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Title: Ancient and Modern Celebrated Freethinkers - Reprinted From an English Work, Entitled "Half-Hours With The Freethinkers."
Author: Bradlaugh, Charles, 1833-1891, Watts, John, Collins, Anthony, pseud.
Language: English
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By "Iconoclast.", A. Collins, and J. Watts

("Iconoclast", pseud. of Charles Bradlaugh.)

Edited by "Iconoclast,"


Published By J. P. Mendum




























In these pages, appearing under the title of "Half-Hours with the
Freethinkers," are collected in a readable form an abstract of the lives
and doctrines of some of those who have stood foremost in the ranks of
Free-thought in all countries and in all ages; and we trust that our
efforts to place in the hands of the poorest of our party a knowledge
of works and workers--some of which and whom would otherwise be out of
their reach--will be received by all in a favorable light. We shall,
in the course of our publication, have to deal with many writers whose
opinions widely differ from our own, and it shall be our care to deal
with them _justly_ and in all cases to allow them to utter in their own
words their essential thinkings.

We lay no claim to originality in the mode of treatment--we will
endeavor to cull the choicest flowers from the garden, and if others
can make a brighter or better bouquet, we shall be glad to have their
assistance. We have only one object in view, and that is, the presenting
of free and manly thoughts to our readers, hoping to induce like
thinking in them, and trust-ing that noble work may follow noble
thoughts. The Freethinkers we intend treating of have also been Free
Workers, endeavoring to raise men's minds from superstition and bigotry,
and place before them a knowledge of the real.

We have been the more inclined to issue the "Half-Hours with the
Freethinkers" in consequence, not only of the difficulty which many have
in obtaining the works of the Old Freethinkers, but also as an effective
answer to some remarks which have lately appeared in certain religious
publications, implying a dearth of thought and thinkers beyond the pale
of the Church. We wish all men to know that great minds and good men
_have_ sought truth apart from faith for many ages, and that it is
because few were prepared to receive them, and many united to _crush_
them, their works are so difficult of access to the general mass at the
present day.


This distinguished Freethinker was born on the 5th of April, 1588, at
Malmesbury; hence his cognomen of "the philosopher of Malmesbury." In
connection with his birth, we are told that his mother, being a loyal
Protestant, was so terrified at the rumored approach of the Spanish
Armada, that the birth of her son was hastened in consequence. The
subsequent timidity of Hobbes is therefore easily accounted for. The
foundation of his education was laid in the grammar school of his native
town, where most probably his father (being a clergyman) would officiate
as tutor. At the age of fifteen he was sent to Oxford. Five years of
assiduous study made him proficient as a tutor; this, combined with his
amiability and profound views of society, gained him the respect of the
Earl of Devonshire, and he was appointed tutor to the Earl's son, Lord
Cavendish. From 1610 to 1628, he was constantly in the society of this
nobleman, in the capacity of secretary. In the interval of this time he
travelled in France, Germany, and Italy; cultivating in each capital
the society of the leading statesmen and philosophers. Lord Herbert, of
Cherbury, the first great English Deist, and Ben Jonson, the dramatist,
were each his boon companions. In the year 1628, Hobbes again made the
tour of the Continent for three years with another pupil, and became
acquainted at Pisa with Galileo. In 1631 he was entrusted with the
education of another youth of the Devonshire family, and for near five
years remained at Paris with his pupil.

Hobbes returned to England in 1636. The troublous politics of this age,
with its strong party prejudices, made England the reverse of a pleasant
retirement, for either Hobbes or his patrons; so, perceiving the
outbreak of the Revolution, he emigrated to Paris. There in the
enjoyment of the company of Gassendi and Descartes, with the _elite_ of
Parisian genius, he was for awhile contented and happy. Here he engaged
in a series of mathematical quarrels, which were prolonged throughout
the whole of his life, on the quadrature of the circle. Seven years
after, he was appointed mathematical tutor to the Prince of Wales,
afterwards Charles II. In 1642, Hobbes published the first of his
principal works, "De Cive, or Philosophical Rudiments Concerning
Government and Society." It was written to curb the spirit of anarchy,
then so rampant in England, by exposing the inevitable results which
must of necessity spring from the want of a coherent government amongst
a people disunited and uneducated. The principles inculcated in this
work were reproduced in the year 1651, in the "Leviathan, or the Matter,
Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil;" this,
along with a "Treatise on Human Nature," and a small work on "The
Body Politic," form the groundwork of the "selfish schools" of moral
philosophy. As soon as they were published, they were attacked by the
clergy of every country in Europe. They were interdicted by the Pontiffs
of the Roman and Greek Church, along with the Protestants scattered over
Europe, and the Episcopal authorities of England. Indeed, to such an
extent did this persecution rise, that even the royalist exiles
received warning that there was no chance for their ostracism being
removed, unless "the unclean thing (Hobbes) was put away from their
midst." The young prince, intimidated by those ebullitions of vengeance
against his tutor? was obliged to withdraw his protection from him, and
the old man, then near seventy years of age, was compelled to escape
from Paris by night, pursued by his enemies, who, according to Lord
Clarendon, tracked his footsteps from France. Fortunately for Hobbes, he
took refuge with his old protectors, the Devonshire family, who were too
powerful to be wantonly insulted. While residing at Chatsworth, he would
no doubt acutely feel the loss of Descartes, the Cardinal de Richelieu,
and Gassendi; in the place of those men he entered into a warm
friendship with Cowley, the poet, Selden, Harvey, the discoverer of
the circulation of the blood, Charles Blount, and the witty Sir Thomas

In 1654, he published a "Letter upon Liberty and Necessity;" this
brief tractate is unsurpassed in Free-thought literature for its clear,
concise, subtle, and demonstrative proofs of the self-determining power
of the will, and the truth of philosophical necessity. All subsequent
writers on this question have largely availed themselves of Hobbes's
arguments, particularly the pamphleteers of Socialism. It is a fact no
less true than strange, that Communism is derived from the system of
Hobbes, which has always been classed along with that of Machiavelli, as
an apology for despotism. The grand peculiarity of Hobbes is his method.
Instead of taking speculation and reasoning upon theories, he carried
out the inductive system of Bacon in its entirety, reasoning from
separate generic facts, instead of analogically. By this means he
narrowed the compass of knowledge, and made everything demonstrative
that was capable of proof. Belief was consequently placed upon its
proper basis, and a rigid analysis separated the boundaries of Knowing
and Being. Hobbes looked at the great end of existence and embodied it
in a double axiom. 1st. The desire for self-preservation. 2nd. To render
ourselves happy. From those duplex principles which are inherent in
all animals, a modern politician has perpetrated a platitude which
represents in a sentence the end and aim of all legislation, "the
greatest happiness for the greatest number." This is the _ultimatum_
of Hobbes's philosophy. Its method of accomplishment was by treating
society as one large family, with the educated and skilled as governors,
having under their care the training of the nation. All acting from
one impulse (self-preservation,) and by the conjoint experience of all,
deriving the greatest amount of happiness from this activity. Hobbes
opposed the Revolution, because it degenerated into a faction; and
supported Charles Stuart because there were more elements of cohesion
within his own party, than amongst his enemies. It was here where the
cry of despotism arose; the "Round-heads" seeing they could not detach
the ablest men from the King's party, denounced their literary opponents
as "lovers of Belial, and of tyranny." This was their most effective
answer to the "Leviathan." In after years, when the Episcopal party no
longer stood in need of the services of Hobbes, they heaped upon him the
stigma of heresy, until his _ci-devant_ friends and enemies were united
in the condemnation of the man they most feared. Mr. Owen, in his schema
of Socialism, took his leading idea on non-responsibility from Hobbes's
explanation of necessity, and the freedom of the will. The old divines
had inculcated a doctrine to the effect that the "will" was a separate
entity of the human mind, which swayed the whole disposition, and was of
itself essentially corrupt. Ample testimony from the Bible substantiated
this position. But in the method of Hobbes, he lays down the facts that
we can have no knowledge without experience, and no experience without
sensation. The mind therefore is composed of classified sensations,
united together by the law of an association of ideas. This law was
first discovered by Hobbes, who makes the human will to consist in
the strongest motive which sways the balance on any side. This is the
simplest explanation which can be given on a subject more mystified than
any other in theology.

A long controversy betwixt Bishop Bramhall, of Londonderry, followed the
publication of Hobbes's views on Liberty and Necessity. Charles II. on
his restoration, bestowed an annual pension of £100 on Hobbes, but this
did not prevent the parliament, in 1666, censuring the "De Cive" and
"Leviathan," besides his other works. Hobbes also translated the Greek
historian, Thucydides, Homer's Odyssey, and the Illiad. The last years
of his life were spent in composing "Behemoth; or, a History of the
Civil Wars from 1640 to 1660," which was finished in the year he died,
but not published until after his death. At the close of the year 1679,
he was taken seriously ill. At the urgent request of some Christians,
they were permitted to intrude their opinions upon his dying bed,
telling him gravely that his illness would end in death, and unless he
repented, he would go straight to hell. Hobbes calmly replied, "I shall
be glad then to find a hole to creep out of the world." For seventy
years he had been a persecuted man, but during that time his enemies
had paid him that tribute of respect which genius always extorts from
society. He was a man who was hated and dreaded. He had reached the age
of ninety-two when he died. His words were pregnant with meaning; and
he never used an unnecessary sentence. A collection of moral apothegms
might be gathered from his table-talk. When asked why he did not read
every new book which appeared, he said, "If I had read as much as other
men, I should have been as ignorant." His habits were simple; he
rose early in the morning, took a long walk through the grounds of
Chatsworth, and cultivated healthful recreation. The after part of the
day was devoted to study and composition. Like Sir Walter Raleigh, he
was a devoted admirer of the "fragrant herb." Charles II.'s constant
witticism, styled Hobbes as "a bear against whom the Church played their
young dogs, in order to exercise them."

If there had been a few more similar "bears," the priestly "dogs" would
long since have been exterminated, for none of them escaped unhurt from
their encounters with the "grizzly" of Malmesbury, except it was in the
mathematical disputes with Dr. Wallis.

He was naturally of a timid disposition: this was the result of the
accident which caused his premature birth, and being besides of a
reserved character, he was ill-fitted to meet the physical rebuffs of
the world. It is said that he was so afraid of his personal safety, that
he objected to be left alone in an empty house; this charge is to some
extent true, but we must look to the mitigating circumstances of the
case. He was a feeble man, turned the age of three-score and ten, with
all the clergy of England hounding on their dupes to murder an old
philosopher because he had exposed their dogmas. It was but a few years
before, that Protestants and Papists had complimented each other's
religion by burning those who were the weakest, and long after Hobbes's
death, Protestants murdered, ruined, disgraced, and placed in the
pillory Dissenters and Catholics alike, and Thomas Hobbes had positive
proof that it was the intention of the Church of England to _burn
him alive_, on the stake, a martyr for his opinions. This, then, is a
sufficient justification for Hobbes feeling afraid, and instead of
it being thrown as a taunt at this illustrious Freethinker, it is a
standing stigma on those who would re-enact the tragedy of persecution,
if public opinion would allow it.

Sir James Mackintosh says: * "The style of Hobbes is the very perfection
of didactic language. Short, clear, precise, pithy, his language never
has more than one meaning, which never requires a second thought to
find. By the help of his exact method, it takes so firm a hold on the
mind, that it will not allow attention to slacken. His little tract on
human nature has scarcely an ambiguous or a needless word. He has so
great a power of always choosing the most significant term, that he
never is reduced to the poor expedient of using many in its stead. He
had so thoroughly studied the genius of the language, and knew so well
how to steer between pedantry and vulgarity, that two centuries have not
superannuated probably more than a dozen of his words."

     * Second Dissertation:  Encyclopaedia Brit., p. 318.

Lord Clarendon describes the personal character of Hobbes as "one for
whom he always had a great esteem as a man, who besides his eminent
parts of learning and knowledge, hath been always looked upon as a man
of probity, and a life free from scandal."

We now proceed to make a selection of quotations from the works of this
writer, commencing with those on the "Necessity of the Will," in reply
to Bishop Bramhall.

"The question is not whether a man be a free agent--that is to say,
whether he can write, or forbear, speak, or be silent, according to his
will; but whether the will to write, and the will to forbear, come upon
him according to his will, or according to anything else in his own
power. I acknowledge this liberty, that I can _do_, if I _will_, but to
say, I can _will_ if I _will_, I take to be an absurd speech." Further
replying to Bramhall's argument, that we do not learn the "idea of the
freedom of the will" from our tutors, but we know it intuitively, Hobbes
says, "It is true very few have learned from tutors that a man is not
free to will; nor do they find it much in books. That they and in books
that which the poets chaunt in the theatres, and the shepherds on the
mountains, that which the pastors teach in the churches, and the doctors
in the universities; and that which the common people in the markets,
and all the people do assent unto, is the same that I assent unto;
namely, that a man hath freedom to do if he will; but whether he hath
freedom to will, is a question which it seems neither the Bishop nor
they ever thought of.... A wooden top that is lashed by the boys, and
runs about, sometimes to one wall, sometimes to another, sometimes
spinning, sometimes hitting men on the shins, if it were sensible of its
own motion, would think it proceeded from its own will, unless it felt
what lashed it. And is a man any wiser when he runs to one place for a
benifice, to another for a bargain, and troubles the world with writing
errors, and requiring answers, because he thinks he does it without
other cause than his own will, and seeth not what are the lashings which
cause that will?"

Hobbes casually mentions the subject of "praise or dispraise," in
reference to the will; those who are old enough will remember this was
one of the most frequent subjects of discussion amongst the earlier
Socialists. "These depend not at all in the necessity of the action
praised or dispraised. For what is it else to praise, but to say _a
thing is good?_ Good, I say, for me, or for somebody else, or for the
State and Commonwealth. And what is it to say an action is good, but to
say it is as I would wish, or as another would have it, or according
to the will of the State--that is to say, according to the law! Does
my lord think that no action could please me, or the commonwealth, that
should proceed from necessity! Things may be therefore necessary, and
yet praiseworthy, as also necessary, and yet dispraised, and neither of
them both in vain; because praise and dispraise, and likewise reward and
punishment, do, by example, make and conform the will to good or evil.
It was a very great praise, in my opinion, that Vellerius Paterculus
gives Cato, where he says that he was good by nature, '_et quia aliter
esse non potuit_.''--'And because he could not do otherwise.'" This able
treatise was reprinted, and extensively read about twenty years ago;
but, like many other of our standard works, it is at present out of

The "Leviathan" is still readable, a bold masculine book. It treats
everything in a cool, analytic style. The knife of the Socialist is
sheathed in vain; no rhapsody can overturn its impassioned teachings.
Rhetoric is not needed to embellish the truths he has to portray, for
the wild flowers of genius but too frequently hide the yawning chasms
in the garden of Logic. It is not to be expected that this book will be
read now with the interest with which it was perused two centuries ago;
then every statement was impugned, every argument denied, and the very
tone of the book called forth an interference from parliament to stop
the progress of its heresies. Now the case is widely different, and the
general tenor of the treatise is the rule in which are illustrated alike
the works of the philosophers and the dreams of the sophists (priests.)
We give part of the introduction. "Nature (the art whereby God hath made
and governs the world) is, by the art of man, as in many other things,
so in this also, imitated, that it can make an artificial animal. For
seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning whereof is in some
principal part within; why may we not say that all automata (engines
that move themselves by springs and wheels, as doth a watch) have an
artificial life? For what is the heart but a spring; and the nerves but
so many strings; and the joints but so many wheels, giving motion to the
whole body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further,
imitating that rational and most excellent work of nature, man. For by
art is created that great leviathan, called a Commonwealth, or State,
which is but an artificial man though of greater stature and strength
than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended,
and the sovereignty of which is an artificial soul, as giving life and
motion to the whole body. To describe the nature of this artificial man,
I will consider,

"1st. The _matter_ thereof, and the _artificer_, both which is man.

"2nd. _How_, and by what _covenants_ it is made, what are the _rights_
and _just_ power or authority of a sovereign; and what it is that
_preserveth_ and dissolveth it.

"3rd. What is a Christian Commonwealth.

"Lastly, what is the kingdom of darkness.

"The first chapter treats of 'Senses.' Concerning the thoughts of man, I
will consider them first singly, and afterwards in train, or dependence
upon one another. Singly, they are every one a representation, or
appearance, of some quality or accident of a body without us, which is
commonly called an object. Which object worketh on the eyes, ears, and
other parts of a man's body, and by diversity of working, produceth
diversity of appearances. The original of them all is that which we call
sense, for there is no conception in a man's mind, which hath not at
first totally or by parts been begotten upon the organs of sense; the
rest are derived from that original."

Speaking of "Imagination," Hobbes says, "That when a thing lies still,
unless somewhat else stir it, it will lie still forever, is a truth no
one doubts of. But that when a thing is in motion, it will eternally
be in motion, unless somewhat else stay it, though the reason be the
same--namely, that nothing can change itself--is not so easily assented
to. For men measure not only other men, but all other things, by
themselves; and because they find themselves subject after motion to
pain and lassitude, think everything else grows weary of motion, and
seeks repose of its own accord--little considering whether it be not
some other motion, wherein that desire of rest they find in themselves
consisteth.... When a body is once in motion, it moveth (unless
something else hinder it) eternally, and whatsoever hindereth it, cannot
in an instant, but in time, and by degrees, quite extinguish it; and
as we see in the water, though the wind cease, the waves give not over
rolling for a long time after; so also it happeneth in that motion which
is made in the internal parts of man, then, when he sees, dreams, etc.
For after the object is removed, or the eye shut, we still retain an
image of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it....
The decay of sense in men waking, is not the decay of the motion made
in sense, but an obscuring of it, in such manner as the light of the sun
obscureth the light of the stars; which stars do no less exercise their
virtue, by which they are visible in the day, than in the night. But
because amongst many strokes which our eyes, ears and other organs
receive from external bodies, the predominant only is sensible;
therefore the light of the sun being only predominant, we are not
affected with the actions of the stars.... This decaying sense, when
we would express the thing itself (I mean fancy itself), we call
imagination, as I said before, but when we would express the Decay, and
signify the sense is fading, old and past, it is called Memory: so
that imagination and memory are but one thing, which, for divers
considerations, hath divers names." *

Such is the commencement of this celebrated book, it is based upon
materialism; every argument must stand this test upon Hobbes's
principles, and characteristically are they elaborated. Hobbes ("De
Cive") says of the immortality of the soul, "It is a belief grounded
upon other men's sayings, that they knew it supernaturally; or that
they knew those who knew them, that knew others, that knew it
supernaturally." A sparkling sneer, and perhaps the truest answer to
so universal an error. Dugald Stewart, in his analysis of the works of
Hobbes, says, ** The fundamental doctrines inculcated in the political
works of Hobbes, are contained in the following propositions:--All men
are by nature equal, and, prior to government, they had all an equal
right to enjoy the good things of this world. Man, too, is by nature, a
solitary and purely selfish animal; the social union being entirely an
interested league, suggested by prudential views of personal advantage.
The necessary consequence is, that a state of nature must be a state of
perpetual warfare, in which no individual has any other means of safety
than his own strength or ingenuity; and in which there is no room
for regular industry, because no secure enjoyment of its fruits. In
confirmation of this view of the origin of society, Hobbes appeals to
facts falling daily within the cycle of our experience. "Does not a
man, (he asks) when taking a journey, arm himself, and seek to go well
accompanied? When going to sleep, does he not lock his doors? Nay, even
in his own house, does he not lock his chests? Does he not there accuse
mankind by his action, as I do by my words?" For the sake of peace and
security, it is necessary that each individual should surrender a part
of his natural right, and be contented with such a share of liberty
as he is willing to allow to others; or, to use Hobbes's own language,
"every man must divest himself of the right he has to all things by
nature; the right of all men to all things, being in effect no better
than if no man had a right to anything." In consequence of this
transference of natural rights to an individual, or to a body of
individuals, the multitude become one person, under the name of a State,
or Republic, by which person the common will and power are exercised for
the common defence. The ruling power cannot be withdrawn from those to
whom it has been committed; nor can they be punished for misgovern-ment.
The interpretation of the laws is to be sought, not from the comments
of philosophers, but from the authority of the ruler; otherwise society
would every moment be in danger of resolving itself into the discordant
elements of which it was at first composed.--The will of the magistrate,
therefore, is to be regarded as the ultimate standard of right and
wrong, and his voice to be listened to by every citizen as the voice of

     * Leviathan.    Ed. 1651.

     ** Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Science, p. 41.

Such are the words of one of Hobbes's most powerful opponents. Dr.
Warburton says, "The philosopher of Malmesbury was the terror of the
last age, as Tin-dal and Collins are of this. The press sweats with
controversy; and every young churchman militant would try his arms in
thundering on Hobbes's steel cap." This is a modest acknowledgment of
the power of Hobbes, from the most turbulent divine of the eighteenth

Victor Comyin gives the following as his view of the philosophy of
Hobbes:--"There is no other certain evidence than that of the senses.
The evidence of the senses attests only the existence of bodies; then
there is no existence save that of bodies, and philosophy is only the
science of bodies.

"There are two sorts of bodies: 1st, Natural bodies, which are the
theatre of a multitude of regular phenomena, because they take place
by virtue of fixed laws, as the bodies with which physics are occupied;
2nd, Moral and political bodies, societies which constantly change and
are subject to variable laws.

"Hobbes's system of physics is that of Democritus, the atomistic and
corpuscular of the Ionic school.

"His metaphysics are its corollary; all the phenomena which pass in
the consciousness have their source in the organization, of which the
consciousness in itself is simply a result. All the ideas come from the
senses. To think, is to calculate; and intelligence is nothing else than
an arithmetic. As we do not calculate with out signs, we do not think
without words; the truth of the thought is in the relation of the words
among themselves, and metaphysics are reduced to a perfect language.
Hobbes is completely a nominalist. With Hobbes there are no other than
contingent ideas; the finite alone can be conceived; the infinite is
only a negation of the finite; beyond that it is a mere word invented to
honor a being whom faith alone can reach. The idea of good and evil
has no other foundation than agreeable or disagreeable sensations; to
agreeable or disagreeable sensation it is impossible to apply any.
other law than escape from the one and search after the other; hence
the morality of Hobbes, which is the foundation of his politics. Man
is capable of enjoying and of suffering; his only law is to suffer as
little, and enjoy as much, as possible. Since such is his only law, he
has all the rights that this law confers upon him; he may do anything
for his preservation and his happiness; he has the right to sacrifice
everything to himself. Behold? then, men upon this earth, where the
objects of desire are not superabundant, all possessing equal rights
to whatever may be agreeable or useful to them, by virtue of the same
capacity for enjoyment and suffering. This is a state of nature, which
is nothing less than a state of war, the anarchy of the passions, a
combat in which every man is arrayed against his neighbor. But this
state being opposed to the happiness of the majority of individuals who
share it, utility, the offspring of egotism itself, demands its
exchange for another, to wit, the social state. The social state is the
institution of a public power, stronger than all individuals, capable
of making peace succeed war, and imposing on all the accomplishment of
whatever it shall have judged to be useful, that is, just."

Before we dismiss the father of Freethought from our notice, there
remains a tribute of respect to be paid to one whom it is our duty
to associate with the author of the "Leviathan," and who has but
just passed away--one man amongst the British aristocracy with the
disposition of a tribune of the people, coupled with thoughts at once
elevated and free, and a position which rendered him of essential
service to struggling opinion. This man saw the greatness, the profound
depth, the attic style, and the immense importance of the works of
Hobbes, along with their systematic depreciation by those whose duty it
should be to explain them, especially at a time when those works were
not reprinted, and the public were obliged to glean their character
from the refutations (so called) by mangled quotations, and a distorted
meaning. Impelled by this thought, and anxious to protect the memory of
a philosopher, his devoted disciple, at a cost of £10,000, translated
the Latin, and edited the English works of Hobbes, in a manner worthy
alike of the genius of the author, and the discernment of his editor.
For this kindness, a seat in Parliament was lost by the organization of
the clergy in Cornwall. The name of this man was Sir William Molesworth.
Let Freethinkers cherish the memory of their benefactor.

We now take our leave of Thomas Hobbes. He had not the chivalry of
Herbert; the vivacity of Raleigh; the cumulative power of Bacon; or the
winning policy of Locke. If his physical deformities prevented him from
being as daring as Vane, he was as bold in thought and expression as
either Descartes, or his young friend Blount. He gave birth to the
brilliant constellation of genius in the time of Queen Anne. He did
not live to see his system extensively promulgated; but his principles
moulded the character of the men who formed the revolution of 1688,
equally as much as Hume established the Scotch and German schools of
philosophy; and Voltaire laid the train by which the French Revolution
was proclaimed. Peace to his memory! It was a stormy struggle during his
life; its frowns cannot hurt him now. Could we believe in the idea of
a future life, we should invoke his blessings on our cause. That cause
which for near two hundred years has successfully struggled into birth,
to youth, and maturity. Striking down in its onward course superstitions
which hath grown with centuries, and where it does not exterminate them,
it supplies a purer atmosphere, and extracts the upas-sting which has
laid low so many, and which must yet be finally exterminated. The day is
rapidly dawning when our only deities will be the works of genius, and
our only prayer the remembrance of our most illustrious chiefs.



Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke, was born in his family seat at
Battersea, on the 1st of October 1672, and died there on November 15th,
1751, in his 79th year. He was educated by a clergyman in an unnatural
manner, and speedily developed himself accordingly. When he left Oxford,
he was one of the handsomest men of the day--his majestic figure,
refined address, dazzling wit, and classic eloquence, made him
irresistibly the "first gentleman in Europe." Until his twenty-fourth
year, he was renowned more for the graces of his person, and the
fascination of his wild exploits, rather than possessing a due regard
to his rank and abilities. His conduct, however, was completely changed
when he became a Member of Parliament. The hopes of his friends were
resuscitated when they discovered the aptitude for business--the ready
eloquence, and the sound reasoning of the once wild St. John. He soon
became the hardest worker and the leader of the House of Commons. The
expectations of the nation rose high when night after night he spoke
with the vivacity of a poet, and the profundity of a veteran statesman
on public affairs. In 1704, he received the seals as Secretary-of-War,
and was mainly instrumental in gaining Marlborough's victories, by the
activity with which he supplied the English General with munitions of
war. On the ascendency of the Whigs, St. John resigned his office, and
retired into privacy for two years, when the Whig administration was
destroyed, and St. John re-appeared as Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
His greatest work now was the negotiation of the treaty of Utrecht. This
treaty was signed by St. John (then Lord Bolingbroke,) he being sent to
Paris as the British Plenipotentiary, and was hailed by the Parisians
as a guardian angel. To such an extent was this feeling manifested, that
when he visited the theatres every one _rose_ to welcome him. So long as
Queen Anne lived, Bolingbroke's influence was paramount, but associated
with him was the Earl of Oxford, in opposition to the Whig party, and
serious differences had arisen between the rivals. Oxford-was dismissed
four days before the Queen's death, and Bolingbroke officiated in his
place, until Oxford's vacancy was filled, which all expected would be
given to himself. A stormy debate in the Privy Council so agitated the
Queen, that it shortened her life, and the Council recommended the Earl
of Shrewsbury as Premier, and with him the Whigs.

With the accession of George, came the impeachment of Bolingbroke by the
victorious Whigs. Knowing that it was their intention to sacrifice
him to party revenge, and that his accusers would likewise act as his
judges, he wisely withdrew himself to France. The Pretender held a
mimic court at Avignon, and a debating society at Lorraine, entitled
a Parliament. He offered Bolingbroke the office of Secretary of State,
which was accepted by him; and it was only at this time that the
emanations of the exiled Stuart's cabinet possessed either a solidity
of aim, or a definite purpose. If Louis XIV. had lived longer, he might
have assisted the Pretender, but with his death expired the hopes of
that ill-fated dynasty. Bolingbroke strove to husband the means which
the Chevalier's friends had collected, but the advice of the Duke of
Ormond was listened to in preference to Bolingbroke's. The results which
Bolingbroke foretold--proceeding rashly and failing ignominiously--both
occurred. The insurrection broke out, and failed--no other end could
have been anticipated. Intrigues were fast coiling themselves around the
secretary; he was openly blamed for the reverses in Scotland--but he was
alike careless of their wrath or its issue. One morning Ormond waited
upon him with two slips of paper from the Pretender, informing him
that his services were no longer required. After his dismissal he was
impeached by the lackeys of the Pretender under seven heads, which were
widely distributed throughout Europe. There is this anomaly in the life
of Bolingbroke, witnessed in no other Englishman: In one year he was the
most powerful man in England--Secretary of State--an exile--and then
in the same year he occupied a similar office to one who aimed at the
English throne, and was impeached by both parties.

For several years he occupied himself in France with philosophical
pursuits--until the year 1723--when he received a pardon, which allowed
him to return to England, but still his sequestered estates were not
returned, and this apology for a pardon was negotiated by a bribe of
£11,000 to the German Duchess of Kendal--one of the king's mistresses.

Alexander Pope was Bolingbroke's constant correspondent. Pope had
won the applause of England by his poems, and was then considered the
arbiter of genius. Voltaire occupied a similar position in France.
Since Pope first laid the copy of his greatest epic at the feet of
Bolingbroke, and begged of him to correct its errors, he had gradually
won himself that renown which prosperity has endorsed. But what a unity
in divergence did those philosophers present! The calm moralism of Pope,
his sweet and polished rhyme, contrasted with the fiery wit and hissing
sarcasm of the Frenchman, more trenchant than Pope's, yet wanting
his sparkling epigrams. The keen discernment of both these men saw in
Bolingbroke a master, and they ranked by his side as twin apostles of
a new and living faith. It was the penetration of true greatness which
discerned in the English peer that sublimity of intellect they possessed
themselves, without the egotism of an imbecile rival. Bolingbroke had
cherished the ethics of one, and restrained the rancor of the other--and
both men yielded to him whose system they worshipped; and this trinity
of Deists affords the noblest example which can be evoked to prove
the Harmony of Reason amidst the most varied accomplishments. Although
Pope's name occurs but seldom in the history of Freethought--while that
of Bolingbroke is emblazoned in all its glory, and Voltaire is enshrined
as its only Deity--yet we must not forget that what is now known as
the only collection of St. John's works (the edition in five volumes
by Mallet,) were written for the instruction of Pope--sent to him in
letters--discussed and agreed to by him--so that the great essayist is
as much implicated in them as the author of the Dictionary. It is
said, "In his society these two illustrious men felt and acknowledged a
superior genius; and if he had no claim to excellence in poetry--the
art in which they were so pre-eminent--he surpassed them both in the
philosophy they so much admired."

For ten years after this period, he devoted himself to various political
writings, which were widely circulated; but we must waive the pleasure
at present of analyzing those, and confine our attention to the alliance
between Pope and Bolingbroke, in the new school of philosophy.

Bolingbroke's principal friends were Pope, Swift, Mallet, Wyndam, and
Atterbury. The first three were most in his confidence in regard
to religion: and although Pope was educated a Roman Catholic, and
occasionally conformed to that hierarchy (and like Voltaire, for peace,
died in it,) yet the philosophical letters which passed between Pope and
St. John, fully established him as a consistent Deist--an honor to which
Swift also attained, although being a dignitary of the Church: but
if doubts arise on the subject, they can easily be dispelled. General
Grimouard, in his "Essai sur Bolingbroke," says that "he was intimate
with the widow of Mallet, the poet, who was a lady of much talent and
learning, and had lived upon terms of friendship with Bolingbroke,
Swift, Pope, and many other distinguished characters of the day, who
frequently met at her house." The General adds, that the lady has been
frequently heard to declare, that these men were all equally deistical
in their sentiments (_que c'était une société de purs déistes_;) that
Swift from his clerical character was a little more reserved than the
others, but he was evidently of the same sentiments at bottom.

There is a remarkable passage in one of Pope's letters to Swift, which
seems rather corroborative of the General's. He is inviting Swift to
come and visit him. "The day is come," he says, "which I have often
wished, but never thought to see, when every mortal I esteem is of the
same sentiments in politics and religion." Dr. Warton remarks upon this
paragraph "At this time therefore (1733) he (Pope and Bolingbroke were
of the same sentiment in religion as well as politics);" * and Pope
writing to Swift is proof sufficient that Bolingbroke, Swift, and
himself, were united in opinions. Wherever Swift's name is known, it is
associated with his spleen on account of his not being elevated to the
Episcopal Bench, when he was promised a vacancy, which was reserved for
him; but Queen Anne absolutely refused to confer such a dignity upon the
author of "Gulliver's Travels"--that profound satire upon society and
religion; and this occurring at a time when his energetic services
were so much needed in defence of the government he so assisted by
pamphleteering, satire, and wholesale lampoons. Mr. Cooke says, "The
Earl of Nottingham, in the debate upon the Dissenters' Bill, chiefly
founded his objection to the provision that the Bishops should have the
only power of licensing tutors, upon the likelihood there was that a
man who was in a fair way for becoming a Bishop, was hardly suspected
of being a Christian." This pointed allusion to Swift passed without
comment or reply in a public assembly, composed in a great measure of
his private friends and associates. This seems to intimate that the
opinion of his contemporaries was not very strong in favor of Swift's
religious principles. This may suffice to prove the unanimity of
sentiment existing among this brilliant coterie--one a political
Churchman--another the greatest poet of his age--the third, the most
accomplished statesman of his country. Although they were united in
religious conviction, it would have been certain ruin to any of the
confederates if the extent of their thoughts had reached the public ear.
The Dean wrote for the present--the poet for his age--and the peer for
the immediate benefit of his friends and a record for the future. But
they were all agreed that some code of ethics should be promulgated,
which should embody the positive speculations of Bolingbroke, with the
easy grace of Pope--the elaborate research of the philosopher with
the rhetoric of the poet. Swift coalesced in this idea, but was, to a
certain extent, ignorant of its subsequent history. It was not thought
prudent to trust Mallet and others with the secret. For this purpose the
"Essay of Man" was designed on the principles elaborated by Bolingbroke
in his private letters to Pope. It was Bolingbroke who drew up the
scheme, mapped out the arguments, and sketched the similes--it was Pope
who embellished its beauties, and turned it into rhyme. Doctor Warton,
the editor of Pope, also proves this:--"Lord Bathurst told the Doctor
that he had read the whole of the 'Essay on Man' in _the handwriting of
Bolingbroke_, and drawn up in a series of propositions which Pope was
to amplify, versify, and to illustrate." If further proofs are required,
that Bolingbroke was not only a co-partner but coadjutor with Pope, it
is found in the opening of the poem, where the poet uses the plural in
speaking of Bolingbroke--

     "Awake, my St. John, leave all meaner things
     To low ambition, and the pride of kings.
     Laugh when we must, be candid when you can,
     And vindicate the ways of God to man."

     * Cook's Life of Bolingbroke, 2nd vol., p. 97..

This is sufficient to prove the partnership in the poem, and from the
generally acknowledged fact of his connection, we have no hesitation in
declaring that this poem is the grand epic of Deism, and is as much the
offspring of Bolingbroke, as his own ideas when enunciated by others.
There is not a single argument in the Essay but what is much more
elaborated in the works of Bolingbroke, while every positive argument
is reduced to a few poetic maxims in the Essay. We may as well look here
for Bolingbroke's creed, rather than amongst his prose works. There
is, however, this difference, that in the Essay there is laid down an
ethical scheme of positivism--_i.e._, of everything in morals which
can be duly tested and nothing more: while in the prose writings of
Bolingbroke, the negative side of theology is discussed with an amount
of erudition which has never been surpassed by any of the great leaders
of Freethought. The first proposition of the Essay is based on a
postulate, upon which the whole reasoning is built. Overthrow this
substratum, and the philosophy of the Essay is overturned--admit it, and
its truth is evident; it is--

"What can we reason but from what we know?"

This is equivalent to saying that we can only reason concerning man as
a finite part of an infinite existence, and we can only predicate
respecting what comes under the _category of positive knowledge _; we
are therefore disabled from speculating in any theories which have for
a basis opposition to the collected experience of mankind. This was a
position laid down by Bolingbroke to escape all the historical arguments
which some men deduce from alleged miraculous agency in the past, or
problematical prophecy in the future. It _likewise_ shows the untenable
nature of all analogy, which presumes to trace an hypothetical first
cause or personal intelligence, to account for a supposed origin of
primeval existence, by which nature was caused, or forms of being first
evolved. Although it may be deemed inconsistent with the philosophy of
Bolingbroke to admit a God in the same argument as the above, we must
not forget that in all speculative reasoning there must be an assumption
of some kind, which ought to be demonstrated by proof, or a suitable
equivalent in the form of universal consent. Yet in the case of the God
of the Essay, we look in vain for the attributes with which Theists love
to clothe their God, and we can but perceive inexorable necessity in the
shape of rigid and unswerving laws, collected in one focus by Pope, and
dignified with the name of God; so that the difference betwixt a
Deist of the old, and an Atheist of the modern school, is one of mere
words--they both commence with an assumption, the Atheist only defining
his terms more strictly, the subject-matter in both instances being
the same. The only difference being, the one deceives himself with a
meaningless word, the other is speechless on what he cannot comprehend.
The Essay shows a scheme of universal gradation, composed of a series of
links, which are one entwined within the other--every rock being placed
in its necessitated position--every plant amidst its growth bearing an
exoteric similitude to itself--every animal, from the lowest quadruped
to the highest race of man, occupying a range of climate adapted to its
requirements. The Essay here is scientifically correct, and agrees with
the ablest writers on necessity. A German philosopher renowned alike
for rigid analysis and transcendent abilities as a successful theorist,
observes, "When I contemplate all things as a whole, I perceive one
_nature_ one _force _: when I regard them as individuals, many forces
which develop themselves according to their inward laws, and pass
through all the forms of which they are capable, and all the objects
in nature are but those forces under certain limitations. Every
manifestation of every individual power of nature is determined partly
by itself, partly by its own preceding manifestations, and partly by the
manifestations of all other powers of nature with which it is connected;
but it is connected with all, for nature is one connected whole. Its
manifestations are, therefore, strictly necessary, and it is absolutely
impossible to be other than as it is. In every moment of her duration
nature is one connected whole, in every moment must every individual be
what it is because all others are what they are, and a single grain of
sand could not be moved from its place, without, however imperceptibly
to us, changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable
whole. Every moment of duration is determined by all past moments, and
will determine all future movements, and even the position of a grain
of sand cannot be conceived other than it is, without supposing other
changes to an indefinite extent. Let us imagine that grain of sand to be
lying some few feet further inland than it actually does; then must the
storm-wind that drove it in from the sea-shore have been stronger than
it actually was; then must the preceding state of the atmosphere,
by which this wind was occasioned, and its degree of strength being
determined, have been different from what it actually was, and the
preceding changes which gave rise to this particular weather, and so
on. We must suppose a different temperature from that which really
existed--a different constitution of bodies which influenced that
temperature. How can we know that in such a state of weather we have
been supposing, in order to carry this grain of sand a few yards
further, some ancestors of yours might not have perished from hunger,
cold, or heat, long before the birth of that son from whom you are
descended, and thus you might never have been at all, and all that you
have done, and all that you ever hope to do, must have been hindered, in
order that a grain of sand might lie in a different place." * The whole
of the first book is devoted to the necessitated condition of man
in relation to the universe. In one portion there is a succession of
beautiful similes, portraying the blissful state we are in, instead of
being gifted with finer sensibilities, or a prescience, which would be a

     * Fichte's "Destination of Man," pp. 8, 9

Pope, although an ardent disciple of Bolingbroke, did not entirely
forsake the prejudices of childhood; he still indulged in a bare hope of
a future life, which his master, with more consistency, suppressed. So
that when the poet rhymed the propositions of St. John, he pointed them
with "hope" in an eternal future; for that speculation which was still
_probability_ in his day, is now nearly silenced by modern science. But
we must not confound the ideas of futurity, which some of the Deists
expressed, with those of Christianity. They were as different as the
dreams of Christ and Plato were dissimilar. Pope "hoped" for a future
life of intellectual enjoyment devoid of evil, but the heaven of the
gospel is equally as necessary to be counterbalanced by a hell, as
the existence of a God requires the balancing support of a devil. We
therefore can sympathise with the description of a heaven, the poor
Indian looked for:--

     "Some safer world in depths of woods embraced,
     Some happier island in the watery waste;
     Where slaves once more their native land behold,
     Nor fiends torment, nor _Christians thirst for gold.
     To be_--contents his natural desires,
     He asks no angels' wings, no seraphs' fires,
     But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
     His faithful dog should bear him company."

Pope durst not emphatically deny the future-life theory, so he attacked
it by elaborating a physical instead of a spiritual heaven. So heterodox
a notion of the Indian's future sports, is not to be found in theology,
especially as he pictures the Indian's sports with his dog. Here was
a double blow aimed at Christianity by evolving a "positive" idea
of future pleasures, and the promulgation of sentiments
anti-Christian.--Again he attacks them for unwarrantable speculation in
theology, when he says--

     "In pride, in reasoning pride our error lies."

This is a corollary to the first proposition, "What can we reason but
from what we know?" The only predicate we can draw from this is, the
undoubted fact we have no right to profess to hold opinions of that,
upon which we cannot have any positive proof. The last line of the
first book has been generally thought open to attack. It relates to
necessity--"Whatever is, is right"--and is not to be viewed in relation
to society as at present constituted, but to the physical universe.

The second book deals with man in relation to himself as an individual;
the third as a member of society, and the last in respect to happiness.
Throughout the whole Essay the distinctions arising from nature and
instinct are defined and defended with vigor and acuteness. Both are
proved to be equally great in degree, in spite of the hints constantly
thrown out in reference to "God-like Reason _versus_ Blind Instinct." We
confess our inability to discern the vaunted superiority of the powers
of reason over those of its blinder sister. We see in the one matchless
wisdom--profound decision--unfailing resource--a happy contentment as
unfeigned as it is natural. On the other hand, we see temerity allied
with cowardice--a man seeking wisdom on a watery plank, when every
footmark may serve him for a funeral effigy; political duplicity arising
from his confined generalization of facts; a desire to do right, but
checked by accident and cunning--everywhere uneasy--always fatal. If
the Christians' fables were true, we might say that Adam and Eve were
originally in possession of Instinct and Reason, and fell by listening
to the promptings of volition, instead of the unswerving powers of the
brutes, and for a hereditary punishment was cursed with a superabundance
of reason. For with all our intellectual prerogatives, we have yet
failed to arrive at a definite course of action which should influence
our conduct. The Essay, speaking of Government by Christianity, says:--

     "Force first made conquest, and that conquest law,
     Till superstition taught the tyrant awe.


     She taught the weak to bend, the proud to pray,
     To power unseen, and mightier far than they:
     She, from the rending earth and bursting skies,
     Saw Gods descend and fiends infernal rise.
     Here _fixed_ the dreadful, there the blessed abodes,
     Here _made her_ devils, and weak hope her Gods.
     Gods partial, changeful, passionate, _unjust_,
     Whose _attributes were rage, revenge, or lust_.
     Such as the souls of cowards might conceive,
     And formed like tyrants; tyrants would believe.
     Zeal then, not charity, became the guide,
     And Hell was _built in spite_, and Heaven in pride."

And again--

     "For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,
     His can't be wrong whose life is in the right."

The Essay concludes with an invocation to Bolingbroke--whom Pope styles,
"my guide, philosopher, and friend." Such is the conclusion of the most
remarkable ethical poem in any language. It is the Iliad of English
Deism. Not a single allusion to Christ--a future state of existence
given only as a faint probability--the whole artificial state of society
satirized--prayer ridiculed, and government of every kind denounced
which does not bring happiness to the people. The first principle laid
down is the corner-stone of materialism--"What can we reason but
from what we know?"--which is stated, explained, and defended with an
axiomatic brevity rarely equalled, never surpassed--with a number
of illustrations comprising the _chef d'oeuvre_ of poetic grace, and
synthical melody combined with arguments as cogent as the examples are

It stands alone in its impregnability--a pile of literary architecture
like the "Novum Organan" of Bacon, the "Principia" of Newton, or the
Essay of Locke. The facades of its noble colonnades are seen extending
their wings through the whole sweep of history, constituting a pantheon
of morals, where every nation sends its devotees to admire and worship.

Let us now turn to the philosophical works of Bolingbroke. By the will
of Bolingbroke he devised this portion of his manuscripts to David
Mallet, the poet, for publication. The noble Lord's choice is open to
censure here. He knew the character of Mallet, and could expect little
justice from him who should have been his biographer. The MSS. were all
prepared for the press long before Bolingbroke died. In this original
state, they were addressed to Pope. When published they appeared as
"Letters or Essays addressed to Alexander Pope, Esq." The political
friends of St. John wished their suppression, fearing that they would
injure his reputation by being anti-Christian. A large bribe was
offered by Lord Cornbur if Mallet would destroy the works. He, no doubt,
thinking more money could be made by their publication, issued them to
the world in 1754, but without giving a biography or notes to the books,
his work being simply correcting the errors of the press. True, there
existed no stipulation that he should write the Life of Bolingbroke, but
no one can doubt that such was the intention of the statesman, when he
bequeathed to him property which realized £10,000 in value. Every one
knows the huge witticism of Dr. Johnson, who accused Bolingbroke of
cowardice, under the simile of loading a blunderbuss, and then leaving a
Scotchman half-a-crown to fire it when he was out of the way. When those
posthumous works appeared, the grand jury of Westminster presented them
to the judicial authorities as subversive of religion, morality, and
government. They were burnt by the common hangman.

With difficulty we give a quotation from Boling-broke's ideas of a
Future Life. In vol. IV., p. 348, he says, "I do not say, that to
believe in a future state is to believe in a vulgar error; but this I
say, it cannot be demonstrated by reason: it is not in the nature of it
capable of demonstration, and no one ever returned that irremediable way
to give us an assurance of the fact."

Again, he speaks personally in reference to himself, Pope, and
Wollaston, whom he had been opposing:--

     "He alone is happy, and he 'is truly so, who can say,
     Welcome life whatever it brings!
     Welcome death whatever it is!
     If the former,--we change our state.


That you, or I, or even Wollaston himself, should return to the earth
from whence we came, to the dirt under our feet, or be mingled with the
ashes of those herbs and plants from which we drew nutrition whilst we
lived, does not seem any indignity offered to our nature, since it is
common to all the animal kind: and he who complains of it as such, does
not seem to have been set, by his reasoning faculties, so far above them
in life; as to deserve not to be levelled with them at death. We were
like them before our birth, that is nothing. So we shall be on this
hypothesis, like them too after our death, that is nothing. What
hardship is done us? Unless it be a hardship, that we are not immortal
because we wish to be so, and flatter ourselves with that expectation.

"If this hypothesis were true, which I am far from assuming, I should
have no reason to complain, though having tasted existence, I might
abhor non-entity. Since, then, the first cannot be demonstrated by
reason, nor the second be reconciled to my inward sentiment, let me take
refuge in resignation at the last, as in every other act of my life: let
others be solicitous about their future state, and frighten or flatter
themselves as prejudice, imaginative bad health--nay, a lowering day,
or a clear sunshine shall inspire them to do: let the tranquillity of my
mind rest on this immovable rock, that my future, as well as my present
state, are ordered by an Almighty Creator, and that they are equally
foolish, and presumptuous, who make imaginary excursions into futurity,
and who complain of the present."

Lord Bolingbroke died in the year 1751, after a long and painful
illness, occasioned by the ignorance of a quack. While lying on his
death-bed he composed a discourse, entitled "Considerations on the State
of the Nation." He died in peace--in the knowledge of the truth of the
principles he had advocated, and with that calm serenity of mind, which
no one can more fully experience than the honest Freethinker. He was
buried in the church at Battersea. He was a man of the highest rank of
genius, far from being immaculate in his youth, brave, sincere, a true
friend, possessed of rich learning, a clear and sparkling style, a great
wit, and the most powerful Freethinker of his age.

A. C.


In the history of the French Revolution, we read of a multitude of
sections, each ruled by a man, and each man representing a philosophy.
Not that each man was the contriver of a system, but the effervescence
of one. As true as Robespierre was the advocate of Rousseau, as Marat
was the Wilkes of Paris, as Danton was the Paine, and Mirabeau the
expediency-politician of reflex England, so true is it that Condorcet
was the type of the philosophic Girondists, the offspring of Voltaire.

The two great schools of metaphysics fought out the battle on
the theatre of the Constituent Assembly, in a spirit as bitterly
uncompromising as when under different phraseological terms, they met in
the arguments of the School-men, or further in the womb of history, on
the forum of Athens. It is a fact no less true than singular, that after
each mental excitement amongst the _savons_, whether in ancient or in
modern times, after the literary shock has passed away, the people are
innoculated with the strife, and, destitute of the moderation of their
leaders, fight for that doctrine which they conceive oppresses their
rights. The French Revolution was one of those struggles. It gave rise
to epoch-men. Not men who originated a doctrine, but those who attempted
to carry it out. Condorcet was one of those men. He was the successor
of Voltaire in the Encyclopædic warfare. The philosopher amongst the
orators. Destitute of the amazing versatility of the sage of Ferney, he
imbibed the prophet's antipathy to superstition, and after a brilliant
career, fell in the wild onslaught of passion. The Revolution was the
arena on which was fought the battle involving the question whether
Europe was to be ruled for a century by Christianity or Infidelity. The
irresolution of Robespierre lost to us the victory of the first passage
of arms, equally as decisive as Lafayette in 1830, and Lamartine in
1848, being Liberals, lost in each case the social Republic by
their vacillating policy. The true Freethinkers of that age were the
Girondists. With their heroic death, the last barrier to despotism
disappeared; the Consulate became the only logical path for gilded
chains and empire. With the ostracism of the Republicans by Napoleon the
Little, a Parallel is completed between the two eras of French history.

The family name of Condorcet was Caritat. His father was a scion of an
aristocratic family, and an officer in the army. The son who gave honor
to the family, was born in the year 1743, at Ribemont, in Picardy. His
father dying early, left his son to be educated with his wife, under the
guardianship of his brother, the Bishop of Lisieux, a celebrated Jesuit.
The mother of Condorcet was extremely superstitious, and in one of her
fanatic ecstasies, offered up her son at the shrine of the Virgin Mary.
How this act was performed we cannot relate; but it is a notorious
fact that until his twelfth year, the embryo philosopher was clothed
in female attire, and had young ladies for companions, which, M.
Arago says, "accounts for many peculiarities in the _physique_ and the
_morale_ of his manhood." The abstinence from all rude, boyish sports,
checked the proper muscular development of his limbs; the head and trunk
were on a large scale, but the legs were so meagre that they seemed
unfit to carry what was above them; and, in fact, he never could partake
in any strong exercises, or undergo the bodily fatigues to which healthy
men willingly expose themselves. On the other hand, he had imbibed the
tenderness of a delicate damsel, retaining to the last a deep horror for
affliction pain on the inferior animals.

In 1775, he entered the Jesuit Academy at Rheiras. Three years
afterwards, he was transferred to the College of Navarre, in Paris,
and soon made himself the most distinguished scholar there. His friends
wished him to enter the priesthood, not knowing that even in his
seventeenth year he had embraced the Deism of the age.

At the age of nineteen he left college, and immediate-ly published a
series of mathematical works, which established his fame. Shortly
after this, the Academy of Sciences chose Condorcet for their assistant
secretary. In the year 1770 he accompanied D'Alembert in a tour through
Italy, making a call for some weeks at Ferney, where he was delighted
with the company of Voltaire, and was duly recognised as one of the
Encylopædists; and, on his return to Paris, became the literary agent of
his great leader.

A Quarterly Reviewer, writing on Voltaire and Condercet, says of the
former, "When he himself, in these latter days, was resolved to issue
anything that he knew and felt to be pregnant with combustion, he
never dreamt of Paris--he had agents enough in other quarters: and the
anonymous or pseudonymous mischief was printed at London, Amsterdam, or
Hamburgh, from a fifth or sixth copy in the handwriting of some Dutch
or English clerk--thence, by cautious steps, smuggled into France--and
then, disavowed and denounced by himself, and, for him, by his
numberless agents, with an intrepid assurance which, down to the last,
confounded and baffled all official inquisitors, until, in each separate
case, the scent had got cold. Therefore, he sympathized not at all with
any of these, his subalterns, when they, in their own proper matters,
allowed themselves a less guarded style of movement."

On one occasion, Condorcet's imprudence extorts a whole series of
passionate remonstrants from him and his probable complaints--but the
burden is always the same--"Tolerate the whispers of age! How often
shall I have to tell you all that no one but a fool will publish such
things unless he has 200,000 bayonets at his back? Each Encyclopædist
was apt to forget that, though he corresponded familiarly with
Frederick, he was not a King of Prussia; and, by-and-by, not one of them
more frequently made this mistake than Condorcet--for that gentleman's
saintlike tranquillity of demeanor, though it might indicate a naturally
languid pulse, covered copious elements of vital passion. The slow wheel
could not resist the long attrition of controversy; and when it once
blazed, the flame was all the fiercer for its unseen nursing. 'You
mistake Condorcet,' said D'Alembert, 'he is a volcano covered with

When Turgot became Minister of Marine, he gave Condorcet a post as
Inspector of Canals; from this he was subsequently promoted to the
Inspector of the Mint. When Turgot was replaced by Necker, Condorcet
resigned his office.

In 1782 he was elected one of the forty of the Academy of Sciences,
beating the Astronomer, Bailly, by _one_ vote. In the next year,
D'Alembert, his faithful friend, died, leaving him the whole of his
wealth; his uncle, the bishop, likewise died in the same year, from
whom he would receive a fresh accession of property. Shortly after this,
time, Condorcet married Madame de Grouchy--also celebrated as a lady of
great beauty, good fortune, and an educated Atheist. The marriage was
a happy one. The only offspring was a girl, who married General Arthur
O'Connor, uncle to the late Feargus O'Connor, an Irish refugee who was
connected with Emmett's rebellion.

During the excitement of the American War of Independence, Condorcet
took an active part in urging the French Government to bestow assistance
in arms and money, upon the United States; after the war was concluded,
he corresponded with Thomas Paine, who gradually converted him to the
extreme Republican views the "illustrious needleman" himself possessed,
which, in this case, rapidly led to the _denouement_ of 1791, when he
was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly by the department of
Paris. In the next year he was raised to the rank of President by a
majority of near one hundred votes. While in the Assembly, he brought
forward and supported the economical doctrines of Adam Smith, proposed
the abolition of indirect taxation, and levying a national revenue upon
derivable wealth in amount according to the individual, passing over all
who gained a livelihood by manual labor. He made a motion for the public
burning of all documents relating to nobility--himself being a Marquis.
He took a conspicuous place in the trial of the king; he voted him
guilty, but refused to vote for his death, as the punishment of death
was against his principles. The speech he made on this occasion is fully
equal to that of Paine's on the same occasion.

When the divergence took place between the Jacobins and Girondists,
Condorcet strove to unite them; but every day brought fresh troubles,
and the position of the Seneca of the Revolution was too prominent to
escape the opposition of the more violent taction.

Robespierre triumphed; and in his success could be traced the doom
of his enemies. An intercepted letter was the means of Condorcet's
impeachment. Deprived of the support of Isnard, Brissot, and Vergniaud,
the Jacobins proscribed without difficulty the hero whose writings had
mainly assisted in producing the Revolution. His friends provided means
for his escape. They applied to a lodging-house keeper, a Madame
Vernet, if she would conceal him for a time; she asked was he a virtuous
man--yes, replied his friend, he is the---- stay, you say he is a good
man, I do not wish to pry into his secrets or his name. Once safe in
this asylum, he was unvisited by either wife or friends; morover, such
was the hurry of his flight, that he was without money, and nearly
without books.

While in this forced confinement, he wrote the "_Esquisse d'un
Tableau Historique des Progrès de l'Esprit Humain_," and several other
fragmentary essays. In this work he lays down a scheme of society
similar to the "New Moral World," of Robert Owen. Opposing the idea of
a God, he shows the dominion of science in education, political economy,
chemistry, and applies mathematical principles to a series of moral
problems. Along with the progress of man he combined the progress of
arts--estimating the sanatory arrangements of our time, he prophecied on
the gradual extension of longevity, amongst the human race; and with it,
enjoyments increased by better discipline in gustatorial duties. He
has similar views on the softer sex to M. Proudhomme (his immediate
disciple,) and, in the close of the work, Condorcet announced the
possibility of an universal language, which is daily becoming more
assimilated to modern ideas.

The guillotine had not been idle during the few weeks of Condorcet's
retreat. Fancying that (if discovered) he might be the means of injuring
his benefactress, he resolved to escape from the house of Madame Vernet.
Previous to doing this, he made his will. M. Arago, describing this
epoch in his closing days, says:--

"When he at last paused, and the feverish excitement of authorship was
at an end, our colleague rested all his thoughts anew on the danger
incurred by his hostess. He resolved then (I employ his own words) to
quit the retreat which the boundless devotion of his tutelar angel had
transformed into a paradise. He so little deceived himself as to the
probable consequences of the step he meditated--the chances of safety
after his evasion appeared so feeble--that before he put his plan into
execution he made his last dispositions. In the pages then written, I
behold everywhere the lively reflection of an elevated mind, a feeling
heart, and a beautiful soul. I will venture to say, that there exists
in no language anything better thought, more tender, more touching,
more sweetly expressed, than the '_Avis d'un Proscrit a sa Fill_.' Those
lines, so limpid, so full of unaffected delicacy, were written on that
very day when he was about to encounter voluntarily an immense danger.
The presentiment of a violent end almost inevitably did not disturb
him--his hand traced those terrible words, _Ma mort, ma mort prochaîne!_
with a firmness which the Stoics of antiquity might have envied.
Sensibility, on the contrary, obtained the mastery when the illustrious
proscribed was drawn into the anticipation that Madame de Condorcet also
might be involved in the bloody catastrophe that threatened him. _Should
my daughter be destined to lose all_--this is the most explicit allusion
that the husband can insert in his last writing."

"The Testament is short. It was written on the fly-leaf of a 'History of
Spain.' In it Condorcet directs that his daughter, in case of his wife's
death, shall be brought up by Madame Vernet, whom she is to call her
second mother, and who is to see her so educated as to have means of
independent support either from painting or engraving. 'Should it be
necessary for my child to quit France, she may count on protection in
England from my Lord Stanhope and my Lord Daer. In America, reliance
may be placed on Jefferson and Bache, the grandson of Franklin. She is,
therefore, to make the English language her first study.'"

Such was the last epistle ever written by Condorcet. Notwithstanding
the precautions taken by his friends, he escaped into the streets--from
thence having appealed in vain to friends for assistance, he visited
some quarries. Here he remained from the 5th to the evening of the 7th
of April, 1794. Hunger drove him to the village of Clamait, when he
applied at an hostelry for refreshment. He described himself as a
carpenter out of employment, and ordered an omelet. This was an age
of suspicion, and the landlord of the house soon discovered that the
wanderer's hands were white and undisfigured with labor, while his
conversation bore no resemblance to that of a common artificer. The
good dame of the house inquired how many eggs he would have in his dish.
Twelve, was the answer. Twelve eggs for a joiner's supper! This was
heresy against the equality of man. They demanded his passport--he had
not got one--the only appearance of anything of the sort was a scrap of
paper, scrawled over with Latin epigrams. This was conclusive evidence
to the village Dogberries that he was a traitor and an aristocrat. The
authorities signed the warrant for his removal to Paris. Ironed to two
officers they started on the march. The first evening they arrived at
Bourg-la-Reine, where they deposited their prisoner in the gaol of
that town. In the morning the gaoler found him a corpse. He had taken a
poison of great force, which he habitually carried in a ring. Thus
ended the life of the great Encyclopædist--a man great by his many
virtues--who reflected honor on France by his science, his literary
triumphs, and his moral heroism. He had not the towering energy
of Marat, nor the gushing eloquence of Danton, neither had he the
superstitious devotion to abstract ideas which characterized the whole
course of Robespierre's life. The oratory of Danton, like that of Marat,
only excited the people to dissatisfaction; they struck down effete
institutions, but they were not the men to inaugurate a new society. It
is seldom we find the pioneers of civilization the best mechanics. They
strike down the forest--they turn the undergrowth--they throw a log over
the stream, but they seldom rear factories, or invent tubular bridges.

Amongst the whole of the heroes of the French Revolution, we must admire
the Girondists, as being the most daring, and, at the same time, the
most constructive of all who met either in the Constituent Assembly or
the Convention. The Jacobin faction dealt simply with politics through
the abstract notions of Rousseau: but of what use are "human rights" if
we have to begin _de novo_ to put into operation?--rather let us unite
the conservative educationalism of Socialism with the wild democracy of
ignorance. Politics never can be successful unless married to Socialism.

It was not long after Condorcet's death, before the Committee of Public
Instruction undertook the charge of publishing the whole of his works.
For this they have been censured on many grounds. We consider that it
was one of the few good things accomplished by that Committee. There is
nothing in the works of this writer which have a distinctive peculiarity
to us; few great writers who direct opinion at the time they write,
appear to posterity in the same light as they did to a public inflamed
by passion, and trembling under reiterated wrongs. When we look at the
works of D'Holbach, we find a standard treatise, which is a land-mark to
the present day; but at the time the "System of Nature" was written, it
had not one tithe the popularity which it now enjoys; it did not produce
an effect superior to a new sarcasm of Voltaire, or an epigram of
Diderot. Condorcet was rather the co-laborer and _literateur_ of the
party, than the prophet of the new school. Voltaire was the Christ,
and Condorcet the St. Paul of the new faith. In political economy, the
doctrines of the English and Scotch schools were elaborated to their
fullest extent. Retrenchment in pensions and salaries, diminution of
armies, equal taxation, the resumption by the State of all the Church
lands, the development of the agricultural and mechanical resources,
the abolition of the monopolies, total free trade, local government, and
national education; such-were the doctrines for which Turgot fought, and
Condorcet popularized. If they had been taken in time, France would
have escaped a revolution, and Europe would have been ruled by peace
and freedom. It may be asked, who brought about the advocacy of those
doctrines, for they were not known before the middle of the eighteenth
century? They were introduced as a novelty, and defended as a paradox.
France had been exhausted by wars, annoyed by _ennui_, brilliant above
all by her genius, she was struck with lassitude for her licentious
crimes. There was an occasion for a new school. Without it, France, like
Carthage, would have bled to death on the hecatomb of her own lust. Her
leading men cast their eyes to England; it was then the most progressive
nation in existence. The leading men of that country were intimate with
the rulers of the French; the books of each land were read with avidity
by their neighbors; a difference was observable between the two: but how
that difference was to be reconciled was past the skill of the wisest to
unravel. England had liberal institutions, and a people with part of the
substance, and many of the forms of Liberalism, along with a degree of
education which kept them in comparative ignorance, yet did not offer
any obstacles to raising themselves in the social sphere. Before France
could compete with England, she had to rid herself of the feudal system,
and obtain a Magna Charta. She was above four centuries behind-hand
here. She had to win her spurs through revolutions, like those of
Cromwell's and that of 1688, and the still greater ones of Parliament.
The Freethinkers of England prepared the Whig revolution of William, by
advocating the only scheme which was at the time practicable, for of the
two--the Protestant and the Catholic religion--the former is far more
conducive to the liberties of a people than the latter, and at the time,
and we may also say, nearer the present, the people were not prepared
for any organic change. This being the case, it is not to be wondered
at that the French Revolution was a failure as a constructive effort;
it was a success as a grand outbreak of power; showing politicians where
(in the future) to rely for success. The men who undertook to bring
about this Revolution are not to be censured for its non-success. They
wished to copy English institutions, and adapt them to those of the
French; for this purpose, the Continental League was formed, each member
of which pledged himself to uproot, as far as lay in his power,
the Catholic Church in France. A secret name was given to
it--_L'Infame_--and an organized attack was speedily commenced. The
men at the head of the movement, besides Voltaire and Frederick, were
D'Alembert, Diderot, Grim, St. Lambert, Condillac, Helvetius, Jordan,
Lalande, Montesquieu, and a host of others of less note. Con-dorcet,
being secretary of the Academy, corresponded with, and directed the
movements of all, in the absence of his chief. Every new book was
criticised--refutations were published to the leading theological works
of the age; but by far the roost effective progress was made by the
means of poems, essays, romances, epigrams, and scientific papers. The
songs of France at this era were written by the philosophers; and this
spirit was diffused among the people. In a country so volatile and
excitable as the French, it is difficult to estimate too highly the
power of a ballad warfare. The morality of Abbots and Nuns were sung in
strains as rhapsodical, and couplets as voluptuous as the vagaries of
the Songs of Solomon.

