinately infatuated with the mystical meaning, and blasphemed the literal one; but let us hope that he repented on his death-bed, and that God has showed him mercy.
About the same period there appeared in France the will of John Meslier, clergyman (curé) of But and Entrepigni, in Champagne, of whom we have already spoken, under the article on “Contradictions.”
It was both a wonderful and a melancholy spectacle to see two priests at the same time writing against the Christian religion. Meslier is still more violent than Woolston. He ventures to treat the devil’s carrying off our Lord to the top of a mountain, the marriage of Cana, and the loaves and fishes, as absurd tales, injurious to the Supreme Being, which for three hundred years were unknown to the whole Roman Empire, and at last advanced from the dregs of the community to the throne of the emperors, when policy compelled them to adopt the nonsense of the people, in order to keep them the better in subjection. The declamations of the English priest do not approach in vehemence those of the priest of Champagne. Woolston occasionally showed discretion. Meslier never has any; he is a man so sensitively sore to the crimes to which he has been witness that he renders the Christian religion responsible for them, forgetting that it condemns them. There is not a single miracle which is not with him an object of scorn or horror; no prophecy which he does not compare with the prophecies of Nostradamus. He even goes so far as to compare Jesus Christ to Don Quixote, and St. Peter to Sancho Panza; and what is most of all to be deplored is, that he wrote these blasphemies against Jesus Christ, when he might be said to be in the very arms of death—at a moment when the most deceitful are sincere, and the most intrepid tremble. Too strongly impressed by some injuries that had been done him by his superiors in authority; too deeply affected by the great difficulties which he met with in the Scripture, he became exasperated against it more than Acosta and all the Jews; more than Porphyry, Celsus, Iamblichus, Julian, Libanius, Maximus, Simmachus, or any other whatever of the partisans of human reason against the divine incomprehensibilities of our religion. Many abridgments of his work have been printed; but happily the persons in authority suppressed them as fast as they appeared.
A priest of Bonne-Nouvelle, near Paris, wrote also on the same subject; and it thus happened that at the very time the abbé Becheran and the rest of the Convulsionaries were performing miracles, three priests were writing against the genuine Gospel miracles.
The most clever work that has been written against the miracles and prophecies is that of my Lord Bolingbroke. But happily it is so voluminous, so destitute of method, so verbose, and so abounding in long and sometimes complicated sentences, that it requires a great deal of patience to read him.
There have been some minds so constituted that they have been enchanted by the miracles of Moses and Joshua, but have not entertained for those of Jesus Christ the respect to which they are entitled. Their imagination—raised by the grand spectacle of the sea opening a passage through its depths, and suspending its waves that a horde of Hebrews might safely go through; by the ten plagues of Egypt, and by the stars that stopped in their course over Gibeon and Ajalon, etc.—could not with ease and satisfaction be let down again, so as to admire the comparatively petty miracles of the water changed into wine, the withered fig-tree, and the swine drowned in the little lake of Gadara. Vaghenseil said that it was like hearing a rustic ditty after attending a grand concert.
The Talmud pretends that there have been many Christians who, after comparing the miracles of the Old Testament with those of the New Testament, embraced Judaism; they consider it impossible that the Sovereign Lord of Nature should have wrought such stupendous prodigies for a religion He intended to annihilate. What! they exclaim, can it possibly be, that for a series of ages He should have exhibited a train of astonishing and tremendous miracles in favor of a true religion that was to become a false one? What! can it be that God Himself has recorded that this religion shall never perish, and that those who attempt to destroy it shall be stoned to death, and yet that He has nevertheless sent His own Son, Who is no other than Himself, to annihilate what He was employed so many ages in erecting?
There is much more to be added to these remarks; this Son, they continue, this Eternal God, having made Himself a Jew, adheres to the Jewish religion during the whole of His life; He performs all the functions of it, He frequents the Jewish temple, He announces nothing contrary to the Jewish law, and all His disciples are Jews and observe the Jewish ceremonies. It most certainly is not He who established the Christian religion. It was established by the dissident Jews who united with the Platonists. There is not a single dogma of Christianity that was preached by Jesus Christ.
Such is the reasoning of these rash men, who, with minds at once hypocritical and audacious, dare to criticise the works of God, and admit the miracles of the Old Testament for the sole purpose of rejecting those of the New Testament.
Of this number was the unfortunate priest of Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine, called Nicholas Anthony; he was known by no other name. After he had received what is called “the four minors” in Lorraine, the Calvinistic preacher Ferri, happening to go to Pont-à-Mousson, raised in his mind very serious scruples, and persuaded him that the four minors were the mark of the beast. Anthony, driven almost to distraction by the thought of carrying about him the mark of the beast, had it immediately effaced by Ferri, embraced the Protestant religion, and became a minister at Geneva about the year 1630.
With a head full of rabbinical learning, he thought that if the Protestants were right in reference to the Papists, the Jews were much more so in reference to all the different sects of Christianity whatever. From the village of Divonne, where he was pastor, he went to be received as a Jew at Venice, together with a young apprentice in theology whom he had persuaded to adopt his own principles, but who afterwards abandoned him, not experiencing any call to martyrdom.
At first the minister, Nicholas Anthony, abstained from uttering the name of Jesus Christ in his sermons and prayers; in a short time, however, becoming animated and emboldened by the example of the Jewish saints, who confidently professed Judaism before the princes of Tyre and Babylon, he travelled barefooted to Geneva, to confess before the judges and magistrates that there is only one religion upon earth, because there is only one God; that that religion is the Jewish; that it is absolutely necessary to become circumcised; and that it is a horrible crime to eat bacon and blood pudding. He pathetically exhorted all the people of Geneva, who crowded to hear him, no longer to continue children of Belial, but to become good Jews, in order to deserve the kingdom of heaven. He was apprehended, and put in chains.
