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bles governed. Genoa is assuredly not fertile, and yet is an aristocracy. Geneva is a more popular state, and has not the means of existing a fortnight upon its own productions. Sweden, which is equally poor, has for a long time submitted to the yoke of a monarchy; while fertile Poland is aristocratical. I cannot conceive how general rules can be established, which may be falsified upon the slightest appeal to experience.
"In Europe empires have never been able to exist." Yet the Roman empire existed for five hundred years, and that of the Turks has maintained itself since the year 1453.
"The duration of the great empires of Asia is principally owing to the prevalence of vast plains."
M. Montesquieu forgets the mountains which cross Natolia and Syria, Caucasus, Taurus, Ararat, Immaus, and others, the ramifications of which extend throughout Asia.
After thus convincing ourselves that errors abound in the Spirit of Laws; after everybody is satisfied that this work wants method, and possesses neither plan nor order, it is proper to enquire into that which really forms its merit, and which has led to its great reputation.
In the first place, it is written with great wit, whilst the authors of all the other books on this subject are tedious. It was on this account that a lady, who possessed as much wit as Montesquieu, observed, that his book was "l'esprit sur les lois." It can never be more correctly defined.*
A still stronger reason is, that the book exhibits grand views, attacks tyranny, superstition, and grinding taxation-three things which mankind detest. The author consoles slaves in lamenting their fetters, and the slaves in return applaud him.
One of the most bitter and absurd of his enemies,
This bon mot cannot be translated, which arises from the French word 'esprit' signifying both wit and spirit, or essence. "It is wit (esprit) upon laws," said madame de Deffand, " instead of the Spirit of Laws."-T.
who contributed most by his rage to exalt the name of Montesquieu throughout Europe, was the Journalist of the Convulsionaries. He called him a Spinozist and deist; that is to say, he accused him at the same time of not believing in God, and of believing in God alone.
He reproaches him with his esteem for Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and the stoics; and for not loving jansenists-the abbé de St. Cyran and father Quesnel.
He asserts, that he has committed an unpardonable crime in calling Bayle a great man.
He pretends, that the Spirit of Laws is one of those monstrous works with which France has been inundated since the Bull Unigenitus, which has corrupted the consciences of all people.
This tatterdemalion from his garret, deriving at least three hundred per cent. from his ecclesiastical gazette, declaimed like a fool against interest upon money at the legal rate. He was seconded by some pedants of his own sort; and the whole concluded in their resembling the slaves placed at the foot of the statue of Louis XIV.; they are crushed, and gnaw their own flesh in revenge.
Montesquieu was almost always in error with the learned, because he was not learned; but he was always right against the fanatics and promoters of slavery. Europe owes him eternal gratitude.
OUR questions on Lent will merely regard the police. It appeared useful to have a time in the year in which we should eat fewer oxen, calves, lambs, and poultry. Young fowls nor pigeons are not ready in February and March, the time in which Lent falls; and it is good to cease the carnage for some weeks in countries in which pastures are not so fertile as those of England and Holland.
The magistrates of police have very wisely ordered, that meat should be a little dearer at Paris during this
time, and that the profit should be given to the hospitals. It is an almost insensible tribute paid by luxury and gluttony to indigence; for it is the rich who are not able to keep Lent-the poor fast all the year.
There are very few farming men who eat meat once a month. If they ate of it every day, there would not be enough for the most flourishing kingdom. Twenty millions of pounds of meat a day would make seven thousand three hundred millions of pounds a year. This calculation is alarming.
The small number of the rich, financiers, prelates, principal magistrates, great lords, and great ladies, who condescend to have maigre* served at their tables, fast during six weeks on soles, salmon, turbots, sturgeons, &c.
One of our most famous financiers had couriers, who for a hundred crowns brought him fresh sea-fish every day to Paris. This expense supported the couriers, the dealers who sold the horses, the fishermen who furnished the fish, the makers of nets, constructors of boats, and the druggists from whom were procured the refined spices which give to fish a taste superior to that, of meat.
