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Title: Critical Miscellanies (Vol. 2 of 3) - Essay 4: Joseph de Maistre
Author: Morley, John, 1838-1923
Language: English
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Essay 4: Joseph de Maistre

New York: The MacMillan Company



The Catholic reaction in France at the beginning of the century     257

De Maistre the best type of the movement                            262

Birth, instruction, and early life                                  263

Invasion of Savoy, and De Maistre's flight                          268

At Lausanne, Venice, and Cagliari                                   270

Sent in 1802 as minister to St. Petersburg                          275

Hardships of his life there from 1802 to 1817                       276

Circumstances of his return home, and his death                     285

De Maistre's view of the eighteenth century                         287

And of the French Revolution                                        291

The great problem forced upon the Catholics by it                   293

De Maistre's way of dealing with the question of the divine
  method of government                                              293

Nature of divine responsibility for evil                            294

On Physical Science                                                 298

Significance of such ideas in a mind like De Maistre's              299

Two theories tenable by social thinkers after the Revolution        303

De Maistre's appreciation of the beneficent work of the
  Papacy in the past                                                307

Insists on the revival of the papal power as the essential
  condition of a restored European order                            313

Views Christianity from the statesman's point of view               314

His consequent hatred of the purely speculative temper of
  the Greeks                                                        316

His object was social or political                                  318

Hence his grounds for defending the doctrine of Infallibility       319

The analogy which lay at the bottom of his Ultramontane
  doctrine                                                          320

His hostility to the authority of General Councils                  323

His view of the obligation of the canons on the Pope                325

His appeal to European statesmen                                    326

Comte and De Maistre                                                329

His strictures on Protestantism                                     331

Futility of his aspirations                                         335


Owing to causes which lie tolerably near the surface, the remarkable
Catholic reaction which took place in France at the beginning of the
present century, has never received in England the attention that it
deserves; not only for its striking interest as an episode in the
history of European thought, but also for its peculiarly forcible and
complete presentation of those ideas with which what is called the
modern spirit is supposed to be engaged in deadly war. For one thing,
the Protestantism of England strips a genuinely Catholic movement of
speculation of that pressing and practical importance which belongs to
it in countries where nearly all spiritual sentiment, that has received
any impression of religion at all, unavoidably runs in Catholic forms.
With us the theological reaction against the ideas of the eighteenth was
not and could not be other than Protestant. The defence and
reinstatement of Christianity in each case was conducted, as might have
been expected, with reference to the dominant creed and system of the
country. If Coleridge had been a Catholic, his works thus newly coloured
by an alien creed would have been read by a small sect only, instead of
exercising as they did a wide influence over the whole nation, reaching
people through those usual conduits of press and pulpit, by which the
products of philosophic thought are conveyed to unphilosophic minds. As
naturally in France, hostility to all those influences which were
believed to have brought about the Revolution, to sensationalism in
metaphysics, to atheism in what should have been theology, to the notion
of sovereignty of peoples in politics, inevitably sought a
rallying-point in a renewed allegiance to that prodigious spiritual
system which had fostered the germs of order and social feeling in
Europe, and whose name remains even now in the days of its ruin, as the
most permanent symbol and exemplar of stable organisation. Another
reason for English indifference to this movement is the rapidity with
which here, as elsewhere, dust gathers thickly round the memory of the
champions of lost causes. Some of the most excellent of human
characteristics--intensity of belief, for example, and a fervid anxiety
to realise aspirations--unite with some of the least excellent of them,
to make us too habitually forget that, as Mill has said, the best
adherents of a fallen standard in philosophy, in religion, in politics,
are usually next in all good qualities of understanding and sentiment to
the best of those who lead the van of the force that triumphs. Men are
not so anxious as they should be, considering the infinite diversity of
effort that goes to the advancement of mankind, to pick up the
fragments of truth and positive contribution, that so nothing be lost,
and as a consequence the writings of antagonists with whom we are
believed to have nothing in common, lie unexamined and disregarded.

In the case of the group of writers who, after a century of criticism,
ventured once more with an intrepid confidence--differing fundamentally
from the tone of preceding apologists in the Protestant camp, who were
nearly as critical as the men they refuted--to vindicate not the bare
outlines of Christian faith, but the entire scheme, in its extreme
manifestation, of the most ancient and severely maligned of all
Christian organisations, this apathy is very much to be regretted on
several grounds. In the first place, it is impossible to see
intelligently to the bottom of the momentous spirit of ultramontanism,
which is so deep a difficulty of continental Europe, and which, touching
us in Ireland, is perhaps already one of our own deepest difficulties,
without comprehending in its best shape the theory on which
ultramontanism rests. And this theory it is impossible to seize
thoroughly, without some knowledge of the ideas of its most efficient
defenders in its earlier years. Secondly, it is among these ideas that
we have to look for the representation in their most direct, logical,
uncompromising, and unmistakable form of those theological ways of
regarding life and prescribing right conduct, whose more or less rapidly
accelerated destruction is the first condition of the further elevation
of humanity, as well in power of understanding as in morals and
spirituality. In all contests of this kind there is the greatest and
most obvious advantage in being able to see your enemy full against the
light. Thirdly, in one or two respects, the Catholic reactionaries at
the beginning of the century insisted very strongly on principles of
society which the general thought of the century before had almost
entirely dropped out of sight, and which we who, in spite of many
differences, still sail down the same great current, and are propelled
by the same great tide, are accustomed almost equally either to leave in
the background of speculation, or else deliberately to deny and
suppress. Such we may account the importance which they attach to
organisation, and the value they set upon a common spiritual faith and
doctrine as a social basis. That the form which the recognition of these
principles is destined to assume will at all correspond to their hopes
and anticipations, is one of the most unlikely things possible. This,
however, need not detract from the worth for our purpose of their
exposition of the principles themselves. Again, the visible traces of
the impression made by the writings of this school on the influential
founder of the earliest Positivist system, are sufficiently deep and
important to make some knowledge of them of the highest historical
interest, both to those who accept and those who detest that system.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were three chief
schools of thought, the Sensational, the Catholic, and the Eclectic; or
as it may be put in other terms, the Materialist, the Theological, and
the Spiritualist. The first looked for the sources of knowledge, the
sanction of morals, the inspiring fountain and standard of æsthetics, to
the outside of men, to matter, and the impressions made by matter on the
corporeal senses. The second looked to divine revelation, authority and
the traditions of the Church. The third, steering a middle course,
looked partly within and partly without, relied partly on the senses,
partly on revelation and history, but still more on a certain internal
consciousness of a direct and immediate kind, which is the supreme and
reconciling judge of the reports alike of the senses, of history, of
divine revelation.[1] Each of these schools had many exponents. The
three most conspicuous champions of revived Catholicism were De Maistre,
De Bonald, and Chateaubriand. The last of them, the author of the _Génie
du Christianisme_, was effective in France because he is so deeply
sentimental, but he was too little trained in speculation, and too
little equipped with knowledge, to be fairly taken as the best
intellectual representative of their way of thinking. De Bonald was of
much heavier calibre. He really thought, while Chateaubriand only felt,
and the _Législation Primitive_ and the _Pensées sur Divers Sujets_
contain much that an enemy of the school will find it worth while to
read, in spite of an artificial, and, if a foreigner may judge, a
detestable style.

De Maistre was the greatest of the three, and deserves better than
either of the others to stand as the type of the school for many
reasons. His style is so marvellously lucid, that, notwithstanding the
mystical, or, as he said, the illuminist side of his mind, we can never
be in much doubt about his meaning, which is not by any means the case
with Bonald. To say nothing of his immensely superior natural capacity,
De Maistre's extensive reading in the literature of his foes was a
source of strength, which might indeed have been thought indispensable,
if only other persons had not attacked the same people as he did,
without knowing much or anything at all at first-hand about them. Then
he goes over the whole field of allied subjects, which we have a right
to expect to have handled by anybody with a systematic view of the
origin of knowledge, the meaning of ethics, the elements of social order
and progressiveness, the government and scheme of the universe. And
above all, his writings are penetrated with the air of reality and life,
which comes of actual participation in the affairs of that world with
which social philosophers have to deal. Lamennais had in many respects a
finer mind than De Maistre, but the conclusions in which he was finally
landed, no less than his liberal aims, prevent him from being an example
of the truly Catholic reaction. He obviously represented the Revolution,
or the critical spirit, within the Catholic limits, while De Maistre's
ruling idea was, in his own trenchant phrase, '_absolument tuer
l'esprit du dix-huitième siècle_.' On all these accounts he appears to
be the fittest expositor of those conceptions which the anarchy that
closed the eighteenth century provoked into systematic existence.


[1] See Damiron's _La Philosophie en France au XIXième Siècle_.
Introduction to Vol. I. (Fifth edition.)


Joseph de Maistre was born at Chambéry in the year 1754.[2] His family
was the younger branch of a stock in Languedoc, which about the
beginning of the seventeenth century divided itself into two, one
remaining in France, the other establishing itself in Piedmont. It is
not wonderful that the descendants of the latter, settled in a country
of small extent and little political importance, placed a high value on
their kinship with an ancient line in the powerful kingdom of France.
Joseph de Maistre himself was always particularly anxious to cultivate
close relations with his French kinsfolk, partly from the old
aristocratic feeling of blood, and partly from his intellectual
appreciation of the gifts of the French mind, and its vast influence as
an universal propagating power. His father held a high office in the
government of Savoy, and enjoyed so eminent a reputation that on his
death both the Senate and the King of Sardinia deliberately recorded
their appreciation of his loss as a public calamity. His mother is said
to have been a woman of lofty and devout character, and her influence
over her eldest son was exceptionally strong and tender. He used to
declare in after life that he was as docile in her hands as the youngest
of his sisters. Among other marks of his affectionate submission to
parental authority, we are told that during the whole time of his
residence at Turin, where he followed a course of law, he never read a
single book without previously writing to Chambéry to one or other of
his parents for their sanction. Such traditions linger in families, and
when he came to have children of his own, they too read nothing of which
their father had not been asked to express his approbation. De Maistre's
early education was directed by the Jesuits; and as might have been
expected from the generous susceptibility of his temper, he never ceased
to think of them with warm esteem. To the end of his life he remembered
the gloom which fell upon the household, though he was not nine years
old at the time, when the news arrived of the edict of 1764, abolishing
the Society in the kingdom of France. One element of his education he
commemorates in a letter to his favourite daughter. 'Let your brother,'
he says, 'work hard at the French poets. Let him learn them by heart,
especially the incomparable Racine; never mind whether he understands
him yet or not. I didn't understand him when my mother used to come
repeating his verses by my bedside, and lulled me to sleep with her
fine voice to the sound of that inimitable music. I knew hundreds of
lines long before I knew how to read; and it is thus that my ears,
accustomed betimes to this ambrosia, have never since been able to
endure any sourer draught.'

After his law studies at the University of Turin, then highly renowned
for its jurisconsults, the young De Maistre went through the successive
stages of an official career, performing various duties in the public
administration, and possessing among other honours a seat in the Senate,
over which his father presided. He led a tranquil life at Chambéry, then
as at all other times an ardent reader and student. Unaided he taught
himself five languages. English he mastered so perfectly, that though he
could not follow it when spoken, he could read a book in that tongue
with as much ease as if it had been in his own. To Greek and German he
did not apply himself until afterwards, and he never acquired the same
proficiency in them as in English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.
To be ignorant of German then, it will be remembered, was not what it
would be now, to be without one of the literary senses.

Like nearly every other great soldier of reaction, he showed in his
early life a decided inclination for new ideas. The truth that the
wildest extravagances of youthful aspiration are a better omen of a
vigorous and enlightened manhood than the decorous and ignoble faith in
the perfection of existing arrangements, was not belied in the case of
De Maistre. His intelligence was of too hard and exact a kind to
inspire him with the exalted schemes that present themselves to those
more nobly imaginative minds who dream dreams and see visions. He
projected no Savoyard emigration to the banks of the Susquehanna or
Delaware, to found millennial societies and pantisocratic unions. These
generous madnesses belong to men of more poetic temper. But still, in
spite of the deadening influences of officialism and relations with a
court, De Maistre had far too vigorous and active a character to subside
without resistance into the unfruitful ways of obstruction and social
complacency. It is one of the most certain marks, we may be sure, of a
superior spirit, that the impulses earliest awakened by its first fresh
contact with the facts of the outer world are those which quicken a
desire for the improvement of the condition of society, the increase of
the happiness of men, the amelioration of human destiny. With this
unwritten condition of human nature De Maistre, like other men of his
mental calibre, is found to have complied. He incurred the suspicion and
ill-will of most of those by whom he was immediately surrounded, by
belonging to a Reform Lodge at Chambéry. The association was one of a
perfectly harmless character, but being an association, it diffused a
tarnishing vapour of social disaffection and insurgency over the names
of all who ventured to belong to it, and De Maistre was pointed out to
the Sardinian court as a man with leanings towards new things, and
therefore one of whom it were well to beware. There was little ground
for apprehension. In very small countries there is seldom room enough
for the growth of a spirit of social revolution; not at least until some
great and dominant country has released the forces of destruction. So,
when the menacing sounds of the approaching hurricane in France grew
heavy in the air, the little lodge at Chambéry voluntarily dissolved
itself, and De Maistre was deputed to convey to the king, Victor Amadeo
III., the honourable assurance of its members that they had assembled
for the last time.

