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Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. IV (Philosophical Dictionary Part 2) [1764]

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Voltaire, 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. IV.

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About this Title:

Volume 2 of the Philosophical Dictionary with entries from “Cannibals” to the “Falsity of Human Virtues.” The Philosophical Dictionary first appeared in 1764 in a “pocket edition” designed to be carried about one’s person. It consists of a series of short essays on a variety of topics all of which are tied together as examples of Voltaire’s withering criticism of “the infamous thing” - examples of tyranny and persecution by a privileged orthodoxy in Church and State of those individuals who disagree.

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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.

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College of Du Page Instructional Resources Center Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Presented by Mr. & Mrs. Henry A. Diekmann

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Voltaire’s Reception
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A CRITIQVE & BIOGRAPHY BY The Rt. HON•JOHN MORLEY Notes by Tobias Smollet Revised and Modernized New Translations by William F•Fleming and an Introduction by •Oliver H•G•Leigh•
One hvndred & sixty-eight designs, comprising reprodvctions of rare old engravings, steel plates, photogravures & curious fac-similes.
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Copyright, 1901, By E. R. DuMont

Owned by The St. Hubert Guild New York

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Voltaire’s Reception of Madame D’Épinay at Les Délices Frontispiece
The Death of Coligny 78
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We have spoken of love. It is hard to pass from people kissing to people eating one another. It is, however, but too true that there have been cannibals. We have found them in America; they are, perhaps, still to be found; and the Cyclops were not the only individuals in antiquity who sometimes fed on human flesh. Juvenal relates that among the Egyptians—that wise people, so renowned for their laws—those pious worshippers of crocodiles and onions—the Tentyrites ate one of their enemies who had fallen into their hands. He does not tell this tale on hearsay; the crime was committed almost before his eyes; he was then in Egypt, and not far from Tentyra. On this occasion he quotes the Gascons and the Saguntines, who formerly fed on the flesh of their countrymen.

In 1725 four savages were brought from the Mississippi to Fontainebleau, with whom I had the honor of conversing. There was among them a lady of the country, whom I asked if she had eaten men; she answered, with great simplicity that she had. I appeared somewhat scandalized; on which she excused Edition: current; Page: [6] herself by saying that it was better to eat one’s dead enemy than to leave him to be devoured by wild beasts, and that the conquerors deserved to have the preference. We kill our neighbors in battles, or skirmishes; and, for the meanest consideration, provide meals for the crows and the worms. There is the horror; there is the crime. What matters it, when a man is dead, whether he is eaten by a soldier, or by a dog and a crow?

We have more respect for the dead than for the living. It would be better to respect both the one and the other. The nations called polished have done right in not putting their vanquished enemies on the spit; for if we were allowed to eat our neighbors, we should soon eat our countrymen, which would be rather unfortunate for the social virtues. But polished nations have not always been so; they were all for a long time savage; and, in the infinite number of revolutions which this globe has undergone, mankind have been sometimes numerous and sometimes scarce. It has been with human beings as it now is with elephants, lions, or tigers, the race of which has very much decreased. In times when a country was but thinly inhabited by men, they had few arts; they were hunters. The custom of eating what they had killed easily led them to treat their enemies like their stags and their boars. It was superstition that caused human victims to be immolated; it was necessity that caused them to be eaten.

Which is the greater crime—to assemble piously Edition: current; Page: [7] together to plunge a knife into the heart of a girl adorned with fillets, or to eat a worthless man who has been killed in our own defence?

Yet we have many more instances of girls and boys sacrificed than of girls and boys eaten. Almost every nation of which we know anything has sacrificed boys and girls. The Jews immolated them. This was called the Anathema; it was a real sacrifice; and in Leviticus it is ordained that the living souls which shall be devoted shall not be spared; but it is not in any manner prescribed that they shall be eaten; this is only threatened. Moses tells the Jews that unless they observe his ceremonies they shall not only have the itch, but the mothers shall eat their children. It is true that in the time of Ezekiel the Jews must have been accustomed to eat human flesh; for, in his thirty-ninth chapter, he foretells to them that God will cause them to eat, not only the horses of their enemies, but moreover the horsemen and the rest of the warriors. And, indeed, why should not the Jews have been cannibals? It was the only thing wanting to make the people of God the most abominable people upon earth.


In the essay on the “Manners and Spirit of Nations” we read the following singular passage: “Herrera assures us that the Mexicans ate the human victims whom they immolated. Most of the first travellers and missionaries say that the Brazilians, the Caribbees, the Iroquois, the Hurons, and some Edition: current; Page: [8] other tribes, ate their captives taken in war; and they do not consider this as the practice of some individuals alone, but as a national usage. So many writers, ancient and modern, have spoken of cannibals, that it is difficult to deny their existence. A hunting people, like the Brazilians or the Canadians, not always having a certain subsistence, may sometimes become cannibals. Famine and revenge accustomed them to this kind of food; and while in the most civilized ages we see the people of Paris devouring the bleeding remains of Marshal d’Ancre, and the people of The Hague eating the heart of the grand pensionary, De Witt, we ought not to be surprised that a momentary outrage among us has been continual among savages.

“The most ancient books we have leave no room to doubt that hunger has driven men to this excess. The prophet Ezekiel, according to some commentators, promises to the Hebrews from God that if they defend themselves well against the king of Persia, they shall eat of ‘the flesh of horses and of mighty men.’

“Marco Polo says that in his time in a part of Tartary the magicians or priests—it was the same thing—had the privilege of eating the flesh of criminals condemned to death. All this is shocking to the feelings; but the picture of humanity must often have the same effect.

“How can it have been that nations constantly separated from one another have united in so horrible Edition: current; Page: [9] a custom? Must we believe that it is not so absolutely opposed to human nature as it appears to be? It is certain that it has been rare, but it is equally certain that it has existed. It is not known that the Tartars and the Jews often ate their fellow creatures. During the sieges of Sancerre and Paris, in our religious wars, hunger and despair compelled mothers to feed on the flesh of their children. The charitable Las Casas, bishop of Chiapa, says that this horror was committed in America, only by some nations among whom he had not travelled. Dampierre assures us that he never met with cannibals; and at this day there are not, perhaps, any tribes which retain this horrible custom.”

Americus Vespucius says in one of his letters that the Brazilians were much astonished when he made them understand that for a long time the Europeans had not eaten their prisoners of war.

According to Juvenal’s fifteenth satire, the Gascons and the Spaniards had been guilty of this barbarity. He himself witnessed a similar abomination in Egypt during the consulate of Junius. A quarrel happening between the inhabitants of Tentyra and those of Ombi, they fought; and an Ombian having fallen into the hands of the Tentyrians, they had him cooked, and ate him, all but the bare bones. But he does not say that this was the usual custom; on the contrary, he speaks of it as an act of more than ordinary fury.

The Jesuit Charlevoix, whom I knew very well, Edition: current; Page: [10] and who was a man of great veracity, gives us clearly to understand in his “History of Canada,” in which country he resided thirty years, that all the nations of northern America were cannibals; since he remarks, as a thing very extraordinary, that in 1711 the Acadians did not eat men.

The Jesuit Brebeuf relates that in 1640 the first Iroquois that was converted, having unfortunately got drunk with brandy, was taken by the Hurons, then at war with the Iroquois. The prisoner, baptized by Father Brebeuf by the name of Joseph, was condemned to death. He was put to a thousand tortures, which he endured, singing all the while, according to the custom of his country. They finished by cutting off a foot, a hand, and lastly his head; after which the Hurons put all the members into a cauldron, each one partook of them, and a piece was offered to Father Brebeuf.

Charlevoix speaks in another place of twenty-two Hurons eaten by the Iroquois. It cannot, then, be doubted, that in more countries than one, human nature has reached this last pitch of horror; and this execrable custom must be of the highest antiquity; for we see in the Holy Scriptures that the Jews were threatened with eating their children if they did not obey their laws. The Jews are told not only that they shall have the itch, and that their wives shall give themselves up to others, but also that they shall eat their sons and daughters in anguish and devastation; that they shall contend with one another for Edition: current; Page: [11] the eating of their children; and that the husband will not give to his wife a morsel of her son, because, he will say, he has hardly enough for himself.

Some very bold critics do indeed assert that the Book of Deuteronomy was not composed until after the siege of Samaria by Benhadad, during which, it is said in the Second Book of Kings, that mothers ate their children. But these critics, in considering Deuteronomy as a book written after the siege of Samaria, do but verify this terrible occurrence. Others assert that it could not happen as it is related in the Second Book of Kings. It is there said: “And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall [of Samaria], there cried a woman unto him, saying, ‘Help, my lord, O king.’ And he said, ‘If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barn floor? or out of the wine-press?’ And the king said unto her, ‘What aileth thee?’ And she answered, ‘This woman said unto me, give thy son, that we may eat him to-day, and we shall eat my son to-morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him; and I said unto her on the next day, ‘Give thy son, that we may eat him,’ and she hath hid her son.’ ”

These censors assert that it is not likely that while King Benhadad was besieging Samaria, King Joram passed quietly by the wall, or upon the wall, to settle differences between Samaritan women. It is still less likely that one child should not have satisfied two women for two days. There must have been enough to feed them for four days at least. But let Edition: current; Page: [12] these critics reason as they may, we must believe that fathers and mothers ate their children during the siege of Samaria, since it is expressly foretold in Deuteronomy. The same thing happened at the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar; and this, too, was foretold by Ezekiel.

Jeremiah exclaims, in his “Lamentations”: “Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long?” And in another place: “The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children.” Here may be added the words of Baruch: “Man has eaten the flesh of his son and of his daughter.”

This horror is repeated so often that it cannot but be true. Lastly, we know the story related in Josephus, of the woman who fed on the flesh of her son when Titus was besieging Jerusalem. The book attributed to Enoch, cited by St. Jude, says that the giants born from the commerce of the angels with the daughters of men were the first cannibals.

In the eighth homily attributed to St. Clement, St. Peter, who is made to speak in it, says that these same giants quenched their thirst with human blood and ate the flesh of their fellow creatures. Hence resulted, adds the author, maladies until then unknown; monsters of all kinds sprung up on the earth; and then it was that God resolved to drown all human kind. All this shows us how universal was the reigning opinion of the existence of cannibals.

What St. Peter is made to say in St. Clement’s homily has a palpable affinity with the story of Edition: current; Page: [13] Lycaon, one of the oldest of Greek fables, and which we find in the first book of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”

The “Relations of the Indies and China,” written in the eighth century by two Arabs, and translated by the Abbé Renaudot, is not a book to which implicit credit should be attached; far from it; but we must not reject all these two travellers say, especially when their testimony is corroborated by that of other authors who have merited some belief. They tell us that there are in the Indian Sea islands peopled with blacks who ate men; they call these islands Ramni.

Marco Polo, who had not read the works of these two Arabs, says the same thing four hundred years after them. Archbishop Navarette, who was afterwards a voyager in the same seas, confirms this account: “Los Europeos que cogen, es constante que vivos se los van comiendo.”

Texeira asserts that the people of Java ate human flesh, which abominable custom they had not left off more than two hundred years before his time. He adds that they did not learn milder manners until they embraced Mahometanism.

The same thing has been said of the people of Pegu, of the Kaffirs, and of several other African nations. Marco Polo, whom we have just now cited, says that in some Tartar hordes, when a criminal had been condemned to death they made a meal of him: “Hanno costoro un bestiale e orribile costume, che Edition: current; Page: [14] quando alcuno e guidicato a morte, lo tolgono, e cuocono, e mangian’ selo.”

What is more extraordinary and incredible is that the two Arabs attributed to the Chinese what Marco Polo says of some of the Tartars: that, “in general, the Chinese eat all who have been killed.” This abomination is so repugnant to Chinese manners, that it cannot be believed. Father Parennin has refuted it by saying that it is unworthy of refutation.

It must, however, be observed that the eighth century, the time when these Arabs wrote their travels, was one of those most disastrous to the Chinese. Two hundred thousand Tartars passed the great wall, plundered Pekin, and everywhere spread the most horrible desolation. It is very likely that there was then a great famine, for China was as populous as it is now; and some poor creatures among the lowest of the people might eat dead bodies. What interest could these Arabians have in inventing so disgusting a fable? Perhaps they, like most other travellers, took a particular instance for a national custom.

Not to go so far for examples, we have one in our own country, in the very province in which I write; it is attested by our conqueror, our master, Julius Cæsar. He was besieging Alexia, in the Auxois. The besieged being resolved to defend themselves to the last extremity, and wanting provisions, a great council was assembled, in which one of the chiefs, named Critognatus, proposed that the children should be eaten one after another to sustain the strength of Edition: current; Page: [15] the combatants. His proposal was carried by a majority of voices. Nor is this all; Critognatus in his harangue tells them that their ancestors had had recourse to the same kind of sustenance in the war with the Cimbri and Teutones.

We will conclude with the testimony of Montaigne. Speaking of what was told him by the companions of Villegagnon, returned from Brazil, and of what he had seen in France, he certifies that the Brazilians ate their enemies killed in war, but mark what follows: “Is it more barbarous to eat a man when dead than to have him roasted by a slow fire, or torn to pieces by dogs and swine, as is yet fresh in our memories—and that not between ancient enemies, but among neighbors and fellow-citizens—and, which is worse, on pretence of piety and religion?” What a question for a philosopher like Montaigne! Then, if Anacreon and Tibullus had been Iroquois, they would have eaten men! Alas! alas!


Well; two Englishmen have sailed round the world. They have discovered that New Holland is an island larger than Europe, and that men still eat one another there, as in New Zealand. Whence come this race? supposing that they exist. Are they descended from the ancient Egyptians, from the ancient people of Ethiopia, from the Africans, from the Indians—or from the vultures, or the wolves? What a contrast between Marcus Aurelius, or Epictetus, and the cannibals of New Zealand! Yet they have Edition: current; Page: [16] the same organs, they are alike human beings. We have already treated on this property of the human race; it may not be amiss to add another paragraph.

The following are St. Jerome’s own words in one of his letters: “Quid loquar de cæteris nationibus, quum ipse adolescentulus in Gallia viderim Scotos, gentem Britannicam, humanis vesci carnibus, et quum per silvas porcorum greges pecudumque reperiant, tamen pastorum nates et fæminarum papillas solere abscindere et has solas ciborum delicias arbitrari?”—“What shall I say of other nations; when I myself, when young, have seen Scotchmen in Gaul, who, though they might have fed on swine and other animals of the forest, chose rather to cut off the posteriors of the youths and the breasts of the young women, and considered them as the most delicious food.”

Pelloutier, who sought for everything that might do honor to the Celts, took the pains to contradict Jerome, and to maintain that his credulity had been imposed on. But Jerome speaks very gravely, and of what he saw. We may, with deference, dispute with a father of the church about what he has heard; but to doubt of what he has seen is going very far. After all, the safest way is to doubt of everything, even of what we have seen ourselves.

One word more on cannibalism. In a book which has had considerable success among the well-disposed we find the following, or words to the same effect: “In Cromwell’s time a woman who kept a Edition: current; Page: [17] tallow chandler’s shop in Dublin sold excellent candles, made of the fat of Englishmen. After some time one of her customers complained that the candles were not so good. ‘Sir,’ said the woman, ‘it is because we are short of Englishmen.’ ”

I ask which were the most guilty—those who assassinated the English, or the poor woman who made candles of their fat? And further, I ask which was the greatest crime—to have Englishmen cooked for dinner, or to use their tallow to give light at supper? It appears to me that the great evil is the being killed; it matters little to us whether, after death, we are roasted on the spit or are made into candles. Indeed, no well-disposed man can be unwilling to be useful when he is dead.


There is not an ancient fable, not an old absurdity which some simpleton will not revive, and that in a magisterial tone, if it be but authorized by some classical or theological writer.

Lycophron (if I remember rightly) relates that a horde of robbers who had been justly condemned in Ethiopia by King Actisanes to lose their ears and noses, fled to the cataracts of the Nile and from thence penetrated into the Sandy Desert, where they at length built the temple of Jupiter Ammon.

Lycophron, and after him Theopompus, tells us that these banditti, reduced to extreme want, having neither shoes, nor clothes, nor utensils, nor bread, Edition: current; Page: [18] bethought themselves of raising a statue of gold to an Egyptian god. This statue was ordered one evening and made in the course of the night. A member of the university much attached to Lycophron and the Ethiopian robbers asserts that nothing was more common in the venerable ages of antiquity than to cast a statue of gold in one night, and afterwards throw it into a fire to reduce it to an impalpable powder, in order to be swallowed by a whole people.

But where did these poor devils, without breeches, find so much gold? “What, sir!” says the man of learning, “do you forget that they had stolen enough to buy all Africa and that their daughters’ ear-rings alone were worth nine millions five hundred thousand livres of our currency?”

Be it so. But for casting a statue a little preparation is necessary. M. Le Moine employed nearly two years in casting that of Louis XV. “Oh! but this Jupiter Ammon was at most but three feet high. Go to any pewterer; will he not make you half a dozen plates in a day?”

Sir, a statue of Jupiter is harder to make than pewter plates, and I even doubt whether your thieves had wherewith to make plates so quickly, clever as they might be at pilfering. It is not very likely that they had the necessary apparatus; they had more need to provide themselves with meal. I respect Lycophron much, but this profound Greek and his yet more profound commentators know so little of the arts—they are so learned in all that is useless, and so Edition: current; Page: [19] ignorant in all that concerns the necessaries and conveniences of life, professions, trades, and daily occupations that we will take this opportunity of informing them how a metal figure is cast. This is an operation which they will find neither in Lycophron, nor in Manetho, nor even in St. Thomas’s dream.

I omit many other preparations which the encyclopædists, especially M. Diderot, have explained much better than I could do, in the work which must immortalize their glory as well as all the arts. But to form a clear idea of the process of this art the artist must be seen at work. No one can ever learn in a book to weave stockings, nor to polish diamonds, nor to work tapestry. Arts and trades are learned only by example and practice.


The ingenious La Motte says of Cato, in one of his philosophical rather than poetical odes:

  • Caton, d’une âme plus égale,
  • Sous l’heureux vainqueur de Pharsale,
  • Eût souffert que Rome pliât;
  • Mais, incapable de se rendre,
  • Il n’eut pas la force d’attendre
  • Un pardon qui l’humiliât.
  • Stern Cato, with more equal soul,
  • Had bowed to Cæsar’s wide control—
  • With Rome had to the conqueror bowed—
  • But that his spirit, rough and proud,
  • Had not the courage to await
  • A pardoned foe’s too humbling fate.

It was, I believe, because Cato’s soul was always Edition: current; Page: [20] equal, and retained to the last its love for his country and her laws that he chose rather to perish with her than to crouch to the tyrant. He died as he had lived. Incapable of surrendering! And to whom? To the enemy of Rome—to the man who had forcibly robbed the public treasury in order to make war upon his fellow-citizens and enslave them by means of their own money. A pardoned foe! It seems as if La Motte-Houdart were speaking of some revolted subject who might have obtained his majesty’s pardon by letters in chancery.

It seems rather absurd to say that Cato slew himself through weakness. None but a strong mind can thus surmount the most powerful instinct of nature. This strength is sometimes that of frenzy, but a frantic man is not weak.

Suicide is forbidden amongst us by the canon law. But the decretals, which form the jurisprudence of a part of Europe, were unknown to Cato, to Brutus, to Cassius, to the sublime Arria, to the Emperor Otho, to Mark Antony, and the rest of the heroes of true Rome, who preferred a voluntary death to a life which they believed to be ignominious.

We, too, kill ourselves, but it is when we have lost our money, or in the very rare excess of foolish passion for an unworthy object. I have known women kill themselves for the most stupid men imaginable. And sometimes we kill ourselves when we are in bad health, which action is a real weakness.

Disgust with our own existence, weariness of ourselves Edition: current; Page: [21] is a malady which is likewise a cause of suicide. The remedy is a little exercise, music, hunting, the play, or an agreeable woman. The man who, in a fit of melancholy, kills himself to-day, would have wished to live had he waited a week.

I was almost an eye-witness of a suicide which deserves the attention of all cultivators of physical science. A man of a serious profession, of mature age, of regular conduct, without passions, and above indigence, killed himself on Oct. 17, 1769, and left to the town council of the place where he was born, a written apology for his voluntary death, which it was thought proper not to publish lest it should encourage men to quit a life of which so much ill is said. Thus far there is nothing extraordinary; such instances are almost every day to be met with. The astonishing part of the story is this:

His brother and his father had each killed himself at the same age. What secret disposition of organs, what sympathy, what concurrence of physical laws, occasions a father and his two sons to perish by their own hands, and by the same kind of death, precisely when they have attained such a year? Is it a disease which unfolds itself successively in the different members of a family—as we often see fathers and children die of smallpox, consumption, or any other complaint? Three or four generations have become deaf or blind, gouty or scorbutic, at a predetermined period.

Physical organization, of which moral is the offspring, Edition: current; Page: [22] transmits the same character from father to son through a succession of ages. The Appii were always haughty and inflexible, the Catos always severe. The whole line of the Guises were bold, rash, factious; compounded of the most insolent pride, and the most seductive politeness. From Francis de Guise to him who alone and in silence went and put himself at the head of the people of Naples, they were all, in figure, in courage, and in turn of mind, above ordinary men. I have seen whole length portraits of Francis de Guise, of the Balafré, and of his son: they are all six feet high, with the same features, the same courage and boldness in the forehead, the eye, and the attitude.

This continuity, this series of beings alike is still more observable in animals, and if as much care were taken to perpetuate fine races of men as some nations still take to prevent the mixing of the breeds of their horses and hounds the genealogy would be written in the countenance and displayed in the manners. There have been races of crooked and of six-fingered people, as we see red-haired, thick-lipped, long-nosed, and flat-nosed races.

But that nature should so dispose the organs of a whole race that at a certain age each individual of that family will have a passion for self-destruction—this is a problem which all the sagacity of the most attentive anatomists cannot resolve. The effect is certainly all physical, but it belongs to occult physics. Indeed, what principle is not occult?

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We are not informed, nor is it likely that in the time of Cæsar and the emperors the inhabitants of Great Britain killed themselves as deliberately as they now do, when they have the vapors which they denominate the spleen.

On the other hand, the Romans, who never had the spleen, did not hesitate to put themselves to death. They reasoned, they were philosophers, and the people of the island of Britain were not so. Now, English citizens are philosophers and Roman citizens are nothing. The Englishman quits this life proudly and disdainfully when the whim takes him, but the Roman must have an indulgentia in articulo mortis; he can neither live nor die.

Sir William Temple says that a man should depart when he has no longer any pleasure in remaining. So died Atticus. Young women who hang and drown themselves for love should then listen to the voice of hope, for changes are as frequent in love as in other affairs.

An almost infallible means of saving yourself from the desire of self-destruction is always to have something to do. Creech, the commentator on Lucretius, marked upon his manuscripts: “N. B. Must hang myself when I have finished.” He kept his word with himself that he might have the pleasure of ending like his author. If he had undertaken a commentary upon Ovid he would have lived longer.

Why have we fewer suicides in the country than in the towns? Because in the fields only the body Edition: current; Page: [24] suffers; in the town it is the mind. The laborer has not time to be melancholy; none kill themselves but the idle—they who, in the eyes of the multitude, are so happy.

I shall here relate some suicides that have happened in my own time, several of which have already been published in other works. The dead may be made useful to the living:

A Brief Account of Some Singular Suicides.

Philip Mordaunt, cousin-german to the celebrated earl of Peterborough—so well known in all the European courts, and who boasted of having seen more postillions and kings than any other man—was a young man of twenty-seven, handsome, well made, rich, of noble blood, with the highest pretensions, and, which was more than all, adored by his mistress, yet Mordaunt was seized with a disgust for life. He paid his debts, wrote to his friends, and even made some verses on the occasion. He dispatched himself with a pistol without having given any other reason than that his soul was tired of his body and that when we are dissatisfied with our abode we ought to quit it. It seemed that he wished to die because he was disgusted with his good fortune.

In 1726 Richard Smith exhibited a strange spectacle to the world from a very different cause. Richard Smith was disgusted with real misfortune. He had been rich, and he was poor; he had been in Edition: current; Page: [25] health, and he was infirm; he had a wife with whom he had naught but his misery to share; their only remaining property was a child in the cradle. Richard Smith and Bridget Smith, with common consent, having embraced each other tenderly and given their infant the last kiss began with killing the poor child, after which they hanged themselves to the posts of their bed.

I do not know any other act of cold-blooded horror so striking as this. But the letter which these unfortunate persons wrote to their cousin, Mr. Brindley, before their death, is as singular as their death itself. “We believe,” say they, “that God will forgive us. . . . . We quit this life because we are miserable—without resource, and we have done our only son the service of killing him, lest he should become as unfortunate as ourselves. . . . .” It must be observed that these people, after killing their son through parental tenderness, wrote to recommend their dog and cat to the care of a friend. It seems they thought it easier to make a cat and dog happy in this life than a child, and they would not be a burden to their friends.

Lord Scarborough quitted this life in 1727, with the same coolness as he had quitted his office of Master of the Horse. He was reproached, in the House of Peers, with taking the king’s part because he had a good place at court. “My lords,” said he, “to prove to you that my opinion is independent of my place, I resign it this moment.” He afterwards found himself Edition: current; Page: [26] in a perplexing dilemma between a mistress whom he loved, but to whom he had promised nothing, and a woman whom he esteemed, and to whom he had promised marriage. He killed himself to escape from his embarrassment.

These tragical stories which swarm in the English newspapers, have made the rest of Europe think that, in England, men kill themselves more willingly than elsewhere. However, I know not but there are as many madmen or heroes to be found in Paris as in London. Perhaps, if our newspapers kept an exact list of all who had been so infatuated as to seek their own destruction, and so lamentably courageous as to effect it, we should, in this particular, have the misfortune to rival the English. But our journals are more discreet. In such of them as are acknowledged by the government private occurrences are never exposed to public slander.

All I can venture to say with assurance is that there is no reason to apprehend that this rage for self-murder will ever become an epidemical disorder. Against this, nature has too well provided. Hope and fear are the powerful agents which she often employs to stay the hand of the unhappy individual about to strike at his own breast. Cardinal Dubois was once heard to say to himself: “Kill thyself! Coward, thou darest not!”

It is said that there have been countries in which a council was established to grant the citizens permission to kill themselves when they had good and Edition: current; Page: [27] sufficient reasons. I answer either that it was not so or that those magistrates had not much to do.

It might, indeed, astonish us, and does, I think, merit a serious examination, that almost all the ancient Roman heroes killed themselves when they had lost a battle in the civil wars. But I do not find, neither in the time of the League, nor in that of the Fronde, nor in the troubles of Italy, nor in those of England, that any chief thought proper to die by his own hand. These chiefs, it is true, were Christians, and there is a great difference between the principles of a Christian warrior and those of a Pagan hero. But why were these men whom Christianity restrained when they would have put themselves to death, restrained by nothing when they chose to poison, assassinate, and bring their conquered enemies to the scaffold? Does not the Christian religion forbid these murders much more than self-murder, of which the New Testament makes no mention?

The apostles of suicide tell us that it is quite allowable to quit one’s house when one is tired of it. Agreed, but most men would prefer sleeping in a mean house to lying in the open air.

I once received a circular letter from an Englishman, in which he offered a prize to any one who should most satisfactorily prove that there are occasions on which a man might kill himself. I made no answer: I had nothing to prove to him. He had only to examine whether he liked better to die than to live.

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Another Englishman came to me at Paris in 1724; he was ill, and promised me that he would kill himself if he was not cured by July 20. He accordingly gave me his epitaph in these words: “Valete cura!” “Farewell care!” and gave me twenty-five louis to get a small monument erected to him at the end of the Faubourg St. Martin. I returned him his money on July 20, and kept his epitaph.

In my own time the last prince of the house of Courtenai, when very old, and the last branch of Lorraine-Harcourt, when very young, destroyed themselves almost without its being heard of. These occurrences cause a terrible uproar the first day, but when the property of the deceased has been divided they are no longer talked of.

The following most remarkable of all suicides has just occurred at Lyons, in June, 1770: A young man well known, who was handsome, well made, clever, and amiable, fell in love with a young woman whom her parents would not give to him. So far we have nothing more than the opening scene of a comedy, the astonishing tragedy is to follow.

The lover broke a blood-vessel and the surgeons informed him there was no remedy. His mistress engaged to meet him, with two pistols and two daggers in order that, if the pistols missed the daggers might the next moment pierce their hearts. They embraced each other for the last time: rose-colored ribbons were tied to the triggers of the pistols; the lover holding the ribbon of his mistress’s pistol, while Edition: current; Page: [29] she held the ribbon of his. Both fired at a signal given, and both fell at the same instant.

Of this fact the whole city of Lyons is witness. Pætus and Arria, you set the example, but you were condemned by a tyrant, while love alone immolated these two victims.

Laws Against Suicide.

Has any law, civil or religious, ever forbidden a man to kill himself, on pain of being hanged after death, or on pain of being damned? It is true that Virgil has said:

  • Proxima deinde tenent mœsti loca, qui sibi lethum
  • Insontes peperere manu, lucemque perosi
  • Projecere animas. Quam vellent æthere in alto
  • Nunc et pauperiem et duros perferre labores!
  • Fata obstant, tristique palus inamabilis unda
  • Alligat, et novies Styx interfusa coercet.
  • Æneis, lib. vi. v. 434 et seq.
  • The next in place, and punishment, are they
  • Who prodigally throw their souls away—
  • Fools, who repining at their wretched state,
  • And loathing anxious life, suborn their fate;
  • With late repentance now they would retrieve
  • The bodies they forsook, and wish to live;
  • Their pains and poverty desire to bear,
  • To view the light of heaven and breathe the vital air;—
  • But fate forbids, the Stygian floods oppose,
  • And, with nine circling streams, the captive souls inclose.
  • Dryden.

Such was the religion of some of the pagans, yet, notwithstanding the weariness which awaited them in the next world it was an honor to quit this by killing themselves—so contradictory are the ways of men. And among us is not duelling unfortunately still honorable, though forbidden by reason, by religion, and by every law? If Cato and Cæsar, Edition: current; Page: [30] Antony and Augustus, were not duellists it was not that they were less brave than our Frenchmen. If the duke of Montmorency, Marshal de Marillac, de Thou, Cinq-Mars, and so many others, chose rather to be dragged to execution in a wagon, like highwaymen, than to kill themselves like Cato and Brutus, it was not that they had less courage than those Romans, nor less of what is called honor. The true reason is that at Paris self-murder in such cases was not then the fashion; but it was the fashion at Rome.

The women of the Malabar coast throw themselves, living, on the funeral piles of their husbands. Have they, then, more courage than Cornelia? No; but in that country it is the custom for the wives to burn themselves.

In Japan it is the custom for a man of honor, when he has been insulted by another man of honor, to rip open his belly in the presence of his enemy and say to him: “Do you likewise if thou hast the heart.” The aggressor is dishonored for ever if he does not immediately plunge a great knife into his belly.

The only religion in which suicide is forbidden by a clear and positive law is Mahometanism. In the fourth sura it is said: “Do not kill yourself, for God is merciful unto you, and whosoever killeth himself through malice and wickedness shall assuredly be burned in hell fire.”

This is a literal translation. The text, like many Edition: current; Page: [31] other texts, appears to want common sense. What is meant by “Do not kill yourself for God is merciful”? Perhaps we are to understand—Do not sink under your misfortunes, which God may alleviate: do not be so foolish as to kill yourself to-day since you may be happy to-morrow.

“And whosoever killeth himself through malice and wickedness.” This is yet more difficult to explain. Perhaps, in all antiquity, this never happened to any one but the Phrædra of Euripides, who hanged herself on purpose to make Theseus believe that she had been forcibly violated by Hippolytus. In our own times a man shot himself in the head, after arranging all things to make another man suspected of the act.

In the play of George Dandin, his jade of a wife threatens him with killing herself to have him hanged. Such cases are rare. If Mahomet foresaw them he may be said to have seen a great way. The famous Duverger de Haurane, abbot of St. Cyran, regarded as the founder of Port Royal, wrote, about the year 1608, a treatise on “Suicide,” which has become one of the scarcest books in Europe.

“The Decalogue,” says he, “forbids us to kill. In this precept self-murder seems no less to be comprised than murder of our neighbor. But if there are cases in which it is allowable to kill our neighbor there likewise are cases in which it is allowable to kill ourselves.

“We must not make an attempt upon our lives Edition: current; Page: [32] until we have consulted reason. The public authority, which holds the place of God, may dispose of our lives. The reason of man may likewise hold the place of the reason of God: it is a ray of the eternal light.”

St. Cyran extends this argument, which may be considered as a mere sophism, to great length, but when he comes to the explanation and the details it is more difficult to answer him. He says: “A man may kill himself for the good of his prince, for that of his country, or for that of his relations.”

We do not, indeed, see how Codrus or Curtius could be condemned. No sovereign would dare to punish the family of a man who had devoted himself to death for him; nay, there is not one who would dare neglect to recompense it. St. Thomas, before St. Cyran, had said the same thing. But we need neither St. Thomas, nor Cardinal Bonaventura, nor Duverger de Haurane to tell us that a man who dies for his country is deserving of praise.

The abbot of St. Cyran concludes that it is allowable to do for ourselves what it is noble to do for others. All that is advanced by Plutarch, by Seneca, by Montaigne, and by fifty other philosophers, in favor of suicide is sufficiently known; it is a hackneyed topic—a wornout commonplace. I seek not to apologize for an act which the laws condemn, but neither the Old Testament, nor the New has ever forbidden man to depart this life when it has become insupportable to him. No Roman law condemned Edition: current; Page: [33] self-murder; on the contrary, the following was the law of the Emperor Antoine, which was never revoked:

“If your father or your brother not being accused of any crime kill himself, either to escape from grief, or through weariness of life, or through despair, or through mental derangement, his will shall be valid, or, if he die intestate his heirs shall succeed.”

Notwithstanding this humane law of our masters we still drag on a sledge and drive a stake through the body of a man who has died a voluntary death; we do all we can to make his memory infamous; we dishonor his family as far as we are able; we punish the son for having lost his father, and the widow for being deprived of her husband.

We even confiscate the property of the deceased, which is robbing the living of the patrimony which of right belongs to them. This custom is derived from our canon law, which deprives of Christian burial such as die a voluntary death. Hence it is concluded that we cannot inherit from a man who is judged to have no inheritance in heaven. The canon law, under the head “De Pœnitentia,” assures us that Judas committed a greater crime in strangling himself than in selling our Lord Jesus Christ.


Among those who have had the leisure, the means, and the courage to seek for the origin of Edition: current; Page: [34] nations, there have been some who have found that of our Celts, or at least would make us believe that they had met with it. This illusion being the only recompense of their immense travail, we should not envy them its possession.

If we wish to know anything about the Huns—who, indeed, are scarcely worth knowing anything about, for they have rendered no service to mankind—we find some slight notices of those barbarians among the Chinese—that most ancient of all nations, after the Indians. From them we learn that, in certain ages, the Huns went like famishing wolves and ravaged countries which, even at this day are regarded as places of exile and of horror. This is a very melancholy, a very miserable sort of knowledge. It is, doubtless, much better to cultivate a useful art at Paris, Lyons, or Bordeaux, than seriously to study the history of the Huns and the bears. Nevertheless we are aided in these researches by some of the Chinese archives.

But for the Celts there are no archives. We know no more of their antiquities than we do of those of the Samoyeds or the Australasians.

We have learned nothing about our ancestors except from the few words which their conqueror, Julius Cæsar, condescended to say of them. He begins his “Commentaries” by dividing the Gauls into the Belgians, Aquitanians, and Celts.

Whence some of the daring among the erudite have concluded that the Celts were the Scythians, Edition: current; Page: [35] and they have made these Scythio-Celts include all Europe. But why not include the whole earth? Why stop short in so fine a career?

We have also been duly told that Noah’s son, Japhet, came out of the Ark, and went with all speed to people all those vast regions with Celts, whom he governed marvellously well. But authors of greater modesty refer the origin of our Celts to the tower of Babel—to the confusion of tongues—to Gomer, of whom no one ever heard until the very recent period when some wise men of the West read the name of Gomer in a bad translation of the Septuagint.

Bochart, in his “Sacred Chronology”—what a chronology!—takes quite a different turn. Of these innumerable hordes of Celts he makes an Egyptian colony, skilfully and easily led by Hercules from the fertile banks of the Nile into the forests and morasses of Germany, whither, no doubt, these colonists carried the arts and the language of Egypt and the mysteries of Isis, no trace of which has ever been found among them.

I think they are still more to be congratulated on their discoveries, who say that the Celts of the mountains of Dauphiny were called Cottians, from their King Cottius; that the Bérichons were named from their King Betrich; the Welsh, or Gaulish, from their King Wallus, and the Belgians from Balgem, which means quarrelsome.

A still finer origin is that of the Celto-Pannonians, from the Latin word pannus, cloth, for, we are Edition: current; Page: [36] told they dressed themselves in old pieces of cloth badly sewn together, much resembling a harlequin’s jacket. But the best origin of all is, undeniably, the tower of Babel.


All these things, which would be useless and impertinent in a state of pure nature, are, in our corrupt and ridiculous state, of great service. Of all nations, the Chinese are those who have carried the use of ceremonies to the greatest length; they certainly serve to calm as well as to weary the mind. The Chinese porters and carters are obliged, whenever they occasion the least hindrance in the streets, to fall on their knees and ask one another’s pardon according to the prescribed formula. This prevents ill language, blows and murders. They have time to grow cool and are then willing to assist one another.

The more free a people are, the fewer ceremonies, the fewer ostentatious titles, the fewer demonstrations of annihilation in the presence of a superior, they possess. To Scipio men said “Scipio”; to Cæsar, “Cæsar”; but in after times they said to the emperors, “your majesty,” “your divinity.”

The titles of St. Peter and St. Paul were “Peter” and “Paul.” Their successors gave one another the title of “your holiness,” which is not to be found in the Acts of the Apostles, nor in the writings of the disciples.

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We read in the history of Germany that the dauphin of France, afterwards Charles V., went to the Emperor Charles IV. at Metz and was presented after Cardinal de Périgord.

There has since been a time when chancellors went before cardinals; after which cardinals again took precedence of chancellors.

In France the peers preceded the princes of the blood, going in the order of their creation, until the consecration of Henry III.

The dignity of peer was, until that time, so exalted that at the ceremony of the consecration of Elizabeth, wife to Charles IX., in 1572, described by Simon Bouquet, échevin of Paris, it is said that the queen’s dames and demoiselles having handed to the dame d’honneur the bread, wine and wax, with the silver, for the offering to be presented to the queen by the said dame d’honneur, the said dame d’honneur, being a duchess, commanded the dames to go and carry the offering to the princesses themselves, etc. This dame d’honneur was the wife of the constable Montmorency.

The armchair, the chair with a back, the stool, the right hand and the left were for several ages important political matters. I believe that we owe the ancient etiquette concerning armchairs to the circumstance that our barbarians of ancestors had at most but one in a house, and even this was used only by the sick. In some provinces of Germany and England an armchair is still called a sick-chair.

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Long after the times of Attila and Dagobert, when luxury found its way into our courts and the great men of the earth had two or three armchairs in their donjons, it was a noble distinction to sit upon one of these thrones; and a castellain would place among his titles how he had gone half a league from home to pay his court to a count, and how he had been received in an easy-chair.

We see in the Memoirs of Mademoiselle that that august princess passed one-fourth of her life amid the mortal agonies of disputes for the back-chair. Were you to sit in a certain apartment, in a chair, or on a stool, or not to sit at all? Here was enough to involve a whole court in intrigue. Manners are now more easy; ladies may use couches and sofas without occasioning any disturbance in society.

When Cardinal de Richelieu was treating with the English ambassadors for the marriage of Henriette of France with Charles I., the affair was on the point of being broken off on account of a demand made by the ambassadors of two or three steps more towards a door; but the cardinal removed the difficulty by taking to his bed. History has carefully handed down this precious circumstance. I believe that, if it had been proposed to Scipio to get between the sheets to receive the visit of Hannibal, he would have thought the ceremony something like a joke.

For a whole century the order of carriages and taking the wall were testimonials of greatness and the source of pretensions, disputes, and conflicts. To Edition: current; Page: [39] procure the passing of one carriage before another was looked upon as a signal victory. The ambassadors went along the streets as if they were contending for the prize in the circus; and when a Spanish minister had succeeded in making a Portuguese coachman pull up, he sent a courier to Madrid to apprise the king, his master, of this great advantage.

Our histories regale us with fifty pugilistic combats for precedence—as that of the parliament with the bishops’ clerks at the funeral of Henry IV., the chambre des comptes with the parliament in the cathedral when Louis XIII. gave France to the Virgin, the duke of Epernon with the keeper of the seals, Du Vair, in the church of St. Germain. The presidents of the enquêtes buffeted Savare, the doyen of the conseillers de grand’ chambre, to make him quit his place of honor (so much is honor the soul of monarchical governments!), and four archers were obliged to lay hold of the President Barillon, who was beating the poor doyen without mercy. We find no contests like these in the Areopagus, nor in the Roman senate.

In proportion to the barbarism of countries or the weakness of courts, we find ceremony in vogue. True power and true politeness are above vanity. We may venture to believe that the custom will at last be given up which some ambassadors still retain, of ruining themselves in order to go along the streets in procession with a few hired carriages, fresh painted and gilded, and preceded by a few footmen. Edition: current; Page: [40] This is called “making their entry”; and it is a fine joke to make your entry into a town seven or eight months before you arrive.

This important affair of punctilio, which constitutes the greatness of the modern Romans—this science of the number of steps that should be made in showing in a monsignor, in drawing or half drawing a curtain, in walking in a room to the right or to the left—this great art, which neither Fabius nor Cato could ever imagine, is beginning to sink; and the train-bearers to the cardinals complain that everything indicates a decline.

A French colonel, being at Brussels a year after the taking of that place by Marshal de Saxe, and having nothing to do, resolved to go to the town assembly. “It is held at a princess’,” said one to him. “Be it so,” answered the other, “what matters it to me?” “But only princes go there; are you a prince?” “Pshaw!” said the colonel, “they are a very good sort of princes; I had a dozen of them in my anteroom last year, when we had taken the town, and they were very polite.”

In turning over the leaves of “Horace” I observe this line in an epistle to Mæcenas, “Te, dulcis amice revisam.”—“I will come and see you, my good friend.” This Mæcenas was the second person in the Roman Empire; that is, a man of greater power and influence than the greatest monarch of modern Europe.

Looking into the works of Corneille, I observed Edition: current; Page: [41] that in a letter to the great Scuderi, governor of Notre Dame de la Garde, etc., he uses this expression in reference to Cardinal Richelieu: “Monsieur the cardinal, your master and mine.” It is, perhaps, the first time that such language has been applied to a minister, since there have been ministers, kings and flatterers in the world. The same Peter Corneille, the author of “Cinna,” humbly dedicates that work to the Sieur de Montauron, the king’s treasurer, whom in direct terms he compares to Augustus. I regret that he did not give Montauron the title of monseigneur or my lord.

An anecdote is related of an old officer, but little conversant with the precedents and formulas of vanity, who wrote to the Marquis Louvois as plain monsieur, but receiving no answer, next addressed him under the title of monseigneur, still, however, without effect, the unlucky monsieur continuing to rankle in the minister’s heart. He finally directed his letter “to my God, my God Louvois”; commencing it by the words, “my God, my Creator.” Does not all this sufficiently prove that the Romans were magnanimous and modest, and that we are frivolous and vain?

“How d’ye do, my dear friend?” said a duke and peer to a gentleman. “At your service, my dear friend,” replied he; and from that instant his “dear friend” became his implacable enemy. A grandee of Portugal was once conversing with a Spanish hidalgo and addressing him every moment in the terms, Edition: current; Page: [42] “your excellency.” The Castilian as frequently replied, “your courtesy” (vuestra merced), a title bestowed on those who have none by right. The irritated Portuguese in return retorted “your courtesy” on the Spaniard, who then called the Portuguese “your excellency.” The Portuguese, at length wearied out, demanded, “How is it that you always call me your courtesy, when I call you your excellency, and your excellency when I call you your courtesy?” “The reason is,” says the Castilian with a bow, “that all titles are equal to me, provided that there is nothing equal between you and me.”

The vanity of titles was not introduced into our northern climes of Europe till the Romans had become acquainted with Asiatic magnificence. The greater part of the sovereigns of Asia were, and still are, cousins german of the sun and the moon; their subjects dare not make any pretension to such high affinity; and many a provincial governor, who styles himself “nutmeg of consolation” and “rose of delight” would be empaled alive if he were to claim the slightest relationship to the sun and moon.

Constantine was, I think, the first Roman emperor who overwhelmed Christian humility in a page of pompous titles. It is true that before his time the emperors bore the title of god, but the term implied nothing similar to what we understand by it. Divus Augustus, Divus Trajanus, meant St. Augustus, St. Trajan. It was thought only conformable to the Edition: current; Page: [43] dignity of the Roman Empire that the soul of its chief should, after his death, ascend to heaven; and it frequently even happened that the title of saint, of god, was granted to the emperor by a sort of anticipated inheritance. Nearly for the same reason the first patriarchs of the Christian church were all called “your holiness.” They were thus named to remind them of what in fact they ought to be.

Men sometimes take upon themselves very humble titles, provided they can obtain from others very honorable ones. Many an abbé who calls himself brother exacts from his monks the title of monseigneur. The pope styles himself “servant of the servants of God.” An honest priest of Holstein once addressed a letter “to Pius IV., servant of the servants of God.” He afterwards went to Rome to urge his suit, and the inquisition put him in prison to teach him how to address letters.

Formerly the emperor alone had the title of majesty. Other sovereigns were called your highness, your serenity, your grace. Louis XI. was the first in France who was generally called majesty, a title certainly not less suitable to the dignity of a powerful hereditary kingdom than to an elective principality. But long after him the term highness was applied to kings of France; and some letters to Henry III. are still extant in which he is addressed by that title. The states of Orleans objected to Queen Catherine de Medici being called majesty. Edition: current; Page: [44] But this last denomination gradually prevailed. The name is indifferent; it is the power alone that is not so.

The German chancery, ever unchangeable in its stately formalities, has pretended down to our own times that no kings have a right to a higher title than serenity. At the celebrated treaty of Westphalia, in which France and Sweden dictated the law to the holy Roman Empire, the emperor’s plenipotentiaries continually presented Latin memorials, in which “his most sacred imperial majesty” negotiated with the “most serene kings of France and Sweden”; while, on the other hand, the French and Swedes fail not to declare that their “sacred majesties of France and Sweden” had many subjects of complaint against the “most serene emperor.” Since that period, however, the great sovereigns have, in regard to rank, been considered as equals, and he alone who beats his neighbor is adjudged to have the pre-eminence.

Philip II. was the first majesty in Spain, for the serenity of Charles V. was converted into majesty only on account of the empire. The children of Philip II. were the first highnesses; and afterwards they were royal highnesses. The duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIII., did not take up the title of royal highness till 1631; then the prince of Condé claimed that the most serene highness, which the Dukes de Vendôme did not venture to assume. The duke of Savoy, at that time royal highness, afterwards substituted majesty. The grand duke of Edition: current; Page: [45] Florence did the same, excepting as to majesty; and finally the czar, who was known in Europe only as the grand duke, declared himself emperor, and was recognized as such.

Formerly there were only two marquises in Germany, two in France and two in Italy. The marquis of Brandenburg has become a king, and a great king. But at present our Italian and French marquises are of a somewhat different species.

If an Italian citizen has the honor of giving a dinner to the legate of his province, and the legate, when drinking, says to him, “Monsieur le marquis, to your good health,” he suddenly becomes a marquis, he and his heirs after him, forever. If the inhabitant of any province of France, whose whole estate consists of a quarter part of a little decayed castle-ward, goes to Paris, makes something of a fortune, or carries the air of having made one, he is styled in the deeds and legal instruments in which he is concerned “high and mighty seigneur, marquis and count,” and his son will be denominated by his notary “very high and very mighty seigneur,” and as this frivolous ambition is in no way injurious to government or civil society, it is permitted to take its course. Some French lords boast of employing German barons in their stables; some German lords say they have French marquises in their kitchens; it is not a long time since a foreigner at Naples made his coachman a duke. Custom in these cases has more power than royal authority. If you are but little known at Paris, you may there be Edition: current; Page: [46] a count or a marquis as long as you please; if you are connected with the law of finance, though the king should confer on you a real marquisate, you will not, therefore, be monsieur le marquis. The celebrated Samuel Bernard was, in truth, more a count than five hundred such as we often see not possessing four acres of land. The king had converted his estate of Coubert into a fine county; yet if on any occasion he had ordered himself to be announced as Count Bernard, etc., he would have excited bursts of laughter. In England it is different; if the king confers the title of earl or baron on a merchant, all classes address him with the designation suitable to it without the slightest hesitation. By persons of the highest birth, by the king himself, he is called my lord. It is the same in Italy; there is a register kept there of monsignori. The pope himself addresses them under that title; his physician is monsignor, and no one objects.

In France the title of monseigneur or my lord is a very serious business. Before the time of Cardinal Richelieu a bishop was only “a most reverend father in God.”

Before the year 1635 bishops did not only not assume the title of monseigneur themselves, but they did not even give it to cardinals. These two customs were introduced by a bishop of Chartres, who, in full canonicals of lawn and purple, went to call Cardinal Richelieu monseigneur, on which occasion Louis Edition: current; Page: [47] XIII. observed that “Chartrain would not mind saluting the cardinal au derrière.

It is only since that period that bishops have mutually applied to each other the title of monseigneur.

The public made no objection to this application of it; but, as it was a new title, not conferred on bishops by kings, they continued to be called sieurs in edicts, declarations, ordinances and all official documents; and when the council wrote to a bishop they gave him no higher title than monsieur.

The dukes and peers have encountered more difficulty in acquiring possession of the title of monseigneur. The grande noblesse, and what is called the grand robe, decidedly refuse them that distinction. The highest gratification of human pride consists in a man’s receiving titles of honor from those who conceive themselves his equals; but to attain this is exceedingly difficult; pride always finds pride to contend with.

When the dukes insisted on receiving the title of monseigneur from the class of gentlemen, the presidents of the parliaments required the same from advocates and proctors. A certain president actually refused to be bled because his surgeon asked: “In which arm will you be bled, monsieur?” An old counsellor treated this matter somewhat more gayly. A pleader was saying to him, “Monseigneur, monsieur, your secretary” . . . . He stopped him short: Edition: current; Page: [48] “You have uttered three blunders,” says he, “in as many words. I am not monseigneur; my secretary is not monsieur; he is my clerk.”

To put an end to this grand conflict of vanity it will eventually be found necessary to give the title of monseigneur to every individual in the nation; as women, who were formerly content with mademoiselle, are now to be called madame. In Spain, when a mendicant meets a brother beggar, he thus accosts him: “Has your courtesy taken chocolate?” This politeness of language elevates the mind and keeps up the dignity of the species. Cæsar and Pompey were called in the senate Cæsar and Pompey. But these men knew nothing of life. They ended their letters with vale—adieu. We, who possess more exalted notions, were sixty years ago “affectionate servants”; then “very humble and very obedient”; and now we “have the honor to be” so. I really grieve for posterity, which will find it extremely difficult to add to these very beautiful formulas. The Duke d’Épernon, the first of Gascons in pride, though far from being the first of statesmen, wrote on his deathbed to Cardinal Richelieu and ended his letter with: “Your very humble and very obedient.” Recollecting, however, that the cardinal had used only the phrase “very affectionate,” he despatched an express to bring back the letter (for it had been actually sent off), began it anew, signed “very affectionate,” and died in the bed of honor.

We have made many of these observations elsewhere. Edition: current; Page: [49] It is well, however, to repeat them, were it only to correct some pompous peacocks, who would strut away their lives in contemptibly displaying their plumes and their pride.


I am certain; I have friends; my fortune is secure; my relations will never abandon me; I shall have justice done me; my work is good, it will be well received; what is owing to me will be paid; my friend will be faithful, he has sworn it; the minister will advance me—he has, by the way, promised it—all these are words which a man who has lived a short time in the world erases from his dictionary.

When the judges condemned L’Anglade, Le Brun, Calas, Sirven, Martin, Montbailli, and so many others, since acknowledged to have been innocent, they were certain, or they ought to have been certain, that all these unhappy men were guilty; yet they were deceived. There are two ways of being deceived; by false judgment and self-blindness—that of erring like a man of genius, and that of deciding like a fool.

The judges deceived themselves like men of genius in the affair of L’Anglade; they were blinded by dazzling appearances and did not sufficiently examine the probabilities on the other side. Their wisdom made them believe it certain that L’Anglade had committed a theft, which he certainly had not committed; and on this miserable uncertain Edition: current; Page: [50] certainty of the human mind, a gentleman was put to the ordinary and extraordinary question; subsequent thrown, without succor, into a dungeon and condemned to the galleys, where he died. His wife was shut up in another dungeon, with her daughter, aged seven years, who afterwards married a counsellor of the same parliament which had condemned her father to the galleys and her mother to banishment.

It is clear that the judges would not have pronounced this sentence had they been really certain. However, even at the time this sentence was passed several persons knew that the theft had been committed by a priest named Gagnat, associated with a highwayman, and the innocence of L’Anglade was not recognized till after his death.

They were in the same manner certain when, by a sentence in the first instance, they condemned to the wheel the innocent Le Brun, who, by an arrêt pronounced on his appeal, was broken on the rack, and died under the torture.

The examples of Calas and Sirven are well known, that of Martin is less so. He was an honest agriculturist near Bar in Lorraine. A villain stole his dress and in this dress murdered a traveller whom he knew to have money and whose route he had watched. Martin was accused, his dress was a witness against him; the judges regarded this evidence as a certainty. Not the past conduct of the prisoner, a numerous family whom he had brought up virtuously, Edition: current; Page: [51] neither the little money found on him, nor the extreme probability of his innocence—nothing could save him. The subaltern judge made a merit of his rigor. He condemned the innocent victim to be broken on the wheel, and, by an unhappy fatality the sentence was executed to the full extent. The senior Martin is broken alive, calling God to witness his innocence to his last breath; his family is dispersed, his little property is confiscated, and scarcely are his broken members exposed on the great road when the assassin who had committed the murder and theft is put in prison for another crime, and confesses on the rack, to which he is condemned in his turn, that he only was guilty of the crime for which Martin had suffered torture and death.

Montbailli, who slept with his wife, was accused with having, in concert with her, killed his mother, who had evidently died of apoplexy. The council of Arras condemned Montbailli to expire on the rack, and his wife to be burnt. Their innocence was discovered, but not until Montbailli had been tortured. Let us cease advertence to these melancholy adventures, which make us groan at the human condition; but let us continue to lament the pretended certainty of judges, when they pass such sentences.

There is no certainty, except when it is physically or morally impossible that the thing can be otherwise. What! is a strict demonstration necessary to enable us to assert that the surface of a sphere is equal to four times the area of its great circle; and Edition: current; Page: [52] is not one required to warrant taking away the life of a citizen by a disgraceful punishment?

If such is the misfortune of humanity that judges must be contented with extreme probabilities, they should at least consult the age, the rank, the conduct of the accused—the interest which he could have in committing the crime, and the interest of his enemies to destroy him. Every judge should say to himself: Will not posterity, will not entire Europe condemn my sentence? Shall I sleep tranquilly with my hands tainted with innocent blood? Let us pass from this horrible picture to other examples of a certainty which leads directly to error.

Why art thou loaded with chains, fanatical and unhappy Santon? Why hast thou added a large iron ring on thy miserable scourge? It is because I am certain of being one day placed in the first heaven, by the side of our great prophet. Alas, my friend, come with me to the neighborhood of Mount Athos and thou wilt see three thousand mendicants who are as certain that thou wilt go to the gulf which is under the narrow bridge, as that they will all go to the first heaven!

Stop, miserable Malabar widow, believe not the fool who persuades you that you shall be reunited to your husband in all the delights of another world, if you burn yourself on his funeral pile! No, I persist in burning myself because I am certain of living in felicity with my husband; my brahmin told me so.

Let us attend to less frightful certainties, and Edition: current; Page: [53] which have a little more appearance of truth. What is the age of your friend Christopher? Twenty-eight years. I have seen his marriage contract, and his baptismal register; I knew him in his infancy; he is twenty-eight—I am certain of it.

Scarcely have I heard the answer of this man, so sure of what he said, and of twenty others who confirmed the same thing, when I learn that for secret reasons, and by a singular circumstance the baptismal register of Christopher has been antedated. Those to whom I had spoken as yet know nothing of it, yet they have still the same certainty of that which is not.

If you had asked the whole earth before the time of Copernicus: has the sun risen? has it set to-day? all men would have answered: We are quite certain of it. They were certain and they were in error.

Witchcraft, divinations, and possessions were for a long time the most certain things in the world in the eyes of society. What an innumerable crowd of people who have seen all these fine things and who have been certain of them! At present this certainty is a little shaken.

A young man who is beginning to study geometry comes to me; he is only at the definition of triangles. Are you not certain, said I to him, that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles? He answered that not only was he not certain of it, but that he had not the slightest idea of the proposition. I demonstrated it to him. He then became Edition: current; Page: [54] very certain of it, and will remain so all his life. This is a certainty very different from the others; they were only probabilities and these probabilities, when examined, have turned out errors, but mathematical certainty is immutable and eternal.

I exist, I think, I feel grief—is all that as certain as a geometrical truth? Yes, skeptical as I am, I avow it. Why? It is that these truths are proved by the same principle that it is impossible for a thing to exist and not exist at the same time. I cannot at the same time feel and not feel. A triangle cannot at the same time contain a hundred and eighty degrees, which are the sum of two right angles, and not contain them. The physical certainty of my existence, of my identity, is of the same value as mathematical certainty, although it is of a different kind.

It is not the same with the certainty founded on appearances, or on the unanimous testimony of mankind.

But how, you will say to me, are you not certain that Pekin exists? Have you not merchandise from Pekin? People of different countries and different opinions have vehemently written against one another while preaching the truth at Pekin; then are you not assured of the existence of this town? I answer that it is extremely probable that there may be a city of Pekin but I would not wager my life that such a town exists, and I would at any time wager my life that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles.

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In the “Dictionnaire Encyclopédique” a very pleasant thing appears. It is there maintained that a man ought to be as certain that Marshal Saxe rose from the dead, if all Paris tells him so, as he is sure that Marshal Saxe gained the battle of Fontenoy, upon the same testimony. Pray observe the beauty of this reasoning: as I believe all Paris when it tells me a thing morally possible, I ought to believe all Paris when it tells me a thing morally and physically impossible. Apparently the author of this article has a disposition to be risible; as to ourselves who have only undertaken this little dictionary to ask a few questions, we are very far from possessing this very extensive certainty.


The gradation of beings rising from the lowest to the Great Supreme—the scale of infinity—is an idea that fills us with admiration, but when steadily regarded this phantom disappears, as apparitions were wont to vanish at the crowing of the cock.

The imagination is pleased with the imperceptible transition from brute matter to organized matter, from plants to zoophytes, from zoophytes to animals, from animals to men, from men to genii, from these genii, clad in a light aërial body, to immaterial substances of a thousand different orders, rising from beauty to perfection, up to God Himself. This hierarchy is very pleasing to young men who look upon it as upon the pope and cardinals, followed by the Edition: current; Page: [56] archbishops and bishops, after whom are the vicars, curates and priests, the deacons and subdeacons, then come the monks, and the capuchins bring up the rear.

But there is, perhaps, a somewhat greater distance between God and His most perfect creatures than between the holy father and the dean of the sacred college. The dean may become pope, but can the most perfect genii created by the Supreme Being become God? Is there not infinity between them?

Nor does this chain, this pretended gradation, any more exist in vegetables and animals; the proof is that some species of plants and animals have been entirely destroyed. We have no murex. The Jews were forbidden to eat griffin and ixion, these two species, whatever Bochart may say, have probably disappeared from the earth. Where, then, is the chain?

Supposing that we had not lost some species, it is evident that they may be destroyed. Lions and rhinoceroses are becoming very scarce, and if the rest of the nations had imitated the English, there would not now have been a wolf left. It is probable that there have been races of men who are no longer to be found. Why should they not have existed as well as the whites, the blacks, the Kaffirs, to whom nature has given an apron of their own skin, hanging from the belly to the middle of the thigh; the Samoyeds, whose women have nipples of a beautiful jet.

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Is there not a manifest void between the ape and man? Is it not easy to imagine a two-legged animal without feathers having intelligence without our shape or the use of speech—one which we could tame, which would answer our signs, and serve us? And again, between this species and man, cannot we imagine others?

Beyond man, divine Plato, you place in heaven a string of celestial substances, in some of which we believe because the faith so teaches us. But what reason had you to believe in them? It does not appear that you had spoken with the genius of Socrates, and though Heres, good man, rose again on purpose to tell you the secrets of the other world, he told you nothing of these substances. In the sensible universe the pretended chain is no less interrupted.

What gradation, I pray you, is there among the planets? The moon is forty times smaller than our globe. Travelling from the moon through space, you find Venus, about as large as the earth. From thence you go to Mercury, which revolves in an ellipsis very different from the circular orbit of Venus; it is twenty-seven times smaller than the earth, the sun is a million times larger, and Mars is five times smaller. The latter goes his round in two years, his neighbor Jupiter in twelve, and Saturn in thirty; yet Saturn, the most distant of all, is not so large as Jupiter. Where is the pretended gradation?

And then, how, in so many empty spaces, do you Edition: current; Page: [58] extend a chain connecting the whole? There can certainly be no other than that which Newton discovered—that which makes all the globes of the planetary world gravitate one towards another in the immense void.

Oh, much admired Plato! I fear that you have told us nothing but fables, that you have spoken to us only as a sophist! Oh, Plato! you have done more mischief than you are aware of. How so? you will ask. I will not tell you.


The present, we say, is pregnant with the future; events are linked one with another by an invincible fatality. This is the fate which, in Homer, is superior to Jupiter himself. The master of gods and men expressly declares that he cannot prevent his son Sarpedon from dying at the time appointed. Sarpedon was born at the moment when it was necessary that he should be born, and could not be born at any other; he could not die elsewhere than before Troy; he could not be buried elsewhere than in Lycia; his body must, in the appointed time, produce vegetables, which must change into the substance of some of the Lycians; his heirs must establish a new order of things in his states; that new order must influence neighboring kingdoms; thence must result a new arrangement in war and in peace with the neighbors of Lycia. So that, from link to link, the destiny of the whole earth depended on the elopement Edition: current; Page: [59] of Helen, which had a necessary connection with the marriage of Hecuba, which, ascending to higher events, was connected with the origin of things.

Had any one of these occurrences been ordered otherwise, the result would have been a different universe. Now, it was not possible for the actual universe not to exist; therefore it was not possible for Jupiter, Jove as he was, to save the life of his son. We are told that this doctrine of necessity and fatality has been invented in our own times by Leibnitz, under the name of sufficing reason. It is, however, of great antiquity. It is no recent discovery that there is no effect without a cause and that often the smallest cause produces the greatest effects.

Lord Bolingbroke acknowledges that he was indebted to the petty quarrels between the duchess of Marlborough and Mrs. Masham for an opportunity of concluding the private treaty between Queen Anne and Louis XIV. This treaty led to the peace of Utrecht; the peace of Utrecht secured the throne of Spain to Philip V.; Philip took Naples and Sicily from the house of Austria. Thus the Spanish prince, who is now king of Naples, evidently owes his kingdom to Mrs. Masham; he would not have had it, nor even have been born, if the duchess of Marlborough had been more complaisant towards the queen of England; his existence at Naples depended on one folly more or less at the court of London.

Examine the situations of every people upon Edition: current; Page: [60] earth; they are in like manner founded on a train of occurrences seemingly without connection, but all connected. In this immense machine all is wheel, pulley, cord, or spring. It is the same in physical order. A wind blowing from the southern seas and the remotest parts of Africa brings with it a portion of the African atmosphere, which, falling in showers in the valleys of the Alps, fertilizes our lands; on the other hand our north wind carries our vapors among the negroes; we do good to Guinea, and Guinea to us. The chain extends from one end of the universe to the other.

But the truth of this principle seems to me to be strangely abused; for it is thence concluded that there is no atom, however small, the movement of which has not influenced the actual arrangement of the whole world; that the most trivial accident, whether among men or animals, is an essential link in the great chain of destiny.

Let us understand one another. Every effect evidently has its cause, ascending from cause to cause, into the abyss of eternity; but every cause has not its effect, going down to the end of ages. I grant that all events are produced one by another; if the past was pregnant with the present, the present is pregnant with the future; everything is begotten, but everything does not beget. It is a genealogical tree; every house, we know, ascends to Adam, but many of the family have died without issue.

The events of this world form a genealogical tree. Edition: current; Page: [61] It is indisputable that the inhabitants of Spain and Gaul are descended from Gomer, and the Russians from his younger brother Magog, for in how many great books is this genealogy to be found! It cannot then be denied that the grand Turk, who is also descended from Magog, is obliged to him for the good beating given him in 1769 by the Empress Catherine II. This occurrence is evidently linked with other great events; but whether Magog spat to the right or to the left near Mount Caucasus—made two or three circles in a well—or whether he lay on his right side or his left, I do not see that it could have much influence on present affairs.

It must be remembered, because it is proved by Newton, that nature is not a plenum, and that motion is not communicated by collision until it has made the tour of the universe. Throw a body of a certain density into water, you easily calculate that at the end of such a time the movement of this body, and that which it has given to the water, will cease; the motion will be lost and rest will be restored. So the motion produced by Magog in spitting into a well cannot have influenced what is now passing in Moldavia and Wallachia. Present events, then, are not the offspring of all past events, they have their direct lines, but with a thousand small collateral lines they have nothing to do. Once more be it observed that every being has a parent but every one has not an offspring.

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When we have seen with our own eyes a mountain advancing into a plain—that is, an immense rock detached from that mountain, and covering the fields, an entire castle buried in the earth, or a swallowed-up river bursting from below, indubitable marks of an immense mass of water having once inundated a country now inhabited, and so many traces of other revolutions, we are even more disposed to believe in the great changes that have altered the face of the world than a Parisian lady who knows that the square in which her house stands was formerly a cultivated field, but a lady of Naples who has seen the ruins of Herculaneum underground is still less enthralled by the prejudice which leads us to believe that everything has always been as it now is.

Was there a great burning of the world in the time of Phaethon? Nothing is more likely, but this catastrophe was no more caused by the ambition of Phaethon or the anger of Jupiter the Thunderer than at Lisbon, in 1755, the Divine vengeance was drawn down, the subterraneous fires kindled, and half the city destroyed by the fires so often lighted there by the inquisition—besides, we know that Mequinez, Teutan and considerable hordes of Arabs have been treated even worse than Lisbon, though they had no inquisition. The island of St. Domingo, entirely devastated Edition: current; Page: [63] not long ago, had no more displeased the Great Being than the island of Corsica; all is subject to eternal physical laws.

Sulphur, bitumen, nitre, and iron, enclosed within the bowels of the earth have overturned many a city, opened many a gulf, and we are constantly liable to these accidents attached to the way in which this globe is put together, just as, in many countries during winter, we are exposed to the attacks of famishing wolves and tigers. If fire, which Heraclitus believed to be the principle of all, has altered the face of a part of the earth, Thales’s first principle, water, has operated as great changes.

One-half of America is still inundated by the ancient overflowings of the Maranon, Rio de la Plata, the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, and all the rivers perpetually swelled by the eternal snows of the highest mountains in the world, stretching from one end of that continent to the other. These accumulated floods have almost everywhere produced vast marshes. The neighboring lands have become uninhabitable, and the earth, which the hands of man should have made fruitful, has produced only pestilence.

The same thing happened in China and in Egypt: a multitude of ages were necessary to dig canals and dry the lands. Add to these lengthened disasters the irruptions of the sea, the lands it has invaded and deserted, the islands it has detached from the continent and you will find that from east to west, from Japan Edition: current; Page: [64] to Mount Atlas, it has devastated more than eighty thousand square leagues.

The swallowing up of the island Atlantis from the ocean may, with as much reason, be considered historical, as fabulous. The shallowness of the Atlantic as far as the Canaries might be taken as a proof of this great event and the Canaries themselves for fragments of the island Atlantis.

Plato tells us in his “Timæus,” that the Egyptian priests, among whom he had travelled, had in their possession ancient registers which certified that island’s going under water. Plato says that this catastrophe happened nine thousand years before his time. No one will believe this chronology on Plato’s word only, but neither can any one adduce against it any physical proof, nor even a historical testimony from any profane writer.

Pliny, in his third book, says that from time immemorial the people of the southern coasts of Spain believed that the sea had forced a passage between Calpe and Abila: “Indigenæ columnas Herculis vocant, creduntque per fossas exclusa antea admisisse maria, et rerum naturæ mutasse faciem.”

An attentive traveller may convince himself by his own eyes that the Cyclades and the Sporades were once part of the continent of Greece, and especially that Sicily was once joined to Apulia. The two volcanos of Etna and Vesuvius having the same basis in the sea, the little gulf of Charybdis, the only deep Edition: current; Page: [65] part of that sea, the perfect resemblance of the two soils are incontrovertible testimonies. The floods of Deucalion and Ogyges are well known, and the fables founded upon this truth are still more the talk of all the West.

The ancients have mentioned several deluges in Asia. The one spoken of by Berosus happened (as he tells us) in Chaldæa, about four thousand three, or four hundred years before the Christian era, and Asia was as much inundated with fables about this deluge as it was by the overflowings of the Tigris and Euphrates, and all the rivers that fall into the Euxine.

It is true that such overflowings cannot cover the country with more than a few feet of water, but the consequent sterility, the washing away of houses, and the destruction of cattle are losses which it requires nearly a century to repair. We know how much they have cost Holland, more than the half of which has been lost since the year 1050. She is still obliged to maintain a daily conflict with the ever-threatening ocean. She has never employed so many soldiers in resisting her enemies as she employs laborers in continually defending her against the assaults of a sea always ready to swallow her.

The road from Egypt to Phœnicia, along the borders of Lake Serbo, was once quite practicable, but it has long ceased to be so; it is now nothing but a quicksand, moistened by stagnant water. In short, a Edition: current; Page: [66] great portion of the earth would be no other than a vast poisonous marsh inhabited by monsters, but for the assiduous labor of the human race.

We shall not here speak of the universal deluge of Noah. Let it suffice to read the Holy Scriptures with submission. Noah’s flood was an incomprehensible miracle supernaturally worked by the justice and goodness of an ineffable Providence whose will it was to destroy the whole guilty human race and form a new and innocent race. If the new race was more wicked than the former, and became more criminal from age to age, from reformation to reformation, this is but another effect of the same Providence, of which it is impossible for us to fathom the depths, the inconceivable mysteries transmitted to the nations of the West for many ages, in the Latin translation of the Septuagint. We shall never enter these awful sanctuaries; our questions will be limited to simple nature.

[From the Greek word signifying Impression, Engraving.—It is what nature has engraved in us.]

Can we change our character? Yes, if we change our body. A man born turbulent, violent, and inflexible, may, through falling in his old age into an apoplexy, become like a silly, weak, timid, puling child. His body is no longer the same, but so long as his nerves, his blood, and his marrow remain in the same state his disposition will not change any more than the instinct of a wolf or a polecat. The Edition: current; Page: [67] English author of “The Dispensary,” a poem much superior to the Italian “Capitoli,” and perhaps even to Boileau’s “Lutrin,” has, as it seems to me, well observed.

  • How matter, by the varied shape of pores,
  • Or idiots frames, or solemn senators.

The character is formed of our ideas and our feelings. Now it is quite clear that we neither give ourselves feelings nor ideas, therefore our character cannot depend on ourselves. If it did so depend, every one would be perfect. We cannot give ourselves tastes, nor talents, why, then, should we give ourselves qualities? When we do not reflect we think we are masters of all: when we reflect we find that we are masters of nothing.

If you would absolutely change a man’s character purge him with diluents till he is dead. Charles XII., in his illness on the way to Bender, was no longer the same man; he was as tractable as a child. If I have a wry nose and cat’s eyes I can hide them behind a mask, and can I do more with the character that nature has given me?

A man born violent and passionate presents himself before Francis I., king of France, to complain of a trespass. The countenance of the prince, the respectful behavior of the courtiers, the very place he is in make a powerful impression upon this man. He mechanically casts down his eyes, his rude voice is softened, he presents his petition with humility, you would think him as mild as (at that moment at least) Edition: current; Page: [68] the courtiers appear to be, among whom he is often disconcerted, but if Francis I. knows anything of physiognomy, he will easily discover in his eye, though downcast, glistening with a sullen fire, in the extended muscles of his face, in his fast-closed lips, that this man is not so mild as he is forced to appear. The same man follows him to Pavia, is taken prisoner along with him and thrown into the same dungeon at Madrid. The majesty of Francis I. no longer awes him as before, he becomes familiar with the object of his reverence. One day, pulling on the king’s boots, and happening to pull them on ill, the king, soured by misfortune, grows angry, on which our man of courtesy wishes his majesty at the devil and throws his boots out the window.

Sixtus V. was by nature petulant, obstinate, haughty, impetuous, vindictive, arrogant. This character, however, seems to have been softened by the trials of his novitiate. But see him beginning to acquire some influence in his order; he flies into a passion against a guardian and knocks him down. Behold him an inquisitor at Venice, he exercises his office with insolence. Behold him cardinal; he is possessed della rabbia papale; this rage triumphs over his natural propensities; he buries his person and his character in obscurity and counterfeits humility and infirmity. He is elected pope, and the spring which policy had held back now acts with all the force of its long-restrained elasticity; he is the proudest and most despotic of sovereigns.

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  • Naturam expellas furea, tamen usque recurret.
  • Howe’er expelled, nature will still return.

Religion and morality curb the strength of the disposition, but they cannot destroy it. The drunkard in a cloister, reduced to a quarter of a pint of cider each meal will never more get drunk, but he will always be fond of wine.

Age weakens the character; it is as an old tree producing only a few degenerate fruits, but always of the same nature, which is covered with knots and moss and becomes worm-eaten, but is ever the same, whether oak or pear tree. If we could change our character we could give ourselves one and become the master of nature. Can we give ourselves anything? do not we receive everything? To strive to animate the indolent man with persevering activity, to freeze with apathy the boiling blood of the impetuous, to inspire a taste for poetry into him who has neither taste nor ear were as futile as to attempt to give sight to one born blind. We perfect, we ameliorate, we conceal what nature has placed in us, but we place nothing there ourselves.

An agriculturist is told: “You have too many fish in this pond; they will not thrive, here are too many cattle in your meadows; they will want grass and grow lean.” After this exhortation the pikes come and eat one-half this man’s carps, the wolves one-half of his sheep, and the rest fatten. And will you applaud his economy? This countryman is yourself; one of your passions devours the rest and Edition: current; Page: [70] you think you have gained a triumph. Do we not almost all resemble the old general of ninety, who, having found some young officers behaving in a rather disorderly manner with some young women, said to them in anger: “Gentlemen, is this the example that I set you?”


Cicero frequently speaks of universal charity, charitas humani generis; but it does not appear that the policy or the beneficence of the Romans ever induced them to establish charitable institutions, in which the indigent and the sick might be relieved at the expense of the public. There was a receptacle for strangers at the port of Ostia, called Xenodokium, St. Jerome renders this justice to the Romans. Almshouses seem to have been unknown in ancient Rome. A more noble usage prevailed—that of supplying the people with corn. There were in Rome three hundred and twenty-seven public granaries. This constant liberality precluded any need of almshouses. They were strangers to necessity.

Neither was there any occasion among the Romans for founding charities. None exposed their own children. Those of slaves were taken care of by their masters. Childbirth was not deemed disgraceful to the daughters of citizens. The poorest families, maintained by the republic and afterwards Edition: current; Page: [71] by the emperors, saw the subsistence of their children secured.

The expression, “charitable establishment,” maison de charité, implies a state of indigence among modern nations which the form of our governments has not been able to preclude.

The word “hospital,” which recalls that of hospitality, reminds us of a virtue in high estimation among the Greeks, now no longer existing; but it also expresses a virtue far superior. There is a mighty difference between lodging, maintaining, and providing in sickness for all afflicted applicants whatever, and entertaining in your own house two or three travellers by whom you might claim a right to be entertained in return. Hospitality, after all, was but an exchange. Hospitals are monuments of beneficence.

It is true that the Greeks were acquainted with charitable institutions under the name of Xenodokia, for strangers, Nosocomeia, for the sick, and Ptokia, for the indigent. In Diogenes Laertius, concerning Bion, we find this passage: “He suffered much from the indigence of those who were charged with the care of the sick.”

Hospitality among friends was called Idioxenia, and among strangers Proxenia. Hence, the person who received and entertained strangers in his house, in the name of the whole city, was called Proxenos. But this institution appears to have been exceedingly rare. At the present day there is scarcely a city in Edition: current; Page: [72] Europe without its hospitals. The Turks have them even for beasts, which seems to be carrying charity rather too far, it would be better to forget the beasts and think more about men.

This prodigious multitude of charitable establishments clearly proves a truth deserving of all our attention—that man is not so depraved as he is stated to be, and that, notwithstanding all his absurd opinions, notwithstanding all the horrors of war which transform him into a ferocious beast, we have reason to consider him as a creature naturally well disposed and kind, and who, like other animals, becomes vicious only in proportion as he is stung by provocation.

The misfortune is that he is provoked too often.

Modern Rome has almost as many charitable institutions as ancient Rome had triumphal arches and other monuments of conquest. The most considerable of them all is a bank which lends money at two per cent. upon pledge, and sells the property if the borrower does not redeem it by an appointed time. This establishment is called the Archiospedale, or chief hospital. It is said always to contain within its walls nearly two thousand sick, which would be about the fiftieth part of the population of Rome for this one house alone, without including the children brought up, and the pilgrims lodged there. Where are the computations which do not require abatement?

Has it not been actually published at Rome that the hospital of the Trinity had lodged and maintained Edition: current; Page: [73] for three days four hundred and forty thousand five hundred male and twenty-five thousand female pilgrims at the jubilee in 1600? Has not Misson himself told us that the hospital of the Annunciation at Naples possesses a rental of two millions in our money? (About four hundred thousand dollars.)

However, to return, perhaps a charitable establishment for pilgrims who are generally mere vagabonds, is rather an encouragement to idleness than an act of humanity. It is, however, a decisive evidence of humanity that Rome contains fifty charitable establishments including all descriptions. These beneficent institutions are quite as useful and respectable as the riches of some monasteries and chapels are useless and ridiculous.

To dispense food, clothing, medicine, and aid of every kind, to our brethren, is truly meritorious, but what need can a saint have of gold and diamonds? What benefit results to mankind from “our Lady of Loretto” possessing more gorgeous treasures than the Turkish sultan? Loretto is a house of vanity, and not of charity. London, reckoning its charity schools, has as many beneficent establishments as Rome.

The most beautiful monument of beneficence ever erected is the Hôtel des Invalides, founded by Louis XIV.

Of all hospitals, that in which the greatest number of indigent sick are daily received is the Hôtel Dieu of Paris. It frequently contains four or five Edition: current; Page: [74] thousand inmates at a time. It is at once the receptacle of all the dreadful ills to which mankind are subject and the temple of true virtue, which consists in relieving them.

