The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 6 (of 10), by
François-Marie Arouet (AKA Voltaire)
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Title: A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 6 (of 10)
From "The Works of Voltaire - A Contemporary Version"
Author: François-Marie Arouet (AKA Voltaire)
Commentator: John Morley
Translator: William F. Fleming
Release Date: March 28, 2011 [EBook #35626]
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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY ***
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A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
EDITION DE LA PACIFICATION
THE WORKS OF VOLTAIRE
A CONTEMPORARY VERSION
With Notes by Tobias Smollett, Revised and Modernized
New Translations by William F. Fleming, and an
Introduction by Oliver H.G. Leigh
A CRITIQUE AND BIOGRAPHY
THE RT. HON. JOHN MORLEY
One hundred and sixty-eight designs, comprising reproductions
of rare old engravings, steel plates, photogravures,
and curious fac-similes
_The WORKS of VOLTAIRE_
_"Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred
years apart, there is a mysterious relation. * * * * Let us say it
with a sentiment of profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED.
Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the
sweetness of the present civilization."_
LIST OF PLATES--VOL. VI
VOLTAIRE'S HOME IN GENEVA _Frontispiece_
THE ACROPOLIS AT ATHENS
THE DUKE OF SULLY
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INQUISITION IN PORTUGAL
[Illustration: GENEVA--VOLTAIRE'S HOME IN THE SUBURBS.]
* * * * *
A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
IN TEN VOLUMES
* * * * *
What is called happiness is an abstract idea, composed of various ideas
of pleasure; for he who has but a moment of pleasure is not a happy man,
in like manner that a moment of grief constitutes not a miserable one.
Pleasure is more transient than happiness, and happiness than felicity.
When a person says--I am happy at this moment, he abuses the word, and
only means I am pleased. When pleasure is continuous, he may then call
himself happy. When this happiness lasts a little longer, it is a state
of felicity. We are sometimes very far from being happy in prosperity,
just as a surfeited invalid eats nothing of a great feast prepared for
The ancient adage, "No person should be called happy before his death,"
seems to turn on very false principles, if we mean by this maxim that we
should not give the name of happy to a man who had been so constantly
from his birth to his last hour. This continuity of agreeable moments is
rendered impossible by the constitution of our organs, by that of the
elements on which we depend, and by that of mankind, on whom we depend
still more. Constant happiness is the philosopher's stone of the soul;
it is a great deal for us not to be a long time unhappy. A person whom
we might suppose to have always enjoyed a happy life, who perishes
miserably, would certainly merit the appellation of happy until his
death, and we might boldly pronounce that he had been the happiest of
men. Socrates might have been the happiest of the Greeks, although
superstitious, absurd, or iniquitous judges, or all together,
juridically poisoned him at the age of seventy years, on the suspicion
that he believed in only one God.
The philosophical maxim so much agitated, "_Nemo ante obitum felix_,"
therefore, appears absolutely false in every sense; and if it signifies
that a happy man may die an unhappy death, it signifies nothing of
The proverb of being "Happy as a king" is still more false. Everybody
knows how the vulgar deceive themselves.
It is asked, if one condition is happier than another; if man in general
is happier than woman. It would be necessary to have tried all
conditions, to have been man and woman like Tiresias and Iphis, to
decide this question; still more would it be necessary to have lived in
all conditions, with a mind equally proper to each; and we must have
passed through all the possible states of man and woman to judge of it.
It is further queried, if of two men one is happier than the other. It
is very clear that he who has the gout and stone, who loses his fortune,
his honor, his wife and children, and who is condemned to be hanged
immediately after having been mangled, is less happy in this world in
everything than a young, vigorous sultan, or La Fontaine's cobbler.
But we wish to know which is the happier of two men equally healthy,
equally rich, and of an equal condition. It is clear that it is their
temper which decides it. The most moderate, the least anxious, and at
the same time the most sensible, is the most happy; but unfortunately
the most sensible is often the least moderate. It is not our condition,
it is the temper of our souls which renders us happy. This disposition
of our souls depends on our organs, and our organs have been arranged
without our having the least part in the arrangement.
It belongs to the reader to make his reflections on the above. There are
many articles on which he can say more than we ought to tell him. In
matters of art, it is necessary to instruct him; in affairs of morals,
he should be left to think for himself.
There are dogs whom we caress, comb, and feed with biscuits, and whom we
give to pretty females: there are others which are covered with the
mange, which die of hunger; others which we chase and beat, and which a
young surgeon slowly dissects, after having driven four great nails into
their paws. Has it depended upon these poor dogs to be happy or unhappy?
We say a happy thought, a happy feature, a happy repartee, a happy
physiognomy, happy climate, etc. These thoughts, these happy traits,
which strike like sudden inspirations, and which are called the happy
sallies of a man of wit, strike like flashes of light across our eyes,
without our seeking it. They are no more in our power than a happy
physiognomy; that is to say, a sweet and noble aspect, so independent of
us, and so often deceitful. The happy climate is that which nature
favors: so are happy imaginations, so is happy genius, or great talent.
And who can give himself genius? or who, when he has received some ray
of this flame, can preserve it always brilliant?
When we speak of a happy rascal, by this word we only comprehend his
success. "Felix Sulla"--the fortunate Sulla, and Alexander VI., a duke
of Borgia, have happily pillaged, betrayed, poisoned, ravaged, and
assassinated. But being villains, it is very likely that they were very
unhappy, even when not in fear of persons resembling themselves.
It may happen to an ill-disposed person, badly educated--a Turk, for
example, of whom it ought to be said, that he is permitted to doubt the
Christian faith--to put a silken cord round the necks of his viziers,
when they are rich; to strangle, massacre, or throw his brothers into
the Black Sea, and to ravage a hundred leagues of country for his glory.
It may happen, I say, that this man has no more remorse than his mufti,
and is very happy--on all which the reader may duly ponder.
There were formerly happy planets, and others unhappy, or unfortunate;
unhappily, they no longer exist. Some people would have deprived the
public of this useful Dictionary--happily, they have not succeeded.
Ungenerous minds, and absurd fanatics, every day endeavor to prejudice
the powerful and the ignorant against philosophers. If they were
unhappily listened to, we should fall back into the barbarity from which
philosophers alone have withdrawn us.
HEAVEN (CIEL MATÉRIEL).
The laws of optics, which are founded upon the nature of things, have
ordained that, from this small globe of earth on which we live, we shall
always see the material heaven as if we were the centre of it, although
we are far from being that centre; that we shall always see it as a
vaulted roof, hanging over a plane, although there is no other vaulted
roof than that of our atmosphere, which has no such plane; that our sun
and moon will always appear one-third larger at the horizon than at
their zenith, although they are nearer the spectator at the zenith than
at the horizon.
Such are the laws of optics, such is the structure of your eyes, that,
in the first place, the material heaven, the clouds, the moon, the sun,
which is at so vast a distance from you; the planets, which in their
apogee are still at a greater distance from it; all the stars placed at
distances yet vastly greater, comets and meteors, everything, must
appear to us in that vaulted roof as consisting of our atmosphere.
The sun appears to us, when in its zenith, smaller than when at fifteen
degrees below; at thirty degrees below the zenith it will appear still
larger than at fifteen; and finally, at the horizon, its size will seem
larger yet; so that its dimensions in the lower heaven decrease in
consequence of its elevations, in the following proportions:
At the horizon 100
At fifteen degrees above 68
At thirty degrees 50
At forty-five degrees 40
Its apparent magnitudes in the vaulted roof are as its apparent
elevations; and it is the same with the moon, and with a comet.
It is not habit, it is not the intervention of tracts of land, it is not
the refraction of the atmosphere which produces this effect. Malebranche
and Régis have disputed with each other on this subject; but Robert
Smith has calculated.
Observe the two stars, which, being at a prodigious distance from each
other, and at very different depths, in the immensity of space, are here
considered as placed in the circle which the sun appears to traverse.
You perceive them distant from each other in the great circle, but
approximating to each other in every circle smaller, or within that
described by the path of the sun.
It is in this manner that you see the material heaven. It is by these
invariable laws of optics that you perceive the planets sometimes
retrograde and sometimes stationary; there is in fact nothing of the
kind. Were you stationed in the sun, we should perceive all the planets
and comets moving regularly round it in those elliptical orbits which
God assigns. But we are upon the planet of the earth, in a corner of the
universe, where it is impossible for us to enjoy the sight of
Let us not then blame the errors of our senses, like Malebranche; the
steady laws of nature originating in the immutable will of the Almighty,
and adapted to the structure of our organs, cannot be errors.
We can see only the appearances of things, and not things themselves. We
are no more deceived when the sun, the work of the divinity--that star a
million times larger than our earth--appears to us quite flat and two
feet in width, than when, in a convex mirror, which is the work of our
own hands, we see a man only a few inches high.
If the Chaldæan magi were the first who employed the understanding which
God bestowed upon them, to measure and arrange in their respective
stations the heavenly bodies, other nations more gross and unintelligent
made no advance towards imitating them.
These childish and savage populations imagined the earth to be flat,
supported, I know not how, by its own weight in the air; the sun, moon,
and stars to move continually upon a solid vaulted roof called a
firmament; and this roof to sustain waters, and have flood-gates at
regular distances, through which these waters issued to moisten and
fertilize the earth.
But how did the sun, the moon, and all the stars reappear after their
setting? Of this they know nothing at all. The heaven touched the flat
earth: and there were no means by which the sun, moon, and stars could
turn under the earth, and go to rise in the east after having set in the
west. It is true that these children of ignorance were right by chance
in not entertaining the idea that the sun and fixed stars moved, round
the earth. But they were far from conceiving that the sun was immovable,
and the earth with its satellite revolving round him in space together
with the other planets. Their fables were more distant from the true
system of the world than darkness from light.
They thought that the sun and stars returned by certain unknown roads
after having refreshed themselves for their course at some spot, not
precisely ascertained, in the Mediterranean Sea. This was the amount of
astronomy, even in the time of Homer, who is comparatively recent; for
the Chaldæans kept their science to themselves, in order to obtain
thereby, greater respect from other nations. Homer says, more than once,
that the sun plunges into the ocean--and this ocean, be it observed, is
nothing but the Nile--here, by the freshness of the waters, he repairs
during the night the fatigue and exhaustion of the day, after which, he
goes to the place of his regular rising by ways unknown to mortals. This
idea is very like that of Baron Foeneste, who says, that the cause of
our not seeing the sun when he goes back, is that he goes back by night.
As, at that time, the nations of Syria and the Greeks were somewhat
acquainted with Asia and a small part of Europe, and had no notion of
the countries which lie to the north of the Euxine Sea and to the south
of the Nile, they laid it down as a certainty that the earth was a full
third longer than it was wide; consequently the heaven, which touched
the earth and embraced it, was also longer than it was wide. Hence came
down to us degrees of longitude and latitude, names which we have always
retained, although with far more correct ideas than those which
originally suggested them.
The Book of Job, composed by an ancient Arab who possessed some
knowledge of astronomy, since he speaks of the constellations, contains
nevertheless the following passage: "Where wert thou, when I laid the
foundation of the earth? Who hath taken the dimensions thereof? On what
are its foundations fixed? Who hath laid the cornerstone thereof?"
The least informed schoolboy, at the present day, would tell him, in
answer: "The earth has neither cornerstone nor foundation; and, as to
its dimensions, we know them perfectly well, as from Magellan to
Bougainville, various navigators have sailed round it."
The same schoolboy would put to silence the pompous declaimer
Lactantius, and all those who before and since his time have decided
that the earth was fixed upon the water, and that there can be no heaven
under the earth; and that, consequently, it is both ridiculous and
impious to suppose the existence of antipodes.
It is curious to observe with what disdain, with what contemptuous pity,
Lactantius looks down upon all the philosophers, who, from about four
hundred years before his time, had begun to be acquainted with the
apparent revolutions of the sun and planets, with the roundness of the
earth, and the liquid and yielding nature of the heaven through which
the planets revolved in their orbits, etc. He inquires, "by what degrees
philosophers attained such excess of folly as to conceive the earth to
be a globe, and to surround that globe with heaven." These reasonings
are upon a par with those he has adduced on the subject of the sibyls.
Our young scholar would address some such language as this to all these
consequential doctors: "You are to learn that there are no such things
as solid heavens placed one over another, as you have been told; that
there are no real circles in which the stars move on a pretended
firmament; that the sun is the centre of our planetary world; and that
the earth and the planets move round it in space, in orbits not circular
but elliptical. You must learn that there is, in fact, neither above nor
below, but that the planets and the comets tend all towards the sun,
their common centre, and that the sun tends towards them, according to
an eternal law of gravitation."
Lactantius and his gabbling associates would be perfectly astonished,
were the true system of the world thus unfolded to them.
HEAVEN OF THE ANCIENTS.
Were a silkworm to denominate the small quantity of downy substance
surrounding its ball, heaven, it would reason just as correctly as all
the ancients, when they applied that term to the atmosphere; which, as
M. de Fontenelle has well observed in his "Plurality of Worlds," is the
down of our ball.
The vapors which rise from our seas and land, and which form the clouds,
meteors, and thunder, were supposed, in the early ages of the world, to
be the residence of gods. Homer always makes the gods descend in clouds
of gold; and hence painters still represent them seated on a cloud. How
can any one be seated on water? It was perfectly correct to place the
master of the gods more at ease than the rest; he had an eagle to carry
him, because the eagle soars higher than the other birds.
The ancient Greeks, observing that the lords of cities resided in
citadels on the tops of mountains, supposed that the gods might also
have their citadel, and placed it in Thessaly, on Mount Olympus, whose
summit is sometimes hidden in clouds; so that their palace was on the
same floor with their heaven.
Afterwards, the stars and planets, which appear fixed to the blue vault
of our atmosphere, became the abodes of gods; seven of them had each a
planet, and the rest found a lodging where they could. The general
council of gods was held in a spacious hall which lay beyond the Milky
Way; for it was but reasonable that the gods should have a hall in the
air, as men had town-halls and courts of assembly upon earth.
When the Titans, a species of animal between gods and men, declared
their just and necessary war against these same gods in order to recover
a part of their patrimony, by the father's side, as they were the sons
of heaven and earth; they contented themselves with piling two or three
mountains upon one another, thinking that would be quite enough to make
them masters of heaven, and of the castle of Olympus.
_Neve foret terris securior arduus æther,_
_Affectasse ferunt regnum celeste gigantes;_
_Attaque congestos struxisse ad sidera montes._
--OVID'S _Metamorph_., i. 151-153.
Nor heaven itself was more secure than earth;
Against the gods the Titans levied wars,
And piled up mountains till they reached the stars.
It is, however, more than six hundred leagues from these stars to Mount
Olympus, and from some stars infinitely farther.
Virgil (Eclogue v, 57) does not hesitate to say: "_Sub pedibusque videt
nubes et sidera Daphnis._"
Daphnis, the guest of heaven, with wondering eyes,
Views in the Milky Way, the Starry skies,
And far beneath him, from the shining sphere
Beholds the morning clouds, and rolling year.
But where then could Daphnis possibly place himself?
At the opera, and in more serious productions, the gods are introduced
descending in the midst of tempests, clouds, and thunder; that is, God
is brought forward in the midst of the vapors of our petty globe. These
notions are so suitable to our weak minds, that they appear to us grand
This philosophy of children and old women was of prodigious antiquity;
it is believed, however, that the Chaldæans entertained nearly as
correct ideas as ourselves on the subject of what is called heaven. They
placed the sun in the midst of our planetary system, nearly at the same
distance from our globe as our calculation computes it; and they
supposed the earth and some planets to revolve round that star; this we
learn from Aristarchus of Samos. It is nearly the system of the world
since established by Copernicus: but the philosophers kept the secret to
themselves, in order to obtain greater respect both from kings and
people, or rather perhaps, to avoid the danger of persecution.
The language of error is so familiar to mankind that we still apply the
name of heaven to our vapors, and the space between the earth and moon.
We use the expression of ascending to heaven, just as we say the sun
turns round, although we well know that it does not. We are, probably,
the heaven of the inhabitants of the moon; and every planet places its
heaven in that planet nearest to itself.
Had Homer been asked, to what heaven the soul of Sarpedon had fled, or
where that of Hercules resided, Homer would have been a good deal
embarrassed, and would have answered by some harmonious verses.
What assurance could there be, that the ethereal soul of Hercules would
be more at its ease in the planet Venus or in Saturn, than upon our own
globe? Could its mansion be in the sun? In that flaming and consuming
furnace, it would appear difficult for it to endure its station. In
short, what was it that the ancients meant by heaven? They knew nothing
about it; they were always exclaiming, "Heaven and earth," thus placing
completely different things in most absurd connection. It would be just
as judicious to exclaim, and connect in the same manner, infinity and an
atom. Properly speaking, there is no heaven. There are a prodigious
number of globes revolving in the immensity of space, and our globe
revolves like the rest.
The ancients thought that to go to heaven was to ascend; but there is no
ascent from one globe to another. The heavenly bodies are sometimes
above our horizon, and sometimes below it. Thus, let us suppose that
Venus, after visiting Paphos, should return to her own planet, when that
planet had set; the goddess would not in that case ascend, in reference
to our horizon; she would descend, and the proper expression would be
then, descended to heaven. But the ancients did not discriminate with
such nicety; on every subject of natural philosophy, their notions were
vague, uncertain and contradictory. Volumes have been composed in order
to ascertain and point out what they thought upon many questions of this
description. Six words would have been sufficient--"they did not think
at all." We must always except a small number of sages; but they
appeared at too late a period, and but rarely disclosed their thoughts;
and when they did so, the charlatans in power took care to send them to
heaven by the shortest way.
A writer, if I am not mistaken, of the name of Pluche, has been recently
exhibiting Moses as a great natural philosopher; another had previously
harmonized Moses with Descartes, and published a book, which he called,
"_Carlesius Mosaisans_"; according to him, Moses was the real inventor
of "Vortices," and the subtile matter; but we full well know, that when
God made Moses a great legislator and prophet, it was no part of His
scheme to make him also a professor of physics. Moses instructed the
Jews in their duty, and did not teach them a single word of philosophy.
Calmet, who compiled a great deal, but never reasoned at all, talks of
the system of the Hebrews; but that stupid people never had any system.
They had not even a school of geometry; the very name was utterly
unknown to them. The whole of their science was comprised in
money-changing and usury.
We find in their books ideas on the structure of heaven, confused,
incoherent, and in every respect worthy of a people immersed in
barbarism. Their first heaven was the air, the second the firmament in
which the stars were fixed. This firmament was solid and made of glass,
and supported the superior waters which issued from the vast reservoirs
by flood-gates, sluices, and cataracts, at the time of the deluge.
Above the firmament or these superior waters was the third heaven, or
the empyream, to which St. Paul was caught up. The firmament was a sort
of demi-vault which came close down to the earth.
It is clear that, according to this opinion, there could be no
antipodes. Accordingly, St. Augustine treats the idea of antipodes as an
absurdity; and Lactantius, whom we have already quoted, expressly says
"can there possibly be any persons so simple as to believe that there
are men whose heads are lower than their feet?" etc.
St. Chrysostom exclaims, in his fourteenth homily, "Where are they who
pretend that the heavens are movable, and that their form is circular?"
Lactantius, once more, says, in the third book of his "Institutions," "I
could prove to you by many arguments that it is impossible heaven should
surround the earth."
The author of the "Spectacle of Nature" may repeat to M. le Chevalier as
often as he pleases, that Lactantius and St. Chrysostom are great
philosophers. He will be told in reply that they were great saints; and
that to be a great saint, it is not at all necessary to be a great
astronomer. It will be believed that they are in heaven, although it
will be admitted to be impossible to say precisely in what part of it.
Infernum, subterranean; the regions below, or the infernal regions.
Nations which buried the dead placed them in the inferior or infernal
regions. Their soul, then, was with them in those regions. Such were the
first physics and the first metaphysics of the Egyptians and Greeks.
The Indians, who were far more ancient, who had invented the ingenious
doctrine of the metempsychosis, never believed that souls existed in the
The Japanese, Coreans, Chinese, and the inhabitants of the vast
territory of eastern and western Tartary never knew a word of the
philosophy of the infernal regions.
The Greeks, in the course of time, constituted an immense kingdom of
these infernal regions, which they liberally conferred on Pluto and his
wife Proserpine. They assigned them three privy counsellors, three
housekeepers called Furies, and three Fates to spin, wind, and cut the
thread of human life. And, as in ancient times, every hero had his dog
to guard his gate, so was Pluto attended and guarded by an immense dog
with three heads; for everything, it seems, was to be done by threes. Of
the three privy counsellors, Minos, Æacus, and Rhadamanthus, one judged
Greece, another Asia Minor--for the Greeks were then unacquainted with
the Greater Asia--and the third was for Europe.
The poets, having invented these infernal regions, or hell, were the
first to laugh at them. Sometimes Virgil mentions hell in the "Æneid" in
a style of seriousness, because that style was then suitable to his
subject. Sometimes he speaks of it with contempt in his "Georgics" (ii.
_Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas_
_Atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum_
_Subjecit pedibus strepitumque Acherontis avari!_
Happy the man whose vigorous soul can pierce
Through the formation of this universe,
Who nobly dares despise, with soul sedate,
The den of Acheron, and vulgar fears and fate.
The following lines from the "Troad" (chorus of act ii.), in which
Pluto, Cerberus, Phlegethon, Styx, etc., are treated like dreams and
childish tales, were repeated in the theatre of Rome, and applauded by
forty thousand hands:
_.... Toenara et aspero_
_Regnum sub domino, limen et obsidens_
_Custos non facili Cerberus ostio_
_Rumores vacui, verbaque inania,_
_Et par solicito fabula somnio._
Lucretius and Horace express themselves equally strongly. Cicero and
Seneca used similar language in innumerable parts of their writings. The
great emperor Marcus Aurelius reasons still more philosophically than
those I have mentioned. "He who fears death, fears either to be deprived
of all senses, or to experience other sensations. But, if you no longer
retain your own senses, you will be no longer subject to any pain or
grief. If you have senses of a different nature, you will be a totally
To this reasoning, profane philosophy had nothing to reply. Yet,
agreeably to that contradiction or perverseness which distinguishes the
human species, and seems to constitute the very foundation of our
nature, at the very time when Cicero publicly declared that "not even an
old woman was to be found who believed in such absurdities," Lucretius
admitted that these ideas were powerfully impressive upon men's minds;
his object, he says, is to destroy them:
_.... Si certum finem esse viderent_
_Ærumnarum homines, aliqua ratione valerent_
_Religionibus atque minis obsistere vatum._
_Nunc ratio nulla est restandi, nulla facultas;_
_Æternas quoniam poenas in morte timendum._
--LUCRETIUS, i. 108.
.... If it once appear
That after death there's neither hope nor fear;
Then might men freely triumph, then disdain
The poet's tales, and scorn their fancied pain;
But now we must submit, since pains we fear
Eternal after death, we know not where.
It was therefore true, that among the lowest classes of the people, some
laughed at hell, and others trembled at it. Some regarded Cerberus, the
Furies, and Pluto as ridiculous fables, others perpetually presented
offerings to the infernal gods. It was with them just as it is now among
_Et quocumque tamen miseri venere, parentant,_
_Et nigros mactant pecudes, et Manibus divis_
_Inferias mittunt multoque in rebus acerbis_
_Acrius admittunt animos ad religionem._
--LUCRETIUS, iii. 51.
Nay, more than that, where'er the wretches come
They sacrifice black sheep on every tomb,
To please the manes; and of all the rout,
When cares and dangers press, grow most devout.
Many philosophers who had no belief in the fables about hell, were yet
desirous that the people should retain that belief. Such was Zimens of
Locris. Such was the political historian Polybius. "Hell," says he, "is
useless to sages, but necessary to the blind and brutal populace."
It is well known that the law of the Pentateuch never announces a hell.
All mankind was involved in this chaos of contradiction and uncertainty,
when Jesus Christ came into the world. He confirmed the ancient doctrine
of hell, not the doctrine of the heathen poets, not that of the Egyptian
priests, but that which Christianity adopted, and to which everything
must yield. He announced a kingdom that was about to come, and a hell
that should have no end.
He said, in express words, at Capernaum in Galilee, "Whosoever shall
call his brother '_Raca_,' shall be condemned by the sanhedrim; but
whosoever shall call him 'fool,' shall be condemned to _Gehenna Hinnom_,
Gehenna of fire."
This proves two things, first, that Jesus Christ was adverse to abuse
and reviling; for it belonged only to Him, as master, to call the
Pharisees hypocrites, and a "generation of vipers."
Secondly, that those who revile their neighbor deserve hell; for the
Gehenna of fire was in the valley of Hinnom, where victims had formerly
been burned in sacrifice to Moloch, and this Gehenna was typical of the
fire of hell.
He says, in another place, "If any one shall offend one of the weak who
believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about
his neck and he were cast into the sea.
"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter
into life maimed, than to go into the Gehenna of inextinguishable fire,
where the worm dies not, and where the fire is not quenched.
"And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter
lame into eternal life, than to be cast with two feet into the
inextinguishable Gehenna, where the worm dies not; and where the fire is
"And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better to enter into
the kingdom of God with one eye, than to be cast with both eyes into the
Gehenna of fire, where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
"For everyone shall be burned with fire, and every victim shall be
salted with salt.
"Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its savor, with what will you
"You have salt in yourselves, preserve peace one with another."
He said on another occasion, on His journey to Jerusalem, "When the
master of the house shall have entered and shut the door, you will
remain without, and knock, saying, 'Lord, open unto us;' and he will
answer and say unto you, '_Nescio vos_,' I know you not; whence are you?
And then ye shall begin to say, we have eaten and drunk with thee, and
thou hast taught in our public places; and he will reply, '_Nescio
vos_,' whence are you, workers of iniquity? And there shall be weeping
and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see there Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and the prophets, and yourselves cast out."
Notwithstanding the other positive declarations made by the Saviour of
mankind, which assert the eternal damnation of all who do not belong to
our church, Origen and some others were not believers in the eternity of
The Socinians reject such punishments; but they are without the pale.
The Lutherans and Calvinists, although they have strayed beyond the
pale, yet admit the doctrine of a hell without end.
When men came to live in society, they must have perceived that a great
number of criminals eluded the severity of the laws; the laws punished
public crimes; it was necessary to establish a check upon secret crimes;
this check was to be found only in religion. The Persians, Chaldæans,
Egyptians, and Greeks, entertained the idea of punishments after the
present life, and of all the nations of antiquity that we are acquainted
with, the Jews, as we have already remarked, were the only one who
admitted solely temporal punishments. It is ridiculous to believe, or
pretend to believe, from some excessively obscure passages, that hell
was recognized by the ancient laws of the Jews, by their Leviticus, or
by their Decalogue, when the author of those laws says not a single word
which can bear the slightest relation to the chastisements of a future
life. We might have some right to address the compiler of the Pentateuch
in such language as the following: "You are a man of no consistency, as
destitute of probity as understanding, and totally unworthy of the name
which you arrogate to yourself of legislator. What! you are perfectly
acquainted, it seems, with that doctrine so eminently repressive of
human vice, so necessary to the virtue and happiness of mankind--the
doctrine of hell; and yet you do not explicitly announce it; and, while
it is admitted by all the nations which surround you, you are content to
leave it for some commentators, after four thousand years have passed
away, to suspect that this doctrine might possibly have been entertained
by you, and to twist and torture your expressions, in order to find that
in them which you have never said. Either you are grossly ignorant not
to know that this belief was universal in Egypt, Chaldæa, and Persia; or
you have committed the most disgraceful error in judgment, in not having
made it the foundation-stone of your religion."
The authors of the Jewish laws could at most only answer: "We confess
that we are excessively ignorant; that we did not learn the art of
writing until a late period; that our people were a wild and barbarous
horde, that wandered, as our own records admit, for nearly half a
century in impracticable deserts, and at length obtained possession of a
petty territory by the most odious rapine and detestable cruelty ever
mentioned in the records of history. We had no commerce with civilized
nations, and how could you suppose that, so grossly mean and grovelling
as we are in all our ideas and usages, we should have invented a system
so refined and spiritual as that in question?"
We employed the word which most nearly corresponds with soul, merely to
signify life; we know our God and His ministers, His angels, only as
corporeal beings; the distinction of soul and body, the idea of a life
beyond death, can be the fruit only of long meditation and refined
philosophy. Ask the Hottentots and negroes, who inhabit a country a
hundred times larger than ours, whether they know anything of a life to
come? We thought we had done enough in persuading the people under our
influence that God punished offenders to the fourth generation, either
by leprosy, by sudden death, or by the loss of the little property of
which the criminal might be possessed.
To this apology it might be replied: "You have invented a system, the
ridicule and absurdity of which are as clear as the sun at noon-day; for
the offender who enjoyed good health, and whose family were in
prosperous circumstances, must absolutely have laughed you to scorn."
The apologist for the Jewish law would here rejoin: "You are much
mistaken; since for one criminal who reasoned correctly, there were a
hundred who never reasoned at all. The man who, after he had committed a
crime, found no punishment of it attached to himself or his son, would
yet tremble for his grandson. Besides, if after the time of committing
his offence he was not speedily seized with some festering sore, such as
our nation was extremely subject to, he would experience it in the
course of years. Calamities are always occurring in a family, and we,
without difficulty, instilled the belief that these calamities were
inflicted by the hand of God taking vengeance for secret offences."
It would be easy to reply to this answer by saying: "Your apology is
worth nothing; for it happens every day that very worthy and excellent
persons lose their health and their property; and, if there were no
family that did not experience calamity, and that calamity at the same
time was a chastisement from God, all the families of your community
must have been made up of scoundrels."
The Jewish priest might again answer and say that there are some
calamities inseparable from human nature, and others expressly inflicted
by the hand of God. But, in return, we should point out to such a
reasoner the absurdity of considering fever and hail-stones in some
cases as divine punishments; in others as mere natural effects.
In short, the Pharisees and the Essenians among the Jews did admit,
according to certain notions of their own, the belief of a hell. This
dogma had passed from the Greeks to the Romans, and was adopted by the
Many of the fathers of the church rejected the doctrine of eternal
punishments. It appeared to them absurd to burn to all eternity an
unfortunate man for stealing a goat. Virgil has finely said:
_.... Sedit eternumque sedebit_
Unhappy Theseus, doomed forever there,
Is fixed by fate on his eternal chair.
But it is vain for him to maintain or imply that Theseus is forever
fixed to his chair, and that this position constitutes his punishment.
Others have imagined Theseus to be a hero who could never be seen on any
seat in hell, and who was to be found in the Elysian Fields.
A Calvinistical divine, of the name of Petit Pierre, not long since
preached and published the doctrine that the damned would at some future
period be pardoned. The rest of the ministers of his association told
him that they wished for no such thing. The dispute grew warm. It was
said that the king, whose subjects they were, wrote to him, that since
they were desirous of being damned without redemption, he could have no
reasonable objection, and freely gave his consent. The damned majority
of the church of Neufchâtel ejected poor Petit Pierre, who had thus
converted hell into a mere purgatory. It is stated that one of them said
to him: "My good friend, I no more believe in the eternity of hell than
yourself; but recollect that it may be no bad thing, perhaps, for your
servant, your tailor, and your lawyer to believe in it."
I will add, as an illustration of this passage, a short address of
exhortation to those philosophers who in their writings deny a hell; I
will say to them: "Gentlemen, we do not pass our days with Cicero,
Atticus, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, the Chancellor de l'Hôpital, La
Mothe le Vayer, Desyveteaux, René Descartes, Newton, or Locke, nor with
the respectable Bayle, who was superior to the power and frown of
fortune, nor with the too scrupulously virtuous infidel Spinoza, who,
although laboring under poverty and destitution, gave back to the
children of the grand pensionary De Witt an allowance of three hundred
florins, which had been granted him by that great statesman, whose
heart, it may be remembered, the Hollanders actually devoured, although
there was nothing to be gained by it. Every man with whom we intermingle
in life is not a des Barreaux, who paid the pleaders their fees for a
cause which he had forgotten to bring into court. Every woman is not a
Ninon de L'Enclos, who guarded deposits in trust with religious
fidelity, while the gravest personages in the state were violating them.
In a word, gentlemen, all the world are not philosophers.
"We are obliged to hold intercourse and transact business, and mix up in
life with knaves possessing little or no reflection--with vast numbers
of persons addicted to brutality, intoxication, and rapine. You may, if
you please, preach to them that there is no hell, and that the soul of
man is mortal. As for myself, I will be sure to thunder in their ears
that if they rob me they will inevitably be damned. I will imitate the
country clergyman, who, having had a great number of sheep stolen from
him, at length said to his hearers, in the course of one of his sermons:
'I cannot conceive what Jesus Christ was thinking about when he died for
such a set of scoundrels as you are.'"
There is an excellent book for fools called "The Christian Pedagogue,"
composed by the reverend father d'Outreman, of the Society of Jesus, and
enlarged by Coulon, curé of Ville-Juif-les-Paris. This book has passed,
thank God, through fifty-one editions, although not a single page in it
exhibits a gleam of common sense.
Friar Outreman asserts--in the hundred and fifty-seventh page of the
second edition in quarto--that one of Queen Elizabeth's ministers,
Baron Hunsdon, predicted to Cecil, secretary of state, and to six other
members of the cabinet council, that they as well as he would be damned;
which, he says, was actually the case, and is the case with all
heretics. It is most likely that Cecil and the other members of the
council gave no credit to the said Baron Hunsdon; but if the fictitious
baron had said the same to six common citizens, they would probably have
Were the time ever to arrive in which no citizen of London believed in a
hell, what course of conduct would be adopted? What restraint upon
wickedness would exist? There would exist the feeling of honor, the
restraint of the laws, that of the Deity Himself, whose will it is that
mankind shall be just, whether there be a hell or not.
HELL (DESCENT INTO).
Our colleague who wrote the article on "Hell" has made no mention of the
descent of Jesus Christ into hell. This is an article of faith of high
importance; it is expressly particularized in the creed of which we have
already spoken. It is asked whence this article of faith is derived; for
it is not to be found in either of our four gospels, and the creed
called the Apostles' Creed is not older than the age of those learned
priests, Jerome, Augustine, and Rufinus.
It is thought that this descent of our Lord into hell is taken
originally from the gospel of Nicodemus, one of the oldest.
In that gospel the prince of Tartarus and Satan, after a long
conversation with Adam, Enoch, Elias the Tishbite, and David, hears a
voice like the thunder, and a voice like a tempest. David says to the
prince of Tartarus, "Now, thou foul and miscreant prince of hell, open
thy gates and let the King of Glory enter," etc. While he was thus
addressing the prince, the Lord of Majesty appeared suddenly in the form
of man, and He lighted up the eternal darkness, and broke asunder the
indissoluble bars, and by an invincible virtue He visited those who lay
in the depth of the darkness of guilt, in the shadow of the depth of
Jesus Christ appeared with St. Michael; He overcame death; He took Adam
by the hand; and the good thief followed Him, bearing the cross. All
this took place in hell, in the presence of Carinus and Lenthius, who
were resuscitated for the express purpose of giving evidence of the fact
to the priests Ananias and Caiaphas, and to Doctor Gamaliel, at that
time St. Paul's master.
This gospel of Nicodemus has long been considered as of no authority.
But a confirmation of this descent into hell is found in the First
Epistle of St. Peter, at the close of the third chapter: "Because Christ
died once for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might offer us
to God; dead indeed in the flesh, but resuscitated in spirit, by which
He went to preach to the spirits that were in prison."
Many of the fathers interpreted this passage very differently, but all
were agreed as to the fact of the descent of Jesus into hell after His
death. A frivolous difficulty was started upon the subject. He had,
while upon the cross, said to the good thief: "This day shalt thou be
with Me in paradise." By going to hell, therefore, He failed to perform
His promise. This objection is easily answered by saying that He took
him first to hell and afterwards to paradise; but, then, what becomes of
the stay of three days?
Eusebius of Cæsarea says that Jesus left His body, without waiting for
Death to come and seize it; and that, on the contrary, He seized Death,
who, in terror and agony, embraced His feet, and afterwards attempted to
escape by flight, but was prevented by Jesus, who broke down the gates
of the dungeons which enclosed the souls of the saints, drew them forth
from their confinement, resuscitated them, then resuscitated Himself,
and conducted them in triumph to that heavenly Jerusalem _which
descended from heaven every night_, and was actually seen by the
astonished eyes of St. Justin.
It was a question much disputed whether all those who were resuscitated
died again before they ascended into heaven. St. Thomas, in his
"Summary," asserts that they died again. This also is the opinion of the
discriminating and judicious Calmet. "We maintain," says he, in his
dissertation on this great question, "that the saints who were
resuscitated, after the death of the Saviour died again, in order to
God had permitted, ages before, that the profane Gentiles should imitate
in anticipation these sacred truths. The ancients imagined that the gods
resuscitated Pelops; that Orpheus extricated Eurydice from hell, at
least for a moment; that Hercules delivered Alcestis from it; that
Æsculapius resuscitated Hippolytus, etc. Let us ever discriminate
between fable and truth, and keep our minds in the same subjection with
respect to whatever surprises and astonishes us, as with respect to
whatever appears perfectly conformable to their circumscribed and narrow
A Greek word, signifying "belief, or elected opinion." It is not greatly
to the honor of human reason that men should be hated, persecuted,
massacred, or burned at the stake, on account of their chosen opinions;
but what is exceedingly little to our honor is that this mischievous and
destructive madness has been as peculiar to us as leprosy was to the
Hebrews, or lues formerly to the Caribs.
We well know, theologically speaking, that heresy having become a crime,
as even the word itself is a reproach; we well know, I say, that the
Latin church, which alone can possess reason, has also possessed the
right of reproving all who were of a different opinion from her own.
On the other side, the Greek church had the same right; accordingly, it
reproved the Romans when they chose a different opinion from the Greeks
on the procession of the Holy Spirit, the viands which might be taken in
Lent, the authority of the pope, etc.
But upon what ground did any arrive finally at the conclusion that, when
they were the strongest, they might burn those who entertained chosen
opinions of their own? Those who had such opinions were undoubtedly
criminal in the sight of God, since they were obstinate. They will,
therefore, as no one can possibly doubt, be burned to all eternity in
another world; but why burn them by a slow fire in this? The sufferers
have represented that such conduct is a usurpation of the jurisdiction
of God; that this punishment is very hard and severe, considered as an
infliction by men; and that it is, moreover, of no utility, since one
hour of suffering added to eternity is an absolute cipher.
The pious inflicters, however, replied to these reproaches that nothing
was more just than to put upon burning coals whoever had a self-formed
opinion; that to burn those whom God Himself would burn, was in fact a
holy conformity to God; and finally, that since, by admission, the
burning for an hour or two was a mere cipher in comparison with
eternity, the burning of five or six provinces for chosen opinions--for
heresies--was a matter in reality of very little consequence.
In the present day it is asked, "Among what cannibals have these
questions been agitated, and their solutions proved by facts?" We must
admit with sorrow and humiliation that it was asked even among
ourselves, and in the very same cities where nothing is minded but
operas, comedies, balls, fashions, and intrigue.
Unfortunately, it was a tyrant who introduced the practice of destroying
heretics--not one of those equivocal tyrants who are regarded as saints
by one party, and monsters by another, but one Maximus, competitor of
Theodosius I., a decided tyrant, in the strictest meaning of the term,
over the whole empire.
He destroyed at Trier, by the hands of the executioner, the Spaniard
Priscillian and his adherents, whose opinions were pronounced erroneous
by some bishops of Spain. These prelates solicited the capital
punishment of the Priscillianists with a charity so ardent that Maximus
could refuse them nothing. It was by no means owing to them that St.
Martin was not beheaded as a heretic. He was fortunate enough to quit
Trier and escape back to Tours.
A single example is sufficient to establish a usage. The first Scythian
who scooped out the brains of his enemy and made a drinking-cup of his
skull, was allowed all the rank and consequence in Scythia. Thus was
consecrated the practice of employing the executioner to cut off
No such thing as heresy existed among the religions of antiquity,
because they had reference only to moral conduct and public worship.
When metaphysics became connected with Christianity, controversy
prevailed; and from controversy arose different parties, as in the
schools of philosophy. It was impossible that metaphysics should not
mingle the uncertainties essential to their nature with the faith due to
Jesus Christ. He had Himself written nothing; and His incarnation was a
problem which the new Christians, whom He had not Himself inspired,
solved in many different ways. "Each," as St. Paul expressly observes,
"had his peculiar party; some were for Apollos, others for Cephas."
Christians in general, for a long time, assumed the name of Nazarenes,
and even the Gentiles gave them no other appellations during the two
first centuries. But there soon arose a particular school of Nazarenes,
who believed a gospel different from the four canonical ones. It has
even been pretended that this gospel differed only very slightly from
that of St. Matthew, and was in fact anterior to it. St. Epiphanius and
St. Jerome place the Nazarenes in the cradle of Christianity.
Those who considered themselves as knowing more than the rest, took the
denomination of gnostics, "knowers"; and this denomination was for a
long time so honorable that St. Clement of Alexandria, in his
"_Stromata_" always calls the good Christians true gnostics. "Happy are
they who have entered into the gnostic holiness! He who deserves the
name of gnostic resists seducers and gives to every one that asks." The
fifth and sixth books of the "_Stromata_" turn entirely upon the
perfection of gnosticism.
The Ebionites existed incontestably in the time of the apostles. That
name, which signifies "poor," was intended to express how dear to them
was the poverty in which Jesus was born.
Cerinthus was equally ancient. The "Apocalypse" of St. John was
attributed to him. It is even thought that St. Paul and he had violent
disputes with each other.
It seems to our weak understandings very natural to expect from the
first disciples a solemn declaration, a complete and unalterable
profession of faith, which might terminate all past, and preclude any
future quarrels; but God permitted it not so to be. The creed called the
"Apostles' Creed," which is short, and in which are not to be found the
consubstantiality, the word trinity, or the seven sacraments, did not
make its appearance before the time of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and
the celebrated priest Rufinus. It was by this priest, the enemy of St.
Jerome, that we are told it was compiled. Heresies had had time to
multiply, and more than fifty were enumerated as existing in the fifth
Without daring to scrutinize the ways of Providence, which are
impenetrable by the human mind, and merely consulting, as far as we are
permitted, our feeble reason, it would seem that of so many opinions on
so many articles, there would always exist one which must prevail, which
was the orthodox, "the right of teaching." The other societies, besides
the really orthodox, soon assumed that title also; but being the weaker
parties, they had given to them the designation of "heretics."
When, in the progress of time, the Christian church in the East, which
was the mother of that in the West, had irreparably broken with her
daughter, each remained sovereign in her distinct sphere, and each had
her particular heresies, arising out of the dominant opinion.
The barbarians of the North, having but recently become Christians,
could not entertain the same opinions as Southern countries, because
they could not adopt the same usages. They could not, for example, for a
long time adore images, as they had neither painters nor sculptors. It
also was somewhat dangerous to baptize an infant in winter, in the
Danube, the Weser, or the Elbe.
It was no easy matter for the inhabitants of the shores of the Baltic to
know precisely the opinions held in the Milanese and the march of
Ancona. The people of the South and of the North of Europe had therefore
chosen opinions different from each other. This seems to me to be the
reason why Claude, bishop of Turin, preserved in the ninth century all
the usages and dogmas received in the seventh and eighth, from the
country of the Allobroges, as far as the Elbe and the Danube.
These dogmas and usages became fixed and permanent among the inhabitants
of valleys and mountainous recesses, and near the banks of the Rhône,
among a sequestered and almost unknown people, whom the general
desolation left untouched in their seclusion and poverty, until they at
length became known, under the name of the Vaudois in the twelfth, and
that of the Albigenses in the thirteenth century. It is known how their
chosen opinions were treated; what crusades were preached against them;
what carnage was made among them; and that, from that period to the
present day, Europe has not enjoyed a single year of tranquillity and
It is a great evil to be a heretic; but is it a great good to maintain
orthodoxy by soldiers and executioners? Would it not be better that
every man should eat his bread in peace under the shade of his own
fig-tree? I suggest so bold a proposition with fear and trembling.
