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Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VI (Philosophical Dictionary Part 4) [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. VI.

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Volume 4 of the Philosophical Dictionary with entries from “Joseph” to the “Privileges.” 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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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•
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Copyright, 1901, By E. R. DuMont

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The history of Joseph, considering it merely as an object of curiosity and literature, is one of the most precious monuments of antiquity which has reached us. It appears to be the model of all the Oriental writers; it is more affecting than the “Odyssey”; for a hero who pardons is more touching than one who avenges.

We regard the Arabs as the first authors of these ingenious fictions, which have passed into all languages; but I see among them no adventures comparable to those of Joseph. Almost all in it is wonderful, and the termination exacts tears of tenderness. He was a young man of sixteen years of age, of whom his brothers were jealous; he is sold by them to a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants, conducted into Egypt, and bought by a eunuch of the king. This eunuch had a wife, which is not at all extraordinary; the kislar aga, a perfect eunuch, has a seraglio at this day at Constantinople; they left him some of his senses, and nature in consequence is not altogether extinguished. No matter; the wife of Potiphar falls in love with the young Joseph, who, faithful to his master and benefactor, rejects Edition: current; Page: [6] the advances of this woman. She is irritated at it, and accuses Joseph of attempting to seduce her. Such is the history of Hippolytus and Phædra, of Bellerophon and Zenobia, of Hebrus and Damasippa, of Myrtilus and Hippodamia, etc.

It is difficult to know which is the original of all these histories; but among the ancient Arabian authors there is a tract relating to the adventure of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, which is very ingenious. The author supposes that Potiphar, uncertain between the assertions of his wife and Joseph, regarded not Joseph’s tunic, which his wife had torn as a proof of the young man’s outrage. There was a child in a cradle in his wife’s chamber; and Joseph said that she seized and tore his tunic in the presence of this infant. Potiphar consulted the child, whose mind was very advanced for its age. The child said to Potiphar: “See if the tunic is torn behind or before; if before, it is a proof that Joseph would embrace your wife by force, and that she defended herself; if behind, it is a proof that your wife detained Joseph.” Potiphar, thanks to the genius of the child, recognized the innocence of his slave. It is thus that this adventure is related in the Koran, after the Arabian author. It informs us not to whom the infant belonged, who judged with so much wit. If it was not a son of Potiphar, Joseph was not the first whom this woman had seduced.

However that may be, according to Genesis, Joseph is put in prison, where he finds himself in Edition: current; Page: [7] company with the butler and baker of the king of Egypt. These two prisoners of state both dreamed one night. Joseph explains their dreams; he predicted that in three days the butler would be received again into favor, and that the baker would be hanged; which failed not to happen.

Two years afterwards the king of Egypt also dreams, and his butler tells him that there is a young Jew in prison who is the first man in the world for the interpretation of dreams. The king causes the young man to be brought to him, who foretells seven years of abundance and seven of sterility.

Let us here interrupt the thread of the history to remark, of what prodigious antiquity is the interpretation of dreams. Jacob saw in a dream the mysterious ladder at the top of which was God Himself. In a dream he learned a method of multiplying his flocks, a method which never succeeded with any but himself. Joseph himself had learned by a dream that he should one day govern his brethren. Abimelech, a long time before, had been warned in a dream, that Sarah was the wife of Abraham.

To return to Joseph: after explaining the dream of Pharaoh, he was made first minister on the spot. We doubt if at present a king could be found, even in Asia, who would bestow such an office in return for an interpreted dream. Pharaoh espoused Joseph to a daughter of Potiphar. It is said that this Potiphar was high-priest of Heliopolis; he was not therefore the eunuch, his first master; or if it was Edition: current; Page: [8] the latter, he had another title besides that of high-priest; and his wife had been a mother more than once.

However, the famine happened, as Joseph had foretold; and Joseph, to merit the good graces of his king, forced all the people to sell their land to Pharaoh, and all the nation became slaves to procure corn. This is apparently the origin of despotic power. It must be confessed, that never king made a better bargain; but the people also should no less bless the prime minister.

Finally, the father and brothers of Joseph had also need of corn, for “the famine was sore in all lands.” It is scarcely necessary to relate here how Joseph received his brethren; how he pardoned and enriched them. In this history is found all that constitutes an interesting epic poem—exposition, plot, recognition, adventures, and the marvellous; nothing is more strongly marked with the stamp of Oriental genius.

What the good man Jacob, the father of Joseph, answered to Pharaoh, ought to strike all those who know how to read. “How old art thou?” said the king to him. “The days of the years of my pilgrimage,” said the old man, “are an hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.”


I never was in Judæa, thank God! and I never will go there. I have met with men of all nations Edition: current; Page: [9] who have returned from it, and they have all of them told me that the situation of Jerusalem is horrible; that all the land round it is stony; that the mountains are bare; that the famous river Jordan is not more than forty feet wide; that the only good spot in the country is Jericho; in short, they all spoke of it as St. Jerome did, who resided a long time in Bethlehem, and describes the country as the refuse and rubbish of nature. He says that in summer the inhabitants cannot get even water to drink. This country, however, must have appeared to the Jews luxuriant and delightful, in comparison with the deserts in which they originated. Were the wretched inhabitants of the Landes to quit them for some of the mountains of Lampourdan, how would they exult and delight in the change; and how would they hope eventually to penetrate into the fine and fruitful districts of Languedoc, which would be to them the land of promise!

Such is precisely the history of the Jews. Jericho and Jerusalem are Toulouse and Montpellier, and the desert of Sinai is the country between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

But if the God who conducted the Israelites wished to bestow upon them a pleasant and fruitful land; if these wretched people had in fact dwelt in Egypt, why did he not permit them to remain in Egypt? To this we are answered only in the usual language of theology.

Judæa, it is said, was the promised land. God Edition: current; Page: [10] said to Abraham: “I will give thee all the country between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates.”

Alas! my friends, you never have had possession of those fertile banks of the Euphrates and the Nile. You have only been duped and made fools of. You have almost always been slaves. To promise and to perform, my poor unfortunate fellows, are different things. There was an old rabbi once among you, who, when reading your shrewd and sagacious prophecies, announcing for you a land of milk and honey, remarked that you had been promised more butter than bread. Be assured that were the great Turk this very day to offer me the lordship (seigneurie) of Jerusalem, I would positively decline it.

Frederick III., when he saw this detestable country, said, loudly enough to be distinctly heard, that Moses must have been very ill-advised to conduct his tribe of lepers to such a place as that. “Why,” says Frederick, “did he not go to Naples?” Adieu, my dear Jews; I am extremely sorry that the promised land is the lost land.

By the Baron de Broukans.



Justice is often done at last. Two or three authors, either venal or fanatical, eulogize the cruel and effeminate Constantine as if he had been a god, and treat as an absolute miscreant the just, the wise, Edition: current; Page: [11] and the great Julian. All other authors, copying from these, repeat both the flattery and the calumny. They become almost an article of faith. At length the age of sound criticism arrives; and at the end of fourteen hundred years, enlightened men revise the cause which had been decided by ignorance. In Constantine we see a man of successful ambition, internally scoffing at things divine as well as human. He has the insolence to pretend that God sent him a standard in the air to assure him of victory. He imbrues himself in the blood of all his relations, and is lulled to sleep in all the effeminacy of luxury; but he is a Christian—he is canonized.

Julian is sober, chaste, disinterested, brave, and clement; but he is not a Christian—he has long been considered a monster.

At the present day—after having compared facts, memorials and records, the writings of Julian and those of his enemies—we are compelled to acknowledge that, if he was not partial to Christianity, he was somewhat excusable in hating a sect stained with the blood of all his family; and that although he had been persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, and threatened with death by the Galileans, under the reign of the cruel and sanguinary Constantius, he never persecuted them, but on the contrary even pardoned ten Christian soldiers who had conspired against his life. His letters are read and admired: “The Galileans,” says he, “under my predecessor, suffered exile and imprisonment; and Edition: current; Page: [12] those who, according to the change of circumstances, were called heretics, were reciprocally massacred in their turn. I have called home their exiles, I have liberated their prisoners, I have restored their property to those who were proscribed, and have compelled them to live in peace; but such is the restless rage of these Galileans that they deplore their inability any longer to devour one another.” What a letter! What a sentence, dictated by philosophy, against persecuting fanaticism. Ten Christians conspiring against his life, he detects and he pardons them. How extraordinary a man! What dastardly fanatics must those be who attempt to throw disgrace on his memory!

In short, on investigating facts with impartiality, we are obliged to admit that Julian possessed all the qualities of Trajan, with the exception of that depraved taste too long pardoned to the Greeks and Romans; all the virtues of Cato, without either his obstinacy or ill-humor; everything that deserves admiration in Julius Cæsar, and none of his vices. He possessed the continence of Scipio. Finally, he was in all respects equal to Marcus Aurelius, who was reputed the first of men.

There are none who will now venture to repeat, after that slanderer Theodoret, that, in order to propitiate the gods, he sacrificed a woman in the temple of Carres; none who will repeat any longer the story of the death scene in which he is represented as throwing drops of blood from his hand Edition: current; Page: [13] towards heaven, calling out to Jesus Christ: “Galilean, thou hast conquered”; as if he had fought against Jesus in making war upon the Persians; as if this philosopher, who died with such perfect resignation, had with alarm and despair recognized Jesus; as if he had believed that Jesus was in the air, and that the air was heaven! These ridiculous absurdities of men, denominated fathers of the Church, are happily no longer current and respected.

Still, however, the effect of ridicule was, it seems, to be tried against him, as it was by the light and giddy citizens of Antioch. He is reproached for his ill-combed beard and the manner of his walk. But you, Mr. Abbé de la Bletterie, never saw him walk; you have, however, read his letters and his laws, the monuments of his virtues. Of what consequence was it, comparatively, that he had a slovenly beard and an abrupt, headlong walk, while his heart was full of magnanimity and all his steps tended to virtue!

One important fact remains to be examined at the present day. Julian is reproached with attempting to falsify the prophecy of Jesus Christ, by rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem. Fires, it is asserted, came out of the earth and prevented the continuance of the work. It is said that this was a miracle, and that this miracle did not convert Julian, nor Alypius, the superintendent of the enterprise, nor any individual of the imperial court; and upon this subject the Abbé de la Bletterie thus expresses Edition: current; Page: [14] himself: “The emperor and the philosophers of his court undoubtedly employed all their knowledge of natural philosophy to deprive the Deity of the honor of so striking and impressive a prodigy. Nature was always the favorite resource of unbelievers; but she serves the cause of religion so very seasonably, that they might surely suspect some collusion between them.”

1. It is not true that it is said in the Gospel, that the Jewish temple should not be rebuilt. The gospel of Matthew, which was evidently written after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, prophesies, certainly, that not one stone should remain upon another of the temple of the Idumæan Herod; but no evangelist says that it shall never be rebuilt. It is perfectly false that not one stone remained upon another when Titus demolished it. All its foundations remained together, with one entire wall and the tower Antonia.

2. Of what consequence could it be to the Supreme Being whether there was a Jewish temple, a magazine, or a mosque, on the spot where the Jews were in the habit of slaughtering bullocks and cows?

3. It is not ascertained whether it was from within the circuit of the walls of the city, or from within that of the temple, that those fires proceeded which burned the workmen. But it is not very obvious why the Jews should burn the workmen of the emperor Julian, and not those of the caliph Edition: current; Page: [15] Omar, who long afterwards built a mosque upon the ruins of the temple; or those of the great Saladin who rebuilt the same mosque. Had Jesus any particular predilection for the mosques of the Mussulmans?

4. Jesus, notwithstanding his having predicted that there would not remain one stone upon another in Jerusalem, did not prevent the rebuilding of that city.

5. Jesus predicted many things which God permitted never to come to pass. He predicted the end of the world, and his coming in the clouds with great power and majesty, before or about the end of the then existing generation. The world, however, has lasted to the present moment, and in all probability will last much longer.

6. If Julian had written an account of this miracle, I should say that he had been imposed upon by a false and ridiculous report; I should think that the Christians, his enemies, employed every artifice to oppose his enterprise, that they themselves killed the workmen, and excited and promoted the belief of their being destroyed by a miracle; but Julian does not say a single word on the subject. The war against the Persians at that time fully occupied his attention; he put off the rebuilding of the temple to some other time, and he died before he was able to commence the building.

7. This prodigy is related by Ammianus Marcellinus, who was a Pagan. It is very possible that it Edition: current; Page: [16] may have been an interpolation of the Christians. They have been charged with committing numberless others which have been clearly proved.

But it is not the less probable that at a time when nothing was spoken of but prodigies and stories of witchcraft, Ammianus Marcellinus may have reported this fable on the faith of some credulous narrator. From Titus Livius to de Thou, inclusively, all historians have been infected with prodigies.

8. Contemporary authors relate that at the same period there was in Syria a great convulsion of the earth, which in many places broke out in conflagrations and swallowed up many cities. There was therefore more miracle.

9. If Jesus performed miracles, would it be in order to prevent the rebuilding of a temple in which he had himself sacrificed, and in which he was circumcised? Or would he not rather perform miracles to convert to Christianity the various nations who at present ridicule it? Or rather still, to render more humane, more kind, Christians themselves, who, from Arius and Athanasius down to Roland and the Paladins of the Cévennes, have shed torrents of human blood, and conducted themselves nearly as might be expected from cannibals?

Hence I conclude that “nature” is not in “collusion,” as La Bletterie expresses it, with Christianity, but that La Bletterie is in collusion with some old women’s stories, one of those persons, as Julian Edition: current; Page: [17] phrases it, “quibus cum stolidis aniculis negotium erat.”

La Bletterie, after having done justice to some of Julian’s virtues, yet concludes the history of that great man by observing, that his death was the effect of “divine vengeance.” If that be the case, all the heroes who have died young, from Alexander to Gustavus Adolphus, have, we must infer, been punished by God. Julian died the noblest of deaths, in the pursuit of his enemies, after many victories. Jovian, who succeeded him, reigned a much shorter time than he did, and reigned in disgrace. I see no divine vengeance in the matter; and I see in La Bletterie himself nothing more than a disingenuous, dishonest declaimer. But where are the men to be found who will dare to speak out?

Libanius the Stoic was one of these extraordinary men. He celebrated the brave and clement Julian in the presence of Theodosius, the wholesale murderer of the Thessalonians; but Le Beau and La Bletterie fear to praise him in the hearing of their own puny parish officers.


Let any one suppose for a moment that Julian had abandoned false gods for Christianity; then examine him as a man, a philosopher, and an emperor; and let the examiner then point out the man whom he will venture to prefer to him. If he had lived only ten years longer, there is great probability Edition: current; Page: [18] that he would have given a different form to Europe from that which it bears at present.

The Christian religion depended upon his life; the efforts which he made for its destruction rendered his name execrable to the nations who have embraced it. The Christian priests, who were his contemporaries, accuse him of almost every crime, because he had committed what in their eyes was the greatest of all—he had lowered and humiliated them. It is not long since his name was never quoted without the epithet of apostate attached to it; and it is perhaps one of the greatest achievements of reason that he has at length ceased to be mentioned under so opprobrious a designation. Who would imagine that in one of the “Mercuries of Paris,” for the year 1745, the author sharply rebukes a certain writer for failing in the common courtesies of life, by calling this emperor Julian “the apostate”? Not more than a hundred years ago the man that would not have treated him as an apostate would himself have been treated as an atheist.

What is very singular, and at the same time perfectly true, is that if you put out of consideration the various disputes between Pagans and Christians, in which this emperor was engaged; if you follow him neither to the Christian churches nor idolatrous temples, but observe him attentively in his own household, in camp, in battle, in his manners, his conduct, and his writings, you will find him in every respect equal to Marcus Aurelius.

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Thus, the man who has been described as so abominable and execrable, is perhaps the first, or at least the second of mankind. Always sober, always temperate, indulging in no licentious pleasures, sleeping on a mere bear’s skin, devoting only a few hours, and even those with regret, to sleep; dividing his time between study and business, generous, susceptible of friendship, and an enemy to all pomp, and pride, and ostentation. Had he been merely a private individual he must have extorted universal admiration.

If we consider him in his military character, we see him constantly at the head of his troops, establishing or restoring discipline without rigor, beloved by his soldiers and at the same time restraining their excesses, conducting his armies almost always on foot, and showing them an example of enduring every species of hardship, ever victorious in all his expeditions even to the last moments of his life, and at length dying at the glorious crisis when the Persians were routed. His death was that of a hero, and his last words were those of a philosopher: “I submit,” says he, “willingly to the eternal decrees of heaven, convinced that he who is captivated with life, when his last hour is arrived, is more weak and pusillanimous than he who would rush to voluntary death when it is his duty still to live.” He converses to the last moment on the immortality of the soul; manifests no regrets, shows no weakness, and speaks only of his submission to the Edition: current; Page: [20] decrees of Providence. Let it be remembered that this is the death of an emperor at the age of thirty-two, and let it be then decided whether his memory should be insulted.

As an emperor, we see him refusing the title of “Dominus,” which Constantine affected; relieving his people from difficulties, diminishing taxes, encouraging the arts; reducing to the moderate amount of seventy ounces each those presents in crowns of gold, which had before been exacted from every city to the amount of three or four hundred marks; promoting the strict and general observance of the laws; restraining both his officers and ministers from oppression, and preventing as much as possible all corruption.

Ten Christian soldiers conspire to assassinate him; they are discovered, and Julian pardons them. The people of Antioch, who united insolence to voluptuousness, offer him an insult; he revenges himself only like a man of sense; and while he might have made them feel the weight of imperial power, he merely makes them feel the superiority of his mind. Compare with this conduct the executions which Theodosius (who was very near being made a saint) exhibited in Antioch, and the ever dreadful and memorable slaughter of all the inhabitants of Thessalonica, for an offence of a somewhat similar description; and then decide between these two celebrated characters.

Certain writers, called fathers of the Church—Gregory Edition: current; Page: [21] of Nazianzen, and Theodoret—thought it incumbent on them to calumniate him, because he had abandoned the Christian religion. They did not consider that it was the triumph of that religion to prevail over so great a man, and even over a sage, after having resisted tyrants. One of them says that he took a barbarous vengeance on Antioch and filled it with blood. How could a fact so public and atrocious escape the knowledge of all other historians? It is perfectly known that he shed no blood at Antioch but that of the victims sacrificed in the regular services of religion. Another ventures to assert that before his death he threw some of his own blood towards heaven, and exclaimed, “Galilean, thou hast conquered.” How could a tale so insipid and so improbable, even for a moment obtain credit? Was it against the Christians that he was then combating? and is such an act, are such expressions, in the slightest degree characteristic of the man?

Minds of a somewhat superior order to those of Julian’s detractors may perhaps inquire, how it could occur that a statesman like him, a man of so much intellect, a genuine philosopher, could quit the Christian religion, in which he was educated, for Paganism, of which, it is almost impossible not to suppose, he must have felt the folly and ridicule. It might be inferred that if Julian yielded too much to the suggestions of his reason against the mysteries of the Christian religion, he ought, at least in all consistency, to have yielded more readily to the dictates Edition: current; Page: [22] of the same reason, when more correctly and decidedly condemning the fables of Paganism.

Perhaps, by attending a little to the progress of his life, and the nature of his character, we may discover what it was that inspired him with so strong an aversion to Christianity. The emperor Constantine, his great-uncle, who had placed the new religion on the throne, was stained by the murder of his wife, his son, his brother-in-law, his nephew, and his father-in-law. The three children of Constantine began their bloody and baleful reign, with murdering their uncle and their cousins. From that time followed a series of civil wars and murders. The father, the brother, and all the relations of Julian, and even Julian himself, were marked down for destruction by Constantius, his uncle. He escaped this general massacre, but the first years of his life were passed in exile, and he at last owed the preservation of his life, his fortune, and the title of Cæsar, only to Eusebia, the wife of his uncle Constantius, who, after having had the cruelty to proscribe his infancy, had the imprudence to appoint him Cæsar, and the still further and greater imprudence of then persecuting him.

He was, in the first instance, a witness of the insolence with which a certain bishop treated his benefactress Eusebia. He was called Leontius, and was bishop of Tripoli. He sent information to the empress, “that he would not visit her unless she would Edition: current; Page: [23] consent to receive him in a manner corresponding to his episcopal dignity—that is, that she should advance to receive him at the door, that she should receive his benediction in a bending attitude, and that she should remain standing until he granted her permission to be seated.” The Pagan pontiffs were not in the habit of treating princesses precisely in this manner, and such brutal arrogance could not but make a deep impression on the mind of a young man attached at once to philosophy and simplicity.

If he saw that he was in a Christian family, he saw, at the same time, that he was in a family rendered distinguished by parricides; if he looked at the court bishops, he perceived that they were at once audacious and intriguing, and that all anathematized each other in turn. The hostile parties of Arius and Athanasius filled the empire with confusion and carnage; the Pagans, on the contrary, never had any religious quarrels. It is natural therefore that Julian, who had been educated, let it be remembered, by philosophic Pagans, should have strengthened by their discourses the aversion he must necessarily have felt in his heart for the Christian religion. It is not more extraordinary to see Julian quit Christianity for false gods, than to see Constantine quit false gods for Christianity. It is highly probable that both changed for motives of state policy, and that this policy was mixed up in the mind of Julian with the stern loftiness of a stoic soul.

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The Pagan priests had no dogmas; they did not compel men to believe that which was incredible; they required nothing but sacrifices, and even sacrifices were not enjoined under rigorous penalties; they did not set themselves up as the first order in the state, did not form a state within a state, and did not mix in affairs of government. These might well be considered motives to induce a man of Julian’s character to declare himself on their side; and if he had piqued himself upon being nothing besides a Stoic, he would have had against him the priests of both religions, and all the fanatics of each. The common people would not at that time have endured a prince who was content simply with the pure worship of a pure divinity and the strict observance of justice. It was necessary to side with one of the opposing parties. We must therefore believe that Julian submitted to the Pagan ceremonies, as the majority of princes and great men attend the forms of worship in the public temples. They are led thither by the people themselves, and are often obliged to appear what in fact they are not; and to be in public the first and greatest slaves of credulity. The Turkish sultan must bless the name of Omar. The Persian sophi must bless the name of Ali. Marcus Aurelius himself was initiated in the mysteries of Eleusis.

We ought not therefore to be surprised that Julian should have debased his reason by condescending to the forms and usages of superstition; Edition: current; Page: [25] but it is impossible not to feel indignant against Theodoret, as the only historian who relates that he sacrificed a woman in the temple of the moon at Carres. This infamous story must be classed with the absurd tale of Ammianus, that the genius of the empire appeared to Julian before his death, and with the other equally ridiculous one, that when Julian attempted to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem, there came globes of fire out of the earth, and consumed all the works and workmen without distinction.

Iliacos intra muros peccatur et extra.

Horace, book i, ep. ii, 16.

Both Christians and Pagans equally, circulated fables concerning Julian; but the fables of the Christians, who were his enemies, were filled with calumny. Who could ever be induced to believe that a philosopher sacrificed a woman to the moon, and tore out her entrails with his own hands? Is such atrocity compatible with the character of a rigid Stoic?

He never put any Christians to death. He granted them no favors, but he never persecuted them. He permitted them, like a just sovereign, to keep their own property; and he wrote in opposition to them like a philosopher. He forbade their teaching in the schools the profane authors, whom they endeavored to decry—this was not persecuting them; and he prevented them from tearing one another to pieces in their outrageous hatred and quarrels—this was protecting them. They had in fact therefore Edition: current; Page: [26] nothing with which they could reproach him, but with having abandoned them, and with not being of their opinion. They found means, however, of rendering execrable to posterity a prince, who, but for his change of religion, would have been admired and beloved by all the world.

Although we have already treated of Julian, under the article on “Apostate”; although, following the example of every sage, we have deplored the dreadful calamity he experienced in not being a Christian, and have done justice elsewhere to his various excellences, we must nevertheless say something more upon the subject.

We do this in consequence of an imposture equally absurd and atrocious, which we casually met with in one of those petty dictionaries with which France is now inundated, and which unfortunately are so easily compiled. This dictionary of theology which I am now alluding to proceeds from an ex-Jesuit, called Paulian, who repeats the story, so discredited and absurd, that the emperor Julian, after being mortally wounded in a battle with the Persians, threw some of his blood towards heaven, exclaiming, “Galilean, thou hast conquered”—a fable which destroys itself, as Julian was conqueror in the battle, and Jesus Christ certainly was not the God of the Persians.

Paulian, notwithstanding, dares to assert that the fact is incontestable. And upon what ground does he assert it? Upon the ground of its being related Edition: current; Page: [27] by Theodoret, the author of so many distinguished lies; and even this notorious writer himself relates it only as a vague report; he uses the expression, “It is said.” This story is worthy of the calumniators who stated that Julian had sacrificed a woman to the moon, and that after his death a large chest was found among his movables filled with human heads.

This is not the only falsehood and calumny with which this ex-Jesuit Paulian is chargeable. If these contemptible wretches knew what injury they did to our holy religion, by endeavoring to support it by imposture, and by the abominable abuse with which they assail the most respectable characters, they would be less audacious and infuriated. They care not, however, for supporting religion; what they want is to gain money by their libels; and despairing of being read by persons of sense, and taste, and fashion, they go on gathering and compiling theological trash, in hopes that their productions will be adopted in the seminaries.

We sincerely ask pardon of our well-informed and respectable readers for introducing such names as those of the ex-Jesuits Paulian, Nonnotte, and Patouillet; but after having trampled to death serpents, we shall probably be excused for crushing fleas.


Who has given us the perception of just and unjust? God, who gave us a brain and a heart. But Edition: current; Page: [28] when does our reason inform us that there are such things as vice and virtue? Just at the same time it teaches us that two and two make four. There is no innate knowledge, for the same reason that there is no tree that bears leaves and fruit when it first starts above the earth. There is nothing innate, or fully developed in the first instance; but—we repeat here what we have often said—God causes us to be born with organs, which, as they grow and become unfolded, make us feel all that is necessary for our species to feel, for the conservation of that species.

How is this continual mystery performed? Tell me, ye yellow inhabitants of the Isles of Sunda, ye black Africans, ye beardless Indians; and you—Plato, Cicero, and Epictetus. You all equally feel that it is better to give the superfluity of your bread, your rice, or your manioc, to the poor man who meekly requests it, than to kill him or scoop his eyes out. It is evident to the whole world that a benefit is more honorable to the performer than an outrage, that gentleness is preferable to fury.

The only thing required, then, is to exercise our reason in discriminating the various shades of what is right and wrong. Good and evil are often neighbors; our passions confound them; who shall enlighten and direct us? Ourselves, when we are calm and undisturbed. Whoever has written on the subject of human duties, in all countries throughout the world, has written well, because he wrote Edition: current; Page: [29] with reason. All have said the same thing; Socrates and Epictetus, Confucius and Cicero, Marcus Antoninus and Amurath II. had the same morality.

We would repeat every day to the whole of the human race: Morality is uniform and invariable; it comes from God: dogmas are different; they come from ourselves.

Jesus never taught any metaphysical dogmas; He wrote no theological courses; He never said: I am consubstantial; I have two wills and two natures with only one person. He left for the Cordeliers and the Jacobins, who would appear twelve hundred years after Him, the delicate and difficult topic of argument, whether His mother was conceived in original sin. He never pronounced marriage to be the visible sign of a thing invisible; He never said a word about concomitant grace; He instituted neither monks nor inquisitors; He appointed nothing of what we see at the present day.

God had given the knowledge of just and unjust, right and wrong, throughout all the ages which preceded Christianity. God never changed nor can change. The constitution of our souls, our principles of reason and morality, will ever be the same. How is virtue promoted by theological distinctions, by dogmas founded on those distinctions, by persecutions founded on those dogmas? Nature, terrified and horror-struck at all these barbarous inventions, calls aloud to all men: Be just, and not persecuting sophists.

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You read in the “Zend-Avesta,” which is the summary of the laws of Zoroaster, this admirable maxim: “When it is doubtful whether the action you are about to perform is just or unjust, abstain from doing it.” What legislator ever spoke better? We have not here the system of “probable opinions,” invented by people who call themselves “the Society of Jesus.”


That “justice” is often extremely unjust, is not an observation merely of the present day; “summum jus, summa injuria, is one of the most ancient proverbs in existence. There are many dreadful ways of being unjust; as, for example, that of racking the innocent Calas upon equivocal evidence, and thus incurring the guilt of shedding innocent blood by a too strong reliance on vain presumptions.

Another method of being unjust is condemning to execution a man who at most deserves only three months’ imprisonment; this species of injustice is that of tyrants, and particularly of fanatics, who always become tyrants whenever they obtain the power of doing mischief.

We cannot more completely demonstrate this truth than by the letter of a celebrated barrister, written in 1766, to the marquis of Beccaria, one of the most celebrated professors of jurisprudence, at this time, in Europe:

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Letter to the Marquis of Beccaria, Professor of Public Law at Milan, on the subject of M. de Morangies, 1772.


—You are a teacher of laws in Italy, a country from which we derive all laws except those which have been transmitted to us by our own absurd and contradictory customs, the remains of that ancient barbarism, the rust of which subsists to this day in one of the most flourishing kingdoms of the earth.

Your book upon crimes and punishments opened the eyes of many of the lawyers of Europe who had been brought up in absurd and inhuman usages; and men began everywhere to blush at finding themselves still wearing their ancient dress of savages.

Your opinion was requested on the dreadful execution to which two young gentlemen, just out of their childhood, had been sentenced; one of whom, having escaped the tortures he was destined to, has become a most excellent officer in the service of the great king, while the other, who had inspired the brightest hopes, died like a sage, by a horrible death, without ostentation and without pusillanimity, surrounded by no less than five executioners. These lads were accused of indecency in action and words, a fault which three months’ imprisonment would have sufficiently punished, and which would have been infallibly corrected by time. You replied, that their judges were assassins, and that all Europe was of your opinion.

I consulted you on the cannibal sentences passed Edition: current; Page: [32] on Calas, on Sirven, and Montbailli; and you anticipated the decrees which you afterwards issued from the chief courts and officers of law in the kingdom, which justified injured innocence and re-established the honor of the nation.

I at present consult you on a cause of a very different nature. It is at once civil and criminal. It is the case of a man of quality, a major-general in the army, who maintains alone his honor and fortune against a whole family of poor and obscure citizens, and against an immense multitude consisting of the dregs of the people, whose execrations against him are echoed through the whole of France. The poor family accuses the general officer of taking from it by fraud and violence a hundred thousand crowns.

The general officer accuses these poor persons of trying to obtain from him a hundred thousand crowns by means equally criminal. They complain that they are not merely in danger of losing an immense property, which they never appeared to possess, but also of being oppressed, insulted, and beaten by the officers of justice, who compelled them to declare themselves guilty and consent to their own ruin and punishment. The general solemnly protests, that these imputations of fraud and violence are atrocious calumnies. The advocates of the two parties contradict each other on all the facts, on all the inductions, and even on all the reasonings; their memorials are called tissues of falsehoods; and each Edition: current; Page: [33] treats the adverse party as inconsistent and absurd,—an invariable practice in every dispute.

When you have had the goodness, sir, to read their memorials, which I have now the honor of sending to you, you will, I trust, permit me to suggest the difficulties which I feel in this case; they are dictated by perfect impartiality. I know neither of the parties, and neither of the advocates; but having, in the course of four and twenty years, seen calumny and injustice so often triumph, I may be permitted to endeavor to penetrate the labyrinth in which these monsters unfortunately find shelter.

Presumptions against the Verron Family.

1. In the first place, there are four bills, payable to order, for a hundred thousand crowns, drawn with perfect regularity by an officer otherwise deeply involved in debt; they are payable for the benefit of a woman of the name of Verron, who called herself the widow of a banker. They are presented by her grandson, Du Jonquay, her heir, recently admitted a doctor of laws, although he is ignorant even of orthography. Is this enough? Yes, in an ordinary case it would be so; but if, in this very extraordinary case, there is an extreme probability, that the doctor of laws never did and never could carry the money which he pretends to have delivered in his grandmother’s name; if the grandmother, who maintained herself with difficulty in a garret, by the miserable occupation of pawnbroking, never could have been in the possession of the hundred thousand Edition: current; Page: [34] crowns; if, in short, the grandson and his mother have spontaneously confessed, and attested the written confession by their actual signatures, that they attempted to rob the general, and that he never received more than twelve hundred francs instead of three hundred thousand livres;—in this case, is not the cause sufficiently cleared up? Is not the public sufficiently able to judge from these preliminaries?

2. I appeal to yourself, sir, whether it is probable that the poor widow of a person unknown in society, who is said to have been a petty stock-jobber, and not a banker, could be in possession of so considerable a sum to lend, at an extreme risk, to an officer notoriously in debt? The general, in short, contends, that this jobber, the husband of the woman in question, died insolvent; that even his inventory was never paid for; that this pretended banker was originally a baker’s boy in the household of the duke of Saint-Agnan, the French ambassador in Spain; that he afterwards took up the profession of a broker at Paris; and that he was compelled by M. Héraut, lieutenant of police, to restore certain promissory notes, or bills of exchange, which he had obtained from some young man by extortion;—such the fatality impending over this wretched family from bills of exchange! Should all these statements be proved, do you conceive it at all probable that this family lent a hundred thousand crowns to an involved officer with whom they were upon no terms of friendship or acquaintance?

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3. Do you consider it probable, that the jobber’s grandson, the doctor of laws, should have gone on foot no less than five leagues, have made twenty-six journeys, have mounted and descended three thousand steps, all in the space of five hours, without any stopping, to carry “secretly” twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or to a man, to whom, on the following day, he publicly gives twelve hundred francs? Does not such an account appear to be invented with an utter deficiency of ingenuity, and even of common sense? Do those who believe it appear to be sages? What can you think, then, of those who solemnly affirm it without believing it?

4. Is it probable, that young Du Jonquay, the doctor of laws, and his own mother, should have made and signed a declaration, upon oath, before a superior judge, that this whole account was false, that they had never carried the gold, and that they were confessed rogues, if in fact they had not been such, and if grief and remorse had not extorted this confession of their crime? And when they afterwards say, that they had made this confession before the commissary, only because they had previously been assaulted and beaten at the house of a proctor, would such an excuse be deemed by you reasonable or absurd?

Can anything be clearer than that, if this doctor of laws had really been assaulted and beaten in any other house on account of this cause, he should have demanded justice of the commissary for this violence, Edition: current; Page: [36] instead of freely signing, together with his mother, that they were both guilty of a crime which they had not committed?

Would it be admissible for them to say: We signed our condemnation because we thought that the general had bought over against us all the police officers and all the chief judges?

Can good sense listen for a moment to such arguments? Would any one have dared to suggest such even in the days of our barbarism, when we had neither laws, nor manners, nor cultivated reason?

If I may credit the very circumstantial memorials of the general, the Verrons, when put in prison upon his accusation, at first persisted in the confession of their crime. They wrote two letters to the person whom they had made the depositary of the bills extorted from the general; they were terrified at the contemplation of their guilt, which they saw might conduct them to the galleys or to the gibbet. They afterwards gain more firmness and confidence. The persons with whom they were to divide the fruit of their villainy encourage and support them; and the attractions of the vast sum in their contemplation seduce, hurry, and urge them on to persevere in the original charge. They call in to their assistance all the dark frauds and pettifogging chicanery to which they can gain access, to clear them from a crime which they had themselves actually admitted. They avail themselves with dexterity of the distresses to which the involved officer was occasionally Edition: current; Page: [37] reduced, to give a color of probability to his attempting the re-establishment of his affairs by the robbery or theft of a hundred thousand crowns. They rouse the commiseration of the populace, which at Paris is easily stimulated and frenzied. They appeal successfully for compassion to the members of the bar, who make it a point of indispensable duty to employ their eloquence in their behalf, and to support the weak against the powerful, the people against the nobility. The clearest case becomes in time the most obscure. A simple cause, which the police magistrate would have terminated in four days, goes on increasing for more than a whole year by the mire and filth introduced into it through the numberless channels of chicanery, interest, and party spirit. You will perceive that the whole of this statement is a summary of memorials or documents that appeared in this celebrated cause.

Presumptions in favor of the Verron Family.

We shall consider the defence of the grandmother, the mother, and the grandson (doctor of laws), against these strong presumptions.

1. The hundred thousand crowns (or very nearly that sum), which it is pretended the widow Verron never was possessed of, were formerly made over to her by her husband, in trust, together with the silver plate. This deposit was “secretly” brought to her six months after her husband’s death, by a man of the name of Chotard. She placed them out, and always “secretly,” with a notary called Gilet, Edition: current; Page: [38] who restored them to her, still “secretly,” in 1760. She had therefore, in fact, the hundred thousand crowns which her adversary pretends she never possessed.

2. She died in extreme old age, while the cause was going on, protesting, after receiving the sacrament, that these hundred thousand crowns were carried in gold to the general officer by her grandson, in twenty-six journeys on foot, on Sept. 23, 1771.

3. It is not at all probable, that an officer accustomed to borrowing, and broken down in circumstances, should have given bills payable to order for the sum of three hundred thousand livres, to a person unknown to him, unless he had actually received that sum.

4. There are witnesses who saw counted out and ranged in order the bags filled with this gold, and who saw the doctor of laws carry it to the general on foot, under his great coat, in twenty-six journeys, occupying the space of five hours. And he made these twenty-six astonishing journeys merely to satisfy the general, who had particularly requested secrecy.

5. The doctor of laws adds: “Our grandmother and ourselves lived, it is true, in a garret, and we lent a little money upon pledges; but we lived so merely upon a principle of judicious economy; the object was to buy for me the office of a counsellor of parliament, at a time when the magistracy was purchasable. It is true that my three sisters gain Edition: current; Page: [39] their subsistence by needle-work and embroidery; the reason of which was, that my grandmother kept all her property for me. It is true that I have kept company only with procuresses, coachmen, and lackeys: I acknowledge that I speak and that I write in their style; but I might not on that account be less worthy of becoming a magistrate, by making, after all, a good use of my time.”

6. All worthy persons have commiserated our misfortune. M. Aubourg, a farmer-general, as respectable as any in Paris, has generously taken our side, and his voice has obtained for us that of the public.

This defence appears in some part of it plausible. Their adversary refutes it in the following manner:

Arguments of the Major-General against those of the Verron Family.

1. The story of the deposit must be considered by every man of sense as equally false and ridiculous with that of the six-and-twenty journeys on foot. If the poor jobber, the husband of the old woman, had intended to give at his death so much money to his wife, he might have done it in a direct way from hand to hand, without the intervention of a third person.

If he had been possessed of the pretended silver plate, one-half of it must have belonged to the wife, as equal owner of their united goods. She would not have remained quiet for the space of six months, Edition: current; Page: [40] in a paltry lodging of two hundred francs a year, without reclaiming her plate, and exerting her utmost efforts to obtain her right. Chotard also, the alleged friend of her husband and herself, would not have suffered her to remain for six long months in a state of such great indigence and anxiety.

There was, in reality, a person of the name of Chotard; but he was a man ruined by debts and debauchery; a fraudulent bankrupt who embezzled forty thousand crowns from the tax office of the farmers-general in which he held a situation, and who is not likely to have given up a hundred thousand crowns to the grandmother of the doctor in laws.

The widow Verron pretends, that she employed her money at interest, always it appears in secrecy, with a notary of the name of Gilet, but no trace of this fact can be found in the office of that notary.

She declares, that this notary returned her the money, still secretly, in the year 1760: he was at that time dead.

If all these facts be true, it must be admitted that the cause of Du Jonquay and the Verrons, built on a foundation of such ridiculous lies, must inevitably fall to the ground.

2. The will of widow Verron, made half an hour before her death, with death and the name of God on her lips, is, to all appearance, in itself a respectable and even pious document. But if it be really in the number of those pious things which are every Edition: current; Page: [41] day observed to be merely instrumental to crime—if this lender upon pledges, while recommending her soul to God, manifestly lied to God, what importance or weight can the document bring with it? Is it not rather the strongest proof of imposture and villainy?

The old woman had always been made to state, while the suit was carried on in her name, that she possessed only this sum of one hundred thousand crowns which it was intended to rob her of; that she never had more than that sum; and yet, behold! in her will she mentions five hundred thousand livres of her property! Here are two hundred thousand francs more than any one expected, and here is the widow Verron convicted out of her own mouth. Thus, in this singular cause, does the at once atrocious and ridiculous imposture of the family break out on every side, during the woman’s life, and even when she is within the grasp of death.

3. It is probable, and it is even in evidence, that the general would not trust his bills for a hundred thousand crowns to a doctor of whom he knew little or nothing, without having an acknowledgment from him. He did, however, commit this inadvertence, which is the fault of an unsuspecting and noble heart; he was led astray by the youth, by the candor, by the apparent generosity of a man not more than twenty-seven years of age, who was on the point of being raised to the magistracy, who actually, upon an urgent occasion, lent him twelve hundred francs, and who promised in the course of a few days to obtain Edition: current; Page: [42] for him, from an opulent company, the sum of a hundred thousand crowns. Here is the knot and difficulty of the cause. We must strictly examine whether it be probable, that a man, who is admitted to have received nearly a hundred thousand crowns in gold, should on the very morning after, come in great haste, as for a most indispensable occasion, to the man who the evening before had advanced him twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or.

There is not the slightest probability of his doing so. It is still less probable, as we have already observed, that a man of distinction, a general officer, and the father of a family, in return for the invaluable and almost unprecedented kindness of lending him a hundred thousand crowns, should, instead of the sincerest gratitude to his benefactor, absolutely endeavor to get him hanged; and this on the part of a man who had nothing more to do than to await quietly the distant expirations of the periods of payment; who was under no temptation, in order to gain time, to commit such a profligate and atrocious villainy, and who had never in fact committed any villainy at all. Surely it is more natural to think that the man, whose grandfather was a pettifogging, paltry jobber, and whose grandmother was a wretched lender of small sums upon the pledges of absolute misery, should have availed himself of the blind confidence of an unsuspecting soldier, to extort from him a hundred thousand crowns, and that he promised Edition: current; Page: [43] to divide this sum with the depraved and abominable accomplices of his baseness.

4. There are witnesses who depose in favor of Du Jonquay and widow Verron. Let us consider who those witnesses are, and what they depose.

In the first place, there is a woman of the name of Tourtera, a broker, who supported the widow in her peddling, insignificant concern of pawnbroking, and who has been five times in the hospital in consequence of the scandalous impurities of her life; which can be proved with the utmost ease.

There is a coachman called Gilbert, who, sometimes firm, at other times trembling in his wickedness, declared to a lady of the name of Petit, in the presence of six persons, that he had been suborned by Du Jonquay. He subsequently inquired of many other persons, whether he should yet be in time to retract, and reiterated expressions of this nature before witnesses.

Setting aside, however, what has been stated of Gilbert’s disposition to retract, it is very possible that he might be deceived, and may not be chargeable with falsehood and perjury. It is possible, that he might see money at the pawnbroker’s, and that he might be told, and might believe, that three hundred thousand livres were there. Nothing is more dangerous in many persons than a quick and heated imagination, which actually makes men think that they have seen what it was absolutely impossible for them to see.

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Then comes a man of the name of Aubriot, a godson of the procuress Tourtera, and completely under her guidance. He deposes, that he saw, in one of the streets of Paris, on Sept. 23, 1771, Doctor Du Jonquay in his great coat, carrying bags.

Surely there is here no conclusive proof that the doctor on that day made twenty-six journeys on foot, and travelled over five leagues of ground, to deliver “secretly” twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or, even admitting all that this testimony states to be true. It appears clear, that Du Jonquay went this journey to the general, and that he spoke to him; and it appears probable, that he deceived him; but it is not clear that Aubriot saw him go and return thirteen times in one morning. It is still less clear, that this witness could at that time see so many circumstances occurring in the street, as he was actually laboring under a disorder which there is no necessity to name, and on that very day underwent for it the severe operation of medicine, with his legs tottering, his head swelled, and his tongue hanging half out of his mouth. This was not precisely the moment for running into the street to see sights. Would his friend Du Jonquay have said to him: Come and risk your life, to see me traverse a distance of five leagues loaded with gold: I am going to deliver the whole fortune of my family, secretly, to a man overwhelmed with debts; I wish to have, privately, as a witness, a person of your character? This is not exceedingly Edition: current; Page: [45] probable. The surgeon who applied the medicine to the witness Aubriot on this occasion, states that he was by no means in a situation to go out; and the son of the surgeon, in his interrogatory, refers the case to the academy of surgery.

But even admitting that a man of a particularly robust constitution could have gone out and taken some turns in the street in this disgraceful and dreadful situation, what could it have signified to the point in question? Did he see Du Jonquay make twenty-six journeys between his garret and the general’s hotel? Did he see twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five louis d’or carried by him? Was any individual whatever a witness to this prodigy well worthy the “Thousand and One Nights”? Most certainly not; no person whatever. What is the amount, then, of all his evidence on the subject?

5. That the daughter of Mrs. Verron, in her garret, may have sometimes borrowed small sums on pledges; that Mrs. Verron may have lent them, in order to obtain and save a profit, to make her grandson a counsellor of parliament, has nothing at all to do with the substance of the case in question. In defiance of all this, it will ever be evident, that this magistrate by anticipation did not traverse the five leagues to carry to the general the hundred thousand crowns, and that the general never received them.

6. A person named Aubourg comes forward, not merely as a witness, but as a protector and benefactor of oppressed innocence. The advocates of the Edition: current; Page: [46] Verron family extol this man as a citizen of rare and intrepid virtue. He became feelingly alive to the misfortunes of Doctor Du Jonquay, his mother, and grandmother, although he had no acquaintance with them; and offered them his credit and his purse, without any other object than that of assisting persecuted merit.

Upon examination it is found, that this hero of disinterested benevolence is a contemptible wretch who began the world as a lackey, was then successively an upholsterer, a broker, and a bankrupt, and is now, like Mrs. Verron and Tourtera, by profession a pawnbroker. He flies to the assistance of persons of his own profession. The woman Tourtera, in the first place, gave him twenty-five louis d’or, to interest his probity and kindness in assisting a desolate family. The generous Aubourg had the greatness of soul to make an agreement with the old grandmother, almost when she was dying, by which she gives him fifteen thousand crowns, on condition of his undertaking to defray the expenses of the cause. He even takes the precaution to have this bargain noticed and confirmed in the will, dictated, or pretended to be dictated, by this old widow of the jobber on her death-bed. This respectable and venerable man then hopes one day to divide with some of the witnesses the spoils that are to be obtained from the general. It is the magnanimous heart of Aubourg that has formed this disinterested scheme; it is he who has conducted the cause which he seems Edition: current; Page: [47] to have taken up as a patrimony. He believed the bills payable to order would infallibly be paid. He is in fact a receiver who participates in the plunder effected by robbers, and who appropriates the better part to himself.

Such are the replies of the general: I neither subtract from them nor add to them—I simply state them. I have thus explained to you, sir, the whole substance of the cause, and stated all the strongest arguments on both sides.

I request your opinion of the sentence which ought to be pronounced, if matters should remain in the same state, if the truth cannot be irrevocably obtained from one or other of the parties, and made to appear perfectly without a cloud.

The reasons of the general officer are thus far convincing. Natural equity is on his side. This natural equity, which God has established in the hearts of all men, is the basis of all law. Ought we to destroy this foundation of all justice, by sentencing a man to pay a hundred thousand crowns which he does not appear to owe?

He drew bills for a hundred thousand crowns, in the vain hope that he should receive the money; he negotiated with a young man whom he did not know, just as he would have done with the banker of the king or of the empress-queen. Should his bills have more validity than his reasons? A man certainly cannot owe what he has not received. Bills, policies, bonds, always imply that the corresponding Edition: current; Page: [48] sums have been delivered and had; but if there is evidence that no money has been had and delivered, there can be no obligation to return or pay any. If there is writing against writing, document against document, the last dated cancels the former ones. But in the present case the last writing is that of Du Jonquay and his mother, and it states that the opposite party in the cause never received from them a hundred thousand crowns, and that they are cheats and impostors.

What! because they have disavowed the truth of their confession, which they state to have been made in consequence of their having received a blow or an assault, shall another man’s property be adjudged to them?

I will suppose for a moment (what is by no means probable), that the judges, bound down by forms, will sentence the general to pay what in fact he does not owe;—will they not in this case destroy his reputation as well as his fortune? Will not all who have sided against him in this most singular adventure, charge him with calumniously accusing his adversaries of a crime of which he is himself guilty? He will lose his honor, in their estimation, in losing his property. He will never be acquitted but in the judgments of those who examine profoundly. The number of these is always small. Where are the men to be found who have leisure, attention, capacity, impartiality, to consider anxiously every aspect and bearing of a cause in which they are not themselves Edition: current; Page: [49] interested? They judge in the same way as our ancient parliament judged of books—that is, without reading them.

You, sir, are fully acquainted with this, and know that men generally judge of everything by prejudice, hearsay, and chance. No one reflects that the cause of a citizen ought to interest the whole body of citizens, and that we may ourselves have to endure in despair the same fate which we perceive, with eyes and feelings of indifference, falling heavily upon him. We write and comment every day upon the judgments passed by the senate of Rome and the areopagus of Athens; but we think not for a moment of what passes before our own tribunals.

You, sir, who comprehend all Europe in your researches and decisions, will, I sincerely hope, deign to communicate to me a portion of your light. It is possible, certainly, that the formalities and chicanery connected with law proceedings, and with which I am little conversant, may occasion to the general the loss of the cause in court; but it appears to me that he must gain it at the tribunal of an enlightened public, that awful and accurate judge who pronounces after deep investigation, and who is the final disposer of character.


King, basileus, tyrannos, rex, dux, imperator, melch, baal, bel, pharaoh, eli, shadai, adonai, shak, sophi, padisha, bogdan, chazan, kan, krall, kong, Edition: current; Page: [50] könig, etc.—all expressions which signify the same office, but which convey very different ideas.

In Greece, neither “basileus” nor “tyrannos” ever conveyed the idea of absolute power. He who was able obtained this power, but it was always obtained against the inclination of the people.

It is clear, that among the Romans kings were not despotic. The last Tarquin deserved to be expelled, and was so. We have no proof that the petty chiefs of Italy were ever able, at their pleasure, to present a bowstring to the first man of the state, as is now done to a vile Turk in his seraglio, and like barbarous slaves, still more imbecile, suffer him to use it without complaint.

There was no king on this side the Alps, and in the North, at the time we became acquainted with this large quarter of the world. The Cimbri, who marched towards Italy, and who were exterminated by Marius, were like famished wolves, who issued from those forests with their females and whelps. As to a crowned head among these animals, or orders on the part of a secretary of state, of a grand butler, of a chancellor—any notion of arbitrary taxes, commissaries, fiscal edicts, etc.—they knew no more of any of these than of the vespers and the opera.

It is certain that gold and silver, coined and uncoined, form an admirable means of placing him who has them not, in the power of him who has found out the secret of accumulation. It is for the latter Edition: current; Page: [51] alone to possess great officers, guards, cooks, girls, women, jailers, almoners, pages, and soldiers.

It would be very difficult to insure obedience with nothing to bestow but sheep and sheep-skins. It is also very likely, after all the revolutions of our globe, that it was the art of working metals which originally made kings, as it is the art of casting cannon which now maintains them.

Cæsar was right when he said, that with gold we may procure men, and with men acquire gold.

This secret had been known for ages in Asia and Egypt, where the princes and the priests shared the benefit between them.

The prince said to the priest: Take this gold, and in return uphold my power, and prophesy in my favor; I will be anointed, and thou shalt anoint me; constitute oracles, manufacture miracles; thou shalt be well paid for thy labor, provided that I am always master. The priest, thus obtaining land and wealth, prophesies for himself, makes the oracles speak for himself, chases the sovereign from the throne, and very often takes his place. Such is the history of the shotim of Egypt, the magi of Persia, the soothsayers of Babylon, the chazin of Syria (if I mistake the name it amounts to little)—all which holy persons sought to rule. Wars between the throne and the altar have in fact existed in all countries, even among the miserable Jews.

We, inhabitants of the temperate zone of Europe, have known this well for a dozen centuries. Our Edition: current; Page: [52] minds not being so temperate as our climate, we well know what it has cost us. Gold and silver form so entirely the primum mobile of the holy connection between sovereignty and religion, that many of our kings still send it to Rome, where it is seized and shared by priests as soon as it arrives.

When, in this eternal conflict for dominion, leaders have become powerful, each has exhibited his pre-eminence in a mode of his own. It was a crime to spit in the presence of the king of the Medes. The earth must be stricken nine times by the forehead in the presence of the emperor of China. A king of England imagines that he cannot take a glass of beer unless it be presented on the knees. Another king will have his right foot saluted, and all will take the money of their people. In some countries the krall, or chazin, is allowed an income, as in Poland, Sweden, and Great Britain. In others, a piece of paper is sufficient for his treasury to obtain all that it requires.

Since we write upon the rights of the people, on taxation, on customs, etc., let us endeavor, by profound reasoning, to establish the novel maxim, that a shepherd ought to shear his sheep, and not to flay them.

As to the due limits of the prerogatives of kings, and of the liberty of the people, I recommend you to examine that question at your ease in some hotel in the town of Amsterdam.

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I ask pardon of young ladies and gentlemen, for they will not find here what they may possibly expect. This article is only for learned and serious people, and will suit very few of them.

There is too much of kissing in the comedies of the time of Molière. The valets are always requesting kisses from the waiting-women, which is exceedingly flat and disagreeable, especially when the actors are ugly and must necessarily exhibit against the grain.

If the reader is fond of kisses, let him peruse the “Pastor Fido”: there is an entire chorus which treats only of kisses, and the piece itself is founded only on a kiss which Mirtillo one day bestows on the fair Amaryllis, in a game at blindman’s buff—un bacio molto saporito.”

In a chapter on kissing by John de la Casa, archbishop of Benevento, he says, that people may kiss from the head to the foot. He complains, however, of long noses, and recommends ladies who possess such to have lovers with short ones.

To kiss was the ordinary manner of salutation throughout all antiquity. Plutarch relates, that the conspirators, before they killed Cæsar, kissed his face, his hands, and his bosom. Tacitus observes, that when his father-in-law, Agricola, returned to Rome, Domitian kissed him coldly, said nothing to him, and left him disregarded in the surrounding Edition: current; Page: [54] crowd. An inferior, who could not aspire to kiss his superior, kissed his own hand, and the latter returned the salute in a similar manner, if he thought proper.

The kiss was ever used in the worship of the gods. Job, in his parable, which is possibly the oldest of our known books, says that he had not adored the sun and moon like the other Arabs, or suffered his mouth to kiss his hand to them.

In the West there remains of this civility only the simple and innocent practice yet taught in country places to children—that of kissing their right hands in return for a sugar-plum.

It is horrible to betray while saluting; the assassination of Cæsar is thereby rendered much more odious. It is unnecessary to add, that the kiss of Judas has become a proverb.

Joab, one of the captains of David, being jealous of Amasa, another captain, said to him, “Art thou in health, my brother?” and took him by the beard with his right hand to kiss him, while with the other he drew his sword and smote him so that his bowels were “shed upon the ground.”

We know not of any kissing in the other assassinations so frequent among the Jews, except possibly the kisses given by Judith to the captain Holofernes, before she cut off his head in his bed; but no mention is made of them, and therefore the fact is only to be regarded as probable.

In Shakespeare’s tragedy of “Othello,” the hero, Edition: current; Page: [55] who is a Moor, gives two kisses to his wife before he strangles her. This appears abominable to orderly persons, but the partisans of Shakespeare say, that it is a fine specimen of nature, especially in a Moor.

When John Galeas Sforza was assassinated in the cathedral of Milan, on St. Stephen’s day; the two Medicis, in the church of Reparata; Admiral Coligni, the prince of Orange, Marshal d’Ancre, the brothers De Witt, and so many others, there was at least no kissing.

Among the ancients there was something, I know not what, symbolical and sacred attached to the kiss, since the statues of the gods were kissed, as also their beards, when the sculptors represented them with beards. The initiated kissed one another in the mysteries of Ceres, in sign of concord.

The first Christians, male and female, kissed with the mouth at their Agapæ, or love-feasts. They bestowed the holy kiss, the kiss of peace, the brotherly and sisterly kiss, hagion philema.” This custom, lasted for four centuries, and was finally abolished in distrust of the consequences. It was this custom, these kisses of peace, these love-feasts, these appellations of brother and sister, which drew on the Christians, while little known, those imputations of debauchery bestowed upon them by the priests of Jupiter and the priestesses of Vesta. We read in Petronius and in other authors, that the dissolute called one another brother and sister; and it was Edition: current; Page: [56] thought, that among Christians the same licentiousness was intended. They innocently gave occasion for the scandal upon themselves.

In the commencement, seventeen different Christian societies existed, as there had been nine among the Jews, including the two kinds of Samaritans. Those bodies which considered themselves the most orthodox accused the others of inconceivable impurities. The term “gnostic,” at first so honorable, and which signifies the learned, enlightened, pure, became an epithet of horror and of contempt, and a reproach of heresy. St. Epiphanius, in the third century, pretended that the males and females at first tickled each other, and at length proceeded to lascivious kisses, judging of the degree of faith in each other by the warmth of them. A Christian husband in presenting his wife to a newly-initiated member, would exhort her to receive him, as above stated, and was always obeyed.

We dare not repeat, in our chaste language, all that Epiphanius adds in Greek. We shall simply observe, that this saint was probably a little imposed upon, that he suffered himself to be transported by his zeal, and that all the heretics were not execrable debauchees. The sect of pietists, wishing to imitate the early Christians, at present bestow on each other kisses of peace, on departing from their assemblies, and also call one another brother and sister. The ancient ceremony was a kiss with the lips, and the pietists have carefully preserved it.

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There was no other manner of saluting the ladies in France, Italy, Germany, and England. The cardinals enjoyed the privilege of kissing the lips of queens, even in Spain, though—what is singular—not in France, where the ladies have always had more liberties than elsewhere; but every country has its ceremonies, and there is no custom so general but chance may have produced an exception. It was an incivility, a rudeness, in receiving the first visit of a nobleman, if a lady did not kiss his lips—no matter about his mustaches. “It is an unpleasant custom,” says Montaigne, “and offensive to the ladies to have to offer their lips to the three valets in his suite, however repulsive.” This custom is, however, the most ancient in the world.

If it is disagreeable to a young and pretty mouth to glue itself to one which is old and ugly, there is also great danger in the junction of fresh and vermilion lips of the age of twenty to twenty-five—a truth which has finally abolished the ceremony of kissing in mysteries and love-feasts. Hence also the seclusion of women throughout the East, who kiss only their fathers and brothers—a custom long ago introduced into Spain by the Arabs.

Attend to the danger: there is a nerve which runs from the mouth to the heart, and thence lower still, which produces in the kiss an exquisitely dangerous sensation. Virtue may suffer from a prolonged and ardent kiss between two young pietists of the age of eighteen.

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It is remarkable that mankind, and turtles, and pigeons alone practise kissing; hence the Latin word “columbatim,” which our language cannot render.

We cannot decorously dwell longer on this interesting subject, although Montaigne says, “It should be spoken of without reserve; we boldly speak of killing, wounding, and betraying, while on this point we dare only whisper.”


That laughter is the sign of joy, as tears are of grief, is doubted by no one that ever laughed. They who seek for metaphysical causes of laughter are not mirthful, while they who are aware that laughter draws the zygomatic muscle backwards towards the ears, are doubtless very learned. Other animals have this muscle as well as ourselves, yet never laugh any more than they shed tears. The stag, to be sure, drops moisture from its eyes when in the extremity of distress, as does a dog dissected alive; but they weep not for their mistresses or friends, as we do. They break not out like us into fits of laughter at the sight of anything droll. Man is the only animal which laughs and weeps.

As we weep only when we are afflicted, and laugh only when we are gay, certain reasoners have pretended that laughter springs from pride, and that we deem ourselves superior to that which we laugh at. It is true that man, who is a risible animal, is also a Edition: current; Page: [59] proud one; but it is not pride which produces laughter. A child who laughs heartily, is not merry because he regards himself as superior to those who excite his mirth; nor, laughing when he is tickled, is he to be held guilty of the mortal sin of pride. I was eleven years of age when I read to myself, for the first time, the “Amphitryon” of Molière, and laughed until I nearly fell backward. Was this pride? We are seldom proud when alone. Was it pride which caused the master of the golden ass to laugh when he saw the ass eat his supper? He who laughs is joyful at the moment, and is prompted by no other cause.

It is not all joy which produces laughter: the greatest enjoyments are serious. The pleasures of love, ambition, or avarice, make nobody laugh.

Laughter may sometimes extend to convulsions; it is even said that persons may die of laughter. I can scarcely believe it; but certainly there are more who die of grief.

Violent emotions, which sometimes move to tears and sometimes to the appearance of laughter, no doubt distort the muscles of the mouth; this, however, is not genuine laughter, but a convulsion and a pain. The tears may sometimes be genuine, because the object is suffering, but laughter is not. It must have another name, and be called the risus sardonicus”—sardonic smile.

The malicious smile, the “perfidum ridens,” is another thing; being the joy which is excited by Edition: current; Page: [60] the humiliation of another. The grin, “cachinnus,” is bestowed on those who promise wonders and perform absurdities; it is nearer to hooting than to laughter. Our pride derides the vanity which would impose upon us. They hoot our friend Fréron in “The Scotchwoman,” rather than laugh at him. I love to speak of friend Fréron, as in that case I laugh unequivocally.



What is natural law?


The instinct by which we feel justice.


What do you call just and unjust?


That which appears so to the whole world.


The world is made up of a great many heads. It is said that at Lacedæmon thieves were applauded, while at Athens they were condemned to the mines.


That is all a mere abuse of words, mere logomachy and ambiguity. Theft was impossible at Sparta, where all property was common. What you call theft was the punishment of avarice.


It was forbidden for a man to marry his sister at Rome. Among the Egyptians, the Athenians, and even the Jews, a man was permitted to marry his sister by the father’s side. It is not without regret that I cite the small and wretched nation of the Jews, who certainly ought never to be considered as a rule for any person, and who—setting aside religion—were never anything better than an ignorant, fanatical, and plundering horde. According to their Edition: current; Page: [61] books, however, the young Tamar, before she was violated by her brother Ammon, addressed him in these words: “I pray thee, my brother, do not so foolishly, but ask me in marriage of my father: he will not refuse thee.”


All these cases amount to mere laws of convention, arbitrary usages, transient modes. What is essential remains ever the same. Point out to me any country where it would be deemed respectable or decent to plunder me of the fruits of my labor, to break a solemn promise, to tell an injurious lie, to slander, murder, or poison, to be ungrateful to a benefactor, or to beat a father or mother presenting food to you.


Have you forgotten that Jean Jacques, one of the fathers of the modern Church, has said that the first person who dared to enclose and cultivate a piece of ground was an enemy of the human race; that he ought to be exterminated; and that the fruits of the earth belonged to all, and the land to none? Have we not already examined this proposition, so beautiful in itself, and so conducive to the happiness of society?


Who is this Jean Jacques? It is certainly not John the Baptist, nor John the Evangelist, nor James the Greater, nor James the Less; he must inevitably be some witling of a Hun, to write such abominable impertinence, or some ill-conditioned, malicious bufo magro,” who is never more happy than when sneering at what all the rest of the world deem most Edition: current; Page: [62] valuable and sacred. For, instead of damaging and spoiling the estate of a wise and industrious neighbor, he had only to imitate him, and induce every head of a family to follow his example, in order to form in a short time a most flourishing and happy village. The author of the passage quoted seems to me a thoroughly unsocial animal.


You are of opinion, then, that by insulting and plundering the good man, for surrounding his garden and farmyard with a quick-set hedge, he has offended against natural law.


Yes, most certainly; there is, I must repeat, a natural law; and it consists in neither doing ill to another, nor rejoicing at it, when from any cause whatsoever it befalls him.


I conceive that man neither loves ill nor does it with any other view than to his own advantage. But so many men are urged on to obtain advantage to themselves by the injury of another; revenge is a passion of such violence; there are examples of it so terrible and fatal; and ambition, more terrible and fatal still, has so drenched the world with blood; that when I survey the frightful picture, I am tempted to confess, that a man is a being truly diabolical. I may certainly possess, deeply rooted in my heart, the notion of what is just and unjust; but an Attila, whom St. Leon extols and pays his court to; a Phocas, whom St. Gregory flatters with the most abject meanness; Alexander VI., polluted by so many incests, murders, and poisonings, and Edition: current; Page: [63] with whom the feeble Louis XII., commonly called “the Good,” enters into the most strict and base alliance; a Cromwell, whose protection Cardinal Mazarin eagerly solicits, and to gratify whom he expels from France the heirs of Charles I., cousins-german of Louis XIV.—these, and a thousand similar examples, easily to be found in the records of history, totally disturb and derange my ideas, and I no longer know what I am doing or where I am.


Well; but should the knowledge that storms are coming prevent our enjoying the beautiful sunshine and gentle and fragrant gales of the present day? Did the earthquake that destroyed half the city of Lisbon prevent your making a very pleasant journey from Madrid? If Attila was a bandit, and Cardinal Mazarin a knave, are there not some princes and ministers respectable and amiable men? Has it not been remarked, that in the war of 1701, the Council of Louis XIV. consisted of some of the most virtuous of mankind—the duke of Beauvilliers, the Marquis de Torcy, Marshal Villars, and finally Chamillard, who was not indeed considered a very able but still an honorable man? Does not the idea of just and unjust still exist? It is in fact on this that all laws are founded. The Greeks call laws “the daughters of heaven,” which means simply, the daughters of nature. Have you no laws in your country?


Yes; some good, and others bad.


Where could you have taken the idea of Edition: current; Page: [64] them, but from the notions of natural law which every well-constructed mind has within itself? They must have been derived from these or nothing.


You are right; there is a natural law, but it is still more natural to many people to forget or neglect it.


It is natural also to be one-eyed, humpbacked, lame, deformed, and sickly; but we prefer persons well made and healthy.


Why are there so many one-eyed and deformed minds?


Hush! Consult, however, the article on “Omnipotence.”


He who says that the Salic law was written with a pen from the wing of a two-headed eagle, by Pharamond’s almoner, on the back of the patent containing Constantine’s donation, was not, perhaps, very much mistaken.

It is, say the doughty lawyers, the fundamental law of the French Empire. The great Jerome Bignon, in his book on “The Excellence of France,” says that this law is derived from natural law, according to the great Aristotle, because “in families it was the father who governed, and no dower was given to daughters, as we read in relation to the father, mother, and brothers of Rebecca.”

He asserts that the kingdom of France is so excellent that it has religiously preserved this law, Edition: current; Page: [65] recommended both by Aristotle and the Old Testament. And to prove this excellence of France, he observes also, that the emperor Julian thought the wine of Surêne admirable.

But in order to demonstrate the excellence of the Salic law, he refers to Froissart, according to whom the twelve peers of France said that “the kingdom of France is of such high nobility that it never ought to pass in succession to a female.”

It must be acknowledged that this decision is not a little uncivil to Spain, England, Naples, and Hungary, and more than all the rest to Russia, which has seen on its throne four empresses in succession.

The kingdom of France is of great nobility; no doubt it is; but those of Spain, of Mexico, and Peru are also of great nobility, and there is great nobility also in Russia.

It has been alleged that Sacred Scripture says the lilies neither toil nor spin; and thence it has been inferred that women ought not to reign in France. This certainly is another instance of powerful reasoning; but it has been forgotten that the leopards, which are—it is hard to say why—the arms of England, spin no more than the lilies which are—it is equally hard to say why—the arms of France. In a word, the circumstance that lilies have never been seen to spin does not absolutely demonstrate the exclusion of females from the throne to have been a fundamental law of the Gauls.

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Of Fundamental Laws.

The fundamental law of every country is, that if people are desirous of having bread, they must sow corn; that if they wish for clothing, they must cultivate flax and hemp; that every owner of a field should have the uncontrolled management and dominion over it, whether that owner be male or female; that the half-barbarous Gaul should kill as many as ever he can of the wholly barbarous Franks, when they come from the banks of the Main, which they have not the skill and industry to cultivate, to carry off his harvests and flocks; without doing which the Gaul would either become a serf of the Frank, or be assassinated by him.

It is upon this foundation that an edifice is well supported. One man builds upon a rock, and his house stands firm; another on the sands, and it falls to the ground. But a fundamental law, arising from the fluctuating inclinations of men, and yet at the same time irrevocable, is a contradiction in terms, a mere creature of imagination, a chimera, an absurdity; the power that makes the laws can change them. The Golden Bull was called “the fundamental law of the empire.” It was ordained that there should never be more than seven Teutonic electors, for the very satisfactory and decisive reason that a certain Jewish chandelier had had no more than seven branches, and that there are no more than seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. This fundamental law had the epithet “eternal” applied to it by the Edition: current; Page: [67] all-powerful authority and infallible knowledge of Charles IV. God, however, did not think fit to allow of this assumption of “eternal” in Charles’s parchments. He permitted other German emperors, out of their all-powerful authority and infallible knowledge, to add two branches to the chandelier, and two presents to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly the electors are now nine in number.

It was a very fundamental law that the disciples of the Lord Jesus should possess no private property, but have all things in common. There was afterwards a law that the bishops of Rome should be rich, and that the people should choose them. The last fundamental law is, that they are sovereigns, and elected by a small number of men clothed in scarlet, and constituting a society absolutely unknown in the time of Jesus. If the emperor, king of the Romans, always august, was sovereign master of Rome in fact, as he is according to the style of his patents and heraldry, the pope would be his grand almoner, until some other law, forever irrevocable, was announced, to be destroyed in its turn by some succeeding one.

I will suppose—what may very possibly and naturally happen—that an emperor of Germany may have no issue but an only daughter, and that he may be a quiet, worthy man, understanding nothing about war. I will suppose that if Catherine II. does not destroy the Turkish Empire, which she has severely shaken in the very year in which I am now Edition: current; Page: [68] writing my reverie (the year 1771), the Turk will come and invade this good prince, notwithstanding his being cherished and beloved by all his nine electors; that his daughter puts herself at the head of the troops with two young electors deeply enamored of her; that she beats the Ottomans, as Deborah beat General Sisera, and his three hundred thousand soldiers, and his three thousand chariots of war, in a little rocky plain at the foot of Mount Tabor; that this warlike princess drives the Mussulman even beyond Adrianople; that her father dies through joy at her success, or from any other cause; that the two lovers of the princess induce their seven colleagues to crown her empress, and that all the princes of the empire, and all the cities give their consent to it; what, in this case, becomes of the fundamental and eternal law which enacts that the holy Roman Empire cannot possibly pass from the lance to the distaff, that the two-headed eagle cannot spin, and that it is impossible to sit on the imperial throne without breeches? The old and absurd law would be derided, and the heroic empress reign at once in safety and in glory.

How the Salic Law Came to be Established.

We cannot contest the custom which has indeed passed into law, that decides against daughters inheriting the crown in France while there remains any male of the royal blood. This question has been long determined, and the seal of antiquity has been Edition: current; Page: [69] put to the decision. Had it been expressly brought from heaven, it could not be more revered by the French nation than it is. It certainly does not exactly correspond with the gallant courtesy of the nation; but the fact is, that it was in strict and rigorous observance before the nation was ever distinguished for its gallant courtesy.

The president Hénault repeats, in his “Chronicle,” what had been stated at random before him, that Clovis digested the Salic law in 511, the very year in which he died. I am very well disposed to believe that he actually did digest this law, and that he knew how to read and write, just as I am to believe that he was only fifteen years old when he undertook the conquest of the Gauls; but I do sincerely wish that any one would show me in the library of St.-Germain-des-Prés, or of St. Martin, the original document of the Salic law actually signed Clovis, or Clodovic, or Hildovic; from that we should at least learn his real name, which nobody at present knows.

We have two editions of this Salic law; one by a person by the name of Herold, the other by Francis Pithou; and these are different, which is by no means a favorable presumption. When the text of a law is given differently in two documents, it is not only evident that one of the two is false, but it is highly probable that they are both so. No custom or usage of the Franks was written in our early times, and it would be excessively strange that the Edition: current; Page: [70] law of the Salii should have been so. This law, moreover, is in Latin, and it does not seem at all probable that, in the swamps between Suabia and Batavia, Clovis, or his predecessors, should speak Latin.

It is supposed that this law has reference to the kings of France; and yet all the learned are agreed that the Sicambri, the Franks, and the Salii, had no kings, nor indeed any hereditary chiefs.

The title of the Salic law begins with these words: “In Christi nomine”—“In the name of Christ.” It was therefore made out of the Salic territory, as Christ was no more known by these barbarians than by the rest of Germany and all the countries of the North.

This law is stated to have been drawn up by four distinguished lawyers of the Frank nation; these, in Herold’s edition, are called Vuisogast, Arogast, Salegast, and Vuindogast. In Pithou’s edition, the names are somewhat different. It has been unluckily discovered that these names are the old names, somewhat disguised, of certain cantons of Germany.

In whatever period this law was framed in bad Latin, we find, in the article relating to allodial or freehold lands, “that no part of Salic land can be inherited by women.” It is clear that this pretended law was by no means followed. In the first place, it appears from the formulæ of Marculphus that a father might leave his allodial land to his daughter, Edition: current; Page: [71] renouncing “a certain Salic law which is impious and abominable.”

Secondly, if this law be applied to fiefs, it is evident that the English kings, who were not of the Norman race, obtained all their great fiefs in France only through daughters.

Thirdly, it is alleged to be necessary that a fief should be possessed by a man, because he was able as well as bound to fight for his lord; this itself shows that the law could not be understood to affect the rights to the throne. All feudal lords might fight just as well for a queen as for a king. A queen was not obliged to follow the practice so long in use, to put on a cuirass, and cover her limbs with armor, and set off trotting against the enemy upon a carthorse.

It is certain, therefore, that the Salic law could have no reference to the crown, neither in connection with allodial lands, nor feudal holding and service.

Mézeray says, “The imbecility of the sex precludes their reigning.” Mézeray speaks here like a man neither of sense nor politeness. History positively and repeatedly falsifies his assertion. Queen Anne of England, who humbled Louis XIV.; the empress-queen of Hungary, who resisted King Louis XV., Frederick the Great, the elector of Bavaria, and various other princes; Elizabeth of England, who was the strength and support of our great Henry; the empress of Russia, of whom we have Edition: current; Page: [72] spoken already; all these decidedly show that Mézeray is not more correct than he is courteous in his observation. He could scarcely help knowing that Queen Blanche was in fact the reigning monarch under the name of her son; as Anne of Brittany was under that of Louis XII.

Velly, the last writer of the history of France, and who on that very account ought to be the best, as he possessed all the accumulated materials of his predecessors, did not, however, always know how to turn his advantages to the best account. He inveighs with bitterness against the judicious and profound Rapin de Thoyras, and attempts to prove to him that no princess ever succeeded to the crown while any males remained who were capable of succeeding. That we all know perfectly well, and Thoyras never said the contrary.

In that long age of barbarism, when the only concern of Europe was to commit usurpations and to sustain them, it must be acknowledged that kings, being often chiefs of banditti or warriors armed against those banditti, it was not possible to be subject to the government of a woman. Whoever was in possession of a great warhorse would engage in the work of rapine and murder only under the standard of a man mounted upon a great horse like himself. A buckler of oxhide served for a throne. The caliphs governed by the Koran, the popes were deemed to govern by the Gospel. The South saw no woman reign before Joan of Naples, Edition: current; Page: [73] who was indebted for her crown entirely to the affection of the people for King Robert, her grandfather, and to their hatred of Andrew, her husband. This Andrew was in reality of royal blood, but had been born in Hungary, at that time in a state of barbarism. He disgusted the Neapolitans by his gross manners, intemperance, and drunkenness. The amiable king Robert was obliged to depart from immemorial usage, and declare Joan alone sovereign by his will, which was approved by the nation.

In the North we see no queen reigning in her own right before Margaret of Waldemar, who governed for some months in her own name about the year 1377.

Spain had no queen in her own right before the able Isabella in 1461. In England the cruel and bigoted Mary, daughter of Henry VIII., was the first woman who inherited the throne, as the weak and criminal Mary Stuart was in Scotland in the sixteenth century. The immense territory of Russia had no female sovereign before the widow of Peter the Great.

The whole of Europe, and indeed I might say the whole world, was governed by warriors in the time when Philip de Valois supported his right against Edward III. This right of a male who succeeded to a male, seemed the law of all nations. “You are grandson of Philip the Fair,” said Valois to his competitor, “but as my right would be superior Edition: current; Page: [74] to that of the mother, it must be still more decidedly superior to that of the son. Your mother, in fact, could not communicate a right which she did not possess.”

It was therefore perfectly recognized in France that a prince of the blood royal, although in the remotest possible degree, should be heir to the crown in exclusion even of the daughter of the king. It is a law on which there is now not the slightest dispute whatever. Other nations have, since the full and universal recognition of this principle among ourselves, adjudged the throne to princesses. But France has still observed its ancient usage. Time has conferred on this usage the force of the most sacred of laws. At what time the Salic law was framed or interpreted is not of the slightest consequence; it does exist, it is respectable, it is useful; and its utility has rendered it sacred.

Examination Whether Daughters Are in all Cases Deprived of Every Species of Inheritance by This Salic Law.

I have already bestowed the empire on a daughter in defiance of the Golden Bull. I shall have no difficulty in conferring on a daughter the kingdom of France. I have a better right to dispose of this realm than Pope Julian II., who deprived Louis XII. of it, and transferred it by his own single authority to the emperor Maximilian. I am better authorized to plead in behalf of the daughters of Edition: current; Page: [75] the house of France, than Pope Gregory XIII. and Cordelier Sextus-Quintus were to exclude from the throne our princes of the blood, under the pretence actually urged by these excellent priests, that Henry IV. and the princes of Condé were a “bastard and detestable race” of Bourbon—refined and holy words, which deserve ever to be remembered in order to keep alive the conviction of all we owe to the bishops of Rome. I may give my vote in the states-general, and no pope certainly can have any suffrage on it. I therefore give my vote without hesitation, some three or four hundred years from the present time, to a daughter of France, then the only descendant remaining in a direct line from Hugh Capet. I constitute her queen, provided she shall have been well educated, have a sound understanding, and be no bigot. I interpret in her favor that law which declares que fille ne doit mie succéder”—that a daughter must in no case come to her succession. I understand by the words, that she must in no case succeed as long as there shall be any male. But on failure of males, I prove that the kingdom belongs to her by nature, which ordains it, and for the benefit of the nation.

I invite all good Frenchmen to show the same respect as myself for the blood of so many kings. I consider this as the only method of preventing factions which would dismember the state. I propose that she shall reign in her own right, and that she shall be married to some amiable and respectable Edition: current; Page: [76] prince, who shall assume her name and arms, and who, in his own right, shall possess some territory which shall be annexed to France; as we have seen Maria Theresa of Hungary united in marriage to Francis, duke of Lorraine, the most excellent prince in the world.