It is impossible to avoid frequently drawing a contrast between a fête at Versailles or an opera at Paris, in which all the pleasures and all the splendors of life are combined with the most exquisite art, and a Hôtel Dieu, where all that is painful, all that is loathsome, and even death itself are accumulated in one mass of horror. Such is the composition of great cities! By an admirable policy pleasures and luxury are rendered subservient to misery and pain. The theatres of Paris pay on an average the yearly sum of a hundred thousand crowns to the hospital. It often happens in these charitable institutions that the inconveniences counterbalance the advantages. One proof of the abuses attached to them is that patients dread the very idea of being removed to them.

The Hôtel Dieu, for example, was formerly well situated, in the middle of the city, near the bishop’s palace. The situation now is very bad, for the city has become overgrown; four or five patients are crowded into every bed, the victim of scurvy communicates it to his neighbor and in return receives from him smallpox, and a pestilential atmosphere spreads incurable disease and death, not only through the building destined to restore men to healthful life but through a great part of the city which surrounds it.

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M. de Chamousset, one of the most valuable and active of citizens, has computed, from accurate authorities, that in the Hôtel Dieu, a fourth part of the patients die, an eighth in the hospital of Charity, a ninth in the London hospitals, and a thirtieth in those of Versailles. In the great and celebrated hospital of Lyons, which has long been one of the best conducted in Europe, the average mortality has been found to be only one-fifteenth. It has been often proposed to divide the Hôtel Dieu of Paris into smaller establishments better situated, more airy, and salubrious, but money has been wanting to carry the plan into execution.

Curtae nescio quid semper abest rei.

Money is always to be found when men are to be sent to the frontiers to be destroyed, but when the object is to preserve them it is no longer so. Yet the Hôtel Dieu of Paris has a revenue amounting to more than a million (forty thousand pounds), and every day increasing, and the Parisians have rivalled each other in their endowments of it.

We cannot help remarking in this place that Germain Brice, in his “Description of Paris,” speaking of some legacies bequeathed by the first president, Bellievre, to the hall of the Hôtel Dieu, named St. Charles, says: “Every one ought to read the beautiful inscription, engraved in letters of gold on a grand marble tablet, and composed by Oliver Patru, one of the choicest spirits of his time, some of whose pleadings are extant and in very high esteem.

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“Whoever thou art that enterest this sacred place thou wilt almost everywhere behold traces of the charity of the great Pomponne. The gold and silver tapestry and the exquisite furniture which formerly adorned his apartments are now, by a happy metamorphosis, made to minister to the necessities of the sick. That divine man, who was the ornament and delight of his age, even in his conflict with death, considered how he might relieve the afflicted. The blood of Bellievre was manifested in every action of his life. The glory of his embassies is full well known,” etc.

The useful Chamousset did better than Germain Brice, or than Oliver Patru, “one of the choicest spirits of his time.” He offered to undertake at his own expense, backed by a responsible company, the following contract:

The administrators of the Hôtel Dieu estimated the cost of every patient, whether killed or cured, at fifty livres. M. Chamousset and the company offered to undertake the business, on receiving fifty livres on recovery only. The deaths were to be thrown out of the account, of which the expenses were to be borne by himself.

The proposal was so very advantageous that it was not accepted. It was feared that he would not be able to accomplish it. Every abuse attempted to be reformed is the patrimony of those who have more influence than the reformers.

A circumstance no less singular is that the Hôtel Edition: current; Page: [77] Dieu alone has the privilege of selling meat in Lent, for its own advantage and it loses money thereby. M. Chamousset proposed to enter into a contract by which the establishment would gain; his offer was rejected and the butcher, who was thought to have suggested it to him, was dismissed.

  • Ainsi chez les humains, par un abus fatal,
  • Le bien le plus parfait est la source du mal.
  • Thus serious ill, if tainted by abuse,
  • The noblest works of man will oft produce.


Charles IX., king of France, was, we are told, a good poet. It is quite certain that while he lived his verses were admired. Brantôme does not, indeed, tell us that this king was the best poet in Europe, but he assures us that “he made very genteel quatrains impromptu, without thinking (for he had seen several of them), and when it was wet or gloomy weather, or very hot, he would send for the poets into his cabinet and pass his time there with them.”

Had he always passed his time thus, and, above all, had he made good verses, we should not have had a St. Bartholomew, he would not have fired with a carbine through his window upon his own subjects, as if they had been a covey of partridges. Is it not impossible for a good poet to be a barbarian? I am persuaded it is.

These lines, addressed in his name to Ronsard, have been attributed to him:

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  • La lyre, qui ravit par de si doux accords,
  • Te soumets les esprits dont je n’ai que les corps;
  • Le maître elle t’en rend, et te fait introduire
  • Où le plus fier tyran ne peut avoir d’empire.
  • The lyre’s delightful softly swelling lay
  • Subdues the mind, I but the body sway;
  • Make thee its master, thy sweet art can bind
  • What haughty tyrants cannot rule—the mind.

These lines are good. But are they his? Are they not his preceptor’s? Here are some of his royal imaginings, which are somewhat different:

  • Il faut suivre ton roi qui t’aime par sur tous
  • Pour les vers qui de toi coulent braves et doux;
  • Et crois, si tu ne viens me trouver à Pontoise,
  • Qu’entre nous adviendra une très-grande noise.
  • Know, thou must follow close thy king, who oft
  • Hath heard, and loves thee for, thy verse so soft;
  • Unless thou come and meet me at Pontoise,
  • Believe me, I shall make no little noise.

These are worthy the author of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Cæsar’s lines on Terence are written with rather more spirit and taste; they breathe Roman urbanity. In those of Francis I. and Charles IX. we find the barbarism of the Celts. Would to God that Charles IX. had written more verses, even though bad ones! For constant application to the fine arts softens the manners and dispels ferocity:

Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros.

Besides, the French languages scarcely began to take any form until long after Charles IX. See such of Francis I.’s letters as have been preserved: “Tout est perdu hors l’honneur”—“All is lost save honor”—was worthy of a chevalier. But the following is neither in the style of Cicero nor in that of Cæsar:

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Death of Coligny.
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“Tout a fleure ynsi que je me volois mettre o lit est arrivé Laval qui m’a aporté la serteneté du lévement du siege.”

“All was going so well that, when I was going to bed Laval arrived, and brought me the certainty of the siege being raised.”

We have letters from the hand of Louis XIII., which are no better written. It is not required of a king to write letters like Pliny, or verses like Virgil; but no one can be excused from expressing himself with propriety in his own tongue. Every prince that writes like a lady’s maid has been ill educated.



We have frequently observed elsewhere, how rash and injudicious it is to controvert with any nation, such as the Chinese, its authentic pretensions. There is no house in Europe, the antiquity of which is so well proved as that of the Empire of China. Let us figure to ourselves a learned Maronite of Mount Athos questioning the nobility of the Morozini, the Tiepolo, and other ancient houses of Venice; of the princes of Germany, of the Montmorencys, the Chatillons, or the Talleyrands, of France, under the pretence that they are not mentioned in St. Thomas, or St. Bonaventure. We must impeach either his sense or his sincerity.

Many of the learned of our northern climes have felt confounded at the antiquity claimed by the Chinese. Edition: current; Page: [80] The question, however, is not one of learning. Leaving all the Chinese literati, all the mandarins, all the emperors, to acknowledge Fo-hi as one of the first who gave laws to China, about two thousand five hundred years before our vulgar era; admit that there must be people before there are kings. Allow that a long period of time is necessary before a numerous people, having discovered the necessary arts of life, unite in the choice of a common governor. But if you do not make these admissions, it is not of the slightest consequence. Whether you agree with us or not, we shall always believe that two and two make four.

In a western province, formerly called Celtica, the love of singularity and paradox has been carried so far as to induce some to assert that the Chinese were only an Egyptian, or rather perhaps a Phœnician colony. It was attempted to prove, in the same way as a thousand other things have been proved, that a king of Egypt, called Menes by the Greeks, was the Chinese King Yu; and that Atoes was Ki, by the change of certain letters. In addition to which, the following is a specimen of the reasoning applied to the subject:

The Egyptians sometimes lighted torches at night. The Chinese light lanterns: the Chinese are, therefore, evidently a colony from Egypt. The Jesuit Parennin who had, at the time, resided five and twenty years in China, and was master both of its language and its sciences, has rejected all these fancies Edition: current; Page: [81] with a happy mixture of elegance and sarcasm. All the missionaries, and all the Chinese, on receiving the intelligence that a country in the extremity of the west was developing a new formation of the Chinese Empire, treated it with a contemptuous ridicule. Father Parennin replied with somewhat more seriousness: “Your Egyptians,” said he, “when going to people China, must evidently have passed through India.” Was India at that time peopled or not? If it was, would it permit a foreign army to pass through it? If it was not, would not the Egyptians have stopped in India? Would they have continued their journey through barren deserts, and over almost impracticable mountains, till they reached China, in order to form colonies there, when they might so easily have established them on the fertile banks of the Indus or the Ganges?

The compilers of a universal history, printed in England, have also shown a disposition to divest the Chinese of their antiquity, because the Jesuits were the first who made the world acquainted with China. This is unquestionably a very satisfactory reason for saying to a whole nation—“You are liars.”

It appears to me a very important reflection, which may be made on the testimony given by Confucius, to the antiquity of his nation; and which is, that Confucius had no interest in falsehood: he did not pretend to be a prophet; he claimed no inspiration; he taught no new religion; he used no delusions; flattered not the emperor under whom he Edition: current; Page: [82] lived: he did not even mention him. In short, he is the only founder of institutions among mankind who was not followed by a train of women.

I knew a philosopher who had no other portrait than that of Confucius in his study. At the bottom of it were written the following lines:

  • Without assumption he explored the mind,
  • Unveiled the light of reason to mankind;
  • Spoke as a sage, and never as a seer,
  • Yet, strange to say, his country held him dear.

I have read his books with attention; I have made extracts from them; I have found in them nothing but the purest morality, without the slightest tinge of charlatanism. He lived six hundred years before our vulgar era. His works were commented on by the most learned men of the nation. If he had falsified, if he had introduced a false chronology, if he had written of emperors who never existed, would not some one have been found, in a learned nation, who would have reformed his chronology? One Chinese only has chosen to contradict him, and he met with universal execration.

Were it worth our while, we might here compare the great wall of China with the monuments of other nations, which have never even approached it; and remark, that, in comparison with this extensive work, the pyramids of Egypt are only puerile and useless masses. We might dwell on the thirty-two eclipses calculated in the ancient chronology of China, twenty-eight of which have been verified by the mathematicians of Europe. We might show, that the respect Edition: current; Page: [83] entertained by the Chinese for their ancestors is an evidence that such ancestors have existed; and repeat the observation, so often made, that this reverential respect has in so small degree impeded, among this people, the progress of natural philosophy, geometry, and astronomy.

It is sufficiently known, that they are, at the present day, what we all were three hundred years ago, very ignorant reasoners. The most learned Chinese is like one of the learned of Europe in the fifteenth century, in possession of his Aristotle. But it is possible to be a very bad natural philosopher, and at the same time an excellent moralist. It is, in fact, in morality, in political economy, in agriculture, in the necessary arts of life, that the Chinese have made such advances towards perfection. All the rest they have been taught by us: in these we might well submit to become their disciples.

Of the Expulsion of the Missionaries from China.

Humanly speaking, independently of the service which the Jesuits might confer on the Christian religion, are they not to be regarded as an ill-fated class of men, in having travelled from so remote a distance to introduce trouble and discord into one of the most extended and best-governed kingdoms of the world? And does not their conduct involve a dreadful abuse of the liberality and indulgence shown by the Orientals, more particularly after the torrents of blood shed, through their means, in the empire of Japan? Edition: current; Page: [84] A scene of horror, to prevent the consequence of which the government believed it absolutely indispensable to shut their ports against all foreigners.

The Jesuits had obtained permission of the emperor of China, Cam-hi, to teach the Catholic religion. They made use of it, to instil into the small portion of the people under their direction, that it was incumbent on them to serve no other master than him who was the vicegerent of God on earth, and who dwelt in Italy on the banks of a small river called the Tiber; that every other religious opinion, every other worship, was an abomination in the sight of God, and whoever did not believe the Jesuits would be punished by Him to all eternity; that their emperor and benefactor, Cam-hi, who could not even pronounce the name of Christ, as the Chinese language possesses not the letter “r,” would suffer eternal damnation; that the Emperor Youtchin would experience, without mercy, the same fate; that all the ancestors, both of Chinese and Tartars, would incur a similar penalty; that their descendants would undergo it also, as well as the rest of the world; and that the reverend fathers, the Jesuits, felt a sincere and paternal commiseration for the damnation of so many souls.

They, at length, succeeded in making converts of three princes of the Tartar race. In the meantime, the Emperor Cam-hi died, towards the close of the year 1722. He bequeathed the empire to his fourth son, who has been so celebrated through the whole Edition: current; Page: [85] world for the justice and the wisdom of his government, for the affection entertained for him by his subjects, and for the expulsion of the Jesuits.

They began by baptizing the three princes, and many persons of their household. These neophytes had the misfortune to displease the emperor on some points which merely respected military duty. About this very period the indignation of the whole empire against the missionaries broke out into a flame. All the governors of provinces, all the Colaos, presented memorials against them. The accusations against them were urged so far that the three princes, who had become disciples of the Jesuits, were put into irons.

It is clear that they were not treated with this severity simply for having been baptized, since the Jesuits themselves acknowledge in their letters, that they experienced no violence, and that they were even admitted to an audience of the emperor, who honored them with some presents. It is evident, therefore, that the Emperor Youtchin was no persecutor; and, if the princes were confined in a prison on the borders of Tartary, while those who had converted them were treated so liberally, it is a decided proof that they were state prisoners, and not martyrs.

The emperor, soon after this, yielded to the supplications of all his people. They petitioned that the Jesuits might be sent away, as their abolition has been since prayed for in France and other countries. All the tribunals of China urged their being immediately Edition: current; Page: [86] sent to Macao, which is considered as a place without the limits of the empire, and the possession of which has always been left to the Portuguese, with a Chinese garrison.

Youtchin had the humanity to consult the tribunals and governors, whether any danger could result from conveying all the Jesuits to the province of Canton. While awaiting the reply, he ordered three of them to be introduced to his presence, and addressed them in the following words, which Father Parennin, with great ingenuousness, records: “Your Europeans, in the province of Fo-Kien, intended to abolish our laws, and disturbed our people. The tribunals have denounced them before me. It is my positive duty to provide against such disorders: the good of the empire requires it. . . . . What would you say were I to send over to your country a company of bonzes and lamas to preach their law? How would you receive them? . . . . If you deceived my father, hope not also to deceive me. . . . . You wish to make the Chinese Christians: your law, I well know, requires this of you. But in case you should succeed, what should we become? the subjects of your kings. Christians believe none but you: in a time of confusion they would listen to no voice but yours. I know that, at present, there is nothing to fear; but on the arrival of a thousand, or perhaps ten thousand vessels, great disturbances might ensue.

“China, on the north, joins the kingdom of Russia, which is by no means contemptible; to the south it Edition: current; Page: [87] has the Europeans, and their kingdoms, which are still more considerable; and to the west, the princes of Tartary, with whom we have been at war eight years. . . . . Laurence Lange, companion of Prince Ismailoff, ambassador from the czar, requested that the Russians might have permission to establish factories in each of the provinces. The permission was confined to Pekin, and within the limits of Calcas. In like manner I permit you to remain here and at Canton as long as you avoid giving any cause of complaint. Should you give any, I will not suffer you to remain either here or at Canton.”

In the other provinces their houses and churches were levelled to the ground. At length the clamor against them redoubled. The charges most strenuously insisted upon against them were, that they weakened the respect of children for their parents, by not paying the honors due to ancestors; that they indecently brought together young men and women in retired places, which they called churches; that they made girls kneel before them, and enclosed them with their legs, and conversed with them, while in this posture, in undertones. To Chinese delicacy, nothing appeared more revolting than this. Their emperor, Youtchin, even condescended to inform the Jesuits of this fact; after which he sent away the greater part of the missionaries to Macao, but with all that polite attention which perhaps the Chinese alone are capable of displaying.

Some Jesuits, possessed of mathematical science, Edition: current; Page: [88] were retained at Pekin; and among others, that same Parennin whom we have mentioned; and who, being a perfect master both of the Chinese and of the Tartar language, had been frequently employed as an interpreter. Many of the Jesuits concealed themselves in the distant provinces; others even in Canton itself; and the affair was connived at.

At length, after the death of the Emperor Youtchin, his son and successor, Kien-Lung, completed the satisfaction of the nation by compelling all the missionaries who were in concealment throughout his empire to remove to Macao: a solemn edict prevented them from ever returning. If any appear, they are civilly requested to carry their talents somewhere else. There is nothing of severity, nothing of persecution. I have been told that, in 1760, a Jesuit having gone from Rome to Canton, and been informed against by a Dutch factor, the Colao governor of Canton had him sent away, presenting him at the same time with a piece of silk, some provisions, and money.

Of the pretended Atheism of China.

The charge of Atheism, alleged by our theologians of the west, against the Chinese government at the other end of the world, has been frequently examined, and is, it must be admitted, the meanest excess of our follies and pedantic inconsistencies. It was sometimes pretended, in one of our learned faculties, that the Chinese tribunals or parliaments were idolatrous; Edition: current; Page: [89] sometimes that they acknowledged no divinity whatever: and these reasoners occasionally pushed their logic so far as to maintain that the Chinese were, at the same time, atheists and idolaters.

In the month of October, 1700, the Sorbonne declared every proposition which maintained that the emperor and the Colaos believed in God to be heretical. Bulky volumes were composed in order to demonstrate, conformably to the system of theological demonstration, that the Chinese adored nothing but the material heaven.

  • Nil praeter nubes et coeli numen adorant.
  • They worship clouds and firmament alone.

But if they did adore the material heaven, that was their God. They resembled the Persians, who are said to have adored the sun: they resembled the ancient Arabians, who adored the stars: they were neither worshippers of idols nor atheists. But a learned doctor, when it is an object to denounce from his tripod any proposition as heretical or obnoxious, does not distinguish with much clearness.

Those contemptible creatures who, in 1700, created such a disturbance about the material heaven of the Chinese, did not know that, in 1689, the Chinese, having made peace with the Russians at Nicptchou, which divides the two empires, erected, in September of the same year, a marble monument, on which the following memorable words were engraved in the Chinese and Latin languages:

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“Should any ever determine to rekindle the flames of war, we pray the sovereign reign of all things, who knows the heart, to punish their perfidy,” etc.

A very small portion of modern history is sufficient to put an end to these ridiculous disputes: but those who believe that the duty of man consists in writing commentaries on St. Thomas, or Scotus, cannot condescend to inform themselves of what is going on among the great empires of the world.


We travel to China to obtain clay for porcelain, as if we had none ourselves; stuffs, as if we were destitute of stuffs; and a small herb to be infused in water, as if we had no simples in our own countries. In return for these benefits, we are desirous of converting the Chinese. It is a very commendable zeal; but we must avoid controverting their antiquity, and also calling them idolaters. Should we think it well of a capuchin, if, after having been hospitably entertained at the château of the Montmorencys, he endeavored to persuade them that they were new nobility, like the king’s secretaries; or accused them of idolatry, because he found two or three statues of constables, for whom they cherished the most profound respect?

The celebrated Wolf, professor of mathematics in the university of Halle, once delivered an excellent discourse in praise of the Chinese philosophy. He praised that ancient species of the human race, differing, Edition: current; Page: [91] as it does, in respect to the beard, the eyes, the nose, the ears, and even the reasoning powers themselves; he praised the Chinese, I say, for their adoration of a supreme God, and their love of virtue. He did that justice to the emperors of China, to the tribunals, and to the literati. The justice done to the bonzes was of a different kind.

It is necessary to observe, that this Professor Wolf had attracted around him a thousand pupils of all nations. In the same university there was also a professor of theology, who attracted no one. This man, maddened at the thought of freezing to death in his own deserted hall, formed the design, which undoubtedly was only right and reasonable, of destroying the mathematical professor. He scrupled not, according to the practice of persons like himself, to accuse him of not believing in God.

Some European writers, who had never been in China, had pretended that the government of Pekin was atheistical. Wolf had praised the philosophers of Pekin; therefore Wolf was an atheist. Envy and hatred seldom construct the best syllogisms. This argument of Lange, supported by a party and by a protector, was considered conclusive by the sovereign of the country, who despatched a formal dilemma to the mathematician. This dilemma gave him the option of quitting Halle in twenty-four hours, or of being hanged; and as Wolf was a very accurate reasoner, he did not fail to quit. His withdrawing deprived the king of two or three hundred Edition: current; Page: [92] thousand crowns a year, which were brought into the kingdom in consequence of the wealth of this philosopher’s disciples.

This case should convince sovereigns that they should not be over ready to listen to calumny, and sacrifice a great man to the madness of a fool. But let us return to China.

Why should we concern ourselves, we who live at the extremity of the west—why should we dispute with abuse and fury, whether there were fourteen princes or not before Fo-hi, emperor of China, and whether the said Fo-hi lived three thousand, or two thousand nine hundred years before our vulgar era? I should like to see two Irishmen quarrelling at Dublin, about who was the owner, in the twelfth century, of the estate I am now in possession of. Is it not clear, that they should refer to me, who possess the documents and titles relating to it? To my mind, the case is the same with respect to the first emperors of China, and the tribunals of that country are the proper resort upon the subject.

Dispute as long as you please about the fourteen princes who reigned before Fo-hi, your very interesting dispute cannot possibly fail to prove that China was at that period populous, and that laws were in force there. I now ask you, whether a people’s being collected together, under laws and kings, involves not the idea of very considerable antiquity? Reflect how long a time is requisite, before by a singular concurrence of circumstances, the iron is discovered in the Edition: current; Page: [93] mine, before it is applied to purposes of agriculture, before the invention of the shuttle, and all the arts of life.

Some who multiply mankind by a dash of the pen, have produced very curious calculations. The Jesuit Petau, by a very singular computation, gives the world, two hundred and twenty-five years after the deluge, one hundred times as many inhabitants as can be easily conceived to exist on it at present. The Cumberlands and Whistons have formed calculations equally ridiculous; had these worthies only consulted the registers of our colonies in America, they would have been perfectly astonished, and would have perceived not only how slowly mankind increase in number, but that frequently instead of increasing they actually diminish.

Let us then, who are merely of yesterday, descendants of the Celts, who have only just finished clearing the forests of our savage territories, suffer the Chinese and Indians to enjoy in peace their fine climate and their antiquity. Let us, especially, cease calling the emperor of China, and the souba of the Deccan, idolaters. There is no necessity for being a zealot in estimating Chinese merit. The constitution of their empire is the only one entirely established upon paternal authority; the only one in which the governor of a province is punished, if, on quitting his station, he does not receive the acclamations of the people; the only one which has instituted rewards for virtue, while, everywhere else, the sole Edition: current; Page: [94] object of the laws is the punishment of crime; the only one which has caused its laws to be adopted by its conquerors, while we are still subject to the customs of the Burgundians, the Franks, and the Goths, by whom we were conquered. Yet, we must confess, that the common people, guided by the bonzes, are equally knavish with our own; that everything is sold enormously dear to foreigners, as among ourselves; that, with respect to the sciences, the Chinese are just where we were two hundred years ago; that, like us, they labor under a thousand ridiculous prejudices; and that they believe in talismans and judicial astrology, as we long did ourselves.

We must admit also, that they were astonished at our thermometer, at our method of freezing fluids by means of saltpetre, and at all the experiments of Torricelli and Otto von Guericke; as we were also, on seeing for the first time those curious processes. We add, that their physicians do not cure mortal diseases any more than our own; and that minor diseases, both here and in China, are cured by nature alone. All this, however, does not interfere with the fact, that the Chinese, for four thousand years, when we were unable even to read, knew everything essentially useful of which we boast at the present day.

I must again repeat, the religion of their learned is admirable, and free from superstitions, from absurd legends, from dogmas insulting both to reason and nature, to which the bonzes give a thousand different meanings, because they really often have none. Edition: current; Page: [95] The most simple worship has appeared to them the best, for a series of forty centuries. They are, what we conceive Seth, Enoch, and Noah to have been; they are contented to adore one God in communion with the sages of the world, while Europe is divided between Thomas and Bonaventure, between Calvin and Luther, between Jansenius and Molina.


Establishment of Christianity, in its Civil and Political State.—Section I.

God forbid that we should dare to mix the sacred with the profane! We seek not to fathom the depths of the ways of Providence. We are men, and we address men only.

When Antony, and after him Augustus, had given Judæa to the Arabian, Herod—their creature and their tributary—that prince, a stranger among the Jews, became the most powerful of all kings. He had ports on the Mediterranean—Ptolemais and Ascalon; he built towns; he erected a temple to Apollo at Rhodes, and one to Augustus in Cæsarea; he rebuilt that of Jerusalem from the foundation, and converted it into a strong citadel. Under his rule, Palestine enjoyed profound peace. In short, barbarous as he was to his family, and tyrannical towards his people, whose substance he consumed in the execution of his projects, he was looked upon as a Messiah. He worshipped only Cæsar, and he was also worshipped by the Herodians.

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The sect of the Jews had long been spread in Europe and Asia; but its tenets were entirely unknown. No one knew anything of the Jewish books, although we are told that some of them had already been translated into Greek, in Alexandria. The Jews were known only as the Armenians are now known to the Turks and Persians, as brokers and traders. Further, a Turk never takes the trouble to inquire, whether an Armenian is a Eutychian, a Jacobite, one of St. John’s Christians, or an Arian. The theism of China, and the much to be respected books of Confucius, were still less known to the nations of the west, than the Jewish rites.

The Arabians, who furnished the Romans with the precious commodities of India, had no more idea of the theology of the Brahmins than our sailors who go to Pondicherry or Madras. The Indian women had from time immemorial enjoyed the privilege of burning themselves on the bodies of their husbands; yet these astonishing sacrifices, which are still practised, were as unknown to the Jews as the customs of America. Their books, which speak of Gog and Magog, never mention India.

The ancient religion of Zoroaster was celebrated; but not therefore the more understood in the Roman Empire. It was only known, in general, that the magi admitted a resurrection, a hell, and a paradise; which doctrine must at that time have made its way to the Jews bordering on Chaldæa; since, in Herod’s time, Palestine was divided between the Pharisees, Edition: current; Page: [97] who began to believe the dogma of the resurrection, and the Sadducees, who regarded it only with contempt.

Alexandria, the most commercial city in the whole world, was peopled with Egyptians, who worshipped Serapis, and consecrated cats; with Greeks, who philosophized; with Romans, who ruled; and with Jews, who amassed wealth. All these people were eagerly engaged in money-getting, immersed in pleasure, infuriate with fanaticism, making and unmaking religious sects, especially during the external tranquillity which they enjoyed when Augustus had shut the temple of Janus.

The Jews were divided into three principal factions. Of these, the Samaritans called themselves the most ancient, because Samaria (then Sebaste) had subsisted, while Jerusalem, with its temple, was destroyed under the Babylonian kings. But these Samaritans were a mixture of the people of Persia with those of Palestine.

The second, and most powerful faction, was that of the Hierosolymites. These Jews, properly so called, detested the Samaritans, and were detested by them. Their interests were all opposite. They wished that no sacrifices should be offered but in the temple of Jerusalem. Such a restriction would have brought a deal of money into their city; and, for this very reason, the Samaritans would sacrifice nowhere but at home. A small people, in a small town, may have but one temple; but when a people have extended Edition: current; Page: [98] themselves over a country seventy leagues long, by twenty-three wide, as the Jews had done—when their territory is almost as large and populous as Languedoc or Normandy, it would be absurd to have but one church. What would the good people of Montpellier say, if they could attend mass nowhere but at Toulouse?

The third faction were the Hellenic Jews, consisting chiefly of such as were engaged in trade or handicraft in Egypt and Greece. These had the same interests with the Samaritans. Onias, the son of a high priest, wishing to be a high priest like his father, obtained permission from Ptolemy Philometor, king of Egypt, and in particular from the king’s wife, Cleopatra, to build a Jewish temple near Bubastis. He assured Queen Cleopatra that Isaiah had foretold that the Lord should one day have a temple on that spot; and Cleopatra, to whom he made a handsome present, sent him word that, since Isaiah had said it, it must be. This temple was called the Onion; and if Onias was not a great sacrificer, he commanded a troop of militia. It was built one hundred and sixty years before the Christian era. The Jews of Jerusalem always held this Onion in abhorrence, as they did the translation called the Septuagint. They even instituted an expiatory feast for these two pretended sacrileges. The rabbis of the Onion, mingling with the Greeks, became more learned (in their way) than the rabbis of Jerusalem and Samaria; and the three factions began to dispute on controversial Edition: current; Page: [99] questions, which necessarily make men subtle, false, and unsocial.

The Egyptian Jews, in order to equal the austerity of the Essenes, and the Judates of Palestine, established, some time before the birth of Christianity, the sect of the Therapeutæ, who, like them, devoted themselves to a sort of monastic life, and to mortifications. These different societies were imitations of the old Egyptian, Persian, Thracian, and Greek mysteries, which had filled the earth, from the Euphrates and the Nile to the Tiber. At first, such as were initiated into these fraternities were few in number, and were looked upon as privileged men; but in the time of Augustus, their number was very considerable; so that nothing but religion was talked of, from Syria to Mount Atlas and the German Ocean.

Amidst all these sects and worships, the school of Plato had established itself, not in Greece alone, but also in Rome, and especially in Egypt. Plato had been considered as having drawn his doctrine from the Egyptians, who thought that, in turning Plato’s ideas to account, his word, and the sort of trinity discoverable in some of his works, they were but claiming their own.

This philosophic spirit, spread at that time over all the known countries of the west, seems to have emitted, in the neighborhood of Palestine, at least a few sparks of the spirit of reasoning. It is certain that, in Herod’s time, there were disputes on the attributes of the divinity, on the immortality of the Edition: current; Page: [100] soul, and the resurrection of the body. The Jews relate, that Queen Cleopatra asked them whether we were to rise again dressed or naked?

The Jews, then, were reasoners in their way. The exaggerating Josephus was, for a soldier, very learned. Such being the case with a military man, there must have been many a learned man in civil life. His contemporary, Philo, would have had reputation, even among the Greeks. St. Paul’s master, Gamaliel, was a great controversialist. The authors of the “Mishna” were polymathists.

The Jewish populace discoursed on religion. As, at the present day, in Switzerland, at Geneva, in Germany, in England, and especially in the Cévennes, we find even the meanest of the inhabitants dealing in controversy. Nay, more; men from the dregs of the people have founded sects: as Fox, in England; Münzer, in Germany; and the first reformers in France. Indeed, Mahomet himself, setting apart his great courage, was nothing more than a camel-driver.

Add to these preliminaries that, in Herod’s time, it was imagined, as is elsewhere remarked, that the world was soon to be at an end. In those days, prepared by divine providence, it pleased the eternal Father to send His Son upon earth—an adorable and incomprehensible mystery, which we presume not to approach.

We only say, that if Jesus preached a pure morality; if He announced the kingdom of heaven as the Edition: current; Page: [101] reward of the just; if He had disciples attached to His person and His virtues; if those very virtues drew upon Him the persecutions of the priests; if, through calumny, He was put to a shameful death; His doctrine, constantly preached by His disciples, would necessarily have a great effect in the world. Once more let me repeat it—I speak only after the manner of this world, setting the multitude of miracles and prophecies entirely aside. I maintain it, that Christianity was more likely to proceed by His death, than if He had not been persecuted. You are astonished that His disciples made other disciples. I should have been much more astonished, if they had not brought over a great many to their party. Seventy individuals, convinced of the innocence of their leader, the purity of His manners, and the barbarity of His judges, must influence many a feeling heart.

St. Paul, alone, became (for whatever reason) the enemy of his master Gamaliel, must have had it in his power to bring Jesus a thousand adherents, even supposing Jesus to have been only a worthy and oppressed man. Paul was learned, eloquent, vehement, indefatigable, skilled in the Greek tongue, and seconded by zealots much more interested than himself in defending their Master’s reputation. St. Luke was an Alexandrian Greek, and a man of letters, for he was a physician.

The first chapter of John displays a Platonic sublimity, which must have been gratifying to the Platonists Edition: current; Page: [102] of Alexandria. And indeed there was even formed in that city a school founded by Luke, or by Mark (either the evangelist or some other), and perpetuated by Athenagoras, Pantænus, Origen, and Clement—all learned and eloquent. This school once established, it was impossible for Christianity not to make rapid progress.

Greece, Syria, and Egypt, were the scenes of those celebrated ancient mysteries, which enchanted the minds of the people. The Christians, too, had their mysteries, in which men would eagerly seek to be initiated; and if at first only through curiosity, this curiosity soon became persuasion. The idea of the approaching end of all things was especially calculated to induce the new disciples to despise the transitory goods of this life, which were so soon to perish with them. The example of the Therapeutæ was an incitement to a solitary and mortified life. All these things, then, powerfully concurred in the establishment of the Christian religion.

The different flocks of this great rising society could not, it is true, agree among themselves. Fifty-four societies had fifty-four different gospels; all secret, like their mysteries; all unknown to the Gentiles, who never saw our four canonical gospels until the end of two hundred and fifty years. These various flocks, though divided, acknowledged the same pastor. Ebionites, opposed to St. Paul; Nazarenes, disciples of Hymeneos, Alexandros, and Hermogenes; Carpocratians, Basilidians, Valentinians, Edition: current; Page: [103] Marcionites, Sabellians, Gnostics, Montanists—a hundred sects, rising one against another, and casting mutual reproaches, were nevertheless all united in Jesus; all called upon Jesus; all made Jesus the great object of their thoughts, and reward of their travails.

The Roman Empire, in which all these societies were formed, at first paid no attention to them. They were known at Rome only by the general name of Jews, about whom the government gave itself no concern. The Jews had, by their money, acquired the right of trading. In the reign of Tiberius four thousand of them were driven out of Rome; in that of Nero the people charged them and the new demi-Christian Jews with the burning of Rome.

They were again expelled in the reign of Claudius, but their money always procured them readmission; they were quiet and despised. The Christians of Rome were not so numerous as those of Greece, Alexandria and Syria. The Romans in the earlier ages had neither fathers of the church nor heresiarchs. The farther they were from the birthplace of Christianity, the fewer doctors and writers were to be found among them. The church was Greek; so much so, that every mystery, every rite, every tenet, was expressed in the Greek tongue.

All Christians, whether Greek, Syrian, Roman, or Egyptian, were considered as half Jewish. This was another reason for concealing their books from the Gentiles, that they might remain united and impenetrable. Edition: current; Page: [104] Their secret was more inviolably kept than that of the mysteries of Isis or of Ceres; they were a republic apart—a state within the state. They had no temples, no altars, no sacrifice, no public ceremony. They elected their secret superiors by a majority of voices. These superiors, under the title of ancients, priests, bishops, or deacons, managed the common purse, took care of the sick and pacified quarrels. Among them it was a shame and a crime to plead before the tribunals or to enlist in the armed force; and for a hundred years there was not a single Christian in the armies of the empire.

Thus, retired in the midst of the world and unknown even when they appeared, they escaped the tyranny of the proconsuls and prætors and were free amid the public slavery. It is not known who wrote the famous book entitled “Τῶν Ἀποστόλων Δίδαχαί” (the Apostolical Constitutions), as it is unknown who were the authors of the fifty rejected gospels, of the Acts of St. Peter, of the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and of so many other writings of the first Christians; but it is likely that the “Constitutions” are of the second century. Though falsely attributed to the apostles, they are very valuable. They show us what were the duties of a bishop chosen by the Christians, how they were to reverence him, and what tribute they were to pay him. The bishop could have but one wife, who was to take good care of his household: “Μιᾶς ἄνδρα γεγενόμενον γυναιϰὸς μονογάμου ϰάλὸν τοῦ ἰδίου οἴϰου προεστότα.”

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Rich Christians were exhorted to adopt the children of poor ones. Collections were made for the widows and orphans; but the money of sinners was rejected; and, nominally, an innkeeper was not permitted to give his mite. It is said that they were regarded as cheats; for which reason very few tavern-keepers were Christians. This also prevented the Christians from frequenting the taverns; thus completing their separation from the society of the Gentiles.

The dignity of deaconess being attainable by the women, they were the more attached to the Christian fraternity. They were consecrated; the bishop anointing them on the forehead, as of old the Jewish kings were anointed. By how many indissoluble ties were the Christians bound together!

The persecutions, which were never more than transitory, did but serve to redouble their zeal and inflame their fervor; so that, under Diocletian, one-third of the empire was Christian. Such were a few of the human causes that contributed to the progress of Christianity. If to these we add the divine causes, which are to the former as infinity to unity, there is only one thing which can surprise us; that a religion so true did not at once extend itself over the two hemispheres, not excepting the most savage islet.

God Himself came down from heaven and died to redeem mankind and extirpate sin forever from the face of the earth; and yet he left the greater part of mankind a prey to error, to crime, and to the devil. Edition: current; Page: [106] This, to our weak intellects, appears a fatal contradiction. But it is not for us to question Providence; our duty is to humble ourselves in the dust before it.


Several learned men have testified their surprise at not finding in the historian, Flavius Josephus, any mention of Jesus Christ; for all men of true learning are now agreed that the short passage relative to him in that history has been interpolated. The father of Flavius Josephus must, however, have been witness to all the miracles of Jesus. Josephus was of the sacerdotal race and akin to Herod’s wife, Mariamne. He gives us long details of all that prince’s actions, yet says not a word of the life or death of Jesus; nor does this historian, who disguises none of Herod’s cruelties, say one word of the general massacre of the infants ordered by him on hearing that there was born a king of the Jews. The Greek calendar estimates the number of children murdered on this occasion at fourteen thousand. This is, of all actions of all tyrants, the most horrible. There is no example of it in the history of the whole world.

Yet the best writer the Jews have ever had, the only one esteemed by the Greeks and Romans, makes no mention of an event so singular and so frightful. He says nothing of the appearance of a new star in the east after the birth of our Saviour—a brilliant phenomenon, which could not escape the knowledge Edition: current; Page: [107] of a historian so enlightened as Josephus. He is also silent respecting the darkness which, on our Saviour’s death, covered the whole earth for three hours at midday—the great number of graves that opened at that moment, and the multitude of the just that rose again.

The learned are constantly evincing their surprise that no Roman historian speaks of these prodigies, happening in the empire of Tiberius, under the eyes of a Roman governor and a Roman garrison, who must have sent to the emperor and the senate a detailed account of the most miraculous event that mankind had ever heard of. Rome itself must have been plunged for three hours in impenetrable darkness; such a prodigy would have had a place in the annals of Rome, and in those of every nation. But it was not God’s will that these divine things should be written down by their profane hands.

The same persons also find some difficulties in the gospel history. They remark that, in Matthew, Jesus Christ tells the scribes and pharisees that all the innocent blood that has been shed upon earth, from that of Abel the Just down to that of Zachary, son of Barac, whom they slew between the temple and the altar, shall be upon their heads.

There is not (say they) in the Hebrew history and Zachary slain in the temple before the coming of the Messiah, nor in His time, but in the history of the siege of Jerusalem, by Josephus, there is a Zachary, son of Barac, slain by the faction of the Edition: current; Page: [108] Zelotes. This is in the nineteenth chapter of the fourth book. Hence they suspect that the gospel according to St. Matthew was written after the taking of Jerusalem by Titus. But every doubt, every objection of this kind, vanishes when it is considered how great a difference there must be between books divinely inspired and the books of men. It was God’s pleasure to envelop alike in awful obscurity His birth, His life, and His death. His ways are in all things different from ours.

The learned have also been much tormented by the difference between the two genealogies of Jesus Christ. St. Matthew makes Joseph the son of Jacob, Jacob of Matthan, Matthan of Eleazar. St. Luke, on the contrary, says that Joseph was the son of Heli, Heli of Matthat, Matthat of Levi, Levi of Melchi, etc. They will not reconcile the fifty-six progenitors up to Abraham, given to Jesus by Luke, with the forty-two other forefathers up to the same Abraham, given him by Matthew; and they are quite staggered by Matthew’s giving only forty-one generations, while he speaks of forty-two. They start other difficulties about Jesus being the son, not of Joseph, but of Mary. They moreover raise some doubts respecting our Saviour’s miracles, quoting St. Augustine, St. Hilary, and others, who have given to the accounts of these miracles a mystic or allegorical sense; as, for example, to the fig tree cursed and blasted for not having borne figs when it was not the Edition: current; Page: [109] fig season; the devils sent into the bodies of swine in a country where no swine were kept; the water changed into wine at the end of a feast, when the guests were already too much heated. But all these learned critics are confounded by the faith, which is but the purer for their cavils. The sole design of this article is to follow the historical thread and give a precise idea of the facts about which there is no dispute.

First, then, Jesus was born under the Mosaic law; He was circumcised according to that law; He fulfilled all its precepts; He kept all its feasts; He did not reveal the mystery of His incarnation; He never told the Jews He was born of a virgin; He received John’s blessing in the waters of the Jordan, a ceremony to which various of the Jews submitted; but He never baptized any one; He never spoke of the seven sacraments; He instituted no ecclesiastical hierarchy during His life. He concealed from His contemporaries that He was the Son of God, begotten from all eternity, consubstantial with His Father; and that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and the Son. He did not say that His person was composed of two natures and two wills. He left these mysteries to be announced to men in the course of time by those who were to be enlightened by the Holy Ghost. So long as He lived, He departed in nothing from the law of His fathers. In the eyes of men He was no more than a just man, pleasing to Edition: current; Page: [110] God, persecuted by the envious and condemned to death by prejudiced magistrates. He left His holy church, established by Him, to do all the rest.

Let us consider the state of religion in the Roman Empire at that period. Mysteries and expiations were in credit almost throughout the earth. The emperors, the great, and the philosophers, had, it is true, no faith in these mysteries; but the people, who, in religious matters, give the law to the great, imposed on them the necessity of conforming in appearance to their worship. To succeed in chaining the multitude you must seem to wear the same fetters. Cicero himself was initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries. The knowledge of only one God was the principal tenet inculcated in these mysteries and magnificent festivals. It is undeniable that the prayers and hymns handed down to us as belonging to these mysteries are the most pious and most admirable of the relics of paganism. The Christians, who likewise adored only one God, had thereby greater facility in converting some of the Gentiles. Some of the philosophers of Plato’s sect became Christians; hence in the three first centuries the fathers of the church were all Platonists.

The inconsiderate zeal of some of them in no way detracts from the fundamental truths. St. Justin, one of the primitive fathers, has been reproached with having said, in his commentary on Isaiah, that the saints should enjoy, during a reign of a thousand years on earth, every sensual pleasure. Edition: current; Page: [111] He has been charged with criminality in saying, in his “Apology for Christianity,” that God, having made the earth, left it in the care of the angels, who, having fallen in love with the women, begot children, which are the devils.

Lactantius, with other fathers, has been condemned for having supposed oracles of the sibyls. He asserted that the sibyl Erythrea made four Greek lines, which rendered literally are:

  • With five loaves and two fishes
  • He shall feed five thousand men in the desert;
  • And, gathering up the fragments that remain,
  • With them he shall fill twelve baskets.

The primitive Christians have been reproached with inventing some acrostic verses on the name Jesus Christ and attributing them to an ancient sibyl. They have also been reproached with forging letters from Jesus Christ to the king of Edessa, dated at a time when there was no king in Edessa; with having forged letters of Mary, letters of Seneca to Paul, false gospels, false miracles, and a thousand other impostures.

We have, moreover, the history or gospel of the nativity and marriage of the Virgin Mary; wherein we are told that she was brought to the temple at three years old and walked up the stairs by herself. It is related that a dove came down from heaven to give notice that it was Joseph who was to espouse Mary. We have the protogospel of James, brother of Jesus by Joseph’s first wife. It is there said that Edition: current; Page: [112] when Joseph complained of Mary’s having become pregnant in his absence, the priests made each of them drink the water of jealousy, and both were declared innocent.

We have the gospel of the Infancy, attributed to St. Thomas. According to this gospel, Jesus, at five years of age, amused himself, like other children of the same age, with moulding clay, and making it, among other things, into the form of little birds. He was reproved for this, on which he gave life to the birds, and they flew away. Another time, a little boy having beaten him, was struck dead on the spot. We have also another gospel of the Infancy in Arabic, which is much more serious.

We have a gospel of Nicodemus. This one seems more worthy of attention, for we find in it the names of those who accused Jesus before Pilate. They were the principal men of the synagogue—Ananias, Caiaphas, Sommas, Damat, Gamaliel, Judah, Nephthalim. In this history there are some things that are easy to reconcile with the received gospels, and others which are not elsewhere to be found. We here find that the woman cured of a flux was called Veronica. We also find all that Jesus did in hell when He descended thither. Then we have the two letters supposed to have been written by Pilate to Tiberius concerning the execution of Jesus; but their bad Latin plainly shows that they are spurious. To such a length was this false zeal carried that various letters were circulated attributed to Jesus Christ. Edition: current; Page: [113] The letter is still preserved which he is said to have written to Abgarus, king of Edessa; but, as already remarked, there had at that time ceased to be a king of Edessa.

Fifty gospels were fabricated and were afterwards declared apocryphal. St. Luke himself tells us that many persons had composed gospels. It has been believed that there was one called the Eternal Gospel, concerning which it is said in the Apocalypse, chap. xiv., “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel.” . . . . In the thirteenth century the Cordeliers, abusing these words, composed an “eternal gospel,” by which the reign of the Holy Ghost was to be substituted for that of Jesus Christ. But never in the early ages of the church did any book appear with this title. Letters of the Virgin were likewise invented, written to Ignatius the martyr, to the people of Messina, and others.

Abdias, who immediately succeeded the apostles, wrote their history, with which he mixed up such absurd fables that in time these histories became wholly discredited, although they had at first a great reputation. To Abdias we are indebted for the account of the contest between St. Peter and Simon the magician. There was at Rome, in reality, a very skilful mechanic named Simon, who not only made things fly across the stage, as we still see done, but moreover revived in his own person the prodigy attributed to Dædalus. He made himself wings; he Edition: current; Page: [114] flew; and, like Icarus, he fell. So say Pliny and Suetonius.

Abdias, who was in Asia and wrote in Hebrew, tells us that Peter and Simon met at Rome in the reign of Nero. A young man, nearly related to the emperor, died, and the whole court begged that Simon would raise him to life. St. Peter presented himself to perform the same operation. Simon employed all the powers of his art, and he seemed to have succeeded, for the dead man moved his head. “This is not enough,” cries Peter; “the dead man must speak; let Simon leave the bedside and we shall see whether the young man is alive.” Simon went aside and the deceased no longer stirred, but Peter brought him to life with a single word.

Simon went and complained to the emperor that a miserable Galilean had taken upon himself to work greater wonders than he. Simon was confronted with Peter and they made a trial of skill. “Tell me,” said Simon to Peter, “what I am thinking of?” “If,” returned Peter, “the emperor will give me a barley loaf, thou shalt find whether or not I know what thou hast in thy heart.” A loaf was given him; Simon immediately caused two large dogs to appear and they wanted to devour it. Peter threw them the loaf, and while they were eating it he said: “Well, did I not know thy thoughts? thou wouldst have had thy dogs devour me.”

After this first sitting it was proposed that Simon and Peter should make a flying-match, and try which Edition: current; Page: [115] could raise himself highest in the air. Simon tried first; Peter made the sign of the cross and down came Simon and broke his legs. This story was imitated from that which we find in the “Sepher toldos Jeschut,” where it is said that Jesus Himself flew, and that Judas, who would have done the same, fell headlong. Nero, vexed that Peter had broken his favorite, Simon’s, legs, had him crucified with his head downwards. Hence the notion of St. Peter’s residence at Rome, the manner of his execution and his sepulchre.

The same Abdias established the belief that St. Thomas went and preached Christianity in India to King Gondafer, and that he went thither as an architect. The number of books of this sort, written in the early ages of Christianity, is prodigious.

St. Jerome, and even St. Augustine, tell us that the letters of Seneca and St. Paul are quite authentic. In the first of these letters Seneca hopes his brother Paul is well: “Bene te valere, frater, cupio.” Paul does not write quite so good Latin as Seneca: “I received your letters yesterday,” says he, “with joy.”—“Litteras tuas hilaris accepi.”—“And I would have answered them immediately had I had the presence of the young man whom I would have sent with them.”—“Si præsentiam juvenis habuissem.” Unfortunately these letters, in which one would look for instruction, are nothing more than compliments.

All these falsehoods, forged by ill-informed and mistakenly-zealous Christians, were in no degree Edition: current; Page: [116] prejudicial to the truth of Christianity; they obstructed not its progress; on the contrary, they show us that the Christian society was daily increasing and that each member was desirous of hastening its growth.

The Acts of the Apostles do not tell us that the apostles agreed on a symbol. Indeed, if they had put together the symbol (the creed, as we now call it), St. Luke could not in his history have omitted this essential basis of the Christian religion. The substance of the creed is scattered through the gospels; but the articles were not collected until long after.

In short, our creed is, indisputably, the belief of the apostles; but it was not written by them. Rufinus, a priest of Aquileia, is the first who mentions it; and a homily attributed to St. Augustine is the first record of the supposed way in which this creed was made; Peter saying, when they were assembled, “I believe in God the Father Almighty”—Andrew, “and in Jesus Christ”—James, “who was conceived by the Holy Ghost”; and so of the rest.

This formula was called in Greek symbolos; and in Latin collatio. Only it must be observed that the Greek version has it: “I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth.” In the Latin, maker, former, is rendered by “creatorem.” But afterwards, in translating the symbol of the First Council of Nice, it was rendered by “factorem.”

Constantine assembled at Nice, opposite Constantinople, Edition: current; Page: [117] the first ecumenical council, over which Ozius presided. The great question touching the divinity of Jesus Christ, which so much agitated the church, was there decided. One party held the opinion of Origen, who says in his sixth chapter against Celsus, “We offer our prayers to God through Christ, who holds the middle place between natures created and uncreated; who leads us to the grace of His Father and presents our prayers to the great God in quality of our high priest.” These disputants also rest upon many passages of St. Paul, some of which they quote. They depend particularly upon these words of Jesus Christ: “My Father is greater than I”; and they regard Jesus as the first-born of the creation; as a pure emanation of the Supreme Being, but not precisely as God.

The other side, who were orthodox, produced passages more conformable to the eternal divinity of Jesus; as, for example, the following: “My Father and I are one”; words which their opponents interpret as signifying: “My Father and I have the same object, the same intention; I have no other will than that of My Father.” Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and after him Athanasius, were at the head of the orthodox; and Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, with seventeen other bishops, the priest Arius, and many more priests, led the party opposed to them. The quarrel was at first exceedingly bitter, as St. Alexander treated his opponents as so many anti-christs.

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At last, after much disputation, the Holy Ghost decided in the council, by the mouths of two hundred and ninety-nine bishops, against eighteen, as follows: “Jesus is the only Son of God; begotten of the Father; light of light; very God of very God; of one substance with the Father. We believe also in the Holy Ghost,” etc. Such was the decision of the council; and we perceive by this fact how the bishops carried it over the simple priests. Two thousand persons of the latter class were of the opinion of Arius, according to the account of two patriarchs of Alexandria, who have written the annals of Alexandria in Arabic. Arius was exiled by Constantine, as was Athanasius soon after, when Arius was recalled to Constantinople. Upon this event St. Macarius prayed so vehemently to God to terminate the life of Arius before he could enter the cathedral, that God heard his prayer—Arius dying on his way to church in 330. The Emperor Constantine ended his life in 337. He placed his will in the hands of an Arian priest and died in the arms of the Arian leader, Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, not receiving baptism until on his deathbed, and leaving a triumphant, but divided church. The partisans of Athanasius and of Eusebius carried on a cruel war; and what is called Arianism was for a long time established in all the provinces of the empire.

Julian the philosopher, surnamed the apostate, wished to stifle their divisions, but could not succeed. The second general council was held at Constantinople Edition: current; Page: [119] in 1381. It was there laid down that the Council of Nice had not decided quite correctly in regard to the Holy Ghost; and it added to the Nicene creed that “the Holy Ghost was the giver of life and proceeded from the Father, and with the Father and Son is to be worshipped and glorified.” It was not until towards the ninth century that the Latin church decreed that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and the Son.

In the year 431, the third council-general, held at Ephesus, decided that Jesus had “two natures and one person.” Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, who maintained that the Virgin Mary should be entitled Mother of Christ, was called Judas by the council; and the “two natures” were again confirmed by the council of Chalcedon.

I pass lightly over the following centuries, which are sufficiently known. Unhappily, all these disputes led to wars, and the church was uniformly obliged to combat. God, in order to exercise the patience of the faithful, also allowed the Greek and Latin churches to separate in the ninth century. He likewise permitted in the east no less than twenty-nine horrible schisms with the see of Rome.

If there be about six hundred millions of men upon earth, as certain learned persons pretend, the holy Roman Catholic church possesses scarcely sixteen millions of them—about a twenty-sixth part of the inhabitants of the known world.

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Every one knows that this is the feast of the nativity of Jesus. The most ancient feast kept in the church, after those of Easter and Pentecost, was that of the baptism of Jesus. There were only these three feasts, until St. Chrysostom delivered his homily on Pentecost. We here make no account of the feasts of the martyrs, which were of a very inferior order. That of the baptism of Jesus was named the Epiphany, an imitation of the Greeks, who gave that name to the feasts which they held to commemorate the appearance or manifestation of the gods upon earth—since it was not until after his baptism that Jesus began to preach the gospel.

We know not whether, about the end of the fourth century, this feast was solemnized in the Isle of Cyprus on the 6th of November; but St. Epiphanius maintained that Jesus was born on that day. St. Clement of Alexandria tells us that the Basilidians held this feast on the 15th of the month tybi, while others held it on the 11th of the same month; that is, it was kept by some on the 10th of January, and by others on the 6th; the latter opinion is the one now adopted. As for the nativity, as neither the day nor the month nor the year of it was known, it was not celebrated.

According to the remarks which we find appended to the works of the same father, they who have been the most curious in their researches concerning the Edition: current; Page: [121] day on which Jesus was born, some said that it was on the 25th of the Egyptian month pachon, answering to the 20th of May; others that it was the 24th or 25th of pharmuthi, corresponding to the 19th and 20th of April. The learned M. de Beausobre says that these latter were the days of St. Valentine. Be this as it may, Egypt and the East kept the feast of the birth of Jesus on the 6th of January, the same day as that of His baptism; without it being known (at least with certainty) when, or for what reason, this custom commenced.

The opinion and practice of the western nations were quite different from those of the east. The centuriators of Magdeburg repeat a passage in Theophilus of Cæsarea, which makes the churches of Gaul say: “Since the birth of Christ is celebrated on the 25th of December, on whatever day of the week it may fall, so also should the resurrection of Jesus be celebrated on the 25th of March, whatever day of the week it may be, the Lord having risen again on that day.”

If this be true, it must be acknowledged that the bishops of Gaul were very prudent and very reasonable. Being persuaded, as all the ancients were, that Jesus had been crucified on the 23d of March, and had risen again on the 25th, they commemorated His death on the 23d and His resurrection on the 25th, without paying any regard to the observance of the full moon, which was originally a Jewish ceremony, and without confining themselves to the Sunday. Edition: current; Page: [122] Had the church imitated them, she would have avoided the long and scandalous disputes which nearly separated the East from the West, and were not terminated until the First Council of Nice.

Some of the learned conjecture that the Romans chose the winter solstice for holding the birth of Jesus, because the sun then begins again to approach our hemisphere. In Julius Cæsar’s time the civil and political solstice was fixed for the 25th of December. This at Rome was a festival in celebration of the returning sun. Pliny tells us that it was called bruma; and, like Servius, places it on the 8th of the calends of January. This association might have some connection with the choice of the day, but it was not the origin of it. A passage in Josephus (evidently forged), three or four errors of the ancients, and a very mystical explanation of a saying of St. John the Baptist, determined this choice, as Joseph Scaliger is about to inform us.

It pleased the ancients (says that learned critic) to suppose—first, that Zacharias was sovereign sacrificer when Jesus was born. But nothing is more untrue; it is no longer believed by any one, at least among those of any information.

Secondly—the ancients supposed that Zacharias was in the holy of holies, offering incense, when the angel appeared to him and announced the birth of a son.

Thirdly—as the sovereign sacrificer entered the temple but once a year, on the day of expiation, which Edition: current; Page: [123] was the 10th of the Jewish month rifri, partly answering to the month of September, the ancients supposed that it was the 27th; and that afterwards, on the 23d or 24th, Zacharias having returned home after the feast, Elizabeth, his wife, conceived John the Baptist; when the feast of the conception of that saint was fixed for those days. As women ordinarily go with child for two hundred and seventy or two hundred and seventy-four days, it followed that the nativity of John was fixed for the 24th of June. Such was the origin of St. John’s day, and of Christmas day, which was regulated by it.

Fourthly—it was supposed that there were six entire months between the conception of John the Baptist and that of Jesus; although the angel simply tells Mary that Elizabeth was then in the sixth month of her pregnancy; consequently the conception of Jesus was fixed for the 25th of March; and from these various suppositions it was concluded that Jesus must have been born on the 25th of December, precisely nine months after his conception.

There are many wonderful things in these arrangements. It is not one of the least worthy of admiration, that the four cardinal points of the year—the equinoxes and the solstices, as they were then fixed—were marked by the conceptions and births of John the Baptist and Jesus. But it is yet more marvellous and worthy of remark, that the solstice when Jesus was born is that at which the days begin to increase; while that on which John the Baptist came Edition: current; Page: [124] into the world was the period at which they begin to shorten. The holy forerunner had intimated this in a very mystical manner, when speaking of Jesus, in these words: “He must grow, and I must become less.”

Prudentius alludes to this in a hymn on the nativity of our Lord. Yet St. Leo says that in his time there were persons in Rome who said the feast was venerable, not so much on account of the birth of Jesus as of the return, and, as they expressed it, the new birth of the sun. St. Epiphanius assures us it was fully established that Jesus was born on the 6th of January; but St. Clement of Alexandria, much more ancient and more learned than he, fixes the birth on the 18th of November, of the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. This is deduced, according to the Jesuit Petau’s remark on St. Epiphanius, from these words of St. Clement: “The whole time from the birth of Jesus Christ to the death of Commodus was a hundred and ninety-four years, one month and thirteen days.” Now Commodus died, according to Petau, on the last of December, in the year 192 of our era; therefore, according to St. Clement, Jesus was born one month and thirteen days before the last of December; consequently, on the 18th of November, in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Augustus. Concerning which it must be observed that St. Clement dates the reign of Augustus only from the death of Antony and the capture of Alexandria, because it was not until then that Edition: current; Page: [125] Augustus was left the sole master of the empire. Thus we are no more assured of the year of this birth than we are of the month or the day. Though St. Luke declares, “that He had perfect understanding of all things from the very first,” he clearly shows that he did not know the exact age of Jesus when He says that, when baptized, He “began to be about thirty years old.” Indeed, this evangelist makes Jesus born in the year of the numbering which, according to him, was made by Cyrenus or Cyrenius, governor of Syria; while, according to Tertullian, it was made by Sentius Saturninus. But Saturninus had quitted the province in the last year of Herod, and, as Tacitus informs us, was succeeded by Quintilius Varus; and Publius Sulpicius Quirinus or Quirinius, of whom it would seem St. Luke means to speak, did not succeed Quintilius Varus until about ten years after Herod’s death, when Archelaus, king of Judæa, was banished by Augustus, as Josephus tells us in his “Jewish Antiquities.”

It is true that Tertullian, and St. Justin before him, referred the pagans and the heretics of their time to the public archives containing the registers of this pretended numbering; but Tertullian likewise referred to the public archives for the account of the darkness at noonday at the time of the passion of Jesus, as will be seen in the article on “Eclipse”; where we have remarked the want of exactness in these two fathers, and in similar authorities, in our observations on a statue which St. Justin—who assures Edition: current; Page: [126] us that he saw it at Rome—says was dedicated to Simon the magician, but which was in reality dedicated to a god of the ancient Sabines.

These uncertainties, however, will excite no astonishment when it is recollected that Jesus was unknown to His disciples until He had received baptism from John. It is expressly, “beginning with the baptism of Jesus,” that Peter will have the successor of Judas testify concerning Jesus; and, according to the same Acts, Peter thereby understands the whole time that Jesus had lived with them.


The world has long disputed about ancient chronology; but has there ever been any? Every considerable people must necessarily possess and preserve authentic, well-attested registers. But how few people were acquainted with the art of writing? and, among the small number of men who cultivated this very rare art, are any to be found who took the trouble to mark two dates with exactness?

We have, indeed, in very recent times the astronomical observations of the Chinese and the Chaldæans. They only go back about two thousand years, more or less, beyond our era. But when the early annals of a nation confine themselves simply to communicating the information that there was an eclipse in the reign of a certain prince, we learn, certainly, that such a prince existed, but not what he performed.

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Moreover, the Chinese reckon the year in which an emperor dies as still constituting a part of his reign, until the end of it; even though he should die the first day of the year, his successor dates the year following his death with the name of his predecessor. It is not possible to show more respect for ancestors; nor is it possible to compute time in a manner more injudicious in comparison with modern nations.

We may add that the Chinese do not commence their sexagenary cycle, into which they have introduced arrangement, till the reign of the Emperor Iao, two thousand three hundred and fifty-seven years before our vulgar era. Profound obscurity hangs over the whole period of time which precedes that epoch.

Men are generally contented with an approximation—with the “pretty nearly” in every case. For example, before the invention of watches, people could learn the time of day or night only approximately. In building, the stones were pretty nearly hewn to a certain shape, the timber pretty nearly squared, and the limbs of the statue pretty nearly chipped to a proper finish; a man was only pretty nearly acquainted with his nearest neighbors; and, notwithstanding the perfection we have ourselves attained, such is the state of things at present throughout the greater part of the world.

Let us not then be astonished that there is nowhere to be found a correct ancient chronology. Edition: current; Page: [128] That which we have of the Chinese is of considerable value, when compared with the chronological labors of other nations. We have none of the Indians, nor of the Persians, and scarcely any of the ancient Egyptians. All our systems formed on the history of these people are as contradictory as our systems of metaphysics.

The Greek Olympiads do not commence till seven hundred and twenty-eight years before our era of reckoning. Until we arrive at them, we perceive only a few torches to lighten the darkness, such as the era of Nabonassar, the war between Lacedæmon and Messene; even those epochs themselves are subjects of dispute.

Livy took care not to state in what year Romulus began his pretended reign. The Romans, who well knew the uncertainty of that epoch, would have ridiculed him had he undertaken to decide it. It is proved that the duration of two hundred and forty years ascribed to the seven first kings of Rome is a very false calculation. The first four centuries of Rome are absolutely destitute of chronology.

If four centuries of the most memorable empire the world ever saw comprise only an undigested mass of events, mixed up with fables, and almost without a date, what must be the case with small nations, shut up in an obscure corner of the earth, that have never made any figure in the world, notwithstanding all their attempts to compensate, by Edition: current; Page: [129] prodigy and imposture, for their deficiency in real power and cultivation?

Of the Vanity of Systems, Particularly in Chronology.

The Abbé Condillac performed a most important service to the human mind when he displayed the false points of all systems. If we may ever hope that we shall one day find the road to truth, it can only be after we have detected all those which lead to error. It is at least a consolation to be at rest, to be no longer seeking, when we perceive that so many philosophers have sought in vain.

Chronology is a collection of bladders of wind. All who thought to pass over it as solid ground have been immersed. We have, at the present time, twenty-four systems, not one of which is true.

The Babylonians said, “We reckon four hundred and seventy-three thousand years of astronomical observations.” A Parisian, addressing him, says, “Your account is correct; your years consisted each of a solar day; they amount to twelve hundred and ninety-seven of ours, from the time of Atlas, the great astronomer, king of Africa, till the arrival of Alexander at Babylon.”

But, whatever our Parisian may say, no people in the world have ever confounded a day with a year; and the people of Babylon still less than any other. This Parisian stranger should have contented himself with merely observing to the Chaldæans: Edition: current; Page: [130] “You are exaggerators, and our ancestors were ignorant. Nations are exposed to too many revolutions to permit their keeping a series of four thousand seven hundred and thirty-six centuries of astronomical calculations. And, with respect to Atlas, king of the Moors, no one knows at what time he lived. Pythagoras might pretend to have been a cock, just as reasonably as you may boast of such a series of observations.”

The great point of ridicule in all fantastic chronologies is the arrangement of all the great events of a man’s life in precise order of time, without ascertaining that the man himself ever existed. Lenglet repeats after others, in his chronological compilation of universal history, that precisely in the time of Abraham, and six years after the death of Sarah, who was little known to the Greeks, Jupiter, at the age of sixty-two, began to reign in Thessaly; that his reign lasted sixty years; that he married his sister Juno; that he was obliged to cede the maritime coasts to his brother Neptune; and that the Titans made war against him. But was there ever a Jupiter? It never occurred to him that with this question he should have begun.


Summary of the History of the Christian Church.

We shall not extend our views into the depths of theology. God preserve us from such presumption. Edition: current; Page: [131] Humble faith alone is enough for us. We never assume any other part than that of mere historians.

In the years that immediately followed Jesus Christ, who was at once God and man, there existed among the Hebrews nine religious schools or societies—Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenians, Judahites, Therapeutæ, Rechabites, Herodians, the disciples of John, and the disciples of Jesus, named the “brethren,” the “Galileans,” the “believers,” who did not assume the name of Christians till about the sixteenth year of our era, at Antioch; being directed to its adoption by God himself, in ways unknown to men. The Pharisees believed in the metempsychosis. The Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul, and the existence of spirits, yet believed in the Pentateuch.

Pliny, the naturalist—relying, evidently, on the authority of Flavius Josephus—calls the Essenians gens æterna in qua nemo nascitur—“a perpetual family, in which no one is ever born”—because the Essenians very rarely married. The description has been since applied to our monks.

It is difficult to decide whether the Essenians or the Judahites are spoken of by Josephus in the following passage: “They despise the evils of the world; their constancy enables them to triumph over torments; in an honorable cause, they prefer death to life. They have undergone fire and sword, and submitted to having their very bones crushed, Edition: current; Page: [132] rather than utter a syllable against their legislator, or eat forbidden food.”

It would seem, from the words of Josephus, that the foregoing portrait applies to the Judahites, and not to the Essenians. “Judas was the author of a new sect, completely different from the other three;” that is, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenians. “They are,” he goes on, “Jews by nation; they live in harmony with one another, and consider pleasure to be a vice.” The natural meaning of this language would induce us to think that he is speaking of the Judahites.

However that may be, these Judahites were known before the disciples of Christ began to possess consideration and consequence in the world. Some weak people have supposed them to be heretics, who adored Judas Iscariot.

The Therapeutæ were a society different from the Essenians and the Judahites. They resembled the Gymnosophists and Brahmins of India. “They possess,” says Philo, “a principle of divine love which excites in them an enthusiasm like that of the Bacchantes and the Corybantes, and which forms them to that state of contemplation to which they aspire. This sect originated in Alexandria, which was entirely filled with Jews, and prevailed greatly throughout Egypt.” The Rechabites still continued as a sect. They vowed never to drink wine; and it is, possibly, from their example that Mahomet forbade that liquor to his followers.

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The Herodians regarded Herod, the first of that name, as a Messiah, a messenger from God, who had rebuilt the temple. It is clear that the Jews at Rome celebrated a festival in honor of him, in the reign of Nero, as appears from the lines of Persius: Herodis venere dies,” etc. (Sat. v. 180.)

  • “King Herod’s feast, when each Judæan vile,
  • Trims up his lamp with tallow or with oil.”

The disciples of John the Baptist had spread themselves a little in Egypt, but principally in Syria, Arabia, and towards the Persian gulf. They are recognized, at the present day, under the name of the Christians of St. John. There were some also in Asia Minor. It is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (chap. xix.) that Paul met with many of them at Ephesus. “Have you received,” he asked them, “the holy spirit?” They answered him. “We have not heard even that there is a holy spirit.” “What baptism, then,” says he, “have you received?” They answered him, “The baptism of John.”

In the meantime the true Christians, as is well known, were laying the foundation of the only true religion. He who contributed most to strengthen this rising society, was Paul, who had himself persecuted it with the greatest violence. He was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, and was educated under one of the most celebrated professors among the Pharisees—Gamaliel, a disciple of Hillel. The Jews pretend that he quarrelled with Gamaliel, who refused Edition: current; Page: [134] to let him have his daughter in marriage. Some traces of this anecdote are to be found in the sequel to the “Acts of St. Thekla.” These acts relate that he had a large forehead, a bald head, united eyebrows, an aquiline nose, a short and clumsy figure, and crooked legs. Lucian, in his dialogue “Philopatres,” seems to give a very similar portrait of him. It has been doubted whether he was a Roman citizen, for at that time the title was not given to any Jew; they had been expelled from Rome by Tiberius; and Tarsus did not become a Roman colony till nearly a hundred years afterwards, under Caracalla; as Cellarius remarks in his “Geography” (book iii.), and Grotius in his “Commentary on the Acts,” to whom alone we need refer.

God, who came down upon earth to be an example in it of humanity and poverty, gave to his church the most feeble infancy, and conducted it in a state of humiliation similar to that in which he had himself chosen to be born. All the first believers were obscure persons. They labored with their hands. The apostle St. Paul himself acknowledges that he gained his livelihood by making tents. St. Peter raised from the dead Dorcas, a sempstress, who made clothes for the “brethren.” The assembly of believers met at Joppa, at the house of a tanner called Simon, as appears from the ninth chapter of the “Acts of the Apostles.”

The believers spread themselves secretly in Greece; and some of them went from Greece to Edition: current; Page: [135] Rome, among the Jews, who were permitted by the Romans to have a synagogue. They did not, at first, separate themselves from the Jews. They practised circumcision; and, as we have elsewhere remarked, the first fifteen obscure bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised, or at least were all of the Jewish nation.

When the apostle Paul took with him Timothy, who was the son of a heathen father, he circumcised him himself, in the small city of Lystra. But Titus, his other disciple, could not be induced to submit to circumcision. The brethren, or the disciples of Jesus, continued united with the Jews until the time when St. Paul experienced a persecution at Jerusalem, on account of his having introduced strangers into the temple. He was accused by the Jews of endeavoring to destroy the law of Moses by that of Jesus Christ. It was with a view to his clearing himself from this accusation that the apostle St. James proposed to the apostle Paul that he should shave his head, and go and purify himself in the temple, with four Jews, who had made a vow of being shaved. “Take them with you,” says James to him (Acts of the Apostles xxi.), “purify yourself with them, and let the whole world know that what has been reported concerning you is false, and that you continue to obey the law of Moses.” Thus, then, Paul, who had been at first the most summary persecutor of the holy society established by Jesus—Paul, who afterwards endeavored to govern that Edition: current; Page: [136] rising society—Paul the Christian, Judaizes, “that the world may know that he is calumniated when he is charged with no longer following the law of Moses.”

St. Paul was equally charged with impiety and heresy, and the persecution against him lasted a long time; but it is perfectly clear, from the nature of the charges, that he had travelled to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the rites of Judaism.

He addressed to Faustus these words: “I have never offended against the Jewish law, nor against the temple.” (Acts xxv.) The apostles announced Jesus Christ as a just man wickedly persecuted, a prophet of God, a son of God, sent to the Jews for the reformation of manners.

“Circumcision,” says the apostle Paul, “is good, if you observe the law; but if you violate the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. If any uncircumcised person keep the law, he will be as if circumcised. The true Jew is one that is so inwardly.”

When this apostle speaks of Jesus Christ in his epistles, he does not reveal the ineffable mystery of his consubstantiality with God. “We are delivered by him,” says he, “from the wrath of God. The gift of God hath been shed upon us by the grace bestowed on one man, who is Jesus Christ. . . . Death reigned through the sin of one man; the just shall reign in life by one man, who is Jesus Christ.” (Romans v.)

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And, in the eighth chapter: “We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ;” and in the sixteenth chapter: “To God, who is the only wise, be honor and glory through Jesus Christ. . . . . You are Jesus Christ’s, and Jesus Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor. chap. iii.)

And, in 1 Cor. xv. 27: “Everything is made subject to him, undoubtedly, excepting God, who made all things subject to him.”

Some difficulty has been found in explaining the following part of the Epistle of the Philippians: “Do nothing through vain glory. Let each humbly think others better than himself. Be of the same mind with Jesus Christ, who, being in the likeness of God, assumed not to equal himself to God.” This passage appears exceedingly well investigated and elucidated in a letter, still extant, of the churches of Vienna and Lyons, written in the year 117, and which is a valuable monument of antiquity. In this letter the modesty of some believers is praised. “They did not wish,” says the letter, “to assume the lofty title of martyrs, in consequence of certain tribulations; after the example of Jesus Christ, who, being in the likeness of God, did not assume the quality of being equal to God.” Origen, also, in his commentary on John, says: “The greatness of Jesus shines out more splendidly in consequence of his self-humiliation than if he had assumed equality with God.” In fact, the opposite interpretation would be a solecism. What sense would Edition: current; Page: [138] there be in this exhortation: “Think others superior to yourselves; imitate Jesus, who did not think it an assumption to be equal to God?” It would be an obvious contradiction; it would be putting an example of full pretension for an example of modesty; it would be an offence against logic.

Thus did the wisdom of the apostles establish the rising church. That wisdom did not change its character in consequence of the dispute which took place between the apostles Peter, James, and John, on one side, and Paul on the other. This contest occurred at Antioch. The apostle Peter—formerly Cephas, or Simon Bar Jona—ate with the converted Gentiles, and among them did not observe the ceremonies of the law and the distinction of meats. He and Barnabas, and the other disciples, ate indifferently of pork, of animals which had been strangled, or which had cloven feet, or which did not chew the cud; but many Jewish Christians having arrived, St. Peter joined with them in abstinence from forbidden meats, and in the ceremonies of the Mosaic law.

This conduct appeared very prudent; he wished to avoid giving offence to the Jewish Christians, his companions; but St. Paul attacked him on the subject with considerable severity. “I withstood him,” says he, “to his face, because he was blamable.” (Gal. chap. ii.)

This quarrel appears most extraordinary on the part of St. Paul. Having been at first a persecutor, Edition: current; Page: [139] he might have been expected to have acted with moderation; especially as he had gone to Jerusalem to sacrifice in the temple, had circumcised his disciple Timothy, and strictly complied with the Jewish rites, for which very compliance he now reproached Cephas. St. Jerome imagines that this quarrel between Paul and Cephas was a pretended one. He says, in his first homily (vol. iii.) that they acted like two advocates, who had worked themselves up to an appearance of great zeal and exasperation against each other, to gain credit with their respective clients. He says that Peter—Cephas—being appointed to preach to the Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles, they assumed the appearance of quarrelling—Paul to gain the Gentiles, and Peter to gain the Jews. But St. Augustine is by no means of the same opinion. “I grieve,” says he, in his epistle to Jerome, “that so great a man should be the patron of a lie.”—(patronum mendacii).

This dispute between St. Jerome and St. Augustine ought not to diminish our veneration for them, and still less for St. Paul and St. Peter. As to what remains, if Peter was destined for the Jews, who were, after their conversion, likely to Judaize, and Paul for strangers, it appears probable that Peter never went to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles makes no mention of Peter’s journey to Italy.

However that may be, it was about the sixtieth year of our era that Christians began to separate Edition: current; Page: [140] from the Jewish communion; and it was this which drew upon them so many quarrels and persecutions from the various synagogues of Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Asia. They were accused of impiety and atheism by their Jewish brethren, who excommunicated them in their synagogues three times every Sabbath-day. But in the midst of their persecutions God always supported them.

By degrees many churches were formed, and the separation between Jews and Christians was complete before the close of the first century. This separation was unknown to the Roman government. Neither the senate nor the emperors of Rome interested themselves in those quarrels of a small flock of mankind, which God had hitherto guided in obscurity, and which he exalted by insensible gradations.

Christianity became established in Greece and at Alexandria. The Christians had there to contend with a new set of Jews, who, in consequence of intercourse with the Greeks, had become philosophers. This was the sect of gnosis, or gnostics. Among them were some of the new converts to Christianity. All these sects, at that time, enjoyed complete liberty to dogmatize, discourse, and write, whenever the Jewish courtiers, settled at Rome and Alexandria, did not bring any charge against them before the magistrates. But, under Domitian, Christianity began to give some umbrage to the government.

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The zeal of some Christians, which was not according to knowledge, did not prevent the Church from making that progress which God destined from the beginning. The Christians, at first, celebrated their mysteries in sequestered houses, and in caves, and during the night. Hence, according to Minucius Felix, the title given them of lucifugaces. Philo calls them Gesséens. The names most frequently applied to them by the heathens, during the first four centuries, were “Galileans” and “Nazarenes”; but that of “Christians” has prevailed above all others. Neither the hierarchy, nor the services of the church, were established all at once; the apostolic times were different from those which followed.

The mass now celebrated at matins was the supper performed in the evening; these usages changed in proportion as the church strengthened. A more numerous society required more regulations, and the prudence of the pastors accommodated itself to times and places. St. Jerome and Eusebius relate that when the churches received a regular form, five different orders might be soon perceived to exist in them—superintendents, episcopoi, whence originate the bishops; elders of the society, presbyteroi, priests, diaconoi, servants or deacons; pistoi, believers, the initiated—that is, the baptized, who participated in the suppers of the agape, or love-feasts; the catechumens, who were awaiting baptism; and the energumens, who awaited their being Edition: current; Page: [142] exorcised of demons. In these five orders, no one had garments different from the others, no one was bound to celibacy; witness Tertullian’s book, dedicated to his wife; and witness also the example of the apostles. No paintings or sculptures were to be found in their assemblies during the first two centuries; no altars; and, most certainly, no tapers, incense, and lustral water. The Christians carefully concealed their books from the Gentiles; they intrusted them only to the initiated. Even the catechumens were not permitted to recite the Lord’s prayer.

Of the Power of Expelling Devils, Given to the Church.

That which most distinguished the Christians, and which has continued nearly to our own times, was the power of expelling devils with the sign of the cross. Origen, in his treaties against Celsus, declares—at No. 133—that Antinous, who had been defied by the emperor Adrian, performed miracles in Egypt by the power of charms and magic; but he says that the devils came out of the bodies of the possessed on the mere utterance of the name of Jesus.

Tertullian goes farther; and from the recesses of Africa, where he resided, he says, in his “Apology”—chap. xxiii.—“If your gods do not confess themselves to be devils in the presence of a true Christian, we give you full liberty to shed that Edition: current; Page: [143] Christian’s blood.” Can any demonstration be possibly clearer?

In fact, Jesus Christ sent out his apostles to expel demons. The Jews, likewise, in his time, had the power of expelling them; for, when Jesus had delivered some possessed persons, and sent the devils into the bodies of a very numerous herd of swine, and had performed many other similar cures, the Pharisees said: “He expels devils through the power of Beelzebub.” Jesus replied: “By whom do your sons expel them?” It is incontestable that the Jews boasted of this power. They had exorcists and exorcisms. They invoked the name of God, of Jacob, and of Abraham. They put consecrated herbs into the nostrils of the demoniacs. Josephus relates a part of these ceremonies. This power over devils, which the Jews have lost, was transferred to the Christians, who seem likewise to have lost it in their turn.