_Of the Extirpation of Heresies._
It appears to me that, in relation to heresies, we ought to distinguish
between opinion and faction. From the earliest times of Christianity
opinions were divided, as we have already seen. The Christians of
Alexandria did not think, on many points, like those of Antioch. The
Achaians were opposed to the Asiatics. This difference has existed
through all past periods of our religion, and probably will always
continue. Jesus Christ, who might have united all believers in the same
sentiment, has not, in fact, done so; we must, therefore, presume that
He did not desire it, and that it was His design to exercise in all
churches the spirit of indulgence and charity, by permitting the
existence of different systems of faith, while all should be united in
acknowledging Him for their chief and master. All the varying sects, a
long while tolerated by the emperors, or concealed from their
observation, had no power to persecute and proscribe one another, as
they were all equally subject to the Roman magistrates. They possessed
only the power of disputing with each other. When the magistrates
prosecuted them, they all claimed the rights of nature. They said:
"Permit us to worship God in peace; do not deprive us of the liberty you
allow to the Jews."
All the different sects existing at present may hold the same language
to those who oppress them. They may say to the nations who have granted
privileges to the Jews: Treat us as you treat these sons of Jacob; let
us, like them, worship God according to the dictates of conscience. Our
opinion is not more injurious to your state or realm than Judaism. You
tolerate the enemies of Jesus Christ; tolerate us, therefore, who adore
Jesus Christ, and differ from yourselves only upon subtle points of
theology; do not deprive yourselves of the services of useful subjects.
It is of consequence to you to obtain their labor and skill in your
manufactures, your marine, and your agriculture, and it is of no
consequence at all to you that they hold a few articles of faith
different from your own. What you want is their work, and not their
Faction is a thing perfectly different. It always happens, as a matter
of necessity, that a persecuted sect degenerates into a faction. The
oppressed unite, and console and encourage one another. They have more
industry to strengthen their party than the dominant sect has for their
extermination. To crush them or be crushed by them is the inevitable
alternative. Such was the case after the persecution raised in 303 by
the Cæsar, Galerius, during the last two years of the reign of
Diocletian. The Christians, after having been favored by Diocletian for
the long period of eighteen years, had become too numerous and wealthy
to be extirpated. They joined the party of Constantius Chlorus; they
fought for Constantine his son; and a complete revolution took place in
We may compare small things to great, when both are under the direction
of the same principle or spirit. A similar revolution happened in
Holland, in Scotland, and in Switzerland. When Ferdinand and Isabella
expelled from Spain the Jews,--who were settled there not merely before
the reigning dynasty, but before the Moors and Goths, and even the
Carthaginians--the Jews would have effected a revolution in that country
if they had been as warlike as they were opulent, and if they could have
come to an understanding with the Arabs.
In a word, no sect has ever changed the government of a country but when
it was furnished with arms by despair. Mahomet himself would not have
succeeded had he not been expelled from Mecca and a price set upon his
If you are desirous, therefore, to prevent the overflow of a state by
any sect, show it toleration. Imitate the wise conduct exhibited at the
present day by Germany, England, Holland, Denmark, and Russia. There is
no other policy to be adopted with respect to a new sect than to
destroy, without remorse, both leaders and followers, men, women, and
children, without a single exception, or to tolerate them when they are
numerous. The first method is that of a monster, the second that of a
Bind to the state all the subjects of that state by their interest; let
the Quaker and the Turk find their advantage in living under your laws.
Religion is between God and man; civil law is between you and your
It is impossible not to regret the loss of a "History of Heresies,"
which Strategius wrote by order of Constantine. Ammianus Marcellinus
informs us that the emperor, wishing to ascertain the opinions of the
different sects, and not finding any other person who could give correct
ideas on the subject, imposed the office of drawing up a report or
narrative upon it on that officer, who acquitted himself so well, that
Constantine was desirous of his being honored in consequence with the
name of Musonianus. M. de Valois, in his notes upon Ammianus, observes
that Strategius, who was appointed prefect of the East, possessed as
much knowledge and eloquence, as moderation and mildness; such, at
least, is the eulogium passed upon him by Libanius.
The choice of a layman by the emperor shows that an ecclesiastic at that
time had not the qualities indispensable for a task so delicate. In
fact, St. Augustine remarks that a bishop of Bresse, called Philastrius,
whose work is to be found in the collection of the fathers, having
collected all the heresies, even including those which existed among the
Jews before the coming of Jesus Christ, reckons twenty-eight of the
latter and one hundred and twenty-eight from the coming of Christ; while
St. Epiphanius, comprising both together, makes the whole number but
eighty. The reason assigned by St. Augustine for this difference is,
that what appears heresy to the one, does not appear so to the other.
Accordingly this father tells the Manichæans: "We take the greatest care
not to treat you with rigor; such conduct we leave to those who know not
what pains are necessary for the discovery of truth, and how difficult
it is to avoid falling into errors; we leave it to those who know not
with what sighs and groans even a very slight knowledge of the divine
nature is alone to be acquired. For my own part, I consider it my duty
to bear with you as I was borne with formerly myself, and to show you
the same tolerance which I experienced when I was in error."
If, however, any one considers the infamous imputations, which we have
noticed under the article on "Genealogy," and the abominations of which
this professedly indulgent and candid father accused the Manichæans in
the celebration of their mysteries--as we shall see under the article on
"Zeal"--we shall be convinced that toleration was never the virtue of
the clergy. We have already seen, under the article on "Council," what
seditions were excited by the ecclesiastics in relation to Arianism.
Eusebius informs us that in some places the statues of Constantine were
thrown down because he wished the Arians to be tolerated; and Sozomen
says that on the death of Eusebius of Nicomedia, when Macedonius, an
Arian, contested the see of Constantinople with Paul, a Catholic, the
disturbance and confusion became so dreadful in the church, from which
each endeavored to expel the other, that the soldiers, thinking the
people in a state of insurrection, actually charged upon them; a fierce
and sanguinary conflict ensued, and more than three thousand persons
were slain or suffocated. Macedonius ascended the episcopal throne, took
speedy possession of all the churches, and persecuted with great cruelty
the Novatians and Catholics. It was in revenge against the latter of
these that he denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, just as he
recognized the divinity of the Word, which was denied by the Arians out
of mere defiance to their protector Constantius, who had deposed him.
The same historian adds that on the death of Athanasius, the Arians,
supported by Valens, apprehended, bound in chains, and put to death
those who remained attached to Peter, whom Athanasius had pointed out as
his successor. Alexandria resembled a city taken by assault. The Arians
soon possessed themselves of the churches, and the bishop, installed by
them, obtained the power of banishing from Egypt all who remained
attached to the Nicean creed.
We read in Socrates that, after the death of Sisinnius, the church of
Constantinople became again divided on the choice of a successor, and
Theodosius the Younger placed in the patriarchal see the violent and
fiery Nestorius. In his first sermon he addresses the following language
to the emperor: "Give me the land purged of heretics, and I will give
you the kingdom of Heaven; second me in the extermination of heretics,
and I engage to furnish you with effectual assistance against the
Persians." He afterwards expelled the Arians from the capital, armed the
people against them, pulled down their churches, and obtained from the
emperor rigorous and persecuting edicts to effect their extirpation. He
employed his powerful influence subsequently in procuring the arrest,
imprisonment, and even whipping of the principal persons among the
people who had interrupted him in the middle of a discourse, in which he
was delivering his distinguishing system of doctrine, which was soon
condemned at the Council of Ephesus.
Photius relates that when the priest reached the altar, it was customary
in the church of Constantinople for the people to chant: "Holy God,
powerful God, immortal God"; and the name given to this part of the
service was "the trisagion." The priest, Peter had added: "Who hast been
crucified for us, have mercy upon us." The Catholics considered this
addition as containing the error of the Eutychian Theopathists, who
maintained that the divinity had suffered; they, however, chanted the
trisagion with the addition, to avoid irritating the emperor Anastasius,
who had just deposed another Macedonius, and placed in his stead
Timotheus, by whose order this addition was ordered to be chanted. But
on a particular day the monks entered the church, and, instead of the
addition in question, chanted a verse from one of the Psalms: the people
instantly exclaimed: "The orthodox have arrived very seasonably!" All
the partisans of the Council of Chalcedon chanted, in union with the
monks, the verse from the Psalm; the Eutychians were offended; the
service was interrupted; a battle commenced in the church; the people
rushed out, obtained arms as speedily as possible, spread carnage and
conflagration through the city, and were pacified only by the
destruction of ten thousand lives.
The imperial power at length established through all Egypt the authority
of this Council of Chalcedon; but the massacre of more than a hundred
thousand Egyptians, on different occasions, for having refused to
acknowledge the council, had planted in the hearts of the whole
population an implacable hatred against the emperors. A part of those
who were hostile to the council withdrew to Upper Egypt, others quitted
altogether the dominions of the empire and passed over to Africa and
among the Arabs, where all religions were tolerated.
We have already observed that under the reign of the empress Irene the
worship of images was re-established and confirmed by the second Council
of Nice. Leo the Armenian, Michael the Stammerer, and Theophilus,
neglected nothing to effect its abolition; and this opposition caused
further disturbance in the empire of Constantinople, till the reign of
the empress Theodora, who gave the force of law to the second Council of
Nice, extinguished the party of Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, and
exerted the utmost extent of her authority against the Manichæans. She
despatched orders throughout the empire to seek for them everywhere, and
put all those to death who would not recant. More than a hundred
thousand perished by different modes of execution. Four thousand, who
escaped from this severe scrutiny and extensive punishment, took refuge
among the Saracens, united their own strength with theirs, ravaged the
territories of the empire, and erected fortresses in which the
Manichæans, who had remained concealed through terror of capital
punishment, found an asylum, and constituted a hostile force, formidable
from their numbers, and from their burning hatred both of the emperors
and Catholics. They frequently inflicted on the territories of the
empire dread and devastation, and cut to pieces its disciplined armies.
We abridge the details of these dreadful massacres; those of Ireland,
those of the valleys of Piedmont, those which we shall speak of in the
article on "Inquisition," and lastly, the massacre of St. Bartholomew,
displayed in the West the same spirit of intolerance, against which
nothing more pertinent and sensible has been written than what we find
in the works of Salvian.
The following is the language employed respecting the followers of one
of the principal heresies by this excellent priest of Marseilles, who
was surnamed the master of bishops, who deplored with bitterness the
violence and vices of his age, and who was called the Jeremiah of the
fifth century. "The Arians," says he, "are heretics; but they do not
know it; they are heretics among us, but they are not so among
themselves; for they consider themselves so perfectly and completely
Catholic, that they treat us as heretics. We are convinced that they
entertain an opinion injurious to the divine generation, inasmuch as
they say that the Son is less than the Father. They, on the other hand,
think that we hold an opinion injurious to the Father, because we regard
the Father and the Son equal. The truth is with us, but they consider it
as favoring them. We give to God the honor which is due to Him, but
they, according to their peculiar way of thinking, maintain that they do
the same. They do not acquit themselves of their duty; but in the very
point where they fail in doing so, they make the greatest duty of
religion consist. They are impious, but even in being so they consider
themselves as following, and as practising, genuine piety. They are then
mistaken, but from a principle of love to God; and, although they have
not the true faith, they regard that which they have actually embraced
as the perfect love of God.
"The sovereign judge of the universe alone knows how they will be
punished for their errors in the day of judgment. In the meantime he
patiently bears with them, because he sees that if they are in error,
they err from pure motives of piety."
_Hermes, or Ermes, Mercury Trismegistus, or Thaut, or Taut, or Thot._
We neglect reading the ancient book of Mercury Trismegistus, and we are
not wrong in so doing. To philosophers it has appeared a sublime piece
of jargon, and it is perhaps for this reason that they believed it the
work of a great Platonist.
Nevertheless, in this theological chaos, how many things there are to
astonish and subdue the human mind! God, whose triple essence is wisdom,
power and bounty; God, forming the world by His thought, His word; God
creating subaltern gods; God commanding these gods to direct the
celestial orbs, and to preside over the world; the sun; the Son of God;
man His image in thought; light, His principal work a divine
essence--all these grand and lively images dazzle a subdued imagination.
It remains to be known whether this work, as much celebrated as little
read, was the work of a Greek or of an Egyptian. St. Augustine hesitates
not in believing that it is the work of an Egyptian, who pretended to be
descended from the ancient Mercury, from the ancient Thaut, the first
legislator of Egypt. It is true that St. Augustine knew no more of the
Egyptian than of the Greek; but in his time it was necessary that we
should not doubt that Hermes, from whom we received theology, was an
Egyptian sage, probably anterior to the time of Alexander, and one of
the priests whom Plato consulted.
It has always appeared to me that the theology of Plato in nothing
resembled that of other Greeks, with the exception of Timæus, who had
travelled in Egypt, as well as Pythagoras.
The Hermes Trismegistus that we possess is written in barbarous Greek,
and in a foreign idiom. This is a proof that it is a translation in
which the words have been followed more than the sense.
Joseph Scaliger, who assisted the lord of Candale, bishop of Aire, to
translate the Hermes, or Mercury Trismegistus, doubts not that the
original was Egyptian. Add to these reasons that it is not very probable
that a Greek would have addressed himself so often to Thaut. It is not
natural for us to address ourselves to strangers with so much
warm-heartedness; at least, we see no example of it in antiquity.
The Egyptian Æsculapius, who is made to speak in this book, and who is
perhaps the author of it, wrote to Ammon, king of Egypt: "Take great
care how you suffer the Greeks to translate the books of our Mercury,
our Thaut, because they would disfigure them." Certainly a Greek would
not have spoken thus; there is therefore every appearance of this book
There is another reflection to be made, which is, that the systems of
Hermes and Plato were equally formed to extend themselves through all
the Jewish schools, from the time of the Ptolemies. This doctrine made
great progress in them; you see it completely displayed by the Jew
Philo, a learned man after the manner of those times.
He copies entire passages from Mercury Trismegistus in his chapter on
the formation of the world. "Firstly," says he, "God made the world
intelligible, the Heavens incorporeal, and the earth invisible; he
afterwards created the incorporeal essence of water and spirit; and
finally the essence of incorporeal light, the origin of the sun and of
Such is the pure doctrine of Hermes. He adds that the word, or invisible
and intellectual thought, is the image of God. Here is the creation of
the world by the word, by thought, by the _logos_, very strongly
Afterwards follows the doctrine of Numbers, which descended from the
Egyptians to the Jews. He calls reason the relation of God. The number
of seven is the accomplishment of all things, "which is the reason,"
says he, "that the lyre has only seven strings."
In a word Philo possessed all the philosophy of his time.
We are therefore deceived, when we believe that the Jews, under the
reign of Herod, were plunged in the same state of ignorance in which
they were previously immersed. It is evident that St. Paul was well
informed. It is only necessary to read the first chapter of St. John,
which is so different from those of the others, to perceive that the
author wrote precisely like Hermes and Plato. "In the beginning was the
word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in
the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was
not anything made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of man."
It is thus that St. Paul says: "God made the worlds by His Son."
In the time of the apostles were seen whole societies of Christians who
were only too learned, and thence substituted a fantastic philosophy for
simplicity of faith. The Simons, Menanders, and Cerinthuses, taught
precisely the doctrines of Hermes. Their Æons were only the subaltern
gods, created by the great Being. All the first Christians, therefore,
were not ignorant men, as it always has been asserted; since there were
several of them who abused their literature; even in the Acts the
governor Festus says to St. Paul: "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much
learning doth make thee mad."
Cerinthus dogmatized in the time of St. John the Evangelist. His errors
were of a profound, refined, and metaphysical cast. The faults which he
remarked in the construction of the world made him think--at least so
says Dr. Dupin--that it was not the sovereign God who created it, but a
virtue inferior to this first principle, which had not the knowledge of
the sovereign God. This was wishing to correct even the system of Plato,
and deceiving himself, both as a Christian and a philosopher; but at the
same time it displayed a refined and well-exercised mind.
It is the same with the primitives called Quakers, of whom we have so
much spoken. They have been taken for men who cannot see beyond their
noses, and who make no use of their reason. However, there have been
among them several who employed all the subtleties of logic. Enthusiasm
is not always the companion of total ignorance, it is often that of
This is a title very different from that of historian. In France we
commonly see men of letters pensioned, and, as it was said formerly,
appointed to write history. Alain Chartier was the historiographer of
Charles VII.; he says that he interrogated the domestics of this prince,
and put them on their oaths, according to the duty of his charge, to
ascertain whether Charles really had Agnes Sorel for his mistress. He
concludes that nothing improper ever passed between these lovers; and
that all was reduced to a few honest caresses, to which these domestics
had been the innocent witnesses. However, it is proved, not by
historiographers, but by historians supported by family titles, that
Charles VII. had three daughters by Agnes Sorel, the eldest of whom,
married to one Breze, was stabbed by her husband. From this time there
were often titled historiographers in France, and it was the custom to
give them commissions of councillors of state, with the provisions of
their charge. They were commensal officers of the king's house. Matthieu
had these privileges under Henry IV., but did not therefore write a
At Venice it is always a noble of the senate who possesses this title
and function, and the celebrated Nani has filled them with general
approbation. It is very difficult for the historiographer of a prince
not to be a liar; that of a republic flatters less; but he does not tell
all the truth. In China historiographers are charged with collecting all
the events and original titles under a dynasty. They throw the leaves
numbered into a vast hall, through an orifice resembling the lion's
mouth at Venice, into which is cast all secret intelligence. When the
dynasty is extinct the hall is opened and the materials digested, of
which an authentic history is composed. The general journal of the
empire also serves to form the body of history; this journal is superior
to our newspapers, being made under the superintendence of the mandarins
of each province, revised by a supreme tribunal, and every piece bearing
an authenticity which is decisive in contentious matters.
Every sovereign chose his own historiographer. Vittorio Siri was one;
Pelisson was first chosen by Louis XIV. to write the events of his
reign, and acquitted himself of his task with eloquence in the history
of Franche-Comté. Racine, the most elegant of poets, and Boileau, the
most correct, were afterwards substituted for Pelisson. Some curious
persons have collected "Memoirs of the Passage of the Rhine," written by
Racine. We cannot judge by these memoirs whether Louis XIV. passed the
Rhine or not with his troops, who swam across the river. This example
sufficiently demonstrates how rarely it happens that an historiographer
dare tell the truth. Several also, who have possessed this title, have
taken good care of writing history; they have followed the example of
Amyot, who said that he was too much attached to his masters to write
their lives. Father Daniel had the patent of historiographer, after
having given his "History of France"; he had a pension of 600 livres,
regarded merely as a suitable stipend for a monk.
It is very difficult to assign true bounds to the arts, sciences, and
literary labor. Perhaps it is the proper duty of an historiographer to
collect materials, and that of an historian to put them in order. The
first can amass everything, the second arrange and select. The
historiographer is more of the simple annalist, while the historian
seems to have a more open field for reflection and eloquence.
We need scarcely say here that both should equally tell the truth, but
we can examine this great law of Cicero: "_Ne quid veri tacere non
audeat_."--"That we ought not to dare to conceal any truth." This rule
is of the number of those that want illustration. Suppose a prince
confides to his historiographer an important secret to which his honor
is attached, or that the good of the state requires should not be
revealed--should the historiographer or historian break his word with
the prince, or betray his country to obey Cicero? The curiosity of the
public seems to exact it; honor and duty forbid it. Perhaps in this case
he should renounce writing history.
If a truth dishonors a family, ought the historiographer or historian to
inform the public of it? No; doubtless he is not bound to reveal the
shame of individuals; history is no satire.
But if this scandalous truth belongs to public events, if it enters into
the interests of the state--if it has produced evils of which it imports
to know the cause, it is then that the maxims of Cicero should be
observed; for this law is like all others which must be executed,
tempered, or neglected, according to circumstances.
Let us beware of this humane respect when treating of acknowledged
public faults, prevarications, and injustices, into which the
misfortunes of the times have betrayed respectable bodies. They cannot
be too much exposed; they are beacons which warn these always-existing
bodies against splitting again on similar rocks. If an English
parliament has condemned a man of fortune to the torture--if an assembly
of theologians had demanded the blood of an unfortunate who differed in
opinion from themselves, it should be the duty of an historian to
inspire all ages with horror for these juridical assassins. We should
always make the Athenians blush for the death of Socrates.
Happily, even an entire people always find it good to have the crimes of
their ancestors placed before them; they like to condemn them, and to
believe themselves superior. The historiographer or historian encourages
them in these sentiments, and, in retracing the wars of government and
religion, prevents their repetition.
_Definition of History._
History is the recital of facts represented as true. Fable, on the
contrary, is the recital of facts represented as fiction. There is the
history of human opinions, which is scarcely anything more than the
history of human errors.
The history of the arts may be made the most useful of all, when to a
knowledge of their invention and progress it adds a description of their
mechanical means and processes.
Natural history, improperly designated "history," is an essential part
of natural philosophy. The history of events has been divided into
sacred and profane. Sacred history is a series of divine and miraculous
operations, by which it has pleased God formerly to direct and govern
the Jewish nation, and, in the present day, to try our faith. "To learn
Hebrew, the sciences, and history," says La Fontaine, "is to drink up
_Si j'apprenois l'Hébreu, les sciences, l'histoire,_
_Tout cela, c'est la mer à boire._
--LA FONTAINE, book viii, fable 25.
_The Foundations of History._
The foundations of all history are the recitals of events, made by
fathers to their children, and afterwards transmitted from one
generation to another. They are, at most, only probable in their origin
when they do not shock common sense, and they lose a degree of
probability at every successive transmission. With time the fabulous
increases and the true disappears; hence it arises that the original
traditions and records of all nations are absurd. Thus the Egyptians had
been governed for many ages by the gods. They had next been under the
government of demi-gods; and, finally, they had kings for eleven
thousand three hundred and forty years, and during that period the sun
had changed four times from east and west.
The Phoenicians, in the time of Alexander, pretended that they had
been settled in their own country for thirty thousand years; and those
thirty thousand years were as full of prodigies as the Egyptian
chronology. I admit it to be perfectly consistent with physical
possibility that Phoenicia may have existed, not merely for thirty
thousand years, but thirty thousand millions of ages, and that it may
have endured, as well as the other portions of the globe, thirty
millions of revolutions. But of all this we possess no knowledge.
The ridiculous miracles which abound in the ancient history of Greece
are universally known.
The Romans, although a serious and grave people, have, nevertheless,
equally involved in fables the early periods of their history. That
nation, so recent in comparison with those of Asia, was five hundred
years without historians. It is impossible, therefore, to be surprised
on finding that Romulus was the son of Mars; that a she-wolf was his
nurse; that he marched with a thousand men from his own village, Rome,
against twenty thousand warriors belonging to the city of the Sabines;
that he afterwards became a god; that the elder Tarquin cut through a
stone with a razor, and that a vestal drew a ship to land with her
The first annals of modern nations are no less fabulous; things
prodigious and improbable ought sometimes, undoubtedly, to be related,
but only as proofs of human credulity. They constitute part of the
history of human opinion and absurdities; but the field is too immense.
_Of Monuments or Memorials._
The only proper method of endeavoring to acquire some knowledge of
ancient history is to ascertain whether there remain any incontestable
public monuments. We possess only three such, in the way of writing or
inscription. The first is the collection of astronomical observations
made during nineteen hundred successive years at Babylon, and
transferred by Alexander to Greece. This series of observations, which
goes back two thousand two hundred and thirty-four years beyond our
vulgar era, decidedly proves that the Babylonians existed as an
associated and incorporated people many ages before; for the arts are
struck out and elaborated only in the slow course of time, and the
indolence natural to mankind permits thousands of years to roll away
without their acquiring any other knowledge or talents than what are
required for food, clothing, shelter, and mutual destruction. Let the
truth of these remarks be judged of from the state of the Germans and
the English in the time of Cæsar, from that of the Tartars at the
present day, from that of two-thirds of Africa, and from that of all the
various nations found in the vast continent of America, excepting, in
some respects, the kingdoms of Peru and Mexico, and the republic of
Tlascala. Let it be recollected that in the whole of the new world not a
single individual could write or read.
The second monument is the central eclipse of the sun, calculated in
China two thousand one hundred and fifty-five years before our vulgar
era, and admitted by all our astronomers to have actually occurred. We
must apply the same remark to the Chinese as to, the people of Babylon.
They had undoubtedly, long before this period, constituted a vast empire
and social polity. But what places the Chinese above all the other
nations of the world is that neither their laws, nor manners, nor the
language exclusively spoken by their men of learning, have experienced
any change in the course of about four thousand years. Yet this nation
and that of India, the most ancient of all that are now subsisting,
those which possess the largest and most fertile tracts of territory,
those which had invented nearly all the arts almost before we were in
possession even of any of them, have been always omitted, down to our
time, in our pretended universal histories. And whenever a Spaniard or a
Frenchman enumerated the various nations of the globe, neither of them
failed to represent his own country as the first monarchy on earth, and
his king as the greatest sovereign, under the flattering hope, no doubt,
that that greatest of sovereigns, after having read his book, would
confer upon him a pension.
The third monument, but very inferior to the two others, is the Arundel
Marbles. The chronicle of Athens was inscribed on these marbles two
hundred and sixty-three years before our era, but it goes no further
back than the time of Cecrops, thirteen hundred and nineteen years
beyond the time of its inscription. In the history of all antiquity
these are the only incontestable epochs that we possess.
Let us attend a little particularly to these marbles, which were brought
from Greece by Lord Arundel. The chronicle contained in them commences
fifteen hundred and seventy-seven years before our era. This, at the
present time, makes an antiquity of 3,348 years, and in the course of
that period you do not find a single miraculous or prodigious event on
record. It is the same with the Olympiads. It must not be in reference
to these that the expression can be applied of "_Græcia mendax_" (lying
Greece). The Greeks well knew how to distinguish history from fable, and
real facts from the tales of Herodotus; just as in relation to important
public affairs, their orators borrowed nothing from the discourses of
the sophists or the imagery of the poets.
The date of the taking of Troy is specified in these marbles, but there
is no mention made of Apollo's arrows, or the sacrifice of Iphigenia, or
the ridiculous battles of the gods. The date of the inventions of
Triptolemus and Ceres is given; but Ceres is not called goddess. Notice
is taken of a poem upon the rape of Proserpine; but it is not said that
she is the daughter of Jupiter and a goddess, and the wife of the god of
Hercules is initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, but not a single word
is mentioned of the twelve labors, nor of his passage to Africa in his
cup, nor of his divinity, nor of the great fish by which he was
swallowed, and which, according to Lycophron, kept him in its belly
three days and three nights.
Among us, on the contrary, a standard is brought by an angel from heaven
to the monks of St. Denis; a pigeon brings a bottle of oil to the church
of Rheims; two armies of serpents engage in pitched battle in Germany;
an archbishop of Mentz is besieged and devoured by rats; and to complete
and crown the whole, the year in which these adventures occurred, is
given with the most particular precision. The abbé Langlet, also
condescending to compile, compiles these contemptible fooleries, while
the almanacs, for the hundredth time, repeat them. In this manner are
our youth instructed and enlightened; and all these trumpery fables are
put in requisition even for the education of princes!
All history is comparatively recent. It is by no means astonishing to
find that we have, in fact, no profane history that goes back beyond
about four thousand years. The cause of this is to be found in the
revolutions of the globe, and the long and universal ignorance of the
art which transmits events by writing. There are still many nations
totally unacquainted with the practice of this art. It existed only in a
small number of civilized states, and even in them was confined to
comparatively few hands. Nothing was more rare among the French and
Germans than knowing how to write; down to the fourteenth century of our
era, scarcely any public acts were attested by witnesses. It was not
till the reign of Charles VII. in France, in 1454, that an attempt was
made to reduce to writing some of the customs of France. The art was
still more uncommon among the Spaniards, and hence it arises that their
history is so dry and doubtful till the time of Ferdinand and Isabella.
We perceive, from what has been said, with what facility the very small
number of persons who possessed the art of writing might impose by means
of it, and how easy it has been to produce a belief in the most enormous
There have been nations who have subjugated a considerable part of the
world, and who yet have not been acquainted with the use of characters.
We know that Genghis Khan conquered a part of Asia in the beginning of
the thirteenth century; but it is not from him, nor from the Tartars,
that we have derived that knowledge. Their history, written by the
Chinese, and translated by Father Gaubil, states that these Tartars were
at that time unacquainted with the art of writing.
This art was, unquestionably, not likely to be less unknown to the
Scythian Ogus-kan, called by the Persians and Greeks Madies, who
conquered a part of Europe and Asia long before the reign of Cyrus. It
is almost a certainty that at that time, out of a hundred nations, there
were only two or three that employed characters. It is undoubtedly
possible, that in an ancient world destroyed, mankind were acquainted
with the art of writing and the other arts, but in our world they are
all of recent date.
There remain monuments of another kind, which serve to prove merely the
remote antiquity of certain nations, an antiquity preceding all known
epochs, and all books; these are the prodigies of architecture, such as
the pyramids and palaces of Egypt, which have resisted and wearied the
power of time. Herodotus, who lived two thousand two hundred years ago,
and who had seen them, was unable to learn from the Egyptian priests at
what periods these structures were raised.
[Illustration: "A MONUMENT OF ANTIQUITY"--THE ACROPOLIS, ATHENS]
It is difficult to ascribe to the oldest of the pyramids an antiquity of
less than four thousand years, and, it is necessary to consider, that
those ostentatious piles, erected by monarchs, could not have been
commenced till long after the establishment of cities. But, in order to
build cities in a country every year inundated, it must always be
recollected that it would have been previously necessary in this land of
slime and mud, to lay the foundation upon piles, that they might thus be
inaccessible to the inundation; it would have been necessary, even
before taking this indispensable measure of precaution, and before the
inhabitants could be in a state to engage in such important and even
dangerous labors, that the people should have contrived retreats, during
the swelling of the Nile, between the two chains of rocks which exist on
the right and left banks of the river. It would have been necessary that
these collected multitudes should have instruments of tillage, and of
architecture, a knowledge of architecture and surveying, regular laws,
and an active police. All these things require a space of time
absolutely prodigious. We see, every day, by the long details which
relate even to those of our undertakings, which are most necessary and
most diminutive, how difficult it is to execute works of magnitude, and
that they not only require unwearied perseverance, but many generations
animated by the same spirit.
However, whether we admit that one or two of those immense masses were
erected by Menés, or Thaut, or Cheops, or Rameses, we shall not, in
consequence, have the slightest further insight into the ancient history
of Egypt. The language of that people is lost; and all we know in
reference to the subject is that before the most ancient historians
existed, there existed materials for writing ancient history.
As we already possess, I had almost said, twenty thousand works, the
greater number of them extending to many volumes, on the subject,
exclusively, of the history of France; and as, even a studious man, were
he to live a hundred years, would find it impossible to read them, I
think it a good thing to know where to stop. We are obliged to connect
with the knowledge of our own country the history of our neighbors. We
are still less permitted to remain ignorant of the Greeks and Romans,
and their laws which are become ours; but, if to this laborious study we
should resolve to add that of more remote antiquity, we should resemble
the man who deserted Tacitus and Livy to study seriously the "Thousand
and One Nights." All the origins of nations are evidently fables. The
reason is that men must have lived long in society, and have learned to
make bread and clothing (which would be matters of some difficulty)
before they acquired the art of transmitting all their thoughts to
posterity (a matter of greater difficulty still). The art of writing is
certainly not more than six thousand years old, even among the Chinese;
and, whatever may be the boast of the Chaldæans and Egyptians, it
appears not at all likely that they were able to read and write earlier.
The history, therefore, of preceding periods, could be transmitted by
memory alone; and we well know how the memory of past events changes
from one generation to another. The first histories were written only
from the imagination. Not only did every people invent its own origin,
but it invented also the origin of the whole world.
If we may believe Sanchoniathon, the origin of things was a thick air,
which was rarified by the wind; hence sprang desire and love, and from
the union of desire and love were formed animals. The stars were later
productions, and intended merely to adorn the heavens, and to rejoice
the sight of the animals upon earth.
The Knef of the Egyptians, their Oshiret and Ishet, which we call Osiris
and Isis, are neither less ingenious nor ridiculous. The Greeks
embellished all these fictions. Ovid collected them and ornamented them
with the charms of the most beautiful poetry. What he says of a god who
develops or disembroils chaos, and of the formation of man, is sublime.
_Sanctius his animal, mentisque capacius altæ_
_Deerat adhuc, et quod dominari in cætera posset._
_Natus homo est...._
--OVID, _Metam._, i, v. 76.
A creature of a more exalted kind
Was wanting yet, and then was man designed;
Conscious or thought, of more capacious breast,
For empire formed, and fit to rule the rest.
_Pronaque cum spectent animalia cætera terram;_
_Os homini sublime dedit coelumque tueri_
_Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus._
METAM., i, v. 84.
Thus, while the mute creation downward bend
Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend,
Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes
Beholds his own hereditary skies.
Hesiod, and other writers who lived so long before, would have been very
far from expressing themselves with this elegant sublimity. But, from
the interesting moment of man's formation down to the era of the
Olympiads, everything is plunged in profound obscurity.
Herodotus is present at the Olympic games, and, like an old woman to
children, recites his narratives, or rather tales, to the assembled
Greeks. He begins by saying that the Phoenicians sailed from the Red
Sea into the Mediterranean; which, if true, must necessarily imply that
they had doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and made the circuit of Africa.
Then comes the rape of Io; then the fable of Gyges and Candaules; then
the wondrous stories of banditti, and that of the daughter of Cheops,
king of Egypt, having required a hewn stone from each of her many
lovers, and obtained, in consequence, a number large enough to build one
of the pyramids.
To this, add the oracles, prodigies, and frauds of priests, and you have
the history of the human race.
The first periods of the Roman history appear to have been written by
Herodotus; our conquerors and legislators knew no other way of counting
their years as they passed away, than by driving nails into a wall by
the hand of the sacred pontiff.
The great Romulus, the king of a village, is the son of the god Mars,
and a recluse, who was proceeding to a well to draw water in a pitcher.
He has a god for his father, a woman of loose manners for his mother,
and a she-wolf for his nurse. A buckler falls from heaven expressly for
Numa. The invaluable books of the Sibyls are found by accident. An
augur, by divine permission, divides a large flint-stone with a razor. A
vestal, with her mere girdle, draws into the water a large vessel that
has been stranded. Castor and Pollux come down to fight for the Romans,
and the marks of their horses' feet are imprinted on the stones. The
transalpine Gauls advanced to pillage Rome; some relate that they were
driven away by geese, others that they carried away with them much gold
and silver; but it is probable that, at that time in Italy, geese were
far more abundant than silver. We have imitated the first Roman
historians, at least in their taste for fables. We have our oriflamme,
our great standard, brought from heaven by an angel, and the holy phial
by a pigeon; and, when to these we add the mantle of St. Martin, we feel
not a little formidable.
What would constitute useful history? That which should teach us our
duties and our rights, without appearing to teach them.
It is often asked whether the fable of the sacrifice of Iphigenia is
taken from the history of Jephthah; whether the deluge of Deucalion is
invented in imitation of that of Noah; whether the adventure of Philemon
and Baucis is copied from that of Lot and his wife. The Jews admit that
they had no communication with strangers, that their books were unknown
to the Greeks till the translation made by the order of Ptolemy. The
Jews were, long before that period, money-brokers and usurers among the
Greeks at Alexandria; but the Greeks never went to sell old clothes at
Jerusalem. It is evident that no people imitated the Jews, and also that
the Jews imitated or adopted many things from the Babylonians, the
Egyptians, and the Greeks.
All Jewish antiquities are sacred in our estimation, notwithstanding the
hatred and contempt in which we hold that people. We cannot, indeed,
believe them by reason, but we bring ourselves under subjection to the
Jews by faith. There are about fourscore systems in existence on the
subject of their chronology, and a far greater number of ways of
explaining the events recorded in their histories; we know not which is
the true one, but we reserve our faith for it in store against the time
when that true one shall be discovered.
We have so many things to believe in this sensible and magnanimous
people, that all our faith is exhausted by them, and we have none left
for the prodigies with which the other nations abound. Rollin may go on
repeating to us the oracles of Apollo, and the miraculous achievements
of Semiramis; he may continue to transcribe all that has been narrated
of the justice of those ancient Scythians who so frequently pillaged
Africa, and occasionally ate men for their breakfast; yet sensible and
well-educated people will still feel and express some degree of
What I most admire in our modern compilers is the judgment and zeal with
which they prove to us, that whatever happened in former ages, in the
most extensive and powerful empires of the world, took place solely for
the instruction of the inhabitants of Palestine. If the kings of
Babylon, in the course of their conquests, overrun the territories of
the Hebrew people, it is only to correct that people for their sins. If
the monarch, who has been commonly named Cyrus, becomes master of
Babylon, it is that he may grant permission to some captive Jews to
return home. If Alexander conquers Darius, it is for the settlement of
some Jew old-clothesmen at Alexandria. When the Romans join Syria to
their vast dominions, and round their empire with the little district of
Judæa, this is still with a view to teach a moral lesson to the Jews.
The Arabs and the Turks appear upon the stage of the world solely for
the correction of this amiable people. We must acknowledge that they
have had an excellent education; never had any pupil so many preceptors.
Such is the utility of history.
But what is still more instructive is the exact justice which the clergy
have dealt out to all those sovereigns with whom they were dissatisfied.
Observe with what impartial candor St. Gregory of Nazianzen judges the
emperor Julian, the philosopher. He declares that that prince, who did
not believe in the existence of the devil, held secret communication
with that personage, and that, on a particular occasion, when the demons
appeared to him under the most hideous forms, and in the midst of the
most raging flames, he drove them away by making inadvertently the sign
of the cross.
He denominates him madman and wretch; he asserts that Julian immolated
young men and women every night in caves. Such is the description he
gives of the most candid and clement of men, and who never exercised the
slightest revenge against this same Gregory, notwithstanding the abuse
and invectives with which he pursued him throughout his reign.
To apologize for the guilty is a happy way of justifying calumny against
the innocent. Compensation is thus effected; and such compensation was
amply afforded by St. Gregory. The emperor Constantius, Julian's uncle
and predecessor, upon his accession to the throne, had massacred Julius,
his mother's brother, and his two sons, all three of whom had been
declared august; this was a system which he had adopted from his father.
He afterwards procured the assassination of Gallus, Julian's brother.
The cruelty which he thus displayed to his own family, he extended to
the empire at large; but he was a man of prayer, and, even at the
decisive battle with Maxentius, he was praying to God in a neighboring
church during the whole time in which the armies were engaged. Such was
the man who was eulogized by Gregory; and, if such is the way in which
the saints make us acquainted with the truth, what may we not expect
from the profane, particularly when they are ignorant, superstitious,
At the present day the study of history is occasionally applied to a
purpose somewhat whimsical and absurd. Certain charters of the time of
Dagobert are discovered and brought forward, the greater part of them of
a somewhat suspicious character in point of genuineness, and
ill-understood; and from these it is inferred, that customs, rights, and
prerogatives, which subsisted then, should be revived now. I would
recommend it to those who adopt this method of study and reasoning, to
say to the ocean, "You formerly extended to Aigues-Mortes, Fréjus,
Ravenna, and Ferrara. Return to them immediately."
_Of the Certainty of History._
All certainty which does not consist in mathematical demonstration is
nothing more than the highest probability; there is no other historical
When Marco Polo described the greatness and population of China, being
the first, and for a time the only writer who had described them, he
could not obtain credit. The Portuguese, who for ages afterwards had
communication and commerce with that vast empire, began to render the
description probable. It is now a matter of absolute certainty; of that
certainty which arises from the unanimous deposition of a thousand
witnesses or different nations, unopposed by the testimony of a single
If merely two or three historians had described the adventure of King
Charles XII. when he persisted in remaining in the territories of his
benefactor, the sultan, in opposition to the orders of that monarch, and
absolutely fought, with the few domestics that attended his person,
against an army of janissaries and Tartars, I should have suspended my
judgment about its truth; but, having spoken to many who actually
witnessed the fact, and having never heard it called in question, I
cannot possibly do otherwise than believe it; because, after all,
although such conduct is neither wise nor common, there is nothing in it
contradictory to the laws of nature, or the character of the hero.
That which is in opposition to the ordinary course of nature ought not
to be believed, unless it is attested by persons evidently inspired by
the divine mind, and whose inspiration, indeed, it is impossible to
doubt. Hence we are justified in considering as a paradox the assertion
made under the article on "Certainty," in the great "Encyclopædia," that
we are as much bound to believe in the resuscitation of a dead man, if
all Paris were to affirm it, as to believe all Paris when it states that
we gained the battle of Fontenoy. It is clear that the evidence of all
Paris to a thing improbable can never be equal to that evidence in favor
of a probable one. These are the first principles of genuine logic. Such
a dictionary as the one in question should be consecrated only to truth.
_Uncertainty of History._
Periods of time are distinguished as fabulous and historical. But even
in the historical times themselves it is necessary to distinguish truths
from fables. I am not here speaking of fables, now universally admitted
to be such. There is no question, for example, respecting the prodigies
with which Livy has embellished, or rather defaced, his history. But
with respect to events generally admitted, how many reasons exist for
Let it be recollected that the Roman republic was five hundred years
without historians; that Livy himself deplores the loss of various
public monuments or records, as almost all, he says, were destroyed in
the burning of Rome: "_Pleraque interiere_." Let it be considered that,
in the first three hundred years, the art of writing was very uncommon:
"_Raræ per eadem tempora literæ_." Reason will be then seen for
entertaining doubt on all those events which do not correspond with the
usual order of human affairs.
Can it be considered very likely that Romulus, the grandson of the king
of the Sabines, was compelled to carry off the Sabine women in order to
obtain for his people wives? Is the history of Lucretia highly probable;
can we easily believe, on the credit of Livy, that the king Porsenna
betook himself to flight, full of admiration for the Romans, because a
fanatic had pledged himself to assassinate him? Should we not rather be
inclined to rely upon Polybius, who was two hundred years earlier than
Livy? Polybius informs us that Porsenna subjugated the Romans. This is
far more probable than the adventure of Scævola's burning off his hand
for failing in the attempt to assassinate him. I would have defied
Poltrot to do as much.
Does the adventure of Regulus, inclosed within a hogshead or tub stuck
round with iron spikes, deserve belief? Would not Polybius, a
contemporary, have recorded it had it been true? He says not a single
word upon the subject. Is not this a striking presumption that the story
was trumped up long afterwards to gratify the popular hatred against the
Open "Moréri's Dictionary," at the article on "Regulus." He informs you
that the torments inflicted on that Roman are recorded in Livy. The
particular decade, however, in which Livy would have recorded it, if at
all, is lost; and in lieu of it, we have only the supplement of
Freinsheim; and thus it appears that Dictionary has merely cited a
German writer of the seventeenth century, under the idea of citing a
Roman of the Augustan age. Volumes might be composed out of all the
celebrated events which have been generally admitted, but which may be
more fairly doubted. But the limits allowed for this article will not
permit us to enlarge.
_Whether Temples, Festivals, Annual Ceremonies, and even Medals, are
We might be naturally led to imagine that a monument raised by any
nation in celebration of a particular event, would attest the certainty
of that event; if, however, these monuments were not erected by
contemporaries, or if they celebrate events that carry with them but
little probability, they may often be regarded as proving nothing more
than a wish to consecrate a popular opinion.
The rostral column, erected in Rome by the contemporaries of Duilius, is
undoubtedly a proof of the naval victory obtained by Duilius; but does
the statue of the augur Nævius, who is said to have divided a large
flint with a razor, prove that Nævius in reality performed that prodigy?
Were the statues of Ceres and Triptolemus, at Athens, decisive evidences
that Ceres came down from I know not what particular planet, to instruct
the Athenians in agriculture? Or does the famous Laocoon, which exists
perfect to the present day, furnish incontestable evidence of the truth
of the story of the Trojan horse?
Ceremonies and annual festivals observed universally throughout any
nation, are, in like manner, no better proofs of the reality of the
events to which they are attributed. The festival of Orion, carried on
the back of a dolphin, was celebrated among the Romans as well as the
Greeks. That of Faunus was in celebration of his adventure with Hercules
and Omphale, when that god, being enamored of Omphale, mistook the bed
of Hercules for that of his mistress.