The little Council of Geneva, which at that period did nothing without consulting the council of preachers, asked their advice in this emergency. The most sensible of them recommended that poor Anthony should be bled in the cephalic vein, use the bath, and be kept upon gruel and broths; after which he might perhaps gradually be induced to pronounce the name of Jesus Christ, or at least to hear it pronounced, without grinding his teeth, as had hitherto been his practice. They added, that the laws bore with Jews; that there were eight thousand of them even in Rome itself; that many merchants are true Jews, and therefore that as Rome admitted within its walls eight thousand children of the synagogue, Geneva might well tolerate one. At the sound of “toleration” the rest of the pastors, who were the majority, gnashing their teeth still more than Anthony did at the name of Jesus Christ, and also eager to find an opportunity to burn a man, which could not be done every day, called peremptorily for the burning. They resolved that nothing could serve more to establish genuine Christianity; that the Spaniards had obtained so much reputation in the world only by burning the Jews every year, and that after all, if the Old Testament must prevail over the New Testament, God would not fail to come and extinguish the flames of the pile, as he did at Babylon for Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego; in which case all must go back again to the Old Testament; but that, in the meantime, it was indispensable to burn Nicholas Anthony. On the breaking up of the meeting, they concluded with the observation: “We must put the wicked out of the way”—the very words they used.
The long-headed syndics, Sarasin and Godefroi, agreed that the reasoning of the Calvinistic sanhedrim was admirable, and by the right of the strongest party, condemned Nicholas Anthony, the weakest of men, to die the same death as Calanus and the counsellor Dubourg. This sentence was carried into execution on April 20, 1632, in a very beautiful lawn or meadow, called Plain-Palais, in the presence of twenty thousand persons, who blessed the new law, and the wonderful sense of the syndics Sarasin and Godefroi.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not renew the miracle of the furnace of Babylon in favor of poor Anthony.
Abauzit, an author of great veracity, relates in his notes, that he died in the greatest constancy, and persisted in his opinions even at the stake on the pile; he broke out into no passionate invective against his judges when the executioner was tying him to the stake; he displayed neither pride nor pusillanimity; he neither wept nor sighed; he was resigned. Never did martyr consummate his sacrifice with a more lively faith; never did philosopher contemplate a death of horror with greater firmness. This clearly proves that his folly or madness was at all events attended with sincere conviction. Let us implore of the God of both the Old and the New Testaments that he will grant him mercy.
I would say as much for the Jesuit Malagrida, who was still more infatuated and mad than Nicholas Anthony; as I would also for the ex-Jesuits Patouillet and Paulian, should they ever be brought to the stake.
A great number of writers, whose misfortune it was to be philosophers rather than Christians, have been bold enough to deny the miracles of our Lord; but after the four priests already noticed, there is no necessity to enumerate other instances. Let us lament over these four unfortunate men, led astray by their own deceitful reason, and precipitated by the gloom of their feelings into an abyss so dreadful and so fatal.
It is far from our object in this article to reflect upon the zeal of our missionaries, or the truth of our religion; these are sufficiently known in Christian Europe, and duly respected.
My object is merely to make some remarks on the very curious and edifying letters of the reverend fathers, the Jesuits, who are not equally respectable. Scarcely do they arrive in India before they commence preaching, convert millions of Indians, and perform millions of miracles. Far be it from me to contradict their assertions. We all know how easy it must be for a Biscayan, a Bergamask, or a Norman to learn the Indian language in a few days, and preach like an Indian.
With regard to miracles, nothing is more easy than to perform them at a distance of six thousand leagues, since so many have been performed at Paris, in the parish of St. Médard. The sufficing grace of the Molinists could undoubtedly operate on the banks of the Ganges, as well as the efficacious grace of the Jansenists on those of the river of the Gobelins. We have, however, said so much already about miracles that we shall pursue the subject no further.
A reverend father Jesuit arrived in the course of the past year at Delhi, at the court of the great Mogul. He was not a man profoundly skilled in mathematics, or highly gifted in mind, who had come to correct the calendar, or to establish his fortune, but one of those poor, honest, zealous Jesuits, one of those soldiers who are despatched on particular duty by their general, and who obey orders without reasoning about them.
M. Andrais, my factor, asked him what his business might be at Delhi. He replied that he had orders from the reverend father Ricci to deliver the Great Mogul from the paws of the devil, and convert his whole court.
I have already baptized twenty infants in the street, without their knowing anything at all about the matter, by throwing a few drops of water upon their heads. They are now just so many angels, provided they are happy enough to die directly. I cured a poor old woman of the megrims by making the sign of the cross behind her. I hope in a short time to convert the Mahometans of the court and the Gentoos among the people. You will see in Delhi, Agra, and Benares, as many good Catholics, adorers of the Virgin Mary, as you now do idolaters, adoring the devil.)
Undoubtedly, as they are not of my religion.)
You make one pause for a moment; but nothing could happen better than that which you suggest as being so probable. The slaughtered Catholics would go to paradise—to the garden—and the Gentoos to the everlasting fire of hell created for them from all eternity, according to the great mercy of God, and for His great glory; for God is exceedingly glorious.)
But suppose that you should be informed against, and punished at the whipping post?
That would also be for His glory. However, I conjure you to keep my secret, and save me from the honor and happiness of martyrdom.