Much discretion was required, that no separate species of warfare should
be overdone, lest a nausea of sentiment should revert upon the authors,
and thus lead to a reaction more sanguinary than the force of the
philosophers could control. In all those cases Condorcet was the prime
mover and the agent concerned. He communicated with Voltaire on every
new theory, and advised him when and how to strike, and when to _rest_.
In all those matters Condorcet was obeyed. There was a smaller section
of the more serious philosophers who sympathized with, yet did not
labor simultaneously for the common cause--those men, the extreme
Atheists--clever but cautious--men who risked nothing--Mirabeau and
D'Holbach were the types of this class. It is well known that both
Frederick, Voltaire, and Condorcet opposed those sections, as likely to
be aiming at too much for the time.

When it was considered prudent to take a more decided step, the
Encyclopædia was formed. Condorcet had a principal part in this
work, which shook priestcraft on its throne; it spread consternation
where-ever it appeared, and was one of the main causes of the great
outbreak. No one can sufficiently praise a work of such magnitude; nor
can any one predicate when its effects will cease.

In the "Life of Condorcet," by Arago, there is a curious extract copied
from a collection of anecdotes, said to be compiled from his note-books,
and dignified with the title of "Mémoires de Condorcet." It relates to
a conversation between the Abbe Galiana and Diderot, in which it is said
Condorcet acquiesced. The subject is the fair sex:--

Diderot.--How do you define woman?

Galiana.--An animal naturally feeble and sick.

Diderot.--Feeble? Has she not as much courage as man?

Galiana.--Do you know what courage is? It is the effect of terror. You
let your leg be cut off, because you are afraid of dying. Wise people
are never courageous--they are prudent--that is to say, poltroons.

Diderot.--Why call you woman naturally sick!

Galiana.--Like all animals, she is sick until she attains her perfect
growth. Then she has a peculiar symptom which takes up the fifth part
of her time. Then come breeding and nursing, two long and troublesome
complaints. In short, they have only intervals of health, until
they turn a certain corner, and then _elles ne sont plus de malades
peut-être--elles ne sont que des reilles_.

Diderot.--Observe her at a ball, no vigor, then, M. l'Abbe?

Galiana.--Stop the fiddles! put out the lights! she will scarcely crawl
to her coach.

Diderot.--See her in love.

Galiana.--It is painful to see anybody in a fever.

Diderot.--M. l'Abbe, have you no faith in education?

Galiana.--Not so much as in instinct. A woman is habitually ill. She is
affectionate, engaging, irritable, capricious, easily offended, easily
appeased, a trifle amuses her. The imagination is always in play. Fear,
hope, joy, despair, and disgust, follow each other more rapidly, are
manifested more strongly, effaced more quickly, than with us. They like
a plentiful repose, at intervals company; anything for excitement. Ask
the doctor if it is not the same with his patients. But ask yourself,
do we not all treat them as we do sick people, lavish attention, soothe,
flatter, caress, and get tired of them?

Condorcet, in a letter, remarking on the above conversation, says:--"I
do not insist upon it as probable that woman will ever be Euler
or Voltaire; but I am satisfied that she may one day be Pascal or
Rousseau." This very qualification, we consider, is sufficient to
absolve Condorcet from, the charge of being a "woman hater." His
opponents, when driven from every other source, have fallen back on
this, and alleged that he viewed the sexes as unequal, and that the
stronger had a right to lord it over the weaker. But which is the
weaker? Euler and Voltaire were masculine men. A woman to be masculine,
in the true sense of the word, is an anomaly, to be witnessed with pain.
She is not in a normal condition. She is a monster. Women should live in
society fully educated and developed in their physical frame, and then
they would be more feminine in proportion as they approach the character
of Mary Wollstonecraft. They have no right to domineer as tyrants, and
then fall into the most abject of slaves. In each of the characters of
Pascal and Rousseau, was an excess of sensibility, which overbalanced
their other qualities, and rendered their otherwise great talents
wayward, and, to a certain extent, fruitless. The peculiarity of man
is physical power, and intellectual force; that of woman is an acute
sensibility. Condorcet, then, was justified in expressing the opinions
he avowed upon the subject.

In a paper, in the year 1766, read before the "Academy," on "Ought
Popular Errors to be Eradicated!" Condorcet says, "If the people
are often tempted to commit crimes in order that they may obtain the
necessaries of life, it is the fault of the laws; and, as bad laws are
the product of errors, it would be more simple to abolish those errors
than to add others for the correction of their natural effects. Error,
no doubt, may do some good; it may prevent some crimes, but it will
occasion mischiefs greater than these. By putting nonsense into the
heads of the people, you make them stupid; and from stupidity to
ferocity there is but a step. Consider--if the motives you suggest
for being just make but a slight impression on the mind, that will not
direct the conduct--if the impressions be lively, they will produce
enthusiasm, and enthusiasm for error. Now, the ignorant enthusiast is
no longer a man; he is the most terrible of wild beasts. In fact, the
number of criminals among the men with prejudices (Christians) is in
greater proportion to the total number of our population, than the
number of criminals in the class above prejudices (Freethinkers) is to
the total of that class. I am not ignorant that, in the actual state of
Europe, the people are not, perhaps, at all prepared for a true
doctrine of morals; but this degraded obtuseness is the work of social
institutions and of superstitions. Men are not born blockheads; they
become such. By speaking reason to the people, even in the little time
they give to the cultivation of their intellect, we might easily teach
them the little that it is necessary for them to know. Even the idea of
the respect that they should have for the property of the rich, is
only difficult to be insinuated among them--first, because they look
on riches as a sort of usurpation, of theft perpetrated upon them, and
unhappily this opinion is in great part true--secondly, because their
excessive poverty makes them always consider themselves in the case of
absolute necessity--a case in which even very severe moralists have been
of their mind--thirdly, because they are as much despised and maltreated
for being poor, as they would be after they had lowered themselves by
larcenies. It is merely, therefore, because institutions are bad, that
the people are so commonly a little thievish upon principle."

We should have much liked to have given some extended quotations from
the works of Condorcet; but, owing to their general character, we cannot
extract any philosophic formula which would be generally interesting.
His "Lettres d'un Théologien" are well deserving of a reprint; they
created an astounding sensation when they appeared, being taken for the
work of Voltaire--the light, easy, graceful style, with deeply concealed
irony, the crushing retort and the fiery sarcasm. They made even priests
laugh by their Attic wit and incongruous similes. But it was in the
"Academy" where Condorcet's influence was supreme. He immortalized the
heroes as they fell, and pushed the cause on by his professional duties.
He was always awake to the call of duty, and nobly did he work his
battery. He is now in the last grand sleep of man--the flowers of poesy
are woven in amarynth wreaths over his tomb.



Baruch Spinoza, or Espinoza, better known under the name of Benedict
Spinoza (as rendered by himself in the Latin language,) was born at
Amsterdam, in Holland, on the 24th of November, 1632. There is some
uncertainty as to this date, as there are several dates fixed by
different authors, both for his birth and death, but we have adopted the
biography given by Dr. C. H. Bruder, in the preface to his edition
of Spinoza's works. His parents were Jews of the middle, or, perhaps,
somewhat humbler class. His father was originally a Spanish merchant,
who, to escape persecution, had emigrated to Holland. Although the
life of our great philosopher is one full of interesting incidents,
and deserves to be treated fully, we have but room to give a very brief
sketch, referring our readers, who may wish to learn more of Spinoza's
life, to Lewes's "Biographical History of Philosophy," _Westminster
Review_, No. 77, and "Encyclopædia Brittannica." p. 144. His doctrines
we will let speak for themselves in his own words, trusting thereby to
give the reader an opportunity of knowing who and what Spinoza really
was. One man shrinks with horror from him as an Atheist. Voltaire
says, that he was an Atheist, and taught Atheism. Another calls him "a
God-intoxicated man." We present him a mighty thinker, a master mind,
a noble, fearless utterer of free and noble thoughts, a hard-working,
honest, independent man; as one who, two centuries ago, gave forth to
the world a series of thinkings which have crushed, with resistless
force, the theological shell in the centre of which the priests hide
the kernel "truth."

Spinoza appears in his boyhood to have been an apt scholar, and to have
rapidly mastered the tasks set him by his teachers. Full of rabbinical
lore he won the admiration of the Rabbi Moses Mortira, but the pupil
rose higher than his master, and attempted to solve problems which the
learned rabbis were content to reverence as mysteries not capable
of solution. First they remonstrated, then threatened; still Spinoza
persevered in his studies, and in making known the result to those
around him. He was threatened with excommunication, and withdrew himself
from the synagogue. One more effort was made by the rabbis, who offered
Spinoza a pension of about £100 a-year if he would attend the
synagogue more frequently, and consent to be silent with regard to
his philosophical thinkings. This offer he indignantly refused. Reason
failing, threats proving futile, and gold being treated with scorn,
one was found sufficiently fanatic to try a further experiment, which
resulted in an attempt on Spinoza's life; the knife, however, luckily
missed its aim, and our hero escaped. At last, in the year 1660,
Spinoza, being then twenty-eight years of age, was solemnly
excommunicated from the synagogue. His friends and relations shut their
doors against him. An outcast from the home of his youth, he gained
a humble livelihood by polishing glasses for microscopes, telescopes,
etc., at which he was very expert. While thus acquiring, by his own
handiwork, the means of subsistence, he was studying hard, devoting
every possible hour to philosophical research. Spinoza became master of
the Dutch, Hebrew, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin languages, the
latter of which he acquired in the house of one Francis Van den Ende,
from whom it is more than probable he received as much instruction in
Atheism as in Latin. Spinoza only appears to have once fallen in love,
and this was with Van den Ende's daughter, who was herself a good
linguist, and who gave Spinoza instruction in Latin. She, however,
although willing to be his instructress and companion in a philogical
path, declined to accept his love, and thus Spinoza was left to
philosophy alone. After his excommunication he retired to Rhynsburg,
near the City of Leyden, in Holland, and there studied the works of
Descartes. Three years afterwards he published an abridgment of the
"Meditations" of the great father of philosophy, which created a
profound sensation. In an appendix to this abridgment were contained the
germs of those thinkings in which the pupil outdid the master, and the
student progressed beyond the philosopher. In the month of June, 1664,
Spinoza removed to Woorburg, a small village near the Hague, where he
was visited by persons from different parts, attracted by his fame as a
philosopher; and at last, after many solicitations he came to the
Hague, and resided there altogether. In 1670 he published his "Tractatus
Theologico-Politicus." This raised him a host of opponents; many writers
rushed eager for the fray, to tilt with the poor Dutch Jew. His book was
officially condemned and forbidden, and a host of refutations (?) were
circulated against it. In spite of the condemnation it has outlived the

Spinoza died on the 21st or 22nd of February, 1677, in his forty-fifth
year, and was buried on the 25th of February at the Hague. He was frugal
in his habits, subsisting independently on the earnings of his own
hands. Honorable in all things, he refused to accept the chair of
Professor of Philosophy, offered to him by the Elector, and this because
he did not wish to be circumscribed in his thinking, or in the freedom
of utterance of his thoughts. He also refused a pension offered to him
by Louis XIV, saying that he had no intention of dedicating
anything to that monarch. The following is a list of Spinoza's
works:--"Principiorum Philosophise Renati Descartes;" "Tractatus
Theologico-Politicus;" "Ethica;" "Tractatus Politi-cus;" "De Emandatione
Intellectus;" "Epistolæ;" "Grammaticus Hebracæ," etc. There are also
several spurious works ascribed to Spinoza. The "Tractatus Politicus"
has been translated into English by William Maccall, who seems fully to
appreciate the greatness of the philosopher, although he will not admit
the usefulness of Spinoza's logic. Maccall does not see the utility of
that very logic which compelled him to admit Spinoza's truth. We are not
aware of any other translation of Spinoza's works except that of a
small portion of his "Ethica," by Lewes. This work, which was originally
published in 1677, commenced with eight definitions, which, together
with the following axioms and propositions, were reprinted from the
_Westminster Review_ in the _Library of Reason_:--


I. By cause of itself I understand that, the essence of which involves
existence: or that, the nature of which can only be considered as

II. A thing finite is that which can be limited (terminari potest)
by another thing of the same nature--_ergo_, body is said to be finite
because it can always be conceived as larger. So thought is limited by
other thoughts. But body does not limit thought, nor thought limit body.

III. By substance I understand that which is in itself, and is conceived
_per se_--that is, the conception of which does not require the
conception of anything else as antecedent to it.

IV. By attribute I understand that which the mind perceives as
constituting the very essence of substance.

V. By modes I understand the accidents (affectiones) of substance; or
that which is in something else, through which also it is conceived.

VI. By God I understand the being absolutely infinite; that is, the
substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses an
infinite and eternal essence.

_Explication_, I say absolutely infinite, but not in _suo genere_; for
to whatever is infinite, but not in _suo genere_, we can deny infinite
attributes; but that which is absolutely infinite, to its essence
pertains everything which implies essence, and involves no negation.

VII. That thing is said to be free which exists by the sole necessity
of its nature, and by itself alone is determined to action. But that is
necessary, or rather constrained, which owes its existence to another,
and acts according to certain and determinate causes.

VIII. By eternity I understand existence itself, in as far as it is
conceived necessarily to follow from the sole definition of an eternal


I. Everything which is, is in itself, or in some other thing.

II. That which cannot be conceived through another, _per aliud_ must be
conceived, _per se_.

III. From a given determinate cause the effect necessarily follows, and
_vice versa_. If no determinate cause be given, no effect can follow.

IV. The knowledge of an effect depends on the knowledge of the cause,
and includes it.

V. Things that have nothing in common with each other cannot be
understood by means of each other--that is, the conception of one, does
not involve the conception of the other.

VI. A true idea must agree with its original in nature.

VII. Whatever can be clearly conceived as non-existent does not, in its
essence, involve existence.


I. Substance is prior in nature to its accidents. Demonstration. Per
definitions three and five.

II. Two substances, having different attributes, have nothing in common
with each other. Dem. This follows from def. three; for each substance
must be conceived in itself and through itself; in other words, the
conception of one does not involve the conception of the other.

III. Of things which have nothing in common, one cannot be the cause of
the other. Dem. If they have nothing in common, then (per axiom five)
they cannot be conceived by means of each other; _ergo_ (per axiom
four,) one cannot be the cause of the other.--Q. E. D.

IV. Two or more distinct things are distinguished among themselves,
either through the diversity of their attributes, or through that of
their modes. Dem. Everything which is, in itself, or in some other thing
(per ax. one)--that is (per def. three and five,) there is nothing out
of ourselves (_extra intellectum_, outside the intellect) but substance
and its modes. There is nothing out of ourselves whereby things can be
distinguished amongst one another, except substances, or (which is the
same thing, per def. lour) their attributes and modes.

V. It is impossible that there should be two or more substances of the
same nature, or of the same attributes. Dem. If there are many different
substances they must be distinguished by the diversity of their
attributes or of their modes (per prop. 4.) If only by the diversity
of their attributes, it is thereby conceded that there is, nevertheless,
only one substance of the same attribute; but if their diversity of
modes, then, substance being prior in order of time to its modes, it
must be considered independent of them--that is (per def. three and
six,) cannot be conceived as distinguished from another--that is
(per prop, four,) there cannot be many substances, but only one
substance.--Q. E. D.

VI. One substance cannot be created by another substance. Dem. There
cannot be two substances with the same attributes (per prop, five)--that
is (per prop. two,) that hare anything in common with each other; and,
therefore (per prop, three,) one cannot be the cause of the other.

Corollary 1. Hence it follows that substance cannot be created by
anything else. For there is nothing in nature except substance and its
modes (per axiom one, and def. three and five.) Now, this substance, not
being produced by another, is self-caused.

Corollary 2. This proposition is more easily to be demonstrated by the
absurdity of its contradiction; for if substance can be produced by
anything else, the conception of it would depend on the conception of
the cause (per axiom four,) and hence (per def. three,) it would not be

VII. It pertains to the nature of substance to exist. Dem. Substance
cannot be produced by anything else (per coroli. prop, six,) and is
therefore the cause of itself--that is (per def. one,) its essence
necessarily involves existence; or it pertains to the nature of
substance to exist.--Q. E. D.

VIII. All substance is necessarily infinite. Dem. There exists but one
substance of the same attribute; and it must either exist as infinite or
finite. But not finite, for (per def. two) as finite it must be limited
by another substance of the same nature, and in that case there would be
two substances of the same attributes, which (per prop, five) is absurd.
Substance therefore is infinite.--Q. E. D.

"Scholium I.--I do not doubt but that to all who judge confusedly
of things, and are not wont to inquire into first causes, it will be
difficult to admit the demonstration of prop. 7, because they do not
sufficiently distinguish between the modifications of substances, and
substances themselves, and are ignorant of the manner in which things
are produced. Hence it follows, that the commencement which they see
natural things have, they attribute to substances; for he who knows not
the true cause of things, confounds all things, and feigns that trees
talk like men; that men are formed from stones as well as from seeds,
and that all forms can be changed into all other forms. So, also, those
who confound the divine nature with the human, naturally attribute
human affections to God, especially as they are ignorant of how these
affections are produced in the mind. If men attended to the nature of
substance, they would not, in the least, doubt proposition seven; nay,
this proposition would be an axiom to all, and would be numbered among
common notions. For by substance they would understand that which exists
in itself, and is concerned through itself--_i.e._, the knowledge of
which does not require the knowledge of anything as antecedent to it.
But by modification they would understand that which is in another
thing, the conception of which is formed by the conception of the thing
in which it is, or to which it belongs. We can have, therefore, correct
ideas of non-existent modifications, because, although out of the
understanding they have no reality, yet their essence is so comprehended
in that of another, that they can be conceived through this other.
The truth of substance (out of the understanding) lies nowhere but in
itself, because it is conceived _per se_. If therefore any one says
he has a clear idea of substance, and yet doubt whether such substance
exist, this would be as much as to say that he has a true idea, and
nevertheless doubts whether it be not false (as a little attention
sufficiently manifests;) or if any man affirms substance to be created,
he at the same time affirms that a true idea has become false, than
which nothing can be more absurd. Hence it is necessarily confessed that
the existence of substance, as well as its essence, is an eternal truth.
And hence we must conclude that there is only one substance possessing
the same attribute, which requires here a fuller development. I note
therefore--1. That the correct definition of a thing includes and
expresses nothing but the nature of the thing defined. From which
follows--2. That no definition includes or expresses a distinct number
of individuals, because it expresses nothing but the nature of the thing
defined; _ergo_, the definition of a triangle expresses no more than the
nature of a triangle, and not any fixed number of triangles. 3. There
must necessarily be a distinct cause for the existence of every existing
thing. 4. This cause, by reason of which anything exists, must either be
contained in the nature and definition of the existing thing (viz., that
it pertains to its nature to exist,) or else must be beyond it--must be
something different from it.

"As therefore it pertains to the nature of substance to exist, so must
its definition include a necessary existence, and consequently from
its sole definition we must conclude its existence. But as from its
definition, as already shown in notes two and three, it is not possible
to conclude the existence of many substances--_ergo_, it necessarily
follows that only one substance of the same nature can exist."

It will be necessary for the reader to remember that Spinoza commenced
his philosophical studies at the same point with Descartes. Both
recognized existence as the primal fact, self-evident and indisputable.

But while Descartes had, in some manner, fashioned a quality--God and
God-created substance--Spinoza only found one, substance, the definition
of which included existence. By his fourth proposition ("of things which
have nothing in common, one cannot be the cause of the other, ") he
destroyed the creation theory, because by that theory God is assumed to
be a spirit having nothing in common with matter, yet acting on
matter; and Lewes speaks of the fourth proposition in the following
terms:--"This fallacy has been one of the most influential corrupters
of philosophical speculation. For many years it was undisputed, and most
metaphysicians still adhere to it. The assertion is that only like can
act upon like; but although it is true that _like_ produces (causes)
_like_, it is also true that like produces _unlike_; thus fire produces
pain when applied to our bodies; _explosion_ when applied to gunpowder;
_charcoal_ when applied to wood; all these effects are unlike the
cause." We cannot help thinking that in this instance, the usually
thoughtful Lewes has either confused substance with its modes, or, for
the sake of producing a temporary effect, has descended to mere sophism.
Spinoza's proposition is, that _substances_ having nothing in common,
cannot act on one another. Lewes deals with several modes of the same
substance as though they were different substances. Way, more, to
make his argument the more plausible, he entirely ignores in it that
_noumenon_ of which he speaks as underlying all phenomena, and uses each
phenomenon as a separate existence. In each of the instances mentioned,
however varied may be the modification, the essence is the same. They
are merely examples of one portion of the whole acting upon another
portion, and there is that in each mode which is common to the whole,
and by means of which the action takes place.

Much has been said of Spinoza's "God" and "Divine Substance," and we
must refer the reader to Definition Six, in which God is defined as
being "infinite substance." Now, although we should be content to strike
the word "God" out of our own tablet of philosophical nomenclature, as
being a much misused, misrepresented, and entirely useless word, yet we
must be very careful, when we find another man using the word, to get
his precise definition, and not to use any-other ourselves while in his

Spinoza, when asked "What name do you attach to infinite substance?"
says, "God."--If he had said any other word we could not have quarrelled
with him so long as he defined the word, and adhered strictly to the
terms of his definition, although we might regret that he had not either
coined a word for himself, or used one less maltreated by the mass.
Spinoza said, "I can only take cognizance of one substance (of which
I am part) having infinite attributes of extension and thought. I
take cognizance of substance by its modes, and in my consciousness of
existence. Every thing is a mode of the attribute of extension, every
thought, wish, or feeling, a mode of the attribute of thought. I call
this, substance, with infinite attributes, God." Spinoza, like all other
thinkers, found himself overpowered by the illimitable vastness of the
infinite when attempting to grasp it by his mental powers, but unlike
other men he did not endeavor to relieve himself by separating himself
from that infinite; but, knowing he was a part of the whole, not
divisible from the remainder, he was content to aim at perfecting his
knowledge of existence rather than at dogmatising upon an indefinable
word, which, if it represented anything, professed to represent an
incomprehensible existence far beyond his reach.

We ought not to wonder that in many parts of Spinoza's writings we find
the word "God" treated in a less coherent manner than would be
possible under the definition given in his "Ethics," and for these
reasons:--Spinoza, from his cradle upwards, had been surrounded with
books and traditions sanctified by the past, and impressed on his
willing mind by his family, his tutors, and the heads of his church; a
mind like his gathered all that was given, even more quickly than it was
offered, still craving for more--"more light"--"more light"--and at last
light came bursting on the young thinker like a lightning flash at dark
midnight, revealing his mind in chains, which had been cast round him in
his nursery, his school, his college, his synagogue. By a mighty
effort he burst these chains, and walked forth a free man, despite the
entreaties of his family, the reasonings of the rabbis, the knife of the
fanatic, the curse of his church, and the edict of the state. But should
it be a matter of surprise to us that some of the links of those broken
chains should still hang on the young philosopher, and, seeming to be a
part of himself, almost imperceptibly incline to old ways of thinking,
and to old modes of utterance of those thoughts! Wonder not that a few
links bang about him, but rather that he ever succeeded in breaking
those chains at all. Spinoza, after his secession from his synagogue,
became logically an Atheist; education and early impressions enlarged
this into a less clearly-defined Pantheism; but the logic comes to
us naked, disrobed of all by which it might have been surrounded in
Spinoza's mind. If that logic be correct, then all the theologies of
the world are false. We have presented it to the reader to judge of
for himself. Many men have written against it; of these some have
misunderstood, some have misrepresented, some have failed, and few have
left us a proof that they had endeavored to deal with Spinoza on his own
ground. Maccall says, "In the glorious throng of heroic names, there
are few nobler than Spinoza's. Apart altogether from the estimate we may
form of his philosophy, there is something unspeakably interesting in
the life and the character of the man. In his metaphysical system there
are two things exceedingly distinct. There is, first, the immense
and prodigious, but terrible mathematical skeleton, which his subtle
intellect binds up and throws as calmly into space as we drop a pebble
into the water, and whose bones, striking against the wreck of all that
is sacred in belief, or bold in speculation, rattle a wild response to
our wildest phantasies, and drive us almost to think in despair that
thinking is madness; and there is, secondly, the divinest vision of the
infinite, and the divinest incense which the intuition of the infinite
ever yet poured forth at the altar of creation."

The "Treatise on Politics" is not Spinoza's greatest work; it is, in
all respects, inferior to the "Ethics," and to the "Theologico-Political
Treatise." But there are in politics certain eternal principles, and it
is for setting forth and elucidating these that the Treatise of Spinoza
is so valuable.

In the second chapter of that Treatise, after defining what he means by
nature, etc., he, on the sixth section, proceeds as follows:--"But many
believe that the ignorant disturb more than follow the order of nature,
and conceive of men in nature as a state within the state. For they
assert that the human mind has not been produced by any natural causes,
but created immediately by God, and thereby rendered so independent of
other things as to have absolute power of determining itself, and of
using reason aright. But experience teaches us more than enough, that it
is no more in our power to have a sound mind than a sound body. Since,
moreover, everything, as far as it is able, strives to conserve its
being, we cannot doubt that if it were equally in our power to live
according to the prescripts of reason, as to be led by blind desire,
all would seek the guidance of reason and live wisely, which is not the
case. For every one is the slave of the particular pleasure to which
he is most attached. Nor do theologians remove the difficulty when they
assert that this inability is a vice, or a sin of human nature, which
derives its origin from the fall of the first parent. For if it was in
the power of the first man to stand rather than to fall, and if he was
sound in faculty, and had perfect control over his own mind, how did it
happen that he, the wise and prudent, fell? But they say he was deceived
and tempted by the devil. But who was it that led astray and tempted
the devil himself? Who, I ask, rendered this the most excellent of
intelligent creatures so mad, that he wished to be greater than God?
Could he render himself thus mad--he who had a sane mind, and strove as
much as in him lay to conserve his being? How, moreover, could it happen
that the first man in possession of his entire mental faculties, and
master of his will, should be both open to temptation, and suffer
himself to be robbed of his mind? For if he had the power of using his
reason aright, he could not be deceived; for as far as in him lay, he
necessarily sought to conserve his own being, and the sanity of
his mind. But it is supposed he had this in his power, therefore he
necessarily conserved his sane mind, neither could he be deceived.
Which is evidently false from his history; and, consequently, it must be
granted that it was not in the power of the first person to use reason
aright, but that he, like us, was subject to passions."

Spinoza is scarcely likely to become a great favorite with the "Woman's
Rights Convention." In his ninth chapter of the same Treatise, he says,
"If by nature women were equal to men, and excelled as much as they in
strength of mind and in talent, truly amongst nations, so many and
so different, some would be found where both sexes ruled equally, and
others where the men were ruled by the women, and so educated as to
be inferior to them in talent; but as this has never happened, we are
justified in assuming that women, by nature, have not an equal right
with men, but that they are necessarily obedient to men, and thus it can
never happen that both sexes can equally rule, and still less that men
be ruled by women."

Lewes, in his seventh chapter on Modern Philosophy, thus sums up
Spinoza's teachings and their result. He says:--

"The doctrine of Spinoza was of great importance, if for nothing more
than having brought about the first crisis in modern philosophy. His
doctrine was so clearly stated, and so rigorously deduced from admitted
premises, that he brought philosophy into this dilemma:--

"'Either my premises are correct; and we must admit that every clear
and distinct idea is absolutely true; true not only subjectively, but

"'If so, my objection is true;

"'Or my premises are false; the voice of consciousness is not the voice
of truth;

"'And if so, then is my system false, but all philosophy is impossible;
since the only ground of certitude--our consciousness--is pronounced
unstable, our only means of knowing the truth is pronounced

"Spinozism or scepticism, choose between them, for you have no other

"Mankind refused, however, to make a choice. If the principles which
Descartes had established could have no other result than Spinozism, it
was worth while inquiring whether those principles might not themselves
be modified.

"The ground of discussion was shifted, psychology took the place of
ontology. It was Descartes's theory of knowledge which led to Spinozism;
that theory must therefore he examined; that theory becomes the great
subject of discussion. Before deciding upon the merits of any system
which embraced the great questions of creation, the Deity, immortality,
etc., men saw that it was necessary to decide upon the competency of the
human mind to solve such problems. All knowledge must be obtained either
through experience or independent of experience. Knowledge dependent on
experience must necessarily be merely knowledge of _phenomena_. All are
agreed that experience can only be experience of ourselves as modified
by objects. All are agreed that to know things _per se--noumena_--we
must know them through some other channel then experience. Have we or
have we not that other channel? This is the problem."

"Thus, before we can dogmatize upon on to logical subjects, we must
settle this question--Can we transcend the sphere of our consciousness,
and know things _per se_?"



Freethought, as developed in the Deistic straggles of the seventeenth
century, had to battle for existence against the Puritanic reaction
which took its second rise from the worn-out licentious age of the last
of the Stuarts, and that of the no less dangerous (though concealed)
libertinism of the Dutch king. A religious rancor also arose which, but
for the influence of a new power, would have re-enacted the tragedy of
religious persecution. But this rancor became somewhat modified, from
the fact that the various parties now were unlike the old schismatics,
who were each balanced at the opposite ends of the same pole--extreme
Papacy on the one hand, and Fifth-monarchists on the other--when
each oscillation from the Protestant centre deranged the balance of
enthusiasm, and drove it to the farthest verge of fanaticism, until all
religious parties were hurled into one chaos of disunion. Such were the
frequent changes of the seventeenth century--but at its close the
power of Deism had evolved a platform on which was to be fought the
hostilities of creeds. Here, then, could not exist that commingling of
sects, which were deducible in all their varied extravagance from the
Bible. Theology had no longer to fight with itself, but with philosophy.
Metaphysics became the Jehu of opinion, and sought to drive its chariot
through the fables of the saints. The old doctrines had to be re-stated
to meet new foes. For the Papists, Nonconformists, and Brownists, were
excluded to make way for the British Illuminati, who spread as much
consternation through England as did the French Encyclopædists across
Europe. The new field of action was only planned, for when Catholicism
first opposed Protestantism, its leaders little thought what a Pandoric
box it was opening--nor did the Divines of the latter sect ever
doubt the finality of their own doctrines. They wished to replace one
infallibility by another. And the same charge can be substantiated
against Deism. When in this Augustan age the Free-thinking leaders,
fresh from the trammels of Christism, first took the name of Moral
Philosophers, they little knew they were paving the way for an Atheism
they so much dreaded--a democracy more unbridled than their most
constitutional wishes--a political economy to be tried for half a
century, and then to be discarded--a revolutionary fervor which should
plough up Europe, and then give place to a Communism, which the
first founders of this national agitation would have gazed upon with
amazement, and shrunk from with despair. Such is the progress of change.
The rise of the Deistic movement may be defined in a sentence. It was
the old struggle of speculative opinion shifting its battle-ground from
theology to philosophy, prior to the one being discarded, and the other
developed into positive science.

Amongst the most distinguished of these reformers, stands the name of
Anthony Collins.

Who and what he was, we have little opportunity of knowing, save from
the scattered notices of contemporaries; but sufficient is left on
record to prove him one of the best of men, and the very Corypheus of
Deism. The twin questions of Necessity and Prophecy have been examined
by him perhaps more ably than by any other liberal author. There are
slight discrepancies in relation to the great events of his life. The
Abbe Lodivicat says he was born June 21st, 1676, of a rich and noble
family, at Heston, in Middlesex, and was appointed treasurer of the
county; but another account says "Hounslow," which we think was the more
likely place. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge. He studied for
the bar for sometime, but (being wealthy) ultimately renounced
jurisprudence, while his youthful studies admirably fitted him for
his subsequent magisterial duties. He was clever, honest, learned, and
esteemed by all who knew his character. The elder D'Israeli says, "that
he was a great lover of literature, and a man of fine genius, while his
morals were immaculate, and his personal character independent."

The friendship of Locke alone is sufficient to stamp the character of
Collins with honor, and he was one of the most valued friends of this
great man. In a volume published by P. Des Maizeaux (a writer we shall
have occasion to notice) in the year 1720, containing a collection of
the posthumous works of Locke, there are several letters addressed to
Collins which fully substantiate our opinion. Locke was then an old man,
residing in the country, and Collins was a young man in London, who took
a pleasure in executing the commissions of his illustrious friend. In
one of them, dated October 29th, 1703, he says--"If I were now setting
out in the world, I should think it my greatest happiness to have such a
companion as you, who had a true relish of truth, would in earnest seek
it with me, from whom I might receive it undisguised, and to whom
I might communicate what I thought true, freely. Believe it my good
friend, to love truth for truth's sake, is the principal part of human
perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtue; and,
if I mistake not, you have as much of it as ever I met with in anybody.
What, then, is there wanting to make you equal to the best--a friend for
any one to be proud of?"

During the following year the correspondence of Locke appears in a most
interesting light--the affectionate inquiries, the kind advice, and the
most grateful acknowledgments are made to Collins. On Sept. 11th, Locke
writes:--"He that has anything to do with you, must own that friendship
is the natural product of your constitution, and your soul, a noble
soil, is enriched with the two most valuable qualities of human
nature--truth and friendship. What a treasure have I then in such a
friend with whom I can converse, and be enlightened about the highest
speculations!" On the 1st of October he wrote Collins on his rapid
decay, "But this, I believe, he will assure you, that my infirmities
prevail so fast on me, that unless you make haste hither, I may lose the
satisfaction of ever seeing again a man that I value in the first rank
of those I leave behind me." This was written twenty-seven days before
his death. Four days before his decease, he wrote a letter to be given
to Collins after his death. This document is one of the most important
in relation to the life of the great Freethinker--it irrefragably proves
the falsity of everything that may be alleged against the character of

"Oates, August 23, 1704. For Anthony Collins, Esq.

"Dear Sir--By my will, you will see that I had some kindness for * * *
And I knew no better way to take care of him, than to put him, and what
I designed for him, into your hands and management. The knowledge I
have of your virtues of all kinds, secures the trust, which, by your
permission, I have placed in you; and the peculiar esteem and love I
have observed in the young man for you, will dispose him to be ruled and
influenced by you, so of that I need say nothing. May you live long
and happy, in the enjoyment of health, freedom, content, and all those
blessings which Providence has bestowed on, you, and your virtues
entitle you to. I know you loved me living, and will preserve my memory
now I am dead. * * * I leave my best wishes with you.

"John Locke."

Such is the honorable connection which existed between Locke and
Collins. Collins's first publication was a tract, "Several of the London
Cases Considered," in the year 1700. In 1707, he published an "Essay
Concerning the Use of Reason on Propositions, the evidence whereof
depends upon Human Testimony;" "in which," says Dr. Leland, "there are
some good observations, mixed with others of a suspicious nature and
tendency." It principally turned on the Trinitarian controversy then
raging, and is of little interest now. In this year Collins united
with Dodwell in the controversy carried on by Dr. Samuel Clarke. One
of Clarke's biographers alludes to it thus: "Dr. Clarke's arguments
in favor of the immateriality, and consequent immortality of the soul,
called out, however, a far more formidable antagonist than Dodwell,
in the person of Anthony Collins, an English gentleman of singular
intellectual acuteness, but, unhappily, of Infidel principles. The
controversy was continued through several short treatises. On the whole,
though Clarke, in some instances, laid himself open to the keen and
searching dialectics of his gifted antagonist, the victory certainly
remained with the Divine." Of course it is only to be expected that such
will be the opinion of an opponent--but it is further proof of Collins's
ability and character. In 1703 appeared his celebrated "Discourses
of Freethinking," which perhaps created the greatest sensation in the
religious world (with the exception of the "Age of Reason") of any book
published against Christianity. This book is as able a defence of
the freedom of the expression of thought without penalty, as was ever
published. It is divided into four sections. In the 1st, Freethinking
is defined--in five arguments. In the 2nd, That it is our duty to
think freely on those points of which men are denied the right to think
freely: such as of the nature and attributes of God, the truth and
authority of Scriptures, and of the meaning of Scriptures, in seven
arguments and eleven instances. The third section is the consideration
of six objections to Freethinking--from the whole of which he concludes
(1) That Freethinkers must have more understanding, and that they must
necessarily be the most virtuous people. (2) That they have, in fact,
been the most understanding and virtuous people in all ages. Here
follows the names of a great number of men whom Collins classified as
Freethinkers, and of whom we have no reason to be ashamed.

This book was answered by many divines, but none of them emerged
from the contest with such Christian honors as the famous Dr.
Bentley--considered England's greatest classical scholar. In the same
year, the Dr. published his reply under the signature of "Phileleutheros
Lipsiensis." The fame of Bentley was considered equal to Collins's; and
it has always been represented that this reply completely crushed
the Freethinker--nothing could be farther from the truth. Bentley
principally attacked the Greek quotations and denounced Collins for his
ignorance in not putting his (Bentley's) construction on every disputed
word. For this reply, Bentley received the thanks of the University of
Cambridge. In condition with this work, Collins is also charged with
wilful deception--which has been reproduced in our own lives by devines
who perhaps never read a line of Collins. A French edition of the
"Discourse" was translated under the personal inspection of Collins:
and it is said that he altered the construction of several sentences
to evade the charges brought against him by Bentley Dr. Leland is
particularly eloquent upon this; and the Rev. Mr. Lorimer, of Glasgow,
triumphantly plagiarises the complaint of the men whose defects he can
only imitate. There is another charge connected with Bentley and his
friends, which it is desirous should be exposed. The elder D'Israeli
says:--"Anthony Collins wrote several well-known works, without
prefixing his name; but having pushed too far his curious and polemical
points, he incurred the odium of a Freethinker--a term which then began
to be in vogue, and which the French adopted by translating it, in
their way--'a strong thinker,' or _esprit fort_. Whatever tendency
to 'liberalise' the mind from the dogmas and creeds prevails in these
works, the talents and learning of Collins were of the first class. His
morals were immaculate, and his personal character independent; but the
_odium theologicum_ of those days combined every means to stab in the
dark, till the taste became hereditary with some. I may mention a fact
of this cruel bigotry which occurred within my own observation, on one
of the most polished men of the age. The late Mr. Cumberland, in the
romance entitled his 'Life' gave this extraordinary fact. He said that
Dr. Bentley, who so ably replied to Collins's 'Discourse,' when many
years after he discovered him fallen into great distress, conceiving
that by having ruined Collins's character as a writer for ever, he had
been the occasion of his personal misery, he liberally contributed to
his maintenance. In vain I mentioned to that elegant writer, who was
not curious about facts, that this person could never have been Anthony
Collins, who had always a plentiful fortune; and when it was suggested
to him that this 'A. Collins' as he printed it, must have been Arthur
Collins, the historic compiler, who was often in pecuniary difficulties,
still he persisted in sending the lie down to posterity, without
alteration, in his second edition, observing to a friend of mine, that
'the story, while it told well, might serve as a striking instance of
his great relative's generosity; and that it should stand because it
could do no harm to any but to Anthony Collins, whom he considered as
little short of an Atheist.'" Such is a specimen of Christian honor and

In 1715, appeared his "Philosophical inquiry into Human Liberty." Dr.
Clarke was again his opponent. The publication of this work marked an
epoch in metaphysics. Dugald Stewart, in criticising the discussion on
Moral Liberty between Clarke and Leibnitz, says, "But soon after this
controversy was brought to a conclusion by the death of his antagonist,
he (Clarke) had to renew the same argument, in reply to his countryman,
Anthony Collins, who, following the footsteps of Hobbes, with logical
talents not inferior to his master (and with a weight of personal
character in his favor to which his master had no pretensions,) gave to
the cause which he so warmly espoused, a degree of credit amongst
sober and inquiring politicians, which it had never before possessed
in England." The following are the principal arguments of Collins in
reference to Liberty and Necessity:--

First. Though I deny Liberty in a certain meaning of that word, yet I
contend for Liberty, as it signifies _a power in man to do as he wills
or pleases_.

Secondly. When I affirm _Necessity_ I contend only for _moral
necessity_; meaning thereby that man, who is an intelligent and sensible
being, is determined by his reason and senses; and I deny any man to
be subject to such necessity as is in clocks, watches, and such other
beings, which, for want of intelligence and sensation, are subject to an
absolute, physical or mechanical necessity.

Thirdly, I have undertaken to show, that the notions I advance are so
far from being inconsistent with, that they are the sole foundation of
morality and laws, and of rewards and punishments in society, and that
the notions I explode are subversive of them.

From the above premises, Collins sought to show that man is a necessary
agent. (1) From our experience (through consciousness.) (2) From the
impossibility of liberty. (3) From the consideration of the divine
prescience. (4) From the nature and use of rewards and punishments. (5)
From the nature of morality. Such were the principles on which the great
question of Necessity has ever been advocated--from Hobbes to Collins,
Jonathan Ed wards to Mackintosh and Spencer. In the year 1704 Toland
dedicated to him a new translation of Æsop's Fables. There are many
anecdotes respecting Collins inserted in religious magazines, most of
which are false, and all without proof. One of them, related in a most
circumstantial manner, appears to be the favorite. It depicts Collins
walking out in the country on a Sunday morning, when he meets a
countryman returning from Church.

"Well, Hodge," says Collins, "so you have been enjoying the fresh
breezes of nature, this fine morning."

The clown replied that "he had been worshipping nature's God," and
proved it by repeating the substance of the Athanasian creed. Upon which
Collins questions him as to the residence of his God: and for a reply is
told that his God is so large, that he fills the universe; and so small
that he dwells in his breast. This sublime fact, we are told, had more
effect upon Collins's mind than all the books written against him by the
clergy. When will sensible men reject such charlatanism?

The next great work of Collins was his "Discourse on the Grounds and
Reasons of the Christian Religion," in two parts. The first containing
some considerations on the quotations made from the Old in the New
Testament, and particularly on the prophecies cited from the former, and
said to be fulfilled in the latter. The second containing an examination
of the scheme advanced by Mr. Whiston, in his essay towards restoring
the true text of the Old Testament, and for vindicating the citations
thence made in the New Testament, to which is prefixed an apology for
free debate and liberty of writing. This book took the religious world
by storm; it is even thought it struck more dismay amongst divines
than his former essay on Freethink-ing. The book proceeds to show that
Christianity is not proved by prophecy. That the Apostles relied on the
predictions in the Old Testament, and their fulfilment in Jesus as
the only sure proof of the truth of their religion; if therefore, the
prophecies are not thoroughly literal, and fulfilled distinctly,
there can be no proof in Christianity. He then examines the principal
prophecies, and dismisses them, as allegorical fables too vague to be of
any credit. In less than two years no less than thirty-five books
were published in reply to this work, written by the ablest and most
influential theologians in England. In 1727 Collins published another
large work, "The Scheme of Literal Prophecy Considered," in which he
still further defends his view principally against the sophistical
reasoning of Whiston, and finally vanquished the whole of his opponents.

Perhaps no Freethinker, with the single exception of Hobbes, was so
attacked during his life as Collins. Toland and Woolston were persecuted
and driven into prison and poverty; but Collins, with his profusion of
wealth, could oppose Christianity with applause--mingle in the gaiety of
the Court--occupy a seat on the magisterial bench--be the welcome guest
of the most liberal of the aristocracy, contemporary with others who
even languished in prison for the propagation of similar sentiments.
Since his day the clergy have grown wiser; then the most trivial
pamphlet on the Deistic side created a consternation amongst the saints,
and they strove who should be the first to answer it--indeed, it
was considered a test of honor amongst the clergy to be eager in the
exposure of Deism: but this style of warfare was discontinued after the
lapse of a few years. The most discerning observers discovered that in
proportion to the answers published against liberal works, the influence
of the most powerful side decreased. Force, then, gradually interfered,
and acts of Parliament were considered the only logical refutation of a
philosophical heresy. The anomaly of our laws interfered again. Collins
was rich, and so must escape the fangs of the law. Thomas Woolston was
poor, so his vitals were pierced by laws which Collins escaped--yet both
committed the same offence. In later times Gibbon traced the rise of
Christianity, and about the same time Paine accomplished another portion
of the same risk--and the Government which prosecuted the plebeian,
flattered the patrician. But Collins's time was rapidly drawing nigh. On
the 13th of December, 1729, he expired, aged fifty-three years; and to
show the esteem in which his character was held, the following notice
was inserted in the newspapers of the day--all hostile to his views,
yet striving to make it appear that he was, after all, not so great an
Infidel as his reputation honored him with:--"On Saturday last, died at
his house in Harley Square, Anthony Collins, Esq. He was a remarkably
active, up right, and impartial magistrate, the tender husband the kind
parent, the good master, and the true friend He was a great promoter of
literature in all its branch es; and an immoveable asserter of universal
liberty in all civil and religious matters. Whatever his sentiments
were on certain points, this is what he declared at the time of his
death--viz., that he had always endeavored, to the best of his ability,
to serve God, his king, and his country, so he was persuaded he was
going to that place which God hath prepared for them that serve him, and
presently afterwards he said, the Catholic religion is to serve God and
roan. He was an eminent example of temperance and sobriety, and one that
had the true art of living. His worst enemies could never charge him
with any vice or immorality." With this character the Freethinkers have
no right to be dissatisfied. The Abbe Lodivicat says, "His library was
curious and valuable; always open to the learned, even to his opponents,
whom he furnished with pleasure, both with books and arguments, which
were employed in confuting him." Mr. D'Israeli says he has seen
a catalogue of Collins's library, elaborately drawn up in his own
handwriting, and it must have contained a splendid selection of books.
This is proved by the correspondence with Locke, and the extensive
number of quotations spread throughout his published works.

By the death of Collins, and the defalcation of one who abused the name
of a Deist, the cause of Free-thought was impeded at the time when it
most needed assistance. Collins had written a great number of tracts
and larger works, intending them to be published after his death: one
collection of eight octavo volumes of manuscript containing the attacks
upon Christianity, by which he intended his name to be transmitted to
posterity, were all arranged ready for publication as his posthumous
works. To ensure their credit-able appearance, and to reward a man
whom he had thought worthy of confidence, and one who professed to be a
disciple of Collins, he bequeathed them to Des Maizeaux, then a popular
author and editor. He had edited the correspondence of Locke and
Collins, written the lite of Bayle, and subsequently edited Toland. The
idea of Collins was to give his work to Des Maizeaux for a recompense
for the trouble of publishing them, while he would derive the whole
profits of their sale, which no doubt would be very large. It appears
that the widow of Collins was much younger than himself--in league with
the Church of England; and was in rather a suspicious friendship with
more than one clerical antagonist of her late husband. Des Maizeaux
being worked upon conjointly by Mrs. Collins and a person named
Tomlinson, was induced to accept a present of fifty guineas, and
relinquished the possession of the manuscripts. It was not long,
however, before his conscience accused him of the great wrong done to
the memory of his benefactor, and to the Free-thinking cause. His regret
was turned into the most profound compunction for his crime; and in this
state of mind he wrote a long letter to one who had been a mutual friend
to Collins and himself, acknowledging that he had done "a most wicked
thing," saying--"I am convinced that I have acted contrary to the will
and intention of my dear deceased friend; showed a disregard to the
particular mark of esteem he gave me on that occasion; in short, that
I have forfeited what is dearer to me than my own life--honor and
reputation.... I send you the fifty guineas I received, which I do now
look upon as the wages of iniquity, and I desire you to return them to
Mrs. Collins, who, as I hope it of her justice, equity, and regard to
Mr. Collinses intentions, will be pleased to cancel my paper."

This appeal (which proved that Des Maizeaux, if he was weak-minded, was
not absolutely dishonest) had no effect on Mrs. Collins. The manuscripts
were never returned. What their contents were, no one now can inform us.
We are justified, however, in supposing that as those eight volumes were
the crowning efforts of a mind which in its youth was brilliant in no
common degree, must have been even superior to those books which roused
England from its dreamy lethargy, and brought about a revolution
in controversy. Whether they touched upon miracles, or the external
evidences, or the morals of Christism, is unknown. The curtain was
drawn over the scene of demolition. Seven years after this time the
controversy was reopened by Mrs. Collins, in the year 1737, on account
of a report being current that Mrs. C. had permitted transcripts of
those manuscripts to get abroad. The widow wrote some very sharp letters
to Des Maizeaux, and he replied in a tone which speaks faithfully of the
affection he still bore to Collins's memory. He concludes thus:--"Mr.
Collins loved me and esteemed me for my integrity and sincerity, of
which he had several proofs. How I have been drawn in to injure him,
to forfeit the good opinion he had of me, and which, were he now alive,
would deservedly expose me to his utmost contempt, is a grief which I
shall carry to the grave. It would be a sort of comfort to me if those
who have consented I should be drawn in, were in some measure sensible
of the guilt towards so good, kind, generous a man."

Such is an epitome of the secret history of the MSS. of Anthony Collins.
If we look at the fate of the MSS. of other Deists, we shall have good
reasons for believing that some of the ablest writings, meant to give a
posthumous reputation to their authors, have disappeared into the hands
of either ignorant or designing persons. Five volumes, at least, of
Toland's works, meant for publication, were, by his death, irretrievably
lost. Blount's MSS. never appeared. Two volumes of Tindall's were seized
by the Bishop of London, and destroyed. Woolston's MSS. met with no
better fate. Chubb carefully prepared his works, and published them in
his lifetime. Bolingbroke made Mallet his confidant, as Collins did by
Des Maizeaux. The name of St. John produced £10,000 to Mallet; but those
works were left with the tacit acknowledge ment that the Scotch poet
should write a suitable life of the peer. The letter of Mallet to
Lord Cornbury can only be compared to an invitation for a bid for the
suppression of the "Philosophical Works" of St. John; and if this was
not sufficient, we need only instance the apparent solicitation with
which he stopped a well-known influential dignitary of the church on the
day when the works were to appear, by pulling out his watch, and saying,
"My Lord, Christianity will tremble at a quarter to twelve." We may
be thankful to the pecuniary poverty of our opponents even for the
possession of the first philosophy. Some of Hume's and Gibbon's works
have not yet appeared. The MSS. of most of the minor Freethinkers
disappeared with their authors. There is no doubt but what Robert Taylor
left some valuable writings which cannot be recovered. Such is the
feeble chance of great men's writings being published when they are no
longer alive.

With regard to the literary claims of Collins. His works are logically
composed and explicitly worded. He invariably commences by stating the
groundwork of his opponent's theories, and from them deduces a great
number of facts and axioms of a contrary character, and upon those
builds his whole chain of argument. He is seldom witty--never uses the
flowers of rhetoric, combining a most rigid analysis with a synthetic
scheme, admitting but of one unswerving end. He was characteristically
great in purpose. He avoided carrying forward his arguments beyond
the basis of his facts. Whether in treating the tangled intricacies
of necessity, or the theological quagmires of prophecy, he invariably
explained without confusing, and refuted without involving other
subjects than those legitimately belonging to the controversy. His style
of writing was serious, plain, and without an undue levity, yet withal
perfectly readable. Men studied Collins who shrunk from contact with
the lion-hearted Woolston, whose brusque pen too often shocked those
it failed to convince. There was a timidity in many of the letters of
Blount, and a craving wish to rely more on the witticisms of Brown, than
was to be found in the free and manly spirit of our hero. To the general
public, the abstruse speculations of the persecuted Toland were a
barrier which his many classical allusions only heightened; and the
musical syllables of Shaftesbury, with his style, at once so elevated,
so pompous, and so quaint; or the political economic doctrines of
Mandeville, all tended to exalt the name of Collins above those of his
contemporaries and immediate successors; and posterity cannot fail to
place his bust in that historic niche betwixt Hobbes--his master on one
hand--and Bolingbroke, his successor on the other. From the great
St. John has descended in the true apostolical descent the mantle of
Free-thought upon Hume, Gibbon, Paine, Godwin, Carlile, Taylor, and
Owen. And amongst this brilliant galaxy of genius, no name is more
deserving of respect than that of Anthony Collins.

A. C.


Rene des Cartes Duperron, better known as Des Cartes, the father of
modern philosophy, was born at La Haye, in Touraine, of Breton parents,
near the close of the sixteenth century, at a time when Bacon was like
the morning sun, rising to shed new rays of bright light over the then
dark world of philosophy. The mother of Des Cartes died while he was but
a few days old, and himself a sickly child, he began to take part in
the battle of life with but little appearance of ever possessing the
capability for action on the minds of his fellows, which he afterwards
so fully exercised. Debarred, however, by his physical weakness from
many boyish pursuits, he devoted himself to study in his earliest years,
and during his youth gained the title of the young philosopher, from
his eagerness to learn, and from his earnest endeavors by inquiry
and experiment to solve every problem presented to his notice. He was
educated in the Jesuits' College of La Flèche; and the monument erected
to him at Stockholm informs us, "That having mastered all the learning
of the schools, which proved short of his expectations, he betook
himself to the army in Germany and Hungary, and there spent his vacant
winter hours in comparing the mysteries and phenomena of nature with the
laws of mathematics, daring to hope that the one might serve as a key
to the other. Quitting, therefore, all other pursuits, he retired to a
little village near Egmont, in Holland, where spending twenty-five years
in continual reading and meditation, he effected his design."

In his celebrated "Discourse on Method," he says,--"As soon as my age
permitted me to leave my preceptors, I entirely gave up the study of
letters; and, resolving to seek no other science than that which I could
find in myself, or else in the great book of the world, I employed
the remainder of my youth in travel--in seeing courts and camps--in
frequenting people of diverse humors and conditions--in collecting
various experiences; and, above all, in endeavoring to draw some
profitable reflection from what I saw. For it seemed to me that I should
meet with more truth in the reasonings which each man makes in his own
affairs, and which, if wrong, would be speedily punished by failure,
than in those reasonings which the philosopher makes in his study upon
speculations which produce no effect, and which are of no consequence
to him, except perhaps that he will be the more vain of them, the more
remote they are from common sense, because he would then have been
forced to employ more ingenuity and subtlety to render them plausible."

At the age of thirty-three Des Cartes retired from the world for a
period of eight years, and his seclusion was so effectual during that
time, that his place of residence was unknown to his friends. He there
prepared the "Meditations," and "Discourse on Method," which have since
caused so much pen-and-ink warfare amongst those who have aspired to
be ranked as philosophical thinkers. He became European in fame; and,
invited by Christina of Sweden, he visited her kingdom, but the rudeness
of the climate proved too much for his delicate frame, and he died
at Stockholm in the year 1650, from inflammation of the lungs, being
fifty-four years of age at the time of his death.

Des Cartes was perhaps the most original thinker that France had up
to that date produced; and, contemporary with Bacon, he exercised a
powerful influence or the progress of thought in Europe; but although a
great thinker, he was not a brave man, and the fear of giving offence
to the church and government, has certainly prevented him from making
public some of his writings, and perhaps has toned down some of these
thoughts which, when first uttered, took a higher flight, and struck
full home to the truth itself.

The father and founder of the deductive method, Des Cartes still proudly
reigns to the present day, although some of his conclusions have
been over-turned, and others of his thinkings have been carried to
conclusions which he never dared to dream of. He gave a strong aid to
the tendency of advancing civilization, to separate philosophy from
theology, thereby striking a blow, slow in its effect, and effectual in
its destructive operation, on all priestcraft. In his dedication ol the
"Meditations," he says,--"I have always thought that the two questions
of the existence of God and the nature of the soul, were the chief
of those which ought to be demonstrated rather by philosophy than by
theology; for although it is sufficient for us, the faithful, to believe
in God, and that the soul does not perish with the body, it does not
seem possible ever to persuade the Infidels to any religion, unless we
first prove to them these two things by natural reason."

Having relinquished faith, he found that he must choose an entirely new
faith in which to march with reason; the old ways were so cumbered with
priests and Bibles, that progression would have been impossible. This
gave us his method. He wanted a starting point from which to reason,
some indisputable fact upon which to found future thinkings.

"He has given us the detailed history of his doubts. He has told us how
he found that he could, plausibly enough, doubt of everything except
his own existence. He pushed his scepticism to the verge of
self-annihilation. There he stopped: there in self, there in his
consciousness, he found at last an irresistible fact, an irreversible
certainty. Firm ground was discovered. He could doubt the existence
of the external world, and treat it as a phantasm. He could doubt the
existence of God, and treat the belief as a superstition. But of the
existence of his own thinking, doubting mind, no sort of doubt was
possible. He, the doubter, existed if nothing else existed. The
existence that was revealed to him in his own consciousness, was the
primary fact, the first indubitable certainty. Hence his famous _Cogito
ergo Sum_: I think, therefore I am." (_Lewes's Bio. Hist. Phil._)

Proceeding from the certainty of his existence, Des Cartes endeavors
to rind other equally certain tacts, and for that purpose presents
the following doctrine and rules for our guidance:--The basis of all
certitude is consciousness, consciousness is the sole foundation of
absolute certainty, whatever it distinctly proclaims must be true.
The process is, therefore, rendered clear and simple: examine your
consciousness--each distinct reply will be a fact.

He tells us further that all clear ideas are true--that whatever is
clearly and distinctly conceived is true--and in these lie the vitality
of his system, the cause of the truth or error of his thinkings.

The following are the rules he gave us for the detection and separation
of true ideas from false, (_i.e._, imperfect or complex):--

"1. Never to accept anything as true but what is evidently so; to admit
nothing but what so clearly and distinctly presents itself as true, that
there can be no reason to doubt it.

"2. To divide every question into as many separate parts as possible,
that each part being more easily conceived, the whole may be more

"3. To conduct the examination with order, beginning by that of objects
the most simple, and therefore the easiest to be known, and ascending
little by little up to knowledge of the most complex.

"4. To make such exact calculations, and such circumspections as to be
confident that nothing essential has been omitted. Consciousness being
the basis of all certitude, everything of which you are clearly and
distinctly conscious must be true: everything which you clearly and
distinctly conceive, exists, if the idea of it involve existence."

In these four rules we have the essential part of one half of Des
Cartes's system, the other, which is equally important, is the attempt
to solve metaphysical problems by mathematical aid. To mathematics he
had devoted much of his time. He it was who, at the age of twenty three,
made the grand discovery of the applicability of algebra to geometry.
While deeply engaged in mathematical studies and investigations, he
came to the conclusion that mathematics were capable of a still further
simplification, and of much more extended application. Impressed with
the certainty of the conclusions arrived at by the aid of mathematical
reasoning, he began to apply mathematics to metaphysics.

His ambition was to found a system which should be solid and
convincing. Having searched for certitude, he had found _its basis_ in
consciousness; he next wanted a _method_, and hoped he had found it in

He tells us that "those long chains of reasoning, all simple and
easy, by which geometers used to arrive at their most difficult
demonstrations, suggested to him that all things which came within human
knowledge, must follow each other in a similar chain; and that provided
we abstain from admitting anything as true which is not so, and that
we always preserve in them the order necessary to deduce one from the
other, there can be none so remote to which we cannot finally attain,
nor so obscure but that we may discover them."

Acting out this, he dealt with metaphysics as we should with a problem
from Euclid, and expected by rigorous reasoning to discover the truth.
He, like Archimedes, had wished for a standing place from which to use
the lever, that should overturn the world; but, having a sure standing
place in the indubitable fact of his own existence, he did not possess
sufficient courage to put forth the mighty power--it was left for one
who came after him to fairly attempt the over-throw of the world of error
so long existent.

Cartesianism was sufficiently obnoxious to the divines to provoke
their wrath; and yet, from some of its peculiarities, it has found many
opponents amongst the philosophical party. The Cartesian philosophy
is founded on two great principles, the one metaphysical, the other
physical. The metaphysical is Des Cartes's foundation-stone--the "I
think, therefore I am." This has been warmly attacked as not being
logical. Des Cartes said his existence was a fact--a fact above and
beyond all logic; logic could neither prove nor disprove it. The _Cogito
ergo Sum_ was not new itself, but it was the first stone of a new
building--the first step in a new road: from this fact Des Cartes tried
to reach another, and from that others.

The physical principle is that nothing exists but substance, which
he makes of two kinds--the one a substance that thinks, the other a
substance extended. Actual thought and actual extension are the essence
of substance, so that the thinking substance cannot be without some
actual thought, nor can anything be retrenched from the extension of a
thing, without taking away so much of its actual substance.

In his physical speculations, Des Cartes has allowed his imagination
to run very wild. His famous theory of vortices is an example of
this. Assuming extension to be the essence of substance, he denied the
possibility of a vacuum by that assumption; for if extension be the
essence of substance, wherever extension is, there substance must be.
This substance he assumes to have originally been divided into equal
angular particles, each endowed with an equal degree of motion; several
systems or collections of these particles he holds to have a motion
about certain equidistant points, or centres, and that the particles
moving round these composed so many vortices. These angular particles,
by their intestine motions, he supposes to become, as it were, ground
into a spherical form; the parts rubbed off are called matter of the
first element, while the spherical globules he calls matter of the
second element; and since there would be a large quantity of this
element, he supposes it to be driven towards the centre of each vortex
by the circular motion of the globules, and that there it forms a large
spherical body such as the suu. This sun being thus formed, and
moving about its own axis with the common matter of the vortex, would
necessarily throw out some parts of its matter, through the vacuities
of the globules of the second element constituting the vortex; and this
especially at such places as are farthest from its poles: receiving, at
the same time in, by these poles, as much as it loses in its equatorial
parts. And, by these means, it would be able to carry round with it
those globules that are nearest, with the greater velocity; and the
remoter, with less. And, further: those globules which are nearest the
centre of the sun, must be smallest; because, were they greater,
or equal, they would, by reason of their velocity, have a greater
centrifugal force, and recede from the centre. If it should happen that
any of these sun-like bodies, in the centres of the several vortices,
should be so in-crusted and weakened, as to be carried about in the
vortex of the true sun: if it were of less solidity, or had less motion
than the globules towards the extremity of the solar vortex, it would
descend towards the sun, till it met with globules of the same solidity,
and susceptible of the same degree of motion with itself* and thus,
being fixed there, it would be for ever after carried about by the
motion of the vortex, without either approaching any nearer to, or
receding from the sun, and so become a planet. Supposing, then, all
this, we are next to imagine that our system was at first divided into
several vortices, in the centre of each of which was a lucid spherical
body; and that some of these being gradually incrustated, were swallowed
up by others which were larger, and more powerful, till at last they
were all destroyed and swallowed up by the biggest solar vortex,
except some few which were thrown off in right lines from one vortex to
another, and so became comets. It should also be added, that in addition
to the two elements mentioned above, those particles which may yet
exist, and be only in the course of reduction to their globular form an
it still retain their angular proportions, form a third element.