In 1786, at the age of thirty-two, De Maistre had married, and when the
storm burst which destroyed all the hopes of his life, he was the father
of two children. In one of his gay letters to a venerable lady who was
on intimate terms with them both, he has left a picture of his wife,
which is not any less interesting for what it reveals of his own
character. 'The contrast between us two is the very strangest in the
world. For me, as you may have found out, I am the _pococurante_
senator, and above all things very free in saying what I think. She, on
the contrary, will take care that it is noon before allowing that the
sun has risen, for fear of committing herself. She knows what must be
done or what must not be done on the tenth of October 1808, at ten
o'clock in the morning, to avoid some inconvenience which otherwise
would come to pass at midnight between the fifteenth and sixteenth of
March 1810. "But, my dear husband, you pay attention to nothing; you
believe that nobody is thinking of any harm. Now I know, I have been
told, I have guessed, I foresee, I warn you," etc. "Come now, my dear,
leave me alone. You are only wasting your time: I foresee that I shall
never foresee things: that's your business." She is the supplement to
me, and hence when I am separated from her, as I am now, I suffer
absurdly from being obliged to think about my own affairs; I would
rather have to chop wood all day.... My children ought to kiss her very
steps; for my part, I have no gift for education. She has such a gift,
that I look upon it as nothing less than the eighth endowment of the
Holy Ghost; I mean a certain fond persecution by which it is given her
to torment her children from morning to night to do something, not to do
something, to learn--and yet without for a moment losing their tender
affection for her. How can she manage it? I cannot make it out.' She was
laughingly called by himself and her friends, Madame Prudence. It is
certain that few women have found more necessity for the qualities
implied in this creditable nickname.

They had not been married many years before they were overtaken by
irreparable disaster. The French Revolution broke out, and Savoy was
invaded by the troops of the new Republic. Count De Maistre, with his
wife and children, fled from Chambéry across the Alps to Aosta. '_Ma
chère amie_,' he said to his wife, by the side of a great rock which he
never afterwards forgot, 'the step that we are taking to-day is
irrevocable; it decides our lot for life;' and the presentiment was
true. Soon the _Loi des Allobroges_ was promulgated, which enjoined upon
all who had left their homes in Savoy to return instantly, under pain of
confiscation of all their property. It was the very depth of winter.
Madame de Maistre was in the ninth month of her pregnancy. She knew that
her husband would endure anything rather than expose her to the risks of
a journey in such a season. So, urged by a desire to save something from
the wreck of their fortune by compliance with the French decree, she
seized the opportunity of her husband's absence at Turin, and started
for Savoy without acquainting him with her design. She crossed the Great
St. Bernard in the beginning of January on the back of a mule,
accompanied by her two little children wrapped in blankets. The Count,
on his return to Aosta two or three days afterwards, forthwith set off
in her steps, in the trembling expectation of finding her dead or dying
in some Alpine hovel. But the favour of fate and a stout heart brought
her safe to Chambéry, where shortly afterwards she was joined by her
husband. The authorities vainly tendered him the oath, vainly bade him
inscribe his name on the register of citizens; and when they asked him
for a contribution to support the war, he replied curtly that he did not
give money to kill his brothers in the service of the King of Sardinia.
As soon as his wife was delivered of their third child, whom he was
destined not to see again for nearly twenty years, he quitted her side,
abandoned his property and his country, and took refuge at Lausanne,
where in time his wife and his two eldest children once more came to

Gibbon tells us how a swarm of emigrants, escaping from the public ruin,
was attracted by the vicinity, the manners, and the language of
Lausanne. 'They are entitled to our pity,' he reflected, 'and they may
claim our esteem, but they cannot in their present state of mind and
fortune contribute much to our amusement. Instead of looking down as
calm and idle spectators on the theatre of Europe, our domestic harmony
is somewhat embittered by the infusion of party spirit.' Gibbon died in
London almost at the very moment that De Maistre arrived at Lausanne,
but his account of things remained true, and political feuds continued
to run as high as ever. Among the people with whom De Maistre was thrown
was Madame de Staël. 'As we had not been to the same school,' he says,
'either in theology or in politics, we had some scenes enough to make
one die of laughter; still without quarrelling. Her father, who was then
alive, was the friend and relative of people that I love with all my
heart, and that I would not vex for all the world. So I allowed the
_émigrés_ who surrounded us to cry out as they would, without ever
drawing the sword.' De Maistre thought he never came across a head so
completely turned wrong as Madame de Staël's, the infallible
consequence, as he took it to be, of modern philosophy operating upon a
woman's nature. He once said of her: 'Ah! if Madame de Staël had been
Catholic, she would have been adorable, instead of famous.' We can
believe that his position among the French _émigrés_ was not
particularly congenial. For though they hated the Revolution, they had
all drunk of the waters of the eighteenth century philosophy, and De
Maistre hated this philosophy worse than he hated the Revolution itself.
Then again, they would naturally vapour about the necessities of strong
government. 'Yes,' said the Savoyard exile, 'but be quite sure that, to
make the monarchy strong, you must rest it on the laws, avoiding
everything arbitrary, too frequent commissions, and all ministerial
jobberies.' We may well believe how unsavoury this rational and just
talk was to people who meant by strong government a system that should
restore to them their old prerogatives of anti-social oppression and
selfish corruption. The order that De Maistre vindicated was a very
different thing from the deadly and poisonous order which was the object
of the prayers of the incorrigible royalists around him.

After staying three years at Lausanne, De Maistre went to Turin, but
shortly afterwards the Sardinian king, at the end of a long struggle,
was forced to succumb to the power of the French, then in the full tide
of success. Bonaparte's brilliant Italian campaign needs no words here.
The French entered Turin, and De Maistre, being an _émigré_, had to
leave it. Furnished with a false passport, and undergoing a thousand
hardships and dangers, he made his way, once more in the depth of a
severe winter (1797), to Venice. He went part of the way down the Po in
a small trading ship, crowded with ladies, priests, monks, soldiers, and
a bishop. There was only one small fire on board, at which all the
cooking had to be done, and where the unhappy passengers had to keep
themselves warm as they could. At night they were confined each to a
space about three planks broad, separated from neighbours by pieces of
canvas hanging from a rope above. Each bank of the river was lined by
military posts--the left by the Austrians, and the right by the French;
and the danger of being fired into was constantly present to aggravate
the misery of overcrowding, scanty food, and bitter cold. Even this
wretchedness was surpassed by the hardships which confronted the exiles
at Venice. The physical distress endured here by De Maistre and his
unfortunate family exceeded that of any other period of their
wanderings. He was cut off from the court, and from all his relations
and friends, and reduced for the means of existence to a few fragments
of silver plate, which had somehow been saved from the universal wreck.
This slender resource grew less day by day, and when that was exhausted
the prospect was a blank. The student of De Maistre's philosophy may see
in what crushing personal anguish some of its most sinister growths had
their roots. When the cares of beggary come suddenly upon a man in
middle life, they burn very deep. Alone, and starving for a cause that
is dear to him, he might encounter the grimness of fate with a fortitude
in which there should be many elevating and consoling elements. But the
destiny is intolerably hard which condemns a man of humane mould, as De
Maistre certainly was, to look helplessly on the physical pains of a
tender woman and famishing little ones. The anxieties that press upon
his heart in such calamity as this are too sharp, too tightened, and too
sordid for him to draw a single free breath, or to raise his eyes for a
single moment of relief from the monstrous perplexity that chokes him.
The hour of bereavement has its bitterness, but the bitterness is
gradually suffused with soft reminiscence. The grip of beggary leaves a
mark on such a character as De Maistre's which no prosperity of after
days effaces. The seeming inhumanity of his theory of life, which is so
revolting to comfortable people like M. Villemain, was in truth the only
explanation of his own cruel sufferings in which he could find any
solace. It was not that he hated mankind, but that his destiny looked as
if God hated him, and this was a horrible moral complexity out of which
he could only extricate himself by a theory in which pain and torment
seem to stand out as the main facts in human existence.

To him, indeed, prosperity never came. Hope smiled on him momentarily,
but, in his own words: 'It was only a flash in the night.' While he was
in Venice, the armies of Austria and Russia reconquered the north of
Italy, and Charles Emanuel IV., in the natural anticipation that the
allies would at once restore his dominions, hastened forward. Austria,
however, as De Maistre had seen long before, was indifferent or even
absolutely hostile to Sardinian interests, and she successfully opposed
Charles Emanuel's restoration. The king received the news of the perfidy
of his nominal ally at Florence, but not until after he had made
arrangements for rewarding the fidelity of some of his most loyal

It was from Florence that De Maistre received the king's nomination to
the chief place in the government of the island of Sardinia. Through the
short time of his administration here, he was overwhelmed with vexations
only a little more endurable than the physical distresses which had
weighed him down at Venice. During the war, justice had been
administered in a grossly irregular manner. Hence, people had taken the
law into their own hands, and retaliation had completed the round of
wrong-doing. The taxes were collected with great difficulty. The higher
class exhibited an invincible repugnance to paying their debts. Some of
these difficulties in the way of firm and orderly government were
insuperable, and De Maistre vexed his soul in an unequal and only
partially successful contest. In after years, amid the miseries of his
life in Russia, he wrote to his brother thus: 'Sometimes in moments of
solitude that I multiply as much as I possibly can, I throw my head back
on the cushion of my sofa, and there with my four walls around me, far
from all that is dear to me, confronted by a sombre and impenetrable
future, I recall the days when in a little town that you know well'--he
meant Cagliari--'with my head resting on another sofa, and only seeing
around our own exclusive circle (good heavens, what an impertinence!)
little men and little things, I used to ask myself: "Am I then condemned
to live and die in this place, like a limpet on a rock?" I suffered
bitterly; my head was overloaded, wearied, flattened, by the enormous
weight of Nothing.'

But presently a worse thing befell him. In 1802 he received an order
from the king to proceed to St. Petersburg as envoy extraordinary and
minister plenipotentiary at the court of Russia. Even from this bitter
proof of devotion to his sovereign he did not shrink. He had to tear
himself from his wife and children, without any certainty when so cruel
a separation would be likely to end; to take up new functions which the
circumstances of the time rendered excessively difficult; while the
petty importance of the power he represented, and its mendicant attitude
in Europe, robbed his position of that public distinction and dignity
which may richly console a man for the severest private sacrifice. It is
a kind destiny which veils their future from mortal men. Fifteen years
passed before De Maistre's exile came to a close. From 1802 to 1817 he
did not quit the inhospitable latitudes of northern Russia.

De Maistre's letters during this desolate period furnish a striking
picture of his manner of life and his mental state. We see in them his
most prominent characteristics strongly marked. Not even the
painfulness of the writer's situation ever clouds his intrepid and
vigorous spirit. Lively and gallant sallies of humour to his female
friends, sagacious judgments on the position of Europe to political
people, bits of learned criticism for erudite people, tender and playful
chat with his two daughters, all these alternate with one another with
the most delightful effect. Whether he is writing to his little girl
whom he has never known, or to the king of Sardinia, or to some author
who sends him a book, or to a minister who has found fault with his
diplomacy, there is in all alike the same constant and remarkable play
of a bright and penetrating intellectual light, coloured by a humour
that is now and then a little sardonic, but more often is genial and
lambent. There is a certain semi-latent quality of hardness lying at the
bottom of De Maistre's style, both in his letters and in his more
elaborate compositions. His writings seem to recall the flavour and
bouquet of some of the fortifying and stimulating wines of Burgundy,
from which time and warmth have not yet drawn out a certain native
roughness that lingers on the palate. This hardness, if one must give
the quality a name that only imperfectly describes it, sprang not from
any original want of impressionableness or sensibility of nature, but
partly from the relentless buffetings which he had to endure at the
hands of fortune, and partly from the preponderance which had been given
to the rational side of his mind by long habits of sedulous and accurate
study. Few men knew so perfectly as he knew how to be touching without
ceasing to be masculine, nor how to go down into the dark pits of human
life without forgetting the broad sunlight, nor how to keep habitually
close to visible and palpable fact while eagerly addicted to
speculation. His contemplations were perhaps somewhat too near the
ground; they led him into none of those sublimer regions of subtle
feeling where the rarest human spirits have loved to travel; we do not
think of his mind among those who have gone

    Voyaging through strange seas of thought alone.