The power of expelling demons comprehended that of destroying the operations of magic; for magic has been always prevalent in every nation. All the fathers of the Church bear testimony to magic. St. Justin, in his “Apology”—book iii.—acknowledges that the souls of the dead are frequently evoked, and thence draws an argument in favor of the immortality of the soul. Lactantius, in the seventh book of his “Divine Institutions,” says that “if any one ventured to deny the existence of souls after death, the magician would convince him Edition: current; Page: [144] of it by making them appear.” Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian the bishop, all affirm the same. It is true that, at present, all is changed, and that there are now no more magicians than there are demoniacs. But God has the sovereign power of admonishing mankind by prodigies at some particular seasons, and of discontinuing those prodigies at others.

Of the Martyrs of the Church.

When Christians became somewhat numerous, and many arrayed themselves against the worship established in the Roman Empire, the magistrates began to exercise severity against them, and the people more particularly persecuted them. The Jews, who possessed particular privileges, and who confined themselves to their synagogues, were not persecuted. They were permitted the free exercise of their religion, as is the case at Rome at the present day. All the different kinds of worship scattered over the empire were tolerated, although the senate did not adopt them. But the Christians, declaring themselves enemies to every other worship than their own, and more especially so to that of the empire, were often exposed to these cruel trials.

One of the first and most distinguished martyrs was Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who was condemned by the Emperor Trajan himself, at that time in Asia, and sent to Rome by his orders, to be exposed to wild beasts, at a time when other Christians Edition: current; Page: [145] were not persecuted at Rome. It is not known precisely what charges were alleged against him before that emperor, otherwise so renowned for his clemency. St. Ignatius must, necessarily, have had violent enemies. Whatever were the particulars of the case, the history of his martyrdom relates that the name of Jesus Christ was found engraved on his heart in letters of gold; and from this circumstance it was that Christians, in some places, assumed the name of Theophorus, which Ignatius had given himself.

A letter of his has been preserved in which he entreats the bishops and Christians to make no opposition to his martyrdom, whether at the time they might be strong enough to effect his deliverance, or whether any among them might have influence enough to obtain his pardon. Another remarkable circumstance is that when he was brought to Rome the Christians of that capital went to visit him; which would prove clearly that the individual was punished and not the sect.

The persecutions were not continued. Origen, in his third book against Celsus, says: “The Christians who have suffered death on account of their religion may easily be numbered, for there were only a few of them, and merely at intervals.”

God was so mindful of his Church that, notwithstanding its enemies, he so ordered circumstances that it held five councils in the first century, sixteen in the second, and thirty in the third; that is, including Edition: current; Page: [146] both secret and tolerated ones. Those assemblies were sometimes forbidden, when the weak prudence of the magistrates feared that they might become tumultuous. But few genuine documents of the proceedings before the proconsuls and prætors who condemned the Christians to death have been delivered down to us. Such would be the only authorities which would enable us to ascertain the charges brought against them, and the punishments they suffered.

We have a fragment of Dionysius of Alexandria, in which he gives the following extract of a register, or of records, of a proconsul of Egypt, under the Emperor Valerian: “Dionysius, Faustus Maximus, Marcellus, and Chæremon, having been admitted to the audience, the prefect Æmilianus thus addressed them: ‘You are sufficiently informed through the conferences which I have had with you, and all that I have written to you, of the good-will which our princes have entertained towards you. I wish thus to repeat it to you once again. They make the continuance of your safety to depend upon yourselves, and place your destiny in your own hands. They require of you only one thing, which reason demands of every reasonable person—namely, that you adore the gods who protect their empire, and abandon that different worship, so contrary to sense and nature.’ ”

Dionysius replied, “All have not the same gods; and all adore those whom they think to be the true Edition: current; Page: [147] ones.” The prefect Æmilianus replied: “I see clearly that you ungratefully abuse the goodness which the emperors have shown you. This being the case, you shall no longer remain in this city; and I now order you to be conveyed to Cephro, in the heart of Libya. Agreeably to the command I have received from your emperor, that shall be the place of your banishment. As to what remains, think not to hold your assemblies there, nor to offer up your prayers in what you call cemeteries. This is positively forbidden. I will permit it to none.”

Nothing bears a stronger impress of truth than this document. We see from it that there were times when assemblies were prohibited. Thus the Calvinists were forbidden to assemble in France. Sometimes ministers or preachers, who held assemblies in violation of the laws, have suffered even by the altar and the rack; and since 1745 six have been executed on the gallows. Thus, in England and Ireland, Roman Catholics are forbidden to hold assemblies; and, on certain occasions, the delinquents have suffered death.

Notwithstanding these prohibitions declared by the Roman laws, God inspired many of the emperors with indulgence towards the Christians. Even Diocletian, whom the ignorant consider as a persecutor—Diocletian, the first year of whose reign is still regarded as constituting the commencement of the era of martyrdom, was, for more than eighteen years, the declared protector of Christianity, and Edition: current; Page: [148] many Christians held offices of high consequence about his person. He even married a Christian; and, in Nicomedia, the place of his residence, he permitted a splendid church to be erected opposite his palace.

The Cæsar Galerius having unfortunately taken up a prejudice against the Christians, of whom he thought he had reason to complain, influenced Diocletian to destroy the cathedral of Nicomedia. One of the Christians, with more zeal than prudence, tore the edict of the emperor to pieces; and hence arose that famous persecution, in the course of which more than two hundred persons were executed in the Roman Empire, without reckoning those whom the rage of the common people, always fanatical and always cruel, destroyed without even the form of law.

So great has been the number of actual martyrs that we should be careful how we shake the truth of the history of those genuine confessors of our holy religion by a dangerous mixture of fables and of false martyrs.

The Benedictine Prior (Dom) Ruinart, for example, a man otherwise as well informed as he was respectable and devout, should have selected his genuine records, his “actes sinceres,” with more discretion. It is not sufficient that a manuscript, whether taken from the abbey of St. Benoit on the Loire, or from a convent of Celestines at Paris, corresponds with a manuscript of the Feuillans, to Edition: current; Page: [149] show that the record is authentic; the record should possess a suitable antiquity; should have been evidently written by contemporaries; and, moreover, should bear all the characters of truth.

He might have dispensed with relating the adventure of young Romanus, which occurred in 303. This young Romanus had obtained the pardon of Diocletian, at Antioch. However, Ruinart states that the judge Asclepiades condemned him to be burnt. The Jews who were present at the spectacle, derided the young saint and reproached the Christians, that their God, who had delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the furnace, left them to be burned; that immediately, although the weather had been as calm as possible, a tremendous storm arose and extinguished the flames; that the judge then ordered young Romanus’s tongue to be cut out; that the principal surgeon of the emperor, being present, eagerly acted the part of executioner, and cut off the tongue at the root; that instantly the young man, who, before had an impediment in his speech, spoke with perfect freedom; that the emperor was astonished that any one could speak so well without a tongue; and that the surgeon, to repeat the experiment, directly cut out the tongue of some bystander, who died on the spot.

Eusebius, from whom the Benedictine Ruinart drew his narrative, should have so far respected the real miracles performed in the Old and New Testament—which no one can ever doubt—as not to have Edition: current; Page: [150] associated with them relations so suspicious, and so calculated to give offence to weak minds. This last persecution did not extend through the empire. There was at that time some Christianity in England, which soon eclipsed, to reappear afterwards under the Saxon kings. The southern districts of Gaul and Spain abounded with Christians. The Cæsar Constantius Chlorus afforded them great protection in all his provinces. He had a concubine who was a Christian, and who was the mother of Constantine, known under the name of St. Helena; for no marriage was ever proved to have taken place between them; he even divorced her in the year 292, when he married the daughter of Maximilian Hercules; but she had preserved great ascendency over his mind, and had inspired him with a great attachment to our holy religion.

Of the Establishment of the Church Under Constantine.

Thus did divine Providence prepare the triumph of its church by ways apparently conformable to human causes and events. Constantius Chlorus died in 306, at York, in England, at a time when the children he had by the daughter of a Cæsar were of tender age, and incapable of making pretensions to the empire. Constantine boldly got himself elected at York, by five or six thousand soldiers, the greater part of whom were French and English. There was no probability that this election, effected Edition: current; Page: [151] without the consent of Rome, of the senate and the armies, could stand; but God gave him the victory over Maxentius, who had been elected at Rome, and delivered him at last from all his colleagues. It is not to be dissembled that he at first rendered himself unworthy of the favors of heaven, by murdering all his relations, and at length even his own wife and son.

We may be permitted to doubt what Zosimus relates on this subject. He states that Constantine, under the tortures of remorse from the perpetration of so many crimes, inquired of the pontiffs of the empire, whether it were possible for him to obtain any expiation, and that they informed him that they knew of none. It is perfectly true that none was found for Nero, and that he did not venture to assist at the sacred mysteries in Greece. However, the Taurobolia were still observed, and it is difficult to believe that an emperor, supremely powerful, could not obtain a priest who would willingly indulge him in expiatory sacrifices. Perhaps, indeed, it is less easy to believe that Constantine, occupied as he was with war, politic enterprises, and ambition, and surrounded by flatterers, had time for remorse at all. Zosimus adds that an Egyptian priest, who had access to his gate, promised him the expiation of all his crimes in the Christian religion. It has been suspected that this priest was Ozius, bishop of Cordova.

However this might be, God reserved Constantine Edition: current; Page: [152] for the purpose of enlightening his mind, and to make him the protector of the Church. This prince built the city of Constantinople, which became the centre of the empire and of the Christian religion. The Church then assumed a form of splendor. And we may hope that, being purified by his baptism, and penitent at his death, he may have found mercy, although he died an Arian. It would be not a little severe, were all the partisans of both the bishops of the name of Eusebius to incur damnation.

In the year 314, before Constantine resided in his new city, those who had persecuted the Christians were punished by them for their cruelties. The Christians threw Maxentius’s wife into the Orontes; they cut the throats of all his relations, and they massacred, in Egypt and Palestine, those magistrates who had most strenuously declared against Christianity. The widow and daughter of Diocletian, having concealed themselves at Thessalonica, were recognized, and their bodies thrown into the sea. It would certainly have been desirable that the Christians should have followed less eagerly the cry of vengeance; but it was the will of God, who punishes according to justice, that, as soon as the Christians were able to act without restraint, their hands should be dyed in the blood of their persecutors.

Constantine summoned to meet at Nice, opposite Constantinople, the first ecumenical council, of Edition: current; Page: [153] which Ozius was president. Here was decided the grand question that agitated the Church, relating to the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is well known how the Church, having contended for three hundred years against the rights of the Roman Empire, at length contended against itself, and was always militant and triumphant.

In the course of time almost the whole of the Greek church and the whole African church became slaves under the Arabs, and afterwards under the Turks, who erected the Mahometan religion on the ruins of the Christian. The Roman church subsisted, but always reeking with blood, through more than six centuries of discord between the western empire and the priesthood. Even these quarrels rendered her very powerful. The bishops and abbots in Germany all became princes; and the popes gradually acquired absolute dominion in Rome, and throughout a considerable territory. Thus has God proved his church, by humiliations, by afflictions, by crimes, and by splendor.

This Latin church, in the sixteenth century, lost half of Germany, Denmark, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, and the greater part of Switzerland and Holland. She gained more territory in America by the conquests of the Spaniards than she lost in Europe; but, with more territory, she has fewer subjects.

Divine Providence seemed to call upon Japan, Siam, India, and China to place themselves under Edition: current; Page: [154] obedience to the pope, in order to recompense him for Asia Minor, Syria, Greece, Egypt, Africa, Russia, and the other lost states which we mentioned. St. Francis Xavier, who carried the holy gospel to the East Indies and Japan, when the Portuguese went thither upon mercantile adventure, performed a great number of miracles, all attested by the R. R. P. P. Jesuits. Some state that he resuscitated nine dead persons. But R. P. Ribadeneira, in his “Flower of the Saints,” limits himself to asserting that he resuscitated only four. That is sufficient. Providence was desirous that, in less than a hundred years, there should have been thousands of Catholics in the islands of Japan. But the devil sowed his tares among the good grain. The Jesuits, according to what is generally believed, entered into a conspiracy, followed by a civil war, in which all the Christians were exterminated in 1638. The nation then closed its ports against all foreigners except the Dutch, who were considered merchants and not Christians, and were first compelled to trample on the cross in order to gain leave to sell their wares in the prison in which they are shut up, when they land at Nagasaki.

The Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion has become proscribed in China in our own time, but with circumstances of less cruelty. The R. R. P. P. Jesuits had not, indeed, resuscitated the dead at the court of Pekin; they were contented with teaching astronomy, casting cannon, and being mandarins. Edition: current; Page: [155] Their unfortunate disputes with the Dominicans and others gave such offence to the great Emperor Yonchin that that prince, who was justice and goodness personified, was blind enough to refuse permission any longer to teach our holy religion, in respect to which our missionaries so little agreed. He expelled them, but with a kindness truly paternal, supplying them with means of subsistence, and conveyance to the confines of his empire.

All Asia, all Africa, the half of Europe, all that belongs to the English and Dutch in America, all the unconquered American tribes, all the southern climes, which constitute a fifth portion of the globe, remain the prey of the demon, in order to fulfil those sacred words, “many are called, but few are chosen.”—Matt. xx., 16.

Of the Signification of the Word “Church.” Picture of the Primitive Church. Its Degeneracy. Examination into those Societies which have Attempted to Re-establish the Primitive Church, and Particularly into that of the Primitives called Quakers.

The term “church” among the Greeks signified the assembly of the people. When the Hebrew books were translated into Greek, “synagogue” was rendered by “church”, and the same term was employed to express the “Jewish society,” the “political congregation,” the “Jewish assembly,” the “Jewish people.” Thus it is said in the Book of Numbers, Edition: current; Page: [156] “Why hast thou conducted the church into the wilderness;” and in Deuteronomy, “The eunuch, the Moabite, and the Ammonite, shall not enter the church; the Idumæans and the Egyptians shall not enter the church, even to the third generation.”

Jesus Christ says, in St. Matthew, “If thy brother have sinned against thee [have offended thee] rebuke him, between yourselves. Take with you one or two witnesses, that, from the mouth of two or three witnesses, everything may be made clear; and, if he hear not them, complain to the assembly of the people, to the church; and, if he hear not the church, let him be to thee as a heathen or a publican. Verily, I say unto you, so shall it come to pass, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”—an illusion to the keys of doors which close and unclose the latch.

The case is here, that of two men, one of whom has offended the other, and persists. He could not be made to appear in the assembly, in the Christian church, as there was none; the person against whom his companion complained could not be judged by a bishop and priests who were not in existence; besides which, it is to be observed, that neither Jewish priests nor Christian priests ever became judges in quarrels between private persons. It was a matter of police. Bishops did not become judges till about the time of Valentinian III.

The commentators have therefore concluded that Edition: current; Page: [157] the sacred writer of this gospel makes our Lord speak in this passage by anticipation—that it is an allegory, a prediction of what would take place when the Christian church should be formed and established.

Selden makes an important remark on this passage, that, among the Jews, publicans or collectors of the royal moneys were not excommunicated. The populace might detest them, but as they were indispensable officers, appointed by the prince, the idea had never occurred to any one of separating them from the assembly. The Jews were at that time under the administration of the proconsul of Syria, whose jurisdiction extended to the confines of Galilee, and to the island of Cyprus, where he had deputies. It would have been highly imprudent in any to show publicly their abomination of the legal officers of the proconsul. Injustice, even, would have been added to imprudence, for the Roman knights—equestrians—who farmed the public domain and collected Cæsar’s money, were authorized by the laws.

St. Augustine, in his eighty-first sermon, may perhaps suggest reflections for comprehending this passage. He is speaking of those who retain their hatred, who are slow to pardon.

“Cepisti habere fratrem tuum tanquam publicanum. Ligas illum in terra; sed ut juste alliges vide; nam injusta vincula dirsumpit justitia. Cum autem correxeris et concordaveris cum fratre tuo Edition: current; Page: [158] solvisti eum in terra.” You began to regard your brother as a publican; that is, to bind him on the earth. But be cautious that you bind him justly, for justice breaks unjust bonds. But when you have corrected, and afterwards agreed with your brother, you have loosed him on earth.

From St. Augustine’s interpretation, it seems that the person offended shut up the offender in prison; and that it is to be understood that, if the offender is put in bonds on earth, he is also in heavenly bonds; but that if the offended person is inexorable, he becomes bound himself. In St. Augustine’s explanation there is nothing whatever relating to the Church. The whole matter relates to pardoning or not pardoning an injury. St. Augustine is not speaking here of the sacerdotal power of remitting sins in the name of God. That is a right recognized in other places; a right derived from the sacrament of confession. St. Augustine, profound as he is in types and allegories, does not consider this famous passage as alluding to the absolution given or refused by the ministers of the Roman Catholic Church, in the sacrament of penance.

Of the “Church,” in Christian Societies.

In the greater part of Christian states we perceive no more than four churches—the Greek, the Roman, the Lutheran, and the reformed or Calvinistic. It is thus in Germany. The Primitives or Quakers, the Anabaptists, the Socinians, the Memnonists, Edition: current; Page: [159] the Pietists, the Moravians, the Jews, and others, do not form a church. The Jewish religion has preserved the designation of synagogue. The Christian sects which are tolerated have only private assemblies, “conventicles.” It is the same in London. We do not find the Catholic Church in Sweden, nor in Denmark, nor in the north of Germany, nor in Holland, nor in three quarters of Switzerland, nor in the three kingdoms of Great Britain.

Of the Primitive Church, and of Those Who Have Endeavored to Re-establish It.

The Jews, as well as all the different people of Syria, were divided into many different congregations, as we have already seen. All were aimed at a mystical perfection. A ray of purer light shone upon the disciples of St. John, who still subsist near Mosul. At last, the Son of God, announced by St. John, appeared on earth, whose disciples were always on a perfect equality. Jesus had expressly enjoined them, “There shall not be any of you either first or last. . . . . I came to serve, not to be served. . . . . He who strives to be master over others shall be their servant.”

One proof of equality is that the Christians at first took no other designation than that of “brethren.” They assembled in expectation of the spirit. They prophesied when they were inspired. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, says to Edition: current; Page: [160] them, “If, in your assembly, any one of you have the gift of a psalm, a doctrine, a revelation, a language, an interpretation, let all be done for edification. If any speak languages, as two or three may do in succession, let there be an interpreter.

“Let two or three prophets speak, and the others judge; and if anything be revealed to another while one is speaking, let the latter be silent; for you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all exhort; the spirit of prophecy is subject to the prophets; for the Lord is a God of peace. . . . . Thus, then, my brethren, be all of you desirous of prophesying, and hinder not the speaking of languages.”

I have translated literally, both out of reverence for the text, and to avoid any disputes about words. St. Paul, in the same epistle, admits that women may prophesy; although, in the fourteenth chapter, he forbids their speaking in the assemblies. “Every woman,” says he, “praying or prophesying without having a veil over her head, dishonoreth her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven.”

It is clear, from all these passages and from many others, that the first Christians were all equal, not merely as brethren in Jesus Christ, but as having equal gifts. The spirit was communicated to them equally. They equally spoke different languages; they had equally the gift of prophesying, without distinction of rank, age, or sex.

The apostles who instructed the neophytes possessed Edition: current; Page: [161] over them, unquestionably, that natural preeminence which the preceptor has over the pupil; but of jurisdiction, of temporal authority, of what the world calls “honors,” of distinction in dress, of emblems of superiority, assuredly neither they, nor those who succeeded them, had any. They possessed another, and a very different superiority, that of persuasion.

The brethren put their money into one common stock. Seven persons were chosen by themselves out of their own body, to take charge of the tables, and to provide for the common wants. They chose, in Jerusalem itself, those whom we call Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas. It is remarkable that, among seven persons chosen by a Jewish community, six were Greeks.

After the time of the apostles we find no example of any Christian who possessed any other power over other Christians than that of instructing, exhorting, expelling demons from the bodies of “energumens,” and performing miracles. All is spiritual; nothing savors of worldly pomp. It was only in the third century that the spirit of pride, vanity, and interest, began to be manifested among the believers on every side.

The agapæ had now become splendid festivals, and attracted reproach for the luxury and profusion which attended them. Tertullian acknowledges it. “Yes,” says he, “we make splendid and plentiful Edition: current; Page: [162] entertainments, but was not the same done at the mysteries of Athens and of Egypt? Whatever learning we display, it is useful and pious, as the poor benefit by it.” Quantiscumque sumptibus constet, lucrum est pietatis, si quidem inopes refrigerio isto juvamus.

About this very period, certain societies of Christians, who pronounced themselves more perfect than the rest, the Montanists, for example, who boasted of so many prophecies and so austere a morality; who regarded second nuptials as absolute adulteries, and flight from persecution as apostasy; who had exhibited in public holy convulsions and ecstasies, and pretended to speak with God face to face, were convicted, it was said, of mixing the blood of an infant, a year old, with the bread of the eucharist. They brought upon the true Christians this dreadful reproach, which exposed them to persecutions.

Their method of proceeding, according to St. Augustine, was this: they pricked the whole body of the infant with pins and, kneading up flour with the blood, made bread of it. If any one died by eating it, they honored him as a martyr.

Manners were so corrupted that the holy fathers were incessantly complaining of it. Hear what St. Cyprian says, in his book concerning tombs: “Every priest,” says he, “seeks for wealth and honor with insatiable avidity. Bishops are without religion; women without modesty; knavery is general; profane swearing and perjury abound; animosities divide Edition: current; Page: [163] Christians asunder; bishops abandon their pupils to attend the exchange, and obtain opulence by merchandise; in short, we please ourselves alone, and excite the disgust of all the rest of the world.”

Before the occurrence of these scandals, the priest Novatian had been the cause of a very dreadful one to the people of Rome. He was the first antipope. The bishopric of Rome, although secret, and liable to persecution, was an object of ambition and avarice, on account of the liberal contributions of the Christians, and the authority attached to that high situation.

We will not here describe again what is contained in so many authentic documents, and what we every day hear from the mouths of persons correctly informed—the prodigious number of schisms and wars; the six hundred years of fierce hostility between the empire and the priesthood; the wealth of nations, flowing through a thousand channels, sometimes into Rome, sometimes into Avignon, when the popes, for two and seventy years together, fixed their residence in that place; the blood rushing in streams throughout Europe, either for the interest of a tiara utterly unknown to Jesus Christ, or on account of unintelligible questions which He never mentioned. Our religion is not less sacred or less divine for having been so defiled by guilt and steeped in carnage.

When the frenzy of domination, that dreadful passion of the human heart, had reached its greatest Edition: current; Page: [164] excess; when the monk Hildebrand, elected bishop of Rome against the laws, wrested that capital from the emperors, and forbade all the bishops of the west from bearing the name of pope, in order to appropriate it to himself alone; when the bishops of Germany, following his example, made themselves sovereigns, which all those of France and England also attempted; from those dreadful times down even to our own, certain Christian societies have arisen which, under a hundred different names, have endeavored to re-establish the primitive equality in Christendom.

But what had been practicable in a small society, concealed from the world, was no longer so in extensive kingdoms. The church militant and triumphant could no longer be the church humble and unknown. The bishops and the large, rich, and powerful monastic communities, uniting under the standards of the new pontificate of Rome, fought at that time pro aris et focis, for their hearths and altars. Crusades, armies, sieges, battles, rapine, tortures, assassinations by the hand of the executioner, assassinations by the hands of priests of both the contending parties, poisonings, devastations by fire and sword—all were employed to support and to pull down the new ecclesiastical administration; and the cradle of the primitive church was so hidden as to be scarcely discoverable under the blood and bones of the slain.

Edition: current; Page: [165]

Of the Primitives called Quakers.

The religious and civil wars of Great Britain having desolated England, Scotland, and Ireland, in the unfortunate reign of Charles I., William Penn, son of a vice-admiral, resolved to go and establish what he called the primitive Church on the shores of North America, in a climate which appeared to him to be mild and congenial to his own manners. His sect went under the denomination of “Quakers,” a ludicrous designation, but which they merited, by the trembling of the body which they affected when preaching, and by a nasal pronunciation, such as peculiarly distinguished one species of monks in the Roman Church, the Capuchins. But men may both snuffle and shake, and yet be meek, frugal, modest, just, and charitable. No one denies that this society of Primitives displayed an example of all those virtues.

Penn saw that the English bishops and the Presbyterians had been the cause of a dreadful war on account of a surplice, lawn sleeves, and a liturgy. He would have neither liturgy, lawn, nor surplice. The apostles had none of them. Jesus Christ had baptized none. The associates of Penn declined baptism.

The first believers were equal; these new comers aimed at being so, as far as possible. The first disciples received the spirit, and spoke in the assembly; they had no altars, no temples, no ornaments, no tapers, incense, or ceremonies. Penn and his followers Edition: current; Page: [166] flattered themselves that they received the spirit, and they renounced all pomp and ceremony. Charity was in high esteem with the disciples of the Saviour; those of Penn formed a common purse for assisting the poor. Thus these imitators of the Essenians and first Christians, although in error with respect to doctrines and ceremonies, were an astonishing model of order and morals to every other society of Christians.

At length this singular man went, with five hundred of his followers, to form an establishment in what was at that time the most savage district of America. Queen Christina of Sweden had been desirous of founding a colony there, which, however, had not prospered. The Primitives of Penn were more successful.

It was on the banks of the Delaware, near the fortieth degree of latitude. This country belonged to the king of England only because there were no others who claimed it, and because the people whom we call savages, and who might have cultivated it, had always remained far distant in the recesses of the forests. If England had possessed this country merely by right of conquest, Penn and his Primitives would have held such an asylum in horror. They looked upon the pretended right of conquest only as a violation of the right of nature, and as absolute robbery.

King Charles II. made Penn sovereign of all this wild country by a charter granted March 4, Edition: current; Page: [167] 1681. In the following year Penn promulgated his code of laws. The first was complete civil liberty, in consequence of which every colonist possessing five acres of land became a member of the legislature. The next was an absolute prohibition against advocates and attorneys ever taking fees. The third was the admission of all religions, and even the permission to every inhabitant to worship God in his own house, without ever taking part in public worship.

This is the law last mentioned, in the terms of its enactment: “Liberty of conscience being a right which all men have received from nature with their very being, and which all peaceable persons ought to maintain, it is positively established that no person shall be compelled to join in any public exercise of religion.

“But every one is expressly allowed full power to engage freely in the public or private exercise of his religion, without incurring thereby any trouble or impediment, under any pretext; provided that he acknowledge his belief in one only eternal God Almighty, the creator, preserver, and governor of the universe, and that he fulfil all the duties of civil society which he is bound to perform to his fellow citizens.”

This law is even more indulgent, more humane, than that which was given to the people of Carolina by Locke, the Plato of England, so superior to the Plato of Greece. Locke permitted no public religions Edition: current; Page: [168] except such as should be approved by seven fathers of families. This is a different sort of wisdom from Penn’s.

But that which reflects immortal honor on both legislators, and which should operate as an eternal example to mankind, is, that this liberty of conscience has not occasioned the least disturbance. It might, on the contrary, be said that God had showered down the most distinguished blessings on the colony of Pennsylvania. It consisted, in 1682, of five hundred persons, and in less than a century its population had increased to nearly three hundred thousand. One half of the colonists are of the primitive religion; twenty different religions comprise the other half. There are twelve fine chapels in Philadelphia, and in other places every house is a chapel. This city has deserved its name: “Brotherly Love.” Seven other cities, and innumerable small towns, flourish under this law of concord. Three hundred vessels leave the port in the course of every year.

This state, which seems to deserve perpetual duration, was very nearly destroyed in the fatal war of 1755, when the French, with their savage allies on one side, and the English, with theirs, on the other, began with disputing about some frozen districts of Nova Scotia. The Primitives, faithful to their pacific system of Christianity, declined to take up arms. The savages killed some of their colonists on the frontier; the Primitives made no reprisals. Edition: current; Page: [169] They even refused, for a long time, to pay the troops. They addressed the English general in these words: “Men are like pieces of clay, which are broken to pieces one against another. Why should we aid in breaking one another to pieces?”

At last, in the general assembly of the legislature of Pennsylvania, the other religions prevailed; troops were raised; the Primitives contributed money, but declined being armed. They obtained their object, which was peace with their neighbors. These pretended savages said to them, “Send us a descendant of the great Penn, who never deceived us; with him we will treat.” A grandson of that great man was deputed, and peace was concluded. Many of the Primitives had negro slaves to cultivate their estates. But they blushed at having, in this instance, imitated other Christians. They gave liberty to their slaves in 1769.

At present all the other colonists imitate them in liberty of conscience, and although there are among them Presbyterians and persons of the high church party, no one is molested about his creed. It is this which has rendered the English power in America equal to that of Spain, with all its mines of gold and silver. If any method could be devised to enervate the English colonies it would be to establish in them the Inquisition.

The example of the Primitives, called “Quakers,” has given rise in Pennsylvania to a new society, in a district which it calls Euphrates. This is the sect Edition: current; Page: [170] of Dunkers or Dumpers, a sect much more secluded from the world than Penn’s; a sort of religious hospitallers, all clothed uniformly. Married persons are not permitted to reside in the city of Euphrates: they reside in the country, which they cultivate. The public treasury supplies all their wants in times of scarcity. This society administers baptism only to adults. It rejects the doctrine of original sin as impious, and that of the eternity of punishment as barbarous. The purity of their lives permits them not to imagine that God will torment His creatures cruelly or eternally. Gone astray in a corner of the new world, far from the great flock of the Catholic Church, they are, up to the present hour, notwithstanding this unfortunate error, the most just and most inimitable of men.

Quarrel between the Greek and Latin Churches in Asia and Europe.

It has been a matter of lamentation to all good men for nearly fourteen centuries that the Greek and Latin Churches have always been rivals, and that the robe of Jesus Christ, which was without a seam, has been continually rent asunder. This opposition is perfectly natural. Rome and Constantinople hate each other. When masters cherish a mutual aversion, their dependents entertain no mutual regard. The two communions have disputed on the superiority of language, the antiquity of sees, on learning, eloquence, and power.

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It is certain that, for a long time, the Greeks possessed all the advantage. They boasted that they had been the masters of the Latins, and that they had taught them everything. The Gospels were written in Greek. There was not a doctrine, a rite, a mystery, a usage, which was not Greek; from the word “baptism” to the word “eucharist” all was Greek. No fathers of the Church were known except among the Greeks till St. Jerome, and even he was not a Roman, but a Dalmatian. St. Augustine, who flourished soon after St. Jerome, was an African. The seven great ecumenical councils were held in Greek cities: the bishops of Rome were never present at them, because they were acquainted only with their own Latin language, which was already exceedingly corrupted.

The hostility between Rome and Constantinople broke out in 452, at the Council of Chalcedon, which had been assembled to decide whether Jesus Christ had possessed two natures and one person, or two persons with one nature. It was there decided that the Church of Constantinople was in every respect equal to that of Rome, as to honors, and the patriarch of the one equal in every respect to the patriarch of the other. The pope, St. Leo, admitted the two natures, but neither he nor his successors admitted the equality. It may be observed that, in this dispute about rank and pre-eminence, both parties were in direct opposition to the injunction of Jesus Christ, recorded in the Gospel: “There shall Edition: current; Page: [172] not be among you first or last.” Saints are saints, but pride will insinuate itself everywhere. The same disposition which made a mason’s son, who had been raised to a bishopric, foam with rage because he was not addressed by the title of “my lord,” has set the whole Christian world in flames.

The Romans were always less addicted to disputation, less subtle, than the Greeks, but they were much more politic. The bishops of the east, while they argued, yet remained subjects: the bishop of Rome, without arguments, contrived eventually to establish his power on the ruins of the western empire. And what Virgil said of the Scipios and Cæsars might be said of the popes:

Romanos rerum dominos gentemque togatam.

—Æneid, i. 286.

This mutual hatred led, at length, to actual division, in the time of Photius, papa or overseer of the Byzantine Church, and Nicholas I., papa or overseer of the Roman Church. As, unfortunately, an ecclesiastical quarrel scarcely ever occurs without something ludicrous being attached to it, it happened, in this instance, that the contest began between two patriarchs, both of whom were eunuchs: Ignatius and Photius, who disputed the chair of Constantinople, were both emasculated. This mutilation depriving them of the power of becoming natural fathers, they could become fathers only of the Church. It is observed that persons of this unfortunate description are meddling, malignant, and plotting. Edition: current; Page: [173] Ignatius and Photius kept the whole Greek court in a state of turbulence.

The Latin, Nicholas I., having taken the part of Ignatius, Photius declared him a heretic, on account of his admitting the doctrine that the breath of God, or the Holy Spirit, proceeded from the Father and the Son, contrary to the unanimous decision of the whole Church, which had decided that it proceeded from the Father only.

Besides this heretical doctrine respecting the procession, Nicholas ate, and permitted to be eaten, eggs and cheese in Lent. In fine, as the very climax of unbelief, the Roman papa had his beard shaved, which, to the Greek papas, was nothing less than downright apostasy; as Moses, the patriarchs, and Jesus Christ were always, by the Greek and Latin painters, pictured with beards.

When, in 879, the patriarch Photius was restored to his seat by the eighth ecumenical council—consisting of four hundred bishops, three hundred of whom had condemned him in the preceding council—he was acknowledged by Pope John as his brother. Two legates, despatched by him to this council, joined the Greek Church, and declared that whoever asserted the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son was a Judas. But the practice of shaving the chin and eating eggs in Lent being persisted in, the two churches always remained divided.

The schism was completed in 1053 and 1054, Edition: current; Page: [174] when Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople, publicly condemned the bishop of Rome, Leo IX., and all the Latins, adding to all the reproaches against them by Photius that, contrary to the practice of the apostles, they dared to make use of unleavened bread in the eucharist; that they wickedly ate blood puddings, and twisted the necks, instead of cutting off the heads, of pigeons intended for the table. All the Latin churches in the Greek empire were shut up, and all intercourse with those who ate blood puddings was forbidden.

Pope Leo IX. entered into serious negotiation on this matter with the Emperor Constantine Monomachus, and obtained some mitigations. It was precisely at this period that those celebrated Norman gentlemen, the sons of Tancred de Hauteville, despising at once the pope and the Greek emperor, plundered everything they could in Apulia and Calabria, and ate blood puddings with the utmost hardihood. The Greek emperor favored the pope as much as he was able; but nothing could reconcile the Greeks with the Latins. The Greeks regarded their adversaries as barbarians, who did not know a single word of Greek. The irruption of the Crusaders, under pretence of delivering the Holy Land, but in reality to gain possession of Constantinople, completed the hatred entertained against the Romans.

But the power of the Latin Church increased every day, and the Greeks were at length gradually Edition: current; Page: [175] vanquished by the Turks. The popes, long since, became powerful and wealthy sovereigns; the whole Greek Church became slaves from the time of Mahomet II., except Russia, which was then a barbarous country, and in which the Church was of no account.

Whoever is but slightly informed of the state of affair in the Levant knows that the sultan confers the patriarchate of the Greeks by a cross and a ring, without any apprehension of being excommunicated, as some of the German emperors were by the popes, for this same ceremony.

It is certainly true that the church of Stamboul has preserved, in appearance, the liberty of choosing its archbishop; but never, in fact, chooses any other than the person pointed out by the Ottoman court. This preferment costs, at present, about eighty thousand francs, which the person chosen contrives to get refunded from the Greeks. If any canon of influence and wealth comes forward, and offers the grand vizier a large sum, the titular possessor is deprived, and the place given to the last bidder; precisely as the see of Rome was disposed of, in the tenth century, by Marozia and Theodora. If the titular patriarch resists, he receives fifty blows on the soles of his feet, and is banished. Sometimes he is beheaded, as was the case with Lucas Cyrille, in 1638.

The Grand Turk disposes of all the other bishoprics, in the same manner, for money; and the price Edition: current; Page: [176] charged for every bishopric under Mahomet II. is always stated in the patent; but the additional sum paid is not mentioned in it. It is not exactly known what a Greek priest gives for his bishopric.

These patents are rather diverting documents: “I grant to N—, a Christian priest, this order, for the perfection of his felicity. I command him to reside in the city herein named, as bishop of the infidel Christians, according to their ancient usage, and their vain and extravagant ceremonies, willing and ordaining that all Christians of that district shall acknowledge him, and that no monk or priest shall marry without his permission.” That is to say, without paying for the same.

The slavery of this Church is equal to its ignorance. But the Greeks have only what they deserve. They were wholly absorbed in disputes about the light on Mount Tabor, and the umbilical cord, at the very time of the taking of Constantinople.

While recording these melancholy truths we entertain the hope that the Empress Catherine II. will give the Greeks their liberty. Would she could restore to them that courage and that intellect which they possessed in the days of Miltiades and Themistocles; and that Mount Athos supplied good soldiers and fewer monks.

Of the Present Greek Church.

The Greek Church has scarcely deserved the toleration which the Mussulmans granted it. The following Edition: current; Page: [177] observations are from Mr. Porter, the English ambassador in Turkey:

“I am inclined to draw a veil over those scandalous disputes between the Greeks and Romans, on the subject of Bethlehem and the holy land, as they denominate it. The unjust and odious proceedings which these have occasioned between them are a disgrace to the Christian name. In the midst of these debates the ambassador appointed to protect the Romish communion becomes, with all high dignity, an object of sincere compassion.

“In every country where the Roman Catholic prevails, immense sums are levied in order to support against the Greek’s equivocal pretensions to the precarious possession of a corner of the world reputed holy; and to preserve in the hands of the monks of the Latin communion the remains of an old stable at Bethlehem, where a chapel has been erected, and where on the doubtful authority of oral tradition, it is pretended that Christ was born; as also a tomb, which may be, and most probably may not be, what is called his sepulchre; for the precise situation of these two places is as little ascertained as that which contains the ashes of Cæsar.”

What renders the Greeks yet more contemptible in the eyes of the Turks is the miracle which they perform every year at Easter. The poor bishop of Jerusalem is inclosed in a small cave, which is passed off for the tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ, with packets of small wax tapers; he strikes fire, Edition: current; Page: [178] lights one of these little tapers, and comes out of his cave exclaiming: “The fire is come down from heaven, and the holy taper is lighted.” All the Greeks immediately buy up these tapers, and the money is divided between the Turkish commander and the bishop. The deplorable state of this Church, under the dominion of the Turk, may be judged from this single trait.

The Greek Church in Russia has of late assumed a much more respectable consistency, since the Empress Catherine II. has delivered it from its secular cares; she has taken from it four hundred thousand slaves, which it possessed. It is now paid out of the imperial treasury, entirely dependent on the government, and restricted by wise laws; it can effect nothing but good, and is every day becoming more learned and useful. It possesses a preacher of the name of Plato, who has composed sermons which the Plato of antiquity would not have disdained.


England is the country of sects; “multæ sunt mansiones in domo patris mei:” an Englishman, like a free man, goes to heaven which way he pleases. However, although every one can serve God in his own way, the national religion—that in which fortunes are made—is the Episcopal, called the Church of England, or emphatically, “The Edition: current; Page: [179] Church.” No one can have employment of any consequence, either in England or Ireland, without being members of the establishment. This reasoning, which is highly demonstrative, has converted so many nonconformists that at present there is not a twentieth part of the nation out of the bosom of the dominant church.

The English clergy have retained many Catholic ceremonies, and above all that of receiving tithes, with a very scrupulous attention. They also possess the pious ambition of ruling the people, for what village rector would not be a pope if he could?

With regard to manners, the English clergy are more decorous than those of France, chiefly because the ecclesiastics are brought up in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, far from the corruption of the metropolis. They are not called to the dignities of the Church until very late, and at an age when men, having no other passion than avarice, their ambition is less aspiring. Employments are, in England, the recompense of long service in the church, as well as in the army. You do not there see young men become bishops or colonels on leaving college; and, moreover, almost all the priests are married. The pedantry and awkwardness of manners, acquired in the universities, and the little commerce they have with women, generally oblige a bishop to be contented with the one which belongs to him. The clergy go sometimes to the tavern, because custom permits it, and if they get “Bacchi Edition: current; Page: [180] plenum” it is in the college style, gravely and with due decorum.

That indefinable character which is neither ecclesiastical nor secular, which we call abbé, is unknown in England. The ecclesiastics there are generally respected, and for the greater part pedants. When the latter learn that in France young men distinguished by their debaucheries, and raised to the prelacy by the intrigues of women, publicly make love; vie with each other in the composition of love songs; give luxurious suppers every day, from which they arise to implore the light of the Holy Spirit, and boldly call themselves the apostles’ successors—they thank God they are Protestants. But what then? They are vile heretics, and fit only for burning, as master Francis Rabelais says, “with all the devils.” Hence I drop the subject.


The Gospel forbids those who would attain perfection to amass treasures, and to preserve their temporal goods: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.” “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

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The apostles and their first successors would not receive estates; they only accepted the value, and, after having provided what was necessary for their subsistence, they distributed the rest among the poor. Sapphira and Ananias did not give their goods to St. Peter, but they sold them and brought him the price: “Vende quæ habes et da pauperibus.”

The Church already possessed considerable property at the close of the third century, since Diocletian and Maximian had pronounced the confiscation of it, in 302.

As soon as Constantine was upon the throne he permitted the churches to be endowed like the temples of the ancient religion, and from that time the Church acquired rich estates. St. Jerome complains of it in one of his letters to Eustochium: “When you see them,” says he, “accost the rich widows whom they meet with a soft and sanctified air, you would think that their hands were only extended to give them their blessing; but it is, on the contrary, to receive the price of their hypocrisy.”

The holy priests received without claiming. Valentinian I. thought it right to forbid the ecclesiastics from receiving anything from widows and women, by will or otherwise. This law, which is found in the Theodosian code, was revoked by Marcian and Justinian.

Justinian, to favor the ecclesiastics, forbade the judges, by his new code xviii. chap. ii., to annul the wills made in favor of the Church, even when executed Edition: current; Page: [182] without the formalities prescribed by the laws.

Anastasius had enacted, in 471, that church property should be held by a prescription, or title, of forty years’ duration. Justinian inserted this law in his code; but this prince, who was continually changing his jurisprudence, subsequently extended this proscription to a century. Immediately several ecclesiastics, unworthy of their profession, forged false titles, and drew out of the dust old testaments, void by the ancient laws, but valid according to the new. Citizens were deprived of their patrimonies by fraud; and possessions, which until then were considered inviolable, were usurped by the Church. In short, the abuse was so crying that Justinian himself was obliged to re-establish the dispositions of the law of Anastasius, by his novel cxxxi. chap. vi.

The possessions of the Church during the first five centuries of our era were regulated by deacons, who distributed them to the clergy and to the poor. This community ceased at the end of the fifth century, and Church property was divided into four parts—one being given to the bishops, another to the clergy, a third to the place of worship, and the fourth to the poor. Soon after this division the bishops alone took charge of the whole four portions, and this is the reason why the inferior clergy are generally very poor.

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Monks possessing Slaves.

What is still more melancholy, the Benedictines, Bernardines, and even the Chartreux are permitted to have mortmains and slaves. Under their domination in several provinces of France and Germany are still recognized: personal slavery, slavery of property, and slavery of person and property. Slavery of the person consists in the incapacity of a man’s disposing of his property in favor of his children, if they have not always lived with their father in the same house, and at the same table, in which case all belongs to the monks. The fortune of an inhabitant of Mount Jura, put into the hands of a notary, becomes, even in Paris, the prey of those who have originally embraced evangelical poverty at Mount Jura. The son asks alms at the door of the house which his father has built; and the monks, far from giving them, even arrogate to themselves the right of not paying his father’s creditors, and of regarding as void all the mortgages on the house of which they take possession. In vain the widow throws herself at their feet to obtain a part of her dowry. This dowry, these debts, this paternal property, all belong, by divine right, to the monks. The creditors, the widow, and the children are all left to die in beggary.

Real slavery is that which is effected by residence. Whoever occupies a house within the domain of these monks, and lives in it a year and a day, becomes their serf for life. It has sometimes Edition: current; Page: [184] happened that a French merchant, and father of a family, led by his business into this barbarous country, has taken a house for a year. Dying afterwards in his own country, in another province of France, his widow and children have been quite astonished to see officers, armed with writs, come and take away their furniture, sell it in the name of St. Claude, and drive away a whole family from the house of their father.

Mixed slavery is that which, being composed of the two, is, of all that rapacity has ever invented, the most execrable, and beyond the conception even of freebooters. There are, then, Christian people groaning in a triple slavery under monks who have taken the vow of humility and poverty. You will ask how governments suffer these fatal contradictions? It is because the monks are rich and the vassals are poor. It is because the monks, to preserve their Hunnish rights, make presents to their commissaries and to the mistresses of those who might interpose their authority to put down their oppression. The strong always crush the weak; but why must monks be the stronger?


It is at a time when, in France, the fine arts are in a state of decline; in an age of paradox, and amidst the degradation and persecution of literature and philosophy, that an attempt is made to tarnish the name of Cicero. And who is the man who Edition: current; Page: [185] thus endeavors to throw disgrace upon his memory? It is one who lends his services in defence of persons accused like himself; it is an advocate, who has studied eloquence under that great master; it is a citizen who appears to be, like Cicero, animated by devotion to the public good.

In a book entitled “Navigable Canals,” a book abounding in grand and patriotic rather than practical views, we feel no small astonishment at finding the following philippic against Cicero, who was never concerned in digging canals:

“The most glorious trait in the history of Cicero is the destruction of Catiline’s conspiracy, which, regarded in its true light, produced little sensation at Rome, except in consequence of his affecting to give it importance. The danger existed much more in his discourses than in the affair itself. It was an enterprise of debauchees which it was easy to disconcert. Neither the principal nor the accomplices had taken the slightest measure to insure the success of their guilty attempt. There was nothing astonishing in this singular matter but the blustering which attended all the proceedings of the consul, and the facility with which he was permitted to sacrifice to his self-love so many scions of illustrious families.

“Besides, the life of Cicero abounds in traits of meanness. His eloquence was as venal as his soul was pusillanimous. If his tongue was not guided by interest it was guided by fear or hope. The desire Edition: current; Page: [186] of obtaining partisans led him to the tribune, to defend, without a blush, men more dishonorable, and incalculably more dangerous, than Catiline. His clients were nearly all miscreants, and, by a singular exercise of divine justice, he at last met death from the hands of one of those wretches whom his skill had extricated from the fangs of human justice.”

We answer that, “regarded in its true light,” the conspiracy of Catiline excited at Rome somewhat more than a “slight sensation.” It plunged her into the greatest disturbance and danger. It was terminated only by a battle so bloody that there is no example of equal carnage, and scarcely any of equal valor. All the soldiers of Catiline, after having killed half of the army of Petrius, were killed, to the last man. Catiline perished, covered with wounds, upon a heap of the slain; and all were found with their countenances sternly glaring upon the enemy. This was not an enterprise so wonderfully easy as to be disconcerted. Cæsar encouraged it; Cæsar learned from it to conspire on a future day more successfully against his country.

“Cicero defended, without a blush, men more dishonorable, and incalculably more dangerous than Catiline!” Was this when he defended in the tribune Sicily against Verres, and the Roman republic against Antony? Was it when he exhorted the clemency of Cæsar in favor of Ligarius and King Deiotarus? or when he obtained the right of citizenship for the poet Archias? or when, in his exquisite Edition: current; Page: [187] oration for the Manilian law, he obtained every Roman suffrage on behalf of the great Pompey?

He pleaded for Milo, the murderer of Clodius; but Clodius had deserved the tragical end he met with by his outrages. Clodius had been involved in the conspiracy of Catiline; Clodius was his mortal enemy. He had irritated Rome against him, and had punished him for having saved Rome. Milo was his friend.

What! is it in our time that any one ventures to assert that God punished Cicero for having defended a military tribune called Popilius Lena, and that divine vengeance made this same Popilius Lena the instrument of his assassination? No one knows whether Popilius Lena was guilty of the crime of which he was acquitted, after Cicero’s defence of him upon his trial; but all know that the monster was guilty of the most horrible ingratitude, the most infamous avarice, and the most detestable cruelty to obtain the money of three wretches like himself. It was reserved for our times to hold up the assassination of Cicero as an act of divine justice. The triumvirs would not have dared to do it. Every age, before the present, has detested and deplored the manner of his death.

Cicero is reproached with too frequently boasting that he had saved Rome, and with being too fond of glory. But his enemies endeavored to stain his glory. A tyrannical faction condemned him to Edition: current; Page: [188] exile, and razed his house, because he had preserved every house in Rome from the flames which Catiline had prepared for them. Men are permitted and even bound to boast of their services, when they meet with forgetfulness or ingratitude, and more particularly when they are converted into crimes.

Scipio is still admired for having answered his accusers in these words: “This is the anniversary of the day on which I vanquished Hannibal; let us go and return thanks to the gods.” The whole assembly followed him to the Capitol, and our hearts follow him thither also, as we read the passage in history; though, after all, it would have been better to have delivered in his accounts than to extricate himself from the attack by a bon mot.

Cicero, in the same manner, excited the admiration of the Roman people when, on the day in which his consulship expired, being obliged to take the customary oaths, and preparing to address the people as was usual, he was hindered by the tribune Matellus, who was desirous of insulting him. Cicero had begun with these words: “I swear,”—the tribune interrupted him, and declared that he would not suffer him to make a speech. A great murmuring was heard. Cicero paused a moment, and elevating his full and melodious voice, he exclaimed, as a short substitute for his intended speech, “I swear that I have saved the country.” The assembly cried out with delight and enthusiasm, “We swear that he has spoken the truth.” That moment Edition: current; Page: [189] was the most brilliant of his life. This is the true way of loving glory. I do not know where I have read these unknown verses:

  • Romains, j’aime la gloire, et ne veux point m’en taire
  • Des travaux des humains c’est le digne salaire,
  • Ce n’est qu’en vous qu’il la faut acheter;
  • Qui n’ose la vouloir, n’ose la mériter.
  • Romans, I own that glory I regard
  • Of human toil the only just reward;
  • Placed in your hands the immortal guerdon lies,
  • And he will ne’er deserve who slights the prize.

Can we despise Cicero if we consider his conduct in his government of Cilicia, which was then one of the most important provinces of the Roman Empire, in consequence of its contiguity to Syria and the Parthian Empire. Laodicea, one of the most beautiful cities of the East, was the capital of it. This province was then as flourishing as it is at the present day degraded under the government of the Turks, who never had a Cicero.

He begins by protecting Ariobarzanes, king of Cappadocia, and he refuses the presents which that king desires to make him. The Parthians come and attack Antioch in a state of perfect peace. Cicero hastily marches towards it, comes up with the Parthians by forced marches at Mount Taurus, routs them, pursues them in their retreat, and Arsaces, their general, is slain, with a part of his army.

Thence he rushes on Pendenissum, the capital of a country in alliance with the Parthians, and takes it, and the province is reduced to submission. He instantly directs his forces against the tribes of Edition: current; Page: [190] people called Tiburanians, and defeats them, and his troops confer on him the title of Imperator, which he preserved all his life. He would have obtained the honors of a triumph at Rome if he had not been opposed by Cato, who induced the senate merely to decree public rejoicings and thanks to the gods, when, in fact, they were due to Cicero.

If we picture to ourselves the equity and disinterestedness of Cicero in his government; his activity, his affability—two virtues so rarely compatible; the benefits which he accumulated upon the people over whom he was an absolute sovereign; it will be extremely difficult to withhold from such a man our esteem.

If we reflect that this is the same man who first introduced philosophy into Rome; that his “Tusculan Questions,” and his book “On the Nature of the Gods,” are the two noblest works that ever were written by mere human wisdom, and that his treatise, “De Officiis,” is the most useful one that we possess in morals; we shall find it still more difficult to despise Cicero. We pity those who do not read him; we pity still more those who refuse to do him justice.

To the French detractor we may well oppose the lines of the Spanish Martial, in his epigram against Antony (book v., epig. 69, v. 7):

  • Quid prosunt sacræ pretiosa silentia linguae?
  • Incipient omnes pro Cicerone loqui.
  • Why still his tongue with vengeance weak.
  • For Cicero all the world will speak!
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See, likewise, what is said by Juvenal (sat. iv., v. 244):

  • Roma patrem patriae Ciceronem libera dixit.
  • Freed Rome, him father of his country called.


When Herodotus narrates what he was told by the barbarians among whom he travelled, he narrates fooleries, after the manner of the greater part of travellers. Thus, it is not to be supposed that he expects to be believed in his recital of the adventure of Gyges and Candaules; of Arion, carried on the back of a dolphin; of the oracle which was consulted on what Crœsus was at the time doing, that he was then going to dress a tortoise in a stew-pan; of Darius’ horse, which, being the first out of a certain number to neigh, in fact proclaimed his master a king; and of a hundred other fables, fit to amuse children, and to be compiled by rhetoricians. But when he speaks of what he has seen, of the customs of people he has examined, of their antiquities which he has consulted, he then addresses himself to men.

“It appears,” says he, in his book “Euterpe,” “that the inhabitants of Colchis sprang from Egypt. I judge so from my own observations rather than from hearsay; for I found that, at Colchis, the ancient Egyptians were more frequently recalled to my mind than the ancient customs of Colchis were when I was in Egypt.

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“These inhabitants of the shores of the Euxine Sea stated themselves to be a colony founded by Sesostris. As for myself, I should think this probable, not merely because they are dark and woolly-haired, but because the inhabitants of Colchis, Egypt, and Ethiopia are the only people in the world who, from time immemorial, have practised circumcision; for the Phœnicians, and the people of Palestine, confess that they adopted the practice from the Egyptians. The Syrians, who at present inhabit the banks of Thermodon, acknowledge that it is, comparatively, but recently that they have conformed to it. It is principally from this usage that they are considered of Egyptian origin.

“With respect to Ethiopia and Egypt, as this ceremony is of great antiquity in both nations, I cannot by any means ascertain which has derived it from the other. It is, however, probable that the Ethiopians received it from the Egyptians; while, on the contrary, the Phœnicians have abolished the practice of circumcising new-born children since the enlargement of their commerce with the Greeks.”

From this passage of Herodotus it is evident that many people had adopted circumcision from Egypt, but no nation ever pretended to have received it from the Jews. To whom, then, can we attribute the origin of this custom; to a nation from whom five or six others acknowledge they took it, or to another nation, much less powerful, less commercial, less warlike, hid away in a corner of Arabia Edition: current; Page: [193] Petræa, and which never communicated any one of its usages to any other people?

The Jews admit that they were, many ages since, received in Egypt out of charity. Is it not probable that the lesser people imitated a usage of the superior one, and that the Jews adopted some customs from their masters?

Clement of Alexandria relates that Pythagoras, when travelling among the Egyptians, was obliged to be circumcised in order to be admitted to their mysteries. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary to be circumcised to be a priest in Egypt. Those priests existed when Joseph arrived in Egypt. The government was of great antiquity, and the ancient ceremonies of the country were observed with the most scrupulous exactness.

The Jews acknowledge that they remained in Egypt two hundred and five years. They say that, during that period, they did not become circumcised. It is clear, then, that for two hundred and five years the Egyptians did not receive circumcision from the Jews. Would they have adopted it from them after the Jews had stolen the vessels which they had lent them, and, according to their own account, fled with their plunder into the wilderness? Will a master adopt the principal symbol of the religion of a robbing and runaway slave? It is not in human nature.

It is stated in the Book of Joshua that the Jews were circumcised in the wilderness. “I have delivered you from what constituted your reproach Edition: current; Page: [194] among the Egyptians.” But what could this reproach be, to a people living between Phœnicians, Arabians, and Egyptians, but something which rendered them contemptible to these three nations? How effectually is that reproach removed by abstracting a small portion of the prepuce? Must not this be considered the natural meaning of the passage?

The Book of Genesis relates that Abraham had been circumcised before. But Abraham travelled in Egypt, which had been long a flourishing kingdom, governed by a powerful king. There is nothing to prevent the supposition that circumcision was, in this very ancient kingdom, an established usage. Moreover, the circumcision of Abraham led to no continuation; his posterity was not circumcised till the time of Joshua.

But, before the time of Joshua, the Jews, by their own acknowledgment, adopted many of the customs of the Egyptians. They imitated them in many sacrifices, in many ceremonies; as, for example, in the fasts observed on the eves of the feasts of Isis; in ablutions; in the custom of shaving the heads of the priests; in the incense, the branched candle-stick, the sacrifice of the red-haired cow, the purification with hyssop, the abstinence from swine’s flesh, the dread of using the kitchen utensils of foreigners; everything testifies that the little people of Hebrews, notwithstanding its aversion to the great Egyptian nation, had retained a vast number of the usages Edition: current; Page: [195] of its former masters. The goat Azazel, which was despatched into the wilderness laden with the sins of the people, was a visible imitation of an Egyptian practice. The rabbis are agreed, even, that the word Azazel is not Hebrew. Nothing, therefore, could exist to have prevented the Hebrews from imitating the Egyptians in circumcision, as the Arabs, their neighbors, did.

It is by no means extraordinary that God, who sanctified baptism, a practice so ancient among the Asiatics, should also have sanctified circumcision, not less ancient among the Africans. We have already remarked that he has a sovereign right to attach his favors to any symbol that he chooses.

As to what remains since the time when, under Joshua, the Jewish people became circumcised, it has retained that usage down to the present day. The Arabs, also, have faithfully adhered to it; but the Egyptians, who, in the earlier ages, circumcised both their males and females, in the course of time abandoned the practice entirely as to the latter, and at last applied it solely to priests, astrologers, and prophets. This we learn from Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. In fact, it is not clear that the Ptolemies ever received circumcision.

The Latin authors who treat the Jews with such profound contempt as to apply to them in derision the expressions, “curtus Apella,” “credat Judæus Apella,” “curti Judæi,” never apply such epithets to the Egyptians. The whole population of Egypt is Edition: current; Page: [196] at present circumcised, but for another reason than that which operated formerly; namely, because Mahometanism adopted the ancient circumcision of Arabia. It is this Arabian circumcision which has extended to the Ethiopians, among whom males and females are both still circumcised.

We must acknowledge that this ceremony appears at first a very strange one; but we should remember that, from the earliest times, the oriental priests consecrated themselves to their deities by peculiar marks. An ivy leaf was indented with a graver on the priests of Bacchus. Lucian tells us that those devoted to the goddess Isis impressed characters upon their wrist and neck. The priests of Cybele made themselves eunuchs.

It is highly probable that the Egyptians, who revered the instrument of human production, and bore its image in pomp in their processions, conceived the idea of offering to Isis and Osiris through whom everything on earth was produced, a small portion of that organ with which these deities had connected the perpetuation of the human species. Ancient oriental manners are so prodigiously different from our own that scarcely anything will appear extraordinary to a man of even but little reading. A Parisian is excessively surprised when he is told that the Hottentots deprive their male children of one of the evidences of virility. The Hottentots are perhaps surprised that the Parisians preserve both.

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There may be something perhaps still remaining for remark under this head, even after Du Cange’s “Dictionary” and the “Encyclopædia.” We may observe, for instance, that so wonderful was the respect paid to learning, about the eleventh and twelfth centuries, that a custom was introduced and followed in France, in Germany, and in England, of remitting the punishment of the halter to every condemned criminal who was able to read. So necessary to the state was every man who possessed such an extent of knowledge. William the Bastard, the conqueror of England, carried thither this custom. It was called benefit of clergy—“beneficum clericorum aut clergicorum.”

We have remarked, in more places than one, that old usages, lost in other countries, are found again in England, as in the island of Samothrace were discovered the ancient mysteries of Orpheus. To this day the benefit of clergy subsists among the English, in all its vigor, for manslaughter, and for any theft not exceeding a certain amount of value, and being the first offence. The prisoner who is able to read demands his “benefit of clergy,” which cannot be refused him. The judge refers to the chaplain of the prison, who presents a book to the prisoner, upon which the judge puts the question to the chaplain, “Legit?” “Does he read?” The chaplain replies: “Legit wt clericus.” “He reads like a clergyman.” Edition: current; Page: [198] After this the punishment of the prisoner is restricted to the application of a hot branding iron to the palm of his hand.

Of the Celibacy of the Clergy.

It is asked whether, in the first ages of the Church, marriage was permitted to the clergy, and when it was forbidden? It is unquestionable that the clergy of the Jewish religion, far from being bound to celibacy, were, on the contrary, urged to marriage, not merely by the example of their patriarchs, but by the disgrace attached to not leaving posterity.

In the times, however, that preceded the first calamities which befell the Jews, certain sects of rigorists arose—Essenians, Judaites, Therapeutæ, Herodians; in some of which—the Essenians and Therapeutæ, for examples—the most devout of the sect abstained from marriage. This continence was an imitation of the chastity of the vestals, instituted by Numa Pompilius; of the daughter of Pythagoras, who founded a convent; of the priests of Diana; of the Pythia of Delphos; and, in more remote antiquity, of the priestesses of Apollo, and even of the priestesses of Bacchus. The priests of Cybele not only bound themselves by vows of chastity, but, to preclude the violation of their vows, became eunuchs. Plutarch, in the eighth question of his “Table-talk,” informs us that, in Egypt, there are colleges of priests which renounce marriage.

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The first Christians, although professing to lead a life as pure as that of the Essenians and Therapeutæ, did not consider celibacy as a virtue. We have seen that nearly all the apostles and disciples were married. St. Paul writes to Titus: “Choose for a priest him who is the husband of one wife, having believing children, and not under accusation of dissoluteness.” He says the same to Timothy: “Let the superintendent be the husband of one wife.” He seems to think so highly of marriage that, in the same epistle to Timothy, he says: “The wife, notwithstanding her prevarication, shall be saved in child-bearing.”

The proceedings of the Council of Nice, on the subject of married priests, deserve great attention. Some bishops, according to the relations of Sozomen and Socrates, proposed a law commanding bishops and priests thenceforward to abstain from their wives; but St. Paphnucius the Martyr, bishop of Thebes, in Egypt, strenuously opposed it; observing, “that marriage was chastity”; and the council adopted his opinion. Suidas, Gelasius, Cesicenus, Cassiodorus, and Nicephorus Callistus, record precisely the same thing. The council merely forbade the clergy from living with agapetæ, or female associates besides their own wives, except their mothers, sisters, aunts, and others whose age would preclude suspicion.

After that time, the celibacy of the clergy was recommended, without being commanded. St. Edition: current; Page: [200] Jerome, a devout recluse, was, of all the fathers, highest in his eulogiums of the celibacy of priests; yet he resolutely supports the cause of Carterius, a Spanish bishop, who had been married twice. “Were I,” says he, “to enumerate all the bishops who have entered into second nuptials, I should name as many as were present at the Council of Rimini”—Tantus numerus congregabitur ut Riminensis synodus superetur.”

The examples of clergymen married, and living with their wives, are innumerable. Sydonius, bishop of Clermont, in Auvergne, in the fifth century, married Papianilla, daughter of the Emperor Avitus, and the house of Polignac claims descent from this marriage. Simplicius, bishop of Bourges, had two children by his wife Palladia. St. Gregory of Nazianzen was the son of another Gregory, bishop of Nazianzen, and of Nonna, by whom that bishop had three children—Cesarius, Gorgonia, and the saint.

In the Roman decretals, under the canon Osius, we find a very long list of bishops who were the sons of priests. Pope Osius himself was the son of a sub-deacon Stephen; and Pope Boniface I., son of the priest Jocondo. Pope Felix III. was the son of Felix, a priest, and was himself one of the grandfathers of Gregory the Great. The priest Projectus was the father of John II.; and Gordian, the father of Agapet. Pope Sylvester was the son of Pope Hormisdas. Theodore I. was born of a marriage of Edition: current; Page: [201] Theodore, patriarch of Jerusalem; a circumstance which should produce the reconciliation of the two Churches.

At length, after several councils had been held without effect on the subject of the celibacy, which ought always to accompany the priesthood, Pope Gregory excommunicated all married priests; either to add respectability to the Church, by the greater rigor of its discipline, or to attach more closely to the court of Rome the bishops and priests of other countries, who would thus have no other family than the Church. This law was not established without great opposition.

It is a very remarkable circumstance that the Council of Basel, having deposed, at least nominally, Pope Eugenius IV., and elected Amadeus of Savoy, many bishops having objected against that prince that he had been married, Æneas Sylvius, who was afterwards pope, under the name of Pius II., supported the election of Amadeus in these words: Non solum qui uxorem habuit, sed uxorem habens, potest assumere”—“Not only may he be made a pope who has been married, but also he who is so.”

This Pius II. was consistent. Peruse his letters to his mistress, in the collection of his works. He was convinced, that to defraud nature of her rights was absolute insanity, and that it was the duty of man not to destroy, but to control her.

However this may be, since the Council of Trent there has no longer been any dispute about the celibacy Edition: current; Page: [202] of the Roman Catholic clergy; there have been only desires. All Protestant communions are, on this point, in opposition to Rome.

In the Greek Church, which at present extends from the frontiers of China to Cape Matapan, the priests may marry once. Customs everywhere vary; discipline changes conformably to time and place. We here only record facts; we enter into no controversy.

Of Clerks of the Closet, Since Denominated Secretaries of State and Ministers.

Clerks of the closet, clerks of the king, more recently denominated secretaries of state, in France and England, were originally the “king’s notaries.” They were afterwards called “secretaries of orders”—secrétaires des commandemens. This we are informed of by the learned and laborious Pasquier. His authority is unquestionable, as he had under his inspection the registers of the chamber of accounts, which, in our own times, have been destroyed by fire.

At the unfortunate peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, a clerk of Philip II., having taken the title of secretary of state, de l’Aubespine, who was secretary of orders to the king of France, and his notary, took that title likewise, that the honors of both might be equal, whatever might be the case with their emoluments.

In England, before the reign of Henry VIII., there was only one secretary of the king, who stood Edition: current; Page: [203] while he presented memorials and petitions to the council. Henry VIII. appointed two, and conferred on them the same titles and prerogatives as in Spain. The great nobles did not, at that period, accept these situations; but, in time, they have become of so much consequence that peers of the realm and commanders of armies are now invested with them. Thus everything changes. There is at present no relic in France of the government of Hugh Capet, nor in England of the administration of William the Bastard.


It is certain that the sun and atmosphere mark their empire on all the productions of nature, from man to mushrooms. In the grand age of Louis XIV., the ingenious Fontenelle remarked:

“One might imagine that the torrid and two frigid zones are not well suited to the sciences. Down to the present day they have not travelled beyond Egypt and Mauritania, on the one side, nor on the other beyond Sweden. Perhaps it is not owing to mere chance that they are retained within Mount Atlas and the Baltic Sea. We know not whether these may not be the limits appointed to them by nature, or whether we may ever hope to see great authors among Laplanders or negroes.”

Chardin, one of those travellers who reason and investigate, goes still further than Fontenelle, when speaking of Persia. “The temperature of warm Edition: current; Page: [204] climates,” says he, “enervates the mind as well as the body, and dissipates that fire which the imagination requires for invention. In such climates men are incapable of the long studies and intense application which are necessary to the production of first-rate works in the liberal and mechanic arts,” etc.

Chardin did not consider that Sadi and Lokman were Persians. He did not recollect that Archimedes belonged to Sicily, where the heat is greater than in three-fourths of Persia. He forgot that Pythagoras formerly taught geometry to the Brahmins. The Abbé Dubos supported and developed, as well as he was able, the opinion of Chardin.

One hundred and fifty years before them, Bodin made it the foundation of his system in his “Republic,” and in his “Method of History”; he asserts that the influence of climate is the principle both of the government and the religion of nations. Diodorus of Sicily was of the same opinion long before Bodin.

The author of the “Spirit of Laws,” without quoting any authority, carried this idea farther than Chardin and Bodin. A certain part of the nation believed him to have first suggested it, and imputed it to him as a crime. This was quite in character with that part of the nation alluded to. There are everywhere men who possess more zeal than understanding.

We might ask those who maintain that climate Edition: current; Page: [205] does everything, why the Emperor Julian, in his “Misopogon,” says that what pleased him in the Parisians was the gravity of their characters and the severity of their manners; and why these Parisians, without the slightest change of climate, are now like playful children, at whom the government punishes and smiles at the same moment, and who themselves, the moment after, also smile and sing lampoons upon their masters.

Why are the Egyptians, who are described as having been still more grave than the Parisians, at present the most lazy, frivolous, and cowardly of people, after having, as we are told, conquered the whole world for their pleasure, under a king called Sesostris? Why are there no longer Anacreons, Aristotles, or Zeuxises at Athens? Whence comes it that Rome, instead of its Ciceros, Catos, and Livys, has merely citizens who dare not speak their minds, and a brutalized populace, whose supreme happiness consists in having oil cheap, and in gazing at processions?

Cicero, in his letters, is occasionally very jocular on the English. He desires his brother Quintus, Cæsar’s lieutenant, to inform him whether he has found any great philosophers among them, in his expedition to Britain. He little suspected that that country would one day produce mathematicians whom he could not understand. Yet the climate has not at all changed, and the sky of London is as cloudy now as it was then.

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Everything changes, both in bodies and minds, by time. Perhaps the Americans will in some future period cross the sea to instruct Europeans in the arts. Climate has some influence, government a hundred times more; religion and government combined more still.

Influence of Climate.

Climate influences religion in respect to ceremonies and usages. A legislator could have experienced no difficulty in inducing the Indians to bathe in the Ganges at certain appearances of the moon; it is a high gratification to them. Had any one proposed a like bath to the people who inhabit the banks of the Dwina, near Archangel, he would have been stoned. Forbid pork to an Arab, who after eating this species of animal food (the most miserable and disgusting in his own country) would be affected by leprosy, he will obey you with joy; prohibit it to a Westphalian, and he will be tempted to knock you down. Abstinence from wine is a good precept of religion in Arabia, where orange, citron, and lemon waters are necessary to health. Mahomet would not have forbidden wine in Switzerland, especially before going to battle.

There are usages merely fanciful. Why did the priests of Egypt devise circumcision? It was not for the sake of health. Cambyses, who treated as they deserved both them and their bull Apis, the Edition: current; Page: [207] courtiers of Cambyses, and his soldiers, enjoyed perfectly good health without such mutilation. Climate has no peculiar influence over this particular portion of the person of a priest. The offering in question was made to Isis, probably on the same principle as the firstlings of the fruits of the earth were everywhere offered. It was typical of an offering of the first fruits of life.

Religions have always turned on two pivots—forms of ceremonies, and faith. Forms and ceremonies depend much on climate; faith not at all. A doctrine will be received with equal facility under the equator or near the pole. It will be afterwards equally rejected at Batavia and the Orcades, while it will be maintained, unguibus et rostro—with tooth and nail—at Salamanca. This depends not on sun and atmosphere, but solely upon opinion, that fickle empress of the world.

Certain libations of wine will be naturally enjoined in a country abounding in vineyards; and it would never occur to the mind of any legislator to institute sacred mysteries, which could not be celebrated without wine, in such a country as Norway.

It will be expressly commanded to burn incense in the court of a temple where beasts are killed in honor of the Divinity, and for the priests’ supper. This slaughter-house, called a temple, would be a place of abominable infection, if it were not continually purified; and without the use of aromatics, Edition: current; Page: [208] the religion of the ancients would have introduced the plague. The interior of the temple was even festooned with flowers to sweeten the air.

The cow will not be sacrificed in the burning territory of the Indian peninsula, because it supplies the necessary article of milk, and is very rare in arid and barren districts, and because its flesh, being dry and tough, and yielding but little nourishment, would afford the Brahmins but miserable cheer. On the contrary, the cow will be considered sacred, in consequence of its rareness and utility.

The temple of Jupiter Ammon, where the heat is excessive, will be entered only with bare feet. To perform his devotions at Copenhagen, a man requires his feet to be warm and well covered.

It is not thus with doctrine. Polytheism has been believed in all climates; and it is equally easy for a Crim Tartar and an inhabitant of Mecca to acknowledge one only incommunicable God, neither begotten nor begetting. It is by doctrine, more than by rites, that a religion extends from one climate to another. The doctrine of the unity of God passed rapidly from Medina to Mount Caucasus. Climate, then, yields to opinion.

The Arabs said to the Turks: “We practiced the ceremony of circumcision in Arabia without very well knowing why. It was an ancient usage of the priests of Egypt to offer to Oshiret, or Osiris, a small portion of what they considered most valuable. We had adopted this custom three thousand Edition: current; Page: [209] years before we became Mahometans. You will become circumcised like us; you will bind yourself to sleep with one of your wives every Friday, and to give two and a half per cent. of your income annually to the poor. We drink nothing but water and sherbet; all intoxicating liquors are forbidden us. In Arabia they are pernicious. You will embrace the same regimen, although you should be passionately fond of wine; and even although, on the banks of the Phasis and Araxes, it should often be necessary for you. In short, if you wish to go to heaven, and to obtain good places there, you will take the road through Mecca.”

The inhabitants north of the Caucasus subject themselves to these laws, and adopt, in the fullest extent, a religion which was never framed for them.

In Egypt the emblematical worship of animals succeeded to the doctrines of Thaut. The gods of the Romans afterwards shared Egypt with the dogs, the cats, and the crocodiles. To the Roman religion succeeded Christianity; that was completely banished by Mahometanism, which will perhaps be superseded by some new religion.

In all these changes climate has effected nothing; government has done everything. We are here considering only second causes, without raising our unhallowed eyes to that Providence which directs them. The Christian religion, which received its birth in Syria, and grew up towards its fulness of stature in Alexandria, inhabits now those countries Edition: current; Page: [210] where Teutat and Irminsul, Freya and Odin, were formerly adored.

There are some nations whose religion is not the result either of climate or of government. What cause detached the north of Germany, Denmark, three parts of Switzerland, Holland, England, Scotland, and Ireland, from the Romish communion? Poverty. Indulgences, and deliverance from purgatory for the souls of those whose bodies were at that time in possession of very little money, were sold too dear. The prelates and monks absorbed the whole revenue of a province. People adopted a cheaper religion. In short, after numerous civil wars, it was concluded that the pope’s religion was a good one for nobles, and the reformed one for citizens. Time will show whether the religion of the Greeks or of the Turks will prevail on the coasts of the Euxine and Ægean seas.


The power by which the parts of bodies are kept together. It is a phenomenon the most common, but the least understood. Newton derides the hooked atoms, by means of which it has been attempted to explain coherence; for it still remained to be known why they are hooked, and why they cohere. He treats with no greater respect those who have explained cohesion by rest. “It is,” says he, “an occult quality.”

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He has recourse to an attraction. But is not this attraction, which may indeed exist, but is by no means capable of demonstration, itself an occult quality? The grand attraction of the heavenly bodies is demonstrated and calculated. That of adhering bodies is incalculable. But how can we admit a force that is immeasurable to be of the same nature as one that can be measured?

Nevertheless, it is demonstrated that the force of attraction acts upon all the planets and all heavy bodies in proportion to their solidity; but it acts on all the particles of matter; it is, therefore, very probable that, while it exists in every part in reference to the whole, it exists also in every part in reference to cohesion; coherence, therefore, may be the effect of attraction.

This opinion appears admissible till a better one can be found, and that better is not easily to be met with.


Since the fall of Carthage, no people had been powerful in commerce and arms at the same time, until Venice set the example. The Portuguese having passed the Cape of Good Hope, were, for some time, great lords on the coast of India, and even formidable in Europe. The United Provinces have only been warriors in spite of themselves, and it was not as united between themselves, but as united with England that they assisted to hold the Edition: current; Page: [212] balance of Europe at the commencement of the eighteenth century.

Carthage, Venice, and Amsterdam have been powerful; but they have acted like those people among us, who, having amassed money by trade, buy lordly estates. Neither Carthage, Venice, Holland, nor any people, have commenced by being warriors, and even conquerors, to finish by being merchants. The English only answer this description; they had fought a long time before they knew how to reckon. They did not know, when they gained the battles of Agincourt, Crécy, and Poitiers, that they were able to deal largely in corn, and make broadcloth, which would be of much more value to them than such victories. The knowledge of these arts alone has augmented, enriched, and strengthened the nation. It is only because the English have become merchants that London exceeds Paris in extent and number of citizens; that they can spread two hundred ships of war over the seas, and keep royal allies in pay.

When Louis XIV. made Italy tremble, and his armies, already masters of Savoy and Piedmont, were ready to take Turin, Prince Eugene was obliged to march to the skirts of Germany, to the succor of the duke of Savoy. Having no money, without which he could neither take nor defend towns, he had recourse to the English merchants. In half an hour they advanced him the sum of five millions of livres, with which he delivered Turin, Edition: current; Page: [213] beat the French, and wrote this little billet to those who had lent it him: “Gentlemen, I have received your money, and I flatter myself that I have employed it to your satisfaction.” All this excites just pride in an English merchant, and makes him venture to compare himself, and not without reason, to a Roman citizen. Thus the younger sons of a peer of the realm disdain not to be merchants. Lord Townsend, minister of state, had a brother who was contented with being a merchant in the city. At the time that Lord Orford governed England, his younger brother was a factor at Aleppo, whence he would not return, and where he died. This custom—which, however, begins to decline—appeared monstrous to the petty German princes. They could not conceive how the son of a peer of England was only a rich and powerful trader, while in Germany they are all princes. We have seen nearly thirty highnesses of the same name, having nothing for their fortunes but old armories and aristocratical hauteur. In France, anybody may be a marquis that likes; and whoever arrives at Paris from a remote province, with money to spend, and a name ending in ac or ille, may say: “A man like me!” “A man of my quality!” and sovereignly despise a merchant; while the merchant so often hears his profession spoken of with disdain that he is weak enough to blush at it. Which is the more useful to a state—a well-powdered lord, who knows precisely at what hour the king rises and retires, and who Edition: current; Page: [214] gives himself airs of greatness, while playing the part of a slave in the antechamber of a minister; or a merchant who enriches his country, sends orders from his office to Surat and Aleppo, and contributes to the happiness of the world?


There is sometimes in vulgar expressions an image of what passes in the heart of all men. “Sensus communis” signified among the Romans not only common sense, but also humanity and sensibility. As we are not equal to the Romans, this word with us conveys not half what it did with them. It signifies only good sense—plain, straightforward reasoning—the first notion of ordinary things—a medium between dulness and intellect. To say, “that man has not common sense,” is a gross insult; while the expression, “that man has common sense,” is an affront also; it would imply that he was not quite stupid, but that he wanted intellect. But what is the meaning of common sense, if it be not sense? Men, when they invented this term, supposed that nothing entered the mind except by the senses; otherwise would they have used the word “sense” to signify the result of the common faculty of reason?

It is said, sometimes, that common sense is very rare. What does this expression mean? That, in many men, dawning reason is arrested in its progress by some prejudices; that a man who judges Edition: current; Page: [215] reasonably on one affair will deceive himself grossly in another. The Arab, who, besides being a good calculator, was a learned chemist and an exact astronomer, nevertheless believed that Mahomet put half of the moon into his sleeve.

How is it that he was so much above common sense in the three sciences above mentioned, and beneath it when he proceeded to the subject of half the moon? It is because, in the first case, he had seen with his own eyes, and perfected his own intelligence; and, in the second, he had used the eyes of others, by shutting his own, and perverting the common sense within him.

How could this strange perversion of mind operate? How could the ideas which had so regular and firm a footing in his brain, on many subjects, halt on another a thousand times more palpable and easy to comprehend? This man had always the same principles of intelligence in him; he must have therefore possessed a vitiated organ, as it sometimes happens that the most delicate epicure has a depraved taste in regard to a particular kind of nourishment.

How did the organ of this Arab, who saw half of the moon in Mahomet’s sleeve, become disordered?—By fear. It had been told him that if he did not believe in this sleeve his soul, immediately after his death, in passing over the narrow bridge, would fall forever into the abyss. He was told much worse—if ever you doubt this sleeve, one dervish Edition: current; Page: [216] will treat you with ignominy; another will prove you mad, because, having all possible motives for credibility, you will not submit your superb reason to evidence; a third will refer you to the little divan of a small province, and you will be legally impaled.

