Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

It has often been said, that torture was a means of saving a robust offender, and of destroying a feeble one; that among the Athenians they never applied the question but in crimes against the state, and that the Romans never subjected a Roman citizen to torture, to force from him a confession of his delinquency

That the abominable tribunal of the inquisition revived this practice, and in consequence, that it ought to be held in horror throughout the earth

That it is as absurd to inflict torture to acquire the knowledge of a crime, as it was formerly ridiculous to order a duel to decide the guilt of the accused party. In the one case, the offender was often the conqueror; and in the other, the strongly organised criminal was able to endure the torture, which the innocent accused, possessed of less bodily strength, was unable to sustain

That the duel being called the judgment of God, with equal absurdity, torture has been called the judgment of God also.

That torture is a punishment longer and more grievous than death; and thus an accused person endures, before his crime is proved, a punishment more cruel than that of death. That a thousand fatal mistakes ought to induce legisiators to put an end to this cruel practice

That this custom is abolished in many countries of Europe; and that fewer great crimes are committed in those countries than in the countries which retain the torture.

It may be asked, after this, why torture has always existed among the French, who are deemed a mild and agreeable people?

The answer will be, that this frightful custom still subsists in France, because it has been established. It will be admitted, that there are many polite and agreeable persons in France, but it will be denied that the French people are humane.*

It need not be observed, that thanks, to the exertions of our author and the body who acted with him, this odious infliction has ceased in France, as well as in most of the countries of Europe. Enough of it however remains to render this article of value still.

If the torture was applied only to the Clements, the Chatels, the Ravaillacs, and the Damiens, few people would complain, as the lives of kings and the safety of the state may be involved ;* but when the judges of Abbeville condemn a young officer to the torture, in order to discover what children were in his company singing an old song, or who had passed a procession of capuchins without taking off their hats, I venture to assert, that this horror, perpetrated in peaceable and enlightened times, is worse than the massacre of St. Bartholomew, perpetrated during the darkness of fanaticism.

We have said as much as this before, and we would profoundly impress our conclusions upon all heads and all hearts.

QUETE, (COLLECTION–GATHERING). NINETY-EIGHT monastic orders belong to the church; sixty-four of which possess revenues, and thirty-four exist by collections, without obligation, it is said, to labour, either corporeally or spiritually, for their subsistence, but simply for amusement; as lords in fee of the whole world, and participating in the sovereignty of God over the universe, they have the right of living at the expense of the public, without doing anything but what they please.

The following passage will be found in a very curious book, entitled “ The Good Fortune of Piety," and the reasons given by the author are not a little

Notwithstanding the note in relation to Maria Theresa, which follows, an execrable species of torture still exists in Austria, although not that of the rack. See an excellent “ Tour in Germany, and some of the provinces of the Austrian Empire, in the years 1820, 21, 22,” just published (July, 1824).-T.

* When the empress queen demanded the opinion of the most .enlightened lawyers on this subject, those who proposed to abolish torture excepted the single crime of high treason, as the only one to which it ought to be still applicable. On reading this opinion, the empress abolished torture altogether, and thus a sovereign dared to do what a lawyer would not venture to say.-French Ed.

VOL. V.

2 K

as fiefs.

convincing :-“Since,” says he, “ that the Cenobite has sacrificed to Jesus Christ the right of possessing temporal wealth, the world has contained nothing which is not at his disposal; and he sees in kingdoms and seignories only that which his liberality has bestowed

He thus possesses the whole world as a seignory, enjoying all as the direct lord, because having rendered himself a possession of Jesus Christ by a direct vow, he partakes in a certain manner of the sovereignty of the latter. The monk has even this advantage over the rulec, that he has no need of employing arms to obtain from the people what is due to his calling. He possesses their affections before he partakes of their liberality; and his empire is extended more over their hearts than their property.”

It was Francis d'Assisi, who in the year 1209 invented this new manner of living upon alms; but altered in conformity to his rule: The brethren in whom God has bestowed the talent of labouring faithfully in such a way as to avoid idleness, without extinguishing the spirit of prayer, may receive in return that which is necessary for the bodily wants of themselves and their brethren in humility and poverty; but they must not amass money. The brothers must possess nothing that can be termed property; neither house, nor abode, nor any other thing; but regarding themselves as foreigners in this world, they may with confidence demand alms.

