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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

SPINOZA COLLECTION 

OF 

ABRAHAM WOLF 

ACQUIRED 1950 

WITH Till: HF.I.P OF 

FRANK M. VAN'DLRHOOF 

CLASS OF 1941 



A SHOUT 
HISTORY OF FREETHOUGHT 



HERAT A 



1'. 138, line 20, for " 159:5 " aW " 1563 "' 

;'. 229, line 5 of note 1. for " Receuil " rcrni 

" Recueil 
1'. -ill. iiiidiT "1767," for "religious" read 

" religions '' 

i'. 241, under "1 707." for " l-'ivret " read 
" 1'ivivt.'" unci ^o elsewhere 



A SHORT HISTORY 

OF 

FREETHOUGHT 

ANCIENT AND MODERN 



BY 

JOHN M. ROBERTSON 



THIRD EDITION, REVISED AND EXPANDED 



IN TWO VOLUMES 
Vol. II 



' ISSUED FOR THE RATIONALIST PRESS ASSOCIATION, LIMITED ) 



London : 

WATTS & CO., 

JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET STREET. E.C. 

1915 



mi 



CONTENTS 



VOLUME II 

PAGE 

Chat. XIII The Rise of Modern Freethought (continued) 

4. England, Persecution and executions under Henry VIII, 
Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. Charges of atheism. 
Lilly's polemic. Reginald Scot on witchcraft. The 
Family of Love. Hamond, Lewes, Kett. Apologetic 
literature. Influence of Machiavelli. Nashe's polemic. 
Marlowe, Raleigh, Harriott, Kyd. Protests of Pilkington 
and Hooker. Polemic of Bishop Morton. Shakespeare. 
The drama generally. Executions under James. Bacon. 
Suckling ------- 1 

is 5. Popular Thought in Europe. Callidius. Flade. Wier. 
Coornhert. Grotius. Gorlaeus. Zwicker. Koerbagh. 
Beverland. Socinianism. The case of Spain. Cervantes 32 

G. Scientific Thought. Copernicus. Giordano Bruno. Vanini. 
Galileo. The Aristotelian strife. Vivos. Ramus. Des- 
cartes. Gassendi - - - - - - 41 

Chap. XIV British Freethought in the Seventeenth Century 

1. Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Hobbes. Selden - - 69 

2. The popular ferment : attempted suppression of heresy by 
Parliament. Lawrence Clarkson. The Levellers and 
Toleration. Forms of unbelief. The term "rationalist." 
Propaganda against atheism. Culverwel. The Polemic 
of Henry More. Freethought at the Restoration. The 
case of Biddle. The protests of Howe, Stillingfleet, and 
Baxter. Freethought in Scotland. The argument of 
Mackenzie. English Apologetics of Casaubon, Ingelo, 
Temple, Wilkins, Tillotson, Cudworth, Boyle, and others. 
Martin Clifford, Emergence of Deism. Avowals of Arch- 
deacon Parker, Sherlock, and South. Dryden. Discussion 
on miracles. Charles Blount. Leslie's polemic. Growth 
of apologetic literature. Toland. The Licensing Act - 75 

;.' :J. Literary, scientific, and academic developments. Sir Thomas 
Browne. Jeremy Taylor. John Spencer. Joseph Glanvill. 
Cartesianism. Glisson. Influence of Gassendi. Resist- 
ance to Copernican theory. Lord Falkland. Colonel 
Fry. Locke. Bury. Temple. The Marquis of Halifax. 
Newton. Lnitarianism. Penn. Firmin. Latitudi- 
narianism. Tillotson. Dr. T. Burnet. Dr. B. Connor. 
John Craig. The " rationalists " - - 100 



vi CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Chap. XV French and Dutch freethought in the seven- 
teenth Century 

1. Influence of Montaigne and Charron. Gui Patin. Naude. La 

Mothe le Vayer ------ 117 

2. Catholic Pyrrhonism ------ 120 

3. Descartes's influence. Boileau. Jesuit and royal hostility - 121 
1. Vogue of freethinking. Malherbe. Jean Fontanier. Theophile 

de Viau. Claude Petit. Corneille. Moliere - - 122 

5. Cyrano de Bergerac _..--- 123 

6. Pascal's skepticism. Religious quarrels - - - 124 

7. Huet's skepticism ...... 126 

S. Cartesianism. Malcbranche ----- 12S 

9. Burner. Scientific movements ----- 130 

10. Richard Simon. La Peyrere - - 131 

11. Dutch thought. Louis Meyer. Cartesian heresy - - 132 

12. Spinoza -------- 133 

13. Biblical criticism. Spinozism. Deurhoff. B. Bekker - 137 

14. Bayle - - - - - - - - 139 

15. Developments in France. The polemic of Abbadie. Persecu- 

tion of Protestants. Fontenelle - - - - 141 

1G. St. Evremond. Regnard. La Bruyere. Spread of skepticism. 

Fanaticism at court - 143 

Chap. XVI British Freethought in the Eighteenth Century 

Si 1. Toland. Blasphemy Law. Strifes among believers. Cudworth. 
Bishops Browne and Berkeley. Heresy in the Church. 
The Schools of Newton, Leibnitz, and Clarke. Hutchin- 
son. Halley. Provincial deism. Saunderson. Simson. 
Literary orthodoxy. Addison. Steele. Berkeley. Swift. 
New deism. Shaftesbury. Trenchard. Unitarianism. 
Asgill. Coward. Dodwell. Whiston - - - 147 

2. Anthony Collins. Bentlcy's attack. Mandcville. Woolston. 
Middleton. Deism at Oxford. Tindal. Middleton and 
Waterland ------- 154 

S 3. Unitarianism: its spread among Presbyterians. Chubb. 

Hall. Elwall ------ 159 

S 4. Berkeley's polemic. Lady Mary Montagu. Pope. Deism 

and Atheism. Coward. Strutt ... - 162 

?! 5. Parvish. Influence of Spinoza .... lfij 

:' 0. William Pitt. Morgan. Annet. Dodwell the Younger - 169 

.. 7. The work achieved by deism. The social situation. Recent 

disparagements and German testimony - - - 170 

;: S. Arrest of English science. Hale. Burnet. Whiston. 
Woodward. Effects of Imperialism. Contrast with 
France. The mathematicians - 176 

> 9. Supposed "decay "of deism. Butler. William Law. Hume 179 

S 10. Freethought in Scotland. Execution of Thomas Aikenhead. 
Confiscation of innovating books. Legislation against 
<ln in. Anstruther's and Haly burton's polemic. Strife 



CONTENTS vii 

PAGE 

over creeds. John Johnstone. William Dudgeon. Hutche- 
son. Leechman. Forbes. Miller. Karnes. Smith. 
Ferguson. Church riots - - - - - 181 

11. Freethought in Ireland. Lord Molesworth. Archbishop 

Synge. Bishop Clayton ----- 18S 

12. Situation in England in 1750. Richardson's lament. 
Middleton. Deism among the clergy. Sykcs. The 
deistic evolution ------ l'JO 

>i 13. Materialism. La Mettrie. Shifting of the social centre: 
socio-political forces. Gray's avowal. Hume's estimate. 
Goldsmith's. The later deism. Bolingbroke - - 19-1 

S 14. Diderot's diagnosis. Influence of Voltaire. Chatterton. 
Low state of popular culture. Prosecutions of poor free- 
thinkers. Jacob Hive. Peter Annet. Later deistic 
literature. Unitarianism. Evanson. Tomkyns. Watts. 
Lardner. Priestley. Toulmin. D. Williams - - 108 

>i 15. Gibbon. Spread of unbelief. The creed of the younger 
Pitt. Fox. Geology. Hutton. Cowper's and Paley's 
complaints. Erasmus Darwin. Mary Wollstonecraft - 203 

s 16. Burns and Scotland ------ 208 

S 17. Panic and reaction after the French Revolution. New 
aristocratic orthodoxy. Thomas Paine. New democratic 
freethought ------- 209 

Chap. XVII French Freethought in the Eighteenth Century 

1. Boulainvilliers. Strifes in the Church. Fenelon and Ramsay. 

Fanaticism at court. New freethinking. Gilbert. 

Tyssot de Patot. Deslandes. Persecution of Protestants 213 

2. Output of apologetics ------ 21-1 

3. The political situation ------ 216 

4. Huard and Huet- ------ 216 

5. Montesquieu - - - - - - - 217 

6. Jean Meslier ------- 219 

7. Freethinking priests. Pleas for toleration. Boindin - - 221 

8. Voltaire ------ - 222 

9. Errors as to the course of development - 224 

10. Voltaire's character and influence - 229 

11. Progress of tolerance. Marie Huber. Resistance of bigotry. 

De Prades. The Encjiclojjedie. Fontenelle as censor - 233 

12. Chronological outline of the literary movement - - 236 

13. New politics. The less famous freethinkers : Burigny ; 

Fontenelle; De Brasses; Meister ; Vauvenargues ; Mira- 
baud; Frerct - - - - - 214 

1 I. N.-A. Boulanger. Dumarsais. Premontval. Solidity of much 

of the French product - - - 246 

15. General anonymity of the freethinkers. The orthodox defence 250 

16. The prominent freethinkers. Rousseau 253 

17. Astruc - - 256 

18. Freethought in the Academic. Beginnings in classical research. 

Emergence <>f anti-clericalism. D'Argenson's notes - 257 



viii CONTENTS 

PAGE 

19. The affair of Pompignan - 258 

20. Marmontel's BSlisaire ------ 259 

21. The scientific movement : La Mettrie - 260 

22. Study of Nature. Fontenelle. Lenglet du Fresnoy. De 

Maillot's Telliamed. Mirabaud. Resistance of Voltaire 

to the new ideas. Switzerland. Buffon and the Church 202 

28. Maupertuis. Diderot. Condillac. Eobinet. Helvetius - 264 

24. Diderot's doctrines and influence ... - 267 

25. D'Alembert and d'Holbach - - - - 271 

26. Frcethought and the Revolution - 273 

27. The conventional myth and the facts. Necker. Abbe Grogoire. 

The argument of Michelet. The legend of the Goddess of 
Reason. Sacrilege in the English and French Revolu- 
tions. Hebert. Danton. Chaumcttc. Clootz. The 

atheist Salaville ------ 274 

28. Religious and political forces of revolt. The polemic of Rivarol 280 

29. The political causation. Rebellion in the ages of faith - 281 

30. The polemic of Mallet du Pan. Saner views of Barante. Free- 

thinkers and orthodox in each political camp. Mably. 
Voltaire. D'Holbach. Rousseau. Diderot. Orthodoxy 

of the mass. The thesis of Chamfort - - - 284 

31. The reign of persecution- ----- 289 

32. Orthodox lovers of tolerance - - - - - 291 

33. Napoleon- ------- 292 

Chap. XVIIT German Freethought in the Seventeenth and 
Eighteenth Centuries 

1. Moral Decline under Lutheranism. Freethought before the 

Thirty Years' War. Orthodox polemic. The movement 

of Matthias Knutzen ----- 294 

2. Influence of Spinoza. Stosch. Output of apologetics - 297 
'!. Leibnitz -------- 298 

4. Pietism. Orthodox hostility. Spread of Rationalism- - 300 

5. Thomasius ------- 302 

6. Dippel - - -.-.- 304 

7. T. L. Lau - 305 

8. Wolff - --._- 305 

9. Freemasonry and freethinking. J.L.Schmidt. Martin Knutzen 300 

10. J. C. Kdclmanu ------- 807 

1 1. Abbot Jerusalem ...... 308 

12. English and French influences. The scientific movemont. 

Orthodox science. Hallcr. Rapid spread of rationalism 309 

13. Frederick Lhc Great ...... 312 

14. Mauvillon. Nicolai. Riem. Schade. Basedow. Eberhard. 

Steinbart. Spalding. Teller - 315 

15. Semler. Tiillner. Academic rationalism - - 318 
10. Bahrdt -------- 820 

17. Moses Mendelssohn. Leasing. Reimarus - - - 322 



CONTENTS ix 

PAGE 

IS. Vogue of deism. Wieland. Cases of Isenbiehl and Steinbuhler. 
A secret society. Clerical rationalism. Schulz. The 
edict of Frederick William II. Persistence of skepticism. 
The Marokkanisclie Briefe. Mauvillon. Herder - 329 

19. Goethe -------- 333 

20. Schiller -------- 336 

21. Kant -------- 337 

22. Influence of Kant. The sequel. Hamann. Chr. A. Crusius. 

Platner. Beausobre the younger - 345 

23. Fichte. Philosophic strifes ----- 349 

24. Rationalism and conservatism in both camps - - - 350 

25. Austria. Jahn. Joseph II. Beethoven - - - 351 

Chap. XIX Freethought in the Remaining European States 

1. Holland. Elizabeth Wolff. Leenhof. Booms. Influence 

ofBayle. Passerano. Lack of native freethought literature 352 

2. The Scandinavian States. 

1. Course of the Reformation. Subsequent wars. Retro- 

gression in Denmark ----- 354 

2. Holberg's Nicolas Klimius - 355 

3. Sweden. Queen Christina - 357 

4. Swedenborg ------ 353 

5. Upper-class indifference. Gustavus III. Kjellgren 

and Bellman. Torild. Retrogression in Sweden - 359 
G. Revival of thought in Denmark. Struensee. Mary 

Wollstonecraft's survey .... 361 

S 3. The Slavonic States. 

1. Poland. Liszinski ----- 362 

2. Russia. Nikon. Peter the Great. Kantemir. Catherine 363 

? 4. Italy. 

1. Decline under Spanish Rule. Naples - - - 365 

2. Vico ------- 365 

3. Subsequent scientific thought. General revival of 

freethought under French influence - - - 367 

4. Beccaria. Algarotti. Filangieri. Galiani. Genovesi. 

Alfieri. Bettinelli. Dandolo. Giannone. Algarotti 
and the Popes. The scientific revival. Progress and 
reaction in Tuscany. Effects of the French Revolution 36S 

i 5. SjMin and Portugal. 

1. Progress under Bourbon rule in Spain. Aranda. D'Alba 372 

2. Tyranny of the Inquisition. Aranda. Olavides 373 

3. Duke of Almodobar. D'Azara. Ricla 

4. The case of Samaniego - - 374 

5. Bails. Cagnuelo. Cunteno 
G. Faxardo. Iriarte - - - 

7. Ista. Salas - - 376 

8. Reaction after Charles III - 37(1 
'.). Portugal. Pombal 



x CONTENTS 

PAGE 

6. Switzerland. 

Socinianism and its sequelae. The Turrettini. Geneva 

and Rousseau. Burlamaqui. Spread of deism - 378 

CHAP. XX EARLY FREETHOUGHT IN THE UNITED STATES 

1. Deism of the revolutionary statesmen - 381 

2. First traces of unbelief. Franklin - - - - 381 

3. Jefferson. John Adams. Washington - - - - 382 

4. Thomas Paine ------- 383 

5. Paine' s treatment in America - - - 384 
G. Palmer. Houston. Deism and Unitarianism - - - 385 

Chap. XXL Freethought in the Nineteenth Century 

The Reaction. Tone in England. Clericalism in Italy and Spain. 

Movement in France and Germany - - - 386 

The Forces of Renascence. International movement. Summary 
of critical forces. Developments of science. Lines of 
resistance ------- 389 

Section i. Popular Propaganda and Culture 

1. Democracy. Paine. Translations from the French - 391 

2. Huttman. Houston. Wedderburn - - - 393 

3. Pietist persecution. Eichard Carlile. John Clarke. 

Robert Taylor. Charles Southwell. G.J. Holyoake. 

Women helpers - 393 

4. Hetherington. Operation of blasphemy law - - 395 

5. Robert Owen ------ 395 

6. The reign of bigotry. Influence of Gibbon - - 398 

7. Charles Bradlaugh and Secularism. Imprisonment of 

G. W. Foote. Treatment of Bradlaugh by Parliament. 
Resultant energy of secularist attack - - - 399 

8. New literary developments. Lecky. Conway. Win- 

wood Reade. Spencer. Arnold. Mill. Clifford. 
Stephen. Ambcrley. New apologetics - - 402 

9. Freethought in France. Social schemes. Fourier. 

Saint-Simon. Comte. Duruy and Sainte-Beuve - 404 

10. Bigotry in Spain. Popular freethought in Catholic 

countries. Journalism - 406 

11. Fluctuations in Germany. Persistence of religious 

liberalism. Marx and Socialism. Official orthodoxy - 409 

12. The Scandinavian States and Russia - - - 412 
l'i. "Free-religious " societies - 413 

14. Unitarianism in England and America - - 414 

15. Clerical rationalism in Protestant countries. Switzer- 

land. Holland. Dutch South Africa - 415 

1(J. Developments in Sweden - - - - 417 

17. The United States. Ingersoll. Lincoln. Stephen 

Douglas. Frederick Douglass. Academic persecution. 

Changes of front ... 419 



CONTENTS xi 

PACK 

Section 2. Biblical Criticism 

1. Rationalism in Germany. The Schleiermacher reac- 

tion : its heretical character. Orthodox hostility - 420 

2. Progress in both camps. Strauss's critical syncretism 423 
'!. Criticism of the Fourth Gospel - - - 425 

4. Strauss's achievement ----- 425 

5. Official reaction - 420 

6. Fresh advance. Schwegler. Bruno Bauer - 12G 

7. Strauss's second Life of Jesus. His politics. His 

Voltaire and Old and Xeir Faith. His total influence 428 

8. Fluctuating progress of criticism. Important issues 

passed-by. Nork. Ghillany. Dimmer. Ewerbeck. 
Colenso. Kuenen. Kalisch. Wellhausen - - 431 

9. New Testament criticism. Baur. Zeller. Van 

Manen ------- 434 

10. Falling-off in German candidates for the ministry as 

in congregations. Official orthodox pressures - 135 

1 1 . Attack and defence in England. The Tractarian 

reaction. Progress of criticism. Hennell. The United 

States: Parker. English publicists : F.W.Newman ; 

R, W. Mackay; W. R. Greg. Translations. E. P. 

Meredith ; Thomas Scott ; W. R. Cassels - - 437 

12. New Testament criticism in France. Rcnan and 

Havet ------- 439 

Section 3. Poetry and General Literature 

1. The French literary reaction. Chateaubriand - 440 

2. Predominance of freethought in later belles lettres - 441 

3. Beranger. De Mussel. Victor Hugo. Leconte do 

Lisle. The critics. The reactionists - - 442 
1. Poetry in England. Shelley. Coleridge. The romantic 

movement. Scott. Byron. Keats - - - 443 

5. Charles Lamb - 445 

<;. Carlyle. Mill. Fronde 147 
7. Orthodoxy and conformity. Bain's view of Carlyle, 

Macaulay, and Lyell - 418 
S. The literary influence. Ruskin. Arnold. Intellectual 

preponderance of rationalism - 150 
'.). English fiction from Miss Kdgeworth to the present 

time; - - - - - - - 151 

10. Richard Jefferies - - - 152 

11. Poetry since Shelley - 152 

12. American belles lettres - - - 153 

13. Leopardi. Carducci. Kleist. Heine - 451 
1 1. Russian belles lettres - - 15(1 
15. The Scandinavian States - 157 

Section l. The Natural Sciences 

1. Progress in cosmology. Laplace and modern ustro- 

tiomv. Orthodox resistance. Leslie- 157 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

2. Physiology in France. Cabanis - - - 459 

3. Physiology in England. Lawrence. Morgan - 461 

4. Geology after Hutton. Hugh Miller. Baden Powell - 4Gii 

5. Darwin ------- 464 

G. Robert Chambers - - - - - 404 

7. Orthodox resistance. General advance - - 465 

8. Triumph of evolutionism. Spencer. Clifford. Huxley 466 

Section 5. The Sociological, Sciences 

1. Eighteenth-century sociology. Salverte. Charles 

Comte. Auguste Comte - - 468 

2. Progress in England. Orthodoxy of Hallam. Carlyle. 

Grote. Thirlwall. Long - 468 

3. Sociolog)- proper. Orthodox hostility - - 161) 

4. Mythology and anthropology. Tylor. Spencer. 

Avebury, Frazer - 470 

Section 6. Philosophy and Ethics 

1. Fichte. Schelling. Hegel - - - - 471 

2. Germany after Hegel. Schopenhauer. Hartmann - 474 

3. Feuerbach. Stirner ----- 475 

4. Arnold Ruge ------ 478 

5. Buchncr -..--. 478 

6. Philosophy in France. Maine de Biran. Cousin. 

Jouffroy ------ 479 

7. Movement of Lamennais ... - 480 

8. Comte and Comtism ----- 483 

9. Philosophy in Britain. Bentham. James Mill. 

Grote. Political rationalism - 484 

10. Hamilton. Mansel. Spencer - - - 485 

11. Semi-rationalism in the churches - - - 487 
1-2. J. S. Mill ...... 489 

Section 7. Modern Jewry 

Jewish influence in philosophy since Spinoza. Modern 

balance of tendencies ----- 489 

Section h.-thf, Oriental civilizations 

Asiatic intellectual life. Japan. Discussions on Japanese 
psychosis. Fukuzawa. The recent Cult of the 

Emperor. China. India. Turkey. Greece - 490 

CON'CLUSION -------- 499 



303 



Chapter XIII 
THE RISE OF MODERN FKEETHOUGHT {Continued) 

4. England 

While France was thus passing from general fanaticism to a large 
measure of freethought, England was passing by a less tempestuous 
path to a hardly less advanced stage of opinion. It was indeed a 
bloody age ; and in 1535 we have record of nineteen men and live 
women of Holland, apparently Anabaptists, who denied the 

humanity " of Christ and rejected infant baptism and transub- 
stantiation, being sentenced to be burned alive two suffering at 
Smithfield, and the rest at other towns, by way of example. Others 
in Henry's reign suffered the same penalty for the same offence ; and 
in 1538 a priest named Nicholson or Lambert, refusing on the King's 
personal pressure to recant, was "brent in Smithfield" for denying 
the bodily presence in the eucharist. 1 The first decades of 

Reformation" in England truly saw the opening of new vials 
of blood. More and Fisher and scores of lesser men died as 
Catholics for denying the King's " supremacy " in religion ; as 
many more for denying the Catholic tenets which the King held 
to the last ; and not a few by the consent of More and Fisher for 
translating or circulating the sacred books. Latimer, martyred 
under Mary, had applauded the burning of the Anabaptists. One 
generation slew for denial of the humanity of Christ ; the next for 
denial of his divinity. Under Edward VI there were burned no 
Catholics, but several heretics, including Joan Bochcr and a Dutch 
Unitarian, George Van Pare, described as a man of saintly life." 
Still the English evolution was less destructive than the French or 
the German, and the comparative bloodlessness of the strife between 
Protestant and Catholic under Mary' and Elizabeth, the treatment 

1 Stow's Annals, ed. 1015, pp. 570, 575. 

- Burnet, Hint, of the. W-form'ttwii, el. Naves, ii, 170; iii, 2S0; Ktrype, Memorials of 
Crn.nme.i-, ed. 1818-51, ii. 100. 

' The Marian persecutions undoubtedly did much to stimulate Protestantism. It is 
not generally realized tliat many of the hurnim.'s of heretics under Mary were quasi- 
sacrifices on her behalf. Ou each occasion of her hopes of pregnancy beiiit! disappointed, 
some victims were sent to the stake. See Strype, ed. cited, iii, l'.'ii, and I'eter Martyr, 
there cited ; Fronde, ed. 1870, v, 521 so., 530 sa. The influence of Spanish ecclesiastics may 
he- inferred. The expulsions of the. lews and the Moriscoes from Spain were h.\ wa> of 
averting the wrath of God. Still, a Spanish priest at Court preached in favour of mercy. 
LiuHard, ed. 1855, v, 231, 

VOL. II 1 11 



2 THE EISE OF MODEKN FKEETHOUGHT 

of the Jesuit propaganda under the latter queen as a political rather 
than a doctrinal question, 1 prevented any such vehemence of recoil 
from religious ideals as took place in France. When in 1575 the 
law De hceretico comburcndo, which had slept for seventeen years, 
was set to work anew under Elizabeth, the first victims were Dutch 
Anabaptists. Of a congregation of them at Aldgate, twenty-seven 
were imprisoned, of whom ten were burned, and the rest deported. 
Two others, John Wielmacker and Hendrich Ter Woort, were anti- 
Trinitarians, and were burned accordingly. Foxe appealed to the 
Queen to appoint any punishment short of death, or even that of 
hanging, rather than the horrible death by burning; but in vain. 
All parties at the time concurred " in approving the course taken. 
Orthodoxy was rampant. 

Unbelief, as we have seen, however, there certainly was ; and 
it is recorded that Walter, Earl of Essex, on his deathbed at Dublin 
in 157G, murmured that among his countrymen neither Popery nor 
Protestantism prevailed : " there was nothing but infidelity, infidelity, 
infidelity; atheism, atheism; no religion, no religion."' 1 And when 
we turn aside from the beaten paths of Elizabethan literature wo see 
clearly what is partly visible from those paths a number of free- 
thinking variations from the norm of faith. Ascham, as we saw, 
found some semblance of atheism shockingly common among the 
travelled upper class of his day ; and the testimonies continue. 
Edward Kirke, writing his "glosses" to Spenser's Shepherd's 
Calendar in 1578, observes that " it was an old opinion, and yet 
is continued in some men's conceit, that men of years have no fear 
of God at all, or not so much as younger folk," experience having 
made them skeptical. Erasmus, lie notes, in his Adages makes the 
proverb " Nemo senex metuit Jovem " signify merely that " old men 
are far from superstition and belief in false Gods." Put Kirke 
insists that, " his great learning notwithstanding, it is too plain to 
be gainsaid that old men are much more inclined to such fond 
fooleries than younger men,"' 1 apparently meaning that elderly men 
in his day were commonly skeptical about divine providence. 

Other writers of the day do not limit unbelief to the aged. Lilly, 
in his Euphaes (1578), referring to England in general or Oxford in 
particular as Athens, asks : " Pe there not many in Athens which 
think there is no God, no redemption, no resurrection ? " Further, 

1 The number slain was certainly not small. It amounted to at least 190, perhaps to 
201. Soames, Elizabethan Religious History. 1830, p. 59(5-98. Under Mary there perished 
some 288. Durham Dunlop, The Church under the Tudor a, ISO'.), p. 101 and rets. 

- Sonnies, as cited, j)]). '213-1S, and refs. 

:; Froude, Hint, of England, ed. 1870, x, 515 (ed. 1875. xi, 190), citing MSS. Ireland. 

1 Glu-s to February in the Slieplterd's Calendar, Globe ed. pp. 151-5-2. 



ENGLAND 3 

be complains that " it was openly reported of an old man in Naples 

that there was more lightness in Athens than in all Italy more 

Papists, more Atheists, more sects, more schisms, than in all the 
monarchies in the world"; 1 and he proceeds to frame an absurd 
dialogue of " Euphues and Atheos," in which the latter, " monstrous, 
yet tractable to he persuaded,"' 2 is converted with a burlesque 
facility. Lilly, who writes as a man-of-the-world believer, is a 
poor witness as to the atheistic arguments current ; but those he 
cites are so much better than his own, up to the point of terrified 
collapse on the atheist's part, that he had doubtless heard them. 
The atheist speaks as a pantheist, identifying deity with the 
universe ; and readily meets a simple appeal to Scripture with the 
reply that " whosoever denietb a godhead denieth also the Scriptures 
which testifie of him." 1 But in one of his own plays, played in 
15S4, Lilly puts on the stage a glimpse of current controversy in 
a fashion which suggests that he had not remained so contemptu- 
ously confident of the self-evident character of theism. In Campaspe 
(i,3) lie introduces, undramatically enough, Plato, Aristotle, Cleanthes, 
Crates, and other philosophers, who converse concerning " natural 
causes" and "supernatural effects." Aristotle is made to confess 
that he "cannot by natural reason give any reason of the ebhing 
and flowing of the sea"; and Plato contends against Cleanthes, 
" searching for things which are not to ho found," that "there is no 
man so savage in whom rcsteth not this divine particle, that there is 
an omnipotent, eternal, and divine mover, which may he called God." 
Cleanthes replies that ' that first mover, which you term God, is the 
instrument of all the movings which we attribute to Nature. The 
earth seasons fruits the whole firmament and what- 
soever else appeareth miraculous, what man almost of mean capacity 
hut can prove it natural." Nothing is concluded, and the dehate is 
adjourned. Anaxarchus declares : " I will take part with Aristotle, 
that there is Nat ura naturans, and yet not God"; while Crates 
rejoins: "And I with Plato, that there is Deus optimus maximus, 
and not Nature." 

It is a curious dialogue to put upon the stage, by the mouth of 
children-actors, and the arbitrary ascription to Aristotle of high 
theistic views, in a scene in which he is expressly described by a 
fellow philosopher as a Naturalist, suggests that Lilly felt the danger 
of giving offence by presenting the supreme philosopher as an atheist. 

1 i: ti )>h urs : Tlte Ann to my of Wit, Arbcr's reprint, i>]>. 110, 15.'!. That the lvfiToiicc was 
mainly to Oxfonl is to \m inferred from tin; address "To my writ: jjooil friumls thu 
Gonlli inuii Kchollurs of Oxford," prefixed to tile ed. of I.Vsl. Id. p. -Hfl . 

'* Id. p. 10s. :; Id. pp. ltd, ltiti. 



4 THE EISE OF MODEEN FREETHOUGHT 

It is evident, however, both from Euphues and from Campaspe, 
that naturalistic views were in some vogue, else they had not been 
handled in the theatre and in a book essentially planned for the 
general reader. But however firmly held, they could not bo directly 
published ; and a dozen years later, over thirty years after the 
outburst of Ascham, we still find only a sporadic and unwritten 
freethought, however abundant, going at times in fear of its 
life. 

Private discussion, indeed, there must have been, if there be any 
truth in Bacon's phrase that " atheists will ever be talking of that 

opinion, as if they would be glad to be strengthened by the 

consent of others " * an argument which would make short work of 
the vast literature of apologetic theism but even private talk had 
need be cautious, and there could be no publication of atheistic 
opinions. Printed rationalism could go no further than such a 
protest against superstition as Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witch- 
craft (1584), which, however, is a sufficiently remarkable expression 
of reason in an age in which a Bodin held angrily by the delusion. 2 
Elizabeth was herself substantially irreligious, 8 and preferred to keep 
the clergy few in number and subordinate in influence; 4 but her 
Ministers regarded the Church as part of the State system, and 
punished all open or at least aggressive heresy in the manner of the 
Inquisition. Yet the imported doctrine of the subjective character 
of hell and heaven, 5 taken up by Marlowe, held its ground, and is 
denounced by Stubbes in Ids Anatomic of Abuses 6 (1583); and other 
foreign philosophy of the same order found religious acceptance. 
A sect called the "Family of Love," deriving from Holland (already 
a country fruitfull of heretics "), T went so far as to hold that 
Christ dofli not signify any one person, but a quality whereof 
many are partakers " a doctrine which we have seen ascribed by 
Calvin to the libertins of Geneva a generation before; 8 but it does 



1 Essay Of Atheism. 

2 Lecky, nationalism, i, 103-lOt. Scot's book (now made accessible by a reprint, 1886) 
had practically no influence in his own day ; and Kins James, who wrote against it, caused 
it to be burned by the hangman in the next. Scot inserts the "inftdelitie of atheists" in 
the list of intellectual evils on his title-page; but save' for an allusion to "the abhomina- 
tion of idolatrie" all the others indicted are aspects of the black art. 

3 "No woman ever lived who was so totally destitute of the sentiment of religion" 
(Green, Short History, ch. vii, 3, p. 800). 

* Cp. Soamea, Elizabethan Iteliaious History, 1S39, p. 225. Yet when Morris, the attorney 
of the Duchy of Lancaster, introduced in Parliament a Bill to restrain the power of the 
ecclesiastical courts, she had him dismissed and imprisoned for life, being determined 
that the control should remain, through those courts, in her own hands, lleylyn, Hist. 
of the lleformation, ed. 1849, pref. vol. i, pp. xiv-xv. 

' See above, vol. i, pp. 435, 416, 459. G Collier's Reprint, p. 190. 

7 Camden, Annals of Elizabeth, sub. ami. 1580; 3rd ed. 1635, p. 218. Cp. Koames, p. 214. 

y Hooker, Pref. to Ecclesiastical Polity, ch. iii, 9, ed. 1850. Camden (p. 219) states that 
the Dutch teacher Henry Nichalai, whoso works were translated for the sect, "gave out 
that lie did partake of God, and God of his humanity." 



ENGLAND 5 

not appear that they were persecuted. 1 Some isolated propagandists, 
however, paid the last penalty. One Matthew Hamont or Hamond, 
a ploughwright, of Hetherset, was in 1579 tried by the Bishop and 
Consistory of Norwich " for that he denyed Christo," and, being 
found guilty, was burned, after having had his ears cut off, " because 
he spake wordes of blasphcmie against the Queen's Maiistie and 
others of her Counsell." 2 The victim would thus seem to have 
been given to violence of speech ; but the record of his negations, 
which suggest developments from the Anabaptist movement, is none 
the less notable. In Stow's wording,'' they run : 

"That the newo Testament and Gospell of Christo are but mere 
foolishnesse, a storie of menne, or rather a mere fable. 

" Item, that man is restored to grace by the meere mercy of God, 
wythout the meane of Christ's bloud, death, and passion. 

" Item, that Christe is not God, nor the Saviour of the world, but 
a meere man, a sinfull man, and an abhominable Idoll. 

" Item, that al they that worshippe him are abhominable 
Idolaters ; And that Christe did not rise agayne from death to lifo 
by the power of his Godhead, neither, that bee did ascendo into 
Heaven. 

" Item, that the holy Ghoste is not God, neither that there is 
any suche holy Ghoste. 

" Item, that Baptisme is not necessarie in the Churcho of God, 
neither the use of the sacrament of the body and bloude of Christ." 

There is record also of a freethinker named John Lowes burned 
at the same place in 1583 for "denying the Godhead of Christ, and 
holding other detestable heresies," in the manner of Hamond. 4 In 
the same year Elias Thacker and John Coping were hanged at 
St. Edmonsbury " for spreading certaine bookes, seditiously penned 
by one Robert Browne against the Booke of Common Prayer "; and 
" their bookes so many as could be found were burnt before them." 5 
Further, one Peter Cole, an Ipswich tanner, was burned in 1587 
(also at Norwich) for similar doctrine ; and Francis Kett, a young 
clergyman, ex-fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, was 
burned at the same place in 1089 for heresy of the Unitarian order. 6 

1 See above, i, 458, as to a, much more pronounced heresy in 1510, which also Feoms to 
have escaped punishment. Camden tells that the books of the "Family of hove" were 
burnt in 1.7-0, hut mentions no other penalties. Stow records that on October !), ].>,(), 
"proclamation was published at London for the :i p prehension and severe punishing of all 
persons xusjicctfd to bo of the family of love." Kd. 1015, p. 0S7. J-'ne of them had been 
frightened info a public recantation in 1575. hi. p. 07. 

* May l.i. 1579. The burning was on the 20th. 

3 Stow's Annuls, ed. 15S.0, pp. 1,1'Jl !)5. Kd. lid.',, p. f,05. 

4 Slow, od. Kilo, p. 007 ; David' a Evidence, by William Burton, Preacher of Heading, 
3502 i?\ i). 125. 

' Stow, ed. 101 5, p. 090. 

c burton, as cited. See below, lip. 7, 12, as to Kelt's writings. 



6 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

Hamond and Cole seem, however, to have been in their own way 
religious men, 1 and Kett a devout mystic, with ideas of a Second 
Advent. 2 All founded on the Bible. 

Most surprising of all perhaps is the record of the trial of 
one John Hilton, clerk in holy orders, before the Upper House 
of Convocation on December 22, 1584, on the charge of having 
"said in a sermon at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields that the Old 
and New Testaments are but fables." (Lansdowne MSS. 
British Museum, No. 982, fol. 46, cited by Prof. Storojenko, 
Life of Bobcrt Greene, Eng. tr. in Grosart's " Huth Library" 
ed. of Greene's Works, i, 39, note) As Hilton confessed to the 
charge and made abjuration, it may be surmised that he had 
spoken under the influence of liquor. Even on that view, how- 
ever, such an episode tells of a considerable currency of un- 
believing criticism. 

Apart from constructive heresy, the perpetual religious dissen- 
sions of the time were sure to stimulate doubt ; and there appeared 
quite a number of treatises directed wholly or partly against explicit 
unbelief, as: The Faith of the Church Militant, translated from 
the Latin of the Danish divine Hemming (1581), and addressed "to 
the confutation of the Jewes, Turks, Atheists, Papists, Hereticks, 
and all other adversaries of the truth whatsoever"; " The Touch- 
stone of True Religion against the impietie of Atheists, Epicures, 

Lihertines, Hippocrites, and Temporisours of these times " (1590) ; 
An Encmie to Atheisme, translated by T. Rogers from the Latin 
of Avenar (1591) ; the preacher Henry Smith's God's Arrow 
against Atheists (1533, rep. 1611) ; an English translation of the 
second volume of La Primaudaye's U Academic Francaise, containing 
a refutation of atheistic doctrine ; and no fewer than three " Treatises 
of the Nature of God" all anonymous, the third known to be by 
Bishop Thomas Morton all appearing in the year 1599. 

All this smoke eight apologetic treatises in eighteen years 
implies some fire ; and the translator of La Primaudaye, one " T. 13.," 
declares in his dedication that there has been a general growth of 
atheism in England and on the continent, which he traces to " that 
Monster Machiavell." Among English atheists of that school he 
ranks the dramatist Robert Greene, who had died in 1592 ; and it 
has been argued, not quite convincingly, that it was to Machiavelli 
that Greene had pointed, in his death-bed recantation A Groatsicortii 



1 Art. Matthew Hamond, in Diet, of Nat. Biog. 
- Art. Fkancis Kett, in Vict, of Nat. Biog. 



ENGLAND 7 

of Wit (1592), as the atheistic instructor of his friend Marlowe, 1 
who introduces "Machiavel" as cynical prologist to his Jew of 
Malta. Greene's own " atheism " had heen for the most part 
a matter of bluster and disorderly living ; and we find his zealously 
orthodox friend Thomas Nasho, in his Strange Neios (1592), calling 
the Puritan zealot who used the pseudonym of Martin Marprelate 
" a mighty platformor of atheism"; even as his own and Greene's 
enemy, Gabriel Harvey, called Nashe an atheist. 2 But Nashe in 
his Christ's Tears over Jerusalem (1592), though ho speaks char- 
acteristically of the " atheistical Julian," discusses contemporary 
atheism in a fashion descriptive of an actual growth of the opinion, 
concerning which he alleges that there is no "sect now in England 
so scattered [i.e., so widely spread] as atheisme." The " outward 
atheist," he declares, " establishes reason as his God "; and lie offers 
some sufficiently primitive arguments by way of confutation. 
"'They follow the Pironicks [i.e., Pyrrhonists] , whose position and 
opinion it is that there is no hell or misery but opinion. Impudently 
they persist in it, that the late discovered Indians show antiquities 
thousands before Adam." For the rest, they not only reject the 
miracles of Moses as mere natural expedients misrepresented, but 
treat the whole Bible as "some late writers of our side" treat the 
Apocrypha. And Nashe complains feelingly that while the atheists 
" are special men of wit," and that the Romish seminaries have not 
allured unto them so many good wits as atheism," the preachers who 
reply to them are men of dull understanding, the product of a system 
under which preferment is given to graduates on the score not of 
capacity but of mere gravity and solemnity. " It is the super- 
abundance of wit," declares Nashe, ' that makes atheists : will you 
then hope to beat them down with fusty brown-bread dorbellism '? " 
There had arisen, in short, a ferment of rationalism which was 
henceforth never to disappear from English life. 

In 1593, indeed, we find atheism formally charged against two 
famous men, CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE and Sir WALTER RALEIGH, 
of whom the first is documentarily connected with Kett, and the 
second in turn with Marlowe. An oilicial document, 4 preserved by 

1 Prof. Storojcnko, Lifr, of Grrrnc, Eng. tr. in Grosart's "Iluth Library" ed. of Greene's 
Works, i, I'-!-.")!). 1 1> is quite clear that Malone and the critics who have followed him were 
wrong in supposing the unnamed instructor to be Francis Kelt, who was a devout Uni- 
tarian. I'rof. Storojcnko speaks of Kett as having been made an Arian ;i t Norwich , after 
iii- return there in \ '>-,'>. by the in Hue nee of I .ewes and Ifa worth. Query llamond ? 

- In I'icrr.i-H HuiM-.rr rutin titm, (Jollier's ed. p. H~>. 

'' Hep. of Nashe's Works in Grosart's " Hulh Library " cd. vol. iv, pp. 17-2, 173, 178, 1S2, 
I-::, etc. K<1. McKerrow, 1UJ1, ii. Ill 11'.). 

1 MS. Harl. i;s.->i. fol. :jj). It is given in full in the appendix to the. first issue of the 
Rejected plays of Marlowe in the Mermaid Series, edited by Mr. lfavelock Ellis: and, 
with omissions, in the editions of Cunningham, Uyce, and liallen. 



8 THE EISE OF MODEEN FEEETHOUGHT 

some chance, reveals that Marlowe was given whether or not over 
the wine-cup to singularly audacious derision of the received 
beliefs ; and so explicit is the evidence that it is nearly certain he 
would have been executed for blasphemy had he not been privately 
killed (1593) while the proceedings were pending. The " atheism " 
imputed to him is not made out in any detail ; but many of the 
other utterances are notably in keeping with Marlowe's daring 
temper ; and they amount to unbelief of a stringent kind. In Doctor 
Faustus 1 he makes Mephistopheles affirm that " Hell hath no limits 

but where we are is hell" a doctrine which we have seen to 

be current before his time ; and in his private talk he had gone much 
further. Nashe doubtless had him in mind when he spoke of men 
of " superabundance of wit." Not only did he question, with 
Ealeigh, the Biblical chronology : he affirmed " That Moyses was 
but a juggler, and that one Heriots " [i.e., Thomas Harriott, or 
Harriots, the astronomer, one of Baleigh's circle] " can do more 
than he"; and concerning Jesus he used language incomparably 
more offensive to orthodox feeling than that of Hamond and Rett. 
There is more in all this than a mere assimilation of Machiavelli ; 
though the further saying " that the first beginning of religion was 
only to keep men in awe" put also by Greene [if not by Marlowe], 
with much force of versification, in the mouth of a villain-hero in 
the anonymous play of Sclimus 2 tells of that influence. Marlowe 
was indeed not the man to swear by any master without adding 
something of his own. Atheism, however, is not inferrible from any of 
his works : on the contrary, in the second part of Ids famous first play 
he makes his hero, described by the repentant Greene as the " atheist 
Tamburlaine," declaim of deity with signal eloquence, though with 
a pantheistic cast of phrase. In another passage, a Moslem 
personage claims to bo on the side of a Christ who would punish 
perjury ; and in yet another the hero is made to trample under foot 
the pretensions of Mohammed. 8 It was probably his imputation of 
perjury to Christian rulers in particular that earned for Marlowe the 
malignant resentment which inspired the various edifying comments 
published after his unedifying death. Had lie not perished as he 
did in a tavern brawl, he might have had the nobler fate of a 
martyr. 

Concerning Ealeigh, again, there is no shadow of proof of atheism, 

1 Act II. sc. i. 

- Grosart's ed. in "Temple Dramatists " series, 11. 216-371. There is plenty of " irreligion " 
in the passage, but not atheism, though there is a denial of a future state (365-70), The 
lines in question strongly suggest Marlowe's influence or authorship, which indeed is 
claimed by Mr. C. Crawford for the whole play. Hut all the external evidence ascribes 
the play to Greene. 3 Tamburlaine, Tart II, Act II, sc. ii. iii ; A', sc. i. 



ENGLAND 9 

though his circle, which included the Earls of Northumberland and 
Oxford, was called a " school of atheism " in a Latin pamphlet by 
the Jesuit Parsons, 1 published at Rome in 1593 ; and this reputation 
clung to him. It is matter of literary history, however, that he, 
like Montaigne, had been influenced by the Hypotyposcs of Sextus 
Empiricus ; 2 his short essay The Sceptick being a naif exposition of 
the thesis that " the sceptick doth neither affirm neither deny any 
position ; but doubteth of it, and applyeth his Reason against that 
which is affirmed, or denied, to justiiie his non-consenting."' The 
essay itself, nevertheless, proceeds upon a set of wildly false proposi- 
tions in natural history, concerning which the adventurous reasoner 
has no doubts whatever ; and altogether we may be sure that his 
artificial skepticism did not carry him far in philosophy. In the 
Discovery of Guiana (1G00) he declares that he is " resolved " of 
the truth of the stories of men whoso heads grow beneath their 
shoulders ; and in his History of tlic World (1G03-1G) he insists 
that the stars and other celestial bodies " incline the will by 
mediation of the sensitive appetite." 4 In other directions, however, 
ho was less credulous. In the same History he points out, as 
Marlowe had done in talk, how incompatible was such a pheno- 
menon as the mature civilization of ancient Egypt in the days of 
Abraham with the orthodox chronology." This, indeed, was heresy 
enough, then and later, seeing that not only did Bishop Pearson, in 
1659, in a work on The Creed which has been circulated down to 
the nineteenth century, indignantly denounce all who departed from 
the figures in the margin of the Bible ; but Coleridge, a century 
and a half later, took the very instance of Egyptian history as 
triumphantly establishing the accuracy of the Bible record against 
the French atheists. As regards Raleigh's philosophy, the evidence 
goes to show only that he was ready to read a Unitarian essay, 
presumably that already mentioned, supposed to be Rett's ; and 
that he had intercourse with Marlowe and others (in particular Ins 
secretary, Harriott) known to be freethinkers. A prosecution begun 
against him on this score, at the time of the inquiry concerning 
Marlowe (when Raleigh was in disgrace with the Queen), came 
to nothing. It had been led up to by a translation of Parsons's 
pamphlet, which affirmed that Ins private group was known us 
Sir Walter Rawley's school of Atheisme," and that therein "both 

1 Writing as And row Pliilopater. Sec Diet, of Nut. Vina-, art. Uoin'.UT Pausons, nnd 
Storojenko, us cited, i, :;ii, and Hate. 

- Translated into Latin liv Henri Kstiennc in \TJC>2. 

' Hrm'tinsoJ Sir Walter liakiyli, ed. JG07, p. ISi. ' I'.k. i. cli. i, sec. 11. 

' lik. ii, eli. i, see. 7. i; 1-is; aj on llie L'rumetheus. 



10 THE ETSE OF MODEEN FBEETHOUGHT 

Moyses and our Savior, the Old and the New Testaments, are jested 
at, and the scholars taught among other things to spell God back- 
wards." ] This seems to have been idle gossip, though it tells of 
unbelief somewhere ; and Ealeigh's own writings always indicate 
belief in the Bible ; though his dying speech and epitaph are 
noticeably deistic. That he was a deist, given to free discussion, 
seems the probable truth. 

In passing sentence at the close of Ealeigh's trial for treason in 
1603, in which his guilt is at least no clearer than the inequity of 
the proceedings, Lord Chief Justice Popham unscrupulously taunted 
him with his reputation for heresy. " You have been taxed by the 
world with the defence of the most heathenish and blasphemous 
opinions, which I list not to repeat, because Christian ears cannot 
endure to hear them, nor the authors and maintainers of them be 
suffered to live in any Christian commonwealth. You know what 
men said of Harpool." 3 If the preface to his History of the World, 
written in the Tower, be authentic, Ealeigh was at due pains to 
make clear his belief in deity, and to repudiate alike atheism and 
pantheism. "I do also account it," he declares, "an impiety 
monstrous, to confound God and Nature, be it but in terms." 4 
And he is no more tolerant than his judge when he discusses the 
question of the eternity of the universe, then the crucial issue as 
between orthodoxy and doubt. " Whosoever will make choice 
rather to believe in eternal deformity [ = want of form] or in 
eternal dead matter, than in eternal light and eternal life, let 
eternal death be his reward. For it is a madness of that kind, 
as wanteth terms to express it." 5 Inasmuch as Aristotle was the 
great authority for the denounced opinion, Ealeigh is anti- 
Aristotelean. " I shall never be persuaded that God hath shut 
up all light of learning within the lantern of Aristotle's brains." 6 
But in the whole preface there is only one, and that a conventional, 
expression of belief in the Christian dogma of salvation ; and as to 
that we may note his own words : " We are all in effect become 
comedians in religion." ' Still, untruthful as he certainly was, s we 
may take him as a convinced theist of the experiential school, 
standing at the ordinary position of the deists of the next century. 

Notably enough, he anticipates the critical position of Hume as 

1 Art. Kaiyf.igh, in Dirt, of Nat. Biog.. xlvii, 10-2. _ 2 Id. pp. 200-201. 

3 Report in 1730 ed. of History of the World, p. ccxlix. " Harpool " seems an error for 
Harriott. Cp. Edwards, Life of Sir Walter Baleigh, 1868, i, 4:3-2, 130. It is after naming 
"Harpool" that the judge says: "Let not any devil persuade you to think there is no 
eternity in heaven." 

1 Ed. cited, p. xxviii. 5 Id. p. xxiv. 

G Id. p. xxii. 7 Id. p. xvi. 

8 Cp. Gardiner, History of England, 1603-1612, 10-vol. ed. i. 132-35; iii, 150, 152. 



ENGLAND 11 

to reason and experience : " That these and these he the causes of 
these and these effects, time hath taught us and not reason ; and so 
hath experience without art." Such utterance, if not connected 
with professions of piety, might in those days give rise to such 
charges of unbelief as were so freely cast at him. But the charges 
seem to have been in large part mere expressions of the malignity 
which religion so normally fosters, and which can seldom have been 
more bitter than then. Raleigh is no admirable type of rectitude ; 
but he can hardly have been a worse man than his orthodox 
enemies. And we must estimate such men in full view of the low 
standards of their age. 

The belief about Raleigh's atheism was so strong that wo 
have Archbishop Abbot writing to Sir Thomas Roe on Feb. 19, 
L618-1619, that Raleigh's end was due to his " questioning " of 
" God's being and omnipotence." It is asserted by Francis 
Osborn, who had known Raleigh, that he got his title of Atheist 
from Queen Elizabeth. See the preface {Author to Header) to 
Osborn's Miscellany of Sundry Essays, etc., in 7th ed. of his 
Works, 1G73. As to atheism at Elizabeth's court see J. J. 
Taylor, Retrospect of Bclig, Life of England, 2nd ed. p. 198, and 
ref. Lilly makes one of his characters write of the ladies at 
court that " they never jar about matters of religion, because 
they never mean to reason of them" (Euphues, Arber's ed. 
p. 191). 

A curious use was made of Raleigh's name and fame after his 
death for various purposes. In 1620 or 1621 appeared " Vox 
Spiritus, or Sir Walter Rawleigh's Ghost ; a Conference between 

Signr. Gondamier and Father Bauldwine " a "seditious" 

tract by one Captain Gainsford. It appears to have been 
reprinted in 1622 as " Prosopoeia. Sir Walter Rawleigh's 
Ghost." Then in 1626 came a new treatise, " Sir Walter 
Rawleigh's Ghost, or England's Forewarner," published in 
1626 at Utrecht by Thomas Scott, an English minister there, 
who was assassinated in the same year. The title having thus 
had vogue, there was published in 1631 " Baivlcigh's Ghost, or, 
a Feigned Apparition of Syr Walter Rawleigh to a friend of his, 
for the translating into English the Booke of Leonard Lcssius 
(that most learned man), entituled Da Providentia Numinis et 
animi immortal itatc, written against the Atheists and Polititians 
of these days." The translation of a Jesuit's treatise (1613) 
thus accredited purports to be by "A. B." In a reprint of 1651 
the " feigned " disappears from the title-page; but " Sir Walter 
Rawleigh's Ghost " remains to attract readers ; and the trans- 
lation, now purporting to ho by John llolden, who claims to 

1 Ed. cited, p. xxii. 



12 THE EISE OF MODERN FEEETHOUGHT 

have been a. friend of Raleigh's, is dedicated to his son Cavew. 
In the preface the Ghost adjures the translator (who professes 
to have heard him frequently praise the treatise of Lessius) to 
translate the work with Raleigh's name on the title, so as to 
clear his memory of " a foul and most unjust aspersion of me 
for my presumed denial of a deity." 

The latest documentary evidence as to the case of Marlowe 
is produced by Mr. F. S. Boas in his article, "New Light on 
Marlowe and Kyd," in the Fortnightly Bcvicic, February, 1899, 
reproduced in his edition of the works of Thomas Kyd (Clarendon 
Press, 1901). In addition to the formerly known data as to 
Marlowe's " atheism," it is now established that Thomas Kyd, 
his fellow dramatist, was arrested on the same charge, and 
that there was found among his papers one containing vile 
hereticall conceiptes denyinge the divinity of Jhesus Christe 
our Saviour." This Kyd declared he had had from Marlowe, 
denying all sympathy with its view. Nevertheless, he was 
%mt to the torture. The paper, however, proves to be a 
vehement Unitarian argument on Scriptural grounds, and is 
much more likely to have been written by Francis Kett than by 
Marlowe. In the MSS. now brought to light, one Cholmeley, 
who " confessed that he was persuaded by Marlowe's reasons 
to become an Atheiste," is represented by a spy as speaking 
" all evil of the Counsell, saying that they are all Atheistes 
and Machiavillians, especially my Lord Aclmirall." The same 
"atheist," who imputes atheism to others as a vice, is described 
as regretting he had not killed the Lord Treasurer, " sayenge 
that he could never have done God better service." 

For the rest, the same spy tells that Cholmeley believed 
Marlowe was " able to shewe more sound reasons for Atheismo 
than any devine in Englande is able to geve to prove devinitie, 
and that Marloe told him that he hath read the Atheist lecture 
to Sir Walter Raleigh and others." On the last point there 
it no further evidence, save that Sir Walter, his dependent 
Thomas Harriott, and Mr. Carewe Rawley, were on March 21, 
1593-1594, charged upon sworn testimonies with holding 
" impious opinions concerning God and Providence." There 
was, however, no prosecution. Harriott had published in 
1588 a work on his travels in Virginia, at the close of which 
is a passage in the devoutest vein telling of his missionary 
labours (quoted by Mr. Boas, art. cited, p. 225). Yet by 1592 
he had, with his master, a reputation for atheism ; and that it 
was not wholly on the strength of his great scientific knowledge 
is suggested by the statement of Anthony a Wood that he 
"made a philosophical theology, wherein he cast off the Old 
Testament." 

Of this no trace remains ; but it is established that he was 
a highly accomplished mathematician, much admired by Kepler ; 



ENGLAND 13 

and that he "applied the telescope to celestial purposes almost 
simultaneously with Galileo " (art. HARRIOTT in Diet, of Nat. 

Biog.; cp. art. in Encyc. Brit). "Harriott was the first 

who dared to say A = 13 in the form A 13 = 0, one of the 
greatest sources of progress ever opened in algebra " (Prof. A. 
Do Morgan, Newton, his Friend and his Niece, 1885, p. 91). 
Further, he improved algebraic notation by the use of small 
italic letters in place of Roman capitals, and threw out the 
hypothesis of secondary planets as well as of stars invisible 
from their size and distance. " He was the first to verify the 
results of Galileo." Rev. Baden Powell, Hist, of Nat. Philos. 
1831, pp. 126, 168. Cp. Rigaud, as cited by Powell; Ellis's 
notes on Paeon, in Routledge's 1-vol. ed. 1905, pp. G71-76 ; 
and Storojenko, as above cited, p. 38, note. 

Against the aspersion of Harriott at Raleigh's trial may be cited 
the high panegyric of Chapman, who terms him " my admired and 
soubloved friend, master of all essential and true knowledge," 1 and 
one " whose judgment and knowledge, in all kinds, I know to be 
incomparable and bottomless, yea, to be admired as much as his 
most blameless life, and the right sacred expense of his time, is to 
be honoured and reverenced " ; with a further " affirmation of his 
clear unmatchedness in all manner of learning."' 2 

The frequency of such traces of rationalism at this period is to 
be understood in the light of the financial and other scandals of the 
Reformation ; the bitter strifes of Church and dissent ; and the 
horrors of the wars of religion in France, concerning which Paeon 
remarks in his essay Of Unity in Ileliijion that the spectacle would 
have made Lucretius " seven times more Epicure and atheist than 
he was." The proceedings against Raleigh and Kyd, accordingly, 
did not check the spread of the private avowal of unbelief. A few 
years later we find Hooker, in the Fifth Book of his Ecclesiastical 
Polity (1597), bitterly declaring that the unbelievers in the higher 
tenets of religion are much strengthened by tlio strifes of believers ; J 
as a do/en years earlier Pishop Pilkington told of "young whelps" 
who in corners make themselves merry with railing and scoffing 
at the holy scriptures." i And in the Treatise of the Nature of Hod, 
by Bishop Thomas .Morton (1599), a quasi-dialogue in which the 
arguing is all on one side, the passive interlocutor indicates, in the 
process of repudiating them, a full acquaintance with the pleas of 
those who ' would openly profess themselves to bo of that [the 

1 Title of verses appenrtert to trims, of Achillea Skidd, ir/fcJ. Chapman spells the name 
Hnrriols. 

~ I'ref. to complete trans, of Mi art. 

" Uk. v, eh. ii, . :: I I. Works, ><]. 1K.7), i, I .'52 :'.('>. 

1 J-Uiiosition niton Xchemuih {IMZ) in Parker Soe. ert. of Works, 1812, p. 101. 



14 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

atheistic] judgment, and as far as they might without danger defend 
it by argument against any whatever." The pleas include the lack 
of moral control in the world, the evidences of natural causation, 
the varieties of religious belief, and the contradictions of Scripture. 
And such atheists, we are told, " make nature their God." ! 

From Hooker's account also it is clear that, at least with 
comparatively patient clerics like himself, the freethinkers would at 
times deliberately press the question of theism, and avow the con- 
viction that belief in God was "a kind of harmless error, bred and 
confirmed by the sleights of wiser men." He further notes with 
even greater bitterness that some an " execrable crew " who were 
themselves unbelievers, would in the old pagan manner argue for 
the fostering of religion as a matter of State policy, herein conning 
the lesson of Machiavelli. For his own part Hooker was confessedly 
ill-prepared to debate with the atheists, and his attitude was not 
fitted to shake their opinions. His one resource is the inevitable 
plea that atheists are such for the sake of throwing off all moral 
restraint 2 a theorem which could hardly be taken seriously by 
those who knew the history of the English and French aristocracies, 
Protestant and Catholic, for the past hundred years. Hooker's own 
measure of rationalism, though remarkable as compared with previous 
orthodoxy, went no further than the application of the argument of 
Pecock that reason must guide and control all resort to Scripture 
and authority ; s and he came to it under stress of dispute, as a 
principle of accommodation for warring believers, not as an expres- 
sion of any independent skepticism. When his pious antagonist 
Travel's cited him as saying that " his best author was his own 
reason " i he was prompt to reply that he meant " true, souud, divine 

reason ; reason proper to that science whereby the things of God 

are known ; theological reason, which out of principles in Scripture 
that are plain, soundly deduceth more doubtful inferences."' Of the 
application of rational criticism to Scriptural claims he had no idea. 
The unbelievers of his day were for him a frightful portent, menacing 
all his plans of orthodox toleration ; and he would have had them 
put down by force a course which in some cases, as we have seen, 
had in that age been actually taken, and was always apt to be 
resorted to. But orthodoxy all the while had a sure support in the 
social and political conditions which made impossible the publication 

1 Work cited, pp. 8-11, 22. - Work*, i. 132; ii, 7G2-03. 

a Uccles. Vol. bk. i, eh. vii ; bk. ii, eh. i, vii ; bk. iii, ch. viii, S 1G ; bk. v, ch. viii ; bk. vii, 
ch. ,xi ; bk. viii, G {Works, i, 105, 2:;i, 300, ill} ; ii, 38ti, 537). See the citations in Buckle, 
3-vol. ed. iii, 311-12 ; 1-vol. ed. pp. 193-91. 

1 Sujtplicittion of Travers, in Hooker's Works, ed. 1850, ii, G02. 

5 Ansiver to T ravers, id. p. 003. 



ENGLAND 15 

of rationalistic opinions. While the whole machinery of puhlic 
doctrine remained in religious hands or under ecclesiastical control, 
the mass of men of all grades inevitably held by the traditional 
faith. What is remarkable is the amount of unbelief, either 
privately explicit or implicit in the higher literature, of which we 
have trace. 

Above all there remains the great illustration of the rationalistic 
spirit of the English literary renascence of the sixteenth century 
the drama of SHAKESPEARE. Of that it may confidently be said 
that every attempt to find for it a religious foundation has failed. 1 
Gervinus, while oddly suggesting that " in not only not seeking a 
reference to religion in his works, but in systematically avoiding it 
even when opportunity offered," Shakespeare was keeping clear of 
an embroilment with the clergy, nevertheless pronounces the plays 
to be wholly secular in spirit. While contending that " in action the 
religious and divine in man is nothing else than the moral," the 
German critic admits that Shakespeare " wholly discarded from his 

works that which religion enjoins as to faith and opinion." "' And, 

while refusing the inference of positive unbelief on the poet's part, he 
pronounces that, "Just as Bacon banished religion from science, so did 

Shakespeare from art From Bacon's example it seems clear that 

Shakespeare left religious matters unnoticed on the same grounds." a 
The latest and weightiest criticism comes to the same conclusion ; 
and it is only on presupposition that any other can be reached. 
One of the ablest of Shakespearean critics sums up that " the Eliza- 
bethan drama was almost wholly secular; and while Shakespeare 
was writing lie practically confined his view to the world of non- 
theological observation and thought, so that lie represents it in 
substantially one and the same way whether the period of the story 
is pre-Christian or Christian." 

[Prof. A. C. Bradley, Shakesperean Tragedy, 2nd ed. p. 25. 
In the concluding pages of his lecture on Hamlet, Professor 
Bradley slightly modifies this statement, suggesting that the 
ghost is made to appear as " the representative of the hidden 
ultimate power, the messenger of divine justice" (p. 171). 
Jlere, it seems to the present writer, Professor Bradley obtrudes 
the chief error of bis admirable book the constant implication 
that Shakespeare planned bis plays as moral wholes. The fact 
is that he found the ghost an integral part of the old [day which 
he rewrote ; and in making it, in Professor Bradley's words, 

1 Some typical attempts of the kind arc discussed in the author's two lectures on The 
lielidimi i.f Shnlci' /ji-nrc, 1887 (South I'lace Institute). 

- filiakcsprnre Commentaries, i'.nU- tr, IfcjOU, ii, 018-19. ;l -Id- ii, 580. 



1G THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

"so majestical a phantom," he was simply heightening the 
character as he does others in the play, and as was his habit in 
the presentment of a king. In his volume of lectures entitled 
Oxford Lectures on Poetry (1909), Professor Bradley goes more 
fully into the problem of Shakespeare's religion. Here he 
somewhat needlessly obscures the issue by contending (p. 349) 
that it is preposterous to suppose that Shakespeare was an 
ardent and devoted atheist or Brownist or Roman Catholic," 
and makes the most of the poet's sympathetic treatment of 
religious types and religious sentiments ; but still sums up that 
he was not, in the distinctive sense of the word, a religious 
man," and that " all was, for him, in the end, mystery " (p. 353).] 

This perhaps somewhat understates the case. The Elizabethan 
drama was not wholly secular ;' and certainly the dramatists indi- 
vidually were not. Peele's David and Bethsabe is wholly Biblical 
in theme, and, though sensual in sentiment, substantially orthodox 
in spirit ; and elsewhere he has many passages of Protestant and 
propagandist fervour. 2 Greene and Lodge give a highly Scriptural 
ring to their Looking -Glass for London ; and Lodge, who uses 
religious expressions freely in his early treatise, A Defence of Poetry, 
Music, and Stage Plays, 3 later translated Josephus. Kyd in Arden 
of Feversliam* accepts the Christian view at the close, though The 
Spanish Tragedy is pagan ; and the pre- Shakespearean King Lcir 
and his Three Daughters (1594), probably the work of Kyd and 
Lodge, lias long passages of specifically Christian sentiment. Nashe, 
again, was a hot religious controversialist despite his Bohemian 
habits and his indecorous vein ; Greene on his repentant deathbed 
was profusedly censorious of atheism ; 5 Lilly, as we have seen, is 
combatively theistic in his Campaspe ; while Jonson, as we shall see, 
girds at skeptics in Volpone and The Magnetick Lady, and further 
wrote a quantity of devotional verse. Even the " atheist " Marlowe, 
as we saw, puts theistic sentiment info the mouth of his " atheist 
Tamburlaine "; and of Doctor Faustus, despite incidental heresy, 
the denouement is religiously orthodox. Thomas Heywood may 
even be pronounced a religious man, 6 as ho was certainly a strong 
Protestant,' though an anti-Puritan ; and his prose treatise The 

1 In the last edition I had written to that effect; but I have modified the opinion. 

- 'I'tie allusion to " popish ceremonies " in Titus Andronicus is probably from his hand. 
See the author's work. Diil Shakespeare Write " Titus Amlronicus" :', where it is argued 
that the play in question is substantially l'eele's and Greene's. 

a Shakespeare Hoc. re]). 1853, pp. 1 t. 16-17, ly. 21, -IS, etc. 

4 This has been shown to be his by Fleay and Mr. Crawford. 

5 See his Oroatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Uepentance. 

G Compare the.Jane Shore portions of his Edward ICwiih thecloseof A Woman Killed 
with Kindness. Note also the conclusion of The English Traveller. 
7 See the poem England's Elizabeth, 1631. 



ENGLAND 17 

Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels (1G35) exhibits a religious tempera- 
ment. The same may be said of Dekkor, who is recorded to have 
written at least the prologue and the epilogue for a play on 
Pontius Pilate, 1 and is believed to be the author of the best scenes 
in The Virgin Martyr, in which he collaborated with Massinger. He 
too uses supererogatory religious expressions,' 2 and shows his warm 
Protestantism in The Whore of Babylon, as ho does his general 
religious sentiment in his treatise The Seven Deadly Sins. Chapman 
was certainly a devout theist, and probably a Christian. In the 
"domestic" tragedy, A Warning for Fair Women (1599), which is 
conjecturally ascribed to Lodge, the conclusion is on Christian lines, 
as in Arden ; and the same holds of The Witch of Edmonton, by 
Dekker and others. Of none of these dramatists could it be said, 
on the mere strength of his work, that ho was " agnostic," though 
Marlowe was certainly a freethinker. The others were, first or 
last, avowedly religious. Shakespeare, and Shakespeare alone, after 
Marlowe, is persistently non-religious in his handling of life. Lear, 
his darkest tragedy, is predominantly pagan ; and The Tempest, in 
its serener vein, is no less so. But indeed all the genuine plays 
alike ignore or tacitly negate the idea of immortality ; even the 
conventional religious phrases of Macbeth being but incidental 
poetry. 

In the words of a clerical historian, " the religious phrases 
which are thinly scattered over his work are little more than 
expressions of a distant and imaginative reverence. And on the 

deeper grounds of religious faith his silence is significant The 

riddle of life and death he leaves a riddle to the last, with- 
out heeding the common theological solutions around him."' 5 The 
practical wisdom in which he rose above his rivals no less than in 
dramatic and poetic genius, kept him prudently reticent on his 
opinions, as it set him upon building his worldly fortunes while the 
others with hardly an exception lived in shallows and miseries. As 
so often happens, it was among the ill-balanced types that there was 
found the heedless courage to cry aloud what others thought ; but 
Shakespearo's significant silence reminds us that tho largest spirits 



1 Jlenslowe's Diary, ed.Creg, i, fol. 90. 

2 K.'.l., the lines, 

The best of men 
That o'er wore earth about him, was a sufferer, 
A soft, meek, patient, humble, traiHiuil spirit, 
The first true ilentleiiiau that ever breathed, 

at the close of Part I of The Iliment Whore; and tho phrase, "J leaven's Croat aritlmn 
t ieian," at the close of Old Fortuimtus. 

'' Green, Short Hint. eh. vii, S 7 end. Ci>. liuskin, Hcaamc and Lilies, J.ect. iii, ? II.j, 
VOL. II (J 



18 THE EISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

of all could live in disregard of contemporary creeds. For, while 
there is no record of his having privately avowed unbelief, and 
certainly no explicit utterance of it in his plays, 1 in no genuine work 
of his is there any more than bare dramatic conformity to current 
habits of religious speech ; and there is often significantly less. In 
Measure for Measure the Duke, counselling as a friar the condemned 
Claudio, discusses the ultimate issues of life and death without a hint 
of Christian credence. 

So silent is the dramatist on the ecclesiastical issues of his day 
that Protestants and Catholics are enabled to go on indefinitely 
claiming him as theirs ; the latter dwelling on his generally kindly 
treatment of friars ; the former citing the fact that some Protestant 
preacher evidently a protege of his daughter Susannah was 
allowed lodging at his house. But the preacher was not very 
hospitably treated;" and other clues fail. There is good reason to 
think that Shakespeare was much influenced by Montaigne's Essays, 
read by him in Florio's translation, which was issued when he was 
recasting the old Hamlet ; and the whole treatment of life in the 
great tragedies and serious comedies produced by him from that 
time forward is even more definitely untheological than Montaigne's 
own doctrine. 3 Nor can he be supposed to have disregarded the 
current disputes as to fundamental beliefs, implicating as they did 
his fellow-dramatists Marlowe, Kyd, and Greene. The treatise of 
De Mornay, of which Sir Philip Sidney began and Arthur Golding 
finished the translation, 1 was in his time widely circulated in 
England ; and its very inadequate argumentation might we'll 
strengthen in him the anti-theological leaning. 

A serious misconception has been set up as to Shakespeare's 
cast of mind by the persistence of editors in including among 
his works without discrimination plays which are certainly not 
his, as the Henry VI group, to which he contributed little, and 
in particular the First Part, of which he wrote probably nothing. 
It is on the assumption that that play is Shakespeare's work 
that Lecky (Rationalism in Europe, ed. 1887, i, 105-10G) speaks 
of " that melancholy picture of Joan of Arc which is perhaps 
the darkest blot upon his genius." Now, whatever passages 
Shakespeare may have contributed to the Second and Third 
Parts, it is certain that he has barely a scene in the First, and 

1 The old work of W. J. Birch, M.A., An Inquiry into the Philosophy and Religion of 
Shakspere (1S4S), is an unjudicial ex parte statement of the case for Shakespeare's 
unbelief; but it is worth study. 
. - The town paid for ins bread and wine, no doubt by way of compliment. 

8 Cp. the author's Montaione and Shakespeare, '2nd ed. sec. viii. 

4 A Woorke concerning tlie trewnesse of the Christian Religion, 1587. Reprinted in 
1092, lOOi, and 1 (.'. 1 7 . 



ENGLAND 19 

that there is not a line from his hand in the La Pucelle scenes. 
Many students think that Dr. Fumivall has even gone too far in 

saying that "the only part to he put down to Shakespeare 

is the Temple Garden scene of the red and white roses " (Introd. 
to Leopold Shakespeare, p. xxxviii) ; so little is there to suggest 
even the juvenile Shakespeare there. (The high proportion of 
double-endings is a ground for reckoning it a late sample of 
Marlowe, who in his posthumously published translation of 
Lucan had approached that proportion. Cp. the author's vol. 
en Titus Andronicus, p. 190.) But that any critical and 
qualified reader can still hold him to have written the worst 
of the play is unintelligihle. The whole work would he a " hlot 
on his genius" in respect of its literary weakness. The doubt 
was raised long before Lecky wrote, and was made good a 
generation ago. When Lecky further proceeds, with reference 
to the witches in Macbeth, to say (id. note) that it is "probable 

that Shakespeare believed with an unfaltering faith in the 

reality of witchcraft," he strangely misreads that play. Nothing 
is clearer than that it grounds Macbeth's action from the first 
in Macbeth's own character and his wife's, employing the witch 
machinery (already used by Middleton) to meet the popular 
taste, but never once making the witches really causal forces. 
An "unfaltering" believer in witchcraft who wrote for the 
stage would surely have turned it to serious account in other 
tragedies. This Shakespeare never does. On Lecky's view, 
he is to be held as having believed in the fairy magic of the 
Midsummer Night's Dream and the Tempest, and in the actuality 
of such episodes as that of the ghost in Macbeth. But who for 
a moment supposes him to have had any such belief? It is 
probable that the entire undertaking of Macbeth (1G05 '?) and 
later of the Tempest (1G10 ?) was due to a wish on the part of 
the theatre management to please King James, whose belief 
in witchcraft and magic was notorious. Even the use of the 
Ghost in Hamlet is an old stage expedient, common to the 
pre-Shakespearean play and to others of Kyd's and Peele's. 
Shakespeare significantly altered the dying words of Hamlet 
from the " heaven receive my soul" of the old version to " the 
rest is silence." The bequest of his soul to the Deity in Ins 
will is merely the regulation testamentary formula of the time. 
In his sonnets, which hint his personal cast if anything does, 
there is no real trace of religious creed or feeling. And it is 
clearly the hand of Fletcher, a no less sensual writer than 
Peele, that penned the part of Henry VI !I in which occurs the 

Protestant tag: "In her [Elizabeth's] days God shall be 

truly known." 



1 As to the export analysis of this play, which shows it to be in largo part I'ktclu t'h, 
see Furnivall, as cited, pp. xciii xcvi. 



20 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

While, however, Shakespeare is notahly naturalistic as compared 
with the other Elizabethan dramatists, it remains true that their 
work in the mass tells little of a habitually religious way of thinking. 
Apart from the plays above named, and from polemic passages and 
devotional utterances outside their plays, they hint as little of 
Christian dogma as of Christian asceticism. Hence, in fact, the 
general and bitter hostility of the Puritans to the stage. Even at 
and after Shakespeare's death, the drama is substantially " graceless." 
Jonson, who was for a time a Catholic, but reverted to the Church 
of England, disliked the Puritans, and in Bartholomeiu Fair derides 
them. The age did not admit of a pietistic drama ; and when there 
was a powerful pietistic public, it made an end of drama altogether. 
To Elizabeth's reign probably belongs the Atheist's Tragedy of 
Cyril Tourneur, first published in 1611, but evidently written in 
its author's early youth a coarse and worthless performance, full 
of extremely bad imitations of Shakespeare. 1 But to the age of 
Elizabeth also belongs, perhaps, the sententious tragedy of Mustapha 
by Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, first surreptitiously published in 
1609. A century and a half later the deists were fond of quoting 2 
the concluding Chorus Sacerdotum, beginning : 

wearisome condition of humanity, 
Born under one law, to another bound ; 

Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity; 
Created sick, commanded to be sound : 

If nature did not take delight in blood, 

She would have made more easy ways to good. 

It is natural to suspect that the author of such lines was less 
orthodox than his own day had reputed him ; and yet the whole 
of his work shows him much pre-occupied with religion, though 
perhaps in a deistic spirit. But Brooke's introspective and 
undramatic poetry is an exception : the prevailing colour of the 
whole drama of the Shakespearean period is pre-Puritan and semi- 
pagan ; and the theological spirit of the next generation, intensified 
by King James, was recognized by cultured foreigners as a change 
for the worse. 3 The spirit of free learning for the time was gone, 
expelled by theological rancours ; and when Selden ventured in his 
History of Tytlics (1618) to apply the method of dispassionate 
historical criticism to ecclesiastical matters he was compelled to 
make a formal retractation. 4 Early Protestants had attacked, as a 

' Cp. Soccombe and Allen. The Age of Shakxpere, 1003, ii, 1 s 0. 

- Albci'ti, liriefe betreffende den Zvstand der Religion i)i Oross-Briiannien,Ha.no\'ev, 
1752, ii. tl'J. Alberti reads "God" at the end of the passage ; I follow Grosart's edition. 
'' Hallam, Lit. Europe, ii, 371, 376 ; Pattison, Isaac Casaubon, 2nd ed. p. 2S6 s<7. 
4 Pattison, as cited, p. 290 ; G. W. Johnson, Memoirs of John Selden, 1535, pp. 56-70. 



ENGLAND 21 

papal superstition, the doctrine that tithes were levied jure divino : 
Protestants had now come to regard as atheistic the hint that tithes 
were levied otherwise. 1 

Not that rationalism became extinct. The Italianate 
incredulity as to a future state, which Sir John Davies had 
sought to repel by his poem, Noscc Teipsum (1599), can hardly 
have been overthrown even by that remarkable production, which 
in the usual orthodox way pronounces all doubters to be " light 
and vicious persons," who, " though they would, cannot quite bo 
beasts."" And there wore other forms of doubt. In 1G02 appeared 
The Unmasking of the Politique Atheist, by J. II. [John Hull] , 
Batclielor of Divinitie, which, however, is in the main a mere 
attempt to retort upon Catholics the charge of atheism laid by 
them against Protestants. Soon after, in 1G05, we find Dr. John 
Dove producing a Confutation of Atheisme in the manner of previous 
continental treatises, making the word " atheism " cover many shades 
of theism ; and an essayist writing in 1G08 asserts that, on account 
of the self-seeking and corruption so common among churchmen, 
" prophane Atheisme hath taken footing in the hearts of ignorant 
and simple men." 3 The orthodox Ben Jonson, in his VoJponc (1607), 
puts in the mouth of a fool' the lines : 

And then, for your religion, profess none, 

But wonder at the diversity of all ; 

And, for your part, protest, were there no other 

But simply the laws o' th' land, you would content you. 

Nic Machiavel and Monsieur Bodin both 

Were of this mind. 

But tl 10 testimony is not the less significant ; as is the account in 

The ILujnctick Lady (1G32) of 

A young physician to the family 
That, letting God alone, ascribes to Nature 
More than her share ; licentious in discourse, 
And in his life a profest voluptuary. 5 

Such statements of course prove merely a frequent coolness 
towards religion, not a vogue of reasoned unbelief. But the 
existence of rationalizing heresy is attested by the burning of two 
men, Bartholomew Legate and Edward Wightman, for avowing 
Unitarian views, in JG12. These, the last executions for heresy in 
England, wero results of the theological zeal of King .James, 

1 Mrnwirs cited, pp. GO-ljl. On the whole question sou the lie view appended by Seidell 
to his History fter a few copies hud been distributed. 

* Poems of Sir John Danes, ed. Orosart, 187(i. i. H2. s:i. 

:i Kssnies Politick?, and Mnroll, by I). T. Cent, liin.s. f'ol. 0. ' Act iv, sc. 1. 

' Act i, sc. 1. Jonson himself could have been so indicted on the strength of certain 
verses. 



22 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

stimulated by the Calvinistic fanaticism of Archbishop Abbot, the 
predecessor of Laud. 

James's career as a persecutor began characteristically in a 
meddlesome attack upon a professor in Holland. A German 
theologian of Socinian leanings, named Conrad Vorstius, professor 
at Steinfurth, had produced in 160G a somewhat heretical treatise, 
De Deo, but had nevertheless been appointed in 1610 professor of 
theology at Leyden, in succession to Arminius. It was his accep- 
tance of Arminian views, joined with his repute as a scholar, that 
secured him the invitation, which was given without the knowledge 
that at a previous period he had been offered a similar appointment 
by the Socinians. In his Anti-Bcllarminus contractus, " a brief 
refutation of the four tomes of Bellarmin," he had taken the 
Arminian line, repudiating the Calvinist positions which, in the 
opinion of Arminius, could not be defended against the Catholic 
attack. But he was too speculative and ratiocinative to be safe in 
an age in which the fear of spreading Socinianism and the hate of 
Calvinists towards Arminianism had set up a reign of terror. 
Vorstius was both "unsettling" and heterodox. His opinions 
were " such as in our own day would certainly disqualify him 
from holding such an office in any Christian University"; 2 and 
James, worked upon by Abbot, went so far as to make the 
appointment of Vorstius a diplomatic question. The stadhouder 
Maurice and the bulk of the Dutch clergy being of his view, the 
more tolerant statesmen of Holland, and the mercantile aristocracy, 
yielded from motives of prudence, and Vorstius was dismissed in 
order to save the English alliance. Remaining thenceforth without 
employment, lie was further denounced in 1619 by the Synod of 
Dort, and banished by the States General. Thereafter he lived for 
two years in hiding ; and soon after obtaining a refuge in Holstein, 
died, worn out by his troubles. In England, meantime, James drew 
up with his own hands a catalogue of the heresies found by him in 
Vorstius's treatise, and caused the book to be burned in London and 
at the two Universities. 3 

1 Ho had been offered professorships of divinity at Saumur and Marburg. 

2 Gardiner, History of England, 1G03-1G42, 4th ed. ii, lis. Cp. Bayle, art. Vobstius, 
Note X. By his theological opponents and by .Tames. Vorstius was of course called an 
atheist. He was in reality not a Socinian, but a " strict Arian, who believed that the Son 
of God was at first created by the Father, and then delegated to create the universe a 
sort of inferior deity, who was nevertheless entitled to religious homage" (.lames Nichols, 
note to A|i]i. 1\ on Brandt's Life of Arminius in Works of Arminius. 1825, i, 218). Nichols 
gives a full survey of the subject, pp. 202-237. Fuller (Cli. Hist. 15. x, cent. 17, sec. iv, 
> i-5) tells the story, and pronounces the opinions of Vorstius " fitter to be remanded to 
hell than committed to writing." 

:; Bayle (art. cited. Note F) says hnth Universities, as does Fuller. At the Synod of 
Dort, however, the British representatives read only.it seems, a decree (dated Sept. 21, 
1611) of the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, ordering the burning of the book there. 
(Nichols, Account of the Synod of Dort, in Works of Arminius, i, 497). 



ENGLAND 23 

On the heels of this amazing episode came the cases of Wightman 
and Legate. Finding, in a personal conversation, that Legate had 
" ceased to pray to Christ," the King had him brought before the 
Bishop of London's Consistory Court, which sentenced the heretic 
to Newgate. Being shortly released, he had the imprudence to 
threaten an action for false imprisonment, whereupon he was 
re-arrested. Chief Justice Coke held that, technically, the Con- 
sistory Court could not sentence to burning ; but Hobart and Bacon, 
the law officers of the Crown, and other judges, were of opinion that 
it could. Legate, accordingly, was duly tried, sentenced, and burned 
at Smithfield ; and Wightman a few days later was similarly disposed 
of at Lichfield. 1 

Bacon's share in this matter is obscure, and has not been 
discussed by either his assailants or his vindicators. As for the 
general public, the historian records that "not a word was uttered 
against this horrible cruelty. As we read over the brief contemporary 
notices which have reached us, we look in vain for the slightest 
intimation that the death of these two men was regarded with any 
other feelings than those with which the writers were accustomed to 
hear of the execution of an ordinary murderer. If any remark was 
made, it was in praise of James for the devotion which he showed to 
the cause of God." ' That might have been reckoned on. It was 
not twenty years since Hamond, Lewis, Cole, and Kett had been 
burned on similar grounds ; and there had been no outcry then. 
For generations " direness " had been too familiar to men's thoughts 
to admit of their being shocked by a judicial murder or two the 
more. Catholic priests had been executed by the score : why not 
a pair of Unitarians'?' 5 Little had gone on in the average intel- 
lectual life in the interim save religious discussion and Bibliolatry, 
and not from such culture could there come any growth of human 
kindness or any clearer conception of the law of reciprocity. But, 
whether by force of recoil from a revival of the fires of Smithfield 
or from a perception that mere cruelty did not avail to destroy 
heresy, the theological ultima ratio was never again resorted to on 
English ground. 

Though no public protest was made, the retrospective Fuller 

i Gardiner, pp. 120-:i0. Fuller (as last cited, S.Sfi 1-1) gives a list of Legate's "damnable 
tenets." Sec it in Mrs. Bradlaugh Honner's Pr.naltirx \t)>nn O/rinioii, l>i>. 1.' II. 

'-' Gardiner, as cited. Fuller is cheerfully acquiescent, '.though he notes the private 
demurs, which he denounces. "God," lie says, "may seem well pleased with this season- 
able sevi rity." 

'' In 1.7S) Stow records how one Handall was put on trial for "conjuring to know where 
treasure was bid in the earth and goods feloniously taken were become " ; and four others 
were tried "for being present." four were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, 
Handall was executed, and the others reprieved. Hid. 101D, p. (jfab.) 



24 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

testifies that "such burning of heretics much startled common 
people, pitying all in pain, and prone to asperse justice itself with 
cruelty, because of the novelty (!) and hideousness of the punish- 
ment." 1 It is noteworthy that within a few years of the burning of 
Legate and Wightman there appeared quite a cluster of treatises 
explicitly contending for toleration. In 1G11 came Religions 
Peace : or, a Plea for Liberty of Conscience, by Leonard Busher, 
the first English book of the kind. In 1615 came Persecution for 
Religion Judged and Condemned ; and in 1G20 An Humble Supplica- 
tion to the King's Majesty, pressing the same doctrine. 2 There is 
no record of any outcry over these works, though they are tolerably 
freespokon in their indictment of the coercive school ; and they had 
all to be reprinted a generation later, their point having never been 
carried ; but it may be surmised that their appeal, which is sub- 
stantially well reasoned from a secular as well as from a theological 
point of view, had something to do with the abandonment of perse- 
cution unto death. Even King James, in opening the Parliament 
of 161-4, professed to recognize that no religion or heresy was ever 
extirpated by violence. 

That an age of cruel repression of heresy had promoted unbelief 
is clear from the Atheomastix of Bishop Fotherby (1G22), which 
notes among other things that as a result of constant disputing " the 
Scriptures (with many) have lost their authority, and are thought 
onely fit for the ignorant and idiote." 3 On this head the bishop 
attempts no answer ; and on his chosen themo he is perhaps the 
worst of all apologists. His admission that there can be no a priori 
proof of deity 4 may be counted to him for candour ; but the childish- 
ness of his reasoning a posteriori excludes the ascription of philo- 
sophic insight. He does but use the old pseudo-arguments of 
universal consent and design, with the simple device of translating 
polytheistic terms into monotheistic. All the while he makes the 
usual suggestions that there are few or no atheists to convert, and 
these not worth converting this at a folio's length. The book tells 
only of difficulties evaded by vociferation. And while the growing 
stress of the strife between the ecclesiasticism of the Crown and the 
forces of nonconformity more and more thrust to the front religio- 
political issues, there began alongside of those strifes the new and 

1 Fuller actually alleges that "there was none ever after that openly avowed these 
heretical doctrines" an unintelligible figment. 

- All reprinted in 1816 for the Hanserd Knollys Society, with histor. introd. by E. B. 
Underbill, in the vol. Tracts on Liberty of Conscience and Persecution, 1614-1001. They 
do not speak of Legate or Wightman. 

; Atheomastix, 1622, pref. big. J3. 3, verso. The work was posthumous and incomplete. 

i Uk. i, eh. i, p. 5. 



ENGLAND 25 

powerful propaganda of deism, which, beginning with the Latin 
treatise, De Veritatc, of Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1624), was 
gradually to leaven English thought for over a century. 

Further, there now came into play the manifold influence of 
FRANCIS BACON, whose case illustrates perhaps more fully than 
any other the difficulties, alike external and internal, in the way of 
right thinking. Taken as a whole, his work is on account of those 
difficulties divided against itself, insisting as he does alternately on 
a strict critical method and on the subjection of reason to the 
authority of revelation, lie sounds a trumpet-call to a new and 
universal effort of free and circumspect intelligence ; and on the 
instant he stipulates for the prerogative of Scripture. Though only 
one of many who assailed alike the methodic tyranny of Aristo- 
telianism and the methodless empiricism of the ordinary ' scientific " 
thought of the past, he made his attack with a sustained and mani- 
fold force of insight and utterance which still entitles him to pro- 
eminence as the great critic of wrong methods and the herald of 
better. Yet he not only transgresses often his own principal 
precepts in his scientific reasoning ; he falls below several of his 
contemporaries and predecessors in respect of his formal insistence 
on the final supremacy of theology over reason, alike in physics and 
in ethics. Where Hooker is ostensibly seeking to widen the field 
of rational judgment on the side of creed, Bacon, the very champion 
of mental emancipation in the abstract, declares the boundary 
to be fixed. 

Of those lapses from critical good faith, part of the explanation 
is to be found in the innate difficulty of vital innovation for all 
intelligences ; part in the special pressures of the religious environ- 
ment. On the latter head Bacon makes such frequent and emphatic 
protest that we are bound to infer on his part a personal experience 
in his own day of the religious hostility which long followed his 
memory. ' Generally," he wrote of himself in one fragment, " he 
perceived in men of devout simplicity this opinion, that the secrets 
of nature were the secrets of God, and part of that glory whereinto 

the mind of man if it seek to press shall be oppressed ; and on 

the other side, in men of a devout policy he noted an inclination to 
have the people depend upon God the more when they are less 
acquainted with second causes, and to have no stirring in philosophy, 
lest it may lead to innovation in divinity or else should discover 



1 In Ui<! A'h-nvrrmmt (if Lfiruinri, hk. i (KnuUe.lUe eel. |>. 51), h<! himself notes how, 
lontf before his time, the uew learning had in pari <li .credited the schoolmen. 



26 THE EISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

matter of further contradiction to divinity " * a summary of the 
"whole early history of the resistance to science. 2 In the works 
which he wrote at the height of his powers, especially in his 
masterpiece, the Novum Organum (1620), where he comes closest 
to the problems of exact inquiry, he specifies again and again both 
popular superstition and orthodox theology as hindrances to scientific 
research, commenting on " those who out of faith and veneration 
mix their philosophy with theology and traditions," 3 and declaring 
that of the drawbacks science had to contend with " the corruption 
of philosophy by superstition and an admixture of theology is far 
the more widely spread, and does the greatest harm, whether to 
entire systems or to their parts. For the human understanding is 
obnoxious to the influence of the imagination no less than to the 
influence of common notions." In the same passage he exclaims 
at the " extreme levity " of those of the moderns who have attempted 
to " found a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of 
Genesis, on the book of Job, and other parts of the sacred writings "; 
and yet again, coupling as obstinate adversaries of Natural Philo- 
sophy superstition, and the blind and immoderate zeal of religion," 
he roundly affirms that "by the simpleness of certain divines access 
to any philosophy, however pure, is well nigh closed." 6 These 
charges are repeatedly salved by such claims as that " true religion" 
puts no obstacles in the way of science ; 7 that the book of Job runs 
much to natural philosophy ; 6 and, in particular, in the last book of 
the Do Augmcntis Scicntiarum, redacted after his disgrace, by the 
declaration more emphatic than those of the earlier Advancement 
of Learning that " Sacred Theology ought to be derived from the 
word and oracles of God, and not from the light of nature or the 
dictates of reason." In this mood he goes so far as to declare, 
with the thorough-going obscurantists, that " the more discordant 
and incredible the divine mystery is, the more honour is shown to 
God in believing it, and the nobler is the victory of faith." 

[It was probably such deliverances as these that led to the 
ascription to Bacon of Tlw Christian Paradoxes, first published 

' Filum Labyrinthi &n English version of the Cogitata et Visa ? 7. 

2 Cp. Huarte, cited above, p. 171. 

3 Nov. Org. bk. i, Apb. 62 I Works, Routledge ed. p. 271). i Id. Aph. 65. 

> Id. ib. Cp. the Advancement of Learning, bk. ii, and the De Augmentis, bk. ix, near 
end. (Ed. cited, pp. 173, (134.) 

6 Nov. Org. Aph. 89. Cp. Aph. 46, 40. 06 ; the Valerius Terminus, ch. xxv ; the English 
Filum Labyrinthi, I 7; and the De Principiis atgue Originibus (ed. cited, p. 650). 

" Valerius Terminus, cap. i. (Ed. cited, p. 188.) 

H Til. p. 187; Filum Labyrinthi, p. 209. 

'' Ilk. ix, cl). i. (Ed. cited, p. 631.) Compare Valerius Terminus, ch. i (p. 1S6), and De 
Aug. bk. iii. ch. ii (p. 456.), as to the impossibility of knowing the will and character of 
God from Nature, though {De Aug. last cit.) it reveals his power and glory. 



ENGLAND 27 

(surreptitiously), without author's name, in 1645. As has been 
shown by Dr. Grosart (Lord Bacon not the Author of " The 
Christian Paradoxes," I860) that treatise was really by Herbert 
Palmer, B.D., who published it in full in part ii of his 
Memorials of Godliness and Christianity, 5th ed. 1655. The 
argument drawn from this treatise as to Bacon's skepticism is 
a twofold mystification. The Paradoxes are the deliberate 
declaration of a pietist that he believes the dogmas of revelation 
without rational comprehension. The style is plainly not 
Bacon's ; but Bacon had said the same thing in the sentence 
quoted above. Dr. Grosart's explosive defence against the 
criticism of Bitter (work cited, p. 11) is an illustration of the 
intellectual temper involved.] 

Yet even in the calculated extravagance of this last pronounce- 
ment there is a ground for question whether the fallen Chancellor, 
hoping to retrieve himself, and trying every device of his ripe 
sagacity to avert opposition, was not straining his formal orthodoxy 
beyond his real intellectual habit. As against such wholesale 
affirmation we have his declarations that " certain it is that God 
worketh nothing in nature but by second causes," and that any 
pretence to the contrary " is mere imposture as it were in favour 
towards God, and nothing else but to offer to the author of truth the 
unclean sacrifice of a lie"; 1 his repeated objection to the discussion 
of Final Causes ;' 2 his attack on Plato and Aristotle for rejecting the 
atheistic scientific method of Democritus ; 3 his peremptory assertion 
that motion is a property of matter; 1 and his almost Democritean 
handling of the final problem, in which he insists that primal matter 
is, " next to God, the cause of causes, itself only without a cause." 5 
Further, though he speaks of Scriptural miracles in a conventional 
way, 6 he drily pronounces in one passage that, " as for narrations 
touching the prodigies and miracles of religions, they are either not 
true or not natural, and therefore impertinent for the story of 
nature." 7 Finally, as against the formal capitulation to theology at 
the close of the De Augmentis, he has left standing in the first book 
of the Latin version the ringing doctrine of the original Advancement 
of Learning (1605), that "there is no power on earth which setteth 

1 Advancement, bk. i 'ed. cited, p. 45). Op. Valerius Terminus, ch. i (p. 1R7). 

- A<l vinrement. bk. ii: J)e Auamenlis, bk. iii, clis. iv and v ; Valerius Terminus, 
ch.xxv; Novum Orannum, bk. i, Apli. 48 ; bk. ii, A ph. -Z. (Ed. cited, pp. <X>, -205, ->m, 302, 
471. I7:i.) 

' I)r Princi]dis atque Orioinihus, (Ed. cited, pp. fi 10-50.) Elsewhere (T)e Ann. bk. iii, 
ch. iv. p. 171) he expressly puts it that the system of Demoeritus, which "removed God 
and mind from Die structure of things," was more favourable to true science than the 
teleology and theology of Plato and Aristotle. 

1 l'l. pp. (551, 1157. ' hi. p. (MS. 

r < De Aur/mcntis, bk. iii, ch. ii ; bk. iv, ch. ii. (Ed. cited, pp. 15C, 182.) 

' bl. bk. ii, ch. i. (Ed. cited, p. 4-2S. ) 



28 THE EISE OF MODEEN FEEETHOUGHT 

up a throne or chair in the spirits and souls of men, and in their 
cogitations, imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and 
learning"; 1 and in his Wisdom of the Ancients 2 he has contrived to 
turn a crude myth into a subtle allegory in behalf of toleration. 

Thus, despite his many resorts to and prostrations before the 
Scriptures, the general effect of his writings in this regard is to set 
up in the minds of his readers the old semi-rationalistic equivoque of 
a "two-fold truth"; reminding us as they do that he "did in the 
beginning separate the divine testimony from the human." When, 
therefore, he announces that " we know by faith " that matter was 
created from nothing," 3 he has the air of juggling with his problem ; 
and his further suggestion as to the possibility of matter being 
endowed with a force of evolution, however cautiously put, is far 
removed from orthodoxy. Accordingly, the charge of atheism 
which he notes as commonly brought against all who dwell solely 
on second causes i was actually cast at his memory in the next 
generation.' 1 It was of course false : on the issue of theism he is 
continually descanting with quite conventional unction ; as in the 
familiar essay on atheism. His dismissal of final causes as 
" barren " meant merely that the notion was barren of scientific 
result; 7 and he refers the question to metaphysic. 8 But if his 
theism was of a kind disturbing to believers in a controlling 
Providence, as little was it satisfactory to Christian fervour : and it 
can hardly be doubted that the main stream of his argument made 
for a non-Biblical deism, if not for atheism ; his dogmatic orthodoxies 
being undermined by his own scientific teaching. 

Lechler {Gcsch. des onglisclien Dcismus, pp. 23-25) notes that 
Bacon involuntarily made for deism. Cp. Amand Saintes, Hist, 
dc la plains, de Kant, 1844, p. 69 ; and Kuno Fischer, Francis 
Bacon, Eng. tr. 1857, ch. xi, pp. .3-41-43. Dean Church {Bacon, 
in " Men of Letters " series, pp. 174, 205) insists that I3acon 
held by revelation and immortality ; and can of course cite his 
profession of such belief, which is not to be disputed. (Cp. the 
careful judgment of "Prof. Fowler in his Bacon, pp. 180-91, and 
his ed. of the Novum Organum, 1878, pp. 43-53.) But the 
tendency of the specific .Baconian teaching is none the less to 
put these beliefs aside, and to overlay them with a naturalistic 
habit of mind. At the first remove from Bacon we have Hobbes. 

1 ]> Auamentis, ed. cited, p. 73. 

- No. xviii, Vinmertes. Ed. cited, p. 811. s De Principiis atque Originibus, p. 661. 

< S<>v. Org. i. 8'J; Filum Laln/riuthi. > 7; Essay 16. 
' I'raneis Osborn, pref. to ids "Miscellany,'' in Works, 7th cd. 1673. 
,; Cp. I'alcrius Terminus, ch. i. 

' 'J'ni-i is noted by (Hansford in his tr. of the Novum Organum (1SI1, p. -26); and by 
Ellis in bis and Speddiim's edition of the Works, (liontledgc ed. pp. 32, 173, note.) 
b Dc Aug mentis, bk. iii, eh. iv, end. 



ENGLAND 29 

As regards his intellectual inconsistencies, we can but say that 
they are such as meet us in men's thinking at every new turn. 
Though we can see that Bacon's orthodoxy " doth protest too much," 
with an eye on king and commons and public opinion, we are not 
led to suppose that he had ever in his heart cast off his inherited 
creed. lie shows frequent Christian prejudice in his references to 
pagans ; and can write that " To seek to extinguish anger utterly is 
but the bravery of the Stoics," ' pretending that the Christian books 
are more accommodating, and ignoring the Sermon on the Mount. 
In arguing that the "religion of the heathen" set men upon ending 

all inquisition of nature in metaphysical or theological discourse," 
and in charging the Turks with a special tendency to "ascribe 
ordinary effects to the immediate workings of God," 2 he is playing 
not very scrupulously on the vanity of Ins co-religionists. As ho 
was only too well aware, both tendencies ruled the Christian thought 
of his own day, and derive direct from the sacred books not from 

abuse," as he pretends. And on the metaphysical as on the 
common-sense side of his thought he is self-contradictory, oven as 
most men have been before and since, because judgment cannot 
easily fulfil the precepts it frames for itself in illuminated hours. 
Latter-day students have been impressed, as was Leibnitz, by the 
original insight with which Bacon negated the possibility of our 
forming any concrete conception of a primary form of matter, and 
insisted on its necessary transcendence of our powers of knowledge. 3 
On the same principle he should have negated every modal concep- 
tion of the still more recondite Something which he put as antecedent 
to matter, and called God. 1 Yet in his normal thinking lie seems to 
have been content with the commonplace formula given in his essay 
on Atheism that we cannot suppose the totality of tilings to bo 

without a mind." lie has here endorsed in its essentials what he 
elsewhere calls "the heresy of the Anthropomorphites," 5 failing to 
apply his own law in his philosophy, as elsewhere in his physics. 
When, however, we realize that similar inconsistency is fallen into 
after him by Spinoza, and wholly escaped perhaps by no thinker, 
we are in a way to understand that with all his deflections from 
his own higher law Bacon may have profoundly and fruitfully 
influenced the thought of the next generation, if not that of 
his own. 

The fact of this influence lias been somewhat obscured by the 

1 I. Kay 57, f)f Aii'/fr. '' \'(ibrius Tcrmiiiux, eh. xxv. 

'' l)e I'mir,,,,, .,-, ci. cited, pp. C!-: 10. ('.]>. pp. C.li2 I:!. 4 /</. |>. lilH. 

Valeria* Terminus, cli. ii ; J)c A mjinenlix, Ijk. v, cli . iv. Kd. cited, i>i>. 1'J'J, 517, 



30 THE EISE OF MODEEN FREETHOUGHT 

modern dispute as to whether he had any important influence on 
scientific progress. 1 At first sight the old claim for him in that 
regard seems to he heavily discounted by the simple fact that he 
definitely rejected the Copernican system of astronomy. 2 Though, 
however, this gravely emphasizes his fallibility, it does not cancel 
his services as a stimulator of scientific thought. At that time only 
a few were yet intelligently convinced Copernicans ; and we have 
the record of how, in Bacon's day, Harvey lost heavily in credit 
and in his medical practice by propounding his discovery of the 
circulation of the blood, a which, it is said, no physician over forty 
years old at that time believed in. For the scientific men of that 
century and only among them did Copernicanism find the slightest 
acceptance it was thus no fatal shortcoming in Bacon to have 
failed to grasp the true scheme of sidereal motion, any more than it 
was in Galileo to be wrong about the tides and comets. They could 
realize that it was precisely in astronomy, for lack of special study 
and expert knowledge, that Bacon was least qualified to judge. 
Intellectual influence on science is not necessarily dependent on 
actual scientific achievement, though that of course furthers and 
establishes it ; and the fact of Bacon's impact on the mind of the 
next age is abundantly proved by testimonies. 

For a time the explicit tributes came chiefly from abroad ; 
though at all times, even in the first shock of his disgrace, there 
were Englishmen perfectly convinced of his greatness. To the 
winning of foreign favour he had specially addressed himself in his 
adversity. Grown wary in act as well as wise in theory, he deleted 
from the Latin De Augment is a whole series of passages of the 
Advancement of Learning which disparaged Catholics and Catho- 
licism ;' and he had his reward in being appreciated by many Jesuit 
and other Catholic scholars. 5 But Protestants such as Comenius 
and Leibnitz were ere long more emphatic than any Catholics ; G and 
at the time of the Restoration we find Bacon enthusiastically praised 
among the more open-minded and scientifically biassed thinkers of 

1 Cp. Brewster, Life of Newton, 1S55. ii, 100-101 ; Draper, Intel. Bevel, of Europe, ed. 1875, 
ii, 258 60; Dean Church, Bacon, pp. 180-201; Fowler, Bacon, ch. vi ; Lodge, Pioneers of 
Science, pp. 115-51; Lange, Uesch. d. Materialismus, i, 197 sq. (Eng. tr. i, 236-37), and 
cit. from Liebig as to whom, however, see Fowler, pp. 13:{, 157. 

2 Novum Organum, ii, 46 and 48, ? 17; De Aug. iii. 4: Thema Coeli. F.d. cited, pp. 364, 
375, 101, 705, 709. Whewell [Hist, of Induct. Sciences, 3rd ed. i, 296, 29b) ignores the second 
and third of these passages in denying Hume's assertion that Bacon rejected the Coper- 
nican theory with "disdain." It is true, however, that Bacon had vacillated. The facts 
are fairly faced by Prof. Fowler in his Bacon, 1881, pp. 151-52, and his ed. of Novum 
Organum, Introd. pp. 30-36. See also the summing-up of Ellis in notes to passages above 
cited, and at p. (175, 

'' Aubrey, Lives of Eminent Persons, ed. 1813, vol. ii, lit. ii, p. 383. 
1 Sec notes in ed. cited, pp. 50, 53, 61, 63, 68, 75, 76, 84, 110. 
5 Fowler, ed. of Nov. Org. i 14, pp. 101-101. 
c Id. } 11, J). 108 ; Ellis in ed. cited, p. 643. 



ENGLAND 31 

England, who included some zealous Christians. 1 It was not that 
his special "method" enabled them to roach important results with 
any new facility ; its impracticability is now insisted on by friends 
as well as foes. 2 It was that lie arraigned with extraordinary 
psychological insight and brilliance of phrase the mental vices 
which had made discoveries so rare ; the alternate self-complacency 
and despair of the average indolent mind; the " opinion of store" 
which was " cause of want "; the timid or superstitious evasion of 
research. In all this he was using his own highest powers, his 
comprehension of human character and his genius for speech. And 
though his own scientific results were not to be compared with those 
of Galileo and Descartes, the wonderful range of his observation 
and his curiosity, the unwearying zest of his scrutiny of well-nigh 
all the known fields of Nature, must have been an inspiration to 
multitudes of students besides those who have recorded their debt 
to him. It is probable that but for his literary genius, which 
though little discussed is of a very rare order, his influence would 
have been both narrower and less durable ; but, being one of the 
great writers of the modern world, he has swayed men down till 
our own day. 

Certain it is that alongside of his doctrine there persisted in 
England, apart from all printed utterance, a movement of deistic 
rationalism, of which the eighteenth century saw only the fuller 
development. Sir John Suckling (1G09-16I1), rewriting about 
1637 his letter to the Earl of Dorset, An Account of Religion by 
Reason, tells how in a first sketch it " had like to have made me an 
Atheist at Court," and how "the fear of Socinianism at this time 
renders every man that offers to give an account of religion by 
reason, suspected to have none at all "; 3 but he also mentions that 
he knows it " still to be the opinion of good wits that the particular 
religion of Christians lias added little to the general religion of the 
world." 1 Himself a young man of talent, he offers quasi-rational 
reconciliations of faith witli reason which can have satisfied no real 
doubter, and can hardly have failed to introduce doubt into the 
minds of some of his readers. 

1 Rawley's Life, in ed. cited, p. 0; Osborn, as above cited; Fowler, ed. of Nor. Oro. 
Introd. Hi; T. Martin, Character of Bacon, Hi."), pp. 2115, '-7. 222 2:{. 

1 Cp. Fowler, Bacon, pp. i:i'.MI ; Mill. Logic, bk. vi, cli. v, ? 5 ; Jevons. 1'riue. of Science, 
1-vol. . 1. ii ..,:; ; Tyndall. Scieiitijic. Use of the. Imagination, :ird ed. pp. I. S-'J, 12 l.i ; T. 
Martin, as cited, pp. 210-US ; Batfehot, Postulates of lung. I'olit. Emu. ed. lsK r >, pp. is 11); 
Kllis and Spcddintf, in ed. cited, pp. x , xii, 22, .>'.). The notion of a dialectic method 
which should mechanically enable any man to make discoveries is an irredeemable 
fallacy, and must be abandoned. Bacon's own remarkable anticipation of modern 
scientific thought in the formula that heat is a mode of motion [Sue. Org. ii, 20) is not 
mechanically yielded by his own process, noteworthy and smWestive though that is. 

- i'ref. Fpistlo. ' Works, ed. Dublin, 17M, p. 1.7J ; ed. l'JIO, p. oil. 



32 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

S 5. Popular Thought in Europe 

Of popular freothought in the rest of Europe there is little to 
chronicle for a hundred and fifty years after the Reformation. The 
epoch-making work of COPERNICUS, published in 1543, had little or 
no immediate effect in Germany, where, as we have seen, physical and 
verbal strifes had begun with the ecclesiastical revolution, and were 
to continue to waste the nation's energy for a century. In 1546, 
all attempts at ecclesiastical reconciliation having failed, the emperor 
Charles V, in whom Melanchthon had seen a model monarch, decided 
to put down the Protestant heresy by war. Luther had just died, 
apprehensive for his cause. Civil war now raged till the peace of 
Augsburg in 1555 ; whereafter Charles abdicated in favour of his 
son Philip. Here were in part the conditions which in France and 
elsewhere were later followed by a growth of rational unbelief ; and 
there are some traces even at this time of partial skepticism in high 
places in the German world, notably in the case of the Emperor 
Maximilian II, who, " grown up in the spirit of doubt," " would 
never identify himself with either Protestants or Catholics.' 1 But 
in Germany there was still too little intellectual light, too little 
brooding over experience, to permit of the spread of such a temper ; 
and the balance of forces amounted only to a deadlock between the 
ecclesiastical parties. Protestantism on the intellectual side, as 
already noted, had sunk into a bitter and barren polemic among 
the reformers themselves ; and many who had joined the movement 
reverted to Catholicism.' Meanwhile the teaching and preaching 
Jesuits were zealously at work, turning the dissensions of the enemy 
to account, and contrasting its schism upon schism with the unity 
of the Church. But Protestantism was well welded to the financial 
interest of the many princes and others who had acquired the 
Church lands confiscated at the Reformation ; since a return to 
Catholicism would mean the surrender of these. Thus there 
wrought on the one side the organized spirit of anti-heresy' and on 
the other the organized spirit of Bibliolatry, neither gaining ground ; 
and between the two, intellectual life was paralysed. Protestantism 
saw no way of advance ; and the prevailing temper began to be that 



POPULAE THOUGHT IN EUEOPE 33 

of the Dark Ages, expectant of the end of the world. 1 Superstition 
abounded, especially the belief in witchcraft, now acted on with 
frightful cruelty throughout the whole Christian world ; 2 and in the 
nature of the case Catholicism counted for nothing on the opposite 
side. 

The only element of rationalism that one historian of culture can 
detect is the tendency of the German moralists of the time to turn 
the devil into an abstraction by identifying him with the different 
aspects of human folly and vice/ There was, as a matter of fact, 
a somewhat higher manifestation of the spirit of reason in the shape 
of some new protests against the superstition of sorcery. About 
1560 a Catholic priest named Cornelius Loos Callidius was 
imprisoned by a papal nuncio for declaring that witches' con- 
fessions were merely the results of torture. Forced to retract, lie 
was released ; but again offended, and was again imprisoned, dying 
in time to escape the fate of a councillor of Troves, named Flade, 
who was burned alive for arguing, on the basis of an old canon 
(mistakenly named from the Council of Ancyra), that sorcery is an 
imaginary crime. 1 Such, an infamy explains a great deal of the 
stagnation of many Christian generations. But courage was not 
extinct ; and in 15G3 there appeared the famous John Wior's 
treatise on witchcraft, a work which, though fully adhering to the 
belief in the devil and tilings demoniac, argued against the notion 
that witches were conscious workers of evil. Wier b was a physician, 
and saw the problem partly as one in pathology. Other laymen, 
and even priests, as we have seen, had reacted still more strongly 
against the prevailing insanity ; but it had the authority of Luther 
on its side, and with the common people the earlier protests counted 
for little. 

Reactions against Protestant bigotry in Holland on other lines 
were not much more successful, and indeed were not numerous. 
One of the most interesting is that of DlRK COORNHEET (1522- 
1590), who by liis manifold literary activities' became one of t ho 
founders of Dutch prose, hi 1 i is youth Coornhert had visited Spain 

1 I'reytn :. Bit Jer nun '1 . tUutxchcn Verganaenheit, Bd. ii, iaS3, p. 3S1 ; P.d. iii, <il init. 

2 ('|i. L<-rkv. linliminlium in Europe, i, 53 83. 
:; l-rcytai,', Bil'l, r. Hd. ii, Abth. ii. p. 378. 

4 11, Pope awl the Council, Untf. tr. p. -200 ; French tr. 1). 2S5. 

he 1'raestiaiis Uaeinonu m, 15(13. See it described by Licckv, nationalism, i, S5 ^7 ; 
Hallam, hit. of Europe, ii, 7(i. 

' I5> Ditto)] historians Wier is claimed as a Dutchman. He was born at Cirave. in 
North Brabant, but studied medicine at Paris and Orleans, and after practising physic; at 
Arnheim in the Netherlands was called to Diisseldorf as phy-ioian lo the DuUo of .Iii licit, 
to whom ho dedicated his treatise. His ideas are probably traceable to his studies in 
France. 

7 Hi- collected works tUV.i-1) amount to nearly 7, (XX) folio pa^es. ,). Ten Brink, Kleiue 
Geschtnlrnit, ilrr Salerlnndxche. Leltercn, lbH-J, p.'Jl. 

VOL. II I) 



31 THE EISE OF MODEEN FEEETHOUGHT 

and Portugal, and had there, it is said, seen an execution of victims 
of the Inquisition, 1 deriving thence the aversion to intolerance which 
stamped his whole life's work. It does not appear, however, that 
any such peninsular experience was required, seeing that the Dutch 
Inquisition became abundantly active about the same period. 
Learning Latin at thirty, in order to read Augustine, he became 
a translator of Cicero and singularly enough of Boccaccio. An 
engraver to trade, he became first notary and later secretary to the 
burgomaster of Haarlem ; and, failing to steer clear of the strifes of 
the time, was arrested and imprisoned at the Hague in 1567. On 
his release lie sought safety at Kleef in Santen, whence he returned 
after the capture of Brill to become secretary of the new national 
Government at Haarlem ; but he had again to take to flight, and 
lived at Kleef from 1572 to 1577. In 1578 he debated at Leyden 
with two preachers of Delft on predestination, which he declared to 
be unscriptural ; and was officially ordered to keep silence. There- 
upon he published a protest, and got into fresh trouble by drawing 
up, as notary, an appeal to the Prince of Orange on behalf of his 
Catholic fellow-countrymen for freedom of worship, and by holding 
another debate at the Hague. 2 Always his master-ideal was that of 
toleration, in support of which he wrote strongly against Beza and 
Calvin (this in a Latin treatise published only after his death), 
declaring the persecution of heretics to be a crime in the kingdom 
of God ; and it was as a moralist that he gave the lead to Arminius 
on the question of predestination. 3 "Against Protestant and Catholic 
sacerdotalism and scholastic lie set forth humanist world-wisdom and 
Biblical ethic," 1 to that end publishing a translation of Boethius 
(1585), and composing his chief work on Zedekunst (Ethics). 
Christianity, he insisted, lay not in profession or creed, but in 
practice. By way of restraining the ever-increasing malignity of 
theological strifes, he made the quaint proposal that the clergy 
should not be allowed to utter anything but the actual words of 
the Scriptures, and that all works of theology should be seques- 
trated. For these and other heteroclite suggestions he was expelled 
from Delft (where he sought finally to settle, 1587) by the magis- 
trates, at the instance of the preachers, but was allowed to die in 
peace at Gouda, where he wrote to the last. 

All the while, though he drew for doctrine on Plutarch, Cicero, 

! Ten Brink, p. 85. .Tonckbloet (Beknopte Gescliiedenis der Xederl. Lettcrkunde, ed. 
1SS0, p. 11M is less specific. 

- Ten Brink, pp. 89-90. 3 Hallam, Lit. of Europe, ii, S3. 4 Ten Brink, p. 87. 

"' .Tonckbloet, Beknoidr, Geschiedrnis, p. 149; Ten Brink, p. 91 ; Bayle, Dictionnaire, art. 
KooKMii.irr ; 1'iinjer, Hint, of the Chr. Philos. of Religion, Eng. tr, p. 269; Dr. E. Gosse, 
art. on Dutch Literature in Encyc. Brit. 9th ed. xii, 03. 



POPULAR THOUGHT IN EUROPE 35 

Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius equally with the Bihle, Coornhcrt 
habitually founded on the latter as the final authority. 1 On no 
other footing could any one in his age and country stand as a 
teacher. It was not till after generations of furious intolerance that 
a larger outlook was possible in the Netherlands ; and the first steps 
towards it were naturally taken independently of theology. Although 
Grotius figured for a century as one of the chief exponents of Christian 
evidences, it is certain that his great work on the Law of War and 
Peace (1625) made for a rationalistic conception of society. " Modern 
historians of jurisprudence, like Lerrainier and Bluntschli, represent 
it as the distinctive merit of Grotius that he freed the science from 
bondage to theology."' 1 The breach, indeed, is not direct, as theistic 
sanctions are paraded in the Prolegomena ; but along with these 
goes the avowal that natural ethic would be valid even were there 
no God, and as against the formula of Horace, Utilitas justi mater 
that " the mother of natural right is human nature itself."' 

Where Grotius, defender of the faith, figured as a heretic, 
unbelief could not speak out, though there are traces of its 
underground life. The charge of atheism was brought against 
the Exccrcitationcs Pliilosophicce of Gorhcus, published in 1620 ; 
but, the book being posthumous, conclusions could not bo tried. 
Views far short of atheism, however, were dangerous to their 
holders ; for the merely Socinian work of Voelkel, published at 
Amsterdam in 1612, was burned by order of the authorities, and 
a second impression shared the same fate.' In 1653 the States of 
Holland forbade the publication of all Unitarian books and all 
Socinian worship ; and though the veto as to books was soon 
evaded, that on worship was enforced." Still, Holland was relatively 
tolerant as beside other countries ; and when the Unitarian physician 
Daniel Zwicker (1612-1678), of Dantzig, found Ins own country too 
hot to hold him, he came to Holland (about 1652) " for security and 
convenience." He was able to publish at Amsterdam in 16)58 his 
Latin Irenicum Ircnicorum, wherein he lays down three principles 
for the settlement of Christian difficulties, the first being " the 
universal reason of mankind," while Scripture and tradition hold 
only tho second and third places. His book is a remarkable 
investigation of the rise of the doctrines of the Loyos and tho 
Trinity, which he traced to polytheism, making out that the first 
Christians, whom he identified with the Nazarenes, regarded Jesus 

1 Ten Brink, p. 01. 2 Flint, 1'iVn, p. Hi. 

3 Dp. Jure. Belli el Parts, prolef*. 55 11, 10. < ISuylo, art. Vdi.lki.i, 

Sciilofjorn note fin Moshcim, K,-iri's < I. p. Hf>2. 
c Nelson, Life of Bishop Bull, 2nd e<l. 171 I, 1). 302. 