All this produces a panic in the good Arab, his wife, sister, and all his little family. They possess good sense in all the rest, but on this article their imagination is diseased like that of Pascal, who continually saw a precipice near his couch. But did our Arab really believe in the sleeve of Mahomet? No; he endeavored to believe it; he said, “It is impossible, but true—I believe that which I do not credit.” He formed a chaos of ideas in his head in regard to this sleeve, which he feared to disentangle, and he gave up his common sense.


Repentance for one’s faults is the only thing that can repair the loss of innocence; and to appear to repent of them, we must begin by acknowledging them. Confession, therefore, is almost as ancient as civil society. Confession was practised in all the mysteries of Egypt, Greece, and Samothrace. We are told, in the life of Marcus Aurelius, that when he deigned to participate in the Eleusinian mysteries, he confessed himself to the hierophant, though no man had less need of confession than himself.

This might be a very salutary ceremony; it Edition: current; Page: [217] might also become very detrimental; for such is the case with all human institutions. We know the answer of the Spartan whom a hierophant would have persuaded to confess himself: “To whom should I acknowledge my faults? to God, or to thee?” “To God,” said the priest. “Retire, then, O man.”

It is hard to determine at what time this practice was established among the Jews, who borrowed a great many of their rites from their neighbors. The Mishna, which is the collection of the Jewish laws, says that often, in confessing, they placed their hand upon a calf belonging to the priest; and this was called “the confession of calves.”

It is said, in the same Mishna, that every culprit under sentence of death, went and confessed himself before witnesses, in some retired spot, a short time before his execution. If he felt himself guilty he said, “May my death atone for all my sins!” If innocent, he said, “May my death atone for all my sins, excepting that of which I am now accused.”

On the day of the feast which was called by the Jews the solemn atonement, the devout among them confessed to one another, specifying their sins. The confessor repeated three times thirteen words of the seventy-seventh Psalm, at the same time giving the confessed thirty-nine stripes, which the latter returned, and they went away quits. It is said that this ceremony is still in use.

St. John’s reputation for sanctity brought crowds Edition: current; Page: [218] to confess to him, as they came to be baptized by him with the baptism of justice; but we are not informed that St. John gave his penitents thirty-nine stripes. Confession was not then a sacrament; for this there are several reasons. The first is, that the word “sacrament” was at that time unknown, which reason is of itself sufficient. The Christians took their confession from the Jewish rites, and not from the mysteries of Isis and Ceres. The Jews confessed to their associates, and the Christians did also. It afterwards appeared more convenient that this should be the privilege of the priests. No rite, no ceremony, can be established but in process of time. It was hardly possible that some trace should not remain of the ancient usage of the laity of confessing to one another.

In Constantine’s reign, it was at first the practice publicly to confess public offences. In the fifth century, after the schism of Novatus and Novatian, penitentiaries were instituted for the absolution of such as had fallen into idolatry. This confession to penitentiary priests was abolished under the Emperor Theodosius. A woman having accused herself aloud, to the penitentiary of Constantinople, of lying with the deacon, caused so much scandal and disturbance throughout the city that Nectarius permitted all the faithful to approach the holy table without confession, and to communicate in obedience to their consciences alone. Hence these words of St. John Chrysostom, who succeeded Nectarius: Edition: current; Page: [219] “Confess yourselves continually to God; I do not bring you forward on a stage to discover your faults to your fellow-servants; show your wounds to God, and ask of Him their cure; acknowledge your sins to Him who will not reproach you before men; it were vain to strive to hide them from Him who knows all things,” etc.

It is said that the practice of auricular confession did not begin in the west until about the seventh century, when it was instituted by the abbots, who required their monks to come and acknowledge their offences to them twice a year. These abbots it was who invented the formula: “I absolve thee to the utmost of my power and thy need.” It would surely have been more respectful towards the Supreme Being, as well as more just, to say: “May He forgive both thy faults and mine!”

The good which confession has done is that it has sometimes procured restitution from petty thieves. The ill is, that, in the internal troubles of states, it has sometimes forced the penitents to be conscientiously rebellious and blood-thirsty. The Guelph priests refused absolution to the Ghibellines, and the Ghibellines to the Guelphs.

The counsellor of state, Lénet, relates, in his “Memoirs,” that all he could do in Burgundy to make the people rise in favor of the Prince Condé, detained at Vincennes by Cardinal Mazarin, was “to let loose the priests in the confessionals”—speaking of them as bloodhounds, who were to fan Edition: current; Page: [220] the flame of civil war in the privacy of the confessional.

At the siege of Barcelona, the monks refused absolution to all who remained faithful to Philip V. In the last revolution of Genoa, it was intimated to all consciences that there was no salvation for whosoever should not take up arms against the Austrians. This salutary remedy has, in every age, been converted into a poison. Whether a Sforza, a Medici, a Prince of Orange, or a King of France was to be assassinated, the parricide always prepared himself by the sacrament of confession. Louis XI., and the Marchioness de Brinvilliers always confessed as soon as they had committed any great crime; and they confessed often, as gluttons take medicines to increase their appetite.

The Disclosure of Confessions.

Jaurigini and Balthazar Gérard, the assassins of William I., Prince of Orange, the dominican Jacques Clément, Jean Châtel, the Feuillant Ravaillac, and all the other parricides of that day, confessed themselves before committing their crimes. Fanaticism, in those deplorable ages, had arrived at such a pitch that confession was but an additional pledge for the consummation of villainy. It became sacred for this reason—that confession is a sacrament.

Strada himself says: “Jaurigni non ante facinus aggredi sustinuit, quam expiatam noxis animam apud Dominicanum sacerdotem cælesti pane firmaverit.” Edition: current; Page: [221] “Jaurigini did not venture upon this act until he had purged his soul by confession at the feet of a Dominican, and fortified it by the celestial bread.”

We find, in the interrogatory of Ravaillac, that the wretched man, quitting the Feuillans, and wishing to be received among the Jesuits, applied to the Jesuit d’Aubigny and, after speaking of several apparitions that he had seen, showed him a knife, on the blade of which was engraved a heart and a cross, and said, “This heart indicates that the king’s heart must be brought to make war on the Huguenots.”

Perhaps, if this d’Aubigny had been zealous and prudent enough to have informed the king of these words, and given him a faithful picture of the man who had uttered them, the best of kings would not have been assassinated.

On August 20, 1610, three months after the death of Henry IV., whose wounds yet bleed in the heart of every Frenchman, the Advocate-General Sirvin, still of illustrious memory, required that the Jesuits should be made to sign the four following rules:

1. That the council is above the pope. 2. That the pope cannot deprive the king of any of his rights by excommunication. 3. That ecclesiastics, like other persons, are entirely subject to the king. 4. That a priest who is made acquainted, by confession, with a conspiracy against the king and the state, must disclose it to the magistrates.

On the 22nd, the parliament passed a decree, by which it forbade the Jesuits to instruct youth before Edition: current; Page: [222] they had signed these four articles; but the court of Rome was then so powerful, and that of France so feeble, that this decree was of no effect. A fact worthy of attention is, that this same court of Rome, which did not choose that confession should be disclosed when the lives of sovereigns were endangered, obliged its confessors to denounce to the inquisitors those whom their female penitents accused in confession of having seduced and abused them. Paul IV., Pius IV., Clement VIII., and Gregory XV., ordered these disclosures to be made.

This was a very embarrassing snare for confessors and female penitents; it was making the sacrament a register of informations, and even of sacrileges. For, by the ancient canons, and especially by the Lateran Council under Innocent III., every priest that disclosed a confession, of whatever nature, was to be interdicted and condemned to perpetual imprisonment.

But this is not the worst; here are four popes, of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, ordering the disclosure of a sin of impurity, but not permitting that of a parricide. A woman, in the sacrament, declares, or pretends, before a carmelite, that a cordelier has seduced her; and the carmelite must denounce the cordelier. A fanatical assassin, thinking that he serves God by killing his prince, comes and consults a confessor on this case of conscience; and the confessor commits a sacrilege if he saves his sovereign’s life.

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This absurd and horrible contradiction is one unfortunate consequence of the constant opposition existing for so many centuries between the civil and ecclesiastical laws. The citizen finds himself, on fifty occasions, placed without alternative between sacrilege and high treason; the rules of good and evil being not yet drawn from beneath the chaos under which they have so long been buried. The Jesuit Coton’s reply to Henry IV. will endure longer than his order. Would you reveal the confession of a man who had resolved to assassinate me?” “No; but I would throw myself between him and you.”

Father Coton’s maxim has not always been followed. In some countries there are state mysteries unknown to the public, of which revealed confessions form no inconsiderable part. By means of suborned confessors the secrets of prisoners are learned. Some confessors, to reconcile their conscience with their interest, make use of a singular artifice. They give an account, not precisely of what the prisoner has told them, but of what he has not told them. If, for example, they are employed to find out whether an accused person has for his accomplice a Frenchman or an Italian, they say to the man who employs them, “the prisoner has sworn to me that no Italian was informed of his designs;” whence it is concluded that the suspected Frenchman is guilty.

Bodin thus expresses himself, in his book, De la République”: “Nor must it be concealed, if the Edition: current; Page: [224] culprit is discovered to have conspired against the life of the sovereign, or even to have willed it only; as in the case of a gentleman of Normandy, who confessed to a monk that he had a mind to kill Francis I. The monk apprised the king, who sent the gentleman to the court of parliament, where he was condemned to death, as I learned from M. Canage, an advocate in parliament.”

The writer of this article was himself almost witness to a disclosure still more important and singular. It is known how the Jesuit Daubenton betrayed Philip V., king of Spain, to whom he was confessor. He thought, from a very mistaken policy, that he should report the secrets of his penitent to the duke of Orleans, regent of the kingdom, and had the imprudence to write to him what he should not, even verbally, communicate to any one. The duke of Orleans sent his letter to the king of Spain. The Jesuit was discarded, and died a short time after. This is an authenticated fact.

It is still a grave and perplexing question, in what cases confessions should be disclosed. For, if we decide that it should be in cases of human high treason, this treason may be made to include any direct offence against majesty, even the smuggling of salt or muslins. Much more should high treasons against the Divine Majesty be disclosed; and these may be extended to the smallest faults, as having missed evening service.

It would, then, be very important to come to Edition: current; Page: [225] a perfect understanding about what confessions should be disclosed, and what should be kept secret. Yet would such a decision be very dangerous; for how many things are there which must not be investigated!

Pontas, who, in three folio volumes, decides on all the possible cases of conscience in France, and is unknown to the rest of the world, says that on no occasion should confession be disclosed. The parliaments have decided the contrary. Which are we to believe? Pontas, or the guardians of the laws of the realm, who watch over the lives of princes and the safety of the state?

Whether Laymen and Women Have Been Confessors?

As, in the old law, the laity confessed to one another; so, in the new law, they long had the same privilege by custom. In proof of this, let it suffice to cite the celebrated Joinville, who expressly says that “the constable of Cyprus confessed himself to him, and he gave him absolution, according to the right which he had so to do.” St. Thomas, in his dream, expresses himself thus: “Confessio ex defectu sacerdotis laico facta, sacramentalis est quodam modo.” “Confession made to a layman, in default of a priest, is in some sort sacramental.”

We find in the life of St. Burgundosarius, and in the rule of an unknown saint, that the nuns confessed their very grossest sins to their abbess. The Edition: current; Page: [226] rule of St. Donatus ordains that the nuns shall discover their faults to their superior three times a day. The capitulars of our kings say that abbesses must be forbidden the exercise of the right which they have arrogated against the custom of the holy church, of giving benediction and imposing hands, which seems to signify the pronouncing of absolution, and supposes the confession of sins. Marcus, patriarch of Alexandria, asks Balzamon, a celebrated canonist of his time, whether permission should be granted to abbesses to hear confessions, to which Balzamon answers in the negative. We have, in the canon law, a decree of Pope Innocent III., enjoining the bishops of Valencia and Burgos, in Spain, to prevent certain abbesses from blessing their nuns, from confessing, and from public preaching: “Although,” says he, “the blessed Virgin Mary was superior to all the apostles in dignity and in merit, yet it is not to her, but to the apostles, that the Lord has confided the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

So ancient was this right, that we find it established in the rules of St. Basil. He permits abbesses to confess their nuns, conjointly with a priest. Father Martène, in his “Rights of the Church,” says that, for a long time, abbesses confessed their nuns; but, adds he, they were so curious, that it was found necessary to deprive them of this privilege.

The ex-Jesuit Nonnotte should confess himself Edition: current; Page: [227] and do penance; not for having been one of the most ignorant of daubers on paper, for that is no crime; not for having given the name of errors to truths which he did not understand; but for having, with the most insolent stupidity, calumniated the author of this article, and called his brother raca (a fool), while he denied these facts and many others, about which he knew not one word. He has put himself in danger of hell fire; let us hope that he will ask pardon of God for his enormous folly. We desire not the death of a sinner, but that he turn from his wickedness and live.

It has long been debated why men, very famous in this part of the world where confession is in use, have died without this sacrament. Such are Leo X., Pélisson, and Cardinal Dubois. The cardinal had his perineum opened by La Peyronie’s bistoury; but he might have confessed and communicated before the operation. Pélisson, who was a Protestant until he was forty years old, became a convert that he might be made master of requests and have benefices. As for Pope Leo X., when surprised by death, he was so much occupied with temporal concerns, that he had no time to think of spiritual ones.

Confession Tickets.

In Protestant countries confession is made to God; in Catholic ones, to man. The Protestants say you can hide nothing from God, whereas man knows only what you choose to tell him. As we shall Edition: current; Page: [228] never meddle with controversy, we shall not enter here into this old dispute. Our literary society is composed of Catholics and Protestants, united by the love of letters; we must not suffer ecclesiastical quarrels to sow dissension among us. We will content ourselves with once more repeating the fine answer of the Greek already mentioned, to the priest who would have had him confess in the mysteries of Ceres: “Is it to God, or to thee, that I am to address myself?” “To God.” “Depart then, O man.”

In Italy, and in all the countries of obedience, every one, without distinction, must confess and communicate. If you have a stock of enormous sins on hand, you have also grand penitentiaries to absolve you. If your confession is worth nothing, so much the worse for you. At a very reasonable rate, you get a printed receipt, which admits you to communion; and all the receipts are thrown into a pix; such is the rule.

These bearers’ tickets were unknown at Paris until about the year 1750, when an archbishop of Paris bethought himself of introducing a sort of spiritual bank, to extirpate Jansenism and insure the triumph of the bull Unigenitus. It was his pleasure that extreme unction and the viaticum should be refused to every sick person who did not produce a ticket of confession, signed by a constitutionary priest.

This was refusing the sacrament to nine-tenths of Paris. In vain was he told: “Think what you Edition: current; Page: [229] are doing; either these sacraments are necessary, to escape damnation, or salvation may be obtained without them by faith, hope, charity, good works, and the merits of our Saviour. If salvation be attainable without this viaticum, your tickets are useless; if the sacraments be absolutely necessary, you damn all whom you deprive of them; you consign to eternal fire seven hundred thousand souls, supposing you live long enough to bury them; this is violent; calm yourself, and let each one die as well as he can.”

In this dilemma he gave no answer, but persisted. It is horrible to convert religion, which should be man’s consolation, into his torment. The parliament, in whose hands is the high police, finding that society was disturbed, opposed—according to custom—decrees to mandaments. But ecclesiastical discipline would not yield to legal authority. The magistracy was under the necessity of using force, and to send archers to obtain for the Parisians confession, communion, and interment.

By this excess of absurdity, men’s minds were soured and cabals were formed at court, as if there had been a farmer-general to be appointed, or a minister to be disgraced. In the discussion of a question there are always incidents mixed up that have no radical connection with it; and in this case so much so, that all the members of the parliament were exiled, as was also the archbishop in his turn.

These confession tickets would, in the times preceding, Edition: current; Page: [230] have caused a civil war, but happily, in our days, they produced only civil cavils. The spirit of philosophy, which is no other than reason, has become, with all honest men, the only antidote against these epidemic disorders.


It is well observed, in the Dictionnaire Encyclopédique,” in the article “Confiscation,” that the fisc, whether public, or royal, or seignorial, or imperial, or disloyal, was a small basket of reeds or osiers, in which was put the little money that was received or could be extorted. We now use bags; the royal fisc is the royal bag.

In several countries of Europe it is a received maxim, that whosoever confiscates the body, confiscates the goods also. This usage is established in those countries in particular where custom holds the place of law; and in all cases, an entire family is punished for the fault of one man only.

To confiscate the body, is not to put a man’s body into his sovereign lord’s basket. This phrase, in the barbarous language of the bar, means to get possession of the body of a citizen, in order either to take away his life, or to condemn him to banishment for life. If he is put to death, or escapes death by flight, his goods are seized. Thus it is not enough to put a man to death for his offences; his children, too, must be deprived of the means of living.

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In more countries than one, the rigor of custom confiscates the property of a man who has voluntarily released himself from the miseries of this life, and his children are reduced to beggary because their father is dead. In some Roman Catholic provinces, the head of a family is condemned to the galleys for life, by an arbitrary sentence, for having harbored a preacher in his house, or for having heard one of his sermons in some cavern or desert place, and his wife and family are forced to beg their bread.

This jurisprudence, which consists in depriving orphans of their food, was unknown to the Roman commonwealth. Sulla introduced it in his proscriptions, and it must be acknowledged that a rapine invented by Sulla was not an example to be followed. Nor was this law, which seems to have been dictated by inhumanity and avarice alone, followed either by Cæsar, or by the good Emperor Trajan, or by the Antonines, whose names are still pronounced in every nation with love and reverence. Even under Justinian, confiscations took place only in cases of high treason. Those who were accused having been, for the most part, men of great possessions, it seems that Justinian made this ordinance through avarice alone. It also appears that, in the times of feudal anarchy, the princes and lords of lands, being not very rich, sought to increase their treasure by the condemnation of their subjects. They were allowed to draw a revenue from crime. Edition: current; Page: [232] Their laws being arbitrary, and the Roman jurisprudence unknown among them, their customs, whether whimsical or cruel, prevailed. But now that the power of sovereigns is founded on immense and assured wealth, their treasure needs no longer to be swollen by the slender wreck of the fortunes of some unhappy family. It is true that the goods so appropriated are abandoned to the first who asks for them. But is it for one citizen to fatten on the remains of the blood of another citizen?

Confiscation is not admitted in countries where the Roman law is established, except within the jurisdiction of the parliament of Toulouse. It was formerly established at Calais, where it was abolished by the English when they were masters of that place. It appears very strange that the inhabitants of the capital live under a more rigorous law than those of the smaller towns; so true is it, that jurisprudence has often been established by chance, without regularity, without uniformity, as the huts are built in a village.

The following was spoken by Advocate-General Omer Talon, in full parliament, at the most glorious period in the annals of France, in 1673, concerning the property of one Mademoiselle de Canillac, which had been confiscated. Reader, attend to this speech; it is not in the style of Cicero’s oratory, but it is curious:

“In the thirteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, God says, ‘If thou shalt find a city where idolatry prevails, Edition: current; Page: [233] thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein. And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city and all the spoil thereof, every whit, for the Lord thy God.’

“So, in the crime of high treason, the king seized the property, and the children were deprived of it. Naboth having been proceeded against, ‘quia maledixerat regi,’ King Ahab took possession of his inheritance. David, being apprised that Mephibosheth had taken part in the rebellion, gave all his goods to Sheba, who brought him the news—‘Tibi sunt omnia quæ fuerunt Mephibosheth.’”

The question here was, who should inherit the property of Mademoiselle de Canillac—property formerly confiscated from her father, abandoned by the king to a keeper of the royal treasure, and afterwards given by this keeper of the royal treasure to the testatrix. And in this case of a woman of Auvergne a lawyer refers us to that of Ahab, one of the petty kings of a part of Palestine, who confiscated Naboth’s vineyard, after assassinating its proprietor with the poniard of Jewish justice—an abominable act, which has become a proverb to inspire men with a horror for usurpation. Assuredly, Naboth’s vineyard has no connection with Mademoiselle de Canillac’s inheritance. Nor do the murder and confiscation of the goods of Mephibosheth, grandson of King Saul, and son of David’s friend Edition: current; Page: [234] Jonathan, bear a much greater affinity to this lady’s will.

With this pedantry, this rage for citations foreign to the subject; with this ignorance of the first principles of human nature; with these ill-conceived and ill-adapted prejudices, has jurisprudence been treated on by men who, in their sphere, have had some reputation.



Of the Conscience of Good and of Evil.

Locke has demonstrated—if we may use that term in morals and metaphysics—that we have no innate ideas or principles. He was obliged to demonstrate this position at great length, as the contrary was at that time universally believed. It hence clearly follows that it is necessary to instil just ideas and good principles into the mind as soon as it acquires the use of its faculties.

Locke adduces the example of savages, who kill and devour their neighbors without any remorse of conscience; and of Christian soldiers, decently educated, who, on the taking of a city by assault, plunder, slay, and violate, not merely without remorse, but with rapture, honor, and glory, and with the applause of all their comrades.

It is perfectly certain that, in the massacres of St. Bartholomew, and in the “autos-da-fé,” the holy acts Edition: current; Page: [235] of faith of the Inquisition, no murderer’s conscience ever upbraided him with having massacred men, women, and children, or with the shrieks, faintings, and dying tortures of his miserable victims, whose only crime consisted in keeping Easter in a manner different from that of the inquisitors. It results, therefore, from what has been stated, that we have no other conscience than what is created in us by the spirit of the age, by example, and by our own dispositions and reflections.

Man is born without principles, but with the faculty of receiving them. His natural disposition will incline him either to cruelty or kindness; his understanding will in time inform him that the square of twelve is a hundred and forty-four, and that he ought not to do to others what he would not that others should do to him; but he will not, of himself, acquire these truths in early childhood. He will not understand the first, and he will not feel the second.

A young savage who, when hungry, has received from his father a piece of another savage to eat, will, on the morrow, ask for the like meal, without thinking about any obligation not to treat a neighbor otherwise than he would be treated himself. He acts, mechanically and irresistibly, directly contrary to the eternal principle.

Nature has made a provision against such horrors. She has given to man a disposition to pity, and the power of comprehending truth. These two Edition: current; Page: [236] gifts of God constitute the foundation of civil society. This is the reason there have ever been but few cannibals; and which renders life, among civilized nations, a little tolerable. Fathers and mothers bestow on their children an education which soon renders them social, and this education confers on them a conscience.

Pure religion and morality, early inculcated, so strongly impress the human heart that, from the age of sixteen or seventeen, a single bad action will not be performed without the upbraidings of conscience. Then rush on those headlong passions which war against conscience, and sometimes destroy it. During the conflict, men, hurried on by the tempest of their feelings, on various occasions consult the advice of others; as, in physical diseases, they ask it of those who appear to enjoy good health.

This it is which has produced casuists; that is, persons who decide on cases of conscience. One of the wisest casuists was Cicero. In his book of “Offices,” or “Duties” of man, he investigates points of the greatest nicety; but long before him Zoroaster had appeared in the world to guide the conscience by the most beautiful precept, “If you doubt whether an action be good or bad, abstain from doing it.” We treat of this elsewhere.

Whether a Judge Should Decide according to his Conscience, or according to the Evidence.

Thomas Aquinas, you are a great saint, and a Edition: current; Page: [237] great divine, and no Dominican has a greater veneration for you than I have; but you have decided, in your “Summary,” that a judge ought to give sentence according to the evidence produced against the person accused, although he knows that person to be perfectly innocent. You maintain that the deposition of witnesses, which must inevitably be false, and the pretended proofs resulting from the process, which are impertinent, ought to weigh down the testimony of his own senses. He saw the crime committed by another; and yet, according to you, he ought in conscience to condemn the accused, although his conscience tells him the accused is innocent. According to your doctrine, therefore, if the judge had himself committed the crime in question, his conscience ought to oblige him to condemn the man falsely accused of it.

In my conscience, great saint, I conceive that you are most absurdly and most dreadfully deceived. It is a pity that, while possessing such a knowledge of canon law, you should be so little acquainted with natural law. The duty of a magistrate to be just, precedes that of being a formalist. If, in virtue of evidence which can never exceed probability, I were to condemn a man whose innocence I was otherwise convinced of, I should consider myself a fool and an assassin.

Fortunately all the tribunals of the world think differently from you. I know not whether Farinaceus and Grillandus may be of your opinion. Edition: current; Page: [238] However that may be, if ever you meet with Cicero, Ulpian, Trebonian, Demoulin, the Chancellor de l’Hôpital, or the Chancellor d’Aguesseau, in the shades, be sure to ask pardon of them for falling into such an error.

Of a Deceitful Conscience.

The best thing perhaps that was ever said upon this important subject is in the witty work of “Tristram Shandy,” written by a clergyman of the name of Sterne, the second Rabelais of England. It resembles those small satires of antiquity, the essential spirit of which is so piquant and precious.

An old half-pay captain and his corporal, assisted by Doctor Slop, put a number of very ridiculous questions. In these questions the French divines are not spared. Mention is particularly made of a memoir presented to the Sorbonne by a surgeon, requesting permission to baptize unborn children by means of a clyster-pipe, which might be introduced into the womb without injuring either the mother or the child. At length the corporal is directed to read to them a sermon, composed by the same clergyman, Sterne.

Among many particulars, superior even to those of Rembrandt and Calot, it describes a gentleman, a man of the world, spending his time in the pleasures of the table, in gaming, and debauchery, yet doing nothing to expose himself to the reproaches of what is called good company, and consequently Edition: current; Page: [239] never incurring his own. His conscience and his honor accompany him to the theatres, to the gaming houses, and are more particularly present when he liberally pays his lady under protection. He punishes severely, when in office, the petty larcenies of the vulgar, lives a life of gayety, and dies without the slightest feeling of remorse.

Doctor Slop interrupts the reading to observe that such a case was impossible with respect to a follower of the Church of England, and could happen only among papists. At last the sermon adduces the example of David, who sometimes possessed a conscience tender and enlightened, at others hardened and dark.

When he has it in his power to assassinate his king in a cavern, he scruples going beyond cutting off a corner of his robe—here is the tender conscience. He passes an entire year without feeling the slightest compunction for his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah—here is the same conscience in a state of obduracy and darkness.

Such, says the preacher, are the greater number of mankind. We concede to this clergyman that the great ones of the world are very often in this state; the torrent of pleasures and affairs urges them almost irresistibly on; they have no time to keep a conscience. Conscience is proper enough for the people; but even the people dispense with it, when the question is how to gain money. It is judicious, however, at times, to endeavor to Edition: current; Page: [240] awaken conscience both in mantua-makers and in monarchs, by the inculcation of a morality calculated to make an impression upon both; but, in order to make this impression, it is necessary to preach better than modern preachers usually do, who seldom talk effectively to either.

Liberty of Conscience.
[Translated from the German.]

[We do not adopt the whole of the following article; but, as it contains some truths, we did not consider ourselves obliged to omit it; and we do not feel ourselves called upon to justify what may be advanced in it with too great rashness or severity.—Author.]

“The almoner of Prince —, who is a Roman Catholic, threatened an anabaptist that he would get him banished from the small estates which the prince governed. He told him that there were only three authorized sects in the empire—that which eats Jesus Christ, by faith alone, in a morsel of bread, while drinking out of a cup; that which eats Jesus Christ with bread alone; and that which eats Jesus Christ in body and in soul, without either bread or wine; and that as for the anabaptist who does not in any way eat God, he was not fit to live in monseigneur’s territory. At last, the conversation kindling into greater violence, the almoner fiercely threatened the anabaptist that he would get him hanged. ‘So much the worse for his highness,’ Edition: current; Page: [241] replied the anabaptist; ‘I am a large manufacturer; I employ two hundred workmen; I occasion the influx of two hundred thousand crowns a year into his territories; my family will go and settle somewhere else; monseigneur will in consequence be a loser.’

“ ‘But suppose monseigneur hangs up your two hundred workmen and your family,’ rejoined the almoner, ‘and gives your manufactory to good Catholics?’

“ ‘I defy him to do it,’ says the old gentleman. ‘A manufactory is not to be given like a farm; because industry cannot be given. It would be more silly for him to act so than to order all his horses to be killed, because, being a bad horseman, one may have thrown him off his back. The interest of monseigneur does not consist in my swallowing the godhead in a wafer, but in my procuring something to eat for his subjects, and increasing the revenues by my industry. I am a gentleman; and although I had the misfortune not to be born such, my occupation would compel me to become one; for mercantile transactions are of a very different nature from those of a court, and from your own. There can be no success in them without probity. Of what consequence is it to you that I was baptized at what is called the age of discretion, and you while you were an infant? Of what consequence is it to you that I worship God after the manner of my fathers? Were you able to follow up your wise Edition: current; Page: [242] maxims, from one end of the world to the other, you will hang up the Greek, who does not believe that the spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; all the English, all the Hollanders, Danes, Swedes, Icelanders, Prussians, Hanoverians, Saxons, Holsteiners, Hessians, Würtembergers, Bernese, Hamburgers, Cossacks, Wallachians, and Russians, none of whom believe the pope to be infallible; all the Mussulmans, who believe in one God, and who give him neither father nor mother; the Indians, whose religion is more ancient than the Jewish; and the lettered Chinese, who, for the space of four thousand years, have served one only God without superstition and without fanaticism. This, then, is what you would perform had you but the power!’ ‘Most assuredly,’ says the monk, ‘for the zeal of the house of the Lord devours me.’ Zelus domus suæ comedit me.

“ ‘Just tell me now, my good almoner,’ resumed the anabaptist, ‘are you a Dominican, or a Jesuit, or a devil?’ ‘I am a Jesuit,’ says the other. ‘Alas, my friend, if you are not a devil, why do you advance things so utterly diabolical?’ ‘Because the reverend father, the rector, has commanded me to do so.’ ‘And who commanded the reverend father, the rector, to commit such an abomination?’ ‘The provincial.’ ‘From whom did the provincial receive the command?’ ‘From our general, and all to please the pope.’

“The poor anabaptist exclaimed: ‘Ye holy popes, Edition: current; Page: [243] who are at Rome in possession of the throne of the Cæsars—archbishops, bishops, and abbés, become sovereigns, I respect and fly you; but if, in the recesses of your heart, you confess that your opulence and power are founded only on the ignorance and stupidity of our fathers, at least enjoy them with moderation. We do not wish to dethrone you; but do not crush us. Enjoy yourselves, and let us be quiet. If otherwise, tremble, lest at last people should lose their patience, and reduce you, for the good of your souls, to the condition of the apostles, of whom you pretend to be the successors.’

“ ‘Wretch! you would wish the pope and the bishop of Würtemberg to gain heaven by evangelical poverty!’ ‘You, reverend father, would wish to have me hanged!’ ”


What is our real nature, and what sort of a curious and contemptible understanding do we possess? A man may, it appears, draw the most correct and luminous conclusions, and yet be destitute of common sense. This is, in fact, too true. The Athenian fool, who believed that all the vessels which came into the port belonged to him, could calculate to a nicety what the cargoes of those vessels were worth, and within how many days they would arrive from Smyrna at the Piræus.

We have seen idiots who could calculate and reason in a still more extraordinary manner. They Edition: current; Page: [244] were not idiots, then, you tell me. I ask your pardon—they certainly were. They rested their whole superstructure on an absurd principle; they regularly strung together chimeras. A man may walk well, and go astray at the same time; and, then, the better he walks the farther astray he goes.

The Fo of the Indians was son of an elephant, who condescended to produce offspring by an Indian princess, who, in consequence of this species of left-handed union, was brought to bed of the god Fo. This princess was sister to an emperor of the Indies. Fo, then, was the nephew of that emperor, and the grandson of the elephant and the monarch were cousins-german; therefore, according to the laws of the state, the race of the emperor being extinct, the descendants of the elephant become the rightful successors. Admit the principle, and the conclusion is perfectly correct.

It is said that the divine elephant was nine standard feet in height. You reasonably suppose that the gate of his stable should be above nine feet in height, in order to admit his entering with ease. He consumed twenty pounds of rice every day, and twenty pounds of sugar, and drank twenty-five pounds of water. You find, by using your arithmetic, that he swallows thirty-six thousand five hundred pounds weight in the course of a year; it is impossible to reckon more correctly. But did your elephant ever, in fact, exist? Was he the emperor’s brother-in-law? Had his wife a child by Edition: current; Page: [245] this left-handed union? This is the matter to be investigated. Twenty different authors, who lived in Cochin China, have successively written about it; it is incumbent on you to collate these twenty authors, to weigh their testimonies, to consult ancient records, to see if there is any mention of this elephant in the public registers; to examine whether the whole account is not a fable, which certain impostors have an interest in sanctioning. You proceed upon an extravagant principle, but draw from it correct conclusions.

Logic is not so much wanting to men as the source of logic. It is not sufficient for a madman to say six vessels which belong to me carry two hundred tons each; the ton is two thousand pounds weight; I have therefore twelve hundred thousand pounds weight of merchandise in the port of the Piræus. The great point is, are those vessels yours? That is the principle upon which your fortune depends; when that is settled, you may estimate and reckon up afterwards.

An ignorant man, who is a fanatic, and who at the same time strictly draws his conclusions from his premises, ought sometimes to be smothered to death as a madman. He has read that Phineas, transported by a holy zeal, having found a Jew in bed with a Midianitish woman, slew them both, and was imitated by the Levites, who massacred every household that consisted one-half of Midianites and the other of Jews. He learns that Mr. —, Edition: current; Page: [246] his Catholic neighbor, intrigued with Mrs. —, another neighbor, but a Huguenot, and he will kill both of them without scruple. It is impossible to act in greater consistency with principle; but what is the remedy for this dreadful disease of the soul? It is to accustom children betimes to admit nothing which shocks reason, to avoid relating to them histories of ghosts, apparitions, witches, demoniacal possessions, and ridiculous prodigies. A girl of an active and susceptible imagination hears a story of demoniacal possessions; her nerves become shaken, she falls into convulsions, and believes herself possessed by a demon or devil. I actually saw one young woman die in consequence of the shock her frame received from these abominable histories.


The Age of Constantine.

Among the ages which followed the Augustan, that of Constantine merits particular distinction. It is immortalized by the great changes which it ushered into the world. It commenced, it is true, with bringing back barbarism. Not merely were there no Ciceros, Horaces, and Virgils, any longer to be found, but there was not even a Lucan or a Seneca; there was not even a philosophic and accurate historian. Nothing was to be seen but equivocal satires or mere random panegyrics.

Edition: current; Page: [247]

It was at that time that the Christians began to write history, but they took not Titus Livy, or Thucydides as their models. The followers of the ancient religion wrote with no greater eloquence or truth. The two parties, in a state of mutual exasperation, did not very scrupulously investigate the charges which they heaped upon their adversaries; and hence it arises that the same man is sometimes represented as a god and sometimes as a monster.

The decline of everything, in the commonest mechanical arts, as well as in eloquence and virtue, took place after the reign of Marcus Aurelius. He was the last emperor of the sect of stoics, who elevated man above himself by rendering him severe to himself only, and compassionate to others. After the death of this emperor, who was a genuine philosopher, there was nothing but tyranny and confusion. The soldiers frequently disposed of the empire. The senate had fallen into such complete contempt that, in the time of Gallienus, an express law was enacted to prevent senators from engaging in war. Thirty heads of parties were seen, at one time, assuming the title of emperor in thirty provinces of the empire. The barbarians already poured in, on every side, in the middle of the third century, on this rent and lacerated empire. Yet it was held together by the mere military discipline on which it had been founded.

During all these calamities, Christianity gradually Edition: current; Page: [248] established itself, particularly in Egypt, Syria, and on the coasts of Asia Minor. The Roman Empire admitted all sorts of religions, as well as all sects of philosophy. The worship of Osiris was permitted, and even the Jews were left in the enjoyment of considerable privileges, notwithstanding their revolts. But the people in the provinces frequently rose up against the Christians. The magistrates persecuted them, and edicts were frequently obtained against them from the emperors. There is no ground for astonishment at the general hatred in which Christians were at first held, while so many other religions were tolerated. The reason was that neither Egyptians nor Jews, nor the worshippers of the goddess of Syria and so many other foreign deities, ever declared open hostility to the gods of the empire. They did not array themselves against the established religion; but one of the most imperious duties of the Christians was to exterminate the prevailing worship. The priests of the gods raised a clamor on perceiving the diminution of sacrifices and offerings; and the people, ever fanatical and impetuous, were stirred up against the Christians, while in the meantime many emperors protected them. Adrian expressly forbade the persecution of them. Marcus Aurelius commanded that they should not be prosecuted on account of religion. Caracalla, Heliogabalus, Alexander, Philip, and Gallienus left them entire liberty. They had, in the third century, public churches numerously attended Edition: current; Page: [249] and very opulent; and so great was the liberty they enjoyed that, in the course of that century, they held sixteen councils. The road to dignities was shut up against the first Christians, who were nearly all of obscure condition, and they turned their attention to commerce, and some of them amassed great affluence. This is the resource of all societies that cannot have access to offices in the state. Such has been the case with the Calvinists in France, all the Nonconformists in England, the Catholics in Holland, the Armenians in Persia, the Banians in India, and the Jews all over the world. However, at last the toleration was so great, and the administration of the government so mild, that the Christians gained access to all the honors and dignities of the state. They did not sacrifice to the gods of the empire; they were not molested, whether they attended or avoided the temples; there was at Rome the most perfect liberty with respect to the exercises of their religion; none were compelled to engage in them. The Christians, therefore, enjoyed the same liberty as others. It is so true that they attained to honors, that Diocletian and Galerius deprived no fewer than three hundred and three of them of those honors, in the persecution of which we shall have to speak.

It is our duty to adore Providence in all its dispensations; but I confine myself to political history. Manes, under the reign of Probus, about the year 278, formed a new religion in Alexandria. The Edition: current; Page: [250] principles of this sect were made up of some ancient doctrines of the Persians and certain tenets of Christianity. Probus, and his successor, Carus, left Manes and the Christians in the enjoyment of peace. Numerien permitted them entire liberty. Diocletian protected the Christians, and tolerated the Manichæans, during twelve years; but in 296 he issued an edict against the Manichæans, and proscribed them as enemies to the empire and adherents of the Persians. The Christians were not comprehended in the edict; they continued in tranquillity under Diocletian, and made open profession of their religion throughout the whole empire until the latter years of that prince’s reign.

To complete the sketch, it is necessary to describe of what at that period the Roman Empire consisted. Notwithstanding internal and foreign shocks, notwithstanding the incursions of barbarians, it comprised all the possessions of the grand seignor at the present day, except Arabia; all that the house of Austria possesses in Germany, and all the German provinces as far as the Elbe; Italy, France, Spain, England, and half of Scotland; and Africa as far as the desert of Sahara, and even the Canary Isles. All these nations were retained under the yoke by bodies of military less considerable than would be raised by Germany and France at the present day, when in actual war.

This immense power became more confirmed and enlarged, from Cæsar down to Theodosius, as well Edition: current; Page: [251] by laws, police, and real services conferred on the people, as by arms and terror. It is even yet a matter of astonishment that none of these conquered nations have been able, since they became their own rulers, to form such highways, and to erect such amphitheatres and public baths, as their conquerors bestowed upon them. Countries which are at present nearly barbarous and deserted, were then populous and well governed. Such were Epirus, Macedonia, Thessaly, Illyria, Pannonia, with Asia Minor, and the coasts of Africa; but it must also be admitted that Germany, France, and Britain were then very different from what they are now. These three states are those which have most benefited by governing themselves; yet it required nearly twelve centuries to place those kingdoms in the flourishing situation in which we now behold them; but it must be acknowledged that all the rest have lost much by passing under different laws. The ruins of Asia Minor and Greece, the depopulation of Egypt and the barbarism of Africa, are still existing testimonials of Roman greatness. The great number of flourishing cities which covered those countries had now become miserable villages, and the soil had become barren under the hands of a brutalized population.

Character of Constantine.

I will not here speak of the confusion which agitated the empire after the abdication of Diocletian. Edition: current; Page: [252] There were after his death six emperors at once. Constantine triumphed over them all, changed the religion of the empire, and was not merely the author of that great revolution, but of all those which have since occurred in the west. What was his character? Ask it of Julian, of Zosimus, of Sozomen, and of Victor; they will tell you that he acted at first like a great prince, afterwards as a public robber, and that the last stage of his life was that of a sensualist, a trifler, and a prodigal. They will describe him as ever ambitious, cruel, and sanguinary. Ask his character of Eusebius, of Gregory Nazianzen, and Lactantius; they will inform you that he was a perfect man. Between these two extremes authentic facts alone can enable us to obtain the truth. He had a father-in-law, whom he impelled to hang himself; he had a brother-in-law, whom he ordered to be strangled; he had a nephew twelve or thirteen years old, whose throat he ordered to be cut; he had an eldest son, whom he beheaded; he had a wife, whom he ordered to be suffocated in a bath. An old Gallic author said that “he loved to make a clear house.”

If you add to all these domestic acts that, being on the banks of the Rhine in pursuit of some hordes of Franks who resided in those parts, and having taken their kings, who probably were of the family of our Pharamond or Clodion le Chevelu, he exposed them to beasts for his diversion; you may infer from all this, without any apprehension of being Edition: current; Page: [253] deceived, that he was not the most courteous and accommodating personage in the world.

Let us examine, in this place, the principal events of his reign. His father, Constantius Chlorus, was in the heart of Britain, where he had for some months assumed the title of emperor. Constantine was at Nicomedia, with the emperor Galerius. He asked permission of the emperor to go to see his father, who was ill. Galerius granted it, without difficulty. Constantine set off with government relays, called veredarii. It might be said to be as dangerous to be a post-horse as to be a member of the family of Constantine, for he ordered all the horses to be hamstrung after he had done with them, fearful lest Galerius should revoke his permission and order him to return to Nicomedia. He found his father at the point of death, and caused himself to be recognized emperor by the small number of Roman troops at that time in Britain.

An election of a Roman emperor at York, by five or six thousand men, was not likely to be considered legitimate at Rome. It wanted at least the formula of “Senatus populusque Romanus.” The senate, the people, and the prætorian bands unanimously elected Maxentius, son of the Cæsar Maximilian Hercules, who had been already Cæsar, and brother of that Fausta whom Constantine had married, and whom he afterwards caused to be suffocated. This Maxentius is called a tyrant and usurper by our historians, who are uniformly the partisans of Edition: current; Page: [254] the successful. He was the protector of the pagan religion against Constantine, who already began to declare himself for the Christians. Being both pagan and vanquished, he could not but be an abominable man.

Eusebius tells us that Constantine, when going to Rome to fight Maxentius, saw in the clouds, as well as his whole army, the grand imperial standard called the labarum, surmounted with a Latin P. or a large Greek R. with a cross in “saltier,” and certain Greek words which signified, “By this sign thou shalt conquer.” Some authors pretend that this sign appeared to him at Besancon, others at Cologne, some at Trier and others at Troyes. It is strange that in all these places heaven should have expressed its meaning in Greek. It would have appeared more natural to the weak understandings of men that this sign should have appeared in Italy on the day of the battle; but then it would have been necessary that the inscription should have been in Latin. A learned antiquary, of the name of Loisel, has refuted this narrative; but he was treated as a reprobate.

It might, however, be worth while to reflect that this war was not a war of religion, that Constantine was not a saint, that he died suspected of being an Arian, after having persecuted the orthodox; and, therefore, that there is no very obvious motive to support this prodigy.

After this victory, the senate hastened to pay its Edition: current; Page: [255] devotion to the conqueror, and to express its detestation of the memory of the conquered. The triumphal arch of Marcus Aurelius was speedily dismantled to adorn that of Constantine. A statue of gold was prepared for him, an honor which had never been shown except to the gods. He received it, notwithstanding the labarum, and received further the title of Pontifex Maximus, which he retained all his life. His first care, according to Zosimus, was to exterminate the whole race of the tyrant, and his principal friends; after which he assisted very graciously at the public spectacles and games.

The aged Diocletian was at that time dying in his retreat at Salonica. Constantine should not have been in such haste to pull down his statues at Rome; he should have recollected that the forgotten emperor had been the benefactor of his father, and that he was indebted to him for the empire. Although he had conquered Maxentius, Licinius, his brother-in-law, an Augustus like himself, was still to be got rid of; and Licinius was equally anxious to be rid of Constantine, if he had it in his power. However, their quarrels not having yet broken out in hostility, they issued conjointly at Milan, in 313, the celebrated edict of liberty of conscience. “We grant,” they say, “to all the liberty of following whatever religion they please, in order to draw down the blessing of heaven upon us and our subjects; we declare that we have granted to the Christians Edition: current; Page: [256] the free and full power of exercising their religion; it being understood that all others shall enjoy the same liberty, in order to preserve the tranquillity of our government.” A volume might be written on such an edict, but I shall merely venture a few lines.

Constantine was not as yet a Christian; nor, indeed, was his colleague, Licinius, one. There was still an emperor or a tyrant to be exterminated; this was a determined pagan, of the name of Maximin. Licinius fought with him before he fought with Constantine. Heaven was still more favorable to him than to Constantine himself; for the latter had only the apparition of a standard, but Licinius that of an angel. This angel taught him a prayer, by means of which he would be sure to vanquish the barbarian Maximin. Licinius wrote it down, ordered it to be recited three times by his army, and obtained a complete victory. If this same Licinius, the brother-in-law of Constantine, had reigned happily, we should have heard of nothing but his angel; but Constantine having had him hanged, and his son slain, and become absolute master of everything, nothing has been talked of but Constantine’s labarum.

It is believed that he put to death his eldest son Crispus, and his own wife Fausta, the same year that he convened the Council of Nice. Zosimus and Sozomen pretend that, the heathen priests having told him that there were no expiations for such great crimes, he then made open profession of Christianity, Edition: current; Page: [257] and demolished many temples in the East. It is not very probable that the pagan pontiffs should have omitted so fine an opportunity of getting back their grand pontiff, who had abandoned them. However, it is by no means impossible that there might be among them some severe men; scrupulous and austere persons are to be found everywhere. What is more extraordinary is, that Constantine, after becoming a Christian, performed no penance for his parricide. It was at Rome that he exercised that cruelty, and from that time residence at Rome became hateful to him. He quitted it forever, and went to lay the foundations of Constantinople. How dared he say, in one of his rescripts, that he transferred the seat of empire to Constantinople, “by the command of God himself?” Is it anything but an impudent mockery of God and man? If God had given him any command, would it not have been—not to assassinate his wife and son?

Diocletian had already furnished an example of transferring the empire towards Asia. The pride, the despotism, and the general manners of the Asiatics disgusted the Romans, depraved and slavish as they had become. The emperors had not ventured to require, at Rome, that their feet should be kissed, nor to introduce a crowd of eunuchs into their palaces. Diocletian began in Nicomedia, and Constantine completed the system at Constantinople, to assimilate the Roman court to the courts of the Persians. Edition: current; Page: [258] The city of Rome from that time languished in decay, and the old Roman spirit declined with her. Constantine thus effected the greatest injury to the empire that was in his power.

Of all the emperors, he was unquestionably the most absolute. Augustus had left an image of liberty; Tiberius, and even Nero, had humored the senate and people of Rome; Constantine humored none. He had at first established his power in Rome by disbanding those haughty prætorians who considered themselves the masters of the emperors. He made an entire separation between the gown and the sword. The depositories of the laws, kept down under military power, were only jurists in chains. The provinces of the empire were governed upon a new system.

The grand object of Constantine was to be master in everything; he was so in the Church, as well as in the State. We behold him convoking and opening the Council of Nice; advancing into the midst of the assembled fathers, covered over with jewels, and with the diadem on his head, seating himself in the highest place, and banishing unconcernedly sometimes Arius and sometimes Athanasius. He put himself at the head of Christianity without being a Christian; for at that time baptism was essential to any person’s becoming one; he was only a catechumen. The usage of waiting for the approach of death before immersing in the water of regeneration, was beginning to decline with respect to private Edition: current; Page: [259] individuals. If Constantine, by delaying his baptism till near the point of death, entertained the notion that he might commit every act with impunity in the hope of a complete expiation, it was unfortunate for the human race that such an opinion should have ever suggested itself to the mind of a man in possession of uncontrolled power.



The more we see of the world, the more we see it abounding in contradictions and inconsistencies. To begin with the Grand Turk: he orders every head that he dislikes struck off, and can very rarely preserve his own. If we pass from the Grand Turk to the Holy Father, he confirms the election of emperors, and has kings among his vassals; but he is not so powerful as a duke of Savoy. He expedites orders for America and Africa, yet could not withhold the slightest of its privileges from the republic of Lucca. The emperor is the king of the Romans; but the right of their king consists in holding the pope’s stirrup, and handing the water to him at mass. The English serve their monarch upon their knees, but they depose, imprison, and behead him.

Men who make a vow of poverty, gain in consequence an income of about two hundred thousand crowns; and, in virtue of their vow of humility, they Edition: current; Page: [260] become absolute sovereigns. The plurality of benefices with care of souls is severely denounced at Rome, yet every day it despatches a bull to some German, to enable him to hold five or six bishoprics at once. The reason, we are told, is that the German bishops have no cure of souls. The chancellor of France is the first person in the State, but he cannot sit at table with the king, at least he could not till lately, although a colonel, who is scarcely perhaps a gentleman—gentil-homme—may enjoy that distinction. The wife of a provincial governor is a queen in the province, but merely a citizen’s wife at court.

Persons convicted of the crime of nonconformity are publicly roasted, and in all our colleges the second eclogue of Virgil is explained with great gravity, including Corydon’s declarations of love to the beautiful Alexis; and it is remarked to the boys that, although Alexis be fair and Amyntas brown, yet Amyntas may still deserve the preference.

If an unfortunate philosopher, without intending the least harm, takes it into his head that the earth turns round, or to imagine that light comes from the sun, or to suppose that matter may contain some other properties than those with which we are acquainted, he is cried down as a blasphemer, and a disturber of the public peace; and yet there are translations in usum Delphini of the “Tusculan Questions” of Cicero, and of Lucretius, which are two complete courses of irreligion.

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Courts of justice no longer believe that persons are possessed by devils, and laugh at sorcerers; but Gauffredi and Grandier were burned for sorcery; and one-half of a parliament wanted to sentence to the stake a monk accused of having bewitched a girl of eighteen by breathing upon her.

The skeptical philosopher Bayle was persecuted, even in Holland. La Motte le Vayer, more of a skeptic, but less of a philosopher, was preceptor of the king Louis XIV., and of the king’s brother. Gourville was hanged in effigy at Paris, while French minister in Germany.

The celebrated atheist Spinoza lived and died in peace. Vanini, who had merely written against Aristotle, was burned as an atheist; he has, in consequence, obtained the honor of making one article in the histories of the learned, and in all the dictionaries, which, in fact, constitute immense repositories of lies, mixed up with a very small portion of truth. Open these books, and you will there find not merely that Vanini publicly taught atheism in his writings, but that twelve professors of his sect went with him to Naples with the intention of everywhere making proselytes. Afterwards, open the books of Vanini, and you will be astonished to find in them nothing but proofs of the existence of God. Read the following passage, taken from his “Amphitheatrum,” a work equally unknown and condemned: “God is His own original and boundary, without end and without beginning, requiring Edition: current; Page: [262] neither the one nor the other, and father of all beginning and end; He ever exists, but not in time; to Him there has been no past, and will be no future; He reigns everywhere, without being in any place; immovable without rest, rapid without motion; He is all, and out of all; He is in all, without being enclosed; out of everything, without being excluded from anything; good, but without quality; entire, but without parts; immutable, while changing the whole universe; His will is His power; absolute, there is nothing of Him of what is merely possible; all in Him is real; He is the first, the middle, and the last; finally, although constituting all, He is above all beings, out of them, within them, beyond them, before them, and after them.” It was after such a profession of faith that Vanini was declared an atheist. Upon what grounds was he condemned? Simply upon the deposition of a man named Francon. In vain did his books depose in favor of him; a single enemy deprived him of life, and stigmatized his name throughout Europe.

The little book called “Cymbalum Mundi,” which is merely a cold imitation of Lucian, and which has not the slightest or remotest reference to Christianity, was condemned to be burned. But Rabelais was printed “cum privilegio”; and a free course was allowed to the “Turkish Spy,” and even to the “Persian Letters”; that volatile, ingenious, and daring work, in which there is one whole letter in favor of suicide; another in which Edition: current; Page: [263] we find these words: “If we suppose such a thing as religion;” a third, in which it is expressly said that “the bishops have no other functions than dispensing with the observance of the laws”; and, finally, another in which the pope is said to be a magician, who makes people believe that three are one, and that the bread we eat is not bread, etc.

The Abbé St. Pierre, a man who could frequently deceive himself, but who never wrote without a view to the public good, and whose works were called by Cardinal Dubois, “The dreams of an honest citizen”; the Abbé St. Pierre, I say, was unanimously expelled from the French Academy for having, in some political work, preferred the establishment of councils under the regency to that of secretaries of state under Louis XIV.; and for saying that towards the close of that glorious reign the finances were wretchedly conducted. The author of the “Persian Letters” has not mentioned Louis XIV. in his book, except to say that he was a magician who could make his subjects believe that paper was money; that he liked no government but that of Turkey; that he preferred a man who handed him a napkin to a man who gained him battles; that he had conferred a pension on a man who had run away two leagues, and a government upon another who had run away four; that he was overwhelmed with poverty, although it is said, in the same letter, that his finances are inexhaustible. Observe, then, I repeat, all that this writer, in the Edition: current; Page: [264] only work then known to be his, has said of Louis XIV., the patron of the French Academy. We may add, too, as a climax of contradiction, that that society admitted him as a member for having turned them into ridicule; for, of all the books by which the public have been entertained at the expense of the society, there is not one in which it has been treated more disrespectfully than in the “Persian Letters.” See that letter wherein he says, “The members of this body have no other business than incessantly to chatter; panegyric comes and takes its place as it were spontaneously in their eternal gabble,” etc. After having thus treated this society, they praise him, on his introduction, for his skill in drawing likenesses.

Were I disposed to continue the research into the contraries to be found in the empire of letters, I might give the history of every man of learning or wit; just in the same manner as, if I were inclined to detail the contradictions existing in society, it would be necessary to write the history of mankind. An Asiatic, who should travel to Europe, might well consider us as pagans; our week days bear the names of Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus; and the nuptials of Cupid and Psyche are painted in the pope’s palace; but, particularly, were this Asiatic to attend at our opera, he would not hesitate in concluding it to be a festival in honor of the pagan deities. If he endeavored to gain more precise information respecting our manners, he Edition: current; Page: [265] would experience still greater astonishment; he would see, in Spain, that a severe law forbids any foreigner from having the slightest share, however indirect, in the commerce of America; and that, notwithstanding, foreigners—through the medium of Spanish factors—carry on a commerce with it to the extent of fifteen millions a year. Thus Spain can be enriched only by the violation of a law always subsisting and always evaded. He would see that in another country the government establishes and encourages a company for trading to the Indies, while the divines of that country have declared the receiving of dividends upon the shares offensive in the sight of God. He would see that the offices of a judge, a commander, a privy counsellor, are purchased; he would be unable to comprehend why it is stated in the patents appointing to such offices that they have been bestowed gratis and without purchase, while the receipt for the sum given for them is attached to the commission itself. Would not our Asiatic be surprised, also, to see comedians salaried by sovereigns, and excommunicated by priests? He would inquire why a plebeian lieutenant-general, who had won battles, should be subject to the taille, like a peasant; and a sheriff should be considered, at least in reference to this point, as noble as a Montmorency; why, while regular dramas are forbidden to be performed during a week sacred to edification, merry-andrews are permitted to offend even the least delicate ears with Edition: current; Page: [266] their ribaldry. He would almost everywhere see our usages in opposition to our laws; and were we to travel to Asia, we should discover the existence of exactly similar contradictions.

Men are everywhere inconsistent alike. They have made laws by piecemeal, as breaches are repaired in walls. Here the eldest sons take everything they are able from the younger ones; there all share equally. Sometimes the Church has ordered duels, sometimes it has anathematized them. The partisans and the opponents of Aristotle have been both excommunicated in their turn; as have also the wearers of long hair and short hair. There has been but one perfect law in the world, and that was designed to regulate a species of folly—that is to say, play. The laws of play are the only ones which admit of no exception, relaxation, change or tyranny. A man who has been a lackey, if he plays at lansquenet with kings, is paid with perfect readiness when he wins. In other cases the law is everywhere a sword, with which the strongest party cuts in pieces the weakest.

In the meantime the world goes on as if everything was wisely arranged; irregularity is part of our nature. Our social world is like the natural globe, rude and unshapely, but possessing a principle of preservation; it would be folly to wish that mountains, seas, and rivers were traced in regular and finished forms; it would be a still greater folly to expect from man the perfection of wisdom; it Edition: current; Page: [267] would be as weak as to wish to attach wings to dogs or horns to eagles.

Examples Taken from History, from Sacred Scripture, from Numerous Authors, etc.

We have just been instancing a variety of contradictions in our usages, our manners, and our laws, but we have not said enough. Everything, particularly in Europe, has been made in the same manner as Harlequin’s habit. His master, when he wanted to have a dress made for him, had not a piece of cloth, and therefore took old cuttings of all sorts of colors. Harlequin was laughed at, but then he was clothed.

The Germans are a brave nation, whom neither the Germanicuses nor the Trajans were ever able completely to subjugate. All the German nations that dwelt beyond the Elbe were invincible, although badly armed; and from these gloomy climes issued forth, in part, the avengers of the world. Germany, far from constituting the Roman Empire, has been instrumental in destroying it.

This empire had found a refuge at Constantinople, when a German—an Austrasian—went from Aix-la-Chapelle to Rome, to strip the Greek Cæsars of the remainder of their possessions in Italy. He assumed the name of Cæsar Imperator; but neither he nor his successors even ventured to reside at Rome. That capital could not either boast or regret that from the time of Augustulus, the final excrement Edition: current; Page: [268] of the genuine Roman Empire, a single Cæsar had lived and been buried within its walls.

It is difficult to suppose the empire can be “holy,” as it professes three different religions, of which two are declared impious, abominable, damnable, and damned, by the court of Rome, which the whole imperial court considers in such cases to be supreme. It is certainly not Roman, since the emperor has not any residence at Rome.

In England people wait upon the king kneeling. The constant maxim is, “The king can do no wrong”; his ministers only can deserve blame; he is as infallible in his actions as the pope in his judgments. Such is the fundamental, the “Salic” law of England. Yet the parliament sat in judgment on its king, Edward II., who had been vanquished and taken prisoner by his wife; he was declared to have done all possible wrong, and deprived of all his rights to the crown. Sir William Tressel went to him in prison, and made him the following complimentary address:

“I, William Tressel, as proxy for the parliament and the whole English nation, revoke the homage formerly paid you; I put you to defiance, and deprive you of royal power, and from this time forth we will hold no allegiance to you.”

The parliament tried and sentenced King Richard II., grandson of the great Edward III. Thirty-one articles of accusation were brought against him, among which two are not a little singular—that he Edition: current; Page: [269] had borrowed money and not repaid it; and that he had asserted before witnesses that he was master of the lives and properties of his subjects.

The parliament deposed Henry VI., who, undoubtedly, was exceedingly wrong, but in a somewhat different sense: he was imbecile.

The parliament declared Edward IV. a traitor, and confiscated his goods; and afterwards, on his being successful, restored him. As for Richard III., he undoubtedly committed more wrong than all the others; he was a Nero, but a bold one; and the parliament did not declare his wrongs till after he was slain.

The House of Commons imputed to Charles I. more wrongs than he was justly chargeable with, and brought him to the scaffold. Parliament voted that James II. had committed very gross and flagrant wrongs, and particularly that of withdrawing himself from the kingdom. It declared the throne vacant; that is, it deposed him. In the present day, Junius writes to the king of England that he is faulty in being good and wise. If these are not contradictions, I know not where to find them.

Contradictions in Certain Rites.

Next to those great political contradictions, which are subdivided into innumerable little ones, nothing more forcibly attracts our notice than the contradiction apparent in reference to some of our rites. We hate Judaism. No longer than fifteen years ago Edition: current; Page: [270] Jews were still burned at the stake. We consider them as murderers of our God, and yet we assemble every Sunday to chant Jewish psalms and canticles; it is only owing to our ignorance of the language that we do not recite them in Hebrew. But the fifteen first bishops, the priests, deacons and congregation of Jerusalem, which was the cradle of the Christian religion, always recited the Jewish psalms in the Jewish idiom of the Syriac language; and, till the time of the Caliph Omar, almost all the Christians, from Tyre to Aleppo, prayed in that Jewish idiom. At present any one reciting the psalms as they were originally composed, or chanting them in the Jewish language, would be suspected of being a circumcised Jew, and might be burned as one; at least, not more than twenty years since, that would have been his fate, although Jesus Christ was circumcised, as were also his apostles and disciples. I set aside the mysterious doctrines of our holy religion—everything that is an object of faith—everything that we ought to approach only with awe and submission. I look only at externals; I refer simply to observances; I ask if anything was ever more contradictory?

Contradictions in Things and Men.

If any literary society is inclined to undertake a history of contradictions, I will subscribe for twenty folio volumes. The world displays nothing but contradictions. What would be necessary to put an Edition: current; Page: [271] end to them? To assemble the states-general of the human race. But, according to the nature and constitution of mankind, it would be a new contradiction were they to agree. Bring together all the rabbits in the world, and there would not be two different minds among them.

I know only two descriptions of immovable beings in the world—geometricians and brute animals; they are guided by two invariable rules—demonstration and instinct. Some disputes, indeed, have occurred between geometricians, but brutes have never varied.

The contrasts, the lights and shades, in which men are represented in history, are not contradictions; they are faithful portraits of human nature. Every day both censure and admiration are applied to Alexander, the murderer of Clitus, but the avenger of Greece; the conqueror of Persia, and the founder of Alexandria; to Cæsar, the debauchee, who robbed the public treasury of Rome to enslave his country, but whose clemency was equal to his valor, and whose genius was equal to his courage; to Mahomet, the impostor and robber, but the only legislator of religion that ever displayed courage, or founded a great empire; to the enthusiast, Cromwell, at once knave and fanatic, the murderer of his king by form of law, but equally profound as a politician, and valiant as a warrior. A thousand contrasts frequently present themselves at once to the mind, and these contrasts are in nature. They Edition: current; Page: [272] are not more astonishing than a fine day followed by a tempest.

Apparent Contradictions in Books.

We must accurately distinguish in books, and particularly the sacred ones, between apparent and real contradictions. It is said in the Pentateuch that Moses was the meekest of men, and that he ordered twenty-three thousand Hebrews to be slain who had worshipped the golden calf, and twenty-four thousand more, who had, like himself, married Midianitish women. But sagacious commentators have adduced solid proofs that Moses possessed a most amiable temper, and that he only executed the vengeance of God in massacring these forty-seven thousand Israelites, as just stated.

Some daring critics have pretended to perceive a contradiction in the narrative in which it is said that Moses changed all the waters of Egypt into blood, and that the magicians of Pharaoh afterwards performed the same prodigy—the Book of Exodus leaving no interval of time between the miracle of Moses and the magical operation of the enchanters.

It appears, at first view, impossible that these magicians should change to blood that which was already made such; but the difficulty may be removed by supposing that Moses had allowed the waters to resume their original nature, in order to give Pharaoh time for reflection. This supposition is the more plausible, inasmuch as, if not expressly favored by the text, the latter is not contrary to it.

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The same skeptics inquire how, after all the horses were destroyed by hail, in the sixth plague, Pharaoh was able to pursue the Jewish nation with cavalry. But this contradiction is not even an apparent one, since the hail which killed all the horses that were out in the fields, could not fall on those which were in the stables.

One of the greatest contradictions which has been supposed to be found in the history of the kings is the utter scarcity of offensive and defensive arms among the Jews at the time of the accession of Saul, compared with the army of three hundred and thirty thousand men, whom he conducted against the Ammonites who were besieging Jabesh Gilead.

It is a fact related that then, and even after that battle, there was not a lance, not even a single sword, among the whole Hebrew people; that the Philistines prevented the Hebrews from manufacturing swords and lances; that the Hebrews were obliged to have recourse to the Philistines for sharpening and repairing their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and pruning-hooks.

This acknowledgment seems to prove that the Hebrews consisted of only a very small number, and that the Philistines were a powerful and victorious nation, who kept the Israelites under the yoke, and treated them as slaves; in short, that it was impossible for Saul to collect three hundred and thirty thousand fighting men, etc.

The reverend Father Calmet says it is probable Edition: current; Page: [274] “that there is a little exaggeration in what is stated about Saul and Jonathan”; but that learned man forgets that the other commentators ascribe the first victories of Saul and Jonathan to one of those decided miracles which God so often condescended to perform in favor of his miserable people. Jonathan, with his armor-bearer only, at the very beginning, slew twenty of the enemy; and the Philistines, utterly confounded, turned their arms against each other. The author of the Book of Kings positively declares that it was a miracle of God: “Accidit quasi miraculum a Deo.” There is, therefore, no contradiction.

The enemies of the Christian religion, the Celsuses, the Porphyrys, and the Julians, have exhausted the sagacity of their understandings upon this subject. The Jewish writers have availed themselves of all the advantages they derived from their superior knowledge of the Hebrew language to explain these apparent contradictions. They have been followed even by Christians, such as Lord Herbert, Wollaston, Tindal, Toland, Collins, Shaftesbury, Woolston, Gordon, Bolingbroke, and many others of different nations. Fréret, perpetual secretary of the Academy of Belles Lettres in France, the learned Le Clerc himself, and Simon of the Oratory thought they perceived some contradictions which might be ascribed to the copyists. An immense number of other critics have endeavored to Edition: current; Page: [275] remove or correct contradictions which appeared to them inexplicable.

We read in a dangerous little book, composed with much art: “St. Matthew and St. Luke give each a genealogy of Christ different from the other; and lest it should be thought that the differences are only slight, such as might be imputed to neglect or oversight, the contrary may easily be shown by reading the first chapter of Matthew and the third of Luke. We shall then see that fifteen generations more are enumerated in the one than in the other; that, from David, they completely separate; that they join again at Salathiel; but that, after his son, they again separate, and do not reunite again but in Joseph.

“In the same genealogy, St. Matthew again falls into a manifest contradiction, for he says that Uzziah was the father of Jotham; and in the “Paralipomena,” book 1, chap. iii., v. 11, 12, we find three generations between them—Joas, Amazias, and Azarias—of whom Luke, as well as Matthew, make no mention. Further, this genealogy has nothing to do with that of Jesus, since, according to our creed, Joseph had had no intercourse with Mary.”

In order to reply to this objection, urged from the time of Origen, and renewed from age to age, we must read Julius Africanus. See the two genealogies reconciled in the following table, as we find it in the repository of ecclesiastical writers:

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Solomon and his descendants, enumerated by Saint Matthew. Nathan and his descendants, enumerated by Saint Luke.
Mathan, her first husband. Melchi, or rather Mathat, her second husband.
Jacob, son of Mathan, the first husband. The wife of these two persons successively, married first to Heli, by whom she had no child, and afterwards to Jacob, his brother. Heli.
Joseph, natural son of Jacob. Legitimate son of Heli.

There is another method to reconcile the two genealogies, by St. Epiphanius. According to him, Jacob Panther, descended from Solomon, is the father of Joseph and of Cleophas. Joseph has six children by his first wife—James, Joshua, Simeon, Jude, Mary, and Salome. He then espouses the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the daughter of Joachim and Anne.

There are many other methods of explaining these two genealogies. See the “Dissertation” of Father Calmet, in which he endeavors to reconcile St. Matthew with St. Luke, on the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The same learned skeptics, who make it their business to compare dates, to explore books and medals, to collate ancient authors, and to seek for truth by human skill and study, and who lose in their knowledge the simplicity of their faith, reproach Edition: current; Page: [277] St. Luke with contradicting the other evangelists, and in being mistaken in what he advances on the subject of our Lord’s birth. The author of the “Analysis of the Christian Religion” thus rashly expresses himself on the subject (p. 23):

“St. Luke says that Cyrenius was the governor of Syria, when Augustus ordered the numbering of all the people of the empire. We will show how many decided falsehoods are contained in these few words. First, Tacitus and Suetonius, the most precise of historians, say not a single word of the pretended numbering of the whole empire, which certainly would have been a very singular event, since there never had been one under any emperor—at least, no author mentions such a case. Secondly, Cyrenius did not arrive in Syria till ten years after the time fixed by St. Luke; it was then governed by Quintilius Varus, as Tertullian relates, and as is confirmed by medals.”

We contend that in fact there never was a numbering of the whole Roman empire, but only a census of Roman citizens, according to usage; although it is possible that the copyists may have written “numbering” for “census.” With regard to Cyrenius, whom the copyists have made Cirinus, it is certain that he was not governor of Syria at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, the governor being Quintilius Varus; but it is very probable that Quintilius might send into Judæa this same Cyrenius, who ten years after succeeded him in the government of Edition: current; Page: [278] Syria. We cannot dissemble, however, that this explanation still leaves some difficulties.

In the first place, the census made under Augustus does not correspond in time with the birth of Jesus Christ. Secondly, the Jews were not comprised in that census. Joseph and his wife were not Roman citizens. Mary, therefore, it is said, being under no necessity, was not likely to go from Nazareth, which is at the extremity of Judæa, within a few miles of Mount Tabor, in the midst of the desert, to lie in at Bethlehem, which is eighty miles from Nazareth.

But it might easily happen that Cirinus, or Cyrenius, having been sent to Jerusalem by Quintilius Varus to impose a poll-tax, Joseph and Mary were summoned by the magistrate of Bethlehem to go and pay the tax in the town of Bethlehem, the place of their birth. In this there is nothing contradictory. The critics may endeavor to weaken this solution by representing that it was Herod only who imposed taxes; that the Romans at that time levied nothing on Judæa; that Augustus left Herod completely his own master for the tribute which that Idumean paid to the empire. But, in an emergency, it is not impossible to make some arrangement with a tributary prince, and send him an intendant to establish in concert with him the new tax.

We will not here say, like so many others, that copyists have committed many errors, and that in Edition: current; Page: [279] the version we possess there are to be found more than ten thousand; we had rather say with the doctors of the Church and the most enlightened persons, that the Gospels were given us only to teach us to live holily, and not to criticise learnedly.

These pretended contradictions produced a dreadful impression on the much lamented John Meslier, rector of Etrepigni and But in Champagne. This truly virtuous and charitable, but at the same time melancholy, man, being possessed of scarcely any other books than the Bible and some of the fathers, read them with a studiousness of attention that became fatal to him. Although bound by the duties of his office to inculcate docility upon his flock, he was not sufficiently docile himself. He saw apparent contradictions, and shut his eyes to the means suggested for reconciling them. He imagined that he perceived the most frightful contradictions between Jesus being born a Jew and afterwards being recognized as God; in regard to that God known from the first as the son of Joseph the carpenter and the brother of James, yet descended from an empyrean which does not exist, to destroy sin upon earth that is still covered with crimes; in regard to that God, the son of a common artisan and a descendant of David on the side of his father, who was not in fact his father; between the creator of all worlds, and the descendant of the adulterous Bathsheba, the prurient Ruth, the incestuous Tamar, the prostitute Edition: current; Page: [280] of Jericho, the wife of Abraham, so suspiciously attractive to a king of Egypt, and again at the age of ninety years to a king of Gerar.

Meslier expatiates with an impiety absolutely monstrous on these pretended contradictions, as they struck him, for which, however, he might easily have found an explanation, had he possessed only a small portion of docility. At length his gloom so grew upon him in his solitude that he actually became horror-stricken at that holy religion which it was his duty to preach and love; and, listening only to his seduced and wandering reason, he abjured Christianity by a will written in his own hand, of which he left three copies behind him at his death, which took place in 1732. The copy of this will has been often printed, and exhibits, in truth, a most cruel stumbling-block. A clergyman, who at the point of death, asks pardon of God and his parishioners for having taught the doctrines of Christianity; a charitable clergyman, who holds Christianity in execration because many who profess it are depraved; who is shocked at the pomp and pride of Rome, and exasperated by the difficulties of the sacred volume; a clergyman who speaks of Christianity like Porphyry, Jamblichus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Julian! And this just as he is to make his appearance before God! How fatal a case for him, and for all who may be led astray by his example!

In a similar manner the unfortunate preacher Edition: current; Page: [281] Antony, misled by the apparent contradictions which he imagined he saw between the new and the old law, between the cultivated olive and the wild olive, wretchedly abandoned the Christian religion for the Jewish; and, more courageous than John Meslier, preferred death to recantation.

It is evident from the will of John Meslier that the apparent contradictions of the gospel were the principal cause of unsettling the mind of that unfortunate pastor, who was, in other respects, a man of the strictest virtue, and whom it is impossible to think of without compassion. Meslier is deeply impressed by the two genealogies, which seem in direct opposition; he had not seen the method of reconciling them; he feels agitated and provoked to see that St. Matthew makes the father and mother of the child travel into Egypt, after having received the homage of the three eastern magi or kings, and while old King Herod, under the apprehension of being dethroned by an infant just born at Bethlehem, causes the slaughter of all the infants in the country, in order to prevent such a revolution. He is astonished that neither St. Luke, nor St. Mark, nor St. John make any mention of this massacre. He is confounded at observing that St. Luke makes Joseph, and the blessed Virgin Mary, and Jesus our Saviour, remain at Bethlehem, after which they withdraw to Nazareth. He should have seen that the Holy Father might at first go into Egypt, and some time afterwards to Nazareth, which was their country.

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If St. Matthew alone makes mention of the three magi, and of the star which guided them to Bethlehem from the remote climes of the East, and of the massacre of the children; if the other evangelists take no notice of these events, they do not contradict St. Matthew; silence is not contradiction.

If the three first evangelists—St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke—make Jesus Christ to have lived but three months from his baptism in Galilee till his crucifixion at Jerusalem; and if St. John extends that time to three years and three months, it is easy to approximate St. John to the other evangelists, as he does not expressly state that Jesus Christ preached in Galilee for three years and three months, but only leaves it to be inferred from his narrative. Should a man renounce his religion upon simple inferences, upon points of controversy, upon difficulties in chronology?

It is impossible, says Meslier, to harmonize St. Mark and St. Luke; since the first says that Jesus, when he left the wilderness, went to Capernaum, and the second that he went to Nazareth. St. John says that Andrew was the first who became a follower of Jesus Christ; the three other evangelists say that it was Simon Peter.

He pretends, also, that they contradict each other with respect to the day when Jesus celebrated the Passover, the hour and place of His execution, the time of His appearance and resurrection. He is convinced that books which contradict each other Edition: current; Page: [283] cannot be inspired by the Holy Spirit; but it is not an article of faith to believe that the Holy Spirit inspired every syllable; it did not guide the hand of the copyist; it permitted the operation of secondary causes; it was sufficient that it condescended to reveal the principal mysteries, and that in the course of time it instituted a church for explaining them. All those contradictions, with which the gospels have been so often and so bitterly reproached, are explained by sagacious commentators; far from being injurious, they mutually clear up each other; they present reciprocal helps in the concordances and harmony of the four gospels.

And if there are many difficulties which we cannot solve, mysteries which we cannot comprehend, adventures which we cannot credit, prodigies which shock the weakness of the human understanding, and contradictions which it is impossible to reconcile, it is in order to exercise our faith and to humiliate our reason.

Contradictions in Judgments Upon Works of Literature or Art.

I have sometimes heard it said of a good judge on these subjects, and of exquisite taste, that man decides according to mere caprice. He yesterday described Poussin as an admirable painter; to-day he represents him as an ordinary one. The fact is, that Poussin has merited both praise and censure.

There is no contradiction in being enraptured by Edition: current; Page: [284] the delicious scenes of the Horatii and Curiatii, of the Cid, of Augustus and of Cinna, and afterwards in seeing, with disgust and indignation, fifteen tragedies in succession, containing no interest, no beauty, and not even written in French.

It is the author himself who is contradictory. It is he who has the misfortune to differ entirely from himself. The critic would contradict himself, if he equally applauded what is excellent and detestable. He will admire in Homer the description of the girdle of Venus; the parting of Hector and Andromache; the interview between Achilles and Priam. But will he equally applaud those passages which describe the gods as abusing and fighting with one another; the uniformity in battles which decide nothing; the brutal ferocity of the heroes, and the avarice by which they are almost all actuated; in short, a poem which terminates with a truce of eleven days, unquestionably exciting an expectation of the continuation of the war and the taking of Troy, which, however, are not related?

A good critic will frequently pass from approbation to censure, however excellent the work may be which he is perusing.


Contrast, opposition of figures, situations, fortune, manners, etc. A modest shepherdess forms a beautiful contrast in a painting with a haughty princess, The part of the impostor and that of Edition: current; Page: [285] Aristes constitute a very admirable contrast in “Tartuffe.”

The little may contrast with the great in painting, but cannot be said to be contrary to it. Opposition of colors contrasts; but there are also colors contrary to each other; that is, which produce an ill effect because they shock the eye when brought very near it.

“Contradictory” is a term to be used only in logic. It is contradictory for anything to be and not to be; to be in many places at once; to be of a certain number or size, and not to be so. An opinion, a discourse, or a decree, we may call contradictory. The different fortunes of Charles XII. have been contrary, but not contradictory; they form in history a beautiful contrast.

It is a striking contrast—and the two things are perfectly contrary—but it is not contradictory, that the pope should be worshipped in Rome, and burned in London on the same day; that while he was called God’s vicegerent in Italy, he should be represented in the streets of Moscow as a hog, for the amusement of Peter the Great.

Mahomet, stationed at the right hand of God over half the globe, and damned over the other half, is the greatest of contrasts. Travel far from your own country, and everything will be contrast for you. The white man who first saw a negro was much astonished; but the first who said that the negro was the offspring of a white pair astonishes me much Edition: current; Page: [286] more; I do not agree with him. A painter who represents white men, negroes, and olive-colored people, may display fine contrasts.


About the year 1724 the cemetery of St. Médard abounded in amusement, and many miracles were performed there. The following epigram by the duchess of Maine gives a tolerable account of the character of most of them:

  • Un décrotteur à la Royale,
  • Du talon gauche estropié,
  • Obtint, pour grâce speciale,
  • D’être tortueux de l’autre pied.
  • A Port-Royal shoe-black, who had one lame leg,
  • To make both alike the Lord’s favor did beg;
  • Heaven listened, and straightway a miracle came,
  • For quickly he rose up, with both his legs lame.

The miracles continued, as is well known, until a guard was stationed at the cemetery.

  • De par le roi, défense à Dieu
  • De faire miracles en ce lieu.
  • Louis to God:—To keep the peace,
  • Here miracles must henceforth cease.