What Celt will refuse to acknowledge her, unless we should discover some other beautiful and accomplished princess of the issue of Charlemagne, whose family was expelled by Hugh Capet, notwithstanding the Salic law? or unless indeed we should find a princess fairer and more accomplished still, an unquestionable descendant from Clovis, whose family was before expelled by Pepin, his own domestic, notwithstanding, be it again remembered, the Salic law.

I shall certainly find no involved and difficult intrigues necessary to obtain the consecration of my royal heroine at Rheims, or Chartres, or in the chapel of the Louvre—for either would effectually answer the purpose; or even to dispense with any consecration at all. For monarchs reign as well when not consecrated as when consecrated. The kings and queens of Spain observe no such ceremony.

Among all the families of the king’s secretaries, no person will be found to dispute the throne with this Capetian princess. The most illustrious houses are so jealous of each other that they would infinitely prefer obeying the daughter of kings to being under the government of one of their equals.

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Recognized by the whole of France, she will receive the homage of all her subjects with a grace and majesty which will induce them to love as much as they revere her; and all the poets will compose verses in her honor.


The following notes were found among the papers of a lawyer, and are perhaps deserving some consideration:

That no ecclesiastical law should be of any force until it has received the express sanction of government. It was upon this principle that Athens and Rome were never involved in religious quarrels.

These quarrels fall to the lot of those nations only that have never been civilized, or that have afterwards been again reduced to barbarism.

That the magistrate alone should have authority to prohibit labor on festivals, because it does not become priests to forbid men to cultivate their fields.

That everything relating to marriages depends solely upon the magistrate, and that the priests should be confined to the august function of blessing them.

That lending money at interest is purely an object of the civil law, as that alone presides over commerce.

That all ecclesiastical persons should be, in all cases whatever, under the perfect control of the government, because they are subjects of the state.

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That men should never be so disgracefully ridiculous as to pay to a foreign priest the first year’s revenue of an estate, conferred by citizens upon a priest who is their fellow-citizen.

That no priest should possess authority to deprive a citizen even of the smallest of his privileges, under the pretence that that citizen is a sinner; because the priest, himself a sinner, ought to pray for sinners, and not to judge them.

That magistrates, cultivators, and priests, should alike contribute to the expenses of the state, because all alike belong to the state.

That there should be only one system of weights and measures, and usages.

That the punishment of criminals should be rendered useful. A man that is hanged is no longer useful; but a man condemned to the public works is still serviceable to his country, and a living lecture against crime.

That the whole law should be clear, uniform, and precise; to interpret it is almost always to corrupt it.

That nothing should be held infamous but vice.

That taxes should be imposed always in just proportion.

That law should never be in contradiction to usage; for, if the usage is good, the law is worth nothing.

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It is difficult to point out a single nation living under a system of good laws. This is not attributable merely to the circumstance that laws are the productions of men, for men have produced works of great utility and excellence; and those who invented and brought to perfection the various arts of life were capable of devising a respectable code of jurisprudence. But laws have proceeded, in almost every state, from the interest of the legislator, from the urgency of the moment, from ignorance, and from superstition, and have accordingly been made at random, and irregularly, just in the same manner in which cities have been built. Take a view of Paris, and observe the contrast between that quarter of it where the fish-market (Halles) is situated, the St. Pierre-aux-bœufs, the streets Brisemiche and Pet-au-diable and the beauty and splendor of the Louvre and the Tuileries. This is a correct image of our laws.

It was only after London had been reduced to ashes that it became at all fit to be inhabited. The streets, after that catastrophe, were widened and straightened. If you are desirous of having good laws, burn those which you have at present, and make fresh ones.

The Romans were without fixed laws for the space of three hundred years; they were obliged to Edition: current; Page: [80] go and request some from the Athenians, who gave them such bad ones that they were almost all of them soon abrogated. How could Athens itself be in possession of a judicious and complete system? That of Draco was necessarily abolished, and that of Solon soon expired.

Our customary or common law of Paris is interpreted differently by four-and-twenty commentaries, which decidedly proves, the same number of times, that it is ill conceived. It is in contradiction to a hundred and forty other usages, all having the force of law in the same nation, and all in contradiction to each other. There are therefore, in a single department in Europe, between the Alps and the Pyrenees, more than forty distinct small populations, who call themselves fellow-countrymen, but who are in reality as much strangers to one another as Tonquin is to Cochin China.

It is the same in all provinces of Spain. It is in Germany much worse. No one there knows what are the rights of the chief or of the members. The inhabitant of the banks of the Elbe is connected with the cultivator of Suabia only in speaking nearly the same language, which, it must be admitted, is rather an unpolished and coarse one.

The English nation has more uniformity; but having extricated itself from servitude and barbarism only by occasional efforts, by fits and convulsive starts, and having even in its state of freedom retained many laws formerly promulgated, either by Edition: current; Page: [81] the great tyrants who contended in rivalship for the throne, or the petty tyrants who seized upon the power and honors of the prelacy, it has formed altogether a body of laws of great vigor and efficacy, but which still exhibit many bruises and wounds, very clumsily patched and plastered.

The intellect of Europe has made greater progress within the last hundred years than the whole world had done before since the days of Brahma, Fohi, Zoroaster, and the Thaut of Egypt. What then is the cause that legislation has made so little?

After the fifth century, we were all savages. Such are the revolutions which take place on the globe; brigands pillaging and cultivators pillaged made up the masses of mankind from the recesses of the Baltic Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar; and when the Arabs made their appearance in the South, the desolation of ravage and confusion was universal.

In our department of Europe, the small number, being composed of daring and ignorant men, used to conquest and completely armed for battle, and the greater number, composed of ignorant, unarmed slaves, scarcely any one of either class knowing how to read or write—not even Charlemagne himself—it happened very naturally that the Roman Church, with its pen and ceremonies, obtained the guidance and government of those who passed their life on horseback with their lances couched and the morion on their heads.

The descendants of the Sicambri, the Burgundians, Edition: current; Page: [82] the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Lombards, Heruli, etc., felt the necessity of something in the shape of laws. They sought for them where they were to be found. The bishops of Rome knew how to make them in Latin. The barbarians received them with greater respect in consequence of not understanding them. The decretals of the popes, some genuine, others most impudently forged, became the code of the new governors, “regas”; lords, “leus”; and barons, who had appropriated the lands. They were the wolves who suffered themselves to be chained up by the foxes. They retained their ferocity, but it was subjugated by credulity and the fear which credulity naturally produces. Gradually Europe, with the exception of Greece and what still belonged to the Eastern Empire, became subjected to the dominion of Rome, and the poet’s verse might be again applied as correctly as before: Romanos rerum dominos gentemque togatam.—Æneid, i, 286.

  • The subject world shall Rome’s dominion own,
  • And prostrate shall adore the nation of the gown.
  • Dryden.

Almost all treaties being accompanied by the sign of the cross, and by an oath which was frequently administered over some relics, everything was thus brought within the jurisdiction of the Church. Rome, as metropolitan, was supreme judge in causes, from the Cimbrian Chersonesus to Gascony; and a thousand feudal lords, uniting their own peculiar usages with the canon law, produced in the result Edition: current; Page: [83] that monstrous jurisprudence of which there at present exist so many remains. Which would have been better—no laws at all, or such as these?

It was beneficial to an empire of more vast extent than that of Rome to remain for a long time in a state of chaos; for, as every valuable institution was still to be formed, it was easier to build a new edifice than to repair one whose ruins were looked upon as sacred.

The legislatrix of the North, in 1767, collected deputies from all the provinces which contained about twelve hundred thousand square leagues. There were Pagans, Mahometans of the sect of Ali, and others of the sect of Omar, and about twelve different sects of Christians. Every law was distinctly proposed to this new synod; and if it appeared conformable to the interest of all the provinces, it then received the sanction of the empress and the nation.

The first law that was brought forward and carried, was a law of toleration, that the Greek priest might never forget that the Latin priest was his fellow-man; that the Mussulman might bear with his Pagan brother; and that the Roman Catholic might not be tempted to sacrifice his brother Presbyterian.

The empress wrote with her own hand, in this grand council of legislation, “Among so many different creeds, the most injurious error would be intolerance.”

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It is now unanimously agreed that there is in a state only one authority; that the proper expressions to be used are, “civil power,” and “ecclesiastical discipline”; and that the allegory of the two swords is a dogma of discord.

She began with emancipating the serfs of her own particular domain. She emancipated all those of the ecclesiastical domains. She might thus be said to have created men out of slaves.

The prelates and monks were paid out of the public treasury. Punishments were proportioned to crimes, and the punishments were of a useful character; offenders were for the greater part condemned to labor on public works, as the dead man can be of no service to the living.

The torture was abolished, because it punishes a man before he is known to be guilty; because the Romans never put any to the torture but their slaves; and because torture tends to saving the guilty and destroying the innocent.

This important business had proceeded thus far, when Mustapha III., the son of Mahmoud, obliged the empress to suspend her code and proceed to fighting.


I have attempted to discover some ray of light in the mythological times of China which precede Fohi, but I have attempted in vain.

At the period, however, in which Fohi flourished, which was about three thousand years before the Edition: current; Page: [85] new and common era of our northwestern part of the world, I perceive wise and mild laws already established by a beneficent sovereign. The ancient books of the Five Kings, consecrated by the respect of so many ages, treat of the institution of agriculture, of pastoral economy, of domestic economy, of that simple astronomy which regulates the different seasons, and of the music which, by different modulations, summoned men to their respective occupations. Fohi flourished, beyond dispute, more than five thousand years ago. We may therefore form some judgment of the great antiquity of an immense population, thus instructed by an emperor on every topic that could contribute to their happiness. In the laws of that monarch I see nothing but what is mild, useful and amiable.

I was afterwards induced to inspect the code of a small nation, or horde, which arrived about two thousand years after the period of which we have been speaking, from a frightful desert on the banks of the river Jordan, in a country enclosed and bristled with peaked mountains. These laws have been transmitted to ourselves, and are daily held up to us as the model of wisdom. The following are a few of them:

“Not to eat the pelican, nor the ossifrage, nor the griffin, nor the ixion, nor the eel, nor the hare, because the hare ruminates, and has not its foot cloven.”

“Against men sleeping with their wives during Edition: current; Page: [86] certain periodical affections, under pain of death to both of the offending parties.”

“To exterminate without pity all the unfortunate inhabitants of the land of Canaan, who were not even acquainted with them; to slaughter the whole; to massacre all, men and women, old men, children, and animals, for the greater glory of God.”

“To sacrifice to the Lord whatever any man shall have devoted as an anathema to the Lord, and to slay it without power of ransom.”

“To burn widows who, not being able to be married again to their brothers-in-law, had otherwise consoled themselves on the highway or elsewhere,” etc.

A Jesuit, who was formerly a missionary among the cannibals, at the time when Canada still belonged to the king of France, related to me that once, as he was explaining these Jewish laws to his neophytes, a little impudent Frenchman, who was present at the catechising, cried out, “They are the laws of cannibals.” One of the Indians replied to him, “You are to know, Mr. Flippant, that we are people of some decency and kindness. We never had among us any such laws; and if we had not some kindness and decency, we should treat you as an inhabitant of Canaan, in order to teach you civil language.”

It appears upon a comparison of the code of the Chinese with that of the Hebrews, that laws naturally follow the manners of the people who make Edition: current; Page: [87] them. If vultures and doves had laws, they would undoubtedly be of a very different character.


Sheep live in society very mildly and agreeably; their character passes for being a very gentle one, because we do not see the prodigious quantity of animals devoured by them. We may, however, conceive that they eat them very innocently and without knowing it, just as we do when we eat Sassenage cheese. The republic of sheep is a faithful image of the age of gold.

A hen-roost exhibits the most perfect representation of monarchy. There is no king comparable to a cock. If he marches haughtily and fiercely in the midst of his people, it is not out of vanity. If the enemy is advancing, he does not content himself with issuing an order to his subjects to go and be killed for him, in virtue of his unfailing knowledge and resistless power; he goes in person himself, ranges his young troops behind him, and fights to the last gasp. If he conquers, it is himself who sings the Te Deum.” In his civil or domestic life, there is nothing so gallant, so respectable, and so disinterested. Whether he has in his royal beak a grain of corn or a grub-worm, he bestows it on the first of his female subjects that comes within his presence. In short, Solomon in his harem was not to be compared to a cock in a farm-yard.

If it be true that bees are governed by a queen to Edition: current; Page: [88] whom all her subjects make love, that is a more perfect government still.

Ants are considered as constituting an excellent democracy. This is superior to every other state, as all are, in consequence of such a constitution, on terms of equality, and every individual is employed for the happiness of all. The republic of beavers is superior even to that of ants; at least, if we may judge by their performances in masonry.

Monkeys are more like merry-andrews than a regularly governed people; they do not appear associated under fixed and fundamental laws, like the species previously noticed.

We resemble monkeys more than any other animals in the talent of imitation, in the levity of our ideas, and in that inconstancy which has always prevented our having uniform and durable laws.

When nature formed our species, and imparted to us a certain portion of instinct, self-love for our own preservation, benevolence for the safety and comfort of others, love which is common to every class of animal being, and the inexplicable gift of combining more ideas than all the inferior animals together—after bestowing on us this outfit she said to us: “Go, and do the best you can.”

There is not a good code of laws in any single country. The reason is obvious: laws have been made for particular purposes, according to time, place, exigencies, and not with general and systematic views.

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When the exigencies upon which laws were founded are changed or removed, the laws themselves become ridiculous. Thus the law which forbade eating pork and drinking wine was perfectly reasonable in Arabia, where pork and wine are injurious; but at Constantinople it is absurd.

The law which confers the whole fief or landed property on the eldest son, is a very good one in a time of general anarchy and pillage. The eldest is then the commander of the castle, which sooner or later will be attacked by brigands; the younger brothers will be his chief officers, and the laborers his soldiers. All that is to be apprehended is that the younger brother may assassinate or poison the elder, his liege lord, in order to become himself the master of the premises; but such instances are uncommon, because nature has so combined our instincts and passions, that we feel a stronger horror against assassinating our elder brother, than we feel a desire to succeed to his authority and estate. But this law, which was suitable enough to the owners of the gloomy, secluded, and turreted mansions, in the days of Chilperic, is detestable when the case relates wholly to the division of family property in a civilized and well-governed city.

To the disgrace of mankind, the laws of play or gaming are, it is well known, the only ones that are throughout just, clear, inviolable, and carried into impartial and perfect execution. Why is the Indian who laid down the laws of a game of chess Edition: current; Page: [90] willingly and promptly obeyed all over the world, while the decretals of the popes, for example, are at present an object of horror and contempt? The reason is, that the inventor of chess combined everything with caution and exactness for the satisfaction of the players, and that the popes in their decretals looked solely to their own advantage. The Indian was desirous at once of exercising the minds of men and furnishing them with amusement; the popes were desirous of debasing and brutifying them. Accordingly, the game of chess has remained substantially the same for upwards of five thousand years, and is common to all the inhabitants of the earth; while the decretals are known only at Spoleto, Orvieto, and Loretto, and are there secretly despised even by the most shallow and contemptible of the practitioners.


During the reigns of Vespasian and Titus, when the Romans were disembowelling the Jews, a rich Israelite fled with all the gold he had accumulated by his occupation as a usurer, and conveyed to Ezion-Geber the whole of his family, which consisted of his wife, then far advanced in years, a son, and a daughter; he had in his train two eunuchs, one of whom acted as a cook, and the other as a laborer and vine-dresser; and a pious Essenian, who knew the Pentateuch completely by heart, acted as his almoner. All these embarked at the port of Ezion-Geber, Edition: current; Page: [91] traversed the sea commonly called Red, although it is far from being so, and entered the Persian Gulf to go in search of the land of Ophir, without knowing where it was. A dreadful tempest soon after this came on, which drove the Hebrew family towards the coast of India; and the vessel was wrecked on one of the Maldive islands now called Padrabranca, but which was at that time uninhabited.

The old usurer and his wife were drowned; the son and daughter, the two eunuchs, and the almoner were saved. They took as much of the provisions out of the wreck as they were able; erected for themselves little cabins on the island, and lived there with considerable convenience and comfort. You are aware that the island of Padrabranca is within five degrees of the line, and that it furnishes the largest cocoanuts and the best pineapples in the world; it was pleasant to have such a lovely asylum at a time when the favorite people of God were elsewhere exposed to persecution and massacre; but the Essenian could not refrain from tears when he reflected, that perhaps those on that happy island were the only Jews remaining on the earth, and that the seed of Abraham was to be annihilated.

“Its restoration depends entirely upon you,” said the young Jew; “marry my sister.” “I would willingly,” said the almoner, “but it is against the law. I am an Essenian; I have made a vow never to marry; the law enjoins the strictest observance of a vow; the Jewish race may come to an end, if Edition: current; Page: [92] it must be so; but I will certainly not marry your sister in order to prevent it, beautiful and amiable as I admit she is.”

“My two eunuchs,” resumed the Jew, “can be of no service in this affair; I will therefore marry her myself, if you have no objection; and you shall bestow the usual marriage benediction.”

“I had a hundred times rather be disembowelled by the Roman soldiers,” said the almoner, “than to be instrumental to your committing incest; were she your sister by the father’s side only, the law would allow of your marriage; but as she is your sister by the same mother, such a marriage would be abominable.”

“I can readily admit,” returned the young man, “that it would be a crime at Jerusalem, where I might see many other young women, one of whom I might marry; but in the isle of Padrabranca, where I see nothing but cocoanuts, pineapples, and oysters, I consider the case to be very allowable.”

The Jew accordingly married his sister, and had a daughter by her, notwithstanding all the protestations of the Essenian; and this was the only offspring of a marriage which one of them thought very legitimate, and the other absolutely abominable.

After the expiration of fourteen years, the mother died; and the father said to the almoner, “Have you at length got rid of your old prejudices? Will you marry my daughter?” “God preserve me from it,” said the Essenian. “Then,” said the father, “I Edition: current; Page: [93] will marry her myself, come what will of it; for I cannot bear that the seed of Abraham should be totally annihilated.” The Essenian, struck with inexpressible horror, would dwell no longer with a man who thus violated and defiled the law, and fled. The new-married man loudly called after him, saying, “Stay here, my friend. I am observing the law of nature, and doing good to my country; do not abandon your friends.” The other suffered him to call, and continue to call, in vain; his head was full of the law; and he stopped not till he had reached, by swimming, another island.

This was the large island of Attola, highly populous and civilized; as soon as he landed he was made a slave. He complained bitterly of the inhospitable manner in which he had been received; he was told that such was the law, and that, ever since the island had been very nearly surprised and taken by the inhabitants of that of Ada, it had been wisely enacted that all strangers landing at Attola should be made slaves. “It is impossible that can ever be a law,” said the Essenian, “for it is not in the Pentateuch.” He was told in reply, that it was to be found in the digest of the country; and he remained a slave: fortunately he had a kind and wealthy master, who treated him very well, and to whom he became strongly attached.

Some murderers once came to the house in which he lived, to kill his master and carry off his treasure. They inquired of the slaves if he was at home, Edition: current; Page: [94] and had much money there. “We assure you, on our oaths,” said the slaves, “that he is not at home.” But the Essenian said: “The law does not allow lying; I swear to you that he is at home, and that he has a great deal of money.” The master was, in consequence, robbed and murdered; the slaves accused the Essenian, before the judges, of having betrayed his master. The Essenian said, that he would tell no lies, and that nothing in the world should induce him to tell one; and he was hanged.

This history was related to me, with many similar ones, on the last voyage I made from India to France. When I arrived, I went to Versailles on business, and saw in the street a beautiful woman, followed by many others who were also beautiful. “Who is that beautiful woman?” said I to the barrister who had accompanied me; for I had a cause then depending before the Parliament of Paris about some dresses that I had had made in India, and I was desirous of having my counsel as much with me as possible. “She is the daughter of the king,” said he, “she is amiable and beneficent; it is a great pity that, in no case or circumstance whatever, such a woman as that can become queen of France.” “What!” I replied, “if we had the misfortune to lose all her relations and the princes of the blood—which God forbid—would not she, in that case, succeed to the throne of her father?” “No,” said the counsellor; “the Salic law expressly forbids it.” “And who made this Salic law?” said I to the counsellor. Edition: current; Page: [95] “I do not at all know,” said he; “but it is pretended, that among an ancient people called the Salii, who were unable either to read or write, there existed a written law, which enacted, that in the Salic territory a daughter should not inherit any freehold.” “And I,” said I to him, “I abolish that law; you assure me that this princess is amiable and beneficent; she would, therefore, should the calamity occur of her being the last existing personage of royal blood, have an incontestable right to the crown: my mother inherited from her father; and in the case supposed, I am resolved that this princess shall inherit from hers.”

On the ensuing day, my suit was decided in one of the chambers of parliament, and I lost everything by a single vote; my counsellor told me, that in another chamber I should have gained everything by a single vote. “That is a very curious circumstance,” said I: “at that rate each chamber proceeds by a different law.” “That is just the case,” said he: “there are twenty-five commentaries on the common law of Paris: that is to say, it is proved five and twenty times over, that the common law of Paris is equivocal; and if there had been five and twenty chambers of judges, there would be just as many different systems of jurisprudence. We have a province,” continued he, “fifteen leagues distant from Paris, called Normandy, where the judgment in your cause would have been very different from what it was here.” This statement excited in Edition: current; Page: [96] me a strong desire to see Normandy; and I accordingly went thither with one of my brothers. At the first inn, we met with a young man who was almost in a state of despair. I inquired of him what was his misfortune; he told me it was having an elder brother. “Where,” said I, “can be the great calamity of having an elder brother? The brother I have is my elder, and yet we live very happily together.” “Alas! sir,” said he to me, “the law of this place gives everything to the elder brother, and of course leaves nothing for the younger ones.” “That,” said I, “is enough, indeed, to disturb and distress you; among us everything is divided equally; and yet, sometimes, brothers have no great affection for one another.”

These little adventures occasioned me to make some observations, which of course were very ingenious and profound, upon the subject of laws; and I easily perceived that it was with them as it is with our garments: I must wear a doliman at Constantinople, and a coat at Paris.

“If all human laws,” said I, “are matters of convention, nothing is necessary but to make a good bargain.” The citizens of Delhi and Agra say that they have made a very bad one with Tamerlane: those of London congratulate themselves on having made a very good one with King William of Orange. A citizen of London once said to me: “Laws are made by necessity, and observed through force.” I asked him if force did not also occasionally make laws, Edition: current; Page: [97] and if William, the bastard and conqueror, had not chosen simply to issue his orders without condescending to make any convention or bargain with the English at all. “True,” said he, “it was so: we were oxen at that time; William brought us under the yoke, and drove us with a goad; since that period we have been metamorphosed into men; the horns, however, remain with us still, and we use them as weapons against every man who attempts making us work for him and not for ourselves.”

With my mind full of all these reflections, I could not help feeling a sensible gratification in thinking, that there exists a natural law entirely independent of all human conventions: The fruit of my labor ought to be my own: I am bound to honor my father and mother: I have no right over the life of my neighbor, nor has my neighbor over mine, etc. But when I considered, that from Chedorlaomer to Mentzel, colonel of hussars, every one kills and plunders his neighbor according to law, and with his patent in his pocket, I was greatly distressed.

I was told that laws existed even among robbers, and that there were laws also in war. I asked what were the laws of war. “They are,” said some one, “to hang up a brave officer for maintaining a weak post without cannon; to hang a prisoner, if the enemy have hanged any of yours; to ravage with fire and sword those villages which shall not have delivered up their means of subsistence by an Edition: current; Page: [98] appointed day, agreeably to the commands of the gracious sovereign of the vicinage.” “Good,” said I, “that is the true spirit of laws.” After acquiring a good deal of information, I found that there existed some wise laws, by which a shepherd is condemned to nine years’ imprisonment and labor in the galleys, for having given his sheep a little foreign salt. My neighbor was ruined by a suit on account of two oaks belonging to him, which he had cut down in his wood, because he had omitted a mere form of technicality with which it was almost impossible that he should have been acquainted; his wife died, in consequence, in misery; and his son is languishing out a painful existence. I admit that these laws are just, although their execution is a little severe; but I must acknowledge I am no friend to laws which authorize a hundred thousand neighbors loyally to set about cutting one another’s throats. It appears to me that the greater part of mankind have received from nature a sufficient portion of what is called common sense for making laws, but that the whole world has not justice enough to make good laws.

Simple and tranquil cultivators, collected from every part of the world, would easily agree that every one should be free to sell the superfluity of his own corn to his neighbor, and that every law contrary to it is both inhuman and absurd; that the value of money, being the representative of commodities, ought no more to be tampered with than Edition: current; Page: [99] the produce of the earth; that the father of a family should be master in his own house; that religion should collect men together, to unite them in kindness and friendship, and not to make them fanatics and persecutors; and that those who labor ought not to be deprived of the fruits of their labor, to endow superstition and idleness. In the course of an hour, thirty laws of this description, all of a nature beneficial to mankind, would be unanimously agreed to.

But let Tamerlane arrive and subjugate India, and you will then see nothing but arbitrary laws. One will oppress and grind down a whole province, merely to enrich one of Tamerlane’s collectors of revenue; another will screw up to the crime of high treason, speaking contemptuously of the mistress of a rajah’s chief valet; a third will extort from the farmer a moiety of his harvest, and dispute with him the right to the remainder; in short, there will be laws by which a Tartar sergeant will be authorized to seize your children in the cradle—to make one, who is robust, a soldier—to convert another, who is weak, into a eunuch—and thus to leave the father and mother without assistance and without consolation.

But which would be preferable, being Tamerlane’s dog or his subject? It is evident that the condition of his dog would be by far the better one.

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It would be admirable, if from all the books upon laws by Bodin, Hobbes, Grotius, Puffendorf, Montesquieu, Barbeyrac, and Burlamaqui, some general law was adopted by the whole of the tribunals of Europe upon succession, contracts, revenue offences, etc. But neither the citations of Grotius, nor those of Puffendorf, nor those of the “Spirit of Laws,” have ever led to a sentence in the Châtelet of Paris or the Old Bailey of London. We weary ourselves with Grotius, pass some agreeable moments with Montesquieu; but if process be deemed advisable, we run to our attorney.

It has been said that the letter kills, but that in the spirit there is life. It is decidedly the contrary in the book of Montesquieu; the spirit is diffusive, and the letter teaches nothing.

False Citations in the “Spirit of Laws,” and False Consequences Drawn from Them by the Author.

It is observed, that “the English, to favor liberty, have abstracted all the intermediate powers which formed part of their constitution.”

On the contrary, they have preserved the Upper House, and the greater part of the jurisdictions which stand between the crown and the people.

“The establishment of a vizier in a despotic state is a fundamental law.”

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A judicious critic has remarked that this is as much as to say that the office of the mayors of the palace was a fundamental office. Constantine was highly despotic, yet had no grand vizier. Louis XIV. was less despotic, and had no first minister. The popes are sufficiently despotic, and yet seldom possess them.

“The sale of employments is good in monarchical states, because it makes it the profession of persons of family to undertake employments, which they would not fulfil from disinterested motives alone.”

Is it Montesquieu who writes these odious lines? What! because the vices of Francis I. deranged the public finances, must we sell to ignorant young men the right of deciding upon the honor, fortune, and lives of the people? What! is it good in a monarchy, that the office of magistrate should become a family provision? If this infamy was salutary, some other country would have adopted it as well as France; but there is not another monarchy on earth which has merited the opprobrium. This monstrous anomaly sprang from the prodigality of a ruined and spendthrift monarch, and the vanity of certain citizens whose fathers possessed money; and the wretched abuse has always been weakly attacked, because it was felt that reimbursement would be difficult. It would be a thousand times better, said a great jurisconsult, to sell the treasure of all the convents, and the plate of all the churches, than to sell justice. When Francis I. seized the silver Edition: current; Page: [102] grating of St. Martin, he did harm to no one; St. Martin complained not, and parted very easily with his screen; but to sell the place of judge, and at the same time make the judge swear that he has not bought it, is a base sacrilege.

Let us complain that Montesquieu has dishonored his work by such paradoxes—but at the same time let us pardon him. His uncle purchased the office of a provincial president, and bequeathed it to him. Human nature is to be recognized in everything, and there are none of us without weakness.

“Behold how industriously the Muscovite government seeks to emerge from despotism.”

Is it in abolishing the patriarchate and the active militia of the strelitzes; in being the absolute master of the troops, of the revenue, and of the church, of which the functionaries are paid from the public treasury alone? or is it proved by making laws to render that power as sacred as it is mighty? It is melancholy, that in so many citations and so many maxims, the contrary of what is asserted should be almost always the truth.

“The luxury of those who possess the necessaries of life only, will be zero; the luxury of those who possess as much again, will be equal to one; of those who possess double the means of the latter, three; and so on.”

The latter will possess three times the excess beyond the necessaries of life; but it by no means follows that he will possess three times as many luxuries; Edition: current; Page: [103] for he may be thrice as avaricious, or may employ the superfluity in commerce, or in portions to his daughters. These propositions are not affairs of arithmetic, and such calculations are miserable quackery.

“The Samnites had a fine custom, which must have produced admirable results. The young man declared the most worthy chose a wife where he pleased; he who had the next number of suffrages in his favor followed, and so on throughout.”

The author has mistaken the Sunites, a people of Scythia, for the Samnites, in the neighborhood of Rome. He quotes a fragment of Nicholas de Demas, preserved by Stobæus: but is the said Nicholas a sufficient authority? This fine custom would moreover be very injurious in a well-governed country; for if the judges should be deceived in the young man declared the most worthy; if the female selected should not like him; or if he were objectionable in the eyes of the girl’s parents, very fatal results might follow.

“On reading the admirable work of Tacitus on the manners of the Germans, it will be seen that it is from them the English drew the idea of their political government. That admirable system originated in the woods.”

The houses of peers and of commons, and the English courts of law and equity, found in the woods! Who would have supposed it? Without doubt, the English owe their squadrons and their Edition: current; Page: [104] commerce to the manners of the Germans; and the sermons of Tillotson to those pious German sorcerers who sacrificed their prisoners, and judged of their success in war by the manner in which the blood flowed. We must believe, also, that the English are indebted for their fine manufactures to the laudable practice of the Germans, who, as Tacitus observers, preferred robbery to toil.

“Aristotle ranked among monarchies the governments both of Persia and Lacedæmon; but who cannot perceive that the one was a despotism, the other a republic?”

Who, on the contrary, cannot perceive that Lacedæmon had a single king for four hundred years, and two kings until the extinction of the Heraclidæ, a period of about a thousand years? We know that no king was despotic of right, not even in Persia; but every bold and dissembling prince who amasses money, becomes despotic in a little time, either in Persia or Lacedæmon; and, therefore, Aristotle distinguishes every state possessing perpetual and hereditary chiefs, from republics.

“People of warm climates are timid, like old men; those of cold countries are courageous, like young ones.”

We should take great care how general propositions escape us. No one has ever been able to make a Laplander or an Esquimaux warlike, while the Arabs in fourscore years conquered a territory which exceeded that of the whole Roman Empire. Edition: current; Page: [105] This maxim of M. Montesquieu is equally erroneous with all the rest on the subject of climate.

“Louis XIII. was extremely averse to passing a law which made the negroes of the French colonies slaves; but when he was given to understand that it was the most certain way of converting them, he consented.”

Where did the author pick up this anecdote? The first arrangement for the treatment of the negroes was made in 1673, thirty years after the death of Louis XIII. This resembles the refusal of Francis I. to listen to the project of Christopher Columbus, who had discovered the Antilles before Francis I. was born.

“The Romans never exhibited any jealousy on the score of commerce. It was as a rival, not as a commercial nation, that they attacked Carthage.”

It was both as a warlike and as a commercial nation, as the learned Huet proves in his “Commerce of the Ancients,” when he shows that the Romans were addicted to commerce a long time before the first Punic war.

“The sterility of the territory of Athens established a popular government there, and the fertility of that of Lacedæmon an aristocratic one.”

Whence this chimera? From enslaved Athens we still derive cotton, silk, rice, corn, oil, and skins; and from the country of Lacedæmon nothing. Athens was twenty times richer than Lacedæmon. With respect to the comparative fertility of the soil, it is Edition: current; Page: [106] necessary to visit those countries to appreciate it; but the form of a government is never attributed to the greater or less fertility. Venice had very little corn when her nobles governed. Genoa is assuredly not fertile, and yet is an aristocracy. Geneva is a more popular state, and has not the means of existing a fortnight upon its own productions. Sweden, which is equally poor, has for a long time submitted to the yoke of a monarchy; while fertile Poland is aristocratic. I cannot conceive how general rules can be established, which may be falsified upon the slightest appeal to experience.

“In Europe, empires have never been able to exist.” Yet the Roman Empire existed for five hundred years, and that of the Turks has maintained itself since the year 1453.

“The duration of the great empires of Asia is principally owing to the prevalence of vast plains.” M. Montesquieu forgets the mountains which cross Natolia and Syria, Caucasus, Taurus, Ararat, Imaus, and others, the ramifications of which extend throughout Asia.

After thus convincing ourselves that errors abound in the “Spirit of Laws”; after everybody is satisfied that this work wants method, and possesses neither plan nor order, it is proper to inquire into that which really forms its merit, and which has led to its great reputation.

In the first place, it is written with great wit, while Edition: current; Page: [107] the authors of all the other books on this subject are tedious. It was on this account that a lady, who possessed as much wit as Montesquieu, observed, that his book was l’esprit sur les lois.” It can never be more correctly defined.

A still stronger reason is that the book exhibits grand views, attacks tyranny, superstition, and grinding taxation—three things which mankind detest. The author consoles slaves in lamenting their fetters, and the slaves in return applaud him.

One of the most bitter and absurd of his enemies, who contributed most by his rage to exalt the name of Montesquieu throughout Europe, was the journalist of the Convulsionaries. He called him a Spinozist and deist; that is to say, he accused him at the same time of not believing in God and of believing in God alone.

He reproaches him with his esteem for Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and the Stoics; and for not loving Jansenists—the Abbé de St. Cyran and Father Quesnel. He asserts that he has committed an unpardonable crime in calling Bayle a great man.

He pretends that the “Spirit of Laws” is one of those monstrous works with which France has been inundated since the Bull Unigenitus, which has corrupted the consciences of all people.

This tatterdemalion from his garret, deriving at least three hundred per cent. from his ecclesiastical gazette, declaimed like a fool against interest upon money at the legal rate. He was seconded by some Edition: current; Page: [108] pedants of his own sort; and the whole concluded in their resembling the slaves placed at the foot of the statue of Louis XIV.; they are crushed, and gnaw their own flesh in revenge.

Montesquieu was almost always in error with the learned, because he was not learned; but he was always right against the fanatics and promoters of slavery. Europe owes him eternal gratitude.



Our questions on Lent will merely regard the police. It appeared useful to have a time in the year in which we should eat fewer oxen, calves, lambs, and poultry. Young fowls and pigeons are not ready in February and March, the time in which Lent falls; and it is good to cease the carnage for some weeks in countries in which pastures are not so fertile as those of England and Holland.

The magistrates of police have very wisely ordered that meat should be a little dearer at Paris during this time, and that the profit should be given to the hospitals. It is an almost insensible tribute paid by luxury and gluttony to indigence; for it is the rich who are not able to keep Lent—the poor fast all the year.

There are very few farming men who eat meat once a month. If they ate of it every day, there would not be enough for the most flourishing kingdom. Twenty millions of pounds of meat a day Edition: current; Page: [109] would make seven thousand three hundred millions of pounds a year. This calculation is alarming.

The small number of the rich, financiers, prelates, principal magistrates, great lords, and great ladies who condescend to have maigre served at their tables, fast during six weeks on soles, salmon, turbots, sturgeons, etc.

One of our most famous financiers had couriers, who for a hundred crowns brought him fresh sea fish every day to Paris. This expense supported the couriers, the dealers who sold the horses, the fishermen who furnished the fish, the makers of nets, constructors of boats, and the druggists from whom were procured the refined spices which give to a fish a taste superior to that of meat. Lucullus could not have kept Lent more voluptuously.

It should further be remarked that fresh sea fish, in coming to Paris, pays a considerable tax. The secretaries of the rich, their valets de chambre, ladies’ maids, and stewards, partake of the dessert of Crœsus, and fast as deliciously as he.

It is not the same with the poor; not only if for four sous they partake of a small portion of tough mutton do they commit a great sin, but they seek in vain for this miserable aliment. What do they therefore feed upon? Chestnuts, rye bread, the cheeses which they have pressed from the milk of their cows, goats or sheep, and some few of the eggs of their poultry.

There are churches which forbid them the eggs Edition: current; Page: [110] and the milk. What then remains for them to eat? Nothing. They consent to fast; but they consent not to die. It is absolutely necessary that they should live, if it be only to cultivate the lands of the fat rectors and lazy monks.

We therefore ask, if it belongs not to the magistrates of the police of the kingdom, charged with watching over the health of the inhabitants, to give them permission to eat the cheeses which their own hands have formed, and the eggs which their fowls have laid?

It appears that milk, eggs, cheese, and all which can nourish the farmer, are regulated by the police, and not by a religious rule.

We hear not that Jesus Christ forbade omelets to His apostles; He said to them: “Eat such things as are set before you.”

The Holy Church has ordained Lent, but in quality of the Church it commands it only to the heart; it can inflict spiritual pains alone; it cannot as formerly burn a poor man, who, having only some rusty bacon, put a slice of it on a piece of black bread the day after Shrove Tuesday.

Sometimes in the provinces the pastors go beyond their duty, and forgetting the rights of the magistracy, undertake to go among the innkeepers and cooks, to see if they have not some ounces of meat in their saucepans, some old fowls on their hooks, or some eggs in a cupboard; for eggs are forbidden in Lent. They intimidate the poor people, Edition: current; Page: [111] and proceed to violence towards the unfortunates, who know not that it belongs alone to the magistracy to interfere. It is an odious and punishable inquisition.

The magistrates alone can be rightly informed of the more or less abundant provisions required by the poor people of the provinces. The clergy have occupations more sublime. Should it not therefore belong to the magistrates to regulate what the people eat in Lent? Who should pry into the legal consumption of a country if not the police of that country?


Did the first who were advised to fast put themselves under this regimen by order of the physician, for indigestion? The want of appetite which we feel in grief—was it the first origin of fast-days prescribed in melancholy religions?

Did the Jews take the custom of fasting from the Egyptians, all of whose rites they imitated, including flagellation and the scape-goat? Why fasted Jesus for forty days in the desert, where He was tempted by the devil—by the “Chathbull”? St. Matthew remarks that after this Lent He was hungry; He was therefore not hungry during the fast.

Why, in days of abstinence, does the Roman Church consider it a crime to eat terrestrial animals, and a good work to be served with soles and salmon? The rich Papist who shall have five hundred francs’ Edition: current; Page: [112] worth of fish upon his table shall be saved, and the poor wretch dying with hunger, who shall have eaten four sous’ worth of salt pork, shall be damned.

Why must we ask permission of the bishop to eat eggs? If a king ordered his people never to eat eggs, would he not be thought the most ridiculous of tyrants? How strange the aversion of bishops to omelets!

Can we believe that among Papists there have been tribunals imbecile, dull, and barbarous enough to condemn to death poor citizens, who had no other crimes than that of having eaten of horseflesh in Lent? The fact is but too true; I have in my hands a sentence of this kind. What renders it still more strange is that the judges who passed such sentences believed themselves superior to the Iroquois.

Foolish and cruel priests, to whom do you order Lent? Is it to the rich? they take good care to observe it. Is it to the poor? they keep Lent all the year. The unhappy peasant scarcely ever eats meat, and has not wherewithal to buy fish. Fools that you are, when will you correct your absurd laws?


This article relates to two powerful divinities, one ancient and the other modern, which have reigned in our hemisphere. The reverend father Edition: current; Page: [113] Dom Calmet, a great antiquarian, that is, a great compiler of what was said in former times and what is repeated at the present day, has confounded lues with leprosy. He maintains that it was the lues with which the worthy Job was afflicted, and he supposes, after a confident and arrogant commentator of the name of Pineida, that the lues and leprosy are precisely the same disorder. Calmet is not a physician, neither is he a reasoner, but he is a citer of authorities; and in his vocation of commentator, citations are always substituted for reasons. When Astruc, in his history of lues, quotes authorities that the disorder came in fact from San Domingo, and that the Spaniards brought it from America, his citations are somewhat more conclusive.

There are two circumstances which, in my opinion, prove that lues originated in America; the first is, the multitude of authors, both medical and surgical, of the sixteenth century, who attest the fact; and the second is, the silence of all the physicians and all the poets of antiquity, who never were acquainted with this disease, and never had even a name for it. I here speak of the silence of physicians and of poets as equally demonstrative. The former, beginning with Hippocrates, would not have failed to describe this malady, to state its symptoms, to apply to it a name, and suggest some remedy. The poets, equally as malicious and sarcastic as physicians are studious and investigative, would have detailed in their satires, with minute Edition: current; Page: [114] particularity, all the symptoms and consequences of this dreadful disorder; you do not find, however, a single verse in Horace or Catullus, in Martial or Juvenal, which has the slightest reference to lues, although they expatiate on all the effects of debauchery with the utmost freedom and delight.

It is very certain that smallpox was not known to the Romans before the sixth century; that the American lues was not introduced into Europe until the fifteenth century; and that leprosy is as different from those two maladies, as palsy from St. Guy’s or St. Vitus’ dance.

Leprosy was a scabious disease of a dreadful character. The Jews were more subject to it than any other people living in hot climates, because they had neither linen, nor domestic baths. These people were so negligent of cleanliness and the decencies of life that their legislators were obliged to make a law to compel them even to wash their hands.

All that we gained in the end by engaging in the crusades, was leprosy; and of all that we had taken, that was the only thing that remained with us. It was necessary everywhere to build lazarettos, in which to confine the unfortunate victims of a disease at once pestilential and incurable.

Leprosy, as well as fanaticism and usury, had been a distinguishing characteristic of the Jews. These wretched people having no physicians, the priests took upon themselves the management and regulation of leprosy, and made it a concern of religion. Edition: current; Page: [115] This has occasioned some indiscreet and profane critics to remark that the Jews were no better than a nation of savages under the direction of their jugglers. Their priests in fact never cured leprosy, but they cut off from society those who were infected by it, and thus acquired a power of the greatest importance. Every man laboring under this disease was imprisoned, like a thief or a robber; and thus a woman who was desirous of getting rid of her husband had only to secure the sanction of the priest, and the unfortunate husband was shut up—it was the “lettre de cachet” of the day. The Jews and those by whom they were governed were so ignorant that they imagined the moth-holes in garments, and the mildew upon walls, to be the effects of leprosy. They actually conceived their houses and clothes to have leprosy; thus the people themselves, and their very rags and hovels, were all brought under the rod of the priesthood.

One proof that, at the time of the first introduction of the lues, there was no connection between that disorder and leprosy, is that the few lepers that remained at the conclusion of the fifteenth century were offended at any kind of comparison between themselves and those who were affected by lues.

Some of the persons thus affected were in the first instance sent to the hospital for lepers, but were received by them with indignation. The lepers presented a petition to be separated from them; as persons imprisoned for debt or affairs of honor Edition: current; Page: [116] claim a right not to be confounded with the common herd of criminals.

We have already observed that the Parliament of Paris, on March 6, 1496, issued an order, by which all persons laboring under lues, unless they were citizens of Paris, were enjoined to depart within twenty-four hours, under pain of being hanged. This order was neither Christian, legal, nor judicious; but it proves that lues was regarded as a new plague which had nothing in common with leprosy; as lepers were not hanged for residing in Paris, while those afflicted by lues were so.

Men may bring the leprosy on themselves by their uncleanliness and filth, just as is done by a species of animals to which the very lowest of the vulgar may too naturally be compared; but with respect to lues, it was a present made to America by nature. We have already reproached this same nature, at once so kind and so malicious, so sagacious and yet so blind, with defeating her own object by thus poisoning the source of life; and we still sincerely regret that we have found no solution of this dreadful difficulty.

We have seen elsewhere that man in general, one with another, or (as it is expressed) on the average, does not live above two-and-twenty years; and during these two-and-twenty years he is liable to two-and-twenty thousand evils, many of which are incurable.

Yet even in this dreadful state men still strut Edition: current; Page: [117] and figure on the stage of life; they make love at the hazard of destruction; and intrigue, carry on war, and form projects, just as if they were to live in luxury and delight for a thousand ages.


In the barbarous times when the Franks, Germans, Bretons, Lombards, and Spanish Mozarabians knew neither how to read nor write, we instituted schools and universities almost entirely composed of ecclesiastics, who, knowing only their own jargon, taught this jargon to those who would learn it. Academies were not founded until long after; the latter have despised the follies of the schools, but they have not always dared to oppose them, because there are follies which we respect when they are attached to respectable things.

Men of letters who have rendered the most service to the small number of thinking beings scattered over the earth are isolated scholars, true sages shut up in their closets, who have neither publicly disputed in the universities, nor said things by halves in the academies; and such have almost all been persecuted. Our miserable race is so created that those who walk in the beaten path always throw stones at those who would show them a new one.

Montesquieu says that the Scythians put out the eyes of their slaves that they might be more attentive to the making of their butter. It is thus that the Inquisition acts, and almost every one is blinded in Edition: current; Page: [118] the countries in which this monster reigns. In England people have had two eyes for more than a hundred years. The French are beginning to open one eye—but sometimes men in place will not even permit us to be one-eyed.

These miserable statesmen are like Doctor Balouard of the Italian comedy, who will only be served by the fool Harlequin, and who fears to have too penetrating a servant.

Compose odes in praise of Lord Superbus Fatus, madrigals for his mistress; dedicate a book of geography to his porter, and you will be well received. Enlighten men, and you will be crushed.

Descartes is obliged to quit his country; Gassendi is calumniated; Arnaud passes his days in exile; all the philosophers are treated as the prophets were among the Jews.

Who would believe that in the eighteenth century, a philosopher has been dragged before the secular tribunals, and treated as impious by reasoning theologians, for having said that men could not practise the arts if they had no hands? I expect that they will soon condemn to the galleys the first who shall have the insolence to say that a man could not think if he had no head; for a learned bachelor will say to him, the soul is a pure spirit, the head is only matter; God can place the soul in the heel as well as in the brain; therefore I denounce you as a blasphemer.

The great misfortune of a man of letters is not Edition: current; Page: [119] perhaps being the object of the jealousy of his brothers, the victim of cabals, and the contempt of the powerful of the world—it is being judged by fools. Fools sometimes go very far, particularly when fanaticism is joined to folly, and folly to the spirit of vengeance. Further, the great misfortune of a man of letters is generally to hold to nothing. A citizen buys a little situation, and is maintained by his fellow-citizens. If any injustice is done to him, he soon finds defenders. The literary man is without aid; he resembles the flying fish; if he rises a little, the birds devour him; if he dives, the fishes eat him up. Every public man pays tribute to malignity; but he is repaid in deniers and honors.


Small, offensive books are termed libels. These books are usually small, because the authors, having few reasons to give, and usually writing not to inform, but mislead, if they are desirous of being read, must necessarily be brief. Names are rarely used on these occasions, for assassins fear being detected in the employment of forbidden weapons.

In the time of the League and the Fronde, political libels abounded. Every dispute in England produces hundreds; and a library might be formed of those written against Louis XIV.

We have had theological libels for sixteen hundred years; and what is worse, these are esteemed holy by the vulgar. Only see how St. Jerome treats Edition: current; Page: [120] Rufinus and Vigilantius. The latest libels are those of the Molinists and Jansenists, which amount to thousands. Of all this mass there remains only “The Provincial Letters.”

Men of letters may dispute the number of their libels with the theologians. Boileau and Fontenelle, who attacked one another with epigrams, both said that their chambers would not contain the libels with which they had been assailed. All these disappear like the leaves in autumn. Some people have maintained that anything offensive written against a neighbor is a libel.

According to them, the railing attacks which the prophets occasionally sang to the kings of Israel, were defamatory libels to excite the people to rise up against them. As the populace, however, read but little anywhere, it is believed that these half-disclosed satires never did any great harm. Sedition is produced by speaking to assemblies of the people, rather than by writing for them. For this reason, one of the first things done by Queen Elizabeth of England on her accession, was to order that for six months no one should preach without express permission.

The “Anti-Cato” of Cæsar was a libel, but Cæsar did more harm to Cato by the battle of Pharsalia, than by his “Diatribes.” The “Philippics” of Cicero were libels, but the proscriptions of the Triumvirs were far more terrible libels.

St. Cyril and St. Gregory Nazianzen compiled Edition: current; Page: [121] libels against the emperor Julian, but they were so generous as not to publish them until after his death.

Nothing resembles libels more than certain manifestoes of sovereigns. The secretaries of the sultan Mustapha made a libel of his declaration of war. God has punished them for it; but the same spirit which animated Cæsar, Cicero, and the secretaries of Mustapha, reigns in all the reptiles who spin libels in their garrets. Natura est semper sibi consona. Who would believe that the souls of Garasse, Nonnotte, Paulian, Fréron, and he of Langliviet, calling himself La Beaumelle, were in this respect of the same temper as those of Cæsar, Cicero, St. Cyril, and of the secretary of the grand seignior? Nothing is, however, more certain.


Either I am much deceived, or Locke has very well defined liberty to be “power.” I am still further deceived, or Collins, a celebrated magistrate of London, is the only philosopher who has profoundly developed this idea, while Clarke has only answered him as a theologian. Of all that has been written in France on liberty, the following little dialogue has appeared to me the most comprehensive:


A battery of cannon is discharged at our ears; have you the liberty to hear it, or not to hear it, as you please?


Undoubtedly I cannot hinder myself from hearing it.

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Are you willing that these cannon shall take off your head and those of your wife and daughter who walk with you?


What a question! I cannot, at least while I am in my right senses, wish such a thing; it is impossible.


Good; you necessarily hear these cannon, and you necessarily wish not for the death of yourself and your family by a discharge from them. You have neither the power of not hearing it, nor the power of wishing to remain here.


That is clear.


You have, I perceive, advanced thirty paces to be out of the reach of the cannon; you have had the power of walking these few steps with me.


That is also very clear.


And if you had been paralytic, you could not have avoided being exposed to this battery; you would necessarily have heard, and received a wound from the cannon; and you would have as necessarily died.


Nothing is more true.


In what then consists your liberty, if not in the power that your body has acquired of performing that which from absolute necessity your will requires?


You embarrass me. Liberty then is nothing more than the power of doing what I wish?


Reflect; and see whether liberty can be understood otherwise.

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In this case, my hunting dog is as free as myself; he has necessarily the will to run when he sees a hare; and the power of running, if there is nothing the matter with his legs. I have therefore nothing above my dog; you reduce me to the state of the beasts.


These are poor sophisms, and they are poor sophists who have instructed you. You are unwilling to be free like your dog. Do you not eat, sleep, and propagate like him, and nearly in the same attitudes? Would you smell otherwise than by your nose? Why would you possess liberty differently from your dog?


But I have a soul which reasons, and my dog scarcely reasons at all. He has nothing beyond simple ideas, while I have a thousand metaphysical ideas.


Well, you are a thousand times more free than he is; you have a thousand times more power of thinking than he has; but still you are not free in any other manner than your dog is free.


What! am I not free to will what I like?


What do you understand by that?


I understand what all the world understands. Is it not every day said that the will is free?


An adage is not a reason; explain yourself better.


I understand that I am free to will as I please.


With your permission, that is nonsense; see Edition: current; Page: [124] you not that it is ridiculous to say—I will will? Consequently, you necessarily will the ideas only which are presented to you. Will you be married, yes or no?


Suppose I answer that I will neither the one nor the other.


In that case you would answer like him who said: Some believe Cardinal Mazarin dead, others believe him living; I believe neither the one nor the other.


Well, I will marry!


Aye, that is an answer. Why will you marry?


Because I am in love with a young, beautiful, sweet, well-educated, rich girl, who sings very well, whose parents are very honest people, and I flatter myself that I am beloved by her and welcome to the family.


There is a reason. You see that you cannot will without a motive. I declare to you that you are free to marry, that is to say, that you have the power of signing the contract, keeping the wedding, and sleeping with your wife.


How! I cannot will without a motive? Then what will become of the other proverb—Sit pro ratione voluntas”—my will is my reason—I will because I will?


It is an absurd one, my dear friend; you would then have an effect without a cause.

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What! when I play at odd or even, have I a reason for choosing even rather than odd?




And what is the reason, if you please?


It is, that the idea of even is presented to your mind rather than the opposite idea. It would be extraordinary if there were cases in which we will because there is a motive, and others in which we will without one. When you would marry, you evidently perceive the predominant reason for it; you perceive it not when you play at odd or even, and yet there must be one.


Therefore, once more, I am not free.


Your will is not free, but your actions are. You are free to act when you have the power of acting.


But all the books that I have read on the liberty of indifference—


What do you understand by the liberty of indifference?


I understand spitting on the right or the left hand—sleeping on the right or left side—walking up and down four times or five.


That would be a pleasant liberty, truly! God would have made you a fine present, much to boast of, certainly! What use to you would be a power which could only be exercised on such futile occasions? But in truth it is ridiculous to suppose the will of willing to spit on the right or left. Not Edition: current; Page: [126] only is the will of willing absurd, but it is certain that several little circumstances determine these acts which you call indifferent. You are no more free in these acts than in others. Yet you are free at all times, and in all places, when you can do what you wish to do.


I suspect that you are right. I will think upon it.


Towards the year 1707, the time at which the English gained the battle of Saragossa, protected Portugal, and for some time gave a king to Spain, Lord Boldmind, a general officer who had been wounded, was at the waters of Barèges. He there met with Count Medroso, who having fallen from his horse behind the baggage, at a league and a half from the field of battle, also came to take the waters. He was a familiar of the Inquisition, while Lord Boldmind was only familiar in conversation. One day after their wine, he held this dialogue with Medroso:


—You are then the sergeant of the Dominicans? You exercise a villainous trade.


—It is true; but I would rather be their servant than their victim, and I have preferred the unhappiness of burning my neighbor to that of being roasted myself.


—What a horrible alternative! You were a hundred times happier under the yoke of the Edition: current; Page: [127] Moors, who freely suffered you to abide in all your superstitions, and conquerors as they were, arrogated not to themselves the strange right of sending souls to hell.


—What would you have? It is not permitted us either to write, speak, or even to think. If we speak, it is easy to misinterpret our words, and still more our writings; and as we cannot be condemned in an auto-da-fé for our secret thoughts, we are menaced with being burned eternally by the order of God himself, if we think not like the Jacobins. They have persuaded the government that if we had common sense the entire state would be in combustion, and the nation become the most miserable upon earth.


—Do you believe that we English who cover the seas with vessels, and who go to gain battles for you in the south of Europe, can be so unhappy? Do you perceive that the Dutch, who have ravished from you almost all your discoveries in India, and who at present are ranked as your protectors, are cursed of God for having given entire liberty to the press, and for making commerce of the thoughts of men? Has the Roman Empire been less powerful because Tullius Cicero has written with freedom?


—Who is this Tullius Cicero? I have never heard his name pronounced at St. Hermandad.


—He was a bachelor of the university Edition: current; Page: [128] of Rome, who wrote that which he thought, like Julius Cæsar, Marcus Aurelius, Titus Lucretius Carus, Plinius, Seneca, and other sages.


—I know none of them; but I am told that the Catholic religion, Biscayan and Roman, is lost if we begin to think.


—It is not for you to believe it; for you are sure that your religion is divine, and that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. If that is the case, nothing will ever destroy it.


—No; but it may be reduced to very little; and it is through having thought, that Sweden, Denmark, all your island, and the half of Germany groan under the frightful misfortune of not being subjects of the pope. It is even said that, if men continue to follow their false lights, they will soon have merely the simple adoration of God and of virtue. If the gates of hell ever prevail so far, what will become of the holy office?


—If the first Christians had not the liberty of thought, does it not follow that there would have been no Christianity?


—I understand you not.


—I readily believe it. I would say, that if Tiberius and the first emperors had fostered Jacobins, they would have hindered the first Christians from having pens and ink; and had it not been a long time permitted in the Roman Empire to think freely, it would be impossible for the Christians to establish their dogmas. If, therefore, Christianity Edition: current; Page: [129] was only formed by liberty of opinion, by what contradiction, by what injustice, would you now destroy the liberty on which alone it is founded?

When some affair of interest is proposed to us, do we not examine it for a long time before we conclude upon it? What interest in the world is so great as our eternal happiness or misery? There are a hundred religions on earth which all condemn us if we believe your dogmas, which they call impious and absurd; why, therefore, not examine these dogmas?


—How can I examine them? I am not a Jacobin.


—You are a man, and that is sufficient.


—Alas! you are more of a man than I am.


—You have only to teach yourself to think; you are born with a mind, you are a bird in the cage of the Inquisition, the holy office has clipped your wings, but they will grow again. He who knows not geometry can learn it: all men can instruct themselves. Is it not shameful to put your soul into the hands of those to whom you would not intrust your money? Dare to think for yourself.


—It is said that if the world thought for itself, it would produce strange confusion.


—Quite the contrary. When we assist at a spectacle, every one freely tells his opinion of it, and the public peace is not thereby disturbed; Edition: current; Page: [130] but if some insolent protector of a poet would force all people of taste to proclaim that to be good which appears to them bad, blows would follow, and the two parties would throw apples of discord at one another’s heads, as once happened at London. Tyrants over mind have caused a part of the misfortunes of the world. We are happy in England only because every one freely enjoys the right of speaking his opinion.


—We are all very tranquil at Lisbon, where no person dares speak his.


—You are tranquil, but you are not happy: it is the tranquillity of galley-slaves, who row in cadence and in silence.


—You believe, then, that my soul is at the galleys?


—Yes, and I would deliver it.


—But if I find myself well at the galleys?


—Why, then, you deserve to be there.


What harm can the prediction of Jean Jacques do to Russia? Any? We allow him to explain it in a mystical, typical, allegorical sense, according to custom. The nations which will destroy the Russians will possess the belles-lettres, mathematics, wit, and politeness, which degrade man and pervert nature.

From five to six thousand pamphlets have been Edition: current; Page: [131] printed in Holland against Louis XIV., none of which contributed to make him lose the battles of Blenheim, Turin, and Ramillies.

In general, we have as natural a right to make use of our pens as our language, at our peril, risk, and fortune. I know many books which fatigue, but I know of none which have done real evil. Theologians, or pretended politicians, cry: “Religion is destroyed, the government is lost, if you print certain truths or certain paradoxes. Never attempt to think, till you have demanded permission from a monk or an officer. It is against good order for a man to think for himself. Homer, Plato, Cicero, Virgil, Pliny, Horace, never published anything but with the approbation of the doctors of the Sorbonne and of the holy Inquisition.”

“See into what horrible decay the liberty of the press brought England and Holland. It is true that they possess the commerce of the whole world, and that England is victorious on sea and land; but it is merely a false greatness, a false opulence: they hasten with long strides to their ruin. An enlightened people cannot exist.”

None can reason more justly, my friends; but let us see, if you please, what state has been lost by a book. The most dangerous, the most pernicious of all, is that of Spinoza. Not only in the character of a Jew he attacks the New Testament, but in the character of a scholar he ruins the Old; his system of atheism is a thousand times better composed and Edition: current; Page: [132] reasoned than those of Straton and of Epicurus. We have need of the most profound sagacity to answer to the arguments by which he endeavors to prove that one substance cannot form another.

Like yourself, I detest this book, which I perhaps understand better than you, and to which you have very badly replied; but have you discovered that this book has changed the face of the world? Has any preacher lost a florin of his income by the publication of the works of Spinoza? Is there a bishop whose rents have diminished? On the contrary, their revenues have doubled since his time: all the ill is reduced to a small number of peaceable readers, who have examined the arguments of Spinoza in their closets, and have written for or against them works but little known.

For yourselves, it is of little consequence to have caused to be printed ad usum Delphini, the atheism of Lucretius—as you have already been reproached with doing—no trouble, no scandal, has ensued from it: so leave Spinoza to live in peace in Holland. Lucretius was left in repose at Rome.

But if there appears among you any new book, the ideas of which shock your own—supposing you have any—or of which the author may be of a party contrary to yours—or what is worse, of which the author may not be of any party at all—then you cry out “Fire!” and let all be noise, scandal, and uproar in your small corner of the earth. There is an abominable man who has printed that if we had Edition: current; Page: [133] no hands we could not make shoes nor stockings. Devotees cry out, furred doctors assemble, alarms multiply from college to college, from house to house, and why? For five or six pages, about which there no longer will be a question at the end of three months. Does a book displease you? refute it. Does it tire you? read it not.

Oh! say you to me, the books of Luther and Calvin have destroyed the Roman Catholic religion in one-half of Europe? Why say not also, that the books of the patriarch Photius have destroyed this Roman religion in Asia, Africa, Greece, and Russia?

You deceive yourself very grossly, when you think that you have been ruined by books. The empire of Russia is two thousand leagues in extent, and there are not six men who are aware of the points disputed by the Greek and Latin Church. If the monk Luther, John Calvin, and the vicar Zuinglius had been content with writing, Rome would yet subjugate all the states that it has lost; but these people and their adherents ran from town to town, from house to house, exciting the women, and were maintained by princes. Fury, which tormented Amata, and which, according to Virgil, whipped her like a top, was not more turbulent. Know, that one enthusiastic, factious, ignorant, supple, vehement Capuchin, the emissary of some ambitious monks, preaching, confessing, communicating, and caballing, will much sooner overthrow a province than a hundred authors can enlighten it. Edition: current; Page: [134] It was not the Koran which caused Mahomet to succeed: it was Mahomet who caused the success of the Koran.

No! Rome has not been vanquished by books; it has been so by having caused Europe to revolt at its rapacity; by the public sale of indulgences; for having insulted men, and wishing to govern them like domestic animals; for having abused its power to such an extent that it is astonishing a single village remains to it. Henry VIII., Elizabeth, the duke of Saxe, the landgrave of Hesse, the princes of Orange, the Condés and Colignys, have done all, and books nothing. Trumpets have never gained battles, nor caused any walls to fall except those of Jericho.

You fear books, as certain small cantons fear violins. Let us read, and let us dance—these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.


The following passage is found in the Système de la Nature,” London edition, page 84: “We ought to define life, before we reason concerning soul; but I hold it to be impossible to do so.”

On the contrary, I think a definition of life quite possible. Life is organization with the faculty of sensation. Thus all animals are said to live. Life is attributed to plants, only by a species of metaphor or catachresis. They are organized and vegetate; but being incapable of sensation, do not properly possess life.

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We may, however, live without actual sensation; for we feel nothing in a complete apoplexy, in a lethargy, or in a sound sleep without dreams; but yet possess the capacity of sensation. Many persons, it is too well known, have been buried alive, like Roman vestals, and it is what happens after every battle, especially in cold countries. A soldier lies without motion, and breathless, who, if he were duly assisted, might recover; but to settle the matter speedily, they bury him.

What is this capacity of sensation? Formerly, life and soul meant the same thing, and the one was no better understood than the other; at bottom, is it more understood at present?

In the sacred books of the Jews, soul is always used for life.

“Dixit etiam Deus, producant aquæ reptile animæ viventis.” (And God said, let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature which hath a living soul.)

Creavit Deus cete grandia, et omnem animam viventem, atque motabilem quam produxerant aquæ. (And God created great dragons (tannitiim), and every living soul that moveth, which the waters brought forth.) It is difficult to explain the creation of these watery dragons, but such is the text, and it is for us to submit to it.

Producat terra animam viventem in genere suo, jumenta et reptilia.” (Let the earth produce the living soul after its kind, cattle and creeping things.)

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“Et in quibus est anima vivens, ad vescendum.” (And to everything wherein there is a living soul [every green herb], for meat.)

“Et inspiravit in faciem ejus spiraculum vitæ, et factus est homo in animam viventem. (And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.)

Sanguinem enim animarum vestrarum requiram de manu cunctarum betiarum, et de manu hominis,” etc. (I shall require back your souls from the hands of man and beast.)

Souls here evidently signify lives. The sacred text certainly did not mean that beasts had swallowed the souls of men, but their blood, which is their life; and as to the hands given by this text to beasts, it signifies their claws.

In short, more than two hundred passages may be quoted in which the soul is used for the life, both of beasts and man; but not one which explains either life or soul.

If life be the faculty of sensation, whence this faculty? In reply to this question, all the learned quote systems, and these systems are destructive of one another. But why the anxiety to ascertain the source of sensation? It is as difficult to conceive the power which binds all things to a common centre as to conceive the cause of animal sensation. The direction of the needle towards the pole, the paths of comets, and a thousand other phenomena are equally incomprehensible.

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Properties of matter exist, the principle of which will never be known to us; and that of sensation, without which there cannot be life, is among the number.

Is it possible to live without experiencing sensation? No. An infant which dies in a lethargy that has lasted from its birth has existed, but not lived.

Let us imagine an idiot unable to form complex ideas, but who possesses sensation; he certainly lives without thinking, forming simple ideas from his sensations. Thought, therefore, is not necessary to life, since this idiot has lived without thinking.

Hence, certain thinkers think that thought is not of the essence of man. They maintain that many idiots who think not, are men; and so decidedly men as to produce other men, without the power of constructing a single argument.

The doctors who maintain the essentiality of thought, reply that these idiots have certain ideas from their sensation. Bold reasoners rejoin, that a well-taught mind possesses more consecutive ideas, and is very superior to these idiots, whence has sprung a grand dispute upon the soul, of which we shall speak—possibly at too great a length—in the article on “Soul.”


There are so many kinds of love, that in order to define it, we scarcely know which to direct our attention to. Some boldly apply the name of “love” Edition: current; Page: [138] to a caprice of a few days, a connection without attachment, passion without affection, the affectations of cicisbeism, a cold usage, a romantic fancy, a taste speedily followed by a distaste. They apply the name to a thousand chimeras.

Should any philosophers be inclined profoundly to investigate a subject in itself so little philosophical, they may recur to the banquet of Plato, in which Socrates, the decent and honorable lover of Alcibiades and Agathon, converses with them on the metaphysics of love.

Lucretius speaks of it more as a natural philosopher; and Virgil follows the example of Lucretius. Amor omnibus idem.”

It is the embroidery of imagination on the stuff of nature. If you wish to form an idea of love, look at the sparrows in your garden; behold your doves; contemplate the bull when introduced to the heifer; look at that powerful and spirited horse which two of your grooms are conducting to the mare that quietly awaits him, and is evidently pleased at his approach; observe the flashing of his eyes, notice the strength and loudness of his neighings, the boundings, the curvetings, the ears erect, the mouth opening with convulsive gaspings, the distended nostrils, the breath of fire, the raised and waving mane, and the impetuous movement with which he rushes towards the object which nature has destined for him; do not, however, be jealous of his happiness; but reflect on the advantages of the human species; Edition: current; Page: [139] they afford ample compensation in love for all those which nature has conferred on mere animals—strength, beauty, lightness, and rapidity.

There are some classes, however, even of animals totally unacquainted with sexual association. Fishes are destitute of this enjoyment. The female deposits her millions of eggs on the slime of the waters, and the male that meets them passes over them and communicates the vital principle, never consorting with, or perhaps even perceiving the female to whom they belong.

The greater part of those animals which copulate are sensible of the enjoyment only by a single sense; and when appetite is satisfied, the whole is over. No animal, besides man, is acquainted with embraces; his whole frame is susceptible; his lips particularly experience a delight which never wearies, and which is exclusively the portion of his species; finally, he can surrender himself at all seasons to the endearments of love, while mere animals possess only limited periods. If you reflect on these high pre-eminences, you will readily join in the earl of Rochester’s remark, that love would impel a whole nation of atheists to worship the divinity.

As men have been endowed with the talent of perfecting whatever nature has bestowed upon them, they have accordingly perfected the gift of love. Cleanliness, personal attention, and regard to health render the frame more sensitive, and consequently increase its capacity of gratification. All the other Edition: current; Page: [140] amiable and valuable sentiments enter afterwards into that of love, like the metals which amalgamate with gold; friendship and esteem readily fly to its support; and talents both of body and of mind are new and strengthening bonds.

  • Nam facit ipsa suis interdum femina factis,
  • Morigerisque modis, et mundo corpore cultu
  • Ut facile insuescat secum vir degere vitam.
  • Lucretius, iv, 1275.

Self-love, above all, draws closer all these various ties. Men pride themselves in the choice they have made; and the numberless illusions that crowd around constitute the ornament of the work, of which the foundation is so firmly laid by nature.

Such are the advantages possessed by man above the various tribes of animals. But, if he enjoys delights of which they are ignorant, howe many vexations and disgusts, on the other hand, is he exposed to, from which they are free! The most dreadful of these is occasioned by nature’s having poisoned the pleasures of love and sources of life over three-quarters of the world by a terrible disease, to which man alone is subject; nor is it with this pestilence as with various other maladies, which are the natural consequences of excess. It was not introduced into the world by debauchery. The Phrynes and Laises, the Floras and Messalinas, were never attacked by it. It originated in islands where mankind dwelt together in innocence, and has thence been spread throughout the Old World.

If nature could in any instance be accused of Edition: current; Page: [141] despising her own work, thwarting her own plan, and counteracting her own views, it would be in this detestable scourge which has polluted the earth with horror and shame. And can this, then, be the best of all possible worlds? What! if Cæsar and Antony and Octavius never had this disease, was it not possible to prevent Francis the First from dying of it? No, it is said; things were so ordered all for the best; I am disposed to believe it; but it is unfortunate for those to whom Rabelais has dedicated his book.

Erotic philosophers have frequently discussed the question, whether Héloïse could truly love Abelard after he became a monk and mutilated? One of these states much wronged the other.

Be comforted, however, Abelard, you were really beloved; imagination comes in aid of the heart. Men feel a pleasure in remaining at table, although they can no longer eat. Is it love? is it simply recollection? is it friendship? It is a something compounded of all these. It is a confused feeling, resembling the fantastic passions which the dead retained in the Elysian Fields. The heroes who while living had shone in the chariot races, guided imaginary chariots after death. Héloïse lived with you on illusions and supplements. She sometimes caressed you, and with so much the more pleasure as, after vowing at Paraclet that she would love you no more, her caresses were become more precious to her in proportion as they had become more culpable. Edition: current; Page: [142] A woman can never form a passion for a eunuch, but she may retain her passion for her lover after his becoming one, if he still remains amiable.

The case is different with respect to a lover grown old in the service; the external appearance is no longer the same; wrinkles affright, grizzly eyebrows repel, decaying teeth disgust, infirmities drive away; all that can be done or expected is to have the virtue of being a patient and kind nurse, and bearing with the man that was once beloved, all which amounts to—burying the dead.


The disputes that have occurred about the love of God have kindled as much hatred as any theological quarrel. The Jesuits and Jansenists have been contending for a hundred years as to which party loved God in the most suitable and appropriate manner, and which should at the same time most completely harass and torment their neighbor.

When the author of “Telemachus,” who was in high reputation at the court of Louis XIV., recommended men to love God in a manner which did not happen to coincide with that of the author of the “Funeral Orations,” the latter, who was a complete master of the weapons of controversy, declared open war against him, and procured his condemnation in the ancient city of Romulus, where God was the very object most loved, after domination, ease, luxury, pleasure, and money.

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If Madame Guyon had been acquainted with the story of the good old woman, who brought a chafingdish to burn paradise, and a pitcher of water to extinguish hell, that God might be loved for Himself alone, she would not perhaps have written so much as she did. She must inevitably have felt that she could herself never say anything better than that; but she loved God and nonsense so sincerely that she was imprisoned for four months, on account of her affectionate attachment; treatment decidedly rigorous and unjust. Why punish as a criminal a woman whose only offence was composing verse in the style of the Abbé Cotin, and prose in the taste of the popular favorite Punchinello? It is strange that the author of “Telemachus” and the frigid loves of Eucharis should have said in his “Maxims of Saints,” after the blessed Francis de Sales: “I have scarcely any desires; but, were I to be born again, I should not have any at all. If God came to me, I would also go to Him; if it were not His will to come to me, I would stay where I was, and not go to Him.”

His whole work turns upon this proposition. Francis de Sales was not condemned, but Fénelon was. Why should that have been? the reason is, that Francis de Sales had not a bitter enemy at the court of Turin, and that Fénelon had one at Versailles.

The most sensible thing that was written upon this mystical controversy is to be found perhaps in Edition: current; Page: [144] Boileau’s satire, “On the Love of God,” although that is certainly by no means his best work.

  • Qui fait exactement ce que, ma loi commande,
  • A pour moi, dit ce Dieu, l’amour que je demande.
  • F.p. xii. 99.
  • Attend exactly to my law’s command,
  • Such, says this God, the worship I demand.

If we must pass from the thorns of theology to those of philosophy, which are not so long and are less piercing, it seems clear that an object may be loved by any one without any reference to self, without any mixture of interested self-love. We cannot compare divine things to earthly ones, or the love of God to any other love. We have an infinity of steps to mount above our grovelling human inclinations before we can reach that sublime love. Since, however, we have nothing to rest upon except the earth, let us draw our comparisons from that. We view some masterpiece of art, in painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, or eloquence; we hear a piece of music that absolutely enchants our ears and souls; we admire it, we love it, without any return of the slightest advantage to ourselves from this attachment; it is a pure and refined feeling; we proceed sometimes so far as to entertain veneration or friendship for the author; and were he present should cordially embrace him.

This is almost the only way in which we can explain our profound admiration and the impulses of our heart towards the eternal architect of the world. We survey the work with an astonishment made up Edition: current; Page: [145] of respect and a sense of our own nothingness, and our heart warms and rises as much as possible towards the divine artificer.

But what is this feeling? A something vague and indeterminate—an impression that has no connection with our ordinary affections. A soul more susceptible than another, more withdrawn from worldly business and cares, may be so affected by the spectacle of nature as to feel the most ardent as well as pious aspirations towards the eternal Lord who formed it. Could such an amiable affection of the mind, could so powerful a charm, so strong an evidence of feeling, incur censure? Was it possible in reality to condemn the affectionate and grateful disposition of the archbishop of Cambray? Notwithstanding the expressions of St. Francis de Sales, above given, he adhered steadily to this assertion, that the author may be loved merely and simply for the beauty of his works. With what heresy could he be reproached? The extravagances of style of a lady of Montargis, and a few unguarded expressions of his own, were not a little injurious to him.

Where was the harm that he had done? Nothing at present is known about the matter. This dispute, like numberless others, is completely annihilated. Were every dogmatist to say to himself: “A few years hence no one will care a straw for my dogmas,” there would be far less dogmatizing in the world than there is! Ah! Louis the Fourteenth! Louis the Fourteenth! when two men of genius had Edition: current; Page: [146] departed so far from the natural scope and direction of their talents, as to write the most obscure and tiresome works ever written in your dominions, how much better would it have been to have left them to their own wranglings!

  • Pour finir tous ces débats-là,
  • Tu n’avais qu’ à les laisser faire.
  • To end debates in such a tone
  • ’Twas but to leave the men alone.

It is observable under all the articles of morality and history, by what an invisible chain, by what unknown springs, all the ideas that disturb our minds and all the events that poison our days are bound together and brought to co-operate in the formation of our destinies. Fénelon dies in exile in consequence of holding two or three mystical conversations with a pious but fanciful woman. Cardinal Bouillon, nephew of the great Turenne, is persecuted in consequence of not himself persecuting at Rome the archbishop of Cambray, his friend: he is compelled to quit France, and he also loses his whole fortune.

By a like chain of causes and effects, the son of a solicitor at Vire detects, in a dozen of obscure phrases of a book printed at Amsterdam, what is sufficient to fill all the dungeons of France with victims; and at length, from the depth of those dungeons arises a cry for redress and vengeance, the echo of which lays prostrate on the earth an able and tyrannical society which had been established by an ignorant madman.

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If the love called Socratic and Platonic is only a becoming sentiment, it is to be applauded; if an unnatural license, we must blush for Greece.

It is as certain as the knowledge of antiquity can well be, that Socratic love was not an infamous passion. It is the word “love” which has deceived the world. Those called the lovers of a young man were precisely such as among us are called the minions of our princes—honorable youths attached to the education of a child of distinction, partaking of the same studies and the same military exercises—a warlike and correct custom, which has been perverted into nocturnal feasts and midnight orgies.

The company of lovers instituted by Laius was an invincible troop of young warriors, bound by oath each to preserve the life of any other at the expense of his own. Ancient discipline never exhibited anything more fine.

Sextus Empiricus and others have boldly affirmed that this vice was recommended by the laws of Persia. Let them cite the text of such a law; let them exhibit the code of the Persians; and if such an abomination be even found there, still I would disbelieve it, and maintain that the thing was not true, because it is impossible. No; it is not in human nature to make a law which contradicts and outrages nature itself—a law which would annihilate mankind, if it were literally observed. Moreover, I will Edition: current; Page: [148] show you the ancient law of the Persians as given in the “Sadder.” It says, in article or gate 9, that the greatest sin must not be committed. It is in vain that a modern writer seeks to justify Sextus Empiricus and pederasty. The laws of Zoroaster, with which he is unacquainted, incontrovertibly prove that this vice was never recommended to the Persians. It might as well be said that it is recommended to the Turks. They boldly practise it, but their laws condemn it.

How many persons have mistaken shameful practices, which are only tolerated in a country, for its laws. Sextus Empiricus, who doubted everything, should have doubted this piece of jurisprudence. If he had lived in our days, and witnessed the proceedings of two or three young Jesuits with their pupils, would he have been justified in the assertion that such practices were permitted by the institutes of Ignatius Loyola?

It will be permitted to me here to allude to the Socratic love of the reverend father Polycarp, a Carmelite, who was driven away from the small town of Gex in 1771, in which place he taught religion and Latin to about a dozen scholars. He was at once their confessor, tutor, and something more. Few have had more occupations, spiritual and temporal. All was discovered; and he retired into Switzerland, a country very distant from Greece.

The monks charged with the education of youth have always exhibited a little of this tendency, Edition: current; Page: [149] which is a necessary consequence of the celibacy to which the poor men are condemned.

This vice was so common at Rome that it was impossible to punish a crime which almost every one committed. Octavius Augustus, that murderer, debauchee, and coward, who exiled Ovid, thought it right in Virgil to sing the charms of Alexis. Horace, his other poetical favorite, constructed small odes on Ligurinus; and this same Horace, who praised Augustus for reforming manners, speak in his satires in much the same way of both boys and girls. Yet the ancient law “Scantinia,” which forbade pederasty, always existed, and was put in force by the emperor Philip, who drove away from Rome the boys who made a profession of it. If, however, Rome had witty and licentious students, like Petronius, it had also such preceptors as Quintilian; and attend to the precautions he lays down in his chapter of “The Preceptor,” in order to preserve the purity of early youth. “Cavendum non solum crimine turpitudinis, sed etiam suspicione.” We must not only beware of a shameful crime but even of the suspicion of it. To conclude, I firmly believe that no civilized nation ever existed which made formal laws against morals.