36 THE EISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

as a man. The book evoked many answers, and it is somewhat 
surprising that Z wicker escaped serious persecution, dying peacefully 
in Amsterdam in 1678, whereas writers much less pronounced in 
their heresy incurred aggressive hostility. Descartes, as we shall 
see, during his stay in Holland was menaced by clerical fanaticism. 
Some fared worse. In the generation after Grotius, one Koerbagh, 
a doctor, for publishing (166S) a dictionary of definitions containing 
advanced ideas, had to fly from Amsterdam. At Culenberg he 
translated a Unitarian work and began another ; but was betrayed, 
tried for blasphemy, and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, to 
be followed by ten years' banishment. He compromised by dying in 
prison within the year. Even as late as 1678 the juri-eonsult 
Hadrian Beverland (afterwards appointed, through Isaac Yossius, 
to a lay office under the Church of England) was imprisoned and 
struck off the rolls of Leyden University for his Peccatum Originate, 
in which he speculated erotically as to the nature of the sin of Adam 
and Eve. The book was furiously answered, and publicly burned. 
It was only after an age of such intolerance that Holland, at the end 
of the seventeenth century, began to become for England a model of 
freedom in opinion, as formerly in trade. And it seems to have been 
through Holland, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, that 
there came the fresh Unitarian impulse which led to the considerable 
spread of the movement in England after the Revolution of 1688. 2 

Unitarianism, which we have seen thus invading Holland some- 
what persistently during half a century, was then as now impotent 
beyond a certain point by reason of its divided allegiance, though it 
has always had the support of some good minds. Its denial of the 
deity of Jesus could not be made out without a certain superposing 
of reason on Scripture ; and yet to Scripture it always finally 
appealed. The majority of men accepting such authority have 
always tended to believe more uncritically ; and the majority of 
men who are habitually critical will always repudiate the Scriptural 
jurisdiction. In Poland, accordingly, the movement, so flourishing 
in its earlier years, was soon arrested, as we have seen, by the per- 
ception that it drove many Protestants back to Catholicism ; among 
these being presumably a number whose critical insight showed 
them that there was no firm standing-ground between Catholicism 
and Naturalism. Every new advance within the Unitarian pale 

1 N'iceron, Mcmoires pour srrvir, etc., xiv (1731), 340 sq. One of the replies is the Junta 
T)e1rstntio scelr-rati/mimi libelli Adriani Jieverlandi }>< Pecrato Orioincth, by Leonard 
JI\>m ii. ]i>0. A very free version of Bcverland's book appeared in French in 1714 under 
the title YAai dr. Vllomme davn le Peche Oriyinel. It reached a sixth edition in 1741. 

2 Nelson, Life of Bishop Bull, as cited, p. 280. 



POPULAE THOUGHT IN EUROPE 37 

terrified the main body, many of whom were mere Arians, holding 
by the term Trinity, and merely making the Son subordinate to the 
Father. Thus when one of their most learned ministers, Simon 
Budny, followed in the steps of Ferencz Davides (whom we have 
seen dying in prison in Transylvania in 1579), and represented 
Jesus as a "mere" man, he was condemned by a synod (1582) 
and deposed from his oilico (1581). He recanted, and was 
reinstated, 1 but his adherents seem to have been excommunicated. 
The sect thus formed were termed Semi-Judaizers by another heretic, 
Martin Czechowicz, who himself denied the pre-existence of Jesus, 
and made him only a species of demi-god;" yet Fausto Sozzini, 
better known as Faustus Socinus, who also wrote against them, and 
who had worked with Biandrata to have Davides imprisoned, 
conceded that prayer to Christ was optional/' 

Faustus, who arrived in Poland in 1579, seems to have been 
moved to his strenuously " moderate " policy, which for a time 
unified the hulk of the party, mainly by a desire to keep on tolerable 
terms with Protestantism. That, however, did not serve him with 
the Catholics ; and when the reaction set in he suffered severely at 
their hands. His treatise, De Jesu Christu Servatore, created bitter 
resentment ; and in 1598 the Catholic rabble of Cracow, led " as 
usual by the students of the university," dragged him from Ids 
house. His life was saved only by the strenuous efforts of the 
rector and two professors of the university ; and his library was 
destroyed, with his manuscripts, whereof " he particularly regretted 
a treatise which he had composed against the atheists "; ' though it is 
not recorded that the atheists had ever menaced either Ins life or 
his property. He seems to have been zealous against all heresy 
that outwent his own, preaching passive obedience in politics as 
emphatically as any churchman, and condemning alike the rising 
of the Dutch against Spanish rule and the resistance of the French 
Protestants to their king. 5 

Tins attitude may have had something to do with the better side 
of the ethical doctrines of the sect, which leant considerably to non- 
resistance. Czechowicz (who was deposed by his fellow-Socinians 
for schism) seems not only to have preached a patient endurance of 
injuries, hut to have meant it;" and to the Socinian sect belongs the 

1 Krasinski, llrf. in Poland, 1S10, ii, ,'JG'i ; Moshoim, lli Cent. sen. iii, pt. ii. cli. iv, 11. 
M I'lny ir uiUatod ii in Iii bio, with rationalistic: notes. - Krasin :ki, 1>. Ml. 

- Mosheim, last cit. " !',. note 1. 

* Krasinski, p. .'Xi7 ; Wallace, Xntitrin. liiotj. 18.J0, ii, 320. 

' liayle, art. Kai'sti: Sons. Krasinski, p. :i7t. 

' Krasinski, pp. :}ijl li-2. Fausto Soz/.ini also could apparently for^ivo everybody ;avo 
those who believed ler-.s than he did. 



38 THE EISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

main credit of setting up a humane compromise on the doctrine of 
eternal punishment. 1 The time, of course, had not come for any 
favourable reception of such a compromise in Christendom ; and it 
is noted of the German Socinian, Ernst Schoner (Sonerus), who 
wrote against the orthodox dogma, that his works are " exceedingly 
scarce." 2 Unitarianism as a whole, indeed, made little headway 
outside of Poland and Transylvania. 

In Spain, meantime, there was no recovery from the paralysis 
wrought by the combined tyranny of Church and Crown, incarnate 
in the Inquisition. The monstrous multiplication of her clergy 
might alone have sufficed to set up stagnation in her mental life ; 
but, not content with the turning of a vast multitude 3 of men and 
women away from the ordinary work of life, her rulers set them- 
selves to expatriate as many more on the score of heresy. A century 
after the expulsion of the Jews came the turn of the Moors, whose 
last hold in Spain, Granada, had been overthrown in 1492. Within 
a generation they had been deprived of all exterior practice of their 
religion / but that did not suffice, and the Inquisition never left 
them alone. Harried, persecuted, compulsorily baptized, deprived 
of their Arabic books, they repeatedly revolted, only to be beaten 
down. At length, in the opening years of the seventeenth century 
(1G10-1613), under Philip III, on the score that the great Armada 
had failed because heretics were tolerated at home, it was decided 
to expel the whole race ; and now a million Moriscoes, among the 
most industrious inhabitants of Spain, were driven the way of the 
Jews. It is needless here to recall the ruinous effect upon the 
material life of Spain : J the aspect of the matter which specially 
concerns us is the consummation of the policy of killing out all 
intellectual variation. The Moriscoes may have counted for little 
in positive culture ; but they were one of the last and most important 
factors of variation in the country ; and when Spain was thus 
successively denuded of precisely the most original and energetic 
types among the Jewish, the Spanish, and the Moorish stocks, her 
mental arrest was complete. 

To modern freethought, accordingly, she has till our own age 

1 Ci>. the inquiry as to Locke's Socinianism in J. Milner's Account of Mr. Lock's 
Religion out of his own Writings, 1706, and Lessing's Zur Oeschichte unci Literatur, i, as 
to Leibnitz's criticism of Sonerus. 

- Rnfield's History of Philosophy fan abstract of Bruclcer), ed. 1S10, p. 537. 

3 In the dominions of Philip II there are said to have been 58 archbishops, 684 bishops, 
11,100 abbeys, 23,000 religious fraternities, -10, (XX) monasteries, 13.500 nunneries, 31-2,000 
secular priests, 4(X),000 monks, 200, 000 friars and other ecclesiastics. II. E. Watts, Miguel 
de Cervantes, 1805, pp. 67-03. Spain alone had 9,088 monasteries. 

4 Buckle, 3-vol. ed. ii, 181 ; 1-vol. ed. p. 561, and rets. 

5 Cp. Buckle, 3-vol. ed. ii, 497-99; 1-vol. ed. pp. 572-73 ; La Rigaudiere, Hist, des Persic. 
Relig. en Espagne, 1860, pp. 220-26. 



POPULAR THOUGHT IN EUROPE 39 

contributed practically nothing. Huarto seems to have had no 
Spanish successors. The brilliant dramatic literature of the- reigns 
of the three Philips, which influenced the rising drama alike of 
France and England, is notably unintellectual, 1 dealing endlessly in 
plot and adventure, but yielding no great study of character, and 
certainly doing nothing to further ethics. Calderon was a thorough 
fanatic, and became a priest; 2 Lope de Yega found solace under 
bereavement in zealously performing the duties of an Inquisitor ; 
and was so utterly swayed by the atrocious creed of persecution 
which was blighting Spain that he joined in the general exultation 
over the expulsion of the Moriscoes. Even the mind of Cervantes 
had not on this side deepened beyond tho average of his race and 
time; his old wrongs at Moorish hands perhaps warping his better 
judgment. His humorous and otherwise kindly spirit, so incon- 
gruously neighboured, must indeed have counted for much in 
keeping life sweet in Spain in the succeeding centuries of bigotry 
and ignorance. But from the seventeenth century till the other 
day the brains were out, in the sense that genius was lacking. 
That species of variation had been too effectually extirpated during 
two centuries to assert itself until after a similar duration of normal 
conditions. The " immense advantage of religious unity," which 
even a modern Spanish historian' 1 has described as a gain balancing 
the economic loss from the expulsion of the Moriscoes, was precisely 
the condition of minimum intellectual activity the unity of stagna- 
tion. No kind of ratiocinative thought was allowed to raise its 
head. A Latin translation of the Hypotyposcs of Sextus Empiricus 
had been permitted, or at least published, in Catholic France ; but 
when Martin Martinez dc Cantatapiedra, a learned orientalist and 
professor of theology, ventured to do the same thing in Spain 
doubtless with the idea of promoting faith by discouraging reason 
lie was haled before the Inquisition, and the book proscribed 
(1583). He was further charged with Lutheran leanings on the 
score that he had a preference for the actual text of Scripture over 
that of the commentators." In such an atmosphere it was natural 
that works on mathematics, astronomy, and physics should be 
censured as "favouring materialism and sometimes atheism." 1 It 

1 ("p. Lewes, Spanish Drama, passim. 

- "He inspires me only with horror for the faith which lie professes. No one ever so 
far disfigured Christianity ; no one ever assigned to it passions so ferocious, or morals so 
corrupt" iSismondi, Lit. of Smith of Europe, Holm tr. ii, liT'.i). 

;; Ticknor, Hist, of Spanish Lit. Glh ed. ii, 001 ; Don Quixote, pt. ii.ch.liv; Orinshy, 
tr. of 1><<h Quixote. ls,85, introd. i, 58. 

1 iiafuento, llistoriu tie Kspann, 1350, xvii, 310. It is not unite certain that Lafuento 
expressed his sincere opinion. 

' Uorente, ii, \U. c hi. p. 1:20. 



40 THE EISE OF MODERN FEEETHOUGHT 

has boon held by one historian that at the death of Philip II there 
arose some such sense of relief throughout Spain as was felt later 
in France at the death of Louis XIY ; that " the Spaniards now 
ventured to sport with the chains which they had not the power to 
break"; and that Cervantes profited by the change in conceiving 
and writing his Don Quixote. 1 But the same historian had before 
seen that " poetic freedom was circumscribed by the same shackles 
which fettered moral liberty. Thoughts which could not be expressed 
without fear of the dungeon and the stake were no longer materials 
for the poet to work on. His imagination, instead of improving 

them into poetic ideas had to be taught to reject them. But 

the eloquence of prose was more completely bowed down under the 
inquisitorial yoke than poetry, because it was more closely allied 
to truth, which of all things was the most dreaded." 2 Cervantes, 
Lope de Yega, and Calderon proved that within the iron wall of 
Catholic orthodoxy, in an age when conclusions were but slowly 
being tried between dogma and reason, there could be a vigorous 
play of imaginative genius on the field of human nature ; even as 
in Velasquez, sheltered by royal favour, the genius of colour and 
portraiture could become incarnate. But after these have passed 
away, the laws of social progress are revealed in the defect of all 
further Spanish genius. Even of Cervantes it is recorded on very 
doubtful authority, however that he said " I could have made 
Don Quixote much more amusing if it were not for the Inquisition "; 
and it is matter of history that a passage in his book 3 disparaging 
perfunctory works of charity was in 1619 ordered by the Holy Office 
to be expunged as impious and contrary to the faith. 

See II. E. Watts, Miguel de Cervantes, p. 1G7. Don Quixote 
was " always under suspicion of the orthodox." Id. p. 16G. 
Mr. Watts, saying nothing of Cervantes's approval of the 
expulsion of the Moriscoes, claims that his "head was clear 
of the follies and extravagances of the reigning superstition" 
(id. p. 231). But the case is truly summed up by Mr. Ormsby 
when he says : For one passage capable of being tortured 
into covert satire " against things ecclesiastical, "there are ten 
in Don Quixote and-the novels that show what indeed is very 
obvious from the little we know of his life and character that 
Cervantes was a faithful son of the Church " (tr. of Don Quixote, 
1885, introd. i, 57). 

When the total intellectual life of a nation falls ever further in 
the rear of the world's movement, even the imaginative arts are 

1 Hoiitorwek, Hint, of Spanish and Fortiuiuese Literature, Eug. tr, 1823, i, 331. 
- Id. i>. 1.31. ' Part 11, eh. xxxvi. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 41 

stunted. Turkey excepted, the civilized nations of Europe which 
for two centuries have contributed the fewest groat names to the 
world's head-roll have been Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, and 
Greece, all noted for their " religious unity." And of all of these 
Spain is the supreme instance of positive decadence, she having 
exhibited in the first half of the sixteenth century a greater complex 
of energy than any of the others. 1 The lesson is monumental. 

G. Scientific Thought 

It remains to trace briefly the movement of scientific and specu- 
lative thought which constituted the transition between the Scholastic 
and the modern philosophy. It may be compendiously noted under 
the names of Copernicus, Bruno, Vanini, Galileo, Bamus, Gassendi, 
Bacon, and Descartes. 

The great performance of COPERNICUS (Nicolaus Koppornigk, 
1473-1543), given to the world with an editor's treacherous preface 
as he lay paralysed on his deathbed, did not become a general 
possession for over a hundred years. The long reluctance of its 
author to let it be published, despite the express invitation of a 
cardinal in the name of the pope, was well founded in his knowledge 
of the strength of common prejudice ; and perhaps partly in a sense 
of the scientific imperfection of his own case." Only the special 
favour accorded to his first sketch at Rome a favour which he had 
further carefully planned for in his dedicatory epistle to Pope Paul - 
saved his main treatise from prohibition till long after its work was 
done.''' It was in fact, with all its burden of traditional error, the 
most momentous challenge that had yet been offered in the modern 
world to established beliefs, alike theological and lay, for it seemed 
to flout " common sense " as completely as it did the cosmogony of 
the sacred books. It was probably from scraps of ancient loro 
current in Italy in his years of youthful study there that he first 
derived his idea ; and in Italy none had dared publicly to propound 
the geocentric theory. Its gradual victory, therefore, is the first 
great modern instance of a triumph of reason over spontaneous and 

1 Kouterwek, whose sociology, though meritorious, is ill-clarified, armies thai tho 
Inquisition was in a manner congenita] to Spain because; before ils establishment the 
(suspicion of heresy was already " more degrading in Spain than the most odious crimes 
in other countries." IJut the same mij^ht have been said of the other countries also. As 
to earlier Spanish heresy see above, vol. i, p. .'!:i? s<y. 

- Despite tiie many fallacies retained by Copernicus from the current astronoiiiy.be 
must be pronounced an exceptionally scientific spirit. Trained as a. mathematician, 
astronomer, and physician, he showed a keen and competent interest in the practical 
problem of currency ; and one of the two treatises which alone lie published of his own 
accord was a sound scheme for the rectification of that of his own government. Though 
a canon of Fruueuburi,', he never look orders; but did manifold and unselfish secular 
service. ;; it was shielded by thirteen popes -from L'aul 111 to l'aul V. 



42 THE EISE OF MODERN FEEETHOUGHT 

instilled prejudice ; and Galileo's account of his reception of it should 
be a classic document in the history of rationalism. 

It was when he was a student in his teens that there came to 
Pisa one Christianus Urstifcius of Rostock, a follower of Copernicus, 
to lecture on the new doctrine. The young Galileo, being satisfied 
that that opinion could be no other than a solemn madness," did 
not attend ; and those of his acquaintance who did made a jest of 
the matter, all save one, "very intelligent and wary," who told him 
that ' the business was not altogether to be laughed at." Thence- 
forth he began to inquire of Copernicans, with the result inevitable 
to such a mind as his. " Of as many as I examined I found not so 
much as one who told me not that he had been a long time of the 
contrary opinion, but to have changed it for this, as convinced by 
the strength of the reasons proving the same ; and afterwards 
questioning them one by one, to see whether they were well 
possessed of the reasons of the other side, I found them all to be 
very ready and perfect in them, so that I could not truly say that 
they took this opinion out of ignorance, vanity, or to show the 
acuteness of their wits." On the other hand, the opposing Aristo- 
teleans and Ptolemeans had seldom even superficially studied the 
Copernican system, and had in no case been converted from it. 
Whereupon, considering that there was no man who followed the 
opinion of Copernicus that had not been first on the contrary side, 
and that was not very well acquainted with the reasons of Aristotle 
and Ptolemy, while, on the contrary, there was not one of the 
followers of Ptolemy that had ever been of the judgment of 
Copernicus, and had left that to embrace this of Aristotle," he 
began to realize how strong must be the reasons that thus drew 
men away from beliefs " imbibed with their milk." ' We can divine 
how slow would be the progress of a doctrine which could only thus 
begin to find its way into one of the most gifted scientific minds of 
the modern world. It was only a minority of the elite of the 
intellectual life who could receive it, even after the lapse of a 
hundred years. 

The doctrine of the earth's two-fold motion, as we have seen, 
had actually been taught in the fifteenth century by Nicolaus 
of Cusa (14.01-lIGi), who, instead of being prosecuted, was 
made a cardinal, so little was the question then considered 
(Qeberweg, ii, 23-24). See above, vol. i, p. 3G8, as to Pulci. 
Only very slowly did the work even of Copernicus make its 
impression. Green (Short History, ed. 1891, p. 297) makes 

1 Galileo, Dialooi dei due massimi sistemi del mondo, ii {Opere, ed. 1S11, xi, 303-304). 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 43 

first the mistake of stating that it influenced thought in tho 
fifteenth century, and then tho further mistake of saying that 
it was brought home to the general intelligence by Galileo 
and Kepler in the later years of tho sixteenth century (id. 
p. 412). Galileo's European notoriety dates from 1G1G ; his 
Dialogues of the Two Systems of the World appeared only in 
1632 ; and his Dialogues of the New Sciences in 1G38. Kepler's 
indecisive Mysterium Cosmograpliicum appeared only in 1597 ; 
his treatise on the motions of the planet Mars not till 1G09. 

One of the first to bring the new cosmological conception to bear 
on philosophic thought was GIORDANO BRUNO of Nola (1548-1600), 
whose life and death of lonely chivalry have won him his place as 
the typical martyr of modern freethought. 1 He may be conceived as 
a blending of the pantheistic and naturalistic lore of ancient Greece, 
assimilated through the Florentine Platonists, with tho spirit of 
modern science (itself a revival of the Greek) as it first takes firm 
form in Copernicus, whose doctrine Bruno early and ardently 
embraced. Baptized Filippo, ho took Giordano as his cloister-name 
when ho entered the great convent of S. Domenico Maggiore at 
Naples in 1563, in his fifteenth year. No human being was ever 
more unfitly placed among the Dominicans, punningly named the 
" hounds of the Lord " (domini canes) for their work as the corps of 
the Inquisition ; and very early in his cloister life ho came near being 
formally proceeded against for showing disregard of sacred images, 
and making light of the sanctity of the Virgin. 3 He passed his 
novitiate, however, without further trouble, and was fully ordained 
a priest in 1572, in his twenty-fourth year. Passing then through 
several Neapolitan monasteries during a period of three years, ho 
seems to have become not a little of a freethinker on Ids return to 
his first cloister, as lie had already reached Arian opinions in regard 

1 A good study of Kruno is supplied by Owen in Iris Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance. 
He lias, however, omitted to embody the Inter discoveries of Dufour and Kerti, and has 
some wrong dales. The Life of Giordano Bruno, by I. Frith (Mrs. Oppenheini), 18S7, gives 
all the data, but is inadequate on the philosophic side. A competent estimate is given in 
the late I'rof. Adamson's lectures on The Development of Modern 1'hilosoyhy, etc., 1903, ii, 
23 /,; also in his art. in J-'.neyc. lirit. For a hostile view see HalUun, Lit. of Europe, ii, 
105-111, The biography of Karthohness, Jordano liruno, 1816, is extremely full and 
sympathetic, but was unavoidably loose as to dates. Much new mutter has since been 
collected, for which see the Vita di Giordano liruno of Domenico Kerti, rev. and enlarged 
ed. lhS'J ; I'rof. .1. Ii. Mclntyre, Giordano liruno, 1003; Dufour, Giordano liruno a Geneve: 
Jtociimi nls lui'-d its, 1SS1 ; David Devi, Giordano liruno, o la reliuiirne did uensiero: I'uorno, 
lapustulo e il martin:, 1887 ; Dr. II. Hrunnhofor's Giordano Bruno's Weltanschauung it nil 
Verliduijniss. 1882; and the doctoral treatise of O. Sigwart, Die Lehensiieschirltte Giordano 
llrvnos, Tubingen, 1880. Dor other authorities see Owen's and 1. I'ritli's lists, and tho 
liual Literal it rnaclnccis in Duslav Louis's Giordano liruno. seine Wella uscliau tint/ iiud 
Lehensverfassuntl, Berlin, 1900. The study of liruno has been carried further in (iermany 
than in Kngland; but .Mr. Whittaker (Essays and Notices, ltfjjj) and I'rof. Mclntyre make 
up much leeway. 

* Cp. iiartholme s, i, 10-.",:! ; Dange, Gesch. des Uaterialismus, i, 191 01 (Dug. tr. i, 23'2) ; 
Gustav Douis. as cited, pp. 11. 88. 

3 Kerti, Vita ili Giordano liruno, 1880, pp, 10 II, 120, Kruno gives the fact;; in his own 
narrative before the Inquisitors at Venice. 



44 THE RISE OF MODEBN FREETHOUGHT 

to Christ, and soon proceeded to substitute a mystical and Pytha- 
gorean for the orthodox view of the Trinity. 1 

For the second time a " process " was begun against him, and he 
took flight to Borne (1576), presenting himself at a convent of his 
Order. News speedily came from Naples of the process against 
him, and of the discovery that he had possessed a volume of the 
works of Chrysostom and Jerome with the scholia of Erasmus a 
prohibited thing. Only a few months before Bartolomeo Garranza, 
Bishop of Toledo, who had won the praise of the Council of Trent 
for his index of prohibited books, had been condemned to abjure for 
the doctrine that " the worship of the relics of the saints is of human 
institution," and had died in the same year at the convent to which 
Bruno had now gone. Thus doubly warned, he threw off his 
priestly habit, and fled to the Genoese territory, 2 where, in the 
commune of Noli, he taught grammar and astronomy. In 1578 
he visited successively Turin, Venice, Padua, Bergamo, and Milan, 
resuming at the last-named town his monk's habit. Thereafter he 
again returned to Turin, passing thence to Chambery at the end of 
1578, and thence to Geneva early in 1579. 3 His wish, he said, was 
to live in liberty and security "; but for that he must first renounce 
his Dominican habit ; other Italian refugees, of whom there were 
many at Geneva, helping him to a layman's suit. Becoming a 
corrector of the press, he seems to have conformed externally to 
Calvinism ; but after a stay of two and a-half months he published 
a short diatribe against one Antonio de La Faye, who professed 
philosophy at the Academy ; and for this he was arrested and 
sentenced to excommunication, while his bookseller was subjected 
to one day's imprisonment and a fine. 4 After three weeks the 
excommunication was raised ; but he nevertheless left Geneva, and 
afterwards spoke of Calvinism as the "Reformed religion." After 
a few weeks' sojourn at Lyons he went to Toulouse, the very centre 
of inquisitional orthodoxy; and there, strangely enough, lie was able 
to stay for more than a year, 5 taking his degree as Master of Arts 
and becoming professor of astronomy. But the civil wars made 
Toulouse unsafe ; and at length, probably in 1581 or 1582, he 
reached Paris, where for a time he lectured as professor extra- 
ordinary. In 1583 he reached England, where he remained till 

1 Berti, pp. 42-43, 47 ; Owen, p. 265. 

2 Not to Genoa, as Berti stated in his first ed. See ed. 18S9, pp. 54, 392. 

3 Berti, P. 65. Owen has the uncorrected date, 1576. 

i Dufour, Giordano Bruno A Geneve: Documents Inedits, 1884 ; Berti, pp. 05-07 ; Gustav 
Bonis, Giordano Bruno, pp. 73-75. Owen (p. 269) has overlooked these facts, set forth by 
Dufour in 1884. The documents are yiven in full in Frith, Life, 1887, p. 60 aq. 

'" The dates are in doubt. Cp. Berti, p. 115, and Frith, p. 65. 

c See his own narrative before the Inquisitors in 1592. Berti, p. 394. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 45 

1585, lecturing, debating at Oxford on the Copernican theory, and 
publishing a number of his works, four of them dedicated to his 
patron Castelnau de Mauvissiere, the French ambassador. Oxford 
was then a stronghold of bigoted Aristotelianism, where bachelors 
and masters deviating from the master were fined, or, if openly 
hostile, expelled. 1 In that camp Bruno was not welcome. But ho 
had other shelter, at the French Embassy in London, and there he 
had notable acquaintances. He had met Sir Philip Sidney at Milan 
in 1578 ; and his dialogue, Cena de le Cencri, gives a vivid account 
of a discussion in which he took a leading part at a banquet given 
by Sir Fulke Grevillc. His picture of " Oxford ignorance and 
English ill-manners" 2 is not lenient; and there is no reason to 
suppose that his doctrine was then assimilated by many;' 5 but 
his stay in the household of Castelnau was one of tho happiest 
periods of his chequered life. Whilo in England he wrote no fewer 
than seven works, four of them dedicated to Castelnau, and two the 
Heroic Fervours and the Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast to 
Sir Philip Sidney. 

Returning to Paris on the recall of Castelnau in 1585, ho made 
an attempt to reconcile himself to the Church, but it was fruitless; 
and thereafter he went his own way. After a public disputation at 
the university in 158G, he set out on a new peregrination, visiting 
first Mayence, Marburg, and Wittemberg. At Marburg ho was 
refused leave to debate ; and at Wittemberg he seems to have been 
carefully conciliatory, as lie not only matriculated but taught for 
over a year (1586-1588), till the Calvinist party carried the day 
over tho Lutheran. 4 Thereafter he reached Prague, Helmstadt, 
Frankfort, and Zurich. At length, on the fatal invitation of the 
Venetian youth Mocenigo, he re-entered Italian territory, where, in 
Venice, lie was betrayed to the Inquisition by his treacherous and 
worthless pupil. 5 

What had been done for freethought by Bruno in his fourteen 
years of wandering, debating, and teaching through Europe it is 
impossible to estimate ; but it is safe to say that he was one of tho 
most powerful antagonists to orthodox unreason that had yet 

1 Melntyre, Giordano Bruno, 1007, pp. 21-22. 

2 Frith, Life, p. 121, and ivfs.; Owen, p. 275; BartholmAss, Jorrlann Bruno, i, 130-38. 

'' Cp. Hallam. Lit. of Europe, ii. 111, note. As to Bruno's supposed in line nee on Bacon 
and Shakespeare, ep. Bartholiness. i, 131-35; Frith, Life, pp. 101 IS; and tho author's 
Montaigne rind S)ial:spere, pp. 132 -38. Here there is no case ; but there is much to lie said 
for Mr. Whittakor's view {Essays and Notices, p. 01) that Spenser's late Cantos on 
Mutability were sue:;. .tied by Bruno's Spaccio. Prof. Melntyre supports. 

'Mi. prai if; of Luther, and his compliments to tho Lutherans, are in notable contrast 
to his verdict on Calvinism. What, happened was that at Wittemberg he was on his best 
behaviour, and was well treated accordingly. 

"' As to the traitor's motives cp. Melntyre, p. 00 sa.; Itcrli, p. 202 mi. 



46 THE EISE OF MODEEN FEEETHOUGHT 

appeared. Of all men of his time he had perhaps the least affinity 
with the Christian creed, which was repellent to him alike in the 
Catholic and the Protestant versions. The attempt to prove him 
a believer on the strength of a non-autograph manuscript is idle. 
His approbation of a religion for the discipline of uncivilized peoples 
is put in terms of unbelief. 2 In the Spaccio della bestia trionfante 
he derides the notion of a union of divine and human natures, and 
substantially proclaims a natural (theistic) religion, negating all 
" revealed " religions alike. Where Boccaccio had accredited all the 
three leading religions, Bruno disallows all with paganism, though 
he puts that above Christianity. 8 And his disbelief grew more 
stringent with his years. Among the heretical propositions charged 
against him by the Inquisition were these : that there is transmigra- 
tion of souls ; that magic is right and proper ; that the Holy Spirit 
is the same thing as the soul of the world ; that the world is eternal ; 
that Moses, like the Egyptians, wrought miracles by magic ; that 
the sacred writings are but a romance (sogno) ; that the devil will be 
saved ; that only the Hebrews are descended from Adam, other men 
having descended from progenitors created by God before Adam ; 
that Christ was not God, but was a notorious sorcerer (insigne 
mago), who, having deceived men, was deservedly hanged, not 
crucified ; that the prophets and the apostles were bad men and 
sorcerers, and that many of them were hanged as such. The cruder 
of these propositions rest solely on the allegation of Mocenigo, and 
were warmly repudiated by Bruno : others are professedly drawn, 
always, of course, by forcing his language, but not without some 
colourable pretext, from his two " poems," Dd triplice, viinimo, et 
mensura, and De monade, numero etfigura, published at Frankfort in 
1591, in the last year of his freedom. 4 But the allusions in the 
Sigillus Sigillorum 5 to the weeping worship of a suffering Adonis, to 
the exhibition of suffering and miserable Gods, to transpierced 
divinities, and to sham miracles, were certainly intended to contemn 
the Christian system. 

Alike in the details of Ids propaganda and in the temper of his 
utterance, Bruno expresses from first to last the spirit of freethought 

1 Xoroff, as cited in Frith, p. 345. 

2 Be V Infinite/, ed. Wagner, ii, 27; Cena de la Cencri, ed. Wagner, i, 173; Acrotismus, 
ed. Gfrorer, p. 12. 

3 Cp. Berti, pp. 187-S8 ; Whittaker, Bssays and Xotices, 1S9.3, p. 89; and Louis's 
section, Stellnno zu Christrnthum unci Kirch e. 

4 Berti, pp. 297-93. It takes much searching in the two poems to find any of the ideas 
in question, and Berti lias attempted no collation; but, allowing for distortions, the 
Inquisition has sufficient ground lor outcry. 

"' Sigillus Sigillorum: Da duodrcima contractionis spcriae. Cp. I". J. Clemens, Giordano 
Bruno unci Nicolaus von Cusa, 1817, pp. 176, 183; and H. Brunnhofer, Giordano Bruno's 
Weltanschauung unci Ferhcingniss, 18S2, pp. 227, 237. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 47 

anil freo speech. Libertas philosophical ! is the breath of his nostrils ; 
and by his life and his death alike he upholds the ideal for men as 
no other before him did. The wariness of Rabelais and the non- 
committal skepticism of Montaigne are alike alien to him ; he is too 
lacking in reticence, too explosive, to give due heed even to the 
common-sense amenities of life, much more to hedge his meaning 
with safeguarding qualifications. And it was doubtless as much by 
the contagion of Ins mood as by his lore that he impressed men. 

His personal and literary influence was probably most powerful 
in respect of his eager propaganda of the Copernican doctrine, which 
he of his own force vitally expanded and made part of a pantheistic 
conception of the universe. 2 Where Copernicus adhered by implica- 
tion to the idea of an external and limitary sphere the last of the 
eight of the Ptolemaic theory Bruno reverted boldly to the doctrine 
of Anaximandros, and declared firmly for the infinity of space and of 
the series of the worlds. In regard to biology he makes an 
equivalent advance, starting from the thought of Empedocles and 
Lucretius, and substituting an idea of natural selection for that of 
creative providence. 3 The conception is definitely thought out, and 
marks him as one of the renovators of scientific no less than of 
philosophic thought for the modern world ; though the special 
paralysis of science under Christian theology kept his ideas on this 
side pretty much a dead letter for his own day. And indeed it was 
to the universal and not the particular that his thought chiefly and 
most enthusiastically turned. A philosophic poet rather than a 
philosopher or man of science, he yet set abroad for the modern 
world that conception of the physical infinity of the universe which, 
once psychologically assimilated, makes an end of the medieval 
theory of things. On this head he was eagerly affirmative ; and the 
merely Pyrrhonic skeptics he assailed as he did the " asinine " 
orthodox, though he insisted on doubt as the beginning of wisdom. 

Of his extensive literary output not much is stamped with lasting 
scientific fitness or literary charm; and some of his treatises, us 
those on mnemonics, have no more value than the product of his 
didactic model, Raymond Lully. As a writer he is at his best in 
the sweeping expatiation of his more general philosophic treatise-;, 

1 In the treatise l>c. Limividr. combinatnrin Lulliann (l.'iSTK Aecordin : to Berti fp. -2-2(1) 
he is the first, to employ this phrase, which becomes the watchword o1 Spinoza lit/rrtas 
philomphrintli a century later. 

- Berti, cap. iv ; Owen, p. 21 r ) : UobrrweH. ii, 27: Ptinjer, p. O.'i ?</.: Whitbiker, Esxuit* 
and .\.,/ir-^. p. GO. As to Kruno's debt to Nicolaus of ( ush <]>,!<;, !;n Louis, as ci!< I, 
P- 11 : I'unjer, as cited : Carriere. Die jihUnnciphisrhe. ll'clt'titschriuuwi >l> > ll-fnrm<it Oots-s'ii , 
p. -17, : and Wbitt.aker, p. Hi. Tho ari-'umenl of C'arriere's second edition i- analysed and 
rebutted by Mr. Whittuker, p. 27j ,7. 

' l)> Iinmenso, vii, c. IS, cited by Whitlakcr, Essays and Xoticcs. p. 70. 



48 THE EISE OF MODEKN FEEETHOUGHT 

where he attains a lifting ardour of inspiration, a fervour of soaring 
outlook, that puts him in the front rank of the thinkers of his age. 
And if his literary character is at times open to severe criticism in 
respect of his lack of balance, sobriety, and self-command, his final 
courage atones for such shortcomings. 

His case, indeed, serves to remind us that at certain junctures 
it is only the unbalanced types that aid humanity's advance. The 
perfectly prudent and self-sufficing man does not achieve revolutions, 
does not revolt against tyrannies ; he wisely adapts himself and 
subsists, letting the evil prevail as it may. It is the more impatient 
and unreticent, the eager and hot-brained in a word, the faulty 
who clash with oppression and break a way for quieter spirits 
through the hedges of enthroned authority. The serenely contem- 
plative spirit is rather a possession than a possessor for his fellows ; 
he may inform and enlighten, but is not in himself a countering or 
inspiriting force : a Shelley avails more than a Goethe against 
tyrannous power. And it may be that the battling enthusiast in 
his own way wins liberation for himself from " fear of fortune and 
death," as he wins for others liberty of action. 1 Even such a 
liberator, bearing other men's griefs and taking stripes that they 
might be kept whole, was Bruno. 

And though he quailed at the first shock of capture and torture, 
when the end came he vindicated human nature as worthily as 
could any quietist. It was a long-drawn test. Charged on the 
traitor's testimony with many " blasphemies," he denied them all, 
but stood to his published writings 3 and vividly expounded his 
theories, 4 professing in the usual manner to believe in conformity 
with the Church's teachings, whatever he might write on philo- 
sophy. It is impossible to trust the Inquisition records as to his 
words of self-humiliation ; though on the other hand no blame can 
rationally attach to anyone who, in his place, should try to deceive 
such enemies, morally on a level with hostile savages. It is certain 
that the Inquisitors frequently wrung recantations by torture. 6 

What is historically certain is that Bruno was not released, but 
sent on to Rome, and was kept there in prison for seven years. He 
was not the sort of heretic likely to be released; though the fact of 
his being a Dominican, and the desire to maintain the Church's 

1 As to "Bruno's own claim in the F.rnici Furori, cp. Whittaker, Essays, p. 90. 

2 Documents in Berti, pp. 107-18; Mclntyre, p. 73 ^Q- 

'' See the document in Berti, p. 398 sq.\ Frith, pp. 270-81. 4 Berti, p. 100 sq, 

5 See Berti. p. 396 ; Owen, pp. 285-SO; Frith, pp. 2S-2-83. 

c The controversy as to whether Galileo was tortured leaves it clear that torture was 
common. See Dr. Barchappe, Galilee, sa vie, etc., I860, Ptic. ii, ch. 7. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 49 

intellectual credit, delayed so long his execution. Certainly not an 
atheist (he called himself in several of his hook-titles Philotheus ; 
he consigns insano atcismo to perdition ; and his quasi-pantheism 
or monism often lapses into theistic modes), 2 he yet was from first 
to last essentially though not professedly anti-Christian in his view 
of the universe. If the Church had cause to fear any philosophic 
teaching, it was his, preached with the ardour of a prophet and the 
eloquence of a poet. His doctrine that the worlds in space are 
innumerable was as offensive to orthodox ears as his specific 
negations of Christian dogma, outgoing as it did the later idea of 
Kepler and Galileo. lie had, moreover, finally refused to make any 
fresh recantation ; and the only detailed document extant concerning 
his final trial describes him as saying to his judges : " With more 
fear, perchance, do you pass sentence on me than I receive it."' 
According to all accessihle records, he was burned alive at Rome in 
February, 1G00, in the Field of Flowers, near where his statue now 
stands. As was probably customary, they tied his tongue before 
leading him to the stake, lest lie should speak to the people ; J and 
his martyrdom was an edifying spectacle for the vast multitude of 
pilgrims who had come from all parts of Christendom for the jubilee 
of the pope." At the stake, when lie was at the point of death, there 
was duly presented to him the crucifix, and he duly put it aside. 

An attempt has been made by Professor Desdouits in a 
pamphlet (Lit legcnde tmgique de Jordano Bruno ; Paris, 1885) 
to show that there is no evidence that Bruno was burned ; and 
an anonymous writer in the Scottish Review (October, 1888, 
Art. II), rabidly hostile to Bruno, has maintained the same 
proposition. Doubt on the subject dates from Bayle. Its main 
ground is the fewness of the documentary records, of which, 
further, the genuineness is now called in question. But no 
good reason is shown for doubting them. They are three. 

J. The Latin letter of Caspar Schopp (Scioppius), dated 
February 17, 1G00, is an eye-witness's account of the sentencing 
and burning of Bruno at that date. (Sec it in full, in the 
original Latin, in Belli, p. IGl sq., and in App. V to Frith, Life 

1 Sjirirrihih-llft hr.iUn I rionf<i !,-. ci. Wagner, ii, 120. 

-' I'rof. i ::." r>- i led that a transition from pantheism to thei-m marks the 

growth of his thought; hut, sis is shown by Mr. Whittsiker, lie is markedly pantheistic in 
his latent work of all, though bis psintheism is not merely natunili-tie. /-.'nw/i/.s and 
. pp. 11. ::,:, :,-. 

Italian ver-iou- differ verbally, Cp. Levi, p, 370 : ISerti, p. x;. Thai inscribed on the 
Hruiio ,latue at Koine is a close rendering of the Latin : Mii.iuri /m-miit cum tininrc 
nli ul in m iii mr f. rti ipi'im ijn urrijiimn. preserved by he i op pi 

1 Arrisn, in Lerti, p. :',:'.'.) ; in Levi, p. Xi. 

" Levi, pp. :jsl '.II. Levi relates (p. :j'.K)i Unit Lruno a.t the stake wa ; heard to utter the 
words : " O Llerno. in to lino l'or/.o ,upremo per a ttrarre in me i| ia nln \ i tra ii piii iliviun 
tiell' miiver-o." He rile-; no authority. An Arrisn reports that I in mo -aid his ,oul would 
ri-.e with the -,1110 l;e to Panel i -e p. Xi ; I Sort i. J). .'! .!<>. but does nol da te that this wa all 
at the -take. And Li vi accepts the other report tiiat Lruno was gai'ged. 

vol. ii i: 



50 THE EISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGIIT 

of Bruno, and partly translated in Prof. Adamson's lectures, as 
cited. It was rep. by Struvius in his Acta Literaria, torn, v, 
and by La Croze in his Entretiens sur divers sujets in 1711, 
p. 2S7.) It was not printed till 1621, but the grounds urged 
for its rejection are totally inadequate, and involve assump- 
tions, which are themselves entirely unproved, as to what 
Scioppius was likely to do. Finally, no intelligible reason is 
suggested for the forging of such a document. Tbe remarks of 
Prof. Desdouits on this head have no force whatever. The 
writer in the Scottish Bevieio (p. 2G3, and note) suggests as 
' at least as possible an hypothesis as any other that he 
[Bruno] was the author of the forged accounts of his own 
death." Comment is unnecessary. 

2. There are preserved two extracts from Roman news-letters 
(Avvisi) of the time; one, dated February 12, 1600, comment- 
ing on the case; the other, dated February 19, relating the 
execution on the 17th. (See both in S. JR., pp. 2Gl-6o. They 
were first printed by Berti in Documcnti intorno a Giordano 
Bruno, Rome, 1880, and are reprinted in his Vita, ed. 1889, 
cap. xix ; also by Levi, as cited.) Against these testimonies the 
sole plea is that they mis-state Bruno's opinions and the duration 
of his imprisonment a test which would reduce to mythology 
the contents of most newspapers in our own day. The writer 
in the Scottish Bevieiv makes the suicidal suggestion that, inas- 
much as the errors as to dates occur in Schopp's letter, the 
so-called Schopp was fabricated from these notices, or they 
from Schopp " thus admitting one to bo historical. 

3. There lias been found, by a Catholic investigator, a 
double entry in the books of tbe Lay Brotherhood of San 
Giovanni Decollate, whose function was to minister to prisoners 
under capital sentence, giving a circumstantial account of 
Bruno's execution. (See it in S. 11., pp. 2GG, 269, 270.) In 
this case, the main entry being dated " 1G00. Thursday. 
February 16th," the anonymous writer argues that " the whole 
thing resolves itself into a make-up," because February 16 was 
the Wednesday. The entry refers to the procedure of the 
Wednesday night and the Thursday morning ; and such an 
error could easily occur in any case. Whatever may be one 
day proved, the cavils thus far count for nothing. All the 
while, the records as to Bruno remain in the hands of the 
Catholic authorities ; but, despite the discredit constantly cast 
on the Church on the score of Bruno's execution, they offer no 
official denial of the common statement ; while they do officially 
admit (S. 1L, p. 202) that on February 8 Bruno was sentenced as 
an obstinate heretic," and " given over to the Secular Court." 
On the other hand, the episode is well vouched : and the argument 
from the silence of ambassadors' letters is so far void. No pre- 
tence is made of tracing Bruno anywhere after February, 1600. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 51 

Since the foregoing note appeared in the first edition I have 
met with the essay of Mr. K. Copley Christie, " Was Giordano 
Bruno Really Burned'?" {Maanillan's Magazine, October, 1885 ; 
rep. in Mr. Christie's Selected Essays and Papers, 1902). This 
is a crushing answer to the thesis of M. Desdouits, showing 
as it does clear grounds not only for affirming the genuineness 
of the letter of Scioppius, but for doubting the diligence of 
M. Desdouits. Mr. Christie points out (1) that in bis book 
Ecclesiasticus, printed in 1612, Scioppius refers to the burning 
of Bruno almost in the words of his letter of 1G00 ; (2) that in 
1G07 Kepler wrote to a correspondent of the burning of Bruno, 
giving as his authority J. M. YYacker, who in 1000 was living 
at Borne as the imperial ambassador ; and (.3) that the tract 
Macliiavcllizatio, 1621, in which the letter of Scioppius was 
first printed, was well known in its day, being placed on the 
Index, and answered by two writers without eliciting any 
repudiation from Scioppius, who lived till 1619. As M. 
Desdouits staked his case on the absence of allusion to the 
subject before 1661 (overlooking even the allusion by Mersenne, 
in 1621, cited by Bayle), his theory may be taken as exploded. 

Bruno has been zealously blackened by Catholic writers for the 
obscenity of some of his writing 1 and the alleged freedom of his 
life piquant charges, when we remember the life of the Bapal 
Italy in which lie was born. LUCILIO VaxixI (otherwise Julius 
Caesar Vanini), the next martyr of freethought, also an Italian 
(b. at Taurisano, 1585), is open to the more relevant charges of an 
inordinate vanity and some duplicity. Figuring as a Carmelite 
friar, which he was not, he came to England (1612) and deceitfully 
professed to abjure Catholicism, 2 gaining, however, nothing by the 
step, and contriving to be reconciled to the Church, after being 
imprisoned for forty-nine days on an unrecorded charge. Breviously 
he had figured, like Bruno, as a wandering scholar at Amsterdam, 
Brussels, Cologne, Geneva, and Lyons ; and afterwards lie taught 
natural philosophy for a year at Genoa. His treatise, Ampliitheatruni 
/Eternal Providential (Lyons, 1615), is professedly directed against 
ancient philosophers, Atheists, Epicureans, Beripatetics, and Stoics," 
and is ostensibly quite orthodox.' 5 In one passage he untruthfully 
tells how, when imprisoned in England, he burned with the desire 
to shed his blood for the Catholic Church. 4 In another, after 
declaring that some Christian doctors have argued very weakly 

1 Notably his comedy II CmuMnio. 

- (J wen, Sl.-r/ttic-i of the Italian Iienaissmtcr, p. '',>!. A full narrative, from the 
rlocMiinents, is ("iveii in It. ('.. Christie's essay, "Vanini in Knuhiml," in the Jlnahsli 
Jlistt.ricnl H> rit w of April, IS.'.).",, reprinted in his Selected l-^sniis mot I'm" rs, \\nr>. 

' See it analysed by Owen, pp. a/il-IW, and by (arriere, Weltnn^elumunu, PP. I 'JO .MM. 

* Amiihit heat nun, Willi, Kxereii. xix, pp. JITUb. 



52 THE RISE OF MODERN FKEETHOUGHT 

against the Epicureans on immortality, he avows that he, Chris- 
tianus nomine cognomine Catholicus," could hardly have held the 
doctrine if he had not learned it from the Church, " the most certain 
and infallible mistress of truth." 1 As usual, the attack leaves us in 
doubt as to the amount of real atheism current at the time. The 
preface asserts that " 'AdeonjTo autem secta pestilentissima quotidie, 
latins et latins vires acquirit eundo," and there are various hostile 
allusions to atheists in the text ; 2 but the arguments cited from them 
are such as might bo brought by deists against miracles and the 
Christian doctrine of sin ; and there is an allusion of the customary 
kind to " Nicolaus Machiavellus Athcorum facile princeps,"* which 
puts all in doubt. The later published Dialogues, De Admirandis 
Natures Arcanis, 4 while showing a freer critical spirit, would seem to 
be in part earlier in composition, if we can trust the printer's preface, 
which represents them as collected from various quarters, and 
published only with the reluctant consent of the author." This, of 
course, may be a mystification ; in any case the Dialogues twice 
mention the Amphitheatrum ; and the fourth book, in which this 
mention occurs, may be taken on this and other grounds to set forth 
his later ideas. Even the Dialogues, however, while discussing many 
questions of creed and science in a free fashion, no less profess 
orthodoxy ; and, while one passage is pantheistic/ they also denounce 
atheism.' And whereas one passage does avow that the author in 
his Amphitheatrum had said many tilings lie did not believe, the 
context clearly suggests that the reference was not to the main 
argument, but to some of its dubious facts. 8 In any case, though 
the title chosen by the editors speaks daringly enough of ' Nature, 
the queen and goddess of mortals," Yanini cannot be shown to be an 

1 Ampliitheatrum, Exorcit. xxvii, p. 161. 2 Id. pp. 72, 73, 78, 113, etc. 

'' P. 3.5. Machiavelli is elsewhere attacked. Pp. 36, 50. 

4 Julii Cas'i ris Vanini Neapiditani, Tlieologi, l J )iilosoplii,et juris utriusque Dnctoris, de 
Ad/nirn udis Xaturee Reginivque Deeeque Mortalium Arcanis, libri quatuor. Luteticf, 1616. 

J Mr. Owen makes a serious misstatement on this point, by which I was formerly 
misled. He writes (p. 369) that from the publisher's preface we " learn that the Dialogues 
v.ere not written by Vanini, but by his disciples. They are a collection of discursive 
conversations embodying their master's opinions." This is not what the preface says. It 
tells, after a high-pitched eulogy of Vanini, that " nos publics utilitatis solliciti, alia eius 
monumenta, qua- avarius re.iinebat, per idoneos ex seriptores nancisci curavimus." In 
ascribing the matter of the dialogues to Vanini's young days, Mr. Owen forgets the 
references to the Amphitheatrum. 

u "Alex. Sed in <iua nam Keligione vere et pie Demn coli vetusti Philosophi existi- 
marnnt? Vanini. In unica N a time lege, quam ipsa Xatura, qua.' Deus est (est enim 

principinm motus) " De Arcanis, as cited, p. 366. Lib. iv. Dial. 50. See Kousselot's 

French tr. 181:2, p. -2-27 . This passage is cited by Hallam (Lit. Hist, ii, 1611 as avowing 

"disbelief of all religion except such as Nature has planted in the minds of men" a 

heedless perversion. 

' De Arcanis, pp. 351-60. 120-22 (Dial. 50, 56); Ilousselot, pp. 210-23, 271-73. 

* The special reference (lib. iv, dial. 56. p. 12s) is to a story of an infant prophesying 
when only twenty-four hours old. (Amphitheatrum, Ex. vi. p. 3,S ; cp. Owen, p. 368, note.) 
On this and on other points Cous'n (cited by Owen, pp. 368, 371. 377) and Hallam (Lit. Hist. 
ii. 161 1 make highly prejudiced statements. Quoting the final pages on which the dialoguist 
passes from serious debate to a profession of levity, and ends by calling for the play-table, 
the English historian dismisses him as "the wretched man." 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 53 

atheist ; and the attacks upon him as an immoral writer are not any 
better supported. 2 The publication of the dialogues was in fact 
formally authorized by the Sorbonne, 3 and it does not even appear 
that when he was charged with atheism and blasphemy at Toulouse 
that work was founded on, save in respect of its title. 1 The charges 
rested on the testimony of a treacherous associate as to his private 
conversation ; and, if true, it only amounted to proving his pantheism, 
expressed in his use of the word " Nature." At his trial he expressly 
avowed and argued for theism. The judges, by one account, did not 
agree. Yet lie was convicted, by the voices of the majority, and 
burned alive (February 9, 1G19) on the day of his sentence. Drawn 
on a hurdle, in his shirt, with a placard on his shoulders inscribed 
Atheist and Blasphemer of the name of God," he went to his death 
with a high heart, rejoicing, as he cried in Italian, to die like a 
philosopher. 5 A Catholic historian, who was present, says he 
hardily declared that " Jesus facing death sweated with fear : I die 
undaunted." But before burning him they tore out his tongue by 
the roots ; and the Christian historian is humorous over the victim's 
long cry of agony.' No martyr ever faced death with a more 

dauntless courage than this 

Lonely antagonist of Destiny 

That went down scornful before many spears ; M 

and if the man had all the faults falsely imputed to him, 9 his death 
might shame his accusers. 

Vanini, like Bruno, can now be recognized and understood as 
an kalian of vivacious temperament, studious without the student's 
calm, early learned, alert in debate, fluent, imprudent, and i 11- 

1 ('p. Carriere's analysis of the Dialogues, pp. 505-59; and the Apologia pro Jul. Casaro 
Vanino 'by Ar])( i. 1712. 

- See Owen's vindication, pp. 371-71. Kenan's criticism {Averrois, pp. 120-23) is not 
quite judicial. Sec many others cited by Carriere, p. 510. 

;i It is diilicult to uuderstan 1 how the nsor could let pass the description of Nature 

in the title; but this may have been added after the authorization. The book is 
dedicated by Vanini to Marshal liassompierre, and the epistle dedicatory makes men lion 
of the Scroti iniiii'i It'-'iiiiu a etc mi nominis Marin Merticcra, which would disarm suspicion. 
In any en >. the permit was revoked, and the book condemned to bu burned. 

1 Dwell, p. 395. 

" Merc tire Francois. 1010, torn. v. p. 01. 

G Dramond il'.arthclemi de Grammont), Tlistoria Gnllitr ah e.rcensu Ifenrici TV, 1013, 
p. 2U9. Carriere translates the passage in full, pp. .",00-12, 51.) ; as .Iocs David Durand in 
his hostile I'ii- et Sentintens (If Lurilio Vanini. 1717. As to Dramond see the Lrttrcsdi: 
Cm I'alin. who 1 1, "U. 12-, ed. Keveillc-l'ariso) calls him dine foible t:t Li'jnti; and guilty of 
falsehood and (lattery. 

7 Dramond, p. 210. Of Vanini, as of llruno, it is recorded that at the stake he repelled 
the proffered crucifix. Owen and oilier writer-, who justly remark that lie well might, 
overlook the once received belief that it was tilts official pracl ice. with obstinate heretics, 
to jiroffer a re l-liot crucifix, so that the victim should be sure' to spurn it \\ ilh open u tiger. 

" Stephen Phillips, Mnrprssa. 

3 Cp. Owen, pp. :;-u, :;:<]. and Carriere, pp. 512 d:i. as to the worst calumnies. It is 
significant tnat Viniini was tried solelij for blasphemy and iithei-m. What is proved 
ngitin>t him is that he and an associate practiced a rathe r gro- fraud on the Knglish 
ecclesiastical authority ,. having apparently no higher motive than gain and a tree life. 
Mr. Chri-tic notes, however, that Vanini in his writings always speaks very kindly of 
England and tiie English, and ->o did not add ingratitude to his act ol imposture. 



54 THE EISE OF MODEEN EEEETHOUGHT 

balanced. By his own account he studied theology under the 
Carmelite Bartolomeo Argotti, phoenix of the preachers of the time; 1 
but from the English Carmelite, John Bacon, " the prince of Aver- 
roists," 2 ho declares, he "learned to swear only by Avorroes "; and 
of Pomponazzi lie speaks as his master, and as " prince of the 
philosophers of our age." 3 He has criticized both freely in his 
Amphithcatrum ; but whereas that work is a professed vindication 
of orthodoxy, we may infer from the Dc Arcanis that the arguments 
of these skeptics, like those of the contemporary atheists whom he 
had met in his travels, had kept their hold on his thought even 
while he controverted thern. For it cannot be disputed that the 
long passages which ho quotes from the "atheist at Amsterdam" 4 
are put with a zest and cogency which are not infused into the 
professed rebuttals, and are in themselves quite enough to arouse 
the anger and suspicion of a pious reader. A writer who set forth 
so fully the acute arguments of unbelievers, unprintable by their 
authors, might well be suspected of writing at Christianity when he 
confuted the creeds of the pagans. As was noted later of Fontenelle, 
he put arguments against oracles which endangered prophecy ; his 
dismissal of sorcery as the dream of troubled brains appeals to 
reason and not to faith ; and his disparagement of pagan miracles 
logically bore upon the Christian. 

When he comes to the question of immortality he grows overtly 
irreverent. Asked by the interlocutor in the last dialogue to give 
his views on the immortality of the soul, ho begs to be excused, 
protesting: "I have vowed to my God that that question shall not 
bo handled by mo till I become old, rich, and a German." And 
without overt irreverence he is ever and again unserious. Perfectly 
transparent is the irony of the appeal, "Let us give faith to the 
prescripts of the Church, and due honour to the sacrosanct Gregorian 
apparitions," J and the protestation, "I will not invalidate the 
powers of holy water, to which Alexander, Doctor and Pontifex of the 
Christians, and interpreter of the divine will, accorded such countless 
privileges." And even in the Amphithcatrum, "with all the parade 
of defending the faith, there is a plain balance of cogency on tho 
side of tho case for tho attack,' and a notable disposition to rely 
finally on lines of argument to which faith could never give real 
welcome. Tho writer's mind, it is clear, was familiar with doubt. 

1 Dp, Arcanis, p. 205. Lib. iii, dial. 30. 2 Amphithcatrum, p. 17. 

:! De Arcanis, lib. iv, dial. 52, p. 370; dial. 51, p. 373. Ci>. Amphitheatrum, p. 36; and 
De A rem is, p. 2(1. 

1 De Arcanis, dial. 50 and 56. In the Amphithcatrum he adduces an equally skilful 
German atheist (p. 73). 

5 Dial, li, p. 371. 6 Dial, liv, p. 107. 7 Cp. Bousselot, notice, p. xi. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 55 

In the malice of orthodoxy there is sometimes an instinctive percep- 
tion of hostility ; and though Vanini had written, among other 
tilings, 1 an Apologia pro lege mosa'icd et Christiana, to which he often 
refers, and an Apologia pro concilio Tridcntino, ho can he seen even 
in the hymn to deity with which he concludes his Ampliitlicatrum 
to have no part in evangelical Christianity. 

He was in fact a deist with the inevitable leaning of the philo- 
sophic thcist to pantheism ; and whatever he may have said to 
arouse priestly hatred at Toulouse, he was rather less of an atheist 
than Spinoza or Bruno or John Scotus. On his trial, 2 pressed as to 
his real beliefs by judges who had doubtless challenged his identifi- 
cation of God with Nature, ho passed from a profession of orthodox 
faith in a trinity into a flowing discourse which could as well have 
availed for a vindication of pantheism as for the proposition of a 
personal God. Seeing a straw on the ground, ho picked it up and 
talked of its history; and when brought back again from his affirma- 
tion of Deity to his doctrine of Nature, he set forth the familiar 
orthodox theorem that, while Nature wrought the succession of seeds 
and fruits, there must have been a first seed which was created. It 
was the habitual standing ground of theism ; and they burned him 
all the same. It remains an open question whether personal enmity 
on the part of the prosecuting ofliciar or a real belief that he had 
uttered blasphemies against Jesus or Mary was the determining force, 
or whether even less motive sufficed. A vituperative Jesuit of that 
age sees intolerable freethinking in his suggestion of the unreality 
of demoniacal possession and the futility of exorcisms.' 1 And for that 
much they were not incapable of burning men in Catholic Toulouse 
in the days of Mary do Medici. 

There are in fact reasons for surmizing that in the cases alike of 
Bruno and of Vanini it was the attitude of the speculator towards 
scientific problems that primarily or mainly aroused distrust and 
anger among the theologians. Vanini is careful to speak equivocally 
of the eternity of the universe; and though he makes a passing 
mention of Kepler," he docs not name Copernicus. He had learned 
something from the fate of Bruno. Yet in the Dialogue Dc arli 
forma ct moiorc' he declares so explicitly for a naturalistic explana- 
tion of the movements of the heavenly bodies that lie must have 
aroused in some orthodox readers such anger as was set up in Plato 

' Durand compiles a list, of ten or eleven works of Vanini from the allusions in tlio 
Ani)ihithr>itritm ami tin: !>< A minis. 

- Reported I>v (iriiuioii i. m eked. :; Owen, pp. :;.,; -<)1. 

' r.Hi-a-c, hortrinr r,i ririist: tits beaux esprits, U)i:i. 

"- Dc ArauiiH dial, vii, p. 30. fi Dial, iv, p.Jl. 



56 THE EISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

by a physical theory of sun and stars. After an a priori discussion 
on Aristotelian lines, the querist in the dialogue asks what may 
fitly l)e held, with an eye to religion, concerning the movements of 
the spheres. " This," answers Yanini, " unless I am in error: the 
mass of the heaven is moved in its proper gyratory way by the 
nature of its elements." " How then," asks the querist, "are the 
heavens moved by certain and fixed laws, unless divine minds, 
participating in the primal motion, there operate?" "Where is 
the wonder ?" returns Yanini. " Does not a certain and fixed law 
of motion act in the most paltry clockwork machines, made by a 
drunken German, even as there works silently in a tertian and 
quartan fever a motion which comes and goes at fixed periods with- 
out trangressing its line by a moment ? The sea also at certain 
and fixed times, by its nature, as you peripatetics affirm, is moved 
in progressions and regressions. No less, then, I affirm the heaven 
to be forever carried by the same motion in virtue of its nature 
(a sua pura forma) and not to be moved by the will of intelligence." 
And the disciple assents. Kepler had seen fit, either in sincerity or 
of prudence, to leave "divine minds" in the planets ; and Vanini's 
negation, though not accompanied by any assertion of the motion 
of the earth, was enough to provoke the minds which had only 
three years before put Copernicus on the Index, and challenged 
Galileo for venting his doctrine. 

It is at this stage that we begin to realize the full play of the 
Counter-Reformation, as against the spirit of science. The move- 
ment of mere theological and ecclesiastical heresy had visibly begun 
to recede in the world of mind, and in its stead, alike in Protestant 
and in Catholic lands, there was emerging a new activity of scientific 
research, vaguely menacing to all theistic faith. Kepler represented 
it in Germany, Harriott and Harvey and Gilbert and Bacon in 
England ; from Italy had come of late the portents of Bruno and 
Galileo ; even Spain yielded the Examen de Ingcnios of Huarte 
(1575), where with due protestation of theism the physicist insists 
upon natural causation ; and now Yanini was exhibiting the same 
incorrigible /est for a naturalistic explanation of all things. His 
dialogues arc full of such questionings; the mere metaphysic and 
theosophy of the Ampliitlicatrum are being superseded by discus- 
sions on physical and physiological phenomena. It was for this, 
doubtless, that the De Arcanis won the special vogue over which 
the Jesuit Garasse was angrily exclaiming ten years later. 1 Not 

1 Doctrine curicuse tics beaux esprits de ec temps, 1023, p. SIS. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 57 

merely the doubts cast upon sorcery and diabolical possession, but 
the whole drift, often enough erratic, of the inquiry as to how things 
in nature came about, caught the curiosity of the time, soon to bo 
stimulated by more potent and better-governed minds than that of 
the ill-starred Yanini. And for every new inquirer there would be 
a hostile zealot in the Church, where the anti-intellectual instinct 
was now so much more potent than it had been in the days before 
Luther, when heresy was diagnosed only as a danger to revenue. 

It was with GALILEO that there began the practical application 
of the Copernican theory to astronomy, and, indeed, the decisive 
demonstration of its truth. With him, accordingly, began the 
positive rejection of the Copernican theory by the Church ; for thus 
far it had never been officially vetoed having indeed been generally 
treated as a wild absurdity. Almost immediately after the publica- 
tion of Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius (1610) his name is found in the 
papers of the Inquisition, with that of Cremonini of Padua, as a 
subject of investigation. 1 The juxtaposition is noteworthy. Cremonini 
was an Aristotelian, with AverroTst leanings, and reputed an atheist ; 
and it was presumably on this score that the Inquisition was looking 
into his case. At the same time, as an Aristotelian ho was strongly 
opposed to Galileo, and is said to have been one of those who refused 
to look through Galileo's telescope.' 1 Galileo, on the other hand, was 
ostensibly a good Catholic ; but his discovery of the moons of Jupiter 
was a signal confirmation of the Copernican theory, and the new 
status at once given to that made a corresponding commotion in the 
Church. Thus lie had against him both the unbelieving pedants of 
the schools and the typical priests. 

In his book the great discoverer had said nothing explicitly on 
the subject of the Copernican theory ; but in lectures and conversa- 
tions he had freely avowed his belief in it ; and the implications of 
the published treatise were clear to all thinkers. And though, when 
he visited Rome in 1611, lie was well received by Pope Paul V, and 
his discoveries were favourably reported of by the four scientific 
experts nominated at the request of Cardinal Bellarmin to examine 
them," it only needed that the Biblical cry should be raised to 

1 Karl von Gebler, (Inlilcn (Inlilfi ami thr Unman Curia, Km!. 1r. 1S70, pp. :ai :>7. 

- This appears from the letters of Sa^redo to Galileo. Gebler, p. 37. I'p. (iui Putin. 
[." -I-;, ed. Keveill.'-Parise, isji;, iii, 7. ; Bayle, art. Cm mo.vin, notes (' and I); ami 
Kenan, Arcrrnrs, lie edit, pp. IDS 1.1. Putin writes that his friend Naude "avoit ete in time 
ami df! ('rem on in, qui n'etoit point meillenr Chretien que I'm upon ace. que Machiavel, que 
Car i m et telle- a litres dont le pays ahonde." 

:i l.um'r, (n-.-rh. ilrs M'ltrrinlisiiiiis, i, ls:j i Kutf. tr. i. *m : fielder, p. -ir,. Lihri actually 
made tin' rofii-al; hut all that is moved as to Cn-inoniui is that ho opposed Galileo's 
diseoverio- a priori. As to the attitude of sueli opponents see Galileo's letter to Kepler. 
J. .(. Kiihie. (ialih;,: his Life and Work, VM'i, pp. lul 10-2. 

1 I'ahie, Onlik-'i, p. 100. '" Id. P. 1-7. 



58 THE EISE OF MODERN FREETHOUCHT 

change the situation. The Church still contained men individually 
open to new scientific ideas ; but she was then more than ever 
dominated by the forces of tradition ; and as soon as those forces 
had been practically evoked his prosecution was bound to follow. 
The cry of " religion in danger " silenced the saner men at Rome. 

The fashion in which Galileo's sidereal discoveries were met is 
indeed typical of the whole history of freethought. The clergy 
pointed to the story of Joshua stopping the sun and moon ; the 
average layman scouted the new theory as plain folly ; and typical 
schoolmen insisted that " the heavens are unchangeable," and that 
there was no authority in Aristotle for the new assertions. With 
such minds the man of science had to argue, and in deference to such 
he had at length to affect to doubt his own demonstrations. 1 The 
Catholic Reaction had finally created as bitter a spirit of hostility to 
free science in the Church as existed among the Protestants ; and in 
Italy even those who saw the moons of Jupiter through his telescope 
dared not avow what they had seen. 2 It was therefore an unfortunate 
step on Galileo's part to go from Padua, which was under the rule of 
Venice, then anti-papal, ' ! to Tuscany, on the invitation of the Grand 
Duke. When in 1G13 he published his treatise on the solar spots, 
definitely upholding Copernicus against Jesuits and Aristotelians, 
trouble became inevitable ; and his letter'' to his pupil, Father 
Castelli, professor of mathematics at Pisa, discussing the Biblical 
argument with which they had both been met, at once evoked an 
explosion when circulated by Castelli. New trouble arose when 
Galileo in 1615 wrote his apology in the form of a letter to his 
patroness the Dowager Grand Duchess Cristina of Tuscany, extracts 
from which became current. An outcry of ignorant Dominican 
monks" sufficed to set at work the machinery of the Index, 6 the first 
result of which (1616) was to put on the list of condemned books 
the great treatise of Copernicus, published seventy-three years 
before. Galileo personally escaped for the present through the 
friendly intervention of the Pope, Paul V, on the appeal of his 
patron, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, apparently on the ground that 
he had not publicly taught the Copernican theory. It would seem 



1 Gebler, pp. 51, 129, and passim ; The Private Life of Galileo (by Mrs. Olney), Boston, 
1870, pp. 67-72. 

2 Galileo's letter to Kepler, cited by Gebler, p. 20. 

:: The Jesuits were expelled from Venice in 1016, in retaliation for a papal interdict. 

1 See it summarized by Gebler, pp. 40-00, and quoted in the Private Life, pp. 83-85. 

"' The measure of reverence with which the orthodox handled the matter may be 
inferred from the fact that the Dominican Caccini, who preached against Galileo in 
Florence, took as one of his texts the verse in Acts i: " I'iri Ualilaei, quid statis 
aspicientes in caelum," making a pun on the Scripture. 

See this summarized by Gebler, pp. 01-70. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 59 

as if some of the heads of the Church were at heart Copernicans ;* 
but they were in any case obliged to disown a doctrine felt by so 
many others to he subversive of the Church's authority. 

See the details of the procedure in Domenico Berti, II Proccsso 
Originah de Galileo Galilei, ed. 1878, cap. iv ; in Fahie, ch. viii ; 
and in Geblor, ch. vi. The last-cited writer claims to show that, 
of two records of the " admonition " to Galileo, one, the more 
stringent in its terms, was false, though made at the date it hears, 
to permit of subsequent proceedings against Galileo. But the 
whole thesis is otiose. It is admitted (Geblor, p. 89) that Galileo 
was admonished " not to defend or hold the Copernican doctrine." 
Geblor contends, however, that this was not a command to keep 
' entire silence," and that therefore Galileo is not justly to be 
charged with having disobeyed the injunction of the Inquisition 
when, in his Dialogues on the Tiro Principal Systems of the 
World, the Ptolemaic and Copernican (1632), he dealt dialectically 
with the subject, neither affirming nor denying, but treating both 
theories as hypotheses. But the real issue is not Galileo's 
cautious disobedience (see Gebler's own admissions, p. 119) to 
an irrational decree, but the crime of the Church in silencing 
him. It is not likely that the " enemies " of Galileo, as Gebler 
supposes (pp. 90, 338), anticipated his later dialectical handling 
of the subject, and so falsified the decision of the Inquisition 
against him in 1616. Gebler had at first adopted the German 
theory that the absolute command to silence was forged in 
1632 ; and, finding the document certainly belonged to 1616, 
framed the new theory, quite unnecessarily, to save Galileo's 
credit. The two records are quite in the spirit and manner of 
Inquisitorial diplomacy. As Berti remarks, " the Holy Office 
proceeded with much heedlessness (legerezza) and much con- 
fusion " in 1616. Its first judgment, in either form, merely 
emphasizes the guilt of the second. Cp. Fahie, pp. 167-69. 

Thus officially "admonished" for his heresy, but not punished, 
in 1616, Galileo kept silence for some years, till in 1618 he published 
his (erroneous) theory of the tides, which he sent with an ironical 
epistle to the friendly Archduke Leopold of Austria, professing to be 
propounding a mere dream, disallowed by the official veto on Coper- 
nicus. 2 This, however, did him less harm than Ins essay 7/ Sug- 
(jiutorc ( The Scales"), in which he opposed the Jesuit Grassi on 
the question of comets. Receiving the imprimatur in 1623, it was 
dedicated to the new pope, Urban VIII, who, as the Cardinal 
MaiTco Barberini, had been Galileo's friend. The latter could now 

1 Sec The Vrirfitp Life, of fSalilrn, pp. W, 87. 01, 00; fli-liUT, p. 11; laliio, pp. 100 70; 
Hi rli. H l-rnrrsmi Oriuinnle tie dnlilen (inlilei, 1S7H, p. 5:i. 

' (M-lilcr (p. 101) solemnly comments on this letter as a lapse into "servility" on 
Galileo's part. 



60 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT 

hope for freedom of speech, as he had all along bad a number of 
friends at the papal court, besides many priests, among his admirers 
and disciples. But the enmity of the Jesuits countervailed all. 
They did not succeed in procuring a censure of the Saggiatore, 
though that subtly vindicates the Copernican system while pro- 
fessing to hold it disproved by the fiat of the Church; 1 but when, 
venturing further, he after another lapse of years produced his 
Dialogues on the Two Systems, for which he obtained the papal 
imprimatur in 1G32, they caught him in their net. Having constant 
access to the pope, they contrived to make him believe that Galileo 
had ridiculed him in one of the personages of his Dialogues. It was 
quite false ; but one of the pope's anti-Copernican arguments was 
there unconsciously made light of ; and his wounded vanity was 
probably a main factor in the impeachment which followed. 2 His 
Holiness professed to have been deceived into granting the impri- 
matur ; s a Special Commission was set on foot; the proceedings of 
1G16 were raked up; and Galileo was again summoned to Rome. 
He was old and frail, and sent medical certificates of his unfitness 
for such travel ; but it was insisted on, and as under the papal 
tyranny there was no help, he accordingly made the journey. After 
many delays he was tried, and, on his formal abjuration, sentenced 
to formal imprisonment (1633) for teaching the " absurd" and " false 
doctrine" of the motion of the earth and the non-motion of the sun 
from east to west. In this case the pope, whatever were his motives, 
acted as a hot anti-Copernican, expressing his personal opinion on 
the question again and again, and always in an anti-Copernican 
sense. In both cases, however, the popes, while agreeing to tire 
verdict, abstained from officially ratifying it, 1 so that, in proceeding 
to force Galileo to abjure his doctrine, the Inquisition technically 
exceeded its powers a circumstance in which some Catholics 
appear to find comfort. Seeing that three of the ten cardinals 
named in the preamble to the sentence did not sign, it lias been 
inferred that they dissented ; but there is no good reason to suppose 
that either the pope or they wilfully abstained from signing. They 
had gained their point the humiliation of the great discoverer. 

Compare Gebler, p. 211 ; Private Life, p. 257, quoting 
Tiraboschi. For an exposure of the many perversions of the 
facts as to Galileo by Catholic writers see Parchappe, Galilee, 
sa vie, etc., 2e Partie. To such straits has the Catholic Church 
been reduced in this matter that part of its defence of the 

i Gebler, pp. 112-13. - Private Life, VV- 216-38 ; Gebler, pp. 157-G2. 

8 Herti, pp. (il-Cl : Private Life, pp. 212-13; Gebler, p. 102. 
4 Gebler, p. 239; Private Life, p. 206. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT Gl 

treatment of Galileo is the plea that he unwarrantably asserted 
that the fixity of the sun and the motion of the earth were 
taught in the Scriptures. Sir Robert Inglis is quoted as having 
maintained this view in England in 1821 (Mendham, The 
Literary Policy of the Church of Borne, 2nd ed. 1830, p. 176), 
and the same proposition was maintained in 1850 by a Roman 
cardinal. See Galileo e V Inquisiziouc, by Monsignor Marini, 
Roma, 1S50, pp. 1, 53-54, etc. Had Galileo really taught as 
is there asserted, he would only have been assenting to what his 
priestly opponents constantly dinned in his ears. But in point 
of fact he had not so assented ; for in his letter to Castelli (see 
Gebler, pp. 16-50) ho had earnestly deprecated the argument 
from the Bible, urging that, though Scripture could not err, its 
interpreters might misunderstand it ; and even going so far as 
to argue, with much ingenuity, that the story of Joshua, literally 
interpreted, could be made to harmonize with the Copernican 
theory, hut not at all with the Ptolemaic. 

The thesis revived by Monsignor Marini deserves to rank as 
the highest flight of absurdity and effrontery in the entire 
discussion (cp. 13erti, Giordano Bruno, 1889, p. 306, note). 
Every step in both procedures of the Inquisition insists on the 
falsity and the anti-scriptural character of the doctrine that the 
earth moves round the sun (see Berti, II Brocesso, p. 115 sq.; 
Gebler, pp. 76-77, 230-34) ; and never once is it hinted that 
Galileo's error lay in ascribing to the Bible the doctrine of the 
earth's fixity In the Roman Index of 166-1 the works of 
Galileo and Copernicus are alike vetoed, with all other writings 
affirming the movement of the earth and the stability of the 
sun : and in the Index of 170-1 are included libri omnes docentes 
mohilitatem tcrrac et immobilitatem solis (Putnam, The Censor- 
ship of the Church of Borne, 1906-1907, i, 308, 312). 

The stories of his being tortured and blinded, and saying Still 
it moves," are indeed myths. 1 Tho broken-spirited old man was in 
no mood so to speak ; lie was, moreover, in all respects save his 
science, air orthodox Catholic,' and as such not likely to defy the 
Church to its face. \n reality lie was formally in tin; custody of 
the Inquisition and this not in a cell, but in the house of an 
official -for only twenty-two days. After the sentence he was again 
formally detained for some seventeen days in the Villa Medici, hut 
was then allowed to return to his own rural home at Acafri,' on 
condition that he lived in solitude, receiving no visitors. He was 

' (iebler. ]>]>. -J II) <;:i; 1'rir.itr T,ifi\ pp. -j.v, 5(5; Marini. pp. ~>r, 57. The"e pur si nmnvc" 
slorvi- lir t )i<:iLi-'l ol in 1771. A- to tin: torture, it in to lit! reme inhered tiiat (ialileo 
recanted under tit mil ol it. Sec lii-rti. pp. '.):) 101 ; Marini, p. .V.I ; Sir (). l.od::e. I'imitrrs 
of Srirnn; 1-,j:S. pp. hi-; :il. I'.erti iinjiic.-i that only tin: special humanity of the Cone 
me ~:,r\ -O.n.n.l. Maeolano, saved him from the tort! ire. 1 'p. ( ohl.r. |>. d'i'.l, nofr. 

- Gebler, p. J.~>\. ' J'rirtttc Life, pp. JO W, -JOS; Gebler, p. irJ. 



62 THE RISE OF MODERN FREETIIOUGHT 

thus much more truly a prisoner than the so-called ' prisoner of the 
Vatican " in our own day. The worst part of the sentence, however, 
was the placing of all his works, published and unpublished, on the 
Index Expurgatorius, and the gag thus laid on all utterance of 
rational scientific thought in Italy an evil of incalculable influence. 
"The lack of liberty and speculation," writes a careful Italian 
student, " was the cause of the death first of the Accademia dei 
Lincei, an institution unique in its time ; then of the Accademia 
del Cimento. Thus Italy, after the marvellous period of vigorous 
native civilization in the thirteenth century, after a second period 
of civilization less native but still its own, as being Latin, saw itself 
arrested on the threshold of a third and not less splendid period. 
Vexations and prohibitions expelled courage, spontaneity, and 
universality from the national mind ; literary style became un- 
certain, indeterminate; and, forbidden to treat of government, 
science, or religion, turned to tilings frivolous and fruitless. For 
the great academies, instituted to renovate and further the study of 
natural philosophy, were substituted small ones without any such 
aim. Intellectual energy, the love of research and of objective 
truth, greatness of feeling and nobility of character, all suffered. 
Nothing so injures a people as the compulsion to express or conceal 
its thought solely from motives of fear. The nation in which those 
conditions were set up became intellectually inferior to those in 
which it was possible to pass freely in the vast regions of 
knowledge. Her culture grew restricted, devoid of originality, 
vaporous, umbratile ; there arose habits of servility and dissi- 
mulation ; great books, great men, great purposes were dena- 
turalized." ' 

It was thus in the other countries of Europe that Galileo's 
teaching bore its fruit, for he speedily got his condemned Dialogues 
published in Latin by the Elzevirs ; and in 1G38, also at the hands 
of the Elzevirs, appeared his Dialogues of the Xcic Seiences [i.e., of 
mechanics and motion] , the " foundation of mechanical physics." 
By this time he was totally blind, and then only, when physicians 
could not help him save by prolonging his life, was he allowed to live 
under strict surveillance in Florence, needing a special indulgence 
from the Inquisition to permit him even to go to church at Easter. 
The desire of his last blind days, to have with him his best-beloved 
pupil, Father Castelli, was granted only under rigid limitation and 
supervision, though even the papacy could not keep from him the 

1 Berti, II Processo di Galileo, pp. 111-1-2. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT G3 

plaudits of the thinkers of Europe. Finally he passed away in his 
rural "prison " after five years of blindness in 1G12, the year of 
Newton's birth. At that time his doctrines were under anathema in 
Italy, and known elsewhere only to a few. Hohbes in 1G3-1 tried in 
vain to procure for the Earl of Newcastle a copy of the earlier Dia- 
logues in London, and wrote : " It is not possible to get it for money. 

I hear say it is called-in, in Italy, as a book that will do more 

hurt to their religion than all the books of Luther and Calvin, such 
opposition they think is between their religion and natural reason." ' 
Not till 1757 did the papacy permit other books teaching" the Coper- 
nican system ; in 17G5 Galileo was still under ban ; not until 1822 
was permission given to treat the theory as true ; and not until 1835 
was the work of Copernicus withdrawn from the Index. 2 

While modern science was thus being placed on its special basis, 
a continuous resistance was being made in the schools to the 
dogmatism which held the mutilated lore of Aristotle as the sum of 
human wisdom. Like the ecclesiastical revolution, this had been 
protracted through centuries. Aristotelianism, whether theistic or 
pantheistic, whether orthodox or heterodox, s had become a dogmatism 
like another, a code that vetoed revision, a fetter laid on the mind. 
Even as a negation of Christian superstition it had become impotent, 
for the Peripatetics were not only ready to make common cause with 
the Jesuits against Galileo, as we have seen ; some of them were 
content even to join in the appeal to the Bible. 4 The result of such 
uncritical partisanship was that the immense service of Aristotle to 
mental life the comprehensive grasp which gave him his long 
supremacy as against rival system-makers, and makes him still 
so much more important than any of the thinkers who in the 
sixteenth century revolted against him was by opponents dis- 
regarded and denied, though the range and depth of his inlluence 
are apparent in all the polemic against him, notably in that of Eacon, 
who is constantly citing him, and relates his reasoning to him, 
however antagonistically, at every turn. 

Naturally, the less sacrosanct dogmatism was the more freely 

1 Letter of Hobbos to Newcastle, in Uejxirt of the Hist. Mux. Comm. nn the Duke of 
Portlmul's 1'tiiiert;, 1802, ii. Hobbos explains that few copies were brought over, "anil 
they that buy such books are not such men as to part will) them attain. " "1 doubt not," 
he adds, "but the translation of it will here bo publicly embraced." 

- Colder, pp. Ill -2-1. "J ; I'utnam. Ceiixorxhi}! of tlic Church of Home, i, I11I3-1 I. 

:; See leberwe^, ii, 12, as to the conflicting types. In addition to Cremonini, several 
loading Aristotelians in thesixteenth and seventeenth centuries were accused of atheism 
(Hallaui, Lit. Hist, ii, 101 102), the old charge against the IVripatotie school. Dallam 
(p. 102) compln ins that Cksai.i-ini of I'isa "substitutes the barren unity of pantheism for 
religion." dp. L'eborweg, ii, 11; Kenan, Arerrues, lie edit. p. 117. An Avcrro'fst on some 
points, he believed in separate immortality. 

1 Colder, pp. 117, !.">. Colder appears to surmise that Oremonini may have escaped the 
attack upon himself by turning suspicion upon Galileo, but as to this then' is no evidence. 



Gl THE EISE OE MODEBN EEEETHOUGHT 

assailed ; and in the sixteenth century the attacks became numerous 
and vehement. Luther was a furious anti-Aristotelian, 1 as were also 
some Calvinists ; but in 1570 we find Beza declaring to Eamus" that 
" the Genevese have decreed, once and for ever, that they will never, 
neither in logic nor in any other branch of learning, turn away from 
the teaching of Aristotle." At Oxford the same code held. 3 In 
Italy, Telesio, who notably anticipates the tone of Bacon as to 
natural science, and is largely followed by him, influenced Bruno 
in the anti-Aristotelian direction,' 1 though it was in a long line from 
Aristotle that he got his principle of the eternity of the universe- 
The Spaniard Ludovicus Vives, too (1192-1510), pronounced by 
Lange one of the clearest heads of his age, had insisted on progress 
beyond Aristotle in the spirit of naturalist science. But the typical 
anti-Aristotelian of the century was EAMUS (Eierre de la Eamee, 
1515-1572), whose long and strenuous battle against the ruling 
school at Baris brought him to his death in the -Massacre of 
St. Bartholomew. 6 Eamus hardily laid it down that " there is no 
authority over reason, but reason ought to be queen and ruler over 
authority." ' Such a message was of more value than his imperfect 
attempt to supersede the Aristotelian logic. Bacon, who carried on 
in England the warfare against the Aristotelian tradition, never 
ventured so to express himself as against the theological tyranny in 
particular, though, as we have seen, the general energy and vividness 
of his argumentation gave him an influence which undermined the 
orthodoxies to which he professed to conform. On the other hand, 
he did no such service to exact science as was rendered in his day by 
Kepler and Galileo and their English emulators ; and Ins full didactic 
influence came much later into play. 

Like fallacies to Bacon's may be found in Descaetf.S, whose 
seventeenth-century reputation as a champion of theism proved 
mainly the eagerness of theists for a plausible defence. Already in 
his own day his arguments were logically confuted by both Gassendi 
and Elobbes ; and his partial success with theists was a success of 
partisanism. It was primarily in respect of bis habitual appeal 
to reason and argument, in disregard of the assumptions of faith, 
and secondarily in respect of ins real scientific work, that he counts 

1 Ueberwcg, ii, 17. 2 Kpist. 36. :; Sec above, p. 45. 

' Bartholmess, Jordann liruvn. i, 40. 

"- Lange, Gesch. rfes Mater, i, 189-90 (Eng. tr. i, 22S). Bom in Valencia and trained at 
I'aris, Vives became a humanist teacher at Lotivain, and was called to England (1523) to 
bo tutor to the Princess .Mary. During his stay he taught at Oxford. Being opposed to 
the divorce of Henry VIII. he was imprisoned for a time, afterwards living at Bruges. 

,; See the monograph, Itamus, s,i vie, ses ecrits, rt sen opinions, par Ch. Waddington, 
1805. Owen has a good account of Ramus in Ids French Skeptics. 

7 Schola math. 1. iii, p. 78, cited by Waddington, p. 313. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 65 

for freethoughfc. Ultimately his method undermined his creed ; 
and it is not too much to say of him that, next to Copernicus, 
Kepler, and Galileo, 1 ho laid a good part of the foundation of modern 
philosophy and science," Gassendi largely aiding. Though he never 
does justice to Galileo, from his fear of provoking the Church, it can 
hardly he doubted that he owes to him in large part the early 
determination of his mind to scientific methods ; for it is difficult to 
believe that the account he gives of his mental development in the 
Discours do hi Methodc (1637) is biographically true. It is rather 
the schemed statement, by a ripened mind, of how it might best 
have been developed. Nor did Descartes, any more than Bacon, live 
up to the intellectual idea he had framed. All through his life ho 
anxiously sought to propitiate the Church ;' and his scientific as well 
as his philosophic work was hampered in consequence. In England 
Henry More, who latterly recoiled from his philosophy, still thought 
his physics had been spoiled by fear of the Church, declaring that 
the imprisonment of Galileo " frighted Des Cartes into such a 
distorted description of motion that no man's reason could make 
good sense of it, nor modesty permit him to fancy anything nonsense 
in so excellent an author." 

But nonetheless the unusual rationalism of Descartes's method, 
avowe lly aiming at the uprooting of all his own prejudices" as a 
first step to truth, displeased the Jesuits, and could not escape the 
hostile attention of the Protestant theologians of Holland, where 
Descartes passed so many years of his life. Despite his constant 
theism, accordingly, he had at length to withdraw. A Jesuit, Pere 
Bourdin, sought to have the Discours do la Metliode at once con- 
demned by the French clergy, but the attempt failed for the time 
being. France was just then, in fact, the most freothinking part of 
Europe;' and Descartes, though not so unsparing with his prejudices 
as he set out to be, was the greatest innovator in philosophy that 
had arisen in the Christian era. He made real scientific discoveries, 

1 "In many respects Galileo deserves to he ranked with Descartes as inammralinf! 
modern philosophy." Prof. Adamson. Dcirlojimiuit of Mini, l'liilox. 19():J. i, 3. "We may 
compare his I Hobbe-Vs! thought with I (eseartes's, hut the impulse came to him from the 
physical v> a-onimjs of (ialileo." I'rof. ('room liobertson, llobhcx, lssf,. p. {>. 

- I Suckle 1-vol. ed. pp. -.Ml '/<; :i-vol.ed. ii, 77 S3. Cp. [jantfe, i, 1-25 I Km!, tr. i, 2 is, note) ; 
Ad-imson. 1'liiloxoi/hy ,,f limit, 1S79, p. 191. 

Cp. Nan^e. i, Ii3 Kntf. tr. i. 2IS-I9. note) ; Houillier, Hixt. tie hi philox. c</ rtrxicnnr, 
1S31, i. K) 17. ]-:, SD; Bartholin's, Jorilann liruno, i, :j31-33; Memoir in (iarnier ed. of 
(Kin-ri Choi in,, p. v. also pp. Ii, 17. 19, II. Hossuet prouoimced the precautions of 
De riirte-. cxci-.--.ivt.-. lint cp. Dr. hand's notes in Spinor.n : Four Kxsmjx, IS->-J, p. 33. 

1 Coll. of I'hilox. U'ritint/x, ed. 171-2, pref. p. xi. 
hi n, itr ill- In Mrthnili; pties. i, ii, iii, i\ {(Kuvrcx Choixics, pp. S, II), II, 22, 21); 
ili-ditation 1 <i<l. pp. 7.", 7-1). 

'' l-'ill d. -tails in Kuno Fischer's Dcxcartea and his School, Kn;;. tr. 1S90, hk. i, ch. vi ; 
liouillicr, i, clis. \ii. xiii. 

7 iluckle, 1 -vol.ed. pp. W~ 39; 3-vol. cd. ii, 91. 97. 

VOL. II F 



G6 THE EISE OF MODEEN FEEETHOUGHT 

too, where Bacon only inspired an approach and schemed a wandering 
road to them. He first effectively applied algebra to geometry ; he 
first scientifically explained the rainbow ; he at once accepted and 
founded on Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, which 
most physiologists of the day derided ; and he welcomed Aselli's 
discovery of the lacteals, which was rejected by Harvey. 1 And 
though as regards religion his timorous conformities deprive him of 
any heroic status, it is perhaps not too much to pronounce him 

the great reformer and liberator of the European intellect."" One 
not given to warm sympathy with freethought has avowed that 

the common root of modern philosophy is the doubt which is 
alike Baconian and Cartesian." 3 

Only less important, in some regards, was the influence of 
Pierre Gassend or GASSEXDI (1592-1C55), who, living his life as 
a canon of the Church, reverted in his doctrine to the philosophy 
of Epicurus, alike in physics and ethics. 4 It seems clear that he 
never had any religious leanings, but simply entered the Church on 
the advice of friends who pointed out to him how much better a 
provision it gave, in income and leisure, than the professorship he 
held in his youth at the university of Aix. 5 Professing like 
Descartes a strict submission to the Church, he yet set forth a 
theory of things which had in all ages been recognized as funda- 
mentally irreconcilable with the Christian creed ; and his substantial 
exemption from penalties is to be set down to his position, his 
prudence, and his careful conformities. The correspondent of 
Galileo and Kepler, he was the friend of La Mothe le Vayer and 
Naude ; and Gui Patin was his physician and intimate. Strong 
as a physicist and astronomer where Descartes was weak, he divides 
with him and Galileo the credit of practically renewing natural philo- 
sophy ; Newton being Gassendist rather than Cartesian.' Indeed, 
Gassendi's youthful attack on the Aristotelian physics (1624) makes 
him the predecessor of Descartes ; and he expressly opposed his 
contemporary on points of physics and metaphysics on which he 
thought him chimerical, and so promoted unbelief where Descartes 

1 Buckle, pp. 327-30; ii. 81. 2 Id. p. 330; ii, 82. The process is traced hereinafter. 

:i Kuno Fischer, Francis Bacon, Eng. tr. 1857, p. 71. 

4 For nn exact summary and criticism of Gassendi's positions see the masterly mono- 
graph of Prof . Brett of Lahore, The Philosophy of Gassendi, 190S a real contribution to 
the history of philosophy. 

5 Op. Adam Smith, Wraith of Nations, bk. v, ch. i (McCulloch's ed. 1839. pp. 304-65). It 
is told of him, with doubtful authority, that when dying he said: "I know not who 
brought me into the world, neither do I know what was to do there, nor why I go out of 
it." Reflections on the Death of Freethinkers, by Deslandes (Eng. tr. of the Reflexions sur 
h s grands Ivan mes qui sont marts en plaisantant), 1713. p. 105. 

6 For n good account of Gassendi and his group (founded on Lange, ? iii, ch. i) see 
Soury, Rrcviaire de I'hist. de mate rialisme , ptie. iii, ch. ii. 

7 Voltaire, Elements de philos. de Newton, ch. ii ; Lange, i, 23'2 (Eng. tr. i, 2G7J and 2(30. 



SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT 67 

made for orthodoxy. 1 Of the criticisms on his Meditations to which 
Descartes published replies, those of Gassendi are, with the partial 
exception of those of Hobbes, distinctly the most searching and 
sustained. The later position of Hume, indeed, is explicitly taken 
up in the first objection of Craterus ;'" but the persistent pressure of 
Gassendi on the theistic and spiritistic assumptions of Descartes 
reads like the reasoning of a modern atheist. 3 Yet the works of 
Descartes were in time placed on the Index, condemned by the 
king's council, and even vetoed in the universities, while those of 
Gassendi were not, though Ins early work on Aristotclianism had to 
be stopped after the first volume because of the anger it aroused. 4 
Himself one of the most abstemious of men,'' like his master 
Epicurus (of whom he wrote a Life, 1617), ho attracted disciples of 
another temperamental cast as well as many of his own ; and as 
usual his system is associated with the former, who arc duly vilified 
by orthodoxy, although certainly no worse than the average orthodox. 
Among his other practical services to rationalism was a curious 
experiment, made in a village of the Lower Alps, by way of investi- 
gating the doctrine of witchcraft. A drug prepared by one sorcerer 
was administered to others of the craft in presence of witnesses. It 
threw them into a deep sleep, on awakening from which they 
declared that they had been at a witches' Sabbath. As they had 
never left their beds, the experiment went far to discredit the super- 
stition. e One significant result of the experiment was seen in the 
course later taken by Colbert in overriding a decision of the Parle- 
ment of Eouen as to witchcraft (1670). That Parlcment proposed 
to burn fourteen sorcerers. Colbert, who had doubtless read 
Montaigne as well as Gassendi, gave Montaigne's prescription that 
the culprits should be dosed with hellebore a medicine for brain 
disturbance. 7 In 1672, finally, the king issued a declaration for- 
bidding the tribunals to admit charges of mere sorcery;" and any 
future condemnations were on the score of blasphemy and poison- 
in:,'. Yet further, in the section of his posthumous Syntagma Pliilo- 
sophicum (16-08) entitled De Effectibus Siderum? Gassendi dealt the 

1 Bayle, art. Pomponwcr, Xotea F. and fi . The complaint was made by Arnauld, who 
with the rest of the Jansenists was substantially a (.'artesian. 

- See it in Gander's cd. of Dc cartes - * CKuvrcs Choixies, p. 115. 
'' Id. pp. 158-01. 

1 Apparently just because the .Tansenists adopter! Descartes and opposed fiassendi. 
Hut Gassendi is extremely guarded in all his statements, save, indeed, in Ins objections to 
the Meditations of I >escartes. 

"' See Soury, pp. :S97-98, sis to a water-drinking "debauch " of Gassendi and his friends. 

r ' Kambaud, a i cited, p. 151. '' Id. p. 155. 

- Voltaire. Sii- rip. dr. Louis XIV, od. Didot, p. :Si',l>. "On ne lent pas use sous [fenri IV 
et ^ons Louis XI II," adds Voltaire, (p. Miehelet. I. a Sornrrr. cd. Seailles. l!Kj:j, p. 502. 

'> Tr. into Knijlish in 1059, under the title This Vanity <</' Judiciary Astruloyj. 



68 THE RISE OF MODERN FEEETHOUGHT 

first great blow on the rationalist side to the venerable creed of 
astrology, assailed often, but to little purpose, from the side of faith ; 
bringing to his task, indeed, more asperity than he is commonly 
credited with, but also a stringent scientific and logical method, 
lacking in the polemic of the churchmen, who had attacked astrology 
mainly because it ignored revelation. It is sobering to remember, 
however, that he was one of those who could not assimilate Harvey's 
discovery of the circulation of the blood, which Descartes at once 
adopted and propounded. 

Such anomalies meet us many times in the history of scientific 
as of other lines of thought ; and the residual lesson is the recogni- 
tion that progress is infinitely multiplex in its causation. Nothing 
is more vital in this regard than scientific truth, which is as a light- 
house in seas of speculation ; and those who, like Galileo and 
Descartes, add to the world's exact knowledge, perform a specific 
service not matched by that of the Bacons, who urge right method 
without applying it. Yet in that kind also an incalculable influence 
has been wielded. Many minds can accept scientific truths without 
being thereby led to scientific ways of thought ; and thus the 
reasoners and speculators, the Brunos and the Vaninis, play their 
fruitful part, as do the mentors who turn men's eyes on their own 
vices of intellectual habit. And in respect of creeds and philosophies, 
finally, it is not so much sheer soundness of result as educativeness 
of method, effectual appeal to the thinking faculty and to the spirit 
of reason, that determines a thinker's influence. This kind of impact 
we shall find historically to be the service done by Descartes to 
European thought for a hundred years. 

From Descartes, then, as regards philosophy, more than from 
any professed thinker of his day, but also from the other thinkers 
we have noted, from the reactions of scientific discovery, from the 
terrible experience of the potency of religion as a breeder of strife 
and its impotence as a curber of evil, and from the practical free- 
thinking of the more open-minded of that age in general, derives 
the great rationalistic movement, which, taking clear literary form 
first in the seventeenth century, lias with some fluctuations broadened 
and deepened down to our own day. 



Chapter XI V 

BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE SEVENTEENTH 
CENTURY 

j 1 

The propagandist literature of deism begins with an English diplo- 
matist, Lord HERBERT of Cherbury, the friend of Bacon, who stood 
in the full stream of the current freethought of England and France 1 
in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. English deism, as 
literature, is thus at its very outset affiliated with French ; all of 
its elements, critical and ethical, arc germinal in Bodin, Montaigne, 
and Charron, each and all of whom had a direct influence on English 
thought ; and we shall find later French thought, as in the cases 
of Gassendi, Bayle, Simon, St. Evremond, and Voltaire, alternately 
influenced by and reacting on English. But, apart from the unde- 
veloped rationalism of the Elizabethan period, which never found 
literary expression, the French ferment seems to have given the 
first effective impulse ; though it is to be remembered that about 
the same time the wars of religion in Germany, following on an age 
of theological uproar, had developed a common temper of in- 
differentism which would react on the thinking of men of affairs 
in France. 

We have seen the state of upper-class and middle-class opinion 
in France about 162-1. It was in Paris in that year that Herbert 
published his l)c Veritatc, after acting for five years as the English 
ambassador at the French court an office from which he was 
recalled in the same year." By his own account the book had been 
"begun by me in England, and formed there in all its principal 
parts," "but finished at Paris. He had, however, gone to France 
in LG08, and had served in various continental wars in the years 
following; and it was presumably in these years, not in his youth 
in England, that lie had formed the remarkable opinions set forth in 
his epoch-making book. 

1 .I.!.i.: n Ti;..iii:i -i'i- in liN Ilinlnrin Alhriftmi <U\ r .)l ioin Herbert v. itli line] in as huviiif* 
five point- in common with him (eil. 17!):), ch. i\. .> -1. pp. Vii 77 ) . 

- It illicit hav.- he n suppose I that, lie w.i ,-i reoalle i on aeeount of hi : lxu.1% ; hut it WMH 
nol o. II w : re : ille I Ijv leiter iii \pril, 1-e.turue 1 home in .Inly, ami iviih to have sent 
hi- hook tlienee to I'aris to he printe.l. 

'' .iiit'ibl </ rn lih ij, Sir S. I. '-_! i) 1 1 e'l. p. IIJJ. 



70 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

Hitherto deism had been represented by unpublished arguments 
disingenuously dealt with in published answers ; henceforth there 
slowly grows up a deistic literature. Herbert was a powerful and 
audacious nobleman, with a weak king ; and he could venture on 
a publication which would have cost an ordinary man dear. Yet 
even he saw fit to publish in Latin ; and he avowed hesitations. 
The most puzzling thing about it is his declaration that Grotius and 
the German theologian Tielenus, having read the book in MS., 
exhorted him "earnestly to print and publish it." It is difficult to 
believe that they had gathered its substance. Herbert's work has 
two aspects, a philosophical and a political, and in both it is 
remarkable." Like the Discours cle la Methode of Descartes, which 
was to appear thirteen years later, it is inspired by an original 
determination to get at the rational grounds of conviction ; and in 
Herbert's case the overweening self-esteem which disfigures his 
Autobiography seems to have been motive force for the production 
of a book signally recalcitrant to authority. Where Bacon attacks 
Aristotelianism and the habits of mind it had engendered, Herbert 
counters the whole conception of revelation in religion. Rejecting 
tacitly the theological basis of current philosophy, ho divides the 
human mind into four faculties Natural Instinct, Internal Sense, 
External Sense, and the Discursive faculty through one or other 
of which all our knowledge emerges. Of course, like Descartes, he 
makes the first the verification of his idea of God, pronouncing that 
to be primary, independent, and universally entertained, and there- 
fore not lawfully to be disputed (already a contradiction in terms) ; 
but, inasmuch as scriptural revelation has no place in the process, 
the position is conspicuously more advanced than that of Bacon in 
the De Augment is, published the year before, and even than that of 
Locke, sixty years later. On the question of concrete religion 
Herbert is still more aggressive. His argument 8 is, in brief, that 
no professed revelation can have a decisive claim to rational 
acceptance ; that none escapes sectarian dispute in its own field ; 
that, as each one misses most of the human race, none seems to be 
divine ; and that human reason can do for morals all that any one of 
them does. The negative generalities of Montaigne here pass into 
a positive anti-Christian argument ; for Herbert goes on to 
pronounce the doctrine of forgiveness for faith immoral. 

1 The book was reprinted at London in Latin in 1633 ; again at Paris in 1036 ; and again 
at London in 1615. It was translated and published in French in 1630. hut never in English. 

2 Compare the verdict of Hamilton in his ed. of Reid, note A, 6, 35 (p. 7S1). 

"' For a good analysis see I'iinjer. Hist, of the Christ. Plains, of Religion, Eng. trans. 
1SS7, pp. 292-99 ; also Noack, Die Freiilcnlcer in tier Religion, Bern, lboi, i, 17-40 ; and 
Lechler, Geschichte ties englischen Deismus, pp. 36-51. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 71 

Like all pioneers, Herbert falls into some inconsistencies on his 
own part ; the most flagrant being his claim to have had a sign from 
heaven that is, a private and special revelation encouraging him 
to publish his book. 1 But his criticism is nonetheless telling and 
persuasive so far as it goes, and remains valid to this day. Nor do 
his later and posthumous works 2 add to it in essentials, though they 
do much to construct the deistic case on historical lines. The De 
religionc gent ilium in particular is a noteworthy study of pre-Christian 
religions, apparently motived by doubt or challenge as to his theorem 
of the universality of the God-idea. It proves only racial universality 
without agreement; but it is so far a scholarly beginning of rational 
hierology. The English Dialogue between ei Teacher and his Pupil, 
which seems to have been the first form of the Religio Gcntilium, 3 is 
a characteristic expression of his whole way of thought, and was 
doubtless left unpublished for the prudential reasons which led him 
to put all his published works in Latin. But the fact that the Latin 
quotations are translated shows that the book had been planned for 
publication a risk winch he did wisely to shun. The remarkable 
tiling is that his Latin books were so little debated, the De Veritale 
being nowhere discussed before Culverwel. 1 Baxter in 1G72 could 
say that Herbert, " never having been answered, might be thought 
unanswerable ";" and his own answer" is merely theological. 

The next great freothinking figure in England is THOMAS 
HOBBES (lo88-lG79), the most important thinker of his age, 
after Descartes, and hardly less influential. But the purpose of 
Ilohbes being always substantially political and regulative, his 
unfaith in the current religion is only incidentally revealed in the 
writings in which he seeks to show the need for keeping it under 
monarchic control. Ilohbes is in fact the anti-Presbyterian or anti- 
Puritan philosopher ; and to discredit anarchic religion in the eyes 
of the majority he is obliged to speak as a judicial Churchman. Yet 
nothing is more certain than that he was no orthodox Christian ; 

1 See his Autobiography, as cited, pp. 133-31. 

- De emmis errorum, una cum tractate de religione laid rt appendice ad sacerrfotcs 
(1615); l)r religione gentilium (166;}). The latter was translated into English hi 1705. The 
former are short appendices to the lie. Veritata. In 1768 was published for the first time 
from a man user ipt, .1 Din I mine between n Tutor and his Pupil, which, despite the don las 
ol Itchier, may confidently be pronounced Herbert's from internal evidence. See the 
"Advertisement " by the editor of the volume, and c p. Leo, p. n xx, and notes there referred 
to. The " five points," in particular, occur not only in the lieligio Gentilium,, but in the 
De Veritate. The style is clearly of the seventeenth century. 

'' Sir Sidney Lee can hardly be right in taking the Dialogue to be the "little treatise" 
which Herbert proposed to write on behaviour (Autoliiagraphg. Lee's -.hid ed. p. 13). It 
doc, not answer to that description, being rather an elaborate discussion of the themes of 
Herbert's main treatises, running to -111 quarto pages. 

1 Sec below, j). SO. "' More Hen sons for the. Christian lteligion, 167-2. p. 70. 

' l!, is to be remembered that the doctrine of the supremacy of the civil power in 
religious matters (Krastianism) was maintained by some of the ablest men on the 
Parliamentary side, in particular Seidell. 



72 BRITISH FREETIIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

and even his professed theism resolves itself somewhat easily into 
virtual agnosticism on logical pressure. No thought of prudence 
could withhold him from shoving, in a discussion on words, that 
he held the doctrine of the Logos to be meaningless. 1 Of atheism he 
was repeatedly accused by both royalists and rebels ; and his answer 
was forensic rather than fervent, alike as to his scripturalism, his 
Christianity, and his impersonal conception of Deity. 2 Reviving as 
he did the ancient rationalistic doctrine of the eternity of the world, 
he gave a clear footing for atheism as against the Ju(heo-Christian 
view. In affirming " one God eternal " of whom men " cannot have 
any idea in their mind, answerable to his nature," he was negating 
all creeds. He expressly contends, it is true, for the principle of 
a Providence ; but it is hard to believe that he laid any store by 
prayer, public or private ; and it would appear that whatever 
thoughtful atheism there was in England in the latter part of the 
century looked to him as its philosopher, insofar as it did not derive 
from Spinoza. 4 Nor could the Naturalist school of that day desire 
a better, terser, or more drastic scientific definition of religion than 
Hobbes gave them: "Fear of power invisible, feigned by tlie mind 
or imagined from tales 'publicly allowed, Religion ; not allowed, 
SuPEItSTITIOX." 5 As the Churchmen readily saw, Ids insistence 
on identifying the religion of a country with its law plainly implied 
that no religion is any more " revealed " than another. With him 
too begins (lGol) the public criticism of the Bible on literary or 
documentary grounds; 6 though, as we have seen, this had already 
gone far in private;' and lie gave a new lead, partly as against 
Descartes, to a materialistic philosophy. 8 His replies to the theistic 
and spiritistic reasonings of Descartes's Meditations are, like those of 
Gassendi, unrefuted and irrefutable ; and they are fundamentally 
materialistic in their drift. lie was, in fact, in a special and 
peculiar degree for Ins age, a freethinker ; and so deep was his 
intellectual hostility to the clergy of all species that lie could not 
forego enraging those of Ins own political side by his sarcasms. 10 

1 Leviathan, ch. iv, II. Morley's eel. p. 26. 

- (']). his letter to an opponent, Considerations upon the, Reputation, etc., of Thomas 
Hobbcs, lliso, with chs. .\i and xii of Leviathan, and Ve Corpore Politico, pt. ii, c. (i. One 
of his most explicit declarations for theism is in the J)e Homine, c. 1. where lie employs 
the design argument, declaring that he who will not see that the bodily organs are a menie 
aliqua com! it as ordinatasque ad sua quasque, otjicia must be himself without mind. 
This ascription of "mind." however, lie tacitly negates in Leviathan, ch. xi. and JJe 
Corpore 1'olitico, pt. ii, e. li. :; l)e Corpore, pt. ii, c. s, ?' 20. 

1 (.']). Bentley's letter to Bernard, 1002, cited in Dynamics of lieliuion, pp. 82-.S3. 

" ]. viathan, pt. i, ch. vi. Morley's ed. ]>. 34. Lr.vintluni, lit. iii. ch. xxxiii. 

" Above, ]>. 21. * On this see Lange, Hist, of Materialism, see. iii, ch. ii. 

Molyneux, an anti-Hobbesian, in translating Hobbes's objections along with the 
Meditations (HiSOJ claims that the slightness of Descartes's replies was due to his 
unacquaintance with Hobbes's works and philosophy in general (trans, cited, p. 111). 
This i - an obviously lame defence, Descartes does parry some ol the tli rusts of 1 lobbes ; 
others he simply cannot meet. lu E.g., Leviathan, pt. iv, ch. xlvii. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGIIT IN THE 17th CENTURY 73 

Here he is in marked contrast with Descartes, who dissembled 
his opinion about Copernicus and Galileo for peace' sake, 1 and was 
the close friend of the apologist Xlersenne down to his death." 

With the partial exception of the more refined and graceful 
Pecock, Hobbes has of all English thinkers down to his period 
the clearest and hardest head for all purposes of reasoning, save in 
the single field of mathematics, where he meddled without mastery; 
and against the theologians of his time his argumentation is as a 
two-edged sword. That such a man should have been resolutely on 
the side of the king in the Civil War is one of the proofs of the 
essential fanaticism and arbitrariness of the orthodox Puritans, who 
plotted more harm to the heresies they disliked than was ever 
wreaked on themselves. Hobbes came near enough being clerically 
ostracized among the royalists ; hut among the earlier Puritans, or 
under an Independent Puritan Parliament at any time, he would 
have stood a fair chance of execution. It was doubtless largely due 
to the anti-persecuting iniluence of Cromwell, as well as to his 
having ostensibly deserted the royalists, that Hobbes was allowed 
to settle quietly in England after making his submission to the 
Rump Parliament in 1651. In 1666 his Leviathan and De Cive 
were together condemned by the Restoration Parliament in its 
grotesque panic of piety after the Great Fire of London ; and it 
was actually proposed to revive against him the writ de herctico 
comburendo ; 3 but Charles II protected and pensioned him, though 
he was forbidden to publish anything further on burning questions, 
and Leviathan was not permitted in his lifetime to be republished in 
English. 4 He was thus for his generation the typical "infidel," the 
royalist clergy being perhaps his bitterest enemies. His spontaneous 
hostility to fanaticism shaped his literary career, which began in 
1G2-S with a translation of Thucydides, undertaken by way of 
showing the dangers of democracy. Next came the De Cive 
(Paris, 1012), written when he was already an elderly man; and 
thenceforth the Civil War tinges his whole temper. 

It is in fact by way of a revolt against all theological ethic, us 
demonstrably a source of civil anarchy, that Hobbes formulates 

1 Knno l-'i-<h<T, 1 >< --rnvti-Hiinil his School, pp. 232 ;JV Cp. Huntley, Sermons mi Atheism 
H.i'., hi- lioyle Lecture-', ed. 1721, p. . 

- Hobbe- a] o \\n< of Mcr en n it's acquaintance, but only i its n man of science. When, 
in 1M7. Uobbi wn believe. 1 to he ilyin, Merseiinc for the lirsl time sought to discuss 
theoloKj uii.ii him; but the sick man instantly ehaiu/ed the subject. In lill- Mcrsenne 
died. He tun* did not live to meet the strain of L.-rinllnui < H>"d >, which enraged the, 
l-'ri-neh no h - than tie- KnUli-h ehrL'v. K'rooiii KoberlMin's ll,,l,h,s, pp. (",:! ifi.l 

Hobhe- lived to see this law abolished (11177'. There was left, however, the iuris- 
liop> and ecele-dn ideal courts over cases of atheism, blasphemy, heresy, 
and -ehi-m. -hort of tlie death pi nail v. 

1 Croom Hubert on, Hobbes, p. l'., ; l'epJ's's Diary, Kept. 15, IflilH. 



71 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

a strictly civic or legalist ethic, denying the supremacy of an abstract 
or a priori natural moral law (though he founded on natural law), as 
well as rejecting all supernatural illumination of the conscience. In 
the Church of Rome itself there had inevitably arisen the practice of 
Casuistry, in which to a certain extent ethics had to be rationally 
studied ; and early Protestant Casuistry, repudiating the authority 
of the priest, had to rely still more on reason. 

Compare Whewell, Lectures on the History of Moral Philo- 
sophy, ed. 1862, pp. 25-38, where it is affirmed that, after the 
Reformation, " Since the assertions of the teacher had no 
inherent authority, he was obliged to give his proofs as well 
as his results," and "the determination of cases was replaced 
by the discipline of conscience " (p. 29). There is an interesting 
progression in English Protestant casuistry from W. Perkins 
(1558-1602) and W. Ames (pub. 1630), through Bishops Hall 
and Sanderson, to Jeremy Taylor. Mosheim (17 Cent. sec. ii, 
pt. ii, 9) pronounces Ames "the first among the Reformed 
who attempted to elucidate and arrange the science of morals 
as distinct from that of dogmatics." See biog. notes on Perkins 
and Ames in Whewell, pp. 27-29, and Reid's Alosheim, p. 681. 

But Hobbes passed in two strides to the position that natural 
morality is a set of demonstrable inferences as to what adjustments 
promote general well-being ; and further that there is no practical 
code of right and wrong apart from positive social law. 2 He thus 
practically introduced once for all into modern Christendom the 
fundamental dilemma of rationalistic ethics, not only positing the 
problem for his age, 3 but anticipating it as handled in later times. 4 

How far his rationalism was ahead of that of his age may be 
realized by comparing Ids positions with those of John Selden, the 
most learned and, outside of philosophy, one of the shrewdest of the 
men of that generation. Selden was sometimes spoken of by the 
Ilobbists as a freethinker ; and his Tabic Talk contains some sallies 
which would startle the orthodox if publicly delivered ; 5 but not only 
is there explicit testimony by his associates as to his orthodoxy: 
Ins own treatise, Dc Jure Xaturali et Gentium juxta disciplinam 
Ebrceorum, maintains the ground that the " Law of Nature " which 
underlies the variants of the Laws of Nations is limited to the 

1 Leviathan, ch. ii ; Morley's ed. p. 19; chs. xiv, xv, pp. 66, 71, 72, 7S ; ch. xxix, 
pp. 1 18, 111). 

2 Leviathan, chs. xv, xvii, xviii. Morley's ed. pp. 7-2. 82, S3, So. 

:i " For two generations the effort to construct morality on a philosophical basis takes 
more or less the form of answers to Hobbes" (Sidgwiek, Outlines of the History of Ethics, 
3rd ed. p. 169). 

1 As when he presents the law of Nature as "dictating peace, for a means of the 
conservation of men in multitudes" [Leviathan, eh. xv. Morley's ed. p. 77). 

; ; See the headings. Council, Kkt.ioion. etc. 

c G. \V. Johnson, Memoirs of John Selden, 1835, pp. 31S, 3G'2. 



BRITISH FKEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 75 

precepts and traditions set forth in the Talmud as delivered by 
Noah to his posterity. 1 Le Clerc said of the work, justly enough, 
that in it " Selden only copies the Rabbins, and scarcely ever 
reasons." It is likely enough that the furious outcry against 
Selden for his strictly historical investigation of tithes, and the 
humiliation of apology forced upon him in that connection in 1G1S, 2 
made him specially chary ever afterwards of any semblance of a 
denial of the plenary truth of theological tradition ; but there is no 
reason to think that he had ever really transcended the Biblical 
view of the world's order. He illustrates, in fact, the extent to 
which a scholar could in that day be anti-clerical without being 
rationalistic. Like the bulk of the Parliamentarians, though without 
their fanaticism, he was thoroughly opposed to the political preten- 
sions of the Church,'' desiring however to leave episcopacy alone, as 
a matter outside of legislation, when the House of Commons 
abolished it. Yet he spoke of the name of Puritan as one which 
he trusted he was not either mad enough or foolish enough to 
deserve." 4 There were thus in the Parliamentary party men of 
very different shades of opinion. The largest party, perhaps, was 
that of the fanatics who, as Mrs. Hutchinson herself fanatical 
enough tells concerning her husband, would not allow him to 
be religious because his hair was not in their cut." Next in 
strength were the more or less orthodox but anti-clerical and less 
pious Scripturalists, of whom Selden was the most illustrious. By 
far the smallest group of all were the freethinkers, men of their type 
being as often repelled by the zealotry of the Puritans as by the 
sacerdotalism of the State clergy. The Rebellion, in short, though 
it evoked rationalism, was not evoked by it. Like all religious 
strifes like the vaster Thirty Years' War in contemporary Germany 
it generated both doubt and indifferentism in men who would 
otherwise have remained undisturbed in orthodoxy. 

s 2 

When, however, we turn from the higher literary propaganda to 
the verbal and other transitory debates of the period of the 
Rebellion, we realize how much partial rationalism had hitherto 
subsisted without notice. In that immense ferment some very 
advanced opinions, such as quasi-Anarchism in politics" and anti- 

1 (i. W. .John on. p. -311. - Abovo, p. -10. ' fi. W. Johnson, pp. <27,S, 30-2. 