It is also well known that the Jesuits, being no longer able to perform similar miracles, in consequence of Xavier having exhausted their stock of grace and miraculous power, by resuscitating nine dead persons at one time, resolved in order to counteract the credit of the Jansenists, to engrave a print of Jesus Christ dressed as a Jesuit. The Jansenists, on the other hand, in order to give a satisfactory proof that Jesus Christ had not assumed the habit of Edition: current; Page: [287] a Jesuit, filled Paris with convulsions, and attracted great crowds of people to witness them. The counsellor of parliament, Carré de Montgeron, went to present to the king a quarto collection of all these miracles, attested by a thousand witnesses. He was very properly shut up in a château, where attempts were made to restore his senses by regimen; but truth always prevails over persecution, and the miracles lasted for thirty years together, without interruption. Sister Rose, Sister Illuminée, and the sisters Promise and Comfitte, were scourged with great energy, without, however, exhibiting any appearance of the whipping next day. They were bastinadoed on their stomachs without injury, and placed before a large fire; but, being defended by certain pomades and preparations, were not burned. At length, as every art is constantly advancing towards perfection, their persecutors concluded with actually thrusting swords through their chairs, and with crucifying them. A famous schoolmaster had also the benefit of crucifixion; all which was done to convince the world that a certain bull was ridiculous, a fact that might have been easily proved without so much trouble. However, Jesuits and Jansenists all united against the “Spirit of Laws,” and against . . . . and against . . . . and against . . . . and. . . . . And after all this we dare to ridicule Laplanders, Samoyeds, and negroes!

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They must be skeptics indeed who doubt that pain comes from panis. But to make bread we must have corn. The Gauls had corn in the time of Cæsar; but whence did they take the word blé? It is pretended that it is from bladum, a word employed in the barbarous Latin of the middle age by the Chancellor Desvignes, or De Erneis, whose eyes, it is said, were torn out by order of the Emperor Frederick II.

But the Latin words of these barbarous ages were only ancient Celtic or Teutonic words Latinized. Bladum then comes from our blead, and not our blead from bladum. The Italians call it bioda, and the countries in which the ancient Roman language is preserved, still say blia.

This knowledge is not infinitely useful; but we are curious to know where the Gauls and Teutons found corn to sow? We are told that the Tyrians brought it into Spain, the Spaniards into Gaul, and the Gauls into Germany. And where did the Tyrians get this corn? Probably from the Greeks, in exchange for their alphabet.

Who made this present to the Greeks? It was the goddess Ceres, without doubt; and having ascended to Ceres, we can scarcely go any higher. Ceres must have descended from heaven expressly to give us wheat, rye, and barley. However, as the credit of Ceres, who gave corn to the Greeks, and Edition: current; Page: [289] that of Ishet, or Isis, who gratified the Egyptians with it, are at present very much decayed, we may still be said to remain in uncertainty as to the origin of corn.

Sanchoniathon tells us that Dagon or Dagan, one of the grandsons of Thaut, had the superintendence of the corn in Phœnicia. Now his Thaut was near the time of our Jared; from which it appears that corn is very ancient, and that it is of the same antiquity as grass. Perhaps this Dagon was the first who made bread, but that is not demonstrated.

What a strange thing that we should know positively that we are obliged to Noah for wine, and that we do not know to whom we owe the invention of bread. And what is still more strange, we are still so ungrateful to Noah that, while we have more than two thousand songs in honor of Bacchus, we scarcely sing one in honor of our benefactor, Noah.

A Jew assured me that corn came without cultivation in Mesopotamia, as apples, wild pears, chestnuts, and medlars, in the west. It is as well to believe him, until we are sure of the contrary; for it is necessary that corn should grow spontaneously somewhere. It has become the ordinary and indispensable nourishment in the finest climates, and in all the north.

The great philosophers whose talents we estimate so highly, and whose systems we do not follow, have pretended, in the natural history of the dog (page 195), that men created corn; and that our Edition: current; Page: [290] ancestors, by means of sowing tares and cow-grass together, changed them into wheat. As these philosophers are not of our opinion on shells, they will permit us to differ from them on corn. We do not think that tulips could ever have been produced from jasmine. We find that the germ of corn is quite different from that of tares, and we do not believe in any transmutation. When it shall be proved to us, we will retract.

We have seen, in the article “Breadtree,” that in three-quarters of the earth bread is not eaten. It is pretended that the Ethiopians laughed at the Egyptians, who lived on bread. But since corn is our chief nourishment, it has become one of the greatest objects of commerce and politics. So much has been written on this subject, that if a laborer sowed as many pounds of wheat as we have volumes on this commodity, he might expect a more ample harvest, and become richer than those who, in their painted and gilded saloons, are ignorant of the excess of his oppression and misery.

Egypt became the best country in the world for wheat when, after several ages, which it is difficult to reckon exactly, the inhabitants found the secret of rendering a destructive river—which had always inundated the country, and was only useful to the rats, insects, reptiles, and crocodiles of Egypt—serviceable to the fecundity of the soil. Its waters, mixed with a black mud, were neither useful to quench the thirst of the inhabitants, nor for ablution. Edition: current; Page: [291] It must have required a long time and prodigious labor to subdue the river, to divide it into canals, to found towns on lands formerly movable, and to change the caverns of the rocks into vast buildings.

All this is more astonishing than the pyramids; for being accomplished, behold a people sure of the best corn in the world, without the necessity of labor! It is the inhabitant of this country who raises and fattens poultry superior to that of Caux, who is habited in the finest linen in the most temperate climate, and who has none of the real wants of other people.

Towards the year 1750, the French nation, surfeited with tragedies, comedies, operas, romances, and romantic histories—with moral reflections still more romantic, and with theological disputes on grace and on convulsionaries, began to reason upon corn. They even forgot the vine, in treating of wheat and rye. Useful things were written on agriculture, and everybody read them except the laborers. The good people imagined, as they walked out of the comic opera, that France had a prodigious quantity of corn to sell, and the cry of the nation at last obtained of the government, in 1764, the liberty of exportation.

Accordingly they exported. The result was exactly what it had been in the time of Henry IV., they sold a little too much, and a barren year succeeding, Mademoiselle Bernard was obliged, for the Edition: current; Page: [292] second time, to sell her necklace to get linen and chemises. Now the complainants passed from one extreme to the other, and complained against the exportation that they had so recently demanded, which shows how difficult it is to please all the world and his wife.

Able and well-meaning people, without interest, have written, with as much sagacity as courage, in favor of the unlimited liberty of the commerce in grain. Others, of as much mind, and with equally pure views, have written in the idea of limiting this liberty; and the Neapolitan Abbé Gagliana amused the French nation on the exportation of corn, by finding out the secret of making, even in French, dialogues as amusing as our best romances, and as instructive as our good serious books. If this work did not diminish the price of bread, it gave great pleasure to the nation, which was what it valued most. The partisans of unlimited exportation answered him smartly. The result was that the readers no longer knew where they were, and the greater part took to reading romances, expecting that the three or four following years of abundance would enable them to judge. The ladies were no longer able to distinguish wheat from rye, while honest devotees continued to believe that grain must lie and rot in the ground in order to spring up again.

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Meetings of Ecclesiastics, Called Together to Resolve Doubts or Questions on Points of Faith or Discipline.

The use of councils was not unknown to the followers of the ancient religion of Zerdusht, whom we call Zoroaster. About the year 200 of our era, Ardeshir Babecan, king of Persia, called together forty thousand priests, to consult them touching some of his doubts about paradise and hell, which they call the gehen—a term adopted by the Jews during their captivity at Babylon, as they did the names of the angels and of the months. Erdoviraph, the most celebrated of the magi, having drunk three glasses of a soporific wine, had an ecstasy which lasted seven days and seven nights, during which his soul was transported to God. When the paroxysm was over, he reassured the faith of the king, by relating to him the great many wonderful things he had seen in the other world, and having them written down.

We know that Jesus was called Christ, a Greek word signifying anointed; and his doctrine Christianity, or gospel, i. e., good news, because having, as was his custom, entered one Sabbath day the synagogue of Nazareth, where he was brought up, He applied to Himself this passage of Isaiah, which He had just read: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Edition: current; Page: [294] gospel to the poor.” They of the synagogue did, to be sure, drive Him out of their town, and carry Him to a point of the hill, on which it was built, in order to throw Him headlong from it; and His relatives “went out to lay hold on Him,” for they were told, and they said, “that He was beside Himself.” Nor is it less certain that Jesus constantly declared He had come not to destroy the law or the prophecies, but to fulfil them.

But, as He left nothing written, His first disciples were divided on the famous question, whether the Gentiles were to be circumcised and ordered to keep the Mosaic law. The apostles and the priests, therefore, assembled at Jerusalem to examine this point, and, after many conferences, they wrote to the brethren among the Gentiles, at Antioch, in Syria, and in Cilicia, a letter of which we give the substance: “It has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, not to impose upon you any obligations but those which are necessary, viz., to abstain from meats offered up to idols, from blood, from the flesh of choked animals, and from fornication.”

The decision of this council did not prevent Peter, when at Antioch, from continuing to eat with the Gentiles, before some of the circumcised, who came from James, had arrived. But Paul, seeing that he did not walk straight in the path of gospel truth, resisted him to the face, saying to him before them all, “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why Edition: current; Page: [295] compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” Indeed Peter had lived like the Gentiles ever since he had seen, in a trance, “heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet, knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth; wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter, kill and eat.”

Paul, who so loudly reproved Peter for using this dissimulation to make them believe that he still observed the law, had himself recourse to a similar feint at Jerusalem. Being accused of teaching the Jews who were among the Gentiles to renounce Moses, he went and purified himself in the temple for seven days, in order that all might know that what they had heard of him was false, and that he continued to observe the law; this, too, was done by the advice of all the priests, assembled at the house of James—which priests were the same who had decided with the Holy Ghost, that these observations were unnecessary.

Councils were afterwards distinguished into general and particular. Particular councils are of three kinds—national, convoked by the prince, the patriarch, or the primate; provincial, assembled by the metropolitan or archbishop; and diocesan, or synods held by each bishop. The following is a decree of one of the councils held at Macon:

“Whenever a layman meet a priest or a deacon Edition: current; Page: [296] on the road, he shall offer him his arm; if the priest and the layman are both on horseback, the layman shall stop and salute the priest reverently; and if the priest be on foot, and the layman on horseback, the layman shall dismount, and shall not mount again until the ecclesiastic be at a certain distance; all on pain of interdiction for as long a time as it shall please the metropolitan.”

The list of the councils, in Moréri’s “Dictionary,” occupies more than sixteen pages, but as authors are not agreed concerning the number of general councils, we shall here confine ourselves to the results of the first eight that were assembled by order of the emperors.

Two priests of Alexandria, seeking to know whether Jesus was God or creature, not only did the bishops and priests dispute but the whole people were divided, and the disorder arrived at such a pitch that the Pagans ridiculed Christianity on the stage. The emperor Constantine first wrote in these terms to Bishop Alexander and the priest Arius, the authors of the dissension: “These questions, which are unnecessary, and spring only from unprofitable idleness, may be discussed in order to exercise the intellect; but they should not be repeated in the hearing of the people. Being divided on so small a matter, it is not just that you should govern, according to your thoughts, so great a multitude of God’s people. Such conduct is mean and puerile, unworthy of the priestly office, and of men Edition: current; Page: [297] of sense. I do not say this to compel you entirely to agree on this frivolous question, whatever it is. You may, with a private difference, preserve unity, provided these subtleties and different opinions remain secret in your inmost thoughts.”

The emperor, having learned that his letter was without effect, resolved, by the advice of the bishops, to convoke an ecumenical council—i. e., a council of the whole habitable earth, and chose for the place of meeting the town of Nicæa, in Bithynia. There came thither two thousand and forty-eight bishops, who, as Eutychius relates, were all of different sentiments and opinions. This prince, having had the patience to hear them dispute on this point, was much surprised at finding among them so little unanimity; and the author of the Arabic preface to this council says that the records of these disputes amounted to forty volumes.

This prodigious number of bishops will not appear incredible when it is recollected that Usher, quoted by Selden, relates that St. Patrick, who lived in the fifth century, founded three hundred and sixty-five churches, and ordained the like number of bishops; which proves that then each church had its bishop, that is, its overlooker.

In the Council of Nice there was read a letter from Eusebius of Nicomedia, containing manifest heresy, and discovering the cabal of Arius’s party. In it was said, among other things, that if Jesus were acknowledged to be the Son of God uncreated, Edition: current; Page: [298] He must also be acknowledged to be consubstantial with the Father. Therefore it was that Athanasius, a deacon of Alexandria, persuaded the fathers to dwell on the word consubstantial, which had been rejected as improper by the Council of Antioch, held against Paul of Samosata; but he took it in a gross sense, marking division; as we say, that several pieces of money are of the same metal: whereas the orthodox explained the term consubstantial so well, that the emperor himself comprehended that it involved no corporeal idea—signified no division of the absolutely immaterial and spiritual substance of the Father—but was to be understood in a divine and ineffable sense. They moreover showed the injustice of the Arians in rejecting this word on pretence that it was not in the Scriptures—they who employ so many words which are not there to be found; and who say that the Son of God was brought out of nothing, and had not existed from all eternity.

Constantine then wrote two letters at the same time, to give publicity to the ordinances of the council, and make them known to such as had not attended it. The first, addressed to the churches in general, says, in so many words, that the question of the faith has been examined, and so well cleared up, that no difficulty remains. In the second, among others, the church of Alexandria is thus addressed: “What three hundred bishops have ordained is no other than the seed of the only Son of God; the Edition: current; Page: [299] Holy Ghost has declared the will of God through these great men, whom he inspired. Now, then, let none doubt—let none dispute, but each one return with all his heart into the way of truth.”

The ecclesiastical writers are not agreed as to the number of bishops who subscribed to the ordinances of this council. Eusebius reckons only two hundred and fifty; Eustathius of Antioch, cited by Theodoret, two hundred and seventy; St. Athanasius, in his epistle to the Solitaries, three hundred, like Constantine; while, in his letter to the Africans, he speaks of three hundred and eighteen. Yet these four authors were eye-witnesses, and worthy of great faith.

This number 318, which Pope St. Leo calls mysterious, has been adopted by most of the fathers of the church. St. Ambrose assures us that the number of 318 bishops was a proof of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in his Council of Nicæa, because the cross designates three hundred, and the name of Jesus eighteen. St. Hilary, in his defence of the word consubstantial, approved in the Council of Nice, though condemned fifty-five years before in the Council of Antioch, reasons thus: “Eighty bishops rejected the word consubstantial, but three hundred and eighteen have received it. Now this latter number seems to me a sacred number, for it is that of the men who accompanied Abraham, when, after his victory over the impious kings, he was blessed by him who is the type of the eternal Edition: current; Page: [300] priesthood.” And Selden relates that Dorotheus, metropolitan of Monembasis, said there were precisely three hundred and eighteen fathers at this council, because three hundred and eighteen years had elapsed since the incarnation. All chronologists place this council in the year 325 of our modern era; but Dorotheus deducts seven years, to make his comparison complete; this, however, is a mere trifle. Besides, it was not until the Council of Lestines, in 743, that the years began to be counted from the incarnation of Jesus. Dionysius the Less had imagined this epoch in his solar cycle of the year 526, and Bede had made use of it in his “Ecclesiastical History.”

It will not be a subject of astonishment that Constantine adopted the opinion of the three hundred or three hundred and eighteen bishops who held the divinity of Jesus, when it is borne in mind that Eusebius of Nicomedia, one of the principal leaders of the Arian party, had been an accomplice in the cruelty of Licinius, in the massacres of the bishops, and the persecutions of the Christians. Of this the emperor himself accuses him, in the private letter which he wrote to the church of Nicomedia:

“He sent spies about me,” says he, “in the troubles, and did everything but take up arms for the tyrant. I have proofs of this from the priests and deacons of his train, whom I took. During the Council of Nicæa, with what eagerness and what impudence he maintained, against the testimony of Edition: current; Page: [301] his conscience, the error exploded on every side! repeatedly imploring my protection, lest, being convicted of so great a crime, he should lose his dignity. He shamefully circumvented and took me by surprise, and carried everything as he chose. Again, see what has been done but lately by him and Theogenes.”

Constantine here alludes to the fraud which Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theogenes of Nicæa resorted to in subscribing. In the word “omoousios,” they inserted an iota, making it “omoiousios,” meaning of like substance; whereas the first means of the same substance. We hereby see that these bishops yielded to the fear of being displaced or banished; for the emperor had threatened with exile such as should not subscribe. The other Eusebius, too, bishop of Cæsarea, approved the word consubstantial, after condemning it the day before.

However, Theonas of Marmarica, and Secundus of Ptolemais continued obstinately attached to Arius; and, the council, having condemned them with him, Constantine banished them, and declared by an edict that whosoever should be convicted of concealing any of the writings of Arius instead of burning them, should be punished with death. Three months after, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theogenes were likewise exiled into Gaul. It is said that, having gained over the individual who, by the emperor’s order, kept the acts of the council, they had erased their signatures, and begun to teach Edition: current; Page: [302] in public that the Son must not be believed to be consubstantial with the Father.

Happily, to replace their signatures and preserve entire the mysterious number three hundred and eighteen, the expedient was tried of laying the book, in which the acts were divided into sessions, on the tomb of Chrysanthus and Mysonius, who had died while the council was in session; the night was passed in prayer and the next morning it was found that these two bishops had signed.

It was by an expedient nearly similar, that the fathers of the same council distinguished the authentic from the apocryphal books of Scripture. Having placed them altogether upon the altar, the apocryphal books fell to the ground of themselves.

Two other councils, assembled by the emperor Constantine, in the year 359, the one, of upwards of four hundred bishops, at Rimini, the other, of more than a hundred and fifty, at Seleucia; after long debates, rejected the word consubstantial, already condemned, as we have before said, by a Council of Antioch. But these councils are recognized only by the Socinians.

The Nicene fathers had been so much occupied with the consubstantiality of the Son, that they had made no mention of the church in their symbol, but contented themselves with saying, “We also believe in the Holy Ghost.” This omission was supplied in the second general council, convoked at Constantinople, in 381, by Theodosius. The Holy Ghost was Edition: current; Page: [303] there declared to be the Lord and giver of life, proceeding from the Father, who with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. Afterwards the Latin church would have the Holy Ghost proceed from the Son also; and the “filioque” was added to the symbol: first in Spain, in 447; then in France, at the Council of Lyons, in 1274; and lastly at Rome, notwithstanding the complaints made by the Greeks against this innovation.

The divinity of Jesus being once established, it was natural to give to his mother the title of Mother of God. However, Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, maintained in his sermons that this would be justifying the folly of the Pagans, who gave mothers to their gods. Theodosius the younger, to have this great question decided, assembled the third general council at Ephesus, in the year 431, and in it Mary was acknowledged to be the mother of God.

Another heresy of Nestorius, likewise condemned at Ephesus, was that of admitting two persons in Jesus. Nevertheless, the patriarch Photius subsequently acknowledged two natures in Jesus. A monk named Eutyches, who had already exclaimed loudly against Nestorius, affirmed, the better to contradict them both, that Jesus had also but one nature. But this time the monk was wrong; although, in 449, his opinion had been maintained by blows in a numerous council at Ephesus. Eutyches Edition: current; Page: [304] was nevertheless anathematized, two years afterwards, by the fourth general council, held under the emperor Marcian at Chalcedon, in which two natures were assigned to Jesus.

It was still to be determined, with one person and two natures, how many wills Jesus was to have. The fifth general council, which in the year 553 quelled, by Justinian’s order, the contentions about the doctrine of three bishops, had no leisure to settle this important point. It was not until the year 680 that the sixth general council, also convened at Constantinople by Constantine Pogonatus, informed us that Jesus had precisely two wills. This council, in condemning the Monothelites, who admitted only one, made no exception from the anathema in favor of Pope Honorius I., who, in a letter given by Baronius, had said to the patriarch of Constantinople:

“We confess in Jesus Christ one only will. We do not see that either the councils or the Scriptures authorize us to think otherwise. But whether, from the works of divinity and of humanity which are in him, we are to look for two operations, is a point of little importance, and one which I leave it to the grammarians to decide.”

Thus, in this instance, with God’s permission, the account between the Greek and Latin churches was balanced. As the patriarch Nestorius had been condemned for acknowledging two persons in Jesus, so Pope Honorius was now condemned for admitting but one will in Jesus.

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The seventh general council, or the second of Nice, was assembled in 787, by Constantine, son of Leo and Irene, to re-establish the worship of images. The reader must know that two Councils of Constantinople, the first in 730, under the emperor Leo, the other twenty-four years after, under Constantine Copronymus, had thought proper to proscribe images, conformably to the Mosaic law and to the usage of the early ages of Christianity. So, also, the Nicene decree, in which it is said that “whosoever shall not render service and adoration to the images of the saints as to the Trinity, shall be deemed anathematized,” at first encountered some opposition. The bishops who introduced it, in a Council of Constantinople, held in 789, were turned out by soldiers. The same decree was also rejected with scorn by the Council of Frankfort in 794, and by the Caroline books, published by order of Charlemagne. But the second Council of Nice was at length confirmed at Constantinople under the emperor Michael and his mother Theodora, in the year 842, by a numerous council, which anathematized the enemies of holy images. Be it here observed, it was by two women, the empresses Irene and Theodora, that the images were protected.

We pass on to the eighth general council. Under the emperor Basilius, Photius, ordained patriarch of Constantinople in place of Ignatius, had the Latin church condemned for the “filioque” and other practices, by a council of the year 866: but Ignatius Edition: current; Page: [306] being recalled the following year, another council removed Photius; and in the year 869 the Latins, in their turn, condemned the Greek church in what they called the eighth general council—while those in the East gave this name to another council, which, ten years after, annulled what the preceding one had done, and restored Photius.

These four councils were held at Constantinople; the others, called general by the Latins, having been composed of the bishops of the West only, the popes, with the aid of false decretals, gradually arrogated the right of convoking them. The last of these which assembled at Trent, from 1545 to 1563, neither served to convert the enemies of papacy nor to subdue them. Its decrees, in discipline, have been scarcely admitted into any one Catholic nation: its only effect has been to verify these words of St. Gregory Nazianzen: “I have not seen one council that has acted with good faith, or that has not augmented the evils complained of rather than cured them. Ambition and the love of disputation, beyond the power of words to express, reign in every assembly of bishops.”

However, the Council of Constance, in 1415, having decided that a council-general receives its authority immediately from Jesus Christ, which authority every person, of whatever rank or dignity, is bound to obey in all that concerns the faith; and the Council of Basel having afterwards confirmed this decree, which it holds to be an article of faith Edition: current; Page: [307] which cannot be neglected without renouncing salvation, it is clear how deeply every one is interested in paying submission to councils.

Notice of the General Councils.

Assembly, council of state, parliament, states-general, formerly signified the same thing. In the primitive ages nothing was written in Celtic, nor in German, nor in Spanish. The little that was written was conceived in the Latin tongue by a few clerks, who expressed every meeting of lendes, herren, or ricohombres, by the word concilium. Hence it is that we find in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries so many councils which were nothing more than councils of state.

We shall here speak only of the great councils called general, whether by the Greek or by the Latin church. At Rome they were called synods, as they were in the East in the primitive ages—for the Latins borrowed names as well as things from the Greeks.

In 325 there was a great council in the city of Nicæa, convoked by Constantine. The form of its decision was this: “We believe that Jesus is of one substance with the Father, God of God, light of light, begotten, not made. We also believe in the Holy Ghost.”

Nicephorus affirms that two bishops, Chrysanthus and Mysonius, who had died during the first Edition: current; Page: [308] sittings, rose again to sign the condemnation of Arius, and incontinently died again, as I have already observed. Baronius maintains this fact, but Fleury says nothing of it.

In 359 the emperor Constantius assembled the great councils of Rimini and of Seleucia, consisting of six hundred bishops, with a prodigious number of priests. These two councils, corresponding together, undo all that the Council of Nice did, and proscribe the consubstantiality. But this was afterwards regarded as a false council.

In 381 was held, by order of the emperor Theodosius, a great council at Constantinople, of one hundred and fifty bishops, who anathematize the Council of Rimini. St. Gregory Nazianzen presides, and the bishop of Rome sends deputies to it. Now is added to the Nicene symbol: “Jesus Christ was incarnate, by the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. He was buried, and on the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He sits at the right hand of the Father. We also believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”

In 431 a great council was convoked at Ephesus, by the emperor Theodosius II. Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, having violently persecuted all who were not of his opinion on theological points, undergoes persecution in his turn, for having maintained that the Holy Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Edition: current; Page: [309] Christ, was not mother of God; because said he, Jesus Christ being the word, the Son of God, consubstantial with His Father, Mary could not, at the same time, be mother of God the Father and of God the Son. St. Cyril exclaims loudly against him. Nestorius demands an ecumenical council, and obtains it. Nestorius is condemned; but Cyril is also displaced by a committee of the council. The emperor reverses all that has been done in this council, then permits it to re-assemble. The deputies from Rome arrive very late. The troubles increasing, the emperor has Nestorius and Cyril arrested. At last he orders all the bishops to return, each to his church, and after all no conclusion is reached. Such was the famous Council of Ephesus.

In 449 another great council, afterward called “the banditti,” met at Ephesus. The number of bishops assembled is a hundred and thirty; and Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, presided. There are two deputies from the church of Rome, and several abbots. The question is, whether Jesus Christ has two natures. The bishops and all the monks of Egypt exclaim that “all who would divide Jesus Christ ought themselves to be torn in two.” The two natures are anathematized; and there is a fight in full council, as at the little Council of Cirta in 355, and at the minor Council of Carthage.

In 452, the great Council of Chalcedon was convoked by Pulcheria, who married Marcian on condition Edition: current; Page: [310] that he should be only the highest of her subjects. St. Leo, bishop of Rome, having great influence, takes advantage of the troubles which the quarrel about the two natures has occasioned in the empire, and presides at the council by his legates—of which we have no former example. But the fathers of the council, apprehending that the church of the West will, from this precedent, pretend to the superiority over that of the East, decide by their twenty-eighth canon, that the see of Constantinople, and that of Rome, shall enjoy alike the same advantages and the same privileges. This was the origin of the long enmity which prevailed, and still prevails, between the two churches. This Council of Chalcedon established the two natures in one only person.

Nicephorus relates that, at this same council, the bishops, after a long dispute on the subject of images, laid each his opinion in writing on the tomb of St. Euphemia, and passed the night in prayer. The next morning the orthodox writings were found in the saint’s hand, and the others at her feet.

In 553, a great council at Constantinople was convoked by Justinian, who was an amateur theologian, to discuss three small writings, called the three chapters, of which nothing is now known. There were also disputes on some passages of Origen.

Vigilius, bishop of Rome, would have gone thither in person; but Justinian had him put in prison, Edition: current; Page: [311] and the Patriarch of Constantinople presided. No member of the Latin church attended; for at that time Greek was no longer understood in the West, which had become entirely barbarous.

In 680, another general council at Constantinople was convoked by Constantine the bearded. This was the first council called by the Latins in trullo, because it was held in an apartment of the imperial palace. The emperor, himself, presided; on his right hand were the patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch; on his left, the deputies from Rome and Jerusalem. It was there decided that Jesus Christ had two wills; and Pope Honorius I., was condemned as a Monothelite, i. e., as wishing Jesus Christ to have but one will

In 787, the second Council of Nice was convoked by Irene, in the name of the emperor Constantine, her son, whom she had deprived of his eyes. Her husband, Leo, had abolished the worship of images, as contrary to the simplicity of the primitive ages, and leading to idolatry. Irene re-established this worship; she herself spoke in the council, which was the only one held by a woman. Two legates from Pope Adrian V., attended, but did not speak, for they did not understand Greek: the patriarch did all.

Seven years after, the Franks, having heard that a council at Constantinople had ordained the adoration of images, assemble, by order of Charles, son of Pepin, afterwards named Charlemagne, a very Edition: current; Page: [312] numerous council at Frankfort. Here the second Council of Nice is spoken of as “an impertinent and arrogant synod, held in Greece for the worshipping of pictures.”

In 842, a great council at Constantinople was convoked by the empress Theodora. The worship of images was solemnly established. The Greeks have still a feast in honor of this council, called the orthodoxia. Theodora did not preside. In 861, a great council at Constantinople, consisting of three hundred and eighteen bishops, was convoked by the emperor Michael. St. Ignatius, patriarch of Constantinople, is deposed, and Photius elected.

In 866, another great council was held at Constantinople, in which Pope Nicholas III. is deposed for contumacy, and excommunicated. In 869 was another great council at Constantinople, in which Photius, in turn, is deposed and excommunicated, and St. Ignatius restored.

In 879, another great council assembled at Constantinople, in which Photius, already restored, is acknowledged as true patriarch by the legates of Pope John VIII. Here the great ecumenical council, in which Photius was deposed, receives the appellation of “conciliabulum.” Pope John VIII. declares all those to be Judases who say that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son.

In 1122–3, a great council at Rome was held in the church of St. John of Lateran by Pope Calixtus II. This was the first general council convoked by Edition: current; Page: [313] the popes. The emperors of the West had now scarcely any authority; and the emperors of the East, pressed by the Mahometans and by the Crusaders, held none but wretched little councils.

It is not precisely known what this Lateran was. Some small councils had before been assembled in the Lateran. Some say that it was a house built by one Lateran in Nero’s time; others, that it was St. John’s church itself, built by Bishop Sylvester. In this council, the bishops complained heavily of the monks. “They possess,” said they, “the churches, the lands, the castles, the tithes, the offerings of the living and the dead; they have only to take from us the ring and the crosier.” The monks remained in possession.

In 1139 was another great Council of Lateran, by Pope Innocent II. It is said there were present a thousand bishops. A great many, certainly. Here the ecclesiastical tithes are declared to be of divine right, and all laymen possessing any of them are excommunicated. In 1179 was another great Council of Lateran, by Pope Alexander III. There were three hundred bishops and one Greek abbot. The decrees are all on discipline. The plurality of benefices is forbidden.

In 1215 was the last general Council of Lateran, by Pope Innocent III., composed of four hundred and twelve bishops, and eight hundred abbots. At this time, which is that of the Crusades, the popes have established a Latin patriarch at Jerusalem, and Edition: current; Page: [314] one at Constantinople. These patriarchs attend the council. This great council says that, “God having given the doctrine of salvation to men by Moses, at length caused His son to be born of a virgin, to show the way more clearly,” and that “no one can be saved out of the Catholic church.”

The transubstantiation was not known until after this council. It forbade the establishment of new religious orders; but, since that time, no less than eighty have been instituted. It was in this council that Raymond, count of Toulouse, was stripped of all his lands. In 1245 a great council assembled at the imperial city of Lyons. Innocent IV. brings thither the emperor of Constantinople, John Palæologus, and makes him sit beside him. He deposes the emperor Frederick as a felon, and gives the cardinals red hats, as a sign of hostility to Frederick. This was the source of thirty years of civil war.

In 1274 another general council was held at Lyons. Five hundred bishops, seventy great and a thousand lesser abbots. The Greek emperor, Michael Palæologus, that he may have the protection of the pope, sends his Greek patriarch, Theophanes, to unite, in his name, with the Latin church. But the Greek church disowns these bishops.

In 1311, Pope Clement V. assembled a general council in the small town of Vienne, in Dauphiny, in which he abolishes the Order of the Templars. It is here ordained that the Bégares, Beguins, and Béguines shall be burned. These were a species of Edition: current; Page: [315] heretics, to whom was imputed all that had formerly been imputed to the primitive Christians. In 1414, the great Council of Constance was convoked by an emperor who resumes his rights, viz.: by Sigismund. Here Pope John XXIII., convicted of numerous crimes, is deposed; and John Huss and Jerome of Prague, convicted of obstinacy, are burned. In 1431, a great council was held at Basel, where they in vain depose Pope Eugene IV., who is too clever for the council.

In 1438, a great council assembled at Ferrara, transferred to Florence, where the excommunicated pope excommunicates the council, and declares it guilty of high treason. Here a feigned union is made with the Greek church, crushed by the Turkish synods held sword in hand. Pope Julius II. would have had his Council of Lateran, in 1512, pass for an ecumenical council. In it that pope solemnly excommunicated Louis XII., king of France, laid France under an interdict, summoned the whole parliament of Provence to appear before him, and excommunicated all the philosophers, because most of them had taken part with Louis XII. Yet this council was not, like that of Ephesus, called the Council of Robbers.

In 1537, the Council of Trent was convoked, first at Mantua, by Paul III., afterwards at Trent in 1543, and terminated in December, 1561, under Pius VI. Catholic princes submitted to it on points of doctrine, and two or three of them in matters of Edition: current; Page: [316] discipline. It is thought that henceforward there will be no more general councils than there will be states-general in France or Spain. In the Vatican there is a fine picture, containing a list of the general councils, in which are inscribed such only as are approved by the court of Rome. Every one puts what he chooses in his own archives.

Infallibility of Councils.

All councils are, doubtless, infallible, being composed of men. It is not possible that the passions, that intrigues, that the spirit of contention, that hatred or jealousy, that prejudice or ignorance, should ever influence these assemblies. But why, it will be said, have so many councils been opposed to one another? To exercise our faith. They were all right, each in its time. At this day, the Roman Catholics believe in such councils only as are approved in the Vatican; the Greek Catholics believe only in those approved at Constantinople; and the Protestants make a jest of both the one and the other: so that every one ought to be content.

We shall here examine only the great councils: the lesser ones are not worth the trouble. The first was that of Nice, assembled in the year 325 of the modern era, after Constantine had written and sent by Osius his noble letter to the rather turbulent clergy of Alexandria. It was debated whether Jesus was created or uncreated. This in no way concerned morality, which is the only thing essential. Edition: current; Page: [317] Whether Jesus was in time or before time, it is not the less our duty to be honest. After much altercation, it was at last decided that the Son was as old as the Father, and consubstantial with the Father. This decision is not very easy of comprehension, which makes it but the more sublime. Seventeen bishops protested against the decree; and an old Alexandrian chronicle, preserved at Oxford, says that two thousand priests likewise protested. But prelates make not much account of mere priests, who are in general poor. However, there was nothing said of the Trinity in this first council. The formula runs thus: “We believe Jesus to be consubstantial with the Father, God of God, light of light, begotten, not made; we also believe in the Holy Ghost.” It must be acknowledged that the Holy Ghost was treated very cavalierly.

We have already said, that in the supplement to the Council of Nice it is related that the fathers, being much perplexed to find out which were the authentic and which the apocryphal books of the Old and the New Testament, laid them all upon an altar, and the books which they were to reject fell to the ground. What a pity that so fine an ordeal has been lost!

After the first Council of Nice, composed of three hundred and seventeen infallible bishops, another council was held at Rimini; on which occasion the number of the infallible was four hundred, without reckoning a strong detachment, at Seleucia, Edition: current; Page: [318] of about two hundred. These six hundred bishops, after four months of contention, unanimously took from Jesus his consubstantiality. It has since been restored to him, except by the Socinians: so nothing is amiss.

One of the great councils was that of Ephesus, in 431. There, as already stated, Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, a great persecutor of heretics, was himself condemned as a heretic, for having maintained that, although Jesus was really God, yet His mother was not absolutely mother of God, but mother of Jesus. St. Cyril procured the condemnation of Nestorius; but the partisans of Nestorius also procured the deposition of St. Cyril, in the same council; which put the Holy Ghost in considerable perplexity.

Here, gentle reader, carefully observe, that the Gospel says not one syllable of the consubstantiality of the Word, nor of Mary’s having had the honor of being mother of God, no more than of the other disputed points which brought together so many infallible councils.

Eutyches was a monk, who had cried out sturdily against Nestorius, whose heresy was nothing less than supposing two persons in Jesus; which is quite frightful. The monk, the better to contradict his adversary, affirmed that Jesus had but one nature. One Flavian, bishop of Constantinople, maintained against him, that there must absolutely be two natures in Jesus. Thereupon, a numerous council was Edition: current; Page: [319] held at Ephesus in 449, and the argument made use of was the cudgel, as in the lesser council of Cirta, in 355, and in a certain conference held at Carthage. Flavian’s nature was well thrashed, and two natures were assigned to Jesus. At the Council of Chalcedon, in 451, Jesus was again reduced to one nature.

I pass by councils held on less weighty questions, and come to the sixth general Council of Constantinople, assembled to ascertain precisely whether Jesus—who, after having for a long period had but one nature, was then possessed of two—had also two wills. It is obvious how important this knowledge is to doing the will of God.

This council was convoked by Constantine the Bearded, as all the others had been by the preceding emperors. The legates from the bishop of Rome were on the left hand, and the patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch on the right. The trainbearers at Rome may, for aught I know, assert that the left hand is the place of honor. However, the result was that Jesus obtained two wills.

The Mosaic law forbade images. Painters and sculptors had never made their fortunes among the Jews. We do not find that Jesus ever had any pictures, excepting perhaps that of Mary, painted by Luke. It is, however, certain that Jesus Christ nowhere recommends the worship of images. Nevertheless the primitive Christians began to worship them about the end of the fourth century, when they had become familiar with the fine arts. In the Edition: current; Page: [320] eighth century this abuse had arrived at such a pitch that Constantine Copronymus assembled, at Constantinople, a council of three hundred and twenty bishops, who anathematized image-worship, and declared it to be idolatry.

The empress Irene, the same who afterwards had her son’s eyes torn out, convoked the second Council of Nice in 787, when the adoration of images was re-established. But in 794 Charlemagne had another council held at Frankfort, which declared the second of Nice idolatrous. Pope Adrian IV. sent two legates to it, but he did not convoke it.

The first great council convoked by a pope was the first of Lateran, in 1139; there were about a thousand bishops assembled; but scarcely anything was done, except that all those were anathematized who said that the Church was too rich. In 1179, another great council of Lateran was held by Alexander III., in which the cardinals, for the first time, took precedence of the bishops. The discussions were confined to matters of discipline. In another great council of Lateran, in 1215, Pope Innocent III. stripped the count of Toulouse of all his possessions, by virtue of his excommunication. It was then that the first mention was made of transubstantiation.

In 1245, was held a general council at Lyons, then an imperial city, in which Pope Innocent IV. excommunicated the emperor Frederick II., and consequently deposed him, and forbade him the use Edition: current; Page: [321] of fire and water. On this occasion, a red hat was given to the cardinals, to remind them that they must imbrue their hands in the blood of the emperor’s partisans. This council was the cause of the destruction of the house of Suabia, and of thirty years of anarchy in Italy and Germany.

In a general council held at Vienne, in Dauphiny, in 1311, the Order of the Templars was abolished: its principal members having been condemned to the most horrible deaths, on charges most imperfectly established. The great Council of Constance, in 1414, contented itself with dismissing Pope John XXIII., convicted of a thousand crimes, but had John Huss and Jerome of Prague burned for being obstinate; obstinacy being a much more grievous crime than either murder, rape, simony, or sodomy. In 1430 was held the great council of Basel, not recognized at Rome because it deposed Pope Eugenius IV., who would not be deposed. The Romans reckon among the general councils the fifth Council of Lateran, convoked against Louis XII., king of France, by Pope Julius II.; but that war-like pope dying, the council had no result.

Lastly, we have the great Council of Trent, which is not received in France in matters of discipline; but its doctrine is indisputable, since, as Fra Paolo Sarpi tells us, the Holy Ghost arrived at Trent from Rome every week in the courier’s bag. But Fra Paolo Sarpi was a little tainted with heresy.

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Voltaire’s Arrest
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Voltaire’s Arrest at Frankfort Frontispiece
Francis I. and His Sister 286
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According to our custom, we confine ourselves on this subject to the statement of a few queries which we cannot resolve. Has a Jew a country? If he is born at Coimbra, it is in the midst of a crowd of ignorant and absurd persons, who will dispute with him, and to whom he makes foolish answers, if he dare reply at all. He is surrounded by inquisitors, who would burn him if they knew that he declined to eat bacon, and all his wealth would belong to them. Is Coimbra his country? Can he exclaim, like the Horatii in Corneille:

  • Mourir pour la patrie est un si digne sort
  • Qu’on briguerait en foule, une si belle mort.
  • So high his meed who for his country dies,
  • Men should contend to gain the glorious prize.

He might as well exclaim, “fiddlestick!” Again! is Jerusalem his country? He has probably heard of his ancestors of old; that they had formerly inhabited a sterile and stony country, which is bordered by a horrible desert, of which little country the Turks are at present masters, but derive little or nothing from it. Jerusalem is, therefore, not his country. In short, he has no country: there is Edition: current; Page: [6] not a square foot of land on the globe which belongs to him.

The Gueber, more ancient, and a hundred times more respectable than the Jew, a slave of the Turks, the Persians, or the Great Mogul, can he regard as his country the fire-altars which he raises in secret among the mountains? The Banian, the Armenian, who pass their lives in wandering through all the east, in the capacity of money-brokers, can they exclaim, “My dear country, my dear country”—who have no other country than their purses and their account-books?

Among the nations of Europe, all those cutthroats who let out their services to hire, and sell their blood to the first king who will purchase it—have they a country? Not so much so as a bird of prey, who returns every evening to the hollow of the rock where its mother built its nest! The monks—will they venture to say that they have a country? It is in heaven, they say. All in good time; but in this world I know nothing about one.

This expression, “my country,” how sounds it from the mouth of a Greek, who, altogether ignorant of the previous existence of a Miltiades, an Agesilaus, only knows that he is the slave of a janissary, who is the slave of an aga, who is the slave of a pasha, who is the slave of a vizier, who is the slave of an individual whom we call, in Paris, the Grand Turk?

What, then, is country?—Is it not, probably, a Edition: current; Page: [7] good piece of ground, in the midst of which the owner, residing in a well-built and commodious house, may say: “This field which I cultivate, this house which I have built, is my own; I live under the protection of laws which no tyrant can infringe. When those who, like me, possess fields and houses assemble for their common interests, I have a voice in such assembly. I am a part of the whole, one of the community, a portion of the sovereignty: behold my country!” What cannot be included in this description too often amounts to little beyond studs of horses under the command of a groom, who employs the whip at his pleasure. People may have a country under a good king, but never under a bad one.


A young pastry-cook who had been to college, and who had mustered some phrases from Cicero, gave himself airs one day about loving his country. “What dost thou mean by country?” said a neighbor to him. “Is it thy oven? Is it the village where thou wast born, which thou hast never seen, and to which thou wilt never return? Is it the street in which thy father and mother reside? Is it the town hall, where thou wilt never become so much as a clerk or an alderman? Is it the church of Notre Dame, in which thou hast not been able to obtain a place among the boys of the choir, although a very silly person, who is archbishop and duke, obtains Edition: current; Page: [8] from it an annual income of twenty-four thousand louis d’or?”

The young pastry-cook knew not how to reply; and a person of reflection, who overheard the conversation, was led to infer that a country of moderate extent may contain many millions of men who have no country at all. And thou, voluptuous Parisian, who hast never made a longer voyage than to Dieppe, to feed upon fresh sea-fish—who art acquainted only with thy splendid town-house, thy pretty villa in the country, thy box at that opera which all the world makes it a point to feel tiresome but thyself—who speakest thy own language agreeably enough, because thou art ignorant of every other; thou lovest all this, no doubt, as well as thy brilliant champagne from Rheims, and thy rents, payable every six months; and loving these, thou dwellest upon thy love for thy country.

Speaking conscientiously, can a financier cordially love his country? Where was the country of the duke of Guise, surnamed Balafré—at Nancy, at Paris, at Madrid, or at Rome? What country had your cardinals Balue, Duprat, Lorraine, and Mazarin? Where was the country of Attila situated, or that of a hundred other heroes of the same kind, who, although eternally travelling, make themselves always at home? I should be much obliged to any one who would acquaint me with the country of Abraham.

The first who observed that every land is our Edition: current; Page: [9] country in which we “do well,” was, I believe, Euripides, in his “Phædo”:

  • Ὤς πανταχῶς γε πατρὶς Βοσχοῦσα γῆ.

The first man, however, who left the place of his birth to seek a greater share of welfare in another, said it before him.


A country is a composition of many families; and as a family is commonly supported on the principle of self-love, when, by an opposing interest, the same self-love extends to our town, our province, or our nation, it is called love of country. The greater a country becomes, the less we love it; for love is weakened by diffusion. It is impossible to love a family so numerous that all the members can scarcely be known.

He who is burning with ambition to be edile, tribune, prætor, consul, or dictator, exclaims that he loves his country, while he loves only himself. Every man wishes to possess the power of sleeping quietly at home, and of preventing any other man from possessing the power of sending him to sleep elsewhere. Every one would be certain of his property and his life. Thus, all forming the same wishes, the particular becomes the general interest. The welfare of the republic is spoken of, while all that is signified is love of self.

It is impossible that a state was ever formed on earth, which was not governed in the first instance Edition: current; Page: [10] as a republic: it is the natural march of human nature. On the discovery of America, all the people were found divided into republics; there were but two kingdoms in all that part of the world. Of a thousand nations, but two were found subjugated.

It was the same in the ancient world; all was republican in Europe before the little kinglings of Etruria and of Rome. There are yet republics in Africa: the Hottentots, towards the south, still live as people are said to have lived in the first ages of the world—free, equal, without masters, without subjects, without money, and almost without wants. The flesh of their sheep feeds them; they are clothed with their skins; huts of wood and clay form their habitations. They are the most dirty of all men, but they feel it not, but live and die more easily than we do. There remain eight republics in Europe without monarchs—Venice, Holland, Switzerland, Genoa, Lucca, Ragusa, Geneva, and San Marino. Poland, Sweden, and England may be regarded as republics under a king, but Poland is the only one of them which takes the name.

But which of the two is to be preferred for a country—a monarchy or a republic? The question has been agitated for four thousand years. Ask the rich, and they will tell you an aristocracy; ask the people, and they will reply a democracy; kings alone prefer royalty. Why, then, is almost all the earth governed by monarchs? Put that question to the rats who proposed to hang a bell around the cat’s Edition: current; Page: [11] neck. In truth, the genuine reason is, because men are rarely worthy of governing themselves.

It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot we must become the enemy of the rest of mankind. That good citizen, the ancient Cato, always gave it as his opinion, that Carthage must be destroyed: “Delenda est Carthago.” To be a good patriot is to wish our own country enriched by commerce, and powerful by arms; but such is the condition of mankind, that to wish the greatness of our own country is often to wish evil to our neighbors. He who could bring himself to wish that his country should always remain as it is, would be a citizen of the universe.


Of Time and Place.

A Roman in Egypt very unfortunately killed a consecrated cat, and the infuriated people punished this sacrilege by tearing him to pieces. If this Roman had been carried before the tribunal, and the judges had possessed common sense, he would have been condemned to ask pardon of the Egyptians and the cats, and to pay a heavy fine, either in money or mice. They would have told him that he ought to respect the follies of the people, since he was not strong enough to correct them.

The venerable chief justice should have spoken to him in this manner: “Every country has its legal impertinences, and its offences of time and Edition: current; Page: [12] place. If in your Rome, which has become the sovereign of Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor, you were to kill a sacred fowl, at the precise time that you give it grain in order to ascertain the just will of the gods, you would be severely punished. We believe that you have only killed our cat accidentally. The court admonishes you. Go in peace, and be more circumspect in future.”

It seems a very indifferent thing to have a statue in our hall; but if, when Octavius, surnamed Augustus, was absolute master, a Roman had placed in his house the statue of Brutus, he would have been punished as seditious. If a citizen, under a reigning emperor, had the statue of the competitor to the empire, it is said that it was accounted a crime of high treason.

An Englishman, having nothing to do, went to Rome, where he met Prince Charles Edward at the house of a cardinal. Pleased at the incident, on his return he drank in a tavern to the health of Prince Charles Edward, and was immediately accused of high treason. But whom did he highly betray in wishing the prince well? If he had conspired to place him on the throne, then he would have been guilty towards the nation; but I do not see that the most rigid justice of parliament could require more from him than to drink four cups to the health of the house of Hanover, supposing he had drunk two to the house of Stuart.

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Of Crimes of Time and Place, which Ought to Be Concealed.

It is well known how much our Lady of Loretto ought to be respected in the March of Ancona. Three young people happened to be joking on the house of our lady, which has travelled through the air to Dalmatia; which has two or three times changed its situation, and has only found itself comfortable at Loretto. Our three scatterbrains sang a song at supper, formerly made by a Huguenot, in ridicule of the translation of the santa casa of Jerusalem to the end of the Adriatic Gulf. A fanatic, having heard by chance what passed at their supper, made strict inquiries, sought witnesses, and engaged a magistrate to issue a summons. This proceeding alarmed all consciences. Every one trembled in speaking of it. Chambermaids, vergers, innkeepers, lackeys, servants, all heard what was never said, and saw what was never done: there was an uproar, a horrible scandal throughout the whole March of Ancona. It was said, half a league from Loretto, that these youths had killed our lady; and a league farther, that they had thrown the santa casa into the sea. In short, they were condemned. The sentence was, that their hands should be cut off, and their tongues be torn out; after which they were to be put to the torture, to learn—at least by signs—how many couplets there were in the song. Finally, they were to be burnt to death by a slow fire.

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An advocate of Milan, who happened to be at Loretto at this time, asked the principal judge to what he would have condemned these boys if they had violated their mother, and afterwards killed and eaten her? “Oh!” replied the judge, “there is a great deal of difference; to assassinate and devour their father and mother is only a crime against men.” “Have you an express law,” said the Milanese, “which obliges you to put young people scarcely out of their nurseries to such a horrible death, for having indiscreetly made game of the santa casa, which is contemptuously laughed at all over the world, except in the March of Ancona?” “No,” said the judge, “the wisdom of our jurisprudence leaves all to our discretion.” “Very well, you ought to have discretion enough to remember that one of these children is the grandson of a general who has shed his blood for his country, and the nephew of an amiable and respectable abbess; the youth and his companions are giddy boys, who deserve paternal correction. You tear citizens from the state, who might one day serve it; you imbrue yourself in innocent blood, and are more cruel than cannibals. You will render yourselves execrable to posterity. What motive has been powerful enough, thus to extinguish reason, justice, and humanity in your minds, and to change you into ferocious beasts?” The unhappy judge at last replied: “We have been quarrelling with the clergy of Ancona; they accuse us of being too zealous for the liberties Edition: current; Page: [15] of the Lombard Church, and consequently of having no religion.” “I understand, then,” said the Milanese, “that you have made yourselves assassins to appear Christians.” At these words the judge fell to the ground, as if struck by a thunderbolt; and his brother judges having been since deprived of office, they cry out that injustice is done them. They forget what they have done, and perceive not that the hand of God is upon them.

For seven persons legally to amuse themselves by making an eighth perish on a public scaffold by blows from iron bars; take a secret and malignant pleasure in witnessing his torments; speak of it afterwards at table with their wives and neighbors; for the executioners to perform this office gaily, and joyously anticipate their reward; for the public to run to this spectacle as to a fair—all this requires that a crime merit this horrid punishment in the opinion of all well-governed nations, and, as we here treat of universal humanity, that it is necessary to the well-being of society. Above all, the actual perpetration should be demonstrated beyond contradiction. If against a hundred thousand probabilities that the accused be guilty there is a single one that he is innocent, that alone should balance all the rest.

Query: Are Two Witnesses Enough to Condemn a Man to be Hanged?

It has been for a long time imagined, and the proverb assures us, that two witnesses are enough to Edition: current; Page: [16] hang a man, with a safe conscience. Another ambiguity! The world, then, is to be governed by equivoques. It is said in St. Matthew that two or three witnesses will suffice to reconcile two divided friends; and after this text has criminal jurisprudence been regulated, so far as to decree that by divine law a citizen may be condemned to die on the uniform deposition of two witnesses who may be villains? It has been already said that a crowd of according witnesses cannot prove an improbable thing when denied by the accused. What, then, must be done in such a case? Put off the judgment for a hundred years, like the Athenians!

We shall here relate a striking example of what passed under our eyes at Lyons. A woman suddenly missed her daughter; she ran everywhere in search of her in vain, and at length suspected a neighbor of having secreted the girl, and of having caused her violation. Some weeks after some fishermen found a female drowned, and in a state of putrefaction, in the Rhone at Condmeux. The woman of whom we have spoken immediately believed that it was her daughter. She was persuaded by the enemies of her neighbor that the latter had caused the deceased to be dishonored, strangled, and thrown into the Rhone. She made this accusation publicly, and the populace repeated it; persons were found who knew the minutest circumstances of the crime. The rumor ran through all the town, and all mouths cried out for vengeance. Edition: current; Page: [17] There is nothing more common than this in a populace without judgment; but here follows the most prodigious part of the affair. This neighbor’s own son, a child of five years and a half old, accused his mother of having caused the unhappy girl who was found in the Rhone to be violated before his eyes, and to be held by five men, while the sixth committed the crime. He had heard the words which pronounced her violated; he painted her attitudes; he saw his mother and these villains strangle this unfortunate girl after the consummation of the act. He also saw his mother and the assassins throw her into a well, draw her out of it, wrap her up in a cloth, carry her about in triumph, dance round the corpse, and, at last, throw her into the Rhone. The judges were obliged to put all the pretended accomplices deposed against in chains. The child is again heard, and still maintains, with the simplicity of his age, all that he had said of them and of his mother. How could it be imagined that this child had not spoken the pure truth? The crime was not probable, but it was still less so that a child of the age of five years and a half should thus calumniate his mother, and repeat with exactness all the circumstances of an abominable and unheard-of crime; if he had not been the eye-witness of it, and been overcome with the force of the truth, such things would not have been wrung from him.

Every one expected to feast his eyes on the Edition: current; Page: [18] torment of the accused; but what was the end of this strange criminal process? There was not a word of truth in the accusation. There was no girl violated, no young men assembled at the house of the accused, no murder, not the least transaction of the sort, nor the least noise. The child had been suborned; and by whom? Strange, but true, by two other children, who were the sons of the accused. He had been on the point of burning his mother to get some sweetmeats.

The heads of the accusation were clearly incompatible. The sage and enlightened court of judicature, after having yielded to the public fury so far as to seek every possible testimony for and against the accused, fully and unanimously acquitted them. Formerly, perhaps, this innocent prisoner would have been broken on the wheel, or judicially burned, for the pleasure of supplying an execution—the tragedy of the mob.


Criminal Prosecution.

Very innocent actions have been frequently punished with death. Thus in England, Richard III., and Edward IV., effected by the judges the condemnation of those whom they suspected of disaffection. Such are not criminal processes; they are assassinations committed by privileged murderers. It is the last degree of abuse to make the laws the instruments of injustice.

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It is said that the Athenians punished with death every stranger who entered their areopagus or sovereign tribunal. But if this stranger was actuated by mere curiosity, nothing was more cruel than to take away his life. It is observed, in “The Spirit of Laws,” that this vigor was exercised, “because he usurped the rights of a citizen.”

But a Frenchman in London who goes to the House of Commons to hear the debates, does not aspire to the rights of a citizen. He is received with politeness. If any splenetic member calls for the clearing of the house, the traveller clears it by withdrawing; he is not hanged. It is probable that, if the Athenians passed this temporary law, it was at a time when it was suspected that every stranger might be a spy, and not from the fear that he would arrogate to himself the rights of citizenship. Every Athenian voted in his tribe; all the individuals in the tribe knew each other; no stranger could have put in his bean.

We speak here only of a real criminal prosecution, and among the Romans every criminal prosecution was public. The citizen accused of the most enormous crimes had an advocate who pleaded in his presence; who even interrogated the adverse party; who investigated everything before his judges. All the witnesses, for and against, were produced in open court; nothing was secret. Cicero pleaded for Milo, who had assassinated Clodius, in the presence of a thousand citizens. The same Cicero Edition: current; Page: [20] undertook the defence of Roscius Amerinus, accused of parricide. A single judge did not in secret examine witnesses, generally consisting of the dregs of the people, who may be influenced at pleasure.

A Roman citizen was not put to the torture at the arbitrary order of another Roman citizen, invested with this cruel authority by purchase. That horrible outrage against humanity was not perpetrated on the persons of those who were regarded as the first of men, but only on those of their slaves, scarcely regarded as men. It would have been better not to have employed torture, even against slaves.

The method of conducting a criminal prosecution at Rome accorded with the magnanimity and liberality of the nation. It is nearly the same in London. The assistance of an advocate is never in any case refused. Every one is judged by his peers. Every citizen has the power, out of thirty-six jurymen sworn, to challenge twelve without reasons, twelve with reasons, and, consequently, of choosing his judges in the remaining twelve. The judges cannot deviate from or go beyond the law. No punishment is arbitrary. No judgment can be executed before it has been reported to the king, who may, and who ought to bestow pardon on those who are deserving of it, and to whom the law cannot extend it. This case frequently occurs. A man outrageously wronged kills the offender under the impulse of venial passion; he is condemned by the Edition: current; Page: [21] rigor of the law, and saved by that mercy which ought to be the prerogative of the sovereign.

It deserves particular remark that in the same country where the laws are as favorable to the accused as they are terrible for the guilty, not only is false imprisonment in ordinary cases punished by heavy damages and severe penalties, but if an illegal imprisonment has been ordered by a minister of state, under color of royal authority, that minister may be condemned to pay damages corresponding to the imprisonment.

Proceedings in Criminal Cases Among Particular Nations.

There are countries in which criminal jurisprudence has been founded on the canon law, and even on the practice of the Inquisition, although that tribunal has long since been held in detestation there. The people in such countries still remain in a species of slavery. A citizen prosecuted by the king’s officer is at once immured in a dungeon, which is in itself a real punishment of perhaps an innocent man. A single judge, with his clerk, hears secretly and in succession, every witness summoned.

Let us here merely compare, in a few points, the criminal procedure of the Romans with that of a country of the west, which was once a Roman province. Among the Romans, witnesses were heard publicly in the presence of the accused, who might Edition: current; Page: [22] reply to them, and examine them himself, or through an advocate. This practice was noble and frank; it breathed of Roman magnanimity. In France, in many parts of Germany, everything is done in secret. This practice, established under Francis I., was authorized by the commissioners, who, in 1670, drew up the ordinance of Louis XIV. A mere mistake was the cause of it.

It was imagined, on reading the code “De Testibus” that the words, Testes intrare judicii secretum, signified that witnesses were examined in secret. But secretum here signifies the chambers of the judge. Intrare secretum to express speaking in secret, would not be Latin. This part of our jurisprudence was occasioned by a solecism. Witnesses were usually persons of the lowest class, and whom the judge, when closeted with them, might induce to say whatever he wished. These witnesses are examined a second time, always in secret, which is called, re-examination; and if, after re-examination, they retract their depositions, or vary them in essential circumstances, they are punished as false witnesses. Thus, when an upright man of weak understanding, and unused to express his ideas, is conscious that he has stated either too much or too little—that he has misunderstood the judge, or that the judge has misunderstood him—and revokes, in the spirit of justice, what he has advanced through incaution, he is punished as a felon. He is in this manner often compelled to persevere in false testimony, Edition: current; Page: [23] from the actual dread of being treated as a false witness.

The person accused exposes himself by flight to condemnation, whether the crime has been proved or not. Some jurisconsults, indeed, have wisely held that the contumacious person ought not to be condemned unless the crime were clearly established; but other lawyers have been of a contrary opinion: they have boldly affirmed that the flight of the accused was a proof of the crime; that the contempt which he showed for justice, by refusing to appear, merited the same chastisement as would have followed his conviction. Thus, according to the sect of lawyers which the judge may have embraced, an innocent man may be acquitted or condemned.

It is a great abuse in jurisprudence that people often assume as law the reveries and errors—sometimes cruel ones—of men destitute of all authority, who have laid down their own opinions as laws. In the reign of Louis XIV., two edicts were published in France, which apply equally to the whole kingdom. In the first, which refers to civil causes, the judges are forbidden to condemn in any suit, on default, when the demand is not proved; but in the second, which regulates criminal proceedings, it is not laid down that, in the absence of proof, the accused shall be acquitted. Singular circumstance! The law declares that a man proceeded against for a sum of money shall not be condemned, on default, Edition: current; Page: [24] unless the debt be proved; but, in cases affecting life, the profession is divided with respect to condemning a person for contumacy when the crime is not proved; and the law does not solve the difficulty.

Example Taken from the Condemnation of a Whole Family.

The following is an account of what happened to an unfortunate family, at the time when the mad fraternities of pretended penitents, in white robes and masks, had erected, in one of the principal churches of Toulouse, a superb monument to a young Protestant, who had destroyed himself, but who they pretended had been murdered by his father and mother for having abjured the reformed religion; at the time when the whole family of this Protestant, then revered as a martyr, were in irons, and a whole population, intoxicated by a superstition equally senseless and cruel, awaited with devout impatience the delight of seeing five or six persons of unblemished integrity expire on the rack or at the stake. At this dreadful period there resided near Castres a respectable man, also of the Protestant religion, of the name of Sirven, who exercised in that province the profession of a feudist. This man had three daughters. A woman who superintended the household of the bishop of Castres, proposed to bring to him Sirven’s second daughter, called Elizabeth, in order to make her a Catholic, Edition: current; Page: [25] apostolical and Roman. She is, in fact, brought. She is by him secluded with the female Jesuits, denominated the “lady teachers,” or the “black ladies.” They instruct her in what they know; they find her capacity weak, and impose upon her penances in order to inculcate doctrines which, with gentleness, she might have been taught. She becomes imbecile; the “black ladies” expel her; she returns to her parents; her mother, on making her change her linen, perceives that her person is covered with contusions; her imbecility increases; she becomes melancholy mad; she escapes one day from the house, while her father is some miles distant, publicly occupied in his business, at the seat of a neighboring nobleman. In short, twenty days after the flight of Elizabeth, some children find her drowned in a well, on January 4, 1761.

This was precisely the time when they were preparing to break Calas on the wheel at Toulouse. The word “parricide,” and what is worse, “Huguenot,” flies from mouth to mouth throughout the province. It was not doubted that Sirven, his wife, and his two daughters, had drowned the third, on a principle of religion.

It was the universal opinion that the Protestant religion positively required fathers and mothers to destroy such of their children as might wish to become Catholics. This opinion had taken such deep root in the minds even of magistrates themselves, hurried on unfortunately by the public clamor, that Edition: current; Page: [26] the Council and Church of Geneva were obliged to contradict the fatal error, and to send to the parliament of Toulouse an attestation upon oath that not only did Protestants not destroy their children, but that they were left masters of their whole property when they quitted their sect for another. It is known that, notwithstanding this attestation, Calas was broken on the wheel.

A country magistrate of the name of Londes, assisted by graduates as sagacious as himself, became eager to make every preparation for following up the example which had been furnished at Toulouse. A village doctor, equally enlightened with the magistrate, boldy affirmed, on inspecting the body after the expiration of eighteen days, that the young woman had been strangled, and afterwards thrown into the well. On this deposition the magistrate issued a warrant to apprehend the father, mother, and the two daughters. The family, justly terrified at the catastrophe of Calas, and agreeably to the advice of their friends, betook themselves instantly to flight; they travelled amidst snow during a rigorous winter, and, toiling over mountain after mountain, at length arrived at those of Switzerland. The daughter, who was married and pregnant, was prematurely delivered amidst surrounding ice.

The first intelligence this family received, after reaching a place of safety, was that the father and mother were condemned to be hanged; the two daughters to remain under the gallows during the Edition: current; Page: [27] execution of their mother, and to be reconducted by the executioner out of the territory, under pain of being hanged if they returned. Such is the lesson given to contumacy!

This judgment was equally absurd and abominable. If the father, in concert with his wife, had strangled his daughter, he ought to have been broken on the wheel, like Calas, and the mother to have been burned—at least, after having been strangled—because the practice of breaking women on the wheel is not yet the custom in the country of this judge. To limit the punishment to hanging in such a case, was an acknowledgment that the crime was not proved, and that in the doubt the halter was adopted to compromise for want of evidence. This sentence was equally repugnant to law and reason. The mother died of a broken heart, and the whole family, their property having been confiscated, would have perished through want, unless they had met with assistance.

We stop here to inquire whether there be any law and any reason that can justify such a sentence? We ask the judge, “What madness has urged you to condemn a father and a mother?” “It was because they fled,” he replies. “Miserable wretch, would you have had them remain to glut your insensate fury? Of what consequence could it be, whether they appeared in chains to plead before you, or whether in a distant land they lifted up their hands in an appeal to heaven against you? Could you not Edition: current; Page: [28] see the truth, which ought to have struck you, as well during their absence? Could you not see that the father was a league distant from his daughter, in the midst of twenty persons, when the unfortunate young woman withdrew from her mother’s protection? Could you be ignorant that the whole family were in search of her for twenty days and nights?” To this you answer by the words, contumacy, contumacy. What! because a man is absent, therefore must he be condemned to be hanged, though his innocence be manifest? It is the jurisprudence of a fool and a monster. And the life, the property, and the honor of citizens, are to depend upon this code of Iroquois!

The Sirven family for more than eight years dragged on their misfortunes, far from their native country. At length, the sanguinary superstition which disgraced Languedoc having been somewhat mitigated, and men’s minds becoming more enlightened, those who had befriended the Sirvens during their exile, advised them to return and demand justice from the parliament of Toulouse itself, now that the blood of Calas no longer smoked, and many repented of having ever shed it. The Sirvens were justified.

  • Erudimini, qui judicatis terram.
  • Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
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Cromwell is described as a man who was an impostor all his life. I can scarcely believe it. I conceive that he was first an enthusiast, and that he afterwards made his fanaticism instrumental to his greatness. An ardent novice at twenty often becomes an accomplished rogue at forty. In the great game of human life, men begin with being dupes, and end in becoming knaves. A statesman engages as his almoner a monk, entirely made up of the details of his convent, devout, credulous, awkward, perfectly new to the world; he acquires information, polish, finesse, and supplants his master.

Cromwell knew not, at first, whether he should become a churchman or a soldier. He partly became both. In 1622 he made a campaign in the army of the prince of Orange, Frederick Henry, a great man and the brother of two great men; and, on his return to England, engaged in the service of Bishop Williams, and was the chaplain of his lordship, while the bishop passed for his wife’s gallant. His principles were puritanical, which led him to cordially hate a bishop, and not to be partial to kingship. He was dismissed from the family of Bishop Williams because he was a Puritan; and thence the origin of his fortune. The English Parliament declared against monarchy and against episcopacy; some friends whom he had in that parliament procured Edition: current; Page: [30] him a country living. He might be said only now to have commenced his existence; he was more than forty before he acquired any distinction. He was master of the sacred Scriptures, disputed on the authority of priests and deacons, wrote some bad sermons, and some lampoons; but he was unknown. I have seen one of his sermons, which is insipid enough, and pretty much resembles the holdings forth of the Quakers; it is impossible to discover in it any trace of that power by which he afterwards swayed parliaments. The truth is, he was better fitted for the State than for the Church. It was principally in his tone and in his air that his eloquence consisted. An inclination of that hand which had gained so many battles, and killed so many royalists, was more persuasive than the periods of Cicero. It must be acknowledged that it was his incomparable valor that brought him into notice, and which conducted him gradually to the summit of greatness.

He commenced by throwing himself, as a volunteer and a soldier of fortune, into the town of Hull, besieged by the king. He there performed some brilliant and valuable services, for which he received a gratuity of about six thousand francs from the parliament. The present, bestowed by parliament upon an adventurer, made it clear that the rebel party must prevail. The king could not give to his general officers what the parliament gave to volunteers. With money and fanaticism, everything Edition: current; Page: [31] must in the end be mastered. Cromwell was made colonel. His great talents for war became then so conspicuous that, when the parliament created the earl of Manchester general of its forces, Cromwell was appointed lieutenant-general, without his having passed through the intervening ranks. Never did any man appear more worthy of command. Never was seen more activity and skill, more daring and more resources, than in Cromwell. He is wounded at the battle of York, and, while undergoing the first dressing, is informed that his commander, the earl of Manchester, is retreating, and the battle lost. He hastens to find the earl; discovers him flying, with some officers; catches him by the arm, and, in a firm and dignified tone, he exclaims: “My lord, you mistake; the enemy has not taken that road.” He reconducts him to the field of battle; rallies, during the night, more than twelve thousand men; harangues them in the name of God; cites Moses, Gideon, and Joshua; renews the battle at daybreak against the victorious royalist army, and completely defeats it. Such a man must either perish or obtain the mastery. Almost all the officers of his army were enthusiasts, who carried the New Testament on their saddle-bows. In the army, as in the parliament, nothing was spoken of but Babylon destroyed, building up the worship of Jerusalem, and breaking the image. Cromwell, among so many madmen, was no longer one himself, and thought it better to govern than to be governed Edition: current; Page: [32] by them. The habit of preaching, as by inspiration, remained with him. Figure to yourself a fakir, who, after putting an iron girdle round his loins in penance, takes it off to drub the ears of other fakirs. Such was Cromwell. He becomes as intriguing as he was intrepid. He associates with all the colonels of the army, and thus forms among the troops a republic which forces the commander to resign. Another commander is appointed, and him he disgusts. He governs the army, and through it he governs the parliament; which he at last compels to make him commander. All this is much; but the essential point is that he wins all the battles he fights in England, Scotland, and Ireland; and wins them, not consulting his own security while the fight rages, but always charging the enemy, rallying his troops, presenting himself everywhere, frequently wounded, killing with his own hands many royalist officers, like the fiercest soldier in the ranks.

In the midst of this dreadful war Cromwell made love; he went, with the Bible under his arm, to an assignation with the wife of his major-general, Lambert. She loved the earl of Holland, who served in the king’s army. Cromwell took him prisoner in battle, and had the pleasure of bringing his rival to the block. It was his maxim to shed the blood of every important enemy, in the field or by the hand of the executioner. He always increased his power by always daring to abuse it; the profoundness Edition: current; Page: [33] of his plans never lessened his ferocious impetuosity. He went to the House of Commons, and drove all the members out, one after another, making them defile before him. As they passed, each was obliged to make a profound reverence; one of them was passing on with his head covered; Cromwell seized his hat and threw it down. “Learn,” said he, “to respect me.”

When he had outraged all kings by beheading his own legitimate king, and he began himself to reign, he sent his portrait to one crowned head, Christina, queen of Sweden. Marvel, a celebrated English poet, who wrote excellent Latin verses, accompanied his portrait with six lines, in which he introduces Cromwell himself speaking; Cromwell corrected these two last verses:

  • At tibi submittit frontem reverentior umbra,
  • Non sunt hi vultus regibus usque truces.

The spirit of the whole six verses may be given thus:

  • Les armes à la main j’ai defendu les lois;
  • D’un peuple audacieux j’ai vengé la querelle.
  • Regardez sans frémir cette image fidèle:
  • Mon front n’est pas toujours l’épouvante des rois.
  • ’Twas mine by arms t’uphold my country’s laws;
  • My sword maintained a lofty people’s cause;
  • With less of fear these faithful outlines trace,
  • Menace of kings not always clouds my face.

This queen was the first to acknowledge him after he became protector of the three kingdoms. Almost all the sovereigns of Europe sent ambassadors to their brother Cromwell—to that domestic of Edition: current; Page: [34] a bishop, who had just brought to the scaffold a sovereign related to them. They emulously courted his alliance. Cardinal Mazarin, in order to please him, banished from France the two sons of Charles I., the two grandsons of Henry IV., and the two cousins-german of Louis XIV. France conquered Dunkirk for him, and the keys of it were delivered into his possession. After his death, Louis XIV. and his whole court went into mourning, except mademoiselle, who dared to appear in the circle in colors, and alone to maintain the honor of her race.

No king was ever more absolute than Cromwell. He would observe “that he had preferred governing under the name of protector rather than under that of king, because the English were aware of the limits of the prerogative of a king of England, but knew not the extent of that of a protector.” This was knowing mankind, who are governed by opinion, and whose opinion depends upon a name. He had conceived a profound contempt for the religion to which he owed his success. An anecdote, preserved in the St. John family, sufficiently proves the slight regard he attached to that instrument which had produced such mighty effects in his hands. He was drinking once in company with Ireton, Fleetwood, and St. John, great grandfather of the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke; a bottle of wine was to be uncorked, and the corkscrew fell under the table; they all looked for it, and were unable to find it. In the meantime a deputation Edition: current; Page: [35] from the Presbyterian churches awaited in the antechamber, and an usher announced them. “Tell them,” said Cromwell, “that I have retired, and that I am seeking the Lord.” This was the expression employed by the fanatics for going to prayers. Having dismissed the troop of divines, he thus addressed his companions: “Those fellows think we are seeking the Lord, while we are only seeking a corkscrew.”

There is scarcely any example in Europe of a man who, from so low a beginning, raised himself to such eminence. But with all his great talents, what did he consider absolutely essential to his happiness? Power he obtained; but was he happy? He had lived in poverty and disquiet till the age of forty-three; he afterwards plunged into blood, passed his life in trouble, and died prematurely, at the age of fifty-seven. With this life let any one compare that of a Newton, who lived fourscore years, always tranquil, always honored, always the light of all thinking beings; beholding every day an accession to his fame, his character, his fortune; completely free both from care and remorse; and let him decide whose was the happier lot.

  • O curas hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane!
  • O human cares! O mortal toil how vain!


Oliver Cromwell was regarded with admiration by the Puritans and Independents of England; he is still their hero. But Richard Cromwell, his son, Edition: current; Page: [36] is the man for me. The first was a fanatic who in the present day would be hissed down in the House of Commons, on uttering any one of the unintelligible absurdities which he delivered with such confidence before other fanatics who listened to him with open mouth and staring eyes, in the name of the Lord. If he were to say that they must seek the Lord, and fight the battles of the Lord—if he were to introduce the Jewish jargon into the parliament of England, to the eternal disgrace of the human understanding, he would be much more likely to be conducted to Bedlam than to be appointed the commander of armies.

Brave he unquestionably was—and so are wolves; there are even some monkeys as fierce as tigers. From a fanatic he became an able politician; in other words, from a wolf he became a fox, and the knave, craftily mounting from the first steps where the mad enthusiasm of the times had placed him, to the summit of greatness, walked over the heads of the prostrated fanatics. He reigned, but he lived in the horrors of alarm and had neither cheerful days nor tranquil nights. The consolations of friendship and society never approached him. He died prematurely, more deserving, beyond a doubt, of public execution than the monarch whom, from a window of his own palace, he caused to be led out to the scaffold.

Richard Cromwell, on the contrary, was gentle and prudent and refused to keep his father’s power Edition: current; Page: [37] at the expense of the lives of three or four factious persons whom he might have sacrificed to his ambition. He preferred becoming a private individual to being an assassin with supreme power. He relinquished the protectorship without regret, to live as a subject; and in the tranquillity of a country life he enjoyed health and possessed his soul in peace for ninety years, beloved by his neighbors, to whom he was a peacemaker and a father.

Say, reader, had you to choose between the destiny of the father and that of the son, which would you prefer?


Dion Cassius, that flatterer of Augustus and detractor from Cicero, because Cicero was the friend of liberty—that dry and diffuse writer and gazetteer of popular rumors, Dion Cassius, reports that certain senators were of opinion that in order to recompense Cæsar for all the evil which he had brought upon the commonwealth it would be right, at the age of fifty-seven, to allow him to honor with his favors all the ladies who took his fancy. Men are still found who credit this absurdity. Even the author of the “Spirit of Laws” takes it for a truth and speaks of it as of a decree which would have passed the Roman senate but for the modesty of the dictator, who suspected that he was not altogether prepared for the accession of so much good fortune. But if the Roman emperors attained not Edition: current; Page: [38] this right by a senatus-consultum, duly founded upon a plebiscitum, it is very likely that they fully enjoyed it by the courtesy of the ladies. The Marcus Aureliuses and the Julians, to be sure, exercised not this right, but all the rest extended it as widely as they were able.

It is astonishing that in Christian Europe a kind of feudal law for a long time existed, or at least it was deemed a customary usage, to regard the virginity of a female vassal as the property of the lord. The first night of the nuptials of the daughter of his villein belonged to him without dispute.

This right was established in the same manner as that of walking with a falcon on the fist, and of being saluted with incense at mass. The lords, indeed, did not enact that the wives of their villeins belonged to them; they confined themselves to the daughters, the reason of which is obvious. Girls are bashful and sometimes might exhibit reluctance. This, however, yielded at once to the majesty of the laws, when the condescending baron deemed them worthy the honor of personally enforcing their practice.

It is asserted that this curious jurisprudence commenced in Scotland, and I willingly believe that the Scotch lords had a still more absolute power over their clans than even the German and French barons over their vassals.

It is undoubted that some abbots and bishops enjoyed this privilege in their quality of temporal Edition: current; Page: [39] lords, and it is not very long since that these prelates compounded their prerogative for acknowledgments in money, to which they have just as much right as to the virginity of the girls.

But let it be well remarked that this excess of tyranny was never sanctioned by any public law. If a lord or a prelate had cited before a regular tribunal a girl affianced to one of his vassals, in claim of her quit-rent, he would doubtless have lost his cause and costs.

Let us seize this occasion to rest assured that no partially civilized people ever established formal laws against morals; I do not believe that a single instance of it can be furnished. Abuses creep in and are borne: they pass as customs and travellers mistake them for fundamental laws. It is said that in Asia greasy Mahometan saints march in procession entirely naked and that devout females crowd round them to kiss what is not worthy to be named, but I defy any one to discover a passage in the Koran which justifies this brutality.

The phallus, which the Egyptians carry in procession, may be quoted in order to confound me, as well as the idol Juggernaut, of the Indians. I reply that these ceremonies war no more against morals than circumcision at the age of eight days. In some of our towns the holy foreskin has been borne in procession, and it is preserved yet in certain sacristies without this piece of drollery causing the least disturbance in families. Still, I am convinced Edition: current; Page: [40] that no council or act of parliament ever ordained this homage to the holy foreskin.

I call a public law which deprives me of my property, which takes away my wife and gives her to another, a law against morals; and I am certain that such a law is impossible. Some travellers maintain that in Lapland husbands, out of politeness, make an offer of their wives. Out of still greater politeness, I believe them; but I nevertheless assert, that they never found this rule of good manners in the legal code of Lapland, any more than in the constitutions of Germany, in the ordinances of the king of France, or in the “Statutes at Large” of England, any positive law, adjudging the right of cuissage to the barons. Absurd and barbarous laws may be found everywhere; formal laws against morals nowhere.


A curate—but why do I say a curate?—even an imam, a talapoin, or brahmin ought to have the means of living decently. The priest in every country ought to be supported by the altar since he serves the public. Some fanatic rogue may assert that I place the curate and the brahmin on the same level and associate truth with imposture; but I compare only the services rendered to society, the labor, and the recompense.

I maintain that whoever exercises a laborious function ought to be well paid by his fellow-citizens. I do not assert that he ought to amass riches, sup Edition: current; Page: [41] with Lucullus, or be as insolent as Clodius. I pity the case of a country curate who is obliged to dispute a sheaf of corn with his parishioner; to plead against him; to exact from him the tenth of his peas and beans; to be hated and to hate, and to consume his miserable life in miserable quarrels which engross the mind as much as they embitter it.

I still more pity the inconsistent lot of a curate, whom monks, claiming the great tithes, audaciously reward with a salary of forty ducats per annum for undertaking, throughout the year, the labor of visiting for three miles round his abode, by day and by night, in hail, rain, or snow, the most disagreeable and often the most useless functions, while the abbot or great tithe-holder drinks his rich wine of Volney, Beaune, or Chambertin, eats his partridges and pheasants, sleeps upon his down bed with a fair neighbor, and builds a palace. The disproportion is too great.

It has been taken for granted since the days of Charlemagne that the clergy, besides their own lands, ought to possess a tenth of the lands of other people, which tenth is at least a quarter, computing the expense of culture. To establish this payment it is claimed on a principle of divine right. Did God descend on earth to give a quarter of His property to the abbey of Monte Cassino, to the abbey of St. Denis, to the abbey of Fulda? Not that I know, but it has been discovered that formerly, in the desert of Ethan, Horeb, and Kadesh Barnea, the Levites Edition: current; Page: [42] were favored with forty-eight cities and a tenth of all which the earth produced besides.