Observations by Another Hand.

We may be permitted to make a few additional reflections on an odious and disgusting subject, which however, unfortunately, forms a part of the history of opinions and manners.

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This offence may be traced to the remotest periods of civilization. Greek and Roman history in particular allows us not to doubt it. It was common before people formed regular societies, and were governed by written laws.

The latter fact is the reason that the laws have treated it with so much indulgence. Severe laws cannot be proposed to a free people against a vice, whatever it may be, which is common and habitual. For a long time many of the German nations had written laws which admitted of composition and murder. Solon contented himself with forbidding these odious practices between the citizens and slaves. The Athenians might perceive the policy of this interdiction, and submit to it; especially as it operated against the slaves only, and was enacted to prevent them from corrupting the young free men. Fathers of families, however lax their morals, had no motive to oppose it.

The severity of the manners of women in Greece, the use of public baths, and the passion for games in which men appeared altogether naked, fostered this turpitude, notwithstanding the progress of society and morals. Lycurgus, by allowing more liberty to the women, and by certain other institutions, succeeded in rendering this vice less common in Sparta than in the other towns of Greece.

When the manners of a people become less rustic, as they improve in arts, luxury, and riches, if they retain their former vices, they at least endeavor to Edition: current; Page: [151] veil them. Christian morality, by attaching shame to connections between unmarried people, by rendering marriage indissoluble, and proscribing concubinage by ecclesiastical censures, has rendered adultery common. Every sort of voluptuousness having been equally made sinful, that species is naturally preferred which is necessarily the most secret; and thus, by a singular contradiction, absolute crimes are often made more frequent, more tolerated, and less shameful in public opinion, than simple weaknesses. When the western nations began a course of refinement, they sought to conceal adultery under the veil of what is called gallantry. Then men loudly avowed a passion in which it was presumed the women did not share. The lovers dared demand nothing; and it was only after more than ten years of pure love, of combats and victories at tournaments that a cavalier might hope to discover a moment of weakness in the object of his adoration. There remains a sufficient number of records of these times to convince us that the state of manners fostered this species of hypocrisy. It was similar among the Greeks, when they had become polished. Connections between males were not shameful; young people united themselves to each other by oaths, but it was to live and die for their country. It was usual for a person of ripe age to attach himself to a young man in a state of adolescence, ostensibly to form, instruct, and guide him; and the passion which mingled in these friendships was a sort of love—but Edition: current; Page: [152] still innocent love. Such was the veil with which public decency concealed vices which general opinion tolerated.

In short, in the same manner as chivalric gallantry is often made a theme for eulogy in modern society, as proper to elevate the soul and inspire courage, was it common among the Greeks to eulogize that love which attached citizens to each other.

Plato said that the Thebans acted laudably in adopting it, because it was necessary to polish their manners, supply greater energy to their souls and to their spirits, which were benumbed by the nature of their climate. We perceive by this, that a virtuous friendship alone was treated of by Plato. Thus, when a Christian prince proclaimed a tournament, at which every one appeared in the colors of his mistress, it was with the laudable intention of exciting emulation among its knights, and to soften manners; it was not adultery, but gallantry, that he would encourage within his dominions. In Athens, according to Plato, they set bounds to their toleration. In monarchical states, it was politic to prevent these attachments between men, but in republics they materially tended to prevent the double establishment of tyranny. In the sacrifice of a citizen, a tyrant knew not whose vengeance he might arm against himself, and was liable, without ceasing, to witness conspiracies grow out of the resolutions which this ambiguous affection produced among men.

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In the meantime, in spite of ideas so remote from our sentiments and manners, this practice was regarded as very shameful among the Greeks, every time it was exhibited without the excuse of friendship or political ties. When Philip of Macedon saw extended on the field of battle of Chæronea, the soldiers who composed the sacred battalion or band of friends at Thebes, all killed in the ranks in which they had combated: “I will never believe,” he exclaimed, “that such brave men have committed or suffered anything shameful.” This expression from a man himself soiled with this infamy furnishes an indisputable proof of the general opinion of Greece.

At Rome, this opinion was still stronger. Many Greek heroes, regarded as virtuous men, have been supposed addicted to the vice; but among the Romans it was never attributed to any of those characters in whom great virtue was acknowledged. It only seems, that with these two nations no idea of crime or even dishonor was attached to it unless carried to excess, which renders even a passion for women disgraceful. Pederasty is rare among us, and would be unknown, but for the defects of public education.

Montesquieu pretends that it prevails in certain Mahometan nations, in consequence of the facility of possessing women. In our opinion, for “facility” we should read “difficulty.”

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In a country where all the inhabitants went bare-footed, could luxury be imputed to the first man who made a pair of shoes for himself? Or rather, was he not a man of sense and industry?

Is it not just the same with him who procured the first shirt? With respect to the man who had it washed and ironed, I consider him as an absolute genius, abundant in resources, and qualified to govern a state. Those however who were not used to wear clean shirts, considered him as a rich, effeminate coxcomb who was likely to corrupt the nation.

“Beware of luxury,” said Cato to the Romans; “you have conquered the province of Phasis, but never eat any pheasants. You have subjugated the country in which cotton grows; still however continue to sleep on the bare ground. You have plundered the gold, and silver, and jewels of innumerable nations, but never become such fools as to use them. After taking everything, remain destitute of everything. Highway robbers should be virtuous and free.”

Lucullus replied, “You should rather wish, my good friend, that Crassus, and Pompey, and Cæsar, and myself should spend all that we have taken in luxury. Great robbers must fight about the division of the spoil; but Rome will inevitably be enslaved, and it will be enslaved by one or other of us much Edition: current; Page: [155] more speedily, and much more securely, if we place that value upon money that you do, than if we spend it in superfluities and pleasures. Wish that Pompey and Cæsar may so far impoverish themselves as not to have money enough to pay the armies.”

Not long since a Norwegian was upbraiding a Dutchman with luxury. “Where now,” says he, “are the happy times when a merchant, quitting Amsterdam for the great Indies, left a quarter of smoked beef in his kitchen and found it untouched on his return? Where are your wooden spoons and iron forks? Is it not shameful for a sensible Dutchman to sleep in a bed of damask?”

“Go to Batavia,” replied the Amsterdammer; “gain, as I have done, ten tons of gold; and then see if you have not some inclination to be well clothed, well fed, and well lodged.”

Since this conversation, twenty volumes have been written about luxury, and these books have neither increased nor diminished it.


Luxury has been declaimed against for the space of two thousand years, both in verse and prose; and yet it has been always liked.

What has not been said of the Romans? When, in the earlier periods of their history, these banditti ravaged and carried off their neighbor’s harvests; when, in order to augment their own wretched village, they destroyed the poor villages of the Volsci Edition: current; Page: [156] and Samnites, they were, we are told, men disinterested and virtuous. They could not as yet, be it remembered, carry away gold, and silver; and jewels, because the towns which they sacked and plundered had none; nor did their woods and swamps produce partridges or pheasants; yet people, forsooth, extol their temperance!

When, by a succession of violences, they had pillaged and robbed every country from the recesses of the Adriatic to the Euphrates, and had sense enough to enjoy the fruit of their rapine; when they cultivated the arts, and tasted all the pleasures of life, and communicated them also to the nations which they conquered; then, we are told, they ceased to be wise and good.

All such declamations tend just to prove this—that a robber ought not to eat the dinner he has taken, nor wear the habit he has stolen, nor ornament his finger with the ring he has plundered from another. All this, it is said, should be thrown into the river, in order to live like good people; but how much better would it be to say, never rob—it is your duty not to rob? Condemn the brigands when they plunder; but do not treat them as fools or madmen for enjoying their plunder. After a number of English sailors have obtained their prize money for the capture of Pondicherry, or Havana, can they be blamed for purchasing a little pleasure in London, in return for the labor and pain they have suffered in the uncongenial climes of Asia or America?

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The declaimers we have mentioned would wish men to bury the riches that might be accumulated by the fortune of war, or by agriculture, commerce, and industry in general. They cite Lacedæmon; why do they not also cite the republic of San Marino? What benefit did Sparta do to Greece? Had she ever a Demosthenes, a Sophocles, an Apelles, or a Phidias? The luxury of Athens formed great men of every description. Sparta had certainly some great captains, but even these in a smaller number than other cities. But allowing that a small republic like Lacedæmon may maintain its poverty, men uniformly die, whether they are in want of everything, or enjoying the various means of rendering life agreeable. The savage of Canada subsists and attains old age, as well as the English citizen who has fifty thousand guineas a year. But who will ever compare the country of the Iroquois to England?

Let the republic of Ragusa and the canton of Zug enact sumptuary laws; they are right in so doing. The poor must not expend beyond their means; but I have somewhere read, that if partially injurious, luxury benefits a great nation upon the whole.

  • Sachez surtout que le luxe enrichit
  • Un grand état, s’il en perd un petit.

If by luxury you mean excess, we know that excess is universally pernicious, in abstinence as well as gluttony, in parsimony or profusion. I know not Edition: current; Page: [158] how it has happened, that in my own village, where the soil is poor and meagre, the imposts heavy, and the prohibition against a man’s exporting the corn he has himself sown and reaped, intolerable, there is hardly a single cultivator who is not well clothed, and who has not an ample supply of warmth and food. Should this cultivator go to plough in his best clothes and with his hair dressed and powdered, there would in that case exist the greatest and most absurd luxury; but were a wealthy citizen of Paris or London to appear at the play in the dress of this peasant, he would exhibit the grossest and most ridiculous parsimony.

  • Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines,
  • Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum.
  • Horace, i. sat. i. v. 106.
  • Some certain mean in all things may be found,
  • To mark our virtues, and our vices, bound.
  • Francis.

On the invention of scissors, which are certainly not of the very highest antiquity, what was not said of those who pared their nails and cut off some of their hair that was hanging down over their noses? They were undoubtedly considered as prodigals and coxcombs, who bought at an extravagant price an instrument just calculated to spoil the work of the Creator. What an enormous sin to pare the horn which God Himself made to grow at our fingers’ ends! It was absolutely an insult to the Divine Being Himself. When shirts and socks were invented, Edition: current; Page: [159] it was far worse. It is well known with what wrath and indignation the old counsellors, who had never worn socks, exclaimed against the young magistrates who encouraged so dreadful and fatal a luxury.


What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions, and to reason correctly from them? Let the wisest man, if he would understand madness, attend to the succession of his ideas while he dreams. If he be troubled with indigestion during the night, a thousand incoherent ideas torment him; it seems as if nature punished him for having taken too much food, or for having injudiciously selected it, by supplying involuntary conceptions; for we think but little during sleep, except when annoyed by a bad digestion. Unquiet dreams are in reality a transient madness.

Madness is a malady which necessarily hinders a man from thinking and acting like other men. Not being able to manage property, the madman is withheld from it; incapable of ideas suitable to society, he is shut out from it; if he be dangerous, he is confined altogether; and if he be furious, they bind him. Sometimes he is cured by baths, by bleeding, and by regimen.

This man is not, however, deprived of ideas; he frequently possesses them like other men, and often Edition: current; Page: [160] when he sleeps. We might inquire how the spiritual and immortal soul, lodged in his brain, receives all its ideas correctly and distinctly, without the capacity of judgment. It perceives objects, as the souls of Aristotle, of Plato, of Locke, and of Newton, perceived them. It hears the same sounds, and possesses the same sense of feeling—how therefore, receiving impressions like the wisest, does the soul of the madman connect them extravagantly, and prove unable to disperse them?

If this simple and eternal substance enjoys the same properties as the souls which are lodged in the sagest brains, it ought to reason like them. Why does it not? If my madman sees a thing red, while the wise men see it blue; if when my sages hear music, my madman hears the braying of an ass; if when they attend a sermon, he imagines himself to be listening to a comedy; if when they understand yes, he understands no; then I conceive clearly that his soul ought to think contrary to theirs. But my madman having the same perceptions as they have, there is no apparent reason why his soul, having received all the necessary materials, cannot make a proper use of them. It is pure, they say, and subject to no infirmity; behold it provided with all the necessary assistance; nothing which passes in the body can change its essence; yet it is shut up in a close carriage, and conveyed to Charenton.

This reflection may lead us to suspect that the faculty of thought, bestowed by God upon man, is Edition: current; Page: [161] subject to derangement like the other senses. A madman is an invalid whose brain is diseased, while the gouty man is one who suffers in his feet and hands. People think by means of the brain, and walk on their feet, without knowing anything of the source of either this incomprehensible power of walking, or the equally incomprehensible power of thinking; besides, the gout may be in the head, instead of the feet. In short, after a thousand arguments, faith alone can convince us of the possibility of a simple and immaterial substance liable to disease.

The learned may say to the madman: “My friend, although deprived of common sense, thy soul is as pure, as spiritual, and as immortal, as our own; but our souls are happily lodged, and thine not so. The windows of its dwelling are closed; it wants air, and is stifled.”

The madman, in a lucid interval, will reply to them: “My friends, you beg the question, as usual. My windows are as wide open as your own, since I can perceive the same objects and listen to the same sounds. It necessarily follows that my soul makes a bad use of my senses; or that my soul is a vitiated sense, a depraved faculty. In a word, either my soul is itself diseased, or I have no soul.”

One of the doctors may reply: “My brother, God has possibly created foolish souls, as well as wise ones.”

The madman will answer: “If I believed what Edition: current; Page: [162] you say, I should be a still greater madman than I am. Have the kindness, you who know so much, to tell me why I am mad?”

Supposing the doctors to retain a little sense, they would say: “We know nothing about the matter.”

Neither are they more able to comprehend how a brain possesses regular ideas, and makes a due use of them. They call themselves sages, and are as weak as their patient.

If the interval of reason of the madman lasts long enough, he will say to them: “Miserable mortals, who neither know the cause of my malady, nor how to cure it! Tremble, lest ye become altogether like me, or even still worse than I am! You are not of the highest rank, like Charles VI. of France, Henry VI. of England, and the German emperor Wincenslaus, who all lost their reason in the same century. You have not nearly so much wit as Blaise Pascal, James Abadie, or Jonathan Swift, who all became insane. The last of them founded a hospital for us; shall I go there and retain places for you?”

N. B. I regret that Hippocrates should have prescribed the blood of an ass’s colt for madness; and I am still more sorry that the “Manuel des Dames” asserts that it may be cured by catching the itch. Pleasant prescriptions these, and apparently invented by those who were to take them!

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Magic is a more plausible science than astrology and the doctrine of genii. As soon as we began to think that there was in man a being quite distinct from matter, and that the understanding exists after death, we gave this understanding a fine, subtile, aerial body, resembling the body in which it was lodged. Two quite natural reasons introduced this opinion; the first is, that in all languages the soul was called spirit, breath, wind. This spirit, this breath, this wind, was therefore very fine and delicate. The second is, that if the soul of a man had not retained a form similar to that which it possessed during its life, we should not have been able after death to distinguish the soul of one man from that of another. This soul, this shade, which existed, separated from its body, might very well show itself upon occasion, revisit the place which it had inhabited, its parents and friends, speak to them and instruct them. In all this there is no incompatibility.

As departed souls might very well teach those whom they came to visit the secret of conjuring them, they failed not to do so; and the word “Abraxa,” pronounced with some ceremonies, brought up souls with whom he who pronounced it wished to speak. I suppose an Egyptian saying to a philosopher: “I descend in a right line from the magicians of Pharaoh, who changed rods into serpents, and the waters of the Nile into blood; one of Edition: current; Page: [164] my ancestors married the witch of Endor, who conjured up the soul of Samuel at the request of Saul; she communicated her secrets to her husband, who made her the confidant of his own; I possess this inheritance from my father and mother; my genealogy is well attested; I command the spirits and elements.”

The philosopher, in reply, will have nothing to do but to demand his protection; for if disposed to deny and dispute, the magician will shut his mouth by saying: “You cannot deny the facts; my ancestors have been incontestably great magicians, and you doubt it not; you have no reason to believe that I am inferior to them, particularly when a man of honor like myself assures you that he is a sorcerer.”

The philosopher, to be sure, might say to him: “Do me the pleasure to conjure up a shade; allow me to speak to a soul; change this water into blood, and this rod into a serpent.”

The magician will answer: “I work not for philosophers; but I have shown spirits to very respectable ladies, and to simple people who never dispute; you should at least believe that it is very possible for me to have these secrets, since you are forced to confess that my ancestors possessed them. What was done formerly can be done now; and you ought to believe in magic without my being obliged to exercise my art before you.”

These reasons are so good that all nations have had sorcerers. The greatest sorcerers were paid by Edition: current; Page: [165] the state, in order to discover the future clearly in the heart and liver of an ox. Why, therefore, have others so long been punished with death? They have done more marvellous things; they should, therefore, be more honored; above all, their power should be feared. Nothing is more ridiculous than to condemn a true magician to be burned; for we should presume that he can extinguish the fire and twist the necks of his judges. All that we can do is to say to him: “My friend, we do not burn you as a true sorcerer, but as a false one; you boast of an admirable art which you possess not; we treat you as a man who utters false money; the more we love the good, the more severely we punish those who give us counterfeits; we know very well that there were formerly venerable conjurors, but we have reason to believe that you are not one, since you suffer yourself to be burned like a fool.”

It is true, that the magician so pushed might say: “My conscience extends not so far as to extinguish a pile without water, and to kill my judges with words. I can only call up spirits, read the future, and change certain substances into others; my power is bounded; but you should not for that reason burn me at a slow fire. It is as if you caused a physician to be hanged who could cure fever, and not a paralysis.”

The judges might, however, still reasonably observe: “Show us then some secret of your art, or consent to be burned with a good grace.”

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I will suppose that a fair princess who never heard speak of anatomy is ill either from having eaten or danced too much, or having done too much of what several princesses occasionally do. I suppose the following controversy takes place:


Madam, for your health to be good, it is necessary for your cerebrum and cerebellum to distribute a fine, well-conditioned marrow, in the spine of your back down to your highness’s rump; and that this marrow should equally animate fifteen pairs of nerves, each right and left. It is necessary that your heart should contract and dilate itself with a constantly equal force; and that all the blood which it forces into your arteries should circulate in all these arteries and veins about six hundred times a day. This blood, in circulating with a rapidity which surpasses that of the Rhone, ought to dispose on its passage of that which continually forms the lymph, urine, bile, etc., of your highness—of that which furnishes all these secretions, which insensibly render your skin soft, fresh, and fair, that without them would be yellow, gray, dry, and shrivelled, like old parchment.


Well, sir, the king pays you to attend to all this: fail not to put all things in their place, and to make Edition: current; Page: [167] my liquids circulate so that I may be comfortable. I warn you that I will not suffer with impunity.


Madam, address your orders to the Author of nature. The sole power which made millions of planets and comets to revolve round millions of suns has directed the course of your blood.


What! are you a physician, and can you prescribe nothing?


No, madam; we can only take away from, we can add nothing to nature. Your servants clean your palace, but the architect built it. If your highness has eaten greedily, I can cleanse your entrails with cassia, manna, and pods of senna; it is a broom which I introduce to cleanse your inside. If you have a cancer, I must cut off your breast, but I cannot give you another. Have you a stone in your bladder? I can deliver you from it. I can cut off a gangrened foot, leaving you to walk on the other. In a word, we physicians perfectly resemble teethdrawers, who extract a decayed tooth, without the power of substituting a sound one, quacks as they are.


You make me tremble; I believed that physicians cured all maladies.

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We infallibly cure all those which cure themselves. It is generally, and with very few exceptions, with internal maladies as with external wounds. Nature alone cures those which are not mortal. Those which are so will find no resource in it.


What! all these secrets for purifying the blood, of which my ladies have spoken to me; this Baume de Vie of the Sieur de Lievre; these packets of the Sieur Arnauld; all these pills so much praised by femmes de chambre


Are so many inventions to get money, and to flatter patients, while nature alone acts.


But there are specifics?


Yes, madam, like the water of youth in romances.


In what, then, consists medicine?


I have already told you, in cleaning and keeping in order the house which we cannot rebuild.


There are, however, salutary things, and others hurtful?

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You have guessed all the secret. Eat moderately that which you know by experience will agree with you. Nothing is good for the body but what is easily digested. What medicine will best assist digestion? Exercise. What best recruit your strength? Sleep. What will diminish incurable ills? Patience. What change a bad constitution? Nothing. In all violent maladies, we have only the recipe of Molière, seipnare, purgare”; and, if we will, “clisterium donare.” There is not a fourth. All, I have told you amounts only to keeping a house in order, to which we cannot add a peg. All art consists in adaptation.


You puff not your merchandise. You are an honest man. When I am queen, I will make you my first physician.


Let nature be your first physician. It is she who made all. Of those who have lived beyond a hundred years, none were of the faculty. The king of France has already buried forty of his physicians, as many chief physicians, besides physicians of the establishment, and others.


And, truly, I hope to bury you also.

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To know the natural philosophy of the human race, it is necessary to read works of anatomy, or rather to go through a course of anatomy.

To be acquainted with the man we call “moral,” it is above all necessary to have lived and reflected. Are not all moral works contained in these words of Job? “Man that is born of a woman hath but a few days to live, and is full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth as a shadow, and continueth not.”

We have already seen that the human race has not above two-and-twenty years to live, reckoning those who die at their nurses’ breasts, and those who for a hundred years drag on the remains of a miserable and imbecile life.

It is a fine apologue, that ancient fable of the first man who was at first destined to live twenty years at most, and who reduced it to five years by estimating one life with another. The man was in despair, and had near him a caterpillar, a butterfly, a peacock, a horse, a fox, and an ape.

“Prolong my life,” said he to Jupiter; “I am more worthy than these animals; it is just that I and my family should live long to command all beasts.” “Willingly,” said Jupiter; “but I have only a certain number of days to divide among the whole of the beings to whom I have granted life. I can only give to thee by taking away from others; Edition: current; Page: [171] for imagine not, that because I am Jupiter, I am infinite and all-powerful; I have my nature and my limits. Now I will grant thee some years more, by taking them from these six animals, of which thou art jealous, on condition that thou shalt successively assume their manner of living. Man shall first be a caterpillar, dragging himself along in his earliest infancy. Until fifteen, he shall have the lightness of a butterfly; in his youth, the vanity of a peacock. In manhood he must undergo the labors of a horse. Towards fifty, he shall have the tricks of a fox; and in his old age, be ugly and ridiculous like an ape. This, in general, is the destiny of man.”

Remark further, that notwithstanding these bounties of Jupiter, the animal man has still but two or three and twenty years to live, at most. Taking mankind in general, of this a third must be taken away for sleep, during which we are in a certain sense dead; thus there remain fifteen, and from these fifteen we must take at least eight for our first infancy, which is, as it has been called, the vestibule of life. The clear product will be seven years, and of these seven years the half at least is consumed in grief of all kinds. Take three years and a half for labor, fatigue, and dissatisfaction, and we shall have none remaining. Well, poor animal, will you still be proud?

Unfortunately, in this fable Jupiter forgot to dress this animal as he clothed the ass, horse, peacock, and even the caterpillar. Man had only his Edition: current; Page: [172] bare skin, which, continually exposed to the sun, rain, and hail, became chapped, tanned, and spotted. The male in our continent was disfigured by spare hairs on his body, which rendered him frightful without covering him. His face was hidden by these hairs. His skin became a rough soil which bore a forest of stalks, the roots of which tended upwards, and the branches of which grew downwards. It was in this state and in this image, that this animal ventured to paint God, when in course of time he learned the art of description.

The female being more weak, became still more disgusting and frightful in her old age; and, in short, without tailors, and mantua-makers, one-half of mankind would never have dared to show itself to the other. Yet, before having clothes, before even knowing how to speak, some ages must have passed away—a truth which has been proved, but which must be often repeated.

It is a little extraordinary that we should have harassed an innocent, estimable man of our time, the good Helvetius, for having said that if men had not hands, they could not build houses and work tapestry. Apparently, those who have condemned this proposition, have discovered a secret for cutting stones and wood, and working at the needle with their feet.

I liked the author of the work “On Mind.” This man was worth more than all his enemies together; but I never approved either the errors of his book, Edition: current; Page: [173] or the trivial truths which he so emphatically enforced. I have, however, boldly taken his part when absurd men have condemned him for these same truths.

I have no terms to express the excess of my contempt for those who, for example’s sake, would magisterially proscribe this passage: “The Turks can only be considered deists.” How then, pedant! would you have them regarded as atheists, because they adore only one God!

You condemn this other proposition: “The man of sense knows that men are what they must be; that all hatred against them is unjust; that a fool commits fooleries as a wild stock bears bitter fruits.”

So, crabbed stocks of the schools, you persecute a man because he hates you not! Let us, however, leave the schools, and pursue our subject.

Reason, industrious hands, a head capable of generalizing ideas, a language pliant enough to express them—these are great benefits granted by the Supreme Being to man, to the exclusion of other animals.

The male in general lives rather a shorter time than the female. He is also generally larger in proportion. A man of the loftiest stature is commonly two or three inches higher than the tallest woman.

His strength is almost always superior; he is more active; and having all his organs stronger, he is more capable of a fixed attention. All arts have been invented by him, and not by woman. We Edition: current; Page: [174] should remark, that it is not the fire of imagination, but persevering meditation and combination of ideas which have invented arts, as mechanics, gunpowder, printing, dialling, etc.

Man alone knows that he must die, and knows it only by experience. A child brought up alone, and transported into a desert island, would dream of death no more than a plant or a cat.

A singular man has written that the human body is a fruit, which is green until old age, and that the moment of death is that of maturity. A strange maturity, ashes and putrefaction! The head of this philosopher was not ripe. How many extravagances has the rage for telling novelties produced?

The principal occupations of our race are the provision of food, lodging, and clothing; all the rest are nearly accessory; and it is this poor accessory which has produced so many ravages and murders.

Different Races of Men.

We have elsewhere seen how many different races of men this globe contains, and to what degrees the first negro and the first white who met were astonished at one another.

It is likely enough that several weakly species of men and animals have perished. It is thus that we no longer discover any of the murex, of which the species has probably been devoured by other animals who several ages after visited the shores inhabited by this little shellfish.

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St. Jerome, in his “History of the Father of the Desert,” speaks of a centaur who had a conversation with St. Anthony the hermit. He afterwards gives an account of a much longer discourse that the same Anthony had with a satyr.

St. Augustine, in his thirty-third sermon, addressed “To his Brothers in the Desert,” tell things as extraordinary as Jerome. “I was already bishop of Hippo, when I went into Ethiopia with some servants of Christ, there to preach the gospel. In this country we saw many men and women without heads, who had two great eyes in their breasts. In countries still more southerly, we saw a people who had but one eye in their foreheads,” etc.

Apparently, Augustine and Jerome then spoke “with economy;” they augmented the works of creation to raise greater admiration of the works of God. They sought to astonish men by fables, to render them more submissive to the yoke of faith.

We can be very good Christians without believing in centaurs, men without heads, or with only one eye, one leg, etc. But can we doubt that the interior structure of a negro may be different to that of a white, since the mucous netted membrane beneath the skin is white in the one, and black in the other? I have already told you so, but you are deaf.

The Albinos and the Darians—the first originally of Africa, and the second of the middle of America—are as different from us as from the negroes. There are yellow, red, and gray races. We have already Edition: current; Page: [176] seen that all the Americans are without beards or hair on their bodies, except the head and eyebrows. All are equally men, but only as a fir, an oak, and a pear tree are equally trees; the pear tree comes not from the fir, nor the fir from the oak.

But whence comes it, that in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, in an island named Otaheite, the men are bearded? It is to ask why we are so, while the Peruvians, Mexicans, and Canadians are not. It is to ask, why apes have tails, and why nature has refused us an ornament which, at least among us, is an extreme rarity.

The inclinations and characters of men differ as much as their climates and governments. It has never been possible to compose a regiment of Laplanders and Samoyeds, whilst the Siberians, their neighbors, become intrepid soldiers.

Neither can you make good grenadiers of a poor Darian or an Albino. It is not because they have partridge eyes, or that their hair and eyebrows are like the finest and whitest silk; but it is because their bodies, and consequently their courage, partake of the most extreme weakness. There is none but a blind man, and even an obstinate blind man, who can deny the existence of all these different species. It is as great and remarkable as that of apes.

That All Races of Men Have Constantly Lived in Society.

All the men whom we have discovered in the most uncultivated and frightful countries herd together Edition: current; Page: [177] like beavers, ants, bees, and several other species of animals.

We have never seen countries in which they lived separate; or in which the male only joined with the female by chance, and abandoned her the moment after in disgust; or in which the mother estranged herself from her children, after having brought them up; or in which human beings lived without family and society. Some poor jesters have abused their understandings so far as to hazard the astonishing paradox, that man is originally created to live alone, and that it is society which has depraved his nature. They might as well say that herrings were created to swim alone in the sea; and that it is by an excess of corruption, that they pass in a troop from the Frozen Ocean to our shores; that formerly cranes flew in the air singly, and that, by a violation of their natural instinct, they have subsequently chosen to travel in company.

Every animal has its instinct, and the instinct of man, fortified by reason, disposes him towards society, as towards eating and drinking. So far from the want of society having degraded man, it is estrangement from society which degrades him. Whoever lived absolutely alone, would soon lose the faculty of thinking and expressing himself; he would be a burden to himself, and it would only remain to metamorphose him into a beast. An excess of powerless pride, which rises up against the pride of others, may induce a melancholy man to fly from his Edition: current; Page: [178] fellows; but it is a species of depravity, and punishes itself. That pride is its own punishment, which frets itself into solitude and secretly resents being despised and forgotten. It is enduring the most horrible slavery, in order to be free.

We have enlarged the bounds of ordinary folly so far as to say that it is not natural for a man to be attached to a woman during the nine months of her pregnancy. The appetite is satisfied, says the author of these paradoxes; the man has no longer any want of woman, nor the woman of man; and the latter need not have the least care, nor perhaps the least idea of the effects of the transient intercourse. They go different ways, and there is no appearance, until the end of nine months, that they have ever been known to one another. Why should he help her after her delivery? Why assist to bring up a child whom he cannot instinctively know belongs to him alone?

All this is execrable; but happily nothing is more false. If this barbarous indifference was the true instinct of nature, mankind would always have acted thus. Instinct is unchangeable, its inconsistencies are very rare; the father would always abandon the mother, and the mother would abandon her child. There would have been much fewer men on earth than voracious animals; for the wild beasts better provided and better armed, have a more prompt instinct, more sure means of living, and a more certain nourishment than mankind.

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Our nature is very different from the frightful romance which this man, possessed of the devil, has made of it. Except some barbarous souls entirely brutish, or perhaps a philosopher more brutal still, the roughest man, by a prevailing instinct, loves the child which is not yet born, the womb which bears it; and the mother redoubles her love for him from whom she has received the germ of a being similar to himself.

The instinct of the colliers of the Black Forest speaks to them as loudly, and animates them as strongly in favor of their children as the instinct of pigeons and nightingales induces them to feed their little ones. Time has therefore been sadly lost in writing these abominable absurdities.

The great fault of all these paradoxical books lies in always supposing nature very different from what it is. If the satires on man and woman written by Boileau were not pleasantries, they would sin in the essential point of supposing all men fools and all women coquettes.

The same author, an enemy to society, like the fox without a tail who would have his companions cut off theirs, thus in a magisterial style expresses himself:

“The first who, having enclosed an estate, took upon himself to say: ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of society. What crimes, wars, murders, miseries, and horrors, might have been spared to Edition: current; Page: [180] mankind if some one, seizing the stakes, or filling up the pit, had cried to his companions: ‘Take care how you listen to this impostor; you are lost if you forget that the fruits are common to all, and that the earth belongs to nobody!’ ”

Thus, according to this fine philosopher, a thief, a destroyer, would have been the benefactor of mankind, and we should punish an honest man who says to his children: “Let us imitate our neighbor; he has enclosed his field, the beasts will no longer ravage it, his land will become more fertile; let us work ours as he has labored his; it will aid us, and we shall improve it. Each family cultivating its own enclosure, we shall be better fed, more healthy, more peaceable, and less unhappy. We will endeavor to establish a distributive justice, which will console our unhappy race; and we shall be raised above the foxes and polecats, to whom this babbler would compare us.”

Would not this discourse be more sensible and honest than that of the savage fool who would destroy the good man’s orchard? What philosophy therefore is that which says things that common sense disclaims from China to Canada? Is it not that of a beggar, who would have all the rich robbed by the poor, in order that fraternal union might be better established among men?

It is true, that if all the hedges, forests, and plains were covered with wholesome and delicious fruits, Edition: current; Page: [181] it would be impossible, unjust, and ridiculous, to guard them.

If there are any islands in which nature produces food and all necessaries without trouble, let us go and live there, far from the trash of our laws; but as soon as you have peopled them, we must return to meum and tuum, and to laws which are often very bad, but which we cannot rationally abolish.

Is Man Born Wicked?

Is it not demonstrated that man is not born perverse and the child of the devil? If such was his nature, he would commit enormous crimes and barbarities as soon as he could walk; he would use the first knife he could find, to wound whoever displeased him. He would necessarily resemble little wolves and foxes, who bite as soon as they can.

On the contrary, throughout the world, he partakes of the nature of the lamb, while he is an infant. Why, therefore, and how is it, that he so often becomes a wolf and fox? Is it not that, being born neither good nor wicked, education, example, the government into which he is thrown—in short, occasion of every kind—determines him to virtue or vice?

Perhaps human nature could not be otherwise. Man could not always have false thoughts, nor always true affections; be always sweet, or always cruel.

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It is demonstrable that woman is elevated beyond men in the scale of goodness. We see a hundred brothers enemies to each other, to one Clytemnestra.

There are professions which necessarily render the soul pitiless—those of the soldier, the butcher, the officer of justice, and the jailer; and all trades which are founded on the annoyance of others.

The officer, the soldier, the jailer, for example, are only happy in making others miserable. It is true, they are necessary against malefactors, and so far useful to society; but of a thousand men of the kind, there is not one who acts from the motive of the public good, or who even reflects that it is a public good.

It is above all a curious thing to hear them speak of their prowess as they count the number of their victims; their snares to entrap them, the ills which they have made them suffer, and the money which they have got by it.

Whoever has been able to descend to the subaltern detail of the bar; whoever has only heard lawyears reason familiarly among themselves, and applaud themselves for the miseries of their clients, must have a very poor opinion of human nature.

There are more frightful possessions still, which are, however, canvassed for like a canonship. There are some which change an honest man into a rogue, and which accustom him to lie in spite of himself, to deceive almost without perceiving it, to put a blind before the eyes of others, to prostrate himself Edition: current; Page: [183] by the interest and vanity of his situation, and without remorse to plunge mankind into stupid blindness.

Women, incessantly occupied with the education of their children, and shut up in their domestic cares, are excluded from all these professions, which pervert human nature and render it atrocious. They are everywhere less barbarous than men.

Physics join with morals to prevent them from great crimes; their blood is milder; they are less addicted to strong liquors, which inspire ferocity. An evident proof is, that of a thousand victims of justice in a thousand executed assassins, we scarcely reckon four women. It is also proved elsewhere, I believe, that in Asia there are not two examples of women condemned to a public punishment. It appears, therefore, that our customs and habits have rendered the male species very wicked.

If this truth was general and without exceptions, the species would be more horrible than spiders, wolves, and polecats are to our eyes. But happily, professions which harden the heart and fill it with odious passions, are very rare. Observe, that in a nation of twenty millions, there are at most two hundred thousand soldiers. This is but one soldier to two hundred individuals. These two hundred thousand soldiers are held in the most severe discipline, and there are among them very honest people, who return to their villages and finish their old age as good fathers and husbands.

The number of other trades which are dangerous Edition: current; Page: [184] to manners, is but small. Laborers, artisans, and artists are too much occupied often to deliver themselves up to crime. The earth will always bear detestable wretches, and books will always exaggerate the number, which, rather than being greater, is less than we say.

If mankind had been under the empire of the devil, there would be no longer any person upon earth. Let us console ourselves: we have seen, and we shall always see, fine minds from Pekin to la Rochelle; and whatever licentiates and bachelors may say, the Tituses, Trajans, Antoninuses, and Peter Bayles were very honest men.

Of Man in the State of Pure Nature.

What would man be in the state which we call that of pure nature? An animal much below the first Iroquois whom we found in the north of America. He would be very inferior to these Iroquois, since they knew how to light fires and make arrows. He would require ages to arrive at these two arts.

Man, abandoned to pure nature, would have, for his language, only a few inarticulate sounds; the species would be reduced to a very small number, from the difficulty of getting nourishment and the want of help, at least in our harsh climates. He would have no more knowledge of God and the soul, than of mathematics; these ideas would be lost in the care of procuring food. The race of beavers would be infinitely preferable.

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Man would then be only precisely like a robust child; and we have seen many men who are not much above that state, as it is. The Laplanders, the Samoyeds, the inhabitants of Kamchatka, the Kaffirs, and Hottentots are—with respect to man in a state of pure nature—that which the courts of Cyrus and Semiramis were in comparison with the inhabitants of the Cévennes. Yet the inhabitants of Kamchatka and the Hottentots of our days, so superior to men entirely savage, are animals who live six months of the year in caverns, where they eat the vermin by which they are eaten.

In general, mankind is not above two or three degrees more civilized than the Kamchatkans. The multitude of brute beasts called men, compared with the little number of those who think, is at least in the proportion of a hundred to one in many nations.

It is pleasant to contemplate on one side, Father Malebranche, who treats familiarly of “the Word”; and on the other, these millions of animals similar to him, who have never heard speak of “the Word,” and who have not one metaphysical idea.

Between men of pure instinct and men of genius floats this immense number occupied solely with subsisting.

This subsistence costs us so much pains, that in the north of America an image of God often runs five or six leagues to get a dinner; whilst among us the image of God bedews the ground with the sweat of his brow, in order to procure bread.

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Add to this bread—or the equivalent—a hut, and a poor dress, and you will have man such as he is in general, from one end of the universe to the other: and it is only in a multitude of ages that he has been able to arrive at this high degree of attainment.

Finally, after other ages, things got to the point at which we see them. Here we represent a tragedy in music; there we kill one another on the high seas of another hemisphere, with a thousand pieces of cannon. The opera and a ship of war of the first rank always astonish my imagination. I doubt whether they can be carried much farther in any of the globes with which the heavens are studded. More than half the habitable world, however, is still peopled with two-footed animals, who live in the horrible state approaching to pure nature, existing and clothing themselves with difficulty, scarcely enjoying the gift of speech, scarcely perceiving that they are unfortunate, and living and dying almost without knowing it.

Examination of a Thought of Pascal on Man.

“I can conceive a man without hands or feet, and I could even conceive him without a head, if experience taught me not that it is with the head he thinks. It is therefore thought which makes the being of man, without which we cannot conceive him.”—(Thoughts of Pascal.)

How! conceive a man, without feet, hands, and head? This would be as different a thing from a man as a gourd.

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If all men were without heads, how could yours conceive that there are animals like yourselves, since they would have nothing of what principally constitutes your being? A head is something; the five senses are contained in it, and thought also. An animal, which from the nape of its neck downwards might resemble a man, or one of those apes which we call ourang-outang or the man of the woods, would no more be a man than an ape or a bear whose head and tail were cut off.

It is therefore thought which makes the being of a man. In this case, thought would be his essence, as extent and solidity are the essence of matter. Man would think essentially and always, as matter is always extended and solid. He would think in a profound sleep without dreams, in a fit, in a lethargy, in the womb of his mother. I well know that I never thought in any of these states; I confess it often; and I doubt not that others are like myself.

If thought was as essential to man as extent is to matter, it would follow that God cannot deprive this animal of understanding, since he cannot deprive matter of extent—for then it would be no longer matter. Now, if understanding be essential to man, he is a thinking being by nature, as God is God by nature.

If desirous to define God, as such poor beings as ourselves can define Him, I should say, that thought is His being, His essence; but as to man—!

We have the faculties of thinking, walking, talking, Edition: current; Page: [188] eating, and sleeping, but we do not always use these faculties, it is not in our nature.

Thought, with us, is it not an attribute? and so much an attribute that it is sometimes weak, sometimes strong, sometimes reasonable, and sometimes extravagant? It hides itself, shows itself, flies, returns, is nothing, is reproduced. Essence is quite another thing; it never varies; it knows nothing of more or less.

What, therefore, would be the animal supposed by Pascal? A being of reason. He might just as well have supposed a tree to which God might have given thought, as it is said that the gods granted voices to the trees of Dodona.

Operation of God on Man.

People who have founded systems on the communication of God with man have said that God acts directly physically on man in certain cases only, when God grants certain particular gifts; and they have called this action “physical premotion.” Diocles and Erophiles, those two great enthusiasts, maintain this opinion, and have partisans.

Now we recognize a God quite as well as these people, because we cannot conceive that any one of the beings which surround us could be produced of itself. By the fact alone that something exists, the necessary Eternal Being must be necessarily the cause of all. With these reasoners, we admit the possibility of God making himself understood to Edition: current; Page: [189] some favorites; but we go farther, we believe that He makes Himself understood by all men, in all places, and in all times, since to all he gives life, motion, digestion, thought, and instinct.

Is there in the vilest of animals, and in the most sublime philosophers, a being who can will motion, digestion, desire, love, instinct, or thought? No; but we act, we love, we have instincts; as for example, an invincible liking to certain objects, an insupportable aversion to others, a promptitude to execute the movements necessary to our preservation, as those of sucking the breasts of our nurses, swimming when we are strong and our bosoms large enough, biting our bread, drinking, stooping to avoid a blow from a stone, collecting our force to clear a ditch, etc. We accomplish a thousand such actions without thinking of them, though they are all profoundly mathematical. In short, we think and feel without knowing how.

In good earnest, is it more difficult for God to work all within us by means of which we are ignorant, than to stir us internally sometimes, by the efficacious grace of Jupiter, of which these gentlemen talk to us unceasingly?

Where is the man who, when he looks into himself, perceives not that he is a puppet of Providence? I think—but can I give myself a thought? Alas! if I thought of myself, I should know what ideas I might entertain the next moment—a thing which nobody knows.

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I acquire a knowledge, but I could not give it to myself. My intelligence cannot be the cause of it; for the cause must contain the effect: Now, my first acquired knowledge was not in my understanding; being the first, it was given to me by him who formed me, and who gives all, whatever it may be.

I am astonished, when I am told that my first knowledge cannot alone give me a second; that it must contain it.

The proof that we give ourselves no ideas is that we receive them in our dreams; and certainly, it is neither our will nor attention which makes us think in dreams. There are poets who make verses sleeping; geometricians who measure triangles. All proves to us that there is a power which acts within us without consulting us.

All our sentiments, are they not involuntary? Hearing, taste, and sight are nothing by themselves. We feel, in spite of ourselves: we do nothing of ourselves: we are nothing without a Supreme Power which enacts all things.

The most superstitious allow these truths, but they apply them only to people of their own class. They affirm that God acts physically on certain privileged persons. We are more religious than they; we believe that the Great Being acts on all living things, as on all matter. Is it therefore more difficult for Him to stir all men than to stir some of them? Will God be God for your little sect alone? He is equally so for me, who do not belong to it.

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A new philosopher goes further than you; it seemed to him that God alone exists. He pretends that we are all in Him; and we say that it is God who sees and acts in all that has life. “Jupiter est quodcumque vides; quodcumque moveris.”

To proceed. Your physical premotion introduces God acting in you. What need have you then of a soul? Of what good is this little unknown and incomprehensible being? Do you give a soul to the sun, which enlightens so many globes? And if this star so great, so astonishing, and so necessary, has no soul, why should man have one? God who made us, does He not suffice for us? What, therefore, is become of the axiom? Effect not that by many, which can be accomplished by one.

This soul, which you have imagined to be a substance, is therefore really only a faculty, granted by the Great Being, and not by a person. It is a property given to our organs, and not a substance. Man, his reason uncorrupted by metaphysics, could never imagine that he was double; that he was composed of two beings, the one mortal, visible, and palpable—the other immortal, invisible, and impalpable. Would it not require ages of controversy to arrive at this expedient of joining together two substances so dissimilar; tangible and intangible, simple and compound, invulnerable and suffering, eternal and fleeting?

Men have only supposed a soul by the same error which made them suppose in us a being called Edition: current; Page: [192] memory, which being they afterwards made a divinity.

They made this memory the mother of the Muses; they embodied the various talents of nature in so many goddesses, the daughters of memory. They also made a god of the secret power by which nature forms the blood of animals, and called it the god of sanguification. The Roman people indeed had similar gods for the faculties of eating and drinking, for the act of marriage, for the act of voiding excrements. They were so many particular souls, which produced in us all these actions. It was the metaphysics of the populace. This shameful and ridiculous superstition was evidently derived from that which imagined in man a small divine substance, different from man himself.

This substance is still admitted in all the schools; and with condescension we grant to the Great Being, to the Eternal Maker, to God, the permission of joining His concurrence to the soul. Thus we suppose, that for will and deed, both God and our souls are necessary.

But to concur signifies to aid, to participate. God therefore is only second with us; it is degrading Him; it is putting Him on a level with us, or making Him play the most inferior part. Take not from Him His rank and pre-eminence: make not of the Sovereign of Nature the mere servant of mankind.

Two species of reasoners, well credited in the Edition: current; Page: [193] world—atheists and theologians—will oppose our doubts.

The atheists will say, that in admitting reason in man and instinct in brutes, as properties, it is very useless to admit a God into this system; that God is still more incomprehensible than a soul; that it is unworthy a sage to believe that which he conceives not. They let fly against us all the arguments of Straton and Lucretius. We will answer them by one word only: “You exist; therefore there is a God.”

Theologians will give us more trouble. They will first tell us: “We agree with you that God is the first cause of all; but He is not the only one.” A high priest of Minerva says expressly: “The second agent operates by virtue of the first; the first induces a second; the second involves a third; all are acting by virtue of God, and He is the cause of all actions acting.”

We will answer, with all the respect we owe to this high priest: “There is, and there can only exist, one true cause. All the others, which are subsequent, are but instruments. I discover a spring—I make use of it to move a machine; I discovered the spring and made the machine. I am the sole cause. That is undoubted.”

The high priest will reply: “You take liberty away from men.” I reply: “No; liberty consists in the faculty of willing, and in that of doing what you will, when nothing prevents you. God has made Edition: current; Page: [194] man upon these conditions, and he must be contented with them.”

My priest will persist, and say, that we make God the author of sin. Then we shall answer him: “I am sorry for it; but God is made the author of sin in all systems, except in that of the atheists. For if He concurs with the actions of perverse men, as with those of the just, it is evident that to concur is to do, since He who concurs is also the creator of all.”

If God alone permits sin, it is He who commits it; since to permit and to do is the same thing to the absolute master of all. If He foresees that men will do evil, he should not form men. We have never eluded the force of these ancient arguments; we have never weakened them. Whoever has produced all, has certainly produced good and evil. The system of absolute predestination, the doctrine of concurrence, equally plunge us into this labyrinth, from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

All that we can say is, that evil is for us, and not for God. Nero assassinates his preceptor and his mother; another murders his relations and neighbors; a high priest poisons, strangles, and beheads twenty Roman lords, on rising from the bed of his daughter. This is of no more importance to the Being, the Universal Soul of the World, than sheep eaten by the wolves or by us, or than flies devoured by spiders. There is no evil for the Great Being; to Him it is only the play of the great machine which Edition: current; Page: [195] incessantly moves by eternal laws. If the wicked become—whether during their lives or subsequently—more unhappy than those whom they have sacrificed to their passions; if they suffer as they have made others suffer, it is still an inevitable consequence of the immutable laws by which the Great Being necessarily acts. We know but a very small part of these laws; we have but a very weak portion of understanding; we have only resignation in our power. Of all systems, is not that which makes us acquainted with our insignificance the most reasonable? Men—as all philosophers of antiquity have said—made God in their own image; which is the reason why the first Anaxagoras, as ancient as Orpheus, expresses himself thus in his verses: “If the birds figured to themselves a God, he would have wings; that of horses would run with four legs.”

The vulgar imagine God to be a king, who holds his seat of justice in his court. Tender hearts represent him as a father who takes care of his children. The sage attributes to Him no human affection. He acknowledges a necessary eternal power which animates all nature, and resigns himself to it.

General Reflection on Man.

It requires twenty years to raise man from the state of a plant, in which he abides in his mother’s womb, and from the pure animal state, which is the lot of his earliest infancy, to that in which the maturity of reason begins to dawn. He has required Edition: current; Page: [196] thirty ages to become a little acquainted with his own bodily structure. He would require eternity to become acquainted with his soul. He requires but an instant to kill himself.



I once met with a reasoner who said: “Induce your subjects to marry as early as possible. Let them be exempt from taxes the first year; and let their portion be assessed on those who at the same age are in a state of celibacy.

“The more married men you have, the fewer crimes there will be. Examine the frightful columns of your criminal calendars; you will there find a hundred youths executed for one father of a family.

“Marriage renders men more virtuous and more wise. The father of a family is not willing to blush before his children; he is afraid to make shame their inheritance.

“Let your soldiers marry, and they will no longer desert. Bound to their families, they will be bound to their country. An unmarried soldier is frequently nothing but a vagabond, to whom it matters not whether he serves the king of Naples or the king of Morocco.”

The Roman warriors were married: they fought for their wives and their children; and they made Edition: current; Page: [197] slaves of the wives and the children of other nations.

A great Italian politician, who was, besides, learned in the Eastern tongues, a thing rare among our politicians, said to me in my youth: Caro figlio,” remember that the Jews never had but one good institution—that of abhorring virginity. If that little nation of superstitious jobbers had not regarded marriage as the first of the human obligations—if there had been among them convents of nuns—they would have been inevitably lost.”

The Marriage Contract.

Marriage is a contract in the law of nations, of which the Roman Catholics have made a sacrament.

But the sacrament and the contract are two very different things; with the one are connected the civil effects, with the other the graces of the church.

So when the contract is conformable to the law of nations, it must produce every civil effect. The absence of the sacrament can operate only in the privation of spiritual graces.

Such has been the jurisprudence of all ages, and of all nations, excepting the French. Such was the opinion of the most accredited fathers of the Church. Go through the Theodosian and Justinian codes, and you will find no law proscribing the marriages of persons of another creed, not even when contracted between them and Catholics.

It is true, that Constantius—that son of Constantine Edition: current; Page: [198] as cruel as his father—forbade the Jews, on pain of death, to marry Christian women; and that Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius made the same prohibition, under the like penalty, to the Jewish women. But under the emperor Marcian these laws had ceased to be observed; and Justinian rejected them from his code. Besides, they were made against the Jews only; no one ever thought of applying them to the marriage of pagans or heretics with the followers of the prevailing religion.

Consult St. Augustine, and he will tell you that in his time the marriages of believers with unbelievers were not considered illicit, because no gospel text had condemned them: Quæ matrimonia cum in fidelibus, nostris temporibus, jam non putantur esse peccata; quoniam in Novo Testamento nihil inde preceptum est, et ideo aut licere creditum est, aut velut dubium derelictum.”

Augustine says, moreover, that these marriages often work the conversion of the unbelieving party. He cites the example of his own father, who embraced the Christian religion because his wife, Manica, professed Christianity. Clotilda, by the conversion of Clovis, and Theolinda, by that of Agilulf, king of the Lombards, rendered greater service to the Church than if they had married orthodox princes.

Consult the declaration of Pope Benedict XIV. of Nov. 4, 1741. You will find in it these words: “Quod vero spectat ad ea conjugia quæ, absque Edition: current; Page: [199] forma a Tridentino statuta, contrahuntur a catholicis cum hæreticis, sive catholicus vir hæriticam feminam ducat, sive catholica fæmina heretico viro nubat; si hujusmodi matrimonium sit contractum aut in posterum contracti contingat, Tridentini forma non servata, declarat Sanctitas sua, alio non concurrente impedimento, validum habendum esse, sciat conjux catholicus se istius matrimonii vinculo perpetuo ligatum.”—“With respect to such marriages as, transgressing the enactment of the Council of Trent, are contracted by Catholics with heretics; whether by a Catholic man with a heretical woman, or by a Catholic woman with a heretical man; if such matrimony already is, or hereafter shall be contracted, the rules of the council not being observed, his holiness declares, that if there be no other impediment, it shall be held valid, the Catholic man or woman understanding that he or she is by such matrimony bound until death.”

By what astonishing contradiction is it, that the French laws in this matter are more severe than those of the Church? The first law by which this severity was established in France was the edict of Louis XIV., of November, 1680, which deserves to be repeated.

“Louis, . . . . The canons of the councils having forbidden marriages of Catholics with heretics, as a public scandal and a profanation of the sacrament, we have deemed it the more necessary to prevent them for the future, as we have found that the toleration Edition: current; Page: [200] of such marriages exposes Catholics to the continual temptation of perverting it, etc. For these causes, . . . . it is our will and pleasure, that in future our subjects of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic religion may not, under any pretext whatsoever, contract marriage with those of the pretended reformed religion, declaring such marriages to be invalid, and the issue of them illegitimate.”

It is singular enough, that the laws of the Church should have been made the foundation for annulling marriages which the Church never annulled. In this edict we find the sacrament confounded with the civil contract; and from this confusion have proceeded the strange laws in France concerning marriage.

St. Augustine approved marriages of the orthodox with heretics, for he hoped that the faithful spouse would convert the other; and Louis XIV. condemns them, lest the heterodox should pervert the believer.

In Franche-Comté there exists a yet more cruel law. This is an edict of the archduke Albert and his wife Isabella, of Dec. 20, 1599, which forbids Catholics to marry heretics, on pain of confiscation of body and goods.

The same edict pronounces the same penalty on such as shall be convicted of eating mutton on Friday or Saturday. What laws! and what law-givers!—A quels maîtres, grand Dieu, livrez-vous l’univers!”

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If our laws reprove marriages of Catholics with persons of a different religion, do they grant the civil effects at least to marriages of French Protestants with French persons of the same sect?

There are now in the kingdom a million of Protestants; yet the validity of their marriage is still a question in the tribunals.

Here again is one of those cases in which our jurisprudence is contradictory to the decisions of the Church, and also to itself.

In the papal declaration, quoted in the foregoing section, Benedict XIV. decides that marriages of Protestants, contracted according to their rites, are no less valid than if they had been performed according to the forms established by the Council of Trent; and that a husband who turns Catholic cannot break this tie and form a new one with a person of his new religion.

Barak Levi, by birth a Jew, and a native of Haguenan, had there married Mendel Cerf, of the same town and the same religion.

This Jew came to Paris in 1752; and on May 13, 1754, he was baptized. He sent a summons to his wife at Haguenan to come and join him at Paris. In a second summons he consented that this wife, when she had come to join him, should continue to live in her own Jewish sect.

To these summonses Mendel Cerf replied that she would not return with him, and that she required Edition: current; Page: [202] him to send her, according to the Jewish forms, a bill of divorce, in order that she might marry another Jew.

Levi was not satisfied with this answer; he sent no bill of divorce; but he caused his wife to appear before the official of Strasburg, who, by a sentence of Sept. 7, 1754, declared that, in the sight of the Church, he was at liberty to marry a Catholic woman.

Furnished with this sentence, the Christianized Jew came into the diocese of Soissons, and there made promise of marriage to a young woman of Villeneuve. The clergyman refused to publish the banns. Levi communicated to him the summonses he had sent to his wife, the sentence of the official of Strasburg, and a certificate from the secretary of the bishopric of that place, attesting, that in that diocese baptized Jews had at all times been permitted to contract new marriages with Catholics, and that this usage had constantly been recognized by the Supreme Council of Colmar. But these documents appeared to the parson of Villeneuve to be insufficient. Levi was obliged to summon him before the official of Soissons.

This official did not think, like him of Strasburg, that the marriage of Levi with Mendel Cerf was null or dissoluble. By his sentence of Feb. 5, 1756, he declared the Jew’s claim to be inadmissible. The latter appealed from this sentence to the Parliament of Paris, where he was not only opposed by Edition: current; Page: [203] the public ministry, but, by a decree of Jan. 2, 1758, the sentence was confirmed, and Levi was again forbidden to contract any marriage during the life of Mendel Cerf.

Here, then, a marriage contracted between French Jews, according to the Jewish rites, was declared valid by the first court in the kingdom.

But, some years afterwards, the same question was decided differently in another parliament, on the subject of a marriage contracted between two French Protestants, who had been married in the presence of their parents by a minister of their own communion. The Protestant spouse had, like the Jew, changed his religion; and after he had concluded a second marriage with a Catholic, the Parliament of Grenoble confirmed this second marriage, and declared the first to be null.

If we pass from jurisprudence to legislation, we shall find it as obscure on this important matter as on so many others.

A decree of the council, of Sept. 15, 1685, says: “Protestants may marry, provided, however, that it be in the presence of the principal officer of justice, and that the publication preceding such marriages shall be made at the royal see nearest the place of abode of each of the Protestants desirous of marrying, and at the audience only.”

This decree was not revoked by the edict which, three weeks after, suppressed the Edict of Nantes. But after the declaration of May 14, 1724, drawn Edition: current; Page: [204] up by Cardinal Fleury, the judges would no longer preside over the marriages of Protestants, nor permit their banns to be published in their audiences.

By Article XV. of this law, the forms prescribed by the canons are to be observed in marriages, as well of new converts as of all the rest of the king’s subjects.

This general expression, “all the rest of the king’s subjects,” has been thought to comprehend the Protestants, as well as the Catholics, and on this interpretation, such marriages of Protestants as were not solemnized according to the canonical forms have been annulled.

Nevertheless, it seems that the marriages of Protestants having been authorized by an express law, they cannot now be admitted but by another express law carrying with it this penalty. Besides, the term “new converts,” mentioned in the declaration, appears to indicate that the term that follows relates to the Catholics only. In short, when the civil law is obscure or ambiguous, ought not the judges to decide according to the natural and the moral law?

Does it not result from all this that laws often have need of reformation, and princes of consulting better informed counsellors, rejecting priestly ministers, and distrusting courtiers in the garb of confessors?

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I must own that I know not where the author of the “Critical History of Jesus Christ” found that “St. Mary Magdalen had a criminal intimacy (des complaisances criminelles) with the Saviour of the world.” He says (page 130, line 11 of the note) that this is an assertion of the Albigenses. I have never read this horrible blasphemy either in the history of the Albigenses, or in their profession of faith. It is one of the great many things of which I am ignorant. I know that the Albigenses had the dire misfortune of not being Roman Catholics; but, otherwise, it seems to me, they had the most profound reverence for the person of Jesus.

This author of the “Critical History of Jesus Christ” refers us to the “Christiade,” a sort of poem in prose—granting that there are such things as poems in prose. I have, therefore, been obliged to consult the passage of the “Christiade” in which this accusation is made. It is in the fourth book or canto, page 335, note 1; the poet of the “Christiade” cites no authority. In an epic poem, indeed, citations may be spared; but great authorities are requisite in prose, when so grave an assertion is made—one which makes every Christian’s hair stand erect.

Whether the Albigenses advanced this impiety or not, the only result is that the author of the “Christiade” sports on the brink of criminality. He Edition: current; Page: [206] somewhat imitates the famous sermon of Menot. He introduces us to Mary Magdalen, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, brilliant with all the charms of youth and beauty, burning with every desire, and immersed in every voluptuousness. According to him, she is a lady at court, exalted in birth and in riches; her brother Lazarus was count of Bethany, and herself marchioness of Magdalet. Martha had a splendid portion, but he does not tell us where her estates lay. “She had,” says the man of the “Christiade,” “a hundred servants, and a crowd of lovers; she might have threatened the liberty of the whole world. But riches, dignities, ambitions, grandeur, never were so dear to Magdalen as the seductive error which caused her to be named the sinner. Such was the sovereign beauty of the capital when the young and divine hero arrived there from the extremities of Galilee. Her other passions yielded to the ambition of subduing the hero of whom she had heard.”

The author of the “Christiade” then imitates Virgil. The marchioness of Magdalet conjures her portioned sister to furnish her coquettish designs upon her young hero, as Dido employed her sister Anna to gain the pious Æneas.

She goes to hear Christ’s sermon in the temple, although he never preached there. “Her heart flies before her to the hero she adores; she awaits but one favorable look to triumph over him, to subdue this master of hearts and make him her captive.”

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She then goes to him at the house of Simon the Leper, a very rich man, who was giving him a grand supper, although the women were never admitted at these feastings, especially among the Pharisees. She pours a large pot of perfumes upon his legs, wipes them with her beautiful fair hair, and kisses them.

I shall not inquire whether the picture which the author draws of Magdalen’s holy transports is not more worldly than devout; whether the kisses given are not expressed rather too warmly; nor whether this fine hair with which she wipes her hero’s legs, does not remind one too strongly of Trimalcion, who, at dinner, wiped his hands with the hair of a young and beautiful slave. He must himself have felt that his pictures might be fancied too glowing; for he anticipates criticism by giving some pieces from a sermon of Massillon’s on Magdalen. One passage is as follows:

“Magdalen had sacrificed her reputation to the world. Her bashfulness and her birth at first defended her against the emotions of her passion; and it is most likely, that to the first shaft which assailed her, she opposed the barrier of her modesty and her pride; but when she had lent her ear to the serpent, and consulted her own wisdom, her heart was open to all assaults of passion. Magdalen loved the world, and thenceforward all was sacrificed to this love; neither the pride that springs from birth, nor the modesty which is the ornament Edition: current; Page: [208] of her sex, is spared in this sacrifice; nothing can withhold her; neither the railleries of worldlings, nor the infidelities of her infatuated lovers, whom she fain would please, but by whom she cannot make herself esteemed—for virtue only is estimable; nothing can make her ashamed; and like the prostitute in the “Apocalypse,” she bears on her forehead the name of mystery; that is, she was veiled, and was no longer known but in the character of the foolish passion.”

I have sought this passage in Massillon’s sermons, but it certainly is not in the edition which I possess. I will venture to say more—it is not in his style.

The author of the “Christiade” should have informed us where he picked up this rhapsody of Massillon’s, as he should have told us where he read that the Albigenses dared to impute to Jesus Christ an unworthy intercourse with Mary Magdalen.

As for the marchioness, she is not again mentioned in the work. The author spares us her voyage to Marseilles with Lazarus, and the rest of her adventures.

What could induce a man of learning, and sometimes of eloquence, as the author of the “Christiade” appears to be, to compose this pretended poem? It was, as he tells us in his preface, the example of Milton; but we well know how deceitful are examples. Milton, who—be it observed—did not Edition: current; Page: [209] hazard that weakly monstrosity, a poem in prose—Milton, who in his “Paradise Lost,” has, amid the multitude of harsh and obscure lines of which it is full, scattered some very fine blank verse—could not please any but fanatical Whigs, as the Abbé Grécourt says:

  • En chantant l’univers perdu pour une pomme,
  • Et Dieu pour le damner créant le premier homme.
  • . . . . . . . . . . . By singing
  • How God made man on purpose for hell-fire,
  • And how a stolen apple damned us all.

He might delight the Presbyterians by making Sin cohabit with Death; by firing off twenty-four pounders in heaven; by making dryness fight with damp, and heat with cold; by cleaving angels in two, whose halves immediately joined again; by building a bridge over chaos; by representing the Messiah taking from a chest in heaven a great pair of compasses to describe the circuit of the earth, etc. Virgil and Horace would, perhaps, have thought these ideas rather strange. But if they succeeded in England by the aid of some very happy lines, the author of the “Christiade” was mistaken in expecting his romance to succeed without the assistance of fine verses, which are indeed very difficult to make.

But, says our author, one Jerome Vida, bishop of Alba, once wrote a very powerful Christiade in Latin verse, in which he transcribes many lines from Virgil. Well, my friend, why did you write Edition: current; Page: [210] yours in French prose? Why did not you, too, imitate Virgil?

But the late M. d’Escorbiac, of Toulouse, also wrote a Christiade. Alas! why were you so unfortunate as to become the ape of M. d’Escorbiac?

But Milton, too, wrote his romance of the New Testament, his “Paradise Regained,” in blank verse, frequently resembling the worst prose. Leave it, then, to Milton to set Satan and Jesus constantly at war. Let it be his to cause a drove of swine to be driven along by a legion of devils; that is, by six thousand seven hundred, who take possession of these swine—there being three devils and seven-twentieths per pig—and drown them in a lake. It well becomes Milton to make the devil propose to God that they shall take a good supper together. In Milton, the devil may at his ease cover the table with ortolans, partridges, soles, sturgeons, and make Hebe and Ganymede hand wine to Jesus Christ. In Milton, the devil may take God up a little hill, from the top of which he shows him the capital, the Molucca Islands, and the Indian city; the birthplace of the beauteous Angelica, who turned Orlando’s brain; after which he may offer to God all this, provided that God will adore him. But even Milton labored in vain; people have laughed at him. They have laughed at poor brother Berruyer, the Jesuit. They have laughed at you. Bear it with patience!

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Martyr, “witness”; martyrdom, testimony. The early Christian community at first gave the name of “martyrs” to those who announced new truths to mankind, who gave testimony to Jesus; who confessed Jesus; in the same manner as they gave the name of “saints” to the presbyters, to the supervisors of the community, and to their female benefactors; this is the reason why St. Jerome, in his letters, often calls his initiated Paul, St. Paul. All the first bishops were called saints.

Subsequently, the name of martyrs was given only to deceased Christians, or to those who had been tortured for punishment; and the little chapels that were erected to them received afterwards the name of “martyrion.”

It is a great question, why the Roman Empire always tolerated in its bosom the Jewish sect, even after the two horrible wars of Titus and Adrian; why it tolerated the worship of Isis at several times; and why it frequently persecuted Christianity. It is evident that the Jews, who paid dearly for their synagogues, denounced the Christians as mortal foes, and excited the people against them. It is moreover evident that the Jews, occupied with the trade of brokers and usurers, did not preach against the ancient religion of the empire, and that the Christians, who were all busy in controversy, Edition: current; Page: [212] preached against the public worship, sought to destroy it, often burned the temples, and broke the consecrated statues, as St. Theodosius did at Amasia, and St. Polyeuctus in Mitylene.

The orthodox Christians, sure that their religion was the only true one, did not tolerate any other. In consequence, they themselves were hardly tolerated. Some of them were punished and died for the faith—and these were the martyrs.

This name is so respectable that it should not be prodigally bestowed; it is not right to assume the name and arms of a family to which one does not belong. Very heavy penalties have been established against those who have the audacity to decorate themselves with the cross of Malta or of St. Louis, without being chevaliers of those orders.

The learned Dodwell, the dexterous Middleton, the judicious Blondel, the exact Tillemont, the scrutinizing Launoy, and many others, all zealous for the glory of the true martyrs, have excluded from their catalogue an obscure multitude on whom this great title had been lavished. We have remarked that these learned men were sanctioned by the direct acknowledgment of Origen, who, in his “Refutation of Celsus,” confesses that there are very few martyrs, and those at a great distance of time, and that it is easy to reckon them.

Nevertheless, the Benedictine Ruinart—who calls himself Don Ruinart, although he was no Spaniard—has contradicted all these learned persons! Edition: current; Page: [213] He has candidly given us many stories of martyrs which have appeared to the critics very suspicious. Many sensible persons have doubted various anecdotes relating to the legends recounted by Don Ruinart, from beginning to end.

1. Of Saint Symphorosia and her Seven Children.

Their scruples commence with St. Symphorosia and her seven children who suffered martyrdom with her; which appears, at first sight, too much imitated from the seven Maccabees. It is not known whence this legend comes; and that is at once a great cause of skepticism.

It is therein related that the emperor Adrian himself wished to interrogate the unknown Symphorosia, to ascertain if she was a Christian. This would have been more extraordinary than if Louis XIV. had subjected a Huguenot to an interrogatory. You will further observe that Adrian, far from being a persecutor of the Christians, was their greatest protector.

He had then a long conversation with Symphorosia, and putting himself in a passion, he said to her: “I will sacrifice you to the gods”; as if the Roman emperors sacrificed women in their devotions. In the sequel, he caused her to be thrown into the Anio—which was not a usual mode of immolation. He afterwards had one of her sons cloven in two from the top of his head to his middle; a second from side to side; a third was broken Edition: current; Page: [214] on the wheel; a fourth was only stabbed in the stomach; a fifth right to the heart; a sixth had his throat cut; the seventh died of a parcel of needles thrust into his breast. The emperor Adrian was fond of variety. He commanded that they should be buried near the temple of Hercules—although no one is ever buried in Rome, much less near the temples, which would have been a horrible profanation. The legend adds that the chief priest of the temple named the place of their interment “the Seven Biotanates.”

If it was extraordinary that a monument should be erected at Rome to persons thus treated, it was no less so that a high priest should concern himself with the inscription; and further, that this Roman priest should make a Greek epitaph for them. But what is still more strange is that it is pretended that this word “biotanates” signifies the seven tortured. “Biotanates” is a fabricated word, which one does not meet with in any author; and this signification can only be given to it by a play upon words, falsely using the word “thenon.” There is scarcely any fable worse constructed. The writers of legends knew how to lie, but none of them knew how to lie skilfully.

The learned Lacroze, librarian to Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, observed: “I know not whether Ruinart is sincere, but I am afraid he is silly.”

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2. Of St. Felicita and Seven More Children.

It is from Surius that this legend is taken. This Surius is rather notorious for his absurdities. He was a monk of the sixteenth century, who writes about the martyrs of the second as if he had been present.

He pretends that that wicked man, that tyrant, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius, ordered the prefect of Rome to institute a process against St. Felicita, to have her and her seven children put to death, because there was a rumor that she was a Christian.

The prefect held his tribunal in the Campus Martius, which, however, was at that time used only for the reviewing of troops; and the first thing the prefect did was to cause a blow to be given her in full assembly.

The long discourses of the magistrates and the accused are worthy of the historian. He finishes by putting the seven brothers to death by different punishments, like the seven children of St. Symphorosia. This is only a duplicate affair. But as for St. Felicita, he leaves her there, and does not say another word about her.

3. Of Saint Polycarp.

Eusebius relates that St. Polycarp, being informed in a dream that he should be burned in three days, made it known to his friends. The legend-maker adds that the lieutenant of police at Smyrna, Edition: current; Page: [216] whose name was Herodius, had him seized by his archers; that he was abandoned to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre; that the sky opened, and a heavenly voice cried to him: “Be of good courage, Polycarp”; that the hour of letting loose the lions in the amphitheatre having passed, the people went about collecting wood from all the houses to burn him with; that the saint addressed himself to the God of the “archangels”—although the word archangel was not then known—that the flames formed themselves round him into a triumphal arch without touching him; that his body had the smell of baked bread; but that, having resisted the fire, he could not preserve himself against a sabre-cut; that his blood put out the burning pile, and that there sprung from it a dove which flew straight to heaven. To which planet is not precisely known.

4. Of Saint Ptolomais.

We follow the order of Don Ruinart; but we have no wish to call in question the martyrdom of St. Ptolomais, which is extracted from “St. Justin’s Apology.”

We could make some difficulties with regard to the woman who was accused by her husband of being a Christian, and who baffled him by giving him a bill of divorce. We might ask why, in this history, there is no further mention of this woman? We might make it manifest that in the time of Marcus Aurelius, women were not permitted to demand Edition: current; Page: [217] divorces of their husbands; that this permission was only granted them under the emperor Julian; and that this so much repeated story of the Christian woman who repudiated her husband—while no pagan would have dared to imagine such a thing—cannot well be other than a fable. But we do not desire to raise unpleasant disputes. As for the little probability there is in the compilation of Don Ruinart, we have too much respect for the subject he treats of to start objections.

We have not made any to the “Letter of the Churches of Vienna and Lyons,” because there is still a great deal of obscurity connected with it; but we shall be pardoned for defending the memory of the great Marcus Aurelius, thus outraged in the life of “St. Symphorian of Autun,” who was probably a relation of St. Symphorosia.

5. Of St. Symphorian of Autun.

This legend, the author of which is unknown, begins thus: “The emperor Marcus Aurelius had just raised a frightful tempest against the Church, and his fulminating edicts assailed on all sides the religion of Jesus Christ, at the time when St. Symphorian lived at Autun in all the splendor that high birth and uncommon virtue can confer. He was of a Christian family, one of the most considerable of the city,” etc.

Marcus Aurelius issued no sanguinary edicts against the Christians. It is a very criminal calumny. Edition: current; Page: [218] Tillemont himself admits that “he was the best prince the Romans ever had; that his reign was a golden age; and that he verified what he often quoted from Plato, that nations would only be happy when kings were philosophers.”

Of all the emperors, this was the one who promulgated the best laws; he protected the wise, but persecuted no Christians, of whom he had a great many in his service.

The writer of the legend relates that St. Symphorian having refused to adore Cybele, the city judge inquired: “Who is this man?” Now it is impossible that the judge of Autun should not have known the most considerable person in Autun.

He was declared by the sentence to be guilty of treason, “divine and human.” The Romans never employed this formula; and that alone should deprive the pretended martyr of Autun of all credit.

In order the better to refute this calumny against the sacred memory of Marcus Aurelius, let us bring under view the discourse of Meliton, bishop of Sardis, to this best of emperors, reported verbatim by Eusebius:

“The continual succession of good fortune which has attended the empire, without its happiness being disturbed by a single disgrace, since our religion, which was born with it, has grown in its bosom, is an evident proof that it contributes eminently to its greatness and glory. Among all the emperors, Nero and Domitian alone, deceived by Edition: current; Page: [219] certain impostors, have spread calumnies against us, which, as usual, have found some partial credence among the people. But your pious ancestors have corrected the people’s ignorance, and by public edicts have repressed the audacity of those who attempted to treat us ill. Your grandfather Adrian wrote in our favor to Fundanus, governor of Asia, and to many other persons. The emperor, your father, during the period when you divided with him the cares of government, wrote to the inhabitants of Larissa, of Thessalonica, of Athens, and in short to all the people of Greece, to repress the seditions and tumults which have been excited against us.”

This declaration by a most pious, learned, and veracious bishop is sufficient to confound forever all the lies and legends which may be regarded as the Arabian tales of Christianity.

6. Of Another Saint Felicita, and of Saint Perpetua.

If it were an object to dispute the legend of Felicita and Perpetua, it would not be difficult to show how suspicious it is. These Carthaginian martyrs are only known by a writing, without date, of the church of Salzburg. Now, it is a great way from this part of Bavaria to Goletta. We are not informed under what emperor this Felicita and this Perpetua received the crown of martyrdom. The astounding sights with which this history is Edition: current; Page: [220] filled do not discover a very profound historian. A ladder entirely of gold, bordered with lances and swords; a dragon at the top of the ladder; a large garden near the dragon; sheep from which an old man drew milk; a reservoir full of water; a bottle of water whence they drank without diminishing the liquid; St. Perpetua fighting entirely naked against a wicked Egyptian; some handsome young men, all naked, who took her part; herself at last become a man and a vigorous wrestler; these are, it appears to me, conceits which should not have place in a respectable book.

There is one other reflection very important to make. It is that the style of all these stories of martyrdom, which took place at such different periods, is everywhere alike, everywhere equally puerile and bombastic. You find the same turns of expression, the same phrases, in the history of a martyr under Domitian and of another under Galerius. There are the same epithets, the same exaggerations. By the little we understand of style, we perceive that the same hand has compiled them all.

I do not here pretend to make a book against Don Ruinart; and while I always respect, admire, and invoke the true martyrs with the Holy Church, I confine myself to making it perceived, by one or two striking examples, how dangerous it is to mix what is purely ridiculous with what ought to be venerated.

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7. Of Saint Theodotus of the City of Ancyra, and of the Seven Virgins; Written by Nisus, an Eye-Witness, and Extracted from Bollandus.

Many critics, as eminent for wisdom as for true piety, have already given us to understand that the legend of St. Theodotus the Publican is a profanation and a species of impiety which ought to have been suppressed. The following is the story of Theodotus. We shall often employ the exact words of the “Genuine Acts,” compiled by Don Ruinart.

“His trade of publican supplied him with the means of exercising his episcopal functions. Illustrious tavern! consecrated to piety instead of debauchery. . . . . Sometimes Theodotus was a physician, sometimes he furnished tit-bits to the faithful. A tavern was seen to be to the Christians what Noah’s ark was to those whom God wished to save from the deluge.”

This publican Theodotus, walking by the river Halis with his companions towards a town adjacent to the city of Ancyra, “a fresh and soft plot of turf offered them a delicious couch; a spring which issued a few steps off, from the foot of the rock, and which by a channel crowned with flowers came running past them in order to quench their thirst, offered them clear and pure water. Trees bearing fruit, mixed with wild ones, furnished them with shade and fruits; and an assemblage of skilful nightingales, whom the grasshoppers relieved every now and then, formed a charming concert,” etc.

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The clergyman of the place, named Fronton, having arrived, and the publican having drunk with him on the grass, “the fresh green of which was relieved by the various gradations of color in the flowers, he said to the clergyman: ‘Ah, father! what a pleasure it would be to build a chapel here.’ ‘Yes,’ said Fronton, ‘but it would be necessary to have some relics to begin with.’ ‘Well, well,’ replied St. Theodotus, ‘you shall have some soon, I give you my word; here is my ring, which I give you as a pledge; build your chapel quickly.’ ”

The publican had the gift of prophecy, and knew well what he was saying. He went away to the city of Ancyra, while the clergyman Fronton set himself about building. He found there the most horrible persecution, which lasted very long. Seven Christian virgins, of whom the youngest was seventy years old, had just been condemned, according to custom, to lose their virginity, through the agency of all the young men of the city. The youth of Ancyra, who had probably more urgent affairs, were in no hurry to execute the sentence. One only could be found obedient to justice. He applied himself to St. Thecusa, and carried her into a closet with surprising courage. Thecusa threw herself on her knees, and said to him, “For God’s sake, my son, a little shame! Behold these lacklustre eyes, this half-dead flesh, these greasy wrinkles, which seventy years have ploughed in my forehead, this face of the color of the earth; abandon Edition: current; Page: [223] thoughts so unworthy of a young man like you—Jesus Christ entreats you by my mouth. He asks it of you as a favor, and if you grant it Him, you may expect His entire gratitude.” The discourse of the old woman, and her countenance made the executioner recollect himself. The seven virgins were not deflowered.

The irritated governor sought for another punishment; he caused them to be initiated forthwith in the mysteries of Diana and Minerva. It is true that great feasts had been instituted in honor of those divinities, but the mysteries of Diana and Minerva were not known to antiquity. St. Nil, an intimate friend of the publican Theodotus, and the author of this marvellous story, was not quite correct.