This theory has found many opponents; but in this state of our work
we conceive our duty to be that of giving a simple narrative of the
philosopher's ideas, rather than a history of the various criticisms
upon those ideas, the more especially as our pages scarcely afford room
for such a mode of treatment.

Having formed his method, Des Cartes proceeded to apply it. The basis
of certitude being consciousness, he interrogated his consciousness, and
found that he had an idea of a substance infinite, eternal, immutable,
independent, omniscient, omnipotent. This he called an idea of God:
he said, "I exist as a miserably imperfect finite being, subject to
change--ignorant, incapable of creating anything--I find by my finitude
that I am not the infinite; by my liability to change that I am not the
immutable; by my ignorance that I am not the omniscient: in short, by
my imperfection, that I am not the perfect. Yet an infinite,
immutable, omniscient, and perfect being must exist, because infinity,
immutability, omniscience, and perfection are applied as correlatives in
my ideas of finitude, change, etc. God therefore exists: his existence
is clearly proclaimed in my consciousness, and therefore ceases to be
a matter of doubt any more than the fact of my own existence. The
conception of an infinite being proved his real existence, for if there
is not really such a being I must have made the conception; but if
I could make it I can also unmake it, which evidently is not true;
therefore there must be externally to myself, an archetype from which
the conception was derived.".... "All that we clearly and distinctly
conceive as contained in anything is true of that thing."

"Now, we conceive clearly and distinctly that the existence of God is
contained in the idea we have of him: ergo--God exists."--(_Lewes's Bio.
Hist. Phil._)

Des Cartes was of opinion that his demonstrations of the existence of
God "equal or even surpass in certitude the demonstrations of geometry."
In this opinion we must confess we cannot share. He has already told
us that the basis of all certitude is consciousness--that whatever
is clearly and distinctly conceived, must be true--that imperfect and
complex conceptions are false ones. The first proposition, all must
admit, is applicable to themselves. I conceive a fact clearly and
distinctly, and, despite all resistance, am compelled to accept that
fact; and if that fact be accepted beyond doubt, no higher degree of
certainty can be attained, That two and two are four--that I exist--are
facts which I never doubt. The _Cogito ergo Sum_ is irresistible,
because indubitable; but _Cogito ergo Deus est_ is a sentence requiring
much consideration, and upon the face of it is no syllogism, but, on the
contrary, is illogical. If Des Cartes meant "I" am conscious that I am
not the whole of existence, he would be indisputable; but if he meant
that "I" can be conscious of an existence entirely distinct, apart from,
and external to, that very consciousness, then his whole reasoning from
that point appears fallacious.

We use the word "I" as given by Des Cartes. Mill, in his "System of
Logic," says, "The ambiguity in this case is in the pronoun I, by which
in one place is to be understood _my will_: in another _the laws of
my nature_. If the conception, existing as it does in my mind, had no
original without, the conclusion would unquestionably follow that '1'
had made it--that is, that the laws of my nature had spontaneously
evolved it; but that my _will_ made it would not follow. Now, when Des
Cartes afterwards adds that I cannot unmake the conception, he means
that I cannot get rid of it by an act of my will, which is true; but is
not the proposition required. That what some of the laws of my nature
have produced, other laws, or those same laws in other circumstances,
might not subsequently efface, he would have found it difficult to

Treating the existence of God as demonstrated from the _a priori_ idea
of perfection and infinity, and by the clearness of his idea of God's
existence, Des Cartes then proceeds to deal with the distinction between
body and soul. To prove this distinction was to him an easy matter.
The fundamental and essential attribute of substance must be extension,
because we can denude substance of every quality but that of extension;
this we cannot touch without at the same time affecting the substance..
The fundamental attribute of mind is thought; it is in the act of
thinking that the consciousness of existence is revealed; to be without
thought would be to be without consciousness.

Des Cartes has given us, among others, the axiom "That two substances
are really distinct when their ideas are complete, and no way imply each
other. The idea of extension is complete and distinct from the idea of
thought, which latter is also clear and distinct by itself. It follows,
therefore, that substance and mind are distinct in essence."

Des Cartes has, from the vagueness of some of his statements, subjected
himself to the charge of asserting the existence of innate ideas,
and the following quotations will speak for themselves on the
subject:--"When I said that the idea of God is innate in us, I never
meant more than this, that Nature has endowed us with a faculty by which
we may know God; but I have never either said or thought that such ideas
had an actual existence, or even that they were a species distinct from
the faculty of thinking.... Although the idea of God is so imprinted on
our minds, that every person has within him the faculty of knowing him,
it does not follow that there may not have been various individuals who
have passed through life without ever making this idea a distinct object
of apprehension; and, in truth, they who think they have an idea of a
plurality of Gods, have no idea of God whatever." This seems explicit
as negativing the charge of holding the doctrine of innate ideas; but in
the _Edinburgh Review_ several passages are given, amongst which is
the following:--"By the word idea I understand all that can be in our
thoughts; and I distinguish three sorts of ideas--adventitious, like
the common idea of the sun, framed by the mind, such as that which
astronomical reasoning gives of the sun; and innate, as the idea of God,
mind, body, a triangle, and generally all those which represent true,
immutable, and eternal essences." With regard to these rather opposite
statements, Lewes says, "If Des Cartes, when pressed by objections, gave
different explanations, we must only set it down to a want of a steady
conception of the vital importance of innate ideas to his system. The
fact remains that innate ideas form the necessary groundwork of the
Cartesian doctrine.... The radical error of all ontological speculation
lies in the assumption that we have ideas independent of experience;
because experience can only tell us of ourselves or of phenomena; of
noumena it can tell us nothing.... The fundamental question, then, of
modern philosophy is this--Have we any ideas independent of experience?"

Des Cartes's disciples are of two classes, the "mathematical cultivators
of physic," and the "deductive cultivators of philosophy." The first
class of disciples are far in advance of their chief, and can only be
considered as having received an impulse in a true direction. The
second class unhesitatingly accepted his principles, and continued his
thinking, although they developed his system in a different manner, and
arrived at stronger conclusions than Des Cartes's courage would have
supported. Some of the physical speculations of Des Cartes have been
much ridiculed by subsequent writers; but many reasons may be urged, not
only against that ridicule, but also against the more moderate censure
which several able critics have dealt out against the intellectual
character of Des Cartes. It should be remembered that the theories of
all his predecessors were mere conjectural speculations respecting the
places and paths of celestial bodies, etc. Innumerable hypotheses had
been formed and found useless; and we ought rather to look to what Des
Cartes did accomplish under the many difficulties of his position,
in respect to the then, state of scientific knowledge, than to judge
harshly of those speculations, which, though attended with no beneficial
result to humanity at large, were doubtless well intended by their
author. He was the first man who brought optical science under the
command of mathematics, by the discovery of the law of refraction of the
ordinary ray through diaphanous bodies; and probably there is scarcely
a name on record, the bearer of which has given a greater impulse to
mathematical and philosophical inquiry than Des Cartes. Although, as a
mathematician, he published but little, yet in every subject which he
has treated he has opened, not only a new field lor investigation, but
also a new road for the investigators to proceed by. His discovery of
the simple application of the notation of indices to algebraical powers,
has totally remodelled the whole science of algebra. His conception of
expressing the fundamental property of curve lines and curve surfaces
by equations between the co-ordinates has led to an almost total
supersedence of the geometry of the ancients. Contemporary with Galileo,
and with a knowledge of the persecution to which that father of physics
was being subjected by the Church, we are tempted to express our
surprise that Des Cartes did not extend the right hand of fellowship,
help, and sympathy to his brother philosopher; but it is, nevertheless,
the fact, that either jealous of the fame of Galileo (as some have
alleged.) or from a fear of being involved in the same persecutions, Des
Cartes abstained from visiting the astronomer, although travelling for
some time near his place of abode in Italy. Lewes, in his "Life of Des
Cartes," says, "Des Cartes was a great thinker; but having said this
we have almost exhausted the praise we can bestow on him as a man. In
disposition he was timid to servility. While promulgating the proofs
of the existence of the Deity, he was in evident alarm lest the Church
should see something objectionable in them. He had also written an
astronomical treatise; but hearing of the fate of Galileo he refrained
from publishing, and always used some chicanery in speaking of
the world's movement. He was not a brave man; he was also not an
affectionate one. There was in him a deficiency of all finer feelings.
But he was even-tempered, and studious of not giving offence."

We are tempted, after a careful perusal of the life and writings of Des
Cartes and his contemporaries, to be of opinion that he was a man who
wished to be considered the chief thinker of his day, and who shunned
and rejected the offers of friendship from other philosophers, lest
they, by being associated with him, should jointly wear laurels which
he was cultivating solely to form a crown for himself. Despite all, his
brow still bears a crown, and his fame has a freshness that we might all
be justly proud of, if appertaining to ourselves.

We trust that in these few pages we have succeeded in presenting Des
Cartes, to such of our readers who were unacquainted with his writings,
sufficiently well to enable them to appreciate him, and to induce
them to search further; and at the same time we hope that those better
acquainted with him will not blame as for the omission of much which
they may consider more important than the matter which appears in this
little tract. We have endeavored to picture Des Cartes as the founder
of the deductive method, as having the foundation-stone of all his
reasoning in his consciousness.



François Marie Arouet, better known by the name of Voltaire, was born
at Chatenay, on the 20th of February, 1694. By assuming the name of
Voltaire, young Arouet followed the custom, at that time generally
practiced by the rich citizens and younger sons, who, leaving the family
name to the heir, assumed that of a fief, or perhaps of a country house.
The father of M. de Voltaire was treasurer to the Chamber of Accounts,
and his mother, Margaret d'Aumart, was of a noble family of Poitou. The
fortune which the father enjoyed, enabled him to bestow a first-class
education upon the young Arouet, who was sent to the Jesuits' College,
where the sons of the nobility received their education. While at
school, Voltaire began to write poetry, and gave signs of a remarkable
genius. His tutors, Fathers Poree and Jay, from the boldness and
independence of his mind predicted that he would become the apostle of
Deism in France. This prediction he fulfilled. "Voltaire was," says Lord
Brougham, "through his whole life, a sincere believer in the existence
and attributes of the Deity. He was a firm and decided, and an openly
declared unbeliever in Christianity; but he was, without any hesitation
or any intermission, a Theist." His open declaration of disbelief in
the inspiration of the Bible, and his total rejection of the dogmas
of Christianity, laid him open to the malignant attacks and
misrepresentations of the priesthood and the bigots of Europe; and
so strong were they, that his life was continually in danger.
Lord Brougham, in his "Men of Letters of the Time of George III.."
says:--"Voltaire's name is so intimately connected in the minds of all
men with Infidelity, in the minds of most men with irreligion, and, in
the minds of all who are not well-informed, with these qualities alone,
that whoever undertakes to write his life and examine his claims to the
vast reputation which all the hostile feelings excited by him against
himself have never been able to destroy, or even materially to impair,
has to labor under a great load of prejudice, and can hardly expect, by
any detail of particulars, to obtain for his subject even common justice
at the hands of the general reader."

Voltaire was born in a corrupt age, and in a capital where it was
fashionable to be immoral. When he left College, he was introduced by
his own godfather, the Abbe de Chateauneuf, to the notorious Ninon de
l'Enclos, who, at her death, left him by will two thousand livres
to purchase books. In estimating the character of Voltaire, a due
consideration must be had for the period in which he lived, and of the
nature of the society amidst which he was reared. He lived twenty, years
under the reign of Louis XIV., and during the whole of the reign of the
infamous Louis XV., when kings, courtiers, and priests set the example
of the grossest immorality. It was then, as Voltaire said, "that to make
the smallest fortune, it was better to say four words to the mistress of
a king, than to write a hundred volumes."

Voltaire's life, from his youth upwards, was a stormy one. After he left
College, his father, finding him persist in writing poetry, and living
at large, forbade him his house. He insisted upon his son binding
himself to an attorney. But his restless disposition quite unfitted him
for regular employment, and he soon quitted the profession. He early made
the acquaintance of the most celebrated men of his time, but his genius,
his wit, and his sarcasm, soon raised up numerous enemies. At the age of
twenty-two, he was accused of having written a satire upon Louis XIV.,
who was just dead, and was thrown into the Bastile. But he was not cast
down. It was here that he sketched his poem of the "League," corrected
his tragedy of "Oedipus," and wrote some merry verses on the
misfortune, of being a prisoner. The Regent, Duke of Orleans, being
informed of his innocence, restored him to freedom, and granted him a
recompense. "I thank your royal highness," said Voltaire, "for having
provided me with food; but I hope you will not hereafter trouble
yourself concerning my lodging."

Voltaire, with his activity of mind, and living to so great an age,
must necessarily produce many works. They are voluminous, consisting of
history, poetry, and philosophy. His dramatic pieces are numerous, many
of which are considered second only to Shakespeare's. "Oedipus," "Zadig,"
"Ingénu," "Zaire," "Henri-ade," "Irene," "Tancred," "Mahomet,"
"Merope," "Saul," "Alzire," "Le Fanatisme," "Mariamne," "Gaston de
Foix," "Enfant Prodigue," "Pucelle d'Orléans," an essay on "Fire," the
"Elements," "History of Charles XII.," "Lectures on Man," "Letters on
England," "Memoirs," "Voyage of Sacramentado," "Micromegas," "Maid of
Orleans," "Brutus," "Adelaide," "Death of Cæsar," "Temple of Taste,"
"Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations," "An Examination of the Holy
Scriptures," and the "Philosophical Dictionary," are works that emanated
from the active brain of this wit, poet, satirist, and philosopher.

In 1722, while at Brussels, Voltaire met Jean Baptiste Rousseau, whose
misfortunes he deplored, and whose poetic talents he esteemed. Voltaire
read some of his poems to Rousseau, and he in return read to Voltaire
his "Ode addressed to Posterity," which Voltaire, it is asserted, told
him would never arrive at the place to which it was addressed. The two
poets parted irreconcileable foes.

In 1725, Voltaire was again shut up in the Bastile, through attempting
to revenge an insult inflicted upon him by a courtier. At the end of six
months he was released, but ordered to quit Paris. He sought refuge in
England, in 1726. He was the guest in that country of a Mr. Falconer,
of Wandsworth, whose hospitality he remembered with affection so long as
life lasted. Voltaire was known to most of the wits and Freethinkers of
that day in England. At this early age he was at war with Christianity.
"His visit to England," says Lamartine, "gave assurance and gravity to
his incredulity; for in France he had only known libertines--in
England he knew philosophers." He went to visit Congreve, who had the
affectation to tell him that he (Congreve) valued himself, not on his
authorship, but as a man of the world. To which Voltaire administered
a just rebuke by saying, "I should never have come so far to see a

Voltaire soon acquired an ample fortune, much of which was expended
in aiding men of letters, and in encouraging such youth as he thought
discovered the seeds of genius. The use he made of riches might prevail
on envy itself to pardon him their acquirement. His pen and his purse
were ever at the service of the oppressed. Calas, an infirm old man,
living at Toulouse, was accused of having hung his son, to prevent his
becoming a Catholic. The Catholic population became inflamed, and the
young man was declared to be a martyr. The father was condemned to the
torture and the wheel, and died protesting his innocence. The family
of Calas was ruined and disgraced. Voltaire, assuring himself of the
innocence of the old man, determined to obtain justice for the family.
To this end he labored incessantly for three years. In all this time, he
said, a smile did not escape him for which he did not reproach himself
as for a crime. His efforts were successful. Nor was this the only cause
in which he was engaged on the side of the weak and the wronged against
the powerful and the persecuting. His whole life, though maligned as an
Infidel and a-scoffer, was one long act of benevolence. On learning that
a young niece of Corneille languished in a condition unworthy of his
name, Voltaire, in the most delicate manner, invited her to his house,
and she there received an education suitable to the rank that her birth
had marked lor her in society. "It is the duty of a soldier," he said,
"to succor the niece of his general."

Voltaire lived for a time at the Court of Frederick the Great of
Prussia, and for many years carried on a correspondence with that
monarch. He quarrelled with the king, and left the court in a passion.
An emissary was despatched to him to request an apology, who said he was
to carry back to the king his answer _verbatim_. Voltaire told him that
"the king might go to the devil!" On being asked if that was the message
he meant to be delivered! "Yes," he answered, "and add to it that I told
you that you might go there with him." In his "Memoirs," he has drawn
a most amusing picture of his Prussian Majesty. He, also says, "Priests
never entered the palace; and, in a word, Frederick lived without
religion, without a council, and without a court."

Wearied with his rambling and unsettled mode of living, Voltaire bought
an estate at Ferney, in the Pays des Gex, where he spent the last twenty
years of his life. He rebuilt the house, laid out gardens, kept a good
table, and had crowds of visitors from all parts, of Europe. Removed
from whatever could excite momentary or personal passion, he yielded to
his zeal for the destruction of prejudice, which was the most powerful
and active of all the sensations he felt. This peaceful life, seldom
disturbed except by the threats of persecution rather than persecution
itself, was adorned by those acts of enlightened and bold benevolence,
which, while they relieve the sufferings of certain individuals, are of
any service to the whole human race. He was known to Europe as the
"Sage of Ferney." After an absence of more than twenty-seven years, he
re-visited Paris in the beginning of 1778. He had just finished his
play of "Irene," and was anxious to see it performed. His visit was an
ovation. He had outlived all his enemies. After having been the object
of unrelenting persecution by the priests and corrupt courtiers of
France for a period of more than fifty years, he yet lived to see the
day when "all that was most eminent in station or most distinguished in
talents--all that most shone in society, or most ruled in court, seemed
to bend before him." At this period he, for the first time, saw Benjamin
Franklin. They embraced each other in the midst of public acclamations,
and it was said to be Solon who embraced Sophocles.

Voltaire did not survive his triumph long. His unwearied activity
induced him, at his great age, to commence a "Dictionary" upon a novel
plan, which he prevailed upon the French Academy to take up. These
labors brought on spitting of blood, followed by sleeplessness, to
obviate which he took opium in considerable quantities. Condorcet says
that the servant mistook one of the doses, which threw him into a state
of lethargy, from which he never rallied. He lingered for some time, but
at length expired on the 30th of May, 1778, in his eighty-fifth year.

It was the custom in those days, and prevails to a considerable extent
even in our own time, for the religious world to fabricate "horrible
death-beds" of all Freethinkers. Voltaire's last moments were distorted
by his enemies after the approved fashion; and notwithstanding the
most unqualified denial on the part of Dr. Burard and others, who were
present at his death, there are many who believe these falsehoods at
this moment. Voltaire died in peace, with the exception of the petty
annoyances to which he was subjected by the priests. The philosophers,
too, who wished that no public stigma should be cast upon him by the
refusal of Christian burial, persuaded him to undergo confession and
absolution. This, to oblige his friends, he submitted to; but when the
cure one day drew him from his lethargy by shouting into his ear, "Do
you believe the divinity of Jesus Christ?" Voltaire exclaimed, "In the
name of God, Sir, speak to me no more of that man, but let me die in
peace!" This put to flight all doubts of the pious, and the certificate
of burial was refused. But the prohibition of the Bishop of Troyes
came too late. Voltaire was buried at the monastery of Scellieres, in
Champagne, of which his nephew was abbot. Afterwards, during the first
French Revolution, the body, at the request of the citizens, was removed
to Paris, and buried in the Pantheon. Lamartine, in his "History of the
Girondists," p. 149, speaking of the ceremony, says:--

"On the 11th of July, the departmental and municipal authorities went
in state to the barrier of Charenton, to receive the mortal remains of
Voltaire, which were placed on the ancient site of the Bastile, like a
conqueror on his trophies; his coffin was exposed to public gaze, and a
pedestal was formed for it of stones torn from the foundations of this
ancient stronghold of tyranny; and thus Voltaire when dead triumphed
over those stones which had triumphed over and confined him when living.
On one of the blocks was the inscription, '_Receive on this spot,
where despotism once fettered thee, the Honors decreed to thee by thy
country_'.... The coffin of Voltaire was deposited between those of
Descartes and Mirabeau--the spot predestined for this intermediary
genius between philosophy and policy, between the design and the

The aim of Voltaire's life was the destruction of prejudice and the
establishment of Reason. "Deists," said W. J. Fox in 1819, "have done
much for toleration and religious liberty. It may be doubted if there
be a country in Europe, where that cause has not been advanced by the
writings of Voltaire." In the Preface and Conclusion to the "Examination
of the Scriptures," Voltaire says:--

"The ambition of domineering over the mind, is one of the strongest
passions. A theologian, a missionary, or a partisan of any description,
is always for conquering like a prince, and there are many more sects
than there are sovereigns in the world. To whose guidance shall I
submit my mind? Must I be a Christian, be-cause I happened to be born
in London, or in Madrid? Must I be a Mussulman, because I was born in
Turkey? As it is myself alone that I ought to consult, the choice of a
religion is my greatest interest. One man adores God by Mahomet, another
by the Grand Lama, and another by the Pope. Weak and foolish men! adore
God by your own reason.... I have learnt that a French Vicar, of
the name of John Meslier, who died a short time since, prayed on his
death-bed that God would forgive him for having taught Christianity. I
have seen a Vicar in Dorsetshire relinquish a living of £200 a year, and
confess to his parishioners that his conscience would not permit him to
preach the shocking absurdities of the Christians. But neither the will
nor the testament of John Meslier, nor the declaration of this worthy
Vicar, are what I consider decisive proofs. Uriel Acosta, a Jew,
publicly renounced the Old Testament in Amsterdam; however, I pay no
more attention to the Jew Acosta than to Parson Meslier. I will read
the arguments on both sides of the trial, with careful attention, not
suffering the lawyers to tamper with me; but will weigh, before God,
the reasons of both parties, and decide according to my conscience. I
commence by being my-own instructor.... I conclude, that every sensible
man, every honest man, ought to hold Christianity in abhorrence. 'The
great name of Theist, which we can never sufficiently revere,' is the
only name we ought to adopt. The only gospel we should read is the grand
book of nature, written with God's own hand, and stamped with his own
seal. The only religion we ought to profess is, 'to adore God, and act
like honest men.' It would be as impossible for this simple and eternal
religion to produce evil, as it would be impossible for Christian
fanaticism not to produce it.... But what shall we substitute in its
place? say you. What? A ferocious animal has sucked the blood of my
relatives. I tell you to rid yourselves of this beast, and you ask me
what you shall put in its place! Is it you that put this question to me?
Then you are a hundred times more odious than the Pagan Pontiffs, who
permitted themselves to enjoy tranquillity among their ceremonies and
sacrifices, who did not attempt to enslave the mind by dogmas, who never
disputed the powers of the magistrates, and who introduced no discord
among mankind. You have the face to ask what you must substitute in the
place of your fables!"

As will be seen by his exclamation on his death-bed, Voltaire was no
believer in the _divinity_ of Christ. He disbelieved the Bible _in
toto_. The accounts of the doings of the Jewish kings, as represented in
the Old Testament, he has unsparingly ridiculed in the drama of "Saul."
The quiet irony of the following will be easily appreciated:--

Divinity of Jesus.--The Socinians, who are regarded as blasphemers, do
not recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ. They dare to pretend, with
the philosophers of antiquity, with the Jews, the Mahometans, and
most other nations, that the idea of a god-man is monstrous; that the
distance from God to man is infinite; and that it is impossible for
a perishable body to be infinite, immense, or eternal. They have the
confidence to quote Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea, in their favor, who,
in his "Ecclesiastical History," book i., chap. 9, declares that it is
absurd to imagine the uncreated and unchangeable nature of Almighty God
taking the form of a man. They cite the fathers of the church, Justin
and Tertullian, who have said the same thing: Justin in his "Dialogue
with Triphonius;" and Tertullian, in his "Discourse against Praxeas."
They quote St. Paul, who never calls Jesus Christ, God, and who calls
him man very often. They carry their audacity so far as to affirm,
that the Christians passed three entire ages in forming by degrees the
apotheosis of Jesus; and that they only raised this astonishing edifice
by the example of the Pagans, who had deified mortals. At first,
according to them, Jesus was only regarded as a man inspired by God,
and then as a creature more perfect than others. They gave him some time
after, a place above the angels, as St. Paul tells us. Every day added
to his greatness. He in time became an emanation, proceeding from God.
This was not enough; he was even born before time. At last he was God
consubstantial with God. Crellius, Voquelsius, Natalis, Alexander,
and Hornbeck, have supported all these blasphemies by arguments, which
astonish the wise and mislead the weak. Above all, Faustus Socinus
spread the seeds of this doctrine in Europe; and at the end of the
sixteenth century, a new species of Christianity was established. There
were already more than three hundred.--[Philosophical Dictionary, vol.
i. p. 405.]

Though a firm and consistent believer in the being of a God, Voltaire
was no bigot. The calm reasoning of the following passage does honor to
its author:--

Faith.--Divine faith, about which so much has been written, is evidently
nothing more than incredulity brought under subjection; for we certainly
have no other faculty than the understanding by which we can believe;
and the objects of faith are not those of the understanding. We can
believe only what appears to be true; and nothing can appear true but in
one of the three following ways--by intuition or feeling, as I exist,
I see the sun; or by an accumulation of probability amounting to
certainty, as there is a city called Constantinople; or by positive
demonstration, as triangles of the same base and height are equal.
Faith, therefore, being nothing at all of this description, can no
more be a belief, a persuasion, than it can be yellow or red. It can be
nothing but the annihilation of reason, a silence of adoration at the
contemplation of things absolutely incomprehensible. Thus, speaking
philosophically, no person believes the Trinity; no person believes that
the same body can be in a thousand places at once; and he who says, I
believe these mysteries, will see, beyond the possibility of a doubt,
if he reflects for a moment on what passes in his mind, that these words
mean no more than, I respect thee, mysteries; I submit myself to those
who announce them. For they agree with me, that my real reason, their
own reason, believe them not; but it is clear if my _reason_ is not
persuaded, I am not persuaded, and my reason cannot possibly be two
different beings. It is an absolute contradiction that I should receive
that as true which my understanding rejects as false. Faith, therefore,
is nothing but submissive or deferential incredulity. But why should
this submission be exercised when my understanding invincibly recoils?
The reason, we well know, is, that my understanding has been persuaded
that the mysteries of my faith are laid down by God himself. All, then,
that I can do, as a reasonable being, is to be silent and adore. That is
what divines call external faith; and this faith neither is, nor can be,
anything more than respect for things incomprehensible, in consequence
of the reliance I place on those who teach them; If God himself were
to say to me, "Thought is of an olive colour;" "the square of a certain
number is bitter;" I should certainly understand nothing at all from
these words. I could not adopt them either as true or false. But I will
repeat them, if he commands me to do it; and I will make others repeat
them at the risk of my life. This is faith; it is nothing more than
obedience. In order to obtain a foundation then for this obedience,
it is merely necessary to examine the books which require it. Our
understanding, therefore, should investigate the books of the Old and
New Testament, just as it would Plutarch or Livy; and if it finds in
them incontestable and decisive evidences--evidences obvious to all
minds, and such as would be admitted by men of all nations--that God
himself is their author, then it is our incumbent duty to subject our
understanding to the yoke of faith.--[Ibid, p. 474.]

Prayer.--We know of no religion without prayers; even the Jews had them,
although there was no public form of prayer among them before the time
when they sang their canticles in their synagogues, which did not take
place until a late period. The people of all nations, whether actuated
by desires or fears, have summoned the assistance of the Divinity.
Philosophers, however, more respectful to the Supreme Being, and rising
more above human weakness, have been habituated to substitute, for
prayer, resignation. This, in fact, is all that appears proper and
suitable between creature and Creator. But philosophy is not adapted
to the great mass of mankind; it soars too highly above the vulgar; it
speaks a language they are unable to comprehend. To propose philosophy
to them, would be just as weak as to propose the study of conic sections
to peasants or fish-women. Among philosophers themselves, I know of
no one besides Maximus Tyrius who has treated of this subject. The
following is the substance of his ideas upon it:--The designs of God
exist from all eternity. If the object prayed for be conformable to his
immutable will, it must be perfectly useless to request of him the very
thing which he has determined to do. If he is prayed to for the reverse
of what he has determined to do, he is prayed to be weak, fickle,
and inconstant; such a prayer implies that this is thought to be his
character, and is nothing better than ridicule or mockery of him. You
either request of him what is just and right, in which case he ought to
do it, and it will be actually done without any solicitation, which in
fact, shows distrust of his rectitude; or what you request is unjust,
and then you insult him. You are either worthy or unworthy of the favour
you implore; if worthy, he knows it better than you do yourself; if
unworthy, you commit an additional crime in requesting that which you
do not merit. In a word, we offer up prayers to God only because we have
made him after our own image. We treat him like a pacha, or a sultan,
who is capable of being exasperated and appeased. In short, all nations
pray to God; the sage is resigned, and obeys him. Let us pray with the
people, and let us be resigned to him with the sage. We have already
spoken of the public prayer of many nations, and of those of the
Jews.--That people have had one from time immemorial, which deserves
all our attention, from its resemblance to the prayer taught us by Jesus
Christ himself. This Jewish prayer is called the Kadish, and begins with
these words:--"Oh! God! let thy name be magnified and sanctified; make
thy kingdom to prevail; let redemption flourish, and the Messiah come
quickly!" As this Radish is recited in Chaldee, it has induced the
belief, that it is as ancient as the captivity, and that it was at
that period that the Jews began to hope for a Messiah, a Liberator,
or Redeemer, whom they have since prayed for in ihe seasons of their
calamities.--[Ibid, vol. ii., p. 350.]

Voltaire's contempt for the Bible led him to use the language of "holy
writ" in the coarsest jokes; though, perhaps, with such material, the
jokes could not well be otherwise than _coarse_. The following letter
he addressed to M. Bâillon, Intendant of Lyons, on account of a poor Jew
taken up for uttering contraband goods. This kind of writing obtained
for Voltaire the title of "scoffer:"--

"Blessings on the Old Testament, which gives me this opportunity of
telling you, that amongst all those who adore the New, there is not one
more devoted to your service than myself, a certain descendant of Jacob,
a pedlar, as all these gentlemen are, whilst he is waiting for the
Messiah, waits also for your protection, which at present he has the
most need of. Some honest men of the first trade of St. Matthew, who
gather together the Jews and Christians at the gates of your city,
have seized something in the breeches pocket of an Israelitish page,
belonging to the poor circumcised, who has the honour to tender you this
billet, with all proper submission and humility. I beg leave to join my
Amen to his at a venture. I but just saw you at Paris as Moses saw the
Deity, and should be very happy in seeing you face to face. If the word
face can any ways be applied to me, preserve some remembrance of your
old eternal humble servant, who loves you with that chaste and tender
affection, which the religious Solomon had for his three hundred

Voltaire's prodigious wit and sarcasm were so exuberant, that he
expended them upon all people and all subjects--even _himself_, when
occasion admitted of it, In one of his letters,-addressed to the Elector
Palatine, Sept. 9, 1761, he gives this excuse for not attending at the

"I should really make an excellent figure amidst the rejoicings of your
electoral highness. It was only, I think, in the Egypt of antiquity
that _skeletons_ were admitted to a place in their festivals. To say the
truth, my lord, it is all over with me. I laugh indeed sometimes; but am
forced to acknowledge that pain is an evil. It is a comfort to me that
your highness is well; but I am fitter for an extreme unction than a
baptism. May the peace serve for an era to mark the prince's birth; and
may his august father preserve his regard for, and accept the profound
respects of his little Swiss, Voltaire."

In politics, Voltaire was not very far advanced. He seems to have had no
idea of a nation without a _king_. A monarch who should not commit any
very flagrant acts of tyranny, was as much as he appeared to desire. He
evidently did not foresee the great revolution that was so soon to burst
forth in France, but that he mainly contributed by his writings to bring
it about, there can be no doubt. His influence upon the men of his
time, both in France and Europe, is ably depicted by such writers as
Lamartine, Quinet, and Brougham. Voltaire's was the one great mind of
his day, whose thoughts engrossed the attention of all men. He was great
by his learning, his genius, and his benevolence--and this man was the
champion of Reason, the enemy of superstition, and an "Infidel." Quinet,
in his lectures on the Romish Church, says:--"I watch, for forty years,
the reign of one man who is in himself the spiritual director, not of
his country, but of his age. From the corner of his chamber, he governs
the kingdom of spirits; intellects are every day regulated by his; one
word written by his hand traverses Europe. Princes love, and kings fear
him; they think they are not sure of their kingdom if he be not with
them. Whole nations, on their side, adopt without discussion, and
emulously repeat, every syllable that falls from his pen. Who exercises
this incredible power, which had been nowhere seen since the middle
ages? Is he another Gregory II.? Is he a Pope? No--Voltaire."

We conclude our sketch with the eloquent words of Lamartine, who
describes, in a few sentences, the inestimable services rendered to
Freethought and intellectual progression by the Sage of Ferney:--

"If we judge of men by what they have _done_, then Voltaire is
incontestably the greatest writer of modern Europe. No one has caused,
through the powerful influence of his genius alone, and the perseverance
of his will, so great a commotion in the minds of men; his pen aroused
a world, and has shaken a far mightier empire than that of Charlemagne,
the European empire of a theocracy. His genius was not _force_ but
_light_. Heaven had destined him not to destroy but to illuminate, and
wherever he trod, light followed him, for Reason (which is _light_) had
destined him to be first her poet, then her apostle, and lastly her

J. W.


In the Augustan age of Freethought, no British writer achieved more
renown, or performed greater services to Biblical criticism, than John
Toland. His life would fill a volume, while his works would stock a
library. True to his convictions, he spoke like a man, and died as a
hero. His books are strewn with classical illustrations, and deal so
with abstract (and to us) uninteresting arguments, that we shall simply
give a brief sketch of the life of this extraordinary man. He gave his
thoughts to the scholars at the same time that Woolston addressed the
people; conjointly they revolutionized opinion in our favor.

Toland was born on November 30, 1670, at Londonderry, in Ireland. It
is said his registered name was "James Junius," another account says
"Julius Cæsar;" but we have been unable to find any authentic date
for either supposition, and whatever his name was registered, we have
indisputable evidence that he was always called John Toland. We have
less proof as to his parentage; some writers allege that he was the
natural son of a Catholic priest; while others contend that he was born
of a family once affluent, but at the time of his birth in very reduced
circumstances. Whether this was the case or the reverse, young Toland
received a liberal education. He was early taught the classics, studied
in the Glasgow College; and on leaving Glasgow he was presented with
letters of credit from the city magistrates, highly flattering to him as
a man and a scholar. He received the diploma of A.M. at Edinburgh, the
day previous to the Battle of the Boyne. He finished his studies at the
University of Leyden.

The first work of importance which Toland published, was a "Life of
John Milton, containing besides the History of his Works, several
extraordinary Characters of Men and Books, Sects, Parties, and
Opinions." This work being violently opposed, was speedily followed
by "Amyntor," or a defence of Milton's life, containing--1. A general
apology for all writings of that kind. 2. A catalogue of books,
attributed in the primitive times to Jesus Christ, his apostles, and
other eminent persons, with several important remarks relating to the
canon of Scripture. 3. A complete history of the Book, entitled "Icon
Basilike, proving Dr. Gauden, and not King Charles I., to be the author
of it," etc. Those works established the fame of Toland, as well as
formed the groundwork for persecution, which hunted him even on his
death-bed. In the year 1699 Toland collected, edited, and published,
from the original MSS., the whole of the works of James Harrington,
prefixed by a memoir of this extraordinary theorist. In his preface he
says that he composed this work "in his beloved retirement at Cannon,
near Bansted, in Surrey." From this, along with other excerpts scattered
through his works, we cannot but infer that at the outset of his
career he possessed a moderate competence of worldly wealth and social
position. He says his idea was "to transmit to posterity the worthy
memory of James Harrington, a bright ornament to useful learning, a
hearty lover of his native country, and a generous benefactor to the
whole world; a person who obscured the false lustre of our modern
politicians, and equalled (if not exceeded) all the ancient
legislators." This to us is an interesting fact, for it shows the early
unanimity which existed between the earlier reformers in politics and
those of theology. The supervision of the "Oceana" by Toland, bears the
same inferential analogy, as if Mr. Holyoake were the biographer and
publisher of the "New Moral World" and its author. In 1700, he published
"Anglia Libera; or, the Limitation and Succession of the Crown of
England, explained and Asserted," etc. This book is concluded by the
following apothegm, assuring the people "that no king can ever be so
good as one of their own making, as there is no title equal to their
approbation, which is the only divine right of all magistracy, for the
voice of the people is the voice of God." In 1702, Toland spent some
time in Germany, publish-ing a series of Letters to a friend in
Holland, entitled "Some Remarks on the King of Prussia's Country, on
his Government, his Court, and his numerous Palaces." About this time
appeared "The Art of Governing by Parties;" this was always a favorite
subject of the old Freethinkers, and is still further elucidated by

In 1707 he published a large treatise in English and Latin, as "A
Philippic Oration, to incite the English against the French," a work I
have never seen. We now return to an earlier date, and shall trace the
use of his theological works. The first of note (1696) was "Christianity
not Mysterious"--showing that there is nothing in the gospel contrary
to reason, nor above it; and that no Christian doctrine can be properly
called a mystery. As soon as this book was issued from the press, it
was attacked with unmanly virulence. One man (Peter Brown) who was more
disgustingly opposed to Toland than the rest, was made a bishop; and by
far the greatest majority amongst the Anglican clergy, who attacked him,
were all rewarded by honors and preferment. The author was accused of
making himself a new Heresiarch; that there was a tradition amongst
the Irish that he was to be a second Cromwell, and that Toland himself
boasted that before he was forty years old, he would be governor over a
greater country than Cromwell; and that he would be the head over a new
religion before he was thirty. One of his opponents publicly stigmatises
him as saying that he (Toland) himself designed to be as great an
impostor as Mahomet, and more powerful than the Pope; while the Puritans
denounced him as a disguised Jesuit, and the Papists as a rancorous
Nonconformist. To complete the comedy, the Irish Parliament condemned
his book to be publicly burnt, some ecclesiastics loudly murmuring that,
the author should be burned with it; others, more moderate, were anxious
that Toland should burn it himself, while at last they came to an
unanimous resolution to burn it in front of the threshold of his door,
so that when the author appeared, he would be obliged to step oyer the
ashes of his own book, which was accordingly done amid the brutal cheers
of an ignorant and infuriated populace.

As a proof of the high esteem in which Toland was held by the _few_ able
and liberal men of the day, we extract the following account from the
correspondence of John Locke and Mr. Molyneux. * The latter gentleman,
writing to the former, says:--"I am told the author of 'Christianity not
Mysterious' is of this country, and that his name is Toland, but he is
a stranger in these parts, I believe. If he belongs to this kingdom,
he has been a good while out of it, or I have not heard of any such
_remarkable_ man amongst us." In another letter, the same writer
says:--"In my last to you, there was a passage, relating to the author
of 'Christianity not Mysterious.' I did not then think he was so near
me as within the bounds of this city; but I find since that he has
come over hither, and have had the favor of a visit from him. I now
understand that he was born in this country, but that he has been a
great while abroad, and his education was for some time under the great
Le Clerc. But that for which I can never honor him too much, is his
acquaintance and friendship to you, and the respect which upon all
occasions he expresses for you. I propose a great deal of satisfaction
in his conversation. I take him to be a candid Freethinker, and a good
scholar. But there is a violent sort of spirit which reigns here, which
begins already to show itself against him, and I believe will increase
daily, for I find the clergy alarmed to a mighty degree against him.
And last Sunday he had his welcome to this city, by hearing himself
harangued against out of the pulpit, by a prelate of this country."

     * Locke's posthumous works.   Edited by Die Maizeaus.

Mr. Locke, in return, says:--"For the man I wish very well, and could
give you, if it needed, proofs that I do so. And therefore I desire you
to be kind to him: but I must leave it to your prudence in what way
and how far. For it will be his fault alone, if he proves not a very
valuable man, and have not you for his friend." To this, Mr. Molyneux
writes to Mr. Locke--"I look upon Mr. Toland as a very ingenuous man,
and I should be very glad of any opportunity of doing him service, to
which I think myself indispensably bound by your recommendation." Soon
after this, Mr. Molyneux describes the treatment Toland underwent in
Ireland. In another letter to Locke--"He has had his opposers here,
as you will find by a book which I have sent to you. The author (Peter
Brown) is my acquaintance, but two things I shall never forgive in his
book: the one is the foul language and opprobrious names he gives Mr.
Toland; the other is upon several occasions, calling in the aid of the
civil magistrate, and delivering up Mr. Toland to secular punishment.
This, indeed, is a killing argument, but some will be apt to say, that
where, the strength of his reason failed him, then he flies to the
strength of his sword; and this reminds me of a business that was very
surprising to many, the presentment of some pernicious books and their
authors by the grand jury of Middlesex. This is looked upon as a matter
of dangerous consequence, to make our civil courts judges of religious
doctrines; and no one knows upon a change of affairs whose turn it
may be next to be condemned. But the example has been followed in this
country, and Mr. Toland and his book have been presented here by a grand
jury, not one of whom I am persuaded ever read one leaf in 'Christianity
not Mysterious.'

"Let the Sorbonne forever now be silent; a learned grand jury, directed
by as learned a judge, does the business much better. The Dissenters
here were the chief promoters of this matter, but, when I asked one
of them 'What if a violent Church of England jury should present Mr.
Baxter's books as pernicious, and condemn them to the flames by the
common executioner,' he was sensible of the error, and said he wished
it had never been done." Mr. Locke, in his reply, coincides with his
friend, and says, "The Dissenters had best _consider_; but they are a
sort of men which will always be the same." A remark which 150 years has
not failed in its truthfulness. Mr. Molyneux concludes his remarks in
reference to Toland, as follows:--"Mr. Toland is at length driven out
of our kingdom; the poor gentleman at last wanted a meal's meat, and
the universal outcry of the clergy ran so strong against him, that none
durst admit him to their tables. The little stock of money which he had
was soon exhausted, he fell to borrowing, and to complete his hardships,
the Parliament fell on his book, voted it to be burnt by the common
hangman, and ordered the author to be taken into custody by the
Serjeant-at-Arms, and to be prosecuted by the Attorney General. Hereupon
he is fled out of this kingdom, and none here knows where he has
directed his course." From this correspondence we glean the following

1. That John Locke and Mr. Molyneux were favorable to Freethought.

2. That (on Locke's authority) Toland possessed abilities of no common

3. That Toland was unjustly persecuted, and he met with the sympathy of
the Liberals.

Toland, having received a foretaste of his country's vengeance, retired
for two years to Germany, where he was welcomed by the first scholars of
the age. Hearing that the House of Convocation, in London, was about to
denounce two of his works as heretical ("Christianity not Mysterious,"
and "Amyntor,") he hastened to England, and published two letters to the
Prolucutor, which were never laid before Convocation. He insisted that
he should be heard in his own defence before sentence was passed on
his works; but as usual this wish was denied him. A legal difficulty
prevented the bishops from prosecuting the works, and Toland gave the
world a full account in his "Vindicius Liberius."

The "Letters to Serena," written in a bold, honest, unflinching manner,
were the next performances of Toland. The first letter is on "The Origin
and Force of Prejudices." It is founded on a reflection of Cicero, that
all prejudices spring from moral, and not physical sources, and while
all admit the power of the senses to be infallible, all strive to
corrupt the judgment, by false metaphor and unjust premises. Toland
traces the progress of superstition from the hands of a midwife to those
of a priest, and shows how the nurse, parent, schoolmaster, professor,
philosopher, and politician, all combine to warp the mind of man by
fallacies from his progress in childhood, at school, at college, and
in the world. How the child is blinded with an idea, and the man with
a word. The second letter is "A History of the Soul's Immortality Among
the Heathens." A lady had been reading Platers "Phædo," and remarked
as to how Cato could derive any consolation from the slippery and vague
suppositions of that verbiant dialogue. Toland, therefore, for her
edification, drew up a list of the specifications of the ancients on the
subject, analysing (in its progress) the varying phases of the fables of
the Elysian fields, the Charons, the Styx, etc., deriving them all from
the ancient Egyptians. Toland thought the idea had arisen among the
people, like our witches, ghosts, and fairy stories, and subsequently
defended by the philosophers, who sought to rule their passions by
finding arguments for their superstitions, and thus the rise of their
exoteric and esoteric doctrines were the first foundations of the belief
in the immortality of the soul. The third letter is on "The Origin of
Idolatry," or, as it might rather be called, a history of the follies
of mankind. He traces the causes, the origin, and the science of
superstition--its phenomena and its devotees, proving that all the
sacrifices, prayers, and customs of idolatry are the same in all ages,
they only differ in language and adaptability of climate, and that with
the fall of judicial astrology, idolatry received its greatest blow,
for while men thought that priests could control destiny, they feared
them--but this idea destroyed, it removed the terror which so long
had existed as an immediate object betwixt the man and this sacerdotal

In letter fourth, addressed "To a Gentleman in Holland, showing
Spinoza's System of Philosophy to be without any principle or
foundation," and in the concluding article, Toland argues that "motion
is essential to matter, in answer to some remarks by a noble friend
on the above." In the fifteenth section of this argument, Toland thus
rebuts the allegation that were motion indissolubly connected with
matter, there must be extension without surface for motion or matter
to exert their respective powers upon. It is often used as an argument,
that if a vase was filled with any commodity to the utmost extent, where
would be the space for motion? We know that in a kettle of water, if
there is no outlet for the steam (which is the motion of the water,)
the kettle will burst. Toland says, "'You own most bodies are in actual
motion, which can be no argument that they have been always so, or that
there are not others in actual repose.' I grant that such a consequence
does not necessarily follow, though the thing may itself be true. But,
however, it may not be amiss to consider how far this actual motion
reaches, and is allowed, before we come to treat of rest. Though the
matter of the universe be everywhere the same, yet according to its
various modifications it is conceived to be divided into numberless
particular systems, vortices or whirlpools of matter; and these again
are subdivided into other systems greater or less, which depend oh one
another, as every one on the whole, in their centres, textures, frame,
and coherence. Our sun is the centre of one of the larger systems, which
contains a great many small ones within the sphere of its activity,
as all the planets which move about it; and these are subdivided into
lesser systems that depend on them, as his satelites wait upon
Jupiter, and the moon on the earth; the earth again is divided into the
atmosphere, ground, water, and other principal parts; these again into
the vegetable, animal, and mineral kingdoms. Now, as all these depend
in a link on one another, so their matter is mutually resolved into each
other, for earth, air, fire, and water are not only closely blended
and united, but likewise interchangeable, transformed in a perpetual
revolution: earth becoming water, water air, air ether, and so back
again in mixtures without end or number. The animals we destroy
contribute to preserve us, till we are destroyed to preserve other
things, and become parts of grass, or plants, or water, or air, or
something else that helps to make other animals, and they one another,
or other men, and these again into stone, or wood, or metals, or
minerals, or animals again, or become parts of all these and of a great
many other things, animals, or vegetables, daily consuming and devouring
each other--so true it is that everything lives by the destruction of
another. All the parts of the universe are in this constant motion of
destroying and begetting, of begetting and destroying, and the greater
systems are acknowledged to have their ceaseless movements as well
as the smallest particles, the very central globes of the vortices
revolving on their own axis, and every particle in the vortex
gravitating towards the centre. Our bodies, however we may flatter
ourselves, do not differ from those of other creatures, but like them
receive increase or diminution by nutrition or evacuation, by accretion,
transpiration, and other ways, giving some parts of ours to other
bodies, and receiving again of theirs, not altogether the same yesterday
as to-day, nor to continue the same to-morrow, being alive in a
perpetual flux like a river, and in the total dissolution of our system
at death to become parts of a thousand other things at once, our bodies
partly mixing with the dust and the water of the earth, partly exhaled
and evaporated into the air, flying to so many different places, mixing
and incorporating with numerous things.

"No parts of matter are bound to any one figure or form, losing and
changing their figures and forms continually, that is being in perpetual
motion, dipt, or worn, or ground to pieces, or dissolved by other parts,
acquiring their figures, and these theirs, and so on incessantly: earth,
air, fire, and water, iron, wood, and marble, plants and animals, being
rarefied, condensed, liquified, congealed, dissolved, coagulated, or
any other way resolved into one another. The whole face of the earth
exhibits those mutations every moment to our eyes, nothing continuing
one hour numerically the same; and these changes being but several kinds
of motion, are therefore the incontestable effects of universal action.
But the changes in the parts make no change in the universe; for it is
manifest that the continual alterations, successions, revolutions, and
transmutations of matter, cause no accession or diminution therein, no
more than any letter is added or lost in the alphabet by the endless
combinations and transpositions thereof into so many different words and
languages, for a thing no sooner quits one form than it puts on another,
leaving as it were the theatre in a certain dress, and appearing again
in a new one, which produces a perpetual youthfulness and vigor, without
any decay or decrepitness of the world, as some have falsely imagined,
contrary to reason and experience; the world, with all the parts and
kinds thereof, continuing at all times in the same condition."


"But the species still continue by propagation, notwithstanding the decay
of the individuals, and the death of our bodies is but matter going
to be dressed in some new form; the impressions may vary, but the wax
continues still the same, and indeed death is in effect the very same
thins with our birth; for as to die is only to cease to be what we
formerly were, so to be born is to begin to be something which we were
not before. Considering the numberless successive generations that have
inhabited this globe, returning at death into the common mass of
the same, mixing with all the other parts thereof, and to this, the
incessant river-like flowing and transpiration of matter every
moment from the bodies of men while they live, as well as their daily
nourishment, inspiration of air, and other additions of matter to their
bulk; it seems probable that there is no particle of matter on the whole
earth which has not been a part of man. Nor is this reasoning confined
to our own species, but remains as true of every order of animals or
plants, or any other beings, since they have been all resolved into one
another by ceaseless revolutions, so that nothing is more certain than
that every material Thing is all Things, and that all Things are but
manifestations of one."

In his reply to Wotton, who attacks those "Letters to Serena," Toland
says they were addressed "to a lady, the most accomplished then in the
world." The name of the lady will probably, remain forever a mystery.

In 1718, he published the celebrated work "Nazarenus, or Jewish,
Gentile, and Mahometan Christianity," which caused an immense sensation
at the time it appeared, and led to his "Mangonentes" (1720,) a work
singularly profound and effective. In the same year he gave the world
"Tetradymus," containing "Hodegus, or the Pillar of Cloud and Fire,"
that guided the Israelites in the Wilderness, _not miraculous_, but a
thing equally practiced by other nations; and "Clidophorus, or of
the Exoteric and Esoteric Philosophy;" and "Hypatia." There is a long
preface to those books, "from under an elm in Bensbury (or Chebem's
camp,) on the 'warren at the south end of Wimbledon Common (1720.")
About this time "Pantheisticon" appeared, written as a caricature
on Church Liturgies, which Archdeacon Hare denounced as "downright

Along with the above, Toland wrote a multitude of small pamphlets; he
translated the fables of Æsop, and published a poem, entitled "Clito,"
which caused much excitement at the time; and, as it represented
Toland's ideal character, we reprinted it in the London Investigator.
His earlier political works were esteemed so valuable in the defence of
the Protestant succession, and advancing the interests of the Elector,
subsequently King of England, that in one of his visits paid to that
Court, he was presented by the Electress with miniature portraits of
herself and family.

The following is a catalogue of the works of Toland, which have never
yet been published, and the works in which they are mentioned:--

1. The History of Socrates (in the Life of Harrington.)

2. Systems of Divinity Exploded. An Epistolary Dissertation.
(Christianity not Mysterious.)

3. The History of the Canon of the New Testament. (Nazarenus.)

4. Repubiica Mosaica. (Nazarenus.)

5. A Treatise Concerning Tradition. (Tetradymus.)

There were several other works, part of them written, which passed into
the hands of Lord Molesworth (we believe,) part of which were published
(the "History of the Druid" and also "Giordano Bruno;") but whether
they exist at the present time or not, we are unable to say.

There is also great difficulty in deciding as to the manner of Toland's
life; of this, however, we are certain, that he caused great opposition
in his own day, and he was patronised by able man. He edited an edition
of Lord Shaftesbury's Letters, and published a work of that noble Lord's
surreptitiously; he mingled amongst the German Courts, and appeared
on terms of equality with the _elite_ of the philosophers and the
aristocracy. The brief memoir prefaced to one of his works is an
epistolary document addressed to a noble Lord. His acquaintance with
Locke, Shaftesbury, Collins, Molesworth, and Molyneux, must have
proceed-. ed from other causes than his genius, or why was Toland
exalted when Mandeville, Chubb, and the brave Woolston are never so much
as alluded to? We consider that there is a strong probability that
he was wealthy--or at least possessed of a moderate competence. His
abilities were of a curious order. He seemed to be one of a school which
rose about his time to advocate Freethought, but shackled by a
dogma. His collegiate education gave him an early liking for the dead
languages, and he carried out the notion of the ancients, that the
exoteric or esoteric methods were still in force. From a careful
perusal of the works of the "Fathers," and the contemporary books of the
heathens, he fancied that all the superstitions in the world differed
but in degree--that religion was but the organic cause of superstition,
the arguments made for it by the philosophers to propitiate the vulgar.
This idea (in the main) was agreed to by Woolston, although his violent
"Discourses," which were addressed to the unlearned, contained within
them the germ of their intrinsic popularity. Yet even Woolston's works,
notwithstanding their bluff exterior, had something more within them
than what the people could appreciate, or even the present race of
Freethinkers can always understand; for underneath that unrivalled
vein of sarcasm, there was in every instance an esoteric view, which
comprehended the meaning by which the earlier Christians understood
the gospels, and rendered them on the same scale as the works of the
ancients. The renowned William Whiston was another who interpreted
Scripture in a similar manner. All those writers would have been
Swedenborgians if there had been no Freethought, while Whiston would
have been an Atheist had there been no representative of that school.
We do not consider Toland, then, as an absolute Deist. At that time the
age was not so far progressed as to admit a Biblical scholar into
the extreme advanced list; and when a man has spent the whole of his
childhood in a sectarian family, and his youth and early manhood in
a University, it is an impossibility to throw off at one struggle the
whole of his past ideas; he may be unfettered in thought, and valiant in
speech, still there is the encyclopædia of years hanging upon him as
a drag to that extreme development which he wishes, but cannot bring his
passions to follow. Not that we would by any means observe that Toland
was comparatively behind his age, but that even in his more daring works
he still had a vague idea of Scripture being partly inspired, although
overlaid with a mass of ecclesiastical verbiage.

It also seems a mystery how the works of Woolston could be condemned,
his person seized, while in the case of Toland we hear of nothing
but his works being burnt. Why was Convocation so idle? Why make idle
threats, and let their victim ramble at large! Was it because the one
had powerful friends and the other had none? or was it that in
the earlier portion of the career of Toland, the invisible hand of
Bolingbroke stayed the grasp of persecution? Or was Shaftesbury's memory
so esteemed, that hid friend was untouched! Those particulars we cannot
learn, but they will take rank with other parallel cases, as when the
same government prosecuted Paine, and gave Gibbon a sinecure, or nearer
our own times when a series of men were imprisoned for Atheism, and Sir
William Moles worth published similar sentiments without hindrance.

In the "History of the Soul's Immortality," Toland thus gives
the explanation respecting the exoteric and esoteric doctrines of
Pythagoras:--"Pythagoras himself did not believe the transmigration
which has made his name so famous to posterity; for in the internal or
secret doctrine he meant no more than the eternal revolution of forms
in matter, those ceaseless vicissitudes and alterations which turn
everything into all things, and all things into anything; as vegetables
and animals become part of us, we become part of them, and both become
parts of a thousand other things in the universe, each turning into
water, water into air, etc., and so back again in mixtures without end
or number. But in the external or popular doctrine he imposed on the
mob by an equivocal expression that they should become various kinds
of beasts after death, thereby to deter them the more effectually
from wickedness.... Though the poets embellished their pieces with the
opinion of the soul's immortality, yet a great number of them utterly
rejected it for Seneca was not single in saying:--

     'Naught's after death, and death itself is naught,
     Of a quick race, only the utmost goal;
     Then may the saints lose all their hope of heaven,
     And sinners quit their racky fears of hell.'"

We now dismiss John Toland from our view. He was one of the most honest,
brave, truthful, and scholastic of the old Deists. His memory will be
borne on the wings of centuries, and if ever a true millennium does
arise, the name of this sterling Freethinker will occupy one of the
brightest niches in its Pantheon of Worthies.

A. C.


Constantine Francis Chasshboeuf, de Volney, was born on February 3rd,
1757, at Craon, in Anjou. His father, a distinguished advocate, not
wishing his son to bear the name of _Chasseboeuf_, resolved that he
should assume that of _Boisgirais_. With this name Constantine Francis
was first known in the world, studying at the College of Ancenis and
Angers. He afterwards commenced his Oriental travels, changing his name
to Volney.

At the age of seventeen, finding himself his own master, and possessed
of £50 a-year, inherited from his mother, he went to Paris, in order
to study the sciences, preferring the study of medicine and physiology,
although giving great attention to history and the ancient languages.
On inheriting a legacy of £240, he visited Egypt and Syria, starting on
foot, a knapsack on his back, a gun on his shoulder, and his £240, in
gold, concealed in a belt. When he arrived in Egypt, he shut himself up
for eight months in a Coptic monastery, in order to learn Arabic; after
which he commenced his travels through Egypt and Syria, returning to
France after an absence of four years, and publishing his "Voyage en
Egypte et en Syrie," which was acknowledged by the French army, on their
conquering Egypt, to be the only book "that had never deceived them."
The French Government named him Director of Commerce and Agriculture in
Corsica, but being elected a deputy of the tiers-etat of the Senechausse
of Anjou, he resigned the government appointment, holding the maxim,
that a national deputy ought not in any way to be a pensioner. He
opposed all secret deliberations, and wished to admit the constituents
and the citizens. He was made secretary on the 23rd of November, 1790,
and in the debates, which arose upon the power of the king to determine
peace and war, Volney proposed and carried the resolution that "The
French nation renounces from this moment the undertaking any war tending
to increase their territory." In 1792, he accompanied Pozzo di Borgo
to Corsica, in compliance with invitations from many influential
inhabitants, who sought his information. In Corsica he became acquainted
with Napoleon Buonaparte, who was then an artillery officer; and some
years after, hearing that Buonaparte had obtained the command of the
army of Italy, Volney exclaimed, "If circumstances favor him, we shall
see the head of a Cæesar upon the shoulders of an Alexander." When
Volney returned to Paris, he published an "Account of the State of
Corsica." He was afterwards appointed Professor of History, attracting
large audiences; but the Normal School being suppressed, he embarked for
the United States of America, in 1795. He was received by Washington,
who bestowed publicly on him marks of honor and friendship. In 1798,
Volney returned to France, and gave up to his mother-in-law the property
which he was entitled to from the death of his father, which had
just occurred. During his absence, he had been chosen a member of the
Institute. Buonaparte also, on Volney's return, tried to win his esteem
and assistance, soliciting him as colleague in the consulship. But
he refused the co-operation, as also the office of Minister of the

Seldom do men find so many inducements to "accept office" as was offered
to Volney; and seldom do men appear who are disinterested enough to
reject the inducements then held out to him. Although he refused to work
_with_ the ruling powers of that day, he ever ceased to work _for_ the
_people!_ He occupied himself till the last year of his life in giving
to the world that literature which will never be forgotten.

It would be impossible to notice all the works written by such an
indefatigable thinker as the "_heretic_" of our sketch. We ought to
mention, however, that subsequently to his being made Peer of France,
by Louis XVIII.; and when there existed an intention of crowning
Louis, Volney published "The History of Samuel, the inventor of Royal
Coronations." This book represents Samuel as an impostor, Saul as the
blind instrument of sacerdotal cunning, and David as an ambitious youth.
In September, 1791, Volney presented to the Assembly "The Ruins,
or Meditations on the Revolutions of Empires," a book which will
immortalize him in the memory of Freethinkers. The originality of style,
and the eloquence of expression, cannot fail to interest all who read
it. We give the following extracts, from the above work, but as it
contains so much that ought to be read, we must return to the subject in
another number:--

"Legislators, friends of evidence and of truth!

"That the subject of which we treat should be involved in so many
clouds, is by no means astonishing, since, beside the difficulties
that are peculiar to it, thought itself has, till this moment, ever had
shackles imposed upon it, and free inquiry, by the intolerance of
every religious system, been interdicted. But now that thought is
unrestrained, and may develope all its powers, we will expose in the
face of day, and submit to the common judgment of assembled nations,
such rational truths as unprejudiced minds have by long and laborious
study discovered: and this, not with the design of imposing them as a
creed, but from a desire of provoking new lights, and obtaining better

"Chiefs and instructors of the people! you are not ignorant of the
profound obscurity in which the nature, origin, and history of the
dogmas you teach are enveloped. Imposed by force and authority,
inculcated by education, maintained by the influence of example, they
were perpetuated from age to age, and habit and inattention strengthened
their empire. But if man, enlightened by experience and reflection,
summon to the bar of mature examination the prejudices of his infancy,
he presently discovers a multitude of incongruities and contradictions,
which awaken his sagacity, and call forth the exertion of his reasoning

"At first, remarking the various and opposite creeds into which nations
are divided, we are led boldly to reject the infallibility claimed
by each; and arming ourselves alternately with their reciprocal
pretensions, to conceive that the senses and the understanding,
emanating directly from God, are a law not less sacred, and a guide not
less sure, than the indirect and contradictory codes of the prophets.

"If we proceed to examine the texture of the codes themselves, we shall
observe that their pretended divine laws, that is to say, laws immutable
and eternal, have risen from the complexion of times, of places, and
of persons; that these codes issue one from another in a kind of
genealogical order, mutually borrowing a common and similar fund of
ideas, which _every_ institutor modifies agreeably to his fancy.

"If we ascend to the source of those ideas, we shall find that it is
lost in the night of time, in the infancy of nations, in the very origin
of the world, to which they claim alliance: and there, immersed in
the obscurity of chaos, and the fabulous empire of tradition, they are
attended with so many prodigies as to be seemingly inaccessible to the
human understanding. But this prodigious state of things gives birth to
a ray of reasoning, that resolves the difficulty; for if the miracles
held out in systems of religion have actually existed; if, for instance,
metamorphoses, apparitions and the conversations of one or more Gods,
recorded in the sacred books of the Hindoos, the Hebrews, and the
Parses, are indeed events in real history, it follows that nature in
those times was perfectly unlike the nature that we are acquainted with
now; that men of the present age are totally different from the men that
formerly existed; but, consequently, that we ought not to trouble our
heads about them.