If this kind of temper, strong, keen, frank, and a little hard and
mordent, brought him too near a mischievous disbelief in the dignity of
men and their lives, at least it kept him well away from morbid weakness
in ethics, and from beating the winds in metaphysics. But of this we
shall see more in considering his public pieces than can be gathered
from his letters.

The discomforts of De Maistre's life at St. Petersburg were extreme. The
dignity of his official style and title was an aggravation of the
exceeding straitness of his means. The ruined master could do little to
mitigate the ruin of his servant. He had to keep up the appearance of an
ambassador on the salary of a clerk. 'This is the second winter,' he
writes to his brother in 1810, 'that I have gone through without a
pelisse, which is exactly like going without a shirt at Cagliari. When I
come from court a very sorry lackey throws a common cloak over my
shoulders.' The climate suited him better than he had expected; and in
one letter he vows that he was the only living being in Russia who had
passed two winters without fur boots and a fur hat. It was considered
indispensable that he should keep a couple of servants; so, for his
second, De Maistre was obliged to put up with a thief, whom he rescued
under the shelter of ambassadorial privilege from the hands of justice,
on condition that he would turn honest. The Austrian ambassador, with
whom he was on good terms, would often call to take him out to some
entertainment. 'His fine servants mount my staircase groping their way
in the dark, and we descend preceded by a servant carrying _luminare
minus quam ut præesset nocti_.' 'I am certain,' he adds pleasantly,
'that they make songs about me in their Austrian patois. Poor souls! it
is well they can amuse themselves.'

Sometimes he was reduced so far as to share the soup of his valet, for
lack of richer and more independent fare. Then he was constantly fretted
by enemies at home, who disliked his trenchant diplomacy, and distrusted
the strength and independence of a mind which was too vigorous to please
the old-fashioned ministers of the Sardinian court. These chagrins he
took as a wise man should. They disturbed him less than his separation
from his family. 'Six hundred leagues away from you all,' he writes to
his brother, 'the thoughts of my family, the reminiscences of childhood,
transport me with sadness.' Visions of his mother's saintly face
haunted his chamber; almost gloomier still was the recollection of old
intimates with whom he had played, lived, argued, and worked for years,
and yet who now no longer bore him in mind. There are not many glimpses
of this melancholy in the letters meant for the eye of his beloved
_trinité féminine_, as he playfully called his wife and two daughters.
'_A quoi bon vous attrister_,' he asked bravely, '_sans raison et sans
profit?_' Occasionally he cannot help letting out to them how far his
mind is removed from composure. 'Every day as I return home I found my
house as desolate as if it was yesterday you left me. In society the
same fancy pursues me, and scarcely ever quits me.' Music, as might be
surmised in so sensitive a nature, drove him almost beside himself with
its mysterious power of intensifying the dominant emotion. 'Whenever by
any chance I hear the harpsichord,' he says, 'melancholy seizes me. The
sound of the violin gives me such a heavy heart, that I am fain to leave
the company and hasten home.' He tossed in his bed at night, thinking he
heard the sound of weeping at Turin, making a thousand efforts to
picture to himself the looks of that 'orphan child of a living father'
whom he had never known, wondering if ever he should know her, and
battling with a myriad of black phantoms that seemed to rustle in his
curtains. 'But you, M. de Chevalier,' he said apologetically to the
correspondent to whom he told these dismal things, 'you are a father,
you know the cruel dreams of a waking man; if you were not of the
profession I would not allow my pen to write you this jeremiad.' As De
Maistre was accustomed to think himself happy if he got three hours'
sound sleep in the night, these sombre and terrible vigils were ample
enough to excuse him if he had allowed them to overshadow all other
things. But the vigour of his intellect was too strenuous, and his
curiosity and interest in every object of knowledge too
inextinguishable. 'After all,' he said, 'the only thing to do is to put
on a good face, and to march to the place of torture with a few friends
to console you on the way. This is the charming image under which I
picture my present situation. Mark you,' he added, 'I always count books
among one's consoling friends.'

In one of the most gay and charming of his letters, apologising to a
lady for the remissness of his correspondence, he explains that
diplomacy and books occupy every moment. 'You will admit, madam, there
is no possibility of one's shutting up books entirely. Nay, more than
ever, I feel myself burning with the feverish thirst for knowledge. I
have had an access of it which I cannot describe to you. The most
curious books literally run after me, and hurry voluntarily to place
themselves in my hands. As soon as diplomacy gives me a moment of
breathing-time I rush headlong to that favourite pasture, to that
ambrosia of which the mind can never have enough--

    _Et voilà ce qui fait que votre ami est muet._'

He thinks himself happy if, by refusing invitations to dinner, he can
pass a whole day without stirring from his house. 'I read, I write, I
study; for after all one must know something.' In his hours of
depression he fancied that he only read and worked, not for the sake of
the knowledge, but to stupefy and tire himself out, if that were

As a student De Maistre was indefatigable. He never belonged to that
languid band who hoped to learn difficult things by easy methods. The
only way, he warned his son, is to shut your door, to say that you are
not within, and to work. 'Since they have set themselves to teach us how
we ought to learn the dead languages, you can find nobody who knows
them; and it is amusing enough that people who don't know them, should
be so obstinately bent on demonstrating the vices of the methods
employed by us who do know them.' He was one of those wise and laborious
students who do not read without a pen in their hands. He never shrank
from the useful toil of transcribing abundantly from all the books he
read everything that could by any possibility eventually be of service
to him in his inquiries. His notebooks were enormous. As soon as one of
them was filled, he carefully made up an index of its contents, numbered
it, and placed it on a shelf with its unforgotten predecessors. In one
place he accidentally mentions that he had some thirty of these folios
over the head of his writing-table.

'If I am a pedant at home,' he said, 'at least I am as little as
possible a pedant out of doors.' In the evening he would occasionally
seek the society of ladies, by way of recovering some of that native
gaiety of heart which had hitherto kept him alive. 'I blow on this
spark,' to use his own words, 'just as an old woman blows among the
ashes to get a light for her lamp.' A student and a thinker, De Maistre
was also a man of the world, and he may be added to the long list of
writers who have shown that to take an active part in public affairs and
mix in society give a peculiar life, reality, and force to both
scholarship and speculation. It was computed at that time that the
author of a philosophic piece could not safely count upon more than a
hundred and fifty readers in Russia; and hence, we might be sure, even
if we had not De Maistre's word for it, that away from his own house he
left his philosophy behind. The vehemence of his own convictions did not
prevent him from being socially tolerant to others who hated them. 'If I
had the good fortune to be among his acquaintances,' he wrote of a
heretical assailant, 'he would see that among the people with
convictions it would be hard to find one so free from prejudice as I am.
I have many friends among the Protestants, and now that their system is
tottering, they are all the dearer to me.' In spite of his scanty means,
his shabby valet, his threadbare cloak, and the humbleness of his
diplomatic position, the fire and honesty of his character combined with
his known ability to place him high in the esteem of the society of St.
Petersburg. His fidelity, devotion, and fortitude, mellowed by many
years and by meditative habits, and tinged perhaps by the patrician
consciousness of birth, formed in him a modest dignity of manner which
men respected. They perceived it to be no artificial assumption, but the
outward image of a lofty and self-respecting spirit. His brother
diplomatists, even the representatives of France, appear to have treated
him with marked consideration. His letters prove him to have been a
favourite among ladies. The Emperor Alexander showed him considerable
kindness of the cheap royal sort. He conferred on his brother, Xavier de
Maistre, a post in one of the public museums, while to the Sardinian
envoy's son he gave a commission in the Russian service.

The first departure of this son for the campaign of 1807 occasioned some
of the most charming passages in De Maistre's letters, both to the young
soldier himself and to others. For though without a touch of morbid
expansiveness, he never denied himself the solace of opening his heart
to a trusted friend, and a just reserve with strangers did not hinder a
humane and manly confidence with intimates. 'This morning,' he wrote to
his stripling, soon after he had joined the army, 'I felt a tightening
at my heart when a pet dog came running in and jumped upon your bed,
where he finds you no more. He soon perceived his mistake, and said
clearly enough, after his own fashion: _I am mistaken; where can he be
then?_ As for me I have felt all that you will feel, if ever you pursue
this mighty trade of being a father.' And then he begs of his son if he
should find himself with a tape line in his hand, that he will take his
exact measure and forward it. Soon came the news of the battle of
Friedland, and the unhappy father thought he read the fate of his son in
the face of every acquaintance he met. And so it was in later campaigns,
as De Maistre records in correspondence that glows with tender and
healthy solicitude. All this is worth dwelling upon, for two reasons.
First, because De Maistre has been too much regarded and spoken of as a
man of cold sensibility, and little moved by the hardships which fill
the destiny of our unfortunate race. And, secondly, because his own keen
acquaintance with mental anguish helps us to understand the zeal with
which he attempts to reconcile the blind cruelty and pain and torture
endured by mortals with the benignity and wisdom of the immortal. 'After
all,' he used to say, 'there are only two real evils--remorse and
disease.' This is true enough for an apophthegm, but as a matter of fact
it never for an instant dulled his sensibility to far less supreme forms
of agony than the recollection of irreparable pain struck into the lives
of others. It is interesting and suggestive to recall how a later
publicist viewed the ills that dwarf our little lives. 'If I were asked
to class human miseries,' said Tocqueville, 'I would do so in this
order: first, Disease; second, Death; third, Doubt.' At a later date, he
altered the order, and deliberately declared doubt to be the most
insupportable of all evils, worse than death itself. But Tocqueville was
an aristocrat, as Guizot once told him, who accepted his defeat. He
stood on the brink of the great torrent of democracy, and shivered. De
Maistre was an aristocrat too, but he was incapable of knowing what
doubt or hesitation meant. He never dreamt that his cause was lost, and
he mocked and defied the Revolution to the end. We easily see how
natures of this sort, ardent, impetuous, unflinching, find themselves in
the triumphant paths that lead to remorse at their close, and how they
thus come to feel remorse rather than doubt as the consummate agony of
the human mind.

Having had this glimpse of De Maistre's character away from his books,
we need not linger long over the remaining events of his life. In 1814
his wife and two daughters joined him in the Russian capital. Two years
later an outburst of religious fanaticism caused the sudden expulsion of
the Jesuits from Russia, to De Maistre's deep mortification. Several
conversions had taken place from the Orthodox to the Western faith, and
these inflamed the Orthodox party, headed by the Prince de Galitzin, the
minister of public worship, with violent theological fury. De Maistre,
whose intense attachment to his own creed was well known, fell under
suspicion of having connived at these conversions, and the Emperor
himself went so far as to question him. 'I told him,' De Maistre says,
'that I had never changed the faith of any of his subjects, but that if
any of them had by chance made me a sharer of their confidence, neither
honour nor conscience would have allowed me to tell them that they were
wrong.' This kind of dialogue between a sovereign and an ambassador
implied a situation plainly unfavourable to effective diplomacy. The
envoy obtained his recall, and after twenty-five years' absence returned
to his native country (1817). On his way home, it may be noticed, De
Maistre passed a few days in Paris, and thus, for the first and last
time, one of the most eminent of modern French writers found himself on
French soil.

The king accorded De Maistre an honourable reception, conferred upon him
a high office and a small sum of money, and lent his ear to other
counsellors. The philosopher, though insisting on declaring his
political opinions, then, as ever, unwaveringly anti-revolutionary,
threw himself mainly upon that literary composition which had been his
solace in yet more evil days than these. It was at this time that he
gave to the world the supreme fruit of nearly half a century of study,
meditation, and contact with the world, in _Du Pape_, _Les Soirées de
Saint Pétersbourg_, and _L'Eglise Gallicane_. Their author did not live
long to enjoy the vast discussion which they occasioned, nor the
reputation that they have since conferred upon his name. He died in
February 1821 after such a life as we have seen.