According to him, these seven pretty lasses were placed quite naked on the car which carried the great Diana and the wise Minerva to the banks of a neighboring lake. The Thucydides St. Nil still appears to be very ill-informed here. The priestesses were always covered with veils; and the Roman magistrates never caused the goddesses of chastity and wisdom to be attended by girls who showed themselves both before and behind to the people.

St. Nil adds that the car was preceded by two choirs of priestesses of Bacchus, who carried the thyrses in their hands. St. Nil has here mistaken the priestesses of Minerva for those of Bacchus. He was not versed in the liturgy of Ancyra.

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Entering the city, the publican saw this sad spectacle—the governor, the priestesses, the car, Minerva, and the seven maidens. He runs to throw himself on his knees in a hut, along with a nephew of St. Thecusa. He beseeches heaven that the seven ladies should be dead rather than naked. His prayer is heard; he learns that the seven damsels, instead of being deflowered, have been thrown into the lake with stones round their necks, by order of the governor. Their virginity is in safe-keeping. At this news the saint, raising himself from the ground and placing himself upon his knees, turned his eyes towards heaven; and in the midst of the various emotions he experienced of love, joy, and gratitude, he said, “I give Thee thanks, O Lord! that Thou has not rejected the prayer of Thy servant.”

He slept; and during his sleep, St. Thecusa, the youngest of the drowned women, appeared to him. “How now, son Theodotus!” she said, “you are sleeping without thinking of us: have you forgotten so soon the care I took of your youth? Do not, dear Theodotus, suffer our bodies to be devoured by the fishes. Go to the lake, but beware of a traitor.” This traitor was, in fact, the nephew of St. Thecusa.

I omit here a multitude of miraculous adventures that happened to the publican, in order to come to the most important. A celestial cavalier, armed cap-a-pie, preceded by a celestial flambeau, descends Edition: current; Page: [225] from the height of the empyrean, conducts the publican to the lake in the midst of storms, drives away all the soldiers who guard the shore, and gives Theodotus time to fish up the seven old women and to bury them.

The nephew of St. Thecusa unfortunately went and told all. Theodotus was seized, and for three days all sorts of punishments were tried in vain to kill him. They could only attain their object by cleaving his skull; an operation which saints are never proof against.

He was still to be buried. His friend the minister Fronton—to whom Theodotus, in his capacity of publican, had given two leathern bottles filled with wine—made the guards drunk, and carried off the body. Theodotus then appeared in body and spirit to the minister: “Well, my friend,” he said to him, “did I not say well, that you should have relics for your chapel?”

Such is what is narrated by St. Nil, an eye-witness, who could neither be deceived nor deceive; such is what Don Ruinart has quoted as a genuine act. Now every man of sense, every intelligent Christian, will ask himself, whether a better mode could be adopted of dishonoring the most holy and venerated religion in the world, and of turning it into ridicule?

I shall not speak of the Eleven Thousand Virgins; I shall not discuss the fable of the Theban legion, composed—says the author—of six thousand six Edition: current; Page: [226] hundred men, all Christians coming from the East by Mount St. Bernard, suffering martyrdom in the year 286, the period of the most profound peace as regarded the Church, and in the gorge of a mountain where it is impossible to place 300 men abreast; a fable written more than 550 years after the event; a fable in which a king of Burgundy is spoken of who never existed; a fable, in short, acknowledged to be absurd by all the learned who have not lost their reason.

Behold what Don Ruinart narrates seriously! Let us pray to God for the good sense of Don Ruinart!


How does it happen that, in the enlightened age in which we live, learned and useful writers are still found who nevertheless follow the stream of old errors, and who corrupt many truths by admitted fables? They reckon the era of the martyrs from the first year of the empire of Diocletian, who was then far enough from inflicting martyrdom on anybody. They forget that his wife Prisca was a Christian, that the principal officers of his household were Christians; that he protected them constantly during eighteen years; that they built at Nicomedia a church more sumptuous than his palace; and that they would never have been persecuted if they had not outraged the Cæsar Valerius.

Is it possible that any one should still dare to assert “that Diocletian died of age, despair, and Edition: current; Page: [227] misery”; he who was seen to quit life like a philosopher, as he had quitted the empire; he who, solicited to resume the supreme power loved better to cultivate his fine gardens at Salonica, than to reign again over the whole of the then known world?

Oh, ye compilers! will you never cease to compile? You have usefully employed your three fingers; employ still more usefully your reason.

What! you repeat to me that St. Peter reigned over the faithful at Rome for twenty-five years, and that Nero had him put to death together with St. Paul, in order to avenge the death of Simon the Magician, whose legs they had broken by their prayers?

To report such fables, though with the best motive, is to insult Christianity.

The poor creatures who still repeat these absurdities are copyists who renew in octavo and duodecimo old stories that honest men no longer read, and who have never opened a book of wholesome criticism. They rake up the antiquated tales of the Church; they know nothing of either Middleton, or Dodwell, or Bruker, or Dumoulin, or Fabricius, or Grabius, or even Dupin, or of any one of those who have lately carried light into the darkness.


We are fooled with martyrdoms that make us break out into laughter. The Tituses, the Trajans, the Marcus Aureliuses, are painted as monsters of Edition: current; Page: [228] cruelty. Fleury, abbé of Loc Dieu, has disgraced his ecclesiastical history by tales which a sensible old woman would not tell to little children.

Can it be seriously repeated, that the Romans condemned seven virgins, each seventy years old, to pass through the hands of all the young men of the city of Ancyra—those Romans who punished the Vestals with death for the least gallantry?

A hundred tales of this sort are found in the martyrologies. The narrators have hoped to render the ancient Romans odious, and they have rendered themselves ridiculous. Do you want good, well-authenticated barbarities—good and well-attested massacres, rivers of blood which have actually flowed—fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, infants at the breast, who have in reality had their throats cut, and been heaped on one another? Persecuting monsters! seek these truths only in your own annals: you will find them in the crusades against the Albigenses, in the massacres of Merindol and Cabrière, in the frightful day of St. Bartholomew, in the massacres of Ireland, in the valleys of the Pays de Vaud. It becomes you well, barbarians as you are, to impute extravagant cruelties to the best of emperors; you who have deluged Europe with blood, and covered it with corpses, in order to prove that the same body can be in a thousand places at once, and that the pope can sell indulgences! Cease to calumniate the Romans, your law-givers, and ask pardon of God for the abominations of your forefathers!

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It is not the torture, you say, which makes martyrdom; it is the cause. Well! I agree with you that your victims ought not to be designated by the name of martyr, which signifies witness; but what name shall we give to your executioners? Phalaris and Busiris were the gentlest of men in comparison with you. Does not your Inquisition, which still remains, make reason, nature, and religion boil with indignation! Great God! if mankind should reduce to ashes that infernal tribunal, would they be unacceptable in thy avenging eyes?


The mass, in ordinary language, is the greatest and most august of the ceremonies of the Church. Different names are given to it, according to the rites practised in the various countries where it is celebrated; as the Mozarabian or Gothic mass, the Greek mass, the Latin mass. Durandus and Eckius call those masses dry, in which no consecration is made, as that which is appointed to be said in particular by aspirants to the priesthood; and Cardinal Bona relates, on the authority of William of Nangis, that St. Louis, in his voyage abroad, had it said in this manner, lest the motion of the vessel should spill the consecrated wine. He also quoted Génébrard, who says that he assisted at Turin, in 1587, at a similar mass, celebrated in a church, but after dinner and very late, for the funeral of a person of rank.

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Pierre le Chantre also speaks of the two-fold, three-fold, and even four-fold mass, in which the priest celebrated the mass of the day or the feast, as far as the offertory, then began a second, third, and sometimes a fourth, as far as the same place; after which he said as many secretas as he had begun masses; he recited the canon only once for the whole; and at the end he added as many collects as he had joined together masses.

It was not until about the close of the fourth century that the word “mass” began to signify the celebration of the eucharist. The learned Beatus Rhenanus, in his notes on Tertullian, observes, that St. Ambrose consecrated this popular expression, “missa,” taken from the sending out of the catechumens, after the reading of the gospel.

In the “Apostolical Constitutions,” we find a liturgy in the name of St. James, by which it appears, that instead of invoking the saints in the canon of the mass, the primitive Church prayed for them. “We also offer to Thee, O Lord,” said the celebrator, “this bread and this chalice for all the saints that have been pleasing in Thy sight from the beginning of ages: for the patriarchs, the prophets, the just, the apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, readers, chanters, virgins, widows, laymen, and all whose names are known unto Thee.” But St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth century, substituted this explanation: “After which,” says he, “we commemorate Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [231] those who die before us, and first the patriarchs, apostles, and martyrs, that God may receive our prayers through their intercession.” This proves—as will be said in the article on “Relics”—that the worship of the saints was then beginning to be introduced into the Church.

Ancient Rome.

Noel Alexander cites acts of St. Andrew, in which that apostle is made to say: “I offer up every day, on the altar of the only true God, not the flesh of bulls, nor the blood of goats, but the unspotted lamb, which still remains living and entire after it is sacrificed, and all the faithful eat of its flesh”; but this learned Dominican acknowledges that this piece was unknown until the eighth century. The first who cited it was Ætherius, bishop of Osma in Spain, who wrote against Ælipard in 788.

Abdias relates that St. John, being warned by the Lord of the termination of his career, prepared for death and recommended his Church to God. He then had bread brought to him, which he took, and lifting up his hands to heaven, blessed it, broke it, and distributed it among those who were present, saying: “Let my portion be yours, and let yours be mine.” This manner of celebrating the eucharist—which means thanksgiving—is more conformable to the institution of that ceremony.

St. Luke indeed informs us, that Jesus, after distributing bread and wine among his apostles, who were supping with him, said to them: “Do this in memory of me.” St. Matthew and St. Mark say, Edition: current; Page: [232] moreover, that Jesus sang a hymn. St. John, who in his gospel mentions neither the distribution of the bread and wine, nor the hymn, speaks of the latter at great length in his Acts, of which we give the text, as quoted by the Second Council of Nice:

“Before our Lord was taken by the Jews,” says this well-beloved apostle of Jesus, “He assembled us all together, and said to us: ‘Let us sing a hymn in honor of the Father, after which we will execute the design we have conceived.’ He ordered us therefore to form a circle, holding one another by the hand; then, having placed Himself in the middle of the circle, He said to us: ‘Amen; follow me.’ Then He began the canticle, and said: ‘Glory be to Thee, O Father!’ We all answered, ‘Amen.’ Jesus continued, saying, ‘Glory to the Word,’ etc. ‘Glory to the Spirit,’ etc. ‘Glory to Grace,’ etc., and the apostles constantly answered, ‘Amen.’ ”

After some other doxologies, Jesus said, “I will save, and I will be saved, Amen. I will unbind, and I will be unbound, Amen. I will be wounded, and I will wound, Amen. I will be born, and I will beget, Amen. I will eat, and I will be consumed, Amen. I will be hearkened to, and I will hearken, Amen. I will be comprehended by the spirit, being all spirit, all understanding, Amen. I will be washed, and I will wash, Amen. Grace brings dancing; I will play on the flute; all of you dance, Amen. I will sing sorrowful airs; now all of you lament, Amen.”

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St. Augustine, who begins a part of this hymn in his “Epistle to Ceretius,” gives also the following: “I will deck, and I will be decked. I am a lamp to those who see me and know me. I am the door for all who will knock at it. Do you, who see what I do, be careful not to speak of it.”

This dance of Jesus and the apostles is evidently imitated from that of the Egyptian Therapeutæ, who danced after supper in their assemblies, at first divided into two choirs, then united the men and the women together, as at the feast of Bacchus, after swallowing plenty of celestial wine as Philo says.

Besides we know, that according to the Jewish tradition, after their coming out of Egypt, and passing the Red Sea, whence the solemnity of the Passover took its name, Moses and his sister assembled two musical choirs, one composed of men, the other of women, who, while dancing, sang a canticle of thanksgiving. These instruments instantaneously assembled, these choirs arranged with so much promptitude, the facility with which the songs and dances are executed, suppose a training in these two exercises much anterior to the moment of execution.

The usage was afterwards perpetrated among the Jews. The daughters of Shiloh were dancing according to custom, at the solemn feast of the Lord, when the young men of the tribe of Benjamin, to whom they had been refused for wives, carried them Edition: current; Page: [234] off by the counsel of the old men of Israel. And at this day, in Palestine, the women, assembled near the tombs of their relatives, dance in a mournful manner, and utter cries of lamentation.

We also know that the first Christians held among themselves agapæ, or feasts of charity, in memory of the last supper which Jesus celebrated with his apostles, from which the Pagans took occasion to bring against them the most odious charges; on which, to banish every shadow of licentiousness, the pastors forbade the kiss of peace, that concluded the ceremony to be given between persons of different sexes. But various abuses, which were even then complained of by St. Paul, and which the Council of Gangres, in the year 324, vainly undertook to reform, at length caused the agapæ to be abolished in 397, by the Third Council of Carthage, of which the forty-first canon ordained, that the holy mysteries should be celebrated fasting.

It will not be doubted that these feastings were accompanied by dances, when it is recollected that, according to Scaliger, the bishops were called in the Latin Church “præsules,” (from præsiliendo) only because they led off the dance. Heliot, in his “History of the Monastic Orders,” says also, that during the persecutions which disturbed the peace of the first Christians, congregations were formed of men and women, who, after the manner of the Therapeutæ, retired into the deserts, where they assembled Edition: current; Page: [235] in the hamlets on Sundays and feast days, and danced piously, singing the prayers of the Church.

In Portugal, in Spain, and in Roussillon, solemn dances are still performed in honor of the mysteries of Christianity. On every vigil of a feast of the Virgin, the young women assemble before the doors of the churches dedicated to her, and pass the night in dancing round, and singing hymns and canticles in honor of her. Cardinal Ximenes restored in his time, in the cathedral of Toledo, the ancient usage of the Mozarabian mass, during which dances are performed in the choir and the nave, with equal order and devotion. In France too, about the middle of the last century, the priests and all the people of the Limoges might be seen dancing round in the collegiate church, singing: “Sant Marcian pregas pernous et nous epingaren per bous”—that is, “St. Martian, pray for us, and we will dance for you.”

And lastly, the Jesuit Menestrier, in the preface to his “Treatise on Ballets,” published in 1682, says, that he had himself seen the canons of some churches take the singing boys by the hand on Easter day, and dance in the choir, singing hymns of rejoicing. What has been said in the article on “Calends,” of the extravagant dances of the feast of fools, exhibits a part of the abuses which have caused dancing to be discontinued in the ceremonies of the mass, which, the greater their gravity, are the better calculated to impose on the simple.

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It is perhaps as difficult as it is useless to ascertain whether “mazzacrium,” a word of the low Latin, is the root of “massacre,” or whether “massacre” is the root of “mazzacrium.”

A massacre signifies a number of men killed. There was yesterday a great massacre near Warsaw—near Cracow. We never say: “There has been a massacre of a man”; yet we do say: “A man has been massacred”: in that case it is understood that he has been killed barbarously by many blows.

Poetry makes use of the word “massacred” for killed, assassinated: “Que par ses propres mains son père massacré.”—Cinna.

An Englishman has made a compilation of all the massacres perpetrated on account of religion since the first centuries of our vulgar era. I have been very much tempted to write against the English author; but his memoir not appearing to be exaggerated, I have restrained myself. For the future I hope there will be no more such calculations to make. But to whom shall we be indebted for that?



“How unfortunate am I to have been born!” said Ardassan Ougli, a young icoglan of the grand sultan of the Turks. “Yet if I depended only on the Edition: current; Page: [237] sultan—but I am also subject to the chief of my oda, to the cassigi bachi; and when I receive my pay, I must prostrate myself before a clerk of the teftardar, who keeps back half of it. I was not seven years old, when, in spite of myself, I was circumcised with great ceremony, and was ill for a fortnight after it. The dervish who prays to us is also my master; an iman is still more my master, and the mullah still more so than the iman. The cadi is another master, the kadeslesker a greater; the mufti a greater than all these together. The kiaia of the grand vizier with one word could cause me to be thrown into the canal; and finally, the grand vizier could have me beheaded, and the skin of my head stripped off, without any person caring about the matter.

“Great God, how many masters! If I had as many souls and bodies as I have duties to fulfil, I could not bear it. Oh Allah! why hast thou not made me an owl? I should live free in my hole and eat mice at my ease, without masters or servants. This is assuredly the true destiny of man; there were no masters until it was perverted; no man was made to serve another continually. If things were in order, each should charitably help his neighbor. The quick-sighted would conduct the blind, the active would be crutches to the lame. This would be the paradise of Mahomet, instead of the hell which is formed precisely under the inconceivably narrow bridge.”

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Thus spoke Ardassan Ougli, after being bastinadoed by one of his masters.

Some years afterwards, Ardassan Ougli became a pasha with three tails. He made a prodigious fortune, and firmly believed that all men except the grand Turk and the grand vizier were born to serve him, and all women to give him pleasure according to his wishes.


How can one man become the master of another? And by what kind of incomprehensible magic has he been able to become the master of several other men? A great number of good volumes have been written on this subject, but I give the preference to an Indian fable, because it is short, and fables explain everything.

Adimo, the father of all the Indians, had two sons and two daughters by his wife Pocriti. The eldest was a vigorous giant, the youngest was a little hunchback, the two girls were pretty. As soon as the giant was strong enough, he lay with his two sisters, and caused the little hunchback to serve him. Of his two sisters, the one was his cook, the other his gardener. When the giant would sleep, he began by chaining his little brother to a tree; and when the latter fled from him, he caught him in four strides, and gave him twenty blows with the strength of an ox.

The dwarf submitted and became the best subject in the world. The giant, satisfied with seeing Edition: current; Page: [239] him fulfil the duties of a subject, permitted him to sleep with one of his sisters, with whom he was disgusted. The children who sprang from this marriage were not quite hunchbacks, but they were sufficiently deformed. They were brought up in the fear of God and of the giant. They received an excellent education; they were taught that their uncle was a giant by divine right, who could do what he pleased with all his family; that if he had some pretty niece or grand-niece, he should have her without difficulty, and not one should marry her unless he permitted it.

The giant dying, his son, who was neither so strong or so great as he was, believed himself to be like his father, a giant by divine right. He pretended to make all the men work for him, and slept with all the girls. The family lagued against him: he was killed, and they became a republic.

The Siamese pretend, that on the contrary the family commenced by being republican; and that the giant existed not until after a great many years and dissensions: but all the authors of Benares and Siam agree that men lived an infinity of ages before they had the wit to make laws, and they prove it by an unanswerable argument, which is that even at present, when all the world piques itself upon having wit, we have not yet found the means of making a score of laws passably good.

It is still, for example, an insoluble question in India, whether republics were established before or Edition: current; Page: [240] after monarchies; if confusion has appeared more horrible to men than despotism! I am ignorant how it happened in order of time, but in that of nature we must agree that men are all born equal: violence and ability made the first masters; laws have made the present.



A Polite Dialogue Between a Demoniac and a Philosopher.


Yes, thou enemy of God and man, who believest that God is all-powerful, and is at liberty to confer the gift of thought on every being whom He shall vouchsafe to choose, I will go and denounce thee to the inquisitor; I will have thee burned. Beware, I warn thee for the last time.


Are these your arguments? Is it thus you teach mankind? I admire your mildness.


Come, I will be patient for a moment while the fagots are preparing. Answer me: What is spirit?


I know not.


What is matter?


I scarcely know. I believe it to have extent, Edition: current; Page: [241] solidity, resistance, gravity, divisibility, mobility. God may have given it a thousand other qualities of which I am ignorant.


A thousand other qualities, traitor! I see what thou wouldst be at; thou wouldst tell me that God can animate matter, that He has given instinct to animals, that He is the Master of all.


But it may very well be, that He has granted to this matter many properties which you cannot comprehend.


Which I cannot comprehend, villain!


Yes. His power goes much further than your understanding.


His power! His power! thou talkest like a true atheist.


However, I have the testimony of many holy fathers on my side.


Go to, go to: neither God nor they shall prevent us from burning thee alive—the death inflicted on parricides and on philosophers who are not of our opinion.

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Was it the devil or yourself that invented this method of arguing?


Vile wretch! darest thou to couple my name with the devil’s?

(Here the demoniac strikes the philosopher, who returns him the blow with interest.)


Help! philosophers!


Holy brotherhood! help!

(Here half a dozen philosophers arrive on one side, and on the other rush in a hundred Dominicans, with a hundred Familiars of the Inquisition, and a hundred alguazils. The contest is too unequal.)


When wise men are asked what is the soul they answer that they know not. If they are asked what matter is, they make the same reply. It is true that there are professors, and particularly scholars, who know all this perfectly; and when they have repeated that matter has extent and divisibility, they think they have said all; being pressed, however, to say what this thing is which is extended, they find themselves considerably embarrassed. It is composed of parts, say they. And of what are these parts composed? Are the elements of the parts Edition: current; Page: [243] divisible? Then they are mute, or they talk a great deal; which are equally suspicious. Is this almost unknown being called matter, eternal? Such was the belief of all antiquity. Has it of itself force? Many philosophers have thought so. Have those who deny it a right to deny it? You conceive not that matter can have anything of itself; but how can you be assured that it has not of itself the properties necessary to it? You are ignorant of its nature, and you refuse it the modes which nevertheless are in its nature: for it can no sooner have been, than it has been in a certain fashion—it has had figure, and having necessarily figure, is it impossible that it should not have had other modes attached to its configuration? Matter exists, but you know it only by your sensations. Alas! of what avail have been all the subtleties of the mind since man first reasoned? Geometry has taught us many truths, metaphysics very few. We weigh matter, we measure it, we decompose it; and if we seek to advance one step beyond these gross operations, we find ourselves powerless, and before us an immeasurable abyss.

Pray forgive all mankind who were deceived in thinking that matter existed by itself. Could they do otherwise? How are we to imagine that what is without succession has not always been? If it were not necessary for matter to exist, why should it exist? And if it were necessary that it should be, why should it not have been forever? No axiom Edition: current; Page: [244] has ever been more universally received than this: “Of nothing, nothing comes.” Indeed the contrary is incomprehensible. With every nation, chaos preceded the arrangement which a divine hand made of the whole world. The eternity of matter has with no people been injurious to the worship of the Divinity. Religion was never startled at the recognition of an eternal God as the master of an eternal matter. We of the present day are so happy as to know by faith that God brought matter out of nothing; but no nation has ever been instructed in this dogma; even the Jews were ignorant of it. The first verse of Genesis says, that the Gods—Eloïm, not Eloi—made heaven and earth. It does not say, that heaven and earth were created out of nothing.

Philo, who lived at the only time when the Jews had any erudition, says, in his “Chapter on the Creation,” “God, being good by nature, bore no envy against substance, matter; which of itself had nothing good, having by nature only inertness, confusion, and disorder; it was bad, and He vouchsafed to make it good.”

The idea of chaos put into order by a God, is to be found in all ancient theogonies. Hesiod repeated the opinion of the Orientals, when he said in his “Theogony,” “Chaos was that which first existed.” The whole Roman Empire spoke in these words of Ovid: “Sic ubi dispositam quisquis fuit ille Deorum Congeriem secuit.”

Matter then, in the hands of God, was considered Edition: current; Page: [245] like clay under the potter’s wheel, if these feeble images may be used to express His divine power.

Matter, being eternal, must have had eternal properties—as configuration, the vis inertiæ, motion, and divisibility. But this divisibility is only a consequence of motion; for without motion nothing is divided, nor separated, nor arranged. Motion therefore was regarded as essential to matter. Chaos had been a confused motion, and the arrangement of the universe was a regular motion, communicated to all bodies by the Master of the world. But how can matter have motion by itself, as it has, according to all the ancients, extent and divisibility?

But it cannot be conceived to be without extent, and it may be conceived to be without motion. To this it was answered: It is impossible that matter should not be permeable; and being permeable, something must be continually passing through its pores. Why should there be passages, if nothing passes?

Reply and rejoinder might thus be continued forever. The system of the eternity of matter, like all other systems, has very great difficulties. That of the formation of matter out of nothing is no less incomprehensible. We must admit it, and not flatter ourselves with accounting for it; philosophy does not account for everything. How many incomprehensible things are we not obliged to admit, even in geometry! Can any one conceive two lines constantly approaching each other, yet never meeting?

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Geometricians indeed will tell you, the properties of asymptotes are demonstrated; you cannot help admitting them—but creation is not; why then admit it? Why is it hard for you to believe, like all the ancients, in the eternity of matter? The theologian will press you on the other side, and say: “If you believe in the eternity of matter then you acknowledge two principles—God and matter; you fall into the error of Zoroaster and of Manes.”

No answer can be given to the geometricians, for those folks know of nothing but their lines, their superficies, and their solids; but you may say to the theologians: “Wherein am I a Manichæan? Here are stones which an architect has not made, but of which he has erected an immense building. I do not admit two architects; the rough stones have obeyed power and genius.”

Happily, whatever system a man embraces, it is in no way hurtful to morality; for what imports it whether matter is made or arranged? God is still an absolute master. Whether chaos was created out of nothing, or only reduced to order, it is still our duty to be virtuous; scarcely any of these metaphysical questions affect the conduct of life. It is with disputes as with table talk; each one forgets after dinner what he has said, and goes whithersoever his interest or his inclination calls him.

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Meeting, “assemblée,” is a general term applicable to any collection of people for secular, sacred, political, conversational, festive, or corporate purposes; in short, to all occasions on which numbers meet together.

It is a term which prevents all verbal disputes, and all abusive and injurious implications by which men are in the habit of stigmatizing societies to which they do not themselves belong.

The legal meeting or assembly of the Athenians was called the “church.” This word “church,” being peculiarly appropriated among us to express a convocation of Catholics in one place, we did not in the first instance apply it to the public assembly of Protestants; but used indeed the expression—“a flock of Huguenots.” Politeness however, which in time explodes all noxious terms, at length employed for the purpose the term “assembly” or “meeting,” which offends no one. In England the dominant Church applies the name of “meeting” to the churches of all the non-conformists.

The word “assembly” is particularly suitable to a collection of persons invited to go and pass their evening at a house where the host receives them with courtesy and kindness, and where play, conversation, supper, and dancing, constitute their amusements. If the number invited be small, it is not Edition: current; Page: [248] called an “assembly,” but a “rendezvous of friends”; and friends are never very numerous.

Assemblies are called, in Italian, “conversazione,” “ridotto.” The word “ridotto” is properly what we once signified by the word “reduit,” intrenchment; but “reduit” having sunk into a term of contempt among us, our editors translated “ridout” by “redoubt.” The papers informed us, among the important intelligence contained in them relating to Europe, that many noblemen of the highest consideration went to take chocolate at the house of the princess Borghese; and that there was a redoubt there. It was announced to Europe, in another paragraph, that there would be a redoubt on the following Tuesday at the house of her excellency the marchioness of Santafior.

It was found, however, that in relating the events of war, it was necessary to speak of real redoubts, which in fact implied things actually redoubtable and formidable, from which cannon were discharged. The word was, therefore, in such circumstances, obviously unsuitable to the “ridotti pacifici,” the pacific redoubts of mere amusement; and the old term “assembly” was restored, which is indeed the only proper one. “Rendezvous” is occasionally used, but it is more adapted to a small company, and most of all for two individuals.

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This article is by M. Polier de Bottens, of an old French family, settled for two hundred years in Switzerland. He is first pastor of Lausanne, and his knowledge is equal to his piety. He composed this article for the great “Encyclopædia,” in which it was inserted. Only those passages were suppressed which the examiners thought might be abused by the Catholics, less learned and less pious than the author. It was received with applause by all the wise.

It was printed at the same time in another small dictionary, and was attributed in France to a man whom there was no reluctance to molest. The article was supposed to be impious, because it was supposed to be by a layman; and the work and its pretended author were violently attacked. The man thus accused contented himself with laughing at the mistake. He beheld with compassion this instance of the errors and injustices which men are every day committing in their judgments; for he had the wise and learned priest’s manuscript, written by his own hand. It is still in his possession, and will be shown to whoever may choose to examine it. In it will be found the very erasures made by this layman himself, to prevent malignant interpretations.

Now we reprint this article in all the integrity of the original. We have contracted it only to prevent Edition: current; Page: [250] repeating what we have printed elsewhere; but we have not added a single word.

The best of this affair is, that one of the venerable author’s brethren wrote the most ridiculous things in the world against this article of his reverend brother’s, thinking that he was writing against a common enemy. This is like fighting in the dark, when one is attacked by one’s own party.

It has a thousand times happened that controversialists have condemned passages in St. Augustine and St. Jerome, not knowing that they were by those fathers. They would anathematize a part of the New Testament if they had not heard by whom it was written. Thus it is that men too often judge.

Messiah, “Messias.” This word comes from the Hebrew, and is synonymous with the Greek word “Christ.” Both are terms consecrated in religion, which are now no longer given to any but the anointed by eminence—the Sovereign Deliverer whom the ancient Jewish people expected, for whose coming they still sigh, and whom the Christians find in the person of Jesus the Son of Mary, whom they consider as the anointed of the Lord, the Messiah promised to humanity. The Greeks also use the word “Elcimmeros,” meaning the same thing as “Christos.”

In the Old Testament we see that the word “Messiah,” far from being peculiar to the Deliverer, for whose coming the people of Israel sighed, was not Edition: current; Page: [251] even so to the true and faithful servants of God, but that this name was often given to idolatrous kings and princes, who were, in the hands of the Eternal, the ministers of His vengeance, or instruments for executing the counsels of His wisdom. So the author of “Ecclesiasticus” says of Elisha: Qui ungis reges ad penitentiam”; or, as it is rendered by the “Septuagint,” “ad vindictam”—“You anoint kings to execute the vengeance of the Lord.” Therefore He sent a prophet to anoint Jehu, king of Israel, and announced sacred unction to Hazael, king of Damascus and Syria; those two princes being the Messiahs of the Most High, to revenge the crimes and abominations of the house of Ahab.

But in Isaiah, xlv., 1, the name of Messiah is expressly given to Cyrus: “Thus saith the Lord to Cyrus, His anointed, His Messiah, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him.” etc.

Ezekiel, in his Revelations, xxviii., 14, gives the name of Messiah to the king of Tyre, whom he also calls Cherubin, and speaks of him and his glory in terms full of an emphasis of which it is easier to feel the beauties than to catch the sense. “Son of man,” says the Eternal to the prophet, “take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyre, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; thou sealest up the sun, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been the Lord’s Garden of Eden”—or, according to other versions, “Thou wast all the Lord’s delight”—“every precious stone was thy covering; the sardius, Edition: current; Page: [252] topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou wast a Cherubin, a Messiah, for protection, and I set thee up; thou hast been upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created till iniquity was found in thee.”

And the name of Messiah, in Greek, Christ, was given to the king, prophets, and high priests of the Hebrews. We read, in I. Kings, xii., 5: “The Lord is witness against you, and his Messiah is witness”; that is, the king whom he has set up. And elsewhere: “Touch not my Anointed; do no evil to my prophets. . . . .” David, animated by the Spirit of God, repeatedly gives to his father-in-law Saul, whom he had no cause to love—he gives, I say, to this reprobate king, from whom the Spirit of the Eternal was withdrawn, the name and title of Anointed, or Messiah of the Lord. “God preserve me,” says he frequently, “from laying my hand upon the Lord’s Anointed, upon God’s Messiah.”

If the fine title of Messiah, or Anointed of the Eternal, was given to idolatrous kings, to cruel and tyrannical princes, it very often indeed, in our ancient oracles, designated the real Anointed of the Lord, the Messiah by eminence; the object of the desire and expectation of all the faithful of Israel. Edition: current; Page: [253] Thus Hannah, the mother of Samuel, concluded her canticle with these remarkable words, which cannot apply to any king, for we know that at that time the Jews had not one: “The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His king, and exalt the horn of His Messiah.” We find the same word in the following oracles: Psalm ii, 2; Jeremiah, Lamentations, iv, 20; Daniel, ix, 25; Habakkuk, iii, 13.

If we compare all these different oracles, and in general all those ordinarily applied to the Messiah, there will result contradictions, almost irreconcilable, justifying to a certain point the obstinacy of the people to whom these oracles were given.

How indeed could these be conceived, before the event had so well justified it in the person of Jesus, Son of Mary? How, I say, could there be conceived an intelligence in some sort divine and human together; a being both great and lovely, triumphing over the devil, yet tempted and carried away by that infernal spirit, that prince of the powers of the air, and made to travel in spite of himself; at once master and servant, king and subject, sacrificer and victim, mortal and immortal, rich and poor, a glorious conqueror, whose reign shall have no end, who is to subdue all nature by prodigies, and yet a man of sorrows, without the conveniences, often without the absolute necessaries of this life, of which he calls himself king; and that he comes, covered with glory and honor, terminating a life of innocence and Edition: current; Page: [254] wretchedness, of incessant crosses and contradictions, by a death alike shameful and cruel, finding in this very humiliation, this extraordinary abasement, the source of an unparalleled elevation, which raises him to the summit of glory, power, and felicity; that is, to the rank of the first of creatures?

All Christians agree in finding these characteristics, apparently so incompatible, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call the “Christ”; His followers gave Him this title by eminence, not that He had been anointed in a sensible and material manner, as some kings, prophets, and sacrificers anciently were, but because the Divine Spirit had designated Him for those great offices, and He had received the spiritual unction necessary thereunto.

We had proceeded thus far on so competent an article, when a Dutch preacher, more celebrated for this discovery than for the indifferent productions of a genius otherwise feeble and ill-formed, showed to us that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of God, was anointed at the three grand periods of His life, as our King, our Prophet, and our Sacrificer.

At the time of His baptism, the voice of the Sovereign Master of nature declared Him to be His Son, His only, His well-beloved Son, and for that very reason His representative.

When on Mount Tabor He was transfigured and associated with Moses and Elias, the same supernatural voice announces Him to humanity as the Son of Him who loves and who sends the prophets; Edition: current; Page: [255] as He who is to be hearkened to in preference to all others.

In Gethsemane, an angel comes down from heaven to support Him in the extreme anguish occasioned by the approach of His torments, and strengthen Him against the terrible apprehensions of a death which He cannot avoid, and enable Him to become a sacrificer the more excellent, as Himself is the pure and innocent victim that He is about to offer.

The judicious Dutch preacher, a disciple of the illustrious Cocceius, finds the sacramental oil of these different celestial unctions in the visible signs which the power of God caused to appear on His anointed; in His baptism, “the shadow of the dove,” representing the Holy Ghost coming down from Him; on Tabor, the “miraculous cloud,” which enveloped Him; in Gethsemane, the “bloody sweat,” which covered His whole body.

After this, it would indeed be the height of incredulity not to recognize by these marks the Lord’s Anointed by eminence—the promised Messiah; nor doubtless could we sufficiently deplore the inconceivable blindness of the Jewish people, but that it was part of the plan of God’s infinite wisdom, and was, in His merciful views, essential to the accomplishment of His work and the salvation of humanity.

But it must also be acknowledged, that in the state of oppression in which the Jewish people were Edition: current; Page: [256] groaning, and after all the glorious promises which the Eternal had so often made them, they must have longed for the coming of a Messiah, and looked towards it as the period of their happy deliverance; and that they are therefore to an extent excusable for not having recognized a deliverer in the person of the Lord Jesus, since it is in man’s nature to care more for the body than for the spirit, and to be more sensible to present wants than flattered by advantages “to come,” and for that very reason, always uncertain.

It must indeed be believed that Abraham, and after him a very small number of patriarchs and prophets, were capable of forming an idea of the nature of the spiritual reign of the Messiah; but these ideas would necessarily be limited to the narrow circle of the inspired, and it is not astonishing that, being unknown to the multitude, these notions were so far altered that, when the Saviour appeared in Judæa, the people, their doctors, and even their princes, expected a monarch—a conqueror—who, by the rapidity of his conquests was to subdue the whole world. And how could these flattering ideas be reconciled with the abject and apparently miserable condition of Jesus Christ? So, feeling scandalized by His announcing Himself as the Messiah, they persecuted Him, rejected Him, and put Him to the most ignominious death. Having since then found nothing tending to the fulfilment of their oracles, and being unwilling to renounce them, they Edition: current; Page: [257] indulge in all sorts of ideas, each one more chimerical than the one preceding.

Thus, when they beheld the triumphs of the Christian religion, and found that most of their ancient oracles might be explained spiritually, and applied to Jesus Christ, they thought proper, against the opinion of their fathers, to deny that the passages which we allege against them are to be understood of the Messiah, thus torturing our Holy Scriptures to their own loss.

Some of them maintain that their oracles have been misunderstood; that it is in vain to long for the coming of a Messiah, since He has already come in the person of Ezechias. Such was the opinion of the famous Hillel. Others more lax, or politely yielding to times and circumstances, assert that the belief in the coming of a Messiah is not a fundamental article of faith, and that the denying of this dogma either does not injure the integrity of the law, or injures it but slightly. Thus the Jew Albo said to the pope, that “to deny the coming of the Messiah was only to cut off a branch of the tree without touching the root.”

The celebrated rabbi, Solomon Jarchi or Raschi, who lived at the commencement of the twelfth century, says, in his “Talmudes,” that the ancient Hebrews believed the Messiah to have been born on the day of the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies. This is indeed calling in the physician when the man is dead.

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The rabbi Kimchi, who also lived in the twelfth century, announced that the Messiah, whose coming he believed to be very near, would drive the Christians out of Judæa, which was then in their possession; and it is true that the Christians lost the Holy Land; but it was Saladin who vanquished them. Had that conqueror but protected the Jews, and declared for them, it is not unlikely that in their enthusiasm they would have made him their Messiah.

Sacred writers, and our Lord Jesus Himself, often compare the reign of the Messiah and eternal beatitude to a nuptial festival or a banquet; but the Talmudists have strangely abused these parables; according to them, the Messiah will give to his people, assembled in the land of Canaan, a repast in which the wine will be that which was made by Adam himself in the terrestrial paradise, and which is kept dry, in vast cellars, by the angels at the centre of the earth.

At the first course will be served up the famous fish called the great Leviathan, which swallows up at once a smaller fish, which smaller fish is nevertheless three hundred leagues long; the whole mass of the waters is laid upon Leviathan. In the beginning God created a male and a female of this fish; but lest they should overturn the land, and fill the world with their kind, God killed the female, and salted her for the Messiah’s feast.

The rabbis add, that there will also be killed for Edition: current; Page: [259] this repast the bull Behemoth, which is so large that he eats each day the hay from a thousand mountains. The female of this bull was killed in the beginning of the world, that so prodigious a species might not multiply, since this could only have injured the other creatures; but they assure us that the Eternal did not salt her, because dried cow is not so good as she-Leviathan. The Jews still put such faith in these rabbinical reveries that they often swear by their share of the bull Behemoth, as some impious Christians swear by their share of paradise.

After such gross ideas of the coming of the Messiah, and of His reign, is it astonishing that the Jews, ancient as well as modern, and also some of the primitive Christians unhappily tinctured with all these reveries, could not elevate themselves to the idea of the divine nature of the Lord’s Anointed, and did not consider the Messiah as God? Observe how the Jews express themselves on this point in the work entitled “Judæi Lusitani Quæstiones ad Christianos”. “To acknowledge a God-man,” say they, “is to abuse your own reason, to make to yourself a monster—a centaur—the strange compound of two natures which cannot coalesce.” They add, that the prophets do not teach that the Messiah is God-man; that they expressly distinguish between God and David, declaring the former to be Master, the latter servant.

When the Saviour appeared, the prophecies, though clear, were unfortunately obscured by the Edition: current; Page: [260] prejudices imbibed even at the mother’s breast. Jesus Christ Himself, either from deference towards or for fear of shocking, the public opinion, seems to have been very reserved concerning His divinity. “He wished,” says St. Chrysostom, “insensibly to accustom His auditors to the belief of a mystery so far above their reason. If He takes upon Him the authority of a God, by pardoning sin, this action raises up against Him all who are witnesses of it. His most evident miracles cannot even convince of His divinity those in whose favor they are worked. When, before the tribunal of the Sovereign Sacrificer, He acknowledges, by a modest intimation, that He is the Son of God, the high priest tears his robe and cries, ‘Blasphemy!’ Before the sending of the Holy Ghost, the apostles did not even suspect the divinity of their dear Master. He asks them what the people think of Him; and they answer, that some take Him for Elias, other for Jeremiah, or some other prophet. A particular revelation is necessary to make known to St. Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The Jews, revolting against the divinity of Christ, have resorted to all sorts of expedients to destroy this great mystery; they distort the meaning of their own oracles, or do not apply them to the Messiah; they assert that the name of God, “Eloï,” is not peculiar to the Divinity, but is given, even by sacred writers, to judges, to magistrates, and in general to such as are high in authority; they do, Edition: current; Page: [261] indeed, cite a great many passages of the Holy Scriptures that justify this observation, but which do not in the least affect the express terms of the ancient oracles concerning the Messiah.

Lastly, they assert, that if the Saviour, and after Him the evangelists, the apostles, and the first Christians, call Jesus the Son of God, this august term did not in the evangelical times signify anything but the opposite of son of Belial—that is, a good man, a servant of God, in opposition to a wicked man, one without the fear of God.

If the Jews have disputed with Jesus Christ His quality of Messiah and His divinity, they have also used every endeavor to bring Him into contempt, by casting on His birth, His life, and His death, all the ridicule and opprobrium that their criminal malevolence could imagine.

Of all the works which the blindness of the Jews has produced, there is none more odious and more extravagant than the ancient book entitled “Sepher Toldos Jeschu,” brought to light by Wagenseil, in the second volume of his work entitled “Tela Ignea,” etc.

In this “Sepher Toldos Jeschu,” we find a monstrous history of the life of our Saviour, forged with the utmost passion and disingenuousness. For instance, they have dared to write that one Panther, or Pandera, an inhabitant of Bethlehem, fell in love with a young woman married to Jokanam. By this impure commerce he had a son called Jesua or Jesu. Edition: current; Page: [262] The father of this child was obliged to fly, and retired to Babylon. As for young Jesu, he was not sent to the schools; but—adds our author—he had the insolence to raise his head and uncover himself before the sacrificers, instead of appearing before them with his head bent down and his face covered, as was the custom—a piece of effrontery which was warmly rebuked; this caused his birth to be inquired into, which was found to be impure, and soon exposed him to ignominy.

This detestable book, “Sepher Toldos Jeschu,” was known in the second century: Celsus confidently cites it and Origen refutes it in his ninth chapter.

There is another book also entitled “Toldos Jeschu,” published by Huldric in 1703, which more closely follows the “Gospel of the Infancy,” but which is full of the grossest anachronisms. It places both the birth and death of Jesus Christ in the reign of Herod the Great, stating that complaints were made of the adultery of Panther and Mary, the mother of Jesus, to that prince.

The author, who takes the name of Jonathan, and calls himself a contemporary of Jesus Christ, living at Jerusalem, pretends that Herod consulted, in the affair of Jesus Christ, the senators of a city in the land of Cæsarea. We will not follow so absurd an author through all his contradictions.

Yet it is under cover of all these calumnies that the Jews keep up their implacable hatred against the Christians and the gospel. They have done their Edition: current; Page: [263] utmost to alter the chronology of the Old Testament, and to raise doubts and difficulties respecting the time of our Saviour’s coming.

Ahmed-ben-Cassum-la-Andacousy, a Moor of Granada, who lived about the close of the sixteenth century, cites an ancient Arabian manuscript, which was found, together with sixteen plates of lead engraved with Arabian characters, in a grotto near Granada. Don Pedro y Quinones, archbishop of Granada, has himself borne testimony to this fact. These leaden plates, called those of Granada, were afterwards carried to Rome, where, after several years’ investigation, they were at last condemned as apocryphal, in the pontificate of Alexander VII.; they contain only fabulous stories relating to the lives of Mary and her Son.

The time of Messiah, coupled with the epithet “false,” is still given to those impostors who, at various times, have sought to abuse the credulity of the Jewish nation. There were some of these false Messiahs even before the coming of the true Anointed of God. The wise Gamaliel mentions one Theodas, whose history we read in Josephus’ “Jewish Antiquities,” book xx. chap. 2. He boasted of crossing the Jordan without wetting his feet; he drew many people after him; but the Romans, having fallen upon his little troop, dispersed them, cut off the head of their unfortunate chief, and exposed it in Jerusalem.

Gamaliel also speaks of Judas the Galilean, who Edition: current; Page: [264] is doubtless the same of whom Josephus makes mention in the second chapter of the second book of the “Jewish War.” He says that this false prophet had gathered together nearly thirty thousand men; but hyperbole is the Jewish historian’s characteristic.

In the apostolic times, there was Simon, surnamed the Magician, who contrived to bewitch the people of Samaria, so that they considered him as “the great power of God.”

In the following century, in the years 178 and 179 of the Christian era, in the reign of Adrian, appeared the false Messiah, Barcochebas, at the head of an army. The emperor sent against them Julius Severus, who, after several encounters, enclosed them in the town of Bither; after an obstinate defence it was carried, and Barcochebas taken and put to death. Adrian thought he could not better prevent the continual revolt of the Jews than by issuing an edict, forbidding them to go to Jerusalem; he also had guards stationed at the gates of the city, to prevent the rest of the people of Israel from entering it.

We read in Socrates, an ecclesiastical historian, that in the year 434, there appeared in the island of Candia a false Messiah calling himself Moses. He said he was the ancient deliverer of the Hebrews, raised from the dead to deliver them again.

A century afterwards, in 530, there was in Palestine a false Messiah named Julian; he announced himself as a great conqueror, who, at the head of his Edition: current; Page: [265] nation, should destroy by arms the whole Christian people. Seduced by his promises, the armed Jews butchered many of the Christians. The emperor Justinian sent troops against him; battle was given to the false Christ; he was taken, and condemned to the most ignominious death.

At the beginning of the eighth century, Serenus, a Spanish Jew, gave himself out as a Messiah, preached, had some disciples, and, like them, died in misery.

Several false Messiahs arose in the twelfth century. One appeared in France in the reign of Louis the Young; he and all his adherents were hanged, without its ever being known what was the name of the master or of the disciples.

The thirteenth century was fruitful in false Messiahs; there appeared seven or eight in Arabia, Persia, Spain, and Moravia; one of them, calling himself David el Roy, passed for a very great magician; he reduced the Jews, and was at the head of a considerable party; but this Messiah was assassinated.

James Zeigler, of Moravia, who lived in the middle of the sixteenth century, announced the approaching manifestation of the Messiah, born, as he declared, fourteen years before; he had seen him, he said, at Strasburg, and he kept by him with great care a sword and a sceptre, to place them in his hands as soon as he should be old enough to teach. In the year 1624, another Zeigler confirmed the prediction of the former.

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In the year 1666, Sabatei Sevi, born at Aleppo, called himself the Messiah foretold by the Zeiglers. He began with preaching on the highways and in the fields, the Turks laughing at him, while his disciples admired him. It appears that he did not gain over the mass of the Jewish nation at first; for the chiefs of the synagogue of Smyrna passed sentence of death against him; but he escaped with the fear only, and with banishment.

He contracted three marriages, of which it is asserted he did not consummate one, saying that it was beneath him so to do. He took into partnership one Nathan Levi; the latter personated the prophet Elias, who was to go before the Messiah. They repaired to Jerusalem, and Nathan there announced Sabatei Sevi as the deliverer of nations. The Jewish populace declared for them, but such as had anything to lose anathematized them.

To avoid the storm, Sevi fled to Constantinople, and thence to Smyrna, whither Nathan Levi sent to him four ambassadors, who acknowledged and publicly saluted him as the Messiah. This embassy imposed on the people, and also on some of the doctors, who declared Sabatei Sevi to be the Messiah, and king of the Hebrews. But the synagogue of Smyrna condemned its king to be impaled.

Sabatei put himself under the protection of the cadi of Smyrna, and soon had the whole Jewish people on his side; he had two thrones prepared, one for himself, the other for his favorite wife; he took Edition: current; Page: [267] the title of king of kings, and gave to his brother, Joseph Sevi, that of king of Judah. He promised the Jews the certain conquest of the Ottoman Empire; and even carried his insolence so far as to have the emperor’s name struck out of the Jewish liturgy, and his own substituted.

He was thrown into prison at the Dardanelles; and the Jews gave out that his life was spared only because the Turks well knew he was immortal. The governor of the Dardanelles grew rich by the presents which the Jews lavished, in order to visit their king, their imprisoned Messiah, who, though in irons, retained all his dignity, and made them kiss his feet.

Meanwhile the sultan, who was holding his court at Adrianople, resolved to put an end to this farce: he sent for Sevi, and told him that if he was the Messiah he must be invulnerable; to which Sevi assented. The grand signor then had him placed as a mark for the arrows of his icoglans. The Messiah confessed that he was not invulnerable, and protested that God sent him only to bear testimony to the holy Mussulman religion. Being beaten by the ministers of the law, he turned Mahometan; he lived and died equally despised by the Jews and Mussulmans; which cast such discredit on the profession of false Messiah, that Sevi was the last that appeared.

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It may very naturally be supposed that the metamorphoses with which our earth abounds suggested the imagination to the Orientals—who have imagined everything—that the souls of men passed from one body to another. An almost imperceptible point becomes a grub, and that grub becomes a butterfly; an acorn is transformed into an oak; an egg into a bird; water becomes cloud and thunder; wood is changed into fire and ashes; everything, in short, in nature, appears to be metamorphosed. What was thus obviously and distinctly perceptible in grosser bodies was soon conceived to take place with respect to souls, which were considered slight, shadowy, and scarcely material figures. The idea of metempsychosis is perhaps the most ancient dogma of the known world, and prevails still in a great part of India and of China.

It is highly probable, again, that the various metamorphoses which we witness in nature produced those ancient fables which Ovid has collected and embellished in his admirable work. Even the Jews had their metamorphoses. If Niobe was changed into a stone, Edith, the wife of Lot, was changed into a statue of salt. If Eurydice remained in hell for having looked behind her, it was for precisely the same indiscretion that this wife of Lot was deprived of her human nature. The village in which Baucis and Philemon resided in Phrygia is Edition: current; Page: [269] changed into a lake; the same event occurs to Sodom. The daughters of Anius converted water into oil; we have in Scripture a metamorphosis very similar, but more true and more sacred. Cadmus was changed into a serpent; the rod of Aaron becomes a serpent also.

The gods frequently change themselves into men; the Jews never saw angels but in the form of men; angels ate with Abraham. Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, says that an angel of Satan has buffeted him: Angelus Satanæ me colaphizet.”


“Trans naturam,—beyond nature. But what is that which is beyond nature? By nature, it is to be presumed, is meant matter, and metaphysics relates to that which is not matter.

For example: to your reasoning, which is neither long, nor wide, nor high, nor solid, nor pointed; your soul, to yourself unknown, which produces your reasoning.

Spirits, which the world has always talked of, and to which mankind appropriated, for a long period, a body so attenuated and shadowy, that it could scarcely be called body; but from which, at length, they have removed every shadow of body, without knowing what it was that was left.

The manner in which these spirits perceive, without any embarrassment, from the five senses; in Edition: current; Page: [270] which they think, without a head; and in which they communicate their thoughts, without words and signs.

Finally, God, whom we know by His works, but whom our pride impels us to define; God, whose power we feel to be immense; God, between whom and ourselves exists the abyss of infinity, and yet whose nature we dare to attempt to fathom.

These are the objects of metaphysics. We might further add to these the principles of pure mathematics, points without extension, lines without width, superficies without thickness, units infinitely divisible, etc.

Bayle himself considered these objects as those which were denominated entia rationis, beings of reason; they are, however, in fact, only material things considered in their masses, their superficies, their simple lengths and breadths, and the extremities of these simple lengths and breadths. All measures are precise and demonstrated. Metaphysics has nothing to do with geometry.

Thus a man may be a metaphysician without being a geometrician. Metaphysics is more entertaining; it constitutes often the romance of the mind. In geometry, on the contrary, we must calculate and measure; this is a perpetual trouble, and most minds had rather dream pleasantly than fatigue themselves with hard work.

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Newton was one day asked why he stepped forward when he was so inclined; and from what cause his arm and his hand obeyed his will? He honestly replied, that he knew nothing about the matter. But at least, said they to him, you who are so well acquainted with the gravitation of planets, will tell us why they turn one way sooner than another? Newton still avowed his ignorance.

Those who teach that the ocean was salted for fear it should corrupt, and that the tides were created to conduct our ships into port, were a little ashamed when told that the Mediterranean has ports and no tide. Muschembrock himself has fallen into this error.

Who has ever been able to determine precisely how a billet of wood is changed into red-hot charcoal, and by what mechanism lime is heated by cold water?

The first motion of the heart in animals—is that accounted for? Has it been exactly discovered how the business of generation is arranged? Has any one divined the cause of sensation, ideas, and memory? We know no more of the essence of matter than the children who touch its superficies.

Who will instruct us in the mechanism by which the grain of corn, which we cast into the earth, disposes itself to produce a stalk surmounted with an ear; or why the sun produces an apple on one Edition: current; Page: [272] tree and a chestnut on the next to it? Many doctors have said: “What know I not?” Montaigne said: “What know I?”

Unbending decider! pedagogue in phrases! furred reasoner! thou inquirest after the limits of the human mind—they are at the end of thy nose.



A miracle, according to the true meaning of the word, is something admirable; and agreeable to this, all is miracle. The stupendous order of nature, the revolution of a hundred millions of worlds around a million of suns, the activity of light, the life of animals, all are grand and perpetual miracles.

According to common acceptation, we call a miracle the violation of these divine and eternal laws. A solar eclipse at the time of the full moon, or a dead man walking two leagues and carrying his head in his arms, we denominate a miracle.

Many natural philosophers maintain, that in this sense there are no miracles; and advance the following arguments:

A miracle is the violation of mathematical, divine, immutable, eternal laws. By the very exposition itself, a miracle is a contradiction in terms: a law cannot at the same time be immutable and violated. But they are asked, cannot a law, established by God Himself, be suspended by its author?

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They have the hardihood to reply that it cannot; and that it is impossible a being infinitely wise can have made laws to violate them. He could not, they say, derange the machine but with a view of making it work better; but it is evident that God, all-wise and omnipotent, originally made this immense machine, the universe, as good and perfect as He was able; if He saw that some imperfections would arise from the nature of matter, He provided for that in the beginning; and, accordingly, He will never change anything in it. Moreover, God can do nothing without reason; but what reason could induce him to disfigure for a time His own work?

It is done, they are told, in favor of mankind. They reply: We must presume, then, that it is in favor of all mankind; for it is impossible to conceive that the divine nature should occupy itself only about a few men in particular, and not for the whole human race; and even the whole human race itself is a very small concern; it is less than a small ant-hill, in comparison with all the beings inhabiting immensity. But is it not the most absurd of all extravagances to imagine that the Infinite Supreme should, in favor of three or four hundred emmets on this little heap of earth, derange the operation of the vast machinery that moves the universe?

But, admitting that God chose to distinguish a small number of men by particular favors, is there any necessity that, in order to accomplish this object, He should change what He established for all periods Edition: current; Page: [274] and for all places? He certainly can have no need of this inconstancy in order to bestow favors on any of His creatures: His favors consist in His laws themselves: he has foreseen all and arranged all, with a view to them. All invariably obey the force which He has impressed forever on nature.

For what purpose would God perform a miracle? To accomplish some particular design upon living beings? He would then, in reality, be supposed to say: “I have not been able to effect by my construction of the universe, by my divine decrees, by my eternal laws, a particular object; I am now going to change my eternal ideas and immutable laws, to endeavor to accomplish what I have not been able to do by means of them.” This would be an avowal of His weakness, not of His power; it would appear in such a being an inconceivable contradiction. Accordingly, therefore, to dare to ascribe miracles to God is, if man can in reality insult God, actually offering Him that insult. It is saying to Him: “You are a weak and inconsistent Being.” It is, therefore, absurd to believe in miracles; it is, in fact, dishonoring the divinity.

These philosophers, however, are not suffered thus to declaim without opposition. You may extol, it is replied, as much as you please, the immutability of the Supreme Being, the eternity of His laws, and the regularity of His infinitude of worlds; but our little heap of earth has, notwithstanding all that you have advanced, been completely covered over Edition: current; Page: [275] with miracles in every part and time. Histories relate as many prodigies as natural events. The daughters of the high priest Anius changed whatever they pleased to corn, wine, and oil; Athalide, the daughter of Mercury, revived again several times; Æsculapius resuscitated Hippolytus; Hercules rescued Alcestes from the hand of death; and Heres returned to the world after having passed fifteen days in hell. Romulus and Remus were the offspring of a god and a vestal. The Palladium descended from heaven on the city of Troy; the hair of Berenice was changed into a constellation; the cot of Baucis and Philemon was converted into a superb temple; the head of Orpheus delivered oracles after his death; the walls of Thebes spontaneously constructed themselves to the sound of a flute, in the presence of the Greeks; the cures effected in the temple of Æsculapius were absolutely innumerable, and we have monuments still existing containing the very names of persons who were eyewitnesses of his miracles.

Mention to me a single nation in which the most incredible prodigies have not been performed, and especially in those periods in which the people scarcely knew how to write or read.

The philosophers make no answer to these objections, but by slightly raising their shoulders and by a smile; but the Christian philosophers say: “We are believers in the miracles of our holy religion; we believe them by faith and not by our Edition: current; Page: [276] reason, which we are very cautious how we listen to; for when faith speaks, it is well known that reason ought to be silent. We have a firm and entire faith in the miracles of Jesus Christ and the apostles, but permit us to entertain some doubt about many others: permit us, for example, to suspend our judgment on what is related by a very simple man, although he has obtained the title of great. He assures us, that a certain monk was so much in the habit of performing miracles, that the prior at length forbade him to exercise his talent in that line. The monk obeyed; but seeing a poor tiler fall from the top of a house, he hesitated for a moment between the desire to save the unfortunate man’s life, and the sacred duty of obedience to his superior. He merely ordered the tiler to stay in the air till he should receive further instructions, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him to communicate the urgency of the circumstances to the prior. The prior absolved him from the sin he had committed in beginning the miracle without permission, and gave him leave to finish it, provided he stopped with the same, and never again repeated his fault.” The philosophers may certainly be excused for entertaining a little doubt of this legend.

But how can you deny, they are asked, that St. Gervais and St. Protais appeared in a dream to St. Ambrose, and informed him of the spot in which were deposited their relics? that St. Ambrose had them disinterred? and that they restored sight to a Edition: current; Page: [277] man that was blind? St. Augustine was at Milan at the very time, and it is he who relates the miracle, using the expression, in the twenty-second book of his work called the “City of God,” “immenso populo teste”—in the presence of an immense number of people. Here is one of the very best attested and established miracles. The philosophers, however, say that they do not believe one word about Gervais and Protais appearing to any person whatever; that it is a matter of very little consequence to mankind where the remains of their carcasses lie; that they have no more faith in this blind man than in Vespasian’s; that it is a useless miracle, and that God does nothing that is useless; and they adhere to the principles they began with. My respect for St. Gervais and St. Protais prevents me from being of the same opinion as these philosophers: I merely state their incredulity. They lay great stress on the well-known passage of Lucian, to be found in the death of Peregrinus: “When an expert juggler turns Christian, he is sure to make his fortune.” But as Lucian is a profane author, we ought surely to set him aside as of no authority.

These philosophers cannot even make up their minds to believe the miracles performed in the second century. Even eye-witnesses to the facts may write and attest till the day of doom, that after the bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, was condemned to be burned, and actually in the midst of the flames, they heard a voice from heaven exclaiming: “Courage, Edition: current; Page: [278] Polycarp! be strong, and show yourself a man”; that, at the very instant, the flames quitted his body, and formed a pavilion of fire above his head, and from the midst of the pile there flew out a dove; when, at length, Polycarp’s enemies ended his life by cutting off his head. All these facts and attestations are in vain. For what good, say these unimpressible and incredulous men, for what good was this miracle? Why did the flames lose their nature, and the axe of the executioner retain all its power of destruction? Whence comes it that so many martyrs escaped unhurt out of boiling oil, but were unable to resist the edge of the sword? It is answered, such was the will of God. But the philosophers would wish to see and hear all this themselves, before they believe it.

Those who strengthen their reasonings by learning will tell you that the fathers of the Church have frequently declared that miracles were in their days performed no longer. St. Chrysostom says expressly: “The extraordinary gifts of the spirit were bestowed even on the unworthy, because the Church at that time had need of miracles; but now, they are not bestowed even on the worthy, because the Church has need of them no longer.” He afterwards declares, that there is no one now who raises the dead, or even who heals the sick.

St. Augustine himself, notwithstanding the miracles of Gervais and Protais, says, in his “City of God”: “Why are not such miracles as were wrought Edition: current; Page: [279] formerly wrought now?” and he assigns the same reason as St. Chrysostom for it.

“Cur inquiunt, nunc illa miracula quæ prædicatis facta esse non fiunt? Possem quidem dicere necessaria prius fuisse, quam crederet mundus, ad hoc ut crederet mundus.”

It is objected to the philosophers, that St. Augustine, notwithstanding this avowal, mentions nevertheless an old cobbler of Hippo, who, having lost his garment, went to pray in the chapel of the twenty martyrs, and on his return found a fish, in the body of which was a gold ring; and that the cook who dressed the fish said to the cobbler: “See what a present the twenty martyrs have made you!”

To this the philosophers reply, that there is nothing in the event here related in opposition to the laws of nature; that natural philosophy is not contradicted or shocked by a fish’s swallowing a gold ring, or a cook’s delivering such ring to a cobbler; that, in short, there is no miracle at all in the case.

If these philosophers are reminded that, according to St. Jerome, in his “Life of Paul the Hermit,” that hermit had many conversations with satyrs and fauns; that a raven carried to him every day, for thirty years together, half of a loaf for his dinner, and a whole one on the day that St. Anthony went to visit him, they might reply again, that all this is not absolutely inconsistent with natural philosophy; that satyrs and fauns may have existed; and that, at all events, whether the narrative be a recital of Edition: current; Page: [280] facts, or only a story fit for children, it has nothing at all to do with the miracles of our Lord and His apostles. Many good Christians have contested the “History of St. Simeon Stylites,” written by Theodoret; many miracles considered authentic by the Greek Church have been called in question by many Latins, just as the Latin miracles have been suspected by the Greek Church. Afterwards, the Protestants appeared on the stage, and treated the miracles of both churches certainly with very little respect or ceremony.

A learned Jesuit, who was long a preacher in the Indies, deplores that neither his colleagues nor himself could ever perform a miracle. Xavier laments, in many of his letters, that he has not the gift of languages. He says, that among the Japanese he is merely like a dumb statue: yet the Jesuits have written that he resuscitated eight persons. That was certainly no trifling matter; but it must be recollected that he resuscitated them six thousand leagues distant. Persons have since been found, who have pretended that the abolition of the Jesuits in France is a much greater miracle than any performed by Xavier and Ignatius.

However that may be, all Christians agree that the miracles of Jesus Christ and the apostles are incontestably true; but that we may certainly be permitted to doubt some stated to have been performed in our own times, and which have not been completely authenticated.

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It would certainly, for example, be very desirable, in order to the firm and clear establishment of a miracle, that it should be performed in the presence of the Academy of Sciences of Paris, or the Royal Society of London, and the Faculty of Medicine, assisted by a detachment of guards to keep in due order and distance the populace, who might by their rudeness or indiscretion prevent the operation of the miracle.

A philosopher was once asked what he should say if he saw the sun stand still, that is, if the motion of the earth around that star were to cease; if all the dead were to rise again; and if the mountains were to go and throw themselves together into the sea, all in order to prove some important truth, like that, for instance, of versatile grace? “What should I say?” answered the philosopher; “I should become a Manichæan; I should say that one principle counteracted the performance of another.”


Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another. Miraculum res miranda, prodigium, portentum, monstrum.”—Miracle, something admirable; prodigy, implying something astonishing; portentous, bearing with it novelty; monster, something to show (à montrer) on account of its variety. Such are the first ideas that men formed of miracles.

As everything is refined and improved upon, Edition: current; Page: [282] such also would be the case with this definition. A miracle is said to be that which is impossible to nature. But it was not considered that this was in fact saying all miracle is absolutely impossible. For what is nature? You understand by it the eternal order of things. A miracle would therefore be impossible in such an order. In this sense God could not work a miracle.

If you mean by miracle an effect of which you cannot perceive the cause, in that sense all is miracle. The attraction and direction of the magnet are continual miracles. A snail whose head is renewed is a miracle. The birth of every animal, the production of every vegetable, are miracles of every day.

But we are so accustomed to these prodigies, that they have lost their name of admirable—of miraculous. The Indians are no longer astonished by cannon.

We have therefore formed for ourselves another idea of a miracle. It is, according to the common opinion, what never has happened and never will happen. Such is the idea formed of Samson’s jawbone of an ass; of the conversation between the ass and Balaam, and that between a serpent and Eve; of the chariot with four horses that conveyed away Elijah; of the fish that kept Jonah in its belly seventy-two hours; of the ten plagues of Egypt; of the walls of Jericho, and of the sun and moon standing still at mid-day, etc.

In order to believe a miracle, it is not enough Edition: current; Page: [283] merely to have seen it; for a man may be deceived. A fool is often called a dealer in wonders; and not merely do many excellent persons think that they have seen what they have not seen, and heard what was never said to them; not only do they thus become witnesses of miracles, but they become also subjects of miracles. They have been sometimes diseased, and sometimes cured by supernatural power; they have been changed into wolves; they have travelled through the air on broomsticks; they have become both incubi and succubi.

It is necessary that the miracle should have been seen by a great number of very sensible people, in sound health, and perfectly disinterested in the affair. It is above all necessary, that it should have been solemnly attested by them; for if solemn forms of authentication are deemed necessary with respect to transactions of very simple character, such as the purchase of a house, a marriage contract, or a will, what particular and minute cautionary formalities must not be deemed requisite in order to verify things naturally impossible, on which the destiny of the world is to depend?

Even when an authentic miracle is performed, it in fact proves nothing; for Scripture tells you, in a great variety of places, that impostors may perform miracles, and that if any man, after having performed them, should proclaim another God than that of the Jews, he ought to be stoned to death. It is requisite, therefore, that the doctrine should be Edition: current; Page: [284] confirmed by the miracles, and the miracles by the doctrine.

Even this, however, is not sufficient. As impostors may preach a very correct and pure morality, the better to deceive, and it is admitted that impostors, like the magicians of Pharaoh, may perform miracles; it is in addition necessary, that these miracles should have been announced by prophecies.

In order to be convinced of the truth of these prophecies, it is necessary that they should have been heard clearly announced, and seen really accomplished. It is necessary to possess perfectly the language in which they are preserved.

It is not sufficient, even, that you are a witness of their miraculous fulfilment; for you may be deceived by false appearances. It is necessary that the miracle and prophecy should be verified on oath by the heads of the nation; and even after all this there will be some doubters. For it is possible for a nation to be interested in the forgery of a prophecy or a miracle; and when interest mixes with the transaction, you may consider the whole affair as worth nothing. If a predicted miracle be not as public and as well verified as an eclipse that is announced in the almanac, be assured that it is nothing better than a juggler’s trick or an old woman’s tale.


A theocracy can be founded only upon miracles. Everything in it must be divine. The Great Sovereign Edition: current; Page: [285] speaks to men only in prodigies. These are his ministers and letters patent. His orders are intimated by the ocean’s covering the earth to drown nations, or opening a way through its depths, that they may pass upon dry land.

Accordingly you perceive, that in the Jewish history all is miracle; from the creation of Adam, and the formation of Eve, who was made of one of the ribs of Adam, to the time of the insignificant kingling Saul.

Even in the time of this same Saul, theocracy participates in power with royalty. There are still, consequently, miracles performed from time to time; but there is no longer that splendid train of prodigies which continually astonishes and interrupts nature. The ten plagues of Egypt are not renewed; the sun and moon do not stand still at mid-day, in order to give a commander time to exterminate a few runaways, already nearly destroyed by a shower of stones from the clouds. No Samson again extirpates a thousand Philistines by the jaw-bone of an ass. Asses no longer talk rationally with men; walls no longer fall prostrate at the mere sound of trumpets; cities are not swallowed up in a lake by the fire of heaven; the race of man is not a second time destroyed by a deluge. But the finger of God is still manifested; the shade of Saul is permitted to appear at the invocation of the sorceress, and God Himself promises David that he will defeat the Philistines at Baal-perazim.

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“God gathers together His celestial army in the reign of Ahab, and asks the spirits: Who will go and deceive Ahab, and persuade him to go up to war against Ramoth Gilead? And there came forth a lying spirit and stood before the Lord and said, I will persuade him.” But the prophet Micaiah alone heard this conversation, and he received a blow on the cheek from another prophet, called Zedekiah, for having announced the ill-omened prodigy.

Of miracles performed in the sight of the whole nation, and changing the laws of all nature, we see no more until the time of Elijah, for whom the Lord despatched a chariot of fire and horses of fire, which conveyed him rapidly from the banks of the Jordan to heaven, although no one knew where heaven was.

From the commencement of historical times, that is, from the time of the conquests of Alexander, we see no more miracles among the Jews.

When Pompey comes to make himself master of Jerusalem—when Crassus plunders the temple—when Pompey puts to death the king of the Jews by the hands of the executioner—when Anthony confers the kingdom of Judæa on the Arabian Herod—when Titus takes Jerusalem by assault, and when it is razed to the ground by Arian—not a single miracle is ever performed. Thus it is with every nation upon earth. They begin with theocracy; they end in a manner simply and naturally human. The greater the progress made in society and knowledge, the fewer there are of prodigies.

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We well know that the theocracy of the Jews was the only true one, and that those of other nations were false; but in all other respects, the case was precisely the same with them as with the Jews.

In Egypt, in the time of Vulcan, and in that of Isis and Osiris, everything was out of the laws of nature; under the Ptolemies everything resumed its natural course.

In the remote periods of Phos, Chrysos, and Ephestes, gods and mortals conversed in Chaldee with the most interesting familiarity. A god warned King Xissuter that there would be a deluge in Armenia, and that it was necessary he should, as soon as possible, build a vessel five stadii in length and two in width. Such things do not happen to the Dariuses and the Alexanders.

The fish Oannes, in former times, came every day out of the Euphrates to preach upon its banks; but there is no preaching fish now. It is true that St. Anthony of Padua went and preached to the fishes; however, such things happen so very rarely that they are scarcely to be taken any account of.

Numa held long conversations with the nymph Egeria; but we never read that Cæsar had any with Venus, although he was descended from her in the direct line. The world, we see, is constantly advancing a little, and refining gradually.

But after being extricated out of one slough for a time, mankind are soon plunged into another. To ages of civilization succeed ages of barbarism; that Edition: current; Page: [288] barbarism is again expelled, and again reappears: it is the regular alternation of day and night.

Of Those Who Have Been so Impiously Rash as to Deny the Miracles of Jesus Christ.

Among the moderns, Thomas Woolston, a learned member of the University of Cambridge, appears to me to have been the first who ventured to interpret the Gospels merely in a typical, allegorical, and spiritual sense, and boldly maintained that not one of the miracles of Jesus was actually performed. He wrote without method or art, and in a style confused and coarse, but not destitute of vigor. His six discourses against the miracles of Jesus Christ were publicly sold at London, in his own house. In the course of two years, from 1737 to 1739, he had three editions of them printed, of twenty thousand copies each, and yet it is now very difficult to procure one from the booksellers.

Never was Christianity so daringly assailed by any Christian. Few writers entertain less awe or respect for the public, and no priest ever declared himself more openly the enemy of priests. He even dared to justify this hatred by that of Jesus Christ against the Pharisees and Scribes; and he said that he should not, like Jesus Christ, become their victim, because he had come into the world in a more enlightened age.

He certainly hoped to justify his rashness by Edition: current; Page: [289] his adoption of the mystical sense; but he employs expressions so contemptuous and abusive that every Christian ear is shocked at them.

If we may believe him, when Jesus sent the devil into the herd of two thousand swine, He did neither more nor less than commit a robbery on their owners. If the story had been told of Mahomet, he would have been considered as “an abominable wizard, and a sworn slave to the devil.” And if the proprietor of the swine, and the merchants who in the outer court of the temple sold beasts for sacrifices, and whom Jesus drove out with a scourge, came to demand justice when he was apprehended, it is clear that he was deservedly condemned, as there never was a jury in England that would not have found him guilty.

He tells her fortune to the woman of Samaria, just like a wandering Bohemian or Gypsy. This alone was sufficient to cause His banishment, which was the punishment inflicted upon fortune-tellers, or diviners, by Tiberius. “I am astonished,” says he, “that the gypsies do not proclaim themselves the genuine disciples of Jesus, as their vocation is the same. However, I am glad to see that He did not extort money from the Samaritan woman, differing in this respect from our clergy, who take care to be well paid for their divinations.”

I follow the order of the pages in his book. The author goes on to the entrance of Jesus Christ into Edition: current; Page: [290] Jerusalem. It is not clear, he says, whether He was mounted on a male or female ass, or upon the foal of an ass, or upon all three together.

He compares Jesus, when tempted by the devil, to St. Dunstan, who seized the devil by the nose; and he gives the preference to St. Dunstan.

At the article of the fig-tree, which was cursed with barrenness for not producing figs out of season for them, he describes Jesus as a mere vagabond, a mendicant friar, who before He turned field-preacher was “no better than a journeyman carpenter.” It is surprising, he says, that the court of Rome has not among all its relics some little fancy-box or joint-stool of His workmanship. In a word, it is difficult to carry blasphemy further.

After diverting himself with the probationary fish-pool of Bethesda, the waters of which were troubled or stirred once in every year by an angel, he inquires how it could well be, that neither Flavius Josephus, nor Philo should ever mention this angel; why St. John should be the sole historian of this miracle; and by what other miracle it happened that no Roman ever saw this angel, or ever even heard his name mentioned?

The water changed into wine at the marriage of Cana, according to him, excites the laughter and contempt of all who are not imbruted by superstition.

“What!” says he, “John expressly says that the guests were already intoxicated, ‘methus tosi’; and Edition: current; Page: [291] God comes down to earth and performs His first miracle to enable them to drink still more!”

God, made man, commences His mission by assisting at a village wedding. “Whether Jesus and His mother were drunk, as were others of the company, is not certain. The familiarity of the lady with a soldier leads to the presumption that she was fond of her bottle; that her Son, however, was somewhat affected by the wine, appears from His answering His mother so ‘waspishly and snappishly’ as He did, when He said, ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ It may be inferred from these words that Mary was not a virgin, and that Jesus was not her son; had it been otherwise, He would not have thus insulted His father and mother in violation of one of the most sacred commandments of the law. However, He complied with His mother’s request; He fills eighteen jars with water, and makes punch of it.” These are the very words of Thomas Woolston, and must fill every Christian soul with indignation.

It is with regret, and even with trembling, that I quote these passages; but there have been sixty thousand copies of this work printed, all bearing the name of the author, and all publicly sold at his house. It can never be said that I calumniate him.

It is to the dead raised again by Jesus Christ that he principally directs his attention. He contends that a dead man restored to life would have been an object of attention and astonishment to the Edition: current; Page: [292] universe; that all the Jewish magistracy, and more especially Pilate, would have made the most minute investigations and obtained the most authentic depositions; that Tiberius enjoined all proconsuls, prætors, and governors of provinces to inform him with exactness of every event that took place; that Lazarus, who had been dead four whole days, would have been most strictly interrogated; and that no little curiosity would have been excited to know what had become, during that time, of his soul.

With what eager interest would Tiberius and the whole Roman senate have questioned him, and not indeed only him, but the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow of Nain? Three dead persons restored to life would have been three attestations to the divinity of Jesus, which almost in a single moment would have made the whole world Christian. But instead of all this, the whole world, for more than two hundred years, knew nothing about these resplendent and decisive evidences. It is not till a hundred years have rolled away from the date of the events that some obscure individuals show one another the writings that contain the relation of those miracles. Eighty-nine emperors reckoning those who had only the name of “tyrants,” never hear the slightest mention of these resurrections, although they must inevitably have held all nature in amazement. Neither the Jewish historian Josephus, nor the learned Philo, nor any Greek or Roman historian at all notices these prodigies. In Edition: current; Page: [293] short, Woolston has the imprudence to say that the history of Lazarus is so brimful of absurdities that St. John, when he wrote it, had outlived his senses.

Supposing, says Woolston, that God should in our own times send an ambassador to London to convert the hireling clergy, and that ambassador should raise the dead, what would the clergy say?

He blasphemes the incarnation, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus Christ, just upon the same system; and he calls these miracles: “The most manifest and the most barefaced imposture that ever was put upon the world!”

What is perhaps more singular still is that each of his discourses is dedicated to a bishop. His dedications are certainly not exactly in the French style. He bestows no flattery nor compliments. He upbraids them with their pride and avarice, their ambition and faction, and smiles with triumph at the thought of their being now, like every other class of citizens, in complete subjection to the laws of the state.

At last these bishops, tired of being insulted by an undignified member of the University of Cambridge, determined upon a formal appeal to the laws. They instituted a prosecution against Woolston in the King’s Bench, and he was tried before Chief-Justice Raymond, in 1729, when he was imprisoned, condemned to pay a fine, and obliged to give security to the amount of a hundred and fifty pounds sterling. His friends furnished him with the security, Edition: current; Page: [294] and he did not in fact die in prison, as in some of our careless and ill-compiled dictionaries he is stated to have done. He died at his own house in London, after having uttered these words: “This is a pass that every man must come to.” Some time before his death, a female zealot meeting him in the street was gross enough to spit in his face; he calmly wiped his face and bowed to her. His manners were mild and pleasing. He was obstinately infatuated with the mystical meaning, and blasphemed the literal one; but let us hope that he repented on his death-bed, and that God has showed him mercy.

About the same period there appeared in France the will of John Meslier, clergyman (curé) of But and Entrepigni, in Champagne, of whom we have already spoken, under the article on “Contradictions.”