Let us remark with the judicious Fleury, that if the founders of the new mendicant orders were not for the greater part canonised, we might be led to suspect that they had been seduced by self-love into a desire of distinguishing themselves by their superior sanctity. Without prejudice however to their holiness, we may certainly attack their strength of understanding; and pope Innocent III. had reasonable cause to demur in giving his approbation to the new institute of St. Francis; and still more the council of the Lateran, held in 1215, to forbid religious novelties, or, in other words, new orders or congregations.

But, as in the thirteenth century, the christian world began to feel the disorders which abounded—the avarice of the clergy_their luxury--and the lazy and voluptuous lives which had been the result of the richly endowed monasteries, it was so struck with the renunciation of temporal wealth, individually or in common, that in a general chapter, held by St. Francis at Assisi, in 1219, there assembled more than five thousand friars minors, who encamped in the open country, and wanted for nothing from the charity of the neighbouring towns and villages. From all parts of the country, , ecclesiastics, laymen, nobles, and the common people were beheld, not only repairing to them with the necessaries of life, but anxious to wait upon and serve them in person, with a holy and emulative display of eharity and humility.

St. Francis, by his will, expressly forbade his disciples from demanding any privileges from the pope, or to publish any exposition of his order; yet four years after his death, in a chapter assembled in the year 1230, they obtained from pope Gregory a bull, which declared they were absolved from the obligation of attending to the will of their founder, whose order was at the same time explained in many of its articles. Thus the work of our own hands, so much recommended in scripture, and practised by the early monks, became odious, and mendicity, discreditable before, was rendered honourable.

About thirty years after the death of St. Francis, an extreme relaxation in the orders of his foundation was already apparent. We will cite as a proof of this fact the testimony of St. Bonaventure, which cannot be suspected. It is to be found in the letter which he wrote in 1257, being then general of the order, to all the provincials and guardians. This letter appears in his “ Opuscules," vol. ii. page 352. He complains of the multitude of things for which they solicit money; of the idleness of many of the brotherhood; of their vagabond life; of the importunity of their solicitations ; of the great buildings which they had erected; and lastly, of their_avidity in respect to burials and testataments. St. Bonaventure is not the only one who has exclaimed against these abuses, since M. Camus, bishop of Bellay, observes, that the single order of minoritans had undergone twenty-five reforms in eighty years. Let us observe a word or two upon the abuses which so many reforms will not be sufficient to eradicate.

The mendicant friars, under the pretext of charity, meddled in all sorts of public and private business. They penetrated into the secrets of families, and charged themselves with the execution of wills: they even undertook by deputations to negociate peace between towns and rulers. The popes in particular voluntarily intrusted them with commissions, as men without consequence, who worked at a trifling expense, and who were entirely devoted; they even intrusted them sometimes with the levy of St. Peter's pence.

But the most singular fact of all, was their employment in the conduct of the tribunal of the inquisition. That odious institution, it is known, occupies itself with the capture of offenders, imprisonment, torture, condemnation, confiscation, disgraceful punishments, and very often with death by the secular arm. It is doubtless extraordinary to witness a religious brotherhood, making a profession of the most profound humility and of the most rigid poverty, transformed on a sudden into judges; having serjeants, apparatus, and armed familiars, that is to say, guards, and treasure at their command, to render them terrible to all the world. We advert to the scorn of manual labour, which

produces idleness among the mendicant, as among the other religious orders. By the vagabond life with which they were reproached by St. Bonaventure, they were, he said, expensive to their entertainers, and a scandal instead of an edification. Their importunity rendered a rencounter with them as unpleasant as with a band of robbers; such importunity being a kind of violence, which few people knew how to resist in respect to those whose habit and profession exacted respect; and moreover, it was a necessary result of professed mendicity, for after all they must subsist. At first, hunger and other pressing wants led them to

« AnteriorContinua »