"On the contrary, if those miraculous facts have had no real existence
in the physical order of things, they must be regarded solely as
productions of the human intellect: and the nature of man, at this
day, capable of making the most fantastic combinations, explains the
phenomenon of those monsters in history. The only difficulty is to
ascertain how and for what purpose the imagination invented them. If we
examine with attention the subjects that are exhibited by them, if
we analyze the ideas which they combine and associate, and weigh with
accuracy all their concomitant circumstances, we shall find a solution
perfectly conformable to the laws of nature. Those fabulous stories have
a figurative sense different from their apparent one; they are founded
on simple and physical facts; but these facts being ill-conceived and
erroneously represented, have been disfigured and changed from their
original nature by accidental causes dependent on the human mind, by the
confusion of signs made use of in the representation of objects, by the
equivocation of words, the defect of language, and the imperfection of
writing. These Gods, for example, who act such singular parts in every
system, are no other than the physical powers of nature, the elements,
the winds, the meteors, the stars, all which have been personified by
the necessary mechanism of language, and the manner in which objects
are conceived by the understanding. Their life, their manners, their
actions, are only the operation of the same powers, and the whole of
their pretended history no more than a description of their various
phenomena, traced by the first naturalist that observed them, but taken
in a contrary sense by the vulgar, who did not understand it, or by
succeeding generations, who forgot it. In a word, all the theological
dogmas respecting the origin of the world, the nature of God, the
revelation of his laws, the manifestation of his person, are but
recitals of astronomical facts, figurative and emblematical narratives
of the motion and influence of the heavenly bodies. The very idea
itself of the divinity, which is at present so obscure, abstracted, and
metaphysical, was in its origin merely a composite of the powers of the
material universe, considered sometimes analytically, as they appear
in their agents and their phenomena, and sometimes synthetically, as
forming one whole, and exhibiting an harmonious revelation in all its
parts. Thus the name of God has been bestowed sometimes upon the wind,
upon fire, water, and the elements; sometimes upon the sun, the stars,
the planets, and their influences; sometimes upon the universe at large,
and the matter of which the world is composed; sometimes upon abstract
and metaphysical properties, such as space, duration, motion, and
intelligence; but in every instance, the idea of a Deity has not flowed
from the miraculous revelation of an invisible world, but has been
the natural result of human reflection, has followed the progress and
undergone the changes of the successive improvement of intellect, and
has had for its subject the visible universe and its different agents.

"It is then in vain that nations refer the origin of their religion
to heavenly inspiration; it is in vain that they pretend to describe a
supernatural state of things as first in order of events; the original
barbarous state of mankind, attested by their own monuments, belies all
their assertions. These assertions are still more victoriously refuted
by considering this great principle, _that man receives no ideas but
through the medium of his senses_: for from hence it appears that every
system which ascribes human wisdom to any other source than experience
and sensation, includes in it a ysteron vroteron, and represents the
last results of understanding as earliest in the order of time. If
we examine the different religious systems which have been formed
respecting the actions of the Gods, and the origin of the world, we
shall discover at every turn an anticipation in the order of narrating
things, which could only be suggested by subsequent reflection. Reason,
then, emboldened by these contradictions, hesitates not to reject
whatever does not accord with the nature of things, and accepts nothing
for historical truth that is not capable of being established by
argument and ratiocination. Its ideas and suggestions are as follows:--

"Before any nation received from a neighbor nation dogmas already
invented; before one generation inherited the ideas of another, none of
these complicated systems had existence. The first men, the children of
nature, whose consciousness was anterior to experience, and who brought
no preconceived knowledge into the world with them, were born without
any idea of those articles of faith which are the result of learned
contention; of those religious rites which bad relation to arts and
practices not yet in existence; of those precepts which suppose the
passions already developed; of those laws which have reference to a
language and a social order hereafter to be produced; of that God, whose
attributes are abstractions of the knowledge of nature, and the idea of
whose conduct is suggested by the experience of a despotic government;
in fine, of that soul and those spiritual existences which are said not
to be the object of the senses, but which, however, we must forever have
remained unacquainted with, if our senses had not introduced them to
us. Previously to arriving at these notions, an immense catalogue of
existing facts must have been observed. Man, originally savage, must
have learned from repeated trials the use of his organs. Successive
generations must have invented and refined upon the means of
subsistence; and the understanding, at liberty to disengage itself from
the wants of nature, must have risen to the complicated art of comparing
ideas, digesting reasonings, and seizing upon abstract similitudes.

"It was not till after having surmounted those obstacles, and run a long
career in the night of history, that man, reflecting on his state, began
to perceive his subjection to forces superior to his own and independent
of his will. The sun gave him light and warmth; fire burned, thunder
terrified, the winds buffeted, water overwhelmed him; all the various
natural existences acted upon him in a manner not to be resisted. For a
long time an automaton, he remained passive, without inquiring into the
cause of this action; but the very moment he was desirous of accounting
to himself for it, astonishment seized his mind; and passing from the
surprise of a first thought to the reverie of curiosity, he formed a
chain of reasoning.

"At first, considering only the action of the elements upon him, he
inferred relatively to himself, an idea of weakness, of subjection, and
relatively to them, an idea of power, of domination; and this idea
was the primitive and fundamental type of all his conceptions of the

"The action of the natural existences, in the second place, excited in
him sensations of pleasure or pain, of good or evil; by virtue of his
organization, he conceived love or aversion for them, he desired or
dreaded their presence: and fear or hope was the principle of every idea
of religion.

"Afterwards, judging everything by comparison, and remarking in those
beings a motion spontaneous like his own, he supposed there to be a
will, an intelligence inherent in that motion, of a nature similar to
what existed in himself; and hence, by way of inference, he started
a fresh argument. Having experienced that certain modes of behavior
towards his fellow-creatures wrought a change in their affections and
governed their conduct, he applied those practices to the powerful
beings of the universe. 'When my fellow-creature of superior strength,'
said he to himself, 'is disposed to injure me, I humble myself before
him, and my prayer has the art of appeasing him. I will pray to the
powerful beings that strike me. I will supplicate the faculties of the
planets, the waters, and they will hear me. I will conjure them to
avert the calamities, and to grant me the blessings which are aft their
disposal. My tears will move, my offerings propitiate them, and I shall
enjoy complete felicity.'

"And, simple in the infancy of his reason, man spoke to the sun and
the moon; he animated with his understanding and his passions the great
agents of nature; he thought by vain sounds and useless practices to
change their inflexible laws. Fatal error! He desired that the water
should ascend, the mountains be removed, the stone mount in the air;
and substituting a fantastic to a real world, he constituted for himself
beings of opinion, to the terror of his mind and the torment of his

"Thus the ideas of God and religion sprung, like all others, from
physical objects, and were in the understanding of man, the products
of his sensations, his wants, the circumstances of his life, and the
progressive state of his knowledge.

"As these ideas had natural beings for their first models, it resulted
from hence that the divinity was originally as various and manifold
as the forms under which he seemed to act: each being was a power, a
genius, and the first men found the universe crowded with innumerable

"In like manner the ideas of the divinity having bad for motors the
affections of the human heart, they underwent an order of division
calculated from the sensations of pair: and pleasure, of love and
hatred: the powers of nature, the Gods, the genii, were classed into
benign and maleficent, into good and evil ones: and this constitutes the
universality of these two ideas in every system of religion.

"These ideas, analogous to the condition of their inventors, were for
a long time confused and cross. Wandering in woods, beset with wants,
destitute of resources, men in their savage state had no leisure to make
comparisons and draw conclusions. Suffering more ills than they tasted
enjoyments, their most habitual sentiment was fear, their theology
terror, their worship was confined to certain modes of salutation,
of offerings which they presented to beings whom they supposed to be
ferocious and greedy like themselves. In their state of equality and
independence, no one took upon him the office of mediator with Gods
as insubordinate and poor as himself. No one having any superfluity
to dispose of, there existed no parasite under the name of priest, nor
tribute under the name of victim, nor empire under the name of
altar; their dogmas and morality, jumbled together, were only
self-preservation; and their religion, an arbitrary idea without
influence on the mutual relations existing between men, was but a vain
homage paid to the visible powers of nature.

"Such was the first and necessary origin of every idea of the

"In reality, when the vulgar heard others talk of a new heaven and
another world, they gave a body to these fictions; they erected on it
a solid stage and real scenes; and their notions of geography and
astronomy served to strengthen, if they did not give rise to the delusion.

"On the one hand, the Phoenician navigators, those who passed the
pillars of Hercules to fetch the pewter of Thule and the amber of the
Baltic, related that at the extremity of the world, the boundaries of
the ocean (the Mediterranean,) where the sun sets to the countries of
Asia, there were Fortunate Islands, the abode of an everlasting spring;
and at a farther distance, hyperborean regions, placed under the earth
(relatively to the tropics,) where reigned an eternal night. From
those stories, badly understood, and no doubt confusedly related, the
imagination of the people composed the Elysian Fields, delightful spots
in a world below, having their heaven, their sun, and their stars; and
Tartarus, a place of darkness, humidity, mire, and chilling frost.
Now, inasmuch as mankind, inquisitive about all that of which they are
ignorant, and desirous of a protracted existence, had already exerted
their faculties respecting what was to become of them after death;
inasmuch, as they had early reasoned upon that principle of life which
animates the body, and which quits it without changing the form of the
body, and had conceived to themselves airy substances, phantoms
and shades, they loved to believe that they should resume in the
subterranean world that life which it was so painful to lose; and this
abode appeared commodious for the reception of those beloved objects
which they could not prevail on themselves to renounce.

"On the other hand, the astrological and philosophical priests told such
stories of their heavens as perfectly quadrated with these fictions.
Having, in their metaphorical language, denominated the equinoxes and
solstices the gates of heaven, or the entrance of the seasons, they
explained the terrestrial phenomena by saying, that through the gate of
horn (first the bull, afterwards the ram,) vivifying fires descended,
which, in spring, gave life to vegetation, and aquatic spirits, which
caused, at the solstice, the overflowing of the Nile: that through the
gate of ivory (originally the bowman, or Sagittarius, then the balance,)
and through that of Capricorn, or the urn, the emanations or influences
of the heavens returned to their source and re-ascended to their origin;
and the Milky Way which passed through the doors of the solstices,
seemed to them to have been placed there on purpose to be their road
and vehicle. The celestial scene farther presented, according to their
Atlas, a river (the Nile, designated by the windings of the Hydra;)
together with a barge (the vessel Argo,) and the dog Sirius, both
bearing relation to that river, of which they foreboded the overflowing.
These circumstances, added to the preceding ones, increased the
probability of the fiction; and thus to arrive at Tartarus or Elysium,
souls were obliged to cross the rivers Styx and Acheron, in the boat of
Charon the ferryman, and to pass through the doors of horn and ivory,
which were guarded by the mastiff Cerberus. At length a civil usage was
joined to all these inventions, and gave them consistency.

"The inhabitants of Egypt having remarked that the putrefaction of dead
bodies became in their burning climate the source of pestilence and
diseases, the custom was introduced in a great number of States, of
burying the dead at a distance from the inhabited districts, in the
desert which lies at the West. To arrive there it was necessary to cross
the canals of the river in a boat, and to pay a toll to the ferryman,
otherwise the body remaining unburied, would have been left a prey
to wild beasts. This custom suggested to her civil and religious
legislators, a powerful means of affecting the manners of her
inhabitants, and addressing savage and uncultivated men with the motives
of filial piety and reverence for the dead; they introduced, as a
necessary condition, the undergoing that previous trial which should
decide whether the deceased deserved to be admitted upon the footing of
his family honors into the _black city_. Such an idea too well accorded
with the rest of the business not to be incorporated with it; it
accordingly entered for an article into religious creeds, and hel had
its Minos and its Radamanthus, with the wand, the chair, the guards, and
the urn, after the exact model of this civil transaction. The divinity
then, for the first time, became a subject of moral and political
consideration, a legislator, by so much the more formidable as,
while his judgment was final and his decrees without appeal, he was
unapproachable to his subjects. This mythological and fabulous creation,
composed as it was of scattered and discordant parts, then became a
source of future punishments and rewards, in which divine justice was
supposed to correct the vices and errors of this transitory state. A
spiritual and mystical system, such as have mentioned, acquired so
much the more credit as it applied itself to the mind by every argument
suited to it. The oppressed looked thither for an indemnification, and
entertained the consoling hope of vengeance; the oppressor expected by
the costliness of his offerings to secure to himself impunity, and
at the same time employed this principle to inspire the vulgar with
timidity; kings and priests, the heads of the people, saw in it a
new source of power, as they reserved to themselves the privilege of
awarding the favors or the censure of the great Judge of all, accord-ing
to the opinion they, should inculcate of the odiousness of crimes and
the meritoriousness of virtue.

"Thus, then, an invisible and imaginary world entered into competition
with that which was real. Such, O Persians! was the origin of your
renovated earth, your city of resurrection, placed under the equator,
and distinguished from all other cities by this singular attribute,
that the bodies of its inhabitants cast no shade. Such, O Jews and
Christians! disciples of the Persians, was the source of your New
Jerusalem, your paradise and your heaven, modelled upon the astrological
heaven of Hermes. Meanwhile your hell, O ye Musselmans! a subterraneous
pit surmounted by a bridge, your balance of souls and good works,
your judgment pronounced by the angels Monkir and Nekir, derives its
attributes from the mysterious ceremonies of the cave of Mithra; and
your heaven is exactly coincident with that of Osiris, Ormuzd, and

"It is evident, that it is not truth for which you contend; that it is
not her cause you are jealous of maintaining, but the cause of your own
passions and prejudices; that it is not the object as it really exists
that you wish to verify, but the object as it appears to you; that it is
not the evidence of the thing that you are anxious should prevail, but
your personal opinion, your mode of seeing and judging. There is a power
that you want to exercise, an interest that you want to maintain, a
prerogative that you want to assume: in short, the whole is a struggle
of vanity. And as every individual, when he compares himself with every
other, finds himself to be his equal and fellow, he resists by a similar
feeling of right; and from this right, which you all deny to each
other, and from the inherent consciousness of your equality, spring your
disputes, your combats, and your intolerance.

"Now the only way of restoring unanimity is by returning to nature, and
taking the order of things which she has established for your director
and guide, and this farther truth will then appear from your uniformity
of sentiment.

"If we would arrive at uniformity of opinion, we must previously
establish certainty, and verify the resemblance which our ideas have
to their models. Now, this can nut be obtained, except so far as the
objects of our inquiry can be referred to the testimony, and subjected
to the examination of our senses. Whatever cannot be brought to this,
trial is beyond the limits of our understanding: we have neither rule to
try it by, nor measure by which to institute a comparison, nor source of
demonstration and knowledge concerning it.

"Whence it is obvious that, in order to live in peace and harmony,
we must consent not to pronounce upon such objects, nor annex to them
importance; we must draw a line of demarcation between such as can be
verified and such as cannot, and separate, by an inviolable barrier, the
world of fantastic beings from the world of realities: that is to say,
all civil effect must be taken away from theological and religious

"This, O nations! is the end that a great people, freed from their
fetters and prejudices, have proposed to themselves; this is the work
in which, by their command, and under their immediate auspices, we were
engaged, when your kings and your priests came to interrupt our
labors.... Kings and priests! you may yet for awhile suspend the solemn
publication of the laws of nature; but it is no longer in your power to
annihilate or to subvert them."

We conclude with the following:--"Investigate the laws which nature,
for our direction, has implanted in our breasts, and form from thence
an authentic and immutable code. Nor let this code be calculated for one
family, or one nation only, but for the whole with-out exception. Be
the legislators of the human race, as ye are the interpreters of their
common nature. Show us the line that separates the world of chimeras
from that of realities: and each us, after so many religions of error
and delusion, the religion of evidence and truth."

Our space prohibits further quotation in this number; but when we return
to the subject, we shall notice chapter xxi., "Problem of Religious
Contradictions," and also "The Law of Nature; or Principles of
Morality." Few men wrote more on various topics than Volney; and few
have been more respected while living, and esteemed when dead, by those
whose respect and esteem it is always an honor to possess. At the age
of fifty-three, after much travel and great study, Volney consoled his
latter days by marrying his cousin--the hope of his youth--Mdlle. de
Chassebouf. A disorder of the bladder, contracted when traversing the
Arabian deserts, caused his death at the age of sixty-three. He was
buried in the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, when Laya, Director of the
French Academy, pronounced a noble panegyric over his grave; and months
after his death he was spoken highly of by some of the most illustrious
men of France. Thus ended the days of one of the Freethinkers of the
past whose works, despite all suppression, will never die.

J. W.


Look with me through the dark vista of 150 years of clouded history.
Throw your mind across the bridge of time, for we are about to visit
a tragic scene--a scene which might be depicted by a poet--so much of
beauty, of truth, and of goodness, all blasted by the perjuries of the
priest. Yonder, in the dim library of an ancestral mansion, embowered
amid the woods of the south, close by the gurgling waters which beat an
echo to the stormy breezes--those breezes which will never more fan
his cheek--that water where he has often bathed his limbs will be his
rippling monument. The shady moonlight of an August evening is gilding
the rich pastures of Hertfordshire; the gorse bushes have not yet lost
their beauty, the pheasants are playing in the woods--woods that so
lately resounded with laughter--laughter ringing like a bell--the music
of a merry heart. Withdraw those curtains which hide the heart-struck
and the dead. Above you is the exquisite picture of Eleanora, gazing
into the very bed at that form which lay shrouded in nothingness. You
see the broad manly brow--even now the brown hair rises in graceful
curls over that damp forehead. The lips are locked in an eternal smile,
as if to mock the closed eyes and the recumbent form. Is it true that
pictures of those we love are endowed with a clairvoyant power of gazing
at those who have caressed them in life? If it is, then on that August
night the wife of Charles Blount was watching over his bier.

But who is that pale form, with dishevelled hair and weeping eyes,
with an alabaster skin stained with the blue spots of grief? The rapid
upheaving swells of that fair bosom tell of affection withered, not by
remorse, but by superstition? See her how she nervously grasps that
dead man's hand, how she imprints kisses on his lips! Her hair, which
yesterday was glossy as the raven's, is now as bleached as the driven
snow; to-day she utters her plaintive cries, to-morrow she hastens to
join her lover in the tomb. This is a sad history. It should be written
with the juice of hemlock, as a warning to Genius of impatient love.

While the fair girl watches by the couch of the suicide, while from the
painted canvass Eleanora gleams on the living and the dead, while the
clouds of night gather silently over that ancestral hall, around the
drooping com on the bold sloping park, and the clear blue river--all so
quiet and gentle--let us gather up the events of the past, and learn the
cause of a death so tragic, a grief so piercing.

In the year 1672, at the age of nineteen years, a young man (the son of
a baronet) led to the altar the lovely daughter of Sir Timothy Tyrrel.
Flowers strewed the path of the wedded pair, and for years their life
was one scene of bliss. At last, struck down by disease, Charles Blount
stood by the side of his dying wife--in his arms _his_ Eleanora yielded
her last sigh. He buried her by the willow-tree in the old churchyard.
The lily blended with the white rose, and the myrtle overshadowed the
grave. It was here where the widower rested in the evening--here where
he taught his children the virtues of their dead mother. Sometimes he
gazed at the azure skies, and strange fancies beguiled the mind of the
mourner. When he saw the sun sink to the west, gilding the world with
its glorious rays, he mused on the creeds of many lands. He fancied he
saw a heaven and a God, and traced in the lines of light the
patriarchal worshippers of the world. He looked at the sun and its
worshippers--those who sought the origin of purity by worshipping that
which is the origin of all good. He looked at the fables of Greece, and
found delight in the thought of Sappho uttering her diapason of joy in
lyrics which told of love and beauty; at Egypt, where the priests, in
their esoteric cunning, searched in vain for that which gives life, and
motion, and joy; and then he glanced at the Christian heaven, but here
all was dark--dark as the Plutonian caverns of Homer's hell. He
wished to meet his Eleanora--not in Pagan dreams--not in Christian
parables--but in the world of realities. He looked with eager eyes upon
the world around him, in society, at Court, and, in the homes of his
country. But wherever he went, there was but one thought--one feeling.
He wished a mother for his children--a mother like the sainted dead.
There was but one who answered the ideal--like in features, in passion,
and in beauty--to the lost Eleanora. Born of the same parents, loved by
the same brother, educated by the same teachers, imbued with the same
thoughts, she was the model of her dead sister; with a sisterly love
for her brother, she was already both mother and aunt to her sister's

With deliberate thoughts, with convulsive passion, the love of Charles
Blount passed the bounds of that of a brother; longing to make her his
wife, he adored her with the passion he had lavished on the dead. It
seemed as if the shade of Eleanora was perpetually prompting him to
bestow all his affection on the young and beautiful Eliza. She caressed
his children with the pride of an aunt, she traced the image of her
sister in the laughing eyes of the merry babes--still she was not happy.
How could she be happy? She loved him as a man--as a brother. She was
a Christian--he an Infidel. She was bound by creeds--he by conduct. She
was doing the duty she owed to the dead. He sought to do it by uniting
himself to the living. Eliza was anxious to marry, but there existed
something which, to her mind, was greater than human duties, and it
often outraged them. God and the Church demanded her first attention,
and then her lover and his children. The Church, in cruel mockery of
human rights, stepped between her judgment and her affections. It denied
the power of a woman to occupy the married home of her deceased sister.
She was willing to pledge her love to Charles Blount at the altar, but
the priest mocked her prayers and denounced her affections. The occasion
was too good to be lost. Episcopalism sought revenge on its opponent,
and it triumphed. Eliza felt the force of Blount's arguments. She
wandered with him through the green fields, but her sorrow was too
great to pluck the wild roses. The luscious fruits of summer were
passed untasted. A heart sick and in trouble, a mind wandering from her
sister's grave to her children, and then at the anathema of the Church,
made her a widowed maid. To overcome her scruples, her lover wrote a
book (inviting the clergy to refute it,) defending the marriage with a
deceased wife's sister. But ever as he spoke there was a film before her
eyes. There was a gaunt priest, with canonical robes, stood before the
gates of heaven. Before him and through him was the way to an eternal
happiness, below him was a fiery hell; and he shouted with hoarse voice,
_Incest, incest, incest!_--And ever as he shouted, he pointed with his
finger of scorn at this Christian hell, and she conjured up in her mind
the old stories of this priest, until she saw the livid flames rising up
higher till they encircled her form, and then the priest screamed with
fury, _Anathema maranatha, incest, incest!_ And in terror she stood,
with the big drops of sweat dripping from her brow, with her heart
beating, with her mind distracted, but her affections unclouded.

This priest was the Church of England, and those fancies were driven
into her imagination by her creed, her litanies, and her sermons. Eliza
Tyrrel was miserable; she was placed between her love, her duty, and her
religion. If she had been a woman of a strong mind, she would have
torn her creed into shreds, she would have dared the anathema of the
priest--the ostracism of its dupes--and would have clung to the man she
loved so truly, in defiance of that which was, at the best, but a faint

The arguments in that pamphlet of Blount's were conclusive, but she
distrusted reason. The plainest dictates of common logic were referred
to the promptings of the Devil. How could it be otherwise? Can the
teachings of a lifetime be overthrown by the courtship of a few months?
Eliza Tyrrel, true to Blount, loved him; true to her religion, she durst
not marry him without the sanction of the Church. So Blount, as a last
resolve, laid the matter before the Lord's Vicegerent at Canterbury,
and many of the most learned divines of England; and from those
ecclesiastical leeches there was a Shylock cry of _incest, incest,
incest!_ And those terrible words came greeting the ears of Charles
Blount, making his home like a charnel-house, and they nearly sent his
beautiful Eliza to a maniac's grave. Still she lingered on. Denied the
power of a wife, she would not relinquish her duties as a mother to her
sister's babes. There was a calm heroism here which few can imitate.
The passions of Blount could not brook further insults. The last kick
of bigotry against the broken-hearted Freethinker was given. He could
no longer rise with the lark, and roam over the bills of his ancestral
home. To him the birds, as they warbled, spoke of joys never to return.
The broad river told him of the days when the little skiff floated
on its waters with Eleanora; and even his friends only too bitterly
reminded him of the tournaments of wit where Hobbes, Brown, and Gildon,
jousted each other in the presence of his wife. His life was one scene
of misery. He saw no chance of amendment. In a fit of despair, he
loaded his pistol with due deliberation, placed it to his head, and shot
himself. He lingered for sometime, and then died on the breast of Eliza.

This was a strange suicide. Blount's memory bears its weight of obloquy.
It is hard to draw the line when and where a man has a right to take
away his life. Common sense tells us that so long as our families are
dependent upon us, we have no right to end our lives; and if we have no
dependents, no friends, then our country has a claim upon us. But, at
the same time, the one sole end of existence is to be happy. If a man
cannot find happiness in life, if there is a great coalition against
him, he is justified in taking up arms against them; but, at the same
time, it proves a greater amount of courage "to bear up against the ills
of life" than to madly leave it, and thus weaken the force of those who
wish to stem its injustice.

Charles Blount died, and with him expired much of the chivalry of
Freethought. His friend, Charles Gil-don, writing of him to a lady,
says, "You know Astrea (Eliza,) and have an exact friendship with
her. You can attest her beauty, wit, honor, virtue, good humor, and
discretion. You have been acquainted with the charms of her conversation
and conduct, and condemn her, only adhering to a national custom to the
loss of so generous a friend, and so faithful a lover. But custom and
obedience meeting the more easily, betrayed her virtue into a crime. I
know my friend loved her to his last breath; and I know, therefore, that
all who love his memory must, for her sake, love and value her, as being
a lady of that merit, that engaged the reason of Philander (C. Blount)
to so violent a passion for her."

The same writer says, "His father was Sir Henry Blount, the Socrates
of the age, for his aversions to the reigning sophisms and hypocrisies,
eminent in all capacities: the best husband, father, and master,
extremely agreeably in conversation, and just in all his dealings.
From such a father our hero derived him self; to such a master owed
his generous education, unmixed with the nauseous methods and profane
opinions of the schools. Nature gave him parts capable of the noblest
sciences, and his industrious studies bore a proportion to his
capacities. He was a generous and constant friend, an indulgent parent,
and a kind master. His temper was open and free; his conversation
pleasant; his reflections just and modest; his repartees close--not
scurrilous; he had a great deal of wit, and no malice. His mind was
large and noble--above the little designs of most men; an enemy to
dissimulation, and never feared to own his thoughts. He was a true
Englishman, and lover of the liberties of his country, and declared it
in the worst of times. He was an enemy to nothing but error, and none
were his enemies that knew him, but those who sacrificed more to mammon
than reason."

This was the man who died, because a dominant priesthood insisted on
a dogma which interfered with a purely Secular rite, which blasted two
hearts in a vain attempt to perpetuate a system, which dashes its rude
fingers, and tears out the heart of human felicity to sprinkle the altar
of superstition with the gore of offended innocence. Charles Blount
was a Deist; as such, he believed in a God; which he described in his
account of a Deist's religion. Let us examine his thoughts, and see if
they bear the interpretation which Christianity has always placed upon
them. Blount gives the Deist's opinion of God. He says, "Whatever is
adorable, amiable, and imitable by mankind, is in one Supreme, perfect
Being." An Atheist cannot object to this. He speaks in the manner
in which God is to be worshipped. He says, not by sacrifice, or by a
Mediator, but by a steady adherence to all that is great and good and
imitable in nature. This is the brief religious creed of Charles Blount.
He never seeks to find out fabled attributes of Deity. He knows what is
of value to mankind, and sedulously practices whatever is beneficial to

In his "Anima Mundi, or, History of the Opinions of the Heathens on the
Immortality of the Soul," (p. 97,) Blount says:--

"The heathen philosophers were much divided concerning the soul's
future state; some held it mortal, others immortal. Of those who held
the mortality of the soul, the Epicureans were the chief sect, who,
notwithstanding their doctrines, led virtuous lives." Cardan had so
great a value for their moral actions, that he appeared in justification
of them. It appears (says he) "by the writings of Cicero, Diogenes,
and Laertius, that the Epicureans did more religiously observe laws,
piety, and fidelity among men than either the Stoics or the Platonists;
and I suppose the cause thereof was, that a man is either good or evil
by custom, but none confideth in those that do not possess sanctity of
life. Wherefore they were compelled to use greater fidelity, thereby
the better to justify their profession, from which reason it likewise
proceeds, that at this day few do equal the fidelity of usurers,
notwithstanding they are most base in the rest of their life. Also among
the Jews, whilst the Pharisees, that confessed the resurrection and the
immortality of the soul, frequently persecuted Christ, the Sadducees,
who denied the resurrection, angels, and spirits, meddled not with him
above once or twice, and that very gently. Thus, if you compare the
lives of Pliny and Seneca (not their writings,) you shall find Pliny,
with his mortality of the soul, did as far exceed Seneca in honesty of
manners, as Seneca excels him in religious discourse. The Epicureans
observed honesty above others, and in their conversation were usually
found inoffensive and virtuous, and for that reason were often employed
by the Romans when they could persuade them to accept of great employs,
for their fault was not any want of ability or honesty, but their
general desire of leading a private life of ease, and free from trouble,
although inglorious. For when immortality is not owned, there can be no
ambition of posthumous glory.

"The Epicureans, instead of those bloody scenes of gallantry (which
tyrants applaud,) undertook to manage carefully the inheritance of
orphans; bringing up, at their own charge, the children of their
deceased friends, and were counted good men, unless it were in front of
religious worship; for they constantly affirmed that there were no Gods,
or, at least, such as concerned themselves with human affairs, according
to the poets. Neither doth the hope of immortality conduce to fortitude,
as some vainly suggest, for Brutus was not more valiant than Cassius;
and if we will confess the truth, the deeds of Brutus were more cruel
than those of Cassius; for he used the Rhodians, who were his enemies,
far more kindly than Brutus did those amicable cities which he governed.
In a word, though they both, had a hand in Cæsar's murder, yet Brutus
was the only parricide. So that the Stoics, which believed a Providence,
lived as if there were none; whereas the Epicureans, who denied it,
lived as if there were.... The next sect to the Epicureans, in point
of incredulity, concerning the soul, 1 conceive to be the Sceptics, who
were by some esteemed, not only the modestest, but the most perspicuous
of all sects. They neither affirmed nor denied anything, but doubted
of all things. They thought all our knowledge seemed rather like truth,
than to be really true, and that for such like reasons as these:--

"1. They denied any knowledge of the Divine Nature, because, they say,
to know adequately is to comprehend, and to comprehend is to contain,
and the thing contained must be less than that which contains it; to
know inadequately is not to know.

"2. From the uncertainty of our senses, as, for instance, our eyes
represent things at a distance to be less than they really are. A
straight stick in the water appears crooked; the moon to be no bigger
than a cheese; the sun greater at rising and setting than at noon. The
shore seems to move, and the ship to stand still; square things to be
round at a distance; an erect pillar to be less at the top. Neither (say
they) do we know whether objects are really as our eyes represent them
to us, for the same thing which seems white to us seems yellow to a
jaundiced man, and red to a creature afflicted with red eyes; also, if a
man rubs his eyes, the figure which he beholds seems long or narrow, and
therefore it is not improbable that goats, cats, and other creatures,
which have long pupils of the eye, may think those things long which we
call round, for as glasses represent the object variously, according
to their shape, so it may be with our eyes. And so the sense of hearing
deceives. Thus, the echo of a trumpet, sounded in a valley, makes the
sound seem before us, when it is behind us. Besides, how can we think
that an ear, which has a narrow passage, can receive the same sound with
that which has a wide one? Or the ear, whose inside is full of hair, to
hear the same with a smooth ear? Experience tells us that if we stop,
or half stop, our ears, the sound cometh different as when the ears are
open. Nor is the smelling, taste, or touch less subject to mistake; for
the same scents please some, and displease others, and so in our tastes.
To a rough and dry tongue that very thing seems bitter (as in an ague,)
which to the most moist tongue seems otherwise, and so is it in other
creatures. The like is true of the touch, for it were absurd to think
that those creatures which are covered with shells, scales, or hairs,
should have the same sense in touching with those that are smooth. Thus
one and the same object is diversely judged of, according to the
various qualities of the instruments of sense, which convinceth to
the imagination; from all which the Sceptic concluded, that what these
things are in their own nature, whether red, white, bitter, or sweet,
he cannot tell; for, says he, why should I prefer my own conceit in
affirming the nature of things to be thus, or thus, because it seemeth
so to me--when other living creatures, perhaps, think it is otherwise?
But the greatest fallacy is in the operation of our inward senses; for
the fancy is sometimes persuaded that it hears and sees what it does
not, and our reasoning is so weak, that in many disciplines scarce one
demonstration is found, though this alone produces science. Wherefore it
was Democritus's opinion that truth is hid in a well, that she may not
be found by men. Now, although this doctrine be very inconsistent with
Christianity, yet I could wish Adam had been of this persuasion, for
then he would not have mortgaged his posterity for the purchase of a
twilight knowledge. Now, from these sinister observations it was that
they esteemed all our sciences to be but conjectures, and our knowledge
but opinion. Whereupon, doubting the sufficiency of human reason, they
would not venture to affirm or deny anything of the soul's future state;
but civilly and quietly gave way to the doctrines and ordinances under
which they lived, without raising or espousing any new opinions."
Speaking of the "origin of the world," Gildon gives the following as a
translation from Ocellus Lucanas:--"Again (says he,) as the frame of the
world has been always, so it is necessary that its parts should likewise
always have existed; by parts, I mean the heaven, earth, and that which
lieth betwixt--viz., the sky; for not without these, but with these, and
of these, the world consists. Also, if the parts exist, it is necessary
that the things which are within them should also coexist; as with
the heavens, the sun, moon, fixed stars, and planets; with the earth,
animals, plants, minerals, gold, and silver; with the air, exhalations,
winds, and alterations of weather, sometimes heat and sometimes cold,
for with the world all those things do, and ever have existed, as parts
thereof. Nor hath man had any original production from the earth,
or elsewhere, as some believe, but have always been, as now he is,
coexistent with the world, whereof he is a part. Now, corruptions and
violent alterations are made according to the parts of the earth, by
winds and waters imprisoned in the bowels thereof; but a universal,
corruption of the earth never hath been, nor ever shall be. Yet these
alterations have given occasion for the invention of many lies and
fables. And thus are we to understand them that derive the original of
the Greek history from Inachus, the Argive; not that he really was the
original, as some make him, but because a most memorable alteration
did then happen, and some were so unskilful as to attribute it to
Inachus.... But for the universe, and all the parts whereof it subsists,
as it is at present, so it ever was, and ever shall be; one nature
perpetually moving, and another perpetually suffering, one always
governing, and the other always being governed. The course which
nature takes in governing the world, is by one contrary prevailing over
another, as thus:--The moisture in the air prevaileth over the dryness
of the fire; and the coldness of the wafer over the heat of the air,
and the dryness of the earth over the moisture of the water; and so the
moisture of the water over the dryness of the earth; and the heat in the
air over the coldness of the water; and the dryness in the fire over the
moisture of the air. And thus the alterations are made and produced, out
of one another.... As nature cannot create by making something out
of nothing, so neither can it annihilate, by turning something into
nothing; whence it consequently follows, as there is no access, so there
is no diminution in the universe, no more than in the alphabet, by the
infinite combination and transposition of letters, or in the wax by the
alteration of the seal stamped upon it. Now, as for the forms of natural
bodies, no sooner doth any one abandon the matter he occupied, but
another instantly steps into the place thereof; no sooner hath one acted
his part and is retired, but another comes presently forth upon the
stage, though it may be in a different shape, and so act a different
part; so that no portion of the matter is, or at any time can be,
altogether void and empty, but like Proteus, it burns itself into a
thousand shapes, and is always supplied with one form or another, there
being in nature nothing but circulation."

The following are the principal works of Blount:--"Anima Mundi; or, an
Historical Narration of the Opinions of the Ancients concerning Man's
Soul after this Life, according to Enlightened Nature;" published in
1679. Upwards of twenty answers were published to this work. In 1680
he published a translation, with notes, of the life of Apolloninis, of
Tyana. This work was suppressed. During the same year, he gave the world
"Great is Diana of the Ephesians; or, the Original of Idolatry."
By able critics this is considered one of bis ablest works in 1683,
"Religio Laici" appeared, which is published hum a Latin work of Lord
Herbert's. In 1688 he wrote "A Vindication of Learning, and of the
Liberty of the Press." This tractate sparkles with wit and argument. But
by far the most important work he was connected with, was published in
the year he died, and mainly written by himself, "The Oracles of
Reason" a favorite title with both American and English Freethinkers. It
consists of sixteen sections; the most interesting being the first four,
containing "A Vindication of Dr. Burnett's Archiologie." The seventh and
eighth chapters (translated) of the same, of "Moses's Description of
the Original State of Man," and Dr. Burnett's "Appendix of the Brahmin's
Religion." We would quote from these sections of the "Oracles," but
intend to form separate "Half-Hours," with sketches of Drs. Brown and
Burnett; it will be more appropriate to use Blount's translation in
describing those quaint, but highly instructive authors. In the general
style of Blount's works, he is not seen to advantage; there is too much
heaviness, enhanced by the perpetual Greek and Latin quotations; but as
his works were intended for scholars, and the time in which they were
written was essentially the most pedantic era of our literary history,
we cannot expect that vivacity and clearness which other writers in
a later age possessed. It was in his character as a man that Blount
excelled--he was the leader of the chivalry of the period, as in the
next age Woolston was his successor. At the Court he was the gayest of
the gay, without the taint of immorality, in a period of the grossest
licentiousness; he defended the honor of his friends, frequently at
the expense of calumny and danger. In witty repartees he was equal to
Rochester; while for abstruse learning he was superior to many of the
most learned theologians. Daintily brave and skilfully alive to the
requirements of friends and foes, he passed through life in the gilded
barge of pleasure, and ended it sailing through a cloud where he
foundered. But the darkness which enveloped his history is now charged
with that sympathetic power which draws the young to his grave, and
compels the gloomiest to shed a tear over his unhappy fate.

At the close of August, in 1693, a few friends met near the grave of
Blount, to join in their last respects to their lost friend. Foremost
amongst them was Charles Gildon, who so soon repented of the part he
had taken in the "Oracles of Reason," but never forgot the kindness he
experienced from Blount. He lived long enough for Pope to be revenged on
his apostacy, by inserting his name in his great satire. At the time we
speak he was mournful and deeply grieved at the loss he had sustained;
near him was Harvey Wilwood, whose bold demeanor and sorrowful
countenance told of heart-struck grief, for of the few able to
appreciate the genius of Blount, he was one of the earliest and most
devoted in his friendship. Now we see the noble Lord, whom Blount always
addressed as "the most ingenious Strephon;" along with him there is the
pretty Anne Rogers, with Savage, and Major Arkwright; we look in vain
for Eliza Tyr-rel; they talk slowly over him that is no more; they
recount to themselves the intellectual achievements, and the brilliant
hours they have spent in the past; and while they speak so kindly, and
think so deeply, they kneel on the hallowed spot, but not to pray;
some of them pledge their enmity against Christian laws and Christian
priests, and they executed it. During this time, the calm radiance of
the lunar light shines on the church of Ridge, illumining those ghostly
tablets of white marble, where the forefathers of Blount lie entombed.
The baronial arms are emblazoned on the wall; heraldic pomp is keeping
watch over the mouldering bones of the now-levelled great. Anne Rogers
weeps wildly for Eliza and Eleanora. Those metaphysical disquisitions
which have exalted woman to so high a nature, that devotion to esthetics
which woman should always cultivate, not as a household slave, but
as one of equal rights with man, and his leader in everything which
concerns taste, elegance, and modesty; such gifts in no ordinary degree
had Anne Rogers--and often in dialectic subtlety had she mastered her
relative, who stood by her side, and given tokens of her admiration of
Blount's philosophy and conduct. "Strephon" was passionately attached
to his confidant and friend, and could not give so calm an expression
to his loss. He wept wildly, for he had lost one who tempered his rebuke
with a kind word, and pointed out that Epicurean path which leads to
enjoyment without excess: to pleasure, without a reaction. It was a
memorable meeting. While the remembrance of past deeds of love lighted
up the eye and made the blood course faster through their veins, Anne
Rogers detailed the following episode in his character:--Blount had
visited the Court of King James, and had been singled out by that
monarch for one of his savage fits of spleen. "I hear, Mr. Blount, you
are very tenacious of the opinions of Sir Henry, your father, and you
consider his conduct during the Rebellion as worthy of imitation. Is
it so?" "Your Majesty," replies Blount, "has been correctly informed; I
admire my father's conduct." "What!" says James, "in opposing his king?"
Blount quickly answered, "A king, my liege, is the chief magistrate of
the Commonwealth, and is so hereditarily while he obeys the laws of
that Commonwealth, whose power he represents; but when he usurps the
direction of that power, he is king no longer, and such was the case
with your royal father." With a scowl of defiance on his face, King
James left the Freethinker, and sought more congenial company; and as
Anne Rogers told the story, each eye was dimmed with tears. The moon had
risen high in the heavens ere the mourners prepared to depart--the first
streaks of dawn broke through the Eastern sky, and revealed the grave
watered with tears, where the most chivalrous Freethinker of his age
reposed, in that sleep which knows of no awakening.

"A. C."


Percy Bysshe Shelley (the son and heir of a wealthy English baronet, Sir
Timothy Shelley, of Castle Goring, in the county of Sussex) was born at
Field Place, near Horsham, in that county, on the 4th of August, 1792.
Ushered into the world in the midst of wealth and fashion, with all the
advantages of family distinction, the future of Shelley's life appeared
a bright one; but the sunshine of the morning only served to render
the darkness which came over his noontide more dark, and to make poor
Shelley still more susceptible of the hardships he had to encounter.
First educated at Eton, his spirit there manifested itself by an
unflinching opposition to the fagging system, and by revolt against the
severe discipline of the school; in his "Revolt of Islam" Shelley has
thus portrayed his feeling:--

     "I do remember well the hour which burst
     My spirit's sleep; a fresh May dawn it was
     When I walked forth upon the glittering grass
     And wept, I knew not why: until there rose
     From the near school-room voices that, alas!
     Were but one echo from a world of woes,
     The harsh and grating strife of tyrants and of foes.

     And then I clasped my hands and looked around,
     And none was near to mock my streaming eyes,
     Which poured their warm drops on the sunny ground;
     So, without shame, I spake--' I will be wise,
     And just, and free, and mild, if in me lies
     Such power, for I grow weary to behold
     The selfish, and the strong still tyrannize
     Without reproach or check.'"


     And from that hour did I, with earnest thought,
     Heap knowledge from forbidden mines of lore;
     Yet nothing that ray tyrants knew or taught
     I cared to learn, but from that secret store
     Wrought linked armour for my soul, before
     It might walk forth to war among mankind."

From Eton, Shelley went to Oxford, and while there he, scarce at the age
of eighteen, published a volume of political rhymes, entitled "Margaret
Nicholson's Remains," the said Margaret being a woman who tried to
assassinate George III. He also wrote a pamphlet in defence of Atheism.
A copy of this pamphlet he caused to be sent to the head of each of the
colleges in Oxford, with a challenge to discuss and answer.--The answer
to this was the edict which expelled Shelley from Oxford, and at the
same time placed a wide chasm between him and his family. This breach
was still further widened in the following year by his marriage, at the
age of nineteen, with a beautiful girl named Westbrook. Although Miss
Westbrook was respectfully connected, Shelley's aristocratic family
regarded this as a _mesalliance_, and withdrew his pecuniary allowance;
and had it not been for the bride's father, who allowed the young couple
£200 a year, they would have been reduced to actual poverty. This was an
unfortunate marriage for both. After having two children, disagreements
arose, and Shelley was separated from his wife. She (like all beautiful
women) was soon attacked by the busy tongue of slander, and, unable to
bear the world's taunts, committed suicide by throwing herself into a
pond, just four years from the date of their marriage. Shelley, on this
account, suffered much misery and misrepresentation, and this misery was
much increased by his family, who applied to the Court of Chancery, and
obtained a decree, by which Shelley was deprived of the custody of
his children, on the ground of his Atheism. The same spirit even now
pervades the Shelley family, and scarce a copy of his poems can be found
in the neighborhood of his birth-place. Shelley afterwards contracted
a second marriage with the daughter of Godwin, the author of "Caleb
Williams," and Mary Wollstonecroft (who died in giving birth to
Shelley's wife), and for sometime the poet resided at Marlow in
Buckinghamshire, where he composed the "Revolt of Islam;" and it is
a strong proof of the reality of Shelley's poetical pleadings for the
oppressed amongst the human race, that he was indefatigable in his
attentions to the poor cottagers of his neighborhood; and that he
suffered severely from an attack of opthalmia, which was originated
in one of his benevolent visits. Nearly the first of Shelley's poems was
his "Queen Mab," in which (having in vain struggled to devote himself
to metaphysics apart from poetry), he blended his metaphysical
speculation with his poetical aspirations. The following quotations
are taken from that poem, in which his wonderful command of language is
well shown:--

     "There's not one atom of yon earth
          But once was living man;
     Nor the minutest drop of rain,
     That hangeth in its thinnest cloud,
          But flowed in human veins;

     And from the burning plains
     Where Lybian monsters yell,
     From the most gloomy glens
     Of Greenland's sunless clime,
     To where the golden fields
     Of fertile England spread
     Their harvest to the day,
     Thou canst not find one spot
     Whereon no city stood.

          How strange is human pride!
     I tell thee that those living things,
     To whom the fragile blade of grass,
          That springeth in the morn
     And perishes ere noon.

         In an unbounded world;
     I tell thee that those viewless beings.
     Whose mansion is the smallest particle
     Of the impassive atmosphere,
         Think, feel, and live, like man:
     That their affections and antipathies,
         Like his, produce the laws
         Ruling their mortal state;
         And the minutest throb.

     That through their frame diffuses
         The slightest, faintest motion,
         Is fixed and indispensable
         As the majestic laws
         That rule yon rolling orbs.


  How bold the flight of passion's wandering wing,
  How swift the step of reason's firmer tread,
  How calm and sweet the victories of life.
  How terrorless the triumph of the grave!
  How powerless were the mightiest monarch's arm,
  Vain his loud threat and impotent his frown!
  How ludicrous the priest's dogmatic roar!
  The weight of his exterminating curse,
  How light! and his affected charity,
  To suit the pressure of the changing times,
  What palpable deceit!--but for thy aid,
  Religion! but for thee, prolific fiend,
  Who peoplest earth with demons, hell with men,
  And heaven with slaves!

  Thou taintest all thou look'st upon!--The stare,
  Which on thy cradle beamed so brightly sweet,
  Were gods to the distempered playfulness
  Of thy untutored infancy: the trees,
  The grass, the clouds, the mountains, and the sea,

  All living things that walk, swim, creep, or fly,
  Were gods: the sun had homage, and the moon
  Her worshipper.   Then thou becam'st a boy,
  More daring in thy frenzies: every shape,
  Monstrous or vast, or beautifully wild,
  Which, from sensation's relics, fancy culls;
  The spirits of the air, the shuddering ghost,
  The genii of the elements, the powers
  That give a shape to nature's varied works,
  Had life and place in the corrupt belief
  Of thy blind heart--yet still thy youthful hands
  Were pure of human blood.   Then manhood gave
  Its strength and ardor to thy frenzied brain;
  Thine eager gaze scanned the stupendous scene,
  Whose wonders mocked the knowledge of thy pride.

  Their everlasting and unchanging laws
  Reproached thine ignorance.
  Awhile thou stood'st
  Baffled and gloomy; then thou did'st sum up
  The elements of all that thou did'st know.

  The changing seasons, winter's leafless reign,
  The budding of the heaven-breathing trees,
  The eternal orbs that beautify the night,
  The sunrise, and the setting of the moon,
  Earthquakes and wars, and poisons and disease,
  And all their causes, to an abstract point,
  Converging, thou did'st bend, and called it God;
  The self-sufficing, the omnipotent,
  The merciful, and the avenging God!

  Who, prototype of human misrule, sits
  High in Heaven's realm, upon a golden throne,
  Even like an earthly king: and whose dread work,
  Hell gapes forever for the unhappy slaves
  Of fate, whom he created in his sport,
  To triumph in their torments when they fell!

  Earth heard the name; earth trembled, as the smoke
  Of his revenge ascended up to Heaven,
  Blotting the constellations: and the cries
  Of millions, butchered in sweet confidence,
  And unsuspecting peace, even when the bonds
  Of safety were confirmed by wordy oaths,

  Sworn in his dreadful name, rung through the land;
  Whilst innocent babes writhed on thy stubborn spear,
  And thou did'st laugh to hear the mother's shriek
  Of maniac gladness, as the sacred steel
  Felt cold in her torn entrails!

  Religion! thou wert then in manhood's prime;
  But age crept on: one God would not suffice
  For senile puerility; thou fram'dst
  A tale to suit thy dotage, and to glut
  Thy misery-thirsting soul, that the mad fiend
  Thy wickedness had pictured might afford
  A plea for sating the unnatural thirst
  For murder, rapine, violence, and crime,
  That still consumed thy being, even when
  Thou heard'st the step of fate:--that flames might light
  Thy funeral scene, and the shrill horrent shrieks
  Of parents dying on the pile that burned
  To light their children to thy paths, the roar
  Of the encircling flames, the exulting cries
  Of thine apostles, loud commingling there,
       Might sate thy hungry ear
       Even on the bed of death!

  But now contempt is mocking thy gray hairs;
  Thou art descending to the darksome grave,
  Unhonored and unpitied, but by those
  Whose pride is passing by like thine, and sheds
  Like thine, a glare that fades before the sun
  Of truth, and shines but in the dreadful night
  That long has lowered above the ruined world."

Speaking of the Atheist's martyrdom in answer to the spirit of "Ianthe,"
Shelley makes his fairy say:--

          "There is no God!
  Nature confirms the faith his death-groan sealed.
  Let heaven and earth, let man's revolving race,
  His ceaseless generations, tell their tale;

  Let every part depending on the chain
  That links it to the whole, point to the hand
  That grasps its term!   Let every seed that falls
  In silent eloquence unfold its store
  Of argument.   Infinity within,
  Infinity without, belie creation;
  The exterminate spirit it contains
  Is nature's only God: but human pride
  Is skilful to invent most serious names
  To hide its ignorance.

        The name of God
  Has fenced about all crime with holiness,
  Himself the creature of his worshippers,
  Whose names and attributes and passions change,
  Seeva, Buddh, Foh, Jehovah, Goa, or Lord,
  Even with the human dupes who build his shrines.
  Still serving o'er the war-polluted world
  For desolation's watch-word; whether hosts
  Stain his death-blushing chariot wheels, as on
   Triumphantly they roll, whilst Brahmins raise
  A sacred hymn to mingle with the groans;
  Or countless partners of his powers divide
  His tyranny to weakness: or the smoke
  Of burning towns, the cries of female helplessness,
  Unarmed old age, and youth, and infancy,
  Horribly massacred, ascend to heaven
  In honor of his name; or, last and worst,
  Earth groans beneath religion's iron age,
  And priests dare babble of a God of peace,
  Even whilst their hands are red with guiltless blood,
  Murdering the while, uprooting every germ
  Of truth, exterminating, spoiling all,
  Making the earth a slaughter-house."

"Ianthe's" spirit, however, asks still further, and the ghost of
Ahasuerus having been summoned, the question is repeated, "Is there a

  "_Ahasuerus_.--Is there a God? ay, an Almighty God,
  And vengeful as Almighty!   Once his voice
  Was heard on earth: earth shuddered at the sound,
  The fiery-visaged firmament expressed
  Abhorrence, and the grave of nature yawned
  To swallow all the dauntless and the good
  That dared to hurl defiance at his throne,
  Girt as it was with power.   None but slaves
  Survived,--cold-blooded slaves, who did the work
  Of tyrannous omnipotence: whose souls
  No honest indignation ever urged
  To elevated daring, to one deed
  Which gross and sensual self did not pollute.
  These slaves built temples for the omnipotent fiend,
  Gorgeous and vast: the costly altars smoked
  With human blood, and hideous moans rung
  Through all the long-drawn aisles.   A murderer heard
  His voice in Egypt, one whose gifts and arts
  Had raised him to nis eminence in power,
  Accomplice of omnipotence in crime,
  And confidant of the all-knowing one.

  These were Jehovah's words:
  "From an eternity of idleness,
  God, awoke: in seven days toil made earth
  From nothing; rested, and created man.
  I placed him in a paradise, and there
  Planted the tree of evil, so that he
  Might eat and perish, and my soul procure
  Wherewith to sate its malice, and to turn,
  Even like a heartless conqueror of the earth,
  All misery to my fame.   The race of men,
  Chosen to my honor, with impunity,
  May sate the lusts I planted in their heart.
  Here I command thee hence to lead them on,
  Until, with hardened feet, their conquering troops
  Wade on the promised soil through woman's blood,
  And make my name be dreaded through the land.
  Yet ever burning flame and ceaseless woe
  Shall be the doom of their eternal souls,
  With every soul on this ungrateful earth,
  Virtuous or vicious, weak or strong,--even all
  Shall perish, to fulfil the blind revenge
  Which you, to men, call justice, of their God."

       The murderer's brow
  Quivered with horror.
       God omnipotent!
  Is there no mercy? must our punishment
  Be endless? will long ages roll away,
  And see no 'term?   Oh! wherefore hast thou made
  In mockery and wrath this evil earth?
  Mercy becomes the powerful--be but just:
  O God! repent and save.

       "One way remains!
  I will beget a son, and he shall bear
  The sins of all the world: he shall arise
  In an unnoticed corner of the earth,

  And there shall die upon a cross, and purge
  The universal crime; so that the few
  On whom my grace descends, those who are marked
  As vessels to the honor of their God,
  May credit this strange sacrifice, and save
  Their souls alive.    Millions shall live and die
  Who ne'er shall call upon their Saviour's name,
  But, unredeemed, go to the gaping, grave.
  Thousands shall deem it an old woman's tale,
  Such as the nurses frighten babes withal.
  These in a gulph of anguish and of flame
  Shall curse their reprobation endlessly.
  Yet tenfold pangs shall force them to avow,
  Even on their beds of torment, where they howl,
  My honor, and the justice of their doom.
  What then avail their virtuous deeds, their thoughts
  Of purity, with radiant genius bright,
  Or lit with human reason's earthly ray?
  Many are called, but few I will elect.
  Do thou my bidding, Moses!"

In his poem of "Rosalind and Helen," the poet indulges in the following
prophecy, which he puts in the mouth of Helen:--

     "Fear not the tyrants shall rule forever,
     Or the priests of the bloody faith;
     They stand on the brink of that mighty river,
     Whose waves they have tainted with death.
     It is fed from the depths of a thousand dells,
     Around them it foams, and rages, and swells;
     And their swords and their sceptres I floating see,
     Like wrecks on the surge of eternity.?"

Beside the poems mentioned, Shelley wrote "The Cenci," "Alastor,"
"Prometheus Unbound," and many others, including a beautiful little ode
to a "Skylark," and the well-known "Sensitive Plant."

Shelley was a true and noble man--no poet was ever warmed by a more
genuine and unforced aspiration.--De Quincey says, "Shelley would, from
his earliest manhood, have sacrificed all that he possessed for any
comprehensive purpose of good for the race of man. He dismissed all
insults and injuries from his memory. He was the sincerest and most
truthful of human creatures.

"If he denounced marriage as a vicious institution, _that_ was but
another phase of the partial lunacy which affected him: for to no man
were purity and fidelity more essential elements in the idea of real
love. Again, De Quincey speaks of Shelley's "fearlessness, his gracious
nature, his truth, his purity from all flesh-liness of appetite, his
freedom from vanity, his diffusive love and tenderness." This testimony
is worth much, the more especially when we remember that it is from the
pen of Thomas de Quincey, who, while truthfully acknowledging the man,
hesitates not to use polished irony, rough wit, and covert sneering,
when dealing with the man's uttered thinkings.

"That Shelley understood the true mission of a poet, and the true nature
of poetry, will appear from the following extract from one of his prose
essays:--"Poetry," he says, "is the record of the best and happiest
moments of the happiest and best minds. We are aware of evanescent
visitations of thought and feeling, sometimes associated with place
and person, sometimes regarding our own mind alone, and always arising
unforeseen, and departing unbidden, but elevating stud delightful beyond
all expression. Poets are not only subject to these experiences, as
spirits of the most refined organization, but they can color all they
combine with the evanescent lines of this ethereal world; a word,
a trait in the representation of a scene or passion will touch the
enchanted cord, and reanimate in those who have ever experienced these
emotions, the sleeping, the cold, the buried image of the past. Poetry
thus makes immortal all that is best and most beautiful in the world;
it arrests the vanishing apparitions which haunt the interlunations
of life, and veiling them, or in language or in form, sends them forth
among mankind, bearing sweet news of kindred joy to those with whom
their sisters abide--abide, because there is no portal of expression
from the caverns of the spirit which they inhabit into the universe of

Shelley's beautiful imagery and idealistic drapery is sometimes so
accumulated in his poems, that it is difficult to follow him in his
thinkings. In his verse he wishes to stand high as a philosophical
reasoner, and this, together with his devotion to the cause, which even
men of De Quincey's stamp call "Insolent Infidelity," has prevented
Shelley from becoming so popular as he might have been.

Shelley lived a life of strife, passed his boyhood and youth in
struggling to be free--misunderstood and misinterpreted: and when at
last in his manhood happier circumstances were gathering around him,
a blast of wind came, and the waves of the sea washed away one who was
really and truly "a man and a poet."

On Monday. July 8th, 1822, being then in his 29th year, Shelley was
returning from Leghorn to his home at Lerici, in a schooner-rigged boat
of his own, with one friend and an English servant; when the boat had
reached about four miles from the shore, the storm suddenly rose, and
the wind suddenly shifted. From excessive smoothness, all at once the
sea was foaming, and breaking, and getting up in a heavy swell. The
boat is supposed to have filled to leeward, and (carry-ins: two tons of
ballast) to have sunk instantaneously--all on board were drowned. The
body of Shelley was washed on shore eight days afterwards, near Via
Reggio, in an advanced state of decomposition, and was therefore burned
on a funeral pyre in the presence of Leigh Hunt, Lord Byron, Mr.
Trelawney, and a Captain Shenley.

Thus died Shelley in the mid day of life, and ere the warm sun of that
mid-day could dispel the clouds that had gathered round the morning of
his career. The following comparison made between the personal
appearance of Shelley and of Byron, by Gilfillan, has been called by De
Quincey "an eloquent parallel," and we therefore conclude the present
number by quoting it:--

"In the forehead and head of Byron there is more massive power and
breadth: Shelley has a smooth, arched, spiritual expression; wrinkle
there seems none on his brow; it is as if perpetual youth had there
dropped its freshness. Byron's eye seems the focus of pride and lust:
Shelley's is mild, pensive, fixed on you, but seeing you through
the mist of his own idealism. Defiance curls on Byron's nostril, and
sensuality steps his full large lips. The lower features of Shelley's
face are trail, feminine, flexible.--Byron's head is turned upwards
as if having risen proudly above his contemporaries, he were daring
to claim kindred, or demand a contest with a superior order of beings.
Shelley's is half bent, in reverence and humility, before some vast
vision seen by his own eye alone. Misery erect, and striving to cover
its retreat under an aspect of contemptuous fury, is the permanent and
pervading expression of Byron's countenance. Sorrow, softened and shaded
away by hope and habit, lies like a 'holier day' of still moonshine upon
that of Shelley. In the portrait of Byron, taken at the age of nineteen,
you see the unnatural age of premature passion; his hair is young, his
dress is youthful, but his face is old. In Shelley you see the eternal
child, none the less that his hair is grey, and that sorrow seems half
his immortality."



If France, at the present day, has not reason to be proud of its
"leading man," it has in former times produced those minds that shed
lustre upon the country, and who, by their literature, add immortality
to its renown. During the eighteenth century, when religious persecution
and intolerance were rampant throughout Europe, France furnished men to
check oppression and expose superstition, while others followed to
lay the foundation of excellence and greatness in the examination and
cultivation of its true source--the mind. Heivetius sought to direct
men's attention to self-examination, and to show how many disputes might
be avoided if each person understood _what_ he was disputing about.
"Helvetius on the Mind" is a work that ought to be read widely, and
studied attentively, especially by "rising young men," as it is one of
those _Secular_ works too rarely found among our literature.

Claud Arian Helvetius was born in Paris in the year 1715. After his
preparatory studies, he was sent to the College of Louis le Grand,
having for his tutor the famous Poree, who bestowed additional attention
upon Heivetius, perceiving in him great talent and genius. Early in life
Heivetius formed the friendship of some of the leading minds of France,
Montesquieu being his intimate friend. Voltaire, too, sought his
correspondence when at the age of twenty-three, calling him his "Young
Apollo," and his "Son of Parnassus." The first literary attempts of
Helvetius consisted of poetry--"Epistles on Happiness," which appeared
as a posthumous production, with the "lavish commendations" of Voltaire.
After ten years' thought and study Helvetius in 1758, published a
work entitled "De L'Esprit," which brought upon him a great amount of
persecution. The Parliament of Paris condemned it, and Helvetius was
removed from the office he held of "Maitre d'Hotel to the Queen."
Voltaire remarks:--"it is a little extraordinary that they should have
persecuted, disgraced, and harassed, a much respected philosopher of our
days, the innocent, the good Helvetius, for having said that if men
had been without hands they could not have built houses, or worked in
tapestry. Apparently those who have condemned this proposition, have a
secret for cutting stones and wood, and for sewing with the feet.... I
have no doubt that they will soon condemn to the galleys the first who
shall have the insolence to say, that a man cannot think without his
head; for, some bachelor will tell him, the soul is a pure spirit, the
head is nothing but matter: God can place the soul in the nails, as well
as in the skull, therefore I proscribe you as impious."

