Imágenes de páginas

enemy to every thing manly and liberal, was never permitted to enter France. The benefits of such an exemption must have been incalculable. Abhorring and rejecting the most oppressive weight, mind must act with comparative energy, must appear in the characters both of intellect and liberty, the civil power itself must in some degree partake of the generous contagion, and in a greater degree be awed into a decent compliance with the national temper. This circuinstance so favourable to France applies with equal force to Germany, and with a greater force since the peace of Westphalia, which rescued nearly one half of that extensive region from the very profession of the papal religion. Every thing was different in Portugal and Spain, and a sadly different issue has been the fate of these uns happy countries. The papal power and the Inquisition had with them established an uncontrolled dominion, and subjected even the throne itself, of which a memorable instance was exhibited in the 18th century.


The king of Spain then reigning was present at one of their auto da fès. Being young, and better nature not extinguished in him, he betrayed symptoms of compassion for the sufferings of the unhappy victims, whom the flames were slowly consuming. The inquisitors were alarmed, the royal tear was deemed to have vitiated the holy sacrifice, and as an atonement the monarch was sentenced to penance and humiliation the most disgraceful. His shoulders were bared, and he was whipped by the grand inquisitor; after which a vein in his arm was opened, and the blood thac issued was thrown into the fire with a solemn anathema, as accursed. The Inquisition has since been humbled, but not destroyed. It still exists with all its terrours, but they are under the direction of the sovereigns of Spain and Portugal, and are become a dreadful instrument of civil despotism. Happy England! which has found the nice and delicate medium between tyranny and anarchy, which has preserved as much of civil


liberty as is consistent with civil order, where the illiberal restraint of mind is removed, intellect ranges free and unconfined, and genius has acquired a strength, a penetration, and a grandeur, to which no age or nation has ever yet aspired. The ostentatious display of a light and flimsy something like to genius may surround a despotic throne, chiefly employed in servile adulation; and the arts may lend their aid in the exhibition and decoration of pageant shows to attract the gaze of the multitude, and divert their thoughts from the pressure of their bondage. But a more absurd idea never entered the mind of man, more ab, horrent to nature and experience, than that the learning or the arts, which have either dignity or utility to recommend them, , should be friendly to slavery. The just conclusion is, that as slavery advances, learning retires, and that liberty rests upon the firinest seat, when genius and learning rear a throne for her

support. I proceed to answer another accusation of



Rousseau, that simple knowledge brings us. acquainted with many vices and crimes, which we should otherwise be totally ignorant of; and therefore that ignorance, inasmuch as morals are the object, is more desirable than knowledge, As this charge is of the same family with his former one,

that knowledge and arts are the parents of luxury, to which I have replied in the preceding volume of your Memoirs, it will be almost unavoidable that my answers to both shall have a considerable resemblance.-Knowledge brings us acquainted with new crimes, ignorance therefore, in a moral view, is preferable to knowledge! In every view that I have taken of this once celebrated


of the Genevan philosopher, I can see little, if any thing, beside a rich imagination, and a brilliant expression, which could gain to it so much celebrity. If with these alone he seduced his judges in a cause of truth and morals, he exhibited in the very act a more striking proof of the dangerous influence of lettered genius than any which he has 9


brought forward in his essay.

The position, that knowledge introduces us to the acquaintance with new crimes, from which he infers, that in a moral view ignorance is preferable to knowledge, is either not true at all, or in so trifling a degree, as to render the amount of the inference of very little consideration. But if the position were admitted in the fullest extent, the inference would still be inadmissible, because it would argue only a very low and contemptible idea of man; the mere negation of vice, but not at all the presence of virtue, the very essence of which consists in the knowledge of vice, and a magnanimous resistance to it. But let us discuss the truth of the assertion.

I will ask you then, Does it require a mind cultivated by science to be acquainted with the horrid crimes of theft, plunder, murder, or with the meaner crimes of dissimulation, lying, treachery? In truth, I know of no crime, which could be unknown in any state of man, except in that of absolute solitude. The modes and perhaps the

« AnteriorContinuar »