- 1 Id. p. :hi. ('p. in Die Tnhln Talk, art. Tiiimtv, hi ; vii-w of lln- Uoimillicails. 
' Mrnuiirx of Cnlnind Hutchinntm, c<l. IMt), i, LSI . ('p. i. :".<-'. ; ii, I I. 

c Cp. Overton's piunphli't, .l/i Arrow m.minxt nil 'in rants and Turmmij I Id It;), cilcl in 
the Jlistory </ I'nsaiva Obedience since the Iteformntioii, UH), i, ii'J; i>t. ii of Thomas 



76 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

Scripturalism in religion, were more or less directly professed. 
In January, 1646 (x.S.), the authorities of the City of London, 
alarmed at the unheard-of amount of discussion, petitioned 
Parliament to put down all private meetings; 1 and on February 6, 
1616 (x.S.), a solemn fast, or " day of puhlique humiliation," was 
proclaimed on the score of the increase of "errors, heresies, and 
blasphemies." On the same grounds, the Presbyterian party in 
Parliament pressed an " Ordinance for the suppression of Blas- 
phemies and Heresies," which, long held back by Vane and 
Cromwell, was carried in their despite in 1618, by large majorities, 
when the royalists renewed hostilities. It enacted the death 
penalty against all who should deny the doctrine of the Trinity, 
the divinity of Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, a day of 
judgment, or a future state ; and prescribed imprisonment for 
Arminianism, rejection of infant baptism, anti-Sabbatarianism, 
anti-Presbyterianism, or defence of the doctrine of Purgatory or 
the use of images. 2 And of aggressive heresy there are some note- 
worthy traces. In a pamphlet entitled "Hell Broke Loose : a 
Catalogue of the many spreading Errors, Heresies, and Blasphemies 
of these Times, for which we are to be humbled " (March 9, 1616, 
N.S.), the first entry and in the similar Catalogue in Edwards's 
Gangrcena, the second entry is a citation of the notable thesis, 
That the Scripture, whether a true manuscript or no, whether 
Hebrew, Greek, or English, is but humane, and not able to discover 
a divine God." 3 This is cited from " The Pilgrimage of the Saints, 
by Lawrence Clarkson," presumably the Lawrence Clarkson who for 
his book The Single Eye was sentenced by resolution of Parliament 
on September 27, 1600, to be imprisoned, the book being burned by 
the common hangman.' 1 He is further cited as teaching that even 
unbaptized persons may preach and baptize. Of the other heresies 
cited the principal is the old denial of a future life, and especially of 
a physical and future hell. In general the heresy is pietistic or 
antinomian ; but we have also the declaration " that right Reason 
is the rule of Faith, and that we are to believe the Scriptures and 
the doctrine of the Trinity, Incarnation, Resurrection, so far as we 



Edwards's Gangrcena : or a Catalogue and Discovery of many of the 1-2) rours. Heresies, 
lilasphemies, and pernicious Practices of the Sectaries of tJiis tune, etc., 2nd cd. Ki-16, pp. 
33-34 iN'os. 151-53). 

1 Lords Journals, January 10, 1G45-1G16; Gangrcena, as cited, p. 150; ep. Gardiner, 
Hist, of the Civil War, ed. 1893, iii, 11. 

- Green, Short Hist. eh. viii, j 8, pp. 551 52 ; Gardiner, Hist, of the Civil War, iv, 2-2. 

'' Gangrcena, p. 18. 

4 In Kill lie had been imprisoned at Bury St. Edmunds for "dipping" adults, and after 
six months' durance had been released on n recantation and promise of amendment. 
Gangrcena, as cited, pp. lui 105. 



BRITISH FBEETIIOUGIIT IN THE 17th CENTURY 77 

see them to be agreeable to reason and no further." Concerning 
Jesus there are various heresies, from simple Unitarianism to 
contemptuous disparagement, with the stipulation for a " Christ 
formed in us." But though there are cases of unquotable or ribald 
blasphemy there is little trace of scholarly criticism of the Bible, of 
reasoning against miracles or the inconsistencies of Scripture, as 
apart from the doctrine of deity. Nonetheless, it is very credible 

that "multitudes, unsettled have changed their faith, either to 

Scepticisme, to doubt of everything, or Atheisme, to believe nothing." 

Against the furious intolerance of the Puritan legislature some 
pleaded with new zeal for tolerance all round ; arguing that certainty 
on articles of faith and points of religion was impossible a doctrine 
promptly classed as a bad heresy. 2 The plea that toleration would 
mean concord was met by the confident and not unfounded retort 
that the "sectaries" would themselves persecute if they could. 3 
But this could hardly have been true of all. Notable among the 
new parties were the Levellers, who insisted that the State should 
leave religion entirely alone, tolerating all creeds, including even 
atheism ; and who put forward a new and striking ethic, grounding 
on universal reason " the right of all men to the soil. 1 In the 
strictly theological field the most striking innovation, apart from 
simple Unitarianism, is the denial of the eternity or even the 
existence of future torments a position first taken up, as we have 
seen, either by the continental Socinians or by the unnamed English 
heretics of the Tudor period, who passed on their heresy to the 
time of Marlowe. 5 In this connection the learned booklet 6 entitled 
Of the Torments of Hell : the foundations and pillars thereof dis- 
cover'd, search' d, shaken, and removed (1608) was rightly thought 
worth translating into French by d'Holbach over a century later.' It 
is an argument on scriptural lines, denying that the conception of 
a place of eternal torment is either scriptural or credible ; and 
pointing out that many had explained it in a "spiritual" sense. 

Human': feeling of this kind counted for much in the ferment ; 
but a contrary hate was no less abundant. The Presbyterian 
Thomas Edwards, who in a vociferous passion of fear and zeal set 

1 Rev. James C'ranford, Tlrereseo-Hachia, a Sermon, lfi-lfi, p. TO. 

- No. 100 in (I'liiurrfiiii. '' Cranford. as cited, p. 11 Sf7. 

1 Set (J. I*. (;.,.,.-),'. Hist, r,f Democ. Ideas in E n aland in the nth C< ntury, IMis, ch. vi. 

"' A hove. pp. 1 and H. 

,J in tin; British Museum copy the name Richardson is punned, not in a contemporary 
liiind. at the < n i oj the preface ; and in the preface to vol. ii of the Then i.e. 170.S, in which 
the treati-e i- reprinted, the same nam< is niven, hut with uncertainty-. The Richardson 
pointed at mi, the author of The Seresaitu <,J Toleration in Matters of Keliuimi Uol7). 
K. Ii. I 'ndcrhiil, in hi i collection of that and other Traetx on I. to, rtu of ('tm.-rit net for 
the Hansen! Knoll ys Society, Iblfi, remains doubttul ip. :il7) as to the authorship of the 
tract on hell. '' The fourth Kn;;li,h edition appeared ill 1701. 



78 BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTUEY 

himself to catalogue the host of heresies that threatened to over- 
whelm the times, speaks of "monsters" unheard-of theretofore, 
now common among us as denying the Scriptures, pleading for 
a toleration of all religions and worships, yea, for blasphemy, and 
denying there is a God." 1 "A Toleration," he declares, "is the 
grand design of the Devil, his masterpiece and chief engine "; " every 
day now brings forth books for a Toleration."' Among the 180 
sects named by him 3 there were " Libertines," " Antiscripturists," 
" Skeptics and Questionists," 4 who held nothing save the doctrine 
of free speech and liberty of conscience;' 5 as well as Socinians, 
Arians, and Anti-trinitarians ; and he speaks of serious men who 
had not only abandoned their religious beliefs, but sought to persuade 
others to do the same. 6 Under the rule of Cromwell, tolerant as he 
was of Christian sectarianism, and even of Unitarianism as repre- 
sented by Biddle, the more advanced heresies would get small 
liberty ; though that of Thomas Muggleton and John Beeve, which 
took shape about 1651 as the Muggletonian sect, does not seem to 
have been molested. Muggleton, a mystic, could teach that there 
was no devil or evil spirit, save in " man's spirit of unclean reason 
and cursed imagination"; 7 but it was only privately that such men 
as Henry Marten and Thomas Chaloner, the regicides, could avow 
themselves to be of " the natural religion." The statement of 
Bishop Burnet, following Clarendon, that " many of the republicans 
began to profess deism," cannot be taken literally, though it is 
broadly intelligible that " almost all of them were for destroying 

all clergymen and for leaving religion free, as they called it, 

without either encouragement or restraint." 

See Burnet's History of His Own Time, bk. i, ed. 1838, p. 43. 
The phrase, " They were for pulling down the churches," again, 
cannot be taken literally. Of those who "pretended to little or 
no religion and acted only upon the principles of civil liberty," 
Burnet goes on to name Sidney, Henry Nevill, Marten, Wild- 
man, and Harrington. The last was certainly of Hobbes's way 
of thinking in philosophy (Croom Eobertson, Hobbes, p. 223, 
note) ; but Wildman was one of the signers of the Anabaptist 
petition to Charles II in 1658 (Clarendon, Hist, of the Bcbeltion, 

1 Gangrcena, ep. fled. (p. 5). Cp. pp. 47, 151, 17S-79 ; and Bailie's Letters, ed. 1841, ii, 
231-37; iii, 393. The most sweeping plea for toleration seems to have been the book 
entitled Toleration Justified, 1616. {Gangrcena, p. 151.) The Hanserd Knollys collection, 
above mentioned, does not contain one of that title. 

2 Gangrcena, pp. 152-53. s Pp. 18-36. 

4 Id. p. 15. As to other sects mentioned by him cp. Tayler, p. 101. 

5 On the intense aversion of most of the Presbyterians to toleration see Tayler, Retro- 
spect of Iielig. Life of Eng. p. 136. They insisted, rightly enough, that the principle was 
never recognized in the Bible. 

6 See the citations in Buckle, 3- vol. ed. i, 317 ; 1-vol. ed. p. 196. 

7 Alex. Ross, Pansebeia, 4th ed. 167-2, p. 379. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 79 

bk. xv, ed. 1S43, p. 855). As to Marten and Chaloncr, seo 
Carlyle's Cromicell, iii, 19-1 ; and articles in Nat. Vict, of Biog. 
Vaughan (Hist, of England, 1840, ii, 477, note) speaks of 
Walwyn and Overton as " among the freethinkers of the times 
of the Commonwealth." They were, however, Biblicists, not 
unbelievers. Prof. Gardiner (Hist, of the Commonwealth and 
Protectorate, ii, 253, citing a Newsletter in the Clarendon MSS.) 
finds record in 1G53 of " a man [who] preached flat atheism in 
Westminster Hall, uninterrupted by the soldiers of the guard"; 
but this obviously counts for little. 

Between the advance in speculation forced on by tho disputes 
themselves, and the usual revolt against the theological spirit after 
a long and ferocious display of it, there spread even under tho 
Commonwealth a new temper of secularity. On tho one hand, 
the temperamental distaste for theology, antinomian or other, took 
form in the private associations for scientific research which were 
the antecedents of the Royal Society. On the other hand, the spirit 
of religious doubt spread widely in the middle and upper classes ; 
and between the dislike of the Roundheads for the established clergy 
and the anger of the Cavaliers against all Puritanism there was 
fostered that " contempt of tho clergy " which had become a clerical 
scandal at the Restoration and was to remain so for about a century. 1 
Their social status was in general low, and their financial position 
bad ; and these circumstances, possible only in a time of weakened 
religious belief, necessarily tended to further the process of mental 
change. Within the sphere of orthodoxy, it operated openly. It 
is noteworthy that tho term "rationalist" emerges as the label of 
a sect of Independents or Presbyterians who declare that "What 
their reason dictates to them in church or State stands for good, 
until they be convinced with better." ' The " rationalism," so-called, 
of tli at generation remained ostensibly scriptural ; but on other 
lines thought went further. Of atheism there are at this stage only 
dubious biographical and controversial traces, such as Mrs. Hutchin- 
son's characterization of a Nottingham physician, possibly a deist, 
as a " horrible atheist," 3 and tho Rev. John Dove's Confutation ,f 
Atheism (1G40), winch does not bear out its title. Ephraim Pagitt, 
in his Ile.rcsiocjraphy (1644), speaks loosely of an 'atheistical sect 
who affirm that men's soules sleep with them until /he day of 
judgment"; and tells of some alleged atheist merely that ho 
"mocked and jeared at Christ's Incarnation."' Similarly a work, 

1 Op. the present writer's Buckle and liis Critics, 1S0."J>, el). \ iii. : : '2. 

2 Sw above, vol. i, p. 5. 

'' Memoirs nf Coloiirl Hutchinson, 3rd ed. i. 200. 

1 llnrrninaraphv : The Heretics and Nectaries of these. Times, IT. 11. Kpist. I)od. 



80 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17tii CENTURY 

entitled Dispute betwixt an Atheist and a Christian (16IG), shows 
the existence not of atheists but of deists, and the deist in the 
dialogue is a Fleming. 

More trustworthy is the allusion in Nathaniel Culverwel's 
Discourse of the Light of Nature (written in 1G46, published posthu- 
mously in 1652) to "those lumps and dunghills of all sects that 

young and upstart generation of gross anti-scripturalists, that have 
a powder-plot against the Gospel, that would very compendiously 
behead all Christian religion at one blow, a device which old and 
ordinary heretics were never acquainted withal." 1 The reference is 
presumably to the followers of Lawrence Clarkson. Yet even here 
we have no mention of atheism, which is treated as something 
almost impossible. Indeed, the very course of arguing in favour of 
a "Light of Nature " seems to have brought suspicion on Culverwel 
himself, who shows a noticeable liking for Herbert of Cherbury." He 
is, however, as may be inferred from his angry tone towards anti- 
scripturalists, substantially orthodox, and not very important. 

It is contended for Culverwel by modern admirers (eel. cited, 
p. xxi) that he deserves the praise given by Hallam to the later 
Bishop Cumberland as " the first Christian writer who sought to 
establish systematically the principle of moral right independent 
of revelation." [See above, p. 74, the similar tribute of Mosheim 
to Ames.] But Culverwel does not really make this attempt. His 
proposition is that reason, " the candle of the Lord," discovers 
" that all the moral law is founded in natural and common 
light, in the light of reason, and that there is nothing in the 
mysteries of the Gospel contrary to the light of reason " (Introd. 
end) ; yet lie contends not only that faith transcends reason, 
but that Abraham's attempt to slay his son was a dutiful 
obeying of " the God of nature " (pp. 225-2G). He does not 
achieve the simple step of noting that the recognition of revela- 
tion as such must bo performed by reason, and thus makes no 
advance on the position of Bacon, much less on those of Pecock 
and Hooker. His object, indeed, was not to justify orthodoxy 
by reason against rationalistic unbelief, but to make a case for 
reason in theology against the Lutherans and others who, 
' because Socinus has burnt his wings at this candle of the 
Lord," scouted all use of it (Introd.). Culverwel, however, was 
one of the learned group in Emanuel College, Cambridge, whoso 
tradition developed in the next generation into Latitudinarian- 
ism ; and he may be taken as a learned type of a number of the 
clergy who were led by the abundant discussion all around them 
into professing and encouraging a ratiocinative habit of mind. 

1 Discourse, cd. 18j7, p. 226. 2 Dr. J. Brown's prcf. to cd. of ISjT, p. xxii. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 81 

Thus we find Dean Stuart, Clerk of the Closet to Charles I, 
devoting one of his short homilies to Jerome's text, Tentemus 
cuiimas quae deficiunt a fide naturalibus rationibus adjurare. 
It is not enough," he writes, " for you to rest in an imaginary 
faith, and easiness in beleeving, except yee know also what and 
why and how you come to that beleef. Implicite beleevers, 
ignorant beleevers, the adversary may swallow, but the under- 
standing beleever bee must chaw, and pick bones before bee 
come to assimilate him, and make him like himself. The 
implicite beleever stands in an open field, and the enemy will 
ride over him easily : the understanding beleever is in a fenced 
town." (Catholique Divinity, 1G57, pp. 133-31 a work written 
many years earlier.) 

The discourse on Atheism, again, in the posthumous works of 
John Smith of Cambridge (d. 1652), is entirely retrospective; but 
soon another note is sounded. As early as 16o2, the year after the 
issue of Hobbes's Leviathan, the prolific Walter Charleton, who had 
been physician to the king, published a book entitled The Darkness 
of Atheism Expelled by tlie Light of Nature, wherein he asserted 

that England "hath of late produced and doth foster more 

swarms of atheistical monsters than any age, than any Nation 

hath been infested withal." In the following year Henry More, the 
Cambridge Platonist, published his Antidote against Atheism. The 
flamboyant dedication to Viscountess Conway affirms that the 
existence of God is " as clearly demonstrable as any theorem in 
mathematicks "; but, the reverend author adds, " considering the 
state of things as they are, I cannot but pronounce that there is 
more necessity of this my Antidote than I could wish there were." 
At the close of the preface he pleasantly explains that he will use 
no Biblical arguments, but talk to the atheist as a " mere Naturalist "; 
inasmuch as " he that converses with a barbarian must discourse to 
him in his own language," and " he that would gain upon the more 
weak and sunk minds of sensual mortals is to accommodate himself 
to their capacity, who, like the bat and owl, can see nowhere so well 
as in the shady glimmerings of their twilight." Then, after some 
elementary play with the design argument, the entire Third Book of 
forty-six folio pages is devoted to a parade of old wises' tales of 
witches and witchcraft, witches' sabbaths, apparitions, commotions 
by devils, ghosts, incubi, polter-geists the whole vulgar medley of 
the peasant superstitions of Europe. 

It is not that the Platonist does violence to Ids own philosophic 
tastes by way of influencing the "bats and owls " of atheism. This 
mass of superstition is his own special pabulum. In the prelaeo 

vol. ii <; 



82 BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

he has announced that, while he may abstain from the use of the 
Scriptures, nothing shall restrain him from telling what he knows 
of spirits. I am so cautious and circumspect," he claims, ' that 
I make use of no narrations that either the avarice of the priest 
or the credulity and fancifulness of the melancholist may render 
suspected." As for the unbelievers, " their confident ignorance 
shall never dash me out of confidence with my well-grounded 
knowledge ; for I have been no careless inquirer into these things." 
It is after a polter-geist tale of the crassest description that he 
announces that it was strictly investigated and attested by " that 
excellently-learned and noble gentleman, Mr. R. Boyle," who avowed 
that all his settled indisposedness to believe strange tilings was 
overcome by this special conviction." 1 And the section ends with 
the proposition : " Assuredly that saying is not more true in politick, 
No Bishop, no King, than this in metaphysicks, No Spirit, no God." 
Such was the mentality of some of the most eminent and scholarly 
Christian apologists of the time. It seems safe to conclude that the 
Platonist made few converts. 

More avowed that he wrote without having read previous 
apologists ; and others were similarly spontaneous in the defence 
of the faith. In 1654 there is noted" a treatise called Atlieismus 
Vapulans, by William Towers, whose message can in part be 
inferred from his title; 3 and in 1657 Charleton issued his 
Immortality of the Human Soul demonstrated by the Light of 
Nature, wherein the argument, which says nothing of revelation, 
is so singularly unconfident, and so much broken in upon by 
excursus, as to leave it doubtful whether the author was more 
lacking in dialectic skill or in conviction. And still the traces of 
unbelief multiply. Baxter and Howe were agreed, in 1658, that 
there were both " infidels and papists " at work around them ; 
and in 1659 Howe writes : " I know some leading men are not 
Christians." 1 " Seekers, Yanists, and Behmenists " are specified 
as groups to which both infidels and papists attach themselves. 
And Howe, recognizing how religious strifes promote unbelief, bears 
witness " What a cloudy, wavering, uncertain, lank, spiritless thing 

is the faith of Christians in this age become! Most content 

themselves to profess it only as the religion of their country."' 

1 More, Collection of Philosophical Writings, 4th ed. 109:2, p. 95. 

2 Fabricius, Delectus Arguinentorum ct Syllabus Scriptorum, 17-25, p. 311. 

3 No copy in liritish Museum. 

1 L'rwiok, Life of John Howe, with 1816 ed. of Howe's Select Works, pp. xiii, xix. 
Urwick, a learned evangelical, fully admits the presence of "infidels" on both sides in 
the politics of the time. 

: Discourse Concerning Union Among Protestants, ed. cited, pp. 1 i(i, 156, 158. In the 
preface to his treatise, The liedeenier's Tears Wept over Lost Souls, Howe complains of 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17TH CENTURY 83 

Alongside of all this vindication of Christianity there was going 
on constant and cruel persecution of heretic Christians. The 
Unitarian John Riddle, master of the Gloucester Grammar School, 
was dismissed for his denial of the Trinity ; and in 1647 he was 
imprisoned, and his hook burned by the hangman. In 1654 he was 
again imprisoned ; and in 1G55 he was banished to the Scilly 
Islands. Returning to London after the Restoration, lie was again 
arrested, and died in gaol in 1662. ' Under the Commonwealth 
(1656) James Naylor, the Quaker, narrowly escaped death for 
blasphemy, but was whipped through the streets, pilloried, bored 
through the tongue with a hot iron, branded in the forehead, and 
sent to hard labour in prison. Many hundreds of Quakers were 
imprisoned and more or less cruelly handled. 

From the Origines Sacra (1662) of Stillingtleet, nevertheless, it 
would appear that both deism and atheism were becoming more and 
more common." lie states that " the most popular pretences of 
the atheists of our age have been the irreconcilableness of the 
account of times in Scripture with that of the learned and ancient 
heathen nations, the inconsistency of the belief of the Scriptures 
witli the principles of reason ; and the account which may be given 
of the origin of things from the principles of philosophy without the 
Scriptures." These positions are at least as natural to deists as to 
atheists ; and Stillingtleet is later found protesting against the policy 
of some professed Christians who give up the argument from miracles 
as valueless. 3 His whole treatise, in short, assumes the need for 
meeting a very widespread unbelief in the Bible, though it rarely 
deals with the atheism of which it so constantly speaks. After the 
Restoration, naturally, all the new tendencies were greatly reinforced, 4 
alike by the attitude of the king and his companions, all iniluenced 
by French culture, and by the general reaction against Puritanism, 
Whatever ways of thought had been characteristic of the Puritans 
were now in more or less complete disfavour ; the belief in witchcraft 
was scouted as much on this ground as on any other; 5 and the 

" the atheism of sonic;, the avowed mere theism of others," and of a fashionable habit of 
ridiculing religion. Tli is sermon, however, appears to have been first published in hjdi; 
and the date of its application is uncertain. 

1 Wallace, Antit ra.ijit ruin liiiigrnithy. Art. 28o. 

The preface- begins: "It is neither to satisfie the importunity of friends, nor to 
prevent false copies (which and such like excuses 1 know are expected in usual prefaces), 
that 1 have adventured abroad this following treatise: Inn it is out of a just resentment 
of the affronts and indignities which have been cast on religion, by such who account it 
a matter of judgment to disbelieve the Scriptures, and a piece of wit to dispute themselves 
out of tiie possibility ot being happy in another world." 
Si e bk. ii, eh. x. I'age s:w, 3rd ed. Nltili. 

1 (ji. (Uauvill, pref. Address to his Sce/isis Srieiitificu, Owen's ed, lSs,">, pp. lv-lvii ; and 
Henry Mores Divine, Uinlngurs, Dial, i, eh. xxxii. 

' Cp. Lecky, liiitionnlisin m KurinK, i, 10U. 



81 BEITISH FBEETPIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTUEY 

deistic doctrines found a ready audience among royalists, whose 
enemies had been above all things Bibliolaters. 

There is evidence that Charles II, at least up to the time of 
his becoming a Catholic, and probably even to the end, was 
at heart a deist. See Burnet's History of his Oicn Time, 
ed. 1838, pp. Gl, 175, and notes ; and cp. refs. in Buckle, 
3-vol. eel. i, 3G2, note ; 1-vol. ed. p. 205. St. Evremond, who 
knew him and many of his associates, affirmed expressly that 
Charles's creed " etoit seulement ce qui passe vulgairement, 
quoiqu' injustement, pour une extinction totale de Eeligion : 
je veux dire le Deisme " {CEuvres melees: t. viii of Gluvrcs, 
ed. 1711, p. 351). His opinion, St. Evremond admits, was 
the result of simple recognition of the actualities of religious 
life, not of reading, or of much reflection. And his adoption 
of Catholicism, in St. Evremond's opinion, was purely political. 
He saw that Catholicism made much more than Protestantism 
for kingly power, and that his Catholic subjects were the most 
subservient. 

We gather this, however, still from the apologetic treatises and 
the historians, not from new deistic literature ; for in virtue of the 
Press Licensing Act, passed on behalf of the Church in 1G62, no 
heretical book could be printed ; so that Herbert was thus far the 
only professed deistic writer in the field, and Hobbes the only 
other of similar influence. Baxter, writing in 1G55 on The 
Unreasonableness of Infidelity, handles chiefly Anabaptists ; and 
in his Reformed Pastor (1G5G), though he avows that " the common 
ignorant people," seeing the endless strifes of the clergy, " are 
hardened by us against all religion," the only specific unbelief he 
mentions is that of " the devil's own agents, the unhappy Socinians," 

who had written " so many treatises for unity and peace." 1 But 

in his Reasons of the Christian Religion, issued in 16G7, he thinks 
fit to prove the existence of God and a future state, and the truth 
and the supernatural character of the Christian religion. Any deist 
or atheist who took the troublo to read through it would have been 
rewarded by the discovery that the learned author has annihilated 
his own case. In his first part he affirms : " If there were no life 
of Eetribution after this, Obedience to God would be finally men's 
loss and mine : But Obedience to God shall not be finally men's 
loss and ruine : Ergo, there is another life." 2 In the second part 
he writes that " Man's personal interest is an unfit rule and measure 
of God's goodness";'^ and, going on to meet the new argument 

1 The Reformed Pastor, abr. ed. 1S-26, pp. 23fi, 239. 

2 Work cited, ed. 1007, p. 136. The proposition is reiterated. 8 Id. p. 3SS. 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGIIT IN THE 17th CENTURY 85 

against Christianity based on the inference that an infinity of stars 
are inhabited, he writes : 

Ask any man who knoweth these things whether all this earth 
be any more in comparison of the whole creation than one Prison 
is to a Kingdom or Empire, or the paring of one nail in com- 
parison of the whole body. And if God should cast off all this earth, 
and use all the sinners in it as they deserve, it is no more sign of 
a want of benignity or mercy in him than it is for a King to cast 

one subject of a million into a jail or than it is to pare a mans 

nails, or cut off a wart, or a hair, or to pull out a rotten aking tooth. 1 

Thus the second part absolutely destroys one of the fundamental 
positions of the first. No semblance of levity on the part of the 
freethinkers could compare with the profound intellectual insincerity 
of such a propaganda as this ; and that deism and atheism continued 
to gain ground is proved by the multitude of apologetic treatises. 
Even in church-ridden Scotland they were found necessary ; at least 
the young advocate George Mackenzie, afterwards to be famous as 
the " bluidy Mackenzie" of the time of persecution, thought it 
expedient to make his first appearance in literature with a lieligio 
Stoiei (1GG3), wherein he sets out with a refutation of atheism. It 
is difficult to believe that his counsel to Christians to watch the 
" horror-creating beds of dying atheists " a false pretence as it 
stands represented any knowledge whatever of professed atheism 
in his own country ; and his discussion of the subject is wholly on 
the conventional lines notably so when he uses the customary 
plea, later associated with Pascal, that the thoist runs no risk even 
if there is no future life, whereas the atheist runs a tremendous risk 
if there is one ; s but when ho writes of that mystery why the 
greatest wits are most frequently the greatest atheists," 1 he must he 
presumed to refer at least to deists. And other passages show that 
lie had listened to freethinking arguments. Thus ho speaks'' of 
those who "detract from Scripture by attributing the production of 
miracles to natural causes "; and again ' of those who ' contend that 
the Scriptures are written in a mean and low style; are in some 
places too mysterious, in others too obscure; contain many things 
incredible, many repetitions, and many contradictions." His own 
answers are conspicuously weak. In the latter passage he continues : 
Bui those miscreants should consider that much of the Scripture's 
native splendour is impaired by its translators"; and as to miracles 

1 lint sun. * f if the Christian llcliuiun, pp. :SS,S H9. 

- lOlir/iu Stuir.i, Ktli ii lm cull, ii'ii').',. p. ]'.). 'I'd o essay was rcprinti il in I til !-.">, ;md ill London 
in lO'.U under the title of The Ui'lviious Stuic. 

''' Id. p. la. ' Id. p. 1-2 J. Id. p. 7(5. ,: Id. p. ('/.). 



86 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

he makes the inept answer that if secondary causes were in opera- 
tion they acted by God's will ; going on later to suggest on his own 
part that prophecy may be not a miraculous gift, but " a natural 
(though the highest) perfection of our human nature." 1 Apart from 
his weak dialectic, he writes in general with cleverness and literary 
finish, but without any note of sincerity; and his profession of 
concern that reason should be respected in theology 2 is as little 
acted on in his later life as his protest against persecution. The 
inference from the whole essay is that in Scotland, as in England, 
the civil war had brought up a considerable crop of reasoned 
unbelief ; and that Mackenzie, professed defender of the faith as he 
was at twenty-five, and official persecutor of nonconformists as ho 
afterwards became, met with a good deal of it in his cultured circle. 
In his later booklet, Reason : an Essay (1G90), he speaks of the 

' ridiculous and impudent extravagance of some who take pains 

to persuade themselves and others that there is not a God." He 
further coarsely asperses all atheists as debauchees, 5 though he avows 
that "Infidelity is not the cause of false reasoning, because such as 
are not atheists reason falsely." 

When anti-theistic thought could subsist in the ecclesiastical 
climate of Puritan Scotland, it must have flourished somewhat in 
England. In 1GG7 appeared A Philosophicall Essay towards an 
eviction of the Being and Attributes of God, etc., of which the 
preface proclaims " the bold and horrid pride of Atheists and 
Epicures " who ' have laboured to introduce into the world a general 
Atheism, or at least a doubtful Skepticisme in matters of Religion." 
In 1GG8 was published Meric Casaubon's treatise, Of Credulity and 
Incredulity in tilings Natural, Civil, and Divine, assailing not only 
'the Sadducism of these times in denying spirits, witches," etc., but 

Epicurus and the juggling and false dealing lately used to bring 

Atheism into Credit" a thrust at Gassendi. A similar polemic is 
entombed in a ponderous folio " romance " entitled Bentivolio and 
Urania, by Nathaniel Ingelo, D.D., a fellow first of Emanuel 
College, and afterwards of Queen's College, Cambridge (1660; 4th 
ed. amended, 1682). The second part, edifyingly dedicated to the 
Earl of Lauderdale, one of the worst men of his day. undertakes 

1 Religio Stoici, p. 116. 2 Id. p. 122. 

3 This last is interesting as a probable echo of opinions he had heard from some of 
his older contemporaries : "Opinion kept witliin its proper bounds is an i -the Scottish 
"ane "J pure act of the mind; and so it would appear that to punish the body for that 
which is a guilt of the soul is as unjust as to punish one relation for another " (pref. 
pp. 10-11). He adds that "the Almighty hath left no war rand upon holy record for perse- 
cuting such as dissent from us." ' Reason : an Essay, ed. lfj'JO, p. 21. Cp. p. 152. 

"' l<l. p. 82. It is noteworthy that Mackenzie puts in a protest against "implicit Faith 
and Infallibility, those great tyrants over Reason " (p. 88). But the essay as a whole is 
ill-planned and unimpressive. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGIIT IN THE 17th CENTURY 87 

to handle tho "Atheists, Epicureans, and Skepticks"; and in 
the preface the atheists are duly vituperated ; while Epicurus is 
described as a gross sensualist, in terms of the legend, and the 
skeptics as ' resigned to the slavery of vice." In the sixth hook 
the atheists are allowed a momentary hearing in defence of their 
" horrid absurdities," from which it appears that there were current 
arguments alike anthropological and metaphysical against theism. 
The most competent part of the author's own argument, which is 
unlimited as to space, is that which controverts the thesis of the 
invention of religious beliefs by " politicians " ' a notion first put 
in currency, as we have seen, by those who insisted on the expediency 
and value of such inventions ; as, Polybius among tho ancients, and 
Machiavelli among the moderns ; and further by Christian priests, 
who described all non-Christian religions as human inventions. 

Dr. Ingelo's folio seems to have had many readers ; but ho 
avowedly did not look for converts ; and defences of the faith on 
a less formidable scale were multiplied. A " Person of Honour " 
(Sir Charles Wolseley) produced in 1669 an essay on The 
Unreasonableness of Atheism made Manifest, which, without 
supplying any valid arguments, gives some explanation of the 
growth of unbelief in terms of the political and other antecedents ; 2 
and in 1670 appeared Richard Barthogge's Divine Goodness 
Explicated and Vindicated from the Exceptions of the Atheists. 
Baxter in 1671'' complains that "infidels are grown so numerous 
and so audacious, and look so big and talk so loud"; and still the 
process continues. In 167:2 Sir William Temple writes indignantly 
of " those who would pass for wits in our age by saying things 
which, David tells us, the fool said in his heart." 1 In the same 
year appeared The Ilcasonableness of Scripture-Belief, by Sir Charles 
Wolseley, and The Atheist Silenced, by one J. M. ; in 1671, Dr. Thomas 
Good's Eirmianus et Dubitantius, or Dialogues concerning Atheism, 
Infidelity, and Popery ; in 1675, the posthumous treatise of Bishop 
Wilkins (d. 1672), Of the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion, 
with a preface by Tillotson ; and a Precis Demonstratio, with tho 
modest sub-title, "The Truth of Christian Religion Demonstrated 
by Reasons the best that have yet been out in English"; in 1677, 
Bishop Stillingfleet's Letter to a Deist; and in 167H tho massive 
work of Cudworth on The True Intellectual System of the Universe 

1 Work cited, im\ oil. pt. ii. pp. IDT, 15. 

- ('p. lJ>i>i"iHics t,f ll. lit/inn, pj). Mi S7, SO 90. This explanation is also fUven by Iiishop 
Wilkin- in his tnati-e on S'llnrnl H,li<ii<i. 7th id. p. :j.m. 

'' l:.-).;\ in.: to f ft.-rlx rt's I>< Vrritnti-, which lie seems not to have rea.l before. 
1 1'ixt. to Obi. mion the United l'roc. of the SethcrOuids, in Work., e.l. 1-1 1 , i, 3(\. 



88 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

attacking atheism (not deism) on philosophic lines which sadly- 
compromised the learned author. 1 English dialectic being found 
insufficient, there was even produced in 1G79 a translation by the 
Rev. Joshua Bonhome of the French L'AtJicisme Convaincu of 
David Dersdon, published twenty years before. 

All of these works explicitly avow the abundance of unbelief ; 
Tillotson, himself accused of it, pronounces the age " miserably 
overrun with Skepticism and Infidelity"; and Wilkins, avowing 
that these tendencies are common " not only among sensual men 
of the vulgar sort, but even among those who pretend to a more 
than ordinary measure of wit and learning," attempts to meet them 
by a purely deistic argument, with a claim for Christianity appended, 
as if he were concerned chiefly to rebut atheism, and held his own 
Christianity on a very rationalistic tenure. The fact was that the 
orthodox clergy were as hard put to it to repel religious antinomianism 
on the one hand as to repel atheism on the other; and no small part 
of the deistic movement seems to have been set up by the reaction 
against pious lawlessness. 2 Thus we have Tillotson, writing as 
Dean of Canterbury, driven to plead in his preface to the work of 
AVilkins that "it is a great mistake" to think the obligation of 
moral duties "doth solely depend upon the revelation of God's will 
made to us in the Holy Scriptures." It was such reasoning that 
brought upon him the charge of freethinking. 

If it be now possihle to form any accurate picture of the state of 
belief in the latter part of the seventeenth century, it may perhaps 
be done by recognizing three categories of temperament or mental 
proclivity. First we have to reckon with the great mass of people 
held to religious observance by hebetude, 3 devoid of the deeper 
mystical impulse or psychic bias which exhibited itself on the one 
hand among the dissenters who partly preserved the "enthusiasms " 
of the Commonwealth period, and on the other among the more 
cultured pietists of the Church who, banning " enthusiasm " in its 
stronger forms, cultivated a certain " enthusiasm " of their own. 
Religionists of the latter type were ministered to by superstitious 
mystics like Henry More, who, even when undertaking to " prove" 
the existence of God and the separate existence of the soul by 
argument and by dcmonology, taught them to cultivate a " warranted 
enthusiasm," and to " endeavour after a certain principle more noble 

1 Cp. Dynamics nf Bcliaioti, pp. 87, 91-98, 111, 11-2. 

2 As to the religious immoralism see Mosheim, 17 Cent. sec. ii, pt. ii, ch. ii, 23, and 
Murdoek's notes. 

3 Compare the picture of average Protestant deportment given by benjamin Bennet in 
his Discourses against I'opery, 1711, p. 377, 



BRITISH FEEETIIOUGIIT IN THE 17th CENTURY 89 

and inward than reason itself, and without which reason will falter, or 

at least reach but to mean and frivolous things" "something in 

me while I thus speak, which I must confess is of so retruse a nature 
that I want a name for it, unless I should adventure to term it 
divine sagacity, which is the first rise of successful reason, especially 
in matters of great comprehension and moment." ' There was small 
psychic difference between this dubiously draped affirmation of the 
' inner light " and the more orotund proclamations of it by the 
dissenters who, for a considerable section of the people, still carried 
on the tradition of rapturous pietism ; and the dissenters were not 
always at a disadvantage in that faculty for rhetoric which has 
generally been a main factor in doctrinal religion. 2 

From the popular and the eclectic pietist alike the generality of 
the Anglican clergy stood aloof; and among them, in turn, a ration- 
alistic and anti-mythical habit of mind in a manner joined men who 
were divided in their beliefs. The clergymen who wrote lawyer-like 
treatises against schism were akin in psychosis to those who, in 
their distaste for the parade of inspiration, veered towards deism. 
Tillotson was not the only man reputed to have done so : fervid 
dissenters declared that many of the established clergy paid " more 
respect to the light of reason than to the light of the Scriptures," 
and further "left Christ out of their religion, disowned imputed 
righteousness, derided the operations of the holy spirit as the empty 
pretences of enthusiasts."" Of men of this temperament, some 
would open dialectic batteries against dissent ; while others, of a 
more searching proclivity, would tend to construct for themselves 
a rationalistic creed out of the current medley of theological and 
philosophic doctrine. The great mass of course maintained an 
allegiance of habit to the main formulas of the faith, putting 
quasi-rational aspects on the trinity, providence, redemption, and 
the future life, very much as the adherents of political parties 
normally vindicate their supposed principles ; and there was a good 
deal of surviving temperamental piety even in the Restoration 
period. 1 But the outstanding feature of the age, as contrasted with 

i More, Coll. of Plains. Writiiifis, Ith ed. 1712. Ren. prof. p. 7. 

- Compare some of the extracts in Thomas Hcnnet's Defence of the Discourse of Schism, 
etc. :Jnded. 1701. from the sermons of 14. UoiiRe (llif-.H). The description of men as " mortal 
crumbling bits of dependency, yesterday's start-ups, that eome out of tin' abyss of nothing, 
hastening to the bosom of their mother earth " (work cited, p. 'Xll is n reminder Unit tin- 
re onant anil eadenced rhetoric of the ISrownes and Taylors and C'ndworths was an art of 
the aUc, at the commune! of different orders of propuLla nda. 

:; Cited bv Hennet, .1 Defence of the Discourse of Schism, etc.. as cited, p. II. 

* Tim , Henry .Mores biographer, the Hev. Kichard Ward. .- a \ - " the late Mr. Chiswel 
told a friend of mine that for twenty years together after the return o! Kim; Cluirlc s the 
Second the M >l l'-r'l of (iodliness, and Dr. More'- other work-., ruled all the booksellers m 
Loudon" Hjife of Mre, 1710, pp. 10J Ii3). We have seen the nature oi some of More's 
" other works." 



90 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

previous periods, was the increasing commonness of the skeptical or 
rationalistic attitude in general society. Sir Charles Wolseley 
protests 1 that " Irreligion, 'tis true, in its practice hath still been 
the companion of every age, but its open and public defence seems 
the peculiar of this" ; adding that " most of the bad principles of this 
age are of no earlier a date than one very ill book, and indeed but 
the spawn of the Leviathan." This, as we have seen, is a delusion ; 
but the influence of Hobbes was a potent factor. 

All the while, the censorship of the press, which was one of the 
means by which the clerical party under Charles combated heresy, 
prevented any new and outspoken writing on the deistic side. The 
Treatise of Humane [i.e. Human] Reason (1674) 2 of Martin Clifford, 
a scholarly man-about-town, 8 who was made Master of the Charter- 
house, went indeed to the bottom of the question of authority by 
showing, as Spinoza had done shortly before, 4 that the acceptance of 
authority is itself in the last resort grounded in reason. The author 
makes no overt attack on religion, and professes Christian belief, but 
points out that many modern wars had been on subjects of religion, 
and elaborates a skilful argument on the gain to be derived from 
toleration. Reason alone, fairly used, will bring a man to the 
Christian faith : he who denies this cannot be a Christian. As for 
schism, it is created not by variation in belief, but by the refusal to 
tolerate it. This ingenious and well-written treatise speedily elicited 
three replies, all pronouncing it a pernicious work. Dr. Laney, 
Bishop of Ely, is reported to have declared that book and author 
might fitly be burned together ; 5 and Dr. Isaac Watts, while praising 
it for "many useful notions," found it " exalt reason as the rule of 
religion as well as the guide, to a degree very dangerous."' Its 
actual effect seems to have been to restrain the persecution of 
dissenters.' In 1G80, three years after Clifford's death, there 
appeared An Apology for a Treatise of Humane Reason, by Albertus 
Warren, wherein one of the attacks, entitled Plain Dealing, by a 
Cambridge scholar, is specially answered. 8 This helped to evoke 



1 The Reasonableness of Scripture Belief, 1672, Epist. Ded. 

2 Rep. 1075 ; -2nd ed. 1691 ; rep. in the Phoenix, vol. ii. 1708 ; 3rd eel. 1736. 

3 A very hostile account of him is given in Diet, of Nat. Biog. He was, however, the 
friend of Cowley, anrl the " M. Clifford" to whom Sprat addressed his sketch of Cowley's 
Life. He was also a foe of Dryden the " malicious Matt Clifford" of Dryden's Sessions of 
the Poets; and he attacked the poet in Notes on Dryden's Poems (published 1687), and is 
supposed to have had a hand iu the Rehearsal. He was befriended by Shaftesbury. 

Tract. Theol. Polit. c. 15. 

"' Wood, Athena- O.conienses, ii, 381-82; Granger, Bimj. Hist, of England, 5th ed. v, 293. 

6 Johnson's Life of Dr. Watts, 1785, App. i. 

7 Toulmin, Hist, of the Prnt. Dissenters, 1814, citing Johnson's Life of Dr. Walts. 

s It has been suggested that this was really written by Clifford, for posthumous 
publication. The humorous sketch of J is Character" at the close, suggesting that his 
vices seem to the writer to have outweighed his virtues, hints of ironical mystification. 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGIIT IN THE 17th CENTURY 91 

the anonymous Discourse of Things above Benson (1681), by Robert 
Boyle, the distinguished author of The Sceptical Chemist, whom we 
have seen hacking up Henry More in acceptance of the grossest of 
ignorant superstitions. The most notable thing about the Discourse 
is that it anticipates Berkeley's argument against freethinking 
mathematicians. 1 

The stress of new discussion is further to be gathered from the 
work of Howe, On the Beconcilableness of God's Prescience of the 
Sins of Men icith tiie Wisdom and Sincerity of his Counsels and 
Exhortations, produced in 1677 at Boyle's request. As a modern 
admirer admits that the thesis was a hopeless one," it is not to be 
supposed that it did much to lessen doubt in its own day. Tho 
preface to Stillingfleet's Letter to a Deist (1677), which for the first 
time brings that appellation into prominence in English controversy, 
tacitly abandoning the usual ascription of atheism to all unbelievers, 
avows that " a mean esteem of the Scriptures and the Christian 
Religion " has become very common " among the Skepticks of this 
Age," and complains very much, as Butler did sixty years later, of 
the spirit of " Raillery and Buffoonery " in which the matter was 
too commonly approached. The ' Letter " shows that a multitude 
of tho inconsistencies and other blemishes of the Old Testament 
were being keenly discussed ; and it cannot be said that the Bishop's 
vindication was well calculated to check the tendency. Indeed, we 
have the angry and reiterated declaration of Archdeacon Parker, 
writing in 1681, that "the ignorant and the unlearned among 
ourselves are become the greatest pretenders to skepticism ; and 
it is the common people that nowadays set up for Skepticism and 
Infidelity"; that "Atheism and Irroligion are at length become as 
common as Vice and Debauchery"; and that ' Plebeans and 
Mechanicks have philosophized themselves into Principles of 
Impiety, and read their Lectures of Atheism in the Streets and 
Highways. And they are able to demonstrate out of the Leviathan 
that there is no God nor Providence," and so on.' As the Arch- 
deacon's method of refutation consists mainly in abuse, he doubtless 
had the usual measure of success. A similar order of dialectic is 
employed by Br. Sherlock in his Practical Discourse of lieliyious 
.1 emblies (1681). The opening section is addressed to the specu- 
lative atheists," here described as receding from the principles of 

1 Work cited, pp. 10, 1 1, 30, .". - Dr. Urwick. Li/r of Uoin; n , cited, p. xxxii. 

- A l)rin-t r ition of fin: Dirinr : Authority of thrl.awof Satnn unit of the Christian 
llrli'iooi, !,v Samuel I'arker, I). I)., Hoi. pref. Tin- fir.-t purl of liii tnatUe is avowedly a 
l>op:tiiiri/. uitin of the argument of (' urn O.rlo lid 's IHsiiiiiiiliu d, I ,< /Hois Saturn; Ui~->. 
I' 1 1- 1.- -r h.i 1 previously puhli.-hed In In tin a l)is t >utati > ./ I >>.,, I fno-iUrntia I >irina, in 
which lie raise I the question, .In L'luljsophoruia ulli, ct on ma in A tin i fur runt (107b). 



92 BEITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

their "great Master, Mr. Hobbs," who, "though he had no great 
opinion of religion in itself, yet thought it something considerable 
when it became the law of the nation." Such atheists, the reverend 
writer notes, when it is urged on them tbat all mankind worship 
"some God or other," reply that such an argument is as good for 
polytheism and idolatry as for monotheism ; so, after formally 
inviting them to " cure their souls of that fatal and mortal disease, 
which makes them beasts here and devils hereafter," and lamenting 
that he is not dealing with " reasonable men," he bethinks him 
that " the laws of conversation require us to treat all men with just 
respects," and admits that there have been " some few wise and 
cautious atheists." To such, accordingly, he suggests that the 
atheist has already a great advantage in a world morally restrained 
by religion, where he is under no such restraint, and that, " if he 
should by his wit and learning proselyte a whole nation to atheism, 
Hell would break loose on Earth, and he might soon find himself 
exposed to all those violences and injuries which he now securely 
practises." For the rest, they had better not affront God, who 
may after all exist, and be able to revenge himself. 1 And so forth. 

Of deists as such, Sherlock has nothing to say beyond treating as 
"practical atheists " men who admit the existence of God, yet never 
go to church, though "religious worship is nothing else but a public 
acknowledgment of God." Their non-attendance " is as great, if 
not a greater affront to God, and contempt of him, than atheism 
itself." 2 But the reverend writer's strongest resentment is aroused 
by the spectacle of freethinkers asking for liberty of thought. 

" It is a fulsome and nauseous thing," he breathlessly protests, " to 
see the atheists and infidels of our days to turn great reformers of 
religion, to set up a mighty cry for liberty of conscience. For whatever 
reformation of religion may be needful at this time, whatever liberty 
of conscience may be fit to be granted, yet what have these men to 
do to meddle with it ; those who think religion a mere fable, and 
God to be an Utopian prince, and conscience a man of clouts set up 
for a scarecrow to fright such silly creatures from their beloved 
enjoyments, and hell and heaven to be forged in the same mint with 
the poet's Styx and Acheron and Elysian Fields ? We are like to 
see blessed times, if such men had but the reforming of religion."' 5 

Dr Sherlock was not going to do good if the devil bade him. 

The faith had a wittier champion in South ; but he, in a West- 
minster Abbey sermon of 1684-5, 4 mournfully declares that 

" The weakness of our church discipline since its restoration, 

i Work cited, 2nd ed. 16S2, pp. 32, 38-40, 45-48. 2 Id. pp. 51-55. 

Id. p. 52. 4 Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, 1692, pp. 438-39. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 93 

whereby it has been scarce able to get any hold on men's consciences, 
and much less able to keep it ; and the great prevalence of that 
atheistical doctrine of the Leviathan ; and the unhappy propagation 
of Erastianism ; these things (I say) with some others have been 
the sad and fatal causes that have loosed the bands of conscience 
and eaten out the very heart and sense of Christianity among us, to 
that degree, that there is now scarce any religious tye or restraint 
upon persons, but merely from those faint remainders of natural 
conscience, which God will be sure to keep alive upon the hearts of 
men, as long as they are men, for the great ends of his own provi- 
dence, whether they will or no. So that, were it not for this sole 
obstacle, religion is not now so much in danger of being divided and 
torn piecemeal by sects and factions, as of being at once devoured 
by atheism. Which being so, let none wonder that irreligion is 
accounted policy when it is grown even to a fashion ; and passes for 
wit, with some, as well as for wisdom with others." 

How general was the ferment of discussion may be gathered from 
Dryden's Religio Laid (1682), addressed to the youthful Henry 
Dickinson, translator of Pure Richard Simon's Critical History of the 
Old Testament (Fr. 1678). The French scholar was suspect to begin 
with ; and Bishop Burnet tells that Richard Hampden (grandson 
of the patriot), who was connected with the Rye House Plot and 
committed suicide in the reign of William and Mary, had been 
"much corrupted " in his religious principles by Simon's conversa- 
tion at Paris. In the poem, Dryden recognizes the upsetting 
tendency of the treatise, albeit he terms it " matchless ": 
For some, who have his secret meaning guessed, 
Have found our author not too much a priest ; 

and his flowing disquisition, which starts from poetic contempt of 
reason and ends in prosaic advice to keep quiet about its findings, leaves 

the matter at that. The hopelessly confused but musical passage : 
Dim as the borrowed beams of moon and stars, 
To lonely, weary, wandering travellers, 
Is Reason to the soul, 

begins the poem ; but the poet thinks it necessary both in his 
preface and in his piece to argue with the deists in a fashion which 
must have entertained them as much as it embarrassed the more 
thoughtful orthodox, his simple thesis being that ah ideas of deity 
were debris from the primeval revelation to Noah, and that natural 
reason could never have attained to a God-idea at all. And even at 
that, as regards the Herbertian argument : 

No supernatural worship can be true, 

Because a general law is that alone 

Which must to all and everywhere be known : 



91 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

he confesses that 

Of all objections this indeed is chief 
To startle reason, stagger frail belief ; 

and feebly proceeds to argue away the worst meaning of the creed 
of "the good old man" Athanasius. Finally, we have a fatherly 
appeal for peace and quietness among the sects : 

And after hearing what our Church can say, 
If still our reason runs another way, 
That private reason 'tis more just to curb 
Than by disputes the public peace disturb ; 
For points obscure are of small use to learn, 
But common quiet is mankind's concern. 

It must have been the general disbelief in Dryden's sincerity on 
religious matters that caused the ascription to him of various free- 
thinking treatises, for there is no decisive evidence that he was 
ever pronouncedly heterodox. His attitude to rationalism in the 
Beligio Laid is indeed that of one who either could not see the 
scope of the problem or was determined not to indicate his recogni- 
tion of it ; and on the latter view the insincerity of both poem and 
preface would be exorbitant. By his nominal hostility to deism, 
however, Dryden did freethought a service of some importance. 
After his antagonism had been proclaimed, no one could plausibly 
associate freethinking with licentiousness, in which Dryden so far 
exceeded nearly every poet and dramatist of his age that the non- 
juror Jeremy Collier was free to single him out as the representative 
of theatrical lubricity. But in simple justice it must also be avowed 
that of all the opponents of deism in that day he is one of the least 
embittered, and that his amiable superficiality of argument must 
have tended to stimulate the claims of reason. 

The late Dr. Verrall, a keen but unprejudiced critic, sums up 
as regards Dryden's religious poetry in general that " What is 
clear is that he had a marked dislike of clergy of all sorts, as 
such "; that " the main points of Deism are noted in Beligio 
Laid (1G~G1) ; and that " his creed was presumably some sort 
of Deism " {Lectures on Dryden, 1914, pp. 118-50). Further, 

The State of Innocence is really deistic and not Christian in 
tone : in his play of Tyrannic Love, the religion of St. Catharine 
may be mere philosophy " ; and though the poet in his preface to 
that play protests that his " outward conversation shall never 
be justly taxed with the note of atheism or profaneness," the 
disclaimer " proves nothing as to his positive belief: Deism is 
not profane." In Absalom and Aclutophcl, again, the " coarse 
satire on Transubstantiation (118. ij.) shows rather religious in- 
sensibility than hostile theology," though " the poem shows his 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 95 

dislike of liberty and private judgment (49-50)." Of the lieligio 
Laici the critic asks : " Now in all this, is there any religion at 
all ? " The poem " might well be dismissed as mere politics but 
for its astounding commencement " (p. 155). The critic un- 
expectedly fails to note that the admired commencement is an 
insoluble confusion of metaphors. 

How far the process of reasoning had gone among quiet thinking 
people before the Revolution maybe gathered from the essay entitled 
Miracles no Violations of the Laws of Nature, published in 1G83. 1 
Its thesis is that put explicitly by Montaigne and implicitly by 
Bacon, that Ignorance is the only worker of miracles ; in other words, 
"that the power of God and the power of Nature are one and the 
same " a simple and straightforward way of putting a conception 
which Cudworth had put circuitously and less courageously a few 
years before. No Scriptural miracle is challenged qua event. " Among 
the many miracles related to be done in favour of the Israelites," says 
the writer, " there is (I think) no one that can be apodictically 
demonstrated to be repugnant to th' establisht Order of Nature"; 2 
and he calmly accepts the Biblical account of the first rainbow, 
explaining it as passing for a miracle merely because it was the first. 
He takes his motto from Pliny : " Quid non miraculo est, cum primum 
in notitiam venit ?" This is, however, a preliminary strategy ; as is 

the opening reminder that "most of the ancient Fathers and of 

the most learned Theologues among the moderns " hold that the 
Scriptures as regards natural things do not design to instruct men in 
physics but " aim only to excite pious affections in their breasts." 

We accordingly reach the position that the Scripture " many 
times speaks of natural things, yea even of God himself, very 
improperly, as aiming to affect and occupy the imagination of men, 
not to convince their reason." Many Scriptural narratives, there- 
fore, " are either delivered poetically or related according to the 
preconceived opinions and prejudices of the writer." " Wherefore 
we here absolutely conclude that all the events that are truly 
related in the Scripture to have come to pass, proceeded necessarily 
according to the immutable Laws of Nature; and that if any- 
thing lie found which can bo apodictically demonstrated to be 

repugnant to those laws we may safely and piously believe the 

same not to have been dictated by divine inspiration, but impiously 
added to the sacred volume by sacrilegious men ; for whatever is 



1 This has been ascribed, without any (,'ood ground, to Charles Blount. It dors not 
seem to me to be in his style. 

- I'remonition to the Candid Reader. '' Hist. Nat, vii, I. 



96 BEITISH EREETIIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

against Nature is against Reason ; and whatever is against Reason 
is absurd, and therefore also to be rejected and refuted." 

Lest this should be found too hard a doctrine there is added, 
apropos of Joshua's staying of the sun and moon, a literary solution 
which has often done duty in later times. " To interpret Scripture- 
miracles, and to understand from the narrations of them how they 
really happened, 'tis necessary to know the opinions of those who 

first reported them otherwise we shall confound things which 

have really happen'd with things purely imaginary, and which were 
only prophetic representations. For in Scripture many things are 
related as real, and which were also believ'd to be real even by the 
relators themselves, that notwithstanding were only representations 
form'd in the brain, and merely imaginary as that God, the 

Supreme Being, descended from heaven upon Mount Sinai ; 

that Elias ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot which were 

only representations accommodated to their opinions who deliver'd 
them down to us." 2 Such argumentation had to prepare the way 
for Hume's Essay Of Miracles, half a century later ; and concerning 
both reasoners it is to be remembered that their thought was to be 
"infidelity" for centuries after them. It needed real freeth inking, 
then, to produce such doctrine in the days of the Rye House Plot. 

Meanwhile, during an accidental lapse of the press laws, the 
deist CHARLES BLOUNT 8 (1654-1693) had produced with his 
father's help his Anima Mundi (1679), in which there is set forth 
a measure of cautious unbelief ; following it up (1680) by his much 
more pronounced essay, Great is Diana of the Ephesians, a keen 
attack on the principle of revelation and clericalism in general, and 
his translation [from the Latin version] of Philostratus's Life of 
Apollonius of Tyana, so annotated 4 as to be an ingenious counter- 
blast to the Christian claims, and so prefaced as to be an open 
challenge to orthodoxy. The book was condemned to be burnt ; 
and only the influence of Blount's family, 5 probably, prevented his 

1 Pamphlet cited, pp. 20. 21. - Id. p. 23. 

3 Concerning whom see Macaulay's History, ch. xix, ed. 1877, ii, 411-12 a very pre- 
judiced account. Blount is there spoken of as "one of the most unscrupulous plagiaries 
that ever lived," and as having "stolen " from Milton, because he issued a pamphlet "By 
Philopatris," largely made up from the Areopayitica. Compare Macaulay's treatment of 
Locke, who adopted Dudley North's currency scheme (ch. xxi, vol. ii, p. 517). 

i Bayle (art. Apollonius, note), who is followed by the French translator of Philos- 
tratus with Blount's notes in 1779 (J. F. Salvemini de Castillon), says the notes were drawn 
from the papers of Lord Herbert of Cherbury; but of this Blount says nothing. 

" As to these see the Diet, of Nat. liiog. The statements of Anthony Wood as to the 
writings of Blount's father, relied on in the author's Dynamics of lieliaion, appear to be 
erroneous. Sir Thomas Pope Blount, Charles's eldest brother, shows a skeptical turn of 
mind in his Essays (3rd ed. 1697. Essay 7). Himself a learned man, lie disparages learning 
as checking thought; and, professing belief in the longevity of the patriarchs (p. 187), 
pronounces popery and pagan religion to be mere works of priestcraft (Essay 1). He 
detested theological controversy and intolerance, and seems to havo been a Lockian. 



BRITISH FEEETIIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 97 

being prosecuted. The propaganda, however, was resumed by 
Blount and his friends in small tracts, and after his suicide 1 in 
1G93 these were collected as the Oracles of Beason (1G93), his 
collected works (without the Apollonius) appearing in 1G95. By 
this time the political tension of the Revolution of 1G88 was over; 
Le Clerc's work on the inspiration of the Old Testament, raising 
many doubts as to the authorship of the Pentateuch, had been 
translated in 1G90 ; Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1G70) 
had been translated into English in 1GS9, and had impressed in 
a similar sense a number of scholars ; his Ethica had given a new 
direction to the theistic controversy ; the Boyle Lecture had been 
established for the confutation of unbelievers ; and after the political 
convulsion of 1GSS has subsided it rains refutations. Atheism is 
now so fiercely attacked, and with such specific arguments as in 
Bentley's Boyle Lectures (1G92), Edwards's Thoughts concerning 
the Causes of Atheism (1695), and many other treatises that there 
can be no question as to the private vogue of atheistic or agnostic 
opinions. If we are to judge solely from the apologetic literature, 
it was more common than deism. Yet it seems impossible to doubt 
that there were ten deists for one atheist. Bentley's admission that 
he never met an explicit atheist 2 suggests that much of the atheism 
warred against was tentative. It was only the deists who could 
venture on open avowals ; and the replies to them were most discussed. 
Much account was made of one of the most compendious, the 
Short and Easy Method icith the Deists (1G97), by the nonjuror 
Charles Leslie ; but this handy argument (which is really adopted 
without acknowledgment from an apologetic treatise by a French 
Protestant refugee, published in 1688') was not only much bantered 
by deists, but was sharply censured as incompetent by the French 
Protestant Lo Clerc ;' and many other disputants had to come to 
the rescue. A partial list will suffice to show the rate of increase 
of the ferment : 

L0s3. Dr, Rust, Discourse on the Use of Reason in Religion, against Enthu- 
siasts and Deists. 

1GS5. Duke of Buckingham, .1 Short Discourse upon the Reasonableness of men's 
having a religion or worship of God. 
,, The Atheist Unmask* d. By a Person of Honour. 

1 All that is known of this tragedy is that Hlount loved his deceased wife's sister and 
.-) marry her; but she held it unlawful, and he was in despair. Accordine, to 
1'ope, a suHieientlv untrustworthy authority, he "ave himself a .-Mb in the arm, us 
pretending to kill him.-elf, of the eon>e fl uenee of which he really died " (note to I'.pihmui: 
l' i t hi ,S 1 1 in- . i, h;. An overstrung nervous s.\ -teni may he iliaj'iio ed from his writ in :. 
/;../;, /,, cturrs nn Athns,,,. ed. 1721, p. 1. 
/;'.,,., i, ,,,, i llir li,,kx ,,< II, , II-, m Scriptures to rstahlixh thr Truth of the 
Clirislimi I:,ln,,,,ii. by I'eter Allix, 1)1).. lii^s, i, li 7. 

1 A cited by Leslie, Truth of Christinnitu DrinouNtrtitcl, 1711, pp. 17 11. 

VOL. II J! 



98 BEITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

1688. Peter Allix, D.D. Reflexions, etc., as above cited. 

1691. Archbishop Tenison, The Folly of Atheism. 

Discourse of Natural and Revealed Religion. 

,, John Ray, Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of the Creation. 
(Many reprints.) 

1692. C. Ellis, The Folly of Atheism Demonstrated. 

,, Bentley's Sermons on Atheism. (First Boyle Lectures.) 

1693. Archbishop Davics, An Anatomy of Atheism. A poem. 
,, A Conference between an Atheist and his Friend. 

1691. J. Goodman, A Winter Evening Conference between Neighbours. 
,, Bishop Kidder, A Demonstration of the Mcssias. (Boyle Lect.) 

1695. John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity. 

,, John Edwards, B.D., Some Tlwughts concerning the Several Causes and 
occasions of Atheism. (Directed against Locke.) 

1696. .1)1 Account of the Growth of Deism in England. 
,, Re/lections on a Pamphlet, etc. (the last named). 

,, Sir C. Wolseley, The Unreasonableness of Atheism Demonstrated. (Rep.) 

Dr. Nichols' Conference with a Tlieist. Pt. I. (Answer to Blount.) 

,, J. Edwards, D.D., A Demonstration of the Evidence and Providence of God. 

,, E. Felling. Discourse on the Existence of God (Pt. IT in 1705). 

1697. Stephen Eye, A Discourse concerning Natural and Revealed Religion. 

,, Bishop Gastrell, The Certainty and Necessity of Religion. (Boyle Lect.) 

,, II. Prideaux, Discourse vindicating Christianity, etc. 

C. Leslie, A Short and Easy Method ivith the Deists. 

1698. Dr. J. Harris, A Refutation of Atheistical Objections. (Boyle Lect.) 

Thos. Ernes, The Atheist turned Deist, and the Deist turned Christian. 

1699. C. Lidgould, Proclamation against Atheism, etc. 

J. Bradley, An Impartial Vieiv of the Truth of Christianity. (Answer to 
Blount.) 

1700. Bishop Bradford, The Credibility of the Christian Revelation. (Boyle 

Lect.) 
,, Rev. P. Berault. Discourses on the Trinity, Atheism, etc. 

1701. T. Knaggs, Against Atheism. 

,, W. Scot, Discourses concerning the wisdom and goodness of God. 

1702. .1 Confutation of Atheism. 

,, Dr. Stanhope, The Truth and Excellency of the Christian Religion. 
(Boyle Lect.) 
1701. An Antidote of Atheism (? Reprint of More). 

1705. Translation of Herbert's Ancient Religion of the Gentiles. 
,, Charles Gildon, The Deist's Manual (a recantation). 

Ed. Felling, Discourse concerning the existence of God. Part II. 
,, Dr. Samuel Clarke, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, 
etc. (Boyle Lect. of 1701.) 

1706. A Preservative against Atticism and Infidelity. 

,, Th. Wise, B.D., A Confutation of the Reason and Philosophy of Atheism 

(recast and abridgment of Cudworth). 
T. Oldfield, Mille Testes ; against the Atheists. Deists, and Skepticks. 
The Case of Deism fully and fairly stated, ivith Dialogue, etc. 

1707. Dr. J. Hancock, Arguments to prove the Being of a God. (Boyle Lect.) 

Still there was no new deistic literature apart from Toland's 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 99 

Christianity not Mysterious (169G) and his unauthorized issue (of 
course without author's name) of Shaftesbury's Inquiry Concerning 
Virtue in 1699 ; and in that there is little direct conflict with 
orthodoxy, though it plainly enough implied that scripturalism 
would injuriously affect morals. It seems at that date, perhaps 
through the author's objection to its circulation, to have attracted 
little attention; but he tells that it incurred hostility. 1 Blount's 
famous stratagem of 1693 2 had led to the dropping of the official 
censorship of the press, the Licensing Act having been renewed for 
only two years in 1693 and dropped in 1695 ; but after the prompt 
issue of Blount's collected works in that year, and the appearance 
of Toland's Christianity not Mysterious in the next, the new and 
comprehensive Blasphemy Law of 1697 3 served sufficiently to 
terrorize writers and printers in that regard for the time being.' 1 
Bare denial of the Trinity, of the truth of the Christian religion, or 
of the divine authority of the Scriptures, was made punishable by 
disability for any civil office ; and on a second offence by three 
years' imprisonment, with withdrawal of all legal rights. The 
first clear gain from the freedom of the press was thus simply a 
cheapening of books in general. By the Licensing Act of Charles II, 
and by a separate patent, the Stationers' Company had a monopoly 
of printing and selling all classical authors ; and while their editions 
were disgracefully bad, the importers of the excellent editions printed 
in Holland had to pay them a penalty of 6s. 8d. on each copy.' 1 By 
the same Act, passed under clerical influence, the number even of 
master printers and letter-founders had been reduced, and tho 
number of presses and apprentices strictly limited ; and the total 
effect of the monopolies was that when Dutch-printed books wero 
imported in exchange for English, tho latter sold moro cheaply at 
Amsterdam than they did in London, the English consumer, of 
course, bearing the burden. The immediate effect, therefore, of the 
lapse of the Licensing Act must have been to cheapen greatly all 

' Cli'trarteristirs, ii, 203 (Moralists, pt, ii. 3). Ono of the most dangerous positions 
from the orthodox point of view would be the thesis that while religion could do either 
great good or great harm to morals, atheism could do neither. (15k. I, pt. iii, J 1.) 
Cp. Bacon's Kssay, (jf Atheism. 

- Blount, after assailing in anonymous pamphlets Bohnn the licenf or, induced him to 
license a work entitled Kino William and Queen Mary Conriuerors, which infuriated tho 
nation. Macaulay en IN the device "a ha -> and wicked sell erne." It was almost innocent 
in comparison wit!) Blount's promotion of the " Popish plot " mania. See Win) Killed Mr 
h'dmnnd Godfrey Hern/.' by Alfred Mark.-, HKTi, pp. ITS 115, I'd. 

'' See the text in Mrs. Bradla'lgh Bonner's Penalties upon Opinion, pp. 10 -1- Macaulay 
doe- not mention this measure. 

1 The Aft had been preceded by n proclamation of the king, dated Fob. -21, li',')7. 

5 As to an earlier monopoly of the London book-. Hers, see ( Jorge Herbert's lot 1 or* to 
the Archbishop of Canterbury and to Bacon, Jan. 2:), 1020. In Wnrl:s of Cem-ije Herbert , 
cd. 1-11, i. 217 b~. 

' See Brake's note, on the Licensing Act in Lord King's Life nf T.oche, 1-2.1, pp. 2(B 200 ; 
Fox Bourne s Life of Locke, ii, :si:j 11; Macaulay's History, ii, 0(JI. 



100 BRITISH FREETHOUGIIT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

foreign books by removal of duties, and at the same time to cheapen 
English books by leaving printing free. It will be seen above that 
the output of treatises against freethought at once increases in 1696. 
But the revolution of 1683, like the Great Rebellion, had doubtless 
given a new stimulus to freethinking ; and the total effect of freer 
trade in books, even with a veto on " blasphemy," could only be to 
further it. This was ere long to be made plain. 

3 

Alongside of the more popular and native influences, there were 
at work others, foreign and more academic ; and even in professedly 
orthodox writers there are signs of the influence of deistic thought. 
Thus Sir Thomas Browne's Beligio Medici (written about 1634, 
published 1612) has been repeatedly characterized 1 as tending to 
promote deism by its tone and method ; and there can be no 
question that it assumes a great prevalence of critical unbelief, to 
which its attitude is an odd combination of humorous cynicism 
and tranquil dogmatism, often recalling Montaigne, 2 and at times 
anticipating Emerson. There is little savour of confident belief in 
the smiling maxim that " to confirm and establish our belief 'tis 
best to argue with judgments below our own"; or in the avowal, 
" In divinity I love to keep the road ; and though not in an implicit 
yet an humble faith, follow the great wheel of the Church, by which 
I move."" The pose of the typical believer: I can answer all the 
objections of Satan and my rebellious reason with that odd resolution 
I learned of Tertullian, Certum est quia impossibile est,"* tells in his 
case of no anxious hours ; and such smiling incuriousness is not 
conducive to conviction in others, especially when followed by a 
recital of some of the many insoluble dilemmas of Scripture. When 
lie reasons lie is merely self-subversive, as in the saying, " 'Tis not 
a ridiculous devotion to say a prayer before a game at tables ; for 
even in sortileges and matters of greatest uncertainty there is a 
settled and prc-ordered course of effects"; 5 and after remarking 
that the notions of Fortune and astral influence " have perverted 
the devotion of many into atheism," he proceeds to avow that his 

1 Trinius, FreyclenTier-Lexicon, 1759, p. 120; Piin.ier, i, 291, 300-301. Browne was even 

called an atheist. Arpe, Apologia pro Vanino, 1111, p. -27, citing Welschius. Mr. A. H. 
Bullcn, in his introduction to his ed. of Marlowe (1SS5, vol. i, p. lviii), remarks that 
Browne, who "kept the road" in divinity, "exposed the vulnerable points in the 
Scriptural narratives with more acumen and gusto than the whole army of freethinkers, 
from Anthony Collins downwards." This is of course an extravagance, but, as Mr. Bullen 
remarks in the Diet, of Nat. Biog. vii, 66, Browne discusses "with evident relish" the 
"seeming absurdities in the Scriptural narrative." 

- Browne's Annotator points to the derivation of his skepticism from "that excellent 
French writer Monsieur Mountaign. in whom I often trace him" (Sayle's ed. 1904, i, 
p. xviii), :i Beligio Medici, i, 6. l Id. i, 'J. 5 Id. i, 18. 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 101 

many doubts never inclined him " to any point of infidelity or 
desperate positions of atheism ; for I have been these many years 
of opinion there never was any." l Yet in his later treatise on 
Vulgar Errors (1645) he devotes a chapter to the activities of 

Satan in instilling the belief that " there is no God at all that 

the necessity of his entity dependeth upon ours ; that the 

natural truth of God is an artificial erection of Man, and the 
Creator himself but a subtile invention of the Creature." He 
further notes as coming from the same source " a secondary and 
deductive Atheism that although men concede there is a God, yet 
should they deny his providence. And therefore assertions have 
flown about, that he intendeth only the care of the species or 
common natures, but letteth loose the guard of individuals, and 
single existences therein." 3 Browne now asserts merely that 
many there are who cannot conceive that there was ever any 
absolute Atheist," and does not clearly affirm that Satan labours 
wholly in vain. The broad fact remains that he avows " reason is 
a rebel unto faith "; and in the Vulgar Errors he shows in his own 
reasoning much of the practical play of the new skepticism. Yet 
it is finally on record that in 1661, on the trial of two women for 
witchcraft, Browne declared that the fits suffered from by the 
children said to have been bewitched " were natural, but heightened 
by the devil's co-operating with the malice of the witches, at whose 
instance he did the villainies." " This amazing deliverance is believed 
to have " turned the scale " in the minds of the jury against the poor 
women, and they were sentenced by the sitting judge, Sir Matthew 
Hale, to be hanged. It would seem that in Browne's latter years 
the irrational element in him, never long dormant, overpowered the 
rational. The judgment is a sad one to have to pass on one of the 
greatest masters of prose in any language. In other men, happily, 
the progression was different. 

The opening even of Jeremy Taylor's Ductor Dubitantium, so far 
as it goes, falls little short of the deisfic position.'' A new vein of 
rationalism, too, is opened in the theological held by the great 



1 lti-liijin Mtdici, i, 20. - ISk. r. Hi. \. 

:; Hurt: we ha vi- it theorem independently reached later (with the substitution of Xatu re 
for fioilj by Mary WolKloneeraft and Tennyson in turn. Browne cites yet a not her : " ilia t 
lie looks not below the moon, but hath resigned the regiment of sublunary affairs unto 
inferior deputations" a tie' is adopted in effect by ( ludwort li. 

' liy an error or the pre-s. I'.rownc is made in Mr. Sayle's excellent reprint (i, l()S> to 

bcin a sentence in the middle of a clau-e, with an odd re-nit : " 1 do < I'e>s I am an 

: t per nade my>elf to honour that the world adores." The pa -a::e 

hhould obviously rea i : "to that subterraneous Idol i avarice I and (iodol the barlb 1 do 
conie - s 1 am an Athei -t," etc 

5 Hutchinson. Hi tor. Ess-m Cone. Witchcraft, IVIs, p. lis; 2nd ed. 1720, p. 1.1. 

' C'|J. Wnewell, Ltctuics on tin- llilonj of Mnd l'hilospltu, ed. \-ul, p. M. 



102 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

Cambridge scholar John Spencer, whose Discourse concerning 
Prodigies (1GG3 ; 2nd ed. 1GG5), though quite orthodox in its 
main positions, has in part the effect of a plea for naturalism as 
against supernaturalism. Spencer's great work, De legibus 
Hebrceorum (1685), is, apart from Spinoza, the most scientific 
view of Hebrew institutions produced before the rise of German 
theological rationalism in the latter part of the eighteenth century. 
Holding most of the Jewish rites to have been planned by the deity 
as substitutes for or safeguards against those of the Gentiles which 
they resembled, he unconsciously laid, with Herbert, the foundations 
of comparative hierology, bringing to the work a learning which is 
still serviceable to scholars. 1 And there were yet other new depar- 
tures by clerical writers, who of course exhibit the difficulty of 
attaining a consistent rationalism. 

One clergyman, Joseph Glanvill, is found publishing a treatise on 
The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661 ; amended in 1665 under the title 
Scepsis Scientifica), 1 wherein, with careful reservation of religion, the 
spirit of critical science is applied to the ordinary processes of 
opinion with much energy, and the " mechanical philosophy " of 
Descartes is embraced with zeal. Following Raleigh and Hobbes, 8 
Glanvill also puts the positive view of causation 4 afterwards fully 
developed by Hume. 5 Yet he not only vetoed all innovation in 
"divinity," but held stoutly by the crudest forms of the belief in 
witchcraft, and was with Henry More its chief English champion in 
his day against rational disbelief. 6 In religion he had so little of the 
skeptical faculty that he declared " Our religious foundations are 
fastened at the pillars of the intellectual world, and the grand 
articles of our belief as demonstrable as geometry. Nor will ever 
either the subtile attempts of the resolved Atheist, or the passionate 
hurricanes of the wild enthusiast, any more be able to prevail against 
the reason our faith is built on, than the blustering winds to blowout 
the Sun." ' lie had his due reward in being philosophically assailed 
by the Catholic priest Thomas White as a promoter of skepticism, 8 

1 Robertson Smith, The Reliaimi of the Semites, 18S9, pref, p. vi; Rev. Dr. Duff, Hist, of 
Old Test. Criticism, R. P. A. 1910, p. 113. 

2 This appears again, much curtailed and "so altered as to be in a manner new," in its 
author's collected Essays on Several Important Subjects in Religion and Philosophy (1670), 
under the title Against Confidence in Philosophy. 

a See the Humane Nature (1610), eh. iv, 7-9. i Scepsis Scientifica, ch. 23, 1. 

5 See the passages compared by Lewes, History of Philosophy, 4th ed. ii, 338. 

B In his Blow at Modern Sadducism (1th ed. 1668), Saild ucismus Triumphatus (1681; 
3rd ed. 1680), and A Whip to the Droll, Fiiller to the Atheist (1688 a letter to Henry More, 
who was zealous on the same lines). These works seem to have been much more widely 
circulated than the Scepsis Scientifica. 7 Scepsis, ch. '20, 3. 

H See (jlanvill's reply in a letter to a friend (1665), re-written as Essay II, Of Scepticism 
and, Certainty : in A short Reply to the learned Mr. Thomas White in his collected Essays 
on Several Important Subjects, 1076. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 103 

and by an Anglican clergyman, wroth with the Royal Society and 
all its works, as an infidel and an atheist. 1 

This was as true as clerical charges of the kind usually were in 
the period. But without any animus or violence of interpretation, a 
reader of Glanvill's visitation sermon on The Agreement of Reason 
and Religion' 2 might have inferred that he was a deist. It sets forth 
that religion primarily and mainly consists in worship and vertue," 
and that it in a secondary sense consists in some principles relating 
to the worship of God, and of his Son, in the ways of devout and 
vertuous living"; Christianity having ' superadded" baptism and 
the Lord's Supper to " the religion of mankind." Apart from his 
obsession as to witchcraft and perhaps even as to that Glanvill 
seems to have grown more and more rationalistic in his later years. 
The Scepsis omits some of the credulous nights of the Vanity of 
Dogmatizing ; the re-written version in the collected Essays omits 
such dithyrambs as that above quoted; and the sermon in its 
revised form sets out with the emphatic declaration : " There is not 
anything that I know which hath done more mischief to religion 
than the disparaging of reason under pretence of respect and favour 
to it ; for hereby the very foundations of Christian faith have been 
undermined, and the world prepared for atheism. And if reason 
must not be heard, the Being of a God and the authority of 
Scripture can neither be proved nor defended ; and so our faith 
drops to the ground like an house that hath no foundation." Such 
reasoning could not but be suspect to the orthodoxy of the age. 

Apart from the influence of Hobbes, who, like Descartes, shaped 
his thinking from the starting-point of Galileo, the Cartesian philo- 
sophy played in England a great transitional part. At the university 
of Cambridge it was already naturalized; 1 and the influence of 
Glanvill, who was an active member of the Royal Society, must have 
carried it further. The remarkable treatise of the anatomist Glisson," 
De natura substantias energetica (1G72), suggests the influence of 
either Descartes or Gasscndi ; and it is remarkable that the clerical 
moralist Cumberland, writing his Disquisitio de legibus Natune (1G7-) 
in reply to Hobbes, not only takes up a utilitarian position akin to 
Ilobbes's own, and expressly avoids any appeal to the theological 

1 See the reply in 1'i.rs I'r.TH.v: nr, the Proqress find Advancement of Knoieledoe since 
the (lays of Aristotle. Llin, Kpi^t. Ded. 1'ivf. cli. xviii, unci ('(inclusion. [The re-written 
treatise, in tin: collected Kssays, eliminates the controversial matter. I 

-First printed with Glanvill's L'liilosophia fin in lf.71. K'l>. as an essay in the 
collected /.'.' "t . :i Owen, pref. to Scepsis, )>]>. xx xxii. 

1 Owen, pref. to ed. of Scepsis Seientijiea, p. i\. 

5 Of whom, however, a hih medical ant hority declares that, " ics a physiologist, he was 
sunk in realism" (that is, metn physical apriorism). I'mf, '1'. Clifford Allium, Harveian 
Oration on Science and Medieval Thoiiyht, I'JOl, 1). 11. 



104 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

doctrine of future punishments, but introduces physiology into his 
ethic to the extent of partially figuring as an ethical materialist. 
In regard to Gassendi's direct influence it has to be noted that in 
16o9 there appeared The Vanity of Judiciary Astrology, translated 
by " A Person of Quality," from P. Gassendus ; and further that, as 
is remarked by Eeid, Locke borrowed more from Gassendi than from 
any other writer. 2 

[It is stated by Sir Leslie Stephen {English Thought in the 
Eighteenth Century, 2nd ed. i, 32) that in England the philo- 
sophy of Descartes made no distinguished disciples ; and that 
John Norris " seems to be the only exception to the general 
indifference." This overlooks (l) Glanvill, who constantly cites 
and applauds Descartes (Scepsis Scientifica, passim). (2) In 
Henry More's Divine Dialogues, again (1668), one of the dispu- 
tants is made to speak {Dial, i, ch. xxiv) of " that admired wit 
Descartes"; and he later praises him even when passing 
censure (above, p. 65). More had been one of the admirers 
in his youth, and changed his view (cp. Ward's Life of Dr. 
Henry More, pp. 63-61). But his first letter to Descartes 
begins: "Quanta voluptate perfusus est animus mens, Vir 
clarissime, scriptis tuis legendis, nemo quisquam prseter te unum 
potest conjectare." (3) There was published in 1670 a translation 
of Des Eourneillis's letter in defence of the Cartesian system, 
witli Francois Bayle's General System of the Cartesian Philo- 
sophy, (l) The continual objections to the atheistic tendency 
of Descartes throughout Cudworth's True Intellectual System 
imply anything but "general indifference"; and (5) Barrow's tone 
in venturing to oppose him (cit. in Whewell's Pliilosophy of 
Discovery, 1860, p. 179) pays tribute to his great influence. 
(6) Molyneux, in the preface to Ins translation of the Six Meta- 
physical Meditations of Descartes in 1680, speaks of him as 
"this excellent philosopher " and " this prodigious man." (7) 
Maxwell, in a note to his translation (1727) of Bishop Cumber- 
land's Disquisitio de legibus Nature?, remarks that the doctrine 
of a universal plenum was accepted from the Cartesian philo- 
sophy by Cumberland, " in whose time that philosophy prevailed 
much " (p. 120). See again (8) Clarke's Answer to Butler's 
Fifth Letter (1718) as to the "universal prevalence" of 
Descartes's notions in natural philosophy. (9) The Scottish 
Lord President Forbes (d. 1717) summed up that " Descartes's 
romance kept entire possession of men's belief for fully fifty 
years" {Works, ii, 132). (10) And his fellow-judge, Sir William 
Anstruther, in his "Discourse against Atheism" {Essays, 
Moral and Divine, 1701, pp. 6, 8, 9), cites with much approval 

1 Cp. Whewell. as last cited, pp. 75-83; Hallam, Literature of Europe, iv, 159-71. 

2 I i ( i < 1 , Intellectual Powers, Essay I, ch. i; Hamilton's ed. of Works, p. '2-26. Glanvill 
calls Gassendi "that noble wit." (Scepsis Scientifica, Owen's ed. p. 151.) 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 105 

the theistic argument of "the celebrated Descartes" as "the 
last evidences which appeared upon the stage of learning " in 
that connection. 

Cp. Berkeley, Siris, 331. Of Berkeley himself, Professor 
Adamson writes {Encijc. Brit, iii, 589) that " Descartes and 

Locke are his real masters in speculation." The Cartesian 

view of the eternity and infinity of matter had further become 
an accepted ground for " philosophical atheists " in England 
before the end of the century (Molyneux, in Familiar Letters of 
Locke and Jus Friends, 1708, p. 4.6). As to the many writers 
who charged Descartes with promoting atheism, see Mosheim's 
notes in Harrison's ed. of Cudworth's Intellectual' System, i, 
275-7G : Clarke, as above cited ; Leibnitz's letter to Philip, cited 
by Latta, Leibnitz, 1898, p. 8, note ; and Brewster's Memoirs of 
Xewton, ii, 315. 

Sir Leslie Stephen seems to have followed, under a misappre- 
hension, Whewell, who contends merely that the Cartesian 
doctrine of vortices was never widely accepted in England 
(Fhilos. of Discovery, pp. 177-78; cp. Hist, of the Induct. 
Sciences, ed. 1857, ii, 107, 147-48). Buckle was perhaps 
similarly misled when he wrote in his note-book : " Descartes 
was never popular in England " (Misc. Works, abridged ed. i, 
269). Whewell himself mentions that Clarke, soon after taking 
his degree at Cambridge, " was actively engaged in introducing 
into the academic course of study, first, the philosophy of 
Descartes in its best form, and, next, the philosophy of Newton " 
(Lectures on Moral Philosophy, ed. 18G2, pp. 97-98). And 
Professor Fowler, in correcting his first remarks on the point, 
decides that " many of the mathematical teachers at Cambridge 
continued to teach the Cartesian system for some time after the 
publication of Newton's Principia " (ed. of Nov. Org., p. xi). 

It is clear, however, that insofar as new science set up a direct 
conflict with Scriptural assumptions it gained ground but slowly and 
indirectly. It is difficult to-day to realize with what difficulty the 
Copernican and Galilean doctrine of the earth's rotation and move- 
ment round the sun found acceptance even among studious men. 
We have seen that Bacon finally rejected it. And as Professor 
Masson points out, 1 not only does Milton seem uncertain to the last 
concerning the truth of the Copernican system, but his friends and 
literary associates, the " Smectymnuans," in their answer to Bishop 
Hall's Humble llemonstrance (1041), had pointed to the Copernican 
doctrine as an unquestioned instance of a supremo absurdity. 
dlanvill, remarking in IG65 that "it is generally opinion'd that the 
Earth rests as the world's centre," avows that ' for a man to go 

1 I'oet. Works <,/ Milton, 1871, Intro,], i, 9i* xij. 



106 BEITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

about to counter-argue this belief is as fruitless as to whistle against 
the winds. I shall not undertake to maintain the paradox that con- 
fronts this almost Catholic opinion. Its assertion would be enter- 
tained with the hoot of the rabble ; the very mention of it as 
possible, is among the most ridiculous." 1 All he ventures to do is 
to show that the senses do not really vouch the ordinary view. Not 
till the eighteenth century, probably, did the common run of educated 
people anywhere accept the scientific teaching. 

On the other hand, however, there was growing up not a little 
Socinian and other Unitarianism, for some variety of which we 
have seen two men burned in 1612. Church measures had been 
taken against the importation of Socinian books as early as 1610. 
The famous Lord Falkland, slain in the Civil War, is supposed to 
have leant to that opinion ; 2 and Chillingworth, whose Religion of 
Protestants (1637) was already a remarkable application of rational 
tests to ecclesiastical questions in defiance of patristic authority, 
seems in his old age to have turned Socinian. 4 Violent attacks on 
the Trinity are noted among the heresies of 1616. Colonel John Fry, 
one of the regicides, who in Parliament was accused of rejecting the 
Trinity, cleared himself by explaining that he simply objected to the 
terms " persons " and " subsistence," but was one of those who sought 
to help the persecuted Unitarian Biddle. In 1652 the Parliament 
ordered the destruction of a certain Socinian Catechism ; and by 
1655 the heresy seems to have become common. 6 It is now certain 
that Milton was substantially a Unitarian, 7 and that Locke and 
Newton were at heart no less so. 8 

The temper of the Unitarian school appears perhaps at its best 
in the anonymous Rational Catecliism published in 1686. It 
purports to be " an instructive conference between a father and 
his son," and is dedicated by the father to his two daughters. 
The " Catechism " rises above the common run of its species in 
that it is really a dialogue, in which the roles are at times reversed, 
and the catechumen is permitted to think and speak for himself. 
The exposition is entirely unevangelical. Plight religion is declared 
to consist in right conduct ; and while the actuality of the Christian 
record is maintained on argued grounds, on the lines of Grotius and 

1 Scepsis Scientifica, Owen's ed. p. 66. In the condensed version of the treatise in 
Glanvill's collected Essays (167tj, p. 20), the language is to the same effect. 

2 .7. .7. Tayler, Retrospect of the Religious Life of England, Martineau's ed. p. 204 ; 
Wallace. Antitrinitarian Biography, iii, 152-53. 

3 Cp. Buckle, 3-vol. ed. ii. 347-51 ; 1-vol. ed. pp. 196-99. 

4 Tayler, Retrospect, pp. '201-21)5; Wallace, iii, 154-56. 5 Gangrana, pt. i, p. 38. 

c Tayler, p. 221. As to Biddle, the chief propagandist of the sect, sue pp. 221-24, and 
Wallace. Art. 2S5. 

7 Maeaulay, Essay on Milton. Cp. Brown's ed. (Clarendon Press) of the poems of 
Milton, ii, 30. 8 Cp. Dynamics of Religion, ch. v. 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 107 

Parker, the doctrine of salvation by faith is strictly excluded, future 
happiness being posited as the reward of good life, not of faith. 
There is no negation, the author's object being avowedly peace and 
conciliation ; but the Epistle Dedicatory declares that religious 
reasoners have hitherto " failed in their foundation-work. They 
have too much slighted that philosophy which is the natural 
religion of all men ; and which, being natural, must needs be 
universal and eternal : and upon which therefore, or at least in 
conformity with which, all instituted and revealed religion must 
be supposed to be built." We have here in effect the position 
taken up by Toland ton years later ; and, in germ, the principle 
which developed deism, albeit in connection with an affirmation 
of the truth of the Christian records. Of the central Christian 
doctrine there is no acceptance, though there is laudation of Jesus ; 
and reprints after 1695 bore the motto, from Locke: 1 "As the 
foundation of virtue, there ought very earnestly to be imprinted on 
the mind of a young man a true notion of God, as of the independent 
supreme Being, Author, and Maker of all things : And, consequent 
to this, instil into him a love and reverence of this supreme Being." 
We are already more than half-way from Unitarianism to deism. 

Indeed, the theism of Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding 
undermined even his Unitarian Scripturalism, inasmuch as it denies, 
albeit confusedly, that revelation can ever override reason. In one 
passage lie declares that " reason is natural revelation," while 
revelation is natural reason enlarged by a new set of discoveries 
communicated by God immediately, which reason vouchsafes the 
truth of." " This compromise appears to be borrowed from 
Spinoza, who had put it with similar vagueness in his great 
Tractatus, 3 of which pre-eminent work Locke cannot have been 
ignorant, though he protested himself little read in the works of 
Hobbes and Spinoza, "those justly decried names."' 1 The Tractatus 
being translated info English in the same year with the publication 
of the Essay, its influence would concur with Locke's in a widened 
circle of readers ; and the substantially naturalistic doctrine of both 
books inevitably promoted the deistic movement. We have Locke's 
own avowal that he had many doubts as to the Biblical narratives;' 
and he never attempts to remove the doubts of others. Since, 
however, his doctrine provided a sphere for revelation on the 
territory of ignorance, giving it prerogative where its assertions 

i 0/ >v/ unit ion, ' !.:;. - /:.s.svii/. Iik. iv. i'Ii. xi*. . I. 

- Trm-tHlii* rhrlii,iiri,-P,dilirHx,c. IT.. * Tliinl I., I It r tn I h, llishup i>/ \\'on;-sli-r. 

Hmni: Ftimdair /.<(/</> brdvrfii Mr. Lt,rl:r an, I Srrrrul of his Frit mis, 1 70s, pp. iid-l ;j(U. 



108 BRITISH FREETHOEGHT IN THE I7th CENTURY 

were outside knowledge, it counted substantially for Unitarianism 
insofar as it did not lead to deism. 

See the Essay, bk. iv, ch. xviii. Locke's treatment of 
revelation may be said to be the last and most attenuated 
form of the doctrine of " two-fold truth." On his principle, 
any proposition in a professed revelation that was not provable 
or disprovable by reason and knowledge must pass as true. 
His final position, that " whatever is divine revelation ought 
to overrule all our opinions" (bk. iv, ch. xviii, 10), is tolerably 
elastic, inasmuch as he really reserves the question of the 
actuality of revelation. Thus he evades the central issue. 
Naturally he was by critical foreigners classed as a deist. 
Cp. Gostwick, German Culture and Christianity, 1882, p. 36. 
The German historian Tennemann sums up that Clarke wrote 
his apologetic works because ' the consequences of the 
empiricism of Locke had become so decidedly favourable to 
the cause of atheism, skepticism, materialism, and irreligion " 
{Manual of the Hist, of PJiilos. Eng. tr. Bohn ed. j 319). 

In his "practical" treatise on The Iieasonableness of Christianity 
(1695) Locke played a similar part. It was inspired by the genuine 
concern for social peace which had moved him to write an essay on 
Toleration as early as 16G7, 1 and to produce from 1685 onwards his 
famous Letters on Toleration, by far the most persuasive appeal of 
the kind that had yet been produced; 2 all the more successful so 
far as it went, doubtless, because the first Letter ended with a 
memorable capitulation to bigotry : " Lastly, those are not at all 
to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, 
and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold 
upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in 
thought, dissolves all. Besides, also, those that by their atheism 
undermine and destroy all religion can have no pretence of religion 
luhercupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration." This handsome 
endorsement of the religion which had repeatedly "dissolved all" 
in a pandemonium of internecine hate, as compared with the one 
heresy which had never broken treaties or shed blood, is presumably 
more of a prudent surrender to normal fanaticism than an expression 
of the philosopher's own state of mind; 3 and his treatise on Tlic 
Iieasonableness of Christianity is an attempt to limit religion to a 

i Fox Bourne, Life of Locke, 1876, ii, 31. 

- The first Letter, written while he was biding in Holland in 1CS5, was in Latin, but 
was translated into French, Dutch, and Knglish. 

; Mr. Fox Lou rue, in his biography (ii, 11), apologizes for the lapse, so alien to bis own 
ideals, by the remark that "the atheism then in vogue was of a very violent and rampant 
sort." It is to be feared that this palliation will not hold good at least, the present 
writer has been unable to trace the atheism in question. For "atheism " we had better 
read " religion." 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 109 

humane ethic, with sacraments and mysteries reduced to ceremonies, 
while claiming that the gospel ethic was " now with divine authority 
established into a legible law, far surpassing all that philosophy and 
human reason had attained to." ' Its effect was, however, to promote 
rationalism without doing much to mitigate the fanaticism of belief. 

Locke's practical position has been fairly summed up by 
Prof. Bain : " Locke proposed, in his Reasonableness of 
Christianity, to ascertain the exact meaning of Christianity, 
by casting aside all the glosses of commentators and divines, 
and applying his own unassisted judgment to spell out its 

teachings The fallacy of his position obviously was that 

he could not strip himself of his education and acquired 

notions Ho seemed unconscious of the necessity of trying 

to make allowance for his unavoidable prepossessions. In 
consequence, he simply fell into an old groove of received 
doctrines ; and these he handled under the set purpose of 
simplifying the fundamentals of Christianity to the utmost. 
Such purpose was not the result of his Bible study, but of his 
wish to overcome the political difficulties of the time. He 
found, by keeping close to the Gospels and making proper 
selections from the Epistles, that the belief in Christ as the 
Messiah could be shown to be the central fact of the Christian 
faith ; that the other main doctrines followed out of this by a 
process of reasoning; and that, as all minds might not perform 
the process alike, these doctrines could not be essential to the 
practice of Christianity. He got out of the difficulty of framing 
a creed, as many others have done, by simply using Scripture 
language, without subjecting it to any very strict definition ; 
certainly without the operation of stripping the meaning of its 
words, to see what it amounted to. That his short and easy 
method was not very successful the history of the deistical 
controversy sufficiently proves " (Practical Essays, pp. 226-27). 

That Locke was felt to have injured orthodoxy is further proved 
by the many attacks made on him from the orthodox side. Even 
the first Letter on Toleration elicited retorts, one of which claims to 
demonstrate ' the Absurdity and Impiety of an Absolute Toleration." " 
On his positive teachings he was assailed by Bishop Stillingfleet ; by 
the Rev. John Milner, B.D. ; by the Rev. John Morris ; by William 
Carrol; and by the Rev. John Edwards, B.D.;' his only assailant 
with a rationalistic repute being Dr. Thomas Burnet. Some attacked 
him on his Essays; some on his Tleasonahleness of Christianity ; 
orthodoxy finding in both the same tendency to " subvert the naturo 

1 Srrnii'l Viiul icttion ofThr Ifrasonahlrnrxx of Christiinitu," KV.I7, prcf. 

- Fox liourne, Life of Lorlcr, ii. 1M. 

:; Son of tliu rre.sbyterian author of the famous tinnurienn. 



110 BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

and use of divine revelation and faith." ' In the opinion of the Rev. 
Mr. Bolde, who defended him in Some Considerations published in 
1G99, the hostile clericals had treated him " with a rudeness peculiar 
to some who make a profession of the Christian religion, and seem 
to pride themselves in being the clergy of the Church of England." 
This is especially true of Edwards, a notably ignoble type ; s but 
hardly of Milner, whose later Account of Mr. Lock's Religion out of 
his Own Writings, and in his Own Words (1700), pressed him 
shrewdly on the score of his " Socinianism." In the eyes of a 
pietist like William Law, again, Locke's conception of the infant 
mind as a tabula rasa was "dangerous to religion," besides being 
philosophically false/ Yet Locke agreed with Law' 5 that moral 
obligation is dependent solely on the will of God a doctrine 
denounced by the deist Shaftesbury as the negation of morality. 

See the Inquiry concerning Virtue or Merit, pt. iii, 2 ; and 
the Letters to a Student, under date June 3, 1709 (p. 403 in 
Rand's Life, Letters, etc., of Shaftesbury, 1900). The extra- 
ordinary letter of Newton to Locke, written just after or during 
a spell of insanity, first apologizes for having believed that 
Locke ' endeavoured to embroil me with women and by other 
means," and goes on to beg pardon " for representing that you 
struck at the root of morality, in a principle you laid down in 
your book of ideas." In his subsequent letter, replying to that 
of Locke granting forgiveness and gently asking for details, lie 
writes : What I said of your book I remember not." (Letters 
of September 16 and October 5, 1693, given in Fox Bourne's 
Life of Locke, ii, 226-27, and Sir D. Brewster's Memoirs of Sir 
Isaac Xeicton, 1855, ii, 148-51.) Newton, who had been on 
very friendly terms with Locke, must have been repeating, when 
his mind was disordered, criticisms otherwise current. After 
printing in full the letters above cited, Brewster insists, on Ids 
principle of sacrificing all other considerations to Newton's 
glory (cp. Do Morgan, Neicton : his Friend : and his Xiecc, 
1885, pp. 99-111), that all the while Newton was "in the full 
possession of his mental powers." The whole diction of the 
first letter tells the contrary. If we are not to suppose that 
Newton had been temporarily insane, we must think of his 
judgment as even less rational, apart from physics, than it is 

1 Said by Carrol, Dissertation on Mr. Lode's Essay, 1706, cited by Anthony Collin?, 
Essay Concerning the Use of Reason, 1709, p. 30, 

2 Cited by Fox Bourne, Life of Locke, ii. 438. 

' A Whose calibre may lie gathered from his eta-onions doctoral thesis, Concio a<l clerum 
(lc ihrmonum malnrum existentia a Datura (1700)! After a list of the deniers of evil 
spirit-, from the Kadducees and Sallnstius to Hekkev and Van Dale, he addresses to his 
"dilectissimi in Christo fratres" the exordium: 'Kn, Acadeinici, veteres ac hodiernos 
Saddticanosl quibuscum tota Atheorum cohors amicissime congruit; nam qui divinum 
numen, iidem ipsi infernales spiritns acriter negant." 

* Confutation of Warhurton H7."); 1 in Extracts from Laic's Works, 1768, i. 20S-200. 

5 Cp. the Essay, bk. i, ch. iii, 6, with Law's Case of Reason, in Extracts, as cited, p. 36. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 111 

seen to be in his dissertations on prophecy. Certainly Newton 
was at all times apt to be suspicious of his friends to the point 
of moral disease (see his attack on Montague, in his letter to 
Locke of January 26, 1691-1692 : in Fox Bourne, ii, 21S; and 
cp. De Morgan, as cited, p. 146) ; but tho letter to Locke 
indicates a point at which the normal malady had upset the 
mental balance. It remains, nevertheless, part of tho evidence 
as to bitter orthodox criticism of Locke. 

On tho whole, it is clear, the effect of his work, especially of his 
naturalistic psychology, was to make for rationalism ; and his com- 
promises furthered instead of checking the movement of unbelief. 
His ideal of practical and undogmatic Christianity, indeed, was 
hardly distinguishable from that of Hobbes, 1 and, as previously set 
forth by the Rev. Arthur Bury in his Naked Gospel (1690), was so 
repugnant to the Church that that book was burned at Oxford as 
heretical.' Locke's position as a believing Christian was indeed 
extremely weak, and could easily have been demolished by a 
competent deist, such as Collins, 3 or a skeptical dogmatist who 
could control his temper and avoid the gross misrepresentation so 
often resorted to by Locke's orthodox enemies. But by the deists 
he was valued as an auxiliary, and by many latitudinarian Christians 
as a helper towards a rationalistic if not a logical compromise. 

Rationalism of one or the other tint, in fact, seems to have 
spread in all directions. Deism was ascribed to some of the most 
eminent public men. Bishop Burnet has a violent passage on Sir 
William Templo, to the ei'fect that " He had a true judgment in 
affairs, and very good principles with relation to government, but in 
nothing else. He seemed to think that things are as they were from 
all eternity; at least lie thought religion was only for the mob. He 
was a great admirer of the sect of Confucius in China, who were 
atheists themselves, but left religion to the rabble.'" 1 The praise of 
Confucius is tho note of deism ; and Burnet rightly held that no 
orthodox Christian in those days would sound it. Other prominent 
men revealed their religious liberalism. The accomplished and 
influential George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, often spoken of as 

1 Cp. Dynamics of Religion, p. 12'2. 2 Fox Horn-no, ii, 101 10."). 

'' An ostensibly orthodox Professor of our own day lias written that I.o, ko's doctrine 
rs to religion and ethics " shows at once the sincerity of his religious coin id ions and tho 
inadequate conception lie had formed to himself of the grounds and nature of moral 
philosophy" (Fowler, Locke. lf-'M), p. 76). 

1 Unmet. History of. his Own Time, e<\. 1S3S, p. i:>\. Hurnot adds that Temple " was a 
corrupter of all that came near him." The 18.'!S editor protests aa in-t the u hole attack 
as the " mo.-,t unfair and exaggerated" of Hurnet's portraits; inula writer in /Vie I'resent 
Stair of the Reyithlick of Letters, Jan., 17:10, p. 20, carries the defen'-o to el a imi nil orthodoxy 
for Temple. Hut the whole cast of his thought is deistic. Cp. the Lssay it)>mi ihr On, ,nt 
and Mature of (invrnimnit , and ch. v of the < >l>sc rratinns upon tltc luit'd l'roriiiees 
(Works, ed. 1770, i, !'.), 3(5, 170 71). 



112 BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

a deist, and even as an atheist, by his contemporaries, 1 appears 
clearly from his own writings to have been either that or a Unitarian ; 2 
and it is not improbable that the similar gossip concerning Lord 
Keeper Somers was substantially true. 

That Sir Isaac Newton was " some kind of Unitarian " 4 is proved 
by documents long withheld from publication, and disclosed only in 
the second edition of Sir David Brewster's Memoirs. There is indeed 
no question that he remained a mere scripturalist, handling the texts 
as such, 5 and wasting much time in vain interpretations of Daniel 
and the Apocalypse. 6 Temperamentally, also, he was averse to any- 
thing like bold discussion, declaring that "those at Cambridge ought 
not to judge and censure their superiors, but to obey and honour 
them, according to the law and the doctrine of passive obedience 
this after he had sat on the Convention which deposed James II. 
In no aspect, indeed, apart from his supreme scientific genius, does 
he appear as morally 8 or intellectually pre-eminent ; and even on the 
side of science he was limited by his theological presuppositions, as 
when he rejected the nebular hypothesis, writing to Bentley that 

the growth of new systems out of old ones, without the mediation 
of a Divine power, seems to me apparently absurd."'' There is 
therefore more than usual absurdity in the proclamation of his pious 
biographer that " the apostle of infidelity cowers beneath the implied 
rebuke" 10 of his orthodoxy. The very anxiety shown by Newton 
and his friends 11 to checkmate the infidels" is a proof that his 
religious work was not scientific even in inception, but the expression 
of his neurotic side ; and the attempt of some of his scientific 
admirers to show that his religious researches belong solely to the 
years of his decline is a corresponding oversight. Newton was 
always pathologically prepossessed on the side of his religion, and 
subordinated his science to his theology even in the Principia. It 
is therefore all the more significant of the set of opinion in his day 
that, tied as he was to Scriptural interpretations, lie drew away 
from orthodox dogma as to the Trinity. Not only does he show 
himself a destructive critic of Trinitarian texts and an opponent of 
Athanasius : he expressly formulates the propositions (l) that 

there is one God the Father and one mediator between God 

and man, the man Christ Jesus "; (2) that " the Father is the 

] Cp. Macaulay, History, ch. ii. Student's ed. i, 1-20. 

-' Compare lii- Advice to a Daughter, i 1 (in Miscellanies, 17001, and his Political 
Thoughts and Reflections : Religion. :) bee Macaulay, ch. xx. Student's ed. ii, 459. 

1 Do Morgan, as cited, p. 107. 5 See Brewster, ii, 31S, 321-22, 323, 331 sq.;Si-2 sq. 

6 Id. ]). :vn sq. 7 i,i. . ii.-,. 8 CPi De Morgan, pp. 133-45. 

Four Letters from Sir Isaac Xeivton to Dr. Bcntley, ed. 170(5, p. 25. Cp. Dynamics of 
Religion, pp. 07-11)2. w Brewster, ii, 311. !1 Id. pp. 315-1(5. v - Id, pp. 31-2-16. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 113 

invisible God whom no eye hath seen or can see. All other beings 
are sometimes visible"; and (3) that "the Father hath life in 
himself, and hath given the Son to have life in himself." 1 Such 
opinions, of course, could not be published : under the Act of 1G97 
they would have made Newton liable to loss of office and all civil 
rights. In his own day, therefore, his opinions were rather 
gossipped-of than known ; 2 but insofar as his heresy was realized, 
it must have wrought much more for unbelief than could be achieved 
for orthodoxy by his surprisingly commonplace strictures on atheism, 
which show the ordinary inability to see what atheism means. 

The argument of his Short Scheme of True Religion brackets 
atheism with idolatry, and goes on : ' Atheism is so senseless and 
odious to mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by 
accident that all birds, beasts, and men have their right side and 
left side alike shaped (except in their bowels), and just two eyes, and 
no more, on either side of the face?" etc. (Brewster, ii, 317). The 
logical implication is that a monstrous organism, with the sides 
unlike, represents " accident," and that in that case there has either 
been no causation or no "purpose" by Omnipotence. It is only 
fair to remember that no avowedly "atheistic" argument could in 
Newton's day find publication ; but his remarks are those of a man 
who had never contemplated philosophically the negation of his own 
religious sentiment at the point in question. Brewster, whoso 
judgment and good faith are alike precarious, writes that " When 
Voltaire asserted that Sir Isaac explained the prophecies in the same 
manner as those who went before him, he only exhibited his 
ignorance of what Newton wrote, and what others had written " 
(ii, 331, note; 355). The writer did not understand what he 
censured. Voltaire meant that Newton's treatment of prophecy is 
on the same plane of credulity as that of his orthodox predecessors. 

Even within the sphere of the Church the Unitarian tendency, 
with or without deistic introduction, was traceable. Archbishop 
Tillotson (d. 1691) was often accused of Socinianism ; and in the next 
generation was smilingly spoken of by Anthony Collins ;is a leading 
Freethinker. The pious Dr. Ilickes had in fact declared of the 
Archbishop that "he caused several to turn atheists and ridicule the 
priesthood and religion." 3 The heresy must have been encouraged 
even within the Church by the scandal which, broke out. when Dean 
Sherlock's Vindication of Trinitarianism (1G90), written in reply to 

1 Brewster, p. 319. See the remaining articles, and App. XXX. p. .".:!.'. - /</. p. 3^. 

:; hi .-.,,-- >,,, Till'itson rind Burnet, pp. 3>, 10, 71, cited by Collins, I)i <<>*> <</ 
Fret '.hinkino, 1713, pp. 171 -T2. 

VOL. II I 



114 BEITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 

a widely-circulated antitrinitarian compilation, 1 was attacked by 
Dean South 3 as the work of a Tritheist. The plea of Dr. Wallis, 
Locke's old teacher, that a doctrine of "three somewhats " he 
objected to the term " persons " in one God was as reasonable as 
the concept of three dimensions, 3 was of course only a heresy the 
more. Outside the Church, William Penn, the great Quaker, held 
a partially Unitarian attitude; 4 and the first of his many imprison- 
ments was on a charge of "blasphemy and heresy" in respect of 
his treatise The Sandy Foundation Shaken, which denied (l) that 
there were in the One God " three distinct and separate persons "; 
(2) the doctrine of the need of "plenary satisfaction"; and (3) the 
justification of sinners by " an imputative righteousness." But 
though many of the early Quakers seem to have shunned the 
doctrine of the Trinity, Penn really affirmed the divinity of Christ, 
and was not a Socinian but a Sabellian in his theology. Positive 
Unitarianism all the while was being pushed by a number of tracts 
which escaped prosecution, being prudently handled by Locke's 
friend, Thomas Firmin. 5 A new impulse had been given to 
Unitarianism by the learning and critical energy of the Prussian 
Dr. Zwicker, who had settled in Holland ; 6 and among those English- 
men whom his works had found ready for agreement was Gilbert 
Clerke (b. 1611), who, like several later heretics, was educated at 
Sidney College, Cambridge. In 1695 he published a Unitarian 
work entitled Anti-Xicenismus, and two other tracts in Latin, all 
replying to the orthodox polemic of Dr. Bull, against whom another 
Unitarian had written Considerations on the Explications of the 
Doctrine of the Trinity in 169-1, bitterly resenting his violence. 7 In 
1695 appeared yet another treatise of the same school, The Judg- 
ment of the Fathers concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity. Much 
was thus done on Unitarian lines to prepare an audience for the 
deists of the next reign. h But the most effective influence was 
probably the ludicrous strife of the orthodox clergy as to what 
orthodoxy was. The fray over the doctrine of the Trinity waxed so 

1 The Brief Notes on the Creed of St. Athanasius (author unknown), printed by Thomas 
Firmin. Late in 1693 appeared another antitrinitarian tract, by William Freke, who 
was prosecuted, fined .500, and ordered to make a recantation in the Four Courts of 
Westminster Hall. The book was burnt by the hangman. Wallace, Art. 354. There had 
also been "two quarto volumes of tracts in support of Unitarianism," published in 1601 
(Dr. W. H. Drummond, An Explanation anil Defence of the Principles of Protestant 
Dissent, 1842, p. 17). 

2 " Locke's ribald schoolfellow of nearly fifty years ago " (Fox Bourne, ii, 405). 
" Id. ib. 

4 Tayler, Betrospcct, p. 226'; Wallace, Antitrinitarian Biography, i, 160-60. 

5 Fox Fourne. ii. 405; Wallace, art. 353. 6 Above, pp. 35-36. 
7 Nelson's Life of Bishop Hull, 2nd ed. 1711, p. 30S. 

1 " Perhaps at no period was the Unitarian controversy so actively carried on in 
England as between 1600 and 1720." History, Opinions, etc., of the English Presbyterians, 
1631, p. 22. 



BEITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTURY 115 

furious, and the discredit cast on orthodoxy was so serious, 1 that in 
the year 1700 an Act of Parliament was passed forbidding the publi- 
cation of any more works on the subject. 

Meanwhile the so-called Latitudinarians, 3 all the while aiming 
as they did at a non-dogmatic Christianity, served as a connecting 
medium for the different forms of liberal thought ; and a new element 
of critical disintegration was introduced by a speculative treatment 
of Genesis in the Arclueolocjia Philosophic^ (1692) of Dr. Thomas 
Burnet, a professedly orthodox scholar, Master of the Charterhouse 
and chaplain in ordinary to King William, who nevertheless treated 
the Creation and Fall stories as allegories, and threw doubt on the 
Mosaic authorship of parts of the Pentateuch. Though the book 
was dedicated to the king, it aroused so much clerical hostility that 
the king was obliged to dismiss him from his post at court. 3 His 
ideas were partly popularized through a translation of two of his 
chapters, with a vindicatory letter, in Blount's Oracles of Reason 
(1695) ; and that they had considerable vogue may be gathered from 
the Essay towards a Vindication of the Vulgar Exposition of the 
Mosaic History of the Fall of Adam, by John Witty, published in 
1705. Burnet, who published three sets of anonymous Remarks on 
the philosophy of Locke (1697-1699), criticizing its sensationist 
basis, figured after his death (1715), in posthumous publications, as 
a heretical theologian in other regards ; and then played his part in 
the general deistie movement ; but his allegorical view of Genesis 
does not seem to have seriously affected speculation in his time, the 
bulk of the debate turning on his earlier Tclluris Tlicoria Sacra 
(1681; trans. 1681), to which there were many rejoinders, both 
scientific and orthodox. On this side he is unimportant, his science 
being wholly imaginative ; and in the competition between his 
Theory and J. Woodward's Essay towards a Natural History of the 
Earth (1695) nothing was achieved for scientific progress. 

Much more remarkable, but outside of popular discussion, were 
the Evangclium medici (1697) of Br. B. Connor, wherein the gospel 

1 Op. Dynamics of Religion, pp. 113-15 --Taylor, Retrospect, p. -227. 

- A- to whom see Taylor, Retrospect, eh. v. 4. They are spoken of as "the new sect 
of Latitude-Men " in 1062 ; and in 1TOS are said to ho " at this day Low Churchmen." So' 
A Brief Account of the. New Sect of Latitude-Men, hy " S. P." of Cambridge, IOni, reprinted 
in The I'lienix, vol. ii. L708. and prof, to that vol. From " S. I'.'s" account it, is clear that, 
they connected with the new scientific movement, and leant to Cartesianisni. As above 
noted, they included sne.li prelates as Wilkins and Tillotson, The work of K. A. (ioorno, 
Seventeenth Century Men of Latitude. (190-s). deals with Hale-, Chillinnworth, Whicheote, 
II. More. Taylor. Browne, and Maxtor. 

s Toulmin, Histor. Vine ,,f the Prat. Dissenters, 1M1. p. 270. A main ground of the 
offence, taken was a, somewhat trivial dialogue in Burnet's hook between live and the 

serpent, indicating the " popular" character of the tale. This was omitted fr , Dutch 

edition at the author's request, and from the 3rd ed. 17.'i-'3 (Toulmin, as cited). It is Uiven 
in the partial translation in Blount's Oracles of Reason. 



116 BEITISH FBEETHOUGHT IN THE 17th CENTUEY 

miracles were explained away, on lines later associated with German 
rationalism, as natural phenomena ; and the curious treatise of 
Newton's friend, John Craig, 1 Theologies christian principia mathc- 
matica (1699), wherein it is argued that all evidence grows progres- 
sively less valid in course of time; 2 and that accordingly the 
Christian religion will cease to be believed about the year 3144, 
when probably will occur the Second Coming. Connor, when 
attacked, protested his orthodoxy ; Craig held successively two 
prebends of the Church of England ; 8 and both lived and died 
unmolested, probably because they had the prudence to write in 
Latin, and maintained gravity of style. About this time, further, 
the title of " Eationalist " made some fresh headway as a designa- 
tion, not of unbelievers, but of believers who sought to ground them- 
selves on reason. Such books as those of Clifford and Boyle tell 
of much discussion as to the efficacy of " reason " in religious things ; 
and in 1686, as above noted, there appears A Rational Catechism, 
a substantially Unitarian production, notable for its aloofness from 
evangelical feeling, despite its many references to Biblical texts in 
support of its propositions. In the Essays Moral and Divine of the 
Scotch judge, Sir William Anstruther, published in 1701, there is 
a reference to " those who arrogantly term themselves Eationalists " 5 
in the sense of claiming to find Christianity not only, as Locke put 
it, a reasonable religion, but one making no strain upon faith. 
Already the term had become potentially one of vituperation, and 
it is applied by the learned judge to " the wicked reprehended by 
the Psalmist." 6 Forty years later, however, it was still applied 
rather to the Christian who claimed to believe upon rational grounds 
than to the deist or unbeliever ; 7 and it was to have a still longer 
lease of life in Germany as a name for theologians who believed in 
" Scripture " on condition that all miracles were explained away. 



1 See Brewster's Memoirs of Newton, 1855, ii. 315-16, for a letter indicating Craigs' 
religious attitude. He contributed to Dr. George Cheyne's Philosophical Principles of 
Religion, Natural and Revealed, 1705. (Prcf. to pt. i, ed. 1725.) 

J See the note of Pope and Warburton on the Dunciad, iv, 462. 

3 See arts, in Diet, of Sat. Biog. * Reprinted at Amsterdam, 1712. 

5 Essays as cited, p. 84. G Id. p. 30. 

7 See Christianity not Founded, on Argument (by Henry Dodwell, jr.), 1741, pp. 11. 31. 
Waterland, as cited by Phsbop Hurst, treats the terms Reasonist and Rationalist as labels 
or nicknames of those who untruly profess to reason more scrupulously than other people. 
The former term may. however, have been set up as a result of Le Clerc's rendering of 
"thel/03os,"in John i, 1, by " Reason "an argument to which Waterland repeatedly refers. 



Chapter XV 

FRENCH AND DUTCH FREETHOUGHT IN THE 
SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

1. We have seen France, in the first quarter of the seventeenth 
century, pervaded in its upper classes by a freethought partly born 
of the knowledge that religion counted for little but harm in public 
affairs, partly the result of such argumentation as had been thrown 
out by Montaigne and codified by Charron. That it was not the 
freethinking of mere idle men of the world is clear when we note the 
names and writings of LA MoTHE LE Vayer (1588-1672), GUI 
Patin (1601-1671), and Gabriel Naude (1600-1653), all scholars, 
all heretics of the skeptical and rationalistic order. The last two 
indeed, sided with the Catholics in politics, Patin approving of the 
Fronde, and Naude of the Massacre, on which ground they are 
sometimes claimed as believers. 1 But though in the nature of the 
case their inclusion on the side of freethought is not to be zealously 
contended for, they must be classed in terms of the balance of 
testimony. Patin was the admiring friend of Gassendi ; and though 
he was never explicitly heretical, and indeed wrote of Socinianism as 
a pestilent doctrine, 2 his habit of irony and the risk of written 
avowals to correspondents must be kept in view in deciding on his 
cast of mind. He is constantly anti-clerical; 3 and the germinal 
skepticism of Montaigne and Charron clearly persists in him. 

It is true that, as one critic puts it, such rationalists were not 
" quite clear whither they were bound. At first sight," he adds, 

" no one looks more negative than Gui Patin He was always 

congratulating himself on being ' delivered from the nightmare '; 
and he rivals the eighteenth century in the scorn ho pours on 
priests, monks, and especially ' that black Loyolitic scum from 
Spain ' which called itself the Society of Jesus. Yet Patin was 

1 Prof. Strowski, who is concerned to prove that the freethinkers of the period were 
mostly mon-about-town, claims I'atin as a l-'rondeur (I)c Mmitniunr << l'usrul, p. iil.M. Hut 
l'atin's attitude in this matter was determined by hi.s detestation of Mazarin, whom ho 
regarded as an arch-scoundrel. Niiudc.'s defence o] the Msi sac-re i toreusic. 