During the persecution raised against him, Helvetius visited England in
1764. In 1765 he visited Prussia, being well received by Frederick,
in whose place he lodged. Voltaire strongly advised Helvetius to leave
France in these words:--"In your place, I should not hesitate a moment
to sell all that I have in France; there are some excellent estates in
my neighborhood, and there you might cultivate in peace the arts you
love." About this period Hume became acquainted with Helvetius, whom
he styles, in writing to Dr. Robertson, "a very fine genius and worthy
man." In 1765, Helvetius returned from Prussia, and retired to his
estate at Vore. The sight of misery much affected him; and when
relieving distress, he enjoined strict secrecy. Sometimes, when told he
relieved those undeserving his aid, he would say, "If I were a king I
would correct them, but as I am only rich and they are poor, I do my
duty in relieving them." An attack of gout in the head and stomach
terminated his life in December, 1771, in the fifty-sixth year of his

In "De L'Esprit, or, Essays on the Mind," chap. I.. Helvetius makes the
following remarks on the "Mind considered in itself":--

"We hear every day disputes with regard to what ought to be called the
Mind; each person delivers his thoughts, but annexes different ideas to
the word; and thus the debate is continued, without understanding each
other. In order, therefore, to enable us to give a just and precise idea
of the word Mind, and its different acceptations, it is necessary first
to consider the Mind in itself. We consider the Mind either as the
effect of the faculty of thinking, and in this sense the Mind is no
more than an assemblage of our thoughts, or, we consider it as the very
faculty of thinking. But in order to understand what is meant by
the Mind, in the latter acceptation, we ought previously to know the
productive causes of our ideas. Man has two faculties; or, if I may be
allowed the expression, two passive powers whose existence is generally
and distinctly acknowledged. The one is the faculty of receiving the
different impressions caused by external objects, and is called Physical
Sensibility. The other is the faculty of preserving the impressions
caused by those objects, called Memory; and Memory is nothing more than
a continued, but weakened sensation.--Those faculties which I consider
as the productive causes of our thoughts, and which we have in common
with beasts, would produce but a very small number of ideas, if they
were not assisted by certain external organizations. If Nature, instead
of hands and flexible fingers, had terminated our wrist with the foot
of a horse, mankind would doubtless have been totally destitute of art,
habitation, and defence against other animals. Wholly employed in the
care of procuring food, and avoiding the beasts of prey, they would have
still continued wandering in the forests, like fugitive flocks. It is
therefore evident that, according to this supposition, the police would
never have been carried in any society to that degree of perfection, to
which it is now arrived. There is not a nation now existing, but, with
regard to the action of the mind, must not have continued very inferior
to certain savage nations, who have not two hundred different ideas,
nor two hundred words to express those ideas; and whose language must
consequently be reduced, like that of animals, to five or six different
sounds or cries, if we take from it the words bow, arrow, nets, etc.,
which suppose the use of hands. From whence I conclude, that, without a
certain exterior organization, sensibility and memory in us would prove
two sterile faculties. We ought to examine if these two faculties, by
the assistance of this organization, have in reality produced all our
thoughts. But; before we examine this subject, I may possibly be asked
whether these two faculties are modifications of a spiritual or a
material substance? This question, which has formerly been so often
debated by philosophers, and by some persons revived in our time, does
not necessarily fall within the limits of my work.---What I have to
offer, with regard to the Mind, is equally conformable to either of
these hypothesis. I shall therefore only observe that, if the church
had not fixed our belief in respect to this particular, and we had
been obliged by the light of reason alone to acquire a knowledge of
the thinking, principle, we must have granted, that neither opinion is
capable of demonstration; and consequently that, by weighing the reasons
on both sides, balancing the difficulties, and determining in favor of
the greater number of probabilities, we should form only conditional
judgments. It would be the fate of this problem, as it hath been of many
others, to be resolvable only by the assistance of the calculation of

Helvetius, on the question "whether genius ought to be considered as a
natural gift, or as an effect of education," says:--

"I am going to examine in this discourse what the mind receives from
nature and education; for which purpose it is necessary first, to
determine what is here meant by the word Nature. This word may raise in
our minds a confused idea of a being or a force that has endued us with
all our senses: now the senses are the sources of all our ideas. Being
deprived of our senses, we are deprived of all the ideas relative to
them: a man born blind has for this reason no idea of colors; it is then
evident that, in this signification, genius ought to be considered as
a gift of nature. But, if the word be taken in a different acceptation,
and we suppose that among the men well formed and endued with all their
senses, without any perceivable defect of their organization, nature
has made such a remarkable difference, and formed such an unequal
distribution of the intellectual powers, that one shall be so organized
as to be stupid, and the other be a man of genius, the question will
become more delicate. I confess that, at first, we cannot consider the
great inequality in the minds of men, without admitting that there is
the same difference between them as between bodies, some of which are
weak and delicate, while others are strong and robust. What can
here occasion such variations from the uniform manner wherein nature
operates? This reasoning, it is true, is founded only on analogy. It is
like that of the astronomers who conclude that the moon is inhabited,
because it is composed of nearly the same matter as our earth.--How weak
soever this reasoning may be, it must yet appear demonstrative; for,
say they, to what cause can be attributed the great disproportion of
intellects observable between people who appear to have had the same
education! In order to reply to this objection, it is proper first
to inquire, whether several men can, strictly speaking, have the same
education; and for this purpose to fix the idea included in the word
Education. If by education we merely understand that received in the
same places, and under the same masters; in this sense the education is
the same with an infinite number of men. But, if we give to this word
a more true and extensive signification, and in general comprehend
everything that relates to our instruction; then I say, that nobody
receives the same education; because each individual has, for his
preceptors, if I may be allowed to say so, the form of government under
which he lives, his friends, his mistresses, the people about him,
whatever he reads, and in short chance; that is, an infinite number
or events, with respect to which our ignorance will not permit us to
perceive their causes, and the chain that connects them together. Now,
this chance has a greater share in our education than is imagined. It
is this places certain objects before us, and in consequence of
this, occasions more happy ideas, and sometimes leads to the greatest
discoveries. To give some examples: it was chance that conducted Galileo
into the gardens of Florence, when the gardeners were working the pumps:
it was that which inspired those gardeners, when, not being able to
raise the water above the height of 32 feet, to ask him the cause, and
by that question piqued the vanity of the philosopher, put in action by
so casual a question, that obliged him to make this natural effect the
subject of his thoughts, till, at last, by discovering the weight of
the air, he found the solution of the problem. In the moment when the
peaceful soul of Newton was employed by no business, and agitated by
no passion, it was also chance that, drawing him under an apple tree,
loosened some of the fruit from the branches, and gave that philosopher
the first idea of his system on gravitation: it was really this incident
that afterwards made him turn his thoughts to inquire whether the moon
does not gravitate towards the earth with the same force as that with
which bodies fall on its surface? It is then to chance that great
geniuses are frequently obliged for their most happy thoughts. How many
great minds are confounded among the people of moderate capacities for
want of a certain tranquillity of soul, the question of a gardener, or
the fall of an apple!"

Of the "exclusive qualities of the Mind and Soul," Helvetius observes:--

"My view in the preceding chapters was to affix clear ideas to the
several qualities of the mind, I propose in this to examine if there are
talents that must necessarily exclude each other? This question, it is
said, is determined by facts; no person is, at the same time, superior
to all others in many different kinds of knowledge. Newton is not
reckoned among the poets, nor Milton among the geometricians: the verses
of Leibnitz are bad. There is not a man who, in a single art, as poetry,
or painting, has succeeded in all the branches of it. Corneille and
Racine have done nothing in comedy comparable to Molière: Michael
Angelo has not drawn the pictures of Albani, nor Albani painted those
of Julius Romano. The genius of the greatest men appears then to be
confined within very narrow limits. This is, doubtless, true: but I ask,
what is the cause? Is it time, or is it wit, which men want to render
themselves illustrious in the different arts and sciences? The progress
of the human mind, it is said, ought to be the same in all the arts and
sciences: the operations of the mind are reduced to the knowledge of the
resemblances and differences that subsist between various objects. It is
then by observation that we obtain, in all the different kinds of study,
the new and general ideas on which our superiority depends. Every great
physician, every great chemist, may then become a great geometrician,
a great astronomer, a great politician, and the first, in short, in all
the sciences This fact being stated, it will doubtless be concluded,
that it is the short duration of human life that forces superior
minds to limit themselves to one kind of study. It must, however, be
confessed, that there are talents and qualities possessed only by the
exclusion of some others. Among mankind some are filled with the love
of glory, and are not susceptible of any other of the passions: some may
excel in natural philosophy, civil law, geometry, and, in short, in all
the sciences that consist in the comparison of ideas. A fondness for any
other study can only distract or precipitate them into errors. There
are other men susceptible not Only of the love of glory, but an infinite
number of other passions: these may become celebrated in different
kinds of study, where the success depends on being moved. Such is,
for instance, the dramatic kind of writing: but, in order to paint the
passions, we must, as I have already said, feel them very warmly: we are
ignorant both of the language of the passions and of the sensations they
excite in us, when we have not experienced them. Thus ignorance of this
kind always produces mediocrity. If Fontenelle had been obliged to paint
the characters of Rhadamistus, Brutus, or Cataline, that great man would
certainly have fallen much below mediocrity.... Let a man, for instance,
like M. de Fontenelle, contemplate, without severity, the wickedness
of mankind; let him consider it, let him rise up against crimes without
hating the criminals, and people will applaud his moderation; and yet,
at the same instant, they will accuse him of being too lukewarm in
friendship. They do not perceive, that the same absence of the passions,
to which he owes the moderation they commend, must necessarily render
him less sensible of the charms of friendship."

The "abuse of words" by different schools of philosophers is thus ably
pointed out:--

"Descartes had before Locke observed that the Peripatetics, intrenching
themselves behind the obscurity of words, were not unlike a blind man,
who, in order to be a match for his clear-sighted antagonist, should
draw him into a dark cavern. 'Now,' added he, 'if this man can introduce
light into the cavern, and compel the Peripatetics to fix clear ideas
to their words, the victory is his own. In imitation of Descartes and
Locke, I shall show that, both in metaphysics and morality, the abuse of
words, and the ignorance of their true import, is a labyrinth in which
the greatest geniuses have lost themselves; and, in order to set this
particular in a clear light, instance, in some of those words which
have given rise to the longest and sharpest disputes among philosophers:
such, in metaphysics, are Matter, Space, and Infinite. It has at all
times been alternately asserted that Matter felt, or did not feel, and
given rise to disputes equally loud and vague. It was very late before
it came into the disputants! heads to ask one another, what they were
disputing about, and to annex a precise idea to the word Matter. Had
they at first fixed the meaning of it, they would have perceived, if
I may use the expression, that men were the creators of Matter; that
Matter was not a being; that in nature there were only individuals to
which the name of Body had been given; and that this word Matter could
import no more than the collection of properties common to all bodies.
The meaning of this word being determined, all that remained was to
know, whether extent, solidity, and impenetrability, were the only
properties common to all bodies; and whether the discovery of a power,
such for instance as attraction, might not give rise to a conjecture
that bodies had some properties hitherto unknown, such as that of
sensation, which, though evident only in the organized members of
animals, might yet be common to all individuals! The question being
reduced to this, it would have appeared that if, strictly speaking, it
is impossible to demonstrate that all bodies are absolutely insensible,
no man, unless instructed by a particular revelation, can decide the
question otherwise than by calculating and comparing the verisimilitude
of this opinion with that of the contrary...."

Instructed by the errors of great men who have gone before us, we should
be sensible that our observations, however multiplied and concentrated,
are scarcely sufficient to form one of those partial systems
comprehended in the general system; add that it is from the depth of
imagination that the several systems of the universe have hitherto
been drawn; and, as our informations of remote countries are always
imperfect, so the informations philosophers have of the system of
the world are also defective. With a great genius and a multitude of
combinations, the products of their labors will be only fictions till
time and chance shall furnish then? with a general fact, to which all
others may be referred.

"What I have said of the word Matter, I say also of Space. Most of the
philosophers have made a being of it; and the ignorance of the true
sense of the word has occasioned long disputes. They would have been
greatly shortened by annexing a clear idea to this word; for then the
sages would have agreed that Space, considered in bodies, is what we
call extension; that we owe the idea of a void, which partly composes
the idea of Space, to the interval seen betwixt two lofty mountains; an
interval which, being filled only by air, that is, by a body which at a
certain distance makes no sensible impression on us, must have given us
an idea of a vacuum; being nothing more than a power of representing
to ourselves mountains separated from each other, and the intervening
distances not being filled by other bodies. With regard to the idea of
Infinite, comprehended also within the idea of Space, I say that we owe
this idea of Infinite only to the power which a man standing on a plain
has of continually extending its limits, the boundary of his imagination
not being determinable: the absence of limits is therefore the only idea
we can form of Infinite. Had philosophers, previously to their giving
any opinion on this subject, determined the signification of the word
Infinite, I am inclined to believe they would have adopted the above
definition, and not spent their time in frivolous disputes. To the false
philosophy of former ages, our gross ignorance of the true signification
of words is principally owing; as the art of abusing them made up the
greatest part of that philosophy. This art, in which the whole science
of the schools consisted, confounded all ideas; and the obscurity
it threw on the expressions, generally diffused itself over all the
sciences, especially morality."

The following remarks show Helvetia's notions of the "love of glory":--

"By the word Strong-Passion, I mean a passion the object of which is so
necessary to our happiness, that without the possession of it life would
be insupportable. This was Omar's idea of the passion, when he said,
'Whoever thou art, that lovest liberty, desirest to be wealthy without
riches, powerful without subjects, a subject without a master, dare to
condemn death: kings will then tremble before thee, whilst thou alone
shalt fear no person.'.... It was the passion of honor and philosophic
fanaticism alone that could induce Timicha, the Pythagorean, in the
midst of torture, to bite off her tongue, that she might not expose
herself to reveal the secrets of her sect. Cato, when a child, going
with his tutor to Sylla's palace, at seeing the bloody heads of the
proscribed, asked with impatience the name of the monster who had caused
so many Roman citizens to be murdered. He was answered, it was Sylla:
'How,' says he, 'does Sylla murder thus, and is Sylla still alive?'
'Yes,' it was replied, 'the very name of Sylla disarms our citizens.'
'Oh! Rome,' cried Cato, 'deplorable is thy fate, since within the vast
compass of thy walls not a man of virtue can be found, and the arm of a
feeble child is the only one that will oppose itself against tyranny!'
Then, turning towards his governor, 'Give me,' said he, 'your sword; I
will conceal it under my robe, approach Sylla, and kill him. Cato lives,
and Rome is again free.' If the generous pride, the passion of
patriotism and glory, determine citizens to such heroic actions, with
what resolution and intrepidity do not the passions inspire those who
aim at distinction in the arts and sciences, and whom Cicero calls the
peaceable heroes? It is from a desire of glory that the astronomer is
seen, on the icy summits of the Cordileras, placing his instruments in
the midst of snows and frost; which conducts the botanist to the brinks
of precipices in quest of plants; which anciently carried the juvenile
lovers of ihe sciences into Egypt, Ethiopia, and even into the Indies,
for visiting the most celebrated philosophers, and acquiring from their
conversation the principles of their doctrine. How strongly did this
passion exert itself in Demosthenes, who, for perfecting his
pronunciation, used every day to stand on the sea-shore, and with his
mouth full of pebbles harangue the agitated waves! It was from the same
desire of glory that the young Pythagoreans submitted to a silence of
three years, in order to habituate themselves to recollection and
meditation; it induced Democritus to shun the distractions of the world,
and retire among the tombs, to meditate on those valuable truths, the
discovery of which, as it is always very difficult, is also very little
esteemed; in fine, it was this that prompted Heraclitus to cede to his
younger brother the throne of Ephesus, to which he had the right of
primogeniture, that he might give himself up entirely to philosophy;
which made the Athletic improve his strength, by denying himself the
pleasures of love; it was also from a desire of popular applause that
certain ancient priests renounced the same pleasures, and often, as
Boindin pleasantly observes of them, without any other recompense for
their continence than the perpetual temptation it occasions,... 'The
cause,' says Cardinal Richelieu, 'why a timorous mind perceives an
impossibility in the most simple projects, when to an elevated mind the
most arduous seems easy, is, because, before the latter the mountains
sink, and before the former mole-hills are metamorphosed into

The different motives that influence our conduct are thus stated:--

"A mother idolizes her son; 'I love him,' says she, 'for his own sake.'
However, one might reply, you take no care of his education, though
you are in no doubt that a good one would contribute infinitely to his
happiness; why, therefore, do not you consult some men of sense about
him, and read some of the works written on this subject? 'Why, because,'
says she, 'I think I know as much of this matter as those authors
and their works.' But how did you get this confidence in your own
understanding? Is it not the effect of your indifference? An ardent
desire always inspires us with a salutary distrust of ourselves. If we
have a suit at law of considerable consequence, we visit counsellors and
attorneys, we consult a great number, and examine their advice. Are we
attacked by any of those lingering diseases, which incessantly place
around us the shades and horrors of death? We seek physicians, compare
their opinions, read physical books, we ourselves become little
physicians. Such is the conduct prompted by a warm interest. With
respect to the education of children, if you are not influenced in the
same manner, it is because you do not love your son as well as
yourself. 'But,' adds the mother, 'what then should be the motive of my
tenderness?' Among fathers and mothers, I reply, some are influenced by
the desire of perpetuating their name in their children; they properly
love only their names; others are fond of command, and see in their
children their slaves. The animal leaves its young when their
weakness no longer keeps them in dependence; and paternal love becomes
extinguished in almost all hearts, when children have, by their age or
station, attained to independence. 'Then,' said the poet Saadi, 'the
father sees nothing in them but greedy heirs,' and this is the cause,
adds some poet, of the extraordinary love of the grandfather for his
grandchildren; he considers them as the enemies of his enemies. There
are, in short, fathers and mothers, who make their children their
playthings and their pastime. The loss of this plaything would be
insupportable to them; but would their affliction prove that they loved
the child for itself? Everybody knows this passage in the life of
M. de Lauzun: he was in the Bastile; there, without books, without
employment, a prey to lassitude and the horrors of a prison, he took it
in his head to tame a spider. This was the only consolation he had
left in his misfortune. The governor of the Bastile, from an inhumanity
common to men accustomed to see the unhappy, crushed the spider. The
prisoner felt the most cutting grief, and no mother could be affected
by the death of a son with a more violent sorrow. Now whence is derived
this conformity of sentiments for such different objects? It is because,
in the loss of a child, or in the loss of the spider, people frequently
weep for nothing but for the lassitude and want of employment into which
they fall. If mothers appear in general more afflicted at the death of
a child than fathers employed in business, or given up to the pursuit
of ambition, it is not because the mother loves her child more tenderly,
but because she suffers a loss more difficult to be supplied. The
errors, in my opinion, are, in this respect, very frequent; people
rarely cherish a child for its own sake. That paternal love of which so
many men make a parade, and by which they believe themselves so warmly
affected, is most frequently nothing more than an effect, either of a
desire of perpetuating their names, or of pride of command...... Do
you not know that Galileo was unworthily dragged to the prison of the
Inquisition, for having maintained that the sun is placed in the centre,
and does not move around the earth; that his system first offended the
weak, and appeared directly contrary to that text of Scripture--'Sun,
stand thou still?' However, able divines have since made Galileo's
principles agree with those of religion. Who has told you, that a
divine more happy or more enlightened than you, will not remove the
contradiction, which you think you perceive between your religion, and
the opinion you resolve to condemn! Who forces you by a precipitate
censure to expose, if not religion, at least its ministers, to the
hatred excited by persecution? Why, always borrowing the assistance of
force and terror, would you impose silence on men of genius, and deprive
mankind of the useful knowledge they are capable of dispensing? You
obey, you say, the dictates of religion. But it commands you to distrust
yourselves, and to love your neighbor. If you do not act in conformity
to these principles, you are then not actuated by the spirit of God.
But you say, by whom then are we inspired? By laziness and pride. It
is laziness, the enemy of thought, which makes you averse to those
opinions, which you cannot, without study and some fatigue of attention,
unite with the principles received in the schools; but which being
proved to be philosophically true, cannot be theologically false. It is
pride, which is ordinarily carried to a greater height in the bigot than
in any other person, which makes him detest in the man of genius the
benefactor of the human race, and which exasperates him against the
truths discovered by humility. It is then this laziness and this pride,
which, disguising themselves under the appearance of zeal, render them
the persecutors of men of learning; and which in Italy, Spain, and
Portugal, have forged chains, built gibbets, and held the torch to the
piles of the Inquisition. Thus the same pride, which is so formidable in
the devout fanatic, and which in all religions makes him persecute, in
the name of the Most High, the men of genius, sometimes arms against
them the men in power. After the example of those Pharisees, who treated
as criminals the persons who did not adopt all their decisions, how
many viziers treat, as enemies to the nation, those who do not blindly
approve their conduct!"

J. W.


The previous issues of this publication contain notices of the lives and
writings of men of eminence in the world of Freethought. This number
is devoted to a review of the career and works of a most talented and
accomplished lady--a Freethinker and Republican. As a proof--if any
proof were needed--that women, if adequately educated, are equally
capable with men to become teachers and reformers, the works of the
subject of present notice afford abundant evidence. The efforts now
being made to procure an adjustment of the laws relating to women,
whereby they will be protected in their property, and consequently
improved in their social position, deserve the support of all classes;
When females become independent, there will be less ignorance among
women and more happiness among men.

Frances Wright, afterwards Madame D'Arusmont, was a native of Dundee.
She was born on the 6th of September, 1795. She came of a wealthy
family, who had been extensive holders of city property from the year
1500. Her father was a man of considerable literary attainments, and to
his active antiquarian researches and donations the British Museum is
indebted for many rare and valuable coins and medals. He died young, as
also his wife, leaving three children--two girls and a boy. Frances
was then but two years and a half old. At the wish of her grandfather,
General Duncan Campbell, she was taken to England, and reared as a ward
of Chancery, under the guardianship of a maternal aunt. She grew to be
very tall in person, erect, and of a commanding figure; large eyes, and
magnificent head, with a face somewhat masculine, but well formed,
and decidedly handsome. Her brother was sent to India, at the age of
fifteen, as a cadet in the East India Company's service, and was killed
on the passage out in an encounter with a French vessel. Her sister
passed her life with her, and died in Paris in 1831.

At an early age, Miss Wright gave evidence of great intellectual
ability. The education she received was of a very superior kind. She
diligently applied herself to the various branches of science, and to
the study of ancient and modern letters and the arts, being impelled by
a strong desire for knowledge. At the age of nineteen, she published her
first work, "A Few Days in Athens." Her attention was early drawn to the
sufferings of the lower classes, and on reflection she became convinced
that some great vice lay at the foundation of the whole of human
practice: She determined to endeavor to discover, and assist in removing
it. She read Bocca's "History of the American Revolution," and resolved
to visit that country, it appearing to her young imagination as the
land of freedom and hope.--After having familiarised herself with the
government and institutions of America, she sailed for New York 1818.
She returned to England in 1820, and published a large volume, entitled
"Views of Society and Manners in America." It was dedicated to Jeremy
Bentham, and had a large sale. The work being translated into most of
the continental languages, she became known to the prominent reformers
of Europe.

In 1821, she made her first visit to Paris, and was there introduced
to General Lafayette, who, having previously read her work on America,
invited her to that city. A republican in all her views and hopes, she
was highly appreciated by Lafayette and other eminent supporters of the
liberal party in France.--She remained in Paris until 1824, when she
returned to the United States, and immediately undertook a project for
the abolition of slavery upon a plan somewhat different from any that
then engaged the attention of philanthropists. For this purpose she
purchased two thousand acres of land at Chickasaw Bluffe, (now
Memphis, Tennessee), intending to make a good farm rather than a cotton
plantation. She then purchased several slave families, gave them their
liberty, and removed them to the farm, residing there herself to direct
their labor. Commencing this novel undertaking with all that enthusiasm
for which she was remarkable, she continued the experiment some three
years and a half, when her health gave way, and, suffering under severe
sickness, she made a voyage to Europe for her recovery. During her
absence, the farm got involved in difficulties by the influence of her
enemies; and finally, the whole project falling through, the negroes
were sent off to Hayti at her expense.--She gave much time and money to
the carrying forward of this experiment; and though it was a failure,
it strikingly exhibited her strong sympathy and benevolence for an
oppressed and degraded class of beings. Returning from Europe, she went
to New Harmony (Indiana) to assume the proprietorship of a periodical
the Harmony Gazette, which had been published under the direction of
Robert Dale Owen. In 1828, leaving Mr. Owen in charge of the paper,
she began a lecturing tour through the Union; and probably no man, and
certainly no _woman_, ever met with such furious opposition. Her views,
as announced in her paper, had made her generally known, and, being
somewhat new and radically "anti-theological," brought down upon her
head the rancor of religious bigotry. As no church or hall would be
opened for her, she lectured in theatres; and her ability and eloquence
drew great audiences. On one occasion, while preparing to lecture in
a theatre at Baltimore, she was threatened with the destruction of her
life if she attempted to speak. She calmly replied, that she thought she
knew the American people, and for every riotous fanatic that might annoy
her, a hundred good citizens would protect her, and she was not afraid
to place herself in their hands. She judged rightly. She went to the
theatre, which was crammed from pit to ceiling, and lectured to an
admiring and enthusiastic audience. In other cities she was not always
so fortunate; more or less rioting occurred, while the press, almost
without exception, denounced her in the bitterest terms. Subsequently,
her paper was removed to New York. Some years afterwards, she again made
a lecturing tour, but this time she spoke on subjects of a political
nature, and met with a better reception. In addition to lecturing,
she conducted a political magazine, entitled the Manual of American
Principles, and was also engaged with Mr. Kneeland in editing the Boston
Investigator. She wrote a great deal, and upon many subjects. Among
her many works is a tragedy called "Altorf," which was performed on the
stage, the principal character being sustained by Mr. James Wallack.
Her last work, of any considerable size, was entitled "England the
Civiliser," published in London in 1847.

Madame D'Arusmont died suddenly in Cincinnati, on Tuesday, December 14,
1852, aged fifty-seven. She had been for sometime unwell, in consequence
of a fall upon the ice the previous winter, which broke her thigh, and
probably hastened her decease; but the immediate cause of her death was
the rupture of a blood vessel. She was aware of her situation, knew when
she was dying, and met her last hour with perfect composure. A daughter,
her only child, survives her.

In a small work entitled "Observations on Religion and Civilization,"
are given the following "Definitions of Theology and Religion: in the
words and in the things signified. Origin and Nature of Theology:"--

"Theology from the Greek _theos, logos_, renders distinct the meaning of
the subject it attempts to treat.--_Theos_, God, or Gods, unseen beings
and unknown causes. _Logos_, word, talk--or, if we like to employ
yet more familiar and expressive terms, prattle or chatter. _Talk, or
prattle, about unseen beings or unknown causes_, The idleness of the
subject, and inutility--nay, absolute insanity of the occupation,
sufficiently appears in the strict etymological meaning of the word
employed to typify them. The danger, the mischief, the cruelly immoral,
and, if I may be permitted to coin a word for the occasion, the
_unhumanizing_ tendencies both of the subject and the occupation, when
and where these are (as they have for the most part ever been throughout
the civilized world) absolutely protected by law and upheld by
government, sufficiently appear also from the whole page of history.
Religion, from the Latin _religio, religio_, renders with equal
distinctness the things signified. _Religo_, to tie over again, to bind
fast; _religio_, a binding together, a bond of union. The importance of
the great reality, here so accurately shadowed out, appears sufficiently
in the etymological signification of the word. Its utility will be
evident if we read, with intelligence, the nature, the past history, the
actual condition, and the future destiny of man. But now, taking these
two things in the most strict etymological sense of the words which
express them, it will readily be distinguished that the first is a
necessary creation of the _human intellect_ in a certain stage of
inquiry; the second, a necessary creation of the _human soul_ (by which
I understand both our intellectual and moral faculties taken conjointly)
in any and every state of human civilization. Theology argues, in its
origin, the first awakening of human attention to the phenomena of
nature, and the first crude efforts of human ingenuity to expound them.
While man sees the sun and stars without observing either their diurnal
or their annual revolutions; while he receives upon his frame the rain
and the wind, and the varying elements, without observing either their
effects upon himself or upon the field of nature around him, he is as
the brute which suffers and enjoys without inquiring why it experiences
light or darkness, pain or pleasure. When first he puts, in awkward
language, to himself or to his fellow, the question _why does such an
effect follow such a cause_? he commences his existence, if not as a
reasonable being, (a state at which he has not yet arrived) at least
_as a being capable of reason_. The answer to this first inquiry of
awakening intelligence is, of course, such as his own circumscribed
observation supplies.--It is, in fine, in accordance with the
explanation of the old nurse to the child, who, asking, when startled by
a rolling peal of thunder--'what makes that noise' was fully satisfied
by the reply: 'my darling, it is God Almighty overhead moving his
furniture.' Man awakening to thought, but still unfamiliar with the
concatenation of natural phenomena, inevitably conceives of some huge
being, or beings, bestriding the clouds and whirlwind, or wheeling the
sun and the moon like chariots through the blue vault. And so again,
fancy most naturally peoples the gloom of the night with demons, the
woods and the waters with naiads and dryads, elves and fairies, the
church-yard with ghosts, and the dark cave and the solitary cot with
wizards, imps and old witches. Such, then, is theology in its origin;
and, in all its stages, we find it varying in grossness according to
the degree of ignorance of the human mind; and, refining into verbal
subtleties and misty metaphysics in proportion as that mind exchanges,
in its progress from darkness to light, the gloom of ignorance for the
mass of terror."

The nature of belief in the unknowable, and the dire consequences
arising from fanaticism, are ably depicted in the following passages,
selected from Lecture IV., on "Religion:"--

"Admitting religion to be the most important of all subjects, its truths
must be the most apparent; for we shall readily concede, both that a
thing true, must be always of more or less importance--and that a thing
essentially important, must always be indisputably true. Now, again, I
conceive we shall be disposed to admit, that exactly in proportion to
the indisputability of a truth, is the proof it is capable of affording;
and that, exactly in proportion to the proof afforded, is our admission
of such truth and belief in it. If, then, religion be the most important
subject of human inquiry, it must be that also which presents the most
forcible, irrefragable, and indisputable truths to the inquirer.--It
must be that on which the human mind can err the least, and where all
minds must be the most agreed. If religion be at once a science, and the
most true of all sciences, its truths must be as indisputable as those
in any branch of the mathematics--as apparent to all the senses as those
revealed by the chemist or observed by the naturalist, and as easily
referred to the test of our approving or disapproving sensations, as
those involved in the science of morals.... Is religion a science?
Is it a branch of knowledge? Where are the _things known_ upon which it
rests? Where are the accumulated facts of which it is compounded? What
are the human sensations to which it appeals? Knowledge is compounded
of _things known_. It is an accumulation of facts gleaned by our senses,
within the range of material existence, which is subject to their
investigation.... Now let us see where, in the table of knowledge,
we may class religion. Of what part or division of nature, or material
existence, does it treat? What bodies, or what properties of tangible
bodies, does it place in contact with our senses, and bring home to the
perception of our faculties? It clearly appertains not to the table of
human knowledge, for it treats not of objects discoverable within the
field of human observation. 'No,' will you say? 'but its knowledge
is superhuman, unearthly--its field is in heaven.' My friends, the
knowledge which is not human, is of slippery foundation to us human
creatures. Things _known_, constitute knowledge; and here is a science
treating of things unseen, unfelt, uncomprehended! Such cannot be
_knowledge_. What, then, is it? Probability? possibility? theory?
hypothesis? tradition? written? spoken? by whom? when? where? Let its
teachers--nay, let all earth reply! But what confusion of tongues and
voices now strike on the ear! From either Indies, from torrid Africa,
from the frozen regions of either pole, from the vast plains of ancient
Asia, from the fields and cities of European industry, from the palaces
of European luxury, from the soft chambers of priestly ease, from the
domes of hierarchal dominion, from the deep cell of the self-immolated
monk, from the stony cave of the self-denying anchorite, from the
cloud-capt towers, spires, and minarets of the crescent and the cross,
arise shouts, and hosannas, and anathemas, in the commingled names
of Brama, and Veeshnu, and Creeshna, and Juggernaut; heavenly kings,
heavenly queens, triune deities, earth-born gods, heaven-born prophets,
apotheosized monarchs, demon-enlightened philosophers, saints, angels,
devils, ghosts, apparitions, and sorceries! But, worse than these sounds
which but stun the ear and confound the intellect, what sights, oh!
human kind! appal the heart! The rivers of earth run blood! Nation set
against nation! Brother against brother! Man against the companion of
his bosom! and that soft companion, maddened with the frenzy of insane
remorse for imaginary crimes? fired with the rage of infatuated bigotry,
or subdued to diseased helplessness and mental fatuity, renounces
kindred, flies from social converse, and pines away a useless or
mischievous existence in sighings and tremblings, spectral fears,
uncharitable feelings and bitter denunciations! Such are thy doings,
oh! religion! Or, rather, such are thy doings, oh! man! While standing
in a world so rich in sources of enjoyment, so stored with objects of
real inquiry and attainable knowledge, yet shutting thine eyes, and,
worse, thine heart, to the tangible things and sentient creatures around
thee, and winging thy diseased imagination beyond the light of the sun
which gladdens thy world, and contemplation of the objects which are
here to expand thy mind and quicken the pulses of thy heart!... I will
pray ye to observe how much of our positive misery originates in our
idle speculations in matters of faith, and in our blind, our fearful
forgetfulness of facts--our cold, heartless, and, I will say, _insane_
indifference to visible causes of tangible evil, and visible sources of
tangible happiness. Look to the walks of life, I beseech ye--look into
the public prints--look into your sectarian churches--look into the
bosoms of families--look into your own bosoms, and those of your fellow
beings, and see how many of our disputes and dissensions, public
and private--how many of our unjust actions--how many of our harsh
judgments--how many of our uncharitable feelings--spring out of our
ignorant ambition to rend the veil which wraps from our human senses the
knowledge of things unseen, and from our human faculties the conception
of causes unknown? And oh! my fellow beings! do not these very words
_unseen_ and _unknown_, warn the enthusiast against the profanity of
such inquiries, and proclaim to the philosopher their futility? Do they
not teach us that religion is no subject for instruction, and no subject
for discussion? Will they not convince us that as beyond the horizon of
our observation we can know nothing, so within that horizon's the
only safe ground for us to meet in public?... Every day we see sects
splitting, creeds new modelling, and men forsaking old opinions only to
quarrel about their opposites.

"I see three Gods in one, says the Trinitarian, and excommunicates the
Socinian, who sees a God-head in unity. I see a heaven but no hell, says
the Universalist, and disowns fellowship with such as may distinguish
less. 'I see a heaven and hell also, beyond the stars,' said lately
the Orthodox friend, and expelled his shorter-sighted brethren from the
sanctuary. I seek them both in the heart of man, said the more spiritual
follower of Penn, and straightway builded him up another temple, in
which to quarrel with his neighbor, who perhaps only employs other words
to express the same ideas. For myself, pretending to no insight into
these mysteries, possessing no means of intercourse with the inhabitants
of other worlds, confessing my absolute incapacity to see either as far
back as a first cause, or as far forward as a last one, I am content
to state to you, my fellow creatures, that all my studies, reading,
reflection, and observation, have obtained for me no knowledge beyond
the sphere of our planet, our earthly interests and our earthly duties;
and that I more than doubt whether, should you expend all your time and
all your treasure in the search, you will be able to acquire any better
information respecting unseen worlds and future events than myself."

The philosophical romance, "A Few Days in Athens," though the first
of Miss Wright's works, and written when she was very young, displays
considerable power and eloquence. It is the most pleasing of all her
writings. It is intended to portray the doctrines of Epicurus, and gives
a picture of the Gargettian, in the "Gardens of the Academy," surrounded
by his pupils, calculated to counteract many of the popular and
erroneous notions entertained of that philosopher's teachings. The
following dialogue between Epicurus and his favorite, Theon, will afford
the readers of the "Half-Hours" an opportunity of judging how far Miss
Wright has conveyed a truthful idea of Epicurus's ethical philosophy:--

"On leaving you, last night," said Theon, "I encountered Cleanthes. He
came from the perusal of your writings, and brought charges against them
which I was unprepared to answer."

"Let us hear them, my son; perhaps, until you shall have perused them
yourself, we may assist your difficulty."

"First, that they deny the existence of the Gods."

"I see but one other assertion that could equal that in folly," said

"I knew it," exclaimed Theon, triumphantly, "I knew it was impossible.
But where will not prejudice lead men, when even the uptight Cleanthes
is capable of slander?"

"He is utterly incapable of it," said the Master; "and the inaccuracy,
in this case, I rather suspect to rest with you than with him. To _deny_
the existence of the Gods would indeed be presumption in a 'philosopher;
a presumption equalled only by that of him who should _assert_ their

"How!" exclaimed the youth, with a countenance in which astonishment
seemed to suspend every other expression.

"As I never saw the Gods, my son," calmly continued the Sage, "I cannot
_assert_ their existence; and that I never saw them, is no reason for
my _denying_ it."

"But do we believe nothing except that of which we have ocular

"Nothing, at least, for which we have not the evidence of one or more
of our senses; that is, when we believe on just grounds, which I grant,
taking men collectively, is very seldom."

"But where would this spirit lead us! To impiety!--to Atheism!--to
all, against which I felt confidence in defending the character and
philosophy of Epicurus!"

"We will examine presently, my son, into the meaning of the terms you
have employed. When you first entered the Garden your mind was unfit for
the examination of the subject you have now started: it is no longer so;
and we will therefore enter upon the inquiry, and pursue it in order."

"Forgive me if I express--if I acknowledge," said the youth, slightly
recoiling from his instructor, "some reluctance to enter on the
discussion of truths, whose very discussion would seem to argue a doubt,

"And what then!"

"That very doubt were a crime."

"If the doubt of any truth shall constitute a crime, then the belief of
the same truth should constitute a virtue."

"Perhaps a duty would rather express it!" "When you charge the neglect
of any duty as crime, or account its fulfilment a virtue, you suppose
the existence of a power to neglect or fulfil; and it is the exercise of
this power, in the one way or the other which constitutes the merit or
demerit. Is it not so?"


"Does the human mind possess the power to believe or disbelieve, at
pleasure, any truths whatsoever."

"I am not prepared to answer: but I think it does, since it possesses
always the power of investigation."

"But, possibly, not the will to exercise the power. Take care lest
I beat you with your own weapons. I thought this very investigation
appeared to you a crime?"

"Your logic is too subtle," said the youth, "for my inexperience."

"Say, rather, my reasoning too close. Did I bear you down with sounding
words and weighty authorities, and confound your understanding with
hair-drawn distinctions, you would be right to retreat from the

"I have nothing to object to the fairness of your deductions," said
Theon. "But would not the doctrine be dangerous that should establish
our inability to help our belief; and might we not stretch the
principle, until we asserted our inability to help our actions?"

"We might, and with reason. But we will not now traverse the ethical
_pons asinorum_ of necessity--the most simple and evident of mortal
truths, and the most darkened, tortured, and belabored by moral
teachers. You inquire if the doctrine we have essayed to establish, be
not dangerous. I reply--not, if it be true.--Nothing is so dangerous
as error--nothing so safe as truth. A dangerous truth would be a
contradiction in terms, and an anomaly in things."

"But what is a truth?" said Theon.

"It is pertinently asked. A truth I consider to be an ascertained fact;
which truth would be changed to an error, the moment the fact, on which
it rested, was disproved."

"I see, then, no fixed basis for truth."

"It surely has the most fixed of all--the nature of things. And it
is only an imperfect insight into that nature which occasions all our
erroneous conclusions, whether in physics or morals."

"But where, if we discard the Gods and their will, as engraven on our
hearts, are our guides in the search after truth?"

"Our senses and our faculties as developed in and by the exercise of our
senses, are the only guides with which I am acquainted. And I do not
see why, even admitting a belief in the Gods, and in a superintending
Providence, the senses should not be viewed as the guides provided by
them, for our direction and instruction. But here is the evil attendant
on an ungrounded belief, whatever be its nature. The moment we take one
thing for granted, we take other things for granted; we are started in
a wrong road, and it is seldom that we gain the right one, until we have
trodden back our steps to the starting place. I know but of one thing
that a philosopher should take for granted; and that only because he
is forced to it by an irresistible impulse of his nature; and because,
without doing so, neither truth nor falsehood could exist for him. He
must take for granted the evidence of his senses; in other words, he
must believe in the existence of things, as they exist to his senses. I
_know_ of no other existence, and can therefore _believe_ in no other:
although, reasoning from analogy, I may _imagine_ other existences to
be.--This, for instance, I do as respects the Gods. I see around me, in
the world I inhabit, an infinite variety in the arrangement of matter--a
multitude of sentient beings, possessing different kinds and varying
grades of power and intelligence--from the worm that crawls in the dust,
to the eagle that soars to the sun, and man who marks to the sun its
course. It is possible, it is moreover probable, that, in the worlds
which I see not--in the boundless infinitude and eternal duration of
matter, beings may exist, of every countless variety, and varying grades
of intelligence, inferior and superior to our own, until we descend to
a minimum and rise to a maximum, to which the range of our observation
affords no parallel, and of which our senses are inadequate to the
conception. Thus far, my young friend, 1 believe in the Gods, or in what
you will of existences removed from the sphere of my knowledge. That you
should believe, with positiveness, in one unseen existence or another,
appears to me no crime, although it may appear to me unreasonable; and
so, my doubt of the same should appear to you no moral offence, although
you might account it erroneous. I fear to fatigue your attention, and
will, therefore, dismiss, for the present, these abstruse subjects."

"But we shall both be amply repaid for their discussion, if this truth
remain with you--that an opinion, right or wrong, can never constitute a
moral offence, nor be in itself a moral obligation. It may be mistaken;
it may involve an absurdity, or a contradiction.--It is a truth; or it
is an error: it can never be a crime or a virtue."--[Chapter xiv.]

Miss Wright was a poetess, as well as a politician and writer on ethics.
In her "Fourth of July" address, delivered in the New Harmony Hall, in
1828, in commemoration of the American Independence, is the following:--

     "Is there a thought can fill the human mind
     More pure, more vast, more generous, more refined
     Than that which guides the enlightened patriot's toil?
     Not he whose view is bounded by his soil--
     Not he whose narrow heart can only shrine
     The land, the people that he calleth mine--
     Not he who, to set up that land on high,
     Will make whole nations bleed, whole nations die--
     Not he who, calling that land's rights his pride,
     Trampleth the rights of all the earth beside.
     No!    He it is, the just, the generous soul,
     Who owneth brotherhood with either pole,
     Stretches from realm to realm his spacious mind,
     And guards the weal of all the human kind--
     Holds freedom's banner o'er the earth unfurl'd,
     And stands the guardian patriot of a world!"

J. W.


     Epicurean.--One who holds the principles of Epicurus--
     Luxurious, contributing to luxury.

     Epicurism--The principles of Epicurus--Luxury, sensual
     enjoyment, gross pleasure.

The words with which this page is headed may be found in the current and
established dictionaries of the present day; and it shall be our task to
show that never was slander more foul, calumny more base, or libel more
cowardly, than when it associated the words luxury and sensuality with
the memory of the Athenian Epicurus. The much-worn anecdote of the brief
endorsed "The Defendant has no case, abuse the Plaintiffs Solicitor,"
will well apply here. The religionists had no case, the Epicurean
Philosophy was impregnable as far as theological attacks were concerned,
and the theologians have, therefore, constantly and vehemently abused
its founder; so that, at last, children have caught the cry as though it
were the enunciation of a tact, and have grown into men believing that
Epicurus was a sort of discriminating hog, who wallowed in the filth
which some have miscalled pleasure.

Epicurus was born in the early part of the year 344, B. C, the third
year of the 109th Olympiad, at Gargettus, in the neighborhood of Athens.
His father, Neocles, was of the Ægean tribe. Some allege that Epicurus
was born in the island of Samos; but, according to others, he was taken
there when very young by his parents, who formed a portion of a colony
of Athenian citizens, sent to colonize Samos after its subjugation
by Pericles. The father and mother of Epicurus were in very humble
circumstances; his father was a schoolmaster, and his mother,
Chærestrata, acted as a kind of priestess, curing diseases, exorcising
ghosts, and exercising other fabulous powers. Epicurus has been charged
with sorcery, because he wrote several songs for his mother's solemn
rites. Until eighteen, he remained at Samos and the neighboring isle of
Teos; from whence he removed to Athens, where he resided until the death
of Alexander, when, disturbances arising, he fled to Colophon. This
place, Mitylene, and Lampsacus, formed the philosopher's residence until
he was thirty-six years of age; at which time he founded a school in the
neighborhood of Athens. He purchased a pleasant garden, where he taught
his disciples until the time of his death.

We are told by Laertius, "That those disciples who were regularly
admitted into the school of Epicurus, lived together, not in the manner
of the Pythagoreans, who cast their possessions into a common stock; for
this, in his opinion, implied mutual distrust rather than friendship;
but upon such a footing of friendly attachment, that each individual
cheerfully supplied the necessities of his brother."

The habits of the philosopher and his followers were temperate and
exceedingly frugal, and formed a strong contrast to the luxurious,
although refined, manners of the Athenians. At the entrance of the
garden, the visitor of Epicurus found the following inscription:--"The
hospitable keeper of this mansion, where you will find pleasure the
highest good, will present you with barley cakes and water from the
spring. These gardens will not provoke your appetite by artificial
dainties, but satisfy it with natural supplies. Will you not, then, be
well entertained?" And yet the owner of the garden, over the gate
of which these words were placed, has been called "a glutton" and "a
stomach worshipper!"

From the age of thirty-six until his decease, he does not seem to have
quitted Athens, except temporarily. When Demetrius besieged Athens, the
Epicureans were driven into great difficulties for want of food; and it
is said that Epicurus and his friends subsisted on a small quantity of
beans which he possessed, and which he shared equally with them.

The better to prosecute his studies, Epicurus lived a life of celibacy.
Temperate and continent himself, he taught his followers to be so
likewise, both by example and precept. He died 273 B. C, in the
seventy-third year of his age; and, at that time, his warmest opponents
seem to have paid the highest compliments to his personal character;
and, on reading his life, and the detailed accounts of his teachings, it
seems difficult to imagine what has induced the calumny which has been
heaped upon his memory.

We "cannot quote from his own works, in his own words, because, although
he wrote very much, only a summary of his writings has come to us
uninjured; but his doctrines have been so fully investigated and treated
on, both by his opponents and his disciples, that there is no difficulty
or doubt as to the principles inculcated in the school of Epicurus.

"The sum of his doctrine concerning philosophy, in general, is
this:--Philosophy is the exercise of reason in the pursuit and
attainment of a happy life; whence it follows, that those studies which
conduce neither to the acquisition nor the enjoyment of happiness are to
be dismissed as of no value. The end of all speculation ought to be, to
enable men to judge with certainty what is to be chosen, and what to be
avoided, to preserve themselves free from pain, and to secure health of
body, and tranquillity of mind. True philosophy is so useful to every
man, that the young should apply to it without delay, and the old should
never be weary of the pursuit; for no man is either too young or too
old to correct and improve his mind, and to study the art of happiness.
Happy are they who possess by nature a free and vigorous intellect,
and who are born in a country where they can prosecute their inquiries
without restraint: for it is philosophy alone which raises a man above
vain fears and base passions, and gives him the perfect command of
himself. As nothing ought to be dearer to a philosopher than truth, he
should, pursue it by the most direct means, devising no actions himself,
nor suffering himself to be imposed upon by the fictions of others,
neither poets, orators, nor logicians, making no other use of the
rules of rhetoric or grammar, than to enable him to speak or write with
accuracy and perspicuity, and always preferring a plain and simple to an
ornamented style. Whilst some doubt of everything, and others profess
to acknowledge everything, a wise man will embrace such tenets, and
only such as are built upon experience, or upon certain and indisputable

The following is a summary of his Moral Philosophy:--

"The end of living, or the ultimate good, which is to be sought for its
own sake, according to the universal opinion of mankind, is happiness;
yet men, for the most part, fail in the pursuit of this end, either
because they do not form a right idea of the nature of happiness, or
because they do not make use of proper means to attain it. Since it is
every man's interest to be happy through the whole of life, it is the
wisdom of every one to employ philosophy in the search of felicity
without delay; and there cannot be a greater folly, than to be always
beginning to live.

"The happiness which belongs to man, is that state in which he enjoys
as many of the good things, and suffers as few of the evils incident
to human nature as possible; passing his days in a smooth course of
permanent tranquillity. A wise man, though deprived of sight or hearing,
may experience happiness in the enjoyment of the good things which
yet remain; and when suffering torture, or laboring under some painful
disease, can mitigate the anguish by patience, and can enjoy, in
bis afflictions, the consciousness of bis own constancy. But it is
impossible that perfect happiness can be possessed without the pleasure
which attends freedom from pain, and the enjoyment of the good things of
life. Pleasure is in its nature good, as pain is in its nature evil; the
one is, therefore, to be pursued, and the other to be avoided, for its
own sake.--Pleasure, or pain, is not only good, or evil, in itself,
but the measure of what is good or evil, in every object of desire or
aversion; for the ultimate reason why we pursue one thing, and avoid
another, is because we expect pleasure from the former, and apprehend
pain from the latter. If we sometimes decline a present pleasure, it is
not because we are averse to pleasure itself, but because we conceive,
that in the present instance, it will be necessarily connected with a
greater pain. In like manner, if we sometimes voluntarily submit to a
present pain, it is because we judge that it is necessarily connected
with a greater pleasure.--Although all pleasure is essentially good, and
all pain essentially evil, it doth not thence necessarily follow, that
in every single instance the one ought to be pursued, and the other to
be avoided; but reason is to be employed in distinguishing and comparing
the nature and degrees of each, that the result may be a wise choice of
that which shall appear to be, upon the whole, good. That pleasure is
the first good, appears from the inclination which every animal, from
its first birth, discovers to pursue pleasure, and avoid pain; and is
confirmed by the universal experience of mankind, who are incited
to action by no other principle than the desire of avoiding pain, or
obtaining pleasure. There are two kinds of pleasure: one consisting in
a state of rest, in which both body and mind are undisturbed by any kind
of pain; the other arising from an agreeable agitation of the senses,
producing a correspondent emotion in the soul. It is upon the former
of these that the enjoyment of life chiefly depends. Happiness may
therefore be said to consist in bodily ease, and mental tranquillity,
When pleasure is asserted to be the end of living, we are not then to
understand that violent kind of delight or joy which arises from the
gratification of the senses and passions, but merely that placid state
of mind, which results from the absence of every cause of pain or
uneasiness. Those pleasures, which arise from agitation, are not to be
pursued as in themselves the end of living, but as means of arriving at
that stable tranquillity, in which true happiness consists. It is the
office of reason to confine the pursuit of pleasure within the limits
of nature, in order to the attainment of that happy state, in which
the body is free from every kind of pain, and the mind from all
perturbation. This state must not, however, be conceived to be perfect
in proportion as it is inactive and torpid, but in proportion as all
the functions of life are quietly and pleasantly performed. A happy life
neither resembles a rapid torrent, nor a standing pool, but is like a
gentle stream, that glides smoothly and silently along.

"This happy state can only be obtained by a prudent care of the body,
and a steady government of the mind. The diseases of the body are to be
prevented by temperance, or cured by medicine, or rendered tolerable
by patience. Against the diseases of the mind, philosophy provides
sufficient antidotes. The instruments which it employs for this purpose
are the virtues; the root of which, whence all the rest proceed, is
prudence. This virtue comprehends the whole art of living discreetly,
justly, and honorably, and is, in fact, the same thing with wisdom. It
instructs men to free their understandings from the clouds of prejudice;
to exercise temperance and fortitude in the government of themselves:
and to practice justice towards others. Although pleasure, or happiness,
which is the end of living, be superior to virtue, which is only the
means, it is every one's interest to practice all the virtues; for in a
happy life, pleasure can never be separated from virtue.

"A prudent man, in order to secure his tranquillity, will consult his
natural disposition in the choice of his plan of life. If, for example,
he be persuaded that he should be happier in a state of marriage than in
celibacy, he ought to marry; but if he be convinced that matrimony would
be an impediment to his happiness, he ought to remain single. In like
maimer, such persons as are naturally active, enterprising, and
ambitious, or such as by the condition of their birth are placed in the
way of civil offices, should accommodate themselves to their nature and
situation, by engaging in public affairs; while such as are, from
natural temper, fond of leisure and retirement, or, from experience or
observation, are convinced that a life of public business would be
inconsistent with their happiness, are unquestionably at liberty, except
where particular circumstances call them to the service of their
country, to pass their lives in obscure repose.

"Temperance is that discreet regulation of the desires and passions, by
which we are enabled to enjoy pleasures without suffering any consequent
inconvenience. They who maintain such a constant self-command, as never
to be enticed by the prospect of present indulgence, to do that which
will be productive of evil, obtain the truest pleasure by declining
pleasure. Since, of desires some are natural and necessary; others
natural, but not necessary; and others neither natural nor necessary,
but the offspring of false judgment; it must be the office of temperance
to gratify the first class, as far as nature requires: to restrain the
second within the bounds of moderation; and, as to the third, resolutely
to oppose, and, if possible, entirely repress them.

"Sobriety, as opposed to inebriety and gluttony, is of admirable use in
teaching men that nature is satisfied with a little, and enabling them
to content themselves with simple and frugal fare. Such a manner of
living is conducive to the preservation of health: renders a man alert
and active in all the offices of life; affords him an exquisite relish
of the occasional varieties of a plentiful board, and prepares him to
meet every reverse of fortune without the fear of want.

"Continence is a branch of temperance, which prevents the diseases,
infamy, remorse, and punishment, to which those are exposed, who
indulge themselves in unlawful amours. Music and poetry, which are often
employed as incentives to licentious pleasure are to be cautiously and
sparingly used.

"Gentleness, as opposed to an irrascible temper, greatly contributes
to the tranquillity and happiness of life, by preserving the mind from
perturbation, and arming it against the assaults of calumny and malice.
A wise man, who puts himself under the government of reason, will be
able to receive an injury with calmnese, and to treat the person who
committed it with lenity; for he will rank injuries among the casual
events of life, and will prudently reflect that he can no more stop the
natural current of human passions, than he can curb the stormy winds.
Refractory servants in a family should be chastised, and disorderly
members of a state punished without wrath.

"Moderation, in the pursuit of honors or riches, is the only security
against disappointment and vexation. A wise man, therefore, will prefer
the simplicity of rustic life to the magnificence of courts. Future
events a wise man will consider as uncertain, and will, therefore,
neither suffer himself to be elated with confident expectation, nor to
be depressed by doubt and despair: for both are equally destructive of
tranquillity. It will contribute to the enjoyment of life, to consider
death as the perfect termination of a happy life, which it becomes us to
close like satisfied guests, neither regretting the past, nor anxious for
the future.

"Fortitude, the virtue which enables us to endure pain, and to banish
fear, is of great use in producing tranquillity. Philosophy instructs us
to pay homage to the gods, not through hope or fear, but from veneration
of their superior nature. It moreover enables us to conquer the fear
of death, by teaching us that it is no proper object of terror; since,
whilst we are, death is not, and when death arrives, we are not: so
that it neither concerns the living nor the dead. The only evils to
be apprehended are bodily pain, and distress of mind. Bodily pain it
becomes a wise man to endure with patience and firmness; because, if it
be slight, it may easily be borne; and if it be intense, it cannot
last long. Mental distress commonly arises not from nature, but from
opinion; a wise man will therefore arm himself against this kind of
suffering, by reflecting that the gifts of fortune, the loss of which
he may be inclined to deplore, were never his own, but depended upon
circumstances which he could not command. If, therefore, they happen
to leave him, he will endeavor, as soon as possible, to obliterate the
remembrance of them, by occupying his mind in pleasant contemplation,
and engaging in agreeable avocations.

"Justice respects man as living in society, and is the common bond
without which no society can subsist. This virtue, like the rest,
derives its value from its tendency to promote the happiness of
life. Not only is it never injurious to the man who practices it, but
nourishes-in his mind calm reflections and pleasant hopes; whereas it is
impossible that the mind in which injustice dwells, should not be full
of disquietude.--Since it is impossible that iniquitous actions should
promote the enjoyment of life, as much as remorse of conscience, legal
penalties, and public disgrace, must increase its troubles, every one
who follows the dictates of sound reason, will practice the virtues of
justice, equity, and fidelity. In society, the necessity of the mutual
exercise of justice, in order to the common enjoyment of the gifts of
nature, is the ground of those laws by which it is prescribed. It is
the interest of every individual in a state to conform to the laws of
justice; for by injuring no one, and rendering to every man his due, he
contributes his part towards the preservation of that society, upon the
perpetuity of which his own safety depends. Nor ought any one to think
that he is at liberty to violate the rights of his fellow citizens,
provided he can do it securely; for he who has committed an unjust
action can never be certain that it will not be discovered; and however
successfully he may conceal it from others, this will avail him little,
since he cannot conceal it from himself. In different communities,
different laws may be instituted, according to the circumstances of
the people who compose them. Whatever is thus prescribed is to be
considered as a rule of justice, so long as the society shall judge the
observance of it to be for the benefit of the whole. But whenever any
rule of conduct is found upon experience not to be conducive to the
public good, being no longer useful, it should no longer be prescribed.

"Nearly allied to justice are the virtues of beneficence, compassion,
gratitude, piety, and friendship.--He who confers benefits upon others,
procures to himself the satisfaction of seeing the stream of plenty
spreading around him from the fountain of his beneficence; at the same
time, he enjoys the pleasure of being esteemed by others. The exercise
of gratitude, filial affection, and reverence for the gods, is
necessary, in order to avoid the hatred and contempt of all men.
Friendships are contracted for the sake of mutual benefit; but by
degrees they ripen into such disinterested attachment, that they are
continued without any prospect of advantage. Between friends there is a
kind of league, that each will love the other as himself. A true friend
will partake of the wants and sorrows of his friend, as if they were his
own; if he be in want, he will relieve him; if he be in prison, he will
visit him; if he be sick, he will come to him; nay-situations may occur,
in which he would not scruple to die for him. It cannot then be doubted,
that friendship is one of the most useful means of procuring a secure,
tranquil, and happy life."

No man will, we think, find anything in the foregoing summary to justify
the foul language used against Epicurus, and his moral philosophy; the
secret is in the physical doctrines, and this secret is, that Epicurus
was actually, if not intentionally, an Atheist. The following is a
summary of his physical doctrine:--

"Nothing can ever spring from nothing, nor can anything ever return to
nothing. The universe always existed, and will always remain; for there
is nothing into which it can be changed. There is nothing in Nature, nor
can anything be conceived, besides body and space. Body is that which
possesses the properties of bulk, figure, resistance, and gravity: it is
this alone which can touch or be touched. Space is the region which
is, or may be, occupied by body, and which affords it an opportunity of
moving freely. That there are bodies in the universe is attested by
the senses. That there is also space is evident; since otherwise bodies
would have no place in which to move or exist, and of their existence
and motion we have the certain proof of perception. Besides these, no
third nature can be conceived; for such a nature must either have bulk
and solidity, or want them; that is, it must either be body or space:
this does not, however, preclude the existence of qualities, which have
no subsistence but in the body to which they belong.

"The universe, consisting of body and space, is infinite, for it has
no limits. Bodies are infinite in multitude; space is infinite in
magnitude. The term above, or beneath, high or low, cannot be
properly applied to infinite space. The universe is to be conceived as
immoveable, since beyond it there is no place into which it can move;
and as eternal and immutable, since it is neither liable to increase
nor decrease, to production nor decay. Nevertheless, the parts of the
universe are in motion, and are subject to change.

"All bodies consist of parts, of which they are composed, and into
which they may be resolved; and these parts are either themselves simple
principles, or may be resolved into such. These first principles,
or simple atoms, are divisible by no force, and, therefore, must be
immutable. This may also be inferred from the uniformity of Nature,
which could not be preserved if its principles were not certain
and consistent. The existence of such atoms is evident, since it is
impossible that anything which exists should be reduced to nothing. A
finite body cannot consist of parts infinite, either in magnitude or
number; divisibility of bodies _ad infinitum_, is therefore
conceivable. All atoms are of the same nature, or differ in no essential
qualities--From their different effects upon the senses, it appears,
however, that they differ in magnitude, figure, and weight. Atoms exist
in every possible variety of figure--round, oval, conical, cubical,
sharp, hooked, etc. But in every shape, they are, on account of their
solidity, infrangible, or incapable of actual division.

"Gravity must be an essential property of atoms; for since they are
perpetually in motion, or making an effort to move, they must be moved
by an internal impulse, which may be called gravity.

"The principle of gravity, that internal energy which is the cause of
all motion, whether simple or complex, being essential to the primary
corpuscles or atoms, they must have been incessantly and from eternity
in actual motion."

Epicurus, who boasts that he was an inquirer and a philosopher in his
thirteenth year, was scarcely likely to bow his mind to the mythology of
his country. The man who, when he was but a schoolboy, insisted upon an
answer to the question, "Whence came chaos?" could hardly be expected
to receive as admitted facts the fabulous legends as to Jupiter and the
other gods. His theology is, however, in some respects, obscure, and
unintelligible; for while he zealously opposed the popular fables, which
men misname God-ideas, he at the same time admitted the existence of
material gods, whom he placed in the intervals between the infinite
worlds, where they passed a life undisturbed by aught, and enjoyed a
happiness which does not admit of augmentation. These inactive gods play
a strange part in the system of Epicurus; and it is asserted by many
that these extraordinary conceptions of Deity were put forward by the
philosopher to screen him from the consequences attaching to a charge of
Atheism. Dr. Heinrich Ritter, who does not seem very friendly disposed
towards Epicurus, or his philosophy, repudiates this notion, and argues
Epicurus was not in truth an Atheist, and alleges that it was a mere
pretence on his part; and that from his very theory of knowledge the
existence of gods could be deduced. This has been much litigated, (vide
Electric Review for 1806, p. 606.) It is quite evident that Epicurus
neither regarded "the gods" in the capacity of Creators, controllers, or
rulers, so that his Theism (if it be Theism) twas not of a very
superstitious character. The God who neither created man, nor exercised
any influence whatever over his actions or thinkings, could have but
little to do with man at all.

If we attempt to review the whole of the teachings of Epicurus, we and
they are defective and imperfect in many respects, and necessarily so.
We say necessarily so, because the imperfect science of the day limited
the array of facts presented to the philosopher, and narrowed the base
upon which he was to erect his system. We must expect, therefore, to
find the structure weak in many points, because it was too large for
the foundation; but we are not, therefore, to pass it on one side, and
without further notice; it should rather be our task to lay good, wide,
and sure foundations, On which to build up a system, and develope a
method, really having, for its end, the happiness of mankind. We live
2000 years later than the Athenian philosopher.--In those 2000 years
many facts have been dragged out of "the circle of the unknown and
unused." Astronomy, geology, physiology, psychology--all except theology
are belter understood. Men pretend they are searching after happiness,
and where do they try to find it? Not here amongst the known, but in the
possible hereafter amongst the unknowable. How do they try to find it?
Not by the aid of the known, not by the light of facts, gathered in
years of toil, and sanctified by the blood of some of the noblest
of truth's noble martyrs; no--but in the darkness of the unknown and
unknowable; in the next world. Question the men who fly to theology
for happiness, and they will tell you that the most learned of the
theologians sum up their knowledge in the word "incomprehensible." Is it
wonderful that their happiness is somewhat marred "here" by quarrels
as to the true definition of "hereafter?" G. H. Lewes says, of the
Epicurean philosophy, "that the attempt failed because the basis was
not broad enough. The Epicureans are therefore to be regarded as men who
ventured on a great problem, and failed because they only saw part
of the truth." And we might add that Christianity, and every other
religious "anity," fails, because the professors expect to obtain
happiness in the next life, and neglect to work for it in the present

Epicurus says, no life can be pleasant except a virtuous life; and he
charges you to avoid whatever maybe calculated to create disquiet in the
mind, or give pain to the body. The Rev. Habbakuk Smilenot, of little
Bethel, says that all pleasure here, is vanity and vexation in the
hereafter; and he charges you to continually worry and harass your mind
with fears that you may be condemned to hell, and doubts whether you
will be permitted to enter heaven. Which is the best, the philosophy of
Epicurus, or the theology of Smilenof?

G. H. Lewes says:--"Epicureanism, in leading man to a correct
appreciation of the moral end of his existence, in showing him how to
be truly happy, has to combat with many obstructions which hide from
him the real road of life. These obstructions are his illusions, his
prejudices, his errors, his ignorance. This ignorance is of two kinds,
as Victor Cousin points out; ignorance of the laws of the external
world, which creates absurd superstitions, and troubles the mind with
false fears and false hopes. Hence the necessity of some knowledge of
physics." (We can scarcely blame Epicurus that he was not in advance of
his time, as far as the physical sciences are concerned, and therefore
imparted an imperfect system of physics. We must, with our improved
knowledge, ourselves remove the obstruction.) "The second kind of
ignorance is that of the nature of man. Socrates had taught men to
regard their own nature as the great object of investigation; and this
lesson Epicurus willingly gave ear to.--But man does not interrogate his
own nature out of simple curiosity, or simple erudition; he studies
his nature in order that he may improve it; he learns the extent of
his capacities, in order that he may properly direct them. The aim,
therefore, of all such inquiries must be happiness."

