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Fools that you are, when will you correct your absurd laws?*
THIS article relates to two powerful divinities, one ancient and the other modern, which have reigned in our hemisphere. The reverend father Dom Calmet, a great antiquarian, that is, a great compiler of what was said in former times and what is repeated at the present day, has confounded lues with leprosy. He maintains that it was the lues with which the worthy Job was afflicted, and he supposes, after a confident and arrogant commentator of the name of Pineida, that the lues and leprosy are precisely the same disorder. Calmet is not a physician, neither is he a reasoner, but he is a citer of authorities; and in his vocation of commentator, citations are always substituted for rea-^ sons. When Astruc, in his history of lues, quotes authorites that the disorder came in fact from St. Domingo, and that the Spaniards brought it from America, his citations are somewhat more conclusive.
There are two circumstances which, in my opinion, prove that lues originated in America; the first is, the multitude of authors, both medical and surgical, of the sixteenth century, who attest the fact; and the second is, the silence of all the physicians and all the poets of antiquity, who never were acquainted with this disease, and never had even a name for it. I here speak of the silence of physicians and of poets as equally. demonstratiye. The former, beginning with Hippocrates, would not have failed to describe this malady, to state its symptoms, to apply to it a name, and explore some remedy. The poets, equally malicious and sarcastic as physicians are studious and investigative, would have detailed, in their satires, with minute particularity, all the symptoms and consequences of this
*This is a pleasant exhibition of the ci-devant state of France, and of the fasting system under the old regime; yet there are French politicians who would restore all this inconsistent farcicality to the letter.-T.
dreadful disorder: you do not find however a single verse in Horace or Catullus, in Martial or Juvenal, which has the slightest reference to lues, although they expatiate on all the effects of debauchery with the utmost freedom and delight.
It is very certain that the small-pox was not known to the Romans before the sixth century; that the American lues was not introduced into Europe until the fifteenth century; and that leprosy is [as different from those two maladies, as palsy from St. Guy's or St. Vitus's dance.
The leprosy was a scabious disease of a dreadful character. The Jews were more subject to it than any other people living in hot climates, because they had neither linen, nor domestic baths. These people were so negligent of cleanliness and the decencies of life, that their legislators were obliged to make a law to compel them even to wash their hands.
All that we gained in the end by engaging in the crusades, was the leprosy; and of all that we had taken, that was the only thing that remained with us. It was necessary everywhere to build Lazarettos, in which to confine the unfortunate victims of a disease at once pestilential and incurable.
Leprosy, as well as fanaticism and usury, had been a distinguishing characteristic of the Jews. These wretched people having no physicians, the priests took upon themselves the management and regulation of leprosy, and made it a concern of religion. This has occasioned some indiscreet and profane critics to remark, that the Jews were no better than a nation of savages under the direction of their jugglers. Their priests in fact never cured the leprosy, but they cut off from society those who were infected by it, and thus acquired a power of the greatest importance. Every man labouring under this disease was imprisoned, like a thief or a robber; and thus a woman who was desirous of getting rid of her husband, had only to secure the sanction of the priest, and the unfortunate husband was shut up-it was the 'lettre de câchet' of the day. The Jews, and those by whom they were governed, were
so ignorant, that they imagined the moth-holes in garments, and the mildew upon walls, to be the effects of leprosy. They actually conceived their houses and clothes to have the leprosy; thus the people themselves, and their very rags and hovels, were all brought under the rod of the priesthood.
One proof, that at the time of the first introduction of lues, there was no connection between that disorder and leprosy, is, that the few lepers that remained at the conclusion of the fifteenth century, were offended at any kind of comparison between themselves and those who were affected by lues.
Some of the persons thus affected, were in the first instance sent to the hospital for lepers, but were re-’ ceived by them with indignation. The lepers presented a petition to be separated from them; as persons imprisoned for debt, or affairs of honour, claim a right not to be confounded with the common herd of criminals.