It was both a wonderful and a melancholy spectacle to see two priests at the same time writing against the Christian religion. Meslier is still more violent than Woolston. He ventures to treat the devil’s carrying off our Lord to the top of a mountain, the marriage of Cana, and the loaves and fishes, as absurd tales, injurious to the Supreme Being, which for three hundred years were unknown to the whole Roman Empire, and at last advanced from the dregs of the community to the throne of the emperors, when policy compelled them to adopt the nonsense of the people, in order to keep them the Edition: current; Page: [295] better in subjection. The declamations of the English priest do not approach in vehemence those of the priest of Champagne. Woolston occasionally showed discretion. Meslier never has any; he is a man so sensitively sore to the crimes to which he has been witness that he renders the Christian religion responsible for them, forgetting that it condemns them. There is not a single miracle which is not with him an object of scorn or horror; no prophecy which he does not compare with the prophecies of Nostradamus. He even goes so far as to compare Jesus Christ to Don Quixote, and St. Peter to Sancho Panza; and what is most of all to be deplored is, that he wrote these blasphemies against Jesus Christ, when he might be said to be in the very arms of death—at a moment when the most deceitful are sincere, and the most intrepid tremble. Too strongly impressed by some injuries that had been done him by his superiors in authority; too deeply affected by the great difficulties which he met with in the Scripture, he became exasperated against it more than Acosta and all the Jews; more than Porphyry, Celsus, Iamblichus, Julian, Libanius, Maximus, Simmachus, or any other whatever of the partisans of human reason against the divine incomprehensibilities of our religion. Many abridgments of his work have been printed; but happily the persons in authority suppressed them as fast as they appeared.

A priest of Bonne-Nouvelle, near Paris, wrote Edition: current; Page: [296] also on the same subject; and it thus happened that at the very time the abbé Becheran and the rest of the Convulsionaries were performing miracles, three priests were writing against the genuine Gospel miracles.

The most clever work that has been written against the miracles and prophecies is that of my Lord Bolingbroke. But happily it is so voluminous, so destitute of method, so verbose, and so abounding in long and sometimes complicated sentences, that it requires a great deal of patience to read him.

There have been some minds so constituted that they have been enchanted by the miracles of Moses and Joshua, but have not entertained for those of Jesus Christ the respect to which they are entitled. Their imagination—raised by the grand spectacle of the sea opening a passage through its depths, and suspending its waves that a horde of Hebrews might safely go through; by the ten plagues of Egypt, and by the stars that stopped in their course over Gibeon and Ajalon, etc.—could not with ease and satisfaction be let down again, so as to admire the comparatively petty miracles of the water changed into wine, the withered fig-tree, and the swine drowned in the little lake of Gadara. Vaghenseil said that it was like hearing a rustic ditty after attending a grand concert.

The Talmud pretends that there have been many Christians who, after comparing the miracles Edition: current; Page: [297] of the Old Testament with those of the New Testament, embraced Judaism; they consider it impossible that the Sovereign Lord of Nature should have wrought such stupendous prodigies for a religion He intended to annihilate. What! they exclaim, can it possibly be, that for a series of ages He should have exhibited a train of astonishing and tremendous miracles in favor of a true religion that was to become a false one? What! can it be that God Himself has recorded that this religion shall never perish, and that those who attempt to destroy it shall be stoned to death, and yet that He has nevertheless sent His own Son, Who is no other than Himself, to annihilate what He was employed so many ages in erecting?

There is much more to be added to these remarks; this Son, they continue, this Eternal God, having made Himself a Jew, adheres to the Jewish religion during the whole of His life; He performs all the functions of it, He frequents the Jewish temple, He announces nothing contrary to the Jewish law, and all His disciples are Jews and observe the Jewish ceremonies. It most certainly is not He who established the Christian religion. It was established by the dissident Jews who united with the Platonists. There is not a single dogma of Christianity that was preached by Jesus Christ.

Such is the reasoning of these rash men, who, with minds at once hypocritical and audacious, dare Edition: current; Page: [298] to criticise the works of God, and admit the miracles of the Old Testament for the sole purpose of rejecting those of the New Testament.

Of this number was the unfortunate priest of Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine, called Nicholas Anthony; he was known by no other name. After he had received what is called “the four minors” in Lorraine, the Calvinistic preacher Ferri, happening to go to Pont-à-Mousson, raised in his mind very serious scruples, and persuaded him that the four minors were the mark of the beast. Anthony, driven almost to distraction by the thought of carrying about him the mark of the beast, had it immediately effaced by Ferri, embraced the Protestant religion, and became a minister at Geneva about the year 1630.

With a head full of rabbinical learning, he thought that if the Protestants were right in reference to the Papists, the Jews were much more so in reference to all the different sects of Christianity whatever. From the village of Divonne, where he was pastor, he went to be received as a Jew at Venice, together with a young apprentice in theology whom he had persuaded to adopt his own principles, but who afterwards abandoned him, not experiencing any call to martyrdom.

At first the minister, Nicholas Anthony, abstained from uttering the name of Jesus Christ in his sermons and prayers; in a short time, however, becoming animated and emboldened by the example Edition: current; Page: [299] of the Jewish saints, who confidently professed Judaism before the princes of Tyre and Babylon, he travelled barefooted to Geneva, to confess before the judges and magistrates that there is only one religion upon earth, because there is only one God; that that religion is the Jewish; that it is absolutely necessary to become circumcised; and that it is a horrible crime to eat bacon and blood pudding. He pathetically exhorted all the people of Geneva, who crowded to hear him, no longer to continue children of Belial, but to become good Jews, in order to deserve the kingdom of heaven. He was apprehended, and put in chains.

The little Council of Geneva, which at that period did nothing without consulting the council of preachers, asked their advice in this emergency. The most sensible of them recommended that poor Anthony should be bled in the cephalic vein, use the bath, and be kept upon gruel and broths; after which he might perhaps gradually be induced to pronounce the name of Jesus Christ, or at least to hear it pronounced, without grinding his teeth, as had hitherto been his practice. They added, that the laws bore with Jews; that there were eight thousand of them even in Rome itself; that many merchants are true Jews, and therefore that as Rome admitted within its walls eight thousand children of the synagogue, Geneva might well tolerate one. At the sound of “toleration” the rest of the pastors, who were the majority, gnashing their teeth still more than Anthony Edition: current; Page: [300] did at the name of Jesus Christ, and also eager to find an opportunity to burn a man, which could not be done every day, called peremptorily for the burning. They resolved that nothing could serve more to establish genuine Christianity; that the Spaniards had obtained so much reputation in the world only by burning the Jews every year, and that after all, if the Old Testament must prevail over the New Testament, God would not fail to come and extinguish the flames of the pile, as he did at Babylon for Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego; in which case all must go back again to the Old Testament; but that, in the meantime, it was indispensable to burn Nicholas Anthony. On the breaking up of the meeting, they concluded with the observation: “We must put the wicked out of the way”—the very words they used.

The long-headed syndics, Sarasin and Godefroi, agreed that the reasoning of the Calvinistic sanhedrim was admirable, and by the right of the strongest party, condemned Nicholas Anthony, the weakest of men, to die the same death as Calanus and the counsellor Dubourg. This sentence was carried into execution on April 20, 1632, in a very beautiful lawn or meadow, called Plain-Palais, in the presence of twenty thousand persons, who blessed the new law, and the wonderful sense of the syndics Sarasin and Godefroi.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not Edition: current; Page: [301] renew the miracle of the furnace of Babylon in favor of poor Anthony.

Abauzit, an author of great veracity, relates in his notes, that he died in the greatest constancy, and persisted in his opinions even at the stake on the pile; he broke out into no passionate invective against his judges when the executioner was tying him to the stake; he displayed neither pride nor pusillanimity; he neither wept nor sighed; he was resigned. Never did martyr consummate his sacrifice with a more lively faith; never did philosopher contemplate a death of horror with greater firmness. This clearly proves that his folly or madness was at all events attended with sincere conviction. Let us implore of the God of both the Old and the New Testaments that he will grant him mercy.

I would say as much for the Jesuit Malagrida, who was still more infatuated and mad than Nicholas Anthony; as I would also for the ex-Jesuits Patouillet and Paulian, should they ever be brought to the stake.

A great number of writers, whose misfortune it was to be philosophers rather than Christians, have been bold enough to deny the miracles of our Lord; but after the four priests already noticed, there is no necessity to enumerate other instances. Let us lament over these four unfortunate men, led astray by their own deceitful reason, and precipitated by the gloom of their feelings into an abyss so dreadful and so fatal.

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It is far from our object in this article to reflect upon the zeal of our missionaries, or the truth of our religion; these are sufficiently known in Christian Europe, and duly respected.

My object is merely to make some remarks on the very curious and edifying letters of the reverend fathers, the Jesuits, who are not equally respectable. Scarcely do they arrive in India before they commence preaching, convert millions of Indians, and perform millions of miracles. Far be it from me to contradict their assertions. We all know how easy it must be for a Biscayan, a Bergamask, or a Norman to learn the Indian language in a few days, and preach like an Indian.

With regard to miracles, nothing is more easy than to perform them at a distance of six thousand leagues, since so many have been performed at Paris, in the parish of St. Médard. The sufficing grace of the Molinists could undoubtedly operate on the banks of the Ganges, as well as the efficacious grace of the Jansenists on those of the river of the Gobelins. We have, however, said so much already about miracles that we shall pursue the subject no further.

A reverend father Jesuit arrived in the course of the past year at Delhi, at the court of the great Mogul. He was not a man profoundly skilled in mathematics, or highly gifted in mind, who had Edition: current; Page: [303] come to correct the calendar, or to establish his fortune, but one of those poor, honest, zealous Jesuits, one of those soldiers who are despatched on particular duty by their general, and who obey orders without reasoning about them.

M. Andrais, my factor, asked him what his business might be at Delhi. He replied that he had orders from the reverend father Ricci to deliver the Great Mogul from the paws of the devil, and convert his whole court.

the jesuit.

I have already baptized twenty infants in the street, without their knowing anything at all about the matter, by throwing a few drops of water upon their heads. They are now just so many angels, provided they are happy enough to die directly. I cured a poor old woman of the megrims by making the sign of the cross behind her. I hope in a short time to convert the Mahometans of the court and the Gentoos among the people. You will see in Delhi, Agra, and Benares, as many good Catholics, adorers of the Virgin Mary, as you now do idolaters, adoring the devil.

m. andrais.

You think then, my worthy father, that the inhabitants of these countries adore idols and the devil?

the jesuit.

Undoubtedly, as they are not of my religion.

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m. andrais.

Very well. But when there are as many Catholics in India as idolaters, are you not afraid that they will fight against one another; that blood will flow for a long period, and the whole country be a scene of pillage and devastation? This has happened in every country in which you have obtained a footing hitherto.

the jesuit.

You make one pause for a moment; but nothing could happen better than that which you suggest as being so probable. The slaughtered Catholics would go to paradise—to the garden—and the Gentoos to the everlasting fire of hell created for them from all eternity, according to the great mercy of God, and for His great glory; for God is exceedingly glorious.

m. andrais.

But suppose that you should be informed against, and punished at the whipping post?

the jesuit.

That would also be for His glory. However, I conjure you to keep my secret, and save me from the honor and happiness of martyrdom.

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Allegorical bust of Voltaire.
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Allegorical Bust of VoltaireFrontispiece
The Initiate Banishing the Priest  96
John Calvin294
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A word made use of to express gold. “Sir, will you lend me a hundred louis d’or?” “Sir, I would with all my heart, but I have no money; I am out of ready money.” The Italian will say to you: “Signore, non ha di danari”—“I have no deniers.”

Harpagon asks Maître Jacques: “Wilt thou make a good entertainment?” “Yes, if you will give me plenty of money.”

We continually inquire which of the countries of Europe is the richest in money? By that we mean, which is the people who circulate the most metals representative of objects of commerce? In the same manner we ask, which is the poorest? and thirty contending nations present themselves—the Westphalian, Limousin, Basque, Tyrolese, Valois, Grison, Istrian, Scotch, and Irish, the Swiss of a small canton, and above all the subjects of the pope.

In deciding which has most, we hesitate at present between France, Spain, and Holland, which had none in 1600.

Formerly, in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, the province of the papal treasury had no doubt the most ready money, and therefore Edition: current; Page: [6] the greatest trade. How do you sell that? would be asked of a theological merchant, who replied, For as much as the people are fools enough to give me.

All Europe then sent its money to the Roman court, who gave in change consecrated beads, agnuses, indulgences plenary and limited, dispensations, confirmations, exemptions, benedictions, and even excommunications against those whom the subscriber chose, and who had not sufficient faith in the court of Rome.

The Venetians sold nothing of all this, but they traded with all the West by Alexandria, and it was through them only that we had pepper and cinnamon. The money which went not to the papal treasury came to them, excepting a little to the Tuscans and Genoese. All the other kingdoms of Europe were so poor in ready money that Charles VIII. was obliged to borrow the jewels of the duchess of Savoy and put them in pawn, to raise funds to conquer Naples, which he soon lost again. The Venetians supported stronger armies than his. A noble Venetian had more gold in his coffers, and more vessels of silver on his table, than the emperor Maximilian surnamed Pochi danari.”

Things changed when the Portuguese traded with India as conquerors, and the Spaniards subjugated Mexico and Peru with six or seven hundred men. We know that then the commerce of Venice, and the other towns of Italy all fell to the ground. Philip II., the master of Spain, Portugal, the Low Edition: current; Page: [7] Countries, the Two Sicilies, and the Milanese, of fifteen hundred leagues of coast in Asia, and mines of gold and silver in America, was the only rich, and consequently the only powerful prince in Europe. The spies whom he gained in France kissed on their knees the Catholic doubloons, and the small number of angels and caroluses which circulated in that country had not much credit. It is pretended that America and Asia brought him in nearly ten million ducats of revenue. He would have really bought Europe with his money, but for the iron of Henry IV. and the fleets of Queen Elizabeth.

The “Dictionnaire Encyclopedique, in the article on “Argent,” quotes the “Spirits of Laws,” in which it is said: “I have heard deplored a thousand times, the blindness of the council of Francis I., who rejected the proposal of Christopher Columbus for the discovery of the Indies—perhaps this imprudence has turned out a very wise thing.”

We see by the enormous power of Philip that the pretended council of Francis I. could not have done such a wise thing. But let us content ourselves with remarking that Francis I. was not born when it is pretended that he refused the offers of Christopher Columbus. The Genoese captain landed in America in 1492, and Francis I. was born in 1497, and did not ascend the throne until 1515. Let us here compare the revenues of Henry III., Henry IV., and Queen Elizabeth, with those of Philip II. The ordinary income of Elizabeth was only one Edition: current; Page: [8] hundred thousand pound sterling, and with extras it was, one year with another, four hundred thousand; but she required this surplus to defend herself from Philip II. Without extreme economy she would have been lost, and England with her.

The revenue of Henry III. indeed increased to thirty millions of livres of his time; this, to the sum that Philip drew from the Indies, was as three to ten; but not more than a third of this money entered into the coffers of Henry III., who was very prodigal, greatly robbed, and consequently very poor. We find that Philip II. in one article was ten times richer than Henry.

As to Henry IV., it is not worth while to compare his treasures with those of Philip II. Until the Peace of Vervins, he had only what he could borrow or win at the point of his sword; and he lived as a knight-errant, until the time in which he became the first king in Europe. England had always been so poor that King Edward III. was the first king who coined money of gold.

Would we know what became of the money which flowed continually from Mexico and Peru into Spain? It entered the pockets of the French, English and Dutch, who traded with Cadiz under Spanish names; and who sent to America the productions of their manufactories. A great part of this money goes to the East Indies to pay for spices, cotton, saltpetre, sugar, candy, tea, cloths, diamonds, and monkeys.

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We may afterwards demand, what is become of all the treasures of the Indies? I answer that Shah Thamas Kouli-Khan or Shah Nadir had carried away all those of the great Mogul, together with his jewels. You would know where those jewels are, and this money that Shah Nadir carried with him into Persia? A part was hidden in the earth during the civil wars; predatory leaders made use of the rest to raise troops against one another; for, as Cæsar very well remarks: “With money we get soldiers, and with soldiers we steal money.”

Your curiosity is not yet satisfied; you are troubled to know what have become of the treasures of Sesostris, of Crœsus, Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, and above all of Solomon, who, it is said, had to his own share equal to twenty millions and more of our pounds in his coffers.

I will tell you. It is spread all over the world. Things find their level in time. Be sure, that in the time of Cyrus, the Gauls, Germany, Denmark, Poland, and Russia, had not a crown. Besides, that which is lost in gilding, which is fooled away upon our Lady of Loretto, and other places, and which has been swallowed up by the avaricious sea must be counted.

How did the Romans under their great Romulus, the son of Mars, and a vestal, and under the devout Numa Pompilius? They had a Jupiter of oak; rudely carved huts for palaces; a handful of hay at the end of a stick for a standard; and not a piece Edition: current; Page: [10] of money of twelve sous value in their pockets. Our coachmen have gold watches that the seven kings of Rome, the Camilluses, Manliuses, and Fabiuses, could not have paid for.

If by chance the wife of a receiver-general of finances was to have this chapter read at her toilette by the bel-esprit of the house, she would have a strange contempt for the Romans of the three first centuries, and would not allow a Manlius, Curius, or Fabius to enter her antechamber, should he come on foot, and not have wherewithal to take his part at play.

Their ready money was of brass. It served at once for arms and money. They fought and reckoned with brass. Three or four pounds of brass, of twelve ounces weight, paid for an ox. They bought necessaries at market, as we buy them at present; and men had, as in all times, food, clothing, and habitations. The Romans, poorer than their neighbors, conquered them, and continually augmented their territory for the space of five hundred years, before they coined silver money.

The soldiers of Gustavus Adolphus in Sweden had nothing but copper money for their pay, before the time that they made conquests out of their own country.

Provided we have a pledge of exchange for the necessary things of life, commerce will continually go on. It signifies not whether this pledge be of shells or paper. Gold and silver have prevailed Edition: current; Page: [11] everywhere, only because they have been the most rare.

It was in Asia that the first manufactures of money of these two metals commenced, because Asia was the cradle of all the arts.

There certainly was no money in the Trojan war. Gold and silver passed by weight; Agamemnon might have had a treasure, but certainly no money.

What has made several hardy scholars suspect that the “Pentateuch” was not written until the time in which the Hebrews began to procure coins from their neighbors is that in more than one passage mention is made of shekels. It is there said that Abraham, who was a stranger and had not an inch of land in the country of Canaan, bought there a field and a cave in which to bury his wife, for four hundred shekels of silver current money. The judicious Dom Calmet values this sum at four hundred and forty-eight livres, six sous, nine deniers, according to the ancient calculation adopted at random, in which the silver mark was of six-and-twenty livres value. As the silver mark has, however, increased by half the sum, the present value would be eight hundred and ninety-six livres.

Now, as in that time there was no coined money answering to the word “pecunia,” that would make a little difficulty, from which it is not easy to extricate ourselves.

Another difficulty is, that in one place it is said Edition: current; Page: [12] that Abraham bought this field in Hebron, and in another at Sichem. On that point consult the venerable Bede, Raban, Maure, and Emanuel Sa.

We will now speak of the riches which David left to Solomon in coined money. Some make it amount to twenty-one or twenty-two millions of French livres, others to five-and-twenty. There is no keeper of the royal treasure, nor tefterdan of the grand Turk’s, who can exactly compute the treasure of King Solomon; but the young bachelors of Oxford and the Sorbonne make out the amount without difficulty.

I will not speak of the innumerable adventures which have happened to money since it has been stamped, marked, valued, altered, increased, buried, and stolen, having through all its transformations constantly remained the idol of mankind. It is so much loved that among all Christian princes there still exists an old law which is not to allow gold and silver to go out of their kingdoms. This law implies one of two things—either that these princes reign over fools who lavish their money in a foreign country for their pleasure, or that we must not pay our debts to foreigners. It is, however, clear that no person is foolish enough to give his money without reason, and that, when we are in debt to a foreigner, we should pay him either in bills of exchange, commodities, or legitimate coin. Thus this law has not been executed since we began to open our eyes—which is not long ago.

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There are many things to be said on coined money; as on the unjust and ridiculous augmentation of specie, which suddenly loses considerable sums to a state on the melting down again; on the re-stamping, with an augmentation of ideal value, which augmentation invites all your neighbors and all your enemies to re-coin your money and gain at your expense; in short, on twenty other equally ruinous expedients. Several new books are full of judicious remarks upon this subject. It is more easy to write on money than to obtain it; and those who gain it, jest much at those who only know how to write about it.

In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one part of the citizens to give to the other.

It is demanded, if it be possible radically to ruin a kingdom of which the soil in general is fertile. We answer that the thing is not practicable, since from the war of 1689 till the end of 1769, in which we write, everything has continually been done which could ruin France and leave it without resource, and yet it never could be brought about. It is a sound body which has had a fever of eighty years with relapses, and which has been in the hands of quacks, but which will survive.


The definition of monsters is more difficult than is generally imagined. Are we to apply the term Edition: current; Page: [14] to animals of enormous size; to a fish, or a serpent fifteen feet long, for instance? There are some, however, that are twenty or even thirty feet long, in comparison with which of course the others, instead of enormous or monstrous, would appear small.

There are monsters through defect. But, if a generally well-made and handsome man were destitute from his birth of the little toes and little fingers, would he be a monster? Teeth are more necessary to a man; I have seen a man who never had a tooth. He was in other respects pleasing in his person. Being destitute of the organs of generation, still more necessary in the system of nature, would not constitute the person thus defective a monster.

There are monsters by excess as well as by defect. But those who have six fingers, or three testicles, or two perforations instead of one, or the spine elongated in the form of a small tail, are not considered monsters.

The third kind consists of those which have members of other animals; as, for example, a lion with the wings of an ostrich, or a serpent with the wings of an eagle, like the griffin and ixion of the Jews. But all bats have wings, and flying fish have them, without being monsters.

Let us, then, reserve the name for animals whose deformities strike us with horror.

Yet the first negro, upon this idea, was a monster Edition: current; Page: [15] to white women; and the most admirable of European beauties was a monster in the eyes of negroes.

If Polyphemus and the Cyclops had really existed, people who carried an eye on each side of the root of the nose, would, in the island of Lipari, and the neighborhood of Mount Ætna, have been pronounced monsters.

I once saw, at a fair, a young woman with four nipples, or rather dugs, and what resembled the tail of a cow hanging down between them. She was decidedly a monster when she displayed her neck, but was rather an agreeable woman in appearance when she concealed it.

Centaurs and Minotaurs would have been monsters, but beautiful monsters. The well-proportioned body of a horse serving as a base or support to the upper part of a man would have been a masterpiece of nature’s workmanship on earth; just as we draw the masterpieces of heaven—those spirits which we call angels, and which we paint and sculpture in our churches—adorned sometimes with two wings, sometimes with four, and sometimes even with six.

We have already asked, with the judicious Locke, what is the boundary of distinction between the human and merely animal figure; what is the point of monstrosity at which it would be proper to take your stand against baptizing an infant, against admitting it as a member of the human species, against Edition: current; Page: [16] according to it the possession of a soul? We have seen that this boundary is as difficult to be settled as it is difficult to ascertain what a soul is; for there certainly are none who know what it is but theologians.

Why should the satyrs which St. Jerome saw, the offspring of women and baboons, have been reputed monsters? Might it not be thought, on the contrary, that their lot was in reality happier than ours? Must they not have possessed more strength and more agility? and would they not have laughed at us as an unfortunate race, to whom nature had refused both tails and clothing? A mule, the offspring of two different species; a jumart, the offspring of a bull and a mare; a tarin, the offspring, we are told, of a canary bird and hen linnet—are not monsters.

But how is it that mules, jumarts, and tarins, which are thus produced in nature, do not themselves reproduce? And how do the seminists, ovists, or animalculists, explain, upon their respective theories, the formation of these mongrel productions?

I will tell you plainly, that they do not explain it at all. The seminists never discovered how it is that the ass communicates to his mule offspring a resemblance only in the ears and crupper; the ovists neither inform us, nor understand how a mare should contain in her egg anything but an animal of her own species. And the animalculists Edition: current; Page: [17] cannot perceive how a minute embryo of an ass could introduce its ears into the matrix of a mare.

The theorist who, in a work entitled the “Philosophy of Venus,” maintained that all animals and all monsters are formed by attraction, was still less successful than those just mentioned, in accounting for phenomena so common and yet so surprising.

Alas! my good friends! you none of you know how you originate your own offspring; you are ignorant of the secrets of nature in your own species, and yet vainly attempt to develop them in the mule!

It may, however, be confidently presumed, in reference to a monster by defect, that the whole seminal matter did not reach its destined appropriation; or, perhaps, that the small spermatic worm had lost a portion of its substance; or, perhaps that the egg was crazed and injured. With respect to a monster by excess, you may imagine that some portions of the seminal matter superabounded; that of two spermatic worms united, one could only animate a single member of the animal, and that that member remains in supererogation; that two eggs have blended together, and that one of them has produced but a single member, which was joined to the body of the other.

But what would you say of so many monstrosities arising from the addition of parts of animals of a totally different species? How would you explain a crab on the neck of a girl? or the tail of Edition: current; Page: [18] a rat upon the thigh? or, above all, the four dugs and tail of a cow, which was exhibited at the fair at St. Germain? You would be reduced to the supposition that the unfortunate woman’s mother belonged to the very extraordinary family of Pasiphæ.

Let each of us boldly and honestly say, How little is it that I really know.


Babblers, preachers, extravagant controversialists! endeavor to remember that your master never announced that the sacrament was the visible sign of an invisible thing; He has nowhere admitted four cardinal virtues, and three divine ones. He has never decided whether His mother came into the world maculate or immaculate. Cease, therefore, to repeat things which never entered into His mind. He has said, in conformity with a truth as ancient as the world—Love God and your neighbor. Abide by that precept, miserable cavillers! Preach morality and nothing more. Observe it, and let the tribunals no longer echo with your prosecutions; snatch no longer, by the claw of an attorney, their morsel of bread from the widow and the orphan. Dispute not concerning some petty benefice with the same fury as the papacy was disputed in the great schism of the West. Monks! place not to the utmost of your power, the universe under contribution, Edition: current; Page: [19] and we may then be able to believe you. I have just read these words in a piece of declamation in fourteen volumes, entitled, “The History of the Lower Empire”; “The Christians had a morality, but the Pagans had none.”

Oh, M. Le Beau! author of these fourteen volumes, where did you pick up this absurdity? What becomes of the morality of Socrates, of Zaleucus, of Charondas, of Cicero, of Epictetus, and of Marcus Aurelius?

There is but one morality, M. Le Beau, as there is but one geometry. But you will tell me that the greater part of mankind are ignorant of geometry. True; but if they apply a little to the study of it, all men draw the same conclusions. Agriculturists, manufacturers, artisans, do not go through a regular course of morality; they read neither the “De Finibus” of Cicero, nor the “Ethics” of Aristotle; but as soon as they reflect, they are, without knowing it, disciples of Cicero. The Indian dyer, the Tartarian shepherd, and the English seaman, are acquainted with justice and injustice. Confucius did not invent a system of morals, as men construct physical systems. He found his in the hearts of all mankind.

This morality existed in the bosom of the prætor Festus, when the Jews pressed him to put Paul to death for having taken strangers into their temple. “Learn,” said he, “that the Romans never condemn any one unheard.”

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If the Jews were deficient in a moral sense, the Romans were not, and paid it homage.

There is no morality in superstition; it exists not in ceremonies, and has nothing to do with dogmas. We cannot repeat too frequently that dogmas differ, but that morality is the same among all men who make use of their reason. Morality proceeds from God, like light; our superstitions are only darkness. Reflect, reader; pursue the truth, and draw the consequences.



Philosophy, of which we sometimes pass the boundaries, researches of antiquity, and the spirit of discussion and criticism, have been carried so far that several learned men have finally doubted if there ever was a Moses, and whether this man was not an imaginary being, such as were Perseus, Bacchus, Atlas, Penthesilea, Vesta, Rhea Silvia, Isis, Sammonocodom, Fo, Mercury, Trismegistus, Odin, Merlin, Francus, Robert the Devil, and so many other heroes of romance whose lives and prowess have been recorded.

It is not very likely, say the incredulous, that a man ever existed whose life is a continual prodigy.

It is not very likely that he worked so many stupendous miracles in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria, without their being known throughout the world.

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It is not likely that no Egyptian or Greek writer should have transmitted these miracles to posterity. They are mentioned by the Jews alone; and in the time that this history was written by them, they were not known to any nation—not indeed until towards the second century. The first author who expressly quotes the Book of Moses is Longinus, minister of Queen Zenobia, in the time of the emperor Aurelian.

It is to be remarked that the author of the “Mercury Trismegistus,” who certainly was an Egyptian, says not a single word about this Moses.

If a single ancient author had related a single one of these miracles, Eusebius would no doubt have triumphed in this evidence, either in his “History” or in his “Evangelical Preparation.”

It is true, he mentions authors who have quoted his name, but none who have cited his prodigies. Before him, the Jews, Josephus and Philo, who have so much celebrated their own nation, sought all the writers in which the name of Moses is found, but there was not a single one who made the least mention of the marvellous actions attributed to him.

In this silence of the whole world, the incredulous reason with a temerity which refutes itself.

The Jews are the only people who possessed the Pentateuch, which they attribute to Moses. It is said, even in their books, that this Pentateuch was not known until the reign of their king Josiah, thirty-six years before the destruction and captivity Edition: current; Page: [22] of Jerusalem; and they then only possessed a single copy, which the priest Hilkiah found at the bottom of a strong box, while counting money. The priest sent it to the king by his scribe Shaphan. All this, say they, necessarily obscures the authenticity of the Pentateuch.

In short, if the Pentateuch was known to all the Jews, would Solomon—the wise Solomon, inspired by God Himself to build a temple—have ornamented this temple with so many statues, contrary to the express order of Moses?

All the Jewish prophets, who prophesied in the name of the Lord from the time of Moses till that of King Josiah, would they not have been supported in all their prophecies by the laws of Moses? Would they not a thousand times have quoted his own words? Would they not have commented upon them? None of them, however, quote two lines—no one follows the text of Moses—they even oppose them in several places.

According to these unbelievers, the books attributed to Moses were only written among the Babylonians during the captivity, or immediately afterwards by Esdras. Indeed, we see only Persian and Chaldæan terminations in the Jewish writings: “Babel,” gate of God; “Phegor-beel,” or “Beel-phegor,” god of the precipices; “Zebuth-beel,” or “Beel-zebuth,” god of insects; “Bethel,” house of God; “Daniel,” judgment of God; “Gabriel,” man of God; “Jahel,” afflicted of God; “Jael,” the life of Edition: current; Page: [23] God; “Israel,” seeing God; “Oviel,” strength of God; “Raphael,” help of God; “Uriel,” fire of God.

Thus, all is foreign in the Jewish nation, a stranger itself in Palestine; circumcision, ceremonies, sacrifices, the ark, the cherubim, the goat Hazazel, baptism of justice, simple baptism, proofs, divination, interpretation of dreams, enchantment of serpents—nothing originated among these people, nothing was invented by them.

The celebrated Lord Bolingbroke believed not that Moses ever existed; he thought he saw in the Pentateuch a crowd of contradictions and puzzling chronological and geographical faults; names of towns not then built, precepts given to kings at a time when not only the Jews had no kings, but in which it is probable there were none, since they lived in deserts, in tents, in the manner of the Bedouin Arabs.

What appears to him above all the most palpable contradiction is the gift of forty-eight cities with their suburbs, made to the Levites in a country in which there was not a single village; and it is principally on these forty-eight cities that he refutes Abbadie, and even has the cruelty to treat him with the aversion and contempt of a lord of the Upper Chamber, or a minister of state towards a petty foreign priest who would be so impertinent as to reason with him.

I will take the liberty of representing to Viscount Bolingbroke, and to all those who think with him, Edition: current; Page: [24] not only that the Jewish nation has always believed in the existence of Moses, and in that of his books, but that even Jesus Christ has acknowledged him. The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, recognize him. St. Matthew says expressly, that Moses and Elias appeared to Jesus Christ on the mountain during the night of the transfiguration, and St. Luke says the same.

Jesus Christ declares in St. Matthew that he is not come to abolish this law, but to accomplish it. In the New Testament, we are often referred to the law of Moses and to the prophets. The whole Church has always believed the Pentateuch written by Moses; and further, of five hundred different societies, which have been so long established in Christendom, none have ever doubted the existence of this great prophet. We must, therefore, submit our reason, as so many men have done before us.

I know very well that I shall gain nothing in the mind of the viscount, or of those of his opinion. They are too well persuaded that the Jewish books were not written until very late, and during the captivity of the two tribes which remained. But we shall possess the consolation of having the Church with us.


If you would be instructed and amused with antiquity, read the life of Moses in the article on “Apocrypha.”

In vain have several scholars believed that the Edition: current; Page: [25] Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses. They say that it is affirmed even by the Scripture, that the first known copy was found in the time of King Josiah, and that this single copy was brought to the king by the secretary Shaphan. Now, between the time of Moses and this adventure of the secretary Shaphan, there were one thousand one hundred and sixty-seven years, by the Hebrew computation. For God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, in the year of the world 2213, and the secretary Shaphan published the book of the law in the year of the world 3380. This book found under Josiah, was unknown until the return from the Babylonish captivity; and it is said that it was Esdras, inspired by God, who brought the Holy Scriptures to light.

But whether it was Esdras or another who digested this book is absolutely indifferent, since it is inspired. It is not said in the Pentateuch, that Moses was the author; we might, therefore, be permitted to attribute it to the declaration of some other divine mind, if the Church had not decided that the book is by Moses.

Some opposers add, that no prophet has quoted the books of the Pentateuch, that there is no mention of it either in the Psalms or in the books attributed to Solomon, in Jeremiah or Isaiah, or, in short, in any canonical book of the Jews. Words answering to those of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, are not found in any other language Edition: current; Page: [26] recognized by them as authentic. Others, still more bold, have put the following questions:

1. In what language could Moses have written in a savage desert? It could only be in Egyptian; for by this same book we are told that Moses and all his people were born in Egypt. It is therefore probable that they spoke no other language. The Egyptians had yet made no use of papyrus; they engraved hieroglyphics on tables of wood or marble. It is even said, that the tables of the commandments were engraved on polished stones, which required prodigious time and labor.

2. Is it likely, that in a desert where the Jewish people had neither shoemaker nor tailor—in which the God of the universe was obliged to work a continual miracle to preserve the old dresses and shoes of the Jews—men could be found clever enough to engrave the five books of the Pentateuch on marble or wood? You will say, that they found laborers who made a golden calf in one night, and who afterwards reduced the gold into powder—an operation impracticable to common chemistry, which was not yet discovered. Who constructed the tabernacle? Who ornamented thirty columns of brass with capitals of silver? Who wove and embroidered veils of linen with hyacinth, purple, and scarlet? An account that supports the opinion of the contradictors. They answer, that it was not possible that in a desert, where they were in want of everything, for them to perform works so intricate; that they must Edition: current; Page: [27] have begun by making shoes and tunics; that those who wanted necessaries could not indulge in luxuries; and that it is an evident contradiction to say, that they had founders, engravers, and embroiderers, when they had neither clothes nor bread.

3. If Moses had written the first chapter of Genesis, would all young people have been forbidden to read the first chapter? Would so little respect have been paid to the legislator? If it was Moses who said that God punished the iniquity of the fathers to the fourth generation, would Ezekiel have dared to say the contrary?

4. If Moses wrote Leviticus, could he have contradicted it in Deuteronomy? Leviticus forbids a woman to marry her brother, Deuteronomy commands it.

5. Could Moses have spoken of towns which existed not in his time? Would he have said that towns which, in regard to him, were on the east of the Jordan were on the west?

6. Would he have assigned forty-eight cities to the Levites, in a country in which there were never ten, and in a desert in which he had always wandered without habitation?

7. Would he have prescribed rules for the Jewish kings, when not only there were no kings among this people, but they were held in horror, and it was not probable they would ever have any? What! would Moses have given precepts for the conduct of kings who came not until five hundred Edition: current; Page: [28] years after him, and have said nothing in relation to the judges and priests who succeeded him? Does not this religion lead us to believe that the Pentateuch was composed in the time of kings, and that the ceremonies instituted by Moses were only traditional.

8. Suppose he had said to the Jews: I have made you depart to the number of six hundred thousand combatants from the land of Egypt under the protection of your God? Would not the Jews have answered him: You must have been very timid not to lead us against Pharaoh of Egypt; he could not have opposed to us an army of two hundred thousand men. There never was such an army on foot in Egypt; we should have conquered them easily; we should have been the masters of their country. What! has the God, who talks to you, to please us slain all the first-born of Egypt, which, if there were in this country three hundred thousand families, makes three hundred thousand men destroyed in one night, simply to avenge us, and yet you have not seconded your God and given us that fertile country which nothing could withhold from us. On the contrary you have made us depart from Egypt as thieves and cowards, to perish in deserts between mountains and precipices. You might, at least, have conducted us by the direct road to this land of Canaan, to which we have no right, but which you have promised us, and on which we have not yet been able to enter.

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It was natural that, from the land of Goshen, we should march towards Tyre and Sidon, along the Mediterranean; but you made us entirely pass the Isthmus of Suez, and re-enter Egypt, proceed as far as Memphis, when we find ourselves at Beel-Sephor on the borders of the Red Sea, turning our backs on the land of Canaan, having journeyed eighty leagues in this Egypt which we wished to avoid, so as at last to nearly perish between the sea and the army of Pharaoh!

If you had wished to deliver us to our enemies, you could not have taken a different route and other measures. God has saved us by a miracle, you say; the sea opened to let us pass; but after such a favor, should He let us die of hunger and fatigue in the horrible deserts of Kadesh-barnea, Mara, Elim, Horeb, and Sinai? All our fathers perished in these frightful solitudes; and you tell us, at the end of forty years, that God took particular care of them.

This is what these murmuring Jews, these unjust children of the vagabonds who died in the desert, might have said to Moses, if he had read Exodus and Genesis to them. And what might they not have said and done on the article of the golden calf? What! you dare to tell us that your brother made a calf for our fathers, when you were with God on the mountain? You, who sometimes tell us that you have spoken to God face to face, and sometimes that you could only see His back! But no matter, you were with this God, and your brother cast a golden Edition: current; Page: [30] calf in one day, and gave it to us to adore it; and instead of punishing your unworthy brother, you make him our chief priest, and order your Levites to slay twenty-three thousand men of your people. Would our fathers have suffered this? Would they have allowed themselves to be sacrificed like so many victims by sanguinary priests? You tell us that, not content with this incredible butchery, you have further massacred twenty-four thousand of our poor followers because one of them slept with a Midianitish woman, whilst you yourself espoused a Midianite; and yet you add, that you are the mildest of men! A few more instances of this mildness, and not a soul would have remained.

No; if you have been capable of all this cruelty, if you can have exercised it, you would be the most barbarous of men, and no punishment would suffice to expiate so great a crime.

These are nearly the objections which all scholars make to those who think that Moses is the author of the Pentateuch. But we answer them, that the ways of God are not those of men; that God has proved, conducted, and abandoned His people by a wisdom which is unknown to us; that the Jews themselves, for more than two thousand years, have believed that Moses is the author of these books; that the Church, which has succeeded the synagogue, and which is equally infallible, has decided this point of controversy; and that scholars should remain silent when the Church pronounces.

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We cannot doubt that there was a Moses, a legislator of the Jews. We will here examine his history, following merely the rules of criticism; the Divine is not submitted to similar examination. We must confine ourselves to the probable; men can only judge as men. It is very natural and very probable that an Arab nation dwelt on the confines of Egypt, on the side of Arabia Deserta; that it was tributary or slave to the Egyptian kings, and that afterwards it sought to establish itself elsewhere; but that which reason alone cannot admit is, that this nation, composed of seventy persons at most in the time of Joseph, increased in two hundred and fifteen years, from Joseph to Moses, to the number of six hundred thousand combatants, according to the Book of Exodus, which six hundred thousand men capable of bearing arms imply a multitude of about two millions, counting old men, women, and children. It is not certainly in the course of nature for a colony of seventy persons, as many males as females, to produce in two centuries two millions of inhabitants. The calculations made on this progression by men very little versed in the things of this world, are falsified by the experience of all nations and all times. Children are not made by a stroke of the pen. Reflect well that at this rate a population of ten thousand persons in two hundred years would produce more inhabitants than the globe of the earth could sustain.

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Is it any more probable, that these six hundred thousand combatants, favored by the Author of nature who worked for them so many prodigies, were forced to wander in the deserts in which they died, instead of seeking to possess themselves of fertile Egypt?

By these rules of an established and reasonable human criticism, we must agree that it is very likely that Moses conducted a small people from the confines of Egypt. There was among the Egyptians an ancient tradition, related by Plutarch in his “Treatise on Isis and Osiris,” that Tiphon, the father of Jerosselaim and Juddecus, fled from Egypt on an ass. It is clear from this passage that the ancestors of the Jews, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, were supposed to have been fugitives from Egypt. A tradition, no less ancient and more general is, that the Jews were driven from Egypt, either as a troop of unruly brigands, or a people infected with leprosy. This double accusation carries its probability even from the land of Goshen, which they had inhabited, a neighboring land of the vagabond Arabs, and where the disease of leprosy, peculiar to the Arabs, might be common. It appears even by the Scripture that this people went from Egypt against their will. The seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy forbids kings to think of leading the Jews back to Egypt.

The conformity of several Egyptian and Jewish customs still more strengthens the opinion that this people was an Egyptian colony, and what gives it a Edition: current; Page: [33] new degree of probability is the feast of the Passover; that is to say, of the flight or passage instituted in memory of their evasion. This feast alone would be no proof; for among all peoples there are solemnities established to celebrate fabulous and incredible events; such were most of the feasts of the Greeks and Romans; but a flight from one country to another is nothing uncommon, and calls for belief. The proof drawn from this feast of the Passover receives a still greater force by that of the Tabernacles, in memory of the time in which the Jews inhabited the desert on their departure from Egypt. These similitudes, united with so many others, prove that a colony really went from Egypt, and finally established itself for some time at Palestine.

Almost all the rest is of a kind so marvellous that human sagacity cannot digest it. All that we can do is to seek the time in which the history of this flight—that is to say, the Book of Exodus—can have been written, and to examine the opinions which then prevailed; opinions, of which the proof is in the book itself, compared with the ancient customs of nations.

With regard to the books attributed to Moses, the most common rules of criticism permit us not to believe that he can be the author of them.

1. It is not likely that he spoke of the places by names which were not given to them until long afterwards. In this book mention is made of the cities of Jair, and every one agrees that they were Edition: current; Page: [34] not so named until long after the death of Moses. It also speaks of the country of Dan, and the tribe of Dan had not given its name to the country of which it was not yet the master.

2. How could Moses have quoted the book of the wars of the Lord, when these wars and this book were after his time?

3. How could Moses speak of the pretended defeat of a giant named Og, king of Bashan, vanquished in the desert in the last year of his government? And how could he add, that he further saw his bed of iron of nine cubits long in Rabath? This city of Rabath was the capital of the Ammonites, into whose country the Hebrews had not yet penetrated. Is it not apparent, that such a passage is the production of a posterior writer, which his inadvertence betrays? As an evidence of the victory gained over the giant, he brings forward the bed said to be still at Rabath, forgetting that it is Moses whom he makes speak, who was dead long before.

4. How could Moses have called cities beyond the Jordan, which, with regard to him, were on this side? Is it not palpable, that the book attributed to him was written a long time after the Israelites had crossed this little river Jordan, which they never passed under his conduct?

5. Is it likely that Moses told his people, that in the last year of his government he took, in the little province of Argob—a sterile and frightful country of Arabia Petræa—sixty great towns surrounded Edition: current; Page: [35] with high fortified walls, independent of an infinite number of open cities? Is it not much more probable that these exaggerations were afterwards written by a man who wished to flatter a stupid nation?

6. It is still less likely, that Moses related the miracles with which this history is filled.

It is easy to persuade a happy and victorious people that God has fought for them; but it is not in human nature that a people should believe a hundred miracles in their favor, when all these prodigies ended only in making them perish in a desert. Let us examine some of the miracles related in Exodus.

7. It appears contradictory and injurious to the divine essence to suppose that God, having formed a people to be the sole depository of His laws, and to reign over all nations, should send a man of this people to demand of the king, their oppressor, permission to go into the desert to sacrifice to his God, that this people might escape under the pretence of this sacrifice. Our common ideas cannot forbear attaching an idea of baseness and knavery to this management, far from recognizing the majesty and power of the Supreme Being.

When, immediately after, we read that Moses changed his rod into a serpent, before the king, and turned all the waters of the kingdom into blood; that he caused frogs to be produced which covered the surface of the earth; that he changed all the dust Edition: current; Page: [36] into lice, and filled the air with venomous winged insects; that he afflicted all the men and animals of the country with frightful ulcers; that he called hail, tempests, and thunder, to ruin all the country; that he covered it with locusts; that he plunged it in fearful darkness for three days; that, finally, an exterminating angel struck with death all the first-born of men and animals in Egypt, commencing with the son of the king; again, when we afterwards see his people walking across the Red Sea, the waves suspended in mountains to the right and left, and later falling on the army of Pharaoh, which they swallowed up—when, I say, we read all these miracles, the first idea which comes into our minds is, that this people, for whom God performed such astonishing things, no doubt became the masters of the universe. But, no! the fruit of so many wonders was, that they suffered want and hunger in arid sands; and—prodigy upon prodigy—all died without seeing the little corner of earth in which their descendants afterwards, for some years, established themselves! It is no doubt pardonable if we disbelieve this crowd of prodigies, at the least of which reason so decidedly revolts.

This reason, left to itself, cannot be persuaded that Moses wrote such strange things. How can we make a generation believe so many miracles uselessly wrought for it, and all of which, it is said, were performed in the desert? What being, enjoying divine power, would employ it in preserving the Edition: current; Page: [37] clothes and shoes of these people, after having armed all nature in their favor?

It is therefore very natural to think that all this prodigious history was written a long time after Moses, as the romances of Charlemagne were forged three centuries after him; and as the origins of all nations have not been written until they were out of sight, the imagination has been left at liberty to invent. The more coarse and unfortunate a people are, the more they seek to exalt their ancient history; and what people have been longer miserable, or more barbarous, than the Jews?

It is not to be believed that, when they had not wherewithal to make shoes in their deserts, under the government of Moses, there were any cunning enough to write. We should presume, that the poor creatures born in these deserts did not receive a very brilliant education; and that the nation only began to read and write when it had some commerce with Phœnicia. It was probably in the commencement of monarchy that the Jews, feeling they had some genius, wrote the Pentateuch, and adjusted their traditions. Would they have made Moses recommend kings to read and write his law in a time in which there were no kings? Is it not probable, that the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy was composed to moderate the power of royalty; and that it was written by priests in the time of Saul?

It is most likely at this epoch that we must place the digest of the Pentateuch. The frequent slaveries Edition: current; Page: [38] to which this people were subject seem badly calculated to establish literature in a nation, and to render books very common; and the more rare these books were in the commencement, the more the authors ventured to fill them with miracles.

The Pentateuch, attributed to Moses, is, no doubt, very ancient; if it was put in order in the time of Saul and Solomon, it was about the time of the Trojan war, and is one of the most curious monuments of the manner of thinking of that time. We see that all known nations, in proportion to their ignorance, were fond of prodigies. All was then performed by celestial ministry in Egypt, Phrygia, Greece, and Asia.

The authors of the Pentateuch give us to understand that every nation has its gods, and that these gods have all nearly an equal power.

If Moses, in the name of God, changed his rod into a serpent, the priests of Pharaoh did as much; if he changed all the waters of Egypt into blood, even to that which was in the vases, the priests immediately performed the same prodigy, without our being able to conceive on what waters they performed this metamorphosis; at least, unless they expressly created new waters for the purpose. The Jewish writers prefer being reduced to this absurdity, rather than allow us to suspect that the gods of Egypt had not the power of changing water into blood as well as the God of Jacob.

But when the latter fills the land of Egypt with Edition: current; Page: [39] lice, changing all the dust into them, His entire superiority appears; the magi cannot imitate it, and they make the God of the Jews speak thus: “Pharaoh shall know that nothing is equal to me.” These words put into his mouth, merely mark a being who believes himself more powerful than his rivals; he was equalled in the metamorphosis of a rod into a serpent, and in that of the waters into blood; but he gains the victory in the article of the lice and the following miracles.

This idea of the supernatural power of priests of all countries is displayed in several places of Scripture. When Balaam, the priest of the little state of a petty king, named Balak, in the midst of deserts, is near cursing the Jews, their God appears to him to prevent him. It seems that the malediction of Balaam was much to be feared. To restrain this priest, it is not enough that God speaks to him, he sends before him an angel with a sword, and speaks Himself again by the mouth of his ass. All these precautions certainly prove the opinion which then prevailed, that the malediction of a priest, whatever it was, drew fatal consequences after it.

This idea of a God superior to other gods, though He made heaven and earth, was so rooted in all minds, that Solomon in his last prayer cries: “Oh, my God! there is no other god like thee in earth or heaven.” It is this opinion which rendered the Jews so credulous respecting the sorceries and enchantments of other nations.

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It is this which gave rise to the story of the Witch of Endor, who had the power of invoking the shade of Saul. Every people had their prodigies and oracles, and it never even came into the minds of any nations to doubt the miracles and prophecies of others. They were contented with opposing similar arms; it seems as if the priests, in denying the prodigies of other nations, feared to discredit their own. This kind of theology prevailed a long time over all the earth.

It is not for us to enter here on the detail of all that is written on Moses. We speak of his laws in more than one place in this work. We will here confine ourselves to remarking how much we are astonished to see a legislator inspired by God; a prophet, through whom God Himself speaks, proposing to us no future life. There is not a single word in Leviticus, which can lead us to suspect the immortality of the soul. The reply to this overwhelming difficulty is, that God proportioned Himself to the ignorance of the Jews. What a miserable answer! It was for God to elevate the Jews to necessary knowledge—not to lower Himself to them. If the soul is immortal, if there are rewards and punishments in another life, it is necessary for men to be informed of it. If God spoke, He must have informed them of this fundamental dogma. What legislator, what god but this, proposes to his people wine, oil, and milk alone! What god but this always encourages his believers, as a chief of robbers Edition: current; Page: [41] incourages his troops, with the hope of plunder only! Once more; it is very pardonable for mere human reason simply to see, in such a history, the barbarous stupidity of the first ages of a savage people. Man, whatever he does, cannot reason otherwise; but if God really is the author of the Pentateuch, we must submit without reasoning.


A philosopher, in the neighborhood of Mount Krapak, argued with me that motion is essential to matter.

“Everything moves,” says he; “the sun continually revolves on its own axis; the planets do the same, and every planet has many different motions; everything is a sieve; everything passes through a sieve; the hardest metal is pierced with an infinity of pores, by which escapes a constant torrent of vapors that circulate in space. The universe is nothing but motion; motion, therefore, is essential to matter.”

“But, sir,” said I to him, “might not any one say, in answer to what you have advanced: This block of marble, this cannon, this house, this motion, are not in motion; therefore motion is not essential?”

“They do move,” he replied; “they move in space together with the earth by the common motion, and they move so incontestably—although insensibly—by their own peculiar motion, that, at the expiration Edition: current; Page: [42] of an indefinite number of centuries, there will remain not a single atom of the masses which now constitute them, from which particles are detaching themselves every passing moment.”

“But, my good sir, I can conceive matter to be in a state of rest; motion, therefore, cannot be considered essential to it.”

“Why, certainly, it must be of vast consequence whether you conceive it to be, or conceive it not to be, in a state of rest. I still repeat, that it is impossible for it to be so.”

“This is a bold assertion; but what, let me ask you, will you say to chaos?”

“Oh, chaos! If we were inclined to talk about chaos, I should tell you that all was necessarily in motion, and that ‘the breath of God moved upon the waters’; that the element of water was recognized in existence, and that the other elements existed also; that, consequently, fire existed; that there cannot be fire without motion, that motion is essential to fire. You will not succeed much with chaos.”

“Alas! who can succeed with all these subjects of dispute? But, as you are so very fully acquainted with these things, I must request you to inform me why one body impels another: whether it is because matter is impenetrable, or because two bodies cannot be together in one place; or because, in every case of every description, the weak is driven before the strong?”

“Your last reason is rather more facetious than Edition: current; Page: [43] philosophical. No person has hitherto been able to discover the cause of the communication of motion.”

“That, however, does not prevent its being essential to matter. No one has ever been able to discover the cause of sensation in animals; yet this sensation is so essential to them, that, if you exclude the idea of it, you no longer have the idea of an animal.”

“Well, I will concede to you, for a moment, that motion is essential to matter—just for a moment, let it be remembered, for I am not much inclined to embroil myself with the theologians—and now, after this admission, tell me how one ball produces motion in another?”

“You are very curious and inquisitive; you wish me to inform you of what no philosopher ever knew.”

“It appears rather curious, and even ludicrous, that we should know the laws of motion, and yet be profoundly ignorant of the principle of the communication of motion!”

“It is the same with everything else; we know the laws of reasoning, but we know not what it is in us that reasons. The ducts through which our blood and other animal fluids pass are very well known to us, but we know not what forms that blood and those fluids. We are in life, but we know not in what the vital principle consists.”

“Inform me, however, at least, whether, if motion Edition: current; Page: [44] be essential to matter, there has not always existed the same quantity of motion in the world?”

“That is an old chimera of Epicurus revived by Descartes. I do not, for my own part, see that this equality of motion in the world is more necessary than an equality of triangles. It is essential that a triangle should have three angles and three sides, but it is not essential that the number of triangles on this globe should be always equal.”

“But is there not always an equality of forces, as other philosophers express it?”

“That is a similar chimera. We must, upon such a principle, suppose that there is always an equal number of men, and animals, and moving beings, which is absurd.”

By the way, what, let me ask, is the force of a body in motion? It is the product of its quantity multiplied by its velocity in a given time. Calling the quantity of a body four, and its velocity four, the force of its impulse will be equal to sixteen. Another quantity we will assume to be two, and its velocity two; the force with which that impels is as four. This is the grand principle of mechanics. Leibnitz decidedly and pompously pronounced the principle defective. He maintained that it was necessary to measure that force, that product, by the quantity multiplied by the square of the velocity. But this was mere captious sophistry and chicanery, an ambiguity unworthy of a philosopher, founded on an abuse of the discovery of the great Galileo, Edition: current; Page: [45] that the spaces traversed with a motion uniformly accelerated were, to each other, as the squares of the times and velocities.

Leibnitz did not consider the time which he should have considered. No English mathematician adopted his system. It was received for a while by a small number of geometricians in France. It pervaded some books, and even the philosophical institutions of a person of great celebrity. Maupertuis is very abusive of Mairan, in a little work entitled “A, B, C”; as if he thought it necessary to teach the a, b, c, of science to any man who followed the old and, in fact, the true system of calculation. Mairan was, however, in the right. He adhered to the ancient measurement, that of the quantity multiplied by the velocity. He gradually prevailed over his antagonists, and his system recovered its former station; the scandal of mathematics disappeared, and the quackery of the square of the velocity was dismissed at last to the extramundane spaces, to the limbo of vanity, together with the monads which Leibnitz supposed to constitute the concentric mirror of nature, and also with his elaborate and fanciful system of “pre-established harmony.”


The fable of the mountain which, after alarming the whole neighborhood with its outcries in labor, was ridiculed by all present when it became delivered of a mouse, is at once ancient and universal. Edition: current; Page: [46] The company, however, who thus gave way to ridicule were not a company of philosophers. Those who mocked should in reality have admired. A mountain’s being delivered of a mouse was an event as extraordinary, and as worthy of admiration, as a mouse’s being delivered of a mountain. A rock’s producing a rat is a case absolutely prodigious, and the world never beheld anything approaching to such a miracle. All the worlds in the universe could not originate a fly. Thus, in cases where the vulgar mock, the philosopher admires; and where the vulgar strain their eyes in stupid astonishment, he often smiles.


We only ask here from the censors of books, permission to transcribe from that which the Dominican missionary Labat, proveditor of the holy office, has written concerning the nails of the cross, into which it is more than probable no nails were ever driven.

“The Italian priest who conducted us had sufficient interest to get us, among other things, a sight of the nails with which our Saviour was fastened to the cross. They appeared to me very different from those which the Benedictines show at St. Denis. Possibly those belonging to St. Denis served for the feet, and the others for the hands. It was necessary that those for the hands should be sufficiently large and strong to support all the weight of Edition: current; Page: [47] the body. However, the Jews must either have made use of more than four nails, or some of those which are shown to the faithful are not genuine. History relates that St. Helena threw one of them into the sea, to appease a furious tempest which assailed the ship in which she had embarked. Constantine made use of another, to make a bit for the bridle of his horse. One is shown entire at St. Denis in France; another also entire at the Holy Cross of Jerusalem at Rome. A very celebrated Roman author of our day asserts that the iron crown with which they crown the emperors in Italy was made out of one of these nails. We are shown at Rome and at Carpentras two bridle bits also made of these nails, not to mention more at other places. To be sure, several of them are discreet enough to say, that it is the head or point only of these nails which they exhibit.”

The missionary speaks in the same tone of all the relics. He observes in the same passage, that when the body of the first deacon, St. Stephen, was brought from Jerusalem to Rome, in 557, and placed in the tomb of the deacon of St. Lawrence: “St. Lawrence made way of himself to give the right hand to his predecessor; an action which procured him the name of the civil Spaniard.”

Upon this passage we venture only one reflection, which is, that if some philosopher had said as much, in the “Encyclopædia,” as the Dominican Labat, a crowd of Pantouillets, Nonnottes, Chiniacs, Edition: current; Page: [48] Chaumeix, and other knaves, would have exclaimed—Deist, atheist, and geometrician! According to circumstances things change their names.

  • Selon ce que l’on peut être
  • Les choses changent de nom.
  • Amphytrion, Prologue.


Dialogue Between the Philosopher and Nature.


What are you, Nature? I live in you? but I have been searching for you for fifty years, and have never yet been able to find you.


The ancient Egyptians, whose lives it is said extended to twelve hundred years, attached the same reproach to me. They called me Isis; they placed a thick veil over my head; and they said that no one could ever raise it.


It is on that account that I apply directly to yourself. I have been able to measure some of your globes, to ascertain their courses, and to point out the laws of motion; but I have never been able to ascertain what you are yourself.

Are you always active? Are you always passive? Do your elements arrange themselves, as water places itself over sand, oil over water, and air over oil? Have you a mind which directs all your operations—as Edition: current; Page: [49] councils are inspired as soon as they meet, although the individual members composing them are often ignorant? Explain to me, I entreat, the enigma in which you are enveloped.


I am the great universal system. I know nothing farther. I am no mathematician, and yet everything in and about me is arranged agreeably to mathematical laws. Conjecture, if you can, how all this is effected.


Certainly, since your great universal system knows nothing of mathematics, and yet the laws by which you are regulated are those of the most profound geometry, there must necessarily be an eternal geometrician, who directs you, and presides over your operations.


You are perfectly right; I am water, earth, fire, air, metal, mineral, stone, vegetable, and animal. I clearly perceive that there is an intelligence in me: you possess an intelligence, although you see it not. Neither do I see mine; I feel this invisible power; I am unable to know it: why should you, who are only a very minute portion of myself, be anxious to know what I myself am ignorant of?


We are curious. I should be pleased to learn how it is, that while so rough and coarse in your Edition: current; Page: [50] mountains, and deserts, and seas, you are at the same time so ingenious and finished in your animals and vegetables?


My poor child, shall I tell you the real truth? I have had bestowed upon me a name that does not at all suit me: I am called nature, while I am all art.


That word deranges all my ideas. What! is it possible that nature should be nothing but art.


It is undoubtedly the case. Do you not know that there is infinite art in those seas and mountains which you represent as so rough and so coarse? Do you not know that all those waters gravitate towards the centre of the earth, and are raised only by immutable laws; and that those mountains which crown the earth are immense reservoirs of eternal snows, incessantly producing the fountains, lakes, and rivers, without which my animal and vegetable off-spring would inevitably perish? And, with respect to what are denominated my animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, constituting thus only three kingdoms, be assured that I have in fact millions of them. But if you consider the formation of an insect, of an ear of corn, of gold, or of copper, all will exhibit to you prodigies of art.


It is undoubtedly true. The more I reflect on Edition: current; Page: [51] the subject, the more clearly I perceive that you are only the art of some Great Being, extremely powerful and skilful, who conceals Himself and exhibits you. All the reasoners, from the time of Thales, and probably long before him, have been playing at hide and seek with you. They have said, “I have hold of you”; and they in fact held nothing. We all resemble Ixion: he thought he embraced Juno, when he embraced only a cloud.


Since I am the whole that exists, how is it possible for a being like you, so small a portion of myself, to comprehend me? Be contented, my dear little atomic children, with seeing a few particles that surround you, with drinking a few drops of my milk, with vegetating for a few moments in my bosom, and at last dying without any knowledge of your mother and your nurse.


My beloved mother, pray tell me a little why you exist—why anything has existed?


I will answer you in the language in which I always have answered, for so long a series of ages, those who have interrogated me on the subject of first principles: “I know nothing at all about the matter.”


Nothing itself, would it not be preferable to that Edition: current; Page: [52] multitude of existences formed to be continually dissolved; those tribes of animals born and reproduced to devour others, and devoured in their turn; those numberless beings endued with sensation, and formed to experience so many sensations of pain; and those other tribes of reasoning beings which never, or at least only rarely, listen to reason? For what purpose, Nature, was all this?


Oh! pray go and inquire of Him who made me.



Do you not assert that everything is necessary?


If all be not necessary, it follows that God does unnecessary things.


That is to say, it was necessary for the Divine Nature to do what it has done.


I believe, or at least I suspect so. There are men who think differently. I do not understand them; but possibly they are right. I fear to dispute on this subject.


It is, however, necessary for me to talk to you upon it.

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In what manner? Would you speak of what is necessary to sustain life, or the evil to which people are reduced who cannot procure it?


No; for that which is necessary to one is not always necessary to another. It is necessary for an Indian to possess rice, for an Englishman to eat animal food, as Russians must wear furs, and Africans gauze. One man believes that he has need of a dozen coach-horses, another limits himself to a pair of shoes, and a third walks gayly on his bare feet. I wish to speak to you of that which is necessary to all men.


It appears to me that God has given us all that is necessary in this sense: eyes to see, feet to walk, a mouth to eat, a gullet to swallow, a stomach to digest, a brain to reason, and organs to produce our kind.


How happens it then that men are sometimes born who are deprived of a part of these necessary faculties?


Because the general laws of nature are liable to accidents which produce monsters; but in general man is provided with all things necessary to his existence in society.

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Are there not notions common to all men necessary to this purpose?


Yes; I have travelled with Paul Lucas, and wherever I went I saw that man respected his father and mother; that he thought himself bound to keep his promise; that he pitied oppressed innocence; that he detested persecution; that he regarded freedom of thinking as a right of nature, and the enemies of that freedom as the enemies of the human race. They who think differently appear to me to be badly organized, and monsters, like those who are born without eyes or heads.


These necessary things—are they necessary in all times, and in all places?


Yes: otherwise they would not be necessary to human kind.


Therefore, a new creed is not necessary to mankind. Men could live in society, and perform all their duties towards God, before they believed that Mahomet had frequent conversations with the angel Gabriel.


Nothing is more evident; it would be ridiculous to think that man could not perform his duties until Mahomet came into the world. It was no way Edition: current; Page: [55] necessary for men to believe the Koran. The world went on before the appearance of Mahomet, precisely as at present. If Mahometanism was necessary to the world, it would exist everywhere. God, who has given us two eyes to see the sun, would have bestowed upon us some means of discovering the truths of the Mahometan religion. That sect therefore resembles the arbitrary laws which change according to times and places, like fashions or the theories of physicians, which displace and succeed one another. The Mahometan religion cannot therefore be essentially necessary to man.


But since it exists, God has permitted it.


Yes, as He permits all the world to abound in absurdities, errors, and calamities. This is not saying that men were absolutely created in order to be foolish and unhappy. God permits some men to be eaten by serpents, but we ought not to say that God made man to be eaten by serpents.


What do you mean by saying that God permits? Can anything happen but by His orders? To permit and to will—are they not with Him the same thing?


He permits crime, but does not commit it.

Edition: current; Page: [56]

To commit a crime is to act against Divine justice—to disobey God. Therefore, as God cannot disobey Himself, He cannot commit crime; but He has so made man that man commits it frequently. How does that arise?


Some men can tell, but I am not one of them. All that I know is, that the Koran is ridiculous, although possessing here and there things which are passable. The Koran, however, is certainly not necessary to man—that I maintain. I perceive clearly that which is false, but know very little of that which is true.


I thought that you would instruct me, but you teach me nothing.


Is it not something to know the men who deceive you, and the gross and dangerous errors they promulgate?


I should have cause to complain of a physician who made me acquainted with poisonous plants, without instructing me in regard to such as are salutary.


I am no physician, nor are you a sick man; and it appears to me that I give you a very useful prescription, Edition: current; Page: [57] when I say to you: Distrust the inventions of charlatans; worship God; be an honest man; and believe that two and two make four.


It seems as if the first words of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”—“In nova fert animus”—were the emblem of mankind. No one is touched with the admirable spectacle of the sun which rises or seems to rise every day; but everybody runs at the smallest meteor which appears for a moment in the map of vapors which surround the earth, and which we call heaven. We despise whatever is common, or which has been long known:

  • Vilia sunt nobis quæcumque prioribus annis
  • Vidimus, et sordet quidquid spectavimus olim.

A hawker will not burden himself with a “Virgil” or a “Horace,” but with a new book, were it ever so detestable. He draws you aside and says to you: “Sir, will you have some books from Holland?”

From the commencement of the world, women have complained of the infidelities done to them in favor of the first new object which presents itself, and which has often this novelty for its only merit. Several ladies—we must confess it, notwithstanding the infinite respect which we have for them—have treated men as they complain that the men have treated them; and the story of Jocondo is much more ancient than Ariosto.

Edition: current; Page: [58]

Perhaps this universal taste for novelty is a benefit of nature. We are told: Content yourselves with what you have; desire nothing beyond your situation; subdue the restlessness of your mind. These are very good maxims; but if we had followed them, we should still live upon acorns and sleep under the stars, and we should have had neither Corneille, Racine, Molière, Poussin, Le Brun, Lemoine, nor Pigal.


Why do we shut up a man or a woman whom we find naked in the streets? and why is no one offended at entirely naked statues, and with certain paintings of Jesus and of Magdalen which are to be seen in some of the churches? It is very likely that human beings existed for a considerable time without clothing. In more than one island and on the continent of America, people are still found who are ignorant of clothing.

The most civilized of them conceal the organs of generation by leaves, by interlaced rushes or mats, and by feathers. Whence this latter modesty? Is it the instinct of nature to provoke desire by the concealment of that which we are inclined to discover? Is it true that among nations somewhat more polished than the Jews and demi-Jews, there are entire sects who, when they worship God, deprive themselves of clothing. Such have been, it is said, the Adamites and the Abelians. They assembled, naked, Edition: current; Page: [59] to sing the praises of God. St. Epiphanius and St. Augustine say this, who, it is true, were not contemporaries, and who lived very distant from their country. But after all, this folly is possible, and is not more extraordinary or insane than a hundred other follies which have made the tour of the world, one after another.

We have seen, in the article “Emblem,” that the Mahometans still possess saints who are mad, and who go about naked as apes. It is very possible that crazy people have existed, who thought that it was more proper to present ourselves before the Deity in the state in which He has formed us, than under any disguise of our own invention. It is possible that these persons exposed themselves out of pure devotion. There are so few well-made people of either sex, that nudity may have inspired chastity, or rather disgust, instead of augmenting desire.

It is moreover asserted that the Abelians renounced marriage. If they abounded in youthful gallants and amorous maidens, they were the less comparable with St. Adhelm and the happy Robert D’Arbriselle, who lay with the most beautiful women, only in order to prove the strength of their continence. I confess, however, that it must be pleasant to witness a hundred naked Helens and Parises singing anthems, giving one another the kiss of peace, and performing the ceremonies of the agapæ.

All this proves that there is nothing so singular, Edition: current; Page: [60] so extravagant, or so superstitious, which has not been conceived by the head of man. Happy it is, when these follies do not trouble society, and make of it a scene of hate, of discord, and of fury. It is doubtless better to pray to God stark naked, than to soil His altars and the public places with human blood.


Was Euclid right in defining number to be a collection of unities of the same kind? When Newton says that number is an abstract relation of one quantity to another of the same kind, does he not understand by that the use of numbers in arithmetic and geometry? Wolfe says, number is that which has the same relation with unity as one right line has with another. Is not this rather a property attributed to a number, than a definition? If I dared, I would simply define numbers the idea of several unities.

I see white—I have a sensation, an idea of white. It signifies not whether these two things are or are not of the same species; I can reckon two ideas. I see four men and four horses—I have the idea of eight; in like manner, three stones and six trees will give me the idea of nine.

That I add, multiply, subtract, and divide these, are operations of the faculty of thought which I have received from the master of nature; but they are not properties inherent to number. I can square Edition: current; Page: [61] three and cube it, but there is not certainly in nature any number which can be squared or cubed. I very well conceive what an odd or even number is, but I can never conceive either a perfect or an imperfect one.

Numbers can have nothing by themselves. What properties, what virtue, can ten flints, ten trees, ten ideas, possess because they are ten? What superiority will one number divisible in three even parts have over another divisible in two?

Pythagoras was the first, it is said, who discovered divine virtue in numbers. I doubt whether he was the first; for he had travelled in Egypt, Babylon, and India, and must have related much of their arts and knowledge. The Indians particularly, the inventors of the combined and complicated game of chess, and of ciphers, so convenient that the Arabs learned of them, through whom they have been communicated to us after so many ages—these same Indians, I say, joined strange chimeras to their sciences. The Chaldæans had still more, and the Egyptians more still. We know that self-delusion is in our nature. Happy is he who can preserve himself from it! Happy is he who, after having some access of this fever of the mind, can recover tolerable health.

Porphyrius, in the “Life of Pythagoras,” says that the number 2 is fatal. We might say, on the contrary, that it is the most favorable of all. Woe to him that is always single! Woe to nature, if the Edition: current; Page: [62] human species and that of animals were not often two and two!

If 2 was of bad augury, 3, by way of recompense, was admirable, and 4 was divine; but the Pythagoreans and their imitators forgot that this mysterious 4, so divine, was composed of twice that diabolical number 2! Six had its merit, because the first statuaries divided their figures into six modules. We have seen that, according to the Chaldæans, God created the world in six gahambars; but 7 was the most marvellous number; for there were at first but seven planets, each planet had its heaven, and that made seven heavens, without anyone knowing what was meant by the word heaven. All Asia reckoned seven days for a week. We divide the life of man into seven ages. How many reasons have we in favor of this number!

The Jews in time collected some scraps of this philosophy. It passed among the first Christians of Alexandria with the dogmas of Plato. It is principally displayed in the “Apocalypse of Cerinthus,” attributed to John the Apostle.

We see a striking example of it in the number of the beast: “That no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred three score and six.”

We know what great pains all the great scholars Edition: current; Page: [63] have taken to divine the solution of this enigma. This number, composed of three times two at each figure, does it signify three times fatal to the third power? There were two beasts, and we know not yet of which the author would speak.

We have seen that Bossuet, less happy in arithmetic than in funeral orations, has demonstrated that Diocletian is the beast, because we find the Roman figures 666 in the letters of his name, by cutting off those which would spoil this operation. But in making use of Roman figures, he does not remember that the Apocalypse was written in Greek. An eloquent man may fall into this mistake. The power of numbers was much more respected among us when we knew nothing about them.

You may observe, my dear reader, in the article on “Figure,” some fine allegories that Augustine, bishop of Hippo, extracted from numbers.

This taste subsisted so long, that it triumphed at the Council of Trent. We preserve its mysteries, called “Sacraments” in the Latin church, because the Dominicans, with Soto at their head, allege that there are seven things which contribute to life, seven planets, seven virtues, seven mortal sins, six days of creation and one of repose, which make seven; further, seven plagues of Egypt, seven beatitudes; but unfortunately the fathers forget that Exodus reckons ten plagues, and that the beatitudes are to the number of eight in St. Matthew and four in St. Luke. But scholars have overcome this difficulty; by retrenching Edition: current; Page: [64] from St. Matthew the four beatitudes of St. Luke, there remain six, and add unity to these six, and you will have seven. Consult Fra Paolo Sarpi, in the second book of his history of the County of Trent.



The most ancient numberings that history has left us are those of the Israelites, which are indubitable, since they are extracted from the Jewish books. We believe that we must not reckon as a numbering the flight of the Israelites to the number of six hundred thousand men on foot, because the text specifies them not tribe by tribe; it adds, that an innumerable troop of people gathered together and joined them. This is only a relation.

The first circumstantial numbering is that which we see in the book of the “Viedaber,” which we call Numbers. By the reckoning which Moses and Aaron made of the people in the desert, we find, in counting all the tribes except that of Levi, six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty men capable of bearing arms; and if we add the tribe of Levi, supposing it equal in number to the others, the strong with the weak, we shall have six hundred and fifty-three thousand nine hundred and thirty-five men, to which we must add an equal number of old women and children, which will compose two millions Edition: current; Page: [65] six hundred and fifteen thousand seven hundred and forty-two persons, who departed from Egypt.

When David, after the example of Moses, ordered the numbering of all the people, he found eight hundred thousand warriors of the tribes of Israel, and five hundred thousand of that of Judah, according to the Book of Kings; but according to Chronicles they reckoned eleven hundred thousand warriors in Israel; and less than five hundred thousand in Judah.

The Book of Kings formally excludes Levi and Benjamin, and counts them not. If therefore we join these two tribes to the others in their proportion, the total of the warriors will amount to nineteen hundred and twenty thousand. This is a great number for the little country of Judæa, the half of which is composed of frightful rocks and caverns: but it was a miracle.

It is not for us to enter into the reasons for which the Sovereign Arbiter of kings and people punished David for an operation which he himself commanded to Moses. It still less becomes us to seek why God, being irritated against David, punished the people for being numbered. The prophet Gad ordered the king on the part of God to choose war, famine, or pestilence. David accepted the pestilence, and seventy thousand Jews died of it in three days.

St. Ambrosius, in his book of “Repentance,” and Edition: current; Page: [66] St. Augustine in his book against Faustus, acknowledged that pride and ambition led David to make this calculation. Their opinion is of great weight, and we can certainly submit to their decision by extinguishing all the deceitful lights of our own minds.

Scripture relates a new numbering in the time of Esdras, when the Jewish nation returned from captivity. “All this multitude (say equally Esdras and Nehemiah, being as one man) amounted to forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty persons.” They were all named by families, and they counted the number of Jews of each family, and the number of priests. But in these two authors there are not only differences between the numbers and the names of families, but we further see an error of calculation in both. By the calculation of Esdras, instead of forty-two thousand men, after computation we find but twenty-nine thousand eight hundred and eighteen; and by that of Nehemiah we find thirty-one thousand and eighty-nine.

We must consult the commentators on this apparent mistake, particularly Dom Calmet, who adding to one of these calculations what is wanting to the other, and further adding what is wanted to both of them, solves all the difficulty. To the computations of Esdras and Nehemiah, as reckoned by Calmet, are wanting ten thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven persons; but we find them in families which could not give their genealogy; besides, if Edition: current; Page: [67] there were any fault of the copyist, it could not destroy the veracity of the divinely inspired text.

It is to be believed that the great neighboring kings of Palestine made numberings of their people as frequently as possible. Herodotus gives us the amount of all those who followed Xerxes, without including his naval forces. He reckons seventeen hundred thousand men, and he pretends, that to arrive at this computation, they were sent in divisions of ten thousand into a place which would only hold this number of men closely crowded. This method is very faulty, for by crowding a little less, each division of ten thousand might easily contain only from eight to nine. Further, this method is not at all soldier-like, and it would have been much more easy to have counted the whole by making the soldiers march in rank and file.

It should further be observed, how difficult it was to support seventeen hundred thousand men in the country of Greece, which they went to conquer. We may very well doubt of this number, and the manner of reckoning it; of the whipping given to the Hellespont; and of the sacrifice of a thousand oxen made to Minerva by a Persian king, who knew her not, and who adored the sun alone as the only emblem of the Divinity. Besides, the numbering of seventeen hundred thousand men is not complete, even by the confession of Herodotus, since Xerxes further carried with him all the people of Thrace and Macedonia, whom he forced, he says, to follow him, Edition: current; Page: [68] apparently the sooner to starve his army. We should therefore do here what all wise men do in reading ancient, and even modern histories—suspend our judgment and doubt much.

The first numbering which we have of a profane nation is that made by Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome. He found, says Titus Livius, eighty thousand combatants, all Roman citizens: that implies three hundred and twenty thousand citizens at least, as many old people, women and children, to which we must add at least twenty thousand domestics, slaves and freemen.

Now we may reasonably doubt whether the little Roman state contained this number. Romulus only reigned (if we may call him king) over about three thousand bandits, assembled in a little town between the mountains. This town was the worst land of Italy. The circuit of all his country was not three thousand paces. Servius was the sixth chief or king of this rising people. The rule of Newton, which is indubitable for elective kingdoms, gives twenty-one years’ reign to each king, and by that contradicts all the ancient historians, who have never observed the order of time, nor given any precise date. The five kings of Rome must have reigned about a hundred years.

It is certainly not in the order of nature that an ungrateful soil, which was not five leagues in length or three in breadth, and which must have lost many of its inhabitants in its almost continual little wars, Edition: current; Page: [69] could be peopled with three hundred and forty thousand souls. There is not half the number in the same territory at present, when Rome is the metropolis of the Christian world; when the affluence of foreigners and the ambassadors of so many nations must serve to people the towns; when gold flows from Poland, Hungary, half of Germany, Spain, and France, by a thousand channels into the purse of the treasury, and must further facilitate population, if other causes intercept it.

As the history of Rome was not written until more than five hundred years after its foundation, it would not be at all surprising if the historians had liberally given Servius Tullius eighty thousand warriors instead of eight thousand, through false zeal for their country. Their zeal would have been much more judicious if they had confessed the weak commencement of their republic. It is much more noble to be raised from so poor an origin to so much greatness, than to have had double the soldiers of Alexander to conquer about fifteen leagues of country in four hundred years.

The census was never taken except of Roman citizens. It is pretended that under Augustus it amounted to four millions one hundred and thirty-seven thousand in the year 29 before our vulgar era, according to Tillemont, who is very exact, and Dion Cassius, who is no less so.

Lawrence Echard admits but one numbering, of four millions one hundred and thirty-seven thousand Edition: current; Page: [70] men, in the year 14 of our era. The same Echard speaks of a general numbering of the empire for the first year of the same era; but he quotes no Roman author, nor specifies any calculation of the number of citizens. Tillemont does not speak in any way of this numbering.

We have quoted Tacitus and Suetonius, but to very little purpose. The census of which Suetonius speaks is not a numbering of citizens; it is only a list of those to whom the public furnished corn. Tacitus only speaks, in book ii., of a census established among the Gauls, for the purpose of raising more tribute on each head. Augustus never made a calculation of the other subjects of his empire, because they paid not the poll-tax, which he wished to establish in Gaul.

Tacitus says that Augustus had a memoir, written in his own hand, which contained the revenues of the empire, the fleets and contributary kingdoms. He speaks not of any numbering. Dion Cassius speaks of a census, but he specifies no number.