The famous feast of the Lupercals was instituted in honor of the
she-wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus.
What was the origin of the feast of Orion, which was observed on the
fifth of the ides of May? It was neither more nor less than the
following adventure: Hyreus once entertained at his house the gods
Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury, and when his high and mighty guests were
about to depart, the worthy host, who had no wife, and was very desirous
of having a son, lamented his unfortunate fate, and expressed his
anxious desire to the three divinities. We dare not exactly detail what
they did to the hide of an ox which Hyreus had killed for their
entertainment; however, they afterwards covered the well-soaked hide
with a little earth; and thence, at the end of nine months, was born
Almost all the Roman, Syrian, Grecian, and Egyptian festivals, were
founded on similar legends, as well as the temples and statues of
ancient heroes. They were monuments consecrated by credulity to error.
One of our most ancient monuments is the statue of St. Denis carrying
his head in his arms.
Even a medal, and a contemporary medal, is sometimes no proof. How many
medals has flattery struck in celebration of battles very indecisive in
themselves, but thus exalted into victories; and of enterprises, in
fact, baffled and abortive, and completed only in the inscription on the
medal? Finally, during the war in 1740, between the Spaniards and the
English, was there not a medal struck, attesting the capture of
Carthagena by Admiral Vernon, although that admiral was obliged to raise
Medals are then unexceptionable testimonies only when the event they
celebrate is attested by contemporary authors; these evidences thus
corroborating each other, verify the event described.
_Should an Historian ascribe Fictitious Speeches to his Characters, and
sketch Portraits of them?_
If on any particular occasion the commander of an army, or a public
minister, has spoken in a powerful and impressive manner, characteristic
of his genius and his age, his discourse should unquestionably be given
with the most literal exactness. Speeches of this description are
perhaps the most valuable part of history. But for what purpose
represent a man as saying what he never did say? It would be just as
correct to attribute to him acts which he never performed. It is a
fiction imitated from Homer; but that which is fiction in a poem, in
strict language, is a lie in the historian. Many of the ancients adopted
the method in question, which merely proves that many of the ancients
were fond of parading their eloquence at the expense of truth.
_Of Historical Portraiture._
Portraits, also, frequently manifest a stronger desire for display, than
to communicate information. Contemporaries are justifiable in drawing
the portraits of statesmen with whom they have negotiated, or of
generals under whom they have fought. But how much is it to be
apprehended that the pencil will in many cases be guided by the
feelings? The portraits given by Lord Clarendon appear to be drawn with
more impartiality, gravity, and judgment, than those which we peruse
with so much delight in Cardinal de Retz.
But to attempt to paint the ancients; to elaborate in this way the
development of their minds; to regard events as characters in which we
may accurately read the most sacred feelings and intents of their
hearts--this is an undertaking of no ordinary difficulty and
discrimination, although as frequently conducted, both childish and
_Of Cicero's Maxim Concerning History, that an Historian should never
dare to relate a Falsehood or to Conceal a Truth._
The first part of this precept is incontestable; we must stop for a
moment to examine the other. If a particular truth may be of any service
to the state, your silence is censurable. But I will suppose you to
write the history of a prince who had reposed in you a secret--ought you
to reveal that secret? Ought you to say to all posterity what you would
be criminal in disclosing to a single individual? Should the duty of an
historian prevail over the higher and more imperative duty of a man?
I will suppose again, that you have witnessed a failing or weakness
which has not had the slightest influence on public affairs--ought you
to publish such weakness? In such a case history becomes satire.
It must be allowed, indeed, that the greater part of anecdote writers
are more indiscreet than they are useful. But what opinion must we
entertain of those impudent compilers who appear to glory in scattering
about them calumny and slander, and print and sell scandals as Voisin
_Of Satirical History._
If Plutarch censured Herodotus for not having sufficiently extolled the
fame of some of the Grecian cities, and for omitting many known facts
worthy of being recorded, how much more censurable are certain of our
modern writers, who, without any of the merits of Herodotus, impute both
to princes and to nations acts of the most odious character, without the
slightest proof or evidence? The history of the war in 1741 has been
written in England; and it relates, "that at the battle of Fontenoy the
French fired at the English balls and pieces of glass which had been
prepared with poison; and that the duke of Cumberland sent to the king
of France a box full of those alleged poisonous articles, which had been
found in the bodies of the wounded English." The same author adds, that
the French having lost in that battle forty thousand men, the parliament
issued an order to prevent people from talking on the subject, under
pain of corporal punishment.
The fraudulent memoirs published not long since under the name of Madame
de Maintenon, abound with similar absurdities. We are told in them, that
at the siege of Lille the allies threw placards into the city,
containing these words: "Frenchmen, be comforted--Maintenon shall never
be your queen."
Almost every page is polluted by false statements and abuse of the royal
family and other leading families in the kingdom, without the author's
making out the smallest probability to give a color to his calumnies.
This is not writing history; it is writing slanders which deserve the
A vast number of works have been printed in Holland, under the name of
history, of which the style is as vulgar and coarse as the abuse, and
the facts as false as they are ill-narrated. This, it has been observed,
is a bad fruit of the noble tree of liberty. But if the contemptible
authors of this trash have the liberty thus to deceive their readers, it
becomes us here to take the liberty to undeceive them.
A thirst for despicable gain, and the insolence of vulgar and grovelling
manners, were the only motives which led that Protestant refugee from
Languedoc, of the name of Langlevieux, but commonly called La Beaumelle,
to attempt the most infamous trick that ever disgraced literature. He
sold to Eslinger, the bookseller of Frankfort, in 1751, for seventeen
louis d'or, the "History of the Age of Louis XIV.," which is not his;
and, either to make it believed that he was the proprietor, or to earn
his money, he loaded it with abusive and abominable notes against Louis
XIV., his son, and his grandson, the duke of Burgundy, whom he abuses in
the most unmeasured terms, and calls a traitor to his grandfather and
his country. He pours upon the duke of Orleans, the regent, calumnies at
once the most horrible and the most absurd; no person of consequence is
spared, and yet no person of consequence did he ever know. He retails
against the marshals Villars and Villeroi, against ministers, and even
against ladies, all the petty, dirty, and scandalous tales that could be
collected from the lowest taverns and wine-houses; and he speaks of the
greatest princes as if they were amenable to himself, and under his own
personal jurisdiction. He expresses himself, indeed, as if he were a
formal and authorized judge of kings: "Give me," says he, "a Stuart, and
I will make him king of England."
This most ridiculous and abominable conduct, proceeding from an author
obscure and unknown, has incurred no prosecution; it would have been
severely punished in a man whose words would have carried any weight.
But we must here observe, that these works of darkness frequently
circulate through all Europe; they are sold at the fairs of Frankfort
and Leipsic, and the whole of the North is overrun with them.
Foreigners, who are not well informed, derive from books of this
description their knowledge of modern history. German authors are not
always sufficiently on their guard against memoirs of this character,
but employ them as materials; which has been the case with the memoirs
of Pontis, Montbrun, Rochefort, and Pordac; with all the pretended
political testaments of ministers of state, which have proceeded from
the pen of forgery; with the "Royal Tenth" of Boisguillebert, impudently
published under the name of Marshal Vauban; and with innumerable
compilations of _anas_ and anecdotes.
History is sometimes even still more shamefully abused in England. As
there are always two parties in furious hostility against each other,
until some common danger for a season unites them, the writers of one
faction condemn everything that the others approve. The same individual
is represented as a Cato and a Catiline. How is truth to be extricated
from this adulation and satire? Perhaps there is only one rule to be
depended upon, which is, to believe all the good which the historian of
a party ventures to allow to the leaders of the opposite faction; and
all the ills which he ventures to impute to the chiefs of his own--a
rule, of which neither party can severely complain.
With regard to memoirs actually written by agents in the events
recorded, as those of Clarendon, Ludlow, and Burnet, in England, and de
la Rochefoucauld and de Retz in France, if they agree, they are true; if
they contradict each other, doubt them.
With respect to _anas_ and anecdotes, there may perhaps be one in a
hundred of them that contain some shadow of truth.
_Of the Method or Manner of Writing History, and of Style._
We have said so much upon this subject, that we must here say very
little. It is sufficiently known and fully admitted, that the method and
style of Livy--his gravity, and instructive eloquence, are suitable to
the majesty of the Roman republic; that Tacitus is more calculated to
portray tyrants, Polybius to give lessons on war, and Dionysius of
Halicarnassus to investigate antiquities.
But, while he forms himself on the general model of these great masters,
a weighty responsibility is attached to the modern historian from which
they were exempt. He is required to give more minute details, facts more
completely authenticated, correct dates, precise authorities, more
attention to customs, laws, manners, commerce, finance, agriculture, and
population. It is with history, as it is with mathematics and natural
philosophy; the field of it is immensely enlarged. The more easy it is
to compile newspapers, the more difficult it is at the present day to
Daniel thought himself a historian, because he transcribed dates and
narratives of battles, of which I can understand nothing. He should have
informed me of the rights of the nation, the rights of the chief
corporate establishments in it; its laws, usages, manners, with the
alterations by which they have been affected in the progress of time.
This nation might not improperly address him in some such language as
the following:--I want from you my own history rather than that of Louis
le Gros and Louis Hutin; you tell me, copying from some old,
unauthenticated, and carelessly-written chronicle, that when Louis VIII.
was attacked by a mortal disease, and lay languishing and powerless, the
physicians ordered the more than half-dead monarch to take to his bed a
blooming damsel, who might cherish the few sparks of remaining life; and
that the pious king rejected the unholy advice with indignation. Alas!
Daniel, you are unacquainted, it seems, with the Italian
proverb--"_Donna ignuda manda l'uomo sotto la terra_." You ought to
possess a little stronger tincture of political and natural history.
The history of a foreign country should be formed on a different model
to that of our own.
If we compose a history of France, we are under no necessity to describe
the course of the Seine and the Loire; but if we publish a history of
the conquests of the Portuguese in Asia, a topographical description of
the recently explored country is required. It is desirable that we
should, as it were, conduct the reader by the hand round Africa, and
along the coasts of Persia and India; and it is expected that we should
treat with information and judgment, of manners, laws, and customs so
new to Europe.
We have a great variety of histories of the establishment of the
Portuguese in India, written by our countrymen, but not one of them has
made us acquainted with the different governments of that country, with
its religious antiquities, Brahmins, disciples of St. John, Guebers, and
Banians. Some letters of Xavier and his successors have, it is true,
been preserved to us. We have had histories of the Indies composed at
Paris, from the accounts of those missionaries who were unacquainted
with the language of the Brahmins. We have it repeated, in a hundred
works, that the Indians worship the devil. The chaplains of a company of
merchants quit our country under these impressions, and, as soon as they
perceive on the coast some symbolical figures, they fail not to write
home that they are the portraits and likenesses of the devil, that they
are in the devil's empire, and that they are going to engage in battle
with him. They do not reflect that we are the real worshippers of the
devil Mammon, and that we travel six thousand leagues from our native
land to offer our vows at his shrine, and to obtain the grant of some
portion of his treasures.
As to those who hire themselves out at Paris to some bookseller in the
Rue de St. Jacques, and at so much per job, and who are ordered to write
a history of Japan, Canada, or the Canaries, as the case requires and
opportunity suggests, from the memoirs of a few Capuchin friars--to such
I have nothing to say.
It is sufficient, if it be clearly understood, that the method which
would be proper in writing a history of our own country is not suitable
in describing the discoveries of the new world; that we should not write
on a small city as on a great empire; and that the private history of a
prince should be composed in a very different manner from the history of
France and England.
If you have nothing to tell us, but that on the banks of the Oxus and
the Jaxartes, one barbarian has been succeeded by another barbarian, in
what respect do you benefit the public?
These rules are well known; but the art of writing history well will
always be very uncommon. It obviously requires a style grave, pure,
varied, and smooth. But we may say with respect to rules for writing
history, as in reference to those for all the intellectual arts--there
are many precepts, but few masters.
_History of the Jewish Kings, and of the "Paralipomena."_
Every nation, as soon as it was able to write, has written its own
history, and the Jews have accordingly written theirs. Before they had
kings, they lived under a theocracy; it was their destiny to be governed
by God himself.
When the Jews were desirous of having a king, like the adjoining
nations, the prophet Samuel, who was exceedingly interested in
preventing it, declared to them, on the part of God, that they were
rejecting God himself. Thus the Jewish theocracy ceased when the
We may therefore remark, without the imputation of blasphemy, that the
history of the Jewish kings was written like that of other nations, and
that God did not take the pains Himself to dictate the history of a
people whom He no longer governed.
We advance this opinion with the greatest diffidence. What may perhaps
be considered as confirming it, is, that the "Paralipomena" very
frequently contradict the Book of Kings, both with respect to chronology
and facts, just as profane historians sometimes contradict one another.
Moreover, if God always wrote the history of the Jews, it seems only
consistent and natural to think that He writes it still; for the Jews
are always His cherished people. They are on some future day to be
converted, and it seems that whenever that event happens, they will have
as complete a right to consider the history of their dispersion as
sacred, as they have now to say, that God wrote the history of their
We may be allowed here to make one reflection; which is, that as God was
for a very long period their king, and afterwards became their
historian, we are bound to entertain for all Jews the most profound
respect. There is not a single Jew broker, or slop-man, who is not
infinitely superior to Cæsar and Alexander. How can we avoid bending in
prostration before an old-clothes man, who proves to us that his history
has been written by God Himself, while the histories of Greece and Rome
have been transmitted to us merely by the profane hand of man?
If the style of the history of the kings, and of the "Paralipomena," is
divine, it may nevertheless be true that the acts recorded in these
histories are not divine. David murders Uriah; Ishbosheth and
Mephibosheth are murdered; Absalom murders Ammon; Joab murders Absalom;
Solomon murders his brother Adonijah; Baasha murders Nadab; Zimri
murders Ela; Omri murders Zimri; Ahab murders Naboth; Jehu murders Ahab
and Joram; the inhabitants of Jerusalem murder Amaziah, son of Joash;
Shallum, son of Jabesh, murders Zachariah, son of Jeroboam; Menahhem
murders Shallum, son of Jabesh; Pekah, son of Remaliah, murders
Pekahiah, son of Manehem; and Hoshea, son of Elah, murders Pekah, son of
Remaliah. We pass over, in silence, many other minor murders. It must be
acknowledged, that, if the Holy Spirit did write this history, He did
not choose a subject particularly edifying.
_Of bad Actions which have been consecrated or excused in History._
It is but too common for historians to praise very depraved and
abandoned characters, who have done service either to a dominant sect,
or to their nation at large. The praises thus bestowed, come perhaps
from a loyal and zealous citizen; but zeal of this description is
injurious to the great society of mankind. Romulus murders his brother,
and he is made a god. Constantine cuts the throat of his son, strangles
his wife, and murders almost all his family: he has been eulogized in
general councils, but history should ever hold up such barbarities to
detestation. It is undoubtedly fortunate for us that Clovis was a
Catholic. It is fortunate for the Anglican church that Henry VIII.
abolished monks, but we must at the same time admit that Clovis and
Henry VIII. were monsters of cruelty.
When first the Jesuit Berruyer, who although a Jesuit, was a fool,
undertook to paraphrase the Old and New Testaments in the style of the
lowest populace, with no other intention than that of having them read;
he scattered some flowers of rhetoric over the two-edged knife which the
Jew Ehud thrust up to the hilt in the stomach of the king Eglon; and
over the sabre with which Judith cut off the head of Holofernes after
having prostituted herself to his pleasures; and also over many other
acts recorded, of a similar description. The parliament, respecting the
Bible which narrates these histories, nevertheless condemned the Jesuit
who extolled them, and ordered the Old and New Testaments to be
burned:--I mean merely those of the Jesuit.
But as the judgments of mankind are ever different in similar cases, the
same thing happened to Bayle in circumstances totally different. He was
condemned for not praising all the actions of David, king of the
province of Judæa. A man of the name of Jurieu, a refugee preacher in
Holland, associated with some other refugee preachers, were desirous of
obliging him to recant. But how could he recant with reference to facts
delivered in the scripture? Had not Bayle some reason to conclude that
all the facts recorded in the Jewish books are not the actions of
saints; that David, like other men, had committed some criminal acts;
and that if he is called a man after God's own heart, he is called so in
consequence of his penitence, and not of his crimes?
Let us disregard names and confine our consideration to things only. Let
us suppose, that during the reign of Henry IV. a clergyman of the League
party secretly poured out a phial of oil on the head of a shepherd of
Brie; that the shepherd comes to court; that the clergyman presents him
to Henry IV. as an excellent violin player who can completely drive away
all care and melancholy; that the king makes him his equerry, and
bestows on him one of his daughters in marriage; that afterwards, the
king having quarrelled with the shepherd, the latter takes refuge with
one of the princes of Germany, his father-in-law's enemy; that he
enlists and arms six hundred banditti overwhelmed by debt and
debauchery; that with this regiment of brigands he rushes to the field,
slays friends as well as enemies, exterminating all, even to women with
children at the breast, in order to prevent a single individual's
remaining to give intelligence of the horrid butchery. I farther suppose
this same shepherd of Brie to become king of France after the death of
Henry IV.; that he procures the murder of that king's grandson, after
having invited him to sit at meat at his own table, and delivers over to
death seven other younger children of his king and benefactor. Who is
the man that will not conceive the shepherd of Brie to act rather
Commentators are agreed that the adultery of David, and his murder of
Uriah, are faults which God pardoned. We may therefore conclude that the
massacres above mentioned are faults which God also pardoned.
However, Bayle had no quarter given him; but at length some preachers at
London having compared George II. to David, one of that monarch's
servants prints and publishes a small book, in which he censures the
comparison. He examines the whole conduct of David; he goes infinitely
farther than Bayle, and treats David with more severity than Tacitus
applies to Domitian. This book did not raise in England the slightest
murmur; every reader felt that bad actions are always bad; that God may
pardon them when repentance is proportioned to guilt, but that certainly
no man can ever approve of them.
There was more reason, therefore, prevailing in England than there was
in Holland in the time of Bayle. We now perceive clearly and without
difficulty, that we ought not to hold up as a model of sanctity what, in
fact, deserves the severest punishment; and we see with equal clearness
that, as we ought not to consecrate guilt, so we ought not to believe
The author of the "Spirit of Laws" has founded his system on the idea
that virtue is the principle of a republican government, and honor that
of mom archism. Is there virtue then without honor, and how is a
republic established in virtue?
Let us place before the reader's eyes that which has been said in an
able little book upon this subject. Pamphlets soon sink into oblivion.
Truth ought not to be lost; it should be consigned to works possessing
"Assuredly republics have never been formed on a theoretical principle
of virtue. The public interest being opposed to the domination of an
individual, the spirit of self-importance, and the ambition of every
person, serve to curb ambition and the inclination to rapacity, wherever
they may appear. The pride of each citizen watches over that of his
neighbor, and no person would willingly be the slave of another's
caprice. Such are the feelings which establish republics, and which
preserve them. It is ridiculous to imagine that there must be more
virtue in a Grison than in a Spaniard."
That honor can be the sole principle of monarchies is a no less
chimerical idea, and the author shows it to be so himself, without being
aware of it. "The nature of honor," says he, in chapter vii. of book
iii., "is to demand preferences and distinctions. It, therefore,
naturally suits a monarchical government."
Was it not on this same principle, that the Romans demanded the
prætorship, consulship, ovation, and triumph in their republic? These
were preferences and distinctions well worth the titles and preferences
purchased in monarchies, and for which there is often a regular fixed
This remark proves, in our opinion, that the "Spirit of Laws," although
sparkling with wit, and commendable by its respect for the laws and
hatred of superstition and rapine, is founded entirely upon false views.
Let us add, that it is precisely in courts that there is always least
_L'ingannare, il mentir, la frode, il furto,_
_E la rapina di pictà vestita,_
_Crescer coi damno e precipizio altrui,_
_E fare a se de l'altrui biasmo onore,_
_Son le virtù di quella gente infidà._
--PASTOR FIDO, atto v., scena i.
_Ramper avec bassesse en affectant l'audace,_
_S'engraisser de rapine en attestant les lois,_
_Étouffer en secret son ami qu'on embrasse._
_Voilà l'honneur qui règne à la suite des rois._
To basely crawl, yet wear a face of pride;
To rob the public, yet o'er law preside;
Salute a friend, yet sting in the embrace--
Such is the _honor_ which in courts takes place.
Indeed, it is in courts, that men devoid of honor often attain to the
highest dignities; and it is in republics that a known dishonorable
citizen is seldom trusted by the people with public concerns.
The celebrated saying of the regent, duke of Orleans, is sufficient to
destroy the foundation of the "Spirit of Laws": "This is a perfect
courtier--he has neither temper nor honor."
Philosophers have inquired, whether humility is a virtue; but virtue or
not, every one must agree that nothing is more rare. The Greeks called
it "_tapeinosis_" or "tapeineia." It is strongly recommended in the
fourth book of the "Laws of Plato": he rejects the proud and would
multiply the humble.
Epictetus, in five places, preaches humility: "If thou passest for a
person of consequence in the opinion of some people, distrust thyself.
No lifting up of thy eye-brows. Be nothing in thine own eyes--if thou
seekest to please, thou art lost. Give place to all men; prefer them to
thyself; assist them all." We see by these maxims that never Capuchin
went so far as Epictetus.
Some theologians, who had the misfortune to be proud, have pretended
that humility cost nothing to Epictetus, who was a slave; and that he
was humble by station, as a doctor or a Jesuit may be proud by station.
But what will they say of Marcus Antoninus, who on the throne
recommended humility? He places Alexander and his muleteer on the same
line. He said that the vanity of pomp is only a bone thrown in the midst
of dogs; that to do good, and to patiently hear himself calumniated,
constitute the virtue of a king.
Thus the master of the known world recommended humility; but propose
humility to a musician, and see how he will laugh at Marcus Aurelius.
Descartes, in his treatise on the "Passions of the Soul," places
humility among their number, who--if we may personify this quality--did
not expect to be regarded as a passion. He also distinguishes between
virtuous and vicious humility.
But we leave to philosophers more enlightened than ourselves the care of
explaining this doctrine, and will confine ourselves to saying, that
humility is "the modesty of the soul."
It is the antidote to pride. Humility could not prevent Rousseau from
believing that he knew more of music than those to whom he taught it;
but it could induce him to believe that he was not superior to Lulli in
The reverend father Viret, cordelier, theologian, and preacher, all
humble as he is, will always firmly believe that he knows more than
those who learn to read and write; but his Christian humility, his
modesty of soul, will oblige him to confess in the bottom of his heart
that he has written nothing but nonsense. Oh, brothers Nonnotte, Guyon,
Pantouillet, vulgar scribblers! be more humble, and always bear in
recollection "the modesty of the soul."
I will suppose that Madame Dacier had been the finest woman in Paris;
and that in the quarrel on the comparative merits of the ancients and
moderns, the Carmelites pretended that the poem of the Magdalen, written
by a Carmelite, was infinitely superior to Homer, and that it was an
atrocious impiety to prefer the "Iliad" to the verses of a monk. I will
take the additional liberty of supposing that the archbishop of Paris
took the part of the Carmelites against the governor of the city, a
partisan of the beautiful Madame Dacier, and that he excited the
Carmelites to massacre this fine woman in the church of Notre Dame, and
to drag her, naked and bloody, to the Place Maubert--would not everybody
say that the archbishop of Paris had done a very wicked action, for
which he ought to do penance?
This is precisely the history of Hypatia. She taught Homer and Plato, in
Alexandria, in the time of Theodosius II. St. Cyril incensed the
Christian populace against her, as it is related by Damasius and Suidas,
and clearly proved by the most learned men of the age, such as Bruker,
La Croze, and Basnage, as is very judiciously exposed in the great
"_Dictionnaire Encyclopédique_," in the article on "Éclectisme."
A man whose intentions are no doubt very good, has printed two volumes
against this article of the "Encyclopædia." Two volumes against two
pages, my friends, are too much. I have told you a hundred times you
multiply being without necessity. Two lines against two volumes would be
quite sufficient; but write not even these two lines.
I am content with remarking, that St. Cyril was a man of parts; that he
suffered his zeal to carry him too far; that when we strip beautiful
women, it is not to massacre them; that St. Cyril, no doubt, asked
pardon of God for this abominable action; and that I pray the father of
mercies to have pity on his soul. He wrote the two volumes against
"Éclectisme," also inspires me with infinite commiseration.
What is an idea?
It is an image painted upon my brain.
Are all your thoughts, then, images?
Certainly; for the most abstract thoughts are only the consequences of
all the objects that I have perceived. I utter the word "being" in
general, only because I have known particular beings; I utter the word
"infinity," only because I have seen certain limits, and because I push
back those limits in my mind to a greater and still greater distance, as
far as I am able. I have ideas in my head only because I have images.
And who is the painter of this picture?
It is not myself; I cannot draw with sufficient skill; the being that
made me, makes my ideas.
And how do you know that the ideas are not made by yourself?
Because they frequently come to me involuntarily when I am awake, and
always without my consent when I dream.
You are persuaded, then, that your ideas belong to you only in the same
manner as your hairs, which grow and become white, and fall off, without
your having anything at all to do with the matter?
Nothing can possibly be clearer; all that I can do is to frizzle, cut,
and powder them; but I have nothing to do with producing them.
You must, then, I imagine, be of Malebranche's opinion, that we see all
I am at least certain of this, that if we do not see things in the Great
Being, we see them in consequence of His powerful and immediate action.
And what was the nature or process of this action?
I have already told you repeatedly, in the course of our conversation,
that I do not know a single syllable about the subject, and that God has
not communicated His secret to any one. I am completely ignorant of that
which makes my heart beat, and my blood flow through my veins; I am
ignorant of the principle of all my movements, and yet you seem to
expect how I should explain how I feel and how I think. Such an
expectation is unreasonable.
But you at least know whether your faculty of having ideas is joined to
Not in the least; It is true that Tatian, in his discourse to the
Greeks, says the soul is evidently composed of a body. Irenæus, in the
twenty-sixth chapter of his second book, says, "The Lord has taught that
our souls preserve the figure of our body in order to retain the memory
of it." Tertullian asserts, in his second book on the soul, that it is a
body. Arnobius, Lactantius, Hilary, Gregory of Nyssa, and Ambrose, are
precisely of the same opinion. It is pretended that other fathers of the
Church assert that the soul is without extension, and that in this
respect they adopt the opinion of Plato; this, however, may well be
doubted. With respect to myself, I dare not venture to form an opinion;
I see nothing but obscurity and incomprehensibility in either system;
and, after a whole life's meditation on the subject, I am not advanced a
single step beyond where I was on the first day.
The subject, then, was not worth thinking about?
That is true; the man who enjoys knows more of it, or at least knows it
better, than he who reflects; he is more happy. But what is it that you
would have? It depended not, I repeat, upon myself whether I should
admit or reject all those ideas which have crowded into my brain in
conflict with each other, and actually converted my medullary magazine
into their field of battle. After a hard-fought contest between them, I
have obtained nothing but uncertainty from the spoils.
It is a melancholy thing to possess so many ideas, and yet to have no
precise knowledge of the nature of ideas?
It is, I admit; but it is much more melancholy, and inexpressibly more
foolish, for a man to believe he knows what in fact he does not.
But, if you do not positively know what an idea is, if you are ignorant
whence ideas come, you at least know by what they come?
Yes; just in the same way as the ancient Egyptians, who, without knowing
the source of the Nile, knew perfectly well that its waters reached them
by its bed. We know perfectly that ideas come to us by the senses; but
we never know whence they come. The source of this Nile will never be
If it is certain that all ideas are given by means of the senses, why
does the Sorbonne, which has so long adopted this doctrine from
Aristotle, condemn it with so much virulence in Helvetius?
Because the Sorbonne is composed of theologians.
_All in God._
In God we live and move and have our being.
--ST. PAUL, Acts xvii, 28.
Aratus, who is thus quoted and approved by St. Paul, made this
confession of faith, we perceive among the Greeks.
The virtuous Cato says the same thing: "_Jupiter est quodcumque vides
quocumque moveris_."--Lucan's "_Pharsalia_" ix, 580. "Whate'er we see,
whate'er we feel, is Jove."
Malebranche is the commentator on Aratus, St. Paul, and Cato. He
succeeded, in the first instance, in showing the errors of the senses
and imagination; but when he attempted to develop the grand system, that
all is in God, all his readers declared the commentary to be more
obscure than the text. In short, having plunged into this abyss, his
head became bewildered; he held conversations with the Word; he was made
acquainted with what the Word had done in other planets; he became, in
truth, absolutely mad; a circumstance well calculated to excite
apprehension in our own minds, apt as we some of us are to attempt
soaring, upon our weak and puny opinions, very far beyond our reach.
In order to comprehend the notion of Malebranche, such as he held it
while he retained his faculties, we must admit nothing that we do not
clearly conceive, and reject what we do not understand. Attempting to
explain an obscurity by obscurities, is to act like an idiot.
I feel decidedly that my first ideas and my sensations have come to me
without any co-operation or volition on my part. I clearly see that I
cannot give myself a single idea. I cannot give myself anything. I have
received everything. The objects which surround me cannot, of
themselves, give me either idea or sensation; for how is it possible for
a little particle of matter to possess the faculty of producing a
I am therefore irresistibly led to conclude that the Eternal Being, who
bestows everything, gives me my ideas, in whatever manner this may be
done. But what is an idea, what is a sensation, a volition, etc.? It is
myself perceiving, myself feeling, myself willing.
We see, in short, that what is called an idea is no more a real being
than there is a real being called motion, although there are bodies
moved. In the same manner there is not any particular being called
memory, imagination, judgment; but we ourselves remember, imagine, and
The truth of all this, it must be allowed, is sufficiently plain and
trite; but it is necessary to repeat and inculcate such truth, as the
opposite errors are more trite still.
_Laws of Nature._
How, let us now ask, would the Eternal Being, who formed all, produce
all those various modes or qualities which we perceive in organized
Did He introduce two beings in a grain of wheat, one of which should
produce germination in the other? Did He introduce two beings in the
composition of a stag, one of which should produce swiftness in the
other? Certainly not. All that we know on the subject is that the grain
is endowed with the faculty of vegetating, and the stag with that of
There is evidently a grand mathematical principle directing all nature,
and affecting everything produced. The flying of birds, the swimming of
fishes, the walking or running of quadrupeds, are visible effects of
known laws of motion. "_Mens agitat molem_." Can the sensations and
ideas of those animals, then, be anything more than the admirable
effects or mathematical laws more refined and less obvious?
_Organisation of the Senses and Ideas._
It is by these general and comprehensive laws that every animal is
impelled to seek its appropriate food. We are naturally, therefore, led
to conjecture that there is a law by which it has the idea of this food,
and without which it would not go in search of it.
The eternal intelligence has made all the actions of an animal depend
upon a certain principle; the eternal intelligence, therefore, has made
the sensations which cause those actions depend on the same principle.
Would the author of nature have disposed and adjusted those admirable
instruments, the senses, with so divine a skill; would he have exhibited
such astonishing adaptation between the eyes and light; between the
atmosphere and the ears, had it, after all, been necessary to call in
the assistance of other agency to complete his work? Nature always acts
by the shortest ways. Protracted processes indicate want of skill;
multiplicity of springs, and complexity of co-operation are the result
of weakness. We cannot but believe, therefore, that one main spring
regulates the whole system.
_The Great Being Does Everything._
Not merely are we unable to give ourselves sensations, we cannot even
imagine any beyond those which we have actually experienced. Let all the
academies of Europe propose a premium for him who shall imagine a new
sense; no one will ever gain that premium. We can do nothing, then, of
our mere selves, whether there be an invisible and intangible being
enclosed in our brain or diffused throughout our body, or whether there
be not; and it must be admitted, upon every system, that the author of
nature has given us all that we possess--organs, sensations, and the
ideas which proceed from them.
As we are thus secured under His forming hand, Malebranche,
notwithstanding all his errors, had reason to say philosophically, that
we are in God and that we see all in God; as St. Paul used the same
language in a theological sense, and Aratus and Cato in a moral one.
What then are we to understand by the words seeing all in God? They are
either words destitute of meaning, or they mean that God gives us all
What is the meaning of receiving an idea? We do not create it when we
receive it; it is not, therefore, so unphilosophical as has been
thought, to say it is God who produces the ideas in my head, as it is He
who produces motion in my whole body. Everything is an operation of God
upon His creatures.
_How is Everything an Action of God?_
There is in nature only one universal, eternal, and active principle.
There cannot be two such principles; for they would either be alike or
different. If they are different, they destroy one another; if they are
alike, it is the same as if they were only one. The unity of design,
visible through the grand whole in all its infinite variety, announces
one single principle, and that principle must act upon all being, or it
ceases to be a universal opinion.
If it acts upon all being, it acts upon all the modes of all being.
There is not, therefore, a single remnant, a single mode, a single idea,
which is not the immediate effect of a universal cause perpetually
The matter of the universe, therefore, belongs to God, as much as the
ideas and the ideas as much as the matter. To say that anything is out
of Him would be saying that there is something out of the vast whole.
God being the universal principle of all things, all, therefore, exists
in Him, and by Him.
The system includes that of "physical premotion," but in the same manner
as an immense wheel includes a small one that endeavors to fly off from
it. The principle which we have just been unfolding is too vast to admit
of any particular and detailed view.
Physical premotion occupies the great supreme with all the changing
vagaries which take place in the head of an individual Jansenist or
Molinist; we, on the contrary, occupy the Being of Beings only with the
grand and general laws of the universe. Physical premotion makes five
propositions a matter of attention and occupation to God, which interest
only some lay-sister, the sweeper of a convent; while we attribute to
Him employment of the most simple and important description--the
arrangement of the whole system of the universe.
Physical premotion is founded upon that subtle and truly Grecian
principle, that if a thinking being can give himself an idea, he would
augment his existence; but we do not, for our parts, know what is meant
by augmenting our being. We comprehend nothing about the matter. We say
that a thinking being might give himself new modes without adding to his
existence; just in the same manner as when we dance, our sliding steps
and crossings and attitudes give us no new existence; and to suppose
they do so would appear completely absurd. We agree only so far in the
system of physical premotion, that we are convinced we give ourselves
Both the system of premotion and our own are abused, as depriving men of
their liberty. God forbid we should advocate such deprivation. To do
away with this imputation, it is only necessary to understand the
meaning of the word liberty. We shall speak of it in its proper place;
and in the meantime the world will go on as it has gone on hitherto,
without the Thomists or their opponents, or all the disputants in the
world, having any power to change it. In the same manner we shall always
have ideas, without precisely knowing what an idea is.
This scientific term signifies no more than "the same thing." It might
be correctly translated by "sameness." This subject is of considerably
more interest than may be imagined. All agree that the guilty person
only ought to be punished--the individual perpetrator, and no other. But
a man fifty years of age is not in reality the same individual as the
man of twenty; he retains no longer any of the parts which then formed
his body; and if he has lost the memory of past events, it is certain
that there is nothing left to unite his actual existence to an existence
which to him is lost.
I am the same person only by the consciousness of what I have been
combined with that of what I am; I have no consciousness of my past
being but through memory; memory alone, therefore, establishes the
identity, the sameness of my person.
We may, in truth, be naturally and aptly resembled to a river, all whose
waters pass away in perpetual change and flow. It is the same river as
to its bed, its banks, its source, its mouth, everything, in short, that
is not itself; but changing every moment its waters, which constitute
its very being, it has no identity; there is no sameness belonging to
Were there another Xerxes like him who lashed the Hellespont for
disobedience, and ordered for it a pair of handcuffs; and were the son
of this Xerxes to be drowned in the Euphrates, and the father desirous
of punishing that river for the death of his son, the Euphrates might
very reasonably say in its vindication: "Blame the waves that were
rolling on at the time your son was bathing; those waves belong not to
me, and form no part of me; they have passed on to the Persian Gulf; a
part is mixed with the salt water of that sea, and another part, exhaled
in vapor, has been impelled by a south-east wind to Gaul, and been
incorporated with endives and lettuces, which the Gauls have since used
in their salads; seize the culprit where you can find him."
It is the same with a tree, a branch of which broken by the wind might
have fractured the skull of your great grandfather. It is no longer the
same tree; all its parts have given way to others. The branch which
killed your great grandfather is no part of this tree; it exists no
It has been asked, then, how a man, who has totally lost his memory
before his death, and whose members have been changed into other
substances, can be punished for his faults or rewarded for his virtues
when he is no longer himself? I have read in a well known book the
following question and answer:
"Question. How can I be either rewarded or punished when I shall no
longer exist; when there will be nothing remaining of that which
constituted my person? It is only by means of memory that I am always
myself; after my death, a miracle will be necessary to restore it to
me--to enable me to reenter upon my lost existence.
"Answer. That is just as much as to say that if a prince had put to
death his whole family, in order to reign himself, and if he had
tyrannized over his subjects with the most wanton cruelty, he would be
exempted from punishment on pleading before God, 'I am not the offender;
I have lost my memory; you are under a mistake; I am no longer the same
person.' Do you think this sophism would pass with God?"
This answer is a highly commendable one; but it does not completely
solve the difficulty.
It would be necessary for this purpose, in the first place, to know
whether understanding and sensation are a faculty given by God to man,
or a created substance; a question which philosophy is too weak and
uncertain to decide.
It is necessary in the next place to know whether, if the soul be a
substance and has lost all knowledge of the evil it has committed, and
be, moreover, as perfect a stranger to what it has done with its own
body, as to all the other bodies of our universe--whether, in these
circumstances, it can or should, according to our manner of reasoning,
answer in another universe for actions of which it has not the slightest
knowledge; whether, in fact, a miracle would not be necessary to impart
to this soul the recollection it no longer possesses, to render it
consciously present to the crimes which have become obliterated and
annihilated in its mind, and make it the same person that it was on
earth; or whether God will judge it nearly in the same way in which the
presidents of human tribunals proceed, condemning a criminal, although
he may have completely forgotten the crimes he has actually committed.
He remembers them no longer; but they are remembered for him; he is
punished for the sake of the example. But God cannot punish a man after
his death with a view to his being an example to the living. No living
man knows whether the deceased is condemned or absolved. God, therefore,
can punish him only because he cherished and accomplished evil desires;
but if, when after death he presents himself before the tribunal of God,
he no longer entertains any such desire; if for a period of twenty years
he has totally forgotten that he did entertain such; if he is no longer
in any respect the same person; what is it that God will punish in him?
These are questions which appear beyond the compass of the human
understanding, and there seems to exist a necessity, in these
intricacies and labyrinths, of recurring to faith alone, which is always
our last asylum.
Lucretius had partly felt these difficulties, when in his third book
(verses 890-91) he describes a man trembling at the idea of what will
happen to him when he will no longer be the same man:
_Nec radicitus e vita se tollit et evit;_
_Sed facit esse sui quiddam super inscius ipse._
But Lucretius is not the oracle to be addressed, in order to obtain any
discoveries of the future.
The celebrated Toland, who wrote his own epitaph, concluded it with
these words: "_Idem futurus Tolandus nunquam_"--"He will never again be
the same Toland."
However, it may be presumed that God would have well known how to find
and restore him, had such been his good pleasure; and it is to be
presumed, also, that the being who necessarily exists, is necessarily
Idol is derived from the Greek word "_eidos_," figure; "_eidolos_," the
representation of a figure, and "_latreuein_," to serve, revere, or
It does not appear that there was ever any people on earth who took the
name of idolaters. This word is an offence, an insulting term, like that
of "_gavache_," which the Spaniards formerly gave to the French; and
that of "_maranes_," which the French gave to the Spaniards in return.
If we had demanded of the senate of the Areopagus of Athens, or at the
court of the kings of Persia: "Are you idolaters?" they would scarcely
have understood the question. None would have answered: "We adore images
and idols." This word, idolater, idolatry, is found neither in Homer,
Hesiod, Herodotus, nor any other author of the religion of the Gentiles.
There was never any edict, any law, which commanded that idols should be
adored; that they should be treated as gods and regarded as gods.
When the Roman and Carthaginian captains made a treaty, they called all
their gods to witness. "It is in their presence," said they, "that we
swear peace." Yet the statues of these gods, whose number was very
great, were not in the tents of the generals. They regarded, or
pretended to regard, the gods as present at the actions of men as
witnesses and judges. And assuredly it was not the image which
constituted the divinity.
In what view, therefore, did they see the statues of their false gods in
the temples? With the same view, if we may so express ourselves, that
the Catholics see the images, the object of _their_ veneration. The
error was not in adoring a piece of wood or marble, but in adoring a
false divinity, represented by this wood and marble. The difference
between them and the Catholics is, not that they had images, and the
Catholics had none; the difference is, that their images represented the
fantastic beings of a false religion, and that the Christian images
represent real beings in a true religion. The Greeks had the statue of
Hercules, and we have that of St. Christopher; they had Æsculapius and
his goat, we have St. Roch and his dog; they had Mars and his lance, and
we have St. Anthony of Padua and St. James of Compostella.
When the consul Pliny addresses prayers to the immortal gods in the
exordium of the panegyric of Trajan, it is not to images that he
addresses them. These images were not immortal.
Neither the latest nor the most remote times of paganism offer a single
fact which can lead to the conclusion that they adored idols. Homer
speaks only of the gods who inhabited the high Olympus. The palladium,
although fallen from heaven, was only a sacred token of the protection
of Pallas; it was herself that was venerated in the palladium. It was
our ampoule, or holy oil.
But the Romans and Greeks knelt before their statues, gave them crowns,
incense, and flowers, and carried them in triumph in the public places.
The Catholics have sanctified these customs, and yet are not called
The women in times of drouth carried the statues of the Gods after
having fasted. They walked barefooted with dishevelled hair, and it
quickly rained bucketfuls, says Pretonius: "_Et statim urceatim
pluebat_." Has not this custom been consecrated; illegitimate indeed
among the Gentiles, but legitimate among the Catholics? In how many
towns are not images carried to obtain the blessings of heaven through
their intercession? If a Turk, or a learned Chinese, were a witness of
these ceremonies, he would, through ignorance, accuse the Italians of
putting their trust in the figures which they thus promenade in
_Examination of the Ancient Idolatry._
From the time of Charles I., the Catholic religion was declared
idolatrous in England. All the Presbyterians are persuaded that the
Catholics adore bread, which they eat, and figures, which are the work
of their sculptors and painters. With that which one part of Europe
reproaches the Catholics, they themselves reproach the Gentiles.
We are surprised at the prodigious number of declamations uttered in all
times against the idolatry of the Romans and Greeks; and we are
afterwards still more surprised when we see that they were not
They had some temples more privileged than others. The great Diana of
Ephesus had more reputation than a village Diana. There were more
miracles performed in the temple of Æsculapius at Epidaurus, than in any
other of his temples. The statue of the Olympian Jupiter attracted more
offerings than that of the Paphlagonian Jupiter. But to oppose the
customs of a true religion to those of a false one, have we not for
several ages had more devotion to certain altars than to others?
Has not Our Lady of Loretto been preferred to Our Lady of Neiges, to
that of Ardens, of Hall, etc.? That is not saying there is more virtue
in a statue at Loretto than in a statue of the village of Hall, but we
have felt more devotion to the one than to the other; we have believed
that she whom we invoked, at the feet of her statues, would condescend,
from the height of heaven, to diffuse more favors and to work more
miracles in Loretto than in Hall. This multiplicity of images of the
same person also proves that it is the images that we revere, and that
the worship relates to the person who is represented; for it is not
possible that every image can be the same thing. There are a thousand
images of St. Francis, which have no resemblance to him, and which do
not resemble one another; and all indicate a single Saint Francis,
invoked, on the day of his feast, by those who are devoted to this
It was precisely the same with the pagans, who supposed the existence
only of a single divinity, a single Apollo, and not as many Apollos and
Dianas as they had temples and statues. It is therefore proved, as much
as history can prove anything, that the ancients believed not the statue
to be a divinity; that worship was not paid to this statue or image, and
consequently that they were not idolaters. It is for us to ascertain how
far the imputation has been a mere pretext to accuse them of idolatry.
