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We now perceive clearly and without difficulty, that we ought not to hold up as a model of sanctity what, in fact, deserves the severest punishment; and we see with equal clearness that, as we ought not to consecrate guilt, so we ought not to believe absurdity.
THE author of the Spirit of Laws has founded his system on the idea that virtue is the principle of republican government, and honour that of monarchical. Is there virtue then without honour, and how is a republic established on virtue?
Let us place before the reader's eyes that which has been said in an able little book upon this subject. Pamphlets soon sink into oblivion. Truth ought not to be lost, it should be consigned to works of duration.
"Assuredly republics have never been formed on at theoretical principle of virtue. The public interest being opposed to the domination of an individual, the spirit of self-importance, and the ambition of every person, serve to curb ambition and the inclination to rapacity, wherever they may appear. The pride of each citizen watches over that of his neighbour, and no person would willingly be the slave of another's caprice. Such are the feelings which establish republics, and which preserve them. It is ridiculous to imagine that there must be more virtue in a Grison than in a Spaniard."*
That honour can be the sole principle of monarchies is a no less chimerical idea, and the author shows it to be so himself, without being aware of it. The nature of honour, says he, in chapter vii. of book iii. is to
The truth of this proposition may be doubted, not exactly as between the Grison and the Spaniard, but as between the subjects of differently constituted governments. There is necessarily more vice in corrupt than in free governments, there being less soil for the growth of the virtues. Personal and political independence is possibly absolutely requisite for the production of the loftiest species of goodness.-T.
demand preferences and distinctions. It, therefore, naturally suits a monarchical government.
Was it not on this same principle, that the Romans demanded the prætorship, consulship, ovation, and triumph in their republic? These were preferences and distinctions well worth the titles and preferences purchased in monarchies, and for which there is often a regular fixed price.
This remark proves, in our opinion, that the Spirit of Laws, although sparkling with wit, and commendable by its respect for the laws and hatred of superstition and rapine, is founded entirely upon false views.*
Let us add, that it is precisely in courts that there is always least honour:
L'ingannare, il mentir, la frode, il furto,
Crescer col damno e precipizio altrui,
Pastor Fido, atto v. scena i.
Ramper avec bassesse en affectant l'audace,
Indeed, it is in courts, that men devoid of honour often attain to the highest dignities; and it is in republics that a known dishonourable citizen is seldom trusted by the people with public concerns.
The celebrated saying of the regent, duke of Orleans, is sufficient to destroy the foundation of the Spirit of Laws. "This is a perfect courtier-he has neither temper nor honour."
PHILOSOPHERS have enquired, whether humility is a virtue; but virtue or not, every one must agree that
* See article Laws (Spirit of)
nothing is more rare. The Greeks called it tapeinosis' or 'tapeineia.' It is strongly recommended in the fourth book of the Laws of Plato: he rejects the proud and would multiply the humble.
Epictetus, in five places, preaches humility:-" If thou passest for a person of consequence in the opinion of some people, distrust thyself.—No lifting up of thy eye-brows. Be nothing in thine own eyes.--If thou seekest to please, thou art lost.-Give place to all men; prefer them to thyself; assist them all."
We see by these maxims, that never capuchin went so far as Epictetus.
Some theologians, who had the misfortune to be proud, have pretended that humility cost nothing to Epictetus, who was a slave; and that he was humble by station, as a doctor or a jesuit may be proud by
But what will they say of Marcus Antoninus, who on the throne recommended humility? He places Alexander and his muleteer on the same line. He said that the vanity of pomp is only a bone thrown in the midst of dogs; that to do good, and to patiently hear himself calumniated, constitute the virtue of a king.
Thus the master of the known world recommended humility; but propose humility to a musician,* and see how he will laugh at Marcus Aurelius.
Descartes, in his treatise on the Passions of the Soul, places humility among their number, who-if we may personify this quality-did not expect to be regarded as a passion. He also distinguishes between virtuous and vicious humility.
But we leave to philosophers more enlightened than ourselves the care of explaining this doctrine, and will confine ourselves to saying, that humility is "the modesty of the soul."
It is the antidote to pride. Humility could not pre
* Voltaire, most likely, aimed this observation at a particular individual. Possibly it applies generally to most of those whose profession is to entertain the people, and who succeed in it. The public generally make spoiled children of those who are successful in amusing them.-T.
vent Rousseau from believing, that he knew more of music than those to whom he taught it; but it could induce him to agree that he was not superior to Lulli in recitative.
The reverend father Viret, cordelier, theologian, and preacher, all humble as he is, will always firmly believe that he knows more than those who learn to read and and write; but his christian humility, his modesty of soul, will oblige him to confess in the bottom of his heart, that he has written nothing but nonsense. Oh, brothers Nonotte, Guyon, Pantouillet, vulgar scrib. blers! be more humble, and always bear in recollection "the modesty of the soul."
I WILL suppose that madame Dacier had been the finest woman in Paris; and that in the quarrel on the comparative merits of the ancients and moderns, the carmelites pretended that the poem of the Magdalen, written by a carmelite, was infinitely superior to Homer, and that it was an atrocious impiety to prefer the Iliad to the verses of a monk. I will take the additional liberty of supposing that the archbishop of Paris took the part of the carmelites against the governor of the city, a partisan of the beautiful madame Dacier, and that he excited the carmelites to massacre this fine woman in the church of Notre Dame, and to drag her naked and bloody to the Place Maubert, would not everybody say that the archbishop of Paris had done a very wicked action, for which he ought to do penance?
This is precisely the history of Hypatia. She taught Homer and Plato, in Alexandria, in the time of Theodosius II. St. Cyril, incensed the christian populace against her, as it is related by Damasius and Suidas, and clearly proved by the most learned men of the age, such as Bruker, La Croze, Basnage, &c. as is very judiciously exposed in the great Dictionnaire Encyclopedique, in the article ECCLECTISME.
A man whose intentions are no doubt very good, has
printed two volumes against this article of the Encyclopedia. Two volumes against two pages, my friends, are too much. I have told you a hundred times you multiply being without necessity. Two lines against two volumes would be quite sufficient; but write not even these two lines.
I am content with remarking, that St. Cyril was a man of parts; that he suffered his zeal to carry him too far; that when we strip beautiful women, it is not to massacre them; that St. Cyril, no doubt, asked pardon of God for this abominable action; and that I pray the father of mercies to have pity on his soul. He who wrote the two volumes against ECCLECTISME, also inspires me with infinite commiseration.
WHAT is an idea?
It is an image painted upon my brain.
Certainly; for the most abstract thoughts are only the consequences of all the objects that I have perceived. I utter the word 'being' in general, only because I have known particular beings; I utter the word 'infinity,' only because I have seen certain limits, and because I push back those limits in my mind to a greater and still greater distance, as far as I am able. I have ideas in my head only because I have images.
And who is the painter of this picture?
It is not myself; I cannot draw with sufficient skill; the being that made me, makes my ideas.
And how do you know that the ideas are not made by yourself?
Because they frequently come to me involuntarily when I am awake, and always without my consent when I dream.
You are persuaded, then, that your ideas belong to you only in the same manner as your hairs, which grow and become white, and fall off, without your having anything at all to do with the matter?