- l.vtlrcH ilr. Qui I'atin, No. l L s, ,'.,lit. koveille-l'arise, ISHi, i, ;;C,I. 

" (']>. Keveillo-l'ariso, as: cited, Notice nur Uui I'atin, ])]>. xxiii xxvii, and Uayle, 
art. I'atin. 

117 



118 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

no freethinker. Skeptics who made game of the kernel of 
religion came quite as much under the lash of his tongue as 
bigots who dared defend its husks. His letters end with the 
characteristic confession : ' Credo in Deum, Christum crucifixum, 

etc.; De minimis non curat prcetor ' " (Viscount St. Cyres in 

Cambridge Modem History, v, 73). But the last statement is 
an error, and Patin did not attack Gassendi, though he did 
Descartes. He says of Eabelais : " C'etoit un homme qui se 
moquoit de tout ; en verite il y a bien des choses dont on doit 

raisonnablement se moquer elles sont presque tous remplies 

de vanite, d'imposture et d'ignorance : ceux qui sont un peu 
philosophes ne doivent-ils pas s'en moquer?" (Lett. 485, ed. 
cited, iii, 148). Again he writes that " la vie humaine n'est 
qu'un bureau de rencontre et un theatre sur lesquels domine la 
fortune " (Lett. 726, iii, 620). This is pure Montaigne. The 
formula cited by Viscount St. Cyres is neither a general nor 
a final conclusion to the letters of Patin. It occurs, I think, 
only once (18 juillet, 1642, a M. Belin) in the 836 letters, and 
not at the end of that one (Lett. 55, ed. cited, i, 90). 

Concerning his friend Naude, Patin writes: "Je suis fort de 
l'avis de feu M. Naude, qui disoit qu'il y avait quatre choses 
dont il se fallait garder, afin de n'etre point trompe, savoir, de 
proprieties, de miracles, de revelations, et d'apparitions " (Lett. 
353, ed. cited, ii, 490). Again, he writes of a symposium of 
Naude, Gassendi, and himself : " Peut-etre, tous trois, gueris de 
loup-garou et delivres du mal des scrupules, qui est le tyran des 
consciences, nous irons peut-etre jusque fort pres du sanctuaire. 
Je fis l'an passe ce voyage de Gentilly avec M. Naude, moi seul 
avec mi tete-a-tete ; il n'y avait point de temoins, aussi n'y en 
falloit-il point : nous y parlames fort librement de tout, sans 
que personne en ait ete scandalise " (Lett. 362, ii, 508). This 
seems tolerably freethinking. 

All that the Christian editor cares to claim upon the latter 
passage is that assuredly " l'unite de Dieu, l'immortalite de l'ame, 
l'egalite des hommes devant la loi, ces verites fondamentales de 
la raison et consacrccs par le Christianisme, y etaient placees au 
premier rang " in the discussion. As to the skepticism of Naude 
the editor remarks : " Ce qu'il y a de remarquable, c'est que Gui 

Patin soutenait que son ami avait puise son opinion, en 

general tres peu orthodoxe, en Italie, pendant le long sejour qu'il 
fit dans ce pays avec le cardinal Bagni " (ii, 490 ; cp. Lett. 816 ; 
iii, 758, where Naude is again cited as making small account 
of religion). 

Certainly Patin and Naude are of less importance for freethought 
than La Mothe le Vayer. That scholar, a " Conseiller d'Estat 
ordinaire," tutor of the brother of Louis XIV, and one of the early 
members of the new Academy founded by Richelieu, is an interesting 



FKEETHOUGHT IN FEANCE 119 

figure 1 in the history of culture, being a skeptic of the school of 
Sextus Empiricus, and practically a great friend of tolorance. 
Standing in favour with Richelieu, he wrote at that statesman's 
suggestion a treatise On the Virtue of the Heathen, 2 justifying 
toleration by pagan example a course which raises the question 
whether Richelieu himself was not strongly touched by the 
rationalism of his age. If it be true that the great Cardinal 
"believed as all the world did in his time," 3 there is little more 
to be said ; for unbelief, as we have seen, was already abundant, and 
even somewhat fashionable. Certainly no ecclesiastic in high power 
ever followed a less ecclesiastical policy ; 4 and from the date of his 
appointment as Minister to Louis XIII (1G21), for forty years, there 
was no burning of heretics or unbelievers in France. If he was 
orthodox, it was very passively/ 

And Le Vayer's way of handling the dicta of St. Augustine and 
Thomas Aquinas as to the virtues of unbelievers being merely vices 
is for its time so hardy that the Cardinal's protection alone can 
explain its immunity from censure. St. Augustine and St. Thomas, 
says the critic calmly, had regard merely to eternal happiness, 
which virtue alone can obtain for no one. They are, therefore, to 
be always interpreted in this special sense. And so at the very 
outset the ground is summarily cleared of orthodox obstacles/ The 
Petit discours chretien sur V immo Halite de Vdme, also addressed to 
Richelieu, tells of a good deal of current unbelief on that subject ; 
and the epistle dedicatory professes pain over the " philosopher of 
our day [Vanini] who has had the impiety to write that, unless one 
is very old, very rich, and a German, one should never expatiate on 
this subject." But on the very threshold of the discourse, again, 
the skeptic tranquilly suggests that there would be " perhaps some- 
thing unreasonable " in following Augustine's precept, so popular in 
later times, that the problem of immortality should be solved by tho 
dictates of religion and feeling, not of " uncertain " reason. " Why," 
he asks, "should the soul be her own judge?" And he shows a 
distinct appreciation of the avowal of Augustine in Ins lictraetationcs 
that his own book on the immortality of the Soul was so obscure to 
him that in many places he himself could not understand it. H The 

1 See the notices of liim in Owen's Skeptics of the i'n ncli Itenaissanct ; and in Sainte- 
lieuve. Port lioytil, iii, 180, etc. 

* l)e. la Vertu. (lex I'ayens, in t. v. of the 12mo ed. of fKniTra, IdG!). 

" Hanotaux, Hint, du Cardinal de liichelieu. Ih'.lU, i, prof. p. 7. 

1 Cp. itucklf!, ch. viii, 1 vol. (;d. pp. :;ov 10, :vi:> iH. 

r ' See the tiood criticism of M. Hanotaux in 1'orrens, Ijcs LibertiiiH en h' ranee an xeii. 
Steele, p. 'X, m/. 

u Uiucrrs, ed. lfi'JO, v. I sq. liollanilin, as 1,0 Vayer shows, had similarly explained 
away Autmsuue. liut the doctrine that heathen virtue was not true virtue had remained 
orthodox. "' lid. cited, iv, ilo. * Id. pp. liij iii. 



120 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

" Little Christian Discourse " is, in fact, not Christian at all ; and its 
arguments are but dialectic exercises, on a par with those of the 
Discours sceptique sur la musiquc which follows. He was, in short, 
a skeptic by temperament ; and his Preface d'une histoire 1 shows his 
mind to have played on the " Mississippi of falsehood called history " 
very much as did that of Bayle in a later generation. 

Le Vayer's Dialogues of Oratius Tubero (1633) is philosophically 
his most important work; 2 but its tranquil Pyrrhonism was not 
calculated to affect greatly the current thought of his day ; and he 
ranked rather as a man of all-round learning 8 than as a polemist, 
being reputed " a little contradictory, but in no way bigoted or 
obstinate, all opinions being to him nearly indifferent, excepting 
those of which faith does not permit us to doubt." 4 The last phrase 
tells of the fact that it affects to negate : Le Vayer's general 
skepticism was well known. 5 He was not indeed an original 
thinker, most of his ideas being echoes from the skeptics of 
antiquity; 6 and it has been not unjustly said of him that he is 
rather of the sixteenth century than of the seventeenth. 7 

2. On the other hand, the resort on the part of the Catholics to 
a skeptical method, as against both Protestants and freethinkers, 
which we have seen originating soon after the issue of Montaigne's 
Essais, seems to have become more and more common; and this 
process must rank as in some degree a product of skeptical thought 
of a more sincere sort. In any case it was turned vigorously, even 
recklessly, against the Protestants. Thus we find Daille, at the 
outset of his work On the True Use of the Fathers, 8 complaining that 
when Protestants quote the Scriptures some Eomanists at once ask 
" whence and in what way those books may be known to be really 
written by the prophets and apostles whose names and titles they 
bear." This challenge, rashly incurred by Luther and Calvin in 
their pronouncements on the Canon, later Protestants did not as 
a rule attempt to meet, save in the fashion of La Placette, who in 
his work De insanibili Ecclesia, Romance Scepticismo (1688) 9 under- 

1 Tom. iii, 251. 

- He wrote very many, the final collection filling three volumes folio, and fifteen in 
duodecimo. The Cincq Dialogues fait* a. limitation des Anciensvieve pseudonymous, and 
are not included in the collected works. 

:i "On le regarde comme le Plutarque de notre siecle" (Perrault, Les Hommes Illustres 
du XVIIe SiMe, ed. 1701, li. 131). * Perrault, ii. 13-2. 

" Hayle, Diet. art. La Mothk le Vaykii. Cp. introd. to L' Esprit de la Mothe le Vayer, 
par 51. de M. C. D. S. P. D.L. {i.e. De Montlinot, chanoine de Saint Pierre de Lille (1763, 
pp. xviii, xxi, xxvi. 

(; 51. Perrens, who endorses this criticism, does not note that some passages he quotes 
from the Dialogues, as to atheism being less disturbing to States than superstition, are 
borrowed from Bacon's essay 0/ Atheisrn, of which Le Vayer would read the Latin version. 

Perrens, p. 132. b In French, 1631; in Latin, 1656, amended. 

'> Translated into English in 1688, and into French, under the title T raite du Fyrrhonisme 
de Viglise romaine, by N. Chalaire, Amsterdam, 1721. 



FKEETHOUGHT IN FRANCE 121 

takes to show that Romanists themselves are without any grounds 
of certitude for the authority of the Church. It was indeed certain 
that the Catholic method would make more skeptics than it won. 

3. Between the negative development of the doctrine of 
Montaigne and the vogue of upper-class deism, the philosophy 
of Descartes, with its careful profession of submission to the 
Church, had at first an easy reception ; and on the appearance of 
the Discours de la Methode (1637) it speedily affected the whole 
thought of France; the women of the leisured class, now much given 
to literature, being among its students. 1 From the first the Jansenists, 
who were the most serious religious thinkers of the time, accepted 
the Cartesian system as in the main soundly Christian ; and its 
founder's authority had some such influence in keeping up the 
prestige of orthodoxy as had that of Locke later in England. 
Boileau, who wrote a satire in defence of the system when it was 
persecuted after Descartes's death, is named among those whom he 
so influenced. 2 But a merely external influence of this kind could 
not counteract the fundamental rationalism of Descartes's thought, 
and the whole social and intellectual tendency towards a secular 
view of life. Soon, indeed, Descartes became suspect, partly by 
reason of the hostile activities of the Jesuits, who opposed him 
because the Jansenists generally held by him, though he had been 
a Jesuit pupil, and had always some adherents in that order ; '' partly 
by reason of the inherent naturalism of his system. That his 
doctrine was incompatible with the eucharist was the standing charge 
against it, 4 and his defence was not found satisfactory,'" though his 
orthodox followers obtained from Queen Christina a declaration that 
he had been largely instrumental in converting her to Catholicism. 
Pascal reproached him with having done his best to do without Cod 
in his system;' and this seems to have been the common clerical 
impression. Thirteen years after his death, in 1GG3, his work was 
placed on the Index Librorum ProJiibilonim, under a modified 
censure," and in 1G71 a royal order was obtained under which his 
philosophy was proscribed in all the universities of France.' 
Cartesian professors and cures were persecuted and exiled, or 

1 Bouillier, Hist, de hi Fhilos. carUsiennfi, lb".!, i, -IK) sq., 420 sq.; L.inson, llist tie I i litt. 
frn iicai.se, 5e 6dit. p. 390; Hrunetiere, Etudes Critiques, 3e serie, p. 2 ; Hucklo, l-vol. ed. 
p. 338. Houillier notes (i, 4-20/ that l\w femme.s sitatntes ridiculed by Molieiv are Cartesians. 

- Houillier, i, 4u(j ; Lauson, p. 3Ij7. " Jiouillier, i, 11 1 ></. ' Id. p. 131 sq. 

Id. p. 437 sq. >' Id. pp. ll'.J .Ml. 

7 "11 disait trey souvent," said Pascal's niece : -".!< ne puis pardonner a Descartes: il 
aurait hien voulu. dans touto sa philosophic, pouvoir so passer de Dion ; niais il n'a jti 
B'empecher de lui ace order line cliiiuienade. pour mi'ttre le mondi' en imiuwiiiciiL ; npivs 
cela il n'a plus <me faire de Dieu." ICeeit de Murqn, rite l'< ri< r {" Di: ue nue j'ai oiu aire 
par M. Pascal, moii onclo"!, rei). with 1'cnsics, ud. 1S03, PP. 3s 3'.). 

liouillier, p. 403. ' J Id. v. 1j5 sq. 



122 SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

compelled to recant ; among the victims being Pere Lami of the 
Congregation of the Oratory and Pere Andre the Jesuit; 1 and the 
Oratorians were in 1678 forced to undergo the humiliation of not 
only renouncing Descartes and all his works, but of abjuring their 
former Cartesian declarations, in order to preserve their corporate 
existence. 2 Precisely in this period of official reaction, however, 
there was going on not merely an academic but a social development 
of a rationalistic kind, in which the persecuted philosophy played its 
part, even though some freethinkers disparaged it. 

4. The general tendency is revealed on the one hand by the 
series of treatises from eminent Churchmen, defending the faith 
against unpublished attacks, and on the other hand by the prevailing 
tone in belles lettres. Malherbe, the literary dictator of the first 
quarter of the century, had died in 1628 with the character of a 
scoffer ; 3 and the fashion now lasted till the latter half of the reign 
of Louis XIV. In 1621, two years after the burning of Vanini, a 
young man named Jean Eontanier had been burned alive on the 
Place de Greve at Paris, apparently for the doctrines laid down by 
him in a manuscript entitled Lc Tresor Inestimable, written on 
deistic and anti-Catholic lines. 4 He was said to have been succes- 
sively Protestant, Catholic, Turk, Jew, and atheist ; and had con- 
ducted himself like one of shaken mind. 5 But the cases of the poet 
Theophile de Viau, who about 1623 suffered prosecution on a charge 
of impiety, 6 and of his companions Berthelot and Colletet who like 
him were condemned but set free by royal favour appear to be the 
only others of the kind for over a generation. Frivolity of tone 
sufficed to ward off legal pursuit. It was in 1665, some years after 
the death of Mazarin, who had maintained Richelieu's policy of 
tolerance, that Claude Petit was burnt at Paris for "impious 
pieces"; 7 and even then there was no general reversion to orthodoxy, 
the upper-class tone remaining, as in the age of Richelieu and 
Mazarin, more or less unbelieving. When Corneille had introduced 
a touch of Christian zeal into his Polyeucte (1643) he had given 
general offence to the dilettants of both sexes. 8 Moliere, again, the 

1 Sec Bouillier, i, 400 set.; ii, 373 sq,; and introd. to OSuvres philos. clu Pere Bujjier, 1846, 
p. 4 ; and op. Rambaud, Hist, de la civilisation francaise, 6e edit. ii. 336. 

2 Pouillier, i, 465. :i I J crrens, pp. 84 -85. i Cp. Perrons, pp. 6S-69, and refs. 
5 Cp. Strowski, De Montaigne d Pascal, p. 141. 

c Sec Duvernet, Vie de Voltaire, ch. i. and note 1 ; and Perrons, pp. 74-80. 

" For all that is known of Petit see the Avertissement to Bibliophile Jacob's edition of 
Paris ridicule et burlesque <iu liieme siecle, and rets, in Perrens, p, 153. After Petit's 
death, his friend Dn Pclletier defended him as being a deist ; hut beseems in his youthful 
writings to have blasphemed at large, and lie bad been guilty of assassinating a young 
monk. He was burned, however, for blaspheming the Virgin. 

H Guizot, Corneille et son temps, ed. 1880, p. 200. The circle of the Hotel Rambouillet 
were especially hostile. Cp, Palissot's note to Polyeucte, end. On the other hand, 
Corneille found it prudent to cancel four skeptical lines which he had originally put in 
the mouth of the pagan Severus, the sage of the piece. Perrens, Les Libertins, p. 140. 



FREETIIOUGIIT IN FRANCE 123 

disciple of Gassendi and "the very genius of reason,"' 2 was 
unquestionably an unbeliever ; 8 and only the personal protection of 
Louis XIV, which after all could not avail to support such a play 
as Tart life against the fury of the bigots, enabled him to sustain 
himself at all against them. 

5. Equally freetbinking was his brilliant predecessor and early 
comrade, CYRANO DE BERGERAC (1620-1655), who did not fear to 
indicate his frame of mind in one of his dramas. In La llort 
d'Agrippine he puts in the mouth of Sejanus, as was said by a con- 
temporary, " horrible things against the Gods," notably the phrase, 
whom men made, and who did not make men," 4 which, however, 
generally passed as an attack on polytheism ; and though there was 
certainly no blasphemous intention in the phrase, Frappons, voild 
Vkostie [ = hostia, victim] , some pretended to regard it as an insult to 
the Catholic host. 5 At times Cyrano writes like a deist; 6 but in so 
many other passages does he hold the language of a convinced 
materialist, and of a scoffer at that,' that he can hardly be taken 
seriously on the former bead." In short, be was one of the first 
of the hardy freethinkers who, under the tolerant rule of Richelieu 
and Mazarin, gave clear voice to the newer spirit. Under any other 
government, he would have been in danger of bis life : as it was, he 
was menaced with prosecutions ; his Aarippinc was forbidden ; the 
first edition of his Pedant jouc was confiscated ; during his last 
illness tbere was an attempt to seize his manuscripts ; and down till 
the time of the Revolution the editions of his works were eagerly 
bought up and destroyed by zealots. 9 His recent literary rehabilita- 
tion thus hardly serves to realize his importance in the history of 
freethought. Between Cyrano and Moliere it would appear that 
tbere was little less of rationalistic ferment in the France of their 
day than in England. Bossuet avows in a letter to Huet in 1678 
that impiety and unbelief abound more than ever before. " 

1 Under whom he studied in his youth with a number of other notably independent 
spirits, anions them Cyrano <le HertH-rae. See Sainte-Heuve's essay on Moliere, prefixed 
to the Hachettei dilion. Moliere held by Cassendi as against Dcsc irtes. liouillier. i.f.12 sti. 

- Constant Coipielin, art. "Don Juan "in the International Itcvitic, September, l!KJ3, 
I). (11 an an He an i -ch< iia rly study. 

'' " Moliere is u fn ethinker to i be marrow of his bones " (I'errens, p. 2S0). Cp. I. on, 
p. .vJO; Founder. Etudes sitr Moiiire, 1--.",, pp. 122-23; Soury. Here. ,!, iltist. dn mat, r. 
p. 3->l. " (jini,*nene," writi Saint' Heme, "a public une brochure pour montrer Uabelais 
jj recur -i ur tie la revolution frani;ai-c ; e'etoit inutile a prouver sur .Moliere" 'c ---ay cited I. 

1 A ei 11. -c. iv, in >]:,/ eres C in -hi tie s. etc., ed. Jacob, rep. by (hinder, pp. I2ti 27. 

"' See .I;e>o,,- note in l,,e., ed. cited, p. I.Vi. 

r ' K.rj. In-, l.rlt rr emit re mi l'i-dnnt I No. 13 of the T.i It rex Sat irin lies in e.I. cited, p. lsl), 
which, however, appears to have been mil tilated in seme edit ions ; as one of the dei-tie 
sentenci - cili I i M. I'errens. j>. 217. docs not n ppear in tl i reprii I i ' I'.il.lioi i ile Jacob. 

7 i:.a. the Ilistmre ilr.s ()i.-rniis in the Jlistoire Cmiiiniie tie* Hut* it empires du Soltil, 
ed. .1 i :ob '(iarnii-r . p. 27- ; h n i the I' rni.iinriil >l, /'/i (/.-,/ id ' ame vol.). 

" Si e tin; care! ul critici-m ot I'errens, pp. 21- .',d. 

'I bibliophile Jacob, pref. to ed. cili d, pp. i li. 
1- r, a'::; ,11.302. Comp re J'.o let': earlier sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent, 



124 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

6. Even in the apologetic reasoning of the greatest French prose 
writer of that age, Pascal, we have the most pregnant testimony to 
the prevalence of unbelief ; for not only were the fragments 
preserved as Pensees (1670), however originated, 1 developed as part 
of a planned defence of religion against contemporary rationalism, 2 
but they themselves show their author profoundly unable to believe 
save by a desperate abnegation of reason, though he perpetually 
commits the gross fallacy of trusting to reason to prove that reason 
is untrustworthy. His work is thus one continuous paralogism, in 
which reason is disparaged merely to make way for a parade of bad 
reasoning. The case of Pascal is that of Berkeley with a difference : 
the latter suffered from hypochondria, but reacted with nervous 
energy ; Pascal, a physical degenerate, prematurely profound, was 
prematurely old ; and his pietism in its final form is the expression 
of the physical collapse. 

This is disputed by M. Lanson, an always weighty authority. 
He writes (p. 464) that Pascal was " neither mad nor ill " when 
he gave himself up wholly to religion. But ill he certainly 
was. He had chronically suffered from intense pains in the 
head from his eighteenth year; and M. Lanson admits (p. 451) 
that the Pensees were written in intervals of acute suffering. 
This indeed understates the case. Pascal several times told his 
family that since the age of eighteen he had never passed 
a day without pain. His sister, Madame Perier, in her bio- 
graphical sketch, speaks of him as suffering " continual and 
ever-increasing maladies," and avows that the four last years 
of his life, in which he penned the fragments called Pensees, 

were but a continual languishment." The Port Eoyal preface 
of 1670 says the same thing, speaking of the "four years of 
languor and malady in which he wrote all we have of the book 
he planned," and calling the Pensees " the feeble essays of a sick 
man." Cp. Pascal's Priere pour demandcr a Dicu le bon usage 
des maladies ; and Owen French Skeptics, pp. 746, 784. 

Doubtless the levity and licence of the libertins in high places 3 
confirmed him in his revolt against unbelief ; but his own credence 
was an act rather of despairing emotion than of rational conviction. 
The man who advised doubters to make a habit of causing masses 
to be said and following religious rites, on the score that cela vous 

ICC,."), cited by Perrens, pp. 253-54, where ho speaks with something like fury of the free 
discussion around him. 

1 ("imsin plausibly argues that Pascal began writing Pensies under the influence of 
a practice set up in her circle by Madame do Sable. Mine, de SaMi, 5e edit. p. 124 sq. 

- It is to be remembered that the work as published contained matter not Pascal's. 
Cp. Hrunetiere, Etudes, iii, 40-47 ; and the editions of the Pensees by Faugere and Havet. 

:i As to some of these see Perrens, pp. 158-69. They included the great Conde and some 
of the women in bis circle ; all of them unserious in their skepticism, and all " converted " 
when the physique gave the required cue. 



FEEETHOUGHT IN FEANCE 125 

fcra croirc et vous abctira " that will make you believe and will 
stupefy you" 1 was a pathological case; and though the whole 
Jansenist movement latterly stood for a reaction against free- 
thinking, it can hardly bo doubted that the Pensecs generally acted 
as a solvent rather than as a sustainer of religious beliefs. 2 This 
charge was made against them immediately on their publication by 
the Abbe de Yillars, who pointed out that they did the reverso of 
what they claimed to do in the matter of appealing to the heart 
and to good sense, since they set forth all the ordinary arguments 
of Pyrrhonism, denied that the existence of God could be established 
by reason or philosophy, and staked the case on a " wager" which 
shocked good sense and feeling alike. " Have you resolved," asks this 
critic in dialogue, "to make atheists on pretext of combatting them ?" i 
The same question arises concerning the famous Lettres Provin- 
ciates (1G5G), written by Pascal in defence of Arnauld against the 
persecution of the Jesuits, who carried on in Arnauld's case their 
campaign against Jansen, whom they charged with mis-stating the 
doctrine of Augustine in his great work expounding that Father. 
Once more the Catholic Church was swerving from its own estab- 
lished doctrine of predestination, the Spanish Jesuit Molina having 
set up a new movement in the Pelagian or Arminian direction. The 
cause of the Jansenists has been represented as that of freedom of 
thought and speech ; 4 and this it relatively was insofar as Jansen 
and Arnauld sought for a hearing, while the Jesuit-ridden Sorbonne 
strove to silence and punish them. Pascal had to go from printer 
to printer as his Letters succeeded each other, the first three being 
successively prosecuted by the clerical authorities ; and in their 
collected form they found publicity only by being printed at Eouen 
and published at Amsterdam, with the rubric of Cologne. All the 
while Jansenism claimed to he strict orthodoxy ; and it was in 
virtue only of the irreducible element of rationalism in Pascal that 
the school of Port Royal made for freethought in any higher or 
more general sense. Indeed, between his own reputation for piety 
and that of the Jansenists for orthodoxy, the Provincial Letters 
have a conventional standing as orthodox compositions. It is 
strange, however, that those who charge upon the satire of the 
later philosophers the downfall of Catholicism in Franco should 

1 Penates, ed. Fangere, ii. 168-50. The "abetira" comes from Montnigno. 

2 Thus Mr. Owen treats Pascal as a skeptic, which philosophically he was, insofar ns 
he really philosophized and did not merely catch at pleas for his emotional beliefs. " I,e ; 
Pe.nseea de 1'ascal," writes Prof. !>e Dantec, "sont a mon avis le livre le plus capable do 
renforcer l'atheisme chez un atheo " ( // AthHsmr, loos, pp. i\ ->:>>. They have m tact 
always had that effect. :t 1>p. la Ih-licntcsHC, 1071, dial, v, P. WJ, etc. 

1 Vinet, Etudci filer Blaine Pascal, 3o edit. p. -07 mi. 



126 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

not realize the plain tendency of these brilliant satires to discredit 
the entire authority of the Church, and, further, by their own 
dogmatic weaknesses, to put all dogma alike under suspicion. 1 
Few thoughtful men can now read the Provinciates without being 
impressed by the utter absurdity of the problem over which the 
entire religious intelligence of a great nation was engrossed. 

It was, in fact, the endless wrangles of the religious factions 
over unintelligible issues that more than any other single cause 
fostered the unbelief previously set up by religious wars ; 2 and 
Pascal's writings only deepened the trouble. Even Eossuet, in his 
History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1G88), did but 
throw a new light on the hollowness of the grounds of religion ; 
and for thoughtful readers gave a lead rather to atheism than to 
Catholicism. The converts it would make to the Catholic Church 
would be precisely those whose adherence was of least value, since 
they had not even the temperamental basis which, rather than 
argument, kept Bossuet a believer, and were Catholics only for lack 
of courage to put all religion aside. When "variation" was put as 
a sign of error by a Churchman the bulk of whose life was spent in 
bitter strifes with sections of his own Church, critical people were 
hardly likely to be confirmed in the faith. Within ten years of 
writing his book against the Protestants, Bossuet was engaged in 
an acrid controversy with Fenelon, his fellow prelate and fellow 
demonstrator of the existence and attributes of God, accusing him 
of holding unchristian positions ; and both prelates were always 
fighting their fellow-churchmen the Jansenists. If the variations 
of Protestants helped Catholicism, those of Catholics must have 
helped unbelief. 

7. A similar fatality attended tiro labours of the learned Huet, 
Bishop of Avranches, whose Demonstratio Evangelica (1G78) is 
remarkable (with Boyle's Discourse of Things above Ticason) as 
anticipating Berkeley in the argument from the arbitrariness of 
mathematical assumptions. He too, by that and by his later works, 
made for sheer philosophical skepticism," always a dangerous basis 
for orthodoxy. 4 Such an evolution, on the part of a man of 

1 Cp. the Eloge de Pascal by Bordas Demoulin in Didot ed. of the Lett res, 1854, 
pp. xxii-xxiii, and cit. from Saint-Beuve. Mark Pattison, it seems, held that the Jesuits 
had the host of the argument. See the Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, 1904, 
p. 207. As regards the effect of Jansenism on belief, we find De Toequeville pronouncing 

that "Le Jansenisrne ouvrit la breche par laquelle la philosophie du lSe siecle devait 

faire irruption " (Hist, philos. du regno de Louis XV, 1849, i, 2). This could truly be said 
of Pascal. 2 Cp. Voltaire's letter of 1768, cited by Morley, Voltaire, 4th ed. p. 159. 

:i Cp. Owen. French Skeptics, pp. 76-2-63, 767. 

4 This was expressly urged against Huet by Arnauld. See the Notice in Jourdain's ed 
of the Loaique de 1'ort Royal, 1854, p. xi ; Perrens, Les Libertins, p. 301 ; and Bouillier 
Hist, de la philos. cartesienne, 1854, i, 595-96, whore are cited the letters of Arnauld (Nos. 



FREETIIOUGHT IN FRANCE 127 

uncommon intellectual energy, challenges attention, the more so 
seeing that it typifies a good deal of thinking within the Catholic 
pale, on lines already noted as following on the debate with 
Protestantism. Honestly pious by bent of mind, but always 
occupied with processes of reasoning and research, Iluet leant 
more and more, as ho grew in years, to the skeptical defence 
against the pressures of Protestantism and rationalism, at onco 
following and farthering the tendency of his age. That the skeptical 
method is a last weapon of defence can be seen from the temper in 
which the demonstrator assails Spinoza, whom he abuses, without 
naming him, in the fashion of his day, and to whose arguments 
concerning the authorship of the Pentateuch he makes singularly 
feeble answers. 1 They are too worthless to have satisfied himself ; 
and it is easy to see how he was driven to seek a more plausible 
rebuttal." A distinguished English critic, noting the general move- 
ment, pronounces, justly enough, that Iluet took up philosophy "not 
as an end, but as a means not for its own sake, but for the support 
of religion "; and then adds that his attitude is thus quite different 
from Pascal's. 3 But the two cases are really on a level. Pascal 
too was driven to philosophy in reaction against incredulity ; and 
though Pascal's work is of a more bitter and morbid intensity, Huet 
also had in him that psychic craving for a supernatural support 
which is the essence of latter-day religion. And if we credit this 
spirit to Pascal and to Huet, as we do to Newman, we must suppose 
that it partly touched the whole movement of pro-Catholic skepticism 
which has been above noted as following on the Reformation. It is 
ascribing to it as a whole too much of calculation and strategy to 
say of its combatants that they conceived the desperate design of 
first ruining the territory they were prepared to evacuate; before 
philosophy was handed over to the philosophers the old Aristotelean 
citadel was to be blown into the air." In reality they caught, as 
religious men will, with passion rather than with policy, at any plea 
that might seem fitted to beat down the presumption of the wild, 
living intellect of man "; ' and their skepticism had a certain sincerity 
inasmuch as, trained to uncritical belief, they had never found for 
themselves the grounds of rational certitude. 

30, 831, and '37 in GCurrrs Cnmpl. iii, 300, 101, 1211 denouncing Hurt'? Pyrrhonism as 
"impious " and perfect h adapted lo the purposes of the freethinkers. 

i (], Alexandre Westphal. Lrx Sourer* <hi 1',-ntntfiiqu,'. i ii^-i. pp. Bl-CS. 

- Hud himself incurred a charge of temerity in his handling ul uwtual questions. 

T<i. i. m. 

PattNon. 7-;s-sr; >/.<;, ] SSO. i. 303 301. ' Pattison, as cited. 

"' "After all, a book the P.ibii cannot make a t the u I : vinM i n ' elli ,: , .f 

man." Newman, Apuli,'ii'i l/rn Vita Sua, l.si, ed. p. 3b2 : vd. IbT.i, p. 2lj. The same is said 
by Newman of religion in general (p. 213; 



128 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

Inasmuch too as Protestantism had no such ground, and 
rationalism was still far from having cleared its bases, Huet, as 
things went, was within his moral rights when he set forth his 
transcendentalist skepticism in his Qucestiones Abidance in 1690. 
Though written in very limpid Latin, 1 that work attracted practically 
no attention ; and though, having a repute for provincialism in his 
French style, Huet was loth to resort to the vernacular, he did 
devote his spare hours through a number of his latter years to 
preparing his Traite Philosophique de la faiblesse de V esprit humain, 
which, dying in 1722, he left to be published posthumously (1723). 
The outcry against his criticism of Descartes and his Demonstratio 
had indisposed him for further personal strife; but he was deter- 
mined to leave a completed message. Thus it came about that a 
sincere and devoted Catholic bishop " left, as his last legacy to his 
fellow-men, a work of the most outrageous skepticism." 5 

8. Meanwhile the philosophy of Descartes, if less strictly 
propitious to science at some points than that of Gassendi, was 
both directly and indirectly making for the activity of reason. In 
virtue of its formal " spiritualism," it found access where any clearly 
materialistic doctrine would have been tabooed ; so that we find the 
Cartesian ecclesiastic Eegis not only eagerly listened to and acclaimed 
at Toulouse in 1665, but offered a civic pension by the magistrates 3 
this within two years of the placing of Descartes's works on the 
Index. After arousing a similar enthusiasm at Montpellier and at 
Paris, Eegis was silenced by the Archbishop, whereupon he set him- 
self to develop the Cartesian philosophy in his study. The result 
was that he ultimately went beyond his master, openly rejecting the 
idea of creation out of nothing, 4 and finally following Locke in 
rejecting the innate ideas which Descartes had affirmed. 5 Another 
young Churchman, Desgabets, developing from Descartes and his 
pupil Malebranche, combined with their " spiritist " doctrine much 
of the virtual materialism of Gassendi, arriving at a kind of pan- 
theism, and at a courageous pantheistic ethic, wherein God is 
recognized as the author alike of good and evil 6 a doctrine which 
we find even getting a hearing in general society, and noticed in the 
correspondence of Madame de Sevigne in 1677. 7 

Malebranche's treatise De la Recherche de la Verite (1674) was 

1 Pattison disparages it as colourless, a fault he charges on Jesuit Latin in general. 
But by most moderns the Latin style of Huet will be found pure and pleasant. 
' 2 Pattison, Essays, i, 299. Cp. Bouillier, i. 595. 
3 Fontenelle, Kloqe sur Regis ; Bouillier, Philos. cartes, i, 507. 
* Reponse to Huet's Censura philosophic cartes. 1691; Bouillier, i, 515. 

5 Usage tie la raison et de lafoi, 1701, liv. i, ptio. i, ch. vii ; Bouillier, p. 511. 

6 Bouillier, i, 521-25. 7 Lottro do 10 aout, 1677, No. 591, ed. Nodicr. 



FREETHOUGHT IN FRANCE 129 

in fact a development of Descartes which on the one hand sought to 
connect his doctrine of innate ideas with his God-idea, and on the 
other hand headed the whole system towards pantheism. The 
tendency had arisen before him in the congregation of the Oratory, 
to which he belonged, and in which the Cartesian philosophy had so 
spread that when, in 1678, the alarmed superiors proposed to eradicate 
it, they were told by the members that, " If Cartesianism is a plague, 
there are two hundred of us who are infected." l But if Cartesianism 
alarmed the official orthodox, Malebranche wrought a deeper disinte- 
gration of the faith. In his old age his young disciple De Mairan, 
who had deeply studied Spinoza, pressed him fatally hard on the 
virtual coincidence of his philosophy with that of the more thorough- 
going pantheist ; and Malebranche indignantly repudiated all agree- 
ment with " the miserable Spinoza," 2 " the atheist,"" whose system 
he pronounced " a frightful and ridiculous chimera," * " Neverthe- 
less, it was towards this chimera that Malebranche tended." 5 On 
all hands the new development set up new strife ; and Malebranche, 
who disliked controversy, found himself embroiled alike with Jansenists 
and Jesuits, with orthodox and with innovating Cartesians, and with 
his own Spinozistic disciples. The Jansenist Arnauld attacked his 
book in a long and stringent treatise, Dcs vrayes et clcs fausscs idces 
(lf)33), b accumulating denials and contradictions with a cold tenacity 
of ratiocination which never lapsed into passion, and was all the 
more destructive. For the Jansenists Malebranche was a danger to 
the faith in the ratio of his exaltation of it, inasmuch as reference of 
the most ordinary beliefs back to " faith " left them no ground upon 
which to argue up to faith. 7 This seems to have heen a common 
feeling among his readers. For the same reason lie made no appeal 
to men of science. He would have no recognition of secondary 
causes, the acceptance of which he declared to be a dangerous 
relapse into paganism. 8 There was thus no scientific principle in the 
new doctrine which could enable it to solve the problems or absorb 
the systems of other schools. Locke was as little moved by it as 
were the Jansenists. Malebranche won readers everywhere by his 

' Honillier, ii. 10. - Mr'litations c!irrtie)incs,ix, i V.}. 

11 J-'.ntri'ticnn mi'-tajriiyyifiupn, vi ii. * hi. viii, ix. 

' Uouillier, ii, S.i. So Kuno Kischer: "In brief, Malebrancho's doctrine-. rightly under- 
stood, is Spinoza's" (Descartes and Ins Sclioal, Kng. tr. IWK). p. 0fs<). C]i. p. Ol'Ji. 

'- 'l"ii- work of Arnauld was reprinted in 17-21 v. i!.h a rcnmrkable Ai>J>i'fl,nti,.ii hy Chivel, 
in which he eulogizes the style and the dialectic of Arnauld. and expresses the hope that the 
hook may " gucrir, s'il se pent, cl'une et range preoccupation et d'une e\ce - -i\ e con I la nee, 
ceux qui enseigncnt on soutiennent com me evident ce rjii'il y ;i de phi.- d;ingen ux dan la 
nouvelle philosopliio non-ohstant les defenses faites par le leu Koi Louis X I \ 'a I'l'ni versite 
d' Angers en l'anneo 1(170 et a l'Universite de l'aria mix aunees Itl'Jl et 1701 de le laisser 
enseignor on sontenir." 

~< l)/s vruvas ft ties faunae s idees, cli. xxviii. 

y liecherche <l<; In Viritv, liv. vi, ptio ii, ch. iii. 

VOL. II I" 



130 SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

charm of style ; ! but he was as much of a disturber as of a reconciler. 
The very controversies which he set up made for disintegration ; and 
Eenelon found it necessary to " refute " Malebranche as well as 
Spinoza, and did his censure with as great severity as Arnauld's. 2 
The mere fact that Malebranche put aside miracles in the name of 
divine law was fatal from the point of view of orthodoxy. 

9. Yet another philosophic figure of the reign of Louis XIV, 
the Jesuit Pere Buffier (1661-1737), deserves a passing notice here 
out of his chronological order though the historians of philo- 
sophy have mostly ignored him. 3 He is indeed of no permanent 
philosophic importance, being a precursor of the Scottish school of 
Eeid, nourished on Locke, and somewhat on Descartes ; but he is 
significant for the element of practical rationalism which pervades 
his reasoning, and which recommended him to Voltaire, Eeid, and 
Destutt de Tracy. On the question of " primary truths in theology " 
he declares so boldly for the authority of revelation in all dogmas 
which pass comprehension, and for the non-concern of theology 
with any process of rational proof, 4 that it is hardly possible to 
suppose him a believer. On those principles, Islam has exactly 
the same authority as Christianity. In his metaphysic " he rejects 
all the ontological proofs of the existence of God, and, among others, 
the proof of Descartes from infinitude : he maintains that the idea 
of God is not innate, and that it can be reached only from con- 
sideration of the order of nature." 5 He is thus as much of a force 
for deism as was his master, Locke ; and he outgoes him in point 
of rationalism when he puts the primary ethic of reciprocity as a 
universally recognized truth, 6 where Locke had helplessly fallen back 
on " the will of God." On the other hand he censures Descartes 
for not admitting the equal validity of other tests with that of 
primary consciousness, thus in effect putting himself in line with 
Gassendi. For the rest, his Examen des yrcjiujcs vulgaires, the 
most popular of his works, is so full of practical rationalism, and 
declares among other things so strongly in favour of free discussion, 
that its influence must have been wholly in the direction of free- 
thought. Give me," he makes one of his disputants say, " a 
nation where they do not dispute, do not contest : it will be, I assure 

1 This was the main theme of the finished Eloge of Fontenelle, and was acknowledged 
by Bayle, Daguesseau, Arnauld, Bossuet, Voltaire, and Diderot, none of whom agreed with 
linn. Bouillier, ii, 19. Fontenelle opposed Malebranchu's philosophy in his Doutes sur ie 
systhiie ltliysique des causes occasionelles. Id. p. 57.3. - Cp. Bouillier, ii, 260-61. 

lie is not mentioned by Ueberweg, Lange, or Lewes. His importance in aesthetics, 
however, is recognized by some moderns, though he is not named in Mr. Bosanquet'3 
llistorij <:/ sEstlietic. > Traite des premieres verites, 1724, SS 521-31. 

5 Bouillier, introd. to Buffier's CEuvres iJhilosoiJhiaues, 1816, p. xiii. 

c liemarau.es sur les principen de La metaphysique de Locke, passages cited by Bouillier. 



FREETHOUGHT IN FRANCE 131 

you, a very stupid and a very ignorant nation." 1 Such reasoning 
could hardly please the Jesuits," and must have pleased freethinkers. 
And yet Burner, like Gassendi, in virtue of his clerical status and 
his purely professional orthodoxy, escaped all persecution. 

While an evolving Cartesianism, modified hy the thought of 
Locke and the critical evolution of that, was thus reacting on 
thought in all directions, the primary and proper impulse of 
Descartes and Locke was doing on the Continent what that of 
Bacon had already done in England setting men on actual 
scientific observation and experiment, and turning them from 
traditionalism of every kind. The more religious minds, as 
ATalebranche, set their faces almost fanatically against erudition, 
thus making an enemy of the all-learned Huet, 8 but on the other 
hand preparing the way for the scientific age. For the rest we find 
the influence of Descartes at work in heresies at which he had not 
hinted. Finally we shall see it taking deep root in Holland, further- 
ing a rationalistic view of the Bible and of popular superstitions. 

10. Yet another new departure was made in the France of 
Louis XIV by the scholarly performance of RlCHAED SlMON 
(1633-1712), who was as regards the Scriptural texts what Spencer 
of Cambridge was as regards the culture-history of the Hebrews, 
one of the founders of modern methodical criticism. It was as a 
devout Catholic refuting Protestants, and a champion of the Bible 
against Spinoza, that Simon began his work ; but, more sincerely 
critical than Huet, he reached views more akin to those of Spinoza 
than to those of the Church. 4 The congregation of the Oratory, 
where Simon laid the foundations of his learning, was so little 
inclined to his critical views that he decided to leave it ; and though 
persuaded to stay, and to become for a time a professor of philosophy 
at Julli, he at length broke with the Order. Then, from his native 
town of Dieppe, came his strenuous series of critical works 
L'histoire critique du Vieux Testament (1678), which among other 
things decisively impugned the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch ; 
the Ilistoire critique die tcxtc da Nouceau Testament (Rotterdam, 
1689) ; numerous other volumes of critical studies on texts, versions, 
and commentators; and finally a French translation of flic Now 
Testament with notes. His Bibliotkequc Critique (1 vols, under the 
name of Saint-Jore) was suppressed by an order in council ; the 
translation was condemned by Bossuet and the Archbishop of Paris ; 

1 (EuvrtM, 6(1. Houillicr, p. 320. - ('p. Houillii-r, Hist. <\r it iiliitns. c.irh's. ii, 3.11. 

'' Malebmnche, Traiti- ih: Moral?, liv. ii. eh. ID. Op. lioiullior, i, 5o2, 0S 'JU ; ii, 23. 
4 Cp. West]>hul, La Sources du l'tntateutjue, lbbb, i, 07 su. 



132 SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

and the two first-named works were suppressed by the Parlement of 
Paris and attacked by a host of orthodox scholars ; but they were 
translated promptly into Latin and English ; and they gave a new 
breadth of footing to the deistic argument, though Simon always 
wrote as an avowed believer. 

Before Simon, the Protestant Isaac la Peyrere, the friend of 
La Mothe le Vayer and Gassendi, and the librarian of Conde, had 
fired a somewhat startling shot at the Pentateuch in his Prceadamitcz 
and Systema Theologica ex Prcs-adamitarum Hypothesi (both 1655 : 
printed in Holland 2 ), for which he was imprisoned at Brussels, with 
the result that he recanted and joined the Church of Eome, going 
to the Pope in person to receive absolution, and publishing an 
Epistola ad Philotimum (Frankfort, 1658), in which he professed to 
explain his reasons for abjuring at once his Calvinism and his 
treatise. It is clear that all this w T as done to save his skin, for 
there is explicit testimony that he held firmly by his Preadamite 
doctrine to the end of his life, despite the seven or eight confutations 
of his work published in 1656. 3 Were it not for his constructive 
theses especially his idea that Adam was a real person, but simply 
the father of the Hebrews and not of the human race he would 
deserve to rank high among the scientific pioneers of modern 
rationalism, for his negative work is shrewd and sound. Like so 
many other early rationalists, collectively accused of " destroying 
without replacing," he erred precisely in his eagerness to build up, 
for his negations have all become accepted truths. 4 As it is, he 
may be ranked, after Toland, as a main founder of the older 
rationalism, developed chiefly in Germany, which sought to reduce 
as many miracles as possible to natural events misunderstood. But 
he was too far before his time to win a fair hearing. Where Simon 
laid a cautious scholarly foundation, Peyrere suddenly challenged 
immemorial beliefs, and failed accordingly. 

11. Such an evolution could not occur in France without affecting 
the neighbouring civilization of Holland. We have seen Dutch life 

1 Prcradamita:, sive Exercitatio stiver versibus IS, 13, 14 cap. 5, Epi.it. D. Pauli ad 
Romanes, Quibus inducuntur Primi Homines ante Ada-mum, conditi. The notion of a 
pre-Adamite human race, as we saw, had been held by Bruno. (Above, p. 46.) 

2 My copies of the Prceadamitce and Systema bear no place-imprint, but simply "Anno 
Sahitis MDCLV." Both books seem to have been at once reprinted in l'2mo. 

8 Baylo. Victionnaire. art. Peykkrk. A correspondent of Bayle's concludes his 
account of " le Preadamite" thus: "Be Pereire etoit le meilleur homme du monde, le 
plus doux, et qui tranquillement croyoit fort peu de chose." There is a satirical account 
of him in the Lettres de Qui Putin, April 5, 1658 (No. 451, ed. Reveille-Parise, 1846, iii, 83), 
cited by Bayle. 

4 See the account of his book by Mr. Becky, Rationalism in Europe, i, 295-97. Rejecting 
as he did the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, he ranks with Hobbes and Spinoza 
among the pioneers of true criticism. Indeed, as his book seems to have been in MS. in 
1615, he may precede Hobbes. Patin had heard of Peyrere's Praadamitce as ready for 
printing in 1643. Bet. 169, ed. cited, i, 297. 



FKEETHOUGHT IN HOLLAND 133 

at the beginning of the seventeenth century full of Protestant 
fanaticism and sectarian strife ; and in the timo of Descartes these 
elements, especially on the Calvinist side, were strong enough 
virtually to drive him out of Holland (1G-17) after nineteen years' 
residence. 1 He had, however, made disciples ; and his doctrine 
bore fruit, finding doubtless some old soil ready. Thus in 16GG one 
of his disciples, the Amsterdam physician Louis Meyer, published 
a work entitled Philosophia Sacrae Scripturae Interpret,' 1 in which, 
after formally affirming that the Scripture is the infallible Word of 
God, he proceeds to argue that the interpretation of the Word must 
be made by the human reason, and accordingly sets aside all meanings 
which are irreconcilable therewith, reducing them to allegories or 
tropes. Apart from this, there is somewhat strong evidence that in 
Holland in the second half of the century Cartesianism was in large 
part identified with a widespread movement of rationalism, of a 
sufficiently pronounced kind. Peter von Maastricht, Professor of 
Theology at Utrecht, published in 1G77 a Latin treatise, Novitatum 
Cartesianarum Gangrana, in which he made out a list of fifty-six 
anti-Christian propositions maintained by Cartesians. Among them 
are these : That the divine essence, also that of angels, and that of 
the soul, consists only in Cogitation ; That philosophy is not sub- 
servient to divinity, and is no less certain and no less revealed ; 
That in things natural, moral, and practical, and also in matters of 
faith, the Scripture speaks according to the erroneous notions of the 
vulgar ; That the mystery of the Trinity may be demonstrated by 
natural reason ; That the first chaos was able of itself to produce all 
things material ; That the world has a soul ; and that it may be 
infinite in extent.' The theologian was thus visibly justified in 
maintaining that the " novelties " of Cartesianism outwent by a 
long way those of Arminianism.' 1 It had in fact established a new 
point of view ; seeing that Arminius had claimed for theology all the 
supremacy ever accorded to it in the Church." 

12. As Meyer was one of the most intimate friends of Spinoza, 
being with him at death, and became the editor of his posthumous 
works, it can hardly bo doubted that his treatise, which preceded 
Spinoza's Tractalus by four years, influenced the great -lew, who 
speedily eclipsed hhn. e SPINOZA, however (1G32 1G77), was first led 

i Kuno Fischer, Drurnrti h and his School, pp. 2r>l-CN. 

"> Colorus ii.e, Koiilerj, Vie ,1.- Spurn;:, t. in ( ', f Hirer's cd. of the 0)u-rn, PP. xlv xlvii. 
'' Cited by (i('Oi-(ic Similar in prut, to Srilnn's Innisilils World iHsrucrrrd, llibJ, rep. 1S71. 
I have been unable to meet, with a copy of Mastricht's hook. 

4 " Xovilati i iv'.'- iariii* miilli parasamlas super link A rui ini:i tins." 
Nichols, Works of A rminiun, 1".-1, i, ijT b (nu^intf partly duplicated). 
r ' Cp. Uouillier, i, -Z'Si-'ji. 



134 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

to rationalize by his Amsterdam friend and teacher, Van den Ende, 
a scientific materialist, hostile to all religion; 1 and it was while 
under his influence that he was excommunicated by his father's 
synagogue. From the first, apparently, Spinoza's thought was 
shaped partly by the medieval Hebrew philosophy 2 (which, as we 
have seen, combined Aristotelean and Saracen influences), partly by 
the teaching of Bruno, though he modified and corrected that at 
various points. 3 Later he was deeply influenced by Descartes, whom 
he specially expounded for a pupil in a tractate. 4 Here he endorses 
Descartes's doctrine of freewill, which he was later to repudiate and 
overthrow. But he drew from Descartes his retained principle that 
evil is not a real existence. In a much less degree he was influenced 
by Bacon, whose psychology he ultimately condemned ; but from 
Hobbes he took not only his rationalistic attitude towards "revela- 
tion," but his doctrine of ecclesiastical subordination. Finally 
evolving his own conceptions, he produced a philosophic system 
which was destined to affect all European thought, remaining the 
while quietly occupied with the handicraft of lens-grinding by which 
ho earned his livelihood. The Grand Pensionary of the Nether- 
lands, John de Witt, seems to have been in full sympathy with the 
young heretic, on whom lie conferred a small pension before he had 
published anything save his Cartesian Principia (1663). 

The much more daring and powerful Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 
(1670) was promptly condemned by a Dutch clerical synod, along 
with Hobbes's Leviathan, which it greatly surpassed in the matter 
of criticism of the scriptural text. It was the most stringent censure 
of supernaturalism that had thus far appeared in any modern 
language ; and its preface is an even more mordant attack on 
popular religion and clericalism than the main body of the work. 
"What seems to-day an odd compromise the reservation of supra- 
rational authority for revelation, alongside of unqualified claims for 
the freedom of reason ' was but an adaptation of the old scholastic 
formula of "twofold truth," and was perhaps at the time the 
possible maximum of open rationalism in regard to the current creed, 
since both Bacon and Locke, as we have seen, were fain to resort to 
it. As revealed in his letters, Spinoza in almost all things stood at 

1 Colerus, Vie de Spinoza, in Gfrorer's ed. of Opera, p. xxv ; Martineau, Study of 
Spinoza, 1882, pp. 20-2-2; Pollock. Spinoza, 2nd erl. ]89D, pp. 10-14. 

- As set forth by Joel, licit nine zur Gesch. tier Pinion., Breslau, 1S7G. See citations in 
Land's note to his lecture in Spinoza : Four Essays, L8H2, pp. 51-53. 

:; Land, "In Memory of Spinoza." in Spinoza : Four Essays, pp. 57-58; Sigwart, as there 
cited : Pollock, Spinoza, p. 12. Cp. however. Martineau, p. 101, note. 

1 Iienati T)es (Juries Princip, Philos. more geonietrico demonstrates, 1663. 

5 ('i). Martineau, pp. 46, 57. 

G Reprinted in 1674, without place-name, and with the imprint of an imaginary 
Hamburg publisher. 7 Tractatus, c. 15. 



FREETHOUGHT IN HOLLAND 135 

the point of view of the cultivated rationalism of two centuries later. 
He believed in a historical Jesus, rejecting the Resurrection ;' dis- 
believed in ghosts and spirits; 3 rejected miracles;* and refused to 
think of God as ever angry ; 4 avowing that he could not understand 
the Scriptures, and had been able to learn nothing from them as to 
God's attributes. 5 The Tractatus could not go so far ; but it went 
far enough to horrify many who counted themselves latitudinarian. 
It was only in Holland that so aggressive a criticism of Christian 
faith and practice could then appear ; and even there neither 
publisher nor author dared avow himself. Spinoza even vetoed 
a translation into Dutch, foreseeing that such a book would bo 
placed under an interdict. 6 It was as much an appeal for freedom 
of thought (libertas philosophandi) as a demonstration of rational 
truth ; and Spinoza dexterously pointed (c. 20) to the social effects 
of the religious liberty already enjoyed in Amsterdam as a reason 
for carrying liberty further. There can be no question that it 
powerfully furthered alike the deistic and the Unitarian movements 
in England from the year of its appearance ; and, though the States- 
General felt bound formally to prohibit it on tho issue of the second 
edition in 1G74, its effect in Holland was probably as great as 
elsewhere : at least there seems to have gone on there from this 
time a rapid modification of the old orthodoxy. 

Still more profound, probably, was the effect of the posthumous 
EtJiica (1G77), which he had been prevented from publishing in Ins 
lifetime, 7 and which not only propounded in parts an absolute 
pantheism ( = atheisnr), but definitely grounded? ethics in human 
nature. If more were needed to arouse theological rage, it was to 
1)0 found in the repeated and insistent criticism of the moral and 
mental perversity of tho defenders of tho faith 9 a position not 
indeed quite consistent with tho primary teaching of the treatise on 
the subject of Will, of which it denies the entity in the ordinary 
sense. Spinoza was here reverting to tho practical altitude of 
Bacon, which, under a partial misconception, ho had repudiated ; 
and he did not formally solve tho contradiction. Jlis purpose was 
to confute the ordinary orthodox dogma that unbelief is wilful sin ; 



1 Ep. xxiv. to Oldenburg. " Epp. Iviii, Ix, to I'.oxel. 

:; Ed. xxiii. to Oldenburg. ' Ep. xxiv. 

5 Ep. xxxiv. to \V. van I'.leyenberfi. 

6 Ep. xivii. to .lellis, l-'eb. 1C7 1. "' Ep. xix. ICTJ, l.o Oldenburg. 

h "Kpino/.ism is atbeistic. mid has no valid ground lor returning tbe word Ood'" 
(Martiuean. p. :jl'JJ. Tbi- estimate is systematically mad,' good by l'rol. E. I'.. l'o\w II of 
Miami Eniversity in bis S/iiitr>ZD and llrUuiini U'.KHi'. See in partieular eb. v. Tbe 
summing-up is tbat "tbe rigbt name for Spino/.a's pliilo opbj i Atiiei tie .Mom in" 
(lip. \V,'.\ Id). 

,J btlaa, lit, i, App.; [it. ii, end ; pt. v, prop. 11, schol. Cp. tlie Eetlers, jxivmin. 



136 SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

and to retort the charge without reconciling it with the thesis was 
to impair the philosophic argument. 1 It was not on that score, 
however, that it was resented, but as an unpardonable attack on 
orthodoxy, not to be atoned for by any words about the spirit of 
Christ. 2 The discussion went deep and far. A reply to the Tractatus 
which appeared in 1674, by an Utrecht professor (then dead), is 
spoken of by Spinoza with contempt; 3 but abler discussion followed, 
though the assailants mostly fell foul of each other. Franz Cuper 
or Kuyper of Amsterdam, who in 1676 published an Arcana 
Atheismi Iievelata, professedly refuting Spinoza's Tractatus, was 
charged with writing in bad faith and with being on Spinoza's side 
an accusation which he promptly retorted on other critics, 
apparently with justice. 4 

The able treatise of Prof. E. E. Powell on Spinoza and 
Beligion is open to demur at one point its reiterated dictum 
that Spinoza's character was marred by " lack of moral courage " 
(p. 44). This expression is later in a measure retreated from: 
after "his habitual attitude of timid caution," we have: 
" Spinoza's timidity, or, if you will, his peaceable disposition." 
If the last-cited concession is to stand, the other phrases should 
be withdrawn. Moral courage, like every other human attribute, 
is to be estimated comparatively ; and the test-question here is : 
Did any other writer in Spinoza's day venture further than he ? 
Moral courage is not identical with the fanaticism which invites 
destruction ; fanaticism supplies a motive which dispenses with 
courage, though it operates as courage might. But refusal to 
challenge destruction gratuitously does not imply lack of courage, 
though of course it may be thereby motived. A quite brave man, 
it has been noted, will quietly shun a gratuitous risk where one 
who is " afraid of being afraid " may face it. When all is said, 
Spinoza was one of the most daring writers of his day ; and his 
ethic made it no more a dereliction of duty for him to avoid 
provoking arrest and capital punishment than it is for either a 
Protestant or a rationalist to refrain from courting death by 
openly defying Catholic beliefs before a Catholic mob in Spain. 
It is easy for any of us to-day to be far more explicit than 
Spinoza was. It is doubtful whether any of us, if we had lived 
in his day and were capable of going as far in heresy, would 

1 The solution is, of course, that the attitude of the will in the forming of opinion may 
or may not be passionally perverse, in the sense of being inconsistent. To show that it is 
inconsistent may be a means of enlightening it ; and an aspersion to that effect may be 
medicinal. Spinoza might truly have said that passional perversity was at least as 
common on the orthodox side as on the oilier, in any case, he quashes his own criticism 
of Bacon. Cp. the author's essay on Spinoza in Pioneer Humanists. 

- I't. iv, prop. 68, schol. ;i Ep. 1 ; 2 June, 1674. 

i Colerus, as cited, p. liv. Cuper appears to have been genuinely anti-Spinozist, while 
his opponent. Breitburg, or Bredcnburg, of Rotterdam, iva.i a Spinozist. Both were 
members of the society of " Collegiants," a body of non-dogmatic Christians, which for 
a time was broken up through their dissensions. Hosheiui, 17 Cent. sec. ii, pt. ii, 
ch. vii, 2, and note. 



FEEETHOUGHT IN HOLLAND 137 

have run such risks as he did in publishing the Tractatus 
Theologico-Politicus. For those who have lived much in his 
society, it should be difficult to doubt that, if allowed, lie would 
have dared death on the night of the mob-murder of tho 
De Witts. The formerly suppressed proof of his very plain 
speaking on the subject of prayer, and his indications of 
aversion to the practice of grace before meals (Powell, pp. 323-25) 
show lack even of prudence on his part. Prof. Powell is cer- 
tainly entitled to censure those recent writers who have wilfully 
kept up a mystification as to Spinoza's religiosity ; but their 
lack of courage or candour docs not justify an imputation of tho 
same kind upon him. That Spinoza was " no saint " (Powell, 
p. 43) is true in the remote sense that he was not incapable of 
anger. But it would be hard to find a Christian who would 
compare with him in general nobility of character. Tho propo- 
sition that he was not "in any sense religious" (id. ib.) seems 
open to verbal challenge. 

13. The appearance in 1678 of a Dutch treatise " against all sorts 
of atheists," L and in 1681, at Amsterdam, of an attack in French on 
Spinoza's Scriptural criticism, 2 points to a movement outside of tho 
clerical and scholarly class. All along, indeed, the atmosphere of 
the Arminian or " Eemonstrant " School in Holland must have been 
fairly liberal. 3 Already in 1685 Locke's friend Lo Clerc had taken 
up the position of Hobbes and Spinoza and Simon on the Pentateuch 
in his Scntimciis de quclques thcologicns de Ilollandc (translated into 
English and published in 1690 as " Five Letters Concerning tho 
Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures"). 4 And although Lo Clerc 
always remained something of a Scripturalist, and refused to go the 
way of Spinoza, he had courage enough to revive an ancient heresy 
by urging, in his commentary on the fourth Gospel (1701), that the 
Logos" should be rendered " Eeason " an idea which he probably 
derived from the Unitarian Z wicker without realizing how far it 
could take him. His ultimate recantation, on the subject of the 
authorship of the Pentateuch, served only to weaken his credit with 
freethinkers, and came too late to arrest the intellectual movement 
which he had forwarded. 

A rationalizing spirit had now begun to spread widely in Holland ; 
and within twenty years of Spinoza's death there had arisen a Dutch 

1 Thr.olrir/isch, Thiloxnpliixeh, en Jlixtorixch liroeexs voor Cod, tetjen alUrlci) Atlieixtcn. 
]5v Francis Kidder, Rotterdam, 1078. 

' I. Imiiirtr Coiti-'iiucit, " par Pierre Vvoii," Amsterdam. KM. keally lij the Sieur Noel 
ilc Verse. This nj)]>ears to have heen reprinted in li>."> under ln<' title Limine 
conriiincii, oh I): xcrlotjon rout re Sr'inoxn. on Von refute, lex/mid, no 'is d, wi;i nth, ism,: 

' See Fox liourne's Life of Locke, ii, iib-i-b:*. as to l.ockes friendly relations uilli tlio 
Iicmoii.-traiil m ! . ! 

; See the summary of his argument by Alexandre Westplial, />'-'s Sources du I'cnta 
tewtue, lbo, i, 7ts xq. 



138 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

sect, led by Pontiaan van Hattem, a pastor at Philipsland, which 
blended Spinozism with evangelicalism in such a way as to incur 
the anathema of the Church. 1 In the time of the English Civil 
War the fear of the opponents of the new multitude of sects was 
that England should become " another Amsterdam." 2 This very 
multiplicity tended to promote doubt ; and in 1713 we find Anthony 
Collins 8 pointing to Holland as a country where freedom to think 
has undermined superstition to a remarkable degree. During his 
stay, in the previous generation, Locke had found a measure of 
liberal theology, in harmony with his own ; but in those clays down- 
right heresy was still dangerous. DEURHOFF (d. 1717), who trans- 
lated Descartes and was accused of Spinozism, though he strongly 
attacked it, 4 had at one time to fly Holland, though by his writings 
he founded a pantheistic sect known as Deurhovians ; and BALTHASAR 
Bekker, a Cartesian, persecuted first for Socinianism, incurred so 
much odium by publishing in 1691 a treatise denying the reality of 
witchcraft that he had to give up his office as a preacher. 

Cp. art. in Biographie Universelle, and Mosheim, 17 Cent, 
pt. ii, ch. ii, 35, and notes in Eeid's ed. Bekker was not the 
first to combat demonology on scriptural grounds ; Arnold 
Geulincx, of Leyden, and the French Protestant refugee Daillon 
having less confidently put the view before him, the latter in 
his Daimonologia, 1687 (trans, in English, 1723), and the former 
in his system of ethics. Gassendi, as we saw, had notably 
discredited witchcraft a generation earlier ; Reginald Scot had 
impugned its actuality in 1581 ; and Wier, still earlier, in 1583. 
And even before the Reformation the learned King Christian II 
of Denmark (deposed 1523) had vetoed witch-burning in his 
dominions. (Allen, Hist, de Danemark, French tr. 1878, i, 
281.) As Scot's Discoveric had been translated into Dutch in 
1609, Bekker probably bad a lead from him. Glanvill's Blow at 
Modem Sadducism (1688), reproduced in Sadducismus Trium- 
phatus, undertakes to answer some objections of the kind later 
urged by Bekker ; and the discussion was practically inter- 
national. Bekker's treatise, entitled De Betooverte Wereld, was 
translated into English first in 1695, from the French, under 
the title The World Bewitched (only 1 vol. published), and 
again in 1700 as The World turned upside down. In the French 
translation, Be Monde Encliante (l torn. 1691), it had a great 
vogue. A refutation was published in English in An Historiccd 
Treatise of Spirits, by J. Beaumont, in 1705. It is noteworthy 

1 Mosheim, Raid's ed. p. 836; Martineau, pp. 327-28. The first MS. of the treatise of 
Spinoza. De Den et Homive, found and published in the nineteenth century, bore a note 
which showed it to have been used by a sect of Christian Kpinozists. See Janet's ed. 1878, 
p. 3. They altered the text, putting " faith " for "opinion." Id. p. 53, notes. 

2 Edwards, Gavgrcena, as before cited. 

'' Discourse of Freethinking , p. 28. i Colerus, as cited, p. lviii. 



FREETHOUGHT IN HOLLAND 139 

that Bekker was included as one of " four modern sages (vier 
ncuer Welt-Weisen) " with Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza, in 
a German folio tractate (hostile) of 1702. 

14. No greater service was rendered in that age to the spread 
of rational views than that embodied in the great Dictionnairc 
Historiquc et Critique 1 of PIERRE BAYLE (1647-1706), who, born 
in France, but driven out by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 
spent the best part of his life and did his main work at Rotterdam. 
Persecuted there for his freethinking, to the extent of having to give 
up his professorship, he yet produced a virtual encyclopedia for 
freethinkers in his incomparable Dictionary, baffling hostility by 
the Pyrrhonian impartiality with which he handled all religious 
questions. In his youth, when sent by his Protestant father to 
study at Toulouse, he had been temporarily converted, as was the 
young Gibbon later, to Catholicism; 2 and the retrospect of that 
experience seems in Bayle's case, as in Gibbon's, to have been a 
permanent motive to practical skepticism. But, again, in the one 
case as in the other, skepticism was fortified by abundant know- 
ledge. Bayle had read everything and mastered every controversy, 
and was thereby the better able to seem to have no convictions of 
his own. But even apart from the notable defence of the character 
of atheists dropped by him in the famous Pounces diverscs sur la 
Co?n6te (1632), and in the Eclaircisscmcnts in which lie defended it, it 
is abundantly evident that he was an unbeliever. The only alternative 
view is that lie was strictly or philosophically a skeptic, reaching no 
conclusions for himself ; but this is excluded by the whole manage- 
ment of his expositions. 4 It is recorded that it was his vehement 
description of himself as a Protestant "in the full force of the term," 
accompanied with a quotation from Lucretius, that set the clerical 
diplomatist Polignac upon re-reading the Roman atheist and writing 
his poem Anti- Lucretius. 5 Bayle's ostensible Pyrrhonism was simply 
the tactic forced on him by his conditions; and it was the positive 
unbelievers who specially delighted in his volumes. He laid down 
no cosmic doctrines, but he illuminated all ; and his air of repudiating 

1 First crl. Rotter-lam, 2 vols, folio, 1H96. 

2 Albert Cazes, Pierre lirtyle, an vie., sea itlees, son influence, srm a urre, 111'"., pp. f!. 7. 

' A movement of skepticism hail probably been first set up in tin' ymmi! Haylc by 
Montaigne, who was one of his favourite authors before hi- conversion Mazes, p. .V. 
Montaiune, it will be remembered, hail been ;i fanatic in i:. : - youth. Thus three typical 
skeptics of tiie sixteenth, .seventeenth, iiiid eighteenth centum had known what it was 

tO be Catholic believers. 

I Cp. the es-ay on The Skepticism r,f V.milr in Sir ,T. I', Stephen's IIr,,' Snhlitir<r, 
vol iii. and the remark- of I'errens. /,,<v lAherlins, pp. :{:!! :',7. 

Klinje <le M. In Ciinlimil pnli-iii'ir prefixed to Huinfii in ville's tr.i n- In t ion, l.'.lnti- 
Lnrriee, ]7'i7, i, 1 II. liayle quoted words are :" (Mi, i nl'roti lant, 

et dans toute la force du mot; car an fond de in on ante je proti -te contle tout ce tjui se 
dit et tout ce (;ui se fait." 



140 SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

such views as Spinoza's had the effect rather of forcing Spinozists to 
leave neutral ground than of rehabilitating orthodoxy. 

On one theme he spoke without any semblance of doubt. Above 
all men who had yet written he is the champion of toleration. 1 At 
a time when in England the school of Locke still held that atheism 
must not be tolerated, he would accept no such position, insisting 
that error as such is not culpable, and that, save in the case of a 
sect positively inciting to violence and disorder, all punishment of 
opinion is irrational and unjust. 2 On this theme, moved by the 
memory of his own life of exile and the atrocious persecution of the 
Protestants of France, he lost his normal imperturbability, as in his 
Letter to an Abbe (if it be really his), entitled Cc que e'est que la 
France toute catholique sous le regne de Louis le Grand, in which a 
controlled passion of accusation makes every sentence bite like an 
acid, leaving a mark that no dialectic can efface. But it was not 
only from Catholicism that he suffered, and not only to Catholics 
that his message was addressed. One of his most malignant enemies 
was the Protestant Jurieu, who it was that succeeded in having him 
deprived of his chair of philosophy and history at Rotterdam (1693) 
on the score of the freethinking of his Pensees sur la Comete. This 
wrong cast a shadow over his life, reducing him to financial straits 
in which he had to curtail greatly the plan of his Dictionary. 
Further, it moved him to some inconsistent censure of the political 
writings of French Protestant refugees 3 Jurieu being the reputed 
author of a violent attack on the rule of Louis XIV, under the title 
Les Soupirs de la France esclave qui aspire apres la liberie (1689). 4 
Yet again, the malicious Jurieu induced the Consistory of Rotterdam 
to censure the Dictionary on the score of the tone and tendency of 
the article " David " and the renewed vindications of atheists. 

But nothing could turn Bayle from his loyalty to reason and 
toleration ; and the malice of the bigots could not deprive him of 
his literary vogue, which was in the ratio of his unparalleled 
industry. As a mere writer he is admirable : save in point of 
sheer wit, of which, however, he has not a little, lie is to this day 
as readable as Voltaire. By force of unfailing lucidity, wisdom, and 

1 Cp. the testimony of Bonet-Maury, Histoire de hi liberie de conscience en France, 1000, 
p. 55. .Besides the writings above cited, note, in the Dictionnaire, art. Mahomet, ix ; art. 
Conectk ; art. Simonidk, notes II and G; art. Spondk, note C. 

' 2 Commentaire philosophiaite sur la pnrabole : Cnntrains-les d'entrer, le ptie, vi. Cp. 
the Critique generate de V histoire du Calvinisme d u Pere Maimbourtj, passim. 

s See pref. to Eng. tr. of Hotmail's Franco-Gnllin, 17L1. 

4 Rep. at Amsterdam, 1788, under the title. Virux d'un Patriate. Turieu's authorship 
is not certain. Cp. Ch. Nodier, Melanges tires d' line petite bibliothajue, 18J0, p. 357. But 
it is more likely than the alternative ascription to Le Vassor. The book made such a 
sensation that the police of Louis XIV destroyed every copy they could find ; and in 1772 
the Chancelier Maupoou was said to have paid 500 livres for a copy at auction over the 
Luc d'Orleans. 



FREETHOUGHT IN FRANCE 141 

knowledge, he made the conquest of literary Europe ; and fifty years 
after his death we find the Jesuit Delarnare in his (anonymous) 
apologetic treatise, La Foi justijiee de tout reproche de contradiction 
avcc la raison (1761), speaking of him to the deists as " their 
theologian, their doctor, their oracle." * He was indeed no less ; 
and his serene exposure of the historic failure of Christianity was 
all the more deadly as coming from a master of theological history. 

lo. Meantime, Spinoza had reinforced the critical movement in 
France," where decline of helief can he seen proceeding after as 
before the definite adoption of pietistic courses by the king, under 
the influence of Madame de Maintenon. Abbadie, writing his 
Traite de la verite de la religion chretienne at Berlin in 1684, speaks 
of an ' infinity" of prejudiced deists as against the "infinity" of 
prejudiced believers 1 ' evidently thinking of northern Europeans in 
general ; and he strives hard to refute both Hobbes and Spinoza on 
points of Biblical criticism. In France ho could not turn the tide. 
That radical distrust of religious motives and illumination which 
can be seen growing up in every country in modern Europe where 
religion led to war, was bound to be strengthened by the spectacle 
of the reformed sensualist harrying heresy in his own kingdom in 
the intervals of his wars with his neighbours. The crowning folly 
of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes 1 (1685), forcing the flight 
from France of some three hundred thousand industrious 5 and 
educated inhabitants for the offence of Protestantism, was as mad 
a blow to religion as to the State. Loss paralysing to economic 
life than the similar policy of the Church against the Moriscoes in 
Spain, it is no less striking a proof of the paralysis of practical 
judgment to which unreasoning faith and systematic ecclesiasticism 
can lead. Orthodoxy in France was as ecstatic in its praise of the 
act as had been that of Spain in the case of the expulsion of the 
Moriscoes. The deed is not to be laid at the single door of the king 
or of any of his advisers, male or female : the act which deprived 
France of a vast host of her soundest citizens was applauded by 

1 Ed. 17(10, p. 7. 

2 The Triu-.tntuH Theolorjico-Politicua had been translated into French in 1678 by Saint- 
Glain, a Protestant, who jjavo it no fewer than three other titles in succession to evade 
prosecution. (Note to Colerus in Gfrorer's ed. of Spinoza, p. xlix.) In addition to the. 
work of Auhert de Verse, above mentioned, replies were published by Simon, De la Motto 
(minister of the Savoy Chapel, London), I, ami, a Hencdictine, and others. Their spirit 
may be divined from Lami's title, Nouvr.l atlieixme renverse, lVUii. 

:) Tom. I. :: ii, eh. ix (ed. 1861, i, 131, 177). 

'The destruction of I'rotestant liberties was not the work of the single Act of 
Revocation. It had betfun in detail as early as Kili.'l. From the withholding of court 
favour it proceeded to subsidies for conversions, and thence to a graduated series of 
inva ions of I'rotestant rights, so that the formal Kovocation was only the violent con- 
summation of a process. See the recital in Honet-Maury, Jlintinrc de la liberty de conscience 
bit France, 1900, pp. W,~ra. 

' u As to tiie loss to French industry see Bond-Maury, aa cited, p. DO, and refs. 



142 SEVENTEENTH CENTUEY 

nearly all cultured Catholicism. 1 Not merely the bishops, Bossuet 
and Fenelon 2 and Masillon, but the Jansenist Arnauld ; not 
merely the female devotees, Mademoiselle de Scudery and Madame 
Deshoulieres, but Eacine, La Bruyere, and the senile la Fontaine 
all extolled the senseless deed. The not over-pious Madame de 
Sevigne was delighted with the " dragonnades," declaring that 
" nothing could be finer : no king has done or will do anything 
more memorable"; the still less mystical Bussy, author of the 
Histoire amoureuse des Gaules, was moved to pious exultation ; and 
the dying Chancelier le Tellier, on signing the edict of revocation, 
repeated the legendary cry of Simeon, Nunc dimitte servum tuum, 
Domine ! To this pass had the Catholic creed and discipline brought 
the mind of France. Only the men of affairs, nourished upon 
realities the Vaubans, Saint Simons, and Catinats realized the 
insanity of the action, which Colbert (d. 1683) would never have 
allowed to come to birth. 

The triumphers, doubtless, did not contemplate the expatriation 
of the myriads of Protestants who escaped over the frontiers in the 
closing years of the century in spite of all the efforts of the royal 
police, "carrying with them," as a later French historian writes, 
" our arts, the secrets of our manufactures, and their hatred of the 
king." The Catholics, as deep in civics as in science, thought only 
of the humiliation and subjection of the heretics doubtless feeling 
that they were getting a revenge against Protestantism for the Test 
Act and the atrocities of the Popish Plot mania in England. The 
blow recoiled on their country. Within a generation, their children 
were enduring the agonies of utter defeat at the hands of a coalition 
of Protestant nations every one of which had been strengthened 
by the piously exiled sons of France ; and in the midst of their 
mortal struggle the revolted Protestants of the Cevennes so furiously 
assailed from the rear that the drain upon the king's forces precipi- 
tated the loss of their hold on Germany. 

For every Protestant who crossed the frontiers between 1G85 and 
1700, perhaps, a Catholic neared or crossed the line between indiffer- 
entism and active doubt. The steady advance of science all the 
while infallibly undermined faith ; and hardly was the bolt launched 
against the Protestants when new sapping and mining was going on. 
FONTENELLE (1657-1757), whose Conversations on the Plurality of 
Worlds (1686) popularized for the elegant world the new cosmology, 



1 See Duruy, Hist . tie la France, ii, 253 ; Bonet-Maury, as cited, pp. 53-6G. 

2 As to whose attitude at this crisis see O. Douen, L' Intolerance de Fenelon, 



FREETHOUGHT IN FEANCE 143 

cannot but have undermined dogmatic faith in some directions; 
above all by his graceful and skilful Ilistoire des Oracles (also 1686), 
where " the argumentation passes beyond the thesis advanced. All 
that he says of oracles could be said of miracles." 1 The Jesuits 
found the book essentially " impious"; and a French culture-historian 
sees in it "the first attack which directs the scientific spirit against 
the foundations of Christianity. All the purely philosophic arguments 
with which religion has been assailed are in principle in the work 
of Fontenelle."" In his abstract thinking he was no less radical, and 
his Traite de la Liberie 8 established so well the determinist position 
that it was decisively held by the majority of the French freethinkers 
who followed. Living to his hundredth year, he could join hands 
with the freethought of Gassendi and Voltaire, 4 Descartes and 
Diderot. Yet we shall find him later, in his official capacity of 
censor of literature, refusing to pass heretical books, on principles 
that would have vetoed his own. He is in fact a type of the free- 
thought of the age of Louis XIV Epicurean in the common sense, 
unheroic, resolute only to evade penalties, guiltless of over-zeal. 
Not in that age could men generate an enthusiasm for truth. 

16. Of the new Epicureans, the most famous in his day was 
SAINT-EVREMOXD, 5 who, exiled from France for his politics, main- 
tained both in London and in Paris, by his writings, a leadership in 
polite letters. In England he greatly influenced young men like 
Bolingbroke ; and a translation (attributed to Dryden) of one of his 
writings seems to have given Bishop Butler the provocation to the 
first and weakest chapter of his Analogy? As to his skepticism 
there was no doubt in his own day ; and his compliments to Christi- 
anity are much on a par with those paid later by the equally con- 
forming and unbelieving Shaftesbury, whom he also anticipated in 
his persuasive advocacy of toleration. 7 REGNARD, the dramatist, 
had a similar private repute as an " Epicurean." And even among 
the nominally orthodox writers of the time in Franco a subtle 
skepticism touches nearly all opinion. La Bruyere is almost the 
only lay classic of the period who is pronouncedly religious ; and his 
essay on the freethinkers, ^ against whom his reasoning is so forcibly 

1 Hanson, Hint, de In litt.francaise, p. 027. 2 Id ih. Op. DemoScot, p. VS. 

:; Not printed till 1713, in tin: Nouvelles libertex de winner; and still read in MS. by 
Grimm in lT/d. L'ontenelle was also credited with a heretical letter on the resurrection, 
and an essay on tin; Infinite, pointing to disbelief. It should be noted, however, that ho 
-la:; i - for deism in his essay, / >e 1'e.cintenre de Dieii, which is m guarded application of 
tin- design argument against what was then assumed to be the only alternative -tho 
"fortuitous concourse of atoms." 

4 Hut Voltaire and he were not at one. He is the " nain de Saturne" in Mirromi'otis. 

' H. I'd:; ; d. 17')!. A man who lived to ninety can have been no crcat debauchee. 

Cp. Dynamics of lielujion, p. 17'2. 

7 Cp. Gidel, Etude prefixed to (Ka errs Choisiexthi Haint-Kcrcmond, ed. Gamier, pp. li 1 09. 

B Caructerea (Itol), ch. xvi : Ijch ExiirUs Forts. 



144 SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

feeble, testifies to their numbers and to the stress of debate set up 
by them. Even he, too, writes as a deist against atheists, hardly as 
a believing Christian. If he were a believer he certainly found no 
comfort in his faith : whatever were his capacity for good feeling, 
no great writer of his age betrays such bitterness of spirit, such 
suffering from the brutalities of life, such utter disillusionment, such 
unfaith in men. And a certain doubt is cast upon all his professions 
of opinion by the sombre avowal : " A man born a Christian and 
a Frenchman finds himself constrained 1 in satire : the great subjects 
are forbidden him : he takes them up at times, and then turns aside 
to little things, which he elevates by his genius and his style." 2 

M. Lanson remarks that " we must not let ourselves be 
abused by the last chapter [Des esprits forts] , a collection of 
philosophic reflections and reasonings, where La Bruyere 
mingles Plato, Descartes, and Pascal in a vague Christian 
spiritualism. This chapter, evidently sincere, but without 
individuality, and containing only the reflex of the thoughts of 
others, is not a conclusion to which the whole work conducts. 
It marks, on the contrary, the lack of conclusion and of general 
views. What is more, with the chapter On the Sovereign, placed 
in the middle of the volume, it is destined to disarm the temporal 
and spiritual powers, to serve as passport for the independent 
freedom of observation in the rest of the Caracteres " (p. 599). 

On this it may be remarked that the essay in question is not 
so much Christian as theistic ; but the suggestion as to the 
object is plausible. Taine (Essais de critique et d'histoire, ed. 
1901) first remarks (p. 11) on the " christianisme " of the essay, 
and then decides (p. 12) that " he merely exposes in brief and 
imperious style the reasonings of the school of Descartes." It 
should be noted, however, that in this essay La Bruyere does 
not scruple to write : " If all religion is a respectful fear of God, 
what is to be thought of those who dare to wound him in his 
most living image, which is the sovereign?" ( 27 in ed. 
Walckenaer, p. 578. Pascal holds the same tone. Vie, par 
Madame Perier.) This appears first in the fourth edition ; and 
many other passages were inserted in that and later issues : the 
whole is an inharmonious mosaic. 

Concerning La Bruyere, the truth would seem to be that the 
inconsequences in the structure of his essays were symptomatic 
of variability in his moods and opinions. Taine and Lanson are 
struck by the premonitions of the revolution in his famous 
picture of the peasants, and other passages ; and the latter 
remarks (p. 603) that " the points touched by La Bruyere are 
precisely those where the writers of the next age undermined 

1 "Is embarrassed" in the first edition. 

2 Des ouvraaen de I'esprit, near end. 65 in ed. Walckenaer, p. 17G, 



FKEETHOUGHT IN FEANCE 145 

the old order: La Bruyere is already philosophe in the sense 
which Voltaire and Diderot gave to that term." But we cannot 
be sure that the plunges into convention were not real swervings 
of a vacillating spirit. It is difficult otherwise to explain his 
recorded approbation of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. 

The Dialogues sur le Quietisme, published posthumously under 

his name (1699), appear to be spurious. This was emphatically 

asserted by contemporaries {Sentiments critiques sur les Carac- 

tercs de 31. dc la Bruyere, 1701, p. 447 ; Apologia dc 21. dc la 

Bruyere, 1701, p. 357, both cited by Walckenaer) who on other 

points were in opposition. Baron Walckenaer (Etude, ed. cited, 

p. 76 sq.) pronounces that they were the work of Ellies du Pin, 

a doctor of the Sorbonne, and gives good reasons for the 

attribution. The Abbe d'Olivet in his Histoire de V Academic 

francaisc declares that La Bruyere only drafted them, and that 

du Pin edited them ; but the internal evidence is against their 

containing anything of La Bruyere's draught. They are indeed 

so feeble that no admirer cares to accept them as his. (Cp. 

note to Suard's Notice sur la personne et les ecrits de la Bruyere, 

in Didot ed. 1865, p. 20.) Written against Madame Guyon, 

they were not worth his while. 

If the apologetics of Huet and Pascal, Bossuet and Fenelon, had 

any influence on the rationalistic spirit, it was but in the direction of 

making it more circumspect, never of driving it out. It is significant 

that whereas in the year of the issue of the Dcmoustratio the 

Duchesse d'Orleans could write that " every young man either is 

or affects to be an atheist," Le Yassor wrote in 1688 : " People talk 

only of reason, of good taste, of force of mind, of the advantage of 

those who can raise themselves above the prejudices of education 

and of the society in which one is born. Pyrrhonism is the fashion 

in many things : men say that rectitude of mind consists in ' not 

believing lightly' and in being 'ready to doubt.'" 1 Pascal and 

Huet between them had only multiplied doubters. On both lines, 

obviously, freethought was the gainer ; and in a Jesuit treatise, 

Le Monde condamne par luymesme, published in 1695, the Preface 

contra V incredulitc des libertins sets out with the avowal that "to 

draw the condemnation of the world out of its own mouth, it is 

necessary to attack first the incredulity of the unbelievers (libertins), 

who compose the main part of it, and who under some appearance of 

Christianity conceal a mind either Judaic [read deist ic] or pagan." 

Such was France to a religious eye at the height of the Catholic 

triumph over Protestantism. The statement that the libertins 

1 M. Lo Vassor, De. hi veritable reAiginn, 1GRS, pref. no Vassor speaks in the same 
preface of "this multitude of libertins ami of unbelievers which now terrifies us." His 
book seeks to vindicate the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, inspiration, prophecies, 
and miracles, auainst Spinoza, Le dure, and others. 

VOL. II L 



146 SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

formed the majority of " the world " is of course a furious extrava- 
gance. But there must have been a good deal of unbelief to have 
moved a priest to such an explosion. And the unbelief must have 
been as much a product of revulsion from religious savagery as a 
result of direct critical impulse, for there was as yet no circulation of 
positively freethinking literature. For a time, indeed, there was a 
general falling away in French intellectual prestige, 1 the result, not 
of the mere " protective spirit " in literature, as is sometimes argued, 
but of the immense diversion of national energy under Louis XIV to 
militarism ; 2 and the freethinkers lost some of the confidence as well 
as some of the competence they had exhibited in the days of 
Moliere. 3 There had been too little solid thinking done to preclude 
a reaction when the king, led by Madame de Maintenon, went about 
to atone for Ids debaucheries by an old age of piety. " The king had 
been put in such fear of hell that he believed that all who had not 
been instructed by the Jesuits were damned. To ruin anyone it was 
necessary only to say, 'He is a Huguenot, or a Jansenist,' and the 
thing was done."" 1 In this state of things there spread in France 
the revived doctrine or temper of Quietism, set up by the Spanish 
priest, Miguel de Molinos (1640-1697), whose Spiritual Guide, 
published in Spanish in 1675, appeared in 1681 in Italian at Rome, 
where lie was a highly influential confessor. It was soon translated 
into Latin, French, and Dutch. In 1685 he was cited before the 
Inquisition ; in 1687 the book was condemned to be burned, and he 
was compelled to retract sixty-eight propositions declared to be 
heretical ; whereafter, nonetheless, he was imprisoned till his death 
in 1696. In France, whence the attack on him had begun, his 
teaching made many converts, notably Madame Guyon, and may be 
said to have created a measure of religious revival. But when 
Fenelon took it up (1697), modifying the terminology of Molinos to 
evade the official condemnation, ho was bitterly attacked by Bossuet 
as putting forth doctrine incompatible with Christianity ; the prelates 
fought for two years ; and finally the Pope condemned F ('melon's 
book, whereupon he submitted, limiting his polemic to attacks on 
the Jansenists. Thus the gloomy orthodoxy of the court and the 
mysticism of the new school alike failed to affect the general 
intelligence ; there was no real building up of belief ; and the 
forward movement at length recommenced. 

1 Cp. Huet. Huetiann, ? 1. 

2 The question is discussed in the author's Buckle and his Critics, pp. 3-24-42, and ed. of 
Buckle's Introduction. Buckle's view, however, was held by Huet, Huetiana, i 73. 

:; ( ']). L'errens, pp. 310-14. 

4 Letter of the Duchesso d'Orleans, cited by Rocquain, L'Esprit rcvolutionnaireavant 
la recoluiion, 137S, p. 3, note. 



Chapter XVI 

BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE EIGHTEENTH 
CENTUEY 



It appears from our survey that the " tleistic movement," commonly 
assigned to the eighteenth century, had been abundantly prepared 
for in the seventeenth, which, in turn, was but developing ideas 
current in the sixteenth. When, in 1696, JOHN TOLAND published 
his Christianity Not Mysterious, the sensation it made was due not 
so much to any unheard-of boldness in its thought as to the simple 
fact that deistic ideas had thus found their way into print. 1 So far 
the deistic position was explicitly represented in English literature 
only by the works of Herbert, Hobbes, and Blount ; and of these only 
the first (who wrote in Latin) and the third had put the case at any 
length. Against the deists or atheists of the school of Hobbes, and 
the Scriptural Unitarians who thought with Newton and Locke, 
there stood arrayed the great mass of orthodox intolerance which 
clamoured for the violent suppression of every sort of "infidelity." 
It was this feeling, of which the army of ignorant rural clergy were 
the spokesmen, that found vent in the Blasphemy Act of 1697. Tho 
new literary growth dating from tho time of Toland is the evidence 
of the richness of the rationalistic soil already created. Thinking 
men craved a new atmosphere. Locke's Reasonableness of Christi- 
anity is an unsuccessful compromise : Toland's book begins a new 
propagandist era. 

Toland's treatise, 2 heretical as it was, professed to bo a defence 
of the faith, and avowedly founded on Locke's anonymous Reason- 
ableness of Christianity, its young author being on terms of 
acquaintance with the philosopher.' He claimed, in fact, to take for 
granted "the Divinity of the New Testament," and to 'demonstrate 
the verity of divine revelation against atheists and all enemies of 
revealed religion," from whom, accordingly, he expected to receive 

1 As Voltaire noted, Toland was persecuted in I rein mi for his circumspect and emit ions 
first ho ok. and left unmolested in Kiuiland when he row much more iiiKiv sive. 

- First od. anonymous, Second od., of same year, Hives author's name. Another ud. 
in 1702. ;; See Dynamics of lit Union, i>. 1-J. 

117 



148 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

no quarter. Brought up, as he declared, " from my cradle, in the 
grossest superstition and idolatry," he had been divinely led to make 
use of his own reason ; and he assured his Christian readers of his 
perfect sincerity in "defending the true religion." 1 Twenty years 
later, his primary positions were hardly to be distinguished from 
those of ratiocinative champions of the creed, save in respect that 
he was challenging orthodoxy where they were replying to 
unbelievers. Toland, however, lacked alike the timidity and the 
prudence which so safely guided Locke in his latter years ; and 
though his argument was only a logical and outspoken extension of 
Locke's position, to the end of showing that there was nothing 
supra-rational in Christianity of Locke's type, it separated him from 
" respectable " society in England and Ireland for the rest of his 
life. The book was " presented " by the Grand Juries of Middlesex 
and Dublin ; 2 the dissenters in Dublin being chiefly active in 
denouncing it with or without knowledge of its contents ; 3 half-a- 
dozen answers appeared ; and when in 1698 Toland produced 
another, entitled Amyntor, showing the infirm foundation of the 
Christian canon, there was again a speedy crop of replies. Despite 
the oversights inevitable to such pioneer work, this opens, from the 
side of freethought, the era of documentary criticism of the New 
Testament ; and in some of his later freethinking books, as the 
Nazarcnus (1718) and the Panthcisticon (1720), he continues to 
show himself in advance of his time in " opening new windows " for 
his mind. 1 The latter work represents in particular the influence of 
Spinoza, whom he had formerly criticized somewhat forcibly for 
his failure to recognize that motion is inherent in matter. On that 
head he lays down 6 the doctrine that ' motion is but matter under 
a certain consideration " an essentially " materialist " position, 
deriving from tbe pre-Socratic Greeks, and incidentally affirmed by 
Bacon.' He was not exactly an industrious student or writer ; but 
he had scholarly knowledge and instinct, and several of his works 
show close study of Bayle. 

As regards his more original views on Christian origins, he is not 
impressive to the modern reader ; but theses which to-day stand for 
little were in their own day important. Thus in his Ilodcgus (pt. i 

1 Pref. to 2nd ed. pp. vi, viii, xxiv, xxvi. 

2 As late as 1701 a vote for its prosecution was passed in the Lower House of Convoca- 
tion. Farrar. Crit. Hist, of Freethought, p. ISO. 

3 Molyneux, in Familiar Letters of Locke, etc. p. 22S. 

4 No credit for this is given in Sir Leslie Stephen's notice of Toland in English Thought 
in the Eighteenth Century, i. 101-12. Compare the estimate of Lange, Gesch. des Material- 
ismus, i. 272-76 (Eng. tr. i. 324-30). Lange perhaps idealizes his subject somewhat. 

s In two letters published along with the Letters to Serena, 1701. 

G Letters to Serena, etc. 1701. pref. 

7 Be l^rincipiis atque Originibus (lioutledgc's l-vol. cd. pp. 651, 667). 



BEITISH FEEETHOUGHT 149 

of the Tetradymus, 1720) it is elaborately argued that the " pillar of 
fire by night and of cloud by day " was no miracle, but the regular 
procedure of guides in deserts, where night marches are the rule ; 
the "cloud " being simply the smoke of the vanguard's fire, which 
by night flared red. Later criticism decides that the whole narrative 
of the Exodus is myth. Toland's method, however, was relatively 
so advanced that it had not been abandoned by theological ration- 
alists " a century later. Of that movement he must be ranked an 
energetic pioneer : though he lacked somewhat the strength of char- 
acter that in his day was peculiarly needed to sustain a freethinker. 
Much of his later life was spent abroad; and his Letters to Serena 
(1701) show him permitted to discourse to the Queen of Prussia on 
such topics as the origin and force of prejudice, the history of the 
doctrine of immortality, and the origin of idolatry. He pays his corre- 
spondent the compliment of treating his topics with much learning; and 
his manner of assuming her own orthodoxy in regard to revelation 
could have served as a model to Gibbon. 1 But, despite such distin- 
guished patronage, his life was largely passed in poverty, cheerfully 
endured, 2 with only chronic help from well-to-do sympathizers, such 
as Shaftesbury, who was not over-sympathetic. When it is noted 
that down to 17G1 there had appeared no fewer than fifty-four 
answers to his first book,'* his importance as an intellectual influence 
may be realized. 

A certain amount of evasion was forced upon Toland by the 
Blasphemy Law of 1G97; inferontially, however, he was a thorough 
deist until he became pantheist ; and the discussion over his books 
showed that views essentially deistie were held even among his 
antagonists. One, an Irish bishop, got into trouble by setting forth 
a notion of deity which squared with that of Ilobbos. 4 The whole 
of our present subject, indeed, is much complicated by the distribu- 
tion of heretical views among the nominally orthodox, and of 
orthodox views among heretics. 5 Thus the school of Cudworth, 
zealous against atheism, was less truly theistic than that of Blount, 

1 Letters in Serena, pp. 19, 07. 

- Sir Henry Craik (cited by Temple Scott, liohn erl. of Swift's Works, iii, 91 speaks of 
Toland as "a man of utterly worthless character." This is mere malignant abuse. Toland 
is described by l'opc in a note to the JJimciiid (ii, 30<J) as a spy to Lord Oxford. There 
could hardly be a worse authority for such a charge. 

'' Gostwiuk, (lerinnii Culture tuiii Cli ristiu trity, 1882, 1). 2G. 

* Cp. Stephen, as cited, p. ] 15. 

5 " The Christianity of many writers consisted simply in expressing deist opinions in 
the o Id-fashioned phrasi ology " 'Stephen, i. 01 1. 

,; Cp. I'iinjer, Christ. I'hilos. of Helii/inii, i, iSO 90 ; and P'/nnmics of IMiijinn, pp. 01-98. 
Lord Morley's reference to "the godless deism of the Knglish school" ( Voltaire, lth ed. 
p. tiO) is pu/.zlin. Cp. Hosenkranz (UiileroV s [.ehen unit U'erke, l.-lill. ii. 1) on "den 
ungottlichcn (iott der .lesuiten and Jansenisten, dies monstrose Xorrbild des alten 
Jehovah, diesen apotheosirten Tyrannen, diesen Moloch." The latter application of the 
term seems the more plausible. 



150 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

who, following Hobbes, pointed out that to deny to God a continual 
personal and providential control of human affairs was to hold to 
atheism under the name of theism; 1 whereas Cudworth, the 
champion of theism against the atheists, entangled himself hope- 
lessly 2 in a theory which made deity endow Nature with " plastic " 
powers and leave it to its own evolution. The position was serenely 
demolished by Bayle,'" as against Le Clerc, who sought to defend it ; 
and in England the clerical outcry was so general that Cudworth 
gave up authorship. 4 Over the same crux, in Ireland, Bishop 
Browne and Bishop Berkeley accused each other of promoting 
atheism ; and Archbishop King was embroiled in the dispute. On 
the other hand, the theistic Descartes had laid down a " mechanical " 
theory of the universe which perfectly comported with atheism, and 
partly promoted that way of thinking ; 6 and a selection from 
Gassendi's ethical writings, translated into English 7 (1G99), wrought 
in the same direction. The Church itself contained Cartesians and 
Cudworthians, Socinians and deists. 8 Each group, further, had 
inner differences as to free-will 9 and Providence ; and the theistic 
schools of Newton, Clarke, and Leibnitz rejected each other's philo- 
sophies as well as that of Descartes. Leibnitz complained grimly 
that Newton and his followers had " a very odd opinion concerning 
the Work of God," making the universe an imperfect machine, which 
the deity had frequently to mend ; and treating space as an organ 
by which God perceives tilings, which are thus regarded as not 
produced or maintained by him. 10 Newton's principles of explana- 
tion, he insisted, were those of the materialists. 11 John Hutchinson, 
a professor at Cambridge, in his Treatise of Poicer, Essential and 
Mechanical, also bitterly assailed Newton as a deistical and anti- 
scriptural sophist. 12 Clarke, on the other hand, declared that the 
philosophy of Leibnitz was " tending to banish God from the 



1 Macaulay's description of Blount as an atheist is therefore doubly unwarranted. 

2 Cp. Dynamic* of Religion, pp. 94-98. 

''' Continuation cles Pensees Diverses a Voccasion da la Comete cle 1GS0, Amsterdam, 

1705, i. 91. 

4 Warburton, Divine Legation, vol. ii. preface. 

5 Stephen, English Thought, i. 114-18. 

G This, according to John Craig, was Newton's opinion. "The reason of his [Newton's] 
showing the errors of Cartes's philosophy was because he thought it made on purpose to 
be the foundation of infidelity." Letter to Conduitt, April 7. 17-27, in Brewster's Memoirs 
of Newton, ii, 315. Clarke, in his Answer to Butler's Fifth Letter, expresses a similar view. 

7 " Three Discourses of Happiness, Virtue, and Liberty, Collected from the Works of the 
Learn'd Gassendi by Monsieur Bernier. Translated out of the French, 1699." 

H Cp. W. Siehel, Bolingbroke and His Times, 1901, i, 175. 

9 Sir fjeslie Stephen (i, :;:ii makes the surprising statement that a "dogmatic assertion 
of free-will became a mark of the whole deist and semi-deist school." On the contrary, 
Hobbes and Anthony Collins, not to speak of Locke, wrote with uncommon power against 
the conception of free-will, and bad many disciples on that bea 1. 

10 hotter to the Princess of Wales, November, 1715, in Brewster, ii, 2S4-S5. 

11 Second Letter to Clarke, par. 1. 

12 Abstract from the Works of John Hutchinson, 1755, pp. 149-63. 



BEITISH FEEETHOUGHT 151 

world." ' Alongside of such internecine strife, it was not surprising 
that the great astronomer Halley, who accepted Newton's principles 
in physics, was commonly reputed an atheist ; and that the free- 
thinkers pitted his name in that connection against Newton's. 2 As 
it was he who first suggested' 5 the idea of the total motion of the 
entire solar system in space described by a modern pietist as " this 
great cosmical truth, the grandest in astronomy"' 1 they were not 
ill justified. It can hardly be doubted that if intellectual England 
could have been polled in 1710, under no restraints from economic, 
social, and legal pressure, some form of rationalism inconsistent 
with Christianity would have been found to be nearly as common 
as orthodoxy. In outlying provinces, in Devon and Cornwall, in 
Ulster, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as in the metropolis, the 
pressure of deism on the popular creed evoked expressions of Arian 
and Socinian thought among the clergy. 5 It was, in fact, the 
various restraints under notice that determined the outward fortunes 
of belief and unbelief, and have substantially determined them since. 
When the devout Whiston was deposed from his professorship for 
his Arianism, and the unbelieving Saunderson was put in his place, 6 
and when Sirnson was suspended from his ministerial functions in 
Glasgow,' the lesson was learned that outward conformity was the 
sufficient way to income. 8 

Hard as it was, however, to kick against the pricks of law and 
prejudice, it is clear that many in tho upper and middle classes 
privately did so. The clerical and tho now popular literature of tho 
time prove this abundantly. In the Taller and its successors," tire 
decorous Addison and the indecorous Steele, neither of them a 
competent thinker, frigidly or furiously asperse the new tribe of 
freethinkers ; while the evangelically pious Berkeley and tho 
extremely unevangelical Swift rival each other in the malice of 

1 Clarke's Answer to Leibnitz's First Letter, end. 

- Berkeley, Defence of /<' reel Making in Mathematics, par. vii; and Stock's Memoir of 
Berkeley. Cp. Brewster, Memoirs of Sen-ton, ii, IDS. 

'' In tho Pltilosojihtcul Transactions, 1719, No. 355, i, v, vi. 

' ! Brewster, More Worlds than One, 1851, p. 110. 

5 Becky, Hist, of Knulantl in the Eighteenth Cent. ert. 1S92, iii. 22-24. 

r ' The tradition of Kaundorson's unbelief is constant. In the memoir prefixed to his 
Elements of Algebra (1710) no word is said of his creed, though at death lie received tho 
sacrament. 

' See The State of the Process depending against Mr. Joint Simson, Kdmimnih. 1728. 
Simson always expressed himself piously, hut had thrown out such expressions us llatio 
est priiuiiiiiim et fundament urn I hi olo giie. wli ieh " con travelled the Act of Assembly, 1717" 
(vol. cited, p. 31'i). The "process" against him hean in 171 I, and drilled on for nearly 
twenty yours, with the result of his rositmini; his professorship of theology at (ilas^ow 
in 1729, and seceding from the Associate Presbytery in 1733. Burton, History of Scotland, 
viii, :;:'.) KXJ. 

' Cp. the pamphlet hy "A Presbyter of the Church of Kni-dand," attributed to Bishop 
Hare, cited in Dynamics of lieligion, pp. 177 7S. and by Becky, iii, 25. 

'> Tatter, No-. 12, 111, 135; Spectator, Nos. 23 1, 38 1 .:;.'. 5'.l'.l ; (Diardiaii, Nos. 3, 0, 27, 35. 3'.), 
55, m, 70, 77, S3, 88, 12'i, 130, I'll). Most of the (iunrdian papers cited are hy Berkeley. They 
are extremely virulent; but Steele'-) run them hard. 



152 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

their attacks on those who rejected their creed. Berkeley, a man 
of philosophic genius but intense prepossessions, maintained Chris- 
tianity on grounds which are the negation of philosophy. 1 Swift, 
the genius of neurotic misanthropy, who, in the words of Macaulay, 
" though lie had no religion, had a great deal of professional spirit," ' 
fought venomously for the creed of salvation. And still the deists 
multiplied. In the Earl of Shaftesbury 3 they had a satirist 
with a finer and keener weapon than was wielded by either Steele 
or Addison, and a much better temper than was owned by Swift or 
Berkeley. He did not venture to parade his unbelief : to do so was 
positively dangerous ; but his thrusts at faith left little doubt as to 
his theory. He was at once dealt with by the orthodox as an 
enemy, and as promptly adopted by the deists as a champion, 
important no less for his ability than for his rank. Nor, indeed, is 
he lacking in boldness in comparison with contemporary writers. 
The anonymous pamphlet entitled The Natural History of Super- 
stition, by the deist John Trenchard, M.P. (1709), does not venture 
on overt heresy. But Shaftesbury's Letter Concerning Enthusiasm 
(1708), his Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour (1709), and 
his treatise The Moralists (1709), had need be anonymous because 
of their essential hostility to the reigning religious ethic. 

Such polemic marks a new stage in rationalistic propaganda. 
Swift, writing in 1709, angrily proposes to " prevent the publishing 
of such pernicious works as under pretence of freethinking endeavour 
to overthrow those tenets in religion which have been held inviolable 
in almost all ages." 4 But his further protest that " the doctrine of 
the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the immortality of the soul, and 
even the truth of all revelation, are daily exploded and denied in 
books openly printed," points mainly to the Unitarian propaganda. 
Among freethinkers he names, in his Argument Against Abolishing 
Christianity (1703), Asgill, Coward, Toland, and Tindal. But the 
first was an ultra-Christian ; the second was a Christian upholder 
of the thesis that spirit is not immaterial ; and the last, at that 
date, had published only his Four Discourses (collected in 1709) and 
his Bights of the Christian Church, which are anti-clerical, but not 

1 Analyst, Queries GO and G2: Defence of Freethinking in Mathematics, 11 5, G, 50. Cp. 
Dynamics of Religion, pp. 141-42. 

- Letter in De Morgan's Neivton : his Friend : and 7iis Niece, 1SS5, p. GO. 

;! The essays in the Characteristics (excepting the Inquiry Concerning Virtue and 
Merit, which was published by Toland, without permission, in 1G99) appeared between 
1704 and 1711, being collected in the latter year. Shaftesbury died in 1713, in which year 
appeared his paper on The Judgment of Hercules. 

4 A Project/or the Advancement of Religion. Bohn ed. of Works, iii, 41. In this paper 
Swift reveals bis moral standards by the avowal (p. 40) that " hypocrisy is much more 

eligible than open infidelity and vice : it wears the livery of religion and is cautious of 

giving scandal." 



BKITISH FEEETnOUGHT 153 

anti-Christian. Prof. Henry Dodwell, who about 1G73 published Two 
Letters of Advice, I, For the Susception of Holy Orders ; II, For 
Studies Theological, especially such as are Bational, and in 170G an 
Epistolary Discourse Concerning the Soul's Natural Mortality, main- 
taining the doctrine of conditional immortality, 1 which he made 
dependent on baptism in the apostolical succession, was a devout 
Christian ; and no writer of that date went further. Dodwell is in 
fact blamed by Bishop Burnet for stirring up fanaticism against lay- 
baptism among dissenters." It would appear that Swift spoke 
mainly from hearsay, and on the strength of the conversational 
freethinking so common in society.' 1 But the anonymous essays of 
Shaftesbury which were issued in 1709 might be the immediate 
provocation of his outbreak. 4 

An official picture of the situation is formally drawn in A Repre- 
sentation, of the Present State of Religion, with regard to the late 
excessive growth of infidelity, heresy, and profancness, drawn up by 
the Upper House of Convocation of the province of Canterbury in 
1711." This sets forth, as a result of the disorders of the Eebellion, 
a growth of all manner of unbelief and profanity, including denial of 
inspiration and the authority of the canon ; the likening of Christian 
miracles to heathen fables ; the treating of all religious mysteries as 
absurd speculations ; Arianism and Socinianism and scoffing at the 
doctrine of the Trinity ; denial of natural immortality ; Erastianism ; 
mockery of baptism and the Lord's Supper ; decrying of all priests 
as impostors ; the collecting and reprinting of infidel works ; and 
publication of mock catechisms. It is explained that all such 
printing has greatly increased " since the expiration of the Act for 
restraining the press "; and mention is made of an Arian work just 
published to which the author has put his name, and which he has 
dedicated to the Convocation itself. This was the first volume of 
Winston's Primitive Christianity Revived, the work of a devout 
eccentric, who had just before been deprived of his professorship at 
Cambridge for his orally avowed heresy. Whiston, whose cause was 

1 Sir Leslie Stephen [English Thought, i, 283) speaks of Dodwell's thesis as deserving 
only "pity or contempt." Cp. Macaulay, Student's ed. ii, 107-108. Hut a doctrine of 
conditional immortality had been explicitly put by Locke in his lleaso)iableness of 
Christianity, lttr,, p. l:{. Cp. I'rof. Kraser's Locke, 1890, pp. 2n9-60, and fox Bourne's 
Life, of Locke, ii, 287. The difference was that Dodwell elaborately gave his reasons, 
which, as Or. Clarke put it, made ":ill Hood men sorry, and all profane men rejoice." 

- Ilia torn of Ins (Jii-ii Time., ed. 18:38, p. 8,87. 

:! Compare his ironical Argument Against Abolishing Christianity. 1708. 

4 lie had, however, hailed tin- anonymous Letter Concerning Jlnthusiasm as "very 
well writ." believing it to Ik; by a friend of his own -(Robert Hunter, to whom, accordingly, 
it has since been mistaken^ attributed by various bibliographers, including Barhier). 
" Knthu-dasm," ;is meaning " popular fanaticism," was of course as repellent to a Church- 
man as to the i lei I -. 

"' Printed m folio 1711. lie]), in vol. xi of the llurleian Miscellany, p. 108 sii. (-2nd ed. 
p. 10J mi.). 



154 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

championed, and whose clerical opponents were lampooned, in an 
indecorous but vigorous sketch, The Tryal of William Whiston, 
Clerk, for defaming and denying the Holy Trinity, before the Lord 
Chief Justice Reason (1712 ; 3rd ed. 1740), always remained per- 
fectly devout in his Arian orthodoxy ; but his and his friends' 
arguments were rather better fitted to make deists than to persuade 
Christians ; and Convocation's appeal for a new Act " restraining the 
present excessive and scandalous liberty of printing wicked books at 
home, and importing the like from abroad " was not responded to. 
There was no love lost between Bolingbroke and Shaftesbury ; but 
the government in which the former, a known deist, was Secretary 
of State, could hardly undertake to suppress the works of the latter. 

2 

Deism had been thus made in a manner fashionable when, in 
1713, Anthony Collins (1676-1729) began a new development by 
his Discourse of Frccth inking. He had previously published a notably 
frecthinking Essay Concerning the Use of Reason (1707), albeit 
without specific impeachment of the reigning creed ; carried on 
a discussion with Clarke on the question of the immateriality of the 
soul ; and issued treatises entitled Priestcraft in Perfection (1709, 
dealing with the history of the Thirty-nine Articles) 2 and A Vindica- 
tion of the Divine Attributes (1710), exposing the Hobbesian theism 
of Archbishop King on lines followed twenty years later by Berkeley 
in his Minute Pliilosophcr. But none of these works aroused such 
a tumult as the Discourse of Frecthinking, which may be said to 
sum up and unify the drift not only of previous English freethinking, 
but of the great contribution of Bayle, whose learning and temper 
influence all English deism from Shaftesbury onwards/ Collins's 
book, however, was unique in its outspokenness. To the reader of 
to-day, indeed, it is no very aggressive performance : the writer was 
a man of imperturbable amenity and genuine kindliness of nature ; 
and his style is the completest possible contrast to that of the furious 
replies it elicited. It was to Collins that Locke wrote, in 1703 : 
" Believe it, my good friend, to love truth for truth's sake is the 

1 Dr. E. Syngc. of Dublin (afterwards Archbishop of Tuam), in his Religion Tryed by 
the Test of Sob,')- and, Impartial Reason, published in 1713, seems to be writing before the 
issue of Collins's book when he says ( Dedication, p. 11 > that the spread of the "disease not 
only of Heterodoxy but of Infidelity" is " too plain to be either denied or dissembled." 

- Leslie afhrins in his Truth of Christianity Demonstrated (1711, p. 14) that the satirical 
Detection of his Short Method with the Deists, to which the Truth is a reply, was by the 
author of Priestcraft in Perfection; but, while the Detection has some of Collins's humour, 
it lucks bis amenity, and is evidently not' by him. 

'' An English translation of the Dictionary, in 5 vols, folio, with "many passages 
restored," appeared in 1731. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 155 

principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of 
all other virtues ; and, if I mistake not, you have as much of it as 
I ever met with in anybody." 1 The Discourse does no discredit to 
this uncommon encomium, being a luminous and learned plea for the 
conditions under which alone truth can be prosperously studied, and 
the habits of mind which alone can attain it. Of the many replies, 
the most notorious is that of Bentley writing as Phileleuthcrus 
Lipsiensis, a performance which, on the strength of its author's 
reputation for scholarship, has been uncritically applauded by not 
a few critics, of whom some of the most eminent do not appear to 
have read Collins's treatise. 2 Bentley's is in reality pre-eminent only 
for insolence and bad faith, the latter complicated by lapses of scholar- 
ship hardly credible on its author's part. 

See the details in Dynamics of Religion, ch. vii. I am com- 
pelled to call attention to the uncritical verdict given on this 
matter by the late Sir Leslie Stephen, who asserts {English 
Thought, i, 200) that Bentley convicts Collins of "unworthy 
shuffling " in respect of his claim that freethinking had " banished 
the devil." Bentley affirmed that this had been the work, not of 
the freethinkers, but of " the Royal Society, the Boyles and the 
Newtons"; and Sir Leslie comments that " nothing could be 
more true." Nothing could be more untrue. As we have seen 
(above p. 82), Boyle was a convinced believer in demonology ; 
and Newton did absolutely nothing to disperse it. Glanvill, 
a Royal Society man, had been a vehement supporter of the 
belief in witchcraft; and the Society as such never meddled 
with the matter. As to Collins's claim for the virtue of free- 
thinking, Sir Leslie strangely misses the point that Collins 
meant by the word not unbelief, but free inquiry. He could not 
have meant to say that Holland was full of deists. In Collins's 
sense of the word, the Royal Society's work in general was 
freethinking work. 

One mistranslation which appears to have been a printer's error, 
and one mis-spelling of a Greek name, are the only heads on winch 
Bentley confutes his author. He had, in fact, neither the kind of 
knowledge nor the candour that could lit him to handle the problems 
raised. It was Bentley's cue to represent Collins as an atheist, 
though he was a very pronounced deist;' 5 and in the first uproar 

i ,1 C Urrtion f,f Srrrral Vim i of Mr. John Lorl-c. 17-20, p. 271. 

- I'. .//. Miir); I'aUi-on, who culls CollinVs hook of 17m pattes a "small tract." 

;l "l:(iior:i ," Collins writes, " is Lin: foundation of Atheism, ami KivcLhmkiri!,' the 

r-nre oi it" i Iti-r mrsr of }'< tlii.iil:i,t<i. p. KJ.i. Like Newton, he contemplated only mi 

mipo ol.' L'.'nci m, never formulate.! ov a:iv writer. The /' Uir-il I'rinciiilrs of 

/.'. ojion, Salnril and llm-ild., of ] Jr. OcoriM Cneyne U7D"i, -hid el. 171..), si in ihirly 

I - nid that " il tile mo dern \i.r. Newtonian] philo mil', lemons! r it.es nothing 

it, iii fall i uly prove Ulii'i-m lulji-i . i . n ice.'' 'I' nu lliu vindicator 

oi " n .. ;ion " v, as writ in;; in tie- key of the deist. 



156 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Collins thought it well to fly to Holland to avoid arrest. 1 But deism 
was too general to permit of such a representative being exiled ; and 
he returned to study quietly, leaving Bentley's vituperation and 
prevarication unanswered, with the other attacks made upon him. 
In 1715 he published his brief but masterly Inquiry Concerning 
Human Liberty anonymous, like all his works which remains 
unsurpassed as a statement of the case for Determinism. 2 

The welcome given to Bentley's attack upon Collins by the 
orthodox was warm in proportion to their sense of the general 
inadequacy of the apologetics on their side. Amid the common 
swarm of voluble futilities put forth by Churchmen, the strident 
vehemence as well as the erudite repute of the old scholar were fitted 
at least to attract the attention of lay readers in general. Most of 
the contemporary vindications of the faith, however, were fitted only 
to move intelligent men to new doubt or mere contempt. A sample 
of the current defence against deism is the treatise of Joseph Smith 
on The Unreasonableness of Deism, or, the Certainty of a Divine 
Revelation, etc. 1720, where deists in general are called "the Wicked 
and Unhappy men we have to deal with ": 3 and the argumentation 
consists in alleging that a good God must reveal himself, and that if 
the miracle stories of the New Testament had been false the Jews 
would have exposed and discarded them. Against such nugatory 
traditionalism, the criticism of Collins shone with the spirit of 
science. Not till 1723 did he publish his next work, A Discourse of 
the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, a weighty attack 
on the argument from prophecy, to which the replies numbered 
thirty-five ; on which followed in 1727 his Scheme of Literal Prophecy 
Considered, a reply to criticisms. The former work was pronounced 
by Warburton one of the most plausible ever written against Chris- 
tianity, and he might well say so. It faced the argument from 
prophecy not merely with the skepticism of the ordinary deist, but 
with that weapon of critical analysis of which the use had been briefly 
shown by Hobbes and Spinoza. Apparently for the first time, he 
pointed out that the " virgin prophecy " in Isaiah had a plain reference 
to contemporary and not to future events ; he showed that the out 
of Egypt " prophecy referred to the Hebrew past ; and he revived the 
ancient demonstration of Porphyry that the Book of Daniel is 

1 Mr. Temple Scott, in his Bohn ed. of Swift's Works (iii, 166), asserts that Swift's satire 
" frightened Collins into Holland." For this statement there is no evidence whatever, and 
as it stands it is unintelligible. The assertion that Collins had had to fly to Holland in 
1711 (Dr. Conybeare, Hist, of N. T. Crit. H. P. A. 1910, p. 38) is also astray. 

- Second ed. 1717. Another writer, William Lyons, was on the same track, publishing 
The Infallibility of Human Judgment, its Dignity and Excellence ('2nd ed. 172U), and 
A Discourse of the Necessity of Human Actions (1730). 