A gross and superstitious populace who reason not, and who know neither
how to doubt, deny, or believe; who visit the temples out of idleness,
and because the lowly are there equal to the great; who make their
contributions because it is the custom; who speak continually of
miracles without examining any of them; and who are very little in point
of intellect beyond the brutes whom they sacrifice--such a people, I
repeat, in the sight of the great Diana, or of Jupiter the Thunderer,
may well be seized with a religious horror, and adore, without
consciousness, the statue itself. This is what happens now and then, in
our own churches, to our ignorant peasantry, who, however, are informed
that it is the blessed mortals received into heaven whose intercession
they solicit, and not that of images of wood and stone.
The Greeks and Romans augment the number of their gods by their
apotheoses. The Greeks deified conquerors like Bacchus, Hercules, and
Perseus. Rome devoted altars to her emperors. Our apotheoses are of a
different kind; we have infinitely more saints than they have secondary
gods, but we pay respect neither to rank nor to conquest. We consecrate
temples to the simply virtuous, who would have been unknown on earth if
they had not been placed in heaven. The apotheoses of the ancients were
the effect of flattery, ours are produced by a respect for virtue.
Cicero, in his philosophical works, only allows of a suspicion that the
people may mistake the statues of the gods and confound them with the
gods themselves. His interlocutors attack the established religion, but
none of them think of accusing the Romans of taking marble and brass for
divinities. Lucretius accuses no person of this stupidity, although he
reproaches the superstitious of every class. This opinion, therefore,
has never existed; there never have been idolaters.
Horace causes an image of Priapus to speak, and makes him say: "I was
once the trunk of a fig tree, and a carpenter being doubtful whether he
should make of me a god or a bench, at length determined to make me a
divinity." What are we to gather from this pleasantry? Priapus was one
of the subaltern divinities, and a subject of raillery for the wits, and
this pleasantry is a tolerable proof that a figure placed in the garden
to frighten away the birds could not be very profoundly worshipped.
Dacier, giving way to the spirit of a commentator, observes that Baruch
predicted this adventure. "They became what the workmen chose to make
them:" but might not this be observed of all statues? Had Baruch a
visionary anticipation of the "Satires of Horace"?
A block of marble may as well be hewn into a cistern, as into a figure
of Alexander, Jupiter, or any being still more respectable. The matter
which composed the cherubim of the Holy of Holies might have been
equally appropriated to the vilest functions. Is a throne or altar the
less revered because it might have been formed into a kitchen table?
Dacier, instead of concluding that the Romans adored the statue of
Priapus, and that Baruch predicted it, should have perceived that the
Romans laughed at it. Consult all the authors who speak of the statues
of the gods, you will not find one of them allude to idolatry; their
testimony amounts to the express contrary. "It is not the workman," says
Martial, "who makes the gods, but he who prays to them."
_Qui finxit sacros auro vel marmore vultus_
_Non facit ille deos, qui rogat ille facit._
"It is Jove whom we adore in the image of Jove," writes Ovid: "_Colitur
pro Jove, forma Jovis_."
"The gods inhabit our minds and bosoms," observes Statius, "and not
images in the form of them:"
_Nulla autem effigies, nulli commissa metallo._
_Forma Dei, mentes habitare et pectora gaudet._
Lucan, too, calls the universe the abode and empire of God: "_Estne Dei,
sedes, nisi terra, et pontus, et aer?_" A volume might be filled with
passages asserting idols to be images alone.
There remains but the case in which statues became oracles; notions that
might have led to an opinion that there was something divine about them.
The predominant sentiment, however, was that the gods had chosen to
visit certain altars and images, in order to give audience to mortals,
and to reply to them. We read in Homer and in the chorus of the Greek
tragedies, of prayers to Apollo, who delivered his responses on the
mountains in such a temple, or such a town. There is not, in all
antiquity, the least trace of a prayer addressed to a statue; and if it
was believed that the divine spirit preferred certain temples and
images, as he preferred certain men, it was simply an error in
application. How many miraculous images have we? The ancients only
boasted of possessing what we possess, and if we are not idolaters for
using images, by what correct principle can we term them so?
Those who profess magic, and who either believe, or affect to believe
it, a science, pretend to possess the secret of making the gods descend
into their statues, not indeed, the superior gods, but the secondary
gods or genii. This is what Hermes Trismegistus calls "making" gods--a
doctrine which is controverted by St. Augustine in his "City of God."
But even this clearly shows that the images were not thought to possess
anything divine, since it required a magician to animate them, and it
happened very rarely that a magician was successful in these sublime
In a word, the images of the gods were not gods. Jupiter, and not his
statue, launched his thunderbolts; it was not the statue of Neptune
which stirred up tempests, nor that of Apollo which bestowed light. The
Greeks and the Romans were Gentiles and Polytheists, but not idolaters.
We lavished this reproach upon them when we had neither statues nor
temples, and have continued the injustice even after having employed
painting and sculpture to honor and represent our truths, precisely in
the same manner in which those we reproach employed them to honor and
personify their fiction.
_Whether the Persians, the Sabæans, the Egyptians, the Tartars, or the
Turks, have been Idolaters, and the Extent of the Antiquity of the
Images Called Idols--History of Their Worship._
It is a great error to denominate those idolaters who worship the sun
and the stars. These nations for a long time had neither images nor
temples. If they were wrong, it was in rendering to the stars that which
belonged only to the creator of the stars. Moreover, the dogma of
Zoroaster, or Zerdusht, teaches a Supreme Being, an avenger and
rewarder, which opinion is very distant from idolatry. The government of
China possesses no idol, but has always preserved the simple worship of
the master of heaven, Kien-tien.
Genghis Khan, among the Tartars, was not an idolater, and used no
images. The Mahometans, who inhabit Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Persia,
India, and Africa, call the Christians idolaters and giaours, because
they imagine that Christians worship images. They break the statues
which they find in Sancta Sophia, the church of the Holy Apostles; and
others they convert into mosques. Appearances have deceived them, as
they are eternally deceiving man, and have led them to believe that
churches dedicated to saints who were formerly men, images of saints
worshipped kneeling, and miracles worked in these churches, are
invincible proofs of absolute idolatry; although all amount to nothing.
Christians, in fact, adore one God only, and even in the blessed, only
revere the virtues of God manifested in them. The image-breakers
(iconoclasts), and the Protestants, who reproach the Catholic Church
with idolatry, claim the same answer.
As men rarely form precise ideas, and still less express them with
precision, we call the Gentiles, and still more the Polytheists,
idolaters. An immense number of volumes have been written in order to
develop the various opinions upon the origin of the worship rendered to
the deity. This multitude of books and opinions proves nothing, except
It is not known who invented coats, shoes, and stockings, and yet we
would know who invented idols. What signifies a passage of
Sanchoniathon, who lived before the battle of Troy? What does he teach
us when he says that _Chaos_--the spirit, that is to say, the breath--in
love with his principles, draws the veil from it, which renders the air
luminous; that the wind _Colp_, and his wife _Bau_, engendered _Eon_;
that _Eon_ engendered _Genos_, that _Chronos_, their descendant, had two
eyes behind as well as before; that he became a god, and that he gave
Egypt to his son _Thaut_? Such is one of the most respectable monuments
Orpheus will teach us no more in his "Theogony," than Damasius has
preserved to us. He represents the principles of the world under the
figure of a dragon with two heads, the one of a bull, the other of a
lion; a face in the middle, which he calls the face of God, and golden
wings to his shoulders.
But, from these fantastic ideas may be drawn two great truths--the one
that sensible images and hieroglyphics are of the remotest antiquity;
the other that all the ancient philosophers have recognized a First
As to polytheism, good sense will tell you that as long as men have
existed--that is to say, weak animals capable of reason and folly,
subject to all accidents, sickness and death--these men have felt their
weakness and dependence. Obliged to acknowledge that there is something
more powerful than themselves; having discovered a principle in the
earth which furnishes their aliment; one in the air which often destroys
them; one in fire which consumes; and in water which drowns them--what
is more natural than for ignorant men to imagine beings which preside
over these elements? What is more natural than to revere the invisible
power which makes the sun and stars shine to our eyes? and, since they
would form an idea of powers superior to man, what more natural than to
figure them in a sensible manner? Could they think otherwise? The Jewish
religion, which preceded ours, and which was given by God himself, was
filled with these images, under which God is represented. He deigns to
speak the human language in a bush; He appeared once on a mountain; the
celestial spirits which he sends all come with a human form: finally,
the sanctuary is covered with cherubs, which are the bodies of men with
the wings and heads of animals. It is this which has given rise to the
error of Plutarch, Tacitus, Appian, and so many others, of reproaching
the Jews with adoring an ass's head. God, in spite of his prohibition to
paint or form likenesses, has, therefore, deigned to adapt himself to
human weakness, which required the senses to be addressed by sensible
Isaiah, in chapter vi., sees the Lord seated on a throne, and His train
filled the temple. The Lord extends His hand, and touches the mouth of
Jeremiah, in chap. i. of that prophet. Ezekiel, in chap. i., sees a
throne of sapphire, and God appeared to him like a man seated on this
throne. These images alter not the purity of the Jewish religion, which
never employed pictures, statues, or idols, to represent God to the eyes
of the people.
The learned Chinese, the Parsees, and the ancient Egyptians, had no
idols; but Isis and Osiris were soon represented. Bel, at Babylon, was a
great colossus. Brahma was a fantastic monster in the peninsula of
India. Above all, the Greeks multiplied the names of the gods, statues,
and temples, but always attributed the supreme power to their _Zeus_,
called Jupiter by the Latins, the sovereign of gods and men. The Romans
imitated the Greeks. These people always placed all the gods in heaven,
without knowing what they understood by heaven.
The Romans had their twelve great gods, six male and six female, whom
they called "_Dii majorum gentium_"; Jupiter, Neptune, Apollo, Vulcan,
Mars, Mercury, Juno, Vesta, Minerva, Ceres, Venus, and Diana; Pluto was
therefore forgotten: Vesta took his place.
Afterwards, came the gods "_minorum gentium_," the gods of mortal
origin; the heroes, as Bacchus, Hercules, and Æsculapius: the infernal
gods, Pluto and Proserpine: those of the sea, as Tethys, Amphitrite, the
Nereids, and Glaucus. The Dryads, Naiads, gods of gardens; those of
shepherds, etc. They had them, indeed, for every profession, for every
action of life, for children, marriageable girls, married, and lying-in
women: they had even the god Peditum; and finally, they idolized their
emperors. Neither these emperors nor the god Peditum, the goddess
Pertunda, nor Priapus, nor Rumilia, the goddess of nipples; nor
Stercutius, the god of the privy, were, in truth, regarded as the
masters of heaven and earth. The emperors had sometimes temples, the
petty gods--the penates--had none; but all had their representations,
There were little images with which they ornamented their closets, the
amusements of old women and children, which were not authorized by any
public worship. The superstition of every individual was left to act
according to his own taste. These small idols are still found in the
ruins of ancient towns.
If no person knows when men began to make these images, they must know
that they are of the greatest antiquity. Terah, the father of Abraham,
made them at Ur in Chaldæa. Rachel stole and carried off the images of
Laban, her father. We cannot go back further.
But what precise notion had the ancient nations of all these
representations? What virtue, what power, was attributed to them?
Believed they that the gods descended from heaven to conceal themselves
in these statues; or that they communicated to them a part of the divine
spirit; or that they communicated to them nothing at all? There has been
much very uselessly written on this subject; it is clear that every man
judged of it according to the degree of his reason, credulity, or
fanaticism. It is evident that the priests attached as much divinity to
their statues as they possibly could, to attract more offerings. We know
that the philosophers reproved these superstitions, that warriors
laughed at them, that the magistrates tolerated them, and that the
people, always absurd, knew not what they did. In a word, this is the
history of all nations to which God has not made himself known.
The same idea may be formed of the worship which all Egypt rendered to
the cow, and that several towns paid to a dog, an ape, a cat, and to
onions. It appears that these were first emblems. Afterwards, a certain
ox Apis, and a certain dog Anubis, were adored; they always ate beef and
onions; but it is difficult to know what the old women of Egypt thought
of the holy cows and onions.
Idols also often spoke. On the day of the feast of Cybele at Rome, those
fine words were commemorated which the statue pronounced when it was
translated from the palace of King Attilus: "I wish to depart; take me
away quickly; Rome is worthy the residence of every god."
_Ipsa peti volui; ne sit mora, mitte volentum;_
_Dignus Roma locus quo Deus omnis eat._
--OVID'S _Fasti_, iv, 269-270.
The statue of Fortune spoke; the Scipios, the Ciceros, and the Cæsars,
indeed, believed nothing of it; but the old woman, to whom Encolpus gave
a crown to buy geese and gods, might credit it.
Idols also gave oracles, and priests hidden in the hollow of the statues
spoke in the name of the divinity.
How happens it, in the midst of so many gods and different théogonies
and particular worships, that there was never any religious war among
the people called idolaters? This peace was a good produced from an
evil, even from error; for each nation, acknowledging several inferior
gods, found it good for his neighbors also to have theirs. If you except
Cambyses, who is reproached with having killed the ox Apis, you will not
see any conqueror in profane history who ill-treated the gods of a
vanquished people. The heathens had no exclusive religion, and the
priests thought only of multiplying the offerings and sacrifices.
The first offerings were fruits. Soon after, animals were required for
the table of the priests; they killed them themselves, and became cruel
butchers; finally, they introduced the horrible custom of sacrificing
human victims, and above all, children and young girls. The Chinese,
Parsees, and Indians, were never guilty of these abominations; but at
Hieropolis, in Egypt, according to Porphyrius, they immolated men.
Strangers were sacrificed at Taurida: happily, the priests of Taurida
had not much practice. The first Greeks, the Cypriots, Phoenicians,
Tyrians, and Carthaginians, possessed this abominable superstition. The
Romans themselves fell into this religious crime; and Plutarch relates,
that they immolated two Greeks and two Gauls to expiate the gallantries
of three vestals. Procopius, contemporary with the king of the Franks,
Theodobert, says that the Franks sacrificed men when they entered Italy
with that prince. The Gauls and Germans commonly made these frightful
sacrifices. We can scarcely read history without conceiving horror at
It is true that among the Jews, Jeptha sacrificed his daughter, and Saul
was ready to immolate his son; it is also true that those who were
devoted to the Lord by anathema could not be redeemed, as other beasts
were, but were doomed to perish.
We will now speak of the human victims sacrificed in all religions.
To console mankind for the horrible picture of these pious sacrifices,
it is important to know, that amongst almost all nations called
idolatrous, there have been holy theologies and popular error, secret
worship and public ceremonies; the religion of sages, and that of the
vulgar. To know that one God alone was taught to those initiated into
the mysteries, it is only necessary to look at the hymn attributed to
the ancient Orpheus, which was sung in the mysteries of the Eleusinian
Ceres, so celebrated in Europe and Asia: "Contemplate divine nature;
illuminate thy mind; govern thy heart; walk in the path of justice, that
the God of heaven and earth may be always present to thy eyes: He only
self-exists, all beings derive their existence from Him; He sustains
them all; He has never been seen by mortals, and He sees all things."
We may also read the passage of the philosopher Maximus, whom we have
already quoted: "What man is so gross and stupid as to doubt that there
is a supreme, eternal, and infinite God, who has engendered nothing like
Himself, and who is the common father of all things?"
There are a thousand proofs that the ancient sages not only abhorred
idolatry, but polytheism.
Epictetus, that model of resignation and patience, that man so great in
a humble condition, never speaks of but one God. Read over these maxims:
"God has created me; God is within me; I carry Him everywhere. Can I
defile Him by obscene thoughts, unjust actions, or infamous desires? My
duty is to thank God for all, to praise Him for all; and only to cease
blessing Him in ceasing to live." All the ideas of Epictetus turn on
this principle. Is this an idolater?
Marcus Aurelius, perhaps as great on the throne of the Roman Empire as
Epictetus was in slavery, often speaks, indeed, of the gods, either to
conform himself to the received language, or to express intermediate
beings between the Supreme Being and men; but in how many places does he
show that he recognizes one eternal, infinite God alone? "Our soul,"
says he, "is an emanation from the divinity. My children, my body, my
mind, are derived from God."
The Stoics and Platonics admitted a divine and universal nature; the
Epicureans denied it. The pontiffs spoke only of a single God in their
mysteries. Where then were the idolaters? All our declaimers exclaim
against idolatry like little dogs, that yelp when they hear a great one
As to the rest, it is one of the greatest errors of the "Dictionary" of
Moréri to say, that in the time of Theodosius the younger, there
remained no idolaters except in the retired countries of Asia and
Africa. Even in the seventh century there were many people still heathen
in Italy. The north of Germany, from the Weser, was not Christian in the
time of Charlemagne. Poland and all the south remained a long time after
him in what was called idolatry; the half of Africa, all the kingdoms
beyond the Ganges, Japan, the populace of China, and a hundred hordes of
Tartars, have preserved their ancient religion. In Europe there are only
a few Laplanders, Samoyedes, and Tartars, who have persevered in the
religion of their ancestors.
Let us conclude with remarking, that in the time which we call the
middle ages, we dominated the country of the Mahometans pagan; we
treated as idolaters and adorers of images, a people who hold all images
in abhorrence. Let us once more avow, that the Turks are more excusable
in believing us idolaters, when they see our altars loaded with images
A gentleman belonging to Prince Ragotski assured me upon his honor, that
being in a coffee-house at Constantinople, the mistress ordered that he
should not be served because he was an idolater. He was a Protestant,
and swore to her that he adored neither host nor images. "Ah! if that is
the case," said the woman, "come to me every day, and you shall be
served for nothing."
If you are desirous of obtaining a great name, of becoming the founder
of a sect or establishment, be completely mad; but be sure that your
madness corresponds with the turn and temper of your age. Have in your
madness reason enough to guide your extravagances; and forget not to be
excessively opinionated and obstinate. It is certainly possible that you
may get hanged; but if you escape hanging, you will have altars erected
In real truth, was there ever a fitter subject for the Petites-Maisons,
or Bedlam, than Ignatius, or St. Inigo the Biscayan, for that was his
true name? His head became deranged in consequence of his reading the
"Golden Legend"; as Don Quixote's was, afterwards, by reading the
romances of chivalry. Our Biscayan hero, in the first place, dubs
himself a knight of the Holy Virgin, and performs the Watch of Arms in
honor of his lady. The virgin appears to him and accepts his services;
she often repeats her visit, and introduces to him her son. The devil,
who watches his opportunity, and clearly foresees the injury he must in
the course of time suffer from the Jesuits, comes and makes a tremendous
noise in the house, and breaks all the windows; the Biscayan drives him
away with the sign of the cross; and the devil flies through the wall,
leaving in it a large opening, which was shown to the curious fifty
years after the happy event.
His family, seeing the very disordered state of his mind, is desirous of
his being confined and put under a course of regimen and medicine. He
extricates himself from his family as easily as he did from the devil,
and escapes without knowing where to go. He meets with a Moor, and
disputes with him about the immaculate conception. The Moor, who takes
him exactly for what he is, quits him as speedily as possible. The
Biscayan hesitates whether he shall kill the Moor or pray to God for his
conversion; he leaves the decision to his horse, and the animal, rather
wiser than its master, takes the road leading to the stable.
Our hero, after this adventure, undertakes a pilgrimage to Bethlehem,
begging his bread on the way: his madness increases as he proceeds; the
Dominicans take pity on him at Manrosa, and keep him in their
establishment for some days, and then dismiss him uncured.
He embarks at Barcelona, and goes to Venice; he returns to Barcelona,
still travelling as a mendicant, always experiencing trances and
ecstacies, and frequently visited by the Holy Virgin and Jesus Christ.
At length, he was given to understand that, in order to go to the Holy
Land with any fair view of converting the Turks, the Christians of the
Greek church, the Armenians, and the Jews, it was necessary to begin
with a little study of theology. Our hero desires nothing better; but,
to become a theologian, it was requisite to know something of grammar
and a little Latin; this gives him no embarrassment whatever: he goes to
college at the age of thirty-three; he is there laughed at, and learns
He was almost broken-hearted at the idea of not being able to go and
convert the infidels. The devil, for this once, took pity on him. He
appeared to him, and swore to him, on the faith of a Christian, that, if
he would deliver himself over to him, he would make him the most learned
and able man in the church of God. Ignatius, however, was not to be
cajoled to place himself under the discipline of such a master; he went
back to his class; he occasionally experienced the rod, but his learning
made no progress.
Expelled from the college of Barcelona, persecuted by the devil, who
punished him for refusing to submit to his instructions, and abandoned
by the Virgin Mary, who took no pains about assisting her devoted
knight, he, nevertheless, does not give way to despair. He joins the
pilgrims of St. James in their wanderings over the country. He preaches
in the streets and public places, from city to city, and is shut up in
the dungeons of the Inquisition. Delivered from the Inquisition, he is
put in prison at Alcala. He escapes thence to Salamanca, and is there
again imprisoned. At length, perceiving that he is no prophet in his own
country, he forms a resolution to go to Paris. He travels thither on
foot, driving before him an ass which carried his baggage, money, and
manuscripts. Don Quixote had a horse and an esquire, but Ignatius was
not provided with either.
He experiences at Paris the same insults and injuries as he had endured
in Spain. He is absolutely flogged, in all the regular form and ceremony
of scholastic discipline, at the college of St. Barbe. His vocation, at
length, calls him to Rome.
How could it possibly come to pass, that a man of such extravagant
character and manners, should at length obtain consideration at the
court of Rome, gain over a number of disciples, and become the founder
of a powerful order, among whom are to be found men of unquestionable
worth and learning? The reason is, that he was opinionated, obstinate,
and enthusiastic; and found enthusiasts like himself, with whom he
associated. These, having rather a greater share of reason than himself,
were instrumental in somewhat restoring and re-establishing his own; he
became more prudent and regular towards the close of his life, and
occasionally even displayed in his conduct proofs of ability.
Perhaps Mahomet, in his first conversations with the angel Gabriel,
began his career with being as much deranged as Ignatius; and perhaps
Ignatius, in Mahomet's circumstances, would have performed as great
achievements as the prophet; for he was equally ignorant, and quite as
visionary and intrepid.
It is a common observation, that such cases occur only once: however, it
is not long since an English rustic, more ignorant than the Spaniard
Ignatius, formed the society of people called "Quakers"; a society far
superior to that of Ignatius. Count Zinzendorf has, in our own time,
formed the sect of Moravians; and the Convulsionaries of Paris were very
nearly upon the point of effecting a revolution. They were quite mad
enough, but they were not sufficiently persevering and obstinate.
There are many kinds of ignorance; but the worst of all is that of
critics, who, it is well known, are doubly bound to possess information
and judgment as persons who undertake to affirm and to censure. When
they pronounce erroneously, therefore, they are doubly culpable.
A man, for example, composes two large volumes upon a few pages of a
valuable book which he has not understood, and in the first place
examines the following words:
"The sea has covered immense tracts.... The deep beds of shells which
are found in Touraine and elsewhere, could have been deposited there
only by the sea."
True, if those beds of shells exist in fact; but the critic ought to be
aware that the author himself discovered, or thought he had discovered,
that those regular beds of shells have no existence.
He ought to have said:
"The universal Deluge is related by Moses with the agreement of all
1. Because the Pentateuch was long unknown, not only to the other
nations of the world, but to the Jews themselves.
2. Because only a single copy of the law was found at the bottom of an
old chest in the time of King Josiah.
3. Because that book was lost during the captivity.
4. Because it was restored by Esdras.
5. Because it was always unknown to every other nation till the time of
its being translated by the Seventy.
6. Because, even after the translation ascribed to the Seventy, we have
not a single author among the Gentiles who quotes a single passage from
this book, down to the time of Longinus, who lived under the Emperor
7. Because no other nation ever admitted a universal deluge before
Ovid's "Metamorphoses"; and even Ovid himself does not make his deluge
extend beyond the Mediterranean.
8. Because St. Augustine expressly acknowledges that the universal
deluge was unknown to all antiquity.
9. Because the first deluge of which any notice is taken by the
Gentiles, is that mentioned by Berosus, and which he fixes at about four
thousand four hundred years before our vulgar era; which deluge did not
extend beyond the Euxine Sea.
10. Finally, because no monument of a universal deluge remains in any
nation in the world.
In addition to all these reasons, it must be observed, that the critic
did not even understand the simple state of the question. The only
inquiry is, whether we have any natural proof that the sea has
successively abandoned many tracts of territory? and upon this plain and
mere matter-of-fact subject, M. Abbé François has taken occasion to
abuse men whom he certainly neither knows nor understands. It is far
better to be silent, than merely to increase the quantity of bad books.
The same critic, in order to prop up old ideas, now almost universally
despised and derided, and which have not the slightest relation to
Moses, thinks proper to say: "Berosus perfectly agrees with Moses in the
number of generations before the Deluge."
Be it known to you, my dear reader, that this same Berosus is the writer
who informs us that the fish Oannes came out to the river Euphrates
every day, to go and preach to the Chaldæans; and that the same fish
wrote with one of its bones a capital book about the origin of things.
Such is the writer whom the ingenious abbé brings forward as a voucher
"Is it not evident," he says, "that a great number of European families,
transplanted to the coasts of Africa, have become, without any mixture
of African blood, as black as any of the natives of the country?"
It is just the contrary of this, M. l'Abbé, that is evident. You are
ignorant that the "_reticulum mucosum_" of the negroes is black,
although I have mentioned the fact times innumerable. Were you to have
ever so large a number of children born to you in Guinea, of a European
wife, they would not one of them have that black unctuous skin, those
dark and thick lips, those round eyes, or that woolly hair, which form
the specific differences of the negro race. In the same manner, were
your family established in America, they would have beards, while a
native American will have none. Now extricate yourself from the
difficulty, with Adam and Eve only, if you can.
"Who was this 'Melchom,' you ask, who had taken possession of the
country of God? A pleasant sort of god, certainly, whom the God of
Jeremiah would carry off to be dragged into captivity."
Ah, M. l'Abbé! you are quite smart and lively. You ask, who is this
Melchom? I will immediately inform you. Melek or Melkom signified the
Lord, as did Adoni or Adonai, Baal or Bel, Adad or Shadai, Eloi or Eloa.
Almost all the nations of Syria gave such names to their gods; each had
its lord, its protector, its god. Even the name of Jehovah was a
Phoenician and proper name; this we learn from Sanchoniathon, who was
certainly anterior to Moses; and also from Diodorus.
We well know that God is equally the God, the absolute master, of
Egyptians and Jews, of all men and all worlds; but it is not in this
light that he is represented when Moses appears before Pharaoh. He never
speaks to that monarch but in the name of the God of the Hebrews, as an
ambassador delivers the orders of the king his master. He speaks so
little in the name of the Master of all Nature, that Pharaoh replies to
him, "I do not know him." Moses performs prodigies in the name of this
God; but the magicians of Pharaoh perform precisely the same prodigies
in the name of their own. Hitherto both sides are equal; the contest is,
who shall be deemed most powerful, not who shall be deemed alone
powerful. At length, the God of the Hebrews decidedly carries the day;
he manifests a power by far the greater; but not the only power. Thus,
speaking after the manner of men, Pharaoh's incredulity is very
excusable. It is the same incredulity as Montezuma exhibited before
Cortes, and Atahualpa before the Pizarros.
When Joshua called together the Jews, he said to them: "Choose ye this
day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your father served, that
were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in
whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the
Lord." The people, therefore, had already given themselves up to other
gods, and might serve whom they pleased.
When the family of Micah, in Ephraim, hire a Levitical priest to conduct
the service of a strange god, when the whole tribe of Dan serve the same
god as the family of Micah; when a grandson of Moses himself becomes a
hired priest of the same god--no one murmurs; every one has his own god,
undisturbed; and the grandson of Moses becomes an idolater without any
one's reviling or accusing him. At that time, therefore, every one chose
his own local god, his own protector.
The same Jews, after the death of Gideon, adore Baal-berith, which means
precisely the same as Adonai--the lord, the protector; they change their
Adonai, in the time of Joshua, becomes master of the mountains; but he
is unable to overcome the inhabitants of the valleys, because they had
chariots armed with scythes. Can anything more correctly represent the
idea of a local deity, a god who is strong in one place, but not so in
Jephthah, the son of Gilead, and a concubine, says to the Moabites:
"Wilt thou not possess what Chemosh, thy god, giveth thee to possess?
So, whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them
will we possess."
It is then perfectly proved, that the undistinguishing Jews, although
chosen by the God of the universe, regarded him notwithstanding as a
mere local god, the god of a particular territory of people, like the
god of the Amorites, or that of the Moabites, of the mountains or of the
It is unfortunately very evident that it was perfectly indifferent to
the grandson of Moses whether he served Micah's god or his
grandfather's. It is clear, and cannot but be admitted, that the Jewish
religion was not formed, that it was not uniform, till the time of
Esdras; and we must, even then, except the Samaritans.
You may now, probably, have some idea of the meaning of this lord or god
Melchom. I am not in favor of his cause--the Lord deliver me from such
folly!--but when you remark, "the god which Jeremiah threatened to carry
into slavery must be a curious and pleasant sort of deity," I will
answer you, M. l'Abbé, with this short piece of advice:--"From your own
house of glass do not throw stones at those of your neighbors."
They were the Jews who were at that very time carried off in slavery to
Babylon. It was the good Jeremiah himself who was accused of being
bribed by the court of Babylon, and of having consequently prophesied in
his favor. It was he who was the object of public scorn and hatred, and
who it is thought ended his career by being stoned to death by the Jews
themselves. This Jeremiah, be assured from me, was never before
understood to be a joker.
The God of the Jews, I again repeat, is the God of all nature. I
expressly make this repetition that you may have no ground for
pretending ignorance of it, and that you may not accuse me before the
ecclesiastical court. I still, however, assert and maintain, that the
stupid Jews frequently knew no other God than a local one.
"It is not natural to attribute the tides to the phases of the moon.
They are not the high tides which occur at the full moon, that are
ascribed to the phases of that planet." Here we see ignorance of a
It occasionally happens that persons of a certain description are so
much ashamed of the part they play in the world, that they are desirous
of disguising themselves sometimes as wits, and sometimes as
In the first place, it is proper to inform M. l'Abbé, that nothing is
more natural than to attribute an effect to that which is always
followed by this effect. If a particular wind is constantly followed by
rain, it is natural to attribute the rain to the wind. Now, over all the
shores of the ocean, the tides are always higher in the moon's
"syzygies"--if you happen to know the meaning of the term--than at its
quarterings. The moon rises every day later; the tide is also every day
later. The nearer the moon approaches our zenith, the greater is the
tide; the nearer the moon approaches its perigee, the higher the tide
still rises. These experiences and various others, these invariable
correspondences with the phases of the moon, were the foundation of the
ancient and just opinion, that that body is a principal cause of the
flux and reflux of the ocean.
After numerous centuries appeared the great Newton--Are you at all
acquainted with Newton? Did you ever hear, that after calculating the
square of the progress of the moon in its orbit during the space of a
minute, and dividing that square by the diameter of that orbit, he found
the quotient to be fifteen feet? that he thence demonstrated that the
moon gravitates towards the earth three thousand six hundred times less
than if she were near the earth? that he afterwards demonstrated that
its attractive force is the cause of three-fourths of the elevation of
the sea by the tide, and that the force of the sun is the cause of the
remaining fourth? You appear perfectly astonished. You never read
anything like this in the "Christian Pedagogue." Endeavor henceforward,
both you and the porters of your parish, never to speak about things of
which you have not even the slightest idea.
You can form no conception of the injury you do to religion by your
ignorance, and still more by your reasonings. In order to preserve in
the world the little faith that remains in it, it would be the most
judicious measure possible to restrain you, and such as you, from
writing and publishing in behalf of it.
I should absolutely make your astonished eyes stare almost to starting,
were I to inform you, that this same Newton was persuaded that Samuel is
the author of the Pentateuch. I do not mean to say that he demonstrated
it in the same way as he calculated and deduced the power of
gravitation. Learn, then, to doubt and to be modest. I believe in the
Pentateuch, remember; but I believe, also, that you have printed and
published the most enormous absurdities. I could here transcribe a large
volume of instances of your own individual ignorance and imbecility, and
many of those of your brethren and colleagues. I shall not, however,
take the trouble of doing it. Let us go on with our questions.
I am ignorant how I was formed, and how I was born. I was perfectly
ignorant, for a quarter of my life, of the reasons of all that I saw,
heard, and felt, and was a mere parrot, talking by rote in imitation of
When I looked about me and within me, I conceived that something existed
from all eternity. Since there are beings actually existing, I concluded
that there is some being necessary and necessarily eternal. Thus the
first step I took to extricate myself from my ignorance, overpassed the
limits of all ages--the boundaries of time.
But when I was desirous of proceeding in this infinite career, I could
neither perceive a single path, nor clearly distinguish a single object;
and from the flight which I took to contemplate eternity, I have fallen
back into the abyss of my original ignorance.
I have seen what is denominated "matter," from the star Sirius, and the
stars of the "milky way," as distant from Sirius as that is from us, to
the smallest atom that can be perceived by the microscope; and yet I
know not what matter is.
Light, which has enabled me to see all these different and distant
beings, is perfectly unknown to me; I am able by the help of a prism to
anatomize this light, and divide it into seven pencillings of rays; but
I cannot divide these pencillings themselves; I know not of what they
are composed. Light resembles matter in having motion and impinging upon
objects, but it does not tend towards a common centre like all other
bodies; on the contrary it flies off by some invincible power from the
centre, while all matter gravitates towards a centre. Light appears to
be penetrable, and matter is impenetrable. Is light matter, or is it not
matter? What is it? With what numberless properties can it be invested?
I am completely ignorant.
This substance so brilliant, so rapid, and so unknown, and those other
substances which float in the immensity of space--seeming to be
infinite--are they eternal? I know nothing on the subject. Has a
necessary being, sovereignly intelligent, created them from nothing, or
has he only arranged them? Did he produce this order in time, or before
_time_? Alas! what is this time, of which I am speaking? I am incapable
of defining it. O God, it is Thou alone by whom I can be instructed, for
I am neither enlightened by the darkness of other men nor by my own.
Mice and moles have their resemblances of structure, in certain
respects, to the human frame. What difference can it make to the Supreme
Being whether animals like ourselves, or such as mice, exist upon this
globe revolving in space with innumerable globes around it?
Why have we being? Why are there any beings? What is sensation? How have
I received it? What connection is there between the air which vibrates
on my ear and the sensation of sound? between this body and the
sensation of colors? I am perfectly ignorant, and shall ever remain
What is thought? Where does it reside? How is it formed? Who gives me
thoughts during my sleep? Is it in virtue of my will that I think? No,
for always during sleep, and often when I am awake, I have ideas
against, or at least without, my will. These ideas, long forgotten, long
put away, and banished in the lumber room of my brain, issue from it
without any effort or volition of mine, and suddenly present themselves
to my memory, which had, perhaps, previously made various vain attempts
to recall them.
External objects have not the power of forming ideas in me, for nothing
can communicate what it does not possess; I am well assured that they
are not given me by myself, for they are produced without my orders. Who
then produces them in me? Whence do they come? Whither do they go?
Fugitive phantoms! What invisible hand produces and disperses you?
Why, of all the various tribes of animals, has man alone the mad
ambition of domineering over his fellow? Why and how could it happen,
that out of a thousand millions of men, more than nine hundred and
ninety-nine have been sacrificed to this mad ambition?
How is it that reason is a gift so precious that we would none of us
lose it for all the pomp or wealth of the world, and yet at the same
time that it has merely served to render us, in almost all cases, the
most miserable of beings? Whence comes it, that with a passionate
attachment to truth, we are always yielding to the most palpable
Why do the vast tribes of India, deceived and enslaved by the bonzes,
trampled upon by the descendant of a Tartar, bowed down by labor,
groaning in misery, assailed by diseases, and a mark for all the
scourges and plagues of life, still fondly cling to that life? Whence
comes evil, and why does it exist?
O atoms of a day! O companions in littleness, born like me to suffer
everything, and be ignorant of everything!--are there in reality any
among you so completely mad as to imagine you know all this, or that you
can solve all these difficulties? Certainly there can be none. No; in
the bottom of your heart you feel your own nothingness, as completely as
I do justice to mine. But you are nevertheless arrogant and conceited
enough to be eager for our embracing your vain systems; and not having
the power to tyrannize over our bodies, you aim at becoming the tyrants
of our souls.
Imagination is the power which every being, endowed with perception and
reason, is conscious he possesses of representing to himself sensible
objects. This faculty is dependent upon memory. We see men, animals,
gardens, which perceptions are introduced by the senses; the memory
retains them, and the imagination compounds them. On this account the
ancient Greeks called the muses, "the daughters of memory."
It is of great importance to observe, that these faculties of receiving
ideas, retaining them, and compounding them, are among the many things
of which we can give no explanation. These invisible springs of our
being are of nature's workmanship, and not of our own.
Perhaps this gift of God, imagination, is the sole instrument with which
we compound ideas, even those which are abstract and metaphysical.
You pronounce the word "triangle;" but you merely utter a sound, if you
do not represent to yourself the image of some particular triangle. You
certainly have no idea of a triangle but in consequence of having seen
triangles, if you have the gift of sight, or of having felt them, if you
are blind. You cannot think of a triangle in general, unless your
imagination figures to itself, at least in a confused way, some
particular triangle. You calculate; but it is necessary that you should
represent to yourself units added to each other, or your mind will be
totally insensible to the operation of your hand.
You utter the abstract terms--greatness, truth, justice, finite,
infinite; but is the term "greatness" thus uttered, anything more or
less, than a mere sound, from the action of your tongue, producing
vibrations in the air, unless you have the image of some greatness in
your mind? What meaning is there in the words "truth" and "falsehood,"
if you have not perceived, by means of your senses, that some particular
thing which you were told existed, did exist in fact; and that another
of which you were told the same, did not exist? And, is it not from this
experience, that you frame the general idea of truth and falsehood? And,
when asked what you mean by these words, can you help figuring to
yourself some sensible image, occasioning you to recollect that you have
sometimes been told, as a fact, what really and truly happened, and very
often what was not so?
Have you any other notion of just and unjust, than what is derived from
particular actions, which appeared to you respectively of these
descriptions? You began in your childhood by learning to read under some
master: you endeavored to spell well, but you really spelled ill: your
master chastised you: this appeared to you very unjust. You have
observed a laborer refused his wages, and innumerable instances of the
like nature. Is the abstract idea of just and unjust anything more than
facts of this character confusedly mixed up in your imagination?
Is "finite" anything else in your conception than the image of some
limited quantity or extent? Is "infinite" anything but the image of the
same extent or quantity enlarged indefinitely? Do not all these
operations take place in your mind just in the same manner as you read a
book? You read circumstances and events recorded in it, and never think
at the time of the alphabetical characters, without which, however, you
would have no notion of these events and circumstances. Attend to this
point for a single moment, and then you will distinctly perceive the
essential importance of those characters over which your eye previously
glided without thinking of them. In the same manner all your reasonings,
all your accumulations of knowledge are founded on images traced in your
brain. You have, in general, no distinct perception or recollection of
them; but give the case only a moment's attention, and you will then
clearly discern, that these images are the foundation of all the notions
you possess. It may be worth the reader's while to dwell a little upon
this idea, to extend it, and to rectify it.
The celebrated Addison, in the eleven essays on the imagination with
which he has enriched the volumes of the "Spectator," begins with
observing, that "the sense of sight is the only one which furnishes the
imagination with ideas." Yet certainly it must be allowed, that the
other senses contribute some share. A man born blind still hears, in his
imagination, the harmony which no longer vibrates upon his ear; he still
continues listening as in a trance or dream; the objects which have
resisted or yielded to his hands produce a similar effect in his head or
mind. It is true that the sense of sight alone supplies images; and as
it is a kind of touching or feeling which extends even to the distance
of the stars, its immense diffusion enriches the imagination more than
all the other senses put together.
There are two descriptions of imagination; one consists in retaining a
simple impression of objects; the other arranges the images received,
and combines them in endless diversity. The first has been called
passive imagination, and the second active. The passive scarcely
advances beyond memory, and is common to man and to animals. From this
power or faculty it arises, that the sportsman and his dog both follow
the hunted game in their dreams, that they both hear the sound of the
horn, and the one shouts and the other barks in their sleep. Both men
and brutes do something more than recollect on these occasions, for
dreams are never faithful and accurate images. This species of
imagination compounds objects, but it is not the understanding which
acts in it; it is the memory laboring under error.
This passive imagination certainly requires no assistance from volition,
whether we are asleep or awake; it paints, independently of ourselves,
what our eyes have seen; it hears what our ears have heard, and touches
what we have touched; it adds to it or takes from it. It is an internal
sense, acting necessarily, and accordingly there is nothing more common,
in speaking of any particular individual, than to say, "he has no
command over his imagination."
In this respect we cannot but see, and be astonished at the slight share
of power we really possess. Whence comes it, that occasionally in dreams
we compose most coherent and eloquent discourses, and verses far
superior to what we should write on the same subject if perfectly
awake?--that we even solve complicated problems in mathematics? Here
certainly there are very combined and complex ideas in no degree
dependent on ourselves. But if it is incontestable that coherent ideas
are formed within us independently of our will in sleep, who can safely
assert that they are not produced in the same manner when we are awake?
Is there a man living who foresees the idea which he will form in his
mind the ensuing minute? Does it not seem as if ideas were given to us
as much as the motions of our fibres; and had Father Malebranche merely
maintained the principle that all ideas are given by God, could any one
have successfully opposed him?
This passive faculty, independent of reflection, is the source of our
passions and our errors; far from being dependent on the will, the will
is determined by it. It urges us towards the objects which it paints
before us, or diverts us from them, just according to the nature of the
exhibition thus made of them by it. The image of a danger inspires fear;
that of a benefit excites desire. It is this faculty alone which
produces the enthusiasm of glory, of party, of fanaticism; it is this
which produces so many mental alienations and disorders, making weak
brains, when powerfully impressed, conceive that their bodies are
metamorphosed into various animals, that they are possessed by demons,
that they are under the infernal dominion of witchcraft, and that they
are in reality going to unite with sorcerers in the worship of the
devil, because they have been told that they were going to do so. This
species of slavish imagination, which generally is the lot of ignorant
people, has been the instrument which the imagination of some men has
employed to acquire and retain power. It is, moreover, this passive
imagination of brains easily excited and agitated, which sometimes
produces on the bodies of children evident marks of the impression
received by the mother; examples of this kind are indeed innumerable,
and the writer of this article has seen some so striking that, were he
to deny them, he must contradict his own ocular demonstration. This
effect of imagination is incapable of being explained; but every other
operation of nature is equally so; we have no clearer idea how we have
perceptions, how we retain them, or how we combine them. There is an
infinity between us and the springs or first principles of our nature.
Active imagination is that which joins combination and reflection to
memory. It brings near to us many objects at a distance; it separates
those mixed together, compounds them, and changes them; it seems to
create, while in fact it merely arranges; for it has not been given to
man to make ideas--he is only able to modify them.
This active imagination then is in reality a faculty as independent of
ourselves as passive imagination; and one proof of its not depending
upon ourselves is that, if we propose to a hundred persons, equally
ignorant, to imagine a certain new machine, ninety-nine of them will
form no imagination at all about it, notwithstanding all their
endeavors. If the hundredth imagines something, is it not clear that it
is a particular gift or talent which he has received? It is this gift
which is called "genius"; it is in this that we recognize something
inspired and divine.
This gift of nature is an imagination inventive in the arts--in the
disposition of a picture, in the structure of a poem. It cannot exist
without memory, but it uses memory as an instrument with which it
produces all its performances.
In consequence of having seen that a large stone which the hand of man
could not move, might be moved by means of a staff, active imagination
invented levers, and afterwards compound moving forces, which are no
other than disguised levers. It is necessary to figure in the mind the
machines with their various effects and processes, in order to the
actual production of them.