Very well, great tithe-holders, go to Kadesh Barnea and inhabit the forty-eight cities in that uninhabitable desert. Take the tenth of the flints which the land produces there, and great good may they do you. But Abraham having combated for Sodom, gave a tenth of the spoil to Melchizedek, priest and king of Salem. Very good, combat you also for Sodom, but, like Melchizedek, take not from me the produce of the corn which I have sowed.

In a Christian country containing twelve hundred thousand square leagues throughout the whole of the North, in part of Germany, in Holland, and in Switzerland, the clergy are paid with money from the public treasury. The tribunals resound not there with lawsuits between landlords and priests, between the great and the little tithe-holders, between the pastor, plaintiff, and the flock defendants, in consequence of the third Council of the Lateran, of which the said flocks defendant have never heard a syllable.

The king of Naples this year (1772) has just abolished tithes in one of his provinces: the clergy are better paid and the province blesses him. The Egyptian priests, it is said, claimed not this tenth, but then, it is observed that they possessed a third part of the land of Egypt as their own. Oh, stupendous miracle! oh, thing most difficult to be conceived, that possessing one-third of the country they did not quickly acquire the other two!

Edition: current; Page: [43]

Believe not, dear reader, that the Jews, who were a stiff-necked people, never complained of the extortion of the tenths, or tithe. Give yourself the trouble to consult the Talmud of Babylon, and if you understand not the Chaldæan, read the translation, with notes of Gilbert Gaumin, the whole of which was printed by the care of Fabricius. You will there peruse the adventure of a poor widow with the High Priest Aaron, and learn how the quarrel of this widow became the cause of the quarrel of Koran, Dathan, and Abiram, on the one side, and Aaron on the other.

“A widow possessed only a single sheep which she wished to shear. Aaron came and took the wool for himself: ‘It belongs to me,’ said he, ‘according to the law, thou shalt give the first of the wool to God.’ The widow, in tears, implored the protection of Koran. Koran applied to Aaron but his entreaties were fruitless. Aaron replies that the wool belongs to him. Koran gives some money to the widow and retires, filled with indignation.

“Some time after, the sheep produces a lamb. Aaron returns and carries away the lamb. The widow runs weeping again to Koran, who in vain implores Aaron. The high priest answers, ‘It is written in the law, every first-born male in thy flock belongs to God.’ He eats the lamb and Koran again retires in a rage.

“The widow, in despair, kills her sheep; Aaron returns once more and takes away the shoulder and Edition: current; Page: [44] the breast. Koran again complains. Aaron replies: ‘It is written, thou shalt give unto the priests the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw.’

“The widow could no longer contain her affliction and said, ‘Anathema,’ to the sheep, upon which Aaron observed, ‘It is written, all that is anathema (cursed) in Israel belongs to thee;’ and took away the sheep altogether.”

What is not so pleasant, yet very remarkable, is that in a suit between the clergy of Rheims and the citizens, this instance from the Talmud was cited by the advocate of the citizens. Gaumin asserts that he witnessed it. In the meantime it may be answered that the tithe-holders do not take all from the people, the tax-gatherers will not suffer it. To every one his share is just.


  • Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis,
  • E terra magnum alterius spectare laborem;
  • Non quia vexari quemquam est jucunda voluptas,
  • Sed quibus ipse malis careas, quia cernere suave est.
  • Suave etiam belli certamina magna tueri
  • Per campos instructa tua sine parte pericli;
  • Sed nil dulcius est, bene quam munita tenere
  • Edita doctrina sapientum templa serena
  • Despicere unde queas alios, passimque videre
  • Errare, atque viam palantes quaerere vitae,
  • Certare ingenio, contendere nobilitate,
  • Noctes atque dies niti praestante labore
  • Ad summas emergere opes, rerumque potiri.
  • O miseras hominum mentes! O pectora caeca!
  • ’Tis pleasant, when the seas are rough, to stand
  • And view another’s danger, safe at land;
  • Not ’cause he’s troubled, but ’tis sweet to see
  • Those cares and fears, from which ourselves are free;
  • Edition: current; Page: [45]
  • ’Tis also pleasant to behold from far
  • How troops engage, secure ourselves from war.
  • But, above all, ’tis pleasantest to get
  • The top of high philosophy, and set
  • On the calm, peaceful, flourishing head of it;
  • Whence we may view, deep, wondrous deep below,
  • How poor mistaken mortals wandering go,
  • Seeking the path to happiness; some aim
  • At learning, not nobility, or fame;
  • Others, with cares and dangers vie each hour
  • To reach the top of wealth and sovereign power.
  • Blind, wretched man, in what dark paths of strife
  • We walk this little journey of our life.
  • Creech’s Lucretius.

I ask your pardon, Lucretius! I suspect that you are here as mistaken in morals as you are always mistaken in physics. In my opinion it is curiosity alone that induces people to hasten to the shore to see a vessel in danger of being overwhelmed in a tempest. The case has happened to myself, and I solemnly assure you that my pleasure, mingled as it was with uneasiness and distress, did not at all arise from reflection, nor originate in any secret comparison between my own security and the danger of the unfortunate crew. I was moved by curiosity and pity.

At the battle of Fontenoy little boys and girls climbed up the surrounding trees to have a view of the slaughter. Ladies ordered seats to be placed for them on a bastion of the city of Liège that they might enjoy the spectacle at the battle of Rocoux.

When I said, “Happy they who view in peace the gathering storm,” the happiness I had in view consists in tranquillity and the search of truth, and not in seeing the sufferings of thinking beings, oppressed Edition: current; Page: [46] by fanatics or hypocrites under persecution for having sought it.

Could we suppose an angel flying on six beautiful wings from the height of the Empyrean, setting out to take a view through some loophole of hell of the torments and contortions of the damned, and congratulating himself on feeling nothing of their inconceivable agonies, such an angel would much resemble the character of Beelzebub.

I know nothing of the nature of angels because I am only a man; divines alone are acquainted with them; but, as a man, I think, from my own experience and also from that of all my brother drivellers, that people do not flock to any spectacle, of whatever kind, but from pure curiosity.

This seems to me so true that if the exhibition be ever so admirable men at last get tired of it. The Parisian public scarcely go any longer to see “Tartuffe,” the most masterly of Molière’s masterpieces. Why is it? Because they have gone often; because they have it by heart. It is the same with “Andromache.”

Perrin Dandin is unfortunately right when he proposes to the young Isabella to take her to see the method of “putting to the torture;” it serves, he says, to pass away an hour or two. If this anticipation of the execution, frequently more cruel than the execution itself, were a public spectacle, the whole city of Toulouse would have rushed in crowds to behold the venerable Calas twice suffering those Edition: current; Page: [47] execrable torments, at the instance of the attorney-general. Penitents, black, white, and gray, married women, girls, stewards of the floral games, students, lackeys, female servants, girls of the town, doctors of the canon law would have been all squeezed together. At Paris we must have been almost suffocated in order to see the unfortunate General Lally pass along in a dung cart, with a six-inch gag in his mouth.

But if these tragedies of cannibals, which are sometimes performed before the most frivolous of nations, and the one most ignorant in general of the principles of jurisprudence and equity; if the spectacles, like those of St. Bartholomew, exhibited by tigers to monkeys and the copies of it on a smaller scale were renewed every day, men would soon desert such a country; they would fly from it with horror; they would abandon forever the infernal land where such barbarities were common.

When little boys and girls pluck the feathers from their sparrows it is merely from the impulse of curiosity, as when they dissect the dresses of their dolls. It is this passion alone which produces the immense attendance at public executions. “Strange eagerness,” as some tragic author remarks, “to behold the wretched.”

I remember being in Paris when Damiens suffered a death the most elaborate and frightful that can be conceived. All the windows in the city which bore upon the spot were engaged at a high price by Edition: current; Page: [48] ladies, not one of whom, assuredly, made the consoling reflection that her own breasts were not torn by pincers; that melted lead and boiling pitch were not poured upon wounds of her own, and that her own limbs, dislocated and bleeding, were not drawn asunder by four horses. One of the executioners judged more correctly than Lucretius, for, when one of the academicians of Paris tried to get within the enclosure to examine what was passing more closely, and was forced back by one of the guards, “Let the gentleman go in,” said he, “he is an amateur.” That is to say, he is inquisitive; it is not through malice that he comes here; it is not from any reflex consideration of self to revel in the pleasure of not being himself quartered; it is only from curiosity, as men go to see experiments in natural philosophy.

Curiosity is natural to man, to monkeys, and to little dogs. Take a little dog with you in your carriage, he will continually be putting up his paws against the door to see what is passing. A monkey searches everywhere, and has the air of examining everything. As to men, you know how they are constituted: Rome, London, Paris, all pass their time in inquiring what’s the news?


There are, it is said, one hundred and forty-four customs in France which possess the force of law.

These laws are almost all different in different Edition: current; Page: [49] places. A man that travels in this country changes his law almost as often as he changes his horses. The majority of these customs were not reduced to writing until the time of Charles VII., the reason of which probably was that few people knew how to write. They then copied a part of the customs of a part of Ponthieu, but this great work was not aided by the Picards until Charles VIII. There were but sixteen digests in the time of Louis XII., but our jurisprudence is so improved there are now but few customs which have not a variety of commentators, all of whom are of different opinions. There are already twenty-six upon the customs of Paris. The judges know not which to prefer, but, to put them at their ease the custom of Paris has been just turned into verse. It was in this manner that the Delphian pythoness of old declared her oracles.

Weights and measures differ as much as customs, so that which is correct in the faubourg of Montmartre, is otherwise in the abbey of St. Denis. The Lord pity us!


Many learned men, and Rollin among the number, in an age in which reason is cultivated, have assured us that Javan, who is supposed to be the father of the Greeks, was the grandson of Noah. I believe it precisely as I believe that Persius was the founder of the kingdom of Persia and Niger of Edition: current; Page: [50] Nigritia. The only thing which grieves me is that the Greeks have never known anything of Noah, the venerable author of their race. I have elsewhere noted my astonishment and chagrin that our father Adam should be absolutely unknown to everybody from Japan to the Strait of Le Maire, except to a small people to whom he was known too late. The science of genealogy is doubtless in the highest degree certain, but exceedingly difficult.

It is neither upon Javan, upon Noah, nor upon Adam that my doubts fall at present; it is upon Cyrus, and I seek not which of the fables in regard to him is preferable, that of Herodotus, of Ctesias, of Xenophon, of Diodorus, or of Justin, all of which contradict one another. Neither do I ask why it is obstinately determined to give the name of Cyrus to a barbarian called Khosrou, and those of Cyropolis and Persepolis to cities that never bore them.

I drop all that has been said of the grand Cyrus, including the romance of that name, and the travels which the Scottish Ramsay made him undertake, and simply inquire into some instructions of his to the Jews, of which that people make mention.

I remark, in the first place, that no author has said a word of the Jews in the history of Cyrus, and that the Jews alone venture to notice themselves, in speaking of this prince.

They resemble, in some degree, certain people, who, alluding to individuals of a rank superior to their own say, we know the gentlemen but the gentlemen Edition: current; Page: [51] know not us. It is the same with Alexander in the narratives of the Jews. No historian of Alexander has mixed up his name with that of the Jews, but Josephus fails not to assert that Alexander came to pay his respects at Jerusalem; that he worshipped, I know not what Jewish pontiff, called Jaddus, who had formerly predicted to him the conquest of Persia in a dream. Petty people are often visionary in this way: the great dream less of their greatness.

When Tarik conquered Spain the vanquished said they had foretold it. They would have said the same thing to Genghis, to Tamerlane, and to Mahomet II.

God forbid that I should compare the Jewish prophets to the predictors of good fortune, who pay their court to conquerors by foretelling them that which has come to pass. I merely observe that the Jews produce some testimony from their nation in respect to the actions of Cyrus about one hundred and sixty years before he was born.

It is said, in the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord to His anointed—His Christ—Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him, and I will loosen the loins of kings to open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut. I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron. And I will give thee the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places that thou Edition: current; Page: [52] mayest know that I the Lord, who call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel,” etc.

Some learned men have scarcely been able to digest the fact of the Lord honoring with the name of His Christ an idolater of the religion of Zoroaster. They even dare to say that the Jews, in the manner of all the weak who flatter the powerful, invented predictions in favor of Cyrus.

These learned persons respect Daniel no more than Isaiah, but treat all the prophecies attributed to the latter with similar contempt to that manifested by St. Jerome for the adventures of Susannah, of Bel and the Dragon, and of the three children in the fiery furnace.

The sages in question seem not to be penetrated with sufficient esteem for the prophets. Many of them even pretend that to see clearly the future is metaphysically impossible. To see that which is not, say they, is a contradiction in terms, and as the future exists not, it consequently cannot be seen. They add that frauds of this nature abound in all nations, and, finally, that everything is to be doubted which is recorded in ancient history.

They observe that if there was ever a formal prophecy it is that of the discovery of America in the tragedy of Seneca:

  • Venient annis
  • Sæcula seris quibus oceanus
  • Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
  • Pateat tellus, . . . .

A time may arrive when ocean will loosen the Edition: current; Page: [53] chains of nature and lay open a vast world. The four stars of the southern pole are advanced still more clearly in Dante, yet no one takes either Seneca or Dante for diviners.

As to Cyrus, it is difficult to know whether he died nobly or had his head cut off by Tomyris, but I am anxious, I confess, that the learned men may be right who claim the head of Cyrus was cut off. It is not amiss that these illustrious robbers on the highway of nations who pillage and deluge the earth with blood, should be occasionally chastised.

Cyrus has always been the subject of remark, Xenophon began and, unfortunately, Ramsay ended. Lastly, to show the sad fate which sometimes attends heroes, Danchet has made him the subject of a tragedy.

This tragedy is entirely unknown; the “Cyropædia” of Xenophon is more popular because it is in Greek. The “Travels of Cyrus” are less so, although printed in French and English, and wonderfully erudite.

The pleasantry of the romance entitled “The Travels of Cyrus,” consists in its discovery of a Messiah everywhere—at Memphis, at Babylon, at Ecbatana, and at Tyre, as at Jerusalem, and as much in Plato as in the gospel. The author having been a Quaker, an Anabaptist, an Anglican, and a Presbyterian, had finally become a Fénelonist at Cambray, under the illustrious author of “Telemachus.” Having since been made preceptor to the child of a great Edition: current; Page: [54] nobleman, he thought himself born to instruct and govern the universe, and, in consequence, gives lessons to Cyrus in order to render him at once the best king and the most orthodox theologian in existence. These two rare qualities appear to lack the grace of congruity.

Ramsay leads his pupil to the school of Zoroaster and then to that of the young Jew, Daniel, the greatest philosopher who ever existed. He not only explained dreams, which is the acme of human science, but discovered and interpreted even such as had been forgotten, which none but he could ever accomplish. It might be expected that Daniel would present the beautiful Susannah to the prince, it being in the natural manner of romance, but he did nothing of the kind.

Cyrus, in return, has some very long conversations with Nebuchadnezzar while he was an ox, during which transformation Ramsay makes Nebuchadnezzar ruminate like a profound theologian.

How astonishing that the prince for whom this work was composed preferred the chase and the opera to perusing it!


You wish to become acquainted with Dante. The Italians call him divine, but it is a mysterious divinity; few men understand his oracles, and although there are commentators, that may be an additional Edition: current; Page: [55] reason why he is little comprehended. His reputation will last because he is little read. Twenty pointed things in him are known by rote, which spare people the trouble of being acquainted with the remainder.

The divine Dante was an unfortunate person. Imagine not that he was divine in his own day; no one is a prophet at home. It is true he was a prior—not a prior of monks, but a prior of Florence, that is to say, one of its senators.

He was born in 1260, when the arts began to flourish in his native land. Florence, like Athens, abounded in greatness, wit, levity, inconstancy, and faction. The white faction was in great credit; it was called after a Signora Bianca. The opposing party was called the blacks, in contradistinction. These two parties sufficed not for the Florentines; they had also Guelphs and Ghibellines. The greater part of the whites were Ghibellines, attached to the party of the emperors; the blacks, on the other hand, sided with the Guelphs, the partisans of the popes.

All these factions loved liberty, but did all they could to destroy it. Pope Boniface VIII. wished to profit by these divisions in order to annihilate the power of the emperors in Italy. He declared Charles de Valois, brother of Philip the Fair, king of France, his vicar in Italy. The vicar came well armed and chased away the whites and the Ghibellines and made himself detested by blacks and Guelphs. Dante was a white and a Ghibelline; he was driven away Edition: current; Page: [56] among the first and his house razed to the ground. We may judge if he could be for the remainder of his life, favorable towards the French interest and to the popes. It is said, however, that he took a journey to Paris, and, to relieve his chagrin turned theologian and disputed vigorously in the schools. It is added that the emperor Henry VIII. did nothing for him, Ghibelline as he was, and that he repaired to Frederick of Aragon, king of Sicily, and returned as poor as he went. He subsequently died in poverty at Ravenna at the age of fifty-six. It was during these various peregrinations that he composed his divine comedy of “Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.”

[Voltaire here enters into a description of the “Inferno,” which it is unnecessary to insert, after the various translations into English. The conclusion, however, exhibiting our author’s usual vivacity, is retained.]

Is all this in the comic style? No. In the heroic manner? No. What then is the taste of this poem? An exceedingly wild one, but it contains verses so happy and piquant that it has not lain dormant for four centuries and never will be laid aside. A poem, moreover, which puts popes into hell excites attention, and the sagacity of commentators is exhausted in correctly ascertaining who it is that Dante has damned, it being, of course, of the first consequence not to be deceived in a matter so important.

A chair and a lecture have been founded with a Edition: current; Page: [57] view to the exposition of this classic author. You ask me why the Inquisition acquiesces. I reply that in Italy the Inquisition understands raillery and knows that raillery in verse never does any harm.


We are called upon to reverence David as a prophet, as a king, as the ancestor of the holy spouse of Mary, as a man who merited the mercy of God from his penitence.

I will boldly assert that the article on “David,” which raised up so many enemies to Bayle, the first author of a dictionary of facts and of reasonings, deserves not the strange noise which was made about it. It was not David that people were anxious to defend, but Bayle whom they were solicitous to destroy. Certain preachers of Holland, his mortal enemies, were so far blinded by their enmity as to blame him for having praised popes whom he thought meritorious, and for having refuted the unjust calumny with which they had been assailed.

This absurd and shameful piece of injustice was signed by a dozen theologians on Dec. 20, 1698, in the same consistory in which they pretended to take up the defence of King David. A great proof that the condemnation of Bayle arose from personal feeling is supplied by the fact of that which happened in 1761, to Mr. Peter Anet, in London. The doctors Chandler and Palmer, having delivered funeral sermons Edition: current; Page: [58] on the death of King George II., in which they compared him to King David, Mr. Anet, who did not regard this comparison as honorable to the deceased monarch, published his famous dissertation entitled, “The History of the Man after God’s Own Heart.” In that work he makes it clear that George II., a king much more powerful than David, did not fall into the errors of the Jewish sovereign, and consequently could not display the penitence which was the origin of the comparison.

He follows, step by step, the Books of Kings, examines the conduct of David with more severity than Bayle, and on it founds an opinion that the Holy Spirit does not praise actions of the nature of those attributed to David. The English author, in fact, judges the king of Judah upon the notions of justice and injustice which prevail at the present time.

He cannot approve of the assembly of a band of robbers by David to the amount of four hundred; of his being armed with the sword of Goliath, by the high priest Abimelech, from whom he received hallowed bread.

He could not think well of the expedition of David against the farmer, Nabal, in order to destroy his abode with fire and sword, because Nabal refused contributions to his troop of robbers; or of the death of Nabal a few days afterwards, whose widow David immediately espoused.

He condemned his conduct to King Achish, the possessor of a few villages in the district of Gath. Edition: current; Page: [59] David, at the head of five or six hundred banditti, made inroads upon the allies of his benefactor Achish. He pillaged the whole of them, massacred all the inhabitants, men, women, and children at the breast. And why the children at the breast? For fear, says the text, these children should carry the news to King Achish, who was deceived into a belief that these expeditions were undertaken against the Israelites, by an absolute lie on the part of David.

Again, Saul loses a battle and wishes his armorbearer to slay him, who refuses; he wounds himself, but not effectually, and at his own desire a young man despatches him, who, carrying the news to David, is massacred for his pains.

Ishbosheth succeeds his father, Saul, and David makes war upon him. Finally Ishbosheth is assassinated.

David, possessed of the sole dominion, surprised the little town or village of Rabbah and put all the inhabitants to death by the most extraordinary devices—sawing them asunder, destroying them with harrows and axes of iron, and burning them in brick-kilns.

After these expeditions there was a famine in the country for three years. In fact, from this mode of making war, countries must necessarily be badly cultivated. The Lord was consulted as to the causes of the famine. The answer was easy. In a country which produces corn with difficulty, when laborers are baked in brick-kilns and sawed into pieces, few Edition: current; Page: [60] people remain to cultivate the earth. The Lord, however, replied that it was because Saul had formerly slain some Gibeonites.

What is David’s speedy remedy? He assembles the Gibeonites, informs them that Saul had committed a great sin in making war upon them, and that Saul not being like him, a man after God’s own heart, it would be proper to punish him in his posterity. He therefore makes them a present of seven grandsons of Saul to be hanged, who were accordingly hanged because there had been a famine.

Mr. Anet is so just as not to insist upon the adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, as these crimes were pardoned in consequence of the repentance of David. They were horrible and abominable, but being remitted by the Lord, the English author also absolves from them.

No one complained in England of the author, and the parliament took little interest in the history of a kinglet of a petty district in Syria.

Let justice be done to Father Calmet; he has kept within bounds in his dictionary of the Bible, in the article on “David.” “We pretend not,” said he, “to approve of the conduct of David, but it is to be believed that this excess of cruelty was committed before his repentance on the score of Bathsheba.” Possibly he repented of all his crimes at the same time, which were sufficiently numerous.

Let us here ask what appears to us to be an important question. May we not exhibit a portion of Edition: current; Page: [61] contempt in the article on “David,” and treat of his person and glory with the respect due to the sacred books? It is to the interest of mankind that crime should in no case be sanctified. What signifies what he is called, who massacres the wives and children of his allies; who hangs the grandchildren of his king; who saws his unhappy captives in two, tears them to pieces with harrows, or burns them in brickkilns? These actions we judge, and not the letters which compose the name of the criminal. His name neither augments nor diminishes the criminality.

The more David is revered after his reconciliation with God, the more are his previous qualities condemnable.

If a young peasant, in searching after she-asses finds a kingdom it is no common affair. If another peasant cures his king of insanity by a tune on the harp that is still more extraordinary. But when this petty player on the harp becomes king because he meets a village priest in secret, who pours a bottle of olive oil on his head, the affair is more marvellous still.

I know nothing either of the writers of these marvels, or of the time in which they were written, but I am certain that it was neither Polybius nor Tacitus.

I shall not speak here of the murder of Uriah, and of the adultery with Bathsheba, these facts being sufficiently well known. The ways of God are not the ways of men, since He permitted the descent Edition: current; Page: [62] of Jesus Christ from this very Bathsheba, everything being rendered pure by so holy a mystery.

I ask not now how Jurieu had the audacity to persecute the wise Bayle for not approving all the actions of the good King David. I only inquire why a man like Jurieu is suffered to molest a man like Bayle.


These are letters of the popes which regulate points of doctrine and discipline and which have the force of law in the Latin church.

Besides the genuine ones collected by Denis le Petit, there is a collection of false ones, the author of which, as well as the date, is unknown. It was an archbishop of Mentz called Riculphus who circulated it in France about the end of the eighth century; he had also brought to Worms an epistle of Pope Gregory, which had never before been heard of, but no vestige of the latter is at present remaining, while the false decretals, as we shall see, have met with the greatest success for eight centuries.

This collection bears the name of Isidore Mercator, and comprehends an infinite number of decrees falsely ascribed to the popes, from Clement I. down to Siricius. The false donation of Constantine; the Council of Rome under Sylvester; the letter of Athanasius to Mark; that of Anastasius to the bishops of Germany and Burgundy; that of Sixtus III. to the Orientals; that of Leo. I. relating to the Edition: current; Page: [63] privileges of the rural bishops; that of John I. to the archbishop Zachariah; one of Boniface II. to Eulalia of Alexandria; one of John III. to the bishops of France and Burgundy; one of Gregory, containing a privilege of the monastery of St. Médard; one from the same to Felix, bishop of Messina, and many others.

The object of the author was to extend the authority of the pope and the bishops. With this view, he lays it down as a principle that they can be definitely judged only by the pope, and he often repeats this maxim that not only every bishop but every priest, and, generally, every oppressed individual may, in any stage of a cause, appeal directly to the pope. He likewise considers it as an incontestable principle that no council, not even a provincial one, may be held without the permission of the pope.

These decretals, favoring the impunity of bishops, and still more the ambitious pretensions of the popes, were eagerly adopted by them both. In 861, Rotade, bishop of Soissons, being deprived of episcopal communion in a provincial council on account of disobedience, appeals to the pope. Hincmar of Rheims, his metropolitan, notwithstanding his appeal, deposes him in another council under the pretext that he had afterwards renounced it, and submitted himself to the judgment of the bishops.

Pope Nicholas I. being informed of this affair, wrote to Hincmar, and blamed his proceedings. “You ought,” says he, “to honor the memory of St. Edition: current; Page: [64] Peter, and await our judgment, even although Rotade had not appealed.” And in another letter on the same matter, he threatens Hincmar with excommunication, if he does not restore Rotade. That pope did more. Rotade having arrived at Rome, he declared him acquitted in a council held on Christmas eve, 864; and dismissed him to his see with letters. That which he addressed to all the bishops is worthy of notice, and is as follows:

“What you say is absurd, that Rotade, after having appealed to the holy see, changed his language and submitted himself anew to your judgment. Even although he had done so, it would have been your duty to set him right, and teach him that an appeal never lies from a superior judge to an inferior one. But even although he had not appealed to the holy see, you ought by no means to depose a bishop without our participation, in prejudice of so many decretals of our predecessors; for, if it be by their judgment that the writings of other doctors are approved or rejected, how much more should that be respected which they have themselves written, to decide on points of doctrine and discipline. Some tell you that these decretals are not in the book of canons; yet those same persons, when they find them favorable to their designs, use both without distinction, and reject them only to lessen the power of the holy see. If the decretals of the ancient popes are to be rejected because they are not contained in the book of canons, the writings of St. Gregory, Edition: current; Page: [65] and the rest of the fathers, must, on the same principle, be rejected also, and even the Holy Scriptures themselves.”

“You say,” the pope continues, “that judgments upon bishops are not among the higher causes; we maintain that they are high in proportion as bishops hold a high rank in the church. Will you assert that it is only metropolitan affairs which constitute the higher causes? But metropolitans are not of a different order from bishops, and we do not demand different witnesses or judges in the one case, from what are usual in the other; we therefore require that causes which involve either should be reserved for us. And, finally, can anyone be found so utterly unreasonable as to say that all other churches ought to preserve their privileges, and that the Roman Church alone should lose hers?” He concludes with ordering them to receive and replace Rotade.

Pope Adrian, the successor of Nicholas I., seems to have been no less zealous in a similar case relating to Hincmar of Laon. That prelate had rendered himself hateful both to the clergy and people of his diocese, by various acts of injustice and violence. Having been accused before the Council of Verberie—at which Hincmar of Rheims, his uncle and metropolitan, presided—he appealed to the pope, and demanded permission to go to Rome. This was refused him. The process against him was merely suspended, and the affair went no farther. But upon new matters of complaint brought against him Edition: current; Page: [66] by Charles the Bald and Hincmar of Rheims, he was cited at first before the Council of Attigny, where he appeared, and soon afterwards fled; and then before the Council of Douzy, where he renewed his appeal, and was deposed. The council wrote to the pope a synodal letter, on Sept. 6, 871, to request of him a confirmation of the acts which they sent him; but Adrian, far from acquiescing in the judgment of the council, expressed in the strongest terms his disapprobation of the condemnation of Hincmar; maintaining that, since Hincmar declared before the council that he appealed to the holy see, they ought not to have pronounced any sentence of condemnation upon him. Such were the terms used by that pope, in his letter to the bishops of the council, as also in that which he wrote to the king.

The following is the vigorous answer sent by Charles to Adrian: “Your letters say, ‘We will and ordain, by apostolical authority, that Hincmar of Laon shall come to Rome and present himself before us, resting upon your supremacy.’

“We wonder where the writer of this letter discovered that a king, whose duty it is to chastise the guilty and be the avenger of crimes, should send to Rome a criminal convicted according to legal forms, and more especially one who, before his deposition, was found guilty, in three councils, of enterprises against the public peace; and who, after his deposition, persisted in his disobedience.

“We are compelled further to tell you, that we, Edition: current; Page: [67] kings of France, born of a royal race, have never yet passed for the deputies of bishops, but for sovereigns of the earth. And, as St. Léon and the Roman council have said, kings and emperors, whom God has appointed to govern the world, have permitted bishops to regulate their affairs according to their ordinances, but they have never been the stewards of bishops; and if you search the records of your predecessors, you will not find that they have ever written to persons in our exalted situation as you have done in the present instance.”

He then adduces two letters of St. Gregory, to show with what modesty he wrote, not only to the kings of France, but to the exarchs of Italy. “Finally,” he concludes, “I beg that you will never more send to me, or to the bishops of my kingdom, similar letters, if you wish that we should give to what you write that honor and respect which we would willingly grant it.” The bishops of the Council of Douzy answered the pope nearly in the same strain; and, although we have not the entire letter, it appears that their object in it was to prove that Hincmar’s appeal ought not to be decided at Rome, but in France, by judges delegated conformably to the canons of the Council of Sardis.

These examples are sufficient to show how the popes extended their jurisdiction by the instrumentality of these false decretals; and although Hincmar of Rheims objected to Adrian, that, not being included in the book of canons, they could not Edition: current; Page: [68] subvert the discipline established by the canons—which occasioned his being accused, before Pope John VIII., of not admitting the decretals of the popes—he constantly cited these decretals as authorities, in his letters and other writings, and his example was followed by many bishops. At first, those only were admitted which were not contrary to the more recent canons, and afterwards there was less and less scruple.

The councils themselves made use of them. Thus, in that of Rheims, held in 992, the bishops availed themselves of the decretals of Anacletus, of Julius, of Damasus, and other popes, in the cause of Arnoul. Succeeding councils imitated that of Rheims. The popes Gregory VII., Urban II., Pascal II., Urban III., and Alexander III. supported the maxims they found in them, persuaded that they constituted the discipline of the flourishing age of the church. Finally, the compilers of the canons—Bouchard of Worms, Yves of Chartres, and Gratian—introduced them into their collection. After they became publicly taught in the schools, and commented upon, all the polemical and scholastic divines, and all the expositors of the canon law, eagerly laid hold of these false decretals to confirm the Catholic dogmas, or to establish points of discipline, and scattered them profusely through their works.

It was not till the sixteenth century that the first suspicions of their authenticity were excited. Erasmus, Edition: current; Page: [69] and many others with him, called them in question upon the following grounds:

1. The decretals contained in the collection of Isidore are not in that of Denis le Petit, who cited none of the decretals of the popes before the time of Siricius. Yet he informs us that he took extreme care in collecting them. They could not, therefore, have escaped him, if they had existed in the archives of the see of Rome, where he resided. If they were unknown to the holy see, to which they were favorable, they were so to the whole church. The fathers and councils of the first eight centuries have made no mention of them. But how can this universal silence be reconciled with their authenticity?

2. These decretals do not all correspond with the state of things existing at the time in which they are supposed to have been written. Not a word is said of the heresies of the three first centuries, nor of other ecclesiastical affairs with which the genuine works of the same period are filled. This proves that they were fabricated afterwards.

3. Their dates are almost always false. Their author generally follows the chronology of the pontifical book, which, by Baronius’s own confession, is very incorrect. This is a presumptive evidence that the collection was not composed till after the pontifical book.

4. These decretals, in all the citations of Scripture passages which they contain, use the version known by the name of “Vulgate,” made, or at least Edition: current; Page: [70] revised, by St. Jerome. They are, therefore, of later date than St. Jerome.

Finally, they are all written in the same style, which is very barbarous; and, in that respect, corresponding to the ignorance of the eighth century: but it is not by any means probable that all the different popes, whose names they bear, affected that uniformity of style. It may be concluded with confidence, that all the decretals are from the same hand.

Besides these general reasons, each of the documents which form Isidore’s collection carries with it marks of forgery peculiar to itself, and none of which have escaped the keen criticism of David Blondel, to whom we are principally indebted for the light thrown at the present day on this compilation, now no longer known but as “The False Decretals”; but the usages introduced in consequence of it exist not the less through a considerable portion of Europe.


We begin with observing that we are believers in the universal deluge, because it is recorded in the holy Hebrew Scriptures transmitted to Christians. We consider it as a miracle:

1. Because all the facts by which God condescends to interfere in the sacred books are so many miracles.

2. Because the sea could not rise fifteen cubits, Edition: current; Page: [71] or one-and-twenty standard feet and a half, above the highest mountains, without leaving its bed dry, and, at the same time, violating all the laws of gravity and the equilibrium of fluids, which would evidently require a miracle.

3. Because, even although it might rise to the height mentioned, the ark could not have contained, according to known physical laws, all the living things of the earth, together with their food, for so long a time; considering that lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, ounces, rhinoceroses, bears, wolves, hyenas, eagles, hawks, kites, vultures, falcons, and all carnivorous animals, which feed on flesh alone, would have died of hunger, even after having devoured all the other species.

There was printed some time ago, in an appendix to Pascal’s “Thoughts,” a dissertation of a merchant of Rouen, called Le Peletier, in which he proposes a plan for building a vessel in which all kinds of animals might be included and maintained for the space of a year. It is clear that this merchant never superintended even a poultry-yard. We cannot but look upon M. Le Peletier, the architect of the ark, as a visionary, who knew nothing about menageries; and upon the deluge as an adorable miracle, fearful, and incomprehensible to the feeble reason of M. Le Peletier, as well as to our own.

4. Because the physical impossibility of a universal deluge, by natural means, can be strictly demonstrated. The demonstration is as follows: All Edition: current; Page: [72] the seas cover half the globe. A common measure of their depths near the shores, and in the open ocean, is assumed to be five hundred feet.

In order that they might cover both hemispheres to the depth of five hundred feet, not only would an ocean of that depth be necessary over all the land, but a new sea would, in addition, be required to envelop the ocean at present existing, without which the laws of hydrostatics would occasion the dispersion of that other new mass of water five hundred feet deep, which should remain covering the land. Thus, then, two new oceans are requisite to cover the terraqueous globe merely to the depth of five hundred feet.

Supposing the mountains to be only twenty thousand feet high, forty oceans, each five hundred feet in height, would be required to accumulate on each other, merely in order to equal the height of the mountains. Every successive ocean would contain all the others, and the last of them all would have a circumference containing forty times that of the first.

In order to form this mass of water, it would be necessary to create it out of nothing. In order to withdraw it, it would be necessary to annihilate it. The event of the deluge, then, is a double miracle, and the greatest that has ever manifested the power of the eternal Sovereign of all worlds.

We are exceedingly surprised that some learned men have attributed to this deluge some small shells Edition: current; Page: [73] found in many parts of our continent. We are still more surprised at what we find under the article on “Deluge,” in the grand “Encyclopædia.” An author is quoted in it, who says things so very profound that they may be considered as chimerical. This is the first characteristic of Pluche. He proves the possibility of the deluge by the history of the giants who made war against the gods!

Briareus, according to him, is clearly the deluge, for it signifies “the loss of serenity”: and in what language does it signify this loss?—in Hebrew. But Briareus is a Greek word, which means “robust”: it is not a Hebrew word. Even if, by chance, it had been so, we should beware of imitating Bochart, who derives so many Greek, Latin, and even French words from the Hebrew idiom. The Greeks certainly knew no more of the Jewish idiom than of the language of the Chinese.

The giant Othus is also in Hebrew, according to Pluche, “the derangement of the seasons.” But it is also a Greek word, which does not signify anything, at least, that I know; and even if it did, what, let me ask, could it have to do with the Hebrew?

Porphyrion is “a shaking of the earth,” in Hebrew; but in Greek, it is porphyry. This has nothing to do with the deluge.

Mimos is “a great rain”; for once, he does mention a name which may bear upon the deluge. But in Greek mimos means mimic, comedian. There are no means of tracing the deluge of such an origin.

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Enceladus is another proof of the deluge in Hebrew; for, according to Pluche, it is the fountain of time; but, unluckily, in Greek it is “noise.”

Ephialtes, another demonstration of the deluge in Hebrew; for ephialtes, which signifies leaper, oppressor, incubus, in Greek is, according to Pluche, “a vast accumulation of clouds.”

But the Greeks, having taken everything from the Hebrews, with whom they were unacquainted, clearly gave to their giants all those names which Pluche extracts from the Hebrew as well as he can, and all as a memorial of the deluge.

Such is the reasoning of Pluche. It is he who cites the author of the article on “Deluge” without refuting him. Does he speak seriously, or does he jest? I do not know. All I know is, that there is scarcely a single system to be found at which one can forbear jesting.

I have some apprehension that the article in the grand “Encyclopædia,” attributed to M. Boulanger, is not serious. In that case, we ask whether it is philosophical. Philosophy is so often deceived, that we shall not venture to decide against M. Boulanger.

Still less shall we venture to ask what was that abyss which was broken up, or what were the cataracts of heaven which were opened. Isaac Vossius denies the universality of the deluge: “Hoc est pie nugari.” Calmet maintains it; informing us, that bodies have no weight in air, but in consequence of their being compressed by air. Calmet was not Edition: current; Page: [75] much of a natural philosopher, and the weight of the air has nothing to do with the deluge. Let us content ourselves with reading and respecting everything in the Bible, without comprehending a single word of it.

I do not comprehend how God created a race of men in order to drown them, and then substituted in their room a race still viler than the first.

How seven pairs of all kinds of clean animals should come from the four quarters of the globe, together with two pairs of unclean ones, without the wolves devouring the sheep on the way, or the kites the pigeons, etc.

How eight persons could keep in order, feed, and water, such an immense number of inmates, shut up in an ark for nearly two years; for, after the cessation of the deluge, it would be necessary to have food for all these passengers for another year, in consequence of the herbage being so scanty.

I am not like M. Le Peletier. I admire everything, and explain nothing.


  • Le pire des états, c’est l’état populaire.
  • That sway is worst, in which the people rule.

Such is the opinion which Cinna gave Augustus. But on the other hand, Maximus maintains, that

  • Le pire des états, c’est l’état monarchique.
  • That sway is worst, in which a monarch rules.

Bayle, in his “Philosophical Dictionary,” after Edition: current; Page: [76] having repeatedly advocated both sides of the question, gives, under the article on “Pericles,” a most disgusting picture of democracy, and more particularly that of Athens.

A republican, who is a stanch partisan of democracy, and one of our “proposers of questions,” sends us his refutation of Bayle and his apology for Athens. We will adduce his reasons. It is the privilege of every writer to judge the living and the dead; he who thus sits in judgment will be himself judged by others, who, in their turn, will be judged also; and thus, from age to age, all sentences are, according to circumstances, reversed or reformed.

Bayle, then, after some common-place observations, uses these words: “A man would look in vain into the history of Macedon for as much tyranny as he finds in the history of Athens.”

Perhaps Bayle was discontented with Holland when he thus wrote; and probably my republican friend, who refutes him, is contented with his little democratic city “for the present.”

It is difficult to weigh, in an exquisitely nice balance, the iniquities of the republic of Athens and of the court of Macedon. We still upbraid the Athenians with the banishment of Cimon, Aristides, Themistocles, and Alcibiades, and the sentences of death upon Phocion and Socrates; sentences similar in absurdity and cruelty to those of some of our own tribunals.

In short, what we can never pardon in the Athenians Edition: current; Page: [77] is the execution of their six victorious generals, condemned because they had not time to bury their dead after the victory, and because they were prevented from doing so by a tempest. The sentence is at once so ridiculous and barbarous, it bears such a stamp of superstition and ingratitude, that those of the Inquisition, those delivered against Urbain Grandier, against the wife of Marshal d’Ancre, against Montrin, and against innumerable sorcerers and witches, etc., are not, in fact, fooleries more atrocious.

It is in vain to say, in excuse of the Athenians, that they believed, like Homer before them, that the souls of the dead were always wandering, unless they had received the honors of sepulture or burning. A folly is no excuse for a barbarity.

A dreadful evil, indeed, for the souls of a few Greeks to ramble for a week or two on the shores of the ocean! The evil is, in consigning living men to the executioner; living men who have won a battle for you; living men, to whom you ought to be devoutly grateful.

Thus, then, are the Athenians convicted of having been at once the most silly and the most barbarous judges in the world. But we must now place in the balance the crimes of the court of Macedon; we shall see that that court far exceeds Athens in point of tyranny and atrocity.

There is ordinarily no comparison to be made between the crimes of the great, who are always ambitious, Edition: current; Page: [78] and those of the people, who never desire, and who never can desire, anything but liberty and equality. These two sentiments, “liberty and equality,” do not necessarily lead to calumny, rapine, assassination, poisoning, and devastation of the lands of neighbors; but, the towering ambition and thirst for power of the great precipitate them headlong into every species of crime in all periods and all places.

In this same Macedon, the virtue of which Bayle opposes to that of Athens, we see nothing but a tissue of tremendous crimes for a series of two hundred years.

It is Ptolemy, the uncle of Alexander the Great, who assassinates his brother Alexander to usurp the kingdom. It is Philip, his brother, who spends his life in guilt and perjury, and ends it by a stab from Pausanias.

Olympias orders Queen Cleopatra and her son to be thrown into a furnace of molten brass. She assassinates Aridæus. Antigonus assassinates Eumenes. Antigonus Gonatas, his son, poisons the governor of the citadel of Corinth, marries his widow, expels her, and takes possession of the citadel. Philip, his grandson, poisons Demetrius, and defiles the whole of Macedon with murders. Perseus kills his wife with his own hand, and poisons his brother. These perfidies and cruelties are authenticated in history.

Thus, then, for two centuries, the madness of Edition: current; Page: [79] despotism converts Macedon into a theatre for every crime; and in the same space of time you see the popular government of Athens stained only by five or six acts of judicial iniquity, five or six certainly atrocious judgments, of which the people in every instance repented, and for which they made, as far as they could, honorable expiation (amende honorable). They asked pardon of Socrates after his death, and erected to his memory the small temple called Socrateion. They asked pardon of Phocion, and raised a statue to his honor. They asked pardon of the six generals, so ridiculously condemned and so basely executed. They confined in chains the principal accuser, who, with difficulty, escaped from public vengeance. The Athenian people, therefore, appear to have had good natural dispositions, connected, as they were, with great versatility and frivolity. In what despotic state has the injustice of precipitate decrees ever been thus ingenuously acknowledged and deplored?

Bayle, then, is for this once in the wrong. My republican has reason on his side. Popular government, therefore, is in itself iniquitious, and less abominable than monarchical despotism.

The great vice of democracy is certainly not tyranny and cruelty. There have been republicans in mountainous regions wild and ferocious; but they were made so, not by the spirit of republicanism, but by nature. The North American savages were entirely republican; but they were republics of bears.

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The radical vice of a civilized republic is expressed by the Turkish fable of the dragon with many heads, and the dragon with many tails. The multitude of heads become injurious, and the multitude of tails obey one single head, which wants to devour all.

Democracy seems to suit only a very small country; and even that fortunately situated. Small as it may be, it will commit many faults, because it will be composed of men. Discord will prevail in it, as in a convent of monks; but there will be no St. Bartholomews there, no Irish massacre, no Sicilian vespers, no Inquisition, no condemnation to the galleys for having taken water from the ocean without paying for it; at least, unless it be a republic of devils, established in some corner of hell.

After having taken the side of my Swiss friend against the dexterous fencing-master, Bayle, I will add: That the Athenians were warriors like the Swiss, and as polite as the Parisians were under Louis XIV.; that they excelled in every art requiring genius or execution, like the Florentine in time of the Medici; that they were the masters of the Romans in the sciences and in eloquence, even in the days of Cicero; that this same people, insignificant in number, who scarcely possessed anything of territory, and who, at the present day, consist only of a band of ignorant slaves, a hundred times less numerous than the Jews, and deprived of all but their name, yet bear away the palm from Roman Edition: current; Page: [81] power, by their ancient reputation, which triumphs at once over time and degradation.

Europe has seen a republic, ten times smaller than Athens, attract its attention for the space of one hundred and fifty years, and its name placed by the side of that of Rome, even while she still commanded kings; while she condemned one Henry, a sovereign of France, and absolved and scourged another Henry, the first man of his age; even while Venice retained her ancient splendor, and the republic of the seven United Provinces was astonishing Europe and the Indies, by its successful establishment and extensive commerce.

This almost imperceptible ant-hill could not be crushed by the royal demon of the South, and the monarch of two worlds, nor by the intrigues of the Vatican, which put in motion one-half of Europe. It resisted by words and by arms; and with the help of a Picard who wrote, and a small number of Swiss who fought for it, it became at length established and triumphant, and was enabled to say, “Rome and I.” She kept all minds divided between the rich pontiffs who succeeded to the Scipios—Romanos rerum dominos—and the poor inhabitants of a corner of the world long unknown in a country of poverty and goîtres.

The main point was, to decide how Europe should think on the subject of certain questions which no one understood. It was the conflict of the human mind. The Calvins, the Bezas, and Turetins, Edition: current; Page: [82] were the Demostheneses, Platos, and Aristotles, of the day.

The absurdity of the greater part of the controversial questions which bound down the attention of Europe, having at length been acknowledged, this small republic turned our consideration to what appears of solid consequence—the acquisition of wealth. The system of law, more chimerical and less baleful than that of the supralapsarians and the sublapsarians, occupied with arithmetical calculations those who could no longer gain celebrity as partisans of the doctrine of crucified divinity. They became rich, but were no longer famous.

It is thought at present there is no republic, except in Europe. I am mistaken if I have not somewhere made the remark myself; it must, however, have been a great inadvertence. The Spaniards found in America the republic of Tlascala perfectly well established. Every part of that continent which has not been subjugated is still republican. In the whole of that vast territory, when it was first discovered, there existed no more than two kingdoms; and this may well be considered as a proof that republican government is the most natural. Men must have obtained considerable refinement, and have tried many experiments, before they submit to the government of a single individual.

In Africa, the Hottentots, the Kaffirs, and many communities of negroes, are democracies. It is pretended that the countries in which the greater part Edition: current; Page: [83] of the negroes are sold are governed by kings. Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers are republics of soldiers and pirates. There are similar ones in India. The Mahrattas, and many other Indian hordes, have no kings: they elect chiefs when they go on their expeditions of plunder.

Such are also many of the hordes of Tartars. Even the Turkish Empire has long been a republic of janissaries, who have frequently strangled their sultan, when their sultan did not decimate them. We are every day asked, whether a republican or a kingly government is to be preferred? The dispute always ends in agreeing that the government of men is exceedingly difficult. The Jews had God himself for their master; yet observe the events of their history. They have almost always been trampled upon and enslaved; and, nationally, what a wretched figure do they make at present!


Hypochondriacal and epileptic persons, and women laboring under hysterical affections, have always been considered the victims of evil spirits, malignant demons and divine vengeance. We have seen that this disease was called the sacred disease; and that while the physicians were ignorant, the priests of antiquity obtained everywhere the care and management of such diseases.

When the symptoms were very complicated, the patient was supposed to be possessed with many demons—a Edition: current; Page: [84] demon of madness, one of luxury, one of avarice, one of obstinacy, one of short-sightedness, one of deafness; and the exorciser could not easily miss finding a demon of foolery created, with another of knavery.

The Jews expelled devils from the bodies of the possessed, by the application of the root barath, and a certain formula of words; our Saviour expelled them by a divine virtue; he communicated that virtue to his apostles, but it is now greatly impaired.

A short time since, an attempt was made to renew the history of St. Paulin. That saint saw on the roof of a church a poor demoniac, who walked under, or rather upon, this roof or ceiling, with his head below and his feet above, nearly in the manner of a fly. St. Paulin clearly perceived that the man was possessed, and sent several leagues off for some relics of St. Felix of Nola, which were applied to the patient as blisters. The demon who supported the man against the roof instantly fled, and the demoniac fell down upon the pavement.

We may have doubts about this history, while we preserve the most profound respect for genuine miracles; and we may be permitted to observe that this is not the way in which we now cure demoniacs. We bleed them, bathe them, and gently relax them by medicine; we apply emollients to them. This is M. Pome’s treatment of them; and he has performed more cures than the priests of Isis or Diana, or of anyone else who ever wrought by miracles. Edition: current; Page: [85] As to demoniacs who say they are possessed merely to gain money, instead of being bathed, they are at present flogged.

It often happened, that the specific gravity of epileptics, whose fibres and muscles withered away, was lighter than water, and that they floated when put into it. A miracle! was instantly exclaimed. It was pronounced that such a person must be a demoniac or sorcerer; and holy water or the executioner was immediately sent for. It was an unquestionable proof that either the demon had become master of the body of the floating person, or that the latter had voluntarily delivered himself over to the demon. On the first supposition the person was exorcised, on the second he was burned. Thus have we been reasoning and acting for a period of fifteen or sixteen hundred years, and yet we have the effrontery to laugh at the Kaffirs.

In 1603, in a small village of Franche-Comté, a woman of quality made her granddaughter read aloud the lives of the saints in the presence of her parents; this young woman, who was, in some respects, very well informed, but ignorant of orthography, substituted the word histories for that of lives (vies). Her step-mother, who hated her, said to her in a tone of harshness, “Why don’t you read as it is there?” The girl blushed and trembled, but did not venture to say anything; she wished to avoid disclosing which of her companions had interpreted the word upon a false orthography, and prevented Edition: current; Page: [86] her using it. A monk, who was the family confessor, pretended that the devil had taught her the word. The girl chose to be silent rather than vindicate herself; her silence was considered as amounting to confession; the Inquisition convicted her of having made a compact with the devil: she was condemned to be burned, because she had a large fortune from her mother, and the confiscated property went by law to the inquisitors. She was the hundred thousandth victim of the doctrine of demoniacs, persons possessed by devils and exorcisms, and of the real devils who swayed the world.


Of all the books written in the western climes of the world, which have reached our times, Homer is the most ancient. In his works we find the manners of profane antiquity, coarse heroes, and material gods, made after the image of man, but mixed up with reveries and absurdities; we also find the seeds of philosophy, and more particularly the idea of destiny, or necessity, who is the dominatrix of the gods, as the gods are of the world.

When the magnanimous Hector determines to fight the magnanimous Achilles, and runs away with all possible speed, making the circuit of the city three times, in order to increase his vigor; when Homer compares the light-footed Achilles, who pursues him, to a man that is asleep! and when Madame Dacier breaks into a rapture of admiration at the art Edition: current; Page: [87] and meaning exhibited in this passage, it is precisely then that Jupiter, desirous of saving the great Hector who has offered up to him so many sacrifices, bethinks him of consulting the destinies, upon weighing the fates of Hector and Achilles in a balance. He finds that the Trojan must inevitably be killed by the Greek, and is not only unable to oppose it, but from that moment Apollo, the guardian genius of Hector, is compelled to abandon him. It is not to be denied that Homer is frequently extravagant, and even on this very occasion displays a contradictory flow of ideas, according to the privilege of antiquity; but yet he is the first in whom we meet with the notion of destiny. It may be concluded, then, that in his days it was a prevalent one.

The Pharisees, among the small nation of Jews, did not adopt the idea of a destiny till many ages after. For these Pharisees themselves, who were the most learned class among the Jews, were but of very recent date. They mixed up, in Alexandria, a portion of the dogmas of the Stoics with their ancient Jewish ideas. St. Jerome goes so far as to state that their sect is but a little anterior to our vulgar era.

Philosophers would never have required the aid of Homer, or of the Pharisees, to be convinced that everything is performed according to immutable laws, that everything is ordained, that everything is, in fact, necessary. The manner in which they reason is as follows:

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Either the world subsists by its own nature, by its own physical laws, or a Supreme Being has formed it according to His supreme laws: in both cases these laws are immovable; in both cases everything is necessary; heavy bodies tend towards the centre of the earth without having any power or tendency to rest in the air. Pear-trees cannot produce pine-apples. The instinct of a spaniel cannot be the instinct of an ostrich; everything is arranged, adjusted, and fixed.

Man can have only a certain number of teeth, hairs, and ideas; and a period arrives when he necessarily loses his teeth, hair, and ideas.

It is contradictory to say that yesterday should not have been; or that to-day does not exist; it is just as contradictory to assert that that which is to come will not inevitably be.

Could you derange the destiny of a single fly there would be no possible reason why you should not control the destiny of all other flies, of all other animals, of all men, of all nature. You would find, in fact, that you were more powerful than God.

Weak-minded persons say: “My physician has brought my aunt safely through a mortal disease; he has added ten years to my aunt’s life.” Others of more judgment say, the prudent man makes his own destiny.

  • Nullum numen abest, si sit Prudentia, sed te
  • Nos facimus, Fortuna, deam cœloque locamus.
  • Juvenal, Sat. x. v. 365.
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  • We call on Fortune, and her aid implore,
  • While Prudence is the goddess to adore.

But frequently the prudent man succumbs under his destiny instead of making it; it is destiny which makes men prudent. Profound politicians assure us that if Cromwell, Ludlow, Ireton, and a dozen other parliamentary leaders, had been assassinated eight days before Charles I. had his head cut off, that king would have continued alive and have died in his bed; they are right; and they may add, that if all England had been swallowed up in the sea, that king would not have perished on a scaffold before Whitehall. But things were so arranged that Charles was to have his head cut off.

Cardinal d’Ossat was unquestionably more clever than an idiot of the petites maisons; but is it not evident that the organs of the wise d’Ossat were differently formed than those of that idiot?—Just as the organs of a fox are different from those of a crane or a lark.

Your physician saved your aunt, but in so doing he certainly did not contradict the order of nature, but followed it. It is clear that your aunt could not prevent her birth in a certain place, that she could not help being affected by a certain malady, at a certain time; that the physician could be in no other place than where he was, that your aunt could not but apply to him, that he could not but prescribe medicines which cured her, or were thought to cure her, while nature was the sole physician.

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A peasant thinks that it hailed upon his field by chance; but the philosopher knows that there was no chance, and that it was absolutely impossible, according to the constitution of the world, for it not to have hailed at that very time and place.

There are some who, being shocked by this truth, concede only half of it, like debtors who offer one moiety of their property to their creditors, and ask remission for the other. There are, they say, some events which are necessary, and others which are not so. It would be curious for one part of the world to be changed and the other not; that one part of what happens should happen inevitably, and another fortuitously. When we examine the question closely, we see that the doctrine opposed to that of destiny is absurd; but many men are destined to be bad reasoners, others not to reason at all, and others to persecute those who reason well or ill.

Some caution us by saying, “Do not believe in fatalism, for, if you do, everything appearing to you unavoidable, you will exert yourself for nothing; you will sink down in indifference; you will regard neither wealth, nor honors, nor praise; you will be careless about acquiring anything whatever; you will consider yourself meritless and powerless; no talent will be cultivated, and all will be overwhelmed in apathy.”

Do not be afraid, gentlemen; we shall always have passions and prejudices, since it is our destiny to be subjected to prejudices and passions. We shall Edition: current; Page: [91] very well know that it no more depends upon us to have great merit or superior talents than to have a fine head of hair, or a beautiful hand; we shall be convinced that we ought to be vain of nothing, and yet vain we shall always be.

I have necessarily the passion for writing as I now do; and, as for you, you have the passion for censuring me; we are both equally fools, both equally the sport of destiny. Your nature is to do ill, mine is to love truth, and publish it in spite of you.

The owl, while supping upon mice in his ruined tower, said to the nightingale, “Stop your singing there in your beautiful arbor, and come to my hole that I may eat you.” The nightingale replied, “I am born to sing where I am, and to laugh at you.”

You ask me what is to become of liberty: I do not understand you; I do not know what the liberty you speak of really is. You have been so long disputing about the nature of it that you do not understand it. If you are willing, or rather, if you are able to examine with me coolly what it is, turn to the letter L.


The word devout (dévot) signifies devoted (dévoué), and, in the strict sense of the term, can only be applicable to monks, and to females belonging to some religious order and under vows. But as the gospel makes no mention of vows or devotees, Edition: current; Page: [92] the title should not, in fact, be given to any person: the whole world ought to be equally just. A man who calls himself devout is like a plebeian who calls himself a marquis; he arrogates a quality which does not belong to him; he thinks himself a better man than his neighbor. We pardon this folly in women; their weakness and frivolity render them excusable; they pass, poor things, from a lover to a spiritual director with perfect sincerity, but we cannot pardon the knaves who direct them, who abuse their ignorance, and establish the throne of their pride on the credulity of the sex. They form a snug mystical harem, composed of seven or eight elderly beauties subjugated by the weight of inoccupation, and almost all these subjects pay tribute to their new master. No young women without lovers; no elderly devotee without a director.—Oh, how much more shrewd are the Orientals than we! A pasha never says, “We supped last night with the aga of the janissaries, who is my sister’s lover; and with the vicar of the mosque, who is my wife’s director!”

Dial of Ahaz.

It is well known that everything is miraculous in the history of the Jews; the miracle performed in favor of King Hezekiah on the dial of Ahaz is one of the greatest that ever took place: it is evident that the whole earth must have been deranged, the Edition: current; Page: [93] course of the stars changed forever, and the periods of the eclipses of the sun and moon so altered as to confuse all the ephemerides. This was the second time the prodigy happened. Joshua had stopped the sun at noon on Gibeon, and the moon on Ascalon, in order to get time to kill a troop of Amorites already crushed by a shower of stones from heaven.

The sun, instead of stopping for King Hezekiah, went back, which is nearly the same thing, only differently described.

In the first place Isaiah said to Hezekiah, who was sick, “Thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order; for thou shalt die and not live.”

Hezekiah wept and God was softened; He signified to him, through Isaiah, that he should still live fifteen years, and that in three days he should go to the temple; then Isaiah brought a plaster of figs and put it on the king’s ulcers, and he was cured—“et curatus est.”

Hezekiah demanded a sign to convince him that he should be cured. Isaiah said to him, “Shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; let the shadow return backward ten degrees.” And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backwards from the point to which it had gone down on the dial of Ahaz.

We should like to know what this dial of Ahaz Edition: current; Page: [94] was; whether it was the work of a dialmaker named Ahaz, or whether it was a present made to a king of that name, it is an object of curiosity. There have been many disputes on this dial; the learned have proved that the Jews never knew either clocks or dials before their captivity in Babylon—the only time, say they, in which they learned anything of the Chaldæans, or the greater part of the nation began to read or write. It is even known that in their language they had no words to express clock, dial, geometry, or astronomy; and in the Book of Kings the dial of Ahaz is called the hour of the stone.

But the grand question is to know how King Hezekiah, the possessor of this clock, or dial of the sun—this hour of stone—could tell that it was easy to advance the sun ten degrees. It is certainly as difficult to make it advance against its ordinary motion as to make it go backward.

The proposition of the prophet appears as astonishing as the discourse of the king: Shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? That would have been well said in some town of Lapland, where the longest day of the year is twenty hours; but at Jerusalem, where the longest day of the year is about fourteen hours and a half, it was absurd. The king and the prophet deceived each other grossly. We do not deny the miracle, we firmly believe it; we only remark that Hezekiah and Isaiah knew not what they said. Whatever the hour, it was a thing equally impossible to make Edition: current; Page: [95] the shadow of the dial advance or recede ten hours. If it were two hours after noon, the prophet could, no doubt, have very well made the shadow of the dial go back to four o’clock in the morning; but in this case he could not have advanced it ten hours, since then it would have been midnight, and at that time it is not usual to have a shadow of the sun in perfection.

It is difficult to discover when this strange history was written, but perhaps it was towards the time in which the Jews only confusedly knew that there were clocks and sun-dials. In that case it is true that they got but a very imperfect knowledge of these sciences until they went to Babylon. There is a still greater difficulty of which the commentators have not thought; which is that the Jews did not count by hours as we do.

The same miracle happened in Greece, the day that Atreus served up the children of Thyestes for their father’s supper.

The same miracle was still more sensibly performed at the time of Jupiter’s intrigue with Alcmena. It required a night double the natural length to form Hercules. These adventures are common in antiquity, but very rare in our days, in which all things have degenerated.


The invention of dictionaries, which was unknown to antiquity, is of the most unquestionable Edition: current; Page: [96] utility; and the “Encyclopædia,” which was suggested by Messrs. d’Alembert and Diderot, and so successfully completed by them and their associates, notwithstanding all its defects, is a decisive evidence of it. What we find there under the article “Dictionary” would be a sufficient instance; it is done by the hand of a master.

I mean to speak here only of a new species of historical dictionaries, which contain a series of lies and satires in alphabetical order; such is the “Historical Literary and Critical Dictionary,” containing a summary of the lives of celebrated men of every description, and printed in 1758, in six volumes, octavo, without the name of the author.

The compilers of that work begin with declaring that it was undertaken by the advice of the author of the “Ecclesiastical Gazette,” “a formidable writer,” they add, “whose arrow,” which had already been compared to that of Jonathan, “never returned back, and was always steeped in the blood of the slain, in the carnage of the valiant.”—“A sanguine interfectorum ab adipe fortium sagitta Jonathæ nunquam abiit retrorsum.”

It will, no doubt, be easily admitted that the connection between Jonathan, the son of Saul, who was killed at the battle of Gilboa, and a Parisian convulsionary, who scribbles ecclesiastical notices in his garret, in 1758, is wonderfully striking.

The author of this preface speaks in it of the great Colbert. We should conceive, at first, that the great Edition: current; Page: [97] statesman who conferred such vast benefits on France is alluded to; no such thing, it is a bishop of Montpellier. He complains that no other dictionary has bestowed sufficient praise on the celebrated Abbé d’Asfeld, the illustrious Boursier, the famous Genes, the immortal Laborde, and that the lash of invective on the other hand has not been sufficiently applied to Languet, archbishop of Sens, and a person of the name of Fillot, all, as he pretends, men well known from the Pillars of Hercules to the frozen ocean. He engages to be “animated, energetic, and sarcastic, on a principle of religion”; that he will make his countenance “sterner than that of his enemies, and his front harder than their front, according to the words of Ezekiel,” etc.

He declares that he has put in contribution all the journals and all the anas; and he concludes with hoping that heaven will bestow a blessing on his labors.

In dictionaries of this description, which are merely party works, we rarely find what we are in quest of, and often what we are not. Under the word “Adonis,” for example, we learn that Venus fell in love with him; but not a word about the worship of Adonis, or Adonai among the Phœnicians—nothing about those very ancient and celebrated festivals, those lamentations succeeded by rejoicings, which were manifest allegories, like the feasts of Ceres, of Isis, and all the mysteries of antiquity. But, in compensation, we find Adkichomia a devotee, Edition: current; Page: [98] who translated David’s psalms in the sixteenth century; and Adkichomus, apparently her relation, who wrote the life of Jesus Christ in low German.

We may well suppose that all the individuals of the faction which employed this person are loaded with praise, and their enemies with abuse. The author, of the crew of authors who have put together this vocabulary of trash, say of Nicholas Boindin, attorney-general of the treasures of France, and a member of the Academy of Belles-lettres, that he was a poet and an atheist.

That magistrate, however, never printed any verses, and never wrote anything on metaphysics or religion.

He adds that Boindin will be ranked by posterity among the Vaninis, the Spinozas, and the Hobbeses. He is ignorant that Hobbes never professed atheism—that he merely subjected religion to the sovereign power, which he denominates the Leviathan. He is ignorant that Vanini was not an atheist; that the term “atheist” is not to be found even in the decree which condemned him; and that he was accused of impiety for having strenuously opposed the philosophy of Aristotle, and for having disputed with indiscretion and acrimony against a counsellor of the parliament of Toulouse, called Francon, or Franconi, who had the credit of getting him burned to death; for the latter burn whom they please; witness the Maid of Orleans, Michael Servetus, the Counsellor Dubourg, the wife of Marshal Edition: current; Page: [99] d’Ancre, Urbain Grandier, Morin, and the books of the Jansenists. See, moreover, the apology for Vanini by the learned Lacroze, and the article on “Atheism.”

The vocabulary treats Boindin as a miscreant; his relations were desirous of proceeding at law and punishing an author, who himself so well deserved the appellation which he so infamously applied to a man who was not merely a magistrate, but also learned and estimable; but the calumniator concealed himself, like most libellers, under a fictitious name.

Immediately after having applied such shameful language to a man respectable compared with himself, he considers him as an irrefragable witness, because Boindin—whose unhappy temper was well known—left an ill-written and exceedingly ill-advised memorial, in which he accuses La Motte—one of the worthiest men in the world, a geometrician, and an ironmonger—with having written the infamous verses for which Jean Baptiste Rousseau was convicted. Finally, in the list of Boindin’s works, he altogether omits his excellent dissertations printed in the collection of the Academy of Belles-lettres, of which he was a highly distinguished member.

The article on “Fontenelle” is nothing but a satire upon that ingenious and learned academician, whose science and talents are esteemed by the whole of literary Europe. The author has the effrontery to say that “his ‘History of Oracles’ does no honor to Edition: current; Page: [100] his religion.” If Van Dale, the author of the “History of Oracles,” and his abridger, Fontenelle, had lived in the time of the Greeks and of the Roman republic, it might have been said with reason that they were rather good philosophers than good pagans; but, to speak sincerely, what injury do they do to Christianity by showing that the pagan priests were a set of knaves? Is it not evident that the authors of the libel, miscalled a dictionary, are pleading their own cause? “Jam proximus ardet Ucalegon.” But would it be offering an insult to the Christian religion to prove the knavery of the Convulsionaries? Government has done more; it has punished them without being accused of irreligion.

The libeller adds that he suspects that Fontenelle never performed the duties of a Christian but out of contempt for Christianity itself. It is a strange species of madness on the part of these fanatics to be always proclaiming that a philosopher cannot be a Christian. They ought to be excommunicated and punished for this alone; for assuredly it implies a wish to destroy Christianity to assert that it is impossible for a man to be a good reasoner and at the same time believe a religion so reasonable and holy.

Des Yveteaux, preceptor of Louis XIV., is accused of having lived and died without religion. It seems as if these compilers had none; or at least as if, while violating all the precepts of the true one, Edition: current; Page: [101] they were searching about everywhere for accomplices.

The very gentlemanly writer of these articles is wonderfully pleased with exhibiting all the bad verses that have been written on the French Academy, and various anecdotes as ridiculous as they are false. This also is apparently out of zeal for religion.

I ought not to lose an opportunity of refuting an absurd story which has been much circulated, and which is repeated exceedingly malapropos under the article of the “Abbé Gedoyn,” upon whom the writer falls foul with great satisfaction, because in his youth he had been a Jesuit; a transient weakness, of which I know he repented all his life.

The devout and scandalous compiler of the dictionary asserts that the Abbé Gedoyn slept with the celebrated Ninon de l’Enclos on the very night of her completing her eightieth year. It certainly was not exactly befitting in a priest to relate this anecdote in a pretended dictionary of illustrious men. Such a foolery, however, is in fact highly improbable; and I can take upon me to assert that nothing can be more false. The same anecdote was formerly put down to the credit of the Abbé Châteauneuf, who was not very difficult in his amours, and who, it was said, had received Ninon’s favors when she was of the age of sixty, or, rather, had conferred upon her his own. In early life I saw a great deal of the Abbé Gedoyn, the Abbé Châteauneuf, and Edition: current; Page: [102] Mademoiselle de l’Enclos; and I can truly declare that at the age of eighty years her countenance bore the most hideous marks of old age—that her person was afflicted with all the infirmities belonging to that stage of life, and that her mind was under the influence of the maxims of an austere philosophy.

Under the article on “Deshoulières” the compiler pretends that lady was the same who was designated under the term prude (précieuse) in Boileau’s satire upon women. Never was any woman more free from such weakness than Madame Deshoulières; she always passed for a woman of the best society, possessed great simplicity, and was highly agreeable in conversation.

The article on “La Motte” abounds with atrocious abuse of that academician, who was a man of very amiable manners, and a philosophic poet who produced excellent works of every description. Finally the author, in order to secure the sale of his book of six volumes, has made of it a slanderous libel.

His hero is Carré de Montgeron, who presented to the king a collection of the miracles performed by the Convulsionaries in the cemetery of St. Médard; who became mad and died insane.

The interest of the republic of literature and reason demands that those libellers should be delivered up to public indignation, lest their example, operating upon the sordid love of gain, should stimulate others to imitation; and the more so, as nothing is so easy as to copy books in alphabetical Edition: current; Page: [103] order, and add to them insipidities, calumnies, and abuse.

Extract from the Reflections of an Academician on the “Dictionary of the French Academy.”

It would be desirable to state the natural and incontestable etymology of every word, to compare the application, the various significations, the extent of the word, with use of it; the different acceptations, the strength or weakness of correspondent terms in foreign languages; and finally, to quote the best authors who have used the word, to show the greater or less extent of meaning which they have given to it and to remark whether it is more fit for poetry than prose.

For example, I have observed that the “inclemency” of the weather is ridiculous in history, because that term has its origin in the anger of heaven, which is supposed to be manifested by the intemperateness, irregularities, and rigors of the seasons, by the violence of the cold, the disorder of the atmosphere, by tempests, storms, and pestilential exhalations. Thus then inclemency, being a metaphor, is consecrated to poetry.

I have given to the word “impotence” all the acceptations which it receives. I showed the correctness of the historian, who speaks of the impotence of King Alphonso, without explaining whether he referred to that of resisting his brother, or that with which he was charged by his wife.

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I have endeavored to show that the epithets “irresistible” and “incurable” require very delicate management. The first who used the expression, “the irresistible impulse of genius,” made a very fortunate hit; because, in fact, the question was in relation to a great genius throwing itself upon its own resources in spite of all difficulties. Those imitators who have employed the expression in reference to very inferior men are plagiarists who know not how to dispose of what they steal.

As soon as the man of genius has made a new application of any word in the language, copyists are not wanting to apply it, very malapropos, in twenty places, without giving the inventor any credit.

I do not know that a single one of these words, termed by Boileau “foundlings” (des mots trouvés) a single new expression of genius, is to be found in any tragic author since Racine, until within the last few years. These words are generally lax, ineffective, stale, and so ill placed as to produce a barbarous style. To the disgrace of the nation, these Visigothic and Vandal productions were for a certain time extolled, panegyrized, and admired in the journals, especially as they came out under the protection of a certain lady of distinction, who knew nothing at all about the subject. We have recovered from all this now; and, with one or two exceptions, the whole race of such productions is extinct forever.

I did not in the first instance intend to make all Edition: current; Page: [105] these reflections, but to put the reader in a situation to make them. I have shown at the letter E that our e mute, with which we are reproached by an Italian, is precisely what occasions the delicious harmony of our language:—empire, couronne, diadème, épouvantable, sensible. This e mute, which we make perceptible without articulating it, leaves in the ear a melodious sound like that of a bell which still resounds although it is no longer struck. This we have already stated in respect to an Italian, a man of letters, who came to Paris to teach his own language, and who, while there, ought not to decry ours.

He does not perceive the beauty or necessity of our feminine rhymes; they are only e’s mute. This interweaving of masculine and feminine rhymes constitutes the charm of our verse.

Similar observations upon the alphabet, and upon words generally, would not have been without utility; but they would have made the work too long.


After several weak or tyrannic reigns, the Roman Empire had a good emperor in Probus, whom the legions massacred, and elected Carus, who was struck dead by lightning while making war against the Persians. His son, Numerianus, was proclaimed by the soldiers. The historians tell us seriously that he lost his sight by weeping for the death of his father, and that he was obliged to be carried along with the army, shut up in a close litter. Edition: current; Page: [106] His father-in-law Aper killed him in his bed, to place himself on the throne; but a druid had predicted in Gaul to Diocletian, one of the generals of the army, that he would become emperor after having killed a boar. A boar, in Latin, is aper. Diocletian assembled the army, killed Aper with his own hands in the presence of the soldiers, and thus accomplished the prediction of the druid. The historians who relate this oracle deserve to be fed on the fruit of the tree which the druids revered. It is certain that Diocletian killed the father-in-law of the emperor, which was his first right to the throne. Numerianus had a brother named Carinus, who was also emperor, but being opposed to the elevation of Diocletian, he was killed by one of the tribunes of his army, which formed his second pretension to the purple. These were Diocletian’s rights to the throne, and for a long time he had no other.

He was originally of Dalmatia, of the little town of Dioclea, of which he took the name. If it be true that his father was a laborer, and that he himself in his youth had been a slave to a senator named Anulinus, the fact forms his finest eulogium. He could have owed his elevation to himself alone; and it is very clear that he had conciliated the esteem of his army, since they forgot his birth to give him the diadem. Lactantius, a Christian authority, but rather partial, pretends that Diocletian was the greatest poltroon of the empire. It is not very likely that the Roman soldiers would have chosen a poltroon to Edition: current; Page: [107] govern them, or that this poltroon would have passed through all the degrees of the army. The zeal of Lactantius against a pagan emperor is very laudable, but not judicious.

Diocletian continued for twenty years the master of those fierce legions, who dethroned their emperors with as much facility as they created them; which is another proof, notwithstanding Lactantius, that he was as great a prince as he was a brave soldier. The empire under him soon regained its pristine splendor. The Gauls, the Africans, Egyptians, and British, who had revolted several times, were all brought under obedience to the empire; even the Persians were vanquished. So much success without; a still more happy administration within; laws as humane as wise, which still exist in the Justinian code; Rome, Milan, Autun, Nicomedia, Carthage, embellished by his munificence; all tended to gain him the love and respect both of the East and West; so that, two hundred and forty years after his death, they continued to reckon and date from the first year of his reign, as they had formerly dated from the foundation of Rome. This is what is called the era of Diocletian; it has also been called the era of martyrs; but this is a mistake of eighteen years, for it is certain that he did not persecute any Christian for eighteen years. So far from it, the first thing he did, when emperor, was to give a company of prætorian guards to a Christian named Sebastian, who is in the list of the saints.

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He did not fear to give a colleague to the empire in the person of a soldier of fortune, like himself; it was Maximian Hercules, his friend. The similarity of their fortunes had caused their friendship. Maximian was also born of poor and obscure parents, and had been elevated like Diocletian, step by step, by his own courage. People have not failed to reproach this Maximian with taking the surname of Hercules, and Diocletian with accepting that of Jove. They do not condescend to perceive that we have clergymen every day who call themselves Hercules, and peasants denominated Cæsar and Augustus.

Diocletian created two Cæsars; the first was another Maximian, surnamed Galerius, who had formerly been a shepherd. It seemed that Diocletian, the proudest of men and the first introducer of kissing the imperial feet, showed his greatness in placing Cæsars on the throne from men born in the most abject condition. A slave and two peasants were at the head of the empire, and never was it more flourishing.

The second Cæsar whom he created was of distinguished birth. He was Constantius Chlorus, great-nephew, on his mother’s side, to the emperor Claudius II. The empire was governed by these four princes; an association which might have produced four civil wars a year, but Diocletian knew so well how to be master of his colleagues, that he obliged them always to respect him, and even to live Edition: current; Page: [109] united among themselves. These princes, with the name of Cæsars were in reality no more than his subjects. It is seen that he treated them like an absolute sovereign; for when the Cæsar Galerius, having been conquered by the Persians, went into Mesopotamia to give him the account of his defeat, he let him walk for the space of a mile near his chariot, and did not receive him into favor until he had repaired his fault and misfortune.

Galerius retrieved them the year after, in 297, in a very signal manner. He vanquished the king of Persia in person.

These kings of Persia had not been cured, by the battle of Arbela, of carrying their wives, daughters, and eunuchs along with their armies. Galerius, like Alexander, took his enemy’s wife and all his family, and treated them with the same respect. The peace was as glorious as the victory. The vanquished ceded five provinces to the Romans, from the sands of Palmyra to Armenia.

Diocletian and Galerius went to Rome to dazzle the inhabitants with a triumph till then unheard of. It was the first time that the Roman people had seen the wife and children of a king of Persia in chains. All the empire was in plenty and prosperity. Diocletian went through all the provinces, from Rome to Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. His ordinary residence was not at Rome, but at Nicomedia, near the Euxine Sea, either to watch over the Persians and the barbarians, or because he was attached Edition: current; Page: [110] to a retreat which he had himself embellished. It was in the midst of this prosperity that Galerius commenced the persecution against the Christians. Why had he left them in repose until then, and why were they then ill treated? Eusebius says that a centurion of the Trajan legion, named Marcellus, who served in Mauritania, assisting with his troop at a feast given in honor of the victory of Galerius, threw his military sash, his arms, and his branch of vine, on the ground, and cried out loudly that he was a Christian and that he would no longer serve pagans—a desertion which was punished with death by the council of war. This was the first known example of the famous persecution of Diocletian. It is true that there were a great number of Christians in the armies of the empire, and the interest of the state demanded that such a desertion should not be allowed. The zeal of Marcellus was pious, but not reasonable. If at the feast given in Mauritania, viands offered to the gods of the empire were eaten, the law did not command Marcellus to eat of them, nor did Christianity order him to set the example of sedition. There is not a country in the world in which so rash an action would not have been punished.

However, after the adventure of Marcellus, it does not appear that the Christians were thought of until the year 303. They had, at Nicomedia, a superb church, next to the palace, which it exceeded in loftiness. Historians do not tell us the reasons why Edition: current; Page: [111] Galerius demanded of Diocletian the instant destruction of this church; but they tell us that Diocletian was a long time before he determined upon it, and that he resisted for almost a year. It is very strange that after this he should be called the persecutor. At last the church was destroyed and an edict was affixed by which the Christians were deprived of all honors and dignities. Since they were then deprived of them, it is evident that they possessed them. A Christian publicly tore the imperial edict in pieces—that was not an act of religion, it was an incitement to revolt. It is, therefore, very likely that an indiscreet and unreasonable zeal drew down this fatal persecution. Some time afterwards the palace of Galerius was burned down; he accused the Christians, and they accused Galerius of having himself set fire to it, in order to get a pretext for calumniating them. The accusation of Galerius appeared very unjust; that which they entered against him was no less so, for the edict having been already issued, what new pretext could he want? If he really wanted a new argument to engage Diocletian to persecute, this would only form a new proof of the reluctance of Diocletian to abandon the Christians, whom he had always protected; it would evidently show that he wanted new additional reasons to determine him to so much severity.

It appears certain that there were many Christians tormented in the empire, but it is difficult to reconcile with the Roman laws the alleged reported Edition: current; Page: [112] tortures, the mutilations, torn-out tongues, limbs cut and broiled, and all the insults offered against modesty and public decency. It is certain that no Roman law ever ordered such punishments; the aversion of the people to the Christians might carry them to horrible excesses, but we do not anywhere find that these excesses were ordered, either by the emperors or the senate.

It is very likely that the suffering of the Christians spread itself in exaggerated complaints: the “Acta Sincera” informs us that the emperor, being at Antioch, the prætor condemned a Christian child named Romanus to be burned; that the Jews present at the punishment began to laugh, saying: “We had formerly three children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who did not burn in the fiery furnace but these do burn.” At that instant, to confound the Jews, a great rain extinguished the pile and the little boy walked out safe and sound, asking, “Where then is the fire?” The account goes on to say that the emperor commanded him to be set free, but that the judge ordered his tongue to be cut out. It is scarcely possible to believe that the judge would have the tongue of a boy cut out, whom the emperor had pardoned.