Josephus, in his “Antiquities,” says that in the year 759 of Rome—the time answering to the eleventh year of our era—Cyrenius, then constituted governor of Syria, caused a list to be made of all the property of the Jews, which caused a revolt. This has no relation to a general numbering, and merely proves that this Cyrenius was not governor of Judæa—which was then a little province of Syria—until Edition: current; Page: [71] ten years after, and not at the birth of our Saviour.

These seem to me to be all the principal passages that we can collect in profane histories, touching the numberings attributed to Augustus. If we refer to them, Jesus Christ would be born under the government of Varus, and not under that of Cyrenius; and there could have been no universal numbering. But St. Luke, whose authority should prevail over that of Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Dion Cassius, and all the writers of Rome—St. Luke affirms positively that there was a universal numbering of all the earth, and that Cyrenius was governor of Judæa. We must therefore refer solely to him, without even seeking to reconcile him with Flavius Josephus, or with any other historian. As to the rest, neither the New nor the Old Testament has been given to us to enlighten points of history, but to announce salutary truths, before which all events and opinions should vanish. It is thus that we always reply to the false calculations, contradictions, absurdities, enormous faults of geography, chronology, physics, and even common sense, with which philosophers tell us the Holy Scripture is filled; we cease not to reply that there is here no question of reason, but of faith and piety.


With regard to the numbers of the moderns, kings fear not at present that a doctor Gad should Edition: current; Page: [72] propose to them on the part of God, either famine, war, or pestilence, to punish them for wishing to know the amount of their subjects. None of them know it. We conjecture and guess, and always possibly within a few millions of men.

I have carried the number of inhabitants which compose the empire of Russia to twenty-four millions, in the statements which have been sent to me; but I have not guaranteed this valuation, because I know very little about it. I believe that Germany possessed as many people, reckoning the Hungarians. If I am deceived by one or two millions, we know it is a trifle in such a case.

I beg pardon of the King of Spain, if I have only awarded him seven millions of subjects in our continent. It is a very small number; but Don Ustaris, employed in the ministry, gives him no more. We reckon from about nine to ten millions of free beings in the three kingdoms of Great Britain. In France we count between sixteen and twenty millions. This is a proof that Doctor Gad has nothing wherewith to reproach the ministry of France.

As to the capital towns, opinions are further divided. According to some calculators, Paris has seven hundred thousand inhabitants, and according to others five hundred thousand. It is thus with London, Constantinople, and Grand Cairo.

As to the subjects of the pope, they will make a crowd in paradise, but the multitude is moderate on earth. Why so?—because they are subjects of Edition: current; Page: [73] the pope. Would Cato the Censor have ever believed the Romans would come to that pass?


Occult qualities have for a very long time been much derided; it would be more proper to deride those who do not believe in them. Let us for the hundredth time repeat that every principle, every primitive source of any of the works which come from the hand of the demiourgos, is occult, and eternally hidden from mortals.

What is the centripetal force, the force of gravitation, which acts without contact at such immense distances? What causes our hearts to beat sixty times a minute? What other power changes this grass into milk in the udder of a cow? and this bread into the flesh, blood, and bone of that child, who grows proportionally while he eats it, until he arrives at the height determined by nature, after which there is no art which can add a line to it.

Vegetables, minerals, animals, where is your originating principle? In the hands of Him who turns the sun on its axis, and who has clothed it with light. This lead will never become silver, nor this silver gold; this gold will never become diamond, nor this straw be transformed into lemons and bananas. What corpuscular system of physics, what atoms, determine their nature? You know nothing about it, and the cause will be eternally occult to you. All that surrounds us, all within us, is Edition: current; Page: [74] an enigma which it is not in the power of man to divine.

The furred ignoramus ought to have been aware of this truth when he said that beasts possess a vegetative and sensitive soul, and man a soul which is vegetative, sensitive, and intellectual. Poor man, kneaded up of pride, who has pronounced only words—have you ever seen a soul? Know you how it is made? We have spoken much of the soul in these inquiries, but have always confessed our ignorance. I now repeat this confession still more emphatically, since the more I read, the more I meditate, and the more I acquire, the more am I enabled to affirm that I know nothing.


If we travel throughout the whole earth, we still find that theft, murder, adultery, calumny, etc., are regarded as offences which society condemns and represses; but that which is approved in England and condemned in Italy, ought it to be punished in Italy, as if it were one of the crimes against general humanity? That which is a crime only in the precincts of some mountains, or between two rivers, demands it not from judges more indulgence than those outrages which are regarded with horror in all countries? Ought not the judge to say to himself, I should not dare to punish in Ragusa what I punish at Loretto? Should not this reflection soften his heart, and moderate the hardness which it is too apt Edition: current; Page: [75] to contract in the long exercise of his employment? The “Kermesses” of Flanders are well known; they were carried in the last century to a degree of indecency, revolting to the eyes of all persons who were not accustomed to such spectacles.

The following is the manner in which Christmas is celebrated in some countries. In the first place appears a young man half-naked, with wings on his shoulders; he repeats the Ave Maria to a young girl, who replies “fiat,” and the angel kisses her on the mouth; after which a child, shut up in a great cock of pasteboard, imitates the crowing of the cock. “Puer natus est nobis.” A great ox bellows out “ubi”; a sheep baas out “Bethlehem”; an ass brays “hihanus,” to signify “eamus”; and a long procession, preceded by four fools with bells and baubles, brings up the rear. There still remain some traces of this popular devotion, which among a civilized and educated people would be taken for profanation. A Swiss, out of patience, and possibly more intoxicated than the performers of the ox and the ass, took the liberty of remonstrating with them at Louvain, and was rewarded with no small number of blows; they would indeed have hanged him, and he escaped with great difficulty.

The same man had a dangerous quarrel at The Hague for violently taking the part of Barnevelt against an outrageous Gomarist. He was imprisoned at Amsterdam for saying that priests were the scourge of humanity, and the source of all our misfortunes. Edition: current; Page: [76] “How!” said he, “if we maintain that good works are necessary to salvation, we are sent to a dungeon; and if we laugh at a cock and an ass we risk hanging!” Ridiculous as this adventure was, it is sufficient to convince us that we may be criminal in one or two points in our hemisphere, and innocent in all the rest of the world.


The race of Onan exhibits great singularities. The patriarch Judah, his father, lay with his daughter-in-law, Tamar the Phœnician, in the highroad; Jacob, the father of Judah, was at the same time married to two sisters, the daughters of an idolater; and deluded both his father and father-in-law. Lot, the granduncle of Jacob, lay with his two daughters. Saleum, one of the descendants of Jacob and of Judah, espoused Rahab the Canaanite, a prostitute. Boaz, son of Saleum and Rahab, received into his bed Ruth the Midianite; and was great grandfather of David. David took away Bathsheba from the warrior Uriah, her husband, and caused him to be slain, that he might be unrestrained in his amour. Lastly, in the two genealogies of Christ, which differ in so many points, but agree in this, we discover that he descended from this tissue of fornication, adultery, and incest.

Nothing is more proper to confound human prudence; to humble our limited minds; and to convince us that the ways of Providence are not like Edition: current; Page: [77] our ways. The reverend father Dom Calmet makes this reflection, in alluding to the incest of Judah with Tamar, and to the sin of Onan, spoken of in the 38th chapter of “Genesis”: “Scripture,” he observes, “gives us the details of a history, which on the first perusal strikes our minds as not of a nature for edification; but the hidden sense which is shut up in it is as elevated as that of the mere letter appears low to carnal eyes. It is not without good reasons that the Holy Spirit has allowed the histories of Tamar, of Rahab, of Ruth, and of Bathsheba, to form a part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.”

It might have been well if Dom Calmet had explained these sound reasons, by which we might have cleared up the doubts and appeased the scruples of all the honest and timorous souls who are anxious to comprehend how this Supreme Being, the Creator of worlds, could be born in a Jewish village, of a race of plunderers and of prostitutes. This mystery, which is not less inconceivable than other mysteries, was assuredly worthy the explanation of so able a commentator—but to return to our subject.

We perfectly understand the crime of the patriarch Judah, and of the patriarchs Simeon and Levi, his brothers, at Sichem; but it is more difficult to understand the sin of Onan. Judah had married his eldest son Er to the Phœnician, Tamar. Er died in consequence of his wickedness, and the patriarch wished his second son to espouse the widow, according Edition: current; Page: [78] to an ancient law of the Egyptians and Phœnicians, their neighbors, which was called raising up seed for his brother. The first child of this second marriage bore the name of the deceased, and this Onan objected to. He hated the memory of his brother, or to produce a child to bear the name of Er; and to avoid it took the means which are detailed in the chapter of “Genesis” already mentioned, and which are practised by no species of animals but apes and human beings.

An English physician wrote a small volume on this vice, which he called after the name of the patriarch who was guilty of it. M. Tissot, the celebrated physician of Lausanne, also wrote on this subject, in a work much more profound and methodical than the English one. These two works detail the consequences of this unhappy habit—loss of strength, impotence, weakness of the stomach and intestines, tremblings, vertigo, lethargy, and often premature death.

M. Tissot, however, to console us for this evil, relates as many examples of the mischiefs of repletion in both sexes. There cannot be a stronger argument against rash vows of chastity. From the examples afforded, it is impossible to avoid being convinced of the enormous folly of condemning ourselves to these turpitudes in order to renounce a connection which has been expressly commanded by God Himself. In this manner think the Protestants, the Jews, the Mahometans, and many other nations; the Catholics Edition: current; Page: [79] offer other reasons in favor of converts. I shall merely say of the Catholics what Dom Calmet says of the Holy Ghost—That their reasons are doubtless good, could we understand them.


What is the opinion of all the nations of the north of America, and those which border the Straits of Sunda, on the best of governments, and best of religions; on public ecclesiastical rights; on the manner of writing history; on the nature of tragedy, comedy, opera, eclogue, epic poetry; on innate ideas, concomitant grace, and the miracles of Deacon Paris? It is clear that all these people have no opinions on things of which they have no ideas.

They have a confused feeling of their customs, and go not beyond this instinct. Such are the people who inhabit the shores of the Frozen Sea for the space of fifteen hundred leagues. Such are the inhabitants of the three parts of Africa, and those of nearly all the isles of Asia; of twenty hordes of Tartars, and almost all men solely occupied with the painful and continual care of providing their subsistence. Such are, at two steps from us, most of the Morlachians, many of the Savoyards, and some citizens of Paris.

When a nation begins to be civilized, it has some opinions which are quite false. It believes in spirits, sorcerers, the enchantment of serpents and their immortality; Edition: current; Page: [80] in possessions of the devil, exorcisms, and soothsayers. It is persuaded that seeds must grow rotten in the earth to spring up again, and that the quarters of the moon are the causes of accesses of fever.

A Talapoin persuades his followers that the god Sammonocodom sojourned some time at Siam, and that he cut down all the trees in a forest which prevented him from flying his kite at his ease, which was his favorite amusement. This idea takes root in their heads; and finally, an honest man who might doubt this adventure of Sammonocodom, would run the risk of being stoned. It requires ages to destroy a popular opinion. Opinion is called the queen of the world; it is so; for when reason opposes it, it is condemned to death. It must rise twenty times from its ashes to gradually drive away the usurper.


I beg of you, gentlemen, to explain to me how everything is for the best; for I do not understand it. Does it signify that everything is arranged and ordered according to the laws of the impelling power? That I comprehend and acknowledge. Do you mean that every one is well and possesses the means of living—that nobody suffers? You know that such is not the case. Are you of the opinion that the lamentable calamities which afflict the earth are good in reference to God; and that He takes Edition: current; Page: [81] pleasure in them? I credit not this horrible doctrine; neither do you.

Have the goodness to explain how all is for the best. Plato, the dialectician, condescended to allow to God the liberty of making five worlds; because, said he, there are five regular solids in geometry, the tetrahedron, the cube, the hexahedron, the dodecahedron, and the icosahedron. But why thus restrict divine power? Why not permit the sphere, which is still more regular, and even the cone, the pyramid of many sides, the cylinder, etc.?

God, according to Plato, necessarily chose the best of all possible worlds; and this system has been embraced by many Christian philosophers, although it appears repugnant to the doctrine of original sin. After this transgression, our globe was no more the best of all possible worlds. If it was ever so, it might be so still; but many people believe it to be the worst of worlds instead of the best.

Leibnitz takes the part of Plato; more readers than one complain of their inability to understand either the one or the other; and for ourselves, having read both of them more than once, we avow our ignorance according to custom; and since the gospel has revealed nothing on the subject, we remain in darkness without remorse.

Leibnitz, who speaks of everything, has treated of original sin; and as every man of systems introduces into his plan something contradictory, he imagined that the disobedience towards God, with the Edition: current; Page: [82] frightful misfortunes which followed it, were integral parts of the best of worlds, and necessary ingredients of all possible felicity: Calla, calla, senor don Carlos; todo che se haze es por su ben.”

What! to be chased from a delicious place, where we might have lived for ever only for the eating of an apple? What! to produce in misery wretched children, who will suffer everything, and in return produce others to suffer after them? What! to experience all maladies, feel all vexations, die in the midst of grief, and by way of recompense be burned to all eternity—is this lot the best possible? It certainly is not good for us, and in what manner can it be so for God? Leibnitz felt that nothing could be said to these objections, but nevertheless made great books, in which he did not even understand himself.

Lucullus, in good health, partaking of a good dinner with his friends and his mistress in the hall of Apollo, may jocosely deny the existence of evil; but let him put his head out of the window and he will behold wretches in abundance; let him be seized with a fever, and he will be one himself.

I do not like to quote; it is ordinarily a thorny proceeding. What precedes and what follows the passage quoted is too frequently neglected; and thus a thousand objections may rise. I must, notwithstanding, quote Lactantius, one of the fathers, who, in the thirteenth chapter on the anger of God, makes Epicurus speak as follows: “God can either Edition: current; Page: [83] take away evil from the world and will not; or being willing to do so, cannot; or He neither can nor will; or, lastly, He is both able and willing. If He is willing to remove evil and cannot, then is He not omnipotent. If He can, but will not remove it, then is He not benevolent; if He is neither able nor willing, then is He neither powerful nor benevolent; lastly, if both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist?”

The argument is weighty, and Lactantius replies to it very poorly by saying that God wills evil, but has given us wisdom to secure the good. It must be confessed that this answer is very weak in comparison with the objection; for it implies that God could bestow wisdom only by allowing evil—a pleasant wisdom truly! The origin of evil has always been an abyss, the depth of which no one has been able to sound. It was this difficulty which reduced so many ancient philosophers and legislators to have recourse to two principles—the one good, the other wicked. Typhon was the evil principle among the Egyptians, Arimanes among the Persians. The Manichæans, it is said, adopted this theory; but as these people have never spoken either of a good or of a bad principle, we have nothing to prove it but the assertion.

Among the absurdities abounding in this world, and which may be placed among the number of our evils, that is not the least which presumes the existence of two all-powerful beings, combating which Edition: current; Page: [84] shall prevail most in this world, and making a treaty like the two physicians in Molière: “Allow me the emetic, and I resign to you the lancet.”

Basilides pretended, with the platonists of the first century of the church, that God gave the making of our world to His inferior angels, and these, being inexpert, have constructed it as we perceive. This theological fable is laid prostrate by the overwhelming objection that it is not in the nature of a deity all-powerful and all-wise to intrust the construction of a world to incompetent architects.

Simon, who felt the force of this objection, obviates it by saying that the angel who presided over the workmen is damned for having done his business so slovenly, but the roasting of this angel amends nothing. The adventure of Pandora among the Greeks scarcely meets the objection better. The box in which every evil is enclosed, and at the bottom of which remains Hope, is indeed a charming allegory; but this Pandora was made by Vulcan, only to avenge himself on Prometheus, who had stolen fire to inform a man of clay.

The Indians have succeeded no better. God having created man, gave him a drug which would insure him permanent health of body. The man loaded his ass with the drug, and the ass being thirsty, the serpent directed him to a fountain, and while the ass was drinking, purloined the drug.

The Syrians pretended that man and woman having been created in the fourth heaven, they resolved Edition: current; Page: [85] to eat a cake in lieu of ambrosia, their natural food. Ambrosia exhaled by the pores; but after eating cake, they were obliged to relieve themselves in the usual manner. The man and the woman requested an angel to direct them to a water-closet. Behold, said the angel, that petty globe which is almost of no size at all; it is situated about sixty millions of leagues from this place, and is the privy of the universe—go there as quickly as you can. The man and woman obeyed the angel and came here, where they have ever since remained; since which time the world has been what we now find it. The Syrians will eternally be asked why God allowed man to eat the cake and experience such a crowd of formidable ills?

I pass with speed from the fourth heaven to Lord Bolingbroke. This writer, who doubtless was a great genius, gave to the celebrated Pope his plan of “all for the best,” as it is found word for word in the posthumous works of Lord Bolingbroke, and recorded by Lord Shaftesbury in his “Characteristics.” Read in Shaftesbury’s chapter of the “Moralists” the following passage:

“Much may be replied to these complaints of the defects of nature—How came it so powerless and defective from the hands of a perfect Being?—But I deny that it is defective. Beauty is the result of contrast, and universal concord springs out of a perpetual conflict. . . . . It is necessary that everything be sacrificed to other things—vegetables to Edition: current; Page: [86] animals, and animals to the earth . . . . The laws of the central power of gravitation, which give to the celestial bodies their weight and motion, are not to be deranged in consideration of a pitiful animal, who, protected as he is by the same laws, will soon be reduced to dust.”

Bolingbroke, Shaftesbury, and Pope, their working artisan, resolve their general question no better than the rest. Their “all for the best” says no more than that all is governed by immutable laws; and who did not know that? We learn nothing when we remark, after the manner of little children, that flies are created to be eaten by spiders, spiders by swallows, swallows by hawks, hawks by eagles, eagles by men, men by one another, to afford food for worms; and at last, at the rate of about a thousand to one, to be the prey of devils everlastingly.

There is a constant and regular order established among animals of all kinds—a universal order. When a stone is formed in my bladder, the mechanical process is admirable; sandy particles pass by small degrees into my blood; they are filtered by the veins; and passing the urethra, deposit themselves in my bladder; where, uniting agreeably to the Newtonian attraction, a stone is formed, which gradually increases, and I suffer pains a thousand times worse than death by the finest arrangement in the world. A surgeon, perfect in the art of Tubal-Cain, thrusts into me a sharp instrument; and cutting into the perineum, seizes the stone with his Edition: current; Page: [87] pincers, which breaks during the endeavors, by the necessary laws of mechanism; and owing to the same mechanism, I die in frightful torments. All this is “for the best,” being the evident result of unalterable physical principles, agreeably to which I know as well as you that I perish.

If we were insensitive, there would be nothing to say against this system of physics; but this is not the point on which we treat. We ask if there are not physical evils, and whence do they originate? There is no absolute evil, says Pope in his “Essay on Man”; or if there are particular evils, they compose a general good. It is a singular general good which is composed of the stone and the gout—of all sorts of crime and sufferings, and of death and damnation.

The fall of man is our plaister for all these particular maladies of body and soul, which you call “the general health”; but Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke have attacked original sin. Pope says nothing about it; but it is clear that their system saps the foundations of the Christian religion, and explains nothing at all.

In the meantime, this system has been since approved by many theologians, who willingly embrace contradictions. Be it so; we ought to leave to everybody the privilege of reasoning in their own way upon the deluge of ills which overwhelm us. It would be as reasonable to prevent incurable patients from eating what they please. “God,” says Pope, Edition: current; Page: [88] “beholds, with an equal eye, a hero perish or a sparrow fall; the destruction of an atom, or the ruin of a thousand planets; the bursting of a bubble, or the dissolution of a world.”

This, I must confess, is a pleasant consolation. Who does not find a comfort in the declaration of Lord Shaftesbury, who asserts, “that God will not derange His general system for so miserable an animal as man?” It must be confessed at least that this pitiful creature has a right to cry out humbly, and to endeavor, while bemoaning himself, to understand why these eternal laws do not comprehend the good of every individual.

This system of “all for the best” represents the Author of Nature as a powerful and malevolent monarch, who cares not for the destruction of four or five hundred thousand men, nor of the many more who in consequence spend the rest of their days in penury and tears, provided He succeeds in His designs.

Far therefore from the doctrine—that this is the best of all possible worlds—being consolatory, it is a hopeless one to the philosophers who embrace it. The question of good and evil remains in irremediable chaos for those who seek to fathom it in reality. It is a mere mental sport to the disputants, who are captives that play with their chains. As to unreasoning people, they resemble the fish which are transported from a river to a reservoir, with no more suspicion that they are to be eaten during the approaching Edition: current; Page: [89] Lent, than we have ourselves of the facts which originate our destiny.

Let us place at the end of every chapter of metaphysics the two letters used by the Roman judges when they did not understand a pleading. N. L. non liquet—it is not clear. Let us, above all, silence the knaves who, overloaded like ourselves with the weight of human calamities, add the mischief of their calumny; let us refute their execrable imposture by having recourse to faith and Providence.

Some reasoners are of opinion that it agrees not with the nature of the Great Being of Beings for things to be otherwise than they are. It is a rough system, and I am too ignorant to venture to examine it.



After the sect of the Pharisees among the Jews had become acquainted with the devil, some reasoners among them began to entertain the idea that the devil and his companions inspired, among all other nations, the priests and statues that delivered oracles. The Sadducees had no belief in such beings. They admitted neither angels nor demons. It appears that they were more philosophic than the Pharisees, and consequently less calculated to obtain influence and credit with the people.

The devil was the great agent with the Jewish populace in the time of Gamaliel, John the Baptist, Edition: current; Page: [90] James Oblia, and Jesus his brother, who was our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we perceive that the devil transports Jesus sometimes into the wilderness, sometimes to the pinnacle of the temple, and sometimes to a neighboring hill, from which might be discovered all the kingdoms of the world; the devil takes possession, when he pleases, of the persons of boys, girls, and animals.

The Christians, although mortal enemies of the Pharisees, adopted all that the Pharisees had imagined of the devil; as the Jews had long before introduced among themselves the customs and ceremonies of the Egyptians. Nothing is so common as to imitate the practices of enemies, and to use their weapons.

In a short time the fathers of the church ascribed to the devil all the religions which divided the earth, all pretended prodigies, all great events, comets, plagues, epilepsies, scrofula, etc. The poor devil, who was supposed to be roasting in a hole under the earth, was perfectly astonished to find himself master of the world. His power afterwards increased wonderfully from the institution of monks.

The motto or device of all these newcomers was, “Give me money and I will deliver you from the devil.” But both the celestial and terrestrial power of these gentry received at length a terrible check from the hand of one of their own brotherhood, Luther, who, quarreling with them about some beggarly Edition: current; Page: [91] trifle, disclosed to the world all the trick and villainy of their mysteries. Hondorf, an eye-witness, tells us that the reformed party having expelled the monks from a convent at Eisenach in Thuringia, found in it a statue of the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus, contrived with such art that, when offerings were placed upon the altar, the Virgin and Child bent their heads in sign of grateful acknowledgment, but turned their backs on those who presented themselves with empty hands.

In England the case was much worse. When by order of Henry VIII., a judicial visitation took place of all the convents, half of the nuns were found in a state of pregnancy; and this, at least it may be supposed, was not by the operation of the devil. Bishop Burnet relates that in a hundred and forty-four convents the depositions taken by the king’s commissioners attested abominations which those of Sodom and Gomorrah did not even approach. In fact, the English monks might naturally be expected to be more dissolute than the inhabitants of Sodom, as they were richer. They were in possession of the best lands in the kingdom. The territory of Sodom and Gomorrah, on the contrary, produced neither grain, fruit, nor pulse; and being moreover deficient even in water fit to drink, could be neither more nor less than a frightful desert, inhabited by miserable wretches too much occupied in satisfying their absolute necessities to have much time to devote to pleasures.

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In short, these superb asylums of laziness having been suppressed by act of parliament, all the instruments of their pious frauds were exposed in the public places; the famous crucifix of Brocksley, which moved and marched like a puppet; phials of a red liquid which was passed off for blood shed by the statues of saints when they were dissatisfied with the court; candlesticks of tinned iron, in which the lighted candles were carefully placed so as to make the people believe they were the same candles that were always burning; speaking tubes—sarbacans—which communicated between the sacristy and the roof of the church, and by which celestial voices were occasionally heard by apparently devotees, who were paid for hearing them; in short, everything that was ever invented by knavery to impose upon imbecility.

Many sensible persons who lived at this period, being perfectly convinced that the monks, and not the devils, had employed all these pious stratagems, began to entertain the idea that the case had been very similar with the religions of antiquity; that all the oracles and all the miracles so highly vaunted by ancient times had been merely the tricks of charlatans; that the devil had never had anything to do with such matters; and that the simple fact was, that the Greek, Roman, Syrian, and Egyptian priests had been still more expert than our modern monks.

The devil, therefore, thus lost much of his credit; Edition: current; Page: [93] insomuch that at length the honest Bekker, whose article you may consult, wrote his tiresome book against the devil, and proved by a hundred arguments that he had no existence. The devil himself made no answer to him, but the ministers of the holy gospel, as you have already seen, did answer him; they punished the honest author for having divulged their secret, and took away his living; so that Bekker fell a victim to the nullity of Beelzebub.

It was the lot of Holland to produce the most formidable enemies of the devil. The physician Van Dale—a humane philosopher, a man of profound learning, a most charitable citizen, and one whose naturally bold mind became proportionately bolder, in consequence of his intrepidity being founded on virtue—undertook at length the task of enlightening mankind, always enslaved by ancient errors, and always spreading the bandage that covers their eyes, until at last some powerful flash of light discovers to them a corner of truth of which the greater number are completely unworthy. He proved, in a work abounding in the most recondite learning, that the devils had never delivered a single oracle, had never performed a single prodigy, and had never mingled in human affairs at all; and that there never had in reality been any demons but those impostors who had deceived their fellow men. The devil should never ridicule or despise a sensible physician. Those who know something of nature are very formidable enemies to all juggling performers Edition: current; Page: [94] of prodigies. If the devil would be advised by me, he would always address himself to the faculty of theology, and never to the faculty of medicine.

Van Dale proved, then, by numberless authorities, not merely that the Pagan oracles were mere tricks of the priests, but that these knaveries, consecrated all over the world, had not ceased at the time of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, as was piously and generally thought to be the case. Nothing was more true, more clear, more decidedly demonstrated, than this doctrine announced by the physician Van Dale; and there is no man of education and respectability who now calls it in question.

The work of Van Dale is not, perhaps, very methodical, but it is one of the most curious works that ever came from the press. For, from the gross forgeries of the pretended Histape and the Sibyls; from the apocryphal history of the voyage of Simon Barjonas to Rome, and the compliments which Simon the magician sent him through the medium of his dog; from the miracles of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, and especially the letter which that saint wrote to the devil, and which was safely delivered according to its address, down to the miracles of the reverend fathers, the Jesuits, and the reverend fathers, the Capuchins, nothing is forgotten. The empire of imposture and stupidity is completely developed before the eyes of all who can read; but they, alas! are only a small number.

Far indeed was that empire, at that period, from Edition: current; Page: [95] being destroyed in Italy, France, Spain, the states of Austria, and more especially in Poland, where the Jesuits then bore absolute sway. Diabolical possessions and false miracles still inundated one-half of besotted and barbarized Europe. The following account is given by Van Dale of a singular oracle that was delivered in his time at Terni, in the States of the Pope, about the year 1650; and the narrative of which was printed at Venice by order of the government:

A hermit of the name of Pasquale, having heard that Jacovello, a citizen of Terni, was very covetous and rich, came to Terni to offer up his devotions in the church frequented by the opulent miser, soon formed an acquaintance with him, flattered him in his ruling passion, and persuaded him that it was a service highly acceptable to God to take as much care as possible of money; it was indeed expressly enjoined in the gospel, as the negligent servant who had not put out his lord’s money to interest at five hundred per cent was thrown into outer darkness.

In the conversations which the hermit had with Jacovello, he frequently entertained him with plausible discourses held by crucifixes and by a quantity of Italian Virgin Marys. Jacovello agreed that the statues of saints sometimes spoke to men, and told him that he should believe himself one of the elect if ever he could have the happiness to hear the image of a saint speak.

The friendly Pasquale replied that he had some Edition: current; Page: [96] hope he might be able to give him that satisfaction in a very little time; that he expected every day from Rome a death’s head, which the pope had presented to one of his brother hermits; and that this head spoke quite as distinctly and sensibly as the trees of Dodona, or even the ass of Balaam. He showed him the identical head, in fact, four days after this conversation. He requested of Jacovello the key of a small cave and an inner chamber, that no person might possibly be a witness of the awful mystery. The hermit, having introduced a tube from this cave into the head, and made every other suitable arrangement, went to prayer with his friend Jacovello, and the head at that moment uttered the following words: “Jacovello, I will recompense thy zeal. I announce to thee a treasure of a hundred thousand crowns under a yew tree in thy garden. But thou shalt die by a sudden death if thou makest any attempt to obtain this treasure until thou hast produced before me a pot containing coin amounting to ten gold marks.”

Jacovello ran speedily to his coffers and placed before the oracle a pot containing the ten marks. The good hermit had had the precaution to procure a similar vessel which he had filled with sand, and he dexterously substituted that for the pot of Jacovello, on his turning his back, and then left the pious miser with one death’s head more, and ten gold marks less, than he had before. Nearly such is the way in which all oracles have been delivered, beginning Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [97] with those of Jupiter Ammon, and ending with that of Trophonius.

One of the secrets of the priests of antiquity, as it is of our own, was confession in the mysteries. It was by this that they gained correct and particular information about the affairs of families, and qualified themselves in a great measure to give pertinent and suitable replies to those who came to consult them. To this subject applies the anecdote which Plutarch has rendered so celebrated. A priest once urging an initiated person to confession, that person said: “To whom should I confess?” “To God,” replied the priest. “Begone then, man,” said the desired penitent; “begone, and leave me alone with God.”

The Initial Banishing of the Priest.

It would be almost endless to recount all the interesting facts and narratives with which Van Dale has enriched his book. Fontenelle did not translate it. But he extracted from it what he thought would be most suitable to his countrymen, who love sprightly anecdote and observation better than profound knowledge. He was eagerly read by what in France is called good company; and Van Dale, who had written in Latin and Greek, had been read only by the learned. The rough diamond of Van Dale shone with exquisite brilliancy after the cutting and polish of Fontenelle: the success of the work was such that the fanatics became alarmed. Notwithstanding all Fontenelle’s endeavors to soften down the expressions of Van Dale, and his explaining Edition: current; Page: [98] himself sometimes with the license of a Norman, he was too well understood by the monks, who never like to be told that their brethren have been impostors.

A certain Jesuit of the name of Baltus, born near Messina, one of that description of learned persons who know how to consult old books, and to falsify and cite them, although after all nothing to the purpose, took the part of the devil against Van Dale and Fontenelle. The devil could not have chosen a more tiresome and wretched advocate; his name is now known solely from the honor he had of writing against two celebrated men who advocated a good cause.

Baltus likewise, in his capacity of Jesuit, caballed with no little perseverance and bitterness on the occasion, in union with his brethren, who at that time were as high in credit and influence as they have since been plunged deep in ignominy. The Jansenists, on their part, more impassionate and exasperated than even the Jesuits, clamored in a still louder tone than they did. In short, all the fanatics were convinced that it would be all over with the Christian religion, if the devil were not supported in his rights.

In the course of time the books of Jansenists and Jesuits have all sunk into oblivion. That of Van Dale still remains for men of learning, and that of Fontenelle for men of wit. With respect to the devil, he resembles both Jesuits and Jansenists, and is losing credit from day to day.

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Some curious and surprising histories of oracles, which it was thought could be ascribed only to the power of genii, made the Christians think they were delivered by demons, and that they had ceased at the coming of Christ. They were thus enabled to save the time and trouble that would have been required by an investigation of the facts; and they thought to strengthen the religion which informed them of the existence of demons by referring to those beings such events.

The histories however that were circulated on the subject of oracles are exceedingly suspicious. That of Thamus, to which Eusebius gives credit, and which Plutarch alone relates, is followed in the same history by another story so ridiculous, that that would be sufficient to throw discredit upon it; but it is, besides, incapable of any reasonable interpretation. If this great Pan were a demon, can we suppose the demons incapable of communicating the event of his death to one another without employing Thamus about it? If the great Pan were Jesus Christ, how came it that not a single Pagan was undeceived with respect to his religion, and converted to the belief that this same Pan was in fact Jesus Christ who died in Judæa, if God Himself compelled the demons to announce this death to the pagans?

The history of Thulis, whose oracle is clear and positive on the subject of the Trinity, is related only by Suidas. This Thulis, king of Egypt, was not Edition: current; Page: [100] certainly one of the Ptolemies. What becomes of the whole oracle of Serapis, when it is ascertained that Herodotus does not speak of that god, while Tacitus relates at length how and why one of the Ptolemies brought the god Serapis from Pontus, where he had only until then been known?

The oracle delivered to Augustus about the Hebrew infant who should be obeyed by all the gods, is absolutely inadmissible. Cedrenus quotes it from Eusebius, but it is not now to be found in him. It certainly is not impossible that Cedrenus quotes it from Eusebius, but it is not now to be found in him. It certainly is not impossible that Cedrenus may have made a false quotation, or have quoted a work falsely ascribed to Eusebius; but how is it to be accounted for, that all the early apologists for Christianity should have preserved complete silence with respect to an oracle so favorable to their religion?

The oracles which Eusebius relates from Porphyry, who was attached to paganism, are not of a more embarrassing nature than those just noticed. He gives them to us stripped of all the accompanying circumstances that attended them in the writings of Porphyry. How do we know whether that pagan did not refute them. For the interest of his cause it would naturally have been an object for him to do so; and if he did not do it, most assuredly it was from some concealed motive, such, for instance, as presenting them to the Christians only for an occasion to prove and deride their credulity, if they Edition: current; Page: [101] should really receive them as true and rest their religion on such weak foundations.

Besides, some of the ancient Christians reproached the pagans with being the dupes of their priests. Observe how Clement of Alexandria speaks of them: “Boast as long as you please of your childish and impertinent oracles, whether of Claros or the Pythian Apollo, of Dindymus or Amphilocus; and add to these your augurs and interpreters of dreams and prodigies. Bring forward also those clever gentry who, in the presence of the mighty Pythian Apollo, effect their divinations through the medium of meal or barley, and those also who, by a certain talent of ventriloquism, have obtained such high reputation. Let the secrets of the Egyptian temples, and the necromancy of the Etruscans, remain in darkness; all these things are most certainly nothing more than decided impostures, as completely tricks as those of a juggler with his cups and balls. The goats carefully trained for the divination, the ravens elaborately instructed to deliver the oracles, are—if we may use the expression—merely accomplices of the charlatans by whom the whole world has thus been cheated.”

Eusebius, in his turn, displays a number of excellent reasons to prove that oracles could be nothing but impostures; and if he attributes them to demons, it is the result of deplorable prejudices or of an affected respect for general opinion. The pagans would never admit that their oracles were merely Edition: current; Page: [102] the artifices of their priests; it was imagined therefore, by rather an awkward process of reasoning, that a little was gained in the dispute by admitting the possibility, that there might be something supernatural in their oracles, and insisting at the same time, that if there were, it was the operation, not of the deity, but of demons.

It is no longer necessary now, in order to expose the finesse and stratagems of priests, to resort to means which might themselves appear too strongly marked by those qualities. A time has already been when they were completely exhibited to the eyes of the whole world—the time, I mean when the Christian religion proudly triumphed over paganism under Christian emperors.

Theodoret says that Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, exhibited to the inhabitants of that city the hollow statues into which the priests entered, from secret passages, to deliver the oracles. When, by Constantine’s order, the temple of Æsculapius at Ægea, in Cilicia, was pulled down, there was driven out of it, says Eusebius in his life of that emperor, not a god, nor a demon, but the human impostor who had so long duped the credulity of nations. To this he adds the general observation that, in the statues of the gods that were thrown down, not the slightest appearance was found of gods, or demons, or even any wretched and gloomy spectres, but only hay, straw, or the bones of the dead.

The greatest difficulty respecting oracles is surmounted, Edition: current; Page: [103] when it is ascertained and admitted, that demons had no concern with them. There is no longer any reason why they should cease precisely at the coming of Jesus Christ. And moreover, there are many proofs that oracles continued more than four hundred years after Jesus Christ, and that they were not totally silenced but by the total destruction of paganism.

Suetonius, in the life of Nero, says the oracle of Delphi warned that emperor to be aware of seventy-three years, and that Nero concluded he was to die at that age, never thinking upon old Galba, who, at the age of seventy-three, deprived him of the empire.

Philostratus, in his life of Apollonius of Tyana, who saw Domitian, informs us that Apollonius visited all the oracles of Greece, and that of Dodona, and that of Delphos; and that of Amphiaraus. Plutarch, who lived under Trajan, tells us that the oracles of Delphos still subsisted, although there was then only one priestess, instead of two or three. Under Adrian, Dion Chrysostom relates that he consulted the oracle of Delphos; he obtained from it an answer which appeared to him not a little perplexed, and which in fact was so.

Under the Antonines, Lucian asserts that a priest of Tyana went to inquire of the false prophet Alexander, whether the oracles which were then delivered at Dindymus, Claros, and Delphos, were really answers of Apollo, or impostures? Alexander had some fellow-feeling for these oracles, which were of Edition: current; Page: [104] a similar description to his own, and replied to the priest, that that was not permitted to be known; but when the same wise inquirer asked what he should be after his death, he was boldly answered, “You will be a camel, then a horse, afterwards a philosopher, and at length a prophet as great as Alexander.”

After the Antonines, three emperors contended for the empire. The oracle of Delphos was consulted, says Spartian, to ascertain which of the three the republic might expect as its head. The oracle answered in a single verse to the following purport: The black is better; the African is good; the white is the worst. By the black was understood Pescennius Niger; by the African, Severus Septimus, who was from Africa; and by the white, Claudius Albinus.

Dion, who did not conclude his history before the eighth year of Alexander Severus, that is, the year 230, relates that in his time Amphilocus still delivered oracles in dreams. He informs us also, that there was in the city of Apollonia an oracle which declared future events by the manner in which the fire caught and consumed the incense thrown upon an altar.

Under Aurelian, about the year 272, the people of Palmyra, having revolted, consulted an oracle of Sarpedonian Apollo in Cilicia; they again consulted that of the Aphacian Venus. Licinus, according to the account of Sozomen, designing to renew the war Edition: current; Page: [105] against Constantine, consulted the oracle of Apollo of Dindymus, and received from it in answer two verses of Homer, of which the sense is—Unhappy old man, it becomes not you to combat with the young! you have no strength, and are sinking under the weight of age.

A certain god, scarcely if at all known, of the name of Besa, if we may credit Ammianus Marcellinus, still delivered oracles on billets at Abydos, in the extremity of the Thebais, under the reign of Constantius. Finally, Macrobius, who lived under Arcadius and Honorius, sons of Theodosius, speaks of the god of Heliopolis of Syria and his oracle, and of the fortunes of Antium, in terms which distinctly imply that they all still subsisted in his time.

We may observe that it is not of the slightest consequence whether these histories are true or whether the oracles in fact delivered the answers attributed to them; it is completely sufficient for the purpose that false answers could be attributed only to oracles which were in fact known still to subsist; and the histories which so many authors have published clearly prove that they did not cease but with the cessation of paganism itself.

Constantine pulled down but few temples, nor indeed could he venture to pull them down but on a pretext of crimes committed in them. It was on this ground that he ordered the demolition of those of the Aphacian Venus, and of Æsculapius which was at Ægea in Cilicia, both of them temples in which Edition: current; Page: [106] oracles were delivered. But he forbade sacrifices to the gods, and by that edict began to render temples useless.

Many oracles still subsisted when Julian assumed the reins of empire. He re-established some that were in a state of ruin; and he was even desirous of being the prophet of that of Dindymus. Jovian, his successor, began his reign with great zeal for the destruction of paganism; but in the short space of seven months, which comprised the whole time he reigned, he was unable to make any great progress. Theodosius, in order to attain the same object, ordered all the temples of the pagans to be shut up. At last, the exercise of that religion was prohibited under pain of death by an edict of the emperors Valentinian and Marcian, in the year 451 of the vulgar era; and the destruction of paganism necessarily involved that of oracles.

This conclusion has nothing in it surprising or extraordinary: it is the natural consequence of the establishment of a new worship. Miraculous facts, or rather what it is desired should be considered as such, diminish in a false religion, either in proportion as it becomes firmly established and has no longer occasion for them, or in proportion as it gradually becomes weaker and weaker, because they no longer obtain credit. The ardent but useless desire to pry into futurity gave birth to oracles; imposture encouraged and sanctioned them; and fanaticism set the seal; for an infallible method of Edition: current; Page: [107] making fanatics is to persuade before you instruct. The poverty of the people, who had no longer anything left them to give; the imposture detected in many oracles, and thence naturally concluded to exist in all; and finally the edicts of the Christian emperors; such are the real causes of the establishment, and of the cessation, of this species of imposture. The introduction of an opposite state of circumstances into human affairs made it completely disappear; and oracles thus became involved in the vicissitudes accompanying all human institutions.

Some limit themselves to observing that the birth of Jesus Christ is the first epoch of the cessation of oracles. But why, on such an occasion, should some demons have fled, while others remained? Besides, ancient history proves decidedly that many oracles had been destroyed before this birth. All the distinguished oracles of Greece no longer existed, or scarcely existed, and the oracle was occasionally interrupted by the silence of an honest priest who would not consent to deceive the people. “The oracle of Delphi,” says Lucian, “remains dumb since princes have become afraid of futurity; they have prohibited the gods from speaking, and the gods have obeyed them.”


It might be imagined that all the absurdities which degrade human nature were destined to come Edition: current; Page: [108] to us from Asia, the source at the same time of all the sciences and arts! It was in Asia and in Egypt that mankind first dared to make the life or death of a person accused, dependent on the throw of a die, or something equally unconnected with reason and decided by chance—on cold water or hot water, on red hot iron, or a bit of barley bread. Similar superstition, we are assured by travellers, still exists in the Indies, on the coast of Malabar, and in Japan.

This superstition passed from Egypt into Greece. There was a very celebrated temple at Trezene in which every man who perjured himself died instantly of apoplexy. Hippolytus, in the tragedy of “Phædra,” in the first scene of the fifth act, addresses the following lines to his mistress Aricia:

  • Aux portes de Trezène, et parmi ces tombeaux,
  • Des princes de ma race antiques sepultures,
  • Est un temple sacré formidable aux parjures.
  • C’est là que les mortels n’osent jurer en vain;
  • Le perfide y reçoit un chàtiment soudain;
  • Et, craignant d’y trouver la mort inévitable,
  • Le mensonge n’a point de frem plus redoubtable.
  • At Trezene’s gates, amidst the ancient tombs
  • In which repose the princes of my race,
  • A sacred temple stands, the perjurer’s dread.
  • No daring mortal there may falsely swear,
  • For swift the vengeance which pursues his crime,
  • Inevitable death his instant lot;
  • Nowhere has falsehood a more awful curb.

The learned commentator of the great Racine makes the following remark on these Trezenian proofs or ordeals:

“M. de la Motte has remarked that Hippolytus should have proposed to his father to come and hear Edition: current; Page: [109] his justification in this temple, where no one dared venture on swearing to a falsehood. It is certain, that in such a case Theseus could not have doubted the innocence of that young prince; but he had received too convincing evidence against the virtue of Phædra, and Hippolytus was not inclined to make the experiment. M. de la Motte would have done well to have distrusted his own good taste, when he suspected that of Racine, who appears to have foreseen the objection here made. In fact, Theseus is so prejudiced against Hippolytus that he will not even permit him to justify himself by an oath.”

I should observe that the criticism of La Motte was originally made by the deceased marquis de Lassai. He delivered it at M. de la Faye’s, at a dinner party at which I was present together with the late M. de la Motte, who promised to make use of it; and, in fact, in his “Discourses upon Tragedy,” he gives the honor of the criticism to the marquis de Lassai. The remark appeared to me particularly judicious, as well as to M. de la Faye and to all the guests present, who—of course excepting myself—were the most able critics in Paris. But we all agreed that Aricia was the person who should have called upon Theseus to try the accused by the ordeal of the Trezenian temple; and so much the more so, as Theseus immediately after talks for a long time together to that princess, who forgets the only thing that could clear up the doubts of the father and vindicate the son. The commentator in vain objects Edition: current; Page: [110] that Theseus has declared to his son he will not believe his oaths:

  • Toujours les scelerats ont recours au parjure.
  • Phedra. Act iv., scene 2.
  • The wicked always have recourse to oaths.

There is a prodigious difference between an oath taken in a common apartment, and an oath taken in a temple where the perjured are punished by sudden death. Had Aricia said but a single word on the subject, Theseus could have had no excuse for not conducting Hippolytus to this temple; but, in that case, what would have become of the catastrophe?

Hippolytus, then, should not have mentioned at all the appalling power of the temple of Trezene to his beloved Aricia; he had no need whatever to take an oath of his love to her, for of that she was already most fully persuaded. In short, his doing so is an inadvertence, a small fault, which escaped the most ingenious, elegant, and impassioned tragedian that we ever had.

From this digression, I return to the barbarous madness of ordeals. They were not admitted in the Roman republic. We cannot consider as of one of these ordeals, the usage by which the most important enterprises were made to depend upon the manner in which the sacred pullets ate their vetches. We are here considering only ordeals applied to ascertain the guilt or innocence of men. It was never proposed to the Manliuses, Camilluses, or Scipios, to Edition: current; Page: [111] prove their innocence by plunging their hands into boiling water without its scalding them.

These suggestions of folly and barbarism were not admitted under the emperors. But the Tartars who came to destroy the empire—for the greater part of these plunderers issued originally from Tartary—filled our quarter of the world with their ridiculous and cruel jurisprudence, which they derived from the Persians. It was not known in the Eastern Empire till the time of Justinian, notwithstanding the detestable superstition which prevailed in it. But from that time the ordeals we are speaking of were received. This manner of trying men is so ancient that we find it established among the Jews in all periods of their history.

Korah, Dathan, and Abiram dispute the pontificate with the high priest Aaron in the wilderness; Moses commands them to bring him two hundred and fifty censors, and says to them: Let God choose between their censors and that of Aaron. Scarcely had the revolted made their appearance in order to submit to this ordeal, before they were swallowed up by the earth, and fire from heaven struck two hundred and fifty of their principal adherents; after which, the Lord destroyed fourteen thousand seven hundred more men of that party. The quarrel however for the priesthood still continued between the chiefs of Israel and Aaron. The ordeal of rods was then employed; each man presented his rod, and that of Aaron was the only one which budded.

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Although the people of God had levelled the walls of Jericho by the sound of trumpets, they were overcome by the inhabitants of Ai. This defeat did not appear at all natural to Joshua; he consulted the Lord, who answered that Israel had sinned; that some one had appropriated to his own use a part of the plunder that had been taken at Jericho, and there devoted as accursed. In fact, all ought to have been burned, together with the men and women, children and cattle, and whoever had preserved and carried off any part was to be exterminated. Joshua, in order to discover the offender, subjected all the tribes to the trial by lot. The lot first fell on the tribe of Judah, then on the family of Zarah, then on the house of Zabdi, and finally on the grandson of Zabdi, whose name was Acham.

Scripture does not explain how it was that these wandering tribes came to have houses; neither does it inform us what kind of lots were made use of on the occasion; but it is clear from the text, that Acham, being convicted of stealing a small wedge of gold, a scarlet mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, was burned to death in the valley of Achor, together with his sons, his sheep, his oxen, and his asses; and even his very tent was burned with him.

The promised land was divided by lot; lots were drawn respecting the two goats of expiation which should be sacrificed to the Lord, and which should go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. When Saul was to be chosen king, lots were consulted, and the Edition: current; Page: [113] lot fell on the tribe of Benjamin, on the family of Metri belonging to that tribe, and finally on Saul, the son of Kish, in the family of Metri.

The lot fell on Jonathan to be punished for having eaten some honey at the end of a rod. The sailors of Joppa drew lots to learn from God what was the cause of the tempest. The lot informed them that it was Jonah; and they threw him into the sea.

All these ordeals by lot, which among other nations were merely profane superstitions, were the voice of God Himself when employed by His cherished and beloved people; and so completely and decidedly the voice of God that even the apostles filled the place of the apostle Judas by lot. The two candidates for the succession were Matthias and Barnabas. Providence declared in favor of St. Matthias.

Pope Honorius, the third of that name, forbade by a decretal from that time forward the method of choosing bishops by lot. Deciding by lots was a very common practice, and was called by the pagans, “sortilegium.” Cato, in the “Pharsalia,” says, Sortilegis egeant dubil. . . . .

There were other ordeals among the Jews in the name of the Lord; as, for example, the waters of jealousy. A woman suspected of adultery was obliged to drink of that water mixed with ashes, and consecrated by the high priest. If she was guilty she instantly swelled and died. It is upon the foundation of this law that the whole Christian world in the West established oracles for persons under Edition: current; Page: [114] juridical accusation, not considering that what was ordained even by God Himself in the Old Testament was nothing more or less than an absurd superstition in the New.

Duel by wager of battle was one of those ordeals, and lasted down to the sixteenth century. He who killed his adversary was always in the right. The most dreadful of all these curious and barbarous ordeals, was that of a man’s carrying a bar of redhot iron to the distance of nine paces without burning himself. Accordingly, the history of the middle ages, fabulous as it is, does not record any instance of this ordeal, nor of that which consisted in walking over nine burning ploughshares. All the others might be doubted, or the deceptions and tricks employed in relation to them to deceive the judges might be easily explained. It was very easy, for example, to appear to pass through the trial of boiling water without injury; a vessel might be produced half full of cold water, into which the judicial boiling water might be put; and the accused might safely plunge his arm up to the elbow in the lukewarm mixture, and take up from the bottom the sacred blessed ring that had been thrown into it for that purpose.

Oil might be made to boil with water; the oil begins to rise and appears to boil when the water begins to simmer, and the oil at that time has acquired but a small degree of heat. In such circumstances, a man seems to plunge his hand into boiling Edition: current; Page: [115] water; but, in fact, moistens it with the harmless oil, which preserves it from contact with and injury by the water.

A champion may easily, by degrees, harden and habituate himself to holding, for a few seconds, a ring that has been thrown into the fire, without any very striking or painful marks of burning. To pass between two fires without being scorched is no very extraordinary proof of skill or address, when the movement is made with great rapidity and the face and hands are well rubbed with ointment. It is thus that the formidable Peter Aldobrandin, or “The Fiery Peter,” as he was called, used to manage—if there is any truth in his history—when he passed between two blazing fires at Florence, in order to demonstrate, with God’s help, that his archbishop was a knave and debauchee. O, charlatans! charlatans! henceforth disappear forever from the pages of history!

There existed a rather ludicrous ordeal, which consisted in making an accused person try to swallow a piece of barley bread, which it was believed would certainly choke him if he were guilty. I am not, however, so much diverted with this case as with the conduct of Harlequin, when the judge interrogated him concerning a robbery of which Dr. Balouard accused him. The judge was sitting at table, and drinking some excellent wine at the time, when Harlequin was brought in; perceiving which, the latter takes up the bottle, and, pouring the whole Edition: current; Page: [116] of its contents into a glass, swallows it at a draught, saying to the doctor: “If I am guilty of what you accuse me, sir, I hope this wine will prove poison to me.”


If a soldier, charged by the king of France with the honor of conferring the order of St. Louis upon another soldier, had not, when presenting the latter with the cross, the intention of making him a knight of that order, would the receiver of the badge be on that account the less a member of the order than if such intention had existed? Certainly not.

How was it, then, that many priests thought it necessary to be re-ordained after the death of the celebrated Lavardin, bishop of Mans? That singular prelate, who had instituted the order of “Good Fellows” —Des Coteaux—bethought himself on his deathbed of a singular trick, in the way of revenge, on a class of persons who had much annoyed him. He was well known as one of the most daring free-thinkers of the age of Louis XIV., and had been publicly upbraided with his infidel sentiments, by many of those on whom he had conferred orders of priesthood. It is natural at the approach of death, for a sensitive and apprehensive soul to revert to the religion of its early years. Decency alone would have required of the bishop, that at least at his death he should give an example of edification to the flock to which he had given so much scandal by his life. Edition: current; Page: [117] But he was so deeply exasperated against his clergy, as to declare, that not a single individual of those whom he had himself ordained was really and truly a priest; that all their acts in the capacity of priests were null and void; and that he never entertained the intention of conferring any sacrament.

Such reasoning seems certainly characteristic, and just such as might be expected from a drunken man; the priests of Mans might have replied to him, “It is not your intention that is of any consequence, but ours. We had an ardent and determined desire to be priests; we did all in our power to become such. We are perfectly ingenuous and sincere; if you are not so, that is nothing at all to us.” The maxim applicable to the occasion is, “quic quid accipitur ad modum recipientis accipitur,” and not “ad modum dantis.” “When our wine merchant has sold us a half a hogshead of wine, we drink it, although he might have a secret intention to hinder us from drinking it; we shall still be priests in spite of your testament.”

Those reasons were sound and satisfactory. However, the greater number of those who had been ordained by that bishop did not consider themselves as real and authorized priests, and subjected themselves to ordination a second time. Mascaron, a man of moderate talents, but of great celebrity as a preacher, persuaded them, both by his discourses and example, to have the ceremony repeated. The Edition: current; Page: [118] affair occasioned great scandal at Mans, and Paris, and Versailles; but like everything else was soon forgotten.



This is a subject on which the Socinians or Unitarians take occasion to exult and triumph. They denominate this foundation of Christianity its “original sin.” It is an insult to God, they say; it is accusing Him of the most absurd barbarity to have the hardihood to assert, that He formed all the successive generations of mankind to deliver them over to eternal tortures, under the pretext of their original ancestor having eaten of a particular fruit in a garden. This sacrilegious imputation is so much the more inexcusable among Christians, as there is not a single word respecting this same invention of original sin, either in the Pentateuch, or in the prophets, or the gospels, whether apocryphal or canonical, or in any of the writers who are called the “first fathers of the Church.”

It is not even related in the Book of Genesis that God condemned Adam to death for eating an apple. God says to him, indeed, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But the very same Book of Genesis makes Adam live nine hundred and thirty years after indulging in this criminal repast. The animals, the plants, which had not partaken of this fruit, died at the respective periods Edition: current; Page: [119] prescribed for them by nature. Man is evidently born to die, like all the rest.

Moreover, the punishment of Adam was never, in any way, introduced into the Jewish law. Adam was no more a Jew than he was a Persian or Chaldæan. The first chapters of Genesis—at whatever period they were composed—were regarded by all the learned Jews as an allegory, and even as a fable not a little dangerous, since that book was forbidden to be read by any before they had attained the age of twenty-one.

In a word, the Jews knew no more about original sin than they did about the Chinese ceremonies; and, although divines generally discover in the Scripture everything they wish to find there, either “totidem verbis,” or “totidem literis,” we may safely assert that no reasonable divine will ever discover in it this surprising and overwhelming mystery.

We admit that St. Augustine was the first who brought this strange notion into credit; a notion worthy of the warm and romantic brain of an African debauchee and penitent, Manichæan and Christian, tolerant and persecuting—who passed his life in perpetual self-contradiction.

What an abomination, exclaim the strict Unitarians, so atrociously to calumniate the Author of Nature as even to impute to Him perpetual miracles, in order that He may damn to all eternity the unhappy race of mankind, whom he introduces into the present life only for so short a span! Either He Edition: current; Page: [120] created souls from all eternity, upon which system, as they must be infinitely more ancient than the sin of Adam, they can have no possible connection with it; or these souls are formed whenever man and woman sexually associate; in which case the Supreme Being must be supposed continually watching for all the various associations of this nature that take place, to create spirits that He will render eternally miserable; or, finally, God is Himself the soul of all mankind, and upon this system damns Himself. Which of these three suppositions is the most absurd and abominable? There is no fourth. For the opinion that God waits six weeks before He creates a damned soul in a fœtus is, in fact, no other than that which creates it at the moment of sexual connection: the difference of six weeks cannot be of the slightest consequence in the argument. I have merely related the opinion of the Unitarians; but men have now attained such a degree of superstition that I can scarcely relate it without trembling.


It must be acknowledged that we are not acquainted with any father of the Church before St. Augustine and St. Jerome, who taught the doctrine of original sin. St. Clement of Alexandria, notwithstanding his profound knowledge of antiquity, far from speaking in any one passage of his works of that corruption which has infected the whole human race, and rendered it guilty from its birth, says in Edition: current; Page: [121] express words, “What evil can a new-born infant commit? How could it possibly prevaricate? How could such a being, which has, in fact, as yet done no one thing, fall under the curse of Adam?”

And it is worth observing that he does not employ this language in order to combat the rigid opinion of original sin, which was not at that time developed, but merely to show that the passions, which are capable of corrupting all mankind, have, as yet, taken no hold of this innocent infant. He does not say: This creature of a day would not be damned if it should now die, for no one had yet conjectured that it would be damned. St. Clement could not combat a system absolutely unknown.

The great Origen is still more decisive than St. Clement of Alexandria. He admits, indeed, in his exposition of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, that sin entered into the world by Adam, but he maintains that it is the inclination to sin that thus entered; that it is very easy to commit evil, but that it is not on that account said, man will always commit evil, and is guilty even as soon as he is born.

In short, original sin, in the time of Origen, consisted only in the misfortune of resembling the first man by being liable to sin like him. Baptism was a necessary ordinance; it was the seal of Christianity; it washed away all sins; but no man had yet said, that it washed away those which the subject of it had not committed. No one yet asserted that an infant would be damned, and burned in everlasting Edition: current; Page: [122] flames, in consequence of its dying within two minutes of its birth. And an unanswerable proof on this point is, that a long period passed away before the practice of baptizing infants became prevalent. Tertullian was averse to their being baptized; but, on the persuasion that original sin—of which these poor innocents could not possibly be guilty—would affect their reprobation, and expose them to suffer boundless and endless torture, for a deed of which it was impossible for them to have the slightest knowledge: to refuse them the consecrated bath of baptism, would be wilfully consigning them to eternal damnation. The souls of all the executioners in the world, condensed into the very essence of ingenious cruelty, could not have suggested a more execrable abomination. In a word, it is an incontestable fact that Christians did not for a certain period baptize their infants, and it is therefore equally incontestable that they were very far from damning them.

This, however, is not all; Jesus Christ never said: “The infant that is not baptized will be damned.” He came on the contrary to expiate all sins, to redeem mankind by His blood; therefore, infants could not be damned. Infants would, of course, “a fortiori,” and, preferably, enjoy this privilege. Our divine Saviour never baptized any person. Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy, but is nowhere said to have baptized him.

In a word, during the two first centuries, the baptism of infants was not customary; it was not believed, Edition: current; Page: [123] therefore, that infants would become victims of the fault of Adam. At the end of four hundred years their salvation was considered in danger, and great uncertainty and apprehension existed on the subject.

In the fifth century appears Pelagius. He treated the opinion of original sin as monstrous. According to him, this dogma, like all others, was founded upon a mere ambiguity. God had said to Adam in the garden: “In the day in which thou shalt eat of the tree of knowledge, thou shalt die.” But, he did not die; and God pardoned him. Why, then, should He not spare His race to the thousandth generation? Why should He consign to infinite and eternal torments the innocent infants whose father He received back into forgiveness and favor?

Pelagius considered God, not merely as an absolute master, but as a parent, who left His children at perfect liberty, and rewarded them beyond their merits, and punished them less than their faults deserved. The language used by him and his disciples was: “If all men are born objects of the eternal wrath of that Being who confers on them life; if they can possibly be guilty before they can even think, it is then a fearful and execrable offence to give them being, and marriage is the most atrocious of crimes. Marriage, on this system, is nothing more or less than an emanation from the Manichæan principle of evil; and those who engage in it, instead of adoring God, adore the devil.”

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Pelagius and his partisans propagated this doctrine in Africa, where the reputation and influence of St. Augustine were unbounded. He had been a Manichæan, and seemed to think himself called upon to enter the lists against Pelagius. The latter was ill able to resist either Augustine or Jerome; various points, however, were contested, and the dispute proceeded so far that Augustine pronounced his sentence of damnation upon all children born, or to be born, throughout the world, in the following terms: “The Catholic faith teaches that all men are born so guilty that even infants are certainly damned when they die without having been regenerated in Jesus.”

It would be but a wretched compliment of condolence to offer to a queen of China, or Japan, or India, Scythia, or Gothia, who had just lost her infant son to say: “Be comforted, madam; his highness the prince royal is now in the clutches of five hundred devils, who turn him round and round in a great furnace to all eternity, while his body rests embalmed and in peace within the precincts of your palace.”

The astonished and terrified queen inquires why these devils should eternally roast her dear son, the prince royal. She is answered that the reason of it is that his great-grandfather formerly ate of the fruit of knowledge, in a garden. Form an idea, if possible, of the looks and thoughts of the king, the Edition: current; Page: [125] queen, the whole council, and all the beautiful ladies of the court!

The sentence of the African bishop appeared to some divines—for there are some good souls to be found in every place and class—rather severe, and was therefore mitigated by one Peter Chrysologus, or Peter Golden-tongue, who invented a suburb to hell, called “limbo,” where all the little boys and girls that died before baptism might be disposed of. It is a place in which these innocents vegetate without sensation; the abode of apathy; the place that has been called “The paradise of fools.” We find this very expression in Milton. He places this paradise somewhere near the moon!

Explication of Original Sin.

The difficulty is the same with respect to this substituted limbo as with respect to hell. Why should these poor little wretches be placed in this limbo? what had they done? how could their souls, which they had not in their possession a single day, be guilty of a gormandizing that merited a punishment of six thousand years?

St. Augustine, who damns them, assigns as a reason, that the souls of all men being comprised in that of Adam, it is probable that they were all accomplices. But, as the Church subsequently decided that souls are not made before the bodies which they are to inhabit are originated, that system falls to the ground, notwithstanding the celebrity of its author.

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Others said that original sin was transmitted from soul to soul, in the way of emanation, and that one soul, derived from another, came into the world with all the corruption of the mother-soul. This opinion was condemned.

After the divines had done with the question, the philosophers tried at it. Leibnitz, while sporting with his monads, amused himself with collecting together in Adam all the human monads with their little bodies of monads. This was going further than St. Augustine. But this idea, which was worthy of Cyrano de Bergerac, met with very few to adopt and defend it. Malebranche explains the matter by the influence of the imagination on mothers. Eve’s brain was so strongly inflamed with the desire of eating the fruit that her children had the same desire; just like the irresistibly authenticated case of the woman who, after having seen a man racked, was brought to bed of a dislocated infant.

Nicole reduced the affair to “a certain inclination, a certain tendency to concupiscence, which we have derived from our mothers. This inclination is not an act; but it will one day become such.” Well said, Nicole; bravo! But, in the meantime, why am I to be damned? Nicole does not even touch the difficulty, which consists in ascertaining how our own souls, which have but recently been formed, can be fairly made responsible for the fault of another soul that lived some thousands of years ago.

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What, my good friends, ought to be said upon the subject? Nothing. Accordingly, I do not give my explication of the difficulty: I say not a single word.


Scholars have not failed to write volumes to inform us exactly to what corner of the earth Ovidius Naso was banished by Octavius Cepias, surnamed Augustus. All that we know of it is, that, born at Sulmo and brought up at Rome, he passed ten years on the right shore of the Danube, in the neighborhood of the Black Sea. Though he calls this land barbarous, we must not fancy that it was a land of savages. There were verses made there; Cotis, the petty king of a part of Thrace, made Getic verses for Ovid. The Latin poet learned Getic, and also composed lines in this language. It seems as if Greek poetry should have been understood in the ancient country of Orpheus, but this country was then peopled by nations from the North, who probably spoke a Tartar dialect, a language approaching to the ancient Slavonian. Ovid seemed not destined to make Tartar verses. The country of the Tomites, to which he was banished, was a part of Mysia, a Roman province, between Mount Hemus and the Danube. It is situated in forty-four and a half degrees north latitude, like one of the finest climates of France; but the mountains which are at the south, and the winds of the north and east, which blow Edition: current; Page: [128] from the Euxine, the cold and dampness of the forests, and of the Danube, rendered this country insupportable to a man born in Italy. Thus Ovid did not live long, but died there at the age of sixty. He complains in his “Elegies” of the climate, and not of the inhabitants. “Quos ego, cum loca sim vestra perosus, amo.”

These people crowned him with laurel, and gave him privileges, which prevented him not from regretting Rome. It was a great instance of the slavery of the Romans and of the extinction of all laws, when a man born of an equestrian family, like Octavius, exiled a man of another equestrian family, and when one citizen of Rome with one word sent another among the Scythians. Before this time, it required a “plebiscitum,” a law of the nation, to deprive a Roman of his country. Cicero, although banished by a cabal, had at least been exiled with the forms of law.

The crime of Ovid was incontestably that of having seen something shameful in the family of Octavius:

  • Cur aliquid vidi, cur noxia lumina feci?
  • Why saw I aught, or why discover crime?

The learned have not decided whether he had seen Augustus with a prettier boy than Mannius, whom he said he would not have because he was too ugly; whether he saw some page in the arms of the empress Livia, whom this Augustus had espoused, Edition: current; Page: [129] while pregnant by another; whether he had seen the said Augustus occupied with his daughter or granddaughter; or, finally, whether he saw him doing something still worse, “torva tu entibus hircis?” It is most probable that Ovid detected an incestuous correspondence, as an author, almost contemporary, named Minutionus Apuleius, says: “Pulsum quoque in exilium quod Augusti incestum vidisset.”

Octavius made a pretext of the innocent book of the “Art of Love,” a book very decently written, and in which there is not an obscene word, to send a Roman knight to the Black Sea. The pretence was ridiculous. How could Augustus, of whom we have still verses filled with obscenities, banish Ovid for having several years before given to his friends some copies of the “Art of Love”? How could he impudently reproach Ovid for a work written with decorum, while he approved of Horace, who lavishes allusions and phrases on the most infamous prostitution, and who proposed girls and boys, maid servants and valets indiscriminately? It is nothing less than impudence to blame Ovid and tolerate Horace. It is clear that Octavius alleged a very insufficient reason, because he dared not allude to the real one. One proof that it related to some secret adventure of the sacred imperial family is that the goat of Caprea—Tiberius, immortalized by medals for his debaucheries; Tiberius, that monster of lust and dissimulation—did not recall Ovid, who, rather than demand the favor from the author of the proscriptions Edition: current; Page: [130] and the poisoner of Germanicus, remained on the shores of the Danube.

If a Dutch, Polish, Swedish, English, or Venetian gentleman had by chance seen a stadtholder, or a king of Great Britain, Sweden, or Poland, or a doge of Venice, commit some great sin, even if it was not by chance that he saw it; if he had even sought the occasion, and was so indiscreet as to speak of it, this stadtholder, king, or doge could not legally banish him.

We can reproach Ovid almost as much as Augustus and Tiberius for having praised them. The eulogiums which he lavishes on them are so extravagant that at present they would excite indignation if he had even given them to legitimate princes, his benefactors, instead of to tyrants, and to his tyrants in particular. You may be pardoned for praising a little too much a prince who caresses you; but not for treating as a god one who persecutes you. It would have been a hundred times better for him to have embarked on the Black Sea and retired into Persia by the Palus Mæotis, than to have written his “Tristia.” He would have learned Persian as easily as Getic, and might have forgotten the master of Rome near the master of Ecbatana. Some strong minds will say that there was still another part to take, which was to go secretly to Rome, address himself to some relations of Brutus and Cassius, and get up a twelfth conspiracy against Octavius; but that was not in elegiac taste.

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Poetical panegyrics are strange things! It is very clear that Ovid wished with all his heart, that some Brutus would deliver Rome from that Augustus, to whom in his verses he wished immortality. I reproach Ovid with his “Tristia” alone. Bayle forms his system on the philosophy of chaos so ably exhibited in the commencement of the “Metamorphoses”:

  • Ante mare et terras, et quod tegit omnia cœlum,
  • Unus erat toto naturæ vultus in orbe.

Bayle thus translates these first lines: “Before there was a heaven, an earth, and a sea, nature was all homogeneous.” In Ovid it is, “The face of nature was the same throughout the universe,” which means not that all was homogeneous, but heterogeneous—this assemblage of different things appeared the same; “unus vultus.” Bayle criticises chaos throughout. Ovid, who in his verses is only the poet of the ancient philosophy, says that things hard and soft, light and heavy, were mixed together:

  • Mollia cum duris, sine pondere habentia pondus.
  • Ovid’s Met., b. i., l. 20.

And this is the manner in which Bayle reasons against him: “There is nothing more absurd than to suppose a chaos which had been homogeneous from all eternity, though it had the elementary qualities, at least those which we call alteratives, which are heat, cold, humidity, and dryness, as those which we call matrices, which are lightness and weight, Edition: current; Page: [132] the former the cause of upper motion, the latter of lower. Matter of this nature cannot be homogeneous, and must necessarily contain all sorts of heterogeneousness. Heat and cold, humidity and dryness, cannot exist together, unless their action and reaction temper and convert them into other qualities which assume the form of mixed bodies; and as this temperament can be made according to innumerable diversities of combinations, chaos must contain an incredible number of compound species. The only manner of conceiving matter homogeneous is by saying that the alterative qualities of the elements modify all the molecules of matter in the same degree in such a way, that throughout there is the same warmth, the same softness, the same odor, etc. But this would be to destroy with one hand that which has been built up with the other; it would be by a contradiction in terms to call chaos the most regular, the most marvellous for its symmetry, and the most admirable in its proportions that it is possible to conceive. I allow that the taste of man approves of a diversified rather than of a regular work; but our reason teaches us that the harmony of contrary qualities, uniformly preserved throughout the universe, would be as admirable a perfection as the unequal division of them which has succeeded chaos. What knowledge and power would not the diffusion of this uniform harmony throughout nature demand! It would not be sufficient to place in any compound an equal quantity of all the four ingredients; Edition: current; Page: [133] of one there must be more and of another less, according as their force is greater or less for action or resistance; for we know that philosophers bestow action and reaction in a different degree on the elementary qualities. All would amount to an opinion that the power which metamorphosed chaos has withdrawn it, not from a state of strife and confusion as is pretended, but from a state of the most admirable harmony, which by the adjustment of the equilibrium of contrary forces, retained it in a repose equivalent to peace. It is certain, therefore, that if the poets will insist on the homogeneity of chaos, they must erase all which they have added concerning the wild confusion of contrary seeds, of the undigested mass, and of the perpetual combat of conflicting principles.

“Passing over this contradiction we shall find sufficient subject for opposing them in other particulars. Let us recommence the attack on eternity. There is nothing more absurd than to admit, for an infinite time, the mixture of the insensible particles of four elements; for as soon as you suppose in them the activity of heat, the action and reaction of the four primary qualities, and besides these, motion towards the centre in the elements of earth and water, and towards the circumference in those of fire and air, you establish a principle which necessarily separates these four kinds of bodies, the one from the other, and for which a definite period alone is necessary. Consider a little, that which is denominated Edition: current; Page: [134] ‘the vial of the four elements.’ There are put into it some small metallic particles, and then three liquids, the one much lighter than the other. Shake these well together, and you no longer discern any of these component parts singly; each is confounded with the other. But leave your vial at rest for a short time, and you will find every one of them resume its pristine situation. The metallic particles will reassemble at the bottom of the vial, the lightest liquid will rise to the top, and the others take their stations according to their respective degrees of gravity. Thus a very short time will suffice to restore them to the same relative situation which they occupied before the vial was shaken. In this vial you behold the laws which nature has given in this world to the four elements, and, comparing the universe to this vial, we may conclude, that if the earth reduced to powder had been mingled with the matter of the stars, and with that of air and of water, in such a way as that the compound exhibited none of the elements by themselves, all would have immediately operated to disengage themselves, and at the end of a certain time, the particles of earth would form one mass, those of fire another; and thus of the others in proportion to the lightness or heaviness of each of them.”

I deny to Bayle, that the experiment of the vial infers a definite period for the duration of chaos. I inform him, that by heavy and light things, Ovid and the philosophers intended those which became Edition: current; Page: [135] so after God had placed His hand on them. I say to him: “You take for granted that nature arranged all, and bestowed weight upon herself. You must begin by proving to me that gravity is an essential quality of matter, a position which has never been proved.” Descartes, in his romance has pretended that body never became heavy until his vortices of subtle matter began to push them from the centre. Newton, in his correct philosophy, never says that gravitation or attraction is a quality essential to matter. If Ovid had been able to divine the “Principia” of Newton, he would have said: “Matter was neither heavy nor in motion in my chaos; it was God who endowed it with these properties; my chaos includes not the forces you imagine—“nec quidquam nisi pondus iners”; it was a powerless mass; “pondus” here signifies not weight but mass.

Nothing could possess weight, before God bestowed on matter the principle of gravitation. In whatever degree one body is impelled towards the centre of another, would it be drawn or impelled by another, if the Supreme Power had not bestowed upon it this inexplicable virtue? Therefore Ovid will not only turn out a good philosopher but a passable theologian.

You say: “A scholastic theologian will admit without difficulty, that if the four elements had existed independently of God, with all the properties which they now possess, they would have formed of themselves the machine of the world, and have Edition: current; Page: [136] maintained it in the state which we now behold. There are therefore two great faults in the doctrine of chaos; the first of which is, that it takes away from God the creation of matter, and the production of the qualities proper to air, fire, earth, and water; the other, that after taking God away, He is made to appear unnecessarily on the theatre of the world, in order to assign their places to the four elements. Our modern philosophers, who have rejected the faculties and the qualities of the peripatetician physics, will find the same defects in the description of the chaos of Ovid; for that which they call general laws of motion, mechanical principles, modifications of matter, the form, situation, and arrangement of atoms, comprehends nothing beyond the active and passive virtue of nature, which the peripatetics understand by the alterative and formative qualities of the four elements. Seeing, therefore, that, according to the doctrine of this school, these four bodies, separated according to their natural heaviness and lightness, form a principle which suffices for all generation, the Cartesians, Gassendists, and other modern philosophers, ought to maintain that the motion, situation, and form of the particles of matter, are sufficient for the production of all natural effects, without excepting even the general arrangement which has placed the earth, the air, the water, and the stars where we see them. Thus, the true cause of the world, and of the effect which it produces, is not different from the cause which has bestowed Edition: current; Page: [137] motion on particles of matter—whether at the same time that it assigned to each atom a determinate figure, as the Gassendists assert, or that it has only given to particles entirely cubic, an impulsion which, by the duration of the motion according to certain laws, makes it ultimately take all sorts of forms—which is the hypothesis of the Cartesians. Both the one and the other consequently agree, that if matter had been, before the generation of the present world, as Ovid describes, it would have been capable of withdrawing itself from chaos by its own necessary operation, without the assistance of God. Ovid may therefore be accused of two oversights—having supposed, in the first place, that without the assistance of the Divinity, matter possessed the seeds of every compound, heat, motion, etc.; and in the second, that without the same assistance it could extricate itself from confusion. This is to give at once too much and too little to both God and matter; it is to pass over assistance when most needed, and to demand it when no longer necessary.”

Ovid may still reply: “You are wrong in supposing that my elements originally possessed all the qualities which they possess at present. They had no qualities; matter existed naked, unformed, and powerless; and when I say, that in my chaos, heat was mingled with cold, and dryness with humidity, I only employ these expressions to signify that there was neither cold, nor heat, nor wet, nor dry, which are qualities that God has placed in our sensations, Edition: current; Page: [138] and not in matter. I have not made the mistakes of which you accuse me. Your Cartesians and your Gassendists commit oversights with their atoms and their cubic particles; and their imaginations deal as little in truth as my “Metamorphoses.” I prefer Daphne changed into a laurel, and Narcissus into a flower, to subtile matter changed into suns, and denser matter transformed into earth and water. I have given you fables for fables, and your philosophers have given you fables for truth.”


There is no word whose meaning is more remote from its etymology. It is well known that it originally meant a place planted with fruit trees; and afterwards, the name was given to gardens planted with trees for shade. Such, in distant antiquity, were those of Saana, near Eden, in Arabia Felix, known long before the hordes of the Hebrews had invaded a part of the territory of Palestine.

This word “paradise” is not celebrated among the Jews, except in the Book of Genesis. Some Jewish canonical writers speak of gardens; but not one of them has mentioned a word about the garden denominated the “earthly paradise.” How could it happen that no Jewish writer, no Jewish prophet, or Jewish psalmodist, should have once cited that terrestrial paradise which we are talking of every day of our lives? This is almost incomprehensible. It Edition: current; Page: [139] has induced many daring critics to believe that Genesis was not written till a very late period.

The Jews never took this orchard or plantation of trees—this garden, whether of plants or flowers—for heaven. St. Luke is the first who uses the word “paradise,” as signifying heaven, when Jesus Christ says to the good thief: “This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”

The ancients gave the name of “heaven” to the clouds. That name would not have been exactly appropriate, as the clouds actually touch the earth by the vapors of which they are formed, and as heaven is a vague word signifying an immense space in which exist innumerable suns, planets, and comets, which has certainly but little resemblance to an orchard.

St. Thomas says that there are three paradises—the terrestrial, the celestial, and the spiritual. I do not, I acknowledge, perfectly understand the difference between the spiritual and celestial. The spiritual orchard is according to him, the beatific vision. But it is precisely that which constitutes the celestial paradise, it is the enjoyment of God Himself. I do not presume to dispute against the “angel of the schools.” I merely say—Happy must he be who always resides in one of these three paradises!

Some curious critics have thought the paradise of the Hesperides, guarded by a dragon, was an imitation of the garden of Eden, kept by a winged ox or a cherub. Others, more rash, have ventured to assert Edition: current; Page: [140] that the ox was a bad copy of the dragon, and that the Jews were always gross plagiarists; but this will be admitted to be blasphemy, and that idea is insupportable.

Why has the name of paradise been applied to the square courts in the front of a church? Why has the third row of boxes at the theatre or opera house been called paradise? Is it because, as these places are less dear than others, it was thought they were intended for the poor, and because it is pretended that in the other paradise there are far more poor persons than rich? Is it because these boxes are so high that they have obtained a name which also signifies heaven? There is, however, some difference between ascending to heaven, and ascending to the third row of boxes. What would a stranger think on his arrival at Paris, when asked: “Are you inclined to go to paradise to see Pourceaugnac?”

What incongruities and equivoques are to be found in all languages! How strongly is human weakness manifested in every object that is presented around us! See the article “Paradise” in the great “Encyclopædia.” It is certainly better than this. We conclude with the Abbé de St. Pierre’s favorite sentiment—“Paradise to the beneficent.”