It is not this description of imagination that is called by the vulgar
the enemy of judgment. On the contrary, it can only act in union with
profound judgment; it incessantly combines its pictures, corrects its
errors, and raises all its edifices according to calculation and upon a
plan. There is an astonishing imagination in practical mathematics; and
Archimedes had at least as much imagination as Homer. It is by this
power that a poet creates his personages, appropriates to them
characters and manners, invents his fable, presents the exposition of
it, constructs its complexity, and prepares its development; a labor,
all this, requiring judgment the most profound and the most delicately
A very high degree of art is necessary in all these imaginative
inventions, and even in romances. Those which are deficient in this
quality are neglected and despised by all minds of natural good taste.
An invariably sound judgment pervades all the fables of Æsop. They will
never cease to be the delight of mankind. There is more imagination in
the "Fairy Tales"; but these fantastic imaginations, destitute of order
and good sense, can never be in high esteem; they are read childishly,
and must be condemned by reason.
The second part of active imagination is that of detail, and it is this
to which the world distinguishingly applies the term. It is this which
constitutes the charm of conversation, for it is constantly presenting
to the mind what mankind are most fond of--new objects. It paints in
vivid colors what men of cold and reserved temperament hardly sketch; it
employs the most striking circumstances; it cites the most appropriate
examples; and when this talent displays itself in union with the modesty
and simplicity which become and adorn all talents, it conciliates to
itself an empire over society. Man is so completely a machine that wine
sometimes produces this imagination, as intoxication destroys it. This
is a topic to excite at once humiliation and wonder. How can it happen
that a small quantity of a certain liquor, which would prevent a man
from effecting an important calculation, shall at the same time bestow
on him the most brilliant ideas?
It is in poetry particularly that this imagination of detail and
expression ought to prevail. It is always agreeable, but there it is
necessary. In Homer, Virgil, and Horace, almost all is imagery, without
even the reader's perceiving it. Tragedy requires fewer images, fewer
picturesque expressions and sublime metaphors and allegories than the
epic poem and the ode; but the greater part of these beauties, under
discreet and able management, produce an admirable effect in tragedy;
they should never, however, be forced, stilted, or gigantic.
Active imagination, which constitutes men poets, confers on them
enthusiasm, according to the true meaning of the Greek word, that
internal emotion which in reality agitates the mind and transforms the
author into the personage whom he introduces as the speaker; for such is
the true enthusiasm, which consists in emotion and imagery. An author
under this influence says precisely what would be said by the character
he is exhibiting.
Less imagination is admissible in eloquence than in poetry. The reason
is obvious--ordinary discourse should be less remote from common ideas.
The orator speaks the language of all; the foundation of the poet's
performance is fiction. Accordingly, imagination is the essence of his
art; to the orator it is only an accessory.
Particular traits or touches of imagination have, it is observed, added
great beauties to painting. That artifice especially is often cited, by
which the artist covers with a veil the head of Agamemnon at the
sacrifice of Iphigenia; an expedient, nevertheless, far less beautiful
than if the painter had possessed the secret of exhibiting in the
countenance of Agamemnon the conflict between the grief of a father, the
majesty of a monarch, and the resignation of a good man to the will of
heaven; as Rubens had the skill to paint in the looks and attitude of
Mary de Medici the pain of childbirth, the joy of being delivered of a
son, and the maternal affection with which she looks upon her child.
In general, the imaginations of painters when they are merely ingenious,
contribute more to exhibit the learning in the artist than to increase
the beauty of the art. All the allegorical compositions in the world are
not worth the masterly execution and fine finish which constitute the
true value of paintings.
In all the arts, the most beautiful imagination is always the most
natural. The false is that which brings together objects incompatible;
the extravagant paints objects which have no analogy, allegory, or
resemblance. A strong imagination explores everything to the bottom; a
weak one skims over the surface; the placid one reposes in agreeable
pictures; the ardent one piles images upon images. The judicious or sage
imagination is that which employs with discrimination all these
different characters, but which rarely admits the extravagant and always
rejects the false.
If memory nourished and exercised be the source of all imagination, that
same faculty of memory, when overcharged, becomes the extinction of it.
Accordingly, the man whose head is full of names and dates does not
possess that storehouse of materials from which he can derive compound
images. Men occupied in calculation, or with intricate matters of
business, have generally a very barren imagination.
When imagination is remarkably stirring and ardent, it may easily
degenerate into madness; but it has been observed that this morbid
affection of the organs of the brain more frequently attaches to those
passive imaginations which are limited to receiving strong impressions
of objects than to those fervid and active ones which collect and
combine ideas; for this active imagination always requires the
association of judgment, the other is independent of it.
It is not perhaps useless to add to this essay, that by the words
perception, memory, imagination, and judgment, we do not mean distinct
and separate organs, one of which has the gift of perceiving, another of
recollecting, the third of imagining, and the last of judging. Men are
more inclined, than some are aware, to consider these as completely
distinct and separate faculties. It is, however, one and the same being
that performs all these operations, which we know only by their effects,
without being able to know anything of that being itself.
Brutes possess imagination as well as ourselves; your dog, for example,
hunts in his dreams. "Objects are painted in the fancy," says Descartes,
as others have also said. Certainly they are; but what is the fancy, and
how are objects painted in it? Is it with "the subtle matter"? "How can
I tell" is the appropriate answer to all questions thus affecting the
first principles of human organization.
Nothing enters the understanding without an image. It was necessary, in
order to our obtaining the confused idea we possess of infinite space,
that we should have an idea of a space of a few feet. It is necessary,
in order to our having the idea of God, that the image of something more
powerful than ourselves should have long dwelt upon our minds.
We do not create a single idea or image. I defy you to create one.
Ariosto did not make Astolpho travel to the moon till long after he had
heard of the moon, of St. John, and of the Paladins.
We make no images; we only collect and combine them. The extravagances
of the "Thousand and One Nights" and the "Fairy Tales" are merely
combinations. He who comprises most images in the storehouse of his
memory is the person who possesses most imagination.
The difficulty is in not bringing together these images in profusion,
without any selection. You might employ a whole day in representing,
without any toilsome effort, and almost without any attention, a fine
old man with a long beard, clothed in ample drapery, and borne in the
midst of a cloud resting on chubby children with beautiful wings
attached to their shoulders, or upon an eagle of immense size and
grandeur; all the gods and animals surrounding him; golden tripods
running to arrive at his council; wheels revolving by their own
self-motion, advancing as they revolve; having four faces covered with
eyes, ears, tongues, and noses; and between these tripods and wheels an
immense multitude of dead resuscitated by the crash of thunder; the
celestial spheres dancing and joining in harmonious concert, etc. The
lunatic asylum abounds in such imaginations.
We may, in dealing with the subject of imagination distinguish:
1. The imagination which disposes of the events of a poem, romance,
tragedy, or comedy, and which attaches the characters and passions to
the different personages. This requires the profoundest judgment and the
most exquisite knowledge of the human heart; talents absolutely
indispensable; but with which, however, nothing has yet been done but
merely laying the foundation of the edifice.
2. The imagination which gives to all these personages the eloquence or
diction appropriate to their rank, suitable to their station. Here is
the great art and difficulty; but even after doing this they have not
3. The imagination in the expression, by which every word paints an
image in the mind without astonishing or overwhelming it; as in Virgil:
_.... Remigium alarum_.--ÆNEID, vi, 19.
_Mærentem abjungens fraterna morte juvencum._
--GEORGICS, iii, 517.
_.... Velorum pandimus alas_.--ÆNEID, iii, 520.
_Pendent circum oscula nati_.--GEORGICS, ii, 523.
_Immortale jecur tundens fecundaque poenis_
_Viscera_.--ÆNEID, vi, 598-599.
_Et caligantem nigra formidine lucum._
--GEORGICS, iv, 468.
_Fata vocant, conditque natantia lumina somnus._
--GEORGICS, iv, 496.
Virgil is full of these picturesque expressions, with which he enriches
the Latin language, and which are so difficult to be translated into our
European jargons--the crooked and lame offspring of a well-formed and
majestic sire, but which, however, have some merit of their own, and
have done some tolerably good things in their way.
There is an astonishing imagination, even in the science of mathematics.
An inventor must begin with painting correctly in his mind the figure,
the machine invented by him, and its properties or effects. We repeat
there was far more imagination in the head of Archimedes than in that of
As the imagination of a great mathematician must possess extreme
precision, so must that of a great poet be exceedingly correct and
chaste. He must never present images that are incompatible with each
other, incoherent, highly exaggerated, or unsuitable to the nature of
The great fault of some writers who have appeared since the age of Louis
XIV. is attempting a constant display of imagination, and fatiguing the
reader by the profuse abundance of far-fetched images and double rhymes,
one-half of which may be pronounced absolutely useless. It is this which
at length brought into neglect and obscurity a number of small poems,
such as "Ver Vert," "The Chartreuse," and "The Shades," which at one
period possessed considerable celebrity. Mere sounding superfluity soon
_Omne supervacuum pleno depectore manat._
--HORACE, _Art of Poetry_, 837.
The active and the passive imagination have been distinguished in the
"Encyclopædia." The active is that of which we have treated. It is the
talent of forming new pictures out of all those contained in our memory.
The passive is scarcely anything beyond memory itself, even in a brain
under strong emotion. A man of an active and fervid imagination, a
preacher of the League in France, or a Puritan in England, harangues the
populace with a voice of thunder, with an eye of fire, and the gesture
of a demoniac, and represents Jesus Christ as demanding justice of the
Eternal Father for the new wounds he has received from the royalists,
for the nails which have been driven for the second time through his
feet and hands by these impious miscreants. Avenge, O God the Father,
avenge the blood of God the Son; march under the banner of the Holy
Spirit; it was formerly a dove, but is now an eagle bearing thunder! The
passive imaginations, roused and stimulated by these images, by the
voice, by the action of those sanguinary empirics, urge the maddened
hearers to rush with fury from the chapel or meeting house, to kill
their opponents and get themselves hanged.
Persons of passive imaginations, for the sake of high and violent
excitement, go sometimes to the sermon and sometimes to the play;
sometimes to the place of execution; and sometimes even to what they
suppose to be the midnight and appalling meetings of presumed sorcerers.
Who is the impious man? It is he who exhibits the Being of Beings, the
great former of the world, the eternal intelligence by whom all nature
is governed, with a long white beard, and having hands and feet.
However, he is pardonable for his impiety--a weak and ignorant creature,
the sight or conduct of whom we ought not to allow to provoke or to vex
If he should even paint that great and incomprehensible Being as carried
on a cloud, which can carry nothing; if he is so stupid as to place God
in a mist, in rain, or on a mountain, and to surround him with little
round, chubby, painted faces, accompanied by two wings, I can smile and
pardon him with all my heart.
The impious man, who ascribes to the Being of Beings absurd predictions
and absolute iniquities, would certainly provoke me, if that Great Being
had not bestowed upon me the gift of reason to control my anger. This
senseless fanatic repeats to me once more what thousands of others have
said before him, that it is not our province to decide what is
reasonable and just in the Great Being; that His reason is not like our
reason, nor His justice like our justice. What then, my rather too
absurd and zealous friend, would you really wish me to judge of justice
and reason by any other notions than I have of them myself? Would you
have me walk otherwise than with my feet, or speak otherwise than with
The impious man, who supposes the Great Being to be jealous, proud,
malignant, and vindictive, is more dangerous. I would not sleep under
the same roof with such a man.
But how will you treat the impious man, the daring blasphemer, who says
to you: "See only with my eyes; do not think for yourself; I proclaim to
you a tyrant God, who ordained me to be your tyrant; I am His
well-beloved; He will torment to all eternity millions of His creatures,
whom He detests, for the sake of gratifying me; I will be your master in
this world and will laugh at your torments in the next!"
Do you not feel a very strong inclination to beat this cruel blasphemer?
And, even if you happen to be born with a meek and forgiving spirit,
would you not fly with the utmost speed to the West, when this barbarian
utters his atrocious reveries in the East?
With respect to another and very different class of the impious--those
who, while washing their elbows, neglect to turn their faces towards
Aleppo and Erivan, or who do not kneel down in the dirt on seeing a
procession of capuchin friars at Perpignan, they are certainly culpable;
but I hardly think they ought to be impaled.
So many philosophical works have been written on the nature of impost,
that we need say very little about it here. It is true that nothing is
less philosophical than this subject; but it may enter into moral
philosophy by representing to a superintendent of finances or to a
Turkish teftardar that it accords not with universal morals to take his
neighbor's money; and that all receivers and custom-house officers and
collectors of taxes are cursed in the gospel.
Cursed as they are, it must, however, be agreed that it is impossible
for society to subsist unless each member pays something towards the
expenses of it; and as, since every one ought to pay, it is necessary to
have a receiver, we do not see why this receiver is to be cursed and
regarded as an idolater. There is certainly no idolatry in receiving
money of guests to-day for their supper.
In republics, and states which with the name of kingdoms are really
republics, every individual is taxed according to his means and to the
wants of society.
In despotic kingdoms--or to speak more politely--in monarchical states,
it is not quite the same--the nation is taxed without consulting it. An
agriculturist who has twelve hundred livres of revenue is quite
astonished when four hundred are demanded of him. There are several who
are even obliged to pay more than half of what they receive.
The cultivator demands why the half of his fortune is taken from him to
pay soldiers, when the hundredth part would suffice. He is answered
that, besides the soldiers, he must pay for luxury and the arts; that
nothing is lost; and that in Persia towns and villages are assigned to
the queen to pay for her girdles, slippers, and pins.
He replies that he knows nothing of the history of Persia, and that he
should be very indignant if half his fortune were taken for girdles,
pins, and shoes; that he would furnish them from a better market, and
that he endures a grievous imposition.
He is made to hear reason by being put into a dungeon, and having his
goods put up to sale. If he resists the tax-collectors whom the New
Testament has damned, he is hanged, which renders all his neighbors
Were this money employed by the sovereign in importing spices from
India, coffee from Mocha, English and Arabian horses, silks from the
Levant, and gew-gaws from China, it is clear that in a few years there
would not remain a single sous in the kingdom. The taxes, therefore,
serve to maintain the manufacturers; and so far what is poured into the
coffers of the prince returns to the cultivators. They suffer, they
complain, and other parts of the state suffer and complain also; but at
the end of the year they find that every one has labored and lived some
way or other.
If by chance a clown goes to the capital, he sees with astonishment a
fine lady dressed in a gown of silk embroidered with gold, drawn in a
magnificent carriage by two valuable horses, and followed by four
lackeys dressed in a cloth of twenty francs an ell. He addresses himself
to one of these lackeys, and says to him: "Sir, where does this lady get
money to make such an expensive appearance?" "My friend," says the
lackey, "the king allows her a pension of forty thousand livres."
"Alas," says the rustic, "it is my village which pays this pension."
"Yes," answers the servant; "but the silk that you have gathered and
sold has made the stuff in which she is dressed; my cloth is a part of
thy sheep's wool; my baker has made my bread of thy corn; thou hast sold
at market the very fowls that we eat; thus thou seest that the pension
of madame returns to thee and thy comrades."
The peasant does not absolutely agree with the axioms of this
philosophical lackey; but one proof that there is something true in his
answer is that the village exists, and produces children who also
complain, and who bring forth children again to complain.
If we were obliged to read all the edicts of taxation, and all the books
written against them, that would be the greatest tax of all.
We well know that taxes are necessary, and that the malediction
pronounced in the gospel only regards those who abuse their employment
to harass the people. Perhaps the copyist forgot a word, as for instance
the epithet _pravus_. It might have meant _pravus publicanus_; this word
was much more necessary, as the general malediction is a formal
contradiction to the words put into the mouth of Jesus Christ: "Render
unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's." Certainly those who collected
the dues of Cæsar ought not to have been held in horror. It would have
been, at once, insulting the order of Roman Knights and the emperor
himself; nothing could have been more ill-advised.
In all civilized countries the imposts are great, because the charges of
the state are heavy. In Spain the articles of commerce sent to Cadiz,
and thence to America, pay more than thirty per cent. before their
transit is accomplished.
In England all duty upon importation is very considerable; however, it
is paid without murmuring; there is even a pride in paying it. A
merchant boasts of putting four or five thousand guineas a year into the
public treasury. The richer a country is, the heavier are the taxes.
Speculators would have taxes fall on landed productions only. What!
having sown a field of flax, which will bring me two hundred crowns, by
which flax a great manufacturer will gain two hundred thousand crowns by
converting it into lace--must this manufacturer pay nothing, and shall
I pay all, because it is produced by my land? The wife of this
manufacturer will furnish the queen and princesses with fine point of
Alençon, she will be patronized; her son will become intendant of
justice, police, and finance, and will augment my taxes in my miserable
old age. Ah! gentlemen speculators, you calculate badly; you are unjust.
The great point is that an entire people be not despoiled by an army of
alguazils, in order that a score of town or court leeches may feast upon
The Duke de Sully relates, in his "Political Economy," that in 1585
there were just twenty lords interested in the leases of farms, to whom
the highest bidders gave three million two hundred and forty-eight
It was still worse under Charles IX., and Francis I., and Louis XIII.
There was not less depredation in the minority of Louis XIV. France,
notwithstanding so many wounds, is still in being. Yes; but if it had
not received them it would have been in better health. It was thus with
several other states.
It is just that those who enjoy the advantages of a government should
support the charges. The ecclesiastics and monks, who possess great
property, for this reason should contribute to the taxes in all
countries, like other citizens. In the times which we call
barbarous, great benefices and abbeys Were taxed in France to the third
of their revenue.
[Illustration: THE DUKE OF SULLY.]
By a statute of the year 1188, Philip Augustus imposed a tenth of the
revenues of all benefices. Philip le Bel caused the fifth, afterwards
the fifteenth, and finally the twentieth part, to be paid, of all the
possessions of the clergy.
King John, by a statute of March 12, 1355, taxed bishops, abbots,
chapters, and all ecclesiastics generally, to the tenth of the revenue
of their benefices and patrimonies. The same prince confirmed this tax
by two other statutes, one of March 3, the other of Dec. 28, 1358.
In the letters-patent of Charles V., of June 22, 1372, it is decreed,
that the churchmen shall pay taxes and other real and personal imposts.
These letters-patent were renewed by Charles VI. in the year 1390.
How is it that these laws have been abolished, while so many monstrous
customs and sanguinary decrees have been preserved? The clergy, indeed,
pay a tax under the name of a free gift, and, as it is known, it is
principally the poorest and most useful part of the church--the curates
(rectors)--who pay this tax. But, why this difference and inequality of
contributions between the citizens of the same state? Why do those who
enjoy the greatest prerogatives, and who are sometimes useless to the
public, pay less than the laborer, who is so necessary? The Republic of
Venice supplies rules on this subject, which should serve as examples
to all Europe.
Churchmen have not only pretended to be exempt from taxes, they have
found the means in several provinces to tax the people, and make them
pay as a legitimate right.
In several countries, monks having seized the tithes to the prejudice of
the rectors, the peasants are obliged to tax themselves, to furnish
their pastors with subsistence; and thus in several villages, and above
all, in Franche-Comté, besides the tithes which the parishioners pay to
the monks or to chapters, they further pay three or four measures of
corn to their curates or rectors. This tax was called the right of
harvest in some provinces, and boisselage in others.
It is no doubt right that curates should be well paid, but it would be
much better to give them a part of the tithes which the monks have taken
from them, than to overcharge the poor cultivator.
Since the king of France fixed the competent allowances for the curates,
by his edict of the month of May, 1768, and charged the tithe-collectors
with paying them, the peasants should no longer be held to pay a second
tithe, a tax to which they only voluntarily submitted at a time when the
influence and violence of the monks had taken from their pastors all
means of subsistence.
The king has abolished this second tithe in Poitou, by letters-patent,
registered by the Parliament of Paris July 11, 1769. It would be well
worthy of the justice and beneficence of his majesty to make a similar
law for other provinces, which are in the same situation as those of
Poitou, Franche-Comté, etc.
By M. CHR., Advocate of Besançon.
I commence by this question, in favor of the impotent--"_frigidi et
maleficiati_," as they are denominated in the decretals: Is there a
physician, or experienced person of any description, who can be certain
that a well-formed young man, who has had no children by his wife, may
not have them some day or other? Nature may know, but men can tell
nothing about it. Since, then, it is impossible to decide that the
marriage may not be consummated some time or other, why dissolve it?
Among the Romans, on the suspicion of impotence, a delay of two years
was allowed, and in the Novels of Justinian three are required; but if
in three years nature may bestow capability, she may equally do so in
seven, ten, or twenty.
Those called "_maleficiati_" by the ancients were often considered
bewitched. These charms were very ancient, and as there were some to
take away virility, so there were others to restore it; both of which
are alluded to in Petronius.
This illusion lasted a long time among us, who exorcised instead of
disenchanting; and when exorcism succeeded not, the marriage was
The canon law made a great question of impotence. Might a man who was
prevented by sorcery from consummating his marriage, after being
divorced and having children by a second wife--might such man, on the
death of the latter wife, reject the first, should she lay claim to him?
All the great canonists decided in the negative--Alexander de Nevo,
Andrew Alberic, Turrecremata, Soto, and fifty more.
It is impossible to help admiring the sagacity displayed by the
canonists, and above all by the religious of irreproachable manners in
their development of the mysteries of sexual intercourse. There is no
singularity, however strange, on which they have not treated. They have
discussed at length all the cases in which capability may exist at one
time or situation, and impotence in another. They have inquired into all
the imaginary inventions to assist nature; and with the avowed object of
distinguishing that which is allowable from that which is not, have
exposed all which ought to remain veiled. It might be said of them:
"_Nox nocti indicat scientiam_."
Above all, Sanchez has distinguished himself in collecting cases of
conscience which the boldest wife would hesitate to submit to the most
prudent of matrons. One query leads to another in almost endless
succession, until at length a question of the most direct and
extraordinary nature is put, as to the manner of the communication of
the Holy Ghost with the Virgin Mary.
These extraordinary researches were never made by anybody in the world
except theologians; and suits in relation to impotency were unknown
until the days of Theodosius.
In the Gospel, divorce is spoken of as allowable for adultery alone. The
Jewish law permitted a husband to repudiate a wife who displeased him,
without specifying the cause. "If she found no favor in his eyes, that
was sufficient." It is the law of the strongest, and exhibits human
nature in its most barbarous garb. The Jewish laws treat not of
impotence; it would appear, says a casuist, that God would not permit
impotency to exist among a people who were to multiply like the sands on
the seashore, and to whom he had sworn to bestow the immense country
which lies between the Nile and Euphrates, and, by his prophets, to make
lords of the whole earth. To fulfil these divine promises, it was
necessary that every honest Jew should be occupied without ceasing in
the great work of propagation. There was certainly a curse upon
impotency; the time not having then arrived for the devout to make
themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.
Marriage in the course of time having arrived at the dignity of a
sacrament and a mystery, the ecclesiastics insensibly became judges of
all which took place between husband and wife, and not only so, but of
all which did _not_ take place.
Wives possessed the liberty of presenting a request to be
_embesognées_--such being our Gallic term, although the causes were
carried on in Latin. Clerks pleaded and priests pronounced judgment, and
the process was uniformly to decide two points--whether the man was
bewitched, or the woman wanted another husband.
What appears most extraordinary is that all the canonists agree that a
husband whom a spell or charm has rendered impotent, cannot in
conscience apply to other charms or magicians to destroy it. This
resembles the reasoning of the regularly admitted surgeons, who having
the exclusive privilege of spreading a plaster, assure us that we shall
certainly die if we allow ourselves to be cured by the hand which has
hurt us. It might have been as well in the first place to inquire
whether a sorcerer can really operate upon the virility of another man.
It may be added that many weak-minded persons feared the sorcerer more
than they confided in the exorcist. The sorcerer having deranged nature,
holy water alone would not restore it.
In the cases of impotency in which the devil took no part, the presiding
ecclesiastics were not less embarrassed. We have, in the Decretals, the
famous head "_De frigidis et maleficiatis_," which is very curious, but
altogether uninforming. The political use made of it is exemplified in
the case of Henry IV. of Castile, who was declared impotent, while
surrounded by mistresses, and possessed of a wife by whom he had an
heiress to the throne; but it was an archbishop of Toledo who pronounced
this sentence, not the pope.
Alfonso, king of Portugal, was treated in the same manner, in the middle
of the seventeenth century. This prince was known chiefly by his
ferocity, debauchery, and prodigious strength of body. His brutal
excesses disgusted the nation; and the queen, his wife, a princess of
Nemours, being desirous of dethroning him, and marrying the infant Don
Pedro his brother, was aware of the difficulty of wedding two brothers
in succession, after the known circumstance of consummation with the
elder. The example of Henry VIII. of England intimidated her, and she
embraced the resolution of causing her husband to be declared impotent
by the chapter of the cathedral of Lisbon; after which she hastened to
marry his brother, without even waiting for the dispensation of the
The most important proof of capability required from persons accused of
impotency, is that called "the congress." The President Bouhier says,
that this combat in an enclosed field was adopted in France in the
fourteenth century. And he asserts that it is known in France only.
This proof, about which so much noise has been made, was not conducted
precisely as people have imagined. It has been supposed that a conjugal
consummation took place under the inspection of physicians, surgeons,
and midwives, but such was not the fact. The parties went to bed in the
usual manner, and at a proper time the inspectors, who were assembled in
the next room, were called on to pronounce upon the case.
In the famous process of the Marquis de Langeais, decided in 1659, he
demanded "the congress"; and owing to the management of his lady (Marie
de St. Simon) did not succeed. He demanded a second trial, but the
judges, fatigued with the clamors of the superstitious, the plaints of
the prudes, and the raillery of the wits, refused it. They declared the
marquis impotent, his marriage void, forbade him to marry again, and
allowed his wife to take another husband. The marquis, however,
disregarded this sentence, and married Diana de Navailles, by whom he
had seven children!
His first wife being dead, the marquis appealed to the grand chamberlain
against the sentence which had declared him impotent, and charged him
with the costs. The grand chamberlain, sensible of the ridicule
applicable to the whole affair, confirmed his marriage with Diana de
Navailles, declared him most potent, refused him the costs, but
abolished the ceremony of the congress altogether.
The President Bouhier published a defence of the proof by congress, when
it' was no longer in use. He maintained, that the judges would not have
committed the error of abolishing it, had they not been guilty of the
previous error of refusing the marquis a second trial.
But if the congress may prove indecisive, how much more uncertain are
the various other examinations had recourse to in cases of alleged
impotency? Ought not the whole of them to be adjourned, as in Athens,
for a hundred years? These causes are shameful to wives, ridiculous for
husbands, and unworthy of the tribunals, and it would be better not to
allow them at all. Yes, it may be said, but, in that case, marriage
would not insure issue. A great misfortune, truly, while Europe contains
three hundred thousand monks and eighty thousand nuns, who voluntarily
abstain from propagating their kind.
The domains of the Roman emperors were anciently inalienable--it was the
sacred domain. The barbarians came and rendered it altogether
inalienable. The same thing happened to the imperial Greek domain.
After the re-establishment of the Roman Empire in Germany, the sacred
domain was declared inalienable by the priests, although there remains
not at present a crown's worth of territory to alienate.
All the kings of Europe, who affect to imitate the emperors, have had
their inalienable domain. Francis I., having effected his liberty by the
cession of Burgundy, could find no other expedient to preserve it, than
a state declaration, that Burgundy was inalienable; and was so
fortunate as to violate both his honor and the treaty with impunity.
According to this jurisprudence, every king may acquire the dominions of
another, while incapable of losing any of his own. So that, in the end,
each would be possessed of the property of somebody else. The kings of
France and England possess very little special domain: their genuine and
more effective domain is the purses of their subjects.
"The Tartars," says the "Spirit of Laws," "who may legally wed their
daughters, never espouse their mothers."
It is not known of what Tartars our author speaks, who cites too much at
random: we know not at present of any people, from the Crimea to the
frontiers of China, who are in the habit of espousing their daughters.
Moreover, if it be allowed for the father to marry his daughter, why may
not a son wed his mother?
Montesquieu cites an author named Priscus Panetes, a sophist who lived
in the time of Attila. This author says that Attila married with his
daughter Esca, according to the manner of the Scythians. This Priscus
has never been printed, but remains in manuscript in the library of the
Vatican; and Jornandes alone makes mention of it. It is not allowable to
quote the legislation of a people on such authority. No one knows this
Esca, or ever heard of her marriage with her father Attila.
I confess I have never believed that the Persians espoused their
daughters, although in the time of the Cæsars the Romans accused them of
it, to render them odious. It might be that some Persian prince
committed incest, and the turpitude of an individual was imputed to the
_Quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi._
--HORACE, i, epistle ii, 14.
....When doting monarchs urge
Unsound resolves, their subjects feel the scourge.
I believe that the ancient Persians were permitted to marry with their
sisters, just as much as I believe it of the Athenians, the Egyptians,
and even of the Jews. From the above it might be concluded, that it was
common for children to marry with their fathers or mothers; whereas even
the marriage of cousins is forbidden among the Guebers at this day, who
are held to maintain the doctrines of their forefathers as scrupulously
as the Jews.
You will tell me that everything is contradictory in this world; that it
was forbidden by the Jewish law to marry two sisters, which was deemed a
very indecent act, and yet Jacob married Rachel during the life of her
elder sister Leah; and that this Rachel is evidently a type of the Roman
Catholic and apostolic church. You are doubtless right, but that
prevents not an individual who sleeps with two sisters in Europe from
being grievously censured. As to powerful and dignified princes, they
may take the sisters of their wives for the good of their states, and
even their own sisters by the same father and mother, if they think
It is a far worse affair to have a commerce with a gossip or godmother,
which was deemed an unpardonable offence by the capitularies of
Charlemagne, being called a spiritual incest.
One Andovere, who is called queen of France, because she was the wife of
a certain Chilperic, who reigned over Soissons, was stigmatized by
ecclesiastical justice, censured, degraded, and divorced, for having
borne her own child to the baptismal font. It was a mortal sin, a
sacrilege, a spiritual incest; and she thereby forfeited her
marriage-bed and crown. This apparently contradicts what I have just
observed, that everything in the way of love is permitted to the great,
but then I spoke of present times, and not of those of Andovere.
As to carnal incest, read the advocate Voglan, who would absolutely have
any two cousins burned who fall into a weakness of this kind. The
advocate Voglan is rigorous--the unmerciful Celt.
Have there ever been incubi and succubi? Our learned juriconsults and
demonologists admit both the one and the other.
It is pretended that Satan, always on the alert, inspires young ladies
and gentlemen with heated dreams, and by a sort of double process
produces extraordinary consequences, which in point of fact led to the
birth of so many heroes and demigods in ancient times.
The devil took a great deal of superfluous trouble: he had only to leave
the young people alone, and the world will be sufficiently supplied with
heroes without any assistance from him.
An idea may be formed of incubi by the explanation of the great Delrio,
of Boguets, and other writers learned in sorcery; but they fail in their
account of succubi. A female might pretend to believe that she had
communicated with and was pregnant by a god, the explication of Delrio
being very favorable to the assumption. The devil in this case acts the
part of an incubus, but his performances as a succubus are more
inconceivable. The gods and goddesses of antiquity acted much more nobly
and decorously; Jupiter in person, was the incubus of Alcmena and
Semele; Thetis in person, the succubus of Peleus, and Venus of Anchises,
without having recourse to the various contrivances of our extraordinary
Let us simply observe, that the gods frequently disguised themselves, in
their pursuit of our girls, sometimes as an eagle, sometimes as a
pigeon, a swan, a horse, a shower of gold; but the goddesses assumed no
disguise: they had only to show themselves, to please. It must however
be presumed, that whatever shapes the gods assumed to steal a march,
they consummated their loves in the form of men.
As to the new manner of rendering girls pregnant by the ministry of the
devil, it is not to be doubted, for the Sorbonne decided the point in
the year 1318.
"_Per tales artes et ritus impios et invocationes et demonum, nullus
unquam sequatur effectus ministerio demonum, error._"--"It is an error
to believe, that these magic arts and invocations of the devils are
This decision has never been revoked. Thus we are bound to believe in
succubi and incubi, because our teachers have always believed in them.
There have been many other sages in this science, as well as the
Sorbonne. Bodin, in his book concerning sorcerers, dedicated to
Christopher de Thou, first president of the Parliament of Paris, relates
that John Hervilier, a native of Verberie, was condemned by that
parliament to be burned alive for having prostituted his daughter to the
devil, a great black man, whose caresses were attended with a sensation
of cold which appears to be very uncongenial to his nature; but our
jurisprudence has always admitted the fact, and the prodigious number of
sorcerers which it has burned in consequence will always remain a proof
of its accuracy.
The celebrated Picus of Mirandola--a prince never lies--says he knew an
old man of the age of eighty years who had slept half his life with a
female devil, and another of seventy who enjoyed a similar felicity.
Both were buried at Rome, but nothing is said of the fate of their
children. Thus is the existence of incubi and succubi demonstrated.
It is impossible, at least, to prove to the contrary; for if we are
called on to believe that devils can enter our bodies, who can prevent
them from taking kindred liberties with our wives and our daughters? And
if there be demons, there are probably demonesses; for to be consistent,
if the demons beget children on our females, it must follow that we
effect the same thing on the demonesses. Never has there been a more
universal empire than that of the devil. What has dethroned him? Reason.
Who will give me a clear idea of infinity? I have never had an idea of
it which was not excessively confused--possibly because I am a finite
What is that which is eternally going on without advancing--always
reckoning without a sum total--dividing eternally without arriving at an
It might seem as if the notion of infinity formed the bottom of the
bucket of the Danaïdes. Nevertheless, it is impossible that infinity
should not exist. An infinite duration is demonstrable.
The commencement of existence is absurd; for nothing cannot originate
something. When an atom exists we must necessarily conclude that it has
existed from all eternity; and hence an infinite duration rigorously
demonstrated. But what is an infinite past?--an infinitude which I
arrest in imagination whenever I please. Behold! I exclaim, an infinity
passed away; let us proceed to another. I distinguish between two
eternities, the one before, the other behind me.
When, however, I reflect upon my words, I perceive that I have absurdly
pronounced the words: "one eternity has passed away, and I am entering
into another." For at the moment that I thus talk, eternity endures, and
the tide of time flows. Duration is not separable; and as something has
ever been, something must ever be.
The infinite in duration, then, is linked to an uninterrupted chain.
This infinite perpetuates itself, even at the instant that I say it has
passed. Time begins and ends with me, but duration is infinite. The
infinite is here quickly formed without, however, our possession of the
ability to form a clear notion of it.
We are told of infinite space--what is space? Is it a being, or nothing
at all? If it is a being, what is its nature? You cannot tell me. If it
is nothing, nothing can have no quality; yet you tell me that it is
penetrable and immense. I am so embarrassed, I cannot correctly call it
either something or nothing.
In the meantime, I know not of anything which possesses more properties
than a void. For if passing the confines of this globe, we are able to
walk amidst this void, and thatch and build there when we possess
materials for the purpose, this void or nothing is not opposed to
whatever we might choose to do; for having no property it cannot hinder
any; moreover, since it cannot hinder, neither can it serve us.
It is pretended that God created the world amidst nothing, and from
nothing. That is abstruse; it is preferable to think that there is an
infinite space; but we are curious--and if there be infinite space, our
faculties cannot fathom the nature of it. We call it immense, because we
cannot measure it; but what then? We have only pronounced words.
_Of the Infinite in Number._
We have adroitly defined the infinite in arithmetic by a love-knot, in
this manner [symbol: infin.]; but we possess not therefore a clearer
notion of it. This infinity is not like the others, a powerlessness of
reaching a termination. We call the infinite in quantity any number
soever, which surpasses the utmost number we are able to imagine.
When we seek the infinitely small, we divide, and call that infinitely
small which is less than the least assignable quantity. It is only
another name for incapacity.
_Is Matter Infinitely Divisible?_
This question brings us back again precisely to our inability of finding
the remotest number. In thought we are able to divide a grain of sand,
but in imagination only; and the incapacity of eternally dividing this
grain is called infinity.
It is true, that matter is not always practically divisible, and if the
last atom could be divided into two, it would no longer be the least; or
if the least, it would not be divisible; or if divisible, what is the
germ or origin of things? These are all abstruse queries.
_Of the Universe._
Is the universe bounded--is its extent immense--are the suns and planets
without number? What advantage has the space which contains suns and
planets, over the space which is void of them? Whether space be an
existence or not, what is the space which we occupy, preferable to other
If our material heaven be not infinite, it is but a point in general
extent. If it is infinite, it is an infinity to which something can
always be added by the imagination.
_Of the Infinite in Geometry._
We admit, in geometry, not only infinite magnitudes, that is to say,
magnitudes greater than any assignable magnitude, but infinite
magnitudes infinitely greater, the one than the other. This astonishes
our dimension of brains, which is only about six inches long, five
broad, and six in depth, in the largest heads. It means, however,
nothing more than that a square larger than any assignable square,
surpasses a line larger than any assignable line, and bears no
proportion to it.
It is a mode of operating, a mode of working geometrically, and the
word infinite is a mere symbol.
_Of Infinite Power, Wisdom, Goodness._
In the same manner, as we cannot form any positive idea of the infinite
in duration, number, and extension, are we unable to form one in respect
to physical and moral power.
We can easily conceive, that a powerful being has modified matter,
caused worlds to circulate in space, and formed animals, vegetables, and
metals. We are led to this idea by the perception of the want of power
on the part of these beings to form themselves. We are also forced to
allow, that the Great Being exists eternally by His own power, since He
cannot have sprung from nothing; but we discover not so easily His
infinity in magnitude, power, and moral attributes.
How are we to conceive infinite extent in a being called simple? and if
he be uncompounded, what notions can we form of a simple being? We know
God by His works, but we cannot understand Him by His Nature. If it is
evident that we cannot understand His nature, is it not equally so, that
we must remain ignorant of His attributes?
When we say that His power is infinite, do we mean anything more than
that it is very great? Aware of the existence of pyramids of the height
of six hundred feet, we can conceive them of the altitude of 600,000
Nothing can limit the power of the Eternal Being existing necessarily
of Himself. Agreed: no antagonists circumscribe Him; but how convince me
that He is not circumscribed by His own nature? Has all that has been
said on this great subject been demonstrated?
We speak of His moral attributes, but we only judge of them by our own;
and it is impossible to do otherwise. We attribute to Him justice,
goodness, etc., only from the ideas we collect from the small degree of
justice and goodness existing among ourselves. But, in fact, what
connection is there between our qualities so uncertain and variable, and
those of the Supreme Being?
Our idea of justice is only that of not allowing our own interest to
usurp over the interest of another. The bread which a wife has kneaded
out of the flour produced from the wheat which her husband has sown,
belongs to her. A hungry savage snatches away her bread, and the woman
exclaims against such enormous injustice. The savage quietly answers
that nothing is more just, and that it was not for him and his family to
expire of famine for the sake of an old woman.
At all events, the infinite justice we attribute to God can but little
resemble the contradictory notions of justice of this woman and this
savage; and yet, when we say that God is just, we only pronounce these
words agreeably to our own ideas of justice.
We know of nothing belonging to virtue more agreeable than frankness
and cordiality, but to attribute infinite frankness and cordiality to
God would amount to an absurdity.
We have such confused notions of the attributes of the Supreme Being,
that some schools endow Him with prescience, an infinite foresight which
excludes all contingent event, while other schools contend for
prescience without contingency.
Lastly, since the Sorbonne has declared that God can make a stick
divested of two ends, and that the same thing can at once be and not be,
we know not what to say, being in eternal fear of advancing a heresy.
One thing _may_, however, be asserted without danger--that God is
infinite, and man exceedingly bounded.
The mind of man is so extremely narrow, that Pascal has said: "Do you
believe it impossible for God to be infinite and without parts? I wish
to convince you of an existence infinite and indivisible--it is a
mathematical point--moving everywhere with infinite swiftness, for it is
in all places, and entire in every place."
Nothing more absurd was ever asserted, and yet it has been said by the
author of the "Provincial Letters." It is sufficient to give men of
sense the ague.
Everything around exercises some influence upon us, either physically or
morally. With this truth we are well acquainted. Influence may be
exerted upon a being without touching, without moving that being.
In short, matter has been demonstrated to possess the astonishing power
of gravitating without contact, of acting at immense distances. One idea
influences another; a fact not less incomprehensible.
I have not with me at Mount Krapak the book entitled, "On the Influence
of the Sun and Moon," composed by the celebrated physician Mead; but I
well know that those two bodies are the cause of the tides; and it is
not in consequence of touching the waters of the ocean that they produce
that flux and reflux: it is demonstrated that they produce them by the
laws of gravitation.
But when we are in a fever, have the sun and moon any influence upon the
accesses of it, in its days of crisis? Is your wife constitutionally
disordered only during the first quarter of the moon? Will the trees,
cut at the time of full moon, rot sooner than if cut down in its wane?
Not that I know. But timber cut down while the sap is circulating in it,
undergoes putrefaction sooner than other timber; and if by chance it is
cut down at the full moon, men will certainly say it was the full moon
that caused all the evil. Your wife may have been disordered during the
moon's growing; but your neighbor's was so in its decline.
The fitful periods of the fever which you brought upon yourself by
indulging too much in the pleasures of the table occur about the first
quarter of the moon; your neighbor experiences his in its decline.
Everything that can possibly influence animals and vegetables must of
course necessarily exercise that influence while the moon is making her
Were a woman of Lyons to remark that the periodical affections of her
constitution had occurred in three or four successive instances on the
day of the arrival of the diligence from Paris, would her medical
attendant, however devoted he might be to system, think himself
authorized in concluding that the Paris diligence had some peculiar and
marvellous influence on the lady's constitution?
There was a time when the inhabitants of every seaport were persuaded,
that no one would die while the tide was rising, and that death always
waited for its ebb.
Many physicians possessed a store of strong reasons to explain this
constant phenomenon. The sea when rising communicates to human bodies
the force or strength by which itself is raised. It brings with it
vivifying particles which reanimate all patients. It is salt, and salt
preserves from the putrefaction attendant on death. But when the sea
sinks and retires, everything sinks or retires with it; nature
languishes; the patient is no longer vivified; he departs with the tide.
The whole, it must be admitted, is most beautifully explained, but the
presumed fact, unfortunately, is after all untrue.
The various elements, food, watching, sleep, and the passions, are
constantly exerting on our frame their respective influences. While
these influences are thus severally operating on us, the planets
traverse their appropriate orbits, and the stars shine with their usual
brillancy. But shall we really be so weak as to say that the progress
and light of those heavenly bodies are the cause of our rheums and
indigestion, and sleeplessness; of the ridiculous wrath we are in with
some silly reasoner; or of the passion with which we are enamored of
some interesting woman?
But the gravitation of the sun and moon has made the earth in some
degree flat at the pole, and raises the sea twice between the tropics in
four-and-twenty hours. It may, therefore, regulate our fits of fever,
and govern our whole machine. Before, however, we assert this to be the
case, we should wait until we can prove it.
The sun acts strongly upon us by its rays, which touch us, and enter
through our pores. Here is unquestionably a very decided and a very
benignant influence. We ought not, I conceive, in physics, to admit of
any action taking place without contact, until we have discovered some
well-recognized and ascertained power which acts at a distance, like
that of gravitation, for example, or like that of your thoughts over
mine, when you furnish me with ideas. Beyond these cases, I at present
perceive no influences but from matter in contact with matter.
The fish of my pond and myself exist each of us in our natural element.
The water which touches them from head to tail is continually acting
upon them. The atmosphere which surrounds and closes upon me acts upon
me. I ought not to attribute to the moon, which is ninety thousand miles
distant, what I might naturally ascribe to something incessantly in
contact with my skin. This would be more unphilosophical than my
considering the court of China responsible for a lawsuit that I was
carrying on in France. We should never seek at a distance for what is
absolutely within our immediate reach.
I perceive that the learned and ingenious M. Menuret is of a different
opinion in the "Encyclopædia" under the article on "Influence." This
certainly excites in my mind considerable diffidence with respect to
what I have just advanced. The Abbé de St. Pierre used to say, we should
never maintain that we are absolutely in the right, but should rather
say, "such is my opinion for the present."