3 Work cited, p. 13. 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGHT 157 

Maccabean. The general dilemma put by Collins that either the 
prophecies must be reduced, textually and otherwise, to non- 
prophetic utterances, or Christianity must give up prophetic claims 
has never since been solved. 

The deistic movement was now in full flood, the acute MANDE- 
VILLE having issued in 1720 his Free Thoughts on Religion, and in 
1723 a freshly-expanded edition of his very anti-evangelical Fable of 
the Bees ; while an eccentric ex-clergyman, Thomas WOOLSTON, 
who had already lost his fellowship of Sidney-Sussex College, Cam- 
bridge, for vagaries of doctrine and action, contributed in 172G-28 
his freshly reasoned but heedlessly ribald Discourses on Miracles. 
Voltaire, who was in England in 1728, tells that thirty thousand 
copies were sold; 2 while sixty pamphlets were written in opposi- 
tion. Woolston's were indeed well fitted to arouse wrath and 
rejoinder. The dialectic against the argument from miracles in 
general, and the irrelevance or nullity of certain miracles in 
particular, is really cogent, and anticipates at points the thought 
of the nineteenth century. But Woolston was of the tribe who 
can argue no issue without jesting, and who stamp levity on 
every cause by force of innate whimsicality. Thus he could best 
sway the light-hearted when his cause called for the wdnning-over 
of the earnest. Arguments that might have been made convincing 
were made to pass as banter, and serious spirits were repelled. 
It was during this debate that CONYEES MlDDLETON, Fellow 
of Trinity College, Cambridge, produced his Letter from Piomc 
(1729), wherein the part of paganism in Christianity is so set forth 
as to carry inference further than the argument ostensibly goes. In 
that year the heads of Oxford University publicly lamented the 
spread of open deism among the students ; and the proclamation 
did nothing to check the contagion. In Foggs Weekly Journal of 
July 4, 1730, it is announced that " one of the principal colleges in 
Oxford has of late been infested with deists ; and that three deistical 
students have been expelled ; and a fourth lias had his degree 
deferred two years, during which he is to be closely confined in 
college ; and, among other things, is to translate Leslie's Short and 

1 As to whose positions soo a paper in the writer's Pioneer Humanists, 1007. 

2 There were six separate Discourses. Voltaire speaks of "three editions coup sur 
cnii p of ten thousand each" (Lettre sur Irs auteurs Anolnis in (Kuvres, ed. 1702, lxviii, 
3.7)). This seems extremely unlikely as to any oiks Discourse; and even ,">.0i)O copies of 
each Discourse is a hardly credible sale, though the writer of the sketch of his life (1733) 
says that "the sale of Mr. Woolston's works was very great." In any cii^r, Woolston's 
Discourses are now seldouier met, with than Collins's Discourse of Frrethinkina. Alherti 
(Jiriefe hcl.reffentL <lc.n Xust/nvl de.r Jtelit/ion in (Iross-Hrittuniiien) wrote in I7.V2 that the 
Discourses were even in that day somewhat rare, and seldom found together. Many 
copies were probably destroyed by the orthodox, and many would doubtless be thrown 
away, as tracts so often are. 



158 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Easy Method with the Deists." 1 It is not hard to divine the effect 
of such exegetic methods. In 1731, the author of an apologetic 
pamphlet in reply to Woolston laments that even at the universities 
young men " too often " become tainted with " infidelity "; and, on 
the other hand, directing his battery against those who " causelessly 
profess to build their skeptical notions " on the writings of Locke, 
he complains of Dr. Iloldsworth and other academic polemists who 
had sought to rob orthodoxy of the credit of such a champion as 
Locke by ' consigning him over to that class of freethinkers and 
skeptics to which he was an adversary." 2 

With the most famous work of MATTHEW TlNDAL, 3 Christianity 
as Old as Creation (1730), the excitement seems to have reached 
high-water mark. Here was vivacity without flippancy, and argu- 
ment without irrelevant mirth ; and the work elicited from first to 
last over a hundred and fifty replies, at home and abroad. Tindal's 
thesis is that the idea of a good God involved that of a simple, 
perfect, and universal religion, which must always have existed 
among mankind, and must have essentially consisted in moral 
conduct. Christianity, insofar as it is true, must therefore be a 
statement of this primordial religion ; and moral reason must be 
the test, not tradition or Scripture. One of the first replies was the 
Vindication of Scripture by Waterland, to which Middleton promptly 
offered a biting retort in a Letter to Dr. Waterland (1731) that serves 
to show the slightness of its author's faith. After demolishing 
Waterland's case as calculated rather to arouse than to allay 
skepticism, he undertakes to offer a better reply of his own. It 
is to the simple effect that some religion is necessary to mankind 
in modern as in ancient times ; that Christianity meets the need 
very well; and that to set up reason in its place is "impracticable" 
and " the attempt therefore foolish and irrational," in addition to 
being ' criminal and immoral," when politically considered.' 1 Such 
legalist criticism, if seriously meant, was hardly likely to discredit 
Tindal's book. Its directness and simplicity of appeal to what passed 
for theistic common-sense were indeed fitted to give it the widest 
audience yet won by any deist ; and its anti-clericalism would carry 
it far among his fellow Whigs to begin with. 5 One tract of the 

1 Tyerman's Life of Wesley, eel. 1871, i, 65-66. 2 The, Infuld Convicted, 1731. pp. 33, 62. 

3 Tindal (1653-1733) was the son of a clergyman, and in 1678 was elected a Fellow of All 
Souls, Oxford. From 16S5 to 16S8 he was a Roman Catholic. Under William III ho wrote 
three works on points of political freedom one, 1698, on The Liberty of the Press. His 
Rights of the Christian Church, anonymously published in 1706, a defence of Erastianism, 
made a great sensation, and was prosecuted only to be reprinted. His later Defence, of 
the Rights of the Christian Church was in 1710, by order of the House of Commons, burned 
by the common hangman. i Middleton's Works, '2nd ed. 1755, iii. 50-56. 

5 Tindal (Voltaire tells) regarded Fope as devoid of genius and imagination, and so 
trebly earned his place in the Dunciad. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 159 

period, dedicated to the Queen Regent, complains that " the present 
raging infidelity threatens an universal infection," and that it is not 
confined to the capital, but " is disseminated even to the confines of 
your kingdom." 1 Tindal, like Collins, wrote anonymously, and so 
escaped prosecution, dying in 1733, when the second part of his 
book, left ready for publication, was deliberately destroyed by Bishop 
Gibson, into whoso hands it came. In 1736 he and Shaftesbury are 
described by an orthodox apologist as the "two oracles of deism."' 

Woolston, who put his name to his books, after being arrested 
in May, 1728, and released on bail, was prosecuted in 1729 on the 
charge of blasphemy, in that lie had derided the gospel miracles 
and represented Jesus alternately as an impostor, a sorcerer, and a 
magician. His friendly counsel ingeniously argued that Woolston 
had aimed at safeguarding Christianity by returning to the allegorical 
method of the early Fathers ; and that he had shown his reverence 
for Jesus and religion by many specific expressions ; but the jury 
took a simpler view, and, without leaving the court, found AVoolston 
guilty. He was sentenced to pay a fine of 100, to suffer a year's 
imprisonment, and either to find surety for his future good conduct 
or pay or give sureties for 2,000. 3 He is commonly said to have 
paid the penalty of imprisonment for the rest of his life (d. 1733). 
being unable to pay the fine of 100 ; but Voltaire positively asserts 
that " nothing is more false " than the statement that he died in 
prison ; adding : " Several of my friends have seen him in his house : 
he died there, at liberty." i The solution of the conflict seems to be 
that lie lived in his own house " in the rules of " the King's Bench 
Prison that is, in the precincts, and under technical supervision.'' 
In any case, ho was sentenced ; and the punishment was the measure 
of the anger felt at the continuous advance of deistic opinions, or at 
least against hostile criticism of the Scriptures. 

3 
Unitarianism, formerly a hated heresy, was now in comparison 
leniently treated, because of its deference to Scriptural authority, 

1 .( Layman's Faith " By a Freethinker and a Christian," 1733. 

- Title-page of Rev. l-llisha Smith's Cure of Deism, 1st ert. 173(5 ; 3rd cd. 1710. 

'' Lo Moine, Dissertation historique sur Irs ee.rits tie, Woolston, sa condemnation, etc. 
pp. 2'J 31, cited by Siilclii. Lettres sur le. Deismc, 3759, ]). 07 so. 

4 Lettre sur le.s auteurs Anr/lais, as cited. Voltaire tells that, when a she-bigot one day 
spat in Wool- ton's face, lie calmly remarked : " It was so that the .lews treated your Cod." 
Another story reads like a carefully-improved version of the foregoing. A woman is said 
to have accosted him as a scoundrel, and risked him why Vie was not yet hanged. On his 
asking her grounds for such an accost, she replied : "You have writ against my Saviour. 
U'hal would become of my poor sinful soul if it was not for my dear Saviour my Saviour 
who died for such wicked sinners as I a.m." Life of Mr. Woolston, prefixed to a reprint 
of his collected Discourse.*, 1733, p. 21. Cp. Salchi, p. 79. 

"' Lifecited,!pp. 522, 2(3, -J.'.). 



160 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Where the deists rejected all revelation, Unitarianism held by the 
Bible, calling only for a revision of the central Christian dogma. It 
had indeed gained much theological ground in the past quarter of a 
century. Nothing is more instructive in the culture-history of the 
period than the rapidity with which the Presbyterian succession of 
clergy passed from violent Calvinism, by way of Baxterian " 
Arminianism, to Arianism, and thence in many cases to Unitarianism. 
First they virtually adopted the creed of the detested Laud, whom 
their fathers had hated for it ; then they passed step by step to a 
heresy for which their fathers had slain men. A closely similar 
process took place in Geneva, where Servetus after death triumphed 
over his slayer. 1 In 1691, after a generation of common suffering, 
a precarious union was effected between the English Presbyterians, 
now mostly semi-Arminians, and the Independents, still mostly 
Calvinists : but in 1691 it was dissolved. 2 Thereafter the former 
body, largely endowed by the will of Lady Hewley in 1710, became 
as regards its Trust Deeds the freest of all the English sects in 
matters of doctrine. 3 The recognition of past changes had made 
their clergy chary of a rigid subscription. Naturally the movement 
did not gain in popularity as it fell away from fanaticism ; but the 
decline of Nonconformity in the first half of the eighteenth century 
was common to all the sects, and did not specially affect the 
Presbyterians. Of the many " free " churches established in England 
and Wales after the Act of Toleration (1689), about half were extinct 
in 1715 ; 4 and of the Presbyterian churches the number in Yorkshire 
alone fell from fifty-nine in 1715 to a little over forty in 1730. 5 
Economic causes were probably the main ones. The State-endowed 
parish priest had an enduring advantage over his rival. But the 
Hewley endowment gave a certain economic basis to the Presby- 
terians ; and the concern for scholarship which had always marked 
their body kept them more open to intellectual influences than the 
ostensibly more free-minded and certainly more democratic sectaries 
of the Independent and Baptist bodies. 6 

The result was that, with free Trust Deeds, the Presbyterians 

1 .4?; Historical Defence of the Trustees of Lady Hewley's Foundations, by the Rev. 
Joseph Hunter, 1834, pp. 17, 3. r > ; The History, Opinions, and present legal position of the 
English Presbyterians, 1831, pp. 18, 29; Skeats, History of the Free Churches of England, 
ed. Miall, p. 210. 

2 Hunter, as cited, p. 17 ; History of the Presbyterians, as cited, p. 10 ; Fletcher, History 
of Independency, 1862, iv, 266-67. ;; Hunter, pp. 37. 39. 

4 Skeats, as cited, p. 226. 5 Hunter, pp. 24-25. 

6 Skeats (pp. 239-40) sums up that while the Baptists had probably " never been entirely 
free from the taint" of Unitarianism, the Particular Baptists and the Congregationalists 
were saved from it by their lack of men of "eminently speculative mind"; while the 
Presbyterians "were men, for the most part, of larger reading than other Nonconformists, 
and the writings of Whiston and Clarke had found their way among them." But the 
tendency existed before Whiston and Clarke. 



BKITISH FREETHOUGHT 161 

openly exhibited a tendency which -was latent in all the other 
churches. In 1719, at a special assembly o{ Presbyterian ministers 
at Salters' Hall, it was decided by a majority of 73 to G9 that 
subscription to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity should no 
longer be demanded of candidates for the ministry. 1 Of the 73, 
the majority professed to bo themselves orthodox ; but there was 
no question that antitrinitarian opinions had become common, 
especially in Devonshire, where the heresy case of Mr. Peirce of 
Exeter had brought the matter to a crisis." From this date " Arian " 
opinions spread more rapidly in the dwindling denomination, shading 
yet further into Unitarianism, step for step with the deistic move- 
ment in the Church. " In less than half a century the doctrines of 
the great founders of Presbytcrianism could scarcely be heard from 
any Presbyterian pulpit in England." 3 "In the English Presby- 
terian ministry the process was from Arian opinions to those called 

Unitarian by a gradual sliding," even as the transition had been 

made from Calvinism to Arminianism in the previous century.' 

Presbyterianism having thus come pretty much into line with 
Anglicanism on the old question of predestination, while still 
holding fast by Scriptural standards as against the deists, the old 
stress of Anglican dislike had slackened, despite the rise of the new 
heretical element. Unitarian arguments were now forthcoming from 
quarters not associated with dissent, as in the case of TliOMAS 
CHUBB'S first treatise, The Supremacy of the Father Asserted (1715), 
courteously dedicated " To the Reverend the Clergy, and in particular 
to the Right Reverend Gilbert Lord Bishop of Sarum, our vigilant 
and laborious Diocesan." Chubb (1G79-1717) had been trained to 
glove-making, and, as his opponents took care to record, acted also 
as a tallow-chandler; 5 and the good literary quality of his work 
made some sensation in an England which had not learned to think 
respectfully of Bunyan. Chubb's impulse to write had come from 
the perusal of Whiston's Primitive Christianity Jlevived, in 1711, 
and that single-minded Arian published his book for him. 

The Unitarians would naturally repudiate all connection with 
such a performance as A Sober Reply to Mr. Iliggs's Merry 
Arguments front, the Light of Nature for the Tritheistic Doctrine 
of the Trinity, which was condemned by the House of Lords on 

1 History, cited, p. 22; Hunter, pp. 41 15; Kkeats, pp. 213-14. 

- Slants, pp. 210- Hi, 215 .sc/. '' Kkeats, p. 2IS. ' 1 Hunter, p. 50. 

5 As Sir Leslie Stephen has observed [HiKjlish Tliouriht, i, Ml), Chubb "deserves the 
praise of Malthusians." Having a Kuflicieney of means for himself, but not more, ho 
"lived a single life, jiiduint; it greatly improper to introduce a family into the world 
win i out a pro, peel of maintaining them." The proverb as to mouths and meat, he drily 
oh erves, had not been verified in his experience. (The Author's Accuiuil of Jlimsclf, pref. 
to Posthumous Works, 171b, i, p. iv.) 

VOL. II M 



162 EIGHTEENTH CENTUKY 

February 12, 1720, to be burnt, as having " in a daring, impious 
manner, ridiculed the doctrine of the Trinity and all revealed 
religion." Its author, Joseph Hall, a serjeant-at-arms to the 
King, seems to have undergone no punishment, and more decorous 
antitrinitarians received public countenance. Thus the Unitarian 
Edward Ehvall, 1 who had published a book called A True Testimony 
for God and his Sacred Law (1721), for which he was prosecuted at 
Stafford in 1726, was allowed by the judge to argue his cause fully, 
and was unconditionally acquitted, to the displeasure of the clergy. 

4 

Anti-scriptural writers could not hope for such toleration, being 
doubly odious to the Church. Berkeley, in 1721, had complained 
bitterly 2 of the general indifference to religion, which his writings 
had done nothing to alter ; and in 1736 he angrily demanded that 
blasphemy should be punished like high treason. 8 His Minute 
Philosopher (1732) betrays throughout his angry consciousness of 
the vogue of freethinking after twenty years of resistance from his 
profession ; and that performance is singularly ill fitted to alter the 
opinions of unbelievers. In his earlier papers attacking them he had 
put a stress of malice that, in a mind of his calibre, is startling even 
to the student of religious history. 4 It reveals him as no less 
possessed by the passion of creed than the most ignorant priest 
of his Church. For him all freethinkers were detested disturbers of 
his emotional life; and of the best of them, as Collins, Shaftesbury, 
and Spinoza, he speaks with positive fury. In the Minute Philosopher, 
half-conscious of the wrongness of his temper, he sets himself to 
make the unbelievers figure in dialogue as ignorant, pretentious, and 
coarse-natured ; while his own mouthpieces are meant to be benign, 
urbane, wise, and persuasive. Yet in the very pages so planned he 
unwittingly reveals that the freethinkers whom he goes about to 
caricature were commonly good-natured in tone, while he becomes 
as virulent as ever in his eagerness to discredit them. Not a 
paragraph in the book attains to the spirit of judgment or fairness; 
all is special pleading, overstrained and embittered sarcasm, rankling 
animus. Gifted alike for literature and for philosophy, keen of vision 
in economic problems where the mass of men were short-sighted, ho 
was flawed on the side of his faith by the hysteria to which it always 

1 One of the then numerous tribe of eccentrics. He held by Judaic Sabbatarianism, 
and affected a Rabinnical costume. Ho made a competence, however, as an ironmonger. 

2 E unity 'Towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain. 

3 Discourse to Magistrates. i Guardian, >."os. 3, 55, SS. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT 163 

stirred him. No man was less qualified to write a well-balanced 
dialogue as between bis own side and its opponents. To candour bo 
never attains, unless it be in the sense that his passion recoils on his 
own case. Even while setting up ninepins of ill-put " infidel " 
argument to knock down, he elaborates futilities of rebuttal, indi- 
cating to every attentive reader the slightness of his rational basis. 

On the strength of this performance he might fitly be termed the 
most ill-conditioned sophist of his age, were it not for the perception 
that religious feeling in him has become a pathological phase, and 
that he suffers incomparably more from his own passions than ho 
can inflict on his enemies by his eager thrusts at them. More than 
almost any gifted pietist of modern times he sets us wondering at the 
power of creed in certain cases to overgrow judgment and turn to 
naught the rarest faculties. No man in Berkeley's day had a finer 
natural lucidity and suppleness of intelligence ; yet perhaps no 
polemist on his side did less either to make converts or to establish 
a sound intellectual practice. Plain men on the freethinking side ho 
must either have bewildered by his metaphysic or revolted by 
his spite ; while to the more efficient minds he stood revealed as a 
kind of inspired child, rapt in the construction and manipulation of 
a set of brilliant sophisms which availed as much for any other 
creed as for his own. To the armoury of Christian apologetic now 
growing up in England he contributed a special form of the skeptical 
argument : freethinkers, he declared, made certain arbitrary or 
irrational assumptions in accepting Newton's doctrine of fluxions, 
and it was only their prejudice that prevented them from being 
similarly accommodating to Christian mysteries. 1 It is a kind of 
argument dear to minds pre- convinced and incapable of a logical 
revision, but worse than inept as against opponents ; and it availed 
no more in Berkeley's hands than it had done in those of Iluet." 
To theosophy, indeed, Berkeley rendered a more successful service in 
presenting it with the no better formula of "existence [i.e., in con- 
sciousness] dependent upon consciousness " a verbalism which has 
served the purposes of theology in the philosophic schools down till 
our own day. For his, however, the popular polemic value of such 
a theorem must have been sufficiently countervailed by bis vehement 
championship of the doctrine of passive obedience in its most extreme 
form "that loyalty is a virtue or moral duty; and disloyalty or 
rebellion, in the most strict and proper sense, a vice or crime against 
the law of nature." '' 

1 The Analyst, QuorioH, 55-07. - S( c above, pp. l'2(i 2a. 

" Discourse of Passive Obedience, i -JO. 



164 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

It belonged to the overstrung temperament of Berkeley that, like 
a nervous artist, he should figure to himself all his freethinking 
antagonists as personally odious, himself growing odious under the 
obsession ; and he solemnly asserts, in his Discourse to Magistrates, 
that there had been " lately set up within this city of Dublin " an 
" execrable fraternity of blasphemers," calling themselves " blasters," 
and forming " a distinct society, whereof the proper and avowed 
business shall be to shock all serious Christians by the most impious 
and horrid blasphemies, uttered in the most public manner." 1 There 
appears to be not a grain of truth in this astonishing assertion, to 
which no subsequent historian has paid the slightest attention. In 
a period in which freethinking books had been again and again 
burned in Dublin by the public hangman, such a society could be 
projected only in a nightmare ; and Berkeley's hallucination may 
serve as a sign of the extent to which his judgment had been 
deranged by his passions. 2 His forensic temper is really on a level 
with that of the most incompetent swashbucklers on his side. 

When educated Christians could be so habitually envenomed as 
was Berkeley, there was doubtless a measure of contrary heat 
among English unbelievers ; but, apart altogether from what could 
be described as blasphemy, unbelief abounded in the most cultured 
society of the day. Bolingbroke's rationalism had been privately 
well known ; and so distinguished a personage as the brilliant and 
scholarly Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, hated by Pope, is one of 
the reputed freethinkers of her time.' 5 In the very year of the 
publication of Berkeley's Minute Philosopher, the first two epistles 
of the Essay on Man of his own friend and admirer, Pope, gave 
a new currency to the form of optimistic deism created by 
Shaftesbury, and later elaborated by Bolingbroke. Pope was 
always anxiously hostile in his allusions to the professed free- 
thinkers 4 among whom Bolingbroke only posthumously enrolled 
himself and in private he specially aspersed Shaftesbury, from 
whom he had taken so much ; 5 but his prudential tactic gave all 

1 Worlds, ed. 1837, p. 352. 

2 See the whole context;, which palpitates with excitement. 

3 .Mr. Walter Sichcl UJolingbnike and his Times, 1901, i, 175) thinks fit to dispose of her 
attitude as "her aversion to the Church and to everything that transcended her own 
faculties." So far as the evidence goes, her faculties were much superior to those of most 
of her orthodox contemporaries. For her tone see her letters. 

' /,'.'/. Diiiiciml, ii, 399; iii, '212; iv, 4'.)-2. 

5 Voltaire commented pointedly on Pope's omission to make any reference to 
Shaftesbury, while vending his doctrine. (Li.tlres Pliilosophiques. xxii.) As a matter 
of fact Pope does in the Dunciad (iv, 488) refer maliciously to the Theocles of Shaftes- 
bury's Moralists as maintaining a Lucretian theism or virtual atheism. The explanation 
is that Shaftesbury had sharply criticized the political course of Bolingbroke, who in 
turn ignored him as a thinker. See the present writer's introd. to Shaftesbury's Char- 
acteristic*, ed. l'JOU (rep. in Pioneer Humanists) ; and cp. W. K. Scott, Francis Hutchusun, 
l'JOU, p. 101. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT 165 

the more currency to the virtual deism he enunciated. Given out 
without any critical allusion to Christianity, and put forward as 
a vindication of the ways of God to men, it gave to heresy, albeit 
in a philosophically incoherent exposition, the status of a well-bred 
piety. A good authority pronounces that " the Essay on Man did 
more to spread English deism in France than all the works of 
Shaftesbury"; 1 and wo have explicit testimony that the poet 
privately avowed the deistic view of things." 

The line of the Essay which now reads : 

The soul, uneasy and confined from home, 
originally ran "at home"; but, says Warton, " this expression 
seeming to exclude a future existence, as, to speak the plain 
truth, it teas intended to do, it was altered" presumably by 
Warburton. (Warton's Essay on Pope, 4th ed. ii, 67.) The 
Spinozistie or pantheistic character of much of the Essay on 
Man was noted by various critics, in particular by the French 
Academician De Crousaz {Exanicn de I'Essay de M. Pope sur 
V Homme, 1718, p. 90, etc.) After promising to justify the ways 
of God to man, writes Crousaz (p. 33), Pope turns round and 
justifies man, leaving God charged with all men's sins. When 
the younger Racine, writing to the Chevalier Ramsay in 1712, 
charged the Essay with irreligion, Pope wrote him repudiating 
alike Spinoza and Leibnitz. (Warton, ii, 121.) In 1755, 
however, the Abbe Gauchat renewed the attack, declaring that 
the Essay was "neither Christian nor philosophic" (Lettres 
Critiques, i, 316). Warburton at first charged the poem with 
rank atheism, and afterwards vindicated it in his manner. 
(Warton, i, 125.) But in Germany, in the youth of Goethe, 
we find the Essay regarded by Christians as an unequivocally 
deistic poem. (Goethe's Wahrheit unci Dichtung, Th. II, B. vii : 
Werke, cd. 1SG6, xi, 203.) And by a modern Christian polemist 
the Essay is described as " the best positive result of English 
deism in the eighteenth century" (Gostwick, German Culture 
and Christianity, 1832, p. 31). 

In point of fact, deism was the fashionable way of thinking among 
cultured people. Though Voltaire testifies from personal know- 
ledge that there were in England in his day many principled atheists,' 
there was little overt atheism, whether by reason of the special 

' Texte. nnuispfiu ami thr Cosmopolitan Spirit in TAtrraturr. Y.na.. tr. pp. 117 is. 

'* Chesterfield in bis Clio rartrrx dipp. to the Lcttrrs) testifies Unit I'opc " \v;is a deist 
ludiiiviw; in a future state: this lie lias often owned himself tome." (I'.nulsliiiw's ed. of 

. iii. 1110.) Chesterfield makes a similar statement concernim,' Queen Caroline : 
" After puzzling herself in all the whimsies and fant;i-l ical speculal ions of different sects, 
hhe fixed herself ultimately in Deism, believing in a future state." (I<1. p. 1 !()ii.) 

hirt. I'hilon. art. Atiikk, 5 >. 

' Wise, in his adaptation of Cudworth, A Confutation of thr Hrason and Pliilosophy nf 
Athfium U7(>;), writes (i. :,) that "the philosophical athewts nre hut few in number," nnd 
their objection o weak "as Unit they deserve not a he.irin:; out lather ne;:leet"; but 
confusedly noes on to admit that "one or two broaeliers of 'em maybe thought able to 
infect a whole nation, as sad experience tells us." 



166 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

odium attaching to that way of thought, or of a real production of 
theistic belief by the concurrence of the deistic propaganda on this 
head with that of the clergy, themselves in so many cases deists. 1 
Bishop Burnet, in the Conclusion to the History of his Own Time, 
pronounces that " there are few atheists, but many infidels, who 
are indeed very little better than the atheists." Collins observed 
that nobody had doubted the existence of God until the Boyle 
lecturers began to prove it ; and Clarke had more than justified the 
jest by arguing, in his Boyle Lectures for 1705, that all deism 
logically leads to atheism. But though the apologists roused much 
discussion on the theistic issue, the stress of the apologetic literature 
passed from the theme of atheism to that of deism. Shaftesbury's 
early Inquiry Concerning Virtue had assumed the existence of a good 
deal of atheism ; but his later writings, and those of his school, do 
not indicate much atheistic opposition. 2 Even the revived discus- 
sion on the immateriality and immortality of the soul which began 
with the Grand Essay of Dr. William Coward, 3 in 1701, and was 
taken up, as we have seen, by the non-juror Dodwell i -was 
conducted on either orthodox or deistic lines. Coward wrote as 
a professed Christian,' to maintain, against impostures of philo- 
sophy," that "matter and motion must be the foundation of thought 
in men and brutes." Collins maintained against Clarke the pro- 
position that matter is capable of thought ; and SAMUEL STEUTT 
("of the Temple ")i whose Philosophical Inquiry into the Physical 
Spring of Human Actions, and the Immediate Cause of Thinking 
(1732), is a most tersely cogent sequence of materialistic argument, 
never raises any question of deity. The result was that the problem 
of "materialism" was virtually dropped, Strutt's essay in particular 
passing into general oblivion. 

It was replied to, however, with the Inquiry of Collins, as 
late as 17G0, by a Christian controversialist who admits Strutt 

1 Complaint to this effect was made by orthodox writers. The Scotch Professor 
Halyburton, for instance, complains that in many sermons in his day "Heathen Morality 
has been substituted in the room of Gospel Holiness. And Ethicks by some have been 
preached instead of this Gospels of Christ." Natural Heligion Insufficient (Edinburgh), 
L7U, p. 25. Cp. pp. 23, 26-27, 5;), etc. JSishop Burnet, in the Conclusion to his History of 
his Own Time, declares, " I must own that the main body of our clergy has always seemed 
dead and lifeless to me," and ascribes much more zeal to Catholics and dissenters. (Ed. 
1834, pp. 907-010.) 

~ The Moralists deals rather with strict skepticism than with substantive atheism. 

:! The, Grand Essay : or, a Vindication of Reason and Heligion against Impostures of 
Philosophy. The book was, on March IS, 1704, condemned by the House of Commons to 
be burned in Palace Yard, along with its author's Second Thoughts Concerning the 
Human Saul 1 1702). A second ed. of the latter appeared soon.'after, 4 Above, p. 153. 

"' .Air. Herbert Paul, in his essay on Swift (Men and Letters, 1001, p. 207), lumps as deists 
the four writers named by Swift in his Argument. Not having read them, he thinks fit to 
asperse all four as bad writers. Asgill, as was noted by Coleridge (Tab le Talk, July 30. 
1831 ; April 30, 1832), was one of the best writers of his time. He was, in fact, a master of 
the staccato style, practised by Mr. Paul with less success. 



BKITISH FEEETHOUGHT 167 

to have boon " a gentleman of an excellent genius for philo- 
sophical inquiries, and a close reasoner from those principles he 
laid down" (An Essay towards demonstrating the Immateriality 
and Free Agency of the Soul, 17G0, p. 91). The Rev. Mr. Monk, 
in his Life of Bentlcy (2nd ed. 1833, ii, 391), absurdly speaks of 
Strutt as having " dressed up the arguments of Lord Herbert 
of Cherbury and other enemies of religion in a new shape." 
The reverend gentleman cannot have paid any attention to the 
arguments either of Herbert or of Strutt, which have no more 
in common than those of Toland and Hume. Strutt's book 
was much too closely reasoned to be popular. His name was 
for the time, however, associated with a famous scandal at 
Cambridge University. When in 1739 proceedings were taken 
against what was described as an " atheistical society " there, 
Strutt was spoken of as its " oracle." One of the members was 
Paul Wbitehead, satirized by Pope. Another, Tinkler Ducket, 
a Fellow of Caius College, in holy orders, was prosecuted in the 
Vice-Chancellor's Court on the twofold charge of proselytizing 
for atheism and of attempting to seduce a " female." In his 
defence he explained that he had been for some time " once 
more a believer in God and Christianity"; but was nevertheless 
expelled. See Monk's Life of Bentlcy, as cited, ii, 391 sq. 

5 

No less marked is the failure to develop the "higher criticism" 
from the notable start made in 1739 in the very remarkable Inquiry 
into the Jeivish and Christian Bcvelations by Samuel Parvish, who 
made the vital discovery that Deuteronomy is a product of the 
seventh century B.C. 1 His book, which is in the form of a dialogue 
between a Christian and a Japanese, went into a second edition 
(1716) ; but bis idea struck too deep for the critical faculty of that 
age, and not till the nineteenth century was the clue found again 
by De Wette, in Germany. 2 Parvish came at the end of tbo main 
deistic movement,'' and by that time the more open-minded men 
had come to a point of view from which it did not greatly matter 
when Deuteronomy was written, or precisely how a cultus was built 
up ; while orthodoxy could not dream of abandoning its view of 
inspiration. There was thus an arrost alike of historical criticism 
and of the higher philosophic thought under the stress of the 
concrete disputes over ethics, miracles, prophecy, and politics ; and 

1 Work cited, p. 32J. The book is now raro. 

1 <]>. Ohcync, Founders <>( obi. Testament Criticism, 1S03. p. '2. 

:; Dr. Cheyne expresses surprise Unit a " theological writer" who iot so far should not 
have been "prompted bv his t;ood Senilis to follow up his advantage." It is, however, 
rather remarkable Unit Parvish, who was a bookseller at Guildford (Alberti, llrirf,; 
p I'i'i), should have achieved what he did. ft was through not bein;4 a theological writer 
that he went so far, no theologian of his clay following him. 



168 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

a habit of taking deity for granted became normal, with the result 
that when the weak point was pressed upon by Law and Butler 
there was a sense of blankness on both sides. But among men 
theistically inclined, the argument of Tindal against revelationism 
was extremely telling, and it had more literary impressiveness than 
any writing on the orthodox side before Butler. By this time 
the philosophic influence of Spinoza seen as early as 1699 in 
Shaftesbury's Inquiry Concerning Virtue, 1 and avowed by Clarke 
when he addressed his Demonstration (1705) " more particularly in 
answer to Mr. Hobbs, Spinoza, and their followers " had spread 
among the studious class, greatly reinforcing the deistic movement ; 
so that in 1732 Berkeley, who ranked him among " weak and wicked 
writers," described him as " the great leader of our modern infidels." 

See the Minute Philosopher, Dial, vii, 29. Similarly Leland, 
in the Supplement (1756) to his View of the Deistical Writers 
(afterwards incorporated as Letter VI), speaks of Spinoza as 
"the most applauded doctor of modern atheism." Sir Leslie 
Stephen's opinion (English Thought, i, 33), that " few of the 
deists, probably," read Spinoza, seems to be thus outweighed. 
If they did not in great numbers read the Ethica, they certainly 
read the Tractatus and the letters. As early as 1677 we find 
Stillingfleet, in the preface to his Letter to a Deist, speaking of 
Spinoza as "a late author [who] I hear is mightily in vogue 
among many who cry up anything on the atheistical side, 
though never so weak and trifling"; and further of a mooted 
proposal to translate the Tractatus Thcologico-Toliticus into 
English. A translation was published in 1689. In 1685 the 
Scotch Professor George Sinclar, in the " Preface to the Reader " 
of his Satan's Divisible World Discovered, writes that " There 
are a monstrous rable of men, who following the Hobbesian and 
Spinosian principles, slight religion and undervalue the Scrip- 
ture," etc. In Gildon's work of recantation, The Deist's Manual 
(1705, p. 192), the indifferent Pleonexus, who " took more 
delight in bags than in books," and demurs to accumulating 
the latter, avows that he has a few, among them being Hobbes 
and Spinoza. Evelyn, writing about 1680-90, speaks of " that 
infamous book, the Tractatus Thcologico-Politicus," as " a 
wretched obstacle to the searchers of holy truth " {The 
History of Picligion, 1850, p. xxvii). Cp. Halyburton, Natural 
Religion Disufjicient, Edinburgh, 1714, p. 31, as to the "great 
vogue among our young Gentry and Students " of Hobbes, 
Spinoza, and others. 



1 See the author's introduction to ed. of the Characteristics, 1900, rep. in Pioneer 
Humanists. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT 1G9 



6 



Among the deists of the upper classes was the young William 
Pitt, afterwards Lord Chatham, if, as has been alleged, it was he 
who in 1733, two years before he entered Parliament, contributed 
to the London Journal a " Letter on Superstition," the work of a 
pronounced freethinker. 1 On the other hand, such deistic writing 
as that with which Chubb, in a multitude of tracts, followed up 
his early Unitarian essay of 1715, brought an ethical " Christian 
rationalism " within the range of the unscholarly many. THOMAS 
MORGAN (d. 1711), a physician, began in the Moral Philosopher, 
1739-1710," to sketch a rationalistic theory of Christian origins, 
besides putting the critical case with new completeness. Morgan 
had been at one time a dissenting minister at Frome, Somerset, and 
had been dismissed because of his deistical opinions. Towards the 
Jehovah and the ethic of the Old Testament ho holds, however, 
the attitude rather of an ancient Gnostic than of a modern 
rationalist ; and in his philosophy he is either a very godly " 
deist or a pantheist miscarried." 

At the same time Peter Annet (1693-1769), a schoolmaster 
and inventor of a system of shorthand, widened the propaganda in 
other directions. He seems to have been the first freethought 
lecturer, for his first pamphlet, Judging for Ourselves : or, Free- 
thinking the Great Duty of Iicligion, " By P. A., Minister of the 
Gospel " (1739), consists of " Two Lectures delivered at Plaisterers' 
Hall." Through all his propaganda, of which the more notable 
portions are his Supernaturals Examined and a series of controversies 
on the Resurrection, there runs a train of shrewd critical sense, put 
forth in crisp and vivacious English, which made him a popular 
force. What he lacked was the duo gravity and dignity for the 
handling of such a theme as the reversal of a nation's faith. Like 
Woolston, ho is facetious where he should be serious ; entertaining 
where he had need be impressive ; provocative where he should have 
aimed at persuasion. We cannot say what types lie influenced, or 
how deep his influence went : it appears only that lie swayed many 
whose suffrages weighed little. At length, when in 1761 he issued 
nine numbers of The Free Inquirer, in which he attacked the 
Pentateuch with much insight and cogency, hut with a certain 



1 Tho question remains obscure, fin. the Letter (sited, reprinted at end of Carver's 
1H:;o >-.<\. of J'nirie'H Works (New York); F. Thackeray's Life of Chatham, ii, JOj ; and 
Chatham's "scalpinU-knife " speech. 

- A Vindication of the. Moral I'hilonoplier appeared iu 1711. 

:; Cp. Lechler, pp. Ii71, UbG. 



170 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

want of rational balance (shown also in his treatise, Social Bliss 
Considered, 1749), he was made a victim of the then strengthened 
spirit of persecution, being sentenced to stand thrice in the pillory 
with the label " For Blasphemy," and to suffer a year's hard labour. 
Nevertheless, he was popular enough to start a school on his release. 
Such popularity, of course, was alien to the literary and social 
traditions of the century ; and from the literary point of view the 
main line of deistic propaganda, as apart from the essays and 
treatises of Hume and the posthumous works of Bolingbroke, ends 
with the younger HENRY DODWELL'S (anonymous) ironical essay, 
Christianity not Founded on Argument (1741). So rigorously con- 
gruous is the reasoning of that brilliant treatise that some have not 
quite unjustifiably taken it for the work of a dogmatic believer, 
standing at some such position as that taken up before him by Huet, 
and in recent times by Cardinal Newman. 1 He argues, for instance, 
not merely that reason can yield none of the confidence which 
belongs to true faith, but that it cannot duly strengthen the moral 
will against temptations. 2 But the book at once elicited a number of 
replies, all treating it unhesitatingly as an anti-Christian work ; 
and Leland assails it as bitterly as he does any openly freethinking 
treatise. 3 Its thesis might have been seriously supported by refer- 
ence to the intellectual history of the preceding thirty years, wherein 
much argument had certainly failed to establish the reigning creed 
or to discredit the unbelievers. 

? 7 

Of the work done by English deism thus far, it may suffice to 
say that within two generations it had more profoundly altered the 
intellectual temper of educated men than any religious movement 
had ever done in the same time. This appears above all from the 
literature produced by orthodoxy in reply, where the mere defensive 
resort to reasoning, apart from the accounts of current rationalism, 
outgoes anything in the previous history of literature. The whole 
evolution is a remarkable instance of the effect on intellectual 
progress of the diversion of a nation's general energy from war and 
intense political faction to mental activities. A similar diversion 
had taken place at the Restoration, to be followed by a return to 
civil and foreign strife, which arrested it. It was in the closing 
years of Anne, and in the steady regime of Walpole under the first 
two Georges, that the ferment worked at its height. Collins's 

i Cp. Cairns, Unbelief in the Eighteenth Century, 1881, p. 101. 

- Ed. 1741, p. 30 sq. 3 View of tltc Deistical Writers, Letter XI (X in 1st cd.). 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT 171 

Discourse of Frectliinking was synchronous with the Peaco of 
Utrecht : the era of war re-opened in 1739, much against the will 
of Walpole, who resigned in 1712. Home and foreign wars there- 
after became common ; and in 1751 Clive opened the period of 
imperialistic expansion, determining national developments on that 
main line, concurrently with that of the new industry. Could the 
discussion have been continuous could England have remained 
what she was in the main deistic period, a workshop of investigation 
and a battleground of ideas all European development might have 
been indefinitely hastened. But the deists, for the most part 
educated men appealing to educated men or to the shrewdest 
readers among the artisans, had not learned to reckon with the 
greater social forces ; and beyond a certain point they could not 
affect England's intellectual destinies. 

It is worse than idle to argue that " the true cause of the decay 
of deism is to be sought in its internal weakness," in the sense that 
it was not rooted in the deepest convictions, nor associated with 
the most powerful emotions of its adherents." 1 No such charge can 
be even partially proved. The deists were at least as much in 
earnest as two-thirds of the clergy : the determining difference, in 
this regard, was the economic basis of the latter, and their social 
hold of an ignorant population. The clergy, who could not argue the 
deists down in the court of culture, had in their own jurisdiction the 
great mass of the uneducated lower classes, and the great mass of 
the women of all classes, whom the ideals of the age kept uneducated, 
with a difference. And while the more cultured clergy were them- 
selves in large measure deists, the majority, in the country parishes, 
remained uncritical and unreflective, caring little even to cultivate 
belief among their flocks. The " contempt of the clergy " which had 
subsisted from the middle of the seventeenth century (if, indeed, it 
should not be dated from the middle of the sixteenth) meant among 
other things that popular culture remained on a lower plane. With 
the multitude remaining a ready hotbed for new ' enthusiasm," and 
the women of the middle and upper orders no less ready nurturers of 
new generations of young believers, the work of emancipation was 
but begun when deism was made ' fashionable." And with England 
on the way to a new era at once of industrial and imperial expansion, 
in which the energies that for a generation had made her a leader of 
European thought were diverted to arms and to commerce, the critical 
and rationalizing work of the deistical generation could not go on as 

1 Sir Leslie Stephen, English Thought, i, UY.I. 



172 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

it had begun. That generation left its specific mark on the statute- 
book in a complete repeal of the old laws relating to witchcraft ; on 
literature in a whole library of propaganda and apology ; on moral 
and historic science in a new movement of humanism, which was to 
find its check in the French Revolution. 

How it affected the general intelligence for good may be partly 
gathered from a comparison of the common English political attitudes 
towards Ireland in the first and the last quarters of the century. 
Under William was wrought the arrest of Irish industry and 
commerce, begun after the Restoration ; under Anne were enacted 
the penal laws against Catholics as signal an example of religious 
iniquity as can well be found in all history. By the middle of the 
century these laws had become anachronisms for all save bigots. 

" The wave of freethought that was spreading over Europe 
and permeating its literature had not failed to affect Ireland. 

An atmosphere of skepticism was fatal to the Penal Code. 

"What element of religious persecution there had been in it had 
long ceased to be operative" (R. Dunlop, in Camb. Mod. Hist. 
vi, 489). Macaulay's testimony on this head is noteworthy : 
" The philosophy of the eighteenth century had purified English 
Whiggism of the deep taint of intolerance which had been con- 
tracted during a long and close alliance with the Puritanism of 
the eighteenth century" (History, ch. xvii, end). 

The denunciations of the penal laws by Arthur Young in 1780 2 
are the outcome of two generations of deistic thinking ; the spirit of 
religion has been ousted by judgment. 3 Could that spirit have had 
freer play, less hindrance from blind passion, later history would 
have been a happier record. But for reasons lying in the environ- 
ment as well as in its own standpoint, deism was not destined to rise 
on continuous stepping-stones to social dominion. 

Currency has been given to a misconception of intellectual 
history by the authoritative statement that in the deistic con- 
troversy " all that was intellectually venerable in England " 
appeared " on the side of Christianity " (Sir Leslie Stephen, 
English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, i, 8G). The same 
thing, in effect, is said by Lecky : " It was to repel these [deistic] 
attacks [' upon the miracles '] that the evidential school arose, 
and the annals of religious controversy narrate few more complete 
victories than they achieved " (Else caul Influence of Rationalism, 
pop. ed. i, 175). The proposition seems to be an echo of orthodox 

1 Act 9th, Geo. II (1736), ch. 5. ' A Tour in Ireland, eel. 1802, ii. 50-72. 

:i Young at this period was entirely secular in his thinking. Tolling of his recovery 
from a fever in 1790, he writes : " I fear that not one thought of God ever occurred to me 
at that time" (Autobiography, 1898, p. 188). Afterwards he fell into religious melancholia 
(Introd. note of editor). 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 173 

historiography, as Buckle had before written in his note-book : 
"In England skepticism made no head. Such men as Toland 
and Tindal, Collins, Shaftesbury, Woolston, were no match for 
Clarke, Warburton, and Lardner. They could make no head 
till the time of Middleton " (Misc. Works, abridged ed. i, 321) 
a strain of assertion which clearly proceeds on no close study of 
the period. In the first place, all the writing on the freethinking 
side was done under peril of Blasphemy Laws, and under menace 
of all the calumny and ostracism that in Christian society follow 
on advanced heresy ; while the orthodox side could draw on the 
entire clerical profession, over ten thousand strong, and trained 
for and pledged to defence of the faith. Yet, when all is said, 
the ordinary list of deists amply suffices to disprove Sir L. 
Stephen's phrase. His " intellectually venerable " list runs : 
Bentley, Locke, Berkeley, Clarke, Butler, Waterland, War- 
burton, Sherlock, Gibson, Conybeare, Smalbroke, Leslie, Law, 
Leland, Lardner, Foster, Doddridge, Lyttelton, Barrington, 
Addison, Pope, Swift. He might have added Newton and 
Boyle. Sykes, 1 Balguy, Stebbing, and a " host of others," he 
declares to be " now for the most part as much forgotten as 
their victims"; Young and Blackmore he admits to be in 
similar case. It is expressly told of Doddridge, he might have 
added, that whereas that well-meaning apologist put before 
his students at Northampton the ablest writings both for and 
against Christianity, leaving them to draw their own conclusions, 
many of his pupils, " on leaving his institution, became confirmed 
Arians and Socinians " (Nichols in App. P to Life of Arminius 
Works of Arminius, 1825, i, 223-25). This hardly spells 
success." All told, the list includes only three or four men of 
any permanent interest as thinkers, apart from Newton ; and 
only three or four more important as writers. The description 
of Waterland," Warburton, 4 Smalbroke, 5 Sherlock, Leslie, and 
half-a-dozen more as " intellectually venerable " is grotesquo ; 
even Bentley is a strange subject for veneration. 

On the other hand, the list of " the despised deists," who 
" make but a poor show when compared with this imposing 
list," runs thus : Herbert, Ilobbcs, Blount, Halley (well known 
to he an unbeliever, though he did not write on the subject), 

1 Really an abler man than half the others in the list, but himself a Rood deal of a 
heretic. So far from attempting to make "victims," he pleaded lor a more candid 
treatment of deistic objections. 

- Uoddridgc himself was not theologically orthodox, but was an evangelical Christian. 
Dr. Stoughton, Urliginn in Knylmul under Queen Anne and the Gear urn, 1K7H, i, 3M-l(i. 

:i Whose doctrine Sir Leslie Stephen elsewhere (]>. 25N) calls a "brutal theology which 
gloried in trampling on the best instincts of its opponents," and a "most unlovely product 
of eighteenth-century speculation." 

1 Of Warburton Sir Leslie writes elsewhere- (p. 35:!) that "this colossus was built up of 
rubbish." See p. 3.12 for samples. Again lie speaks I p. 3liN) of the bishop's pretensions as 
"colossal impudence." It, should be noted, further, that Warlmrton's teaching in the 
Divine Lriintiim was a gross heresy in the eyes of William l,aw, who in his Short but 
Sujiirt'iil ('ci)ifutatiun pronounced its main thesis a " most horrible doctrine." Ed. 1708, 
as cited, i, 217. 

1 As to whose "senile incompetence" see same vol. p. '231. 



174 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Toland, Shaftesbury, Collins, Mandeville, Tindal, Chubb, Morgan, 
Dodwell, Middleton, Hume, Bolingbroke, Gibbon. It would be 
interesting to know on what principles this group is excluded 
from the intellectual veneration so liberally allotted to the otber. 
It is nothing to the purpose that Shaftesbury and Mandeville 
wrote " covertly " and " indirectly." The law and the conditions 
compelled them to do so. It is still more beside the case to say 
that " Hume can scarcely be reckoned among the deists. He is 
already [when?] emerging into a higber atmosphere." Hume 
wrote explicitly as a deist ; and only in his posthumous Dialogues 
did he pass on to the atheistic position. At no time, moreover, 
was he " on the side of Christianity." On the other hand, Locke 
and Clarke and Pope were clearly " emerging into a higher atmo- 
sphere " than Christianity, since Locke is commonly reckoned 
by the culture-historians, and even by Sir Leslie Stephen, as 
making for deism ; Pope was the pupil of Bolingbroke, and wrote 
as such ; and Clarke was shunned as an Arian. Newton, again, 
was a Unitarian, and Leibnitz accused his system of making 
for irreligion. It would be hard to show, further, who are the 
" forgotten victims " of Balguy and the rest. Balguy criticized 
Shaftesbury, whose name is still a good deal better known than 
Balguy's. The main line of deists is pretty well remembered. 
And if we pair off Hume against Berkeley, Hobbes against 
Locke, Middleton (as historical critic) against Bentley, Shaftes- 
bury against Addison, Mandeville against Swift, Bolingbroke 
against Butler, Collins against Clarke, Plerbert against Lyttelton, 
Tindal against Waterland, and Gibbon against shall we say? 
Warburton, it hardly appears that the overplus of merit goes as 
Sir Leslie Stephen alleges, even if we leave Newton, with brain 
unhinged, standing against Halley. The statement that the 
deists "are but a ragged regiment," and that "in speculative 
ability most of them were children by the side of their ablest 
antagonists," is simply unintelligible unless the names of all 
the ablest deists are left out. Locke, be it remembered, did 
not live to meet the main deistic attack on Christianity ; and Sir 
Leslie admits the weakness of his pro-Christian performance. 

The bases of Sir Leslie Stephen's verdict may be tested by 
his remarks that ' Collins, a respectable country gentleman, 
showed considerable acuteness ; Toland, a poor denizen of Grub 
Street, and Tindal, a Bellow of All Souls, made a certain display 
of learning, and succeeded in planting some effective arguments." 
Elsewhere (pp. 217-227) Sir Leslie admits that Collins had the 
best of the argument against his "venerable" opponents on 
Prophecy ; and Huxley credits him with equal success in the 
argument with Clarke. The work of Collins on Human Liberty, 
praised by a long series of students and experts, and entirely 
above the capacity of Bentley, is philosophically as durable as 
any portion of Locke, who made Collins his chosen friend and 



BEITISII FREETHOUGHT 175 

trustee, and who did not live to meet his anti-Biblical arguments. 
Tindal, who had also won Locke's high praise by his political 
essays, profoundly influenced such a student as Laukhard 
(Lechler, p. -451). And Toland, whom even Mr. A. S. Farrar 
(Bampton Lectures, p. 179) admitted to possess " much 
originality and learning," has struck Lange as a notable 
thinker, though ho was a poor man. Leibnitz, who answered 
him, praises his acuteness, as does Pusey, who further admits 
the uncommon ability of Morgan and Collins {Ilistor. Enq. 
into Herman nationalism, 1828, p. 126). It is time that the 
conventional English standards in these matters should be 
abandoned by modern rationalists. 

The unfortunate effect of Sir Leslie Stephen's dictum is seen 
in the assertion of Prof. Hoffding (Hist, of Modem Philos. 
Eng. -tr. 1900, i, 103), that Sir Leslie "rightly remarks of 
the English deists that they were altogether inferior to their 
adversaries"; and further (p. 40o), that by the later deists, 
"Collins, Tindal, Morgan, etc., the dispute as to miracles 
was carried on with great violence." It is here evident that 
Prof. Hoffding has not read the writers he depreciates, for 
those he names were far from being violent. Had he known 
the literature, he would have named Woolston, not Collins and 
Tindal and Morgan. He is merely echoing, without inquiring 
for himself, a judgment which he regards as authoritative. In 
the same passage he declares that " only one of all the men 
formerly known as the English deists ' [Toland] has rendered 
contributions of any value to the history of thought." If this 
is said with a knowledge of the works of Collins, Shaftesbury, 
and Mandeville, it argues a sad lack of critical judgment. But 
there is reason to infer here also that Prof. Hoffding writes in 
ignorance of the literature lie discusses. 

While some professed rationalists thus belittle a series of 
pioneers who did so much to make later rationalism possible, 
some eminent theologians do them justice. Thus does Prof. 
Chcyne begin his series of lectures on Founders of Old Testament 
Criticism (1893) : " A well-known and honoured representative 
of progressive German orthodoxy (J. A. Dorner) has set a fine 
example of historical candour by admitting the obligations of 
his country to a much-disliked form of English heterodoxy. 
He says that English deism, which found so many apt disciples 
in Germany, ' by clearing away dead matter, prepared the way 
for a reconstruction of theology from the very depths of the 
heart's beliefs, and also subjected man's nature to stricter 
observation.' This, however, as it appears to me, is a very 
inadequate description of the facts. It was not merely a new 

' History of 1'rotrstant ThrulntpJ, V.nti. tr. ii. 77. For the influence of ileism on 
florniany, see Tholuck {Vertiu ulttt Scliriften, lid. ii) and ljuchlcr (Ocucti. den cituUachcn 
I) i must. Soto by Dr. Chvynu. 



176 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

constructive stage of German theoretic theology, and a keener 
psychological investigation, for which deism helped to prepare 
the way, but also a great movement, which has in our own 
day become in a strict sense international, concerned with the 
literary and historical criticism of the Scriptures. Beyond all 
doubt, the Biblical discussions which abound in the works of 
the deists and their opponents contributed in no slight degree 
to the development of that semi-apologetic criticism of the Old 
Testament of which J. D. Michaelis, and in some degree even 

Eichhorn, were leading representatives It is indeed singular 

that deism should have passed away in England without having 
produced a great critical movement among ourselves." Not 
quite so singular, perhaps, when we note that in our own day 
Sir Leslie Stephen and Lecky and Prof. Hoffding could sum up 
the work of the deists without a glance at what it meant for 
Biblical criticism. 



If we were to set up a theory of intellectual possibilities from 
what has actually taken place in the history of thought, and without 
regard to the economic and political conditions above mentioned, we 
might reason that deism failed permanently to overthrow the current 
creed because it was not properly preceded by discipline in natural 
science. There might well be stagnation in the higher criticism of 
the Hebrew Scriptures when all natural science was still coloured by 
them. In nothing, perhaps, is the danger of Sacred Books more fully 
exemplified than in their influence for the suppression of true scientific 
thought. A hundredfold more potently than the faiths of ancient 
Greece has that of Christendom blocked the way to all intellectually 
vital discovery. If even the fame and the pietism of Newton could 
not save him from the charge of promoting atheism, much less could 
obscure men hope to set up any view of natural things which clashed 
with pulpit prejudice. But the harm lay deeper, inasmuch as the 
ground was preoccupied by pseudo-scientific theories which were at 
best fanciful modifications of the myths of Genesis. Types of these 
performances are the treatise of Sir Matthew Hale on The Primitive 
Origination of Mankind (1C85) ; Dr. Thomas Burnet's Sacred Theory 
of the Earth (1680-1689) ; and Whiston's New Theory of the Earth 
(1G9G) all devoid of scientific value ; Hale's work being pre-New- 
tonian ; Burnet's anti-Newtonian, though partly critical as regards 
the sources of the Pentateuch ; and AVhiston's a combination of 
Newton and myth with his own quaint speculations. Even the 
Natural History of the Earth of Prof. John Woodward (1695), after 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 177 

recognizing that fossils were really prehistoric remains, decided that 
they were deposited by the Deluge. 1 

Woodward's book is in its own way instructive as regards the 
history of opinion. A " Professor of Physick " in Gresham College, 
F.C.P., and F.R.S., he goes about his work in a methodical and 
ostensibly scientific fashion, colligates the phenomena, examines 
temperately the hypotheses of the many previous inquirers, and 
shows no violence of orthodox prepossession. He claims to have 
considered Closes "only as an historian," and to give him credit 
finally because ho finds his narrative " punctually true." ' He had 
before him an abundance of facts irreconcilable with the explanation 
offered by the Flood story ; yet he actually adds to that myth a 
thesis of universal decomposition and dissolution of the earth's strata 
by the flood's action'' a hypothesis far more extravagant than any 
of those ho dismissed. With all his method and scrutiny ho had 
remained possessed by the tradition, and could not cast it off. It 
would seem as if such a book, reducing the tradition to an absurdity, 
was bound at least to put its more thoughtful readers on the right 
track. But the legend remained in possession of the general 
intelligence as of Woodward's ; and beyond his standpoint science 
made little advance for many years. Moral and historical criticism, 
then, as regards some main issues, had gone further than scientific ; 
and men's flunking on certain problems of cosmic philosophy was 
thus arrested for lack of due basis or discipline in experiential science. 
The final account of the arrest of exact Biblical criticism in the 
eighteenth century, however, is that which explains also the arrest 
of the sciences. English energy, broadly speaking, was diverted 
into other channels. In the age of Chatham it became more and 
more military and industrial, imperialist and commercial; and the 
scientific work of Newton was considerably less developed by 
English hands than was the critical work of the first deists. 
Long before the French Revolution, mathematical and astronomical 
science were being advanced by French minds, the English doing 
nothing. Lagrange and Elder, Clairaut and D'Alembert, carried on 
the task, till Laplace consummated it in his great theory, which is 
to Newton's what Newton's was to that of Copernicus. It was 
Frenchmen, freethinkers to a man, who built up the new astronomy, 
while England was producing only eulogies of Newton's greatness. 
No British name is ever mentioned in the list of mathematicians 

1 An Kmv-iu tmonrilx a Natural History of the Earth, 3rd od. 17-23, prof, and pp. 16 sq., 
77 .'/. (.']). WhiU;, Warfare of 'Science with Tlicolonu, i,'2-27. 

- Knd of prof. > Work cited, p. 85. 

YOU II N 



178 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

who followed Newton in his brilliant career and completed the 
magnificent edifice of which he laid the foundation." l " Scotland 
contributed her Maclaurin, but England no European name."' 2 
Throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century " there was 
hardly an individual in this country who possessed an intimate 
acquaintance with the methods of investigation which had con- 
ducted the foreign mathematicians to so many sublime results." 
' The English mathematicians seem to have been so dazzled with the 
splendour of Newton's discoveries that they never conceived them 
capable of being extended or improved upon "; 4 and Newton's name 
was all the while vaunted, unwarrantably enough, as being on the 
side of Christian orthodoxy. Halley's great hypothesis of the motion 
of the solar system in space, put forward in 1718, borne out by 
Cassini and Le Monnier, was left to be established by Mayer of 
Gottingen. 5 There was nothing specially incidental to deism, then, 
in the non-development of the higher criticism in England after 
Collins and Parvish, or in the lull of critical speculation in the latter 
half of the century. It was part of a general social readjustment in 
which English attention was turned from the mental life to the 
physical, from intension of thought to extension of empire. 

Playfair (as cited, p. 39 ; Brewster, Memoirs of Ncicton, i, 348, 
note) puts forward the theory that the progress of the higher 
science in France was duo to the ' small pensions and great 
honours " bestowed on scientific men by the Academy of 
Sciences. The lack of such an institution in England lie traces 
to mercantile prejudices," without explaining these in their 
turn. They are to be understood as the consequences of the 
special expansion of commercial and industrial life in England 
in the eighteenth century, when France, on the contrary, losing 
India and North America, had her energies in a proportional 
degree thrown back on the life of the mind. French freethought, 
it will be observed, expanded with science, while in England there 
occurred, not a spontaneous reversion to orthodoxy any more 
than a surrender of the doctrine of Newton, but a general 
turning of attention in other directions. It is significant that 
the most important names in the literature of deism after 1710 
are those of Hume and Smith, late products of the intellectual 
atmosphere of pre-industrial Scotland ; of Bolingbroke, an 
aristocrat of the deistic generation, long an exile in France, 
w r ho left his works to be published after his death ; and of 
Gibbon, who also breathed the intellectual air of France. 

1 Playfair, in the Edinburgh Review, January, 180S, cited by Brewster, Memoirs of 
Newton, 1855, i, 317. ' 2 Brewster, as last cited. 

3 Grant, History of Physical Astronomy, 1S52, p. 10S. 

4 Baden Powell, Hint, of Nat. Philos. 1834, p. 363. 
Brewster, More Worlds than One, 1854, p. 111. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 179 

9 

It has been commonly assumed that after Chubb and Morgan the 
deistic movement in England " decayed," or " passed into skepticism " 
with Hume ; and that the decay was mainly owing to the persuasive 
effect of Bishop Butler's Analogy (173G). 1 This appears to be a 
complete misconception, arising out of the habit of looking to the 
mere succession of books without considering their vogue and the 
accompanying social conditions. Butler's book had very little 
influence till long after his death," being indeed very ill-fitted to 
turn contemporary deists to Christianity. It does but develop one 
form of the skeptical argument for faith, as Berkeley had developed 
another ; and that form of reasoning never does attain to anything 
better than a success of despair. The main argument being that 
natural religion is open to the same objections as revealed, on the 
score (l) of the inconsistency of Nature with divine benevolence, and 
(2) that we must be guided in opinion as in conduct by probability, 
a Mohammedan could as well use the theorem for the Koran as 
could a Christian for the Bible ; and the argument against the 
justice of Nature tended logically to atheism. But the deists had 
left to them the resource of our modern theists that of surmising a 
beneficence above human comprehension ; and it is clear that if 
Butler made any converts they must have been of a very unenthu- 
siastic kind. It is therefore safe to say with Pattison that " To 
whatever causes is to be attributed the decline of deism from 1750 
onwards, the books polemically written against it cannot be reckoned 
among them." ' 

On the other hand, even deists who were affected by the plea 
that the Bible need not be more consistent and satisfactory than 
Nature, could find refuge in Unitarianism, a creed which, as indus- 
triously propounded by Priestley' 1 towards the end of the century, 
made a numerical progress out of all proportion to that of orthodoxy. 
The argument of William Law,'"' again, which insisted on the irrecon- 
cilability of the course of things with human reason, and called for 

1 Sir Jamns Stephen, TTortr. Sabbaticce, ii, 281; Lechler, p. 451. 
'' See rletails in Dynamics of Hr.lioion, eh. viii. 



- nee uciaus in i/i/nn mics iij nrttriinii, en. viii, 

'< Kssay on " Tendencies of Religious Thought in England: 1GSS-1750," in Essays an 
Rp.vii ir.s, r jth ed. p. :;ui. 

4 In criticizing whom Sir Leslie Stephen barely notices his scientific work, but 
much fni his religious fallacies a course which would make short work of the f( 
Newton. 



1 wells 
line Of 



180 EIGHTEENTH CENTUKY 

an abject submission to revelation, could appeal only to minds 
already thus prostrate. Both his and Butler's methods, in fact, 
prepared the way for HUME. And in the year 1741, five years after 
the issue of the Analogy and seven before the issue of Hume's 
Essay on Miracles, we find the thesis of that essay tersely affirmed 
in a note to Book II of an anonymous translation (ascribed to 
T. Fraxcklix) of Cicero's Dc Natura Deorum. 

The passage is worth comparing with Hume: "Hence we 
see what little credit ought to be paid to facts said to be done 
out of the ordinary course of nature. These miracles [cutting 
the whetstone, etc., related by Cicero, Dc Div. i, c. xvii] are well 
attested. They were recorded in the annals of a great people, 
believed by many learned and otherwise sagacious persons, and 
received as religious truths by the populace ; but the testimonies 
of ancient records, the credulity of some learned men, and the 
implicit faith of the vulgar, can never prove that to have been, 
which is impossible in the nature of tilings ever to be." M. Tullius 

Cicero Of the Nature of the Gods with Notes, London, 1741, 

p. 85. It does not appear to have been noted that in regard 
to this as to another of his best-known theses, Hume develops 
a proposition laid down before him. 

What Hume did was to elaborate the skeptical argument with a 
power and fullness which forced attention once for all, alike in England 
and on the Continent. It is not to be supposed, however, that 
Hume's philosophy, insofar as it was strictly skeptical that is, 
suspensory drew away deists from their former attitude of con- 
fidence to one of absolute doubt. Nor did Hume ever aim at such a 
result. What he did was to countermine the mines of Berkeley and 
others, who, finding their supra-rational dogmas set aside by ration- 
alism, deistic or atheistic, sought to discredit at once deistic and 
atheistic philosophies based on study of the external world, and to 
establish their creed anew on the basis of their subjective conscious- 
ness. As against that method, Hume showed the futility of all 
apriorism alike, destroying the sham skepticism of the Christian 
theists by forcing their method to its conclusions. If the universe 
was to be reduced to a mere contingent of consciousness, he calmly 
showed, consciousness itself was as easily reducible, on the same 
principles, to a mere series of states. Idealistic skepticism, having 
disposed of the universe, must make short work of the hypostatized 
process of perception. Hume, knowing that strict skepticism is 
practically null in life, counted on leaving the ground cleared for 
experiential rationalism. And he did, insofar as he was read. His 
essay, Of Miracles (with the rest of the Inquiries of 1748-1751, 



BKITISH FEEETHOUGHT 181 

which recast his early Treatise of Human Nature, 1739), posits a 
principle valid against all supernaturalism whatever ; while his 
Natural History of Religion (1757), though affirming deism, rejected 
the theory of a primordial monotheism, and laid the basis of the 
science of Comparative Ilierology. 1 Finally, his posthumous 
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779) admit, though in- 
directly, the untenableness of deism, and fall back decisively upon 
the atheistic or agnostic position. 2 Like Descartes, he lacked the 
heroic fibre ; but like him he recast philosophy for modern Europe ; 
and its subsequent course is but a development of or a reaction 
against his work. 

10 

It is remarkable that this development of opinion took place in 
that part of the British Islands where religious fanaticism had gone 
furthest, and speccli and thought were socially least free. Free- 
thought in Scotland before the middle of the seventeenth century 
can have existed only as a thing furtive and accursed; and though, 
as we have seen from the Religio Stoici of Sir George Mackenzie, 
unbelief had emerged in some abundance at or before the Restoration, 
only wealthy men could dare openly to avow their deism. 3 Early in 
1697 the clergy had actually succeeded in getting a lad of eighteen, 
Thomas Aikenhead, hanged for professing deism in general, and in 
particular for calling the Old Testament " Ezra's Fables," ridiculing 
the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and expressing the 
hope and belief that Christianity would be extinct within a century. 4 
The spirit of the prosecution may be gathered from the facts that 
the boy broke down and pleaded penitence, 5 and that the statute 
enacted the capital penalty only for obstinately persisting in the 
denial of any of the persons of the Trinity. 6 He had talked reck- 

1 The general reader should take note that in A. Murray's issue of Hume's Essays 
(afterwards published by Ward, Lock, and Co.), which omits altogether the essays on 
Miracles and a Future State, the Natural History of Religion is much mutilated, though 
the book professes to bo a verbatim reprint. 

- Even before his death he was suspected of that view. When his collin was being 
carried from his house for interment, one of "the refuse of the rabble" is said to have 
remarked, "Ah, lie was an atheist." "No matter," replied another, "he was an honest 
man " (Curious Particulars, etc., respecting Chesterfield and Hume, 1788, p. 15). 

:; See Burton, Hist, of Scotland, viii, 54VH50, as to the case of l'iteairne. 

1 Howell's Statu Trials, xiii (1812). coll. 917-38. 

5 Macaulay, History, ch. xxii ; student's ed. ii, (>J0--21 ; Burton, History of Scotland, viii, 
70-77. Aikenhead seems to have been a boy of unusual if unbalanced capacity, even by 
the bullying account of .Macaulay, who missed no opportunity to cover himself by stoning 
heretics. See the boys arguments on the bases of ethics, set forth in his " dying speech," 
as cited by Halyburton, Natural lieligion Insufjicieut, 1711, pp. ll'J-23, 131, and the version 
in the State Trials, xiii, 'MU 31. 

,; Macaulay ascribes the savagery of the prosecution to the Bord Advocate, Kir James 
Stewart, "as cruel as lie was base"; but a letter printed in the State Trials, from a 
member of the l'rivy Council, says the sentence would have been (.'unlimited if "the 
ministers would intercede." They, however, "spoke and preached for cutting him off." 
Trials, xiii.'JJU; Burton, viii, 77. 



182 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

lessly against the current creed among youths about his own age, 
one of whom was in Locke's opinion " the decoy who gave him the 
books and made him speak as he did." 1 It would appear that a 
victim was very much wanted ; and Aikenhead was not allowed the 
help of a counsel. It is characteristic of the deadening effect of 
dogmatic religion on the heart that an act of such brutish cruelty 
elicited no cry of horror from any Christian writer. At this date 
the clergy were hounding on the Privy Council to new activity 
in trying witches ; and all works of supposed heretical tendency 
imported from England were confiscated in the Edinburgh shops, 
among them being Thomas Burnet's Sacred Theory of the Earth: 
Scottish intellectual development had in fact been arrested by the 
Reformation, so that, save for Napier's Logarithms (1614) and such 
a political treatise as Rutherford's Lex Bex (1644), the nation of 
Dunbar and Lyndsay produced for two centuries no secular literature 
of the least value, and not even a theology of any enduring interest. 
Deism, accordingly, seems in the latter half of the seventeenth and 
the early part of the eighteenth century to have made fully as much 
progress in Scotland as in England ; and the bigoted clergy could 
offer little intellectual resistance. 

As early as 1696 the Scottish General Assembly, with theo- 
logical candour, passed an Act " against the Atheistical opinions 
of the Deists." {Abridgment of the Acts of the General Assemblies, 
1721, pp. 16, 76 ; Cunningham, Hist, of the Ch. of Scotland, ii, 
313.) The opinions specified were " The denying of all revealed 

religion, the grand mysteries of the gospels the resurrection 

of the dead, and, in a word, the certainty and authority of 
Scripture revelation ; as also, their asserting that there must 

be a mathematical evidence for each purpose and that 

Natural Light is sufficient to Salvation." All this is deism, 
pure and simple. But Sir W. Anstruther (a judge in the Court 
of Session), in the preface to his Essays Moral and Divine, 
Edinburgh, 1710, speaks of " the spreading contagion of 
atheism, which threatens the ruin of our excellent and holy 
religion." To atheism he devotes two essays ; and neither in 
these nor in one on the Incarnation does he discuss deism, the 
arguments he handles being really atheistic. Scottish free- 
thought would seem thus to have gone further than English at 
the period in question. 

As to the prevalence of deism, however, see the posthumous 
work of Prof. Halyburton, of St. Andrews, Natural lieligion 

1 Letter to Sir Francis Mashara, printed in the State Trials, xiii, 9-28-29 evidently 
written by Locke, who seems to have preserved all the papers printed by Howell. 

- Macaulay, as cited. In 1G81 one Francis liorthwiek, who had gone abroad at the age 
of fourteen and turned Jew, was accused of blaspheming Jesus, and had to lly for his life, 
being outlawed. State Trials, as cited, col. 939. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 183 

Insufficient (Edinburgh, 1714), Epist. of Recom. ; prof. pp. 25, 27, 
and pp. 8, 15, 19, 23, 31, etc. Halyburton's treatise is interesting 
as showing the psychological state of argumentative Scotch 
orthodoxy in his day. He professes to repel the deistical 
argument throughout by reason ; he follows Huet, and concurs 
with Berkeley in contending that mathematics involves anti- 
rational assumptions ; and lie takes entire satisfaction in the 
execution of the lad Aikenhead for deism. Yet in a second 
treatise, An Essay Concerning the Nature of Faith, he contends, 
as against Locke and the " Rationalists," that the power to 
believe in the word of God is "expressly deny'd to man in his 
natural estate," and is a supernatural gift. Thus the Calvinists, 
like Baxter, were at bottom absolutely insincero in their pro- 
fession to act upon reason, while insolently charging insincerity 
on others. 

Even apart from deism there had arisen a widespread aversion 
to dogmatic theology and formal creeds, so that an apologist of 1715 
speaks of his day as "a time when creeds and Confessions of Faith 
arc so generally decried, and not only exposed to contempt, as useless 

inventions but are loaded by many writers of distinguished wit 

and learning with the most fatal and dangerous consequences." 
This writer admits the intense bitterness of the theological disputes 
of the time ; 2 and he speaks, on the other hand, of seeing " the most 
sacred mysteries of godliness impudently denied and impugned" by 
some, while the "distinguishing doctrines of Christianity are by 
others treacherously undermined, subtili/ed into an airy phantom, 
or at least doubted, if not disclaimed." 3 His references are probably 
to works published in England, notably those of Locke, Toland, 
Shaftesbury, and Collins, since in Scotland no such literature could 
then be published ; but he doubtless has an eye to Scottish opinion. 

While, however, the rationalism of the time could not take book 
form, there are clear traces of its existence among educated men, 
even apart from the general complaints of tire apologists. Thus the 
Professor of Medicine at Glasgow University in the opening years 
of the eighteenth century, John Johnston, was a known freethinker.' 
In the way of moderate or Christian rationalism, the teaching of 
the prosecuted Simson seems to have counted for something, seeing 
that Francis Hutcheson at least imbibed from him " liberal" views 
about future punishment and the salvation of the heathen, which 

1 A Vail Account of the. Several Ends and Uses of Confession a of Fttith, first published 
in 171'J as a preface to a Collection of Confessions of Faith, by I'rof. W. Dunbar, of 
Edinburgh University, 3rd ed. 1775, p. 1. 

Work cited, p. 4H. :! Id. p. 108. 

1 Scotland and Scotsmen in the. Eighteenth Centura. From the AISS. of John Kanisiiy, 
of Ociitertyre, IKH4, i, '277. kamsay describes Johnston as a "joyous, manly, honourable 
man," of whom Karnes " was exceedingly fond" (p, -27b). 



184 EIGHTEENTH CENTUKY 

gave much offence in the Presbyterian pulpit in Ulster. 1 And 

Hutcheson's later vindication of the ethical system of Shaftesbury 

in his Inquiry Concerning the Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725) must 

have tended to attract attention in Scotland to the Characteristics 

after his instalment as a Professor at Glasgow. In an English 

pamphlet, in 1732, he was satirize! as introducing Shaftesbury's 

system into a University, 2 and it was from the Shaftesbury camp that 

the first literary expression of freethought in Scotland was sent forth. 

A young Scotch deist of that school, William Dudgeon, published in 

1732 a dialogue entitled The State of the Moral World Considered, 

wherein the optimistic position was taken up with uncommon 

explicitness ; and in 1739 the same writer printed A Catechism 

Founded upon Experience and Reason, prefaced by an Introductory 

Letter on Natural Eeligion, which takes a distinctly anti-clerical 

attitude. The Catechism answers to its title, save insofar as it is 

a priori in its theism and optimistic in its ethic, as is another work 

of its author in the same year, A View of the Necessarian or Best 

Scheme, defending the Shaftesburyan doctrine against the criticism 

of Crousaz on Pope's Essay. Still more heterodox is his little 

volume of Philosophical Letters Concerning the Being and Attributes 

of God (1737), where the doctrine goes far towards pantheism. All 

this propaganda seems to have elicited only one printed reply an 

attack on his first treatise in 1732. In the letter prefaced to his 

Catechism, however, he tells that " the bare suspicion of my not 

believing the opinions in fashion in our country hath already caused 

me sufficient trouble."' His case had in fact been raised in the 

Church courts, the proceedings going through many stages in the 

years 1732-3G ; but in the end no decision was taken, 4 and the 

special stress of his rationalism in 1739 doubtless owes something 

alike to the prosecution and to its collapse. Despite such hostility, 

he must privately have had fair support. 

The prosecution of Hutcheson before the Glasgow Presbytery in 
1738 reveals vividly the theological temper of the time. He was 
indicted for teaching to his students "the following two false and 
dangerous doctrines : first, that the standard of moral goodness was 
the promotion of the happiness of others ; and, second, that we could 



1 W. R. Scott, Francis Hutcheson, 1900, pp. 15, 20-21. 2 Id. p. 52. 

:i Cp. Alberti, Briefe betreffende den Zustand der Religion in Gros8-lirittannien,ll52, 
pp. 430-31. 

> See Dr. McCosh's Scottish Philosophy, 1S75, pp. 111-13. Dr. McCosh notes that at 
some points Dudgeon anticipated Hume. 

" Dr. .McCosh, however, admits that the absence of the printer's name on the 17G5 
edition of Dudgeon's works shows that there was then no thorough freedom of thought 
in Scotland. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT 185 

have a knowledge of good and evil without and prior to a knowledge 
of God." ' There has been a natural disposition on the orthodox 
side to suppress the fact that such teachings were ever ecclesiastically 
denounced as false, dangerous, and irreligious ; and the prosecution 
seems to have had no effect beyond intensifying the devotion of 
Hutcheson's students. Among them was Adam Smith, of whom it 
has justly been said that, " if he was any man's disciple, he was 
Hutcheson's," inasmuch as he derived from his teacher the bases 
alike of his moral and political philosophy and of his deistic 
optimism. 2 Another prosecution soon afterwards showed that the 
new influences were vitally affecting thought within the Church 
itself. Hutcheson's friend Leechman, whom he and his party 
contrived to elect as professor of theology in Glasgow University, 
was in turn proceeded against (1743-14) for a sermon on Prayer, 
which Hutcheson and his sympathizers pronounced "noble," 3 but 
which " resolved the efficacy of prayer into its reflex influence on 
the mind of the worshipper" 4 a theorem which has chronically 
made its appearance in the Scottish Church ever since, still ranking 
as a heresy, after having brought a clerical prosecution in the last 
century on at least one divine, Prof. William Knight, and rousing 
a scandal against another, the late Dr. Robert Wallace. 

Leechman in turn held his ground, and later became Principal 
of his University ; but still the orthodox in Scotland fought bitterly 
against every semblance of rationalism. Even the anti-deistic essays 
of Lord-President Forbes of Culloden, head of the Court of Session, 
when collected 6 and posthumously published, were offensive to the 
Church as laying undue stress on reason ; as accepting the heterodox 
Biblical theories of Dr. John Hutchinson ; and as making the 
awkward admission that the freethinkers, with all their perversity, 
generally are sensible of the social duties, and act up to them better 
than others do who in other respects think more justly than they." ' 
Such an utterance from such a dignitary told of a profound change ; 
and, largely through the influence of Hutcheson and Leechman on 

1 Rae, Life of Adam Smith, 1895, p. 13. Prof. Fowler shows no knowledge of this 
prosecution in his monograph on Hutcheson {Shaftesbury and Hutclieson, 188-2); and 
Mr. W. K. Scott, in iiis, seems to rely for the wording of the indictment solely on Mr. Kae, 
who gives no references, drawing apparently on unpublished MSS. 

- kae, as cited, pp. 1 1-15. s Scott, as cited, p. 87. 

1 Dr. James Orr, David Hume and his Influence, etc., J<)()3, pp. :i(i-:i7. 

6 Also for a time a theological professor in Kdinburgh University. 

,; The Tim iif/iii s Cinict niuiu lleli'/ion. Natural and lierealed, appeared in 1 T;J~> ; the 
Lfdter to a Jiisliii/j in 17:iJ; and the Uejlectionn on the Source* of htcredulitijiU'U unfinished) 
posthumously about 1750. Forbes in his youth had been famed as one of the hardest 
drinkers of his day. 

1 Rejections on Incredulity, in Works, undated, ii, 111 1-2. Vet the works of Forbes 
were translated for orthodox purposes into German, and later into French by I 'tiro 
Houhinant ( lTtiU), who preserves the passage on freethinkers' moral.., though curtailing 
the Uejlectionn as a whole. 



186 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

a generation of students, the educated Scotland of the latter half of 
the eighteenth century was in large part either "Moderate" or 
deistic. After generations of barren controversy, the very aridity 
of the Presbyterian life intensified the recoil among the educated 
classes to philosophical and historical interests, leading to the 
performances of Hume, Smith, Robertson, Millar, Ferguson, and yet 
others, all rationalists in method and sociologists in their interests. 

Of these, Millar, one of Smith's favourite pupils, and a table- 
talker of " magical vivacity," 2 was known to be rationalistic in a 
high degree; 3 while Smith and Ferguson were certainly deists, as 
was Henry Home (the judge, Lord Kames), who had the distinction 
of being attacked along with his friend Hume in the General 
Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1755-56. Home wrote 
expressly to controvert Hume, alike as to utilitarianism and the 
idea of causation ; but his book, Essays on Morality and Natural 
Religion (published anonymously, 1751), handled the thorny question 
of free-will in such fashion as to give no less offence than Hume had 
done ; and the orthodox bracketed him with the subject of his 
criticism. His doctrine was indeed singular, its purport being that 
there can be no free-will, but that the deity has for wise purposes 
implanted in men the feeling that their wills are free. The fact of 
his having been made a judge of the Court of Session since writing 
his book had probably something to do with the rejection of the 
whole subject by the General Assembly, and afterwards by the 
Edinburgh Presbytery ; but there had evidently arisen a certain 
diffidence in the Church, which would be assiduously promoted by 
"moderates" such as Principal Robertson, the historian. It is 
noteworthy that, while Home and Hume thus escaped, the other 
Home, John, who wrote the then admired tragedy of Douglas, was 
soon after forced to resign his position as a minister of the Church 
for that authorship, deism having apparently more friends in the fold 
tban drama. 4 While the theatre was thus being treated as a place 
of sin, many of the churches in Scotland were the scenes of repeated 
Sunday riots. A new manner of psalm-singing had been introduced, 
and it frequently happened that the congregations divided into two 
parties, each singing in its own way, till they came to blows. 
According to one of Hume's biographers, unbelievers were at this 

i As to which sec A Sober Enquiry into the Grounds of the Present Differences in the 
Church of Scotland, 17-23. - Oockbui-n's Life of Jeffrey, ed. 1S72, p. 10. 

3 See the Autobiography of the Rev. Br, A. Carlyle, 1860, pp. 49-2-93. Millar's Historical 
View of the English Government (censured by Hallam) was once much esteemed ; and his 
Origin of Hanks is still worth the attention of sociologists. 

i lUtchie's Life of Hume, 1H07, pp. 52-51 ; Tytler's Life of Lord Kames, 2nd ed. 1811, i, 
ch. v ; Burton's Life of Hume, i, 120-30. 



BEITISH FEEETHOUGHT 187 

period wont to go to church to see the fun. 1 Naturally orthodoxy 
did not gain ground. 

In the case of Adam Smith we have one of the leading instances 
of the divorce between culture and creed in the Scotland of that age. 
His intellectual tendencies, primed by Hutcheson, were already 
revealing themselves when, seeking for something worth study in 
the unstudious Oxford of his day, he was found by some suspicious 
supervisor reading Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. The book 
was seized and the student scolded." When, in 1751, he became 
Professor of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow 7 University, he aroused 
orthodox comment by abandoning the Sunday class on Christian 
Evidences set up by Hutcheson, and still further, it is said, by 
petitioning the Senatus to be allowed to be relieved of the duty of 
opening his class with prayer. 3 The permission was not given ; and 
the compulsory prayers were " thought to savour strongly of natural 
religion "; while the lectures on Natural Theology, which were part 
of the work of the chair, were said to lead " presumptuous striplings " 
to hold that " the great truths of theology, together witli the duties 
which man owes to God and his neighbours, may be discovered by 
the light of nature without any special revelation."' 1 Smith was 
thus well founded in rationalism before he became personally 
acquainted with Voltaire and the other French freethinkers ; and 
the pious contemporary who deplores his associations avows that 
neither before nor after his French tour was his religious creed ever 
"properly ascertained."' It is clear, however, that it steadily 
developed in a rationalistic direction. In the Theory of Moral 
Sentiments (1759) the prevailing vein of theistic optimism is 
sufficiently uncritical ; but even there there emerges an apparent 
doubt on the doctrine of a future state, and positive hostility to 
certain ecclesiastical forms of it. In the sixth edition, which lie 
prepared for the press in 1790, he deleted the passage which pro- 
nounced the doctrine of the Atonement to be in harmony with 
natural ethics. Put most noteworthy of all is his handling of the 
question of religious establishments in the Wealth of Nations." It 
is so completely naturalistic that only the habit of taking the 

1 Ritchie, as cited, p. 57. 

- MeCulloeh, Life of Smith prefixed to ed. of Wealth of Nations, ert. 1S30, ]>. ii. 

:; Kamsay of Ochtcrtyre, Scotland ami Scotsmen in the Eiuhteentli Century, 1888, i, 
UV> (iii. Mr. line doubts tin; story, Life of Adam Smith, 1895, ]>. fill. 

-1 Kamsay, as last cited. '' Ramsay, passage cited. 

c Tlteory of Mnml Sentiments, pt. iii, eh. ii. end. 

"i (..]). liae, pi). \il :;(). .Mr. Uae thinks the deletion stood for no change of opinion, and 
cites Smith's own private explanation (Sinclair's Life, of Sir John Sinclair, i, -10) that lie 
thought the pas^ane " unnecessary and misplaced." Hut this expression must be read in 
the 1 i <4l 1 1. of Smith's general reticence concerning established dogmas. Certainly be 
adhered to his argument which does not claim to be a demonstration for the doctrine 
ol a future stale. K lik. v, ch. l, pt. iii, art. \i. 



188 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Christian religion for granted could make men miss seeing that its 
account of the conditions of the rise of new cults applied to that in 
its origin no less than to the rise of any of its sects. As a whole, 
the argument might form part of Gibbon's fifteenth chapter. And 
even allowing for the slowness of the average believer to see the 
application of a general sociological law to his own system, there 
must be inferred a great change in the intellectual climate of Scottish 
life before we can account for Smith's general popularity at home 
as well as abroad after his handling of " enthusiasm and superstition " 
in the Wealth of Nations. The fact stands out that the two most 
eminent thinkers in Scotland in the latter half of the eighteenth 
century were non-Christians, 1 and that their most intellectual 
associates were in general sympathy with them. 

11 

In Ireland, at least in Dublin, during the earlier part of the 
century, there occurred, on a smaller scale, a similar movement of 
rationalism, also largely associated with Shaftesbury. In Dublin 
towards the close of the seventeenth century we have seen Molyneux, 
the friend and correspondent of Locke, interested in freethought," 
albeit much scared by the imprudence of Toland. At the same 
period there germinated a growth of Unitarianism, which was even 
more fiercely persecuted than that of Toland's deism. The Rev. 
Thomas Emlyn, an Englishman, co-pastor of the Protestant 
Dissenting Congregation of Wood Street (now Strand Street), 
Dublin, was found by a Presbyterian and a Baptist to be here- 
tical on the subject of the Trinity, and was indicted in 1702 for 
blasphemy. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a 
fine of 1,000, which was partly commuted on Ids release. He 
protested that South and Sherlock and other writers on the 
Trinitarian controversy might have been as justly prosecuted as 
he ; but Irish Protestant orthodoxy was of a keener scent than 
English, and Emlyn was fain, when released, to return to his native 
land. 2 His colleague Boyse, like many other Churchmen, wished 
that the unhappy trinitarian controversy " were buried in silence," 
but was careful to conform doctrinallv. More advanced thinkers 



maienansi irom ms imercourse wiin \ onaire anu oiner rrenun ireeininKers, is au 
exhibition of learned ignorance. Sec Hirst, ]). lsl. 

- An Explanation and Defence of the Principles (if Protestant Dissent, by the Rev. Dr. 
W. Hamilton Drummond, lb42, pp. 5-6, 17; Kkeats. Hist, of the Free Churches of England, 
ed. Miall, pp. 238-39 ; Wallace, Xnti-Triniturian Biography, iii, art. 360. 



BRITISH FEEETHOUGHT 189 

had double reason to be reticent. As usual, however, persecution 
provoked the growth it sought to stifle ; and after the passing of the 
Irish Toleration Act of 1719, a more liberal measure than the 
English, there developed in Ulster, and even in Dublin, a Unitarian 
movement akin to that proceeding in England. 1 In the next 
generation we find in the same city a coterie of Shaftesburyans, 
centring around Lord Molesworth, the friend of Hutcheson, a man 
of affairs devoted to intellectual interests. It was within a few years 
of his meeting Molesworth that Hutcheson produced his Inquiry, 
championing Shaftesbury's ideas; 2 and other literary men were 
similarly influenced. It is even suggested that Hutcheson's clerical 
friend Synge, whom wo have seen' 1 in 1713 attempting a ratiocinativo 
answer to the unbelief he declared to be abundant around him, was 
not only influenced by Shaftesbury through Molesworth, but latterly 
avoided publication lest his opinions should prejudice his career in 
the Church." 4 After the death of Molesworth, in 1725, the move- 
ment he set up seems to have languished;'^ but, as wo have seen, 
there were among the Irish bishops men given to philosophic con- 
troversy, and the influence of Berkeley cannot have been wholly 
obscurantist. When in 1756 we read of the Arian Bishop Clayton 6 
proposing in the Irish House of Lords to drop the Nicene and 
Athanasian creeds, we realize that in Ireland thought was far from 
stagnant. The heretic bishop, however, died (February, 1758) just 
as he was about to be prosecuted for the anti-Athanasian heresies of 
his last book ; and thenceforth Ireland plays no noticeable part in 
the development of rationalism, political interests soon taking the 
place of religious, with the result that orthodoxy recovered ground. 

It cannot be doubted that the spectacle of religious wickedness 
presented by the operation of the odious penal laws against Catholics, 

1 Cp. Drnmmond, as cited, pp. 20-30; History, Opinions, etc., of the English Presby- 
terians, 1S31. p. 29. 

'- W. R. Scott. Francis Hutcheson, p. 31. 3 Above, p. 151, vote. 

1 Scott, pp. 28-29,35-36. The suggestion is not quite convincing, Synge, after becoming 
Archbishop of Tuain, continued to publish his propagandist tracts, anions them An Essay 
towards making the Knowledge of Religion Easy to the Meanest Capacity (6th ed. 1734), 
which is finite orthodox, and which argues (p. 3) that the doctrine of the Trinity is to be 
believed, and not pried into, "because it is above our understanding to comprehend." 
while there was being sold also his early treatise, "A Gentleman's Religion: in 

Three Parts with an Appendix, wherein it is proved that nothing contrary to our 

Kea-'on can possibly be the object of our belief, but that it is no just exception ngainsti 
some of the doctrines of Christianity that thev are above our reason." " Scott,, p. 36. 

,; All that is told of this prelate by Leeky (77isf. of Ireland in the ISth Cent. 189-2, i. 207) 
is that at Killala he patronized horse-races. He was industrious on more episcopal lines, 
lie wrote an Tut mdiictinn to the History of the Jews ; a Vindication of liihlical Ch ronalogy ; 
two treatises on prophecy ; an anti-Athanasian Essay on Spirit < 1751 ), which aroused much 
controversy; .! Vindication of the Histories of the Old and Xew Testament, in answer to 
Molingbrokc 2 vols. 175:' 1751 : 2nd ed. 1757; rep. with the Essay on Spirit. Dublin, 1750), 
which led to his being prosecuted; and other works. The offence given by the Vindication 
lay in hi- denunciation of the Athanasian creed, and of the bigotry of those who supported 
it. See pt. iii. letters i and ii. The Essay on Spirit is no less heterodox, in other respects , 
however, Clayton is ultra-orthodox. 



190 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

and the temper of the Protestant Ascendancy party in religious 
matters, had bred rational skepticism in Ireland in the usual way. 
Molesworth stands out in Irish history as a founder of a new and 
saner patriotism ; and his doctrines would specially appeal to men 
of a secular and critical way of thinking. Heretical bishops imply 
heretical laymen. But the environment was unpropitious to dispas- 
sionate thinking. The very relaxation of the Penal Code favoured a 
reversion to " moderate " orthodoxy ; and the new political strifes of 
the last quarter of the century, destined as they were to be reopened 
in the next, determined the course of Irish culture in another way. 

12 

In England, meanwhile, there was beginning the redistribution 
of energies which can be seen to have prepared for the intellectual 
and political reaction of the end of the century. There had been no 
such victory of faith as is supposed to have been wrought by the 
forensic theorem of Butler. An orthodox German observer, making 
a close inquest about 1750, cites the British Magazine as stating in 
1749 that half the educated people were then deists ; and he, after 
full inquiry, agrees. 1 In the same year, Bichardson speaks tragically 
in the Postscriptum to Clarissa of seeing " skepticism and infidelity 
openly avowed, and even endeavoured to be propagated from the 
press; the great doctrines of the gospel brought into question "; and 
he describes himself as " seeking to steal in with a disguised plea for 
religion." Instead of being destroyed by the clerical defence, the 
deistic movement had really penetrated the Church, which was 
become as rationalistic in its methods as its function would permit, 
and the educated classes, which had arrived at a state of compromise. 
Pope, the chief poet of the preceding generation, had been visibly 
deistic in his thinking ; as Dryden had inferribly been before him ; 
and to such literary prestige was added the prestige of scholarship. 
The academic Conyers Middleton, whose Letter from Borne had told 
so heavily against Christianity in exposing the pagan derivations of 
much of Catholicism, and who had further damaged the doctrine of 
inspiration in his anonymous Letter to Dr. Waterland (1731), while 
professing to refute Tindal, had carried to yet further lengths his 
service to the critical spirit. In his famous Free Inquiry into the 
miracles of post-apostolic Christianity (1719), again professing to 
strike at Eome, he had laid the foundations of a new structure of 

1 Dr. G. W. Alberti, Briefe betreffende den Zustand dcr Religion in Gross-Brittannicn, 
Hannover, 1752, p. 440. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 191 

comparative criticism, and had given permanent grounds for rejecting 
the miracles of the sacred books. 

Middleton's book appeared a year after Hume's essay Of Miracles, 
and it made out no such philosophic case as Hume's against the 
concept of miracle ; but it created at once, by its literary brilliance 
and its cogent argument, a sensation such as had thus far been made 
neither by Hume's philosophic argument nor by Francklin's antici- 
pation of that. 1 Middleton had duly safeguarded himself by positing 
the certainty of the gospel miracles and of those wrought by the 
Apostles, on the old principle" that prodigies were divinely arranged 
so far forth as was necessary to establish Christianity, but no further. 
" The history of the gospel," he writes, " I hope may be true, though 
the history of the Church be fabulous." A But his argument against 
post-Apostolic miracles is so strictly naturalistic that no vigilant 
reader could fail to realize its fuller bearing upon all miracles what- 
soever. With Hume and Francklin, he insisted that facts incredible 
in themselves could not be established by any amount or kind of 
testimony ; and he suggested no measure of comparative credibility 
as between the two orders of miracle. With the deists in general, he 
argued that knowledge " either of the ways or will of the Creator " 
was to be had only through study of " that revelation which he made 
of himself from the beginning in the beautiful fabric of this visible 
world." 4 An antagonist accordingly wrote that his theses were : 
First, that there were no miracles wrought in the primitive 
Church ; Secondly, that all the primitive fathers were fools or 
knaves, and most of them both one and the other. And it is 
easy to observe, the wholo tenor of your argument tends to prove, 
Thirdly, that no miracles were wrought by Christ or his apostles; 
and Fourthly, that these too were fools or knaves, or both."' 1 A 
more temperate opponent pressed the same point in less explosive 
language. Citing Middleton's demand for an inductive method, this 
critic asks with much point : " What does he mean by ' deserting 
the path of Nature and experience,' but giving in to the belief of any 
miracles, and acknowledging the reality of events contrary to tho 
known effects of the established Laws of Nature? " 

No other answer was seriously possible. In the very act of 
ostentatiously terming Tindal an " infidel," Middleton describes an 
answer made to him by the apologist Chapman as a sample of a 

' Above, p. ISO. a pt i, y Huavto in 1.775. Above, i. 172. 

:; Inquiry, p. lfj-2. 4 Inquiry, prof. pp.x, .wii. 

' A Letter to the Ilev. Dr. Conyers Middleton, occasioned by Ins lute. 'Tree Inquiry." 
1719, pi). 3-1. 

fi A Free. Answer to Dr. Middleton's "Free. Inquiry," by William Dodwoll [son of tho 
elder and brother of the younger Henry], Hector of Shottosbrook, 1719, pp. 11 15. 



192 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

kind of writing which did " more hurt and discredit " to Christianity 
" than all the attacks of its open adversaries." * In support of the 
miracles of the gospel and the apostolic history he offers merely 
conventional pleas : against the miracles related by the Fathers he 
brings to bear an incessant battery of destructive criticism. We 
may sum up that by the middle of the eighteenth century the 
essentials of the Christian creed, openly challenged for a generation 
by avowed deists, were abandoned by not a few scholars within the 
pale of the Church, of whom Middleton was merely the least reticent. 
After his death was published his Vindication of the Inquiry (1751) ; 
and in his collected works (1752) was included his Reflections on the 
Variations or Inconsistencies ivhich arc found among the Four Evan- 
gelists, wherein it is demonstrated that " the belief of the inspiration 
and absolute infallibility of the evangelists seems to be more absurd 
than even that of transubstantiation itself." 2 The main grounds of 
orthodoxy were thus put in doubt in the name of a critical orthodoxy. 
In short, the deistic movement had clone what it lay in it to do. 
The old evangelical or pietistic view of life was discredited among 
instructed people, and in this sense it was Christianity that had 
decayed." Its later recovery was economic, not intellectual. 

Thus Skelton writes in 1751 that " our modern apologists for 
Christianity often defend it on deistical principles " {Deism 
Revealed, pref. p. xii. Cp. vol. ii, pp. 231, 237). vSee also Sir 
Leslie Stephen as cited above, p. 149, note ; and Gostwick, 
German Culture and Christianity, 1882, pp. 33-36. 

An interesting instance of liberalizing orthodoxy is furnished 
by the Rev. Arthur Ashley Sykes, who contributed many volumes 
to the general deistic discussion, some of them anonymously. 
In the preface to his Essay on the Truth of the Christian Religion 

(1732; 2nd ed. enlarged, 1755) Sykes remarks that "since 

systematical opinions have been received and embraced in such 
a manner that it has not been safe to contradict them, the 
burden of vindicating Christianity has been very much increased. 
Its friends have been much embarrassed through fear of speaking 
against local truths ; and its adversaries have so successfully 
attacked those weaknesses that Christianity itself has been 
deemed indefensible, when in reality the follies of Christians 
alone have been so." Were Christians left to the simple 
doctrines of Christ and the Apostles, he contends, Infidelity 
could make no converts. And at the close of the book he 
writes: " Would to God that Christians would be content with 

the plainness and simplicity of the gospel That they would 

not vend under the name of evangelical truth the absurd and 

1 Inquiry, p. 162. " Works, 2nd cd. 1755, ii, 348. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 193 

contradictory schemes of ignorant or wicked men ! That they 
would part with that load of rubbish which makes thinking 
men almost sink under the weight, and gives too great a handle 
for Infidelity ! " Such writing could not give satisfaction to the 
ecclesiastical authorities ; and as little could Sykes's remarkable 
admission (The Principles and Connection of Natural and 
Revealed Religion, 1740, p. 242) : " When the advantages of 
revelation are to be specified, I cannot conceive that it should 
be maintained as necessary to fix a ride of morality. For what 
one principle of morality is there which the heathen moralists 
had not asserted or maintained ? Before ever any revelation is 
offered to mankind they are supposed to be so well acquainted 
with moral truths as from them to judge of the truth of the 
revelation itself." Again he writes : 

" Nor can revelation bo necessary to ascertain religion. For 
religion consisting in nothing but doing our duties from a sense 
of the being of God, revelation is not necessary to this end, 
unless it be said that we cannot know that there is a God, and 
what our duties are, without it. Reason will teach us that there 
is a God that we are to be just and charitable to our neigh- 
bours ; that we are to be temperate and sober in ourselves " 
(id. p. 244). 

This is simple Shaftesbury an deism, and all that the apologist 
goes on to contend for is that revelation " contains motives and 
reasons for the practice of what is right, more and different from 
what natural reason without this help can suggest." He seems, 
however, to have believed in miracles, though an anonymous 
Essay on the Nature, Design, and Origin of Sacrifices (1748) 
which is ascribed to him quietly undermines the whole evan- 
gelical doctrine. Throughout, he is remarkable for the amenity 
of his tone towards " infidels." 

Balguy, a man of less ability, is notably latitudinarian in his 
theology. In the very act of criticizing the deists, he complains 
of Locke's arbitrariness in deriving morality from the will of 
God. Religion, ho argues, is so derived, but morality is inherent 
in the whole nature of tilings, and is the same for God and men. 
This position, common to the school of Clarke, is at bottom that 
of Shaftesbury and the Naturalists. All that Balguy says for 
religion is that a doctrine of rewards and punishments is neces- 
sary to stimulate the average moral sense ; and that the Christian 
story of the condescension of Omnipotence in coming to earth 
and suffering misery for man's sake ought to overwhelm the 
imagination ! (See A Letter to a Deist, 2nd ed. 1730, pp. 5, 14, 
15, 31 ; Foundation of Moral Goodness, pt. ii, 1723, p. 41 sq.) 

The next intellectual step in natural course would have been a 
revision of the deistic assumptions, insofar, that is, as certain posil ivo 
assumptions were common to the deists. But, as we have seen, 
VOL. If 



194 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

certain fresh issues were raised as among the deists themselves. In 
addition to those above noted, there was the profoundly important 
one as to ethics. Shaftesbury, who rejected the religious basis, held 
a creed of optimism ; and this optimism was assailed by Mandeville, 
who in consequence was opposed as warmly by the deist Hutcheson 
and others as by Law and Berkeley. To grapple with this problem, 
and with the underlying cosmic problem, there was needed at least 
as much general mental activity as went to the antecedent discussion ; 
and the main activity of the nation was now being otherwise directed. 
The negative process, the impeachment of Christian supernaturalism, 
had been accomplished so far as the current arguments went. Toland 
and Collins had fought the battle of free discussion, forcing ratio- 
cination on the Church ; Collins had shaken the creed of prophecy ; 
Shaftesbury had impugned the religious conception of morals ; and 
Mandeville had done so more profoundly, laying the foundations 
of scientific utilitarianism. 1 So effective had been the utilitarian 
propaganda in general that the orthodox Brown (author of the once 
famous Estimate of the life of his countrymen), in his criticism of 
Shaftesbury (1751), wrote as a pure utilitarian against an incon- 
sistent one, and defended Christianity on strictly utilitarian lines. 
Woolston, following up Collins, had shaken the faith in New 
Testament miracles ; Middleton had done it afresh with all the 
decorum that Woolston lacked ; and Hume had laid down with 
masterly clearness the philosophic principle which rebuts all 
attempts to prove miracles as such. 2 Tindal had clinched the 
case for natural " theism as against revelationism ; and the later 
deists, notably Morgan, had to some extent combined these results. 3 
This literature was generally distributed ; and so far the case had 
been thrashed out. 

13 
To carry intellectual progress much further there was needed a 
general movement of scientific study and a reform in education. 
The translation of La Mettrie's Man a 2Iachhie (1719) 4 found a 
public no better prepared for the problems he raised than that 
addressed by Strutt eighteen years before ; and the reply of Luzac, 
Man More than a Machine, in the preface to which the translator 
(1752) declared that " irreligion and infidelity overspread the land," 

1 Cp. essay on Mandeville, in the author's Pioneer Humanists, 1907. 

2 As against the objections of Mr. Lang, see the author's paper in Studies in Religious 
Fallacy. 




BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 195 

probably satisfied what appetite .there .was for such a discussion. 
There had begun a change in the prevailing mental life, a diversion 
of interest from ideas as such to political and mercantile interests. 
The middle and latter part of the eighteenth century is the period 
of the rise of (l) the new machine industries, and (2) the new 
imperialistic policy of Chatham. 1 Both alike withdrew men from 
problems of mere belief, whether theological or scientific. 2 That 
the reaction was not one of mere fatigue over deism we have 
already seen. It was a general diversion of energy, analogous to 
what had previously taken place in France in the reign of Louis XIV. 
As the poet Gray, himself orthodox, put the case in 17ol, " the mode 
of freethinking has given place to the mode of not thinking at all." 3 
In Hume's opinion the general pitch of national intelligence south 
of the Tweed was lowered. 4 This state of things of course was 
favourable to religious revival ; but what took place was rather a 
new growth of emotional pietism in the new industrial masses (the 
population being now on a rapid increase), under the ministry of the 
Wesleys and Whitefield, and a further growth of similar religion in 
the new provincial middle-class that grew up on the industrial basis. 
The universities all the while were at the lowest ebb of culture, but 
officially rabid against philosophic freethinking. 5 

It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that all this 
meant a dying out of deism among the educated classes. The state- 
ment of Goldsmith, about 1760, that deists in general " have been 
driven into a confession of the necessity of revelation, or an open 
avowal of atheism," b is not to be taken seriously. Goldsmith, 
whose own orthodoxy is very doubtful, had a whimsical theory 
that skepticism, though it might not injure morals, has a " manifest 
tendency to subvert the literary merits" of any country; 7 and 
argued accordingly. Deism, remaining fashionable, did but fall 
partly into the background of living interests, the more concrete 
issues of politics and the new imaginative literature occupying the 
foreground. It was early in the reign of George III that Sir 
William Blackstone, having had the curiosity to listen in succession 

1 The point is further discussed in Dynamic* of Religion, pp. 175-7G. 

2 Cp. (;. B. Hertz. The Old Colonial System, 1005, pp. 1, -2>, 93, 157. 
'' Letter xxxi, in Mason's Memoir. 

4 Hill Burton's Life of Hume, ii, 433, 431, 481-85. 4S7. 

r ' Compare the verdicts of Gibbon in his Autobiography, and of Adam Smith. Wealth 
of Sations, bk. v. oh. i, art. 1 ; and see the memoir of Smith in IS3I e 1. and McCullochs 
ed., and Hue's Life of A/lam Smith, p, 24. It appears that about 1 To I many KnClish people 
sent their sons to Kdinburnh University on account of the better education there. Letter 
ol Blair, in Burton'.-, Life, of Hume, ii, 1'.). < ; Kxxinjx, iv, end. 

" I're-> nl State of Polite. Learning. 1705, eh. vi. His story of how the father of St. Koix 
cured the youth of the desire to rationalize his creed is not smwesti vo of conviction. The 
father pointed to a crucifix, saying, " Behold the fate of a reformer." The story has been 
often plagiarized since e.g., in U alt's Aiuiulu of ttie 1'arislt. 



196 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

to the preaching of every clergyman in London, " did not hear a 
single discourse which had more Christianity in it than the writings 
of Cicero," and declared that it would have been impossible for 
him to discover from what he heard whether the preacher were a 
follower of Confucius, of Mahomet, or of Christ. 1 When the Church 
was thus deistic, the educated laity can have been no less so. The 
literary status of deism after 1750 was really higher than ever. It 
was now represented by Hume ; by ADAM Smith (Moral Sentiments, 
1759) ; by the scholarship of Conyers Middleton ; and by the post- 
humous works (1752-54) of Lord BOLINGBROKE, who, albeit more 
of a debater than a thinker, debated often with masterly skill, in a 
style unmatched for harmony and energetic grace, which had already 
won him a great literary prestige, though the visible insincerity of 
his character, and the habit of browbeating, always countervailed 
his charm. His influence, commonly belittled, was much greater 
than writers like Johnson would admit ; and it went deep. Voltaire, 
who had been his intimate, tells 2 that he had known some young 
pupils of Bolingbroke who altogether denied the historic actuality 
of the Gospel Jesus a stretch of criticism beyond the assimilative 
power of that age. 

His motive to write for posthumous publication, however, seems 
rather to have been the venting of his tumultuous feelings than any 
philosophic purpose. An overweening deist, he is yet at much pains 
to disparage the a priori argument for deism, bestowing some of his 
most violent epithets on Dr. Samuel Clarke, who seems to have 
exasperated him in politics. But his castigation of " divines " is 
tolerably impartial on that side ; and he is largely concerned to 
deprive them of grounds for their functions, though he finally insists 
that churcbes are necessary for purposes of public moral teaching. 
His own teachings represent an effort to rationalize deism. The 
God whom he affirms is to be conceived or described only as omni- 
potent and omniscient (or all-wise), not as good or benevolent any 
more than as vindictive. Thus he had assimilated part of the 
Spinozistic and the atheistic case against anthropomorphism, while 
still using anthropomorphic language on the score that " we must 
speak of God after the manner of men." Beyond this point he 
compromises to the extent of denying special while admitting 
collective or social providences ; though he is positive in his denial of 
the actuality or the moral need of a future state. As to morals he 
takes the ordinary deistic line, putting the innate "law of nature" 

1 Abbey and Overton, The English Church in the Eighteenth Century, 1878, ii, 37. 
- JJieu et les JJom/nes, cb. xxxix. 



BEITISH FEEETIIOUGHT 197 

as the sufficient and only revelation by the deity to his creaturos. 
On the basis of that inner testimony he rejects the Old Testament 
as utterly unworthy of deity, but endorses the universal morality 
found in the gospels, while rejecting their theology. It was very 
much the deism of Voltaire, save that it made more concessions to 
anti-theistic logic. 

The weak side of Bolingbroke's polemic was its inconsistency 
a flaw deriving from his character. In the spirit of a partisan 
debater he threw out at any point any criticism that appeared for 
the moment plausible ; and, having no scientific basis or saving 
rectitude, would elsewhere take up another and a contradictory 
position. Careful antagonists could thus discredit him by mere 
collation of his own utterances. 1 But, the enemy being no more 
consistent than he, his influence was not seriously affected in the 
world of ordinary readers ; and much of his attack on " divines," 
on dogmas, and on Old Testament morality must have appealed to 
many, thus carrying on the discredit of orthodoxy in general. 
Leland devoted to him an entire volume of his View of the Principal 
Deist iced Writers, and in all bestows more space upon him than on 
all the others together a sufficient indication of his vogue. 

In his lifetime, however, Bolingbroke had been exti'emely 
careful to avoid compromising himself. Mr. Arthur Hassall, 
in his generally excellent monograph on Bolingbroke (Statesmen 
Series, 1889, p. 226), writes, in answer to the attack of Johnson, 
that " Bolingbroke, during his lifetime, had never scrupled to 
publish criticisms, remarkable for their freedom, on religious 
subjects." I cannot gather to what he refers ; and Mr. Walter 
Sichel, in his copious biography (2 vols. 1901-1902), indicates 
no such publications. The Letters on the Study and Use of 
History, which contain (Lett, iii, sect. 2) a skeptical discussion 
of the Pentateuch as history, though written in 173-J-3G, were 
only posthumously published, in 17o2. The Examcn Important 
de Milord Bolingbroke, produced by Voltaire in 1707, but dated 
1730, is Voltaire's own work, based on Bolingbroke. In his 
letter to Swift of September 12, 1721 (Swift's Works, Scott's ed. 
1824, xvi, 148-49), Bolingbroke angrily repudiates the title of 
c prit fort, declaring, in the very temper in which pious posterity 
lias aspersed himself, that " such are the pests of society, 

because they endeavour to loosen the bands of it I therefore 

not only disown, hut I detest, this character." In this letter 
lie even affects to believe in " the truth of the divine revelation 

1 (']). Bishop Law, Consult Ttitions on the Thrtiry of Ilelit.iion, (ith ed. 1771, p. (!.", nntr. 

Analysis of Bolini-ibi'oke'H writings (17fj.)) there cited. .Air. SiHiel's reply to Sir 

B. Stephen's criticism may or may uot bo buccessful ; but be does not deal with 
Bishop Law's. 



198 EIGHTEENTH CENTUKY 

of Christianity." He began to write his essays, it is true, 
before his withdrawal to France in 1735, but with no intention 
of speedily publishing them. In his Letter to Mr. Pope 
(published with the Letter to Wyndham, 1753), p. 481, he 
writes : " I have been a martyr of faction in politics, and have 
no vocation to be so in philosophy." Cp. pp. 485-86. It is 
thus a complete blunder on the part of Bagehot to say {Literary 
Studies, Hutton's ed. iii, 137) that Butler's Analogy, published 
in 1736, was " designed as a confutation of Shaftesbury and 
Bolingbroke." It is even said (Warton, Essay on Pope, 4th ed. 
ii, 294-95) that Pope did not know Bolingbroke's real opinions ; 
but Pope's untruthfulness was such as to discredit such a 
statement. Gp. Bolingbroke's Letter as cited, p. 521, and his 
Philosophical Works, 8vo-ed. 1754, ii, 405. It is noteworthy 
that a volume of controversial sermons entitled A Preservative 
against unsettled notions and Want of Principles in Religion, so 
entirely stupid in its apologetics as to be at times positively 
entertaining, was published in 1715 by Joseph Trapp, M.A., 
"Chaplain to the Bight Honble. The Lord Viscount Bolingbroke." 
In seeking to estimate Bolingbroke's posthumous influence 
we have to remember that after the publication of his works 
the orthodox members of his own party, who otherwise would 
have forgiven him all his vices and insincerities, have held him 
up to hatred. Scott, for instance, founding on Bolingbroke's 
own dishonest denunciation of freethinkers as men seeking to 
loosen the bands of society, pronounced his arrangement for the 
posthumous issue of his works "an act of wickedness more 
purely diabolical than any hitherto upon record in the history 
of any age or nation " (Note to Bolingbroke's letter above cited 
in Swift's Works, xvi, 400). It would be an error, on the other 
hand, to class him among either the great sociologists or the 
great philosophers. Mr. Sichel undertakes to show (vol. ii, ch. x) 
that Bolingbroke had stimulated Gibbon to a considerable extent 
in his treatment of early Christianity. This is in itself quite 
probable, and some of the parallels cited are noteworthy ; but 
Mr. Sichel, who always writes as a panegyrist, makes no 
attempt to trace the common French sources for both. He 
does show that Voltaire manipulated Bolingbroke's opinions in 
reproducing them. But he does not critically recognize the 
incoherence of Bolingbroke's eloquent treatises. Mr. Hassall's 
summary is nearer the truth ; but that in turn does not note 
how well fitted was Bolingbroke's swift and graceful declamation 
to do its work with the general public, which (if it accepted him 
at all) would make small account of self-contradiction. 

14 
In view of such a reinforcement of its propaganda, deism could 



BKITISH FEEETHOUGIIT 199 

not be regarded as in the least degree written down. In 1765, in 
fact, we find Diderot recounting, on the authority of d'Holbach, who 
had just returned from a visit to this country, that " the Christian 
religion is nearly extinct in England. The deists are innumerable ; 
there are almost no atheists ; those who are so conceal it. An 
atheist and a scoundrel are almost synonymous terms for them." 
Nor did the output of deistic literature end with the posthumous 
works of Bolingbroke. These were followed by translations of the 
new writings of VOLTAIRE, 2 who had assimilated the whole propa- 
ganda of English deism, and gave it out anew with a wit and 
brilliancy hitherto unknown in argumentative and critical literature. 
The freethinking of the third quarter of the century, though 
kept secondary to more pressing questions, was thus at least as 
deeply rooted and as convinced as that of the first quarter ; and it 
was probably not much less common among educated men, though 
new social influences caused it to be more decried. 

The hapless Chatterton, fatally precocious, a boy in years and 
experience of life, a man in understanding at seventeen, incurred 
posthumous obloquy more for his " infidelity " than for the harmless 
literary forgeries which reveal his poetic affinity to a less prosaic 
age. It is a memorable fact that this first recovery of the lost note 
of imaginative poetry in that "age of prose and reason" is the 
exploit of a boy whose mind was as independently " freethinking " 
on current religion as it was original even in its imitative reversion 
to the poetics of the past. Turning away from the impossible 
mythicism and mysticism of the Tudor and Stuart literatures, as 
from the fanaticism of the Puritans, the changing English world 
after the Restoration had let fall the artistic possession of imagina- 
tive feeling and style which was the true glory of the time of 
Renascence. The ill-strung genius of Chatterton seems to have been 
the first to reunite the sense of romantic beauty witli the spirit of 
critical reason. He was a convinced deist, avowing in his verse, in 
Ids pathetic will (1770), in a late letter, and at times in his talk, that 
lie was " no Christian," and contemning the ethic of Scripture history 
and the absurdity of literal inspiration. 3 Many there must have been 
who went as far, with less courage of avowal. 

What was lacking to the ago, once more, was a social foundation 
on which it could not only endure but develop. hi a nation of winch 
the majority had no intellectual culture, such a foundation could not 

i Mihmirrn dr nidi-rat, oA. 1811, ii, 25. 

l These hsul bcLtiui us early as 175:1 (Micrmnt'rjrm). 

' Workst, ed. IBM, i, pp. cix, 115 ; ii, (328, 72b. Cp. the poem Kew Gardens, left iu MS. 



200 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

exist. Green exaggerates 1 when he writes that " schools there were 
none, save the grammar schools of Edward and Elizabeth "; 2 but by 
another account only twelve public schools were founded in the long 
reign of George III; 3 and, as a result of the indifference of two 
generations, masses of the people "were ignorant and brutal to a 
degree which it is hard to conceive." 4 A great increase of popula- 
tion had followed on the growth of towns and the development of 
commerce and manufactures even between 1700 and 1760 ; 5 and 
thereafter the multiplication was still more rapid. There was thus 
a positive fall in the culture standards of the majority of the people. 
According to Massey, " hardly any tradesman in 1760 had more 
instruction than qualified him to add up a bill "; and " a labourer, 
mechanic, or domestic servant who could read or write possessed a 
rare accomplishment." 6 As for the Charity Schools established 
between 1700 and 1750, their express object was to rear humble trades- 
men and domestics, not to educate in the proper sense of the term. 

In the view of life which accepted this state of things the 
educated deists seem to have shared ; at least, there is no record of 
any agitation by them for betterment. The state of political thought 
was typified in the struggle over " Wilkes and Liberty," from which 
cool temperaments like Hume's turned away in contempt ; and it is 
significant that poor men were persecuted for freethinking while the 
better-placed went free. JACOB Ilive, for denying in a pamphlet 
(1753) the truth of revelation, was pilloried thrice, and sent to hard 
labour for three years. In 1751 the Grand Jury of Middlesex 
" presented " the editor and publisher of Bolingbroke's posthumous 
works 7 a distinction that in the previous generation had been 
bestowed on Mandeville's Fable of the Bees ; and in 1761, as before 
noted, Peter Annet, aged seventy, was pilloried twice and sent to 
prison for discrediting the Pentateuch ; as if that were a more serious 
offence than his former attacks on the gospels and on St. Paul. The 
personal influence of George III, further, told everywhere against 
freethinking ; and the revival of penalties would have checked pub- 
lishing even if there had been no withdrawal of interest to politics. 