That which follows is more singular. It is pretended that an old Christian physician named Ariston, who had a knife ready, cut the child’s tongue out to pay his court to the prætor. The little Romanus was then carried back to prison; the jailer asked him Edition: current; Page: [113] the news. The child related at length how the old surgeon had cut out his tongue. It should be observed that before this operation the child stammered very much but that now he spoke with wonderful volubility. The jailer did not fail to relate this miracle to the emperor. They brought forward the old surgeon who swore that the operation had been performed according to the rules of his art and showed the child’s tongue which he had properly preserved in a box as a relic. “Bring hither another person,” said he, “and I will cut his tongue out in your majesty’s presence, and you will see if he can speak.” The proposition was accepted; they took a poor man whose tongue the surgeon cut out as he had done the child’s, and the man died on the spot.

I am willing to believe that the “Acts” which relate this fact are as veracious as their title pretends, but they are still more simple than sincere, and it is very strange that Fleury, in his “Ecclesiastical History,” relates such a prodigious number of similar incidents, being much more conducive to scandal than edification.

You will also remark that in this year 303, in which it is pretended that Diocletian was present at this fine affair in Antioch, he was at Rome and passed all that year in Italy. It is said that it was at Rome, and in his presence, that St. Genestus, a comedian, was converted on the stage while playing in a comedy against the Christians. This play shows clearly that the taste of Plautus and Terence no Edition: current; Page: [114] longer existed; that which is now called comedy, or Italian farce, seems to have originated at this time. St. Genestus represented an invalid; the physician asked him what was the matter with him. “I am too unwieldy,” said Genestus. “Would you have us exorcise you to make you lighter?” said the physician. “No,” replied Genestus, “I will die a Christian, to be raised again of a finer stature.” Then the actors, dressed as priests and exorcists, came to baptize him, at which moment Genestus really became a Christian, and, instead of finishing his part, began to preach to the emperor and the people. The “Acta Sincera” relate this miracle also.

It is certain that there were many true martyrs, but it is not true that the provinces were inundated with blood, as it is imagined. Mention is made of about two hundred martyrs towards the latter days of Diocletian in all the extent of the Roman Empire, and it is averred, even in the letters of Constantine, that Diocletian had much less part in the persecution than Galerius.

Diocletian fell ill this year and feeling himself weakened he was the first who gave the world the example of the abdication of empire. It is not easy to know whether this abdication was forced or not; it is true, however, that having recovered his health he lived nine years equally honored and peaceable in his retreat of Salonica, in the country of his birth. He said that he only began to live from the day of his retirement and when he was pressed to remount Edition: current; Page: [115] the throne he replied that the throne was not worth the tranquillity of his life, and that he took more pleasure in cultivating his garden than he should have in governing the whole earth. What can be concluded from these facts but that with great faults he reigned like a great emperor and finished his life like a philosopher!


The author of the article “Apocrypha” has neglected to mention a hundred works recognized for such, and which, being entirely forgotten, seem not to merit the honor of being in his list. We have thought it right not to omit St. Dionysius, surnamed the Areopagite, who is pretended to have been for a long time the disciple of St. Paul, and of one Hierotheus, an unknown companion of his. He was, it is said, consecrated bishop of Athens by St. Paul himself. It is stated in his life that he went to Jerusalem to pay a visit to the holy Virgin and that he found her so beautiful and majestic that he was strongly tempted to adore her.

After having a long time governed the Church of Athens he went to confer with St. John the evangelist, at Ephesus, and afterwards with Pope Clement at Rome; thence he went to exercise his apostleship in France; and knowing, says the historian, that Paris was a rich, populous, and abundant town, and Edition: current; Page: [116] like other capitals, he went there to plant a citadel, to lay hell and infidelity in ruins.

He was regarded for a long time as the first bishop of Paris. Harduinus, one of his historians, adds that at Paris he was exposed to wild beasts, but, having made the sign of the cross on them, they crouched at his feet. The pagan Parisians then threw him into a hot oven from which he walked out fresh and in perfect health; he was crucified and he began to preach from the top of the cross.

They imprisoned him with his companions Rusticus and Eleutherus. He there said mass, St. Rusticus performing the part of deacon and Eleutherus that of subdeacon. Finally they were all three carried to Montmartre, where their heads were cut off, after which they no longer said mass.

But, according to Harduinus, there appeared a still greater miracle. The body of St. Dionysius took its head in its hands and accompanied by angels singing “Gloria tibi, Domine, alleluia!” carried it as far as the place where they afterwards built him a church, which is the famous church of St. Denis.

Mestaphrastus, Harduinus, and Hincmar, bishop of Rheims, say that he was martyred at the age of ninety-one years, but Cardinal Baronius proves that he was a hundred and ten, in which opinion he is supported by Ribadeneira, the learned author of “Flower of the Saints.” For our own part we have no opinion on the subject.

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Seventeen works are attributed to him, six of which we have unfortunately lost; the eleven which remain to us have been translated from the Greek by Duns Scotus, Hugh de St. Victor, Albert Magnus, and several other illustrious scholars.

It is true that since wholesome criticism has been introduced into the world it has been discovered that all the books attributed to Dionysius were written by an impostor in the year 362 of our era, so that there no longer remains any difficulty on that head.

Of the Great Eclipse Noticed by Dionysius.

A fact related by one of the unknown authors of the life of Dionysius has, above all, caused great dissension among the learned. It is pretended that this first bishop of Paris, being in Egypt in the town of Diospolis, or No-Amon, at the age of twenty-five years, before he was a Christian, he was there, with one of his friends, witness of the famous eclipse of the sun which happened at the full moon, at the death of Jesus Christ and that he cried in Greek, “Either God suffers or is afflicted at the sufferings of the criminal.”

These words have been differently related by different authors, but in the time of Eusebius of Cæsarea it is pretended that two historians—the one named Phlegon and the other Thallus—had made mention of this miraculous eclipse. Eusebius of Cæsarea quotes Phlegon, but we have none of his works now existing. He said—at least it is pretended Edition: current; Page: [118] so—that this eclipse happened in the fourth year of the two hundredth Olympiad, which would be the eighteenth year of Tiberius’s reign. There are several versions of this anecdote; we distrust them all and much more so, if it were possible to know whether they reckoned by Olympiads in the time of Phlegon, which is very doubtful.

This important calculation interested all the astronomers. Hodgson, Whiston, Gale, Maurice, and the famous Halley, demonstrated that there was no eclipse of the sun in this first year, but that on November 24th in the year of the hundred and second Olympiad an eclipse took place which obscured the sun for two minutes, at a quarter past one, at Jerusalem.

It has been carried still further: a Jesuit named Greslon pretended that the Chinese preserved in their annals the account of an eclipse which happened near that time, contrary to the order of nature. They desired the mathematicians of Europe to make a calculation of it; it was pleasant enough to desire the astronomists to calculate an eclipse which was not natural. Finally it was discovered that these Chinese annals do not in any way speak of this eclipse.

It appears from the history of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the passage from Phlegon, and from the letter of the Jesuit Greslon that men like to impose upon one another. But this prodigious multitude of lies, far from harming the Christian religion, only Edition: current; Page: [119] serves, on the contrary, to show its divinity, since it is more confirmed every day in spite of them.


We will commence with Herodotus as the most ancient. When Henry Stephens entitled his comic rhapsody “The Apology of Herodotus,” we know that his design was not to justify the tales of this father of history; he only sports with us and shows that the enormities of his own times were worse than those of the Egyptians and Persians. He made use of the liberty which the Protestants assumed against those of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman churches. He sharply reproaches them with their debaucheries, their avarice, their crimes expiated by money, their indulgences publicly sold in the taverns, and the false relics manufactured by their own monks, calling them idolaters. He ventures to say that if the Egyptians adored cats and onions, the Catholics adore the bones of the dead. He dares to call them in his preliminary discourses, “theophages,” and even “theokeses.” We have fourteen editions of this book, for we relish general abuse, just as much as we resent that which we deem special and personal.

Henry Stephens made use of Herodotus only to render us hateful and ridiculous; we have quite a contrary design. We pretend to show that the modern histories of our good authors since Guicciardini Edition: current; Page: [120] are in general as wise and true as those of Herodotus and Diodorus are foolish and fabulous.

1. What does the father of history mean by saying in the beginning of his work, “the Persian historians relate that the Phœnicians were the authors of all the wars. From the Red Sea they entered ours,” etc.? It would seem that the Phœnicians, having embarked at the Isthmus of Suez, arrived at the straits of Babel-Mandeb, coasted along Ethiopia, passed the line, doubled the Cape of Tempests, since called the Cape of Good Hope, returned between Africa and America, repassed the line and entered from the ocean into the Mediterranean by the Pillars of Hercules, a voyage of more than four thousand of our long marine leagues at a time when navigation was in its infancy.

2. The first exploit of the Phœnicians was to go towards Argos to carry off the daughter of King Inachus, after which the Greeks, in their turn, carried off Europa, the daughter of the king of Tyre.

3. Immediately afterwards comes Candaules, king of Lydia, who, meeting with one of his guards named Gyges, said to him, “Thou must see my wife quite naked; it is absolutely essential.” The queen, learning that she had been thus exposed, said to the soldier, “You shall either die or assassinate my husband and reign with me.” He chose the latter alternative, and the assassination was accomplished without difficulty.

4. Then follows the history of Arion, carried on Edition: current; Page: [121] the back of a dolphin across the sea from the skirts of Calabria to Cape Matapan, an extraordinary voyage of about a hundred leagues.

5. From tale to tale—and who dislikes tales?—we arrive at the infallible oracle of Delphi, which somehow foretold that Crœsus would cook a quarter of lamb and a tortoise in a copper pan and that he would be dethroned by a mullet.

6. Among the inconceivable absurdities with which ancient history abounds is there anything approaching the famine with which the Lydians were tormented for twenty-eight years? This people, whom Herodotus describes as being richer in gold than the Peruvians, instead of buying food from foreigners, found no better expedient than that of amusing themselves every other day with the ladies without eating for eight-and-twenty successive years.

7. Is there anything more marvellous than the history of Cyrus? His grandfather, the Mede Astyages, with a Greek name, dreamed that his daughter Mandane—another Greek name—inundated all Asia; at another time, that she produced a vine, of which all Asia ate the grapes, and thereupon the good man Astyages ordered one Harpagos, another Greek, to murder his grandson Cyrus—for what grandfather would not kill his posterity after dreams of this nature?

8. Herodotus, no less a good naturalist than an exact historian, does not fail to tell us that near Edition: current; Page: [122] Babylon the earth produced three hundred ears of wheat for one. I know a small country which yields three for one. I should like to have been transported to Diabek when the Turks were driven from it by Catherine II. It has fine corn also but returns not three hundred ears for one.

9. What has always seemed to me decent and edifying in Herodotus is the fine religious custom established in Babylon of which we have already spoken—that of all the married women going to prostitute themselves in the temple of Mylitta for money, to the first stranger who presented himself. We reckon two millions of inhabitants in this city; the devotion must have been ardent. This law is very probable among the Orientals who have always shut up their women, and who, more than six ages before Herodotus, instituted eunuchs to answer to them for the chastity of their wives. I must no longer proceed numerically; we should very soon indeed arrive at a hundred.

All that Diodorus of Sicily says seven centuries after Herodotus is of the same value in all that regards antiquities and physics. The Abbé Terrasson said, “I translate the text of Diodorus in all its coarseness.” He sometimes read us part of it at the house of de Lafaye, and when we laughed, he said, “You are resolved to misconstrue; it was quite the contrary with Dacier.”

The finest part of Diodorus is the charming description of the island of Panchaica—“Panchaica Edition: current; Page: [123] Tellus,” celebrated by Virgil: “There were groves of odoriferous trees as far as the eye could see, myrrh and frankincense to furnish the whole world without exhausting it; fountains, which formed an infinity of canals, bordered with flowers, besides unknown birds, which sang under the eternal shades; a temple of marble four thousand feet long, ornamented with columns, colossal statues,” etc.

This puts one in mind of the Duke de la Ferté, who, to flatter the taste of the Abbé Servien, said to him one day, “Ah, if you had seen my son who died at fifteen years of age! What eyes! what freshness of complexion! what an admirable stature! the Antinous of Belvidere compared to him was only like a Chinese baboon, and as to sweetness of manners, he had the most engaging I ever met with.” The Abbé Servien melted, the duke of Ferté, warmed by his own words, melted also, both began to weep, after which he acknowledged that he never had a son.

A certain Abbé Bazin, with his simple common sense, doubts another tale of Diodorus. It is of a king of Egypt, Sesostris, who probably existed no more than the island of Panchaica. The father of Sesostris, who is not named, determined on the day that he was born that he would make him the conqueror of all the earth as soon as he was of age. It was a notable project. For this purpose he brought up with him all the boys who were born on the same day in Egypt, and, to make them conquerors, Edition: current; Page: [124] he did not suffer them to have their breakfasts until they had run a hundred and eighty stadia, which is about eight of our long leagues.

When Sesostris was of age he departed with his racers to conquer the world. They were then about seventeen hundred and probably half were dead, according to the ordinary course of nature—and, above all, of the nature of Egypt, which was desolated by a destructive plague at least once in ten years.

There must have been three thousand four hundred boys born in Egypt on the same day as Sesostris, and as nature produces almost as many girls as boys, there must have been six thousand persons at least born on that day. But women were confined every day, and six thousand births a day produce, at the end of the year, two millions one hundred and ninety thousand children. If you multiply by thirty-four, according to the rule of Kersseboom, you would have in Egypt more than seventy-four millions of inhabitants in a country which is not so large as Spain or France.

All this appeared monstrous to the Abbé Bazin, who had seen a little of the world, and who judged only by what he had seen.

But one Larcher, who was never outside of the college of Mazarin arrayed himself with great animation on the side of Sesostris and his runners. He pretends that Herodotus, in speaking of the Greeks, does not reckon by the stadia of Greece, and that the Edition: current; Page: [125] heroes of Sesostris only ran four leagues before breakfast. He overwhelms poor Abbé Bazin with injurious names such as no scholar in us or es had ever before employed. He does not hold with the seventeen hundred boys, but endeavors to prove by the prophets that the wives, daughters, and nieces of the king of Babylon, of the satraps, and the magi, resorted, out of pure devotion, to sleep for money in the aisles of the temple of Babylon with all the camel-drivers and muleteers of Asia. He treats all those who defend the honor of the ladies of Babylon as bad Christians, condemned souls, and enemies to the state.

He also takes the part of the goat, so much in the good graces of the young female Egyptians. It is said that his great reason was that he was allied, by the female side, to a relation of the bishop of Meaux, Bossuet, the author of an eloquent discourse on “Universal History”; but this is not a peremptory reason.

Take care of the extraordinary stories of all kinds. Diodorus of Sicily was the greatest compiler of these tales. This Sicilian had not a grain of the temper of his countryman Archimedes, who sought and found so many mathematical truths.

Diodorus seriously examines the history of the Amazons and their queen Theaestris; the history of the Gorgons, who fought against the Amazons; that of the Titans, and that of all the gods. He searches into the history of Priapus and Hermaphroditus. Edition: current; Page: [126] No one could give a better account of Hercules: this hero wandered through half the earth, sometimes on foot and alone like a pilgrim, and sometimes like a general at the head of a great army, and all his labors are faithfully discussed, but this is nothing in comparison with the gods of Crete.

Diodorus justifies Jupiter from the reproach which other grave historians have passed upon him, of having dethroned and mutilated his father. He shows how Jupiter fought the giants, some in his island, others in Phrygia, and afterwards in Macedonia and Italy; the number of children which he had by his sister Juno and his favorites are not omitted.

He describes how he afterwards became a god, and the supreme god. It is thus that all the ancient histories have been written. What is more remarkable, they were sacred; if they had not been sacred, they would never have been read.

It is clear that it would be very useful if in all they were all different, and from province to province, and island to island, each had a different history of the gods, demi-gods, and heroes, from that of their neighbors. But it should also be observed that the people never fought for this mythology.

The respectable history of Thucydides, which has several glimmerings of truth, begins at Xerxes, but, before that epoch how much time was wasted.

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It is neither of a director of finances, a director of hospitals, nor a director of the royal buildings that I pretend to speak, but of a director of conscience, for that directs all the others: it is the preceptor of human kind; it knows and teaches all that should be done or omitted in all possible cases.

It is clear that it would be very useful if in all courts there were one conscientious man whom the monarch secretly consulted on most occasions, and who would boldly say, “Non licet.” Louis the Just would not then have begun his mischievous and unhappy reign by assassinating his first minister and imprisoning his mother. How many wars, unjust as fatal, a few good dictators would have spared! How many cruelties they would have prevented!

But often, while intending to consult a lamb, we consult a fox. Tartuffe was the director of Orgon. I should like to know who was the conscientious director of the massacre of St. Bartholomew.

The gospel speaks no more of directors than of confessors. Among the people whom our ordinary courtesy calls Pagans we do not see that Scipio, Fabricius, Cato, Titus, Trajan, or the Antonines had directors. It is well to have a scrupulous friend to remind you of your duty. But your conscience ought to be the chief of your council.

A Huguenot was much surprised when a Catholic lady told him that she had a confessor to absolve Edition: current; Page: [128] her from her sins and a director to prevent her committing them. “How can your vessel so often go astray, madam,” said he, “having two such good pilots?”

The learned observe that it is not the privilege of every one to have a director. It is like having an equerry; it only belongs to ladies of quality. The Abbé Gobelin, a litigious and covetous man, directed Madame de Maintenon only. The directors of Paris often serve four or five devotees at once; they embroil them with their husbands, sometimes with their lovers, and occasionally fill the vacant places.

Why have the women directors and the men none? It was possibly owing to this distinction that Mademoiselle de la Vallière became a Carmelite when she was quitted by Louis XIV., and that M. de Turenne, being betrayed by Madame de Coetquin, did not make himself a monk.

St. Jerome, and Rufinus his antagonist, were great directors of women and girls. They did not find a Roman senator or a military tribune to govern. These people profited by the devout facility of the feminine gender. The men had too much beard on their chins and often too much strength of mind for them. Boileau has given the portrait of a director in his “Satire on Women,” but might have said something much more to the purpose.

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There have been disputes at all times, on all subjects:—“Mundum tradidit disputationi eorum.” There have been violent quarrels about whether the whole is greater than a part; whether a body can be in several places at the same time; whether the whiteness of snow can exist without snow, or the sweetness of sugar without sugar; whether there can be thinking without a head, etc.

I doubt not that as soon as a Jansenist shall have written a book to demonstrate that one and two are three, a Molinist will start up and demonstrate that two and one are five.

We hope to please and instruct the reader by laying before him the following verses on “Disputation.” They are well known to every man of taste in Paris, but they are less familiar to those among the learned who still dispute on gratuitous predestination, concomitant grace, and that momentous question—whether the mountains were produced by the sea.


    • Each brain its thought, each season has its mode;
    • Manners and fashions alter every day;
    • Examine for yourself what others say;—
    • This privilege by nature is bestowed;—
    • But, oh! dispute not—the designs of heaven
    • To mortal insight never can be given.
    • What is the knowledge of this world worth knowing?
    • What, but a bubble scarcely worth the blowing?
    • “Quite full of errors was the world before;”
    • Then, to preach reason is but one error more.
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    • Viewing this earth from Luna’s elevation,
    • Or any other convenient situation,
    • What shall we see? The various tricks of man:
    • Here is a synod—there is a divan;
    • Behold the mufti, dervish, iman, bonze,
    • The lama and the pope on equal thrones.
    • The modern doctor and the ancient rabbi,
    • The monk, the priest, and the expectant abbé:
    • If you are disputants, my friends, pray travel—
    • When you come home again, you’ll cease to cavil.
    • That wild Ambition should lay waste the earth,
    • Or Beauty’s glance give civil discord birth;
    • That, in our courts of equity, a suit
    • Should hang in doubt till ruin is the fruit;
    • That an old country priest should deeply groan,
    • To see a benefice he’d thought his own
    • Borne off by a court abbé; that a poet
    • Should feel most envy when he least should show it;
    • And, when another’s play the public draws,
    • Should grin damnation while he claps applause;
    • With this, and more, the human heart is fraught—
    • But whence the rage to rule another’s thought;
    • Say, wherefore—in what way—can you design
    • To make your judgment give the law to mine?
    • But chiefly I detest those tiresome elves,
    • Half-learned critics, worshipping themselves,
    • Who, with the utmost weight of all their lead,
    • Maintain against you what yourself have said;
    • Philosophers—and poets—and musicians—
    • Great statesmen—deep in third and fourth editions—
    • They know all—read all—and (the greatest curse)
    • They talk of all—from politics to verse;
    • On points of taste they’ll contradict Voltaire;
    • In law e’en Montesquieu they will not spare;
    • They’ll tutor Broglio in affairs of arms;
    • And teach the charming d’Egmont higher charms.
    • See them, alike in great and small things clever,
    • Replying constantly, though answering never;
    • Hear them assert, repeat, affirm, aver,
    • Wax wroth. And wherefore all this mighty stir?
    • This the great theme that agitates their breast—
    • Which of two wretched rhymesters rhymes the best?
    • Pray, gentle reader, did you chance to know
    • One Monsieur d’Aube, who died not long ago?
    • One whom the disputatious mania woke
    • Early each morning? If, by chance, you spoke
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    • Of your own part in some well-fought affair,
    • Better than you he knew how, when, and where;
    • What though your own the deed and the renown?
    • His “letters from the army” put you down;
    • E’en Richelieu he’d have told—if he attended—
    • How Mahon fell, or Genoa was defended.
    • Although he wanted neither wit nor sense,
    • His every visit gave his friends offence;
    • I’ve seen him, raving in a hot dispute,
    • Exhaust their logic, force them to be mute,
    • Or, if their patience were entirely spent,
    • Rush from the room to give their passion vent.
    • His kinsmen, whom his property allured,
    • At last were wearied, though they long endured.
    • His neighbors, less athletic than himself,
    • For health’s sake laid him wholly on the shelf.
    • Thus, ’midst his many virtues, this one failing
    • Brought his old age to solitary wailing;—
    • For solitude to him was deepest woe—
    • A sorrow which the peaceful ne’er can know
    • At length, to terminate his cureless grief,
    • A mortal fever came to his relief,
    • Caused by the great, the overwhelming pang,
    • Of hearing in the church a long harangue
    • Without the privilege of contradiction;
    • So, yielding to this crowning dire affliction,
    • His spirit fled. But, in the grasp of death,
    • ’Twas some small solace, with his parting breath,
    • To indulge once more his ruling disposition
    • By arguing with the priest and the physician.
    • Oh! may the Eternal goodness grant him now
    • The rest he ne’er to mortals would allow!
    • If, even there, he like not disputation
    • Better than uncontested, calm salvation.
    • But see, my friends, this bold defiance made
    • To every one of the disputing trade,
    • With a young bachelor their skill to try;
    • And God’s own essence shall the theme supply.
    • Come and behold, as on the theatric stage,
    • The pitched encounter, the contending rage;
    • Dilemmas, enthymemes, in close array—
    • Two-edged weapons, cutting either way;
    • The strong-built syllogism’s pondering might,
    • The sophism’s vain ignis fatuus light;
    • Hot-headed monks, whom all the doctors dread,
    • And poor Hibernians arguing for their bread,
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    • Fleeing their country’s miseries and morasses
    • To live at Paris on disputes and masses;
    • While the good public lend their strict attention
    • To what soars far above their sober comprehension.
    • Is, then, all arguing frivolous or absurd?
    • Was Socrates himself not sometimes heard
    • To hold an argument amidst a feast?
    • E’en naked in the bath he hardly ceased.
    • Was this a failing in his mental vision?
    • Genius is sure discovered by collision;
    • The cold hard flint by one quick blow is fired;—
    • Fit emblem of the close and the retired,
    • Who, in the keen dispute struck o’er and o’er,
    • Acquire a sudden warmth unfelt before.
    • All this, I grant, is good. But mark the ill:
    • Men by disputing have grown blinder still.
    • The crooked mind is like the squinting eye:
    • How can you make it see itself awry?
    • Who’s in the wrong? Will any answer “I”?
    • Our words, our efforts, are an idle breath;
    • Each hugs his darling notion until death;
    • Opinions ne’er are altered; all we do
    • Is, to arouse conflicting passions, too.
    • Not truth itself should always find a tongue;
    • “To be too stanchly right, is to be wrong.”
    • In earlier days, by vice and crime unstained,
    • Justice and Truth, two naked sisters, reigned;
    • But long since fled—as every one can tell—
    • Justice to heaven and Truth into a well.
    • Now vain Opinion governs every age,
    • And fills poor mortals with fantastic rage.
    • Her airy temple floats upon the clouds;
    • Gods, demons, antic sprites, in countless crowds,
    • Around her throne—a strange and motley mask—
    • Ply busily their never-ceasing task,
    • To hold up to mankind’s admiring gaze
    • A thousand nothings in a thousand ways;
    • While, wafted on by all the winds that blow,
    • Away the temple and the goddess go.
    • A mortal, as her course uncertain turns,
    • To-day is worshipped, and to-morrow burns.
    • We scoff, that young Antinous once had priests;
    • We think our ancestors were worse than beasts;
    • And he who treats each modern custom ill,
    • Does but what future ages surely will.
    • What female face has Venus smiled upon?
    • The Frenchman turns with rapture to Brionne,
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    • Nor can believe that men were wont to bow
    • To golden tresses and a narrow brow.
    • And thus is vagabond Opinion seen
    • To sway o’er Beauty—this world’s other queen!
    • How can we hope, then, that she e’er will quit
    • Her vapory throne, to seek some sage’s feet,
    • And Truth from her deep hiding-place remove,
    • Once more to witness what is done above?
    • And for the learned—even for the wise—
    • Another snare of false delusion lies;
    • That rage for systems, which, in dreamy thought,
    • Frames magic universes out of naught;
    • Building ten errors on one truth’s foundation.
    • So he who taught the art of calculation,
    • In one of these illusive mental slumbers,
    • Foolishly sought the Deity in numbers;
    • The first mechanic, from as wild a notion,
    • Would rule man’s freedom by the laws of motion.
    • This globe, says one, is an extinguished sun;
    • No, says another, ’tis a globe of glass;
    • And when the fierce contention’s once begun,
    • Book upon book—a vast and useless mass—
    • On Science’s altar are profusely strewn,
    • While Disputation sits on Wisdom’s throne.
    • And then, from contrarieties of speech,
    • What countless feuds have sprung! For you may teach,
    • In the same words, two doctrines different quite
    • As day from darkness, or as wrong from right.
    • This has indeed been man’s severest curse;
    • Famine and pestilence have not been worse,
    • Nor e’er have matched the ills whose aggravations
    • Have scourged the world through misinterpretations.
    • How shall I paint the conscientious strife?
    • The holy transports of each heavenly soul—
    • Fanaticism wasting human life
    • With torch, with dagger, and with poisoned bow;
    • The ruined hamlet and the blazing town,
    • Homes desolate, and parents massacred,
    • And temples in the Almighty’s honor reared
    • The scene of acts that merit most his frown!
    • Rape, murder, pillage, in one frightful storm,
    • Pleasure with carnage horribly combined,
    • The brutal ravisher amazed to find
    • A sister in his victim’s dying form!
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    • Sons by their fathers to the scaffold led;
    • The vanquished always numbered with the dead.
    • Oh, God, permit that all the ills we know
    • May one day pass for merely fabled woe!
    • But see, an angry disputant steps forth—
    • His humble mien a proud heart ill conceals
    • In holy guise inclining to the earth,
    • Offering to God the venom he distils.
    • “Beneath all this a dangerous poison lies;
    • So—every man is neither right nor wrong,
    • And, since we never can be truly wise,
    • By instinct only should be driven along.”
    • “Sir, I’ve not said a word to that effect.”
    • “It’s true, you’ve artfully disguised your meaning.”
    • “But, Sir, my judgment ever is correct.”
    • “Sir, in this case, ’tis rather overweening.
    • Let truth be sought, but let all passion yield;
    • ‘Discussion’s right, and disputation’s wrong;’
    • This have I said—and that at court, in field,
    • Or town, one often should restrain one’s tongue.”
    • “But, my dear Sir, you’ve still a double sense;
    • I can distinguish—” “Sir, with all my heart;
    • I’ve told my thoughts with all due deference,
    • And crave the like indulgence on your part.”
    • “My son, all ‘thinking’ is a grievous crime;
    • So I’ll denounce you without loss of time.”
    • Blest would be they who, from fanatic power,
    • From carping censors, envious critics, free,
    • O’er Helicon might roam in liberty,
    • And unmolested pluck each fragrant flower!
    • So does the farmer, in his healthy fields,
    • Far from the ills in swarming towns that spring,
    • Taste the pure joys that our existence yields,
    • Extract the honey and escape the sting.


A man who knows how to reckon the paces from one end of his house to the other might imagine that nature had all at once taught him this distance and that he has only need of a coup d’œil, as in the case of colors. He is deceived; the different distances of objects can be known only by experience, comparison, Edition: current; Page: [135] and habit. It is that which makes a sailor, on seeing a vessel afar off, able to say without hesitation what distance his own vessel is from it, of which distance a passenger would only form a very confused idea.

Distance is only the line from a given object to ourselves. This line terminates at a point; and whether the object be a thousand leagues from us or only a foot, this point is always the same to our eyes.

We have then no means of directly perceiving distances, as we have of ascertaining by the touch whether a body is hard or soft; by the taste, if it is bitter or sweet; or by the ear, whether of two sounds the one is grave and the other lively. For if I duly notice, the parts of a body which give way to my fingers are the immediate cause of my sensation of softness, and the vibrations of the air, excited by the sonorous body, are the immediate cause of my sensation of sound. But as I cannot have an immediate idea of distance I must find it out by means of an intermediate idea, but it is necessary that this intermediate idea be clearly understood, for it is only by the medium of things known that we can acquire a notion of things unknown.

I am told that such a house is distant a mile from such a river, but if I do not know where this river is I certainly do not know where the house is situated. A body yields easily to the impression of my hand: I conclude immediately that it is soft. Another Edition: current; Page: [136] resists, I feel at once its hardness. I ought therefore to feel the angles formed in my eye in order to determine the distance of objects. But most men do not even know that these angles exist; it is evident, therefore, that they cannot be the immediate cause of our ascertaining distances.

He who, for the first time in his life, hears the noise of a cannon or the sound of a concert, cannot judge whether the cannon be fired or the concert be performed at the distance of a league or of twenty paces. He has only the experience which accustoms him to judge of the distance between himself and the place whence the noise proceeds. The vibrations, the undulations of the air carry a sound to his ears, or rather to his sensorium, but this noise no more carries to his sensorium the place whence it proceeds than it teaches him the form of the cannon or of the musical instruments. It is the same thing precisely with regard to the rays of light which proceed from an object, but which do not at all inform us of its situation.

Neither do they inform us more immediately of magnitude or form. I see from afar a little round tower. I approach, perceive, and touch a great quadrangular building. Certainly, this which I now see and touch cannot be that which I saw before. The little round tower which was before my eyes cannot be this large, square building. One thing in relation to us is the measurable and tangible object; another, the visible object. I hear from my chamber Edition: current; Page: [137] the noise of a carriage, I open my window and see it. I descend and enter it. Yet this carriage that I have heard, this carriage that I have seen, and this carriage which I have touched are three objects absolutely distinct to three of my senses, which have no immediate relation to one another.

Further; it is demonstrated that there is formed in my eye an angle a degree larger when a thing is near, when I see a man four feet from me than when I see the same man at a distance of eight feet. However, I always see this man of the same size. How does my mind thus contradict the mechanism of my organs? The object is really a degree smaller to my eyes, and yet I see it the same. It is in vain that we attempt to explain this mystery by the route which the rays follow or by the form taken by the crystalline humor of the eye. Whatever may be supposed to the contrary, the angle at which I see a man at four feet from me is always nearly double the angle at which I see him at eight feet. Neither geometry nor physics will explain this difficulty.

These geometrical lines and angles are not really more the cause of our seeing objects in their proper places than that we see them of a certain size and at a certain distance. The mind does not consider that if this part were to be painted at the bottom of the eye it could collect nothing from lines that it saw not. The eye looks down only to see that which is near the ground, and is uplifted to see that which is above the earth. All this might be explained and Edition: current; Page: [138] placed beyond dispute by any person born blind, to whom the sense of sight was afterwards attained. For if this blind man, the moment that he opens his eyes, can correctly judge of distances, dimensions, and situations, it would be true that the optical angles suddenly formed in his retina were the immediate cause of his decisions. Doctor Berkeley asserts, after Locke—going even further than Locke—that neither situation, magnitude, distance, nor figure would be discerned by a blind man thus suddenly gifted with sight.

In fact, a man born blind was found in 1729, by whom this question was indubitably decided. The famous Cheselden, one of those celebrated surgeons who join manual skill to the most enlightened minds, imagined that he could give sight to this blind man by couching, and proposed the operation. The patient was with great difficulty brought to consent to it. He did not conceive that the sense of sight could much augment his pleasures, except that he desired to be able to read and to write, he cared indeed little about seeing. He proved by this indifference that it is impossible to be rendered unhappy by the privation of pleasures of which we have never formed an idea—a very important truth. However this may be, the operation was performed, and succeeded. This young man at fourteen years of age saw the light for the first time, and his experience confirmed all that Locke and Berkeley had so ably foreseen. For a long time he distinguished neither Edition: current; Page: [139] dimensions, distance, nor form. An object about the size of an inch, which was placed before his eyes, and which concealed a house from him, appeared as large as the house itself. All that he saw seemed to touch his eyes, and to touch them as objects of feeling touch the skin. He could not at first distinguish that which, by the aid of his hands, he had thought round from that which he had supposed square, nor could he discern with his eyes if that which his hands had felt to be tall and short were so in reality. He was so far from knowing anything about magnitude that after having at last conceived by his sight that his house was larger than his chamber, he could not conceive how sight could give him this idea. It was not until after two months’ experience he could discover that pictures represented existing bodies, and when, after this long development of his new sense in him, he perceived that bodies, and not surfaces only, were painted in the pictures, he took them in his hands and was astonished at not finding those solid bodies of which he had begun to perceive the representation, and demanded which was the deceived, the sense of feeling or that of sight.

Thus was it irrevocably decided that the manner in which we see things follows not immediately from the angles formed in the eye. These mathematical angles were in the eyes of this man the same as in our own and were of no use to him without the help of experience and of his other senses.

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The adventure of the man born blind was known in France towards the year 1735. The author of the “Elements of Newton,” who had seen a great deal of Cheselden, made mention of this important discovery, but did not take much notice of it. And even when the same operation of the cataract was performed at Paris on a young man who was said to have been deprived of sight from his cradle, the operators neglected to attend to the daily development of the sense of sight in him and to the progress of nature. The fruit of this operation was therefore lost to philosophy.

How do we represent to ourselves dimensions and distances? In the same manner that we imagine the passions of men by the colors with which they vary their countenances, and by the alteration which they make in their features. There is no person who cannot read joy or grief on the countenance of another. It is the language that nature addresses to all eyes, but experience only teaches this language. Experience alone teaches us that, when an object is too far, we see it confusedly and weakly, and thence we form ideas, which always afterwards accompany the sensation of sight. Thus every man who at ten paces sees his horse five feet high, if, some minutes after, he sees this horse of the size of a sheep, by an involuntary judgment immediately concludes that the horse is much farther from him.

It is very true that when I see my horse of the size of a sheep a much smaller picture is formed in Edition: current; Page: [141] my eye—a more acute angle; but it is a fact which accompanies, not causes, my opinion. In like manner, it makes a different impression on my brain, when I see a man blush from shame and from anger; but these different impressions would tell me nothing of what was passing in this man’s mind, without experience, whose voice alone is attended to.

So far from the angle being the immediate cause of my thinking that a horse is far off when I see it very small, it happens that I see my horse equally large at ten, twenty, thirty, or forty paces, though the angle at ten paces may be double, treble, or quadruple. I see at a distance, through a small hole, a man posted on the top of a house; the remoteness and fewness of the rays at first prevent me from distinguishing that it is a man; the object appears to me very small. I think I see a statue two feet high at most; the object moves; I then judge that it is a man; and from that instant the man appears to me of his ordinary size. Whence come these two judgments so different? When I believed that I saw a statue, I imagined it to be two feet high, because I saw it at such an angle; experience had not led my mind to falsify the traits imprinted on my retina; but as soon as I judged that it was a man, the association established in my mind by experience between a man and his known height of five or six feet, involuntarily obliged me to imagine that I saw one of a certain height; or, in fact, that I saw the height itself.

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It must therefore be absolutely concluded, that distance, dimension, and situation are not, properly speaking, visible things; that is to say, the proper and immediate objects of sight. The proper and immediate object of sight is nothing but colored light; all the rest we only discover by long acquaintance and experience. We learn to see precisely as we learn to speak and to read. The difference is, that the art of seeing is more easy, and that nature is equally mistress of all.

The sudden and almost uniform judgments which, at a certain age, our minds form of distance, dimension, and situation, make us think that we have only to open our eyes to see in the manner in which we do see. We are deceived; it requires the help of the other senses. If men had only the sense of sight, they would have no means of knowing extent in length, breadth, and depth, and a pure spirit perhaps would not know it, unless God revealed it to him. It is very difficult, in our understanding, to separate the extent of an object from its color. We never see anything but what is extended, and from that we are led to believe that we really see the extent. We can scarcely distinguish in our minds the yellow that we see in a louis d’or from the louis d’or in which we see the yellow. In the same manner, as when we hear the word louis d’or pronounced, we cannot help attaching the idea of the money to the word which we hear spoken.

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If all men spoke the same language, we should be always ready to believe in a necessary connection between words and ideas. But all men in fact do possess the same language of imagination. Nature says to them all: When you have seen colors for a certain time, imagination will represent the bodies to which these colors appear attached to all alike. This prompt and summary judgment once attained will be of use to you during your life; for if to estimate the distances, magnitudes, and situations of all that surrounds you, it were necessary to examine the visual angles and rays, you would be dead before you had ascertained whether the things of which you have need were ten paces from you or a hundred thousand leagues, and whether they were of a size of a worm or of a mountain. It would be better to be born blind.

We are then, perhaps, very wrong, when we say that our senses deceive us. Every one of our senses performs the function for which it was destined by nature. They mutually aid one another to convey to our minds, through the medium of experience, the measure of knowledge that our being allows. We ask from our senses what they are not made to give us. We would have our eyes acquaint us with solidity, dimension, distance, etc.; but it is necessary for the touch to agree for that purpose with the sight, and that experience should second both. If Father Malebranche had looked at this Edition: current; Page: [144] side of nature, he would perhaps have attributed fewer errors to our senses, which are the only sources of all our ideas.

We should not, however, extend this species of metaphysics to every case before us. We should only call it to our aid when the mathematics are insufficient.


The Socinians, who are regarded as blasphemers, do not recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ. They dare to pretend, with the philosophers of antiquity, with the Jews, the Mahometans, and most other nations, that the idea of a god-man is monstrous; that the distance from God to man is infinite; and that it is impossible for a perishable body to be infinite, immense, or eternal.

They have the confidence to quote Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea, in their favor, who, in his “Ecclesiastical History,” i., 9, declares that it is absurd to imagine the uncreated and unchangeable nature of Almighty God taking the form of a man. They cite the fathers of the Church, Justin and Tertullian, who have said the same thing: Justin, in his “Dialogue with Triphonius”; and Tertullian, in his “Discourse against Praxeas.”

They quote St. Paul, who never calls Jesus Christ “God,” and who calls Him “man” very often. They carry their audacity so far as to affirm that the Christians passed three entire ages in forming by Edition: current; Page: [145] degrees the apotheosis of Jesus; and that they only raised this astonishing edifice by the example of the pagans, who had deified mortals. At first, according to them, Jesus was only regarded as a man inspired by God, and then as a creature more perfect than others. They gave Him some time after a place above the angels, as St. Paul tells us. Every day added to His greatness. He in time became an emanation, proceeding from God. This was not enough; He was even born before time. At last He was made God consubstantial with God. Crellius, Voquelsius, Natalis Alexander, and Horneck have supported all these blasphemies by arguments which astonish the wise and mislead the weak. Above all, Faustus Socinus spread the seeds of this doctrine in Europe; and at the end of the sixteenth century a new species of Christianity was established. There were already more than three hundred.


In the article on “Divorce,” in the “Encyclopædia,” it is said that the custom of divorce having been brought into Gaul by the Romans, it was therefore that Basine, or Bazine, quitted the king of Thuringia, her husband, in order to follow Childeric, who married her. Why not say that because the Trojans established the custom of divorce in Sparta, Helen repudiated Menelaus according to law, to run away with Paris into Phrygia?

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The agreeable fable of Paris, and the ridiculous one of Childeric, who never was king of France, and who it is pretended carried off Bazine, the wife of Bazin, have nothing to do with the law of divorce.

They all quote Cheribert, ruler of the little town of Lutetia, near Issay—Lutetia Parisiorum—who repudiated his wife. The Abbé Velly, in his “History of France,” says that this Cheribert, or Caribert, divorced his wife Ingoberg to espouse Mirefleur, the daughter of an artisan; and afterwards Theudegild, the daughter of a shepherd, who was raised to the first throne of the French Empire.

There was at that time neither first nor second throne among these barbarians whom the Roman Empire never recognized as kings. There was no French Empire. The empire of the French only commenced with Charlemagne. It is very doubtful whether the word “mirefleur” was in use either in the Welsh or Gallic languages, which were a patois of the Celtic jargon. This patois had no expressions so soft.

It is also said that the ruler or governor Chilperic, lord of the province of Soissonnais, whom they call king of France, divorced his queen Andovere, or Andove; and here follows the reason of this divorce.

This Andovere, after having given three male children to the lord of Soissons, brought forth a daughter. The Franks having been in some manner Christians since the time of Clovis, Andovere, Edition: current; Page: [147] after her recovery, presented her daughter to be baptized. Chilperic of Soissons, who was apparently very tired of her, declared that it was an unpardonable crime in her to be the godmother of her infant, and that she could no longer be his wife by the laws of the Church. He therefore married Fredegond, whom he subsequently put away also, and espoused a Visigoth. To conclude, this scrupulous husband ended by taking Fredegond back again.

There was nothing legal in all this, and it ought no more to be quoted than anything which passed in Ireland or the Orcades. The Justinian code, which we have adopted in several points, authorizes divorce; but the canonical law, which the Catholics have placed before it, does not permit it.

The author of the article says that divorce is practised in the states of Germany, of the confession of Augsburg. He might have added that this custom is established in all the countries of the North, among the reformed of all professions, and among all the followers of the Greek Church.

Divorce is probably of nearly the same date as marriage. I believe, however, that marriage is some weeks more ancient; that is to say, men quarrelled with their wives at the end of five days, beat them at the end of a month, and separated from them after six weeks’ cohabitation.

Justinian, who collected all the laws made before him, to which he added his own, not only confirms that of divorce, but he extends it still further; so Edition: current; Page: [148] that every woman, whose husband is not a slave, but simply a prisoner of war during five years, may, after the five years have expired, contract another marriage.

Justinian was a Christian, and even a theologian; how is it, then, that the Church derogates from his laws? It was when the Church became the sovereign and the legislator. The popes had not much trouble to substitute their decretals instead of the civil code in the West, which was plunged in ignorance and barbarism. They took, indeed, so much advantage of the prevailing ignorance, that Honorius III., Gregory IX., and Innocent III., by their bulls, forbade the civil law to be taught. It may be said of this audacity, that it is not creditable, but true.

As the Church alone took cognizance of marriages, so it alone judged of divorce. No prince effected a divorce and married a second wife without previously obtaining the consent of the pope. Henry VIII., king of England, did not marry without his consent, until after having a long time solicited his divorce in the court of Rome in vain.

This custom, established in ignorant times, is perpetuated in enlightened ones only because it exists. All abuse eternizes itself; it is an Augean stable, and requires a Hercules to cleanse it.

Henry IV. could not be the father of a king of France without the permission of the pope; which must have been given, as has already been remarked, not by pronouncing a divorce, but a lie; that is to Edition: current; Page: [149] say, by pretending that there had not been previous marriage with Margaret de Valois.


It seems as if nature had given the dog to man for his defence and pleasure; it is of all animals the most faithful; it is the best possible friend of man.

It appears that there are several species absolutely different. How can we believe that a greyhound comes originally from a spaniel? It has neither its hair, legs, shape, ears, voice, scent, nor instinct. A man who has never seen any dogs but barbets or spaniels, and who saw a greyhound for the first time, would take it rather for a dwarf horse than for an animal of the spaniel race. It is very likely that each race was always what it now is, with the exception of the mixture of a small number of them.

It is astonishing that, in the Jewish law, the dog was considered unclean, as well as the griffin, the hare, the pig, and the eel; there must have been some moral or physical reason for it, which we have not yet discovered.

That which is related of the sagacity, obedience, friendship, and courage of dogs, is as extraordinary as true. The military philosopher, Ulloa, assures us that in Peru the Spanish dogs recognize the men of the Indian race, pursue them, and tear them to pieces; and that the Peruvian dogs do the same with the Spaniards. This would seem to prove that each species of dogs still retained the hatred which Edition: current; Page: [150] was inspired in it at the time of the discovery, and that each race always fought for its master with the same valor and attachment.

Why, then, has the word “dog” become an injurious term? We say, for tenderness, my sparrow, my dove, my chicken; we even say my kitten, though this animal is famed for treachery; and, when we are angry, we call people dogs! The Turks, when not even angry, speak with horror and contempt of the Christian dogs. The English populace, when they see a man who, by his manner or dress, has the appearance of having been born on the banks of the Seine or of the Loire, commonly call him a French dog—a figure of rhetoric which is neither just to the dog nor polite to the man.

The delicate Homer introduces the divine Achilles telling the divine Agamemnon that he is as impudent as a dog—a classical justification of the English populace.

The most zealous friends of the dog must, however, confess that this animal carries audacity in its eyes; that some are morose; that they often bite strangers whom they take for their master’s enemies, as sentinels assail passengers who approach too near the counterscarp. These are probably the reasons which have rendered the epithet “dog” insulting; but we dare not decide.

Why was the dog adored and revered—as has been seen—by the Egyptians? Because the dog Edition: current; Page: [151] protects man. Plutarch tells us that after Cambyses had killed their bull Apis, and had had it roasted, no animal except the dog dared to eat the remains of the feast, so profound was the respect for Apis; the dog, not so scrupulous, swallowed the god without hesitation. The Egyptians, as may be imagined, were exceedingly scandalized at this want of reverence, and Anubis lost much of his credit.

The dog, however, still bears the honor of being always in the heavens, under the names of the great and little dog. We regularly record the dog-days.

But of all dogs, Cerberus has had the greatest reputation; he had three heads. We have remarked that, anciently, all went by threes—Isis, Osiris, and Orus, the three first Egyptian divinities; the three brother gods of the Greek world—Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto; the three Fates, the three Furies, the three Graces, the three judges of hell, and the three heads of this infernal dog.

We perceive here with grief that we have omitted the article on “Cats”; but we console ourselves by referring to their history. We will only remark that there are no cats in the heavens, as there are goats, crabs, bulls, rams, eagles, lions, fishes, hares, and dogs; but, in recompense, the cat has been consecrated, or revered, or adored, as partaking of divinity or saintship in several towns, and as altogether divine by no small number of women.

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We know that all belief taught by the Church is a dogma which we must embrace. It is a pity that there are dogmas received by the Latin Church, and rejected by the Greek. But if unanimity is wanting, charity replaces it. It is, above all, between hearts that union is required. I think that we can relate a dream to the purpose, which has already found favor in the estimation of many peaceably disposed persons.

“On Feb. 18, 1763, of the vulgar era, the sun entering the sign of the fishes, I was transported to heaven, as all my friends can bear witness. The mare Borac, of Mahomet, was not my steed, neither was the fiery chariot of Elijah my carriage. I was not carried on the elephant of Somonocodom, the Siamese; on the horse of St. George, the patron of England; nor on St. Anthony’s pig. I avow with frankness that my journey was made I know not how.

“It will be easily believed that I was dazzled; but it will not so easily be credited that I witnessed the judgment of the dead. And who were the judges? They were—do not be displeased at it—all those who have done good to man. Confucius, Solon, Socrates, Titus, Antoninus, Epictetus, Charron, de Thou, Chancellor de L’ Hôpital, and all the great men who, having taught and practised the virtues that God requires, seemed to be the only persons Edition: current; Page: [153] possessing the right of pronouncing his decrees.

“I shall not describe on what thrones they were seated, nor how many celestial beings were prostrated before the eternal architect of all worlds, nor what a crowd of the inhabitants of these innumerable worlds appeared before the judges. I shall not even give an account of several little interesting peculiarities which were exceedingly striking.

“I remarked that every spirit who pleaded his cause and displayed his specious pretensions had beside him all the witnesses of his actions. For example, when Cardinal Lorraine boasted of having caused some of his opinions to be adopted by the Council of Trent, and demanded eternal life as the price of his orthodoxy, there immediately appeared around him twenty ladies of the court, all bearing on their foreheads the number of their interviews with the cardinal. I also saw those who had concerted with him the foundations of the infamous league. All the accomplices of his wicked designs surrounded him.

“Over against Cardinal Lorraine was John Calvin, who boasted, in his gross patois, of having trampled upon the papal idol, after others had overthrown it. ‘I have written against painting and sculpture,’ said he; ‘I have made it apparent that good works are of no avail, and I have proved that it is diabolical to dance a minuet. Send away Cardinal Lorraine quickly, and place me by the side of St. Paul.’

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“As he spoke there appeared by his side a lighted pile; a dreadful spectre, wearing round his neck a Spanish frill, arose half burned from the midst of the flames, with dreadful shrieks. ‘Monster,’ cried he; ‘execrable monster, tremble! recognize that Servetus, whom you caused to perish by the most cruel torments, because he had disputed with you on the manner in which three persons can form one substance.’ Then all the judges commanded that Cardinal Lorraine should be thrown into the abyss, but that Calvin should be punished still more rigorously.

“I saw a prodigious crowd of spirits, each of which said, ‘I have believed, I have believed!’ but on their forehead it was written, ‘I have acted,’ and they were condemned.

“The Jesuit Letellier appeared boldly with the bull Unigenitus in his hand. But there suddenly arose at his side a heap, consisting of two thousand lettres-de-cachet. A Jansenist set fire to them, and Letellier was burned to a cinder; while the Jansenist, who had no less caballed than the Jesuit, had his share of the flames.

“I saw approach, from right and left, troops of fakirs, talapoins, bonzes, and black, white, and gray monks, who all imagined that, to make their court to the Supreme Being, they must either sing, scourge themselves, or walk quite naked. ‘What good have you done to men?’ was the query. A dead silence succeeded to this question. No one Edition: current; Page: [155] dared to answer; and they were all conducted to the mad-houses of the universe, the largest buildings imaginable.

“One cried out that he believed in the metamorphoses of Xaca, another in those of Somonocodom. ‘Bacchus stopped the sun and moon!’ said this one. ‘The gods resuscitated Pelops!’ said the other. ‘Here is the bull in cœna Domini!’ said a newcomer—and the officer of the court exclaimed, ‘To Bedlam, to Bedlam!’

“When all these causes were gone through, I heard this proclamation: ‘By the Eternal Creator, Preserver, Rewarder, Revenger, Forgiver, etc., be it known to all the inhabitants of the hundred thousand millions of millions of worlds that it hath pleased us to form, that we never judge any sinners in reference to their own shallow ideas, but only as to their actions. Such is our Justice.’

“I own that this was the first time I ever heard such an edict; all those which I had read, on the little grain of dust on which I was born, ended with these words: ‘Such is our pleasure.’ ”


The Roman Republic, which seized so many states, also gave some away. Scipio made Massinissa king of Numidia.

Lucullus, Sulla, and Pompey, each gave away half a dozen kingdoms. Cleopatra received Egypt Edition: current; Page: [156] from Cæsar. Antony, and afterwards Octavius, gave the little kingdom of Judæa to Herod.

Under Trajan, the famous medal of regna assignata was struck and kingdoms bestowed.

Cities and provinces given in sovereignty to priests and to colleges, for the greater glory of God, or of the gods, are seen in every country. Mahomet, and the caliphs, his vicars, took possession of many states in the propagation of their faith, but they did not make donations of them. They held by nothing but their Koran and their sabre.

The Christian religion, which was at first a society of poor people, existed for a long time on alms alone. The first donation was that of Ananias and Sapphira his wife. It was in ready money and was not prosperous to the donors.

The Donation of Constantine.

The celebrated donation of Rome and all Italy to Pope Sylvester by the emperor Constantine, was maintained as a part of the creed of Rome until the sixteenth century. It was believed that Constantine, being at Nicomedia, was cured of leprosy at Rome by the baptism which he received from Bishop Sylvester, though he was not baptized at all; and that by way of recompense he gave forthwith the city of Rome and all its western provinces to this Sylvester. If the deed of this donation had been drawn up by the doctor of the Italian comedy, it could not have been more pleasantly conceived. It is added Edition: current; Page: [157] that Constantine declared all the canons of Rome consuls and patricians—“patricios et consules effici”—that he himself held the bridle of the mare on which the new bishop was mounted—“tenentes frenum equi illius.”

It is astonishing to reflect that this fine story was held an article of faith and respected by the rest of Europe for eight centuries, and that the Church persecuted as heretics all those who doubted it.

Donation of Pepin.

At present people are no longer persecuted for doubting that Pepin the usurper gave, or was able to give, the exarchate of Ravenna to the pope. It is at most an evil thought, a venial sin, which does not endanger the loss of body or of soul.

The reasoning of the German lawyers, who have scruples in regard to this donation, is as follows:

1. The librarian Anastatius, whose evidence is always cited, wrote one hundred and forty years after the event.

2. It is not likely that Pepin, who was not firmly established in France, and against whom Aquitaine made war, could give away, in Italy, states which already belonged to the emperor, resident at Constantinople.

3. Pope Zacharias recognized the Roman-Greek emperor as the sovereign of those lands, disputed by the Lombards, and had administered the oath to him; as may be seen by the letters of this bishop, Edition: current; Page: [158] Zacharias of Rome to Bishop Boniface of Mentz. Pepin could not give to the pope the imperial territories.

4. When Pope Stephen II. produced a letter from heaven, written in the hand of St. Peter, to Pepin, to complain of the grievances of the king of the Lombards, Astolphus, St. Peter does not mention in his letter that Pepin had made a present of the exarchate of Ravenna to the pope; and certainly St. Peter would not have failed to do so, even if the thing had been only equivocal; he understands his interest too well.

Finally, the deed of this donation has never been produced; and what is still stronger, the fabrication of a false one cannot be ventured. The only proofs are vague recitals, mixed up with fables. Instead of certainty, there are only the absurd writings of monks, copied from age to age, from one another.

The Italian advocate who wrote in 1722 to prove that Parma and Placentia had been ceded to the holy see as a dependency of the exarchate, asserts that the Greek emperors were justly despoiled of their rights because they had excited the people against God. Can lawyers write thus in our days? Yes, it appears, but only at Rome. Cardinal Bellarmine goes still farther. “The first Christians,” says he, “supported the emperors only because they were not the strongest.” The avowal is frank, and I am persuaded that Bellarmine is right.

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The Donation of Charlemagne.

At a time when the court of Rome believed itself deficient in titles, it pretended that Charlemagne had confirmed the donation of the exarchate, and that he added to it Sicily, Venice, Benevento, Corsica, and Sardinia. But as Charlemagne did not possess any of these states, he could not give them away; and as to the town of Ravenna, it is very clear that he kept it, since in his will he made a legacy to his city of Ravenna as well as to his city of Rome. It is surprising enough that the popes have obtained Ravenna and Rome; but as to Venice, it is not likely that the diploma which granted them the sovereignty will be found in the palace of St. Mark.

All these acts, instruments, and diplomas have been subjects of dispute for ages. But it is a confirmed opinion, says Giannone, that martyr to truth, that all these pieces were forged in the time of Gregory VII. “E costante opinione presso i piu gravi scrittori che tutti questi istromenti e diplomi furono supposti ne tempi d’Ildebrando.”

Donation of Benevento by the Emperor Henry III.

The first well attested donation which was made to the see of Rome was that of Benevento, and that was an exchange of the Emperor Henry III. with the pope. It wanted only one formality, which was that the emperor who gave away Benevento was not the owner of it. It belonged to the dukes of Benevento, and the Roman-Greek emperors reclaimed Edition: current; Page: [160] their rights on this duchy, But history supplies little beyond a list of those who have accommodated themselves with the property of others.

Donation of the Countess Mathilda.

The most authentic and considerable of these donations was that of all the possessions of the famous Countess Mathilda to Gregory VII. She was a young widow, who gave all to her spiritual director. It is supposed that the deed was twice executed and afterwards confirmed by her will.

However, there still remains some difficulty. It was always believed at Rome that Mathilda had given all her states, all her possessions, present and to come, to her friend Gregory VII. by a solemn deed, in her castle of Canossa, in 1077, for the relief of her own soul and that of her parents. And to corroborate this precious instrument a second is shown to us, dated in the year 1102, in which it is said that it is to Rome that she made this donation; that she recalled it, and that she afterwards renewed it; and always for the good of her soul.

How could so important a deed be recalled? Was the court of Rome so negligent? How could an instrument written at Canossa have been written at Rome? What do these contradictions mean? All that is clear is that the souls of the receivers fared better than the soul of the giver, who to save it was obliged to deprive herself of all she possessed in favor of her physicians.

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In short, in 1102, a sovereign was deprived of the power of disposing of an acre of land; yet after this deed, and to the time of her death, in 1115, there are still found considerable donations of lands made by this same Mathilda to canons and monks. She had not, therefore, given all. Finally, this deed was very likely made by some ingenious person after her death.

The court of Rome still includes among its titles the testament of Mathilda, which confirmed her donations. The popes, however, never produce this testament. It should also be known whether this rich countess had the power to dispose of her possessions, which were most of them fiefs of the empire.

The Emperor Henry V., her heir, possessed himself of all, and recognized neither testament, donation, deed, nor right. The popes, in temporizing, gained more than the emperors in exerting their authority; and in time these Cæsars became so weak that the popes finally obtained the succession of Mathilda, which is now called the patrimony of St. Peter.

Donation of the Sovereignty of Naples to the Popes.

The Norman gentlemen who were the first instruments of the conquests of Naples and Sicily achieved the finest exploit of chivalry that was ever heard of. From forty to fifty men only delivered Salerno at the moment it was taken by an army of Saracens. Seven other Norman gentlemen, all Edition: current; Page: [162] brothers, sufficed to chase these same Saracens from all the country, and to take prisoner the Greek emperor, who had treated them ungratefully. It was quite natural that the people, whom these heroes had inspired with valor, should be led to obey them through admiration and gratitude.

Such were the first rights to the crown of the two Sicilies. The bishops of Rome could no more give those states in fief than the kingdoms of Boutan or Cachemire. They could not even grant the investiture which would have been demanded of them; for, in the time of the anarchy of the fiefs, when a lord would hold his free land as a fief for his protection, he could only address himself to the sovereign or the chief of the country in which it was situated. And certainly the pope was neither the sovereign of Naples, Apulia, nor Calabria.

Much has been written about this pretended vassalage, but the source has never been discovered. I dare say that it is as much the fault of the lawyers as of the theologians. Every one deduces from a received principle consequences the most favorable to himself or his party. But is the principle true? Is the first fact by which it is supported incontestable? It is this which should be examined. It resembles our ancient romance writers, who all take it for granted that Francus brought the helmet of Hector to France. This casque was impenetrable, no doubt; but had Hector really worn it? The holy Virgin’s milk is also very respectable; but do Edition: current; Page: [163] the twenty sacristies, who boast of having a gill of it, really possess it?

Men of the present time, as wicked as foolish, do not shrink from the greatest crimes, and yet fear an excommunication, which would render them execrable to people still more wicked and foolish than themselves.

Robert and Richard Guiscard, the conquerors of Apulia and Calabria, were excommunicated by Pope Leo IX. They were declared vassals of the empire; but the emperor, Henry III., discontented with these feudatory conquerors, engaged Leo IX. to launch the excommunication at the head of an army of Germans. The Normans, who did not fear these thunderbolts like the princes of Italy, beat the Germans and took the pope prisoner. But to prevent the popes and emperors hereafter from coming to trouble them in their possessions, they offered their conquests to the Church under the name of oblata. It was thus that England paid the Peter’s pence; that the first kings of Spain and Portugal, on recovering their states from the Saracens, promised two pounds of gold a year to the Church of Rome. But England, Spain, nor Portugal never regarded the pope as their sovereign master.

Duke Robert, oblat of the Church, was therefore no feudatory of the pope; he could not be so, since the popes were not the sovereigns of Rome. This city was then governed by its senate, and the bishop possessed only influence. The pope was at Rome Edition: current; Page: [164] precisely what the elector is at Cologne. There is a prodigious difference between the oblat of a saint and the feudatory of a bishop.

Baronius, in his “Acts,” relates the pretended homage done by Robert, duke of Apulia and Calabria, to Nicholas II.; but this deed is suspected, like many others; it has never been seen, it has never been found in any archives. Robert entitled himself “duke by the grace of God and St. Peter”; but certainly St. Peter had given him nothing, nor was that saint king of Rome.

The other popes, who were kings no more than St. Peter, received without difficulty the homage of all the princes who presented themselves to reign over Naples, particularly when these princes were the most powerful.

Donation of England and Ireland to the Popes by King John.

In 1213, King John, vulgarly called Lackland, or more properly Lackvirtue, being excommunicated and seeing his kingdom laid under an interdict, gave it away to Pope Innocent III. and his successors. “Not constrained with fear, but with my full consent and the advice of my barons, for the remission of my sins against God and the Church, I resign England and Ireland to God, St. Peter, St. Paul, and our lord the Pope Innocent, and to his successors in the apostolic chair.”

He declared himself feudatory lieutenant of the Edition: current; Page: [165] pope, paid about eight thousand pounds sterling in ready money to the legate Pandulph, promised to pay a thousand more every year, gave the first year in advance to the legate who trampled upon him, and swore on his knees that he submitted to lose all in the event of not paying at the time appointed. The jest of this ceremony was that the legate departed with the money and forgot to remove the excommunication.

Examination of the Vassalage of Naples and England.

It may be asked which was the more valuable, the donation of Robert Guiscard or that of John Lackland; both had been excommunicated, both had given their states to St. Peter and became only the farmers of them. If the English barons were indignant at the infamous bargain of their king with the pope, and cancelled it, the Neapolitan barons could have equally cancelled that of Baron Robert; and that which they could have done formerly they certainly can do at present.

Were England and Apulia given to the pope, according to the law of the Church or of the fiefs, as to a bishop or a sovereign? If to a bishop, it is precisely contrary to the law of Jesus, who so often forbids his disciples to take anything, and who declares to them that His kingdom is not of this world.

If as to a sovereign, it was high treason to his imperial majesty; the Normans had already done Edition: current; Page: [166] homage to the emperor. Thus no right, spiritual or temporal, belonged to the popes in this affair. When the principle is erroneous, all the deductions are so of course. Naples no more belonged to the pope than England.

There is still another method of providing against this ancient bargain; it is the right of the people, which is stronger than the right of the fiefs. The people’s right will not suffer one sovereign to belong to another, and the most ancient law is to be master of our own, at least when we are not the weakest.

Of Donations Made by the Popes.

If principalities have been given to the bishops of Rome, they have given away many more. There is not a single throne in Europe to which they have not made a present. As soon as a prince had conquered a country, or even wished to do it, the popes granted it in the name of St. Peter. Sometimes they even made the first advances, and it may be said that they have given away every kingdom but that of heaven.

Few people in France know that Julius II. gave the states of King Louis XII. to the Emperor Maximilian, who could not put himself in possession of them. They do not sufficiently remember that Sixtus V., Gregory XIV., and Clement VIII., were ready to make a present of France to whomsoever Philip II. would have chosen for the husband of his daughter Clara Eugenia.

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As to the emperors, there is not one since Charlemagne that the court of Rome has not pretended to nominate. This is the reason why Swift, in his “Tale of a Tub,” says “that Lord Peter became suddenly mad, and that Martin and Jack, his brothers, confined him by the advice of their relations.” We simply relate this drollery as a pleasant blasphemy of an English priest against the bishop of Rome.

All these donations disappear before that of the East and West Indies, with which Alexander VI. of his divine power and authority invested Spain and Portugal. It was giving almost all the earth. He could in the same manner have given away the globes of Jupiter and Saturn with their satellites.

Particular Donations.

The donations of citizens are treated quite differently. The codes are unanimously agreed that no one can give away the property of another as well as that no person can take it. It is a universal law.

In France, jurisprudence was uncertain on this object, as on almost all others, until the year 1731, when the equitable Chancellor d’Aguesseau, having conceived the design of making the law uniform, very weakly began the great work by the edict on donations. It is digested in forty-seven articles, but, in wishing to render all the formalities concerning donations uniform, Flanders was excepted from the general law, and in excepting Flanders, Artois was Edition: current; Page: [168] forgotten, which should have enjoyed the same exception; so that in six years after the general law, a particular one was obliged to be made for Artois.

These new edicts concerning donations and testaments were principally made to do away with all the commentators who had considerably embroiled the laws, having already compiled six commentaries upon them.

It may be remarked that donations, or deeds of gift, extend much farther than to the particular person to whom a present is made. For every present there must be paid to the farmers of the royal domain—the duty of control, the duty of “insinuation,” the duty of the hundredth penny, the tax of two sous in the livre, the tax of eight sous in the livre, etc.

So that every time you make a present to a citizen you are much more liberal than you imagine. You have also the pleasure of contributing to the enriching of the farmers-general, but, after all, this money does not go out of the kingdom like that which is paid to the court of Rome.


What was the origin of this custom? Has it existed since drinking commenced? It appears natural to drink wine for our own health, but not for the health of others.

The “propino” of the Greeks, adopted by the Romans, does not signify “I drink to your good Edition: current; Page: [169] health,” but “I drink first that you may drink afterwards”—I invite you to drink.

In their festivals they drink to celebrate a mistress, not that she might have good health. See in Martial: “Naevia sex cyathis, septem Justina bibatur.”—“Six cups for Naevia, for Justina seven.”

The English, who pique themselves upon renewing several ancient customs, drink to the honor of the ladies, which they call toasting, and it is a great subject of dispute among them whether a lady is toastworthy or not—whether she is worthy to be toasted.

They drank at Rome for the victories of Augustus, and for the return of his health. Dion Cassius relates that after the battle of Actium the senate decreed that, in their repasts, libations should be made to him in the second service. It was a strange decree. It is more probable that flattery had voluntarily introduced this meanness. Be it as it may, we read in Horace:

  • Hinc ad vina redit lætus, et alteris
  • Te mensis adhibet Deum,
  • Te multa prece; te prosequitur nero
  • Defuso pateris; et labiis tuum
  • Miscet numen; uti Graecia Castoris
  • Et magni nemore Herculis.
  • Longas o utinam, dux bone ferias
  • Praestes Hesperiae; dicimus integro
  • Sicci mane die, dicimus uvidi,
  • Quum sol oceano subest.
  • To thee he chants the sacred song,
  • To thee the rich libation pours;
  • Thee placed his household gods among,
  • With solemn daily prayer adores;
  • So Castor and great Hercules of old
  • Were with her gods by graceful Greece enrolled.
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  • Gracious and good, beneath thy reign
  • May Rome her happy hours employ,
  • And grateful hail thy just domain
  • With pious hymn and festal joy.
  • Thus, with the rising sun we sober pray,
  • Thus, in our wine beneath his setting ray.

It is very likely that hence the custom arose among barbarous nations of drinking to the health of their guests, an absurd custom, since we may drink four bottles without doing them the least good.

The dictionary of Trévous tells us that we should not drink to the health of our superiors in their presence. This may be the case in France or Germany, but in England it is a received custom. The distance is not so great from one man to another at London as at Vienna.

It is of importance in England to drink to the health of a prince who pretends to the throne; it is to declare yourself his partisan. It has cost more than one Scotchman and Hibernian dear for having drank to the health of the Stuarts.

All the Whigs, after the death of King William, drank not to his health, but to his memory. A Tory named Brown, bishop of Cork in Ireland, a great enemy to William in Ireland, said, “that he would put a cork in all those bottles which were drunk to the glory of this monarch.” He did not stop at this silly pun; he wrote, in 1702, an episcopal address to show the Irish that it was an atrocious impiety to drink to the health of kings, and, above all, to their memory; that the latter, in particular, is a profanation of these Edition: current; Page: [171] words of Jesus Christ: “Drink this in remembrance of me.”

It is astonishing that this bishop was not the first who conceived such a folly. Before him, the Presbyterian Prynne had written a great book against the impious custom of drinking to the health of Christians.

Finally, there was one John Geza, vicar of the parish of St. Faith, who published “The Divine Potion to Preserve Spiritual Health, by the Cure of the Inveterate Malady of Drinking Healths; with Clear and Solid Arguments against this Criminal Custom, all for the Satisfaction of the Public, at the Request of a Worthy Member of Parliament, in the Year of Our Salvation 1648.”

Our reverend Father Garasse, our reverend Father Patouillet, and our reverend Father Nonnotte are nothing superior to these profound Englishmen. We have a long time wrestled with our neighbors for the superiority—To which is it due?


The Scene is in Tartarus. The Furies Entwined with Serpents, and Whips in Their Hands.

Come along, Barbaquincorix, Celtic druid, and thou, detestable Grecian hierophant, Calchas, the moment of your just punishment has returned again; the hour of vengeance has arrived—the bell has sounded!

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the druid and calchas.

Oh, heavens! my head, my sides, my eyes, my ears! pardon, ladies, pardon!


Mercy! two vipers are penetrating my eye-balls!


A serpent is devouring my entrails!


Alas, how am I mangled! And must my eyes be every day restored, to be torn again from my head?


Must my skin be renewed only to dangle in ribbons from my lacerated body?


It will teach you how to palm off a miserable parasitical plant for a universal remedy another time. Will you still sacrifice boys and girls to your god Theutates, priest? still burn them in osier baskets to the sound of a drum?


Never, never; dear lady, a little mercy, I beseech you.


You never had any yourself. Seize him, serpents, and now another lash!


Let them curry well this Calchas, who advances Edition: current; Page: [173] towards us, “With cruel eye, dark mien, and bristled hair.”


My hair is torn away; I am scorched, flayed, impaled!


Wretch! Will you again cut the throat of a beautiful girl, in order to obtain a favorable gale, instead of uniting her to a good husband?

calchas and the druid.

Oh, what torments! and yet we die not.


Hey-dey! God forgive me, but I hear music! It is Orpheus; why our serpents, sister, have become as gentle as lambs!


My sufferings cease; how very strange!

the druid.

I am altogether recovered. Oh, the power of good music! And who are you, divine man, who thus cures wounds, and rejoices hell itself?


My friends, I am a priest like yourselves, but I never deceived anyone, nor cut the throat of either boy or girl in my life. When on earth, instead of making the gods hated, I rendered them beloved, and softened the manners of the men whom you made ferocious. I shall exert myself in the like Edition: current; Page: [174] manner in hell. I met, just now, two barbarous priests whom they were scourging beyond measure; one of them formerly hewed a king in pieces before the Lord, and the other cut the throat of his queen and sovereign at the horse gate. I have terminated their punishment, and, having played to them a tune on the violin, they have promised me that when they return into the world they will live like honest men.

druid and calchas.

We promise the same thing, on the word of a priest.


Yes, but “Passato il pericolo, gabbato il santo.”

[The scene closes with a figure Dance, performed by Orpheus, the Condemned, and the Furies, to light and agreeable music.]


Easy applies not only to a thing easily done, but also to a thing which appears to be so. The pencil of Correggio is easy, the style of Quinault is much more easy than that of Despréaux, and the style of Ovid surpasses in facility that of Persius.

This facility in painting, music, eloquence, and poetry, consists in a natural and spontaneous felicity, which admits of nothing that implies research, strength, or profundity. Thus the pictures of Paul Veronese have a much more easy and less finished air than those of Michel Angelo. The symphonies Edition: current; Page: [175] of Rameau are superior to those of Lulli, but appear less easy. Bossuet is more truly eloquent and more easy than Fléchier. Rousseau, in his epistles, has not near the facility and truth of Despréaux.

The commentator of Despréaux says that “this exact and laborious poet taught the illustrious Racine to make verses with difficulty, and that those which appear easy are those which have been made with the most difficulty.”

It is true that it often costs much pains to express ourselves with clearness, as also that the natural may be arrived at by effort; but it is also true that a happy genius often produces easy beauties without any labor, and that enthusiasm goes much farther than art.

Most of the impassioned expressions of our good poets have come finished from their pen, and appear easy, as if they had in reality been composed without labor; the imagination, therefore, often conceives and brings forth easily. It is not thus with didactic works, which require art to make them appear easy. For example, there is much less ease than profundity in Pope’s “Essay on Man.”

Bad works may be rapidly constructed, which, having no genius, will appear easy, and it is often the lot of those who, without genius, have the unfortunate habit of composing. It is in this sense that a personage of the old comedy, called the “Italian,” says to another: “Thou makest bad verses admirably well.”

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The term “easy” is an insult to a woman, but is sometimes in society praise for a man; it is, however, a fault in a statesman. The manners of Atticus were easy; he was the most amiable of the Romans; the easy Cleopatra gave herself as easily to Antony as to Cæsar; the easy Claudius allowed himself to be governed by Agrippina; easy applied to Claudius is only a lenitive, the proper expression is weak.

An easy man is in general one possessed of a mind which easily gives itself up to reason and remonstrance—a heart which melts at the prayers which are made to it; while a weak man is one who allows too much authority over him.


In the greatest part of the known world every extraordinary phenomenon was for a long time believed to be the presage of some happy or miserable event. Thus the Roman historians have not failed to observe that an eclipse of the sun accompanied the birth of Romulus, that another announced his death, and that a third attended the foundation of the city of Rome.

We have already spoken of the article entitled “The Vision of Constantine,” of the apparition of the cross which preceded the triumph of Christianity, and under the article on “Prophecy,” we shall treat of the new star which enlightened the birth of Jesus. We will, therefore, here confine ourselves to Edition: current; Page: [177] what has been said of the darkness with which all the earth was covered when He gave up the ghost.

The writers of the Greek and Romish Churches have quoted as authentic two letters attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, in which he relates that being at Heliopolis in Egypt, with his friend Apolophanes, he suddenly saw, about the sixth hour, the moon pass underneath the sun, which caused a great eclipse. Afterwards, in the ninth hour, they perceived the moon quitting the place which she occupied and return to the opposite side of the diameter. They then took the rules of Philip Aridæus, and, having examined the course of the stars, they found that the sun could not have been naturally eclipsed at that time. Further, they observed that the moon, contrary to her natural motion, instead of going to the west to range herself under the sun, approached on the eastern side and that she returned behind on the same side, which caused Apollophanes to say, “These, my dear Dionysius, are changes of Divine things,” to which Dionysius replied, “Either the author of nature suffers, or the machine of the universe will be soon destroyed.”

Dionysius adds that having remarked the exact time and year of this prodigy, and compared them with what Paul afterwards told him, he yielded up to the truth as well as his friend. This is what led to the belief that the darkness happening at the death of Jesus Christ was caused by a supernatural eclipse; and what has extended this opinion is that Maldonat Edition: current; Page: [178] says it is that of almost all the Catholics. How is it possible to resist the authority of an ocular, enlightened, and disinterested witness, since it was supposed that when he saw this eclipse Dionysius was a pagan?

As these pretended letters of Dionysius were not forged until towards the fifteenth or sixteenth century, Eusebius of Cæsarea was contented with quoting the evidence of Phlegon, a freed man of the emperor Adrian. This author was also a pagan, and had written “The History of the Olympiads,” in sixteen books, from their origin to the year 140 of the vulgar era. He is made to say that in the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad there was the greatest eclipse of the sun that had ever been seen; the day was changed to night at the sixth hour, the stars were seen, and an earthquake overthrew several edifices in the city of Nicæa in Bithynia. Eusebius adds that the same events are related in the ancient monuments of the Greeks, as having happened in the eighteenth year of Tiberius. It is thought that Eusebius alluded to Thallus, a Greek historian already cited by Justin, Tertullian, and Julius Africanus, but neither the work of Thallus, nor that of Phlegon having reached us, we can only judge of the accuracy of these two quotations of reasoning.

It is true that the Paschal “Chronicle of the Greeks,” as well as St. Jerome Anastatius, the author of the “Historia Miscella,” and Freculphus of Edition: current; Page: [179] Luxem, among the Latins, all unite in representing the fragment of Phlegon in the same manner. But it is known that these five witnesses, so uniform in their dispositions, translated or copied the passage, not from Phlegon himself, but from Eusebius; while John Philoponus, who had read Phlegon, far from agreeing with Eusebius, differs from him by two years. We could also name Maximus and Maleba, who lived when the work of Phlegon still existed, and the result of an examination of the whole is that five of the quoted authors copy Eusebius. Philoponus, who really saw the work of Phlegon, gives a second reading, Maximus a third, and Malela a fourth, so that they are far from relating the passage in the same manner.

In short, the calculations of Hodgson, Halley, Whiston, and Gale Morris have demonstrated that Phlegon and Thallus speak of a natural eclipse which happened November 24, in the first year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, and not in the fourth year, as Eusebius pretends. Its size at Nicæa in Bithynia, was, according to Whiston, only from nine to ten digits, that is to say, two-thirds and a half of the sun’s disc. It began at a quarter past eight, and ended at five minutes past ten, and between Cairo in Egypt, and Jerusalem, according to Mr. Gale Morris, the sun was totally obscured for nearly two minutes. At Jerusalem the middle of the eclipse happened about an hour and a quarter after noon.

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But what ought to spare all this discussion is that Tertullian says the day became suddenly dark while the sun was in the midst of his career; that the pagans believed that it was an eclipse, not knowing that it had been predicted by the prophet Amos in these words: “I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.” “They,” adds Tertullian, “who have sought for the cause of this event and could not discover it, have denied it; but the fact is certain, and you will find it noted in your archives.”

Origen, on the contrary, says that it is not astonishing foreign authors have said nothing about the darknesses of which the evangelists speak, since they only appeared in the environs of Jerusalem; Judæa, according to him, being designated under the name of all the earth in more than one place in Scripture. He also avows that the passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, in which we read that in his time all the earth was covered with darkness, on account of an eclipse of the sun, had been thus falsified by some ignorant Christian who thought thereby to throw a light on the text of the evangelist, or by some illintentioned enemy who wished a pretext to calumniate the Church, as if the evangelists had remarked an eclipse at a time when it was very evident that it could not have happened. “It is true,” adds he, “that Phlegon says that there was one under Tiberius, but as he does not say that it happened at the full moon there is nothing wonderful in that.”

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“These obscurations,” continues Origen, “were of the nature of those which covered Egypt in the time of Moses, and were not felt in the quarter in which the Israelites dwelt. Those of Egypt lasted three days, while those of Jerusalem only lasted three hours; the first were after the manner of the second, and even as Moses raised his hands to heaven and invoked the Lord to draw them down on Egypt, so Jesus Christ, to cover Jerusalem with darkness, extended his hands on the cross against an ungrateful people who had cried: ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ ”

We may, in this case, exclaim with Plutarch, that the darkness of superstition is more dangerous than that of eclipses.