_Influence of the Passions of Mothers upon their Foetus._
I think, for the present, that violent affections of pregnant women
produce often a prodigious effect upon the embryo within them; and I
think that I shall always think so: my reason is that I have actually
seen this effect. If I had no voucher of my opinion but the testimony of
historians who relate the instance of Mary Stuart and her son James I.,
I should suspend my judgment; because between that event and myself, a
series of two hundred years has intervened, a circumstance naturally
tending to weaken belief; and because I can ascribe the impression made
upon the brain of James to other causes than the imagination of Mary.
The royal assassins, headed by her husband, rush with drawn swords into
the cabinet where she is supping in company with her favorite, and kill
him before her eyes; the sudden convulsion experienced by her in the
interior of her frame extends to her offspring; and James I., although
not deficient in courage, felt during his whole life an involuntary
shuddering at the sight of a sword drawn from a scabbard. It is,
however, possible that this striking and peculiar agitation might be
owing to a different cause.
There was once introduced, in my presence, into the court of a woman
with child, a showman who exhibited a little dancing dog with a kind of
red bonnet on its head: the woman called out to have the figure removed;
she declared that her child would be marked like it; she wept; and
nothing could restore her confidence and peace. "This is the second
time," she said, "that such a misfortune has befallen me. My first child
bears the impression of a similar terror that I was exposed to; I feel
extremely weak. I know that some misfortune will reach me." She was but
too correct in her prediction. She was delivered of a child similar to
the figure which had so terrified her. The bonnet was particularly
distinguishable. The little creature lived two days.
In the time of Malebranche no one entertained the slightest doubt of
the adventure which he relates, of the woman who, after seeing a
criminal racked, was delivered of a son, all whose limbs were broken in
the same places in which the malefactor had received the blows of the
executioner. All the physicians at the time were agreed, that the
imagination had produced this fatal effect upon her offspring.
Since that period, mankind is believed to have refined and improved; and
the influence under consideration has been denied. It has been asked, in
what way do you suppose that the affections of a mother should operate
to derange the members of the foetus? Of that I know nothing; but I
have witnessed the fact. You new-fangled philosophers inquire and study
in vain how an infant is _formed_, and yet require me to know how it
The origin of the ancient mysteries may, with the greatest probability,
be ascribed to the same weakness which forms associations of brotherhood
among ourselves, and which established congregations under the direction
of the Jesuits. It was probably this want of society which raised so
many secret assemblies of artisans, of which scarcely any now remain
besides that of the Freemasons. Even down to the very beggars
themselves, all had their societies, their confraternities, their
mysteries, and their particular jargon, of which I have met with a small
dictionary, printed in the sixteenth century.
This natural inclination in men to associate, to secure themselves, to
become distinguished above others, and to acquire confidence in
themselves, may be considered as the generating cause of all those
particular bonds or unions, of all those mysterious initiations which
afterwards excited so much attention and produced such striking effects,
and which at length sank into that oblivion in which everything is
involved by time.
Begging pardon, while I say it, of the gods Cabri, of the hierophants of
Samothrace, of Isis, Orpheus, and the Eleusinian Ceres, I must
nevertheless acknowledge my suspicions that their sacred secrets were
not in reality more deserving of curiosity than the interior of the
convents of Carmelites or Capuchins.
These mysteries being sacred, the participators in them soon became so.
And while the number of these was small, the mystery was respected; but
at length, having grown too numerous, they retained no more consequence
and consideration than we perceive to attach to German barons, since the
world became full of barons.
Initiation was paid for, as every candidate pays his admission fees or
welcome, but no member was allowed to talk for his money. In all ages it
was considered a great crime to reveal the secrets of these religious
farces. This secret was undoubtedly not worth knowing, as the assembly
was not a society of philosophers, but of ignorant persons, directed by
a hierophant. An oath of secrecy was administered, and an oath was
always regarded as a sacred bond. Even at the present day, our
comparatively pitiful society of Freemasons swear never to speak of
their mysteries. These mysteries are stale and flat enough; but men
scarcely ever perjure themselves.
Diagoras was proscribed by the Athenians for having made the secret hymn
of Orpheus a subject for conversation. Aristotle informs us, that
Æschylus was in danger of being torn to pieces by the people, or at
least of being severely beaten by them, for having, in one of his
dramas, given some idea of those Orphean mysteries in which nearly
everybody was then initiated.
It appears that Alexander did not pay the highest respect possible to
these reverend fooleries; they are indeed very apt to be despised by
heroes. He revealed the secret to his mother Olympias, but he advised
her to say nothing about it--so much are even heroes themselves bound in
the chains of superstition.
"It is customary," says Herodotus, "in the city of Rusiris, to strike
both men and women after the sacrifice, but I am not permitted to say
where they are struck." He leaves it, however, to be very easily
I think I see a description of the mysteries of the Eleusinian Ceres,
in Claudian's poem on the "Rape of Proserpine," much clearer than I can
see any in the sixth book of the "Æneid." Virgil lived under a prince
who joined to all his other bad qualities that of wishing to pass for a
religious character; who was probably initiated in these mysteries
himself, the better to impose thereby upon the people; and who would not
have tolerated such a profanation. You see his favorite Horace regards
such a revelation as sacrilege:--
_.... Vetabo qui Cereris sacrum_
_Fulgarit arcanæ sub iisdem_
_Sit trabibus, vel fragilem que mecum_
_Solvat phaselum_.--HORACE, book iii, ode 2.
To silence due rewards we give;
And they who mysteries reveal
Beneath my roof shall never live,
Shall never hoist with me the doubtful sail.
Besides, the Cumæan sibyl and the descent into hell, imitated from Homer
much less than it is embellished by Virgil, with the beautiful
prediction of the destinies of the Cæsars and the Roman Empire, have no
relation to the fables of Ceres, Proserpine, and Triptolemus.
Accordingly, it is highly probable that the sixth book of the "Æneid" is
not a description of those mysteries. If I ever said the contrary, I
here unsay it; but I conceive that Claudian revealed them fully. He
flourished at a time when it was permitted to divulge the mysteries of
Eleusis, and indeed all the mysteries of the world. He lived under
Honorius, in the total decline of the ancient Greek and Roman religion,
to which Theodosius I. had already given the mortal blow.
Horace, at that period, would not have been at all afraid of living
under the same roof with a revealer of mysteries. Claudian, as a poet,
was of the ancient religion, which was more adapted to poetry than the
new. He describes the droll absurdities of the mysteries of Ceres, as
they were still performed with all becoming reverence in Greece, down to
the time of Theodosius II. They formed a species of operatic pantomime,
of the same description as we have seen many very amusing ones, in which
were represented all the devilish tricks and conjurations of Doctor
Faustus, the birth of the world and of Harlequin who both came from a
large egg by the heat of the sun's rays. Just in the same manner, the
whole history of Ceres and Proserpine was represented by the
mystagogues. The spectacle was fine; the cost must have been great; and
it is no matter of astonishment that the initiated should pay the
performers. All live by their respective occupations.
Every mystery had its peculiar ceremonies; but all admitted of wakes or
vigils of which the youthful votaries fully availed themselves; but it
was this abuse in part which finally brought discredit upon those
nocturnal ceremonies instituted for sanctification. The ceremonies thus
perverted to assignation and licentiousness were abolished in Greece in
the time of the Peloponnesian war; they were abolished at Rome in the
time of Cicero's youth, eighteen years before his consulship. From the
"_Aulularia_" of Plautus, we are led to consider them as exhibiting
scenes of gross debauchery, and as highly injurious to public morals.
Our religion, which, while it adopted, greatly purified various pagan
institutions, sanctified the name of the initiated, nocturnal feasts,
and vigils, which were a long time in use, but which at length it became
necessary to prohibit when an administration of police was introduced
into the government of the Church, so long entrusted to the piety and
zeal that precluded the necessity of police.
The principal formula of all the mysteries, in every place of their
celebration, was, "Come out, ye who are profane;" that is, uninitiated.
Accordingly, in the first centuries, the Christians adopted a similar
formula. The deacon said, "Come out, all ye catechumens, all ye who are
possessed, and who are uninitiated."
It is in speaking of the baptism of the dead that St. Chrysostom says,
"I should be glad to explain myself clearly, but I can do so only to the
initiated. We are in great embarrassment. We must either speak
unintelligibly, or disclose secrets which we are bound to conceal."
It is impossible to describe more clearly the obligation of secrecy and
the privilege of initiation. All is now so completely changed, that were
you at present to talk about initiation to the greater part of your
priests and parish officers, there would not be one of them that would
understand you, unless by great chance he had read the chapter of
Chrysostom above noticed.
You will see in Minutius Felix the abominable imputations with which the
pagans attacked the Christian mysteries. The initiated were reproached
with treating each other as brethren and sisters, solely with a view to
profane that sacred name. They kissed, it was said, particular parts of
the persons of the priests, as is still practised in respect to the
santons of Africa; they stained themselves with all those pollutions
which have since disgraced and stigmatized the templars. Both were
accused of worshipping a kind of ass's head.
We have seen that the early Christian societies ascribed to each other,
reciprocally, the most inconceivable infamies. The pretext for these
calumnies was the inviolable secret which every society made of its
mysteries. It is upon this ground that in Minutius Felix, Cecilius, the
accuser of the Christians, exclaims:
"Why do they so carefully endeavor to conceal what they worship, since
what is decent and honorable always courts the light, and crimes alone
"_Cur occultare et abscondere quidquid colunt magnopere nituntur? Quum
honesta semper publico gaudeant, scelera secreta sint."_
It cannot be doubted that these accusations, universally spread, drew
upon the Christians more than one persecution. Whenever a society of
men, whatever they may be, are accused by the public voice, the
falsehood of the charge is urged in vain, and it is deemed meritorious
to persecute them.
How could it easily be otherwise than that the first Christians should
be even held in horror, when St. Epiphanius himself urges against them
the most execrable imputations? He asserts that the Christian
Phibionites committed indecencies, which he specifies, of the grossest
character; and, after passing through various scenes of pollution,
exclaimed each of them: "I am the Christ."
According to the same writer, the Gnostics and the Stratiotics equalled
the Phibionites in exhibitions of licentiousness, and all three sects
mingled horrid pollutions with their mysteries, men and women displaying
The Carpocratians, according to the same father of the Church, even
exceeded the horrors and abominations of the three sects just mentioned.
The Cerinthians did not abandon themselves to abominations such as
these; but they were persuaded that Jesus Christ was the son of Joseph.
The Ebionites, in their gospel, maintain that St. Paul, being desirous
of marrying the daughter of Gamaliel, and not able to obtain her, became
a Christian, and established Christianity out of revenge.
All these accusations did not for some time reach the ear of the
government. The Romans paid but little attention to the quarrels and
mutual reproaches which occurred between these little societies of
Jews, Greeks, and Egyptians, who were, as it were, hidden in the vast
and general population; just as in London, in the present day, the
parliament does not embarrass or concern itself with the peculiar forms
or transactions of Mennonites, Pietists, Anabaptists, Millennarians,
Moravians, or Methodists. It is occupied with matters of urgency and
importance, and pays no attention to their mutual charges and
recriminations till they become of importance from their publicity.
The charges above mentioned, at length, however, came to the ears of the
senate; either from the Jews, who were implacable enemies of the
Christians, or from Christians themselves; and hence it resulted that
the crimes charged against some Christian societies were imputed to all;
hence it resulted that their initiations were so long calumniated; hence
resulted the persecutions which they endured. These persecutions,
however, obliged them to greater circumspection; they strengthened
themselves, they combined, they disclosed their books only to the
initiated. No Roman magistrate, no emperor, ever had the slightest
knowledge of them, as we have already shown. Providence increased,
during the course of three centuries, both their number and their
riches, until at length, Constantius Chlorus openly protected them, and
Constantine, his son, embraced their religion.
In the meantime the names of initiated and mysteries still subsisted,
and they were concealed from the Gentiles as much as was possible. As to
the mysteries of the Gentiles, they continued down to the time of
_Of the Massacre of the Innocents._
When people speak of the massacre of the innocents, they do not refer to
the Sicilian Vespers, nor to the matins of Paris, known under the name
of St. Bartholomew; nor to the inhabitants of the new world, who were
murdered because they were not Christians, nor to the _auto-da-fés_ of
Spain and Portugal, etc. They usually refer to the young children who
were killed within the precincts of Bethlehem, by order of Herod the
Great, and who were afterwards carried to Cologne, where they are still
to be found.
Their number was maintained by the whole Greek Church to be fourteen
The difficulties raised by critics upon this point of history have been
all solved by shrewd and learned commentators.
Objections have been started in relation to the star which conducted the
Magi from the recesses of the East to Jerusalem. It has been said that
the journey, being a long one, the star must have appeared for a long
time above the horizon; and yet that no historian besides St. Matthew
ever took notice of this extraordinary star; that if it had shone so
long in the heavens, Herod and his whole court, and all Jerusalem, must
have seen it as well as these three Magi, or kings; that Herod
consequently could not, without absurdity, have inquired diligently, as
Matthew expresses it, of these kings, at what time they had seen the
star; that, if these three kings had made presents of gold and myrrh and
incense to the new-born infant, his parents must have been very rich;
that Herod could certainly never believe that this infant, born in a
stable at Bethlehem, would be king of the Jews, as the kingdom of Judæa
belonged to the Romans, and was a gift from Cæsar; that if three kings
of the Indies were, at the present day, to come to France under the
guidance of a star, and stop at the house of a woman of Vaugirard, no
one could ever make the reigning monarch believe that the child of that
poor woman would become king of France.
A satisfactory answer has been given to these difficulties, which may be
considered preliminary ones, attending the subject of the massacre of
the innocents; and it has been shown that what is impossible with man is
not impossible with God.
With respect to the slaughter of the little children, whether the number
was fourteen thousand, or greater, or less, it has been shown that this
horrible and unprecedented cruelty was not absolutely incompatible with
the character of Herod; that, after being established as king of Judæa
by Augustus, he could not indeed fear anything from the child of
obscure and poor parents, residing in a petty village; but that
laboring at that time under the disorder of which he at length died, his
blood might have become so corrupt that he might in consequence have
lost both reason and humanity; that, in short, all these
incomprehensible events, which prepared the way for mysteries still more
incomprehensible, were directed by an inscrutable Providence.
It is objected that the historian Josephus, who was nearly contemporary,
and who has related all the cruelties of Herod, has made no more mention
of the massacre of the young children than of the star of the three
kings; that neither the Jew Philo, nor any other Jew, nor any Roman
takes any notice of it; and even that three of the evangelists have
observed a profound silence upon these important subjects. It is replied
that they are nevertheless announced by St. Matthew, and that the
testimony of one inspired man is of more weight than the silence of all
The critics, however, have not surrendered; they have dared to censure
St. Matthew himself for saying that these children were massacred, "that
the words of Jeremiah might be fulfilled. A voice is heard in Ramah, a
voice of groaning and lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children, and
refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
These historical words, they observe, were literally fulfilled in the
tribe of Benjamin, which descended from Rachel, when Nabuzaradan
destroyed a part of that tribe near the city of Ramah. It was no longer
a prediction, they say, any more than were the words "He shall be called
a Nazarene. And He came to dwell in a city called Nazareth, that it
might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called
a Nazarene." They triumph in the circumstance that these words are not
to be found in any one of the prophets; just as they do in the idea that
Rachel weeping for the Benjamites at Ramah has no reference whatever to
the massacre of the innocents by Herod.
They dare even to urge that these two allusions, being clearly false,
are a manifest proof of the falsehood of this narrative; and conclude
that the massacre of the children, and the new star, and the journey of
the three kings, never had the slightest foundation in fact.
They even go much further yet; they think they find as palpable a
contradiction between the narrative of St. Matthew and that of St. Luke,
as between the two genealogies adduced by them. St. Matthew says that
Joseph and Mary carried Jesus into Egypt, fearing that he would be
involved in the massacre. St. Luke, on the contrary, says, "After having
fulfilled all the ceremonies of the law, Joseph and Mary returned to
Nazareth, their city, and went every year to Jerusalem, to keep the
But thirty days must have expired before a woman could have completed
her purification from childbirth and fulfilled all the ceremonies of the
law. During these thirty days, therefore, the child must have been
exposed to destruction by the general proscription. And if his parents
went to Jerusalem to accomplish the ordinance of the law, they certainly
did not go to Egypt.
These are the principal objections of unbelievers. They are effectually
refuted by the faith both of the Greek and Latin churches. If it were
necessary always to be clearing up the doubts of persons who read the
Scriptures, we must inevitably pass our whole lives in disputing about
all the articles contained in them. Let us rather refer ourselves to our
worthy superiors and masters; to the university of Salamanca when in
Spain, to the Sorbonne in France, and to the holy congregation at Rome.
Let us submit both in heart and in understanding to that which is
required of us for our good.
The Inquisition is an ecclesiastical jurisdiction, established by the
see of Rome in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and even in the Indies, for the
purpose of searching out and extirpating infidels, Jews, and heretics.
That we may not be suspected of resorting to falsehood in order to
render this tribunal odious, we shall in this present article give the
abstract of a Latin work on the "Origin and Progress of the Office of
the Holy Inquisition," printed by the royal press at Madrid in 1589, by
order of Louis de Paramo, inquisitor in the kingdom of Sicily.
Without going back to the origin of the Inquisition, which Paramo thinks
he discovers in the manner in which God is related to have proceeded
against Adam and Eve, let us abide by the new law of which Jesus Christ,
according to him, was the chief inquisitor. He exercised the functions
of that office on the thirteenth day after his birth, by announcing to
the city of Jerusalem, through the three kings or Magi, his appearance
in the world, and afterwards by causing Herod to be devoured alive by
worms; by driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple; and finally,
by delivering Judæa into the hands of tyrants, who pillaged it in
punishment of its unbelief.
After Jesus Christ, St. Peter, St. Paul, and the rest of the apostles
exercised the office of inquisitor, which they transmitted to the popes
and bishops, and their successors. St. Dominic having arrived in France
with the bishop of Osma, of which he was archdeacon, became animated
with zeal against the Albigenses, and obtained the regard and favor of
Simon, Count de Montfort. Having been appointed by the pope inquisitor
in Languedoc, he there founded his order, which was approved of and
ratified, in 1216, by Honorius III. Under the auspices of St. Madelaine,
Count Montfort took the city of Gezer by assault, and put all the
inhabitants to the sword; and at Laval, four hundred Albigenses were
burned at once. "In all the histories of the Inquisition that I ever
read," says Paramo, "I never met with an act of faith so eminent, or a
spectacle so solemn. At the village of Cazera, sixty were burned; and in
another place a hundred and eighty."
The Inquisition was adopted by the count of Toulouse in 1229, and
confided to the Dominicans by Pope Gregory IX. in 1233; Innocent IV. in
1251 established it in the whole of Italy, with the exception of Naples.
At the commencement, indeed, heretics were not subjected in the Milanese
to the punishment of death, which they nevertheless so richly deserved,
because the popes were not sufficiently respected by the emperor
Frederick, to whom that state belonged; but a short time afterwards
heretics were burned at Milan, as well as in the other parts of Italy;
and our author remarks, that in 1315 some thousands of heretics having
spread themselves through Cremasco, a small territory included in the
jurisdiction of the Milanese, the Dominican brothers burned the greater
part of them; and thus checked the ravages of the theological pestilence
by the flames.
As the first canon of the Council of Toulouse enjoined the bishops to
appoint in every parish a priest and two or three laymen of reputation,
who should be bound by oath to search carefully and frequently for
heretics, in houses, caves, and all places wherever they might be able
to hide themselves, and to give the speediest information to the
bishop, the seigneur of the place, or his bailiff, after having taken
all necessary precautions against the escape of any heretics discovered,
the inquisitors must have acted at this time in concert with the
bishops. The prisons of the bishop and of the Inquisition were
frequently the same; and, although in the course of the procedure the
inquisitor might act in his own name, he could not, without the
intervention of the bishop, apply the torture, pronounce any definitive
sentence, or condemn to perpetual imprisonment, etc. The frequent
disputes that occurred between the bishops and the inquisitors, on the
limits of their authority, on the spoils of the condemned, etc.,
compelled Pope Sixtus IV., in 1473, to make the Inquisitions independent
and separate from the tribunals of the bishops. He created for Spain an
Inquisitor-general, with full powers to nominate particular inquisitors;
and Ferdinand V., in 1478, founded and endowed the Inquisition.
At the solicitation of Turrecremata (or Torquemada), a brother of the
Dominican order, and grand inquisitor of Spain, the same Ferdinand,
surnamed the Catholic, banished from his kingdom all the Jews, allowing
them three months from the publication of his edict, after the
expiration of which period they were not to be found in any of the
Spanish dominions under pain of death. They were permitted, on quitting
the kingdom, to take with them the goods and merchandise which they had
purchased, but forbidden to take out of it any description of gold or
The brother Turrecremata followed up and strengthened this edict, in the
diocese of Toledo, by prohibiting all Christians, under pain of
excommunication, from giving anything whatever to the Jews, even that
which might be necessary to preserve life itself.
In consequence of these decrees about a million Jews departed from
Catalonia, the kingdom of Aragon, that of Valencia, and other countries
subject to the dominion of Ferdinand; the greater part of whom perished
miserably; so that they compare the calamities that they suffered during
this period to those they experienced under Titus and Vespasian. This
expulsion of the Jews gave incredible joy to all Catholic sovereigns.
Some divines blamed these edicts of the king of Spain; their principal
reasons are that unbelievers ought not to be constrained to embrace the
faith of Jesus Christ, and that these violences are a disgrace to our
But these arguments are very weak, and I contend, says Paramo, that the
edict is pious, just, and praiseworthy, as the violence with which the
Jews are required to be converted is not an absolute but a conditional
violence, since they might avoid it by quitting their country. Besides,
they might corrupt those of the Jews who were newly converted, and even
Christians themselves; but, as St. Paul says, what communion is there
between justice and iniquity, light and darkness, Jesus Christ and
With respect to the confiscation of their goods, nothing could be more
equitable, as they had acquired them only by usury towards Christians,
who only received back, therefore, what was in fact their own.
In short, by the death of our Lord, the Jews became slaves, and
everything that a slave possesses belongs to his master. We could not
but suspend our narrative for a moment to make these remarks, in
opposition to persons who have thus calumniated the piety, the spotless
justice, and the sanctity of the Catholic king.
At Seville, where an example of severity to the Jews was ardently
desired, it was the holy will of God, who knows how to draw good out of
evil, that a young man who was in waiting in consequence of an
assignation, should see through the chinks of a partition an assembly of
Jews, and in consequence inform against them. A great number of the
unhappy wretches were apprehended, and punished as they deserved. By
virtue of different edicts of the kings of Spain, and of the
inquisitors, general and particular, established in that kingdom, there
were, in a very short time, about two thousand heretics burned at
Seville, and more than four thousand from 1482 to 1520. A vast number of
others were condemned to perpetual imprisonment, or exposed to
inflictions of different descriptions. The emigration from it was so
great that five hundred houses were supposed to be left in consequence
quite empty, and in the whole diocese, three thousand; and altogether
more than a hundred thousand heretics were put to death, or punished in
some other manner, or went into banishment to avoid severer suffering.
Such was the destruction of heretics accomplished by these pious
The establishment of the Inquisition at Toledo was a fruitful source of
revenue to the Catholic Church. In the short space of two years it
actually burned at the stake fifty-two obstinate heretics, and two
hundred and twenty more were outlawed; whence we may easily conjecture
of what utility the Inquisition has been from its original
establishment, since in so short a period it performed such wonders.
From the beginning of the fifteenth century, Pope Boniface IX. attempted
in vain to establish the Inquisition in Portugal, where he created the
provincial of the Dominicans, Vincent de Lisbon, inquisitor-general.
Innocent VII., some years after, having named as inquisitor the Minim
Didacus de Sylva, King John I. wrote to that pope that the establishment
of the Inquisition in his kingdom was contrary to the good of his
subjects, to his own interests, and perhaps also to the interests of
The pope, affected by the representations of a too mild and easy
monarch, revoked all the powers granted to the inquisitors newly
established, and authorized Mark, bishop of Senigaglia, to absolve the
persons accused; which he accordingly did. Those who had been deprived
of their dignities and offices were re-established in them, and many
were delivered from the fear of the confiscation of their property.
But how admirable, continues Paramo, is the Lord in all his ways! That
which the sovereign pontiffs had been unable effectually to obtain with
all their urgency, King John granted spontaneously to a dexterous
impostor, whom God made use of as an instrument for accomplishing the
good work. In fact, the wicked are frequently useful instruments in
God's hands, and he does not reject the good they bring about. Thus,
when John remarks to our Lord Jesus Christ, "Lord, we saw one who was
not Thy disciple casting out demons in Thy name, and we prevented him
from doing so," Jesus answered him, "Prevent him not; for he who works
miracles in My name will not speak ill of Me; and he who is not against
Me is for Me."
Paramo relates afterwards that he saw in the library of St. Laurence, at
the Escorial, a manuscript in the handwriting of Saavedra, in which that
knave details his fabrication of a false bull, and obtaining thereby his
_entrée_ into Seville as legate, with a train of a hundred and twenty
domestics; his defrauding of thirteen thousand ducats the heirs of a
rich nobleman in that neighborhood, during his twenty days' residence in
the palace of the archbishop, by producing a counterfeit bond for the
same sum, which the nobleman acknowledged, in that instrument, to have
borrowed of the legate when he visited Rome; and finally, after his
arrival at Badajoz, the permission granted him by King John III., to
whom he was presented by means of forged letters of the pope, to
establish tribunals of the Inquisition in the principal cities of the
These tribunals began immediately to exercise their jurisdiction; and a
vast number of condemnations and executions of relapsed heretics took
place, as also of absolutions of recanting and penitent heretics. Six
months had passed in this manner, when the truth was made apparent of
that expression in the Gospel, "There is nothing hid which shall not be
made known." The Marquis de Villeneuve de Barcarotta, a Spanish
nobleman, assisted by the governor of Mora, had the impostor apprehended
and conducted to Madrid. He was there carried before John de Tavera,
archbishop of Toledo. That prelate, perfectly astonished at all that now
transpired of the knavery and address of the false legate, despatched
all the depositions and documents relative to the case to Pope Paul
III.; as he did also the acts of the inquisitions which Saavedra had
established, and by which it appeared that a great number of heretics
had already been judged and condemned, and that the impostor had
extorted from his victims more than three hundred thousand ducats.
The pope could not help acknowledging in this the finger of God and a
miracle of His providence; he accordingly formed the congregation of the
tribunal of the Inquisition, under the denomination of "The Holy
Office," in 1545, and Sixtus V. confirmed it in 1588.
All writers but one agree with Paramo on the subject of the
establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal. Antoine de Sousa alone, in
his "Aphorisms of Inquisitors," calls the history of Saavedra in
question, under the pretence that he may very easily be conceived to
have accused himself without being in fact guilty, in consideration of
the glory which would redound to him from the event, and in the hope of
living in the memory of mankind. But Sousa, in the very narrative which
he substitutes for that of Paramo, exposes himself to the suspicion of
bad faith, in citing two bulls of Paul III., and two others from the
same pope to Cardinal Henry, the king's brother; bulls which Sousa has
not introduced into his printed work, and which are not to be found in
any collection of apostolical bulls extant; two decisive reasons for
rejecting his opinion, and adhering to that of Paramo, Hiescas, Salasar,
Mendoça, Fernandez, and Placentinus.
When the Spaniards passed over to America they carried the Inquisition
with them; the Portuguese introduced it in the Indies, immediately upon
its being established at Lisbon, which led to the observation which
Louis de Paramo makes in his preface, that this flourishing and verdant
tree had extended its branches and its roots throughout the world, and
produced the most pleasant fruits.
In order to form some correct idea of the jurisprudence of the
Inquisition, and the forms of its proceedings, unknown to civil
tribunals, let us take a cursory view of the "Directory of Inquisitors,"
which Nicolas Eymeric, grand inquisitor of the kingdom of Aragon about
the middle of the fourteenth century, composed in Latin, and addressed
to his brother inquisitors, in virtue of the authority of his office.
A short time after the invention of printing, an edition of this work
was printed at Barcelona, and soon conveyed to all the inquisitions in
the Christian world. A second edition appeared at Rome in 1578, in
folio, with scholia and commentaries by Francois Pegna, doctor in
theology and canonist.
The following eulogium on the work is given by the editor in an epistle
dedicatory to Gregory XIII.: "While Christian princes are everywhere
engaged in combating with arms the enemies of the Catholic religion, and
pouring out the blood of their soldiers to support the unity of the
Church and the authority of the apostolic see, there are also zealous
and devoted writers, who toil in obscurity, either to refute the
opinions of innovators or to arm and direct the power of the laws
against their persons, in order that the severity of punishments, and
the solemnity and torture attending executions, keeping them within the
bounds of duty, may produce that effect upon them which cannot be
produced in them by the love of virtue.
"Although I fill only the lowest place among these defenders of
religion, I am nevertheless animated with the same zeal for repressing
the impious audacity and horrible depravity of the broachers of
innovation. The labor which I here present to you on the 'Directory of
Inquisitions,' will be a proof of my assertion. This work of Nicolas
Eymeric, respectable for its antiquity, contains a summary of the
principal articles of faith, and an elaborate and methodical code of
instruction for the tribunals of the Holy Inquisition, on the means
which they ought to employ for the repression and extirpation of
heretics; on which account I felt it my duty to offer it in homage to
your holiness, as the chief of the Christian republic."
He declares, elsewhere, that he had it reprinted for the instruction of
inquisitors; that the work is as much to be admired as respected, and
teaches with equal piety and learning the proper means of repressing and
exterminating heretics. He acknowledges, however, that he is in
possession of other useful and judicious methods, for which he refers to
practice, which will instruct much more effectually than any lessons,
and that he more readily thus silently refers to practice, as there are
certain matters relating to the subject which it is of importance not to
divulge, and which, at the same time, are generally well known to
inquisitors. He cites a vast number of writers, all of whom have
followed the doctrine of the "Directory"; and he even complains that
many have availed themselves of it without ascribing any honor to
Eymeric for the good things they have in fact stolen from him.
We will secure ourselves from any reproach of this description, by
pointing out exactly what we mean to borrow both from the author and the
editor. Eymeric says, in the fifty-eighth page, "Commiseration for the
children of the criminal, who by the severity used towards him are
reduced to beggary, should never be permitted to mitigate that severity,
since both by divine and human laws children are punished for the faults
of their fathers."
Page 123. "If a charge entered for prosecution were destitute of every
appearance of truth, the inquisitor should not on that account expunge
it from his register, because what at one period has not been
discovered, may be so at another."
Page 291. "It is necessary for the inquisitor to oppose cunning and
stratagem to those employed by heretics, that he may thus pay the
offenders in their own coin, and be enabled to adopt the language of the
apostle, 'Being crafty, I caught you with guile.'"
Page 296. "The information and depositions (_procès-verbal_) may be read
over to the accused, completely suppressing the names of the accusers;
and then it is for him to conjecture who the persons are that have
brought against him any particular charges, to challenge them as
incompetent witnesses, or to weaken their testimony by contrary
evidence. This is the method generally used. The accused must not be
permitted to imagine that challenges of witnesses will be easily allowed
in cases of heresy, for it is of no consequence whether witnesses are
respectable or infamous, accomplices in the prisoner's offence,
excommunicated, heretical, or in any manner whatever guilty, or
perjured, etc. This has been so ruled in favor of the faith."
Page 202. "The appeal which a prisoner makes from the Inquisition does
not preclude that tribunal from trial and sentence of him upon other
heads of accusation."
Page 313. "Although the form of the order for applying the torture may
suppose variation in the answers of the accused, and also in addition
sufficient presumptive evidence against him for putting him to the
question; both these circumstances are not necessary, and either will be
sufficient for the purpose without the other."
Pegna informs us, in the hundred and eighteenth scholium on the third
book, that inquisitors generally employ only five kinds of torture when
putting to the question, although Marsilius mentions fifteen kinds, and
adds, that he has imagined others still--such, for example, as
precluding the possibility of sleep, in which he is approved by
Grillandus and Locatus.
Eymeric continues, page 319: "Care should be taken never to state in the
form of absolution, that the prisoner is innocent, but merely that there
was not sufficient evidence against him; a precaution necessary to
prevent the prisoner, absolved in one case, from pleading that
absolution in defence against any future charge that may be brought
Page 324. "Sometimes abjuration and canonical purgation are prescribed
together. This is done, when, to a bad reputation of an individual in
point of doctrine are joined inconsiderable presumptions, which, were
they a little stronger, would tend to convict him of having really said
or done something injurious to the faith. The prisoner who stands in
these circumstances is compelled to abjure all heresy in general; and
after that, if he falls into any heresy of any description whatever,
however different from those which may have constituted the matter of
the present charge or suspicion against him, he is punished as a
relapsed person, and delivered over to the secular arm."
Page 331. "Relapsed persons, when the relapse is clearly proved, must be
delivered up to secular justice, whatever protestation they may make as
to their future conduct, and whatever contrition they may express. The
inquisitor will, in such circumstances, inform the secular authorities,
that on such a particular day and hour, and in such a particular place,
a heretic will be delivered up to them and should provide that notice be
given to the public that they will be expected to be present at the
ceremony, as the inquisitor will deliver a sermon on the occasion in
defence of the true faith, and those who attend will obtain the usual
These indulgences are accordingly detailed: after the form of sentence
given against the penitent heretic, the inquisitor will grant forty
days' indulgence to all persons present; three years to those who
contributed to the apprehension, abjuration, condemnation, etc., of the
said heretic; and finally, three years also will be granted by our holy
father, the pope, to all who will denounce any other heretic.
Page 332. "When the culprit has been delivered over to the secular
authority, it shall pronounce its sentence, and the criminal shall be
conveyed to the place of punishment; some pious persons shall accompany
him, and associate him in their prayers, and even pray with him; and not
leave him till he has rendered up his soul to his Creator. But it is
their duty to take particular care neither to say or to do anything
which may hasten the moment of his death, for fear of falling into some
irregularity. Accordingly, they should not exhort the criminal to mount
the scaffold, or present himself to the executioner, or advise the
executioner to get ready and arrange his instruments of punishment, so
that the death may take place more quickly, and the prisoner be
prevented from lingering; all for the sake of avoiding irregularity."
Page 335. "Should it happen that the heretic, when just about to be
fixed to the stake to be burned, were to give signs of conversion, he
might, perhaps, out of singular lenity and favor, be allowed to be
received and shut up, like penitent heretics, within four walls,
although it would be weak to place much reliance on a confession of this
nature, and the indulgence is not authorized by any express law; such
lenity, however, is very dangerous. I was witness of an example in point
at Barcelona: A priest who was condemned, with two other impenitent
heretics, to be burned, and who was actually in the midst of the flames,
called on the bystanders to pull him out instantly, for he was willing
to be converted; he was accordingly extricated, dreadfully scorched on
one side. I do not mean to decide whether this was well or ill done; but
I know that, fourteen years afterwards, he was still dogmatizing, and
had corrupted a considerable number of persons; he was therefore once
more given up to justice, and was burned to death."
"No person doubts," says Pegna, scholium 47, "that heretics ought to be
put to death; but the particular method of execution may well be a topic
of discussion." Alphonso de Castro, in the second book of his work, "On
the Just Punishment of Heretics," considers it a matter of great
indifference whether they are destroyed by the sword, by fire, or any
other method; but Hostiensis Godofredus, Covarruvias, Simancas, Roxas,
etc., maintain that they ought decidedly to be burned. In fact, as
Hostiensis very well expressed it, execution by fire is the punishment
appropriate to heresy. We read in St. John, "If any one remain not in
me, he shall be cast forth, as a branch, and wither, and men shall
gather it and cast it into the fire and burn it." "It may be added,"
continued 'Pegna, "that the universal custom of the Christian republic
is in support of this opinion. Simancas and Roxas decide that heretics
ought to be burned alive; but one precaution should always be taken in
burning them, which is tearing out the tongue and keeping the mouth
perfectly closed, in order to prevent their scandalizing the spectators
by their impieties."
Finally, page 369, Eymeric enjoins those whom he addresses to proceed in
matters of heresy straight forward, without any wranglings of advocates,
and without so many forms and solemnities as are generally employed in
criminal cases; that is, to make the process as short as possible, by
cutting off useless delays, by going on with the hearing and trial of
such causes, even on days when the labors of the other judges are
suspended; by disallowing every appeal which has for its apparent object
merely a postponement of final judgment; and by not admitting an
unnecessary multitude of witnesses, etc.
This revolting system of jurisprudence has simply been put under some
restriction in Spain and Portugal; while at Milan the Inquisition itself
has at length been entirely suppressed.
The Inquisition is well known to be an admirable and truly Christian
invention for increasing the power of the pope and monks, and rendering
the population of a whole kingdom hypocrites.
St. Dominic is usually considered as the person to whom the world is
principally indebted for this institution. In fact, we have still extant
a patent granted by that great saint, expressed precisely in the
following words: "I, brother Dominic, reconcile to the Church Roger, the
bearer of these presents, on condition of his being scourged by a priest
on three successive Sundays from the entrance of the city to the church
doors; of his abstaining from meat all his life; of his fasting for the
space of three Lents in a year; of his never drinking wine; of his
carrying about him the '_san benito_' with crosses; of his reciting the
breviary every day, and ten paternosters in the course of the day, and
twenty at midnight; of his preserving perfect chastity, and of his
presenting himself every month before the parish priest, etc.; the whole
under pain of being treated as heretical, perjured, and impenitent."
Although Dominic was the real founder of the Inquisition, yet Louis de
Paramo, one of the most respectable writers and most brilliant
luminaries of the Holy Office, relates, in the second chapter of his
second book, that God was the first institutor of the Holy Office, and
that he exercised the power of the preaching brethren, that is of the
Dominican Order, against Adam. In the first place Adam is cited before
the tribunal: "_Adam ubi es?_"--Adam, where art thou? "And in fact,"
adds Paramo, "the want of this citation would have rendered the whole
procedure of God null."
The dresses formed of skins, which God made for Adam and Eve, were the
model of the "_san benito_," which the Holy Office requires to be worn
by heretics. It is true that, according to this argument, God was the
first tailor; it is not, however, the less evident, on account of that
ludicrous and profane inference, that he was the first inquisitor.
Adam was deprived of the immovable property he possessed in the
terrestrial paradise, and hence the Holy Office confiscates the property
of all whom it condemns.
Louis de Paramo remarks, that the inhabitants of Sodom were burned as
heretics because their crime is a formal heresy. He thence passes to the
history of the Jews: and in every part of it discovers the Holy Office.
Jesus Christ is the first inquisitor of the new law; the popes were
inquisitors by divine right; and they afterwards communicated their
power to St. Dominic.
He afterwards estimates the number of all those whom the Inquisition has
put to death; he states it to be considerably above a hundred thousand.
His book was printed in 1589, at Madrid, with the approbation of
doctors, the eulogiums of bishops, and the privilege of the king. We
can, at the present day, scarcely form any idea of horrors at once so
extravagant and abominable; but at that period nothing appeared more
natural and edifying. All men resemble Louis de Paramo when they are
Paramo was a plain, direct man, very exact in dates, omitting no
interesting fact, and calculating with precision the number of human
victims immolated by the Holy Office throughout the world.
He relates, with great naïveté, the establishment of the Inquisition in
Portugal, and coincides perfectly with four other historians who have
treated of that subject. The following account they unanimously agree
_Singular. Establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal._
Pope Boniface had long before, at the beginning of the fifteenth
century, delegated some Dominican friars to go to Portugal, from one
city to another, to burn heretics, Mussulmans, and Jews; but these were
itinerant and not stationary; and even the kings sometimes complained of
the vexations caused by them. Pope Clement VII. was desirous of giving
them a fixed residence in Portugal, as they had in Aragon and Castile.
Difficulties, however, arose between the court of Rome and that of
Lisbon; tempers became irritated, the Inquisition suffered by it, and
was far from being perfectly established.
In 1539, there appeared at Lisbon a legate of the pope, who came, he
said, to establish the holy Inquisition on immovable foundations. He
delivered his letters to King John III. from Pope Paul III. He had other
letters from Rome for the chief officers of the court; his patents as
legate were duly sealed and signed; and he exhibited the most ample
powers for creating a grand inquisitor and all the judges of the Holy
Office. He was, however, in fact an impostor of the name of Saavedra,
who had the talent of counterfeiting hand-writings, seals, and
coats-of-arms. He had acquired the art at Rome, and was perfected in it
at Seville, at which place he arrived in company with two other
sharpers. His train was magnificent, consisting of more than a hundred
and twenty domestics. To defray, at least in part, the enormous expense
with which all this splendor was attended, he and his associates
borrowed at Seville large sums in the name of the apostolic chamber of
Rome; everything was concerted with the most consummate art.
[Illustration: THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INQUISITION IN PORTUGAL]
The king of Portugal was at first perfectly astonished at the pope's
despatching a legate to him without any previous announcement to him of
his intention. The legate hastily observed that in a concern so urgent
as that of establishing the Inquisition on a firm foundation, his
holiness could admit of no delays, and that the king might consider
himself honored by the holy father's having appointed a legate to be the
first person to announce his intention. The king did not venture to
reply. The legate on the same day constituted a grand inquisitor, and
sent about collectors to receive the tenths; and before the court could
obtain answers from Rome to its representations on the subject, the
legate had brought two hundred victims to the stake, and collected more
than two hundred thousand crowns.
However, the marquis of Villanova, a Spanish nobleman, of whom the
legate had borrowed at Seville a very considerable sum upon forged
bills, determined, if possible, to repay himself the money with his own
hands, instead of going to Lisbon and exposing himself to the intrigues
and influence of the swindler there. The legate was at this time making
his circuit through the country, and happened very conveniently to be on
the borders of Spain. The marquis unexpectedly advanced upon him with
fifty men well armed, carried him off prisoner, and conducted him to
The whole imposture was speedily discovered at Lisbon; the Council of
Madrid condemned the legate Saavedra to be flogged and sent to the
galleys for ten years; but the most admirable circumstance was, that
Pope Paul IV. confirmed subsequently all that the impostor had
established; out of the plenitude of his divine power he rectified all
the little irregularities of the various procedures, and rendered sacred
what before was merely human. Of what importance the arm which God
employs in His sacred service?--"_Qu'importe de quel bras Dieu daigne se
Such was the manner in which the Inquisition became established at
Lisbon; and the whole kingdom extolled the wisdom and providence of God
on the occasion.
To conclude, the methods of procedure adopted by this tribunal are
generally known; it is well known how strongly they are opposed to the
false equity and blind reason of all other tribunals in the world. Men
are imprisoned on the mere accusation of persons the most infamous; a
son may denounce his father, and the wife her husband; the accused is
never confronted with the accusers; and the property of the person
convicted is confiscated for the benefit of the judges: such at least
was the manner of its proceeding down to our own times. Surely in this
we must perceive something decidedly divine; for it is absolutely
incomprehensible that men should have patiently submitted to this yoke.
At length Count Aranda has obtained the blessings of all Europe by
paring the nails and filing the teeth of the monster in Spain; it
breathes, however, still.
"Instinctus, _impulsus_," impulse; but what power impels us?
All feeling is instinct. A secret conformity of our organs to their
respective objects forms our instinct. It is solely by instinct that we
perform numberless involuntary movements, just as it is by instinct that
we possess curiosity, that we run after novelty, that menaces terrify
us, that contempt irritates us, that an air of submission appeases us,
and that tears soften us.
We are governed by instinct, as well as cats and goats; this is one
further circumstance in which we resemble the mere animal tribes--a
resemblance as incontestable as that of our blood, our necessities, and
the various functions of our bodies.
Our instinct is never so shrewd and skilful as theirs, and does not even
approach it; a calf and a lamb, as soon as they are born, rush to the
fountain of their mother's milk; but unless the mother of the infant
clasped it in her arms, and folded it to her bosom, it would inevitably
No woman in a state of pregnancy was ever invincibly impelled to prepare
for her infant a convenient wicker cradle, as the wren with its bill and
claws prepares a nest for her offspring. But the power of reflection
which we possess, in conjunction with two industrious hands presented to
us by nature, raises us to an equality with the instinct of animals, and
in the course of time places us infinitely above them, both in respect
to good and evil--a proposition condemned by the members of the ancient
parliament and by the Sorbonne, natural philosophers of distinguished
eminence, and who, it is well known, have admirably promoted the
perfection of the arts.