Yet more or less freethinking treatises did appear at intervals 

1 I here take a few sentences from my paper, The Church and Education, 1903. 

2 Short History, p. 717. The Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools, by 
Nicholas Carlisle, 1818, shows that schools were founded in all parts of the country by 
private bequest or public action during the eighteenth century. 

;i Collis, in Transactions of the Social Science Association, 1857, p. 1'26. According to 
Collis, 48 had been founded by James I, 2S under Charles 1, 16 under the Commonwealth, 
3ii under Charles If. 4 under James If, 7 under William and Mary, 11 under Anne, 17 under 
George I, and 7 under George II. He does not indicate their size. 

j Green, as last cited. 5 Gibbins, Industrial History of England, 1S94, p. 151. 

fi Hist, of England under George III, ed. 1865, ii, 83. 

' The document is given in .Ritchie's Life of Hume, 1807, pp. 53-55. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 201 

in addition to the works of the better-known writers, such as 
Bolingbroke and Hume, after the period commonly marked as 
that of the ' decline of deism." In the list may be included a 
few by Unitarians, who at this stage were doing critical work. 
Like a number of the earlier works above mentioned, the follow- 
ing (save Evanson) are overlooked in Sir Leslie Stephen's survey: 
171G. Essay on Natural Religion. Falsely attributed to Dryden. 
,, Deism fairly stated and fully vindicated, etc. Anon. 

1749. J. G. Cooper, Life of Socrates. 

1750. John Dove, A Creed founded on Truth and Common Sense. 
,, The British Oracle. (Two numbers only.) 

1752. The Pillars of Priestcraft and OrtJiodoxy SJiakcn. Four vols, of free- 
thinking pamphlets, collected (and some written) by Thomas Gordon, 
formerly secretary to Trenchard. Edited by R. Barron. (Rep. 17GS.) 

17G5. W. Dudgeon, PJiilosojiJiical Works (reprints of those of 1732,-1,-7,-9, 
above mentioned). Privately printed at Glasgow? 

1772. E. Evanson, The Doctrines of a Trinity and the Incarnation, etc. 

1773. Three Discourses (1. Upon the Man after God's own Heart ; 2. Upon 

the Faith of Abraham ; 3. Upon the Seal of the Foundation of God). 

1777. Letter to BisJiop JIurd. 

1781. W. Nicholson, The Doubts of the Infidels. (Rep. by R. Carlile.) 

1782. W. Turner, Answer to Dr. Priestley's Letters to a Pliilosophical Unbeliever . 
1785. Dr. G. Hoggart Toulmin, Tlie Antiquity and Duration of the World. 
17S9. The Eternity of the Universe. 1 (Rep. 1825.) 

,, Dr. T. Cooper, Tracts, Ethical, Theological, and Political. 
1792. E. Evanson, The Dissonance of the Four Evangelists. (Rep. 1805.) 
1795. Dr. J. A. O'Keefe, On the Progress of the Human Understanding. 
1797. John C. Davies, The Scripturian's Creed. Prosecuted and imprisoned. 
(Book rep. 1822 and 1839.) 

Of tho work here noted a considerable amount was done by 
Unitarians, Evanson being of that persuasion, though at the time 
of writing his earlier Unitarian works ho was an Anglican vicar.' 2 
During the first half of the eighteenth century, despite the move- 
ment at the end of tho seventeenth, specific anti-Trinitarianism was 
not much in evidence, the deistic controversy holding the foreground. 
But gradually Unitarianism made fresh headway. One dissenting 
clergyman, Martin Tomkyns, who had been dismissed by his con- 
gregation at Stoke Newington for his " Arian or Unitarian opinions," 
published in 1722 A Sober Appeal to a Turk or cm Indian, concerning 
the plain sense of the Trinity, in reply to tho treatise of Dr. Isaac 
Watts on The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity. A second edition 
of Tomkyns's book appeared in 1718, with a further reply to Watts's 
Dissertations of 1721. The result scorns to have been an unsetfle- 
ment of the orthodoxy of tho hymn-writer. There is express 
testimony from Dr. Lardner, a very trustworthy witness, that 

1 A reply, The IVorld proved to he not eternal nor mechanical, appi'iircd in 1700. 

- The Jjoctrincs of a Trinity and the Incarnation of God was published anonymously. 



202 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Watts in his latter years, " before he was seized with an imbecility 
of his faculties," was substantially a Unitarian. His special papers 
on the subject were suppressed by his executors ; but the full text 
of his Solemn Address to the Great and Blessed God goes far to bear 
out Lardner's express assertion. 1 Other prominent religionists were 
more outspoken. The most distinguished names associated with 
the position were those of Lardner and Priestley, of whom the 
former, trained as a simple " dissenter," avowedly reached his 
conclusions without much reference to Socinian literature ; 2 and 
the second, who was similarly educated, no less independently gave 
up the doctrines of the Atonement and the Trinity, passing later 
from the Arian to the Socinian position after reading Lardner's 
Letter on the Logos. 3 As Priestley derived his determinism from 
Collins,' 1 it would appear that the deistical movement had set up a 
general habit of reasoning which thus wrought even on Christians 
who, like Lardner and Priestley, undertook to rebut the objections 
of unbelievers to their faith. A generally rationalistic influence is 
to be noted in the works of the Unitarian Antipaedobaptist Dr. 
Joshua Toulmin, author of lives of Socinus (1777) and Biddle 
(1789), and many other solid works, including a sermon on "The 
Injustice of classing Unitarians with Deists and Infidels " (1797). 
In his case the " classing " was certainly inconvenient. In 1791 
the effigy of Paine was burned before his door, and his windows 
broken. His house was saved by being closely guarded ; but his 
businesses of schoolkeeping and bookselling had to be given up. It 
thus becomes intelligible how, after a period in which Dissent, 
contemned by the State Church, learned to criticize that Church's 
creed, there emerged in England towards the close of the eighteenth 
century a fresh movement of specific Unitarianism. 

Evanson and Toulmin were scholarly writers, though without 
the large learning of Lardner and the propagandist energy and 
reputation of Priestley ; and the Unitarian movement, in a quiet 
fashion, made a numerical progress out of all proportion to that of 
orthodoxy. It owed much of its immunity at this stage, doubtless, 
to the large element of tacit deism in the Church ; and apart from 
the scholarly work of Lardner both Priestley and Evanson did 
something for New Testament criticism, as well as towards the 

1 See the Biographical Introduction to the Unitarian reprint of Watts's Solemn 
Address, 1810, which gives the letters of Lardner. And cp. Skeats, Hist, of the English 
Free Churches, ed. Miall, p. 240. 

2 Life of Lardner, by Dr. Kippis, prefixed to Works, ed. 1835, i, p. xxxii. 

3 Memoirs of Priestley, 1806, pp. 30-3'2, 35, 37. The Letter on the Logos was addressed 
by Lardner to the first Lord .Harrington, and was first published anonymously, in 1759. 

4 Memoirs of Priestley, p. 19. 



BRITISH FREETIIOUGHT 203 

clearing-up of Christian origins. Evanson was actually prosecuted 
in 1773, on local initiative, for a sermon of Unitarian character 
delivered by him in the parish church of Tewkesbury on Easter-Day 
of 1771 ; and, what is much more remarkable, members of his con- 
gregation, at a single defence-meeting in an inn, collected 150 to 
meet his costs. Five years later he had given up the belief in 
eternal punishment, though continuing to believe in "long pro- 
tracted " misery for sinners. 2 Still later, after producing his 
Dissonance, he became uncommonly drastic in his handling of the 
Canon. He lived well into the nineteenth century, and published 
in 1S05 a vigorous tractate, Second Thoughts on the Trinity, 
recommended to the Bight Bevcrcnd the Lord Bishop of Gloucester. 
In that he treats the First Gospel as a forgery of the second century. 
The method is indiscriminating, and the author lays much uncritical 
stress upon prophecy. On the whole, the Unitarian contribution to 
rational thought, then as later, was secondary or ancillary, though 
on the side of historical investigation it was important. Lardner's 
candour is as uncommon as his learning ; and Priestley' 5 and 
Evanson have a solvent virtue.' 4 In all three the limitation lies 
in the fixed adherence to the concept of revelation, which withheld 
them from radical rationalism even as it did from Arianism. 
Evanson's ultra-orthodox acceptance of the Apocalypse is signi- 
ficant of his limitations ; and Priestley's calibre is indicated by his 
life-long refusal to accept the true scientific inference from his own 
discovery of oxygen. A more pronounced evolution was that of the 
Welsh deist David Williams, who, after publishing two volumes of 
Sermons on Religious Hypocrisy (1771), gave up his post as a 
dissenting preacher, and, in conjunction with Franklin and other 
freethinkers, opened a short-lived dcistic chapel in Margaret Street, 
London (1776), where there was used a " Liturgy on the Universal 
Principles of Religion and Morality." 

? 15 

On the other hand, apart from the revival of popular religion 
under Whitefield and Wesley, which won multitudes of the people 

1 Pamphlet of 1778, printing the sermon, with reply to a local attack. 

- .MS. alteration in print. Sec also p. 1 of Kpistlu Dedicatory. 

:; In criticizing whom Sir Leslie Stephen barely notices nis scientific work, hut dwells 
much on his religious fallacies a course which would make short work of the fame of 
Newton. 

1 A Church diimitary has described Kvanson's TiiHxmvuirr as "the roi ncenient 

of the destructive criticism of tiie Fourth Gospel" (Archdeacon Watkins's Hamilton 
Lectures, I'-.'.*), p. 171'. 

' Williams (d. HI-',), who published .'! vols, of "Lecture-; on Kdtication " and other 
works, lias a longer claim on remembrance as the founder ul the " Literary Fund." 



204 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

whom no higher culture could reach, there was no recovery of 
educated belief upon intellectual lines ; though there was a steady 
detachment of energy to the new activities of conquest and com- 
merce which mark the second half of the eighteenth century in 
England. On this state of things supervened the massive perform- 
ance of the greatest historical writer England had yet produced. 
GlEBON, educated not by Oxford but by the recent scholarly 
literature of France, had as a mere boy seen, on reading Bossuet, 
the theoretic weakness of Protestantism, and had straightway 
professed Romanism. Shaken as to that by a skilled Swiss 
Protestant, he speedily became a rationalist pure and simple, 
with as little of the dregs of deism in him as any writer of his 
age ; and his great work begins, or rather signalizes (since Hume 
and Robertson preceded him), a new era of historical writing, not 
merely by its sociological ti'eatment of the rise of Christianity, but 
by its absolutely anti-theological handling of all things. 

The importance of the new approach may be at once measured 
by the zeal of the opposition. In no case, perhaps, has the essen- 
tially passional character of religious resistance to new thought 
been more vividly shown than in that of the contemporary attacks 
upon Gibbon's History. There is not to be found in controversial 
literature such another annihilating rejoinder as was made by 
Gibbon to the clerical zealots who undertook to confound him on 
points of scholarship, history, and ratiocination. The contrast 
between the mostly spiteful incompetence of the attack and the 
finished mastery of the reply put the faith at a disadvantage from 
which it never intellectually recovered, though other forces reinstated 
it socially. By the admission of Macaulay, who thought Gibbon 
"most unfair" to religion, the whole troup of his assailants are 
now "utterly forgotten"; and those orthodox commentators who 
later sought to improve on their criticism have in turn, with a 
notable uniformity, been rebutted by their successors ; till Gibbon's 
critical section ranks as the first systematically scientific handling 
of the problem of the rise of Christianity. He can be seen to have 
profited by all the relevant deistic work done before him, learning 
alike from Toland, from Midclleton, and from Bolingbroke ; though 
his acknowledgments are mostly paid to respectable Protestants and 
Catholics, as Basnage, Beausobro, Lardner, Mosheim, and Tillemont ; 
and the sheer solidity of the work has sustained it against a hundred 
years of hostile comment. While Gibbon was thus earning for his 

1 The subject is discussed at length in the essay on Gibbon in the author's Pioneer 
Humanists. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 205 

country a new literary distinction, the orthodox interest was con- 
cerned above all things to convict him of ignorance, incompetence, 
and dishonesty ; and Davis, the one of his assailants who most fully 
manifested all of these qualities, and who will long be remembered 
solely from Gibbon's deadly exposure, was rewarded with a royal 
pension. Another, Apthorp, received an archiepiscopal living ; while 
Chelsum, the one who almost alone wrote against him like a 
gentleman, got nothing. But no cabal could avail to prevent the 
instant recognition, at home and abroad, of the advent of a new 
master in history ; and in the worst times of reaction which followed, 
the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire impassively 
defied the claims of the ruling creed. 

In a literary world which was eagerly reading Gibbon 1 and 
Voltaire, 2 there was a peculiar absurdity in Burke's famous question 
(1790) as to "Who now reads Bolingbroke " and the rest of the 
older deists. 8 The fashionable public was actually reading Boling- 
broke even then ; 4 and the work of the older deists was being done 
with new incisiveness and thoroughness by their successors. 5 In the 
unstudious world of politics, if the readers were few the indifferentists 
were many. Evanson could truthfully write to Bishop Hurd in 1777 
that " That general unbelief of revealed religion among the higher 
orders of our countrymen, which, however your Lordship and I 
might differ in our manner of accounting for it, is too notorious for 
either of us to doubt of, hath, by a necessary consequence, produced 
in the majority of our present legislators an absolute indifference 
towards religious questions of every kind." G Beside Burke in 
Parliament, all the while, was the Prime Minister, WILLIAM PlTT 
the younger, an agnostic deist. 

Whether or not the elder Pitt was a deist, the younger gave 
very plain signs of being at least no more. Gladstone (Studies 
subsidiary to Die Works of Bishop Butler, ed. 189G, pp. 30-33) 
has sought to discredit the recorded testimony of Wilberforce 
{Life of Wilberforce, 1838, i, 98) that Pitt told him " Bishop 

1 Cp. Hishop Watson's Apology for Ch ristianity (177G) as to the vogue of unbelief at that 
date. {Two Auolorjics, ed. lhOO, p. 1-21. Cp. pp. 179, 399.) 

- The panegyric on Voltaire delivered at his death by Frederick the Great (Nov. 20, 
177~; was promptly translated into Knglish (1779). 

'' Refactions on the French Revolution, 1790. p. 131. 

4 See Hannah More's letter of April, 1777. in her Lift; abridged Ifimo-ed. p. 3(5. An 
edition oi Shaftesbury, apparently, appeared in 1773, and another in 1790. 

: The essays of Hume, including the DinloyUfs concerniny Mat u nil lirli/jion (17791, were 
now circulated in repeated editions. Mr. Kae, in his valuable I. iff of Ail mi Smith, p. 311, 
cites a German observer, Wendeborn, as writing in 17 V> that the Dioloijin s, though n ! >u i 
deal discussed in Germany, had made no sensation in Kngland, and were at that date 
entirely forgotten, lint a second edition had been called for in 177'.'. and 11 icy were ail led 
to a fresh edition of the essays in 17oS. Any " forgetting" is to be set down to preoccupa- 
tion with other interests. 

Letter to the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, 1777, p. 3. 



206 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Butler's work raised in his mind more doubts than it had 
answered." Gladstone points to another passage in Wilber- 
force's diary which states that Pitt " commended Butler's 
Analogy" {Life, i, 90). But the context shows that Pitt 
had commended the book for the express purpose of turning 
Wilberforce's mind from its evangelical bias. Wilberforce was 
never a deist, and the purpose accordingly could not have been 
to make him orthodox. The two testimonies are thus perfectly 
consistent ; especially when we note the further statement 
credibly reported to have been made by Wilberforce {Life, i, 95), 
that Pitt later " tried to reason vie out of my convictions." We 
have yet further the emphatic declaration of Pitt's niece, Lady 

Hester Stanhope, that he " never went to church in his life 

never even talked about religion " {Memoirs of Lady Hester 
Stanhope, 1845, iii, 166-67). This was said in emphatic denial 
of the genuineness of the unctuous death-bed speech put in 
Pitt's mouth by Gifford. Lady Hester's high veracity is 
accredited by her physician {Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope, 
1816, i, pref. p. 11). No such character can be given to the 
conventional English biography of the period. 

We have further to note the circumstantial account by 
Wilberforce in his letter to the Rev. S. Gisborne immediately 
after Pitt's death {Correspondence, 1810, ii, 69-70), giving the 
details he had had in confidence from the Bishop of Lincoln. 
They are to the effect that, after some demur on Pitt's part 
(" that he was not worthy to offer up any prayer, or was too 
weak,") the Bishop prayed with him once. Wilberforce adds 
his " fear " that " no further religious intercourse took place 
before or after, and I own I thought what ivas inserted in the 
papers impossible to be true." 

There is clear testimony that Charles James Fox, Pitt's illustrious 
rival, was no more of a believer than he, 1 though equally careful to 
make no profession of unbelief. And it was Fox who, above all the 
English statesmen of his day, fought the battle of religious toleration' 2 
a service which finally puts him above Burke, and atones for many 
levities of political action. 

Among thinking men too the nascent science of geology was 
setting up a new criticism of "revelation " this twenty years before 
the issue of the epoch-making works of Hutton. 3 In England the 
impulse seems to have come from the writings of the Abb6 Langlet 
du Fresnoy, De Maillet, and Mirabaud, challenging the Biblical 



mine anxious 10 discredit me statement 01 rarr, Hives sucn a qualified account [Jiemoirs 
of the Latter Years of C.J. Fox., 1811, ]>!>. 470-71) of Fox's views on immortality as to throw 
much doubt on the stronger testimony of B. C. Walpole (Recollections of C.J. Fox, 1806, 
p. 242). 2 See J. lv. Jje B. Hammond, diaries James Fox, 1903. ch. xiii. 

3 See a letter in Bishop Watson's Life, i, 402 ; and cp. Buckle, ch. vii, note 218. 



BEITISH FREETHOUGHT 207 

account of the antiquity of the earth. The new phase of " infidelity " 
was of course furiously denounced, one of the most angry and most 
absurd of its opponents being the poet Cowper. 1 Still rationalism 
persisted. Paley, writing in 1786, protests that " Infidelity is now 
served up in every shape that is likely to allure, surprise, or beguile 
the imagination, in a fable, a tale, a novel, or a poem, in interspersed 
or broken hints, remote and oblique surmises, in books of travel, of 
philosophy, of natural history in a word, in any form rather than 
that of a professed and regular disquisition." 2 The orthodox Dr. J. 
Ogilvie, in the introduction to his Inquiry into the Causes of the 
Infidelity and Skepticism of the Times (1783), begins : " That the 
opinions of the deists and skeptics have spread more universally 
during a part of the last century and in the present than at any 
former asra since the resurrection of letters, is a truth to which the 
friends and the enemies of religion will give their suffrage without 
hesitation." In short, until the general reversal of all progress 
which followed on the French Revolution, there had been no such 
change of opinion as Burke alleged. 

One of the most popular poets and writers of the day was the 
celebrated ERASMUS DARWIN, a deist, whose Zoonomia (1794) 
brought on him the charge of atheism, as it well might. However 
he might poetize about the Creator, Dr. Darwin in his verse and 
prose alike laid the foundations of the doctrines of the transmutation 
of species and the aqueous origin of simple forms of life which 
evolved into higher forms ; though the idea of the descent of man 
from a simian species had been broached before him by Buffon 
and Helvetius in France, and Lords Karnes and Monboddo in 
Scotland. The idea of a Nctiura na.turans was indeed ancient ; but 
it has been authoritatively said of Erasmus Darwin that "he was 
the first who proposed and consistently carried out a well-rounded 
theory with regard to the development of the living world a merit 
which sbines forth more brilliantly when we compare it with tbo 
vacillating and confused attempts of Buffon, Linnams, and Goethe. 
It is the idea of a power working from within the organisms to 
improve their natural position"'' the idea which, developed by 
Lamarck, was modified by the great Darwin of the nineteenth 
century into the doctrine of natural selection. 

And in the closing years of the century there arose a new 
promise of higher life in the apparition of MARY WOLLSTONRCRAFT, 

1 See his Task, bk. iii, 150-90(178:3-1781), for the prevail inn religious tone. 

1 l'rinc. of Mi, rid I'liilon. hk. v. eh. i.v. The chapter tells of widespread fvcothiukiuiJ. 

'' lUrucat Krauac, EramnuH Darwin, Km;, tr. lb7'J, p. i!ll. C'p. pp. 11W, IU-1. 



208 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

ill-starred but noble, whose Letters on Sweden, Norway , and Denmark 
(1796) show her to have been a freethinking deist of remarkable 
original faculty, 1 and whose Vindication of the Rights of Woman 
(1792) was the first great plea for the emancipation of her sex. 

16 

Even in rural Scotland, the vogue of the poetry of BURNS told 
of germinal doubt. To say nothing of his mordant satires on 
pietistic types notably Holy Willie's Prayer, his masterpiece in 
that line Burns even in his avowed poems 2 shows small regard 
for orthodox beliefs ; and his letters reveal him as substantially a 
deist, shading into a Unitarian. Such pieces as A Prayer in the 
prospect of Death, and A Prayer under the pressure of Violent 
Anguish, are plainly unevangelical ; 3 and the allusions to Jesus in 
his letters, even when writing to Mrs. Maclehose, who desired to 
bring him to confession, exclude orthodox belief, 4 though they 
suggest Unitarianism. He frequently refers to religion in his 
letters, yet so constantly restricts himself to the affirmation of a 
belief in a benevolent God and in a future state that he cannot 
be supposed to have held the further beliefs which his orthodox 
correspondents would wish him to express. A rationalistic habit 
is shown even in his professions of belief, as here : " Still I am a 
very sincere believer in the Bible ; but I am drawn by the conviction 
of a man, not the halter of an ass "; 5 and in the passage : " Though 
I have no objection to what the Christian system tells us of another 
world, yet I own I am partial to those proofs and ideas of it which 
we have wrought out of our own heads and hearts." 6 Withal, 
Burns always claimed to be " religious," and was so even in a 
somewhat conventional sense. The lines : 

An atheist-laugh's a poor exchange 
For Deity offended 7 

exhibit a sufficiently commonplace conception of Omnipotence ; and 

1 Letters vii, viii, ix, xix, xxii. 

2 Ejj., The Ordination, the Address to the Dcil, A Dedication to Gavin Hamilton, The 
Kirk's Alarm, etc. 

3 See also the pieces printed between these in the Globe edition, pp. G6-68. 

4 The benevolent Supremo Being, he writes, "lias put the immediate administration 
of all this into the hands of Jesus Christ a great personage, whose relation to Him we 
cannot fathom, but whose relation to us is [that of] a guide and Saviour." Letter 86 in 
Globe ed. Letters 189 and 197, to Mrs. Dunlop, similarly fail to meet the requirements of 
the orthodox correspondent. The poem Look up and See, latterly printed several times 
apart from Burns's works, and extremely likely to be his, is a quite Voltairean criticism 
of David. If the poem be ungenuine, it is certainly by far the ablest of the unacknow- 
ledged pieces ascribed to him, alike in diction and in purport. 

5 better to Mrs. Dunlop, Jan. 1, 1789, in Robert Hunts and Mrs. Dunlop, ed. by 
W. Wallace;, 1898, p. 129. The passage is omitted from better 1GS in the Globe ed., and 
presumably from other reprints. 

jj Letter to Mrs. Dunlop, July 9, 1700. Published for the first time in vol. cited, p. 266. 
7 Epistle to a Young Friend. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGIIT 209 

there is no sign that the poet ever did any hard thinking on the 
problem. But, emotionalist of genius as he was, his influence as 
a satirist and mitigator of the crudities and barbarities of Scots 
religion has been incalculably great, and underlies all popular 
culture progress in Scotland since his time. Constantly aspersed 
in his own day and world as an " infidel," ho yet from the first 
conquered the devotion of the mass of his countrymen ; though ho 
would have been more potent for intellectual liberation if he had 
been by them more intelligently read. Few of them now, probably, 
realize that their adored poet was either a deist or a Unitarian 
presumably the former. 

17 
With the infelicity in prediction which is so much commoner 
with him than the "prescience" for which he is praised, Burke 
had announced that the whole deist school " repose in lasting 
oblivion." The proposition would be much more true of 999 out 
of every thousand writers on behalf of Christianity. It is charac- 
teristic of Burke, however, that ho does not name Shaftesbury, 
a AVhig nobleman of the sacred period. 1 A seeming justice was 
given to Burke's phrase by the undoubted reaction which took 
place immediately afterwards. In the vast panic which followed 
on the French Revolution, the multitude of mediocre minds in the 
middle and upper classes, formerly deistic or indifferent, took fright 
at unbelief as something now visibly connected with democracy and 
regicide ; new money endowments were rapidly bestowed on the 
Church ; and orthodoxy became fashionable on political grounds 
just as skepticism had become fashionable at the Restoration. 
Class interest and political prejudice wrought much in both cases ; 
only in opposite directions. Democracy was no longer Bibliolatrous, 
therefore aristocracy was fain to became so, or at least to grow 
respectful towards the Church as a means of social control. Gibbon, 
in his closing years, went with the stream. And as religious wars 
have always tended to discredit religion, so a war partly associated 
with the freethinking of the French revolutionists tended to discredit 
freethought. The brutish wrecking of Priestley's house and library 
and chapel by a mob at Birmingham in 1791 was but an extreme 

1 Leeky, writing in ISC,."), and advancing on Harko, has said of the whole school, 
including Shaftesbury, that " the shadow of the tomb rests on all: a deep, unbiolieii 
silence, the chill of death, surrounds them. They have long mi ed lo v, i K . an\ interest " 
Ut-iiioniilium in Eumiir. i, lllli. As a matter of fact, they had been di . i b> Tayler 
in 1 -.">.! ; I)'.' 1'attison in l->t;<); and by I'arrar in lsii-2; and the v have inei- In en ni-'ui ed at 
length by [Jr. Hunt, by Dr. Cairn,, by l.ange, by C.yzieki, h.v M. Sayoiis, by Sir I.e lie 
Steuben, by l'rof, HCfiding, and by many oilier-;. 
VOL. II 



210 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

manifestation of a reaction which affected every form of mental 
life. But while Priestley went to die in the United States, another 
English exile, temporarily returned thence to his native land, was 
opening a new era of popular rationalism. Even in the height of 
the revolutionary tumult, and while Burke was blustering about the 
disappearance of unbelief, THOMAS PAINE was laying deep and wide 
the English foundations of a new democratic freethought ; and the 
upper-class reaction in the nature of the case was doomed to imper- 
manency, though it was to arrest English intellectual progress for 
over a generation. The French Revolution had re-introduced free- 
thought as a vital issue, even in causing it to be banned as a danger. 

That freethought at the end of the century was rather driven 
inwards and downwards than expelled is made clear by the 
multitude of fresh treatises on Christian evidences. Growing 
numerous after 1790, they positively swarm for a generation 
after Paley (1791). Cp. Essays on the Evidence and Influence 
of Christianity, Bath, 1790, pref.; Andrew Fuller, The Gospel 
its oxen Witness, 1799, pref. and concluding address to deists ; 
Watson's sermon of 1795, in Two Apologies, ed. 180G, p. 399 ; 
Priestley's Memoirs (written in 1795)', 1806, pp. 127-28; 
Wilberforce's Practical View, 1797, passim {e.g., pp. 36G-09, 

8th ed. 1841); Rev. D. Simpson, A Elect for Religion 

addressed to the Disciples of Thomas Paine, 1797. The latter 
writer states (2nd ed. p. 126) that " infidelity is at this moment 
running like wildfire among the common people"; and Fuller 
(2nd ed. p. 128) speaks of the Monthly Magazine as " pretty 
evidently devoted to the cause of infidelity." A pamphlet on 
The Eise and Dissolution of the Infidel Societies in this Metropolis 
(London, ItiOO), by W. Hamilton Reid, describes the period as 
the first " in which the doctrines of infidelity have been exten- 
sively circulated among the lower orders"; and a Summary of 
Christian Incidences, by Bishop Porteous (1800 ; 16th ed. 1826), 
affirms, in agreement with the 1799 Report of the Fords' Com- 
mittee on Treasonable Societies, that " new compendiums of 
infidelity, and new libels on Christianity, are dispersed con- 
tinually, with indefatigable industry, through every part of the 
kingdom, and every class of the community." Freethought, in 
short, was becoming democratized. 

As regards England, Paine is the great popular factor ; and it is 
the bare truth to say that he brought into the old debate a new 
earnestness and a new moral impetus. The first part of the Age of 
Reason, hastily put together in expectation of speedy death in 1793, 
and including some astronomic matter that apparently antedates 
17b!, 1 is a swift outline of the position of the rationalizing deist, 

1 Conway, introd. to Age of Reason, in Lis eel. of Paine's Works, iv, 3. 



BRITISH FREETHOUGHT 211 

newly conscious of firm standing-ground in astronomic science. 
That is the special note of Fame's gospel. He was no scholar ; 
and the champions of the "religion of Galilee" have always been 
prompt to disparage any unlearned person who meddles with 
religion as an antagonist ; but in the second part of his book Paine 
put hard criticism enough to keep a world of popular readers 
interested for well over a hundred years. The many replies are 
forgotten : the Biblical criticism of Paine will continue to do its 
work till popular orthodoxy follows the lead of professional scholar- 
ship and gives up at once the acceptance and the circulation of 
things incredible and indefensible as sacrosanct. 

Mr. Benn (Hist, of Eng. Rationalism in the Nineteenth 

Century, i, 217) remarks that Paine's New Testament criticisms 
are "such as at all times would naturally occur to a reader of 
independent mind and strong common sense." If so, these had 
been up to Paine's time, and remained long afterwards, rare 
characteristics. And there is some mistake about Mr. Benn's 
criticism that " the repeated charges of fraud and imposture 

brought against the Apostles and Evangelists jar painfully 

on a modern ear. But they are largely due to the mistaken 
notion, shared by Paine with his orthodox contemporaries, that 
the Gospels and Acts were written by contemporaries and eye- 
witnesses of the events related." Many times over, Paine 
argues that the documents could not have been so written. 
E.g. in Conway's ed. of Works, pp. 157, 158, 159, 1G0, 1G1, 167, 
168, etc. The reiterated proposition is " that the writers cannot 
have been eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses of what they relate ; 

and consequently that the books have not been written by 

the persons called apostles " (p. 168). And there is some 
exaggeration even in Mr. Benn's remark that, " strangely 
enough, he accepts the Book of Daniel as genuine." Paine 
(ed. p. 144) merely puts a balance of probability in favour of 
the genuineness. It may be sometimes it is certainly not 
always true that Paine " cannot distinguish between legendary 
or [? and] mythical narratives" (Benn, p. 21G) ; but it is to be 
feared that the disability subsists to-day in more scholarly quarters. 
Despite bis deadly directness, Paine, in virtue of his strong 
sincerity, probably jars much less on the modern ear than bo 
did on that of his own, which was so ready to make felony of 
any opinion hostile to reigning prejudices. But if it be other- 
wise, it is to be feared that no less offence will be given by 
Mr. Benn's own account of the Ilexateuch as "the records kept 
by a lying and bloodthirsty priesthood "; even if that estimate 
he followed by the very challengeable admission that ' priest- 
hoods are generally distinguished for their superior humanity " 
(Perm, p. 350, and note). 



212 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Hencefortli tliore is a vital difference in the fortunes of free- 
thought and religion alike. Always in the past the institutional 
strength of religion and the social weakness of freethought had lain 
in the credulity of the ignorant mass, which had turned to naught an 
infinity of rational effort. After the French Eevolution, when over 
a large area the critical spirit began simultaneously to play on faith 
and life, politics and religion, its doubled activity gave it a new 
breadth of outlook as of energy, and the slow enlightenment of the 
mass opened up a new promise for the ultimate reign of reason. 



Chapter XVII 

FRENCH FEEETHOUGHT IN THE EIGHTEENTH 
CENTURY 

1. THE fruits of the intellectual movement of the seventeenth 
century are seen beginning to take form on the very threshold of 
the eighteenth. In 1700, at the height of the reign of the King's 
confessors, there was privately printed the Lettre d 'Ilippocratc a 
Damagete, described as ' the first French work openly destructive of 
Christianity/' It was ascribed to the Comte tie Boulainvilliers, a 
pillar of the feudal system. 1 Thus early is the sound of disintegra- 
tion heard in the composite fabric of Church and State ; and various 
fissures are seen in all parts of the structure. The king himself, so 
long morally discredited, could only discredit pietism by his adoption 
of it ; the Janscnists and the Molinists [i.e., the school of Molina, not 
of Molinos] fought incessantly ; even on the side of authority there 
was bitter dissension between Bossuet and Fenelon ;' 2 and the 
movement of mysticism associated with the latter came to nothing, 
though he had the rare crodit of converting, albeit to a doubtful 
orthodoxy, the emotional young Scotch deist Chevalier Ramsay. 3 
Where the subtlety of Fenelon was not allowed to operate, the loud 
dialectic of Bossuet coidd not avail for faith as against rationalism, 
whatever it might do to upset tire imperfect logic of Protestant sects. 
in no society, indeed, docs mere declamation play a larger part than 
in that of modern France ; but in no society, on the other hand, is 
mere declamation more sure to be disdained and derided by the 
keener spirits, in the years of disaster and decadence winch 
rounded oil' in gloom the life of the Grand Monarque, with defeat 
dogging his armies and bankruptcy threatening his finances, tho 

1 L-iMontfiv. I[i. /.,!,!, i ,;,/, ,,rr r, ! ,]< I, minnrUi- <Jr hmiis AT. [S !.->, ii. :i>S, note. In 17:',1 
tV-ri! -.v.i pui.JMn 1 under the name, of lSoulairivilliers dl. I7J) a so-called Urfutation tin 
Sinit'iX't, which was "really a popular exposition," Pollock, Ki>iwi::<<, -Jiid ed. p. lili.'i. Sir 
I'. Pollock h in to Voltaire's remark that Uoulaiiivillicrs "nave the poi on and forgot 
to ::iv<; the iillfi lote." 

- For a briel view of the facts, usually misconceived, see rainson, pp. C.KI 11. I'eilclon 
seems to liave heeii uii'-i ndid, while P.ossuet, hy common con en!. wa . malevolent. Then; 
i pro ha hi. \ tnit.ii, however, m tlie view of Shafteshury IChii rurlrrixtirs, e . 1 IK), ii. '.'1 I ', 

Hint the real ii .anee "I I eiielon's < lesin tical opponents was the tendency of his 

myTci in to v. ill i draw devotees from ceremonial duties. 

Sou reim-inhered chiellv thromlh the account of his intercourse with IVnelon (repr. 
in Dido: ed. of I'enelon's misc. worksi, and Hume's loin: extrnct from his I'liilamiiliicil 
l'niirinl, i,l Suliirnl nml Itcrcnutl Hrlinimi in t!ie coneludini; note to the /.'.' smju. t'p. M. 

.Mailer, /./ My lii-i in,; , ,( I'l'lllCr till tl'milK tit: V'V IH'lvlt , lhl)5, PP. 3<- 'ii. 



214 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

spirit of criticism was not likely to slacken. Literary polemic, 
indeed, was hardly to be thought of at such a time, even if it had 
been safe. In 1709 the king destroyed the Jansenist seminary of 
Port Royal, wreaking an ignoble vengeance on the very bones of the 
dead there buried ; and more heretical thinkers had need go warily. 

Yet even in those years of calamity, perhaps by reason of the 
very stress of it, some frcethinking books somehow passed the press, 
though a system of police espionage had been built up by the king, 
step for step with some real reforms in the municipal government of 
Paris. The first was a romance of the favourite type, in which a 
traveller discovers a strange land inhabited by surprisingly rational 
people. Such appear to have been the Ilistoire de Calejava, by Claude 
Gilbert, produced at Dijon in 1700, and the imaginary travels of Juan 
do Posos, published at Amsterdam in 1708. Both of these were 
promptly suppressed ; the next contrived to get into circulation. The 
work of Symon Tyssot de Patot, Voyages ct Avantures de Jacques 
Masse", published in 1710, puts in the mouths of priests of the 
imaginary land discovered by the traveller such mordant arguments 
against the idea of a resurrection, the story of the fall, and other 
items of the Christian creed, that there could be small question of 
the deism of the author; 1 and the prefatory Lcttrc de I'cditeur 
indicates misgivings. The Reflexions sur les grands homines qui sont 
morts en plaisantant, by Deslandes, ostensibly published at Amsterdam 
in 1712, seems to have had a precarious circulation, inasmuch as 
Brunet never saw the first edition. To permit of the issue of such a 
book as Jacques Masse even at Bordeaux the censure must have 
been notably lax ; as it was again in the year of the king's death, 
when there appeared a translation of Collins's Discourse of Free- 
thinking. For the moment the Government was occupied over an 
insensate renewal of the old persecution of Protestants, promulgating 
in 1715 a decree that all who died after refusing the sacraments 
should be refused burial, and that their goods should be confiscated. 
The edict seems to have been in large measure disregarded. 

2. At the same time the continuous output of apologetics testified 
to the gathering tide of unbelief. The Benedictine Lami followed up 
his attack on Spinoza with a more popular treatise, L'Incrddule 
amend a la religion par la raison (1710) ; the Abbe Genest turned 
Descartes into verse by way of P relives naturcllcs de V existence de 

1 Tyssot de Patot was Professor of Mathematics at Deventor. In his Lett res chnisies, 
published in 17-26, th ere is an avowal that "he might be charged with having different 
tint i ons from those of the vulgar in point of religion " {Xew Memoirs of Literature, iv U7-2(>), 
2f*>7): and his accounts of pietists and unbelieving and other priests sufficiently convey 
that impression [id. pp. 2(iS-fc>4). 



FRENCH FREETIIOUGIIT 215 

Dieu ct de Vimmortalite dc Vdmc (1716) ; and the Anti-Lucretius of 
Cardinal Polignac (16611741), though only posthumously published 
in full (1715), did but pass on to the next age, when deism was tho 
prevailing heresy, a cleistic argument against atheism. It is difficult 
to see any Christian sentiment in that dialectic performance of a 
born diplomatist. 1 

"\\ hen the old king died, even the fashion of conformity passed 
away among the upper classes;" and the feverish manufacture of 
apologetic works testifies to an unslackened activity of unbelief. In 
1719 Jean Denyse, professor of philosophy at the college of Montaigu, 
produced La vcrilc dc la religion ehretienne demontree par ordre 
gcomctriquc (a title apparently suggested by Spinoza's early exposi- 
tion of Descartes), without making any permanent impression on 
heterodox opinion. Not more successful, apparently, was the per- 
formance of the Abbe Houteville, first published in 1722. :! Much 
more amiable in tone, and more scientific in temper, than the 
common run of defences, it was found, says an orthodox biographical 
dictionary, to be better fitted to make unbelievers than to convert 
them," seeing that " objections were presented with much force and 
fulness, and the replies with more amenity than weight." i That tho 
Abbe was in fact not rigorously orthodox might almost be suspected 
from his having been appointed, in the last year of his life (1712), 
perpetual secretary " to tho Academic, an office winch somehow 
tended to fall to more or less frcothinking members, being held 
before him by tho Abbe Dubos, and after him by Mirabaud, tho 
Abbe Duclos," D'Alembert, and Marmontel. The Traites des 
Premieres Vcritez of the Jesuit Father Buffier (1721) can hardly 
have been more helpful to the faith. Another experiment by way 
of popularizing orthodoxy, the copious Ilistoirc du pcuple dc Dieu, by 
the Jesuit Berruyer, first published in 1728,' had little better fortune, 

1 Towards tin 1 close of his "poem" Poliffiiac speaks of a defence of Christianity as a 
future task, lie died without even completing the Anti-Lucretius, be^un h;ilf a. century 
before. Of liiin arc related two classic anecdotes. Sent at the utic of twenty-seven to 
discuss Church questions with the Pope, he earned from His Holiness the compliment: 
"You ;ei'in always to be of my opinion; and in the end it is yours that prevails." 
Louis XIV nave hi in a lout; audience, after win eh the Kim! said : "1 have had an interview 
you nt; man _v, ho iias constantly contradicted me without my lieiiu: able to be anj,'ry 
for a moment." \KUn\e. prefixed to Bougainville's trans., // Ant i- 1 ,ne r< Vr, 17(i7, i. IM.) 

- Cii. Ouvernet. Vie tit- Voltaire., eh. i. kivarol (Letters a Xrckcr, in (Lurrrs, ed. IS.V2, 
p. bJSi wrote tlii't under bun is XV there benan a "general insurrection " of discus -inn, and 
that evervbo Iv then talked "only of religion and philosophy tin rim! half a century." lint 
tlii cm: csa-;,:,- i i ) c I ,.!' i ii ii i 1 1 !-!- , of which liivarol could have no exact knowledge. 

; /.-/ rerite tie. la reliijion eltret ieune. prouvee par Irs frtits: preced>r dun ilisroiirs 
I,, '.ii- 1 ur i I eri tiii ue sur la metlioilr. des priiicipa u.r. aute.u rs qui out cent pour et Con tic 
le cln-i-itianisme ilepuis son ormiue, 17-2-2. Hop. 17 II , 3 vols, ho., 1 vols, l-.'mo. 

' Si, i, ruin Jtictionnairr hislnriqur porlatif, 1771. art. Hoi tkvii. i.i.. torn. ii. 

' Who c Com id,' rations sue les Mirnrs (17."d I does not seem to eon la in a sincle reli.dous 
sentiment. Hi torioMra plier of J-'rance, he had not escaped tbesuppri ion of his llistoi re 
lie Louts XI, 1715. 

>' See above, p. |:10. Mullicr seems to have hetfiin an attempt at i pclliin: reform (by 
dropping double. 1 IeUcr I, followed in I7A1 by Una id and lali r Ijj l'r.'- il\.-il. 

' 7 vols, lto., KJ vols. 12mo. Uep. with corrections lT.j:;. S> coiide partie, 1 703 , 8 vols. lJnio. 



216 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

inasmuch as it scandalized the orthodox by its secularity of tone 
"without persuading the freethinkers. Condemned by the Bishop of 
Montpellier in 1731, it was censured by Rome in 1731; and the second 
part, produced long afterwards, aroused even more antagonism. 

3. There was thus no adaptation on the side of the Church 
to the forces which in an increasing degree menaced her rule. 
Under the regency of Orleans (1715-1723), the open disorder of 
the court on the one hand and the ruin of the disastrous financial 
experiment of Law on the other were at least favourable to tolera- 
tion ; but under the Due de Bourbon, put in power and soon 
superseded by Fleury (bishop of Frejus and tutor of Louis XV ; 
later cardinal) there was a renewal of the rigours against the 
Protestants and the Jansenists ; the edict of 1715 was renewed ; 
emigration recommenced ; and only public outcry checked the policy 
of persecution on that side. But Fleury and the king went on 
fighting the Jansenists ; and while this embittered strife of the 
religious sections could not but favour the growth of freethought, 
it was incompatible alike with official tolerance of unbelief and with 
any effectual diffusion of liberal culture. Had the terrorism and 
the waste of Louis XIV been followed by a sane system of finance 
and one of religious toleration ; and had not the exhausted and 
bankrupt country been kept for another half century save for eight 
years of peace and prosperity from 1718 to 1755 on the rack of 
ruinous wars, alike under the regency of Orleans and the rule of 
Louis XV, the intellectual life might have gone fast and far. As it 
was, war after war absorbed its energy ; and the debt of five milliards 
left by Louis XIV was never seriously lightened. Under such a 
system the vestiges of constitutional government were gradually 
swept away. 

4. As the now intellectual movement began to find expression, 
then, it found the forces of resistance more and more organized. In 
particular, the autocracy long maintained the severest checks on 
printing, so that freethought could not save by a rare chance attain to 
open speech. Any book with the least tendency to rationalism had 
to seek printers, or at least publishers, in Holland. Iluard, in 
publishing his anonymous translation of the II ypoty poses of Sextus 
Empiricus (1725), is careful to say in his preface that he "makes 
no application of the Pyrrhonian objections to any dogma that may 
1)0 called theological"; but he goes on to add that the scandalous 
quarrels of Christian sects are well fitted to confirm Pyrrhonists in 
their doubts, the sects having no solid ground on which to condemn 
each oilier. As such an assertion was rank heresy, the translation 



FKENCH FEEETHOUGHT 217 

had to be issued in Amsterdam, and even there without a publisher's 
name. And still it remains clear that the ago of Louis XIV had 
passed on to the next a heritage of hidden freethinking, as well as 
one of debt and misgovernment. What takes place thereafter is 
rather an evolution of and a clerical resistance to a growth known 
to have begun previously, and always feared and hated, than any 
new planting of unbelief in orthodox soil. As we have seen, indeed, 
a part of the early work of skepticism was done by distinguished 
apologists. Huet, dying in 1722, left for posthumous publication 
his Traitc philosophiquc de la faiblessc de V esprit humain (1723). 
It was immediately translated into English and Gorman; and though 
it was probably found somewhat superfluous in deistic England, and 
supersubtlo in Lutheran Germany, it helped to prepare the ground 
for the active unbelief of the next generation in France. 

5. A continuous development may be traced throughout the 
century. MONTESQUIEU, who in his early Persian Letters (1721) 
had revealed himself as " fundamentally irreligious " a and a censor 
of intolerance, proceeded in his masterly little book on the Greatness 
and Decadence of the Romans (1731) and his famous Spirit of Laws 
(1718) to treat the problems of human history in an absolutely 
secular and scientific spirit, making only such conventional allusions 
to religion as were advisable in an ago in which all heretical works 
were suppressible. 4 Tbe attempts of La Harpe and Villemain" to 
establish the inference that he repented his youthful levity in the 
Persian Letters, and recognized in Christianity the main pillar of 
society, will not bear examination. The very passages on winch 
they found 6 are entirely secular in tone and purpose, and tell of 
no belief.' So lato as 17ol there appeared a work, Les Lcttrcs 
Persanes convaincues d'impicle, by the Abbe Gaultier. The election 
of Montesquieu was in fact the beginning of the struggle between 
the Philosopkc party in the Academy and their opponents ; s and in 

1 A roprint in 1733 bears the imprint of London, with the nolo "Aux depens de la 
Com pasj'iie." 

- Nanson, p. 702. The Versian Letters, like the Vravinciul Letters of l\i eal, had to 
!)< printed at Kouen and published at Amsterdam. Their frecthinkin expressions put 
considerable difficulties in the way of his election ( 17:>7) to the Afiademv. See K. Kd wards, 
Chnyters 1 the. liifuj. Hist, of the. Frenrh Academy, lM',1. pp. :j I -:!."., and 1). M . Koberlson, 
Hi t. j the. Fr< nch Academy, I'JK), p. 'J'2, as to the mystification about the alleged reprint 
without the obnoxious passages. ;; Nettrc M>. 

1 "An point de vuu reli'lioux, Montesquieu tirii.it poliment son coup de ohnpeau au 
chrislianisme" (Nanson, p. 71 1). /.'.</. in the Ksjirit des Lais, liv. xxiv, chs. i, ii, iii. iv, vi, 
and the footnote to ch. x of liv. xxv. Montesquieu's letter to Warhurtun l Hi inn. I7;.H, in 
acknowledgment of that prelate's attack on the posthumous works of llnlinitbroke, i m 
sample of his social make-believe. Jiut no relh'iotis reader could u ]>]<> e il to ckdu- from 
a relitdous mail. "' Also oi K. Kdwards, as cited a hove. 

' See the notes cited on pp. 10.7, 107 of (iarnier's variorum ed. of the i:-:nit ties Luis, 
1871. Nil Harpe and \ illemain eem blind to irony. 

' The 11 in;; , at liayle (liv. xxiv, eh-, ii, vi) are part of a subtly ironical vindication of 
ideal us aainst ecclesiastical Christianity, and they have no note ol faith. 

h I'aul Mc na.nl, Jlist. dc I academic Jrancaise, 1807, pp. 01 li.j. 



218 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

his own day there was never much doubt about Montesquieu's 
deism. In his posthumous Pensces his anti-clericalism is sufficiently 
emphatic. " Churchmen," he writes, " are interested in keeping the 
people ignorant." He expresses himself as a convinced deist, and, 
with no great air of conviction, as a believer in immortality. But 
there his faith ends. " I call piety," he says, " a malady of the 
heart, which plants in the soul a malady of the most ineradicable 
kind." " The false notion of miracles comes of our vanity, which 
makes us believe w r e are important enough for the Supreme Being 
to upset Nature on our behalf." " Three incredibilities among 
incredibilities : the pure mechanism of animals [the doctrine of 
Descartes] ; passive obedience ; and the infallibility of the Pope." * 
His heresy was of course divined by the guardians of the faith, 
through all his panegyric of it. Even in his lifetime, Jesuits and 
Jansenists combined to attack the Spirit of Laics, which was 
denounced at an assembly of the clergy, put on the Roman Index, 
and prohibited by the censure until Malesherbes came into office in 
1750. 2 The Count de Cataneo, a Venetian noble in the service of 
the King of Prussia, published in French about 1751 a treatise on The 
Source, the Strength, and the True Spirit of Laics? in which the 
political rationalism and the ethical utilitarianism of Cumberland 
and Grotius were alike repelled as irreconcilable with the doctrine 
of revelation. It was doubtless because of this atmosphere of 
hostility that on the death of Montesquieu at Paris, in 1755, 
Diderot was the only man of letters who attended his funeral,' 1 
though the Academie performed a commemorative service. 5 Never- 
theless, Montesquieu was throughout his life a figure in " good 
society," and suffered no molestation apart from the outcry against 
his books. He lived under a tradition of private freethinking and 
public clericalism, even as did Moliere in the previous century ; and 
where the two traditions had to clash, as at interment, the clerical 
dominion affirmed itself. But even in the Church there were 
always successors of Gassondi, to wit, philosophic unbelievers, as 
well as quiet friends of toleration. And it was given to an obscure 
Churchman to show the way of freothought to a generation of lay 
combatants. 

| Peiisecft Diverses : Dela religion. 2 Lanson, p. 714, note. 

:i Tr. in English, 1753. It is noteworthy that Cataneo formally accepts Montesquieu's 
professions of orthodoxy. 

1 Correspmidance litteraire de Grimm et Tfidernt, ed. 1829-31, i, 273. See the footnote 
for an account of the indecent efforts of the Jesuits to get at the dying philosopher. The 
cure of the parish who was allowed entry began his exhortation with : " Vons savcz, M. Io 
President, com bien Dieu est grand." "Oui, monsieur," returned Montesquieu, "et eonibien 
les homines sont petits." 

5 Mosnard, Hist, de I' 'academic francaise, p. 63. 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 219 

6. One of tho most comprehensive freethinking works of the 
century, tho Testament of Jean MESLIER, cure of Etrepigny, in 
Champagne (d. 1723, 1729, or 1733), though it inspired numbers of 
eighteenth-century freethinkers who read it in manuscript, was never 
printed till 1861-61. It deserves here some special notice. 1 At his 
death, by common account, Meslier left two autograph copies of his 
book, after having deposited a third copy in the archives of tho 
jurisdiction of Sainte-Menehould. By a strange chance one was 
permitted to circulate, and ultimately there were some hundred 
copies in Paris, selling at ten louis apiece. As he told on the 
wrapper of the copy he left for his parishioners, he had not dared 
to speak out during his life ; but he had made full amends. Ho is 
recorded to have been an exceptionally charitable priest, devoted to 
his parishioners, whoso interests he indignantly championed against 
a tyrannous lord of the manor ;" apropos of Descartes's doctrine of 
animal automatism, which he fiercely repudiates, ho denounces with 
deep feeling all cruelty to animals, at whose slaughter for food ho 
winces ; and his book reveals him as a man profoundly impressed at 
once by the sufferings of the people under heartless kings and nobles, 
and the immense imposture of religion which, in his eyes, maintained 
the whole evil system. Some men before him had impugned miracles, 
some the gospels, some dogma, some tho conception of deity, some 
tho tyranny of kings. He impugns all : and where nearly all tho 
deists had eulogized the character of the Gospel Jesus, the priest 
envelops it in his harshest invective. 

He must have written during whole years, with a sombre, 
invincible patience, dumbly building up, in his lonely leisure, his 
unfaltering negation of all that tho men around him held for sacred, 
and that lie was sworn to preach the whole to bo his testament to 
his parishioners. In the slow, heavy style the style of a cart horse, 
A T oltairo called it there is an indubitable sincerity, a smouldering 
passion, hut no haste, no explosion. Tho long-drawn, formless, 
prolix sentences say everything that can be said on their theme ; 
and when tho long book was done it was slowly copied, and yet 
again copied, by tho same heavy, unwearying hand. He had read 
few books, it seems only the Bible, some of the hat hers, Montaigne, 
the Turkish Spy," Naude, Charron, Pliny, Tourneminc cm atheism, 
and Fenelon on the existence of God, with some history, and Moron's 

1 A full analysis is civen by Strauss in the second \ppendi\ to his Vulluiri : SVr/i.s 
Vortrn'jr, >>.,. A nil. 1*70. 

- The details h re dubious Kee the memoir compile I bv " Uud.df Ohiirles" IK. ('. 
IVAblaint? van (lie- en bun; J. the editor of the Ti <tmnt ul. \in iVrdiim, :( torn. [Nil 01. It 
draw-, chiefly on tho Mrinnircs sec rut n dc linclmumont. under date S-pt. JO, 1701. 



220 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Dictionary ; but ho had re-read them often. He does not cite Bayle ; 
and Montaigne is evidently his chief master. But on his modest 
reading he had reached as absolute a conviction of the untruth of 
the entire Judseo-Christian religion as any freethinker ever had. 
Moved above all by his sense of the corruption and misrule around 
him, he sets out with a twofold indictment against religion and 
government, of which each part sustains the other, and he tells his 
parishioners how he had been " hundreds of times " ! on the point 
of bursting out with an indignant avowal of his contempt for the 
rites he was compelled to administer, and the superstitions he had 
to inculcate. Then, in a grimly-planned order, he proceeds to 
demolish, section by section, the whole structure. 

Eeligions in general he exhibits as tissues of error, illusion, and 
imposture, the endless sources of troubles and strifes for men. Their 
historical proofs and documentary bases are then assailed, and the 
gospels in particular are ground between the slow mill-stones of his 
dialectic; miracles, promises, and prophecies being handled in turn. 
The ethic and the doctrine are next assailed all along the line, 
from their theoretic bases to their political results ; and the kings of 
France fare no better than their creed. As against the theistic 
argument of Fenelon, the entire theistic system is then oppugned, 
sometimes with precarious erudition, generally with cumbrous but 
solid reasoning; and the eternity of matter is affirmed with more 
than Averroi'stic conviction, the Cartesians coming in for a long 
series of heavy blows. Immortality is further denied, as miracles 
had been; and the treatise ends with a stern affirmation of its 
author's rectitude, and, as it were, a massive gesture of contempt for 
all that will be said against him when he lias passed into the nothing- 
ness which he is nearing. " I have never committed any crime," he 
writes," " nor any bad or malicious action : I defy any man to make 
me on fids head, with justice, any serious reproach "; but he quotes 
from the Psalms, with grim zest, phrases of hate towards workers of 
iniquity. There is not even the hint of a smile at the astonishing 
bequest lie was laying up for his parishioners and his country. He 
was sure he would be read, and he was right. The whole polemic of 
the next sixty years, the indictment of the government no less than 
that of the creed, is laid out in his sombre treatise. 

To the general public, however, he was never known save by the 
"Extract " really a deistic adaptation made by Voltaire," and the 

1 Teatamcnt, as cited, i, '25. 2 iii, 306. 

3 First published in 1T0-2 [or 1761? Sec Baehaumont. Oct. IJOj, will] the date 1742; and 
reprinted in the Eiutngile de la Unison, 1701. It was no lev. or than four times ordered to 
bo destroyed in the Kestoration period. 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 221 

re -written summary by d'Holbach and Diderot entitled Le Bon Sens 
du Cure Meslier (1772). l Even this publicity was delayed for a 
generation, since Voltaire, who heard of the Testament as early as 
1735, seems to have made no use of it till 1762. But the entire 
group of lighting freethinkers of the age was in some sense inspired 
by the old priest's legacy. 

7. Apart from this direct influence, too, others of the cloth bore 
some part in the general process of enlightenment. A good type of 
the agnostic priest of the period was the Abbe Terrasson, the author 
of the philosophic romance Sethos (1732), who died in 1750. Not 
very judicious in his theory of human evolution (which he repre- 
sented as a continuous growth from a stage of literary infancy, seen 
in Homer), he adopted the Newtonian theory at a time when the 
entire Academy stood by Cartesianism. Among his friends he 
tranquilly avowed his atheism." He died " without the sacraments," 
and when asked whether he believed all the doctrine of the Church, 
he replied that for him that was not possible. 3 Another anti-clerical 
Abbe was Gaidi, whose poem, La Religion a V 'Assemble du Clerge de 
France (17G2), was condemned to be burned. 4 

Among or alongside of such disillusioned Churchmen there must 
have been a certain number who, desiring no breach with the 
organization to which they belonged, saw the fatal tendency of the 
spirit of persecution upon which its rulers always fell back in their 
struggle with freethought, and sought to open their eyes to the folly 
and futility of their course. Freethinkers, of course, had to lead the 
way, as we have seen. It was the young Turgot who in 1753 
published two powerful Lettrcs surla tolerance, and in 175-1 a further 
series of admirable Lett res d' un ecclesiastique a un magistrat, pleading 
the same cause.' But similar appeals were anonymously made, by a 
clerical pen, at a moment when the Church was about to enter on a 
new and exasperating conflict with the growing band of freethinking 
writers who rallied round Voltaire. The small book of Quest ions sin- 
la tolerance, ascribed to the Abbe Tailhe or Tailhie and the canonist 
Maultrot (Geneva, 1758), is conceived in the very spirit of rationalism, 
yet with a careful concern to persuade the clergy to sane courses, 
and is to this day worth reading as a utilitarian argument. But the 

1 Probably Diderot did the most of the adaptation. " II v a plus mho du lion sons dans 
cc livre," writes Voltaire to IVAlembert ; "il est terrible. S'il sort do la boutique du 
,S 7 f. me ile bi Suture, l.'auteur s'e.-4 bien porfectioniiO " Ibottre de -.:7 .luillet, 177.".). 

- "II lour faut un Ktre a ees messieurs; pour moi, je mVii pa -o." (.iriiinii, Cnrre- 
Uljoiiihiiirr l.tlt, rmrr, ml. 1^'J -:;l , iv. lSii. 

1 flriiiiui. as cited, i, !.-. (irioiiu tells ad. Iihtful story of his reception of the confe ;sor. 
1 "Cot iiuvrajje, d.mt les vers sont urn in is et liien ton rue . e t line : atiro des plus lieeii- 
cii i i contre les ino-ur , de no i ov.'-muos." liaohaiuiiont, .1/. mnin t S, en ts, Juiii 1 .'., 170-'. 

- liouet-Maury, lltt. dc In lib. de conscience en Fnuice, l'.XJO, p. OS 



222 EIGHTEENTH CENTUBY 

Church was not fated to he led by such light. The principle of; 
toleration was left to become the watchword of freethought, while 
the Church identified herself collectively with that of tyranny. 

Anecdotes of the time reveal the coincidence of tyranny and 
evasion, intolerance and defiance. Of Nicolas Boindin (1676-1751), 
procureur in the royal Bureau des Finances, who was received into 
the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres in 1706, it is told 
that he " would have been received in the French Academy if the 
public profession he made of being an atheist had not excluded him." * 
But the publicity was guarded. When he conversed with the young 
Marmontel 2 and others at the Cafe Procope, they used a conversa- 
tional code in which the soul was called Margot, religion Javotte, 
liberty Jeanneton, and the deity Monsieur de I'Etre. Once a listener 
of furtive aspect asked Boindin who might be this Monsieur de I'Etre 
who behaved so ill, and with whom they were so displeased ? " Mon- 
sieur," replied Boindin, " he is a police spy " such being the avoca- 
tion of the questioner. 3 " The morals of Boindin," says a biographical 
dictionary of the period, " were as pure as those of an atheist can be ; 
his heart was generous ; but to these virtues he joined presumption 
and the obstinacy which follows from it, a bizarre humour, and an 
unsociable character." 4 Other testimonies occur on the first two 
heads, not on the last. But he was fittingly refused " Christian " 
interment, and was buried by night, " sans pompe." 

8. With the ground prepared as we have seen, freethought was 
bound to progress in France in the age of Louis XV ; hut it chanced 
that the lead fell into the hands of the most brilliant and fecund of 
all the writers of the century. YOLTAIRE 5 (1691-1778) was already 
something of a freethinker when a mere child. So common was 
deism already become in Paris at the end of the seventeenth century 
that his godfather, an abbe, is said to have taught him, at the age of 
three, a poem by J. B. BOUSSEAU, then privately circulated, in 
which Moses in particular and religious revelations in general are 
derided as fraudulent.' Knowing this poem by heart in his child- 

1 Nouveau (Lictionnaire historique-portatif par une Societe de Gens de Lettres, 

ed. 1771, i, 314. 

2 Marmontel does not relate this in his Memoires, where he insists on the decorum of 
the talk, even at d'Holbach's table. 3 Chaiufort, Caracteres et Anecdotes. 

4 Nouveau (lictionnaire, above cited, i. 315. 

5 Name assumed lor literary purposes, and probably composed by anagram from the 
real name Aroukt, with "le jeune " (junior) added, thus : A. K. O. V. E. T. L(e). I (eune). 

Not to be confounded with the greater and later Jean Jacques Rousseau. ,f. 1*. 
Rousseau became Voltaire's bitter enemy on the score, it is said, of the young man's 
epigram on the elder poet's "Ode to Posterity," which, he said, would not reach its address. 
Himself a rather ribald freethinker, Rousseau professed to be outraged by the irreligion 
of Voltaire. 

7 See the poem in note 4 to ch. ii of Duvemet's Vie de Voltaire. Duvernet calls it " one 
of the first attacks on which philosophy iu France had ventured against superstition" 
(Vie de Voltaire, ed, 1797, p. 10). 



FRENCH FHEETHOUGHT 2-23 

hood, the boy was well on the way to his life's work. It is on 
record that many of his school-fellows were, like himself, already 
deists, though his brother, a juvenile Jansenist, made vows to 
propitiate the deity on the small unbeliever's behalf. 1 It may have 
been a general reputation for audacious thinking that led to his being 
charged with the authorship of a stinging philippic published in 1715, 
after the death of Loins XIY. The unknown author, a young man, 
enumerated the manifold abuses and iniquities of the reign, con- 
cluding: "I have seen all these, and I am not twenty years old." 
Voltaire was then twenty-two ; but D'Argenson, who in the poem 
had been called "the enemy of the human race," finding no likelier 
author for the verses, put him under surveillance and exiled him from 
Paris ; and on his imprudent return imprisoned him for nearly a year 
in the Bastille (1716), releasing him only when the real author of the 
verses avowed himself. Unconquerable then as always, Voltaire 
devoted himself in prison to his literary ambitions, planning his 
Henriade and completing his CEdipe, which was produced in 1718 
with signal success. 

Voltaire was tints already a distinguished young poet and 
dramatist when, in 172G, after enduring the affronts of an assault 
by a nobleman's lacqueys, and of imprisonment in the Bastille for 
seeking amends by duel, he came to England, where, like Deslandes 
before him, he met with a ready welcome from the freethinkers." 
Four years previously, in the powerful poem. For and Against,'* he 
had put his early deistic conviction in a vehement impeachment of 
the immoral creed of salvation and damnation, making the declara- 
tion, " I am not a Christian." Thus what ho had to learn in 
England was not deism, but the physics of Newton and the details 
of the deist campaign against revelationism ; and these he mastered. 4 
Not only was he directly and powerfully influenced by Bolingbroke, 
who became his intimate friend, but he read widely in the philo- 

1 Duvernet. cli. ii. The froe-h carted Ninon dt: i.'Entlos, brightest of old ladies, is to 
be numbered among the pro-Voltairean freethinkers, and to lie remembered as leaving 
young Voltaire a legacy to buy books. She refused to " sell her soul" by turning devote 
on l 'ue invitation ot her old friend Madame; de Main tenon. Madame I)' K pi nay, Voltaire's 
" belle philo.-ophe et amiable Habaeue," Madame' du Deli'and, and Madame Geoll'rin were 
among the later frei thinking u ramies ilnmrn of the Voltairean period ; and so, presumably, 
was tin- Madame dc ( r. 1 1 u i . quoted by Kivarol, who remarked that " I'rovideiiee " is " the 
bapti-mal nam.- of Chance." A, to Madame (iool'friii see the (Knrrrs I'tisthiaiirx tic 
J j Al< mbt-rt, 1 :.v, i. -ilo.-jTl ; and the Mi ,n irrn tic Muriaiiiitcl, 1-01, ii, h>- W. Ii Marinontel 
i.T accurate, she \v> nt secretly at times to mass (p. 10!). 

- Ue-laudes wrote some new chapters of his licjlcxitms ill Loudon, for the Knglish 
tm n- : ition. Kng. tr. 171:J, p. '.'.!. 

' I'mir it Cnntrc, "ii Kvitrc o ['runic It was of course not printed till lorn: afterwards. 
Diderot, writing his 1' nunc mule <ht Sc< />! hi in- in 1717, says: "( 'est, je erois, dans l'allee des 
11< ur- nt in- allegory entre le (diamiiagne et le tokay, que l'cpitre a L'ranie prit naissance." 
(L Alice ,lr:, Murnmiiicrs, ad init.i '1 his seem , unju.-t,. 

1 He has been alternately represented us owing everything and owing very little to 
Kngland. Cp. Texte, linuxm-un ami tin Cusiutijuditnii Sjiirtt, Ihig. tr. p. Jb. Neither view- 
is just. 



224 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

sophic, scientific, and deistic English literature of the day, 1 and went 
back to France, after three years' stay, not only equipped for his 
ultimate battle with tyrannous religion, but deeply impressed by the 
moral wholesomeness of free discussion. Not all at once, indeed, 
did he become the mouthpiece of critical reason for his age : his 
literary ambitions were primarily on the lines of belles lettres, and 
secondarily on those of historical writing. After his Pour et Contre, 
his first freetbinking production was the not very heretical Lettres 
pliilosoiriiiques or Lettres anglaises, written in England in 1728, 
and, after circulating in MS., published in five editions in 173-4 ; 
and the official burning of the book by the common hangman, 
followed by the imprisonment of the bookseller in the Bastille, 1 ' was 
a sufficient check on such activity for the time. Save for the jests 
about Adam and Eve in the Mondain (173G), a slight satire for 
which hehad to fly from Paris; and the indirect though effective thrusts 
at bigotry in the Lique (1723 ; later the Henriade) ; in the tragedy of 
Mahomet (1739; printed in 17-42), in the tales of Memnon and Zadig 
(1747-48), and in the Ide.es dc La Mothe le Vaycr (1751) and the 
Defense de Milord Bolingbrolce (1752), ho produced nothing else 
markedly deistic till 1755, when he published the " Poem to the 
King of Prussia," otherwise named Sur la hi naturelle (which 
appears to have been written in 1751, while he was on a visit to 
the Margravine of Bayreuth), and that on the Earthquake of Lisbon. 
So definitely did the former poem base all morality on natural 
principles that it was ordered to be burned by the Parlement of 
Paris, then equally alarmed at freethinking and at Molinism. 4 And 
so impossible was it still in France to print any specific criticism of 
Christianity that when in 1759 he issued his verse translations of 
the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes they also were publicly 
burned, though he had actually softened instead of heightening the 
eroticism of the first and the " materialism " of the second/ 

9. It is thus a complete mistake on the part of Buckle to affirm 
that the activity of the French reformers up to 1750 was directed 

1 In his Essay upon the Civil Wars of France, and upon Epiclc Poetry (2nd ed. 172S, 

"corrected by himself "), written and published in English, he begins his "Advertisement " 
with the remark: "It has the appearance of too great a presumption in a traveller who 
hath been but eighteen months in England, to attempt to write in a language which he 
cannot pronounce at all, and which he hardly understands in conversation." As the book 
is remarkably well written, he must have read much English. 

- Lord Morley {Voltaire, 4th ed. p. 40) speaks of the English people as having then won 
"a full liberty of thought and speech and person." This, as we have seen, somewhat 
overstates the case. Hut discussion was much more nearly free than in France. 

'' Probably as much on political as on religious grounds. The 8th letter, Sur le 
Parlement. must have been very offensive to the French Government ; and in 173'.), moved 
by angry criticisms, Voltaire saw fit to modify its language. See Lanson's ed. of the 
Lettres, 1009, i, 92, 110. 

4 Condorcet, Vie de Voltaire, ed. 1792, p. 92. In reprints the poem was entitled Sur la 
religion naturelle, and was so commonly cited. s Condorcet, p. 99. 



FKENCII FEEETHOUGHT 225 

against religion, and that it was thereafter turned against the Stato. 
Certainly there was much freethinking among instructed men and 
others, but it proceeded, as under Louis XIV, mainly by way of 
manuscripts and conversation, or at best by the circulation of 
English books and a few translations of these ; and only guardedly 
before 1715 by means of published French books. 1 The Abbe 
Eanchon, in his MS. Life of Cardinal Fleury, truly says that " tho 
time of the Regency was a period of the spirit of dissoluteness and 
irreligion "; but when he ascribes to " those times " many licentious 
and destructive writings " he can specify only those of tho English 
deists. Precisely in the time of the Regency a multitude of those 
offensive and irreligious books were brought over the sea : Franco 
was deluged with them."'" It is incredible that multitudes of 
Frenchmen read English in the days of the Regency. French 
freethinkers like Saint Evremond and Deslandes, who visited or 
sojourned in London before 1715, took their freethought there 
with them ; and the only translations then in print were 
those of Collins's Discourse of Freethinking and Shaftesbury's 
essays on the Use of Ridicule and on Enthusiasm. Apart from 
these, the only known French freethinking book of the Regency 
period was the work of Vroes, a councillor at the court of Brabant, 
on the Spirit of Spinoza, reprinted as Des trois imposteurs. Meslier 
died not earlier than 1729 ; the Ilistoirc de la philosojdiie payennc of 
Burigny belongs to 1721 ; the Lettres philosophiqncs of Voltaire to 
1731; tho earlier works of d'Argens to 1737-38; tho Nonvelles 
liberies de penser, edited by Dumarsais, to 1713 ; and tho militant 
treatise of De la Serre, best known as the Examen de la Religion, 
to 1715. 

The ferment thus kept up was indeed so groat that about 1718 
the ecclesiastical authorities decided on the remarkable step of 
adopting for their purposes the apologetic treatise adapted by Jacob 
Vernet, professor of belles letlres at Geneva, from the works of 
Jean-Alphonso Turrettin, 3 not only a Protestant hut a substantially 
Socinian professor of ecclesiastical history at tho same university. 
The treatise is itself a testimony to the advance of rationalism in 
the Protestant world; and its adoption, even under correction, by 
the Catholic Church in France tells of a keen consciousness of 

1 See above, pp. -213-1 I, as to the work, of 15 mlainvilliors, Tyssot (It; I'atnt, Deslamles, 
and others who wrote between 1700 and 171.7. 

* Cited by Sehlosser. Hist. ,,( the, Ebihternth Centum. Knfi. tr. i. 1 1(5 17. 

Trail/ ilc la rrriti- th: la rrlitjitm rhritirinir, tire en partie cln latin de M. .1. Alplionso 

Tnrrett.in. profe eur en 1 aeademie de Ci'miM'o, par M. -I . Vernel , prolY enr de 1 ..!]< ;- 

lettrc- en la nn'oiie Aeademie. |{(!VUO e.t, corri^e par mi Theolo.'den 0a tln>li(|iie. h.-l. 
Ceneve, 17. 10. Kep. in -1 torn. 1703. Kculesiastieal approbation (Jiven Ij janv. 17!'.); 
privilege, bullet, 1701. 

VOL. II O 



226 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

need. But the dreaded advance, as we have seen, was only to a 
small extent yet traceable by new literature. The Examcn critique 
des apologistcs de la religion chretienne of Levesquo de Burigny was 
probably written about 1732, and then and thereafter circulated in 
manuscript, but it was not published till 176G ; and even in manu- 
script its circulation was probably small, though various apologetic 
works had testified to the increasing uneasiness of the orthodox 
world. Such titles as La religion chretienne demontree par la 
Iicsurrcction (by Armand de la Chapelle, 1728) and La religion 
chretienne prouvce par V accompli sscment des prophetics (by Pere 
Baltus, 1728) tell of private unbelief under the Regency. In 1737 
appeared the voluminous treatise (anonymous) of the Abbe de la 
Chambre, Traite de la veritable religion contre les athecs, les dcistcs, 
etc. (5 vols.). In 1717, again, there appeared a learned, laborious, 
and unintelligent work in three volumes (authorized in 1742), Le 
Libertinage combattu par la tcmoignagc des autcurs profanes, by an 
unnamed Benedictine 1 of the Congregation of St. Yanne. It declares 
that, between atheism and deism, there lias never been so much 
unbelief as now ; but it cites no modern books, and is devoted to 
arraying classic arguments in support of theism and morals. Part 
of the exposition consists in showing that Epicurus, Lucian, and 
Euripides, whom modern atheists are wont to cite as their masters, 
were not and could not have been atheists ; and the pious author 
roundly declares in favour of paganism as against atheism. 

So much smoke tells of fire ; but only in 1715 and 1710 did the 
printed Examcn of De la Serre and the Pensees philosophiqucs of 
Diderot begin to build up in France the modern school of critical 
and philosophic deism. When in 1751 the Abbe Gauchat began 
his series of Lcttrcs critiques, he set out by attacking Voltaire's 
Lcttres philosophiqucs, Diderot's Pensees philosophiques, the anony- 
mous Discours sur la vie licurcuse (1718), Les Mceurs* (1718), and 
Pope's Essay on Man ; taking up in his second volume the Lcttrcs 
Pcrsancs of Montesquieu (1721), and other sets of Lcttrcs written in 
imitation of them. In the third volume he has nothing more 
aggressive of Voltaire's to deal with than La Ilcnriadc, the Mahomet, 
and some of his fugitive pieces. And the Bishop of Puy, writing 
in 1754 his La Devotion concilicc avec V 'esprit, could say to the 
faithful : You live in an age fertile in pretended esprits forts, who, 
too weak nevertheless to attack in front an invincible religion, 
skirmish lightly around it, and in default of the reasons they lack, 

1 pom Renri Desmonts. according to Barbier. 

2 " Far Panagc " ( = Toussaint :>). Hep. 1750 and 1767 (Berlin). 



FEENCH FREETHOUGHT 227 

employ raillery." 1 The chivalrous bishop knew perfectly well that 
had a serious attack been published author and publisher would 
have been sent if possible to the Bastille, if not to the scaffold. 
But his evidence is explicit. There is here no recognition of any 
literary bombardment, though there was certainly an abundance 
of unbelief." 

Buckle has probably mistaken the meaning of the summing up 
of some previous writer to the el'f'ect that up to 1750 or a few years 
later the political opposition to the Court was religious, in the 
sense of ecclesiastical or sectarian (Jansenist), 3 and that it after- 
wards turned to matters of public administration.' It would bo 
truer to say that the early Lcttrcs pliilosophiques, the reading of 
which later made the boy Lafayette a republican at nine, were a 
polemic for political and social freedom, and as such a more direct 
criticism of the French administrative system than A T oltaire ever 
penned afterwards, save in the Voix da Sage ct du Pcuplc (1750). 
In point of fact, as will be shown below, only some twenty scattered 
freethinking works had appeared in French up to 1745, almost none 
of them directly attacking Christian beliefs ; and, despite the above- 
noted sallies of Voltaire, Condorcet comes to the general conclusion 
that it was the hardihood of Rousseau's deism in tho " Confession 
of a Savoyard Vicar" in his Emilc (1762) that spurred Voltaire to 
new activity. ' This is perhaps not quite certain ; there is some 
reason to believe that his " Sermon of the Fifty," his "first frontal 
attack on Christianity," G was written a year before; but in any 
case that and other productions of his at once left Rousseau far in 
the rear. Even now he had no fixed purpose of continuous warfare 
against so powerful and cruel an enemy as the Church, which in 
1757 had actually procured an edict pronouncing tho death penalty 
against all writers of works attacking religion ; though the fall of 
the Jesuits in 1701 raised new hopes of freedom. But when, after 
that hopeful episode, there began a new movement of Jansenist 
fanaticism: and when, after the age of religious savagery had seemed 
to be over, there began a new series of religious atrocities in Franco 

1 Work cited, e 1. 17-V,. p. 2.V2. 

- A glimpse of old I 'iiris before or about 17.10 is afforded by Fontenelle's remark that 
the prevailing diseases mi^ht be known from tho afiiches. At every si reel, corner were to 
be .((II two, oi which one advertised a Tniite stir I incrediilite. (driiiim. Cnrr. litt. iii. 373.) 

' Tims IJiiruy had said in his llistnire de France (1st erf. Ls.52) that in the work of the 
.Tansenists of 1'orL ltoval "l'esprit rf'opposition politique se cacha sous ['opposition 
relieieuse " (ed. l-"0. ii, 2!M. 

1 The case has been thus correctly put by M. Iiocquain, who. however, decides that 
" de reliitieu-e qu'elle etait, l'oppo.sition rfevient politique " as early a- about 1721-1733. 
1/ Ksitrit rr' ml ii I ion nu in- <i, mil hi rr mint inn, H7S ; tnhle des mxtii res, liv. 2e. Duvuy (last 
noli pul the I endem-v still earlier. 

"(j Ui Ii ir lii ii i -ohm a Voltaire, et excita son emulation" led. cited, p. IIS). 

'' A a rtixpement d< rditcurs, in iin ! I. <,! 17.'.:. vol. \lv, p. If-.!. 



228 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

itself (1762-66), ho girded on a sword that was not to be laid down 
till his death. 

Even so late as 1768, in his last letter to Damilaville (8 iev.), 
Voltaire expresses a revulsion against the aggressive freethought 
propaganda of the time which is either one of his epistolary- 
stratagems or the expression of a nervous reaction in a time of 
protracted bad health. " Mes chagrins redoublent," he writes, 
" par la quantite incroyable d'ecrits contre la religion chretienne, 
qui so succedent aussi rapidement en Hollande que les gazettes 
et les journaux." His enemies have the barbarism to impute 
to him, at his age, " une partie de ces extravagances composees 
par de jeunes gens et par des moines defroques." His imme- 
diate ground for chagrin may have been the fact that this out- 
break of anti-Christian literature was likely to thwart him in 
the campaign he was then making to secure justice to the 
Sirven family as he had already vindicated that of Calas. 
Sirven barely missed the fate of the latter. 

The misconception of Buckle, above discussed, has been 
widely shared even among students. Thus Lord Morley, dis- 
cussing the " Creed of the Savoyard Vicar " in Eousseau's 
Emile (1762), writes that " Souls weary of the fierce mockeries 
that had so long been flying like fiery shafts against the far 
Jehovah of the Hebrews, and the silent Christ of the later 
doctors and dignitaries," may well have turned to it with 
ardour {Rousseau, ed. 1886, ii, 266). He further speaks of the 
" superiority of the sceptical parts of the Savoyard Vicar's pro- 
fession over the biting mockeries which Voltaire had made 

the fashionable method of assault" (p. 29-1). No specifications 
are offered, and the chronology is seen to be astray. The only 
mockeries which Voltaire could be said to have made fashion- 
able before 1760 were those of his Lettres philosophiqucs, his 
Mondain, Ids Defense de Milord Bolingbrokc, and his philoso- 
phically humorous tales, as Candida, Zadig, Micronicgas, etc.: 
all his distinctive attacks on Judaism and Christianity were 
yet to come. [The Abbe Guyon, in his L'Oracle des nouveaux 
philosophcs (Berne, 17-59-60, 2 torn.), proclaims an attack on 
doctrines taught "dans les livres de nos beaux esprits " {Avert. 
p. xi) ; but he specifies only denials of (l) revelation, (2) immor- 
tality, and (3) the Biblical account of man's creation ; and he 
is largely occupied with Diderot's Pcnsces philosophiqucs, 
though his book is written at Voltaire. The second volume is 
devoted to Candida and the Precis of Ecclesiastes and the 
Song of Solomon not very fierce performances.] Lord Morley, 
as it happens, does not make this chronological mistake in his 
earlier work on Voltaire, where he rightly represents him as 
beginning his attack on " the Infamous " after he had settled 
at Eernoy (1758). His "fierce mockeries " begin at the earliest 



FEEXCTI FEEETIIOUGIIT 229 

in 1761. The mistake may have arisen through taking as true 
the fictitious date of 173(5 for the writing of the Examai 
Important de Milord Bolingbrokc. It belongs to 1707. Buckle's 
error, it may he noted, is repeated by so careful a student as 
Dr. Redlich, Local Government in England, Eng. tr. 190.'], i, Gl. 

10. The rest of Voltaire's long life was a sleepless and dexterous 
warfare, by all manner of literary stratagem, 1 facilitated by vast 
literary fame ami ample acquired wealth, against what he called 
" the Infamous " the Church and the creed which he found still 
swift to slay for mere variation of belief, and slow to let any good 
thing l)e wrought for the bettering of men's lives. Of his prodigious 
literary performance it is probably within the truth to say that in 
respect of rapid influence on the general intelligence of the world it 
has never been equalled by any one man's writing; and that, what- 
ever its measure of error and of personal misdirection, its broader 
influence was invariably for peace on earth, for tolerance among 
men, and for reason in all things. His faults were many, and some 
were serious ; but to no other man of his age, save possibly Beccaria, 
can be attributed so much beneficent accomplishment, lie can 
perhaps better be estimated as a force than as a man. So great 
was the area of his literary energy that he is inevitably inadequate 
at many points. Lessing could successfully impugn him in drama ; 
Diderot in metaphysic ; Gibbon in history; and it is noteworthy 
that all of these men 2 at different times criticized him with asperity, 
testing him by the given item of performance, and disparaging his 
personality. Yet in his own way he was a greater power than any 
of them ; and his range, as distinguished from his depth, otitgoes 
theirs. In sum, ho was the greatest mental fighter of his age, 
perhaps of any age : in that aspect he is a power-house " not to 
be matched in human history; and his polemic is mainly for good. 
It was a distinguished English academic who declared that " civiliza- 
tion owes more to Voltaire than to all the Fathers of the Church put 

1 It, lias been counted that ha used no fewer than a hundred and thirty different 
pseudonyms; and the perpetual prosecution and confiscation of his hooks explains the 
procedure. As we have seen, tin: Lett rex philumiphiiiucx (otherwise the l.eitn - n injlnises) 
were burned on their appearance, in 17:J1, and the bookseller put in the liastille ; the 
Heeeuil ilex pieces futjUivex was suppressed in 17.7.); the \\,i.c d it Sane et tin Veiiple was 
oilicially and clerically condemned in 1751 ; the poem on Xatuial Line was burned at Paris 
in 1V,>, ; Cainlidc u.1 fieneva in 17.7.) ; the Uictioitnaiie. philtistaihuiuc at (hncva in 17i!l. and 
at i'aris in 17t;.>; and many of his minor pseudonymous performances had the same udver- 
ti-einent. 1; it even the Hen rimle. the diaries XII. and the lirsl chapters of the Sii'ele tie 
Lmtix XIV were prohibited : and in 17.S5 the thirty volumes publi-hed ol the I7sl edition 
of his work-, were condemned en Masse. 

- Diderot, eritinue of l.r philnsnphe iipioraitt in (irimm's Can: Lilt. 1 juin 17ii<i ; 
J.e-dm,', Unmlai mische lira mat it mie, Stiiek 10-1-2, 1 .'. ; llibboii. eh. i. note near end; 
cli. It, note on sie^e of Damascus. Kousseau was as ho -tile a , any is.-e Morlcy's Umisseau, 
eh. ix, 1). lint Ron-.- call , Verdict is the lea t important, an i tl e 1< a I indieial. lie had 
him elf earned the detestation of Voltaire, as of niiui) other men. In a moment ol piipie, 
Diderot wrote of Voltaire: "('et homme n'e t epie Ic second dan; tons le.-i fjenn 
(Lettre 71 a Mdlle. Voland, 12 aotil, 17'i2). He forgot, v, it and humour ! 



230 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

together." 1 If in a literary way he hated his personal foes, much 
more did he hate cruelty and bigotry ; and it was his work more 
than any that made impossible a repetition in Europe of such 
clerical crimes as the hanging of the Protestant pastor, La Rochette ; 
the execution of the Protestant, Galas, on an unproved and absurdly 
false charge ; the torture of his widow and children ; the beheading 
of the lad La Barre for ill-proved blasphemy. 2 As against his many 
humanities, there is not to be charged on him one act of public 
malevolence. In his relations with his fickle admirer, FREDERICK 
THE GREAT, and with others of his fellow-thinkers, he and they 
painfully brought home to freethinkers the lesson that for them as 
for all men there is a personal art of life that has to be learned, over 
and above the rectification of opinion. But he and the others 
wrought immensely towards that liberation alike from unreason 
and from bondage which must precede any great improvement of 
human things. 

Voltaire's constant burden was that religion was not only untrue 
but pernicious, and when he was not dramatically showing this of 
Christianity, as in his poem La Ligice (1723), lie was saying it by 
implication in such plays as Zaire (1732) and Mahomet (1742), dealing 
with the fanaticism of Islam; while in the Essai sur las mceurs 
(1756), really a broad survey of general history, and in the Steele de 
Louis XIV, he applied the method of Montesquieu, with pungent 
criticism thrown in. Later, he added to his output direct criticisms 
of the Christian books, as in the Examcn important de Milord 
Bolingbrohe (1767), and the Recherches historiques sur le CJiris- 
tianisme ('? 17G9), continuing all his former lines of activity. Moan- 
while, with the aid of his companion the MARQUISE DU CHATELET, 
an accomplished mathematician, lie had done much to popularize the 
physics of Newton and discredit the scientific fallacies of the system 
of Descartes ; all the while preaching a Newtonian but rather agnostic 
deism. This is the purport of his Philosophe Ignorant, his longest 
philosophical essay.' 5 The destruction of Lisbon by the earthquake 

1 Prof. Jowetb, of Balliol College. See L. A. Tollemache, Benjamin Jowett, Master of 
Balliol, 4th ed. pp. 27-23. 

2 See details in Lord Morley's Voltaire, 4th ed. pp. 1G5-70, 257-58. The erection by the 
French freethinkers of a monument to La Havre in 1905, opposite the Cathedral of the 
Sacre 1 Heart. Montmartre, Paris, is an expression at once of the old feud with the Church 
and the French appreciation of high personal courage. La Barre was in truth something 
of a scapegrace, hut his execution was an infamy, and lie went to his death as to a bridal. 
The erection of Die monument has been the occasion of a futile pretence on the clerical 
side that for La Barre's death the Church had no responsibility, the movers in the case 
being laymen. Nothing, apparently, can teach Catholic Churchmen that the Church's 
past sins ought to be confessed like those of individuals. It is quite true that it was a 
Parlem ait that condemned La Barre, Put what a religious training was it that turned 
laymen into murderous fanatics ! 

! M. Lanson seems to overlook it when he writes (p. 717) that " the affirmation of God, 
the denial of Providence and miracles, is the whole metaphysic of Voltaire." 



FRENCH FREETIIOUGIIT 231 

of 1755 seems to have shaken him in his deistic faith, since tho 
upshot of his poem on that subject is to leave the moral government 
of the universe an absolute enigma ; and in the later Candide (1759) 
he attacks theistic optimism with his matchless ridicule. Indeed, as 
early as 1719, in his Traite de la Metaphysiquc, written for the 
Marquise du Chatelet, he reaches virtually pantheistic positions in 
defence of the God-idea, declaring with Spinoza that deity can he 
neither good nor had. But, like so many professed pantheists, ho 
relapsed, and he never accepted the atheistic view ; on the contrary, 
we find him arguing absurdly enough, in his Homily on Atheism 
(17G5), that atheism had keen the destruction of morality in Rome; 1 
on the publication of d'llolbach's System of Nature in 1770 he threw 
oil an article Dial : reponse ait Systemc de la Nature, where he argued 
on the old deistic lines; and his tale of Jenni ; or, the Sage and the 
Atheist (1775), is a polemic on the same theme. By this time tho 
inconsistent deism of his youth had itself keen discredited among 
the more thoroughgoing freethinkers ; and for years it had keen said 
in one section of literary society that Voltaire after all " is a bigot ; 
he is a deist ! " 

But for freethinkers of all schools tho supreme service of Voltaire 
lay in his twofold triumph over the spirit of religious persecution. 
He had contrived at once to make it hateful and to make it ridicu- 
lous ; and it is a great theistic poet of our own day that has pro- 
nounced his blade the 

sharpest, shrewdest steel that ever stahhed 
To death Imposture through the armour joints. :: 

To be perfect, the tribute should have noted that he hated cruelty 
much more than imposture ; and such is the note of tho whole 
movement of which his name was the oriilamme. Voltaire personally 
was at once the most pugnacious and the most forgiving of men. 
Few of the Christians who hated him had so often as he fulfilled 
their own precept of returning good for evil to enemies ; and none 
excelled him in hearty philanthropy. It is notable that most of the 
humanitarian ideas of the latter half of the century the demand for 
the reform of criminal treatment, the denunciation of war and slavery, 
the insistence on good government, and toleration of all creeds - are 

1 Lord Morley writes fj). 200) : " We do not know liov f;ir lie ever senon ly approached 

tin- question whether a society can exist without a religion." This overlooks l.otli the 

Homi-lif stir VAtliiisnw and the article ATI ikisMK in tin: Diet urn n>iin I'iitl 7 ' n/ur, where 
the question is discussed criously and explicitly. 

- Horace Walpole, Letti r to Or;, v. Nov. 10. I To... Compare 1.1 h t clit.ici 1 

firiinin iCitrr. lilt. vii. .jl k/.) on his tract, hint in reply to d'l lolhach. "II rai onne li- 
dessus com me un enfant," writes Orimm. " luais coiume 1111 oli 1 plant < 1 1 1 " i I e I." 

- Browning, T lie Two I'oeta 0/ Croinic, st. cvii. 



232 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

more definitely associated with the freethinking than with any religious 
party, excepting perhaps the laudable but uniniluential sect of Quakers. 

The character of Voltaire is still the subject of chronic debate ; 
but the old deadlock of laudation and abuse is being solved in a 
critical recognition of him as a man of genius flawed by the 
instability which genius so commonly involves. Carlyle (that 
model of serenity), while dwelling on his perpetual perturbations, 
half-humanely suggests that we should think of him as one con- 
stantly hag-ridden by maladies of many kinds ; and this recogni- 
tion is really even more important in Voltaire's case than in 
Caiiyle's own. He was " a bundle of nerves," and the clear 
light of his sympathetic intelligence was often blown aside by 
gusts of passion often enough excusably. But while his 
temperamental weaknesses exposed him at times to humilia- 
tion, and often to sarcasm ; and while his compelled resort to 
constant stratagem made him more prone to trickery than his 
admirers can well care to think him, the balance of his character 
is abundantly on the side of generosity and humanity. 

One of the most unjustifiable of recent attacks upon him (one 
regrets to have to say it) came from the pen of the late Prof. 
Churton Collins. In his book on Voltaire, Montesquieu, and 
Rousseau in England (1908) that critic gives in the main an 
unbiassed account of Voltaire's English experience ; but at one 
point (p. 39) he plunges into a violent impeachment with the 
slightest possible justification. He in effect adopts the old 
allegation of Euffhead, the biographer of Pope a statement 
repeated by Johnson that Voltaire used his acquaintance with 
Pope and Bolingbroke to play the spy on them, conveying 
information to Walpole, for which he was rewarded. The 
whole story collapses upon critical examination. Ruffhead's 
story is, in brief, that Pope purposely lied to Voltaire as to the 
authorship of certain published letters attacking "Walpole. They 
were by Bolingbroke ; but Pope, questioned by Voltaire, said 
they were his own, begging him to keep the fact absolutely 
secret. Next day at court everyone was speaking of the letters 
as Pope's ; and Pope accordingly knew that Voltaire was a 
traitor. For this tale there is absolutely nothing but hearsay 
evidence. Euffhead, as Johnson declared, knew nothing of 
Pope, and simply used Warburton's material. The one quasi- 
confirmation cited by Mr. Collins is Bolingbroke's letter to 
Swift (May 18, 1727) asking him to " insinuate " that Walpole's 
only ground for ascribing the letters to Bolingbroke " is the 

authority of one of his spies who reports, not ichat he hears 

but what he guesses." This is an absolute contradiction of 

the Pope story, at two points. It refers to a guess at Boling- 
broke, and tells of no citation from Pope. To put it as con- 
firming the charge is to exhibit a complete failure of judgment. 



FRENCH FREETIIOUGHT 233 

After this irrational argument, Mr. Collins offers a worse. He 
admits (p. -3) that Voltaire always remained on friendly terms 
with both Pope and Bolingbroke ; but adds that this "can 
scarcely be alleged as a proof of his innocence, for neither Pope 
nor Bolingbroke would, for such an offence, have been likely to 
quarrel with a man in a position so peculiar as that of Voltaire. 

His flatter}) was j)leasant " Such an argument is worse 

than nugatory. That Bolingbroke spoke ill in private of 
Voltaire on general grounds counts for nothing. He did the 
same of Pope and of nearly all his friends. Mr. Collins further 
accuses Voltaire of baseness, falsehood, and hypocrisy on the 
mere score of his habit of extravagant flattery. This was notori- 
ously the French mode in that age ; but it had been just as 
much the mode in seventeenth-century England, from the 
Jacobean translators of the Bible to Dry den to name no 
others. And Mr. Collins in effect charges systematic hypocrisy 
upon both Pope and Bolingbroke. 

Other stories of Bullhead's against Voltaire are equally 
improbable and ill-vouched as Mr. Collins incidentally admits, 
though he forgets the admission. They all come from War- 
burton, himself convicted of double-dealing with Pope ; and 
they finally stand for the hatred of Frenchmen which was so 
common in eighteenth-century England, and is apparently not 
yet quite extinct. Those who would have a sane, searching, 
and competent estimate of Voltaire, leaning humanely to the 
side of goodwill, should turn to the Voltaire of M. Champion. 
A brief estimate was attempted by the present writer in the 
It. P. A. Annual for 1912. 

11. It is difficult to realize how far the mere demand for 
tolerance which sounds from Voltaire's plays and poems before he 
has begun to assail credences was a signal and an inspiration to 
new thinkers. Certain it is that the principle of toleration, passed 
on by Holland to England, was regarded by the orthodox priesthood 
in France as the abomination of desolation, and resisted by them 
with all their power. But the contagion was unquenchable. It 
was presumably in Holland that there were printed in 1738 the two 
volumes of Lett res sur la religion essenliclle a Vhomme, distinguee tie 
re qui n'en esl que Vaccessoire, by Marie Iluber, a (lenevese lady 
living in Lyons; also the two following parts (173'J), replying to 
criticisms on the earlier. In its gentle way, the book stands very 
distinctly for the "natural" and ethical principle in religion, denying 
that the deity demands from men either service or worship, or that, 
he can be wronged by their deeds, or that he can punish them 
eternally for their sins. This was one of the first French fruits, 



231 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

after Voltaire, of the English deistic influence; 1 and it is difficult to 
understand how the authoress escaped molestation. Perhaps the 
memory of the persecution inflicted on the mystic Madame Guyon 
withheld the hand of power. As it was, four Protestant theologians 
opened fire on her, regarding her doctrine as hostile to Christianity. 
One pastor wrote from Geneva, one from Amsterdam, and two 
professors from Zurich the two last in Latin.' 2 

From about 1746 onwards, the rationalist movement in eighteenth- 
century France rapidly widens and deepens. The number of ration- 
alistic writers, despite the press laws which in that age inflicted the 
indignity of imprisonment on half the men of letters, increased from 
decade to decade, and the rising prestige of the philosophes in con- 
nection with the Encyclopedia (1751-72) gave new courage to writers 
and printers. At once the ecclesiastical powers saw in the Encyclo- 
pedie a dangerous enemy ; and in January, 1752, the Sorbonne 
condemned a thesis " To the celestial Jerusalem," by the Abbe de 
Prades. It had at first (1751) been received with official applause, 
but was found on study to breathe the spirit of the new work, to 
which the Abbe had contributed, and whose editor, Diderot, was his 
friend. Sooth to say, it contained not a little matter calculated to 
act as a solvent of faith. Under the form of a vindication of orthodox 
Catholicism, it negated alike Descartes and Leibnitz ; and declared 
that the science of Newton and the Dutch physiologists was a better 
defence of religion than the theses of Clarke, Descartes, Cudworth, 
and Malebranche, which made for materialism. The handling, too, 
of the question of natural versus revealed religion, in which " theism " 
is declared to be superior to all religions si imam excipias veram, "if 
you except the one true," might well arouse distrust in a vigilant 
Catholic reader.' 1 The whole argument savours far more of the 
scientific comparative method than was natural in the work of an 
eighteenth-century seminarist ; and the principle, " Either we are 
ocular witnesses of the facts or we know them only by hearsay," c 
was plainly as dangerous to the Christian creed as to any other. 
According to Naigeon,* 3 the treatise was wholly the work of de Prades 

1 Cp. Rtiiudlin, Gesch. flea Ilationalismus unci Supernatia-alismus, 1S26, pp. 237-90 
Hagenbach, Kirchengeschichte des IS. und 19. Jalirhunderts, 2te And. 1848, i. '218-20. 

2 Zimmerman, De causis magis magisque i)iv<descentis incredulitaiis, et meilela huic 
malo adhibenda. Tiguri, 1730. Ito. Prof. Breitinger of Zurich wrote a criticism afterwards 
tr. (1741) as Examen des Lettres surla religion essentielle. De Roches, pastor at Geneva, 
published in letter-form 2 vols, entitled Vefensi du Christianisme, as " preservatif contre" 
the Lettres of Mdlle. Huber (1710) ; and Bouillier of Amsterdam also 2 vols, of Lettres (1741). 

8 Cp. Bouillier, Hist, de la plulos. cartes, ii, (524-2,3; D'Argenson, Mi- moires, ed. Jannet, 
iv, 63. 

4 See the thesis (Jerusalem Calesti) as printed in the Apologie de M. I'Abbe De Prades, 
"Amsterdam," 1752. pp. 4, 6. 

s LI. p. 10. G Mimoires surla vie et les ouvrages de Diderot , 1S21, p. 160. 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 235 

and another Abbe, Yvon ; but it remains probable that Diderot 
inspired not a little of the reasoning' ; and the clericals, bent on 
putting down the Encyclopedic, professed to have discovered that ho 
was the real author of the thesis. Either this belief or a desire to 
strike at the Encyclopedic through one of its collaborators 2 was tho 
motive of the absurdly belated censure. Such a iiasco evoked much 
derision from the philosophic party, particularly from Voltaire ; and 
the Sorbonne compassed a new revenge. Soon after came the formal 
condemnation of the first two volumes of tho Encyclopedic, of which 
the second had just appeared." 

D'Argenson, watching in his vigilant retirement the course of 
things on all hands, sees in the episode a new and dangerous 
development, " the establishment of a veritable inquisition in 
France, of which the Jesuits joyfully take charge," though he 
repeatedly remarks also on the eagerness of tho Jansenists to 
outgo the Jesuits. 4 But soon the publication of the Encyclopedic 
is resumed ; and in 1753 D'Argenson contentedly notes tho oificial 
bestowal of "tacit permissions to print secretly" books which 
could not obtain formal authorization. Tho permission had been 
given first by the President Malesherbes ; but even when that 
official lost the king's confidence the practice was continued by the 
lieutenant of police." Despite the staggering blow of the suppression 
of the Encyclopedic, the philosophes speedily triumphed. So great 
was the discontent even at court that soon (1752) Madame do 
Pompadour and some of the ministry invited D'Alemhert and Diderot 
to resume their work, " observing a necessary reserve in all things 
touching religion and authority." Madame do Pompadour was in 
fact, as D'Alemhert said at her death, "in her heart one of ours," as 
was D'Argenson. But D'Alemhert, in a long private conference with 
D'Argenson, insisted that they must write in freedom like the English 
and the Prussians, or not at all. Already there was talk of sup- 
pressing the philosophic works of Gondillac, which a few years before 
bad gone uncondemned ; and freedom must be preserved at any cost. 
1 acquiesce," writes the ex-Minister, "in these arguments."' 
Curiously enough, the freethinking Fontenelle, who for a time (the 
dates are elusive) held the office of royal censor, was more rigorous 

i ('!). I'.achiiumont., Mrnv.irm srrrrts, 1 fev. 17f,.!; II nvril, 17t'.S. In the latter entry, 
Yvon is descrihed as " pour-uivi romme infidele, <pioi<!iie le plus rroyant il<' Franer." In 
ITiVs. after the lili. nirr <rn n< l;i 1, lie was rctu -cr I permission to proceed with the puhlieation 

Ol hi Hlxtuia- , rrlr institllli'. 

'liii- :.., d. !!. le o-.vn vii .'. of the matter f.f/io/.,r/jV, as cited, p. v>; and D'Argenson 
repeatedly ays a mileh. Mi'-mairrs, i v, ",7, 17",. III!, 71, 77. 

'- Koe.qiiain, I/rs,>rit rmdiitiininiiirc iirmit In rrmliititm, 1S7S, pp. ll'lTil; Morley, 
Dt'hmt, ,:],. v; I ) A r:Vn on . I v, 7-. The derive of lippiv ion was dal ed 1:) lev. 17.VJ. 

1 Mrmoiris, iv. CI, 71. ; - hi. iv, I !'.!, 1 II). ^ /''. iv, '.U 'J3. 



236 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

than other officials who had not his reputation for heterodoxy. One 
day he refused to pass a certain manuscript, and the author put the 
challenge : " You, sir, who have published the llistoire dcs Oracles, 
refuse me this '? " " If I had been the censor of the Oracles," replied 
Fontenelle, " I should not have passed it." ' And he had cause for 
his caution. The unlucky Tercier, who, engrossed in " foreign affairs," 
had authorized the publication of the De V Esprit of Helvetius, was 
compelled to resign the censorship, and severely rebuked by the Paris 
Parlement. 2 But the culture-history of the period, like the political, 
was one of ups and downs. From time to time the philosophic party 
had friends at court, as in the persons of the Marquis D'Argenson, 
Malesherbes, and the Due de Choiseul, of whom the last-named 
engineered the suppression of the Jesuits. 3 Then there were checks 
to the forward movement in the press, as when, in 1770, Choiseul 
was forced to retire on the advent of Madame Du Barry. The 
output of freethinking books is after that year visibly curtailed. But 
nothing could arrest the forward movement of opinion. 

12. A new era of propaganda and struggle had visibly begun. 
In the earlier part of the century freethought had been disseminated 
largely by way of manuscripts 4 and reprints of foreign books in 
translation ; but from the middle onwards, despite denunciations 
and prohibitions, new books multiply. To the policy of tacit 
toleration imposed by Malesherbes a violent end was tem- 
porarily put in 1757, when the Jesuits obtained a proclamation 
of the death penalty against all writers who should attack the 
Christian religion, directly or indirectly. It was doubtless under 
the menace of this decree that Deslandes, before dying in 1757, 
caused to be drawn up by two notaries an actc by which he dis- 
avowed and denounced not only his Grands homines morts en 
plaisantant but all his other works, whether printed or in MS., 
in which ho had "laid down principles or sustained sentiments 
contrary to the spirit of religion." But in 1761, on the suppression 
of the Jesuits, there was a vigorous resumption of propaganda. 
" There are books," writes Voltaire in 1765, " of which forty years 
ago one would not have trusted the manuscript to one's friends, and 
of which there are now published six editions in eighteen months." 

' Maury. Hist, de Vancienne Acailhnie des Inscriptions, 1864, pp. 312-13. 

2 Journal historique de Bar bier, 1847-50, iv, 301. 

:; Astruc, wejearn from D'Aleinbert, connected their decline with the influence of the 
new opinions. " Ce ne sont pas les jansenistes qui tuent les jesuites, e'est l'Encyclope lie." 
"Le rnaroufle Astruc." adds D'Aleinbert, "est comme I'asquin, il parle quelquefois d'assez 
bon sens." Lettre a Voltaire, 4 mai, 1762. 

1 (']>. pref. (La Vie de Salcien) to French tr. of Salvian, 1731, p. lxix. I have scon MS. 
translations of Toland and Woolston. 

5 MS. statement, in eitfhteenth-century hand, on flyleaf of a copy of 1755 ed. of the 
Grands homines, in the writer's possession. G Lettre a D'Alembert, 16 Oetobre, 1765. 



FRENCH FEEETHOUGHT 237 

Voltairo single-handed produced a library ; and d'llolbach is credited 
with at least a dozen freethinking treatises, every one remarkable in 
its day. But there were many more combatants. The reputation 
of Voltaire lias overshadowed even that of his leading contemporaries, 
and theirs and his have further obscured that of the lesser men; but 
a list of miscellaneous freethinking works by French writers during 
the century, up to the Revolution, will serve to show how general 
was the activity after 1750. It will bo seen that very little was 
published in France in the period in which English deism was most 
fecund. A noticeable activity of publication begins about 1745. But 
it was when the long period of chronic warfare ended for Franco 
with the peace of Paris (1763) ; when she had lost India and North 
America ; when she had suppressed the Jesuit order (1761) ; and 
when England had in the main turned from intellectual interests to 
the pursuit of empire and the development of manufacturing industry, 
that the released French intelligence turned with irresistible energy 
to the rational criticism of established opinions. The following table 
is thus symbolic of the whole century's development : 

1700. Lettre d' Hypocratc a Damagdte, attributed to the Comtc do Boulainyillicrs. 

(Cologne.) Rep. in Bibliothfique Volantc, Amsterdam, 1700. 
,, [Claude Gilbert.] Histoire dc C ale Java, on de Visle des homines raison- 
nablcs, avec le parallele de leur morale et du CJiristianismc. Dijon. 
Suppressed by the author: only one copy known to have escaped. 

1701. [Gucudeville.] Dialogues de M. le Baron de la Haitian et d'un sauvage 

dans VAmCriquc. (Amsterdam.) 

1709. Lettre sitr Vcnthoitsiasme (Fr. tr. of Shaftesbury, by Samson). La Have. 

1710. [Tyssot de Pa tot, Symon.] Voyages et Avantures de Jaques Masse. 

(Bourdeaux.) 
,, Essai sitr Vusage de la raillerie (Fr. tr. of Shaftesbury, by Van Effen). 
La Have. 

1712. [Deslandes, A. F. B.] Reflexions sur les grands homines qui sont inorts 
en 2>laisantant.' 2 (Amsterdam.) 

1711. Discours sur la liberty dc penser 'French tr. of Collins's Discourse of Frcc- 

tliinking], traduit de I'anglois et augmente d'une Lettre d'un Medecin 
Arabe. (Tr. by Henri Scheurleer and Jean Rousset.) [Rep. 1717. j" 

1 Of the works noted below, the majority appear or profess to have been printed at 
Amsterdam, though many bore the imprint Londrcs. All the freethinking bonks and 
translations ascribed to d'Holbach bore it. The Art' tin of Abbe Dulanrens bore the 
imprint: " Rome, aux depens de la Congregation de l'lndex." Mystifications concerning 
authorship have been as far as possible cleared up in the present edition. 

- (liven by Unmet, who is followed by Wheeler, as appearing in 17:5-2. and as translated 
into Hntflish, under the title I)ijin<) MrrrVu, in 171"). But I possess an Bullish translation 
of /;-/.7'pref. dated March A>>, entitled A Philobmcd Kssoy : or. l!< tlrrl ions on Hi, Ih.itli of 
Frrrtliiiikrm..... By Mon-ieur I) -. of the Royal Acadeno of Sciences in France, nnd 
author of the I'orlor Ititntirnntis Litcratum Ofiitm. Translated from the French by 
Mr. 15 , with additions by the author, now in London, and the translator. I A note in 
ii con tern porarv hand makes "15" Borer. ! Bar bier j;ives 1712 for the first edition, 17.T2 for 
the econd. Hep. 17.V, and 177*5. 

:: Tli ere is no .-i;{n of an v such excitement in Franco over the translation ns was arou :ed 
in Kn^laed by the original ; but an i:.r>uta n du truili- debt liht rt> >tr. a nm r, by De Crousaz, 
wa . published at Amsterdam in 1 7 1 ss . 



238 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

1719. [Vroes.] La Vie ct V Esprit cle M. Benolt de Spinoza. 

1720. Same work rep. under the double title: De tribus impostoribas : Des trois 

bnposteurs. Frankfort on Main. 
1724. [LevesquedcBurigny.] Histoircdela philosophic payennc. LaHayc, 2tom. 

1730. [Bernard, J.-F.] Dialogues critiques ct philosophises. " Par l'Abbe de 

Charte-Livry." (Amsterdam.) Rep. 1735. 

1731. Refutation des crrcurs de Benoit de Spinoza, par Fenelon, le P. Laury, 

benedictin, et Boulainvilliers, avec la vie de Spinoza par Colerus, 

etc. (collected and published by Lcnglet du Fresnoy). Bruxelles 
(really Amsterdam). The treatise of Boulainvilliers is really a 
popular exposition. 

1732. Re-issue of Deslandes's Reflexions. 

1734. [Voltaire.] Lettres philosophises. 4 edd. within the year. [Condemned 
to be burned. Publisher imprisoned.] 
,, [Longue, Louis-Pierre de.] Lcs Princesses Malabares, ou le Celibat Phi- 
losophiquc . [Deistic allegory. Condemned to be burned.] 

1737. Marquis D'Argens. La Pliilosophie du Bon Sens. (Berlin: 8th edition, 

Dresden, 1754.) 

1738. , Lettres Juices. 6 torn. (Berlin.) 

,, [Marie Huber.] Lettres stir la religion cssenticlle a Vhomme, distingue de 
ce qui n'en est que Vaccessoirc. 2 torn. (Nominally London.) Rep. 
1739 and 1756. 

1739. , Suite to the foregoing, "servant de rcponse aux objections," etc. 

Also Suite de la troisUme par tie. 

1741. [Deslandes.] Pignialion, ou la Statue aniniee. [Condemned to be burnt 
by Parlcment of Dijon, 1742.] 

,, , De la Certitude des connaissanccs humaines traduit cle I'anglais 

par F. A. D. L. V. 
1743. Nouvelles libcrtes de penser. Amsterdam. [Edited by Dumarsais. Con- 
tains the first print of Fontonelle's Traite de la Liberte, Dumarsais's 
short essays Le Pliilosnphe and De la raison, Mirabaud's Sentimens 
des philosophcs sur la nature de Vdrne, etc.] 
1745. [Lieut. De la Serre.] La vraie religion traduite de VEcriturc Salute, par 
permission de Jean, Luc, Marc, et Matthieu. (Nominally Trevoux, 
"aux depens des Peres de la Societe de Jesus.") [Appeared later as 
Examcn, etc. Condemned to be burnt by Parlement of Paris.] 
[This book was republished in the same year with "demontree par" substituted 
in the title for " traduite de," and purporting to be " traduit do 1' Anglais dc 
Gilbert Burnet," with the imprint " Londres, G. Code, 1745." It appeared 
again in 1761 as Examen de la religion dont on cherche V eclaircissement dc b>~>une 
foi. Attribue a M. de Saint-Euremont, traduit, etc., with the same imprint. It 
again bore the latter title when reprinted in 1763. and again in the Evangilc de 
la Raison in 1761. Voltaire in 1763 declared it to be the work of Dumarsais, 
pronouncing it to be assuredly not in the style of Saint-Evremoud (Grimm, iv, 
85-88; Voltaire, Lcttre a Damilaville, 6 dec. 1763), adding "mais il est fort 
tronque et detestablement imprime." This is true of the reprints in the Evangilc 
de la Raison (1764, etc.), of one of which the present writer possesses a copy to 
which there has been appended in MS. a long section which had been lacking. 
The Evangilc as a whole purports to be " Ouvragc posthume dc M. D. M y." l 

1 This was probably meant to point to the Abbe de Marsy, who died in 17G3. 



FEENCH FEEETHOUGHT 239 

But its first volume includes four pieces of Voltaire's, and his abridged Testament 
de Jean Me slier. Further, De la Serre is recorded to have claimed the authorship 
in writing on the eve of his death. Barbier, Diet, des Anonymes, 2e ed, No. 615S. 
He is said to have been hanged as a spy at Maastricht, April 11, 1718.] 
1715. [La Mettrie.] Histoire natureUe de Vdme. [Condemned to be burnt, 

17-lG.j Rep. as Trait'' de 1'Anie. 
17-16. [Diderot.] Pensees philosophiques. [Condemned to be burnt.] 
1718. [P. Esteve.] L'Origine de V Univcrs cxpliquee par an principe de matierc. 

(Berlin.) 
,, [Benoit de Maillet.l Telliamed, on Entretiens d'un philosoimc indicn avec 

an missionnire francais. (Printed privately, 1735; rep. 1755.) 
[La Mettrie.] L'Homme Machine. 

1750. Xouvelles liberies de jJcnser. Rep. 

1751. [Mirabaud, J. B. de.] Le Monde, son origine et son antiquite. [Edited 

by the Abbe Le Mascrier (who contributed the preface and the third 
part) and Dumarsais.J 
,, De Prades. Sorbonne 'Thesis. 

1752. [Gouvest, J. II. Maubert de.] Lctlrcs Iroquoises. " Irocopolis, chez les 

Yenerables." 2 torn. (Rep. 17G9 as Lcttres ehcral:esiennes.) 
' ,, [Genard, F.] TTKcole de I'homme, on Parallelc des Portraits dit siecle 
et des tableaux de Vecriture sainte. 1 Amsterdam, 3 torn. [Author 
imprisoned.] 

1753. [Baume-Desdossat, Canon of Avignon.] La Christiadc. [Book sup- 

pressed. Author fined.] - 
, , Maupertuis. SystOme de la nature. 

,, Astruc, Jean. Conjectures sur les memoires originaux dont il parait que 
Mo'ise s'est servi pour composer le livre de la Gcnesc. Bruxclles. 
1751. Premontval, A. I. le Guay do. Le Dioge'nc da d'Alembert, ou Pensees 
libres sur I'homme. Berlin. (2nd ed. enlarged, 1755.) 
,, Burigny, J. L. ThCologic payenne. 2 torn. (New ed. of his Histoire de 

la philosophic. 1721.) 
,, "Diderot.] Pensees sur V interpretation de la nature. 

,, Beausobre, L. de (the younger). Pyrrhanismc du Sage. Berlin. (Burned 
by Paris Parlement.) 
1755. Rechcrches philosophiqucs sur la liberty de I'homme. Trans, of Collins's 
Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty. 
,, [Voltaire.] Poeme Sur la loi naturcllc. 

,, Analyse raisonnce de Bayle. i torn, [By the Abbe de Marsy. Sup- 
pressed. ;! Continued in 1773, in 1 new vols., by Robinet.] 
Morally. Code de la Nature. 
,, [Deleyre.] Analyse de In ]>hilosophie de Bacon. (Largely an exposition 
of Deleyre's own views.) 
1757. Pn'montval. Vues Philosophiques. (Amsterdam.) 

In this year apparently after one of vigilant repression was pronounced 
the death penalty against all writers attacking religion. Hence a general suspen- 

1 Tl n Ahljr Scpher ascribed tin's book to one Dupuis, n Royal Guardsman. 

- This " prose poem ' was not an intentional burlc iim-. u> the ecclesiastical authorities 
alleged ; lju t it diil not stand for orthodoxy. See Gri nun's Ci-rr-v<i'l<nic<-, i. ll:l. 

'' " A en les honncurs de !a brnlure, et toutes les censures cnmuNVs lies I'ncultes de 
Thcolofie. do In Sorbonne et de ev.'onfs." Hachaumont. d.V. il. 17t>:{. Mar v. who was 
expelled from the Order of Jesuits, was ot bad character, and was hotly denounced by 
Voltaire. 



240 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

sion of publication. In 1761 the Jesuits were suppressed, and the policy of 

censorship was soon paralysed.] 

175S. Helvetius. Dc V Esprit. (Authorized. Then condemned.) 

1759. [Voltaire.] Candide. ("Geneve.") 

,, Translation of Hume's Natural History of Religion and Philosophical 
Essays. (By Merian.) Amsterdam. 

1761. [N.-A. Boulanger. 1 ] Itechcrches sur Vorigine du despotisme oriental, ct 

des superstitions. " Ouvrage posthume de Mr. D. J. D. P. E. C." 
,, Rep. of De la Serro's La vraie religion as Examen de la religion, etc. 
,, [D'Holbach.] Le Christianisme devoile. [Imprint: " Londres, 1756." 
Really printed at Nancy in 1761. Wrongly attributed to Boulanger 
and to Damilaville.] Rep. 1767 and 1777. 
[Grimm (Corr. incditc, 1829, p. 191) speaks in 1763 of this book in his notice 
of Boulanger, remarking that the title was apparently meant to suggest the 
author of L'AntiquiU dcvoilce, but that it was obviously by another hand. 
The Antiqidti, in fact, was the concluding section of Boulanger' s posthumous 
Despotisme Oriental (1761), and was not published till 1766. Grimm professed 
ignorance as to the authorship, but must Lave known it, as did Voltaire, who 
by way of mystification ascribed the book to Damilaville. See Barbier.] 

1762. Rousseau. Entile. [Publicly burned at Paris and at Geneva. Con- 

demned by the Sorbonne.] 
,, Robinet, J. B. De la nature. Vol. i. (Vol. ii in 1761 ; iii and iv in 1766.) 

1763. [Voltaire.] Saiil. Geneve. 

,, Dialogue entrc un Caloyer ct un honnetc liommc. 

,, Rep. of De la Serres' Examen. 
1761. Diseours sur la liberty de penscr. (Rep. of trans, of Collins.) 

,, [Voltaire.] Dictionwiirc philosophique portatif.- [First form of the 
Dictionnairc pliilosophigue. Burned in 1765.] 

,, Lettres secretes de M. de Voltaire . [Holland. Collection of tracts made 
by Robinet, against Voltaire's will.] 

,, [Voltaire.] Melanges, 3 torn. Geneve. 

,, [Dulaurens, Abbe H. J.] L'Aretin. 