The primitive economy, that which is the foundation of all the rest, is rural. In early times it was exhibited in the patriarchal life and especially in that of Abraham, who made a long journey through the arid deserts of Memphis to buy corn. I shall continue, with due respect, to discard all that is divine in the history of Abraham, and attend to his rural economy alone.

I do not learn that he ever had a house; he quitted the most fertile country of the universe and towns in which there were commodious houses, to go wandering in countries, the languages of which he did not understand.

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He went from Sodom into the desert of Gerar without forming the least establishment. When he turned away Hagar and the child Ishmael it was still in a desert and all the food he gave them was a morsel of bread and a cruse of water. When he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord it was again in a desert. He cut the wood himself to burn the victim and put it on the back of Isaac, whom he was going to immolate.

His wife died in a place called Kirgath-arba, or Hebron; he had not six feet of earth in which to bury her, but was obliged to buy a cave to deposit her body. This was the only piece of land which he ever possessed.

However, he had many children, for, without reckoning Isaac and his posterity, his second wife Keturah, at the age of one hundred and forty years, according to the ordinary calculation, bore him five male children, who departed towards Arabia.

It is not said that Isaac had a single piece of land in the country in which his father died; on the contrary, he went into the desert of Gerar with his wife, Rebecca, to the same Abimelech, king of Gerar, who had been in love with his mother.

The king of the desert became also amorous of Rebecca, whom her husband caused to pass for his sister, as Abraham had acted with regard to Sarah and this same King Abimelech forty years before. It is rather astonishing that in this family the wife always passed for the sister when there was anything Edition: current; Page: [183] thing to be gained, but as these facts are consecrated, it is for us to maintain a respectful silence.

Scripture says that Abraham enriched himself in this horrible country, which became fertile for his benefit, and that he became extremely powerful. But it is also mentioned that he had no water to drink; that he had a great quarrel with the king’s herdsmen for a well; and it is easy to discover that he still had not a house of his own.

His children, Esau and Jacob, had not a greater establishment than their father. Jacob was obliged to seek his fortune in Mesopotamia, whence Abraham came; he served seven years for one of the daughters of Laban, and seven other years to obtain the second daughter. He fled with his wives and the flocks of his father-in-law, who pursued him. A precarious fortune, that of Jacob.

Esau is represented as wandering like Jacob. None of the twelve patriarchs, the children of Jacob, had any fixed dwelling, or a field of which they were the proprietors. They reposed in their tents like Bedouin Arabs.

It is clear that this patriarchal life would not conveniently suit the temperature of our atmosphere. A good cultivator, such as Pignoux of Auvergne, must have a convenient house with an aspect towards the east, large barns and stables, stalls properly built, the whole amounting to about fifty thousand francs of our present money in value. He must sow a hundred acres with corn, besides having Edition: current; Page: [184] good pastures; he should possess some acres of vineyard, and about fifty for inferior grain and herbs, thirty acres of wood, a plantation of mulberries, silkworms, and bees. With all these advantages well economized, he can maintain a family in abundance. His land will daily improve; he will support them without fearing the irregularity of the seasons and the weight of taxes, because one good year repairs the damages of two bad ones. He will enjoy in his domain a real sovereignty, which will be subject only to the laws. It is the most natural state of man, the most tranquil, the most happy, and, unfortunately, the most rare.

The son of this venerable patriarch, seeing himself rich, is disgusted with paying the humiliating tax of the taille. Having unfortunately learned some Latin he repairs to town, buys a post which exempts him from the tax and which bestows nobility. He sells his domain to pay for his vanity, marries a girl brought up in luxury who dishonors and ruins him; he dies in beggary, and his only son wears a livery in Paris.


This is an expression consecrated in its appropriation by the fathers of the Church and even by the primitive propagators of our holy religion. It signifies the application of oratory to circumstances.

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For example: St. Paul, being a Christian, comes to the temple of the Jews to perform the Judaic rites, in order to show that he does not forsake the Mosaic law; he is recognized at the end of a week and accused of having profaned the temple. Loaded with blows, he is dragged along by the mob; the tribune of the cohort—tribunis cohortis—arrives, and binds him with a double chain. The next day this tribune assembles the council and carries Paul before it, when the High Priest Ananias commences proceedings by giving him a box on the ear, on which Paul salutes him with the epithet of “a whited wall.”

“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.’ And when he had so said there arose a discussion between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees confess both.”

It is very evident from the text that Paul was not a Pharisee after he became a Christian and that there was in this affair no question either of resurrection or hope, of angel or spirit.

The text shows that Paul spoke thus only to embroil the Pharisees and Sadducees. This was speaking with economy, that is to say, with prudence; it Edition: current; Page: [186] was a pious artifice which, perhaps, would not have been permitted to any but an apostle.

It is thus that almost all the fathers of the Church have spoken “with economy.” St. Jerome develops this method admirably in his fifty-fourth letter to Pammachus. Weigh his words. After having said that there are occasions when it is necessary to present a loaf and to throw a stone, he continues thus:

“Pray read Demosthenes, read Cicero, and if these rhetoricians displease you because their art consists in speaking of the seeming rather than the true, read Plato, Theophrastus, Xenophon, Aristotle, and all those who, having dipped into the fountain of Socrates, drew different waters from it. Is there among them any candor, any simplicity? What terms among them are not ambiguous, and what sense do they not make free with to bear away the palm of victory? Origen, Methodius, Eusebius, Apollinarus, have written a million of arguments against Celsus and Porphyry. Consider with what artifice, with what problematic subtlety they combat the spirit of the devil. They do not say what they think, but what it is expedient to say: Non quod sentiunt, sed quod necesse est dicunt. And not to mention other Latins—Tertullian, Cyprian, Minutius, Victorinus, Lactantius, and Hilarius—whom I will not cite here; I will content myself with relating the example of the Apostle Paul,” etc.

St. Augustine often writes with economy. He so accommodates himself to time and circumstances Edition: current; Page: [187] that in one of his epistles he confesses that he explained the Trinity only because he must say something.

Assuredly this was not because he doubted the Holy Trinity, but he felt how ineffable this mystery is and wished to content the curiosity of the people.

This method was always received in theology. It employed an argument against the Eucratics, which was the cause of triumph to the Carpocratians; and when it afterwards disputed with the Carpocratians its arms were changed.

It is asserted that Jesus Christ died for many when the number of rejected is set forth, but when his universal bounty is to be manifested he is said to have died for all. Here you take the real sense for the figurative; there the figurative for the real, as prudence and expediency direct.

Such practices are not admitted in justice. A witness would be punished who told the pour and contre of a capital offence. But there is an infinite difference between vile human interests, which require the greatest clearness, and divine interests, which are hidden in an impenetrable abyss. The same judges who require indubitable demonstrative proofs will be contented in sermons with moral proofs, and even with declamations exhibiting no proofs at all.

St. Augustine speaks with economy, when he says, “I believe, because it is absurd; I believe, because it is impossible.” These words, which would Edition: current; Page: [188] be extravagant in all worldly affairs, are very respectable in theology. They signify that what is absurd and impossible to mortal eyes is not so to the eyes of God; God has revealed to me these pretended absurdities, these apparent impossibilities, therefore I ought to believe them.

An advocate would not be allowed to speak thus at the bar. They would confine in a lunatic asylum a witness who might say, “I assert that the accused, while shut up in a country house in Martinique, killed a man in Paris, and I am the more certain of this homicide because it is absurd and impossible.” But revelations, miracles, and faith are quite a distinct order of things.

The same St. Augustine observes in his one hundred and fifty-third letter, “It is written that the whole world belongs to the faithful, and infidels have not an obolus that they possess legitimately.”

If upon this principle a brace of bankers were to wait upon me to assure me that they were of the faithful, and in that capacity had appropriated the property belonging to me, a miserable worldling, to themselves, it is certain that they would be committed to the Châtelet, in spite of the economy of the language of St. Augustine.

St. Irenæus asserts that we must not condemn the incest of the two daughters of Lot, nor that of Thamar with her father-in-law, because the Holy Scripture has not expressly declared them criminal. This verbal economy prevents not the legal punishment Edition: current; Page: [189] of incest among ourselves. It is true that if the Lord expressly ordered people to commit incest it would not be sinful, which is the economy of Irenæus. His laudable object is to make us respect everything in the Holy Scriptures, but as God has not expressly praised the foregoing doings of the daughters of Lot and of Judah we are permitted to condemn them.

All the first Christians, without exception, thought of war like the Quakers and Dunkards of the present day, and the Brahmins, both ancient and modern. Tertullian is the father who is most explicit against this legal species of murder, which our vile human nature renders expedient. “No custom, no rule,” says he, “can render this criminal destruction legitimate.”

Nevertheless, after assuring us that no Christian can carry arms, he says, “by economy,” in the same book, in order to intimidate the Roman Empire, “although of such recent origin, we fill your cities and your armies.”

It is in the same spirit that he asserts that Pilate was a Christian in his heart, and the whole of his apology is filled with similar assertions, which redoubled the zeal of his proselytes.

Let us terminate these examples of the economical style, which are numberless, by a passage of St. Jerome, in his controversy with Jovian upon second marriages. The holy Jerome roundly asserts that it is plain, by the formation of the two sexes—in the Edition: current; Page: [190] description of which he is rather particular—that they are destined for each other, and for propagation. It follows, therefore, that they are to make love without ceasing, in order that their respective faculties may not be bestowed in vain. This being the case, why should not men and women marry again? Why, indeed, is a man to deny his wife to his friend if a cessation of attention on his own part be personally convenient? He may present the wife of another with a loaf of bread if she be hungry, and why may not her other wants be supplied, if they are urgent? Functions are not given to lie dormant, etc.

After such a passage it is useless to quote any more, but it is necessary to remark, by the way, that the economical style, so intimately connected with the polemical, ought to be employed with the greatest circumspection, and that it belongs not to the profane to imitate the things hazarded by the saints, either as regards the heat of their zeal or the piquancy of their delivery.


According to some authors this word comes from “electus,” chosen; it does not appear that its etymology can be derived from any other Latin word, since all is choice that is elegant. Elegance is the result of regularity and grace.

This word is employed in speaking of painting and sculpture. Elegans signum is opposed to signum Edition: current; Page: [191] rigens—a proportionate figure, the rounded outlines of which are expressed with softness, to a cold and badly-finished figure.

The severity of the ancient Romans gave an odious sense to the word “elegantia.” They regarded all kinds of elegance as affectation and farfetched politeness, unworthy the gravity of the first ages. Vitæ non laudi fuit,” says Aulus Gellius. They call him an “elegant man,” whom in these days we designate a petit-maître (bellus homuncio), and which the English call a “beau”; but towards the time of Cicero, when manners received their last degree of refinement, elegans was always deemed laudatory. Cicero makes use of this word in a hundred places to describe a man or a polite discourse. At that time even a repast was called elegant, which is scarcely the case among us.

This term among the French, as among the ancient Romans, is confined to sculpture, painting, eloquence, and still more to poetry; it does not precisely mean the same thing as grace.

The word “grace” applies particularly to the countenance, and we do not say an elegant face, as we say elegant contours; the reason is that grace always relates to something in motion, and it is in the countenance that the mind appears; thus we do not say an elegant gait, because gait includes motion.

The elegance of a discourse is not its eloquence; it is a part of it; it is neither the harmony nor metre Edition: current; Page: [192] alone; it is clearness, metre, and choice of words, united.

There are languages in Europe in which nothing is more scarce than an elegant expression. Rude terminations, frequent consonants, and auxiliary verbs grammatically repeated in the same sentence, offend the ears even of the natives themselves.

A discourse may be elegant without being good, elegance being, in reality, only a choice of words; but a discourse cannot be absolutely good without being elegant. Elegance is still more necessary to poetry than eloquence, because it is a part of that harmony so necessary to verse.

An orator may convince and affect even without elegance, purity, or number; a poet cannot really do so without being elegant: it is one of the principal merits of Virgil. Horace is much less elegant in his satires and epistles, so that he is much less of a poet sermoni proprior.

The great point in poetry and the oratorical art is that the elegance should never appear forced; and the poet in that, as in other things, has greater difficulties than the orator, for harmony being the base of his art, he must not permit a succession of harsh syllables. He must even sometimes sacrifice a little of the thought to elegance of expression, which is a constraint that the orator never experiences.

It should be remarked that if elegance always appears easy, all that is easy and natural is not, however, elegant.

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It is seldom said of a comedy that it is elegantly written. The simplicity and rapidity of a familiar dialogue exclude this merit, so proper to all other poetry. Elegance would seem inconsistent with the comic. A thing elegantly said would not be laughed at, though most of the verses of Molière’s “Amphitryon,” with the exception of those of mere pleasantry, are elegantly written. The mixture of gods and men in this piece, so unique in its kind, and the irregular verses, forming a number of madrigals, are perhaps the cause.

A madrigal requires to be more elegant than an epigram, because the madrigal bears somewhat the nature of the ode, and the epigram belongs to the comic. The one is made to express a delicate sentiment, and the other a ludicrous one.

Elegance should not be attended to in the sublime: it would weaken it. If we read of the elegance of the Jupiter Olympus of Phidias, it would be a satire. The elegance of the “Venus of Praxiteles” may be properly alluded to.


Elias and Enoch are two very important personages of antiquity. They are the only mortals who have been taken out of the world without having first tasted of death. A very learned man has pretended that these are allegorical personages. The father and mother of Elias are unknown. He believes that his country, Gilead, signifies nothing Edition: current; Page: [194] but the circulation of time. He proves it to have come from Galgala, which signifies revolution. But what signifies the name of the village of Galgala!

The word Elias has a sensible relation to that of Elios, the sun. The burned sacrifice offered by Elias, and lighted by fire from heaven, is an image of that which can be done by the united rays of the sun. The rain which falls, after great heats, is also a physical truth.

The chariot of fire and the fiery horses, which bore Elias to heaven, are a lively image of the four horses of the sun. The return of Elias at the end of the world seems to accord with the ancient opinion, that the sun would extinguish itself in the waters, in the midst of the general destruction that was expected, for almost all antiquity was for a long time persuaded that the world would sooner or later be destroyed.

We do not adopt these allegories; we only stand by those related in the Old Testament.

Enoch is as singular a personage as Elias, only that Genesis names his father and son, while the family of Elias is unknown. The inhabitants of both East and West have celebrated this Enoch.

The Holy Scripture, which is our infallible guide, informs us that Enoch was the father of Methuselah, or Methusalem, and that he only dwelt on the earth three hundred and sixty-five years, which seems a very short life for one of the first patriarchs. It is said that he walked in the way of God and that he Edition: current; Page: [195] appeared no longer because God carried him away. “It is that,” says Calmet, “which makes the holy fathers and most of the commentators assure us that Enoch still lives; that God has borne him out of the world as well as Elias; that both will come before the last judgment to oppose the antichrist; that Elias will preach to the Jews, and Enoch to the Gentiles.”

St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews—which has been contested—says expressly, “by faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death, because death had translated him.”

St. Justin, or somebody who had taken his name, says that Elias and Enoch are in a terrestrial paradise, and that they there wait the second coming of Jesus Christ.

St. Jerome, on the contrary, believes that Enoch and Elias are in heaven. It is the same Enoch, the seventh man after Adam, who is pretended to have written the book quoted by St. Jude.

Tertullian says that this work was preserved in the ark, and even that Enoch made a second copy of it after the deluge.

This is what the Holy Scripture and the holy fathers relate of Enoch; but the profane writers of the East tell us much more. They believe that there really was an Enoch, and that he was the first who made slaves of prisoners of war; they sometimes call him Enoc, and sometimes Edris. They say that he was the same who gave laws to the Egyptians Edition: current; Page: [196] under the name of Thaut, called by the Greeks Hermes Trismegistus. They give him a son named Sabi, the author of the religion of the Sabæans.

There was a tradition in Phrygia on a certain Anach, the same whom the Hebrews call Enoch. The Phrygians held this tradition from the Chaldæans or Babylonians, who also recognized an Enoch, or Anach, as the inventor of astronomy.

They wept for Enoch one day in the year in Phrygia, as they wept for Adonis among the Phœnicians.

The ingenious and profound writer, who believes Elias a person purely allegorical, thinks the same of Enoch. He believes that Enoch, Anach, Annoch, signified the year; that the Orientals wept for it, as for Adonis, and that they rejoiced at the commencement of the new year; that Janus, afterwards known in Italy, was the ancient Anach, or Annoch, of Asia; that not only Enoch formerly signified, among all nations, the beginning and end of the year, but the last day of the week; that the names of Anne, John, Januarius, Janvier, and January, all come from the same source.

It is difficult to penetrate the depths of ancient history. When we seize truth in the dark, we are never sure of retaining her. It is absolutely necessary for a Christian to hold by the Scriptures, whatever difficulty he may have in understanding them.

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Eloquence was created before the rules of rhetoric, as the languages are formed before grammar.

Nature renders men eloquent under the influence of great interests or passions. A person much excited sees things with a different eye from other men. To him all is the object of rapid comparison and metaphor. Without premeditation, he vivifies all, and makes all who listen to him partake of his enthusiasm.

A very enlightened philosopher has remarked that people often express themselves by figures; that nothing is more common or more natural than the turns called tropes.

Thus, in all languages, the heart burns, courage is kindled, the eyes sparkle; the mind is oppressed, it is divided, it is exhausted; the blood freezes, the head is turned upside down; we are inflated with pride, intoxicated with vengeance. Nature is everywhere painted in these strong images, which have become common.

It is from her that instinct learns to assume a modest tone and air, when it is necessary. The natural desire of captivating our judges and masters; the concentrated energies of a profoundly stricken soul, which prepares to display the sentiments which oppress it, are the first teachers of this art.

It is the same nature which sometimes inspires lively and animated sallies; a strong impulse or a Edition: current; Page: [198] pressing danger prompts the imagination suddenly. Thus a captain of the first caliphs, seeing the Mussulmans fly from the field of battle, cried out, “Where are you running to? Your enemies are not there.”

This speech has been given to many captains; it is attributed to Cromwell. Strong minds much oftener accord than fine wits.

Rasi, a Mussulman, captain of the time of Mahomet, seeing his Arabs frightened at the death of their general, Derar, said to them, “What does it signify that Derar is dead? God is living, and observes your actions.”

Where is there a more eloquent man than that English sailor who decided the war against Spain in 1740? “When the Spaniards, having mutilated me, were going to kill me, I recommended my soul to God, and my vengeance to my country!”

Nature, then, elicits eloquence; and if it be said that poets are created and orators formed, it is applicable only when eloquence is forced to study the laws, the genius of the judges, and the manners of the times. Nature alone is spontaneously eloquent.

The precepts always follow the art. Tisias was the first who collected the laws of eloquence, of which nature gives the first rules. Plato afterwards said, in his “Gorgias,” that an orator should have the subtlety of the logician, the science of the philosopher, almost the diction of the poet, and the voice and gesture of the greatest actors.

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Aristotle, also, showed that true philosophy is the secret guide to perfection in all the arts. He discovered the sources of eloquence in his “Book of Rhetoric.” He showed that logic is the foundation of the art of persuasion, and that to be eloquent is to know how to demonstrate.

He distinguished three kinds of eloquence: the deliberative, the demonstrative, and the judiciary. The deliberative is employed to exhort those who deliberate in taking a part in war, in peace, etc.; the demonstrative, to show that which is worthy of praise or blame; the judiciary, to persuade, absolve, condemn, etc.

He afterwards treats of the manners and passions with which all orators should be acquainted.

He examines the proofs which should be employed in these three species of eloquence, and finally he treats of elocution, without which all would languish. He recommends metaphors, provided they are just and noble; and, above all, he requires consistency and decorum.

All these precepts breathe the enlightened precision of a philosopher, and the politeness of an Athenian; and, in giving the rules of eloquence, he is eloquent with simplicity.

It is to be remarked, that Greece was the only country in the world in which the laws of eloquence were then known, because it was the only one in which true eloquence existed.

The grosser art was known to all men; sublime Edition: current; Page: [200] traits have everywhere escaped from nature at all times; but to rouse the minds of the whole of a polished nation—to please, convince, and affect at the same time, belonged only to the Greeks.

The Orientals were almost all slaves; and it is one of the characteristics of servitude to exaggerate everything. Thus the Asiatic eloquence was monstrous. The West was barbarous in the time of Aristotle.

True eloquence began to show itself in the time of the Gracchi, and was not perfected until the time of Cicero. Mark Antony, the orator Hortensius, Curion, Cæsar, and several others, were eloquent men.

This eloquence perished with the republic, like that of Athens. Sublime eloquence, it is said, belongs only to liberty; it consists in telling bold truths, in displaying strong reasons and representations. A man often dislikes truth, fears reason, and likes a well-turned compliment better than the sublimest eloquence.

Cicero, after having given the examples in his harangues, gave the precepts in his “Book of the Orator”; he followed almost all the methods of Aristotle, and explained himself in the style of Plato.

It distinguishes the simple species, the temperate, and the sublime.

Rollin has followed this division in his “Treatise on Study”; and he pretends that which Cicero does Edition: current; Page: [201] not, that the “temperate” is a beautiful river, shaded with green forests on both sides; the “simple,” a properly-served table, of which all the meats are of excellent flavor, and from which all refinement is banished; that the “sublime” thunders forth, and is an impetuous current which overthrows all that resists it.

Without sitting down to this table, without following this thunderbolt, this current, or this river, every man of sense must see that simple eloquence is that which has simple things to expose, and that clearness and elegance are all that are necessary to it.

There is no occasion to read Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian, to feel that an advocate who begins by a pompous exordium on the subject of a partition wall is ridiculous; it was, however, the fault of the bar until the middle of the seventeenth century; they spoke with emphasis of the most trivial things. Volumes of these examples may be compiled; but all might be reduced to this speech of a witty advocate, who, observing that his adversary was speaking of the Trojan war and of Scamander, interrupted him by saying, “The court will observe that my client is not called Scamander, but Michaut.” The sublime species can only regard powerful interests, treated of in a great assembly.

There may still be seen lively traces of it in the Parliament of England: several harangues partook of it which were pronounced there in 1739, when Edition: current; Page: [202] they debated about declaring war against Spain. The spirits of Cicero and Demosthenes seem to have dictated several passages in their speeches; but they will not descend to posterity like those of the Greeks and Romans, because they want the art and charm of diction, which place the seal of immortality on good works.

The temperate species is that of those preparatory discourses, of those public speeches, and of those studied compliments, in which the deficiency of matter must be concealed with flowers.

These three species are often mingled, as also the three objects of eloquence, according to Aristotle: the great merit of the orator consists in uniting them with judgment.

Great eloquence can scarcely be known to the bar in France, because it does not conduct to honors, as in Athens, Rome, and at present in London; neither has it great public interests for its object; it is confined to funeral orations, in which it borders a little upon poetry.

Bossuet, and after him Fléchier, seem to have obeyed that precept of Plato, which teaches us that the elocution of an orator may sometimes be the same as that of a poet.

Pulpit oratory had been almost barbarous until P. Bourdaloue; he was one of the first who caused reason to be spoken there.

The English did not arrive at that art until a later date, as is avowed by Burnet, bishop of Salisbury. Edition: current; Page: [203] They knew not the funeral oration; they avoided, in their sermons, all those vehement turns which appeared not to them consistent with the simplicity of the Gospel; and they were diffident of using those far-fetched divisions which are condemned by Archbishop Fénelon, in his dialogues “Sur l’Éloquence.”

Though our sermons turn on the most important subjects to man, they supply few of those striking parts which, like the fine passages of Cicero and Demosthenes, are fit to become the models of all the western nations. The reader will therefore be glad to learn the effect produced by M. Massillon, since bishop of Clermont, the first time that he preached his famous sermon on the small number of the elect. A kind of transport seized all the audience; they rose involuntarily; the murmurs of acclamation and surprise were so great as to disturb the orator; and this confusion only served to augment the pathos of his discourse. The following is the passage:

“I will suppose that this is our last hour, that the heavens open over our heads, that time is past, and that eternity commences; that Jesus Christ is going to appear to judge us according to our works, and that we are all here to receive from Him the sentence of eternal life or death: I ask you, overwhelmed with terror like yourselves, without separating my lot from your own, and putting myself in the same situation in which we must all one day appear before God our judge—if Jesus Christ were now to make the terrible separation of the just from the unjust, Edition: current; Page: [204] do you believe that the greater part would be saved? Do you believe that the number of the righteous would be in the least degree equal to the number of the sinners? Do you believe that, if He now discussed the works of the great number who are in this church, He would find ten righteous souls among us? Would He find a single one?”

There are several different editions of this discourse, but the substance is the same in all of them.

This figure, the boldest which was ever employed, and the best timed, is one of the finest turns of eloquence which can be read either among the ancients or moderns; and the rest of the discourse is not unworthy of this brilliant appeal.

Preachers who cannot imitate these fine models would do well to learn them by heart, and deliver them to their congregations—supposing that they have the rare talent of declamation—instead of preaching to them, in a languishing style, things as common-place as they are useless.

It is asked, if eloquence be permitted to historians? That which belongs to them consists in the art of arranging events, in being always elegant in their expositions, sometimes lively and impressive, sometimes elaborate and florid; in being strong and true in their pictures of general manners and principal personages, and in the reflections naturally incorporated with the narrative, so that they should not appear to be obtruded. The eloquence of Demosthenes belongs not to Thucydides; a studied Edition: current; Page: [205] harangue, put into the mouth of a hero who never pronounced it is, in the opinion of many enlightened minds, nothing more than a splendid defect.

If, however, these licences be permitted, the following is an occasion in which Mézeray, in his great history, may obtain grace for a boldness so approved by the ancients, to whom he is equal, at least on this occasion. It is at the commencement of the reign of Henry IV., when that prince, with very few troops, was opposed near Dieppe by an army of thirty thousand men, and was advised to retire into England, Mézeray excels himself in making a speech for Marshal Biron, who really was a man of genius, and might have said a part of that which the historian attributes to him:

“What, sire, are you advised to cross the sea, as if there was no other way of preserving your kingdom than by quitting it? If you were not in France, your friends would have you run all hazards and surmount all obstacles to get there; and now you are here, they would have you depart—would have you voluntarily do that to which the greatest efforts of your enemies ought not to constrain you! In your present state, to go out of France only for four-and-twenty hours would be to banish yourself from it forever. As to the danger, it is not so great as represented; those who think to overcome us are either the same whom we shut up so easily in Paris, or people who are not much better, and will rapidly have more subjects of dispute among themselves Edition: current; Page: [206] than against us. In short, sire, we are in France, and we must remain here; we must show ourselves worthy of it; we must either conquer it or die for it; and even when there is no other safety for your sacred person than in flight, I well know that you would a thousand times rather die planted in the soil, than save yourself by such means. Your majesty would never suffer it to be said that a younger brother of the house of Lorraine had made you retire, and, still less, that you had been seen to beg at the door of a foreign prince. No, no, sire—there is neither crown nor honor for you across the sea; if you thus demand the succor of England, it will not be granted; if you present yourself at the port of Rochelle, as a man anxious to save himself, you will only meet with reproaches and contempt. I cannot believe that you would rather trust your person to the inconstancy of the waves, or the mercy of a stranger, than to so many brave gentlemen and old soldiers, who are ready to serve you as ramparts and bucklers; and I am too much devoted to your majesty to conceal from you, that if you seek your safety elsewhere than in their virtue, they will be obliged to seek theirs in a different party from your own.”

This fine speech which Mézeray puts into the mouth of Marshal Biron is no doubt what Henry IV. felt in his heart.

Much more might be said upon the subject; but the books treating of eloquence have already said Edition: current; Page: [207] too much; and in an enlightened age, genius, aided by examples, knows more of it than can be taught by all the masters in the world.


In antiquity, everything is emblematical and figurative. The Chaldæans began with placing a ram, two kids, and a bull among the constellations, to indicate the productions of the earth in spring. In Persia, fire is the emblem of the divinity; the celestial dog gives notice to the Egyptians of the inundations of the Nile; the serpent, concealing its tail in its head, becomes the image of eternity. All nature is painted and disguised.

There are still to be found in India many of those gigantic and terrific statues which we have already mentioned, representing virtue furnished with ten arms, with which it may successfully contend against the vices, and which our poor missionaries mistook for representations of the devil; taking it for granted, that all those who did not speak French or Italian were worshippers of the devil.

Show all these symbols devised by antiquity to a man of clear sense, but who has never heard them at all mentioned or alluded to, and he will not have the slightest idea of their meaning. It would be to him a perfectly new language.

The ancient poetical theologians were under the Edition: current; Page: [208] necessity of ascribing to the deity eyes, hands, and feet; of describing him under the figure of a man.

St. Clement of Alexandria quotes verses from Xenophanes the Colophonian, which state that every species of animal supplies metaphor to aid the imagination in its ideas of the deity—the wings of the bird, the speed of the horse, and the strength of the lion. It is evident, from these verses of Xenophanes, that it is by no means a practice of recent date for men to represent God after their own image. The ancient Thracian Orpheus, the first theologian among the Greeks, who lived long before Homer, according to the same Clement of Alexandria, describes God as seated upon the clouds, and tranquilly ruling the whirlwind and the storm. His feet reach the earth, and His hands extend from one ocean to the other. He is the beginning, middle, and end of all things.

Everything being thus represented by figure and emblem, philosophers, and particularly those among them who travelled to India, employed the same method; their precepts were emblems, were enigmas.

“Stir not the fire with a sword:” that is, aggravate not men who are angry.

“Place not a lamp under a bushel:” conceal not the truth from men.

“Abstain from beans:” frequent not popular assemblies, in which votes were given by white or black beans.

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“Have no swallows about your house:” keep away babblers.

“During a tempest, worship the echo:” while civil broils endure, withdraw into retirement.

“Never write on snow:” throw not away instruction upon weak and imbecile minds.

“Never devour either your heart or your brains:” never give yourself up to useless anxiety or intense study.

Such are the maxims of Pythagoras, the meaning of which is sufficiently obvious.

The most beautiful of all emblems is that of God, whom Timæus of Locris describes under the image of “A circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” Plato adopted this emblem, and Pascal inserted it among his materials for future use, which he entitled his “Thoughts.”

In metaphysics and in morals, the ancients have said everything. We always encounter or repeat them. All modern books of this description are merely repetitions.

The farther we advance eastward, the more prevalent and established we find the employment of emblems and figures: but, at the same time, the images in use are more remote from our own manners and customs.

The emblems which appear most singular to us are those which were in frequent if not in sacred use among the Indians, Egyptians, and Syrians. These people bore aloft in their solemn processions, and Edition: current; Page: [210] with the most profound respect, the appropriate organs for the perpetuation of the species—the symbols of life. We smile at such practices, and consider these people as simple barbarians. What would they have said on seeing us enter our temples wearing at our sides the weapons of destruction?

At Thebes, the sins of the people were represented by a goat. On the coast of Phœnicia, a naked woman with the lower part of her body like that of a fish was the emblem of nature.

We cannot be at all surprised if this employment of symbols extended to the Hebrews, as they constituted a people near the Desert of Syria.

Of Some Emblems Used by the Jewish Nation.

One of the most beautiful emblems in the Jewish books, is the following exquisite passage in Ecclesiastes:

“When the grinders shall cease because they are few; when those that look out of the windows shall be darkened; when the almond tree shall flourish; when the grasshopper shall become a burden; when desire shall fail; the silver cord be loosed; the golden bowl be fractured; and the pitcher broken at the fountain.”

The meaning is, that the aged lose their teeth; that their sight becomes impaired; that their hair becomes white, like the blossom of the almond tree; that their feet become like the grasshopper; that their hair drops off like the leaves of the fir tree; Edition: current; Page: [211] that they have lost the power of communicating life; and that it is time for them to prepare for their long journey.

The “Song of Songs,” as is well known, is a continued emblem of the marriage of Jesus Christ with the church.

“Let him kiss me with a kiss of his mouth, for thy breasts are better than wine. Let him put his left hand under my head, and embrace me with his right hand. How beautiful art thou, my love: thy eyes are like those of the dove; thy hair is as a flock of goats; thy lips are like a ribbon of scarlet, and thy cheeks like pomegranates; how beautiful is thy neck! how thy lips drop honey! my beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him; thy navel is like a round goblet; thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies; thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins; thy neck is like a tower of ivory; thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon; thy head is like Mount Carmel; thy stature is that of a palm tree. I said, I will ascend the palm tree and will gather of its fruits. What shall we do for our little sister? she has no breasts. If she be a wall, we will build upon her a tower of silver; if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.”

It would be necessary to translate the whole canticle, in order to see that it is an emblem from beginning to end. The ingenious Calmet, in particular, demonstrates that the palm tree which the lover Edition: current; Page: [212] ascended is the cross to which our Lord Jesus Christ was condemned. It must however be confessed, that sound and pure moral doctrine is preferable to these allegories.

We find in the books of this people a great number of emblems and types which shock at the present day, and excite at once our incredulity and ridicule, but which, to the Asiatics, appear clear, natural, and unexceptionable.

God appeared to Isaiah, the son of Amos, and said to him, “Go take thy girdle from thy loins and thy shoes from thy feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. And the Lord said, “Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot for three years for a sign upon Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian and Ethiopian prisoners, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their hind parts uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.”

This appears to us exceedingly strange: but let us inform ourselves a little about what is passing in our own times among Turks, and Africans, and in India, where we go to trade with so much avidity and so little success. We shall learn that it is by no means unusual to see the santons there absolutely naked, and not only in that state preaching to women, but permitting them to salute particular parts of their body, yet neither indulging or inspiring the slightest portion of licentious or unchaste feeling. We shall see on the banks of the Ganges Edition: current; Page: [213] an innumerable company both of men and women naked from head to foot, extending their arms towards heaven, and waiting for the moment of an eclipse to plunge into the river. The citizens of Paris and Rome should not be too ready to think all the rest of the world bound down to the same modes of living and thinking as themselves.

Jeremiah, who prophesied in the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Jerusalem, in favor of the king of Babylon, puts chains and cords about his neck, by order of the Lord, and sends them to the kings of Edom, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon, by their ambassadors who had been sent to Zedekiah at Jerusalem. He commands them to address their master in these words:

“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts the God of Israel, thus shall ye say unto your masters: I have made the earth, the men, and the beasts of burden which are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed good unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and all the beasts of the field have I given him besides, that they may serve him. I spake also all these words to Zedekiah, king of Judah, saying unto him, submit your neck to the yoke of the king of Babylon, serve him, him and his people, and you shall live,” etc.

Accordingly, Jeremiah was accused of betraying his king, and of prophesying in favor of the enemy Edition: current; Page: [214] for the sake of money. It has even been asserted that he was stoned. It is clear that the cords and chains were the emblem of that servitude to which Jeremiah was desirous that the nation should submit.

In a similar manner we are told by Herodotus, that one of the kings of Scythia sent Darius a present of a bird, a mouse, a frog, and five arrows. This emblem implied that, if Darius did not fly as fast as a bird, a mouse, or a frog, he would be pierced by the arrows of the Scythians. The allegory of Jeremiah was that of weakness; the emblem of the Scythians was that of courage.

Thus, also, when Sextus Tarquinius consulted his father, whom we call Tarquinius Superbus, about the policy he should adopt to the Gabii, Tarquin, who was walking in his garden, answered only by striking off the heads of the tallest poppies. His son caught his meaning, and put to death the principal citizens among them. This was the emblem of tyranny.

Many learned men have been of opinion that the history of Daniel, of the dragon, of the den of seven lions who devoured every day two sheep and two men, and the history of the angel who transported Habakkuk by the hair of his head to dine with Daniel in the lion’s den, are nothing more than a visible allegory, an emblem of the continual vigilance with which God watches over his servants. But it seems to us a proof of greater piety to believe Edition: current; Page: [215] that it is a real history, like many we find in the Sacred Scriptures, displaying without figure and type the divine power, and which profane minds are not permitted to explore. Let us consider those only as genuine emblems and allegories, which are indicated to us as such by Holy Scripture itself.

“In the thirteenth year and the fifteenth day of the fourth month, as I was in the midst of the captives on the banks of the river Chobar, the heavens were opened, and I saw the visions of God,” etc. “The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldæans by the river Chobar, and the hand of the Lord was upon him.”

It is thus that Ezekiel begins his prophecy; and, after having seen a fire and a whirlwind, and in the midst of the fire four living animals resembling a man, having four faces and four wings with feet resembling those of calves, and a wheel which was upon the earth, and which had four parts, the four parts of the wheel going at the same time, etc.

He goes on to say, “The spirit entered into me, and placed me firm upon my feet. . . . . Then the Lord said unto me: ‘Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this book, and go and speak to the children of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that book. And the spirit entered into me and made me stand upon my feet. And he said unto me: ‘Go and shut thyself up in the midst of thy house. Son of man, these are the chains with Edition: current; Page: [216] which thou shalt set thy face firm against it; thou shalt be bound,’ ” etc. “ ‘And thou, son of man, take a tile and place it before thee and portray thereon the city of Jerusalem.’ ”

“ ‘Take also a pan of iron, and thou shalt place it as a wall of iron between thee and the city; thou shalt be before Jerusalem as if thou didst besiege it; it is a sign to the house of Israel.’ ”

After this command God orders him to sleep three hundred and ninety days on his left side, on account of the iniquities of the house of Judah.

Before we go further we will transcribe the words of that judicious commentator Calmet, on this part of Ezekiel’s prophecy, which is at once a history and an allegory, a real truth and an emblem. These are the remarks of that learned Benedictine:

“There are some who think that the whole of this occurred merely in vision; that a man cannot continue lying so long on the same side without a miracle; that, as the Scripture gives us no intimation that this is a prodigy, we ought not to multiply miraculous acts without necessity; that, if the prophet continued lying in that manner for three hundred and ninety days, it was only during the nights; in the day he was at liberty to attend to his affairs. But we do not see any necessity for recurring to a miracle, nor for any circuitous explanation of the case here stated. It is by no means impossible for a man to continue chained and lying on his side for three hundred and ninety days. We Edition: current; Page: [217] have every day before us cases which prove the possibility among prisoners, sick persons, and persons deranged and chained in a state of raving madness. Prado testifies that he saw a mad person who continued bound and lying quite naked on his side upwards of fifteen years. If all this had occurred only in vision, how could the Jews of the captivity have comprehended what Ezekiel meant to say to them? How would that prophet have been able to execute the divine commands? We must in that case admit likewise that he did not prepare the plan of Jerusalem, that he did not represent the siege, that he was not bound, that he did not eat the bread of different kinds of grain in any other than the same way; namely, that of vision, or ideally.”

We cannot but adopt the opinion of the learned Calmet, which is that of the most respectable interpreters. It is evident that the Holy Scripture recounts the matter as a real truth, and that such truth is the emblem, type, and figure of another truth.

“Take unto thee wheat and barley, and beans and lentils, and millet and vetches, and make cakes of them for as many days as thou art to sleep on thy side. Thou shalt eat for three hundred and ninety days . . . . thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt cover it with human ordure. Thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread defiled.”

It is evident that the Lord was desirous that the Israelites should eat their bread defiled. It follows therefore that the bread of the prophet must have Edition: current; Page: [218] been defiled also. This defilement was so real that Ezekiel expressed actual horror at it. “Alas!” he exclaimed, “my life (my soul) has not hitherto been polluted,” etc. And the Lord says to him, “I allow thee, then, cow’s dung instead of man’s, and with that shalt thou prepare thy bread.”

It appears, therefore, to have been absolutely essential that the food should be defiled in order to its becoming an emblem or type. The prophet in fact put cow-dung with his bread for three hundred and ninety days, and the case includes at once a fact and a symbol.

Of the Emblem of Aholah and Aholibah.

The Holy Scripture expressly declares that Aholah is the emblem of Jerusalem. “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother was a Hittite.” The prophet then, without any apprehension of malignant interpretations or wanton railleries, addresses the young Aholah in the following words:

Ubera tua intumuerunt, et pilus tuus germinavit; et eras nuda et confusione plena.”—“Thy breasts were fashioned, and thy hair was grown, and thou wast naked and confused.”

Et transivi per te; et ecce tempus tuum, tempus amantium; et expandi amictum meum super te et operui ignominiam tuam. Et juravi tibi, et ingressus sum pactum tecum (ait Dominus Deus), et facta es mihi.”—“I passed by and saw thee; and saw thy time was come, thy time for lovers; and I spread Edition: current; Page: [219] my mantle over thee and concealed thy shame. And I swore to thee, and entered into a contract with thee, and thou becamest mine.”

Et habens fiduciam in pulchritudine tua fornicata es in nomine tuo; et exposuisti fornicationem tuam omni transeunti, ut ejus fieres.”—“And, proud of thy beauty, thou didst commit fornication without disguise, and hast exposed thy fornication to every passerby, to become his.”

Et ædificavissti tibi lupanar, et fecisti tibi prostibulum in cunctis plateis.”—“And thou hast built a high place for thyself, and a place of eminence in every public way.”

Et divisisti pedes tuos omni transeunti, et multiplicasti fornicationes tuas.”—“And thou hast opened thy feet to every passerby, and hast multiplied thy fornications.”

Et fornicata es cum filiis Egypti vicinis tuis, magnarum carnium; et multiplicasti fornicationem tuam ad irritandum me.”—“And thou hast committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbors, powerful in the flesh; and thou hast multiplied thy fornication to provoke me.”

The article of Aholibah, which signifies Samaria, is much stronger and still further removed from the propriety and decorum of modern manners and language.

Denudavit quoque fornicationes suas, discooperuit ignominiam suam.”—“And she has made bare her fornications and discovered her shame.”

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“Multiplicavit enim fornicationes suas, recordans dies adolescentiæ suæ.”—“For she has multiplied her fornications, remembering the days of her youth.”

Et insanivit libidine super concubitum eorum carnes sunt ut carnes asinorum, et sicut fluxus equorum, fluxus eorum.”—“And she has maddened for the embraces of those whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is as the issue of horses.”

These images strike us as licentious and revolting. They were at that time simply plain and ingenuous. There are numerous instances of the like in the “Song of Songs,” intended to celebrate the purest of all possible unions. It must be attentively considered that these expressions and images are always delivered with seriousness and gravity, and that in no book of equally high antiquity is the slightest jeering or raillery ever applied to the great subject of human production. When dissoluteness is condemned, it is so in natural and undisguised terms, but such are never used to stimulate voluptuousness or pleasantry.

This high antiquity has not the slightest touch of similarity to the licentiousness of Martial, Catullus, or Petronius.

Of Hosea, and Some Other Emblems.

We cannot regard as a mere vision, as simply a figure, the positive command given by the Lord to Hosea to take to himself a wife of whoredoms and Edition: current; Page: [221] have by her three children. Children are not produced in a dream. It is not in a vision that he made a contract with Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, by whom he had two boys and a girl. It was not in a vision that he afterwards took to himself an adulteress by the express order of the Lord, giving her fifteen pieces of silver and a measure and a half of barley.

The first of these disgraced women signified Jerusalem and the second Samaria. But the two unions with these worthless persons, the three children, the fifteen pieces of silver, and the bushel and a half of barley, were not the less real for having included or been intended as an emblem.

It was not in a vision that the patriarch Salmon married the harlot Rahab, the grandmother of David. It was not in a vision that Judah committed incest with his daughter-in-law Thamar, from which incest sprang David. It was not in a vision that Ruth, David’s other grandmother, placed herself in the bed with Boaz. It was not in a vision that David murdered Uriah and committed adultery with Bathsheba, of whom was born King Solomon. But, subsequently, all these events became emblems and figures, after the things which they typified were accomplished.

It is perfectly clear, from Ezekiel, Hosea, Jeremiah, and all the Jewish prophets, and all the Jewish books, as well as from all other books which give us any information concerning the usages of the Chaldæans, Edition: current; Page: [222] Persians, Phœnicians, Syrians, Indians, and Egyptians; it is, I say, perfectly clear that their manners were very different from ours, and that the ancient world was scarcely in a single point similar to the modern one.

Pass from Gibraltar to Mequinez, and the decencies and decorums of life are no longer the same; you no longer find the same ideas. Two sea leagues have changed everything.


It is not in the smallest degree probable that all those abominable absurdities are owing, as Pluche would have us believe, to the foliage with which the heads of Isis and Osiris were formerly crowned. What connection can this foliage have with the art of charming serpents, with that of resuscitating the dead, killing men by mere words, inspiring persons with love, or changing men into beasts?

Enchantment (incantatio) comes, say some, from a Chaldee word, which the Greeks translate “productive song.” Incantatio comes from the Chaldee. Truly, the Bocharts are great travellers and proceed from Italy to Mesopotamia in a twinkling! The great and learned Hebrew nation is rapidly explored, and all sorts of books, and all sorts of usages, are the fruits of the journey; the Bocharts are certainly not charlatans.

Is not a large portion of the absurd superstitions Edition: current; Page: [223] which have prevailed to be ascribed to very natural causes? There are scarcely any animals that may not be accustomed to approach at the sound of a bagpipe, or a single horn, to take their food. Orpheus, or some one of his predecessors, played the bagpipe better than other shepherds, or employed singing. All the domestic animals flocked together at the sound of his voice. It was soon supposed that bears and tigers were among the number collected; this first step accomplished, there was no difficulty in believing that Orpheus made stones and trees dance.

If rocks and pine-trees can be thus made to dance a ballet, it will cost little more to build cities by harmony, and the stones will easily arrange themselves at Amphion’s song. A violin only will be wanted to build a city, and a ram’s horn to destroy it.

The charming of serpents may be attributed to a still more plausible cause. The serpent is neither a voracious nor a ferocious animal. Every reptile is timid. The first thing a reptile does, at least in Europe, on seeing a man, is to hide itself in a hole, like a rabbit or a lizard. The instinct of a man is to pursue everything that flies from him, and to fly from all that pursue him, except when he is armed, when he feels his strength, and, above all, when he is in the presence of many observers.

The serpent, far from being greedy of blood and flesh, feeds only upon herbs, and passes a considerable Edition: current; Page: [224] time without eating at all; if he swallows a few insects, as lizards and chameleons do, he does us a service.

All travellers relate that there are some very large and long ones; although we know of none such in Europe. No man or child was ever attacked there by a large serpent or a small one. Animals attack only what they want to eat; and dogs never bite passengers but in defence of their masters. What could a serpent do with a little infant? What pleasure could it derive from biting it? It could not swallow even the fingers. Serpents do certainly bite, and squirrels also, but only when they are injured, or are fearful of being so.

I am not unwilling to believe that there have been monsters among serpents as well as among men. I will admit that the army of Regulus was put under arms in Africa against a dragon; and that there has since been a Norman there who fought against the waterspout. But it will be granted, on the other hand, that such cases are exceedingly rare.

The two serpents that came from Tenedos for the express purpose of devouring Laocoon, and two great lads twenty years of age, in the presence of the whole Trojan army, form a very fine prodigy, and one worthy of being transmitted to posterity by hexameter verses, and by statues which represent Laocoon like a giant, and his stout boys as pygmies.

I conceive this event to have happened in those times when a prodigious wooden horse took cities Edition: current; Page: [225] which had been built by the gods, when rivers flowed backward to their fountains, when waters were changed to blood, and both sun and moon stood still on the slightest possible occasion.

Everything that has been related about serpents was considered probable in countries in which Apollo came down from heaven to slay the serpent Python.

Serpents were also supposed to be exceedingly sensible animals. Their sense consists in not running so fast as we do, and in suffering themselves to be cut in pieces.

The bite of serpents, and particularly of vipers, is not dangerous, except when irritation has produced the fermentation of a small reservoir of very acid humor which they have under their gums. With this exception, a serpent is no more dangerous than an eel.

Many ladies have tamed and fed serpents, placed them on their toilets, and wreathed them about their arms. The negroes of Guinea worship a serpent which never injures any one.

There are many species of those reptiles, and some are more dangerous than others in hot countries; but in general, serpents are timid and mild animals; it is not uncommon to see them sucking the udder of a cow.

Those who first saw men more daring than themselves domesticate and feed serpents, inducing them to come to them by a hissing sound in a similar way Edition: current; Page: [226] to that by which we induce the approach of bees, considered them as possessing the power of enchantment. The Psilli and Marsæ, who familiarly handled and fondled serpents, had a similar reputation. The apothecaries of Poitou, who take up vipers by the tail, might also, if they chose, be respected as magicians of the first order.

The charming of serpents was considered as a thing regular and constant. The Sacred Scripture itself, which always enters into our weaknesses, deigned to conform itself to this vulgar idea.

“The deaf adder, which shuts its ears that it may not hear the voice of the charmer.”

“I will send among you serpents which will resist enchantments.”

“The slanderer is like the serpent, which yields not to the enchanter.”

The enchantment was sometimes so powerful as to make serpents burst asunder. The natural philosophy of antiquity made this animal immortal. If any rustic found a dead serpent in his road, some enchanter must inevitably have deprived it of its right to immortality:

  • Frigidus in pratis cantando rumpitur anguis.
  • Virg. Eclogue viii. 71.
  • Verse breaks the ground, and penetrates the brake,
  • And in the winding cavern splits the snake.
  • Dryden.

Enchantment of the Dead, or Evocation.

To enchant a dead person, to resuscitate him, or barely to evoke his shade to speak to him, was the Edition: current; Page: [227] most simple thing in the world. It is very common to see the dead in dreams, in which they are spoken to and return answers. If any one has seen them during sleep, why may he not see them when he is awake? It is only necessary to have a spirit like the pythoness; and, to bring this spirit of pythonism into successful operation it is only necessary that one party should be a knave and the other a fool; and no one can deny that such rencontres very frequently occur.

The evocation of the dead was one of the sublimest mysteries of magic. Sometimes there was made to pass before the eyes of the inquiring devotee a large, black figure, moved by secret springs in dimness and obscurity. Sometimes the performers, whether sorcerers or witches, limited themselves to declaring that they saw the shade which was desired to be evoked, and their word was sufficient; this was called necromancy. The famous witch of Endor has always been a subject of great dispute among the fathers of the Church. The sage Theodoret, in his sixty-second question on the Book of Kings, asserts that it is universally the practice for the dead to appear with the head downwards, and that what terrified the witch was Samuel’s being upon his legs.

St. Augustine, when interrogated by Simplicion, replies, in the second book of his “Questions,” that there is nothing more extraordinary in a witch’s invoking a shade than in the devil’s transporting Edition: current; Page: [228] Jesus Christ through the air to the pinnacle of the temple on the top of a mountain.

Some learned men, observing that there were oracular spirits among the Jews, have ventured to conclude that the Jews began to write only at a late period, and that they built almost everything upon Greek fable; but this opinion cannot be maintained.

Of Other Sorceries.

When a man is sufficiently expert to evoke the dead by words, he may yet more easily destroy the living, or at least threaten them with doing so, as the physician, malgré lui, told Lucas that he would give him a fever. At all events, it was not in the slightest degree doubtful that sorcerers had the power of killing beasts; and, to insure the stock of cattle, it was necessary to oppose sorcery to sorcery. But the ancients can with little propriety be laughed at by us, who are ourselves scarcely even yet extricated from the same barbarism. A hundred years have not yet expired since sorcerers were burned all over Europe; and even as recently as 1750, a sorceress, or witch, was burned at Würzburg. It is unquestionable that certain words and ceremonies will effectually destroy a flock of sheep, if administered with a sufficient portion of arsenic.

The “Critical History of Superstitious Ceremonies,” by Lebrun of the Oratory, is a singular work. His object is to oppose the ridiculous doctrine of witchcraft, and yet he is himself so ridiculous Edition: current; Page: [229] as to believe in its reality. He pretends that Mary Bucaille, the witch, while in prison at Valognes, appeared at some leagues distance, according to the evidence given on oath to the judge of Valognes. He relates the famous prosecution of the shepherds of Brie, condemned in 1691, by the Parliament of Paris, to be hanged and burned. These shepherds had been fools enough to think themselves sorcerers, and villains enough to mix real poisons with their imaginary sorceries.

Father Lebrun solemnly asserts that there was much of what was “supernatural” in what they did, and that they were hanged in consequence. The sentence of the parliament is in direct opposition to this author’s statement. “The court declares the accused duly attainted and convicted of superstitions, impieties, sacrileges, profanations, and poisonings.”

The sentence does not state that the death of the cattle was caused by profanations, but by poison. A man may commit sacrilege without as well as with poison, without being a sorcerer.

Other judges, I acknowledge, sentenced the priest Ganfredi to be burned, in the firm belief that, by the influence of the devil, he had an illicit commerce with all his female penitents. Ganfredi himself imagined that he was under that influence; but that was in 1611, a period when the majority of our provincial population was very little raised above the Caribs and negroes. Some of this description Edition: current; Page: [230] have existed even in our own times; as, for example, the Jesuit Girard, the ex-Jesuit Nonnotte, the Jesuit Duplessis, and the ex-Jesuit Malagrida; but this race of imbeciles is daily hastening to extinction.

With respect to lycanthropy, that is, the transformation of men into wolves by the power of enchantment, we may observe that a young shepherd’s having killed a wolf, and clothed himself with its skin, was enough to excite the terror of all the old women of the district, and to spread throughout the province, and thence through other provinces, the notion of a man’s having been changed into a wolf. Some Virgil will soon be found to say:

  • His ego sæpe lupum fieri, et se condere silvis
  • Moerim sæpe animas imis exire sepulchris.
  • Smeared with these powerful juices on the plain.
  • He howls a wolf among the hungry train,
  • And oft the mighty necromancer boasts
  • With these to call from tombs the stalking ghosts.
  • Dryden.

To see a man-wolf must certainly be a great curiosity; but to see human souls must be more curious still; and did not the monks of Monte Cassino see the soul of the holy Benedict, or Bennet? Did not the monks of Tours see St. Martin’s? and the monks of St. Denis that of Charles Martel?

Enchantments to Kindle Love.

These were for the young. They were vended by the Jews at Rome and Alexandria, and are at the present day sold in Asia. You will find some of these secrets in the “Petit Albert”; and will become Edition: current; Page: [231] further initiated by reading the pleading composed by Apuleius on his being accused by a Christian, whose daughter he had married, of having bewitched her by philtres. Emilian, his father-in-law, alleged that he had made use of certain fishes, since, Venus having been born of the sea, fishes must necessarily have prodigious influence in exciting women to love.

What was generally made use of consisted of vervain, tenia, and hippomanes; or a small portion of the secundine of a mare that had just foaled, together with a little bird called wagtail; in Latin motacilla.

But Apuleius was chiefly accused of having employed shell-fish, lobster patties, she-hedgehogs, spiced oysters, and cuttle-fish, which was celebrated for its productiveness.

Apuleius clearly explains the real philtre, or charm, which had excited Pudentilla’s affection for him. He undoubtedly admits, in his defence, that his wife had called him a magician. “But what,” says he, “if she had called me a consul, would that have made me one?”

The plant satyrion was considered both among the Greeks and Romans as the most powerful of philtres. It was called planto aphrodisia, the plant of Venus. That called by the Latins eruca is now often added to the former.—Et venerem revocans eruca morantem.

A little essence of amber is frequently used. Mandragora Edition: current; Page: [232] has gone out of fashion. Some exhausted debauchees have employed cantharides, which strongly affect the susceptible parts of the frame, and often produce severe and painful consequences.

Youth and health are the only genuine philtres. Chocolate was for a long time in great celebrity with our debilitated petits-maîtres. But a man may take twenty cups of chocolate without inspiring any attachment to his person.—“ . . . . ut amoris amabilis esto.” (Ovid, A. A. ii., 107.)—“Wouldst thou be loved, be amiable.”


The greater part of the Greek philosophers held the universe to be eternal both with respect to commencement and duration. But as to this petty portion of the world or universe, this globe of stone and earth and water, of minerals and vapors, which we inhabit, it was somewhat difficult to form an opinion; it was, however, deemed very destructible. It was even said that it had been destroyed more than once, and would be destroyed again. Every one judged of the whole world from his own particular country, as an old woman judges of all mankind from those in her own nook and neighborhood.

This idea of the end of our little world and its renovation strongly possessed the imagination of the nations under subjection to the Roman Empire, amidst the horrors of the civil wars between Cæsar Edition: current; Page: [233] and Pompey. Virgil, in his “Georgics” (i., 468), alludes to the general apprehension which filled the minds of the common people from this cause: “Impiaque eternam timuerunt secula noctem.”—“And impious men now dread eternal night.”

Lucan, in the following lines, expresses himself much more explicitly:

  • Hos Cæsar populos, si nunc non usserit ignis
  • Uret cum terris, uret cum gurgite ponti.
  • Communis mundo superest rogus . . . .
  • Phars. vii. v. 812, 14.
  • Though now thy cruelty denies a grave,
  • These and the world one common lot shall have;
  • One last appointed flame, by fate’s decree,
  • Shall waste yon azure heavens, the earth, and sea.
  • Rowe.

And Ovid, following up the observations of Lucan, says:

  • Esse quoque in fatis reminiscitur affore tempus,
  • Quo mare, quo tellus, correptaque regia cœli,
  • Ardent et mundi moles operosa laboret.
  • Met. i. v. 256, 58.
  • For thus the stern, unyielding fates decree,
  • That earth, air, heaven, with the capacious sea,
  • All shall fall victims to consuming fire,
  • And in fierce flames the blazing world expire.

Consult Cicero himself, the philosophic Cicero. He tells us, in his book concerning the “Nature of the Gods,” the best work perhaps of all antiquity, unless we make an exception in favor of his treatise on human duties, called “The Offices”; in that book, I say, he remarks:

“Ex quo eventurum nostri putant id, de quo Panætium addubitare dicebant; ut ad extremum omnis Edition: current; Page: [234] mundus ignosceret, cum, humore consumpto, neque terra ali posset, neque remearet, aer cujus ortus, aqua omni exhausta, esse non posset; ita relinqui nihil præter ignem, a quo rursum animante ac Deo renovatio mundi fieret; atque idem ornatus oriretur.”

“According to the Stoics, the whole world will eventually consist only of fire; the water being then exhausted, will leave no nourishment for the earth; and the air, which derives its existence from water, can of course no longer be supplied. Thus fire alone will remain, and this fire, reanimating everything with, as it were, god-like power and energy, will restore the world with improved beauty.”

This natural philosophy of the Stoics, like that indeed of all antiquity, is not a little absurd; it shows, however, that the expectation of a general conflagration was universal.

Prepare, however, for greater astonishment than the errors of antiquity can excite. The great Newton held the same opinion as Cicero. Deceived by an incorrect experiment of Boyle, he thought that the moisture of the globe would at length be dried up, and that it would be necessary for God to apply His reforming hand “manum emendatricem.” Thus we have the two greatest men of ancient Rome and modern England precisely of the same opinion, that at some future period fire will completely prevail over water.

This idea of a perishing and subsequently to be Edition: current; Page: [235] renewed world was deeply rooted in the minds of the inhabitants of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, from the time of the civil wars of the successors of Alexander. Those of the Romans augmented the terror, upon this subject, of the various nations which became the victims of them. They expected the destruction of the world and hoped for a new one. The Jews, who are slaves in Syria and scattered through every other land, partook of this universal terror.

Accordingly, it does not appear that the Jews were at all astonished when Jesus said to them, according to St. Matthew and St. Luke: “Heaven and earth shall pass away.” He often said to them: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” He preached the gospel of the kingdom of God.

St. Peter announces that the gospel was preached to them that were dead, and that the end of the world drew near. “We expect,” says he, ‘new heavens and a new earth.”

St. John, in his first Epistle, says: “There are at present many antichrists, which shows that the last hour draws near.”

St. Luke, in much greater detail, predicts the end of the world and the last judgment. These are his words:

“There shall be signs in the moon and in the stars, roarings of the sea and the waves; men’s hearts failing them for fear shall look with trembling to the events about to happen. The powers Edition: current; Page: [236] of heaven shall be shaken; and then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. Verily I say unto you, the present generation shall not pass away till all this be fulfilled.”

We do not dissemble that unbelievers upbraid us with this very prediction; they want to make us blush for our faith, when we consider that the world is still in existence. The generation, they say, is passed away, and yet nothing at all of this is fulfilled. Luke, therefore, ascribes language to our Saviour which he never uttered, or we must conclude that Jesus Christ Himself was mistaken, which would be blasphemy. But we close the mouth of these impious cavillers by observing that this prediction, which appears so false in its literal meaning, is true in its spirit; that the whole world meant Judæa, and that the end of the world signified the reign of Titus and his successors.

St. Paul expresses himself very strongly on the subject of the end of the world in his Epistle to the Thessalonians: “We who survive, and who now address you, shall be taken up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

According to these very words of Jesus and St. Paul, the whole world was to have an end under Tiberius, or at latest under Nero. St. Paul’s prediction was fulfilled no more than St. Luke’s.

These allegorical predictions were undoubtedly not meant to apply to the times of the evangelists Edition: current; Page: [237] and apostles, but to some future time, which God conceals from all mankind.

  • Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi
  • Finem Dii dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
  • Tentaris numeros. Ut melius, quicquid erit, pati!
  • Horace i. ode xi.
  • Strive not, Leuconoe, to pry
  • Into the secret will of fate,
  • Nor impious magic vainly try
  • To know our lives’ uncertain date.
  • Francis.

It is still perfectly certain that all nations then known entertained the expectation of the end of the world, of a new earth and a new heaven. For more than sixteen centuries we see that donations to monkish institutions have commenced with these words: “Adventante mundi vespere,” etc.—“The end of the world being at hand, I, for the good of my soul, and to avoid being one of the number of the goats on the left hand . . . . leave such and such lands to such a convent.” Fear influenced the weak to enrich the cunning.

The Egyptians fixed this grand epoch at the end of thirty-six thousand five hundred years; Orpheus is stated to have fixed it at the distance of a hundred and twenty thousand years.

The historian Flavius Josephus asserts that Adam, having predicted that the world would be twice destroyed, once by water and next by fire, the children of Seth were desirous of announcing to the future race of men the disastrous catastrophe. They engraved astronomical observations on two columns, one made of bricks, which should resist Edition: current; Page: [238] the fire that was to consume the world; the other of stones, which would remain uninjured by the water that was to drown it. But what thought the Romans, when a few slaves talked to them about an Adam and a Seth unknown to all the world besides? They smiled. Josephus adds that the column of stones was to be seen in his own time in Syria.

From all that has been said, we may conclude that we know exceedingly little of past events—that we are but ill acquainted with those present—that we know nothing at all about the future—and that we ought to refer everything relating to them to God, the master of those three divisions of time and of eternity.


This Greek word signifies “emotion of the bowels, internal agitation.” Was the word invented by the Greeks to express the vibrations experienced by the nerves, the dilation and shrinking of the intestines, the violent contractions of the heart, the precipitous course of those fiery spirits which mount from the viscera to the brain whenever we are strongly and vividly affected?

Or was the term “enthusiasm,” after painful affection of the bowels, first applied to the contortions of the Pythia, who, on the Delphian tripod, admitted the inspiration of Apollo in a place apparently intended for the receptacle of body rather than of spirit?

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What do we understand by enthusiasm? How many shades are there in our affections! Approbation, sensibility, emotion, distress, impulse, passion, transport, insanity, rage, fury. Such are the stages through which the miserable soul of man is liable to pass.

A geometrician attends at the representation of an affecting tragedy. He merely remarks that it is a judicious, well-written performance. A young man who sits next to him is so interested by the performance that he makes no remark at all; a lady sheds tears over it; another young man is so transported by the exhibition that to his great misfortune he goes home determined to compose a tragedy himself. He has caught the disease of enthusiasm.

The centurion or military tribune who considers war simply as a profession by which he is to make his fortune, goes to battle coolly, like a tiler ascending the roof of a house. Cæsar wept at seeing the statue of Alexander.

Ovid speaks of love only like one who understood it. Sappho expressed the genuine enthusiasm of the passion, and if it be true that she sacrificed her life to it, her enthusiasm must have advanced to madness.

The spirit of party tends astonishingly to excite enthusiasm; there is no faction that has not its “energumens,” its devoted and possessed partisans. An animated speaker who employs gesture in his addresses, has in his eyes, his voice, his movements. Edition: current; Page: [240] a subtle poison which passes with an arrow’s speed into the ears and hearts of his partial hearers. It was on this ground that Queen Elizabeth forbade any one to preach, during six months, without an express licence under her sign manual, that the peace of her kingdom might be undisturbed.

St. Ignatius, who possessed very warm and susceptible feelings, read the lives of the fathers of the desert after being deeply read in romances. He becomes, in consequence, actuated by a double enthusiasm. He constitutes himself knight to the Virgin Mary, he performed the vigil of arms; he is eager to fight for his lady patroness; he is favored with visions; the virgin appears and recommends to him her son, and she enjoins him to give no other name to his society than that of the “Society of Jesus.”

Ignatius communicates his enthusiasm to another Spaniard of the name of Xavier. Xavier hastens away to the Indies, of the language of which he is utterly ignorant, thence to Japan, without knowing a word of Japanese. That, however, is of no consequence; the flame of his enthusiasm catches the imagination of some young Jesuits, who, at length, make themselves masters of that language. These disciples, after Xavier’s death, entertain not the shadow of a doubt that he performed more miracles than ever the apostles did, and that he resuscitated seven or eight persons at the very least. In short, so epidemic and powerful becomes the enthusiasm Edition: current; Page: [241] that they form in Japan what they denominate a Christendom (une Chrétienté). This Christendom ends in a civil war, in which a hundred thousand persons are slaughtered: the enthusiasm then is at its highest point, fanaticism; and fanaticism has become madness.

The young fakir who fixes his eye on the tip of his nose when saying his prayers, gradually kindles in devotional ardor until he at length believes that if he burdens himself with chains of fifty pounds weight the Supreme Being will be obliged and grateful to him. He goes to sleep with an imagination totally absorbed by Brahma, and is sure to have a sight of him in a dream. Occasionally even in the intermediate state between sleeping and waking, sparks radiate from his eyes; he beholds Brahma resplendent with light; he falls into ecstasies, and the disease frequently becomes incurable.

What is most rarely to be met with is the combination of reason with enthusiasm. Reason consists in constantly perceiving things as they really are. He, who, under the influence of intoxication, sees objects double is at the time deprived of reason.

Enthusiasm is precisely like wine, it has the power to excite such a ferment in the blood-vessels, and such strong vibrations in the nerves, that reason is completely destroyed by it. But it may also occasion only slight agitations so as not to convulse the brain, but merely to render it more active, as is the case in grand bursts of eloquence and more Edition: current; Page: [242] especially in sublime poetry. Reasonable enthusiasm is the patrimony of great poets.

This reasonable enthusiasm is the perfection of their art. It is this which formerly occasioned the belief that poets were inspired by the gods, a notion which was never applied to other artists.

How is reasoning to control enthusiasm? A poet should, in the first instance, make a sketch of his design. Reason then holds the crayon. But when he is desirous of animating his characters, to communicate to them the different and just expressions of the passions, then his imagination kindles, enthusiasm is in full operation and urges him on like a fiery courser in his career. But his course has been previously traced with coolness and judgment.

Enthusiasm is admissible into every species of poetry which admits of sentiment; we occasionally find it even in the eclogue; witness the following lines of Virgil (Eclogue x. v. 58):

  • Jam mihi per rupes videor lucosque sonantes
  • Ire; libet Partho torquere cydonia cornu
  • Spicula; tanquam haec sint nostri medicina furoris,
  • Aut deus ille malis hominum mitescere discat!
  • Nor cold shall hinder me, with horns and hounds
  • To third the thickets, or to leap the mounds.
  • And now, methinks, through steepy rocks I go,
  • And rush through sounding woods and bend the Parthian bow:
  • As if with sports my sufferings I could ease,
  • Or by my pains the god of Love appease.

The style of epistles and satires represses enthusiasm, we accordingly see little or nothing of it in the works of Boileau and Pope.

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Our odes, it is said by some, are genuine lyrical enthusiasm, but as they are not sung with us, they are, in fact, rather collections of verses, adorned with ingenious reflections, than odes.

Of all modern odes that which abounds with the noblest enthusiasm, an enthusiasm that never abates, that never falls into the bombastic or the ridiculous, is “Timotheus, or Alexander’s Feast,” by Dryden. It is still considered in England as an inimitable masterpiece, which Pope, when attempting the same style and the same subject, could not even approach. This ode was sung, set to music, and if the musician had been worthy of the poet it would have been the masterpiece of lyric poesy.

The most dangerous tendency of enthusiasm in this occurs in an ode on the birth of a prince of the bast, rant, and burlesque. A striking example of this occurs in an ode on the birth of a prince of the blood royal:

  • Où suis-je? quel nouveau miracle
  • Tient encore mes sens enchantés
  • Quel vaste, quel pompeux spectacle
  • Frappe mes yeux épouvantés?
  • Un nouveau monde vient d’éclore
  • L’univers se reforme encore
  • Dans les abîmes du chaos;
  • Et, pour réparer ses ruines
  • Je vois des demeures divines
  • Descendre un peuple de héros.
  • —J. B. Rousseau.
  • “Ode on the Birth of the Duke of Brittany.”

Here we find the poet’s senses enchanted and alarmed at the appearance of a prodigy—a vast and magnificent spectacle—a new birth which is to reform Edition: current; Page: [244] the universe and redeem it from a state of chaos, all which means simply that a male child is born to the house of Bourbon. This is as bad as “Je chante les vainqueurs, des vainqueurs de la terre.”

We will avail ourselves of the present opportunity to observe that there is a very small portion of enthusiasm in the “Ode on the Taking of Namur.”


We all know what the ancients said of this disgraceful passion and what the moderns have repeated. Hesiod is the first classic author who has spoken of it.

“The potter envies the potter, the artisan the artisan, the poor even the poor, the musician the musician—or, if any one chooses to give a different meaning to the word avidos—the poet the poet.”

Long before Hesiod, Job had remarked, “Envy destroys the little-minded.”

I believe Mandeville, the author of the “Fable of the Bees,” is the first who has endeavored to prove that envy is a good thing, a very useful passion. His first reason is that envy was as natural to man as hunger and thirst; that it may be observed in all children, as well as in horses and dogs. If you wish your children to hate one another, caress one more than the other; the prescription is infallible.

He asserts that the first thing two young women Edition: current; Page: [245] do when they meet together is to discover matter for ridicule, and the second to flatter each other.

He thinks that without envy the arts would be only moderately cultivated, and that Raphael would never have been a great painter if he had not been jealous of Michael Angelo.

Mandeville, perhaps, mistook emulation for envy; perhaps, also, emulation is nothing but envy restricted within the bounds of decency.

Michael Angelo might say to Raphael, your envy has only induced you to study and execute still better than I do; you have not depreciated me, you have not caballed against me before the pope, you have not endeavored to get me excommunicated for placing in my picture of the Last Judgment one-eyed and lame persons in paradise, and pampered cardinals with beautiful women perfectly naked in hell! No! your envy is a laudable feeling; you are brave as well as envious; let us be good friends.

But if the envious person is an unhappy being without talents, jealous of merit as the poor are of the rich; if under the pressure at once of indigence and baseness he writes “News from Parnassus,” “Letters from a Celebrated Countess,” or “Literary Annals,” the creature displays an envy which is in fact absolutely good for nothing, and for which even Mandeville could make no apology.

Descartes said: “Envy forces up the yellow bile from the lower part of the liver, and the black bile that comes from the spleen, which diffuses itself Edition: current; Page: [246] from the heart by the arteries.” But as no sort of bile is formed in the spleen, Descartes, when he spoke thus, deserved not to be envied for his physiology.

A person of the name of Poet or Poetius, a theological blackguard, who accused Descartes of atheism, was exceedingly affected by the black bile. But he knew still less than Descartes how his detestable bile circulated through his blood.

Madame Pernelle is perfectly right: Les envieux mourront, mais non jamais l’envie.”—The envious will die, but envy never. (“Tartuffe,” Act V, Scene 3.)

That it is better to excite envy than pity is a good proverb. Let us, then, make men envy us as much as we are able.


Since the word “epos,” among the Greeks, signified a discourse, an epic poem must have been a discourse, and it was in verse because it was not then the custom to write in prose. This appears strange, but it is no less true. One Pherecydes is supposed to have been the first Greek who made exclusive use of prose to compose one of those half-true, half-false histories so common to antiquity.

Orpheus, Linus, Thamyris, and Musæus, the predecessors of Homer, wrote in verse only. Hesiod, who was certainly contemporary with Homer, wrote his “Theogony” and his poem of “Works and Days” Edition: current; Page: [247] entirely in verse. The harmony of the Greek language so invited men to poetry, a maxim turned into verse was so easily engraved on the memory that the laws, oracles, morals, and theology were all composed in verse.

Of Hesiod.

He made use of fables which had for a long time been received in Greece. It is clearly seen by the succinct manner in which he speaks of Prometheus and Epimetheus that he supposes these notions already familiar to all the Greeks. He only mentions them to show that it is necessary to labor, and that an indolent repose, in which other mythologists have made the felicity of man to consist, is a violation of the orders of the Supreme Being.

Hesiod afterwards describes the four famous ages, of which he is the first who has spoken, at least among the ancient authors who remain to us. The first age is that which preceded Pandora—the time in which men lived with the gods. The iron age is that of the siege of Thebes and Troy. “I live in the fifth,” says he, “and I would I had never been born.” How many men, oppressed by envy, fanaticism, and tyranny, since Hesiod, have said the same!

It is in this poem of “Works and Days” that those proverbs are found which have been perpetuated, as—“the potter is jealous of the potter,” and he adds, “the musician of the musician, and the poor even of the poor.” We there find the original of our fable Edition: current; Page: [248] of the nightingale fallen into the claws of the vulture. The nightingale sings in vain to soften him; the vulture devours her. Hesiod does not conclude that a hungry belly has no ears, but that tyrants are not to be mollified by genius.

A hundred maxims worthy of Xenophon and Cato are to be found in this poem.

Men are ignorant of the advantage of society: they know not that the half is more valuable than the whole.

Iniquity is pernicious only to the powerless.

Equity alone causes cities to flourish.

One unjust man is often sufficient to ruin his country.

The wretch who plots the destruction of his neighbor often prepares the way to his own.

The road to crime is short and easy. That of virtue is long and difficult, but towards the end it is delightful.

God has placed labor as a sentinel over virtue.

Lastly, the precepts on agriculture were worthy to be imitated by Virgil. There are, also, very fine passages in his “Theogony.” Love, who disentangles chaos; Venus, born of the sea from the genital parts of a god nourished on earth, always followed by Love, and uniting heaven, earth, and sea, are admirable emblems.

Why, then, has Hesiod had less reputation than Homer? They seem to me of equal merit, but Homer has been preferred by the Greeks because he Edition: current; Page: [249] sang their exploits and victories over the Asiatics, their eternal enemies. He celebrated all the families which in his time reigned in Achaia and Peloponnesus; he wrote the most memorable war of the first people in Europe against the most flourishing nation which was then known in Asia. His poem was almost the only monument of that great epoch. There was no town nor family which did not think itself honored by having its name mentioned in these records of valor. We are even assured that a long time after him some differences between the Greek towns on the subject of adjacent lands were decided by the verses of Homer. He became, after his death, the judge of cities in which it is pretended that he asked alms during his life, which proves, also, that the Greeks had poets long before they had geographers.

It is astonishing that the Greeks, so disposed to honor epic poems which immortalized the combats of their ancestors, produced no one to sing the battles of Marathon, Thermopylæ, Platæa, and Salamis. The heroes of these times were much greater men than Agamemnon, Achilles, and Ajax.

Tyrtæus, a captain, poet, and musician, like the king of Prussia in our days, made war and sang it. He animated the Spartans against the Messenians by his verses, and gained the victory. But his works are lost. It does not appear that any epic poem was written in the time of Pericles. The attention of genius was turned towards tragedy, so that Homer Edition: current; Page: [250] stood alone, and his glory increased daily. We now come to his “Iliad.”

Of the Iliad.

What confirms me in the opinion that Homer was of the Greek colony established at Smyrna is the oriental style of all his metaphors and pictures: The earth which shook under the feet of the army when it marched like the thunderbolts of Jupiter on the hills which overwhelmed the giant Typhon; a wind blacker than night winged with tempests; Mars and Minerva followed by Terror, Flight, and insatiable Discord, the sister and companion of Homicide, the goddess of battles, who raises tumults wherever she appears, and who, not content with setting the world by the ears, even exalts her proud head into heaven. The “Iliad” is full of these images, which caused the sculptor Bouchardon to say, “When I read Homer I believe myself twenty feet high.”

His poem, which is not at all interesting to us, was very precious to the Greeks. His gods are ridiculous to reasonable but they were not so to partial eyes, and it was for partial eyes that he wrote.

We laugh and shrug our shoulders at these gods, who abused one another, fought one another, and combated with men—who were wounded and whose blood flowed, but such was the ancient theology of Greece and of almost all the Asiatic people. Every nation, every little village had its particular god, which conducted it to battle.

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The inhabitants of the clouds and of the stars which were supposed in the clouds, had a cruel war. The combat of the angels against one another was from time immemorial the foundation of the religion of the Brahmins. The battle of the Titans, the children of heaven and earth, against the chief gods of Olympus, was also the leading mystery of the Greek religion. Typhon, according to the Egyptians, had fought against Oshiret, whom we call Osiris, and cut him to pieces.

Madame Dacier, in her preface to the “Iliad,” remarks very sensibly, after Eustathius, bishop of Thessalonica, and Huet, bishop of Avranches, that every neighboring nation of the Hebrews had its god of war. Indeed, does not Jephthah say to the Ammonites, “Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So, whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, from them will we possess.”

Do we not see the God of Judah a conqueror in the mountains and repulsed in the valleys?

As to men wrestling against divinities, that is a received idea. Jacob wrestled one whole night with an angel. If Jupiter sent a deceiving dream to the chief of the Greeks, the Lord also sent a deceiving spirit to King Ahab. These emblems were frequent and astonished nobody. Homer has then painted the ideas of his own age; he could not paint those of the generations which succeeded him.

Homer has great faults. Horace confesses it, Edition: current; Page: [252] and all men of taste agree to it; there is only one commentator who is blind enough not to see them. Pope, who was himself a translator of the Greek poet, says: “It is a vast but uncultivated country where we meet with all kinds of natural beauties, but which do not present themselves as regularly as in a garden; it is an abundant nursery which contains the seeds of all fruits; a great tree that extends superfluous branches which it is necessary to prune.”

Madame Dacier sides with the vast country, the nursery and the tree, and would have nothing curtailed. She was no doubt a woman superior to her sex, and has done great service to letters, as well as her husband, but when she became masculine and turned commentator, she so overacted her part that she piqued people into finding fault with Homer. She was so obstinate as to quarrel even with Monsieur de La Motte. She wrote against him like the head of a college, and La Motte answered like a polite and witty woman. He translated the “Iliad” very badly, but he attacked Madame Dacier very well.

We will not speak of the “Odyssey” here; we shall say something of that poem while treating of Ariosto.

Of Virgil.

It appears to me that the second, fourth, and sixth book of the “Æneid” are as much above all Greek and Latin poets, without exception, as the Edition: current; Page: [253] statues of Girardon are superior to all those which preceded them in France.

It is often said that Virgil has borrowed many of the figures of Homer, and that he is even inferior to him in his imitations, but he has not imitated him at all in the three books of which I am speaking; he is there himself touching and appalling to the heart. Perhaps he was not suited for terrific detail, but there had been battles enough. Horace had said of him, before he attempted the “Æneid:”

  • Molle atque facetum
  • Virgilio annuerunt gaudentes rure camoenæ.
  • Smooth flow his lines, and elegant his style,
  • On Virgil all the rural muses smile.
  • Francis.