[2] The facts of De Maistre's life I have drawn from a very meagre
biography by his son, Count Rodolphe de Maistre, supplemented by two
volumes of _Lettres et Opuscules_ (Fourth edition. Paris: Vaton. 1865),
and a volume of his _Diplomatic Correspondence_, edited by M. Albert


It is not at all surprising that they upon whom the revolutionary deluge
came should have looked with indiscriminating horror and affright on all
the influences which in their view had united first to gather up, and
then to release the destructive flood. The eighteenth century to men
like De Maistre seemed an infamous parenthesis, mysteriously interposed
between the glorious age of Bossuet and Fénelon, and that yet brighter
era for faith and the Church which was still to come in the good time of
Divine Providence. The philosophy of the last century, he says on more
than one occasion, will form one of the most shameful epochs of the
human mind: it never praised even good men except for what was bad in
them. He looked upon the gods whom that century had worshipped as the
direct authors of the bloodshed and ruin in which their epoch had
closed. The memory of mild and humane philosophers was covered with the
kind of black execration that prophets of old had hurled at Baal or
Moloch; Locke and Hume, Voltaire and Rousseau, were habitually spoken of
as very scourges of God. From this temper two consequences naturally
flowed. In the first place, while it lasted there was no hope of an
honest philosophic discussion of the great questions which divide
speculative minds. Moderation and impartiality were virtues of almost
superhuman difficulty for controversialists who had made up their minds
that it was their opponents who had erected the guillotine, confiscated
the sacred property of the church, slaughtered and banished her
children, and filled the land with terror and confusion. It is hard amid
the smoking ruins of the homestead to do full justice to the theoretical
arguments of the supposed authors of the conflagration. Hence De
Maistre, though, as has been already said, intimately acquainted with
the works of his foes in the letter, was prevented by the vehemence of
his antipathy to the effects which he attributed to them, from having
any just critical estimate of their value and true spirit. 'I do not
know one of these men,' he says of the philosophers of the eighteenth
century, 'to whom the sacred title of honest man is quite suitable.'
They are all wanting in probity. Their very names '_me déchirent la
bouche_.' To admire Voltaire is the sign of a corrupt soul; and if
anybody is drawn to the works of Voltaire, then be sure that God does
not love such an one. The divine anathema is written on the very face of
this arch-blasphemer; on his shameless brow, in the two extinct craters
still sparkling with sensuality and hate, in that frightful _rictus_
running from ear to ear, in those lips tightened by cruel malice, like a
spring ready to fly back and launch forth blasphemy and sarcasm; he
plunges into the mud, rolls in it, drinks of it; he surrenders his
imagination to the enthusiasm of hell, which lends him all its forces;
Paris crowned him, Sodom would have banished him.[3] Locke, again, did
not understand himself. His distinguishing characteristics are
feebleness and precipitancy of judgment. Vagueness and irresolution
reign in his expressions as they do in his thoughts. He constantly
exhibits that most decisive sign of mediocrity--he passes close by the
greatest questions without perceiving them. In the study of philosophy,
contempt for Locke is the beginning of knowledge.[4] Condillac was even
more vigilantly than anybody else on his guard against his own
conscience. But Hume was perhaps the most dangerous and the most guilty
of all those mournful writers who will for ever accuse the last century
before posterity--the one who employed the most talent with the most
coolness to do most harm.[5] To Bacon De Maistre paid the compliment of
composing a long refutation of his main ideas, in which Bacon's
blindness, presumption, profanity, and scientific charlatanry are
denounced in vehement and almost coarse terms, and treated as the
natural outcome of a low morality.

It has long been the inglorious speciality of the theological school to
insist in this way upon moral depravity as an antecedent condition of
intellectual error. De Maistre in this respect was not unworthy of his
fellows. He believed that his opponents were even worse citizens than
they were bad philosophers, and it was his horror of them in the former
capacity that made him so bitter and resentful against them in the
latter. He could think of no more fitting image for opinions that he did
not happen to believe than counterfeit money, 'which is struck in the
first instance by great criminals, and is afterwards passed on by honest
folk who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they do.' A
philosopher of the highest class, we may be sure, does not permit
himself to be drawn down from the true object of his meditations by
these sinister emotions. But De Maistre belonged emphatically to minds
of the second order, whose eagerness to find truth is never intense and
pure enough to raise them above perturbing antipathies to persons. His
whole attitude was fatal to his claim to be heard as a truth-seeker in
any right sense of the term. He was not only persuaded of the general
justice and inexpugnableness of the orthodox system, but he refused to
believe that it was capable of being improved or supplemented by
anything which a temperate and fair examination of other doctrines might
peradventure be found to yield. With De Maistre there was no
peradventure. Again, no speculative mind of the highest order ever
mistakes, or ever moves systematically apart from, the main current of
the social movement of its time. It is implied in the very definition of
a thinker of supreme quality that he should detect, and be in a certain
accord with, the most forward and central of the ruling tendencies of
his epoch. Three-quarters of a century have elapsed since De Maistre was
driven to attempt to explain the world to himself, and this interval
has sufficed to show that the central conditions at that time for the
permanent reorganisation of the society which had just been so violently
rent in pieces, were assuredly not theological, military, nor
ultramontane, but the very opposite of all these.

There was a second consequence of the conditions of the time. The
catastrophe of Europe affected the matter as well as the manner of
contemporary speculation. The French Revolution has become to us no more
than a term, though the strangest term in a historic series. To some of
the best of those who were confronted on every side by its tumult and
agitation, it was the prevailing of the gates of hell, the moral
disruption of the universe, the absolute and total surrender of the
world to them that plough iniquity and sow wickedness. Even under
ordinary circumstances few men have gone through life without
encountering some triumphant iniquity, some gross and prolonged cruelty,
which makes them wonder how God should allow such things to be. If we
remember the aspect which the Revolution wore in the eyes of those who
seeing it yet did not understand, we can imagine what dimensions this
eternal enigma must have assumed in their sight. It was inevitable that
the first problem to press on men with resistless urgency should be the
ancient question of the method of the Creator's temporal government.
What is the law of the distribution of good and evil fortune? How can we
vindicate with regard to the conditions of this life, the different
destinies that fall to men? How can we defend the moral ordering of a
world in which the wicked and godless constantly triumph, while the
virtuous and upright who retain their integrity are as frequently
buffeted and put to shame?

This tremendous question has never been presented with such sublimity of
expression, such noble simplicity and force of thought, as in the
majestic and touching legend of Job. But its completeness, as a
presentation of the human tragedy, is impaired by the excessive
prosperity which is finally supposed to reward the patient hero for his
fortitude. Job received twice as much as he had before, and his latter
end was blessed more than his beginning. In the chronicles of actual
history men fare not so. There is a terribly logical finish about some
of the dealings of fate, and in life the working of a curse is seldom
stayed by any dramatic necessity for a smooth consummation. Destiny is
no artist. The facts that confront us are relentless. No statement of
the case is adequate which maintains, by ever so delicate an
implication, that in the long run and somehow it is well in temporal
things with the just, and ill with the unjust. Until we have firmly
looked in the face the grim truth that temporal rewards and punishments
do not follow the possession or the want of spiritual or moral virtue,
so long we are still ignorant what that enigma is, which speculative
men, from the author of the book of Job downwards, have striven to
resolve. We can readily imagine the fulness with which the question
would grow up in the mind of a royalist and Catholic exile at the end of
the eighteenth century.

Nothing can be more clearly put than De Maistre's answers to the
question which the circumstances of the time placed before him to solve.
What is the law of the distribution of good and evil fortune in this
life? Is it a moral law? Do prosperity and adversity fall respectively
to the just and the unjust, either individually or collectively? Has the
ancient covenant been faithfully kept, that whoso hearkens diligently to
the divine voice, and observes all the commandments to do them, shall be
blessed in his basket and his store and in all the work of his hand? Or
is God a God that hideth himself?

De Maistre perceived that the optimistic conception of the deity as
benign, merciful, infinitely forgiving, was very far indeed from
covering the facts. So he insisted on seeing in human destiny the
ever-present hand of a stern and terrible judge, administering a
Draconian code with blind and pitiless severity. God created men under
conditions which left them free to choose between good and evil. All the
physical evil that exists in the world is a penalty for the moral evil
that has resulted from the abuse by men of this freedom of choice. For
these physical calamities God is only responsible in the way in which a
criminal judge is responsible for a hanging. Men cannot blame the judge
for the gallows; the fault is their own in committing those offences for
which hanging is prescribed beforehand as the penalty. These curses
which dominate human life are not the result of the cruelty of the
divine ruler, but of the folly and wickedness of mankind, who, seeing
the better course, yet deliberately choose the worse. The order of the
world is overthrown by the iniquities of men; it is we who have provoked
the exercise of the divine justice, and called down the tokens of his
vengeance. The misery and disaster that surround us like a cloak are the
penalty of our crimes and the price of our expiation. As the divine St.
Thomas has said: _Deus est auctor mali quod est poena, non autem mali
quod est culpa._ There is a certain quantity of wrong done over the face
of the world; therefore the great Judge exacts a proportionate quantity
of punishment. The total amount of evil suffered makes nice equation
with the total amount of evil done; the extent of human suffering
tallies precisely with the extent of human guilt. Of course you must
take original sin into account, 'which explains all, and without which
you can explain nothing.' 'In virtue of this primitive degradation we
are subject to all sorts of physical sufferings _in general_; just as in
virtue of this same degradation we are subject to all sorts of vices _in
general_. This original malady therefore [which is the correlative of
original sin] has no other name. It is only the capacity of suffering
all evils, as original sin is only the capacity of committing all
crimes.'[6] Hence all calamity is either the punishment of sins actually
committed by the sufferers, or else it is the general penalty exacted
for general sinfulness. Sometimes an innocent being is stricken, and a
guilty being appears to escape. But is it not the same in the
transactions of earthly tribunals? And yet we do not say that they are
conducted without regard to justice and righteousness. 'When God
punishes any society for the crimes that it has committed, he does
justice as we do justice ourselves in these sorts of circumstance. A
city revolts; it massacres the representatives of the sovereign; it
shuts its gates against him; it defends itself against his arms; it is
taken. The prince has it dismantled and deprived of all its privileges;
nobody will find fault with this decision on the ground that there are
innocent persons shut up in the city.'[7]

De Maistre's deity is thus a colossal Septembriseur, enthroned high in
the peaceful heavens, demanding ever-renewed holocausts in the name of
the public safety.

It is true, as a general rule of the human mind, that the objects which
men have worshipped have improved in morality and wisdom as men
themselves have improved. The quiet gods, without effort of their own,
have grown holier and purer by the agitations and toil which civilise
their worshippers. In other words, the same influences which elevate and
widen our sense of human duty give corresponding height and nobleness to
our ideas of the divine character. The history of the civilisation of
the earth is the history of the civilisation of Olympus also. It will be
seen that the deity whom De Maistre sets up is below the moral level of
the time in respect of Punishment. In intellectual matters he vehemently
proclaimed the superiority of the tenth or the twelfth over the
eighteenth century, but it is surely carrying admiration for those loyal
times indecently far, to seek in the vindictive sackings of revolted
towns, and the miscellaneous butcheries of men, women, and babes, which
then marked the vengeance of outraged sovereignty, the most apt parallel
and analogy for the systematic administration of human society by its
Creator. Such punishment can no longer be regarded as moral in any deep
or permanent sense; it implies a gross, harsh, and revengeful character
in the executioner, that is eminently perplexing and incredible to those
who expect to find an idea of justice in the government of the world, at
least not materially below what is attained in the clumsy efforts of
uninspired publicists.

In mere point of administration, the criminal code which De Maistre put
into the hands of the Supreme Being works in a more arbitrary and
capricious manner than any device of an Italian Bourbon. As Voltaire

    _Lisbonne, qui n'est plus, eut-elle plus de vices
    Que Londres, que Paris, plongés dans les délices?
    Lisbonne est abîmée, et l'on danse à Paris._

Stay, De Maistre replies, look at Paris thirty years later, not dancing,
but red with blood. This kind of thing is often said, even now; but it
is really time to abandon the prostitution of the name of Justice to a
process which brings Lewis XVI. to the block, and consigns De Maistre to
poverty and exile, because Lewis XIV., the Regent, and Lewis XV. had
been profligate men or injudicious rulers. The reader may remember how
the unhappy Emperor Maurice as his five innocent sons were in turn
murdered before his eyes, at each stroke piously ejaculated: 'Thou art
just, O Lord! and thy judgments are righteous.'[8] Any name would befit
this kind of transaction better than that which, in the dealings of men
with one another at least, we reserve for the honourable anxiety that he
should reap who has sown, that the reward should be to him who has
toiled for it, and the pain to him who has deliberately incurred it.
What is gained by attributing to the divine government a method tainted
with every quality that could vitiate the enactment of penalties by a
temporal sovereign?