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Their Influence upon the Body, and that of the Body upon Them.

Pray inform me, doctor—I do not mean a doctor of medicine, who really possesses some degree of knowledge, who has long examined the sinuosities of the brain, who has investigated whether there is a circulating fluid in the nerves, who has repeatedly and assiduously dissected the human matrix in vain, to discover something of the formation of thinking beings, and who, in short, knows all of our machine that can be known; alas! I mean a very different person, a doctor of theology—I adjure you, by that reason at the very name of which you shudder, tell me why it is, that in consequence of your young and handsome housekeeper saying a few loving words, and giving herself a few coquettish airs, your blood becomes instantly agitated, and your whole frame thrown into a tumult of desire, which speedily leads to pleasures, of which neither herself nor you can explain the cause, but which terminate with the introduction into the world of a thinking being encrusted all over with original sin. Inform me, I entreat you, how the action tends to or is connected with the result? You may read and re-read Sanchez and Thomas Aquinas, and Scot and Bonaventure, but you will never in consequence know an iota the more of that incomprehensible mechanism by which the eternal architect directs your ideas and your Edition: current; Page: [142] actions, and originates the little bastard of a priest predestined to damnation from all eternity.

On the following morning, when taking your chocolate, your memory retraces the image of pleasure which you experienced the evening before, and the scene and rapture are repeated. Have you any idea, my great automaton friend, what this same memory, which you possess in common with every species of animals, really is? Do you know what fibres recall your ideas, and paint in your brain the joys of the evening by a continuous sentiment, a consciousness, a personal identity which slept with you, and awoke with you? The doctor replies, in the language of Thomas Aquinas, that all this is the work of his vegetative soul, his sensitive soul, and his intellectual soul, all three of which compose a soul which, although without extension itself, evidently acts on a body possessed of extension in course.

I perceived by his embarrassed manner, that he has been stammering out words without a single idea; and I at length say to him: If you feel, doctor, that, however reluctantly, you must in your own mind admit that you do not know what a soul is, and that you have been talking all your life without any distinct meaning, why not acknowledge it like an honest man? Why do you not conclude the same as must be concluded from the physical promotion of Doctor Bourssier, and from certain passages of Malebranche, and, above all, from the acute and Edition: current; Page: [143] judicious Locke, so far superior to Malebranche—why do you not, I say, conclude that your soul is a faculty which God has bestowed on you without disclosing to you the secret of His process, as He has bestowed on you various others? Be assured, that many men of deep reflection maintain that, properly speaking, the unknown power of the Divine Artificer, and His unknown laws, alone perform everything in us: and that, to speak more correctly still, we shall never know in fact anything at all about the matter.

The doctor at this becomes agitated and irritated; the blood rushes into his face; if he had been stronger than myself, and had not been restrained by a sense of decency, he would certainly have struck me. His heart swells; the systole and diastole are interrupted in their regular operation; his brain is compressed; and he falls down in a fit of apoplexy. What connection could there be between this blood, and heart, and brain, and an old opinion of the doctor contrary to my own? Does a pure intellectual spirit fall into syncope when another is of a different opinion? I have uttered certain sounds; he has uttered certain sounds; and behold! he falls down in apoplexy—he drops dead!

I am sitting at table, “prima mensis,” in the first of the month, myself and my soul, at the Sorbonne, with five or six doctors, “socii Sorbonnici,” fellows of the institution. We are served with bad and adulterated wine; at first our souls are elevated and Edition: current; Page: [144] maddened; half an hour afterwards our souls are stupefied, and as it were annihilated; and on the ensuing morning these same worthy doctors issue a grand decree, deciding that the soul, although occupying no place, let it be remembered, and absolutely immaterial—is lodged in the “corpus callosum” of the brain, in order to pay their court to surgeon La Peyronie.

A guest is sitting at table full of conversation and gayety. A letter is brought him that overwhelms him with astonishment, grief, and apprehension. Instantly the muscles of his abdomen contract and relax with extraordinary violence, the peristaltic motion of the intestines is augmented, the sphincter of the rectum is opened by the convulsions which agitate his frame, and the unfortunate gentleman, instead of finishing his dinner in comfort, produces a copious evacuation. Tell me, then, what secret connection nature has established between an idea and a water-closet.

Of all those persons who have undergone the operation of trepanning, a great proportion always remain imbecile. Of course, therefore, the thinking fibres of their brain have been injured; but where are these thinking fibres? Oh, Sanchez! Oh, Masters de Grillandis, Tamponet, Riballier! Oh, Cogé-Pecus, second regent and rector of the university, do give me a clear, decisive, and satisfactory explanation of all this, if you possibly can!

While I was writing this article at Mount Krapak Edition: current; Page: [145] for my own private improvement, a book was brought to me called “The Medicine of the Mind,” by Doctor Camus, professor of medicine in the University of Paris. I was in hopes of finding in this book a solution of all my difficulties. But what was it that I found in fact? Just nothing at all. Ah, Master Camus! you have not displayed much mind in preparing your “Medicine of the Mind.” This person strongly recommends the blood of an ass, drawn from behind the ear, as a specific against madness. “The virtue of the blood of an ass,” he says, “re-establishes the soul in its functions.” He maintains, also, that madmen are cured by giving them the itch. He asserts, likewise, that in order to gain or strengthen a memory, the meat of capons, leverets, and larks, is of eminent service, and that onions and butter ought to be avoided above all things. This was printed in 1769 with the king’s approbation and privilege; and there really were people who consigned their health to the keeping of Master Camus, professor of medicine! Why was he not made first physician to the king?

Poor puppets of the Eternal Artificer, who know neither why nor how an invisible hand moves all the springs of our machine, and at length packs us away in our wooden box! We constantly see more and more reason for repeating, with Aristotle, “All is occult, all is secret.”

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Questions Concerning Paul.

Was Paul a Roman citizen, as he boasted? If he was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, Tarsus was not a Roman colony until a hundred years after his death; upon this point all antiquaries are agreed. If he belonged to the little town or village of Gescala, as St. Jerome believed, this town was in Galilee, and certainly the Galileans were not Roman citizens.

Is it true, that St. Paul entered into the rising society of Christians, who at that time were demi-Jews, only because Gamaliel, whose disciple he was, refused him his daughter in marriage? It appears that this accusation is to be found exclusively in the Acts of the Apostles, which are received by the Ebionites, and refuted by the Bishop Epiphanius in his thirtieth chapter.

Is it true, that St. Thecla sought St. Paul in the disguise of a man, and are the acts of St. Thecla admissible? Tertullian, in the thirteenth chapter of his book on “Baptism,” maintains that this history was composed by a priest attached to Paul. Jerome and Cyprian, in refuting the story of the lion baptized by St. Thecla, affirm the genuineness of these acts, in which we find that singular portrait of St. Paul, which we have already recorded. “He was fat, short, and broad shouldered; his dark eyebrows united across his aquiline nose; his legs were Edition: current; Page: [147] crooked, his head bald, and he was full of the grace of the Lord.” This is pretty nearly his portrait in the “Philopatris” of Lucian, with the exception of “the grace of God,” with which Lucian unfortunately had no acquaintance.

Is Paul to be reprehended for his reproof of the Judaizing of St. Peter, who himself Judaized for eight days together in the temple of Jerusalem? When Paul was traduced before the governor of Judæa for having introduced strangers into the temple, was it proper for him to say to the governor, that he was prosecuted on account of his teaching the resurrection of the dead, whilst of the resurrection of the dead nothing was said at all.

Did Paul do right in circumcising his disciple Timothy, after having written to the Galatians, that if they were circumcised Jesus would not profit them? Was it well to write to the Corinthians, chap. ix.: “Have we not power to eat and drink at your expense? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife?” etc. Was it proper to write in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, that he will pardon none of them, neither those who have sinned nor others? What should we think at present of a man who pretended to live at our expense, himself, and his wife; and to judge and to punish us, confounding the innocent with the guilty? What are we to understand by the ascension of Paul into the third heaven?—what is the third heaven? Which is the most probable—humanly speaking? Did St. Paul Edition: current; Page: [148] become a Christian in consequence of being thrown from a horse by the appearance of a great light at noon day, from which a celestial voice exclaimed: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” or was it in consequence of being irritated against the Pharisees, either by the refusal of Gamaliel to give him his daughter, or by some other cause?

In all other history, the refusal of Gamaliel would appear more probable than the celestial voice; especially if, moreover, we were not obliged to believe in this miracle. I only ask these questions in order to be instructed; and I request all those who are willing to instruct me to speak reasonably.


The Epistles of St. Paul are so sublime, it is often difficult to understand them. Many young bachelors demand the precise signification of the following words: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head.” What does he mean by the words: “I have learned from the Lord, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread?”

How could he learn anything from that Jesus Christ to Whom he had never spoken, and to Whom he had been a most cruel enemy, without ever having seen Him? Was it by inspiration, or by the recital of the apostles? or did he learn it when the celestial light caused him to fall from his horse? He does not inform us on this point.

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The following again: “The woman shall be saved in child-bearing.” This is certainly to encourage population: it appears not that St. Paul founded convents. He speaks of seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; of those whose consciences are seared up with a red-hot iron, who forbid to marry, and command to abstain from meats. This is very strong. It appears that he abjured monks, nuns, and fast-days. Explain this contradiction; deliver me from this cruel embarrassment.

What is to be said of the passage in which he recommends the bishops to have one wife?—“Unius uxoris virum.” This is positive. He permits the bishops to have but one wife, whilst the Jewish pontiffs might have several. He says unequivocally, that the last judgment will happen during his own time, that Jesus will descend from on high, as described by St. Luke, and that St. Paul and the righteous inhabitants of Thessalonica will be caught up to Him in the air, etc.

Has this occurred? or is it an allegory, a figure? Did he actually believe that he should make this journey, or that he had been caught up into the third heaven? Which is the third heaven? How will he ascend into the air? Has he been there? “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom.” Is this acknowledging Jesus to be the same God as the Father? He has manifested His power over Jesus “when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him Edition: current; Page: [150] at His own right hand.” Does this constitute the divinity of Jesus?

“Thou madest him (Jesus) a little lower than angels; thou crownedst him with glory.” If He is inferior to angels—is He God?

“For if by one man’s offence death reigneth, much more they who receive of the abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ.” Almost man and never God, except in a single passage contested by Erasmus, Grotius, Le Clerc, etc.

“Children of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.” Is not this constantly regarding Jesus as one of us, although superior by the grace of God? “To God, alone wise, honor and glory, through Jesus Christ.” How are we to understand these passages literally, without fearing to offend Jesus Christ; or, in a more extended sense, without the risk of offending God the Father?

There are many more passages of this kind, which exercise the sagacity of the learned. The commentators differ, and we pretend not to possess any light which can remove the obscurity. We submit with heart and mouth to the decision of the Church. We have also taken some trouble to penetrate into the meaning of the following passages:

“For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keepest the law; but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” “Now we know, that whatever the law saith, it saith to them Edition: current; Page: [151] who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. . . . . Seeing that it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law, through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.” “For if Abraham was justified by his works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.”

We fear that even the ingenuous and profound Dom Calmet himself gives us not, upon these somewhat obscure passages, a light which dissipates all our darkness. It is without doubt our own fault that we do not understand the commentators, and are deprived of that complete conception of the text, which is given only to privileged souls. As soon, however, as an explanation shall come from the chair of truth, we shall comprehend the whole perfectly.


Let us add this little supplement to the article “Paul.” It is better to edify ourselves with the Epistles of this apostle, than to weaken our piety by calumniating the times and persons for which they were written. The learned search in vain for the year and the day in which St. Paul assisted to stone St. Stephen, and to guard the mantles of his executioners.

They dispute on the year in which he was thrown Edition: current; Page: [152] from his horse by a miraculous light at noonday, and on the epoch of his being borne away into the third heaven. They can agree neither upon the year in which he was conducted to Rome, nor that in which he died. They are unacquainted with the date of any of his letters. St. Jerome, in his commentary on the “Epistle to Philemon” says that Paul might signify the embouchure of a flute.

The letters of St. Paul to Seneca, and from Seneca to St. Paul, were accounted as authentic in the primitive ages of the Church, as all the rest of the Christian writings. St. Jerome asserts their authenticity, and quotes passages from these letters in his catalogue. St. Augustine doubts them not in his 153d letter to Macedonius. We have thirty letters of these two great men, Paul and Seneca, who, it is pretended, were linked together by a strict friendship in the court of Nero. The seventh letter from Paul to Seneca is very curious. He tells him that the Jews and the Christians were often burned as incendiaries at Rome:

Christiani et Judæi tanquam machinatores incendii supplicio affici solent.” It is in fact probable, that the Jews and the Christians, whose mutual enmity was extremely violent, reciprocally accused each other of setting the city on fire; and that the scorn and horror felt towards the Jews, with whom the Christians were usually confounded, rendered them equally the objects of public suspicion and vengeance.

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We are obliged to acknowledge, that the epistolary correspondence of Seneca and Paul is in a ridiculous and barbarous Latin; that the subjects of these letters are as inconsistent as the style; and that at present they are regarded as forgeries. But, then, may we venture to contradict the testimony of St. Jerome and St. Augustine? If writings, attested by them, are nothing but vile impostures, how shall we be certain of the authenticity of others more respectable? Such is the important objection of many learned persons. If we are unworthily deceived, say they, in relation to the letters of Paul and Seneca on the Apostolical Institutes, and the Acts of St. Peter, why may we not be equally imposed upon by the Acts of the Apostles? The decision of the Church and faith are unequivocal answers to all these researches of science and suggestions of the understanding.

It is not known upon what foundation Abdias, first bishop of Babylon, says, in his “History of the Apostles,” that St. Paul caused St. James the Less to be stoned by the people. Before he was converted, however, he might as readily persecute St. James as St. Stephen. He was certainly very violent, because it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, that he “breathed threatenings and slaughter.” Abdias has also taken care to observe, that the mover of the sedition in which St. James was so cruelly treated, was the same Paul whom God had since called to the apostleship.

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This book, attributed to Abdias, is not admitted into the canon; but Julius Africanus, who has translated it into Latin, believes it to be authentic. Since, however, the church has not admitted it, we must not admit it. Let us content ourselves with adoring Providence, and wishing that all persecutors were transformed into charitable and compassionate apostles.


I will not call Diocletian a persecutor, for he protected the Christians for eighteen years; and if, during his latter days, he did not save them from the resentment of Galerius, he only furnished the example of a prince seduced, like many others, by intrigue and cabal, into a conduct unworthy of his character. I will still less give the name of persecutor to Trajan or Antonius. I should regard myself as uttering blasphemy.

What is a persecutor? He whose wounded pride and fanaticism irritate princes and magistrates into fury against innocent men, whose only crime is that of being of a different opinion. Impudent man! you have worshipped God; you have preached and practised virtue; you have served and assisted man; you have protected the orphan, have succored the poor; you have changed deserts, in which slaves dragged on a miserable existence, into fertile districts peopled with happy families; but I have discovered that you despise me, and have never read Edition: current; Page: [155] my controversial work. I will, therefore, seek the confessor of the prime minister, or the magistrate; I will show them, with outstretched neck and twisted mouth, that you hold an erroneous opinion in relation to the cells in which the Septuagint was studied; that you have even spoken disrespectfully for these ten years past of Tobit’s dog, which you assert to have been a spaniel, whilst I maintain that it was a greyhound. I will denounce you as the enemy of God and man! Such is the language of the persecutor; and if these words do not precisely issue from his lips, they are engraven on his heart with the graver of fanaticism steeped in the gall of envy.

It was thus that the Jesuit Letellier dared to persecute Cardinal de Noailles, and that Jurieu persecuted Bayle. When the persecution of the Protestants commenced in France, it was not Francis I., nor Henry II., nor Francis II., who sought out these unfortunate people, who hardened themselves against them with reflective bitterness, and who delivered them to the flames in the spirit of vengeance. Francis I. was too much engaged with the Duchess d’Étampes; Henry II., with his ancient Diana, and Francis II. was too much a child. Who, then, commenced these persecutions? Jealous priests, who enlisted in their service the prejudices of magistrates and the policy of ministers.

If these monarchs had not been deceived, if they had foreseen that these persecutions would produce Edition: current; Page: [156] half a century of civil war, and that the two parts of the nation would mutually exterminate each other, they would have extinguished with their tears the first piles which they allowed to be lighted. Oh, God of mercy! if any man can resemble that malignant being who is described as actually employed in the destruction of Your works, is it not the persecutor?


Why have the successors of St. Peter possessed so much power in the West and none in the East? This is just the same as to ask why the bishops of Würzburg and Salzburg obtained for themselves regal prerogatives in a period of anarchy, while the Greek bishops always remained subjects. Time, opportunity, the ambition of some, and the weakness of others, have done and will do everything in the world. We always except what relates to religion. To this anarchy, must be added opinion; and opinion is the queen of mankind. Not that, in fact, they have any very clear and definite opinion of their own, but words answer the same end with them.

“I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” The zealous partisans of the bishop of Rome contended, about the eleventh century, that whoever gives the greater gives the less; that heaven surrounded the earth; and that, as Peter had the keys of the container, he had also the keys of what was contained. If by heaven we understand all the Edition: current; Page: [157] stars and planets, it is evident, according to Tomasius, that the keys given to Simon Barjonas, surnamed Peter, were a universal passport. If we understand by heaven the clouds, the atmosphere, the ether, and the space in which the planets revolve, no smith in the world, as Meursius observes, could ever make a key for such gates as these. Railleries, however, are not reasons.

Keys in Palestine were wooden latches with strings to them. Jesus says to Barjonas, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” The pope’s clergy concluded from these words, that the popes had received authority to bind and unbind the people’s oath of fidelity to their kings, and to dispose of kingdoms at their pleasure. This certainly was concluding magnificently. The Commons in the states-general of France, in 1302, say, in their memorial to the king, that “Boniface VIII. was a b— for believing that God bound and imprisoned in heaven what Boniface bound on earth.” A famous German Lutheran—the great Melancthon—could not endure the idea of Jesus having said to Simon Barjonas, Cepha or Cephas, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my assembly, my church.” He could not conceive that God would use such a play of words, and that the power of the pope could have been established on a pun. Such a doubt, however, can be indulged only by a Protestant.

Peter has been considered as having been bishop Edition: current; Page: [158] of Rome; but it is well known that, in the apostolic age, and long after, there was no particular and appropriate bishopric. The society of Christians did not assume a regular form until about the middle of the second century. It may be true that Peter went to Rome, and even that he was crucified with his head downwards, although that was not the usual mode of crucifixion; but we have no proof whatever of all this. We have a letter under his name, in which he says that he is at Babylon: acute and shrewd canonists have contended that, by Babylon, we ought to understand Rome; and on the same principle, if he had dated at Rome, we might have concluded that the letter had been written at Babylon. Men have long been in the habit of drawing such reasonable and judicious inferences as these; and it is in this manner that the world has been governed.

There was once a clergyman who, after having been made to pay extortionately for a benefice at Rome—an offence known by the name of simony—happened to be asked, some time afterwards, whether he thought Simon Peter had ever been in that city? He replied, “I do not think that Peter was ever there, but I am sure Simon was.”

With respect to the personal character and behavior of St. Peter, it must be acknowledged that Paul is not the only one who was scandalized at his conduct. He was often “withstood to the face,” as well as his successors. St. Paul vehemently reproached Edition: current; Page: [159] him with eating forbidden meats: that is, pork, blood-pudding, hare, eels, the ixion, and the griffin; Peter vindicated himself by saying that he had seen heaven opened about the sixth hour, and as it were a great sheet descending from the four corners of it, which was filled with creeping things, quadrupeds, and birds, while the voice of an angel called out to him, saying, “Kill and eat.” This, says Woolston, seems to have been the same voice which has called out to so many pontiffs since, “Kill everything; eat up the substance of the people.” But this reproach is much too strong.

Casaubon cannot by any means bring himself to approve the manner in which St. Peter treated Ananias and Sapphira, his wife. “By what right,” says Casaubon, “did a Jew slave of the Romans order or permit that all those who believed in Jesus should sell their inheritance, and lay down the price paid for it at his feet?” If an Anabaptist at London was to order all the money belonging to his brethren to be brought and laid at his feet, would he not be apprehended as a seditious seducer, as a thief who would certainly be hanged at Tyburn? Was it not abominable to kill Ananias, because, after having sold his property and delivered over the bulk of the produce to Peter, he had retained for himself and his wife a few crowns for any case of necessity, without mentioning it? Scarcely, moreover, has Ananias expired, before his wife arrives. Peter, instead of warning her charitably that he had just destroyed Edition: current; Page: [160] her husband by apoplexy for having kept back a few oboli, and cautioning her therefore to look well to herself, leads her as it were intentionally into the snare. He asks her if her husband has given all his money to the saints; the poor woman replies in the affirmative, and dies instantly. This is certainly rather severe.

Corringius asks, why Peter, who thus killed the persons that had given him alms and showed him kindness, did not rather go and destroy all the learned doctors who had brought Jesus Christ to the cross, and who more than once brought a scourging on himself. “Oh, Peter!” says Corringius, “you put to death two Christians who bestowed alms on you, and at the same time suffer those to live who crucified your God!”

In the reigns of Henry IV., and Louis XIII., we had an advocate-general of the parliament of Provence, a man of quality, called d’Oraison de Torame, who, in a book respecting the church militant, dedicated to Henry IV., has appropriated a whole chapter to the sentences pronounced by St. Peter in criminal causes. He says, that the sentence pronounced by Peter on Ananias and Sapphira was executed by God Himself, “in the very terms and forms of spiritual jurisdiction.” His whole book is in the same strain; but Corringius, as we perceive, is of a different opinion from that of our sagacious and liberal provincial advocate. It is pretty evident that Corringius Edition: current; Page: [161] was not in the country of the Inquisition when he published his bold remarks.

Erasmus, in relation to St. Peter, remarked a somewhat curious circumstance, which is, that the chief of the Christian religion began his apostleship with denying Jesus Christ, and that the first pontiff of the Jews commenced his ministry by making a golden calf and worshipping it.

However that may be, Peter is described as a poor man instructing the poor. He resembles those founders of orders who lived in indigence, and whose successors have become great lords and even princes.

The pope, the successor of Peter, has sometimes gained and sometimes lost; but there are still about fifty millions of persons in the world submitting in many points to his laws, besides his own immediate subjects.

To obtain a master three or four hundred leagues from home; to suspend your own opinion and wait for what he puts forth as his; not to dare to give a final decision on a cause relating to certain of our fellow-citizens, but through commissioners appointed by this stranger; not to dare to take possession of certain fields and vineyards granted by our own sovereign, without paying a considerable sum to this foreign master; to violate the laws of our country, which prohibit a man’s marriage with his niece, and marry her legitimately by giving this foreign master a sum still more considerable than the Edition: current; Page: [162] former one; not to dare to cultivate one’s field on the day this stranger is inclined to celebrate the memory of some unknown person whom he has chosen to introduce into heaven by his own sole authority; such are a part only of the conveniences and comforts of admitting the jurisdiction of a pope; such, if we may believe Marsais, are the liberties of the Gallican Church.

There are some other nations that carry their submission further. We have, in our own time, actually known a sovereign request permission of the pope to try in his own courts certain monks accused of parricide, and able neither to obtain this permission nor to venture on such trial without it!

It is well known that, formerly, the power of the popes extended further. They were far above the gods of antiquity; for the latter were merely supposed to dispose of empires, but the popes disposed of them in fact. Sturbinus says, that we may pardon those who entertain doubts of the divinity and infallibility of the pope, when we reflect: that forty schisms have profaned the chair of St. Peter, twenty-seven of which have been marked by blood; that Stephen VII., the son of a priest, disinterred the corpse of Formosus, his predecessor, and had the head of it cut off; that Sergius III., convicted of assassinations, had a son by Marozia, who inherited the popedom; that John X., the paramour of Theodora, was strangled in her bed; that John XI., son of Sergius III., was known only by his gross intemperance; Edition: current; Page: [163] that John XII. was assassinated in the apartments of his mistress; that Benedict IX. both bought and sold the pontificate; that Gregory VII. was the author of five hundred years of civil war, carried on by his successors; that, finally, among so many ambitious, sanguinary, and debauched popes, there was an Alexander VI., whose name is pronounced with the same horror as those of Nero and Caligula.

It is, we are told, a proof of the divinity of their character, that it has subsisted in connection with so many crimes; but according to this, if the caliphs had displayed still more atrocious and abominable conduct, they would have been still more divine. This argument, inferring their divinity from their wickedness, is urged by Dermius. He has been properly answered; but the best reply is to be found in the mitigated authority which the bishops of Rome at present exercise with discretion; in the long possession which the emperors permit them to enjoy, because in fact they are unable to deprive them of it; and in the system of the balance of power, which is watched with jealousy by every court in Europe.

It has been contended, and very lately, that there are only two nations which could invade Italy and crush Rome. These are the Turks and Russians; but they are necessarily enemies; and, besides, I cannot distinctly anticipate misfortunes so distant.

  • Je ne sais point prévoir les malheurs de si loin.
  • Racine, Andromache, act. i, scene 2.
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The Czar Peter . . . . had not true genius—that which creates and makes all of nothing. Some things which he did were good; the greater part were misplaced. He saw that his people were barbarous; he has not seen that they were not prepared for polishing; he would civilize them when they only wanted training. He wished at once to make Germans and English when he should have commenced by making Russians. He prevented his subjects from becoming what they might be, by persuading them that they were what they are not. It is thus that a French preceptor forms his pupil to shine for a moment in his childhood, and never afterwards to be anything. The empire of Russia would subjugate Europe, and will be subjugated itself. The Tartars, its subjects or neighbors, will become its masters and ours. This revolution appears to me unavoidable: all the kings of Europe labor together to accelerate it.” (Contrat Social, livre ii. chap. viii.) These words are extracted from a pamphlet entitled the “Contrat Social,” or “unsocial,” of the very unsociable Jean Jacques Rousseau. It is not astonishing, that having performed miracles at Venice he should prophesy on Moscow; but as he well knows that the good time of miracles and prophecies has passed away, he ought to believe, that his prediction against Russia is not so infallible as it appeared to him in his first fit of divination. Edition: current; Page: [165] It is pleasant to announce the fall of great empires; it consoles us for our littleness. It will be a fine gain for philosophy, when we shall constantly behold the Nogais Tartars—who can, I believe, bring twelve thousand men into the field—coming to subjugate Russia, Germany, Italy, and France. But I flatter myself, that the Emperor of China will not suffer it; he has already acceded to perpetual peace, and as he has no more Jesuits about him, he will not trouble Europe. Jean Jacques, who possesses, as he himself believes, true genius, finds that Peter the Great had it not.

A Russian lord, a man of much wit, who sometimes amuses himself with reading pamphlets, while reading this, remembered some lines of Molière, implying, that three miserable authors took it into their heads, that it was only necessary to be printed and bound in calf, to become important personages and dispose of empires:

  • Il semble à trois gredins, dans leur petit cerveau,
  • Que pour être imprimés et reliés en veau,
  • Les voilà dans l’état d’importantes personnes,
  • Qu’avec leur plume ils font le destin des couronnes.

The Russians, says Jean Jacques, were never polished. I have seen some at least very polite, and who had just, delicate, agreeable, cultivated, and even logical minds, which Jean Jacques will find very extraordinary. As he is very gallant, he will not fail to say, that they are formed at the court of the empress of Russia, that her example has influenced them: but that prevents not the correctness of Edition: current; Page: [166] his prophecy—that this empire will soon be destroyed.

This good little man assures us, in one of his modest works, that a statue should be erected to him. It will not probably be either at Moscow or St. Petersburg, that anyone will trouble himself to sculpture Jean Jacques.

I wish, in general, that when people judge of nations from their garrets, they would be more honest and circumspect. Every poor devil can say what he pleases of the Romans, Athenians, and ancient Persians. He can deceive himself with impunity on the tribunes, comitia, and dictatorships. He can govern in idea two or three thousand leagues of country, whilst he is incapable of governing his servant girl. In a romance, he can receive “an acrid kiss” from his Julia, and advise a prince to espouse the daughter of a hangman. These are follies without consequence—there are others which may have disastrous effects.

Court fools were very discreet; they insulted the weak alone by their buffooneries, and respected the powerful: country fools are at present more bold. It will be answered, that Diogenes and Aretin were tolerated. Granted; but a fly one day seeing a swallow wing away with a spider’s web, would do the same thing, and was taken.


May we not say of these legislators who govern the universe at two sous the sheet, and who from Edition: current; Page: [167] their garrets give orders to all kings, what Homer said to Calchas?:

  • Os ede ta conta, taere essomena, pro theonta.
  • He knew the past, present, and future.

It is a pity that the author of the little paragraph which we are going to quote, knew nothing of the three times of which Homer speaks. “Peter the Great,” says he, “had not the genius which makes all of nothing.” Truly, Jean Jacques, I can easily believe it; for it is said that God alone has this prerogative. “He has not seen that his people were not prepared for polishing.”

In this case, it was admirable of the czar to prepare them. It appears to me, that it is Jean Jacques who had not seen that he must make use of the Germans and English to form Russians.

“He has prevented his subjects from ever becoming what they might be,” etc. Yet these same Russians have become the conquerors of the Turks and Tartars, the conquerors and legislators of the Crimea, and twenty different nations. Their sovereign has given laws to nations of which even the names were unknown in Europe.

As to the prophecy of Jean Jacques, he may have exalted his soul sufficiently to read the future. He has all the requisites of a prophet; but as to the past and the present, it must be confessed that he knows nothing about them. I doubt whether antiquity has anything comparable to the boldness of sending four squadrons from the extremity of the Baltic into Edition: current; Page: [168] the seas of Greece—of reigning at once over the Ægean and the Euxine Seas—of carrying terror into Colchis, and to the Dardanelles—of subjugating Taurida, and forcing the vizier Azem to fly from the shores of the Danube to the gates of Adrianople.

If Jean Jacques considers so many great actions which astonished the attentive world as nothing, he must at least confess, that there was some generosity in one Count Orloff, who having taken a vessel which contained all the family and treasures of a pasha, sent him back both his family and treasures. If the Russians were not prepared for polishing in the time of Peter the Great, let us agree that they are now prepared for greatness of soul; and that Jean Jacques is not quite prepared for truth and reasoning. With regard to the future, we shall know it when we have Ezekiels, Isaiahs, Habakkuks, and Micahs; but their time has passed away; and if we dare say so much, it is to be feared that it will never return.

I confess that these lies, printed in relation to present times, always astonish me. If these liberties are allowed in an age in which a thousand volumes, a thousand newspapers and journals, are constantly correcting each other, what faith can we have in those histories of ancient times, which collected all vague rumors without consulting any archives, which put into writing all that they had heard told by their grandmothers in their childhood, very sure that no critic would discover their errors?

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We had for a long time nine muses: wholesome criticism is the tenth, which has appeared very lately. She existed not in the time of Cecrops, of the first Bacchus, or of Sanchoniathon, Thaut, Bramah, etc. People then wrote all they liked with impunity. At present we must be a little more careful.



Philosopher, “lover of wisdom,” that is, “of truth.” All philosophers have possessed this two-fold character; there is not one among those of antiquity who did not give examples of virtue to mankind, and lessons of moral truth. They might be mistaken, and undoubtedly were so, on subjects of natural philosophy; but that is of comparatively so little importance to the conduct of life, that philosophers had then no need of it. Ages were required to discover a part of the laws of nature. A single day is sufficient to enable a sage to become acquainted with the duties of man.

The philosopher is no enthusiast; he does not set himself up for a prophet; he does not represent himself as inspired by the gods. I shall not therefore place in the rank of philosophers the ancient Zoroaster, or Hermes, or Orpheus, or any of those legislators in whom the countries of Chaldæa, Persia, Syria, Egypt, and Greece made their boast. Those who called themselves the sons of gods were the Edition: current; Page: [170] fathers of imposture; and if they employed falsehood to inculcate truths, they were unworthy of inculcating them; they were not philosophers; they were at best only prudent liars.

By what fatality, disgraceful perhaps to the nations of the West, has it happened that we are obliged to travel to the extremity of the East, in order to find a sage of simple manners and character, without arrogance and without imposture, who taught men how to live happy six hundred years before our era, at a period when the whole of the North was ignorant of the use of letters, and when the Greeks had scarcely begun to distinguish themselves by wisdom? That sage is Confucius, who deemed too highly of his character as a legislator for mankind, to stoop to deceive them. What finer rule of conduct has ever been given since his time, throughout the earth?

“Rule a state as you rule a family; a man cannot govern his family well without giving a good example; virtue should be common to the laborer and the monarch; be active in preventing crimes, that you may lessen the trouble of punishing them.

“Under the good kings Yao and Xu, the Chinese were good; under the bad kings Kie and Chu, they were wicked.

“Do to another as to thyself; love mankind in general, but cherish those who are good; forget injuries, but never benefits.”

I have seen men incapable of the sciences, but Edition: current; Page: [171] never any incapable of virtue. Let us acknowledge that no legislator ever announced to the world more useful truths.

A multitude of Greek philosophers taught afterwards a morality equally pure. Had they distinguished themselves only by their vain systems of natural philosophy, their names would be mentioned at the present day only in derision. If they are still respected, it is because they were just, and because they taught mankind to be so.

It is impossible to read certain passages of Plato, and particularly the admirable exordium of the laws of Zaleucus, without experiencing an ardent love of honorable and generous actions. The Romans have their Cicero who alone is perhaps more valuable than all the philosophers of Greece. After him come men more respectable still, but whom we may almost despair of imitating; these are Epictetus in slavery, and the Antonines and Julian upon a throne.

Where is the citizen to be found among us who would deprive himself, like Julian, Antoninus, and Marcus Aurelius, of all the refined accommodations of our delicate and luxurious modes of living? Who would, like them, sleep on the bare ground? Who would restrict himself to their frugal habits? Who would, like them, march bareheaded and barefooted at the head of the armies, exposed sometimes to the burning sun, and at other times to the freezing blast? Who would, like them, keep perfect mastery of all his passions? We have among us devotees, Edition: current; Page: [172] but where are the sages? where are the souls just and tolerant, serene and undaunted?

There have been some philosophers of the closet in France; and all of them, with the exception of Montaigne, have been persecuted. It seems to me the last degree of malignity that our nature can exhibit, to attempt to oppress those who devote their best endeavors to correct and improve it.

I can easily conceive of the fanatics of one sect slaughtering those of another sect; that the Franciscans should hate the Dominicans, and that a bad artist should cabal and intrigue for the destruction of an artist that surpasses him; but that the sage Charron should have been menaced with the loss of life; that the learned and noble-minded Ramus should have been actually assassinated; that Descartes should have been obliged to withdraw to Holland in order to escape the rage of ignorance; that Gassendi should have been often compelled to retire to Digne, far distant from the calumnies of Paris, are events that load a nation with eternal opprobrium.

One of the philosophers who were most persecuted, was the immortal Bayle, the honor of human nature. I shall be told that the name of Jurieu, his slanderer and persecutor, is become execrable; I acknowledge that it is so; that of the Jesuit Letellier is become so likewise; but is it the less true that the great men whom he oppressed ended their days in exile and penury?

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One of the pretexts made use of for reducing Bayle to poverty, was his article on David, in his valuable dictionary. He was reproached with not praising actions which were in themselves unjust, sanguinary, atrocious, contrary to good faith, or grossly offensive to decency.

Bayle certainly has not praised David for having, according to the Hebrew historian, collected six hundred vagabonds overwhelmed with debts and crimes; for having pillaged his countrymen at the head of these banditti; for having resolved to destroy Nabal and his whole family, because he refused paying contributions to him; for having hired out his services to King Achish, the enemy of his country; for having afterwards betrayed Achish, notwithstanding his kindness to him; for having sacked the villages in alliance with that king; for having massacred in these villages every human being, including even infants at the breast, that no one might be found on a future day to give testimony of his depredations, as if an infant could have possibly disclosed his villainy; for having destroyed all the inhabitants of some other villages under saws, and harrows, and axes, and in brick-kilns; for having wrested the throne from Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, by an act of perfidy; for having despoiled of his property and afterwards put to death Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, and son of his own peculiar friend and generous protector, Jonathan; or for having delivered up to the Gibeonites two other Edition: current; Page: [174] sons of Saul, and five of his grandsons who perished by the gallows.

I do not notice the extreme incontinence of David, his numerous concubines, his adultery with Bathsheba, or his murder of Uriah.

What then! is it possible that the enemies of Bayle should have expected or wished him to eulogize all these cruelties and crimes? Ought he to have said: Go, ye princes of the earth, and imitate the man after God’s own heart; massacre without pity the allies of your benefactor; destroy or deliver over to destruction the whole family of your king; appropriate to your own pleasures all the women, while you are pouring out the blood of the men; and you will thus exhibit models of human virtue, especially if, in addition to all the rest, you do but compose a book of psalms?

Was not Bayle perfectly correct in his observation, that if David was the man after God’s own heart, it must have been by his penitence, and not by his crimes? Did not Bayle perform a service to the human race when he said, that God, who undoubtedly dictated the Jewish history, has not consecrated all the crimes recorded in that history?

However, Bayle was in fact persecuted, and by whom? By the very men who had been elsewhere persecuted themselves; by refugees who in their own country would have been delivered over to the flames; and these refugees were opposed by other refugees called Jansenists, who had been driven Edition: current; Page: [175] from their own country by the Jesuits; who have at length been themselves driven from it in their turn.

Thus all the persecutors declare against each other mortal war, while the philosopher, oppressed by them all, contents himself with pitying them.

It is not generally known, that Fontenelle, in 1718, was on the point of losing his pensions, place, and liberty, for having published in France, twenty years before, what may be called an abridgement of the learned Van Dale’s “Treatise on Oracles,” in which he had taken particular care to retrench and modify the original work, so as to give no unnecessary offence to fanaticism. A Jesuit had written against Fontenelle, and he had not deigned to make him any reply; and that was enough to induce the Jesuit Letellier, confessor to Louis XIV., to accuse Fontenelle to the king of atheism.

But for the fortunate mediation of M. d’Argenson, the son of a forging solicitor of Vire—a son worthy of such a father, as he was detected in forgery himself—would have proscribed, in his old age, the nephew of the great Corneille.

It is so easy for a confessor to seduce his penitent, that we ought to bless God that Letellier did no more harm than is justly imputed to him. There are two situations in which seduction and calumny cannot easily be resisted—the bed and the confessional.

We have always seen philosophers persecuted by fanatics. But can it be really possible, that men of letters should be seen mixed up in a business so Edition: current; Page: [176] odious; and that they should often be observed sharpening the weapons against their brethren, by which they are themselves almost universally destroyed or wounded in their turn. Unhappy men of letters, does it become you to turn informers? Did the Romans ever find a Garasse, a Chaumieux, or a Hayet, to accuse a Lucretius, a Posidonius, a Varro, or a Pliny?

How inexpressible is the meanness of being a hypocrite! how horrible is it to be a mischievous and malignant hypocrite! There were no hypocrites in ancient Rome, which reckoned us a small portion of its innumerable subjects. There were impostors, I admit, but not religious hypocrites, which are the most profligate and cruel species of all. Why is it that we see none such in England, and whence does it arise that there still are such in France? Philosophers, you will solve this problem with ease.


This brilliant and beautiful name has been sometimes honored, and sometimes disgraced; like that of poet, mathematician, monk, priest, and everything dependent on opinion. Domitian banished the philosophers, and Lucian derided them. But what sort of philosophers and mathematicians were they whom the monster Domitian exiled? They were jugglers with their cups and balls; the calculators of horoscopes, fortune-tellers, miserable peddling Jews, who composed philtres and talismans; gentry who Edition: current; Page: [177] had special and sovereign power over evil spirits, who evoked them from their infernal habitations, made them take possession of the bodies of men and women by certain words or signs, and dislodged them by other words or signs.

And what were the philosophers that Lucian held up to public ridicule? They were the dregs of the human race. They were a set of profligate beggars incapable of applying to any useful profession or occupation; men perfectly resembling the “Poor Devil,” who has been described to us with so much both of truth and humor; men who are undecided whether to wear a livery, or to write the almanac of the “Annus Mirabilis,” the marvellous year; whether to work on reviews, or on roads; whether to turn soldiers or priests; who in the meantime frequent the coffee-houses, to give their opinion upon the last new piece, upon God, upon being in general, and the various modes of being; who will then borrow your money, and immediately go away and write a libel against you in conjunction with the barrister Marchand, or the creature called Chaudon, or the equally despicable wretch called Bonneval.

It was not from such a school that the Ciceros, the Atticuses, the Epictetuses, the Trajans, Adrians, Antonines, and Julians proceeded. It was not such a school that formed a king of Prussia, who has composed as many philosophical treatises as he has gained battles, and who has levelled with the dust as many prejudices as enemies.

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A victorious empress, at whose name the Ottomans tremble, and who so gloriously rules an empire more extensive than that of Rome, would never have been a great legistratrix, had she not been a philosopher. Every northern prince is so, and the North puts the South to absolute shame. If the confederates of Poland had only a very small share of philosophy, they would not expose their country, their estates, and their houses, to pillage; they would not drench their territory in blood; they would not obstinately and wantonly reduce themselves to being the most miserable of mankind; they would listen to the voice of their philosophic king, who has given so many noble proofs and so many admirable lessons of moderation and prudence in vain.

The great Julian was a philosopher when he wrote to his ministers and pontiffs his exquisite letters abounding in clemency and wisdom, which all men of judgment and feeling highly admire, even at the present day, however sincerely they may condemn his errors.

Constantine was not a philosopher when he assassinated his relations, his son and his wife, and when, reeking with the blood of his family, he swore that God had sent to him the “Labarum” in the clouds. It is a long bound that carries us from Constantine to Charles IX., and Henry III., kings of one of the fifty great provinces of the Roman Empire. But if these kings had been philosophers, one would not have been guilty of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, Edition: current; Page: [179] and the other would not have made scandalous processions, nor have been reduced to the necessity of assassinating the duke of Guise and the cardinal, his brother, and at length have been assassinated himself by a young Jacobin, for the love of God and of the holy church.

If Louis the Just, the thirteenth monarch of that name, had been a philosopher, he would not have permitted the virtuous de Thou and the innocent Marshal de Marillac to have been dragged to the scaffold; he would not have suffered his mother to perish with hunger at Cologne; and his reign would not have been an uninterrupted succession of intestine discords and calamities.

Compare with those princes, thus ignorant, superstitious, cruel, and enslaved by their own passions or those of their ministers, such a man as Montaigne, or Charron, or the Chancellor de l’Hôpital, or the historian de Thou, or la Mothe Le Vayer, or a Locke, a Shaftesbury, a Sidney, or a Herbert; and say whether you would rather be governed by those sovereigns or by these sages.

When I speak of philosophers I do not mean the coarse and brutal cynics who appear desirous of being apes of Diogenes, but the men who imitate Plato and Cicero. As for you, voluptuous courtiers, and you also, men of petty minds, invested with a petty employment which confers on you a petty authority in a petty country, who uniformly exclaim against and abuse philosophy, proceed as long as Edition: current; Page: [180] you please with your invective railing. I consider you as the Nomentanuses inveighing against Horace; and the Cotins attempting to cry down Boileau.


The stiff Lutheran, the savage Calvinist, the proud Anglican high churchman, the fanatical Jansenist, the Jesuit always aiming at dominion, even in exile and at the very gallows, the Sorbonnist who deems himself one of the fathers of a council; these, and some imbecile beings under their respective guidance, inveigh incessantly and bitterly against philosophy. They are all different species of the canine race, snarling and howling in their peculiar ways against a beautiful horse that is pasturing in a verdant meadow, and who never enters into contest with them about any of the carrion carcasses upon which they feed, and for which they are perpetually fighting with one another.

They every day produce from the press their trash of philosophic theology, their philosophico-theological dictionaries; their old and battered arguments, as common as the streets, which they denominate “demonstrations”; and their ten thousand times repeated and ridiculous assertions which they call “lemmas,” and “corollaries”; as false coiners cover a lead crown with a plating of silver.

They perceive that they are despised by all persons of reflection, and that they can no longer deceive any but a few weak old women. This state Edition: current; Page: [181] is far more humiliating and mortifying than even being expelled from France and Spain and Naples. Everything can be supported except contempt. We are told that when the devil was conquered by Raphael—as it is clearly proved he was—that haughty compound of body and spirit at first easily consoled himself with the idea of the chances of war. But when he understood that Raphael laughed at him, he roundly swore that he would never forgive him. Accordingly, the Jesuits never forgave Pascal; accordingly, Jerieu went on calumniating Bayle even to the grave; and just in the same manner all the Tartuffes, all the hypocrites, in Molière’s time, inveighed against that author to his dying day. In their rage they resort to calumnies, as in their folly they publish arguments.

One of the most determined slanderers, as well as one of the most contemptible reasoners that we have among us, is an ex-Jesuit of the name of Paulian, who published a theologico-philosophical rhapsody in the city of Avignon, formerly a papal city, and perhaps destined to be so again. This person accuses the authors of the “Encyclopædia” of having said:

“That as man is by his nature open only to the pleasures of the senses, these pleasures are consequently the sole objects of his desires; that man in himself has neither vice nor virtue, neither good nor bad morals, neither justice nor injustice; that the pleasures of the senses produce all the virtues; Edition: current; Page: [182] that in order to be happy, men must extinguish remorse, etc.”

In what articles of the “Encyclopædia,” of which five new editions have lately commenced, are these horrible propositions to be found? You are bound actually to produce them. Have you carried the insolence of your pride and the madness of your character to such an extent as to imagine that you will be believed on your bare word? These ridiculous absurdities may be found perhaps in the works of your own casuists, or those of the Porter of the Chartreux, but they are certainly not to be found in the articles of the “Encyclopædia” composed by M. Diderot, M. d’Alembert, the chevalier Jaucourt, or M. de Voltaire. You have never seen them in the articles of the Count de Tressan, nor in those of Messrs. Blondel, Boucher-d’Argis, Marmontel, Venel, Tronchin, d’Aubenton, d’Argenville, and various others, who generously devoted their time and labors to enrich the “Encyclopædic Dictionary,” and thereby conferred an everlasting benefit on Europe. Most assuredly, not one of them is chargeable with the abominations you impute to them. Only yourself, and Abraham Chaumieux, the vinegar merchant and crucified convulsionary, could be capable of broaching so infamous a calumny.

You confound error with truth, because you have not sense sufficient to distinguish between them. You wish to stigmatize as impious the maxim Edition: current; Page: [183] adopted by all publicists, “That every man is free to choose his country.”

What! you contemptible preacher of slavery, was not Queen Christina free to travel to France and reside at Rome? Were not Casimir and Stanislaus authorized to end their days in France? Was it necessary, because they were Poles, that they should die in Poland? Did Goldoni, Vanloo, and Cassini give offense to God by settling at Paris? Have all the Irish, who have established themselves in fame and fortune in France, committed by so doing a mortal sin?

And you have the stupidity to print such extravagance and absurdity as this, and Riballier has stupidity enough to approve and sanction you; and you range in one and the same class Bayle, Montesquieu, and the madman de La Metrie; and it may be added, you have found the French nation too humane and indulgent, notwithstanding all your slander and malignity, to deliver you over to anything but scorn!

What! do you dare to calumniate your country—if indeed a Jesuit can be said to have a country? Do you dare to assert “that philosophers alone in France attribute to chance the union and disunion of the atoms which constitute the soul of man?” “Mentiris impudentissime!” I defy you to produce a single book, published within the last thirty years, in which anything at all is attributed to chance, which is merely a word without a meaning.

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Do you dare to accuse the sagacious and judicious Locke of having said “that it is possible the soul may be a spirit, but that he is not perfectly sure it is so; and that we are unable to decide what it may be able or unable to acquire?”

Mentiris impudentissime!” Locke, the truly respectable and venerable Locke, says expressly, in his answer to the cavilling and sophistical Stilling-fleet, “I am strongly persuaded, although it cannot be shown, by mere reason, that the soul is immaterial, because the veracity of God is a demonstration of the truth of all that He has revealed, and the absence of another demonstration can never throw any doubt upon what is already demonstrated.”

See, moreover, under the article “Soul,” how Locke expresses himself on the bounds of human knowledge, and the immensity of the power of the Supreme Being. The great philosopher Bolingbroke declares that the opinion opposite to Locke’s is blasphemy. All the fathers, during the first three ages of the church, regarded the soul as a light, attenuated species of matter, but did not the less, in consequence, regard it as immortal. But now, forsooth, even your college drudges consequentially put themselves forward and denounce as “atheists” those who, with the fathers of the Christian church, think that God is able to bestow and to preserve the immortality of the soul, whatever may be the substance it consists of.

You carry your audacity so far as to discover Edition: current; Page: [185] atheism in the following words, “Who produces motion in nature? God. Who produces vegetation in plants? God. Who produces motion in animals? God. Who produces thought in man? God.”

We cannot so properly say on this occasion, “Mentiris impudentissime”; but we should rather say you impudently blaspheme the truth. We conclude with observing that the hero of the ex-Jesuit Paulian is the ex-Jesuit Patouillet, the author of a bishop’s mandate in which all the parliaments of the kingdom are insulted. This mandate was burned by the hands of the executioner. Nothing after this was wanting but for the ex-Jesuit Paulian to elevate the ex-Jesuit Nonnotte to be a father of the church, and to canonize the Jesuits Malagrida, Guignard, Garnet, and Oldham, and all other Jesuits to whom God has granted the grace of being hanged or quartered; they were all of them great metaphysicians, great philosophico-theologians.


People who never think frequently inquire of those who do think, what has been the use of philosophy? To destroy in England the religious rage which brought Charles I. to the scaffold; to deprive an archbishop in Sweden of the power, with a papal bull in his hand, of shedding the blood of the nobility; to preserve in Germany religious peace, by holding up theological disputes to ridicule; finally, Edition: current; Page: [186] to extinguish in Spain the hideous and devouring flames of the Inquisition.

Gauls! unfortunate Gauls! it prevents stormy and factious times from producing among you a second “Fronde,” and a second “Damiens.” Priests of Rome! it compels you to suppress your bull “In cœna domini,” that monument of impudence and stupidity. Nations! it humanizes your manners. Kings, it gives you instruction!


The philosopher is the lover of wisdom and truth; to be a sage is to avoid the senseless and the depraved. The philosopher, therefore, should live only among philosophers.

I will suppose that there are still some sages among the Jews; if one of these, when dining in company with some rabbis, should help himself to a plate of eels or hare, or if he cannot refrain from a hearty laugh at some superstitious and ridiculous observations made by them in the course of conversation, he is forever ruined in the synagogue; the like remark may be made of a Mussulman, a Gueber, or a Banian.

I know it is contended by many that the sage should never develop his opinions to the vulgar; that he should be a madman with the mad, and foolish among fools; no one, however, has yet ventured to say that he should be a knave among knaves. But if it be required that a sage should always join in Edition: current; Page: [187] opinion with the deluders of mankind, is not this clearly the same as requiring that he should not be an honest man? Would any one require that a respectable physician should always be of the same opinion as charlatans?

The sage is a physician of souls. He ought to bestow his remedies on those who ask them of him, and avoid the company of quacks, who will infallibly persecute him. If, therefore, a madman of Asia Minor, or a madman of India, says to the sage: My good friend, I think you do not believe in the mare Borac, or in the metamorphoses of Vishnu; I will denounce you, I will hinder you from being bostanji, I will destroy your credit; I will persecute you—the sage ought to pity him and be silent.

If ignorant persons, but at the same time persons of good understanding and dispositions, and willing to receive instruction, should ask him: Are we bound to believe that the distance between the moon and Venus is only five hundred leagues, and that between Mercury and the sun the same, as the principal fathers of the Mussulman religion insist, in opposition to all the most learned astronomers?—the sage may reply to them that the fathers may possibly be mistaken. He should at all times inculcate upon them that a hundred abstract dogmas are not of the value of a single good action, and that it is better to relieve one individual in distress than to be profoundly acquainted with the abolishing and abolished. When a rustic sees a serpent ready to Edition: current; Page: [188] dart at him, he will kill it; when a sage perceives a bigot and a fanatic, what will he do? He will prevent them from biting.



Write filosophy or philosophy as you please, but agree that as soon as it appears it is persecuted. Dogs to whom you present an aliment for which they have no taste, bite you. You will say that I repeat myself; but we must a hundred times remind mankind that the holy conclave condemned Galileo; and that the pedants who declared all the good citizens excommunicated who should submit to the great Henry IV., were the same who condemned the only truths which could be found in the works of Descartes.

All the spaniels of the theological kennel bark at one another, and all together at de Thou, la Mothe, Le Vayer, and Bayle. What nonsense has been written by little Celtic scholars against the wise Locke!

These Celts say that Cæsar, Cicero, Seneca, Pliny, and Marcus Aurelius, might be philosophers, but that philosophy is not permitted among the Celts. We answer that it is permitted and very useful among the French; that nothing has done more good to the English; and that it is time to exterminate barbarity. You reply that that will never come Edition: current; Page: [189] to pass. No; with the uninformed and foolish it will not; but with honest people the affair is soon concluded.


One of the great misfortunes, as also one of the great follies, of mankind, is that in all countries which we call polished, except, perhaps, China, priests concern themselves with what belongs only to philosophers. These priests interfered with regulating the year; it was, they say, their right; for it was necessary that the people should know their holy days. Thus the Chaldæan, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman priests, believed themselves mathematicians and astronomers; but what mathematics and astronomy! Whoever makes a trade of quackery cannot have a just and enlightened mind. They were astrologers, and never astronomers.

The Greek priests themselves first made the year to consist only of three hundred and sixty days. Their geometricians must have informed them that they were deceived by five days and more. They, therefore, corrected their year. Other geometricians further showed them that they were deceived by six hours. Iphitus obliged them to change their Greek almanac. They added one day in four years to their faulty year; Iphitus celebrated this change by the institution of the Olympiads.

They were finally obliged to have recourse to the philosopher Meton, who, combining the year of the moon with that of the sun, composed his cycle of Edition: current; Page: [190] nineteen years, at the end of which the sun and moon returned to the same point within an hour and a half. This cycle was graven in gold in the public place of Athens; and it is of this famous golden number that we still make use, with the necessary corrections.

We well know what ridiculous confusion the Roman priests introduced in their computation of the year. Their blunders were so great that their summer holidays arrived in winter. Cæsar, the universal Cæsar, was obliged to bring the philosopher Sosigenes from Alexandria to repair the enormous errors of the pontiffs. When it was necessary to correct the calendar of Julius Cæsar, under the pontificate of Gregory XIII., to whom did they address themselves? Was it to some inquisitor? It was to a philosopher and physician named Lilio.

When the almanac was given to Professor Cogé, rector of the university, to compose, he knew not even the subject. They were obliged to apply to M. de Lalande, of the Academy of Sciences, who was burdened with this very painful task, too poorly recompensed. The rhetorician Cogé, therefore, made a great mistake when he proposed for the prize of the university this subject so strangely expressed:

“Non magis Deo quam regibus infensa est ista quæ vocatur hodie philosophia.”—“That which we now call philosophy, is not more the enemy of God than of kings.” He would say less the enemy. He has taken magis for minus. And the poor man ought Edition: current; Page: [191] to know that our academies are not enemies either to the king or God.


If philosophy has done so much honor to France in the “Encyclopædia,” it must also be confessed that the ignorance and envy which have dared to condemn this work would have covered France with opprobrium, if twelve or fifteen convulsionaries, who formed a cabal, could be regarded as the organs of France; they were really only the ministers of fanaticism and sedition; those who forced the king to dissolve the body which they had seduced. Their fanatical credulity for convulsions and the miserable impostures of St. Médard, was so strong, that they obliged a magistrate, elsewhere wise and respectable, to say in full parliament that the miracles of the Catholic church always existed. By these miracles, we can only understand those of convulsions, for assuredly it never performed any others; at least, if we believe not in the little children resuscitated by St. Ovid. The time of miracles is passed; the triumphant church has no longer occasion for them. Seriously, was there one of the persecutors of the “Encyclopædia” who understood one word of the articles Astronomy, Dynamics, Geometry, Metaphysics, Botany, Medicine, or Anatomy, of which this book, become so necessary, treats in every volume. What a crowd of absurd imputations and gross calumnies have they accumulated against this treasure of all the sciences! They should be reprinted Edition: current; Page: [192] at the end of the “Encyclopædia,” to eternize their shame. See what it is to judge a work which they were not even fit to study. The fools! they have exclaimed that philosophy ruined Catholicism. What, then, in twenty millions of people, has one been found who has vexed the least officer of the parish! one who has failed in respect to the churches! one who has publicly proffered against our ceremonies a single word which approached the virulence with which these railers have expressed themselves against the regal authority! Let us repeat that philosophy never did evil to the state, and that fanaticism, joined to the esprit du corps, has done much in all times.

Substance of Ancient Philosophy.

I have consumed about forty years of my pilgrimage in two or three corners of the world, seeking the philosopher’s stone called truth. I have consulted all the adepts of antiquity, Epicurus and Augustine, Plato and Malebranche, and I still remain in ignorance. In all the crucibles of philosophers, there are perhaps two or three ounces of gold, but all the rest is caput mortuum, insipid mire, from which nothing can be extracted.

It seems to me that the Greeks, our masters, wrote much more to show their intellect, than they made use of their intellect to instruct themselves. I see not a single author of antiquity who has a consistent, Edition: current; Page: [193] methodical, clear system, going from consequence to consequence.

All that I have been able to obtain by comparing and combining the systems of Plato, of the tutor of Alexander, Pythagoras, and the Orientals, is this: Chance is a word void of sense; nothing can exist without a cause. The world is arranged according to mathematical laws; therefore, it is arranged by an intelligence.

It is not an intelligent being like myself who presided at the formation of the world; for I cannot form a miserable worm; therefore, the world is the work of an intelligence prodigiously superior. Does this being, who possesses intelligence and power in so high a degree, necessarily exist? It must be so, for he must either have received being from another, or through his own nature. If he has received his being from another, which is very difficult to conceive, I must look up to this other, which will in that case be the first cause. On whichever side I turn, I must admit a first cause, powerful and intelligent, who by his own nature is necessarily so.

Has this first cause created things out of nothing? We cannot conceive that to create out of nothing is to change nothing into something. I cannot admit such a creation, at least until I find invincible reasons which force me to admit what my mind can never comprehend. All that exists appears to exist necessarily, since it exists; for if to-day there is a reason for the existence of things, there was one Edition: current; Page: [194] yesterday; there has been one in all times; and this cause must always have had its effect, without which it would have been a useless cause during eternity.

But how can things have always existed, being visibly under the hand of the first cause? This power must always have acted in like manner. There is no sun without light, there is no motion without a being passing from one point of space to another.

There is, therefore, a powerful and intelligent being who has always acted; and if this being had not acted, of what use to him would have been his existence? All things are, therefore, emanations from this first cause. But how can we imagine that stone and clay may be emanations of the eternal, intelligent, and puissant being? Of two things, one must be; either that the matter of this stone and mine necessarily exists of itself, or that it exists necessarily by this first cause; there is no medium.

Thus, therefore, there are but two parts to take; either to admit matter eternal of itself, or matter eternally proceeding from a powerful, intelligent, eternal being. But existing of its own nature, or emanating from a producing being, it exists from all eternity, because it exists; and there is no reason that it might not have always existed.

If matter is eternally necessary, it is in consequence impossible—it is contradictory, that it should not exist; but what man can assure you that it is impossible, that it is contradictory, that this fly and Edition: current; Page: [195] this flint have not always existed? We are, however, obliged to swallow this difficulty, which more astonishes the imagination than contradicts the principles of reasoning.

Indeed, as soon as we have conceived that all has emanated from the supreme and intelligent being; that nothing has emanated from him without reason; that this being, always existing, must always have acted; that, consequently, all things must have eternally proceeded from the bosom of his existence—we should no more be deterred from believing the matter of which this fly and flint are formed is eternal, than we are deterred from conceiving light to be an emanation of the all-powerful being.

Since I am an extended and thinking being, my extent and thought are the necessary productions of this being. It is evident to me that I cannot give myself extent or thought. I have, therefore, received both from this necessary being.

Can he have given me what he has not? I have intelligence; I am in space; therefore, he is intelligent and is in space. To say that the Eternal Being, the All-Powerful God, has from all time necessarily filled the universe with His productions, is not taking from Him His free-will; but on the contrary, for free-will is but the power of acting. God has always fully acted; therefore God has always used the plenitude of His liberty.

The liberty which we call indifference is a word without an idea—an absurdity; for this would be to Edition: current; Page: [196] determine without reason; it would be an effect without a cause. Therefore God cannot have this pretended free-will, which is a contradiction in terms. He has, therefore, always acted by the same necessity which causes His existence. It is, therefore, impossible for the world to exist without God; it is impossible for God to exist without the world. This world is filled with beings who succeed each other; therefore, God has always produced beings in succession.

These preliminary assertions are the basis of the ancient eastern philosophy, and of that of the Greeks. We must except Democritus and Epicurus, whose corpuscular philosophy has combated these dogmas. But let us remark that the Epicureans were founded on an entirely erroneous philosophy, and that the metaphysical system of all the other philosophy subsisted with all the physical systems. All nature, except the void, contradicts Epicurus, and no phenomenon contradicts the philosophy which I explain. Now, a philosophy which agrees with all which passes in nature, and which contents the most attentive mind, is it not superior to all other unrevealed systems?

After the assertions of the most ancient philosophers, which I have approached as nearly as possible, what remains to us? A chaos of doubts and chimeras. I believe that there never was a philosopher of a system who did not confess at the end of his life that he had lost his time. It must be confessed that Edition: current; Page: [197] the inventors of the mechanical arts have been much more useful to men than the inventors of syllogisms. He who imagined a ship, towers much above him who imagined innate ideas.


Regimen is superior to medicine, especially as, from time immemorial, out of every hundred physicians, ninety-eight are charlatans. Molière was right in laughing at them; for nothing is more ridiculous than to witness an infinite number of silly women, and men no less than women, when they have eaten, drunk, sported, or abstained from repose too much, call in a physician for the headache, invoke him like a god, and request him to work the miracle of producing an alliance between health and intemperance, not omitting to fee the said god, who laughs at their folly.

It is not, however, the less true that an able physician may preserve life on a hundred occasions, and restore to us the use of our limbs. When a man falls into an apoplexy, it is neither a captain of infantry nor a sergeant at law who will cure him. If cataracts are formed on my eyes, it is not my neighbor who will relieve me. I distinguish not between physicians and surgeons, these professions being so intimately connected.

Men who are occupied in the restoration of health to other men, by the joint exertion of skill and humanity, are above all the great of the earth. Edition: current; Page: [198] They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create. The Roman people had no physicians for more than five hundred years. This people, whose sole occupation was slaughter, in particular cultivated not the art of prolonging life. What, therefore, happened at Rome to those who had a putrid fever, a fistula, a gangrene, or an inflammation of the stomach? They died. The small number of great physicians introduced into Rome were only slaves. A physician among the great Roman patricians was a species of luxury, like a cook. Every rich man had his perfumers, his bathers, his harpers, and his physician. The celebrated Musa, the physician of Augustus, was a slave; he was freed and made a Roman knight; after which physicians became persons of consideration.

When Christianity was so fully established as to bestow on us the felicity of possessing monks, they were expressly forbidden, by many councils, from practising medicine. They should have prescribed a precisely contrary line of conduct, if it were desirable to render them useful to mankind.

How beneficial to society were monks obliged to study medicine and to cure our ailments for God’s sake! Having nothing to gain but heaven, they would never be charlatans; they would equally instruct themselves in our diseases and their remedies, one of the finest of occupations, and the only one forbidden them. It has been objected that they Edition: current; Page: [199] would poison the impious; but even that would be advantageous to the church. Had this been the case, Luther would never have stolen one-half of Catholic Europe from our holy father, the pope; for in the first fever which might have seized the Augustine Luther, a Dominican would have prepared his pills. You will tell me that he would not have taken them; but with a little address this might have been managed. But to proceed:

Towards the year 1517 lived a citizen, animated with a Christian zeal, named John; I do not mean John Calvin, but John, surnamed of God, who instituted the Brothers of Charity. This body, instituted for the redemption of captives, is composed of the only useful monks, although not accounted among the orders. The Dominicans, Bernardines, Norbertins, and Benedictines, acknowledge not the Brothers of Charity. They are simply adverted to in the continuation of the “Ecclesiastical History” of Fleury. Why? Because they have performed cures instead of miracles—have been useful and not caballed—cured poor women without either directing or seducing them. Lastly, their institution being charitable, it is proper that other monks should despise them.

Medicine, having then become a mercenary profession in the world, as the administration of justice is in many places, it has become liable to strange abuses. But nothing is more estimable than a physician who, having studied nature from his youth, Edition: current; Page: [200] knows the properties of the human body, the diseases which assail it, the remedies which will benefit it, exercises his art with caution, and pays equal attention to the rich and the poor. Such a man is very superior to the general of the Capuchins, however respectable this general may be.


In the time of Cardinal Richelieu, when the Spaniards and French detested each other, because Ferdinand the Catholic laughed at Louis XII., and Francis I. was taken at the battle of Pavia by an army of Charles V.—while this hatred was so strong that the false author of the political romance, and political piece of tediousness, called the “Political Testament of Cardinal Richelieu,” feared not to call the Spaniards “an insatiable nation, who rendered the Indies tributaries of hell”; when, in short, we were leagued in 1635 with Holland against Spain; when France had nothing in America, and the Spaniards covered the seas with their galleys—then buccaneers began to appear. They were at first French adventurers, whose quality was at most that of corsairs.

One of them, named Legrande, a native of Dieppe, associated himself with fifty determined men, and went to tempt fortune in a bark which had not even a cannon. Towards the Isle of Hispaniola (St. Domingo), he perceived a galley strayed from the great Spanish fleet; he approached it as a captain Edition: current; Page: [201] wishing to sell provisions; he mounted, attended by his people; he entered the chamber of the captain, who was playing at cards, threw him down, made him prisoner with his cargo, and returned to Dieppe with his vessel laden with immense riches. This adventure was the signal for forty years’ unheard-of exploits.

French, English, and Dutch buccaneers associated together in the caverns of St. Domingo, of the little islands of St. Christopher and Tortola. They chose a chief for each expedition, which was the first origin of kings. Agriculturists would never have wished for a king; they had no need of one to sow, thrash, and sell corn.

When the buccaneers took a great prize, they bought with it a little vessel and cannon. One happy chance produced twenty others. If they were a hundred in number they were believed to be a thousand; it was difficult to escape them, still more so to follow them. They were birds of prey who established themselves on all sides, and who retired into inaccessible places; sometimes they ravaged from four to five hundred leagues of coast; sometimes they advanced on foot, or horseback, two hundred leagues up the countries. They surprised and pillaged the rich towns of Chagra, Maracaybo, Vera Cruz, Panama, Porto Rico, Campeachy, the island of St. Catherine, and the suburbs of Cartagena.

One of these pirates, named Olonois, penetrated to the gates of Havana, followed by twenty men Edition: current; Page: [202] only. Having afterwards retired into his boat, the governor sent against him a ship of war with soldiers and an executioner. Olonois rendered himself master of the vessel, cut off the heads of the Spanish soldiers, whom he had taken himself, and sent back the executioner to the governor. Such astonishing actions were never performed by the Romans, or by other robbers. The warlike voyage of Admiral Anson round the world is only an agreeable promenade in comparison with the passage of the buccaneers in the South Sea, and with what they endured on terra firma.

Had their policy been equal to their invincible courage, they would have founded a great empire in America. They wanted females; but instead of ravishing and marrying Sabines, like the Romans, they procured them from the brothels of Paris, which sufficed not to produce a second generation.

They were more cruel towards the Spaniards than the Israelites ever were to the Canaanites. A Dutchman is spoken of, named Roc, who put several Spaniards on a spit and caused them to be eaten by his comrades. Their expeditions were tours of thieves, and never campaigns of conquerors; thus, in all the West Indies, they were never called anything but los ladrones. When they surprised and entered the house of a father of a family, they put him to the torture to discover his treasures. That sufficiently proves what we say in the article “Question,” that torture was invented by robbers.

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What rendered their exploits useless was, that they lavished in debauches, as foolish as monstrous, all that they acquired by rapine and murder. Finally, there remains nothing more of them than their name, and scarcely that. Such were the buccaneers.

But what people in Europe have not been pirates? The Goths, Alans, Vandals, and Huns, were they anything else? What were Rollo, who established himself in Normandy, and William Fier-a-bras, but the most able pirates? Was not Clovis a pirate, who came from the borders of the Rhine into Gaul?


It is said that this word is derived from the Latin word plaga, and that it signifies the condemnation to the scourge of those who sold freemen for slaves. This has nothing in common with the plagiarism of authors, who sell not men either enslaved or free. They only for a little money occasionally sell themselves.

When an author sells the thoughts of another man for his own, the larceny is called plagiarism. All the makers of dictionaries, all compilers who do nothing else than repeat backwards and forwards the opinions, the errors, the impostures, and the truths already printed, we may term plagiarists, but honest plagiarists, who arrogate not the merit of invention. They pretend not even to have collected from the ancients the materials which they get together; they only copy the laborious compilers of Edition: current; Page: [204] the sixteenth century. They will sell you in quarto that which already exists in folio. Call them if you please bookmakers, not authors; range them rather among second-hand dealers than plagiarists.

The true plagiarist is he who gives the works of another for his own, who inserts in his rhapsodies long passages from a good book a little modified. The enlightened reader, seeing this patch of cloth of gold upon a blanket, soon detects the bungling purloiner.

Ramsay, who after having been a Presbyterian in his native Scotland, an Anglican in London, then a Quaker, and who finally persuaded Fénelon that he was a Catholic, and even pretended a penchant for celestial love—Ramsay, I say, compiled the “Travels of Cyrus,” because his master made his Telemachus travel. So far he only imitated; but in these travels he copies from an old English author, who introduces a young solitary dissecting his dead goat, and arriving at a knowledge of the Deity by the process, which is very much like plagiarism. On conducting Cyrus into Egypt, in describing that singular country, he employs the same expressions as Bossuet, whom he copies word for word without citing; this is plagiarism complete. One of my friends reproached him with this one day; Ramsay replied that he was not aware of it, and that it was not surprising he should think like Fénelon and write like Bossuet. This was making out the adage, “Proud as a Scotsman.”

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The most singular of all plagiarism is possibly that of Father Barre, author of a large history of Germany in ten volumes. The history of Charles XII. had just been printed, and he inserted more than two hundred pages of it in his work; making a duke of Lorraine say precisely that which was said by Charles XII.

He attributes to the emperor Arnold that which happened to the Swedish monarch. He relates of the emperor Rudolph that which was said of King Stanislaus. Waldemar, king of Denmark, acts precisely like Charles at Bender, etc.

The most pleasant part of the story is, that a journalist, perceiving this extraordinary resemblance between the two works, failed not to impute the plagiarism to the author of the history of Charles XII., who had composed his work twenty years before the appearance of that of Father Barre. It is chiefly in poetry that plagiarism is allowed to pass; and certainly, of all larcenies, it is that which is least dangerous to society.


Of the “Timæus” of Plato and Some Other Things.

The fathers of the Church, of the first four centuries, were all Greeks and Platonists: you find not one Roman who wrote for Christianity, or who had the slightest tincture of philosophy. I will here Edition: current; Page: [206] observe, by the way, that it is strange enough, the great Church of Rome, which contributed in nothing to this establishment, has alone reaped all the advantage. It has been with this revolution, as with all those produced by civil wars: the first who trouble a state, always unknowingly labor for others rather than for themselves.

The school of Alexandria, founded by one named Mark, to whom succeeded Athenagoras, Clement, and Origen, was the centre of the Christian philosophy. Plato was regarded by all the Greeks of Alexandria as the master of wisdom, the interpreter of the divinity. If the first Christians had not embraced the dogmas of Plato, they would never have had any philosophers, any man of mind in their party. I set aside inspiration and grace which are above all philosophy, and speak only of the ordinary course of human events.

It is said that it was principally in the “Timæus” of Plato that the Greek fathers were instructed. This “Timæus” passes for the most sublime work of all ancient philosophy. It is almost the only one which Dacier has not translated, and I think the reason is, because he did not understand it, and that he feared to discover to clear-sighted readers the face of this Greek divinity, who is only adored because he is veiled.

Plato, in this fine dialogue, commences by introducing an Egyptian priest, who teaches Solon the ancient history of the city of Athens, which was Edition: current; Page: [207] preserved faithfully for nine thousand years in the archives of Egypt.

Athens, says the priest, was once the finest city of Greece, and the most renowned in the world for the arts of war and peace. She alone resisted the warriors of the famous island Atlantis, who came in innumerable vessels to subjugate a great part of Europe and Asia. Athens had the glory of freeing so many vanquished people, and of preserving Egypt from the servitude which menaced us. But after this illustrious victory and service rendered to mankind, a frightful earthquake in twenty-four hours swallowed the territory of Athens, and all the great island of Atlantis. This island is now only a vast sea, which the ruins of this ancient world and the slime mixed with its waters rendered unnavigable.

This is what the priest relates to Solon: and such is the manner in which Plato prepares to explain to us subsequently, the formation of the soul, the operations of the “Word,” and his trinity. It is not physically impossible that there might be an island Atlantis, which had not existed for nine thousand years, and which perished by an earthquake, like Herculaneum and so many other cities; but our priest, in adding that the sea which washes Mount Atlas is inaccessible to vessels, renders the history a little suspicious.

It may be, after all, that since Solon—that is to say, in the course of three thousand years—vessels have dispersed the slime of the ancient island Atlantis Edition: current; Page: [208] and rendered the sea navigable; but it is still surprising that he should prepare by this island to speak of the “Word.”

Perhaps in telling this priest’s or old woman’s story, Plato wished to insinuate something contrary to the vicissitudes which have so often changed the face of the globe. Perhaps he would merely say what Pythagoras and Timæus of Locris have said so long before him, and what our eyes tell us every day—that everything in nature perishes and is renewed. The history of Deucalion and Pyrrha, the fall of Phæthon, are fables: but inundations and conflagrations are truths.

Plato departs from his imaginary island, to speak of things which the best of philosophers of our days would not disavow. “That which is produced has necessarily a cause, an author. It is difficult to discover the author of this world; and when he is found it is dangerous to speak of him to the people.”

Nothing is more true, even now, than that if a sage, in passing by our Lady of Loretto, said to another sage, his friend, that our Lady of Loretto, with her little black face, governs not the entire universe, and a good woman overheard these words, and related them to other good women of the march of Ancona, the sage would be stoned like Orpheus. This is precisely the situation in which the first Christians were believed to be, who spoke not well of Cybele and Diana, which alone should attach them to Plato. The unintelligible things which he Edition: current; Page: [209] afterwards treats of, ought not to disgust us with him.

I will not reproach Plato with saying, in his “Timæus,” that the world is an animal; for he no doubt understands that the elements in motion animate the world; and he means not, by animal, a dog or a man, who walks, feels, eats, sleeps, and engenders. An author should always be explained in the most favorable sense; and it is not while we accuse people, or when we denounce their books, that it is right to interpret malignantly and poison all their words; nor is it thus that I shall treat Plato.

According to him there is a kind of trinity which is the soul of matter. These are his words: “From the indivisible substance, always similar to itself, and the divisible substance, a third substance is composed, which partakes of the same and of others.”

Afterwards came the Pythagorean number, which renders the thing still more unintelligible, and consequently more respectable. What ammunition for people commencing a paper war! Friend reader, a little patience and attention, if you please: “When God had formed the soul of the world of these three substances, the soul shot itself into the midst of the universe, to the extremities of being; spreading itself everywhere, and reacting upon itself, it formed at all times a divine origin of eternal wisdom.”

And some lines afterwards: “Thus the nature of Edition: current; Page: [210] the immense animal which we call the world, is eternal.” Plato, following the example of his predecessors, then introduces the Supreme Being, the Creator of the world, forming this world before time; so that God could not exist without the world, nor the world without God; as the sun cannot exist without shedding light into space, nor this light steal into space without the sun.

I pass in silence many Greek, or rather Oriental ideas; as for example—that there are four sorts of animals—celestial gods, birds of the air, fishes, and terrestrial animals, to which last we have the honor to belong.

I hasten to arrive at a second trinity: “the being engendered, the being who engenders, and the being which resembles the engendered and the engenderer.” This trinity is formal enough, and the fathers have found their account in it.

This trinity is followed by a rather singular theory of the four elements. The earth is founded on an equilateral triangle, water on a right-angled triangle, air on a scalene, and fire on an isosceles triangle. After which he demonstratively proves that there can be but five worlds, because there are but five regular solid bodies, and yet that there is but one world which is round.

I confess that no philosopher in Bedlam has ever reasoned so powerfully. Rouse yourself, friend reader, to hear me speak of the other famous trinity of Plato, which his commentators have so much Edition: current; Page: [211] vaunted: it is the Eternal Being, the Eternal Creator of the world; His word, intelligence, or idea; and the good which results from it. I assure you that I have sought for it diligently in this “Timæus,” and I have never found it there; it may be there totidem literis, but it is not totidem verbis, or I am much mistaken.

After reading all Plato with great reluctance, I perceived some shadow of the trinity for which he is so much honored. It is in the sixth book of his “Chimerical Republic,” in which he says: “Let us speak of the Son, the wonderful production of good, and His perfect image.” But unfortunately he discovers this perfect image of God to be the sun. It was therefore the physical sun, which with the Word and the Father composed the platonic trinity. In the “Epinomis” of Plato there are very curious absurdities, one of which I translate as reasonably as I can, for the convenience of the reader:

“Know that there are eight virtues in heaven: I have observed them, which is easy to all the world. The sun is one of its virtues, the moon another; the third is the assemblage of stars; and the five planets, with these three virtues, make the number eight. Be careful of thinking that these virtues, or those which they contain, and which animate them, either move of themselves or are carried in vehicles; be careful, I say, of believing that some may be gods and others not; that some may be adorable, and others such as we should neither adore or invoke. Edition: current; Page: [212] They are all brothers; each has his share; we owe them all the same honors; they fill all the situations which the Word assigned to them, when it formed the visible universe.”

Here is the Word already found: we must now find the three persons. They are in the second letter from Plato to Dionysius, which letters assuredly are not forged; the style is the same as that of his dialogues. He often says to Dionysius and Dion things very difficult to comprehend, and which we might believe to be written in numbers, but he also tells us very clear ones, which have been found true a long time after him. For example, he expresses himself thus in his seventh letter to Dion:

“I have been convinced that all states are very badly governed; there is scarcely any good institution or administration. We see, as it were, day after day, that all follow the path of fortune rather than that of wisdom.” After this short digression on temporal affairs, let us return to spiritual ones, to the Trinity. Plato says to Dionysius:

“The King of the universe is surrounded by His works: all is the effect of His grace. The finest of things have their first cause in Him; the second in perfection have in Him their second cause, and He is further the third cause of works of the third degree.”