Our instinct, in the first place, impels us to beat our brother when he
vexes us, if we are roused into a passion with him and feel that we are
stronger than he is. Afterwards, our sublime reason leads us on to the
invention of arrows, swords, pikes, and at length muskets, to kill our
Instinct alone urges us all to _make_ love--"_Amor omnibus idem_;" but
Virgil, Tibullus, and Ovid _sing_ it. It is from instinct alone that a
young artisan stands gazing with respect and admiration before the
superfine gilt coach of a commissioner of taxes. Reason comes to the
assistance of the young artisan; he is made a collector; he becomes
polished; he embezzles; he rises to be a great man in his turn, and
dazzles the eyes of his former comrades as he lolls at ease in his own
carriage, more profusely gilded than that which originally excited his
admiration and ambition.
What is this instinct which governs the whole animal kingdom, and which
in us is strengthened by reason or repressed by habit? Is it "_divinæ
particula auræ_?" Yes, undoubtedly it is something divine; for
everything is so. Everything is the incomprehensible effect of an
incomprehensible cause. Everything is swayed, is impelled by nature. We
reason about everything, and originate nothing.
We shall teach men nothing, when we tell them that everything we do is
done from interest. What! it will be said, is it from motives of
interest that the wretched fakir remains stark naked under the burning
sun, loaded with chains, dying with hunger, half devoured by vermin, and
devouring them in his turn? Yes, most undoubtedly it is; as we have
stated elsewhere, he depends upon ascending to the eighteenth heaven,
and looks with an eye of pity on the man who will be admitted only into
The interest of the Malabar widow, who burns herself with the corpse of
her husband, is to recover him in another world, and be there more happy
even than the fakir. For, together with their metempsychosis, the
Indians have another world; they resemble ourselves; their system admits
Were you ever acquainted with any king or republic that made either war
or peace, that issued decrees, or entered into conventions, from any
other motive than that of interest?
With respect to the interest of money, consult, in the great
"Encyclopædia," the article of M. d'Alembert, on "Calculation," and that
of M. Boucher d'Argis, on "Jurisprudence." We will venture to add a few
1. Are gold and silver merchandise? Yes; the author of the "Spirit of
Laws" does not think so when he says: "Money, which is the price of
commodities, is hired and not bought."
It is both lent and bought. I buy gold with silver, and silver with
gold; and their price fluctuates in all commercial countries from day to
The law of Holland requires bills of exchange to be paid in the silver
coin of the country, and not in gold, if the creditor demands it. Then I
buy silver money, and I pay for it in gold, or in cloth, corn, or
I am in want of money, corn, or diamonds, for the space of a year; the
corn, money, or diamond merchant says--I could, for this year, sell my
money, corn, or diamonds to advantage. Let us estimate at four, five, or
six per cent., according to the usage of the country, what I should lose
by letting you have it. You shall, for instance, return me at the end of
the year, twenty-one carats of diamonds for the twenty which I now lend
you; twenty-one sacks of corn for the twenty; twenty-one thousand crowns
for twenty thousand crowns. Such is interest. It is established among
all nations by the law of nature. The maximum or highest rate of
interest depends, in every country, on its own particular law. In Rome
money is lent on pledges at two and a half per cent., according to law,
and the pledges are sold, if the money be not paid at the appointed
time. I do not lend upon pledges, and I require only the interest
customary in Holland. If I were in China, I should ask of you the
customary interest at Macao and Canton.
2. While the parties were proceeding with this bargain at Amsterdam, it
happened that there arrived from St. Magliore, a Jansenist (and the fact
is perfectly true, he was called the Abbé des Issarts); this Jansenist
says to the Dutch merchant, "Take care what you are about; you are
absolutely incurring damnation; money must not produce money, '_nummus
nummum non parit_.' No one is allowed to receive interest for his money
but when he is willing to sink the principal. The way to be saved is to
make a contract with the gentleman; and for twenty thousand crowns which
you are never to have returned to you, you and your heirs will receive a
thousand crowns per annum to all eternity."
"You jest," replies the Dutchman; "you are in this very case proposing
to me a usury that is absolutely of the nature of an infinite series. I
should (that is, myself and heirs would) in that case receive back my
capital at the end of twenty years, the double of it in forty, the
four-fold of it in eighty; this you see would be just an infinite
series. I cannot, besides, lend for more than twelve months, and I am
contented with a thousand crowns as a remuneration."
THE ABBÉ DES ISSARTS.--I am grieved for your Dutch soul; God forbade the
Jews to lend at interest, and you are well aware that a citizen of
Amsterdam should punctually obey the laws of commerce given in a
wilderness to runaway vagrants who had no commerce.
THE DUTCHMAN.--That is clear; all the world ought to be Jews; but it
seems to me, that the law permitted the Hebrew horde to gain as much by
usury as they could from foreigners, and that, in consequence of this
permission, they managed their affairs in the sequel remarkably well.
Besides, the prohibition against one Jew's taking interest from another
must necessarily have become obsolete, since our Lord Jesus, when
preaching at Jerusalem, expressly said that interest was in his time
one hundred per cent.; for in the parable of the talents he says, that
the servant who had received five talents gained five others in
Jerusalem by them; that he who had two gained two by them; and that the
third who had only one, and did not turn that to any account, was shut
up in a dungeon by his master, for not laying it out with the
money-changers. But these money-changers were Jews; it was therefore
between Jews that usury was practised at Jerusalem; therefore this
parable, drawn from the circumstances and manners of the times,
decidedly indicates that usury or interest was at the rate of a hundred
per cent. Read the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew; he was
conversant with the subject; he had been a commissioner of taxes in
Galilee. Let me finish my argument with this gentleman; and do not make
me lose both my money and my time.
THE ABBÉ DES ISSARTS.--All that you say is very good and very fine; but
the Sorbonne has decided that lending money on interest is a mortal sin.
THE DUTCHMAN.--You must be laughing at me, my good friend, when you cite
the Sorbonne as an authority to a merchant of Amsterdam. There is not a
single individual among those wrangling railers themselves who does not
obtain, whenever he can, five or six per cent, for his money by
purchasing revenue bills, India bonds, assignments, and Canada bills.
The clergy of France, as a corporate body, borrow at interest. In many
of the provinces of France, it is the custom to stipulate for interest
with the principal. Besides, the university of Oxford and that of
Salamanca have decided against the Sorbonne. I acquired this information
in the course of my travels; and thus we have authority against
authority. Once more, I must beg you to interrupt me no longer.
THE ABBÉ DES ISSARTS.--The wicked, sir, are never at a loss for reasons.
You are, I repeat, absolutely destroying yourself, for the Abbé de St.
Cyran, who has not performed any miracles, and the Abbé Paris, who
performed some in St. Médard....
3. Before the abbé had finished his speech, the merchant drove him out
of his counting-house; and after having legally lent his money, to the
last penny, went to represent the conversation between himself and the
abbé, to the magistrates, who forbade the Jansenists from propagating a
doctrine so pernicious to commerce.
"Gentlemen," said the chief bailiff, "give us of efficacious grace as
much as you please, of predestination as much as you please, and of
communion as little as you please; on these points you are masters; but
take care not to meddle with the laws of commerce."
Read the article on "Intolerance" in the great "Encyclopædia." Read the
treatise on "Toleration" composed on occasion of the dreadful
assassination of John Calas, a citizen of Toulouse; and if, after that,
you allow of persecution in matters of religion, compare yourself at
once to Ravaillac. Ravaillac, you know, was highly intolerant. The
following is the substance of all the discourses ever delivered by the
You monster; you will be burned to all eternity in the other world, and
whom I will myself burn as soon as ever I can in this, you really have
the insolence to read de Thou and Bayle, who have been put into the
index of prohibited authors at Rome! When I was preaching to you in the
name of God, how Samson had killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an
ass, your head, still harder than the arsenal from which Samson obtained
his arms, showed me by a slight movement from left to right that you
believed nothing of what I said. And when I stated that the devil
Asmodeus, who out of jealousy twisted the necks of the seven husbands of
Sarah among the Medes, was put in chains in upper Egypt, I saw a small
contraction of your lips, in Latin called _cachinnus_ (a grin) which
plainly indicated to me that in the bottom of your soul you held the
history of Asmodeus in derision.
And as for you, Isaac Newton; Frederick the Great, king of Prussia and
elector of Brandenburg; John Locke; Catherine, empress of Russia,
victorious over the Ottomans; John Milton; the beneficent sovereign of
Denmark; Shakespeare; the wise king of Sweden; Leibnitz; the august
house of Brunswick; Tillotson; the emperor of China; the Parliament of
England; the Council of the great Mogul; in short, all you who do not
believe one word which I have taught in my courses on divinity, I
declare to you, that I regard you all as pagans and publicans, as, in
order to engrave it on your unimpressible brains, I have often told you
before. You are a set of callous miscreants; you will all go to gehenna,
where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched; for I am right,
and you are all wrong; and I have grace, and you have none. I confess
three devotees in my neighborhood, while you do not confess a single
one; I have executed the mandates of bishops, which has never been the
case with you; I have abused philosophers in the language of the
fish-market, while you have protected, imitated, or equalled them; I
have composed pious defamatory libels, stuffed with infamous calumnies,
and you have never so much as read them. I say mass every day in Latin
for fourteen sous, and you are never even so much as present at it, any
more than Cicero, Cato, Pompey, Cæsar, Horace, or Virgil, were ever
present at it--consequently you deserve each of you to have your right
hand cut off, your tongue cut out, to be put to the torture, and at last
burned at a slow fire; for God is merciful.
Such, without the slightest abatement, are the maxims of the intolerant,
and the sum and substance of all their books. How delightful to live
with such amiable people!
"Was there ever a time when the globe was entirely inundated? It is
It is possible that the sea may successively have covered every land,
one part after another; and even this can only have happened by very
slow gradation, and in a prodigious number of centuries. In the course
of five hundred years the sea has retired from Aigues-Mortes, Fréjus,
and Ravenna, which were considerable ports, and left about two leagues
of land dry. According to the ratio of such progression, it is clear
that it would require two million and two hundred and fifty thousand
years to produce the same effect through the whole circuit of the globe.
It is a somewhat remarkable circumstance that this period of time nearly
falls in with that which the axis of the earth would require to be
raised, so as to coincide with the equator; a change extremely probable,
which began to be considered so only about fifty years since, and which
could not be completed in a shorter period of time than two million and
three hundred thousand years.
The beds or strata of shells, which have been discovered at the distance
of some leagues from the sea, are an incontestable evidence that it has
gradually deposited these marine productions on tracts which were
formerly shores of the ocean; but that the water should have ever
covered the whole globe at once is an absurd chimera in physics,
demonstrated to be impossible by the laws of gravitation, by the laws
of fluids, and by the insufficient quantity of water for the purpose. We
do not, however, by these observations, at all mean to impeach the truth
of the universal deluge, related in the Pentateuch; on the contrary,
that is a miracle which it is our duty to believe; it is a miracle, and
therefore could not have been accomplished by the laws of nature.
All is miracle in the history of the deluge--a miracle, that forty days
of rain should have inundated the four quarters of the world, and have
raised the water to the height of fifteen cubits above the tops of the
loftiest mountains; a miracle, that there should have been cataracts,
floodgates, and openings in heaven; a miracle, that all sorts of animals
should have been collected in the ark from all parts of the world; a
miracle that Noah found the means of feeding them for a period of ten
months; a miracle that all the animals with all their provisions could
have been included and retained in the ark; a miracle, that the greater
part of them did not die; a miracle, that after quitting the ark, they
found food enough to maintain them; and a further miracle, but of a
different kind, that a person, by the name of Lepelletier, thought
himself capable of explaining how all the animals could be contained and
fed in Noah's ark naturally, that is, without a miracle.
But the history of the deluge being that of the most miraculous event of
which the world ever heard, it must be the height of folly and madness
to attempt an explanation of it: it is one of the mysteries which are
believed by faith; and faith consists in believing that which reason
does not believe--which is only another miracle.
The history of the universal deluge, therefore, is like that of the
tower of Babel, of Balaam's ass, of the falling of the walls of Jericho
at the sound of trumpets, of waters turned into blood, of the passage of
the Red Sea, and of the whole of the prodigies which God condescended to
perform in favor of his chosen people--depths unfathomable to the human
Jehovah, the ancient name of God. No people ever pronounced it "Geova,"
as the French do; they pronounced it "Iëvo"; you find it so written in
Sanchoniathon, cited by Eusebius, Prep., book x.; in Diodorus, book ii.;
and in Macrobius, Sat., book i. All nations have pronounced it _ie_ and
not _g_. This sacred name was formed out of the vowels _i_, _e_, _o_,
_u_, in the east. Some pronounced _ïe_, _oh_, with an aspirate, _i_, _e
o_, _va_. The word was always to be constituted of four letters,
although we have here used five, for want of power to express these four
We have already observed that, according to Clement of Alexandria, by
seizing on the correct pronunciation of this name a person had it in his
power to produce the death of any man. Clement gives an instance of it.
Long before the time of Moses, Seth had pronounced the name of
"Jehovah," as is related in the fourth chapter of Genesis; and,
according to the Hebrew, Seth was even called "Jehovah." Abraham swore
to the king of Sodom by Jehovah, chap. xiv. 22.
From the word "Jehovah," the Latins derived "_Jove_," "_Jovis_,"
"_Jovispeter_," "_Jupiter_." In the bush, the Almighty says to Moses,
"My name is Jehovah." In the orders which he gave Him for the court of
Pharaoh, he says to him: "I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as
the mighty God, only by my name, Adonai,' I was not known to them, and I
made a covenant with them."
The Jews did not for a long time pronounce this name. It was common to
the Phoenicians and Egyptians. It signified, that which is; and hence,
probably, is derived the inscription of Isis: "I am all that is."
It is evident from the text of the Book of Judges that Jephthah promised
to sacrifice the first person that should come out of his house to
congratulate him on his victory over the Ammonites. His only daughter
presented herself before him for that purpose; he tore his garments and
immolated her, after having promised her to go and deplore in the
recesses of the mountains the calamity of her dying a virgin. The
daughters of Israel long continued to celebrate this painful event, and
devoted four days in the year to lamentation for the daughter of
In whatever period this history was written, whether it was imitated
from the Greek history of Agamemnon and Idomeneus, or was the model from
which that history was taken; whether it might be anterior or posterior
to similar narratives in Assyrian history is not the point I am now
examining. I keep strictly to the text. Jephthah vowed to make his
daughter a burnt offering, and fulfilled his vow.
It was expressly commanded by the Jewish law to sacrifice men devoted to
the Lord: "Every man that shall be devoted shall not be redeemed, but
shall be put to death without remission." The Vulgate translates it: "He
shall not be redeemed, but shall die the death."
It was in virtue of this law that Samuel hewed in pieces King Agag,
whom, as we have already seen, Saul had pardoned. In fact, it was for
sparing Agag that Saul was rebuked by the Lord, and lost his kingdom.
Thus, then, we perceive sacrifices of human blood clearly established;
there is no point of history more incontestable: we can only judge of a
nation by its own archives, and by what it relates concerning itself.
There are, then, it seems, persons to be found who hesitate at nothing,
who falsify a passage of Scripture as intrepidly as if they were quoting
its very words, and who hope to deceive mankind by their falsehoods,
knowing them perfectly to be such. If such daring impostors are to be
found now, we cannot help supposing, that before the invention of
printing, which affords such facility, and almost certainty of
detection, there existed a hundred times as many.
One of the most impudent falsifiers who have lately appeared, is the
author of an infamous libel entitled "The Anti-Philosophic Dictionary,"
which truly deserves its title. But my readers will say, "Do not be so
irritated; what is it to you that a contemptible book has been
published?" Gentlemen, it is to the subject of Jephthah, to the subject
of human victims, of the blood of men sacrificed to God, that I am now
desirous of drawing your attention!
The author, whoever he may be, translates the thirty-ninth verse of the
first chapter of the history of Jephthah as follows: "She returned to
the house of her father, who fulfilled the consecration which he had
promised by his vow, and his daughter remained in the state of
Yes, falsifier of the Bible, I am irritated at it, I acknowledge; but
you have lied to the holy spirit; which you ought to know is a sin which
is never pardoned.
The passage in the Vulgate is as follows:
"_Et reversa est ad patrem suum, et fecit ei sicut voverat quæ ignorabat
virum. Exinde mos increbruit in Israel et consuetudo servata est, ut
post anni circulum conveniant in unum filiæ Israel, et plangant filiam
Jephte Galaaditæ, diebus quatuor._"
"And she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed, to
her who had never known man; and hence came the usage, and the custom is
still observed, that the daughters of Israel assemble every year to
lament the daughter of Jephthah for four days."
You will just have the goodness, Mr. Anti-philosopher, to tell us,
whether four days of lamentation every year have been devoted to weeping
the fate of a young woman because she was consecrated?
Whether any nuns (_religieuses_) were ever solemnly appointed among a
people who considered virginity an opprobrium?
And also, what is the natural meaning of the phrase, he did to her as he
had vowed--"_Fecit ei sicut voverat?_"
What had Jephthah vowed? What had he promised by an oath to perform? To
kill his daughter; to offer her up as a burnt offering--and he did kill
Read Calmet's dissertation on the rashness of Jephthah's vow and its
fulfilment; read the law which he cites, that terrible law of Leviticus,
in the twenty-seventh chapter, which commands that all which shall be
devoted to the Lord shall not be ransomed, but shall die the death:
"_Non redimetur, sed morte morletur_."
Observe the multitude of examples by which this most astonishing truth
is attested. Look at the Amalekites and Canaanites; look at the king of
Arvad and all his family subjected to the law of devotion; look at the
priest Samuel slaying King Agag with his own hands, and cutting him into
pieces as a butcher cuts up an ox in his slaughter-house. After
considering all this, go and corrupt, falsify, or deny holy Scripture,
in order to maintain your paradox; and insult those who revere the
Scripture, however astonishing and confounding they may find it. Give
the lie direct to the historian Josephus, who transcribes the narrative
in question, and positively asserts that Jephthah immolated his
daughter. Pile revilings upon falsehoods, and calumny upon ignorance;
sages will smile at your impotence; and sages, thank God, are at present
neither few nor weak. Oh, that you could but see the sovereign contempt
with which they look down upon the Rouths, when they corrupt the holy
Scripture, and when they boast of having disputed with the president
Montesquieu in his last hour, and convinced him that he ought to think
exactly like the Jesuits!
JESUITS; OR PRIDE.
The Jesuits have been so much a subject of discourse and discussion
that, after having engaged the attention of Europe for a period of two
hundred years, they at last begin to weary and disgust it, whether they
write themselves, or whether any one else writes for or against that
singular society; in which it must be confessed there have been found,
and are to be found still, individuals of very extraordinary merit.
They have been reproached, in the six thousand volumes that have been
written against them, with their lax morality, which has not, however,
been more lax than that of the Capuchins; and with their doctrine
relating to the safety of the person of kings; a doctrine which after
all is not to be compared with the horn-handled knife of James Clement;
nor with the prepared host, the sprinkled wafer, which so well answered
the purpose of Ange de Montepulciano, another Jacobin, and which
poisoned the emperor Henry VII.
It is not versatile grace which has been their ruin, nor the fraudulent
bankruptcy of the reverend Father Lavalette, prefect of the apostolic
missions. A whole order has not been expelled from France and Spain and
the two Sicilies, because that order contained a single bankrupt. Nor
was it affected by the odious deviations of the Jesuit Guyot-Desfontaines,
or the Jesuit Fréron, or the reverend father Marsy, so injurious, in the
latter instance, to the youthful and high-born victim. The public
refused to attend these Greek and Latin imitations of Anacreon and
What is it then that was their ruin?--_pride_, What, it may be asked by
some, were the Jesuits prouder than any other monks? Yes; and so much so
that they procured a _lettre de cachet_ against an ecclesiastic for
calling them monks. One member of the society, called Croust, more
brutal than the rest, a brother of the confessor of the second
dauphiness, was absolutely, in my presence, going to beat the son of M.
de Guyot, afterwards king's advocate (prêteur-royal) at Strasburg,
merely for saying he would go to see him in his convent.
It is perfectly incredible with what contempt they considered every
university where they had not been educated, every book which they had
not written, every ecclesiastic who was not "a man of quality." Of this
I have myself, times without number, been a witness. They express
themselves in the following language, in their libel entitled "It is
Time to Speak Out": "Should we condescend even to speak to a magistrate
who says the Jesuits are proud and ought to be humbled?" They were so
proud that they would not suffer any one to blame their pride!
Whence did this hateful pride originate? From Father Guinard's having
been hanged? which is literally true.
It must be remarked that after the execution of that Jesuit under Henry
IV., and after the banishment of the society from the kingdom, they were
recalled only on the indispensable condition that one Jesuit should
always reside at court, who should be responsible for all the rest.
Coton was the person who thus became a hostage at the court of Henry
IV.; and that excellent monarch, who was not without his little
stratagems of policy, thought to conciliate the pope by making a hostage
of his confessor.
From that moment every brother of the order seemed to feel as if he had
been raised to be king's confessor. This place of first spiritual
physician became a department of the administration under Louis XIII.,
and moreso still under Louis XIV. The brother Vadblé, valet de chambre
of Father La Chaise, granted his protection to the bishops of France;
and Father Letellier ruled with a sceptre of iron those who were very
well disposed to be so ruled. It was impossible that the greater part of
the Jesuits should not be puffed up by the consequence and power to
which these two members of their society had been raised, and that they
should not become as insolent as the lackeys of M. Louvois. There have
been among them, certainly, men of knowledge, eloquence, and genius;
these possessed some modesty, but those who had only mediocrity of
talent or acquirement were tainted with that pride which generally
attaches to mediocrity and to the pedantry of a college.
From the time of Father Garasse almost all their polemical works have
been pervaded with an indecent and scornful arrogance which has roused
the indignation of all Europe. This arrogance frequently sank into the
most pitiful meanness; so that they discovered the extraordinary secret
of being objects at once of envy and contempt. Observe, for example, how
they expressed themselves of the celebrated Pasquier, advocate-general
of the chamber of accounts:
"Pasquier is a mere porter, a Parisian varlet, a second-rate showman and
jester, a journeyman retailer of ballads and old stories, a contemptible
hireling, only fit to be a lackey's valet, a scrub, a disgusting
ragamuffin, strongly suspected of heresy, and either heretical or much
worse, a libidinous and filthy satyr, a master-fool by nature, in sharp,
in flat, and throughout the whole gamut, a three-shod fool, a fool
double-dyed, a fool in grain, a fool in every sort of folly."
They afterwards polished their style; but pride, by becoming less gross,
only became the more revolting.
Everything is pardoned except pride; and this accounts for the fact that
all the parliaments in the kingdom, the members of which had the greater
part of them been disciples of the Jesuits, seized the first opportunity
of effecting their annihilation; and the whole land rejoiced in their
So deeply was the spirit of pride rooted in them that it manifested
itself with the most indecent rage, even while they were held down to
the earth by the hand of justice, and their final sentence yet remained
to be pronounced. We need only read the celebrated memorial already
mentioned, entitled "It is Time to Speak Out," printed at Avignon in
1763, under the assumed name of Anvers. It begins with an ironical
petition to the persons holding the court of parliament. It addresses
them with as much superiority and contempt as could be shown in
reprimanding a proctor's clerk. The illustrious M. de Montclar,
procureur-général, the oracle of the Parliament of Provence, is
continually treated as "M. Ripert," and rebuked with as much consequence
and authority as a mutinous and ignorant scholar by a professor in his
chair. They pushed their audacity so far as to say that M. de Montclar
"blasphemed" in giving an account of the institution of the Jesuits.
In their memorial, entitled "All Shall be Told," they insult still more
daringly the Parliament of Metz, and always in the style of arrogance
and dictation derived from the schools.
They have retained this pride even in the very ashes to which France and
Spain have now reduced them. From the bottom of those ashes the serpent,
scotched as it has been, has again raised its hostile head. We have seen
a contemptible creature, of the name of Nonnotte, set himself up for a
critic on his masters; and, although possessing merely talent enough for
preaching to a mob in the church-yard, discoursing with all the ease of
impudence about things of which he has not the slightest notion. Another
insolent member of the society, called Patouillet, dared, in the
bishop's mandates, to insult respectable citizens and officers of the
king's household, whose very lackeys would not have permitted him to
speak to them.
One of the things on which they most prided themselves, was introducing
themselves into the houses of the great in their last illness, as
ambassadors of God, to open to them the gates of heaven, without their
previously passing through purgatory. Under Louis XIV. it was considered
as having a bad aspect, it was unfashionable and discreditable, to die
without having passed through the hands of a Jesuit; and the wretch,
immediately after the fatal scene had closed, would go and boast to his
devotees that he had just been converting a duke and peer, who, without
his protection, would have been inevitably damned.
The dying man might say: "By what right, you college excrement, do you
intrude yourself on me in my dying moments? Was I ever seen to go to
your cells when any of you had the fistula or gangrene, and were about
to return your gross and unwieldy bodies to the earth? Has God granted
your soul any rights over mine? Do I require a preceptor at the age of
seventy? Do you carry the keys of Paradise at your girdle? You dare to
call yourself an ambassador of God; show me your patent and if you have
none, let me die in peace. No Benedictine, Chartreux, or Premonstrant,
comes to disturb my dying moments; they have no wish to erect a trophy
to their pride upon the bed of our last agony; they remain peacefully in
their cells; do you rest quietly in yours; there can be nothing in
common between you and me."
A comic circumstance occurred on a truly mournful occasion, when an
English Jesuit, of the name of Routh, eagerly strove to possess himself
of the last hour of the great Montesquieu. "He came," he said, "to bring
back that virtuous soul to religion;" as if Montesquieu had not known
what religion was better than a Routh; as if it had been the will of God
that Montesquieu should think like a Routh! He was driven out of the
chamber, and went all over Paris, exclaiming, "I have converted that
celebrated man; I prevailed upon him to throw his 'Persian Letters' and
his 'Spirit of Laws' into the fire." Care was taken to print the
narrative of the conversion of President Montesquieu by the reverend
father Routh in the libel entitled "The Anti-Philosophic Dictionary."
Another subject of pride and ambition with the Jesuits was making
missions to various cities, just as if they had been among Indians or
Japanese. They would oblige the whole magistracy to attend them in the
streets; a cross was borne before them, planted in the principal public
places; they dispossessed the resident clergy; they became complete
masters of the city. A Jesuit of the name of Aubert performed one of
these missions to Colmar, and compelled the advocate-general of the
sovereign council to burn at his feet his copy of "Bayle," which had
cost him no less than fifty crowns. For my own part, I acknowledge that
I would rather have burned brother Aubert himself. Judge how the pride
of this Aubert must have swelled with this sacrifice as he boasted of it
to his comrades at night, and as he exultingly wrote the account of it
to his general.
O monks, monks! be modest, as I have already advised you; be moderate,
if you wish to avoid the calamities impending over you.
You order me to draw you a faithful picture of the spirit of the Jews,
and of their history, and--without entering into the ineffable ways of
Providence, which are not our ways--you seek in the manners of this
people the source of the events which that Providence prepared.
It is certain that the Jewish nation is the most singular that the world
has ever seen; and although, in a political view, the most contemptible
of all, yet in the eyes of a philosopher, it is, on various accounts,
The Guebers, the Banians, and the Jews, are the only nations which exist
dispersed, having no alliance with any people, are perpetuated among
foreign nations, and continue apart from the rest of the world.
The Guebers were once infinitely more considerable than the Jews, for
they are castes of the Persians, who had the Jews under their dominion;
but they are now scattered over but one part of the East.
The Banians, who are descended from the ancient people among whom
Pythagoras acquired his philosophy, exist only in India and Persia; but
the Jews are dispersed over the whole face of the earth and if they were
assembled, would compose a nation much more numerous than it ever was in
the short time that they were masters of Palestine. Almost every people
who have written the history of their origin, have chosen to set it off
by prodigies; with them all has been miracle; their oracles have
predicted nothing but conquest; and such of them as have really become
conquerors have had no difficulty in believing these ancient oracles
which were verified by the event. The Jews are distinguished among the
nations by this--that their oracles are the only true ones, of which we
are not permitted to doubt. These oracles, which they understand only in
the literal sense, have a hundred times foretold to them that they
should be masters of the world; yet they have never possessed anything
more than a small corner of land, and that only for a small number of
years, and they have not now so much as a village of their own. They
must, then, believe, and they do believe, that their predictions will
one day be fulfilled, and that they shall have the empire of the earth.
Among the Mussulmans and the Christians they are the lowest of all
nations, but they think themselves the highest. This pride in their
abasement is justified by an unanswerable reason--viz., that they are in
reality the fathers of both Christians and Mussulmans. The Christian and
the Mussulman religion acknowledge the Jewish as their parent; and, by a
singular contradiction, they at once hold this parent in reverence and
It were foreign to our present purpose to repeat that continued
succession of prodigies which astonishes the imagination and exercises
the faith. We have here to do only with events purely historical, wholly
apart from the divine concurrence and the miracles which God, for so
long a time, vouchsafed to work in this people's favor.
First, we find in Egypt a family of seventy persons producing, at the
end of two hundred and fifteen years, a nation counting six hundred
thousand fighting men; which makes, with the women, the children and the
old men, upward of two millions of souls. There is no example upon earth
of so prodigious an increase of population; this people, having come out
of Egypt, stayed forty years in the deserts of Stony Arabia, and in that
frightful country the people much diminished.
What remained of this nation advanced a little northward in those
deserts. It appears that they had the same principles which the tribes
of Stony and Desert Arabia have since had, of butchering without mercy
the inhabitants of little towns over whom they had the advantage, and
reserving only the young women. The interests of population have ever
been the principal object of both. We find that when the Arabs had
conquered Spain, they imposed tributes of marriageable girls; and at
this day the Arabs of the desert make no treaty without stipulating for
some girls and a few presents.
The Jews arrived in a sandy, mountainous country, where there were a few
towns, inhabited by a little people called the Midianites. In one
Midianite camp, alone, they took six hundred and seventy-five thousand
sheep, seventy-two thousand oxen, sixty-one thousand asses, and
thirty-two thousand virgins. All the men, all the wives, and all the
male children, were massacred; the girls and the booty were divided
between the people and the sacrificers.
They then took, in the same country, the town of Jericho; but having
devoted the inhabitants of that place to the anathema, they massacred
them all, including the virgins, pardoning none but Rahab, a courtesan,
who had aided them in surprising the town.
The learned have agitated the question whether the Jews, like so many
other nations, really sacrificed men to the Divinity. This is a dispute
on words; those, whom the people consecrated to the anathema were not
put to death on an altar, with religious rites; but they were not the
less immolated, without its being permitted to pardon any one of them.
Leviticus (xxvii., 29) expressly forbids the redeeming of those who
shall have been devoted. Its words are, "They shall surely be put to
death." By virtue of this law it was that Jephthah devoted and killed
his daughter, that Saul would have killed his son, and that the prophet
Samuel cut in pieces King Agag, Saul's prisoner. It is quite certain
that God is the master of the lives of men, and that it is not for us to
examine His laws. We ought to limit ourselves to believing these things,
and reverencing in silence the designs of God, who permitted them.
It is also asked what right had strangers like the Jews to the land of
Canaan? The answer is, that they had what God gave them.
No sooner had they taken Jericho and Lais than they had a civil war
among themselves, in which the tribe of Benjamin was almost wholly
exterminated--men, women, and children; leaving only six hundred males.
The people, unwilling that one of the tribes should be annihilated,
bethought themselves of sacking the whole city of the tribe of Manasseh,
killing all the men, old and young, all the children, all the married
women, all the widows, and taking six hundred virgins, whom they gave to
the six hundred survivors of the tribe of Benjamin, to restore that
tribe, in order that the number of their twelve tribes might still be
Meanwhile, the Phoenicians, a powerful people settled in the coasts
from time immemorial, being alarmed at the depredations and cruelties of
these newcomers, frequently chastised them; the neighboring princes
united against them; and they were seven times reduced to slavery, for
more than two hundred years.
At last they made themselves a king, whom they elected by lot. This king
could not be very mighty; for in the first battle which the Jews fought
under him, against their masters, the Philistines, they had, in the
whole army, but one sword and one lance, and not one weapon of steel.
But David, their second king, made war with advantage. He took the city
of Salem, afterwards so celebrated under the name of Jerusalem, and then
the Jews began to make some figure on the borders of Syria. Their
government and their religion took a more august form. Hitherto they had
not the means of raising a temple, though every neighboring nation had
one or more. Solomon built a superb one, and reigned over this people
about forty years.
Not only were the days of Solomon the most flourishing days of the Jews,
but all the kings upon earth could not exhibit a treasure approaching
Solomon's. His father, David, whose predecessor had not even iron, left
to Solomon twenty-five thousand six hundred and forty-eight millions of
French livres in ready money. His fleets, which went to Ophir, brought
him sixty-eight millions per annum in pure gold, without reckoning the
silver and jewels. He had forty thousand stables, and the same number of
coach-houses, twelve thousand stables for his cavalry, seven hundred
wives, and three hundred concubines. Yet he had neither wood nor workmen
for building his palace and the temple; he borrowed them of Hiram, king
of Tyre, who also furnished gold; and Solomon gave Hiram twenty towns in
payment. The commentators have acknowledged that these things need
explanation, and have suspected some literal error in the copyist, who
alone can have been mistaken.
On the death of Solomon, a division took place among the twelve tribes
composing the nation. The kingdom was torn asunder, and separated into
two small provinces, one of which was called Judah, the other
Israel--nine tribes and a half composing the Israelitish province, and
only two and a half that of Judah. Then there was between these two
small peoples a hatred, the more implacable as they were kinsmen and
neighbors, and as they had different religions; for at Sichem and at
Samaria they worshipped "_Baal_"--giving to God a Sidonian name; while
at Jerusalem they worshipped "_Adonai_." At Sichem were consecrated two
calves; at Jerusalem, two cherubim--which were two winged animals with
double heads, placed in the sanctuary. So, each faction having its
kings, its gods, its worship, and its prophets, they made a bloody war
upon each other.
"While this war was carried on, the kings of Assyria, who conquered the
greater part of Asia, fell upon the Jews; as an eagle pounces upon two
lizards while they are fighting. The nine and a half tribes of Samaria
and Sichem were carried off and dispersed forever; nor has it been
precisely known to what places they were led into slavery.
It is but twenty leagues from the town of Samaria to Jerusalem, and
their territories joined each other; so that when one of these towns was
enslaved by powerful conquerors, the other could not long hold out.
Jerusalem was sacked several times; it was tributary to kings Hazael and
Razin, enslaved under Tiglath-Pileser, three times taken by
Nebuchodonosor, or Nebuchadnezzar, and at last destroyed. Zedekiah, who
had been set up as king or governor by this conqueror, was led, with his
whole people, into captivity in Babylonia; so that the only Jews left in
Palestine were a few enslaved peasants, to sow the ground.
As for the little country of Samaria and Sichem, more fertile than that
of Jerusalem, it was re-peopled by foreign colonies, sent there by
Assyrian kings, who took the name of Samaritans.
The two and a half tribes that were slaves in Babylonia and the
neighboring towns for seventy years, had time to adopt the usages of
their masters, and enriched their own tongue by mixing with it the
Chaldæan; this is incontestable. The historian Josephus tells us that he
wrote first in Chaldæan, which is the language of his country. It
appears that the Jews acquired but little of the science of the Magi;
they turned brokers, money-changers, and old-clothes men; by which they
made themselves necessary, as they still do, and grew rich.
Their gains enabled them to obtain, under Cyrus, the liberty of
rebuilding Jerusalem; but when they were to return into their own
country, those who had grown rich at Babylon, would not quit so fine a
country for the mountains of Coelesyria, nor the fruitful banks of the
Euphrates and the Tigris, for the torrent of Kedron. Only the meanest
part of the nation returned with Zorobabel. The Jews of Babylon
contributed only their alms to the rebuilding of the city and the
temple; nor was the collection a large one; for Esdras relates that no
more than seventy thousand crowns could be raised for the erection of
this temple, which was to be that of all the earth.
The Jews still remained subject to the Persians; they were likewise
subject to Alexander; and when that great man, the most excusable of all
conquerors, had, in the early years of his victorious career, begun to
raise Alexandria, and make it the centre of the commerce of the world,
the Jews flocked there to exercise their trade of brokers; and there it
was that their rabbis at length learned something of the sciences of the
Greeks. The Greek tongue became absolutely necessary to all trading
After Alexander's death, this people continued subject in Jerusalem to
the kings of Syria, and in Alexandria to the kings of Egypt; and when
these kings were at war, this people always shared the fate of their
subjects, and belonged to the conqueror.
From the time of their captivity at Babylon, the Jews never had
particular governors taking the title of king. The pontiffs had the
internal administration, and these pontiffs were appointed by their
masters; they sometimes paid very high for this dignity, as the Greek
patriarch at Constantinople pays for his at present.
Under Antiochus Epiphanes they revolted; the city was once more
pillaged, and the walls demolished. After a succession of similar
disasters, they at length obtained, for the first time, about a hundred
and fifty years before the Christian era, permission to coin money,
which permission was granted them by Antiochus Sidetes. They then had
chiefs, who took the name of kings, and even wore a diadem. Antigonus
was the first who was decorated with this ornament, which, without the
power, confers but little honor.
At that time the Romans were beginning to become formidable to the kings
of Syria, masters of the Jews; and the latter gained over the Roman
senate by presents and acts of submission. It seemed that the wars in
Asia Minor would, for a time at least, give some relief to this
unfortunate people; but Jerusalem no sooner enjoyed some shadow of
liberty than it was torn by civil wars, which rendered its condition
under its phantoms of kings much more pitiable than it had ever been in
so long and various a succession of bondages.
In their intestine troubles, they made the Romans their judges. Already
most of the kingdoms of Asia Minor, Southern Africa, and three-fourths
of Europe, acknowledged the Romans as their arbiters and masters.
Pompey came into Syria to judge the nation and to depose several petty
tyrants. Being deceived by Aristobulus, who disputed the royalty of
Jerusalem, he avenged himself upon him and his party. He took the city;
had some of the seditious, either priests or Pharisees, crucified; and
not long after, condemned Aristobulus, king of the Jews, to execution.
The Jews, ever unfortunate, ever enslaved, and ever revolting, again
brought upon them the Roman arms. Crassus and Cassius punished them; and
Metellus Scipio had a son of King Aristobulus, named Alexander, the
author of all the troubles, crucified.
Under the great Cæsar, they were entirely subject and peaceable. Herod,
famed among them and among us, for a long time was merely tetrarch, but
obtained from Antony the crown of Judæa, for which he paid dearly; but
Jerusalem would not recognize this new king, because he was descended
from Esau, and not from Jacob, and was merely an Idumæan. The very
circumstance of his being a foreigner caused him to be chosen by the
Romans, the better to keep this people in check. The Romans protected
the king of their nomination with an army; and Jerusalem was again taken
by assault, sacked, and pillaged.
Herod, afterwards protected by Augustus, became one of the most powerful
sovereigns among the petty kings of Arabia. He restored Jerusalem,
repaired the fortifications that surrounded the temple, so dear to the
Jews, and rebuilt the temple itself; but he could not finish it, for he
wanted money and workmen. This proves that, after all, Herod was not
rich; and the Jews, though fond of their temple, were still fonder of
The name of king was nothing more than a favor granted by the Romans; it
was not a title of succession. Soon after Herod's death, Judæa was
governed as a subordinate Roman province, by the proconsul of Syria,
although from time to time the title of king was granted, sometimes to
one Jew, sometimes to another, for a considerable sum of money, as under
the emperor Claudius, when it was granted to the Jew Agrippa.
A daughter of Agrippa was that Berenice, celebrated for having been
beloved by one of the best emperors Rome can boast. She it was who, by
the injustice she experienced from her countrymen, drew down the
vengeance of the Romans upon Jerusalem. She asked for justice, and the
factions of the town refused it. The seditious spirit of the people
impelled them to fresh excesses. Their character at all times was to be
cruel; and their fate, to be punished.
This memorable siege, which ended in the destruction of the city, was
carried on by Vespasian and Titus. The exaggerating Josephus pretends
that in this short war more than a million of Jews were slaughtered. It
is not to be wondered at that an author who puts fifteen thousand men in
each village should slay a million. What remained were exposed in the
public markets; and each Jew was sold at about the same price as the
unclean animal of which they dare not eat.
In this last dispersion they again hoped for a deliverer; and under
Adrian, whom they curse in their prayers, there arose one Barcochebas,
who called himself a second Moses--a Shiloh--a Christ. Having assembled
many of these wretched people under his banners, which they believed to
be sacred, he perished with all his followers. It was the last struggle
of this nation, which has never lifted its head again. Its constant
opinion, that barrenness is a reproach, has preserved it; the Jews have
ever considered as their two first duties, to get money and children.
From this short summary it results that the Hebrews have ever been
vagrants, or robbers, or slaves, or seditious. They are still vagabonds
upon the earth, and abhorred by men, yet affirming that heaven and
earth and all mankind were created for them alone.
It is evident, from the situation of Judæa, and the genius of this
people, that they could not but be continually subjugated. It was
surrounded by powerful and warlike nations, for which it had an
aversion; so that it could neither be in alliance with them, nor
protected by them. It was impossible for it to maintain itself by its
marine; for it soon lost the port which in Solomon's time it had on the
Red Sea; and Solomon himself always employed Tyrians to build and to
steer his vessels, as well as to erect his palace and his temple. It is
then manifest that the Hebrews had neither trade nor manufactures, and
that they could not compose a flourishing people. They never had an army
always ready for the field, like the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians,
the Syrians, and the Romans. The laborers and artisans took up arms only
as occasion required, and consequently could not form well-disciplined
troops. Their mountains, or rather their rocks, are neither high enough,
nor sufficiently contiguous, to have afforded an effectual barrier
against invasion. The most numerous part of the nation, transported to
Babylon, Persia, and to India, or settled in Alexandria, were too much
occupied with their traffic and their brokerage to think of war. Their
civil government, sometimes republican, sometimes pontifical, sometimes
monarchial, and very often reduced to anarchy, seems to have been no
better than their military discipline.
You ask, what was the philosophy of the Hebrews? The answer will be a
very short one--they had none. Their legislator himself does not
anywhere speak expressly of the immortality of the soul, nor of the
rewards of another life. Josephus and Philo believe the soul to be
material; their doctors admitted corporeal angels; and when they
sojourned at Babylon, they gave to these angels the names given them by
the Chaldæans--Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel. The name of Satan is
Babylonian, and is in somewise the Arimanes of Zoroaster. The name of
Asmodeus also is Chaldæan; and Tobit, who lived in Nineveh, is the first
who employed it. The dogma of the immortality of the soul was developed
only in the course of ages, and among the Pharisees. The Sadducees
always denied this spirituality, this immortality, and the existence of
the angels. Nevertheless, the Sadducees communicated uninterruptedly
with the Pharisees, and had even sovereign pontiffs of their own sect.
The prodigious difference in opinion between these two great bodies did
not cause any disturbance. The Jews, in the latter times of their
sojourn at Jerusalem, were scrupulously attached to nothing but the
ceremonials of their law. The man who had eaten pudding or rabbit would
have been stoned; while he who denied the immortality of the soul might
It is commonly said that the abhorrence in which the Jews held other
nations proceeded from their horror of idolatry; but it is much more
likely that the manner in which they at the first exterminated some of
the tribes of Canaan, and the hatred which the neighboring nations
conceived for them, were the cause of this invincible aversion. As they
knew no nations but their neighbors, they thought that in abhorring them
they detested the whole earth, and thus accustomed themselves to be the
enemies of all men.