We need not labour this part of the discussion further. Though conducted
with much brilliance and vigour by De Maistre, it is not his most
important nor remarkable contribution to thought. Before passing on to
that, it is worth while to make one remark. It will be inferred from De
Maistre's general position that he was no friend to physical science.
Just as moderns see in the advance of the methods and boundaries of
physical knowledge the most direct and sure means of displacing the
unfruitful subjective methods of old, and so of renovating the entire
field of human thought and activity, so did De Maistre see, as his
school has seen since, that here was the stronghold of his foes. 'Ah,
how dearly,' he exclaimed, 'has man paid for the natural sciences!' Not
but that Providence designed that man should know something about them;
only it must be in due order. The ancients were not permitted to attain
to much or even any sound knowledge of physics, indisputably above us as
they were in force of mind, a fact shown by the superiority of their
languages which ought to silence for ever the voice of our modern pride.
Why did the ancients remain so ignorant of natural science? Because they
were not Christian. 'When all Europe was Christian, when the priests
were the universal teachers, when all the establishments of Europe were
Christianised, when theology had taken its place at the head of all
instruction, and the other faculties were ranged around her like maids
of honour round their queen, the human race being thus prepared, then
the natural sciences were given to it.' Science must be kept in its
place, for it resembles fire which, when confined in the grates prepared
for it, is the most useful and powerful of man's servants; scattered
about anyhow, it is the most terrible of scourges. Whence the marked
supremacy of the seventeenth century, especially in France? From the
happy accord of religion, science, and chivalry, and from the supremacy
conceded to the first. The more perfect theology is in a country the
more fruitful it is in true science; and that is why Christian nations
have surpassed all others in the sciences, and that is why the Indians
and Chinese will never reach us, so long as we remain respectively as we
are. The more theology is cultivated, honoured, and supreme, then, other
things being equal, the more perfect will human science be: that is to
say, it will have the greater force and expansion, and will be the more
free from every mischievous and perilous connection.[9]

Little would be gained here by serious criticism of a view of this kind
from a positive point. How little, the reader will understand from De
Maistre's own explanations of his principles of Proof and Evidence.
'They have called to witness against Moses,' he says, 'history,
chronology, astronomy, geology, etc. The objections have disappeared
before true science; but those were profoundly wise who despised them
before any inquiry, or who only examined them in order to discover a
refutation, but without ever doubting that there was one. Even a
mathematical objection ought to be despised, for though it may be a
demonstrated truth, still you will never be able to demonstrate that it
contradicts a truth that has been demonstrated before.' His final
formula he boldly announced in these words: '_Que toutes les fois qu'une
proposition sera prouvée par le genre de preuve qui lui appartient,
l'objection quelconque,_ MÊME INSOLUBLE, _ne doit plus être écoutée._'
Suppose, for example, that by a consensus of testimony it were perfectly
proved that Archimedes set fire to the fleet of Marcellus by a
burning-glass; then all the objections of geometry disappear. Prove if
you can, and if you choose, that by certain laws a glass, in order to be
capable of setting fire to the Roman fleet, must have been as big as the
whole city of Syracuse, and ask me what answer I have to make to that.
'_J'ai à vous répondre qu'Archimède brûla la flotte romaine avec un
miroir ardent._'

The interesting thing about such opinions as these is not the exact
height and depth of their falseness, but the considerations which could
recommend them to a man of so much knowledge, both of books and of the
outer facts of life, and of so much natural acuteness as De Maistre.
Persons who have accustomed themselves to ascertained methods of proof,
are apt to look on a man who vows that if a thing has been declared
true by some authority whom he respects, then that constitutes proof to
him, as either the victim of a preposterous and barely credible
infatuation, or else as a flat impostor. Yet De Maistre was no ignorant
monk. He had no selfish or official interest in taking away the
keys of knowledge, entering not in himself, and them that would
enter in hindering. The true reasons for his detestation of the
eighteenth-century philosophers, science, and literature, are simple
enough. Like every wise man, he felt that the end of all philosophy and
science is emphatically social, the construction and maintenance and
improvement of a fabric under which the communities of men may find
shelter, and may secure all the conditions for living their lives with
dignity and service. Then he held that no truth can be harmful to
society. If he found any system of opinions, any given attitude of the
mind, injurious to tranquillity and the public order, he instantly
concluded that, however plausible they might seem when tested by logic
and demonstration, they were fundamentally untrue and deceptive. What is
logic compared with eternal salvation in the next world, and the
practice of virtue in this? The recommendation of such a mind as De
Maistre's is the intensity of its appreciation of order and social
happiness. The obvious weakness of such a mind, and the curse inherent
in its influence, is that it overlooks the prime condition of all; that
social order can never be established on a durable basis so long as the
discoveries of scientific truth in all its departments are suppressed,
or incorrectly appreciated, or socially misapplied. De Maistre did not
perceive that the cause which he supported was no longer the cause of
peace and tranquillity and right living, but was in a state of absolute
and final decomposition, and therefore was the cause of disorder and
blind wrong living. Of this we shall now see more.


[3] _Soirées de Saint Pétersbourg_ (8th ed. 1862), vol. i. pp. 238-243.

[4] _Soirées de Saint Pétersbourg, 6ième entretien_, i. 397-442.

[5] _Ib._ (8th ed. 1862) vol. i. p. 403.

[6] _Soirées_, i. 76

[7] De Maistre found a curiously characteristic kind of support for this
view in the fact that evils are called _fléaux_: flails are things to
beat with: so evils must be things with which men are beaten; and as we
should not be beaten if we did not deserve it, _argal_, suffering is a
merited punishment. Apart from that common infirmity which leads people
after they have discovered an analogy between two things, to argue from
the properties of the one to those of the other, as if, instead of being
analogous, they were identical, De Maistre was particularly fond of
inferring moral truths from etymologies. He has an argument for the
deterioration of man, drawn from the fact that the Romans expressed in
the same word, _supplicium_, the two ideas of prayer and punishment
(_Soirées, 2ième entretien_, i. p. 108). His profundity as an
etymologist may be gathered from his analysis of _cadaver_: _ca_-ro,
_da_-ta, _ver_-mibus. There are many others of the same quality.

[8] _Gibbon_, c. xlvi. vol. v. 385.

[9] See the _Examen de la Philosophie de Bacon_, vol. ii. 58 _et seq._


When the waters of the deluge of '89 began to assuage, the best minds
soon satisfied themselves that the event which Bonaparte's restoration
of order enabled them to look back upon with a certain tranquillity and
a certain completeness, had been neither more nor less than a new
irruption of barbarians into the European world. The monarchy, the
nobles, and the Church, with all the ideas that gave each of them life
and power, had fallen before atheists and Jacobins, as the ancient
empire of Rome had fallen before Huns and Goths, Vandals and Lombards.
The leaders of the revolution had succeeded one another, as Attila had
come after Alaric, and as Genseric had been followed by Odoacer. The
problem which presented itself was not new in the history of western
civilisation; the same dissolution of old bonds which perplexed the
foremost men at the beginning of the nineteenth century, had distracted
their predecessors from the fifth to the eighth, though their conditions
and circumstances were widely different. The practical question in both
cases was just the same--how to establish a stable social order which,
resting on principles that should command the assent of all, might
secure the co-operation of all for its harmonious and efficient
maintenance, and might offer a firm basis for the highest and best life
that the moral and intellectual state of the time allowed. There were
two courses open, or which seemed to be open, in this gigantic
enterprise of reconstructing a society. One of them was to treat the
case of the eighteenth century as if it were not merely similar to, but
exactly identical with, the case of the fifth, and as if exactly the
same forces which had knit Western Europe together into a compact
civilisation a thousand years before, would again suffice for a second
consolidation. Christianity, rising with the zeal and strength of youth
out of the ruins of the Empire, and feudalism by the need of
self-preservation imposing a form upon the unshapen associations of the
barbarians, had between them compacted the foundations and reared the
fabric of mediæval life. Why, many men asked themselves, should not
Christian and feudal ideas repeat their great achievement, and be the
means of reorganising the system which a blind rebellion against them
had thrown into deplorable and fatal confusion? Let the century which
had come to such an end be regarded as a mysteriously intercalated
episode, and no more, in the long drama of faith and sovereign order.
Let it pass as a sombre and pestilent stream, whose fountains no man
should discover, whose waters had for a season mingled with the mightier
current of the divinely allotted destiny of the race, and had then
gathered themselves apart and flowed off, to end as they had begun, in
the stagnation and barrenness of the desert. Philosophers and men of
letters, astronomers and chemists, atheists and republicans, had shown
that they were only powerful to destroy, as the Goths and the Vandals
had been. They had shown that they were impotent, as the Goths and the
Vandals had been, in building up again. Let men turn their faces, then,
once more to that system by which in the ancient times Europe had been
delivered from a relapse into eternal night.

The second course was very different from this. The minds to whom it
commended itself were cast in a different mould and drew their
inspiration from other traditions. In their view the system which the
Church had been the main agency in organising, had fallen quite as much
from its own irremediable weakness as from the direct onslaughts of
assailants within and without. The barbarians had rushed in, it was
true, in 1793; but this time it was the Church and feudalism which were
in the position of the old empire on whose ruins they had built. What
had once restored order and belief to the West, was now in its own turn
overtaken by decay and dissolution. To look to them to unite these new
barbarians in a stable and vigorous civilisation, because they had
organised Europe of old, was as infatuated as it would have been to
expect the later emperors to equal the exploits of the Republic and
their greatest predecessors in the purple. To despise philosophers and
men of science was only to play over again in a new dress the very part
which Julian had enacted in the face of nascent Christianity. The
eighteenth century, instead of being that home of malaria which the
Catholic and Royalist party represented, was in truth the seed-ground of
a new and better future. Its ideas were to furnish the material and the
implements by which should be repaired the terrible breaches and chasms
in European order that had been made alike by despots and Jacobins, by
priests and atheists, by aristocrats and sans-culottes. Amidst all the
demolition upon which its leading minds had been so zealously bent, they
had been animated by the warmest love of social justice, of human
freedom, of equal rights, and by the most fervent and sincere longing to
make a nobler happiness more universally attainable by all the children
of men. It was to these great principles that we ought eagerly to turn,
to liberty, to equality, to brotherhood, if we wished to achieve before
the new invaders a work of civilisation and social reconstruction, such
as Catholicism and feudalism had achieved for the multitudinous invaders
of old.

Such was the difference which divided opinion when men took heart to
survey the appalling scene of moral desolation that the cataclysm of '93
had left behind. We may admire the courage of either school. For if the
conscience of the Liberals was oppressed by the sanguinary tragedy in
which freedom and brotherhood and justice had been consummated, the
Catholic and the Royalist were just as sorely burdened with the weight
of kingly basenesses and priestly hypocrisies. If the one had some
difficulty in interpreting Jacobinism and the Terror, the other was
still more severely pressed to interpret the fact and origin and meaning
of the Revolution; if the Liberal had Marat and Hébert, the Royalist had
Lewis XV., and the Catholic had Dubois and De Rohan. Each school could
intrepidly hurl back the taunts of its enemy, and neither of them did
full justice to the strong side of the other. Yet we who are, in England
at all events, removed a little aside from the centre of this great
battle, may perceive that at that time both of the contending hosts
fought under honourable banners, and could inscribe upon their shields a
rational and intelligible device. Indeed, unless the modern Liberal
admits the strength inherent in the cause of his enemies, it is
impossible for him to explain to himself the duration and obstinacy of
the conflict, the slow advance and occasional repulse of the host in
which he has enlisted, and the tardy progress that Liberalism has made
in that stupendous reconstruction which the Revolution has forced the
modern political thinker to meditate upon, and the modern statesman to
further and control.

De Maistre, from those general ideas as to the method of the government
of the world, of which we have already seen something, had formed what
he conceived to be a perfectly satisfactory way of accounting for the
eighteenth century and its terrific climax. The will of man is left
free; he acts contrary to the will of God; and then God exacts the
shedding of blood as the penalty. So much for the past. The only hope of
the future lay in an immediate return to the system which God himself
had established, and in the restoration of that spiritual power which
had presided over the reconstruction of Europe in darker and more
chaotic times than even these. Though, perhaps, he nowhere expresses
himself on this point in a distinct formula, De Maistre was firmly
impressed with the idea of historic unity and continuity. He looked upon
the history of the West in its integrity, and was entirely free from
anything like that disastrous kind of misconception which makes the
English Protestant treat the long period between St. Paul and Martin
Luther as a howling waste, or which makes some Americans omit from all
account the still longer period of human effort from the crucifixion of
Christ to the Declaration of Independence. The rise of the vast
structure of Western civilisation during and after the dissolution of
the Empire, presented itself to his mind as a single and uniform
process, though marked in portions by temporary, casual, parenthetical
interruptions, due to depraved will and disordered pride. All the
dangers to which this civilisation had been exposed in its infancy and
growth were before his eyes. First, there were the heresies with which
the subtle and debased ingenuity of the Greeks had stained and distorted
the great but simple mysteries of the faith. Then came the hordes of
invaders from the North, sweeping with irresistible force over regions
that the weakness or cowardice of the wearers of the purple left
defenceless before them. Before the northern tribes had settled in their
possessions, and had full time to assimilate the faith and the
institutions which they had found there, the growing organisation was
menaced by a more deadly peril in the incessant and steady advance of
the bloody and fanatical tribes from the East. And in this way De
Maistre's mind continued the picture down to the latest days of all,
when there had arisen men who, denying God and mocking at Christ, were
bent on the destruction of the very foundations of society, and had
nothing better to offer the human race than a miserable return to a
state of nature.