Lucullus could not have kept Lent more voluptuously.
It should further be remarked, that fresh sea-fish, in coming to Paris, pays a considerable tax.
The secretaries of the rich, their valets-de-chambre, ladies' maids, and stewards, partake of the dessert of Croesus, and fast as deliciously as he.
It is not the same with the poor: not only if for four sous they partake of a small portion of tough mutton do they commit a great sin, but they seek in vain for this miserable aliment. What do they therefore feed upon?-Chesnuts, rye bread, the cheeses which they have pressed from the milk of their cows, goats or sheep, and some few of the eggs of their poultry.
There are churches which forbid them the eggs and the milk. What then remains for them to eat? No
*Why give the name of maigre' to fish fatter than pullets, which cause terrible indigestions?
thing. They consent to fast; but they consent not to die. It is absolutely necessary that they should live, if it be only to cultivate the lands of the fat rectors and lazy monks.
We therefore ask, if it belongs not to the magistrates of the police of the kingdom, charged with watching over the health of the inhabitants, to give them permission to eat the cheeses which their own hands have formed, and the eggs which their fowls have laid?
It appears that milk, eggs, cheese, and all which can nourish the farmer, are regulated by the police, and not by a religious rule.
We hear not that Jesus Christ forbad omelets to his apostles: he said to them," Eat such things as are set before you."
The holy church has ordained Lent, but in quality of the church it commands it only to the heart; it can inflict spiritual pains alone; it cannot as formerly burn a poor man, who, having only some rusty bacon, put a slice of it upon a piece of black bread the day after Shrove Tuesday.
Sometimes in the provinces the pastors go beyond their duty, and forgetting the rights of the magistracy, undertake to go among the innkeepers and cooks, to see if they have not some ounces of meat in their saucepans, some old fowls on their hooks, or some eggs in a cupboard; for eggs are forbidden in Lent. They intimidate the poor people, and proceed to violence towards the unfortunates, who know not that it belongs alone to the magistracy to interfere. It is an odious and punishable inquisition.
The magistrates alone can be rightly informed of the more or less abundant provisions required by the poor people of the provinces. The clergy have occupations more sublime. Should it not therefore belong to the magistrates to regulate what the people eat in Lent? Who should inspect into the legal consumption of a country if not the police of that country?
* St. Luke, x. 8.
Did the first who were advised to fast put themselves under this regimen by order of the physician for indigestion?
The want of appetite which we feel in grief-was it the first origin of fast-days prescribed in melancholy religions?
Did the Jews take the custom of fasting from the Egyptians, all of whose rites they imitated, including flagellation and the scape-goat?
Why fasted Jesus for forty days in the desert, where he was tempted by the devil,-by the Chathbull?" St. Matthew remarks, that after this Lent he was hungry; he was therefore not hungry during the fast.
Why, in days of abstinence, does the Roman church consider it a crime to eat terrestrial animals, and a good work to be served with soles and salmon? The rich papist who shall have five hundred francs worth of fish upon his table shall be saved, and the poor wretch dying with hunger, who shall have eaten four sous worth of salt pork, shall be damned.
Why must we ask permission of the bishop to eat. eggs? If a king ordered his people never to eat eggs, would he not be thought the most ridiculous of tyrants? How strange the aversion of bishops to omelets!
Can we believe, that among papists there have been tribunals imbecile, dull, and barbarous enough, to condemn to death poor citizens, who had no other crimes than that of having eaten of horseflesh in Lent? The fact is but too true: I have in my hands a sentence of this kind. What renders it still more strange is, that the judges who passed such sentences believed themselves superior to the Iroquois.
Foolish and cruel priests, to whom do you order Lent? Is it to the rich? they take good care to observe it. Is it to the poor? they keep Lent all the year. The unhappy peasant scarcely ever eats meat, and has not wherewithal to buy fish.