We may add that the result of all such inquiries will be happiness, if
the inquirer will but base his investigation and experiments upon
facts. Let him understand that, as he improves the circumstances which
surround him, so will he advance himself, becoming happier, and making
his fellows happy also. Remember the words of Epicurus, and seek that
pleasure for yourself which appears the most durable, and attended with
the greatest pleasure to your fellow men.



In the previous number we gave a short sketch of the opinions of
Epicurus. In this we shall deal with the founder of a rival sect--the
Stoics. Amongst the disciples and students in the Stoic schools have
been many illustrious names, and not the least worthy is the name with
which we are now dealing.

Zeno was born at Cittius, a small maritime town in the Island of Cyprus.
This place having been originally peopled by a colony of Phoenicians,
Zeno is sometimes called a Phoenician; but at the period when he
flourished, it was chiefly inhabited by Greeks. The date of his birth is
uncertain, but must have been about the year B.C. 362. His father was a
merchant, and Zeno appears to have been, in the early part of his life,
engaged in mercantile pursuits. He received a very liberal education
from his father, whom, we are told, perceived in his son a strong
inclination for philosophical studies, and who purchased for Zeno the
writings of the Socratic philosophers; which were studied with avidity,
and which undoubtedly exercised a considerable influence over his future
thinkings. When about thirty years of age, he made a trading voyage from
Cittius to Athens, with a very valuable cargo of Phoenician purple, but
was unfortunately shipwrecked on the coast of Greece, and the whole of
his freight destroyed. It is supposed that this severe loss, which must
have considerably reduced his means, materially influenced Zeno, and
induced him to embrace the tenets of the Cynics, whose leading principle
was a contempt of riches. We are told that upon is first arrival in
Athens, he went into the shop of a bookseller, and took up, by accident,
a volume of the "Commentaries of Xenophon." Alter reading a few pages,
Zeno was so much delighted with the work, that he asked the bookseller
to direct him where he might meet such men as the author? Crates, the
Cynic philosopher, passed by at the time, and the bookseller said,
"Follow that man!" He did so, and after listening to several of his
discourses, was so pleased with the doctrines of the Cynics, that
he became a disciple. He did not long remain attached to the Cynic
school--their peculiar manners were too gross for him; and his energetic
and inquiring mind was too much cramped by that indifference to all
scientific investigation which was one of their leading characteristics.
He therefore sought instruction elsewhere, and Stilpo, of Megara, became
his teacher, from whom he acquired the art of disputation, in which
he afterwards became so proficient. The Cynics were displeased at his
following other philosophy, and we are told that Crates attempted to
drag him by force out of the school of Stilpo, on which Zeno said, "You
may seize my body, but Stilpo has laid hold of my mind." The Megaric
doctrine was, however, insufficient. Zeno was willing to learn all that
Stilpo could teach, but having learned all, his restless and insatiable
appetite for knowledge required more, and after an attendance of several
years upon the lectures of Stilpo, he passed over to the expositors of
Plato, Xenocrates, and Polemo. The latter philosopher appears to have
penetrated Zeno's design in attending the various schools--_i.e._, to
collect materials from various quarters for a new system of his own;
and when he came to the school, Polemo said, "I am no stranger, Zeno, to
your Phoenician arts; I perceive that your design is to creep slily into
my garden, and steal away my fruit." After twenty years of study, having
mastered the tenets of the various schools, Zeno determined to become
the founder of a sect himself. In accordance with this determination, he
opened a school in a public portico, called the Painted Porch, from the
pictures of Polygnotus, and other eminent painters, with which it
was adorned. This portico became famous in Athens, and was called
(Stoa)---the Porch. From this Stoa the school derived its name, the
students being called the Stoics. Zeno was a subtle reasoner, and
exceedingly popular. He taught a strict system of morals and exhibited
a pleasing picture of moral discipline in his own life. As a man,
his character appears deserving of the highest respect. He became
exceedingly respected and revered at Athens for the probity and severity
of bis life and manners, and consistency thereof with his doctrine. He
possesed so large a share of public esteem that the Athenians decreed
him a golden crown, and on account of his approved integrity, deposited
the keys of their citadel in his hands. Antigouus Gonates, King of
Macedon, was a constant attendant at his lectures whilst at Athens,
and when that monarch returned, he earnestly invited Zeno to his court.
During the philosopher's lifetime, the Athenians erected a statue of
brass as a mark of the estimation in which they held him.

Zeno lived to the extreme age of ninety-eight, when, as he was leaving,
his school one day, he fell and broke his finger. The consciousness of
his infirmity afflicted him so much, that he exclaimed, "Why am I thus
importuned? Earth, I obey thy summons!" and immediately going home, he
put his affairs in order, and strangled himself. In person, Zeno was
tall and slender; his brow was furrowed with thought; and this, with
his long and close application to study, gave a tinge of severity to his
aspect. Although of a feeble constitution, he preserved his health by
his great abstemiousness, his diet consisting of figs, bread, and honey.
He was plain and modest in his dress and habits and very frugal in all
his expenses, showing the same respect for the poor as for the rich, and
conversing as freely with the slave as he did with the king. Independent
in spirit, he broke off all communication with his friend Democharis,
because that person had offered to procure a gratuity for Zeno from
the King of Macedon. His system appears to have been little more than a
collection from his various lessons of whatever was most in unison with
his peculiar habit of thought, and an attempt to reconcile and combine
in one system the various elements of different theories. Taking from
so many schools various portions of their doctrine, he seems to have
provoked the antagonism of many of his contemporaries, and several
philosophers of learning and ability employed their eloquence to
diminish the growing influence of the new school. Towards the close of
his life, he found a powerful antagonist in the person of Epicurus, and
the Epicureans and Stoics have since treated each other as rival sects.
Zeno's school appears to have been generally a resort for the poor, and
it was a common joke amongst his adversaries, that poverty was the charm
for which he was indebted for his scholars. The list of his disciples,
however, contains the names of some very rich and powerful men, who
may have regarded the Stoic theory as a powerful counter-agent to the
growing effeminacy of the age. After Zeno's death, the Athenians, at
the request of Antigonus, erected a monument to his memory, in the

From the particulars which have been related concerning Zeno, it will
not be difficult to perceive what kind of influence his circumstances
and character must have had upon his philosophical system. If his
doctrines be diligently compared with the history of his life, it will
appear, that having attended upon many eminent preceptors, and being
intimately conversant with their opinions, he compiled, out of their
various tenets, an heterogeneous system, on the credit of which he
assumed to himself the title of the founder of a new sect.... The
dialectic arts which Zeno learned in the school of Diodorus Chronus,
he did not fail to apply to the support of his own system, and to
communicate to bis followers. As to the moral doctrine of the Cynic
sect, to which Zeno strictly adhered to the last, there can be no doubt
that he transferred it almost without alloy, into his own school. In
morals, the principal difference between the Cynics and the Stoics was,
that the former disdained the cultivation of nature, the latter affected
to rise above it. On the subject of physics, Zeno received his doctrine
through the channel of the Platonic school, as will fully appear from
a careful comparison of their respective systems. The Stoic philosophy,
being in this manner of heterogeneous origin, it necessarily partook of
the several systems of which it was composed. The idle quibbles, jejune
reasonings, and imposing sophisms, which so justly exposed the schools
of the dialectic philosophers to ridicule, found their way into the
Porch, where much time was wasted, and much ingenuity thrown away, upon
questions of no importance. Cicero censures the Stoics for encouraging
in their schools a barren kind of disputation, and employing themselves
in determining trifling questions, in which the disputants can have no
interest, and which, at the close, leave them neither wiser nor better.
And that this censure, is not, as some modern advocates for Stoicism
have maintained, a mere calumny, but grounded upon fact, sufficiently
appears from what is said by the ancients, particularly by Sextus
Empiricus, concerning the logic of the Stoics. Seneca, who was himself
a Stoic, candidly acknowledges this. It may, perhaps, be thought
surprising that philosophers, who affected so much gravity and
wisdom, should condescend to such trifling occupations. But it must be
considered, that, at this time, a fondness for subtle disputations so
generally prevailed in Greece, that excellence in the arts of reasoning
and sophistry was a sure path to fame. The Stoics, with whom vanity
was unquestionably a ruling passion, were ambitious for this kind of
reputation. Hence it was that they engaged with so much vehemence
in verbal contests, and that they largely contributed towards the
confusion, instead of the improvement, of science, by substituting vague
and ill-defined terms in the room of accurate conceptions. The moral
part of the Stoical philosophy, in like manner, partook of the defects
of its origin. It may be as justly objected against the Stoics as the
Cynics, that they assumed an artificial severity of manners, and a tone
of virtue above the condition of a man. Their doctrine of moral wisdom
was an ostentatious display of words, in which little regard was paid
to nature and reason. It professed to raise human nature to a degree of
perfection before unknown; but its real effect was, merely to amuse
the ear, and captivate the fancy, with fictions which can never
be realized.... The extravagancies and absurdities of the Stoical
philosophy may also be in some measure ascribed to the vehement contests
which subsisted between Zeno and the Academics on the one hand, and
between him and Epicurus on the other. For, not only did these disputes
give rise to many of the dogmas of Stoicism, but led Zeno and his
followers, in the warmth of controversy, to drive their arguments to the
utmost extremity, and to express themselves with much greater confidence
than they would probably otherwise have done. This is, perhaps, the
true reason why so many extravagant notions are ascribed to the Stoics,
particularly upon the subject of morals. Whilst Epicurus taught his
followers to seek happiness in tranquillity, Zeno imagined his wise man,
not only free from all sense of pleasure, but void of all passions and
emotions, and capable of being happy in the midst of torture. That he
might avoid the position taken by the Epicureans, he had recourse to
a moral institution, which bore indeed the lofty front of wisdom, but
which was elevated far above the condition and powers of human nature.
The natural disposition of Zeno, and his manner of life, had, moreover,
no inconsiderable influence in fixing the peculiar character of his
philosophy. By nature severe and morose, and constitutionally inclined
to reserve and melancholy, he early cherished this habit by submitting
to the austere ami rigid discipline of the Cynics. Those qualities
which he conceived to be meritorious in himself, and which he found to
conciliate the admiration of mankind, he naturally transferred to his
imaginary character of a wise or perfect man.

In order to form an accurate judgment concerning the doctrine of
the Stoics, besides a careful attention to the particulars already
enumerated, it will be necessary to guard with the utmost caution
against two errors, into which several writers have fallen. Great care
should be taken, in the first place, not to judge of the doctrine of the
Stoics from words and sentiments, detached from the general system, but
to consider them as they stand, related to the whole train of premises
and conclusions.... The second caution is, not to confound the genuine
doctrines of Zeno, and other ancient fathers of this sect, with the
glosses of the later Stoics.... Out of the many proofs of this change,
which might be adduced, we shall select one, which is the more worthy
of notice, as it has occasioned many disputes among the learned. The
doctrine we mean is that concerning fate. This doctrine, according to
Zeno and Chrysippus, implies an eternal and immutable series of causes
and effects, within which all events are included, and to which the
Deity himself is subject: whereas, the later Stoics, changing the term
fate into the Providence of God, discoursed with great plausibility
on this subject, but still in reality retained the ancient doctrine of
universal fate. From this example, a judgment may be formed concerning
the necessity of using some caution, in appealing to the writings of
Seneca, Antoninus, and Epictetus, as authorities, in determining what
were the original doctrines of the Stoic philosophers.

Concerning philosophy in general, the doctrine of the Stoics was,
that wisdom consists in the knowledge of things divine and human; that
philosophy is such an exercise of the mind as produces wisdom; that
in this exercise consists the nature of virtue; and consequently,
that virtue is a term of extensive meaning, comprehending the right
employment of the mind in reasoning, in the study of nature, and in
morals. The wisdom of the Stoics is either progressive, through several
stages; or perfect, when every weakness if subdued, and every error
corrected, without the possibility of a relapse into folly, or vice, or
of being again enslaved by any passion, or afflicted by any calamity.
With Socrates and the Cynics, Zeno represented virtue as the only true
wisdom; but being disposed to extend the pursuits of his wise man into
the regions of speculation and science, he gave, after his usual manner,
a new signification to an old term, and comprehended the exercise of the
understanding in the search of truth, as well as the government of
the appetites and passions, under the general term, virtue. The great
importance of the united exercise of the intellectual and active
powers of the mind, are thus beautifully asserted by the philosophical
emperor:--"Let every one endeavor so to think and act, that his
contemplative and active faculties may at the same time be going on
towards perfection. His clear conceptions, and certain knowledge, will
then produce within him an entire confidence in himself, unperceived
perhaps by others, though not affectedly concealed, which will give a
simplicity and dignity to his character; for he will at all times be
able to judge, concerning the several objects which come before him,
what is their real nature, what place they hold in the universe, how
long they are by nature fitted to last, of what materials they are
composed, by whom they may be possessed, and who is able to bestow them,
or take them away." The sum of the definitions and rules given by
the Stoics concerning logic is this:--Logic is either rhetorical or
dialectic. Rhetorical logic is the art of reasoning and discoursing on
those subjects which require a diffuse kind of declamation. Dialectic is
the art of close argumentation in the form of disputation or dialogue.
The former resembles an open, the latter, a closed hand.--Rhetoric is
of three kinds, deliberative, judicial, and demonstrative. The dialectic
art is the instrument of knowledge, as it enables a man to distinguish
truth from error, and certainty from bare probability. This art
considers things as expressed by words, and words themselves. External
things are perceived by a certain impression, made either upon some
parts of the brain, or upon the percipient faculty, which may be called
an image, since it is impressed upon the mind, like the image of a seal
upon wax.

This image is commonly accompanied with a belief of the reality of the
thing perceived; but not necessarily, since it does not accompany
every image, but those only which are not attended with any evidence
of deception. Where only the image is perceived by itself, the thing
is apprehensible; where it is acknowledged and approved as the image
of some real thing, the impression is called apprehension, because the
object is apprehended by the mind as a body is grasped by the hand. Such
apprehension, if it will bear the examination of reason, is knowledge;
if it is not examined, it is mere opinion; if it will not bear this
examination, it is misapprehension. The senses, corrected by reason,
give a faithful report; not by affording a perfect apprehension of
the entire nature of things, but by leaving no room to doubt of their
reality. Nature has furnished us with these apprehensions, as the
elements of knowledge, whence further conceptions are raised in the
mind, and a way is opened for the investigations of reason. Some
images are sensible, or received immediately through the senses; others
rational, which are perceived only in the mind. These latter are called
notions, or ideas. Some images are probable, to which the mind assents
without hesitation; others improbable, to which it does not readily
assent; and others doubtful, where it is not entirely perceived, whether
they are true or false. True images are those which arise from things
really existing, and agree with them. False images, or phantasms, are
immediately derived from no real object. Images are apprehended
by immediate perception, through the senses, as when we see a man;
consequentially, by likeness, as when from a portrait we apprehend the
original; by composition, as when, by compounding a horse and man, we
acquire the image of a Centaur; by augmentation, as in the image of a
Cyclops; or by diminution, as in that of a pigmy. Judgment is employed
either in determining, concerning particular things, or concerning
general propositions. In judging of things we make use of some one of
our senses, as a common criterion or measure of apprehension, by which
we judge whether a thing is, or is not; or whether or not it exists
with certain properties; or we apply to the thing, concerning which a
judgment is to be formed, some artificial measure, as a balance, a rule,
etc., or we call in other peculiar measures to determine things not
perceptible by the senses. In judging of general propositions, we make
use of our pre-conceptions, or universal principles, as _criteria_, or
measures of judgment. The first impressions from the senses produce in
the mind an involuntary emotion; but a wise man afterwards deliberately
examines them, that he may know whether they be true or false, and
assents to, or rejects them, as the evidence which offers itself to
his understanding appears sufficient or insufficient. This assent, or
approbation, will indeed be as necessarily given, or withheld, according
to the ultimate state of the proofs which are adduced, as the scales of
a balance will sink or rise, according to the weights which are placed
upon them; but while the vulgar give immediate credit to the reports of
the senses, wise men suspend their assent, till they have deliberately
examined the nature of things, and carefully estimated the weight
of evidence. The mind of man is originally like a blank leaf, wholly
without characters, but capable of receiving any. The impressions which
are made upon it, by means of the senses, remain in the memory, after
the objects which occasioned them are removed; a succession of these
continued impressions, made by similar, objects, produces experience;
and hence arises permanent notions, opinions, and knowledge. Even
universal principles are originally formed by experience from sensible
images. All men agree in their common notions or preconceptions;
disputes only arise concerning the application of these to particular

Let us pass on to the Stoical doctrine concerning nature. According to
Zeno and his followers, there existed from eternity a dark and confused
chaos, in which was contained the first principles of all future beings.
This chaos being at length arranged, and emerging into variable forms,
became the world, as it now subsists. The world, or nature, is that
whole which comprehends all things, and of which all thing are parts
and members. The universe, though one whole, contains two principles,
distinct from elements, one passive, the other active. The passive
principle is pure matter without qualities; the active principle
is reason, or God. This is the fundamental doctrine of the Stoics
concerning nature....The Stoical system teaches, that both the active
and passive principles in nature are corporeal, since whatever acts or
suffers must be so. The efficient cause, or God, is pure ether, or fire,
inhabiting the exterior surface of the heavens, where every thing
which is divine is placed. This ethereal substance, of divine fire,
comprehends all the vital principles by which individual beings are
necessarily produced, and contains the forms of things, which from the
highest regions of the universe, are diffused through every other part
of nature. Seneca, indeed, calls God incorporeal reason; but by this
term he can only mean to distinguish the divine ethereal substance from
gross bodies; for, according to the Stoics, whatever has a substantial
existence is corporeal; nothing is incorporeal, except that infinite
vacuum which surrounds the universe; even mind and voice are corporeal,
and, in like manner, Deity. Matter, or the passive principle, in the
Stoical system, is destitute of all qualities, but ready to receive any
form, inactive, and without motion, unless moved by some external cause.
The con =trary principle, or the ethereal operative fire, being active,
and capable of producing all things from matter, with consummate
skill, according to the forms which it contains, although in its nature
corporeal, considered in opposition to gross and sluggish matter, or
to the elements, is said to be immaterial and spiritual. For want of
carefully attending to the preceding distinction, some writers have been
so far imposed upon, by the bold innovations of the Stoics in the use of
terms, as to inter from the appellations which they sometimes apply
to the Deity, that they conceived him to be strictly and properly
incorporeal. The truth appears to be, that, as they sometimes spoke of
the soul of man, a portion of the Divinity, as an exceedingly rare and
subtle body, and sometimes as a warm or fiery spirit,* so they spoke
of the Deity as corporeal, considered as distinct from the incorporeal
vacuum, or infinite space; but as spiritual, considered in opposition to
gross and inactive matter. They taught, indeed, that God is underived,
incorruptible, and eternal, possessed of intelligence, good and perfect,
the efficient cause of all the peculiar qualities or forms of things;
and the constant preserver and governor of the world; and they described
the Deity under many noble images, and in the most elevated language.
The hymn of Cleanthes, in particular, is justly admired for the grandeur
of its sentiments, and the sublimity of its diction. But if in reading
these descriptions, we hastily associate with them modern conceptions
of Deity, and neglect to recur to the leading principles of the sect, we
shall be led into fundamental misapprehensions of the true doctrine of
Stoicism. For according to this sect. God and matter are alike underived
and eternal, and God is the former of the universe in no other sense
than as he has been the necessary efficient cause, by which motion and
form have been impressed upon matter.

What notions the Stoics entertained of God sufficiently appears from
the single opinion of his finite nature; an opinion which necessarily
followed from the notion that he is only a part of a spherical, and
therefore a finite universe. On the doctrine of divine providence, which
was one of the chief points upon which the Stoics disputed with the
Epicureans, much is written, and with great strength and elegance, by
Seneca, Epictetus, and other later Stoics. But we are not to judge of
the genuine and original doctrine of this sect from the discourses of
writers who had probably corrupted their language on this subject, by
visiting the Christian school. The only way to form an accurate judgment
of their opinions concerning Providence, is to compare their popular
language upon this head with their general system, and explain the
former consistently with the fundamental principles of the latter.

If this be fairly done, it will appear that the agency of Deity is,
according to the Stoics, nothing more than the active motion of a
celestial ether, or fire, possessed of intelligence, which at first gave
form to the shapeless mass of gross matter, and being always essentially
united to the visible world by the same necessary agency, preserves its
order and harmony.

The Stoic idea of Providence is, not that of a being, wholly independent
of matter, freely directing and governing all things, but that of a
necessary chain of causes and effects, arising from the action of a
power, which is itself a part of the existence which it regulates, and
which equally with that existence is subject to the immutable law of
necessity. Providence, in the Stoic creed, is only another name for
absolute necessity, or fate, to which God and matter, or the universe,
which consists of both, is immutably subject. The rational, efficient,
and active principle in nature, the Stoics called by various names:
Nature, fate, Jupiter, God.

"What is nature," says Seneca, "but God; the divine reason, inherent in
the whole universe, and in all its parts? or you may call him, if you
please, the author of all things."

And again: "Whatever appellations imply celestial power and energy, may
be justly applied to God; his names may properly be as numerous as his
offices," The term nature, when it is at all distinguished in the Stoic
system from God, denotes not a separate agent, but that order of things
which is necessarily produced by his perpetual agency. Since the active
principle of nature is comprehended within the world, and with matter
makes one whole, it necessarily follows that God penetrates, pervades,
and animates matter, and the things which are formed from it; or, in
other words, that he is the soul of the universe.

The universe is, according to Zeno and his followers, "a sentient
and animated being." Nor was this a new tenet, but, in some sort, the
doctrine of all antiquity. Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and after these,
Zeno, taking it for granted that there is no real existence which is
not corporeal, conceived nature to be one whole, consisting of a subtle
ether and gross matter, the former the active, the latter the passive
principle, as essentially united as the soul and body of man that is,
they supposed God, with respect to nature, to be, not a co-existing, but
an informing principle.

Concerning the second principle in the universe, matter, and concerning
the visible world, the doctrine of the Stoics is briefly this:--Matter
is the first essence of all things, destitute of, but capable of
receiving, qualities. Considered universally, it is an eternal whole,
which neither increases nor decreases. Considérée! with respect to
its parts, it is capable of increase or diminution, of collision and
separation, and is perpetually changing. Bodies are continually tending
towards dissolution; matter always remains the same. Matter is not
infinite, but finite, being circumscribed by the limits of the world;
but its parts are infinitely divisible. The world is spherical in its
form; and is surrounded by an infinite vacuum. The action of the divine
nature upon matter first produced the element of moisture, and then the
other elements, fire, air, and earth, of which all bodies are composed.
Air and fire have essential levity, or tend towards the exterior surface
of the world; earth and water have essential gravity, or tend towards
the centre. All the elements are capable of reciprocal conversion; air
passing into fire, or into water; earth into air and water; but there
is this essential difference among the elements, that fire and air
have within themselves a principle of motion, while water and earth are
merely passive.... The world, including the whole of nature,
God and matter, subsisted from eternity, and will for ever subsist; but
the present regular frame of nature had a beginning, and will have
an end. The parts tend towards a dissolution, but the whole remains
immutably the same. The world is liable to destruction from the
prevalence of moisture, or of dryness; the former producing a universal
inundation, the latter a universal conflagration. These succeed each
other in nature as regularly as winter and summer. When the universal
inundation takes place, the whole surface of the earth is covered with
water, and all animal life is destroyed; after which, nature is renewed
and subsists as before, till the element of fire, becoming prevalent in
its turn, dries up all the moisture, converts every substance into its
own nature, and at last, by a universal conflagration, reduces the world
to its pristine state. At this period, all material forms are lost in
one chaotic mass: all animated nature is re-united to the Deity, and
nature again exists in its original form, as one whole, consisting of
God and matter. From this chaotic state, however, it again emerges, by
the energy of the efficient principle, and gods, and men, and all the
forms of regulated nature, are renewed, and to be dissolved and renewed
in endless succession. The above is collated from Ritter, Enfield,
and Lewes, as a specimen of one of the earlier phases of Freethought.
Freethought as then expressed had many faults and flaws, but it has
grown better every day, extending and widening its circle of utterance,
and we hope that it will continue to do so.



It is easy to mark the progress of the age by recurring to the history
of past Freethinkers. Bishops, established and dissenting, are now
repeating the parts the old Deiste played. _They_ were sadly treated for
setting the example, modern divines follow with applause.

Matthew Tindal was an example of this. He labored to establish religion
on the foundation of Reason and Nature. It was to be expected that
Christians would be pleased at efforts which would have no effect but
to strengthen its foundations. The effort was met by reprobation, and
resented as an injury. It is but a just retaliation that believers
should now have to establish in vain that evidence they once denounced.

Matthew Tindal was an English Deistical writer, who was born at
Beer-Terres, in Devonshire, 1656.--His father, it appears, was a
clergyman, who held the living of Beer-Terres, presented to him by the
University of Cambridge, in the time of the Civil Wars.--Young Matthew
was educated at Oxford, where at twenty-eight he took the degree of
LL.D. Matthew Tindal, LL. D., was early tossed about by the winds of
doctrine. First he embraced Romanism: afterwards he became a Protestant.
Then politics interested him, and he engaged in controversy on the side
of William III. He was appointed Commissioner of a Court for Trying
Foreigners. In 1693 he published an essay on the Law of Nations
When fifty-four, in 1710, he entered so vigorously into theological
controversy, arising out of Trinitarian criticism, that his marked
satire led to his books being condemned by the House of Commons, and
burnt by the hangman. He resented this indignity by a spirited attack on
the dominant priestly party in his "High Church Catechism," and he also
wrote in defence of philosophical necessity. But his most notable work
was the performance of his old age, his "Christianity as Old as the
Creation: or, the Gospel, a Republication of the Religion of Nature."
This was produced in his seventy-third year. He was attacked in Reply
by Bishop Waterland. It is generally agreed that in point of good spirit
and good temper the Bishop was far inferior to the Deist. Dr. Conyers
Middleton, says Thomas Cooper, in his brief sketch of Tindal, appeared
in defence of Tindal in a "Letter to Dr. Waterland," whom he condemned
for the shallowness of his answer to Tindal, and boldly and frankly
admitted that the Freethinker was right in asserting that the Jews
borrowed some of their ceremonies and customs from Egypt; that allegory
was, in some cases, employed in the Scriptures, where common readers
took the relation for fact; and, that the Scriptures are _not_ of
"absolute and universal inspiration." The following sentence, which will
be found in this "Letter" of Dr. Conyers Middleton, does honor to his
name:--"If religion consists in depreciating moral duties and depressing
natural reason; if the duty of it be to hate and persecute for
a different way of thinking where the best and wisest have never
agreed--then. I declare myself an Infidel, and to have no share in that
religion." Matthew Tindal died at his house in Coldbath Fields, of the
stone, 1773, aged seventy-seven. * Rysbrach, the famous statuary, took a
model of him.

     * Julian Hibbert gives 1656-7: Dr. Beard, 1556; Thomas
     Cooper, 1657, as the year of Tindal's birth. All agree that
     he died 1733--he was therefore seventy-six or seventy-seven
     at the time of his death.

Tindal opens his great work thus:--"The author makes no apology for
writing on a subject of the last importance; and which, as far as I can
find, has no where been so fully treated: he builds nothing on a thing
so uncertain as tradition, which differs in most countries; and of
which, in all countries, the bulk of mankind are incapable of judging;
but thinks he has laid down such plain and evident rules, as may
enable men of the meanest capacity, to distinguish between religion and
superstition; and has represented the former in every part so beautiful,
so amiable, and so strongly affecting, that they, who in the least
reflect, must be highly in love with it; and easily perceive, that their
duty and happiness are inseparable."

The character of the performance will be seen from a few of the
propositions he maintains:--

"That God, at all times, has given mankind sufficient means of knowing
whatever he requires of them.

"That the religion of nature consists in observing those things, which
our reason, by considering the nature of God and man, and the relation
we stand in to him, and one another, demonstrates to be our duty; and
that those things are plain; and likewise what they are.

"That the perfection and happiness of all rational beings, supreme
as well as subordinate, consist in living up to the dictates of their

"That God requires nothing for his own sake; no, not the worship we are
to render him, nor the faith we are to have in him.

"That the not adhering to those notions reason dictates, concerning
the nature of God, has been the occasion of all superstition, and those
innumerable mischiefs, that mankind, on the account of religion, have
done either to themselves, or one another.

"The bulk of mankind, by their reason, must be able to distinguish
between religion and superstition; otherwise they can never extricate
themselves from that superstition they chance to be educated in."

Tindal deals with the question of the obscurity of Revelation in these
terms, sufficiently salient to alarm the very proper divines of that

"Had God, from time to time, spoken to all mankind in their several
languages, and his words had miraculously conveyed the same ideas to
all persons; yet he could not speak more plainly than he has done by the
things themselves, and the relation which reason shows there is
between them. Nay, since it is impossible in any book, or books, that
a particular rule could be given for every case, we must even then have
had recourse to the light of nature to teach us our duty in most cases;
especially considering the numberless circumstances which attend us, and
which, perpetually varying, may make the same actions, according as men
are differently affected by them, either good or bad. And I may add,
that most of the particular rules laid down in the gospel for our
direction, are spoken after such figurative a manner, that except we
judge of their meaning, not merely by the letter, but by what the law
of nature antecedently declares to be our duty, they are apt to lead
us wrong. And if precepts relating to morality are delivered after an
obscure manner, when they might have been delivered otherwise; what
reason can you assign, for its being so, but that infinite wisdom meant
to refer us to that law for the explaining them? Sufficient instances
of this nature I shall give you hereafter, though I must own, I
cannot carry this point so far as a learned divine, who represents the
Scriptures more obscure (which one would think impossible) than even the
fathers. He tells us, 'that a certain author (viz., Flaccus Illyricus)
has furnished us with one-and-fifty reasons for the obscurity of the
Scriptures;' adding, 'I think I may truly say that the writing of the
prophets and apostles abound with tropes, and metaphors, types, and
allegories, parables, and dark speeches; and are as much, nay, much more
unintelligible in many places, than the writings of the ancients.' It
is well this author, who talks of people being stark Bible-mad, stopped
here; and did not with a celebrated wit * cry, 'The truly illuminated
books are the darkest of all.' The writer above mentioned supposes it
impossible, that God's will should be fully revealed by books; 'except,'
says he, 'it might be said perhaps without a figure, that even the world
itself could not contain the books which should be written.' But with
submission to this reverend person, I cannot help thinking, but that
(such is the divine goodness) God's will is so clearly and fully
manifested in the Book of Nature, that he who runs may read it."

     * Dean Swift--"Tale of a Tub."

In the next extract we make, we find Tindal quoting two striking
passages from Lord Shaftesbury, followed by an acute vindication of the
integrity of the Law of Nature over the Scriptures:--

"Had the heathen distinguished themselves by creeds made out of spite
to one another, and mutually persecuted each other about the worship of
their gods, they would soon have made the number of their votaries as
few as the gods they worshipped; but we don't find (except in Egypt,
that mother-land of superstition) that they ever quarrelled about their
gods; though their gods sometimes quarrelled, and fought about their
votaries. By the universal liberty that was allowed by the ancients,
'Matters (as a noble author observes) were so balanced, that reason had
fair play; learning and science flourished; wonderful was the harmony
and temper which arose from these contrarieties. Thus superstition and
enthusiasm were mildly treated; and being let alone, they never raged
to that degree as to occasion bloodshed, wars, persecutions, and
devastations; but a new sort of policy has made us leap the bounds of
natural humanity, and out of a supernatural charity, has taught us the
way of plaguing one another most devoutly. It has raised an antipathy,
that no temporal interest could ever do, and entailed on us a mutual
hatred to all eternity. And savage zeal, with meek and pious semblance,
works dreadful massacre; and for heaven's sake (horrid pretence) makes
desolate the earth.' And further, Shaftesbury observes, 'The Jupiter
of Strangers, was, among the ancients, one of the solemn characters
of divinity, the peculiar attribute of the supreme deity; benign to
mankind, and recommending universal love, mutual kindness, and benignity
between the remotest and most unlike of the human race. Such was the
ancient heathen charity and pious duty towards the whole of mankind;
both those of different nations and different worship. But, good God!
how different a character do bigots give us of the Deity, making him an
unjust, cruel, and inconsistent Being; requiring all men to judge for
themselves, and act according to their consciences; and yet authorizing
some among them to judge for others, and to punish them for not acting
according to the consciences of those judges, though ever so much
against their own. These bigots thought they were authorized to punish
all those that differ with them in their religious worship, as God's
enemies; but had they considered that God alone could discern men's
hearts, and alone discover whether any, by conscientiously offering him
a wrong worship, could become his enemies; and that infinite wisdom best
knew how to proportion the punishment to the fault, as well as infinite
power how to inflict it; they would, surely, have left it to God to
judge for himself, in a cause which immediately related to himself; and
where they were not so much as parties concerned, and as likely to be
mistaken as those they would punish. Can one, without horror, think
of men's breaking through all the rules of doing as they would be done
unto, in order to set themselves up for standards of truth for God as
well as man? Do not these impious wretches suppose, that God is not able
to judge for himself; at least, not able to execute his own judgment?
And that, therefore, he has recourse, forsooth, to their superior
knowledge or power; and they are to revenge his injuries, root out his
enemies, and restore his lost honor, though with the destruction of the
better part of mankind? But, to do the propagators of these blasphemous
notions justice, they do not throw this load of scandal on the law of
Nature, or so much as pretend from thence to authorize their execrable
principles; but endeavor to support them by traditional religion;
especially by mis-interpreted texts from the Old Testament; and thereby
make, not only natural and revealed religion, but the Old and New
Testament (the latter of which requires doing good both to Jews and
Gentiles) contradict each other. But to return; if what the light of
Nature teaches us concerning the divine perfections, when duly attended
to, is not only sufficient to hinder us from falling into superstition
of any kind whatever; but, as I have already shown, demonstrates what
God, from his infinite wisdom and goodness, can, or cannot command; how
is it possible that the law of Nature and grace can differ? How can
it be conceived, that God's laws, whether internally, or externally
revealed, are not at all times the same, when the author of them is, and
has been immutably the same forever?'"

The following passage exhibits the judicious mixture of authority and
argument for which our author is remarkable. The quotation is a good
illustration of Tindal's best manner. He is replying to Dr. Samuel

"It cannot be imputed to any defect in the light of nature, that the
pagan world ran into idolatry, but to their being entirely governed by
priests, who pretended communication with their gods, and to have
thence their revelations, which they imposed on the credulous as divine
oracles: whereas the business of the Christian dispensation was to
destroy all those traditional revelations; and restore, free from all
idolatry, the true primitive, and natural religion, implanted in mankind
from the creation. The Dr. (Clark) however, seems afraid, lest he had
allowed too much to the light of nature, in relation to the discovery of
our duty both to God and man; and not left room for revelation to make
any addition; he therefore supposes, 'there are some duties, which
nature hints at only in general.'--But, if we cannot, without highly
reflecting on the wisdom and goodness of God, suppose that he has not,
at all times, given the whole rational creation a plain rule for their
conduct, in relation to those duties they owe to God, themselves, and
one another; must we not suppose reason, and religion (that rule of all
other rules) inseparable; so that no rational creature can be ignorant
of it, who attends to the dictates of his own mind; I mean, as far as
it is necessary for him to know it! An ignorant peasant may know what is
sufficient for him, without knowing as much as the learned rector of St.
James's. Though the Dr. says, 'the knowledge of the law of nature is,
in fact, by no means universal;' yet he asserts, that 'man is plainly in
his own nature an accountable creature;' which supposes that the light
of nature plainly, and undeniably, teaches him that law, for breach of
which he is naturally accountable; and did not the Dr. believe this
law to be universal, he could not infer a future judgment from the
conscience _all_ men have of their actions, or the judgment they pass on
them in their own minds whereby 'They that have not any law, are a law
unto themselves; their consciences bearing witness, and their thoughts
accusing, or excusing one another;' which is supposing but one law,
whether that law be written on paper, or in men's hearts only; and that
all men by the judgment they pass on their own actions, are conscious
of this law. And, the apostle Paul, though quoted by the Dr., is so far
from favoring his hypothesis of any invincible ignorance, even in the
wisest and best of the philosophers, that he, by saying, The Gentiles,
that have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law,
makes the law of nature and grace to be the same: and supposes the
reason why they were to be punished, was their sinning against light and
knowledge. That which may be known of God was manifest in them, and when
they knew God, they glorified him not as God. And they were likewise
guilty of abominable corruptions, not ignorantly, but knowing the
judgment of God, that they who do such things are worthy of death.

"Had the Dr. but considered this self-evident proposition, that there
can be no transgression where there is no law; and that an unknown law
is the same as no law; and consequently, that all mankind, at all times,
must be capable of knowing all (whether more or less) that God requires,
it would have prevented his endeavoring to prove, that, till the gospel
dispensation, mankind were entirely, and unavoidably ignorant of their
duty in several important points; and thus charging the light of
nature with undeniable defects. I think it no compliment to external
revelation, though the Dr. designed it as the highest, to say, it
prevailed, when the light of nature was, as he supposes, in a manner
extinct; since then an irrational religion might as easily obtain, as
a rational one. The Dr., to prove that revelation has supplied the
insufficiency, and undeniable defects of the light of nature, refers us
to Phil., iv., 1, which he introduces after this pompous manner:--'Let
any man of an honest and sincere mind consider, whether that practical
doctrine has not, even in itself, the greatest marks of a divine
original, wherein whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things
are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if
there be any virtue, it there be anything praiseworthy; all these, and
these only, are earnestly recommended to man's practice.' I would ask
the Dr., how he can know what these are, which are thus alone earnestly
recommended to man's practice; or, why they have, in themselves, the
greatest marks of a divine original; but from the light of nature? Nay,
how can the Dr. know there are defects in the light of nature, but from
that light itself? which supposes this light is all we have to trust
to; and consequently, all the Dr. has been doing, on pretence of
promoting the honor of revelation, is introducing universal scepticism.
And I am concerned, and grieved, to see a man, who had so great a share
of the light of nature, employing it to expose that light, of which
before he had given the highest commendation; and which can have no
other effect, than to weaken even his own demonstration, drawn from that
light, for the being of a God. I shall mention but one text more,
which, had not the Dr. thought it highly to his purpose, for showing the
insufficiency of the light of nature, he would not have ushered it in
after this most solemn manner:--'When men have put themselves into this
temper and frame of mind, let them try if they can any longer reject the
evidence of the gospel. If any man will do his will, he shall know
of the doctrine; whether it be of God.' Is it not strange, to see so
judicious a divine write after such a manner, as if he thought the
best way to support the dignity of revelation, was to derogate from the
immutable and eternal law of nature? and while he is depressing it,
extol revelation for those very things it borrows from that law? in
which, though he asserts there are undeniable defects, yet he owns that
God governs all his own actions by it, and expects that all men should
so govern theirs.

"But, I find the Dr.'s own brother, the Dean of Sa-rum, is entirely of
my mind, as to those texts the Dr. quotes--viz., Rom. ii., 14, and
Phil, iv., 8. As to the first--viz., Rom. ii., 14, he says, 'The apostle
supposes, that the moral law is founded in the nature and reason of
things: that every man is endued with such powers ana faculties of mind,
as render him capable of seeing, and taking notice of this law; and also
with such a sense and judgment of the reasonableness and fitness of
conforming his actions to it, that he cannot but in his own mind acquit
himself when he does so; and condemn himself when he does otherwise.'
And as to the second--viz., Phil, iv., 8, where the same apostle
recommends the practice of Virtue, upon the fore-mentioned principles
of comeliness and reputation.--'These principles,' says he, 'if duly
attended to, were sufficient to instruct men in the whole of their duty
towards themselves, and towards each other. And they would also have
taught them their duty towards God, their Creator and Governor, if they
had diligently pursued them. For according as the apostle expresses it,
Rom. i., 20, the invisible things of God from the creation of the world
are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his
eternal power and Godhead. The same fitness and decency that appears
in men's regular behavior towards each other, appears also in their
behavior towards God. And this, likewise, is founded in the nature and
reason of things; and is what the circumstances and condition they are
in do absolutely require. Thus we see therein moral virtue, or good
consists, and what the obligation to it is from its own native beauty
and excellency.'"

One more example of Tindal's style will show how skilfully and cogently
he forced, the great authorities of his day to bear Witness to the truth
of his leading proposition, the natural antiquity of all the reasonable
precepts of the Bible:--

"The most accurate Dr. Barrow gives this character of the Christian
religion, 'That its precepts are no other than such as physicians
prescribe for the health of our bodies; as politicians would allow to be
needful for the peace of the state; as Epicurean philosophers recommend
for the tranquillity of our minds, and pleasures of our lives; such
as reason dictates, and daily shows conducive to our welfare in all
respects; which consequently, were there no law enacting them, we should
in wisdom choose to observe, and voluntarily impose them on ourselves;
confessing them to be fit matters of law, and most advantageous and
requisite to the good, general and particular, of mankind.'

"That great and good man Dr. Tillotson says, 'That all the precepts
of Christianity are reasonable and wise, requiring such duties as are
suitable to the light of nature, and do approve themselves to the best
reason of mankind; such as have their foundation in the nature of God,
and are an imitation of the divine excellencies; such as tend to the
perfection of human nature, and to raise the minds of men to the highest
pitch of goodness and virtue. They command nothing that is unnecessary,
they omit nothing that may tend to the glory of God, or the welfare of
men, nor do they restrain us in anything, but what is contrary to the
regular inclinations of nature, or to our reason, and true interest;
they forbid us nothing but what is base and unworthy to serve our humors
and passions, to make ourselves fools and beasts. In a word, nothing but
what tends to our private harm, or prejudice, or to public disorder and

"The late Dean of Canterbury, in a sermon preached in defence of
Christianity, says, * 'What can be a more powerful incentive to
obedience, than for a rational creature clearly to discern the equity,
the necessity, the benefit, the decency and beauty of every action
he is called to do, and thence to be duly sensible how gracious a
master he serves; one that is so far from loading him with fruitless,
arbitrary, and tyrannical impositions, that each command abstracted
from his command who issues it, is able to recommend itself; and nothing
required but what every wise man would choose of his accord: and cannot,
without being his, own enemy, wish to be exempted from?' And this
character of Christianity he makes to be essential to its being from
God, and therefore must make it the same with natural religion, which
has this character impressed on it.

"'There was none of the doctrines of our Saviour (says the late
Archbishop of York) ** calculated for the gratification of men's
idle curiosities, the busying and amusing them with airy and useless
speculations; much less were they intended for an exercise of our
credulity, or a trial how far we could bring our reason to submit to our
faith; but as on the one hand they were plain and simple, and such as
by their agreeable-ness to the rational faculties of mankind, did highly
recommend themselves to our belief; so on the other hand they had an
immediate relation to practice, and were the general principles and
foundation, on which all human and divine virtues were naturally to be

     * Boyle's Lect., p. 26,

     ** Sermon before the Queen on Christmas Day, 1724.

"Does not every one see, that if the religion of nature had been put
instead of Christianity, these descriptions would have exactly agreed
with it? The judicious Dr. Scot affirms, 'God never imposes laws on us
_pro imperio_, as arbitrary tests and trials of our obedience. The great
design of them (says he,) is to do us good, and direct our actions to
our own interest. This, if we firmly believe, will infinitely encourage
our obedience; for when I am sure God commands me nothing but what my
own health, ease, and happiness requires; and that every law of his is
both a necessary and sovereign prescription against the diseases of
my nature, and he could not prescribe less than he has, without being
defective in his care of my recovery and happiness; with what prudence
and modesty can I grudge to obey him?'

"Nay, the most considerate men, even among the Papists, do not scruple
to maintain there's nothing in religion but what is moral. The divines
of Port Royal for instance, say, 'All the precepts, and all the
mysteries that are expressed in so many different ways in the holy
volumes, do all centre in this one commandment of loving God with all
our heart, and in loving our neighbors as ourselves: for the Scripture
(it is St. Austin who says it) forbids but one only thing, which is
concupiscence, or the love of the creature; as it commands but one only
thing, which is charity, and the love of God. Upon this double precept
is founded the whole system of the Christian religion; and it is unto
this, say they, according to the expression of Jesus Christ, that all
the ancient law and the prophets have reference; and we may add also,
all the mysteries, and all the precepts of the new law; for love, says
St. Paul, is the fulfilling of the law.' And these divines likewise cite
a remarkable passage of St. Austin on this subject, viz., 'He that knows
how to love God, and to regulate his life by that love, knows all that
the Scripture propounds to be known.' And might add the authority of
a greater man, and a Papist too, * who says, 'Religion adds nothing
to natural probity, but the consolation of doing that for love and
obedience to our Heavenly Father, which reason itself requires us do in
favor of virtue.'"

     * Archbishop of Cambray: Lettres sur la Religion,
     p. 258, a Paris.

Tindal was a solid, rather than a brilliant writer: but he perfectly
knew what he was about; and the work from which we quote, was well
conceived and carefully executed. His ground was skilfully chosen, his
arguments were placed on an eminence where his friends could see them,
and where his enemies could not assail them. Dr. Leland, in his view of
Deistical writers, is quite in a rage with him, because he discredits
Book Revelation, to set up Nature's Revelation. His real offence
was, that he did prove that Nature was the only source of truth and
reason--the criterion by which even Divine Revelation must be judged.
He carried men back to the gospel of nature, by the side of which the
gospel of the Jewish fishermen did not show to advantage. Tindal did
put something in the place of that which he was supposed desirous
of removing. How unwilling Christians of that day were to admit of
improvement in religion, is shown by the number of attacks Tindal's work
sustained. The Bishop of London published a "Second Pastoral Letter"
against it; Dr. Thomas Burnet "confuted" it; Mr. Law "fully" answered
it; Dr. Stebbing "obviated the principal objections" in it. "The same
learned and judicious writer," observes Leland, a second time entered
the lists, in "answer to the fourteenth chapter of a book, entitled
'Christianity as Old as the Creation.'" Mr. Balgny issued a "Second
Letter to a Deist," occasioned by Tindal's work. Mr. Anthony O'Key gave
a short view of the whole controversy. Dr. Foreter, Dr. John Conybeare,
"particularly engaged public attention" as Dr. Tindal's antagonists.
Mr. Simon Brown produced a "solid and excellent" answer; and Dr. Leland,
with many blushes, tells us that he himself issued in Dublin, in 1773,
two volumes, taking a wider compass than the other answers.

"Christianity as Old as the Creation" is a work which Freethinkers may
yet consult with advantage, as a repertory of authorities no longer
accessible to the readers of this generation. What these authorities
allege will be found to have intrinsic value, to be indeed lasting
testimonies in favor of Rationalism. In passing in review the noble
truths, Tindal insists that it is impossible not to wonder at the
policy, or rather want of policy displayed by Christians. Tindal is an
author whom they might be proud of, if they were really in love with
reason. Tindal's opponents have shown how instinctively the children of
faith distrust the truths of Nature. After all the "refutations," and
"confutations" and answers made to the great Deist, Tin-dal's work
has maintained its ground, and the truths he so ably and spiritedly
vindicated, have spread wider since and taken deeper root.

J. W.


Lord Brougham has rendered service not only to "Letters," but also to
Freethought, by his admirable "Lives," incomparably the best we have,
of Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, Gibbon, etc. From Lord Brougham we learn
(whose life in this sketch we follow) that David Hume, related to the
Earl of Hume's family, was born in Edinburgh, in April, 1711. Refusing
to be made a lawyer, he was sent, in 1734, to a mercantile house in
Bristol. The "desk" not suiting the embryo historian's genius, we find
him in 1737 at La Flèche, in Anjou, writing his still-born "Treatise on
Human Nature;" which in 1742, in separate Essays, attracted some notice.
Keeper and companion to the Marquis of Annandale in 1745, private
secretary to General St. Clair in 1747, he visited on embassy the courts
of Vienna and Turin. While at Turin he completed his "Inquiry Concerning
the Human Understanding," the "Treatise on Human Nature" in a new form.
Returned to Scotland, he published his "Political Discourses" in 1752,
and the same year his "Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals."
The "Essays, Moral and Metaphysical," are the form in which we now read
these speculations. In 1752, Hume became librarian to the Faculty of
Advocates. In 1754 he published the first volume of his "History of
England." In 1755, appeared his "Natural History of Religion." In
1763 he accompanied the British ambassador to Paris. In 1765 he became
_charge d'affaires_.

In 1766 he was appointed Under Secretary of State under Marshal Conway.
In 1775 he was seized with a mortal disease, which he bore without any
abatement of his cheerfulness; and on the 25th of August, "_le bon_
David," as he was styled in Paris, died, to use his own words,
having "no enemies--except all the Whigs, all the Tories, and all the
Christians"--which was something to his honor, and a testimony of the
usefulness of his life.

David Hume was the first writer who gave historical distinction to Great
Britain. Lord John Russell remarked in a speech at Bristol, in October,
1854:--"We have no other 'History of England' than Hume's....
When a young man of eighteen asks for a 'History of England,' there is
no resource but to give him Hume." Hume was the author of the modern
doctrines of politics and political economy, which now rule the world of
science. He was "the sagacious unfolder of truth, the accurate and bold
discoverer of popular error." More than a sceptic, he was an Atheist.
Such is Lord Brougham's judgment of him.

Hume carried Freethought into high places. In originality of thought,
grace of style, and logical ability, he distanced all rival writers on
religion in his time, and what is of no small importance, his life was
as blameless as his intellect was unapproachable.

Our first extract from his writings is a felicitous statement of
the _pro_ and _con_., on the questions of polygamous and single,

"A man, in conjoining himself to a woman, is bound to her according to
the terms of his engagement. In begetting children, he is bound, by all
the ties of nature and humanity, to provide for their subsistence and
education. When he has performed these two parts of duty, no one
can reproach him with injustice or injury. And as the terms of his
engagement, as well as the methods of subsisting his offspring, may
be various, it is mere superstition to imagine that marriage can be
entirely uniform, and will admit only of one mode or form. Did not human
laws restrain the natural liberty of men, every particular marriage
would be as different as contracts or bargains of any other kind
or species. As circumstances vary, and the laws propose different
advantages, we find, that in different times and places, they impose
different conditions on this important contract. In Tonquin, it is usual
for the sailors, when the ship comes into the harbor, to marry for
the season; and, notwithstanding this precarious engagement, they are
assured, it is said, of the strictest fidelity to their bed, as well as
in the whole management of their affairs, from those temporary spouses.
I cannot, at present, recollect my authorities; but I have somewhere
read, that the Republic of Athens, having lost many of its citizens by
war and pestilence, allowed every man to marry two wives, in order the
sooner to repair the waste which had been made by these calamities.
The poet Euripides happened to be coupled to two noisy vixens, who so
plagued him with their jealousies and quarrels, that he became ever
after a professed _woman hater_; and is the only theatrical writer,
perhaps the only poet, that ever entertained an aversion to the sex....
The advocates for polygamy may recommend it as the only effectual remedy
for the disorders of love, and the only expedient for freeing men from
that slavery to the females which the natural violence of our passions
has imposed upon us. By this means alone can we regain our right of
sovereignty and, sating our appetite, re-establish the authority of
reason in our minds, and, of consequence, our own authority in our
families. Man, like a weak sovereign, being unable to support himself
against the wiles and intrigues of his subjects, must play one faction
against another, and become absolute by the mutual jealousy of
the females. To divide and to govern is an universal maxim; and
by neglecting it, the Europeans undergo a more grievous and a more
ignominious slavery than the Turks or Persians, who are subjected indeed
to a sovereign that lies at a distance from them, but in their domestic
affairs rules with an uncontrollable sway. On the other hand, it may be
urged with better reason, that this sovereignty of the male is a real
usurpation, and destroys that nearness of rank, not to say equality,
which nature has established between the sexes. We are, by nature, their
lovers, their friends, their patrons. Would we willingly exchange such
endearing appellations for the barbarous title of master and tyrant? In
what capacity shall we gain by this inhuman proceeding? As lovers, or
as husbands? The _lover_ is totally annihilated; and courtship, the most
agreeable scene in life, can no longer have place where women have
not the free disposal of themselves, but are bought and sold like the
meanest animal. The _husband_ is as little a gainer, having found
the admirable secret of extinguishing every part of love, except its
jealousy. No rose without its thorn; but he must be a foolish wretch
indeed, that throws away the rose and preserves only the thorn. But the
Asiatic manners are as destructive to friendship as to love. Jealousy
excludes men from all intimacies and familiarities with each other. No
one dares bring his friend to his house or table, lest he bring a lover
to his numerous wives. Hence, all over the East, each family is as much
separate from another as if they were so many distinct kingdoms. No
wonder then that Solomon, living like an Eastern prince, with his seven
hundred wives, and three hundred concubines, without one friend, could
write so pathetically concerning the vanity of the world. Had he tried
the secret of one wife or mistress, a few friends, and a great many
companions, he might have found lite somewhat more agreeable. Destroy
love and friendship, what remains in the world worth accepting?"

Next we quote his famous statement of the principle of _utility_ in

"There has been a controversy started of late much better worth
examination, concerning the general foundation of morals; whether
they be derived from reason or from sentiment; whether we attain
the knowledge of them by a chain of argument and induction, or by an
immediate feeling and finer internal sense; whether, like all sound
judgment of truth and falsehood, they should be the name to every
rational intelligent being; or whether like the perception of beauty
and deformity, they be founded entirely on the particular fabric and
constitution of the human species. The ancient philosophers, though they
often affirm that virtue is nothing but conformity to reason, yet, in
general, seem to consider morals as deriving their existence from taste
and sentiment. On the other hand, our modern inquirers, though they
also talk much of the beauty of virtue, and, deformity of vice, yet have
commonly endeavored to account for these distinctions by metaphysical
reasonings, and by deductions from the most abstract principles of
the understanding. Such confusion reigned in these subjects, that an
opposition of the greatest consequence could prevail between one system
and another, and even in the parts of almost each individual system: and
yet nobody, till very lately, was ever sensible of it. The elegant Lord
Shaftesbury, who first gave occasion to remark this distinction, and
who, in general, adhered to the principles of the ancients, is not,
himself, entirely free from the same confusion.... In all determinations
of morality, the circumstance of public utility, is ever principally in
view; and wherever disputes arise, either in philosophy or common life,
concerning the bounds of duty, the question cannot, by any means, be
decided with greater certainty, than by ascertaining, on any side,
the true interests of mankind. If any false opinion, embraced from
appearances, has been found to prevail; as soon as farther experience
and sounder reasoning have given us juster notions of human affairs,
we retract our first sentiment, and adjust anew the boundaries of moral
good and evil. Giving alms to common beggars is naturally praised;
because it seems to carry relief to the distressed and indigent;
but when we observe the encouragement thence arising to idleness and
debauchery, we regard that species of charity rather as a weakness than
a virtue. Tyrannicide, or the assassination of usurpers and oppressive
princes, was highly extolled in ancient times; because it both freed
mankind from many of these monsters, and seemed to keep the others
in awe whom the sword or poniard could not reach. But history and
experience having since convinced us, that this practice increases the
jealousy and cruelty of princes, a Timoleon and a Brutus, though treated
with indulgence on account of the prejudices of their times, are now
considered as very improper models for imitation. Liberality in princes
is regarded as a mark of beneficence. But when it occurs, that the
homely bread of the honest and industrious is often thereby converted
into delicious cakes for the idle and the prodigal, we soon retract our
heedless praises. The regrets of a prince, for having lost a day, were
noble and generous; but had he intended to have spent it in acts of
generosity to his greedy courtiers, it was better lost than misemployed
after that manner.... That justice is useful to society, and
consequently that _part_ of its merit, at least, must arise from that
consideration, it would be a superfluous undertaking to prove. That
public utility is the _sole_ origin of justice, that reflections on the
beneficial consequences of this virtue are the _sole_ foundation of its
merit; this proposition being more curious and important, will better
deserve our examination and inquiry. Let us suppose that nature has
bestowed on the human race such profuse abundance of all external
conveniences, that, without any uncertainty in the event, without any
care or industry on our part, every individual finds himself fully
provided with whatever his most voracious appetite can want, or
luxurious imagination wish or desire. His natural beauty, we shall
suppose, surpasses all acquired ornaments; the perpetual clemency of the
seasons renders useless all clothes or covering: the raw herbage affords
him the most delicious fare; the clear fountain, the richest beverage.
No laborious occupation required: no tillage: no navigation. Music,
poetry, and contemplation, form his sole business: conversation, mirth,
and friendship his sole amusement. It seems evident, that, in such
a happy state, every other social virtue would flourish, and receive
tenfold increase; but the cautious, jealous virtue of justice, would
never once have been dreamed of. For what purpose make a partition of
goods, where every one has already more than enough? Why give rise
to property, where there cannot possibly be any injury? Why call this
object _mine_, when, upon seizing of it by another, I need but stretch
out my hand to possess myself of what is equally valuable? Justice, in
that case, being totally useless, would be an idle ceremonial, and could
never possibly have place in the catalogue of virtues. We see, even in
the present necessitous condition of mankind, that, wherever any benefit
is bestowed by nature in an unlimited abundance, we leave it always in
common among the whole human race, and make no subdivisions of right and
property. Water and air, though the most necessary of all objects, are
not challenged as the property of individuals; nor can any man commit
injustice by the most lavish use and enjoyment of these blessings. In
fertile extensive countries, with few inhabitants, land is regarded
on the same footing. And no topic is so much insisted on by those
who defend the liberty of the seas, as the unexhausted use of them in
navigation. Were the advantages procured by navigation as inexhaustible,
these reasoners had never had any adversaries to refute; nor had any
claims ever been advanced of a separate, exclusive dominion over
the ocean.... Suppose a society to fall into such want of all common
necessaries, that the utmost frugality and industry cannot preserve the
greater number from perishing, and the whole from extreme misery. It
will readily, I believe, be admitted that the strict laws of justice are
suspended in such a pressing emergence, and give place to the stronger
motives of necessity and self-preservation. Is it any crime, after a
shipwreck, to seize whatever means or instrument of safety one can lay
hold of, without regard to former limitations of properly? Or if a city
besieged were perishing with hunger; can we imagine that men will see
any means of preservation before them, and lose their lives from a
scrupulous regard to what, in other situations, would be the rules of
equity and justice? The use and tendency of that virtue is to procure
happiness and security, by preserving order in society. But where the
society is ready to perish from extreme necessity, no greater evil can
be dreaded from violence and injustice; and every man may now provide
for himself by all the means which prudence can dictate, or humanity
permit. The public, even in less urgent necessities, opens granaries
without the consent of proprietors; as justly supposing, that the
authority of magistracy may, consistent with equity, extend so far. But
were any number of men to assemble, without the tie of laws or civil
jurisdiction; would an equal partition of bread in a famine, though
effected by power and even violence, be regarded as criminal or
injurious? Suppose, likewise, that it should be a virtuous man's fate
to fall into the society of ruffians, remote from the protection of
laws and government; what conduct must he embrace in that melancholy
situation? He sees such a desperate rapaciousness prevail; such a
disregard to equity, such contempt of order, such stupid blindness
to future consequences, as must immediately have the most tragical
conclusion, and must terminate in destruction to the greater number, and
in a total dissolution of society to the rest. He, meanwhile, can have
no other expedient than to arm himself, to whomever the sword he seizes,
or the buckler may belong: to make provision of all means of defence and
security: and his particular regard to justice being no longer of use
to his own safety or that of others, he must consult the dictates of
self-preservation alone, without concern for those who no longer merit
his care and attention.... But perhaps the difficulty of accounting for
these effects of usefulness, or its contrary, has kept philosophers from
admitting them into their systems of ethics, and has induced them to
employ any other principle, in explaining the origin of moral good and
evil. But it is no just reason for rejecting any principle, confirmed
by experience, that we cannot give a satisfactory account of its origin,
nor are able to resolve it into other more general principles. And if we
would employ a little thought on the present subject, we need be at
no loss to account for the influence of utility, and deduce it from
principles the most known and avowed in human nature....
Usefulness is agreeable, and engages our approbation. This is a matter
of fact, confirmed by daily observation. But useful! For what? For
somebody's interest, surely! Whose interest then? Not our own only; for
our approbation frequently extends farther. It must therefore be the
interest of those who are served by the character or action approved of;
and these, we may conclude, however remote, are not totally indifferent
to us. By opening up this principle, we shall discover one great source
of moral distinctions."

The origin and mischiefs of Theistic influences is the subject of the
following passage:--

"It must necessarily, indeed, be allowed, that in order to carry men's
attention beyond the present course of things, or lead them into any
inference concerning invisible intelligent power, they must be actuated
by some passion which prompts their thought and reflection, some motive
which urges their first inquiry. But what passion shall we here have
recourse to, for explaining an effect of such mighty consequence? Not
speculative curiosity, surely, or the pure love of truth. That motive
is too refined for such gross apprehensions; and would lead men into
inquiries concerning the frame of nature, a subject too large and
comprehensive for their narrow capacities. No passions, therefore, can
be supposed to work upon such barbarians, but the ordinary affections
of human life; the anxious concern for happiness, the dread of future
misery, the terror of death, the thirst of revenge, the appetite for
food and other necessaries. Agitated by hopes and fears of this nature,
especially the latter, men scrutinize, with a trembling curiosity, the
course of future causes, and examine the various and contrary events
of human life. And in this disordered scene, with eyes still more
disordered and astonished, they see the first obscure traces of
divinity.... We hang in perpetual suspense between life and death,
health and sickness, plenty and want, which are distributed amongst
the human species by secret and unknown causes, whose operation is oft
unexpected, and always unaccountable. These _unknown causes_, then,
become the constant object of hope and fear; and while the passions are
kept in perpetual alarm by an anxious expectation of the events, the
imagination is equally employed in forming ideas of those powers on
which we have so entire a dependence. Could men anatomize nature,
according to the most probable, at least the most intelligible
philosophy, they would find that these causes are nothing but the
particular fabric and structure of the minute parts of their own bodies
and of external objects; and that by a regular and constant machinery,
all the events are produced, about which they are so much concerned....
There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like
themselves, and to transfer to every object those qualities with
which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately
conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and,
by a natural propensity, it not corrected by experience and reflection,
ascribe malice or good will to everything that hurts or pleases us.
Hence the frequency and beauty of the _prosopopoia_ in poetry; where
trees, mountains, and streams are personified, and the inanimate parts
of nature acquire sentiment and passion. And though these poetical
figures and expressions gain not on the belief; they may serve, at
least, to prove a certain tendency in the imagination, without which
they could neither be beautiful nor natural. Nor is a river-god or
hamadryad always taken for a mere poetical or imaginary personage, but
may sometimes enter into the real creed of the ignorant vulgar; while
each grove or field is represented as possessed of a particular genius
or invisible power which inhabits and protects, it. Nay, philosophers
cannot entirely exempt themselves flora this natural frailty; but have
oft ascribed to inanimate matter the horror of a _vacuum_, sympathies,
antipathies, and other affections of human nature. The absurdity is
not less, while we cast our eyes upwards; and, transferring, as is too
usual, human passions and infirmities to the Deity, represent him as
jealous and revengeful, capricious and partial, and, in short, a
wicked and foolish man in every respect but his superior power and
authority.--No wonder, then, that mankind, being placed in such an
absolute ignorance of causes, and being at the same time so anxious
concerning their future fortune, should immediately acknowledge a
dependence on invisible powers, possessed of sentiment and intelligence.
The _unknown causes_ which continually employ their thought, appearing
always in the same aspect, are all apprehended to be of the same kind or
species. Nor is it long before we ascribe to them thought, and reason,
and passion, and sometimes even the limbs and figures of men, in
order to bring them nearer to a resemblance with ourselves.... It is
remarkable, that the principles of religion have a kind of flux and
reflux in the human mind, and that men have a natural tendency to rise
from idolatry to Theism, and to sink again from Theism into idolatry.
The vulgar--that is, indeed, all mankind, a few excepted--being ignorant
and uninstructed, never elevate their contemplation to the heavens, or
penetrate by their disquisitions into the secret structure of vegetable
or animal bodies; so far as, to discover a Supreme Mind or Original
Providence, which bestowed order on every part of nature. They consider
these admirable works in a more confined and selfish view; and finding
their own happiness and misery to, depend on the secret influence, and
unforeseen concurrence of external objects, they regard, with perpetual
attention, the _unknown causes_ which govern all these natural events,
and distribute pleasure and pain, good and ill, by their powerful but
silent operation. The unknown causes are still appealed to on every
emergency; and in this general appearance or confused image, are the
perpetual objects of human hopes and fears, wishes and apprehensions.
By degrees, the active imagination of men, uneasy in this abstract
conception of objects, about which it is incessantly employed, begins to
render them more particular, and to clothe them in shapes more suitable
to its natural comprehension. It represents them to be sensible,
intelligent beings like mankind; actuated by love and hatred, and
flexible by gifts and entreaties, by prayers and sacrifices. Hence the
origin of religion: and hence the origin of idolatry or polytheism."