As he thus reproduced this long drama, one benign and central figure was
ever present, changeless in the midst of ceaseless change; laboriously
building up with preterhuman patience and preterhuman sagacity, when
other powers, one after another in evil succession, were madly raging to
destroy and to pull down; thinking only of the great interests of order
and civilisation, of which it had been constituted the eternal
protector, and showing its divine origin and inspiration alike by its
unfailing wisdom and its unfailing benevolence. It is the Sovereign
Pontiff who thus stands forth throughout the history of Europe, as the
great Demiurgus of universal civilisation. If the Pope had filled only
such a position as the Patriarch held at Constantinople, or if there had
been no Pope, and Christianity had depended exclusively on the East for
its propagation, with no great spiritual organ in the West, what would
have become of Western development? It was the energy and resolution of
the Pontiffs which resisted the heresies of the East, and preserved to
the Christian religion that plainness and intelligibility, without which
it would never have made a way to the rude understanding and simple
hearts of the barbarians from the North. It was their wise patriotism
which protected Italy against Greek oppression, and by acting the part
of mayors of the palace to the decrepit Eastern emperors, it was they
who contrived to preserve the independence and maintain the fabric of
society until the appearance of the Carlovingians, in whom, with the
rapid instinct of true statesmen, they at once recognised the founders
of a new empire of the West. If the Popes, again, had possessed over the
Eastern empire the same authority that they had over the Western, they
would have repulsed not only the Saracens, but the Turks too, and none
of the evils which these nations have inflicted on us would ever have
taken place.[10] Even as it was, when the Saracens threatened the West,
the Popes were the chief agents in organising resistance, and giving
spirit and animation to the defenders of Europe. Their alert vision saw
that to crush for ever that formidable enemy, it was not enough to
defend ourselves against his assaults; we must attack him at home. The
Crusades, vulgarly treated as the wars of a blind and superstitious
piety, were in truth wars of high policy. From the Council of Clermont
down to the famous day of Lepanto, the hand and spirit of the Pontiff
were to be traced in every part of that tremendous struggle which
prevented Europe from being handed over to the tyranny, ignorance, and
barbarism that have always been the inevitable fruits of Mahometan
conquest, and had already stamped out civilisation in Asia Minor and
Palestine and Greece, once the very garden of the universe.

This admirable and politic heroism of the Popes in the face of foes
pressing from without, De Maistre found more than equalled by their
wisdom, courage, and activity in organising and developing the elements
of a civilised system within. The maxim of old societies had been that
which Lucan puts into the mouth of Cæsar--_humanum paucis vivit genus_.
A vast population of slaves had been one of the inevitable social
conditions of the period: the Popes never rested from their endeavours
to banish servitude from among Christian nations. Women in old
societies had filled a mean and degraded place: it was reserved for the
new spiritual power to rescue the race from that vicious circle in which
men had debased the nature of women, and women had given back all the
weakness and perversity they had received from men, and to perceive that
'the most effectual way of perfecting the man is to ennoble and exalt
the woman.' The organisation of the priesthood, again, was a masterpiece
of practical wisdom. Such an order, removed from the fierce or selfish
interests of ordinary life by the holy regulation of celibacy, and by
the austere discipline of the Church, was indispensable in the midst of
such a society as that which it was the function of the Church to guide.
Who but the members of an order thus set apart, acting in strict
subordination to the central power, and so presenting a front of
unbroken spiritual unity, could have held their way among tumultuous
tribes, half-barbarous nobles, and proud and unruly kings, protesting
against wrong, passionately inculcating new and higher ideas of right,
denouncing the darkness of the false gods, calling on all men to worship
the cross and adore the mysteries of the true God? Compare now the
impotency of the Protestant missionary, squatting in gross comfort with
wife and babes among the savages he has come to convert, preaching a
disputatious doctrine, wrangling openly with the rival sent by some
other sect--compare this impotency with the success that follows the
devoted sons of the Church, impressing their proselytes with the
mysterious virtue of their continence, the self-denial of their lives,
the unity of their dogma and their rites; and then recognise the wisdom
of these great churchmen who created a priesthood after this manner in
the days when every priest was as the missionary is now. Finally, it was
the occupants of the holy chair who prepared, softened, one might almost
say sweetened, the occupants of thrones; it was to them that Providence
had confided the education of the sovereigns of Europe. The Popes
brought up the youth of the European monarchy; they made it precisely in
the same way in which Fénelon made the Duke of Burgundy. In each case
the task consisted in eradicating from a fine character an element of
ferocity that would have ruined all. 'Everything that constrains a man
strengthens him. He cannot obey without perfecting himself; and by the
mere fact of overcoming himself he is better. Any man will vanquish the
most violent passion at thirty, because at five or six you have taught
him of his own will to give up a plaything or a sweetmeat. That came to
pass to the monarchy, which happens to an individual who has been well
brought up. The continued efforts of the Church, directed by the
Sovereign Pontiff, did what had never been seen before, and what will
never be seen again where that authority is not recognised. Insensibly,
without threats or laws or battles, without violence and without
resistance, the great European charter was proclaimed, not on paper nor
by the voice of public criers; but in all European hearts, then all
Catholic Kings surrender the power of judging by themselves, and nations
in return declare kings infallible and inviolable. Such is the
fundamental law of the European monarchy, and it is the work of the

All this, however, is only the external development of De Maistre's
central idea, the historical corroboration of a truth to which he
conducts us in the first instance by general considerations. Assuming,
what it is less and less characteristic of the present century at any
rate to deny, that Christianity was the only actual force by which the
regeneration of Europe could be effected after the decline of the Roman
civilisation, he insists that, as he again and again expresses it,
'without the Pope there is no veritable Christianity.' What he meant by
this condensed form needs a little explanation, as is always the case
with such simple statements of the products of long and complex
reasoning. In saying that without the Pope there is no true
Christianity, what he considered himself as having established was, that
unless there be some supreme and independent possessor of authority to
settle doctrine, to regulate discipline, to give authentic counsel, to
apply accepted principles to disputed cases, then there can be no such
thing as a religious system which shall have power to bind the members
of a vast and not homogeneous body in the salutary bonds of a common
civilisation, nor to guide and inform an universal conscience. In each
individual state everybody admits the absolute necessity of having some
sovereign power which shall make, declare, and administer the laws, and
from whose action in any one of these aspects there shall be no appeal;
a power that shall be strong enough to protect the rights and enforce
the duties which it has authoritatively proclaimed and enjoined. In free
England, as in despotic Turkey, the privileges and obligations which the
law tolerates or imposes, and all the benefits which their existence
confers on the community, are the creatures and conditions of a supreme
authority from which there is no appeal, whether the instrument by which
this authority makes its will known be an act of parliament or a ukase.
This conception of temporal sovereignty, especially familiarised to our
generation by the teaching of Austin, was carried by De Maistre into
discussions upon the limits of the Papal power with great ingenuity and
force, and, if we accept the premisses, with great success.

It should be said here, that throughout his book on the Pope, De Maistre
talks of Christianity exclusively as a statesman or a publicist would
talk about it; not theologically nor spiritually, but politically and
socially. The question with which he concerns himself is the utilisation
of Christianity as a force to shape and organise a system of civilised
societies; a study of the conditions under which this utilisation had
taken place in the earlier centuries of the era; and a deduction from
them of the conditions under which we might ensure a repetition of the
process in changed modern circumstance. In the eighteenth century men
were accustomed to ask of Christianity, as Protestants always ask of so
much of Catholicism as they have dropped, whether or no it is true. But
after the Revolution the question changed, and became an inquiry whether
and how Christianity could contribute to the reconstruction of society.
People asked less how true it was, than how strong it was; less how many
unquestioned dogmas, than how much social weight it had or could
develop; less as to the precise amount and form of belief that would
save a soul, than as to the way in which it might be expected to assist
the European community.

It was the strength of this temper in him which led to his extraordinary
detestation and contempt for the Greeks. Their turn for pure speculation
excited all his anger. In a curious chapter, he exhausts invective in
denouncing them.[12] The sarcasm of Sallust delights him, that the
actions of Greece were very fine, _verum aliquanto minores quam fama
feruntur_. Their military glory was only a flash of about a hundred and
fourteen years from Marathon; compare this with the prolonged splendour
of Rome, France, and England. In philosophy they displayed decent
talent, but even here their true merit is to have brought the wisdom of
Asia into Europe, for they invented nothing. Greece was the home of
syllogism and of unreason. 'Read Plato: at every page you will draw a
striking distinction. As often as he is Greek, he wearies you. He is
only great, sublime, penetrating, when he is a theologian; in other
words, when he is announcing positive and everlasting dogmas, free from
all quibble, and which are so clearly marked with the eastern cast, that
not to perceive it one must never have had a glimpse of Asia.... There
was in him a sophist and a theologian, or, if you choose, a Greek and a
Chaldean.' The Athenians could never pardon one of their great leaders,
all of whom fell victims in one shape or another to a temper frivolous
as that of a child, ferocious as that of men,--'_espèce de moutons
enragés, toujours menés par la nature, et toujours par nature dévorant
leurs bergers_.' As for their oratory, 'the tribune of Athens would have
been the disgrace of mankind if Phocion and men like him, by
occasionally ascending it before drinking the hemlock or setting out for
their place of exile, had not in some sort balanced such a mass of
loquacity, extravagance, and cruelty.'[13]

It is very important to remember this constant solicitude for ideas that
should work well, in connection with that book of De Maistre's which
has had most influence in Europe, by supplying a base for the theories
of ultramontanism. Unless we perceive very clearly that throughout his
ardent speculations on the Papal power his mind was bent upon enforcing
the practical solution of a pressing social problem, we easily
misunderstand him and underrate what he had to say. A charge has been
forcibly urged against him by an eminent English critic, for example,
that he has confounded supremacy with infallibility, than which, as the
writer truly says, no two ideas can be more perfectly distinct, one
being superiority of force, and the other incapacity of error.[14] De
Maistre made logical blunders in abundance quite as bad as this, but he
was too acute, I think, deliberately to erect so elaborate a structure
upon a confusion so very obvious, and that must have stared him in the
face from the first page of his work to the last. If we look upon his
book as a mere general defence of the Papacy, designed to investigate
and fortify all its pretensions one by one, we should have great right
to complain against having two claims so essentially divergent, treated
as though they were the same thing, or could be held in their places by
the same supports. But let us regard the treatise on the Pope not as
meant to convince free-thinkers or Protestants that divine grace
inspires every decree of the Holy Father, though that would have been
the right view of it if it had been written fifty years earlier. It was
composed within the first twenty years of the present century, when the
universe, to men of De Maistre's stamp, seemed once more without form
and void. His object, as he tells us more than once, was to find a way
of restoring a religion and a morality in Europe; of giving to truth the
forces demanded for the conquests that she was meditating; of
strengthening the thrones of sovereigns, and of gently calming that
general fermentation of spirit which threatened mightier evils than any
that had yet overwhelmed society. From this point of view we shall see
that the distinction between supremacy and infallibility was not worth

Practically, he says, 'infallibility is only a consequence of supremacy,
or rather it is absolutely the same thing under two different names....
In effect it is the same thing, _in practice_, not to be subject to
error, and not to be liable to be accused of it. Thus, even if we should
agree that no divine promise was made to the Pope, he would not be less
infallible or deemed so, as the final tribunal; for every judgment from
which you cannot appeal is and must be (_est et doit être_) held for
just in every human association, under any imaginable form of
government; and every true statesman will understand me perfectly, when
I say that the point is to ascertain not only if the Sovereign Pontiff
is, but if he must be, infallible.'[15] In another place he says
distinctly enough that the infallibility of the Church has two aspects;
in one of them it is the object of divine promise, in the other it is a
human implication, and that in the latter aspect infallibility is
supposed in the Church, just 'as we are absolutely bound to suppose it,
even in temporal sovereignties (where it does not really exist), under
pain of seeing society dissolved.' The Church only demands what other
sovereignties demand, though she has the immense superiority over them
of having her claim backed by direct promise from heaven.[16] Take away
the dogma, if you will, he says, and only consider the thing
politically, which is exactly what he really does all through the book.
The pope, from this point of view, asks for no other infallibility than
that which is attributed to all sovereigns.[17] Without either
vindicating or surrendering the supernatural side of the Papal claims,
he only insists upon the political, social, or human side of it, as an
inseparable quality of an admitted supremacy.[18] In short, from
beginning to end of this speculation, from which the best kind of
ultramontanism has drawn its defence, he evinces a deprecatory
anxiety--a very rare temper with De Maistre--not to fight on the issue
of the dogma of infallibility over which Protestants and unbelievers
have won an infinite number of cheap victories; that he leaves as a
theme more fitted for the disputations of theologians. My position, he
seems to keep saying, is that if the Pope is spiritually supreme, then
he is virtually and practically _as if he were_ infallible, just in the
same sense in which the English Parliament and monarch, and the Russian
Czar, are as if they were infallible. But let us not argue so much about
this, which is only secondary. The main question is whether without the
Pope there can be a true Christianity, 'that is to say, a Christianity,
active, powerful, converting, regenerating, conquering, perfecting.'