The Trinity, such as we acknowledge, could not be recognized in this letter; but it was a great point to have in a Greek author a guaranty of the Edition: current; Page: [213] dogmas of the dawning Church. Every Greek church was therefore Platonic, as every Latin church was peripatetic, from the commencement of the third century. Thus two Greeks whom we have never understood, were the masters of our opinions until the time in which men at the end of two thousand years were obliged to think for themselves.

Questions on Plato and Some Other Trifles.

Plato, in saying to the Greeks what so many philosophers of other nations have said before him, in assuring them that there is a Supreme Intelligence which arranged the universe—did he think that this Supreme Intelligence resided in a single place, like a king of the East in his seraglio? Or rather did he believe that this Powerful Intelligence spread itself everywhere like light, or a being still more delicate, prompt, active, and penetrating than light? The God of Plato, in a word, is he in matter, or is he separated from it? Oh, you who have read Plato attentively, that is to say, seven or eight fantastical dreams hidden in some garret in Europe, if ever these questions reach you, I implore you to answer them.

The barbarous island of Cassiterides, in which men lived in the woods in the time of Plato, has finally produced philosophers who are as much beyond him as Plato was beyond those of his contemporaries who reasoned not at all. Among these philosophers, Edition: current; Page: [214] Clarke is perhaps altogether the clearest, the most profound, the most methodical, and the strongest of all those who have spoken of the Supreme Being.

When he gave his excellent book to the public he found a young gentleman of the county of Gloucester who candidly advanced objections as strong as his demonstrations. We can see them at the end of the first volume of Clarke; it was not on the necessary existence of the Supreme Being that he reasoned; it was on His infinity and immensity.

It appears not indeed, that Clarke has proved that there is a being who penetrates intimately all which exists, and that this being whose properties we cannot conceive has the property of extending Himself to the greatest imaginable distance.

The great Newton has demonstrated that there is a void in nature; but what philosopher could demonstrate to me that God is in this void; that He touches it; that He fills it? How, bounded as we are, can we attain to the knowledge of these mysteries? Does it not suffice, that it proves to us that a Supreme Master exists? It is not given to us to know what He is nor how He is.

It seems as if Locke and Clarke had the keys of the intelligible world. Locke has opened all the apartments which can be entered; but has not Clarke wished to penetrate a little above the edifice? How could a philosopher like Samuel Clarke, after Edition: current; Page: [215] so admirable a work on the existence of God, write so pitiable a one on matters of fact?

How could Benedict Spinoza, who had as much profundity of mind as Samuel Clarke, after raising himself to the most sublime metaphysics, how could he not perceive that a Supreme Intelligence presides over works visibly arranged with a supreme intelligence—if it is true after all that such is the system of Spinoza?

How could Newton, the greatest of men, comment upon the Apocalypse, as we have already remarked? How could Locke, after having so well developed the human understanding, degrade his own in another work? I fancy I see eagles, who after darting into a cloud go to rest on a dunghill.


A young man on leaving college deliberates whether he shall be an advocate, a physician, a theologian, or a poet—whether he shall take care of our body, our soul, or our entertainment. We have already spoken of advocates and physicians; we will now speak of the prodigious fortune which is sometimes made by the theologian.

The theologian becomes pope, and has not only his theological valets, cooks, singers, chamberlains, physicians, surgeons, sweepers, agnus dei makers, confectioners, and preachers, but also his poet. I know not what inspired personage was the poet of Edition: current; Page: [216] Leo X., as David was for some time the poet of Saul.

It is surely of all the employments in a great house, that which is the most useless. The kings of England, who have preserved in their island many of the ancient usages which are lost on the continent, have their official poet. He is obliged once a year to make an ode in praise of St. Cecilia, who played so marvellously on the organ or psalterium that an angel descended from the ninth heaven to listen to her more conveniently—the harmony of the psaltery, in ascending from this place to the land of angels, necessarily losing a small portion of its volume.

Moses is the first poet that we know of; but it is thought that before him the Chaldæans, the Syrians, and the Indians practised poetry, since they possessed music. Nevertheless, the fine canticle which Moses chanted with his sister Miriam, when they came out of the Red Sea, is the most ancient poetical monument in hexameter verse that we possess. I am not of the opinion of those impious and ignorant rogues, Newton, Le Clerc, and others, who prove that all this was written about eight hundred years after the event, and who insolently maintain that Moses could not write in Hebrew, since Hebrew is only a comparatively modern dialect of the Phœnician, of which Moses could know nothing at all. I examine not with the learned Huet how Edition: current; Page: [217] Moses was able to sing so well, who stammered and could not speak.

If we listened to many of these authors, Moses would be less ancient than Orpheus, Musæus, Homer, and Hesiod. We perceive at the first glance the absurdity of this opinion; as if a Greek could be an ancient as a Jew!

Neither will I reply to those impertinent persons who suspect that Moses is only an imaginary personage, a fabulous imitation of the fable of the ancient Bacchus; and that all the prodigies of Bacchus, since attributed to Moses, were sung in orgies before it was known that Jews existed in the world. This idea refutes itself; it is obvious to good sense that it is impossible that Bacchus could have existed before Moses.

We have still, however, an excellent Jewish poet undeniably anterior to Horace—King David; and we know well how infinitely superior the “Miserere,” is to the Justum ac tenacem propositi virum.” But what is most astonishing, legislators and kings have been our earliest poets. We find even at present people so good as to become poets for kings. Virgil indeed had not the office of poet to Augustus, nor Lucan that of poet to Nero; but I confess that it would have debased the profession not a little to make gods of either the one or the other.

It is asked, why poetry, being so unnecessary to the world, occupies so high a rank among the fine arts? The same question may be put with regard Edition: current; Page: [218] to music. Poetry is the music of the soul, and above all of great and of feeling souls. One merit of poetry few persons will deny; it says more and in fewer words than prose. Who was ever able to translate the following Latin words with the brevity with which they came from the brain of the poet: “Vive memor lethi, fugit hora, hoc quod loquor inde est?”

I speak not of the other charms of poetry, as they are well known; but I insist upon the grand precept of Horace, “Sapere est principium et fons.” There can be no great poetry without great wisdom; but how connect this wisdom with enthusiasm, like Cæsar, who formed his plan of battle with circumspection, and fought with all possible ardor?

There have no doubt been ignorant poets, but then they have been bad poets. A man acquainted only with dactyls and spondees, and with a head full of rhymes, is rarely a man of sense; but Virgil is endowed with superior reason.

Lucretius, in common with all the ancients, was miserably ignorant of physical laws, a knowledge of which is not to be acquired by wit. It is a knowledge which is only to be obtained by instruments, which in his time had not been invented. Glasses are necessary—microscopes, pneumatic machines, barometers, etc., to have even a distant idea of the operations of nature.

Descartes knew little more than Lucretius, when his keys opened the sanctuary; and an hundred Edition: current; Page: [219] times more of the path has been trodden from the time of Galileo, who was better instructed physically than Descartes, to the present day, than from the first Hermes to Lucretius.

All ancient physics are absurd: it was not thus with the philosophy of mind, and that good sense which, assisted by strength of intellect, can acutely balance between doubts and appearances. This is the chief merit of Lucretius; his third book is a masterpiece of reasoning. He argues like Cicero, and expresses himself like Virgil; and it must be confessed that when our illustrious Polignac attacked his third book, he refuted it only like a cardinal.

When I say, that Lucretius reasons in his third book like an able metaphysician, I do not say that he was right. We may argue very soundly, and deceive ourselves, if not instructed by revelation. Lucretius was not a Jew, and we know that Jews alone were in the right in the days of Cicero, of Posidonius, of Cæsar, and of Cato. Lastly, under Tiberius, the Jews were no longer in the right, and common sense was possessed by the Christians exclusively.

Thus it was impossible that Lucretius, Cicero, and Cæsar could be anything but imbecile, in comparison with the Jews and ourselves; but it must be allowed that in the eyes of the rest of the world they were very great men. I allow that Lucretius killed himself, as also did Cato, Cassius, and Brutus, but Edition: current; Page: [220] they might very well kill themselves, and still reason like men of intellect during their lives.

In every author let us distinguish the man from his works. Racine wrote like Virgil, but he became Jansenist through weakness, and he died in consequence of weakness equally great—because a man in passing through a gallery did not bestow a look upon him. I am very sorry for all this; but the part of Phædra is not therefore the less admirable.


Let us often repeat useful truths. There have always been fewer poisonings than have been spoken of: it is almost with them as with parricides; the accusations have been very common, and the crimes very rare. One proof is, that we have a long time taken for poison that which is not so. How many princes have got rid of those who were suspected by them by making them drink bullock’s blood! How many other princes have swallowed it themselves to avoid falling into the hands of their enemies! All ancient historians, and even Plutarch, attest it.

I was so infatuated with these tales in my childhood that I bled one of my bulls, in the idea that his blood belonged to me, since he was born in my stable—an ancient pretension of which I will not here dispute the validity. I drank this blood, like Atreus and Mademoiselle de Vergi, and it did me no more harm than horse’s blood does to the Tartars, Edition: current; Page: [221] or pudding does to us every day, if it be not too rich.

Why should the blood of a bull be a poison, when that of a goat is considered a remedy? The peasants of my province swallow the blood of a cow, which they call fricassée, every day; that of a bull is not more dangerous. Be sure, dear reader, that Themistocles died not of it.

Some speculators of the court of Louis XIV. believed they discovered that his sister-in-law, Henrietta of England, was poisoned with powder of diamonds, which was put into a bowl of strawberries, instead of grated sugar; but neither the impalpable powder of glass or diamonds, nor that of any production of nature which was not in itself venomous, could be hurtful.

They are only sharp-cutting active points which can become violent. The exact observer, Mead, a celebrated English physician, saw through a microscope the liquor shot from the gums of irritated vipers. He pretends that he has always found them strewn with these cutting, pointed blades, the immense number of which tear and pierce the internal membranes.

The cantarella, of which it is pretended that Pope Alexander VI. and his bastard, the duke of Borgia, made great use, was, it is said, the foam of a hog rendered furious by suspending him by the feet with his head downwards, in which situation he was beaten to death; it was a poison as prompt and violent Edition: current; Page: [222] as that of the viper. A great apothecary assures me that Madame la Tofana, that celebrated poisoner of Naples, principally made use of this receipt; all which is perhaps untrue. This science is one of those of which we should be ignorant.

Poisons which coagulate the blood, instead of tearing the membranes, are opium, hemlock, henbane, aconite, and several others. The Athenians became so refined as to cause their countrymen, condemned to death, to die by poisons reputed cold; an apothecary was the executioner of the republic. It is said that Socrates died very peacefully, and as if he slept: I can scarcely believe it.

I made one remark on the Jewish books, which is, that among this people we see no one who was poisoned. A crowd of kings and priests perished by assassination; the history of the nation is the history of murders and robberies; but a single instance only is mentioned of a man who was poisoned, and this man was not a Jew—he was a Syrian named Lysias, general of the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes. The second Book of Maccabees says that he poisoned himself—“veneno vitam finivit”; but these Books of Maccabees are very suspicious. My dear reader, I have already desired you to believe nothing lightly.

What astonishes me most in the history of the manners of the ancient Romans is the conspiracy of the Roman women to cause to perish by poison, not only their husbands, but the principal citizens Edition: current; Page: [223] in general. “It was,” says Titus Livius, “in the year 423 from the foundation of Rome, and therefore in the time of the most austere virtue; it was before there was any mention of divorce, though divorce was authorized; it was when women drank no wine, and scarcely ever went out of their houses, except to the temples.” How can we imagine, that they suddenly applied themselves to the knowledge of poisons; that they assembled to compose them; and, without any apparent interest, thus administered death to the first men in Rome?

Lawrence Echard, in his abridged compilation, contents himself with saying, that “the virtue of the Roman ladies was strangely belied; that one hundred and seventy who meddled with the art of making poisons, and of reducing this art into precepts, were all at once accused, convicted, and punished.” Titus Livius assuredly does not say that they reduced this art into rules. That would signify that they held a school of poisons, that they professed it as a science; which is ridiculous. He says nothing about a hundred and seventy professors in corrosive sublimate and verdigris. Finally, he does not affirm that there were poisoners among the wives of the senators and knights.

The people were extremely foolish, and reasoned at Rome as elsewhere. These are the words of Titus Livius: “The year 423 was of the number of unfortunate ones; there was a mortality caused by the temperature of the air or by human malice. Edition: current; Page: [224] I wish that we could affirm with some author that the corruption of the air caused this epidemic, rather than attribute the death of so many Romans to poison, as many historians have falsely written, to decry this year.”

They have therefore written falsely, according to Titus Livius, who believes not that the ladies of Rome were poisoners: but what interest had authors in decrying this year? I know not.

“I relate the fact,” continues he, “as it was related before me.” This is not the speech of a satisfied man; besides, the alleged fact much resembles a fable. A slave accuses about seventy women, among whom are several of the patrician rank, of causing the plague in Rome by preparing poisons. Some of the accused demand permission to swallow their drugs, and expire on the spot; and their accomplices are condemned to death without the manner of their punishment being specified.

I suspect that this story to which Titus Livius gives no credit, deserves to be banished to the place in which the vessel is preserved which a vestal drew to shore with a girdle; where Jupiter in person stopped the flight of the Romans; where Castor and Pollux came to combat on horseback in their behalf; where a flint was cut with a razor; and where Simon Barjonas, surnamed Peter, disputed miracles with Simon the magician.

There is scarcely any poison of which we cannot prevent the consequences by combating it immediately. Edition: current; Page: [225] There is no medicine which is not a poison when taken in too strong a dose. All indigestion is a poison. An ignorant physician, and even a learned but inattentive one, is often a poisoner. A good cook is a certain slow poisoner, if you are not temperate.

One day the marquis d’Argenson, minister of state for the foreign department, whilst his brother was minister of war, received from London a letter from a fool—as ministers do by every post; this fool proposed an infallible means of poisoning all the inhabitants of the capital of England. “This does not concern me,” said the marquis d’Argenson to us; “it is a packet to my brother.”


The policy of man consists, at first, in endeavoring to arrive at a state equal to that of animals, whom nature has furnished with food, clothing, and shelter. To attain this state is a matter of no little time and difficulty. How to procure for himself subsistence and accommodation, and protect himself from evil, comprises the whole object and business of man.

This evil exists everywhere; the four elements of nature conspire to form it. The barrenness of one-quarter part of the world, the numberless diseases to which we are subject, the multitude of strong and hostile animals by which we are surrounded, oblige us to be constantly on the alert Edition: current; Page: [226] in body and in mind, to guard against the various forms of evil.

No man, by his own individual care and exertion, can secure himself from evil; he requires assistance. Society therefore is as ancient as the world. This society consists sometimes of too many, and sometimes of too few. The vicissitudes of the world have often destroyed whole races of men and other animals, in many countries, and have multiplied them in others.

To enable a species to multiply, a tolerable climate and soil are necessary; and even with these advantages, men may be under the necessity of going unclothed, of suffering hunger, of being destitute of everything, and of perishing in misery.

Men are not like beavers, or bees, or silk-worms; they have no sure and infallible instinct which procures for them necessaries. Among a hundred men, there is scarcely one that possesses genius; and among women, scarcely one among five hundred.

It is only by means of genius that those arts are invented, which eventually furnish something of that accommodation which is the great object of all policy.

To attempt these arts with success, the assistance of others is requisite; hands to aid you, and minds sufficiently acute and unprejudiced to comprehend you, and sufficiently docile to obey you. Before, however, all this can be discovered and brought together, thousands of years roll on in ignorance and Edition: current; Page: [227] barbarism; thousands of efforts for improvement terminate only in abortion. At length, the outlines of an art are formed, but thousands of ages are still requisite to carry it to perfection.

Foreign Policy.

When any one nation has become acquainted with metallurgy, it will certainly beat its neighbors and make slaves of them. You possess arrows and sabres, and were born in a climate that has rendered you robust. We are weak, and have only clubs and stones. You kill us, or if you permit us to live, it is that we may till your fields and build your houses. We sing some rustic ditty to dissipate your spleen or animate your languor, if we have any voice; or we blow on some pipes, in order to obtain from you clothing and bread. If our wives and daughters are handsome, you appropriate them without scruple to yourselves. The young gentleman, your son, not only takes advantage of the established policy, but adds new discoveries to this growing art. His servants proceed, by his orders, to emasculate my unfortunate boys, whom he then honors with the guardianship of his wives and mistresses. Such has been policy, the great art of making mankind contribute to individual advantage and enjoyment; and such is still policy throughout the largest portion of Asia.

Some nations, or rather hordes, having thus by superior strength and skill brought into subjection others, begin afterwards to fight with one another Edition: current; Page: [228] for the division of the spoil. Each petty nation maintains and pays soldiers. To encourage, and at the same time to control these soldiers, each possesses its gods, its oracles, and prophecies; each maintains and pays its soothsayers and slaughtering priests. These soothsayers or augurs begin with prophesying in favor of the heads of the nation; they afterwards prophesy for themselves and obtain a share in the government. The most powerful and shrewd prevail at last over the others, after ages of carnage which excite our horror, and of impostures which excite our laughter. Such is the regular course and completion of policy.

While these scenes of ravage and fraud are carried on in one portion of the globe, other nations, or rather clans, retire to mountain caverns, or districts surrounded by inaccessible swamps, marshes, or some verdant and solitary spot in the midst of vast deserts of burning sand, or some peninsular and consequently easily protected territory, to secure themselves against the tyrants of the continent. At length all become armed with nearly the same description of weapons; and blood flows from one extremity of the world to the other.

Men, however, cannot forever go on killing one another; and peace is consequently made, till either party thinks itself sufficiently strong to recommence the war. Those who can write draw up these treaties of peace; and the chiefs of every nation, with a view more successfully to impose upon their enemies, Edition: current; Page: [229] invoke the gods to attest with what sincerity they bind themselves to the observance of these compacts. Oaths of the most solemn character are invented and employed, and one party engages in the name of the great Somonocodom, and the other in that of Jupiter the Avenger, to live forever in peace and amity; while in the same names of Somonocodom and Jupiter, they take the first opportunity of cutting one another’s throats.

In times of the greatest civilization and refinement, the lion of Æsop made a treaty with three animals, who were his neighbors. The object was to divide the common spoil into four equal parts. The lion, for certain incontestable and satisfactory reasons which he did not then deem it necessary to detail, but which he would be always ready to give in due time and place, first takes three parts out of the four for himself, and then threatens instant strangulation to whoever shall dare to touch the fourth. This is the true sublime of policy.

Internal Policy.

The object here is to accumulate for our own country the greatest quantity of power, honor, and enjoyment possible. To attain these in any extraordinary degree, much money is indispensable. In a democracy it is very difficult to accomplish this object. Every citizen is your rival; a democracy can never subsist but in a small territory. You may have wealth almost equal to your wishes through your own mercantile dealings, or transmitted in Edition: current; Page: [230] patrimony from your industrious and opulent grandfather; your fortune will excite jealousy and envy, but will purchase little real co-operation and service. If an affluent family ever bears sway in a democracy, it is not for a long time.

In an aristocracy, honors, pleasures, power, and money, are more easily obtainable. Great discretion, however, is necessary. If abuse is flagrant, revolution will be the consequence. Thus in a democracy all the citizens are equal. This species of government is at present rare, and appears to but little advantage, although it is in itself natural and wise. In aristocracy, inequality or superiority makes itself sensibly felt; but the less arrogant its demeanor, the more secure and successful will be its course.

Monarchy remains to be mentioned. In this, all mankind are made for one individual: he accumulates all honors with which he chooses to decorate himself, tastes all pleasures to which he feels an inclination, and exercises a power absolutely without control; provided, let it be remembered, that he has plenty of money. If he is deficient in that, he will be unsuccessful at home as well as abroad, and will soon be left destitute of power, pleasures, honors, and perhaps even of life.

While this personage has money, not only is he successful and happy himself, but his relations and principal servants are flourishing in full enjoyment also; and an immense multitude of hirelings labor for them the whole year round, in the vain hope that Edition: current; Page: [231] they shall themselves, some time or other, enjoy in their cottages the leisure and comfort which their sultans and pashas enjoy in their harems. Observe, however, what will probably happen.

A jolly, full-fed farmer was formerly in possession of a vast estate, consisting of fields, meadows, vineyards, orchards, and forests. A hundred laborers worked for him, while he dined with his family, drank his wine, and went to sleep. His principal domestics, who plundered him, dined next, and ate up nearly everything. Then came the laborers, for whom there was left only a very meagre and insufficient meal. They at first murmured, then openly complained, speedily lost all patience, and at last ate up the dinner prepared for their master, and turned him out of his house. The master said they were a set of scoundrels, a pack of undutiful and rebellious children who assaulted and abused their own father. The laborers replied that they had only obeyed the sacred law of nature, which he had violated. The dispute was finally referred to a soothsayer in the neighborhood, who was thought to be actually inspired. The holy man takes the farm into his own hands, and nearly famishes both the laborers and the master; till at length their feelings counteract their superstition, and the saint is in the end expelled in his turn. This is domestic policy.

There have been more examples than one of this description; and some consequences of this species Edition: current; Page: [232] of policy still subsist in all their strength. We may hope that in the course of ten or twelve thousand ages, when mankind become more enlightened, the great proprietors of estates, grown also more wise, will on the one hand treat their laborers rather better, and on the other take care not to be duped by soothsayers.


In quality of a doubter, I have a long time filled my vocation. I have doubted when they would persuade me, that the glossopetres which I have seen formed in my fields, were originally the tongues of sea-dogs, that the lime used in my barn was composed of shells only, that corals were the production of the excrement of certain little fishes, that the sea by its currents has formed Mount Cenis and Mount Taurus, and that Niobe was formerly changed into marble.

It is not that I love not the extraordinary, the marvellous, as well as any traveller or man of system; but to believe firmly, I would see with my own eyes, touch with my own hands, and that several times. Even that is not enough; I would still be aided by the eyes and hands of others.

Two of my companions, who, like myself, form questions on the “Encyclopædia,” have for some time amused themselves with me in studying the nature of several of the little films which grow in ditches by the side of water lentils. These light Edition: current; Page: [233] herbs, which we call polypi of soft water, have several roots, from which circumstance we have given them the name of polypi. These little parasite plants were merely plants, until the commencement of the age in which we live. Leuenhoeck raises them to the rank of animals. We know not if they have gained much by it.

We think that, to be considered as an animal, it is necessary to be endowed with sensation. They therefore commence by showing us, that these soft water polypi have feeling, in order that we should present them with our right of citizenship.

We have not dared to grant it the dignity of sensation, though it appeared to have the greatest pretensions to it. Why should we give it to a species of small rush? Is it because it appears to bud? This property is common to all trees growing by the water-side; to willows, poplars, aspens, etc. It is so light, that it changes place at the least motion of the drop of water which bears it; thence it has been concluded that it walked. In like manner, we may suppose that the little, floating, marshy islands of St. Omer are animals, for they often change their place.

It is said its roots are its feet, its stalk its body, its branches are its arms; the pipe which composes its stalk is pierced at the top—it is its mouth. In this pipe there is a light white pith, of which some almost imperceptible animalcules are very greedy; they enter the hollow of this little pipe by making Edition: current; Page: [234] it bend, and eat this light paste;—it is the polypus who captures these animals with his snout, though it has not the least appearance of head, mouth, or stomach.

We have examined this sport of nature with all the attention of which we are capable. It appeared to us that the production called polypus resembled an animal much less than a carrot or asparagus. In vain we have opposed to our eyes all the reasonings which we formerly read; the evidence of our eyes has overthrown them. It is a pity to lose an illusion. We know how pleasant it would be to have an animal which could reproduce itself by offshoots, and which, having all the appearances of a plant, could join the animal to the vegetable kingdom.

It would be much more natural to give the rank of an animal to the newly-discovered plant of Anglo-America, to which the pleasant name of Venus’ fly-trap has been given. It is a kind of prickly sensitive-plant, the leaves of which fold of themselves; the flies are taken in these leaves and perish there more certainly than in the web of a spider. If any of our physicians would call this plant an animal, he would have partisans.

But if you would have something more extraordinary, more worthy of the observation of philosophers, observe the snail, which lives one and two whole months after its head is cut off, and which afterwards has a second head, containing all the organs possessed by the first. This truth, to which Edition: current; Page: [235] all children can be witnesses, is more worthy than the illusion of polypi of soft water. What becomes of its sensorium, its magazine of ideas, and soul, when its head is cut off? How do all these return? A soul which is renewed is a very curious phenomenon; not that it is more strange than a soul begotten, a soul which sleeps and awakes, or a condemned soul.


The plurality of gods is the great reproach at present cast upon the Greeks and Romans: but let any man show me, if he can, a single fact in the whole of their histories, or a single word in the whole of their books, from which it may be fairly inferred that they believed in many supreme gods; and if neither that fact nor word can be found, if, on the contrary, all antiquity is full of monuments and records which attest one sovereign God, superior to all other gods, let us candidly admit that we have judged the ancients as harshly as we too often judge our contemporaries.

We read in numberless passages that Zeus, Jupiter, is the master of gods and men. “Jovis omnia plena.”—“All things are full of Jupiter.” And St. Paul gives this testimony in favor of the ancients: “In ipso vivimus, movemur, et sumus, ut quidam vestrorum poetarum dixit.”—“In God we live, and move, and have our being, as one of your own poets has said.” After such an acknowledgment as this, Edition: current; Page: [236] how can we dare to accuse our instructors of not having recognized a supreme God?

We have no occasion whatever to examine upon this subject, whether there was formerly a Jupiter who was king of Crete, and who may possibly have been considered and ranked as a god; or whether the Egyptians had twelve superior gods, or eight, among whom the deity called Jupiter by the Latins might be one. The single point to be investigated and ascertained here is, whether the Greeks and Romans acknowledged one celestial being as the master or sovereign of other celestial beings. They constantly tell us that they do; and we ought therefore to believe them.

The admirable letter of the philosopher Maximus of Madaura to St. Augustine is completely to our purpose: “There is a God,” says he, “without any beginning, the common Father of all, but who never produced a being like Himself. What man is so stupid and besotted as to doubt it?” Such is the testimony of a pagan of the fourth century on behalf of all antiquity.

Were I inclined to lift the veil that conceals the mysteries of Egypt, I should find the deity adored under the name of Knef, who produced all things and presides over all the other deities; I should discover also a Mithra among the Persians, and a Brahma among the Indians, and could perhaps show, that every civilized nation admitted one supreme being, together with a multitude of dependent Edition: current; Page: [237] divinities. I do not speak of the Chinese, whose government, more respectable than all the rest, has acknowledged one God only for a period of more than four thousand years. Let us here confine ourselves to the Greeks and Romans, who are the objects of our immediate researches. They had among them innumerable superstitions—it is impossible to doubt it; they adopted fables absolutely ridiculous—everybody knows it; and I may safely add, that they were themselves sufficiently disposed to ridicule them. After all, however, the foundation of their theology was conformable to reason.

In the first place, with respect to the Greeks placing heroes in heaven as a reward for their virtues, it was one of the most wise and useful of religious institutions. What nobler recompense could possibly be bestowed upon them; what more animating and inspiring hope could be held out to them? Is it becoming that we, above all others, should censure such a practice—we who, enlightened by the truth, have piously consecrated the very usage which the ancients imagined? We have a far greater number of the blessed in honor of whom we have created altars, than the Greeks and Romans had of heroes and demi-gods; the difference is, that they granted the apotheosis to the most illustrious and resplendent actions, and we grant it to the most meek and retired virtues. But their deified heroes never shared the throne of Jupiter, the great architect, the eternal sovereign of the universe; they Edition: current; Page: [238] were admitted to his court and enjoyed his favors. What is there unreasonable in this? Is it not a faint shadow and resemblance of the celestial hierarchy presented to us by our religion? Nothing can be of a more salutary moral tendency than such an idea; and the reality is not physically impossible in itself. We have surely, upon this subject, no fair ground for ridiculing nations to whom we are indebted even for our alphabet.

The second object of our reproaches, is the multitude of gods admitted to the government of the world; Neptune presiding over the sea, Juno over the air, Æolus over the winds, and Pluto or Vesta over the earth, and Mars over armies. We set aside the genealogies of all these divinities, which are as false as those which are every day fabricated and printed respecting individuals among ourselves; we pass sentence of condemnation on all their light and loose adventures, worthy of being recorded in the pages of the “Thousand and One Nights,” and which never constituted the foundation or essence of the Greek and Roman faith; but let us at the same time candidly ask, where is the folly and stupidity of having adopted beings of a secondary order, who, whatever they may be in relation to the great supreme, have at least some power over our very differently-constituted race, which, instead of belonging to the second, belongs perhaps to the hundred thousandth order of existence? Does this doctrine necessarily imply either bad metaphysics or Edition: current; Page: [239] bad natural philosophy? Have we not ourselves nine choirs of celestial spirits, more ancient than mankind? Has not each of these choirs a peculiar name? Did not the Jews take the greater number of these names from the Persians? Have not many angels their peculiar functions assigned them? There was an exterminating angel, who fought for the Jews, and the angel of travellers, who conducted Tobit. Michael was the particular angel of the Hebrews; and, according to Daniel, he fights against the angel of the Persians, and speaks to the angel of the Greeks. An angel of inferior rank gives an account to Michael, in the book of Zachariah, of the state in which he had found the country. Every nation possessed its angel; the version of the Seventy Days, in Deuteronomy, that the Lord allotted the nations according to the number of angels. St. Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles, talks to the angel of Macedonia. These celestial spirits are frequently called gods in Scripture, “Eloim.” For among all nations, the word that corresponds with that of “Theos,” “Deus,” “Dieu,” “God,” by no means universally signifies the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth; it frequently signifies a celestial being, a being superior to man, but dependent upon the great Sovereign of Nature; and it is sometimes bestowed even on princes and judges.

Since to us it is a matter of truth and reality, that celestial substances actually exist, who are intrusted Edition: current; Page: [240] with the care of men and empires, the people who have admitted this truth without the light of revelation are more worthy of our esteem than our contempt.

The ridicule, therefore, does not attach to polytheism itself, but to the abuse of it; to the popular fables of superstition; to the multitude of absurd divinities which have been supposed to exist and to the number of which every individual might add at his pleasure.

The goddess of nipples, “dea Rumilia”; the goddess of conjugal union, “dea Pertunda”; the god of the water-closet, “deus Stercutius”; the god of flatulence, deus Crepitus”; are certainly not calculated to attract the highest degree of veneration. These ridiculous absurdities, the amusement of the old women and children of Rome, merely prove that the word “deus” had acceptations of a widely different nature. Nothing can be more certain or obvious, than that the god of flatulence, “deus Crepitus,” could never excite the same idea as deus divûm et hominum sator,” the source of gods and men. The Roman pontiffs did not admit the little burlesque and baboon-looking deities which silly women introduced into their cabinets. The Roman religion was in fact, in its intrinsic character, both serious and austere. Oaths were inviolable; war could not be commenced before the college of heralds had declared it just; and a vestal convicted of Edition: current; Page: [241] having violated her vow of virginity, was condemned to death. These circumstances announce a people inclined to austerities, rather than a people volatile, frivolous, and addicted to ridicule.

I confine myself here to showing that the senate did not reason absurdly in adopting polytheism. It is asked, how that senate, to two or three deputies from which we were indebted both for chains and laws, could permit so many extravagances among the people, and authorize so many fables among the pontiffs? It would be by no means difficult to answer this question. The wise have in every age made use of fools. They freely leave to the people their lupercals and their saturnalia, if they only continue loyal and obedient; and the sacred pullets that promised victory to the armies, are judiciously secured against the sacrilege of being slaughtered for the table. Let us never be surprised at seeing, that the most enlightened governments have permitted customs and fables of the most senseless character. These customs and fables existed before government was formed; and no one would pull down an immense city, however irregular in its buildings, to erect it precisely according to line and level.

How can it arise, we are asked, that on one side we see so much philosophy and science, and on the other so much fanaticism? The reason is, that science and philosophy were scarcely born before Edition: current; Page: [242] Cicero, and that fanaticism reigned for centuries. Policy, in such circumstances, says to philosophy and fanaticism: Let us all three live together as well as we can.



—His highness has within his principality Lutherans, Calvinists, Quakers, Anabaptists, and even Jews; and you wish that he would admit Unitarians?


—Certainly, if these Unitarians bring with them wealth and industry. You will only be the better paid your wages.


—I must confess that a diminution of my wages would be more disagreeable to me than the admission of these persons; but, then, they do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.


—What does that signify to you, provided that you are permitted to believe it, and are well lodged, well clothed, and well fed? The Jews are far from believing that He is the Son of God, and yet you are very easy with the Jews, with whom you deposit your money at six per cent. St. Paul himself has never spoken of the divinity of Jesus Christ, who is undisguisedly called a man. “Death,” says he, “entered into the world by the sin of one man . . . . and by one man, Jesus Christ, the gift of grace hath abounded unto many,” etc. All the early fathers of the Church thought like Paul. It is evident that, for three hundred years, Jesus was content Edition: current; Page: [243] with His humanity; imagine yourself a Christian of one of the first three centuries.


—Yes, sir; but neither do they believe in eternal punishments.


—Nor I either; be you damned eternally if you please; for my own part, I do not look for that advantage.


—Ah, sir! it is very hard not to be able to damn at pleasure all the heretics in the world; but the rage which the Unitarian displays for rendering everybody finally happy is not my only complaint. Know, that these monsters believe the resurrection of the body no more than the Sadducees. They say, that we are all anthropophagi, and that the particles which compose our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, having been necessarily dispersed in the atmosphere, become carrots and asparagus, and that it is possible we may have devoured a portion of our ancestors.


—Be it so; our children will do as much by us; it is but repayment, and Papists will be as much benefited as others. This is no reason for driving you from the states of his highness; and why any more so for ejecting the Unitarians? Rise again, if you are able; it matters little whether the Unitarians rise again or no, provided they are useful during their lives.


—And what, sir, do you say to original sin, which they boldly deny? Are you not scandalized by their assertion, that the Pentateuch Edition: current; Page: [244] says not a word about it, that the bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, is the first who decidedly taught this dogma, although it is evidently indicated by St. Paul?


—Truly, if the Pentateuch does not mention it, that is not my fault. Why not add a text or two about original sin to the Old Testament, as it is said you have added on other subjects? I know nothing of these subtleties; it is my business only to pay you your stipend, when I have the money to do so.



There were very few caterpillars in my canton last year, and we killed nearly the whole of them. God has rendered them this year more numerous than the leaves. Is it not nearly thus with other animals, and above all with mankind? Famine, pestilence, death, and the two sister diseases which have visited us from Arabia and America, destroy the inhabitants of a province, and we are surprised at finding it abound with people a hundred years afterwards.

I admit that it is a sacred duty to people this world, and that all animals are stimulated by pleasure to fulfil this intention of the great Demiourgos. Why this inhabiting of the earth? and to what purpose form so many beings to devour one another, and the animal man to cut the throat of his fellow, Edition: current; Page: [245] from one end of the earth to the other? I am assured that I shall one day be in the possession of this secret, and in my character of an inquisitive man I exceedingly desire it.

It is clear that we ought to people the earth as much as we are able; even our health renders it necessary. The wise Arabians, the robbers of the desert, in the treaties which they made with travellers, always stipulated for girls. When they conquered Spain, they imposed a tribute of girls. The country of Media pays the Turks in girls. The buccaneers brought girls from Paris to the little island of which they took possession; and it is related that, at the fine spectacle with which Romulus entertained the Sabines, he stole from them three hundred girls.

I cannot conceive why the Jews, whom moreover I revere, killed everybody in Jericho, even to the girls; and why they say in the Psalms, that it will be sweet to massacre the infants at the mother’s breast, without excepting even girls. All other people, whether Tartars, Cannibals, Teutons, or Celts, have always held girls in great request.

Owing to this happy instinct, it seems that the earth may one day be covered with animals of our own kind. Father Petau makes the inhabitants of the earth seven hundred millions, two hundred and eighty years after the deluge. It is not, however, at the end of the “Arabian Nights” that he has printed this pleasant enumeration.

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I reckon at present on our globe about nine hundred millions of contemporaries, and an equal number of each sex. Wallace makes them a thousand millions. Am I in error, or is he? Possibly both of us; but a tenth is a small matter; the arithmetic of historians is usually much more erroneous.

I am somewhat surprised that the arithmetician Wallace, who extends the number of people at present existing to a thousand millions, should pretend in the same page, that in the year 966, after the creation, our forefathers amounted to sixteen hundred and ten millions.

In the first place, I wish the epoch of the creation to be clearly established; and as, in our western world, we have no less than eighty theories of this event, there will be some difficulty to hit on the correct one. In the second place, the Egyptians, the Chaldæans, the Persians, the Indians, and the Chinese, have all different calculations; and it is still more difficult to agree with them. Thirdly, why, in the nine hundred and sixty-sixth year of the world, should there be more people than there are at present?

To explain this absurdity, we are told that matters occurred otherwise than at present; that nature, being more vigorous, was better concocted and more prolific; and, moreover, that people lived longer. Why do they not add, that the sun was warmer, and the moon more beautiful.

We are told, that in the time of Cæsar, although Edition: current; Page: [247] men had begun to greatly degenerate, the world was like an ant’s nest of bipeds; but that at present it is a desert. Montesquieu, who always exaggerates, and who sacrifices anything to an itching desire of displaying his wit, ventures to believe, and in his “Persian Letters” would have others believe, that there were thirty times as many people in the world in the days of Cæsar as at present.

Wallace acknowledges that this calculation made at random is too much; but for what reason? Because, before the days of Cæsar, the world possessed more inhabitants than during the most brilliant period of the Roman republic. He then ascends to the time of Semiramis, and if possible exaggerates more than Montesquieu.

Lastly, in conformity with the taste which is always attributed to the Holy Spirit for hyperbole, they fail not to instance the eleven hundred and sixty thousand men, who marched so fiercely under the standards of the great monarch, Josophat, or Jehosophat, king of the province of Judah. Enough, enough, Mr. Wallace; the Holy Spirit cannot deceive; but its agents and copyists have badly calculated and numbered. All your Scotland would not furnish eleven hundred thousand men to attend your sermons, and the kingdom of Judah was not a twentieth part of Scotland. See, again, what St. Jerome says of this poor Holy Land, in which he so long resided. Have you well calculated the quantity of money the great King Jehosophat must have Edition: current; Page: [248] possessed, to pay, feed, clothe, and arm eleven hundred thousand chosen men? But thus is history written.

Mr. Wallace returns from Jehosophat to Cæsar, and concludes, that since the time of this dictator of short duration, the world has visibly decreased in the number of its inhabitants. Behold, said he, the Swiss: according to the relation of Cæsar, they amounted to three hundred and sixty-eight thousand, when they so wisely quitted their country to seek their fortunes, like the Cimbri.

I wish by this example to recall those partisans into a little due consideration, who gift the ancients with such wonders in the way of generation, at the expense of the moderns. The canton of Berne alone, according to an accurate census, possesses a greater number of inhabitants than quitted the whole of Helvetia in the time of Cæsar. The human species is, therefore, doubled in Helvetia since that expedition.

I likewise believe, that Germany, France, and England are much better peopled now than at that time; and for this reason: I adduce the vast clearance of forests, the number of great towns built and increased during the last eight hundred years, and the number of arts which have originated in proportion. This I regard as a sufficient answer to the brazen declamation, repeated every day in books, in which truth is sacrificed to sallies, and which are rendered useless by their abundant wit.

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“L’Ami des Hommes” says, that in the time of Cæsar fifty-two millions of men were assigned to Spain, which Strabo observes has always been badly peopled, owing to the interior being so deficient in water. Strabo is apparently right, and L’Ami des Hommes” erroneous. But they scare us by asking what has become of the prodigious quantity of Huns, Alans, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, and Lombards, who spread like a torrent over Europe in the fifth century.

I distrust these multitudes, and suspect that twenty or thirty thousand ferocious animals, more or less, were sufficient to overwhelm with fright the whole Roman Empire, governed by a Pulcheria, by eunuchs, and by monks. It was enough for ten thousand barbarians to pass the Danube; for every parish rumor, or homily, to make them more numerous than the locusts in the plains of Egypt; and call them a scourge from God, in order to inspire penitence, and produce gifts of money to the convents. Fear seized all the inhabitants, and they fled in crowds. Behold precisely the fright which a wolf caused in the district of Gevanden in the year 1766.

Mandarin the robber, at the head of fifty vagabonds, put an entire town under contribution. As soon as he entered at one gate, it was said at the other, that he brought with him four thousand men and artillery. If Attila, followed by fifty thousand hungry assassins, ravaged province after province, report would call them five hundred thousand.

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The millions of men who followed Xerxes, Cyrus, Tomyris, the thirty or forty-four millions of Egyptians, Thebes with her hundred gates—Et quicquid Grecia mendax audet in historia”—resemble the five hundred thousand men of Attila, which company of pleasant travellers it would have been difficult to find on the journey.

These Huns came from Siberia, and thence I conclude that they came in very small numbers. Siberia was certainly not more fertile than in our own days. I doubt whether in the reign of Tomyris a town existed equal to Tobolsk, or that these frightful deserts can feed a great number of inhabitants.

India, China, Persia, and Asia Minor were thickly peopled; this I can credit without difficulty; and possibly they are not less so at present, notwithstanding the destructive prevalence of invasions and wars. Throughout, Nature has clothed them with pasturage; the bull freely unites with the heifer, the ram with the sheep, and man with woman.

The deserts of Barca, of Arabia, and of Oreb, of Sinai, of Jerusalem, of Gobi, etc., were never peopled, are not peopled at present, and never will be peopled; at least, until some natural revolution happens to transform these plains of sand and flint into fertile land.

The land of France is tolerably good, and it is sufficiently inhabited by consumers, since of all kinds there are more than are well supplied; since Edition: current; Page: [251] there are two hundred thousand impostors, who beg from one end of the country to the other, and sustain their despicable lives at the expense of the rich; and lastly, since France supports more than eighty thousand monks, of which not a single one assists to produce an ear of corn.


I believe that England, Protestant Germany, and Holland are better peopled in proportion than France. The reason is evident; those countries harbor not monks who vow to God to be useless to man. In these countries, the clergy, having little else to do, occupy themselves with study and propagation. They give birth to robust children, and give them a better education than that which is bestowed on the offspring of French and Italian marquises.

Rome, on the contrary, would be a desert without cardinals, ambassadors, and travellers. It would be only an illustrious monument, like the temple of Jupiter Ammon. In the time of the first Cæsar, it was computed that this sterile territory, rendered fertile by manure and the labor of slaves, contained some millions of men. It was an exception to the general law, that population is ordinarily in proportion to fertility of soil.

Conquest rendered this barren country fertile and populous. A form of government as strange and contradictory as any which ever astonished mankind, has restored to the territory of Romulus its Edition: current; Page: [252] primitive character. The whole country is depopulated from Orvieto to Terracina. Rome, reduced to its own citizens, would be to London only as one to twelve; and in respect to money and commerce, would be to the towns of Amsterdam and London as one to a thousand.

That which Rome has lost, Europe has not only regained, but the population has almost tripled since the days of Charlemagne. I say tripled, which is much; for propagation is not in geometrical progression. All the calculations made on the idea of this pretended multiplication, amount only to absurd chimeras.

If a family of human beings or of apes multiplied in this manner, at the end of two hundred years the earth would not be able to contain them. Nature has taken care at once to preserve and restrain the various species. She resembles the fates, who spin and cut threads continually. She is occupied with birth and destruction alone.

If she has given to man more ideas and memory than to other animals; if she has rendered him capable of generalizing his ideas and combining them; if he has the advantage of the gift of speech, she has not bestowed on him that of multiplication equal to insects. There are more ants in a square league of heath, than of men in the world, counting all that have ever existed.

When a country possesses a great number of idlers, be sure that it is well peopled; since these Edition: current; Page: [253] idlers are lodged, clothed, fed, amused, and respected by those who labor. The principal object, however, is not to possess a superfluity of men, but to render such as we have as little unhappy as possible.

Let us thank nature for placing us in the temperate zone, peopled almost throughout by a more than sufficient number of inhabitants, who cultivate all the arts; and let us endeavor not to lessen this advantage by our absurdities.


It must be confessed, that we ordinarily people and depopulate the world a little at random; and everybody acts in this manner. We are little adapted to obtain an accurate notion of things; the nearly is our only guide, and it often leads us astray.

It is still worse when we wish to calculate precisely. We go and see farces and laugh at them; but should we laugh less in our closets when we read grave authors deciding exactly how many men existed on the earth two hundred and eighty-five years after the general deluge. We find, according to Father Petau, that the family of Noah had produced one thousand two hundred and twenty-four millions seven hundred and seventeen thousand inhabitants, in three hundred years. The good priest Petau evidently knew little about getting children and rearing them, if we are to judge by this statement.

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According to Cumberland, this family increased to three thousand three hundred and thirty millions, in three hundred and forty years; and according to Whiston, about three hundred years after the Deluge, they amounted only to sixty-five millions four hundred and thirty-six.

It is difficult to reconcile and to estimate these accounts, such is the extravagance when people seek to make things accord which are repugnant, and to explain what is inexplicable. This unhappy endeavor has deranged heads which in other pursuits might have made discoveries beneficial to society.

The authors of the English “Universal History” observe, it is generally agreed that the present inhabitants of the earth amount to about four thousand millions. It is to be remarked, that these gentlemen do not include in this number the natives of America, which comprehends nearly half of the globe. For my own part, if, instead of a common romance, I wished to amuse myself by reckoning up the number of brethren I have on this unhappy little planet, I would proceed as follows: I would first endeavor to estimate pretty nearly the number of inhabited square leagues this earth contains on its surface; I should then say: The surface of the globe contains twenty-seven millions of square leagues; take away two-thirds at least for seas, rivers, lakes, deserts, mountains, and all that is uninhabited; this calculation, which is very moderate, Edition: current; Page: [255] leaves us nine millions of square leagues to account for.

In France and Germany, there are said to be six hundred persons to a square league; in Spain, one hundred and fifty; in Russia, fifteen; and Tartary, ten. Take the mean number at a hundred, and you will have about nine hundred millions of brethren, including mulattoes, negroes, the brown, the copper-colored, the fair, the bearded, and the unbearded. It is not thought, indeed, that the number is so great as this; and if eunuchs continue to be made, monks to multiply, and wars to be waged on the most trifling pretexts, it is easy to perceive that we shall not very soon be able to muster the four thousand millions, with which the English authors of the “Universal History” have so liberally favored us; but, then, of what consequence is it, whether the number of men on the earth be great or small? The chief thing is to discover the means of rendering our miserable species as little unhappy as possible.

Of the Population of America.

The discovery of America—that field of so much avarice and so much ambition—has also become an object of philosophical curiosity. A great number of writers have endeavored to prove that America was a colony of the ancient world. Some modest mathematicians, on the contrary, have said, that the same power which has caused the grass to grow in Edition: current; Page: [256] American soil, was able to place man there; but this simple and naked system has not been attended to.

When the great Columbus suspected the existence of this new world, it was held to be impossible; and Columbus was taken for a visionary. When it was really discovered, it was then found out that it had been known long before.

It was pretended that Martin Behem, a native of Nuremberg, quitted Flanders about the year 1460, in search of this unknown world; that he made his way even to the Straits of Magellan, of which he left unknown charts. As, however, it is certain that Martin Behem did not people America, it must certainly have been one of the later grandchildren of Noah, who took this trouble. All antiquity is then ransacked for accounts of long voyages, to which they apply the discovery of this fourth quarter of the globe. They make the ships of Solomon proceed to Mexico, and it is thence that he drew the gold of Ophir, to procure which he borrowed them from King Hiram. They find out America in Plato, give the honor of it to the Carthaginians, and quote this anecdote from a book of Aristotle which he never wrote.

Hornius pretends to discover some conformity between the Hebrew language and that of the Caribs. Father Lafiteau, the Jesuit, has not failed to follow up so fine an opening. The Mexicans, when greatly afflicted, tore their garments; certain Edition: current; Page: [257] people of Asia formerly did the same, and of course they are the ancestors of the Mexicans. It might be added, that the natives of Languedoc are very fond of dancing; and that, as in their rejoicings the Hurons dance also, the Languedocians are descended from the Hurons, or the Hurons from the Languedocians.

The authors of a tremendous “Universal History” pretend that all the Americans are descended from the Tartars. They assure us that this opinion is general among the learned, but they do not say whether it is so among the learned who reflect. According to them, some descendants of Noah could find nothing better to do, than to go and settle in the delicious country of Kamchatka, in the north of Siberia. This family being destitute of occupation, resolved to visit Canada either by means of ships, or by marching pleasantly across some slip of connecting land, which has not been discovered in our own times. They then began to busy themselves in propagation, until the fine country of Canada soon becoming inadequate to the support of so numerous a population, they went to people Mexico, Peru, Chile; while certain of their great-granddaughters were in due time brought to bed of giants in the Straits of Magellan.

As ferocious animals are found in some of the warm countries of America, these authors pretend, that the Christopher Columbuses of Kamchatka took them into Canada for their amusement, and Edition: current; Page: [258] carefully confined themselves to those kinds which are no longer to be found in the ancient hemisphere.

But the Kamchatkans have not alone peopled the new world; they have been charitably assisted by the Mantchou Tartars, by the Huns, by the Chinese, and by the inhabitants of Japan. The Mantchou Tartars are incontestably the ancestors of the Peruvians, for Mango Capac was the first inca of Peru. Mango resembles Manco; Manco sounds like Mancu; Mancu approaches Mantchu, and Mantchou is very close to the latter. Nothing can be better demonstrated. As for the Huns, they built in Hungary a town called Cunadi. Now, changing Cu into Ca, we have Canadi, from which Canada manifestly derives its name.

A plant resembling the ginseng of the Chinese, grows in Canada, which the Chinese transplanted into the latter even before they were masters of the part of Tartary where it is indigenous. Moreover, the Chinese are such great navigators, they formerly sent fleets to America without maintaining the least correspondence with their colonies.

With respect to the Japanese, they are the nearest neighbors of America, which, as they are distant only about twelve hundred leagues, they have doubtless visited in their time, although latterly they have neglected repeating the voyage. Thus is history written in our own days. What shall we say to these, and many other systems which resemble them? Nothing.

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Of all those who boast of having leagues with the devil, to the possessed alone it is of no use to reply. If a man says to you, “I am possessed,” you should believe it on his word. They are not obliged to do very extraordinary things; and when they do them, it is more than can fairly be demanded. What can we answer to a man who rolls his eyes, twists his mouth, and tells you that he has the devil within him? Everyone feels what he feels; and as the world was formerly full of possessed persons, we may still meet with them. If they take measures to conquer the world, we give them property and they become more moderate; but for a poor demoniac, who is content with a few convulsions, and does no harm to anyone, it is not right to make him injurious. If you dispute with him, you will infallibly have the worst of it. He will tell you, “The devil entered me to-day under such a form; from that time I have had a supernatural colic, which all the apothecaries in the world cannot assuage.” There is certainly no other plan to be taken with this man, than to exorcise or abandon him to the devil.

It is a great pity that there are no longer possessed magicians or astrologers. We can conceive the cause of all these mysteries. A hundred years ago all the nobility lived in their castles; the winter evenings are long, and they would have died of ennui without these noble amusements. There was Edition: current; Page: [260] scarcely a castle which a fairy did not visit on certain marked days, like the fairy Melusina at the castle of Lusignan. The great hunter, a tall black man, hunted with a pack of black dogs in the forest of Fontainebleau. The devil twisted Marshal Fabert’s neck. Every village had its sorcerer or sorceress; every prince had his astrologer; all the ladies had their fortunes told; the possessed ran about the fields; it was who had seen the devil or could see him; all these things were inexhaustible subjects of conversation which kept minds in exercise. In the present day we insipidly play at cards, and we have lost by being undeceived.


Formerly, if you had one friend at Constantinople and another at Moscow, you would have been obliged to wait for their return before you could obtain any intelligence concerning them. At present, without either of you leaving your apartments, you may familiarly converse through the medium of a sheet of paper. You may even despatch to them by the post, one of Arnault’s sovereign remedies for apoplexy, which would be received much more infallibly, probably, than it would cure.

If one of your friends has occasion for a supply of money at St. Petersburg, and the other at Smyrna, the post will completely and rapidly effect your business. Your mistress is at Bordeaux, while Edition: current; Page: [261] you are with your regiment before Prague; she gives you regular accounts of the constancy of her affections; you know from her all the news of the city, except her own infidelities. In short, the post is the grand connecting link of all transactions, of all negotiations. Those who are absent, by its means become present; it is the consolation of life.

France, where this beautiful invention was revived, even in our period of barbarism, has hereby conferred the most important service on all Europe. She has also never in any instance herself marred and tainted so valuable a benefit, and never has any minister who superintended the department of the post opened the letters of any individual, except when it was absolutely necessary that he should know their contents. It is not thus, we are told, in other countries. It is asserted, that in Germany private letters, passing through the territories of five or six different governments, have been read just that number of times, and that at last the seal has been so nearly destroyed that it became necessary to substitute a new one.

Mr. Craggs, secretary of state in England, would never permit any person in his office to open private letters; he said that to do so was a breach of public faith, and that no man ought to possess himself of a secret that was not voluntarily confided to him; that it is often a greater crime to steal a man’s thoughts than his gold; and that such treachery is proportionally more disgraceful, as it may be committed Edition: current; Page: [262] without danger, and without even the possibility of conviction.

To bewilder the eagerness of curiosity and defeat the vigilance of malice, a method was at first invented of writing a part of the contents of letters in ciphers; but the part written in the ordinary hand in this case sometimes served as a key to the rest. This inconvenience led to perfecting the art of ciphers, which is called “stenography.”

Against these enigmatical productions was brought the art of deciphering; but this art was exceedingly defective and inefficient. The only advantage derived from it was exciting the belief in weak and ill-formed minds, that their letters had been deciphered, and all the pleasure it afforded consisted in giving such persons pain. According to the law of probabilities, in a well-constructed cipher there would be two, three, or even four hundred chances against one, that in each mark the decipherer would not discover the syllable of which it was the representative.

The number of chances increases in proportion to the complication of the ciphers; and deciphering is utterly impossible when the system is arranged with any ingenuity. Those who boast that they can decipher a letter, without being at all acquainted with the subject of which it treats, and without any preliminary assistance, are greater charlatans than those who boast, if any such are to be found, of understanding a language which they never learned.

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With respect to those who in a free and easy way send you by post a tragedy, in good round hand, with blank leaves, on which you are requested kindly to make your observations, or who in the same way regale you with a first volume of metaphysical researches, to be speedily followed by a second, we may just whisper in their ear that a little more discretion would do no harm, and even that there are some countries where they would run some risk by thus informing the administration of the day that there are such things in the world as bad poets and bad metaphysicians.


I presume every reader of this article to be convinced that the world is formed with intelligence, and that a slight knowledge of astronomy and anatomy is sufficient to produce admiration of that universal and supreme intelligence. Once more I repeat “mens agitat molem.”

Can the reader of himself ascertain that this intelligence is omnipotent, that is to say, infinitely powerful? Has he the slightest notion of infinity, to enable him to comprehend the meaning and extent of almighty power?

The celebrated philosophic historian, David Hume, says, “A weight of ten ounces is raised in a balance by another weight; this other weight therefore is more than ten ounces; but no one can Edition: current; Page: [264] rationally infer that it must necessarily be a hundred weight.”

We may fairly and judiciously apply here the same argument. You acknowledge a supreme intelligence sufficiently powerful to form yourself, to preserve you for a limited time in life, to reward you and to punish you. Are you sufficiently acquainted with it to be able to demonstrate that it can do more than this? How can you prove by your reason that a being can do more than it has actually done?

The life of all animals is short. Could he make it longer? All animals are food for one another without exception; everything is born to be devoured. Could he form without destroying? You know not what his nature is. It is impossible, therefore, that you should know whether his nature may not have compelled him to do only the very things which he has done.

The globe on which we live is one vast field of destruction and carnage. Either the Supreme Being was able to make of it an eternal mode of enjoyment for all beings possessed of sensation, or He was not. If He was able and yet did not do it, you will undoubtedly tremble to pronounce or consider Him a maleficent being; but if He was unable to do so, do not tremble to regard Him as a power of very great extent indeed, but nevertheless circumscribed by His nature within certain limits.

Whether it be infinite or not, is not of any consequence Edition: current; Page: [265] to you. It is perfectly indifferent to a subject whether his sovereign possesses five hundred leagues of territory or five thousand; he is in either case neither more nor less a subject. Which would reflect most strongly on this great and ineffable Being: to say He made miserable beings because it was indispensable to do so; or that He made them merely because it was His will and pleasure?

Many sects represent Him as cruel; others, through fear of admitting the existence of a wicked Deity, are daring enough to deny His existence at all. Would it not be far preferable to say that probably the necessity of His own nature and that of things have determined everything?

The world is the theatre of moral and natural evil; this is too decidedly found and felt to be the case; and the “all is for the best” of Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, and Pope, is nothing but the effusion of a mind devoted to eccentricity and paradox; in short, nothing but a dull jest.

The two principles of Zoroaster and Manes, so minutely investigated by Bayle, are a duller jest still. They are, as we have already observed, the two physicians of Molière, one of whom says to the other: “You excuse my emetics, and I will excuse your bleedings.” Manichæism is absurd; and that circumstance will account for its having had so many partisans.

I acknowledge that I have not had my mind enlightened by all that Bayle has said about the Manichæans Edition: current; Page: [266] and Paulicians. It is all controversy; what I wanted was pure philosophy. Why speak about our mysteries to Zoroaster? As soon as ever we have the temerity to discuss the critical subject of our mysteries, we open to our view the most tremendous precipices.

The trash of our own scholastic theology has nothing to do with the trash of Zoroaster’s reveries. Why discuss with Zoroaster the subject of original sin? That subject did not become a matter of dispute until the time of St. Augustine. Neither Zoroaster nor any other legislator of antiquity ever heard it mentioned. If you dispute with Zoroaster, lock up your Old and New Testament, with which he had not the slightest acquaintance, and which it is our duty to revere without attempting to explain.

What I should myself have said to Zoroaster would have been this: My reason opposes the admission of two gods in conflict with each other; such an idea is allowable only in a poem in which Minerva quarrels with Mars. My weak understanding much more readily acquiesces in the notion of only one Great Being, than in that of two great beings, of whom one is constantly counteracting and spoiling the operations of the other. Your evil principle, Arimanes, has not been able to derange a single astronomical and physical law established by the good principle of Oromazes; everything proceeds, among the numberless worlds which constitute Edition: current; Page: [267] what we call the heavens, with perfect regularity and harmony; how comes it that the malignant Arimanes has power only over this little globe of earth?

Had I been Arimanes, I should have assailed Oromazes in his immense and noble provinces, comprehending numbers of suns and stars. I should never have been content to confine the war to an insignificant and miserable village. There certainly is a great deal of misery in this same village; but how can we possibly ascertain that it is not absolutely inevitable?

You are compelled to admit an intelligence diffused through the universe. But in the first place, do you absolutely know that this intelligence comprises a knowledge of the future? You have asserted a thousand times that it does; but you have never been able to prove it to me, or to comprehend it yourself. You cannot have any idea how any being can see what does not exist; well, the future does not exist, therefore no being can see it. You are reduced to the necessity of saying that he foresees it; but to foresee is only to conjecture.

Now a god who, according to your system, conjectures may be mistaken. He is, on your principles, really mistaken; for if he had foreseen that his enemy would poison all his works in this lower world, he would never have produced them; he would not have been accessory to the disgrace he sustains in being perpetually vanquished.

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Secondly, is he not much more honored upon my hypothesis, which maintains that he does everything by the necessity of his own nature, than upon yours, which raises up against him an enemy, disfiguring, polluting, and destroying all his works of wisdom and kindness throughout the world!

In the third place, it by no means implies a mean and unworthy idea of God to say that, after forming millions of worlds, in which death and evil may have no residence, it might be necessary that death and evil should reside in this.

Fourth, it is not deprecating God to say that He could not form man without bestowing on him self-love; that this self-love could not be his guide without almost always leading him astray; that his passions are necessary, but at the same time noxious; that the continuation of the species cannot be accomplished without desires; that these desires cannot operate without exciting quarrels; and that these quarrels necessarily bring on wars, etc.

Fifth, on observing a part of the combinations of the vegetable, animal, and mineral kingdoms, and the porous nature of the earth, in every part so minutely pierced and drilled like a sieve, and from which exhalations constantly rrise in immense profusion, what philosopher will be bold enough, what schoolman will be weak enough, decidedly to maintain that nature could possibly prevent the ravages of volcanoes, the intemperature of seasons, the rage of tempests, the poison of pestilence, or, in Edition: current; Page: [269] short, any of those scourages which afflict the world?

Sixth, a very great degree of power and skill are required to form lions who devour bulls, and to produce men who invent arms which destroy, by a single blow, not merely the life of bulls and lions, but—melancholy as the idea is—the life of one another. Great power is necessary to produce the spiders which spread their exquisitely fine threads and net-work to catch flies; but this power amounts not to omnipotence—it is not boundless power.

In the seventh place, if the Supreme Being had been infinitely powerful, no reason can be assigned why He should not have made creatures endowed with sensation infinitely happy; He has not in fact done so; therefore we ought to conclude that He could not do so.

Eighth, all the different sects of philosophers have struck on the rock of physical and moral evil. The only conclusion that can be securely reached is, that God, acting always for the best, has done the best that He was able to do.

Ninth, this necessity cuts off all difficulties and terminates all disputes. We have not the hardihood to say: “All is good”; we say: “There is no more evil than was absolutely inevitable.”

Tenth, why do some infants die at the mother’s breast? Why are others, after experiencing the first misfortune of being born, reserved for tormentes as lasting as their lives, which are at length ended by an Edition: current; Page: [270] appalling death? Why has the source of life been poisoned throughout the world since the discovery of America? Why, since the seventh century of the Christian era, has the smallpox swept away an eighth portion of the human species? Why, in every age of the world, have human bladders been liable to be converted into stone quarries? Why pestilence, and war, and famine, and the Inquisition? Consider the subject as carefully, as profoundly, as the powers of the mind will absolutely permit, you will find no other possible solution than that all is necessary.

I address myself here solely to philosophers, and not to divines. We know that faith is the clue to guide us through the labyrinth. We know full well that the fall of Adam and Eve, original sin, the vast power communicated to devils, the predilection entertained by the Supreme Being for the Jewish people, and the ceremony of baptism substituted for that of circumcision, are answers that clear up every difficulty. We have been here arguing only against Zoroaster, and not against the University of Coimbra, to whose decisions and doctrines, in all the articles of our work, we submit with all possible deference and faith. See the letters of Memmius to Cicero; and answer them if you can.

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The Two Powers.


Whoever holds both the sceptre and the censer has his hands completely occupied. If he governs a people possessed of common sense he may be considered as a very able man; but if his subjects have no more mind than children or savages, he may be compared to Bernier’s coachman, who was one day suddenly surprised by his master in one of the public places of Delhi, haranguing the populace, and distributing among them his quack medicines. “What! Lapierre,” says Bernier to him, “have you turned physician?” “Yes, sir,” replied the coachman; “like people, like doctor.”

The dairo of the Japanese, or the grand lama of Thibet, might make just the same remark. Even Numa Pompilius, with his Egeria, would have answered Bernier in the same manner. Melchizedek was probably in a similar situation, as well as the Anius whom Virgil introduces in the following two lines of the third book of his “Æneid”:

  • Rex Anius, rex idem hominum Phœbique sacerdos,
  • Vittis et sacra redimitus tempora lauro.
  • Virgil.
  • Anius, the priest and king, with laurel crowned
  • His hoary locks with purple fillets bound.
  • Dryden.

This charlatan Anius was merely king of the isle of Delos, a very paltry kingdom, which, next to those of Melchizedek and Yvetot, was one of the least considerable in the world; but the worship of Edition: current; Page: [272] Apollo had conferred on it a high reputation; a single saint is enough to raise any country into credit and consequence.

Three of the German electors are more powerful than Anius, and, like him, unite the rights of the mitre with those of the crown; although in subordination, at least apparently so, to the Roman emperor, who is no other than the emperor of Germany. But of all the countries in which the plenitude of ecclesiastical and the plenitude of royal claims combine to form the most full and complete power that can be imagined, modern Rome is the chief.

The pope is regarded in the Catholic part of Europe as the first of kings and the first of priests. It was the same in what was called “pagan” Rome; Julius Cæsar was at once chief pontiff, dictator, warrior, and conqueror; distinguished also both for eloquence and gallantry; in every respect the first of mankind; and with whom no modern, except in a dedication, could ever be compared.

The king of England, being the head also of the Church, possesses nearly the same dignities as the pope. The empress of Russia is likewise absolute mistress over her clergy, in the largest empire existing upon earth. The notion that two powers may exist, in opposition to each other, in the same state, is there regarded even by the clergy themselves as a chimera equally absurd and pernicious.

In this connection I cannot help introducing a Edition: current; Page: [273] letter which the empress of Russia, Catherine II., did me the honor to write to me at Mount Krapak, on Aug. 22, 1765, and which she permitted me to make use of as I might see occasion:

“The Capuchins who are tolerated at Moscow (for toleration is general throughout the Russian empire, and the Jesuits alone are not suffered to remain in it), having, in the course of the last winter, obstinately refused to inter a Frenchman who died suddenly, under a pretence that he had not received the sacraments, Abraham Chaumeix drew up a factum, or statement, against them, in order to prove to them that it was obligatory upon them to bury the dead. But neither this factum, nor two requisitions of the governor, could prevail on these fathers to obey. At last they were authoritatively told that they must either bury the Frenchman or remove beyond the frontiers. They actually removed accordingly; and I sent some Augustins from this place, who were somewhat more tractable, and who, perceiving that no trifling or delay would be permitted, did all that was desired on the occasion. Thus Abraham Chaumeix has in Russia become a reasonable man; he absolutely is an enemy to persecution; were he also to become a man of wit and intellect, he would make the most incredulous believe in miracles; but all the miracles in the world will not blot out the disgrace of having been the denouncer of the ‘Encyclopedia.’

“The subjects of the Church, having suffered Edition: current; Page: [274] many, and frequently tyrannical, grievances, which the frequent change of masters very considerably increased, towards the end of the reign of the empress Elizabeth, rose in actual rebellion; and at my accession to the throne there were more than a hundred thousand men in arms. This occasioned me, in 1762, to execute the project of changing entirely the administration of the property of the clergy, and to settle on them fixed revenues. Arsenius, bishop of Rostow, strenuously opposed this, urged on by some of his brother clergy, who did not feel it perfectly convenient to put themselves forward by name. He sent in two memorials, in which he attempted to establish the absurd principle of two powers. He had made the like attempt before, in the time of the empress Elizabeth, when he had been simply enjoined silence; but his insolence and folly redoubling, he was now tried by the metropolitan of Novgorod and the whole synod, condemned as a fanatic, found guilty of attempts contrary to the orthodox faith, as well as to the supreme power, deprived of his dignity and priesthood, and delivered over to the secular arm. I acted leniently towards him; and after reducing him to the situation of a monk, extended his punishment no farther.”

Such are the very words of the empress; and the inference from the whole case is that she well knows both how to support the Church and how to restrain it; that she respects humanity as well as religion; that she protects the laborer as well as the priest; Edition: current; Page: [275] and that all orders in the state ought both to admire and bless her.

I shall hope to be excused for the further indiscretion of transcribing here a passage contained in another of her letters, written on November 28, 1765:

“Toleration is established among us; it constitutes a law of the state; persecution is prohibited. We have indeed fanatics who, as they are not persecuted by others, burn themselves; but if those of other countries also did the same, no great harm could result; the world, in consequence of such a system, would have been more tranquil, and Calas would not have been racked to death.”

Do not imagine that she writes in this style from a feeling of transient and vain enthusiasm, contradicted afterwards in her practice, nor even from a laudable desire of obtaining throughout Europe the suffrages and applause of those who think, and teach others the way to think. She lays down these principles as the basis of her government. She wrote with her own hand, in the “Council of Legislations,” the following words, which should be engraved on the gates of every city in the world:

“In a great empire, extending its sway over as many different nations as there are different creeds among mankind, the most pernicious fault would be intolerance.”

It is to be observed that she does not hesitate to put intolerance in the rank of faults—I had nearly Edition: current; Page: [276] said offences. Thus does an absolute empress, in the depths of the North, put an end to persecution and slavery—while in the South—.

Judge for yourself, sir, after this, whether there will be found a man in Europe who will not be ready to sign the eulogium you propose. Not only is this princess tolerant, but she is desirous that her neighbors should be so likewise. This is the first instance in which supreme power has been exercised in establishing liberty of conscience. It constitutes the grandest epoch with which I am acquainted in modern history.

The case of the ancient Persians forbidding the Carthaginians to offer human sacrifices is a somewhat similar instance. Would to God, that instead of the barbarians who formerly poured from the plains of Scythia, and the mountains of Imaus and Caucasus, towards the Alps and Pyrenees, carrying with them ravage and desolation, armies might be seen at the present day descending to subvert the tribunal of the Inquisition—a tribunal more horrible than even the sacrifices of human beings which constitute the eternal reproach of our forefathers.

In short, this superior genius wishes to convince her neighbors of what Europe is now beginning to comprehend, that metaphysical unintelligible opinions, which are the daughters of absurdity, are the mothers of discord; and that the Church, instead of saying: “I come to bring, not peace, but the sword,” should exclaim aloud: “I bring peace, and not the Edition: current; Page: [277] sword.” Accordingly the empress is unwilling to draw the sword against any but those who wish to crush the dissidents.


Conversation Between the Reverend Father Bouvet, Missionary of the Company of Jesus, and the Emperor Camhi, in the Presence of Brother Attiret, a Jesuit; Extracted from the Private Memoirs of the Mission, in 1772.

father bouvet.

Yes, may it please your sacred majesty, as soon as you will have had the happiness of being baptized by me, which I hope will be the case, you will be relieved of one-half of the immense burden which now oppresses you. I have mentioned to you the fable of Atlas, who supported the heavens on his shoulders. Hercules relieved him and carried away the heavens. You are Atlas, and Hercules is the pope. There will be two powers in your empire. Our excellent Clement will be the first. Upon this plan you will enjoy the greatest of all advantages; those of being at leisure while you live, and of being saved when you die.

the emperor.

I am exceedingly obliged to my dear friend, the pope, for condescending to take so much trouble; but how will he be able to govern my empire at the distance of six thousand leagues?

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father bouvet.

Nothing, may it please your Imperial Majesty, can be more easy. We are his vicars apostolic, and he is the vicar of God; you will therefore be governed by God Himself.

the emperor.

How delightful that will be! I am not, however, quite easy on the subject. Will your vice-god share the imperial revenues with myself? For all labor ought to be paid for.

father bouvet.

Our vice-god is so kind and good that in general he will not take, at most, more than a quarter, except in cases of disobedience. Our emoluments will not exceed fifty million ounces of pure silver, which is surely a trifling object in comparison with heavenly advantages.

the emperor.

Yes, it is certainly, as you say, giving them almost for nothing. I suppose your celebrated and benevolent city derives just about the same sum from each of my three neighbors—the Great Mogul, the Emperor of Japan, and the Empress of Russia; and also from the Persian and the Turkish empires?

father bouvet.

I cannot exactly say that is yet the case; but, with God’s help and our own, I have no doubt it will be so.

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the emperor.

And how are you, who are the vicars apostolic, to be paid?

father bouvet.

We have no regular wages; but we are somewhat like the principal female character in a comedy written by one Count Caylus, a countryman of mine; all that I . . . . is for myself.

the emperor.

But pray inform me whether your Christian princes in Europe pay your Italian friend or patron in proportion to the assessment laid on me.

father bouvet.

No, they do not! One-half of Europe has separated from him and pays him nothing; and the other pays him no more than it is obliged to pay.

the emperor.

You told me some time since that he was sovereign of a very fine and fertile territory.

father bouvet.

Yes; but it produces very little to him; it lies mostly uncultivated.

the emperor.

Poor man! he does not know how to cultivate his own territory, and yet pretends to govern mine.

father bouvet.

Formerly, in one of our councils—that is, in one of our assemblies of priests, which was held in a city Edition: current; Page: [280] called Constance—our holy father caused a proposition to be made for a new tax for the support of his dignity. The assembly replied that any necessity for that would be perfectly precluded by his attending to the cultivation of his own lands. This, however, he took effectual care not to do. He preferred living on the produce of those who labor in other kingdoms. He appeared to think that this manner of living had an air of greater grandeur.

the emperor.

Well, go and tell him from me, that I not only make those about me labor, but that I also labor myself; and I doubt much whether it will be for him.

father bouvet.

Holy Virgin! I am absolutely taken for a fool!

the emperor.

Begone, this instant! I have been too indulgent.

brother attiret to father bouvet.

I was right, you see, when I told you that the emperor, with all his excellence of heart, had also more understanding than both of us together.


Very few forms of public prayers used by the ancients still remain. We have only Horace’s beautiful hymn for the secular games of the ancient Romans. This prayer is in the rhythm and measure Edition: current; Page: [281] which the other Romans long after imitated in the hymn, Ut queat laxis resonare fibris.”

The Pervigilium Veneris” is written in a quaint and affected taste, and seems unworthy of the noble simplicity of the reign of Augustus. It is possible that this hymn to Venus may have been chanted in the festivals celebrated in honor of that goddess; but it cannot be doubted that the poem of Horace was chanted with much greater solemnity.

It must be allowed that this secular poem of Horace is one of the finest productions of antiquity; and that the hymn, “Ut queat laxis,” is one of the most flat and vapid pieces that appeared during the barbarous period of the decline of the Latin language. The Catholic Church in those times paid little attention to eloquence and poetry. We all know very well that God prefers bad verses recited with a pure heart, to the finest verses possible chanted by the wicked. Good verses, however, never yet did any harm, and—all other things being equal—must deserve a preference.

Nothing among us ever approached the secular games, which were celebrated at the expiration of every hundred and ten years. Our jubilee is only a faint and feeble copy of it. Three magnificent altars were erected on the banks of the Tiber. All Rome was illuminated for three successive nights; and fifteen priests distributed the lustral water and wax tapers among the men and women of the city who were appointed to chant the prayers. A sacrifice Edition: current; Page: [282] was first offered to Jupiter as the great god, the sovereign master of the gods; and afterwards to Juno, Apollo, Latona, Diana, Pluto, Proserpine, and the Fates, as to inferior powers. All these divinities had their own peculiar hymns and ceremonies. There were two choirs, one of twenty-seven boys, and the other of twenty-seven girls, for each of the divinities. Finally, on the last day, the boys and girls, crowned with flowers, chanted the ode of Horace.

It is true that in private houses his other odes, for Ligurinus and Liciscus and other contemptible characters, were heard at table; performances which undoubtedly were not calculated to excite the finest feelings of devotion; but there is a time for all things, “pictoribus atque poetis.” Caraccio, who drew the figures of Aretin, painted saints also; and in all our colleges we have excused in Horace what the masters of the Roman Empire excused in him without any difficulty.

As to forms of prayer, we have only a few slight fragments of that which was recited at the mysteries of Isis. We have quoted it elsewhere, but we will repeat it here, because it is at once short and beautiful:

“The celestial powers obey thee; hell is in subjection to thee; the universe revolves under thy moving hand; thy feet tread on Tartarus; the stars are responsive to thy voice; the seasons return Edition: current; Page: [283] at thy command; the elements are obedient to thy will.”

We repeat also the form supposed to have been used in the worship of the ancient Orpheus, which we think superior even to the above respecting Isis:

“Walk in the path of justice; adore the sole Master of the Universe; He is One Alone, and self-existent; all other beings owe their existence to Him; He acts both in them and by them; He sees all, but has never been Himself seen by mortal eyes.”

It is not a little extraordinary that in the Leviticus and Deuteronomy of the Jews, there is not a single public prayer, not one single formula of public worship. It seems as if the Levites were fully employed in dividing among themselves the viands that were offered to them. We do not even see a single prayer instituted for their great festivals of the Passover, the Pentecost, the trumpets, the tabernacles, the general expiation, or the new moon.

The learned are almost unanimously agreed that there were no regular prayers among the Jews, except when, during their captivity at Babylon, they adopted somewhat of the manners, and acquired something of the sciences, of that civilized and powerful people. They borrowed all from the Chaldaic Persians, even to their very language, characters, and numerals; and joining some new customs to their old Egyptian rites, they became a new Edition: current; Page: [284] people, so much the more superstitious than before, in consequence of their being, after the conclusion of a long captivity, still always dependent upon their neighbors.

  • . . . . . In rebus acerbis
  • Arcius advertunt animos ad religionem.
  • Lucretius. book iii., 52, 53.
  • . . . . . The common rout,
  • When cares and dangers press, grow more devout.
  • Creech.

With respect to the ten other tribes who had been previously dispersed, we may reasonably believe that they were as destitute of public forms of prayer as the two others, and that they had not, even up to the period of their dispersion, any fixed and well-defined religion, as they abandoned that which they professed with so much facility, and forgot even their own name, which cannot be said of the small number of unfortunate beings who returned to rebuild Jerusalem.

It is, therefore, at that period that the two tribes, or rather the two tribes and a half, seemed to have first attached themselves to certain invariable rites, to have written books, and used regular prayers. It is not before that time that we begin to see among them forms of prayer. Esdras ordained two prayers for every day, and added a third for the Sabbath; it is even said that he instituted eighteen prayers, that there might be room for selection, and also to afford variety in the service. The first of these begins in the following manner:

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“Blessed be Thou, O Lord God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the great God, the powerful, the terrible, the most high, the liberal distributor of good things, the former and possessor of the world, who rememberest good actions, and sendest a Redeemer to their descendants for Thy name’s sake. O King, our help and Saviour, our buckler, blessed be Thou, O Lord, the buckler of our father Abraham.”

It is asserted that Gamaliel, who lived in the time of Jesus Christ, and who had such violent quarrels with St. Paul, ordered a nineteenth prayer, which is as follows:

“Grant peace, benefits, blessing, favor, kindness, and piety to us, and to Thy people Israel. Bless us, O our Father! bless us altogether with the light of Thy countenance; for by the light of Thy countenance Thou hast given us, O Lord our God, the law of life, love, kindness, equity, blessing, piety, and peace. May it please Thee to bless, through all time, and at every moment, Thy people Israel, by giving them peace. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who blessest Thy people Israel by giving them peace. Amen.”

There is one circumstance deserving of remark with regard to many prayers, which is, that every nation has prayed for the direct contrary events to those prayed for by their neighbors.