One proof that this hatred was not caused by the idolatry of the nations
is that we find in the history of the Jews that they were very often
idolaters. Solomon himself sacrificed to strange gods. After him, we
find scarcely any king in the little province of Judah that does not
permit the worship of these gods and offer them incense. The province of
Israel kept its two calves and its sacred groves, or adored other
This idolatry, with which so many nations are reproached, is a subject
on which but little light has been thrown. Perhaps it would not be
difficult to efface this stain upon the theology of the ancients. All
polished nations had the knowledge of a supreme God, the master of the
inferior gods and of men. The Egyptians themselves recognized a first
principle, which they called Knef, and to which all beside was
subordinate. The ancient Persians adored the good principle, named
Orosmanes; and were very far from sacrificing to the bad principle,
Arimanes, whom they regarded nearly as we regard the devil. Even to this
day, the Guebers have retained the sacred dogma of the unity of God. The
ancient Brahmins acknowledged one only Supreme Being; the Chinese
associated no inferior being with the Divinity, nor had any idol until
the times when the populace were Jed astray by the worship of Fo, and
the superstitions of the bonzes. The Greeks and the Romans,
notwithstanding the multitude of their gods, acknowledged in Jupiter the
absolute sovereign of heaven and earth. Homer, himself in the most
absurd poetical fictions, has never lost sight of this truth. He
constantly represents Jupiter as the only Almighty, sending good and
evil upon earth, and, with a motion of his brow, striking gods and men
with awe. Altars were raised, and sacrifices offered to inferior gods,
dependent on the one supreme. There is not a single monument of
antiquity in which the title of sovereign of heaven is given to any
secondary deity--to Mercury, to Apollo, to Mars. The thunderbolt was
ever the attribute of the master of all, and of him only.
The idea of a sovereign being, of his providence, of his eternal
decrees, is to be found among all philosophers and all poets. In short,
it is perhaps as unjust to think that the ancients equalled the heroes,
the genii, the inferior gods, to him whom they called "the father and
master of the gods," as it would be ridiculous to imagine that we
associate with God the blessed and the angels.
You then ask whether the ancient philosophers and law-givers borrowed
from the Jews, or the Jews from them? We must refer the question to
Philo; he owns that before the translation of the Septuagint the books
of his nation were unknown to strangers. A great people cannot have
received their laws and their knowledge from a little people, obscure
and enslaved. In the time of Osias, indeed, the Jews had no books; in
his reign was accidentally found the only copy of the law then in
existence. This people, after their captivity at Babylon, had no other
alphabet than the Chaldæan; they were not famed for any art, any
manufacture whatsoever; and even in the time of Solomon they were
obliged to pay dear for foreign artisans. To say that the Egyptians, the
Persians, the Greeks, were instructed by the Jews, were to say that the
Romans learned the arts from the people of Brittany. The Jews never were
natural philosophers, nor geometricians, nor astronomers. So far were
they from having public schools for the instruction of youth, that they
had not even a term in their language to express such an institution.
The people of Peru and Mexico measured their year much better than the
Jews. Their stay in Babylon and in Alexandria, during which individuals
might instruct themselves, formed the people to no art save that of
usury. They never knew how to stamp money; and when Antiochus Sidetes
permitted them to have a coinage of their own, they were almost
incapable of profiting by this permission for four or five years;
indeed, this coin is said to have been struck at Samaria. Hence, it is,
that Jewish medals are so rare, and nearly all false. In short, we find
in them only an ignorant and barbarous people, who have long united the
most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most
invincible hatred for every people by whom they are tolerated and
enriched. Still, we ought not to burn them.
_The Jewish Law._
Their law must appear, to every polished people, as singular as their
conduct; if it were not divine, it would seem to be the law of savages
beginning to assemble themselves into a nation; and being divine, one
cannot understand how it is that it has not existed from all ages, for
them, and for all men.
But it is more strange than all that the immortality of the soul is not
even intimated in this law, entitled "Vaicrah and Addebarim," Leviticus
In this law it is forbidden to eat eels, because they have no scales;
and hares, because they chew the cud, and have cloven feet. Apparently,
the Jews had hares different from ours. The griffin is unclean, and
four-footed birds are unclean, which animals are somewhat rare. Whoever
touches a mouse, or a mole is unclean. The women are forbidden to lie
with horses or asses. The Jewish women must have been subject to this
sort of gallantry. The men are forbidden to offer up their seed to
Moloch; and here the term seed is not metaphorical. It seems that it was
customary, in the deserts of Arabia, to offer up this singular present
to the gods; as it is said to be usual in Cochin and some other
countries of India, for the girls to yield their virginity to an iron
Priapus in a temple. These two ceremonies prove that mankind is capable
of everything. The Kaffirs, who deprive themselves of one testicle, are
a still more ridiculous example of the extravagance of superstition.
Another law of the Jews, equally strange, is their proof of adultery. A
woman accused by her husband must be presented to the priests, and she
is made to drink of the waters of jealousy, mixed with worm-wood and
dust. If she is innocent, the water makes her more beautiful; if she is
guilty, her eyes start from her head, her belly swells, and she bursts
before the Lord.
We shall not here enter into the details of all these sacrifices, which
were nothing more than the operations of ceremonial butchers; but it of
great importance to remark another kind of sacrifice too common in those
barbarous times. It is expressly ordered, in the twenty-seventh chapter
of Leviticus, that all men, vowed in anathema to the Lord, be immolated;
they "shall surely be put to death"; such are the words of the text.
Here is the origin of the story of Jephthah, whether his daughter was
really immolated, or the story was copied from that of Iphigenia. Here,
too, is the source of the vow made by Saul, who would have immolated his
son, but that the army, less superstitious than himself, saved the
innocent young man's life.
It is then but too true that the Jews, according to their law,
sacrificed human victims. This act of religion is in accordance with
their manners; their own books represent them as slaughtering without
mercy all that came in their way, reserving only the virgins for their
It would be very difficult--and should be very unimportant--to know at
what time these laws were digested into the form in which we now have
them. That they are of very high antiquity is enough to inform us how
gross and ferocious the manners of that antiquity were.
_The Dispersion of the Jews._
It has been pretended that the dispersion of this people had been
foretold, as a punishment for their refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ
as the Messiah; the asserters affecting to forget that they had been
dispersed throughout the known world long before Jesus Christ. The books
that are left us of this singular nation make no mention of a return of
the twelve tribes transported beyond the Euphrates by Tiglath-Pileser
and his successor Shalmaneser; and it was six hundred years after, that
Cyrus sent back to Jerusalem the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which
Nebuchodonosor had brought away into the provinces of his empire. The
Acts of the Apostles certify that fifty-three days after the death of
Jesus Christ, there were Jews from every nation under heaven assembled
for the feast of Pentecost. St. James writes to the twelve dispersed
tribes; and Josephus and Philo speak of the Jews as very numerous
throughout the East.
It is true that, considering the carnage that was made of them under
some of the Roman emperors, and the slaughter of them so often repeated
in every Christian state, one is astonished that this people not only
still exists, but is at this day no less numerous than it was formerly.
Their numbers must be attributed to their exemption from bearing arms,
their ardor for marriage, their custom of contracting it in their
families early, their law of divorce, their sober and regular way of
life, their abstinence, their toil, and their exercise.
Their firm attachment to the Mosaic law is no less remarkable,
especially when we consider their frequent apostasies when they lived
under the government of their kings and their judges; and Judaism is
now, of all the religions in the world, the one most rarely
abjured--which is partly the fruit of the persecutions it has suffered.
Its followers, perpetual martyrs to their creed, have regarded
themselves with progressively increasing confidence, as the fountain of
all sanctity; looking upon us as no other than rebellious Jews, who have
abjured the law of God, and put to death or torture those who received
it from His hand.
Indeed, if while Jerusalem and its temple existed, the Jews were
sometimes driven from their country by the vicissitudes of empires, they
have still more frequently been expelled through a blind zeal from every
country in which they have dwelt since the progress of Christianity and
Mahometanism. They themselves compare their religion to a mother, upon
whom her two daughters, the Christian and the Mahometan, have inflicted
a thousand wounds. But, how ill soever she has been treated by them, she
still glories in having given them birth. She makes use of them both to
embrace the whole world, while her own venerable age embraces all time.
It is singular that the Christians pretend to have accomplished the
prophecies by tyrannizing over the Jews, by whom they were transmitted.
We have already seen how the Inquisition banished the Jews from Spain.
Obliged to wander from land to land, from sea to sea, to gain a
livelihood; everywhere declared incapable of possessing any landed
property, or holding any office, they have been obliged to disperse, and
roam from place to place, unable to establish themselves permanently in
any country, for want of support, of power to maintain their ground, and
of knowledge in the art of war. Trade, a profession long despised by
most of the nations of Europe, was, in those barbarous ages, their only
resource; and as they necessarily grew rich by it, they were treated as
infamous usurers. Kings who could not ransack the purses of their
subjects, put the Jews, whom they regarded not as citizens, to torture.
What was done to them in England may give some idea of what they
experienced in other countries. King John, being in want of money, had
the rich Jews in his kingdom imprisoned. One of them, having had seven
of his teeth drawn one after another, to obtain his property, gave, on
losing the eighth, a thousand marks of silver. Henry III. extorted from
Aaron, a Jew of York, fourteen thousand marks of silver, and ten
thousand for his queen. He sold the rest of the Jews of his country to
his brother Richard, for the term of one year, in order, says Matthew
Paris, that this count might disembowel those whom his brother had
In France they were put in prison, plundered, sold, accused of magic, of
sacrificing children, of poisoning the fountains. They were driven out
of the kingdom; they were suffered to return for money; and even while
they were tolerated, they were distinguished from the rest of the
inhabitants by marks of infamy. And, by an inconceivable whimsicality,
while in other countries the Jews were burned to make them embrace
Christianity, in France the property of such as became Christians was
confiscated. Charles IV., by an edict given at Basville, April 4, 1392,
abrogated this tyrannical custom, which, according to the Benedictine
Mabillon, had been introduced for two reasons:
First, to try the faith of these new converts, as it was but too common
for those of this nation to feign submission to the gospel for some
personal interest, without internally changing their belief.
Secondly, because as they had derived their wealth chiefly from usury,
the purity of Christian morals appeared to require them to make a
general restitution, which was effected by confiscation.
But the true reason of this custom, which the author of the "Spirit of
Laws" has so well developed, was a sort of "_droit d'amortissement_"--a
redemption for the sovereign, or the seigneurs, of the taxes which they
levied on the Jews, as mortmainable serfs, whom they succeeded; for they
were deprived of this benefit when the latter were converted to the
At length, being incessantly proscribed in every country, they
ingeniously found the means of saving their fortunes and making their
retreats forever secure. Being driven from France under Philip the Long,
in 1318, they took refuge in Lombardy; there they gave to the merchants
bills of exchange on those to whom they had entrusted their effects at
their departure, and these were discharged.
The admirable invention of bills of exchange sprang from the extremity
of despair; and then, and not until then, commerce was enabled to elude
the efforts of violence, and to maintain itself throughout the world.
_In Answer to Some Objections._
_Letters to Joseph, Ben, Jonathan, Aaron, Mathatai, and David Wincker._
Gentlemen: When, forty-four years ago, your countryman Medina became a
bankrupt in London, being twenty thousand francs in my debt, he told me
that "it was not his fault; that he was unfortunate"; that "he had never
been one of the children of Belial"; that "he had always endeavored to
live as a son of God"--that is, as an honest man, a good Israelite. I
was affected; I embraced him; we joined in the praise of God; and I lost
eighty per cent.
You ought to know that I never hated your nation; I hate no one; not
Far from hating, I have always pitied you. If, like my protector, good
Pope Lambertini, I have sometimes bantered a little, I am not therefore
the less sensitive. I wept, at the age of sixteen, when I was told that
a mother and her daughter had been burned at Lisbon for having eaten,
standing, a little lamb, cooked with lettuce, on the fourteenth day of
the red moon; and I can assure you that the extreme beauty that this
girl was reported to have possessed, had no share in calling forth my
tears, although it must have increased the spectators' horror for the
assassins, and their pity for the victim.
I know not how it entered my head to write an epic poem at the age of
twenty. (Do you know what an epic poem is? For my part I knew nothing of
the matter.) The legislator Montesquieu had not yet written his "Persian
Letters," which you reproach me with having commented on; but I had
already of myself said, speaking of a monster well known to your
ancestors, and which even now is not without devotees:
_Il vient; le fanatisme est son horrible nom;_
_Enfant dénaturé de la religion;_
_Armé pour la défendre, il cherche à la détruire,_
_Et reçu dans son sein, l'embrasse et le déchire,_
_C'est lui qui dans Raba, sur les bords de l'Arnon_
_Guidait les descendans du malheureux Ammon,_
_Quand à Moloch leur dieu des mères gémissantes_
_Offraient de leurs enfans les entrailles fumantes._
_Il dicta de Jephté le serment inhumain;_
_Dans le coeur de sa fille il conduisait sa main._
_C'est lui qui, de Calchas ouvrant la bouche impie_
_Demanda par sa voix la mort d'Iphigénie._
_France, dans tes forêts il habita long-temps,_
_À l'affreux Tentatès il offrit ton encens._
_Tu n'a point oublié ces sacres homicides,_
_Qu' à tes indignes dieux présentaient tes druides._
_Du haut du capitole il criait aux Païens._
_"Frappez, exterminez, déchirez les chrétiens."_
_Mais lorsqu'au fils de Dieu Rome enfin, fut soumise,_
_Du capitole en cendre il passa dans l'Eglise;_
_Et dans les coeurs chrétiens inspirant ses fureurs,_
_De martyrs qu'ils étaient les fit persécuteurs._
_Dans Londres il a formé la secte turbulente_
_Qui sur un roi trop faible a mis sa main sanglante;_
_Dans Madrid, dans Lisbonne, il allume ces feux,_
_Ces buchers solennels où des Juifs malheureux_
_Sont tous les ans en pompe envoyés par des prêtres,_
_Pour n'avoir point quitté la foi de leurs ancêtres._
He comes; the fiend Fanaticism comes--
Religion's horrid and unnatural child--
Armed to defend her, arming to destroy--
Tearing her bosom in his feigned embrace.
'Twas he who guided Amnion's wretched race
On Anion's banks, where mothers offered up
Their children's mangled limbs on Moloch's altars.
'Twas he who prompted Jephthah's barbarous oath,
And aimed the poniard at his daughter's heart.
'Twas he who spoke, when Calchas' impious tongue
Called for the blameless Iphigenia's death.
France, he long revelled in thy forest shades,
Offering thy incense to the grim Tentâtes,
Whetting the savage Druid's murderous knife
To sate his worthless gods with human gore.
He, from the Capitol, stirred Pagan hearts
To exterminate Christ's followers; and he,
When Rome herself had bowed to Christian truth,
Quitted the Capitol to rule the church--
To reign supreme in every Christian soul,
And make the Pagans martyrs in their turn.
His were in England the fierce sect who laid
Their bloody hands on a too feeble king.
His are Madrid's and Lisbon's horrid fires,
The yearly portion of unhappy Jews,
By priestly judges doomed to temporal flames
For thinking their forefathers' faith the best.
You clearly see, then, that even so long ago I was your servant, your
friend, your brother; although my father and mother had preserved to me
I am aware that virility, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, has
caused very fatal quarrels. I know what it cost Priam's son Paris, and
Agamemnon's brother Menelaus. I have read enough of your books to know
that Hamor's son Sichem ravished Leah's daughter Dinah, who at most was
not more than five years old, but was very forward for her age. He
wanted to make her his wife; and Jacob's sons, brothers of the violated
damsel, gave her to him in marriage on condition that he and all his
people should be circumcised. When the operation was performed, and all
the Sichemites, or Sechemites, were lying-in of the pains consequent
thereupon, the holy patriarchs Simeon and Levi cut all their throats one
after another. But, after all, I do not believe that uncircumcision
ought now to produce such abominable horrors; and especially I do not
think that men should hate, detest, anathematize, and damn one another
every Saturday and Sunday, on account of a morsel more or less of flesh.
If I have said that some of the circumcised have clipped money at Metz,
at Frankfort on the Oder, and at Warsaw (which I do not remember) I ask
their pardon; for, being almost at the end of my pilgrimage, I have no
wish to embroil myself with Israel.
I have the honor to be (as they say),
_Antiquity of the Jews._
Gentlemen: I have ever agreed, having read a few historical books for
amusement, that you are a very ancient people, and your origin may be
dated much farther back than that of the Teutones, the Celts, the
Slavonians, the Angles, and Hurons. I see you assembling as a people in
a capital called, sometimes Hershalaïm, sometimes Shaheb, on the hill
Moriah, and on the hill Sion, near a desert, on a stony soil, by a
small torrent which is dry six months of the year.
When you began to-establish yourselves in your corner, I will not say of
land, but of pebbles, Troy had been destroyed by the Greeks about two
Medon was archon of Athens. Echestratus was reigning in Lacedæmon.
Latinus Sylvius was reigning in Latium; and Osochor in Egypt. The Indies
had been flourishing for a long succession of ages.
This was the most illustrious period of Chinese history. The emperor
Tchin-wang was reigning with glory over that vast empire; all the
sciences were there cultivated; and the public annals inform us that the
king of Cochin China, being come to pay his respects to this emperor,
Tchin-wang, received from him a present of a mariner's compass. This
compass might have been of great service to your Solomon, for his fleets
that went to the fine country of Ophir, which no one has ever known
Thus, after the Chaldæans, the Syrians, the Persians, the Phoenicians,
the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Indians, the Chinese, the Latins, and the
Etruscans, you are the first people upon earth who had any known form of
The Banians, the Guebers, and yourselves, are the only nations which,
dispersed out of their own country, have preserved their ancient rites;
if I make no account of the little Egyptian troops, called Zingari in
Italy, Gypsies in England, and Bohemians in France, which had preserved
the antique ceremonies of the worship of Isis, the sistrum, the cymbals,
the dance of Isis, the prophesying, and the art of robbing hen-roosts.
These sacred troops are beginning to disappear from the face of the
earth; while their pyramids still belong to the Turks, who perhaps will
not always be masters of them--the figure of all things on this earth
doth so pass away.
You say, that you have been settled in Spain ever since the days of
Solomon: I believe it, and will even venture to think that the
Phoenicians might have carried some Jews thither long before, when you
were slaves in Phoenicia, after the horrid massacres which you say
were committed by the robber Joshua, and by that other robber Caleb.
Your books indeed say, that you were reduced to slavery under
Chushan-Rashataim, king of Mesopotamia, for eight years; under Eglon,
king of Moab, for eighteen years; then under Jabin, king of Canaan, for
twenty years; then in the little canton of Midian, from which you had
issued, and where you dwelt in caverns, for seven years; then in Gilead,
for eighteen years--notwithstanding that Jair, your prince, had thirty
sons, each mounted on a fine ass--then under the Phoenicians (called
by you Philistines), for forty years--until at last the Lord Adonai sent
Samson, who tied three hundred foxes, one to another by the tails, and
slew a thousand Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass, from which
issued a fountain of clear water; which has been very well represented
at the Comédie Italienne.
Here are, by your own confession, ninety-six years of captivity in the
land of promise. Now it is very probable that the Syrians, who were the
factors for all nations, and navigated as far as the great ocean, bought
some Jewish slaves, and took them to Cadiz, which they founded. You see
that you are much more ancient than you think. It is indeed very likely
that you inhabited Spain several centuries before the Romans, the Goths,
the Vandals, and the Moors.
I am not only your friend, your brother, but moreover your genealogist.
I beg, gentlemen, that you will have the goodness to believe, that I
never have believed, I do not believe, and I never will believe, that
you are descended from those highway robbers whose ears and noses were
cut off by order of King Actisanes, and whom, according to Diodorus of
Sicily, he sent into the desert between Lake Sirbo and Mount Sinai--a
frightful desert where water and every other necessary of life are
wanting. They made nets to catch quails, which fed them for a few weeks,
during the passage of the birds.
Some of the learned have pretended that this origin perfectly agrees
with your history. You yourselves say, that you inhabited this desert,
that there you wanted water, and lived on quails, which in reality
abound there. Your accounts appear in the main to confirm that of
Diodorus; but I believe only the Pentateuch. The author does not say
that you had your ears and noses cut off. As far as I remember, (for I
have not Diodorus at hand), you lost only your noses. I do not now
recollect where I read that your ears were of the party; it might be in
some fragments of Manetho, cited by St. Ephraem.
In vain does the secretary, who has done me the honor of writing to me
in your name, assure me that you stole to the amount of upwards of nine
millions in gold, coined or carved, to go and set up your tabernacle in
the desert. I maintain, that you carried off nothing but what lawfully
belonged to you, reckoning interest at forty per cent., which was the
Be this as it may, I certify that you are of very good nobility, and
that you were lords of Hershalaïm long before the houses of Suabia,
Anhalt, Saxony, and Bavaria were heard of.
It may be that the negroes of Angola, and those of Guinea, are much more
ancient than you, and that they adored a beautiful serpent before the
Egyptians knew their Isis, and you dwelt near Lake Sirbo; but the
negroes have not yet communicated their books to us.
_On a few Crosses which befell God's People._
Far from accusing you, gentlemen, I have always regarded you with
compassion. Permit me here to remind you of what I have read in the
preliminary discourse to the "Essay on the Spirit and Manners of
Nations," and on general history. Here we find, that two hundred and
thirty-nine thousand and twenty Jews were slaughtered by one another,
from the worshipping of the golden calf to the taking of the ark by the
Philistines--which cost fifty thousand and seventy Jews their lives, for
having dared to look upon the ark, while those who had so insolently
taken it in war, were acquitted with only the piles, and a fine of five
golden mice, and five golden anuses. You will not deny that the
slaughter of two hundred and thirty-nine thousand and twenty men, by
your fellow-countrymen, without reckoning those whom you lost in
alternate war and slavery, must have been very detrimental to a rising
How should I do otherwise than pity you? seeing that ten of your tribes
were absolutely annihilated, or perhaps reduced to two hundred families,
which, it is said, are to be found in China and Tartary. As for the two
other tribes, I need not tell you what has happened to them. Suffer then
my compassion, and do not impute to me ill-will.
_The Story of Micah._
Be not displeased at my asking from you some elucidation of a singular
passage in your history, with which the ladies of Paris and people of
fashion are but slightly acquainted.
Your Moses had not been dead quite thirty-eight years when the mother
of Micah, of the tribe of Benjamin, lost eleven hundred shekels, which
are said to be equivalent to about six hundred livres of our money. Her
son returned them to her; the text does not inform us that he had not
stolen them. The good Jewess immediately had them made into idols, and,
according to custom, built them a little movable chapel. A Levite of
Bethlehem offered himself to perform the service for ten francs per
annum, two tunics, and his victuals.
A tribe (afterwards called the tribe of Dan) searching that neighborhood
for something to plunder, passed near Micah's house. The men of Dan,
knowing that Micah's mother had in her house a priest, a seer, a
diviner, a rhoë, inquired of him if their excursion would be lucky--if
they should find a good booty. The Levite promised them complete
success. They began by robbing Micah's chapel, and took from her even
her Levite. In vain did Micah and his mother cry out: "You are carrying
away my gods! You are stealing my priest!" The robbers silenced them,
and went, through devotion, to put to fire and sword the little town of
Dan, whose name this tribe adopted.
These freebooters were very grateful to Micah's gods, which had done
them such good service, and placed them in a new tabernacle. The crowd
of devotees increasing, a new priest was wanted, and one presented
himself. Those who are not conversant with your history will never
divine who this chaplain was: but, gentlemen, _you_ know that it was
Moses' own grandson, one Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses and
You will agree with me, that the family of Moses was rather a singular
one. His brother, at the age of one hundred, cast a golden calf and
worshipped it; and his grandson turned chaplain to the idols for money.
Does not this prove that your religion was not yet formed, and that you
were a long time groping in the dark before you became perfect
Israelites as you now are?
To my question you answer, that our Simon Peter Barjonas did as much;
that he commenced his apostleship with denying his master. I have
nothing to reply, except it be, that we must always distrust ourselves;
and so great is my own self-distrust, that I conclude my letter with
assuring you of my utmost indulgence, and requesting yours.
_Jewish Assassinations. Were the Jews Cannibals? Had their Mothers
Commerce with Goats? Did their Fathers and Mothers Immolate their
Children? With a few other fine Actions of God's People._
Gentlemen,--I have been somewhat uncourteous to your secretary. It is
against the rules of politeness to scold a servant in the presence of
his master; but self-important ignorance is revolting in a Christian who
makes himself the servant of a Jew. I address myself directly to you,
that I may have nothing more to do with your livery.
_Jewish Calamities and Great Assassinations._
Permit me, in the first place, to lament over all your calamities; for,
besides the two hundred and thirty-nine thousand and twenty Israelites
killed by order of the Lord, I find that Jephthah's daughter was
immolated by her father. Turn which way you please--twixt the text as
you will--dispute as you like against the fathers of the Church; still
he did to her as he had vowed; and he had vowed to cut his daughter's
throat in thanksgiving to God. An excellent thanksgiving!
Yes, you have immolated human victims to the Lord; but be consoled; I
have often told you that our Celts and all nations have done so
formerly. What says M. de Bougainville, who has returned from the island
of Otaheite--that island of Cytherea, whose inhabitants, peaceful, mild,
humane, and hospitable, offer to the traveller all that they
possess--the most delicious of fruits--the most beautiful and most
obliging of women? He tells us that these people have their jugglers;
and that these jugglers force them to sacrifice their children to apes,
which they call their gods.
I find that seventy brothers of Abimelech were put to death on the same
stone by this Abimelech, the son of Gideon and a prostitute. This son of
Gideon was a bad kinsman, and this Gideon, the friend of God, was very
Your Levite going on his ass to Gibeah--the Gibeonites wanting to
violate him--his poor wife violated in his stead, and dying in
consequence--the civil war that ensued--all your tribe of Benjamin
exterminated, saving only six hundred men--give me inexpressible pain.
You lost, all at once, five fine towns which the Lord destined for you,
at the end of the lake of Sodom; and that for an inconceivable attempt
upon the modesty of two angels. Really, this is much worse than what
your mothers are accused of with the goats. How should I have other than
the greatest pity for you, when I find murder and bestiality established
against your ancestors, who are our first spiritual fathers, and our
near kinsmen according to the flesh? For after all, if you are descended
from Shem, we are descended from Japhet. We are therefore evidently
_Melchim, or Petty Kings of the Jews._
Your Samuel had good reason for not wishing you to have kings; for
nearly all your kings were assassins, beginning with David, who
assassinated Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, his tender friend, whom he
"loved with a love-greater than that of woman"; who assassinated Uriah,
the husband of Bathsheba; who assassinated even the infants at the
breast in the villages in alliance with his protector Achish; who on his
death-bed commanded the assassination of his general Joab and his
counsel Shimei--beginning, I say, with this David, and with Solomon, who
assassinated his own brother Adonijah, clinging in vain to the altar,
and ending with Herod "the Great," who assassinated his brother-in-law,
his wife, and all his kindred, including even his children.
I say nothing of the fourteen thousand little boys whom your petty king,
this mighty Herod, had slaughtered in the village of Bethlehem. They
are, as you know, buried at Cologne with our eleven thousand virgins;
and one of these infants is still to be seen entire. You do not believe
this authentic story, because it is not in your canon, and your Flavius
Josephus makes no mention of it. I say nothing of the eleven hundred
thousand men killed in the town of Jerusalem alone, during its siege by
Titus. In good faith, the cherished nation is a very unlucky one.
_Did the Jews Eat Human Flesh?_
Among your calamities, which have so often made me shudder, I have
always reckoned your misfortune in having eaten human flesh. You say
that this happened only on great occasions; that it was not you whom the
Lord invited to His table to eat the horse and the horseman, and that
only the birds were the guests. I am willing to believe it.
_Were the Jewish Ladies Intimate with Goats?_
You assert that your mothers had no commerce with he-goats, nor your
fathers with she-goats. But pray, gentlemen, why are you the only people
upon earth whose laws have forbidden such commerce? Would any legislator
ever have thought of promulgating this extraordinary law if the offence
had not been common?
_Did the Jews Immolate Human Victims?_
You venture to affirm that you have never immolated human victims to the
Lord. What, then, was the murder of Jephthah's daughter, who was really
immolated, as we have already shown from your own books?
How will you explain the anathema of the thirty-two virgins, that were
the tribute of the Lord, when you took thirty-two thousand Midianitish
virgins and sixty-one thousand asses? I will not here tell you, that
according to this account there were not two asses for each virgin; but
I will ask you, what was this tribute for the Lord? According to your
Book of Numbers, there were sixteen thousand girls for your soldiers,
sixteen thousand for your priests, and on the soldiers' share there was
levied a tribute of thirty-two virgins for the Lord. What became of
them? You had no nuns. What was the Lord's share in all your wars, if it
was not blood? Did not the priest Samuel hack in pieces King Agag, whose
life King Saul had saved? Did he not sacrifice him as the Lord's share?
Either renounce your sacred books, in which, according to the decision
of the church, I firmly believe, or acknowledge that your forefathers
offered up to God rivers of human blood, unparalleled by any people on
_The Thirty-two Thousand Virgins, the Seventy-five Thousand Oxen, and
the Fruitful Desert of Midian._
Let your secretary no longer evade--no longer equivocate, respecting the
carnage of the Midianites and their villages. I feel great concern that
your butcher-priest Eleazar, general of the Jewish armies, should have
found in that little miserable and desert country, seventy-five thousand
oxen, sixty-one thousand asses, and six hundred and seventy-five
thousand sheep, without reckoning the rams and the lambs.
Now if you took thirty-two thousand infant girls, it is likely that
there were as many infant boys, and as many fathers and mothers. These
united amount to a hundred and twenty-eight thousand captives, in a
desert where there is nothing to eat, nothing to drink but brackish
water, and which is inhabited by some wandering Arabs, to the number of
two or three thousand at most. You will besides observe, that, on all
the maps, this frightful country is not more than eight leagues long,
and as many broad.
But were it as large, as fertile, and as populous as Normandy or the
Milanese, no matter. I hold to the text, which says, the Lord's share
was thirty-two maidens. Confound as you please Midian by the Red Sea
with Midian by Sodom; I shall still demand an account of my thirty-two
thousand virgins. Have you employed your secretary to calculate how many
oxen and maidens the fine country of Midian is capable of feeding?
Gentlemen, I inhabit a canton which is not the Land of Promise; but we
have a lake much finer than that of Sodom, and our soil is moderately
productive. Your secretary tells me that an acre of Midian will feed
three oxen: I assure you, gentlemen, that with us an acre will feed but
one. If your secretary will triple the revenue of my lands, I will give
him good wages, and will not pay him with drafts on the
receivers-general. He will not find a better situation in all the
country of Midian than with me; but unfortunately this man knows no more
of oxen than he does of golden calves.
As for the thirty-two thousand maidenheads, I wish him joy of them. Our
little country is as large as Midian. It contains about four thousand
drunkards, a dozen attorneys, two men of sense, and four thousand
persons of the fair sex, who are not uniformly pretty. These together
make about eight thousand people, supposing that the registrar who gave
me the account did not exaggerate by one-half, according to custom.
Either your priests or ours would have had considerable difficulty in
finding thirty-two thousand virgins for their use in our country. This
makes me very doubtful concerning the numberings of the Roman people, at
the time when their empire extended just four leagues from the Tarpeian
rock, and they carried a handful of hay at the end of a pole for a
standard. Perhaps you do not know that the Romans passed five hundred
years in plundering their neighbors before they had any historian, and
that their numberings, like their miracles, are very suspicious.
As for the sixty-one thousand asses, the fruits of your conquests in
Midian--enough has been said of asses.
_Jewish Children Immolated by their Mothers._
I tell you, that your fathers immolated their children; and I call your
prophets to witness. Isaiah reproaches them with this cannibalish crime:
"Slaying the children of the valleys under the clefts of the rocks."
You will tell me, that it was not to the Lord Adonai that the women
sacrificed the fruit of their womb--that it was to some other god. But
what matters it whether you called him to whom you offered up your
children Melkom, or Sadaï, or Baal, or Adonai? That which it concerns us
to know is, that you were parricides. It was to strange idols, you say,
that your fathers made their offerings. Well,--I pity you still more for
being descended from fathers at once both parricidal and idolatrous. I
condole with you, that your fathers were idolaters for forty successive
years in the desert of Sinai, as is expressly said by Jeremiah, Amos,
and St. Stephen.
You were idolaters in the time of the Judges; and the grandson of Moses
was priest of the tribe of Dan, who, as we have seen, were all
idolaters; for it is necessary to repeat--to insist; otherwise
everything is forgotten.
You were idolaters under your kings; you were not faithful to one God
only, until after Esdras had restored your books. Then it was that your
uninterruptedly true worship began; and by an incomprehensible
providence of the Supreme Being, you have been the most unfortunate of
all men ever since you became the most faithful--under the kings of
Syria, under the kings of Egypt, under Herod the Idumæan, under the
Romans, under the Persians, under the Arabs, under the Turks--until now,
that you do me the honor of writing to me, and I have the honor of
_Beauty of the Land of Promise._
Do not reproach me with not loving you. I love you so much that I wish
you were in Hershalaïm, instead of the Turks, who ravage your country;
but who, nevertheless, have built a very fine mosque on the foundations
of your temple, and on the platform constructed by your Herod.
You would cultivate that miserable desert, as you cultivated it
formerly; you would carry earth to the bare tops of your arid mountains;
you would not have much corn, but you would have very good vines, a few
palms, olive trees, and pastures.
Though Palestine does not equal Provence, though Marseilles alone is
superior to all Judæa, which had not one sea-port; though the town of
Aix is incomparably better situated than Jerusalem, you might
nevertheless make of your territory almost as much as the Provencals
have made of theirs. You might execute, to your hearts' content, your
own detestable psalmody in your own detestable jargon.
It is true, that you would have no horses; for there are not, nor have
there ever been, about Hershalaïm, any but asses. You would often be in
want of wheat, but you would obtain it from Egypt or Syria.
You might convey merchandise to Damascus and to Said on your asses--or
indeed on camels--which you never knew anything of in the time of your
Melchim, and which would be a great assistance to you. In short,
assiduous toil, to which man is born, would fertilize this land, which
the lords of Constantinople and Asia Minor neglect.
This promised land of yours is very bad. Are you acquainted with St.
Jerome? He was a Christian priest, one of those men whose books you do
not read. However, he lived a long time in your country; he was a very
learned person--not indeed slow to anger, for when contradicted he was
prodigal of abuse--but knowing your language better than you do, for he
was a good grammarian. Study was his ruling passion; anger was only
second to it. He had turned priest, together with his friend Vincent, on
condition that they should never say mass nor vespers, lest they should
be too much interrupted in their studies; for being directors of women
and girls, had they been moreover obliged to labor in the priestly
office, they would not have had two hours in the day left for Greek,
Chaldee, and the Jewish idiom. At last, in order to have more leisure,
Jerome retired altogether, to live among the Jews at Bethlehem, as Huet,
bishop of Avranches, retired to the Jesuits, at the house of the
professed, Rue St. Antoine, at Paris.
Jerome did, it is true, embroil himself with the bishop of Jerusalem,
named John, with the celebrated priest Rufinus, and with several of his
friends; for, as I have already said, Jerome was full of choler and
self-love, and St. Augustine charges him with levity and fickleness: but
he was not the less holy, he was not the less learned, nor is his
testimony the less to be received, concerning the nature of the wretched
country in which his ardor for study and his melancholy confined him.
Be so obliging as to read his letter to Dardanus, written in the year
414 of our era, which, according to the Jewish reckoning, is the year of
the world 4000, or 4001, or 4003, or 4004, as you please.
"I beg of those who assert that the Jewish people, after the coming out
of Egypt, took possession of this country, which to us, by the passion
and resurrection of our Saviour, has become truly a land of promise--I
beg of them, I say, to show us what this people possessed. Their whole
dominions extended only from Dan to Beersheba, about one hundred and
sixty miles in length. The Holy Scriptures give no more to David and to
Solomon.... I am ashamed to say what is the breadth of the land of
promise, and I fear that the pagans will thence take occasion to
blaspheme. It is but forty-six miles from Joppa to our little town of
Bethlehem, beyond which all is a frightful desert."
Read also the letter to one of his devotees, in which he says, that from
Jerusalem to Bethlehem there is nothing but pebbles, and no water to
drink; but that farther on, towards the Jordan, you find very good
valleys in that country full of bare mountains. This really was a land
of milk and honey, in comparison with the abominable desert of Horeb and
Sinai, from which you originally came. The sorry province of Champagne
is the land of promise, in relation to some parts of the Landes of
Bordeaux--the banks of the Aar are the land of promise, when compared
with the little Swiss cantons; all Palestine is very bad land, in
comparison with Egypt, which you say you came out of as thieves; but it
is a delightful country, if you compare it with the deserts of
Jerusalem, Sodom, Horeb, Sinai, Kadesh, etc.
Go back to Judæa as soon as you can. I ask of you only two or three
Hebrew families, in order to establish a little necessary trade at Mount
Krapak, where I reside. For, if you are (like us) very ridiculous
theologians, you are very intelligent buyers and sellers, which we are
_Charity which God's People and the Christians should entertain for each
My tenderness for you has only a few words more to say. We have been
accustomed for ages to hang you up between two dogs; we have repeatedly
driven you away through avarice; we have recalled you through avarice
and stupidity; we still, in more towns than one, make you pay for
liberty to breathe the air: we have, in more kingdoms than one,
sacrificed you to God; we have burned you as holocausts--for I will not
follow your example, and dissemble that we have offered up sacrifices of
human blood; all the difference is, that our priests, content with
applying your money to their own use, have had you burned by laymen;
while your priests always immolated the human victims with their own
sacred hands. You were monsters of cruelty and fanaticism in Palestine;
we have been so in Europe: my friends, let all this be forgotten.
Would you live in peace? Imitate the Banians and the Guebers. They are
much more ancient than you are; they are dispersed like you; they are,
like you, without a country. The Guebers, in particular, who are the
ancient Persians, are slaves like you, after being for a long while
masters. They say not a word. Follow their example. You are calculating
animals--try to be thinking ones.
Good day, friend Job! thou art one of the most ancient originals of
which books make mention; thou wast not a Jew; we know that the book
which bears thy name is more ancient than the Pentateuch. If the
Hebrews, who translated it from the Arabic, made use of the word
"Jehovah" to signify God, they borrowed it from the Phoenicians and
Egyptians, of which men of learning are assured. The word "Satan" was
not Hebrew; it was Chaldæan, as is well known.
Thou dwelledst on the confines of Chaldæa. Commentators, worthy of their
profession, pretend that thou didst believe in the resurrection,
because, being prostrate on thy dunghill, thou hast said, in thy
nineteenth chapter, that thou wouldst one day rise up from it. A patient
who wishes his cure is not anxious for resurrection in lieu of it; but I
would speak to thee of other things.
Confess that thou wast a great babbler; but thy friends were much
greater. It is said that thou possessedst seven thousand sheep, three
thousand camels, one thousand cows, and five hundred she-asses. I will
reckon up their value:
Seven thousand sheep, at three livres ten
sous apiece 22,500
Three thousand camels at fifty crowns apiece 450,000
A thousand cows, one with the other, cannot
be valued at less than 80,000
And five hundred she-asses, at twenty francs
an ass 10,000
The whole amounts to 562,500
without reckoning thy furniture, rings and jewels.
I have been much richer than thou; and though I have lost a great part
of my property and am ill, like thyself I have not murmured against God,
as thy friends seem to reproach thee with sometimes doing.
I am not at all pleased with Satan, who, to induce thee to sin, and to
make thee forget God, demanded permission to take away all thy property,
and to give thee the itch. It is in this state that men always have
recourse to divinity. They are prosperous people who forgot God. Satan
knew not enough of the world at that time; he has improved himself
since; and when he would be sure of any one, he makes him a
farmer-general, or something better if possible, as our friend Pope has
clearly shown in his history of the knight Sir Balaam.
Thy wife was an impertinent, but thy pretended friends Eliphaz the
Temanite, Bildad the Shuite, and Zophar, the Naamathite, were much more
insupportable. They exhorted thee to patience in a manner that would
have roused the mildest of men; they made thee long sermons more
tiresome than those preached by the knave V----e at Amsterdam, and by so
many other people.
It is true that thou didst not know what thou saidst, when
exclaiming--"My God, am I a sea or a whale, to be shut up by Thee as in
a prison?" But thy friends knew no more when they answered thee, "that
the morn cannot become fresh without dew, and that the grass of the
field cannot grow without water." Nothing is less consolatory than this
Zophar of Naamath reproached thee with being a prater; but none of these
good friends lent thee a crown. I would not have treated thee thus.
Nothing is more common than people who advise; nothing more rare than
those who assist. Friends are not worth much, from whom we cannot
procure a drop of broth if we are in misery. I imagine that when God
restored thy riches and health, these eloquent personages dared not
present themselves before thee, hence the comforters of Job have become
God was displeased with them, and told them sharply, in chap, xlii.,
that they were tiresome and imprudent, and he condemned them to a fine
of seven bullocks and seven rams, for having talked nonsense. I would
have condemned them for not having assisted their friend.
I pray thee, tell me if it is true, that thou livedst a hundred and
forty years after this adventure. I like to learn that honest people
live long; but men of the present day must be great rogues, since their
lives are comparatively so short.
As to the rest, the book of Job is one of the most precious of
antiquity. It is evident that this book is the work of an Arab who lived
before the time in which we place Moses. It is said that Eliphaz, one of
the interlocutors, is of Teman, which was an ancient city of Arabia.
Bildad was of Shua, another town of Arabia. Zophar was of Naamath, a
still more eastern country of Arabia.
But what is more remarkable, and which shows that this fable cannot be
that of a Jew, is, that three constellations are spoken of, which we now
call Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades. The Hebrews never had the least
knowledge of astronomy; they had not even a word to express this
science; all that regards the mental science was unknown to them,
inclusive even of the term geometry.
The Arabs, on the contrary, living in tents, and being continually led
to observe the stars, were perhaps the first who regulated their years
by the inspection of the heavens.
The more important observation is, that one God alone is spoken of in
this book. It is an absurd error to imagine that the Jews were the only
people who recognized a sole God; it was the doctrine of almost all the
East, and the Jews were only plagiarists in that as in everything else.
In chapter xxxviii. God Himself speaks to Job from the midst of a
whirlwind, which has been since imitated in Genesis. We cannot too often
repeat, that the Jewish books are very modern. Ignorance and fanaticism
exclaim, that the Pentateuch is the most ancient book in the world. It
is evident, that those of Sanchoniathon, and those of Thaut, eight
hundred years anterior to those of Sanchoniathon; those of the first
Zerdusht, the "Shasta," the "Vedas" of the Indians, which we still
possess; the "Five Kings of China"; and finally the Book of Job, are of
a much remoter antiquity than any Jewish book. It is demonstrated that
this little people could only have annals while they had a stable
government; that they only had this government under their kings; that
its jargon was only formed, in the course of time, of a mixture of
Phoenician and Arabic. These are incontestable proofs that the
Phoenicians cultivated letters a long time before them. Their
profession was pillage and brokerage; they were writers only by chance.
We have lost the books of the Egyptians and Phoenicians, the Chinese,
Brahmins, and Guebers; the Jews have preserved theirs. All these
monuments are curious, but they are monuments of human imagination
alone, in which not a single truth, either physical or historical, is to
be learned. There is not at present any little physical treatise that
would not be more useful than all the books of antiquity.
The good Calmet, or Dom Calmet (for the Benedictines like us to give
them their Dom), that simple compiler of so many reveries and
imbecilities; that man whom simplicity has rendered so useful to whoever
would laugh at antique nonsense, faithfully relates the opinion of those
who would discover the malady with which Job was attacked, as if Job was
a real personage. He does not hesitate in saying that Job had the
smallpox, and heaps passage upon passage, as usual, to prove that which
is not. He had not read the history of the smallpox by Astruc; for
Astruc being neither a father of the Church nor a doctor of Salamanca,
but a very learned physician, the good man Calmet knew not that he
existed. Monkish compilers are poor creatures!
BY AN INVALID,
At the Baths of Aix-la-Chapelle.
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