,, L'Evangile dc la Eaison. Ouvrage posthume dc M. D. M y. [Ed. by 

Abbe Dulaurens ; containing the Testament de Jean Meslier (greatly 
abridged and adapted by Voltaire) ; Voltaire's Catechisme de Vhonnete 
homme, Sermon des cinnuantc, etc.; the Examen de la religion, 
attribui a M. de St. Evremond; Rousseau's Vicaire .Savoyard, from 
Emilc; Dumirsais's Analyse de la religion chretienne, etc. Rep. 
1765 and 1766. j 

1765. Recueil Necessaire, avee L'Evangile de la Eaison, 2 torn. 

[Rep. of parts of the Evangile. Rep. 1767, :i 176S, with Voltaire's Examen 
important de Milord Bolingbroke substituted for that of De la Scrre (attribui a 
M. de St. Evremond), and with a revised set of extracts from Meslier.] 

,, Castillon, J. L. Essai dc philosophic morale. 

1766. Boulanger, N. A. L'Antiguitd dcvoilie.* 3 torn. [Recast by d'Holbach. 

Life of author by Diderot.] 

1 Hce Grimm, Corr. v, 15. 

2 A second edition appeared within the year. " Quoique proscrit prepque partout, et 
meme en Hollande, e'est de la qu'il nous arrive." Bachaumont, dee. -21, 1761. 

1 Bachaumont, mai 7, 1767. 

J " Se repand a Paris avec la permission de la police." Bachaumont, 13 few 1766. 



FRENCH FREETIIOUGIIT Ml 

1766. Voyage de Robertson aux terres australes. Traduit sue lo Manuscrifc 
Anglois. Amsterdam. 

[B.irbior {Diet, des Oitvr. Anon., 2e ed. iii, 437) has a note concerning this 
Voyage which pleasantly illustrates the strategy that went on in the issue of 
freethinking books. An ex-censor of the period, he tells us. wrote a note on the 
original edition pointing out that it contains (pp. 1.15-51) a tirade against 
"Parlements." This passage was "suppressed to obtain permission to bring the 
book into France, - ' and a new passage attacking the Encyclopedistes under the 
name of Pansoqdiistes was inserted at another point. The ex-censor had a copy 
of an edition of 1767. in 12mo, better printed than the first and on better paper. 
In this, at p. 87, line 30, begins the attack on the Encyclopedistes, which 
continues to p. 93. 

If this is accurate, there has taken place a double mystification. I possess a 
copy dated 1767, in 12mo, in which no page has so many as 30 lines, and in 
which there has been no typographical change whatever in pp. 87-93, where 
there is no mention of Encyclopedistes. But pp. 1-15-51 are clearly a typogra- 
phical substitution, in different type, with fewer lines to the page. Hero there 
is a narrative about the Pansophistes of the imaginary " Australie"; but while it 
begins with enigmatic satire it ends by praising them for bringing about a great 
intellectual and social reform. 

If the censure was induced to pass the book as it is in this edition by this 
insertion, it was either very heedless or very indulgent. There is a sweeping 
attack on the papacy (pp. 9 1 9 j) , and another on the Jesuits (pp. 100-102) ; and 
it leans a good deal towards republicanism. But on a balance, though clearly 
anti-clerical, it is rather socio-political than freethinking in its criticism. The 
wards on the title-page, traduit sur la manuscrit anglois, arc of course pure 
mystification. It is a romance of the Utopia school, and criticizes English 
conditions as well as French.] 

1766. De Pradcs. Abridge de Vhistoire eccUsiastique de Fleurg. (Berlin.) Pref. 

by Frederick the Great. (Rep. 1767.) 
,, [Burigny.] Examen critique des Apologistes de la religion chnHiennc. 

Published (by Naigeon ?) under the name of Freret.' [Twice rep. in 

1767. Condemned to be burnt, 1770. J 
,, [Voltaire.] Le philosoplie ignorant. 
,, [Abbe Millot.] Histoire philosophiqiie de Vhommc. [Naturalistic theory 

of human beginnings, j 

1767. Castillon. Almanach Pliilosophique. 

,, Doutes sur la religion (attributed to Gueroult de Pival), siiivide V Analyse 
du Trait' 1 tht'ologique-politiqucde Spinoza (by Boulainvillicrs). [Hep. 
with additions in 17'J'2 under the title Doutes sur les religious rrrrlres, 
adressi's a Voltaire, par Kmilie du Chatelef. Ouvragc posthumc.J 

,, [Dulaurens.] L' antipapisme revi'li'. 

,, Lettre dr. Tkrasybule a Lcucippe. [Published under the name of Freret 
(d. 1710). Written or edited by Naigeon. -J 

i "II est faeile de se eonvainore que les parties les plu> import antes et le - plus sol ides 
de eet ouvraHe out em prim tees mix Ira van x he IS uri' my." 1 j. I''. A It' re i Maury, l/iuirii-mir 
A ci 'I' 1 inii' Urn Iiiwrijitimtx rt bAlrs-lrll n-s, IMil, p. :jlii. Maui's leave it an open t\ u-stiim 
wneLher the compilation was made Ijy ISuri^n V or l.v Nai "',,,,. I ie M.Ij.' I ' i;l i. -r accepted 
it without hesitation a Llie >vork of Kivret, who wa.s known to hoi, I nine I nicLi t;l1 view-. 
(Maury, p. ::I7.) liarbier confidently a cribe ; Llie work to ISiirhmv. 

^ The nivstifiitiaion in rcna.nl to this work i ; elaborate. 1 1, purport s to be translated 
from an K;i ;H in version, declared in turn by it . trail dator i , he ma le 'from the l ireek." 
VoL. II R 



242 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

1767. [D'Holbach.] U Imposture saccrdotale, ou Becueil clc pieces sur la clerge, 

traduitcs de Vanglois. 
,, [Voltaire.] Collection des lettres sur les miracles. 

, , Examen important de milord Bolingbrokc . 

,, Marmontel. Belisaire. (Censured by the Sorbonne.) 

[Damilaville.] L'konnetete theologiqae. 
,, Reprint of Le Christianisme devoile. [Condemned to be burnt, 1768 
and 1770.] 
[Voltaire.] Questions sur les Miracles. Par un Proposant. 
,, Seconde partie of the RechercJies sur Vorigine du despotisme. 

1768. Meister, J. H. De Voriginc des principes religieux. 

[Author banished from his native town, Zurich, "in perpetuity" (decree 
rescinded in 1772). and book publicly burned there by the hangman. 1 Meister 
published a modified edition at Zurich in 1769. Orig. rep. in the Becueil 
Philosojfliique , 1770.] 

1763. Catalogue raisonne des esprits forts, depuis le cure Babelais jusqiVau curi 
Meslier. 
,, [D'Holbach.] La Contagion sacrie, ou histoirc naturelle de la super- 
stition. [Condemned to be burnt, 1770.] 

,, Lettres pliilosophigjies sur Voriginc des prejuges, etc., traduites de 

Vanglois (of Toland). 

,, Lettres a Eugenic, ou preserratif confrc les prrjuges. 2 torn. 

,, Theologie Portative. "Par l'abbe Bernier." [Also burnt, 1776.] 

,, Traite des trois Imposteurs. (See 1719 and 1720.) Rep. 1775, 1777, 1793. 
,, Naigeon, J. A. Le militairc philosophe. [Adaptation of a MS. The 

last chapter by d'Holbach.] 
,, D'Argens. (T.uvrcs completes, 21 torn. Berlin. 
,, Examen des propla'tics qui screent de fondement d la religion clirctienne 

(tr. from Collins by d'Holbach). 
,, Robinct. Considerations pliilosophirpies. 
1769-17S0. L'Evangile dujour. 18 torn. Series of pieces, chiefly by Voltaire. 

1769. [Diderot. Also ascribed to Castillon.] Histoire generale des dogmes 

ct opinions pliilosophiqucs tiree du Dictionnairc encyclope digue . 

Londres, 3 torn. 

,, [Mirabaud.] Opinions des anciens sur les juifs, and Reflexions impar- 
tialcs sur VEvangile' 2 (rep. in 1777 as Examen critique du Nouveau 
Testament). 

,, [Isoard-Delislc, otherwise Delisle de Sales.] De la Pliilosophie de la Nature. 
6 torn. [Author imprisoned. Book condemned to be burnt, 1775.] 

,, [Seguicr de Saint-Brisson.] Trait/' des Droits de Genie, dans lequel on 
examine si la connoissance de la verite est avantageusc aux hommes ct 
piossible au philosoplia. "Carolsrouhe," 1769. [A strictly naturalistic- 
ethical theory of society. Contains an attack on the doctrine of 
Rousseau, in Entile, on the usefulness of religious error.] 

It is now commonly ascribed to Naigeon. CUanry. as cited, p. .'117.1 Its machinery, and 
its definite atheism, mark it as of the school of d'Holbach, though it is alleged to have 
been written by Freret as early as 172.!. It is however reprinted, witli the Examen critique 
ties Apologistes, in the 17i)tj edition of Frerot's works without comment ; and liarhier was 
satisfied that it was the one genuine "philosophic" work ascribed to Freret, but that it 
was redacted by Naigcon from imperfect MSS. 

1 Notice sur Henri Master, pref. to Lettres inedites de Madame de Stael a Henri 
Meister, 1003, p. 17. 

- " Deux nouveaux livres infernaux connus comme manuscrits depuis longtemps et 

gardes dans l'obscurite des portei'euilles " Bachaumont, -2-2 mars, 1769. 



FRENCH FBEETHOUGHT 243 

1769. L'enfer dt'truit, traduit de l'Anglois [by d'Holbach.] 

1770. [D'Holbach.] Histoire critique de Jesus Christ. 

,, Examen critique de la vie et des ouvrages de Saint Paul (tr. from 

English of Peter Annet). 

,, Essai sur les PrcjunCs. (Not by Dumarsais, whose name on the 

title-page is a mystification.) 

,, Si/steme de la Nature. 2 torn. 

,, Recueil Philosopliinue, 2 torn. [Edited by Naigcon. Contains a rep. 
of Dmnarsais's essays Le Philosophy and De la. raison, an extract 
from Tindal, essays by Vauvenargu.es and Freret (or Eontenelle), three 
by Mirabaud, Diderot's Pensees sur la religion, several essays by 
d'Holbach, Cloister's De Variable des principes religieux, etc.] 
,, Analyse de Bn/le. Rep. of the four vols, of De Marsy, with four more 

by Robinet. 
,, TS Esprit da Judaisme. (Trans, from Collins by d'Holbach.) 
,, Raynal (with Diderot and others). Histoire philosophique des deux Tildes. 

(Containing atheistic arguments by Diderot. Suppressed, 1772.) 
fin this year there wore condemned to be burned seven frcothinking works : 
d'Holbach's Contagion Sacree ; Voltaire's Dicu et les Homines; the French 
translation (undated) of Woolston's Discourses on the Miracles of Jesus Christ; 
Freret's (really Burigny's) Examen critique de la religion chreticnne ; an Examen 
impartial des principales religions (lit monde, undated ; d'Holbach's Christianisme 
drvoile ; and his Si/steme de la Nature.] 

1772. Le Bon Sens. [Adaptation from Meslicr by Diderot and d'Holbach. 

Condemned to be burnt, 1774. J 
De In nature humaine. [Trans, of Hobbes by d'Holbach.] 

1773. Helvetius. De V Homme. Ouvrage posthume. 2 torn. [Condemned to 

be burnt, Jan. 10, 1774. Rep. 1775.] 
Carra, J. L. Si/steme de hi liaison, on le proplictc philosophe. 
,, [Burigny ('?).] Reclicrches sur les miracles. 
,, [D'Holbach.] La politique naturelle. 2 torn. 
,, . Sysleme Sacialc. 3 torn. 

1774. Abauzit, 1''. Reflexions impartiales sur les Evannilcs, suivies d'un essai 

sur V A])ocahjj)sc. (Abauzit died 17G7.) 
,, [Condorcet.] Lettres d'un Tlicaloijicn. (Atheistic.) 
,, Now edition of Theologic Portative. 2 torn. [Condemned to be burnt.] 

1775. [Voltaire. I Histoire de Jeuui, on Le Sage et VAthee. [Attack on atheism.] 
1770. [D'Holbach.] La morale universclle. 3 torn. 

,, . Ethocratie. 

1777. Examen critique du Nouvcau Testament, "par M. Freret." [Not by 
Freret. A rep. of Mirabaud's Inflexions impartiales sur VEvanr/ilc, 
170'J, which was probably written about 1750, bring replied to in the 
Refutation du ('else mode me of the Alibi' Gauticr, 1752 and 1765. j 
,, Carra. Esprit de la morale et de la philosophic. 

177-^. liarthoz, I'. -I. Nnurenitx elements de la s( ieuce de Vhommc. 

177'). Vie (V.i polbniLUs de Tijanc par Philoslratc, avee los ooimnenlaires (Limit's 
en anglois par Charles Blount sur los dou\ premiers livi'es. [Trans. 
by J. |-\ Salvemini de Ca Li 1 Ion , Berlin.] Am terdam, I lorn, (hi 
addition to Blount's prof, and notes there is a sculling dedication to 
Pope Clement XI V.) 



244 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

1730. Duvernct, Abbe Th. J. L' Intolerance religieuse. 

Clootz. Anacharsis. La Certitude des preuves da Mahometisme. [Reply 

by way of parody to Bergier's work, noted on p. 250.] 
Second ed. of Raynal's Histoire philosophique, with additions. (Con- 
demned to be burnt, 1781.) 
1781. Marechal, Sylvain. Le nouvcau Lucrecc. 
1783. Brissot de Warville. Lettres philosophiques sur S. Paul. 

1731. Doray de Longrais. Faust in, ou le sie.de philosophique, 
Pougens, M. C. J. dc. Recreation* de philosophic ct de morale. 

17S5. Marechal. Livre6chnppe.au Deluge. [Author dismissed.] 

1737. Marquis Pastoret. Zoroastre, Confucius, ct Mahomet. 

1738. Meister. De la morale naturclle. 

, , Pastoret. Mo'ise considere comme legislateur ct comme moralistc. 

Marechal. Almanack des honnetes gens. [Author imprisoned; book 
burnt.] 

1739. Volney. Les Ruincs des Empires. 

,, Duvernet, Abbe. Les Devotions dc Madame de Betzamootk. 
,, Cerutti (Jesuit Father). BrCviaire Philosophique, ou Histoire du 
Judaismc, clu Christianisme , ct du Deisme. 
1791-3. Naigeon. Dictionnairc de la philosophic ancienne ct moderne. 
1795. Dupuis. De Vorigine de tons les Cultes. 5 torn. 

,, La Fable de Christ devoilec ; ou Lcttre du muphti de Constantinople a 
Jean Ange Braschy, muphti de Rome. 
1797. Rep. of d' Hoi bach's Contagion sacree, with notes by Lemaire. 
179S. Marechal. Pense.es libres sur les pretres. A Rome, et se trouve a Paris, 
chez les Marchands de Nouveautes. L'An Ier de la Raison, et VI do 
la Republiquc Francaise. 

13. It will bo noted that after 1770 coincidently, indeed, with a 
renewed restraint upon the press there is a notable faliing-off in 
the freethinking output. Rationalism had now permeated educated 
France ; and, for different but analogous reasons, the stress of discus- 
sion gradually shifted as it had done in England. France in 1760 
stood to the religious problem somewhat as England did in 1730, 
repeating the deistic evolution with a difference. By that time 
England was committed to the new paths of imperialism and 
commercialism ; whereas France, thrown back on the life of ideas 
and on her own politico-economic problems, went on producing the 
abundant propaganda we have noted, and, alongside of it, an inde- 
pendent propaganda of economics and politics. At the end of 17G7, 
the leading French diarist notes that " there is formed at Paris a 
new sect, called the Economists," and names its leading personages, 
Qucsnay, Mirabeau the elder, the Abbe Bandeau, Mercier de la 
I {mere, and Turgot. These developed the doctrine of agricultural or 
" real " production which so stimulated and influenced Adam Smith. 
llul immediately afterwards" the diarist notes a rival sect, the school 

1 Bachaumout, Mcnioirex Secrets, dec. 20, 1767. - Id. Jan. 18, 1768. 



FRENCH FEEETHOUGHT 245 

of Forbonnais, wlio founded mainly on the importance of commerce 
and manufactures. Each "sect" had its journal. The intellectual 
ferment had inevitably fructified thought upon economic as upon 
historical, religious, and scientific problems ; and there was in 
operation a fourfold movement, all tending to make possible the 
immense disintegration of the State which began in 1789. After 
the Economists came the "Patriots," who directed towards the 
actual political machine the spirit of investigation and reform. And 
the whole effective movement is not implausibly to be dated from 
the fall of the Jesuits in 1764. 1 Inevitably the forces interacted : 
Montesquieu and Rousseau alike dealt with both the religious and 
the social issues ; d'Holbach in his first polemic, the Christianisme 
dtiuoile, opens the stern impeachment of kings and rulers which he 
develops so powerfully in the Essai sur les Pnjugcs ; and the 
Encyclopedic sent its search-rays over all the fields of inquiry. But 
of the manifold work done by the French intellect in the second and 
third generations of the eighteenth century, the most copious and 
the most widely influential body of writings that can be put under 
one category is that of which we have above made a chronological 
conspectus. 

Of these works the merit is of course very various ; but the total 
effect of the propaganda was formidable, and some of the treatises 
are extremely effective. The Examcn critique of Burigny, 2 for 
instance, which quickly won a wide circulation when printed, is one 
of the most telling attacks thus far made on the Christian system, 
raising as it does most of the issues fought over by modern criticism. 
It tells indeed of a whole generation of private investigation and 
debate ; and the Abbe Bergier, assuming it to be the work of Freret, 
in whose name it is published, avows that its author " has written it 
in the same style as his academic dissertations : he has spread over 
it the same erudition ; he seems to have read everything and mastered 
everything." Perhaps not the least effective part of the book is the 
chapter which asks : " Are men more perfect since the coming of 
Jesus Christ ?"; and it is here that the clerical reply is most feeble, 
The critic cites the claims made by apologists as to the betterment 
of life by Christianity, and then contrasts with those claims the 
thousand-and-one lamentations by Christian writers over the utter 
badness of all the life around them. Bergier in reply follows the 
tactic habitually employed in the same difficulty to-day : he ignores 

' So I'idiinsat do Muirobort in his prefaoo to the first cl. (1777) of the Mriimi res Secrets 
of Had in union t, continui;<i by him. Su<; nrcf. to the aljii I :> 1 ,,|. by liiblioiihilc Jacob. 
- \a lo Our author; hiji si < n hove, |>. -.Ml. 
:: L<t Ci rtitude ties v return tin Christianiamc (1707), 2u t'dit. 17liS. .In rtinsi itient. 



246 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

the fact that his own apologists have been claiming a vast better- 
ment, and contends that religion is not to be blamed for the evils it 
condemns. Not by such furtive sophistry could the Church turn the 
attack, which, as Bergicr bitterly observes, was being made by 
Voltaire in a new book every year. 

As always, the weaker side of the critical propaganda is its effort 
at reconstruction. As in England, so in France, the faithful accused 
the critics of "pulling down without building up," when in point of 
fact their chief error was to build up that is, to rewrite the history 
of human thought before they had the required materials, or had 
even mastered those which existed. Thus Voltaire and Eousseau 
alike framed a priori syntheses of the origins of religion and society. 
But there were closer thinkers than they in the rationalistic ranks. 
Fontenelle's essay De I'origine des fables, though not wholly exempt 
from error, admittedly lays aright the foundations of mythology and 
hierology ; and De Brosses in his treatise Die Cultedes dieux fetiches 
(17G0) does a similar service on the side of anthropology. Meister's 
essay De I'origine des principes religieux is full of insight and 
breadth ; and, despite some errors due to the backwardness of 
anthropology, essentially scientific in temper and standpoint. His 
later essay, De la morale naturellc, shows the same independence 
and fineness of speculation, seeming indeed to tell of a character 
which missed fame by reason of over-delicacy of fibre and lack of 
the driving force which marked the foremost men of that tem- 
pestuous time. Vauvenargues's essay De la suffisancc de la religion 
naturclle is no less clinching, granted its deism. So, on the side 
of philosophy, Mirabaud, who was secretary of the Academie from 
1742 to 1755, handles the problem of the relation of deism to 
ethics if the posthumous essays in the Ilecueil pkilosophique be 
indeed his in a much more philosophic fashion than does Voltaire, 
arguing unanswerably for the ultimate self-dependence of morals. 
The Lettre de Thrasybule a Lcucippe, ascribed to Freret, again, is a 
notably skilful attack on theism. 

14. One of the most remarkable of the company in some respects 
is Nicolas- Axtoixe Boulaxger (1722-1759), of whom Diderot 
gives a vivid account in a sketch prefixed to the posthumous 
L'Antiquite devoilec par ses usages (17G6). x\t the College de 
Beauvais, Boulanger was so little stimulated by Ins scholastic 
teachers that they looked for nothing from him in his maturity. 
When, however, at the age of seventeen, he began to study mathe- 
matics and architecture, his faculties began to develop; and the 
life, first of a military engineer in 1743-44, and later in the service 



FRENCH FREETTIOUGIIT 247 

of the notable department of Roads and Bridges tbo most efficient 
of all State services under Louis XV made him an independent 
and energetic thinker. The chronic spectacle of the corvee, the 
forced labour of peasants on the roads, moved him to indignation ; 
but he sought peace in manifold study, the engineer's contact with 
nature arousing in him all manner of speculations, geological and 
sociological. Seeking for historic light, ho mastered Latin, which 
he had failed to do at school, reading widely and voraciously ; and 
when the Latins failed to yield him the light he craved he syste- 
matically mastered Greek, reading the Greeks as hungrily and with 
as little satisfaction. Then he turned indefatigably to Hebrew, 
Syriac, and Arabic, gleaning at best verbal clues which at length 
he wrought into a large, loose, imaginative yet immensely erudite 
schema of ancient social evolution, in which the physicist's pioneer 
study of the structure and development of the globe controls the 
anthropologist's guesswork as to the beginnings of human society. 
The whole is set forth in the bulky posthumous work Eecherches 
sur Vorifjinc du despotisms oriental (1761), and in the further treatise 
L'antiquite devoilce (3 torn. 176G), which is but the concluding 
section of the first-named. 

It all yields nothing to modern science ; the unwearying research 
is all carried on, as it were, in the dark ; and the sleepless brain of 
the pioneer can but weave webs of impermanent speculation from 
masses of unsifted and unmanageable material. Powers which 
to-day, on a prepared ground of ascertained science, might yield the 
greatest results, were wasted in a gigantic effort to build a social 
science out of the chaos of undeciphered antiquity, natural and 
human. But the man is nonetheless morally memorable. Diderot 
pictures him with a head Socratically ugly, simple and innocent 
of life, gentle though vivacious, reading Rabbinical Hebrew in his 
walks on the high roads, suffering all his life from ' domestic 
persecution," "little contradictory though infinitely learned," and 
capable of passing in a moment, on the stimulus of a new idea, 
into a state of profound and entranced absorption. Diderot is 
always enthusiastically generous in praise ; but in reading and 
reviewing Boulanger's work we can hardly refuse assent to his 
friend's claim that " if ever man lias shown in his career the true 
characters of genius, it was he." His immense research was all 
compassed in a life of thirty-seven years, occupied throughout in 
an active profession; and the diction in which he sets forth his 
imaginative construction of the past reveals a constant intensity 
of thought rarely combined with scholarly knowledge. But it was 



248 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

an age of concentrated energy, carrying in its womb the Revolution. 
The perusal of Boulanger is a sufficient safeguard against the long- 
cherished hallucination that the French freethinking of his age was 
but a sparkle of raillery. 

Even among some rationalists, however, who are content to 
take hearsay report on these matters, there appears still to subsist 
a notion that the main body of the French freethinkers of the 
eighteenth century were mere scoffers, proceeding upon no basis 
of knowledge and with no concern for research. Such an opinion 
is possible only to those who have not examined their work. To 
say nothing more of the effort of Boulanger, an erudition much 
more exact than Voltaire's and a deeper insight than his and 
Rousseau's into the causation of primitive religion inspires the 
writings of men like Burigny and Freret on the one hand, and 
Fontenelle and Meister on the other. The philosophic reach of 
Diderot, one of the most convinced opponents of the ruling religion, 
was recognized by Goethe. And no critic of the " philosojihes " 
handled more uncompromisingly than did Dumarsais 1 the vanity of 
the assumption that a man became a philosopher by merely setting 
himself in opposition to orthodox belief. Dumarsais, long scholas- 
tically famous for his youthful treatise Des Tropes, lived up to his 
standard, whatever some of the more eminent philosophcs may have 
done, being found eminently lovable by pietists who knew him ; 
while for D'Alembert he was " the La Fontaine of the philosophers " 
in virtue of his lucid simplicity of style." The Analyse de la religion 
chretienne printed under his name in some editions of the Evangile 
de la liaison has been pronounced supposititious. It seems to be 
the work of at least two hands'' of different degrees of instruction ; 

1 In the short essay Le Pliilosophe, which appeared in the 2?ouvelles Liberies de 
Tenser, J 713 and 1750, and in tl;e liecueil Philostrphique, 1770. In tiie 1793 rep. of the 
Essai sur les prejuyes (attain rep. in 1622) it is unhesitatingly affirmed, on the strength of 
its title-page and the prefixed letter of Dumarsais, dated 1750, that that book is an expan- 
sion of the essay La Pliilosophe, and that this was published in 1760. But Le Pliilosophe 
is an entirely different production, 'which to a certain extent criticizes les philosopher 
so-called. The Ess/ii sur les prejuijes published in 1770 is not the work of Dumarsais; it 
is a new work by d'Holbach. This was apparently known to Frederick, who in his rather 
angry criticism of the hook writes that, whereas Dumarsais had always respected con- 
stituted authorities, other- had " put out in his name, two years alter he was dead and 
buried, a libel of which the veritable author could only be a schoolboy as new to the 
world as he was puzzle-headed." (Mrlunyes en errs it en prose de Frederic II, 179-2, ii, 21:3). 
Dumarsais died in 1751, but I can find no good evidence that the Essai sur les prejuges 
was ever printed before 1770. As to d'Holbach's authorship see the (Euvres de Diderot, 
ed. 16-21, xii, 115 sti. passage copied in the 1629-31 ed. of the Correspondence litteraire of 
Grimm and Diderot, xiv, 293 /. In a letter to D'Alembert dated Mars -27, 1773, Voltaire 
writes that in a newly-printed collection of treatises containing his own Lois de Minos is 
included "le pliilosojihe de Dumarsais, qui n'a jamais etc miprime jusqu'a present." 
This seems to be a complete mistake. 

- Grimin (iv, 60) has some good stories of him. He announced one day that he had 
found twenty-live fatal Haw- in the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, the first being 
that the dead do not rise. His scholarly friend Nicolas lioindin (see above, p. 222) said : 
" Dumarsais is a Jansenist atheist ; as for me, I am a Molinist atheist." 

:; On two successive pages the title iVIessiuh is declared to moan " simply one sent " and 
simply " anointed." 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 249 

but, apart from sorao errors due to one of these, it does him no 
discredit, being a vigorous criticism of Scriptural contradictions and 
anomalies, such as a " Jansonist atheist" might well compose, 
though it makes the usual profession of deistic belief. 

Later polemic works, inspired by those above noticed, reproduce 
some of their arguments, but with an advance in literary skill, as 
in the anonymous Bon Sens given forth (1772) by Diderot and 
d'Holbach as the work of Jean Meslier, but really an independent 
compilation, embodying other arguments with his, and putting the 
whole with a concision and brilliancy to which he could make no 
approach. Premontval, a bad writer, 1 contrives nonetheless to say 
many pungent things of a deistic order in his Diogene de d'Alembert, 
and, following Marie Huber, puts forward the formula of religion 
versus theology, which has done so much duty in the nineteenth 
century. Of the whole literature it is not too much to say that 
it covered cogently most of the important grounds of latter-day 
debate, from the questions of revelation and the doctrine of torments 
to the bases of ethics and the problem of deity ; and it would be 
hard to show that the nineteenth century has handled the main 
issues with more sincerity, lucidity, or logic than were attained by 
Frenchmen in the eighteenth. To-day, no doubt, in the light of a 
century and a-half of scientific, historic, and philosophic accumula- 
tion, the rationalist case is put with more profundity and accuracy 
by many writers than it could be in the eighteenth century. But 
we have to weigh the freethinkers of that age against their opponents, 
and the French performers against those of other countries, to make 
a fair estimate. When this is done their credit is safe. When 
German and other writers say with Tholuck that " unbelief entered 
Germany not by the weapons of mere wit and scoffing as in France ; 
it grounded itself on learned research," " they merely prove their 
ignorance of French culture-history. An abundance of learned 
research in France preceded the triumphant campaign of Voltaire, 
who did most of the witty writing on the subject ; and whose light 
artillery was to the last reinforced by the heavier guns of d'Holbach. 
It is only in the analysis of the historical problem by the newer 
tests of anthropology and hierology, and in the light of latterly 
discovered documents, that our generation has made much advance 
on the strenuous pioneers of the age of Voltaire. And even in the 



1 Like }'. u flier anil Hiiard, however, lie strives for a reform in spelling, dropping many 
doubled letter-', and wrilini; Itoiiv. hum; iirusr, fulv, (tju-llr. Iiintrt>\ nfrru.r, eU\ 

- Abrivi riiii't- (i< rldrhtr rlrr I'm"- ilgiinu r, :,/,,- , // /; , / uf <h-m <h hi, ! d, r 7 henlixjir 
in lh iii-clibiHil xttitt U'fiiti'liii, in Tholuck'.s Vermischti: Scltri/tcn, lbJ'J, ii, 5. The propo- 
sition in repeated pp. Jl, ;;J. 



250 EIGHTEENTH CENTUKY 

field of anthropology the sound thinking of Fontenelle and De 
Brosses long preceded any equally valid work by rationalists in 
Germany ; though Spencer of Cambridge had preceded them in his 
work of constructive orthodoxy. 

15. Though the bibliographers claim to have traced the author- 
ship in most cases, such works were in the first instance generally 
published anonymously, 1 as were those of Voltaire, d'Holbach, and 
the leading freethinkers ; and the clerical policy of suppression had 
the result of leaving them generally unanswered, save in anonymous 
writings, when they nevertheless got into private circulation. It 
was generally impolitic that an official answer should appear to a 
book which was officially held not to exist ; so that the orthodox 
defence was long confined mainly to the classic performances of 
Pascal, Bossuet, Huet, Fenelon, and some outsiders such as the 
Protestant Abbadie, who settled first in Berlin and later in London. 
The polemic of every one of the writers named is a work of ability ; 
even that of Abbadie (Traite de la Vcrite de la religion chretienne, 
1G84), though now little known, was in its day much esteemed. 2 
In the age of Louis XIV those classic answers to unbelief were by 
believers held to be conclusive ; and thus far the French defence 
was certainly more thorough and philosophical than the English. 
But French freethought, which in Herbert's day had given the lead 
to English, now drew new energy from the English growth ; and 
the general arguments of the old apologists did not explicitly meet 
the new attack. Their books having been written to meet the 
mostly unpublished objections of previous generations, the Church 
through its chosen policy had the air of utter inability to confute 
the newer propaganda, though some apologetic treatises of fair 
power did appear, in particular those of the Abbe Bergier. By the 
avowal of a Christian historian, " So low had the talents of the 
once illustrious Church of France fallen that in the latter part of 
the eighteenth century, when Christianity itself was assailed, not 
one champion of note appeared in its ranks ; and when the convo- 
cation of the clergy, in 1770, published their famous anathema 
against the dangers of unbelief, and offered rewards for the best 

1 The exceptions were books published outside of France. 

- Madame de Sevigne, for instance, declared that she would not let pass a year of her 
life without re-reading the second volume of Abbadie. 

:i Le Dcisme refute par lui-meme (largely a reply to Rousseau), 1765; 1770, Apologie de la 
religion chretienne ; 1773, La certitude d,-s prcuces tin Christ ianisme. In 1759 had appeared 
the Lettres sur le JJeimne of the younger Salchi, professor at Lausanne. It deals chiefly 
with the English deists, and with D'Argens, As before noted, the Abbe Gauchat began in 
1751 his Lettres Critiques, which in time ran to 15 volumes (1751-61). There were also two 
journals, .Jesuit and .Jansenist, which fought the nliilosophes (Lanson, p. 721); and some- 
times even a manuscript war, answered e.q. the Refutation du Celse motlerne of the Abbe 
Gautier (175-2), a reply to Mirabaud's unpublished Exuinen critique. 



FEENCH FEEETHOUGHT 251 

essays in defence of the Christian faith, the productions called forth 
were so despicable that they sensibly injured the cause of religion." ' 
The freethinking attack, in fact, had now become overwhelming. 
After the suppression of the Jesuit Order ( 1 7(> 4 ) 2 the press grew 
practically more and more free ; and when, after tho accession of 
Pope Clement XIV (17G9), the freethinking books circulated with 
less and less restraint, Bergier extended his attack on deism, and 
deists and clerics joined in answering the atheistic Si/slcvie dc la 
Nature of d'Holbach. But by this time the deistic books were 
legion, and the political battle over the taxation of Church property 
had become the more pressing problem, especially seeing that the 
mass of the people remained conforming. The manifesto of the 
clergy in 1770 was accompanied by an address to the king "On the 
evil results of liberty of thought and printing," following up a 
previous appeal by the pope ;' ! and in consideration of the donation 
by the clergy of sixteen million livres the Government recommended 
the Parlcment of Paris to proceed against impious books. There 
seems accordingly to have been some hindrance to publication for 
a year or two ; but in 1772 appeared the Bon Sens of d'Holbach 
and Diderot ; and there was no further serious check, the Jesuits 
being disbanded by the pope in 1773. 

The English view that French orthodoxy made a " bad " 
defence to the freethinking attack as compared with what was 
done in England (Sir J. F. Stephen, Horcs Sabbaticte, 2nd. ser. 
p. 281 ; Alison, as cited above) proceeds on some misconception 
of the circumstances, which, as has been shown, were substantially 
different in the two countries. Could the English clergy have 
resorted to official suppression of deistic literature, they too 
would doubtless have done so. Swift and Berkeley bitterly 
desired to. Hut the view that the English defence was relatively 
"good," and that Butler's in particular was decisive, is also, as 
we have seen, fallacious. In Sir Leslie Stephen's analysis, as 
apart from his preamble, the orthodox defence is exhibited as 
generally weak, and often absurd. Nothing could be more 
futile than the three ' Pastoral Letters " published by the 
Bishop of London (1728, 1730, 1731) as counterblasts to the 
freethinking books of this period. \n France the defence began 
sooner, and was more profound and even more methodical. 
Pascal at least went deeper, and Bossuet (in his J J /.scours stir 

1 Alison, History of Eitroyp, ed. 1819, i, ISO SI. 

2 Tho Jesuits wore expelled from Portugal in 17.7.); from Bohemia and Denmark in 
1700; from tho whole dominions of Spain in 1707; from (ienoa and Venice in the same 
year; and from Naples, Malla, and I'arniii in 170s. Ollirially suppressed in Franco in 
1701, they were expelled thence in 1707. l'ope Clement X 1 1 1 strove to defend them ; hut 
in 1773 the Society was suppressed by papal bull by Clement XI V ; whereafter they took 
refuse in I'm ia and Itu si a, ruled by the freethinking Frederick and Catherine. 

;; Sec tiie CorreiijHjiidiince da Uriin.ui, ed. Itiii'J 31, vii, 01 sti. 



252 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

I'Histoire Univcrscllc) more widely, into certain inward and 
outward problems of the controversy than did any of the 
English apologists ; Huet produced, in his Demonstratio Evati- 
gclica, one of the most methodical of all the defensive treatises 
of the time; Ahbadie, as before noted, gave great satisfaction, 
and certainly grappled zealously with Hobbes and Spinoza ; 
Allix, though no great dialectician, gave a lead to English 
apologetics against the deists (above, p. 97), and was even 
adapted by Paley ; and Fenelon, though his Traite de V Existence 
et ties Attribute de JJicu (1712) and Lettrcs sur la Beligion (1716) 
are not very powerful processes of reasoning, contributed through 
his reproduced conversations (1710) with Ramsay a set of argu- 
ments at least as plausible as anything on the English side, and, 
what is more notable, marked by an amenity which almost no 
English apologist attained. 

The ground had been thus very fully covered by the defence 
in France before the main battle in England began ; and when 
a new French campaign commenced with Voltaire, the defence 
against that incomparable attack, so far as the system allowed 
of any, was probably as good as it could have been made in 
England, save insofar as the Protestants gave up modern 
miracles, while most of the Catholics claimed them for their 
Church. Counterblasts sucli as the essay of Linguet, Le 
Fanatisme des Philosopher (17G1), were but general indictments 
of rationalism ; and other apologetic treatises, as we saw, 
handled only the most prominent books on the other side. It 
should be noted, too, that as late as 1761 the police made it 
almost impossible to obtain in Paris works of Voltaire recently 
printed in Holland (Grimm, vii, 123, 133, 434). But, as 
Paley admitted with reference to Gibbon (" Who can refute a 
sneer?"), the new attack was in any case very hard to meet. 
A sneer is not hard to refute when it is unfounded, inasmuch 
as it implies a proposition, which can be rebutted or turned by 
another sneer. The Anglican Church had been well enough 
pleased by the polemic sneers of Swift and Berkeley ; but the 
other side had the heavier guns, and of the mass of defences 
produced in England nothing remains save in the neat compila- 
tion of Paley. Alison's whole avowal might equally well apply 
to anything produced in England as against Voltaire. The 
skeptical line of argument for faith had been already employed 
by Huet and Pascal and Fenelon, with visibly small success ; 
Berkeley had achieved nothing with it as against English deism ; 
and Butler had no such effect in his day in England as to induce 
French Catholics to use him. (He does not appear to have been 
translated into French till 1821.) 

An Oratorian priest, again, translated the anti-deistic essays 
of President Forbes; and the Pensees Theologiques relatives aux 
erreurs da temps of Pere Jamin (1768; le edit. 177-'J) were 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 253 

thought worthy of being translated into German, poor as they 
were. With their empty affirmation of authority they suggest 
so much blank cartridge, which could avail nothing with thinking 
men ; and here doubtless the English defence makes a better 
impression. But, on the other hand, Voltaire circulated widely 
in England, and was no better answered there than in France. 
His attack was, in truth, at many points peculiarly baffling, 
were it only by its inimitable wit. The English replies to 
Spinoza, again, were as entirely inefficient or deficient as the 
French ; the only intelligent English answers to Hume on 
Miracles (the replies on other issues were of no account) made 
use of the French investigations of the Jansenist miracles ; and 
the replies to Gibbon were in general ignominious failures. 

Finally, though the deeper reasonings of Diderot were over 
the heads alike of the French and the English clergy, the 
Systems dc la Nature of d'Holbach was met skilfully enough at 
many points by G.J. Holland (1772), who, though not a French- 
man, wrote excellent French, and supplied for French readers a 
very respectable rejoinder; 1 whereas in England there was 
practically none. In this case, of course, the defence was 
deistic ; as was that of Voltaire, who criticized d'Holbach as 
Bolingbroke attacked Spinoza and Hobbes. But the Examcn 
du Materialisms of the Abbe Bergier (1771), who was a member 
of the Academy of Sciences, was at least as good as anything 
that could then have been done in the Church of England ; and 
the same may be said of his reply to Freret's (really Burigny's) 
Examcn. It is certainly poor enough ; but Bishop Watson used 
some of its arguments for his reply to Paine. Broadly speaking, 
as we have said, much more of French than of English intelli- 
gence had been turned to the dispute in the third quarter of the 
century. In England, political and industrial discussion relieved 
the pressure on creed ; in France, before the Revolution, the 
whole habit of absolutism tended to restrict discussion to 
questions of creed ; and the attack would in any case have had 
the best of it, because it embodied all the critical forces hitherto 
available. The controversy thus went much further than the 
pre-IIumian issues raised in England ; and the English ortho- 
doxy of the end of the century was, in comparison, intellectually 
as weak as politically and socially it was strong. In France, 
from the first, the greater intellectual freedom in social inter- 
course, exemplified in the readiness of women to declare them- 
selves freethinkers (cp. .lamin, as cited, eh. xix, ? 1), would have 
made the task of the apologists harder even had they been more 
competent, 

I {). Above the -.eatfored hand of minor combat .ml-; rises a group 

1 Tin"; :iiH,].rv:.;,- v.m I:, jitlcr li'i.viii'' !>"en |>r:ii <,! by the r.'ll ;or ami ivcislriv.l willi 
n-ii-i:- tji- tin rui in Novi-inhcr, In-, .v,i- uiliciallj uin>l'oH u<l on .Jan. 17, l/.'.i, ami, it would 
L]j]H.'ar, l'ui^uijd in that ymr, 



254 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

of writers of special power, several of whom, without equalling 
Voltaire in ubiquity of influence, rivalled him in intellectual power 
and industry. The names of DIDEROT, D'HOLBACH, D'ALEMBERT, 
HELVETIUS, and CoXDORCET are among the first in literary France 
of the generation before the Revolution ; after them come VOLNEY 
and DUPUIS ; and in touch with tlie whole series stands the line 
of great mathematicians and physicists (to which also belongs 
D'Alembert), Laplace, Lagrange, Lalaxde, Delambre. When 
to these we add the names of MONTESQUIEU, BUFFON, CHAMFORT, 
RlVAROL, VAUVENARGUES ; of the materialists La METTRIE and 
CABANIS ; of the philosophers CONDILLAC and DESTUTT DE TRACY ," 
of the historian RAYNAL ; of the poet AxDRE Chexier ; of the 
politicians TURGOT, MlRABEAU, DANTOX, DESMOULIXS, ROBES- 
PIERRE all (save perhaps Raynal) deists or else pantheists or 
atheists it becomes clear that the intelligence of France was 
predominantly rationalistic before the Revolution, though the mass 
of the nation certainly was not. 

It is necessary to deprecate Mr. Lecky's statement (Ration- 
alism in Europe, i, 176) that "Raynal has taken, with Diderot, 
a place in French literature which is probably permanent" an 
estimate as far astray as the declaration on the same page that 
the English deists are buried in "unbroken silence." Raynal's 
vogue in his day was indeed immense (cp. Morley, Diderot, 
ch. xv) ; and Edmond Scherer {Etudes sur la litt. du ISe Steele, 
1891, pp. 277-78) held that Raynal's Histoire philosopliiqne des 
deux hides had had more inlluence on the French Revolution 
than even Rousseau's Conlrat Social. Rut the book has long 
been discredited (cp. Scherer, pp. 27o-76). A biographical 
Dictionary of ISil spoke of it as " cet ouvrage ampoule qu'on 
lie lit pas aujourd'hui." Although the first edition (1770) 
passed the censure only by moans of bribery, and the second 
(1780) was publicly burned, and its author forced to leave 
France, he was said to reject, in religion, " only the pope, hell, 
and monks " (Scherer, p. 286) ; and most of the anti-religious 
declamation in the first edition of the Ilistoire is said to bo 
from the pen of Diderot, who wrote it very much at random, 
at Raynal's request. 

No list of orthodox names remotely comparable with these can 
be drawn from the literature of France, or indeed of any other 
country of that time. Jean JACQUES Hol'SSEAU (1712-1778), the 
one other pre-eminent figure, though not an anti-Christian propa- 
gandist, is distinctly on the side of deism, in the Central Social, 1 

1 Liv. i, ch. viii. 



FEENCH FREETHOUGHT 255 

writing with express approbation of Hobbes, he declares that " the 
Christian law is at bottom more injurious than useful to the sound 
constitution of the State"; and even the famous Confession of Faith 
of a Savoyard Vicar in the Emilc is anti-revelationist, and practically 
anti-clerical. lie was accordingly anathematized by the Sorbonne, 
which found in Emilc nineteen heresies ; the book was seized and 
burned both at Paris and at Geneva within a few weeks of its 
appearance, 1 and the author decreed to be arrested ; even the 
Contrat Social was seized and its vendors imprisoned. All the 
while he had maintained in Emilc doctrines of the usefulness of 
religious delusion and fanaticism. Still, although his temperamental 
way of regarding things has a clear affinity with some later religious 
philosophy of a more systematic sort, he undoubtedly made for 
freethought as well as for the revolutionary spirit in general. Thus 
the cause of Christianity stood almost denuded of intellectually 
eminent adherents in the France of 17S9 ; for even among the 
writers who had dealt with public questions without discussing 
religion, or who had criticized Rousseau and the philosophcs as the 
Abbes Mably, Morellet, Millot the tone was essentially rationalistic. 

It lias been justly enough argued, concerning Rousseau (see 
below, p. 287), that the generation of the Revolution made him 
its prophet in his own despite, and that had he lived twenty 
years longer he would have been its vehement adversary. But 
tins does not alter the facts as to his influence. A great writer 
of emotional genius, like Rousseau, inevitably impels men 
beyond the range of his own ideals, as in recent times Ruskin 
and Tolstoy, both anti- Socialists, have led thousands towards 
Socialism. In his own generation and the next, Rousseau 
counted essentially for criticism of the existing order ; and it 
was the revolutionaries, never the conservatives, who acclaimed 
him. De Tocqueville (Hist, philos. die rcgne dc Louis XV, 1819, 
i, 33) speaks of his " impiete dogmatique." Martin clu Theil, 
in his J . J. llousseait apologiste de la religion chrcticnnc (2e edit. 
1840), makes out his case by identifying emotional deism with 
Christianity, as did Rousseau himself when lie insisted that 
" the true Christianity is only natural religion well explained." 
Rousseau's praise of the gospel and of the character of Jesus 
was such as many deists acquiesced in. Similar language, in 
the mouth of Matthew Arnold, gave rather more offence to 
Gladstone, as a believing Christian, than did the language of 
simple; unbelief; and a recent Christian poleinist, at the close 
of a copious monograph, has repudiated the association of 
Rousseau with the faith (see J. V . Nourrissou, ,/. -/. Housseau, 
el le Uousseanismr, 1903, p. 197 *'/.). What is true of him is 

1 Baehauinont, juin 22 ; juillel 0, 20, 27 ; novembrc; II, 1702. 



256 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

that he was more religiously a theist than Voltaire, whose 
impeachment of Providence in the poem on the Earthquake of 
Lisbon he sought strenuously though not very persuasively to 
refute in a letter to the author. But, with all his manifold 
inconsistencies, which may be worked down to the neurosis 
so painfully manifest in his life and in his relations to his 
contemporaries, he never writes as a believer in the dogmas 
of Christianity or in the principle of revelation ; and it was as 
a deist that he was recognized by his Christian contemporaries. 
A demi-Christian is all that Alichelet will call him. His com- 
patriot the Swiss pastor Eoustan, located in London, directed 
against him his Offrande aux Autels et a la Patrie, oil Defense 
du Christianisme (1764), regarding him as an assailant. The 
work of the Abbe Bergier, Le Deisme refute par lui-meme (1765, 
and later), takes the form of letters addressed to Eousseau, and 
is throughout an attack on his works, especially the Emile. 
When, therefore, Buckle (l-vol. ed. p. 475) speaks of him as 
not having attacked Christianity, and Lord Morley {Rousseau, 
ch. xiv) treats him as creating a religious reaction against the 
deists, they do not fully represent his influence on his time. 
As we have seen, he stimulated Voltaire to new audacities by 
his example. 

17. An interlude in the critical campaign, little noticed at the 
time, developed importance a generation later. In 1753 JEAN 
AsTRUC, doctor of medicine, published after long hesitation his 
Conjectures on the original documents whicli Moses seems to have 
used in composing the book of Genesis. Only in respect of his flash 
of insight into the composite structure of the Pentateuch was Astruc 
a freethinker. His hesitation to publish was due to his fear that 
Us pretendus espriis forts might make a bad use of his work ; and lie 
was quite satisfied that Moses was tire author of the Pentateuch as 
it stands. The denial of that authorship, implied in the criticisms 
of Hobbes and Spinoza, he described as " the disease of the last 
century." This attitude may explain the lack of interest in Astruc's 
work shown by the freethinkers of the time. Nonetheless, by his 
perception of the clue given by the narrative use of the two names 
Yahweh and Elohim in Genesis, he laid a new foundation of the 
Higher Criticism of the Bible in modern times, advancing alike on 
Spinoza and on Simon. For freethought lie had " builded better 
than he knew." 

1 Grimm notices Astruc's Dissertations stir I'immnrtaJite, I'immatarirtlite, rf hi liherte 
(If I'd me, published in 1735 {Cnrr. i, 43S), but not his Conjectures. At his death I17(it>) he 
pronounces him "mi des homines les plus decries de Paris," "II passait pour fripon, 
fourbe, mediant, en uti mot pour 1111 tres-malhonnete homme." "II etait violent et 
emporte, et d'une avarice sordide." Finally, lie died "sans sacremens" after having 
"fait le devot" and attached himself to the Jesuits in their day of power. Corr. v, 'Jti 
But Grimm was a man of many hates, and not the best of historians. 



FRENCH FBEETIIOUGIIT 257 

18. In the select Parisian arena of the Academie, the intellectual 
movement of the age is as it were dramatized ; and there more clearly 
than in the literary record we can trace the struggle of opinions, from 
the admission of Voltaire (1716) onwards. In the old days the 
Academie had hecn rather tho homo of convention, royalism, and 
orthodoxy than of ideas, though before Voltaire there were some 
freethinking members of the lesser Academies, notably Boindin. 1 
The admission of Montesquieu (1728), after much opposition from 
the court, preludes a new era ; and from the entrance of Voltaire, 
fourteen years after his first attempt," the atmosphere begins per- 
ceptibly to change. When, in 1727, the academician Bonamy had 
read a memoir On the character and the paganism of the emperor 
Julian, partly vindicating him against the aspersions of tho Christian 
Fathers, the Academy feared to print the paper, though its author 
was a devout Catholic/ When the Abbe La Bletterie, also orthodox, 
read to the Academy portions of his Vic de Julien, the members were 
not now scandalized, though the Abbe's Jansenism moved the King 
to veto his nomination. So, when Blanchard in 1735 read a memoir 
on Les exorcismes magiques there was much trepidation among the 
members, and again the Secretary inserted merely an analysis, 
concluding with the words of Philetas, " Believe and fear God ; 
beware of questioning."' Even such a play of criticism as the 
challenging of the early history of Pome by Levesque de Pouilly 
(brother of Levesque de Burigny) in a dissertation before the 
Academie in 1722, roused the fears and the resentment of the 
orthodox ; the Abbe Sallier, in undertaking to refute him, insinuated 
that he had shown a spirit which might be dangerous to other 
beliefs ; and whispers of atheism passed among the academicians/ 
Pouilly, who bad been made a freethinker by English contacts, went 
again to England later, and spent his last years at Bheims. 1 ' I lis 
tbesis was much more powerfully sustained in 1738 by Beaufort, in 
the famous dissertation Stir V incertitude des cinq premiers siecles de 
Vhistoire romainc ; but Beaufort was of a refugeo-IIuguenot stock; 
his book was published, under his initials, at Utrecht ; and not till 
1753 did tho Academie award him a medal on the score ol an 
earlier treatise. And in 17-bS the lle.ligio ceterum Versa rum of the 
English Orientalist Hyde, published as long before as 1700, found a 

1 f'p. Maury, L'tuiru-mw Academic tl fa inncrinfioiiN rt bcllcn-lrtl res, ISUI, pp. 55-51!. 

2 Voltaire's various stratagems to secure election are not, to his credit. See 1'anl 
Me-nard, Jlistoirc. tl<- 1'iirtnlciiiir fr<i iiniinc. ls">7, pp. IIS 71. I'.ut even Montesquieu is said 
to have resorted to sonic que Lionable device! I'or the iioeend. Id. p. (hi. 

'' .Ma urv, Ij'anciiiiiii: Ac uli inic il, s iuncriijliuns, pp. .'. ! ..... '.'I. :!(N. 

1 /'/. p. '.).!. / /. pp. i n; ,'D. 

c Where lie was lieutenant !;,'u<'ral , and died in 17.V.J. 

VOL. II S 



258 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

vehement assailant within the Academy in the Abbe Foucher, who 
saw danger in a favourable view of any heathen religion. 

Yet even in the time of Louis XIV the Abbe Mongault, tutor of 
the son of the Regent, and noted alike for his private freethinking 
and for the rigid orthodoxy which he instilled into his pupil, treated 
the historic subject of the divine honours rendered to Roman 
governors with such latitude as to elicit from Freret, in his eloge of 
Mongault, the remark that the tutor had reserved to himself a liberty 
of thought which he doubtless felt to be dangerous in a prince. 1 
And after 17o0 the old order can be seen passing away. D'Argenson 
notes in his diary in 1754 : " I observe in the Academie de belles- 
lettres, of which I am a member, that there begins to be a decided 
stir against the priests. It began to show itself at the death of 
Boindin, to whom our bigots refused a service at the Oratory and a 
public commemoration. Our deist philosophers were shocked, and 
ever since, at each election, they are on guard against the priests and 
the bigots. Nowhere is this division so marked, and it begins to 
bear fruits."' 2 The old statesman indicates his own sympathies by 
adding : " Why has a bad name been made of the title of deist ? It 
is that of those who have true religion in their hearts, and who have 
abjured a superstition that is destructive to the whole world." It 
was in this year that D'Alembert, who took nearly as much pains to 
stay out as Voltaire had done to enter, 3 was elected a member ; and 
with two leading cncyclopedistes in the forty, and a friendly abb6 
(Duclos) in the secretaryship (l7oo), and another zealous freethinker, 
Levesque de Burigny, admitted in 1756,' the fortunes of freethought 
were visibly rising. Its influence was thrown on the side of the 
academic orator Thomas, a sincere believer but a hater of all perse- 
cution, and as such offensive to the Church party.'' 

19. In 1759 there came a check. The Encyclopedic, which had 
been allowed to resume publication after its first suppression in 
1752, was again stopped; and the battle between philosophes and 
fanatics, dramatized for the time being in Palissot's comedy Les 
I'hilosophcs and in Voltaire's rejoinder to Freron, L'Ecossaise, came 
to be fought out in the Academy itself. The poet Lefranc de 
Pompignan, 6 elected in 1759 without any opposition from the free- 
thinkers, had in his youth translated Pope's " Deist's Prayer," and 
had suffered for it to the extent of being deprived by D'Aguesseau of 

1 Maury, DP- 53, 86-S7. - IThnoires, eel. Jannet, iv, 181. 

:; Cp. Mesnard, as cited, pp. 79-SO. ' Maury, p. 315. 

l-l. pp. bl-<A. It i^ noteworthy that the orthodox Thomas, and not any of the 
p?iilosrtp]ies, was the first to impeach the Government in academic discourses. Mesuard, 
pp. 8-2-81, 100 s<j. 

"I/excellent I'orupik'nan," M. Lausorj calls him. p. 723, 



FRENCH FREET1T0UGHT 259 

his official charge 1 for six months. With such a past, with a keen 
concern for status, and with a character that did not stick at tergi- 
versation, Pompignan saw tit to signalize his election hy making his 
discours do reception (.March, 1760) a violent attack on the whole 
philosophic school, which, in his conclusion, he declared to he under- 
mining ' equally the throne and the altar." The academicians 
heard him out in perfect silence, leaving it to the few pietists 
among the audience to applaud ; hut as soon as the reports reached 
Ferney there began the vengeance of Voltaire. First came a leaflet 
of stinging sentences, each beginning with Quand : " When one has 
translated and even exaggerated the ' Deist's Prayer ' composed by 

Pope ," and so on. The maddened Pompignan addressed a 

fatuous memorial to the King (who notoriously hated the philosoplies, 
and had assented only under petticoat influence to Voltaire's elec- 
tion") ; and, presuming to print it without the usual official sanction, 
suffered at the hands of Vlalesherbes the blow of having the printer's 
plant smashed. Other combatants entered the fray. Voltaire's 
leaflet " les quand" was followed by " les si, les pour, les qui, les 
quoi, les car, les ah !" by him or others and the master-mocker 
produced in swift succession three satires in verse,'' all accompanied 
by murderous prose annotations. The speedy result was Pompignan's 
retirement into provincial life. He could not face the merciless hail 
of rejoinders ; and when at his death, twenty-five years later, the 
Abbe Maury had to pronounce his cloijc, the mention of his famous 
humiliation was hardly tempered by compassion." 1 

20. Voltaire could not compass, as he for a time schemed, the 
election of Diderot ; but other philosophcs of less note entered from 
time to time ;" Marmontel was elected in 1763 ; and when in 1764 
the Academy's prize for poetry was given to Chamfort for a pieco 
which savoured of what were then called ' the detestable principles 
of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Helvetius," and in 1768 its prize 
for eloquence went to the same writer, the society as a whole had 
acquired a certain character for impiety.'' \n 1767 there had 
occurred the famous ecclesiastical explosion over Marmontel's 
philosophic romance IJclisaire, a performance in which it is some- 
what difficult to-day to defect any exciting quality, it was hy a 
chapter in praise of toleration that the ' universal and mediocre 



1 "Les provisions de su chanie pendant six mois en IT.'Jii." Voltaire, i.ettre Mine. 
D'Kpinay, l.'ijuin, 17'JO. ")> Ie M.-rvis dans cette all'.ure," adds Voltaire. 
- Mesnard, pp. U7. 71. 7:i, k'J. 

3 Lf J'nurre iJinblr, tiucr.ujr <-n ivr.s nhi's dv frit M. \\i,h', mis i n Uimirri' i>a r Catherine 
Vaib . a ciju ine liaise! y dated 170bJ ; Lit Ynniti ; and /. lim a I'd if-. 

4 Me uard, pp. bj 'J.'.. Id. pp : : Jl. c 11 pp '. r - Uil. 



2G0 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Marmontel " l secured from the Sorbonne the finest advertisement 
over given to a work of fiction, the ecclesiastics of the old school 
being still too thoroughly steeped in the past to realize that a gospel 
of persecution was a bad warcry for a religion that was being more 
and more put on the defensive. Only an angry fear before the 
rising flood of unlicensed literature, combining with the long-baffled 
desire to strike some blow at freethinking, could have moved the 
Sorbonne to select for censure the duly licensed work 2 of a popular 
academician and novelist ; and it should be remembered that it was 
at a time of great activity in the unlicensed production of freethink- 
ing literature that the attack was made. The blow recoiled signally. 
The book was of course promptly translated into all the languages 
of Europe, selling by tens of thousands;'* and two sovereigns took 
occasion to give it their express approval. These were the Empress 
Catherine (who caused the book to be translated by members of 
her court while she was making a tour of her empire, she herself 
taking a chapter), and the Empress Maria-Theresa. From Catherine, 
herself a freethinker, the approbation might have been expected ; 
but the known orthodoxy and austerity of Maria-Theresa made her 
support the more telling. In France a small literary tempest raged 
for a year. Marmontel published his correspondence with the syndic 
of the Sorbonne and with Voltaire ; and in all there appeared some 
dozen documents pro and con, among them an anonymous satire by 
Turgot, Les xxxvii verites opposces aux xxxvii impietes de Belisaire, 
"Par un Bachelier Ubiquiste," 4 which, with the contributions of 
Voltaire, gave the victim very much the best of the battle. 

21. Alongside of the more strictly literary or humanist move- 
ment, too, there went on one of a scientific kind, which divided into 
two lines, a speculative and a practical. On the former the free- 
lance philosopher JULIEX OFFRAY LA METTRIE gave a powerful 
initial push by his materialistic theses, in which a medical know- 
ledge that for the time was advanced is applied with a very keen 
if unsystematic reasoning faculty to the primary problem of mind 
and body ; and others after him continued the impulse. La Mettrie 
produced his Natural Ilistoru of the Mind in 1715 ;" and in 174G 

1 Eanson, Hist, de la lift, francaise, p. 7-2-"). 

2 The formal approval of a Sorbonnist was necessary. One refused it; another gave 
it. Marmontel, Memoires, 1801, iii, 35-36. 

'' .Marmontel mentions that while he was still discussing a compromise with the syndic 
of the Sorbonne, 40,000 copies had been sold throughout Europe. Memoires, iii, 39. 

4 This satire was taken by the German freethinker Eberhard, in his New Apology for 
Socrates, as the actual publication of the Sorbonne. Barbier, Diet, des Ouvr. anon et 
Pseud., 2e edit, i, 4GS. 

5 Published pseudonymously as a translation from the English: Histoire naturelle.de 

I'&rne, traduite de l'Anglais de M. Charp, par feu M. II ;, de l'Academie des Sciences. 

A La Haye, 1715. Republished under the title Traite de I' Ante, 



FRENCH FEEETIIOUGHT 261 

appeared the Essay on the Origin of Hitman Knowledge of the Abbe 
COXDILLAC, both essentially rationalistic and anti-theological works, 
though differing in their psychological positions, Condillac being a 
non-materialist, though a strong upholder of " sensism." La Mettrie 
followed up his doctrine with the more definitely materialistic but 
less heedfully planned works, L' Homme Plant e and U Homme 
Machine (1748), the second of which, published at Leyden 1 and 
wickedly dedicated to the pious Baron von Haller, was burned by 
order of the magistrates, its author being at the same time expelled 
from Holland. Both books are remarkable for their originality of 
thought, biological and ethical. Though La Mettrie professed to 
think the "greatest degree of probability" was in favour of the 
existence of a personal God," his other writings gave small support 
to the hypothesis ; and even in putting it he rejects any inference 
as to worship. And lie goes on to quote very placidly an atheist 
who insists that only an atheistic world can attain to happiness. 
It is notable that he, the typical materialist of his age, seems to 
have been one of its kindliest men, by the consent of all who knew 
him, though heedless in his life to the point of ending it by eating 
a monstrous meal out of bravado. 

The conventional denunciation of La Mettrie (endorsed by 
Lord Morley, Voltaire, p. 122) proceeds ostensibly upon those of 
his writings in which he discussed sexual questions with absolute 
scientific freedom. He, however, insisted that his theoretic dis- 
cussion had nothing whatever to do with his practice ; and there 
is no evidence that he lived otherwise than as most men did in 
his age, and ours. Still, the severe censure passed on him by 
Diderot (Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Xeron, ed. 1782, ii, 
22-21) seems to convict him of at least levity of character. 
Voltaire several times holds the same tone. But Diderot writes 
so angrily that his verdict incurs suspicion. 

As Lange notes, there lias been much loose generalization as 
to the place and hearing of La Mettrie in the history of French 
thought. Hettner, who apparently had not thought it worth 
while to read him, has ascribed his mental movement to the 
influence of Diderot's Pensres pliilosopjiigues (17-1(3), whereas it 
had begun in his own Histoirc natiirelle, de I'dnie, published a 
year before. La Mettrie's originality and influerife in general 

Hv Klic 7,uz:if!, to whom is aserihed tin- reply entitied /,' / hmunr i>tnn n>f Miirhiiir 
[171's ill i.l. Tlii i.-, printed in the (Kitri;-. ///n7<.vn/-/i<V/'ms ol I, a M< ttrie as if it w civ his ; 
i, . - i. ; ! -i eem to tli i nl; it was. Hut tin; l)il.li..::ia).iirr a-eril>e it to l.u/.u-, who 
was a. man of culture and alhlity. 

- /-' Hoiiuni- MiirlUw, i-d. A -.. /at, lS'Ti, l>. '.il : r7,*, ,,',,! .el 1771. iii. .".I. 

" l.am-'i-, Cmrli. ihs Mntr riul t smu x, i, :W,i. ,v/. (Km!. If. ii, 7' () ; S.iuy, Hn'rinn ,1, 
I hist.ilu iimlrri'iti //<<. pp. >'.<;;, llv, lis; Voltaire, I In,,,, I if si, r Ctt hi i-iin , eml. } r. derick 
the (iri at, who ^ave I M .Mettrie ha rlioiini!,'i\ .11 ji port, ami I riemi In p. ami ,'. m> ua net a 
l,;el imlye of men, wrote an. I read in Lhe Merlin Academy the fmmra I elmle of Ka. Mettrie, 
and pron 011 need him "nut a me pure et 11 11 en nr sei viabli ." I!.\ " pure " In meant incore. 



262 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

have been underestimated as a result of the hostility set up by 
disparagement of his character. The idea of a fundamental 
unity of type in nature an idea underlying all the successive 
steps of Lamarck, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Goethe, and others, 
towards the complete conception of evolution is set forth by 
him in L'Homme Plante in 174S, the year in which appeared 
De Maillet's Tdliamed. Buffon follows in time as in thought, 
only beginning his great work in 1749 ; Maupertuis, with his 
pseudonymous dissertation on the Universal sj/stcm of Nature, 
applies La Mettrie's conception in 1751 ; and Diderot's Pcnsces 
sur V interpretation de la nature, stimulated by Maupertuis, 
appeared only in 1754. La Mettrie proceeded from the classi- 
fication of Linnauis, but did not there find his idea. In the 
words of Lange, these forgotten writings are in nowise so 
empty and superficial as is commonly assumed." Gcsch. des 
Materialisvius, i, 32S-29. Lange seems to have been the first 
to make a judicial study of La Mettrie's work, as distinguished 
from the scandals about his character. 

22. A more general influence, naturally, attached to the simple 
concrete handling of scientific problems. The interest in such 
questions, noticeable in England at the Restoration and radiating 
thence, is seen widely diffused in Erance after the publication of 
Fontenelle's Entretiens, and thenceforward it rapidly strengthens. 
Barren theological disputations set men not merely against theology, 
but upon the study of Nature, where real knowledge was visibly 
possible. To a certain extent the study took openly heretical lines. 
The Abbe Lenglet du Fresnoy, who was four times imprisoned in 
the Bastille, supplied material of which D'Argens made much use, 
tending to overthrow the Biblical chronology and to discredit the 
story of the Flood. 1 Benolt de Maillet (1656-1738), who had been 
for fifteen years inspector of the French establishments in Egypt 
and Barbary, left for posthumous publication (1748) a work of which 
the first title was an anagram of his name, Telliamed, on Entretiens 
d'un philosophe indien avee un missionaire francais. Of this treatise 
the thesis is that the shell deposits in the Alps and elsewhere showed 
the sea to have been where land now was ; and that the rocks were 
gradually deposited in their different kinds in the fashion in which 
even now arc being formed mud, sand, and shingle. De Maillet had 
thus anticipated the central conception of modern geology, albeit 
retaining many traditional delusions. His abstention from publica- 
tion during his lifetime if tifies Lo hi- ;ense of the danger he under- 
went, the treatise having been printed by him only in 1733, at the 

1 Salchi, I.tUn. > sur le DiisHie, 17.30, pp. 177. LOT, 230, 2S3 nq. 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 263 

age of seventy-nine ; and not till ten years after his death was it 
given to the world, with " a preface and dedication so worded as, in 
case of necessity, to give the printer a fair chance of falling back on 
the excuse that the work was intended for a mere jcu d' esprit." l 

The thesis was adopted, indeed plagiarized, 2 by Mirabaud in his 
Lc Monde, son originc ct son antiquite (1751). Strangely enough, 
Voltaire refused to be convinced, and offered amazing suggestions as 
to the possible deposit of shells by pilgrims.' 5 It is not unlikely that 
it was Voltaire's opposition rather than any orthodox argumentation 
that retarded in France the acceptance of an evolutionary view of 
the origin of the earth and of life. It probably had a more practical 
effect on scientific thought in England' at least as regards geology : 
its speculations on the modification of species, which loosely but 
noticeably anticipate some of the inferences of Darwin, found no 
acceptance anywhere till Lamarck. In the opinion of Huxley, the 
speculations of Robinet, in the next generation, " are rather behind 
than in advance of those of De Maillet"; 5 and it may be added that 
the former, with his pet theory that all Nature is " animated," and 
that the stars and planets have the faculty of reproducing themselves 
like animals, wandered as far from sound bases as De Maillot ever 
did. The very form of De Maillet's work, indeed, was not favourable 
to its serious acceptance; and in his case, as in those of so many 
pioneers of new ideas, errors and extravagances and oversights in 
regard to matters of detail went to justify " practical " men in 
dismissing novel speculations. Needless to say, the common run of 
scientific men remained largely under the influence of religious pre- 
suppositions in science even when they had turned their backs on 
the Church. Nonetheless, on all sides the study of natural fact 
began to play its part in breaking down the dominion of creed. Even 
in hidebound Protestant Switzerland, the sheer ennui of Puritanism 
is seen driving the descendants of the Huguenot refugees to the 
physical sciences for an interest and an occupation, before any free- 
thinking can safely ho avowed ; and in France, as Buckle has shown 
in abundant detail, the study of the physical sciences became for 
many years hefore the Revolution almost a fashionahlo mania. And 
at the start the Church had contrived that such study should rank 
as unbelief, and so make unbelievers. 

' Hiixlev, c: Hay on Darwin on the Ori'lin of Hnrrien li. I'. A. c 1. of Twelve r'wetines and 

i: </)/*, i>. ui. 

* Sec the parallel passages in the I,, Kick l'riti(p,es of Lhe ALU' ( hi nihil t , vol. XV 
(ITf'.l), P. !'.' / 

- See his e :tv Des Siiniiil'irilrt de la Xatnre, eh. mi, mi I hi Dissertation sue is 
ehantirnients arrie/s dons not ee ah, I.e. ' I'.m' tr. IV.'.H. 

"' 1 ;- ii y cited, p. 'ji;. The uritici: m ignore ; the (.'renter eon i pre] n i! i\cnes of Ko I unci's 
survey of nature. 



264 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

When Buff on 1 in 1749-50 published his Histoire Naturelle, the 
delight which was given to most readers by its finished style was 
paralleled by the wrath which its Theorie de la Terre aroused among 
the clergy. After much discussion Buffon received early in 1751 
from the Sorbonne an official letter specifying as reprehensible in his 
book fourteen propositions which he was invited to retract. He 
stoically obeyed in a declaration to the effect that he had " no inten- 
tion to contradict the text of Scripture," and that he believed " most 
firmly all there related about the creation," adding: "I abandon 
everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth." ; 
Still he was attacked as an unbeliever by the Bishop of Auxerre in 
that prelate's pastoral against the thesis of de Prades. 3 During the 
rest of his life he outwardly conformed to religious usage, but all 
men knew that in his heart he believed wdiat he had written ; and 
the memory of the affront that the Church had thus put upon so 
honoured a student helped to identify her cause no less with 
ignorance than with insolence and oppression. For all such insults, 
and for the long roll of her cruelties, the Church was soon to pay a 
tremendous penalty. 

23. But science, like theology, had its schisms, and the rational- 
izing camp had its own strifes. MAUPERTTJIS, for instance, is 
remembered mainly as one of the victims of the mockery of 
Voltaire (which he well earned by his own antagonism at the court 
of Frederick) ; yet he was really an energetic man of science, and 
had preceded Yoltaire in setting up in France the Newtonian against 
the Cartesian physics. In his System of Nature* (not to be confused 
with the later work of d'Holbach under the same title) he in 1751 
propounded a new version of the hylozoisms of ancient Greece ; 
developed the idea of an underlying unity in the forms of natural 
life, already propounded by La Mettrie in his U Homme Plante ; 
connected it with Leibnitz's formula of the economy of nature 
("minimum of action" the germ of the modern "line of least 
resistance "), and at the same time anticipated some of the special 
philosophic positions of Kant. 5 Diderot, impressed by but professedly 
dissenting from Maupertuis's Systeme in his Pensees sur I' interpreta- 
tion de la nature (1751), promptly pointed out that the conception 



1 George-Louis Leclere, Comte de Buffon, 17G7-17<-3, 

~ Lyeil, Principles of Geology, tiitti ed. ls.75, i, 57-53. 

' Suite <le I'Apoloriie de M. I' Abbe De Prudes, 1752, p. 37 sq. 

4 Uissertatio iniiuuurulis metaphysial de unicersali natures systemate. published 
nt (iottiugou as the doctoral thesis of an imaginary Dr. Uauinann, 1751. In French 
17.5:5. 

3 Soury, p. 570. The later speculations of Maupertuis by their extravagance discredited 
the earlier. 



FRENCH FEEETHOUGHT 265 

of a primordially vitalized atom excluded that of a Creator, and for 
his own part thereafter took that standpoint. 1 

In 1751 came the Traite dcs Sensations of Condillac, in which is 
most systematically developed the physio-psychological conception 
of man as an " animated statue," of which the thought is wholly 
conditioned by the senses. The mode of approach had been laid 
down before by La yfettrie, by Diderot, and by Buff on ; and 
Condillac is rather a developer and systematizer than an originator; 2 
but in this case the process of unification was to the full as important 
as the first steps ;" and Condillac has an importance which is latterly 
being rediscovered by the school of Spencer on the one hand and by 
that of James on the other. Condillac, commonly termed a mate- 
rialist, no more held the legendary materialistic view than any other 
so named : and the same may be said of the next figure in the 
" materialistic " series, J. B. BOBINET, a Frenchman settled at 
Amsterdam, after having been, it is said, a Jesuit. His Nature 
(l vols. 1761-1768) is a remarkable attempt to reach a strictly 
naturalistic conception of things.' But he is a theorist, not an 
investigator. Even in his fixed idea that the universe is an 
"animal" lie had perhaps a premonition of the modern discovery 
of the immense diffusion of bacterial life ; but he seems to have had 
more deriders than disciples. He founds at once on Descartes and 
on Leibnitz, but in his Philosophical Considerations on the natural 
(/nidation of living forms (1768) he definitely sets aside theism as 
illusory, and puts ethics on a strictly scientific and human footing," 
extending the arguments of Hume and Hutcheson somewhat on the 
lines of Mandeville." On another line of reasoning a similar applica- 
tion of Mandeville's thesis had already been made by HELVETIUS 
in his Traite de V Esprit ' (1758), a work which excited a hostility 
now difficult to understand, but still reflected in censures no less 
surprising. 

One of the worst misrepresentations in theological literature 
is the account of Helvctius by the late Principal Cairns {Unbelief 
in tic Eighteenth Century, 1881, p. 158) as appealing to govern- 
ment "to promote luxury, and, through luxury, public good, by 
abolishing all those laws t hat cherish a false modesty and restrain 

1 "Seheinbar bekiimiifl c:r Maupcrtuis de-;s ivri'ni, aber i'n 'jelii'Inieti slimiiit it ibm 
b<-i " i Itfi a-iiki";uix, i, MH. 

'- It i mild be noti i lk:d l;v t'onclilliic's; avuua] be v,a- much niile ! b, his liiend 
Mdlle. ]'( n-iiml. 

- ( p. Iic:b. ir.' , Ct.itiliH'tr, i,n V, i,i/urisiili- ft Ir rati.,, i. tit ,111; IS:',!, Hi. i. 

4 I,;i :: , ii, 11, -.\ ; Suliry, pp. b.Ki 11. " Sniirv, pp. iV.li; i '>()(); l.n in,'. , i i . .','. 

G Oddly enoiii;li lie became ultimately press censor! I te lived till I.YiO, il.viu;: at KeimeH 
,: i lie arc Di h:>. 

7 This may be4 be \.r:tu-i\n.U-tl 'I'mitis-i- nti tin- Miwl . The Kiii;li-,h translation of 17."/. 1 
rep. 1 307 J is entitled JUc I ' K- /nil : or, i. </;/.s on the Miml. etc. 



266 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

libertinage." Helvetius simply pressed the consequences of the 
existing theory of luxury, which for his own part he disclaimed. 
De V Esprit, Disc, ii, ch. xv. Dr. Piinjer (i, 462) falls so far 
below his usual standard as to speak of Helvetius in a similar 
fashion. As against such detraction it is fitting to note that 
Helvetius, like La Mettrie, was one of the most lovable and most 
beloved men of his time, though, like him, sufficiently licentious 
in his youth. 

It was at once suppressed by royal order as scandalous, licentious, 
and dangerous, though Helvetius held a post at court as maitrc d' hotel 
to the Queen. Ordered to make a public retractation, he did so in a 
letter addressed to a Jesuit ; and this being deemed insufficient, he 
had to sign another, "so humiliating," wrote Grimm, 1 "that one 
would not have been astonished to see a man take refuge with the 
Hottentots rather than put his name to such avowals." The wits 
explained that the censor who had passed the book, being an official 
in the Bureau of Foreign Affairs, had treated De I' Esprit as belonging 
to that department. 2 A swarm of replies appeared, and the book was 
formally burnt, with Voltaire's poem Sur la hi naturelle, and several 
obscure works of older standing." The De V Esprit, appearing along- 
side of the ever-advancing Encyclopedic* was in short a formidable 
challenge to the powers of bigotry. 

Its real faults are lack of system, undue straining after popularity, 
some hasty generalization, and a greater concern for the air of 
paradox than for persuasion ; but it abounds in acuteness and 
critical wisdom, and it definitely and seriously founds public ethics 
on utility. Its most serious error, the assumption that all men are 
born with equal faculties, and that education is the sole differentiat- 
ing force, was repeated in our own age by John Stuart Mill ; lout in 
Helvetius the error is balanced by the thoroughly sound and pro- 
foundly important thesis that the general superiorities of nations 
are the result of their culture-conditions and politics.'' The over- 
balance of his stress on self-interest ,J is an error easily soluble. On 
the other hand, we have the memorable testimony of BECCAEIA 
that it was the work of Helvetius that inspired him to his great 
effort for the humanizing of penal laws and policy ; ' and the only 

1 Correaprmdance, ii, 262. - Id. p. 2f,3. 3 Id. p. 293. 

4 At the time the pietists declared that Diderot had collaborated in De V Esprit. This 
was denied by Grimm, who affirmed that Diderot and Helvetius were little acquainted, 
and rarely met; but his Secretary, Meister, wrote in ITS'; that the finest pages in the book 
were Diderot's. Id. p. 291, note. In his sketch a In mhnoire de Diderot (1786, app. to 
Naigeon's Mhnoires, 1821, p. 425, note), Meister speaks of a number of " belles pages," but 
doe not particularize. De I' Esprit, Disc, iii.ch. 30. 

c ('li. Morley's criticism. Diderot, ed. P-84, pp, Z'.',l~:',l. 

7 lieccaria's Letter to Morellet, cited in cli. i of J. A. Farrer's ed. of the Crimes cuid 
Funislnnents, p. 6. It is noteworthy that the partial reform effected earlier in England 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 267 

less notable testimony of Bentham that Helvetius was /12s teacher 
and inspirer. 1 It may be doubted whether any such fruits can be 
claimed for the teachings of the whole of tho orthodox moralists of 
the age. For the rest, Helvetius is not to be ranked among the 
great abstract thinkers ; but it is noteworthy that his thinking went 
on advancing to the end. Always greatly influenced by Voltaire, 
he did not philosophically harden as did his master ; and though in 
his posthumous work, Lcs Progrcs dc la liaison dans la recherche 
du Vrai (published in 1775), he stands for deism against atheism, 
the argument ends in the pantheism to which Voltaire had once 
attained, but did not adhere. 

24. Over all of these men, and even in some measure over 
Voltaire, DlDEROT (1713-1781) stands pre-eminent, on retrospect, 
for variety of power and depth and subtlety of thought ; though for 
these very reasons, as well as because some of his most masterly 
works were never printed in his lifetime, he was less of a recognized 
popular force than some of his friends. In his own mental history 
he reproduces the course of the French thought of his time. 
Beginning as a deist, he assailed the contemporary materialists ; in 
the end, with whatever of inconsistency, lie was emphatically an 
atheist and a materialist. One of his most intimate friends was 
Damilaville, of whom Voltaire speaks as a vehement anti-theist ; a 
and his biographer Naigeon, who at times overstated his positions 
but always revered him, was the most zealous atheist of his day.' 1 

Compare, as to Diderot's position, Soury's contention (p. 577) 
that we shall never make an atheist and a materialist out of 
"this enthusiastic artist, this poet-pantheist" (citing Rosen- 
kranz in support), with his own admissions, pp. 589-90, and 
with Lord Morley's remarks, pp. 33, 401, 418. See also Lange, 
i, 310 sq.; ii, 03 (Eng. tr. ii, 32, 25G). In the affectionate eloge 
of his friend Meister (1780) there is an express avowal that "it 
had been much to be desired for the reputation of Diderot, 
perhaps even for the honour of his age, that he had not been 
an atheist, or that he had been so with less zeal." The fact 
is thus put beyond reasonable doubt. \\) tho Corrcspondance 
Lit ,'rnire of Grimm and Diderot, under date September 15, 
1705 (vii, 300), there is a letter in criticism of Descartes, 
thoroughly atheistic in its reasoning, which is almost, certainly 
by Diderot. And if the criticism of Voltaire's Lien, above 
referred to 'p. ^31), be not by him, lie was certainly in entire 
agreement with it, as with Grimm in general. Ko enkranz 

t O. !, ] 1 , in, 1, 'i,.,li 1 . ; . . ... i. , . 17 , , , heluin: Lu lln- I On- <>! | \\,\v A . 
:, 1. ...;:'... ' Alorl<y, /'/ - '. |i :; '. 

- 1,1.11 . ', ;.. M. rt, '.) ,::,'. 11 !. ] rv.t ' I'p. Kuxjiiknui/., I'm In riclit, p. vi. 



268 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

finally (ii, 421) sums up that " Diderot war als Atheist 
Pantheist," which is merely a way of saying that he was 
scientifically monistic in his atheism. Lange points out in 
this connection (i, 310) that the Hegelian schema of philosophic 
evolution, " with its sovereign contempt for chronology," has 
wrought much confusion as to the real developments of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 

It is recorded that Diderot's own last words in serious conver- 
sation were : " The beginning of philosophy is incredulity"; and it 
may be inferred from his writings that his first impulses to searching 
thought came from his study of Montaigne, who must always have 
been for him one of the most congenial of spirits. At an early 
stage of his independent mental life we find him turning to the 
literature which in that age yielded to such a mind as his the 
largest measure both of nutriment and stimulus the English. In 
1745 he translated Shaftesbury's Inquiry concerning Virtue and 
Merit ; and he must have read with prompt appreciation the other 
English freethinkers then famous. Ere long, however, he had risen 
above the deistical plane of thought, and grappled with the funda- 
mental issues which the deists took for granted, partly because of 
an innate bent to psychological analysis, partly because he was 
more interested in scientific problems than in scholarly research. 
The Pensces philosophiqucs, published in 1746, really deserve their 
name ; and though they exhibit him as still a satisfied deist, and 
an opponent of the constructive atheism then beginning to suggest 
itself, they contain abstract reasonings sufficiently disturbing to the 
deistic position." The Promenade du Sccptique (written about 1747, 
published posthumously) goes further, and presents tentatively the 
reply to the design argument which was adopted by Hume. 

In its brilliant pages may be found a conspectus of the intellectual 
life of the day, on the side of the religious problem. Every type of 
thinker is there tersely characterized the orthodox, the deist, the 
atheist, the sheer skeptic, the scoffer, the pantheist, the solipsist, and 
the freethinking libertine, the last figuring as no small nuisance to 
the serious unbeliever. So drastic is the criticism of orthodoxy that 
the book was unprintable in its day;' 5 and it was little known even 
in manuscript. But ere long there appeared the Letter on the Blind, 
for the use of those who see (1749), in which a logical rebuttal alike of 
the ethical and the cosmological assumptions of theism, developed 
from hints in the Pensees, is put in the mouth of the blind English 

1 Cp. Morley, Diderot, ed. 1831, p. :)1. a E.g. S 21. 

;; A police agent seized the MS. in Diderot's library, and Diderot could not get it back. 
Maleshcrbes, the censor, kept it sale for him ! 



FRENCH FREETHOUGIIT 209 

mathematician, Sanderson. It is not surprising that whereas 
the Pensees had been, with some other books, ordered by the Paris 
Parlement to he burnt by the common hangman, the Lett re sur les 
Aveugles led to his arrest and an imprisonment of six months in the 
Chateau de Vincennes. Both hooks had of course been published 
without licence ; 2 but the second book was more than a defiance of 
the censorship : it was a challenge alike to the philosophy and the faith 
of Christendom ; and as such could not have missed denunciation.'' 

But Diderot was not the kind of man to be silenced by menaces. 
In the famous Sorbonne thesis of the Abbe de Prades (1751) he 
probably had, as we have seen, some share ; and when De Prades 
was condemned and deprived of Ins licence (1752) Diderot wrote the 
third part of the Apologie (published by De Trades in Holland), which 
defended his positions ; and possibly assisted in the other parts.' 
The hand of Diderot perhaps may be discovered in the skilful 
allusions to the skeptical Demonstratio Evangelica of Huet, which 
De Prades professes to have translated when at his seminary, seeking 
there the antidote to the poison of the deists. The entire handling 
of the question of pagan and Christian miracles, too, suggests the 
skilled dialectician, though it is substantially an adaptation of 
Leslie's Short and Easy Method with the Deists. The alternate 
eulogy and criticism of Locke are likely to be his, as is indeed the 
abundant knowledge of English thought shown alike in the thesis 
and in the Apologie. Whether he wrote the passage which claims 
to rebut an argument in his own Pensees piiilosupliiques" is surely 
doubtful. But Ids, certainly, is the further reply to the pastoral of 
the Jansenist Bishop of Auxerre against de Prades's thesis, in which 
the perpetual disparagement of reason by Catholic theologians is 
denounced'" as the most injurious of all procedures against religion. 
And his, probably, is the peroration' arraigning the Jansenists and 



1 According to Kaigeon < Mr moires, 1S21, p. 131), three months and ten days. 

- The Letter purports, like so many oilier books of that and the next feneration, to be 
published " A I.ondres." 

Diderot daughter, in her memoir of him, speaks of Ins imprisonment in the Bastille 
as brought about through the resentment of a lady of whom he had spoken slight 
and her husbai d left a statement in MS. to the same effect (printed at the end of the 
M'-moirrs by Naigeon). The lady is named as Madame Dupiv de Saint-Ma ur, a. mistress 
of the King, and the offence is said to have la-en committed in the story entitled Le 1'iijeon 
bliuir. How.-oever this may have been, tile prosecution was quite in the spirit of the 
peri ml. and the i arlier /' it < wire made part of the case again-! him. See Delort, Hist, 
de l<i detention ties phiiosojilirs, ls-j'j, ii, -ais p;. M. de Vundeul-Diderot te lilies that the 
Marquis Du Chatelet. Governor of Vincennes, treated his prisoner very kindly. Huckle 
(1-vol. ed. p. 1'J.j] doe- ii., i eeni to have fully read the Lett re. whieh he describes as merely 
discussing the differential ion of thought and sen -at inn among the bind. 

; His Iriend Mei t.-r ./ In mrnioiredr Diderot. 17m;, app. to Naigeon's Mr moires de 
Diderot. i-.JI. p. I-JU writes a- it Diderot had written the whole .-]/; / .//. " in a few nays." 
The third part, a reply to the pastoral ol the I'd -hop of Auxerre. appeared separalelj as a 
Unite to the others. ' A/edoijie, a < cited. Lie pari ie, p, sy .-.,/. 

' Obse rvntions sur i instruction iJOstoralede Mona. i I.e. que d Auxerre. l'.erhn, 17...i, p. 17. 

Id. p. 10/ nj. 



270 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

imputing to their fanaticism and superstition, their miracle-monger- 
ing and their sectarian bitterness, the discredit which among thinking 
men had latterly fallen upon Church and creed alike. 

De Prades, who in his thesis and Apologie had always professed 
to be a believing Christian, was not a useful recruit to rationalism. 
Passing from Holland to Berlin, he was there appointed, through the 
influence of Voltaire, reader and amanuensis to the King, who in 
1754 arranged for him an official reconciliation with the Church. 
A formal retractation was sent to the Pope, the Sorbonne, and the 
Bishop of Montauban; 3 and Frederick in due course presented him 
to a Catholic canonry at Glogau. In 1757, however, he was put 
under arrest on the charge, it is commonly said, of supplying military 
information to his countrymen ; 4 and thereafter, returning to France 
in 1759, he obtained a French benefice. Diderot, who was now a 
recognized champion of freethought, turned away with indignation. 

Thenceforward he never faltered on his path. It is his peculiar 
excellence to be an original and innovating thinker not only in 
philosophy but in psychology, in aesthetics, in ethics, in dramatic 
art ; and his endless and miscellaneous labours in the Encyclopedic, 
of which he was the most loyal and devoted producer, represent an 
extraordinary range of interests. He suffered from his position as a 
hack writer and as a forced dissembler in his articles on religious 
matters ; and there is probably a very real connection between his 
compulsory insincerities 6 in the Encyclopedic to say nothing of the 
official prosecution of that and of others of his works and his 
misdeeds in the way of indecent fiction. When organized society is 
made to figure as the heartless enemy of thinking men, it is no great 
wonder if they are careless at times about the effect of their writings 
on society. But it stands to his lasting honour that his sufferings 
at the hands of priests, printers, and parlcvicnts never soured his 
natural goodness of heart.' Having in his youth known a day's 
unrelieved hunger, he made a vow that he would never refuse help 
to any human being ; and, says Ids daughter, no vow was ever more 
faithfully kept. No one in trouble was ever turned away from his 

1 Cp. Morley, Diderot, pp. 98-99. ' 2 Carlyle, Frederick, bk. xviii, cb. ix, end 

s D'Argenson, Mimoires, iv, 188. 4 Carlyle. as cited. 

5 "Quelle abominable bomuie !" he writes to Mdlle. Voland (15 juillet, 1759) ; and Lord 
Morley pronounces de Prades a rascal (Diderot, p. 98). Carlyle is inarticulate with disgust 
but as much against the original heresy as against the treason to Frederick. As to that, 
Thiebault was convinced that de Prades was innocent and calumniated. Everybody at 
court, he declares, held the same view. Men Souvenirs de vingt tins de sejour a Berlin, 
2e edit. 1805, v, 402-404. 

u It is not clear how these ere to be distinguished from the mutilations of the later 
volumes by his treacherous publisher Le Breton. Of this treachery the details are given 
by Grimrn, Corr. litt. ed. 1829. vii, 141 sq. 

7 Buckle's account of him (1-vol. ed. p. 420) as "burning with hatred against his perse- 
cutors" after his imprisonment is overdrawn. He was a poor hater. 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 271 

door ; and even his enemies were helped when they were base 
enough to beg of him. It seems no exaggeration to say that the 
bulk of his life was given to helping other people ; and the indirect 
eflect of his work, which is rather intellectually disinterested than 
didactic, is no less liberative and humanitarian. " To do good, and 
to find truth," were his mottoes for life. 

His daughter, Madame de Yandeul, who in her old age remained 
tranquilly divided between the religion instilled into her by her pious 
mother and the rationalism she had gathered from her father and 
his friends, testified, then, to his constant goodness in the home; 1 
and his father bore a similar testimony, contrasting him with his 
pious brother. 2 He was, in his way, as beneficent as Voltaire, 
without Voltaire's faults of private malice ; and his life's work was 
a great ministry of light. It was Goethe who said of him in the 
next generation that " whoever holds him or his doings cheaply is 
a Philistine." His large humanity reaches from the planes of 
expert thought to that of popular feeling ; and while by his Letter 
on the Blind he could advance speculative psychology and pure 
philosophy, he could by his tale The Nun (La Religeuse, 4 written 
about 1760, published 1796) enlist the sympathies of the people 
against the rule of the Church. It belonged to his character to be 
generously appreciative of all excellence ; he delighted in other 
men's capacity as in pictures and poetry ; and he loved to praise. 
At a time when Bacon and Hobbes were little regarded in England 
he made them newly famous throughout Europe by his praises. 
In him was realized Bacon's saying, Admiratio semen scientiae, in 
every sense, for his curiosity was as keen as his sensibility. 

2o. With Diderot were specially associated, in different ways, 
D'ALEMBERT, the mathematician, for some years his special colleague 
on the Encyclopedic, and Baron D'HOLBACH. The former, one of 
the staunchest friends of Voltaire, though a less invincible fighter 
than Diderot, counted for practical freethought by his miscellaneous 
articles, his little book on the Jesuits (17G0), his Pensees philoso- 
phiques, his physics, and the general rationalism of his Preliminary 



1 Madame Diderot, says ln:r daughter, was very upright as well as very religious, but 
her temper, "eterhellenioht grondeur, faisait de notre interieur un enter, dout 111011 pere 
etait l'ange eonsolate ir" (Letter to Meister, iu Nut ten pref. to Lett res Inedites de Mine, de 
Stn> ; l n Henri Mrixter, I'.W, p. t>l). 

- "Helas! elicit mori excellent grand-pere, j'ai deux Ills: 1'un sera srtrement un saint, 
et je crains hi en que 1 'autre ne soil dam tie ; mais jo ne puis vivre avee le saint, el je mi is 
tres beureux du temps que je passe avee le damne" ( Letter of Mine, de Vandeul, last cited). 
Freethinker as lie was, his fellow-townsmen otlieially requested in 17SU to be allowed to 
pay for a portrait of iiim for public exhibition, and the bronze bust he sent them was 
placed in the hotel de v die MS. ol M. de Vandeul-Diderot, as eited). 

;; Madame de Vandeul states that this story was motived by the ease of Diderot's 
siiter, who died mad at the a :< ol 2.1 or -:.-. Letter above eited ; Ho- on L ran/, i, 'J). 



272 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Discourse to the Encyclopedic. It is noteworthy that in his intimate 
correspondence with Voltaire he never avows theism, and that his 
and Diderot's friend, the atheist Damilaville, died in his arms. 1 
On Dumarsais, too, he penned an of which eloge Voltaire wrote : 
" Dumarsais only begins to live since his death ; you have given 
him existence and immortality." 2 And perpetual secretary as he 
was of the Academy, the fanatical daughter of Madame Geoffrin 
could write to him in 1776 : " For many years you have set all 
respectable people against you by your indecent and imprudent 
manner of speaking against religion." 3 Baron d'Holbach, a 
naturalized German of large fortune, was on the other hand one 
of the most strenuous propagandists of freethought in his age. 
Personally no less beloved than Helvetius, 4 he gave his life and his 
fortune to the work of enlightening men on all the lines on which 
he felt they needed light. Much of the progress of the physical 
sciences in pre-revoiutionary France was due to the long series at 
least eleven in all of his translations of solid treatises from the 
German ; and his still longer series of original works and transla- 
tions from the English in all branches of freethought a really 
astonishing movement of intellectual energy despite the emotion 
attaching to the subject-matter was for the most part prepared 
in the same essentially scientific temper. Of all the freethinkers 
of the period he had perhaps the largest range of practical erudition ; 
and he drew upon it with unhasting and unresting industry. 
Imitating the tactic of Voltaire, he produced, with some assistance 
from Diderot, Naigeon, and others, a small library of anti-Christian 
treatises under a variety of pseudonyms; and his principal work, 
the famous System of Nature (1770), was put out under the name of 
Mirabaud, an actual person, then dead. Summing up as it does with 
stringent force the whole anti-theological propaganda of the age, it has 
been described as a "thundering engine of revolt and destruction." 7 



i Lettre de Voltaire a D'Alembert, 27 aout, 1771. 

2 Lettre de 2 decembre, 1757. 

'' CEuvres pnsthuines de D'Alembert. 1790, i, 210. 

^ D'Holbach was the original of the character of Wolmar in Rousseau's NouveUe 
Helo'ise, of whom Julie says that he "does Hood without recompense." "I never saw a 
man more simply simple" was the verdict of Madame Geoffrin. Corr.litt.de Grimm 
(notice probably by Meister), ed. 1829-31, xiv, 291. 

' Marmontel says of him that he " avoit tout lu et n'avoit jamais rien oublie d'interes- 
sant." Memoires, 1801, ii, 312. 

6 See a full list of his works (compiled by Julian Hibbert after the list given in the 
1821 ed. of Diderot's Works, xii. 110, and rep. in tlio ls-29-31 ed. of Grimm and Diderot's 
Correxprmdanee, xiv, 293), prefixed to Watson's ed. (1831 and later) of the English transla- 
tion of the Syxtoti of Is tit it re. 

7 Morley, Diderot, p. 311. The chapter gives a good account of the book. Cp. Lange, 
i, 364 /. (Eng. trans, ii, 26 sq.) as to its materialism. The best pages were said to be by 
Diderot ICorr. de Grimm, as cited, p. 2s9 ; the statement of Meister, who makes it also in 
his Klo(ie). Naigeon denied that Diderot had any part in the Systeme, but in 1820 there was 
published an edition with "notes and corrections " by Diderot. 



FEENCH FKEETHOUGHT 273 

It was the first published atheistic ' treatise of a systematic 
kind, if we except that of Eobinet, issued some years before ; 
and it significantly marks the era of modern freethought, as does 
the powerful Essai sur les prdjuges, published in the same year, 2 
by its stern impeachment of the sins of monarchy here carrying 
on the note struck by Jean Meslier in his manuscript of half-a- 
century earlier. Bather a practical argument than a dispassionate 
philosophic research, its polemic against human folly laid it open to 
the regulation retort that on its own necessarian principles no such 
polemic was admissible. That retort is, of course, ultimately invalid 
when the denunciation is resolved into demonstration. If, however, 
it be termed " shallow " on the score of its censorious treatment of 
the past, 3 the term will have to be applied to the Hebrew books, to 
the Gospel Jesus, to the Christian Fathers, to Pascal, Milton, 
Carlyle, Paiskin, and a good many other prophets, ancient and 
modern. The synthesis of the book is really emotional rather than 
philosophic, and hortatory rather than scientific ; and it was all the 
more influential on that account. To the sensation it produced is 
to be ascribed the edict of 1770 condemning a whole shelf of 
previous works to be burnt along with it by the common hangman. 

2G. The death of d'Holbach (1789) brings us to the French 
Revolution. By that time all the great freethinking propagandists 
and non-combatant deists of the Voltairean group were gone, save 
Condorcet. Voltaire and Rousseau had died in 1778, Helvetius 
in 1771, Turgot in 1781, D'Alembert in 1783, Diderot in 178-1. 
After all their labours, only the educated minority, broadly speaking, 
bad been made freethinkers ; and of these, despite the vogue of the 
System of Nature, only a minority were atheists. Deism prevailed, 
as we have seen, among the foremost revolutionists ; but atheism 
was relatively rare. Voltaire, indeed, impressed by the number of 
cultured men of his acquaintance who avowed it, latterly speaks 4 of 
them as very numerous ; and Grimm must have had a good many 
among the subscribers to his correspondence, to permit of his 

1 It is to be noted that the English translation (3 vols. 3rd ed. 1817; 4th ed. 1820) 
deliberately tampers with the language of the original to the extent of making it deistie. 
This perversion lias been by oversight preserved in all the reprints. 

- Mirabeau spoke ol the J-Jxxni as " le livre le moins connu, et eelui qui merite le plus 
l'etre." Kven the reprint of 17'J3 had become " extremely rare" in 1S-2-J. The book seems 
to have been specially disquieting to orthodoxy, and was hunted down accordingly. 

'' So Morley. p. 317. It (iocs not occur to Lord Morley, and to the Comtists who take 
a similar tone, that in thus disparaging past thinkers they arc really doing the thing 
they blame. 

1 Lettnude Mrmmiux a Cireron (1771); llistnirc ile Je.nni (1775). In the earlier article, 
Athki . in the Inrtiniinaire 1'liilnaoiiltiiiiie, he speaks of having met in France very good 
physicists who were aUe-i-ls. In Ins letter of September -t'>, 1770, to .Madame Necker, ho 
writes concerning the Si/xtriile <l<: In Suture: "II est mi pen hontciix it notre nation <pio 
tant de gens aieut emora-ise si vite une opinion si ridicule." And yet I'rof. \\. M. Sloane, 
of Columbia b'niver ity, still writes of Voltaire, in in.' manner of Knglish bishops, as 
"atheistical " [The French Uevulutiun and lieliyious liejurin, l'JUl, P. -<>i. 

VOL. II T 



274 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

penning or passing the atheistic criticism there given of Voltaire's 
first reply to d'Holbach. Nevertheless, there was no continuous 
atheistic movement ; and after 1789 the new freethinking works 
run to critical and ethical attack on the Christian system rather 
than on theism. VOLNEY combined both lines of attack in his 
famous Ruins of Empires (1791) ; and the learned DUPUIS, in his 
voluminous Origin of all Cults (1795), took an important step, not 
yet fully reckoned with by later mythologists, towards the mytho- 
logical analysis of the gospel narrative. After these vigorous 
performances, the popular progress of French freethought was for 
long practically suspended 1 by the tumult of the Eevolution and the 
reaction which followed it, though LAPLACE went on his way with 
his epoch-making theory of the origin of the solar system, for which, 
as he told Napoleon, he had " no need of the hypothesis " of a God. 
The admirable Cc-NDORCET had died, perhaps by his own hand, in 
1794, when in hiding from the Terrorists, leaving behind him his 
Esquisse d'un tableau historique cles procjres de V esprit humain, in 
which the most sanguine convictions of the rationalistic school are 
reformulated without a trace of bitterness or of despair. 

27. No part of the history of freethought has been more distorted 
than that at which it is embroiled in the French Eevolution. The 
conventional view in England still is that the Eevolution was the 
work of deists and atheists, but chiefly of the latter ; that they 
suppressed Christianity and set up a worship of a Goddess of 
Eeason, represented by a woman of the town ; and that the blood- 
shed of the Terror represented the application of their principles to 
government, or at least the political result of the withdrawal of 
religious checks. 2 Those who remember in the briefest summary 
the records of massacre connected with the affirmation of religious 
beliefs the internecine wars of Christian sects under the Eoman 
Empire ; the vast slaughters of Manicha^ans in the East ; the 
bloodshed of the period of propagation in Northern Europe, from 
Charlemagne onwards ; the story of the Crusades, in which nine 
millions of human beings are estimated to have been destroyed ; 
the generation of wholesale murder of the heretics of Languedoc 
by the papacy ; the protracted savageries of the Hussite War ; the 
early holocaust of Protestant heretics in France ; the massacres of 

1 Though in 1707 we have Marechal's Code d'une Societe d'hommes satis Dieu, and in 
1703 his Pendens libres sur lex vretres. 

1 Thus Dr. Cairns (U)i belief in the. Eighteenth Century, p. 165) gravely argues that the 
French Revolution proves the inefficacy of theism without a Trinity to control conduct. 
He lias omitted to compare the theistic bloodshed of the Revolution with the Trinitarian 
bloodshed of the Crusades, the papal suppression of the Albigenses, the Hussite wars, and 
other orthodox undertakings. 



FEENCH FEEETHOUGHT 275 

German peasants and Anabaptists ; the reciprocal persecutions in 
England ; the civil strifes of sectaries in Switzerland ; the ferocious 
wars of the French Huguenots and the League ; the long-drawn 
agony of the war of thirty years in Germany ; the annihilation of 
myriads of Mexicans and Peruvians by the conquering Spaniards in 
the name of the Cross those who recall these tilings need spend no 
time over the proposition that rationalism stands for a removal of 
restraints on bloodshed. But it is necessary to put concisely the 
facts as against the legend in the case of the French Bevolution. 

(a) That many of the leading men among the revolutionists were 
deists is true ; and the fact goes to prove that it was chiefly the 
men of ability in France who rejected Christianity. Of a number 
of these the normal attitude was represented in the work of Necker, 
Sur V importance des id&es rcligieuses (1787), which repudiated the 
destructive attitude of the few, and may be described as an utterance 
of pious theism or Unitarianism. 1 Orthodox he cannot well have 
been, since, like his wife, he was the friend of Voltaire. 2 But the 
majority of the Constituent Assembly was never even deistic ; it 
professed itself cordially Catholic ; 3 and the atheists there might be 
counted on the fingers of one hand. 4 

The Abbe Bergier, in answering d'Holbach {Examen die 
Mater icdisme, ii, ch. i, l), denies that there has been any wide 
spread of atheistic opinion. This is much more probable than 
the statement of the Archbishop of Toulouse, on a deputation 
to the king in 1775, that " le monstrueux atheisme est devenu 
l'opinion dominante " (Soulavie, Edgne de Louis XVI, iii, 16; 
cited by Buckle, 1-vol. ed. p. 483, note). Joseph Drox, a 
monarchist and a Christian, writing under Louis Philippe, 
sums up that " the atheists formed only a small number of 
adepts " (Ilistoire du Iiegne de Louis XVI, ed. 1839, p. 42). 
And Eivarol, who at the time of writing his Lcttrcs a M. 
Necker was substantially an atheist, says in so many words 

1 The book was accorded the Monthyon prize by the French Academy. In translation 
(17-,S) it found a welcome in Kngland anions Churchmen by reason of its pro-Christian 
tone and its general vindication of religious institutions. The translation was the; work 
of Mary Wollstonecraft. See Kegan Paul's William (Indicia, lsVii, i. VXi. Mrs. Dunlop, 
tin: friend of Hums, recommending its perusal to the poet, paid it a curious compliment : 
"He [oos not write like a sectary, hardly like, a Christian, but yet while 1 read him, 1 like 
bolter my Cod, my neighbour, Monsieur Necker, and myself." Hubert Jiitrns mid Mrs. 
Vunlni), ed. by W. Wallace, Ib!)H, p. ii-W. 

- See Voltaire's letters to Madame Necker, Corr. de. Grimm, ed. 1N-20, vii. '!:!. lis. Of 
the lady. (In hum writes (p. 118): " 11 y pa tide Necker passe sa vie avec des systematiques, 
tnais idle est devote a sa maniere. Kile voudrait etre sineerement hugenote, mi socinieune, 
on deistiipie. mi plutot, pour etre ipiehpie chose, idle prend le parti de lie se rendre coinpte 
sur r ieu." " Hvpathie " was Vol tain;' a complimentary name lor her. 

'' Cp. Aulard, /.- Cidte <! in Unison it le Cull,- de V M re. Sit/ireine, IN!)'.!, pp. 17 1'.). 
M. Gazier (/>./,-, turl'liistitire relitiieuse. de In reeollltion frnitenise, 1-77. pp. 1-. 17.;. l-'.l Nf/.l 
speaks somewhat hue ely of a prevailing anti-Christian feeling when actually idling only 
isolated instances, and giving proof's of a general orthodoxy. Vet lie points out the 
complete misconception of Thiers on the subject (p. 21 hi I. 

* Cp. i'ruf. W. M. Sloane, The French Revolution and ltdiuious Reform, p. 13. 



276 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

that, while Rousseau's " Confession of a Savoyard Vicar " was 
naturally very attractive to many, such a book as the Systeme 
de la Nature, " were it as attractive as it is tedious, would win 
nobody" {CEuvres, ed. 185 I, p. 134). Still, it ran into seven 
editions between 1770 and 1780. 

Nor were there lacking vigorous representatives of orthodoxy : 
the powerful Abbe Gregoire, in particular, was a convinced Jansenist 
Christian, and at the same time an ardent democrat and anti- 
royalist. 1 He saw the immense importance to the Church of a 
good understanding with the Revolution, and he accepted the 
constitution of 1790. With him went a very large number of 
priests. M. Leonce de Lavergne, who was pious enough to write 
that " the philosophy of the eighteenth century had had the audacity 
to lay hands on God ; and this impious attempt has had for punish- 
ment the revolutionary expiation," also admits that, " of the clergy, 
it was not the minority but the majority which went along with the 
Tiers Etat." ' Many of the clergy, however, being refractory, the 
Assembly pressed its point, and the breach widened. It was solely 
through this political hostility on the part of the Church to the new 
constitution that any civic interference with public worship ever 
took place. Gregoire was extremely popular with the advanced 
types,'' though his piety was conspicuous \* and there were not a 
few priests of his way of thinking, 5 among them being some of the 
ablest bishops. On the flight of the king, he and they went with 
the democracy ; and it was the obstinate refusal of the others to 
accept the constitution that provoked the new Legislative Assembly 
to coerce them. Though the new body was more anti-clerical than 
the old, however, it was simply doing what successive Protestant 
monarclis had done in England and Ireland ; and probably no 
Government in the world would then have acted otherwise in a 
similar case.' Patience might perhaps have won the day ; but the 
Revolution was fighting for its life ; and the conservative Church, as 
all men knew, was eager to strangle it. Had the clergy left politics 
alone, or simply accepted the constitutional action of the State, 
there would have been no religious question. To speak of such a 
body of priests, who had at all times been eager to put men to 
death for heresy, as vindicating " liberty of conscience" when they 
refused fealty to the constitution," is somewhat to strain the terms. 

' Gazior, as cited, pp. 2, 4, 12, 10-21, 71, etc. 

- Leu A ssfiabU es Provinciates sons Louis XVI, 1864, pref. pp. viii-ix. 

U Ga/.ier, Ij. li, ch. i. ' /./. p ti7. ' LI. p. &.). 8 Leonce de Lavergne, as cited. 

Tno authority of Turgot himself could be cited for tile demand Chat the Stale clergy 
should accept the constitution of the Stale. Cp. Aulard, Le Culte de In Liaison, p. 12; 
'iibsot, Etude sur Turgot, 1B78, p. ItiU. b Gazier, p. 113. 



FEENCH FEEETHOUGHT 277 

The expulsion of the Jesuits under the Old Regime had been a moro 
coercive measure than the demand of the Assembly on the allegiance 
of the State clergy. And all the while the reactionary section of tho 
priesthood was known to be conspiring with tho royalists abroad. 
It was only when, in 1793, tho conservative clergy were seen to bo 
the great obstacle to the levy of an army of defence, that the more 
radical spirits began to think of interfering with their functions. 1 

(b) An a priori method has served alike in freethinkers' and in 
pietists' hands to obscure the facts. When Michelet insists on the 
irreconcilable opposition of Christianity to tho Eevolution " a 
thesis in which he was heartily supported by Proudhon' 2 ho means 
that the central Christian dogmas of salvation by sacrifice and faith 
exclude any political ethic of justice' 1 any doctrine of equality and 
equity. But tins is only to say that Christianity as an organization 
is in perpetual contradiction with some main part of its professed 
creed ; and that has been a commonplace since Constantino. It 
does not mean that either Christians in multitudes or their churches 
as organizations have not constantly proceeded on ordinary political 
motives, whether populist or anti-populist. In Germany we have 
seen Lutheranism first fomenting and afterwards repudiating the 
movement of the peasants for betterment ; and in England in the 
next century both parties in the civil war invoke religious doctrines, 
meeting texts with texts. Jansenism was in constant friction with 
the monarchy from its outset ; and Eouis XIV and Louis XV alike 
regarded the Jansenists as the enemies of the throne. " Christianity " 
could be as easily "reconciled" with a democratic movement in the 
last quarter of the eighteenth century as with the Massacre of Saint 
Bartholomew's Bay in the sixteenth. If those Christians who still 
charge " the bloodshed of the French Eevolution" on the spirit of 
incredulity desire to corroborate Michelet to the extent of making 
Christianity the bulwark of absolute monarchy, the friend of a cruel 
feudalism, and the guardian genius of the Bastille, they may be left 
to the criticism of their felknwbelievers who have embraced the 
newer principle that the truth of the Christian religion is to be 
proved by connecting it in practice with the spirit of social reform. 
To point out to either party, as did Michelet, that evangelical 
Christianity is a religion of submission and preparation for the end 
of all things, and has nothing to do with rational political reform, 

1 v.i i- !, c lit,-, pp. in >o. 

- Mielielet. Hit. /In In rrcnlntinnfrinictiise, ed. Svo ISfiS and Inter, i, II",. Cp. I'roudlion's 
I)i' In ]u fin:, IKX. 

; 'Tout, jiuletnent r< I : : * i < , i\ on politique est line contrndietion flagrante dims line 
religion uniquemeut foudoe sur uu dogme utraub'er a. la justice." Ed. cited, in trod. p. lit). 



278 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

is to bestow logic where logic is indomiciliable. While rationalism 
undoubtedly fosters the critical spirit, professed Christians have 
during many ages shown themselves as prone to rebellion as to 
war, whether on religious or on political pretexts. 

(c) For the rest, the legend falsifies what took place. The facts 
are now established by exact documentary research. The Govern- 
ment never substituted any species of religion for the Catholic. 1 
The Festival of Eeason at Notre Dame was an act not of the 
Convention but of the Commune of Paris and the Department ; the 
Convention had no part in promoting it ; half the members stayed 
away when invited to attend ; and there was no Goddess of Eeason 
in the ceremony, but only a Goddess of Liberty, represented by an 
actress who cannot even be identified. 2 Throughout, the devoutly 
theistic Eousseau was the chief literary hero of the movement. 
The two executive Committees in no way countenanced the dechris- 
tianization of the Churches, but on the contrary imprisoned persons 
who removed church properties ; and these in turn protested that 
they had no thought of abolishing religion. The acts of irresponsible 
violence did not amount to a hundredth part of the ' sacrilege " 
wrought in Protestant countries at the Eeformation, and do not 
compare with the acts charged on Cromwell's troopers. The policy 
of inviting priests and bishops to abdicate their functions was 
strictly political ; and the Archbishop Gobel did not abjure Catho- 
licism, but only surrendered his office. That a number of priests 
did gratuitously abjure their religion is only a proof of what was 
well known that a good many priests were simple deists. We 
have seen how many abbes fought in the freethought ranks, or near 
them. Diderot in a letter of 1769 tells of a day which he and 
a friend had passed with two monks who were atheists. " One of 
them read the first draft of a very fresh and very vigorous treatise 
on atheism, full of new and bold ideas ; I learned with edification 
that this doctrine was the current doctrine of their cloisters. For 
the rest, these two monks were the ' big bonnets ' of their monastery ; 
they had intellect, gaiety, good feeling, knowledge." 1 And a priest 
of the cathedral of Auxerre, whose recollections went back to the 
revolutionary period, has confessed that at that time " philosophic " 

1 The grave misstatement of Michelet on this heart is exposed by Aulard, Culte, p. 60. 

2 Yet it is customary among Christians to speak of this lady in the, most opprobrious 
terms. The royalist (but malcontent) Marquis do Villeneuve, who had seen the Revolu- 
tion in his youth, claimed in his old age to have afterwards " conversed with the Goddess 
Reason of Paris and with the Goddess Reason of Bourges " (where he became governor) ; 
but, though lie twice alludes to those women, he says nothing whatever against their 
characters ( Dp. V Agonie fie la France, 1835. i. 3, 10). Prof. W. M. Sloane. with all his reli- 
gions prejudice, is satisfied that the women chosen as Goddesses of Reason outside of 
Paris were "noted for their spotless character." Work cited, p. 103. 

3 Mi'inuircs, ed. 1811, ii, 166. 



FEENCH FKEETHOUGIIT 279 

opinions prevailed in most of the monasteries. His words even 
imply that in his opinion the unbelieving monks were the majority. 1 
In the provinces, where the movement went on with various 
degrees of activity, it had the same goneral character. " Eeason " 
itself was often identified with deity, or declared to be an emanation 
thereof. Hebert, commonly described as an atheist for his share 
in the movement, expressly denied the charge, and claimed to have 
exhorted the people to read the gospels and obey Christ.' 2 Danton, 
though at his death he disavowed belief in immortality, had declared 
in the Convention in 1793 that " we have not striven to abolish 
superstition in order to establish the reign of atheism." 3 Even 
Chaumette was not an atheist; 4 and the Prussian Clootz, who 
probably was, had certainly little or no doctrinary influence ; while 
the two or three other professed atheists of the Assembly had no 
part in the public action. 

((/) Finally, Eobespierre was all along thoroughly hostile to the 
movement ; in his character of Eousseauist and deist ho argued 
that atheism was "aristocratic"; he put to death the leaders of the 
Cult of Eeason ; and he set up the Worship of the Supremo Being 
as a counter-move. Broadly speaking, he affiliated to Necker, and 
stood very much at the standpoint of the English Unitarianism of 
the present day. Thus the bloodshed of the Eeign of Terror, if it 
is to be charged on any species of philosophic doctrine rather than 
on the unscrupulous policy of the enemies of the Eevolution in 
and out of France, stands to the credit of the belief in a God, the 
creed of Frederick, Turgot, Necker, Franklin, Pitt, and Washington. 
The one convinced and reasoning atheist among the publicists of 
the Eevolution, the journalist SALAVILLE, 5 opposed the Cult of 
Eeason with sound and serious and persuasive argument, and 
strongly blamed all forcible interference with worship, while at the 
same time calmly maintaining atheism as against theism. The ago 
of atheism had not come, any more than the triumph of Eeason. 

Mallet du Pan specifies, as among those who since L788 
have pushed the blood-stained car of anarchy and atheism," 
Chamfort, Gronvelle, Garat, and Cerutti. Chamfort was as 
high-minded a man as Mallet himself, and is to-day so recog- 
nized by every unprejudiced reader. The others are forgotten. 

1 I'ere V.-.J.-Y. Fortin, Souvenirs, Auxerre, 18(17, ii, 11. 

^ See the speech in Aulard, Citlte, p. 210 ; ami ep- pp. 7'.) H.1. 

:i " Le pen pie aura des fetes dans lesquelles ii oll'rira de 1'eneens f< I'll:, re Supremo, mi 
rnaitro de la nature, oar nous n'avous pas voulu aneantir la superstition pour etahlir 
lis re^ne <le latheisnie." Speech of Nov. lili, lTSi, in the Mmiili it r. {Discuit rn ili: Dniiton, 
ed. Andre Krihour, I'M), p. O'J'.J.) 

* Aulanl, CulU:, pp. Bl ti 5 Concerning whom see Aulard, Culk; pp. 80 9G. 



280 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

Gronvelle, who as secretary of the executive council read to 
Louis XVI his death-sentence, wrote De Vautorite de Montes- 
quieu dans la revolution presente (1789). Garat was Minister 
of Justice in 1792 and of the Interior in 1793, and was ennobled 
by Napoleon. He had published Considerations sur la Revo- 
lution (1792) and a Memoirc sur la Revolution (1795). Cerutti, 
originally a Jesuit, became a member of the Legislative 
Assembly, and was the friend of Mirabeau, whose funeral 
oration he delivered. 