More has been written by theologians in endeavors to refute the
following passage, than has ever been called forth by the wit of man
before by the same number of words:--

"A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and
unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a
miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument
from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable
that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in
the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless
it be that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature,
and there is required a violation of these laws, or, in other words,
a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever
happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man,
seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden; because such a kind
of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently
observed to happen. But it is a miracle that a dead man should come to
life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There
must, therefore, be an uniform experience against every miraculous
event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as an
uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and
full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any
miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered
credible, but by an opposite proof which is superior. The plain
consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention,)
'That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the
testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous
than the fact which it endeavors to establish. And even in that case
there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives
us an assurance suitable to that degree of force which remains after
deducting the inferior.' When any one tells me that he saw a dead man
restored to life, I immediately consider with myself whether it be more
probable that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that
the fact which he relates should really have happened. I weigh the one
miracle against the other; and according to the superiority which
I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater
miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than
the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend
to command my belief or opinion.... There is not to be found, in all
history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such
unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us
against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to
place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such
credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to
lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same
time attesting facts, performed in such a public manner, and in so
celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable;
all which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance of the
testimony of men.... One of the best attested miracles in all profane
history, is that which Tacitus reports of Vespasian, who cured a blind
man in Alexandria by means of his spittle, and a lame man by the mere
touch of his foot; in obedience to a vision of the god Seraphis, who had
enjoined them to have recourse to the emperor or for these miraculous
cures. The story may be seen in that fine historian; where every
circumstance seems to add weight to the testimony, and might be
displayed at large with all the force of argument and eloquence, if
any one were now concerned to enforce the evidence of that exploded and
idolatrous superstition. The gravity, solidity, age, and probity of so
great an emperor, who through the whole course of his life, conversed
in a familiar manner, with his friends and courtiers, and never affected
those extraordinary airs of divinity assumed by Alexander and Demetrius.
The historian, a contemporary writer, noted for candor and veracity,
and, withal, the greatest and most, penetrating genius, perhaps of all
antiquity; and so free from any tendency to credulity, that he even lies
under the contrary imputation of Atheism and profaneness. The persons,
from whose authority he related the miracle of established character
for judgment and veracity, as we may-well presume; eye-witnesses of
the fact, and confirming their testimony, after the Flavian family was
despoiled of the empire, and could no longer give any reward as the
price of a lie. _Utrumque, qui interfuere, nunc quoque memorant,
postquam nullum mendacio pretium_. To which, if we add the public nature
of the facts, as related, it will appear that no evidence can well be
supposed stronger for so gross and so palpable a falsehood."

These extracts will give some idea of the grace, and power, and
penetration of Hume. The society he kept, the abilities with which he
was justly credited, the reputation his works deservedly won for him,
made him a man of mark and influence in his day. Read by the learned,
courted by statesmen, he taught gentlemen liberality, and governments
toleration. The influence of Hume, silent and inappreciable to the
multitude, has been of the utmost importance to the nation. His works
have been studied by philosophers, politicians, and prelates. The
writings of no Freethinker, except Voltaire, have maintained their
ground with continually increasing reputation. Oddly enough, none
of Hume's works were popular when they first appeared. In fact, his
"Treatise on Human Nature" he had to reprint in the form of Essays, five
years after its first publication. It then, for the first time, began to
be bought; but not to any great extent. Five years later, he again
made it re-appear, under the form of an "Inquiry Concerning the Human
Understanding." It was not until this third publication that he "began
to perceive symptoms of its coming into notice." The world has since
made up for its negligence, by perpetual comment and solid appreciation.
A king among thinkers, the clergy have in the provinces of politics and
philosophical speculation to acknowledge allegiance to him, however they
may rebel against his theological heresies.

J. W.


It was only a very narrow accident which prevented Dr. Burnet, an
ultra Freethinker in the Church of England, from becoming Archbishop of
Canterbury at the death of Tillotson. A combination of clergymen were
prepared to immolate themselves providing Burnet could be overthrown.
They succeeded. Thomas Burnet kept the Charter House, in London, and
his conscience--happier, perhaps, in this than if he had enjoyed the
ecclesiastical preferment which King William seemed so anxious to give
him. Amongst the clergy, Dr. Burnet was, with the single exception of
Dean Swift, the greatest Freethinker of whom we can boast, who held an
influential position in the Church. This position is sometimes claimed
for Bishop Berkeley, a man of vast talents, a sincere Christian,
although an innovator in philosophy.

Thomas Burnet was born in the year 1635. At the age of forty-five,
he published the work, in Latin, with which his name is generally
associated, "The Sacred Theory of the Earth: containing an account of
the Original of the Earth, and of all the general changes which it
has already undergone, or is to undergo, till the consummation of all
Things." This book gives us an idea, formed by its author, of the origin
of the world, and is remarkable as one of the first grand prophecies of
geology; although of little value to us, it produced an impression upon
the age by depicting the various strata of the mountainous regions, and
comparing them in different countries, eliminating ideas of the nature
of the vast changes we see in the universe, tracing the rise of most of
the phenomena from the two elements, fire and water. Burnet thought that
at one time the whole of matter was in a fluid state, revolving round
a central sun, until the heavier particles sunk into the middle, and
formed the stony strata which supports the earth, over which the lighter
liquids coalesced until the heat of the sun effectually separated water
from land. This is the foundation of a scheme which is elaborated in
a poetic style, abounding in eloquent descriptions; in fact it is a
philosophic prose poem of almost unalloyed beauty. In it there is some
resemblance to the measured sentences of Shaftesbury, although unequal
to that fine writer in soundness of judgment or practical usefulness. In
1691 an English translation was published.

By far the most interesting work to us of Burnet's (also written in
Latin) is "Archæologia Philosophical or, an account of the Opinion of
the Ancients on various Philosophical Problems." This work created great
opposition by its free remarks on the Mosaic dispensation, although
the writer in this, as in the case of his posthumous works, strongly
protested against their being translated into the English language, as
he was justly afraid of their influence on the minds of the laity, and
from his high official station, with the influence his vast learning and
his connection with Tillotson, and the Court gave him, he was, no
doubt, apprehensive that the really religious champions of the Church of
England would denounce him when exposed to the temptation of High Church
preferment. Fragments of those works were translated by the clergy to
prove to the unlearned what a dangerous character Thomas Burnet was.
Charles Blount, writing to Gildon, says, "I have, according to my
promise, sent you herewith the seventh and eighth chapters, as also the
appendix, of the great and learned Dr. Burnet's book, published this
winter in Latin, and by him dedicated to our most gracious Sovereign,
King William..... As for the piece itself, I think it is one of the
most ingenious I have ever read, and full of the most acute as well
as learned observations. Nor can I find anything worthy an objection
against him, as some of the censorious part of the world pretend; who
would have you believe it a mere burlesque upon Moses, and destructive
to the notion of original sin, wherefore by consequence (say they)
there could be no necessity of a Redemption, which, however, I think no
necessary consequence; but, for my part, either the great veneration
I have for the doctor's extraordinary endowments, or else my own
ignorance, has so far bribed me to his interests that I can, by no
means, allow of any of those unjust reflections the wholesale merchants
of credulity, as well as their unthinking retailers, make against him.
It is true, in the seventh chapter he seems to prove that many parts of
the Mosaic history of the creation appear inconsistent with reason,
and in the eighth chapter the same appears no less inconsistent with
philosophy; wherefore he concludes (as many fathers of the Church have
done before him) that the whole rather seems to have been but a pious
allegory." Dr. Burnet took the meaning of much of the Bible to be but
a "pious allegory," and, as such, he strove to popularize it with the
clergy. We do not believe that he intended to enlighten any but the
clergy. He foresaw the "flood of fierce democracy," and, like other
able men with vested rights in the ignorance of the people, he strove to
temporize, to put off still further the day of Christianity's downfall.
We place him in this biographical niche not because he dashed into the
fray, like bold Hobbes or chivalrous Woolston, and took part in the
battle of priestcraft because he thought it was right, but rather
because he was a Freethinker in disguise, longing for Episcopal honors;
yet, by one false step (the publishing of "Archæologia," ) lost an
archbishopric, and gave the authority of a great name to struggling
opinion. His accession to our ranks was a brilliant accident. He died,
at the age of eighty years, in 1715. After his demise, two works were
translated (and published,) both expressive of his liberal views. The
first, "On Christian Faith and Duties," throwing overboard the whole of
the speculative tenets of the Bible, and giving practical effect to the
morals taught in the New Testament, without striving to refute, or even
apparently to disbelieve, their authority, but advising the clergy to
treat them as a dead letter. The other posthumous treatise was, "On the
State of the Dead and the Reviving," which shadows forth a scheme of
Deism, inasmuch as Burnet here flatly contradicts the usual ideas of
"hell torments" or "hell fire," while asserting the necessity of those
"who have not been as good in this life as they ought to be" undergoing
a probationary purification before they attained supreme happiness, yet,
eventually, every human being would inhabit a heavenly elysium, where
perennial pleasure would reign, and sorrow be forever unknown.

Those sentiments indicate a high degree of liberal culture, although
they do not sufficiently embody our ideal of one of the great
Freethinkers of the past. We should have preferred Burnet if he had
systematically opposed the Church as Toland or Tindal, or if he had
boldly entered the breach like William Whiston, whose singular talents
and faithful honesty separated him alike from the Church, Dissent, and
Deism, and left him shipwrecked on the world an able yet a visionary
reformer. With more ability than Chubb, he resembled him in his weak
policy; he chose to cut his sneers in slices, and served them up for
a scholarly party rather than hazard the indignation of the ignorant
amongst the clergy. We are, however, certain that although Thomas Burnet
was deficient in many points where he might have done effective service,
yet we honor him for the boldness with which he faced the scholars with
his Latin works. He threw an apple of discord amongst their ranks which
has served, in a constantly increasing manner, to divide and distract
their attention. The result has been a constant internecine war in the
Church, by which Freethought has largely profited.

We conclude our sketch of Dr. Burnet by quoting some extracts from the
seventh chapter of the "Archæologia Philosophica," as translated
by Charles Blount in the "Oracles of Reason," concerning Moses's
description of Paradise and the original of things:--

"We have (says Burnet) hitherto made our inquiries into the originals
of things, as well as after a true knowledge of Paradise amongst the
ancients; yet still with reference to sacred writ, where it gave us any
manner of light on the subject, but think it altogether unnecessary
to define the place or situation of Paradise, since in respect to the
theory of the earth, it is much the same thing where you place it,
providing it be not on our modern earth. Now, if you inquire among the
ancient fathers where the situation of it was, either they will have it
to be none at all, or else obscure and remote from our understanding;
some of them, indeed, term it an intelligible Paradise, but confined
to no one particular place; whilst others, at the same time make it a
sensible one, and here it is they first divided about it, etc.... Now,
the history of Paradise, according to Moses, is this:--When God had, in
six days, finished the creation of the world, the seventh day he rested
from all manner of work. And here Moses relates particularly each day's
operations: but for the story of mankind, as well male as female, of
which he makes a particular treatise by himself. Wherefore, omitting the
rest at present, let us consider the Mosaic doctrine upon those three
subjects, viz., Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden, together with those
things which are interwoven within them. As to the first man, Adam,
Moses says he was formed not out of stones or dragon's teeth, as other
Cosmists have feigned concerning their men, but out of the dust or
clay of the earth, and when his body was formed, 'God _blew into his
nostrils_ the breath of life, and man was made a living soul.'

"But after another manner, and of another matter, was the woman
built--viz., with one of Adam's small bones, for as Adam lay asleep, God
took away one of his _ribs_, and out of that made Eve. So much for
the forming of the first man and woman by the literal text. Moses has
likewise given us a large account of their first habitation. He says
that God made them in a certain famous garden in the East, and gave it
to them as a farm to cultivate and to inhabit, which garden was a most
delightful place, watered with four several fountains or rivers, planted
with trees of every kind.... Amongst the trees, in the midst of the
garden, stood two more remarkable than the rest; one was called the tree
of life, the other the tree of death, or of the knowledge of good and
evil.... God, upon pain of death, prohibits Adam and Eve from tasting
the fruit of this tree; but it happened that Eve sitting solitary under
this tree, without her husband, there came to her a serpent or adder,
which (though I know not by what means or power) civilly accosted the
woman (if we may judge of the thing by the event) in these words, or to
this purpose:-- *

     * We extract this portion not for its merits of buffoonery,
     but to show the real state of mind which could actuate a
     dignitary of the Church of England in writing it, as the
     eighth chapter is by far the most philosophical, but we wish
     to show Burnet's real sentiments.

"Serpent.--All hail, most fair one, what are you doing so solitary and
serious under this shade?

"Eve.--I am contemplating the beauty of this tree.

"Serp.--'Tis truly an agreeable sight, but much pleasanter are the
fruits thereof. Have you tasted them, my lady?

"Eve.--I have not, because God has forbidden us to eat of this tree.

"Serp.--What do I hear! What is that God that envies his creatures the
innocent delights of nature? Nothing is sweeter, nothing more wholesome
than this fruit: why, then, should he forbid it, unless in jest?

"Eve.--But he has forbid it us on pain of death.

"Serp.--Undoubtedly you mistake his meaning. This tree has nothing that
would prove fatal to you, but rather something divine, and above the
common order of nature.

"Eve.--I can give you no answer; but will go to my husband, and then do
as he thinks fit.

"Serp.--Why should you trouble your husband over such a trifle! Use your
own judgment.

"Eve.--Let me see--had I best use it or not? What 'can be more
beautiful than this apple? How sweetly it smells! But it may be it
tastes ill.

"Serp.--Believe me, it is a bit worthy to be eaten by the angels
themselves; do but try, and if it tastes ill, throw it away.

"Eve.--Well, I'll try. It has, indeed, a most agreeable flavor. Give me
another that I may carry it to my husband.

"Serp.--Very well thought on; here's another for you: go to your husband
with it. Farewell, happy young woman. In the meantime I'll go my ways;
let her take care of the rest.

"Accordingly, Eve gave the apple to the too uxorious Adam, when
immediately after their eating of it, they became both (I don't know
how) ashamed of their nakedness, and sewing fig leaves together, making
themselves a sort of aprons, etc. After these transactions, God, in the
evening, descended into the garden, upon which our first parents fled
to hide themselves in the thickest of the trees, but in vain, for God
called out, 'Adam, where art thou?' When he, trembling, appeared before
God Almighty, and said, Lord, when I heard thee in this garden, I was
ashamed because of my nakedness, and hid myself amongst the most shady
parts of the thicket. Who told thee, says God, that thou wast naked?
Have you eaten of the forbidden fruit? That woman thou gavest me brought
it; 'twas she that made me eat of it. You have, says God, finely ordered
your business, you and your wife. Here, you woman, what is this that you
have done? Alas! for me, says Adam, thy serpent gave me the apple, and I
did eat of it.

"This apple shall cost you dear, replied God, and not only you, but your
posterity, and the whole race of mankind. Moreover, for this crime, I
will curse and spoil the heavens, the earth, and the whole fabric
of nature. But thou, in the first place, vile beast, shall bear the
punishment of thy craftiness and malice. Hereafter shall thou go
creeping on thy belly, and instead of eating apples, shall lick the dust
of the earth. As for you, Mrs. Curious, who so much love delicacies, in
sorrow-shall you bring forth your children. You shall be subject to
your husband, and shall never depart from his side unless having first
obtained leave. Lastly, as for you, Adam, because you have hearkened
more to your wife than to me, with the sweat of your brow shall you
obtain both food for her and her children. You shall not gather fruits
which, as heretofore, grew of themselves, but shall reap the fruits
of the earth with labor and trouble. May the earth be, for thy sake,
accursed--hereafter grow barren. May she produce thistles, thorns,
tares, with other hurtful and unprofitable herbs, and when thou hast
here led a troublesome, laborious life, dust thou art, to dust shalt
thou return......

"Great is the force of custom and a preconceived opinion over human
minds. Wherefore, these short observations of the first originals of men
or things, which we receive from Moses, are embraced without the least
examination of them. But had we read the same doctrine in a Greek
philosopher, or in a Rabbinical or Mahometan doctor, we should have
stopped at every sentence with our mind full of objections and scruples.
Now, this difference does not arise from the nature of the thing itself,
but from the great opinion we have of the authority of the writer 'as
being divinely inspired.' The author here defines his ideas in reference
to fabulous writings, after which he proceeds in his inquiry. 'But
out of what matter the first of mankind, whether, male or female, was
composed, is not so easily known. If God had a mind to make a woman
start from one of Adam's ribs, it is true it seems to be a matter not
very proper; but, however, out of wood, stone, or any other being God
can make a woman; and here, by the bye, the curious ask whether this rib
was useless to Adam, and beyond the number requisite in a complete
body. If not, when it was taken away, Adam would be a maimed person, and
robbed of a part of himself that was necessary. I say necessary, for
as much, as I suppose, that in the fabric of a human body nothing is
superfluous, and that no one bone can be taken away without endangering
the whole, or rendering it, in some measure, imperfect. But it, on the
other side, you say this rib was really useless to Adam, and might be
spared, so that you make him to have only twelve ribs on one side and
thirteen on the other, they will reply that this is like a monster,
as much as if the first man had been created with three feet, or three
hands, or had had more eyes, or other members, than the use of a human
body requires. But in the beginning we cannot but suppose that all
things were made with all imaginable exactness.

"For my part, I do not pretend to decide this dispute, but what more
perplexes me is, how, out of one rib, the whole mass of a woman's body
could be built? For a rib does not, perhaps, equal the thousandth part
of an entire body. If you answer that the rest of the matter was taken
from elsewhere, certainly, then, Eve might much more truly be said to
have been formed out of that borrowed matter, whatever it was, than out
of Adam's rib. I know that the Rabbinical doctors solve this business
quite another way, for they say the first man had two bodies, the one
male, the other female, who were joined together, and that God having
cloven them asunder, gave one side to Adam for a wife. Plato has, in his
'Symposium,' something very like this story, concerning his first man,
Anoroginus, who was afterwards divided into two parts, male and female.
Lastly, others conjecture that Moses gave out this original of woman to
the end that he might inspire a mutual love between the two sexes, as
parts of one and the same whole, so as more effectually to recommend his
own institution of marriage.... But leaving this subject, I will hasten
to something else.

"Now, the second article treats of God's, garden in Eden, watered with
four rivers arising from the same spring.... Those rivers are, by Moses,
called Pishon, Gishon, Hiddekal, and Perath, which the ancient authors
interpret by Ganges, Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates. Nor do I truly think
without some reason, for Moses seems to have proposed nothing more than
the bringing four of the most celebrated rivers of the whole earth to
the watering of his garden. Ah! but, say you, these four rivers do not
spring from the same source, or come from the same place; 'tis true, nor
any other four rivers that are named by the interpreters. Wherefore
this objection will everywhere hold good, as well against the ancient
as modern writers.--But although you should reduce these rivers to only
two, as some do, to Tigris and Euphrates, yet neither have these two
rivers the same fountain-head, but this is really and truly an evasion,
instead of an explanation, to reduce, contrary to the history of Moses,
a greater number of rivers to a smaller, only that they may the more
conveniently be reduced to the same spring; for these are the words of
Moses, 'But there comes a river out of Eden to water the garden, and
from thence it divides itself into four branches, the name of the first
is Pishon,' etc., whereby it is apparent that either in the exit or in
the entrance of the garden there were four rivers, and that these four
rivers did one and all proceed from the same fountain-head in Eden. Now,
pray tell me in what part of the earth is this country of Eden, where
four rivers arise from one and the same spring? But do not go about to
say that only two came from that fountain of Eden, and that the other
two arose from the Tigris or the Euphrates, where they split near the
sea, and make, as it were, a bifrontic figure, since this does by no
means answer the words of Moses. Besides, he mentions in the first place
Pishon and Gishon, and afterwards Tigris and Euphrates as lesser rivers;
whereas you, on the contrary, will have those to be derived from these
last as rivers of an inferior order, which is a manifest distorting of
the historical account. But to end all these difficulties concerning
the channels of the rivers which watered Paradise, you will, perhaps, at
last say, that the springs, as well as the courses of rivers, have been
changed by the universal deluge: and that we cannot now be certain
where it was they burst over the earth, and what countries they passed
through. For my part I am much of your opinion, providing you confess
there happened in the deluge such a disruption of the earth as we
suppose there did. But from only an inundation of waters such a change
could never happen. Besides, what geography will you have Moses to
describe these rivers, ante-diluvian or post-diluvian'?--If the latter,
there has happened no considerable alteration of the earth since the
time of Moses and the flood. If the former, you then render Moses's
description of the earth totally superfluous and unuseful to discover
the situation of Paradise. Lastly, it is hard to conceive that any
rivers, whether these or others, can have subsisted ever since the first
beginning of the world; whether you have regard to their water or their
channels. The channels of rivers are made by daily attrition; for if
they had been made as ditches and furrows are, by earth dug out and
heaped on each side, there would certainly have been seen everywhere
great banks of earth. But we plainly see that this is only fortuitous;
forasmuch as they often run through plains, and the river banks are no
more than level with the adjacent fields; besides, whence could there be
had water at the beginning of the world to fill these channels? If you
say, that on the third day, when the great bed of the ocean was made,
the smaller channels of the rivers were also: and as the greatest
part of the waters of the abyss fell into the gulf of the seas, so the
remaining part descended into these other channels, and therewith formed
the primitive rivers. Admitting this, yet the waters would not only be
as salt as those of the sea, but there would be no continual springs
to nourish these rivers; insomuch as when the first stream of water had
flown off, there being no fresh supplies of water to succeed it, these
rivers would have been immediately dried up; I say because there were
no perpetual springs; for whether springs proceed from rain, or from the
sea, they could neither way have rose in so short a time; not from rain,
for it had not as yet rained; neither was it possible, that in the short
space of one day, the waters of the abyss should run down from the most
inland places to the sea, and afterwards returning through ways that
were never yet open to them, should strain themselves through the bowels
of the earth, and ascend to the heads of their rivers. But of rivers we
have said enough; let us now proceed to the rest.

"We have, in the third place, a very strange account of a serpent that
talked with Eve, and enticed her to oppose God. I must confess, we have
not yet known that this beast could ever speak, or utter any sort
of voice, beside hissing. But what shall we think Eve knew of this
business? If she had taken it for a dumb animal, the very speech of it
would have so frightened her, that she would have fled from it. If,
on the other side, the serpent had from the beginning been capable of
talking and haranguing, and only lost his speech for the crime of having
corrupted the faith of Eve, certainly Moses would have been far from
passing over in silence this sort of punishment, and only mentioning the
curse of licking the dust. Besides this, will you have the particular
species of serpents, or all the beasts in Paradise, to have been imbued
with the faculty of speaking, like the trees in Dodona's grove? If you
say all, pray what offence had the rest been guilty of, that they also
should lose the use of their tongues? If only the serpent enjoyed this
privilege, how came it about that so vile an animal (by nature the most
reverse and remote from man) should, before all his other fellow brutes,
deserve to be master of so great a favor and benefit as that of speech?

"Lastly, since all discoursing and arguing includes the use of reason,
by this very thing you make the serpent a rational creature. But
I imagine you will solve this difficulty another way; for (say the
sticklers for a literal interpretation) under the disguise of a serpent
was hid the Devil, or an evil spirit, who, using the mouth and organs
of this animal, spoke to the woman as though it were a human voice. But
what testimony or what authority have they for this? The most literal
reading of Moses, which they so closely adhere to, does not express
anything of it; for what else does he seem to say, but that he
attributes the seducing of Eve to the natural craftiness of the serpent,
and nothing else? For these are Moses's words:--'Now the serpent was
more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.'
Afterwards, continues he:--'The serpent said to the woman, yea, hath God
said,' etc.--But besides, had Eve heard an animal, by nature dumb, speak
through the means of some evil spirit, she would instantly have
fled with horror from the monster.--When, on the contrary, she very
familiarly received it; they argued very amicably together, as though
nothing new or astonishing had taken place. Again, if you say that all
this proceeded from the ignorance or weakness of a woman, it would on
the other side have been but just, that some good angels should have
succoured a poor, ignorant, weak woman; those just guardians of human
affairs would not have permitted so unequal a conflict; for what if
an evil spirit, crafty and knowing in business, had, by his subtlety,
overreached a poor, weak, and silly woman, who had not as yet, either
seen the sun rise or set, who was but newly born, and thoroughly
inexperienced. Certainly, a person who had so great a price set upon her
head, as the salvation of all mankind, might well have deserved a guard
of angels. Aye, but perhaps (you will say) the woman ought to have taken
care not to violate a law established on pain of death. 'The day you eat
of it you shall surely die,', both you and yours; this was the law. Die!
what does that mean, says the poor, innocent virgin, who as yet had not
seen anything dead, no, not so much as a flower; nor had yet with her
eyes or mind perceived the image of death--viz., sleep, or night? But
what you add concerning his posterity and their punishment, that is
not all expressed in the law. Now no laws are ever to so distorted,
especially those that are penal. The punishment of the serpent will also
afford no inconsiderable question, if the Devil transacted the whole
thing under the form of a serpent; or if he compelled the serpent to do,
or to suffer things, why did he (the serpent) pay for a crime committed
by the Devil? Moreover, as to the manner and form of the punishment
inflicted on the serpent, that from that time he should go creeping on
his belly, it is not to be explained what that meant. Hardly any one
will say, that prior to his catastrophe the serpent walked upright, like
four footed beasts; and if, from the beginning, he crept on his belly
like other snakes, it may seem ridiculous to impose on this creature as
a punishment for one single crime, a thing which, by nature, he ever had
before. But let this suffice for the woman and serpent; let us now go
on to the trees. I here understand those two trees, which stood in the
middle of the garden, the tree of life, and the tree of good and evil.
The former so called, that it would give men a very long life, although,
by what follows, we find our forefathers, prior to the flood, lived
to very great ages, independent of the tree of life. Besides, if the
longevity, or immortality of man had depended only upon one tree, or its
fruit, what if Adam had not sinned? how could his posterity, diffused
throughout the whole earth, have been able to come and gather fruit out
of this garden, or from this tree? or how could the product of one tree
have been sufficient for all mankind?"

Such is a condensed abstract of Dr. Burnet's seventh chapter of
"Archæologia." The eighth chapter equals the above in boldness; but far
exceeds it in breadth of logic and critical acumen, without, however,
appearing so iconoclastic or so vulgar. The next chapter abounds in
classical quotations, the Creation of the world and the Deluge is the
theme on which so much is advanced, at a time when such language was
greeted with the stake and the prison. We cannot calculate the effect of
Burnet's works on the clerical mind; but this we do know, that since his
day, there has progressed an internal revolution in the tenets of the
church, which, in the last generation, gave birth to the neology, now so
destructive of the internal peace of the churches. Neology has not come
from Deism, for this power assails the outworks of Christianity; while
the school of criticism is but a severe pruning knife of internal
verbiage. Although the language quoted is harsh, the arguments
common-place, which, although true, are now discarded by the educated
Freethinker; yet if for no stronger language than this men were
imprisoned only ten years ago, what must we say to the moral courage
which could publish them 150 years ago? There must surely have been
greater risks than in our day; and when a man dare hazard the highest
power of the church for the duty of publishing unpopular sentiments,
it is clearly our duty to; enshrine him as one of the guardians of that
liberty of thought, and speech, which have won for us a freedom.
we cherish and protect. Let the earth then lie lightly over the
priest-Freethinker, Thomas Burnet.

A. C.


     "The wise by some centuries before the crowd,
          Must, by their novel systems, though correct,
     Of course offend the wicked, weak, and proud,
          Must meet with hatred, calumny, neglect."

Thomas Paine, "the sturdy champion of political and religious liberty,"
was born at Thetford, in the County of Norfolk, (Eng.,) 29th of January,
1737. Born of religious parents (his father being a Quaker, and his
mother a member of the Church of England,) Paine received a religious
education at Thetford Grammar School, under the Rev. William Knowles.
At an early age he gave indications of his great talent, and found
pleasure, when a boy, in studying poetical authors. His parents,
however, endeavored to check his taste for poetry, his father probably
thinking it would unfit him for the denomination to which _he_ belonged.
But Paine did not lose much time before experimenting in poetry himself.
Hence we find him, when eight years of age, composing the following
epitaph, upon a fly being caught in a spider's web:--

     "Here lies the body of John Crow,
     Who once was high, but now is low;
     Ye brother Crows take warning all,
     For as you rise, so you must fall."

At the age of thirteen, after receiving a moderate education in reading,
writing, and arithmetic, Paine left school, to follow his father's
trade (stay-making.) Although disliking the business, he pursued
this avocation for nearly five years. When about twenty years of age,
however, he felt--as most enterprising young men do feel--a desire
to visit London, and enter into the competition and chances of a
metropolitan life. His natural dislike to his father's business led him
to abandon for a period his original occupation, and, after working some
time with Mr. Morris, a noted stay-maker, in Long Acre, he resolved upon
a seafaring adventure, of which he thus speaks:--

"At an early age, raw, adventurous, and heated with the false Heroism
of a master [Rev. Mr. Knowles, Master of the Grammar School at Thetford]
who had served in a man-of-war, I began my fortune, and entered on board
the Terrible, Captain Death, from this adventure I was happily prevented
by the affectionate and moral remonstrances of a good father, who from
the habits of his life, being of the Quaker profession, looked on me as
lost; but the impression, much as it affected me at the time, wore
away, and I entered afterwards in the King of Prussia privateer, Captain
Mender, and went with her to sea."

Sea life did not, as may be supposed, long satisfy a mind like Paine's.
In April, 1759, after working nearly twelve months at Dover, we find
him settled as master stay-maker at Sandwich; marrying, on September
27, Mary Lambert, daughter of an Exciseman of that place. But his
matrimonial happiness was of short duration, his wife dying the
following year.

Disgusted with the toil and inconvenience of his late occupation,
Paine now renounced it forever, to apply himself to the profession of
Exciseman. After fourteen months' study he obtained the appointment of
supernumerary in the Excise, which he held, with intervals, till 1768,
when he settled as Exciseman at Lewes, in Sussex, and married, 1771,
Elizabeth Olive, daughter of a tobacconist, whose business he succeeded
to. About this time Paine wrote several little pieces, in prose and
verse, among which was the celebrated song on the "Death of General
Wolfe," and "The Trial of Farmer Carter's Dog, Porter." The latter is a
composition of "exquisite wit and humor."

In 1772 the Excise officers throughout the kingdom were dissatisfied
with their salaries, and formed a plan to apply to Parliament for an
increase. Paine being distinguished among them as a man of great
talent, was solicited to draw up and state their case, which he did in a
pamphlet entitled "The Case of the Salary of the Officers of Excise, and
Thoughts on the Corruption arising from the Poverty of Excise Officers."
Four thousand copies of this pamphlet were printed and circulated. Some
time after this publication, Paine, being in the grocery business, was
_suspected_ of unfair practices, and was dismissed the Excise, after
being in it twelve years. This _suspicion_, however, was never shown
to be just. But to show how _very vigorous_ the authorities were in
_suppressing_ smuggling, we will quote the following letter from Clio
Rickman to the Editor of the Independent Whig, in October, 1807:--

"Sir,--If there are any characters more to be abhorred than others,
it is those who inflict severe punishments against offenders, and yet
themselves commit the same crimes.

"If any characters more than others deserve execration, exposure, and
to be driven from among mankind, it is those governors of the people who
break the laws they themselves make, and punish others for breaking.

"Suffer me, Mr. Editor, thus to preface the following fact; fact, I say,
because I stand ready to prove it so.

"When Admiral Duncan rendezvoused in the Downs with his fleet, on the
8th of January, 1806, the Spider lugger, Daniel Falara, master, was sent
to Guernsey to smuggle articles for the fleet, such as wine, spirits,
hair powder, playing cards, tobacco, etc., for the supply of the
different ships.

"At her arrival in the Downs, the ships' boats flocked round her
to unload her and her contraband cargo. A Custom House extra boat,
commanded by William Wallace, seeing the lugger, followed and took her;
in doing which he did his duty.

"On his inspecting the smuggled articles with which she was laden, he
found a number of cases directed to Admiral Duncan, the Right Honorable
William Pitt, the heaven-born Minister of England, and to the Right
Honorable Henry Dundas, Walmer Castle. In a few days, Wallace, the
master of the Custom House cutter, received orders from Government to
give the lugger and her smuggled cargo up, on penalty of being dismissed
the service; and these cases of smuggled goods were afterwards delivered
at the Prime Ministers, Mr. Pitt, at Walmer Castle.

"Mr. Editor, read what follows, and repress your indignation if you can.

"There are now in Deal jail fourteen persons for trifling acts of
smuggling compared to the above of the Right Honorable William Pitt and
the now Right Honorable Lord Melville.

"The former were poor, and knew not how to live, the latter were most
affluently and splendidly supported by the people--that is, they were
paupers upon the generous public, towards whom they thus scandalously
and infamously conducted themselves.

"I am, Sir, your humble servant,

"Clio Rickman."

To those opponents of Thomas Paine who attach any weight to his
dismissal from the Excise on suspicion of smuggling, we would mention
the fact, that during Paine's service at Lewes, Mr. Jenner, the
principal clerk in the Excise Office, London, wrote several letters
from the Board of Excise, "thanking Mr. Paine for his assiduity in his
profession, and for his information and calculations forwarded to the
office." Shortly-after his dismissal, Mr. Paine and his wife, by mutual
agreement, separated. Many tales have been put in circulation respecting
the separation. Clio Rickman, in his "Life of Paine," has the following

"That he did not cohabit with her from the moment they left the altar
till the day of their separation, a space of three years, although they
lived in the same house together, is an indubitable truth. It is also
true, that no physical defect, on the part of Mr. Paine, can be adduced
as a reason for such conduct.... Mr. Paine's answer, upon my once
referring to this subject, was, 'It is nobody's business but my own: I
had cause for it, but I will name it to no one.'.... This I can assert,
that Mr. Paine always spoke tenderly and respectfully of his wife; and
sent her several times pecuniary aid, without her knowing even whence it

In 1774 Paine left England, and arrived at Philadelphia a few months
before the battle of Lexington. He made his appearance in the New World
as editor of the Pennsylvanian Magazine; and it would appear that he
then had in view the coming struggle, in which he took so prominent a
part, for in his introduction to the first number of the above Magazine
he states:--"Thus encompassed with difficulties, this first number of
the Pennsylvanian Magazine entreats a favorable reception; of which we
shall only say, that like the early snowdrop, it comes forth in a barren
season, and contents itself with foretelling the reader that choicer
flowers are preparing to appear." Upon the foreign supply of gunpowder
being prohibited, he proposed a plan, in the Pennsylvanian Journal, of
a saltpetre association for the voluntary supply of that article of

On the 10th of January, 1776, "Common Sense" was published, its
circulation soon reaching 100,000 copies. The effect this remarkable
pamphlet produced upon the minds of the American people, and the share
it had in bringing to a successful issue the then pending struggle, may
be gathered even from Paine's bitterest enemies. Mr. Cheetham, in his
"Life of Paine," while endeavoring to damage the author of "Common
Sense," admits the value of this pamphlet. He says:--"This pamphlet of
forty octavo pages, holding out relief by proposing Independence to
an oppressed and despairing people, was published in January, 1776;
speaking a language which the colonists had felt, but not thought of.
Its popularity, terrible in its consequences to the parent country,
was unexampled in the history of the press. At first involving the
colonists, in the crime of rebellion, and pointing to a road leading
inevitably to ruin, it was read with indignation and alarm; but when
the reader--and every one read it--recovering from the first shock,
re-perused it, its arguments nourishing his feelings and appealing to
his pride, re-animated his hopes, and satisfied his understanding that
'Common Sense,' backed by the resources and force of the colonies, poor
and feeble as they were, could alone rescue them from the unqualified
oppression with which they were threatened. The unknown author, in the
moments of enthusiasm which succeeded, was an angel sent from heaven
to save from all the horrors of slavery by his timely, powerful, and
unerring councils, a faithful but abused, a brave but misrepresented
people." Another of Paine's enemies and slanderers--Elkanah Watson--in
a volume recently published, entitled "Men and Times of the Revolution,"
after speaking in very disparaging terms of Paine's appearance, habits,
and disposition (which is proved false by the best of testimony,) admits
the service rendered to America by "Common Sense." He says:--"Yet I
could not repress the deepest emotions of gratitude towards him, as
the instrument of Providence in accelerating the declaration of our
Independence. He certainly was a prominent agent in preparing the public
sentiment of America for that glorious event. The idea of Independence
had not occupied the popular mind, and when guardedly approached on the
topic, it shrunk from the conception, as fraught with doubt, with peril,
and with suffering. In 1776 I was present at Providence, Rhode Island,
in a social assembly of most of the prominent leaders of the State. I
recollect that the subject of Independence was cautiously introduced by
an ardent Whig, and the thought seemed to excite the abhorrence of the
whole circle. A few weeks after, Paine's 'Common Sense' appeared, and
passed through the continent like an electric spark. It everywhere
flashed conviction, and aroused a determined spirit, which resulted in
the Declaration of Independence, upon the 4th of July ensuing. The name
of Paine was precious to every Whig heart, and had resounded throughout
Europe." Other testimony could be given to Paine's influence in the
American struggle for Independence; but after the two already mentioned
from his opponents, it is unnecessary to give further proof.

In the same year that "Common Sense" appeared, Paine accompanied General
Washington and his army, being with him in his retreat from Hudson River
to the Delaware. Although great terror prevailed, Paine stood brave and
undismayed, conscious he was advocating a just cause, and determined to
bring it to a successful issue. He occupied himself in inspiring hope
in the Americans, showing them their strength and their weakness. This
object drew from his pen "The Crisis," a continuation of the
"Common Sense," which was issued at intervals till the cessation of

In 1777 Paine was unanimously, and unknown to himself, appointed
Secretary in the Foreign Department, where he formed a close friendship
with Dr. Franklin. He did not retain his office, however, long, as
he refused to become a party to the fraudulent demands of a Mr. Silas
Deane, one of the American Commissioners, then in Europe; and he
resigned the office.

In 1780 he was chosen member of the American Philosophical Society,
having previously received the degree of Master of Arts from the
University of Philadelphia.

When the Independence of America was attained, and when oppression had
received a severe and lasting check in that rising country, we find that
Paine, so far from being satisfied with his success in the New World,
began to look for a fresh field where he might render good service to
the cause of right and freedom. Accordingly, in 1787. he visited Paris,
his famous services to America giving him a welcome by those who knew
the benefit arising from the establishment of human rights. His stay in
Paris, at this time, was of short duration, as he returned to England
after an absence of thirteen years, on September 3rd. After visiting
his mother, and settling an allowance of nine shillings per week for her
support, he resided for a short time at Rotherham, in Yorkshire, where
an iron bridge was cast and erected upon a model of his invention, which
obtained him great reputation for his mathematical skill.

The publication of "Mr. Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution"
called from Paine his "Rights of Man," a book that created great
attraction, and sold nearly a million and a half of copies. In politics
Paine was clear and decided, and, from his moderation, what is called
"sound." For the perusal of those who may not have read it, we give the
following quotations, to show the principles upon which it is based:--

"Mr. Burke talks about what he calls an hereditary crown, as if it
were some production of nature; or as if, like time, it had a power to
operate, not only independently, but in spite of man; or as if it were a
thing or a subject universally consented to. Alas! it has none of
those properties, but is the reverse of them all. It is a thing in
imagination, the property of which is more than doubted, and the
legality of which in a few years will be denied. But, to arrange this
matter in a clearer view than what general expressions can convey,
it will be necessary to state the distinct heads under which (what is
called) an hereditary crown, or, more properly speaking, an hereditary
succession to the government of a nation, can be considered; which are,
first, the right of a particular family to establish itself; secondly,
the right of a nation to establish a particular family. With respect to
the _first_ of these heads, that of a family establishing itself with
heredity powers on its own authority, and independent of the consent of
a nation, all men will concur in calling it despotism: and it would
be trespassing on their understanding to attempt to prove it. But the
_second_ head, that of a nation establishing a particular family with
_hereditary powers_, does not present itself as despotism on the first
reflection; but if men will permit a second reflection to take place,
and carry that reflection forward but one remove out of their own
persons to that of their offspring, they will then see that hereditary
succession becomes in its consequences the same despotism to others,
which they reprobated for themselves. It operates to preclude the
consent of the succeeding generations; and the preclusion of consent is
despotism. When the person who at any time shall be in possession of
a government, or those who stand in succession to him, shall say to a
nation, I hold this power in 'contempt' of you, it signifies not on what
authority he pretends to say it. It is no relief, but an aggravation to
a person in slavery, to reflect that he was sold by his parent; and as
that which heightens the criminality of an act cannot be produced to
prove the legality of it, hereditary succession cannot be established as
a legal thing.... Notwithstanding the taxes of England amount to almost
seventeen millions a year, said to be for the expenses of Government, it
is still evident that the sense of the nation is left to govern itself
by magistrates and jurors, almost at its own charge, on Republican
principles, exclusive of the expense of taxes. The salaries of the
judges are almost the only charge that is paid out of the revenue.
Considering that all the internal government is executed by the people,
the taxes of England ought to be the lightest of any nation in Europe;
instead of which they are the contrary. As this cannot be accounted for
on the score of civil government, the subject necessarily extends itself
to the monarchical part..... If a law be bad, it is one thing to oppose
the practice of it, but it is quite a different thing to expose its
errors, to reason on its defects, and show cause why it should be
repealed, or why another ought to be substituted in its place. I have
always held it an opinion (making it also my practice) that it is better
to obey a bad law, making use at the same time of every argument to show
its errors and procure its repeal, than forcibly to violate it; because
the precedent of breaking a bad law might weaken the force, and lead to
a discretionary violation, of those which are good."

As may be supposed, such a work as "The Rights of Man," aiming directly
at all oppression, regardless of party, could not be allowed to escape
the Attorney-General's _answer_. Accordingly, we find a prosecution
instituted against it. But instead of prosecuting the author, the
publishers were selected. This drew from Paine a long Letter to the
Attorney-General, suggesting the justice of _his_ answering for the book
he wrote. On the trial, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Erskine thus spoke of
the author of "The Rights of Man:"--"The defendant's whole deportment
previous to the publication has been wholly unexceptionable; he properly
desired to be given up as the author of the book, if any inquiry should
take place concerning it; and he is not affected in evidence, directly
or indirectly, with any illegal or suspicious conduct, not even with
uttering an indiscreet or taunting expression, nor with any one matter
or thing inconsistent with the best subject in England."

On the 12th of September, 1792, Mr. Achilles Audibert came expressly to
England, from the French Convention, to solicit Paine to attend and aid
them, by his advice, in their deliberations. "On his arrival at Calais
a public dinner was provided, a royal salute was fired from the battery,
the troops were drawn out, and there was a general rejoicing throughout
the town.... Paine was escorted to the house of his friend, Mr.
Audibert, the Chief Magistrate of the place, where he was visited by the
Commandant, and all the Municipal Officers in forms, who afterwards gave
him a sumptuous entertainment in the Town Hall. The same honor was also
paid him on his departure for Paris." Upon his arrival in Paris all
was confusion. There were the King's friends mortified and subdued,
the Jacobins split up into cavilling faction, some wishing a federative
government, some desiring the King's death, and the death of all the
nobility; while a portion were more discreet, wishing liberty without
licentiousness, and having a desire to redress wrongs without revenge.
These few accepted Paine as their leader, and renounced all connection
with the Jacobin Club.

Paine, on all occasions, advocated the preservation of the King's life
but his efforts were thwarted by the appointment, by Robespierre, of
Barrere to office. So anxiously was Paine sought after, that both Calais
and Versailles returned him as Deputy. To show how the author of "The
Rights of Man" opposed all physical force where reason may be used, it
is only necessary to state, that when the Letter of Dumourier reached
Paris with the threat of restoring the King, Paine wrote a letter to
the Convention, stating a plan for re-adjustment, and was taking it
personally, when he was informed "that a decree had just been passed
offering one hundred thousand crowns for Dumourier's head; and another,
making it high treason to propose anything in his favor." Whilst Deputy
for Calais, Paine was sought and admired by all classes. He dined every
Friday, for a long period, with the Earl of Lauderdale and Dr. Moore;
and so frequent were his visitors, that he set apart two mornings a
week for his _levee_ days.--He soon, however, changed his residence,
preferring less formality and a more select circle. His "History of the
French Revolution" we are deprived of by his imprisonment, which Gibbon
thought would prove a great loss. The historian often applied for the
MS., believing it to be of great worth. The opinion Paine held of the
Revolution may be gathered from the following:--

"With respect to the Revolution, it was begun by good men, on good
principles, and I have ever believed it would have gone on so, had
not the provocative interference of foreign powers distracted it into
madness, and sown jealousies among the leaders. The people of England
have now two Revolutions, the American and the French before them. Their
own wisdom will direct them what to _choose_ and what to _avoid_, and
in everything which relates to their happiness, combined with the common
good of mankind, I wish them honor and success."

His speech against the death of the King, shows how far he was removed
from party spirit or any feeling of revenge. Whilst he protested against
the King being re-enthroned, he equally protested against his death,
wishing him removed from the seat of his corruption, and placed in
a more elevating atmosphere.--Entreating for the King's safety, he
says:--"Let then the United States be the safeguard and the asylum of
Louis Capet. There, hereafter, far removed from the miseries and crimes
of royalty, he may learn, from the constant aspect of public prosperity,
that the true system of government consists in fair, equal, and
honora-able representation. In relating this circumstance, and in
submitting this proposition, I consider myself as a citizen of both

The policy pursued by Paine was not consonant with the views of
Robespierre. Consequently, he was seized in the night and imprisoned
in the Luxembourg eleven months, without any reason being assigned. The
readers are doubtless aware of the many _Providential_ escapes he had
from the death for which he was seized. While in prison he wrote part of
his "Age of Reason," (having commenced it just previous to his arrest)
not Knowing one hour but he might be executed, and once being on the
verge of death from fever. He knew the prejudice the "Age of Reason"
would create, so he left its production to the latter part of his
life, not wishing to make _that_ an impediment to the good he sought to
accomplish in the Political world.

After toiling in France to bring the Revolution to a _just_ termination,
and finding his efforts rendered abortive by that feeling which _former
oppression had created_, he resolved to return to America, a country he
saw thriving by a policy he wished to institute in France.

In 1802, Jefferson, then President of America, knowing his wish to
return, wrote him the following letter:--

"You express a wish in your letter to return to America by a national
ship. Mr. Dawson, who brings over the treaty, and who will present you
with this letter, is charged with orders to the captain of the Maryland,
to receive and accommodate you back if you can be ready to return at
such a short warning. You will in general find us returned to sentiments
worthy of former times; in these it will be your glory to have steadily
labored, and with as much effect as any man living. That you may
live long to continue your useful labors, and reap the reward in the
thankfulness of nations, is my sin cere prayer.

"Accept the assurance of my high esteem and affectionate attachment,

"Thomas Jefferson."

But circumstances prevented Paine going by the Maryland. He sailed,
however, on the 1st of September, 1802, in the London Pacquet. He
had often previously arranged to return to America, but luckily,
_Providence_ prevented him. One ship that he intended to sail by, was
searched by English frigates for Thomas Paine, and another sunk at sea,
whilst at other times British frigates were cruising off the ports from
which he was to sail, knowing him to be there.

So much religious misrepresentation has been circulated about Paine's
life and death, that it becomes a duty to restate the _facts_. The
manner of life Paine pursued may be gathered from the _reliable_
testimony of Clio Rickman. He says, "Mr. Paine's life in London was a
quiet round of philosophical leisure and enjoyment. It was occupied in
writing, in a small epistolary correspondence, in walking about with me
to visit different friends, occasionally lounging at coffeehouses and
public places, or being visited by a select few. Lord Edward Fitzgerald,
the French and American ambassadors, Mr. Sharp the engraver, Romney, the
painter, Mrs. Wolstonecraft, Joel Barlow, Mr. Hull, Mr. Christie, Dr.
Priestley, Dr. Towers, Colonel Oswald, the walking Stewart, Captain
Sampson Perry, Mr. Tuffin, Mr. William Choppin, Captain De Stark,
Mr. Home Tooke, etc., were among the number of his friends and
acquaintances." His manner of living in France and America has already
been noticed.

The perverted tales of Carver and Cheetham may be utterly disproved by
referring to Clio Rickman's "Life of Paine." As his life, so was his
death. When he became feeble and infirm (in Jan. 1809) he was often
visited by those "good people" who so often intrude upon the domestic
quiet of the afflicted. After the visit of an old woman, "come from the
Almighty," (whom Paine soon sent back again) he was troubled with the
Rev. Mr. Milledollar, and the Rev. Mr. Cunningham. The latter reverend
said, "Mr. Paine, we visit you as friends and neighbors; you have now a
full view of death, you cannot live long; and whoever does not believe
in Jesus Christ, will assuredly be damned." "Let me," said Paine,
"have none of your Popish stuff; get away with you; good morning,
good morning." Another visitor was the Rev. Mr. Hargrove, with this
statement:--"My name is Hargrove, Sir; I am minister of the new
Jerusalem church; we, Sir, explain the scripture in its true meaning;
the key has been lost these four thousand years, and we have found It."
"Then," said Paine, in his own neat way, "it must have been very rusty."
Shortly before his death, he stated to Mr. Hicks, to whom he had sent
to arrange his burial? that his sentiments in reference to the Christian
religion were precisely the same as when he wrote the "Age of Reason."
On the 8th of June, (in the words of Clio Rickman) 1809. about nine in
the morning, he placidly, and almost without a struggle, died as he had
lived, a Deist, aged seventy-two years and five months. He was interred
at New Rochelle, upon his own farm; a handsome monument being now
erected where he was buried.

It has been the object in the present sketch rather to give, in a brief
manner, an account of Paine's life and services, than an elucidation
of his writings. His works are well known, and _they_ will speak for
themselves but much wrong is done to his memory by the perversions and
misrepresentations of the religious publications. No doubt had his views
been different on "religious" subjects, he would have been held up as
a model of genius, perseverance, courage, disinterestedness of purpose,
and purity of life, by the men who now find him no better name than the
"Blasphemer." We hope that those not previously acquainted with the
facts of his life, will find in the present sketch sufficient reason to
think and speak otherwise of a man who made the world his country, and
the doing good his religion.

     "As Euclid near his various writings shone,
     His pen inspired by glorious truth alone,
     O'er all the earth diffusing light and life,
     Subduing error, ignorance, and strife;
     Raised man to just pursuits, to thinking right,
     And yet will free the world from woe and falsehood's night;
     To this immortal man, to Paine 'twas given,
     To metamorphose earth from hell to heaven."

J. W.


Jean Baptiste de Mirabaud was born at Paris, in the year 1675. Of his
early life we can glean but very scanty information. He appears first to
have embraced the military profession, but it not being consonant with
his general character, he soon quitted the army, and devoted himself to
literature. He was, however, nearly forty-nine years of age before
he became known in the literary world. He then published a French
translation of Tasso's "Jerusalem," which brought him much fame; and
many of the contributors to the French Encyclopaedia appear to have
associated with him, and courted his friendship. He was afterwards
elected a member of the French Academy of which he became the Secretary
in 1742. Mirabaud was a constant visitor at the house of his friend, the
Baron d'Holbach, down to the period of his death. He wrote "The World:
its Origin and its Antiquity," "Opinions of the Ancients upon the Jews,"
"Sentiments of the Philosophers upon the Nature of the Soul," and other
minor works. The "System of Nature" was also for many years attributed
to Mirabaud, but it appears now to be extremely doubtful whether he ever
wrote a single line of the work. The Abbe Galiani was one of the first
who pointed out D'Holbach as the author. In the memoirs of M. Suard,
edited by M. Garat, the same hypothesis is supported with additional
firmness. Dugald Stewart seems to put much faith in the latter
authority, as fixing the authorship of the "System of Nature" upon
D'Holbach. Voltaire attributes the work to Damilaville, in a somewhat
positive manner, for which he is sharply criticised in the "Biographie
Universelle," published in 1817. The "System of Nature" is a book of
which Dugald Stewart speaks, as "the boldest, if not the ablest work of
the Parisian Atheists," and it has undoubtedly obtained great
popularity. Voltaire, who has written against the "System of Nature" in
a tone of bitter sarcasm, and who complains of its general dullness and
prolixity, yet admits that it is "often humorous, sometimes eloquent."
It certainly is not written in that lively, but rather superficial
style, which has characterized many of the French writers, but it speaks
in plain yet powerful language, evincing an extensive acquaintance with
the works of previous philosophers, and much thought in relation to the
subjects treated upon. Some of its pages exhibiting more vivacity than
the rest of the book, have been attributed to Diderot, who (it is
alleged by Marmontel and others) aided, by his pen and counsel, many of
the Freethinking works issued during his life.

The "System of Nature" was not published during the life-time of
Mirabaud, and it is therefore impossible to use any argument which might
have been based upon Mirabaud's conduct in relation to it.

Mirabaud died in Paris in 1760, at the advanced age of nearly eighty-six
years. Contemporary with him were D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Voltaire,
Diderot, Helvetius, Condorcet, Buffon, Rousseau, Frederick II. of
Prussia, Montesquieu, Grimm, Sir William Tempte, Toland, Tindel, Edmund
Halley, Hume, Gibbon, Adam Smith, Franklin, and Darwin, forming a _role_
of names, whose fame will be handed down to posterity for centuries to
come, as workers in the cause of man's redemption from mental slavery.
If (as it appears very probably) it be the fact that Mirabaud had but
little part in the authorship of "La Système de la Nature," D'Holbach,
in using the name of his deceased friend, only associated him with a
work which (judging from his other writings, the tenor of his life, and
the noble character of his associates) Mirabaud would have issued with
pride himself, had the book been really written by him.


Paul Thyry, Baron D'Holbach, was born at Heidesheim, in the Palatinate,
in the month of January, 1723. His father appears to have been a
very wealthy man, and brought his son to Paris, for the purpose of
superintending his education, but died white he was still a child. In
his youth, D'Holbach appears to have been noted for his studious habits
and retentive faculties, and ultimately attained to some eminence in
chemistry and mineralogy. He married when very young, and he had not
been married one year when his wife died. He afterwards obtained a
dispensation from the Pope, and married his deceased wife's sister, by
whom he had four children, two sons and two daughters.

D'Holbach appeared to have spent the greater part of his life in Paris,
and for forty years he assembled around his table, every Sunday, the
_elite_ of the literary world, including nearly the whole of those who
took part in the first Encyclopedia. If that table were only in the
hands of some of our spirit friends of the present day, what brilliant
anecdotes might it not rap out--the sparkling wit of Diderot, the good
humor of out host, the hospitable and generous D'Holbach, the occasional
bitterness of Jean Jacques Rousseau, the cautious expression of opinion
by D'Alembert, the agreeable variety of Montesquieu, and the bold
enthusiasm of the youthful but hardworking Naigeon! If ever a table were
inclined to turn, this table should have been; but perhaps it may be
that tables never turn when reason is the ruler of those who sit around.

It seems more than probable that D'Holbach at first held opinions
differing widely from those entertained by him during the later periods
of his life, and it is asserted that Diderot contributed much to this
change of opinion. D'Holbach was an amiable man of the world, fond of
amusement, and without pretension; he was, notwithstanding, well versed
in Roman and Grecian literature, mathematics, chemistry, botany, and
modern languages. He was generous to every one. "I content myself," he
said, "with performing the disagreeable character of benefactor, when I
am forced to it. I do not wish to be repaid my money; but I am pleased
when I meet with some little gratitude, if it be only as proving that
the persons I have assisted were such sort of men as I desired."

Although about forty-five works are now ascribed to D'Holbach, not
one of them was published during his life-time in his own name. The
manuscripts were taken to Amsterdam by Naigeon, and there printed by
Michael Rey. D'Holbach never talked publicly of his literary productions
himself and his secrets seem to have been well kept by his friends.
Several of the works were condemned and suppressed by the government;
but D'Holbach lived unsuspected and unmolested. The expression used by
the Avocat, General Seguier, in his réquisitoire against the "System
of Nature" is worthy of notice. The Avocat General said--"The restless
spirit of Infidelity, inimical to all dependence, endeavors to overthrow
all political constitutions. Its wishes will not be satisfied until
it has destroyed the _necessary_ inequality of rank and condition, and
until it has degraded the majesty of kings, and rendered their authority
subordinate to the _caprices_ of the _mob_." Note the three words we
have italicised. For the first read unnecessary; for the second,
voice; for the third, peoples. We trust that Free-thought never will be
satisfied until it has destroyed the unnecessary inequalities of rank
and condition, and rendered it impossible for the authority of kings to
be enforced in opposition to the voice of the people.

The following description of D'Holbach is given in a little
sketch, published by Mr. Watson in 1834, as taken from Grimm's
"Correspondence:"--"D'Hol-bach's features were, taken separately,
regular, and even handsome, yet he was not a handsome man. His forehead,
large and open, like that of Diderot, indicated a vast and capacious
mind; but his forehead having fewer sinuosities, less roundness than
Diderot's, announced less warmth, less energy, and less fecundity of
ideas. A craniologist would say that in both D'Holbach and Diderot, the
philosophical organs were largely developed, but that Diderot excelled
in ideality; D'Holbach's countenance only indicated mildness, and the
habitual sincerity of his mind. He was incapable of personal hatred.
Though he detested priests and Jesuits, and all other supporters of
despotism and superstition; and though when speaking of such people, his
mildness and good temper were sometimes transformed into bitterness and
irritability; yet it is affirmed that when the Jesuits were expelled
from France, D'Holbach regarded them as objects of commiseration and of
pity, and afforded them pecuniary assistance."

The titles of D'Holbach's works may be found in Barbier's "Dictionary
of Anonymous Works," and in St. Surins's article in the "Biographie
Universelle," so in the little tract before mentioned as published by J.
Watson. D'Holbach contributed largely to the first French Encyclopaedia,
and other works of a like character. Of the "System of Nature" we have
already spoken, and shall rather leave our readers to the work itself
than take up more space in discussing its authorship.

After having lived a life of comfort, in affluent circumstances,
and always surrounded by a large circle of the best men of the day,
D'Holbach died on January the 21st, 1789, being, then sixty-six years
of age. The priests have never pictured to us any scene of horror
in relation to his dying moments. The good old man died cheered and
supported in his last struggle by those men whom he had many times
assisted in the hard fighting of the battle of life. J. A. Naigeon,
who had been his friend for thirty years; paid an eloquent tribute
to D'Holbach's memory, in an article which appeared in the "Journal de
Paris" of February the 9th, 1789, and we are not aware that any man has
ever written anything against D'Hol-bach's personal character.


Although we may not attempt to express a decided opinion as to the
authorship of "Le Système de la Nature," we feel it our duty to present
some of its principal arguments to the consideration of our readers. The
author opens his work with this passage:--

"Man always deceives himself when he abandons experience to follow
imaginary systems. He is the work of nature. He exists in nature. He is
submitted to her laws. He cannot deliver himself from them. He cannot
step beyond them even in thought. It is in vain his mind would spring
forward beyond the visible world: an imperious necessity ever compels
his return--for a being formed by Nature, who is circumscribed by her
laws, there exists nothing beyond the great whole of which he forms a
part, of which be experiences the influence. The beings his imagination
pictures as above Nature, or distinguished from her, are always
chimeras formed after that which he has, already seen, but of which it
is utterly impossible he should ever form any correct idea, either as to
the place they occupy, or their manner of acting--for him there is
not, there can be nothing out of that nature which includes all beings.
Instead, therefore, of seeking out of the world he inhabits for beings
who can procure him a happiness denied by Nature, let him study this
nature, learn her laws, contemplate her energies, observe the immutable
rules by which she acts."

Speaking of the theological delusions under which many men labor, and of
the mode in which man has been surrounded by those delusions, he says:--

"His ignorance made him credulous: his curiosity made him swallow large
draughts of the marvellous: time confirmed him in his opinions, and he
passed his conjectures from race to race, for realities; a tyrannical
power maintained him in his notions, because by those alone could
society be enslaved. It was in vain, that some faint glimmerings of
Nature occasionally attempted, the recall of his reason; that slight
corruscations of experience sometimes threw his darkness into light; the
interest of the few was bottomed on his enthusiasm; their pre-eminence
depended on his love of the wonderful; their very existence rested on
the solidity of his ignorance they consequently suffered no opportunity
to escape, of smothering even the lambent flame. The many were thus
first deceived into credulity, then coerced into submission. At length,
the whole science of man became a confused mass of darkness, falsehood,
and contradictions, with here and there a feeble ray of truth, furnished
by that Nature of which he can never entirely divest himself, because,
without his knowledge, his necessities are continually bringing him back
to her resources."