De Maistre was probably conducted to his theory by an analogy, which he
tacitly leaned upon more strongly than it could well bear, between
temporal organisation and spiritual organisation. In inchoate
communities, the momentary self-interest and the promptly stirred
passions of men would rend the growing society in pieces, unless they
were restrained by the strong hand of law in some shape or other,
written or unwritten, and administered by an authority, either
physically too strong to be resisted, or else set up by the common
consent seeking to further the general convenience. To divide this
authority, so that none should know where to look for a sovereign
decree, nor be able to ascertain the commands of sovereign law; to
embody it in the persons of many discordant expounders, each assuming
oracular weight and equal sanction; to leave individuals to administer
and interpret it for themselves, and to decide among themselves its
application to their own cases; what would this be but a deliberate
preparation for anarchy and dissolution? For it is one of the clear
conditions of the efficacy of the social union, that every member of it
should be able to know for certain the terms on which he belongs to it,
the compliances which it will insist upon in him, and the compliances
which it will in turn permit him to insist upon in others, and therefore
it is indispensable that there should be some definite and admitted
centre where this very essential knowledge should be accessible.

Some such reflections as these must have been at the bottom of De
Maistre's great apology for the Papal supremacy, or at any rate they may
serve to bring before our minds with greater clearness the kind of
foundations on which his scheme rested. For law substitute Christianity,
for social union spiritual union, for legal obligations the obligations
of the faith. Instead of individuals bound together by allegiance to
common political institutions, conceive communities united in the bonds
of religious brotherhood into a sort of universal republic, under the
moderate supremacy of a supreme spiritual power. As a matter of fact, it
was the intervention of this spiritual power which restrained the
anarchy, internal and external, of the ferocious and imperfectly
organised sovereignties that figure in the early history of modern
Europe. And as a matter of theory, what could be more rational and
defensible than such an intervention made systematic, with its
rightfulness and disinterestedness universally recognised? Grant
Christianity as the spiritual basis of the life and action of modern
communities; supporting both the organised structure of each of them,
and the interdependent system composed of them all; accepted by the
individual members of each, and by the integral bodies forming the
whole. But who shall declare what the Christian doctrine is, and how its
maxims bear upon special cases, and what oracles they announce in
particular sets of circumstances? Amid the turbulence of popular
passion, in face of the crushing despotism of an insensate tyrant,
between the furious hatred of jealous nations or the violent ambition of
rival sovereigns, what likelihood would there be of either party to the
contention yielding tranquilly and promptly to any presentation of
Christian teaching made by the other, or by some suspected neutral as a
decisive authority between them? Obviously there must be some supreme
and indisputable interpreter, before whose final decree the tyrant
should quail, the flood of popular lawlessness flow back within its
accustomed banks, and contending sovereigns or jealous nations
fraternally embrace. Again, in those questions of faith and discipline,
which the ill-exercised ingenuity of men is for ever raising and
pressing upon the attention of Christendom, it is just as obvious that
there must be some tribunal to pronounce an authoritative judgment.
Otherwise, each nation is torn into sects; and amid the throng of sects
where is unity? 'To maintain that a crowd of independent churches form a
church, one and universal, is to maintain in other terms that all the
political governments of Europe only form a single government, one and
universal.' There could no more be a kingdom of France without a king,
nor an empire of Russia without an emperor, than there could be one
universal church without an acknowledged head. That this head must be
the successor of St. Peter, is declared alike by the voice of tradition,
the explicit testimony of the early writers, the repeated utterances of
later theologians of all schools, and that general sentiment which
presses itself upon every conscientious reader of religious history.

The argument that the voice of the Church is to be sought in general
councils is absurd. To maintain that a council has any other function
than to assure and certify the Pope, when he chooses to strengthen his
judgment or to satisfy his doubts, is to destroy visible unity. Suppose
there to be an equal division of votes, as happened in the famous case
of Fénelon, and might as well happen in a general council, the doubt
would after all be solved by the final vote of the Pope. And 'what is
doubtful for twenty selected men is doubtful for the whole human race.
Those who suppose that by multiplying the deliberating voices doubt is
lessened, must have very little knowledge of men, and can never have sat
in a deliberative body.' Again, supposing there to present itself one of
those questions of divine metaphysics that it is absolutely necessary to
refer to the decision of the supreme tribunal. Then our interest is not
that it should be decided in such or such a manner, but that it should
be decided without delay and without appeal. Besides, the world is now
grown too vast for general councils, which seem to be made only for the
youth of Christianity. In fine, why pursue futile or mischievous
discussions as to whether the Pope is above the Council or the Council
above the Pope? In ordinary questions in which a king is conscious of
sufficient light, he decides them himself, while the others in which he
is not conscious of this light, he transfers to the States-General
presided over by himself, but he is equally sovereign in either case. So
with the Pope and the Council. Let us be content to know, in the words
of Thomassin,[19] that 'the Pope in the midst of his Council is above
himself, and that the Council decapitated of its chief is below him.'

The point so constantly dwelt upon by Bossuet, the obligation of the
canons upon the Pope, was of very little worth in De Maistre's judgment,
and he almost speaks with disrespect of the great Catholic defender for
being so prolix and pertinacious in elaborating it. Here again he finds
in Thomassin the most concise statement of what he held to be the true
view, just as he does in the controversy as to the relative superiority
of the Pope or the Council. 'There is only an apparent contradiction,'
says Thomassin, 'between saying that the Pope is above the canons, and
that he is bound by them; that he is master of the canons, or that he is
not. Those who place him above the canons or make him their master, only
pretend that he _has a dispensing power over them_; while those who deny
that he is above the canons or is their master, mean no more than that
_he can only exercise a dispensing power for the convenience and in the
necessities of the Church_.' This is an excellent illustration of the
thoroughly political temper in which De Maistre treats the whole
subject. He looks at the power of the Pope over the canons much as a
modern English statesman looks at the question of the coronation oath,
and the extent to which it binds the monarch to the maintenance of the
laws existing at the time of its imposition. In the same spirit he
banishes from all account the crowd of nonsensical objections to Papal
supremacy, drawn from imaginary possibilities. Suppose a Pope, for
example, were to abolish all the canons at a single stroke; suppose him
to become an unbeliever; suppose him to go mad; and so forth. 'Why,' De
Maistre says, 'there is not in the whole world a single power in a
condition to bear all possible and arbitrary hypotheses of this sort;
and if you judge them by what they can do, without speaking of what they
have done, they will have to be abolished every one.'[20] This, it may
be worth noticing, is one of the many passages in De Maistre's writings
which, both in the solidity of their argument and the direct force of
their expression, recall his great predecessor in the anti-revolutionary
cause, the ever-illustrious Burke.

The vigour with which De Maistre sums up all these pleas for supremacy
is very remarkable; and to the crowd of enemies and indifferents, and
especially to the statesmen who are among them, he appeals with
admirable energy. 'What do you want, then? Do you mean that the nations
should live without any religion, and do you not begin to perceive that
a religion there must be? And does not Christianity, not only by its
intrinsic worth but because it is in possession, strike you as
preferable to every other? Have you been better contented with other
attempts in this way? Peradventure the twelve apostles might please you
better than the Theophilanthropists and Martinists? Does the Sermon on
the Mount seem to you a passable code of morals? And if the entire
people were to regulate their conduct on this model, should you be
content? I fancy that I hear you reply affirmatively. Well, since the
only object now is to maintain this religion for which you thus declare
your preference, how could you have, I do not say the stupidity, but the
cruelty, to turn it into a democracy, and to place this precious deposit
in the hands of the rabble?

'You attach too much importance to the dogmatic part of this religion.
By what strange contradiction would you desire to agitate the universe
for some academic quibble, for miserable wranglings about mere words
(these are your own terms)? Is it so then that men are led? Will you
call the Bishop of Quebec and the Bishop of Luçon to interpret a line of
the Catechism? That believers should quarrel about infallibility is what
I know, for I see it; but that statesmen should quarrel in the same way
about this great privilege, is what I shall never be able to
conceive.... That all the bishops in the world should be convoked to
determine a divine truth necessary to salvation--nothing more natural,
if such a method is indispensable; for no effort, no trouble, ought to
be spared for so exalted an aim. But if the only point is the
establishment of one opinion in the place of another, then the
travelling expenses of even one single Infallible are sheer waste. If
you want to spare the two most valuable things on earth, time and money,
make all haste to write to Rome, in order to procure thence a lawful
decision which shall declare the unlawful doubt. Nothing more is needed;
policy asks no more.'[21]

Definitely, then, the influence of the Popes restored to their ancient
supremacy would be exercised in the renewal and consolidation of social
order resting on the Christian faith, somewhat after this manner. The
anarchic dogma of the sovereignty of peoples, having failed to do
anything beyond showing that the greatest evils resulting from obedience
do not equal the thousandth part of those which result from rebellion,
would be superseded by the practice of appeals to the authority of the
Holy See. Do not suppose that the Revolution is at an end, or that the
column is replaced because it is raised up from the ground. A man must
be blind not to see that all the sovereignties in Europe are growing
weak; on all sides confidence and affection are deserting them; sects
and the spirit of individualism are multiplying themselves in an
appalling manner. There are only two alternatives: you must either
purify the will of men, or else you must enchain it; the monarch who
will not do the first, must enslave his subjects or perish; servitude or
spiritual unity is the only choice open to nations. On the one hand is
the gross and unrestrained tyranny of what in modern phrase is styled
Imperialism, and on the other a wise and benevolent modification of
temporal sovereignty in the interests of all by an established and
accepted spiritual power. No middle path lies before the people of
Europe. Temporal absolutism we must have. The only question is whether
or no it shall be modified by the wise, disinterested, and moderating
counsels of the Church, as given by her consecrated chief.

       *       *       *       *       *

There can be very little doubt that the effective way in which De
Maistre propounded and vindicated this theory made a deep impression on
the mind of Comte. Very early in his career this eminent man had
declared: 'De Maistre has for me the peculiar property of helping me to
estimate the philosophic capacity of people, by the repute in which they
hold him.' Among his other reasons at that time for thinking well of M.
Guizot was that, notwithstanding his transcendent Protestantism, he
complied with the test of appreciating De Maistre.[22] Comte's rapidly
assimilative intelligence perceived that here at last there was a
definite, consistent, and intelligible scheme for the reorganisation of
European society, with him the great end of philosophic endeavour. Its
principle of the division of the spiritual and temporal powers, and of
the relation that ought to subsist between the two, was the base of
Comte's own scheme.

In general form the plans of social reconstruction are identical; in
substance, it need scarcely be said, the differences are fundamental.
The temporal power, according to Comte's design, is to reside with
industrial chiefs, and the spiritual power to rest upon a doctrine
scientifically established. De Maistre, on the other hand, believed that
the old authority of kings and Christian pontiffs was divine, and any
attempt to supersede it in either case would have seemed to him as
desperate as it seemed impious. In his strange speculation on _Le
Principe Générateur des Constitutions Politiques_, he contends that all
laws in the true sense of the word (which by the way happens to be
decidedly an arbitrary and exclusive sense) are of supernatural origin,
and that the only persons whom we have any right to call legislators,
are those half-divine men who appear mysteriously in the early history
of nations, and counterparts to whom we never meet in later days.
Elsewhere he maintains to the same effect, that royal families in the
true sense of the word 'are growths of nature, and differ from others,
as a tree differs from a shrub.'