We have already observed, that the parliament of Paris, on the sixth of March in 1496, issued an order, by which all persons labouring under lues, unless they were citizens of Paris, were enjoined to depart within twenty-four hours under pain of being hanged. This order was neither christian, legal, nor judicious; but it proves that lues was regarded as a new plague which had nothing in common with leprosy; as lepers were not hanged for residing in Paris, while those afflicted by lues were so.
Men may bring the leprosy on themselves by their uncleanliness and filth, just as is done by a species of animals to which the very lowest of the vulgar may too naturally be compared; but with respect to lues, it was a present made to America by nature. We have already reproached this same nature, at once so kind and so malicious, só sagacious and yet so blind, with defeating her own object by thus poisoning the source of life; and we still sincerely regret that we have found no solution of this dreadful difficulty.
We have seen elsewhere, that man in general, one with another, or (as it is expressed) on the average,
does not live above two-and-twenty years; and during these two-and-twenty years, he is liable to two-andtwenty thousand evils, many of which are incurable.
Yet even in this dreadful state, mankind still strut and figure on the stage of life; they make love at the hazard of destruction; and intrigue, carry on war, and form projects, just as if they were to live in luxury and delight for a thousand ages.
LETTERS (MEN OF).
IN the barbarous times, when the Franks, Germans, Bretons, Lombards, and Spanish Mosarabians knew neither how to read nor write, we instituted schools and universities almost entirely composed of ecclesiastics, who, knowing only their own jargon, taught this jargon to those who would learn it. Academies were not founded until long after: the latter have despised the follies of the schools, but they have not always dared to oppose them, because there are follies which we respect when they are attached to respectable things.
Men of letters who have rendered the most service to the small number of thinking beings scattered over the earth, are isolated scholars, true sages shut up in their closets, who have neither publicly disputed in the universities, nor said things by halves in the academies; and such have almost all been persecuted. Our miserable race is so created, that those who walk in the beaten path always throw stones at those who would show them a new one.
Montesquieu says, that the Scythians put out the eyes of their slaves, that they might be more attentive to the making of their butter. It is thus that the Inquisition acts, and almost every one is blinded in the countries in which this monster reigns. In England people have had two eyes for more than a hundred years. The French are beginning to open one eye— but sometimes men in place will not even permit us to be one-eyed.
These miserable statesmen are like doctor Balouard
of the Italian comedy, who will only be served by the fool Arlequin, and who fears to have too penetrating a
Compose odes in praise of lord Superbus Fatus, madrigals for his mistress; dedicate a book of geography to his porter,-and you will be well received. Enlighten men, and you will be crushed.
Descartes is obliged to quit his country; Gassendi is calumniated; Arnaud passes his days in exile; all the philosophers are treated as the prophets were among the Jews.
Who would believe, that in the eighteenth century, a philosopher has been dragged before the secular tribunals, and treated as impious by reasoning theologians, for having said, that men could not practise the arts, if they had no hands? I expect that they will soon condemn to the galleys the first who shall have the insolence to say, that a man could not think if he had no head; for a learned bachelor will say to him, the soul is a pure spirit, the head is only matter: God can place the soul in the heel as well as in the brain; therefore I denounce you as a blasphemer.
The great misfortune of a man of letters is not perhaps being the object of the jealousy of his brother scholars, the victim of cabals, and the contempt of the powerful of the world,-it is being judged by fools. Fools sometimes go very far, particularly when fanaticism is joined to folly, and folly to the spirit of vengeance. Further, the great misfortune of a man of letters is generally to hold to nothing. A citizen buys a little situation, and is maintained by his fellowcitizens. If any injustice is done him, he soon finds defenders. The literary man is without aid: he resembles the flying fish: if he rises a little, the birds devour him; if he dives, the fishes eat him up.*
Every public man pays tribute to malignity; but he is repaid in deniers and honours.
* An excellent simile.-T.