Having stated that by "nature" he means the "great whole," our author
complains of those who assert that matter is senseless, inanimate,
unintelligent, etc., and says, "Experience proves to us that the matter
which we regard as inert or dead, assumes action, intelligence, and
life, when it is combined in a certain way:"--

"If flour be wetted with water, and the mixture closed up, it will be
found, after some little lapse of time, by the aid of a microscope, to
have produced organized beings that enjoy life, of which the water and
the flour were believed incapable: it is thus that inanimate matter can
pass into life, or animate matter, which is in itself only an assemblage
of motion. Reasoning from analogy, which the philosophers of the present
day hold perfectly compatible, the production of a man, independent of
the ordinary means, would not be more marvellous than that of an insect
with flour and water. Fermentation and putrefaction evidently produce
living animals. We have here the principle; with proper materials,
principles can always be brought into action. That generation which is
styled _equivocal_ is only so for those who do not reflect, or who
do not permit themselves, attentively, to observe the operations of

This passage is much ridiculed by Voltaire, who asserts that it is
founded on some experiments made by one Needham, who placed some
rye-meal in well-corked bottles, and some boiled mutton gravy in other
bottles, and found that eels were produced in each. We do not know
sufficient of the history of Needham's experiments, either to affirm or
deny their authenticity, but we feel bound to remind our readers of
the much-decried experiments conducted by Mr. Crosse, and which were
afterwards verified by Mr. Weekes, of Sandwich. In these cases, insects
were produced by the action of a powerful voltaic battery upon a
saturated solution of silicate of potash, and upon ferro cyanuret
of potassium. The insects were a species of acarus, minute and
semi-transparent, and furnished with long bristles, which could only be
seen by the aid of the microscope. The sixth chapter treats of man, and
the author thus answers the question, "What is man?":--

"We say he is a material being, organized after a peculiar manner,
conformed to a certain mode of thinking, of feeling, capable of
modification in certain modes peculiar to himself, to his organization,
to that particular combination of matter which is found assembled in
him. If again it be asked, What origin we give to beings of the human
species? We reply, that like all other beings, man is a production of
nature, who resembles them in some respects, and finds himself submitted
to the same laws; who differs from them in other respects, and follows
particular laws determined by the diversity of his conformation. If then
it be demanded, Whence came man? We answer, our experience on this
head does not capacitate us to resolve the question; but that it cannot
interest us, as it suffices for us to know that man exists, that he is
so constituted as to be competent to the effects we witness."

In the seventh chapter the author, treating of the soul and spirit

"The doctrine of spirituality, such as it now exists, offers nothing
but vague ideas, or, rather, is the absence of all ideas. What does it
present to the mind but a substance which possesses nothing of which our
senses enable us to have a knowledge? Can it be truth, that man is able
to figure to himself a being not material, having neither extent nor
parts; which, nevertheless, acts upon matter without having any point
of contact, any kind of analogy with it; and which itself receives the
impulse of matter by means of material organs, which announce to it the
presence of other beings? Is it possible to conceive the union of the
soul with the body; to comprehend how this material body can bind,
enclose, constrain, determine a fugitive being, which escapes all our
senses? Is it honest, is it plain dealing, to solve these difficulties,
by saying there is a mystery in them, that they are the effects of a
power more inconceivable than the human soul, than its mode of acting,
however concealed from our view? When to resolve these problems, man is
obliged to have recourse to miracles, to make the Divinity interfere,
does he not avow his own ignorance? When notwithstanding the ignorance
he is thus obliged to avow by availing himself of the divine agency,
he tells us, this immaterial substance, this soul, shall experience the
action of the element of fire, which he allows to be material; when
he confidently says, this soul shall be burnt; shall suffer in
purgatory--have we not a right to believe, that either he has a design
to deceive us, or else that he does not himself understand that which he
is so anxious we shall take upon his word?"

The ninth chapter, after treating of the diversity of the intellectual
faculties, proceeds, "Man at his birth brings with him into the world
nothing but the necessity of conserving himself, of rendering his
existence happy; instruction, examples, the custom of the world, present
him with the means, either real or imaginary, of achieving it; habit
procures for him the facility of employing these means:"--

"In order that man may become virtuous, it is absolutely requisite that
he should have an interest, that he should find advantages in practicing
virtue. For this end, it is necessary that education should implant in
him reasonable ideas; that public opinion should lean towards virtue, as
the most desirable good; that example should point it out as the object
most worthy of esteem; that government should faithfully recompense,
should regularly reward it; that honor should always accompany its
practice; that vice should constantly be despised; that crime should
invariably be punished. Is virtue in this situation amongst men!
Does the education of man infuse into him just, faithful ideas of
happiness--true notions of virtue---dispositions really favorable to the
beings with whom he is to live? The examples spread before him, are
they suitable to innocence of manners? Are they calculated to make him
respect decency, to cause him to love probity, to practice honesty,
to value good faith, to esteem equity, to revere conjugal fidelity,
to observe exactitude in fulfilling his duties? Religion, which alone
pretends to regulate his manners, does it render him sociable? does
it make him pacific? does it teach him to be humane? The arbiters, the
sovereigns of society, are they faithful in recompensing punctual in
rewarding, those who have best served their country, in punishing
those who have pillaged, who have robbed, who have plundered, who have
divided, who have ruined it? Justice, does she hold her scales with
a firm, with an even hand, between all the citizens of the state? The
laws, do they never support the strong against the weak, favor the rich
against the poor, uphold the happy against the miserable? In short, is
it an uncommon spectacle to behold crime frequently justified, often
applauded, sometimes crowned with success, insolently triumphing,
arrogantly striding over that merit which it disdains, over that virtue
which it outrages? Well, then, in societies thus constituted, virtue
can only be heard by a very small number of peaceable citizens, a few
generous souls, who know how to estimate its value, who enjoy it in
secret. For the others, it is only a disgusting object; they see in
it nothing but the supposed enemy to their happiness, or the censor of
their individual conduct."

In the tenth chapter, which is upon the soul, the author says:--

"The diversity in the temperament of man, is natural, the necessary
source of the diversity of passions, of his taste, of his ideas of
happiness, of his opinions of every kind. Thus this same diversity
will be the fatal source of his disputes--of his hatreds--of his
injustice--every time he shall reason upon unknown objects, but to which
he shall attach the greatest importance. He will never understand either
himself or others, in speaking of a spiritual soul, or of immaterial
substances distinguished from nature; he will, from that moment, cease
to speak the same language, and he will never attach the same ideas to
the same words. What then shall be the common standard that shall decide
which is the man that thinks with the greatest justice?

"Propose to a man to change his religion for yours, he will believe you
a madman; you will only excite his indignation, elicit his contempt; he
will propose to you, in his turn, to adopt his own peculiar opinions;
after much reasoning, you will treat each other as absurd beings,
ridiculously opinionated, pertinaciously stubborn; and he will display
the least folly who shall first yield. But if the adversaries become
heated in the dispute, which always happens, when they suppose the
matter important, or when they would defend the cause of their own
self-love, from thence their passions sharpen, they grow angry, quarrels
are provoked, they hate each other, and end by reciprocal injury. It
is thus that for opinions, which no man can demonstrate, we see the
Brachman despised; the Mahomedan hated; the Pagan held in contempt; that
they oppress and disdain each with the most raucorous animosity: the
Christian burns the Jew at what is called an _Auto-da-fe_, because he
clings to the faith of his fathers; the Roman Catholic condemns the
Protestant to the flames, and makes a conscience of massacreing(sp.) him
in cold blood; this re-acts in his turn; sometimes the various sects
of Christians league together against the incredulous Turk, and for
a moment suspend their own bloody disputes that they may chastise the
enemies to the true faith: then, having glutted their revenge, return
with redoubied fury, to wreak over again their infuriated vengeance on
each other."

The thirteenth chapter argues as follows, against the doctrine of the
immortality of the soul and a future state:--

"In old age, man extinguishes entirely, his fibres become rigid, his
nerves lose their elasticity, his senses are obtunded, his sight grows
dim, his ears lose their quickness, his ideas become unconnected, his
memory fails, his imagination cools,--what, then, becomes of his soul.
Alas! it sinks down with the body, it gets benumbed as this loses its
feeling, becomes sluggish as this decays in activity; like it, when
enfeebled by years, it fulfils its functions with pain; this substance,
which is deemed spiritual, which is considered immaterial, which it is
endeavored to distinguish from matter, undergoes the same revolutions,
experiences the same vicissitudes, submits to the name modifications as
does the body itself. In despite of this proof of the materiality of the
soul, of its identity with the body so convincing to the unprejudiced,
some thinkers have supposed that although the latter is perishable, the
former does not perish; that this portion of man enjoys the especial
privilege of immortality; that it is exempt from dissolution; free from
those changes of form all the beings in nature undergo: in consequence
of this, man is persuaded himself that this privileged soul does not

"It will be asked, perhaps, by what road has man been conducted to form
to himself gratuitous ideas of another world. I reply, that it is a
truth man has no idea of a future life; they are the ideas of the past
and the present, that furnish his imagination with the materials of
which he constructs the edifice of the regions of futurity. Hobbes says,
'We believe that, that which is will always be, and that the same causes
will have the same effects.' Man in his actual state has two modes
of feeling--one, that he approves; another, that he disapproves: thus
persuaded that these two modes of feeling must accompany him even
beyond his present existence, he placed in the regions of eternity two
distinguished abodes; one destined to felicity; the other to misery: the
one must contain those who obey the calls of superstition, who believe
in its dogmas; the other is a prison, destined to avenge the cause
of heaven on all those who shall not faithfully believe the doctrines
promulgated by the ministers of a vast variety of superstitions. Has
sufficient attention been paid to the fact that results as a necessary
consequence from this reasoning; which on examination will be found
to have rendered the first place entirely useless, seeing, that by
the number and contradiction of these various systems, let man believe
whichever he may, let him follow it in the most faithful manner, still
he must be ranked as an Infidel, as a rebel to the divinity; because
he cannot believe in all; and those from which he dissents, by a
consequence of their own creed, condemn him to the prison-house?--Such
is the origin of the ideas upon a future life, so diffused among
mankind. Everywhere may be seen an Elysium, and a Tartarus, a Paradise
and a Hell; in a word, two distinguished abodes, constructed according
to the imagination of the enthusiasts who have invented them; who have
accommodated them to their own peculiar prejudices, to the hopes, to the
fears of the people who believe in them. The Indian figures the first of
these abodes as one of inaction, of permanent repose, because, being the
inhabitant of a hot climate, he has learned to contemplate rest as the
extreme of felicity: the Mussulman promises himself corporeal pleasures,
similar to those that actually constitute the object of his research in
this life: each figures to himself that on which he has learned to set
the greatest value."

"As for the miserable abode of souls, the imagination of fanatics,
who were desirous of governing the people, strove to assemble the most
frightful images to render it still more terrible; fire is of all things
that which produces in man the most pungent sensation; not finding
anything more cruel, the enemies to the several dogmas were to be
everlastingly punished with this torturing element: fire, therefore, was
the point at which their imagination was obliged to stop; the ministers
of the various systems agreed pretty generally, that fire would one day
avenge their offended divinities; thus, they painted the victims to the
anger of the gods, or rather those who questioned their own creeds,
as confined in fiery dungeons; as perpetually rolling into a vortex of
bituminous flames; as plunged in unfathomable gulfs of liquid sulphur;
making the infernal caverns resound with their useless groanings, with
their unavailing gnashing of teeth. But it will, perhaps, be inquired,
how could man reconcile himself to the belief of an existence
accompanied with eternal torments; above all, as many according to their
own superstitions had reason to fear it for themselves--Many causes
have concurred to make him adopt so revolting an opinion: in the first
place, very few thinking men have ever believed such an absurdity,
when they have deigned to make use of their reason; or, when they have
accredited it, this notion was always counterbalanced by the idea of
the goodness, by a reliance on the mercy, which they attributed to their
respective divinities: in the second place, those who were blinded by
their fears never rendered to themselves any account of these strange
doctrines which they either received with awe from their legislators,
or which were transmitted to them by their fathers; in the third place,
each sees the object of his terrors only at a favorable distance;
moreover, superstition promises him the means of escaping the tortures
he believes he has merited."

We conclude by quoting the following eloquent passage:--

"Oh! Nature! sovereign of all beings! and ye, her adorable daughters,
Virtue, Reason, and Truth! remain forever our reverend protectors. It is
to you that belong the praises of the human race; to you appertains the
homage of the earth. Show us, then, oh! Nature! that which man ought
to do, in order to obtain the happiness which thou makest him
desire.--Virtue! animate him with thy beneficent fire! Reason! conduct
his uncertain steps through the paths of life. Truth! let thy torch
illumine his intellect, dissipate the darkness of his road.... Banish
error from our mind, wickedness from our hearts, confusion from our
footsteps. Cause knowledge to extend its salubrious reign, goodness to
occupy our souls, serenity to dwell in our bosoms.... Let our eyes,
so long either dazzled or blindfolded, be at length fixed upon those
objects we ought to seek. Dispel forever those mists of ignorance, those
hideous phantoms, together with those seducing chimeras, which only
serve to lead us astray. Extricate us from that dark abyss into which
we are plunged by superstition, overthrow the fatal empire of delusion,
crumble the throne of falsehood, wrest from their polluted hands the
power they have usurped."


Many of the readers of this number will, from their own memories, be
better able to do justice to him, whom Henry Hunt named "The Devil's
Chaplain," than we shall in our limited space. Robert Taylor was born at
Edmonton, in the county of Middlesex, on the 18th of August, 1784.
His family was highly respectable, and his parents were in affluent
circumstances; but, being a younger son in a family of eleven children,
it was necessary that Robert Taylor should follow some profession. His
father died when he was about seven years old, leaving him under the
guardianship of a paternal uncle. When seventeen years of age, he was
apprenticed to a surgeon, at Birmingham, and studied medicine afterwards
under Sir Astley Cooper and Mr. Clive, passing the College of Surgeons
with considerable _eclat_. When about twenty-three, he became acquainted
with the Rev. Thomas Cotterell, a clergyman of the Established Church,
of high evangelical principles, who induced him to quit physic for
metaphysics, and in 1809 Robert Taylor entered Saint John's College,
Cambridge, and in 1813 took his degree of Bachelor of Arts. He was
publicly complimented by the Master of the College as a singular honor
to the University in his scholarship, and was ordained on the 14th of
March, 1813, by the bishop of Chichester; from that time until 1818,
Taylor officiated as curate at Midhurst. Here he became acquainted with
a person named Ayling who held Deistical opinions, and who induced
Taylor to read various Free-thinking works; this soon resulted in an
avowal of Deism on the part of Taylor, who tendered his resignation to
his Bishop. His friends and family were much alarmed, and much pressure
was brought to bear upon him, and we regret to state that it had the
effect of producing a temporary recantation. This, however, brought
Taylor no relief; he found himself in distress, and shunned by his
family. Through the kindness of an old friend, he obtained the curacy of
Yardley, near Birmingham, but his previous apostacy having reached the
ears of the Bishop, the necessary license was refused, and the rector
received a peremptory notice to dismiss Taylor. This harsh treatment
caused a reaction, and while the rector sought another curate, Taylor
preached a series of sermons, by means of which he shook the faith of
nearly the whole of his congregation. The following is an abstract of
his last sermon at Yardley:--

"The text was, 'For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the
whale's belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in
the heart of the earth.'--Matt, xii., 40. He began, 'Then this glorious
miracle of the man having been swallowed alive by a fish, and remaining
alive for seventy-two hours, undigested and unhurt, in the fish's
bowels, and being vomited up unhurt and safe upon the dry land, was as
true as the gospel; and consequently the gospel was as true, but not
more true, than this sea-sick miracle. He inferred that no person could
have a right to pretend to believe in the death and resurrection of
Christ, who had the least doubt as to the reality of the deglutition and
evomition of the prophet Jonah. As to the natural improbabilities and
physical impossibilities of this very wonderful Bible miracle, these
were nothing in the way of a true and lively faith. Where miracles of
any sort were concerned, there could be no distinction into the greater
and the less, since infinite power was as necessary to the reality of
the least as to the greatest. We should never forget that it was the
Lord who prepared the fish, and prepared him for the express purpose of
swallowing the man, and probably gave him a little opening physic, to
cleanse the apartment for the accommodation of its intended tenant; and
had the purpose been, that the whole ship and all the crew should have
been swallowed as well as he, there's no doubt that they could have been
equally well accommodated. But as to what some wicked Infidels objected,
about the swallow of the whale being too narrow to admit the passage of
the man, it only required a little stretching, and even a herring or
a sprat might have gulped him. He enlarged, most copiously, on the
circumstance of the Lord speaking to the fish, in order to cause him to
vomit; and insisted on the natural efficacy of the Lord, which was
quite enough to make anybody sick. He pointed out the many interesting
examples of faith and obedience which had been set by the scaly race,
who were not only at all times easy to be caught in the gospel net, when
thrown over them by the preaching of the word, but were always ready to
surrender their existence to the Almighty, whenever he pleased to drop
'em a line. That as the first preachers of the gospel were fishermen,
so the preachers of the gospel, to this day, might truly be said to
be looking after the loaves and fishes, and they who, as the Scripture
says, are 'wise to catch soles,' speak to them for no other purpose than
that for which the Lord spake unto the whale--that is, to ascertain how
much they can swallow. The moral of this pungent persiflage, aimed
to admonish the proud and uncharitable believer, who expected his
acceptance with the deity on the score of his credulity, that when his
credulity was fairly put to trial, it might be found that he was in
reality as far from believing what he did not take to be true as the
most honest and avowed Infidel. 'Thou then who wouldst put a trick
upon infinite wisdom, and preferest the imagined merit of a weak
understanding to the real utility of an honest heart--thou who wouldst

     'Compound for sins thou art inclined to,
     By damning those thou hast no mind to;'

hast thou no fears for thy presumptuous self? Thou believest only that
which seemeth to thee to be true; what does the Atheist less? And that
which appeareth to be a lie thou rejectest; what does the Atheist more?
Can we think that God has given us reason only to betray us, and made
us so much superior to the brute creation, only to deal with us so much
worse than they, to punish us for making the best use we could of the
faculties he has given us, and to make the very excellence of our nature
the cause of our damnation?'"

This concluded his connection with the Church of England, and his
brother having consented to make him an allowance of one pound per week
if he would quit England, he retired to the Isle of Man. After nine
weeks his brother ceased to remit; and to support himself, Taylor wrote
for the two newspapers then published in the island, but his articles
attracting attention, he was summoned before the Bishop, and compelled
to quit the island under a threat of imprisonment. In deep distress, he
went to Dublin, where he lectured on Deism until 1824, when he came to
London, and founded the Christian Evidence Society.

Many of the discourses delivered by him were printed in "The Lion."
which was first published in 1828. In 1827 Mr. Taylor was tried at
Guildhall for blasphemy, and was sentenced to imprisonment in Oakham
gaol for one year. In Oakham he wrote "The Diegesis" and "Syntagma."
After his release from prison in 1829, he, together with Richard
Carlile, made a tour through England on an Infidel mission, commencing
with a challenge to the Cambridge University. In 1830 and 1831 he
delivered a series of discourses, which are printed together under the
title of "The Devil's Pulpit." On the 4th July, 1831, he was again
tried for blasphemy and sentenced to two years' imprisonment In 1833
he delivered a number of discourses, which were printed in the
"Philalethean." He was the friend and companion of Richard Carlile for
several years. It is difficult to quote from Robert Taylor's works,
unless at the risk of doing him great injustice, and we must therefore
refer our readers to the works we have named. The following is from
"The Devil's Pulpit:"--

"The gentlemen who distribute religious tracts, the general body of
dissenting preachers, and almost all persons engaged in the trade
of religion, imagine themselves to have a mighty advantage against
Infidels, upon the strength of that last and reckless argument--that
whether the Christian religion be true or false, there can be no harm in
believing; and that belief is, at any rate, the safe side. Now, to say
nothing of this old Popish argument, which a sensible man must see
is the very essence of Popery, and would oblige us to believe all the
absurdities and nonsense in the world: inasmuch as if there be no harm
in believing, and there be some harm and danger in not believing, the
more we believe the better: and all the argument necessary for any
religion whatever would be, that it should frighten us out of our wits:
the more terrible, the more true: and it would be our duty to become
the converts of that religion whatever it might be, whose priests could
swear the loudest, and damn and curse the fiercest. But I am here to
grapple with this Popery in disguise, this wolfish argument in sheepish
clothing, upon Scriptural ground, and on Scriptural ground only; taking
the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, for this argument's sake,
to be divine authority. The question proposed is, 'Whether is the
believer or the unbeliever the more likely to be saved, taking the
Scriptures to be of divine authority!' And I stand here, on this divine
authority, to prove that the unbeliever is the more likely to be saved:
that unbelief, and not belief, is the safe side, and that a man is more
likely to be damned for believing the gospel, and because of his having
believed it, than for rejecting and despising it, as I do.... But, if a
patient hearing be more than good Christians be minded to give us, when
thus advance to meet them on their own ground, their impatience and
intolerance itself will supply the evidence and demonstration of the
fact, that, after all, they dare not stand to the text of their own
book, that it is not the Bible that they go by, nor God whom they
regard: but that they want to be God-a'-mighties themselves, and would
have us take their words for God's words; you must read it as they read
it, and understand it as they understand it: you must 'skip, and go on,'
just where a hard word comes in the way of the sense they choose to put
upon it: you must believe what the book contains, what you see with your
own eyes that it does not contain: you must shut your eyes, and not see
what it does contain; or you'll be none the nearer the mark of their
liking.... Taking the authority of Scripture, for this argument's sake,
to be decisive, I address the believer who would give himself airs of
superiority, would chuckle in an imaginary safety in believing, and
presume to threaten the unbeliever as being in a worse case, or more
dangerous plight, than he. 'Hast thou no fears for thy presumptuous
self?' when on the showing of thine own book, the safety (if safety
there be) is all on the unbelieving side? When for any one text that can
be produced, seeming to hold out any advantage or safety in believing,
we can produce two in which the better hope is held out to the
unbeliever? For any one apparent exhortation to believe, we can produce
two forbiddances to believe, and many threaten-ings of God's vengeance
to, and for the crime and folly of, believing. To this proof I proceed,
by showing you:--1st. What the denunciations of God's vengeance are:
with no comment of mine, but in the words of the text itself. 2d. That
these dreadful denunciations are threatened to believers: and that they
are not threatened to unbelievers. And 3d. That all possible advantages
and safety, which believing could confer on any man, are likely, and
more likely to be conferred on the unbeliever than on the believer. That
the danger of the believer is so extreme, that no greater danger can
possibly be. 1st. What are the denunciations of God's vengeance! 'There
are' (says the holy Revelation, xiv. 10,) 'who shall drink of the wine
of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of
his indignation, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, and the
smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever: and they have no
rest day or night.' There's 'glad tidings of great joy' for you! The
Christian may get, over the terror of this denunciation by the selfish
and ungenerous chuckle of his 'Ah! well, these were very wicked people,
and must have deserved their doom; it need not alarm us: it doesn't
apply to us.' But good-hearted men would rather say, 'It does apply.
We cannot be indifferent to the misery of our fellow-creatures. The
self-same Heaven that frowns on them, looks lowering upon us.' And who
were they? and what was their offence? Was it Atheism! was it Deism'
was it Infidelity? No! It was for church and chapel-going; it was for
adoring, believing, and worshipping. They worshipped the beast: I know
not what beast they worshipped; but I know that if you go into any of
our churches and chapels at this day, you will find them worshipping the
Lamb; and if worshipping a lamb be not most suspiciously like worshiping
a beast, you may keep the color in your cheeks, while mine are blanched
with fear. The unbeliever only can be absolutely safe from this danger.
He only who has no religion at all, is sure not to be of the wrong
religion. He who worships neither God nor Devil, is sure not to mistake
one of those gentlemen for the other. But will it be pretended, that
these are only metaphors of speech, that the thing said is not the
thing that's meant? Why, then, they are very ugly metaphors. And what is
saying that which you don't mean, and meaning the contrary to what you
say, but lying? And what worse can become of the Infidel, who makes it
the rule of his life 'to hear and speak the plain and simple truth,'
than of the Christian, whose religion itself is a system of metaphors
and allegories, of double meanings, of quirk and quiddities in dread
defiance of the text that warns him, that 'All liars shall have their
part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone?' Rev. xxi. 8.

"Is it a parable that a man may merely entertain his imagination withal,
and think no more on't,--though not a word be hinted about a parabolical
signification, and the text stands in the mouth of him who, we are told,
was the truth itself? And he it is who brought life and immortality to
light, that hath described in the 16th of Luke, such an immortality as
that of one who was a sincere believer, a son of Abraham, who took the
Bible for the rule of his life, and was anxious to promote the salvation
of his brethren, yet found for himself no Saviour, no salvation; but,
'In Hell he lifted up his eyes being in torment: and saith Father
Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip
of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in
this flame.' But that request was refused. 'Then he said, I pray thee,
therefore, Father, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house; for
I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come
to this place of torment.' But that request was refused. There's 'glad
tidings of great joy' for you! That the believer's danger of coming
or going into that place of torment is so great, that greater cannot
possibly be: and that his belief will stand him in no stead at all,
but make his plight a thousand times worse than if he had not been a
believer; and that unbelief is the safer side--Christ himself being
judge--I quote no words but his to prove. Is the believer concerned
to save his soul, then shall he most assuredly be damned for being so
concerned: for Christ hath said, 'Whosoever will save his soul shall
lose it.' Matthew xvi. 25. Is the believer a complete beggar? If he be
not so, if he hath a rag that he doth call his own, he will be damned
to all eternity. For Christ hath said, 'Whosoever he be of you who
forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.' Luke xiv.
33. Is the believer a rich man? and dreams he of going to Heaven? It is
easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.' Matthew xix. 24.
Is he a man at all, then he cannot be saved, for Christ hath said, 'Thou
believest that there is one God;' saith St. James, 'Thou dost well, the
Devils also believe and tremble.' 2 James xix. And so much good, and
no more, than comes to damned spirits in the flames of Hell, is all the
good that ever did and can come of believing. 'For though thou hadst
all faith, so that thou couldst remove mountains,' saith St. Paul, 'It
should profit thee nothing.' 1 Cor. xiii. 2. Well, then! let the good
Christian try what saving his prayers will do for him: this is the good
that they'!! do for him; and he hath Christ's own word to comfort him
in't, 'He shall receive the greater damnation.' Luke xx. 47. Well, then,
since believing will not save him, since faith will not save him, since
prayer will not save him, but all so positively make things all the
worse, and none the better, there's one other chance for him. Let him go
and receive the Sacrament, the most comfortable Sacrament, you know,
'of the body and blood of Christ,' remembering, as all good communicants
should, 'that he is not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs that
fall from that table.' 'Truth, Lord! But the dogs eat of the crumbs that
fall from their master's table!' O what happy dogs! But let those dogs
remember, that it is also truth, that 'He that eateth and drinketh
unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.' 1 Cor. xvi. 29. O
what precious eating and drinking!

     "'My God! and is thy table spread;
     And doth thy cup with love o'erflow?
     Thither be all the children led,
     And let them all thy sweetness know.'

"That table is a snare, that cup is deadly poison that bread shall
send thy soul to Hell. Well, then! try again, believer: perhaps you had
better join the Missionary Society, and subscribe to send these glad
tidings of these blessed privileges, and this jolly eating and drinking,
to the Heathen. Why, then; you have Christ's own assurance, that when
you shall have made one proselyte, you shall just have done him the
kindness of making him twofold more the child of Hell than yourself.
Mat. xxiii. 15. Is the believer liable to the ordinary gusts of passion,
and in a passion shall he drop the hasty word, 'thou fool!' for that one
word 'he shall be in danger of Hell fire.' Mat. v. 22. Nay, Sirs! this
isn't the worst of the believer's danger. Would he but keep his legs and
arms together, and spare his own eyes and limbs; he doth by that very
mercy to himself damn his eyes and limbs--and hath Christ's assurance
that it would have been profitable for him rather to have plucked out
his eyes, and chopt off his limbs, and so to have wriggled and groped
his way through the 'Straight gate and the narrow way that leadeth unto
life,' than having two eyes and two arms, or two legs, to be cast into
Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their 'worm
dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.' Mark ix. 43. Well, then! will
the believer say, what were all the miracles and prophecies of both
the Old and the New Testament for those unquestionable miracles, and
clearly-accomplished prophecies, if it were not that men should believe?
Why, absolutely, they were the very arguments appointed by God himself
to show us that men should not believe, but that damnation should be
their punishment if they did believe. 'To the law and the testimony.'"
Sirs! These are the very words:--'Of miracles, saith God's word, 'They
are the spirits of devils, that work miracles.' Rev. xvi. 14. And it
is the Devil who 'deceiveih them which dwell on the earth, by means of
those miracles which he hath power to do.' Rev. xiii. 14. So much for
miracles. Is it on the score of prophets and of prophecies, then, that
you will take believing to be the safe side? Then 'thus saith the Lord
of Hosts, the God of Israel, the prophets prophesy falsely and the
priests bear rule by their means.' Jer. v. 31. 'The prophet is a fool:
the spiritual man is mad.' Hosea i. 7. 'Thus saith the Lord of Hosts:
hearken not unto the prophets.' Jer. xxiii. 15. 'O Israel, thy prophets
are like the foxes of the desert.' Ezekiel xiii. 4. 'They lie unto
thee.' Jerem. xiv. 14. 'And they shall be tormented day and night
forever and ever.' Rev. xx. 10. 'And the punishment of the prophet shall
be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.' Ezekiel xiv.
10. Nay more, then, it is, when God hath determined to damn men, that
he, in every instance, causeth them to become believers, and to have
faith in divine Revelation, in order that they may be damned. Believers,
and none but believers, becoming liable to damnation; believers and none
but believers, being capable of committing that unpardonable sin against
the Holy Ghost, which hath never forgiveness, neither in this world nor
in that which is to come. 'Whereas all other kinds of blasphemy shall
be forgiven unto men, and all sorts of blasphemy wherewith soever they
shall blaspheme. But there is no forgiveness for believers.' Mark
iii. 28. For it is written, 'For this cause God shall send them strong
delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be
damned.' 2 Thessal. ii. 11. So when it was determined by God that the
wicked Ahab should perish, the means to bring him to destruction, both
of body and soul, was to make him become a believer.

"I offer no comment of my own on words so sacred; but these are the
words: 'Hear thou, therefore, the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord
sitting upon his throne, and all the hosts of Heaven standing by him on
his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, who shall persuade
Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? and one said on this
manner, and another said on that manner. And there stood forth a spirit,
and stood before the Lord, and said: I will persuade him. And the
Lord said unto him wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will
be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said,
thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also. Go forth and do so. Now,
therefore, behold the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all
thy prophets.' 1 kings xxii. 22. There were 400 of 'em; they were 'the
goodly-fellowship of the prophets for you; all of them inspired by the
spirit from on high, and all of them lying as fast as they could lie.'
So much for getting on the safe side by believing. Had Ahab been an
Infidel, he would have saved his soul alive. As it was, we may address
him in the words of St. Paul to just such another fool, 'King Ahab,
believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest: but no better
than I know, that for that very belief, fell slaughter on thy soul: and
where thou soughtest to be saved by believing, it was by believing
thou wert damned.' So when Elijah had succeeded in converting the 450
worshippers of Baal, who had been safe enough while they were Infidels,
and they began crying, 'the Lord He is God, the Lord He is God:' the
moment they got into the right faith, they found themselves in the
wrong box; and the prophet, by the command of God, put a stop to their
Lord-Godding, by cutting their throats for 'em, 'Elijah brought them
down to the brook of Kishon, and slew them there.' 1 Kings xviii. 40.
Oh! what a blessed thing, you see, to be converted to the true faith!
Thus all the sins and crimes that have been committed in the world, and
all God's judgments upon sin and sinners have been the consequence of
religion, and faith, and believing. What was the first sin committed
in the world? It was believing. Had our great mother Eve not been a
believing credulous fool, she would not have been in the transgression.
Who was the first reverend divine that began preaching about God and
immortality? It was the Devil. What was the first lie that was ever
told, the very damning and damnable lie? It was the lie told to make
folks believe that they would not be dead when they were dead, that they
should not surely die, but that they should be as gods, and live in a
future state of existence. 'When God himself hath declared, that there
is no future state of existence: that 'Dust thou art, and unto dust
shalt thou return.' Who is it, then, that prefers believing in the Devil
rather than in God, but the believer?--And from whom is the hope of a
future state derived, but from the father of lies--the Devil? But if in
defiance of so positive a declaration of Almighty God, men will have it
that there is a future state of existence after death, who are they who
shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven,
but unbelievers, let them come from the north, from the south, from the
east, or from the west? And who are they that shall be cast out, but
believers, 'the children of the kingdom?' As St. Peter very charitably
calls them, 'cursed children.' 2 Peter ii. 14. That is, I suppose,
children with beards, children that never grew to sense enough to put
away childish things, but did in gawky manhood, like new-born babes,
desire the pure milk and lollipop of the gospel. 'For of such is the
kingdom of Heaven.' And who are they whom Christ will set upon his
right hand, and to whom he will say, 'Come ye blessed of my father!' but
unbelievers, who never troubled their minds about religion, and never
darkened the doors of a gospel shop? But who are they to whom he will
say, 'Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and
his angels,' but believers, every one of them believers, chapel-going
folks, Christ's blood men, and incorrigible bigots, that had been
bothering him all their days with their 'Lord! Lord!' to come off at
last with no better reward of their faith than that he will protest unto
them, I never knew ye.

"One text there is, and only one, against ten thousand of a contrary
significancy: which, being garbled and torn from its context, seems,
for a moment, to give the advantage to the believer; the celebrated 19th
chapter of Mark, v. 16:--'He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be
saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.' But little will this
serve the deceitful hope of the Christian, for it is immediately added.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they
cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up
serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;
they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.' Can the
Christian show these signs, or any of them? Will he dare to take-up a
serpent, or drink prussic acid? If he hesitate, he is not a believer,
and his profession of belief is a falsehood. Let belief confer what
privilege it may, he hath no part nor lot in the matter; the threat
which he denounces against Infidels hangs over himself, and he hath no
sign of salvation to show. Believing the gospel, then, (or rather,
I should say, professing to believe it, for I need not tell you that
there's a great deal more professing to believe, than believing,)
instead of making a man the more likely to be saved, doubles his danger
of damnation, inasmuch as Christ hath said, that 'the last state of that
man shall be worse than the first.' Luke xi. 26. And his holy apostle
Peter addeth, 'It would have been better for them not to have known the
way (2 Peter ii. 21) of righteousness.' The sin of believing makes all
other sins that a man can commit so much the more heinous and offensive
in the sight of God, inasmuch as they are sins against light and
knowledge: and 'the servant who knew his Lord's will, and did it not, he
shall be beaten with many stripes.' Luke xii. 47. While unbelief is not
only innocent in itself, but so highly pleasing to Almighty God, that it
is represented as the cause of his forgiveness of things which otherwise
would not be forgiven. Thus St. Paul, who had been a blasphemer, a
persecutor, and injurious, assures us that it was for this cause he
obtained mercy, 'because he did it ignorantly in unbelief.' 1 Tim. i.
13. Had he been a believer, he would as surely have been damned as his
name was Paul. And 'tis the gist of his whole argument, and the express
words of the 11th of the Epistle to the Romans, that 'God included them
all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.' Unbelief being the
essential qualification and recommendation to God's mercy: not without
good reason was it that the pious father of the boy that had the devil
in him, when he had need of Christ's mercy, and knew that unbelief
would be the best title to it, cried out and said with tears, 'Lord,
I believe, help thou mine unbelief!' Mark ix. 24. While the Apostles
themselves, who were most immediately near and dear to Christ, no more
believed the Gospel than I do; and for all they have said and preached
about it, they never believed it themselves, as Christ told 'em that
they hadn't so much faith as a grain of mustard seed. And the evangelist
John bears them record, to their immortal honor; that 'though Christ had
done so many miracles among them, yet believed they not.' John xii. 37.
And the same divine authority assures us that 'neither did his brethren
believe in him.' John vii. 5. Which then is 'the safe side.' Sirs, on
the showing of the record itself? On the unbelieving side, the Infidel
stands in the glorious company of the Apostles, in the immediate family
of Christ, and hath no fear; while the believer doth as well and no
better than the devils in hell, who believe and tremble."



In any work, purporting to be a true record of Freethinkers, the name of
Joseph Barker cannot be omitted. We find in him, from the commencement
of his public life till the present time, an ardent desire for, and
a determination to achieve, freedom of thought and ex-pression on all
subjects appertaining to theology, politics, and sociology. Possessing
a vigorous intellect, a constitution naturally strong, great oratorical
ability, and an unrivalled command oi the Saxon language, he has made
himself a power among each party with whom the transitory state of his
mind has brought him in contact. It is seldom we find men with equal
boldness, when once connected with Wesleyan Methodism, rising superior
in thought to its narrow, selfish, dogmatic, unnatural, and humiliating
views, and claiming for human nature a more dignified and exalted
position; gradually advancing to Unitarianism; ultimately to land safely
on the shore of Materialism. Joseph Barker has passed, amid persecution
and privation, through these different phases of theology, to arrive at
"Infidelity," to be, he states, a better, wiser, and happier man. In his
autobiography, we read that he was born in Bramley, an old country town
in the West Riding of Yorkshire, in 1806, the _day_ of his birth being
forgotten. His parents, and his ancestors, so far as is known of them,
were of humble means. His grandfather was addicted to drinking freely
of those beverages which meet with so much opposition from Mr. Barker
himself. His aunt also was unfortunate, having married a man who was
a minister, a drunkard, and a cock-fighter. His parents appear to have
been uneducated and pious; belonging to the old school of Methodists,
those who look on this life merely as a state of trial and probation;
always looking forward to enjoy their mansion in the skies--the house
not made with hands eternal in the heavens, thinking nothing

 .... Worth a thought beneath,
     But how _they_ may escape the death
     That never, never dies.

Although living _in_ this world, they were not _of it_. It was to them,
all vanity and vexation of spirit. They attended their chapel, their
love feasts, their class-meetings, their prayer meetings, and their
revival meetings, where they would lament over the wickedness and
depravity of human nature, where they would "speak their experience,"
tell of their temptations, pray for the conversion of the world, and
sing their hymns, such as the following, which was a favorite with Mr.
Barker's family:--

     "Refining fire, go through my heart,
          Illuminate my soul;
     Scatter my life through every part,
          And sanctify the whole."

Such being the character of Mr. Barker's parents, it is no wonder that
_he_ was "brought up" under the same influence, with the same false
notions of life, of humanity, and of the world; and we cannot prize
too highly the man who had the industry to investigate, the ability to
discern, and the courage to expose the falsity of such doctrines and the
disastrous effects of such teaching.

In the extracts we shall give from Mr. Barker's works will be found that
simplicity of style and force of argument peculiar to himself. The first
extract we take shows the falsity of the orthodox doctrine of the total
depravity of human nature:--

"On looking back on the earlier periods of my life, I first see
proofs that the orthodox doctrine of original sin, or of natural total
depravity, is a falsehood. I was _not_ born totally depraved. I never
recollect the time, since I began to think and feel at all, when I had
not good thoughts, and good feelings. I never recollect the time since
I began to think and feel at all, when I had not many good thoughts, and
strong inclinations to goodness. So far was my heart from being utterly
depraved or hardened, that I sympathised, even in my childhood, with the
humblest of God's creatures, and was filled to overflowing with sorrow
at the sight of distress. I recollect one Sunday, while I was searching
about for something in one of the windows upstairs, I found a butterfly
that had been starved to death, as I supposed. When I laid hold of it,
it crumbled to pieces. My feelings were such at the thought of the
poor butterfly's sufferings, that I wept. And for all that day I could
scarcely open my lips to say a word to any one without bursting into
tears.... And I recollect well what a struggle I had when I first told a
lie. A school in the neighborhood had a feast, ours had not, so I played
the truant, after a serious struggle, to have an opportunity of seeing
the scholars walk. I had a miserable afternoon; for I felt that I was
doing wrong, and I was afraid lest my mother should find me out. My
sister found me out and told my mother, but my mother was loth to
believe her till she had asked me myself. When I went home my mother
asked me if I had been to school, and I said yes, and my mother, as she
had never found me out in a lie before, believed me. But I was sadly
distressed afterwards when I thought of what I had done. That lie
caused me days of remorse, and my sufferings were all the severer in
consequence of my mother having so readily believed what I said."

The unhappy and unnatural effects of theology on the minds of earnest,
truth-seeking men--the total prostration of manly dignity, the
perversion of the mental faculties, and the debasement of human nature,
is truly stated by Mr. Barker in the following extract:--

"I also recollect being very much troubled with dreadful and
indescribably awful dreams, and for several months during certain parts
of the year I was accustomed to rise during my sleep, and walk about the
house in a state of sleep for hours together. I say in a state of sleep:
but I cannot exactly describe the state in which I was. It was not
_perfect_ sleep, and yet I was not properly awake. My eyes were open,
and I saw, as far as I can remember, the things around me, and 1 could
hear what was said to me. But neither what I saw nor what I heard seemed
to have power to penetrate far enough into my soul to awake me properly.
During those occasions, I was frequently very unhappy, dreadfully
unhappy, most horribly miserable. Sometimes I fancied I had been doing
something wrong, and my fancied offence seemed horrible beyond all
expression, and alarmed and overwhelmed me with unutterable terrors and
distress. On one occasion I fancied that both I and my father had
both been doing something wrong, and this seemed most horrible and
distressing of all; and as I wandered about in my mysterious state, I
howled most piteously, and cried and wept as if my heart would break. I
never recollect being roused from that dismal state while I was walking
about the house, except twice. Once when I struck my shins violently
against a large earthenware bowl and hurt myself sadly; and another was
when I was attempting to go up the chimney: I put my foot upon fire
and burnt myself, and that awoke me. I suffered in this way for several
years. After I went to bed at night I soon fell asleep, and slept
perhaps an hour or nearly two. I would then begin to cry, or moan,
or howl, and at times to sing. One night I sang a whole hymn of eight
verses through; the hymn in Wesley's Hymn Book, beginning

     With glorious clouds encompassed round
          Whom angels dimly see,
     Will the unsearchable be found
          Or God appear to me?'"

Few persons who have not attended the "class-meetings" of the Wesleyan
Methodists can form an adequate idea of the stereotyped phrases and
absurd sayings indulged in by those who "speak their experience,"
etc., at those meetings. Certain sentences are learned, and uttered
indiscriminately, without reference to time, place, or other conditions.
Mr. Barker, after speaking of the recklessness of speech thus indulged
in, says:--

"In many cases this false way of speaking is the result of mere
thoughtlessness perhaps, or of ignorance, joined with the notion that it
is their duty to pray, or to say something in public. The parties have
no _intention_ to deceive: but being called on to speak, or invited to
pray, they begin, and catch hold of such words as they can find, whether
right or wrong, whether true or false. And their words are oftener
foolish or false, than wise or true. Their talk is at times most foolish
and ridiculous. I will give an example or two. It is customary for
people, when praying for preachers, to say, 'Lord, bless thy servants
when they stand up to declare thy word: be thou _mouth matter, and
wisdom_ to them.' This has some meaning in it when offered in reference
to a preacher, especially a preacher about to preach. In other cases
it would be most foolish and ridiculous. Yet I once heard a person in a
prayer-meeting at Chester use this same form of expression in behalf
of the sick and the dying. 'O Lord,' said he, 'bless the sick and the
afflicted, and those that are in the article of death;--be thou mouth,
matter, and wisdom to them.' At another prayer-meeting at Chester, on a
_Friday_ evening, one of the leaders gave out the following lines:--

     'Another six days' work is done;
     Another _Sabbath_ is begun.' etc.

I once heard a woman say in class, 'I do thank God that he ever gave me
a desire to see that _death_ that never, never _dies._'"

Soon after Mr. Barker became "religious" and attended his
class-meetings, he awaited the usual "call" to preach the gospel.
Accordingly, having received the "call," he became a Methodist preacher,
belonging to the Old Connexion, the New Connexion, and then advancing to
Unitarianism, ultimately arriving at the climax of Freethought, in
which cause he is now so distinguished an advocate. While a Methodist
preacher, he was induced by a neighbor, an Atheist, to read Carlile's
"Republican." We can readily understand why Christians are taught not
to read "Infidel" works. The effect the "Republican" produced on Mr.
Barker's mind would be augmented, did those Christians investigate what
they so often ignorantly denounce. In reference to the "Republican,"
Mr. Barker says:--

"I was very much struck in reading some portions of the work
[Carlile's], and agitated and shaken by its arguments on some points.
The object of many of its articles was to prove Christianity irrational
and false. The principal doctrines which it assailed were such as the
trinity--the common notion about the fall of man, and its effects upon
the human race--the Calvinistic notions of eternal, universal, and
absolute predestination, unconditional election and reprobation--the
Calvinistic notion of God's sovereignty or partiality--the utter
depravity of every human being born into the world, and yet the
obligation of those utterly depraved beings to steer clear of all evil,
and to do all that is right and good, on pain of eternal damnation. The
doctrine of satisfaction to justice, was also assailed, and the doctrine
of the immortality of the human soul, and the notion that because it is
immaterial, it must, as a consequence, be immortal.... The consequence
was, that my mind was thrown into a state of doubt and suspense. I
cannot say that I doubted the truth of the Christian religion exactly,
but still I doubted the truth of certain doctrines which I had been
taught to regard as parts of that religion. I can briefly describe the
doubts I had. I neither saw clearly that those doctrines to which he
objected were no part of the Christian religion, nor could I see any way
by which these doctrines could be defended and proved to be rational and
true. One thing began to seem almost certain, either that Christianity
was not true, or that those doctrines as generally laid down, were
no parts of the Christian religion. This led to investigation. I was
wishful to ascertain whether those doctrines which were assailed as
irrational, were parts of Christianity or not. I began to converse on
the subject with one of my religious companions, and I began to read on
the subject as I had opportunity. My companion was rather troubled and
alarmed at the doubts I expressed with respect to the correctness of
some of the common doctrines of what was considered orthodoxy; still,
what I had said had some influence on his mind, for he told me shortly
after, that he wished he had never heard my doubts, for what I had said
had spoiled some of his best sermons; he would never be able to preach
them with comfort more.... During my residence in that [Newcastle]
circuit, my views on many subjects became anti-Methodistical to a very
great extent indeed. I now no longer held the prevailing views with
respect to the nature of justifying faith, the witness of the Spirit,
regeneration, sanctification, and the like. In reading Wesley's works,
I was astonished at the great number of unmeaning and inconsistent
passages which I met with. In many of his views I perfectly agreed with
him? but with a vast amount of what he said on other subjects, I could
not help but disagree.... About this time, finding that there was little
likelihood that I should be tolerated in the New Connexion unless I
could allow my mind to be enslaved, and feeling that I should be obliged
sooner or later to break loose from Methodistical restraint, and speak
and act with freedom, I thought of visiting Mr. Turner, the Unitarian
minister of Newcastle, and seeking an interview with him. I had
heard something to the effect that Unitarians were great lovers of
freedom--that they did not bind their ministers and members by any human
creeds, but left them at liberty to investigate the whole system of
Christianity thoroughly, and to judge as to what were its doctrines
and duties for themselves, and to preach what they believe to be true
without restraint and persecution, and I thought if this was the case,
they must be a very happy people. But from other things which I had
heard respecting them, I was led to regard them with something
of horror--to look, on them as persons who trifled with Scripture
authority, as persons who had rushed from the extremes of false
orthodoxy into the extremes of Infidelity. I was in consequence
prevented from visiting Mr. Turner, and I remained in comparative
ignorance of the Unitarian body, in ignorance both of their principles
and of their character, still shut up in the dungeons of orthodox

"The dungeons of orthodox slavery" did not long contain Mr. Barker; for
he afterwards became better acquainted with the Unitarians, and formed
one of their most energetic preachers. But Unitarianism, appearing to
him at first true in its doctrine and free in its advocacy, shortly
became insufficient for the cravings of his mind; and, at length, he
found himself outside all the churches. The Bible, which at one period
of his life seemed to him a perfect revelation from "God" now appeared
only the production of erring and half-informed men; and having a
thorough knowledge of its contents, he resolved to employ the remainder
of his life in confuting the false notions of its "divine authority."
America presenting a congenial residence, he resolved to visit that
country and purchase some land, upon which he might occupy his leisure
from lecturing and writing. Having settled in the country, he considered
something should be said on the Bible. Accordingly, in November, 1852,
a Bible Convention was held at Salem, Ohio, Mr. Barker being appointed
President, he extract the following from his speech, as illustrating the
uncertainty of the Bible translations, the character of the translators,
and the nature of the manuscripts from which the translations are

"We say, that the Bible bears on its very face the marks of human
imperfection and error. This is true of every Bible in existence.
We will begin with the Bible in common use, and what do we find! The
title-page tells us it is a _translation_ from the original tongues, by
the special command of one of the kings of England. Does any one pretend
that the translators were infallible--men above the possibility of
error? Nothing of the kind. Even those who contend that the original
_writers_ of the Bible were infallible, do not pretend that the king's
translators were so. The sects and priesthoods themselves show that they
regard the common translation as imperfect. They all take the liberty
to alter it. They alter it in thousands and tens of thousands of places.
Nothing is more common than for theological disputants to appeal from
the common translation of the Bible to what they call the original Greek
and Hebrew. Every commentator takes the same liberty. The leaders of the
sects and priesthoods of the day have testified their belief that
the Bibles in common use are imperfect and erroneous by making _new_
translations. There is scarcely an English sect or priesthood of
any note in existence that has not produced a new translation of the
Scriptures. John Wesley translated both the Old and New Testament. His
translation of the New Testament continues to be used in the Methodist
body to this day. Adam Clarke, in his 'Commentary,' translates afresh
almost every important passage in the book. Many passages he translates
in such a way as to give them meanings quite contrary to the meaning
given them in the common Bible. Richard Watson, a Methodist
preacher, commenced a new translation of the Bible. Dr. Boothroyd, a
Congregationalist minister of England, published another translation.
Dr. Conquest, a layman of the same denomination, published another, in
which he says he made twenty thousand emendations, or improvements.
He must, therefore, have thought the common Bible had twenty thousand
imperfections or errors. Mr. Belsham, and other English Unitarians,
published a new translation of the New Testament. Mr. Wellbeloved, a
Unitarian minister, published a new translation of a great part of
the Old testament, intending to publish a new translation of the whole
Bible. Even ministers of the Established Church have spoken strongly
against the common translation, and some of them have gone so far as
to _publish_ new translations _of portions_ of the Bible. Alexander
Campbell, the founder of the denomination which bears his name, has
published a new translation of the New Testament. A Mr. Taylor published
a new translation of the New Testament from Griesbach's Greek New
Testament. A Mr. Sharp published another translation from Griesbach's
Greek text. The Baptists have published a new translation of the Bible,
I am told.... We are not alone, therefore, in believing that the Bibles
in common use bear marks of human imperfection and error. The leading
men in all the religious sects and priesthoods of Great Britain and
America believe the same. We add, if the translators of the Bible had
been the best and wisest men that ever lived, their work would not have
been perfect. A translation from Greek and Hebrew cannot be perfect. But
the translators employed by King James were not the best or wisest men
that ever lived. They were, in some respects, exceedingly ignorant,
prejudiced, and immoral.... They were liars and false-swearers.
These dignitaries of the Church of England knew, as well as you know,
that kings and queens are often vicious, profligate, and godless. They
knew that among the kings and queens of England there had been some of
the most loathsome lumps of filthiness--some of the most adulterous
and lecherous sensualists--some of the most heartless and cruel
tyrants--some of the most inhuman and bloody wretches that ever cursed
the earth. They knew, too, that English kings and queens generally were
under strong temptations to be thus cruel and profligate, and that
it was too much to expect any of them to be strictly religious and
virtuous. Yet they bound themselves on oath to call their kings
and queens, whatever their characters might be, most gracious and
religious.' They _did_ call the monarch then living, 'most gracious and
religious,' and they handed it down as a duty to their successors to
give the same high titles to all their future monarchs, though they
should be as filthy as that unwieldy, waddling mass of lust and
rottenness, King Henry the Eighth, or at false and treacherous as the
perjured Charles the First. These translators of the Bible also knew
that many who were brought to them to be buried were godless,
wicked men. They knew that some of them were drunkards, adulterers,
false-swearers. Yet they bound themselves to call them all, as they
lowered them into their graves, their 'beloved brethren,' and to declare
that they committed them to the dust 'in sure and curtain hope of a
resurrection to eternal life,' though they believed in their hearts that
they would rise to eternal damnation.... They were the hirelings of the
king and government. They regarded the king as the head of the church,
and were sworn to obey him in all things. They were sworn to obey him in
translating the Bible. The king gave them the rules by which they were
to be guided in the work of translation, and they were sworn to follow
these rules. These rules were intended to prevent them from putting
anything into their translation of the Bible that was at variance with
the established priesthoods, and to keep them from leaving out anything
that was favorable to the Established Church and government. And they
_kept_ to their rules, and they were influenced by their interests,
their situation, and their prejudices. It would be foolish to think
otherwise. To make the Bible agree with their creed, they put into their
translation things which were not in the Greek or Hebrew Bibles, and
mistranslated vast multitudes of things which were in the Greek and
Hebrew Bibles. I will give you an instance or two. Their creed taught
that God once died, or laid down his life. There was nothing in the
Greek or Hebrew Bibles to uphold this doctrine, so in translating the
Bible they so altered a passage as to make it to teach the doctrine.
You may find the passage in 1 John, iii. 16. It is as follows:--'Hereby
perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.' Now
the word 'God' is not in the Greek; it was put into the passage by the
translators. In one place in the Old Testament it is said that Elhanan
slew Goliath the Gittite. The translators have altered the passage so as
to make it say that it was the _brother_ of Goliath that Elhanan slew.
See 2 Samuel xxi. 19.... Before a man can give a perfect translation of
the Bible, he must have a perfect knowledge of both the Greek and Hebrew
Bible, and of the language into which he would translate it. But no man
has that knowledge. The Greek and Hebrew languages, from which the Bible
has to be translated, are dead languages--languages which are no longer
spoken or written by any people--languages which exist only in ancient
writings. The meaning of many of the words of those languages is, in
consequence, lost. The writings of the Old Testament are the only books
remaining in the Hebrew language. There are no Hebrew books to throw
light on dark passages, or to settle the meaning of doubtful words and
phrases. True, we have Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and grammars, but
these dictionaries and grammars are the work of imperfect and erring
men, who had no other means oi understanding the meaning of the Greek
and Hebrew languages than ourselves. These dictionaries and grammars
differ from each other. None of them are perfect. The best abound with
errors. We have better means of obtaining a knowledge of the Greek
language than of the Hebrew--but the Greek of the New Testament is a
peculiar dialect, not to be found in any other book. It is, therefore,
as difficult to translate the New Testament as the Old. If, herefore, we
would find a Bible that does _not_ bear the marks of human imperfection
and error, we must look for it in what are called the original Greek and
Hebrew. But there is no such Bible. The Greek and Hebrew Bibles are
as really imperfect as the English translations. The Greek and Hebrew
Bibles are as really the work of imperfect and erring men as the English
translations are. Many people imagine that there is only _one_ Greek and
Hebrew Bible, and that that one was written by Moses and the prophets,
and by the evangelists and the apostles. But this is not the case.
There are _several_ Greek and Hebrew Bibles, and all of them are the
compilations of fallible men. We have several Hebrew Old Testaments,
and quite a number of Greek New Testaments, all compiled by different
persons, but drawn, to some extent, from different sources. It should
be understood, that the oldest Greek and Hebrew Bibles are not printed
books, but written ones. They were written before the art of printing
was known among Jews or Christians. Those written or manuscript Bibles
are more numerous than the Greek and Hebrew printed Bibles. They are the
work of different men, in different countries, and different ages. And
no two of them are alike. They differ from each other almost endlessly.
Some contain more, some less. Some have passages in one form, others
have them in other forms. John Mills compared a number of those
manuscripts of the New Testament, and found that they differed from each
other in thirty thousand places. He marked and collated thirty thousand
various readings. Other men have compared the Greek manuscripts of the
New Testament, and discovered upwards of a hundred thousand various
readings--a hundred thousand places or particulars in which they differ
from each other. A similar diversity of readings is to be found in the
Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testaments. Now it is from these imperfect
and discordant manuscripts that men have to make their Greek and Hebrew
Bibles. They have nothing else from which to make them. And those Greek
and Hebrew Bible makers have no means of knowing which of the various
and contradictory manuscripts are the best.... You must understand
that the original writings from which the manuscripts now in existence
originated, have perished many ages ago. It is probable that the last of
them perished more than sixteen hundred years ago. We have, therefore,
no opportunity of comparing existing manuscripts with the original
writings, in order to and out which are the true, the original readings.
The discordant and contradictory manuscripts, therefore, can never be
corrected.... It is not only of the common English Bible, therefore,
that the words of the resolution are true, but of every Bible known,
whether printed or written, whether in Greek and Hebrew, or in modern

Since Mr. Baker has resided in America, he has visited England, and
lectured for the Secular and Freethought Societies in England and
Scotland; the total number of lectures he delivered during his visit
amounted to 153, besides engaging in several debates, the principal one
being with the Rey. Brewin Grant, at Halifax, during ten nights, on the
"Divine Authority of the Bible," which is now published. The views
now held by Mr. Barker on "God" and Secularism may be seen from the
following extract of a letter addressed to the Editor of the Reasoner,
written by Mr. Barker from America, on February 22, 1853:--

"I confess I know nothing of God, but as he is revealed in his works.
With me, the word God stands for the unseen cause of all natural
phenomena. I attribute to God no quality but what seems necessary to
account for what I see in nature. My Jewish and Christian notions of
God are all gone, except so far as they appear to be the utterances of
nature.... As to Secularism, I think our business is with the seen, the
worldly, the physical, the secular. Our whole duty seems to me to be
truly and fully to unfold ourselves, and truly and fully to unfold
others: to secure the greatest possible perfection of being and
condition, and the largest possible share of life and enjoyment to all
mankind in this present world. The machinery of sects and priesthoods
for saving souls and fitting men for heaven, I regard as wasteful and
injurious folly, except so far as it may tend to better men and improve
their condition here. I have a hope of future life, but whatever is best
for this life must be best for another life; whatever is best for the
present, must be best for the eternal future. To reveal to men the laws
of their own being, and to unfold to them the laws of nature generally,
and to bring them into harmony with those laws, is, therefore, with
me, the whole business of man. If there be another world, as 1 hope, it
will, I suppose, be governed by the same laws as this. If men live on
for ever, they will have all the better start in a future life, for
having got well on in this. As an _art_, therefore, I believe in

J. W.

_Note by the American Publisher_.--Soon after Mr. Barker's return from
England, he resumed his lecturing in various towns and cities in the
United States, giving great satisfaction, by his able addresses, to
large and intelligent audiences. He still labors occasionally in the
same pursuit, though at present he is residing on his farm at Omaha
City, in the Territory of Nebraska. Much might be said in praise of his
efforts to promote Liberalism in this country; but his greatest triumph,
as we consider it, was his public debate with the Rev. Dr. Berg of
Philadelphia. This took place on the 9th of January, 1854, and continued
no less than _eight evenings_. The question was on "the origin,
authority, and tendency of the Bible"--Dr. Berg affirming, and Mr.
Barker opposing. This famous discussion was attended by thousands, and
was probably the greatest affair of the kind that ever occurred. The
speeches on both sides were published, making a large pamphlet of 190
pages. Of course, each of the debaters was victorious, in the opinion of
his friends; but the trick played by the Christian party, in the closing
scene, showed a determination on their part to claim the victory whether
or no! For, as soon as Dr. Berg (who made the last speech) had finished,
one of his friends took the platform, and, while the audience were
separating, read some resolutions in favor of the Doctor and the Bible.
"Less than one fourth of the audience," says the Philadelphia Register,
"voted for them. The more serious part of the audience did not vote at
all. The great majority seemed to take the thing as a farce. The result
of the vote made a good many long faces on the stage and front seats. A
short silence ensued, followed by a burst of obstreporous laughter,
and cries of '_the Infidels have it!_' And so ended the most remarkable
debate ever held in America."

The following correct and candid report of the above discussion,
appeared at the time in the columns of the Pennsylvania Freeman:--

The Bible Discussion.--The discussion on the authority of the Bible, at
Concert Hall, between Rev. J. F. Berg, of this city and Joseph Barker,
of Ohio, closed on Thursday evening last, after a continuance of eight
evenings. During the whole time, the vast hall was crowded with an
eager multitude--numbering from 2000 to 2500 persons--each paying an
admittance of 12 1-2 cents every evening, and on some evenings it is
said that hundreds went away, unable to approach the door; nor did the
interest appear to flag among the hearers to the last.

Of the merits of the question or the argument, it does not come within
the scope of a strictly anti-slavery paper to speak, but we cannot
forbear to notice the contrast in the manner and bearing of the two
debaters, and the two parties among the audience. Mr. Barker uniformly
bore himself as a gentleman, courteously and respectfully towards his
opponent, and with the dignity becoming his position, and the solemnity
and importance of the question. We regret that we cannot say the same of
Dr. Berg, who at times seemed to forget the obligations of the gentleman
in his zeal as a controversialist. He is an able and skillful debater,
though less logical than Mr. Barker, but he wasted his time and
strength too often on personalities and irrelevant matters. His personal
inuendoes and epithets, his coarse witticisms, and a bearing that seemed
to us more arrogant than Christian, may have suited the vulgar and
the intolerant among his party, but we believe these things won him no
respect from the calm and thinking portion of the audience, while we
know that they grieved and offended some intelligent and candid men who
thoroughly agreed with his views. It is surely time that all Christians
and clergymen had learned that men whom they regard as heretics and
Infidels have not forfeited their claims to the respect and courtesies
of social life, by their errors of opinion, and that insolence and
arrogance, contemptuous sneers and impeachment of motives and
character, toward such men, are not effective means of grace for their
enlightenment and conversion.

Among the audience, there was a large number of men, who also lost their
self-control in their dislike to Mr. Barker's views, and he was often
interrupted, and sometimes checked in his argument, by hisses, groans,
sneers, vulgar cries, and clamor, though through all these annoyances
and repeated provocations, he maintained his wonted composure of manner
and clearness of thought. On the other hand, Dr. Berg was heard with
general quiet by his opponents, and greeted with clamorous applause by
his friends, who seemed to constitute a large majority of the audience,
and to feel that the triumph of their cause, like the capture of Jericho
of old, depended upon the amount of noise made.

Mr. Barker, in giving an account of the origin of the discussion,

"In December, [1853] in compliance with a request from the Sunday
Institute, I began a course of lectures in Philadelphia, on the origin,
authority and influence of the Scriptures. The object of the lectures
was to show that the Bible is of _human_ origin, that its teachings are
not of divine authority, and that the doctrine that the Bible is God's
word is injurious in its tendency.

"When I sent the Sunday Institute a programme of my lectures, I
authorised the Secretary to announce, through the papers, that I was
willing to meet any clergyman, of good standing in any of the leading
churches, in public discussion on the Bible question."

[The Rev. Mr. McCalla, a Presbyterian clergyman, accepted the offer,
and arrangements were made for a six nights debate; but, on the fifth
evening, after trying to raise a mob, he withdrew from the contest.]

"The clergy, or a portion of the clergy, of Philadelphia, unwilling to
leave their cause in this plight, demanded that I should discuss the
question with Dr. Berg, a minister in whom they had fuller confidence.
Being assured that Dr. Berg was a gentleman and a scholar, and that he
was the ablest debater the clergy of Philadelphia could boast, I agreed
to meet him, and the discussion was fixed for the 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th,
16th, 17th, 18th and 19th of January."....

"Though the Doctor did not prove himself so much of a gentleman as I
had been encouraged to expect, I was sorry he declined to continue the
discussion four nights longer, as we had not got more than half through
the question when the eighth night closed. I wished for an opportunity
of laying the whole subject before the public. Perhaps some other
clergyman will take the matter in hand--one disposed and able to discuss
the subject thoroughly."

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