People suppose a family to be royal because it reigns; on the contrary,
it reigns because it is royal, because it has more life, _plus d'esprit
royal_--surely as mysterious and occult a force as the _virtus
dormitiva_ of opium. The common life of man is about thirty years; the
average duration of the reigns of European sovereigns, being Christian,
is at the very lowest calculation twenty. How is it possible that 'lives
should be only thirty years, and reigns from twenty-two to twenty-five,
if princes had not more common life than other men?' Mark again, the
influence of religion in the duration of sovereignties. All the
Christian reigns are longer than all the non-Christian reigns, ancient
and modern, and Catholic reigns have been longer than Protestant reigns.
The reigns in England, which averaged more than twenty-three years
before the Reformation, have only been seventeen years since that, and
those of Sweden, which were twenty-two, have fallen to the same figure
of seventeen. Denmark, however, for some unknown cause does not appear
to have undergone this law of abbreviation; so, says De Maistre with
rather unwonted restraint, let us abstain from generalising. As a matter
of fact, however, the generalisation was complete in his own mind, and
there was nothing inconsistent with his view of the government of the
universe in the fact that a Catholic prince should live longer than a
Protestant; indeed such a fact was the natural condition of his view
being true. Many differences among the people who hold to the
theological interpretation of the circumstances of life arise from the
different degrees of activity which they variously attribute to the
intervention of God, from those who explain the fall of a sparrow to the
ground by a special and direct energy of the divine will, up to those
at the opposite end of the scale, who think that direct participation
ended when the universe was once fairly launched. De Maistre was of
those who see the divine hand on every side and at all times. If, then,
Protestantism was a pernicious rebellion against the faith which God had
provided for the comfort and salvation of men, why should not God be
likely to visit princes, as offenders with the least excuse for their
backslidings, with the curse of shortness of days?

In a trenchant passage De Maistre has expounded the Protestant
confession of faith, and shown what astounding gaps it leaves as an
interpretation of the dealings of God with man. 'By virtue of a terrible
anathema,' he supposes the Protestant to say, 'inexplicable no doubt,
but much less inexplicable than incontestable, the human race lost all
its rights. Plunged in mortal darkness, it was ignorant of all, since it
was ignorant of God; and, being ignorant of him, it could not pray to
him, so that it was spiritually dead without being able to ask for life.
Arrived by rapid degradation at the last stage of debasement, it
outraged nature by its manners, its laws, even by its religions. It
consecrated all vices, it wallowed in filth, and its depravation was
such that the history of those times forms a dangerous picture, which it
is not good for all men so much as to look upon. God, however, _having
dissembled for forty centuries_, bethought him of his creation. At the
appointed moment announced from all time, he did not despise a virgin's
womb; he clothed himself in our unhappy nature, and appeared on the
earth; we saw him, we touched him, he spoke to us; he lived, he taught,
he suffered, he died for us. He arose from his tomb according to his
promise; he appeared again among us, solemnly to assure to his Church a
succour that would last as long as the world.

'But, alas, this effort of almighty benevolence was a long way from
securing all the success that had been foretold. For lack of knowledge,
or of strength, or by distraction maybe, God missed his aim, and could
not keep his word. Less sage than a chemist who should undertake to shut
up ether in canvas or paper, he only confided to men the truth that he
had brought upon the earth; it escaped, then, as one might have
foreseen, by all human pores; soon, this holy religion revealed to man
by the Man-God, became no more than an infamous idolatry, which would
remain to this very moment if Christianity after sixteen centuries had
not been suddenly brought back to its original purity by a couple of
sorry creatures.'[23]

Perhaps it would be easier than he supposed to present his own system in
an equally irrational aspect. If you measure the proceedings of
omnipotence by the uses to which a wise and benevolent man would put
such superhuman power, if we can imagine a man of this kind endowed with
it, De Maistre's theory of the extent to which a supreme being
interferes in human things, is after all only a degree less ridiculous
and illogical, less inadequate and abundantly assailable, than that
Protestantism which he so heartily despised. Would it be difficult,
after borrowing the account, which we have just read, of the tremendous
efforts made by a benign creator to shed moral and spiritual light upon
the world, to perplex the Catholic as bitterly as the Protestant, by
confronting him both with the comparatively scanty results of those
efforts, and with the too visible tendencies of all the foremost
agencies in modern civilisation to leave them out of account as forces
practically spent?

       *       *       *       *       *

De Maistre has been surpassed by no thinker that we know of as a
defender of the old order. If anybody could rationalise the idea of
supernatural intervention in human affairs, the idea of a Papal
supremacy, the idea of a spiritual unity, De Maistre's acuteness and
intellectual vigour, and, above all, his keen sense of the urgent social
need of such a thing being done, would assuredly have enabled him to do
it. In 1817, when he wrote the work in which this task is attempted, the
hopelessness of such an achievement was less obvious than it is now. The
Bourbons had been restored. The Revolution lay in a deep slumber that
many persons excusably took for the quiescence of extinction. Legitimacy
and the spiritual system that was its ally in the face of the
Revolution, though mostly its rival or foe when they were left alone
together, seemed to be restored to the fulness of their power. Fifty
years have elapsed since then, and each year has seen a progressive
decay in the principles which then were triumphant. It was not,
therefore, without reason that De Maistre warned people against
believing '_que la colonne est replacée, parcequ'elle est relevée_.' The
solution which he so elaborately recommended to Europe has shown itself
desperate and impossible. Catholicism may long remain a vital creed to
millions of men, a deep source of spiritual consolation and refreshment,
and a bright lamp in perplexities of conduct and morals; but resting on
dogmas which cannot by any amount of compromise be incorporated with the
daily increasing mass of knowledge, assuming as the condition of its
existence forms of the theological hypothesis which all the
preponderating influences of contemporary thought concur directly or
indirectly in discrediting, upheld by an organisation which its history
for the last five centuries has exposed to the distrust and hatred of
men as the sworn enemy of mental freedom and growth, the pretensions of
Catholicism to renovate society are among the most pitiable and impotent
that ever devout, high-minded, and benevolent persons deluded themselves
into maintaining or accepting. Over the modern invader it is as
powerless as paganism was over the invaders of old. The barbarians of
industrialism, grasping chiefs and mutinous men, give no ear to priest
or pontiff, who speak only dead words, who confront modern issues with
blind eyes, and who stretch out a palsied hand to help. Christianity,
according to a well-known saying, has been tried and failed; the
religion of Christ remains to be tried. One would prefer to qualify the
first clause, by admitting how much Christianity has done for Europe
even with its old organisation, and to restrict the charge of failure
within the limits of the modern time. To-day its failure is too patent.
Whether in changed forms and with new supplements the teaching of its
founder is destined to be the chief inspirer of that social and human
sentiment which seems to be the only spiritual bond capable of uniting
men together again in a common and effective faith, is a question which
it is unnecessary to discuss here. '_They talk about the first centuries
of Christianity_,' said De Maistre, '_I would not be sure that they are
over yet_.' Perhaps not; only if the first centuries are not yet over,
it is certain that the Christianity of the future will have to be so
different from the Christianity of the past, as to demand or deserve
another name.

Even if Christianity, itself renewed, could successfully encounter the
achievement of renewing society, De Maistre's ideal of a spiritual power
controlling the temporal power, and conciliating peoples with their
rulers by persuasion and a coercion only moral, appears to have little
chance of being realised. The separation of the two powers is sealed,
with a completeness that is increasingly visible. The principles on
which the process of the emancipation of politics is being so rapidly
carried on, demonstrate that the most marked tendencies of modern
civilisation are strongly hostile to a renewal in any imaginable shape,
or at any future time, of a connection whether of virtual subordination
or nominal equality, which has laid such enormous burdens on the
consciences and understandings of men. If the Church has the uppermost
hand, except in primitive times, it destroys freedom; if the State is
supreme, it destroys spirituality. The free Church in the free State is
an idea that every day more fully recommends itself to the public
opinion of Europe, and the sovereignty of the Pope, like that of all
other spiritual potentates, can only be exercised over those who choose
of their own accord to submit to it; a sovereignty of a kind which De
Maistre thought not much above anarchy.

To conclude, De Maistre's mind was of the highest type of those who fill
the air with the arbitrary assumptions of theology, and the abstractions
of the metaphysical stage of thought. At every point you meet the
peremptorily declared volition of a divine being, or the ontological
property of a natural object. The French Revolution is explained by the
will of God; and the kings reign because they have the _esprit royal_.
Every truth is absolute, not relative; every explanation is universal,
not historic. These differences in method and point of view amply
explain his arrival at conclusions that seem so monstrous to men who
look upon all knowledge as relative, and insist that the only possible
road to true opinion lies away from volitions and abstractions in the
positive generalisations of experience. There can be no more
satisfactory proof of the rapidity with which we are leaving these
ancient methods, and the social results which they produced, than the
willingness with which every rightly instructed mind now admits how
indispensable were the first, and how beneficial the second. Those can
best appreciate De Maistre and his school, what excellence lay in their
aspirations, what wisdom in their system, who know most clearly why
their aspirations were hopeless, and what makes their system an


[10] De Maistre forgot or underestimated the services of Leo the
Isaurian whose repulse of the Caliph's forces at Constantinople (A.D.
717) was perhaps as important for Europe as the more renowned victory of
Charles Martel. But then Leo was an Iconoclast and heretic. Cf. Finlay's
_Byzantine Empire_, pp. 22, 23.

[11] _Du Pape_, bk. iii. c. iv. p. 298 (ed. 1866).

[12] _Du Pape_, bk. iv. c. vii.

[13] A remark of Mr. Finlay's is worth quoting here. 'The Greeks,' he
says, 'had at times only a secondary share in the ecclesiastical
controversies in the Eastern Church, though the circumstance of these
controversies having been carried on in the Greek language has made the
natives of Western Europe attribute them to a philosophic, speculative,
and polemic spirit, inherent in the Hellenic mind. A very slight
examination of history is sufficient to prove that several of the
heresies which disturbed the Eastern Church had their origin in the more
profound religious ideas of the oriental nations, and that many of the
opinions called heretical were in a great measure expressions of the
mental nationality of the Syrians, Armenians, Egyptians, and Persians,
and had no conception whatever with the Greek mind.'--_Byzantine Empire,
from 716 to 1057_, p. 262.

The same writer (p. 263) remarks very truly, that 'the religious or
theological portion of Popery, as a section of the Christian Church, is
really Greek; and it is only the ecclesiastical, political, and
theoretic peculiarities of the fabric which can be considered as the
work of the Latin Church.'

[14] Sir J. Fitzjames Stephen in the _Saturday Review_, Sept. 9, 1865,
p. 334.

[15] _Du Pape_, bk. i. c. i. p. 17.

[16] _Ib._ bk. i. c. xix. pp. 124, 125.

[17] _Ib._ bk. i. c. xvi. p. 111.

[18] '_Il n'y a point de souveraineté qui pour le bonheur des hommes, et
pour le sien surtout, ne soit bornée de quelque manière, mais dans
l'intérieur de ces bornes, placées comme il plaît à Dieu, elle est
toujours et partout absolue et tenue pour infaillible. Et quand je parle
de l'exercice légitime de la souveraineté, je n'entends point ou je ne
dis point l'exercice_ juste, _ce qui produirait une amphibologie
dangereuse, à moins que par ce dernier mot on ne veuille dire que tout
ce qu'elle opine dans son cercle est_ juste ou tenu pour tel, _ce qui
est la vérité. C'est ainsi qu'un tribunal suprême, tant qu'il ne sort
pas de ses attributions, est toujours juste_; car c'est la même chose
DANS LA PRATIQUE, d'être infaillible, ou de se tromper sans appel.'--Bk.
ii. c. xi. p. 212 (footnote).

[19] Thomassin, the eminent French theologian, flourished from the
middle to the end of the seventeenth century. The aim of his writings
generally was to reconcile conflicting opinions on discipline or
doctrine by exhibiting a true sense in all. In this spirit he wrote on
the Pope and the Councils, and on the never-ending question of Grace.
Among other things, he insisted that all languages could be traced to
the Hebrew. He wrote a defence of the edict in which Lewis XIV. revoked
the Edict of Nantes, contending that it was less harsh than some of the
decrees of Theodosius and Justinian, which the holiest fathers of the
Church had not scrupled to approve--an argument which would now be
thought somewhat too dangerous for common use, as cutting both ways.
Gibbon made use of his _Discipline de l'Eglise_ in the twentieth
chapter, and elsewhere.

[20] _Du Pape_, bk. i. c. xviii. p. 122.

[21] Bk. i. c. xvii. p. 117.

[22] Littré, _Auguste Comte et la Phil. Posit._ p. 152.

[23] _Du Pape_, Conclusion, p. 380.

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *

_Printed by_ R. & R. Clark, Limited, _Edinburgh_.

Transcribers' Notes:

Minor printer errors (omitted quotation marks) have been amended without
note. Other errors have been amended and are listed below.

OE/oe ligatures have not been retained in this version.

List of Amendments:

Page 305: lights amended to rights; "... freedom, of equal rights, and
by ..."

Page 329: impressisn amended to impression; "... theory made a deep
impression on the mind ..."

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operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.