28. The anti-atheistic and anti-philosophic legend was born of 
the exasperation and bad faith of the dethroned aristocracy, them- 
selves often unbelievers in the day of their ascendancy, and, whether 
unbelievers or not, responsible with the Church and the court for 
that long insensate resistance to reform which made the revolution 
inevitable. Mere random denunciation of new ideas as tending to 
generate rebellion was of course an ancient commonplace. Medieval 
heretics had been so denounced ; Wiclif was in his day ; and when 
the Count de Cataneo attacked Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws, he 
spoke of all such reasonings as " attempts which shake the sacred 
basis of thrones." 1 But he and his contemporaries knew that 
freethinkers were not specially given to mutiny ; and when, later, 
French Churchmen had begun systematically to accuse the philo- 
sophers of undermining alike the Church and the throne, 2 the 
unbelieving nobles, conscious of entire political conservatism, had 
simply laughed. Better than anyone else they knew that political 
revolt had other roots and motives than incredulity ; and they could 
not but remember how many French kings had been rebelled against 
by the Church, and how many slain by priestly hands. Their 
acceptance of the priestly formula came later. In the life of the 
brilliant Bivarol, who associated with the noblesse while disdained 
by many of them because of his obscure birth, we may read the 
intellectual history of the case. Brilliant without patience, keen 
without scientific coherence, 8 Bivarol in 1787 met the pious deism 
of Necker with a dialectic in which cynicism as often disorders as 
illuminates the argument. With prompt veracity he first rejects the 

1 The Source, the Strength, and the True Spirit of Lairs, Eng. tr. 1753, p. 6. 

2 K.q.. in the Arret du Parlement of !) juin, 17fi'2, denouncing Rousseau's V.mile as 
tending to make the royal authority odious and to destroy the principle of obedience; 
and in the Exanien du Belisaire de M. Marmontel, by Coger (N'onv. ed. augrn. 1767. p. 15 sq. 
Cp. Marrnontel's Memoires, 1&04. iii, 46, as to bis being called ennemi du trdne et de Vautel). 
This kind of invective was kept up against the philosoiriu s to the moment of the Revolution. 
Set.- for instance Le. vrai religieux, Discour^ dedie a -Madame Louise de France, par le 
R. P. C. A. 17^-7. i). 4 : " L'ne philosophic orgueilleuse a renverse les limites sacrees que la 
main du Tres-Haut avoit elle-meme elevees. La raison de l'liomme a ose sonder les 

decrets de Dieu Dans les acces de son ivresse, n'a-t-elle pas sape les fondemens du trono 

et iles lois," etc. 

:i Cp. the admissions of Cnrnier (Rivarnl, sa vie et sr.s ceuvres, 1858, p. 149) in deprecation 
of Burke's wild likening of Rivarol's journalism to the Annals of Tacitus. 



FKENCH FEEETHOUGHT 281 

ideal of a beneficent reign of delusion, and insists that religion is seen 
in all history powerless alike to overrule men's passions and preju- 
dices, and to console the oppressed by its promise of a reversal of 
earthly conditions in another world. But in the same breath, by 
way of proving that the atheist is less disturbing to convention than 
the deist, he insists that the unbeliever soon learns to see that 
irreverences are crimes against society"; and then, in order to 
justify such conformity, asserts what he had before denied. And 
the self-contradiction recurs. 1 The underlying motive of the whole 
polemic is simply the grudge of the upper class diner-out against the 
serious and conscientious bourgeois who strives to reform the existing 
system. Conscious of being more enlightened, the wit is eager at 
once to disparage Necker for his religiosity and to discredit him 
politically as the enemy of the socially useful ecclesiastical order. 
Yet in his second letter Sur la morale (1788) he is so plainly an 
unbeliever that the treatise had to be printed at Berlin. The due 
sequence is that when the Revolution breaks out Rivarol sides with 
the court and the noblesse, while perfectly aware of the ineptitude 
and malfeasance of both ;' 2 and, living in exile, proceeds to denounce 
the philosophers as having caused the overturn by their universal 
criticism. In 1787 he had declared that he would not even have 
written his Letters to Necker if he were not certain that ' the 
people does not read." Then the people had read neither the philo- 
sophers nor him. But in exile he must needs frame for the emigres 
a formula, true or false. It is the falsity of men divided against 
themselves, who pay themselves with recriminations rather than 
realize their own deserts. 3 And in the end Rivarol is but a deist. 

29. If any careful attempt be made to analyse the situation, tho 
stirring example of the precedent revolution in the British American 
colonies will probably be recognized as counting for very much more 
than any merely literary influence in promoting that of France. A 
certain " republican " spirit bad indeed existed among educated men 
in France throughout the reign of Louis XV : D'Argenson noted it in 
1700 and later. 1 But this spirit, which D'Argenson in large measure 
shared, while holding firmly by monarchy," was simply the spirit of 
constitutionalism, the love of law and good government, and it derived 

i CJCurres, ed. cited, pp. 13fi- 10. 117-55. 

- ('p. the erititiuf! of Sainte-J'.euve, prefixed to od. cited, pp. 11 17, and Unit of Arscnc 

Houssaye, id. pp. :il '':>. Mr. Kaintsbury, though biassed to the side of tlie royalist, admits 
that " Rivarol hardly knows what sincerity is" IMisrrlliinrtnt.i Kssihjk, I s ! 1 :', p. ii7). 

Charle< ( omte is thus partly inaccurate in say inn [Tniitr il<- l.t'iiislnlimi, Is:;:,, i, 7-2) 
that tin- charge against tho philosophers began "on the day on which there was set up a 
government in France that sought to re-establish the abuses ol which they had sought the 
destruction." Wind is true is that tin: charge, framed at once by the backers ol the Old 
Itegime, has always since done duly for reaction. 

4 Mcmciren, ed. Jannet, in, 3J3 ; iv, 70; v. ;ilG, 318. ' Id. Hi, 316-17. 



282 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

from English example and the teachings of such Englishmen as 
Locke, 1 insofar as it was not spontaneous. If acceptance of the 
doctrine of constitutional government can lead to anarchy, let it be 
avowed ; but let not the cause be pretended to be deism or atheism. 
The political teaching for which the Paris Parlement denounced 
Eousseau's Emile in 1762, and for which the theologians of the 
Sorbonne censured Marmontel's Belisaire in 1767, was the old 
doctrine of the sovereignty of the people. But this had been main- 
tained by a whole school of English Protestant Christians before 
Bossuet denounced the Protestant Jurieu for maintaining it. Nay, 
it had been repeatedly maintained by Catholic theologians, from 
Thomas Aquinas to Suarez, 2 especially when there was any question 
of putting down a Protestant monarch. Protestants on their part 
protested indignantly, and reciprocated. The recriminations of 
Protestants and Catholics on this head form one of the standing 
farces of human history. Coger, attacking Marmontel, unctuously 
cites Bayle's censure of his fellow Protestants in his Avis aux 
Refugiez 3 for their tone towards kings and monarchy, but says 
nothing of Bayle's quarrel with Jurieu, which motived such an 
utterance, or of his Critique Generate of Maimbourg's Histoire du 
Calvinismc, in which he shows how the Catholic historian's prin- 
ciples would justify the rebellion alike of Catholics in every 
Protestant country and of Protestants in every Catholic country, 
though all the while it is assumed that true Christians never resort 
to violence. And, unless there has been an error as to his author- 
ship, Bayle himself, be it remembered, had in his letter Ce que c'est 
que la France toute catholique sous le re/jne de Louis le Grand passed 
as scathing a criticism on Louis XIV as any Protestant refugee 
could well have compassed. Sectarian hypocrisies apart, the 
doctrine of the sovereignty of the people for opposing which the 
freethinker Hobbes has been execrated by generations of Christians 
is the professed political creed of the very classes who, in England 
and the United States, have so long denounced French freethinkers 
for an alleged "subversive" social teaching which fell far short of 
what English and American Protestants had actually practised. 
The revolt of the American colonies, in fact, precipitated demo- 

1 D'Argenson, noting in his old age how "on n'a jamais autant parle de nation et d'Etat 
qu'aujourd'hui," how no such talk had been heard under Louis XIV, and how ho himself 
had developed on the subject, adds, "cela vient du parlement et des Anglois." He goes on 
to i 
the 



FRENCH FBEETHOUGHT 283 

cratio feeling in France in a way that no writing had ever clone. 
Lafayette, no freethinker, declared himself republican at once on 
reading the American declaration of the Rights of Man. 1 In all 
this the freethinking propaganda counted for nothing directly and 
for little indirectly, inasmuch as there was no clerical quarrel in the 
colonies. And if we seek for even an indirect or general influence, 
apart from the affirmation of the duty of kings to their people, 
the thesis as to the activity of the philosophes must at once bo 
restricted to the cases of Rousseau, Helvetius, Raynal, and d'Holbach, 
for Marmontcl never passed beyond " sound " generalities. 

As for the pretence that it was freethinking doctrines that 
brought Louis XVI to the scaffold, it is either the most impudent 
or the most ignorant of historical imputations. The " right " of 
tyrannicide had been maintained by Catholic schoolmen before the 
Reformation, and by both Protestants and Catholics afterwards, 
times without number, even as they maintained the right of the 
people to depose and change kings. The doctrine was in fact not 
even a modern innovation, the theory being so well primed by the 
practice under every sort of government, Jewish and pagan in 
antiquity, Moslem in the Middle Ages, and Christian from the day 
of Pepin to the day of John Knox that a certain novelty lay on 
the side of the "divine right of kings" when that was popularly 
formulated. And on the whole question of revolution, or the right 
of peoples to recast their laws, the general doctrine of the most 
advanced of the French freethinkers is paralleled or outgone by 
popes and Church Councils in the Middle Ages, by Occam and 
Marsiglio of Padua and Wiclif and more than one German legist in 
the fourteenth century, by John Major and George Buchanan in 
Scotland, by Goodman in England, and by many Huguenots in 
France, in the sixteenth ; by Ilotman in his Francogallia in 1571 ; 
by the author of the Soupirs tie la France Esclavc' in L689 ; and 
by the whole propagandist literature of the English and American 
Revolutions in the seventeenth and eighteenth. Ho far from being 
a specialty of freethinkers, " sedition " was in all these and other 
cases habitually grounded on Biblical texts and religious protesta- 
tions ; so that Bacon, little given as he was to defending rationalists, 
could confidently avow that "Atheism leaves a man to sense, to 
philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation hut super- 
stition dismounts all these, and ercctoth an absolute monarchy in 
the minds of men. Therefore atheism did never perturb states 

i Op. tin; *nrvf:y of Aularrt. Hist, jmlit. tie la n'u.franraisr, 2c Mil. lOO.'J. pp. 2-'23. 
- I'robaljly Ihc work oi a Juusuuist. 



284 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

But superstition hath been the confusion of many states." For 
"superstition" read "sectarianism," "fanaticism," and " ecclesias- 
ticism." Bacon's generalization is of course merely empirical, 
atheism being capable of alliance with revolutionary passion in its 
turn ; but the historical summary holds good. Only by men who 
had not read or had forgotten universal history could the ascription 
of the French Revolution to rationalistic thought have been made. 1 

30. A survey of the work and attitude of the leading French 
freethinkers of the century may serve to settle the point once for 
all. Voltaire is admittedly out of the question. Mallet du Pan, 
whose resistance to the Revolution developed into a fanaticism 
hardly less perturbing to judgment 2 than that of Burke, expressly 
disparaged him as having so repelled men by his cynicism that he 
had little influence on their feelings, and so could not be reckoned 
a prime force in preparing the Revolution. 3 " Mably," the critic 
adds, " whose republican declamations have intoxicated many 
modern democrats, was religious to austerity : at the first stroke 
of the tocsin against the Church of Rome, he would have thrown 
his books in the fire, excepting his scathing apostrophes to Voltaire 
and the atheists. Marmontel, Saint-Lambert, Morellet, Encyclo- 
pedists, were adversaries of the revolution."' On the other hand, 
Barante avows that Mably, detesting as he did the freethinking 
philosophers of his day, followed no less than others " a destructive 
course, and contributed, without knowing it, to weaken the already 
frayed ties which still united the parts of an ancient society." : 
As Barante had previously ascribed the whole dissolution to the 
autocratic process under Louis XIV, G even this indictment of the 
orthodox Mably is invalid. Voltaire, on the other hand, Barante 
charges with an undue leaning to the methods of Louis XIV. 
Voltaire, in fact, was in tilings political a conservative, save insofar 
as he fought for toleration, for lenity, and for the most necessary 

1 On the whole question of the growth of abstract revolutionary doctrine in politics 
cp. W. S. McKechnie on the De Jure Iieani apud Scotos in the " George Buchanan" vol. of 
Glasgow Quatercentenary Studies, 1006, pp. 256-76 ; Gierke, Political Tlieories of the, Middle 
Ages, Maitland's tr. 1900, p. 87 sg. 

2 Mallet actually reproaches the philo/tophes in tin; mass while admitting the hostility 
of many of them to the Revolution with "having accelerated French degeneration and 

depravation by rendering the conscience argumentative [raisonneuse), by substituting 

for duties inculcated by sentiment, tradition, and habit, the uncertain rules of the human 
reason and sophisms adapted to passions," etc., etc. (B. Mallet, as cited, p. 360). With all 
his natural vigour of mind, Mallet du Pan thus came to talk the language of the ordinary 
irrationalist of the Reaction. Certainly, if the stimulation of the habit of reasoning bo 
a destructive course, the philosophes stand condemned. But as Christians had been 
reasoning as best they could, in an eternal series of vain disputes, for a millennium and 
a-half before the Revolution, with habitual appeal to the passions, the argument only 
proves how vacuous a Christian champion's reasoning can be. 

:t Art. in Mercure Britannique, No. 13, Feb. 21, 1700; cited by B. Mallet in Mallet du 
Pan and the French Revolution, 1002, App. p. 357. ' Id. p. 350. 

s Tableau litteraire du dix-huitieme siecle, tie edit. pp. 112, 113. 6 Id. p. 72. 



FEENCH FREETHOUGHT 285 

reforms. And if Voltaire's attack on what he held to be a demoral- 
izing and knew to be a persecuting religion be saddled with the 
causation of the political crash, the blame will have to be carried 
back equally to the English deists and the tyranny of Louis XIV. 
To such indictments, as Barante protests, there is no limit : every 
age pivots on its predecessor ; and to blame for the French Revolu- 
tion everybody but a corrupt aristocracy, a tyrannous and ruinously 
spendthrift monarchy, and a cruel church, is to miss the last 
semblance of judicial method. It may be conceded that the works 
of Meslier and d'Holbach, neither of whom is noticed by Barante, 
are directly though only generally revolutionary in their bearing. 
But the main works of d'Holbach appeared too close upon the 
Revolution to be credited with generating it ; and Meslier, as we 
know, had been generally read only in abridgments and adaptations, 
in which his political doctrine disappears. 

Mallet du Pan, striking in all directions, indicts alternately 
Rousseau, whose vogue lay largely among religious people, and the 
downright freethinkers. The great fomenter of the Revolution, the 
critic avows, was Rousseau. " He had a hundred times more 

readers than Voltaire in the middle and lower classes No one 

has more openly attacked the right of property in declaring it a 

usurpation It is he alone who has inoculated the French with 

the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people, and with its most 
extreme consequences." l After this " be alone," the critic obliviously 
proceeds to exclaim: " Diderot and Condorcet : there are the true 
chiefs of the revolutionary school," adding that Diderot had pro- 
claimed equality before Marat; the Rights of Man before Sieves ; 
sacred insurrection before Mirabeau and Lafayette ; the massacre 
of priests before the Septembrists." 2 But this is mere furious 
declamation. Only by heedless misreading or malice can support 
be given to the pretence that Diderot wrought for the violent over- 
throw of the existing political system. Passages denouncing kingly 
tyranny had been inserted in their plays by both Corneille and 
Voltaire, and applauded by audiences who never dreamt of abolishing 
monarchy. A phrase about strangling kings in the bowels of priests 
is expressly put by Diderot in the mouth of an FAaittht 'romane or 
Liberty-maniac \ ? ' which shows that the type had arisen in his 
lifetime in opposition to his own bias. This very poem he read to 

1 Work cited, p. :;.>. - Til. p. lir.'.l. 

'' ('p. Mor'.cy, Outi-mf, p. 407. Lord Morley points to the phra-e in another form in a 
letter ol Voltaire - in IV'il. It really derives from Jean Meslier, who emotes it from an 
unlettered man [Testament, i, l'Jl. 



286 EIGHTEENTH CENTUEY 

the Prince von Galitzin, the ambassador of the Empress Catherine 
and his own esteemed friend. 1 The tyranny of the French Govern- 
ment, swayed by the king's mistresses and favourites and by the 
Jesuits, he did indeed detest, as he had cause to do, and as every 
man of good feeling did with him ; but no writing of his wrought 
measurably for its violent overthrow. D'Argenson in 1751 was 
expressing his fears of a revolution, and noting the " desobeissance 
constante " of the Parlement of Paris and the disaffection of the 
people, before he had heard of " un M. Diderot, qui a beaucoup 
d'esprit, mais qui affecte trop 1'irreligion." And when he notes that 
the Jesuits have secured the suppression of the Encyclopedia as 
being hostile "to God and the royal authority," he does not attach 
the slightest weight to the charge. He knew that Louis called the 
pious Jansenists " enemies of God and of the king." 8 

Mallet du Pan grounds his charge against Diderot almost solely 
on "those incendiary diatribes intercalated in the Histoire philoso- 
phique cles deux hides which dishonour that work, and which 
Eaynal, in his latter days, excised with horror from a new edition 
which he was preparing." But supposing the passages in question 
to be all Diderot's 4 which is far from certain they are to be 
saddled with responsibility for the Eeign of Terror only on the 
principle that it was more provocative in the days of tyranny to 
denounce than to exercise it. To this complexion Mallet du Pan 
came, with the anti-Eevolutionists in general ; but to-day we can 
recognize in the whole process of reasoning a reductio ad absurdum. 
The school in question came in all seriousness to ascribe the evils 
of the Eevolution to everything and everybody save the men and 
classes whose misgovernment made the Eevolution inevitable. 

Some of the philosophers, it is true, themselves gave colour to 
the view that they were the makers of the Eevolution, as when 
D'Alembert said to Eomilly that "philosophy " had produced in his 
time that change in the popular mind which exhibited itself in the 
indifference with which they received the news of the birth of the 
dauphin. 5 The error is none the less plain. The x>liilosoplics had 
done nothing to promote anti-monarch ism among the common 
people, who did not read. It was the whole political and social 

1 Rosenkranz, Diderot' s Leben uml Werlce, 1866. ii. 3S0-S1. 

2 As Lord Morley points out, Henri Martin absolutely reverses the purport of a passage 
in order to convict Diderot of justifying regicide. 

''' Memoires, ed. Jannet, iv. 41, 51, 68, 60, 71, 91, 93, 101, 103. 

4 Mallet du Pan says lie saw the MS., and knew Diderot to have received 10,000 livres 
tournois for his additions. This statement is incredible. But Meister is explicit, in his 
iloge, as to Diderot having written for the book much that he thought nobody would sign, 
whereas liaynal was ready to sign anything. 

" Memoirs of Sir Samuel ltomilly, 3rd ed. 1841, i, 46. 

6 When D'Argenson writes in 1752 [Memoires, ed. Jannet, iv, 103) that he hears "only 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 287 

evolution of two generations that had wrought the change ; and the 
people were still for the most part believing Catholics. Frederick 
the Great was probably within the mark when in 1769 he privately 
reminded the more optimistic philosophers that their entire French 
public did not number above 200,000 persons. The people of Paris, 
who played the chief part in precipitating the Revolution, were spon- 
taneously mutinous and disorderly, but were certainly not in any 
considerable number unbelievers. " While Voltaire dechristianized 
a portion of polite society the people remained very pious, even at 
Paris. In 1766 Louis XV, so unpopular, was acclaimed because he 
knelt, on the Pont Neuf, before the Holy Sacrament." 1 

And this is the final answer to any pretence that the Revolution 
was the work of the school of d'Holbach. Bergier the priest, and 
Rivarol the conservative unbeliever, alike denied that d'Holbach's 
systematic writings had any wide public. Doubtless the same men 
were ready to eat their words for the satisfaction of vilifying an 
opponent. It has always been the way of orthodoxy to tell atheists 
alternately that they are an impotent handful and that they are 
the ruin of society. But by this time it ought to be a matter of 
elementary knowledge that a great political revolution can be 
wrought only by far-reaching political forces, whether or not these 
may concur with a propaganda of rationalism in religion. 2 If any 
"philosopher" so-called is to be credited with specially promoting 
the Revolution, it is either Rousseau, who is so often hailed latterly 
as the engineer of a religious reaction, and whose works, as has 
been repeatedly remarked, contain much that is utterly and irre- 
concilably opposed " to the Revolution, 3 or Raynal, who was only 
anti-clerical, not anti-Christian, and who actually censured the 
revolutionary procedure. When he published his first edition he 
must be held to have acquiesced in its doctrine, whether it were 
from Diderot's pen or his own. Rousseau and Raynal were the 
two most popular writers of their day who dealt with social as 
apart from religious or philosophical issues, and to both is thus 
imputed a general subversiveness. But here too the charge rests 
upon a sociological fallacy. The Parlement of Paris, composed of 
rich bourgeois and aristocrats, many of them Jansenists, very few 

Ijhibisniihes say, as if convinced, that even anarchy would be better" than the existing 
misuovomment, lie makes no suj,'estion that they touch this. And he declares lor his 

own part that everything is drifting to rum: "nude reformation nulle amelioration. 

Tout tombe, par lambeaux." 

1 Anlard, Hist, yulit. <Ie In rvrul. p. -31. 

' 2 This is the suflieient comment on a perplexing pa'-lo of Lord Morley's second mono- 
graph on l',urke(pp. 110-11), winch I have never been able to reconcile with the rest of 
his writing. 

3 Lecky, Hist, nf Enyland in the Eighteenth Century, small ed. vi, H'ii. 



288 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

of them freethinkers, most of them ready to burn freethinking books, 
played a "subversive" part throughout the century, inasmuch as it 
so frequently resisted the king's will. 1 The stars in their courses 
fought against the old despotism. Rousseau was ultimately influen- 
tial towards change because change was inevitable and essential, 
not because he was restless. The whole drift of things furthered 
his ideas, which at the outset won no great vogue. He was followed 
because he set forth what so many felt ; and similarly Raynal was 
read because he chimed with a strengthening feeling. In direct 
contradiction to Mallet du Pan, Chamfort, a keener observer, wrote 
while the Revolution was still in action that " the priesthood was 
the first bulwark of absolute power, and Voltaire overthrew it. 
Without this decisive and indispensable first step nothing would 
have been done." 2 The same observer goes on to say that Rousseau's 
political works, and particularly the Gontrat Social, " were fitted for 

few readers, and caused no alarm at court That theory was 

regarded as a hollow speculation which could have no further 
consequences than the enthusiasm for liberty and the contempt of 
royalty carried so far in the pieces of Corneille, and applauded at 
court by the most absolute of kings, Louis XIV. All that seemed 
to belong to another world, and to have no connection with ours ; 

in a word, Voltaire above all has made the Revolution, because 

he has written for all ; Rousseau above all has made the Constitu- 
tion because he has written for the thinkers."' And so the changes 
may be rung for ever. The final philosophy of history cannot be 
reached by any such artificial selection of factors ; and the ethical 
problem equally evades such solutions. If we are to pass any 
ethico-political judgment whatever, it must be that the evils of the 
Revolution lie at the door not of the reformers, but of the men, the 
classes, and the institutions which first provoked and then resisted 
it. 5 To describe the former as the authors of the process is as 
intelligent as it was to charge upon Sokrates the decay of orthodox 
tradition in Athens, and to charge upon that the later downfall of 
the Athenian empire. The wisest men of the age, notably the great 
Turgot, sought a gradual transformation, a peaceful and harmless 
transition from unconstitutional to constitutional government. 

1 D'Argenson notes this repeatedly, though in one passage he praises the Parlernent 
as having alone made head against absolutism (dec. 1752 ; ed. cited, iv, 116). 

2 Maximes et, Pensees, ed. 1856, p. 72. u Id. pp. 73-74. 

4 Chamfort in another passage maintains against Soulavie that the Academy did much 
to develop tile spirit of freedom in thought and politics. Id. p. 107. And this too is 
arguable, as we have seen. 

5 On this complicated issue, which cannot be here handled at any further length, see 
1'rof. P. A. Wadia's essay The Philosopher* and the French Revolution (Social Science 
Series, 1904), which, however, needs revision ; and compare the argument of Nourrisson, 
J.-J. liousseau et U liousseauisme- 1903, eh. xx. 



FRENCH FREETHOUGIIT 2S9 

Their policy wag furiously resisted by an unteachable aristocracy. 
When at last fortuitous violence made a breach in the feudal walls, 
a people unprepared for self-rule, and fought by an aristocracy eager 
for blood, surged into anarchy, and convulsion followed on convul- 
sion. That is in brief the history of the Revolution. 

31. While the true causation of the Revolution is thus kept 
clear, it must not he forgotten, further, that to the very last, save 
where controlled by disguised rationalists like Malesherbes, the 
tendency of the old regime was to persecute brutally and senselessly 
wherever it could lay hands on a freethinker. In 1788, only a year 
before the first explosion of the Revolution, there appeared the 
Almanack des Ilonnetcs Gens of Sylvain MARECHAL, a work of 
which the offence consisted not in any attack upon religion, but in 
simply constructing a calendar in which the names of renowned 
laymen were substituted for saints. Instantly it was denounced 
by the Paris Parlement, the printer prosecuted, and the author 
imprisoned ; and De Sauvigny, the censor who had passed the book, 
was exiled thirty leagues from Paris. 1 

Some idea of the intensity of the tyranny over all literature 
in France under the Old Regime may be gathered from Buckle's 
compendious account of the books officially condemned, and 
of authors punished, during the two generations before the 
Revolution. Apart from the record of the treatment of Buff on, 

Marmontel, Morellet, Voltaire, and Diderot, it runs: "The 

tendency was shown in matters so trilling that nothing but 
the gravity of their ultimate results prevents them from being 
ridiculous. In 1770, Imbert translated Clarke's Letters on 
Spain, one of the best works then existing on that country. 
This book, however, was suppressed as soon as it appeared ; 
and the only reason assigned for such a stretch of power is that 
it contained some remarks respecting the passion of Charles II 1 
for hunting, which were considered disrespectful to the French 
crown, because Louis XV himself was a great hunter. Several 
years before this La Bletterie, who was favourably known in 
France by his works, was elected a member of the French 
Academy. But he, it seems, was a Jansenist, and had more- 
over ventured to assert that the Emperor Julian, notwithstanding 
his apostasy, was not entirely devoid of good qualities. Such 
offences could not be overlooked in so pure an age; and the 
king obliged the Academy to exclude La Hletterie from their 
society. That the punishment extended no further was an 
instance of remarkable leniency; for fro ret, an eminent critic 
and scholar, was confined in the Bastille because he stated, 

1 Correspowlance dc G rimm, c<l. cited, xiv, 5 !>. Lettiv <U: jiuiv. ITbS. 
VOL. II I" 



290 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

in one of his memoirs, that the earliest Frankish chiefs had 
received their titles from the Romans. The same penalty was 
inflicted four different times upon Lenglet du Fresnoy. In the 
case of this amiahle and accomplished man, there seems to have 
heen hardly the shadow of a pretext for the cruelty with which 
he was treated ; though on one occasion the alleged offence was 
that he had published a supplement to the History of De Thou. 
" Indeed, we have only to open the biographies and corre- 
spondence of that time to find instances crowding upon us from 
all quarters. Rousseau was threatened with imprisonment, was 
driven from France, and his works were publicly burned. The 
celebrated treatise of Helvetius on the Mind was suppressed by 
an order of the Royal Council ; it was burned by the common 
hangman, and the author was compelled to write two letters 
retracting his opinions. Some of the geological views of Buff on 
having offended the clergy, that illustrious naturalist was obliged 
to publish a formal recantation of doctrines which are now 
known to be perfectly accurate. The learned Observations on 
the History of France, by Mably, were suppressed as soon as 
they appeared : for what reason it would be hard to say, since 
M. Guizot, certainly no friend either to anarchy or to irreligion, 
has thought it worth while to republish them, and thus stamp 
them with the authority of his own great name. Tlw History 
of the Indies, by Raynal, was condemned to the flames, and the 
author ordered to be arrested. Lanjuinais, in his well-known 
work on Joseph II, advocated not only religious toleration, but 
even the abolition of slavery ; his book, therefore, was declared 
to be 'seditious'; it was pronounced 'destructive of all subor- 
dination,' and was sentenced to be burned. The Analysis of 
Baylc, by Marsy.was suppressed, and the author was imprisoned. 
The History of the Jesuits, by Linguet, was delivered to the 
flames ; eight years later his journal was suppressed ; and, three 
years after that, as he still persisted in writing, his Political 
Annals were suppressed, and he himself was thrown into the 
Bastille. Delisle de Sales was sentenced to perpetual exile and 
confiscation of all his property on account of his work on the 
Philosoijhy of Xature. The treatise by Mey, on French Law, 
was suppressed ; that by Boncerf, on Feudal Law, was burned. 
The Memoirs of Beaumarchais were likewise burned ; the Eloge 
on Fenclon, by La Harpe, was merely suppressed. Duvernet, 
having written a History of the Sorbonne, which was still 
unpublished, was seized and thrown into the Bastille, while 
the manuscript was yet in his own possession. The celebrated 
work of De Lolme on the English constitution was suppressed 
by edict directly it appeared. The fate of being suppressed or 
prohibited also awaited the Letters of Gervaise in 1721 ; the 
Dissertations of Courayer in 1727 ; the Letters of Montgon in 
1732 ; the History of Tamerlane, by Margat, also in 1732 ; the 



FEENCH FEEETHOUGHT 291 

Essay on Taste, by Cartaud, in 1736; The Life of Domat, by 
Prevost de la Jannes, in 1742; the History of Louis XI, by 
Duclos, in 1745 ; the Letters of Bargeton in 1750 ; the Memoirs 
on Troycs, by Grosley, in the same year ; the History of 
Clement XI, by Eeboulet, in 1752 ; The Scliool of Man, by 
Genard, also in 1752; the Therapeutics of Garlon in 175G ; 
the celebrated thesis of Louis, on Generation, in 1754 ; the 
treatise on Presidial Jurisdiction, by Jousse, in 1755 ; the 
Ericie of Fontenelle in 1768; the Thoughts ofJamin'm 1769; 
the History of Siam, by Turpin, and the Eloge of Marcus 
Aurelius, by Thomas, both in 1770 ; the works on Finance by 
Darigrand, in 1764, and by Le Trosne in 1779 ; the Essay on 
Military Tactics, by Guibert, in 1772 ; the Letters of Boucquet 
in the same year; and the Memoirs of Terrai, by Coquereau, in 
1776. Such wanton destruction of property was, however, 
mercy itself compared to the treatment experienced by other 
literary men in France. Desforges, for example, having written 
against the arrest of the Pretender to the English throne, was, 
solely on that account, buried in a dungeon eight feet square 
and confined there for three years. This happened in 1749 ; 
and in 1770, Audra, professor at the College of Toulouse, and 
a man of some reputation, published the first volume of his 
Abridgement of General History. Beyond this the work never 
proceeded ; it was at once condemned by the archbishop of the 
diocese, and the author was deprived of his office. Audra, held 
up to public opprobrium, the whole of his labours rendered use- 
less, and the prospects of his life suddenly blighted, was unable 
to survive the shock. He was struck with apoplexy, and within 
twenty-four hours was lying a corpse in his own house." 

32. Among many other illustrations of the passion for persecution 
in the period maybe noted the fact that after the death of the atheist 
Damilaville his enemies contrived to deprive his brother of a post 
from which he had his sole livelihood. 1 It is but one of an infinity 
of proofs that the spirit of sheer sectarian malevolence, which is far 
from being eliminated in modern life, was in the French Church 
of the eighteenth century the ruling passion. Lovers of moderate 
courses there were, even in the Church ; but even among professors 
of lenity we find an ingrained belief in the virtue of vituperation 
and coercion. And it is not until the persecuted minority has 
developed its power of written retaliation, and the deadly arrows 
of Voltaire have aroused in the minds of persecutors a new terror, 
that there seems to arise on that side a suspicion that there can bo 
any better way of handling unbelief than by invective and imprison- 
ment. After they had taught the heretics to defend themselves, and 

1 Lettrc do Voltaire a D'Alenibort, 27 aoi'lt, 1774. 



292 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

found them possessed of weapons such as orthodoxy could not hope 
to handle, we find Churchmen talking newly of the duty of gentle- 
ness towards error ; and even then clinging to the last to the weapons 
of public ostracism and aspersion. So the fight was of necessity 
fought on the side of freethought in the temper of men warring on 
incorrigible oppression and cruelty as well as on error. The wonder 
is that the freethinkers preserved so much amenity. 

33. This section would not be complete even in outline without 
some notice of the attitude held towards religion by Napoleon, who 
at once crowned and in large measure undid the work of the 
Revolution. He has his place in its religious legend in the current 
datum that he wrought for the faith by restoring a suppressed public 
worship and enabling the people of France once more to hear church- 
bells. In point of fact, as was pointed out by Bishop Gregoire in 
1826, " it is materially proved that in 1796, before he was Consul, 
and four years before the Concordat, according to a statement drawn 
up at the office of the Domaines Nationaux, there were in France 
32,214 parishes where the culte was carried on." 1 Other common- 
places concerning Napoleon are not much better founded. On the 
strength of a number of oral utterances, many of them imperfectly 
vouched for, and none of them marked by much deliberation, he has 
been claimed by Carlyle 2 as a theist who philosophically disdained 
the "clatter of materialism," and believed in a Personal Creator of 
an infinite universe ; while by others he is put forward as a kind of 
expert in character study who vouched for the divinity of Jesus. 3 In 
effect, his verdict that " this was not a man " would tell, if anything, 
in favour of the view that Jesus is a mythical construction. He was, 
indeed, by temperament quasi-religious, liking the sound of church 
bells and the atmosphere of devotion ; and in his boyhood he had 
been a rather fervent Catholic. As he grew up he read, like his 
contemporaries, the French deists of his time, and became a deist 
like his fellows, recognizing that religions were human productions. 
Declaring that he was " loin d'etre athee," he propounded to O'Meara 
all the conventional views that religion should be made a support 
to morals and law ; that men need to believe in marvels ; that religion 
is a great consolation to those who believe in it ; and that " no one 

1 Histoire dn mariage des pritres en France, par. M. Gregoire, ancien eveque de Blois, 
1826, p. v. Compare the details in the Appendice to the Etudes of M. Gazier, before cited. 
That writer's account is the more decisive seeing that his bias is clerical, and that, writing 
before M. Anlard, he had to a considerable extent retained the old illusion as to the 
"decreeing of atheism" by the Convention (p. 313). See pp. 2-30-260 as to the readjust- 
ment effected by Gregoire, while the conservative clergy were still striving to undo the 
Revolution. - Heroes and Hero- Worship : Napoleon. 

'< See the Sentiments de Napoleon sur le Christianisme : conversations reeueillies a 
Sainte-ileli ne par le Comte de Montholon, 1841. Many of the utterances here set forth are 
irreconcilable with Napoleon's general tone. 



FRENCH FREETHOUGHT 293 

can tell what ho will do in his last moments." 1 The opinion to 
which he seems to have adhered most steadily was that every man 
should die in the religion in which he had been brought up. And he 
himself officially did so, though lie put off almost to the last the 
formality of a deathbed profession. His language on the subject is 
irreconcilable with any real belief in the Christian religion : he was 
a deist a la Voltaire who recalled with tenderness his Catholic 
childhood, and who at death reverted to his first beliefs."" For tho 
rest, he certainly believed in religion as a part of the machinery of 
the State, and repeated the usual platitudes about its value as a 
moral restraint. He was candid enough, however, not to pretend 
that it had ever restrained him ; and no freethinker condemned more 
sweepingly than he the paralysing effect of the Catholic system on 
Spain. To the Church his attitude was purely political ; and his 
personal liking for the Pope never moved him to yield, where he 
could avoid it, to tho temporal pretensions of the papacy. The 
Concordat of 1802, that " brilliant triumph over the genius of the 
Revolution," 1 was purely and simply a political measure. If he had 
had his way, he would have set up a system of religious councils in 
France, to be utilized against all disturbing tendencies in politics. 
Had he succeeded, he was capable of suppressing all manifesta- 
tions of freethought in the interests of "order." 6 He had, in 
fact, no disinterested love of truth ; and we have his express 
declaration, at St. Helena, on the subject of IMoliere's Tart ufe : 
"I do not hesitate to say that if the piece had been written in 
my time, I would not have permitted its representation."' Free- 
thought can make no warm claim to the allegiance of such a ruler ; 
and if the Church of Rome is concerned to claim him as a son on the 
score of his deathbed adherence, after a reign which led the Catholic 
clergy of Spain to hold him up to the faithful as an incarnation of 
the devil," she will hardly gain by the association. Napoleon's ideas 
on religious questions were in fact no more noteworthy than his 
views on economics, which were thoroughly conventional. 



1 O'Meara, X.i,j;,,n en Ksil, ed. Lacroix, ls07, ii. :; ; .'. 

- 1'ii. Gomaird, 7,.-s nrirjinrs ,!< in Irc/fiide SuimU-onienne, 190t'>, p. -JW :; 7>7 P -V.0. 

'' l'a-q:iii r, cited by Kom;, Infr t>f S,ti,h:,,n, ed. I'll:}, \,s-l. The Concordat was bitterly 
ru.~e.nted by the freethinker-, in the army. fil. p. -J-l. 

' See -l ;'.< - I {ami - Snji I, ,,,, 1,-r, ed. 1S70. p. ,S:i, as to the amazing ( Viteehi. -in imposed 
by Nap', 1'. on on l-'rance in 1-11. Tor the history ol its preparation and impo-iUon sec 
be l.ahone, l>urin .sods Snindfini : Lit IW.Iiniun, 1<X)7, p. 100 m/. 

'' As to the Napoleonic cen-or-hip of literature, cp. Madame de Stael, Cm ^',1,'rn Units 
sur h, ri-r,,liiti'Jii (r<inr<ns,\ ptie. iv. ch. hi; Uix Amu; t ,1 l-l.nl, pref. ; Wcl.-c 
L<t Ci-iinttri' ,.> It- in; ,i,v v iln, i, it;-. ]<-l. 

' Las ( :a e- . M, t i , ,, ,h- - tint, //, , , , \[\ unfit, 1-Ifi 

"* Mi.I.'iet, lliht.dclu iri-'dittioil/riiie/titst.', le edit, ii, ;{I(J. 



Chapter XYIII 

GEEMAN FEEETHOUGHT IN THE SEVENTEENTH 
AND EIGHTEENTH CENTUEIES 

1. When two generations of Protestant strife had turned to naught 
the intellectual promise of the Eeformation, and much of the ground 
first won by it had lapsed to Catholicism, the general forward move- 
ment of European thought availed to set up in Germany as elsewhere 
a measure of critical unbelief. There is abundant evidence that the 
Lutheran clergy not only failed to hold the best intelligence of the 
country with them, but in large part fell into personal disrepute. 1 

The scenes of clerical immorality," says an eminently orthodox 
historian, " are enough to chill one's blood even at the distance of 
two centuries." 2 A Church Ordinance of 1G00 acknowledges 
information to the effect that a number of clergymen and school- 
masters are guilty of " whoredom and fornication," and commands 
that if they are notoriously guilty they shall be suspended." 
Details are preserved of cases of clerical drunkenness and ruffianism ," 
and the women of the priests' families do not escape the pillory. 
Nearly a century later, Arnold resigned his professorship at Giessen 

from despair of producing any amendment in the dissolute habits 
of the students." 4 It is noted that "the great moral decline of the 
clergy was confined chiefly to the Lutheran Church. The Eeformed 
[Calvinistic] was earnest, pious, and aggressive" 5 the usual result 
of official hostility. 

In such circumstances, the active freethougbt existing in France 
at the beginning of the seventeenth century could not fail to affect 
Germany; and even before the date of the polemic of Garasse and 
Mersenne there appeared (1G15) a counterblast to the new thought 
in the Tlicologia Naturalis of J. II. Alsted, of Frankfort, directed 
adversus atheos, Epicureos, et sophistas hujus temporis. The preface 
to this solid quarto (a remarkable sample of good printing for the 
period) declares that " there are men in this diseased (exulcerato) 

1 Cp. Pusey, Histor. Enauiry into the Probable Causes of the nationalist Character 

of tin- Tlteoloyy of Germany, 182S, p. 7!). 

2 hishop Hurst. History of nationalism, ed. 1867, p. 56. 

: < /-/. pi). 57 > (last ed. pp. 74-7f>). citing Tholuck, Deutsche Vniversitiiten, i, 145-48, and 
Dowdinn, Life of Calixtus, pp. 132-33. 4 I'usey, p, 113. '" Hurst, p. 09. 

291 



GERMAN FEEETIIOUGHT 17th AND ISth CENTURIES 295 

age who dare to oppose science to revelation, reason to faith, nature 
to grace, the creator to the redeemer, and truth to truth "; and the 
writer undertakes to rise argumentatively from nature to the 
Christian God, without, however, transcending the logical plane 
of De Alornay. The trouble of the time, unhappily for the faith, 
was not rationalism, but the inextinguishable hatreds of Protestant 
and Catholic, and the strife of economic interests dating from the 
appropriations of the first reformers. At length, after a generation 
of gloomy suspense, came the explosion of the hostile ecclesiastical 
interests, and the long-drawn horror of the Thirty Years' War, 
which left Germany mangled, devastated, drained of blood and 
treasure, decivilized, and well-nigh destitute of the machinery of 
culture. No such printing as that of Alsted's book was to be done 
in the German world for many generations. But as in France, so in 
Germany, the exhausting experience of the moral and physical evil 
of religious war wrought something of an antidote, in the shape of a 
new spirit of rationalism. 

Not only was the Peace of Westphalia an essentially secular 
arrangement, subordinating all religious claims to a political settle- 
ment, 1 but the drift of opinion was markedly freethinking. Already 
in 1G30 one writer describes " three classes of skeptics among the 
nobility of Hamburg : first, those who believe that religion is nothing 
but a mere fiction, invented to keep the masses in restraint ; second, 
those who give preference to no faith, but think that all religions 
have a germ of truth ; and third, those who, confessing that there 
must be one true religion, are unable to decide whether it is papal, 
Calvinist, or Lutheran, and consequently believe nothing at all." 
No less explicit is the written testimony of Walther, the court 
chaplain of Ulrich II of East Friesland, 1G37 : " These infernal 
courtiers, among whom I am compelled to live against my will, doubt 
those truths which even the heathen have learned to believe." ' In 
Germany as in France the freethinking which thus grew up during 
the religious war expanded after the peace. As usual, this is to bo 
gathered from the orthodox propaganda against it, setting out in 
1GG2 with a Prcscrcatice against the Pest of Present-da 1/ Atheists,'' by 
one Theophilus Gegenbauer. So far was this from attaining its end 
that there ensued ere long a more positive and aggressive development 
of freethinking than any other country had yet seen. A wandering 

1 Cp. Buckle. 1-vol. ed. I>j>. UDH :}09. "The result of the Thirty Years' War was indiffer- 
ence, ii'it only to the (.'unlesMim, but to religion in general, liver since that period, 
sec uiar interests dei:i( lei 11 y occupy t ho foreground " (Kahilis, Internal Hialnru nf Oi riuan 
I',. lunlixm, Knii. tr. I-.'.v p. -J] ). 

- Quote 1 by I'.i nop llur.-t, e<l. cited, p. f,(J (7S). 

:; I'rcstrvuli'j wider die l'cat dcr licutitjcu AUuiUcn. 



296 GERMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE 

scholar, Matthias KNUTZEN of Holstein (b. 1645), who had studied 
philosophy at Konigsberg, went about in 1674 teaching a hardy 
Religion of Humanity, rejecting alike immortality, God and Devil, 
churches and priests, and insisting that conscience could perfectly 
well take the place of the Bible as a guide to conduct. His doctrines 
are to be gathered chiefly from a curious Latin letter, 1 written by 
him for circulation, headed Amicus Amicis Arnica ; and in this the 
profession of atheism is explicit: " Insicper Deumnegamus." In two 
dialogues in German he set forth the same ideas. His followers, as 
holding by conscience, were called Geivissener ; and he or another of 
his group asserted that in Jena alone there were seven hundred of 
them.' 2 The figures were fantastic, and the whole movement passed 
rapidly out of sight hardly by reason of the orthodox refutations, 
however. Germany was in no state to sustain such a party ; and 
what happened was a necessarily slow gestation of the seed of new 
thought thus cast abroad. 

Knutzen's Latin letter is given in full by a Welsh scholar 
settled in Germany, Jenkinus Thomasius (Jenkin Thomas), in 
his Historia Atheismi (Altdorf, 1692), ed. Basel, 1709, pp. 97-101; 
also by La Croze in his (anon.) Entreticns sur divers sujets, 1711, 
p. 402 sq. Thomasius thus codifies its doctrine : " 1. There is 
neither God nor Devil. 2. The magistrate is nothing to be 
esteemed ; temples are to be condemned, priests to be rejected. 
3. In place of the magistrate and the priest are to be put know- 
ledge and reason, joined with conscience, which teaches to live 
honestly, to injure none, and to give each his own. 4. Marriage 
and free union do not differ. 5. This is the only life : after it, 
there is neither reward nor punishment. 6. The Scripture 
contradicts itself." Knutzen admittedly wrote like a scholar 
(Thomasius, p. 97) ; but his treatment of Scripture contradic- 
tions belongs to the infancy of criticism ; though La Croze, 
replying thirty years later, could only meet it with charges of 
impiety and stupidity. As to the numbers of the movement see 
Trinius, Freydenker Lexicon, 1759, s. v. KNUTZEN. Kurtz {Hist, 
of the Christian Church, Eng. tr. 1864, i, 213) states that a 
careful academic investigation proved the claim to a member- 
ship of 700 to be an empty boast (citing II. Rossel, Studicn und 
Kritikcn, 1844, iv). This doubtless refers to the treatise of 
Musseus, Jena, 1675, cited by La Croze, p. 401. Some converts 
Knutzen certainly made ; and as only the hardiest would dare 
to avow themselves, his influence may have been considerable. 
Examples of total unbelief come only singly to knowledge," 
says Tholuck ; "but total unbelief had still to the end of the 

' "Dated from Rome; but this was a mystification. 
2 Kalmis, p. 125; La Croze, Entretiens, 1711, p. 401. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 297 

century to bear penal treatment." He gives the instances (l) 
of the Swedish Baron Skytte, reported in 1669 by Spener to the 
Frankfort authorities for having said at table, before the court 
preacher, that the Scriptures were not holy, and not from God 
but from men ; and (2) " a certain minister " who at the end of 
the century was prosecuted for blasphemy. (Das kirchliche 
Lcben des 17ten Jahrhunderts, 2 Abth. pp. 56-57.) Even Ana- 
baptists were still liable to banishment in the middle of the 
century. Id. 1 Abth. 1861, p. 36. As to clerical intolerance 
see pp. 40-11. On the merits of the Knutzen movement cp. 
Piinjer, Hist, of the Christian PJiilos. of Religion, Eng. tr. i, 137-8. 

2. While, however, clerical action could drive such a movement 
under the surface, it could not prevent the spread of rationalism in 
all directions ; and there was now germinating a philosophic unbelief 
under the influence of Spinoza. Nowhere were there more prompt 
and numerous answers to Spinoza than in Germany, 2 whence it may 
be inferred that within the educated class he soon had a good many 
adherents. In point of fact the Elector Palatine offered him a 
professorship of philosophy at Heidelberg in 1G73, promising him 
the most ample freedom in philosophical teaching," and merely 
stipulating that he should not use it " to disturb the religion publicly 
established." 3 On the other hand, Professor Rappolt, of Leipzig, 
attacked him as an atheist, in an Oratio contra naturalistas in 1G70 ; 
Professor Alusams, of Jena, assailed him in 1G71; 4 and the Chan- 
cellor Kortholt, of Kiel, grouped him, Herbert, and Hobbes as The 
TJiree Great Impostors in 1680. After the appearance of the Etliica 
the replies multiplied. On the other hand, Cuffelaer vindicated 
Spinoza in 1684 ; and in 1G91 F. W. Stosch, a court official, and 
son of the court preacher, published a stringent attack on revela- 
tionism, entitled Concordia rationis et fidci, partly on Spinozistic 
lines, which created much commotion, and was forcibly suppressed 
and condemned to be burnt by the hangman at Uerlin, as it denied 
not only the immateriality but the immortality of the soul and the 
historical truth of the Scriptural narratives. This seems to have 
been the first work of modern freethought published by a German,' 
apart from Knutzen's letter ; but a partial list of the apologetic works 

1 Kven Knutzen seem- to have Ik -en influenced l>y Spinoza. Piinjer. Hist . nf (lie Chriit. 
J'lnlns. (if liriiyion, V.nii- tr. i. V.',". Piinjer, however, heenis to have exuberated the 
connection. 

- Op. l,an:;e. (Irxrh. firs M>itrrinlii<mHX, :ite Ann. i. Ills (Kn. tr. ii, :)">). 

'' I'.in -/'..'(/ mi S/iiiitiZ'tiit ft Itfiiiiinxinnrs, in dfrorcr, liii. 

4 Cnlcnis, Vic <i>- SjjimiZ'i, in dtroivrs ed. ot the O/w r>i, ISiO, pp. I v. K i. 

5 Piinjer, an cited, i, f.it -'>>; hanije, la^t cit. Lane note Unit dentin'"* CitniirinHum 
il>- imijiixturii rrliijidiuint, which Inn heeii erroneously u-Mflned to the sixteenth century, 
mu^t helorit; to the period of Kortholt's work. 

' : Piinjer. p. I., I ; l.ane, Ia.-.t cit.; Tholuek, Kirch. l.< hru, -1 Ahth. Pl>. .'i7 .o. 
~ it wa.-i nominally i. n d at Am ti rdani, really at lierlin. 



298 GERMAN FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 

of the period, from Gegenbauer onwards, may suffice to suggest the 
real vogue of heterodox opinions : 

16G2. Th. Gegenbauer. Preservatio wider die Pest der lieutigen Athcisten. Erfurt. 
1GG8. J. Musseus. Examcn Cherburianismi. Contra E. Herbertumcle Cherbury. 
,, Anton Eeiser. De origins, progressu, ct incremento Antitheismi seu 
Atheismi. 1 Augsburg. 
1670. Rappolt. ratio contra Naturalistas. Leipzig. 
1G72. J. Miiller. Atheismus devictus (in German). Hamburg. 
,, J. Lassen. Arcana-Politica-AtJieistica (in German). 

1G73. Besiegte Atheisterey. 

,, Chr. Pfaff. Disputatio contra Atheistas. 
1G74. J. Musaeus. Sjhnozismus. Jena. 

1G77. Val. Greissing. Corona Transylvani ; Exerc. 2, de Atlicismo, contra 
Cartesium et Math. Knutzen. Wittemberg. 

,, Tobias Wagner. Examcn atheismi speculativi. Tubingen. 

,, K. Rudrauff, Giessen. Dissertatio de Atheismo. 
1G80. Chr. Kortholt. De tribus impostoribas magnis liber. Kiloni. 
1GS9. Th. Undereyck. Der Ndrrische Atheist in seiner Thorheit ucberzeugt. 

Bremen. 
1G92. Jenkinus Thomasius. Historia Atheismi. Altdorf. 
lG'JG. J. Lassen. Arcana-Politica-Atheistica. Reprint. 

1G97. A. II. Grosse. An Atheismus necessario ducat ad comiptionem morum. 
Rostock. 
,, Em. "Weber. Bcurthcilunrj der Athcistcrei. 
1700. Tribbechov. Historia Naturalismi. Jena. 

1708. Loescher. Prcenotiones Theological contra Naturalistarnm ct Fanaticoriim 
ovine genus, Atheos, Deistas, Indijj'erentistas. etc. Wittemberg. 
,, Schwartz. Demonstrationes Dei. Leipzig. 

,, Reehenberg. Fundamenta vcrce religionis Prudentum, adverstis Atheos, etc. 
1710. J. C. Wolfius. Dissertatio de Atheismi falso suspectis. Wittemberg. 
1713. J. N. Fromman. Atlicus Stultus. Tubingen. 

,, Anon. Widerlegung der Athcisten, Deisten, und ncucn Ziecifeler. 
Frankfort. 
[Later came the works of Buddeus (171G) and Reimmann and Fabricius, 
noted above, vol. i, ch. i, $ 2.] 

3. For a community in which the reading class was mainly 
clerical and scholastic, the seeds of rationalism were thus in part 
sown in the seventeenth century ; but the ground was not yet 
propitious. LEIBNITZ (1646-1716), the chief thinker produced by 
Germany before Kant, lived in a state of singular intellectual isola- 
tion ;' 2 and showed his sense of it by writing his philosophic treatises 
chiefly in French. One of the most widely learned men of his age, 
he was wont from his boyhood to grapple critically with every 
system of thought that came in his way ; and, while claiming to be 

1 This writer gives (p. 12) a notable list of the forms of atheism: Atheismus clirectus, 
inrtirectust, formalis, virtualis, thenreticus, practicus, iiichoatus, consummatus, subtilis, 
crassus, yrivativua, negativus, and so on, ad lib. 

' A Cp. Buckle and liis Critics, pp. 171-7J ; Piinjer, i. 515. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 299 

always eager to learn, 1 he was as a rule strongly concerned to affirm 
his own powerful bias. Early in life he writes that it horrifies hirn 
to think how many men he has met who were at once intelligent 
and atheistic;" and his propaganda is always dominated by the 
desire rather to confute unbelief than to find out the truth. As 
early as 1GGS (act. 22) he wrote an essay to that end, which was 
published as a Confessio naturce contra Atheistas. Against Spinoza 
he reacted instantly and violently, pronouncing the Tractatus on its 
first (anonymous) appearance an " unbearably bold (liccntiosum) 
book," and resenting the Hobbesian criticism which it ' dared to 
apply to sacred Scripture." 3 Yet in the next year we find him 
writing to Arnauld in earnest protest against the hidebound ortho- 
doxy of the Church. " A philosophic age," he declares, " is about to 
begin, in which the concern for truth, flourishing outside the schools, 
will spread even among politicians. Nothing is more likely to 
strengthen atheism and to upset faith, already so shaken by the 
attacks of great but bad men [a pleasing allusion to Spinoza] , than 
to see on the one side the mysteries of the faith preached upon as 
the creed of all, and on the other hand become matter of derision to 
all, convicted of absurdity by the most certain rules of common 
reason. The worst enemies of the Church are in the Church. Let 
us take care lest the latest heresy I will not say atheism, but 
naturalism, be publicly professed."' 1 For a time he seemed thus 
disposed to liberalize. He wrote to Spinoza on points of optics 
before he discovered the authorship ; and he is represented later as 
speaking of the Tractatus with respect. He even visited Spinoza in 
1G7G, and obtained a perusal of the manuscript of the Ethica ; but 
he remained hostile to him in theology and philosophy. To the last 
he called Spinoza a mere developer of Descartes," whom he also 
habitually resisted. 

This was not hopeful ; and Leibnitz, with all his power and 
originality, really wrought little for the direct rationalization of 
religious thought. His philosophy, with all its ingenuity, has the 
common stamp of the determination of the theist to find reasons 
for the God in whom he believed beforehand ; and his principle that 
all is for the best is the fatal rounding of his argumentative circle. 
Thus his doctrine that that is true which is clear was turned to the 

LoUftr cited liv Dr. I.atti. Leihniz, 1808, p. -J, note. 

~ 1'hilon. Sri, rift en, ed. (lurlnmU, i, :'X, ; Martineau, StioJu of Sirinor.a, p. 77. 

:i Letter to Thomas, December !.',, 1(170. 

1 Quoted bv Tholuck, as hi :, cited, p. ill. Spcner took the -ami' tone. 

r ' I'lnlnn. Sehriften, ed. Oorhardt. i. :it ; ii. :">(;:{; Latta, p. i\ ; Martineau, p. 75. ('p. 
Refill tit ion of Si, n in.y, I,,/ I .,,!,,, it ::. ed. by ['"oilcher do I'.areil, V,\v.\. \,r . I.S.V.. 

'' His notable suriui.-e as to gradation of species I ee Lalta, pp. .is. :','.)) was taken up 
among the r'rencli materialist'., but did not thou modify current science. 



300 GEEMAN FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 

account of an empiricism of which the " clearness " was really 
predetermined by the conviction of truth. His Theodicee, 1 written 
in reply to Bayle, is by the admission even of admirers a process 
of begging the question. Deity, a mere " munition " of finite 
qualities, is proved a priori, though it is expressly argued that a 
finite mind cannot grasp infinity ; and the necessary goodness of 
necessary deity is posited in the same fashion. It is very significant 
that such a philosopher, himself much given to denying the religious- 
ness of other men's theories, was nevertheless accused among both 
the educated and the populace of being essentially non-religious. 
Nominally he adhered to the entire Christian system, including 
miracles, though he declared that his belief in dogma rested on the 
agreement of reason with faith, and claimed to keep bis thought free on 
unassailed truths ; s and he always discussed the Bible as a believer ; 
yet he rarely went to church ; 4 and the Low German nickname 
Lovenix (= Glaubet nichts, " believes nothing") expressed his local 
reputation. No clergyman attended his funeral ; but indeed no one 
else went, save his secretary. 5 It is on the whole difficult to doubt 
that his indirect influence not only in Germany but elsewhere had 
been and has been for deism and atheism. He and Newton were 
the most distinguished mathematicians and theists of the age ; and 
Leibnitz, as we saw, busied himself to show that the philosophy of 
Newton' tended to atheism, and that that of their theistic predecessor 
Descartes w T ould not stand criticism. 8 Spinoza being, according to 
him, in still worse case, and Locke hardly any sounder, 9 there 
remained for theists only his cosmology of monads and his ethic of 
optimism all for the best in the best of all possible worlds which 
seems at least as well fitted as any other theism to make thoughtful 
men give up the principle. 

4. Other culture-conditions concurred to set up a spirit of 
rationalism in Germany. After the Thirty Years' War there 
arose a religious movement, called Pietism by its theological 
opponents, which aimed at an emotional inwardness of religious 

1 The only lengthy treatise published by him in his lifetime. 

2 M. A. Jacques, intr. to CEuvres de Leibniz, 1816, i, 5-1-57, 

;s Cp. Tholuek, Das Icirchliche Leben, as cited, 2 Abth. pp. 52-55. Kahnis, coinciding 
with Rrdmann, pronounces that, although Leibnitz "acknowledges the God of the 
Christian faith, yet bis system assigned to Him a very uncertain position only " (Int. 
Hist, of Ger. Protestantism, p. 26). J Cp. 1'linjer, i, 500, as to his attitude on ritual. 

' Latta, as cited, p. 16; Vie de Leibnitz, par Dc Jaucourt, in ed. 17-17 of the Essais de 
Theodicee, i, 235-39. 

As to his virtual deism see Piinjer, i, 513-15. But he proposed to send Christian 
missionaries to the heathen. Tholuek, as last cited, p. 55. 

" Lett res entre Leibnitz et Clarke. 

H Discount de la conformity de la. foi avec la raison, 68-70; Essais sur la bonti de 
Die u, etc., S 50, 61, 104, 180, 292-93. 

9 The Nouveaux Essais sur V Entendemenl humain, refuting Locke, appeared post- 
humously in 1765. Locke had treated his theistic critic with contempt. (Latta, p. 13.1 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 301 

life as against what its adherents held to he an irreligious orthodoxy 
around them. 1 Contending against rigid articles of credence, they 
inevitably prepared the way for less credent forms of thought. 2 
Though the first leaders of Pietism grew embittered with their 
unsuccess and the attacks of their religious enemies, 3 their impulse 
went far, and greatly influenced the clergy through the university of 
Halle, which in the first part of the eighteenth century turned out 
6,000 clergymen in one generation. 4 Against the Pietists were 
furiously arrayed the Lutherans of the old order, who even con- 
trived in many places to suppress their schools. 5 Virtues generated 
under persecution, however, underwent the law of degeneration 
which dogs all intellectual subjection ; and the inner life of Pietism, 
lacking mental freedom and intellectual play, grew as cramped in its 
emotionalism as that of orthodoxy in its dogmatism. Religion was 
thus represented by a species of extremely unattractive and frequently 
absurd formalists on the one hand, and on the other by a school 
which at its best unsettled religious usage, and otherwise tended 
alternately to fanaticism and cant. 6 Thus " the rationalist tendencies 
of the age were promoted by this treble exhibition of the aberrations 
of belief." ' " How sorely," says Tholuck, " the hold not only of 
ecclesiastical but of Biblical belief on men of all grades had been 
shaken at the beginning of the eighteenth century is seen in many 
instances." 8 Orthodoxy selects that of a Holstein student who 
hanged himself at Wittemberg in 1088, leaving written in bis New 
Testament, in Latin, the declaration that " Our soul is mortal ; 
religion is a popular delusion, invented to gull the ignorant, and so 
govern the world the better." 9 But again there is the testimony of 
the mint-master at Hanover that at court there all lived as " free 
atheists." And though the name " freethinker " was not yet much 
used in discussion, it had become current in the form of Frcujeist 
the German equivalent still used. This, as we have noted, 1 " was 
probably a survival from the name of the old sect of the ' Free 
Spirit," rather than an adaptation from the French esprit fort or 
the English " freethinker." 

! Amanri Saintes, ffist. rrit. flu Ratinnrtlisme en AUemagne, ISil, ch. vi ; Ileinrich 
Schmirt. Die (ii-nrhirhfe dea Vietismus, ISfi.'J. ch. ii. 

- Saintes. p. 51 ; cp, 1'usey, p. 105, as to "the want of resistance from the school of 
['ii ' . ' to tin- subsequent invasion of unbelief." 

'' Hatfenbach, (ii rmnn Uation>tlixm, Kn. tr. 1R65, p. 0. 

1 Id. p. 30: I'u-ev. Histor. Knquiru into the Ctutuf-n of German llntinnaliKm, lS'JS, 

pp.M.07; Tholuck, Abrw.i finer (ir.srliiehte. den Umw'ilziniu *eit i: , au/ileni Gebvtc 

der Tht '.or/ie in Ijeutsrhlrnul, in \'r nnixchte Hehriften, iti'.iO, ii, 0. 

' 1"; ey, pp. -;. -T. .'-. 

r ' fjp. I'usf.y, pp. 37-:j.S, -l.j, IS, 40, 53 51, 70. 101-100; Snintes, pp. -_'S, 7:> SO; Ha ;enbnch , 
pp. H, 72, 105. ' I'u-ev, i>. Ilo. Cp. Saintes, eh. vi. 

" Dun kirrhlichc Leben, as cited, i Abth. p. ,>. ; ' Id. pp. 5li 57. 

lu Vol. i, p. G. 



302 GEEMAN FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 

5. After the collapse of the popular movement of Matthias 
Knutzen, the thin end of the new wedge may he seen in the manifold 
work of Christian THOMASIUS (1655-1728), who in 1687 pub- 
lished a treatise on "Divine Jurisprudence," in which the principles 
of Pufendorf on natural law, already offensive to the theologians, 
were carried so far as to give new offence. Eeading Pufendorf 
in his nonage as a student of jurisprudence, he was so conscious 
of the conflict between the utilitarian and the Scriptural view of 
moral law that, taught by a master who had denounced Pufendorf, 
he recoiled in a state of theological fear. 1 Some years later, gaining 
self-possession, he recognized the rationality of Pufendorf 's system, 
and both expounded and defended him, thus earning his share in 
the hostility which the great jurist encountered at clerical hands. 
Between that hostility and the naturalist bias which he had acquired 
from Pufendorf, there grew up in him an aversion to the methods 
and pretensions of theologians which made him their lifelong 
antagonist. 2 Pufendorf had but guardedly introduced some of the 
fundamental principles of Hobbes, relating morals to the social 
state, and thus preparing the way for utilitarianism. 3 This sufficed 
to make the theologians his enemies ; and it is significant that 
Thomasius, heterodox at the outset only thus far forth, becomes 
from that point onwards an important pioneer of freethought, tolera- 
tion, and humane reform. Innovating in all things, he began, while 
still a Privatdoccnt at Leipzig University, a campaign on behalf of 
the German language ; and, not content with arousing much pedantic 
enmity by delivering lectures for the first time in his mother tongue, 
and deriding at the same time the bad scholastic Latin of his com- 
patriots, he set on foot the first vernacular German periodical, 4 
which ran for two years (1688-90), and caused so much anger that 
he was twice prosecuted before the ecclesiastical court of Dresden, 
the second time on a charge of contempt of religion. The periodical 
was in effect a crusade against all the pedantries, the theologians 
coming in for the hardest blows. Other satirical writings, and a 

1 H. Luden, Christian Thomnsius nach seinen Schicksalen und Schriffen darge.itellt, 
1805, p. 7. - Cp. Schmid, Geschichte ilea Pietismus. pp. 486-88. 

'' Pufendorf s bulky treatise De Jure Natura el Gentium was published at Lund, where 
he was professor, in 167-2. The shorter De Officio hominis et civis (also Lund, 1673) is a 
condensation and partly a vindication of the other, and this it was that convinced 
Thomasius. As to Pufendorf s part in the transition from theological to rational moral 
philosophy, see Hallam, Lit. of Europe, iv, 171-78. He is fairly to be bracketed with 
Cumberland; but Hallam hardly recognizes that it was the challenge of Hobbes that 
forced the change. 

1 Freimilthige, lustige und ernsthafte, jedoch vernunft- und gesetzmcissige Geclankeit, 
Oder Monatgesprdche iiber allerhand, vornehmlich iiber neue Bticher. There had been an 
earlier Acta Eruditorum, in Latin, published at Leipzig, and a French Ephemerides 
savantes, Hamburg, 1686. Oilier German and French periodicals soon followed that of 
Thomasius. Luden, p. 162. 

5 Schmid, pp. 188-92, gives a sketch of some of the contents. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 303 

defence of intermarriage between Calvinists and Lutherans, 1 afc 
length put him in such danger that, to escape imprisonment, he 
sought the protection of the Elector of Brandenburg at Halle, where 
he ultimately became professor of jurisprudence in the new university, 
founded by his advice. There for a time he leant towards the 
Pietists, finding in that body a concern for natural liberty of feeling 
and thinking which was absent from the mental life of orthodoxy ; 
but he was "of another spirit" than they, and took his own way. 

In philosophy an unsystematic pantheist, he taught, after 
Plutarch, Bayle, and Bacon, that " superstition is worse than 
atheism"; but his great practical service to German civilization, 
over and above his furthering of the native speech, was his vigorous 
polemic against prosecutions for heresy, trials for witchcraft, and 
the use of torture, all of which he did more than any other German 
to discredit, though judicial torture subsisted for another half- 
century. 2 It was by his propaganda that the princes of Germany 
were moved to abolish all trials for sorcery." In such a battle he 
of course had the clergy against him all along the line; and it is as 
an anti-clerical that he figures in clerical history. The clerical 
hostility to Ids ethics he repaid with interest, setting himself to 
develop to the utmost, in the interest of lay freedom, the Lutheran 
admission of the divine right of princes.' 1 This he turned not against 
freedom of opinion but against ecclesiastical claims, very much in 
the spirit of Hobbes, who may have influenced him. 

The perturbed Mosheim, while candidly confessing that Thoma- 
sius is the founder of academic freedom in Germany, pronounces 
that the " famous jurists" who were led by Thomasius "set up a 
new fundamental principle of church polity namely, the supreme 
authority and power of the civil magistrate," so tending to create 
the opinion "that the ministers of religion are not to be accounted 
ambassadors of God, hut vicegerents of the chief magistrates. They 
also weakened not a little the few remaining prerogatives and. 
advantages winch were left of the vast number formerly possessed 

1 Pusey. p. S'">. nnt/'. It i surprising that Pusey does not make move account of 
Thomasiu^'s naturalistic treatment of polygamy and suicide, which he showed to lie not 
criminal in terms of natural law. 

* Compare Weber, (irsch . iter ilcutschcn Lit. 5 SI (ed. 1SS0. pp. OO-'.UI: Pus.y, as cited, 
p. 11 I. //'.,V; Knfield's Hiit. <,f Philns. Lbst. of Bruelver's Hist. crit. pliiins.). 1M0, pp. 610- 
012; I'fAu rweg, ii. 115; and Schlegel's note in Keid's Mosheim. p. Tin), with Karl ilille- 
brand, >'// I. <<',. mi the Hist. ,,f (irrinan Th might, ISM), pp. HI I5J. 1'iiere is ;i modern 
monograph bv A. Nicoladoni, Christ inn Thomunius ; cin licit nig ~ur (icschichtr iter 
A uC: ii rung, 1 . 

iron de I'.ielfeld. Progrrs ilr.i AUrmanrts, 3e ed. 1787, i. 21. " Heforc Thomasius," 
writes Bielfel 1. "an old woman could not have, rod eyes without running the ri>k ol being 
acciw d of witchcraft and burned at the stake." 

1 Sehmid, pp. l:s- n 7. Thoma-dus's principal writings on this theme were : I'ntn lirrht 
errmwlixrlirn Fiirstrii I ,i Mittrl,linr,,;i f I IV (-.>; Vmn Itcrht rrangrlisrlicn l-'iirstrn III tllfola- 

gixclten Strciligkcitcn Uti'JtjJ ; Vmn LI cht ecu aw lischcn l-'iirntcn g-gen Ketzcr UtJ'J7). 



304 GERMAN FREETHOIJGHT IN THE 

by the clergy ; and maintained that many of the maxims and 
regulations of our churches which had come down from our fathers 
were relics of popish superstition. This afforded matter for long 
and pernicious feuds and contests between our theologians and our 

jurists It will be sufficient for us to observe, what is abundantly 

attested, that they diminished much in various places the respect 
for the clergy, the reverence for religion, and the security and 
prosperity of the Lutheran Church." 1 Pusey, in turn, grudgingly 
allows that " the study of history was revived and transformed 
through the views of Thomasius." 2 

6. A personality of a very different kind emerges in the same 
period in Johann Conrad Dippel (1673-1734), who developed a 
system of rationalistic mysticism, and as to whom, says an orthodox 
historian, " one is doubtful whether to place him in the class of 
pietists or of rationalists, of enthusiasts or of scoffers, of mystics 
or of freethinkers." 3 The son of a preacher, he yet "exhibited in 
his ninth year strong doubts as to the catechism." After a tolerably 
free life as a student he turned Pietist at Strasburg, lectured on 
astrology and palmistry, preached, and got into trouble with the 
police. In 1698 he published under the pen-name of " Christianus 
Democritus " his book, Gestduptes Papstthum der Protestirendcn 
("The Popery of the Protestantizers Whipped"), in which he so 
attacked the current Christian ethic of salvation as to exasperate 
both Churches. 4 The stress of his criticism fell firstly on the 
unthinking Scripturalism of the average Protestant, who, he said, 
while reproaching the Catholic with setting up in the crucifix a 
God of wood, was apt to make for himself a God of paper. In his 
repudiation of the " bargain " or " redemption " doctrine of the 
historic Church he took up positions which were as old as Abailard, 
and which were one day to become respectable ; but in his own life 
lie was much of an Ishmaelite, with wild notions of alchemy and 
gold-making ; and after predicting that he should live till 1808, he 
died suddenly in 1734, leaving a doctrine which appealed only to 
those constitutionally inclined, on the lines of the earlier English 
Quakers, to set the inner light above Scripture. 6 

1 F.c. Hint. 17 Cent. sect, ii, pt. ii, ch. i, 11, 14. It is noteworthy that the Pietists at 
Halle did not scruple to ally themselves for a time with Thomasius, he being opposed to 
the orthodox party. Kahnis, Internal Hist, of Ger. Protestantism, p. 114. 

2 Pusey, as cited, p. 121. Cp. p. 113. 

3 Hagenbach, Kirchengeschichte ties 18. und 10. Jahrli. 2te Aufl. i, 164. (This matter is 
not in the abridged translation.) 

4 See the furious account of him by Mosheim, 17 C. sec. ii, pt. ii, ch. i, 33. 
r ' Hagenbach, last cit. p. 160. 

fi Noack, Die Freidenker in der Religion, Th. iii, Kap. 1 ; Bruno Bauer, Einfluss des 
englischen Quakerthums auf die deutsche Cidtur und auf das englisch-russische Projekt 
einer Weltkirche, 1878, pp. 41-44. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 305 

7. Among the pupils of Thomasius at Hallo was Theodore 
Louis Lau, who, born of an aristocratic family, became Minister of 
Finances to the Duke of Courland, and after leaving that post held 
a high place in the service of the Elector Palatine. While holding 
that office Lau published a small Latin volume of pcnsccs entitled 
Meditationcs Thcologicce-Physicce, notably deistic in tone. This 
gave rise to such an outcry among the clergy that lie had to leave 
Frankfort, only, however, to be summoned before the consistory of 
Konigsberg, his native town, and charged with atheism (1719). He 
thereupon retired to Altona, where lie had freedom enough to publish 
a reply to his clerical persecutors. 1 

8. While Thomasius was still at work, a new force arose of a 
more distinctly academic cast. This was the adaptation of 
Leibnitz's system by CHRISTIAN WOLFF, who, after building up a 
large influence among students by his method of teaching," came into 
public prominence by a rectorial address 8 at Halle (1721) in which ho 
warmly praised the ethics of Confucius. Such praise was naturally 
held to imply disparagement of Christianity ; and as a result of the 
pietist outcry Wolff was condemned by the king to exile from Prussia, 
under penalty of the gallows/ all " atheistical " writings being at the 
same time forbidden. Wolff's system, however, prevailed so com- 
pletely, in virtue of its lucidity and the rationalizing tendency of the 
age, that in the year 1738 there were said to be already 107 authors 
of his cast of thinking. Nevertheless, he refused to return to Hallo 
on any invitation till the accession (1710) of Frederick the Great, 
one of his warmest admirers, whereafter he figured as the German 
thinker of Ins age. His teaching, which for the first time popularized 
philosophy in the German language, in turn helped greatly, by its 
ratiocinative cast, to promote the rationalistic temper, though orthodox 
enough from the modern point of view. Under the new reign, how- 
ever, pietism and Wolflism alike lost prestige," and the age of anti- 
Christian and Christian rationalism began. Thus the period of free- 
thinking in Germany follows close upon one of religious revival. 
The 0,000 theologians trained at Halle in the first generation of the 
century had " worked like a leaven through all Germain-." ' Not 
since the time of the Reformation had Germany such a large number 
of truly pious preachers and laymen as towards the end of the first 

i Prof, to Froncli tr. of the Mi-ilitittiones, 1770, pp. xii xvii. I.nn died in 1710. 

2 Tholnek. Ahrins.n cited, p. 10. - ; Trim*, in Kmdish. \1M. 

1 Haenbaeh, tr. pp. '.',:> ',>> : Saintcs, p. fil ; Kahnis, us cited, p. 1 1 1. 

Haonbaeh, pp. :i7 :;.). II is t.i be observed (Thohick. ,1 /</**, p. i0 thai tin' Wolllian 
philosophy wa.s rein-tated in I'm- ;i i by roynl inandnto in 17:d, :i yenv before the accession 
of Frederick the Oreat. lint we know that Frederick championed him. 

6 Tholnck, AUri-.H, as cited, p. o. 

VOL. II X 



306 GEEMAN FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 

half of the eighteenth century." 1 There, as elsewhere, religion 
intellectually collapsed. 

As to Wolff's rationalistic influence see Cairns, Unbelief in the 
Eighteenth Century, 1881, p. 173 ; Puscy, pp. 115-19 ; Piinjer, 
p. 529; Lechlor, pp. 418-19. "It cannot he questioned that, 
in his philosophy, the main stress rests upon the rational " 

(Kahnis, as cited, p. 28). " Francke and Lange (pietists) 

saw atheism and corruption of manners springing up from 
Wolff's school" (before his exile). Id. p. 113. Wolff's chief 
offence lay in stressing natural religion, and in indicating, as 
Tholuck observes, that that could be demonstrated, whereas 
revealed religion could only be believed {Abriss, p. 18). lie 
greatly pleased Voltaire by the dictum that men ought to be just 
even though they had the misfortune to be atheists. It is noted 
by Tholuck, however {Abriss, as cited, p. 11, note), that the 
decree for Wolff's expulsion was inspired not by his theological 
colleagues but by two military advisers of the king. Tholuck's 
own criticism resolves itself into a protest against Wolff's pre- 
dilection for logical connection in his exposition. The fatal 
thing was that Wolff accustomed German Christians to reason. 

9. Even before the generation of active pressure from English 
and French deism there were clear signs that rationalism had taken 
root in German life. On the impulse set up by the establishment of 
the Grand Lodge at London in 1717, Freemasonic lodges began to 
spring up in Germany, the first being founded at Hamburg in 1733. 2 
The deism which in the English lodges was later toned down by 
orthodox reaction was from the first pronounced in the German 
societies, which ultimately passed on the tradition to the other parts 
of the Continent. But the new spirit was not confined to secret 
societies. Wolflianism worked widely. In the so-called Wcrthcim 
Bible (1735) Johann Lorenz Schmid, in the spirit of the Leibnitz- 
Wolffian theology, " undertook to translate the Bible, and to explain 
it according to the principle that in revelation only that can be 
accepted as true which does not contradict the reason." 3 This of 
course involved no thorough-going criticism; but the spirit of innova- 
tion was strong enough in Schmid to make him undermine tradition 
at many points, and later carried him so far as to translate Tindal's 
Christianity as old as Creation. So far was he in advance of his 
time that when his Wertheim Bible was officially condemned 
throughout Germany he found no defenders/ The Wolffians were 

1 Tholuck, Abriss, as cited, p. 6. 2 Kahnis, p. 55. 

3 Piinjer, i, 511. Cp. Tholuck, Abriss, pp. 19-22. 

1 Tholuck, Abriss, p. il. Schmid was for a time supposed to be the author of the 
Wolfenbiittel Fragments of Reiuiarus (below, p. 327J. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 307 

in comparison generally orthodox ; and another writer of the same 
school, Martin Knutzen, professor at Konigsberg (1715-1751), under- 
took in a youthful thesis De cetcmitatc mundi impossibili (1735) to 
rebut the old Averroist doctrine, revived by modern science, of the 
indestructibility of the universe. A few years later (1739) he pub- 
lished a treatise entitled The Truth of Christianity Demonstrated by 
Mathematics, which succeeded as might have been expected. 

10. To the same period belong the first activities of JoiIANN 
Christian Edelmann (1698-1767), one of the most energetic 
freethinkers of ids age. Trained philosophically at Jena under the 
theologian Budde, a bitter opponent of Wolff, and theologically in the 
school of the Pietists, he was strongly influenced against official 
orthodoxy through reading the Impartial History of the Church 
and of Heretics, by Gottfried Arnold, an eminently anti-clerical 
work, which nearly always takes the side of the heretics. 1 In the 
same heterodox direction he was swayed by the works of Dippel. At 
this stage Edelmann produced his Unschuldige Wahrhciten ("Innocent 
Truths "), in which he takes up a pronouncedly rationalist and lati- 
tudinarian position, but without rejecting ' revelation "; and in 1736 
he went to Berleburg, where he worked on the Berleburg translation 
of the Bible, a Pietist undertaking, somewhat on the lines of Dippel's 
mystical doctrine, in which a variety of incredible Scriptural narra- 
tives, from the six days' creation onwards, are turned to mystical 
purpose. 2 In this occupation Edelmann seems to have passed some 
years. Gradually, however, he came more and more under the 
influence of the English deists ; and he at length withdrew from tho 
Pietist camp, attacking his former associates for the fanaticism into 
which their thought was degenerating. It was under the influence 
of Spinoza, however, that he took his most important steps. A few 
months after meeting with the Tractatus ho began (1710) tho first 
part of his treatise Moses mil aufgedccktevi Angesichte (" Moses with 
unveiled face"), an attack at once on the doctrine of inspiration and 
on that of tho Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. The book was 
intended to consist of twelve parts; but after the appearance of three 
it was prohibited by the imperial fisc, and the published parts burned 
by the hangman at Hamburg and elsewhere. Nonetheless. Edelmann 
continue! his propaganda, publishing in 171! or 1712 The Divinity 

i Unywrthruisc.hr Kirchcn- irvl Krt zrrhistnric. 1(100 17(10, -1 torn, fol. fuller oil. 3 torn, 
fol. 1710. Coniin re M . hcim's an 'rv account of it with Murdoch's note in defence : Keid's 
ed. ]j. 501. Bruno li;i i< c describe it ;< epoeh-makin : {Kiitjlusx <hs eni/lischcn Qiiiiker- 
thuinn p. !.!'. Tni- lii ' >ry li;id ;i Ureal influence on Goethe in his teens, leading him, he 
Bays, to the conviction til at he, like so many other men, should have a religion of his own, 
which he [joe-i on to de icriho. It was a re-hash of Gnosticism. ( H'nh rlirit und Vichtuno, 
li. viii ; Wrrkr, ed. IS','',, x i. lid xq.) 

- Cl). llaijcnbach, Kirchcnijcxchichtfi, i, 171 ; L'itnjer, i, OT. 



308 GERMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE 

of Reason, 1 and in 1741 Christ and Belial. In 1749 or 1750 his 
works were again publicly burned at Frankfurt by order of the 
imperial authorities ; and he had much ado to find anywhere in 
Germany safe harbourage, till he found protection under Frederick 
at Berlin, where he died in 1767. 

Edelmann's teaching was essentially Spinozist and pantheistic, 2 
with a leaning to the doctrine of metempsychosis. As a pantheist he 
of course entirely rejected the divinity of Jesus, pronouncing inspira- 
tion the appanage of all ; and the gospels were by him dismissed as 
late fabrications, from which the true teachings of the founder could 
not be learned ; though, like nearly all the freethinkers of that age, 
he estimated Jesus highly. 3 A German theologian complains, 
nevertheless, that he was " more just toward heathenism than toward 
Judaism ; and more just toward Judaism than toward Christianity"; 
adding : What he taught had been thoroughly and ingeniously said 
in France and England ; but from a German theologian, and that 
with such eloquent coarseness, with such a mastery in expatiating 
in blasphemy, such things were unheard of." 4 The force of 
Edelmann's attack may be gathered from the same writer's account 
of him as a bird of prey " who rose to a " wicked height of opposi- 
tion, not only against the Lutheran Church, but against Christianity 
in general." 

11. Even from decorous and official exponents of religion, how- 
ever, there came naturalistic " and semi-rationalistic teaching, as 
in the Reflections on the most important truths of religion' (1768- 
1769) of J. F. W. Jerusalem, Abbot of Marienthal in Brunswick, and 
later of Riddagshausen (1709-1789). Jerusalem had travelled in 
Europe, and had spent two years in Holland and one in England, 
where he studied the deists and their opponents. "In England 
alone," he declared, "is mankind original."' Though really written 
by way of defending Christianity against the freethinkers, in par- 

1 Die Gbttlichlceit der Vernunft. 

2 Xoack, Th. iii, Kap. 2: Saintes, pp. 85-SG ; Punier, p. 41-3. It is interesting to And 
Edelmann supplying a formula latterly utilized by the so-called "New Theology" in 
England the thesis that " the reality of everything which exists is God," and that there 
can therefore be no atheists, since he who recognizes the universe recognizes God. 

3 Naigeon, by altering the words of Diderot, caused him to appear one of the exceptions ; 
but he was not. See Rosenkranz, Diderot's Leben unci Werke. Vorb. p. vii. 

4 Kahnis, pp. 12829. Edelmann's Life was written by Pratje. Historische Nacl\richten 
von Edelmann's Leben, 1755. It gives a list of replies to his writings (p. 205 sq.). Apropos 
of the first issue of Strauss's Leben Jesu. a volume of E r inner ungen of Edelmann was 
published at Clausthal in 1839 by W. Elster; and Strauss in his Dngmatik avowed 
the pleasure with which he had made the acquaintance of so interesting a writer. A 
collection of extracts from Edelmann's works, entitled Der neu eroffnete Edelmann, was 
published at Bern in 1817; and the Vnschuldige Wahrheiten was reprinted in 1846. His 
Autobiography, written in 1752. was published in 1849. 

5 Betrachtungen iiber die vornehmsten Wahrheiten der Religion. Another apologetic 
work of the period marked by rational moderation and tolerance was the Vertheidigten 
Glauben der Christen of the Berlin court-preacher A. W. F. Sack (1751). 

6 Art. by Wagenmann in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 309 

ticular against Bolingbroke and Voltaire, 1 the very title of his book 
is suggestive of a process of disintegration ; and in it certain unedi- 
fying Scriptural miracles are actually rejected." It was probably 
this measure of adaptation to new needs that gave it its great 
popularity in Germany and secured its translation into several other 
languages. Goethe called him a " freely and gently thinking theo- 
logian"; and a modern orthodox historian of the Church groups 
him with those who " contributed to the spread of Rationalism by 
sermons and by popular doctrinal and devotional works.'"' Jeru- 
salem was, however, at most a semi-rationalist, taking a view of the 
fundamental Christian dogmas which approached closely to that of 
Locke. 4 It was, as Goethe said later, the epoch of common sense ; 
and the very theologians tended to a "religion of nature." 5 

12. Alongside of home-made heresy there had come into play a 
new initiative force in the literature of English deism, which began 
to be translated after 1710, and was widely circulated till, in the 
last third of the century, it was superseded by the French. The 
English answers to the deists were frequently translated likewise, 
and notoriously helped to promote deism' another proof that it was 
not their influence that had changed the balance of activity in 
England. Under a freethinking king, even clergymen began guardedly 
to accept the deistic methods ; and the optimism of Shaftesbury 
began to overlay the optimism of Leibnitz ; H while a French scientific 
influence began with La Mettrie, 9 Maupertuis, and Kobinet. Even 
the Leihnitzian school, proceeding on the principle of immortal 
monads, developed a doctrine of the immortality of the souls of 
animals'" a position not helpful to orthodoxy. There was thus a 
general stirring of doubt among educated people," and we find mention 
in Goethe's Autobiography of an old gentleman of Frankfort who 

1 Hafienbach, Kirchenaeschichte, i, 355. - Piinjer, i. 512. 

'' Kurz, Hist. <ij the. Christian Church from the Re/or mation. Entf. tr. ii. -111. A Jesuit, 
A. Merz, wrote four replies to Jerusalem. One was entitled Frag ub (lurch die biblisclte 

Simiilicitat ullein ein F reiidenker oder heist bekehret werden kuiine I" Can a Freethinker 

or Deist be converted by Biblical Simplicity alone?"), 177."). 

4 cp. Hagenbaeh, i, 353 ; tr. p. 1-20. Jerusalem was the father of the lifted youth whose 
suicide (1775nnoved Goethe to write The Sorrows of Werther.K false presentment of the 
real personality, which stirred Lessing (his affectionate friend) to publish a volume of the 
dead youth's essays, in vindication of his character. The father had considerable 
influence in purifying German style. Cp. Goethe, Wuhrheit und Uiclttung. Th. ii, H. vii ; 
Werke, ed. IbOtJ, xi, 272 ; and Hagenbaeh, i, 3.01. 

5 Goethe, as last cited, pp. ii\H-VU. 

G Lechler, Gesch. de.s ewlixchen Dcismus, pp. 117-52. The translations began with that 
of Tindal f 1 74 1 >. which made: a great sensation. 

7 1'usey, pp. 12."). 127, citing Twesti n ; llostwick, Ccrmiui Culture and Cltristiuuity, p. 3(1, 
citing Krnesti. Thorschmid'a Frcidenker Jiibliotlick, issued in 17D5 o7, collected both 
translations and refutations. Lechler, p. 151. 

H Lange, (iesch. d-s Materialismits, i. 405 (Km!, tr. ii, 111', 17). 

a Lange. l, 317, S.'J ' Kin,', tr. ii, 7(1, 137). " J Kange, i, :hi !I7 'ii. 131 35). 

!l Goethe tells of having seen in his boyhood, at Fruukfoi t, an irreligious French 
romance publicly burned, and of having his interest in the hook thereby awakened. I'.ut 
tins seems to have been during the French occupation, i Wuli rl it und Dichtuuu, li. is ; 
Werke, xi, USJ 



310 GERMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE 

avowed, as against the optimists, "Even in God I find defects (Fehler)." 
On the other hand, there were instances in Germany of the 
phenomenon, already seen in England in Newton and Boyle, of men 
of science devoting themselves to the defence of the faith. The 
most notable cases were those of the mathematician Euler and the 
biologist von Haller. The latter wrote Letters (to his Daughter) On 
tJie most important Truths of Revelation (1772) 2 and other apologetic 
works. Euler in 17-17 published at Berlin, where he was professor, 
bis Defence of Revelation against the Reproaches of Freethinkers ; 3 
and in 17G9 his Letters to a German Princess, of which the argument 
notably coincides with part of that of Berkeley against the free- 
thinking mathematicians. Haller's position comes to the same 
thing. All three men, in fact, grasped at the argument of despair 
the inadequacy of the human faculties to sound the mystery of 
things ; and all alike were entirely unable to see that it logically 
cancelled their own judgments. Even a theologian, contemplating 
Haller's theorem of an incomprehensible omnipotence countered in 
its merciful plan of salvation by the set of worms it sought to save, 
comments on the childishness of the philosophy which confidently 
described the plans of deity in terms of what it declared to be the 
blank ignorance of the worms in question. 4 Euler and Haller, 
like some later men of science, kept their scientific method for the 
mechanical or physical problems of their scientific work, and brought 
to the deepest problems of all the self-will, the emotionalism, and the 
irresponsibility of the ignorant average man. Each did but express 
in his own way the resentment of the undisciplined mind at attacks 
upon its prejudices ; and Haller's resort to poetry as a vehicle for his 
religion gives the measure of his powers on that side. Thus in 
Germany as in England the " answer " to the freethinkers was a 
failure. Men of science playing at theology and theologians playing 
at science alike failed to turn the tide of opinion, now socially 
favoured by the known deism of the king. German orthodoxy, says 
a recent Christian apologist, fell " with a rapidity reminding one of 
the capture of Jericho."' Goethe, writing of the general attitude to 
Christianity about 1768, sums up that " the Christian religion 
wavered between its own historic-positive base and a pure deism, 
which, grounded on morality, was in turn to re-establish ethics." 

1 Id. B. iv, end. 

- Translated into English 1780; 2nd ed. 1793. The translator claims for Haller great 
learning (-2nd ed. p. xix). He seems in reality to have had very little, as lie represents 
that Jesus in his day " was the only teacher who recommended chastity to men " (p. 82). 

3 Rett una der Offenbarumj gegen die Eimviirfe der Freigeister. Haller wrote under a 
similar title, 1775-76. 4 lianr, Gencli, dry chrifstl. Kirclic, iv, 599. 

5 Gostwick, p. 15. c Wahrheit und Bichtung, 13. viii ; Werke, xi, 329. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 311 

Frederick's attitude, said an early Kantian, had had " an 
almost magical influence " on popular opinion (Willich, 
Elements of the Critical Philosophy, 1798, p. 2). With this 
his French teachers must have had much to do. Lord Morley 
pronounces (Voltaire, -4th ed. p. 123) that French deism " never 
made any impression on Germany," and that "the teaching of 
Leibnitz and Wolff stood like a fortified wall against the French 
invasion." This is contradicted by much German testimony ; 
in particular by Lange's (Gesch. ties Mater, i, 318), though he 
notes that French materialism could not get the upper hand. 
Laukhard, who expressed the highest admiration for Tindal, as 
having wholly delivered him from dogmatism, avowed that 
Voltaire, whom everybody read, had perhaps done more harm 
to priest religion than all the hooks of the English and German 
deists together (Leben, 1792-1802, Th. i, p. 268). 

Tholuck gravely affirms (Abriss, p. 33) that the acquaintance 
with the French " deistery and frivolity" in Germany belongs 
to a " somewhat later period than that of the English." 
Naturally it did. The bulk of the English deistic literature 
was printed before the printing of the French had begun ! 
French MSS. would reach German princes, but not German 
pastors. But Tholuck sadly avows that the French deism (of 
the serious and pre-Voltairean portions of which he seems to 
have known nothing) had a "' frightful " iniluence on the upper 
classes, though not on the clergy (p. 3l). Following him, 
Kahnis writes (internal History, p. 41) that " English and 
French Deism met with a very favourable reception in Germany 
the latter chiefly in the higher circles, the former rather 
among the educated middle classes." (lie should have added, 
' the younger theologians.") Baur, even in speaking disparag- 
ingly of the French as compared with the English influence, 
admits (Lehrbuch der Dogmcngcschiclite, 2te Auil. p. 317) that 
the former told upon Germany. Cp. Tennemann, Bohn. tr. 
pp. 385, 388. Hagenbach shows great ignorance of English 
deism, but lie must have known something of German ; and lie 
writes (tr. p. 57) that " the imported deism," both English and 
French, " soon swept through the rifts of the Church, and gained 
supreme control of literature." Cp. pp. 07 08. See Groom 
Robertson's Jlobbes, pp. 225 20, as to the persistence of a 
succession of Hobbes and Locke in Germany in the teeth of the 
Wolffian school, which soon lost ground after 17-10. Jt is 
further noteworthy that Bruckcr's copious Hislnrta C'rihea 
Philosophic^ (1712 11), which as a mere learned record has 
great merit, and was long the standard authority in Germany, 
gives great praise to Locke and little space In Wolll. (See 
Enfield's abstract, pp. Oil, 019 mj.) The Wolffian philosophy, 
too, had been rejected and disparaged by both Herder and 
Kant who were alike deeply inlluenced by Rousseau in the 



312 GERMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE 

third quarter of the century ; and was generally discredited, 
save in the schools, when Kant produced the Critique of Pure 
Reason, See below, pp. 337, 345. 

13. Frederick, though reputed a Yoltairean freethinker par 
excellence, may be claimed for Germany as partly a product of 
the rationalizing philosophy of Wolff. In his first letter to Voltaire, 
written in 1736, four years before his accession, he promises to 
send him a translation lie has had made of the " accusation and 
the justification " of Wolff, " the most celebrated philosopher of our 
days, who, for having carried light into the darkest places of 
metaphysics, and for having treated the most difficult matters in 
a manner no less elevated than precise and clear, is cruelly accused 
of irreligion and atheism"; and he speaks of getting translated 
Wolff's Treatise of God, the Soul, and the World. When he became 
a thoroughgoing freethinker is not clear, for Voltaire at this time 
had produced no explicit anti- Christian propaganda. At first the 
new king showed himself disposed to act on the old maxim that 
freethought is bad for the common people. In 1713-44 he caused 
to be suppressed two German treatises by one Gebhardi, a contributor 
to Gottsched's magazines, attacking the Biblical miracles ; and in 
1748 he sent a young man named Riidiger to Spandau for six 
months' confinement for printing an anti-Christian work by one 
Dr. Pott. 1 But as he grew more confident in his own methods 
he extended to men of his own way of thinking the toleration he 
allowed to all religionists, save insofar as he vetoed the mutual 
vituperation of the sects, and such proselytizing as tended to create 
strife. With an even hand he protected Catholics, Greek Christians, 
and Unitarians, letting them have churches where they would ; 2 and 
when, after the battle of Striegau, a body of Protestant peasantry 
asked his permission to slay all the Catholics they could find, he 
answered with the gospel precept, "Love your enemies." 2 

Beyond the toleration of all forms of religion, however, he never 
went ; though he himself added to the literature of deism. Apart 
from his verses we have from him the posthumous treatise Pensies 
sur la lieligion, probably written early in his life, where the rational 
case against the concepts of revelation and of miracles is put with 
a calm and sustained force. Like the rest, he is uncritical in his 
deism ; but, that granted, his reasoning is unanswerable. In talk 
he was wont to treat the clergy with small respect ; 4 and he wrote 

1 Schlosser, Hist, of Eighteenth Cent., Eng. tr. 1S43, i, 150; Hagenbach, tr. p. 66. 
- Hagenbach, tr. ]). 63. ' Id., Kirchengeschichte, i, 2'd2. 

4 Kabnis, p. 13; Tholuck, Abriss, p. 31. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 313 

more denunciatory things concerning them than almost any freethinker 
of the century. 1 Bayle, Voltaire, and Lucretius were his favourite 
studies ; and as the then crude German literature had no attraction 
for him, he drew to his court many distinguished Frenchmen, 
including La Mettrie, Maupertuis, D'Alemhert, D* Argons, and ahovo 
all Voltaire, between whom and him there was an incurable incom- 
patibility of temper and character, and a persistent attraction of 
force of mind, which left them admiring without respecting each 
other, and unable to abstain from mutual vituperation. Under 
Frederick's vigorous rule all speech was free save such as he 
considered personally offensive, as Voltaire's attack on Maupertuis ; 
and after a stormy reign he could say, when asked by Prince William 
of Brunswick whether he did not think religion one of the best 
supports of a king's authority, "I find order and the laws sufficient. 

Depend upon it, countries have been admirably governed when 

your religion had no existence." 2 Religion certainly had no part in 
his personality in the ordinary sense of the term. Voltaire was 
wont to impute to him atheism ; when La Mettrie died, the mocker, 
then at Frederick's court, remarked that the post of his majesty's 
atheist was vacant, but happily the Abbe de Trades was there to 
till it. In effect, Frederick professed Voltaire's own deism ; but of 
all the deists of the time he had least of the religious temperament 
and most of sheer cynicism. 

The attempt of Carlyle to exhibit Frederick as a practical 
believer is a flagrant instance of that writer's subjective method. 
He tells (Hist, of Fried rich, bk. xviii, ch. x) that at the beginning 
of the battle of Leuthen a column of troops near the king sang 
a hymn of duty (which Carlyle calls " the sound of Psalms") ; 
that an officer asked whether the singing should be stopped, 
and that the king said " By no means." His " hard heart 
seems to have been touched by it. Indeed, there is in him, in 
those grim days, a tone (!) as of trust in the Eternal, as of real 
religious piety and faith, scarcely noticeable elsewhere in his 
history. His religion and he had in withered forms a good 
de<il of it, if ice if ill look well - being almost always in a strictly 
voiceless state, nay, ultra voiceless, or voiced the wrong way, as 
is too well known." Then comes the assertion that a moment 
after" the king said "to someone, Zielhen probahlj/, ' With men 

1 See the extracts of I',iic:lil]cr, Zari urkriintr /' n idrnki- r, IS'.H), PP. I.". 17. 

- Thiebault, Mr* : Soni-riiim <!< Vinut Ann </. Si-jnur <i U.-rlin, :!< edit. IM).">. i. l-2il -2*. Sir 
i. 353 ~Ai, ii, 7.S S2, as to the baselessness of the stories (c.;/., 1'usey. Ilistnr. Intl. intti (irr. 
Hatiitmtlixm, p. 1-2:1 thai Frederick changed his views in ol<l ai.'e. Thiebault, a strict 
Catholic, is emphatic in his negation: "The persons who assert thai his principles! 

became more religions have either lied or been them el\es mistaken." CarlyU) 

naturally detests Thiebault. The rumour may have ari en out of the lact that in Ins 
Es.umen rrituiiw d it Syxtvmr dv hi Xahtri- Frederick counter aniues ,1' 1 1 oil inch's impeach- 
ment of Christianity. The attack on l;inns cave him a fellow lei-lini: with the (lunch. 



314 GEKMAN FEEETHOUGHT IN THE 

like these, don't you think I shall have victory this day ! ' " 
Here, with the very spirit of unveracity at work before his eyes, 
Carlyle plumps for the fable. Yet the story, even if true, would 
give no proof whatever of religious belief. 

In point of fact, Frederick was a much less " religious " deist 
than Voltaire. He erected no temple to his unloved God. And 
a perusal of his dialogue of Pompadour and the Virgin (Dialogues 
des morts) may serve to dispose of the thesis that the German 
mind dealt reverently and decently with matters which the 
French mind handled frivolously. That performance outgoes 
in ribaldry anything of the ago in French. 

As the first modern freethinking king, Frederick is something of 
a test case. Son of a man of narrow mind and odious character, he 
was himself no admirable type, being neither benevolent nor con- 
siderate, neither truthful nor generous ; and in international politics, 
after writing in his youth a treatise in censure of Maehiavelli, he 
played the old game of unscrupulous aggression. Yet he was not 
only the most competent, but, as regards home administration, the 
most conscientious king of his time. To find him a rival we must 
go back to the pagan Antonines and Julian, or at least to St. Louis 
of France, who, however, was rather worsened than bettered by 
his creed. 1 Henri IV of France, who rivalled him in sagacity and 
greatly excelled him in human kindness, was far his inferior in devo- 
tion to duty. 

The effect of Frederick's training is seen in his final attitude to 
the advanced criticism of the school of d'Holbach, which assailed 
governments and creeds with the same unsparing severity of logic 
and moral reprobation. Stung by the uncompromising attack, 
Frederick retorts by censuring the rashness which would plunge 
nations into civil strife because kings miscarry where no human 
wdsdom could avoid miscarriage. He who had wantonly plunged 
all Germany into a hell of war for his sole ambition, bringing 
myriads to misery, thousands to violent death, and hundreds of 
his own soldiers to suicide, could be virtuously indignant at the 
irresponsible audacity of writers who indicted the whole existing 
system for its imbecility and injustice. But he did reason on the 
criticism ; he did ponder it ; he did feel bound to meet argument 
with argument ; and he left his arguments to the world. The 
advance on previous regal practice is noteworthy : the whole 
problem of politics is at once brought to the test of judgment 
and persuasion. Beside the Christian Georges and the Louis's of 
his century, and beside his Christian father, his superiority in 

1 Ci>. the argument of Faure, Hist, de Saint Louis, 1SG6, i, 21-2-13; ii, 597. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 315 

judgment and even in some essential points of character is signal. 
Such was the great deist king of the deist age ; a deist of the least 
religious temper and of no very fine moral material to begin with. 

The one contemporary monarch who in any way compares with 
him in enlightenment, Joseph II of Austria, belonged to the same 
school. The main charge against Frederick as a ruler is that he 
did not act up to the ideals of the school of Voltaire. In reply to 
the demand of the French deists for an abolition of all superstitious 
teaching, he observed that among the 10,000,000 inhabitants of 
France at most 200,000 were capable of philosophic views, and that 
the remaining 15,800,000 were held to their opinions by " insur- 
mountable obstacles." 1 This, however, had been said by the deists 
themselves (e.g., d'Holbach, pref. to Christianisme devoile) ; and 
such an answer meant that he had no idea of so spreading instruc- 
tion that all men should have a chance of reaching rational beliefs. 
This attitude was his inheritance from the past. Yet it was under him 
that Prussia began to figure as a first-rate culture force in Europe. 

11. The social vogue of deistic thought could now be traced in 
much of the German belles-lettres of the time. The young Jakou 
VOX MAUVILLON (1743-1794), secretary of the King of Poland and 
author of several histories, in his youth translated from the Latin 
into French Holberg's Voyage of Nicolas Klimius (170G), which 
made the tour of Europe, and had a special vogue in Germany. 
Later in life, besides translating and writing abundantly and intel- 
ligently on matters of economic and military science in the hitter of 
which he bad something like expert status Mauvillon became a pro- 
nounced heretic, though careful to keep his propaganda anonymous. 

The most systematic dissemination of the new ideas was that 
carried on in the periodical published by ClIKISTOPII Fuil'.imiciL 
NlCOLAI (1733 1811) under the title of The General German Library 
(founded 1705), which began with fifty contributors, and at the 
height of its power had a hundred and thirty, among them being 
Lessing, Eborhanl, and Moses Mendelssohn. In the period from 
its start to the year 17'J2 it ran to 100 volumes ; and it has always 
been more or less bitterly spoken of by later orthodoxy as tin' great 
library of that movement. Nicolai, himself an industrious and 
scholarly writer, produced among many other things a satirical 
romance famous in its day, the Life and Opinions of Mo 
Scbaldus Xulltanki.-r, ridiculing the bigots and persccidors the type 
of Klotx, the antagonist of Lessing, and some of N'icwlai's less 

l Ksmiu-n ih- VI-: ui orb iir.'-ju[)<\, 17;;i. So- tin- p;i ;:. iii 1. I /. \Urin<nn 

di'imix Lritmiz, |>. -..). 



316 GERMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE 

unamiable antagonists, 1 as well as various aspects of the general 
social and literary life of the time. To Nicolai is fully due the 
genial tribute paid to him by Heine, 2 were it only for the national 
service of his " Library." Its many translations from the English 
and French freethinkers, older and newer, concurred with native 
work to spread a deistic rationalism, labelled Aufklcirung, or en- 
lightenment, through the whole middle class of Germany. 3 Native 
writers in independent works added to the propaganda. ANDREAS 
RlEM (1749-1807), a Berlin preacher, appointed by Frederick a 
hospital chaplain, 4 wrote anonymously against priestcraft as no 
other priest had yet done. " No class of men," he declared, in 
language perhaps echoed from his king, " has ever been so pernicious 
to the world as the priesthood. There were laws at all times against 
murderers and bandits, but not against the assassin in the priestly 
garb. War was repelled by war, and it came to an end. The war 
of the priesthood against reason has lasted for thousands of years, 
and it still goes on without ceasing." 5 GEOEG SCHADE (1712- 
1795), who appears to have been one of the believers in the immor- 
tality of animals, and who in 1770 was imprisoned for his opinions 
in the Danish island of Christiansoe, was no less emphatic, declaring, 
in a work on Natural Religion on the lines of Tindal (1760), that 
"all who assert a supernatural religion are godless impostors." 6 
Constructive work of great importance, again, was done by J. B. 
BASEDOW (1723-1790), who early became an active deist, but 
distinguished himself chiefly as an educational reformer, on the 
inspiration of Rousseau's Emile, 1 setting up a system which " tore 
education away from the Christian basis," M and becoming in virtue 
of that one of the most popular writers of his day. It is latterly 
admitted even by orthodoxy that school education in Germany had 
in the seventeenth century become a matter of learning by rote, and 
that such reforms as had been set up in some of the schools of the 
Pietists had in Basedow's day come to nothing. As Basedow was 
the first to set up vigorous reforms, it is not too much to call him 
an instaurator of rational education, whose chief fault was to be too 
far ahead of his age. This, with the personal flaw of an unami- 
able habit of wrangling in all companies, caused the failure of his 
" Philanthropic Institute," established in 1771, on the invitation of 

1 G. Weber, Gesch. der deutschen Literatur, lite Aufl. p. 99. 

2 Zur Gesch.der Relig.und Philos. in Deiitschland Werke, ed. 1876, iii, 63-64. Goethe's 
blame (W. und 1)., B. vii) is passed on purely literary grounds. 

s Hagenbach, tr. pp. 103-104; Cairns, p. 177. 

4 This post be left to become secretary of the Academy of Painting. 

5 Cited by Pttnjer, i, 545-46. e Id. p. 546. 

7 Hagenbach, tr. pp. 100-103; Saiutes, pp. 91-9-2; Punjer, p. 536; Noaek, Th. iii, Kap. 7. 
B Hagenbach, Kirchengeschichte, i, 298, 351. 9 Id. i, 294 sq. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 317 

the Prince of Dessau, to carry out his educational ideals. Quite a 
number of other institutions, similarly planned, after his lead, by 
men of the same way of thinking, as Canope and Salzmann, in 
the same period, had no better success. 

Goethe, who was clearly much impressed by Basedow, and 
travelled with him, draws a somewhat antagonistic picture of 
him on retrospect (Wahrhcit und Dichtung, 13. xiv). Ho 
accuses him in particular of always obtruding his anti-orthodox 
opinions ; not choosing to admit that religious opinions were 
being constantly obtruded on Basedow. Praising Lavater for 
his more amiable nature, Goethe reveals that Lavater was 
constantly propounding his orthodoxy. Goethe, in fine, was 
always lenient to pietism, in which he had been brought up, 
and to which he was wont to make sentimental concessions. 
He could never forget his courtly duties towards the established 
convention, and so far played the game of bigotry. Hagenbach 
notes (i, 298, note), without any deprecation, that after Basedow 
had published in 1763-1761 his Philalethie, a perfectly serious 
treatise on natural as against revealed religion, one of the many 
orthodox answers, that by Pastor Goeze, so inflamed against 
him the people of his native town of Hamburg that he could 
not show himself there without danger. And this is the man 
accused of "obtruding his views." Baur is driven, by way of 
disparagement of Basedow and his school, to censure their self- 
confidence precisely the quality which, in religious toachers 
with whom lie agreed, lie as a theologian would treat as a mark 
of superiority. Baur's attack on the moral utilitarianism of the 
school is still less worthy of him. {Gesch. der christl. Kirche, 
iv, 595-96). It reads like an echo of Kahnis (as cited, p. 16 sq.). 

Yet another influential deist was JoiiAXX Aug ['ST EBEEHAED 
(1739-1809), for a time a preacher at Charlottenburg, but driven out 
of the Church for the heresy of his New Apology of Sokrates ; or the 
Final Salvation of the Heathen (1772). ' The work in effect placed 
Sokrates on a level with Jesus," winch was blasphemy. 8 But the 
outcry attracted the attention of Frederick, who made Eberbard a 
Professor of Philosophy at Halle, where later he opposed tho 
idealism of both Kant and Fichte. Substantially of the same school 
was the less pronouncedly deistic cleric SXEINBART, 4 author of a 
utilitarian System of Pure Philosophy, or Christian doctrine of 
Happiness, now forgotten, who had hecn variously influenced by 
Locke and Voltaire. 5 Among the less heterodox but still rationalizing 

1 Tho book is remembered in France by reason of Lberhard's amusinn mistake of 
treating as a serious production of the. Sorbonno the skit in which Turcot derided the 
Norbonne's findim; njjain t Mai-montel's HHivnrc - Hailciiliach. tr. p. UK). 

; Kberhard, however, is respeetf ully treated by LesMiiu in his di c;i ion on Leibnitz's 

view as to eternal punishment. ' Noauk, Th. in, Kap. 8. " Saintes, pp. 'j-l'.Ki. 



318 GERMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE 

clergy of the period were J. J. Spalding, author of a work on The 
Utility of the Preacher's Office, a man of the type labelled " Moderate " 
in the Scotland of the same period, and as such antipathetic to 
emotional pietists; 1 and Zollikofer, of the same school both 
inferribly influenced by the deism of their day. Considerably more 
of a rationalist than these was the clergyman W. A. Teller (1734- 
1801), author of a New Testament Eexicon, who reached a position 
virtually deistic, and intimated to the Jews of Berlin that he would 
receive them into his church on their making a deistic profession 
of faith. 2 

15. If it be true that even the rationalizing defenders of Chris- 
tianity led men on the whole towards deism, 3 much more must this 
hold true of the new school who applied rationalistic methods to 
religious questions in their capacity as theologians. Of this school 
the founder was JOHANN SALOMO SEMLER (1725-1791), who, trained 
as a Pietist at Halle, early thought himself into a more critical 
attitude, 4 albeit remaining a theological teacher. Son of a much- 
travelled army chaplain, who in his many campaigns had learned 
much of the world, and in particular seen something of religious 
frauds in the Catholic countries, Semler started with a critical bias 
which was cultivated by wide miscellaneous reading from his boy- 
hood onwards. As early as 1750, in his doctoral dissertation 
defending certain texts against the criticism of Whiston, he set forth 
the view, developed a century later by Baur, that the early Christian 
Church contained a Pauline and a Petrine party, mutually hostile. 
The merit of his research won him a professorship at Halle ; and 
this position he held till his death, despite such heresy as his 
rejection from the canon of the books of Ruth, Esther, Ezra, 
Nehemiah, the Song of Solomon, the two books of Chronicles, and 
the Apocalypse, in his Freie U liter sachung des Canons (1771-1771) 
a work apparently inspired by the earlier performance of Richard 
Simon. His intellectual life was for long a continuous advance, 
always in the direction of a more rationalistic comprehension of 
religious history ; and he reached, for his day, a remarkably critical 

1 Cp. Hagenbach, Kircliengescliichte, i, 313, 363. 

2 Id. i, 3;J7 ; tr. pp. 12 1-2.5 ; Saintes, p. 91 ; Kahnis, p. 45. Pusey (150-51, note) speaks of 
Teller and Spalding as belonging, with Xicolai. Mendelssohn, and others, to a "secret 
institute, whose object was to remodel religion and alter the form of government." This 
seems to be a fantasy. 3 So Steffens. cited by Hagenbach, tr. p. 121. 

1 V. Gastrow, Job. Salomo Semler, 1905, p. 4>. See t'usey, 140-11. note, for Semler's 
account of the rigid and unreasoning orthodoxy against which ho reacted. (Citing 
Soulier's Lebenschreibiuig, ii, 121-61.) Semler, however, records that Baumgarten, one of 
the theological professors at Halle, would in expansive moods defend theism and make 
light of theology {Lebenschreibiuig, i, 10-S). Cp. Tholuek, Abriss,as cited, pp. 12. 18. Pusey 
notes that "many of the principal innovators had been pupils of Baumgarten " (p. 132, 
citing Niemeyer). 

5 Cp. Dr. G. Karo, Johann Salomo Semler, 1905, p. 25 ; Saintcs, pp. 129-31. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 319 

view of the mythical element in the Old Testament. 1 Not only did 
he recognize that Genesis must have pre-Mosaic origins, and that 
such books as the Proverbs and the Psalms were of later date and 
other origin than those traditionally assigned: 2 his historical sense 
worked on the whole narrative. Thus he recognized the mythical 
character of the story of Samson, and was at least on the way 
towards a scientific handling of the New Testament. 3 But in his 
period and environment a systematic rationalism was impossible ; 
he was always a "revelation-believing Christian"; his critical 
intelligence was always divided against itself; 4 and his powers were 
expended in an immense number of works,' 5 which failed to yield any 
orderly system, while setting up a general stimulus, in despite of 
their admitted unreadableness. 

In his latter days he strongly opposed and condemned the moro 
radical rationalism of his pupil Bahrdt, and of the posthumous work 
of Reimarus, here exemplifying the common danger of the intellectual 
life, for critical as well as uncritical minds. After provoking many 
orthodox men by his own challenges, he is roused to fury alike by 
the genial rationalism of Bahrdt and by the cold analysis of 
Reimarus ; and his attack on the Wolfenbiittel Fragments published 
by Lessing is loaded with a vocabulary of abuse such as he had 
never before employed' a sure sign that he had no scientific hold 
of his own historical conception. Like the similarly infuriated semi- 
rational defenders of the historicity of Jesus in our own day, ho 
merely "followed the tactic of exposing the lack of scientific know- 
ledge and theological learning " of the innovating writer. Always 
temperamentally religious, he died in the evangelical faith. But his 
own influence in promoting rationalism is now obvious and unques- 
tioned," and he is rightly to be reckoned a main founder of " German 
rationalism " that is, academic rationalism on theologico-historical 
lines' 1 although he always professed to be merely rectifying orthodox 
conceptions. In the opinion of Pusey "the revival of historical 
interpretation by Semler became the most extensivo instrument of 
the degradation of Christianity." 

Among the oilier theologians of the time who exercised a similar 
influence to the Wolffian, T6LLNER attracts notice by the comparative 
courage with which, in the words of an orthodox critic, ho ' raised, as 



1 Op. Gost'.vick p. 51 ; Piinjor, i, 561. - Karo. p. 11. 

3 Op. Saintes. p. 13.! q. * Op. Karo, pp. 3, R, IB. 23. 

5 Ovnr a huii'lre.! and seventy in all. I'ilnjer, i, 5tj(); (in ;tro\v. p. B37. 

f ' Karo. pp. :, ;. ' tin Lrnw. p. ' !3 

~ I'm cv. p. 11-2; A. S. Fiirrar. C.rit. Hist. f Frrrt Imuqlil . p. 313. 

Op. Karo, p. 5 sq. ; Stiiudlin, cited by llioluck, Abnxs, p 3.'. 



320 GEEMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE 

much as possible, natural religion to revelation," and, "on the other 
hand, lowered Scripture to the level of natural light." ' First he 
published (1764) True Reasons why God has not furnished Revelation 
with evident proofs," 2 arguing for the modern attenuation of the idea 
of revelation ; then a work on Divine Inspiration (1771) in which he 
explicitly avowed that " God has in no way, either inwardly or out- 
wardly, dictated the sacred books. The writers were the real 
authors" 3 a declaration not to be counterbalanced by further 
generalities about actual divine influence. Later still he published 
a Proof that God leads men to salvation even by his revelation in 
Nature 4 (1766) a form of Christianity little removed from deism. 
Other theologians, such as Ernesti, went far with the tide of 
illuminism ; and when the orthodox Chr. A. Crusius died at Leipzig 
in 1781, Jean Paul Eichter, then a student, wrote that people had 
become " too much imbued with the spirit of illuminism " to be of his 
school. " Most, almost all the students," adds Eichter, incline to 
heterodoxy ; and of the professor Moras he tells that " wherever he 
can explain away a miracle, the devil, etc., he does so." Of this 
order of accommodators, a prominent example was Midi AE LIS 
(1717-1791), whose reduction of the Mosaic legislation to motives of 
every-day utility is still entertaining. 

16. Much more notorious than any other German deist of his 
time was Carl Friedrich Bahrdt (1711-1792), a kind of raw 
Teutonic Voltaire, and the most popularly influential German free- 
thinker of his age. In all he is said to have published a hundred 
and twenty-six books and tracts, 5 thus approximating to Voltaire in 
quantity if not in quality. Theological hatred lias so pursued him 
that it is hard to form a fair opinion as to his character ; but the 
record runs that he led a somewhat Bohemian and disorderly life, 
though a very industrious one. While a preacher in Leipzig in 1768 
he first got into trouble " persecution " by his own account ; 
" disgrace for licentious conduct," by that of Ids enemies. In any 
case, he was at this period quite orthodox in his beliefs. 6 That there 
was no serious disgrace is suggested by the fact that he was appointed 
Professor of Biblical Antiquities at Erfurt; and soon afterwards, on 
the recommendation of Sender and Ernesti, at Giessen (1771). 
While holding that post he published his " modernized" translation 
of the New Testament, done from the point of view of belief in 

1 Kahnis, p. 116. 

2 Wahre Grttnde warum Gott die Offenharung nicht mit augenscheinlichen Beiveiscn 
versehen hat. '' Die Giittliche Eingebung, 1771. 

i lieioeis das Gott die Mensehen bereits (lurch wine Offenharuna in de.r Natur zur 
SeligJceitfuhre. 5 Gostwick, p. 53 ; Pilnjer, i, 516, note. 

6 Cp. Kahnis, pp. 132-36, as to Bahrdt's early morals. 



SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 321 

revelation, following it up by his New Revelations of Cod in Letters 
and Tales (1773), which aroused Protestant hostility. After teaching 
for a time in a new Swiss " Philanthropin " an educational institu- 
tion on Basedow's lines he obtained a post as a district ecclesias- 
tical superintendent in the principality of Turkheim on the Ilardt ; 
whereafter he was enabled to set up a "Philanthropin "